Belgrave, Australia?


by Amberly Young

I’ve been working in Melbourne for the last 3 months as a kitchen-hand, stuck in a tiny room with a grumpy Israeli cook. My boyfriend James has been walking door to door, passing out government funded energy saving products six days a week. It’s been rainy and cold and we are both feeling worn down from the daily grind.

To escape the city, we went to a meditation retreat a few weeks ago, designed for young people under the age of 30. When we first arrived, I noticed a quirky looking couple in matching African-print pullovers.

As we went around in a circle introducing ourselves, the woman, whose name is Monika,  jumped in the air and shouted, “Whoo-pee, I’m so glad to be here!”

Her partner Roderick is a drum teacher, and later we all went to his van to carry a few dozen djembes to the workshop room. He led the group in a very noisy African drumming session, and that night, we spread out on the floor for a ‘sound bath’ of didgeridoos and drums.

The next day, Monika led us in a basket weaving class where I learned how to make a tiny basket using long grass and a needle.


I felt at one with their creative, loving energy from the moment I met them. Lucky for me Roderick invited us to visit them in his forest home in Belgrave, just an hour outside Melbourne.

A few weeks later, on a Friday morning we hopped on a train, watching the graffiti lined walls dwindle to be replaced by trees. We are soon engulfed in a thick, dewy fog. The air is moist and I can feel it rolling down my throat.

It’s hard to believe that we are only only an hour outside of the vibrant, bustling city of Melbourne. Monika and Roderick live at the top of a steep driveway just outside of Belgrave in an adorable house surrounded by giant mountain ash trees. These are the world’s tallest flowering plant, reaching heights over 114 meters.


Belgrave is a cute little town nestled in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges. The area attracts an alternative crowd of hippies, musicians and artists.

With the somber weather, its a perfect day to visit the William Ricketts Sanctuary. Monika drives us down winding mountain roads, we park and walk uphill to the sculpture garden.

Rickett’s underlying message is a deep one, and the gloomy mist makes it sink in. His ceramics seem to grow out of the trees. Covered in moss and softened with time,  the sculptures depict faces, busts, and bodies of aboriginals, the original owners of the land.


That night, Monika and Roderick take us to a neighborhood gathering, where there is pot-luck food, music, and dancing in a community center. Roderick plays the kora, an African instrument which sounds like a harp. I play the ukulele and sing with a group of a dozen forest-dwellers. We all pound on some drums and dance our hearts out.

Someday, I want to be like these people, I think to myself: living a creative and free-spirited life.


Taking the train back to Melbourne, we see the trees dwindle, replaced by malls and parking garages. In the city, the sidewalks are gray, and instead of tall trees, apartment blocks tower above.

I don’t mind, though; just a few more weeks of work here before I take off with my backpack, towards the trees.

Amber Young

Amberly Rose Young is a graduate from UC Santa Cruz in Creative Writing. After graduation, she booked a one way ticket to New Zealand, where she fulfilled childhood dreams such as milking a goat by hand and chopping firewood. With her 1 year working holiday visa she proudly completed several demanding multi-day hikes, worked in a kiwifruit packhouse but lasted less than a week, and volunteered on farms with hippies who taught her light therapy and how to cleanse in the moonlight. Next was 6 months in Southeast Asia, where she toured the hills of northern Vietnam by wimpy motorscooter, stopping to embarrass herself by attempting to pick rice with the locals. After a month teaching English to teenagers in Northern Bali, Amber headed to Australia for another working holiday visa. She timed it perfectly to be picking strawberries in the hail and playing ultimate frisbee in below freezing weather. A few trains, hitchhikes, and couchsurfs later, she flew from Brisbane to Kuala Lumpur for a month around Malaysia eating too much. Finally she landed at Bahay Kalipay to cleanse. She lost her insecurities along the way, and now she is free to do yoga on airplanes or in supermarkets! To give or receive any advice, feedback, or ideas, please contact her through her website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We Said Go Travel