Back to England

I’m at the airport in Malaga to fly back to London; it’s quite ironic how I’m going from the same airport that I took the first leg of my travels from. It’s not for that reason, it’s just because Ryanair were advertising £8 per seat, and the cheeky buggers charged an extra £40 for me to take my backpack – that’s the same as fiveseats.

I’ve never experienced so many high and low points in such a short space of time over the past five and a half months, even with my prior jobs. Some of the things I’ve seen and done have been amazing, yet there’s been a few places that have been disappointing.

When I was in South Africa, four of us walked in Johannesburg whilst it was dark – 8pm or so. Someone came up to us, harassing us for money. When it’s dark I’m not getting my purse out on the street and absolutely no chance of doing that in South Africa, even if I am paying someone to piss off. Upon refusal, which took him about ten minutes to give up asking, he told us “Jesus will punish you (us).” Sometimes I think back to that moment and wonder if I spared £1, would anything have been different, in particular, with hostels. With that said I still enjoyed a lot of the past few months.

Looking back, what sticks out most was starting in Africa – I think I would’ve gotten a lot more out of the tour if I chose one that incorporated the Okavango Delta. Still, it was great, and awesome to trek rhinos on foot, see animals in their natural environment and watch a herd of elephants pass our safari jeep. The Great Wall was great, India was really eye-opening to see how they really live in poor countries.

Spending three days in Cambodia pleasantly surprised me with the temples in Siem Reap and the food is great (also found the Australian sweets, Party Mix in the supermarket, cheaper than in Australia.) Technically went into North Korea for a few minutes; hopefully one day soon, the North and South will resolve their differences. Getting around via tuk tuk was pretty cool and getting hopelessly lost in the Tokyo metro system was to be expected. Egypt for sure was the highlight – absolutely mindblowing. And I got to see some baby pandas in China – they were really cute.

North Korea in the background
Finally won on a claw machine in Japan
Cat shrine in Tokyo
Angkor Wat at 5am
Mr Sim, my tuk tuk driver for the day

What I felt let down by was majorly Vietnam – I’d heard some amazing things and I didn’t want to get on a moped (ended up doing it anyway). I went through the cities, trying to do day trips such as Ha Long Bay, going south as I didn’t want to overdo it on the travel days (ended up doing it anyway). The food was amazing, probably the place I ate best, but other than that I couldn’t help but feel as though it was very gentrified towards the tourists.

Good food & cheap booze

Beer costs around 50p there, and going down a street in Ho Chi Minh, I had countless people try and get me into their bars advertising Happy Hour, discounts I can imagine to be not very much for a westerner. For me, I think I said previously, it’s a shame that they have so much to show off in terms of food and things that they can access locally, but it’s easier to get money out of tourists by enticing them with cheap booze. Since then, I’ve spoken to people about it and some have recommend just sticking to the north instead for the outdoors. I don’t really feel as though I need to go to Vietnam again, though I am gutted I didn’t get to get a tailor-made dressing gown there.

I’ve also noticed that half the world seem to be behind a phone screen. It’s something that I may not have noticed enough to comment on it whilst travelling through Europe and Australia, but going through Vietnam and through markets in Cambodia, a lot of people had their eyes glued to their screen, only looking up to try and get you to spend your money. In India some of the guides for the sites would have their phone ring and they’d pause, sort it out, and continue with no apology for being rude. Now it’s something that I make an effort not to do so much and opt to read on my kindle instead, saving browsing Instagram for cat pictures for when I want people in hostels to not talk to me. I guess the kindle is still a screen, but I get a lot more out of it.

Also, I’ve been in shared accommodation for the best part of three years now. For every week I’m in a hostel, I must get woken up by someone at least five days, and I’m sick of everyones shit. I was at the point when flying into Asia, thinking that I’d seen everything and I soon realised that I hadn’t, and nothing really surprises me anymore.

Moving forwards, I’m in the process of getting a visa for New Zealand, valid for 23 months, after I hopefully prove tomorrow during a medical that I’m not dying of TB. I have my first two weeks planned out, travelling solo. I’ll book everything this coming week instead of booking whilst I travel so that it’s not something to worry about.

In terms of getting around, to get the most out of it I’ll be driving. It’s not really too difficult to wind me up, but hopefully the only thing that’ll be out to annoy me is the fact that I can’t park very well, instead of getting annoyed by people. I wrote up a plan and quickly decided that I wanted to stay out of the cities and instead embrace the nature and wildlife. The plan is to spend a day in Christchurch, then getting the bus down to Dunedin to a peninsular and going on a tour through there. Afterwards, I’ll hire a car and have a long drive to Milford Sound, driving into the center(ish) of the Southern Island via Queenstown, only stopping for a Fergburger. I figure staying there and sharing space with people who’ve jumped out of airplanes and dangled from bridges by elastic will annoy me, so just the burger will do. Then I’l stick to the West Coast, do the glaciers and get the Ferry to the North Island.

In the North Island I’m joining a friend, where we’re camping for most of it, and remains unplanned until I go to Australia in January. I can’t wait to visit the Shire from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, amongst more of the places the films were set. After that, I’ll need to get a job as this is by far the most expensive country I’ve been to, not taking the flights into consideration, and I’ve not even stepped foot there yet.

I still need to figure out where to go between New Years and Australia. I was thinking Greece, but I think Egypt has ruined everything historical for me for quite some time, plus the flights are expensive. Flights to Iceland look better, but I know it’s an expensive country and it’s cold. I want to stick somewhere close to the UK without flying over France in case the French go on strike. Belgium, Luxembourg and Andorra are the only places in Western Europe I’ve not travelled through alone, and I would quite like to see what Holland has to offer, without being surrounded by tourists (mainly Brits) off their faces. I’ll work it out soon, but I’m thinking return flights to Holland and pop to Brussels, returning to London for a flight to Melbourne.

Two Years of Travel

Two years ago today I boarded a flight to Spain. What was initially “three or so months in Europe and then a year in Australia” got slightly out of hand.

When the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” came up at school, I’m curious as to what the response to the answer of “living out of a backpack in hostels, at one stage weeding farmers fields/packing and planting melons, being known to quit my job to travel and deciding which country to go to the day before” would be. It’s a pretty awesome path if you ask me.

It was such a change going from travelling through Europe to living in Australia, where I found it difficult to settle as in Europe you can travel not even two hours and experience a whole new culture. Here you can travel for ten hours and the culture is more or less the same. It’s coming up to halfway through my second year Working Holiday Visa now and I’m pretty happy with where I am and what I’ve done in the country, then at the end of July onwards I’ll be a full-time traveller again.

My attitude for the future is that if I can’t do something in a pair of flip flops or if it doesn’t require me to put on some hiking boots (or in my case, my Nikes as I’m not made of luggage space) I’m probably not going to want to do it.

At the moment I’m probably around the halfway mark of what has turned into my round the world trip. Throughout the next year I’m going to be travelling through Asia, then back to Europe. After that I’m hoping to arrive in New Zealand, most likely on a Working Holiday Visa and after that I have to figure out how to do South America. From leaving Australia, I want to do all of this just with hand luggage.

My highlights? Spending over two weeks in Budapest, it’s my favourite place and I can’t wait to return. Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef. Getting stuck in a cyclone shelter in Ayr and getting featured in a few online articles, as well as having my parents watch me on BBC News in Spain. Some of the job opportunities I’ve had in Australia – a two week stint in Cradle Mountain and the Melbourne Races. My farm work, it’s hard to describe – the best worst time I’ve ever had. Attempting to jump into the bush on a roundabout after several beers, faceplanting, injured myself and still had the beer in my hand (also caught on video). Watching Barcelona play at Camp Nou. Hostel piss-ups. Exploring Berlin. Going to Japan because I felt like it. Driving the Great Ocean Road. Not having to put up with peoples’ bullshit. Going to see the Australian Open two years running – and seeing both women’s and men’s champions in 2018 play. That’s just a few of my highlights, anyway.

The past two years have been fantastic and I cannot wait for the next couple of years to unfold.

East-Coast Australia: My Final Thoughts

Today is my last day of travelling the East Coast. Whilst it has been nice not being employed, compared to Europe it has been underwhelming. Parts of it I really enjoyed (Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island, Noosa), parts were a bit meh (Sydney, Brisbane) and some bits went so badly that I have a good story to tell (Whitsundays aka the Alright Barrier Reef).

I think one of the parts that let me down were the hostels; in Europe there’s a lot more getting to know each other, whereas over here I feel that it’s a lot more getting to know people by competitively drinking something that vaguely resembles boxed wine, also known as goon – something that I do not do.

With all of that said, I can now plan for my travels in Australia during my second year accordingly. There will be three trips abroad this year, one of them being next week. I can have fun for the next couple of weeks, then I need to sort out my second year visa. This might include a 30+ hour travel day.

Overall, I am glad that I went with it and have completed this trip but I’m glad to be going back to Melbourne in the morning.

2016: A Round-Up

Almost eleven months ago, I boarded a one way flight from England to Malaga. Without a doubt, those five months turned into the best experience I’ve ever had.

I started off with the best country: Spain. I ate some food that stands out as some of the  best that I have ever eaten, I loved most places that I visited and I learnt a fair bit of the language that I’ve probably forgotten by now. Las Fallas Festival was well worth seeing, though I could quite happily not deal with the chaos for a while! I can see myself, once I’m finished with long-term trips, staying in Spain for a bit and trying to learn the language.

Italy was also a good one for the most part; whilst Rome wasn’t to my liking and Pompeii was alright, Venice and Florence I liked, and I definitely can’t forget Milan. I pressed the wrong button and ended up with a flight there instead of Venice, though I can’t moan after eating the best pizza I think I’m ever going to eat.

A few other places are worth a mention – Budapest, my favourite city in the world (so far). Liked it so much I went twice, loved the thermal baths, food, hostel and general feel of the city. I stayed in a great hostel in Prague, enjoyed re-visiting Berlin and exploring Porto. I’m pretty sure I’m still burning off the calories of the Franceschina that I ate. Oh, and I also saw Beyoncé.

I could go on for days about my trip to Europe. Next came Singapore, which gave me my first feel for Asia, and has left me wanting to see more. I did perhaps the most dangerous tour of a city that I could ever do, ate so much good food that it warranted two lunches and/or two dinners some days as well as seeing a culture that wasn’t too familiar to me.

What I was looking forward to the most about this year was Australia, and it’s been alright; besides the friends that I made,  nothing has really stood out compared to my other trips. The East Coast is almost over, then after a week long trip, I’ll be back in Australia working on a farm for my second year visa. I have a good feeling that after this week, the trip will pick up a bit and I’ll be very, very busy.

What will I be up to in 2017?  Firstly, I’ll be at the Australian Open in Melbourne, before going to Hong Kong for Chinese New Year… I’ve only mentioned it a few times! I’ll then be doing my farm work, and when it’s over I will put my feet up for a couple of weeks. Then, I’ll be back at work for up to six months, saving  up my money again for some more trips. Japan is definitely on the cards, and I may go somewhere else. I honestly don’t see myself finishing the two years in Australia, though my visa will expire in July 2018, so I’m expecting to spend the whole of 2017 down under.

I have a couple of goals for the next year: firstly, I’d like to find my own place to live rather than a hostel, although there is more chance of me becoming the next pope than trying to balance work, life and living in and hostel ever again. I’d also like to learn something that isn’t work-related, take another cookery class abroad (Japan, I’m looking at you), and eat something that most English people wouldn’t consider eating.

If you click the read more button, you’ll see some of my favourite pictures. I tried to narrow it down to 10, but that quite obviously wasn’t going to work out.

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