Friday, 5 September 2014

Melbourne: Work, Life and Chapel Street

New Zealand was a great experience, but all the time we were there, I couldn’t help thinking about the money that we were spending and not replacing. Following the return flight from Auckland to Melbourne, where we were picked up at the airport by our good friend Rhys, the need to find a flat and a job really began to hit home.
I have been in similar situations a few times before, but usually when money began to run short in the UK I could lock down and work as a temp for a few months to build up a fair base of money. However, being unemployed on essentially a holiday, going out was also vital, so all the while we would try to save, we would inevitably be spending out a small fortune every time we went out, even just to the pub.

Rhys had kindly let us stay in his flat where he had a sofa bed on the understanding that we would find our own place as soon as possible and get jobs. This, as we soon found, was harder than we had hoped.

While the majority of backpackers on the working holiday visa would stay in hostels and work in bars and restaurants for a short time, we were keen to get something more permanent. Our plan was to live in Melbourne for 6 months at least, saving up some money before hitting the rest of Australia and south east Asia. After seeing how people on the working visa in New Zealand were living in hostels, crowded dorm rooms with people coming in throughout the night, cooking in cramped kitchens, the idea of getting up for work in the morning after the temptation to join in the party would be too hard.

After being in hostels even just for 6 weeks we knew that while it had been fun, it was not likely to get us any money saved. Luckily, after a few weeks of searching, and just as we were giving up hope, we came across a flat in Prahran, just north of St. Kilda and only an hours easy walk from the city centre. After a walk, which turned into a bit of a trek, through South Yarra at a fast pace, we arrived just in time for another open house off the website and after previous options it seemed that we had found the perfect location. A run down, single glazed flat with 2 bedrooms, a large front room/kitchen and a bathroom, complete with off road parking for a very affordable rent, and as we worked out would actually be cheaper than staying in a dorm room of a hostel. Perfect.

We moved in just before Christmas after saying goodbye to Rhys, who was back off to the UK a couple of weeks before, leaving us his trusty Mazda 3 to use, which was crucial in the moving in process. Although we still had no jobs, we realised that we were unlikely to get any before Christmas so we went about furnishing the house from Gumtree, freecycle and Ikea until it was looking pretty decent. 

The main reason for the low rent was the mould problem, which we quickly went about rectifying by painting over with thick ceiling paint. By Christmas day it was looking pretty good, so we celebrated by cooking a roast chicken and trimmings while watching all 6 Rocky films, drinking a ton of beers and hitting the pub later in the evening. Emotional.
After Christmas came New year, and after New year, thankfully, came employment for both of us. 

The world of Gumtree jobs can be brutal, from starting a job on commission giving out free plugs door to door, which it turns out nobody wants, to the prospect of having to work as a waiter for free for a few shifts before finding out if I would get a job out of it, things did not seem to be going well. 

Then I got a phone call from an agency, Randstad, who seemed like a promising lead. After melting the glue in the soles of some supermarket smart shoes on my walk to the interview, I completed some office skills tests and was told they would be in touch.

Sure enough, within a few weeks, they offered me a well paid position, where I started as a temp for a few days which stretched out to quite a few months, and I was able to start saving for the rest of the trip.

I also signed up to Hays, and they offered me a role the day I was starting for Randstad, as I was walking to work in fact. I would highly recommend anyone on the Working Holiday Visa to try agencies as they are generally better pay than most of the backpacker jobs we encountered, and are usually normal office hours so are quite good for city living. I wish that I had emailed my CV sooner, and I would recommend others to do it as soon as you arrive. Of course, it doesn’t really feel like a holiday if you left an office job in the UK but it does pay the bills very well.

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