New country, new home: Hello Australia!

Street art in Melbourne

There’s a particular terror that you feel when about to uproot your life and move to a foreign country – with no job waiting for you, no apartment lined up, no money in your bank account and no return ticket handy just in case you’ve made a horrible mistake.

Such a terror gripped me as I lay awake the night before my flight to Melbourne.

Street art in Melbourne, Hosier Lane

Under the Dome at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

A new life upheaval

This is a move I briefly alluded to when I left Luang Prabang. While travelling through Southeast Asia for the past year, I started to hear a lot about Australia’s working holiday visa from other backpackers – a programme that allows travellers under 31 to come and work in Australia, moving about the country as they go. The most common jobs are hourly positions like bartending or fruit picking, though I also met people who worked as tour guides or dive instructors.

Listening to the backpackers who had already done the working holiday visa programme, Australia sounded like a utopia: jobs were in abundance, the quality of life was high, and average wages for hourly work hovered around $20/hour – more than enough for a hardworking backpacker to buckle down, work hard, and save up money for the next big adventure. In fact, I met one traveller who had worked on a Tasmanian bee farm with his partner, and together saved $10,000 in one month.

Yeah. Ten grand. ONE MONTH.

A summer Christmas in Melbourne

New Year's Eve in Edinburgh Gardens, Melbourne

The more I thought about it, the more the working holiday visa in Australia seemed an obvious choice. Though I love Asia, after three years I was ready to live somewhere where I blended in, spoke the language, understood what the hell was going on, could get a job and set up a life, and where I could save money for the next big adventure (South America? The Subcontinent? Central Asia?).

Melbourne attracted me the most, after hearing the way people talked up its art scene, liveability, and friendliness. So I applied for the visa while living in Luang Prabang and got it within a week. I told my family and friends, sorted my one-way ticket into Melbourne, and then…did nothing.

To be honest, I was acting pretty cavalier about the impending move to Oz. I didn’t bother looking for an apartment or a job beforehand, because I just, y’know, kinda figured everything would just come together once I landed. After all, this style of scrappy travel, with few plans and a simple trust in the universe, was how I had been living for the past year.

A houseparty in Melbourne

Flinders Street Station

Enter terror

But once the reality of my situation hit, I started to think I hadn’t made the best choices. The day before my flight was the worst. I stayed awake in my hostel bed, restless and a bit freaked out, wondering just what the hell I was thinking having organised nothing outside of a plane ticket before this move. My plan of just landing and winging it suddenly didn’t seem so appealing – after all, the only funds I had left in the world were just enough to cover a month rent & bond on a room in an apartment, plus spending money for about three weeks.

Three. Weeks.

What if I couldn’t find a job? What if I couldn’t find a place to live? What if I couldn’t get my new life in Australia together, and found myself completely broke and alone and stranded on the opposite of the world?!

And so, terror. Sheer, unabating terror.

Street art of traditional facepainting in Melbourne

Street art in Melbourne Blowing bubbles at a bush doof

Arriving in Oz

Now, how did the move to Melbourne actually turn out, you might ask? Did I find myself out of money and out of luck?

Well, no. It’s officially been 3 months since I landed, and…thank you to the universe, the move has gone spectacularly.

A bush doof in Ballarat

First, I have to give credit to Alli Campbell of Illustrated Adventures. I’ve been a massive fan of her blog for more than a year, and right before my move to Melbourne, she sent me a Facebook message asking if I needed a place to stay when I arrived. The effect of this gesture CANNOT be understated – to actually see a friendly face as soon as you arrive in a new country, and have a place to stay for the first few days while you start your job & house search is a serious boon.

Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival fashion

By the second day, I was able to hit the ground running: getting an Australian phone number, looking at apartments, and handing out resumes. For those interested in this visa programme, Gumtree is ideal to find housing, and Seek for jobs, though I personally dislike online applications and find talking with someone face-to-face much more effective. In fact, one job I was first offered came from literally walking in the store, talking to the manager, and having an impromptu interview right then and there. The same thing happened for my job in Luang Prabang.

So thankfully, after one week running madly around Melbourne, I’d been offered a place to live and three different jobs.

The terror began to abate.

Along the banks of the Yarra River, Melbourne

Street art by Deb in Melbourne

And now?

Well, there’s a couple of reasons I haven’t updated this blog for over three months. One, I’m just a shit blogger (I’m sorry!!). Two, life here has been crazy. I’m working around 60 hours a week in order to save for travel, and my free time is spent out exploring this city. Melbourne has wound up being the absolute perfect choice for me right now – it’s a beautiful city, rife with creativity and art, easy to live in and somehow full of friends-of-friends. There are cafe dates, live music shows, outdoor film festivals, and cheesy bars to go to – and rarely a chance to be bored.

A rainbow house in Footscray, Melbourne

At Hanging Rock

The current plan is that I’ll be living and working in Melbourne until the end of March, when I head off to the creativity retreat in Bali (SO! EXCITED!) After that? No clue. Maybe I’ll spend a month or two visiting Indonesia and Malaysia, or maybe I’ll come back to Melbourne to continue exploring this city. If I want to extend my Australian visa to a second year, I have to work in a rural area for 3 months, so I could also move to Tasmania and go work on a vineyard or farm.

Really, I have no idea what’s in store for the next few months, or which country I’ll be living in by August. For now, I’m just focusing on the present: exploring Melbourne, saving money for travel, and revelling in the uncertainty of where the next road will lead.

And enjoying the feeling of having a brand new home, even if temporary.

Dancing in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

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49 Responses to New country, new home: Hello Australia!

  1. Stef 13 January, 2014 at 22:17 #

    Melbourne is awesome, I totally agree with you. It is probably one of the nicest cities to live (not considering the prices). Have some more great weeks there and so much fun in Bali!

    • Naomi Alyssa 15 January, 2014 at 13:59 #

      Definitely. The prices are pretty brutal but thankfully minimum wage tends to match!

  2. Alana - Paper Planes 14 January, 2014 at 00:30 #

    We. want. more. posts.

    And are happy that it’s been working out for you… ;)

    • Naomi Alyssa 15 January, 2014 at 13:59 #

      Haha, thank you darling!! I’ve just been running around having too much fun. Will find more time to write, though, and share the adventures ;)

  3. Candace 14 January, 2014 at 06:50 #

    I am so with Alana ;) But seriously, after moving to New Zealand and to the UK twice with exactly your same scenario, I SO get that terror, and am ridiculously delighted to hear how well everything has gone for you in Melbourne so far. As for not knowing which country you’ll be living in this August? Again, I’m right there with you, and love that you’re greeting the uncertainty with open arms. So happy for you, my friend! xo

    • Naomi Alyssa 15 January, 2014 at 14:06 #

      Yes! The things we do for wanderlust…so ridiculous sometimes ;) Can’t wait to hear about your next adventures too!

  4. Alli Campbell 14 January, 2014 at 12:36 #

    Such a pleasure to have you Naomi, and to finally meet you! So glad you’re loving this city as much as I do x

    • Naomi Alyssa 15 January, 2014 at 14:49 #

      YES. I knew there was a reason I kept hearing good things about this city ;) Brunch soon?!? x

  5. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown 15 January, 2014 at 11:27 #

    I was wondering where you went :) I’m so glad to see everything is working out for you there. If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of work did you end up doing? I’d love to do a working holiday visa in Australia but the idea of picking fruit doesn’t resonate so well with me.

    • Naomi Alyssa 15 January, 2014 at 14:52 #

      I’m sorry! I always want to update but then life just gets in the way ;) Over here, I’m doing everything: office work in social media, retail, freelance writing (though those are projects I brought with me to Oz), and hourly catering work. Fruit picking is really only for the countryside – here, there are lots more opportunities :)

  6. Tana B 16 January, 2014 at 06:49 #

    Did you use one of the online agencies to get your visa or did you just fill out the government forms and do it yourself???

    • Naomi Alyssa 18 January, 2014 at 17:18 #

      Just did it myself! Was easy-peasy to just use the Australian Immigration website, no online agencies needed :)

  7. Kelly P 16 January, 2014 at 13:51 #

    So so glad you’ve settled in and are liking Melb!! I’ve got a bunch of family there and love the city so much! If you’re ever in the Royal Botanical Gardens and happen upon a bench with the name Bridget O’Brien on it…that’s my sister! Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures in Oz.

    • Naomi Alyssa 18 January, 2014 at 17:22 #

      Whoa, I love the RBG – just went there recently for Moonlight Cinema :) How cool!

  8. Claire 17 January, 2014 at 00:01 #

    Oh my gosh I am so jealous of you right now. I studied abroad in Australia and have been wanting to live there again ever since. It’s just so chilled and everyone is so friendly. Also the sun. I totally empathize with the fear you had though, I cried and cried in the airport before I left to go there!

    • Naomi Alyssa 18 January, 2014 at 17:25 #

      YES. Melbourne, especially, is obscene – on my third day, I walked into a tea shop, struck up a conversation with one of the gals working there, and wound up trading numbers so we could get a group of friends together to see a show. Every interaction here seems like instant friendship. Weird AND cool! ;)

  9. Helen 17 January, 2014 at 05:44 #

    Well done for getting sorted! Looks like you are having an awesome time!!!! So proud of you!

    Miss you! x

    • Naomi Alyssa 19 January, 2014 at 14:09 #

      Sometimes I wish I were closer to y’all in the UK (all the Facebook photos look so fun!) but then…I think about how cold it is ;) MISS YOUR FACE! x

  10. Beatrice 18 January, 2014 at 03:38 #

    Great to hear that the move to Melbourne worked out! The photos in your post are STUNNING – makes me miss Australia’s summer even more!

    I was horrible at finding work in Australia (I didn’t) BUT if you can secure a job in Tassie, it’s absolutely worth the visit/stay/move. My favourite place in all of Australia. Much calmer than Melbourne!

    • Naomi Alyssa 19 January, 2014 at 14:11 #

      Oh God. I want to visit Tassie so badly, and really want to do my farm work out there. Unfortunately, I think my farm work will happen in Australia’s winter, and that’s supposedly the worst time to go…:(

  11. Nina 18 January, 2014 at 13:57 #

    Ah! Love this…. I have been living in Thailand for 2.5 years and 30 is creeping up on me. I’m getting my work permit soon and kind of had the same idea… making no plans whatsoever. But this is the usual. lol. Glad to know all worked out for you in the end. Hopefully I have a similar outcome. Melbourne sounds awesome!

    • Naomi Alyssa 19 January, 2014 at 14:19 #

      Yep! Helps to hit the ground running from day 1 :)

  12. Tayler 21 January, 2014 at 02:39 #

    Ah! I’ve been debating a move to Australia and this post just gave me more courage to do so. My biggest fear is I won’t be able to find a job or place to live and will be stuck in a hostel for weeks or months. Please post more as I’ve been struggling to find a good blog with this kind of info! :)

    • Naomi Alyssa 6 February, 2014 at 15:46 #

      DO IT. Certainly, some people do have trouble finding jobs, but if you buckle down and hustle hard you’ll find jobs in the strangest places. Most are easy to pick up, easy to let go hourly gigs. With lovely, glorious Aussie minimum wage ;)

  13. Jamie 21 January, 2014 at 13:27 #

    God all the street art photos from Melbourne make me just want to kick myself for not going when I was over there. It seems like such a beautifully artsy place. I totally feel ya on the sudden anxiety setting in with upcoming trips you plan on “winging”. I’m going through the same thing for a simple trip to Thailand..second guessing all my brilliant ideas etc lol. I can’t imagine how your mind was racing for an actual MOVE.

    • Naomi Alyssa 6 February, 2014 at 15:45 #

      It really is fantastic for street art – that’s one of the main reasons that I moved here!

  14. Helen G. Dickerson 22 January, 2014 at 22:31 #

    Such an adventure but congratulations. I really had a good time reading about your story and I also enjoy the photos in the post. Looking forward for another post about your life in OZ.

  15. Laura @ laurainwonderland 25 January, 2014 at 22:38 #

    Moving to a new place can be really scary! I’m glad everything worked out for you and I hope your future adventures will be awesome. I can’t wait to hear about them! :)

    • Naomi Alyssa 6 February, 2014 at 15:41 #

      God, is that ever right. Thanks for the well wishes, Laura!! :)

  16. Emily 5 February, 2014 at 12:33 #

    I love reading your blog and hope you post more about your adventure in Australia! Sounds like things have worked out well so far. :)

    • Naomi Alyssa 6 February, 2014 at 15:36 #

      Thanks Emily – I’m really glad that I came :)

  17. Catherine 11 February, 2014 at 19:48 #

    Glad everything went well with your move to Australia :) The more I hear about these working holiday visas and the ease of getting a job in Australia, the more tempted I am to give it a go myself!

  18. steffy 12 February, 2014 at 01:57 #

    Totally understand your terror that happened to me too when I left South Africa for England then England for Switzerland! Make the most of your time in Australia and looking forward to reading more about that adventure :)

  19. Charlie 13 February, 2014 at 00:40 #

    Some really excellent street art photos!

  20. Naomi 13 February, 2014 at 19:36 #

    First of all, we share a name! How’s that? Anyway, I’m glad you got yourself a job and are currently doing well. Have a great stay in Melbourne and enjoy your retreat in Bali. Cheers!

  21. Kenneth 20 February, 2014 at 10:41 #

    Really admire your adventurous spirit, and your trust that, once on the ground, everything will work out. It seems your leap of faith landed you in a new chapter once more.

    • Naomi Alyssa 25 February, 2014 at 11:30 #

      It definitely did. Not that I wasn’t completely losing my shit with worry and stress before going, hahaha ;)

  22. Kadri 20 February, 2014 at 15:17 #

    Stunning photos! Especially love the street art, so beautiful. Enjoy your time and work in Melbourne.

    • Naomi Alyssa 25 February, 2014 at 11:28 #

      Thank you kindly, Kadri – the street art here is some of the best I’ve seen :)

  23. Sierra @ Living in Lights 25 February, 2014 at 07:37 #

    Omigosh I wish I could do this as an American (I can’t, can I?)

    Google time…

    • Naomi Alyssa 25 February, 2014 at 11:27 #

      Yes, you can! There are two types of working holiday visas, and the one for Americans is nearly identical to that for Europeans, except that you can’t extend for a second year. But you can still work & live here for up to 12 months :)

  24. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling 15 March, 2014 at 17:54 #

    I’m born and bred in Melbourne. You made a good choice. :)

  25. Danielle 20 March, 2014 at 12:00 #

    I always love your blog, you are not a “shit blogger” as you say. Thank you for always posting such useful websites to help the rest of us navigate with just a little less stress. I hope you are enjoying your time in Australia, I was there around 10 years ago now, never in Melbourne though, and I absolutely loved it.

  26. Suki F 12 April, 2014 at 10:13 #

    You chose a gorgeous place. I hope you are having a great time.

  27. Katie @ The World on my Necklace 19 May, 2014 at 16:07 #

    Wow soudns like everything worked out great for you. You are really lucky getting a job so easily as it took me 6 weeks and lots of other people I have spoken to had the same experience. Not the abundance of jobs that there once was in Australia as it seems to still be in the recession.

  28. Trip 17 August, 2014 at 19:25 #

    Wow…this was a gutsy move. Most places these days won’t even allow you in their country without proof of income and a return ticket home, where ever that may be. Australia sounds fabulous, I would just prefer to have some funds and go it in luxury. But there was a day we backpacked the world and did just as you have here…lots of fun and what an experience!

  29. Miles of Happiness 16 September, 2014 at 10:23 #

    I hope you guys will enjoy your life over there. I looks very nice. :)

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