Merry Christmas + Happy New Year!

Christmas Eve 2018

Being the newbie at work, I was the one who had to stay during the holidays and sure, I have no family or friends to spend the holidays with so I do make the perfect candidate for coming into work but it was sooooo dead. It sucks even more that I’m new because if I was there for a while, I would’ve had some backlog of work to get through and pass the time.

My colleagues agreed that I could call it early and get started on my Christmas since it was very quiet. Times like this, I wish I was back at home because my old job has flex days and the office would just be closed and we’ll work from home.

Santa also came a bit earlier and my ring finally came from Canada! I am sooooo in love with it…


Christmas Day 2018

Merry Christmas! We woke up to a whopping 30+ degrees and it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. For us, we associate Christmas with cold and snow, lol. At work, there’s another Canadian that moved to Melbourne 30+ years ago and she told me that even after all these years, she still can’t get used to an Aussie Christmas.

Dan and I went down to Brighton Beach. We opted out of St. Kilda’s because we figured it will be packed with tourists. Brighton Beach felt more local and it was much, much quieter.

After the beach, we headed home to relax and have our Christmas dinner. Since it was just us – our housemates both left for the holidays – we decided to do the most stereotypical thing … we had a bbq and threw shrimps on the barbie, haha.

Since it was also the most stereotypical thing to do, we decided to take some photos for our last minute Christmas card idea. We had a lot of fun doing it that I think we’ll like to make this the start of a tradition! Making cheesy and cringey family cards.


Boxing Day 2018

I didn’t partake in Boxing Day this year as I felt that I didn’t need much… plus, being a traveller sort of makes you a bit more conscious of your purchases because you’re going to have to think how to bring all your crap back home or if you want to invest in something so temporary.

Instead, we opted to catch Aquaman in theaters. And…

Aquaman was horrible. The group in front of us walked out. But oh my gosh, I was feeling relief when the movie finally ended. I would give it a 3/10 and Dan gives it about a 5 or 6/10.

The actors were good enough, but the writing was soooo bad and cheesy. Seriously. On top of that, we weren’t a fan of how futuristic the film was – it felt like we were watching an underwater Star Wars movie.

I would probably catch this movie only if you can get discounted tickets – otherwise, wait for it to come on a streaming platform.

Also, I also found out that my one hour of sunbathing on Christmas Day resulted in my first ever sunburn! Literally, my first ever sunburn. I’m not even mad, lol.


New Year’s Eve

For NYE, we decided to head out to King’s Domain to catch the city’s fireworks. We normally hate going out on NYE because everything is overpriced and transport (public or private) sucks ass. But, being new to the city and without friends or family, public events are pretty much our only choice to celebrate a holiday, lol.

I’m usually skeptical about public celebrations because Vancouver has always put on shite fireworks and entertainment so I didn’t have much expectations for Melbourne’s.

To end off 2018, we went to Sushi Hub. It’s technically a fast food sushi restaurant but we haven’t found an actual sit-in sushi restaurant yet (without it being super expensive).

We arrived a bit earlier than the entertainment because we weren’t sure when Sushi Hub would close. So we just hung around the park and chatted, enjoying each other’s company.

The entertainment included music videos and a live DJ – nothing too extravagant.

Literally waited about 3.5 hours for the fireworks and countdown!


So, hello to 2019 in Melbourne! 2018 has been a great year but I wasn’t fan of the last two months.

I’m not sure what to make 2019, to be honest. 2018 has been a great year and I just want to continue the flow of savings, new experiences and travelling. Sure, there are habits I’d like to kick but for the most part, I think I’ll continue to live and experience 2019 the same way as I did in 2018 with a little bit more pushing myself out of the comfort zone!


A Date in the Old Melbourne Gaol

Yesterday, Dan and I went to the Old Melbourne Gaol for date day. For those like me, I didn’t know “gaol” was an alternative spelling to “jail” and pronounced it as “gah-ol” until Dan corrected me, lol. 

Honestly, I’ve never seen jail spelled like that before!

Prior to visiting the jail, we stopped by the Queen Victoria Market because we wanted to see a Christmas market… unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a Christmas market and just a regular vendor market selling fresh produce, meats and seafood… and knock off clothing. 

There was a big Christmas shop on the corner of the market, BUT, the moment we walked in, we had one of the sales associates follow us throughout the ENTIRE store. I’ve never been profiled at a store before so that was a new experience for me and made me feel very uncomfortable. I was about to tell the associate off when Dan said let’s go because he didn’t like the vibes they were giving us as well. I’m really happy we didn’t end up grabbing anything from that store. 

Anyways, enough of that nonsense and let’s talk about the jail experience!


This is the second jail tour I’ve been in. The first one was back in Alcatraz when I visited San Francisco.

When we arrived to purchase our tickets, we were lucky to arrive just in time for the Watch Tower experience where we get arrested and booked. It was a fun little experience to sort of see what the detainees went through. Our tour guide was very fun and entertaining. Near the end of the Watch Tower tour, we overheard another tour where a female was giving the tour and she was more of the strict cop – she was literally yelling at the other tour group!

Some of the graffiti written by those arrested and booked.

These were the cells that they locked us in. We thought it was just sitting around for a few seconds until the guard yelled “LIGHTS OUT!” and actually turned the lights off! We sat there in darkness for about 30 seconds before the guard came back and said “Good morning!” and let us out to the courtyard. We were also divided up by gender to make it a bit more realistic too. 

The Watch Tower experience was about a 30ish minute tour. After the lock-up experience, the guard/staff told us a little bit of the history of the jail and also led us to the new exhibit on the Russell Street bombing. 

After that, we ventured into the actual jail and toured the three levels. We learned a lot about the Kelly gang and Colin Campbell Ross. Not to mention, this jail hung 133 convicts so it’s a bit eerie to stand in the courtyard where the hanging would happen and see the gallows, and also the torture and punishment tools used on these inmates. 

Some of the torturing tools they used. On the far left, those were gloves given to inmates to prevent them from masturbating (lol). 

I think out of everyone that passed through the Melbourne Jail, two inmates stood out to me: Colin Ross and Alexander Ross (next picture). These two inmates were not related.

I don’t know why but I felt so sorry to see this adorable little boy be punished! I didn’t take any pictures but part of the museum displayed how inmates would be whipped so I think that’s another reason why he stuck with me because he survived being strapped down and whipped, and died in 1954 in a suburb next to where I’m currently living. 

The gallows used for hanging. I believe Dan Kelly was hung here rather than outside in the courtyard…
Tools used for hanging.
On the third floor.

After the jail, we headed down to Federation Square to see the Christmas tree. We originally wanted to see it a night time but it was still bright AF at 5pm and we really didn’t want to kill 3-4 hours roaming around. 

At the time, there was also an African Celebration going on so we saw a few cool performances. 

Ugh, I seriously can’t wait until my hair grows out and I’m out of the awkward growing phase.

And, to end date day, Dan took me out to a sushi dinner and Starbucks dessert. 

PS: It’s actually pretty cheap to have a wedding in the jail, LOL. I did check the wedding hire brochure.

1 Month in Melbourne

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I moved out to Melbourne! Honestly, this time of the year usually flies by for me but November felt like the longest month of the year. A few days ago, someone asked if it feels like I’m on vacation because time moved so slowly in November and I stumped at that because I don’t feel like I’m on vacation… but I also don’t feel like I’m settled yet, you know what I mean?

So, what is life like in Melbourne after a month?

  • The trains in Melbourne are different than the ones back at home. I hate the schedule – you miss a train? Wait 15 minutes! Whereas, back at home, if you missed a train, another one comes in 2-3 minutes (or less during rush hour). 
  • Some produce and foods are called differently over here:
    • Ketchup = tomato sauce
    • (Bell) Pepper = capsicum 
    • Cilantro = coriander (I had such an embarrassing experience at the grocery store because of this!)
    • Frosted Flakes = Frosties
    • Fries = Chips (obviously!)
    • Thrift stores = Opp shops
    • Hours of Operations / Open hours = trading hours
  • It’s super competitive out here in the job market. Definitely much more competitive than back home. 
  • Houses are built differently over here – it seems like a lot of them are only one level and there are no basement suites. 
  • Oh my gosh, I don’t think I can ever complain about the rain in Vancouver because here in Melbourne, when it pours… it freakin’ pours! We live next to a gym (literally, 30 seconds walk) and Dan was soaked from the time he left the gym because he was caught in torrential rainfall. 
  • There are no monthly bus passes – you just have to load up your card with 4 weeks or 52 weeks or 120 days, etc. 
  • Because rent can be paid weekly… a lot of people will rent out their rooms whenever they can. On Facebook, I saw someone try to rent their room for like 5 days.
  • Fruits are hella expensive but meat and produce are fairly cheap. 
  • Sushi is completely different out here… I can’t explain it. I should probably take photos next time. 
  • People comment on my accent… that’s weird. 
  • Also, I miss hockey… so, so much. 
  • Plus side… I get K-Mart AND Target. Oh my lord, I can’t stop going into them.
  • The phone planes are SO cheap and good! I pay $30/month and get 8gb of data and unlimited talk/text. On top of that, any unused data gets rolled over into the next month with a maximum of 200gb. Like, what do Australians do on their phone that requires this much data?!
  • Major groceries delivery groceries to your door and it’s not a premium service or anything out of the norm.
  • Tax is already included in the price! If I see a tag for $10, I’m paying $10 at the register.
  • No tips culture!

There’s probably a bit more differences that I’ve noticed during my month here but these are what comes to the top of my head. 

Of the 4 weeks here, I’ve worked for 1 week which isn’t too bad! I got a sense of the Australian workforce. I’m hoping to ditch the contract realm soon and find something permanent or at least a longer contract term.

I think I’m most excited for Christmas because it’d literally be Christmas in summer. Like, I would be wearing shorts next to my Christmas tree and I’m excited for that, lol. 

Also, given that it’s been a month already… I think it’s time for me to meet new people. So I downloaded Bumble and half-assed my swipes but I’d try to put more effort into my matches.

Expat Life: 2 Weeks into Melbourne

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since we’ve arrived in Melbourne… if I’m being honest, it seriously feels like we’ve been here for a month or two already. Here’s the lowdown on the past two weeks…

Arriving in Melbourne

Remember that nice hot pot dinner we had two days before leaving town? Well, unfortunately, that cold from the dinner didn’t go away anytime soon so we started our 33 hour travel time with a cold.

For me, as I slept on the plane, my cold progressed into a small fever. I normally don’t mind flying but every little thing was irritating me since I had a cold. When we landed in China for our first layover, I failed the health screening and their machines picked up a higher body temperature and I was told to go into quarantine.  

So, let me just tell you how scary it is to be sent to quarantine in a foreign country. Dan went through the screening first and was waiting for me on the other side. When I tried to go through the screening, the gates wouldn’t open and the guard pointed to the quarantine room after giving me a mask. I walked into the office and a female doctor was there typing away. She requested to see my passport and then gave me a thermometer stick to stick into my armpit to test my temperature. After a few minutes, she requested the stick back and told me in English that my body temperature is higher than normal.

I don’t speak Mandarin so I replied back in English that I don’t have a fever (like seriously, why would I admit to that in an unknown situation?) but I told her I did have a runny nose. She didn’t understand me and started replying in Mandarin so I told her I don’t understand her. We both stared at each other until she returned back to her screen, backspace a few times and recorded a lower temperature number for me. And with that, she let me go catch my connecting flight to Chengdu.

Chengdu Airport. This city is known for its pandas, hence the art display.

We left Vancouver on October 30th, 11:55pm. We didn’t arrive in Melbourne until November 1st, 6pm (local time). By the time we left the airport, we decided to just hail a cab to our Airbnb and the last thing I remember was sending a voice message to my mum and dad saying I’ve arrived and it’s 7pm and I’m going to sleep.


The first week…

Within the first week, we had our bank and cellphone set up. Can I just say that I can’t believe I’m paying $30/month and I have 18+ gigs of data?! Like, what do you Australians need this much data for?!?!?!?! If I was back in Canada and wanted 10gbs of data or something, I’ll be forking over $300. 

We also noticed the Starbucks out here are soooooo much better than back home! Look at all these damn goodies they have in store…

During the first week, we started cracking down on some job and rental applications. I think we did two days worth of applications and decided to take a break and enter into the city to explore.


Week 2…

Job hunting with a restrictive work visa is hard and very discouraging. The Working Holiday visa only allows you to work for an employer for up to 6 months… so, you can only imagine how companies are reluctant to hire for such short terms. I took Kendel’s advice and started putting my CVs forward to agencies and contract roles only and not waste time for permanent roles.

Also, during my 1st week here, I discovered Target is big in Australia…and as a Target lover, I was extremely thrilled to see them. I needed a new eyeliner so I decided to stop by the one in CBD.

And… I came to this disgusting realization that since everything is imported,the cost is triple in price…

So, how are things going? Well… I feel a bit confident on the trains but not so much on the trams and buses yet. The CBD area is super walkable so I’ve been getting my steps in every time I head downtown. I’m starting to recognize and remember suburbs and wherein relations they are to the CBD. 

Earlier this week, to get out of the house and take a break from job applications, we decided to head over to Southbank and check out the Korea Week festival. There were delicious food stalls, dance performances and a funny comedy performance by a well-known Korean comedy group.

To end the week, it was super sunny and hot in Melbourne so we decided to relax in the park. We also went to check out the Melbourne Museum.

Anyways, I realized how ridiculously long this post is so thanks to anyone that actually read it til the end… and I’ll try to keep the posts shorter next time!

Oh, and forgot to add… 2nd week included us finding a home! We’re moving out of the Airbnb on Saturday and even our Airbnb host said we got super lucky and found something in less than two weeks. The competition here is insane…

Leaving Vancouver

Towards the end of October, things got busy. In the month of October, every weekend was filled with social events, and the days leading up to the departure date was packed as well. I was getting stressed out with packing and cleaning the entire home; paranoid that I was missing some important document or the currency exchange place didn’t have enough Australian dollars. I was getting tired and more nervous as I’m slowly packing my comfortable Canadian life away.

We had a going away party at The Pint, a local bar in Vancouver with a group of our closest friends. Prior to The Pint, we headed over to Metrotown for a League of Legends tournament… I kid you not.

But, it was a pretty neat experience to see a community of League players gather around and have some fun. It was also pretty nice to see how excited the guys were to participate in the tournament. I think they came in 3rd place…

Also, side note: I will forever hold it against the guys for inviting me to join their League team and then they all voted to withdraw their offer a few minutes later.

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Missing these girls while I’m writing this post!

After the tournament, we all went out separate ways to get ready for the going away party.

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As the night rolled on, it was such a nice heartwarming feeling to see the love and support surrounding us. It was a little bit of a shit feeling to see all of this and then reflect on some of my friends that weren’t supportive of my move overseas.

Like any other bar on the weekends, this place closes at 3am. We were at the back of the place and as the night progressed, we were being pushed closer and closer to the front of the bar until we realized they were closing for the night. All of us couldn’t believe where the time has gone – like, seriously?! It was already 3am?! It still felt like 11pm when we were all huddled outside trying to get cabs back home.

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All in all, it was a fantastic going away party and at one point, I was sitting on the Skytrain and telling Dan, “I can’t believe we’re on our way to our going away party…”.


Fast forward to Halloween weekend. Our friend, Tiffany, hosts the annual Halloween party. Since Dan and I were packing and cleaning out our house already, we downsized a lot and since we were moving, we were trying to save money so it wasn’t realistic for us to buy a Halloween costume. Luckily, Tiffany keeps all her Halloween costumes and lent us her couples costume of TJ and Spinelli from Recess.

Prior to the Halloween party, Dan and I were busy throughout the day packing, cleaning, and driving back and forth from my mom’s place to ours. My mom’s garage was housing all our furniture so we got lucky enough to not have to buy storage or sell off our goods.

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Those three blue suitcases? That’s everything we’re bringing to Australia!

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Our bedroom, empty like the first day we moved in.

It was such a bittersweet moment as we cleaned out the place. This was our first home together, and we lived in such a prime location. It was a bit more expensive now that I look back at it, and we blew a lot of our money because of the convenience of the location, so… I lowkey do look forward to moving out to a cheaper place when we return.

Dan and I wanted to relax a bit before the Halloween party so I think we called it around 4PM. We only had half the kitchen and bathroom left to clean the next day. Since we cleared out all our furniture, we crashed at our friend’s place until our departure day and they were amazing hosts to us.

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TJ and Spinelli

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The Nun is a beautiful and wonderful lady named Nicole. We first met back in our going away party so I was super excited to see her again because she’s just a gem! She’s honestly one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. And it’s such a shame that we met only when we were leaving!

I’m not a fan of Halloween but I agreed to the party as it’s one of the last social events for the group. Also, because I had to put zero effort into costumes, haha.


To top off our social events and busy weekends, our friend, Carolyn, wanted to send us off with her famous hot pot dinner. I’m serious guys – you haven’t experienced hot pot until you had Carolyn’s.

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It felt like the Thanksgiving dinner we never had this year as a group because all of those that mattered to us were in the room, sharing a very good dinner.

But, additional sidenote: THANKS TO WHOEVER WAS DIPPING THEIR CHOPSTICKS INTO THE POT AND SPREADING THE SICKNESS AROUND BECAUSE WE’RE ALL SICK FROM YOU!

 

What We’re Doing to Save for Australia

Obtaining a working holiday visa and moving abroad is expensive. For us to move to Australia, it’d cost us about $5,500 AUD which is more or less the same converted to Canadian currencies. The $500-and-something is for the visa application alone. The $5,000 AUD is what the Australian government requires all holiday visa holders to have when they pass through immigration because that 5 grand is supposed to be a safety net for when things go south and don’t work out.

So, that’s expensive. Not to mention the airline ticket to get there!

What We're Doing to Save for Australia

But, we’re serious about moving to Australia. We’re not renewing our rental lease next year. We’re not looking at adopting a pet. We even skipped out on Black Friday/Cyber Monday TV deals because it wouldn’t make sense to drop $600 on a new TV and not see it for another 2 years or so.

So what else are we doing to further our savings for Australia?

  • Buying Starbucks only 1-2 times a week and substituting coffee with other caffeine filled drinks such as green tea. Dan even makes instant coffee to reduce our spending at Starbucks. I’m trying my best to eventually cut out Startbucks entirely (save for maybe a weekend treat) and have coffee at work instead.
  • We’re only watching movies with promo codes and not whenever we’re just “bored”. My dad’s cellphone provider offers discounted goods and movie tickets is one of them. We get 2-for-1 deals every two weeks! Alternatively, I think we’ll just wait for the movie to be on rental or available on Netflix.
  • We joined Costco to buy bulk and reduce our trips to our local supermarket. Things at Costco are definitely cheaper than our supermarket and we’re so happy to join Costco. We live about ten minutes away to our nearest Costco as well.
  • We always meal prep. I had a bad habit of buying lunches because I was too lazy to cook. Earlier this year, I learned how to cook proper meals and developed the habit of prepping every Sunday. Dan is always on top of his meals since he requires specific calories and foods to maintain his physique and weight.
  • We only order out twice a week (or less) and always below $50. You can still save while indulging and not giving up on everything in life. We had a habit of pretty much ordering every week, and on some weeks, even more than once. We decided that we’re only going to order every second Sunday and our entire meal has to come under $50 (including tips and/or delivery fees).
  • We buy what we need. Long gone are the days where we threw out money on useless crap “just because”. We now stop and critically think whether we need something or not. Most of the time, it’s just another item we could do without and wait until it comes on sale, or when we’re not trying to save for such a big moment of our lives.
  • We seek cheaper alternatives and discounts. This makes us so uber cheap but we’re slowly switching to no-name brands. We look at Groupon and essentially let Groupon decide what to do (if we can’t find anything free to do). I make the time to visit student salons instead of being lazy and visiting the closest salon to me. Did you know I managed to get a $5 student haircut? IT’S JUST HAIR FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY AM I PAYING $20+?!
  • I’m using my credit card more. I shy away from my credit card because of the way I abused it when I was younger but I’ve slowly started using my CCs a lot more and still within budget. I use it so I can rack up points and redeem as a cashback or a flight. Just the other day, I used my points to pay for half my ticket to San Francisco!
  • I’m limiting my nights out. I’ve told all my friends that I’m saving for Australia and it’s up to them if they want to hang out on the cheap. It’s not to say that I say no to every invite I get but if I do go out, I limit myself to a cheap appie, and no drinks (or one drink).
  • We’re selling our crap. Decluttering has helped me curb my excessive shopping habits and now, we’re selling anything of value that we no longer need/use. We chose not to sell everything because my mom is able to keep some of our stuff in her garage and we believe that some of our stuff has no value but could cost us more to buy them back when we move back to Vancouver.
  • Downgrading and cancelling services. We’re not crazy – we’re still keeping Netflix and Spotify but I’ve downgraded my cell phone bill to $15/month; I’ll be cancelling my monthly waxes and switching back to trimming (or maybe I’d take a look at some waxing Groupons); I’ve cancelled my monthly subscription to Pixel Scrapper (digital scrapbooking); shit, I’m evening keeping a free WordPress domain until I’m good to spend again!

We're Moving to Australia!

This brings me back to a few years ago when I announced my move to New Zealand after graduation.

Well… in case you haven’t noticed, I graduated… and I’m in still Vancouver. Which, I no longer regret because if I moved after graduation, I wouldn’t have met Dan, and I’d rather much choose to stay in Vancouver and take a chance in love than to move across the world to run away from personal issues. In addition, I also didn’t feel comfortable moving across the world with student loans on my back… I wanted to tackle as much as I can of it before moving on.

But, after some discussions and thoughts, Dan and I agreed on one thing…

We’re moving to Australia!

We’re aiming to arrive in October 2018 or sometime before 2019. We’ve been blessed to meet some awesome travellers during our time in Vancouver and that did nothing but motivate us, even more, to look into moving abroad. We figured, it’s a lifetime opportunity, and we’re both in the right place and the right time to take advantage of it before we settle down with more responsibilities.

I was born and raised in Vancouver, and Dan was born on Vancouver Island but has been in the city for quite some years already. We’re both tired of the city and its lifestyle. We both agreed that we don’t want to be in Vancouver for the long term, or settle down in Vancouver. We talked about moving elsewhere but couldn’t decide where in Canada and we figured – hey, why not to Australia and New Zealand? We’ve heard nothing but great experiences about those countries. We’re aiming to do Australia for a year and then another working holiday visa to New Zealand.

We're moving to Australia!

I know what you’re probably thinking… “Claire, you’ve said you moving to New Zealand back in 2015… but you never did” but this time around, I can feel it’s different. We’re looking into the visa process already. We’re cutting down our spendings and saving for the required minimum amount of $5,000 AUD to enter the country. I’m no longer scared about my student loans. Just earlier today, I said, “I guess we’re not going to renew our Costco card next year, right?” in which Dan responded, “I don’t think we’ll even be here to renew it anymore…”. There were many similar conversations. It’s surreal to know that 2018 really is going to be my last year in Vancouver for a few years.

I’m really excited. I’ve delayed my move to New Zealand and I don’t regret it. I’m extremely excited to share this opportunity and experience with Dan. I’m getting nervous just thinking about this but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do for so long, I think if it never happens, I’ll just move myself.

Regardless, our plan of action is to move to Australia before 2019 and we’re using all of 2018 to prep.

Stay tuned for our next big adventures!