Month 53: Travel Summary and Statistics

Greetings from scorching hot Melbourne, where the temperatures have soared to 45 degrees C and the 100 km/h winds are keeping me burnt and sweaty. Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past four weeks!

Street art in the Fitzroy neighbourhood of Melbourne, Australia

I kicked off this month in Taipei, thrilled to be still and with some semblance of balance. I was spending my mornings working in coffee shops, my lunches hunting down the best budget eats in the city, my afternoons hiking, and my evenings wandering through our local night market. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to be able to settle into a routine for more than a few days!

This month, one of my highlights was hiking Elephant Mountain in Taipei. The views over the city were incredible!

If you’re feeling hungry, brace yourself, because this update is going to be all about the food. First up, Taipei!

tsukemen in Taipei

One of my favourite lunchtime discoveries in the city was Ramen Sanji, where I rarely strayed from their delicious pork tsukemen. Tsukemen is a dipping noodle version of Japanese ramen, where all of the ingredients are served separate. There’s the salty reduced broth, the noodles, a garlic miso soup, and a side dish full of ingredients to add. My favourite? The big slab of fatty pork. I must have eaten here at least half a dozen times while I was in Taipei.

japanese food in taipei

To my surprise, my Taipei trip ended up being all about the Japanese food (side note: why I haven’t I visited Japan yet?!) and the runner-up restaurant has to be Sekijin, which was all about the fried everything. This set meal of salmon and shrimp was my favourite dish.

Poutine in Taipei

One of the things I loved most about the Xinyi neighbourhood was how easy it was to find excellent international food. There was a Canadian restaurant just a few blocks away from our apartment, which was perfect for grabbing Moosehead lager and a delicious bowl of poutine to celebrate the end of another work day. My favourite flavour was the beef, bacon, and melted cheese!

Stay tuned, because I plan on sharing a huge post on everything I ate in Taipei in the coming weeks! I don’t think I had a bad meal the entire time I was there.

mango shaved ice
Silky smooth mango shaved ice from Ice Monster. You can’t visit Taipei without coming here!

From Taipei, I flew to Melbourne, where I set about having the most indulgent couple weeks of my life. With two weeks spent living in the hipster Fitzroy neighbourhood, Dave and I spent our entire time splurging on incredible food!

There was the incredible French toast brunch from Rustica Sourdough.

Breakfast in Fitzroy

The smashed avocado eggs from Industry Beans.

Avocado Eggs from Industry Beans, in Melbourne

The spicy baked Spanish eggs from the excellently-named Breakfast Thieves.

Baked Spanish eggs from Breakfast Thieves, in Melbourne

And the delicious menemen from Gutz, which was even better than the ones I’ve eaten in Turkey!

Menemen from Gutz, in Fitzroy, Melbourne

There’s no doubt about it: this month was all about the food!

And what was I doing when I wasn’t eating? I was snapping photos of the incredible street art in Fitzroy!

Street art in Fitzroy, Melbourne

Street art in Fitzroy, Melbourne

Street art in Fitzroy, Melbourne

New experience time! This month, I rode on the back of an enormous motorbike for the first time! Racing through the streets of Melbourne was an exhilarating experience that was so much more enjoyable than a scooter, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Shortly before riding a motorbike for the first time -- I loved it!

On to the statistics for the month!

Month 53 Travel Map: This month I visited Taiwan and Melbourne, with a short layover in Manila!

Countries visited: 2

Australia, Taiwan

Cities visited: 2

Melbourne, Taipei

Distance travelled: 4598 miles

Number of photos taken: 703

Highlight of the Month

Finally getting to explore Melbourne’s Fitzroy neighbourhood and immediately falling in love. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well in my life — it even gave my beloved Portland a run for its money!

One of my favourite moments was a date night at Nyala, a kickass African restaurant on Brunswick street. It was one of those evenings where everything fell perfectly into place: watching the sunset over the city with a warm breeze blowing in through the window, ordering one of everything on the menu and falling in love with so many new dishes, great wine, and even better company. Walking back to our apartment afterwards, I realised my jaw was aching from smiling so much and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so happy.

Lowlight of the Month

Catching a terrible cold a week before flying out of Taipei. I’d saved tons of fun activities for that final week — taking the elevator to the top of Taipei 101, visiting the Friends-themed cafe, and heading to the city’s museums — but ended up spending the week in bed instead. Still, it gives me an excuse to return in the future!

Incident of the Month

I can’t believe I forgot to apply for my Australian visa for the second time in a row! It was 12 hours before my flight when I discover I hadn’t applied for it, and what followed was a sleepless night spent panicking I was going to have to spend Christmas alone in Manila. Despite my friends’ assurances that the visa would be approved immediately, I made my way to the airport without a confirmation.

I was allowed on to the flight to Manila, where I would have six hours to try and figure out how to get my visa. The eVisitor visa takes 8-10 business days to be approved, and UK citizens can’t apply for an ETA online, leaving me with very few options.

I found a suitably shady website called EasyETA, Paypal’d them $60, and wondered if that was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.

It wasn’t. My visa came through within 20 minutes, and then I was on my way to Melbourne!

Instagram of the Month

I’m focusing on improving my Instagram account this year, and I’m excited to share my progress in my summaries! This month, my most popular photo came from sunset at Angkor Wat, which rocked up 286 likes.

Angkor Wat at Sunset

Money Spent:


Taipei: $463.76 over 17 nights = $27.28 per night

  • We spent our month in Taipei in this loft-style apartment with one of the best views I’ve ever had. We were based in the heart of the Xinyi district, a few minutes’ walk away from Taipei 101, surrounded by dozens of cafes and restaurants, and my favourite night market in the city: Tonghua! This is one of my favourite Airbnb apartments I’ve stayed in so far.

Thanks to the generosity of Dave’s friends and family, we haven’t had any accommodation costs in Melbourne.


  • Metro transport in Taipei: $3.25
  • Transfer from our apartment to Taipei’s airport: $15.00
  • Flight from Taipei to Melbourne: $268.50[!!]

Food: $1034.50


  • Rush visa for Australia: $65.00
  • Topping up my sunscreen stash: $19.00

Business Expenses: 

  • Monthly hosting with WP Engine: $54.00
  • Monthly email newsletter service from Mailchimp: $35.00
  • Monthly Feedblitz RSS service: $1.49
  • Social media scheduling (the best!) with CoSchedule: $15.00
  • Pinterest scheduling with Tailwind: $10.00

Total amount spent: $1984.50

Month 54 Travel Map: Next month, I plan on spending time in Melbourne, the South Island of New Zealand, the Cook Islands, and French Polynesia!

My Next Steps

After another couple of weeks spent eating exploring Melbourne, I’ll be jetting off to New Zealand to spend two weeks hanging out with Dave’s family. This trip will be the exact opposite of my previous visit, filled with few tourist attractions and little moving around. We’ll be basing ourselves in Hanmer Springs, a small alpine village that’s popular with locals, thanks to its many hikes and hot springs, and I’m looking forward to starting the year with decompression and stillness.

One week into the new year, however, I’ll be setting off again, this time for some solo travel while Dave stays in New Zealand. First up: the Cook Islands! I’ll be spending a fully week hopping between the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki on a budget, and I can’t tell you how excited I am. Aitutaki looks like paradise!

Next on my island hopping jaunt is beautiful French Polynesia, where I’ll be kicking off my travels with a visit to Tahiti, then onwards to Maupiti — a tiny island that’s said to be what Bora Bora was like fifty years ago. Oh, and Bora Bora? Yep, I’ll be going there, too, and yep, I’m going to be doing my entire trip on a budget! I can’t wait to share how you can visit paradise on the cheap.

Next month’s update coming to you from Tahiti! Squeal!

My 53rd month of travel took me from Taiwan to Australia, where I spent four weeks eating my way around the cities. This month, my total travel expenses came to just under $2000.


  1. January 7, 2016

    That’s great that the Visa situation worked out! I would have been nervous too.

    P.S. Yummy food pics. So jealous.

    • February 18, 2016

      Thanks! Fitzroy has the most incredible food scene :-)

  2. January 8, 2016

    That visa fiasco could have easily turned into a total mishap – glad it worked out in the end!

    P.s. that french toast – OMG!

    • January 8, 2016

      Oh man, Dave would have killed me if I hadn’t managed to get in. I’d told him months ago that I’d booked my ticket!

  3. January 8, 2016

    I’m loving all the food pics you’ve posted. It’s funny to compare this post to your first Lauren vs. Food post. Look how far you’ve come! You’re an inspiration to all us picky eaters out here :)

    • January 8, 2016

      Right? I can’t believe how far I’ve come. I’ve finally reached the point where I’m happy to try pretty much anything food-related! It took a lot of hard work to get here haha.

  4. January 8, 2016

    I hope that you didn’t eat the French toast from Rustica sourdough! It looks good enough to be put in a frame! :)

    • January 8, 2016

      Doesn’t it? I was obsessed with how beautiful it was!

  5. January 8, 2016

    I’m a big fan of Ramen but I have never heard of Tsukemen. I’m going to have to check that out. It sounds delicious.

    • January 8, 2016

      You definitely should! It’s delicious.

  6. Lerchan
    January 8, 2016

    you need to visit Japan soon! Love the food post :)

    • January 8, 2016

      I really do! Glad you enjoyed the read :-)

  7. January 10, 2016

    This post makes me so, so hungry – and I just had lunch… When we finally manage to stomach the loooong flight to Australia in the next couple of years, “Eating my way through Melbourne” will be number one on my list. That French toast looks absolutely delicious!

    • January 29, 2016

      Excellent! You have to hunt the French toast down when you get there :-)

  8. January 15, 2016

    Wow lauren, the food looks absolutely amazing! When i went to Melbourne I absolutely loved and all you can eat curry place in the CBD. I wish that i had tried somthing different now!
    I`m so excited for your updates from Tahiti, it will be great to see how it can be done on a budget.

    • January 29, 2016

      Tahiti is particularly easy — lots of hostels. I think I paid $10 a night for mine!

  9. Mikala
    January 20, 2016

    How did you get that apartment so cheap? For me it shows as $112 per night!

    • January 20, 2016

      Most hosts on Airbnb offer a significant discount if you stay for a month.

  10. January 20, 2016

    I always really like reading your monthly updates, but this one in particular is great. I love that you sound so happy, good for you Lauren!!!

    Very much looking forward to your budget post about the Cook and French Polynesia islands!

    • January 29, 2016

      Thanks so much, Lotte! I’m happy to finally be back on track after some pretty miserable months.

  11. January 23, 2016

    ‘If you’re feeling hungry, brace yourself…’ … and I kept reading, sigh. Is French Toast a valid 4 o clock snack?

  12. January 23, 2016

    Wow, this is so cool! I’m so glad I found your blog…I love your story, your travel mentality, and your open and honest approach to sharing your travel logistics. Thank you sharing your travels and for inspiring travel even if on a budget!

    • January 29, 2016

      So happy to hear you’re enjoying the site, Brittany! :-)

  13. January 25, 2016

    Oh you are making me miss my city so much!! How cool is Melbourne? :-)

    • January 29, 2016

      It’s amazing! If it wasn’t so far away from everywhere else, I’d be asking Dave if we could move there!

  14. January 28, 2016

    That looks like an incredible area for food!! I love the street art, too!! I love Tahiti, so I can’t wait to read about your experiences there!

    • January 29, 2016

      I highly recommend eating there! ;-)

  15. January 28, 2016

    All of your food photos are GORGEOUS!

  16. February 3, 2016

    Whoaaa…the street art in Fitzroy is striking! and wait, what? French Polynesia? When is that update coming???

  17. spring Techno Solutions
    February 4, 2016

    Amazing post!

  18. Linda
    October 5, 2016

    I checked out the Taipei loft apartment on Airbnb and it lists for $80+/nt, even when I entered dates for a 17+ days stay in January. How did you score a rate of $27.28/nt? I would love to know your secret for negotiating such low prices!

    • October 5, 2016

      Most hosts on Airbnb offer monthly discounts. As you can see on that listing, they offer a 36% discount if you book for a month or more, but nothing if you stay for less than that.

      Oh, and I was splitting the cost with Dave, so the discounted total would have been halved as well.

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