Postcards from Cairns

A beach getaway was the perfect way to mark the end of my internship, summer class, and simply to celebrate the warm weather appropriately. I had the pleasure to visit Cairns with my favorite person, and I still can’t believe it took me so long to explore this tropical paradise just 1.5 hours flight from Brisbane.

Cairns (lesson learned, pronounced ‘cans’) has it all: gorgeous beaches, beautiful waterfalls and rainforests, swimming lagoons, marine life galore, waterfront boardwalks, and natural beauty all around. And even though it was a quick four and half day trip, we had enough sunshine to make it feel longer. I believe that every place can be visited on a budget and Cairns is no exception. Here’s a glimpse of what our itinerary looked like.

Day 1: Brisbane to Cairns
We flew TigerAir (because budget) and was welcomed by one of the most beautiful sunsets overlooking the mountains and coast of Cairns, flying just hundreds of feet above the Great Barrier Reef shortly before landing. Since we arrived in the evening on Sunday, we took full advantage of the free time to unwind in the city, took a stroll and dined in the Night Market, just a short walk away from our accommodation.

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We stayed in Global Backpackers hostel, which was $30 per night. Staying in a hostel was fine, despite having to share kitchen and bathroom with about 50 other people. Perks: just a two-minute stroll from the Esplanade lagoon and Woolworths just around the corner.

Day 2: Great Barrier Reef
While there is a huge variety of cruise excursions available, considering Great Barrier Reef was going to be the highlight of the trip, we thought we’d splurge on this one. We chose the Ocean Spirit cruise, and it surely didn’t disappoint. It was an epic full day tour, and I’m already low key planning to go back with my siblings to scuba dive together.

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We boarded the catamaran early in the morning and sailed our way to the Michaelmas Cay, where we got to jump on board their semi-submersible and snorkeled straight off the beach. The cay itself is essentially a National Park and a protected sanctuary for migratory seabirds, fringed by white sandy beaches, and pristine blue waters. We saw lots of colorful fishes and giant corals (mind the stingers), which kept us entertained for hours.

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Day 3: Chasing Waterfalls
The Great Barrier Reef may be this region’s major calling card, but don’t let your adventures stop there. We went with the Waterfall Wanderers tour and traveled south of Cairns to discover North Queensland’s hidden rainforest gems.  First was sliding down a natural rockslide of Josephine Falls, and next was swimming in the iconic Milaa Milaa Falls.

GOPR2779.jpgFor lunch, they took us to a classic small-town pub where we enjoyed some good old-fashioned country cooking. As the afternoon rolled in, we were headed to the Mount Hypipamee crater and Dinner Falls, and finally to check out the Curtain Fig Tree in Yungaburra (the inspiration behind Avatar’s giant tree). Our last stop was Lake Eacham, where we could apparently swim with harmless freshwater crocodiles.

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Day 4: Palm Cove – Cairns Esplanade
This was Valentine’s Day and our day was pleasingly unscheduled. After a brief stop for coffee and froyo in the morning, we decided to get on the bus and headed for Palm Cove. The picturesque little beach town is a hub for spa resorts, cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and a gorgeous beach lined with palm trees and jetties.

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After loading on the sunscreen, we laid down our beach towel and took a blissful nap under the shade. We went back to Cairns for an afternoon swim in the Esplanade, taking in the stunning view as the sun went down.

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We then had little birthday/Valentine’s Day dinner at the Salt House restaurant & bar by the pier and went for a long walk along the beach. It was the perfect way to end our last full day in town.

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Day 5: Flying Back Home
After checking out, I Googled for a local’s favorite for our last meal in Cairns. We had an exquisite brunch at Perrotta’s at The Gallery, where I wrote down postcards to be addressed to my family back home and to Canada. By then it was too humid to be outdoors, so we went inside the Contemporary Arts Gallery to enjoy a much-needed air conditioning and kill time before flying back to Brisbane.


If you’re ever planning to visit Cairns, get some itinerary ideas here. And I would love to hear your say on your favorite destination in Australia!



A Guide to Overcoming Your Networking Anxiety

Ah, networking. Is there anyone who doesn’t dread it?

There’s no hiding from the fact that being in the same room with complete strangers and attempting to impress them at the same time can sound like the most intimidating situation to be in.

And being an introvert really doesn’t help. I hear you.

But despite the universal awkwardness, and after realizing just how powerful it has been for my professional life, I tried to find ways to make it less painful, and little more exciting.

I’m lucky enough to have recently started my internship at iLab (start-ups hub funded by the Queensland Government), and to be presented with countless opportunities to meet very inspiring individuals and entrepreneurs from around the world through our start-ups accelerator program.

Bear in mind it was still very intimidating for me – a college student with bare minimum experience – to be surrounded by some of the best minds in engineering and CEOs of some of the world’s most successful start-ups.

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I was very fortunate to have met Terry Dehghani in person, a sports expert slash travel blogger, who flew all the way from Tel Aviv to represent HYPE and launch Australia’s first Sports Accelerator program here with iLab.

I managed to build up enough courage to approach him and spent a solid hour talking about career goals and stealing some networking tips & tricks from up his sleeve.

To sum it all up, here are 4 simple steps to overcome your networking jitters, and make it a little less dreading:

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“Start telling people what you want to do, not what you think you should do.”

Careers and career paths are no longer linear for a lot of reasons, and this ability to shift directions if/when we feel unhappy about where we are, certainly gives more freedom and control over our work.

But the reality is that many of us (myself included) are often drowned in thoughts like “Is this what I really want to do with my life?” and too often, we write off the idea of doing something we really like before we even tried because we fear the feeling of rejection or having to start over.

Terry told me how when he first moved to Israel people would ask him “What do you want to do?” and that his first respond would always be “Oh, I came from a legal background but I’ve always loved sports.”

He learned how it didn’t really answer the question and started approaching the industry that better fits his personality and career goals. He now works for HYPE, does what he loves, and has never been happier.

Ask yourself that same question, and take time to reflect on your goals and really learn your skill set (soft skills matter too). Once your objective is clear, you’ll be surprised by how you can approach people more confidently, with less pressure and more excitement.

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“Project yourself in a way that shows confidence, but not cockiness.”

The idea of networking still generates a physical reaction in me, similar to queueing for a roller coaster ride: sweaty palms, nervous chatter, and a slightly queasy stomach.

It can be intimidating walking up to someone you don’t know, but a promising body language can go a long way. Remember when your mom would tell you to stand up straight? She was on to something.

You want to constantly appear open, approachable, and friendly at all time. A handshake is also one of ways to get someone’s attention with the instill sense of easiness and warmth – if done right. And seriously, smile.

IMG_1231Also, can we all agree that alcohol does help? Cheers

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You will be surrounded by experts or attendees in your field, so take advantage of picking their brains. Take what they say seriously, and you’ll be surprised how much you can gain in return.

The Precinct, an innovation hub delivered from the Advance Queensland initiative

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As constant public sharing of professionalism become the norm in this highly tech-savvy era, we can all agree that the digital age of networking is a blessing to the introvert in all of us.

Once the event comes to an end, that’s where the real works begin. “Goodbye” in networking essentially means “Welcome” to the world of Emails, LinkedIn, and Facebook connections.

Armed with a stack of name cards, check back in with them whenever possible and follow up any future work collaborations.

Do you have any other great tip worth mentioning? Let me know. Good luck, and I hope you rock your next networking event!

Check out Terry’s career and travelling stories here.