In 2014, I had the most beautiful December in my life. It was snowing in Warsaw when I headed to a small town in East Poland named Lublin. A beautiful family hosted me in their snow-covered house, gave me some warmth I needed in the -7 degree weather. Snow was also falling from Berlin’s sky when my friend and I went downtown at night, and it was all white when her lovely family took me on a city tour in the morning after.
One year later (read: last month), I was “trapped” in a hot December in Australia. Without the snow and real Christmas ambiance, I was afraid I’d have a dull holiday season. So I decided to quit my job in Melbourne and travel somewhere else where I could have a “home” and “family” to celebrate Christmas with. And I have to admit, I missed having a home. So I browsed HelpX, a website that enables people to exchange helps, to find what I wanted. I sent a request to Serena Cabello, a taco shop owner in Phillip Island, only 2.5 hours from Melbourne. Just a few hours after the message was sent, she replied and said yes. So we made the deal: she’d host me for two weeks and I’d work for her at the shop. I was so happy.
On December 21 I took a bus to Cowes, a beach town on the island where Serena lives with her husband Alex and their kids Chili (8) & Marley (5). I love this family at the first sight. Serena is really friendly. Chili and Marley are really sweet and not annoying at all (that’s very important). And Alex is a kind of guy you want to hangout with. And oh, did I mention that they hosted me in their glamping tent? Glamping stands for glamorous camping, and they set the tent up in their backyard for me. When I arrived Serena brought me to my tent, and it was awesome. They provided me with a comfortable bed, table lamp & electricity power, heater & fan, cutlery, towel & beach towel, and ice box. It was just like a hotel inside the tent, and it’s also part of their businesses. Last year they started Phillip Island Glamping where people can hire that kind of luxurious tent for their holiday on the island.
I love my tent. I also love their warm home. They didn’t treat me like a stranger at all. They shared every food they had. They brought me to see some awesome spots at the island and meet their lovely friends. I couldn’t ask for a better homestay family. On December 25, Serena and Alex invited me to their table to have a Christmas feast together. We had leg ham, prawns, crabs, oysters, salmon, and some other delicacies. Not only foods, we also shared stories and laughter. Even though there was no snow outside the house, that was a perfect Christmas celebration.
The day after Christmas I started working effectively at Gidget’s Beach Cantina, their lovely taco shop. It’s a do-it-yourself Mexican food shop where they customer can take any toppings they want from the salad bar for their taco/nachos/burger. My duty was to take order from customers, handle the payment, make margarita, grill the quesadilla, serve nachos with a beautiful melted cheese sauce, warm up the tortillas and serves them. It was the most fun job I’ve ever had in my life! It was stress-free, because most people who came there were on holiday vibe: casual, laid-back, and friendly. Alex & Serena are the best working partners ever. They’re not bossy, and didn’t get mad when I forgot to charge $2 extra for a guacamole order or burned the quesadilla
And I was so in love with the shop’s design. The color is blue, very me. They put some cool Mexican details in the shop, such as Mexican spices in big jars, Mexican cooking book, sombrero, and of course the happy Latin music. It didn’t feel like working at all. Everytime I had to go to the shop I was always happy because it felt like another kind of holiday.
Phillip Island itself is a really beautiful place. Surrounded by spectacular coastal lines, the view is just awesome. I love the beaches, especially Flynns Beach because it’s clean and quiet. The town center is also charming although it’s really small (I didn’t get tired by walking all around the town). More photos of the island: THE PHOTOGENIC PHILLIP.
My most favorite place on the island is absolutely The Nobbies, one of coastal lines that has hills, walking trail with beautiful views, and some stunning rocks. The water color was ridiculously blue, breathtaking! I went there not with Cabello family, but Philipp Kautner, a new German friend of mine that I met during my travel in Australia. He drove me all around the island, and we were fascinated by most views we saw. I think the Nobbies was his favorite too. We also went to an island called Churchill, and it was also pretty awesome. Unfortunately the flies were really annoying, we just couldn’t stand it when they flew on our face, earlobe, and lips. Ew.
I was also glad that I spent time with Philipp on the island. I’ve been wanting to visit conflict area Pakistan, Afghanistan, or tak a road trip across African countries, but none of people I know wants to be my travel partner. I’m not confident to go by myself. Luckily when Philipp and I drove somewhere that afternoon, we talked about it and it turned out that he also has the same interest! And I can see someday we’ll travel there together.
Basically, everything that I experienced on the island was amazing. Every food was perfect, and every person I met was beautiful. That’s why it was so sad for me when bidding farewell to the Cabellos. Serena even wept. I didn’t wanna look at Chili & Marley’s eyes because I was afraid I’d cry. But happiness was way greater than my sadness. Now I feel I have a family in Australia that opens their door for me anytime I want to come. I didn’t know how to thank them for this. I promise one day I’ll be back to Phillip Island to collect every piece of memory I left there.