Working For a Living in Cairns

Hello from Cairns, Australia, where I can’t help but cheer on the Aussies as well as the Yanks in this year’s Olympics. Actually, after visiting so many different countries on our trip, I find myself cheering for just about everybody.

 

We are happy in Cairns, a.k.a. “Cans” in Aussie-speak. Since the end of January, we had been moving almost every three days, and we were exhausted and burned out when we arrived here. For the three months we’ve been in Australia, we’d mostly been sleeping in the car or in a tent. Feeling homeless was causing some of the worst bouts of homesickness I’ve had on this trip. It was time to stop somewhere and settle for a while. Now that we have a place in Cairns, we can finally unpack for a little bit and stop living out of our backpacks. We’re enjoying the little things that we take for granted at home, little things like regular showers, a closet for our clothes, and a refrigerator. It’s nice to have a “home” in Cairns for a while.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, so we will both be making pilgrimages there before our time here is up. It’s the dry season here in FNQ, or Far North Queensland. Days are warm and sunny, nights are cool and clear, and you won’t hear us complaining about the weather. We’ll skedaddle long before the wet season starts in November, when torrential downpours occur daily and the air is so humid you could cut it with a knife.

With our bank accounts slowly making their way towards zero, and an extension to our trip until June 2009 (20 months total on the road), it was time to look for work. We’d looked for jobs in Noosa and Byron Bay, but since this was our last stop on Australia’s East Coast, we had to find jobs. And fortunately, we did. Right away, Jared found a gig working for Wicked Campers, which came with an unexpected perk–free accommodation. Jared spends his days renting camper vans to backpackers just like us, sharing all the tips that we learned on our drive up the coast. It’s a big change from his previous work as a sales executive in the fashion industry, but it’s stress-free fun for the time being. We live in a three-bedroom house above Wicked’s office with Jared’s two co-workers, Lucy from England, and Fabrice from France. It’s about a 30-second commute to work for Jared.

On my first day of looking for work in Cairns, I found two jobs within hours. I work four hours a day at a nearby bakery, go home for a break, then I wait tables at a hotel restaurant. Both gigs are within walking distance of our house. It’s nice to be working again, especially at the bakery, where I am surrounded by chocolate cakes, caramel tarts, and lemon meringue pies all day. I even got to make chocolate chip cookies on my second day, and the whole time I am thinking, “you’re paying me to do this? Sweet!” Life is sweet, indeed. I love working at the bakery, and it’s made me realize that our materialistic culture puts too much value on prestigous, high-paying jobs. Why do I have to have a high-powered career? Can’t I just be a baker?

The Australian dollar is almost equal to the U.S. dollar right now, but minimum wage is nearly double. Minimum wage here is almost $14 per hour, so when our employers told us what we would be paid, we smiled and said “that’ll do.” A strong Aussie dollar means everything is expensive here for us ($6 a gallon for gas, $25 restaurant meals), but at least now we are getting the flip side of that equation by earning Aussie bucks. Now that we’re working, we can finally afford that box of Froot Loops we’ve had our eye on.

We’re both working six days a week, but we are still taking advantage of the area with our evenings and occasional days off. There is the swimming lagoon right next to the port, and when we want a good beach, we drive the 20 minutes north to Palm Cove. There is a great farmers market on the weekends, a botanical garden nearby, plus a fantastic nightlife. One treat for us was taking a dinner cruise around the Cairns harbor last week.

So while we tuck into our toast spread with Vegemite, (it’s good, really!) check out our photos of life in Cairns.

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