Monthly Recap: January 2017
Anndd January has come and gone! I started off 2017 with a bang, spending two days diving the Great Barrier Reef in a nonstop fashion. After a 24-hour bus ride back south to Agnes Water, life has slowed down considerably since then. Here's what I've been up to.
Where I've Been
Cairns - 3 nights
Agnes Water - 28 nights
(Plus one overnight bus)
The Great Barrier Reef - Does this one count? Getting to dive the GBR has been on my bucket list for awhile, so the fact that I was able to squeeze in 7 dives in almost 30 hours was incredible. I was worried that the reef was going to be beyond repair, with bleached coral and a lack of marine life, but instead the reefs were stunning and the visibility was perfect. I loved being out on the boat, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by the reef. It was definitely an amazing way to kick off the new year.
Best & Worst Beds
Thankfully, I have no complaints about any of the places I stayed at this month!
Liveaboard - I was really impressed by the accommodation on the OceanQuest liveaboard. I shared a room with an American from San Francisco. The beds were clean, and there was a full bathroom with a shower and toilet. I only spent one night on the boat, but slept soundly, which was good since we had to wake up at 5:30am for a morning dive!
Agnes Water - I've had a bed in the corner of room 5 for the past month now, and have made it my own. I keep all the clothes I wear often in a box beside my bed and keep my toiletries on a shelf. There are no keys for the rooms or lockers at Cool Bananas. The doors are huge, glass sliding doors and they are often left open for ventilation. It sounds weird, to just leave laptops and cell phones out, but no one bothers stealing anything here. I do keep my laptop in its case and cover it with my sheets when I go to work, and I keep my passport and other travel documents securely in my backpack, but I don't worry about anyone taking anything. Plus, I'm in a girls-only room (girls are way cleaner than guys… trust me, I clean all the rooms!). There is also no wifi in the rooms, so it forces people out into the common area to socialize (or sit on their phones for the wifi).
Diving the Great Barrier Reef - I swear I'm going to write an actual post about this experience.
"Namaste" - I go to flow yoga once a week, which I really enjoy. It's been a great way to get back into my yoga habits and the class takes place in a huge, white tent that is right on the beach. In the past week, I've run into Mel, the yoga teacher, twice while in town. She always greets me with a kiss on the cheek, asks me how work is going, and reminds me of the next class time.
Celebrating Australia Day - Australia Day is a day to go to the beach, get the barby (barbecue) going, and drink a cold beer. We got a group of people together and Brock, an Australian, led the charge to make sure we had an authentic Australia Day. We listened to Triple-J's Hottest 100 all day, had a thong (flip-flop) throwing contest, and loaded up the Esky (cooler) with beers. A lot of people went to the pub that night and mayhem followed. Quite a lot of gossip for a small town!
Making friends - Being in one spot for over a month has allowed me to actually make friends, mainly with the rest of the staff here at Cool Bananas. We're a dynamic bunch: there's Lewis, a 24-year-old English guy who drives the shuttle; Brock, a 25-year-old Australian from Newcastle; Laura, a 21-year-old German girl who helps me clean the rooms and kitchen; Annie, another 21-year-old German girl who also drives the shuttle and has been in Agnes for five months (!); and Wes, a Londoner who teaches surf lessons here. Annie and Cary are the owners; AJ, born and raised here in Agnes, is a manager; and Lorenzo, another Australian, owns Gnarly Surf Tours, the surf company out of Cool Bananas. The staff does change some weeks, depending on who's leaving, but Lewis, Brock, Laura, Wes, and Annie have remained constant since I've been here. Getting to know long-term staff helps a lot because so many backpackers are in Agnes for only two nights, so I might have a great conversation with someone, but the next morning, they've left on the 6am bus.
Confession: I'm ready to move on! - At first I was going to write, "Overcoming homesickness," but I don't think I'm homesick. I definitely miss the comforts of home -- my car, my comfy bed, seeing my niece -- but I don't have any urge to buy a plane ticket home. I'm mainly struggling with staying put in one place for so long. I thought it would be a welcome change after jumping from town to town on the east coast, but instead I'm getting antsy and cannot wait to get moving again. On days I don't work, I don't know what to do with myself. It's like I can't get the gears in my head to slow down and I'm daydreaming of all the places I still want to see. My mom keeps reminding me to take it easy and enjoy the moment, something I genuinely wish I was better at.
So, What Do I Do All Day?
7 - 8am: Skype into my IU class or head to yoga on the beach
8:30 - 10:30am: Eat breakfast, read in a hammock, chat with other backpackers
10:30 - 11:45am: Sweep and mop the upstairs rooms, then help clean the kitchen
12 - 2:30pm: Make lunch, head to the beach, go grocery shopping, read some more, work on homework, write blog posts, nap
3 - 10pm: Go to work -- start the ingredient and dough prep, make a lot of pizzas, eat pizza or a house salad for dinner, clean and close the kitchen, then walk home
10:30 - midnight: Take a cold shower, do laundry, read, have a beer with the rest of the staff, go to bed
That's basically what I'm doing every day, although I don't work Wednesdays and Fridays. Sometimes I forget I'm in Australia because I've got such a routine going. I even eat the same breakfast as I did before going to work in Indy every morning - wheat toast with peanut butter, sliced bananas, and honey (I get the strangest looks from people; peanut butter is not a thing here in Aus). So if I'm not posting that much on social media, it's because pizzas don't look as cool as city skylines or endless beaches.
All costs are in US dollars!
I'm going to split this up between Cairns and Agnes, because there is a huge disparity in my spending between the two cities, especially due to the cost of my scuba diving liveaboard, which is included in the Activities category.
January 1 - 31, 2017
Internet / Data: $0
Internet / Data: $30
Overall total: $1,171
Money earned: $1,920
I barely spend any money in Agnes, besides food and yoga. It's been a great way to slow down my spending. Money earned is what I was paid this month from the restaurant, after taxes (yes, I pay Australian taxes as a backpacker...). At this point, I'm feeling confident that I'll have enough money to travel for the remaining time I plan to be on the road, which is exciting because originally I wasn't sure how long my funds were going to last.
Most Popular Post
My transparent post about How I Saved $10K for Travel in 5 Months was by far my most read blog post this month. I share how I saved money by changing my lifestyle, managing credit card debt, and cutting back on expenses.
How to Make 2017 Your Year for Traveling - Put those travel dreams into action! Here's how.
My Travel Plans for 2017 - From Fiji to Indonesia to Cambodia, here's where I hope to go before the year is over.
11 Reasons Why You Should Get Scuba Certified - Learn why I'm so obsessed with the under water world and why it's worth it to get certified.
Traveling in the Age of Trump: A Personal Reflection - How I feel about the current state of affairs back in my home country.
Books I've Read
I finally finished A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin, the second book in the A Song of Fire and Ice series. I joined the local library here (so very me) and was able to request A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series. I went to pick the book up and was handed a massive 1,100 page tome of a novel. So I am slowly working my way through that book.
I just bought a used Kindle through Amazon for $50. I've never been interested in an e-reader because I love paper books, but I've been reading so much that I've resigned myself to the fact that an e-reader would be much easier at this point. I didn't want to buy an expensive version in case it gets lost or stolen, so I'll see how this version works out.
What's Up Next
I'm working for another month at the restaurant and then I leave for the Philippines on March 2. I have to take a 12 hour bus ride from Agnes to Brisbane the day before, though. I am really looking forward to the Philippines. I'm excited to see my dad, I want to re-discover Manila, and I get to stay at my aunt and uncle's house, which means a private room to myself! IU's spring break also falls during my trip, so I'm taking a week to go to the islands on my own, do some diving, and not worry about my classes.
And I have a return date home! Which feels weird. At first I didn't like the feeling of knowing when I'd be home, because it took some of the mystery out of my trip. And what if I wanted to stay longer? However, I was selected to serve on the Board of Directors for my alma mater's Alumnae Association. I was asked to attend the first meeting in person or else defer the position. So I'll be home in early September! I may travel a bit in Central America in October if I've got some money remaining, but it's very possible that after 11 months of travel, I'll be happy to be home.