What A Difference 9 Months Makes – How Blogging Saved Me

I read a lot today. I read my own writing, from my first blog post up until now. In hindsight, I believe this blog saved me from a much darker fate. The act of putting something in writing for the world to see, be it an idea or a thought, an emotion or a desire has strengthened my will to achieve my dreams, and I am proud to say that since the time I started writing publicly, my life has completely changed for the better.

It was sad to read many of my posts. The first 3 months I spent blogging was a very bad time in my life, wrought with depression and other vices that were leading me down a rabbit hole I could not see a way out of. The truth of the matter is that I am usually not a very open person. I find it very difficult to confide in people, or even talk about my state in the simplest of terms. Yet in writing, I find myself telling the world, openly, all the things I cannot seem to tell even those people that are closest to me.

I read posts about freedom and failure, materialism and minimalism. I read about my plans to remove all of the clutter from my life and about the way I want to live. As of this moment I am happy with my life. I travel, I see, I do and I feel free. Since leaving Melbourne I have learned, and learned very quickly, just what is important in my life. I own less than I ever thought possible, yet find myself wanting nothing more than a new book occasionally, or a block of chocolate. I live well, I enjoy my work, I eat well and have good accommodation, and all for less than I could have ever imagined.

Perhaps the hardest hitting revelation I had in this process is recalling just how depressed I was in my ‘successful’ life. Were it not for me putting in writing many of my thoughts I would no longer remember just how much I hated my life. The depression I felt now seems so distant, and my blog serves as a reminder to me that my well being is in my own hands. My current situation is a direct effect of acknowledging that I was not happy and making the hard decisions necessary to change. It wasn’t easy. Much of the journey has not been easy. I have had several serious setbacks and many unexpected turns, but never lost sight of my goal. However, no matter how stressful, or how broke and hungry I may have found myself in the process, the depression that once gripped me has loosened its hold and no longer exists.

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A Bad Australian Second Year Visa Experience

On the 5th of October 2014, I arrived in Mildura with some friends from the snow fields, only to find ourselves conned out of $450 each, and exposed to the exploitative state of second year visa work for travelers in Australia.


At the end of the 2014 snow season, two of my traveling friends from Ireland had decided it was time to do their 88 days of regional work in order to qualify for their second year visa. The plan was to go to Mildura, an agricultural hub in Australia and an oasis on the Murray River. It is a small and beautiful town completely surrounded by agricultural land and vinyards producing produce all year round. Myself and another Australian friend from the snow fields had decided, what the hell, we will go too. It will be an experience and potentially an opportunity to save some money.

We had pre-organized a working house specifically set up for second year visa farm work. The deal was that rent was $150/week with 2 weeks rent due up front and a bond of $150 (a total of $450). The organization would then have work available for us and would come by each morning to pick up those that wanted it, and that every day spent in the house would count towards the 88 days needed for the visa. The deal was initially found online and was in-line with all other offers available and so nothing ever seemed suspicious. Myself and my friend Stuart (hairy Irish dude) had both had verbal contact with fluent English speakers from the organization about the house and work.

Almost immediately after arriving in Mildura we met up with a British girl who asked us to follow her to the house. So far all good. We arrive at the house with the British girl and another large man who is clearly the boss as he is calling the shots and telling us about the deal. The man was rather rude, but not such that any of us had any alarm bells ringing. Yet.

We were each handed a piece of paperwork outlining costs and work details. We handed over our $450 each and instantly the man became significantly more vulgar. He was directly and openly sexually abusing the women around him and behaving in a psychopathic manner. Like a man without empathy with a god complex, and shortly after, he was gone.

We settled in. We each had a reasonable bed and a nice enough room. Soon we began to chat with the people in the house. Very quickly I discovered that there appeared to be a huge number of people around, which was strange given we each had our own bed and there simply didn’t seem to be enough space. It was soon revealed that there was something like 15 people sleeping in a renovated garage with bunk beds.

Upon chatting to a few house mates we also quickly discovered that work was very sparse. Most people were only working once or twice a week for only $20/day. A lucky few got $50, and it was back breaking work.

At this point it was obvious to me and the other Aussie that it was a waste of time for us to be there. The cost of accommodation was far more than we could possibly earn for insanely physical work. The irish couple had a slightly different situation though. If they stayed and slogged it out for 3 months they would get there visas. However it quickly became obvious that they would run out of money in the process.

2 days later the man returned. We were loudly and violently kicked out. I called the cops. They turned up and stated that they had no power in the situation.

This whole situation was remarkable for 4 main reasons.

1. The British girl we were dealing with was knowingly and repetitively conning fellow travellers in to a situation that would most often find them broke and without their visas. Serious shame on that filthy lady;

2. Not one person spoke up about the situation they were in before we found ourselves in it to. More shame;

3. The man had obviously set everything up to get the quickest possible turn over of vulnerable tourists as possible just to line his pockets; and

4. The cops, fully and previously aware, could do nothing.

We encountered many travelers in this house that were desperate and stuck. I vividly recall conversations with a Brazilian girl in tears and terrified as the man had taken everything she had and was constantly advancing her sexually. She had no where to go and no money to get there with.

Luckily for us, we cut our losses and moved on. For others, I don’t know. I imagine that Mildura has seen a lot of homeless and hungry backpackers over the last years, as whilst in the house we discovered that this was not a new operation. The man had been exploiting vulnerable tourists for years. We found that 9 news had even done a report on him.

I hope the loop holes that this man operates in are closed. I hope he is thrown in a cell and left without food. Preferably in a foreign country with no hope of communication.

Unfortunately, whilst meeting many people during the remainder of my experience that had been conned by exactly the same man, I also met countless people who were being exploited and conned in other ways. Since leaving Mildura I have only continued to hear horror stories from all over the country. We may think we live in an amazing and fair country, but if we could see it through the eyes of a backpacker that just wants to stay for a second year, that opinion would change. Its disgusting.

My advice to anyone seeking their second year visa in Australia is to do it early. If you find a bad deal at least you have the option to keep looking. Don’t wait. There is a very good chance you will get stuck.

Oops. Your device is too primitive to view my map of Australia. Maybe it's time for an upgrade?

My new beginnings End

It’s been a very long time since I added to my blog. I think the truth of it is that I only really started writing because I was miserable. My life was messy and becoming mixed up in the wrong things. I begin to write again now because my life has become interesting.

This time last year I was a ‘successful’ and ‘professional’ desk monkey. Time passed, yet I had ceased to grow. To many, my life may have seemed on track, as if I was achieving goals and advancing my career. Perhaps if I was someone else I would have agreed. But I am my own man, and have my own goals and desires that are not in line with the ‘norm’.

It’s been 9 months now since I threw in the Engineering profession. In this time everything has changed, I have successfully removed the shackles that people chain themselves with (all except my car) and I now lead a very simple and happy life. I have had more experiences and met more people in this short time than in the previous 4 years combined.

I lived and worked on the Snow in Victoria for 3.5 months. I traveled inland, to Mildura, and discovered first hand just how abhorrent my country treats travelers looking for their second year visas, and how widespread the exploitation is. I left my friends in Mildura and traveled solo to Adelaide with no plan, searching for something better. I lived in Port Adelaide for a few weeks, by the water with the dolphins and jellyfish, and then in the CBD, with the urban country folk, for a few more. I met many people and experienced Adelaide for what it is, however found nothing to make me stay. Only a girl with whom to go.

We drove west. With no real plan, we drove and stopped as we pleased and saw so much of Australia which I was before completely ignorant. The sand dunes, salt lakes, deserts, rock formations, the Bunda Cliffs, the wide variety of sea life and so much more, until we landed in Fremantle. As far west as anyone can get in this country. Here in Fremantle is where our journey takes its leave. But not the adventure. We traveled north to the Pinnacles and for snorkeling, we traveled south to Margaret River and a series of caves further south again. I found a job I enjoy, with a boss I respect and peers I enjoy the company of. I clean pools now, and live in my favorite place in Australia. For a while at least.

Who knows what comes next. For now I am happy and settled. In two weeks I travel to Bali and in 2 months, with the sad departure of my travel buddy, I take a trip to Thailand. What a journey it has been so far. One I will write about. In the hope that a few of you readers might follow my own steps, in your own way, and throw in your careers for an uncertain adventure. I wont be the one wishing I took that risk or did that thing when I lay on my death bed, and I hope you wont either.

Chairlift Related Incidents – The Early Off Loader

So people really do fall off chairlifts. Luckily we have had no one injured from falling this year, as the falls have been relatively minor and very close to the load and unload stations.

Though this particular incident doesn’t happen too often it has happened and I have been witness to it twice this season.

Right near the end of each chairlift ride, right at the point where guests start to raise the safety bars on their chairs, skiers do a little wiggle and shift themselves forward in the chair as to make it easier to stand up at the unload point. I hate this. Especially when the kids do it.

Twice now I have seen a skier do their little wiggle near the end of the ride, and wiggle a little too far.At the time an enclosure was set up around the entire unload station and so the falls are very short and in to soft snow.

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Both times the person stood up dumbfounded, looked at me and said “sorry”. Luckily neither were injured.

Living as a Lifty – The Accommodation

Being a Lifty is great. But the accommodation for a Lifty? Yeah. Not so great.

Nissen

Nissen 2 – Sunny Side

The majority of the Lifties and Instructors on Falls Creek live in two buildings called Nissen 1 and Nissen 2, right at the top of the village. These buildings are known by the locals and frequents as being terrible.

I live in Nissen 2 on the top floor of ‘sunny side’. When I came up for training week there were so many problems with our room. For starters (and probably the worst), we didn’t have a hot water tap in the shower and had no way of getting the hot water on, so we had cold showers. Our heater also didn’t work and the bathroom door handle kept falling off. Perhaps the funniest fault was that our fridge was on the coldest setting and the knob we needed to turn it up was broken, so our food and drink kept freezing……. Oh, and our microwave didn’t work and the power was out half the time.

nissen beds

(My room mate just walked in home from the pub in a short dress and bra stuffed with toilet paper and makeup, ripped the toilet paper out of his bra and said “man I can’t begin to tell you how itchy my nipples are”. This is Nissen life)

Nissen 2 is a three story building. The bottom floor is used by resort maintenance and the top two floors are a series of dorm like apartments about 3.5m wide and 6m deep. Bathroom, beds, kitchen, living room and all included. It’s cosy. Moving here was a complete change. For the first month and a half I was quite uncomfortable in this building, but now I love it. It grows on you. Socially this place is brilliant, every night there is something going on and there are always people everywhere.nissen shelves

Last week I was in the bathroom preparing for a night shift, and when I went to leave, I discovered that the handle had fallen off (after maintenance had been and fixed it) and that I was stuck. For about half an hour I was yelling through the vent screaming “ROOM 49” and various other things. But no one came. Eventually, given the uncertainty of the time and the consequences of not arriving at work on time. As well as knowing that my house mates are at work and wouldn’t be home in time. I decided to kick the door in. I got to work. I also had plenty of time.

On the plus side, our broken door is now the most functional it has been all season. There is even a little hole where the handle used to be to pull it by. 

This place took some time to adjust to, but there is no where in the world I would rather be right now.

A Day In The Life Of A Lifty

Being a Lifty is an extraordinary experience. Coming from being a desk bitch for years, starting work here as a Lifty on Falls Creek nearly broke me.

falls-creek-ski-lifts

I have heard many comments about how it must be an easy job, just getting to stand there and greet people all the time. Whilst a lot of the time we are seen to be just standing around, this job is not as easy as it may appear.

Every morning we turn up to each and every top and bottom lift station, typically an hour before the lift opens. When working on the snow, everything must be completely packed up and re set up almost every day, otherwise things become iced over and stuck and/or buried and lost. As soon as us Lifties get to work in the morning we are smashing star pickets in to ice and snow, tying ropes up for que races, shoveling excess snow out of lift stations and sometimes even shoveling snow in to lift stations.

Through our working days, I would like to remind all those non lifty types out there that conditions are more often than not, very unpleasant. It’s very common to be working in rain, hail, heavy wind, snow and white out conditions, and it is always cold.

The first two weeks of my time here at Falls were like being forced to drink cement. The season started with a ‘Boom’. In about one week we went from having no snow to having a base well over a meter deep. Every shift for the first two weeks was almost entirely shoveling. My body became so sore, worn and injured that I could not sleep and had to force myself to just keep slugging.

Once a lift stations set up is complete and I phone the Lift in as operational, the chaos begins. Most lifts here at Falls Creek are very well designed, easy to load and unload and not much goes wrong, but some are mental. The reason some lifts are crazy is not even mostly due to the lift itself but rather the lifts location, subsequent traffic and under experienced riders.

Whilst a lift is operational, besides shoveling and maintaining the lift station, our job is primarily to pay attention and to keep safely getting people on and off the lifts. Every person must be treated as a beginner. Often people line up to get on a chair with the latest and greatest gear yet have never been on snow or used a chairlift. Everyday, on a few lifts in particular here, incidents happen. The parent that insists their child is fine to get on the chair themselves without help, the enormous school groups, the large non english speaking families just riding the lift for the scenery, the people that simply don’t stand up at the unload point, the occasional clown that drops his/her board half way up the lift, the beginners that go up summit and freak out at the top etc etc.

A good Lifty is constantly prepared, with a finger on the slow button, and another on the stop button. A good Lifty has eyes on every single customer and is ready to lift, push, pull and occasionally even drag people to wherever they need to be to ensure that no one gets injured and that people can safely continue to load and unload the chairs.

Being a Lifty is amazing, but be prepared to have nature test you.

For anyone looking to get seriously fit, have an active social life and to save some cash at the same time, do a snow season at a Victorian resort. You will also leave as a pro on the snow.

Wind Hold – A Lifties Perpective

From the moment we woke, outside was completely white. The kind of white that will only vaguely let you see objects within a few meters.

As usual I prepared for work. As a Lifty we don’t get to choose whether or not we go out. If the conditions are horrific, and we are on the roster, we strap on our boards and get out there. On leaving the accommodation there was no suggestion of heavy winds, only the usual calm of the mountain. I set off on foot to Eagle Chairlift (the usual meeting point for all of us Lifties in the morning) where we waited for all the appropriate clearances, loaded the chairs, and went off to work. But this was no ordinary chair ride.

At the base of Eagle Chair everything seemed normal. A little colder than usual perhaps, but nothing extraordinary. Our ascent began and very shortly I could hear the whistle of the wind. By half way up the Chairlift the wind was extremely heavy. All three of us on the chair were gripping the safety bar as it swayed uneasily in the wind. I remember looking at the chairs returning to the bottom swaying so hard that they were nearly hitting the Lifts columns. About three quarters of the way up, Milli (who was sitting beside me), had her helmet blow completely off her head and into the ‘never to be found again’ unknown.

Eventually we all got to the Top of the Chair and grouped by work buddies for the day (the lifts stopped immediately and went on a wind hold that lasted for two straight days). Milli and I were working at a Lift Station that was at the bottom of a blue and black run area, with some very steep terrain. We skated our boards across to the top of the run we needed to take and strapped our other feet in. The wind was horrible, as we stood up and pointed our boards down the mountain, the wind was smashing ice and snow so hard against us that we were being pushed back up hill. We eventually had to make the decision to unstrap our boards and start trekking down very steep and slippery terrain, straight in to the wind, dragging our boards with us. It took about 15 minutes worth of slowly struggling downhill for us to reach a point at which we could actually strap our boards on and get to work at the bottom.

Once we reached the bottom we were immediately notified of the wind hold situation. Basically it was too dangerous to operate the lifts in such extreme conditions. Unless you happen to be a Lifty of course.

During a wind hold, depending on circumstances, Lifties can end up doing a variety of things. During a wind hold at a bottom station with excessive snow means an entirely shovelling work shift. Unfortunately this was that shift, so we picked up our shovels and started digging. I remember the ice being so hard to break that we were using a hammer drill with a giant ice bit trying to break it up.

I remember standing at the base of the slope looking up the mountain. The air at the base was still but I could see the chairs swinging wildly in the wind above. Most notably I remember staring at the slopes as the high winds picked up all the fresh snow and carried it in wind currents, meandering it up the side of the mountain through the natural features and moguls.

wind hold

This was one of the most extreme experiences I have ever had, it wasn’t very fun, but I’m so happy I was there to experience it.

And So It Snows

Last night offered me only 3 hours sleep. The Snow Season is late but is now ON! In less than 24 hours now I am on my way up to Falls Creek (the snow resort) and I don’t come back.

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It’s enlightening to look back at my journey so far. There are so many societal expectations that I have been trying (successfully) to fulfill for such a long time and there are others that I have more quietly completely flunked on. But up until now, I have never really been happy. Of course there have been good days and there are memories that I hold fondly, but if I were to step back and look at my life as a whole, it was never going in a direction that I wanted it to. It has been going in a direction that I felt was expected of me.

I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen with the rest of my life, but I have learned many very important lessons recently. Mainly that there is no point doing something if we don’t enjoy doing it. Secondly, stuff what people think we are meant to do, the only person that can decide on what is best for you is you. There is nothing that we are meant to do. All I choose to do now is keep myself happy and surround myself with good people. I don’t have space left in my life for negativity.

Being happy does not mean life comes without it’s stresses. For the most part I have found a profound peace recently, but anxiety still lingers, every now and then it pops up and I find a sleepless night. Will I run out of money? Will my choice of lifestyle be sustainable? Will I be able to continue to save? However in order to find our place in this world, the place where we find our purpose and are happy, we must face these fears head on. I have already faced my biggest fear, I have left my profession.

So tomorrow, my adventure really begins. The snow is coming. For the next few months I will be the best damn lift attendant on the mountain and on my days off I will forget the past, and forget the future, and live in the moment, with anyone that is willing to share their time with me. Life’s too short. People are too important. I’m looking for some more good people to share my life with.

A few brief words of wisdom from a bearded man to see me off. My next post will be from the Mountain. I’m very excited.

Welcome Revelations

20 days ago I abandoned my career as an Engineer in search of something else, something unknown. I would like to say that my world has been turned upside down, but it’s more true to say that it was already upside down, and that it has now turned the right way up. For the first time in my life I feel truly free.

There are two simple statements that have been resonating with me of late. Two simple statements that can be heard loud and clear by anyone, but take great attention and contemplation to fully understand.

The first is “Just Do It“. Here and now. This really is it. Right now. Next year we will all be older. Soon we will be dead. There are many things I want to do in my life. My biggest hurdle has not been an inability to achieve my goals, but rather an ignorance of my options and a fear of change. What will I do without my high Income? Will I be able to get another Job? Where will I live? These questions only served to keep me still. To keep me stuck in fear of change and perpetually failing to really live the life I have. The future is uncertain. But regardless, it is always possible that I might fail at what I don’t want to do anyway, so why not at least try and do something I really want to do? Why not pick that thing I want to do, and Just Do It?

The second is “Live and Let Live. I spent too many years in hate. There are many people in this world, and many different ways of life. Yes, there is one and only one truth about life, the Universe and all that is and will ever be, but who am I to think that I am right in what I ‘know’. I may see many beliefs as silly or unwarranted, but who am I to tell anyone what they should or should not believe. We should express ourselves and our thoughts, and we should listen to others, it is the best way to grow in self. But we must learn to just love each other regardless of what we each choose to believe, be it out of introspective conviction, faith, science, ignorance, whatever. I have found great peace in the past weeks by learning to just accept anyone for who they are, regardless of whether they are willing to accept me or not.

These last few weeks have seen me completely lose who I thought I was. I now know, with absolute certainty, that money and happiness have absolutely nothing to do with each other. All of the best memories I have made over the past year have been in the last few weeks.

My First Game of Jenga

My First Game of Jenga

A Road Trip Break

A Road Trip Break

Playing Jenga for the first time. Having a secret party under a bridge. Watching the clouds from a mountain top. Road trips. My friends bucks night at the pub. But most of all, what has brought me the most peace and happiness is people. I have met many new and amazing people.

Craigs Bucks Night

Craigs Bucks Night

Secret Event @ Undisclosed Location

Secret Party @ Undisclosed Location

I don’t know where I will be in 4 months. But wherever it is, it will be somewhere I want to be. Otherwise I wont stay.

Achieving freedom

To be alive. Not to simply exist, but to be free and in control. To be behind the wheel of my own future. To face the uncertain world and flip it off with complete confidence in self.

Over 3 months ago, I started this blog a different man. A man knowing that change had become desperately necessary. Things were not good. A miserable engineer. A desk monkey in debt and swimming in other issues. Reluctantly complying with and singing the ‘professional’ song, I was too close to cracking.

Today my bags are packed, my arms are outstretched, i’m smilling wide and i’m ready to run. The trail is fuzzy and uncertain, each decision a fork in my path. Each day a new opportunity for risk, a new chance to create something beautiful.

I have no idea who I am, but I am happy. I am my own man and the only person making decisions that effect my future. Tomorrow my world turns completely upside down. My old desk now belongs to another. Tomorrow I meet my new colleagues and drive up to Falls Creek (the snow).

We all need to worry less. Life is one big risk. It can and does all go to shit occasionally, but we only get to live it once. Whatever you want to do. Just go do it. Cut out the bullshit and get down to living.

My primary objective is now to live. I want to see and explore. Jump with both feet in the deep end and just see where I end up. Anything is possible. But we have to be prepared to take the risk.