The next few months

Towards the end of our trip around New Zealand last year we began to crave the luxury of settling down in one place for more than a few days. Melbourne fulfilled that craving nicely but seven months later we find ourselves once again with itchy feet. Here's our plan for the next few months.

Australia (1 month)
We have a month to see the whole of Australia. This would be a reasonable goal in a country like Andorra or Liechtenstein but Australia is quite large and almost all of it is uninhabited. Instead of attempting to achieve the ridiculous, we've decided to restrict ourselves to the coastline of Western Australia, with a few days in Sydney at the end for good measure.

New Zealand (2 weeks)
My good friends Hamish and Katherine are getting married at the end of November in their home town of Dunedin. I think when they invited us they didn't expect us to actually show up so hopefully they have enough seats etc prepared. We'll spend the rest of our time in New Zealand catching up with mates and loving the fact that we are back in New Zealand.

California (1 month)
Sam's mum wanted her daughter home for Christmas so badly she arranged flights across the Pacific Ocean for both of us, which was bloody nice of her. Thanks Sam's mum. After a brief layover in French Polynesia, we'll make our way to Los Angeles and ultimately Santa Barbara, where we'll do whatever it is Californians do over the festive season and visit a few places we missed last time round.

Southeast Asia (1 - 4 months?)
This is where things start to get a little fuzzy. Some time in January we'll pack up our stuff and fly back across the Pacific to somewhere like Bangkok or Manilla. We'll backpack from country to country until we run out of money or steam, with anticipated visits to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan and Myanmar all on the cards. We're leaving this section of the trip deliberately open so we can be completely flexible about how long we spend in each place. This is a massively exciting prospect for me.

??? (???)
The obvious thing to do next would be to return home to England. Unfortunately, this is made complicated by the UK Government's hatred of foreigners. I honestly don't know how we're going to get around this, but we've agreed to worry about it later, because it's important to ignore life's problems until it's far too late.

As you've come to expect, I'll try to keep this blog updated every week with photos of our activities, starting next Sunday. See you then!

Melbourne

Some of you might be aware I'm living in Melbourne at the moment. I've been here since April and leave in a week, so now might be a reasonable opportunity to write something about it.

To quickly introduce the place, Melbourne is a city of four million, perched on the southern tip of mainland Australia. It's known to the outside world for its tennis, unpredictable weather, vast tram network, and generally being a smiley-faced utopian dreamland.

When Sam and I arrived here in April, we had hoped to click our fingers and fall comfortably into jobs and a home for the six months we intended to stick around. I'd done it before without much trouble and was beginning to consider myself a grandmaster in the routine of opening bank accounts, buying sim cards, applying for tax numbers, and all the other administration that comes with moving from one bit of the planet to another. Unfortunately it didn't really work out like before.

Finding a house was easy enough. Within a couple of weeks we had moved into a two-bedroom place with Pierce and Emma, a British couple we met travelling in New Zealand. Similarly, finding a job for myself was easy. I signed a six month contract with a software company the same weekend we moved house. The tough part was everything else.

In the months that followed, my increasingly miserable housemates cycled through twelve different jobs between them. For brief periods of time, they were bakers, removals men, graphic designers, deli workers, baristas, dental nurses, waitresses, personal assistants, and solar panel salesmen. They lost jobs through a mixture of bad luck and the mental instability of their many bosses.

To couple with financial uncertainty and terrible work hours, winter arrived and the weather switched over to England Mode. Our flat plummeted in temperature, but not by enough to freeze the bedbugs in the sofa, or to subdue the neighbour who regularly fumigated our apartment every time he lit a cigarette, presumably whilst pressed against the vent connecting our dwellings. We thought of New Zealand and how well it had treated us and scratched our heads about why we had chosen to leave.

Fast forward to August, when I received a call from our landlord with news he wanted us out within two weeks. This came a couple of days after a failed health inspection at the deli where Sam and Emma both worked, resulting in Sam losing her job and Emma having her hours cut. This was a new low. The prospect of trying to find a new place with three months left in the city was depressing but look we did.

Since then it's been brilliant. Things brightened up almost from the day we moved into our new apartment, which is so much nicer and inexplicably cheaper than the old one. Everyone has stable jobs they tolerate and the sun occasionally puts his hat on (hip hip hip horay). It's very rapidly dawning on me how lovely Melbourne really is and how poorly we have timed our escape.

I'm going to dump some pictures Sam and I have taken here. Hers are generally the nicer ones, you can find more on her flickr in you're interested.


Central Melbourne consists of a nice mix of old colonial buildings and modern skyscrapers which try not to completely dwarf their elders.


I work on the 22nd floor of an office building in the middle of town. I was hired along with twenty other Java developers to help rewrite from scratch an important piece of software responsible for sending half a billion text messages every year. I work with some very smart people and have felt consistently out of my depth since I arrived.


One thing that characterises Melbourne quite well is vandalism. Almost every visible surface is covered in colourful, interesting vandalism.


Another is impromptu festivals in public spaces and laneways, which occur most weekends.


Public transport in Melbourne is brilliant and hardly anyone drives in the city. When we moved house I made the transition from catching the train to work to cycling along the river, an instant and brutal reminder of how deeply unfit I had become during my commuter days.


The tunnel of trees along our road is riddled with possums that emerge at night to be photographed badly.


Our new apartment has a balcony and fairy lights, instant deal-sealers when we first viewed the place.


In our spare time we've done things like toured an anti-whaling vessel named Sam Simon (after the co-creator of The Simpsons) and attended a global conference of Jehovah's witnesses.


We've also managed to escape the city a couple of times with short visits to Mount Dandenong in the east and the Grampians National Park in the west.


The Grampians was particularly beautiful. We spent a long weekend there with an Italian girl we met through couchsurfing and Arthur, an ex-student of my friend Owen, who teaches English in Beijing.


While there, we got close to some awesome native wildlife including our first wild kangaroos, as well as the lesser-known Echidna, an egg-laying mammal resembling a hedgehog. Cute little guy.

That's enough for now. I wish I'd written a little more about Melbourne as it was happening but that's how blogging works sometimes. Stay tuned for another post shortly about what we're up to next!