An early mid-life crisis – From Sydney to Saigon.

How I went from working as baby health nurse in Sydney to an English teacher in Vietnam.

 It began with a sort of early mid-life crisis.

At the beginning of 2018, I was 35 years old, living in Sydney and feeling like something just wasn’t right. Nothing was particularly awful about my life. I had my health, I had a pleasant enough job that paid alright and I am lucky to have wonderful friends and family. Sure, I was single, but I was out there dating, which was fun most of the time. And when it wasn’t fun, at least it was funny. But something wasn’t right.


I have a cousin in Vietnam and I kept seeing photos of his come up on my Facebook. It looked like he was having a good time, so I sent him a message to find out a bit more. The decision to pick up and move to Saigon followed an exchange over Facebook that went a bit like this-

“Hey cuz, how is Vietnam? I am getting bored with my life in Sydney and feel like a change”.

“It’s great. You should move here”.

“Righto then, see you in a month”.

I handed in my notice at work, booked a one-way ticket to Saigon, then embarked on the special kind of hell known as, “selling your things on Gumtree”.

Do you enjoy receiving messages from strangers who will bargain with you over the cost of an old chair only to disappear into the ether once you agree on a price with them? Do you like getting ridiculous requests from entitled twats who think because they are buying something second hand for $10 from you, you should drive across the city to deliver it to them personally? If this sounds like you, then you too should try selling your goods online.


Moving to Vietnam, I had absolutely no idea what to expect and even less of an idea of what I was going to do next if it didn’t work out. Back in 2012, I went for a two week holiday to Vietnam with some mates. My main memory of Saigon is of partying all night only to come back to the hostel and throw up in a bin.

halong bay

Here I am in Halong Bay in 2012, oblivious to the fact that I was going to be calling Vietnam home 6 years later.

From the moment I arrived, it didn’t take long for this city to draw me in with its chaotic energy.  Saigon might not be the prettiest city in the world, but it’s vibrant streets heave with life. Food stalls spill onto the pavements, traffic is bedlam, the nightlife can be wild and the heat is exhausting. This city is at once captivating and maddening but the warmth of the people and the food culture by far and away makes up for any faults.


Off to work we go.


dinner with friends

Dinner and beers with friends.


In just decades Saigon has gone from being one of the poorest places in the world to a boomtown where sky-scrapers are going up at a rapid pace. Change is in the air and maybe in 5 or 10 or 15 years, increasing gentrification will take away some of the city’s untamed charms, but right now, it’s a place that feels like anything can happen, and there is no place I’d rather be.



eating outside

Food is basically my main hobby here.


Never in a million years did I think I’d wind up working as a teacher in Vietnam, but here I am.

Moving to another country isn’t without its challenges and for me the biggest one has been the language. When I first arrived, I was sure I was going to learn to speak Vietnamese no worries. After all, I’d previously learnt to speak Spanish. Sort of.

Learning Vietnamese though is a whole different kettle of pho. The smattering I have learnt is usually met with that Vietnamese hand wiggle gesture or a shake of the head.

Out to dinner one night,, I tried to order a beer. The Vietnamese word for beer is ‘bia’, so surely this one at least wasn’t going to be too difficult.

“Bia”, I said smiling at one of the staff.

He looked at me.

“Bia”. I tried again. “Beeee-a. Biiiiia. Bi-ah.” I tried some variations on pronunciation while making a ‘drink’ hand gesture, only to be met with a look something like this-


He walked off and came back and handed me a glass of some kind of green juice.

“No, no”, I said. “Bia”.

A Vietnamese person sitting close by me said something which I can only assume was along the lines of, “she’s asking for a bia”.

The man laughed, “Ha ha ha oh, bia!” he said.

Suffice to say I don’t think I will be having deep and meaningful conversations in Vietnamese any time soon, but I am taking classes and trying.

The last 10 months have been a wild ride and while it hasn’t always been perfect, it has been pretty wonderful, so I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere any time soon.


There’s no place like….

I’m home. After 18 months living out of a backpack, everywhere from Outback Australia to Nicaragua, my stuff is out of storage and I have a fixed address. I am back at work and I am giving adulting a go.

I hear of people having post-trip blues, but right now, I am stoked to be home. It’s the middle of summer here and I am back with my mates and my family. The work and bills part is a bit of a downer but it is nice to be not starting every conversation with, “Where are you from, how long are you travelling for?”



Moving Day.


Christmas Day with family and friends.

“So,where next?”  people keep asking.

“No-where. I’m staying in Australia.”

“Pft, right I’ve heard that before.”

My life has been on a work, save, travel, repeat rotation and part of the reason I’m home for a while is money, as in, I have none. They say travel is the only thing you buy, that makes you richer. No, no it does not make you richer. It makes you a 33 year old with no assests whatsoever other than a 1989 Corolla.

I would love to be one of those people that travel the world and support themselves “making money from their laptop”.  The folk that travel to beautiful, exotic locations and earn cash from their blogs. How in the holy hell they do this, I don’t know. There are plenty of websites that will tell you, “You too, can live the life of your dreams, making money online” but the reality is, you can’t. Well maybe you can, but I can’t. Shout-out to everyone that comes and has a look at this blog, but I think I am a long way from anyone wanting to pay me for it.


How can this man even see the screen with all that sunshine? I’m suspicious he is working at all!

I reckon I have heaps more adventures left in me, but for now, I’ll be looking for them in my own backyard.


So, there is a hate-thread about me over at Lonely Planet.

So, there is a hate thread about me over on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree site.  Bored at work one night, I Googled myself and there it was. People I’d never met, united together in a massive slag-fest about what an awful human being I am. It’s from a long time ago but I still remember being absolutely mortified when I found it. 

It was all because of a piece I wrote about travelling, that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald  and seems to have got up the noses of quite a few people who enjoy travelling. Like this person-

Wow that lady is so bitter!

I hope I don’t sound like as much of a self-righteous, pretentious, bratty snob when I say I would prefer to travel independently rather than on a package tour as that lady (Carly Smallwood, or was it Smallbrain?) does!

Smallbrain? I have feelings too you know, random internet person.

Written at the age of 24, the article is a lot more caustic than something I’d write today, but if you actually read it, I never knocked travelling, or budget travel or independent travel. I was simply critical of the idea that going off backpacking somehow makes you superior to those that don’t.

                             “I’m not a tourist, I’m a traveller.”



Call yourself what you like, but no-one else cares, and in any case we are seeing different places not curing cancer here so let’s not get too enthusiastic about how wonderful we are.


Thanks hippy. If you hadn’t posted this wise meme on Facebook, I might never have left the house.

Being lucky enough to live in a part of the world where you can have a job that gives you a disposable income, then choosing to save some of that disposable income and get on an aeroplane doesn’t make you any better than people that don’t. Just because you  want to find yourself on a yoga retreat in Guatemala doesn’t mean that life is for everyone. I have friends who have little to no interest in travel. Being away from home and the people they love to go to somewhere stinking hot with limited access to clean water and sending themselves broke in the process is not their idea of a good time.

And that’s cool.

Some people like to go away on holidays and stay in fancy resorts.

And that’s cool too.

For people that pride themselves on being open-minded, “travellers” can sometimes be a judgemental lot. 

Travel, don’t travel, stay in a fancy resort for a week, go hiking alone for three months or stay curled up on your couch with your dog. Your choices are yours and what you do isn’t right for everyone else.

And that is ok.

We need to get the hell off this island.

Remember that time you were robbed, injured while drunk, injured while sober, ripped-off, spent the night as a bed-bug buffet, experienced the most epic of diarrhoea and did things to the toilet you didn’t realise a human could do, crashed your scooter, or had a combination of the previous while at the same time coming down with malaria?

Just keep telling yourself “It’s all part of the adventure.”

“It’s all Part of The Adventure” a euphemism backpackers use when things go to shit.

After having an amazing time working on a farm on the island paradise of Ometepe, Nicaragua I was really excited to be going back there , only this time with my boyfriend, Dean. I was so excited for us to explore this magical place together.


Look at this place, what could possibly go wrong?

As things turned out, going to McDonalds in our pajamas, ordering two Big Macs, then eating them while ignoring each other on our respective laptops at someone’s Grandmother’s house would have been a more fun and romantic time.

From the start, the heat was stifling. For the most part, Nicaragua is hot. You don’t go there to sit by the fire with a cup of cocoa, but the days and nights we were on Ometepe were unbearable.  The humidity sucked the life out of us and left us both unable to sleep. Without even a whisper of a breeze, the only way to fall asleep was to get drunk first, but inevitably we’d wake up a few hours later, drenched in sweat and spend the rest of the night tossing and turning in a fitful, half-sleep.

Despite the suffocating heat and a lack of sleep, we were determined to have a good time.  On our second day, we thought it would be fun to hire some bikes and explore the island.

Never in my life have I endured arse-pain like the vinyl hell that was my bike seat. As I rode I had to constantly re-position myself to share the agony to different parts of my cheeks. Finally, 4km of suffering later, we got to our destination, Ojo de Agua, a beautiful spring-water swimming hole. Admittedly, we did have a pretty good day there, until we had to turn around and endure the brutal bum-bruising return trip.

After another humid night, we woke up exhausted, but still wanted to try and make the most of our time.  Neither of us wanted to look at a bicycle again, so we rented a scooter instead and headed off for another “fun” day of exploring. We’d read some pretty good stuff online about a waterfall called San Ramon-

“Once you reach the waterfall it feels like heaven, pictures do not do justice for this place, the waterfall is so high in person and so beautiful to look at”

And, it was only a three kilometre hike. Easy! We decided to head there first.

I remain convinced there is no way that hike was 3km. It felt like 10km at least, maybe 100.

One website told us,

“At the end the path becomes a little steep, but in general the hike is not very tough.”

Shit. I’d hate to see what whoever wrote that’s idea of a “kind of tough hike” is. Everest?

It was not fun. It was shit and hot and then it got shitter and hotter. Typically unprepared, with just a small bottle water between us, the climb became horrendous as sweat rained out of every pour and we had nothing to replace it with.

Finally, close to dropping dead we made it to the waterfall.

It was alright.

I think maybe the people that wrote about how good it was haven’t seen a lot of waterfalls.

Exhausted and now massively dehydrated I stood under the waterfall with my mouth open drinking it in by the gallon, random, water-borne illnesses be damned.

After our waterfall “adventure” we decided to ride back out to Agua de Oja and chill out in the water for a bit, before spending the afternoon exploring more of the island by scooter. Back at Agua De Ojo, we dumped all our stuff on a chair, stripped down to our swimmers and got in the cool water. Floating around, I kept glancing back, keeping half an eye on our stuff.

“I`m so exhausted” I told Dean.

“Me too” he said, “Maybe we bail tomorrow, I can’t take too many more nights not sleeping”.

I agreed, “Tomorrow, lets just get up and go.”

We climbed out of the water and made our way back over to our stuff and picking up my clothes I realised,

“Fuck! The bag has gone!”

We both looked around as though it was suddenly going to appear, but it was long gone. Dean’s camera (notice the lack of photos?), money and the bloody scooter key were all in that bag. The also randomly stole Dean’s shitty old thongs, leaving him to go home barefoot.


I remain eternally grateful to the staff at Agua De Ojo who went out of their way to help us, moving the scooter somewhere safe in case whoever had the key came back to try and take it and even going as far as to drive us to the scooter-hire man so we could explain what happened.

In my shitty, broken Spanish I tried to tell scooter-hire man how our bag had been stolen with the bike key in it. I assumed we’d have to pay a few bucks to get a new key cut but scooter-hire man told us,

“There is no spare key so this whole bit here needs replacing. It’s going to be $100.”


“Then we are going to need to pick it upso you’ll have to pay….” I could see where he was going with this, adding more on top of the $100.

$100 was already over the top and who doesn’t have a spare key?

I did the only thing I could think of and “burst into tears”.

“Oh God, it`s just, we had so much in that bag” I gasped for air between sobs, “camera, phone, money”. I fake-sobbed harder.

Somebody get me an Oscar.

“Tranquila, tranquila”  said scooter-hire man. We still had to pay $100, but anything else he was going to tack on to that was forgotten.

Relieved that the scooter was dealt with and trying not to feel too upset about the camera being stolen, we returned to our accommodation where Dean immediately fell down some stairs.

“We need to get the hell off this island.”

The next morning we headed off to catch the first ferry we could.  A taxi offered to take us to the port for $3 each. Three. Dollars. I can spend $60 down the pub without blinking at home, but no, I wanted to be a “real” backpacker and I insisted we take the bus instead.

The concept of a “bus stop” in Ometepe is apparently open to interpretation.  The bus just stopped where ever anyone liked. Someone would wave down the bus and get on, then maddeningly, someone got off a thirty meters down the road. With all the stopping and starting it took one hour and fifty minutes. We arrived at the port to see our ferry sailing away into the distance. Luckily, there was another soon after, the first thing to go right for us since we had arrived.

Back on the mainland, we took a cab to San Juan Del Sur,  where we checked into a hotel, cranked up the air-con and cracked open a well earned beer.

What’s your travel disaster story? Ever returned to somewhere you loved, only to have everything go wrong?




Food Rescue in The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes

As places go, Managua probably isn’t at the top of your “somewhere I’d like to live for a while” list. There is Paris of course, and Rome. Maybe you imagine yourself living it up in Manhattan or getting away from it all in the Caribbean, but Managua? I’m sure living in Managua “some-day” hasn’t wandered into your day-dreams lately but it’s exactly where I have been living these last few months.

Not quite sure you know where Managua is? Neither had I until a few months ago, turns out, it’s the capital of Nicaragua. Don’t know where that is either? Go and find yourself an atlas of go on Google Maps.

Nicaragua is a beautiful land of lakes and volcanoes. Since the beginning of my trip, I had always planned to live here awhile, improve my Spanish and do some volunteer work. I day-dreamed about living somewhere like this


Beautiful Ometepe

Instead, I ended up living here.


Managua might not be the most glam of cities. It’s constanly hot and humid, it’s not pretty and the traffic is a nightmare. I found myself staying in this chaotic city because I decided to volunteer with an amazing food rescue NGO. And you know what, I love it here. I live with a gorgeous Nicaraguan family and the work I am doing has become a passion bordering on obsession.

I work with Eat United a grass-roots food rescue group based on a simple concept. We rescue good food that would otherwise be wasted and share it communities in need. It’s a logical, local solution to a global problem, and its working. We run on an absolute shoe-string, our “office” is the kitchen table of one of the volunteers. Despite this, over 25,000kg of fruit and veggies have been saved since 2013 and we regularly share food with 200 a week.


Eat United team in front of our haul of resuced food!

Eat United team in front of our haul of resuced food!

We throw out around a third of all food produced in the world, while at the same time, hundreds of millions of people go hungry. Obviously as far as shit things happening in the world go, good food getting chucked out while people starve is right up the top.  Even in a developing country like Nicaragua, where one in five people go without enough to eat, tonnes of good food is thrown out every day. Our food system is broken and Eat United is working to do something about it.

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Some of the food we rescue goes to a soup-kitchen that gives lunch to 50 -70 kids a day!

Some of the awesome people I work with with some rescued tomatoes, saved from the bin, headed for bellies!

Some of the awesome people I work with with some rescued tomatoes, saved from the bin, headed for bellies!

All this beautiful food was going to be thrown away.

All this beautiful food was going to be thrown away.

Everyone deserves access to healthy food in sufficient quantities and no one should be hungry when we produce more than enough food for all of us. In 2016 we want to expand our work, double the amount of people we share food with and create a paid role for a local Nicaraguan person.

To help us get there we have created Snap Your Snack, a campaign that’s all about celebrating snacks with a selfie! Snap Your Snack isn’t about giving massive donations, but it is about coming together, celebrating food, and using the global reach of social media to support a local solution in Nicaragua.

Getting involved is fun and easy.

  1. Snap it. Take a selfie celebrating your snack.
  2. Make a small donation to Eat United Nicaragua through our crowd-funding page, either as individuals or a group.
  3. Post your selfies and screenshot of your donation on social media with the hashtag #SnapYourSnack.
  4. Tag friends to do the same.
Here's mine!

Here’s mine!

My fellow bloggers, I need your help in sharing the shit out of this campaign to get the word out.

Have a look at this awesome (short) video that shows the impact Eat United is making in a way words can’t 

and share it where you can

Get on Twitter and search the hashtag #snapyoursnack and follow and re-tweet links to our campaign.

Anything you can do to help us grow this campaign would be amazing.A little bit of help from lots of people adds up to a big help for people that need it.

Some Stuff I Learned Working on a Farm in Paradise.

This view was my introduction to Ometepe, the volcano island paradise rising out of a lake in Nicaragua. This place was my home for a couple of weeks while I volunteered on a small organic farm.  I’ve written about this kind of work before, and it’s a pretty sweet way to travel.


The location might have been mesmerising, but some of the work was bloody tough.

Shovelling rocks is hard!

It was pretty rustic.

Sharing a meal after a busy morning.

Our kitchen, note the duckie hanging out on the right.


Hey, a bed’s a bed right?

But after a hard mornings work, we could head up for a beer in this pool.


When you travel, every new place teaches you something. Here are a few things I have learned from working on a farm in the tropics.

1. Roosters do not shut the f*** up. Roosters love to crow at 4.30am. Roosters love to have a crow-off where one starts and they all join in, and just keep on going. How does so much noise come out of such a small beak?

2. When a dog kills a chicken, the results aren’t pretty.

3. Cooking together, with ingredients you’ve gathered from your own garden and sitting down and sharing a meal, is a pretty sweet way to live.

4. There are a lot of insects that like to bite you.

5. There are plenty of plants that like to sting you.

6. Lifting heavy shit in the tropical heat is a bit shit.

7. Beers by the pool taste extra delish after a morning lifting heavy shit in the heat.

8. If you aren’t careful about covering food, chickens will come and eat it, then take a poo on the table just for good measure.

9. When you are standing under a tree looking up at the monkeys, there is a fair chance they will piss on you, (didn’t happen to me but saw it happen).

10. If you are travelling for a while and have a bit of time, you should volunteer on a farm some time. It’s actually is quite wonderful.

Just to finish off, here are a few more photos of the farm and the beautiful surrounding area.



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Ten Travellers You’re Bound to Meet on The Road.

You’ve booked your ticket, packed your backpack and highlighted all the important bits in your Lonely Planet.

This is it. The big one.

You are going on that big round the world trip.

Here’s a preview of ten travellers you are bound to meet out there on the road.

1. The Massive Tight-Arse Traveller.

Not to be confused with the budget traveller, the massive tight-arse traveller can be found complaining loudly and frequently about having to pay to use the toilet. Because the world owes them a free, clean toilet at all times. They never tip, ever, and will walk 2km in the heat to save 5c off the cost of a bottle of water. They consider places that charge tourists one entrance fee and locals another, lower fee, to be the biggest injustice known to mankind. This is despite earning many times what the locals earn and the fact that if locals were made to pay the tourist price, many of them would be unable to visit

Catch-phrase: “It’s not the money, it’s the principle.”

2. The Super-Traveller Traveller

This traveller has travelling down to a fine art. They have a sixth-sense for finding the best and cheapest food in any given location. Their sense of direction is so freakishly accurate you start to wonder if they have had Google Maps implanted into their brain. That back-pack they are carrying is half the size of yours, yet they are travelling twice as long and have everything they need. They are chatting away with locals while you are still struggling to remember the word for ‘thank-you.’ When you ask them how long they have been learning the local language for, they’ll reply.

“Ever since I arrived.”

They arrived in the country last week.

Real Super-Travellers are born, not made. You can learn from them, but you’ll never quite get there

3. The Selfie Traveller

This traveller does not go overseas to meet interesting people or experience new cultures. The main aim of this traveller’s trip is to head to beautiful and iconic locations, turn their back to them and take a photo of their head in front of them. The Selfie Traveller does not really care what such places look like, as long as they look good standing in front of them.Their enjoyment of any given trip is measured by the amount of Facebook likes and Instagram followers they collected along the way

4. The Glam Traveller

While you have tomato sauce stains on your shirt, dirt under your fingernails and a sweat mustache, the Glam-Traveller looks like they just stepped out of a magazine. Not only do they have glossy hair and nice teeth, they also appear not to sweat, while everyone else around them is wringing out their pit patches. Spend a bit of time with a Glam Traveller though, and you’ll see they spend no more time on grooming than you do. They just wake up looking like that, and stay looking like that, all day.

Take heart. Glam Travellers are a rare breed. The rest of us look like shit too.

5.  The Everyone’s Mate Traveller

Within half an hour of checking into a hostel The Everyone’s Mate Traveller knows all the staff and most of the guests by name and has organised a beer-pong tournament. Everyone’s Mate can walk into bar alone, knowing no-one, and leave with invitations from seven different groups of people to come travel with them.

Everyone’s Mate mangles the local language, but hey have a crack at it with such charm that they can be found laughing and joking with locals everywhere they go.

6. The Born-Again Hippie Traveller

This person works in either a bank or for an insurance company at home. Whilst on their big overseas trip, they somehow got invited to a Rainbow Gathering, had an epiphany and decided what they are really meant to be is a ‘free spirit’. Now they walk around barefoot, draped in colourful scarfs, clutching a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth.” The Born-Again Hippie Traveller likes to use words like ‘energy’ , ‘vibe’ and ‘fully’.

They will hug you even when you don’t feel like a hug.

They recently paid $30 for a Finnish backpacker to dreadlock their hair.

One day soon, their money will run out, they’ll go home, cut of their dreads, return to work and those rainbow fisherman pants they’ve been wearing for a month without washing will gather dust in their Dad’s garage.

7. The Know-it-all Traveller

The Know-it-all Traveller fancies themselves a Super- Traveller (see 2.) but in reality, is nothing of the sort. They take great pleasure in topping any story you might have however they fail to realise the difference between telling a good travel tale and boring everyone shitless with a long-winded saga. The Know-it-all Traveller tends to have a loud voice and can be found at hostel bars, interrupting conversations and giving out unwanted advice with a patronising tone.

Learning a language? You are doing it wrong and they know a better way.

Going somewhere? Ha! They have already been and you are going at the wrong time of year.

Just had lunch? Nobody eats there any more. They know a much better restaurant, ’cause, they are just good at this travelling thing.

When they tell you they paid $14 for a taxi from the airport and you only paid $11, smile inwardly but don’t say a word

8. The Party-Animal Traveller

The Party-animal traveller views the world as just one giant, global pub-crawl. Sure they like to see all those sights that everyone talks about, as long as those sights can be seen from the window of the bar. They rate a destination based mostly on how cheap the beer is and how lax the drug laws are.

Your most memorable nights away will feature a party-animal traveller.

Spend too much time with them and you’ll find yourself in a situation where you are bribing a police man.

They should be your first point of call for advice on which local beer is best.

9. The “I’m not a tourist I’m a traveller” Traveller

This traveller considers themselves a true ‘traveller’ and loves to fire the question, “Are you a tourist or a traveller?” at every person they meet.

You’ll stumble over your words,

“Ummm, well, this trip I am backpacking on my own, but last year I went to an all-inclusive resort in Fiji for Mum’s 50th birthday so ummm I’m not sure.”

No one else around really knows (or cares) what exactly it is that differentiates a ‘tourist’ from a ‘traveller’ but this traveller is determined to put everyone they meet into one of two categories. Beware if they decide you fall into the ‘tourist’ category. You will be shunned.

10. Why is this person travelling? Traveller.

This traveller hates all things foreign. They pride themselves on only having eaten western-style meals since leaving home, avoiding all that weird, foreign food all together. After making zero effort to learn even a few words of the local language, they will go through their trip with a constant feeling of irritation that the local people “barely know a word of English”. They will huff and puff about how such crowded buses would never be allowed where they are from and rave on about the fact that where they are from is cleaner, better ran, more organised and generally superior in every way.

Despite all this, they insist that they love to travel and already have their next destination planned.

Have you come across any of these people while travelling, or do you see a bit of some of them in yourself? Are there any others you’d like to add?