My time in Darwin complete, it was time to leave. But it turns out that leaving Darwin can be quite tricky. Darwin is REMOTE. There is nowhere nearby to go to next. I explored flights, trains and buses, and came to the realization that the cheapest option to go anywhere would be to actually fly there. Perth and Melbourne were to the two cheapest options. As I was familiar with Melbourne and liked the city well enough on first go, I decided I would try to live there and find some work. I’d spent quite a bit of money over the last month travelling through the vast expanses of the Outback.
The flight was uneventful and I arrived in Melbourne without issue. I stayed at a different hostel this time, hoping for a better place than my first go around. It was indeed better. The kitchen was usable and the place was kept moderately clean. The hostels in Australia so far have ranged from downright poor to okay, with Adelaide having the best hostel of the bunch (the lovely Adelaide YHA).
From there, it was a bombardment of things I tried to do. I started dating again, seeing a young lawyer in Melbourne. I applied for numerous jobs. I looked for a real place to live.
On the job front, success didn’t take long. I had two interviews about a week after getting to the city, both in the food industry. Admittedly, this was not something I had any experience in, but I had always wanted to try working in the cafe/restaurant business as a waiter.
Both interviews would be on the same day. I picked up some nicer pants to at least be presentable. The first interview was at a cute little Italian cafe, at 1030am Monday morning. I wandered in and met the lovely owner, a relatively young (mid-30s probably) woman. We hit it off and she asked if I could trial today, as they were 2 people short. Except I was to be a kitchen hand, not floor/wait staff. I agreed, and cash would be paid at the end of the day regardless of how I did.
It was pretty much literally straight into the fire for me. Kitchen hand mostly does dish washing but also helps the chef prep things as necessary. Their dishwasher broke down early in the morning due to an electrical fault (something that happens regularily). I was learning as much as I could in a busy environment, but it was stressful. I was rotated out to the floor during the lunch rush to help serve and take orders. I liked this part and did well at it. After lunch I moved back to the kitchen and helped finish up the clean up. I didn’t finish until around 330pm.
The cafe had 4 staff on that day, not including myself. The barista, waitress and owner were all incredibly friendly, lovely people, whom I very much enjoyed working with. I had really been hoping to find a place with such folk. Unfortunately, the chef was one of the most disagreeable, disgusting pieces of flesh I have ever met. It’s one thing to be stressed and swear at yourself, it’s something else entirely to take it out on others. As I was the only other person in the back for most of the day, I got to take the brunt of it. I’ve got a thick enough skin, but I’ve also got enough pride in what I do that I’m not going to be paid to be essentially someone’s dart board. The owner offered me the position but I declined politely. She understood – I was the third kitchen hand to trial and quit in less than a week. I felt bad, but knew it wasn’t an environment I would enjoy working in.
Exhausted (but paid), I had to cancel my second interview. It was for an Indian restaurant a bit of ways out of the downtown, so I wasn’t too remiss about that one. Back to the job postings.
Several more opportunities came up, again on the same day, less than a week later. This time in dissimilar fields. The first interview was with a MacPac retailer, a bit outdoor gear chain of stores. I was genuinely excited for this one, as MacPac gear is something I know a lot about already, and the person seemed friendly on the phone. And the interview went well, up until the part of hours. I could only get about 8 hours of work with them per week, at least until November (so, 2 months away). I needed more work than that, and unfortunately had to turn down the offer.
The second interview was for housekeeping at a serviced apartment, right across the street from my hostel. Great location! I was the only native english speaker at the group interview, and had the second least experience. But, I’m also pretty experienced in interviews. 5 minutes after walking out of the interview I got a call and offer. I was to start after the weekend. Pay would start at $21.50/hour for weekdays, increasing on the weekends to above $25/hr, and I would get at least 25 hours / week. Sounded great.
I started Monday and it was hard work. The staff were a mixture of Thai and Nepalese, but spoke a bit of English. My skills from my hostel and motel work were put to the test but I learned quickly. It was still very difficult and tiring work, but the pay was good.
I had also begun searching for a place to stay. The CBD is rife with apartments, but prices are fairly high. Getting a room to yourself in a shared apartment would usually be $1000/month at minimum. For a big city, not bad though. Still, I couldn’t find anything I liked.
Everything collapsed after my first week of work. I was continually exhausted, stressed and unhappy in Melbourne. After several emails to friends back home and lots of thinking, I decided that I really don’t need to be doing any of this. I had always wanted to see how living in a big city could be. And I’d now been in Melbourne for over a month (combined with my previous stay). It just wasn’t working. There is a lot to love about big city life – the plethora of food, entertainment and shopping options. The ease of public transit. Many more options, at any time of the day. But I found the city life to simply be exhausting, confining and honestly, lonely. Compared to the small towns of New Zealand, I simply wasn’t meeting people, especially at the hostel or work.
So I quit everything in one fell swoop and planned my departure from the city. No more work, no more dating, no more apartment searching. I wasn’t happy, and knew what I had to do. I had to travel.
Looking back on it now, a few weeks removed, I definitely know where I would change things next time. First and foremost would be taking a job I’d actually enjoy, not just a job for money. I don’t NEED to work yet, having my savings still somewhat intact (Australia is putting a good dent in them though). The pressure isn’t there yet. So I can afford to be patient and pick something that will really work for me. I also shouldn’t try to get everything done in such a short time – focus on one thing at a time (ideally – work, living arrangements, then possibly date once I get settled). Get things organized and set at each stage before moving to the next.
I’ll probably take another shot at doing just that (settling down), somewhere in Australia, but first and foremost, I need to love the spot. I knew as soon as I entered Nelson, New Zealand that I wanted to stay for a while. I haven’t had that in Australia yet. I have a feeling I know where that city might be, and I’m saving that stop for last. If there isn’t any area that really speaks for me, well, there is nothing stopping me from moving on to Asia!