Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Well folks, my year in Oz is nearly up. I’ve had the chance to explore Victoria and New South Wales, experiencing unique events like New Year’s Eve in Sydney, cheering for my footy team during the premiership, seeing great sights like the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road. I’ve had an awesome time over here but unfortunately all great things must come to an end.

It’s been a fairly tough time for me in the last few months. Getting work when your visa is running out is quite tough, even more so if you restrict yourself to office jobs like I did. There is stuff out there but you have to be aggressive. If you see an opening, apply! Then wait a few days and call! Especially if dealing with an agency you’ve got to track down the person in charge of the job posting and make sure they know you’re up for it. Thankfully I have something for the moment.

At this point in time I need to concentrate on work and budgeting, planning and booking my next travels as well as forecasting my finances for those travels. I hope to reboot the blog at some point towards the end of 2012 - early 2013 from a new location. Where? Who knows? I’m quite excited to start travelling again. Expect the following in the coming months:

- All the fun stories I DIDN’T want to write about while in oz
- More airline reviews
- More culture shock wtf articles

Stay tuned, more is yet to come.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fighting Homesickness

When you’re travelling for so long you’re obviously going to get homesick at some point. Regardless of how “strong” you are, how determined you are, or hard-headed, at some point you’ll wish you were with your friends or family back home. Unfortunately there’s no real cure for homesickness other than getting a flight home, but there are some ways to cope. Obviously I’ve dealt with homesickness, mostly over holidays. Over time I’ve found ways of watching TV back home, getting food from back home, as well as meeting people from back home. These three things can definitely help you cope and get your home culture fix.

Getting a care package from home always helps as well - bug people to send you one!
Watching TV

Thanks to the internet I’ve been able to watch stuff like local/national news from back home, as well as sports. TV here in Oz is ok, has most shows that I would watch back home (all if you have Foxtel). Obviously there won’t be any NHL, CFL, or NBA, nor any news. It’s just a matter of searching online and finding a stream. Sadly local Canadian sites might not let you access live streams (CBC Hockey Night In Canada) if you’re outside of the country. Thankfully there will almost always be a stream (especially if it’s a major sporting event). Getting newscasts is a lot easier. I’ve had no issues finding local/national newscasts for Canada. Hopefully these links help you out if you’re on the road and want to watch some tv from home:

NHL & NBA: Use google to find a stream.

CFL:  http://watch.tsn.ca/cfl-games-on-demand/ *Games won’t be live but you can still watch


Global News: http://www.globalnews.ca
*Good for local news
Sun News Network: http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca *National News


I’ve already done an article on poutine - you CAN get it here in Oz. But say you want something else like root beer, high sugar cereal, or some high powered hot sauce. Thankfully there are some shops here in Melbourne that do specialize in North American products. It did take me a while to find these but they are awesome. Just keep in mind that you will be paying a premium for these products such as $10 for a box of cereal or a box of pop tarts, or $20 for a 12 pack of A & W root beer. There are at least three places that I know of here in Melbourne where you can stock up on North American goods:

USA Foods - http://www.usafoods.com.au
- 110 Cochranes Rd, Moorabin VIC

Amazing Savings - 162 Carlisle St, St Kilda VIC

Americandy - stall at Vic Market.

Meeting Fellow Canadians

Poutine on Canada Day
Nothing beats a bit of homesickness than getting together with some fellow people frome your home country. When you move away from home, try searching for clubs catered to your country. Here in Victoria Australia there is a Canada Club which puts on events throughout the year, usually coinciding with Canadian holidays. I had the pleasure of celebrating Canada Day with them at a bar in Melbourne’s CBD. It was a lot of fun as the bar served ceasars, poutine and beavertails. I also win a bag of goodies playing name that Canadian song buy guessing correctly Rush’s Closer To The Heart. So be on the lookout for local clubs near you!
My prize for guessing correctly at Name That Song.

Hopefully these tips help you fight your homesickness blues. It gets all of us as we travel the world - so you’re not alone. So just get online, search for TV, stores, or clubs near you. Also don’t forget to keep in touch with everyone back home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Keeping In Touch

While travelling obviously you want to keep in touch with everyone back home. With the advent of modern technology, the odd postcard every now and then has gone the way of the dodo. Nowadays with smartphones, social networking, and VoIP technology, people want to know what and how you’re doing at a moment’s notice. This is great in terms of keeping in touch and beating homesickness, but at the same time takes away from the whole “getting away from it all” point that a vacation/travelling is. Anyways, having been away so long I’ve gone through a lot of different mediums in terms of keeping in touch with friends and family. Today I’ll cover a few of these mediums: Email, Post, Google, Facebook and Skype. These are probably the easiest and most usable tools when travelling.


This is the most old-school way of keeping in touch - but still a nice touch. Depending on where you are in the world, post can be sometimes unreliable. So far in Korea, Australia, and the US, service has been pretty good. Here in Australia it takes a little while for my postcards or mail to get to me from Canada (usually 2 weeks). I was surprised as one of my birthday packages tool 6 days to get here to Australia, now THAT’S service!


This is one of my most hated of all mediums, and always has been. In previous travels I used to use e-mail but the problem comes when you have so many people to write back to, and you’re pretty much writing the same damn thing over and over. Nothing pisses me off more than an e-mail (or even facebook, or whatever message) that just basically says “How’s your trip? How’s Australia? Do you like it?” SERIOUSLY! I don’t mind the odd one coming in from someone who’s out of the loop, or when I’m someplace remote. Otherwise, I have pictures up, a whole blog, twitter, and a life/job out here. You shouldn’t need to ask... Doing custom emails is painfully time consuming! I am guilty of using cookie-cutter emails (since I repeat myself so much in them) .

Google Suite (Chat, Plus, etc.):

While I’m a big fan of Google products, in terms of chat and social networking they have a lot of work to do. Google Chat is somewhat of an alternative to facebook messenger but has a tendency to be unreliable. Messages sometimes don’t get sent, don’t get received. Google Plus was an interesting idea, but nobody uses it. As well the option of having a Google Hangout hosting a videochat with many people at the same time is great, but sadly the video quality isn’t up to par to make me switch from other VoIP providers.


This is the default social network, and the way I predominately keep in touch with everyone. Here you can post your pictures, tag yourself, give status updates, chat, and send messages (e-mail style). I can’t complain really as it is a valuable tool to share my pics and adventures. For the most part this is probably one of the most reliable chat tools as I’ve never had any issues with messages not being sent/received and you can usually see if it’s been read or not. Apart from that, you probably already know everything there is about facebook.


This is quite possibly the best way to keep in touch in terms of voice/video chat. I for the most part use Skype as it provides the best quality in both video and voice chat. Its network is fairly consistent with very few blips. Best of all it’s free to use if both of you are using it. You can also use Skype to call actual phone numbers for a fee, but usually these are minimal. You can also use Skype from your smartphone - just be sure to check your data usage if you’re not on wifi. So before you leave, be sure to get everyone up and running on Skype for free voice/videochat. If they’re too lazy to get it, well you can pay to call them on the phone and nag them about it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Getting Around Melbourne

If you’re coming to Melbourne, most likely at some point or another you will need to use public transport. There is an extensive network here composed of trains, trams (streetcars), and busses. The fares are based on how far you go and divided into 2 zones. I do hear a lot of my local friends complain about it but for the most part I’ve never really had any issues. For example you don’t see stories in the news about public transport that I see back home like this... or this... I’ll give you a rundown of the essentials you’ll need to know about each mode of transport.

One of Melbourne's trains.
The train network is pretty useful if you need to get to the outer suburbs. Trains do cross between Zone 1 and Zone 2 so be aware of where you’re going and be sure to have the appropriate fare. The likelihood of you going to Zone 2 as a tourist are pretty minimal. Trains are quick and efficient in getting you where you need to go and do run late in the night on weekends. Morning and evening rush hour can be a bit of a challenge as the trains can be tightly packed, and not having a seat for a 40-50min ride can be quite a pain. Also, during these times be sure your train goes to your station as there may be limited expresses which only stop at selected stations along the way. Lastly, during rush hour, there may be delays arriving into the main stations which are Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations due to congestion.

One of the newer trams here in Melbourne.
As a tourist you’re most likely to hop on a tram as these go to most of the tourist attractions. Trams also only travel in Zone 1 so no need to worry about buying the wrong fare. Speaking of fares, be sure to always have a valid ticket! While it may be tempting to get a free ride, getting caught means a $207 fine. Trams suffer the same issues as trains during rush hour, being excessively filled. Morning rush hour can be an especially frustrating experience trying to hop on a tram at Flinders Street Station as there are hundreds of people trying to get on at the same time. If you’re visiting, be sure to hop on the City Circle Tram as it’s free and brings you around the CBD pointing out different tourist attractions.


You’re probably not going to need a bus while here in Melbourne unless you go visit one of the outlying shopping malls, or go somewhere with no access to trains or trams. In my time here I’ve used them a handful of times, maybe 5 or 6. Busses can be handy very late at night when the trains and trams have stopped running. Nightrider busses run throughout the night, but be sure to plan ahead as the stops are infrequent, and the run maybe once an hour. Also be sure you’re awake and aware otherwise you could wake up in Frankston!

Paying Your Fare

The fare payment system here in Melbourne is called Myki. This is a coded card based fare system where you store value on the card and it gets deducted as you use it. This is taking over from the previous system called the Metcard, a paper card system. While Myki is cheaper, as a tourist it’s a bit of a pain that you have to buy the Myki card for $6, wiping out any savings you’d get. If staying in the CBD you can purchase Metcards on trams, but that’s it. To buy a Myki, there’s a Myki store at Southern Cross station where you can buy special tourist packs. Otherwise you can buy the cards at 7-Eleven or any store that has a big Myki sign displayed.

Getting around Melbourne is too easy! Compared to the stories I see about public transport back home, there’s nothing to complain about. Be sure to check out Public Transport Victoria’s website for all the details on routes and schedules. Enjoy your trip!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

3 Things I Don’t Miss About Canada

In last Thursday’s post I covered 30 Things I Miss About Canada. I thought it would be fair to also mention a few things that I DON’T miss about back home. I did get a reminder of some of these things when I went to Hawaii in August which just reinforced my dislike for these things. Here we have 3 things that I could honestly do without for the rest of my life:

In Hawaii these "reminders" were highly annoying...
Man...fuck tipping! Honestly when you think about it you’re really paying someone extra for doing the job that they’re ALREADY paid to do. I once got lectured when I was younger by a dick waiter because we had left him a bad tip once (1c) because he was a complete ass. I was educated how it stood for To Insure Proper Service. Why should I bribe someone whose already being paid by the restaurant to do his job better or hell in this asshole’s case - correctly? The situation is so bad in Quebec you have to tip the bartender to bend over and pull out a beer from the fridge. If you don’t you’ll get yelled that “SERVICE IS NOT INCLUDED” and potentially have a few bouncers kick your ass out. In Hawaii I was reminded of this “practice” with polite reminders on every receipt, in some cases you’d also have a giant table with prices and your suggested tip (15%-20% in Honolulu, 18%-20% in Maui). First off I hate the fact that I’m being reminded to bribe my waiter and secondly asking for such generous amounts? For the most part they got 10%. In my budgeting and expense tracking back home I kept track of tips and some times it amounted to $30-$40 per week... for NOTHING! Here in Australia tipping does exist - but it’s never demanded and never required. Fucking brilliant!

Surprises At The Cash Register/Taxes (GST, Food, Liquor Taxes)

One of the things I absolutely LOVE here in Australia is the fact that when I go to a cafe, restaurant, the grocery store, or any shop for that matter, the price I see is the price I pay. Taxes are included in the listed price, but then itemized on your receipt so you know how much tax you paid. Here, if my coffee says it’s $3.50, it’ll be $3.50 when I get to the cash register. In Canada if it says $3.50 for a coffee on the menu, I really have to do $3.50 + 13% to figure out what I pay at the cash register. Try doing that calculation quickly in you head! The total then comes up to $3.95. When I explain this practice to my Aussie friends the usual reaction is something along the lines of “That’s bullshit!” I recently was explaining this to a friend of mine and she made the comment that you would need to walk around the shops with a calculator to know the exact price. That made me remember as a kid that...  WE HAD A GROCERY STORE WITH CALCULATORS ON THE SHOPPING CARTS! I much prefer having no surprises at the checkout as here I tend to pay stuff with exact change. Why do we need to make things so damn complicated back home... I don’t know...

Canadian Winters

HA you thought I’d forget about this one? Sure I mentioned last week that I miss having a white Christmas, but I’m talking more about the January-February deep freeze. Explaining the whole concept of -30C to -40C temperatures to Australians is tough as here the coldest you’ll see is maybe -5C in Canberra. The best way to explain it is to have people imagine locking themselves in their freezer and it being twice or three times as cold. Even then it’s something you have to experience to learn the true value of my hatred for it. It’s nice being free of snow storm warnings, flight delays and frostbite warnings. Oh I also forgot to mention shovelling, scraping ice off your windshield, having to get your car unstuck from the snow, public transport nightmares, etc. Winter? I QUIT WINTER!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

30 Things I Miss About Canada

1. Harvey’s burgers - Oh so good!

2. Authentic poutine - even though I can get some around the world, it’s not the REAL thing...

3. Hooley’s Happy Hour - $4 pints and 1/2 price appetizers, just won’t happen out here

4. TV - Unless you have Foxtel (pay tv) you only get maybe 20 channels here in Australia, and 5ish of those are home shopping networks.

5. Late night shopping - everything here closes at 5:30 or 6 unless it’s a Thursday or Friday. Need to buy something like a gift or a suit after work on any other day? Forget about it!

6. Driving - I refuse to drive out here after getting a ridiculous speeding fine

7. Reasonable speeding thresholds - Here in Victoria if the speed limit is under 100km/h you get a 3km/h grace threshold for speeding, do 4 and it’s a fine! Over 100km/h it’s 10%.

8. Central heating - As far as I know houses here don’t have furnaces. We do get winter out here where the mercury drops to 1C or 2C so it does get cold!

9. Canadian beer - I miss my Alexander Keith’s!

10. Breakfast restaurant chains - There’s no such thing as Perkin’s, Cora’s, or IHOP out here... bloody shame!

11. North American sports - While I love my footy, I miss being able to catch baseball and hockey on TV here.

12. Fiery political debates about CANADIAN issues - boy did they ever get fiery!

13. 24hr News media - We do have ABC News 24, but unless you have Foxtel you won’t get CNN, Fox News or Sky News.

14. Reasonable fast food breakfast prices - I miss paying $4.02 for a McD’s BLT Bagel, 2 hashbrowns and a large coffee. Here I can pay $7.50 for a coffee and a donut

15. Urban music - Not popular here, miss hearing rap/hip-hop on a regular basis in the clubs.

16. Canadian holidays - While I’ve had the chance to celebrate Canada Day here in Oz and had the opportunity for a Thanksgiving lunch, just not the same as being back home.

17. Bacon - You can get bacon on your burger or parma but it’s back bacon and not the strips

18. Wal-Mart - The one stop shop for anything you could ever need.

19. Ketchup - Feels weird calling it tomato sauce...

20. My videogames - They’re gathering dust...

21. Tim Horton’s coffee - Oh how I miss paying $1.50 for an amazing large double-double, here a large coffee will set you back $4-$5.

22. Being able to plug all my toys in - I only have one power adapter for Oz so I have to balance out charging my toys

23. Coins - I still get frustrated with the fact that the smaller the coin the more valuable it is. Our $2 coin is the largest and easiest to find when you’re fiddling around for change. Also we don’t roll our coin here, we bag it!

24. Table service/running a tab - The honor system is a rarity here, usually you have to pay everything up front, including food.

25. My birthday during SUMMER! - I’m a winter baby here, was 2C on my b-day... :(

26. A White Christmas - Feels absolutely wrong slapping sunscreen on and walking around on a 32C Christmas day... totally wrong!

27. Cinnabon - Terrible yet so delicious! No such thing here in Oz.

28. Quizno’s - My main meal for years at work! Only Subway and their terrible toasting oven here.

29. Country music - BARELY exists here - not on the radio, tv, nor in concert unless it’s Keith Urban...

30. Last but not least, my friends, family and loved ones!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Where Do I Buy...?

Moving to Australia can be a big adjustment. As I’ve covered in the past, there’s quite a learning curve, even though things are quite similar. One of the things that I had a bit of trouble with was knowing where to buy stuff as many of the chains from back home don’t exist over here. Quite frankly the one stop shops that we have back home (aka Wal-Mart) aren’t here so sometimes you really have to explore. Hopefully this guide helps any of you if you’re planning on coming down here, whether for a week, a year, or even permanently.


Main Chains:
- Woolworths/Safeway
- Coles
- Aldi

One of the big things here is the so-called grocery wars, better yet the price wars between all the big grocery retailers (more notably between Coles and Woolies). Aldi wins hands down in terms of pricing, but most if not all the products (including beer) will be an Aldi brand. As well produce selection is quite limited. Coles and Woolworth’s/Safeway are your main everyday shops. They’ll have all the main brands as well as your usual selection of produce, meat, and grocery products. Quite frankly preference between these two is more personal choice as I think they’re the same. Lastly there’s IGA, which I find the most expensive and really only go to out of convenience.

General Department Stores:

Main Chains:
- Target
- Kmart
- Big W

These places are all handy when it comes to picking up stuff you may have forgotten to pack, need cheap work clothes, or any general household item. Kmart wins in terms of price. Here you can get a $15 pair of dress pants, $18 dress shoes and $12 work shirts. The only thing is that sometimes the quality may leave a little to be desired, but for those prices you can easily replace them. Target may not have the best prices but the quality of their products is by far the best. I paid $20 for a pair of dress pants and they still look brand new after months of wear. Big W is also good in terms of quality but is also quite good in terms of selection. Who knew you could buy home brewing (making beer) products at a dept. store?


Main Chains:
- Bunnings Warehouse
- Masters
- Harvey Norman

Why am I covering Hardware/Home Reno? Well put yourself in this situation... Say you’re at a mate’s place taking a shower and then all of a sudden the shower head drops and disintegrates. Shit son looks like you’ll have to replace/fix it... Where the hell can you get one... and for cheap! Google was no help at all, it only led me to Harvey Norman’s website where the price ranges for shower heads was $100-$900 and I knew that the one I broke wasn’t THAT great. Bunnings and Masters are basically the equivalent to Home Depot. Here you can find $15 shower heads, or any sort of home improvement product you may need (lumber, drywall, paint, etc.)


Main Chains:
- JB Hi-Fi
- Dick Smith
- Harvey Norman

When travelling, sometimes your gizmos will break down on you and you may need to either replace them or get some sort of accessory. One of the first things I picked up when I landed here in Oz was a mobile phone charger as I only have one plug converter and several electronics that may need to be charged at the same time. Dick Smith is probably the best in terms of small electronics, headphones and chargers etc. JB Hi-Fi is the place if you need any sort of electronic item big or small (computers, TVs, video games, music). I would say it’s the equivalent of Best Buy back home down to the colours. Lastly there’s Harvey Norman again. They do sell cameras, TVs, and computers, but they’re more of a furniture store. I’ve never actually made it into one of their shops because... well I just have never had to.

Hopefully this guide can be of some service to you if you make your way to Oz. Even if you may not be staying here for long you may still need to go to one of these shops. Face it, you may need to buy food, clothes, repair a mate’s house or replace your earphones. Just remember that you may have to shell out a bit more here in Oz than you would back home.