From Vietnam to Melbourne via Germany and Malaysia

It’s been a while. I took an extended break to work on side projects and enjoy the quiet life. Here’s what happened over the last 12 months.

After spending a month in Vietnam one year ago I travelled to Germany to visit my parents. The plan was to come back to Australia maybe January or February, but it ended up being a good opportunity for me to spend a few months working on various things other than work and trying to figure out the next step in my career. So I stayed a little longer.

I got the chance to join my dad and friends on a snowboarding trip in Austria in February, which was awesome. I hadn’t done any snowboarding in years, and it was great fun.

Unterleitenhof Kitzbühel
Unterleitenhof Kitzbühel

I endured winter in Germany (tough), saw spring and summer, did some hiking and gardening and enjoyed a life without obligations where I managed to get some things done that I always wanted to do but never had time for, such as digitising my collection of old VHS concert tapes. At the same time I was scoping out my return to Australia since I kept getting calls and emails from recruitment agencies all the time, so around June I started plans for a return in August.

My dream would have been to return to Northern Australia, possibly Darwin. But for IT people like me there are few jobs, the place to be is Melbourne or Sydney, that’s where the money is (and the modern technology). In the end I thought it was reasonable to move to the city at least for a couple of years. During that time I can save money and plan the move to a warmer climate zone.

I found a cheap flight to Malaysia, a country I had never visited before, so it was exciting. I would have loved to return to Vietnam, but after so many months in Germany I was really keen to be back in Australia rather sooner than later. I’m going back to Vietnam when I have more time.

Petronas towers
Petronas towers

Malaysia was actually fairly boring my taste. For some reason I booked in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, I should have thought more and booked outside the city near the coast, maybe on a nice island. Maybe next time.

When I arrived in Melbourne at the airport I got randomly checked by plain clothed customs officers three (3!!) times before they finally let me claim my luggage and leave the airport. I asked the last one if they triple-checked all Australian residents before they let them back into the country where they have lived for years. It reminded me that I am still only permanent resident, which doesn’t mean first-class Australian. I hope I can apply for Australian citizenship in the near future, it would be amazing.

I stayed at a guesthouse in South Yarra for the first couple of weeks and went through quite a few job interviews. One company even invited me to come to Sydney over the weekend, they paid for the flights. It was a fantastic weekend, I would have loved to stay in Sydney right away.

But when I came back to Melbourne and sat on the tram late at night, there was this unique Melbourne-vibe again, and I instantly knew that my place was Melbourne. It’s hard to compare Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney has great beaches, warm weather, fantastic coastal lifestyle. Melbourne on the other hand is slower-paced, peaceful, much cleaner and friendlier, a city where it’s all about quality of living. Hard to describe.

Sydney feels more superficial to me, Melbourne is a welcoming cosmopolitan city. Melbourne has the Formula 1, the Australian Open, MotoGP and everything else you could think of, Sydney has a ridiculous-looking monorail cutting through the city. I didn’t even know Sydney had a monorail train until I walked around the CBD and suddenly I stood in front of it. I couldn’t believe anyone would build such an ugly thing right into the heart of this beautiful city. The same monorail train like in Kuala Lumpur, except there the whole city is architectural chaos, so it makes sense.

South Bank
South Bank

In the end, since I don’t have roots anywhere in Australia I could imagine living in both places, but for now Melbourne works for me. I will miss the beaches and great weather though. And I would have loved to go bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, it looked spectacular from the airplane.

Luckily right after I came back I got an offer from a Melbourne-based company, which was much more attractive than the one I got from the Sydney-based one. A few weeks later I now live in a nice modern share house in North Melbourne, ride my bicycle to the office every morning and can’t wait for summer.

At the moment I can’t really think of any upcoming hiking trips, it will be several months before I can even take annual leave, so there’s enough time to make plans.