Sunday, November 23, 2014

SURPRISE!! I'm moving to ITALY!!

Just days ago, I was convinced I knew where life in 2015 would take me. My big plans included a 17 day trip through New Zealand's South Island, a two week trip to Fiji, going home to Wisconsin, USA for the summer, and then landing somewhere in Asia to teach in September (Thailand and South Korea being at the top of my list).

But life is crazy, full of the unexpected, and I'm slowly learning that sometimes it is also best left unplanned.


I've been dreaming about living in Italy since my brief visit back in the summer of 2011. I instantly fell in love with the food, culture, wine, history, and the fact that everybody reminded me of my very Italian Grandpa Jim (whom we all miss very, very much).


The (extremely) attractive men and the fact that my blonde hair made me feel like an insta-celebrity, didn't hurt either, of course. 


On this particular day, I took a gondola ride through Venice with my very best friends. It was a lifelong dream fulfilled and was the first time I thought to myself "this is the best day of my entire life." That day I vowed to dedicate my life to seeking out more simple, yet amazing moments, and it was also the day when my love for travel grew from a once yearly hobby to encompassing nearly every waking thought. 




And just days ago, I was offered an opportunity to experience many more of those little incredible moments, in the first country to ever fully capture my heart and attention. And with teaching abroad jobs being plentiful and never really going anywhere, that dream can be fulfilled at another time. This particular opportunity comes but once in a lifetime. 

After one simple message, a skype date, and a few conversations, I knew without hesitation, that this was the move for me. I scored an amazing Italian family, my very own beautiful apartment (come visit me!!!), and my only "job" is to teach English through play and conversation to twin 4 year old beauties for a few hours a day. 

Let's put it this way, I totally hit the jackpot. 

Thank you all for the many messages of support over the last few days, and for making me feel overwhelmingly loved. 2015 is shaping up to be the year of a lifetime, and I can't wait for what's ahead. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Exploring Middle Earth. Should I stay or should I go?

It has been weeks, months, AGES even, since I've written anything longer and more meaningful than a caption on a photo. To be fair though, I just don't have the time or energy to express my extreme feelings of happiness and gratitude with words.

But regardless, it's time for a little recap.

October was a bit of a whirlwind between two jobs, beer drinking, meeting heaps of new friends, and accidentally waking up on a naval base one morning. That's a story for a different time though, I'm afraid. And of course, there were those two very incredible holidays.

I spent a long weekend in Rotorua (also nicknamed Rotovegas, although I fail to see the similarities...), where I spent my time pub crawling, luging, sky swinging (NEVER again), zorbing, and beating a bunch of young lads in pool (sorry boys).

Luging was by far the greatest surprise. I was prepared to be underwhelmed, and instead I found myself laughing so hard that I cried. You basically sit in the luge, steer, and control your own speed down the side of a mountain via 1 of 3 different tracks (scenic, intermediate, and advanced). Aside from the amazing scenic views, it was also a bit of an adrenaline rush. Plus it was something I had never done before, which is always on the top of my list. Win, win, win.



Zorbing was another experience entirely. You are essentially a hamster, in a big ball, rolling down a large hill. Yup, that's it. The experience came with a pretty hefty price tag, but since it originated here, it was something we knew we wanted and HAD to do. And it was worth it.



And Hobbiton. OMG. HOBBITON. On our way home, we stopped by this beautiful little paradise. It was the one place all 3 of us had been waiting to see since we arrived. And holy hell, it did NOT disappoint. From the story of how it all began, drinks at the Green Dragon, and SO many pics of the shire, I was in nerd heaven.



Look how I am just radiating nerdiness here


I then had a short 3 day week of work between that exhausting weekend, and another exhausting weekend in Wellington. But wow, Windy Welly was everything I expected and more. This city is nicknamed the 'coolest capital city in the world', and I am fully inclined to agree. It is full of beautiful scenery, great food, amazing beer (amber ale, I'm talking about you), and gives off the quirkiest and raddest little vibe I've experienced, ever.

We spent our days riding the cable car, exploring the botanic gardens, visiting the Te Papa museum, climbing Mount Victoria (I wouldn't recommend flip flops...), and getting lost in Zealandia nature reserve (Liz). Aside from that, it was pretty much exploring every gem of a cafe and/or pub that had been recommended to us. That means a lot of milkshakes, burgers, beer, and good views.


The Cable Car


Botanic Gardens


View from Mount Victoria



I'll take a foxton fizz with this beautiful view, please.


Zealandia

And although it's been an incredible few weeks, after a cancelled flight, almost DYING during take off, getting yelled at and verbally degraded by hotel staff, and being borderline physically exhausted, I couldn't help but be so happy and thankful to be coming home. And on that drive, I couldn't help but feel grateful that going back to Auckland actually felt like going home. 

And now I'm back to questioning everything. (Of fricken course I am). 

You see, I'm not yet ready to stay put, and at the same time, I don't know if I'll ever be ready to leave. But with a list of places and things to do and accomplish becoming longer and longer, how do I give up so early and settle in one place? Even if it's a place where water and sun are plentiful, travel is encouraged, ideas are questioned, and beauty is never lacking. 

See my problem?

You see, some people spend their entire lives waiting for the happiness that I believe I have already found. 

The sort of happiness that comes from an array of life events like falling in love, having a baby, or in my case, finding a place where you finally feel you belong. A sort of happiness that makes you dance while hanging laundry, cry when you feel the ocean, and completely unearths your soul. 

That's the sort of happiness I want for now and forever, no matter where that place may be. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Greatest Love of All

The girl you knew two years ago, in most ways, is not the same girl you'd meet today. In some ways, I am the girl you've always known, and in others, I am hardly recognizable.

If you know me, or have been reading along since the beginning, you would know that I was once a pretty shattered and broken spirit. I once let falling in love determine my fate, alter my dreams, and my motivation for something bigger slowly fell to second best.  

To put it simply? I was depressed. and settling. 

But with time, I found a courage I didn't know I had, and left. Little money, little warning. I just left. 

And when I finally crossed the Australian border as a first time expat, I knew instantly that my life, my future, and my own little world was forever changed. I had for the first time in my 25 years, felt relief, happiness, and freedom simultaneously. I learned to appreciate time, solitude, reflection, writing, thinking, and meaningful conversations. I was headed in the direction I was always meant to be headed in. And I was finally moving forward. 

And while that year was the single best of my entire life (so far), it too eventually ended. And I was sad. Really, really f'ing sad. I loved Australia, and because my standards of living abroad were set so high the first time, I was prepared to feel pretty underwhelmed by Auckland, New Zealand. I just wasn't sure anything could compare to the love I felt for the land down under. 

But I was wrong. And what happened was something completely unexpected.

I moved just 6 weeks ago, and it has surprisingly felt like home since the very beginning. The family is so unbelievably welcoming, and the kids are simply precious. The laid back atmosphere, and getting dessert hand delivered to my door a few times a week, are by far my favorite things. That and the fact that Jason and Amanda actually argue over who is going to cook, means that I (very happily :)) never have to. I simply eat and drink like a Queen, and smile. Duck, tiramisu, and pinot noir, I'm talking about you.

I've also landed another nanny job to fill my time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I had a lot of good offers, but ended up falling in love with the little boy who has been through more in 12 weeks of life, than I have in 26 years. The extra money, and the experience, will be life-changing. And I couldn't be more excited!

And last, but certainly not least, I've been spending most of my free time meeting new friends, exploring the markets, hiking, and of course enjoying the occasional beer. And my days of reading and running by the beach just down the street aren't too shabby either. I've been planning many adventures, starting with a yet-to-be-determined holiday in October, and a trip down south after scoring a can't-be-passed-up $35 plane ticket to Wellington.


I like this neighborhood.


Auckland has been that perfect little something that I didn't even know I needed. A pleasant surprise opened months before Christmas. What I got was smiles that make my cheeks hurt, looking forward to waking up in the morning, and a happiness so happy I could cry. 

And I recognize this feeling. 

It's the feeling of falling in love. 

It's been a long time since I've been in love with anything and an entire lifetime of never actually experiencing it to this degree. And for the first time in a long time, it doesn't involve another person. It only involves me and this beautiful place I get to call home.

From a once lost little soul, to a person who is so blown away by the beauty of the world that she can hardly keep from crying. during the day. in public. The change has been life-altering, in the most surprising sort of way.

And perhaps, that is why it feels like the greatest love of all. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy 1st Anniversary world!

One year ago, I made the move that would forever change my life. And not to discredit any past romantic relationships, but that marks today as the single best and most meaningful anniversary of my entire life.

You see, if all had gone to plan, I'd currently be on my way back to Wisconsin. I'd have gotten "travel out of my system", be ready to settle down, and creating my path toward the 'American dream'. I'd be buying puppies, and houses, and be back to paying bills (NOoooOOOOooo.. no no no).

But of course, that's clearly not what happened.

What happened was a reawakening that I didn't even know I needed. What happened was me falling in love with life, the world, and all of the beautiful new people in it. What happened was a longtime dream made reality.

If I had headed home, I'd be figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life, only to realize that it's all right here.

Because what I want is this. What I've always wanted is this. I just didn't know to what degree until I left. And because I believe whole-heartedly in fully committing to yourself and your own happiness, I am instead creating a future that I actually want, instead of the future that I "should" want.

And that is a future of meaningful and indefinite travel.

And today, I'm celebrating 365 days of making new friends, creating new lives and new homes, and being happier than I have ever been. I'm celebrating 365 days of travel, taking care of babies :)))), and making some of the best memories of my entire life. But even more than that, I'm celebrating 365 days of slowly letting go of a life not meant for me.

Since I arrived in New Zealand just two weeks ago, a lot has happened. And I mean A LOT. I arrived on a Monday night, physically and emotionally exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to settle in. I spent the week starting work, setting up accounts, getting a new phone number, unpacking, and then REPACKING for our first family holiday (vacation).

The next week was spent in New Zealand's south island, which is dramatically different from where I live in the north. In Auckland, I'm surrounded by warmer weather, beaches, and a big city. The south is colder, mountainous, and during this time of year (winter), it is also quite snowy :).



So, we spent the week eating good food, drinking good drinks, and (happily) getting caught in blizzards at the top of a mountain. In other words, in just 5 days, I went from living in a country where winter means 70 degrees and stunning beaches, to moving here and seeing snow for the first time in 18 months. It was a bit of a change to say the least, but my Wisconsin heart is just radiating happiness here.



And during this trip, I quickly realized that rushing my time in New Zealand would be a HUGE mistake. That leaving early, in favor of traveling somewhere else, would mean I'd be missing out on heaps of wonderful opportunities here.

And so, my life until June will be spent here working and exploring. I intend to see New Zealand in it's entirety and make enough money to spend a few weeks exploring Fiji and Hawaii, before living a completely work free life at home for the summer.

YES, you read that right. HOME.

After nearly 2 years abroad, I will be spending summer 2015 in Wisconsin FINALLY reuniting with all of my loved ones. That means an entire 3 months of unemployment in favor of fireworks, concerts, beer, cheese curds, weddings, lakes, bbq's, and traveling the good 'ol USA. And although, I have my eye on some amazing opportunities after that, I'm also making sure to squeeze in a few football games as well. Excited is an understatement.

A special thanks to a few readers of this blog for reaching out to me as friends in this new city. Fast and easy friendships are just what I need as a newbie :). And as always, thank you to my loved ones from back home for all of the love and encouragement along the way. This journey would not have been possible without you.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Kiwi life: My first days in New Zealand

Well, I did it. I made it to the beautiful New Zealand!!! It's everything I expected, and more, but it sure wasn't easy getting here.

In fact, it was sad, stressful, and one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Leaving Australia really broke my heart. Saying goodbye to a city, a family, and a life I sincerely loved, was a royal pain-in-the-ass. And since I'm clearly a pro at nursing heartbreaks, I spent a great deal of time eating ice cream for breakfast, and shutting out the world, in order to cope.

Just kidding... that only happened once (or twice).

In reality, I spent a lot of time catching up with friends, playing with my little girls, and drinking my favorite pale ales. I also had to manage repacking my entire life into one suitcase and a backpack. You know, your basic typical nightmare. It was a lot of ups and downs those last few weeks, and beyond not having a lot of free time, I just didn't give a shit about writing.

On my last day, we had lunch on the water complete with beer, chippies, and my precious chicken wings. It was a beautiful and perfect day, aside from the fact that it was by far one of the hardest days of my entire life. I tried to stay positive, tried to smile, and tried to be excited for my new adventure. Instead, I spent the day desperately fighting back tears every time I opened a gift, read a letter, or hugged my little girls. And I failed.

But somehow, with no other choice, I powered through as best as I could, and made it to the airport with my entire life in my hands. I was back to being alone, with two bags, a passport, and a one-way ticket to New Zealand. Up until this point, I hadn't even had time to think about the fact that in 12 hours, I'd be moving in with complete strangers, in an entirely new and foreign land. Although, that seemed easy after all my heart had been through in the last few days.

And it was. In fact, it was the easiest part of the entire process.

After 37 hours with no sleep, and lugging all of my shit around, finding Amanda at the airport was such a relief. I moved in 30 minutes later, and life has been good ever since. The house is beautiful, the kids are precious (and I mean seriously precious), and I finally have that bay window I've always wanted.

Oh, and did I mention they're both phenomenal cooks and I live just blocks from the beach? Perks y'all. Perks.

And to top it all off, I'm writing this on my first family vacation at a Starbucks in Queenstown!!

Because they booked my flight after I was hired, I had to fly down solo. It gave me heaps of time to finally chill (pun intended) out, listen to music, and ear-to-ear smile for two hours as I flew over the beautiful mountain views. Seriously, how or why does anyone sleep through this?!?!

I sat in my perfectly positioned window seat, feeling completely overwhelmed with emotion the entire way down, which says a lot considering my emotionless and somewhat jaded state just over one year ago. I've now become an emotional, thankful, and life loving, crazy hot mess. You know, the kind who almost cries at the sight of mountains from a plane. The kind who somehow loves snow in August, because she hasn't seen it in so long. Or the kind who is somehow getting paid to drink hot cocoa, write, and obsessively stare outside at this incredible world.

I'm just so ridiculously grateful for all of life's amazing opportunities. I'm thankful to the universe for being so incredibly good to me, and to everyone who has loved and supported me along the way.

Looks like I'm back to revamping my travel plans, so that I can now stay in New Zealand longer than I originally anticipated. This country already has my heart, and I now have zero intention of rushing my time here.

This country is my home and this is right where I'm supposed to be. For now, anyway.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A soul reignited: A tribute to the city, the people, and the year that forever changed my life

I had to take a break from my fun and light-hearted posts and take some time to write about how I'm really feeling. With the end of my time here quickly approaching, I can't write honestly and to my full potential, without first expressing how truly broken I am about having to say goodbye.

You see, it's no surprise that leaving people and a place you so desperately love is heart-wrenching. We all know that. We "get it". Even worse though, is when it is completely out of your control. Thank you Australian government for that dagger. I reallllly appreciate it.

It feels a little like a break up with your first love, multiplied by 10, and followed by a bash of your head to a slab of concrete. Except worse. So much worse.

I've done a pretty good job at ignoring the inevitable, and have been in a constant state of denial until I hit the 'less than 30 day mark'. But now I have to desperately fight back tears every time the girls hug me tight and beg me not to go. Lately, it's become an everyday battle of "Why do you have to leave your little girls?" sort of phrases, and me not having a very good explanation. Thanks again government for being virtually unexplainable to 3 and 5 year olds.

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Incase you're a newbie to the blog, you might not be aware of the back story here. So let me a shed a little light on how drastic things have changed in just one short year.

Before I moved to Perth, Australia, I was living in good 'ol Wisconsin, USA. I used to be happy there, but it had been a hard couple of years after college. My friends had all moved away, my 5 year relationship was failing, and the only thing that made me happy anymore was spending all of my time at work, which is sad in and of itself. Don't get me wrong. I loved my (3) jobs. Working with my kids (especially the beloved twins I nannied for) was literally the only reason I got up in the morning. But, I was battling bouts of a depression, even if I didn't truly recognize it at the time. And other than a good (and busy) work schedule, I couldn't help but feel that the rest of my little world was quickly falling apart around me.

It's fair to say that I was having a full-fledged, and very real, quarter-life crisis.

So there I was, living with my boyfriend, but almost always completely alone. Not just alone. Depressed and alone. A somewhat lethal and undesirable combination. It was work schedules, it was different personalities, but it was mostly that our futures didn't align anymore. We were falling out of love, and without the distraction of my friends, I finally had the chance to notice it. And because I was so undeniably sad, lonely, and tired, I felt I had no choice but to work and sleep my life away. It was all I could do to stop myself from desperately wondering where we went wrong and why things had to be this way. After all, a half a decade of dating, only to have it fail in the end, tends to leave a person understandably distraught.

And even though I knew that letting go would be the hardest thing I've ever had to do (and it was), I wasn't about to let my life end up this way. So while I was becoming somewhat emotionally prepared, I still needed a real plan to leave. Really leave. Something big, something drastic, and something I could (and would) not want to back out of.

And that's when I found Au Pairing.

It was a perfect blend of taking care of kids and traveling the world, which just happen to be my two greatest passions. I wasn't cut out for 65 hour work weeks, paying for nothing but bills and student debt, and living in a virtually loveless relationship anymore. I was cut out for making 'being happy' a priority, and a reality. And so, I did.

I was clueless about what the process, the move, and the job entailed initially. But after my very first conversation with the family from behind my computer in Wisconsin, I just knew that this was the 'something' I was looking for. It caught me and a lot of people by surprise (my boyfriend included), but this was the most decisive I had ever felt about anything, in my entire life. And that says a lot coming from a person who can barely decide what to eat for lunch on a daily basis. I had to trust my instincts, be brave, let go, and move forward. It was time to stop wasting life, and time to start living it.

And so, I paid off the last of my debt, sold my belongings, took a one-way flight across pacific, and never looked back.

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It's been nearly a year now since I took that flight as a terrified and alone girl in the midst of a life crisis. It's been one year since this city and the perfect blend of a French/Australian family stole my heart. One year since I was saved from my own disastrous path of undesired conventionality. And one year since I discovered the difference between simply being awake and truly feeling alive.

And I feel that I owe it all to them:

Ben: One of the smartest and hardest working people I've ever met. Hopelessly dedicated to his family and making sure everyone is happy. The first to offer a place to stay to a friend in need, and is quickly there with a beer to follow :)! We bonded over our mutual love of chicken wings, pale ale's, and sarcasm. He has taught me SO much about the world and traveling, and I'm so grateful for that.

Julie: The most selfless woman I've ever known. A superwoman of sorts, who puts everyone's wants and needs before her own. The mom who never stops moving and almost never takes time for herself. A dedicated career woman, wife, and mother who is so lovingly invested in her family. She is so easy-going, so easy to talk to, and someone that I so humbly admire. 

Lola: The most creative, artsy, and talented little girl I know. She has the most selfless and beautiful soul, and made it truly effortless to fall in love with her. She is a perfect example of what is right in the world. I will miss all of your beautiful drawings, your thoughtfulness, and you putting a smile on my face every single day. 

Emilie: A spunky and modern day punky brewster (90's television show, for anyone confused). A lover of the color orange, tigers, spiderman, and pushing limits. She dances to the beat of her own drum, tells it like it is, and is also one of the sweetest kids I know. I will miss our special one-on-one dates, your eskimo kisses, and our mutual love of mac n cheese. You have my heart little girl, and you don't even know it.

Now, not every au pair has a similar situation. In fact, I would say that many keep their emotions to a minimum, and look at it simply as a job providing means for future travel. They build no real attachment, say meaningless goodbyes, and move forward quite easily. Some have a bit more of a connection, but perhaps not to the same degree. And for the rest of you fortunate souls like me? I'm sorry. While it makes living abroad one of the best experiences of your life, it also makes the goodbye that much more devastating. And as desperately as I'd like to be able to get through the next few weeks emotionally unscathed, viewing this opportunity as a job whatsoever was far from my experience. They were family from day one, and that bond is irreplaceable. And I'm so incredibly lucky. 

To put this whole thing simply? 

I love them. And I'm really going to miss when this isn't my life anymore. 

I'm going to miss our Friday night taco nights, my King's Park dates with the girls, the cuddles, the kisses, and the 'I love you's'. I'm going to miss our vacations (holidays), our lunch dates, and having to order dessert every single time! I'm going to miss the 90 degrees in December, the most beautiful beaches on the planet, and the occasional times I was rescued when alcohol got the best of me, even if it was kind of your fault in the first place :) (thanks Ben). I'm going to miss our lame (and awesome) 8 pm bedtimes, our japanese mayo obsession, and our brutally honest conversations about life and love.

And I'm even going to miss not sleeping in, potty training, and the occasional cleaning puke out of someone's hair. Even those pesky dinner time meltdowns, too. Because even the hard days were good days. And the good days, some of my absolute best. A million thanks would never be enough to show my gratitude, but it's certainly worth a try. I owe it all to this job, this city, and this family. My travel soul is reignited, and my life forever changed. And I am eternally grateful.

Thank you all for your continuous love and support, and for faithfully reading what a little girl from the midwest has to say. Any guesses on how many times I'll emotionally fall apart through airport security this year? I wasn't sure I could be more of a mess than I was last August, but who knows, I'm constantly surprising myself. I see lots stares and consoling from strangers in the very near future.

I'll be honest, I'm not sure I'm quite ready for you yet New Zealand. Then again, I don't know that I ever really will be. But here's to looking up, moving forward, and pushing towards another big (and exciting) life change. Ready or not life, here I come.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

8 weeks of Oz. Part four: Au Pair life. Tips, tricks, pros and cons.

I wrote a how to on becoming an Au Pair back in September, but have fortunately learned a lot since then! I continue to get emails about the process, so I thought I'd update specifically based on my experiences and my time working in the beautiful Australia.

My favorite websites:

www.greataupair.com 
www.aupair-world.net 

Both are easy to use, and are free to you as the au pair. The filtering capabilities allow you to choose the country (or countries) you're interested in, your available start date, and your required pay, among other things. You can search for families and families can search for you. You can then message one another and move forward if you so choose. A face-to-face conversation (skype or otherwise) should then be had, to determine how well you mesh. And hopefully the end result is a job in a foreign land :).

Tips:

- Don't go through an agency. The middle man is so unnecessary and is expensive for both you AND the family. You'll have a lot more options if you just conduct the search yourself. And best yet? It's FREE.
- Post a picture and look professional. Remember you get one chance to impress people as they scroll through the thousands of other profiles. Not posting one at all will not allow you to make any impression, and you will just be another faceless profile. And posting anything less than professional will turn you off from a whole slew of great families. Your call, but I'd recommend keeping your seductive selfies off of au pair websites (all websites actually), and go for a "nice, normal girl" look. You'd think this was a given, but you would not believe the stuff I've seen on my searches...
- Write about yourself, but don't forget to mention your love of kids. You can like traveling, writing, and music all you want, but if somebody is going to pay you to watch their children, you might want to mention that you like and/or have experience in dealing with them.
- Mention what it's like to live with you. Are you clean? Happy? Easy-going? Like to cook? The more you can contribute to a great family life, the better.
- Ask LOTS of questions and make sure you're on the same page. Will you have time to travel? Will you be treated like family? What kind of discipline do they use with their kids? What is the daily routine? Make sure you have mutual expectations of the arrangement before moving forward.
- Always, ALWAYS, trust your gut. Like with love, you'll know when it's right, and you'll know when it's wrong. You don't want to spend an extended period of time with the 'wrong' family, especially given that the experience should be so much more than just a job. Look for a family with shared interests and who genuinely feels welcoming.

Benefits: 

- Working with kids. This may not be a benefit in everyone's eyes, and if it's not, then this wouldn't be the job for you. It's kids. All day, everyday. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
- You are essentially a stay at home mom, but one who gets paid in more than just kisses. For someone who is admittedly not ready for kids, this was the perfect choice for me. I get to play mom, without actually being a mom. And to top it off? Somebody gives me money for it. What could be better?
- Fun and easy routines. Dropping kids off at school, packing lunches, playing legos, and going to the beach. And lots of 'I love you's' and cuddles to make the days even better!
- Australia has the highest paid Au Pairs in the world. Triple to quadruple the pay of most European countries, in fact. Thus, it becomes more than just 'pocket money' and more like a decent way to live, travel, AND even save.
- Additionally, room and board is paid for. This usually means a separate living space, meals, wifi, tv, etc. If you have no remaining bills at home, this essentially means that you pocket every single dollar you make. Trust me, it is as great as it sounds.
- A family environment. It really helps with homesickness to have people looking out for you and helping you through things. Nice dinners, a place to stay, and friendly conversations can mean everything as a first time expat.
- Cultural immersion. You go from a clueless foreigner to a decently knowledgeable resident real quick when you tag along with people who already know the area. It quickly becomes your home instead of just a beautiful place to visit.
- Easy work schedules. Most au pairs work around 30 hours a week. Some more, some less. It gives you a lot of time to make new friends, explore, and travel, travel, travel!!
- The chance to live AND work abroad with very minimal risk. Set it up before you go, and the transition should be easy! No job searching or apartment hunting upon arrival. It's a simple matter of showing up, moving in, and starting work on Monday.
- And best of all? When the time comes for you to leave (and it so dreadfully will), you'll always have a great place (and hopefully great people) to visit in the future.

The not-so benefits: 

- Early wake ups. Say goodbye to your days of sleeping in, because it's a rarity as a live-in. I've found that ear plugs and white noise apps drown out kids laughing at 6 am though, which is helpful! Plus, it's sort of nice being a real productive person before the sun is up!
- Kids are sometimes HARD work. If you don't believe me, you either aren't a parent or have never worked in childcare before. Just trust me on this one. They're worth it, but they're not always easy.
- Less privacy. For me, this means no naked netflix watching in the living room. It was a hard battle to overcome, but I've simply trained myself to wear clothes again. It's not too awful, I guess :).

But truthfully, I don't dislike anything about being an au pair. It took me 30 minutes to come up with the 3 I did list, because I simply love my job and my life THAT much. I lucked out with quite possibly the best host family in the entire world, which made the transition painless and relatively easy. I know I sound like a walking cliche when I say this, but becoming an au pair actually changed my life. It made me view traveling and living in a completely different way, and has changed my future indefinitely. So, come on my au pair dreamers, who's with me?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

8 weeks of Oz. Part Three: How to work and travel simultaneously.

It's no surprise that getting to this side of the world is one big and expensive pain-in-the-ass. It usually involves a $2,000 ticket, 3 separate flights, and 35 plus hours of traveling across the pacific just to get here. And the icing on the cake? It's also one of the most expensive countries in the world.

With that being said though, it's one of the greatest places on earth, in my opinion. Any visit to Australia is worthwhile, and it really is as beautiful as you've always imagined. But I wouldn't say it's ideal to spend years worth of savings for a quick stop at the Opera house, either.

You see, Australia is an often sought after travel destination, and with good reason. But with limited vacation time and price tags that outrageous, it's not unreasonable to consider it "unrealistic" or to wait until retirement to take your dream trip. But if you're not a wait-until-someday kind of person or don't want to spend a fortune, there could be a perfect solution.

Work while you travel. 

If you're between 18 and 30 years old, with no dependents, a valid passport, and a desire to travel the world, why not travel and make money doing it with a Working Holiday Visa ? It allows you to live and work legally in Australia as long as you meet the above requirements. And with jobs booming in tourism, hospitality, farming, mining, and childcare, surely there's a fit for you here somewhere.

So why Australia, you say?

It's legal: It's one of the only countries in the world that offers a one year working holiday visa to Americans (womp womp.) Which means, that it's also one of the only places other than our home country where we can work legally without being limited to one particular career path (i.e. teaching abroad.) And the best part is, the process itself was ridiculously easy. Simply apply online, pay a fee, and wait to hear back via email. I was accepted in minutes, although it can take a few days or so. And that was that! You can arrive at any time within the next 12 months and start your year abroad from the day you enter the country.

It's easy: Because of the backpacker culture, jobs are SO easy to get. Travelers are in and out of cities, and the turnover rates for jobs in things like fruit picking, bartending, childcare, and serving are quite high. It's as simple as doing a little research, walking around with your resume, and looking presentable. Gumtree (The U.S. version of craigslist) is also a great resource.

Minimal culture shock: Aside from adjusting to a few new words and training yourself not to swoon over every accent, it's a relatively easy transition for a first big move abroad. The language is the same, the people are nice, and the food is just as delicious. And other than your accent, you'll fit right in.

*Note: If you're looking for a drastic change, this probably wouldn't be the best place to start. It's so similar sometimes that I forget I'm not in North America, aside from the pesky June winters and the lack of ranch dressing.

Money, money, money: With a minimum wage of double that of the United States, if you play your cards right, you can actually come out of traveling a beautiful country with a decent bit of cash. And if nothing else, you will have funded an entire year of travel with the money you've made along the way. What could be better than that?

*Note: Yes, the cost of living is more expensive, but being mindful of your spending and finding ways to save on big expenses like rent and food is key. I will be posting more on the cost of living and my personal experiences with saving money in an upcoming post.

Aussie animals: 'Nuff said. Those koalas and kangaroos you've always dreamed of meeting? Yep. You'll see them too!





It's stunning: You could travel all around Australia for a year and never get bored. Believe me, I've tried. In fact, I could live here for the rest of my life, and undoubtedly be the happiest person on earth. Everywhere I go is its own little pleasant surprise. And every time I think it can't possibly get any better? It does. Spend days learning to surf, snorkel and dive at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Get cultured and artsy and eat to your hearts content in Australia's biggest cities. Visit wine country and breweries until you are forever cured of your desire for alcohol. And... enjoy views like this all too often.








See what I mean?

The saddest reality of the working holiday visa is that, for Americans, it ends after one year. There is no renewing, and that's the biggest pain-in-the-ass of it all. Without getting sponsored by an employer, becoming a student, falling in love (or faking it), or working illegally, there is no real way to stay long-term. This is a reality I'm not particularly excited about facing. But in every situation, the adventure is almost always worth the heartache, and this experience is no exception. So come on my fellow dreamers, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

8 Weeks of Oz. Part Two: The party life!

Going out in Australia is like going out anywhere else in the world. There's beer, boys, and bouncers. There's music, dancing, and the occasional creeper who sneaks up behind you (jk, that's usually me). And on a really, really good night, there is some stellar eye candy and a few rounds of tequila, hopefully not purchased by me.

But surviving a big night out in Oz, does take some serious planning. So being the sweetheart that I am, I compiled a wonderful list of tips. Ready? Ok.

1. Bring everything you own. Your weekly paycheck, your entire savings account, and possibly the blood of your first born child, just incase you're really in a pickle. You'll need it to afford a night out in Perth. Between cabs, entry fees, and the price of drinks, you'll be lucky to have anything left to your name by the time you leave. 

     - Beer: $10
     - A shot of tequila: $10 - $20 depending on your baller status
     - Mixed drink: $10
     - Cocktail: $20 
     - Entry fee: $15

And those are average prices. AVERAGE y'all. I can't wait to go back to Miller Park and Lambeau Field and bitch slap myself for all of those times I complained about buying a 7 dollar beer. GET BACK IN MY LIFE.

2. Remember that for every one mixer you'd have in Wisconsin, you'll need a minimum of 5 in Australia for the same effect (aka achieving mild drunkenness). Did you know that the concept of a free pour actually doesn't exist in other parts of the world? You know, the thing where bartenders simply pour alcohol into a glass WITHOUT measuring it first? Additionally, did you know that actually pouring more than 1 oz (30 ml) of alcohol per drink is ILLEGAL? ok, cool. me neither. I once asked for more, you know for research purposes, and was DENIED horribly. And actually, I have yet to recover fully from that experience. 

3. Stop smoking. Aside from it totally destroying your lungs, and probably your life, they also cost north of $20 a pack. $20 to hurt your ability to breathe normally! I totally dig the straight and to the point marketing, though. 


4. Be prepared to never know what's going on. It's a constant battle of not knowing when the bars close, what is proper attire, and why we're getting breathalyzed before being allowed in.

     - Bar time: Apparently any time between midnight and 7 am is a fair guess. I guess it's good to be flexible, because I still have no effing idea what's going on. ever. I just meander until the lights start coming on and I'm being dragged, pushed, or kicked out the door. 

     - Attire: Boys- You know that my favorites are always wearing v-necks, bro tanks and the short-sleeved button downs with weird Hawaiian prints on them. And if they're especially douchey, they'll throw some sunnies on in a dark and crowded bar to really spruce the outfit up. And at other times, dudes will show up to an Irish pub wearing tailored suits, just because they feel like it. Skulling beers and listening to live music, gives off that sort of vibe though, I guess. 

                   Girls- Way too god damn hot to keep up with. Short and tight dresses, long hair, and tanned skin. I truly fail in comparison by showing very little skin and wearing what I like to call, mostly no-inch heels. Better luck in the next country, Jerrica. You go from a Wisconsin average, to an Australian hobo girl real quick in Perth. And sometimes, you just have to learn to accept that.                 

     - Being drunk: You can't be. If you look drunk, be prepared to be breathalyzed before entering the bar. Even sitting on that bar stool too late into the evening is putting yourself at risk for being kicked out. And entering a bar with a group of friends? Forgetttt about it. You will likely be brutally interrogated. Am I on trial for murder or trying to get into a bar here? If you want my advice, look casual, single, and most of all, sober. And with a limit of only .05, don't you dare step behind the wheel of your car, unless you want to be carted off to the drunk tank, or what I like to call, JAIL.

5. And last, but certainly not least, remember that you're in a country where the legal drinking age is 18. Keep this in mind when you're 26 and drunkenly eye flirting with that fresh out of high school boy you're trying to schmooze. Remember. You are old as mold. It's time to start hanging out at grocery stores and banks. The 30-year-old men you love so much are gone. GONE. Gone as in non-existent. 

These stories may or may not be loosely based on my personal life. And by loosely based, I mean directly related. As in, actually happened to me, or people I was with. 

So before you go frolicking around with a foreigner named Stephan and spending your future retirement fund trying desperately to catch a buzz, please remember this: YOU WILL NOT SUCCEED. I've recently traded my single girl party life, for a more laid-back, grandmother-like approach. It includes pj's by 6, Mexican food by 7, and cuddled in bed by 9. And if I'm feeling balls-to-the-wall crazy, I might even have a beer with dinner. Cheers to life in your mid twenties! 

Thank you to everyone who made those crazy nights even crazier, and to those who have participated in giving me epic nights and three-day hangovers. My new tame life of netflix and reading now awaits me, and my bank account, future adventures, and liver desperately thank you for understanding.

Stay tuned for next week's entry, which I actually have given zero thought to yet. I have a few ideas up my sleeve for the upcoming weeks, but if there's anything you're keen to read about, leave it in the comments section or message me directly. I'm happy to consider ideas! XO. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

8 Weeks of Oz. Part One: The truth about Aussie boys.

As I head into my last two months here, I thought I'd focus all of my writing efforts on my personal experiences in Australia. Each week I'll talk about a topic I get asked about frequently, and refer specifically to what I've experienced while living on the west coast. First up?

BOYS.

It's the one topic I love to hate, and is undoubtedly the first thing everybody asks about. I never came here looking for love, but having drinks with a Hemsworth brother look-a-like was on my to-do list, and has yet to be accomplished...


So before I ruin nearly every American girl's fantasy, I strongly advise you to read further at your own risk. I warned you, and I'm sorry, if you so choose to move forward.


Let me start by saying that the boys here were nothing like I expected. Maybe it's Perth. Maybe it's me. Or maybe, just maybe, our vision was blurred and tainted by the beautiful sound of an Aussie man's voice.


I, like the rest of you, pictured laid back surfer types with terribly adorable accents. They would be charming, intellectual, and simultaneously witty and sarcastic. They would have piercing blue eyes and beautifully tanned skin, and be spontaneous, yet romantic. They would also play guitar and sing me lullabies and scratch my back at my request. And they would spoon feed me ice cream while I watch the Bachelorette. And guess what? They would love every second of it.


OK. Asking too much?


I may have exaggerated a bit, but a girl can dream right? And while my expectations aren't aaaactually that high, I didn't know I would be sooo far off the radar on this one. And while I'm making huge generalizations based on a select community of guys from Perth, I've done my fair share of research to be able to speak decently on this topic. I speak both from personal experience, and from the help of people I know in the area.


And so, with that being said, I present the list.


dun dun dun.


The Good: 


- The surfing culture. It exists y'all. And the tan skin and fit physique usually comes as an added bonus. They're sometimes hard to find, and not always a Perth native, but they're here, and I do love them. Tremendously. 


- They're outdoorsy. The weather helps, but people are always out and about here. Running, cycling, diving, fishing, camping, boating, etc. 


- They have accents. It used to make me swoon. Seriously swoon. As in, fall-in-love-with anyone-who-spoke, kind of swoon. It has unfortunately lost it's novelty a bit since I don't hear it quite like I used to. It tends to just sound normal to me. But for those of you not yet used to hearing it every day, it's still quite attractive. 


- And finally, they generally like my accent. So... that's cool. I've had to tell my life story 8,732 times since I moved here because of it, but I kind of dig it. 

The Bad:

- Bro tanks. I can't deal. Only because the weather is SO damn hot in the summer time, will I give them a little slack on this one. There's just something about throwing your disgustingly large muscles in my face, that screams douche canoe. I'm sorry. Please stop. It hurts my eyes.


- They make A LOT of money. Generally this is not a bad thing, but it can and often does lead to greed, deception, and a whole lot of cockiness. If I hear one more person brag about their money, lawd help me.


- While Aussie culture encourages traveling and gap years (time off between school and college or career), I don't think enough of them take advantage. I always thought it was something a lot of people did, but I'm learning more and more that a drunken trip to Bali is sometimes as worldly as they get. 



The Ugly: 


- Jorts. I CAN'T. there is no excuse for men to wear cut off jeans shorts. ever.


- Speedos. NO.


- Short-sleeved hawaiian-looking button downs and tight pants. What IS this and why do I see it everywhere I go?!!?!?!




Exhibit A. This. This everywhere. 

- Wearing sunnies (sunglasses) in the bar. It's dark. Why God, WHY?


- The inability to approach women. Now now, part of this could be because they're not interested in me, of course. BUT, I'm speaking about the men that HAVE approached me or my friends, and what an obvious disaster it was.

          - Like the time someone offered to buy me a drink (which is RARE in itself here as they cost an absolute fortune). And when I asked for a beer, he told me I could only have a mixed drink. And so, I ordered both. take that sucka.
          - Like the time I witnessed a man take 10 minutes to drink a tequila shot while trying to be impressive. I'm sorry, but go away. That's just despicable.
          - Like the time I got stalked for months on end. Get your winky faces and over-use of emojis away from me. Thank you and G'Day.

Now just incase you're an Aussie who now hates me, or an American girl who wants to gouge my eyes out with a fork, I meant this mostly in good fun. The truth is, Aussie guys can be just as wonderful as my lovely fellas back home, and they can be just as god awful, too. One thing is for sure though, it's always an adventure.


A special thanks to the (normal) Aussie bloke and my lady mates for helping me brainstorm for this piece. Much appreciated :).


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ROADTRIP to Exmouth, WA: home of the beautiful Ningaloo Reef.

I only had 5 days to rest, recover, and wallow in my depression post- airport goodbye before I headed off on another adventure. It's a tough life, I know. 

We had two weeks of school holiday in April, and every year the Pieyre's go on a road trip up north to Exmouth. And as usual, the au pair was invited along. And since everybody I've talked to in Australia raves about how untouched and stunning the Ningaloo Reef is, I wasn't about to pass up this golden opportunity.

It's about a 14 hour drive through pure Aussie outback, with the occasional kangaroo and emu sighting. I haven't seen much of either in the wild since living here, so a surprise animal in the distance is always pretty exciting. We (and by we, I mean Ben) drove through the night, while I popped a few sleeping pills and hoped I wouldn't have to beg for a potty break every hour. And just as soon as I dozed in oblivion, we were there.

Julie and I set up camp, while our cripple with a broken hip (Ben) sat in a chair and laughed at and lectured us about how god awful we were at setting up tents, boats, BBQ's and just about everything else for that matter. But we did it. And this is what we managed.


Not too shabby eh? I'm in the white and blue tent, and out of pure laziness and hopefulness for good weather, I opted out of putting the cover on. Putting pegs into that god awful ground? Virtually impossible. Let's just put it this way, my arms are still hurting a month later....

But, I'll follow up on this later. Moving on. 



We spent the majority of our days snorkeling by morning, and fishing in the afternoon. Of course there were the days where we sat by the pool, laid on the beach, or enjoyed some cocktails by the water when the holiday became too strenuous for all of us ;).


One of my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE snorkel spots in Exmouth was Turquoise Bay. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, The Ningaloo Reef is within swimming distance from shore, which was a huge relief considering the seasickness I encountered during my previous trip to an Australian reef... 

It was a tough swim against the current, but doable, especially since my tour guide was some injured guy who knows the reef inside and out. Broken hip Ben, despite all injuries, was desperate to snorkel and show me the reef, and I'm so incredibly thankful he did. During my very first snorkel, I saw HEAPS of parrot fish, nemos, stingrays, and (finallyyyyy) SEA TURTLES. I'd been waiting for this moment since I moved here, and it finally happened! 

feeding kangaroos- check
holding a koala- check
swimming with sea turtles - check, check, check!! 

I can officially die happy.


Other days, when the visibility was especially clear, we took the boat out so we could fish and snorkel simultaneously. Ben had all the good spots mapped out already, and we'd do a quick check of the water and decide whether or not to stay. We saw about 3 sharks in the open water that day, and while he swam back to the boat unfazed by any shark encounters, I sat on the boat happily avoiding any deadly creatures who were in my direct line of sight. I was ok with waiting for the all clear, before attempting to risk my life in the open water. But it's true, y'all. They're everywhere. dun. dun. dun. 


To give you an idea of the seriously unreal visibility, this is what my shitty 'ol iphone captured from my seat on the boat. This was an especially perfect day, and we made very good use of it. Swim, snorkel, fish. Swim, snorkel, fish. repeat. repeat. repeat. 



And on this trip, I learned that nothing makes me happier than doing this very thing. Swimming among the sea creatures is a truly humbling and irreplaceably, breathtaking experience.  



And on the one day that the water was a little choppy, and a bit unclear, I spent my morning doing a solo hike at Yardie Creek for this view. And as much as I love being in the water, I love my days exploring the land just as much. 


And because we needed the occasional break from camp life, we came here to have some fancy drinks and dinner one night with friends. The pool, the palm trees, and the ocean were incredible. And the martinis were the icing on the cake. And this is where I learned that my new 26 year old no hangover limit is approximately 3 or less drinks. Duly noted. 




And after 10 days of nonstop happiness, we headed home, but not without a stop at this super cool (or dorky) sign on the way home. #tourist. 


And as we continued driving, I couldn't help but laugh and think about how lucky we were to spend 10 days in paradise with exceptional weather, only to be struck with this dark and dreary day on the drive home. It kind of fit with the post-holiday mood we were all in. After all, it's hard to want to leave a beautiful and sunny Exmouth knowing that we were heading into rainy season back in Perth.

And so, I guess it was an ok decision to leave my tent coverless, as the weather gods worked entirely in our favor while we were there. But the day we left? Exmouth got flooded and our entire campground had to be evacuated that very day. One day my luck will run out, but not on that day, I guess. 

Overall, this trip was just the clarity I needed to get over my surprising bout of debilitating homesickness. I was seriously second guessing my decision to move directly to New Zealand, and now I was finally sure that I made the right decision. 

All I needed was a little beach, a little beer, and nights under the stars to bring me back to my happy place. The reality is that beauty, adventure, and traveling IS what I want. Living abroad will always come at a price, but for now, it's one that I'm willing to pay. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Week TWO: Family reunion in Oz! Rottnest Island.

Where do I begin?

We accomplished a lot in week two, but it mostly involved more sunsets, more food, and of course more beer. So to spare you the painfully boring recap, I'll just skip to the good stuff.


I began the week by finally booking my one way ticket to New Zealand for August 3rd!! And while I'm so incredibly excited to begin this new chapter in my life, it also wasn't easy putting an official end date to my time in Perth. But how can I be a true nomad, if I continue to stay in one place? I CAN'T. And so, I will roam. 



And when we headed to Hillary's Boat Harbour a few days later, I found Auckland staring at me in the face. I'll take that as a good sign (hehe) of the things to come. 


We spent an evening at Cottesloe Beach hopping from various pubs and enjoying pints of whatever pale ale they happened to have on tap. Drinking with this view... what could be better?



And of course capped the night off with another one of my favorite things: ocean sunsets

And as much as I thoroughly enjoyed the week, I looked forward to nothing more than our trip to Rottnest Island. It's about 11 miles off the coast of WA, and is a little slice of heaven, in my opinion.  

We arrived by Ferry which took a pretty standard 25 minutes from Fremantle. We arrived, checked in, and then headed off by bike in search of our accommodation for the weekend. Seems easy enough, right? Well it wasn't. In typical Peterson fashion, we got lost a few times, but eventually found our way. An extra work out is never a bad thing though, I guess. 


And when we arrived, I was sure glad we spent the extra money for the ocean view. A beer on the balcony is always a good reward after shamelessly wandering around like a lost puppy all afternoon. I promise I do other cool things besides drink beer and stare at water, by the way. 


The sunset on our way to dinner was a nice little reward, too.



And the next day, like good little tourists, we headed out early so we could see the island in it's entirety. I feel like we stopped every 5 minutes, somewhat due to exhaustion, but mostly due to the scenery. Not a bad capture, for a silly 'ol iphone. 



Anyone else in love with water this beautiful? 


We stopped numerous places to swim and snorkel, which was much needed after half sweating to death in the Australian heat. This was one of my favorite stops. Can you see why?


And while completely exhausted by the end of the day, of course I had to stop and see the lighthouse. At the end of the day, it literally is a house... with a light. And truly, I don't know where this obsession came from, but I kind of dig it. I'm weird and I don't care, ok?


Oh, and for those of you who don't know, Rottnest Island is home of the famous Quokka. It's one of the only places in the world where these cuties are found. During the day, they are somewhat hard to find. But at night, you better bet your ass they'll be scurrying across your feet at dinner time hoping to eat your scraps. It happened to us more than we'd ever like to discuss again. No one else on the entire island seemed to be fazed by the whole charade, but it's not everyday us good 'ol Wisconsin folk have rodents snuggling up to us at the dinner table. I didn't think they were so cute after that... 

And with that, we headed home from Rottnest after some beautiful pale ale pints by the water. (Bet you didn't see that one coming). We spent our last day in the city and having a good ol Aussie BBQ with all of my favorite people in one place. 

And after an amazing two weeks with my family, I said goodbye, and was left with an overwhelming sense of sadness once again. In fact, I had my first ever serious bout of homesickness since I arrived 9 months ago. Not knowing when I'll see them again is a pretty harsh reality, but one of the many sacrifices I've brought upon myself by choosing to be here. 

I spent about 2 days in bed depressed and wondering whether I was really cut out for this. Were these feelings normal? Am I ready to face another year without the people I love the most? I didn't know what or how to feel. I didn't know if I was being brave, realistic, or unbelievably stupid for choosing another year abroad. I didn't know if seeing them after so long made it easier or harder for me to stay. And frankly, I didn't know if I had made the right decision at all in making the choice to move directly to New Zealand. 

Then again, I didn't have much time to think about it. When I finally got my sorry ass out of bed, it was time to get packing. I was headed off on another adventure, and soon my head would be clear again. The holiday brought me so much clarity, and couldn't have come at a better time. Now now, I know what you're thinking, and the answer is yes. I do work. Sometimes. 

Stay tuned for my adventures in Exmouth. The best beaches and snorkeling in WA, I reckon! Oi! Oi! Oi! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week ONE: Family Reunion in Oz. Roos, Beer, and Beaches.. oh my!

For many people, airports are the biggest pain-in-the-ass places in the entire world. It means crying babies, shitty food, and absurdly long lines for security checks. And while the airport world can be painfully annoying, it also deserves a fair share of credit, in my opinion. 

You see, for me, airports mean travel, excitement, and chasing what at one point seemed like a far and distant dream. It means passport stamps, smiles, and the joyfully discovering the unknown. And on this day, just a few weeks ago, it meant one of those overly dramatic, tearfully-filled, long-overdue reunions. 


On March 31, 2013, I was offered the job that would bring me here and thus forever change my life. And while I knew that the sacrifices would be plenty, I excitedly accepted anyway.

And on the same day in 2014, I reunited with the family I so sadly had to leave behind. 

Good thing I made this brilliant sign, because I don't think that would have recognized me through my tear-stained face otherwise.

So, I apologize for disappearing from the blogging world for a few weeks, but I was extremely busy happily entertaining those 3 very important guests. And while I took my short hiatus from writing, I filled my time "working" (barely), and exploring my beautiful city and surroundings. And because we did SO much, I will spare you the longest blog entry of all time, and start with week one.

Caversham Wildlife Park: Where you can find everything Oz! Kangaroos, koalas, wombats, tasmanian devils, snakes, etc. It's actually tourist heaven. And while I hardly consider myself a tourist in a city that I now live in, I never get sick of getting my hands on these furry creatures. 



Where you can take acceptable selfies with kangaroos... and feed them too :)!!


And take family photos with wombats...

Kings Park/Perth/Fremantle: A park with beautiful trails, and views of the city skyline and Swan River. And two of my favorite neighboring cities in which I often split my free time between. 


Me and my sister at Kings Park


Palm trees. In the city. This never EVER gets old. 


Ever. 


Lazy days at Coogee beach with my girls and family. How AMAZING it felt to have ALL of the people I love the most in one place.


Quiet nights at home with everyone under one roof. JUST when I got my parents off of my back about grandkids... this has to happen...


Trying Kangaroo for the first time at Little Creature's Brewery in Fremantle. Flavorful, but too chewy for me! A hell of a lot better than vegemite though :)

Down South (Busselton, Margaret River, Dunsborough): This is wine region. Here you'll find HEAPS of wineries, breweries, chocolate, markets, and BEAUTIFUL Western Australia beaches. 


Where we went to a lot of these... and drank wine, wine, and MORE wine.


And drank HEAPS of these. I said "I love beer" just short of 23,908 times in this week alone. It's true though, I really love it!


... and fell in love with views like this.


I'll have eggs, toast, and an ocean view for breakfast please!


And on our way home we made an impulsive stop in Busselton, where we road a train across the 2 kilometer long jetty and took an underwater tour. We then caught a beautiful sunset on the beach. 

Busselton


Waiting for our train


Which traveled along this extremely long jetty to get to the underwater observatory


And capped off the wonderful weekend with this MAGIC. I feel there are few better things than a relaxing sunset on a quiet west coast beach. 

Week one was a great one, but I'd argue that week two was even better. With more sunsets, more beer, and a trip to the STUNNING Rottnest Island, it was definitely a week for the books. 

A BIG thank you to my family for making the long and VERY pricey trip to Western Australia. It was the perfect taste of home that I needed.

And a special thanks to my second family for so lovingly welcoming us all into your home <3. 

Stay tuned for a post on our amazing trip to Rottnest Island coming soon!