first solo voyage

Cairns Travel Blog

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After I returned from my highschool year in France, I knew I had to travel again.  I finished up high school, and did a year at university in Montreal, and my heart just wasn't in it.  So I told my (disappointed) parents that I was taking a 'year' off to travel (I knew I wouldn't be back, but wanted to break the blow gently!).  I decided on Australia.  Since I was going to be heading out on my own for the first time (the exchange didn't really count, since it was all organized), I wanted someplace relatively easy to travel.  Picking up French has been very tiring some days, so I wanted an English speaking country, and I'd never heard a bad thing about Australia!

So I booked a ticket, got a working holiday visa, and booked a Contiki tour down the coast to start off my year.  I flew into Cairns about a week before the tour.  While I was there, I decided to go out on an overnight boat for a few days of snorkelling, and try scuba diving.  That boat trip opened up a new world for me.

I had booked two nights on board.  Went for a dive, and fell in love with the sport.  Also really hit it off with the crew, who asked if I wanted to stay on board an extra few nights as a volunteer hostie.  Making beds, washing dishes and helping with meal prep, in exchange for food, accommodation and free diving!  Sounded good to me!  The boat, Reef Encounter, attracted a large backpacker crowd, so there was lots of action in the evenings (ah, the follies of youth!).  And I got in the water several more times: I was hooked.  I was loathe to get off, but I had my tour booked, so I said my goodbyes.

The Contiki trip was a good way to start off travelling alone, though if I'd known how easy it was to meet people, I probably wouldn't have booked it.  An instant group of companions, but scheduled itinerary, so no matter how beautiful a stop it was, you had to keep on moving.  Anyway, it was a fun way to see the coastline: so many great places along the way!  The tour ended in Sydney, where I was met by a friend of mine who had been an exchange student in France when I was.  He got me aquainted with Sydney, and then into a backpacker's in Manley, where I had a lead on a job.

In Montreal, I had worked (part-time duriing the school year, and 60hrs/wk in the summer leading up to my trip) in an in-line skate shop.  One of the owners had travelled around Australia a few years before, and had exchanged business cards with a skate shop owner in Manley.  So I had touched base with him, and he invited me to stop by, saying that he could probably employ me there.

Everything worked out, and I had my first (paid) job in Australia!  I worked in the shop, and gave the occasional lesson to beginners: it was familiar work, so I just jumped right in.  On my days off, I decided to get certified in diving.  Not quite the same experience as Cairns!  The water was quite a bit chillier, so I had to wriggle into a thick suit, and the visibility was pretty bad, but I didn't care, I was back under water!  We did our training dives off of Shelly Beach, my first shore diving.

Sydney was okay.  I had some really nice co-workers, and fun roommates at the hostel (4 of us stayed in the same room for several months, the other two spots had several people pass through).  But I missed Cairns!  Missed boat life, and the cute dive instructor :)  After a few months, I decided I'd head back up.  So I said my goodbyes, and took a night-mareish bus-ride all the way through (about 48 hours, I think it was!).

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photo by: Katie_Kate