first solo voyage
Cairns Travel Blog› entry 1 of 12 › view all entries
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!).