Living the dream: 6 months in

Living the dream: 6 months in

Written by Heather

Topics: Life in Oz

For the last 6 months I’ve been living my big dream of traveling and living in Australia long-term. Whether I’ve been on the road, working, hosting visitors, or going it solo, I have so much to be thankful for in my experiences thus far.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the USA, and for the first time in my life, I won’t be spending it with family. While I’m physically in Australia, my heart and mind are half-way around the world in Virginia. With my 6-month Australia anniversary coinciding with Thanksgiving, I thought it was only appropriate to reflect on and share the first 6 months in a mindset of thankfulness.

I’m thankful for my first week here.
I began the journey in Sydney and stayed at the same hostel my youngest sister and I chose four years ago. Starting things off in familiar surroundings helped make the leap I had just taken seem a little less daunting. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the city all over again. And within a few days I’d set up an Aussie bank account, selected an Aussie mobile service provider, applied for my Tax File Number, appeared on national television, and met my future flat mate. Not too shabby for the first week!

I’m thankful for spending a couple of weeks each in Melbourne, Adelaide (Radelaide!), and Brisbane (Brissy!).
I have very different memories and feelings about each city and was most surprised by Adelaide. Doubters wondered what I could possibly do there for two whole weeks, but I really enjoyed my time there (not including my epic one-month-in meltdown). I fell in love with Brisbane and would have extended my stay had a job interview not brought me back to Sydney unexpectedly.

I’m thankful that my dad raised me to love sports and that this love extends to Aussie sports.
I intentionally designed travel plans for the first six weeks around four sporting events! My Queensland Maroons won their games (State of Origin champs for 5 consecutive years!) while my Brisbane Lions lost both in Melbourne and at home.

Queenslander! May 26, 2010

I’m thankful for the beautiful sights I have seen outside of the cities and that I saw them early on — while I was still mindful of but not as concerned about the budget.
First, there was the 3-day tour from Melbourne to Adelaide, which included the scenic Great Ocean Road drive. Following two weeks in Adelaide, I joined a 6-day Outback tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs — including Ayers Rock/Uluru. And a month or so later, Brooke invited me to join her on a 2-week road trip. We kicked things off in tropical north Queensland and made our way south back to Sydney. Over the course of 17 days, I gained lots of Aussie driving experience, slept in a tent 13 nights, learned more about Aboriginal culture, had my first diving experience at the Great Barrier Reef, watched whales play at Hervey Bay, visited the beautiful Fraser Island, and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty (and food and beverages…) of the Atherton Tablelands.

Most of the gang

Uluru at sunset

GBR dive

I’m thankful that I’ve tried new things.
I ticked an item off of my bucket list when I sang in public front of four other people at a karaoke bar on my flat mate’s birthday. I’ve eaten crocodile sausage, an emu burger and emu prosciutto, kangaroo steak and “kanga bangas” (‘roo sausages). Not everyone is keen on eating “Skippy“, but it’s an inexpensive source of protein that is extremely low in fat and high in iron. Perhaps more shocking to others than my liking kangaroo is that I don’t detest Vegemite. In fact, when I had it on toast with cheese, I kind of liked it. Can’t believe it? Watch the videos to see my reactions to trying Vegemite for the first time.

My First Vegemite Experience

I’m thankful for the relationships I have developed and the people I have met in person — mostly thanks to initially meeting on Twitter.
Before I even arrived Jack and I had plans to see a Brisbane Lions match together, and Brooke and Alicia had offered some Aussie travel advice. As soon as I touched down in Oz, James and Darren became fast friends. I’m thankful to Darren and his family for hosting me in their home on more than one occasion and adopting me as a member of the family. I met Jade, Bob, and Rob of Vagabond3 in Melbourne; Adrienne, Kristin, Bobbi, Jeremy, and Dimitri in Brisbane; and Dan, the brother (and brother-in-law) of two travelers I met 2.5 years ago in Istanbul! In Cooktown, I met Willie and Judy of Guurrbi Tours. And in Sydney, I’ve met heaps of additional travel bloggers through Twitter and Sydney Travel Tribe: Adam, Lauren, Anna, Hannah, Dina & Ryan, Chris, Ian, Tony, Caz and Craig, and I’m sure a few others I’m accidentally omitting! And of course I have a few friends I didn’t meet on Twitter, like expat Andrew and his wife and son, who hosted me for an early Thanksgiving meal this past Sunday.

Me and Jack
On the field after the game

James, the bird whisperer
Dandenong Ranges

With Lauren on Macaron Day — the most magical day of the year
It's the most magical day of the year

I’m thankful that the transition from traveler to temporary Sydney resident and employee was relatively easy.
Within a week of concluding my travels to set up camp in Sydney, I’d moved into a flat in the Inner West suburb of Petersham and accepted a job at an organic food store in another suburb of the Inner West. I didn’t expect to live in the Inner West, but I am so incredibly grateful that I do. It’s close to the city via train or bus, and it has a feel and subculture all of its own. From Petersham, I have reason to go to the city or beaches, but if I didn’t live in the Inner West, I probably wouldn’t have come to explore it.

I’m thankful to work for a store that provides healthy and delicious food to its customers, including me, with my spiffy, shiny employee discount. Overall I work with really pleasant people, and while the customers are a mixed bag, they entertain and amuse me daily at the very least! I can enjoy two free coffees a day (decaf mocha with rice milk, please!) and a free meal on break. I love that I get to wear sneakers and comfy clothes to work. And a few times, I’ve chatted with a celebrity while ringing up their groceries.

I’m thankful for visitors from home.
Grayson, a friend since 2003, is an expat living and working in Japan for the foreseeable future. He took a week of his limited holiday to visit Australia and we spent a few of those days exploring Sydney. I thought I’d get to play tour guide to him. Turns out he was the one teaching me! Two weeks later Nicole, one of my best friends in the world, came to visit for two weeks. It was our fourth time being in another country together, and she fell hard for Sydney. And just a few weeks after Nicole’s departure, my parents came to visit for a week. It was the first time in Australia for both of them, and my mom’s first trip abroad!

Did I mention that all of my visitors stayed for FREE at my flat? Who’s next?!

My parents strolling back to the flat after brekky
Mis padres

I’m thankful that Australia has provided the playground I needed to explore my interest in food further.
I don’t have to look back at the first six months to know that many of my experiences have centered around food. I mean, if going to the Good Food & Wine Show in week 2 wasn’t telling of the weeks to come, I don’t know what is :-)

I have a food tag on my blog so I can easily locate those posts. On Twitter, I have a list dedicated solely to foodie bloggers and restaurants/cafes. On Flickr, there’s an entire album for my Sydney Food Adventures. And of course, I’m on the EPIC mission of having No Macaron Left Behind at Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie when I board that plane to fly home.

Last, and certainly not least, I’m thankful for the many lessons I’ve learned or had reaffirmed in the last six months. I planned to share several with you, but apparently I’m still sorting through them myself and will leave you with just one or two for now.

A fear of failure has kept me from attempting several things throughout the course of my life. I was such a model student from kindergarten through grad school that the thought of trying something and not succeeding really bothered me. Thankfully over the last several years I have adopted Eleanor Roosevelt’s saying of “Do one thing every day that scares you” as one of my life’s mottos. Without question, one of the most fun experiences I have had in Oz was my first time at karaoke. It may sound silly, but I had been incredibly intimidated to try it for years. I would never have guessed that standing up in front of new friends in a small room and belting out boyband pop and show tunes would have given me such an incredible sense of freedom. In that moment, I didn’t care how awful I sounded and neither did anyone else.

When I first started my job, I felt like I was in elementary school. There were so many things to learn and any training I was going to receive was going to be on-the-job and on-the-spot. I was expected to make mistakes to learn the ropes. It was really challenging for me to feel so incompetent in front of customers who just wanted to purchase an item that wouldn’t scan or the mystery herb that even they didn’t know. When I finally allowed myself to own being the newbie, I felt more free to make a few mistakes and learn and grow from them. I’ve learned how clearly competency (at work or life in general) is a HUGE value for me. I’ve revisited how frustrated I feel when I don’t know the answer because I love learning and being a resource to others (hello, career counselor!). Now, I’m learning how to be patient with myself. When I am patient and kind to myself, others tend to be also. They’re often more forgiving of my mistakes than I am of myself.

THANK YOU for reading my blog and sharing in my dream and adventures. If you’re willing, I’d love to hear about some things you’re most thankful for at the moment.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home ♥

Featured image courtesy of pinksherbet via Flickr Creative Commons

39 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Dad says:

    Heather…seems I always say this, but “this is my favorite blog thus far”. I appreciated you putting it all together so that it played like a movie in my mind. Needless to say, I most enjoyed the part about our visit (I haven’t forgotten I owe you a guest column). Sydney is a gorgeous city, but its people are what make it shine. I won’t elaborate on that greatly here. My FB photo album is a nice tribute to the great time we had. Perhaps, not truly reflected in my photos…I enjoyed and was blessed by the Church Service we attended while there. And Lauren made quite a lasting impression. Her warm and engaging spirit made us feel like we had known her for years. Lastly, being with you was the absolute highlight. Seeing you wear that “Jets” shirt brought back one of my all time fondest memories of my lifetime…being in the Meadowlands with you last year in the last game at freezing Giants Stadium when the NY Jets trumped Cincinnati 37-0. “Cheers” to you my dear. Live the dream but come home to us safely. We love and miss you.

    • Heather says:

      I LOVED being with you when you saw your first Jets game in person. That is was silly cold makes it slightly more memorable 😉

      Love you bunches!!

  2. Sounds like it has been a great journey! I think it’s nice to reflect on the things we’re appreciative of. Often we just take things for granted and that can leave us feeling a little dissatisfied. Good on you for telling the world about it!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks Adam :-) I’ve definitely had my moments of whinging about things, but at the end of the day I’m always thankful for the experiences I’m having here.

  3. Sinead says:

    Hey Heather!!

    This was so lovely to read. It sounds like your having a wonderful time. Can’t believe we saw you earlier this year- it feels like forever ago! Robin and I will be in Ireland for St Patrick’s day next year too, but we’ll be thinking of you! Loved the macaroon post too- sounds like my kinda place!

    Miss you. Hugs,

    Sinead xx

    • Heather says:

      Doesn’t it feel like longer than just earlier this year?! Hoping that whenever I pop by London again (hopefully in 2011!) that you and Robin will be there! Miss your sunny smile!

  4. Mom says:

    Wow! That is how I must start. I say it all the time but here goes again…I look so forward to the next blog because you are such an insightful writer. You look at yourself with depth and tell us how you feel/felt and your perspective on things which comes across so intriguing.

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING MY DEAR GIRL…I’m very thankful that God blessed us with you!!!

    With Love <3

  5. Adri says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, sweetie! I’m so happy we both moved to Australia and managed to meet each other! You’ve helped me so much with acclimating to a new home on the opposite side of the world, and sharing our experiences reassured me that I’m not experiencing this alone. I’m thankful for you! Can’t wait to hang out again!

    • Heather says:

      *HUG* Thank you for saying such sweet things!! On my walk home from work just now I was thinking about everyone I’ve met and how we help each other not feel so alone in all of this. I really wish we were in the same city and look forward to spending more time together before my time here is done!!

  6. Nicole says:

    Heather, this post is so inspiring! I’m SO proud of you for having the courage to face some of your fears & to write about them so that others can learn from your experiences.

    Right now I am feeling very thankful that I may soon have an opportunity to engage in long-term travel – and so much of that is because of YOU! I know I’ve said this to you before, but I truly feel that one of the reasons life brought me to Charlottesville a few years ago was so that we could meet. How lucky was I to find not only a wonderful friend, but a travel partner with whom to share amazing adventures. :)

    • Heather says:

      REALLY hoping you have that long-term travel opportunity <3

      Thanks for those sweet words — been a week of feeling up and down so the love from home means everything!

  7. Jaime D. says:

    Awww your Dads comment brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t know your parents read your blog, now I am wondering “OMG have I ever left a crazy comment…lol”!!! Anyway back to your post~

    Congrats on 6 months there that is so AWESOME. I am glad I found your blog and glad we have built a tweetship/blogship as I like to call them. Its like we’ve gotten to know eachother and hopefully one day we can meet in person. I love your blog it really makes me want to go ahead and the working VISA to Oz before leaving so in the middle of my RTW trip I can stay in Aus for a year. Anyway cheers on 6 months and triple cheers to 6 more~


    • Heather says:

      You are such a sweetheart! Instead of saying “I hope we meet one day” I’m going to start saying “when we meet one day” :-) I’m not sure if I’ll stay the length of the entire visa or head off elsewhere before heading home, but who knows…maybe wherever your first stops take you I might be also!

      And yes, my parents are my biggest fans :-)

  8. Jack McClane says:

    Hey Ruddy!

    Mate, that was a bloody good post. In fact it was bonza! That 6 months has certainly gone very quickly. It only seems like yesterday when we went to the Gabba to watch the Lions lose another bloody game. Lol. In fact, I was thinking of that night on Thursday when I was back at the Gabba to watch the Ashes cricket because that was the first time I had been back there since that night with you (other than a quick visit a few days earlier).

    This time, I was sitting in the hot Queensland sun, wearing a broad rimmed ‘cowboy’ hat watching perhaps one of the greatest moments in Ashes history when Peter Siddle took a hat-trick. Anyone reading this who doesn’t understand this whole paragraph, I apologise. It is such a great stadium and with only 36,000 people there you can almost say you know everyone else there. Similar to the night in June when the Lions played. It was great to go to the game with you and it was even better to go to a game of footy with a seppo who not only supported my team but also knew the rules!! Some Aussie chicks don’t even know the rules, so kudos there, mate. I am thankful for that.

    Now that you are into the second half of your Aussie tour I fear it will go quicker than the first half but I am hoping that we get to attend the State of Origin at Suncorp Stadium. Until you’ve done that, you haven’t felt how a State of Origin should be experienced!

    It was great talking to Lauren and saying g’day that day you guys were waiting for the train. It was also great having a yak with your parents. I really enjoyed it and I hope they got a little taste of a Queenslanders accent! I am thankful for that.

    Also because of you, I have met some great people like Brooke and Bobbi and Adri and Kristin when we had a catch up in the Queen St mall. Thanks to you, I would never have met these awesome people. I am thankful for that.

    I am also thankful to you for showing me about parts of Australia I have not yet experienced. It is cool that a chick from Virginia has highlighted to me parts of my own country. I can’t wait to get up there and meet Willie and Judy and I will add to my bucket list to get to Uluru.

    I am thankful for the chats we have had, especially when I have been stuck in traffic or driving long distances. You help to pass the time and it is always great to hear of what you have been up to.

    I am also thankful to you for loving my country. As you know I am hugely patriotic and I love my country so much and to have a visitor come here and talk and write about it as you do, well, it means a lot. You are welcome anytime. (I’ll have a chat to the Dept of Immigration and get you permanent residency if you want it!!!).

    But most of all, I am thankful that I met you and know that I have a new friend for life.

    Go the Lions!


    • Heather says:

      So sweet and thoughtful, Jack — thank you!!!

      I’m afraid this 2nd half will FLY by! I don’t even know what I’m doing post NYE yet but have a few ideas I’ll research and ponder between Christmas and New Years.

      Nicole and my parents enjoyed chatting with you on the phone…thanks for making the time and glad you enjoyed it too :-)

      Definitely want to return to Brisbane before all is said and done. And at this point, I can’t imagine not coming back to Australia after this visa…would be too hard to stay away.

      Thanks for sharing your love of of Australia with me!

  9. Great blog. Sounds like you had a fantastic time on your travels. I hope you settle into life in Australia well.

  10. Erica says:


    You are absolutely amazing lady! The fact that you picked up and moved to Australia alone is such an achievement, and now you are working on yourself in regards to fears – what a feat. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us. I know quite a few people love to read and hear about your thoughts (and macarons!). Keep it up lady!


    • Heather says:

      Aww, thank you Erica!

      It’s been a growth experience in so many ways, and I am certain that the second half is going to have so much to offer and teach me as well.

  11. Chris says:

    What a fantastic entry. I’m so jealous that ya’ll have Thanksgiving to remind you to pause for a moment and be grateful. It’s such a wonderful holiday. Glad I made your list too, haha

    • Heather says:

      I love Thanksgiving and at times it was a challenging week for me as I dealt with not being at home. Hope you and Fallon celebrated in some way :-)

  12. Sally says:

    I totally relate to you on the whole fear of failure thing (although, for some reason, I have no problem with looking like a fool while doing karaoke!). I have always been the good student & stuck to the relatively safe career route (teaching over what I’d really like to be doing: writing). While I’ve taken some risks in my life, I’m taking the biggest one right now… I’m still worried that I’m going to fail. That I won’t find a job & have to head home this winter. Or that I will find a job and end up staying in it forever & not continue on with my travels & my writing. But, I’ve stopped worrying so much about what other people might think of my failure and started thinking more about what I want.
    Oh, and the comments from your parents are so awesome.

    • Heather says:

      That’s one of my favorite things about reading blogs — seeing other ways we relate to one another beyond the obvious common interest in travel.

      Starting this new job really taught me a lot about “failure” — mistakes don’t have to be categorized as failures. I’m doing my best and the comments and looks of the customers who expect me to know everything need to be quickly forgotten because it’s not worth thinking about more than a few moments. If my name is attached to something and I’m producing something for someone else, I want it to be spot on…really a change for me in these past couple of months.

      It appears you’ve always found your next place to be and a unique job to boot 😉 Keep writing about how you feel and think because people love it.

      And yes, my parents are awesome.

  13. Laura says:

    Six months!! Doesn’t it go by so fast? I’m not sure which would be harder- missing Thanksgiving or missing Christmas. I’m proud of you for toughing it out. At the end of the day you’re doing what most people only dream of so I guess sacrificing one Thanksgiving and Christmas is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. Enjoy every moment… and if you’re not enjoying some of them now, maybe you can at least laugh about them later 😉

    • Heather says:

      Agreed — the good days I enjoy now and the rest I can laugh about later. I look back on some of the rubbish days from the first few months and smile, laugh, or am thankful for what I learned from them. It’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things!

  14. Kyle says:

    ” And within a few days I’d set up an Aussie bank account, selected an Aussie mobile service provider, applied for my Tax File Number, appeared on national television, and met my future flat mate.”

    Do you know how long it would take me to do all those things in Chile?!? Pretty sure I still couldn’t get a bank account even if I tried! I think that living in a first world country definitely has it’s advantages :)

    Like everybody else, I really enjoyed this post of yours. Very entertaining to hear all about a sort of recap of your experiences so far! Many great things are ahead too, I’m sure!

    • Heather says:

      Yeah, I’d planned on the “business” stuff but not so much on the TV and flat mate bit. Thankfully my love of sports made both of those a reality 😉

      No bank account even now? It’s always interesting to learn how people handle money on the road based on their unique situation!

      Chile is on my list of places to visit…so maybe I’ll be in your neck of the woods one day :-)

  15. Jade says:

    Heather, such a sweet post. It was so great to met you in Melbourne (you were one of our first twitter meet-ups) and so exciting to read along on your journey in OZ. I love your quote- I try to do the same and sometimes my fears still get the best of me, I’m trying slowing to let some of them go to experience more out of life. It’s so fantastic to hear how well you are doing with that and totally encouraging as I move forward. Good luck on the next 6 months, we’ll be reading and might have to take you up on a trip to Sydney!!! :)

    • Heather says:

      I’m just as eager to hear what’s in store for the 3 of you :-) I remember asking your thoughts on what may be before you as we left dinner. Seems like ages ago now :-)

      Your support and encouragement are always valued <3

  16. Gale Davis says:

    Hi there:

    Happy belated Thanskgiving. Reading your blog is an enriching escape for me. I would dearly love to travel. As yet, I haven’t managed to overcome the intense claustrophia about being in an airplane for so long. Being contained is so panicky for me that I don’t even use elevators. I always take the stairs. I applaud your mom for the love and tenacity it took for her to make such a long airplane journey. Love will definitely take you outside your comfort zone.

    Last week was quite busy for me. As a petsitter, Thanksgiving week is my busiest time. I made 3 pet stops on Thanksgiving day. I was so glad my husband and I were invited to a late lunch with some new friends we met at our church. I got off easy this year and didn’t have to cook. Went to Chandlers Bakery for the most delicious pie. I am still walking that off.

    I am very thankful to be able to enjoy the freedoms that being an American citizen provides me-freedom to worship without fear of persecution, freedom to choose what I want to do as a career (as opposed to being locked into what my family status says I should do); freedom to pursue an education; freedom to vote, freedom to go anywhere I want without governmental permission–I could go on and on, but I am deeply grateful to enjoy benefits that so many people long for. No matter where I could go, I will always be indebted to God for gracefully allowing me to be born in America where these treasures have been my birth right.

    I am delighted you are meeting great people (loved the pic of the bird whisperer) and having such awesome adventures. Like beautiful threads in an exquisite tapestry, these memories will be with you forever. Cherish the moment.

    I have to run. I have taken a Painting class at PVCC this semester on a lark. Our last class is this Tuesday. I will miss it. Things are starting to get hectic in C-Ville. You know how the traffice starts building up before Christmas. Whenever you get back, if you have some time maybe we could go out for some coffee. Take care.


    • Heather says:

      Gale, what a sweet note!!!

      Good for you for taking that class — try something new(?) and meet new people. I love it.

      We certainly do have so much to be thankful for and it’s easy to take it for granted.

      I’d love to get together for a coffee upon my return…whenever that may be :-) Take care of yourself!

  17. ayngelina says:

    So many great photos, I love the Maroons one. You’ve done so much in 6 months. I’m starting to feel like all I do is eat!

    • Heather says:

      Girl, I’ve been doing PLENTY of eating. Plenty. I don’t know why I’ve only started reading your blog when everyone we mutually know loves you, but I have a feeling we’d make good foodie travel partners :-)

  18. Gillian says:

    Heather…I’m so glad you found my blog so that I could come over here and find your excellent adventure!! Our ultimate goal is to live in another country within the next 3 years so I’ll be looking to your stories for tips and tricks for sure! I also have a favorite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. Thanks, and Cheers!

    • Heather says:

      I love that Eleanor quote too! Had it in my dorm room at uni the first year :-)

      Not sure if I have tips or tricks O:-) I go back and forth between feeling like I’m floundering or like I’m settling in well…but I suppose that’s life O:-) That being said, yes, would love to answer any questions and chat!!

      And India tops my list of places to go next..I’m reading about your time there and would love to chat more about it some time!

      Glad we found one another!!

  19. Rena says:

    Heather, I have enjoyed your FB posts – and your blog is a real jem!!! LOVE that you’re in Australia and doing what you want to do. So excited for your next adventures and to read about them :) Keep us potsed :)

  20. People dont believe me (in Europe) when I tell them what we eat in Oz.

    “I’ve eaten crocodile sausage, an emu burger and emu prosciutto, kangaroo steak and “kanga bangas” (‘roo sausages).”

    • Heather says:

      Even though it’s not what you eat every day, it still sounds fun to be able to say you can eat all of that in Australia :-)

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