Life as an Irish expat: 4 years later.

It was never my intention to become an expat. You could go as far as saying it was the furthest thing from my mind to even think about leaving Ireland 10 years ago. Then I met my friend Camilla while studying nursing in college. She spoke about travel with such enthusiasm and passion and it ignited a thirst for the unknown within me. Before going to college I holidayed in Ireland year after year and had known no different. I had the best summers growing up with friends and family on the lake.

After graduating from college I moved to London to nurse with a few of my close friends. We began to plan long weekends away to different destinations throughout Europe. My 4 visited countries took quite a leap to 23 and I still wanted more.

Now I’m an expat and I don’t want to go home. I’m not ready to head back to Ireland’s green pastures just yet! I want to see more, travel more and experience life in more countries.

I’m currently working towards becoming a nomadic expat – the never ending dream.

The lingering question for you is are you ready to become an expat?

The answer should be hell yes. If I can do it, you can too. When I was moving to Australia I never really knew I was opening a door to a whole new realm of possibilities and opportunities. Recently I was asked what I love about living in Australia and my answer was that australia brings out the best version of me. I don’t know if it’s because of the sunshine, living by the beach or the healthy outdoor lifestyle. All I know is that it makes me want to grow into a different…better version of me.

Going out and meeting like minded friends has definitely become easier over time. It’s like anything, the more you do it the better you get at it. You’ve got to put yourself out there, get off the pot, make an effort and say yes to every opportunity. As Irish natives we tend to gravitate towards our own, we have to be one of the friendliest nations, we support one another like no other. I’ve found that expat friendships are what make expat life so special. Expats are amongst the most welcoming on the planet. They have to be, everyone knows all too well what it feels like to be fresh off the boat. Believe it or not they also need you as much as you need them.

Living life abroad is like being on a constant conveyer belt…friends come and friends go. These are the friends who become your family. The people you celebrate your birthday with, Xmas, New Year, the ones you turn to when you’re homesick or need help or advice.

Living abroad as an expat in the land down under has its challenging moments. Transplanting yourself to a foreign country has its ups and downs, those of which I can talk about now that I’ve been living in Australia for 4 years. I’ve dealt with many reaffirming moments where you know you’ve made a great decision, as well as many bittersweet encounters where missing another family event makes you cry out of sheer frustration and disappointment. Of course those feelings will vary from person to person, however, the following could probably be considered standard.

Highs:

• Living Standards: Wages in major Australian cities can be pretty decent, particularly if your vocation or skillset is one that is particularly in demand. You could find yourself earning significantly more than you would at home.

• Climate: Living in Australia means having more than 3000 hours of sunshine a year depending on location in the continent. If you wanted to badly enough you could chase summer all year long.

• Lifestyle: Australia is a country where people learn to embrace the outdoors and all it has to offer. Expats can easily fill their free time exploring the Outback in search of kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and emus. Nearly all of Australia’s main cities are considered some of the top livable destinations globally. This includes cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. I’ve lived in two of these fabulous cities and plan to relocate to the third in due course.

• Healthcare: The country supports a universal system, and expats can receive high-quality care while living here. Permanent residents can receive medical attention (medicare) for free or at extremely low costs.

• Travel within Oz: There are great travel opportunities within Australia and good city transportation. A short plane ride can feel like landing in another country due to the diverse climate and wealth of wildlife. Urban transport in Australia is generally quite good, but it does vary from city to city.

The hardest things about living in Australia aren’t even about the country itself. Most of them are emotional obstacles that I’ve struggled with while living here.

LOWS:

  • Visas: Moving to a new country means so much paperwork. The logistics of getting a visa can be insanely stressful. There are so many rules to follow. Even if you meet every requirement, you still don’t know exactly what the future holds. No matter what you do, your fate is in the hands of an immigration officer. My advice would be to stay on a Working Holiday Visa for as long as possible and take the opportunity to do your farm work, when will you ever do something like that again. Enjoy the freedom to travel and try new things while you can before you get tied down.
  • So far from Ireland: Australia is pretty much the opposite side of the globe. It’s unrealistic to fly home for a quick visit. Travelling home takes over 24 hours, and the jet lag that accompanies that trip is pretty brutal, 9 times out of 10 you need a holiday after your holiday! It’s also a very expensive flight. Sometimes that means missing out on birthdays, weddings, pregnancies, and the general passage of time. You won’t have regular brunch dates or even just the opportunity to relax and sit together with your family or friends. And you’ve never experienced grief like losing a loved one or a pet when you’re on the other side of the world.

While life abroad is not for everyone, moving away from your home country, your base, support system and culture won’t be all plain sailing. Leaving one life behind to start another from scratch is definitely not for the faint hearted. Yet…here I am, 4 years later after leaving Ireland on a Working Holiday Visa determined I would be home within 2 years and back water skiing in Lough Derg for the summer. What I didn’t expect all those years ago was to find what I’d always been looking for, meeting like minded people and living a never ending adventure.

The best is yet to come! Here’s hoping that you too can get the best out of life as an expat.

Delving within: My first Yoga Retreat.

Just recently I was fortunate enough to attend my first yoga retreat ‘shine your light’ with the lovely Fionnuala from @infinniteyou. After only practicing yoga a handful of times and never taking to it fully, I had tried yoga briefly and decided it was too slow, too hard and I couldn’t keep up. I had like many been sucked into our modern Western society and joined the obsession with high intensity training, the thought that we need to be busy, we need to make all movements fast and chaotic. The truth is, yoga really is for everyone. It can be scaled very easily for every individual as needed. No matter your mobility, the shape and size of your body and your fitness level.

After much consideration I decided to book onto a yoga retreat, to jump in at the deep end and see what it was all about. I was able to go without any expectation and was willing to embrace whatever the experience was going to present to me.

The lovely Irish girls who attended the retreat.

Solely focusing on yoga and being able to practice twice daily, I relished at the opportunity to immerse myself deeper, without any distractions whatsoever. A few key features of the retreat that I believe were the perfect formula to connect with oneself began with the most obvious, disconnecting from technology. Although the gorgeous ‘Curraweena House’ provided wi fi throughout, I made the decision to disconnect and unplug from everyday life without the constant checking of the phone, demand of emails and responsibilities giving time to immerse myself, focus and develop a fresh perspective.

The experience was transformative in ways I know will enhance my everyday life. It is something I will most definitely incorporate into my lifestyle. Having the time to focus on you and your own inner self and connecting deeply within is one of the keys gifts of a retreat.

This is where @infinniteyou took us through our paces.

Daily journaling, cleansing, breath work, yoga, meditation, relaxation, chats and nourishing vegetarian food provided by @mindful_cooking promotes a shift in whatever is no longer serving you and helps to embrace the present moment a and live in the now.

The gorgeous kitchen where @mindful_cooking worked her magic.

Taking time to stop, slow down and delve within, my emotions were at an all time high. The retreat came at a pivotal time for me as I’m experiencing a lot of change in my life and my self love was at an all time low. It has helped me to look at it all with a fresh pair of eyes and be grateful for every opportunity life has thrown my way. Being away from the city and giving yourself permission to relax and receive the benefits of your morning and afternoon practice while enjoying workshops, fresh air and downtime enables you to experience profound rest and healing. For The first time in a very long time I went to bed each night with an empty mind.

The wonderful views from our hike to the Vale of Avoca in the Blue Mountains National Park.

People choose to go on retreats for many different reasons. Some in search of a little rest and relaxation. Others to really create and welcome a change in their lives. It’s taught me that it is ok to slow down, take time out and focus on me, myself, I. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced yogi a retreat is a great opportunity for you to explore or re connect with your inner self in ways that will ultimately surprise you.

* Photos are not my own.

Joining the no hangover club.

There’s nothing I used to love more than the clink of ice cubes as they fall into a gin and tonic, fizzing Prosecco as the cork leaves the bottle and the smell of Aperol on a hot summers day, but sometimes love is not enough, it can get complicated! This is why I’ve decided to call it quits on drinking for good.

Drinking is a way of life for many Irish. Our biggest problem is not how much we drink but how we drink. Just as much as we can enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine on a summers afternoon, we can loathe the troubles alcohol brings.

You don’t need alcohol to have fun!

Most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for months on end I woke up dehydrated, anxious and nauseated after a few sociable drinks kicked on to a club or karaoke, where 1 drink would lead to 20! The fears, the tears and alcohol amnesia would have crippled me for days necessitating a dark room, cold shower, beach swim and salty food to restore any semblance of humanity. A short time into my alcohol free life I feel worlds away from that wretched creature who used to wake up cracking one teary bloodshot eye open and cursing her appauling life choices made the night before.

I’ve become slightly mystified as to why I kept doing it when it caused significant pain to my head, stomach, pockets and mental health.

But it’s all fun and games…right? WRONG.

I, like others used alcohol as a social lubricant to gain a greater confidence and ease myself into unfamiliar surroundings. Did you know for women, binge drinking is defined as more than four drinks in one sitting. I couldn’t believe this. It sounds like what used to be a regular night for me and most people I know! Drinking too much is normalised, so we forgive each other’s drunken tomfoolery, antics and complete bullshit. We tolerate hangovers and recovery periods as if it’s par for the course.

As I started to reflect more honestly on my relationship with alcohol and how it made me feel, I realised uncomfortably that almost every regrettable decision I’d made had occurred under its influence and often made me feel anxious, guilty and sick to the core. Growing up in a household affected by addiction I did not want my life to follow suit. I started to wonder…could I actually give up alcohol? Could I eliminate it from my life?

Like many of us I’ve abstained from alcohol for a month under the guise of a detox, a fresh start to the year. Despite feeling better afterwards, I always looked forward to resuming normal service at the bar.

I slowly began to realise that a month is only a taster of what life could become. I want to make a lasting change. I want to like the person I’m becoming, remember the new people I meet on nights out and make more time for different endeavours. I’ve decided not to go it alone, because along with the social lures and cultural norms, alcohol is everywhere, really addictive and habit forming, especially when you’ve been indulging for years.

The good news is there is plenty of support available, from apps to podcasts and online communities such as @weareunwstd which I am so grateful to have found.

How good do these mocktails look.

This year and for years to follow I plan to explore different strategies and gain an insight into what it takes to live an alcohol free life. My main concern starting this journey was the fear of being bored – or ‘boring’. This was my own perception of an alcohol free Kate, silly I know! However, my quest for self improvement and personal growth far outweighs those fears and there’s only one way to find out!

There are so many things I love about being booze free including: better sleep, reduced anxiety, closer connections, more adventures, earlier mornings, a sense of calm and losing weight both mentally and physically without trying too hard.

I’m keeping a diary and will share with you what I discover along the way.

Life as an expat: How to combat loneliness and make real genuine connections.

All sorts of people breeze in and out of our lives who we deem ‘friends’, acquantices, co workers, classmates, social media followers etc. What we really yearn for are ‘real’ connections. People we can count on. Friends who enjoy us. Pals who will stand by our side when times are tough. Companions who’ll both laugh and cry with us. Real friends who will stand the test of time.

As human beings we all long for real human connections. Even in our busy day to day lives with people around us, these genuine connections can be hard to find.

Here’s a few things that have helped me along the way:

1: Quality vs Quantity.

In the last year I’ve made it a point to keep my social circle small, but with deeper connections. Real human connections are needed to be happy and fulfilled. The best job in the world, all the money in the world and all the possessions in the world won’t matter much if you’re lonely and have no real connections. The majority of people focus on the quantity of friends that they have as opposed to the quality of friends they have. Quality and depth is the most important thing when it comes to friendships.

2: Be open about yourself.

Often when we meet new people we try to present the best side of ourselves. We try to come across as being super confident, competent, knowledgeable, interesting funny and smart. That’s a front, it’s only part of who we are, the good part. Why connect with somebody if you are going to give them a false identity. As scary as it seems, open yourself up and show the real you. Becoming vulnerable is risky but you’ll be sure to reap the rewards. You gain a deeper connection, trust and in lue a better friendship. Once you have developed your own interests and character, share it with the people around you. When you become enthusiastic about what you love then others will want to be around that enthusiasm and friendships will begin to manifest.

3: Be open to random connections.

While I accept fewer invitations these days, when I randomly meet someone I try to remain open. Opening up, wondering who they are and setting aside any pre judgements. Share who you are openly and positively.

Accept the other person for who they are. Don’t pigeon hole them. Be curious. If we want to get to know someone we must delve below the surface. Asking deeper questions moves the conversation from nicieties towards intimacy and vulnerability. There, we really get to know someone.

The more you expose yourself to the world, the more likely you are to attract different people into your life. This isn’t magic, it is simply the result of being in the right place at the right time and becoming open to whatever happens in the moment.

4: Engage with your emotions.

If you want real friendships, be ready to open up your emotional self. Connections progress through shared storytelling, shared experiences, and shared emotion. Being emotionally open requires trust and courage when you allow someone in. In return you get to know these places in them as well. It’s a reciprocal action and a necessary step in building real genuine connections. I don’t believe in over sharing but the more risks we take in being vulnerable, the more people are drawn to us as we are relatable.

Think about it, a true friend is sort of like a therapist. Besides your family, who do you tell your problems to? Your true friends are the people who will listen to whatever you’re going through, good or bad. They’re attentive listeners. They make sound suggestions and support your happiness.

5: Treat friendships as an investment.

Friendship, as with anything else is an investment. What does an investment require? Time.

Friendship is something that is to be cultivated over longer time as opposed to a shorter time period. You are simply cultivating an acquaintance if your perspective is focused on short term. Meet friends on a 1:1 basis, cultivate a friendship before introducing alcohol and leave the phone at home! A pet peeve of mine is when people answer calls, reply to texts or feel the need to document the whole encounter on social media from beginning to end. (I too fell into this trap at one time). It is not necessary, do it on your own time!

6: Be the friend you want to have.

We all tend to attract people into our lives whose character mirrors our own. Be a true friend yourself. Though, you want the other person to be a true friend, being one yourself allows you to attract the right person. Surround yourself with people who want to lift you up. Real friends want to see you shine. Listen deeply rather than waiting to talk about yourself. Real friends challenge you to grow and they grow with you, you call each other out and you point out when you’re not living up to your values. Surround yourself with people who fan your flame and practice what they preach.

A friendship is supposed to be a supportive union between two people. Be there for your real friends when you can. Do they need you? Is there anything you can help them with? How can you support them?

7: Real genuine connections are a two way street, make the effort.

Continued effort is required to maintain real connections. Willingness to make the effort is what differentiates real friendships from acquaintances and friendships of convenience. Call your friends, meet up regularly, reach out. Depending on the relationship you could meet every few days or few weeks! For some of my best friends we meet every week or two, yet, never doubt that we’re closely connected and will be there for each other when needed.

Catch up via phone call or text message (personally I prefer not to text as messages can be interpreted in any manner the recipient wishes to read it). Technology has made communication so easy it’s difficult not to stay in touch.

8: Put down the phone, make conversation with people.

When you’re on the go, at the gym, in line or at the register and you’re on the phone, there’s a lot of missed connection happening. Make eye contact and converse with other people. When we disconnect from scrolling on our phones there are a lot of people around us to connect with.

9: You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Be who you are. You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that is OK. The truth is, not everyone is going to get you, and not everyone will like you. It’s likely that you won’t like everyone you come across, either. There will be people who take a glance at you and dismiss you from their circle immediately.

There will be those who want you to jump through hoops and run marathons for them, only to drop you like a hot cake when there’s nothing in it for them.

There will be people who will never take the time to see you and appreciate you for the beautiful, amazing person you are.

Don’t waste your time on those people.

Life is so much better when we make real genuine connections. We are happier, less isolated, more creative and have access to new opportunities. What are you waiting for, go out there and make some REAL connections.

10 top tips to save for future travels.

A popular myth is that travel is an expensive hobby. Certainly those who travel must have rich parents or very high paying jobs… right?I understand where you’re coming from. I used to think that too. As an Irish girl who didn’t know what a hostel was 4 years ago, I thought international travel was only for the privileged. After travelling on and off for the last 4 years I’m here to tell you that travel is possible for all of us.

Want to travel the world? Or take an extended break away? You don’t need to be rich, however, you will need to get creative about saving money. After receiving countless messages from individuals asking asking how I’m able to travel so much, I want to share some useful tips I’ve learnt along the way in order to save money for my upcoming travels.

Saving money is not easy. There are social pressures, our willpower is lacking and we are endlessly bombarded by marketing. It requires constant work and sacrifice, but if I can do it, you can too!

Best of luck – I’ll see you out there chasing your travel dreams!

1. Make a Plan:

It’s really hard to stick to long term commitments. Saving is tough and demands a significant sacrifice. Your want needs to be great in order to succeed. How badly do you want to save/travel?

Sit down and go through all your accounts to find out exactly what your finances look like. Tracking expenses is important in order to verify where you can cut back or even eliminate unrequired spending. This made me realise just how much money I’ve flushed down the drain over the last few years. Write it ALL down, how much do you spend on rent? Groceries? Nights out? Entertainment? Socialising? Date nights?

What are your monthly non-negotiables? Then take a look at alcohol, snacks, miscellaneous shopping. BE HONEST…you may be surprised at how much you’re really spending. All the small things do add up.

2. Distinguish a line between your WANTS and your NEEDS.

What you want and what you need are too very different entities. Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you need Netflix and Stan? Spotify? Do you need that coffee you get every morning on the way to work? What about the beers every Friday night? How about new clothes? Look at how much you can instantly start saving every month if you cut some of these out. Swap clothing with a friend. Head to a thrift store and pick up a few gems if you feel the need to brighten up your wardrobe. Do you really need to have a new outfit for every occasion?!

STOP BUYING THINGS YOU DON’T NEED

3. Daily habits that will save you money.

How about getting up an hour earlier, walking to work, riding a bicycle or buying a scooter. Instead of buying a coffee on the commute to work, make one at home. Cook your own meals daily instead of buying them. This can save you a hell of a lot in the long run. Prepping your own meals can save you between $100 and $200 every week.

Set up a savings account. Put money away as you earn it. Set up a direct deposit and track your savings. I find it easier to put money away automatically, in a place where it can’t be touched until I’m ready for my next adventure.

4. Reduce accommodation costs

This is one way I’ve been able to save significant money recently. It’s surprisingly extremely effective. If the place you are renting costs a lot of money, how about considering a new roommate to share the rent and bills? What about two roommates?

If that’s not an option, why not move into a smaller/cheaper place or move to a cheaper suburb. By moving to a cheaper suburb with a spare room I have been able to save a substantial amount of money monthly. When travelling or away rent out your place on Air B and B. I know some individuals don’t like strangers staying in their home. Personally, this does not bother me one bit. If anything it adds to the excitement of an upcoming trip knowing that your guests are paying for the majority of your trip away.

Sometimes you need to think outside the box in order to make your dreams come true. Drastic measures can be uncomfortable to begin with, but they do work.

5. Stop going out every weekend.

Instead of going out and spending money on alcohol, clubs and pubs, invite friends over to your place. Have a few sociable drinks in. Get outside, have a BBQ, take a hike, explore the city. Not everything has to revolve around drinking. Socialising is a non-negotiable expenditure for me. It’s important to me and I enjoy it so I just make sure to factor it into my monthly spending, but not every weekend!

6. Make extra money on the side.

We all want to earn a few extra dollars when we can, am I right? There are endless opportunities to earn extra money, even if you already have a full time job. Find a ‘side hustle’ that you can work part time. Airtasker, bar tending, events marshalling etc.

For example, I’ve worked as a dog walker with Madpaws, proofread other peoples work, taught English online with TEFL and I’m doing a web development course to further my skillset. It doesn’t need to be an amazing job, just something to boost your income. Do some research and lock down positions that match your talents. The possibilities are endless, a few apps I find useful are Fiverr, Freelancer and Skillshare.

7. One mans trash is another mans treasure.

Something that one person considers worthless may be considered valuable by someone else. It’s becoming more apparent that we really don’t NEED a lot of the materialistic items we own. Sell unwanted clothing at Kirribilli or Glebe markets. It’s reasonably easy to purchase and set up a stall. Be sure to have a float, be friendly and approachable, present your clothing and stall well, be early and stay until the very end. There’s two markets in Kirribilli: the general markets and the fashion market. They rotate every 2 weeks. There’s not as much competition at the general market, it’s a much more relaxed vibe. Steer clear of trendy, label conscious markets such as Bondi!

8. Shop around.

Do you compare prices when planning your upcoming travels?Trip planning can be daunting at times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Blogs, social media and guidebooks have never been more plentiful, sometimes making the task of planning a trip even more challenging. I take time to shop around for flights and use a number different search engines at a time. Be sure to check out budget airlines. Google your destination and ‘budget airline’ to see if there are any you don’t know about. It’s also important to look at the best time to book. The general rule of thumb is to book your flights one or two months in advance and try to book them on a Tuesday or Wednesday, which is when airlines tend to launch their deals. Then aim to fly on a Saturday or Tuesday which are often the cheapest days to fly.

9. Build a network and coach surf.

Couch surfing can be very beneficial especially if you are travelling solo. It can help you make friends with locals and get free accomodation. Before you go away set up an account and find a local meetup. That way you’ll make friends and get added to peoples profiles and you can be vouched for. It’s all about playing the system until you get reviews which lead to more stays! You’ll then have a network worth utilising when it is time to actually go away.

If you have space in your home you can host travellers. This is the best way to get familiar with the platform and earn reviews that will help you when you are looking for a host in the future. While in Brisbane 3 years ago I couch surfed for a week and it was such a great experience. I had $0 accomodation costs, experienced Brisbane like the locals and made a great friend for life.

10. Keep your distance from financially irresponsible people.

Watching your friends go out night after night and buy expensive new phones and laptops, pricey cocktails and new dresses will destroy all your hard won determination and motivation. Don’t do that to yourself! Don’t let your determination to save for future travels turn you into a party pooper either. BE SELECTIVE with your big nights out. Choose them wisely!!! You can most definitely save for travels and still let loose every now and then.

For me, saving is essential. It allows me to travel without restrictions. I can book that once in a lifetime hot air balloon ride or go diving with wild dolphins without a second thought.

THE SPECIFIC PLAN YOU CHOOSE ISN’T IMPORTANT…BUT THE DESTINATION IS ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

Silvermere Coastal Retreat: a getaway like no other.

Dreaming of a getaway where you can relax, have fun and explore? Make that dream come true at Silvermere Coastal Retreat. Shoalhaven offers some of the most iconic holiday destinations on the South Coast of Australia. It beckons with white sandy beaches, rolling National Parks and a huge variety of entertainment for all ages. If you have not been lately, now is the time to secure your special experience at Silvermere Coastal Retreat which is nestled at the idyllic beach location of Culburra. Take full advantage of everything this popular destination has to offer from the comfort of your own private property.

Master bedroom

Located in the laid back sleepy town of Culburra, Silvermere Coastal Retreat provides the ultimate beachside retreat where you can forget your worries, relax and explore the area. This magnificent waterfront abode exudes sophistication and charm by combining stunning ocean views, a modern coastal interior and a hypnotising fire pit area. This stunning home is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the spectacular views of Culburra beach right from the comfort of the kitchen.

Kitchen view

Privacy and outdoor living are a major focus here: with a spacious and open plan living, dining and kitchen area. Large sliding doors open onto the balcony creating a lovely, breezy, alfresco environment with breathtaking views over the beach. This luxurious 3 bedroom home sleeps 7, it has all you could ever need and more. Manicured gardens and an outdoor fire pit make this property the perfect location to catch up with friends over a few drinks, or experience a romantic night by the fire with plenty of seating in order to enjoy the tropical surrounding.

Outdoor entertaining area

Silvermere Coastal Retreat is a dream home, with luxurious interior, an open plan flow, relaxation den to rival others , a stunning bathroom, the most perfect outdoor entertaining area and of course the beach only a short stroll away. This tranquil oasis is also dog friendly. The fencing at the retreat is maintained and provides a secure boundary. All the boxes are ticked for your perfect South Coast experience.

Luxurious bathroom

We enjoyed the house so much we cooked in both evenings making the most of our time at this precious location. It gave us the opportunity to spend some quality time together, celebrate our anniversary and fall in love all over again. The house is equipped with everything you could ever need. A fully contained kitchen, coffee machine, smart TVs, laundry facilities and bikes to explore the local area. What more could you ask for?

Dining room

Upon booking we received a detailed guide of locations to explore in the area and instructions for everything in the house. Beth and Rod have simply thought of everything, even down to popular road trip destinations for those making the journey from Sydney.

Things to do in the area.

Visit Culburra Beach:

Culburra beach, only a stones throw away offers many water activities and it’s well known for its surfing spots. Hire a boat, kayak or paddle board. Get up early and take a walk on the beach for sunrise. Get out and reconnect with nature.

Head to Jindyandy Mill for brunch and a browse:

This historic mill is one of the most popular one stop shop destinations on the South Coast. Set on picturesque land with a relaxing view across the paddocks, Jindyandy captures everything country life should be! There are 5 specialty shops including antiques, homeware, clothing, a gift store and the infamous lolly shop. The cafe features delicious locally sourced organic cuisine. Be sure to try their scones, they are to die for. The locals could not have been friendlier. We listened to their adventurous tales of days farming and even got to meet a few members of the popular shoalhaven coffee riders! (a sociable group for bikers to meet for a coffee, motorbike ride and a catch up).

Jindyandy Lolly shop
Meeting the locals

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse:

Take a short walk and explore the vast headland and lighthouse at the mouth of shoalhaven river. There are several lookouts providing wonderful views of the river meeting the ocean. A great place to sit, look out and soak up the wonder listening to the crashing of the waves.

Views for days

Cambewarra Lookout:

Sitting amongst the beautiful forestry, the Cambewarra Lookout is well worth making the drive up the narrow winding roads. A small cafe provides the foundation for an epic lookout. This lookout is definitely worth a visit to experience the wide, beautiful vista that shoalhaven has to offer. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see King Parrots, Rosellas and other popular birds on the bird feeder which add to the insane view.

Cambewarra Lookout

Experience an in home spa treatment:

In home spa treatments can be arranged at Silvermere Coastal Retreat with Team Spa. Their blissful massage and beauty therapy packages have been designed for individuals seeking visible benefits while immersing themselves in ultimate relaxation. Be sure to book early as they do book up in advance. I can’t wait to return and experience all this has to offer.

Stylish interior

From the sublime coastline to the emerald hinterland, this retreat in the shoalhaven region is the perfect holiday destination. A mere 2 hours and 45 minutes from Sydney it is most definitely worth the trip. Silvermere Coastal Retreat embodies the ultimate sea side retreat. Stylish, comfortable, indulgent and superbly located. This beautiful beach side home really does provide an outstanding getaway which will give you, your family and friends wonderful memories to last a lifetime. What are you waiting for, book your stay now.

Orange: A very ‘a-peeling’ staycation!

A mere four hour drive West of Sydney you’ll find one of NSW’s best food and wine experiences. Orange is one of the friendliest thriving regional cities in Australia. Whether you’re visiting during wine harvest, or in town for a cosy winter experience, each season brings a new delight. Orange has quickly become famous for its extensive food and wine scene, trendy cafes and bars. However, there are many more things to do in Orange than what meets the eye. So what are you waiting for?

Getting there:

Getting to Orange is easy! You can drive, take a train or fly to the small town airport. We decided to drive in order to have freedom over the weekend. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a weekend roadtrip from Sydney. Witness the passing suburbia as you travel up through the mountains where the fabulous scenery turns into winding roads, tall trees and colourful views. There are plenty of places to stop along the way: Katoomba, Blackheath and Bathurst.

Where to stay:

We had the pleasure of staying with Quest Orange in their luxurious apartments located on Kite street in the heart of Orange. Quest Orange is within walking distance of the CBD, Orange train station and bars/restaurants. We felt right at home in our one bedroom apartment with plenty of space to move about, a seperate bedroom with a king sized bed, TV and a wardrobe. The relaxed and beautifully furnished living area provided privacy and comfort. A spacious work area was provided, meeting the needs for business travellers as well as tourists. The bathroom offered full laundry facilities with a washing machine and dryer, whilst the kitchen was fully equipped with a hob, an oven and a full sized fridge and freezer.

Quest apartments also feature a communal rooftop area, perfect for BBQ’s and a fully functioning gym for you gym bunnies. What more could you ask for? One of the things I loved most about Quest Orange Apartments is that they support local. The tea provided was from remymax.com.au, a local brand and our breakfast hamper featured local produce from the Orange region aswell. They even went as far as providing an extensive pillow menu to cater for a good nights sleep.

I could not recommend Quest Orange and Quest Apartments enough. The staff were warm and friendly, they went above and beyond to make our stay as comfortable as possible. If you are travelling to Orange in search of somewhere centrally located, affordable and luxurious, look no further than Quest Orange!

What to do:

Orange has a popular, growing wine industry with over 30 cellar doors in the area, making it a promising vacation! The wineries are however well spread out, making a car essential. Be it an Uber (which are few and far between) or a taxi, you will have to plan ahead.

The cool climate city is renowned for its vast array of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc. All of the wineries offer different style tours with varying inclusions. We visited 3 wineries in total.

Nashdale Lane Wines: A proudly Australian family owned and operated business. They have built a winery that is shaped around ethical practices and respect for the land. Situated almost 900m above sea level, visitors can enjoy the refreshing mountain air. Positioned at the foot of Mount Canobolas with unobstructed views and a wood fire, you have everything you need to enjoy tasting varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Shiraz. They also provide luxurious glamping amongst the vines for a fresh distinct getaway.

Printhie Wines: Printhie wines is another family owned vineyard with four different elevations in order to produce the finest fruit for their wines. Set next to their winery, printhie cellar door is a cosy space to relax and sample sparkling wines. The staff were super friendly and informative, educating us about their new topography range. Their sparkling wines picked up awards for the last two years in a row.

Heifer Station: Heifer station wines is a small family owned and operated single vineyard tasting room in one of oranges most picturesque areas. It’s located on the volcanic basalt slope of Mount Canabolas. We enjoyed a wine tasting in a 100 year old shearing shed. The woodshed is normally reserved for wine tastings only. They offer intimate vineyard tours for groups of 5 or 6. My favourite part of the station was the petting zoo. You can feed the chooks, pet the ponies and watch the pig bathe in mud and chase the chooks! This was without a doubt my favourite winery. It oozes authenticity with a fantastic selection of wines and hospitality to boot.

It is not all food and wine; there’s plenty of other things to do in Orange!


Lake Canobolas: Near the foot of Mt Canobolas lies a beautiful, tranquil lake which welcomes locals and visitors. It supports a range of activities throughout each season: dragon boating to cycling, swimming and triathlons.

Pinnacle Lookout: Take the Pinnacle walk all the way to the lookout for mesmerising views over the World Heritage listed area (Border Ranges National Park). A short walk providing spectacular 360 degree views all the way to the coastline. I only wish we got up to witness it at sunrise. The views from the top are quentessentially Orange, with its beautiful colours and vast vineyards. Beware, the climb does include steps, sturdy footwear is essential.

Millthorpe Village: Escape to the fantastic little village of Millthorpe, a 20 minute drive South East of Orange. Take a step back into the 1900’s with a contemporary edge. Browse the many boutiques and vintage collectables, follow one of the many village walks or visit the Golden Memories Millthorpe Museum.

Where to eat and drink:

Bring your appetite and be prepared to work up a thirst. A weekend in Orange is not complete without good food, fantastic wine and the great outdoors. Coffee addicts can be assured knowing that cafes and good coffee is somewhat of an obsession in Orange. There are plenty of cafes and coffee roasters to choose from: Bills Beans, Factory Espresso and Mad Hatter. Mad Hatter Drinks Lab was recommended by quite a few people. Is it a cafe? Is it a distillery? Is it a winery? Truth is, it is all of the above! The drinks lab has become one of the go to coffee spots for visitors and locals alike. It serves typical takeaway breakfast food from a funky, yet grungy industrial space. They also produce their own wines and pre mixed cocktails under the Mad Hatter Wine Co.

The Union Bank: has a great reputation as one of the regions highly sought after dining institutions. The Union Bank has an emphasis on showcasing everything wonderful about Orange by sourcing all ingredients locally. Championing local food produce and celebrating the cool climate wines of Orange, this wine bar restaurant should definitely be on the top of your list. We were adventurous and tried octopus for the first time. It was delicious.

Washington and Co. Whiskey Saloon: set in the middle of town along Summer street sits the popular Washing and Co. whiskey saloon. This cosy space is adorned with mounted deer heads, vintage artwork and dimmed lighting. We could have been in the heart of Surry Hills. The vibe energetic, the music electric and the cocktails 10/10. With the current covid-19 restrictions they’re only taking walk ins. Do yourself a favour and head down early!

Orange is a gorgeous getaway in the countryside surrounded by friendly people and clean fresh air. Discover award-winning restaurants, boutique shops, beautiful gardens and bustling markets, all set in the shadow of a striking ancient volcano. Go on, book your trip now, you won’t regret it!

Tiny Away Review: D’Getaway!

The concept of ‘disconnecting to reconnect’ is a fundamental part of Tiny Away. Spending quality time with a loved one in a space where you simply enjoy the company with little else to worry about is pure bliss.

Escaping the city and experiencing the true Australian countryside is what it’s all about. This weekend alone, we discovered waterfalls, canyons, caves and even went off road to explore sought after destinations. Little did I know that our Tiny Away adventure would involve exploring more of the Blue Mountains region than I’ve seen in the last 3 years while relearning how to appreciate the simple things in life.

Our Tiny Away Cabin amongst the great outdoors.

We chose D’Getaway cabin in Blackheath from the options available at Tiny Away. It was the perfect location, less than a 2 hour drive from Sydney surrounding the mountainous region. We were far enough away from the city for our staycation to feel like a true adventure. Tiny Away offers an array of tiny house getaways close to nature for a unique experience. Take a drive and discover the tranquility of Regional New South Wales by staying at one of these off the grid tiny homes. D’Getaway offered a relaxing Australian bushland escape situated in Blackheath, just a stone throws from the Blue Mountains. If you’re one to relish in being close to the mountainous terrains and awakening to the sounds of birds, this is the place for you!

Humble Abode.

Early Saturday morning we packed the car and headed for what would be an unforgettable weekend away. The Blue Mountains offers miles of hiking trails, alluring views, waterfalls and record breaking adventure attractions. The roads to the Blue Mountains are very easy to navigate and street parking is free at most of the attractions. For the weekend that was in it we decided to rent a Jeep Wrangler from Car Next Door, giving us the option to explore off road tracks that the mountains have to offer.

Taking a trip to the Blue Mountains requires a little homework as it’s such a huge place. With some time to kill before check in, our first port of call was the Wentworth Falls Lookout Track to check out the falls. Dip your toes in here and explore the National Pass for unrivalled views over the falls. If you don’t fancy too much cardio, don’t head too far down! The hike back up will take it out of you. Climate change is making drought more serious than ever in Australia. Lower your expectations if you choose to visit Wentworth Falls during a dry month. We found the Wentworth Falls hike moderately easy as we mostly walked in the shade. The only difficulty is the number of stairs that could be daunting for those not used to hiking. Be sure to dress for the occasion, I did not!

Wentworth Falls

One of the most spectacular and most visited landmarks of the Blue Mountains world heritage site has to be The Three Sisters. Tourists flock to stand in awe at the unusual rock formations carved from the cliffs at Echo Point in Katoomba. These three majestic rocks burst with colour throughout the day. It’s not only the wonder of the landscape that captures the heart of many a traveller but the story behind the three rocks that stand tall. The ancient aboriginal legend tells the tale of three sisters hearts captured by three brothers from a neighbouring tribe. However, the law of the land forbid the girls from following their desires and marrying outside their own people…crazy right!

Our final hike before checking into our Tiny Away cabin was Katoomba Falls. Often overlooked by tourists this beautiful segmented waterfall is located between Echo Point and Scenic World. While it is a short but picturesque walk it guides you through a lush rainforest all the way to the waterfall with panoramic views of Jamison Valley. Personally, I think it’s one of the most enjoyable tracks in the Blue Mountains that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

We arrived at D’Getaway just after 1pm and were greeted by the lovely Eugenie. We’d been running a little ahead of schedule and I’d optimistically sent Nilesh and Eugenie a message asking if we could check in early (check in was to be 2pm). When Eugenie greeted us she gave us a tour of the tiny house and gave us insight into the best walks, hikes and places to visit. We then explored the tiny home and it’s wonderful surroundings.

Cooking up a storm!

Our Tiny Away house was fitted with everything you’d need and more! Air conditioning, heating and blankets, showering facilities and all amenities needed for a big cook up. The queen bed lay on its own upper level within the house. The roof only a mere metre above our heads, we expected to feel claustrophobic, but in actual fact it was extremely cosy! The tiny houses are designed to be eco friendly and are built using sustainable materials. We were surprisingly impressed by the hot shower that even measured the temperature and the amount of water used per shower. The toilet, being eco friendly, actually smelt quite pleasant! Instead of flushing waste, an enzyme spray and wood chippings were used to absorb the smell. While this was not particularly luxurious it was eye opening and a true experience living sustainably.

Eugenie suggested we visit the popular Lincoln’s Rock for sunset. It is one of the most accessible and open areas for sunset as it looks out over the Kings Table and Jamison Valley. Please be careful here as it is not fenced. It does get extremely busy, so be sure to arrive early. The rest of our night was spent playing house in our tiny home. We cooked, played guitar and chatted until the wee hours.

Unfenced…Lincoln’s Rock.
The view of Jamison Valley from Lincoln’s Rock hidden cave.

Check out wasn’t until 10am giving us time to have breakfast and plan for the day ahead. The rented Jeep Wrangler came in handy on the unsealed and bumpy Mount Hay rough dirt road to the start of the Lockley Pylon walk. Over 7km of this road is dirt road which has become increasingly difficult to drive on with a conventional car. Lockleys Pylon walking track, just near Leura, is an invigorating walk offering scenic views. This walk traverses through the heath to a small peak overlooking eucalyptus forests of the Grose Valley. Be sure to climb up to Lockleys Pylon and take in the wonderful golden sandstone cliffs of Mount Hay and Mount Banks. This part of the Blue Mountains is still relatively quiet and undiscovered, which makes the track on top of the pylon even more enjoyable. The first section is uphill heading towards a unique rock formation called The Pinnacles. As the path continues, Lockleys Pylon will appear in the distance and you can enjoy the panoramic views of the valleys and mountains from both sides. With the strong winds and alpine landscape Lockleys Pylon walking track was exhilarating as it’s quite unique compared to other popular hikes.

We christened him Gilbert!

After refuelling, we checked out the Grand Canyon Walk. Often regarded as the most impressive trail in the region with lush rainforest, creek crossings, waterfalls and rock overhangs. The Grand Canyon Walk is a full circuit, meaning you can start at several different locations. We chose the 3km hike along the cliff edge of the Grose Valley offering some of the most spectacular views.

We covered a lot of ground in just 2 days. Most of the Blue Mountains can be seen in a short space of time once you have a plan!

Govetts leap lookout point.

If you are looking for an incredible weekend away off the grid, I cannot recommend a stay with Tiny Away enough. Each landowner/farmer receives a share of the profit, resulting in a form of sustainable tourism, how good is that. It was a unique and memorable experience, with next to no wifi, internet or phone reception, come prepared and ready to disconnect and recharge. Check out Tiny Away for yourself and book your staycation now!

A day in Darling Harbour: reliving my childhood!

Located in the heart of Darling Harbour you’ll find some of Sydney’s most interactive attractions, two of them being Madame Tussaud’s and WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo.

Madame Tussaud’s:

Do you find it cooky or cool? There’s no denying how amazing Madame Tussaud’s is. A world renowned famous museum that draws millions of eyes annually. From Royals to Hollywood celebrities, they have life size wax figures moulded. Where else in Sydney could you rub shoulders with sporting Olympian’s, Hollywood stars and iconic historians.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit the world famous Madame Tussaud’s museum in Sydney to experience the latest life size wax replicas in themed galleries. During COVID-19 Madame Tussaud’s are giving specific allocated arrival times, do not arrive early, you will not be granted access to the building before your given time. Temperatures are checked on arrival and there are hand sanitisation products provided throughout the premises.

Madame Tussaud’s is a self guided experience allowing you to explore each of the themed rooms within the attraction at your own pace. With over 250 lifelike wax figures on display, my favourites were Spider-Man and ET, giving me a chance to relive my childhood! As well as being able to get up close and personal with the wax figures Madame Tussaud’s also proved to be an educational affair with each waxwork having an information board providing background for the figure on display.

Have you ever wondered what the sculpting process requires? I know I have! For an artist to create a realistic sculpture of a personality, they will make roughly 150 measurements. Wax figures are said to shrink overtime so all figures are moulded two percent larger than their original stature. Each waxwork takes approximately four months to create, I can well believe this. Each character is so intricate, every single detail is recorded carefully, from exact eye colour to tattoos and birth marks. Even hair (eyebrows and eyelashes too) are individually inserted into each wax figure. You really do need to look very closely, the waxworks and theming are extremely realistic!

It doesn’t just stop with waxworks, Madame Tussaud’s provides endless entertainment. Learn to walk, talk and dress like Royalty at the new Royal Academy, you’ll even get to meet Madame Tussaud’s new arrivals Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Take time to perfect that royal wave, English accents at the ready! Prepare your make up and strut the catwalk with Elle McPherson, bust out your best dance moves or even experience MTV in the infamous music zone to make your experience even more immersive.

Overall, I had a fantastic time getting acquainted with some of the worlds most iconic individuals. It’s a great experience for all age groups.

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo:

WILD LIFE Sydney zoo is the perfect destination to get close to Australia’s most iconic animals. Snap a selfie with a koala or experience a buffet breakfast served on the koala rooftop. Discover one of the kangaroos at the kangaroo walkabout. I had the pleasure of encountering some very exciting animals, some being beautiful birds in the zoos replication of the Daintree Rainforest and Tasmanian Devils – critically endangered species. I watched the wombat and wallabies chase each other around their enclosure playfully and witnessed Rocky the mammoth saltwater crocodile (the largest reptile in the world) snooze in the pool for the duration of my visit. Like most crocodiles he spends a large portion of his time sleeping!

I was mesmerised by the nightfall habitat, the most interesting being the ghost bat. Prepare to be amazed as the animals can be viewed in their ‘day time’.

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo provide daily keeper talks and animal feeds at various times throughout the day (Covid-19 pending). It is the perfect spot to bring young children for a family day out.

With so many places to visit in Sydney, Madame Tussaud’s and WILD LIFE Sydney zoo are well worth adding to your itinerary. Be sure not to forget your camera!

Perth: the closest I’ve felt to home!

Perth is famous for being the most isolated city in the world. Who knew!

For me, Perth has been the closest feeling to home. Modern, yet rustic, rugged but sophisticated. From the lush green parks to the white sandy beaches and home to radiant skyline views. Perth is a fabulous destination which I think I could definitely call home one day.

With a near Mediterranean climate it is a city with endless summers. Its miles away from everything, but it never feels so. Mining and oil drilling has ballooned Perth’s population, resulting in a city of activity and growth. Perth encapsulates everything I imagined Australia to be: clean, hot, friendly, laid back, easy to get around and relaxed but still moving.

As a young city Perth itself is beautiful, however, it was the people that drew me in. I had the pleasure of meeting Conors extensive family in Perth. They made me feel like I’d been there years. Just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the city they lived in the most beautifully chilled neighbourhood. I immediately thought to myself ‘wow, I could see myself living here.’

Things to do and see in Perth:

  1. Get lost at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens.

People often say a trip to Perth is not complete without visiting Kings Park and Botanic Gardens and I couldn’t agree more. The magnificent views over the city are one of the main attractions. Kings Park is one of the largest and most beautiful inner city parks featuring both cultivated gardens and untamed bush land. You can picnic on grassy lawns, take a jog through the bush land or attend one of their outdoor concerts. I’d recommend joining a free walking tour led by Kings Park volunteer guides. If you’re feeling energetic you can tackle 101 steps of the spiralling DNA tower for spectacular panoramic views.

DNA Tower
  1. Take a day trip to Rottnest Island.

With 63 stunning beaches, 20 beautiful bays and an 11km long island to explore, Rottnest Island should most definitely be on your bucket list. There are three different companies that provide ferry services to Rotto. These leave several times a day from three different locations; Fremantle, Perth and Hillarys. Although there are frequent ferry services to Rotto it’s advisable to book your ticket in advance to ensure you get that highly sought after spot on the boat.

Our Rottnest Express Ferry departed from Hilarys Boat Harbour and took approximately 45 minutes. Most ferry companies offer return fares and bicycle deals.

Rottnest Island is car free and most of the fun is had while cruising around on two wheels. If meandering on a bike is not an option for you the Rottnest Explorer bus runs a hop on hop off service that does a circuit around the whole island. The bus leaves every half hour from the main bus stop. Tickets cost $20 per adult.

The quokkas are a definite highlight for any trip to Rotto. It’s very unlikely you’ll leave without seeing this remarkably cute creature. The Rottnest quokka are used to interacting with humans and are literally around every corner. Quokkas are small marsupials endemic to a few regions in WA, including Rottnest (which means rat’s nest in Dutch — when they landed, they thought the quokkas were rats.) The quokka selfie has become so famous now that even the most respectable looking adults go to great lengths to get the perfect selfie!

Conor going to great lengths here!

Be sure to park up your bike and visit Cathedral Rock to witness the playful seals in the water below. Not to be outdone by the seals, Bottlenose Dolphins are spotted feeding and surfing year round and Humpback Whales and their calves play in the protected waters of the island from September to December. Go snorkelling at Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay. Hike the Wadjemup Bidi trails and explore the lighthouse.

Burnt to a crisp
Remember to slip slap slop

Rottnest has a range of accomodation options, some of which I believe cost an arm and a leg! Rotto is Western Australia’s most loved holiday destination and many book at least 18 months in advance. An easy and affordable way to stay overnight on Rottnest, even during peak season is to take a tent and stay at the campground. Be sure to avoid ‘schoolies’ where hundreds of 18 year olds venture to the island after finishing school in order to get blotto in Rotto!

Situated 19kms from Perth it’s totally accessible and explorable in one day.

3. Enjoy one of the many beaches

With an abundance of awe inspiring beaches Perth is paradise for those looking for the perfect beach day/holiday.

Locally known as Cott, Cottesloe beach caters for everyone. A plethora of trendy beach cafes, bars and restaurants, long stretches of soft bright sand and a menu full of water sports. What more could you want?

Scarborough Beach is the epitome of a tourist beach. The exquisite beach offers everything you may require for a fun day (or night) at the beach. Live entertainment, street food, water activities and amazing sunsets are all on offer.

Trigg Beach should be at the top of your list if surfing is your chosen sport. This beach is a heaven attracting some of the best surfers from all around the globe.

Sunset at Scarborough Beach
  1. Take the train to Freemantle.

For a day trip full of quirky, unique fun, look no further than the train line…Freo is the way to go! There’s endless attractions for all to enjoy. A lively and eclectic art scene, vintage clothes markets, fishing and boat harbours to explore. There’s numerous buskers, live music entertainment and micro breweries to keep you entertained. Be sure to check out ‘Little Creatures’, a small atmospheric micro brewery along the waters edge.

Young buskers at Freo markets

Take a look inside Fremantle prison, one of Western Australia’s most significant and fascinating cultural attractions. Fremantle Prison is the only UNESCO World Heritage listed building in Perth, built by British convict labour in the 1850s and operating as a prison until 1991. We decided to descend into the depts below Freemantle Prison for a tour of the prison tunnels. It was eye opening to step inside and do time down under with Freemantles prison guides. We descended 20 metres below the prison to explore a 1km labyrinth of tunnels by foot and by boat involving harnessing, crawling and climbing through the caves. It’s simply a must do.

Prison tunnels
  1. Visit the small town of Leederville.

While in Perth we stayed with Conors amazing cousins in Leederville. One of Perth’s trendiest inner city suburbs, a place where people hang out and enjoy alternative, cafes, bars and restaurants. Home to some of Perth’s finest eateries, Leederville is small but sure is quirky, fun and cool. A hip little hood, embellished with unbelievable street art. We visited around Xmas time and there was a great buzz and atmosphere about. New Year’s Eve was a hoot to say the least!

Street art
  1. Visit Crawley Edge Boatshed.

Commonly know as the Boatshed at Crawleys, this Boatshed sits on the Swan River just below Kings Park. The iconic Boatshed is accessible from Mount Bay Road. It has been around since 1930s and has recently been revamped. It has provided stunning backdrops for thousands of photographers around the world. The quaint Perth Boatshed became famous due to its rise on Instagram.

The infamous Boatshed

So! Pack your bags and make the trip to Perth. It will not disappoint. I cannot wait to return and maybe even live there one day.