The highs and lows of travelling

Getting back to Melbourne was definitely the right choice. After the failed attempt at farm work, and with nothing else for me in Cairns – other than things that cost money – I wanted to get back to a city with some opportunities.

Sunset in Melbourne's Albert Park

Sunset in Melbourne’s Albert Park

That’s what I did. It’s been a few weeks since I got back, and they haven’t been easy. While it’s silly to assume so, I was thinking, or perhaps hoping, to find a job within a couple of days of arriving back here. What I didn’t take into account was that it’s winter here so while a lot of backpackers leave for warmer areas, the hours vanish too, to an extent.

At this point, I do have a job but it’s not many hours, and that’s an issue. Thankfully, I’m helping out around the hostel I’m in and that’s cutting down what I’m spending on rent each week so it’s not all bad. The problem is, if I want to move into my own room at some point, I need consistent hours so I’m still searching for those. Hopefully they’ll turn up soon because I also need to get back into saving mode for upcoming trips and plans!

Now, these last few weeks have been hard, the hardest of my trip to date – and that’s keeping in mind how I felt in Cairns when I was in limbo for so long.

I’m impatient, we all know this (but better than I was during my younger years) and seeing people with less experience get a job before me was tough. I found myself wandering aimlessly at times, after applying online and at the places I knew and could find, in the hope of finding somewhere I hadn’t given a CV to.

The nights were spent in my room, watching Netflix or ranting to my dorm mates and friends online (thanks guys, you’re all awesome!) and I felt stuck in a rut. There was plenty of advice, but nothing I hadn’t done. I knew it’d work out in time but that’s not helpful in the moment.

20/20 hindsight

Balcony view of south Melbourne

Balcony view of south Melbourne

So, while my situation isn’t perfect yet, it’s a step in the right direction and I’m grateful for that. I did have to start facing the fact that I might have to leave if the situation didn’t change. I knew that’d be a huge mistake and regret.

If I could go back and tell myself what was going to happen, would I change things? Perhaps. Getting a job first might have been a smarter move, or maybe being a bit stricter with my funds before the East Coast trip might have helped. In the end, I’ve been to some awesome places, seen amazing things and met fantastic people so I don’t regret anything. Part of this whole experience is how to deal with the lows as well as the highs.

I could have skipped Perth back then, worked from day one (okay, maybe day two) and then done the trip but even that might not have worked. At this stage, what if isn’t of any use so I’m not dwelling.

What I am dwelling on, however, is what’s next. I’m making plans for later this year and going into 2019. Those will become clear in the coming weeks when I’m a little more stable.

What I’ve learnt so far

A couple of things of the last four months have become crystal clear to me:

  • Money never lasts
  • Experiences are far more valuable than money
  • There’s no such thing as a great hostel kitchen
  • A dorm room where you like everyone is rare
  • Backpackers, generally but not all, don’t know how to clean up after themselves

I’m almost in my thirties and it’s a stark difference between my attitude and outlook on life compared to the majority of backpackers I meet, who are in the 19-23 range. Mostly, they want to drink, smoke and do drugs and that’s it.

Now, whatever floats your boat but consider it’s more expensive to do all three here compared to other places I’ve been, that’s a bit daft. They never stop though, and it’s tiring just watching them go!

I tend to look for quieter hostels if I know I’ll be staying a while. A couple of nights doesn’t bother me and I have met some great people in those short stays but after four months, I’m happy to have a bed that I know is mine.

There’s a lot of Australia left to see but Melbourne is a good base right now, and even though it’s getting colder, I feel more comfortable here than anywhere else I’ve been to, as much as other places have been great. Travelling is really tiring, guys, so giving myself a break from it is probably a good idea.

Forgive the slightly rambling post but its worth putting it down so you don’t think I’ve vanished just yet!

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Melbourne and the F1

Forgive me, I’ve fallen a little behind so there’ll be more frequent updates this week as I catch up. Sometimes there’s a lot to say about a place, and others not so much.

So, the flight back from Perth was uneventful but it wasn’t a budget airline. I flew Virgin Australia and it was great. Entertainment, drinks and food included. It was as cheap as the budget this time, somehow, but I’m not complaining. I’ll keep this in mind for the future.

Then I’m back in Melbourne! Perth was good, chilled but almost to an extent that if I’d stayed for a month or longer, I’d have gotten bored. I like Melbourne, it feels like home for me here. I’ve only been to two places so I can’t say that with certainty but so far, it fits!

One of the Ferrari's

One of the Ferrari’s

I decided to stay at Nomads in St Kilda for the next few weeks – because I had one room for the duration and it was close to the F1 and the guys back at Base. I spent a fair bit of time there seeing people and it was really nice noticing that they did miss me, or at least notice I’d gone. I don’t regret the choice though, I needed to sleep!

I did make a booboo, though. I had already booked to stay at Base for the F1 weekend, but then also booked in at Nomads. That cost me a few bucks once I realised!

Not much to really say about this. I spent most of it under the radar, a few drinks here and there but mostly in money saving mode. Half-assed job applications got me nowhere, obviously. The room I was in was good. Another Scottish guy and two Irish lasses, and then the other two beds were filled with randoms. Felt kinda sorry for them, given how fast we spoke at times. They must have had a lot of ‘what the hell’ moments!

Albert Park before the F1

Albert Park before the F1

Before I knew it, it was F1 time, but not before I spent a couple of days beforehand walking the track before they closed it off. It was so cool to be able to walk it before it all kicked off, getting some great pictures (just a shame I couldn’t be THAT close during the racing!) and enjoying the weather. I’d walked around Albert Park before but not while the barriers and grandstands were up.

The F1 itself? That was something else entirely. I’ve been to Silverstone a few times in the UK, and its great fun but here I was, on the other side of the world, on my own, at a four-day grand prix event! Excited doesn’t cover it.

First off, it’s cheaper. That’s unusual to say about Australia but a 4-day general admission ticket at Albert Park cost the same as a race-day general admission ticket at Silverstone and there’s more to see and do at this event. Now, I know it’s all about track funding and costs etc, but not once was there a shortage of people, even on the Thursday!

I met Louise Goodman!

I met Louise Goodman!

I spent that day getting driver autographs and photos. I missed out (by a few meters) on a wristband for one of the big four teams (Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull) but got quite a few. Even better, and a highlight of the weekend, was meeting Louise Goodman! Boom!

The start of the remaining three days was spent at Melbourne Walk, where the drivers and teams enter the paddock. More of a free-for-all here, but got some good autographs, including Daniel Ricciardo, Adrian Newey, Christian Horner and Claire Williams, to name a few.

Then I started hunting for spots to watch the action. Just after turn two, on the inside, is good but not much happens. After exploring most of the circuit, I settled on either turn ten and turn eleven, on the outside. Good views and potential overtaking spots, judging by the other categories.

Saturday began with a downpour, soaking me through and making me hide in a pub for four hours and watch the action on TV. It dried quickly in the afternoon, though and with all the racing, including the Australian V8 Supercars, the track dried quickly too. It was so cool to see them racing here as part of their championship for the very first time. I’m hoping to see more of them in the future.

A big crash for Bottas in F1’s qualifying session followed by an equally stunning and ridiculous lap by Hamilton set up a great race for the Sunday, when I would have company!

Sitting on the #AUSGP sign

Sitting on the #AUSGP sign

A new friend’s very first F1 event. Normally I’ picked my spot and camp there all day but she was only attending for one day so I wanted to show her around, including Melbourne Walk, the displays around the track and what was on offer before we landed at turn 10 for the Supercars and F1. I won’t talk about the race, plenty of people have since then but even with little overtaking, it was great fun and I’m glad she enjoyed it!

Then an early night before beginning my East Coast Adventure!

Arriving in St Kilda, Melbourne

As I mentioned before, three days in Hong Kong just isn’t enough but I was ready to get to Australia at last! Another long flight loomed. This couldn’t be worse than the last one, right? Mostly.

I was on an aisle seat, which was fine. Two Chinese women were next to me and one wanted the aisle seat and the other the window seat. I didn’t want to be trapped between them so I politely said no. Unfortunately, they spoke no English. The flight attendant translated for us but somehow I got stuck in the middle anyway!

Without going into too much detail, I think I either got adopted or married, honestly not sure which. The only phrase they knew was “I love you” and it was said to me over and over! They were fascinated with my eyes and kept showing me pictures of their families. I fell asleep for an hour and woke up wrapped in three blankets. And they kept feeding me food! How awkward. Still, better than kids.

Anyway, I’ve been in St Kilda for just under two weeks and I’ve loved every moment…well, except one part.

Settling in and defeating jetlag

The first day was wasted, but it’s normal. I sorted out some boring stuff like banks and orientation and took myself on a short walk but mostly chilled at the hostel. A few drinks in the evening helped me settle and I met my first friend, who works at Base. We get on really well and this isn’t one of those who I’ll spend time with and forget, I’m sure we’ll keep in touch!

If you had told me before I arrived exactly what kind of hostel Base was, I probably wouldn’t have booked in. Too much partying and noise for an old git like me but actually, I think it was the best thing. It forced me to do things and get involved and that helped me get out of my shell a little. You might not think I need help with that but being so far away and knowing no one, that little push helped me get involved a little quicker. I’ll pop back every so often but I don’t think I need it anymore.

St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

The rock stage at St Kilda Festival

Less than a week after I arrived, St Kilda Festival arrived. I didn’t know this was happening before I arrived but I was excited to go. It takes over the entire area, and is one of the biggest free festivals in the southern hemisphere! About 400,000 people were expected this year with stages and displays and arts stuff going on throughout the day.

Of course, I found the rock stage.

Saw some good bands and spent a nice day wandering and chilling in parks with some of the friends I’ve made since arriving. To have this right on my doorstep, literally, was a stroke of luck and while I get why residents avoided the area for the day or weekend, it was good fun and I didn’t see any fights or riots that happen in festivals back home at times.

A feel for Melbourne

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

One of the pieces of street art/graffiti from Hosier Lane

I’ve spent a lot of time finding my feet so far, going on walks around the area, visiting the beaches – some of which are really nice but I’ve been told they’re nothing compared to elsewhere! Melbourne is a very friendly place overall, and despite the busy areas feeling a little overwhelming at first, I feel like I did in Manchester. I love it here.

I’ve heard mixed things about Hosier Lane but I found it really interesting. Some great graffiti art here and I took a lot of pictures. It was smaller than I expected, though, and I saw someone working on a new piece. Having a place for people to do this is clever, as I’ve not seen as much graffiti as back home generally.

There are also penguins living on St Kilda pier! They come out at sunset and go hunt. They’re not phased by people at all but I did feel like pushing people away when they were trying to get past the crowd. It was so cool but it’s important not to feed them to disrupt their cycle.

A missed opportunity

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

A Penguin at St Kilda Pier

Being slightly out of the city has its perks, it’s easier to relax a bit more and still be close to everything I want to do. Getting out of the holiday mentality where I feel like I have to do something different every day has been hard but I’m getting to the stage where I’m happy to have a chill day, especially knowing I’ll be back again.

However, a few days ago I was out on a pub crawl and my drink got spiked. I didn’t know at first but soon I was unable to stand, see straight or do anything. The next day I couldn’t focus my mind, see properly, eat anything and more. It was awful. It took me over a day to fully recover but I’m fine. It’s happened now and it hasn’t put me off doing things – I just need to be a little more careful.

The sad thing was I missed White Night, which is a 12-hour light show in the CBD with music and such. From the pictures and videos, it looked epic. Next year, I’m doing it!

Moving on

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Sunset at St Kilda Pier

Tomorrow I fly to Perth for two weeks to see a friend from back home and spend a little time exploring the city and the area. I’ll be coming back to Melbourne after for another few weeks to explore more and find more sunset views like this before a big, month-long adventure!

Three Days in Hong Kong (It’s not enough)

I flew with Cathay Pacific. The plane from Manchester to Hong Kong was huge, and quite comfortable, even in Economy (standard) class. There was some great in-flight entertainment and the food was miles better than it was back when I was like 13 and going to Florida – or maybe I’m less fussy now.

Unfortunately, I had a kid in front and behind so I was subject to 11 hours of kicking from both sides. The couple next to me were nice and while I didn’t sleep, I kept my cool with it all.

I landed at just after 7am local time the following day. I couldn’t check into the hotel until 1 or 2pm but they did hold my rucksack. I went to explore Kowloon for the day and had to decide whether to sleep in the afternoon or power through.

I powered through.

Kowloon

Day one was spent in Kowloon, the more, how can I put this, local side of Hong Kong (and all around it except the south). Now, the language barrier was going to be an issue. I had learnt a few basic words to get me going; hello, thank you etc but even then, a lot of the signs weren’t in English. Official signs were, but restaurants and shops, no chance.

Thankfully, I never encountered any problems. There was almost always someone who spoke at least some English and we muddled through. Google and smartphones were my friend in the times I was held behind a language barrier.

I didn’t want to buy much, because the whole point is me travelling light but I explored the Temple Street night Market and the Ladies Market and a lot of parks.

Lake in Kowloon Park

Lake in Kowloon Park

Kowloon Park was fantastic and had fountains and an aviary. The difference between night and day is stunning. There was also the Star Garden, with statues, sculptures and information on local and national stars. The waterfront is also nice, and at Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour there’s a cultural centre.

At night, the city comes alive. The lights transform everything and there’s a brilliant light show at 8pm you can watch involving the buildings on Hong Kong Island. You need to get there a good hour or so early though to get a good spot to watch it from!

Hong Kong light show

Hong Kong light show

There’s street food everywhere, meaning you won’t go hungry. It took some pointing to rather than talking with some of them but I had some great snacks throughout the day.

It’s worth noting that shops and restaurants don’t always open early. Some will open from 9am-ish but more from midday and even more from mid-afternoon to 5pm. A lot of places are open till about 2am, though. Adjust sleeping patterns appropriately.

Hong Kong Island

Day two took me to Hong Kong Island, across the Victoria Harbour. There is a ferry but I took the local metro system, the MTR. Quick and easy.

While all of Hong Kong features sky scrapers, it hit me a lot more here. I arrived in the business district, with a lot more high-end shops on the go. You’ll find a lot more expats on this island and the signs, both official and window based, included more English.

View of Hong Kong

View of Hong Kong

My first stop was the Peak Tram to take me up a bloody big hill. Took an hour to queue but it wasn’t a walk-able one – not for me. At the top is a viewing platform. Now, we all know I HATE heights. Nevertheless, I went and did it. I took the obligatory selfie and absorbed the views. It was a bit murky (unfortunately it was all three days I was there) but that doesn’t take anything away.

I then went on a walk around Mt Austin and climbed up an old stone path (why do I do this to myself?) to a spot higher than the observation platform. Got some even better pictures but not of the same view as there was a lot of foliage in the way.

Hong Kong Park Aviary

Hong Kong Park Aviary

It was then back on the Peak Tram and up the road to Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. More great views and a lot of animals to see. This was a free area too, with refreshments in the area.

From there it was a short jaunt back to Hong Kong Park (which had another vantage point but I avoided the stairs on this one). There’s also a brilliant Aviary where you can walk through and a lot of the birds will get very close to you.

It was then down to the harbour for views of Kowloon, waiting for dark for the contrasting photos and back to Kowloon for more food and bed.

Lantau

View from the cable car

View from the cable car

On the third day, I went across to Lantau, the West Island and closer to the airport. The MTR was again my transport of choice. I changed lines once and it was so easy. Their platform structure is brilliant – I hopped off my train and straight across the platform to a train going to my destination. The return platforms were on another level.

I had a pineapple bun with cream for breakfast and it was amazing! From there, I took a cable car up to Ngong Ping. I queued for about 45 minutes but it can be much longer. Remember, I don’t like heights but put a brave face on and took some pictures of the awesome views. Got talking to the guys in the car with me – there are some perks to travelling solo!

Tian Tan Buddha

Tian Tan Buddha

I arrived in a village-type setting designed to reflect the times of the time. Up here was the Tian Tan Buddha (Fat Buddha) and the Po Ling Monastery (Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas). It was so calm and serene, even with the amount of people around. The village itself is full of shops and restaurants. The monastery is beautiful and the Tian Tan Buddha itself was incredible – even after all the steps to get to it. There’s also a walk around the area and bus routes to other areas on this island.

Now, unfortunately, I left about 3pm. I wanted to relax as I had an early flight the next day to Melbourne. I did wander around Kowloon some more but nowhere new. I was back in the hotel from 9ish and had an early night ready for a nine-hour flight.

All in all, I loved Hong Kong and would love to go back again to see a lot more.

A New Adventure

Hello! Apologies for such a long absence, but it’s been a busy few months. Nothing particularly interesting; I finished my book and started submitting to agents, got a Christmas temp job in a bookshop (which was awesome) and got things ready for my travels.

As a lot of you know by now, I’m leaving the UK for a while. Quite a while. Actual length is to be decided yet but I’m heading to the other side of the world, with Hong-Kong and Australia two definite targets. I’ll be posting more regularly as a result, to catalogue my travels. Mostly this but some writing stuff will still appear too.

It might be more regular if there are things of interest to discuss.

Getting ready

My life for the next year or two in two bags!

My life for the next year or two in two bags!

I spent the last ten days so getting things ready, double checking all the paperwork and such before packing the night before. Anyone who knows me will be prepared for this: I packed a rucksack and a backpack. The rucksack weighed 9.4kg – okay, you say, that’s fine. Remember, I’m going for a year. Maybe two! I know people who pack 20kg for a two-week trip!

It amused me.

I then took off from Newcastle a few days early to spend some time in Manchester and try to catch up with people. I’m sorry now for anyone I didn’t get a chance to see – at times it was literally an hour per person or group. It was great to see so many of you though, and I’m thankful for you all taking the time out of your days and nights to catch up. I wish you (the ones I did and didn’t see) all the best and I’ll try to keep in touch.

Right now

I’m writing this in Manchester Airport, waiting for my flight to Hong-Kong. Three days there and then on to Melbourne. I won’t lie, I’m ridiculously excited right now (even if my face doesn’t show it) but the nerves are rising. I’ve flown on my own before, been on solo holidays before but never have I gone this far, for so long, on my own. I’m sure I’ll be fine once I take off and settle in to what I’m doing but right now, I want the waiting around to stop!

On a plus note, it was a very quick jaunt through T2’s security checks. Not a big queue and travelling so light has its perks, I guess!

Here we go, people. The biggest adventure of my life so far is about to begin. See you on the other side!

Literally.