Penny for the Poor

by Ant Stone on December 18, 2008

in Australia

Penny for the poor? Thanks mate, you’re a champ. Actually, ahem. I couldn’t be cheeky and ask for another two hundred and eighty-eight pennies could I? I need to grab a tram. Are you sure? Cheers fella, you won’t regret that! Fancy a pint? Two beers por favor. Six hundred and twenty-two pence? Oh, uh… mate, is it your round? Chin-chin! That beers given me the munchies, don’t know about you but I could murder a kebab. Three hundred and eleven pence. Thanks buddy, I needed that. Belch. Lets take a gander at the museum! “Two hundred and sixty seven pence please sir. Each.” Didn’t cost a penny once we were in, eh! Just need to pop to the shop mate, are you coming? Eggs, tick. Milk, tick. Bread, tick. A handful of apples, tick-tick-tick. Six hundred and twelve pence. Oh. Umm. Yeah. Are you sure? I must owe you what, like two thousand pennies? Two thou… wow. Well, I best be off home mate. Thanks again! Sorry, I never did catch your name?

Note to self: Don’t expect to save any significant amounts in one of the most sociable cities in the world. Second note to self: Don’t expect to be paid your old UK salary just because you once earned it. Third note to self: Don’t expect that you’ll be back in Melbourne again so make the most of it and live from payday to payday. Fourth note to self: Ignore third note to self unless you want to become stranded on the world’s biggest island with no hope of moving onwards. Fifth note to self: No more notes to self, you’re boring your readers now. Sixth note to self: No seriously. You’re boring everyone.

I’m not downbeat. I’m not disheartened. I’m not despairing. I’m not anything else beginning with D. I’m actually really happy here in Melbourne. I wake up everyday, stretch my arms out really wide and roar like a lion. Reb shouts at me for whacking her in the face, but I just go back to sleep. I wake up nine minutes later, slump my paw (I’m still a lion) on the phone-cum-alarm and crawl out of my cave onto the urban savannah. Nine hours later I saunter back into my cave and if I’m lucky I find my lioness curled up in a dark corner. I sniff at her neck before awkwardly slumping my leg over her and… Seventh note to self: Stop there.

This morning I woke to the thought-process that people from big cities are less likely to travel long-term (I’m no longer a lion) than those from the quirky corners of that land. I have absolutely no facts to back that up, but I believe the theory is right. Have you ever come across an Englishperson on the road? Did they tell you they were from London? Yes, that’s what I tell people too. In fact the majority of Englishpersons within a 200 mile radius of the Big Smoke claim London status for no more reason than they’re tired of the “where’s that?” retort when they say “I’m from Biggleswade”, “Coddleswollop” or “Slough”. The Swedish are all from Stockholm. The Australian’s are all from Melbourne or Sydney. The Dutch are from Amsterdam. The French are all from Paris. The Popes are all from the Vatican. It’s convenient, if not a little sad.

Getting back to my point. People are really from the most wonderfully obscure little towns and villages, where they grow up hearing stories of Dick Whittington (a curious cat). Before you know it you’re bursting through a Beijing bamboo bush with that boy from Biggleswade. He’s there because there’s less to spend his money on in Biggleswade; his rents cheaper, his salaries not much less and he gets a couple more gulps to his pound in the local boozer. There’s not a cultural event going on every other weekend and I’m throwing it out there that a Biggleswadian’s* networks of friends is slightly smaller (therefore he goes out less). To relate this theory to my current life. I’ve saved less than AUS$1000 (£450) in four months of being in Melbourne, simply because there’s so much to do. Even the freebies end up costing you $30 just for leaving the house. You come back with a camera full of memories and a pocket full of receipts for random little things. Tram tickets. Lunch. A beer. Then you get home to be tempted out again by one of those ‘couple of cheap beers’ nights. As you’ve already had a beer it makes sense that you go out and tell everyone about it. Three beers, four beers, five beers more. That’s $65. That’s more than half a days wage. On the days I don’t go out, I’m usually in the supermarket checking the firmness of avocados and the like. That’s $25 minimum. Plus the tram. Plus it’s thirsty work.

The typical backpacker theory goes like this; Spend all your money in Asia; Go to Australia; Get a job; Buy a campervan; Travel round Australia; Sell the campervan; Move on. The problem is the campervan costs you in the region of AUS$6000 (£2700) and it’s bloody hard to save that much in Melbourne – never mind fuelling the van, and yourself! We had a visit last week from our friends, Andy and Amy. They’re working in Griffith (NSW) cleaning out the inside of vineyard tankers. There’s hardly anywhere to go out in Griffith. Their accommodation is ridiculously cheap. Their food is stupidly cheap. (They get free weed, shhh). And they get paid a respectable $24/hr (easily more than Reb or I earn in Melbourne). That’s where we should be. However The Trail has transmogrified from a quick couple of years round the world, to a much bigger, less-defined yet more-accepted lifestyle of journals and jaywalks. If I was to find myself inside a tanker armed with a brush and bucket I’d be pining for the big city treats of Melbourne. That’s why I’m still here, after all – what’s the rush?

So here’s a point of debate for the comment column. Could it be so, that the majority of the travelling community hails from the villages?

*No Biggleswadian’s were hurt in the making of this post.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

johanna December 19, 2008 at 6:58 am

So get yourself to Griffith for a while, earn some money and stop whingeing.

Yeah, city life has lots of distractions. But get away from the crowd, learn a bit about yourself along the way and add to your collection fo stories.


Ant December 20, 2008 at 8:21 pm

I think I implied that I like being in the city because I’ve been away from the crowd so long – so stop whinging and read it again : )


[F]oxymoron January 28, 2009 at 11:22 am

I’ll just say this again… when you publish something, I expect an email kindly informing me to spend my hard earned money on your book(s).

That’s out of the way. Onwards. I lay claim to Washington DC as my “hometown” even though I, at the time (pre-trip), lived two miles outside of its border. Nobody ever wants to brag to a drunk that they once ran into a guy from Wheaton, Maryland… a few miles from DC.


Ant January 29, 2009 at 9:55 pm

With these kind words, you are spoiling me (but rest assured, you’re top of the mailing list, [F]ox!) I hear great things about Washington DC, must be quite a change from Wheaton though? Say hi to the Obama’s from me.


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