I had an Australian chuckle at me over the phrase ‘the holidays’, because evidently they just say ‘Christmas and New Year’s’. Not the staggering cultural difference that some people enjoy when visiting other countries, but still interesting. And as I finish writing this, the holidays are long gone, but better late than never.
The first day of summer, December 1, came and went, and I knew I wasn’t going to last forever in hostels, so I told myself I would find a room of my own in a house or apartment before Christmas. I knew I could handle spending the holidays in a hostel, I just didn’t want to. I surprised myself by lasting three and a half weeks before I needed an Airbnb, although as I write this, three weeks is nothing. After we left the Airbnb on Thursday, December 12, I booked one week at the YHA Metro, and told myself that by the end of that week, I would find more permanent housing. I haven’t yet experienced any hostel horror stories that you hear about, but the constant unpacking and repacking, using the communal bathrooms and kitchen, and never really having a moment alone is not a lifestyle I can sustain.
I was open to living in pretty much any area of the city and inner suburbs, but focused my search in South Yarra, Richmond, and Brunswick. There was no particular reason for this, other than that’s where the most amount of reasonably priced options seemed to be. All I wanted was my own room, preferably in a house with one to three other people, for anywhere between three and six months. The best resources for house hunting were various Facebook groups, and a website called FlatmateFinder. During the search, it was lucky that I was unemployed, because I spent most of my days on Facebook, refreshing my feed every two minutes for new listings. There isn’t a dearth of housing, but to find something for the time frame, price, and location was tricky. And to be with roommates who were at the very least tolerable, if not better than that, didn’t seem like two much to ask.
In the two weeks befor Christmas, I had about seven viewings, in all of the areas. The worst option was probably the room in the single dad’s filthy apartment, followed closely by the unfurnished room who cancelled on me while I was in the lobby. On a Saturday morning, I went to Brunswick, where I hadn’t been before, to see a house near the train line, about 45 minutes on the tram outside of the city. From the photos online, this was a charming little cottage with a well lit room, and it mostly lived up to that. I won’t say it was the most perfect, exactly-what-I-envisioned house, but it was just what I needed. I took a couple of days to make up my mind, but by that Thursday I had moved in. The room came fully furnished, and I only bought a couple of little things, like a small shelf, rubbish bin (trash can is sooooo American), and mattress topper. I was fully moved in and settled by the end of the weekend. I live with two other ladies in their 30s, and so far everything has worked out pretty darn well.
Approaching Christmas, we still had four of our core group in Melbourne, so we knew we had to celebrate together. With projected temperatures of at least 30°C (like 85°F), we knew we wanted to do a traditional Aussie Christmas on the beach, but we decided to make it a whole event. Christmas Eve, the three of us packed a bag and went to TF’s apartment, joined by her roommate HD. We ordered Chinese takeaway, cracked the goon, and played Jenga and Speak Up (I realize that half of those words don’t mean anything to most of you). We rounded out the evening with some Christmas movies and I fell asleep on the couch.
In the morning we all got to wake up together, with pancakes and my first Christmas crackers, which was baffling to the table of Europeans I was with. Turns out there’s not crackers inside, but instead useless little prizes (just what I love). By mid day we were ready for the beach, Santa hats and all. We headed to St Kilda with more goon and tinnies, and spent the entire day basking in the sun. Half of the group went home around sun set, and the other half of us stayed for a few more hours. We met up with some of the boys from our Welcome to Travel tour, kicked the soccer ball around, and stayed until we were too cold to stand it. We rounded out the day with some of St. Kilda’s finest Maccas, and I spent another night on the couch.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s was relatively unproductive, but again knew we all wanted to do something for NYE. We were down to three, but added HD to even out the group. I bought myself a new jumpsuit just for the occasion, got all dolled up, and went back to Prahran. We bought tickets to The Cross, a Scottish bar in St. Kilda. With 2/4 being from Scotland, and with me not being that fussed about what we did, I was happy to be there. I was expecting an old-timey, pub-looking joint, which it was not. It was fun vibes, good music, and great people. It wasn’t the best NYE I’ve ever had, but also not the worst, and again, just happy to be with my new friends.
New Year’s Day itself was very uneventful, just the way I like it. Overall review of my first holidays away from home: no matter where you are, it’s all about the people who you’re with. Can’t say enough about how happy I am to have made the friends I have here, but missing our Christmas party in Berkeley did make me miss home. Before I left Oregon, my mom put out the advent calendar in November, so I could get a little treat on the days I was home. My parents and I have never really done anything big for the holidays, but still, waking up Christmas morning and opening our presents together made me miss them the most.
The year has been off to an amazing start, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me and my Australian adventure.