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After safely but tiredly arriving in Perth and finding my way to my hostel, my first week in Australia was mainly spent familiarising myself, and aimlessly wandering around the city centre in a jet-lagged haze. The four months of intense house renovations and migration preparation before setting off had left me little opportunity for any planning.
I must say, I was kind of underwhelmed during the first few days. Despite looking at average temperatures before I migrated, and having lived in Oz before, I think I’d built up an image of Australia as being the land of eternal summer, with streets full of al fresco diners, laughing and clinking glasses in the sunshine. I arrived to find a city much colder than I’d expected.
While the winter afternoons in Perth were quite warm if you were in the sunshine and out of the wind, after 4pm it could be teeth chattering, and overnight the temperature regularly fell to between 2 and 5 degrees! Since the hostel dorms were unheated I was sleeping in not only winter pyjamas, something I’d thrown into my backpack as an after thought, but an extra layer of leggings and a hoodie!
Combining the low winter sun with the shiny, towering skyscrapers meant that Perth CBD was a grid of long, shadowed streets. (Once it hit summertime the shade was an absolute Godsend – I’m not complaining)!
What did excite me was seeing all the things I’d forgotten existed – the shop names, Golden Gaytime choc-ices, and the fact that occasionally middle-aged men in Australia have mullet hairstyles (well, in Perth at least!).
I happily wandered Murray Street Mall etc, listening to the Aussie accent and staring around me thinking, “Oh yeah, Valley Girl, Just Jeans, thongs…” and being hit with an avalanche of fun-filled memories of my exchange year in Brisbane some 13 years earlier. Cold and shade, or no cold and shade, it beat sitting at a desk all day!
Perth was also a place quite massively under construction. There seemed to be cranes poking out of the skyline left, right and centre, and the riverside area around Elizabeth Quay – although lovely in parts – was mostly a giant building site. So off I wandered, back and forth from town, picking up food from Woolworths to squeeze into my bulging, oversized hostel fridge and trying to get into the swing of being a thirty-something backpacker.
Backpacker Life in Perth
My hostel was quite pleasant, as hostels go: working Wi-Fi, lockers to keep your valuables in, cute tv room with a fire and brightly coloured landscape pictures adorning the walls. Sharing a kitchen and having springs jabbing into my back while I tried to sleep wasn’t ideal, and I’m not sure if I had the sneezes from hay fever or the level of dust under my bed, but hey, you get what you pay for!
My fellow backpackers were friendly too – thank goodness, since half of the first week was spent inside the hostel, rained-in together, with only those who had jobs actually braving the battering downpours – although the whole chatting-to-total-strangers-all-the-time thing had become quite alien to me after spending ten years straight in my home town, and would definitely take some getting used to.
Also, a big difference from when I’d travelled Australia more than a decade earlier was that a lot of the backpackers were working full time and had been living in the hostel for about six months – a far cry from the (good ol’) days when Australia was cheap and backpackers tended to do a bit of work here and there but mostly travel and drink goon!
There were also a few other issues in addition to the weather and itchy nose that impeded my first week as a backpacker – mainly:
1. Jet Lag
This seems to get worse as I get older. The first few nights involved being woken up about 2am by my stomach, that was convinced it was dinner time, followed by an eventual weary and lightheaded scavenge in the kitchen then a three-hour period of lying in bed wide awake.
I would then wake up properly around 11am, to find that my entire dorm was still in bed! For ten years my alarm clock (my most hated possession) had been going off before 7am, and my mental alarm annoyingly continuing this trend at weekends. 11am being the norm was a new way of life indeed!
2. Road works
The sleep situation wasn’t exactly helped by the jack hammers going off at all hours right outside my street-facing dorm room.
3. Snoring Roommate
Don’t ever be fooled into thinking girls don’t snore. I’ve had way more problems with female friends snoring than male. I’m not kidding when I say that a German girl in my room, no older than 19, with golden hair and a face like an angel snored like an absolute beast. To the point that one girl actually left the room and spent the night reading on the sofa. Total hell.
4. No Mobile Phone
For some reason, I thought the only people I’d be texting were those at home in the UK, so instead of buying an Australian sim card on arrival like normal people do, I’d invested a whole £15 on credit on a UK sim card that could be used abroad for no extra cost.
The network decided to confusingly send me two sim cards, neither of which had any credit on. I then spent most of the first couple of weeks caught in a repeating cycle of emailing them and missing their return calls, eventually giving up entirely. This meant that my explorations involved printed paper maps from Google.
Conclusion after a Week in Perth
Anyway, whinging aside (forgive me, I’m British – it’s in our blood) my first week in Perth as a thirty-something backpacker/migrant hybrid went fairly smoothly. I made some friends, discovered much more interesting places to visit in Perth than Murray St Mall, and aside from the severe sleep deprivation and lingering exhaustion from the previous few months preparing to migrate, felt pretty calm and positive.
Backpacking life and Australia in general were definitely going to be fun!
Check out my tales from my second week in Perth, when I misplaced my new friends and got trapped inside a hostel by a mad man!