I love city life – public transportation, the abundance of different styles of food, and the high energy vibes – it’s all good in my book. Still, sometimes it’s amazing to take a break from the city and escape for the day. This weekend, Michael and I hopped in the van and headed an hour south of Sydney to Wollongong. This little beach town is full of restaurants, shops, and a long stretch of yellow, sandy beach. This is what we did with a day in Wollongong. This is Day Trips from Sydney: Wollongong.

Day Trips from Sydney: Wollongong

The road to Wollongong is as scenic as the city itself. We took the Grand Pacific Drive – a bit longer of a drive, but 10x more beautiful. The Grand Pacific Drive goes along the beach, with opportunities to stop at ocean rock pools, adorable beaches, and the beautiful Sea Cliff Bridge.

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

We stopped at a few photogenic places on the way to Wollongong. Sea Cliff Bridge, Bald Hill Lookout, and the Coalcliff rock pools are all places I’d recommend.

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

Bald Hill Lookout

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

Coalcliff Rocks

Once you make it to Wollongong, explore the lighthouses along the beach, take a dip in the ocean, or grab a bevvie at the Illawara Brewing Co.

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

craft beers at Illawara Brewing Co

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

There are loads of places to eat in Wollongong. Some of the most recommended are Diggies, Lee & Me, Lower East Cafe, and Pepe’s on the Beach. We opted to stop at Scarborough Hotel, which is on the way back to Sydney, and offers endless ocean views from the top of a cliff.

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

A day in Wollongong is a great way to escape the busy city of Sydney. I’ll definitely be back to explore some more!

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Though I usually have a big smoothie for brekky, sometimes it’s a bit too cold for an icy drink first thing in the morning. When the temperatures outside drop, I like to cook up a big warm bowl of comforting oats for breakfast! I love the versatility of oats – there are so many different ways you can make them. Today, I decided to have a warm, chocolate banana oatmeal bowl.

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

 

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

This is my first recipe of Plastic Free July – in this recipe, no plastic packaging was used.

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

This recipe turned out even better than I expected – it’s so delicious! The flavors of the healthy supplements like flax meal and chia seeds are hidden underneath the overtones of rich chocolate and banana. Though it seems that this chocolatey bowl would be too good to be good for you, I healthified it in the following ways:

  • Cacao: this is the unprocessed, raw version of chocolate. It has no sugar in it, but has a deep chocolatey taste. Cacao has 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries, it’s a good source of iron, it’s full of magnesium, and is a natural mood elevator
  • Flax meal: flax is full of heart-healthy omega-3’s, and can help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Flax has insoluble and soluble fiber, which will kick start your digestive system and keep your guts clean!
  • Chia seeds: A great source of fiber, chia seeds are a fabulous plant-based source of protein, iron, anti-oxidants, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Chia seeds are great for the skin, and they’ll boost your metabolism.

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

I’m not sure we could make a healthier bowl of oats if we tried. So let’s get into the recipe!

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Ingredients

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp flax meal
  • One heaping tsp cacao
  • 1 banana
  • Maple syrup, to taste

Directions

Cook the oats according to package directions. I cook mine with water, but if you usually use milk, sub in your favorite plant based milk. When the oats have absorbed most of the water and are nearly completely cooked, stir in the flax, chia seeds, and cacao. Stir until fully mixed, and then pour into your bowl.

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

Slice your banana and place it on top of the oats. Top with maple syrup to taste.

Viola! Let me know in the comments if you are going to try this out.

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It’s July and in the world of sustainability, that’s an important month. Plastic Free July is a thing, and I’m so excited to participate this year.

Plastic Free July: Why I Am Participating

One of the reasons I was so excited to move to Australia after 2.5 years of full time travel was to be able to nest, build a home, and decrease my carbon footprint even further. I’ve seen the effects of plastic on our planet and I don’t want to contribute further.

Plastic Free July

plastic covered beaches in Vietnam

While traveling, I knew that going vegan, using public transportation, avoiding plastic bags whenever possible, and carrying a reusable water bottle are ways that I was helping the environment. But I wanted to do more.

Lifestyle changes that I’m so looking forward to while settling down include: starting a herb garden; shopping bulk; devoting time to finding the best natural and eco-friendly skin, makeup & hair products; and increasing my health by having more control over what I am able to make.

Plastic Free July

plastic water bottle floating in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

When I moved to Australia, one of the first items on my agenda was to visit a naturopath and take a saliva test for my hormones. After getting my results back, I saw that I had high levels of estradiol in my body. This could be due to so many things. My naturopath gave me a ton of lifestyle factors that could be affecting this, but one that really stuck out to me was using plastic. I had no idea that the chemicals used to make plastic could actually be disrupting my hormones!

This is one of the biggest reasons I am so excited to participate in Plastic Free July. I really look forward to spending a month figuring out ways to avoid using plastic. Not only will this help balance out my hormones, but it makes such a difference to the planet!

Plastic Free July

ingredients for my Chocolate Banana Oats – from the bulk store

The Effects of Plastic on Our Planet

Did you know that all of the plastic that has ever been created is still on this Earth? Plastic takes 500-1000 years to break down. That means that it will live on this Earth for at least 5 times our lifespan, maybe even 10. And that’s not even the worst part. Plastic doesn’t ever decompose – it just breaks into tiny pieces of microplastic, which leeches into our oceans and affects the marine life. If you’d like to know more about this, I’d highly recommend watching the documentary A Plastic Ocean, available on Netflix.

The manufacturing of plastic, as well as it’s destruction, pollutes the air, waters, and land of our Earth, while affecting our bodies and the lives of other animals on the planet. Now seems like a great time to try out a month of no plastic.

What do you say, want to join me?

Plastic Free July: How To Prepare

To prepare for Plastic Free July, I took inventory of my garbage bin. I looked at what I was throwing away, and started to look for alternatives. I found a bulk store just a couple of train stops away and made a few simple swaps.

Plastic Free July

Here are the main changes I am making:

  • Switch out conventional skin care for simple, natural products from my kitchen
  • When my hair products run out, try package-free shampoo & conditioner bars
  • Make my own cold cream face wash
  • Swap out grocery items typically packed in plastic for items not packaged in plastic, examples:
    • Buying bunches of kale instead of plastic bags of spinach
    • Swapping plastic-packaged frozen berries for acai powder from the bulk store
    • Bringing my jars to the bulk store to stock up on oats, lentils, and cacao
    • Getting gluten-free pasta from the bulk store instead of the supermarket
    • Using acai powder from the bulk store in smoothies instead of plastic-bagged frozen berries
  • Look for package-free versions of things I currently use
  • Shop the farmers market before the grocery store

Some resources that helped me out were:

Instagrammers doing amazing work in this field:

During this month, look forward to:

Healthy recipes using bulk-store ingredients

Plastic-free and eco-friendly tips I learn along the way

A new section on the website devoted to sustainability

 

Sign up below if you want to try Plastic Free July as well (or just get semi-monthly emails about sustainability).

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After two and a half years of full time travel, I’ve made a very exciting decision – to create a base in Sydney, Australia! This is an exciting adventure for me and it means that Michael and I will be able to settle down into our own place, and create a permanent base to travel from. In this post, I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten since deciding to make the move.

Moving To Australia After 2.5 Years of Full Time Travel

Moving to Australia

The Visa

How are you permanently moving to Australia? What type of visa are you on?

I’ve previously done the working holiday visa in Australia – that’s how I met Michael! I am now in the process of applying for a De Facto Partner Visa, subclass 820. This is a very long and complicated process. I came into Sydney on a tourist visa to start the application process with Michael & find a lawyer to work with on the Partner Visa.

Moving to Sydney Australia

What is the “Partner Visa”? Do you need to be married to get this visa?

The partner visa that I am applying for is called a De Facto partner visa. To apply for this visa, you must be in a monogamous relationship with an Australian citizen or eligible permanent resident and have been living together for the past 12 months, minimum. You’ll need information proving that your relationship is legit.

For this visa, it is not required to be married, but it is the most complicated partner visa to apply for (mainly because you aren’t married – the government wants to make sure that your relationship is legitimate and you are fully committed to each other).

In general the visa process is much simpler if you are married, as you’d apply for a different visa which is much less complicated.

Moving to Australia

Are you and Michael going to get married? Why don’t you get married to simplify your visa process?

I get this question a lot. Michael and I have been together for a year and a half, and we are in a very committed relationship. Of course we plan to stay together for the long term. We’ve travelled the world together, and now we are building a home together in Sydney. So why don’t we just get married?

After a lot of talking, we decided that although we do plan to be together long term, we don’t want to get married just to get a visa. We want a marriage to be on our terms, not just to simplify the visa process.

How does the visa process work?

In recent years, partnership visa applications in Australia have skyrocketed. The country currently grants 50,000 partnership visas each year (this includes all partnership visas – not only De Facto visas, but also visas to partners who are married).

Because I am applying for the partnership visa while I’m in the country, I’ll be able to stay in the country while my visa is decided. This is the main reason I entered the country on a tourist visa before applying for the partner visa.

Moving to Australia

The immigration office needs time to process my visa application after lodging it. Once my De Facto Partner Visa application is lodged, I’ll be automatically transferred to a Bridging Visa. A bridging visa is a temporary visa that allows me to stay in the country and work here while my Temporary Partner Visa is processed. On the bridging visa, I have work rights and can also apply for Medicare (yay health care!).

The Temporary Partner Visa is granted within roughly 18-24 months of lodging my application. Yes, this means I’ll be waiting about two years to get my Temporary Partner Visa. The temporary visa is granted first, and I will continue to have the right to work in Australia.

The Temporary Partner Visa is a two year visa. Once the two years are up, Michael and I will submit more paperwork to the government showing that we are still together and happy. We will need to submit bills and proof that we are still living together and still in a committed relationship. The government will then process a Permanent Partner Visa.

Moving to Australia

After the Permanent Partnership Visa is granted, and once I’ve lived in Australia for four years, I’ll be able to apply for Permanent Residency.

The entire stream of visas goes as follows:

Tourist Visa –> Bridging Visa –> Temporary Partner Visa –> Permanent Partner Visa –> Permanent Resident

What is Permanent Residency? Will you still be a US citizen?

Permanent residency means that I will be able to continue living in Australia without continuing to apply for visas. I can be a permanent resident of Australia without becoming a citizen, or I can choose to apply for citizenship if I’d like to.

Moving to Australia

Australia currently allows dual citizenship. This means that you can be a citizen of Australia and another country. The United States also allows for dual citizenship. This means that I can be a citizen of both Australia and the US, if I choose to. There is a lot of research involved in this process that I have yet to do before deciding what I’d like to do.

What I’m Doing in Sydney

What will you be doing in Sydney?

I came into Sydney on a tourist visa. This means I can’t legally work in the country until that expires and my bridging visa kicks in. Until then, I’ve been working on this website, I’ve created a Minimalism Series for Youtube, and I’m revamping my ebook. When I’m legally allowed to work, I’ll be looking for a position in an industry I am passionate about. I’m currently looking into the travel industry and the coffee industry.

Moving to Sydney Australia

Will you still travel?

Of course! Travel is a huge part of my life, and a huge part of who I am. Travel is so important to me. It forces me out of my comfort zone, allows me to grow, and learn more about other cultures and other parts of the world. I am so excited that I am able to settle down in a country other than my home country, so I can properly explore more of Australia when I’m not traveling internationally.

Moving to Sydney Australia

Want to know more about moving to Australia?

Check out my other posts on Australia:

Do you have questions?

I’ll be doing a more in-depth post about the visa process, stay tuned! If you have other questions related to Australia or moving abroad, let me know in the comments below.

 

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Ha Long Bay is a magical place, and it’s at the top of the list for lots of travelers visiting Vietnam. However, visiting Ha Long Bay can be extremely overwhelming. There are hundreds of tour companies to choose from. Some of them can be shady with safety precautions, while others seem overly expensive. This post is all about my experience cruising Ha Long Bay, the companies I chose, and why I chose them. This is the Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay.

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is a beautiful place, and on many bucket lists. It was on mine for years before I visited! I booked a luxury bus trip to Ha Long Bay city, so I could stay overnight. It’s a 4 hour drive from Hanoi. Some people do it in one day, but I wasn’t into 8 hours of sitting on a bus in one day.

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

On the way to Ha Long Bay, the tour guide on the bus helped me choose the perfect trip for me. The bus company was nice and luxurious (and only $19 USD), and seemed trustworthy. I knew they wouldn’t put me on any ghetto boats.

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

I booked a trip right there in the bus. It was easy, affordable, and the bus took me right to the port to hop on the boat. The trip included 6 hours of cruising, a kayak trip to Monkey Island, and a full buffet lunch (they catered to vegans on request). The trip came to a total of $60 USD, and even included a bus ride back to Hanoi the following day.

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

We even had the opportunity to hike to the top of one of the little islands. Here we got the best view of the bay.

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

I spent the day on the water, exploring caves, kayaking, making new friends, and watching the sun set as we sailed back to shore.

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay

All in all, I can completely recommend booking with Watitravel. I used Rosa EcoBus to get to Ha Long Bay. The luxury bus is best for a trip to Ha Long City, or if you plan to stay in Ha Long Bay longer than just the cruise. Most cruises include the trip to and from Hanoi as part of their price (for a standard bus). If you do decide to stay in Ha Long City, I’d highly recommend Rosa EcoBus.

This was the Ultimate Guide to Ha Long Bay.

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