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How Do You Keep Travelling

At least once a week someone asks me how do I do it. How do I keep on travelling and how do I it with money. Aah money. The magic word for which every backpacker would wake up for. Just whisper in their ear: “Hello sunshine! Time to rise and shine! Money is waiting for you!”
BAM! I garantuee you, that person will jump out of its bed and be wide awake.
Money, expecially among younger backpackers, seems like a never ending struggle. It is like water in the desert: where can you get it?

In this blog I would like to give you some tips on how to save and earn money while travelling. I will mainly focus on countries where I have been and where you can obtain a Working Hoiday Visa (WHV) such as New Zealand and Australia. With a WHV you can legally work up to 6 months for the same employer. Check the immigration websites for more details as every country has different rules and regulations. Also, make sure you know your rights; there are very nasty companies who do not pay you the right amount or tax you more than you should be.

Little important things to think about, but firtst of all, I would encourage everyone to go travelling. Even if it’s just for a year or so. It really opens up your mind and might makes you change it too. Were you planning on studying? Perhaps you change your study. Did you really wanted to work in IT? Maybe you find out you enjoying working in construction more and maybe your relationship is as good as it seems. Travelling gives you knew insights and perspectives on your live but also on yourself. Some people call it: “finding yourself“. It sounds a bit too dreamy for me but you will find out a great deal about yourself and work on your social aspects. You might needs to push some boundaries and step out of your comfort zone more often than you hoped for.

To keep on travelling might have been a conscious descision or not. You might have , at one point, decided to continue and explore another country. Others just go with the flow and they have just ended up somehow, travelling on. I belong in the latter catergory. It was the mere suggestion of my partner who suggested that we could go to Australia after New Zealand, and so we did. We started dreaming of other places and where to go next. Because you as free as a bird, you can do whatever you want to do and that feels great.

However, this doesn’t mean I am lying on the beach the whole day, sleep in, stay up late, party and consume lots of booz and drugs, like some of my friends and family are thinking. I would like to get this huge misunderstanding out of the way. Surely, there are backpackers who do that and love it but if you are travelling on a long term basis – let’s say, longer than 1 year – it becomes a lifestyle and who wants to live, needs to eat. Who needs to eat, needs money to buy food. Thus, you probably need to work at some point. (There are still many backpackers calling their parents for money…). Travelling can be hard work. We tend to wake up early and go to bed around 9-ish. Making a cup of coffee or tea involves a bit more than just putting the kettle on. Little things take much more time as you have limited space or facilities.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love camping and living in a car but it does require some energy.

When we settle down for a few months to fill up our wallets, we both go out looking for a job. I will be the one backpackers waking up with the whisper: “money is waiting for you”. But to get that money, I will have to work.

So here we come to tip no. 1. WORK. The magic word. But not every backpacker will jump out of its bed to work. Specially if you don’t like your job. In my case, I’m working 2 jobs and both of them are quite OK but not fantastic. It does bring in a fair bit of income but it is brain draining too. Knowing it is just for a short period – usually 2 or 3 months – I can deal with it.  Easy jobs are not dreamjobs. For example housekeeping. It is something I have done many times before and very easy to get. Still, I absolutely loathe it but when I look in the long term, it will keep me on the road for a while.

You don’t need to do things you don’t like. I choose to work easy jobs as I want to start quick and work hard to earn a lot of money. That is why I don’t look to long for a job and take the first thing I get. Others do look a bit longer and ending up with someting they more enjoy – or not.
A huge adventage of working while travelling is that you can try many things. Actually, you can do anything you want! In the countries where I have been, nobody cares about your education; as long you have the right attitude. Your experience list will grow rapidly. I can proudly say I have worked as a: cheesemaker, vegan baker, kitchenhand, sheep herder, housekeeper, doorknocker, car sales(wo)man, barista, waitress, receptionist, grape picker. On a blue Monday I have changed engine oil and break fluid for someone on a parking lot in Christchurch.

Tip no. 2 will sound like your mother. Or an accountant. Simply, don’t spend that much. Do you really need to stay in a caravan park for $45 a night? Do you really need to have a take-a-way coffee every day and $3 croissant? You can spend your money in a more sufficient way. Think in the long-term and about practical things. Great that you have 5 different shorts and 3 pair of jeans but how do you want to carry that around? It is better to invest in things you will need on the long run on your journey than buying new stuff all the time. Good hiking shoes or a head light are one of the things you can spend your money on and enjoy them for a long time.

So the conclusion? How to keep on travelling?  First of all: work whenever you have the change. Even if you don’t really have to work but you are still settling down for a few months, you should find a job. You will be grateful in the end as it will keep you on the road for a long strecht.
Second: don’t spend all your earnings on crap you don’t need. In matter of fact, try to safe up as much as possible. Let’s be honest, do you really need to have 6 pairs of shoes? And third: work and travel your own way. I have met many backpackers who either work 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, or people who don’t work and be drunk every night. These are 2 complete different examples of how you can travel. Most important is that you do it your way. If you don’t feel comfortable working 7 days a week, than don’t. Keep things fun; it is your journey.

The Simpson Desert

There is one massive blank spot on the Austrlian landmap and it is called: The Simpson Desert.  It is Australia´s fourth largest desert and covers up roughly 170 000 sq. km. between Alice Springs and Birdsville. This part is well known for its remoteness and the immense parallel dunes. If you want to cross it, you will have to tackle the 1100-ish sanddunes to get to the other side. Some of them are 200 km long and that makes the Simpson Desert home of the longest sanddunes in the world.

Now of course, why would anyone cross it? I mean, going up and down 1100 km sanddunes to get to another small town in the middle of nowhere, not to mention the amount of dust entering your car while driving. Besides that, there runs a highway north of the Simpson Desert. You might better take that one. You must be mental to do this.
It turned out, we were.

If there is one thing what it is inherent to the Australian culture, it is 4WDing. This means you drive around on – sometimes very- rough terrains, tackling washouts, sanddunes, beaches, creek crossings and such a like, just for the fun of it. With a good, well-maintained 4×4, you can almost get everywhere. I can tell you it is extremely funny to drive over a roundabout rather than taking it. It is also very helpful when driving sandy or corregated roads. As with a normal car, you will be shaken to death and more likely to roll over and lose several parts. In a 4×4 you simply release some tire pressure and off you go.

Back to the Simpson Desert, where there is obviously a 4WD track. Australians love driving and make tracks where ever they can. The road in the Simpson called The French Line and is one 439km straight line from west to east. But even before getting to the beginning of the road, it is a long rough way with dustholes, corrugation and some terrible steep washouts. I remember one creek crossing where I walked in first to see how deep it was and got suddenly stuck up to my knees.
Luckily, this is not something you will experience in the Simpson, as there is no water.

At lest that is what we thought. It turned out, there has been an incredible amount of rain, in the days before we arrived. This means more mud and damage to the track. On the other hand, the desert has never been that green since 10 years.

Driving through the desert doesn´t go without any risks and the Australian government and visitor centres take therefore any oppertunity to warn you about them. Lives hve been lost out there.
The French Line is one of the most feared tracks in the 4WD world and with that knowledge, I picked up a `HOW TO BE SAFE IN REMOTE AREAS` brochure to find out if there are any precauctions we had to take. Just in case.
To state the obvious, here’s a list of what you should know before heading out:
– Carry plenty of water: 7 L/ a day/ per person + 7 days extra.
– Enough food + 1 week extra
– In case of a breakdown: STAY AT YOUR VEHICLE! A missing car is easier to find than a person and this is how many people died. They leave their vehicle in search of water.
– Let someone know of your travel plans and when you are expected to be back
– Warn the police on both sides when you should arrive.
– Have a well maintained 4WD
– Carry enough fuel
– Carry a satallite phone + a 2m long red flag, attached to your bullbar.
– Do research and know what to expect.
– Know your vehicle and know how to repair it.
-Deflate your tires.
-Be experienced in 4WD and sand.
– Don’t go alone.

There are probably another 10 things to add but this is in big lines what everyone will tell you.
To be fair, I was scared to enter this god forsaken place. No shadow, no people, a long not-so-easy road and we would travel alone, not in a convoy or tag-along-tour. We would be alone.  Surely the list stated clearly: “Don’t go alone.” That means something, right? Right?!
What if we would tip? What if we get stuck-stuck? I could hear myself saying through our radio: “Blue troopy just tipped over, please help.” It would take days to someone would show up! And then , somehow, they would have to tow us out, tip us back. The disaster!

My partner, qualified mechanic, had nothing to fear. He wasn’t afraid. Nor scared. It was just a sandy and hilly drive in his eyes. In the weeks before, he had done every single repair on our vehicle and fixed things of which he thought had to be fixed. He reassured me that we had done so much 4WD the past 2 years, that the Simpson would be more than fine. (Fair enough, I can’t remember how it is to drive on a sealed road).
So off we went, up to the 1100 or so, sanddunes.

And was it one of the scariest tracks? Was it really that remote? Was it dangerous?No, no and no.
On the first day, we have met so many people, that it seemed impossible to even be stuck out there. Wait an hour, maximum, and someone will drive along. We have met tours, recreational drivers, seasonal drivers, locals, bikies, rangers and a massive truck. The landscape consisted indeed out of a lot of parallel sanddunes which means you will go up and down and up and down. It was sandy but not that sandy as the Sahara and above all, it was GREEN. Bush, small trees, salt lakes were filled, clouds were hanging above our head and even a few drips of rain came down.

The Simpson Desert was nothing like a dry, arid or remote place. Sure; there was no drinking water or communities around, but you were never alone.
Of course, we were perhaps lucky or experienced enough, but we did meet people who had some issues with their car. Also, some washouts were extremely scary. If you are unexperienced in 4WDing, it might be a difficult track to tackle. Nevertheless; if you are prepared, you can do it.

 

The Australian Kitchen

Chop. Slice. Blend. Stir. Mix. Rinse. Mash. Fry. Pop. Steam. Cook. Boil. Grill. Smoke. Dry. Rest. Bake. Fillet. Season. Drizzle. Mix. Beat. Slimmer. Serve. Eat.

In November 2015, Australia launched a new food channel: The Food Network. Not that this country lacks any cooking show. During prime time you can get inspired by Aussies BBQ Heroes, Jamie Oliver’s Superfood, Chopped, The Spirit of Japan, Inferno Kitchen, UK Bakes, Cabinet’s Kitchen and a dozen of others. Despite the huge range of these programs, it seemed viewers were in the need of something more. Quite funny, in my opinion, as Australia doesn´t really have decent food culture.

Every single European I come across has been complaining about the same thing: Australian food sucks. The bread is too soft, the coffees are too weak, soda’s are incredibly sweet and artifical. Above all: who came up to create Vegemite chocolate?! No, Australia is not a country like France or Italy where you could go to just because of its kitchen. France can be named in one sentence with croissant, crêpe, brie en Boeuf Bourguignon. Italy just breaths pizza and pasta. Perhaps Australia can be described with sausage rolls or pies. Not the chocolate pie or Dutch apple pie, but minced beef pie. It comes with a dash of ketchup and if you’re lucky, it had been made the same day. If not – what most likely the case is – you will probably munch it after a good night out.

The cooking shows are a big puzzle for me, as there is no point in broadcasting them. Why look at them and not use them? Sure, Jamie Oliver can provide you great ideas for dinner and it is quite entertaining but how likely is it you are actually going to put this in practice? Nihil, I assume. It is a real shame, as Australia has many farmers and produces a lot of fresh vegetables, meat and dairy. However, most of the harvest will be exported to other countries and Australia ends up importing more products. For example: the Passionfruit Christmas Pudding has been created in England from imported ingredients and exported to Australia. Same for the Belgian Chocolate Cake, made in Belgium – I guess this is actually a good thing – and the kiwi’s are imported from Italy. You start to wonder if this country keeps anything for themselves and if they are able to cook something more than a mashed avocado toast.

Well, there is one thing Australians are bloody good at doing: the barbecue. It is the French gourmet pan, the Italian pizza oven and the Belium deepfrying pan. All hail, make way for the Australian Barbecue! You cannot live without a barbecue unless you deny that you are in Australia. There are options for vegetarian and vegans so no one will be left behind. Every household owns at least one of these smoking hot grills. Either working on gas or with – flavoured! – coals: char grill, steam, woodfire, spit, portable or smoking. Australia has the answer. There are free electric barbecues in parks if your backgarden is too small. Every day, the council cleans them but on the country side, you might be a bit unlucky. Most rest areas have designed barbecue pits so that you could still light the barbie, if you could not afford a portable on – and also to prevent bushfires.

Knowing this, the only understandable cooking show which makes sense, is Aussie Barbecue Heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised if locals pick something up from this show. Three couples have to face different barbecue challanges such as “create a dish with prawns, sweet chili and basil, within 30 minutes!” or “give me a fushion steak!” It is far more interesting than Australia’s Master Chef with the tension around Sally’s dish and the question if the eggs of her quinea salad are boiled on the point or not.

To wrap up the Australian kitchen, you will need 3 things. Pie – preferable a few days old, reheated – a barbecue – to create excellent steaks – and an ice cold beer – but due to the heat, it is more likely a warm one. I haven’t discussed the matter “beer” but as most students among us know what a beer is, it seemed irrelevant to me to elaborate on that subject. There are no extrodinairy beers here: think about a simple beer and reduce the alcohol to 3.5% and that is your Australian beer. However, you never know what Jamie Oliver comes up with and turns it into a gourmet superfood. This country is full of surprises.

So there you go: pie, barbecue and a beer that goes along with it. Simple and easy, that is Australian food culture. Who needs Passionfruit Christmas Pudding anyway?

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When Germany opened its borders for 1 million refugees, Australia allowed 12 000 asylum seekers into the country. This is just a fraction compared to Merkel´s quota, especially when we look at the size and population. With 22 million inhabitants and a land of the size of North America, you would think it is more plausible that Australia would take in a few more. This, however, is not the case, at all. Australian immigration policies are complicated and make it very difficult for immigrants to enter or settle down. Yes, it is one of the most multicultural societies in the world, but that doesn’t mean it is very welcoming to strangers.

With 4 coastlines to protect, one of the most discussed issues for Australia is to hold back the illegal immigrants, coming from Indonesia by boat. These people are so desperate, they get on a tiny dingy and cross the Indian Ocean in the hope to find some luck in this sunburned country. Unfortunately, most of them get the status “unlaw-ful non-citizens and end up in a detention center where they are waiting to be deported. They will not be granted a visa and deportation can take up to a few years. The detention centers are known for being harsh and problematic. Over the last few years, riots have been taken place and asylum seekers have sewed their lips together as a form of protest. It is the uncertainty and desperation for these people what drives to anger.

The discussion about boat immigrants, as they are often called, played up after the Paris attacks. The question was if Australia was safe, and what would happen if they would allow more immigrants into the country. The majority of the population was afraid of a terrorist attack. People explained that it is “very likely” that something will happen because “you don’t know where the enemy is.” Paris was taken by the media and politicians as an example to show what could happen if a country takes up too many immigrants. It confirmed what the majority feared if Australia would take more refugees.

In the past, Australia hasn’t always been so neglecting to foreigners. In the 1970s, there was a completely different approach to refugees. The immigration minister back in 1976, Michael MacKellar said the following after the first boat of Vietnamese asylum seekers arrived in Darwin:
“As a matter for humanity, and in accord with international obligation freely entered into, Australia has accepted a responsibility to contribute towards the solution of world refugee problems.”
Promises were made to use the “full resources” for current and future refugees, because of “moral rightness”.

What has changed over the years and how did it changed? Media nowadays, uses phrases such as “potential terrorists”, “job-takers” and “illegals”. The promised “full resources” turned out to be detention centers which I have briefly mentioned above and the Australian Border Force, which aims to protect and control the movement of people and goods across the border. Why is Australia nowadays so neglecting towards asylum seekers?

It is a tricky question and a complex answer.

One thing is clear: Australia has changed as has their way of thinking and talking about aslyumn seekers. Immigrants are not regarded as victims of war or traumatic events, rather they are considered as persons who come here to work. By changing the way of discussion in public, it is changing the view on the subject. Another example is the phrase “how to stop the boats” instead of helping people. The detention centers are build out of vision of the Australian citizen. This creates the thought: “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Recently I have talked to a local named Jack about this topic. He stated that humanity should be ashamed of itself of what is happening in the world with the massive stream of immigrants. His argument was explained in a long speech and contradicted himself by concluding that Australia does not want more immigrants. “We are accepting more than enough refugees already. We don’t want them here, they can go somewhere else.” So if the world should be ashamed of himself, should Australia be too? Would it not be a better idea to help those people instead of putting them away? Jack sighted and looked annoyed. “Look, we probably could do more but we don’t want to. We have our own problems to take care of.Australia could do more, yes that is true, but does it want to? As far as I can see, no. Perhaps some issues are, indeed, too far out of sight to be kept in mind.

Willing Working On an Organic Farm

Whether you have just finished your high school, Bachelor or Master, you might start to think about taking a gap year. Australia is one of the countries which offers a one year Working Holiday Visa (WHV). The visa allows you to work and travel for a year, throughout the country. It is a great way to experience its culture, cruise around and earn a bit of money. If one year is not enough, you can apply for a second WHV. However, you need to fit certain requirements. One of them is that you need to have done your 3 months specified work – also known as “the 88 days”.

The 88 days of specified work is explained in Document 1263, which you can find on the Australian immigration website. It tells what kind of work is elidigble and in which region. For example, work in hospitality, in all states, does not count, but picking apples in Tasmania does. It does not matter if you work two weeks here, one month there and another one and a half month somewhere else, as long your employer signs your days off. In any case, it is improtant that you are up to date with the visa regulations and restrictions. There are major consequenses if you fraud your days such as being refused at the boarder or paying a high fine.

So what work is elidigble and what not? Not everything is clearly stated in the Document and it can be utterly frustrating and confusting. The best way to find out is to ask your boss before you start the job or to call the immigration line.

Most jobs which count are positions on cattle stations, mining, fruit picking and pearling. The specified work is not always fun and I would not like to pick mangoes ever again. But everyone has his own favourite and it all depends on where you end up and you want to do or learn.
If you do not like the idea of working long hours for minimum pay in the hot sun with the eyes of an angry manager piercing in your back, than there is something like WWOOFing.

WWOOF stands for Willing Working On an Organic Farm. It means you are volunteering four to six hours on an organic farm in exchange for food and accomodation. To goal is to learn something about farming, the culture and country you are visiting. It is an international organization and even Holland has a department.
WWOOFing jobs can variate from feeding wildlife, planting and harvesting crops to tree planting or conservation work. Part from the learning factor, you will meet people with the same intension – namely, to help and learn – as you and a much friendlier boss who will not scream at you when you accidently put the compost on the zucchini plants instead of the tomatoes. To put in short: the atmosphere and vibe are much better. Plus, you will end up in the most ridiculious places.

Personally, I was lucky enough to learn how to make cheese and herd sheep for two months in Tasmania. How many people can say that they have milked sheep and led them from paddock to paddock? At the moment of writing, I am WWOOFing at a butterfly farm in the Nothern Territory. Every day, I have to catch butterflies, harvest lettuce and tomatoes for the kitchen, maintain the vegetable garden and feed a trizillion of bunny rabbits, chickens, goats and geese.

But there is a problem with the WWOOFing system as well. Many places do not have a register or precise overview of who is staying or going. Owners sign of more days than WWOOFers were actually there and some farms do not treat their volunteers that well. That is why the Australian gournement decided that WWOOFing will not be eligible for the 88 days anymore. WWOOFing has to become paid work.

Is that a problem? I believe so. First of all, the intention of WWOOFing falls away. WWOOFing is volunteering, the persons are in general more mature and care more about what they are doing. A majority of the persons with who I worked told me they like WWOOFing because of the unique experience and the oppertunity to learn something. Above all, it feels good to help someone, especially when you start to see what needs to be done.
Second, many family businesses rely on WWOOFers as they are a cheap way to replace workers. It is not all about the money, that is true. For them WWOOFing is often a liftestyle. They have been working with WWOOFers for years. Their idea is that, every person has its own skills and that is what makes WWOOFing work. One is good in gardnening, the other in cleaning and guys are very helpful when it comes to construction. All these little pieces make one big puzzle.

I cannot more agree with this vision and I truly hope the gouverment changes her mind.

As for now, I keep enjoying my butterfly catching and picking tomatoes.

Up the Track

The wilderness around us slowly disappeared and more houses were showing up along the road. Places such as Humpty Doo and Palmerston passed our window. If you ever have been to Australia you probably know where I am. We found ourselves in the Northern Territory’s Top End, Darwin. A sign doomed up in the distance: 10 kilometres to go.

It had been a good 2 month from Melbourne until we had reached this part of the country. Of course, there was a quicker way which might have taken half the time we took, but that would have been less enjoyable. The easiest way to get to Darwin is via the famous Stuart Highway, also known as “The Track”. The sealed road starts in Adelaide and is 3500 km long. It leads you through the Red Centre of Australia, along cities like Coober Pedy and Alice Springs. The Track is travelled by many locals and backpackers all year round. You will not be left alone when you get a flat tyre and rest areas along the way are designed for overnight stays. Often they fill up around the hour of 3 o’clock.

It would have been indeed a faster way to get to Darwin. However, we had the luxury to kill some time before we would hit the city. And to be fairly honest, avoiding the Stuart Highway is the best you can do. Yes, The Track is one of those roads you should drive when you are in Australia. In my opinion you should do it because you can say you have done it and to visit Ayers Rock, a 460 km drive from Alice Springs. Part from that, there is nothing to do or to see, between the few roadhouses which form the only opportunity to fill up your car and your tummy with a counter meal. The landscape stays more or less the same, the whole way through. The road is straight, no turns, roundabouts, curves or double lanes. Perhaps a turn off, once in a while. No, the Stuart Highway is not the most scenic or interesting route that exists. Merely, it is just a road.

Knowing this from previous experience, we took a rough 2000 km detour via dirt roads and 4 wheel drive tracks (4WD) . After crossing the boarder with the states New South Wales and South Australia, we drove up to Innamincka via he Strzelecki Track, and several non-touristic national parks. The 4WD road is not the most scenic one, and maybe even more boring than the Stuart Highway. Nevertheless, it was an experience and a challenge to drive after a week of rainfall, like we had. The track leads to Innamincka, a small settlement close to the boarder of Queensland. It has that romantic touch of a remote cattle station with dust tornadoes created by triple trailer roadtrains, rushing by. Not to forget to mention the incredible amount of flies swirling around your head, trying to get in your eyes, ears and mounth.

From here you can crossover to the Birdsville Track via Walkers Crossing, another 600 km of four wheel driving. The Birdsville track is a popular drive, bringing you from Birdsville to a little place called Marree. You will drive along the edges of the Simpson Desert, Australia’s own Sahara.

Marree marks the end of the Birdsville track but also the beginning of a new off-road: the fascinating Oodnadatta Track, leading via Oodnadatta to Marla, follows the old Ghan railway. The rail service was originally designed to transport goods from Port Augusta in South Australia to Alice Springs, but it got shut down after sixty years because of poor maintenance, which led to financial losses and extreme delays up to three months (Australia, The Rough Guide, 1999).

Despite of the relics and desolated sidings you can find on the way, it is again, not the most spectacular drive of all. The badly corrugated 620 kms road shows you nothing else than endless bushland and dust clouds.

However, this might as well be the most scenic and special experience of the outback. Australia, after all, is a big country and distances are often underestimated by us, spoiled Europeans who demand a sort of attraction every 50 kms. In my believe, the big fat nothing is the most scenic attraction and is unique compared to the European continent. This country is not filled with ancient towns or 4 lane highways. Instead, there might be 1 main route to get to another place. In that sense, we are very spoiled with our cultural heritage. With a 3 hour drive you could be in Germany or France. A three hour drive here means you are not even half way.

And although therre is not much on the way and there not many cities, it does not mean you are alone. Australians like driving and are used to the long distances. The 3 tracks, Strzelecki-Birdsville-Ooodnadatte, are therefor the most popular dirt roads in the country and are frequently travelled by locals. It is a pain if you want to be alone but a bless if you get stuck, knowing that there will always be someone to pull you out.

In that sense, driving off the beaten track might not be so much different than the sealed main roads. But if you looking for a more adventurous way to experience the outback, than this is something you should do. No smooth sealed road, but dust and corrugation. No road trains and backpackers, but locals and 4WD enthusiasts. No busy rest ares, but a whole campsite for yourself and no one else around you. Complete remoteness. Well that is an experience.

Australia Day

We happen to be in the capital, Canberra – pronounced as Canbra – on Australia Day. It was the 26th of January, a National Holiday and celebration for the country. Australia Day is celebrated throughout the country with barbeques, drunkenness and the necessary national flag waving Many countries have their own national day, to honour their establishment and achievements in the past centuries. Or to solely to acknowledge their existence.

However, Australia Day is not cheered by everyone. The Aborigines, the original inhabitants of Australia, call it Invasion Day or Survival Day, referring to the point in history that everything changed. On 19 April, 1770, the English First Lieutenant James Cook started to map of Australia’s East Coast. And with that, he was mapping the end of the Aboriginals dominance over the country.

It was not Cooks intention to take the land from the Aborigines, rather he admired them for their self-sufficiency: “They are far more happier than we Europeans. They think themselves provided with all the necessaries of Life and that they have no superfluities.”

18 years later it became clear that things would change and the Aboriginal supremacy would end. Captain Arthur Phillip landed on Australian soil. It was January 26 1788, the “First Fleet”, consisting out of 1350 convicts and soldiers with their wives, immigrated to Australia.  In the years that followed, many convicts and free settlers arrived, filled with hopes, dreams and hungry for land and work.

It was on 1 January 1901, that Australia became officially a federation. It has been a bloody war between the settlers and the Aboriginals, where the latter have been brought almost to their extinction. The first aim of the new national parliament was to protect the European Australian identity and values, from Asian and Pacific Islanders influence. It was known as “the White Australia Policy”. It took another whopping 66 years until a national referendum gave Indigenous people the right of an Australian citizenship. And it was not until 2010 when a formal apology was made by former prime-minister Rudd to the Aborigines for the past 2 centuries of suffering and injustice.

There are many opinions when it comes to Australia Day. Some find it disrespectful towards the Indigenous people; others don’t see a problem. It is merely another reason to throw a party and socialize with the neighbours.

The Canberra Times argues that Australia Day is not a political occasion but rather “[…] a place, a nation, a people, and an idea.” (2015, 26 January, the Canberra Times, p. 2C).
It pledges that
Australia Day is about the unity of the country, with all it’s different cultures, backgrounds, histories and ideas. Nobody is the same but what all the inhabitants of Australia have in common is that they are Australians. Citizens of the country with collective hopes and aspirations. “What is being celebrated here is what we are, and have been and could be.” The cheerful celebration should not only look at the present Australia, but also at the history and its future: “It might be natural for some sense of triumph, togetherness and optimism, but it is not an occasion for abandoning truth, self-criticism or some hope that we can do better.”

My current supervisor, Nicole, partly agrees with this statement: “No, Australia Day is not about our history. I don’t believe anyone thinks that far or feels guilty about that part. We weren’t there, you know.” In her eyes, the Australian history has many black pages but that shouldn’t be something to focus on. You know, every country has a horrible story to tell, she says, “and we happen to have a very recent one. But look at the Germans, they are putting far too much attention on it!”, referring to the Second World War. Nicole explains me that she doesn’t want to be judged by something that her great-great-great-grandfather has done.

Then, she says something which I find typical Australian. Not because she’s Australian but it marks the main thought of many Australians: “It is not about the history, it is more a reason to get together, throw some meat on the grill and drink.”

Perhaps that is all what Australia Day is about: the celebration of itself as a collective nation with everyone who is there at the moment. A sort of communal mate-ship. Sharing a sizzle and a cold one at the beach. It is not about the history but rather it is about the creating a united Australia today. Easygoing and definitely with a lack of fuss.

 

Sizzling Sydney

You could almost hear the city breathing. Aah rain! It was a relief. After Christmas it hadn’t rained anymore. Now, when the first drops fell on the heated pavement, it was like water on the barbeque. Sizzling. Ssszzz
Sydney’s temperatures have been up between 25-35 degrees, week in, week out. It calls out for a day at the beach and that is exactally what most Sydneians do. The sandy shores of Manly, Bondi and Congee are overcrowed with enthusiastic surfers, bomshells and beach boys. We walked along Manly beach, zigzagging between the visitors, tourists and ice cream-eaters. Nothing special, in our opinion, but then again I’m not a true Sydneian and not a true sunbather. A beach is a beach. Sand ‘n’ sea, water ‘n’ earth, yelling children ‘n’ sand castles. Recently there was a shark spotted in the area. How exciting.

The famous ferry to Manly was everything execpt enjoyable. On a Sunday, when the public transport is only $2,5 for a full day, the whole city had the same of going to Manly. The line to the ferry terminal was incredible long but luckily the boat has a capacity of 1000 passengers. Within 15 minutes we sailed off. The Indian family next to us had at least one camera per person: ready to capture Australia’s biggest harbour with splendid views.

Our dissapointment wasn’t a surprise. It is a natural thing what occurs when you are travelling for a longer time. Being spoiled with breathtaking views, lakes, waterfalls, indigenous sites and stunning routes make everything look normal. Nothing is special anymore and comparisments with previous experiences ruin your present visit. I’ll give an example: when we were at Lake Waikaremoana, New Zealand, we said to each other: “Oh look, another big lake.” But of course, although it is beautiful, an overload of beautiful things will accostom you to it. As soon we were back in Auckland, we realized how astonishing our journey has been. Take a look at your holiday pictures, maybe you will be surprised too.

Back to Manly, Sydneys famous overcrowed beach. Why is this beach so populair? What makes this sandy shore so special? If you ask me, it looked more like a public catwalk than a recreational area. The amount of trained bodies walking around made me feel like it was Baywatch Live. Yes, it was nice to walk on the boulevard, to watch surfers cathing their waves and to enjoy the sunshine. But can’t you do that on any other ordinairy beach? Don’t get me wrong, I like beaches. Perhaps the sand in my cheese sandwich and the screaming children around me make it an unpleasant experience.

A few days after we tackled Manly Beach it started to rain. The showers were more than welcome because of the high temperatures of the last few weeks. Maybe the Sydneians wouldn’t have admitted it but 23 degrees instead of 35 is very pleasant. On the news people complained that this autumn weather isn’t summer. Perhaps they were annoyed that they couldn’t go to Manly Beach. Fair enough, there are more things you cannot do when it is raining. No sizzle on the barbie. No tanning, drippin’ ice cream, an ice cold schooner or thongs and skirts.

Personally I only see one downside of the relatively cool weather of the past days. Namely, I have hanged my laundry up to dry. But it doesn’t.

‘Coffee shop’ or ‘coffeeshop’

Jack Daniels. Jack Sparrow. Jack the Ripper. Jack and Jones. Jack Wolfskin. Jack Johnson. Jack Nicholson. Yes, Jack received a lot of nicknames during our time in Vienna. Especially Jack Daniels became quite popular because well… we liked the combination. Jack is from Australia, Sydney, to be precise. However, he studies in Vienna and speaks a bit German. Last week, he was in Amsterdam for a summer course on digital methods. And well, if one of your ‘mates’ is around, what would you do? Exactly; catch-up!

Apparently, Jack and his room mate Noel (New York) had crashed somewhere else last night, so I kind of found the Jack I was expecting. Hang-over. Luckily, Aussies have a great amount of energy and are inexhaustible (at least, the ones I have met). The only thing they need is a shower and a coffee. But the difference between ‘coffee shop’ and a ‘coffeeshop’ is more than just a space…

“Hey Marie, do you think I sound too Aussie?” asked Jack, after a ‘coffee’. Well bloke, at that point, I thought everything was ace. Especially his accent caused quite some amusement. Later that night we ended up at a house party, with a bunch of PHD students. Suddenly your situation “I just finished my study Arts and Culture” didn’t sound that impressing any more. Particularly when some dude from England tells you he just started his second PHD at the university of Utrecht. His first one was at Oxford.

Back to the accents. It appeared I was the only Dutch person in the room and for some reason, it was automatically assumed I knew the way in Amsterdam like the back of my hand. On our way to Leidseplein, it became clear I did not. However, when we finally reached an Irish pub and were all settled down with something to drink, the conversation of ‘where are you from’ continued. During my Erasmus, I have met many people from every corner of the world (South Korea to Finland). It was quite fun to hear all the different pronunciations. Most of the time you can tell where people are from. “Listen very carefully, I shall only say this once” is obviously a Frenchman, (or in this case, Michelle frrom thee rezistenz). Also Hercule Poirot does not hide his roots “No-no-no-no, I am not some French gent. I am some Belgian gent.” ( No-no. Ai em not som Frrenz zjent. Ai em som Belzjan zjent). I love it.

The English language has its own characteristics as well. The British English is often more ‘posh’ “top hole, old chap”. Except during Geordie Shore; then I’m very happy with the subtitles. Jacks’ accent (Australian) has its own characteristics. Coldies really influenced his choice of words and his strine. At one point (and I have to admit; I had drunk some plonk too), I had problems understanding him. But in the end, we had a rip snorter of a night. During our ‘breakfast’ (chips with mayonnaise at 5 AM), Jack noted that the inhabitants of Amsterdam sounded ‘weird’ and ‘funny’. It is true that Amsterdam has its own dialect. Just like Rotterdam and Maastricht. It is one of my favourite aspects of Holland; the accents. But ‘pure’ Dutch? I’m not sure where to find or to look for it. But I do know that ‘coffeeshop’ has the same meaning throughout the whole country.

Luckily, Jack liked both.

Inspiration

Writers need their inspiration. And there it was. In the form of a naked Australian. And I’m sure it has been done before.”

I completely agree with this statement, done by Mike Ruffino in the documentary 777 (Rihanna). Ruffino might not be a very known or important person (Google can’t give me any more information, expect he’s ‘a writer’ for Playboy). But despite that, I think he’s right. Right in the sense of “inspiration” and “form”. Of course writers need a theme to write about and I’m sure the naked Australian was very inspiring for many journalist on the plane (you can Google this too). But it is not the magic trick to tackle your ‘writers block’, of which some of you, at the moment, might suffer from. However, you can turn the negative aspects of writers blocks around, and make it positive. Or in other words; it is a source of inspiration. Take for example Just Jack, who made a terrific song about this.

Others find a bottle green liquid a way to do the trick. Especially in the older days.

Lately I read an article about the art-industry which needs alcohol (and especially the six sense stuff) to stay alive. The drink would provide an artists with such visual and creative input, that it has to be brilliant.
My memories of the green drink are not that brilliant. Only the morning after (read; afternoon) is indelibly printed on my mind; my roomie Lukas woke me up (3PM), by 
calling me, with the question “where are you” and found me in my bed, wearing the same clothes as the night before. Only then they were clean.

Despite my erhm.. not so positive experiences, others find it “the best thing  they’ve ever drank. My friend saw unicorns everywhere, while my other friend thought she was sliding down a rainbow. In fact, the unicorns appeared to be empty coffee cups (we had no plastic ones) and the “rainbow” was the staircase of our hostel. Not really the staircase to heaven. I guess Oscar Wilde was right when he said:

After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not.”

But I still wonder what will happen with the streaking Australian. Would it turn into a giant kangaroo?
And what about script writers of horror films, such as SAW and Hostel. Was absinthe their medicine against a writers block as well? How do they get inspired? Is it something unexpected or something ‘normal’? For example; imagine; a script writer sitting in the park, watching his daughter play and then… Eureka!
Lets make a scene where the victim is first tortured by cutting of his tongue with a fish line and than hanged, up side down, on a climbing frame. Brilliant idea. Genius. Better than zombies walking out of a forest, killing people and smashing them in to tiny little pieces so they can eat them. I don’t think they just drank a coffee on that or watched the documentary 777.