Category Archives: Hawaii

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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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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Round-the-World Trip: Part Deux

The second time you do something is always easier than the first, and planning for my second round-the-world trip was no exception. Despite not really having any solid plans once I’m in Australia, I was confident that things would sort themselves out.

My parents weren’t exactly thrilled when I told them I was going to travel again and would be away for at least a year. My mom took on a fatalistic view of the situation, knowing there was nothing she could do to stop me from leaving again. After all, I’m spending my hard-earned money, and it’s my life to do with as I wish. Her main strategy was to alternate between encouraging and overprotective. She thought I was being a hippy and just hoped I would get it out of my system so I could come home and settle down. My dad simply laughed and shook his head in disbelief. He’s a homebody and would never willingly choose to be away from Hawaii for very long.

I decided to use the same backpack as it had held up pretty well, and, by this point, I had the packing and unpacking of it down to a science. I planned to cut the number of things I brought with me because the 18+ kg pack I left with the on my first trip was a bitch to hump around (although I know people who were lugging 20+ kg around!).

It’s always hard to pack for a long trip because you want to plan for every circumstance, from snowing to sweltering, but can’t. You have to pick clothes and footwear that will survive the harsh conditions of life on the road, continual wash and wear and be made of quick-drying materials. You should also pick things that are comfortable to wear and stuff you really like because you’ll be stuck wearing it over and over.

I also eliminated my first aid kit as I didn’t really use anything from it last time. If a need arose, I could always pick up medicine from a chemist once I arrived. I also ditched extras, such as small gifts from Hawaii for people I met. While this is a very nice gesture, it also added weight that I didn’t need. People would just have to enjoy my sunny disposition and leave it at that.

With my life packed away in boxes once more, it was not difficult to envision living out of a backpack again. While it would be hard to give up all my beloved tv shows and films (especially since I was finally able to catch up to the current seasons), I knew new experiences awaited and was excited for the prospects.

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