An Australian Personal Trainer’s best advice for developing healthy exercise habits
Exercising is one of the best things that you can do for maintaining optimal physical and mental health.
Some of the best-known benefits of exercise include achieving optimal weight, reducing the risk of disease, stabilising mood and improving both sex and sleep. Exercise is also known to improve your ability to focus, as well as your body’s ability to maintain higher levels of energy.
When you exercise, whether it be in the park, in the gym, or at home, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with the brains pain receptors and leave a residual feeling of happiness. These endorphins also work to relieve stress, anxiety and tension so the more regularly you exercise, the better you are going to feel!
Getting into shape can be a tough road and not everyone perseveres until the end but, there are a number of things you can do to give yourself the best advantage for your fitness journey.
1: Identify your Goals. Athletic & Aesthetic.
Before starting your fitness journey, it’s important to ask yourself why. Do you want to get bigger, or smaller, or are you trying to increase your flexibility or lung capacity? Regularly ask yourself, what do I want to achieve?
Your fitness goals can be categorised as either aesthetic or athletic. Set some targets for both categories, which can be achieved in a realistic amount of time.
For example, set an athletic goal to be able to do pushups on your toes instead of your knees, or just being able to run a certain distance. If you can do 10 squats now, set a goal to be able to do 11 next week. For aesthetics, picture your ideal physique and think about it night and day. How badly do you want it? Anytime you make food choices, think about the body shape you want to achieve, then what it’s going to take to get there.
Remember that fitness is a journey and you are constantly learning and growing, so make your goals dynamic to adapt with your progress and achievements.
It’s easier than it sounds, just get started.
2: Nourish yourself. Food, Water and Sleep.
This doesn’t mean overindulge, just be sure to eat and drink enough to fulfil your body’s energy requirements. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, eggs, rice and any natural foods. Do your best to avoid refined sugars and processed carbohydrates; these are often roadblocks to your fitness journey. It’s hard to go overboard when you’re eating natural and organic so, when you get into the habit of eating well, it becomes much less important to monitor what, and how much you are eating.
Not only does dehydration decrease performance, but it can also be dangerous. Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after workouts, as well as in excess on hot days or when putting your body through longer periods of stress. I aim for 3L daily.
Get into a sleeping pattern that gives you 7-8 hours of rest each night and try to be consistent with your bedtime. This is something that can be super difficult sometimes but just do your best.
3: Stretch. Then stretch again.
Stretch before workouts, stretch after workouts. Stretch before going to sleep, stretch when you wake up. Stretch before going to work, stretch after coming home.
There is never a wrong time to stretch and as you get older, stretching just becomes increasingly more important. Not only does it improve your body’s mobility and performance, but it also helps protect you from injury and makes you feel good. Don’t leave stretching out of your daily routine.
4: Start small. Consistency is greater than intensity.
Shorter workouts of lower intensity are best when it comes to starting out on your fitness journey. Once your body is used to the exercises, and recovery, you can begin to extend the duration and lift the intensity of your workouts. Completing short workouts, consistently, is much more beneficial than occasionally working out for a long period of time. Set a schedule and stick to it, even if it is just 10 minutes of stretching each morning!
If you dive headfirst into an athletes training program, without first preparing your body, you can put your fitness journey at risk. Not only are you at a heightened risk of injury while your body is conditioning to the training, but you can also easily lose motivation or burn out after a short period of time. Your fitness journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Familiarise yourself with the exercises, and your body, before lifting the intensity of your workouts. Depending on your fitness levels and requirements, 20-30 minutes of exercise three times weekly
5: Master your form. Quality over Quantity.
To protect yourself from injury and reap maximum benefits from exercise, it’s important to master your form when performing each exercise, before increasing the intensity of your workouts. You only get one body, look after it!
You can learn a lot about your body from regularly working out and just feeling how it responds. Experiment by working out at different times of the day and seeing when you feel most energetic or enthusiastic about exercising.
If you’re like me and do not enjoy early mornings, try exercising in the mornings to start your day with energy and focus. If you have difficulty getting to sleep at night, try working out in the afternoon or evening. Your body is unique and you need to experiment to find out what works best for you.
Take note of how you feel while performing certain exercises that incorporate your legs or lower back. If you ever feel sharp pains or great discomfort, something is wrong and you should not continue without seeking advice.
If your post-exercise recovery is too slow, or you often feel tired, take a look at your training, diet and sleeping patterns to see what your body needs. Often, adding certain vitamins and minerals to your diet or a little extra rest each day can make a huge difference to your physical and mental performance, as well as your overall results!
7: Find your motivation.
Your motivation comes from your why. Once you set your goals, figure out what it’s going to take to get there. When it comes to maintaining consistency and motivation, there is nothing better than doing something you enjoy. Find a sporting team, training program, youtube guide, or any exercises that you enjoy enough to practice regularly.
Even better, find a friend to do it with! Staying motivated is far easier when you have someone there to push you towards achieving your goals but, at the end of the day, it all comes down to you. If you have a dog, take responsibility for exercising it. Not only will they love you for it, but you’ll also move quickly towards your fitness goals.
I advise starting with short workouts while getting into an exercise routine and don’t forget to eat well and stretch regularly so that your body is always feeling its best. Everyone is unique. What works for your favourite influencer might not work for you. Just get out there and find out what you like, and don’t like, before making your dreams a reality. You can do it!
8: Be patient, there will be setbacks.
It can be so easy to compare yourself to someone who is much further along their fitness journey. Don’t do this, it can destroy willpower and motivation. Just focus on you and your progress.
Like all journeys, there will be setbacks. We all face challenges and it’s important to not let them deter from your journey as perseverance is what brings success when it comes to getting fit. Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint.
9: Treat your fitness journey as a form of self care.
Maintaining your physical fitness is self-care. Through exercising, not only are you looking after your physical and mental health, but you are also working towards improving your self-image; the height of self-love.
Embrace the feelings throughout your workout or training and enjoy the post-workout high. Be grateful for what your body can do now, regardless of what your goals are. Gratitude brings more of what you are grateful for and a positive attitude is so important when working towards your fitness goals.
10: HAVE FUN!
Although we touched on this in motivation, it’s so important that it needs its own point. My mother always used to say, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
While she was referring to having a job that you enjoy, the same goes for your fitness journey. When you are participating in an activity that you enjoy, it will never feel like work and you will be far more likely to maintain motivation.
If something gets boring, switch it up. Both your mind, and body, get used to routines quickly so it’s important to keep things interesting if you want to maintain motivation and achieve optimal results.
Whenever possible, expand your fitness knowledge through trying new exercises, routines, sports and activities. Fitness isn’t always about the destination, enjoy the journey.
Are you ready to take the first steps towards achieving your ideal physique?
About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field as a player, junior coach and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers where he studied the human body, exercise and nutrition, before being registered as a health and fitness professional with Fitness Australia and Fitness First Australia. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.
It can be pretty daunting to pack your life down into a suitcase before moving to the other side of the world, as I did at the start of 2019. To make things interesting, if you’re moving to a place like Barcelona, you can never really be sure of what you’re going to get, especially if you don’t speak any Spanish.
I moved to Spain without a visa or any understanding of the native dialects. While I was trying to get these two roadblocks out of the way, I enrolled into a local maritime college to get some yachting tickets for future job prospects.
One thing you quickly learn while living in Spain is that nothing gets done in a hurry. I ended up with all of the yachting licenses before my residency was approved so, through a friend, I was offered a cash in hand job as a local charter skipper.
Around eight months after the initial application, I received my social security number and immediately commenced the hunt for my first contracted role in Spain. On the same day, I came across a facebook post seeking hospitality professionals for a new restaurant so, I got in contact with the manager and was asked to come in for an interview. Three days after commencing the job hunt, I commenced my first job in Spain, at Barcelona’s Le Leopard Restaurant.
After spending that Christmas in Australia and getting stuck during the lockdown, we were finally able to return to Spain for the following summer in 2020. I thought if I started looking for work around a month out from the flight, I would have more than enough time to land a job before touching down in Barcelona. That was a slight miscalculation on my behalf.
We returned to a ghost town. The streets were empty, stores were closed and the formerly high unemployment rate was just continuing to climb. The tourism and hospitality industry was in forced closure, so I applied for any jobs I could find.
I’d sent over 500 applications before I finally received my first response, an invitation for an interview with an international real estate advisory firm. Four months of job searching had come to an end with a favourable outcome and after just two months in the role, I was also offered a promotion, just in time for Christmas.
You don’t need a high level of Spanish, or any at all, to find a job in Barcelona, just a good attitude, patience and the right to work. In such a multicultural and diverse city, there are always going to be opportunities for English speakers who have a bit of flair or a broad skillset to offer. Read on for the pros and cons of working in the capital of Cataluña.
(+): I’ve genuinely enjoyed cruising through the Mediterranean waters, waiting tables and more recently, managing a sales team, in order to pay the bills. Not only have I learnt so much from this incredible city, there is also a pretty good life on offer with warm weather and close proximity to numerous beaches and other incredible destinations.
There is a large expat community as well as a large startup community which provide many opportunities for those who can utilise social networking.
Aside from the restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues, there are also numerous corporate giants who have recently decided to call Barcelona home, including Amazon, Nestle, Facebook, Volkswagon and PepsiCo, creating a consistent stream of opportunities for English speaking professionals.
(-): Why is Barcelona home to so many call centres, startup companies and now, corporate giants? Spain’s super low wages, of course, along with a few tax incentives.
One of the biggest downsides of living and working in Barcelona is its famously low, minimum wage, contrasted against an inflated rental market. Spending most of your paycheque on rent isn’t fun, but at least everything else is pretty cheap!
Numerous barrios of Barcelona are also known to be very dangerous as the city is plagued by uncontrolled crime and since the death of tourism, anyone is a target for thieves.
There is so much talent in Barcelona and there is also so much competition for work so it is important to follow a few important principles when starting your job search.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to learn a little bit of Spanish. You don’t have to be fluent but, in such a multicultural city, the need for effective communication skills becomes a lot more important for an organisation so, looking like you are making an effort goes a long way with potential employers.
Focus on your strongest skill(s) when writing your CV but it is important to let prospective employers know that you can expand on this. I got a job driving boats because I could drive the boat, but also because I could look after the guests at the same time. I got a job working in a restaurant because I could wait tables, but also because I could make good coffee. I was working in a sales position but got asked if I wanted to be a manager because I learned the job and now I can help the rest of my team improve.
Have a skill which you would like to focus on, but also diversify and let employers know that you are flexible enough to be a real asset to a rapidly changing environment. There are countless opportunities for sales, marketing and web professionals in the current climate but the tourism and hospitality industry will also open again one day so don’t stress if you don’t feel like there aren’t many options right now.
Be different, or at least interesting! Barcelona is such a diverse place, full of strange and wonderful people. Try to stand out when it comes to who you are and what kind of energy you would bring to a team. Whether it be through sports, the arts, or a quirky hobby, show your potential recruiters why you would be fun to work with.
You never know where your dream job is going to be posted so it’s important to make sure your’e networking at any opportunity you get. Join relevant facebook groups for regular posts about companies who are hiring, as well as networking opportunities with their staff. LinkedIn is also a fantastic place to directly apply for jobs.
Never Give Up
Consistency is key. New jobs are posted every day so make a routine of getting online and sending out your CV’s regularly if you do not want to miss out.
If you are not having any luck then try changing your approach. Make sure your CV looks clean, and interesting, and get someone you know to check it for any ways it could be improved. Start applying for jobs in different industries, through different search engines, or broaden your search through social media. If all else fails, try the old dock-walking approach after printing off a few paper copies, people appreciate the old school.
Be patient though, it does take some time to hear back from employers, especially here in Barcelona. Good things come to those who wait but just keep active and your opportunity will present itself.
The time I’ve spent working here has been an experience and a half. If you are looking to experience life with a mix of fun, chaos, culture and tradition, come spend a summer in Barcelona.
About the author: Harrison has more than five years experience transacting both residential and commercial assets in Australian property markets and is currently the trainer and supervisor of an international sales team based in Barcelona.
If you are looking to start a career in sales, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
A stepparent is so much more than just a parent; they made the choice to love when they didn’t have to.
It takes a lot of courage to become the parent of a child who you didn’t bring into the world, and while most, who assume this role, do it with noble intentions such as love or compassion, some kids are not so fortunate when it comes to the families that they end up in.
I lost my biological father before my first birthday. He was taken in a motorsport accident which left two young families without their captain and coach. Growing up in a young, single-parent family, I spent a lot of my early life with mum, going around to her castings for photoshoots and TV commercials. I guess this wore off on me because I spent a lot of time at kindergarten dressing up as pixies and ballerinas. I didn’t stand a chance until Andy came along.
“When someone takes you on as their own when you’re not biologically their own, I think is really special … My stepdad didn’t have to raise me. He wanted to.”
Jonathan Van Ness, American activist
I was four years old when mum met her now-husband, Andrew, and it wasn’t long before we became a family. While I’ve never thought of the young me as a bad child, I did have a few more demons than most other kids while growing up and it took me a lot longer to get them under control. It’s an interesting story. I rejected my stepfather for many years. I acted out in school and often hurt people around me. Yet, through all my difficulties, Andrew would persevere in teaching me everything he knew about life, becoming a man and most importantly, being a good person.
Andrew had no idea what he was in for when he married my mother but God, I’m so thankful that he did. However long it took me to understand some of his decisions, I’m forever grateful for them now. Parents, step parents and guardians, please don’t stop making those tough decisions for your children. We can be difficult, ungrateful, and so much worse, but we can all come around with a bit of time. There will always be challenges in accepting someone as a new family member but don’t throw in the towel as with a bit of patience, and the right attitude, anything is possible.
I asked myself when writing this, would Andy have still dropped the knee to mum if he knew what he was in for? Of course he would have. We had some tough years, but it was all character building in the end.
“Any man can help make a child, but it takes a special man to help raise a child.”
Tony Gaskins, motivational speaker
As much of a blessing as it’s supposed to be, I can’t imagine parenthood to be an easy task for anyone and, I’m sure it would require a great deal of love, courage and bravery to bring a child into the world, let along take responsibility for someone else’s.
If you feel unappreciated by your children, hang in there. It took me a long time to grow up and accept my situation but when it suddenly makes sense to your kids, as it did to me, any lingering negativity will be washed away by an everlasting appreciation. It takes some longer than others but we all come around.
On behalf of all children, to all parents, step-parents and guardians, who are working tirelessly to create better lives for their loved ones, thank you for the role you play in the world and your family’s lives.
We love you and we couldn’t do it without you ❤️
My mother is my heart. But my stepdad is my role model, the hardest working man I’ve ever known.
You can never really understand how lucky you are to come from a place like Australia until you try to live overseas. While experiencing a full European winter with enforced curfews, I can’t help dreaming about an Australian summer and thinking about how blessed I am to come from such an amazing place. It’s going to be a long time before I can return home so while reminiscing on some of the incredible times I have had while growing up in Australia, I have decided to create a list of all of my favourite destinations, as well as my best advice for anyone fortunate enough to be planning a trip down under.
You’ve probably heard about some of the many qualities that make Australia such an amazing place to be and, while there are many, its best would have to be its people. A lot of outsiders have crazy ideas in their minds when it comes to Aussies, usually after meeting some young Australian holidaymakers in places like Europe or The States. We’re known to be rowdy, heavy drinkers, and lovers of a good fight. Although this is partially true, we are also known to be extremely caring and people.
Where I come from, in Southeast Queensland, it’s normal to say hello to, or at least smile at, anyone walking past you on the street. When I was growing up, we used to go to sleep with the doors unlocked and the windows open, without ever fearing human intruders. On many occasions, I was careless enough to lose items of value, only to later be tracked down by someone trying to return my belongings. There’s a strong culture of caring for one another. You will find that most Australians are more than happy to go out of their way to help someone they don’t know, regardless of whether or not they are getting something in return. This provides a certain sense of safety and security that can often be taken for granted, only before moving to a city like Barcelona. Australia is a warm place with cultures built upon humility, authenticity, and mateship, but that is not what brings millions upon millions of visitors every year from all corners of the earth.
Did you know that Australia’s beaches are so popular, one actually has its own international television show? Well, the beach is nice, but the only reason it’s so famous is that so many tourists nearly drown there each year and it’s one of the few places in Australia that you might actually get robbed. There are more than 10,000 stunning beaches along 30,000 kilometres of pristine Australian coastline so you can go your own way if you don’t want to follow the crowds. If you’re into snorkelling or diving, Australia has 60 marine parks with 3.3 million square kilometers of underwater playground which is free for all to enjoy. If you’ve ever wanted to meet a dolphin up close, or swim with turtles, or you simply just appreciate relaxing on a beautiful beach, Australia has you covered.
For land-based nature lovers, there are more picturesque landscapes and unique animals than you can fill your camera’s memory card with. Whether it be in a wildlife sanctuary, or in the wild itself, you do not have to travel far if you want to see some of the beautiful animals that will only call Australia home. If you want to head out into the wild, Australia has over 600 national parks which account for almost four per cent of the country’s total 7.6 million square kilometer area. For an unforgettable ‘true-blue’ Aussie experience, grab a tent and a case of VB and spend a few nights under the stars. Whether by car or by boat, the best weekends were always spent with a few mates camping on a remote island or beach. It’s a sense of freedom and adventure and man its good for the soul.
If you’re travelling with a group of friends and someone can get their driving license exchanged, it could be worth buying a vehicle to get around, as opposed to renting one. There are plenty of old Toyotas that you can buy, dirt cheap, and later sell for roughly the same price. It just depends on your budget and how long you are planning to stay.
Ready to start planning your post-Covid adventure? Scroll through my list of Australia’s best holiday destinations for some inspiration.
MUST SEE AUSTRALIAN DESTINATIONS
The Great Barrier Reef
Spanning over 2,300 kilometers, the Great Barrier Reef is not only the largest coral ecosystem on Earth but also one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders. The 344,000km2 tropical, underwater paradise is home to 900 islands which attract snorkelers, divers, and lovers of warm weather alike, from all over the world. For some of the greatest islands for underwater adventures see a list here.
The Sunshine Coast
While growing up in Brisbane, there was nothing we looked forward to more than holidays on the Sunshine Coast to welcome in the New Year. Noosa Heads and Eumundi are the two places you have to see when visiting this region and once you arrive, you won’t want to leave.
Eumundi is a cute, little, inland hippy town with weekend markets, and tropical vibes while Noosa is better known for its beaches, fancy restaurants, and national park which overlooks the town and far beyond.
A scenic drive from Noosa North Shore, on the Sunshine Coast, will bring you to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world and the only place on earth where tall rainforests grow on sand dunes. The 120km island is surrounded by shipwrecks and rough waves that break upon golden sands. If you head inland, you will find endless trails that you can explore on foot or with your able-bodied vehicle. Here you can find several freshwater lakes and lagoons and, while Fraser is best enjoyed camping under the stars, there are some luxury resorts and guided tours available for those who prefer glamping.
The Gold Coast
A holiday destination for travellers of all ages, from all over the world, the Gold Coast is nice, but definitely not for everyone. Well known for its nightlife, as well as the large and extravagant hotels overlooking the long beaches and the Pacific Ocean. The beachside national parks are popular for koala sightings but, a short drive inland will bring you to Springbrook National Park, if you are into giant waterfalls.
Some parts of the city, like Broadbeach and Burleigh Heads, are both fun and beautiful, with mixes of classy beaches, parklands and nightlife precincts. Other areas, like Miami, Surfers Paradise, and Southport are better known for the number of resident junkies and motorcycle gang members. Don’t fear though, they mind their business if you mind yours and, while some parts of the Gold Coast are hit and miss, the huge national parks and 57 kilometer stretch of golden sandy beaches are definitely worth seeing, at least once in a lifetime.
Local’sTip:Every November More than 20,000 high school graduates flock to the Gold Coast to forget everything they learned over the last 13 years. It’s advisable to avoid anywhere near Surfers Paradise during this month.
Locals say Brisbane is more of a big country town than a city, and I would have to agree. The city itself is built around an iconic river which is commonly referred to as the Brown Snake.
You don’t have to stray far from The Snake to see all the beauty Brisbane has to offer and be sure to visit the Botanic Gardens both in the city and at the base of Mt. Coot-tha National Forest which has a summit overlooking greater Brisbane. If you do not see any koalas in the forest, head over to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where you can lie in the sun with a family of kangaroos, or even cuddle a koala. For more beautiful views of the city, get your comfiest shoes on and do the Story Bridge River Walk, being sure to pass the Kangaroo Point cliffs before cooling off at Streets Beach in South Bank.
Less than 20 kilometers from the center of Brisbane, you can find the Moreton Bay marine park. An aquatic playground spanning over 3.4km and home to both Moreton Island and South Stradbroke Island, two of Australia’s most beloved holiday destinations. Not only are both islands well equipped with resorts and holiday rental properties, but they are also both 4×4 paradises with plenty of adventure trails and outdoor campgrounds. If you want to see dolphins, turtles, kangaroos, and koalas in the wild, these are two places that are definitely worth checking out.
The Daintree rainforest is a national park in Far North Queensland, Australia, 1,757 km northwest of Brisbane and 100 km northwest of Cairns.
The large and diverse forest ecosystem is home to rare and endangered birds, such as the southern cassowary, as well as rare marsupials, such as the koala and tree kangaroo. It is also home to the notorious and the prehistoric, saltwater crocodile, and the famous Australian monotreme, known as the platypus.
Spanning over 1,200 square kilometers, Daintree National Park is part of the Kuku Yalanji country.
The Kuku Yalanji people have lived in this area for thousands of years, while their legends and songs continue to give special meaning to this landscape today.
A beach town in the tropical far north of Queensland. Port Douglas is known for its beach resorts as well as for being a base for visits to both the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park. Within the township, Port Douglas has several boutique shops and restaurants as well as the popular, Four Mile Beach.
Choose from 74 of the Whitsunday Islands which lie between the northeast coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the islands are uninhabited and characterised by dense rainforest, hiking trails and white sand beaches.
On the mainland lies the town of Airlie Beach, the region’s central hub with a population of 1,200 people. Known for its beaches, hostels, and groovy nightlife on the door of the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is one of the most popular Australian backpacking destinations.
When cruising around the Whitsunday’s do not go past Whitsunday Island and the iconic, Whitehaven Beach. Just next door, you can find Hamilton Island where you are spoilt for choice with luxurious resorts overlooking the clear blue waters.
NEW SOUTH WALES
After crossing the Queensland border, we come to the coastal town of Byron Bay in northern New South Wales. Byron is known for being full of bearded yogis, surfers, hipsters, and wealthy middle-aged women, as well as also being one of the backpacking capitals of Australia and now, the home of Hollywood heartthrob, Zac Efron.
The view from the lighthouse is beautiful and, from June to November, there is a high chance of seeing whales making their trip towards the breeding waters. The beaches are long and quiet, but I prefer swimming further north in the warmer waters, also where there are fewer sharks.
If you are into the hippy life, this is the place for you. Make a trip over to the nearby town of Nimbin, the weed capital of Australia, and visit some of the local horticulturalists, if that is your thing and, while none of it is legal, it seems to be somewhat accepted.
A popular destination for surfers and wine lovers. Newcastle is known for its National Rugby League team, beaches, whale watching, and its close proximity to the Hunter Valley wine region.
Australia’s largest and most densely populated city. There’s no shortage of things to see as Sydney is built around spectacular harbours with some large and iconic bridges. Take one of the many ferries through the city for a beautiful view of the harbour bridge from the water, or get off at one of the many historical stops along the Parramatta River.
Sydney is also home to Bondi Beach, one of the worlds most famous beaches and a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Well known for its upmarket real estate and producing one of Australia’s few quality pieces of television, Bondi Rescue.
Less than an hours drive from the city centre is the Blue Mountains National Park. Take a trip to one of the scenic lookouts and immerse yourself in nature.
Kosciusko National Park
Do you like mountain adventures, away from the heat? You’ll be spoilt at Kosciusko National Park, having to choose between snow sports, walking and mountain biking in snowy mountains or cave exploration. You can choose between camping or heritage accommodation, or even try your luck climbing Australia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kosciusko.
Melbourne, Victoria. Australia’s most multicultural city, full of Europeans, Sudanese child gangs, hipsters, and Australian Football fans. Also known as the best place to party in Australia, Melbourne is probably one of Australia’s most interesting cities.
There was a time, in the not too distant past, where Melbourne had a huge party scene. In licensed venues, people could party all weekend without seeing the sun. Drugs were a huge business and, after a few dealers started shooting each other, a war erupted which changed the city forever. Now, with the parties shut down and the gangland wars are pretty much done and dusted, people visit Melbourne to take photos in front of the famous street art, or spend the day at St. Kilda Beach.
The Great Ocean Road
A 243 kilometer stretch along the southern coastline of Victoria. See the stunning views of the Twelve Apostles, or head into Great Otway National Park’s tropical rainforest and waterfalls.
OTHER ICONIC PLACES TO VISIT
The Northern Territory
Also known as the Australian Outback, the Northern Territory is where you can find Darwin, Kakadu National Park and in the heart of Australia, Uluru, the largest rock in the world. Exploring the Kakadu wetlands before travelling down to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock is the pinnacle of Australian road trips but not for the inexperienced so, embark if you dare. What are your thoughts on the advertising from Tourism Northern Territory?
Tip: Like other parts of Northern Australia, Darwin and Kakadu experience a wet season during the warmer months, particularly during these times, watch out for crocodiles. The Northern Territory also has some of the countries longest and most treacherous roads. Make sure you have a plan before embarking on cross country travels and always carry plenty of water.
If the rest of Australia proves to just be too hot for you, there’s an island off the mainland known as Tasmania. Australia’s southernmost island is home to more than 850 public walking trails and has the perfect climate for land exploration.
Hobart is Tasmania’s capital city and the second oldest capital in Australia, after Sydney. Located at the entrance to the Derwent River, its well-preserved surrounding bushland reaches close to the city centre and beaches line the shores of the river and estuary beyond.
Nestled amongst the foothills of Mount Wellington, Hobart combines heritage charm with a modern lifestyle in a setting of exceptional beauty. It’s no wonder Lonely Planet has called Hobart one of the top ten spots to visit in the world right now.
Due to the cooler weather, Tasmania also has some of the best produce and wineries in Australia, so if you wish to taste the finest food and wine Australia has to offer, make the short trip over from the mainland.
From baffling rock formations and ancient Aboriginal sites to sweeping green vineyards of world-class wineries and unbelievably clear ocean waters, Western Australia is the land of endless exploration. Western Australia’s wildlife is incredible, and equally impressive are the state’s natural habitats.
Situated only 19 kilometres off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island offers visitors a casual atmosphere, picturesque scenery, and a rich cultural heritage to discover on a short or extended stay.
Home to 63 of the prettiest beaches you’re likely to see anywhere, 20 beautiful bays and many coral reefs and wrecks, Rottnest Island is a marine paradise, with plenty to experience out of the water too.
Rottnest Island is known globally as the home of the cutest and most photogenic animal in the world, the quokka. Apart from a small colony on the mainland, they are found nowhere else on Earth.
The coastline of Western Australia is a nature lover’s paradise, offering countless national parks, as well as beach camping sites which are frequently visited by friendly dolphins, emus and wallabies.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR IN AUSTRALIA
While Australia is full of beauty and excitement, there are still a few things you have to watch out for.
Many northern parts of Australia are so close to the equator that they don’t experience winter, only a ‘dry season’ in its place. In these parts, the wet season can also be known as ‘cyclone season’ so, it’s advisable to check the weather forecast when heading to the northern parts of Australia. Most of the country is warm year-round but no matter where you are, the sun is powerful enough to do harm. Always protect yourself from the sun, or take regular breaks from direct exposure, and always drink plenty of water.
If you haven’t heard stories about all the killer animals that live in Australia, I don’t know how you found yourself on this page. While there are animals that can cause some serious damage, or worse, most are pretty friendly and love a good photo opportunity. The stories of dangerous land animals, like snakes and spiders, are grossly exaggerated. You would be lucky to see a snake outside a zoo, and the last time a spider killed someone was in 1979, they just sit in their webs collecting flies. If that’s is a fear of yours then you probably watch too much TV, you should be more concerned about some of the sea dwellers, like the blue-ringed octopus and the box jellyfish, which can be hard to see but no less deadly than a big great white. Most beaches have signage and if you want to know what’s in the water, reading this is a good place to start.
As frightening as they can all be, all of these creatures are beyond magnificent and, if you can shake the element of fear, you can truly appreciate them for what they are. While you can also appreciate the saltwater crocodiles and many species of sharks, these prehistoric predators are responsible for several reported deaths every year, meaning exercise caution in areas with common sightings. Crocodiles are sneaky and sit at the bottom of darker inland waters, waiting for anything they can fit within their huge jaws. Apparently, sharks just can’t tell the difference between humans and shark food so, they usually take a few bites out of the victim before realising they ordered the wrong meal. Still, the worst can happen, and I would be lying if I said otherwise.
As all of Australia is surrounded by ocean waters, most beaches are affected by large tidal movements and strong currents. At the worst of times, these conditions can be dangerous, even for the strongest of swimmers so, its best to swim at patrolled beaches. Particularly in the northern, and less patrolled regions, if a sign says not to swim, you probably shouldn’t swim. Strong surf conditions claim more lives each year than sharks, crocodiles, and Irukandji, combined. The safest areas are marked with flags for swimmers to enjoy the ocean with peace of mind while under constant professional supervision. No matter where you are, check the conditions and signage before entering the water.
As terrifying as the environment may seem though, the scariest animals in Australia do not crawl, slither, swim, or bite, nor do they like to run, or even walk. They move in packs and prey on anyone who exhibits any signs of having fun. Armed with guns and badges, they are Australia’s most notorious gang, the Boys in Blue.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing an Australian police officer loves more than handing out a juicy ticket to drain you of your hard-earned finances, so don’t give them a reason to talk to you. When speaking to friends in Europe, most are horrified to learn that drinking in public, or even just being drunk in public, is a punishable offence. While 99 per cent of visitors leave Australia without experiencing the hospitality of the local law enforcement, it’s always a good idea to brush up on the local etiquette before touching down on foreign soil.
All things considered, Australia is a very safe place to visit or live, if you are aware of potential dangers. You will never meet a more multicultural, fun, and welcoming bunch of people, or come across such a diverse range of landscapes, plants and wildlife. If you want to create a truly unforgettable experience, start planning your trip to Australia now.
About the Author:Harrison was born in Queensland, Australia, and got the taste for adventure from a young age. Since then, he has embarked on countless journeys around the east coast of Australia and believes that at least once in a lifetime, everyone should experience an all Aussie adventure and enjoy the great Australian hospitality.
An Australian Personal Trainer’s favourite exercises for losing weight at home
Are you feeling a bit lost without the gym? Don’t worry, almost everything you can do in the weights room, you can find a way to do at home. When it comes to getting fit, at home or anywhere else, the three biggest influences are diet, sleep and exercise.
Basing my workouts around the below exercises, I managed to lose more than 20 kilograms of body fat in less than six months. While a healthy diet did have a role to play in my transformation, I would recommend all of the following exercises if you are looking to improve your fitness or general health. The best part, you can do them all at home!
This is usually one of the first exercises that we teach to children when trying to develop an understanding of exercise and fitness. Super safe, super simple, super low chance of injury – perfect for everyone.
Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, either outstretch your arms, or put your hands behind your head to begin the motion. When ready, lift your head, and the rest of your upper body, up towards your knees ‘crunching’ your abdominal region. Pause at the top and lower yourself back down to the mat slowly to complete one repetition. You can do this for a number of repetitions, or for a set period of time, it is completely up to you!
There are also so many variations of the crunch, and all of them are effective for developing core strength and fitness so check out the video below (0:05 – 0:37) to see how I do mine!
LYING LEG RAISES
Lying leg raises are basically the prerequisite exercise for V-Snaps, which is the ultimate exercise for a flat tummy, or cheese-grater abs (depending on your fitness goals). It is important to note that both of these exercises will be faced with difficulty by anyone with any form of back pain – please perform with caution and at your own risk.
Lie down on your back with your legs extended and put your hands either; behind your head, or next to your body with your palms flat on the floor. Raise your feet slightly off the ground to begin the motion and when you are ready, keeping your legs straight, bring your feet back towards your head. Your glutes should break contact with the floor as the lower half of your body becomes suspended above your upper body, before a slight pause and returning to the starting position. For an extra challenge, do not let your head or feet touch the ground at any point during the exercise!
Perform this exercise in repetitions or for a set period of time. Watch my demonstration video below (0:37-0:58) and get ready to feel the burn.
The intensified big sister of lying leg raises. V-snaps incorporate a larger amount of muscles than the leg raises (most of your upper body) as well as a larger range of motion for muscles in the upper-abdominal region. When trying to drop the extra layers Winter body fat before beach season, this is my go to ab exercise.
While lying down on your back, straighten your legs and extend your arms above your head, placing one hand on top of the other. To begin, lift your hands and feet slightly off the ground and while keeping your arms and legs straight, bring your hands and feet together in the middle of your body, like an opening and closing ‘V.’
To get the most out of this exercise, keep your head, hands, and feet off the ground for the duration of the set. When this gets too easy, try it with weights! I use makeshift ‘prison’ weights, usually in the form of large water containers or water bottles filled with sand as I’m still saving up for kettle bells… Again, this exercise isn’t for everyone, especially if you experience any form of back pain, so please be careful! Demonstration video: 0:59 – 1:44.
By no means is this one of my favourites but I had to include something to work your obliques, those pretty little muscles outside your upper abdomen. You can see the difficulty in which I perform this exercise, showing how little coordination I have and how often I practice it, but thats not the point!
Lying on your back, put your hands behind your head and your legs in the air with your knees making a right angle. Keeping your hands fixed to your head, fully extend one leg and bring your elbow, from the same side of the body, all the way up to your stationary knee, or as close as you can get to it. After your elbow reaches your knee, fully extend that leg and flex the other to again make a right angle. At the same time your legs are switching from extension to flexion, bring your other elbow up to the knee which is now above the body. Continuously switch your legs between these two positions and at the same time, meeting the knee of the flexed leg with its opposite elbow. It is easier to demonstrate than to explain so just watch the video and please, don’t judge my lack of coordination! Video: 1:45 – 2:06.
The ultimate core strength and endurance test. Planks incorporate all major muscle groups from head to toe and are fantastic for toning areas around the waistline.
Start by lying flat on your chest with your feet together. Put your forearms flat on the ground and join your hands before lifting your entire body into the air. Keeping your feet and forearms planted, bearning the load of your body, hold yourself in position against the force of gravity. As difficult as it may be, maintain good posture with a straight line from your feet to your shoulders, do not let your hips sag. See my attempts in the video below (2:07 – 2:49).
GENERAL UPPER BODY
Push ups, or press ups, are in my opinion, the single greatest bodyweight exercise that can be incorporated into your daily routine. Focusing largely on the chest, shoulders, and arms, this exercise incorporates all upper-body muscle groups and greatly improves your core strength and fitness.
Start by lying flat on your chest with your toes pressed against the ground. Set your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart and about in line with your chest (or wherever you find comfortable). Using your core strength, push through your hands to extend your arms and lift your body up so that only your hands and feet are touching the ground. Lower your body back down until your chest is almost touching the ground to complete a repetition. Repeat while avoiding any part of your body, other than your hands and feet, touching the ground.
If you want to make this a little more about your arms than your chest, you can bring your hands in a bit closer to your body to direct more of the load to your triceps. If you aren’t yet able to complete a few repetitions in a row though, don’t feel bad about dropping your knees to the ground if it means you get the job done. You will be amazed at how quickly you can build fitness, strength, and muscular definition from just one minute a day of good form push ups.
When training your arms, you will only ever be focusing on one of two muscle groups with each exercise, either your biceps or your triceps. Because we have already covered push ups, which absolutely dominate your triceps, I am only going to be touching on one set of exercises for your biceps, the cable curl.
This is just a bicep curl that has a resistance band substituted in for any regular weights you would find in a gym. The difference between the cables and the weights? Not a lot really, but with weights you can control the resistance level and the range of motion with a lot less difficulty so although the resistance bands might not be the first thing I pick up in the gym, they have been incredibly helpful during lockdown. Check out my resistance band bicep curls video below!
First things first, squats are the mother of all leg exercises. Incorporate this exercise into all leg routines to build leg strength and definition, as well as general fitness and for men, even an increase in your testosterone production.
Set your feet around shoulder-width apart and slowly lower your booty as if you were sitting down on a very low seat. When you can’t comfortably go down any lower, pause and hold the squat for half a second before slowly standing back up again. Repeat for a target number of repetitions, or a set period of time. Aim for working sets of at least ten repetitions, or 30 seconds straight, but if this is too difficult then make it a goal to work up to.
There are a so many ways to perform this exercise safely but it’s important to always remember to keep your back straight. You can learn to do this easily by keeping your shoulders back and creating an imaginary straight line that runs from your hips to your shoulders, as seen in the picture to the right. Demonstration Video: 0:05 – 1:02.
While definitely not my favourite, it’d be rude to leave lunges off a list of powerful compound leg exercises for all fitness goals.
Take a large step forward and plant your feet, this is the starting position. Lower your body towards the ground, making sure to bend your legs slowly. Before your back knee touches the floor, pause and rise back up to the starting position. That is one repetition, complete a set number and then change to the other leg. If you need help balancing, try it with your hands on your hips. Lunges can either be performed stationary, lunging either forwards or backwards, or in a walking motion, if your workout area is large enough. Video: 1:03 – 1:27.
One way to get seriously toned legs, fast, is by combining strength and explosive power movements into the one exercise. Similar to squats, box jumps are fantastic for all fitness goals and can be completed almost anywhere.
Just plant both feet on the ground and jump from a stationary position (with both feet still on the ground) to your strong platform, stand up, step down, and repeat. Feel the burn and every time push yourself a little further than the last. You will be amazed at how quickly your legs can develop the shape you are looking for. Video: 1:28 – 2:35.
A nice little booty popper to finish the circuit. With your back and arms flat on the floor and your feet planted firmly to make a sharp angle with your knees, extend your hips high up off the floor (in a thrusting motion) and squeeze your glutes at the end before lowering your butt back to the ground. Repeat for a number of repetitions or a set period of time. Video: 2:36 – 3:19.
The hardest part is getting started!
These are just a few examples of exercises that you can easily find the time and space to do at home. I know there are a few muscle groups that were not covered in detail so I am working on another post full of more fantastic exercises that you can do at home (watch this space).
Believe it or not, there is only one year between the videos above, and this big unit making his way out of the water at Barceloneta Beach below. I lost 28 kilograms using these exercises so I know they work, just be persistent and at the same time, be patient. Results take time to show and I know it can be difficult not to see them instantly but progress is progress, no matter how small.
The hardest part is getting started, don’t give up!
About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field as a representative player, junior coach and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers where he studied the human body, exercise and nutrition, before being registered as a health and fitness professional with Fitness Australia and Fitness First Australia. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.
The importance of a positive mindset and the best advice for improving your mental health.
Our mental health is something that we are all dealing with daily. It can be as simple as managing the pressure of work each day or fighting to overcome embedded feelings such as anger, anxiety, or depression. We all have our battles. Life’s never going to stop testing you, and it’s important to know how to control your mind when it does. That’s what growth is all about.
When it comes to your mental health, the golden rule in any circumstances, or situation, is to never underestimate the power of a positive mindset.
I understand that this isn’t always easy, especially with the pressure of external forces that can often feel like they are constantly working against us. The following list was created particularly for strengthening your mind and body, to not only withstand the pressures of everyday life but to thrive in any environment you find yourself in. It is based purely on my experiences, and education, and while some points may seem obvious, do not underestimate the power of anything you are about to read.
1: Get physical
It’s proven that participating in regular physical exercise, even in small doses, has a positive, and direct, impact on your mood, self-esteem, stress, anxiety, and the strength of your immune system. Our bodies start to deteriorate when we stop using them, so the most important thing is to just get out and move. It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it lifts your heart rate enough for you to regulate your breathing. Your daily dose can be as simple as a short muscle stretching session, or even a short bike ride, but there is really no limit on what you can do. Here are just a few activities that you can easily fit into your week to maintain a healthy body & mind.
Yoga teaches the user to regulate breath while holding and transitioning between poses that require balance, strength and focus. In recent studies, several schools replaced classroom detentions with Yoga for children with behavioural issues, and each reported significant positive improvement in both the students’ behaviour and the general state of wellbeing. There’s a reason that this ancient art is practised by over 300 million people worldwide.
There are literally thousands of home workouts that almost anyone can do with little to no equipment. As a previous member of Australia’s health and fitness industry, I will be sharing a few of the isolation workouts that kept me fit while homebound in twenty-twenty. Just know that you can substitute almost anything found in a gym with some cheap everyday items. Think about any water bottle, or container, that you could use as a weight. It may sound obvious, but whatever capacity, in litres, that container holds, will be its equivalent weight in kilograms. Whatever you can do with a dumbbell, you can do with a plastic bottle, and likewise with kettlebells and larger containers. It’s incredible what you can do with a few makeshift weights and a set of resistance bands but if that’s not your thing, at the very least, get yourself a yoga mat and do your daily stretches. It doesn’t matter what you do, when incorporated into a regular routine, even the shortest and simplest of workouts will greatly assist in strengthening both your body and mind.
There’s a beautiful feeling that comes with distancing yourself from city life. Disappearing into the mountains is my favourite way to enjoy a bit of exercise, and nature, at the same time, however, you usually don’t have to venture very far from home to find a natural place to walk for hours on end. Hiking is another great activity that’s good for both the body and soul, especially when you stumble across some magical scenery and views.
Play Team Sports
Not only is joining a sporting team a great way to get fit, but it can also often open doors to a network of people with similar interests to yourself. This, combined with the bonding aspect, both during games and victory celebrations, is something that you are unable to take away from any other health and fitness-related activity.
As I said before, it doesn’t matter how you exercise, as long as you find a way that lets you enjoy it. When you enjoy what you do, it’s easy to turn it into a routine. You can do it, the hardest part is just getting started.
2: Be conscious about what you put in your body
Equally important as how you use your body, is what you put into it. It’s critical to maintain a healthy diet for both your mind and body, to operate at their optimal capacity. Every day the body needs natural, unprocessed foods that are rich in natural vitamins and minerals. Avoid sugar and as often as possible, processed foods in general. I grew up listening to people say “you are what you eat” and I can safely say, from my experience in both the fitness industry, and from watching friends suffer through years of drug abuse, if you fill your body with sh*t, then that’s what it becomes.
Alcohol is literally poison and there’s not a single drug in the world, legal or illegal, that will leave you better off after regular use. I’ve seen, first hand, lives being ruined and even lost to consumption use of drugs and alcohol. Every feeling of relief, joy, ecstasy, satisfaction, or excitement is only borrowed from your future self. You might not always feel it the next day, or even the day after, but there’s no escaping the darkness that comes with the highs of drug or alcohol use. An addiction to a substance can be born from using just once and once an addiction is born, it can be a tough to kick.
I also personally believe that everyone should try to limit their consumption of digital content. The news, TV, radio or paper, is not here to inform those who are digesting it. Each and every media corporation is pushing an agenda, and you should take everything you hear with a grain of salt. The world is beautiful and best seen through your own eyes, just know the difference between good and bad when it comes to what you feed yourself.
3: Spend time close to nature
I touched on this in the hiking point, but there’s no better way to disconnect from the modern world than by submerging yourself in the beauty of nature. Mountains, forests, lakes, or any natural landscape you can find, it’s all food for the soul. You don’t have to get lost in a literal sense but go far enough to be able to listen to the unspoiled voice of mother nature and get a little exercise at the same time. A report containing data from more than 290 million people was published in 2018 with evidence of exposure to greenspace reducing the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. I know it’s not always easy, or possible, to get out into the wilderness, but the next chance you get, take it. I guarantee it’ll do wonders for both your physical and mental health.
4: Understand the power of positive thinking and adopt a positive mindset
You can learn a lot about yourself from simply just observing your thoughts on a day to day basis. There is a relationship between the heart and mind which begins to reveal itself when you begin to understand your thought patterns and how your mind operates.
One of my favourite pieces of literature is called The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale. Through his work, Peale teaches us the importance of breaking free from the mind in order to take control of our lives through a changing of attitude and I highly recommend adding this piece to your bookshelf.
Works by Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Joe Dispenza are also fantastic when it comes to understanding the subconscious mind but, if you don’t enjoy reading then do not despair as Youtube is probably the greatest teacher of the modern age and you can listen to audiobooks, as well as learn about almost anything you want, for free.
“Increasing the strength of our minds is the only way to reduce the difficulty of life.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana.
When you begin to understand how your mind works, you will also begin to understand your pain, what causes it and most importantly, how to deal with it. You will also come to understand that even when you are at your lowest, things are never as bad as they seem. I guarantee that forming a relationship between your mind and soul will allow you to accept your situation and overcome anything stopping you from living a life full of the happiness you deserve. When you begin to know yourself on a more conscious level, you begin to open a new dimension of thinking that will change your life.
If you are familiar with any of the works mentioned above then you would already be aware of the importance of maintaining a positive mindset. I know it can be difficult, especially in such uncertain times, but believe it or not, your thoughts have power beyond comprehension and its important to be conscious about how your mind works.
It may not happen overnight, but if you wholeheartedly strive to always be positive, while consciously observing your thoughts and emotions, you will be amazed at how quickly your state of being will begin to shift into one of constant positivity.
5:Build a support network & TALK
As much as I love to spend time alone, we, as humans, are social creatures, and most of us require regular interaction with other beings, or organisms, to maintain sanity. In times of difficulty, a support network can do wonders for your mental health, as just knowing you have someone to talk to if needs be, is enough to make you feel better about even the most unfavourable situations. Find people that you trust and that you can confide in about the challenges you are facing.
Join a social club
If you don’t have a network, or like me, moved to the other side of the world without any contacts, consider joining a social club or sporting team. There are countless groups on facebook as well as apps dedicated to helping you meet people with similar interests and most importantly, have fun. I’m not saying you are going to find a free therapist, but making friends is always a good idea when it comes to having support when you need it most.
Adopt an animal companion
For almost ten years, my best friend was my dog, Wendell, who I had to say goodbye to at the end of 2020. While the love you get from a dog is likely to be much more intense than from any other animal, you can pretty much choose any domestic (tameable) creature to be your animal companion.
The touch of an animal can lift even the dampest of spirits, but a bond with a pet is something even more powerful. Once you have created this bond, be it with a dog, cat, cow or chicken, your animal companion will give you limitless amounts of love and positive energy for the rest of their lives.
Keep a Journal
If you find it hard to talk about your life with other people, try keeping a journal. Releasing feelings of emotion through pen and paper is to some, just as effective as if done verbally.
“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you can realise is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not gonna be the last to go through it,” — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
In a time of social distancing, make sure you are talking. Don’t ‘bottle up’ your feelings, find someone that you can share them with. Check on your family, check on your friends, and if you need help, ask for it.
Meditation and mindfulness is something I have been exploring deeply with Cyndi recently, and it has had a profoundly positive effect on both of our lives since we began. While there are countless forms of meditation, all with different uses, my understanding is that the basic concept is simply just being mindful of the present moment. It’s also about feeling powerful positive emotions such as gratitude, love, and appreciation. When practised regularly, this is said to be the awakening of incredible healing powers within your body. Now, I’m no expert, but it doesn’t take much knowledge, or practice, to develop a basic understanding of why this ancient practice is used today by more than 300 million people, worldwide. If you, like me at first, are sceptical about this practice, do your own research and discover the truth for yourself. Just go in with an open mind, what have you got to lose?
Look after yourself
In such times of uncertainty, when the world doesn’t seem to make much sense, it is so important to look after yourself in all ways possible. Take this list and build on it. Be conscious about what you think, what you feel and especially, what you want to create with your thoughts. Anything is possible, you can do it.
If you take this advice with an open mind, I have no doubts that you can free yourself from any difficulty that you are experiencing within. Our health is precious, and we must do what we can to keep it in an optimal state. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field, as a representative player, junior coach, and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers, where he studied the human body, exercise, and nutrition, before continuing his work within the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer and gym supervisor. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.
It’s difficult to understand just how lucky you are to come from a place like Australia until you leave it for the first time. Even though my family never had a lot of money while I was growing up, I don’t remember a time where I ever went to bed hungry, unless I’d well and truly misbehaved.
My stepfather, Andrew, was born in Fiji, and I was fortunate enough to have visited this island paradise on numerous occasions during my childhood. But it was also here, at a very young age, that I discovered that the world was not a level playing field when witnessing the poverty in many of the nation’s cities and villages.
As far back as I can remember, my mother had always been heavily involved with a charity organisation called CityCare. As I got older, we would help CityCare, together, in providing food and other necessities for many of Brisbane’s homeless and disadvantaged residents. Mum also spearheaded several fundraising events for both CityCare, and another organisation that was known then as Mercy Ministries, which was founded to provide treatment and safe spaces for young women suffering from abuse.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with the founders of both organisations, and I am grateful for the opportunities in which I was able to make a positive difference within my community. As a nation, Australians are also fortunate enough to have access to a welfare system which provides financial assistance to a very high number of residents. Admittedly, some who deserve assistance don’t receive it, and some who receive it don’t deserve it. Every system is flawed, but it still does a pretty good job of providing benefits to more than a third of the nation’s population. So between the many religious, charitable and government organisations in Australia, residents always have access to some form of support.
I believe that as humans it is, at the very least, our duty to be supportive of everyone around us. There is a good reason that all of the world’s most widely followed religions emphasise the importance of Love; it’s the energy of the soul.
I spend a lot of time every day in the city streets of Barcelona. When I’m out either walking, riding, or simply just observing life here in Cataluña, I lose count of how many people I see either sleeping on bits of cardboard or pushing shopping trolleys, filled with all their possessions, aimlessly to nowhere. I don’t remember a time where I’ve ventured out in Barcelona and not seen someone who could really use a helping hand. I have always had a strong desire to help the people around me and seeing so many people here, who have given up on life, is something that I refuse to accept as a normal. At the time, without a job or much money, I didn’t feel like I would be able to provide much help to anyone but I started buying cups of noodles and cooking them for people who were living on the streets. This turned out to be short-lived as I was unable to carry more than five cups at a time and constantly spilled hot water on myself. Until Cyndi came up with the idea of sandwiches. We started making different types of toasties, packed with vitamins and minerals, before setting out in search of those who needed them, who were never far away.
I know it’s not much, but after spending a little bit of time with some of these guys, we quickly began to see how our small deeds meant much greater things to them. Many of the recipients would say they have not eaten in days, and I fear this is the case for a lot of the homeless residents within the city. We met a group of men that were living at the entrance of a cinema, closed during Covid, and began taking them small hampers of food and homemade juices. I realised that we had become quite important to them by the excitement they soon began to greet me with; we didn’t have much to say to each other, but it didn’t take a lot to see the positive impact it had on their day. I was heartbroken on the final morning that I went to take them breakfast, only to find the cinema had reopened and my friends had been sent to their next place of refuge. But as long as we are physically able to, Cyndi and I will not stop making food and giving it to those in need.
Operation Spread Love isn’t just about providing food, it’s also about letting people know that the world still cares. This kind of love doesn’t cost time, money or anything else, so you have no excuses not to share it. But if more people shared just a little bit of what they had then the world would be a much more beautiful place for us all to live. If 1% of the world can end all poverty financially, then 99% of the world can do it with actions of pureness.
Don’t stop loving and don’t stop caring; together, we can all make the changes needed in the world. If you wish to contribute in any way to this cause then just be kind to everyone around you, regardless of what they can do for you! But please do not hesitate to get in contact or leave a donation below if you wish to support our efforts.
Paz, amor y buena salud.
Operation Spread Love.
Would you like to feed the homeless in Barcelona? 100% of money raised will go directly to buying food for those who need it most. Donations are accepted through Paypal or card payments below.
How one wild Australian left Brisbane for Cataluña‘s concrete jungle.
I was born during the Winter of 94 in Queensland, Australia. At the time, my mother was an upcoming tv personality and my father had a respected career in motorsports. I was mums firstborn, but the third child for dad, who already had two sons from his previous marriage.
Only months before my first birthday, both the career and life of my father were cut short when he was involved in a high-speed collision on the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia, leaving his friends, fans, and family behind.
Three years later, mum met her now-husband, Andrew. Although I do not have any memories from before this time, I’ll never forget the first day I met Andrew, when he showed up to our house to fix the toilet as a favour to mum. We started seeing a lot more of Andrew, and it wasn’t long before he stepped up to be my dad. When I was four years old, we became a family in Fiji, an island paradise in the middle of the Pacific, and Andy’s place of birth. The wedding was beautiful. There was a small ceremony on a quiet beach before we made our way up onto a nearby cliff above Yanuca Island, where we were looking out towards the Pacific Ocean while surrounded by only a handful of very close family and friends. I was given the responsibility of the ring-bearer, a tough gig for a hyperactive four-year-old. I think I did pretty well, but I’ll never forget mums blood-curdling screams when she realised I’d snuck off to peep over the edge of the cliff with the ring pillow still in my hand. Not too far down the track, during my first year of school, my little sister, Zoe, was born.
I didn’t enjoy school. When I was ten, my primary school said they couldn’t handle me anymore and that it was time for me to move on. In efforts to curb my behaviour, mum and Andrew sent me to St. Peters Lutheran College, a boarding school in Brisbane; however, it wasn’t long before they were trying to get rid of me as well. Fortunately for me, my fathers funeral was held at the St. Peters Chapel, which brought national media coverage to the school. My older brothers were also school alumni and had good relationships with many of my teachers. Thanks to my family ties, I survived at St. Peters until my graduation in 2011
It all began in the year 2000, in Brisbane, Australia. I was five when I started at Indooroopilly State School, and in the same year, my little sister, Zoe, was born. The following year, my family moved to Sydney, and I started at Birchgrove Public School, which sat on the edge of the Paramatta River, overlooking the Cockatoo Island Prison. I remember one lunchtime at Birchgrove where a couple of friends and I emptied a bin on top of a car out the front of the school. We mustn’t have been too sly because we ended up in the principal’s office and as it turned out, it was the principal’s car that copped the contents of the bin. That day, barely seven years old, I got my first school suspension.
Relative to other capital cities in Australia, Sydney is by far the biggest and most heavily populated, resulting in significantly lower air quality than what we were used to after living in Queensland. Zoe, who had been suffering from health complications since birth, soon also began to have respiratory issues which prompted our move back to Brisbane. Upon returning to Brisbane, I also returned to Indooroopilly State School for the start of my third school year.
I had no interest in class. But I’d found a love of drawing and art, filling all of my books with cartoons and graffiti. I could sit through a whole school day scribbling in my books and not take in a word the teacher said, which has continued right up until this very day. I’ve just learned to multitask better since.
In 2004, for the start of my fourth year at Indooroopilly State, the school decided to trial an all-boy class, which I was ecstatic about being selected for; however, this was nothing but a social experiment where they took all the problem and at-risk kids and threw them in a classroom with a few of the normals. And I can say this because I was one of the problem kids. We would go out and play cricket or rugby every morning, video games during the day, then go out for more sport again in the afternoon, while somehow trying to fit schoolwork into the day. Unfortunately, I found myself sidelined for all of the school camps, surf trips and sports carnivals in the year due to my behaviour. But I didn’t even make it to the end of the year before I was expelled from Indooroopilly State School.
Going from a school of 500 to a school of 1500 took a lot of getting used to. My new German boarding school, St Peters Lutheran College, was more than five times the size of Indooroopilly. With my classes scattered all over the campus, I was late to almost every single one of them while learning my way around. It was great to now have access to fancy art, technology, language and sporting facilities at my new school, but staying in line was something that I hadn’t yet been able to come to terms with. By the time I was thirteen, I’d been suspended three times from St Peters, and they were already threatening to kick me out. But at least I’d found Rugby.
Rugby is a fascinating game that requires all sorts of skills and player profiles for a team to be successful. Doesn’t matter how big or small, or uncoordinated, you are, there’s a position on the rugby field that’s right for you. To many, it’s quite a barbaric sport. But really, it’s quite the opposite. Yes, there are physical, and very physical components to the game, which often result in injuries, or on some freak occasions, even deaths. It is, however, the mental aspect of the game that one must understand to truly appreciate the sport.
If you play a game of Rugby, with heart, there isn’t a possibility that you won’t be hurt during, or afterwards. Whether it’s from muscle stress or fatigue or taking heavy contact from your opponent, you will experience some sort of pain during that 80 minutes. I know, so far this doesn’t sound very appealing, but bear with me. The beauty of rugby is that there are 30 players divided into two teams, and every position is just as critical to the success of the team as the next. There are always gifted players that heavily influence the end result of a game, but unless every single player in the team knows their role, as well as the roles of the players next to them, the team will never taste victory.
I have never experienced such a show of determination and willpower than when I’ve seen my teammates rally together in the dying minutes of a game and give every ounce of energy and strength they have left for their mates around them. This is true strength. When your body is telling you that you can’t continue, and you carry on anyway, that is when you begin to learn about yourself and your body’s true capabilities. No sport gives you more of an understanding of what it means to be a team than Rugby, and for this, I will always be grateful. I am also grateful for all of my bloody injuries and broken bones that came from the battlefield, these experiences planted the seed which became the idea that pain is superficial and, you can withstand more than you could ever give yourself credit for.
In saying this, you don’t need any sport to help you get physically or mentally fit. Working towards your health and fitness-related goals is just a lot easier when you do it through something you love.
I played college Rugby from my first until my last year at St. Peters. But my schoolyard etiquette would find me sidelined from several games throughout the years. By the time I was in senior school, I had a reputation with many of the students and almost every teacher but, it was nothing to be bragging about. I had the reputation of a wild card, willing to do anything that could cause a reaction. Sometimes it was laughs, fun and games, but others it was a little more sinister and often at someone else’s expense. But I had learned a lot about what I could and couldn’t get away with at St. Peters so, I there were fewer encounters with the school authorities.
Around this time, a few of my friends had started smoking cannabis before, during, and after school, which I then started doing, occasionally, for a little excitement and to make my classes a little more bearable. I thought it was pretty harmless compared to some of the other stuff I’d heard about, but it couldn’t have had any positive effects on my young mind. This was also around the time I started going to parties and experimenting with alcohol, often drinking more than my body could handle. I spent the next two years trying to find a balance between all of my new experiences, while also trying to keep my grades up at the same time.
Anyone who went to school in Australia would have heard the term “Muck Up Day.” This is believed by some to be a right of passage on the last school day where the soon-to-be graduates create mischief within their school, and others, depending on how passionate they are about the occasion. Around this time, just before my graduation in 2011, our school, along with many others in the area, brought in additional security and notified police to be alert. These were efforts to dissuade potential troublemakers from coming onto school property late at night but, it didn’t stop the artist of a 15-meter penis, painted on our concrete our chapel forecourt, or the group that decided to storm the study centre before locking the all the doors and starting a rave, all quite harmless in comparison to some of the other stories out there. My afternoon ended on a lower note though, crashing my car into school property while leaving campus. I fled the scene but, they’d already called mum by the time I got home. Apparently, I was lucky to have graduated.
During high school, I had no interest in the schoolwork but, thankfully, by the time I finished, I’d gained some experience from working jobs in construction, hospitality, and retail. I was seventeen when I left school, my family home, and any further financial support that I was ever hoping for.
I was working part-time at a pet shop before finishing at St. Peters. When I was finally free from school, I transitioned into a full-time role. I loved the job. All I had to do was look after all of the animals and give advice to customers about animals. If someone wanted some beautiful, young, free-range laying hens, I was the guy they came to speak to. I was also playing Rugby and getting pretty serious about it, I’d been training hard for over a year and increased my weight, fitness and strength exponentially.
My passion for sport, health and fitness led me to look into exercise, sport and nutrition programs at the university I was playing Rugby for; however, the grades I finished high school with did not allow me to enter any of the programs I was interested in. I was still playing, refereeing, and coaching Rugby when I was referred, by Queensland Rugby Union, to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers, to complete my certifications in fitness and personal training. For six months I studied the basics of anatomy and exercise physiology while completing an internship at a local gym before I was awarded the certificates III & IV in Fitness, which accredited me as an Australian personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Now it was time to make some money.
You usually don’t earn too much when first embarking out as a personal trainer, as I found out after starting ‘Hansford Personal Training’ and renting space within a little suburban gym.
For three months, I was spending more money on rent than I was earning from training clients, so I was lucky to have kept my job at the pet shop to still have an income. I had also been certified as a boxing instructor and when my business started gaining traction, I was invited to begin working with Fitness First, a corporate fitness centre with access to more clients with more money to spend. It was an exciting opportunity, which I had to take but, I soon found out that moving from a gym with four staff members to a gym with fifteen personal trainers, where I was the youngest and least experienced, was not an easy transition.
The competition was high and, I struggled to make money within the gym, turning to outdoor training sessions and other sources of income to pay the rent, which was almost double what my previous gym was asking.
When my contract ended, I was fortunate enough to be offered a role within the gym with a salary and no expenses payable, which I gladly accepted. Running my own business gave me a taste of the real world and how much I still had to learn. I also realised that I wasn’t really interested in putting in the effort to become a top-class personal trainer, so I looked again to my study options.
The University of Queensland.
In 2013 I commenced a Bachelor of Business Management at the University of Queensland. Up until this point, I didn’t really know that university was more about parties and social events than it was about going to classes. You get graded on your ability to research and regurgitate information, while learning to balance your chores and co-curriculars at the same time. My commitments to both work and Rugby made finding time to study a little harder but, once I developed a routine and some time management skills, I managed to survive the first year without too much difficulty.
At the start of the next year, before the Rugby season had even started, I suffered a shoulder injury which resulted in me deciding to sit the first half of the season out. Initially, I thought that with one less commitment I would be able to complete my schoolwork to a higher standard, but I soon learned the positive impact a sport like Rugby has on your life. After withdrawing from my competition, and more than fifteen hours per week of training, I become restless with my sleeping and began to lose focus in class. It didn’t help when I started combatting the sleeping difficulties with alcohol either.
It wasn’t long before my lifestyle contradicted everything I knew about health and fitness. I began a routine of non-stop substance abuse from Friday to Sunday, sometimes dragging it out until Monday or Tuesday if I could get away with it. I met a lot of people when I was frequenting different clubs, bars and parties in Brisbane. It also didn’t take long before I had a reputation as someone you could come to if you needed anything. But this did me no favours. You don’t do your homework when you’re out late at night, and you don’t go to class when you’re in bed battling the dark thoughts that fill your mind after days of inflicting chemical trauma on your body. My grades started slipping but, I didn’t care, I was too busy having fun. Even after multiple arrests and pending trafficking charges, I managed to juggle my co-curriculars with my schoolwork until the end of 2015, when everything finally caught up with me.
I’d been involved with some small-time gangsters which came to an end after a series of chaotic and unfortunate events left some of my associates in a bad way with worse people. I’d also just found out that ‘Papi’ the Somalian in the above video, had been using my car to hide firearms so, I cut all ties when they asked me for a “loan.”
I didn’t lend them the money so they came after me to take it. I was taken, tied up and tortured overnight. It was a pretty horrible ordeal which landed me in hospital and the news headlines. I was pretty shaken up so during my recovery, I decided to withdraw from my university studies and figure out what I was doing with my life.
I became interested in real estate after completing several property subjects as part of my undergraduate studies at UQ. To continue my professional development while taking some time off university, I enrolled in a short course that certified me as a real estate agent in Australia. About a week later, I had my certificate and was applying for all the real estate positions I could find. Fortunately for me, some of the courses I’d already completed as part of my university major looked great on my CV so, I was getting a few calls for interviews. Unfortunately for me, most of the interviews ended shortly after the hiring person asked me about why I was all over the news a few months back. I was even given job offers at two separate firms, which, to my disappointment, both were later retracted. It was only when I met with the director of Harcourts Southwest Brisbane and made a good impression, that I was given my shot at a career in real estate.
Fast forward a few months and I’d gotten myself into a healthy routine. I had an income, some close friends, and I was on talking terms with my family, which meant at the very least I was getting some good advice when I needed it. It was time to go back to school though, so in the middle of 2016, I went back to UQ and pretty much just picked up where I had left off.
Looking back on that year, I learned one lesson I’ll never forget, YOU are the company you keep.To all who knew me through these times – I know it shouldn’t have taken what it did for me to realise that what I was doing was just complete self-destruction, but hey, better late than never.
I felt like this was my second chance to do things right. My attendance was a lot higher and anything I missed in class I made a big effort to catch up on at home. I made some friends in my program, some of whom I am still close with to this day. We created a support network where over the next year and a half we would spend dozens of sleepless nights together, working in the university libraries. It’s incredible how much you can fit into a day when you have a good routine in place but, even so, university for me was not without its struggles. I completed the subjects of law, economics, marketing, finance, and management with relatively little difficulty, as you could basically pass just by thoroughly reading the content. But the property valuation and development subjects were different. Their assessments were based around feasibility studies and creating a series of formulas on hundred page excel spreadsheets. For me, this was nothing short of a nightmare and I can’t thank my crazy Argentinian friend, Federico, enough, for creating our study group and pulling me through our final months at UQ. I honestly would have been lost without him.
In mid-2018, I graduated from the University of Queensland with a bachelor of business management, real estate and property development. A huge achievement for me. Another noteworthy achievement for me was that from when I picked up my studies again in 2016 until my graduation in 2018, 50% of the grades I was awarded were distinctions (six out of seven on the grade scale). I could write pages of praise about my experiences at UQ. From the sports programs to the facilities, teachers and course delivery, it was all first class. Though I never really realised how good education in Australia was until I decided to study in the capital of Cataluña.
After spending a good part of my life close to the sea, I only discovered the joys of sailing on a few island hopping and camping adventures around Southeast Queensland during my time at university. I have always loved driving motorboats and my fathers 4-metre aluminium ‘tinny’, but sailing was very new to me. After graduating from UQ, I travelled through Europe with some friends, and we ended up in Croatia on a catamaran, all to ourselves. Only, we were in a flotilla with 50 other yachts and island hopping to different party destinations. It was wild. During that week I also realised that I’d make a pretty good skipper so, when I found out I was moving to Barcelona, I started looking for maritime colleges.
It wasn’t long before I found MT Sail & Power, a family run sailing school operating out of Port Vell in the middle of Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella. I hadn’t even recovered from the jet lag before I was on their boat as crew, spectating a Yachtmaster training group. It was during the group’s final sessions before undertaking their practical exam and, we went out to complete some open water manoeuvres and emergency response situations before practising docking in different ports along the coast. It was intense, but I loved it and knew I was ready to have a go myself.
For the next few months, I was focused solely on studying the ins and outs of sailing, navigation and meteorology, while also completing regular passages around the Spanish part of the Mediterranean. I was able to see all of the coastline from Costa Brava down to Dénia, slightly south of Valencia, before travelling through the Balearic Islands. We stopped for several days in Ibiza, then Mallorca, before the short passage back to Barcelona. It was a lot of fun and, after three months of intense training and five theoretical exams, I was now ready to go for the Yachtmaster license. After a short theoretical question session with the examiner, who had been flown in by the RYA to supervise our exam, we went out into the Mediterranean to commence the exam, which lasted about eight hours. It was extremely challenging, but all three of the students in my group passed, and we went out to celebrate by doing what sailors do best. Drinking.
A few months earlier, I had applied for the Quarterdeck Skipper Academy in Croatia, where they train the captains and hostesses for The Yacht Week charters. I had completed all of the interview stages and my placement in the program was just pending my attainment of the Yachtmaster certifications, which I now had. So I flew into Split, along with 40 other skippers and hostesses from all over the world, and began nine days of skipper training in the Adriatic Sea. The skippers’ course took everything we had learned during the Yachtmaster training, which I was still trying to master, and added on several different components required when operating as a charter skipper in a flotilla, for long periods of time. We had to learn and practice many different mooring and rafting situations, often in extreme conditions, which are common in this region of the Adriatic. It was an incredible experience. Far more challenging than most of us could have imagined, but we were all glad to have made it to the end.
It’s a tough gig being on call 24 hours a day for a whole week straight, in a situation where you’re responsible for the lives of your guests, who are usually just smashing drugs and/or alcohol the whole time. It’s also pretty likely that at some point, something is going to go wrong. Then when the week is over, you start again, the same day with a new crew. I honestly don’t know how long I would have lasted in this situation while trying to party at the same time. But I think the academy instructors had the same thoughts as I did not go on to skipper for The Yacht Week that season. They said it was due to my lack of experience as a captain. I think it was more to do with the reputation that our two boats full of crazy Aussies had earned during my first visit to Croatia. Either way, it was probably for the best as I was ready to party harder than my guests. But I went back to Barcelona, heartbroken, instead.
I learned a lot from ‘failing’ the skipper academy in Croatia. Before then, I had a sense of arrogance and complacency that I’d created through coasting to most of my achievements. I always achieved what I set out to do, but I never really had to work hard for it, which is why it came as such a shock for me when I was told that I wouldn’t go on to skipper for The Yacht Week that year. This failure hit hard, but it wasn’t long before I had my sights set on another opportunity. After being called in as a relief skipper for a short voyage around Barcelona, and apparently doing a great job, I was then called back on several occasions to continue skippering for the charter company. I had a great time in this role, sailing and looking after the guests, who were always from far and wide with an interesting story to tell. But this came to an end with the summer season, when Cyndi and I returned to Australia.
We planned to return to Spain, so I could find a permanent role onboard a yacht in early 2020, but nothing could have prepared us for what 2020 had in store.
Post Grad, Cataluña.
After months of waiting for Australia’s borders to reopen, while fighting the government for permission to leave, my partner and I were finally able to return to Spain in the middle of the year, and the European summer. But we returned to empty streets and very few businesses still operating in Barcelona. The city had been closed for tourists and under heavy lockdown conditions which it had not yet recovered from; there was still no one around.
I was too late, all the yachts were either locked down in a marina or drifting around at sea, trying to find a country that would let them in. As Barcelona’s tourism in 2020 died with Covid, so did my yachting season and I began looking at other opportunities for work and professional development. This search led me to several postgraduate study options and I decided to enrol in the International MBA program with EAE Business School and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.
The main reason for enrolling in this program was that public university admissions had closed for similar programs, narrowing down my options. The chosen dual master program awards a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from UPC, and a Master of International Business (MIB) from EAE, but comes with a nineteen thousand Euro price tag. When I heard the cost, I told my admissions counsellor that there was no way I could afford, or find value in paying for this program and that we would conclude our business together there. But Mr Pau was a well-trained salesman. After giving the whole EAE sales pitch the one thing that stuck with me was that the school finances almost all of the program fees and then immediately, based on your skillset, arranges employment with one of their many professional partners.
So they loan you the money for two separate masters degrees and then help you to pay it back by giving you a job? After about four months of unsuccessful job hunting, that sounded incredible.
I had been promised great success from day one. But the moment I paid the deposit for my placement in the program was the moment everyone from EAE vanished. For nearly two weeks, I was calling and emailing the school trying to get in contact with Mr Pau, who would just direct me to someone else who would refuse to talk to me. I was denied any further assistance as Mr Pau continued to tell me that it was no longer his job to help me and even started laughing when I expressed my disappointment with both him and the school. I had my suspicions before, but that was the moment I really felt like the whole setup was a scam. So I immediately pulled my enrollment to pursue a more trustworthy institution.
Read what myself and other students have to say about EAE, here.
After a careful analysis of the current economic climate, as well as my new professional and study options, I have decided to enrol into the University of Barcelona for 2021. After being offered placements in both the Master of International Business, and the Master of Marketing and Sustainability programs, I have chosen to proceed with the first, due to it being offered in English. I am looking forward to starting the next chapter of my educational journey in a world-class institute that was born in the fourteenth century.
Until commencing the masters program, I will be largely focused on writing, as well as a managerial role within an international property services agency. This is just a summary of my educational journey so far and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences from the never-ending quest for self-improvement.
Everything you need to know about staying safe amidst the theft and crime in Barcelona.
There’s something truly magical about the capital of Cataluña. Whether it’s the energy in the streets from the mountains down to the sea, or the architecture, music and arts that people flock from around the globe to experience.
Everyone wants a taste of the Mediterranean lifestyle and, after arriving in Barcelona for the first time, it doesn’t take long to understand why.
I first came to Spain in the Summer of 2018. I’d just finished my undergraduate studies and was meeting a few friends in Barcelona to embark on a five-week trip through Europe. Having come from Brisbane, which is more of a big country town than a city, I was in awe of absolutely everything I saw in Barcelona. From the first day I arrived, I knew that I would be back one day to live. This turned out to be much sooner than expected after I met my partner, Cyndi, here in Barcelona during my first visit. Coincidentally, she was travelling to Australia at the end of that year, allowing us to meet again upon her arrival in Brisbane, just a few months later. It was just a few weeks until I’d been persuaded to pack what I could carry and leave the rest behind. I was off to Spain again.
The most valuable piece of advice that I was given when I first arrived in Barcelona was to protect your belongings and keep your phone out of sight. After two years in the Catalan capital, this is the first thing I would tell anyone who is looking for advice. I saw more robberies during my first six months in Barcelona than I did over 24 years in Australia. Most of the thieves are swift, vanishing before their victim even has a chance to realise they’ve been robbed. It works easily when there are seas full of unsuspecting tourists everywhere and absolutely no criminal charges for robbing another person in broad daylight. But many don’t fear being seen. They roam around in groups, looking for absolutely anyone they can overpower to take bags, phones, watches, and anything of value from.
Since Covid, there have been several distressing videos released which show such crimes taking place. The video below, which sums things up well, is of an English tourist, who is begging to get into a taxi after being targeted a group of Maghrebi men. The guy is absolutely terrified, but the driver denies the man entry and tells him to get into another car, which to no surprise, is being guarded by the assailants. The tourist enters the taxi, closely followed by the three others who then proceed to assault and rob him.
During my first visit to Barcelona in 2018, in the very same place the above video was captured, my friends and I got into a taxi to return home after a night out. My good mate, Doug, got into the front seat, and I witnessed him holding his phone at multiple points during the journey home. When we arrived and went to get out of the taxi, Doug’s phone was nowhere to be seen. We turned the car upside down before the thieving driver started getting pretty aggressive. So Doug accepted that his phone was gone and we went home without it.
Another one of my good mates, Lachie, came to visit in 2019. As it was when I was preparing for my Yachtmaster exam, I stayed home one evening that he went out to see the city. After meeting a guy in a bar, near the infamous La Rambla, and talking for just a few minutes, Lachie realised the moment that the man’s hand was sliding out of his pocket with his iPhone.
In efforts to save his mobile phone, Lachie grabbed the mans hand and tried to wrestle it back from him. But the man calmly told him that he shouldn’t try anything as they were surrounded by the thief’s accomplices and my friend had no chance of winning this fight. They then escorted him to a cash machine where Lachie purchased the phone back from the thief for 200€, only to have it stolen again not two days later.
My partner also had her phone stolen three times in the space of two months in Barcelona. Once with violence, where she was hit in the head by the thief from behind, and on the other two occasions, on the metro and a restaurant terrace where the thieves were gone before anyone realised what had happened.
These are just the stories from those who are close to me, some of the other victims of robberies here have not been so fortunate though. It was also around this time that a report surfaced which detailed the fatal stabbing of a young woman in a Port Olympic nightclub. All for an iPhone. story
The thieves you see in the videos are just opportunist cowards who, for their own safety, will only ever hunt in groups. They are usually looking for phones, wallets, bags and jewellery in areas that they can make a quick offload and escape; but, wallets and bags will usually just be emptied and discarded nearby. Most are actually quite scared of being confronted though, even though their crimes usually carry no punishments if they get caught.
So how do you avoid becoming a victim or a target altogether?
5 Tips for safety in Barcelona:
A high percentage of Barcelona’s crime is isolated to an area that I’m going to call the Red Zone. Ciutat Vella, meaning old city, is one of Spain’s most frequently visited tourist destinations for so many reasons. It is also one of the countries’ worst areas for crime, covering more than half of the Red Zone on the map below. This is an area where particular caution is required, but this is also no secret to most people who visit Barcelona. My advice for anyone who doesn’t want to become a robbery Victim in Barcelona is simple.
1: Be cautious in the Red Zone, especially at night
The Red Zone houses some of Spain’s most frequently visited tourist destinations and is also home to some of the Barcelona’s best-known places to eat, drink and dance. It is also the quarters for numerous mafia presences within the city who continuously fight for control of the area, causing death and violence predating my arrival here. Drug factions of different nationalities can often be seen fighting on the streets, and many flats are being stolen from their rightful occupants and converted into narcopisos. After living in the area for over a year, I would definitely say that it’s a place you must exercise caution at all times. If you have to go anywhere within this area alone, especially late at night, then it’s worth considering Pepper Spray as a pocket-sized deterrent for someone trying to harm you. It’s cheap and readily available from surplus stores around the city and best of all, completely legal to carry. A little tin of spice juice could give you the time you need to escape a nasty situation, as long as you don’t blind yourself first, but just being careful and not talking to strangers will get you pretty far as well.
2: Try not to look like a tourist
‘Guiris‘ stand out in Barcelona and, as the locals aren’t overly receptive of tourists, thieves can happily live off their prizes from robbing them. As long as the thieves don’t rob the Catalans, they can go about their business with little resistance from any of the locals. Tourists are by far the biggest target for thieves in Barcelona, and that’s the way the locals like it. People here do not speak English unless they come from overseas, and out of principle, many of the Catalan people do not even speak Spanish unless they absolutely must. For this reason, just a basic understanding of Spanish can get you very far in Barcelona. Whether you are asking for help or directions, or even trying to file a police report, you are not going to get help in any language that isn’t Spanish or Catalan. I was very fortunate to have a partner that speaks Spanish fluently but, if I could change one thing, it would be putting much more effort into learning the Spanish tongue when I first arrived. Life here is a lot more enjoyable when you can communicate with the people around you. I also regularly hear stories from people who have had their passports stolen while on holiday in Barcelona and unfortunately, if you don’t speak any Spanish then you will get no help from the authorities, and getting home can turn into a horror story in itself.
While knowing Spanish isn’t the most valuable recommendation I can offer, it is definitely worth a mention and at least some consideration if you have time to learn before visiting. Just a couple of hours of practice can make a huge difference.
3: Travel light and keep your essentials close
This one depends a bit more on where you are going and what you are doing. I personally try to avoid going anywhere with more than just my wallet, phone, and keys, but, I understand that not everyone can be in the same boat. Just try to keep your valuables close to your body and out of sight and never put your phone or bag down on, or under, a table if sitting outside. My partner had her phone swiped from a restaurant table of four people, and no one even saw it happen. These guys are quick so, don’t give them a chance. In my honest opinion, Bum Bags and Satchels are incredibly underrated when it comes to keeping your personal belongings safe.
4: Go easy on the jewellery
There are eyes on most of the busy pedestrian areas and metro stations observing what people are wearing and carrying. If the patrolling thieves see something they like, they’ll follow the owner until they can try and take it. Watches seem to be one of the biggest targets in Barcelona, as seen from two of the videos above. Here is another video from 2020 where a group of men attack a Brazilian tourist and try to remove his watch outside a hotel in the Gotic Quarter. Luckily, they failed. But it still would have been a horrible welcome to Barcelona for this family.
Another recent instance was a Russian footballer who was wearing a flashy watch in a Port Olympic nightclub while in town for a match with his team. The wrong people saw the watch and the Russian went home without it. But that’s just how it goes here. As a watch lover, it hurts to say this, but don’t wear a fancy piece on your wrist unless you’re prepared to lose it. These guys are trained professionals and know how to spot something worth stealing. One of my partner’s friends got held up at gunpoint for some expensive shoes she was wearing while walking next to La Rambla. I guess that was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but if you’re not wearing thousands of dollars for people to see, then you’re far less likely to become a target.
5: Don’t trust people, trust your instincts
I hate to say this because I’m a friendly guy who loves making friends and connections everywhere I go, but don’t be too trusting of anyone you don’t know. I’ve found Barcelona to be quite a cold place at times, especially for foreigners. Even businesses and restaurants can be very unwelcoming at the best of times, so be extra careful of anyone that comes up to you on the street, who’s overly friendly or asking for help, as I can guarantee that its just a distraction for someone approaching you out of sight. Also, watch out for anyone that offers you drugs or membership to a coffee shop, these guys are also everywhere and no more trustworthy the thieves. Just ignore them and move on.
The element of surprise is all these cowards really have in most robbery attempts, so if you can see them coming, then you should be able to foil their plans. It doesn’t take long to figure out whether or not someone is out to cause harm, and on the occasion that I get that gut feeling of danger, I make sure whoever looks suspicious knows that I’m confidently watching them and ready for whatever they want to throw at me. If you have a bad feeling about a person or situation, trust it, ten times out of ten. Your body never lies.
Staying safe in Barcelona isn’t too difficult as long as you understand the potential threats and dangers. This alone gives you a much greater chance of resolving undesirable situations to achieve desirable outcomes. Be aware of your belongings, situation, and surroundings, and always be alert. Like I said earlier though, if you do wish for that little bit of extra protection then Pepper Spray is definitely my go-to (I don’t let Cyndi leave home without it). But simply being alert and realising that someone may have harmful intentions can often be enough to foil their plans.
Most of the city is quite safe, but it’s always a good idea to be careful when visiting an area you’re unfamiliar with. Exercising caution can be as simple as keeping your valuables secure, but goes as far as always being aware of your surroundings, exit strategies, or emergency responses to certain situations.