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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

365 Days of Australia

January 30th, 2013 Comments off

Today marks my one year anniversary of arriving in Australia. In that time, I have found jobs, made friends, and more. I have tried and dropped various hobbies, rediscovered old ones, organised and let groups go. I cursed the time zone differences, travelled back and forth to New Zealand twice, and have spent more time in Airports than is healthy.

It’s been a busy year. I know that more than a few people wondered what happened to me. I already knew that I was terrible at keeping up with people, worse when they didn’t live in the same city as me, as it turns out, more still when the distance and time zone differences add up.

So was it a good idea? Was uprooting my entire life, and jetting to a city with no job, no place to live, and no support network to fall back on a good idea?

Yes.

Part of wishes I had done this sooner. Part of me also knows that I didn’t believe in myself enough to do so.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. I’ve forced myself to do things that scare me. To walk into a room of people I don’t know and make friends, to make plans that will probably fail and try anyway, and to actually get into my bed and go to sleep when I know there’s a medium size unidentified Australian spider under it somewhere.

I knew I’d made a breakthrough in my own personal confidence and determination (some would say stubbornness) when I managed to finish a three pitch outdoor climb while suffering from drug-induced* anxiety and vertigo.

I figure if I can do that, I can do anything.

* Promethazine, aka. Phenergan. Ironically, for most people it can be used to treat these ailments, and help with insomnia. In my case, it apparently makes them worse and keeps me up until 3am.

Melbourne: Wine, Fish and Hospitals

February 6th, 2012 2 comments

I woke up this morning in hospital. Long time readers may recall my habit of injuring myself overseas. Yesterday, I went on a wine tour, had a wee snooze and went to find some dinner. I had the flathead fish recommended by the head chef – which was delicious  and incurred the relatively minor problem of getting a fish bone lodged in my throat.

The restaurant staff insisted on calling an ambulance – which then took nearly two hours to arrive. I was shuttled to Alfred Hospital, sat in the waiting room for another hour, and was then ushered to a bed in the emergency room, to be looked at by a doctor, who after pumping an incredibly foul local anaesthetic down my throat, said that he couldn’t see the offending item. An hour later, after some some gentle snoozing, I had my X-rays, which were not helpful. The Ear-Nose-Throat specialist was called who said that it wasn’t life threatening, and would look at it the morning. In the mean time, I slept some more, had CT scan at some unmentionable hour of the morning, followed by being put on a saline drip with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory in case surgery was needed.

Thankfully it was not. At around 0745, the ENT team turned up, had a peak using the same foul anaesthetic, had a look at the CT scan, then return to spray even more of the same retch inducing drug into my throat to calm my gag reflex, before reaching in with a very long pair of forceps and pulling out the very small bone. All was clear, and I checked out about five minutes later, where upon I took a wrong turn, and walked the 4km back to my hostel.

Touching on my previous post, there’s something about gratifying about being miles from everyone I know, and yet still having a dozen odd people commenting and messaging me to let me know that to know they cared and that they’re thinking of me. That kind of thing almost makes me want to get on a plane back home. But I won’t, I’ve got an interview tomorrow.

Categories: Life Tags: , , , , , ,

Melbourne: Landing

February 4th, 2012 1 comment

My first memory of Melbourne, post immigration and customs (which were, respectively, almost non-existent, and pleasantly short), was the wall of heat outside. With four of sleeping dogging my every step, 30 degree heat, and 27kg of luggage and climate-inappropriate clothing – I took a Taxi to my hostel rather than trying to navigate public transport in my sleep addled state.

The first day is not particularly memorable, except that I managed to secure access to a sim card and my bank account, before returning to the hostel to collapse in a sweaty heap and drift off at the incredibly late hour of 9pm.

Having been here for a little under forty hours, the enormity of what I had done started to finally sink in. I was in a large city that would cheerfully chew me up and spit me out if I didn’t get things together, with no support network, no real concept of how to navigate the city, on limited funds till I managed to find a job – and no-one to talk to.

We often don’t appreciate how much things mean to us until they’re taken away. I’m used to a constant stream of people I know in my life saying hello. From flatmates to work mates, dance partners, fellow team members of sports past and present. And that’s not even including the friends and family that I regularly talk to, hang out with, go drinking with and randomly run into on the street.

If, for some stupid reason, back in Wellington, I had lost my job, my flat, or all my life savings, I would have literally a hundred people I could fall back on while I sorted my life out. Here, in Melbourne – I have one facebook contact, a person I’ve never met, and have only exchanged precursory messages with.

In the exceedingly unlikely event that I fail to find work here in Melbourne, and the money runs out – I have standing offers for jobs in other cities, but that’s not an option until I’m well and truly financially desperate, which I’m not even close to. Finding fellow people to talk to though, that’s going to be the hard bit.

Categories: Life Tags: , , , , , ,

Melbourne

January 31st, 2012 Comments off

About three months ago, I bought a one way ticket to Melbourne for the 30th of January. I don’t know anyone here, nor have a job lined up, nor have anything pre-arranged except a bank account and a weeks accommodation in a back packers. Heck, I’ve never even been to Australia before.

Why?

Briefly – I’m on the edge of thirty, and I wanted a challenge. I was starting to dread the thought of being forty-five, and wondering where my life had gone, and why I’d never done anything difficult. So, I sold all my stuff – and left.

More to come, later.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

New Zealand

April 4th, 2010 Comments off

This is my last travel post. Arriving home in New Zealand is a strange feeling. I was strangely elated to be back in the land of the long white cloud, where a properly inflected “Mate.” or “Aw, bro.” is an acceptable complete sentence, and where barista’s will actually make my “long black” instead of pushing buttons on a machine. It’s nice to have a working EFT-POS card again as well.

Compared to Europe, New Zealand is empty. Auckland airport at 3pm on the Wednesday before Easter, with plenty of people trundling around in preparation for the break, simply felt barren. After the endless cavernous halls of Singapore Changi International Airport, Auckland airport felt a bit small. Of course, if you want a really small airport, trying Faleolo International Airport in Samoa sometime, which is a hut, with stray cats.

I think the trip away was good for me, if for no other reason that I now appreciate some things about New Zealand a lot more. Like the fact that a single layer of clothing is sufficient most of the time. Or that I can afford to live in the middle of the city. I missed the laid back attitude and friendliness of people. Since landing, I’ve chatted to the customs clerks, to random people in the airport, to people on the plane from Auckland to Wellington, to people serving me in the supermarket, the liquor store, the cafe staff… Maybe it’s because for a month I was a foreigner, but nobody seemed to do that in Europe.

Already I miss some things about Europe too. Particularly music. I was getting into Waldeck before I took off, which I randomly heard one day on a shoutcast stream. I couldn’t find the CD anywhere in New Zealand. In Europe, I heard it everywhere. If I’d been there for one more day more, I could have heard the Flogging Molly‘s in London. I did go see Phantom of the Opera though, having bought my ticket the day before. Try that in Wellington.

So, I’m back. Hopefully a little wiser, a little more accepting of differences, and a little more appreciative of what I have at home.

In retrospect, I did one make right choice. Around June last year, I decided I was going to move to London. Then I got a girlfriend, and that didn’t happen. This was probably a good thing. I like London, and if I stayed in Hamilton, having never moved to Wellington, it would have been awesome. But I did, and London would have simply been Wellington, but more so.

Will I move over for a couple of years anyway? Maybe. Ask me when the jet-lag wears off.

Edinburgh, Scotland

March 30th, 2010 Comments off

The last city of my trip was Edinburgh. I’ll admit that by the time I got there, I was heartily ready to go home. To some extent this feeling was staved off by being in an English speaking country where I could be sure of navigating my way into and through the menu of any restaurant I happened upon. Plus, local knowledge from Aaron meant we had good places for coffee, and made some friends at the local geek event.

Like almost every other city on my tour of Europe, Edinburgh is old. Testament to this is the thousand year old Edinburgh Castle dominating the skyline of the old and new towns, not to mention the various cathedrals, museums, statues and monuments.

For your viewing pleasure, you should visit the Scott Monument. From here, you can get a 360 degree view of the city, from coast to suburbs. There is however, no lift, and my swollen ankle felt every single one of the 287 narrow spiral steps going both up and down. The view is worth it though. It’s fiercely cold up there.

I have to admit I liked Edinburgh, and am vaguely considering working there for a while. Possibly for the same reasons I like Wellington. It’s a city, with all the amenities, but small enough to retain that laid back feeling. The fact that there’s regular trains at all hours to London for events would be a big plus.

The only downside to my stay was the backpackers (Caledonian Backpackers), which has an interesting approach to showers. While I like to think that I’m not a prude, I’m not particularly partial to being forced to expose myself to everyone in the toilet/bathroom everytime I take a shower. Also, I think the mattress of my bunk was older than me. In hindsight, I was spoilt by the Meininger hostels in Berlin.

The Scottish accent isn’t that hard to decipher.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

March 28th, 2010 Comments off

I have a historical attachment to Amsterdam. My Grandfather is from there, and used to skate on the canals in winter. By the time I arrived in late March this year, the icing of the canals was long over, and I was down to two layers of clothing, no longer needing the thermal gloves and woolly hat ensemble.

So what’s Amsterdam like now? Well, it’s a nice city, where the core has been partially ruined by tourists. In this regard, it’s a like Prague. The old city, that was clearly once a functioning downtown area has now been largely replaced by a tourist trap of little more than a themed collection of cafes, “Coffee shops”, “marijuana museums”, cut-rate hostels, sex shops, bars, kebab shops, and Argentinean steak houses. The saving grace is that in Amsterdam’s, this area is compressed into the a pair of avenues flanking a canal that makes up the infamous red-light district, and few surrounding streets. Escaping is merely a case of walking a few more blocks. This might be a problem if you’re ankle is still twice the size it’s meant to be, like mine is. There’s a good tram and subway system, and the buses looked like they were probably useful.

In addition, the the proximity of the central train station and various other central points appears to have kept central Amsterdam from being completely overrun by tourists. That, and the lack of disparity between the income of tourists and the locals.

Central Amsterdam is cramped. The Dutch love affair with bicycles is not a myth. Attached to railings everywhere are bikes in various states of repair and decay. What you will not find, is a large selection of mountain bikes like I’m used to in New Zealand. This is probably due to the lack of mountains in the Netherlands. In fact, the lack of any hills of any kind means that gearing is largely useless. The vast majority of bicycles here are the single gear upright type that I associate with 1950′s USA. Traveling in via train and out to the ferry terminal via coach, I got the feeling that the majority of Hollanders are leaving the old city in droves, spreading out in what appears to be European variant of suburbia, where large collections of apartment blocks are built on the edge of the city, connected to commercial districts and amenities only by cars and highways, rather than bikable avenues and canals.

For all that, it’s a laid back city. On the narrow streets of the central city, you will get stuck in traffic, a lot, and everyone else will just have to sit there and wait till that truck finishes unloading. If you’re after a non-stop action, then you should look elsewhere, though New Zealanders and Australians will probably feel right at home – which is probably why there’s so many of them there. If I have the opportunity, I’ll be back. Next time however, I’ll get a room away from the Red Light district.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Berlin, Germany

March 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Berlin was mostly a wash. After foolishly deciding to walk the three kilometres to the Zoo-Aquarium, my ankle flared up, and two days of rain and the need to shop for toiletries and do washing reduced our already low enthusiasm to near zero. Before sitting on the Internet and drinking beer for two days, we did see the Natural History museum.

It’s worth mentioning that the Museum was bombed in the second world war, and is slowly being put back together. It wasn’t clear when, but either reconstruction started fairly recently, or it’s a been a rate of work that I last experienced at midday in Samoa. The sections that were up and running are fantastic, and the windows into the large blocked off showed an incredible number of potential exhibits and space to show them. The five euro entry fee was not onerous though, and the front hall exhibit with the dinosaur skeletons alone made it worth the price of admission. The Hominoid Evolution exhibt was fantastic for getting a sense of human ancestors and distant cousins. Being a urbanite, I don’t often have a real sense of scale of the size of animals. With the exception of sheep, cows, cats and dogs, I simply don’t have that contact. Even at the zoo, animals are in cages, several metres away. The museums Evolution in Action exhibt helped bridge that gap. There’s an entire hall with stuff or reconstructions of dozens species of what I will call goats (it might be the genus Capra. The sheer variety of evolutionary adapations within a single form was fascinating.

Also, it worth checking out the universe movie. Those familiar with the essentials of stellar evolution won’t learning anything, but it’s all of ten minutes long. You lie down on a circular couch, and a circular screen three floors up is lowered down, displaying evolution of the universe, starting with big bang, and eventually down a google maps-esque zoom in to the museum. It then zooms out through the solar system, then the galaxy, then the local group, and our galactic cluster, then the super cluster… well you get the idea. It’s very humbling.

So how was Berlin in general? If you’re eighteen and want to party, it’s great. Otherwise, it’s probably worth going to Checkpoint Charlie to see the few remains of the Berlin wall. There’s a good collection of museums and so on, but frankly, any history earlier than World War Two was bombed during the same. I would recommend two days, tops. It’s probably not a bad place to live, from the little I saw of it, and the two pubs we visited were nice. From an English speaking point of view, everyone you need to will speak at least enough English for you to get by.

“Free Wifi in the Lobby.”

Apparently I look German. Aaron will dispute this. On more than a few occasions, I would start speaking in English, and get German in response. Americans did this to me as well. This would explain the above phrase turning up in the middle of an introductory speech given by the hostel staff to a group of German school children. It would seem that the Germans borrow just as many words from other languages as English-primary speakers do.

Linux in Europe

March 21st, 2010 1 comment

Before taking off to Europe, I was sincerely considering whether or not to take my netbook. I took it. It’s been a godsend. I have used it for so many things. Hostelworld, train bookings, city and country guides on Wikitravel, writing this blog, discussing souvenir requests, Netbanking, maps, emailing my landlord and flatmates in New Zealand, and of course, the ever-present and ubiquitous Facebook. It’s also pretty handy for whiling away the time on those twelve hour plane and train journeys too.

Yes, I could use the various Internet terminals that are now available everywhere, but you just don’t know if those have key loggers or not. I’m not wildly enthusiastic about the idea of someone in Europe getting access to my bank and email accounts. This isn’t likely, because most of the terminals are running Linux anyway, but it’s just easier to take a one kilo netbook, and use for as long as I have a power source, rather than negotiating use of the shared terminals.

Oh yeah – I keep seeing Linux everywhere. I have yet to see another traveller – apart from Aaron – using Linux, although you could argue that facebook looks the same on everything – but I have noticed that a large chunk of web terminals, kiosks, PoS terminals, Wifi captive portals, in-flight entertainment systems, and various embedded devices are running Linux. Though in the case of Meininger Hotels, they use Linux for everything, with a quasi Windows XP theme on the web terminals.

I am curious what has led to this. Is it developer preference, better internationalisation support, customisability, or simply a case of escaping licence costs?

Categories: Life, Tech Tags: ,

Krakow, Poland

March 21st, 2010 Comments off

Now in Berlin, Germany. Day two. It’s raining. Bah. I shall talk about Berlin later.

Krakow, Poland was awesome. Aaron says that if they banned smoking in pubs, he would move there. I am inclined to agree. There’s a sense of history and tradition, but modern amenities are there as well. And, the people are very friendly. We drank a little beer, and a lot of Vodka. Apparently, the right way to drink polish vodka is in ice cold glasses, with room temperature vodka.

We went to the Auschwitz museum. I didn’t look at every single exhibit, since I frankly didn’t have the stomach for it, and I really didn’t feel like visiting the Birkenau camp afterwards. I think it’s important to have these reminders of our past, not just as part of our history, but also as a warning for future generations.

The day after, we visited the Salt Mines at Wieliczka. Salt was produced here from the 1280s to 1994. The mine has well over 200 km of galleries and shafts. The tour took us through a small portion of this, and went from 65 meters underground to 165 meters underground, touching on the history of production and the mines effect on the economy over the years.

Also, there’s the castle, the Dragon of Krakow, and lots of churches.

Oh, Europcar eventually refunded my money, although they never replied to my email.