So you want to go to Bondi?

When I first visited Sydney I met up with some Aussie friends at Bondi (pronounced “Bond-eye”) beach. I remember being shocked that they actually lived there. I asked one of them: “So you go to work and then you come home and…go to the beach?”.

Early morning on Campbell Parade #nofilter

I had travelled halfway around the world to visit this famous beach and here was a guy who had a similar day-to-day as me (similar job in media, working in the city), but he would finish his day in paradise. I couldn’t comprehend that you could actually live like this: city life and beach life together as one, with no compromise in sight. He then pointed to a block of apartments just behind me and said, ‘Yup, and I live right there!’. Gobsmacked.

It didn’t take long for me to move over. Soon I was working in the city, living a block from the beach and enjoying this miraculous, #nofilter life. – Alex

And now, five years later, it’s time to leave this beautiful place. It’s been amazing to pack up and not feel that panic of “What if I never do this again?”. That sense of completeness has come from hundreds of sunrise and sunset swims, gelatos, boardwalk/coastal walks, grassy knoll sits, and more. I think Tory and I can both say that we’ve lived Bondi to the fullest. In honour of this we’ve put together a little guide to help you get the most magic out of our favourite bubble…  

Just an average sparkly Saturday #nofilter

Bondi – The bad

A lot of people in Sydney have an opinion about Bondi. Most of the time it goes something like this: too busy, too touristy, too expensive, too vain, too party hard, too wellness, etc. But I think, as with everything, there are many facets to it. Yes, you can find all of those things if you choose to, but our experience in Bondi has pretty much been the opposite.

Too busy:

If you like walking, you’re in paradise. If you try to drive, then you’re asking for it. And of course one of the most famous beaches in the world, in the biggest city in Australia, is going to be busy. What else would you expect? Summer brings the crowds for good reason, it’s 20min from the city and it’s gorgeous! Come winter though it’s a quiet little paradise, but you have to get out there to enjoy it.

Too touristy:

Campbell Parade, the main street along the beach, is usually tourist central, but as soon as you turn onto Hall St, Curlewis St, wander into North Bondi, etc. you’re all good. When you live in Bondi you get to experience the strength of its community. Try to NOT run into someone you know – I literally can’t leave the house without having an impromptu catch up with a few friends along the way.

Too expensive:

From billionaire penthouses (James Packer had a property on my street) to backpacker share houses…there’s literally something for everyone. I was lucky enough to find an apartment with very cheap rent and stay in it for five years. It was cheaper than what I paid in Toronto – and it was bigger, nicer and one block from the beach. Believe guys!

Wholesome afternoon at Icebergs #nofilter

Too vain:

The land of fitness and yoga. Bondi is a land of beautiful people and it’s easy to look at that as intimidating, but instead of looking at how ‘good’ most people look I think it’s important to look at what they’re actually doing…running the beach, swimming at Icebergs, coastal walks, ocean swims, outdoor workouts…get amongst it! Find the joy and stop caring about what everyone looks like. Most people are outside pursuing their sporty passions, so find yours and join them. My favourite group are the 70+ budgie smuggler (speedo) swim crew, who are out for a sunrise swim EVERY, single morning, shouting hellos, always with big smiles on their faces.

Too party-hard:

If you’re looking for it you can always find it, but one of the beauties of Bondi is that most places aren’t open past 12. This means you can go out and still be well-rested for sunrise!

Too wellness:

The land of GF, kombucha, bio-dynamic, mylks…yup, all true. I think I’m too far down the rabbit hole to comment on this one haha. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid and it was refined sugar free!

Tory and Anna, the sunrise squad #nofilter

Bondi – the good

It’s called “the bubble” for good reason.

It’s the only place I’ve ever found where from about 5am-8am (give or take your schedule), you can swim, surf, run, do any other kind of workout, chat with friends while walking the boardwalk, meditate, be lucky enough to catch a breaching whale or jumping dolphin or two…but still be in your city office by 9am ready to pump out your day. And when summer rolls around, add coming home from work and doing it all over again until sunset. Absolutely life affirming.

Such an amazing community of positive, go-getting people who value and treasure how special the situation is. Case in point: there are two free foam surfboards that live in North Bondi, tied to the boardwalk. They’re for anyone to use and I’m guessing some magic fairy comes along to replace them if they ever get broken.

Top qualities: community, small-town vibes, friendly, safe, multicultural, the best activities are free, good food @ a good price, ridiculously beautiful, so walkable, best people watching, BEST ICE CREAM

Mysterious sunsets #nofilter

Our top 5 favourite things to do in Bondi

After five years of dedicated research, here’s our list of the top five things to do in Bondi. Also note…with the exception of one, they’re all FREE…oh Australia <3. Heed this advice, go forth and enjoy it to the fullest!

2 degrees out, 20 degrees in #nofilter

Sunrise (swims) / $0

The number one thing I would tell anyone and everyone to do is sunrise. If you aren’t doing Bondi sunrises you are missing the best thing about it. No matter how tired you are or how cold it may seem, when you get down to Campbell Parade and see that beautiful bay, it shapes your whole day. Each sunrise is different (just ask Aquabumps). No matter how early you wake up, you’ll always feel like you’re late because there will always be someone keener than you already out on the boardwalk, the coastal run, in the water, etc. It’s a buzzing hive of happy people, all doing their own thing and you can’t help but be inspired by it. Starting your day feeling like you’ve already accomplished something great = priceless.

And if you’re out there for sunrise, why not add on a swim/dip/dunk…be brave. Get in there. You will never, ever regret it. I promise!*

*You also never know who you will bump into. Like the time Tory and I were walking down the boardwalk and ran into Hugh Jackman and Zach Efron fresh out of the water and rinsing off at the outdoor showers…

Pro tip: Someone once told me that the water temp is a few months behind the season, so the water’s actually warmest at the start of winter and coldest at the start of summer. – Alex

Icebergs: the pool for the people #nofilter

Icebergs sauna and swim / $8 per visit or get a 25 visit card for $160

Confession…I didn’t even go to Icebergs for the first two years I lived in Bondi. Have you seen it? Coming from Toronto, where anything that beautiful would require membership and $$$, I didn’t even think it was something I was allowed to do. It wasn’t until I wanted to improve my ocean swimming skills and signed up for swimming lessons at the pool that I realised its motto was ‘everyone is welcome’. I was never a lap swimmer until I took that course and learned the pure joy of swimming in a salty, straight-out-of-instagram pool. Add on some meditation or friendly chats in the sauna, complete with ocean view (I once watched a pod of dolphins leap for joy as I was dripping in sweat) and a post sauna hot waterfall shower in the change room and you are set…pretty much for life. – Alex

Coastal walk #nofilter

Bondi-Coogee coastal walk (or Bondi-Tamarama / Bondi-Bronte/Bondi-Clovelly) / $0

When I first moved to Bondi, I couldn’t believe the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk was in my backyard. It’s a 6km walk one way starting from Icebergs and winding along the coast on the cliffs past Mackenzies Bay, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Gordon’s Bay, and Coogee – all beautiful beaches unique in their own way. Everyone in the Eastern suburbs has a favourite and there’s really something for everyone whether you prefer rocky bays, white sand or cement or you’re into ocean pools, parks, bbqs, volleyball or tanning. Around every turn is another breathtaking view and there are some days when the sun is so bright and the ocean so blue that the water literally sparkles. During different parts of the walk you feel like you could be in the mediterranean, on mars or in the tropics and if you’re lucky you may spot dolphins, whales and the occasional local celebrity. I’ve probably done the walk almost a hundred times by now and still, every single time, I stop multiple times along the way to take it all in. It’s the type of experience I would have only had once a year on vacation when I lived in Toronto (if I was lucky), and now I could do it every day if I wanted to which I still can’t quite believe. – Tory

Grassy knoll hangouts #nofilter

Grassy knoll sits (North & South)

North Bondi / Sunday summer sunset sesh:

Best place to listen to some acoustic guitar whilst watching the surfers, swimmers and sun, and enjoying a few before night falls. Also: very good people watching.

South Bondi / Full moon, new moon, or just any nighttime sesh:

Have sat on this well-lit grass, at night, with friends or on my own, probably over a hundred times. Lie down, take your shoes off, plant your feet on the grass and look up at the stars. Stay until everything feels calm, peaceful and right. Repeat as many nights as needed. – Alex

Nighttime runs / $0

One of my favourite solo things to do in Bondi is go for a run at night. I love running through the streets up to the North Bondi Golf Course where you can catch some epic sunsets and panoramic views of the neighbourhood and the ocean. In the summer, I’ll run down to the beach for a dip and in winter to the boardwalk for a mini workout. The beach at night is a completely different place – no crowds but always enough people around to make you feel safe. Bondi is my playground on those runs. Sometimes I’ll try to master a chin up at the infamous bars that are normally filled with musclemen and influencers (I still can’t do a single chin up without jumping!). Other times I’ll practice handstands, do a mini workout or just sprint down the boardwalk at full speed. There’s a sense of freedom in the darkness that makes me feel like a kid again. If you’re ever feeling like Bondi is too hectic or just need some peace, then definitely take some time to explore the neighbourhood at night because there’s a whole other side to it in those quieter moments. – Tory

Our favourite Bondi eats

Bondi has heaps of food options and we haven’t even come close to trying them all, but here are a few of the Bondi staples that we love and highly recommend. If you’ve ever visited us, we’ve probably taken to you at least one (or several) of the places on this list. – Tory

Classic açai bowl and choc peanut butter bowl

Cali Press – My go-to spot for smoothie bowls and people watching. They have the best acai in Bondi (expertly layered with delicious granola and topped with passionfruit, coconut flakes, goji berries, pistachios, banana, strawberry). Honourable mentions go to the PB & Choc and Green Me bowls and the Le Chocolat smoothie.

Nalinis – Delicious, healthy, plant-based Indian meals cooked with love! Nourishing food made by a mother and daughter team that feeds your body and soul. The falafel bowl and tasting platter are my favs and if you’re keen for dessert their nut-based ice creams are a treat.

El Indio – Authentic Colombian food and warm vibes. I recommend the bowls which come in huge portions and include your meat of choice, rice, beans, salad, and plantains (the best!). Always brings me back to the days of living in Costa Rica and getting $5 meals from the local soda.

Bangkok Bites – Best Thai food in Bondi. BYO, super fast service and delicious meals that come in generous portions. The seafood feast, papaya salad with softshell crab, and pad thai are a must.

Gertrude & Alice – The bookstore/cafe of my dreams – cozy, warm, serves delicious meals and always has a box of free books to peruse outside. The lentil soup is famous for good reason and their sweet treats will satisfy any of your sugar cravings.

Macelleria – I still don’t know how to pronounce this one but what I do know is that they have the best burgers in Bondi. And it’s not just burgers, you can get steaks and other meat cooked fresh as well as some delicious sides – sweet potato wedges and mixed veg are always winners.

El Indio…chicken, guac and muy rico

Messina – My first love in Bondi! Alex took me on a Messina Gelato tour when I first arrived in Sydney that included a 5 course degustation at their factory and I was hooked. They make everything themselves (they even have their own dairy cows now) and they put actual chunks of cake/pie/cookie etc. into their gelato. Every week they have new feature flavours and they let you taste test as many as you want! I recommend always trying a few of the features, but you can never go wrong with salted coconut mango, mint chip (very minty!), choc chip and anything chocolatey. Also pro-tip from the factory tour – any time they have pistachio gelato they are actually selling at a loss so take advantage if that’s your flavour of choice!

The Shop – Tiny spot owned by Bondi locals that makes it feel like you’re eating a home-cooked meal with your family…because they are…a family…and you feel it. Their salads are divine, especially the Japanese chop chop and Italian meatball.

* Side note – Just realised 5/8 of these places are on the same street within 100m of each other, that’s how small the Bondi bubble is!

Other random, wonderful Bondi things

  • Stop making sense

    Going to Harris Farm Markets multiple times a week (sometimes multiple times a day)

  • Margaritas at Bondi Rumba, cheeky dance sessions at Bar 34, chicken kahuna burgers at The Stuffed Beaver
  • Petting Billy at Birichina on the walk down to the beach
  • Going for a swim at the exact same time as [insert friend’s name here], without ever having to make plans to do so
  • Walking out of the house on a Sunday at 7am and not coming back till 7pm because you’ve spent the whole day going from random run in, to impromptu activity to impromptu meal
  • Hearing so many different languages as you walk down the street
  • The little community library bookshelf popups scattered all over the place, often found in random little alleyways
  • Sunset summer surfs after work, even when there are no waves and you just sit out there surrounded by a haze of cotton candy skies
  • The days when the ocean is so flat you can just float on your back for ages
  • F45 Bondi, the BEST team of trainers and fitness community
  • Drinking chai at the market on Saturdays
  • The house on Curlewis that says ‘Stop Making Sense’
  • Uge-spotting (Aquabumps)
  • Seeing every Australian reality TV personality in person at the pub, boardwalk, Icebergs, etc.
  • Chocolate chip cookies from Umu
  • Swimming the bay and having the lifeguards come over to ask you “How ya going?”
  • Sunset volleyball sessions: friends, music, life!
  • Walking the boardwalk: bare feet on warm concrete – one of life’s simplest pleasures
  • Spotting new art on the graffiti wall along the boardwalk
  • Forest Knoll Ave…if streets looked like fairy tales, this would be it

    Volley crew #nofilter

Mid-arvo, chilly swim, happy as a clam #nofilter

So that’s our little (long) love letter to Bondi, our cozy bubble home for the past several years.

Bondi, you’ve brought us more beauty, joy, friendship and life lessons than we could have ever imagined. Thank you for the countless fairy floss skies, ocean therapy sessions, lazy beach days, boardwalk strolls and nights spent stargazing. You’ll always have a place in our hearts as our first Aussie home. Bondi, you are pure magic and we love you!

Written by Alex & Tory


Tnfld Podcast | Ep04: Josh, from ambitious dropout to dream maker

Hometown / Auckland, New Zealand
Currently resides / Bronte Beach, Sydney, Australia 
Job / Full Stack Web Developer

A little bit about…

Josh is truly living a 2019 life. He’s found a way to have both work and play in the best way that suits him and his needs. A lot of that came with knowing himself and what would and wouldn’t work for him. A lot of people think “Oh, I want to be a digital nomad” without actually thinking about what that could mean (financial instability, bad wifi, the temptations of being in paradise, but not being able to enjoy it). As a full-stack developer he could have easily gone that route, but he knew being a full-time digital nomad wasn’t right for him. He wanted there to be a separation between work and travel so that he could fully enjoy his travel time and BE THERE 100%. But short trips weren’t going to cut it. So when he got back from Bali after a month he had a proposition for his boss…

Josh’s advice for living life Tnfld
  • Ask for what you want, especially at work, whether that’s more vacation time, flexible hours, a work from home option, etc. “It’s 2019 I feel like we should be able to ask for what we want and not always feel like we work for our jobs, but that our jobs can work for us too. And we can kind of create this life – why do negotiation always have to be about money?”
  • Do different things to break out of your comfort zone: “Every time I’ve made these drastic life changes it’s been kind of scary, but when I look back later I always think – wow that’s the best thing I ever did.”

  • March to the beat of your own drum. If you can’t hear that beat, do the things you need to do to grow your inner voice and your confidence in that voice. Over time you can teach yourself to be more confident with your decisions, with change, and ultimately with yourself.

Our favourite quotes

“For me the dream life would be a 50/50 mix of both travel and work. Take three months off for travel then come back and have a [9-5 work] lifestyle and nourish that other side of my brain [for the next six months]. The dream is to do both. So I asked for it. No one’s ever asked and no one thinks to, because negotiation is such an ancient thing. No one really asks for what they want and I thought…what do I really want?”

“For the first time in my life I came back to work from the holidays and I didn’t have the post-holiday blues. I was ready to work. [I thought] “Man my life is sick, I’m ready to work”…it was my choice to be there. That was the difference.”

“People say to you “Oh, I wish I could do that” and I think, “Why can’t you?” I’m not special. I’ve had nothing given to me, not a cent from anyone ever….but I’ve always just gone for it and slowly over time I’ve taught myself to be more and more confident with those decisions and making those changes.”

Josh’s Motto

In 20 years’ time you’ll always regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.

Inspired by Josh? Check out his travels on Insta…

thekiwinomad_ (he’s also an amazing photographer)

Josh’s Favourites

Some of the books that influenced him the most when he was first starting out…


Moving to Australia pt3: How I stayed

So I visited Australia, I fell in love with Australia, and then I moved to Australia. But the tricky part was…how would I stay?

Home and away (but actually the beach the TV show is filmed on)

Making the decision to move to another country is a giant step. Buying the ticket, telling your family and friends, packing up your belongings…they’re all big stepping stones to the life you want. Then there’s finding a job, residence, and community in your new home, and add on all the psychological stuff and it’s pretty full on. But the most important part, in my opinion, is figuring out your visa situation. Not just for the immediate future, but for long term.

The thing is – and I’ve seen it time and time again here – even if you think you’re just coming for a fun year, you really never know how you’ll feel by the end of it. And if you realise you can’t bear the thought of leaving, life will be infinitely easier if you’ve at least plotted out a slight idea of how you can stay.

There have been so many changes to the system in the past year that some of this does not apply, but I figure there’s still some value in my journey to Permanent Residency.

How I became a Permanent Resident in my favourite country on earth:

Holiday working visa, 417 (HWV):

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/417-

This visa entitled me to one year of travel and work around Australia. I was allowed to work anywhere I wanted  so long as it didn’t exceed six months in any one place. This is available for Canadians and a host of other nationalities up until the day you turn 31. The price at the moment is $450.

HWV 1 year extension:

That time I worked on a cucumber and strawberry farm…

If one year isn’t enough time to explore the country there’s a way to add an additional year to your HWV, for many countries there’s the option of doing your regional work (aka farm work…although it doesn’t actually have to be farm related). This involves spending 88 days working in regional Australia. I worked on a small cucumber and strawberry farm in Woolgoolga. I dreaded it, but in the end it ended up being one of the most interesting and Australian experiences of my life.

Temporary work (skilled), 457 (aka Sponsorship!):

*This visa no longer exists as of this year…but my advice about planning definitely still applies*

Sponsored, happy and celebrating Xmas in July

During the second year of my WHV I spent six months working at a well known media company with the aim of getting sponsored by them. They offered me sponsorship and the next phase of my Aussie journey began.

At the time I started (2014), to get sponsored you needed to have a relevant degree to the job you were being nominated for, meet the min. amount of experience required, and a host of other things. I have friends now who have worked really hard to be offered sponsorship only to find out they don’t meet the minimum requirements and would have been better off getting a more relevant education to enable them to stay. I also have friends who weren’t fussed about their timeline so didn’t check out their options early…they ended up missing out on the 457 path to permanent residency, even though they are sponsored now and are very uncertain about their future in two years.

So much has changed in the last year regarding this visa, that I advise you to do your research and do it well!

Permanent Residency, 186:

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/186-

With the now defunct 457 visa, once you worked at your place of sponsorship for two years you were eligible to apply for Permanent Residency. I was lucky that at the time the waitlist was only 6-7 months. The whole process was costly (I think I spent around $8k), but more than worth it. On Feb 13th, 2016 I got an email from immigration saying my PR had gone through. I didn’t even know how much it meant to me until I burst into tears at my desk like a crazy person. Haha. Luckily it was 5:30 and time to go home. I detoured to the Opera House with some friends to celebrate in style and ferry home with the beauty of Sydney stretched out before me. I am a proud Permanent Resident and so happy to call Australia home.

Citizenship:

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/citi/pathways-processes/application-options/migrant-with-permanent-residence

Once you’ve had your Permanent Residency for one year and lived in the country for at least four years, you’re allowed to apply for your Citizenship (cost: $285). Having done my Permanent Residency application myself I had everything I needed pretty much to do the Citizenship application too. It was quite straightforward and I’ll keep you updated on my status. So far it says wait times are 12 to 16 months and I’m on month six at the moment. 100% worth the wait.

So again, I can’t reiterate how important it is to do the dry work: check out what options are available to you before you even really need to look. The information is all out there and it could save you heaps of time, money and heartache in the future. If you have the chance to live in your happy place, grab it and go forth!

*UPDATE* One year and four days after applying I had my Citizenship interview and test. I just got my letter of approval and am waiting on my ceremony date. It’s not official until you pledge yourself to Australia at the ceremony. So excited and so proud to be an almost Australian citizen.

Moving to Australia

Written by Alex


Moving to Australia pt2: The seed is planted

In February 2012 I visited Australia for the first time. On this fateful trip, I conducted a little survey with every Australian I met by asking them: “Would you say you’re happy?”…not confronting at all, right? 😂

Sneaky pic I took of happy beach goers

But I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this magic place existed. A place where in some ways, everything was the same as where I came from: people worked 9-5, rode public transport into the city, spent the weekend hanging out with friends. Except it didn’t feel the same, it didn’t feel the same at all. It was sunny, warm and the ocean – the ocean – was right there. And nature. And so much green. I met people who had the exact same job as me, but lived in Bondi beach. They lived in a place that I had spent years dreaming about, finally getting up the courage to visit for a few weeks.  They would go to work, then come home and go for a surf! They would hang out with their friends on the grassy knoll on weekends and then head to someone’s house for a barbie (barbecue to the uninitiated) to finish off the day. They had 20 DAYS OF VACATION a year. They were allowed and encouraged to take unpaid leave. They also smiled a lot and seemed very relaxed. There was a general sense that these were people who were enjoying their life as they were living it. It was not about someday – it was happening right now.

But I had always loved Australians, from my fateful days spent on a little island in Greece during two uni summers, when I became friends with a group of them. I loved their easy going, straightforward attitudes. They were just generally good and decent people and so much fun.

So when I asked the “happy” question, the immediate reaction was “…ah, what?” Haha. But then in true Aussie fashion they would “give it a go” and their responses were always along the lines of “Yeah, I guess I am!”.

All the blues and greens

This gave my Toronto-conditioned brain a real jolt. If I’d asked the same question back home the answers would have been along the lines of “I can’t really complain, it could be worse” to the classic “…is anyone really happy?”. This general attitude of complacency – or acceptance, by virtue of it not being “as bad” as something else – never sat well with me. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how you could think like that and be able to find the motivation to go forward. By this point I’d already experienced some really big highs and lows in my life and my whole adulthood in Toronto felt like one long string of baseline “meh”ness. The moments of existential despair had overtime become more and more frequent. I found myself constantly thinking…how could this really be as good as it gets?

Well, it turns out it wasn’t. At least not in Australia. The secret was out! (to me). I had found the place that made sense to my brain. The place that made life worth living. I had peeked behind the curtain, I had seen the emerald city and there was no going back.

I spent the last day of this fateful first trip by myself. I walked through the city and suntanned at Bondi beach. I observed everyone and everything. I soaked up as much as I could and wrote it all down: the things people said to each other, the difference in attitude, my complex feelings of wonderment. I promised myself to find a way to somehow live like that back in Toronto. I was blown over, but I still didn’t see how that amazing place could ever be MY life. I didn’t dare dream that I would actually live there one day. That Bondi would be my backyard. That I would swim every morning in that beautiful, freezing cold sea. That I would get so used to sunshine that a rainy day would be welcomed.

So I went home and tried to keep that sunshine with me…

Six months later I applied for my Australian Working Holiday visa. A year and a half later* I was living in my apartment in Bondi.

And that’s how my love affair with Australia began.

*A whole hell of a lot went on in between then (hello separation from my partner, living a wild life in Costa Rica, working on a farm in small town New South Wales), but that would literally take a novel to write…or many, many more stories.

Moving to Australia

Written by Alex


Moving to Australia pt1: My first time in Sydney

Before I’d ever set foot in this place, Australia was this thing in my mind for a very long time: a sunshine country full of beaches and beautiful, friendly people. In the depths of winter in Toronto, I had this recurring dream where I would wake up on a beach, squinting at the sunlight – the sky unbelievably blue, the surf frothy. The soft sand littered with lifeguards and beachgoers all out enjoying the gorgeous, sparkling day. It was so warm and it felt so real; it felt hopeful and happy and right. I’d wake up from the dream and lie still, eyes closed, trying to hold onto that feeling for as long as I could. I wanted to feel that sunshine…

I visited Australia for the first time in 2012. My best friend Sid and I had always wanted to go ever since a fateful summer living on an island in Greece, where we’d met our first Aussie friends. We spent years after talking about it, but it was one of those trips that seemed like you would need a lot of time and money…and it just seemed SO FAR AWAY. So we let ourselves get swept up in our work and relationships and the trip became a distant dream.

My first pic in Bondi – little did I know this would literally become my backyard in two years.

Then one day, out of the blue, Sid said she was planning a three week trip to Australia and asked me if there was a chance I would come. At the time I was a few months into what I thought was my ‘dream job’ (aka. the thing that was going to make life better, fix everything, give me purpose, etc.), but it had turned into my own personal nightmare – as these things do when you rely on a job to fix your life. I was depressed, anxious and had no idea what to do next. I felt so trapped and I needed an out badly. This was my out.

Quit my job and travel for three weeks?!?! I thought it was crazy at first…three weeks away was a lot in Toronto at the time, but the idea wouldn’t leave my mind. After a month of more misery at work, I realised this was the perfect excuse to leave. I also found out it would only cost $500 return for me to fly with Sid since she was a flight attendant, which basically removed any other worry I had left. Looking back this was all such an obvious sign from the universe – when things start flowing, let the river take you! 

So I gave my notice, threw caution to the wind – with no job prospects for when I returned – and left. We flew to Vancouver, spent the afternoon there (such a good flying break – highly recommend), then took the midnight flight to Sydney where we were set to arrive early in the morning.

When we got out of customs I saw a row of palm trees just outside the gate. The air had a headiness to it. It felt like beach to me. The sky was blue. The colours were different – have you ever noticed that not all blue skies and sun are the same? This sky gave off a bright and warm light. I thought about that feeling I would get when I watched an Australian tv show back home. It was weird to be travelling in an English speaking country – so easy, but still different. We went to buy a bottle of water and I remember being shocked at the $3 price (haha, if only I knew!). We got on the train and headed to Central Station where our hostel was.

When we arrived in the city we were both awestruck. More palm trees. Blue skies. Heat…and this was downtown (or as the Aussies call it “the CBD”). I remember a change starting to take place within me (an awakening really) that I couldn’t yet articulate. The gears were turning. This was an English speaking, first world country – NOT in the US (which I was never a fan of), with amazing weather. We were giddy with excitement.

View from Taronga zoo. I thought it looked like Toronto.

You know those things you put off for awhile out of fear, a purported difficulty, or a myriad of other reasons? But then, when you finally do it you’re like…oh. OH. OHH! And regret immediately not having done it earlier? That was Sydney for me. That was Australia. I had a huge…“How did it take me this long to get here?!” stamped in my brain, on constant repeat. Why would I ever have put this off? Yes, the flight was long, but really – any flight longer than 8 hours is going to take your day and night anyways, right? And yes, it WAS so far away from Toronto, BUT in all the ways that mattered, it didn’t feel very far at all. It was easy to navigate, there was no language barrier and it was familiar – a thoroughly western city. And then on top of all that, it was absolutely, bloody gorgeous. I finally understood what world class city meant. The harbour, the ferry commutes, the luscious park havens right in the CBD (Hyde Park and Botanical gardens), the food and THE BEACHES: white sand, clear water, 20min from downtown – they were everywhere! And the weather, did I mention the weather?! It was Toronto on its most glorious day…every day.

I loved Sydney the minute I laid eyes on it.

Moving to Australia

Written by Alex

200hr YTT pt.1: How I chose my 200hr yoga teacher training course

*This post is from 2017 and transferred from an old blog*

So you want to yoga…

I’ve wanted to do my 200hr yoga teacher training for the last three years, but it wasn’t until I quit my job that I felt like I finally had the time (and mental capacity) to go for it 100%. There are so many options for yoga teacher training – in so many countries – that it can be overwhelming choosing which one is right for you. I decided to make a list of what I wanted from the experience and find the program that best fit.

What I wanted from my 200hr yoga teacher training:
  • Recognised accreditation
  • A reputable, well-known, popular school/studio, with a post-course community
  • Sydney-based yogi friends
  • Exotic locale
  • A dense, shorter time frame (as opposed to every weekend for a few months)
  • Personal development
  • Positive reviews
  • Value for money $
  • A good vibe!

With these factors in mind I spent a good afternoon going down a rabbit hole of yoga. I hemmed and hawed over the idea of doing my entire training in Bali, but decided it was really important for me to have training that was well-recognised in Australia, as well as a post-course support group if I wanted to do my 500hrs in the future. I also looked at schools in Byron Bay and Hawaii, but the costs of doing the course, paying for accomodation there, plus my rent in Bondi made it too expensive. In Sydney, there were only two studios who’s programs I seriously considered: BodyMindLife and Power Living.

Both had schedules that I could fit my life around, but Power Living stood out because not only was the training in Bondi (and five minutes from my apartment), but there was a one-week immersive retreat in Bali as part of the program*. And – serendipitously – there just happened to be a 200hr yoga teacher training info session at their Bondi Junction studio that next day.

So what I haven’t mentioned yet is that even though I’d been wanting to do a yoga teacher training course for a few years, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a yoga teacher per se. I loved going to yoga, but I would leave amazing classes feeling high, elated and searching for something more…like I’d only touched the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to know more and I wasn’t sure if that was enough to do a teacher training course – would I be the odd one out? The info session at Power Living helped dissipate every worry I had. Sol and Jordan were so chill, inspiring and very firm about how the course was a journey for anyone who loved yoga and that I didn’t have to be a flexible, hand-standing, perfectly lycra-ed being to partake. They also explained how the early bird discount worked in conjunction with the Power Living member’s discount…which meant the course, including the one-week Bali immersive retreat (!), would end up costing me less than any of the other courses I’d looked at. I signed up the next day without any hesitation, ready to yoga.

So how did Power Living stack up to my original list?
  • Recognised accreditation:
    • Yoga Alliance (USA) & Provisional Membership with the Yoga Teachers Association of Australia (YTAA)
  • A reputable, well-known, popular school/studio, with a post-course community:
    • 8 studios in AUS and one in NZ
    • An extensive, wide-ranging selection of advanced modules/retreats that go towards your 500hr credit
    • Power Living Teachers Network: a new program for graduate teachers to promote themselves, connect with each other and get discounts on upcoming workshops and retreats ($$)
  • Sydney-based yogi friends:
    • Most of the students in my group are from Sydney (others are from the Gold Coast, Canberra, Adelaide and even Philadelphia (!))
  • Exotic locale:
    • Hello Bali. One-week immersive retreat at Kommune Resort in Keramas. And even though Bondi itself might be considered an exotic locale to some…haha, it doesn’t hurt to be able to go for a swim at break 🙂
  • A dense, shorter time frame (as opposed to every weekend for a few months):
    • They have a few different types of courses to suit different schedules
  • Personal development:
    • Power Living is big on this, which was a huge attraction for me. We’re constantly questioning our assumptions about ourselves and trying to identify our self-imposed limitations. LOVE THIS.
  • Positive reviews:
  • Value for money $:
    • Great early bird and members discounts. These helped me sign up without hesitation, but even without those discounts it’s worth it and then some – an invaluable life experience (and I’m currently only halfway through).
  • A good vibe!:
    • The instructors are amazing, so knowledgable and so conscious of what different highs and lows everyone might be experiencing. They speak to this a lot and it really makes a huge difference.

Link: Power Living 200hr teacher training

* Two months later I just checked out the BodyMindLife site and they’ve added on a one-week Byron retreat to their program, which would be a GREAT value add. Byron Bay is AMAZING.

I’m currently in the middle of the course. I’ll definitely write about my experience at the retreat in Bali, as well as the entire 200hr yoga teacher training course as a whole once I’m done my exams in mid-July. Stay tuned x

Written by Alex

The 200hr YTT series:


Are you living in the wrong place?

When I decided to move to Australia, my dad told me he was worried I was running away and warned me that “the grass isn’t always greener”. This warning haunted me my whole first year in the land down under. I found myself always waiting for the other shoe to drop and constantly questioning my choices. What if I was just escaping “reality”? What if I was just being unrealistic? I may have left Toronto behind, but I made sure to take my anxiety with me…

Emma and me, five years post-farm (Crate Cafe, Canggu, Bali)

While working on a farm in Australia (see why here), I met my Swedish friend Emma whilst packing cucumbers. We were talking about the differences between Australia and where we came from and if we would go home or stay. I still clearly remember when she said: “Alex, just because you were born somewhere doesn’t mean you’re meant to stay there.” Then she proceeded to list off all the reasons why Australia suited who she was: from allowing her to be outside all year long to abundant sunshine to the fitness-first, active culture. Something about the way she stated it so matter of factly, struck me deeply because it rang so true.  Just like ‘1+1=2’, Emma was saying that ‘you’ + ’where you live’ should also = something. It should add up.

There’s the place you were born and then…there’s the place you were meant to be. For those who were born in a place that has always felt like home – you may not get this sentiment, but for those who have always felt a little off, this could be for you.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, but something never felt quite right. Growing up I didn’t know how much of that was attributed to my place of residence, but looking back the signs were all there.

Here is my very non-scientific, very personal “Are you living in the wrong place?” checklist.

When at ‘home’ do you:
  • Feel like an outsider for no obvious reason?
  • Fantasize and/or find yourself living your whole life for your next vacation?
  • Find it hard to be motivated by what’s ‘”supposed to be” important in your life, but your friends/coworkers/family seem to have no issue doing so?
  • Feel like your outlook, emotions, opinions, etc. are often different than the general sentiment?
  • Feel like you’re limited in the ability to do the things you want to do based on your surroundings?
  • Feel like the way people go about things is unnecessarily difficult?
  • Feel like the way you’ve been living doesn’t make sense to you?

Obviously these questions can apply to a wide spectrum of things and should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt (and context), but bear with me and let’s continue with this exercise…

Have you ever been somewhere else and:
  • Felt immediately at home (and not just because you were sipping a daiquiri/lounging in a luxe hotel room/etc.)
  • Met people who you have more in common with (and not just other travellers, but locals)
  • Felt like the way people live life there makes sense
  • Felt like you could see yourself living there beyond the honeymoon period of travel
  • Felt like your values were finally being met

If this all sounds too familiar then you probably also have a home away from wherever you grew up. I carried around a lot of guilt about leaving Toronto – “Why did I have to move across the world when I lived somewhere so great?” was a question directed at me many times by many people.

But it wasn’t great – not for me.

And just because something’s not outright awful doesn’t mean you have to stay and spend all your energy trying to make it work. I was always taking on new projects, activities, etc. (sewing classes, running groups, soccer…to name a few) to try and turn things around. I kept thinking that if I just found the right thing somehow life would start to make sense. I thought if I found that thing I would all of a sudden “get” what everyone else seemed to – the invisible force that kept them motivated and excited about their lives. And yes  – contentment is found within and equanimity is the goal, but if you have to spend more than 20% of your day just dealing with your circumstances (-30 degrees outside with a nice icy slush to shuffle through/horrible transit/a very serious corporate culture) then maybe it might serve you better to be in an environment where you can free up that energy to be spent on more positive and productive pursuits. Have you ever heard that quote about how you need to fill up your cup first before you can fill up anyone else’s?

In this day and age, especially if you’re born in a first world country with the means and resources to choose your fate, make sure you honour that privilege by making a choice. Remembering to choose consciously and with purpose.

So one year into my Australian journey, my parents finally came to visit. We took a ferry across the water from Circular Quay to Manly (sidenote: best public transit commute in the world). The water was sparkling, the sun was shining – Sydney was turning it on. My dad stood at the front of the boat, very still and quiet as he watched the cliffs fly past. He turned to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said: “I can’t believe it. The grass is ACTUALLY greener here…I wish I had moved to Australia when I had the chance.’’

Are you where you were meant to be? If not, where is that place for you and why?

Written by Alex

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