Coming Home: The most confusing part of travel

So, what are you going to do now?

You’ve been travelling the world for more than a short period of time – more than 2 weeks. Not your “I’m going down south to drink until I black out every day and have a total of 2 sober hours” for a whole week type of trip. You had your fun and the experience of a lifetime. Coming back home could quite possibly be the most stressful time from the time you left.

While you’re out travelling no one really questions the details of your life. All that really matters is that you have enough money to live somewhere, eat, and see the things you want to see. Typical questions: What is the next place you plan on going to? Where do you want to go to eat? Do you want to go drink? Hey, want to go to the beach? Not exactly thought provoking questions.

On the other hand, once you get home the questions do a complete 180. What do you plan on doing career wise? When do you plan on getting a house? Are you guys getting married soon? Are you staying here for a while or do you plan on travelling again soon? I mean, Jesus Christ guys we just got home. Let us breathe a little bit. We’ve just been travelling for a year without even remotely thinking about these questions, let alone the answers to them. Although we don’t want to have to answer these questions typically we are fighting for the answer in our heads regardless.

Everything at home is the same… but different. I personally got back into the same job – same job, different people. Everybody is doing the same things, but at different places. People are following the typical steps; getting married, buying houses, or they’re going out every weekend just like before you left, and now… running around catching Pokemon. That doesn’t make us any different though. We come back home and fall right back into the routine of “everyday life”.

This routine is the hardest part for someone who has done a bit of travelling. You’re used to living day to day, deciding what you should do for that day or week, but definitely nothing longer. The plans change to much to even develop a plan- the true life of spontaneity. The problem becomes either trying to get back into the normal routine and be at peace with it or to just leave and travel again because it seems easier to leave.

Everybody battles internally with doubts of if we’re doing the right things. Is this the right job for me? Do I really want to be doing this? What do I like doing? Should I be going to travel and have fun or pursue a career to get ahead? I’m grateful that I’ve been able to experience what its like to travel and develop a sense of what else is possible in the world…

But to be completely honest, now that I’ve seen what the other options are… it makes the decision much harder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dunsborough – Western Australia’s Paradise

Dunsborough – our new home for the next 6 months. It’s a hidden paradise about 3 hours south of Perth, Western Australia. It’s so nice that it consists mostly of holiday homes for the executives from Perth. Yet here we are as a couple of broke (compared to the actual residents of the town) backpackers.

We end up staying at the Dunsborough Beachouse YHA. One of only two hostels in the town. We fell completely in love with the place within a day. Here are my top 3 reasons this hostel as well as any other hostel can be considered great:

  • Other Backpackers: First and foremost, the main reason a hostel will be great is because of the people staying there. The best part of staying in a hostel is the different types of people you meet. The main reason you will end up falling in love with a certain hostel is because of how the people staying there welcome you. At some hostels you will not click with the people staying, which can cause you to dislike the hostel, but not by the hostel’s fault. The only difficult part about this is that since everyone is traveling the once amazing hostel begins to lose its touch once people start hitting the road again.
  • Staff: Having a welcoming, social, and helpful hostel staff will be that much appreciated extra touch that can convince you to stay at a hostel longer. The last thing you want is to walk into a hostel to be greeted by a staff member that acts as if you don’t matter instead of being treated like a valued customer. When the staff organizes events and spends time with the guests it gives off a family feel and makes it easier to ask questions. Lastly, the staff should have some knowledge of the area in regards to sightseeing, tours, places to eat, and if you’re lucky employment opportunities.
  • Cleanliness: I put cleanliness last because you could have the cleanest hostel in the world, but if the other backpackers and staff are rude, unwelcoming, and don’t give you a sense of family it is only a matter of time before you feel it is time to leave. Cleanliness has a bit of leniency if the other two points are present. Obviously if there are bed bugs, roaches, and other little critters all over the rooms there is a problem. I’m just saying maybe the hostel isn’t completely up to date or there’s a few areas that could use some attention, but not enough to put you off from the place. Cleanliness is important, but not as important as who you are around day in and day out.

Once we found the greatest hostel we stayed at in Australia it was time to explore the area. Let me tell you, Dunsborough has a lot to offer. Hayley and I (as well as many people in this area) love spending their time outdoors. So the first thing we looked for was any interesting points to spend our time outdoors. Naturally we love laying around on beaches.

My top 3 local beaches:

1. Point Piquet Beach

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Me holding the football at Point Piquet Beach with friends.

This may be one of the smallest beaches in the area, but it was my favourite. The size of the beach only let a limited amount of people spend their time there comfortably so if you got there early enough most people would drive by and look for another spot (We weren’t so early in this picture haha). Not to mention there are so many beaches in the area you can drive about 5 minutes in each direction and be at a completely different spot. The shallow and clear waters made it fun to place water sports with no worries.

2. Meelup Beach

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Meelup Beach from the top on the walking track.
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Meelup Beach from the grass area near the parking lot.

Meelup beach is a nice family beach tucked into a bay. There aren’t many waves that make their way into this beach so little kids can swim without worry. There is a grass bit when you first enter the beach parking where you can sit/lay in the shade. There is more space at this beach than Point Piquet and since it has an actual parking lot it attracts more people. Like every other beach in the area the water is clear and the sand is near white.

 

3. Yallingup Beach

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Hannah, Simon, Hayley and I enjoying the sunset at Yallingup Beach in early August 2015.

Yallingup was a very popular beach for everyone. The vast amount of space and spectacular surf attracted everyone from families to surf enthusiasts. Not to mention the incredible sunsets you could see from all around the beach was amazing. There was normally a food truck in the area as well to grab a bite to eat.

The last part I’ll touch on for the fantastic Dunsborough is the most popular spots we ate at as a hostel. Since we were a family at the hostel we loved to go out as a group (At least 6 up to 30+ people) and since we were/are all backpackers… we love deals. If the restaurant had a meal deal, chances are we loved it.

  • Occy’s: Occy’s special was on Wednesday nights. Occy’s amazing chili burger with a pint for $20. For those who think this might be a lot, keep in mind the burger alone is $22 regularly and a pint is at least $7 regularly. Almost $10 in savings? Backpacker delight. You got to choose your burger’s heat level on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being no heat at all and 10 normally only being done as a challenge rather than an actual appreciation for heat. Whichever heat you got to serve your needs, their burgers are to die for they’re so good. The beers on offer came from just about every range you could think of. Everyone could find a beer to their preference at this amazing spot.
  • Pourhouse: Pourhouse’s special was also on Wednesday nights. This cause a bit of competition between the two. The hostel normally split into two groups going to each restaurant on Wednesday’s, but normally all ended up at Pourhouse because of their deal. Pizza and a Pitcher for $25. Not only was the pizza amazing, but most backpackers are also borderline alcoholics. More booze means more reason to go. If you wanted a burger and still wanted to get drunk chances are you ended up at Pourhouse getting your drunken pizza with more beer. The vibe inside this restaurant was amazing as it was quite small and they regularly had live music. A nice little hangout spot with a majority of the people being between 18-30.
  • Clancy’s Fish Pub: Put simply, Clancy’s had good food at a fair price with normal live music. Clancy’s was the biggest restaurant space wise… and they need it. The place is normally packed with people unwinding from work with their family and friends. With a normal up beat and live music you couldn’t go wrong.

 

This is just a small little look into the paradise of Dunsborough. I recommend everyone find their way there if they can. You won’t want to leave. The community is close and they all look out for each other. Before long you will start being like the locals and dislike when the schoolies (vacation from high school or uni) make their way down. TRAFFIC IN DUNSBOROUGH? WHAT IS THIS. If you also arrive in their winter (December) you are basically considered part of this group as a backpacker. They don’t like you at first, but once they see your face around more often they will lighten up. Just don’t cause any problems. Work hard and respect others in this town and you won’t have any issues whatsoever.

Try Something New: Hitchhiking

So there we were in the middle of the Outback with a van that can’t run for any longer than 2 minutes without overheating. Fortunately for us when we got towed into Tennant Creek we were brought to the one campsite, which resembled a death row for vehicles on road trips. The campsite itself had nothing wrong with it, but the back row of the grounds was filled side by side with broken down vehicles… Mostly old vans. Some people were lucky enough to have vans that could and would be fixed in the coming days. Our van being unfix-able ended up being mostly positive and barely negative.

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Loaded up onto the tow truck to be brought to the campground.

The Negatives

There were essentially two things that we considered to be negatives. One was the inevitable amount of stress trying to figure out what to do not only with the van, but everything inside the van we accumulated. The other one was that we were left about $5000 out of pocket with the value of the van and the extras we purchased. In the end the negatives didn’t have an incredible impact on our experience. Sure we lost some money and were stressed for a couple days, but the memories from it were incredible.

The Positives

In this sort of situation, you have to stay positive to keep yourself sane. We were able to help many campers with their costs by giving away everything inside the van. This included fishing gear, motor oil, coolant, pillows and sleeping gear, maps of Australia to tour around, and our cooking equipment. Everyone was very appreciative of us giving our things away and it was a good way to let everyone know about our situation. You’d be surprised at the amount of people that wanted to help us and it was very encouraging. We met some amazing couples who were traveling in retirement and loved that we were experiencing life on the road at a young age. We also ended up meeting the couple that would eventually give us a lift 500km south to Alice Springs to catch a flight to the west coast.

In this post I’m considering “hitchhiking” to be getting a ride with complete strangers. This can also be done online depending on which city your in through ride share posts on Kijiji, Gumtree, Craigslist, and any other online marketplace where people are looking to help one another. As we were giving our things away we ended up telling people that we had to find a way to ditch the van (the scrapyard wanted $200 to trash it and we were already $5000 out so we decided against that) and find a way to Alice Springs because it had the nearest airport. We told people that we were going to head to the main road and just try to hitchhike down to the 500km destination. Lucky for us most of the people camping were in their 50’s and ended up having children about our age. This caused them to be concerned about the idea of us trying to find a ride with people just driving by and word got around the campsite pretty quickly.

That’s when we were surprised by everyone’s efforts to look out for our best interest. Within a couple hours there was a couple that came forward and said they could give us a lift all the way there. They didn’t want anything bad to happen to us along the way. They didn’t even want us to help out with money for gas even though we offered. This was just the type of people we were surrounded by and is the true personality of most Australians. They typically just want to help in whichever way they can.

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Where we ended up leaving the van.

The ride ended up being quite interesting and the 5 hours went by like it was nothing. We talked about what our adventure entailed so far, what we planned on doing the rest of our year in the country, what they did for work, their religious beliefs, and about their story and family life in general. I will never forget that drive and their willingness to help us. Although, there will always be one line from that trip that will stick in my head. At one point we were talking about riddles and he started the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”. We go along with it not knowing where this was going and say “I don’t know… which one?”

“You know, I really worked myself up about this riddle before and one day the answer just came to me. One didn’t come before the other. God put them both there and there is no reason to look any further than that. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders once I solved that riddle. All you have to do to be relaxed is trust in God and that he put everything there for a reason.”

We are not very religious people. Hayley and I looked at each other in the back seat and I was trying my hardest not to laugh. I didn’t want to be rude and make it seem that I disrespected his views on life. It was just one of those things you don’t hear very often and it took every ounce of my energy not to let my giggles out. Regardless, I will be forever thankful for their help getting us to Alice Springs.

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A picture while we were getting a ride. A sign stating there is no speed limit, just drive to the road conditions/as fast as you feel is safe.

They dropped us off after giving us their contact details so if we were ever in their area of Australia we could stay with them. We left with a new appreciation for people’s willingness to help and not to rule out hitchhiking or taking a ride with others. Please listen to your gut instincts when looking for a ride with strangers and take proper precautions to ensure you don’t end up in a bad situation. Stay aware of your surroundings and if you sense any danger get out as soon as possible and any way you can.

We checked into our hostel and only stayed for the one night. The next morning, we were on a plane to Perth. Within 24 hours we went from having a van and planning to live out of it for another month while driving north to without a van and on our way to a little town called Dunsborough just 3 hours south of Perth.

Little did we know it would end up being our home for the next 6 months…

Try Something New: Living out of a van

I cannot believe we are doing this. It’s early July 2015 and Hayley and I just bought our first vehicle in Brisbane, Australia just a week after we arrived – a 1995 VW Transporter. Luckily we bought the van from a nice Belgian couple that have it set up perfectly for us newbies. It comes with with a futon in the back so we can sit up, put it down when we want to sleep, and just enough storage to fit all our things comfortably. We are ecstatic to get our journey on the road.

Our new home which we end up naming Big Blue:

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We didn’t know what exactly to look for when we were on our van hunt which is why we bought a van previously owned by a backpacker. We ended up living in the van for a total of just over a month and these are some key things you want to look for when buying your new home on wheels:

Ensure you have a place to sit inside. At first you may question if you need a place to sit inside. Why would I sit in there when I can sit outdoors? Isn’t that the reason I’m living out of a van in the first place, to be outside? Unfortunately, it rains. Sometimes you are not in a place where there are covered places to sit. Sometimes it is just too damn cold to be sitting outside and you just want to be cozy inside your home.

The more storage space the better. When we first starting looking at vans I seriously questioned how much space we needed. I just came to this country with just a backpack… How much space could I possibly need? Well, just like your typical guy, I didn’t really think of all the other things. You need space for your gas cooker, utensils, outdoor gear, clothes, dish washing materials, laundry hangers, your massive water jug that you WILL NEED.

Comfortable seats up front for when you’re driving. The whole point of living in the van is to be mobile and go to new places all the time. Sometimes they’re close together, but most of the time – especially in Australia – there is a fair distance between them. You don’t want to be pulling up to your next amazing destination with a back that feels like an elephant just did a circus dance on you.

A strong reliable engine with no mechanical issues. Just like when you’re buying any car make sure you get everything checked. You don’t want to end up broken down in the middle of nowhere (like we inevitably did) and want to spend the little amount of grocery money you have left on fixing your palace. You can’t stop a breakdown from happening sometimes, but at least be aware if something may go wrong in the near future.

When we first get the van it is quite basic. It doesn’t really have any home touches to it. Although there isn’t really much you can do to make it like a real home given your limited space; We tried our best to make it look nice. It already came with an Australian flag on the top, but we decided we needed to add a bit of flash to it. Add some flash we did:

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So with our foot to the floor and our new home in good shape we head out to begin our journey. The fun part about this is that when you have no job, no responsibility, and the whole country at your fingertips, you just play it day by day and decide where you want to go. We got to Australia in the middle of their “Winter” (Mid to high teens during the day, so much for Winter) so all we knew is that we wanted to head North.

Our road trip of the East coast ends up being quick compared to other people. Some people take their whole year slowly going from Melbourne/Sydney up to Cairns. We manage to get from Brisbane to Cairns in just under a month then headed across to try to reach the West coast. We didn’t spend more than 3 days in any specific place. Our idea was basically to get to a new town (usually about 1-2 hours away), check it out, look for any national parks or beaches for the day, sleep there over night, then head out the next morning to our new spot.

What our trip looked like and some of our stops:

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Van Trip

 

Kondalilla Falls

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Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

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Byron Bay

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Killen Falls

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Springbrook National Park

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Lady Musgrave Island

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Yeppoon

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Yarrawonga Park Reserve

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Townsville

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Little Crystal Creek

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Whitsunday Islands

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Millaa Millaa Falls

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Cairns Lagoon

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The Outback

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Shout out to Hayley who took all these photos!

We had a great time living out of the van. We normally stayed in free campsites and every couple days would either stay at a paid site or found a road stop that you could pay to use their showers. If you plan on doing a road trip in Australia I highly recommend getting Wikicamps. It will help you find camp sites, showers, look outs, and overall any places that you will want to stop. It is worth the money trust me.

Our good times in the van came to a screeching halt when our van died in the Outback. We ended up springing a coolant leak when we were 200km from any town. Our only choice was to ride it out as long as we could. We ended up running out of coolant causing the van to get too hot and drove it until the head gasket blew up. In other terms… we were fucked. The van was beyond repair and the mechanics didn’t even want to look at it. Even if we could have got it fixed it would have cost thousands of dollars.

 

So there we are, in the middle of the Outback, with no plans, no vehicle, and no idea where to go and how to get there…

 

*Want to see more photos and videos from our adventures? Let me know in the comments if I should make a media page!*

 

 

 

Try Something New: Las Vegas

We had all our things in order. We were going to Australia and we were as prepared as we could be before leaving. Before we made our way to Australia we had one last thing we wanted to do before we left North America for a year – Las Vegas.

During our planning stage we quickly found out we were going to have to go through LA for a connecting flight. Hayley and I have been into music festivals for quite some time and always had an eye on Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas. This was our opportunity. We had to go near it anyway, so why not stop there on our way to Australia? So we bought our tickets and vowed not to lose all our travel money before even reaching our destination. In the end it helped us save money because we got the partying out of our system before Australia (alcohol is expensive here).

We landed on Wednesday and the festival was Friday-Monday over night. We had 2 days before the festival and 2 days after to explore what we wanted and actually have some energy to do it. Our days pretty much looked like this:

Wednesday: Land in LV from Ottawa and find our way to the MGM Grand where we’d spend the next 5 nights. Quickly realize the hotel is huge. Find the nearest liquor store and begin drinking. Spent the night walking up and down the strip checking out the hotels.

Thursday: Check out the pool and relax during the day at MGM. Vegas is incredibly hot and you can’t really do much during the day other than lay around. In the afternoon we went to a shooting range where I shot my first 3 guns. Hayley ends up having the best aim out of our group of 4. Don’t make Hayley angry. We try to make it out to an event at Cosmopolitan only to find out that event was last year (2014)… Oops. Continue drinking on the strip and gambling a little.

Friday-Monday: Friday during the day we head to Tao pool party with DJ Carnage at the venetian to get excited for the festival starting that night. The festival ends up running from 7pm-5am Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Now the festival was AMAZING and we saw tons of great shows. The first night it took us 4 hours to walk around and see all the stages. Seriously this festival is massive. I’ve posted some videos on Facebook and Instagram from the trip. Debating making a media page to upload pictures and videos so may upload them there later! During the day we… Slept. Followed by eating and immediately getting ready and drinking. Fastward to Monday. Monday is simply a struggle of a day. We wake up at 4pm hungover and starving. This is going to take a while to get back to normal. Weird thing about hotels in Vegas – you can’t really sleep more than 8 hours in a day. Its impossible… I assume its the air they pump into it. In the afternoon we do a zipline on top of a hotel to get our energy back up. Then we manage to make it to the Venetian again Monday night to see Jack Ü at their pool club. Unreal night.

Tuesday: It’s our last full day in Vegas and we are checking out of MGM to move to the Bellagio. You have to take at least one night to pretend to be a baller right? By the time we get into the Bellagio full blown post festival depression has kicked in. We use the rest of our day to see the rest of the strip and at night head over to “The Highroller” to get a view of the strip on top of the biggest ferris wheel in the world. We sleep like babies knowing we did Las Vegas as best as we could.

Wednesday: Check out day. It’s time to get on our way to Australia!

Our time in Las Vegas was so amazing we are going back again this year for the festival. In total I spent about $2000 CAD between the festival tickets, hotels, drinks and food. It was definitely worth it. Good news – we didn’t gamble away our travel funds either! This meant more time to spend not working in Australia.

I would definitely recommend people go to Las Vegas at least once for the experience. You will see some crazy looking people, have a great time, and create unforgettable memories. That is for what you remember. So what are you waiting for?

Go try something new. 

5 things you need before you travel

So once we decided we were going to leave it was time to prepare ourselves for the leap. It happens to be the first time we ever live without our parents and we planned on leaving for a year.

Now this was going to be a big change for us as our parents did everything for us. No seriously. Laundry, cooking, shopping, EVERYTHING. But, here are the basics you need to get lined up before you leave for your big adventure.

1) Passport

This may seem kind of obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard of people getting to an airport or applying for a visa last minute and their passport is expired. This should be the first thing to make sure is sorted out before you leave considering you need it to get into another country. Before you leave or apply for a visa it is normally required to have your passport be valid for at least 6 months longer than your intended departure date. If your passport is close then do yourself a favour and renew it. Chances are you’ll be staying away from home longer than you thought.

2) Visa

In a perfect world you’re allowed to go into any country as you please with no requirements. Unfortunately our world is far from perfect. Always check if you need a visa to enter your destination (including where you have layovers. Sometimes you still need a visa to just stay in the airport for a couple hours.) As a traveller your visa should fall under one of these categories: visitor, work, or student. With a visitor visa you cannot work or study. If you wish to work apply for a work visa. The same thing applies if you want to study.

Canadians can check if you need a visitor visa for specific countries at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp

If you plan on working or studying you will always need to apply for a specific visa with that country. For more info check your intended country’s government website.

3) Money

This is something I always get asked about. How much money did I leave with and how long did it last?

I left with $6000 CAD and hayley had over $10,000 CAD. Was this required? Definitely not. The more money the better, but it is not required. The more money you have (in our case) the longer you can travel without working. I’ve met people who came to Australia with $300 and the clothes on their back.

How long did it last? For us it lasted about 2 months. This could have lasted way longer if you’re careful with your money so don’t let that scare you off. A large part of that money ($5000) wen to a van that eventually broke down. In the end if you want to tavel “Not having money” is NOT an excuse. Make it happen.

4) Backpack/Suitcase

I cannot say this enough and I wish I listened when I read this before – PACK AS LIGHTLY AS POSSIBLE! I suggest only taking 2-3 of your favourite pairs of each clothing plus more socks and underwear for obvious reasons. If you don’t use it on a daily basis then don’t bring it. You can always buy things as you go while you are abroad.

Backpack or suitcase? The choice is ultimately up to you. If you plan on moving a lot and don’t feel like always carrying something then a suitcase may be for you. If you pack as light as possible weight shouldn’t pose much of an issue. Keep in mind airline luggage weight restrictions 😉

5) Courage

Last but not least… You need to have the courage to follow through on your plan and just do it. There will be times that you may start to question if you are making the right desicion. You have to trust yourself that you made this decision for a reason and it is time to follow through. Forget about those who say you’re crazy or should be doing something different with your life.

It’s YOUR life. Live YOUR adventure. Do as YOU please. Enjoy yourself. Adventure responsibly.. But please, have the time of your life and regret nothing.

Trying Something New: The Decision

I first decided to take the leap of faith in trying something new when both Hayley and I started to get bored with our jobs. There had to be something more to life than just working our boring (or stressful) jobs. Hayley was the Customer Service Manager at a grocery store and I was doing a desk job for the government of Canada. Boring as hell when you just finished college and are looking for some fun.

Deciding what to do on the large scale was quite easy. We wanted to leave the city and experience something else. We knew we didn’t like the cold and we both don’t know any other languages but English.. sorry my Quebecois friends. So it came down to two things: What country is English speaking AND has nice weather most of the year? AUSTRALIA.

A year before we actually left we decided that we were going to save up as much as we possibly could, pack only the essentials, and leave everything else behind for the time being. We’ve been having a blast and we haven’t regretted a thing. It took a lot of courage to make the huge change, but once we made that change it has been an addictive path full of new things. This has sparked the idea to keep trying new things and eventually making this blog.

Have any questions? Leave a comment below and be sure to follow as I continue to post about our trip in the past and keep up to date as we go.