Monthly Archives: October 2013

Um, I’m Pretty Sure I Locked that Door

It’s unbelievably easy to slip into the backpacker life again, complete with all the joys and pitfalls. It took less than 48 hours for me to realize this via an experience that can only happen when everything you own fits in a backpack and you live among strangers you call friends in a makeshift community that is a hostel.

The hostel I stayed in was about a 10-minute walk away from Central Station in Sydney. Reviews said it had a nice, homey atmosphere and the nightly rates were pretty good.

When I arrived, the place was small and cramped with the reception, TV lounge, kitchen and outdoor barbecue area on the ground level. Two upper levels contained four rooms so I’m guessing the largest capacity was around 30 people. Each floor had a bathroom (toilet, shower and a sink) for everyone to share and there was a separate female-only bathroom (toilet, two showers and a sink) outside.

Being the lazy sloth that I am, I decided to use the shared bathroom down the hall instead of lugging my stuff outside and around the corner to the female-only bathroom. Well, little did I know that the door’s lock was broken and some guy ended up walking in on my shower. Good thing mineral deposits covered the glass surrounding the shower stall and acted like a foggy barrier to protect my modesty (and his).

Because the door opened directly on the shower, I’m not sure who had more of a shock – me or the poor guy. As elegant as I could be standing naked with shampoo dripping into my eyes I said, “Um, I’m pretty sure I locked that door.” The guy, to his credit, averted his eyes quickly and apologized for barging in. Needless to say, I finished that shower in record speed!

Prior to my travels, I think I would have been tremendously embarrassed by the experience. Americans are, despite all the sex and violence in the media, mostly ultra conservative about nudity and things (in contrast to Europeans). However, I simply brushed it off as one of those weird hostel encounters and didn’t really think anything of it. After all, this happened to me in London as well, so I figured everyone was due at least one of these awkward situations during a trip.

When I got back to my room, I made sure to tell my roommates about the lock on the door and advised them to use another bathroom. Later that day, after sightseeing around the city, I noticed a sign informing people of the faulty lock and to knock before entering. Apparently the guy, or someone else who experienced a similar shock, told management as I know I didn’t even bother.

Situations like this would never happen to the high-flying jetsetters and the five-star hotel guests of the world. Family holidaymakers and people with only two weeks of vacation a year would never encounter this either. But this awkward, slightly bumbling interaction is so typical of the backpacker life.

Regardless of how uncomfortable the circumstance is, these are the little moments you remember forever. These are the stories you tell to other backpackers, who laugh in understanding, or to friends at home, who gasp in horror. This is well and truly a backpacker’s life.

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Filed under Accommodation, Australia

A Year Down Under

Having decided to spend the next year Down Under in Australia, it was easy to reminisce about the first time I left home and headed for those distant shores. It seemed like yesterday and déjà vu struck me as I waited at my gate to leave. This time I had a bit more experience under my belt and was more excited than nervous about what the future held.

With a yearlong visa in hand, my general plan was to visit Western Australia, Tasmania and Melbourne as these were the areas I missed the last time I visited. I also wanted to focus on working with native animals at an animal sanctuary where they rehabilitated orphaned or injured animals.

So before leaving home I contacted friends seeking advice on whether they knew of any opportunities and emailed a few places I found online. I got a hit with Peta, one of the owners at Absolute Backpackers in Mission Beach, Queensland. She put me in touch with Tanya, who ran Cassowary Coast Wildlife Shelter in South Mission Beach. After emailing Tanya to explain what type of experience I was looking for, she said to text her when I arrived in Australia and we’d work something out.

With this in mind, my only tasks on arrival in Sydney were to check into my hostel and pick up a SIM card so I could contact Tanya. I could figure the rest of my life out when I got there.

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Filed under Australia, Hawaii

Travel Blogging: Pros and Cons

When I started this travel blog more than two years ago, I thought it would be great for two things: 1) Keeping my family updated on what I was doing and 2) Maintaining an online diary for when dementia set in. But, I didn’t realize how big a job this would be or how hard it is to keep going.

For anyone embarking on an extended holiday, gap year, career break or backpacking trip and contemplating whether travel blogging is for you, here are some pros and cons to help you make your decision.

Travel Blogging Pros

Online Diary: Blogging about your experiences preserves your memories and feelings so you can enjoy them all at a later date. Depending on the situation, this can either be good or bad. Technology has made it easier to relive the adrenaline rush of your first skydive as well as the mind-blowing hangover you felt after a night spent with good friends and bad goon. Your online diary does not play favorites.

Conversation Starter: Not that the standard questions (“Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going?”) don’t work, but having a blog gives you a different angle to strike up conversations with strangers (and maybe even a legit reason to snap photos of that hot guy/girl you meet).

Blogging Community: If you wish, you can become an active member in the blogging community by reading, commenting and linking to other travel blogs. I haven’t really done much of this, mostly due to lack of time (see Cons for details), but it seems there’s a large community out there to help with travel advice, show you around a city, suggest places to see and things to do and possibly even offer you a couch upon which to crash. You might even be able to score some sponsors and advertisers to help with the money situation and prolong your adventure.

Fame: Some people get into this whole blogging thing to become famous. Some people actually do become famous. Most of us don’t, but I suppose you can become famous within your own circle of influence (ie. your friends, family and colleagues). And who doesn’t want to brag about the awesome things you’ve seen and done to that jealous co-worker who sat down the hall from you?

Travel Blogging Cons

Time Management: Creating content takes up a lot of your free time and may start feeling like a full-time job. When you’re constantly on the move, doing new activities and meeting people from around the world, it is difficult to stop the fun to sit down and write. If you’re doing a photo/video blog or are just a stickler for good images, editing can eat up a heap of time if you want to perfectly capture that amazing sunset, unique wildlife or hostel party.

Expensive/Slow/No Internet Connections: Depending on where in the world you decide to travel, internet connections are extremely expensive, slow or unavailable at all. Despite living during a time of extensive technological achievements, there is a large part of the world that live a simpler, and some may argue happier, lifestyle. If you’re visiting less developed countries, the internet may not be widely available forcing you to work out of internet cafés, which affects both your time and money. Even in developed countries, such as Australia, some places are crazy expensive because the population is small or you’re just out in the middle of nowhere. The most expensive place I’ve come across so far is Coober Pedy, where an internet café was offering 15 minutes for AU$8!

Blogging Hermit: For the most part, writing is a solitary pursuit and this can make you a bit anti-social, which is the opposite of the Conversation Starter. When you’re focused on writing and photo/video editing, you can often miss out on group outings or pub crawls because of your strict adherence to your blogging schedule. You may be too focused on writing to enjoy the life you’re living.

Real Time vs Blog Time: Despite your best efforts to stay up to date with a steady stream of posts, you’ll never really be writing in real time. You posts will always be a few steps behind real life. How else are you supposed to experience anything if you’re tied down to blogging about it as it happens? So technically, your family and friends will never really know where you are in the world or what you’re currently doing there when they read your blog. If they want minute-by-minute details of your escapades, they’ll have to stay tuned to other social media applications, like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, which is just another thing for you to update.

In the end, the decision to keep a travel blog is in your hands. Deciding what type of blog you want – personal or professional – can help you figure out the frequency, tone and content of your posts. It’s always great to document your holiday, but I would shy away from a blog if you think it’ll have a negative effect on your travel experience.

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Filed under Hawaii, Travel