Pure Gold: Surfers Paradise

Surfers paradise gained its popular name because of it’s never ending coastline, white sandy beaches and amazing crystal clear blue water. From tourist hotspots to tight lipped local secrets, there’s more than one way to get the most from the Gold Coast. Epic eats, a thriving night life and a sick salty surf.

The Gold Coast undoubtedly boasts some of the best beaches in the world, outstanding theme parks and is flush with high rise buildings. While tourist attractions are certainly appealing, the real Gold Coast can only be discovered by meeting its locals and getting onto, into or at least near the water!

How we got there:

Flights from Sydney to the Gold Coast are getting relatively cheaper. The key to finding cheap flights is being flexible with your dates and the actual time of day you fly. While booking flights I made sure to avoid peak holiday periods. Choosing to travel during shoulder season will also be sure to save you a pretty penny. I’d normally find suitable flights on Skyscanner and then book directly through the airline. Flying with budget airlines such as Jetstar and Tigerair we encountered no problems, however, it was an extremely short flight. Conor and I both slept on each flight so we’re probably not the best judge of character!

After arriving at the tiny airport we decided the easiest route to our accomodation was via Skybus. It provided plenty of entertainment with an outgoing bus driver dropping each of us off at our designated accomodation. It took around 45 minutes.

Where to stay:

The main reason we decided on surfers Paradise was to enjoy some sun, fun and relaxation in a location neither of us had been to before the arrival of winter in Sydney. Vibe hotel, found on booking.com was centrally located bringing ease of access to all corners of paradise. It’s outdoor pool, overlooking the river provided an astonishing backdrop for mind boggling sunsets. The staff were friendly and helpful, giving us tips on must go to bars and events taking place. We bumped into Kevin, a friend from home who was also staying there the very same weekend, great minds think alike eh!

Things to do:

The Gold Coast is Australia’s number one holiday destination with endless things to do. Surfers paradise has always been known for its night life. To be completely honest, it is pumping, but we expected it to be more of an Ibiza, Magaluf vibe, which it was not.

Hire a bike, pound the pavement (I did). We cycled the Gold Coast Oceanway experiencing the broad network of pathways along the coast, ranging up to 4km long. It’s extremely popular with runners, walkers, cyclists and tourists. Take in the magnificent coastal views, take a dip in the many beaches along the way. Take care not to cycle over or into any drains along the road. Your bicycle WILL get stuck and you WILL go head over heals. It happened to me… not a pretty sight, even if conor did get a great laugh out of it!

Hit the Gold Coast beaches, I know, pretty obvious, but you can’t beat a good beach day. Why not hit up one of the beaches along the 57kms of pristine coastline. The beaches happen to be home to some of the worlds most famous surf breaks. Our favourite beach by far was Broadbeach- towards the northern end of the coast. A long, clean stretch of beach, bordered by grassland. Buzzing with surfers, paddle boarding, kite surfers and weekend markets. Perfect for people watching!

Experience the Gold Coast festivals and events. There are several free events and festivals held throughout the year celebrating music, art and sports. While we were there they were rigorously setting up for the Quicksilver pro surfing event. A chance to watch the worlds best male and female surfers battle it out at one of the worlds best surfing spots. Even the lead up to the event housed an energetic, vibrant atmosphere. If only we had visited a week later.

With an early rise we started our first day off in the best possible way by watching the sunrise over the ocean on Mainbeach. Throw in the surfers doing their thing in the morning swell and you’ll be mesmerised just like we were. All you need then is a coffee and you are ready for the day ahead. Vibe hotel was a great spot for sunset drinks as we watched the sky light up in the distance behind Surfers Paradise skyline.

Ride jet skis, get your thrill on a jet boat, spot migrating humpbacks, go dolphin spotting, explore the waterways on a fun aquaduck safari, take a river cruise or take a paddle board or surfing lesson. Conor and I went on a jet ski safari, hiring our own jet skis as part of a group tour to explore the wild blue ocean and the hidden islands of surfers. It was a windy, wet morning, which only added to the experience. Big hairpin bends, peddle to the metal, full throttle ahead. Our guide Geoff was great, a true Aussie. We had a half hour safety brief (a little over the top if you ask me) but safety first and all that, before spending over an hour on the water. We had numb bums by the end!

Having been told about the spectacular 360 views on offer in Surfers we hopped in a helicopter to take full advantage. It was amazing, breathtaking views of the coastline. It was just far too short. Another way to take advantage of the mind blowing views would be to rise 77 stories up to the Skydeck observation deck atop the Q1. Grab a cocktail from the bar and feast your eyes on vistas from Byron Bay, across the mountains and up to sea. The extra brave can get harnessed up to climb even higher on an adventure to the Crow’s nest. See if you can spot any whales while you’re up there.

Who doesn’t love a peak in the shops while exploring somewhere new? Cavill mall is steeped with attractions to add to the checklist. The interactive infinity attraction will bend your mind with illusion based special effects. Simulated skydiving at iFly is extremely popular so I hear. A possibility for a rainy day! On a hot sunny day markets are more appealing in my opinion. Check out Surfers Paradise beach front markets at mainbeach. It’s home to over 100 stalls and runs every Wednesday from 3-8pm.

Where to eat/drink:

After all that exploring you’ll be ready for a decent feed. We headed to Loose Moose in Broadbeach for an American style feast. We started off with loaded fries, then filled up on their incredible burger and steak before washing it all down with their specialty drinks, whisky, craft beer and gin. Loose Moose is busy, loud, it’s happening, there’s so much going on in one small location, making it extremely buzzy and unique. We missed out on tickets for Dracula’s Caberet, it’s extremely popular and we were not at all organised. A highly sought after comedy dinner theatre with a dark, gothic theme. The Island hotel and rooftop bar is popular amongst the locals. You can sit back under the stars with a cocktail in hand. The house of Brew’s is where it’s at for beer, whiskey and rock n roll if that’s what takes your fancy.

Go on, book your trip! Whether the beach calls your name or you’re after adventure, the Gold Coast awaits.

88 days a slave/88 days of new experiences: you choose!

Yes, you’ve got it in one, Australia has surpassed all my expectations; idyllic, adventurous, and beautiful, with a lifestyle like no other. This is the very reason why so many expats will do anything to elongate their stay in this wonderful country. In order to stay in Australia there are numerous pathways to choose from. The most popular being regional farm work. Most of us try our hand at farm work in return for getting that highly sought after second year working holiday visa. In order to be granted a second year in this wonderful country you need to complete 88 days or three consecutive months of specified regional work. This work falls under many categories;



Fishing and Pearling

Felling trees

Plant and animal cultivation

Often backpackers choose farm work, horticulture work and fruit picking. Working your butt off day in and day out is relentless, hard work and sometimes monotonous, however, its another new experience, another chink to add to the chain. Yes, ok, we’ve all heard the horror stories, dodgy farmers, crazy co workers, unliveable conditions and unsigned paperwork. That said there are so many ways in which you can make sure your second year regional work placement is one to remember. ’88 days a slave’, a backpacker term loosely associated with 88 days farm work required to obtain the second year visa. Find yourself a good reliable farm and your experience will be the complete polar opposite – 88 days of new experiences.

In May 2018 I left home in Ireland to return to New South Whales, Australia, in order to commence my days of slavery! Luckily I had a friend working on the same farm as I was extremely homesick and lonely. This, however, was short lived. After time I bonded with the family as if they were my own. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel so welcome. They’ve given me so many new experiences, memories and a unique farming opportunity. Despite the harsh drought conditions (not ideal for a crop farm) Trevor’s passion for farming oozed out and began to seep into my subconscious. I became interested in learning everything there was to know about crop production and livestock. This was completely different to what I had expected. Truthfully, I’d imagined I’d be counting down the hours every day, heading to bed dreading the wake up call the next morning. This was not the case at all, I was greeted by a loving farmer, his wife and other backpackers. The work was varied between tractor work, clearing land, servicing machinery and cattle work. Each day presented itself with something new. I shared a cosy two bedroom house with a fitness fanatic (jokes aside, Molly kept me motivated)and soon after a German girl Lisa was added to our group of farmers!

By no means was the work easy. We worked long 8/9 hour days, 5/6 days a week. Although, as far as bosses go we did have it pretty cushy. Trevor gave us breaks when needed, we never missed morning tea and we were provided with bottomless coffee.. the good stuff!

For someone who wasn’t an avid coffee drinker I began to enjoy it very quickly. Lisa (Trevor’s wife) provided us with the best sand cake and conversation in town. She also gladly allowed us to dip into her extensive wardrobe for different occasions such as the races. One life long lesson I learnt on the farm is that nothing ever goes to plan, working on a farm machinery will break, tyres will get punctured and accidents will happen. That’s just the way it is. When we weren’t out on the tractors or down the back with the cattle we were in Dubbo having a girly day, enjoying a family dinner by a bonfire, or at another social gathering in the town. During my 88 days on the farm I celebrated three birthdays, one being my own, all of which were very special.

Don’t leave it until the last minute:

For the love of all things Australian, do not leave organising your farm work until the last minute like me. People I’d met had told me time and time again to get organised early but I did not listen. After arriving home in Ireland for my cousins wedding in April I was cutting it very tight in terms of having enough days to complete 88 days regional work. I was extremely lucky to have a friend working on a farm looking to employ more backpackers. I set off back to Australia with a mere 88 days to complete the work and get signed off. Mind you, your 88 days work don’t have to be completed in one continuous block. I’ve known people to spread them out over the course of their first year. While this can result in more freedom over exactly where you want to work it turns into a very lengthy process. If like me you’ve left it until last minute you are most likely wanting to finish your 88 days as soon as possible. If you work a full working week (40 hours or more) many employers will sign you off as working 7 days a week. This varies however, every employer is different.

It’s not particularly hard to find work for backpackers, it just depends on the time of year as jobs are in high demand. The earlier you start looking the better. The worst thing would be to run out of time and end up somewhere you don’t want to be. If you know you want to stay in Australia don’t delay. There are numerous ways of finding farm work. Online facebook groups, gumtree, working hostels and word of mouth. Word of mouth is your strongest weapon when it comes to searching for farm work, talk to people! Get others recommendations, the good, the bad and the ugly. Backpackers by nature all do the same things, take similar routes and form cycles. Communicate with others, decide what you want from farm work, a boozy, tough graft, fruit picking filled three months or a laid back, family style farm or installation of windmills, you name it and you will be able to find it. For many jobs you do have to be relatively flexible, you may need to up and go as soon as you are offered a position.

Experience a different side of Australia:

For me, in terms of choosing where to do farm work was pretty easy. I knew I didn’t want to pick fruit and stay in a working hostel partying the months away, finishing up with no money to my name. I wanted my regional to be something I’d never done before, giving me the chance to learn and experience different things while meeting new people along the way. Everyone’s experience of farm work is completely different. Completing my 88 days farm work was one of the best and worst times of my life! You laugh until your belly hurts, you cry until snot comes dribbling out your nose and then you laugh twice as hard looking back at the times you cried – it’s a whirlwind of emotions. At the end of it all you realise a strength and determination you never knew you had.

Meeting new people:

One of the best things about farm work are the people you meet, you spend so much time together, you become part of one big family. I met some absolute characters. If everyone could have the experience I had they’d be whistling dixie! My favourite days on the farm were the trips to check cattle on the sister farm a few hours away. We would stop for a coffee in the local town and catch up with other farmers and individuals in the community. I’ll never forget one of my first days herding the cattle. I spent more time off the motorbike than on it! If this were to happen at home I surely would have gotten an ear full. Working outside, most employers prefer starting early during the coldest hours of the day. You’ll learn to love seeing the sunrises. On my farm each backpacker had use of a ute to travel to work and town when needed. The farm, land and accomadation surroundings were just sensational. Miles of nothing but land and wildlife. Wild kangaroos, Emus, pigs, crazy insects, surreal star gazing, topped off with sensational sunrise and sunsets. It was hard not to enjoy the outback lifestyle..

Try something new:

Make the most of having a routine on farm work. I used my spare time to work out and get fit for the Melbourne marathon, I started writing as a hobby and began listening to educational podcasts and audiobooks. It’s an experience full of lessons, memories, new skills, fun and tough auld graft.

Save, save, save:

As the majority of farms are located in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest big city and its drinking establishments, you’re likely to save a substantial amount of money that can possibly fund the next leg of your trip. Plus, the crowning glory, a shiny second year visa which will allow you to keep living the dream and keep real life at bay for at least another year.

Play by the rules:

Don’t try and cheat the system. It’s extremely easy to be tempted to use a friends ABN number, I know. Some jammy gits actually get away with it, while others don’t, making things more difficult in the long run. The majority of online ads claiming to provide the documentation are scams and the visa granting authorities are quick to catch on. If they discover that you’ve tried to get your second year visa by illegal means, they will have you on a flight home before you can even mutter the word ‘investigation’.

Farm work is exactly what you make it. Enjoy every moment.

Mindset is Everything.

Are you happy with your life? Pain and negativity can be very powerful motivational tools. They are vital for creating great things in life once they don’t consume you!

The last year has made me realise that life is far too short to not make the most of it. We only have one life, so it’s time to grab life by the goolies and make use of every opportunity. I’ve spent far too many years floating along asking what if! Today mindset is a huge part of my life. Travelling means that there are not that many constants in my life at the minute, but I’ve made sure that this is one of them. I was originally very sceptical, but what I’ve come to realise is that our beliefs are extremely powerful.

Limiting beliefs generally originate from our fears and result in us rationalising why we stay in our comfort zones. We tend to draw lines in our own minds that seperate us from who we are and who we are not. The truth is we are the only ones holding ourselves back. We can be anyone or anything we want to be once we are prepared to put the work in. Have you ever wanted to do something, but let your doubts, fears, reasons or excuses stop you? Well, it’s only you that’s missing out at the end of the day. One of the main reasons people turn down challenging opportunities and new experiences is fear of failure or change. Is failure really the worst thing that can happen? From every failure comes a great lesson, personally I’d never look at it as a set back. We all have an innate hardwiring to avoid things that are new, scary or dangerous. I’ve come to realise that it’s all a case of mind over matter. Mindset is everything, it’s not something that just happens, it’s hard work, it takes time, a constant work in progress.

When we think about self care, day trips to the beautician or the spa, a shopping trip or night out springs to mind. While these outings definitely fulfill our desires most people neglect self care because they say they do not have enough time. Self care is a requirement, not a reward. In my opinion it’s essential. For me, self care began with removing negative self talk. We are generally the first people to talk ourselves down, we are our own worst critics, constantly focusing on the bad side of humanity, taking the joy out of life. I began to change my entire outlook on life by training my mind to see things in a new light. A new path that wasn’t clear to me before started to appear as I worked on my mindset. As things progressed, my goals and dreams became bigger and more ambitious. For a long time I used the gym and exercise as an outlet, which is great, but only solved my problems by reducing anxiety short term. There are so many ways in which we can improve our own mindset, by combining exercise and meditation with many other habits.

Seek positive, like minded friends

A positive social circle will act as an echo chamber, one that supports your dreams. They say we become that of the 5 people we spend most of our time with, so choose your friends carefully. Choose those who lift you up and say goodbye to those who tear you down or leave you feeling insecure. Find people who adopt the same values as you. While travelling this can be slightly difficult, however, I’ve been extremely lucky to meet some amazing people. As my own mindset started to change, it became easier to connect with more positive people. Travelling makes you realise who your true friends are at home, those who make an effort to stay in touch and maintain an interest. I’m extremely lucky to have the most supportive, loving friends, for which I’m so grateful.

Consume positive media:

In this day and age not one of us goes a day without exploring social media! Consuming positive media daily will alter your perspective through osmosis. Positive media is anything that emphasises the good in life. For example, the news is full of negativity – wars, murders, and politics all adding baggage to our thoughts. Who we follow on Instagram influences our thoughts, thoughts influence our actions and our actions dictate who we become. If you are following the wrong people, certain celebrities, influencers, or people making you feel bad about yourself, they are not supporting you on your journey. Immersing yourself in positive personal growth daily is powerful in changing your mindset.

Create a vision board/action plan:

This is about looking at the possibilities and then doing something to make it happen. While travelling, your goal time of action can vary but it’s still very much possible. We only really grow when we take action. Never allow paralysis by analysis, if you have a vision go with it. Put it out there, see it, believe it, achieve it.

Create a morning mindset routine:

A great way to start the day is with a positive affirmation. Positive affirmations are positive phrases that can be repeated over and over again, to teach you how to get rid of negative thoughts and encourage a positive attitude. Talk to yourself in the mirror, even if you feel silly, (I still do) with statements like, ‘Today is going to be a great day’, and ‘I love myself exactly as I am’, you’ll be amazed how much your day will improve. How you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Having a gratitude journal to jot down what you are grateful for every morning opens many doors. It might not be obvious but there is plenty to be grateful for, a roof over your head, your friends and family, the coffee you are having. You’ll be surprised by the changes it can create. Creating an action plan or a to do list for the day can reduce stress, worry and put a structure on your day creating a feeling of anticipation and excitement, resulting in momentum for the day ahead. Every morning I listen to a podcast or an audio book at the gym or on my way to work. By focusing on positive messages at the beginning of the day you look at things differently. The power of positive thinking is a popular concept and can sometimes feel somewhat cliche. The physical and mental benefits of positive thinking are endless.

Turn failures into lessons:

Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, some bigger than others. Instead of focusing on how you failed, think about what you’ll do different the next time. Transform negative self talk into positive self talk.

I was originally very sceptical about the power of positivity and changing ones mindset until I began to practice it and reap the rewards myself. I began to realise that every limitation we put on ourselves is of our own creation. So often people set the bar so low because they think it isn’t ‘realistic’. The truth is we can do anything we put our minds to once we are prepared to put in the work. Many things seem unrealistic at the time of the original thought, but when you actually make a decision to do something your entire thought process goes into overdrive, figuring out how it can be done. The right perspective has a strange way of making you see things clearly.

Your imagination is the starting point where all plans and ideas are created. We know that thoughts influence actions, what you think you become. The confidence associated with achieving a goal that once looked unrealistic will evolve a version of you that you never thought was possible. Your standards are raised and the bar becomes higher yet again. I think you’ll agree with me when I say the power of positive thinking is outstanding. The idea that your mind can change your world almost seems too good to be true. I’ve experienced first hand, the good that focusing on the positives can bring.

I’m a great believer that one positive thought can change your whole day and when repeated,your whole life. All it takes is practice and courage. Apply for that new job, lose that weight, enter that competition, ask that guy/girl out. Set the goal, see it, believe it, work for it, achieve it. There’s no limitations, by reducing your self limiting beliefs you will effectively release the brakes and continue to grow. Decide to be happy, you’ll see changes all around you. See your glass of life as half full rather than half empty.

‘If you aim for the moon and miss, you’ll at least hit the stars’ – Clement Stone

Tasmania: a hidden gem

After a long stint of farm work I was itching to get back to travelling. While waiting on my visa to come through my only option was to stay within the country. Tasmania never initially appealed to me until a German girl at the farm showed me pictures and told stories of her time there. She couldn’t speak highly enough about it. Although Tasmania is a small state by Australian standards it’s actually the same size as Ireland, so do not underestimate the time it takes to get around. There are no train services in Tasmania leaving travellers to rely on buses and of course car hire to get to and from cities and regions. After discussing in length with a friend Hannah (made while travelling the east coast) she advised that the best way to explore Tasmania would be a traditional group tour. ‘Under Down Under’ provided extensive year round multi day itineries for budget travellers. I booked my tour through Hannah at STA travels as I figured getting from A to B on a self drive road trip always takes longer than you think! An 8 day ‘lap of the map’ is the well known classic Tasmanian road trip circumferencing the island via Hobart, the East Coast, Launceston, and the West Coast, adding the midlands and the Southeast to the mix to really do the isle in style.

Having previously travelled completely alone this trip was somewhat different. I’ve loved all my adventures travelling in a group tour. It completely depends on the group you end up with, but with a positive attitude and a sense of fun you’ll definitely meet like minded people. You’ll share a wealth of memories and moments you could only experience during that trip, you’ll return home with a new found network of friends from all over the world. Everyone brings different backgrounds and learning experiences to the table. My group consisted of 15 of the most amazing individuals ranging in age from 18 to 65. Each person offered a different level of banter and a unique insight and perspective on the sights seen throughout the trip.

Tasmania, while sparsely populated is rich in wildlife, natural reserves and national parks with a very strong sense of community. Many travellers make the voyage to enjoy isolation and a calm and laidback lifestyle, while the locals look beyond the islands shoreline for different adventures. Tasmania is undeniably one of Australia’s premier tourism destinations – a hidden gem. Otherwise known as ‘little New Zealand,’ this gem is known for a lot more than just home to a cute looney tune Tasmanian devil. Did you know that Tasmania has the worlds cleanest air, crazy right! Tasmania is the most mountaneous state of Australia with nearly 50% protected in national parks.

Many travel from the ‘mainland’ of Australia bringing their vehicles across the Bass Straight. I chose to fly from Sydney to Hobart, a short 3 hour flight. Summer is the obvious preferred season to visit with the state coming to life with many planned events. The Sydney to Hobart yacht race in late December being one of the most popular, also coinciding with the Taste festival, a 7 day celebration of Tasmania’s culinary talent. Summer is also the best chance to tackle some of the best hikes and take a dip in some of the popular beaches.

My Tasmanian adventure began with a late night skybus from Hobart airport to the Brunswick hotel, my accomodation for the night. A damp, cold, sleep and I was away the following morning. It is true what they say about Tasmania experiencing all four seasons in one day. I was picked up by a bubbly tour guide named Matt and introduced to the rest of the crew. We headed an hour north west of Hobart to Mount Field National Park. Russell falls is arguably one of Tasmania’s prettiest waterfalls, probably one of the most photographed as it’s the easiest to get to with a 40 minute round trip hike. The walk passes through towering swamp gums and species typical of wet forests. To be honest I didn’t take too much heed as it was lashing out of the heavens. We powered on to visit Lake St Clair, a natural freshwater lake located in the Central Highlands. The lake forms part of Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. While beautiful and similar to many lakes in Ireland it wouldn’t make the top of my ‘to see’ list. We then made our way to Strahan for the night.  Strahan pronounced ‘Straw-n’ a small town and former port on the west of Tasmania. A cute, homely village with a dark fascinating convict past. The small picturesque fishing village and harbour town offers exploration of the Gordon River world heritage area by cruise. There’s plenty of opportunity for activities in this tiny town, riding a jet boat up the King River, four wheeling or sand boarding down the sand dunes. A locals secret and not far from Strahan are the Henty Dunes, dunes reaching a height of up to 35m, covering a vast expanse of powdery white sand. It’s a climb and a half up the deep dunes but the view well surpasses the trek. Run, jump, slide, fall, have a blast; toboggans are available to hire at very little cost in Strahan village.

We made our way towards Roseberry to discover Montezuma Falls, my all time favourite waterfall and hike of the trip. Montezuma Falls is Tasmania’s highest waterfall at 341ft. A 3 hour return hike guided us straight to the base of the falls. There must have been a storm previously as the flora and fauna looked somewhat dischevelled! I reckon Montezuma Falls would be extremely impressive no matter what the day. We were lucky to see it on a wet day as it’s even more spectacular after heavy rainfall, not that we prayed for rain or anything!

Cradle Mountain in Lake St Clair National Park was amazing. The landscape consisting of rugged mountain ranges, glacial lakes, Dove lake, and Crater lake. On our arrival the snowfall was heavy resulting in us delaying our hike until later on in the day. Wildlife was abundant here with many encounters with wombats and wallabies. Due to varying hikes, lengths and difficulties, there’s something for everyone, hikes range anywhere from 20 minutes to 6/8 hours if you are brave enough to take on the challenge. With snowballs flying in every direction and finally a clear sky we couldn’t have wished for a better day with a hike to Dove lake. Just an hour outside Cradle Mountain lies a little town known as Sheffield, the ‘town of murals’. This resulted from a population decline in the 1900s when the town decided to reinvent itself by combining art with tourism. Today over 60 murals depicting the towns history and scenery remain, it attracts over 200,000 tourists yearly. Sheffield is home to the finest homemade fudge, we sampled all they had to offer between us, we left no fudge sample untasted, I’m pretty sure they were fit to kick us out!

After a fun filled day, drowned rats and sopping wet clothes we fell upon Launceston, Tasmania’s capital and second largest city. Launceston has many preserved and Victorian and Grecian style buildings along with Art Deco and a bulging harbour giving it an authentic, interesting vibe. Launceston’s most popular tourist attraction is without a doubt the Cataract Gorge, mainly due to its close proximity to the city centre. A 308m high chairlift stretches across the river gorge, making it the longest single span chairlift in the world, wowza. You can also opt for cable hand gliding giving a birds eye view of Tasmania’s forest during summer months.

We set off for the next town just north of Swansea, Bicheno. A coastal holiday town  with so many great places to check out. The Bay of Fires to the north and the Blowhole to the south. The Bay of Fires is one of Tasmania’s hottest destinations in Australia! Picture this… crystal clear blue water with white sandy beaches surrounded by burnt orange lichen covered with giant boulders, absolutely epic. The hike up Whalers lookout is also a must with a breathtaking view of the town. We stayed in Bicheno backpackers, a cosy anex style hostel with a big common area. A few of us weathered the harsh cold conditions and booked a penguin tour. While we only came across 5 blue penguins it was a great tour for checking out penguins in their natural habitat. Our guide was fantastic, knowledgeable and extremely passionate about his job. While in Tasmania we took the opportunity to see the native Tasmanian devil , made famous by Taz, the Werner Brothers cartoon character. Most wildlife parks have Tasmanian devils as part of the captive devil breeding program. There were plenty of other native animals: kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, possums, kockatoos, emus and koalas.

Almost every tourist visiting Tasmania will have Wineglass Bay on their itinerary. It simply is the postcard image of Tasmania, absolutely stunning. It is nestled in Freycinet National Park along the East Coast. Wineglass Bay lookout hike leads to stunning panoramic views over Wineglass Bay. We were lucky to escape the rain as this trail is very exposed, with a constant incline and steps for days. I would urge you to bring water and if you are a god awful sweater like me… a towel!! For the adventurous and avid  hikers you can continue from Wineglass Bay to Wineglass Beach, following the Isthmus track around to Hazards Beach. The decline to the beach is extremely steep, meaning, yes you guessed it, the incline is rather daunting. Wineglass Bay Beach is rated one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Without a doubt I can see why, the white sand, red rocks and turquoise waters with very few people to spoil the view due to the difficulty in accessing it. For all you thrill seekers in search of that Instagram worthy photo Mount Amos would be suitable for you with  panoramic views of Oyster Bay and Freycinet Peninsular. It’s suggested for the physically fit and experienced hikers but I’m sure you can crawl up if needs be. For me, Wineglass Bay was the crown jewel of Freycinet Park.

On our journey back to Hobart we did a few short scenic walks, Cape Tourville circuit and Oyster Bay lookout. While in Hobart we stayed at Hobart backpackers YHA. I loved this hostel, it was warm (a huge plus), clean, cosy and friendly. It catered for individuals making new friends with organised events every night, from movie nights with popcorn to trivia nights with beers.

Port Arthur, one of the main attractions in Hobart was recommended highly. Having no interest in history or historical sites I went with very little expectations, but oh how wrong I was. Port Arthur is known for its rich history and significance in the state of Tasmania. What was once a convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur is now one of the country’s most prominent tourist attractions. With over 30 buildings to explore as well as ruins, there’s plenty to learn. Visitors are often blown away by its extensive history and many take part in ghost tours and paranormal investigations to connect with the past in the area (you would definitely not see me there). I owe my pleasant experience here to our tour guide who was concise and to the point, like most Brits, no beating around the bush!

It would be impossible not to mention MONA, arguably Australia’s best known and most controversial art gallery. Here you’ll find a wall boasting 150 moulded vaginas of all shapes and sizes and grooming practices, it’s named ‘cunts and other conversations’.(I couldn’t decide if the guy deserved a pat on the back or a cold one to the face!)It houses a machine that eats and defacates like clockwork, farting quite regularly, causing those sensitive to leave the room, many holding their nose with disgust, and two goldfish swimming around a carving knife in a crisp white bowl. 17 metres below ground in a cavernous space this gallery was extremely strange in the most fascinating way, a unique experience.

Walk, pedal or drive – there are many ways to get to Wellington Park, however, Pinnacle Road is the only vehicle route to the summit of Mount Wellington. Access may be restricted at times over the winter months due to an accumulation of snow or ice. This was the case on our journey. An hour walk to the springs lookout was as far as we got unfortunately. The view still outstanding, walks range from easy strolls to difficult climbs, beautiful springs, waterfalls, and exquisite plants. If I was to do it again I’d release the daredevil within and take a mountain bike up for a spin!

My final day in Tasmania was spent on Bruny Island, a treasure trove of fresh produce and artisan producers. With so much hiking on the cards, you’ll be pleased to know Bruny Island is home to some of Australia’s best food. In order to get to Bruny Island it’s a 40 minute drive from Hobart to the ferry crossing at Kettering, the crossing is a mere 20 minutes on the ferry. There is no public transport on the island so your own vehicle or a tour is a must. Bruny is roughly 100km long, a spectacular island of stunning vistas and contrasts from hay and cattle, to beaches and wildlife. Bruny North and South Island are separated by a narrow isthmus known as ‘the neck’.

The first stop was Bruny Island honey, a family venture. They’ve been collecting honey on the island for over 20 years with over 800 operating hives. We had an opportunity to taste, compare and contrast many different types including honey based skincare. We stopped off for cheese and bread on our quest to find the lighthouse. Nick Haddow began cheese making and is the first cheese maker in Australia to make raw cheese. The raw milk C2 is mouth wateringly delicious. We sampled the cheeses while sheltering from the wind and rain at Bruny Island lighthouse. Bruny lighthouse is the longest continually staffed lighthouse, charging $15 per person to explore the views. On a summers day it would be glorious to have a picnic on the nearby beach with windswept coastlines, rolling hills and wide beaches, a truly beautiful spot. Getting caught in the wind and rain here was one of my favourite memories of Bruny Island.Cloudy Bay made my day, the beach was perfect for a long walk with sightings of local surfers and little to no signs of man made interruptions to nearby landscapes. The best being the long drop loo, it may just take the award for the best ‘loo with a view’. The one way angled windows frame the views superbly right from the toilet seat! Cringe if you will but I bet when you visit your curiosity will take over and you’ll have a pee’k! With little time to spare we rushed back to make the return ferry stopping off at Get Shucked in Great Bay. One of the easiest places to sample Bruny Island oysters at a locally owned and operated oyster farm. We enjoyed oysters that were freshly shucked and au natural, opting for the drive through oyster pick up  and indulging and appreciating their creaminess. About 3 million oysters are harvested on Bruny Island every year, the cold, clean waters are said to result in sweet, plump oysters with a lasting briny tang.

I could quite literally harp on and on about Tasmania, I really fell hard for the hidden gem of an island. A mini australia with all the fun packed into one tiny island rich in scenic views, surf, epic hikes, crystal blue bays, history and good food. If it is not on your bucket list it should be, go on, book a trip to Tasmania and start a love affair of your own.

Philippines: a taste of paradise.

The Philippines spreads through a vast oceanic region of more than 7,000 islands, while geographically located in South East Asia, it is miles apart in terms of tourism compared to Thailand and Vietnam. It is made up of thousands of islands which means that there is no obvious travel route and the possibilities are endless. The Philippines encaptures the very best of adventures from beaches and island hopping, to scuba diving, wildlife and amazing landscapes.

Most domestic flights around the Philippines run from Manila. A number of friends and myself flew into Manila from Sydney, all nationalities are awarded a 30 day visa on arrival. We spent one night in what I can only call ‘the slums’,it reminded me quite a lot of Bangkok, busy, loud and full of natives. Manila being the capital of the Philippines is a densely populated bayside city, the centre of transportation and business. Instead of tuk tuks their main mode of transport is tricycles and jeepneys. We didn’t venture too far into the city as our flight to Puerto Princesa was early the next morning.

After a very early rise dripping in sweat due to humidity we caught a flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa (a teeny tiny airport) and from there we got a small shuttle bus to El Nido, a 5 hour bumpy ride. There are two airports in Palawan: Puerto Princesa and El Nido with flights into Puerto Princesa generally being the cheaper option, but it means you’ve got to endure the long bus journey to reach El Nido. If you are not on a tight backpacker budget I’d recommend looking into flights direct to El Nido, it will save you a lot of time and a long uncomfortable journey, especially if you are prone to car sickness.

El Nido, a municipality on Palawan island is known for its white sandy beaches, coral reefs, and is used as a gateway to more islands. This is a primary base for exploring Palawans star attractions. We finally arrived at our destination – Outpost hostel, a fun, social, backpacker hub located on sunset beach. ATMs and wifi are a commodity, get your money out early as local ATMs tend to run out of money. We were reunited with girls who had already been in the Philippines a few days, three absolute party animals on their return home from Australia. The girls were staying in the popular ‘Melting pot’ hostel right in the centre of town, a stone throw away from Pucca bar, a reggae, busy, shake yo booty spot full of backpackers alike.

The main thing to do in El Nido is to explore the Archipelago on a selection of boat trips. All hostels and travel agents in the town sell 4 tours named tour A,B,C and D, very inventive names. The tour packages are all priced the same so no need to shop around. I’d definitely recommend tour A and C, both were incredible. Corong Corong beach was home to wonderful sunsets and sunrises – Sunset beach. Each tour carried out was travelled on a traditional Filipino boat called a bangka. Our first destination was helicopter island, named because of its shape resembling that of a helicopter. The water was ultra clear with endless sightings of coral snakes, tropical fish and even squid. Secret beach – mantiloc island, towering grey karts cliffs surrounded us as we stood in a pocket white beach. It’s a place of paradise concealed by the cliffs and only accessible through a narrow crevice in which you had to swim through to access. The tour guides were an absolute hoot and provided a huge feed for us at Talisay beach, fresh fish, fruit and salads. We had a great group on our tour, great banter altogether. We met two lovely girls from the UK, Steff and Sian who we kept bumping into in other destinations on our trip. I also met Raquel, a colleague of mine while working in the theatre department in London, what a small world.

Armed with goggles, flippers, a snorkel and a life jacket we all set off for Star beach another spectacular snorkelling site featuring the wonders and beauty of the reefs, star fish, and sea urchins. Our final stop, hidden beach was surrounded by limestone rock formations, the swimming area resembling a natural infinity pool with crystal clear blue waters. We were glad of the life jackets to keep us all afloat, a few sore heads from the night before, – with a tactical chunder here or there. Las Cabanas beach is another popular spot, quiet, unspoilt and truly beautiful. The superman zip line comes highly recommended and can be done from this beach to a nearby island and back completed with an ice cold drink while watching the sunset.

A few of the girls fell victim to uneasy tummies and took to the bed for the day, bad drink, an awful thing! Caitriona and I organised a bus from El Nido to Nacpan beach to meet the others for the day. The twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang are included in the itinerary of almost everyone heading to this part of Palawan. A 4 kilometre strip of powdery white sand, a touch of paradise just north of El Nido. The best way to get there is by shuttle bus or tricycle at 1000 pesos each way. The road to the beach is not yet fully developed, after a few kilometres of paved roads you hit good auld dirt roads so pack your sea legs and magnetic wristbands, it’s a bouncy ride. The first impression of Nacpan beach was outstanding, miles and miles of sand parallel to a bright blue ocean. There were relatively few tourists and rows of palm trees providing lots of shade, it was simply beautiful.

The following day was full on with hours of travel, starting with the shuttle bus to the airport. We flew from Puerto Princesa to Manila and Manila to Boracay, where we met the full group of 17 people. Yes 17! Everyone was genuine, outgoing and friendly, and most importantly all keen for a good session. We got a ferry boat from Caticlan to Boracay port, the jetty port provides bangka pump boats that ferry between Caticlan mainland and Boracay island from 5 in the morning until 9 at night (tickets can be purchased at the airport or outside the jetty before entering). The trip from the mainland to the island was a short 20 minute journey, the porters gladly helped manouver heavy luggage in return for a generous tip, ‘tip ma’am’.

Boracay, a small island in the central Philippines is known for its insanely beautiful resorts and beaches. Along the west coast, white beach is backed by tall palm trees and copious amounts of restaurants and bars. On the east coast strong winds make bulabog beach a lovely hub for water sports, while the observation deck on mount luho offers panoramic views over the island. At only seven kilometres tall and it’s bikini line 500 metres wide, tiny Boracay is the Philippines most popular tourist spot fuelled by an electric atmosphere and a truly friendly vibe. The centre of the action is dreamy white beach, a four kilometre long picture perfect strand lined from one end to the other with hotels, restaurants, bars and dive shops several blocks deep. The ocean full of romantic paraws (outrigger sailboats) with colourful parasails giving large groups of package tourists ( mainly from Korea, Taiwan and China) a sunset sail. After perfect sunsets theres live music break outs with fire dancers and dancing chefs who we joined on occasion, the party goes on all night. The island has so much more to offer than just sun and sandy beaches, the Boracay nightlife is bursting at the seems with young enthuastiastic backpackers living the dream.

Honestly speaking Boracay was truly amazing, good people, tanning, mingling, lapping up the sea breeze and taking in all it had to offer. We stayed in mad monkey hostel which was enormous, the best party hostel with a great bar, friendly staff and cheap accomodation close to the beach. It turned out to be an extremely social place and  a great way to meet other travellers. The choices were endless for entertainment – pool party, booze cruise or a chilled out BBQ night.

Mad monkey encouraged pre drinks at the hostel bar most nights with free shots on the hour every hour. At 11pm scooters would line up at the entrance to escort all the party goers to the strip for a night on the town. ‘Epic’ beach club and ‘exit’ nightclub were the hotspots along the strand. Mad monkey provided a booze cruise taking us to many beautiful islands and the evening was spent cliff diving. I tell you one thing, it was a hell of a long way down, Ooh the pain after flailing off the 20 foot cliff at around ten million miles per hour bum first.

While in Boracay we did eat at many great restaurants, one being the hobbit house in which the waiters were actual hobbits/dwarfs, it was unreal. We chickened out of getting a photo with them in fear of being rude, however, Steff and Sian got one. Another lovely eatery was the spider web hotel which overlooked clear, glistening waters, it was like eating in a treehouse.

Next on the agenda was Puerto Princesa to visit the caves in the underground river. We flew from Boracay to Puerto Princesa with Cebu pacific. We booked all our internal flights with Cebu pacific, a budget airline. This airline was great value for money, in total we took 5 flights, none of which were delayed. In order to get to the caves we had a two hour transfer and a boat ride which was definitely worth while.The underground river is one of the worlds wonders of nature, absolutely amazing. We travelled by raft through the massive cave, the longest underground river in the world. There were hundreds of bats roaming freely (be careful to close your mouth when looking up at them or you may end up with a surprise), giant monitor lizards, sea snakes and water spiders were everywhere to be seen. It was a very cool experience.

Beautiful beaches, adrenaline pumping activities, cheap beer, good food and the most genuinly friendly people in all of Asia, the Philippines did not disappoint. With thousands of islands to explore you could spend a lifetime in the Phillipines and not see it all. Session depression hit hard when we made it to Manila and had to go our seperate ways to Sydney, London and Dublin. My liver and bank account were well and truly in need of some loving care but it was worth it all.

Titan: the ultimate fitness holiday.

My fitness journey originally started with the sole purpose of losing weight, I didn’t really like the way I looked as I was always relatively fit but had let myself go. My clothes were tight, my skin dull and my mood low. I knew I was going to have to step up and work hard to make the changes I wanted. Little did I know just how good it would make me feel. It changed my mindset completely, my confidence grew and the compliments I received fed my new appetite.

A close friend of mine won an ultimate fitness holiday on instagram. Lucky duck. She couldn’t rave enough about the place so I decided to check it out for myself. Fitness holidays are a great way to combine sun, fun and fitness. It gives you an opportunity to partake in a well balanced holiday, where training and working hard is combined with sunshine, good food and meeting new, like minded people to create a great experience. The fitness camp I attended was Titan Fitness camp in Chalong, the southern tip of Phuket island in Thailand, 1 hour from Phuket International airport. I stayed for a total of two weeks, but could definitely have stayed longer.

On arrival I was greated by the gym manager Ben, who gave me a tour of the facilities. An air conditioned gym, outdoor gym arena where all classes, open mat gym sessions and additional clinics were held, health’s kitchen where many camp goers eat and refuel with shakes post work out and little hill onsite accomodation. Little hill offers private, air conditioned rooms equipped with wifi, TV, fridge and a well needed clothes horse – all the modern comforts you need to enjoy your stay. Having a swimming pool on your doorstep is a welcome addition. It’s a great communal area to cool off, have fun and meet others. Many people staying long term seek alternative, cheaper accommodation along the street, there’s many to choose from.

Titan fitness do offer inclusive packages, accomodation, daily meals and snacks and personal training. In my opinion if you avail of the classes provided properly a personal trainer is not a necessity. The inclusive package does work out expensive and restricts you to eating in one place. ‘Fighter street’ as it’s known in Chalong is home to endless healthy food options that won’t put a hole in your pocket. The best by far is Mamas, a few minutes walk from Titan. Delicious, cheap food and friendly staff. Other popular spots include a vegan restaurant, the shack, Tony’s, muscle bar, coco ville and Ali’s BBQ where we ate our weight in chicken most nights. There’s also an amazing frozen yogurt shop for those treat days.

Worried about what or how much you should be eating? Every Monday a nutrition seminar is held in order to educate people and provide additional support and encouragement – from full nutritional programmes to common mistakes and healthy tips. Another popular seminar is Bulletproof, the injury fixer as he is known shows how to relieve common niggling and persistent injuries. I found this very educational and still use the tricks provided.

A typical day in Titan involves an early start with yoga at 7am, a great way to stretch and start the day off. Following this I’d usually head to health’s kitchen for a coffee. I’d generally then choose between CrossFit and Body 360 as these classes are back to back. While this could be done it was not recommended. Body 360 is a HIIT style cardio class. No session is ever the same. There’s usually some banging tunes to keep you extra motivated. There’s generally an open mat session from 11am-1pm, giving people a chance to do their own thing, practice by themselves or knock out another workout.

The afternoon is broken up equally with real hardcore classes. Calorie burn (the obstacle course) is just as it says on the tin. I did it on my first day and never returned! It was somewhat militant. Boxercise is sociable, yet challenging. Don’t forget a towel. You’ll leave this class looking like you’ve just been for a swim. This class will leave you with a new found confidence, a spring in your step and excitement for the next one. Strength and technique was a favourite class of mine. The main focus of this class is to learn and improve your technical skills. The best thing is that every day is different. Olympic weightlifting, deadlifts and much more, super educational. Spinning at Titan is one hell of a ride. It’s not by any means your typical conventional spin class. It’s mixed with core and cardio components that really do push you to your limits. Get there early as it’s a popular one, you don’t want to be left using the ski erg or rower instead!

Thursday mornings begin at 6.30am with a 5km run to the famous Big Buddha. It takes roughly between 40-60 minutes depending on your fitness level. The steep hills are challenging but it’s rewarding getting to take in all the sights on the way up. Elephants, monkeys and incredible views over Phuket town, Chalong Bay, Kata and Karon beach. Bring water and your camera.

Every Saturday morning Titan holds functional beach training at Nai Harn beach. It’s a chance to break things up and get down and dirty in the sand. It’s tough, they work you hard, but it’s great aul craic. You also get access to twice weekly Muay Thai classes which can fit around the Titan schedule. Take complete advantage of this as it’s great fun and the guys that teach it are very entertaining.

The weekends are pretty quiet in Chalong as all gyms are closed on Sunday. A number of people enjoy a drink on a Saturday night. Feck it, sure you only live once. Massi and reggae bar are the most popular bars in town. Be careful, training hard and drinking alcohol is not always the best combination, we all learn the hard way! There’s plenty to explore on the island. The best way to get around is by motorbike. Motorbikes are cheap to rent at roughly 150 baht per day, petrol is cheap and a tank gets you very far. If this is not your style, there are taxis everywhere. There’s so much to see and do. Head to Freedom beach, it’s amazing, but be aware that there is quite a hike to reach the beach. I’ve never seen so many monkeys in the one place as we saw on Monkey Hill, they are vicious little guys and will get what they want no matter what. Night markets, shopping malls, you name it, Phuket has it all.

There are launderette facilities at Titan and many other locations along the street. This comes in very handy when you are changing your drenched clothes two or three times a day. Massage parlours are extremely popular in Chalong. There’s nearly always a queue and prices range from 250-400 baht depending on what you are looking for.

I met a huge mix of people during my trip. People from America, Australia,UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France and of course plenty of Irish- you’ll never get too far away from them! Titan is a social hub as they have organised Facebook and watts app groups to communicate, plan dinners, trips and gatherings and it has a unique, relaxed communal vibe. The trainers are all outgoing, enthusiastic, fun, helpful, professional and easy on the eye which doesn’t hurt.

Titan is an amazing camp to help you reach your goals, a fitness holiday with the sole purpose of getting people into the best shape according to their goals, within a given timeframe. Each person has a different level of fitness but the same goal in mind. Make the most of your time at Titan and embrace all it has to offer. I cannot wait to return.

Singapore’s finest

Singapore has so much to offer with its diverse cuisine, world class attractions and vibrant nightlife. It is one of the top tourist destinations in Asia and is known as ‘the melting pot of asia’. Singapore is noted to be one of the worlds most expensive cities to live in, as a visitor it isn’t actually as expensive as you would imagine. Accomodation is on the pricier side compared to other South East Asian destinations but food is remarkably cheap. Singapore is one of the highest populated countries in the world. Hard to believe as it didn’t feel at all over crowded, perhaps due to its liveable and pleasant green city. 

I visited Singapore in April, it tends to be hot and humid all year round so there is no perfect time of year to visit (monsoon season is between November and January). I made my way from Thailand to Singapore via Changi airport. On my arrival I realised there are several ways to get to downtown Singapore, subway, public bus, airport shuttle, private transfer or taxi. I chose to use the airport shuttle as it was late in the evening and I’d no idea where I was going. It was 9 Singapore dollars, these shuttles run 24 hours a day and bring you directly to your chosen accomodation and the tickets can be booked directly at the airport.

Singapore’s public transport system is extremely efficient. The MRT (metro) goes nearly everywhere. You can invest in a Singapore tourist pass, available for 1,2 or 3 day passes and it will give you unlimited rides on the MRT, LRT and public buses. I’d recommend doing this as single tickets tend to be a lot pricier.

I stayed in the culturally rich district of Chinatown. A capsule pod boutique hostel which cost 28SGD per night. I initially chose it because if it’s convenience, being 130 metres from Chinatown MRT station. It had clean, air conditioned rooms with seperate bed pods, each fitted with a flat screen TV and a power source. They provided breakfast each morning and advice on what to check out. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly.

Singapore is relatively small, but packed with fun, interesting and adventurous things to do. To help me get my bearings I bought a local SIM card and topped it up in order to use google maps to navigate my way around the city. All locations and destinations were very well signposted and having 3 days to explore all that Singapore had to offer meant that I had to fit a lot into each day.

The first day of sightseeing I met two Malaysian brothers, Yurt and Burt. Some characters! Somewhat attached, finishing each other’s sentences, lovely lads. We decided to head to Universal Studios and purchased our tickets at the hostel. It’s well worth getting express lane tickets as the queues can be up to an hour long wait. Universal Studios was absolutely amazing I was like a kid in a sweet shop. It’s located in Sentosa island, a short train journey from Chinatown. It’s home to many exhilarating rides, theme and water parks and shows. Yurt and Burt were disappointed that Harry Potter did not feature as they were die hard fans! However, it does feature 24 rides, shows and attractions in seven themed zones, a great days value at 75SGD. Between the attractions there’s many themed restaurants for a pit stop, have your camera at the ready for ‘celebrity’ sightings!

Universal Studios is not the only attraction at Sentosa, it is an entire island dedicated to fun. It’s home to an aquarium, trick  eye museum, golf course, beaches, watersport facilities and beach bars. Sentosa island offers a panoramic view of the city with a slew of fun activities. There’s something for everyone at Sentosa, be it loitering by the beach, sightseeing, an adrenaline rush at AJ Hacketts bunjee or enjoying a 360 degree view of forests, skyscrapers and sandy beaches from a cable car.

Singapore is known as one of the greenest cities in Asia. Gardens by the Bay is a fantastic place, its the most popular attraction and it’s not hard to understand why, its absolutely mind blowing. I explored the two amazing conservatories by day – The cloud forest, the worlds tallest indoor waterfall and The flower dome, the largest glass greenhouse in the world. It’s a huge park spanning 100 hectares of reclaimed land composed of several gardens showcasing beautiful flowers and species. The super trees can be seen by a 128 metre aerial walkway. The super trees come alive at night with an exhilarating  display of lights and music. It would be advisable to get there early to get a good spot before the crowds arrive. At 28SGD this was one of my favourite places in Singapore.

Marina bay sands is the most iconic hotel in Singapore and is home to one of the most amazing infinity pools (unfortunately it’s only open to guests of the hotel). The alternative choice is to head to the skypark observation deck on the 57th floor to witness the most stunning views of Singapore as they are absolutely amazing. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate on arrival, drinks are expensive, but come on, how often do you get to experience something like this.

Singapore is renowned for its fusion food, hawker stalls that have been serving the same iconic dish for decades are every bit as important as a high end restaurant. Mr Noodleman on Smith street in Chinatown offers delicious homemade noodles, made fresh daily, the dumplings are simply sensational. I ate twice at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Rice, a Michelin starred restaurant in Chinatown as I just couldn’t get enough of it, you could get a delicious meal for under 5SGD. Another popular eatery is Blue Label pizza on Ann Siang road. Maxwell Food court, right in the heart of Chinatown will never disappoint and is visitor friendly. It took me a while to realise that if there’s an empty table full of tissue packets, this is the Singaporean way of reserving a table.

For the best shopping head to Orchard shopping road, its the equivalent of London’s Oxford street. Here you can shop till you drop. Vivo shopping centre is the largest indoor shopping mall in Singapore. Bugis street is perfect for bargain hunters (a large arcade selling all sorts of things). Singapore is known for its electronics and Sim Lim Centre is the place to find all your technological needs at affordable prices where haggling is encouraged.

Clark Quay is where you’ll find the backpackers socialing in the evening time along the banks of the river. You can’t go to Singapore and not indulge in a Singapore sling and throw your peanut shells on the floor of the long bar at Raffles. The area of St James’ Powerstation, a trendy hotspot set in an old Powerstation has 11 funky bars on the waterfront to choose from. These bars have everything from live rock, karaoke, sports bars and jazz bars.

My only regret in Singapore was not having enough time to explore the city fully, it just means I’ll have to take a trip back again at some stage.

Australia’s East Coast: Trip of a lifetime.

Whether you’ve just arrived in Australia or you’ve finished off an epic two year working holiday visa, the east coast is most definitely a rite of passage for all backpackers. From natural wonders to cosmopolitan cities, lush rainforests and pristine white sandy beaches, it is the trip of a lifetime!

I spent 3 1/2 weeks travelling the east coast and had enough time to see everything it had to offer and party hard. I travelled during Australia’s off season (August) when there were fewer crowds, prices were lower and the weather still bloody hot in tropical Northern Queensland. I began my trip in north Australia, Cairns, a short eight hour flight from Bali! I couldn’t contain my excitement while I waited on the bus to my hostel. I stayed at Gilligans backpackers. It was clean, cheap, sociable and home to the most popular nightclub in Cairns. It had a bar, pool, travel agency and was full of young people. This being the first leg of my solo trip, I was so grateful to have amazing roommates. As soon as I walked through the door I was greeted by a bubbly flamboyant blonde named Harry and we instantly hit it off as he was also a solo traveller. That evening we hit the pool and he filled me in on what to do and gave me tips on how to plan my trip. The following day I strided into Peterpan’s travel agency with a few ideas and bounded out with a jam packed itinerary.

Cairns is the gateway to one of the seven wonders of the natural world- The Great Barrier Reef. There are so many ways to experience the reef, from helicopter rides, to scuba diving and snorkeling. My experience scuba diving in the reef was amazing. The charter company I decided to go with were called Down Under Cruise and Dive. On our way out to the reef we were briefed, buddied up and our equipment checked for safety measures. The charter was extremely professional and efficient. The two dives went far too fast. We saw turtles, colourful fish and the beautiful reef. Diving at the Great Barrier Reef was somewhat disappointing, it definitely did not trump diving in Koh Tao, Thailand. It was just not at all what I thought it would look like. Saying that, it was an amazing experience ticked off the bucket list. The reef, in my opinion was best explored snorkelling, especially the second stop at Hastings Reef, where the waters so shallow there’s no need to free dive.

The following morning a group of us set off for a bungee jump at AJ Hackett, 15 kilometres north of the city. I was somewhat disappointed to be the only female present, a bit of Dutch courage, a pep talk from the lads and away we went. The hardest part was willing myself to jump headfirst from the tiny ledge, then it was an exciting adrenaline pumping challenge followed by a great day of live music and entertainment. I’d originally intended on getting the video as I thought of it as a once in  a lifetime experience but a minor boob mishap led me to change my decision promptly. A tip to the wise, wear a tight top when doing your jump!

Cairns nightlife is crazy, awash with night clubs, restaurants and bars. Gilligans and the woolshed were the go to amongst many. I met the most amazing people in Cairns which made moving on that little bit harder. It had so much more to offer, rainforests, waterfalls and white river rafting, but time was of the essence.

Travel in Australia is made so easy with a bus pass. The most popular companies are Greyhound and Premier Motor. Both travel the entire length and breath of the country and I chose to go with Premier Motor. The only difference being that Premier had only one bus scheduled per day and no wifi and buses tended to be less crowded. I often had a whole row of seats to myself which came in handy on night buses.

After leaving Cairns by bus the next stop was Townsville to catch a ferry to Magnetic Island. The ferry left every few hours to bring passengers within shouting distance, a mere 8 kilometres to the idyllic island. With only 2000 residents, this island is home to plenty of wildlife. I stayed at base hostel, known as the party hostel on the island. It’s most famous for its full moon parties between June and October. Situated on the beach this large hostel was relatively cheap, with a bar onsite,nightly entertainment a swimming pool and a car rental shop. Myself and a group of girls decided to rent a 4×4 so we could explore the island further. Many choose to rent barbie cars (we opted for just a photo), but this leaves you limited to where you can drive.

The Forts walk, a busy walking track is home to many wild koalas and fabulous views. There’s endless Aussie critters to spot on Magnetic Island. The headland on Geoffrey’s bay is a gorgeous wallaby colony and they simply love to have their photo taken – bring a banana skin to lure them in, they won’t be able to resist!

Next on the itinerary was Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsundays. The town centre with its abundance of quirky clothing stores and food hubs is definitely worth exploring. Here I stayed in Nomads, an amazing atmosphere with even more amazing staff. With one night to spare before departing for the Whitsundays we decided to go cane toad racing. This was definitely an experience and a half. Middle aged men betting their weekly wages on toads, some of which never even crossed the starting line. Airlie Beach has a vibrant nightlife scene, there’s no shortage of bars to choose from.

The Whitsundays was definitely one of the highlights of the east coast. 74 Whitsunday islands lie between the coast of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Pretty cool eh. A 2pm departure at the harbour, I arrived with my bag of goon under my arm greeted by many other travellers roughly my age from all over the world with cartons of beer. I thought to myself, this is going to be a memorable trip! All aboard, a drink in hand and the mingling began. The first night was chilled and relaxed, after dinner there was a spot of speed dating to help break the ice. There were definitely some characters on board, a few drinking games later, travel stories shared and new friendships were made.

Day 2, we were taken by a smaller boat to reach the beach. We then followed the bush walk until reaching the Hill Inlet Lookout. It was mind blowing. If you don’t have this on your agenda you need to rethink it immediately. We walked in further to the infamous Whitehaven Beach. The sand was so white it was blinding. We spent the day gossiping about the night before, playing footie and swimming with sting rays and lemon sharks.

Little did I know just how mad this boat was going to get. 50 drunk individuals in their 20s competing in lap dances and sex position competitions in order to crown ‘king and queen of the clipper!’ It was a blast. All in all the clipper did not disappoint. With crazy people, a jacuzzi spa on deck, two water slides, snorkelling and scuba diving, what more could you ask for?

You can imagine the shadow of a human I was hopping on an overnight bus to Rainbow Beach the following evening. I was so delighted when my bus broke down, giving me a few more hours sleep to recouperate before my Skydive. I finally arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed! Thankfully I was able to push my skydive to later on that day. It was the most exhilarating experience. Amazing coastal views over Fraser Island with spectacular coloured sands. The craic with Matt my tandem buddy (who happened to be the biggest charmer) was 90. The thrill in a tiny plane, the adrenaline rush as we leaned out and fell from the doorway literally took my breath away. The instant facelift (as seen in pictures) the chance to experience controlling the canopy and the easy and accurate beach landing. I loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat. I got to share this experience with Holly, a fellow nurse and friend now living in Brisbane. We were on a high for days after.

At Rainbow Beach I stayed at Dingos hostel, home of the best Fraser Island tour, around the worlds largest sand island. The day before our departure we met our group for a safety briefing. Following the old school safety video we were kitted out and ready to hit the road early the next morning. An early start, we loaded the 4x4s with supplies, food, booze and sleeping bags. Eight squeezed in per vehicle, we were off to catch the ferry. Within ten minutes goon (boxed wine) bags were being passed around the trucks. The drinking had begun. We explored all 120 kilometres of the island, shipwrecks, rainforests, spectacular sand formations and fresh water lakes, Lake McKenzie being my favourite.

At night we cooked dinner as a group, drank goon by the campfire and star gazed by the water. It was magical, like nothing I’d ever experienced before. The tents were small and cosy, pick a buddy who doesn’t mind a good spoon, it gets a bit nippy. With no pillows we soon realised an empty goon bag filled with air does the job perfectly.

Dingos Fraser Island exceeded all my expectations, the people really did make the trip. Our guide Lukey Lovey was full of banter and high on life. He certainly made sure we left no stone unturned and made the most of our time there.

I was so glad to make it to Noosa in one piece. I was looking forward to a few chilled beach days. I ended up crossing paths with many people I’d previously met. We ate, drank,caught up and explored a little. Nomads here had a cool, relaxed vibe. Lisa, anika and myself hit Noosas National Park 10 kilometre round trip. The views were mesmerising. Whale and dolphin sightings were out of this world. The well signed tracks led to ‘Tea Tree Bay’, a popular surfing spot and ‘Granite Bay’, a nudist beach (if you’re into that kind of thing!). Newbie surfers can hire boards right at Noosas main beach, where the waters calm enough for beginners.

A little more revived, the next stop was Brisbane. This city was not at all what I expected. South banks man made beach always had free events happening. I thought I’d do something different and take in some culture. I visited the museum of modern art, I didn’t last long, not my scene! Loane Pine Koala Sanctuary, a short bus journey from Brisbane houses over 130 koalas (that’s a lot of chlamydia in close proximity). My favourite thing here was actually feeding the kangaroos and people watching. The lengths some people go to to get that perfect selfie with the animals. Absolutely gas. Here you can also get a picture holding a koala. It’s so impersonal, you get two seconds to hold them and get a quick snap before the convere belt starts again.

While in Brisbane I stayed at bunk hostel, located in Fortutude Valley, the hub of Brisbane’s nightlife. This hostel was great for making friends, with a huge communal kitchen, pool and jacuzzi. The night life was great. It offered everything from movie nights to trivia and planned bar crawls.

I departed on my final night bus to Byron Bay where all kinds of people are well catered for as it allows you to explore your inner hippie with its magical combination of natural beauty and creativity. I stayed in Nomads, yet again,  it was a solid 3 minute walk to the beach, perfect. There’s so much to do in Byron, the lighthouse walk has great views and gets the heart rate going. The earlier in the morning you can make it to the lighthouse the better. It’s not unusual to spot pods of dolphins playing nearby and I’ve heard it’s a phenomenal destination to see the sunrise as it’s Australia’s most easterly point.

I booked a kayaking tour at nomads with Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay. We spent more time in the water than in our kayak (myself and Karine were useless) while pods of dolphins swam around us. On our way back in, somewhat disappointed  having not seen a hump back whale, one threw it’s tail in the air 10ft away from us, it was so exciting, a little scary, but amazing. The main beach in Byron Bay is famous for its breath taking sunset and on my last night a group of us gathered with beers and ‘good vibes’ as the hippie dippies liked to call it. There’s plenty more to do in Byron, visit Nimbin, Minyon Falls, skydive if you haven’t already done so or learn to surf.

The east coast has so much to offer, prepare your liver and get ready for one hell of a ride!

Nursing in Oz: a travellers dream job.

Australia is a very popular expat destination with lots of opportunities for work and travel. I headed off from Ireland, a disillusioned nurse, ready to embark on a big adventure. I had an overwhelming excitement to try something new so began with a call centre role selling life insurance, a bar pulling pints, then a traffic controller manning the roads. I soon saw sense and reverted back to what I knew best – Nursing.

To work in Australia you need to obtain a valid (12 month) 417 working holiday visa. Those over 35 need to look at sponsorship or residency. The country clearly has its attractions, beautiful weather, stunning beaches and an infamous laid back lifestyle.

I began work as a carer with ‘24/7 Nursing’, an Irish run nursing agency while I waited for my nursing registration to be processed. There are many nursing agencies to choose from with 24/7 nursing, Allianz and Healthcare Australia being the most popular. This opened my eyes to a whole new world of nursing, with so many opportunities to work in a variety of settings within the community, private clinics, aged care facilities, the Defence Forces, home care, schools, prisons, industrial sites, regional remote areas and much more. It’s a very versatile career for those who wish to utilise their skills and experience and incorporate it with travel.

Being an agency nurse allowed me to work in different departments, expanding my experience across a range of areas. No need to worry about office politics, and can focus on the job at hand, learn new skills and enjoy new experiences. It was definitely a sink or swim situation, changing wards, departments, hospitals and colleagues constantly which meant I was most certainly thrown in at the deep end and I learnt to swim pretty quickly.

As an agency nurse, I was free to choose shifts, days, nights, weekdays or weekends, it was entirely my choice and I  controlled my own roster.  Working for an agency I earned more than most permanent positions paid. The majority of agencies paid above award wages for all shifts, so I was guaranteed to earn good money towards my next adventure.

Depending on where you work the workload differs. In a public hospital setting there would generally be one nurse to a maximum of five patients and a private hospital one to six. The shifts vary depending on where you work. Night shifts are generally 10-12 hours long. The days shifts are split between morning and evening, both 7-8 hours long. The beauty about agency was that I could work as little or as often as i liked, no need to request annual leave.

It is important to take into account that there are quiet periods of work throughout the year for agency nurses. Christmas time is particularly quiet, surgeons go on leave this time of year effectecting the amount of elective surgeries, and this in turn decreases the need for agency staff. This is most prominent in private hospitals, whereas public hospitals and home care tend to have more available shifts. Be mindful to save money for this time of the year or use it to your advantage and plan to travel/ holiday. Regional nursing is becoming increasingly popular and could also be explored during these quieter periods, and can be used as an excuse to see new places and learn new skills.

It’s important to have vaccination documentation up to date in keeping with Irish requirements. In order to work in a public hospital it is mandatory to have the pertussis vaccination, many agencies offer this service, however it can be easily obtained in Ireland before your departure and will be cheaper.

Nursing Registration:

Australia has a National Registration And Accreditation Scheme run by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) supports the National Boards to implement the National Scheme. There are AHPRA offices in each state and territory of Australia. Gathering all the information provided can be a lengthy process and many people underestimate the time involved requesting and waiting for documentation to be provided from third parties.

Information required:

A signed and dated Cirriculum Vitae that describes your full practice history. You must declare on your CV that the ‘cirriculum vitae’ is true and correct as (insert date) and the declaration must be signed and dated. The Boards will only accept the original signed CV. You must also attach certified copies of any results or courses undertaken, competencies or skills assessments that have been stated in the CV.

You must also include a Statement of Service from all of your employers from the last five years. This statement is required to be on the employer’s letterhead, provide dates of employment, describe the role in which you were employed and state the hours worked and it must be signed by a manager.

You will need to apply for your transcripts from university as soon as possible as they take a considerable amount of time to be organised. Apply for an International Criminal History Check and make sure to use the link provided inside the AHPRA application. In terms of proof of identity I used my passport, Gardai ID and a bank statement. You will also need to get your degree translated to English.

Keep in mind that every document that is not an original needs to be certified. Peace commissioners in Ireland cannot certify documents and many get lawyers to certify on their behalf. Refer to the back page of the application form for more information on certifying documents. It will save time and potentially money if you get all your documents in order and certified at the same time. If you are applying within Australia a Justice of the Peace will suffice and does not cost.

Certificate of Registration Status or Certificate of Good Standing is required. AHPRA stipulates that the supporting documentation must come straight from the source. eg. If you’ve been registered in Ireland or England you must arrange for original Certificates of Good Standing or Certificates of Registration Status to be directly forwarded from the registration authority to your chosen AHPRA office.

When your application is ready and you’ve double checked and triple checked it, don’t forget to take into account the postage time for it to travel to the other side of the world. Most definitely send it by registered post so you can keep track of it’s whereabouts. You also need to take into account the time it may take them to notify you if there is any missing information, the time it will take you to source the missing information and for it to then be processed.

Once your application is successfully approved you’ll receive a letter providing ‘in principle approval for registration’ which is valid for three months only. This means that you need to present in person with proof of your identity before you are granted your final registration.

Like any organisation, AHPRA does not always run smoothly. Occasionally delays are experienced. I was waiting quite a while for my International Criminal History Check to come through from an approved vendor. As a general rule AHPRA advise that the standard timeframe  of a complete application from overseas is 4-6 weeks. Keep in touch with the office and check your emails regularly.

Australia is looking for nurses of all specialities. There’s no better time to grab your fob watch and your bikini and head to oz. I am grateful that I chose nursing as my career as it has afforded me the opportunity to travel and earn money while experiencing new and exciting adventures along the way.

Solo travel: the best decision you’ll ever make.

Approximately 35,000 feet in the air and heading 9,607 miles away from home, I was ready to embark on a trip of a lifetime. I had never been to Australia, and I’d certainly never travelled by myself.

I had never intended to travel alone. Even the thought of it shot a nervous jolt throughout my body. Previously, the idea of getting on a plane and flying anywhere on my own seemed far away from anything I’d allow myself to do. It absolutely terrified me.

If I was to wait for the right time, to wait for someone else, I’d never have taken the plunge. I refused to wait. I wasn’t going to let anyone keep me from realising my dreams. However scary travelling alone could be, to me, growing old without experiencing everything I wanted from life was even scarier.

Some people would consider solo travel to be somewhat of a brave endeavour. I don’t think of it as being brave as you’re never truly alone. There are plenty of people in the exact same boat as you. The opportunity to meet new people is endless. Stepping out of my comfort zone and travelling alone has given me a great confidence to take on the world. Given you’re always entering the unknown, there’s a huge element of excitement. Opportunities present themselves at every turn. Solo travel allows you to embark on an inward journey of self discovery and dare I say it  ‘finding yourself’!

Solo travel represents freedom and independence. Individuals often return home a new person with a fresh perspective on life. It changes your perspective on the world, the way you view others and yourself. You become more confident in your abilities. You become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. You learn to enjoy and embrace unfamiliar places and people. It’s taken me a hell of a long time to realise this, but the best relationship you can have is with yourself. You will discover just how strong you are.

Solo travel can lead to exciting adventures and meaningful experiences with complete strangers, which can have a long lasting impact. There are endless opportunities to make connections with different people from all walks of life. Whether you bond over a new adventure or experience, a drink at a hostel bar, meet on the beach and consume henious amounts of box wine or cross paths on a bus journey, you always have travel in common. If you think solo travel is all about being alone, think again. I’d never been the life and soul of the party which initially worried me, however lots of people travel solo, and odds are you’ll bump into them. All it takes to meet new people is a little spurt of confidence and one small word ‘hello’. I realised that travelling solo was ironically the easiest way to make friends. Travellers in general are usually open to new experiences, including making friends. Connections happen naturally when you are with like minded people. You are really only alone if you choose to be.

In this day and age turning internet friends into real life friends is a fore gone conclusion. There are several Facebook groups and apps that serve as communities for those who travel; Girl Crew, Solo Female Travel Network and Girls Love Travel to name a few. These are great resources for making travel plans, learning travel tips and making new friends.

Stay in a hostel, sign up for a group event or chill out at a hostel bar. You’re bound to stumble across a new bestie! You’ll end up being surrounded by hundreds of other travellers who want to have a good time and explore just like you. The amazing thing is that if you click with people you can end up spending days, weeks or even months travelling together. Some will even end up being a friend for life.

It’s funny how time changes us and the things you never saw yourself doing suddenly become your reality. Travelling alone has become a new part of my reality. I absolutely love it and I’ve learned so much along the way. Don’t get me wrong, there are down days where I feel lonely or homesick, but there’s also days I can’t believe what I’m doing. It’s scary, exciting, nerve wrecking and amazingly rewarding all at the same time.

Solo travel is an incredible experience and one that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. It’s handsdown offered me the best experiences of my life. So the next time you’re inspired to go on a trip and can’t find a friend to go with, do yourself a favour, bite the bullet and book it!