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TRAVEL// "Melbourne, Australia." // by Kelly Mason

"An image taken from the rooftop on the other side of the river.

The city skyline around mid-day during my first few days arriving in Melbourne City"

I arrived in Melbourne, Australia back in 2014 not long after I had just finished a stint in Thailand.

At the beginning of my trip I spent time in Bangkok and travelled the South West islands surround Phuket but after two short but memorable weeks with one of the best, most beautiful & suited couples we began to make our way to the North of Thailand to spend the last few days together.

When our trip together came to its end I was dropped in Doi Saket, Chiang Mai where I spent the next month completing my first 200Hr Traditional Hatha Yoga teacher training.

After a month and once the training had completed I then found myself enrolling in another course at The Old Medicine Hospital where I spent the next month with daily training of Thai massage.

As soon as the course wrapped up I flew out of Thailand and headed straight for New Zealand where I lived with a friend in Wellington for the next three weeks. Here I would read, write, attend daily Yoga classes and squeeze in a little culture by exploring the city and suburbs.

But these were mere moments that came and went fast as my main reason and intent for travel was to arrive and call for a short while Melbourne city my home.

I had an image of myself arriving and instantly being settled, I envisioned myself in studios and working in the field of my passion in this diverse and progressive city.

Little did I know that this for me would be far from the truth for at least the first six month of my time in the city.

But sure, enough still, even with the struggle to make it as a Yoga teacher battling the external and my own internal world in the field of Yoga, some of the best learning experiences and experiences in general of my life to this point so far would happen during this time of hardship.

I spent the first few weeks in the city bouncing from couch to couch of strangers. I would wonder by foot sipping coffee and reading books of Yoga, Philosophy & Culinary literature.

By my second week I found myself in somewhat of a settled place while couch surfing with a Saskatoon born Canadian girl and a San Clemente raised Californian Boy.

These guys were my support system and I was thankful during this brief time.

They allowed me to stay for two weeks. During this time, we shared stories, watched movies and lay on the terrace watching the Casino nightly fire show from across the river while giving me the "A's" to my "Q's" as the new arrival in the city.

During this time of temporary stability, I was looking as to what I should do first and fast as I could as funds were already withering away as each hour that went by.

I emailed and contacted various studios and advertisements looking for Yoga teachers and quickly heard back from one studio.

This studio was "The Hurricane Hall" and at the time who was I to know that this place would be an extremely significant space with an intention like my vision as a teacher.

To cut a long story sort, I ended up meeting who would be my partner for the next 11 months, a partner in crime but also a partner for the Hurricane hall and its offering of boxing and yoga classes on donation base for "Innocence International" , A non for profit organisation successfully exonerating wrongful convictions, as well as funds to be raised for "Liberation Prison Yoga", another non for profit organisation.

"The Hurricane Hall" Named after Rubin "Hurricane" Carter former Boxer & wrongful convict.

The Studio was upstairs at the African Drumming School in St Kilda, Melbourne offering weekly donation based Yoga classes for Innocence International & Liberation Prison Yoga."

Over the next few days after landing the position teaching at The Hurricane Hall and as funds were running worryingly low I decided to do my necessary farm work straight away to "lock in" my second year working visa in Australia.

So that's exactly what I did and by week three of my time arriving in the city I had sealed a Yoga Teaching position with The Hurricane hall based in St Kilda and I had a date to arrive at "The Peace Farm" in Yarra Valley, around two hours outside of the city.

"Images taken after a "thinning" session at the farm."

The next three months I would find myself working fourteen-hour days on the farm four days a week and commuting by bus and train into the city to teach my class and explore what the new city had to offer.

After the time on the farm was complete around late December, early January 2015 I found myself living in Richmond - here I shared a space with my then boyfriend Andrei; A beautiful, at the time aspiring but now successful, photographer; an Irish high school teacher and rugby couch and finally; a beautiful Malaysian rooted, Australian grown diving Instructor.

I worked hard and found myself many times out of my comfort zone during this time but found myself auditioning and picking up more yoga classes throughout the city and surrounding suburbs.

Soon I was settling in and teaching several weekly classes. I had settled in my apartment and created a healthy routine in my new environment.

"An apartment shared in Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne. A real creative mix... An aspiring Yoga teacher, an aspiring theatre director & boxer, an aspiring photographer, A high school teacher & rugby coach and a Great Barrier Reef Diving Instructor."

"Teaching weekly, donation based, Yoga classes at the Hurricane Hall in St Kilda for nonprofit organisations "Innocence international" & "Liberation Prison Yoga.""

Throughout my time I would explore Melbourne and her offerings. What she had to offer of things in my interest and that compliment and support my lifestyle choices; Vegan Restaurants and cafes; Yoga studios and Market places.

And this brings me to the following...

The places I would visit frequently, places I can say I was a part of the team for some time at the time I called Melbourne City my home.

I hope you enjoy the list and I hope the recommended places enjoy the mention...

Restaurants, Cafe's & Markets

"A Thousand Blessings"

Richmond, Melbourne, Australia.

Such a cute place to go for brunch. They make good coffee and speciality lattes and have an eye for detail when it comes to the serving of each dish.

Indoor and outdoor seating and it is one of the goes to place for Yoga teachers, bikers and gym goers.

The ambience of the place is rustic, casual, clean and welcoming. With friendly enthusiastic staff and display cabinets for desserts to make sure you not want to miss indulging in the sweet delights.

One thing I remember however is that there is no parking on the street (As this is on a road) on one of the days of the week - so check this out, I think it’s to do with garbage trucks and delivery pickups on this day.

"Yong Green"

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.

This is one of my all-time favourite places to dine out. It’s not only organic, vegan cuisine it’s also a space supporting Bio-dynamic agriculture.

Inside there is hand painted culture influenced designs on each wall telling their own little stories which add that little extra something special to the 'dining in' experience.

The menu has an incredible selection of Asian influenced cuisine, they offer speciality smoothies and raw vegan dessert selections.

"Terre Madre"

Northcote, Melbourne, Australia.

When I first visited this store, I had never seen anything quite like it.

It has a group of trained Homeopaths working full time, floor to ceiling produce shelves; is stocked with fresh, local, organic fruits and vegetable and anything you can imagine when it comes to activated nuts, seeds and meat substitutes.

It’s like a little mini organic market maze.

From outside the store looks small but has loud presence (When you visit you will know exactly what I am talking about), inside she goes as far back as you can think. Throughout your shop you find yourself squeezing past other shoppers as you walk through the passages of ceiling high grains and legumes. Its cosy and pleasantly confusing at times.

Here you can buy in bulk, you can visit the Homeopathy register, you can buy your raw, pre-activated and ethically, seasonally and locally sourced produce all in the one tiny, ever so deep and quirky store.

"Lord of the Fries"

Various, Melbourne, Australia.

A place I maybe visited once but one that I thought deserves a mention as you find this chain of fast food pop ups dotted around the streets of Melbourne city and surrounding suburbs.

It offers vegan fast food, oh so fast and oh so tasty including offerings of burgers, you guessed it - fries, sweet offerings and all things in between.

"Monk Bodhi Dharma"

Balaclava, Melbourne, Australia.

A place I would visit with friends, with lovers, with co-workers and alone.

It’s cool, dainty, cosy and hip. 'Monk Bodhi Dharma' isn't only you’re around the corner Sunday morning brunch space, it is so much more...

They specialise in home roasting of their carefully and inquisitively selected coffee beans, they are renowned for them in house homemade almond milk and sweet brunches served into and throughout the afternoons.

My Favourite must be their "Buckwheat Apple and Cinnamon pancakes" something I would not allow myself to resist when I found myself in front of their menu.

"Pressed Juices"

Various, Melbourne, Australia.

Again, a place I would frequently visit usually after finishing at the gym or after teaching one of my Yoga classes. You will find pressed juices all around the city and suburbs of Melbourne. You will usually find a Pressed Juices just outside a Virgin Active or chain gym near a busy market place or smack in the middle of a busy street in the main CBD.

Fresh juices and nut milks with snacks and seating also on offer.

"Mork Chocolate Brew"

North Melbourne, Australia.

Not so much a place to dine during my time in Melbourne but defiantly a fast growing and developing brand.

Mork Cacao Artisan I can only recommend in Hot Cacao form as this is all I have tried; however, my feedback is very positive and if this is all I must go by I am confident to say that their other products will be just as rich and delicious as their Hot chocolate offerings.

I look out for the brand throughout my travels to see how much it has expanded, and I believe now they have a location in the city.

"Pana Chocolate"

Richmond, Melbourne, Australia.

I hold this company close to me and of course I adore their sweet offerings, but this is not the main reason behind my adoration.

While I lived in Melbourne I lived in Richmond, the next suburb east of the city, and we were smack bang in the middle of one of the busiest streets in the area, Swan Street. Just around the corner was a little independent chocolate making factory called Pana.

And we would sometimes take a walk down to this little chocolate making factory.

They made the chocolate and desserts upstairs in their minimal square foot space and had a light, open space downstairs - their main attraction being a large glass display fridge where all the sweets could be seen and sold in their glory.

While I found myself working on Flinders Street in the city at an organic store for a short time to make some extra money we would sell their chocolates. The Pana brands chocolate would be found throughout Health stores, organic stores and vegan stores throughout Melbourne, throughout Australia and I have now seen the brand as far away in a Raw cafe in Berlin, Germany and London.

"Smiths & Daughters"

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.

It’s Cool, grungy, punk fast food. Good quality and local ingredients. The staff are wickedly cool, and the decor is nothing short of an exaggerated vegan vampire goth.

It’s always a fun & exciting night with friends at "Smith & Daughters" Dine in Restaurant.

"Smiths & Deli"

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.

A deli spins off and even faster food of the original 'Smiths & Daughters' in the form of oversized deluxe vegan sandwiches, just as exaggerated in decor and server outhits but this time in the theme of a 50's Diner.

When I last visited there was no seating, but they wrap the sandwiches well, so they stay fresh and warm for when you arrive home for the long-awaited unwrapping.

They have a deli style counter and mini market selling various vegan cheese and meat substitutes.

"Hare Krishna Cafe"

CBD, Melbourne, Australia.

This one of my places of refuge when I found myself in the CBD of Melbourne city.

The cafe is up a flight of stairs and as you walk through the door you walk into a cute cafe with a school diner serving system.

The food consists of not only vegan but blessed and made with love food of Indian cuisine. There is use of very little spice with the chefs opting instead to offer fresh salads & classic Asian dishes consisting of mild dal or lightly spiced Chana masala with accompaniment of Brown rice, sprouted seeds and home (don't forget with love) fermented compliments.

At the Krishna temple in the city just around the corner from Flinders station they also have running yoga classes throughout the evening of the week.

"Serotonin Eatery"

Burnley, Melbourne, Australia.

The place whose name itself exudes the feeling of Happiness.

A joy to dine here any mid-morning of the week (Weekends can get a little hectic). Its white and yellow theme keeps everything just that... Bright & a delight and the menu itself reflects the same - They even create cute cinnamon smiles in your turmeric "dine in" speciality latte to add that little bit extra to your smile.

The menu consists mostly of breakfast and brunches but does also includes main meals.

'Serotonin eatery' has been running successfully and brightly for the last three years, located in the outskirts of Richmond on a cute little corner and has never disappointed my taste buds or mood.

"Hanoi Hannah"

Richmond, Melbourne, Australia.

They have a takeout location with small area where a couple of couples could dine.

They have a small but extremely satisfying menu of Vietnamese cuisine.

You would find me in Hanoi after finishing an evening Yoga class or on a night that cooking for us was not the option we were opting for - their vegan mushroom pho is out of this world!

Not long after opening they opened their restaurant a few doors down allowing customers to sit in an experience their offerings.

"Sister of Soul"

St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia.

I visited sister of soul a few times, I almost worked in this restaurant.

Located down near St Kilda beach it is popular for foreign and local vegan/vegetarians. The environment is open, clean and oh so beautiful.

I have sometimes found that the food is a little rich unless ordering a selection of simpler side dishes to make a meal. But don't get me wrong if you are looking for a place of indulgence and heightened taste this is the place to be.

The food portions are huge and well-presented however as it is smack bang in the middle of a tourist location right next to Luna park so be sure to pre-book or head down in between peak eating times.

"Lentil as Anything"

St Kilda & Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.

Two locations in Melbourne - A cute little spot just down and around the corner to St Kilda's main beach and the other at the north of the city in Fitzroy (This location is much larger with a communal outdoor space where you will find people practising acro yoga, wire walking and other such practices.)

The Philosophy of Lentil as anything is beautiful - They have programs which help give the homeless or less able a complimentary meal upon visiting and gives the opportunity for travellers or natives to volunteer their time in service.

I volunteered some of my time at the St Kilda location in exchange for their offering of a meal at the end of each shift.

It was a good way to do good, pass time and get to know the locals, passers-by and visitors of the City

"Trippy Taco"

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.

Lastly, I am mentioning a space that cannot for me be forgotten. Trippy taco specialising in just that Tacos and all things within the world of Mexican cuisine.

If you go here, you must try the seasoned sweet potato fries!

Yoga Studios

"Rise Yoga"

Richmond, Melbourne, Australia.

This was the studio that gave me the chance when I first arrived and began teaching Yoga.

I started out where most do in any new profession. At the baseline where I would volunteer my time in exchange for classes.

I would work on the reception desk and clean the studio a few times a week in exchange for unlimited sessions at the studio, which of course I took full advantage of by attending at least one class per day - This was a blessing for me as my funds were low and Yoga classes and memberships in Melbourne city is far from cheap.

It was here that I learned how to teach. I not only attended classes to open my body but each class I attended, I learned so much from the various teachers. What to do; what not to do; what I would do differently and what I would do the same. How they assisted; when their tone would fluctuate and modify; how they interacted with each student and how clearly, I could hear them if I found myself at the back of the room.

All this exposure taught me so much before I even started teaching.

A shout out here to Rowie & Hugh Lee, two teachers that stood out to me among the rest for their enthusiasm and dedication to living a Yogic path and oozing its practices.

After a few weeks the Manager, Rosie would count on me to cover spaces at reception or to help picking up any extra tasks in the running of the studio - it was over these weeks that she began to trust me and decided to give me a trial as one of the cover teachers at Rise.

After weeks of feedback for improvement and refinement as well as in depth exploration of understanding and teaching various other styles of yoga I was on the covers list and began to cover the quieter classes throughout the days of the week.

Before I knew it my growth as a teacher excelled and by the time I left Melbourne I was covering peak classes with numbers reaching twenty-five students and above.

The teachers at Rise were educated, passionate and knowledgeable. Many workshops and trainings were offered, and many events arranged during my time apart of the studio team.

The space is simple but beautiful and they have a wide range of classes throughout the week.

One of my favourite studios in Melbourne.

The space I believe now has been taken over, but I am in no doubts the standard of studio and its teachers have been kept the same.

"Dance Of Life"

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.

Nina Alfers. She needs, to me, no introduction. She is the most influential Yoga Teacher i have ever had the pleasure to experience.

The space itself is very simple. A warehouse conversion with Handmade Charkra embroidery draped along the high ceilings.

During my time at 'Dance of Life' I only actually ever attended Nina's classes. but have heard many good things about all of the teachers at 'Dance of Life'

Each and every class here was beneficial and significant for me in my personal practice and for me as an aspiring teacher.

Nina is a strong and an extremely knowledgeable woman and i wanted to learn all I could during my time with her however brief that time came to be.

She pushes you, challenges you, she confronts you and your incorrect or lazy methods. A true gem of a teacher.

I remember one of my last days in Melbourne a major event and shift was about to happen hours after the session closed and during the session I found myself with gentle tears throughout - It was as if my body was already grieving for something not yet lost.

Nina watched this and she made the decision to carefully observe as I worked through something that I did not yet understand. An example to show she, as a teacher, always did for me exactly what I needed each and every time I stood in front of her as a student.

"Yoga Corner"

CBD, Melbourne, Australia.

Another studio that I for a while called my work space where I started covering classes and by the end I had three classes per week to call my own teaching Vinyasa and Yin styles.

You step into the Studio at Yoga Corner and your perception is instantly transformed into a pink dazed tinge. The classes were intimate - you share personal space at times with your mat neighbour during the busier classes but if you were lucky enough to attend a class around lunchtime mid-week the Yin session are much less crowded.

The owner Amy was a dedicated lady and she was always recruiting aspiring and experienced teachers from all over the world.

The space also holds various workshops, complimentary sessions & retreats throughout the year.

"5th Element Wellness"

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.

The final place where I am proud to have called myself part of the team, if only for a little while, is 5th Element Wellness.

I worked with 5th Element for a grand total of three months (it would have been much longer if I hadn't of moved back to the UK due to unforeseen happenings happening resulting in my imminent move.)

This was a space where my freedom as a teacher could be explored. Here I explored this given freedom and used this space to take risks in my teachings.

The Space itself is a gym with its own dedicated space for the practice of Yoga. The staff here are all super dedicated to their field of work, they practice what they preach and as a team they are continuously growing and learning - always striving to go bigger and better.

It’s an inspirational place for anyone wanting to get or stay fit. To learn about their bodies, to improve and become better, more refined versions of themselves.

This place oozes the importance of reaching your potential with a healthy, strong body and mind.

I remember that in Melbourne I learnt so many things, I struggled and strived throughout my entire time there. I was embarrassed and humiliated as I learned to grow as a teacher.

I made many fond friends and created fond memories with them.

It was a beautiful time in my life where I was beginning to find myself & understand where my path was taking me.

I hope that if you ever find yourself in one of my absolute favourite cities that part of your venture is to one of these or even a few of these locations.

Each space I have tried personally, several times, they come highly recommended by myself for each of their own unique and quality offerings.

By the time I left, I looked back at my accomplishments and my growth over the year. I saw that it was a beautiful struggle but by the end I knew the city like the back of my hand as I had biked each street of the CBD and surrounding suburbs numerous times whether to teach at the other end of the city or for the pleasure of it during my time off.

I had visited nearly every vegan cafe; I had taught classes in some of the most beautiful and accomplished studios; I learned Permaculture and how to even milk a goat; I met some of the most beautiful souls (you know who you are); by the end, knew myself just that little bit more then when I arrived and to me, Melbourne is a place and time that I hold extremely special to me and will always hold the time in high regard for my development as both a teacher and a student of all things.


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