Melbourne, Victoria 🇦🇺

Hello from Down Unda!

Earlier this month Jake and I took a trip down South. Jake planned the entire adventure for us a few months ago and I had been daydreaming of it ever since! First we took the train to Sydney for a short one night stay and then flew to Melbourne from there for the weekend (see map below.)

Surprisingly, the train from our suburb of Newcastle to Central Station in Sydney CBD was inexpensive and painless. The trip cost $9 AUD (one-way) and took less than 3 hours. The views are beautiful along the coast, so there is plenty to look at out the window and time passes quickly. On the other hand, driving to Sydney by car takes about half the time but it’s loaded with tolls and traffic!

Once we arrived at Central Station, our Airbnb was only a ten minute walk away! We stayed in the Surry Hills neighborhood which has a very hipster-y vibe. The houses were beautiful and there were numerous restaurants, pubs and cafes in the area. After dropping our bags we decided to check out the Thursday Happy Hour deals in Surry Hills. We found a sports bar a few blocks away and watched the end of a Bulls game while waiting for our friends to arrive.

Shortly after we met up with our friends for dinner before our night out on the town. A few months ago, we all bought tickets to see ‘Tycho’ (an American techno band) and were really keen to see them. We had a grand ol’ time at the show, which also was within walking distance of our Airbnb. (On a side note: I highly recommend seeing a band that performs music without lyrics at least once in your life. It is a much more intimate experience, as it forces you to interpret the music for yourself!)

The next day, Jake and I woke early to Uber to the airport in time for our flight to Melbourne. The airport was nice and seemed to have a lot of healthy options for food in comparison to airports at home. As for security, TSA didn’t even check my ID once since it was a domestic flight. What a nice change of pace from American airports!

The flight to Melbourne was only about an hour and I slept the whole way! We found bus transportation from the airport to the CBD very easily. A return bus ticket to the Melbourne CBD was only $37 AUD, with buses leaving every 15 minutes round the clock. (Unfortunately there is not a train/metro directly from the airport and taxis from the airport can be very expensive.) The bus dropped us in the Melbourne CBD and we caught the metro to South Yarra where our hotel was located. We stayed at The Claremont Hotel, which was affordable, clean, and had a nice continental breakfast. It was very close to grocery stores, bars, cafes and the metro. My only complaint is that they did not allow alcohol in the guest rooms, but that didn’t stop us from sneaking a 6-pack & a bottle of wine in using our backpacks!


Aftertaking a much needed rest day after arriving in Melbourne, we were eager to explore the following morning. First we enjoyed our continental breakfast and then we headed out for the day to the Royal Botanical Gardens, located in the heart of Melbourne. The gardens are massive and packed with joggers, tourists and mothers with strollers. There are a wide variety of indigenous Australian plants, trees and wildlife to absorb. My favorite spots were the Lilly pad pool and the green house.

Next we worked our way to the Queen Victoria Market for some shopping and some lunch. Did you know, it’s the biggest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere? At the market we wandered through somewhat endless aisles of crafts, clothing, leather goods, toys, and even knock off NBA jerseys! We stopped for pizza from one of the vendors for lunch and it was delicious. After lunch we checked out Melbourne’s famous DFOs (Direct Factory Outlets.) There are a few different DFO locations throughout Melbourne, but we only visited the South Wharf Location. Finally after walking for 6 straight hours, we headed back towards our hotel. For dinner we grabbed some items from a local IGA grocery store, since eating out for every meal becomes very pricey in Melbourne.

For our second and final day in Melbourne, we decided to explore the St. Kilda area. We wanted to see Luna Park as well as the sights around St. Kilda beach. Luna park is an amusement park built over 100 years ago. You’re only required to pay per ride so anyone can walk through the park without a ticket.

For lunch we wandered up and down St. Kilda/Fitzroy Street and gazed in all the windows til we were nearly drooling (see photos below.) Instead of one of the delectable treats I was salivating over, I chose a chicken peri-peri wrap. It did not disappoint! Even the “grab & go” options from takeaway places in Australia seem to be much more nutritious than at home.

In the early afternoon we headed back to our hotel, since we planned to go to another concert that night. Jakes two favorite bands, While She Sleeps & Bring Me the Horizon were performing near where the Australian Open was held just days before. I personally am not a huge fan of metal music but I was willing to give it a listen. Before we got to the venue however, we were soaked with rain. (Melbourne is notorious for showing all four seasons in just one day…) Nevertheless, it was an entertaining show to say the least. The people watching alone made it worth my time, even if I was drenched in rain and shivering. 🙂

The next day we made it to the airport just in time to see the end of the first half of the Super Bowl. I was feeling confident about the butt kicking the Patriot’s were receiving. We were in the air by the time the second half ended and unfortunately we were shocked when we learned of the outcome!

All in all, Melbourne was a hoot. I’d go back in a heartbeat! …and I still hate Tom Brady.


First Month Recap 

Hello friends:

Exactly one month ago my journey Down Unda began–wow, how time flies! My days have been filled with many trips to the beach, gardening, kitty cuddles, jogs/walks in the park and of course, more fish & chips!

This Thursday Jake and I are taking the train down to Sydney to spend the day exploring! At night we’ve got tickets to see Tycho in concert with friends. We’re staying together in a large Airbnb apartment in the middle of downtown which should be very convenient.  On Friday Jake and I are flying South to Melbourne, Victoria (see map below) for the weekend to explore! We’re also seeing another band, Bring Me The Horizon on Sunday. I’m very excited to see another part of this wonderful country. (Stay tuned for a blog post about this trip later 😊)

After we return from vacation on Monday, Jake and I are moving into a new house in Hamilton (another suburb of Newcastle) with a friend. The house is pretty aged, but has lovely character. It’s painted bright bubblegum pink, so I like to call it Barbie’s dream house! The landlord is planning to demolish the house in 6-12 months so the rent was a steal. The location is perfect; there are many cafes, pubs and shops wander into. Also there is a decent porch and back yard for my plants plus a mango tree!!! I’m ecstatic to move in!

This week I’m finishing the online certification (Responsible Service of Alcohol, or RSA) for serving alcohol.  This course cost about $95 USD, but it is absolutely essential for getting bar work in Australia. Unfortunately it is not free like it was in America ☹️ but it is more extensive ! I hope to get a job bartending somewhere near our new neighborhood after we get settled into our new house. I can’t wait to see what the coming months bring!

January Recap

In the past month I’ve had a blast learning about the Australian way of life. Here’s a summary of my observations so far:

The Heat 

The sun rays Down Unda are much stronger due to the hole in the ozone layer (ahem, global warming is not a hoax.) I’ve darkened in pigment significantly just from hanging the laundry outside and going for walks! I haven’t gotten properly burned yet, but I’m sure it is bound to happen one of these days! After being here for a few weeks, I’m much more accustomed to the high temps now (see map below.) The first few days were rough for me, coming from the snow! Sometimes I felt a bit ill if I stayed outside for too long. Luckily Jake takes me to the beach, or we go to a friend’s pool when we’re trying to beat the heat.

The Food

In my experience, the food here is overall very good! There seem to be many more healthy options offered at fast food chains like McDonalds (Maccas as they say here) and KFC. Even the food court at the mall in nearby Charlestown has significantly more healthy choices than the malls at home.  I’ve also noticed many vegetarian and vegan dishes offered at cafes plus a decent amount of solely vegan restaurants! It mustn’t be a coincidence I haven’t noticed very many obese people around here….

On the other hand, the junk food here is absolutely marvelous.  My favorite unhealthy snack would have to be TimTams– a chocolate coated chocolate cookie. Sorry Oreo, but you’re no longer milk’s favorite cookie! I saw on the news a couple of days ago that TimTams will soon be available in the U.S.! Another favorite chocolatey treat is Milo, a powdered chocolate drink. It is excellent in milk or on top of ice cream or yogurt!

Some other True Blue (Australian) foods are Weet-bix, Pavlova, Fairy bread, and of course, Vegemite (see photos below.)  Weet-bix is a traditional Aussie breakfast food. They’re small blocks of whole grain shreds; goes well on top of fruit and yogurt or perfectly with a splash of milk. Pavlova is a traditional Australian dessert, made of a soft cake, similar to angel food , topped with merengue and fresh fruits. It’s a lovely light dessert that still satisfies the  sweet tooth! I have yet to try Fairy bread, but it looks dangerously addicting: white bread smothered in butter & topped with 100’s & 1000’s (brand of sprinkles). Last but not least there’s the classic Aussie toast spread: Vegemite. Its a savory spread made from leftover brewers yeast extracts plus spices. It’s dark brown/black in color and has a sticky, tar-like consistency.  It’s typically spread on buttered toast. Every morning without fail Jake has his Vegemite on toast. However after trying it myself many times it hasn’t grown on me quite yet.

There are many local bakeries and Take-away shops in each suburb that offer a delicious, quick lunch. Meat pies and sausage rolls are very popular choices as well as fish & chips. (Chips are nothing without the chicken salt so don’t forget to ask for it–well worth the extra 50 cents!) I don’t love eating meat, so I usually opt for a personal pizza or spinach & feta roll (see photos below). I’ve also discovered that passion fruit is my new favorite fruit! Living in Iowa, I’d never dream of eating this delicacy but now I can eat it every day!

The Wildlife

Living in Australia means coexisting with the wildlife. There are many dangerous creatures that may be lurking around that you must watch out for; such as Redback spiders, Blue-ringed octopi, and Bluebottle jelly fish! I’ve seen Redbacks & Bluebottles up close and personal but luckily if you leave them alone, they will usually leave you alone!

Don’t worry, there are also many cute, harmless creatures around as well- like Greg the little lizard who lives in the cement crack near our laundry room. There’s also Disco, the neighbor cat who guards my garden (see photos below.) I’ve seen numerous Cockatoos and opossums in the wild but unfortunately I have yet to see any kangaroos or koalas. Cockroaches, although mostly harmless, are very prevalent here. In summer roaches are especially heavy and literally impossible to avoid. I think I’m more terrified of the roaches than the Jellyfish–they always seem to appear on purpose to scare the wits out of me ☹️.

Thanks for reading this week’s post! More to come next week after I return from Melbourne.

Australian Slang & Sayings 

Hello everyone 😀

Today I’m rounding out my third week living in the land down unda! By now I have a grasp on how people speak here so I thought I’d share some common sayings and slang terms I’ve learned:

“Arvo”- afternoon 

“Bellend”- dick head

“Bogan”- tramp, low income person, similar to “white trash”

“Bum Bag”- Fanny Pack

“Caps”- pills

“Cheers”- thanks

“Cooked”- intoxicated

“Cunt”- THIS IS NOT A DIRTY WORD IN AUSTRALIA! On the contrary, it’s used by young people as a term for “dude”. For example if you hear “Joe is a mad cunt” that means Joe is a cool dude. Conversely, if you hear “Guy is a shit cunt” that means Guy is lame and should be avoided. 

“Durrys”- cigarettes

“Dero”- short for derelict (see bogan) similar to “white trash”

“Docket”- bill, or receipt 

“Gettin’ on the piss”- Going out to drink

“Fag”- cigarette

“Footie”- short for football; but meaning Rugby League or Rugby Union 🏉

“Heaps”- a lot 

“How you going?”- how are you, how is it going

“I reckon”- I think/ I bet 

“Maccas”- short for McDonalds 

“Mad”- super cool, dope 

“Mate”- similar to “Bro” or “buddy”

“Mental”- crazy 

“Oi”- hey

“Petrol”- fuel, gas 

“Pingers”- uppers, like ecstasy 

“Povo/Pov”- short for “poverty”, meaning broke

“Rollie’s”- hand rolled cigarettes 

“Root/rooted”- to have sex  

“Roster”- schedule

“Schooners”- large glass of beer. Similar to a stein of beer 🍻

“Sev-Lev”- short for Seven-Eleven gas station  

“Servo”- gas station ⛽️ 

“Shrapnel”- all of the coins in your wallet (Australia has 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 & $2 coins so it tends to add up–making your wallet very heavy!)

“Stingin’ for a piss”- Needing to go to the bathroom

“Straya”- short for Australia 🇦🇺

“Sos”- short for “sorry”

“Sus”- short for “suspicious”

“Takin’ the piss”-joking/not taking something seriously 

“Thongs”- flip flops, NOT underwear 

“Ute”- short for Utility Vehicle, very popular Australian vehicle 🚗 

“Wrecked”- destroyed, or hungover 🙈

Newcastle, NSW: My New Home 🇦🇺

Welcome to my Travel Blog


One year ago on a very cold Sunday night, I met an Australian exchange student named Jake Herington while working at Micky’s Irish Pub in Iowa City.  I never dreamed that one year later my whole life would change and I would be the one on exchange to his country! During my year living abroad in Australia with my boyfriend Jake, I hope to post all about my adventures on this blog. Based on my first two weeks in Newcastle “Newy,” I know 2017 is going to be my best year yet!

On New Year’s Eve I flew into Sydney where Jake picked me up & drove us back to Newcastle (about 1.5 hours North of Sydney.) It took me awhile to adjust to the 15 hour time change, but I guess that makes sense when you’re 8,977 Miles (14,447 km) from home! After two weeks I’ve finally kicked my jet lag and settled in with Jake in Lambton, a suburb of Newcastle. It is very hot here if you ask me, but then again it’s summertime down here in the Southern hemisphere AND I did come from very snowy Iowa. I will just have to get used to the heat! However there are a lot of perks to living Down Unda: it’s usually sunny, you can always dry your clothes on the clothesline outside, and you can bronze your skin outside in under an hour! That being said, forgetting sunscreen is a grave mistake for anyone. Even those of us with black hair and olive skin who don’t think they need sunscreen!

***Did you know Australia is the Skin Cancer capital of the world? And you’re 10x more likely to get skin cancer due to the ozone hole above Australia!

While Jake is working full time for a few more weeks, his friends, his sister (Brianna) & his mother (Libby) have shown me around our lovely Lambton. There is a whole lot to do around here, especially because it is summertime: countless beaches, walking/biking trails, numerous parks & swimming pools, Blackbutt Wildlife Reserve, Lake Macquarie (saltwater lagoon), a huge local music scene, and HEAPS of fresh fish & chips for me to try!

Before I arrived, I applied for a Working Holiday Visa for Americans under 30 years old. The Visa cost $420 AUD, which equates to about $315 USD with the exchange rate. This Visa allows me to travel and work (full or part time) for one year anywhere in Australia. It also allows me to exit & enter Australia whenever I would like during the year. Since Australia is so large (about the same size as America) I’ll be spending my time on the East coast. While I’m here I hope to visit: Cairns (Great Barrier Reef), Brisbane/Byron Bay (Gold Coast), Sydney, Canberra, & Melbourne. In a couple of weeks Jake and I have a trip planned to Sydney & Melbourne to see some concerts and to celebrate my 23rd birthday/Jake going back to school! I also have trips in the works with friends to New Zealand and Thailand later on this year!

I am absolutely thrilled to see what “Newy” has to offer during this year. So far it’s a refreshing change from the hustle & bustle of America. People here spend most of their time outside, so it mustn’t be a coincidence that they seem so happy!! 🙂 To be honest, I probably wouldn’t come home if my visa didn’t expire–sorry mom!


Special thank you to my Mom, Pa & little brother Kevin for making this trip possible. Thanks for letting me move back home with you so I could save all of my wages for this awesome experience. I love you guys! ❤️