Year away

A year ago I packed my stuff in boxes and showed them to my dad’s tiny attic, piled all that I thought necessary in my old backpack, and left for a trip that was intended to be 2 months of yoga in Bali, then a bit of Vietnam and back home. A year later I did not do yoga but instead started surfing, ended up going to Cambodia too, and have been living and working in melbourne for 8 months, and a myriad of unexpected things have happened.

New skills learned: Surfing, driving a scooter, scuba diving, selecting cacao beans for chocolate production, letting go of things, proper headstands, knife skills, how to survive alone in tight situations (ie you’re not allowed to enter a foreign country and you find that out at the airport, or how to escape a motor vehicle accident situation in another…or how to change the scuba diving BCD vest in pitch black darkness in the middle of the sea)

Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.
Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.

Appreciation for things: Sunshine and warmth, fresh fruit pretty much straight from the trees, sea and marine life, nature, bicycles, people’s help, good company, trial periods at yoga studios and gyms, exercising, work, having the opportunity to do basically whatever, learning new and growing. New friends!

Bali style breakfast by the pool.
Bali style breakfast by the pool.

Best foods: Crate cafe breakfasts, Gado Gado and fresh mangos in Bali, tuna steak at Christmas dinner in Gili, rice paper rolls in Vietnam, the delicious meals at Hariharalaya in Cambodia. Smashed avo and poached eggs at Organica cafe in melbourne, Hummus from South melbourne market. Drinkwise: Fresh coconut water and coffee coffee coffee.

All the (vegan) rolls.
All the (vegan) rolls.

Accommodation: 3 Bungalows in Bali, one private villa. One month in the same hostel in Canggu. Hostel in Vietnam, one night in a “family stay” in the mekong Delta, and another one in a border town hotel. 4 hostels in Cambodia, one night in a bus, 10 nights on a retreat. (Luckily) I’ve only spent time in 1 hostel in Australia, and times of homelessness I was able to rely on the help of 5 friends.

Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia
Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia.

Love life: I learned that the Finnish word for love, rakkaus, apparently sounds like “crack house”. Fair enough. I’ve had more action this past year than ever before, mostly because I’ve been open-minded and just gone out. I have definitely learnt more than I thought I would have, and even though I got sick of dating and lost my faith in finding “the one” (or even someone I could imagine spending a whole weekend with), I am now closer than ever to realizing my feelings and where I stand in life. Winning!

I made someone popcorn for their flight.
I made someone popcorn for their flight.

Dealing with health: Eating probiotics, eating local. 2 Doctor visits, one dentist. In Cambodia I got bitten by a mosquito in the eyelid on the day I was supposed to go on a scuba diving trip to a remote island. Early trip and waking up the only doctor of the hospital to get cream I didn’t end up using, luckily that was nothing more serious. In melbourne I went to a GP to see if I have sinus infection (I didn’t), and had my wisdom tooth pulled.

Holidaying in Byron Bay.
Holidaying in Byron Bay.

Public holidays: I have pretty much skipped every holiday; Christmas I spent on a beach having a barbecue, New Years I was at another beach, Easter I only hid eggs for my housemates but that was it…I have enjoyed the Queen’s Birthday, and I understand why Anzac day exists, but having a public holiday for football and horse races is a bit strange to me. Nevertheless, I’ll take any reason to have a special day!

Halloween pumpkin at work.
Halloween pumpkin at work.

In the last year I have had more experiences I would never have had if I had stayed home, and going out of my comfort zone has proven worth it and beyond. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will bring along! And in the sad poor pictures front, by the end of the month things will look brighter and I will be able to write my hometown with a capital letter again! YAY!

I love love love that animal suit.
I love love love that animal suit.
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A Week in Melbourne

This week is not by any means like every other week, but it definitely has many similarities to others. It seems like the less I plan things, the more fun I end up having!

Friday
It is a public holiday, since it’s the Grand Final of Aussie rules football (AFL) the following day. Wait, what? So no work on Friday, and everything has weird opening hours. I am lucky enough to have a friend lend me his bike since he bought a new one, so I need to learn how to a) ride a road racer and b) learn how to obey the rules. Luckily enough there are heaps of bike lanes in the city.

I go to South Melbourne market, have a bike ride, and spend the evening with a friend in a huge artists’ market browsing through all the wonderful things that would be cool to have but I cannot afford. It’s about 30 degrees warm during the day, so I can easily walk home at night with just one shirt.

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Saturday
The Big Game Day, and I have no clue what to do. A nice bike ride in the morning sun, Southbank-Albert Park-Saint Kilda-Prahran-South Melbourne-Southbank. I do stop at Prahran market as well as stock up on Questbars in the awesome hidden gem, Prahran convenience. Afterwards I decide to join a friend to a pub in Richmond to “watch the game”, more like observe all the interesting Aussie spectacle sports behavior. During the game we come up with plans for the next steps, and decide to head to a random house party in Fitzroy. We take a pitstop in Little Saigon to fill ourselves for the ride and the night. The party turns out to be in a massive dream house that has a sweet sweet pool, and we leave only when we can’t keep our eyes open anymore at 2am. First bikeride in the dark, empty city feels good, probably because it’s again t-shirt weather.

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Sunday
Picnic day. I spend the morning baking stuff (not smart to keep the oven on in the heat), and head to the Carlton Gardens around 2. All other people are pretty much late, so I get pretty frustrated with all the lying down and not doing anything. All in all I end up spending 5 hours at the park, hanging out with friends and meeting new ones. Afterwards we go to St. Kilda to a funky party with singers walking in the crowd while singing. Decent end for the long weekend. And I didn’t even burn in the sun!

Monday
After work I have a dreaded dentists’ appointment, and they suggest they take my wisdom tooth out. Half an hour later I walk out to the heat with one less tooth that they refused to give back me due to Australian law (wtf), and stitches in my swollen mouth. I have banana ice cream for dinner, and wonder if the numbness wears out by the next day.

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Tuesday
After work I go to a bar to work for a few hours, after which I spend the evening with a friend who always makes me want to improve myself in many ways. I miss my wisdom tooth, physically. It hurts.

Wednesday
Free coffee in the park after work, yay! I feel sluggish after not working out for 3 days, so I decide to go to a TRX class. I love the sneaky burn with no jumping and running around.

Thursday
I work 10 hours and find out my F45 class I was looking forward to is cancelled. I get frustrated, go to pilates instead, and don’t feel like I’ve done anything. I take a “little” detour on my way home and decide to bike trough South Yarra and Prahran to Southbank.

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Friday
I have a PT appointment after work and have to ride on some scary roads and a bridge to get there. Worth it, though! I rush to the city to go the Asian food truck festival in Queen Victoria market. What a summery night – warm, good music, loads of people, food!

 

And this was just the beginning of the weekend! (Ok fair enough I worked on Saturday so weekend was just Sunday for me, but I did manage to have a swim, dinner date, and go to a Japanese festival where I wore a kimono and did tea ceremony. Success.)

Australia’s “Health” Food Scene; Naturally Good

So-called health foods are an ever rising term that is used to describe basically anything that is made from somewhat natural ingredients, with perhaps a Certified Organic label, and usually a host of free-from claims such as “dairy free wheat free fructose free” and many others. With the rising trend of gluten free diet, even some milk cartons now tout they don’t contain gluten (if they did, we should be worried). Sometimes it can be rather confusing trying to figure out what is good for you and what not so much, and I suppose it is better to eat an all natural bar rather than a mars bar, even though it contains 3 different sugars in addition to the sugars from the dried fruit it includes.

I’ve frequented countless health food stores since coming to Australia. This weekend I visited the largest natural and organic products trade show in the Southern hemisphere, Naturally Good Expo, to see what’s up in the field in Down Under, and if they’d come up with something new and interesting. What I found out was that Aussies, too, like their coconut water and all things “paleo”. I don’t think a snack bar that is based on dried fruit is what they ate in the paleolithic area, but who am I to judge. If you sell it as paleo, it sells. Talking about snack bars, I encountered a company who uses indigenous Australian wild herbs in their snack bars. Yes, the base is the usual date and almonds, but at least they are trying to make something new. Kudos for that! Another interesting exhibitor was a company making cricket flour, which I think should become a big thing in the next few years. The crickets don’t even taste that bad, to be honest.

Kakadu plum and other indigenous Aussie coolness in a palatable form.
Kakadu plum and other indigenous Aussie coolness in a palatable form.

I got upgraded as a VIP guest at the expo, so I got to much on some donuts in the lounge while sipping on a gel-like juice with chia seeds (chia still going strong!). Noshu donuts were actually a pleasant clean eat treat: baked, all natural gluten-free and sugar free donuts that are low carb, have 150 kcals each, have a decent texture and also taste pretty delicious. Some might wonder how this equation can possibly equal good taste and texture, but one must not except a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of mouthfeel with these babies. Omnom.

These donuts. Epic.
These donuts. Epic.

Besides the regular date bars and other treats (Aussies love their granolas!), protein powders were well represented. In addition to the regular whey and “vegan” protein (usually combo of pea and rice), the combo of protein and greens is popular. Naturally Good was definitely an interesting expo to visit, and even though it was way smaller than the trade shows I’ve previously visited, it had some interesting lectures and it was easy to talk to people. One highlight of the show was definitely lazertag game at the networking cocktail event. Best networking activity possible, specially for the wellness industry!

 

3. Things I love about Melbourne

This post could in theory be applied to whole of Australia, since my experiences so far are limited to good ol’ Melbs. Not for long, though! From Vappu onwards I shall be traveling up north, to escape the cold a bit and see what Byron Bay has to offer. I don’t know how long I will be away, which is good: I can come back when I feel like it; I do have to start from scratch but it is not the same as the first time around. Melbourne, I will be back.

1.1 The people, friends.
I have managed to make pretty good friends in the past 3 months. Australians sure are a friendly bunch of people, and I have managed to spend time with some amazing individuals.

Best trips are shared ones. Says the girl traveling solo. Oops.
Best trips are shared ones. Says the girl traveling solo. Oops.

1.2. The people, random.
From the vegetable delivery guy (the dry goods delivery guy is an exception to this rule) to the guy in the sneaker store, everyone is generally friendly and in a good mood. Train creeps aside, people will smile, say ‘hey how ya goin’ and even have a small conversation without a fuss. It feels damn good!

2.1 The coffee.
Yes. The daily brew is something to be taken seriously. And this is seen everywhere with coffee shops, restaurants and cafes all selling at least decent coffee. Even the worst brew here is better than the average elsewhere.

Long black and one of the aforementioned friends. Loving it.
Long black, Scandinavian minimalist design and one of the aforementioned friends. Loving it.

2.2 The food.
You can find almost any kind of cuisine, in several price ranges. Some neighborhoods have large ethnical minorities, and therefore they host a variety of special cuisines around the world. As an example: Richmond is also known as Little Vietnam, and few streets make Chinatown in the city. This food-loving includes the option of all-popular paleo restaurants, gluten free foods and the mighty Smashed Avo, that can be found in any self respecting food joint. High respects also to ethnic Prahran Convenience store that sells 12 pack of Questbars for $36!

I could have an overdosa of this.
I could have an overdosa of this.

2.2.1 The markets.
Victoria market being the best, largest and cheapest, there is also South Melbourne market where I buy my hummus, and Prahran which I frequent most often just for the atmosphere since it’s the closest to me. Also farmers’ markets make my favorite list, but they’re more scattered and I have only managed to visit one since I don’t own a car. Anyhow, good stuff! Fresh veggies and fruit and seafood, can’t say no to that!

St. Andrew's market, I guess technically in melbourne (almost 1hr drive from the city).
St. Andrew’s market, I guess technically in Melbourne (almost 1hr drive from the city).

3.1. The culture.
From comedy festival to Food and Wine festival, there’s always something going on. After studying Urbanlist and Broadsheet, the hardest part is to actually do and see everything you want to. My cultural highlight so far was probably seeing Adam Hill at the comedy festival, or CJ Hendricks’ 50 Foods in 50 Days.

modest Comedy Festival decorations.
Modest Comedy Festival decorations.

3.2. The exercise.
I think I am pretty good at optimizing the cost of expensive workouts: living in posh South Yarra has allowed me to test different yoga and pilates studios around the hoods for affordable prices: I’ve been to Core Candy (HIIT, Pilates and Barre 1 class per day for 2 weeks $50), Rise Yoga in Richmond (2 weeks of flow yoga, hot and yin yoga $25) and most recently One Hot Yoga&Pilates just around the corner from home (unlimited reformer pilates and slow hot flow and yin yoga $50). I have been more than happy with the trials, especially One Hot. Damn their playlist is like straight from my Spotify!

Damn hot yoga studio. I'll miss you.
Damn hot yoga studio. I’ll miss you.

Also as a bonus to this 3 part list is the architecture and neighborhood vibes. Places look cool.

True dat, Einstein.
True dat, Einstein.

Oz life, 2 weeks down

Hello good people over the interwebs! I have been in the lovely lovely city of melbourne (sorry for the low case, but this keyboard seriously is making my life difficult) for exactly 2 weeks now. Impatient (and a tad perfectionist) as I am, I’ve had my moments of doubt and darkness; but very brief moments, since the shining new gym, sauna, jacuzzi and steam room in the apartment building I’m currently staying help with dealing with life crisis. So far I have walked across and around and up and down the streets of this beautiful city that has 4 seasons within one day. So far it has been rather pleasant even during the worst days, mind you.

Yarra river view.
Yarra river view.

After Asia times, coming to this Western environment has been such a shock that I have been eating sushi (hand rolls) every single day except for maybe 1 day. They’re everywhere! You can have them with brown rice, sometimes even black…and I can’t get enough. Specially when at the end of the day there’s discounts! I was not supposed to talk about sushi here…besides sushi, there’s a fair amount of other Asian heritage (and food), so one can easily feel homey, if the H&m and Ikea aren’t quite it. Food-wise, I also love the farmer’s markets. It is surprising how much cheaper food there actually is. And you get to have the conversations with the sellers, assuming they’re not too busy. And deals here and there as well, i.e a whole box of peaches for 2 dollars. From experience I can say that it is not easy carrying a box of peaches around town for a day.

You find this kind of stuff all over the place.
You find this kind of stuff all over the place.

I have kept myself pretty occupied with wandering and wondering about the future: I did agree to start writing blog posts for workingholidayjobs.com.au, which might mean more rambling on this turf, but who knows. I also got the opportunity to re-create the smoothie and juice menu for this one super cool and mouth-wateringly delicious semi-hipster restaurant-cum-coffee shop St.Ali, which I am pretty stoked about. Whee!
I do have a day job hopefully scored, but that remains to be seen, and today I finally managed to fix my missing apartment issue. Up until now I have had the luxury of staying at a friend’s well-set apartment in the CBD (Central Business District). I have truly enjoyed the brand new gym facilities and the rest, so we’ll see how I’ll settle to the “normal” life. It is about time I get a “normal” life, right?

I don't run here but I do see why some people do.
I don’t run here but I do see why some people do.

Yess, life. It is happening all the time but so far trying to arrange life has been a bit of a hassle. Like with the sim card that didn’t work after a week of trying, 6 online chats, 2 attempted phone calls from concierge’s phone, 2 promised calls to be made to my friends’ phone that never happened, and 2 days of waiting for a new sim card that never arrived. Amaysim, you did not deserve all that attention, attempt, and aggression I had for you. I hope no one will have to go through the same, when all the apartment ads and bureaucracies are asking for your phone number and you don’t have one.

Attitude.
Attitude.

There’s nothing wrong with hand rolls.