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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.