I’m so happy to introduce you to my first international Travel Ninja, Allison. She lives in Australia and manages to be both an amazing fashion blogger and maintain a high powered banking job. She blogs at www.sydneyfashionhunter.com so please check out her blog after you read her feature. I think you’ll find her story interesting!
1. You live in Sydney, Australia but your parents were born in Britain. How and why did your parents end up in Australia?
My parents came to Australia in 1969 as “10 Pound Poms”. At the time Australia’s population was only 12 million and the government of the day realised that to grow and become relevant on a global scale this needed to increase so they offered discount airfares (10 pounds) to UK citizens who were prepared to make a new home in Australia. My Dad was very unsettled in the UK at the time and for a couple of years they have been talking about moving to the USA (Florida actually) and then the Australia offer came up. My Mum was not as keen and took a little convincing.
My Nanna was not happy and thought she would never see her little girl ever again given the cost of travel at that time was prohibitive and ‘normal’ people didn’t have the means to travel half was across the globe, that was a pastime only for the rich and famous. Despite the doubts they got on that plane at Heathrow and landed in Sydney some 45 hours later. I was born 2 years later and with no family and few friends here this made my Mum very homesick so they sold up in 1973 and went back home.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and this was surely true because the vision they had of the UK in their heads was very different to the reality and within 9 months they were back on a plane headed down under. I’m an only child and we lost my Dad to a very sudden heart attack when I was 10 and Mum once again considered going back but even at 10 I wasn’t having a bar of it and told her she could go but I was staying! She let me win that one and I am infinitely grateful that they made that very big and scary move all those years ago. I’m Sydney born and bred and love everything about this country and could not imaging living anywhere else.
2. While growing up in Australia was travel part of your family’s life?
My parents didn’t have a lot of money but because of the ties to the UK they made it their mission to scrimp and save and make the travel happen. As a child I visited the UK twice (at 8 and 13 … I don’t count the brief stint when I was 1 because I don’t remember it!). I have fantastic memories of both trips because I was introduced to a family I never knew I had. I met ALL my cousins (and there are a lot of them!) and we made lifelong connections that continue today.
In fact three of them have visited me down under and one is now living here. We also did plenty of road trips around Australia as a youngster, with Queensland being a favourite. Australia is a big country and driving means loooooong distances so I’m sure there were plenty of “Are we there yets?” from the backseat. After my Dad passed my Mum also took me to the USA (and of course Disneyland) when I was 13.
3. When many people think of Australia they think of kangaroos and that awesome accent you guys have. For those that aren’t familiar with your country, what do you want people to know about the land down under?
Our people are our greatest asset. Australia is in the top 10 multicultural countries in the world and over 250 languages are spoken in Sydney. This melting pot means that the immigrants of the 50’s and 60’s have brought many cultures to our shores which we get to enjoy every single day. Also as beautiful as Australia is it can be dangerous … Our sun is dangerous, our surf is dangerous and our critters are dangerous. Don’t let this put you off coming down under though, just be sensible and you’ll do just fine!
4. You’re a Senior Risk Manager for a major bank and a fashion blogger (check out SydneyFashionBlogger.com here!) Those are very different worlds, how did both of them pique your interest?
I joined the bank straight out of high school 26 years ago. It was never meant to be a long term thing, I thought I would just earn some money while I figured out what I really wanted to do. I spent 15 years in the retail section before I decided I needed a change. I looked on the banks online job search for a role as different to my current one as I could find and there was a role in risk that piqued my interest. I had no experience and no qualifications which I was very honest about in the interview.
I have no idea what made those guys take a chance on me and give me the the role but I am glad they did because I have found my niche and have never looked back. 10 years on I love my job (mostly) and the work that I do which is predominately around fraud prevention.
Fashion blogging is a new venture that I started just under 12 months ago. My weight has always yo-yo’d throughout my life and I have gained and lost the same 20 kilos at least three time so when I got serious in 2013 about getting it under control I found myself in 2014 with not a single item in my wardrobe that fit me. Not a single item! (I’m not counting socks and handbags!).
So I was in a position where I had to build an entire wardrobe from scratch, which some would think is an enviable position to be in but the reality is rather daunting! About the same time my girlfriend dragged me along to a “Blogging For Beginners” course for moral support as she was wanting to get into the mummy blogging game. I loved what I learned and started my blog straight away which started out as featuring the items I was buying to build a wardrobe each week and grew from there.
It’s mostly a great escape and I have loved the people I have “met” in the blogging world (especially you Roni!) and am seriously amazed on a daily basis by the talent of the bloggers of today. I often feel very inadequate in comparison! BTW – My girlfriend still hasn’t started her blog lol
5. How much vacation time do you get from the bank and do you use all of it each year?
I get four weeks a year and use every bit of it! I usually split it up into three breaks (one of two weeks and two of a week each). When we have a week off we usually head to Thailand or Bali and try to go a little further in our two week break. Because I have been with the bank so long I also have nearly 6 months of long service leave up my sleeve that I use to supplement when my leave is running low.
6. You took a road trip through America. Which states did you drive through and was driving with the steering wheel on the left hand side of the car strange? What about driving on the right, was that difficult?
“We” have driven a number of times in the USA. By “We” I mean the royal we because the hubs did most of the driving but if I do say so myself I was an amazing navigator! We have driven in Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. Driving on divided roads or highways is not an issue, it’s the little streets that will get you every time and you really need to concentrate when turning corners.
The gear stick being used with the other hand is also a challenge and just feels so unnatural. The first time we picked up our car from Maui airport and the minute we drove out if the driveway we were on the wrong side of the road. I was screaming like a crazy person at him, he panicked, the kids in the backseat thought they were going to die so it was not a great start but he got there in the end and didn’t kill us or any other road users thankfully.
We did have one issue in New Orleans a few years later (without the kids) where we mixed up our days and forgot to check out. So after a day out we arrived back at our hotel to find the door locked. When we realised that we were supposed to pick up our hire car at 1pm. It was then Sunday at 7pm so the dealer had closed. We headed to the airport and picked up whatever car they had on the lot to start our road trip. It was dark and we had no idea where we were going (thank goodness for GPS).
The itinerary was supposed to see us have a leisurely drive through to Biloxi for a late lunch and then on to Destin for dinner and an overnight stay. The fact that we were so late saw us drive through the night in one of the worst storms I have ever encountered. We could not see more than a metre in front of us and I though we were going to die. I was begging him just to pull over and we would sleep in the car. He didn’t! We finally made it to Destin around 2am, exhausted and happy to be in one piece!
7. Did you have any preconceived notions about the USA? How did your perceptions compare to your reality?
Given that I was 13 the first time I went I didn’t have a clue what to expect other than the fact that I wanted to go to Disneyland!. The reality is that they are more similarities than differences between our two countries. One thing that constantly amazes me though every time I’m in the USA is the size of your meals! They are huge!!!
At the risk of looking cheap (and I swear that is not the case!) the hubs and I often share a main meal, much to the distress of our server (but we tip well to make up for it!). There must be soooo much waste and it breaks my heart when many people on this planet still don’t have enough to eat each day. I do get annoyed from time to time by the tipping culture. It seems that everyone has their hand out.
We went on a cruise once on Florida. We tipped the porter who took our bags from our room to the cab stand. We caught a cab to the port and the driver ripped our bag and still wanted a tip. That was never going to happen! Then the porter lifted our bag from the boot (trunk) to the kerb and wanted a tip (actually asked!) and then the check in clerk moved our bags from the kerb to the desk and wanted a tip. In the end I was like seriously “no one else touches these bags! I’m moving them myself!”.
Oh and also American’s are loud!
8. You back packed through Europe. How old were you when you did that and how did that experience shape your perspective?
I was 25 and had just had my second baby and was on maternity leave from the bank. We started our family early and all my friends were still childless. Two of my girlfriends were having the time of their lives backpacking through Europe for 12 months and I was determined I was going to meet up with them for a spell. Luckily I have a fantastically supportive husband who agreed to give me a leave pass for six weeks while he stayed at home with a 4 year old and a 9 month old. I loved every minute of it!
We visited Amsterdam, Paris, Bruges (Belgium), Barcelona, London, Manchester (to catch up with my UK relatives) and the Greek Islands. It taught me not to stress the little things when travelling because things
invariable work out. I’m also learned that Greek Ferry timetables are more a guideline than a rule, carry your own toilet paper at all times, mayonnaise tastes amazing on chips (fries), hot showers are a luxury, my high school French is woefully inadequate, and to be very wary of naked drunken Germans trying to crawl into your bunkbed.
9. What is it about South East Asia that continually draws you to it?
The short answer is that it’s close and it’s cheap. The longer answer is that it is truly spectacular! The people, the food, the scenery, the culture! All amazing. If you have never been to Koh Phi Phi (Thailand) you need to get yourself there stat!
10. You have 2 children, did you travel with them as a family? If so where are some places you went?
Absolutely! My kids have road tripped all across Australia but we have also taken them further afield. My baby boy got his first passport at 2 and we’ve never looked back. We’ve taken them to Europe, the USA and Fiji.