Tag Archives: travel

What I Reckon: My Loathing Hatred Of Airports

Airports. Once upon a time so luxurious and lovely and flying was such a wonderful thing and blah blah blah. In this day and age of ‘terrorism’, low cost carriers, and the cheap flight battles, we have gotten to a point where flying is no longer a source of wonder and joy, but a pain in the arse. In the last two and a half months, I have been 9 times on a plane. In that time I have been screened with baggage about 3 times on average per flight, I have been patted down four times (cause lets face it, I must have magnetic tits when I am walking through the thing wearing practically nothing) and aggressively prodded in the pubic bone during manual search (ummmm…. if you ask someone to stop publicly prodding you in the vagina in an airport does this make you a terrorist with something to hide or must we endure it to get on the flight? Or do we need to subject ourselves to gloved-finger vaginal searches as well?).

Not only is the screening process a pain in the arse, but now baggage has also become one of these ordeals that you wind up paying out the arse for. I find myself standing in a queue with all my heavy toiletries in my jacket pockets, a computer down the back of my pants and all manner of other heavy things jammed in my bra while I am subjected to the weighing of hand luggage, by one of those transportable scales at the actual fucking gate. Don’t check people when they approach the front desk. Get them at the gate and if they are a hundred grams over tell them they have to check their bag and pay sixty fucking dollars for it.  Not only that but once upon a time it was ten kilograms and you could get a reasonable amount of stuff with you. Now it is seven kilograms, which is pretty much enough luggage to take a wheelie suitcase with not much at all in it. If I take my computer in that case, game over. Well unless I am graciously hiding it somewhere in my pants under a bulky jacket.

Airlines do not give a fuck about customer service these days either. It is perfectly acceptable to leave someone in the airport waiting for three and a half hours for a delayed flight, because ‘who fucking cares if you have somewhere you need to be?’ Oh and even better, those times when you have problems checking in online and when you arrive to the airport they kindly inform you that there is no space on the flight for you because you didn’t check in on time. ‘Well I fucking tried, but it’s your fault I am not checked in, it is your computer malfunction and I bought this ticket eight weeks ago!” Nah. Too bad. You find yourself standing in a line waiting to see if somebody else doesn’t show up so that you can get on the flight that they have oversold that you have already paid for. Fucking furious.

Or those times where you are sat on a plane on the runway without information for four hours while they faff about trying to cross reference a passenger list with luggage, which let’s face it, shouldn’t take four hours. Then the airline has the nerve to say ‘oh yeah, we can sell you some food’. People on that plane were going to cause a riot if their hangry selves didn’t get fed and as such the airline after facing a hoard of crazy customers decided to offer one snack and one drink complementary per person. By the time I got up to go and get my snack, it had gotten even more out of hand. It was like watching a new teacher try and manage thirty out of control teenagers as passengers took whatever they felt like from the cart that was more than just a sandwich and a drink. “Oh, but sir…..”. But guess what, sir doesn’t give a fuck and you clearly have no authority as to say no to him so he’s taking his five chocolate bars and four sandwiches and he’s off. As it was I wound up with two sandwiches, a chocolate bar and a drink. I do not feel bad. Whatever.

And don’t even get me started on people who walk slowly with their wheelie fucking suitcases in everyone’s way and taking up both sides of the escalator instead of being polite so that those of us in a hurry and who suffer crippling impatience can beat you to the immigration counter. The amount of people that I ran down in the Stansted Airport in London because of them being slow and in my way I can’t count. But then there was something about London, and London Airports especially, that transformed me into the largest kind of arsehole there ever was that lived.

Anyway, my point is, I hate airports. Fucking hate them. It is the part of travel that I loathe the most. I would rather take a bus and for the most part, I have done most of my cross-continental travels on the bus. Planes are only a necessity when going across water. The people who work there hate their lives and are rude. Security is a bitch at the best of times and depending on where you are, they can be so rigid that it takes forever. Even flight attendants these days seem to hate their jobs. The glamourous and fabulous experiences of the past are dead. Now everybody gets herded like cattle in a transport van, all jammed in at once into tiny seats with their knees around their heads so that they can sit uncomfortably and hungrily for hours without food and water unless you buy a ten dollar box of crackers or water, or manage to get an empty plastic bottle through that you can fill with hot water in the bathrooms because the arseholes don’t have a cold tap anywhere to encourage you to buy more plastic water bottles that end up in the oceans you fly over so we can watch the penguins choke on them. Exactly. Fuck the airport. The only good thing about it is that after dealing with two of them, you can leave for a while and go explore somewhere new until you have to go back again to go home. Ugh.

 

Advertisements

Foods I Miss From Around The World

One of the biggest joys of travel for me is food. Oddly though when people ask me what foods I miss from home, I tell them none really. I don’t really miss any of it. Most of what constitutes “Australian foods” are candies, chocolate biscuits and all round unhealthy shit.

After time spent in Canada and the UK, I can safely say that a Tim Horton’s chilli is probably the only thing I miss from there. But despite my adversity to Western foods, there are specific foods from other parts of the world that blow my mind that I do occasionally get cravings for and that I cannot replicate and cannot get in the authentic manner where I am.

Fish and sweet potato puree from an amazing restaurant called La Sirena d’Juan, Mancora, Peru. My god….. foodgasm!

So one can imagine my excitement when I am walking around downtown Melbourne and in the market I find a stand that sells Burek, an Albanian pastry most commonly filled with ricotta and spinach or minced meat. I am well excited! And gözleme from Turkey! Momo’s from Nepal! Arepa de choclo from Colombia! And I am now well excited. I even managed to find an amazing woman who was so incredibly lovely selling pre-mixed packets of Indian spices to make things like Goan fish. Authentic Goan fish. Not the shitty, watered-down, westernised, jar sauce rubbish that tastes nothing like curry from actual India. I’m talking the ones that will blow your head off and still be considered “mild”. Real. Curry. Mmmmm…..

Menu del dia from the side of the road in Cali, Colombia…. approximate cost, 3 USD.

I miss my standard “menu del día” from Colombia with my fried plantains and chicharrón. I miss real Mexican Tacos made with maíz tortillas and not the shitty Old El Paso box crap with crunchy tortilla shells. Not once did I see those in Mexico. I miss a proper ceviche from Peru with those little toasted corn kernels of white corn on the side…. Any authentic empanada from anywhere South American. Venezuelan arepas. Pad Thai cooked in Thailand. Tom kha kai….

Traditional Peruvian causa with passionfruit juice.

Mussaman curry. Mango sticky rice. Actual Vietnamese Phó from Vietnam. Amok Curry from Cambodia. Egyptian falafel…. Ugh…. All of this is making me hungry as I write. Proper gelati from Italy and those little tortellini things that float around in the beef broth from Bologna. Norwegian brown cheese. All cakes and hot chocolate from the Republic of Cacao in Ecuador…..

The world’s best hot chocolate from the Republica de Cacao, Quito, Ecuador…. oh and the cake! This was dinner every single night for a week. Oops.

As is, half of my backpack coming home was filled with Ecuadorian Cacao paste and packets of Sancocho soup mix from Colombia. Throw in some David’s tea from Canada and an authentic Indian chai…. Ugh….. Take me back!

The most amazing Nicaraguan ice cream sandwich ever!

Anyway, the point is, I managed to find places in Melbourne that sell these things or ingredients to make these things authentically. And upon this discovery, I was the happiest I had been in a long time. Because if I can’t go to the food, at least the food can come to me and remind me of all of the good times I had with such foods. Venezuelan arepas dripping down my chin as I drunkenly smashed one down in the street. The pupusas I ate every day in El Salvador on the beach. The falafels I ordered on my own with my very limited Arabic on the side of the road in Egypt, despite arguments with my guide. The targines we ate every single day in Morocco with couscous and Morrocan BBQ in a dingy market. All the days I sat with locals, the only white person in the place munching down on Indonesian bakso or ayam Goreng.

Indonesian bakso…… mmmm…..

The food opens doors to my memories. It allows me to keep them alive through my taste buds and the connections they have to events. I expected to find some, but never this much here. And now that I have, I’m excited to get in the kitchen and cook. It is my own little time machine at home, when jumping on a plane cannot suffice. And for now, it will have to do.

What I Reckon: Couples in Dormitories

I have met some very cool couples travelling. Couples that are their own people that can interact with others and make friends and better yet, can for the most part, respectfully keep their hands off each other in public. I love these people. These people are great. What I don’t love are young, needy couples who think it’s ok to treat a shared dormitory with ten other people in it like their own private bedroom.

Last week I rolled into Cochabamba at 8pm and was ushered to a dorm room where I was shown to a bed one meter away from a completely STARK FUCKING NAKED couple that were fondling each other and whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears while I am trying to awkwardly organise my stuff and go to bed. The most confrontational part was when I roll over and open my eyes to bear witness to one hairy male arse crack escaping from under the sheet cause ‘guess what mate?  Single beds and single bed sheets were made for one fucking person so either put some fucking clothes on or go to your own bed!’

Thinking that after a day I had escaped this, I moved on to the next city, but low and behold, two cities later, adjacent bed, same naked fucking couple. Do they get that in their own little world of neediness that they are making every other person around them uncomfortable? They also barely talk to anyone else. They don’t need to. They have each other… How adorable and completely unhealthy.

So they left, and even better, my mate and I walk into the room where we’re staying and two more couples who don’t know how to stop touching each other have moved on in. Great. As it is I write this in the darkness to the lovely musical intonation of people kissing each other. But you know, they put a sheet up so nobody can see and this apparently acts as a magical fucking sound barrier as well. And given the head of my bed and theirs line up, I don’t have a magical sound barrier. By the light of iPad, I can see and hear fucking everything. And you know what? I’m sick of it!

Some people call me a prude. Some call me unromantic because they are young people in love. The fact is, I don’t care if you’re young and can’t keep your hands off each other, just do it somewhere else. Get a private fucking room like all of the respectful couples I mentioned above do so they don’t annoy people or do what my ex and I used to do; kiss each other goodnight and go to our own fucking beds to sleep. I’m not so fucking needy that I need to cling to you in the middle of the night on a top bunk that’s narrow with no railings at the risk of falling out or sleeping like shit just so that I can show ‘I love you’. I already trashed my back and neck sleeping in a single bed with my boyfriend at 18 in a room on our own at uni. Why you’d want to do it in even a shitter dorm beds is beyond me.

But then I’m a loveless old hag with respect for the personal comfort of others and situational awareness. What the fuck would I know?

 

 

The Emotions Of Going Home

Going home. It doesn’t really have very strong connotations for most of us. Going home from work. Going home from a holiday. You can pretty much expect things to be exactly the way that you left them. But what if you’ve been gone for four years? What if you don’t even know anymore what you are going home from? Or even better yet, going home to?

Obviously I am going home to my family and a lot of exciting and not so exciting things that involve my family, whom I adore to pieces. But everything else is more scary. Everything else is so unknown, and for someone who has lived unknown for such a long time, you would think that I would be used to it. But this is different. This feels more permanent. This time I don’t have an escape and somewhere else to go to. This time, I am back to stay.

And that is hard when I don’t feel like I know or relate to my country anymore. For the last few times I have been home, I have felt like an alien walking around a land that looks so familiar to me. A foreigner in a land where everyone sounds just like me. A stranger to people who I have known for a long time. The truth is, in moving around and meeting so many other people, I have detached myself from the parts of being Australian that I didn’t want to associate myself with. The parts that get involved in ridiculousness like national outrage over shaved cricket balls and supermarkets banning plastic bags. The parts that need to be in everyone else’s business because there is nothing else to get worked up about in a place where people are so fortunate. The parts that have a reputation globally for being racist and unaccepting. Or better yet, drunk all the time and disrespectful. I left them behind somewhere along the way and I don’t want them back. A part of me went about collecting the best parts of other cultures and trying to incorporate them into who I am. Will this person be accepted? Or shunned by others who will go about isolating me and keeping their distance, which something I experienced last time I returned for several months.

I fear the lack of being able to communicate with others on the same level. After leading such a different life for such a long time, it is hard to come back to what is considered normal. It is harder when people don’t like to acknowledge that you haven’t been living normal. That you’ve been living something unexplainable. How do you make new friends when you’ve forgotten how to talk to normal people about normal everyday things that aren’t “Where are you going? Where are you from?” How do you communicate with old friends when so much of who you are has changed? Half the time I feel like I am sitting as an island witness to conversations I no longer have the capacity to be a part of because I lost pop culture along the way.

I fear not making enough money to survive and yet I also fear having a job where I wind up in the same stress cycle I did last time, ending up in adrenal fatigue and nervous breakdown. How do I manage to navigate a network of obtaining a job that is considered acceptable or do I just blow the whole thing off and go work as a card dealer at the casino or serve ice cream or something? Will I again be judged for choosing something that isn’t considered ‘professional’ in a society where what you do for work is a large part of defining who you are and what your worth is? If I shun the standard view of worth and work, will I still be accepted by others or will new people I meet walk away and decide I am not good enough because of it?

The biggest thing for me is that I fear that I cannot make this work. That at some point in six months from now, I am going to want to pick myself up and go somewhere else because I am unhappy and it is too hard. The truth is, I am at an age where I need to consider whether I want to have children and a family and if I can’t stay in one place long enough to meet someone that I connect with at that level, then I am giving those things away. And if I don’t manage to meet someone because I have waited so long to do so, then I have given it away with my choices up to this point already. And that, well it will be a bridge I cross when I come to it. But I actually need right now to commit to it. I need to commit to opening myself up, putting myself out there, meeting people with the knowledge that I am not saying goodbye to them in six months from now and making myself a life. I tried in England. I failed. After two years, I walked away with very little to show for myself because of several different factors that I don’t want to repeat.

So here we go again. Like always, I feel the fear, and I get on the plane and I tell it to shove off and I go home. I go home. To what I don’t know. But to home, nonetheless.

Stop being lazy and ignorant! Learn the Language!

It is a really sad thing when you come across people who have been travelling in a country for a substantial amount of time or have moved there to study and after three months of being in that country, they have made no effort whatsoever to learn any of the language. For me it is something that just happens. I am interested in it. I want to learn. While I don’t profess to be able to speak any languages fluently, I am quite proficient in Spanish after spending 8 months in Central America and then another 8 months in South America, where I returned to Spanish school to get my head around more of the culture and to be able to connect with more of the people here. I do not, like so many other, just expect that because I am a tourist, that you should have to learn English to speak to me. That to me is ultimate disrespect towards the people you have traveled to meet. Not even trying to meet them halfway in their own country, where I’m concerned, is downright rude.

Of recent times, I have travelled through several Arabic speaking countries and have had the locals teaching me how to say things in Arabic. Despite my limited amounts of things that I could say, most locals were amazed at how ‘excellent’ my Arabic was. And by amazing I mean ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘how much?’, ‘do you have change?’, ‘is it free?’, ‘don’t touch me’ and ‘pigs might fly’ among a few other silly phrases I would use to joke around with the locals. They would literally tell me ‘wow, you Arabic very excellent’. I guess this is quite a rarity for them. But these things enabled me to walk down the street and manage to order myself a kofte on my own and pay for it, and afforded me a form of independence from the group trip that I was on. Most of the others on the group trip looked at me like I was insane for even wanting to try. Too much effort.

Another language that I found super useful was learning some Indonesian. When heading into the wonderful world of Java, or anywhere outside of Bali to be honest, the English becomes limited. I have quite fond memories of really disjointed conversations I have had in Indonesian/English with local people. Especially the three women I met on the bus coming back from the Dieng Plateau who were also teachers and were quite sassy ladies. They told me I was beautiful on a bus full of strangers and they all started hollering and hooting at me. I got quite embarrassed but it was also quite amusing.

At a minimum, when arriving in a new country, you should learn to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘please’, and ‘how much?’ I know that sometimes in European countries you are changing country and language every week and this makes it difficult to retain or learn very much at all. But if you are going to a country and planning on spending a couple of weeks to a month there, do yourself a favour and start to learn some language skills. You will find that the locals will be more receptive and helpful to you, and that you will learn so much more than you bargained for about the people and the culture because you have bothered to make the effort. It shows you have a respect for and an interest in the people where you are visiting. And that in itself, will act to enrich your travels and your life for the better.

Lost On The Road: How To Find Direction When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing Anymore

I won’t lie. In the last couple of weeks I have started to feel a little lost. It is something that happens to all of us when we spend such a long time travelling. For me, I will have been on the move for fourteen months now and I still have three more to go.

The idea of getting up in the morning and having to pack my bag is exhausting. Having to go through the same monotonous “get to know you” conversation with everyone you meet is boring. Doing the same activities day in day out and spending half of your waking hours on the bus is tiring just thinking about it. So what do you do? Pack up? Go home? Forget the dream and pack it in? Or keep going in the hope that something will ignite in your soul and give you the fire back.

For me it took having a rest. I went to a small little community in the hills of Ecuador, checked in for five days, did yoga every morning, sat in a hammock and read, had an afternoon nap, and had a massage every other day. And I didn’t much speak to people. I read about mindfulness and neuroplasticity and tried to apply some of these principles to my everyday life. One of the quotes I read greatly resonated with me:

“Being lost is greatly underrated. It can mean you are in a place of unknowing where the rational mind cannot go. In the way that we need darkness to see the stars, we need unknowing to become a beginner again and engage with the mystery and wonder of it all.”

And so I took from this that it was ok to feel lost. It was ok to feel like I was floundering. Because somewhere underneath the struggle, there was something to learn that I do not yet know about.

But as always and in the meantime, as I figure out what these things I am supposed to learn are, there are things that I can do to make life a little more interesting. And as they say, change is as good as a holiday from your holiday.

1. Take a detour

If all you are seeing right now are cities, go to the mountains or the beach. If you spend all your time looking at churches, go to a museum. Templed out? Go see something different. Doing the same thing repetitively isn’t exactly inspiring after a while. So change it up.

2. Treat yourself

We forget as backpackers on the road to do things for ourselves because we are so hellbent on saving cash every single place we turn. Take some time for you. Go out for a really good meal for one at a restaurant and savour every bite. Have a massage. Go to a yoga class and stretch your body. Have a manicure. Do something that makes you feel like you’re investing in yourself.

3. Ask different questions

One of the most mundane parts of meeting people is the same bloody questions and answers over and over again. So develop an arsenal of different questions that enable you to crack through the surface of people quickly to see what they really are about. It will be more interesting than the “where are you going?/where are you from?” bullshit that you encounter everywhere you go and will allow you to make better connections.

4. Pay attention

People miss the small things in life. Sometimes it is nice to sit back and really take in what is happening around us. Attune your ears to all of the sounds about you. Observe the different colours and activities of people around you. Observe your own body moving through these environments and how you react with them. It will create a peace and a feeling of being one with where you are and will help with feeling lost and detached by rooting you in your environment.

5. Slow down

Sometimes the pure pace of travel will wear you out and drain you of your enthusiasm for things. If it is a luxury you can afford, slow down. Stay in one place a little longer and get to know the place and the people a little better than normal. Remember that it is ok to take a day to do nothing and just sleep, read or rest. We all need to be grounded and centred in one place at times to get the rest and recuperation that we need to move on.

6. Reflect

Especially on long bus rides with nothing to do, it is nice to just stare out the window and reflect. What is it that you are feeling and where you think those feelings are coming from. Having an inner awareness of self allows us to process and find the solutions that we are looking for. It allows us to think, feel and then grow. And as mentioned in the quote above, you cannot see the bright and beautiful stars in the sky if not for the darkness. Sometimes it is good to not know everything. Sometimes it is good to not even know where we are going. It is even better if you can learn to let go of needing to control these things and go with it. The world will often take you to where it is that you need to be to learn the lessons that you need to learn.

So have faith and trust. Feeling lost is yet another type of speed bump in the emotional roller coaster of life. But if you are good and kind to yourself, try new things to stimulate your brain and remember to rest, everything else will eventually become clear. You will find your purpose and direction again, and when you do, you’ll never have to question it, because you’ll have worked hard on the process towards knowing.

 

The Backpacker’s “Fuck no!!”

As a follow up to the Backpacker’s “Fuck yes!!” I decided we would then explore the other side of the fence with those moments of travel where you are thinking to yourself ‘you’ve got to be fucking kidding me!’ also known as “Fuck no!”

  • Waking up in the morning with explosive diarrhoea when you have a flight to take or a full day on a bus. Yeah, this is going to be fun, time to go get myself an adult diaper and hope that I don’t manage to shit myself in front of a whole bunch of people in the process….. “Fuck no!”
  • When you don’t make a reservation for a hostel and roll into town to discover that everywhere is booked out and you wind up sleeping at the bus station or on the floor of a random hostel that is kind enough to let you have floor space. “Fuck no!”
  • When you get your money and credit cards stolen. “Fuck fuck fuck! NO!”
  • Better yet, when you get your passport stolen. “Seriously? Fuck no!”
  • When you smash your camera or your phone. Guess that means no more pictures. “For fucks sake! No fucking way!”
  • When you get to the bus station to take the last bus for the day and they tell you that it is full and there is no more space…. “Fuck…. no……”
  • When some arsehole decides to turn the light on and noisily pack their bag at four am to leave without consideration for those who are sleeping. “Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously, fuck no!”
  • When you get stuck sleeping in a room with someone who either smells. Can you please not invade my sense of smell and leech your horrendous body odour into all of mine and everyone else’s stuff. Go have a shower filthmonger! “Fucking hell no!”
  • When you meet some arrogant fucker who wants to tell you how good they are and they keep following you around when you’re trying to escape. “Fuck no!”
  • When someone you don’t like tells you they are coming to spend the day with you….. Can’t I just run away? “Fuck no!”
  • When the bus leaves you on the side of the road in the middle of the night because this is the final destination. Where the fuck am I and how am I supposed to get anywhere from here? “Fuck no!”
  • When the travel agents try and extort more money out of you for shit that you have already paid for. “No fucking way! Fuck no!”
  • When your legs get mauled by insects and they wind up getting infected so you walk around for a month looking like you’ve got measles from the waist down. “Fuck no!”
  • When a rat chews a hole through one of your bras…. not your average thing that happens to normal people but it happened to me and what did I yell? “Fuck no! Are you fucking kidding me!?”
  • When you accidentally leave half a pizza or other really good food in the hostel fridge and are half way down the highway before you remember. “Fuck no!”

For anyone who has travelled, I am sure you can relate. Chuck us a line if you think of anything else x