First Steps in Melbourne

After our short week of travels through the Australian mountains, excitement filled our hearts as the Melbournian skyscrapers appeared in the distance. As soon as we were within city traffic we dealt with everything that was outstanding. We started searching for a job, we dealt with any mechanical mishaps, we registered the van in our name, we started looking for places to sleep (and bathrooms to use), and most importantly, we started exploring the Aussie-city life!

Our little test drive with Winston demonstrated that living out of a metal box on wheels has countless benefits. Of course it can’t always be extremely easy… Living out of a van in a city is a little more complicated than we anticipated. Parking and sleeping in the streets is generally negatively regarded by the general public, there is a chance of getting fined, and you might be parked in a not so safe part of town. So why didn’t we find a campsite? Well, they were nowhere to be found within the city walls, the closest spots being 30+ kilometers away. So a hostel or an AirBnB then? Well, that defeats the purpose of having bought a van in the first place…

So as we tackled the street-life with an open mind we found ourselves fortunate to have some family friends willing to take us in (or allowing us to use their driveways). For those of us who are ‘vanabonding’ in cities where we don’t know anyone, here are some tips we found to be useful

For a bit longer than a month, we commuted every couple of days between Paul’s and Petra’s houses – both long standing friends of Laurent’s parents. Laurent however, hadn’t seen Paul and Petra in almost a decade. Their kindness, friendliness and willingness to go above and beyond to facilitate our stay in Melbourne far exceeded any and all expectations; we could not be more grateful for it.

On top of giving us a access to their homes (and bathrooms) within minutes of meeting them, both Paul and Petra did everything to make us feel part of their family. We enjoyed a delightful evening at Paul’s with his kids as we watched Australia’s victory over New Zealand in rugby. Fortunately enough, we also stuffed ourselves with Paul’s delicious trademark lasagna and potato wedges. On the other hand, coming back to Petra’s house after work was always an experience in itself. Their adorable dog Boris never missed a chance to jump around for 30 minutes at a time and whenever we entered the house, the kids were always running between school exams, hockey trainings, and babysitting evenings; in short, there was always something going on!

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Simone, Paul, Laurent (L->R)

It was in this environment that we were able to accomplish a number of things. Having finally registered Winston to our name, we began looking for ways to refill our account. Finding a job in Melbourne was a lot simpler than we anticipated. We spent a weekend on SEEK, Gumtree, and Indeed in a search for a job. Unfortunately we weren’t really decided and so applied for all sorts of things. ‘Professional typist at a law firm’, ‘driver for deliveries’, ‘tour-bus driver’, ‘music teacher’, ‘high school tutor’, ‘tour guide’, ‘construction work’, ‘office-temp’, ‘charity fundraiser’, ‘animal conservation’; to mention a few… After another day of tweaking and altering our CVs and writing out multiple cover letters, we sent off our applications; and within a couple of days we received responses.

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As we have traveled to Africa on multiple occasions and worked with, in, and around NGOs, we figured we would try working as Amnesty International Ambassadors to fundraise money for them on the streets. Initially we weren’t exactly sure how the job would turn out but after the interview session we were satisfied with our decision. Once the job was locked in, we took a few days to see Melbourne before starting our fight for Human Rights on the streets!

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