Preparing to traveling solo

People like to tell you just do it, and while that may be true, it’s more like just do it over and over. Before you buy a one-way ticket there is much planning to be done of course. Budgeting and planning a route is important, I didn’t spend more than a day planning a budget and only mapped one country out of the eight I visited on my most recent and longest trip. I knew I needed as much money as I could before the deadline that I made up. I gave myself a year to get it all together. I started by getting a second job, which also ment I had less time to go out and spend money. I looked up a lot of places to visit in New Zealand which I decided was my first country and turned out to be the most expensive.

I had recently bought a house and decided to sell my house which was one of many just do it moments. I started to tell my friends about my plans to go to New Zealand and beyond and most didn’t believe me and a few told me I would end up dead or kidnapped. I keep pushing on, almost loosing my mind a few times working so many hours. I would take time random days off work for mental health along the way, but I kept pushing.

After I bought the ticket, and saved while working my ass off and things were really coming together. I was coming down to the last few months were I signed power of attorney to my Dad and boxed or gave away everything I owned. I stopped working both jobs, visited my mom up north and sold my car. The last month flew by with me not working. I had time to catch up with my friends before I left and at this point, my friends believed I was leaving they just didn’t know for how long but neither did I. Having all this free time with friends meant I started dipping into my precious trip money. I do not recommend this. The last few days were a blur with shipping the last few things out if my empty apartment and packing for the 70th time. I was ready to go. All of my planning before left me with two flights and a few weeks of hostels. The real learning always happens after get deep into where ever you are going.

Sun or rain in Sydney

Big city Sydney is always photogenic. I came and went through Sydney multiple times and was never sick of the city and always found places to explore.

I started most of my days at the Central train station shown above. A perfect hub to be staying with plenty of stores and shops. By “shops and stores” I really mean I found a corner store, a mini grocery store, a liquor store I couldn’t afford, a liquor store I could afford, and a mini-mall a short walk with many restaurants local and corporate along the way.

A few short train stops you land in the tourist-rich circular quay. Before you even step off the train you can see the opera house and harbor bridge before even taking a step off the train. I must say my first time coming up the track seeing the grand Sydney Opera House I was super excited and standing in awe looking out the window waiting for the train to stop.

Even on an overcast day the Sydney Opera House still stands gloriously against its bleak background.

Where to begin? The middle of course!

Any great story is amazing in the middle. Bungee jumping off a platform suspended in the air in a glass box and jump platform dangling high above Shotover River to fall 184 meters or 603 feet for an 8.5-second free fall is a great place to start this travel story.

In New Zealand, there is a name known with bungee jumping. That name is A.J. Hacket. With mulitible kinds and locations to jump in the north and south islands, I felt it was a name I could trust in when I jump 600 feet from a plank.

Taiwan

This is my random lazy 7-11 Taipei style dinner. Sushi was a great and cheap way to eat in Taiwan when you were not around the many markets. The 7-11’s of the world have such vastly different items.  Just walking down the chip aisle is a tasteful experience. There are flavors like ketchup, seaweed, and blueberry just to name a few.   Looking back I should have taken more photos of the weird and wild things I saw in the many 7-11 stores I found myself at. At the time, while I was jumping to countries quickly, these strange flavors started to seem normal.

This is a photo of my amazing pod hostel in Taipei. Before you go writing a comment about how you would never sleep in a coffin, let me explain how I was sleeping between eight to ten people (yes, mixed) in a room for almost six months before reaching Asia and their wonderful world of pod or capsule hostels. I ended up choosing a place called Sleepbox and the staff was amazing! For the first few minutes after my taxi driver dropped me off from the airport( in front of the 7-11 mentioned earlier), there were no signs I could see in English that told me where to go. So, I called the hostel and a younger woman answered the phone in broken English and tried to explain how to find the hostel, which was right around the corner and down a set of stairs which was not as scary as it sounds. It was very late at night at that point, after being stuck in the airport for a few hours, due to my credit card not working in the ATM and subsequently not being about to get local money in my hands. No, Mastercard does not work everywhere like the advertisements say in the states! I grabbed my relatively small backpack off the luggage belt, which is always the best thing to see when stepping into a new country as almost everything you have is in that bag. The next usual place I head when globetrotting is the ATM to guess how much local currency I will need. When the three different ATMs wouldn’t give me any cash I start to get worried. I called and stayed on hold and was reconnected to the correct number After waiting on hold to find out I didn’t have all the information needed, and then to call back again and literally use the ATM with a customer service representative on the phone… my card magically worked! This whole fiasco took a few hours and the cab ride took another hour to the hostel. The lesson here is to always have a backup for plastic and not to judge a country on your airport experiences. Taiwan ended up being one of my favorite countries of all. A large part of the love for Taiwan came from the kindness from my first week in Taipei with the Sleepbox hostel.

Sleep Box Hostel

 

Food Roulette

Walking into a restaurant in a foreign country with no English menu and only a few pictures scattered around you and must make a decision by pointing and hoping for the best.

This is a photo in Hong Kong at a window kitchen from the bottom floor of a large apartment building in Kawloon. There were different shops and other selling food out the window. The window I picked had a few people waiting in the line for the while I watched it. As one person walked away, another stepped up to wait, so I felt it was a popular and trusted enough place to eat random and in some cases unknown selections. I walked to the counter with money in hand trying to order in English to Chinese only speaking locals. After I failed at asking for whatever they will give me for $20. Finally the woman running the cashbox told a man something as she pointed to the back and then she called for the person behind me to come forward to select fried goodies and pay. As I thought this wasn’t the way to order foot and I should go back to the pointing and grunting method, then a younger man came forward from the rear of the kitchen. He spoke in very good broken English and asked what I wanted and with a smile, he filled bags and bowls full of things on sticks and some fried balls of something with spicy sauce on them. I could figure out what some items were and others I didn’t have a clue. I sat in the hostel balcony and tried everything loving some and not too sure on others, but it was amazing gamble that I think is a great way to try local foods.

If anyone knows what I was eating in the photo above please let me know, because I still do not know.

This amazing dish is kangaroo and I can’t rave enough about it.

Bracelets of travelers

Have you ever been sitting in a hostel and looked around to notice that there were a lot of people wearing mulitable bracelets of different colors and materials. I noticed this shortly after landing in Auckland. Is this a backpacking trend? In short, yes. I wasn’t on board at first, yet I understood it. Backpackers can’t carry much and it’s marking the places on the  journey. When I first arrived I didn’t buy into the hype or trend. Four and a half months later I was wandering threw a craft sale down by the water in Queensland, Australia on an early Sunday morning and bought a beautiful stone in beaded waxes hemp. Which was handmade by the local that was making her craft as I walked by the glance on her wares neatly arranged on her table. This was the first on many countries on this trip and the first of many brackets. The next country for me was a short flight over to Sydney from Auckland where I spent the next few months exploring. On my way down the east coast I stopped at the capital Canberra. While I spent my week in a YHA in the main part of the city I learned something I did not realise. If and when you happen to lose your passport, you must make your way to the capital to get back out of the country. Interesting and amazing people are everywhere. I was out wandering around the city taking I’m the sites of wonderful public art all around the downtown area and found what the locals call bricker- brack sale or a rummage sale and probable ten other terms for locals selling stuff. Rounding a corner one weekend morning I found such a set up. There was a man with books, a woman with clothing, jewelry, and a few mixed tables and a street performer playing piano to set to tone. After digging threw a discount bin I found a turquoise colored Rock bracelet for fifty cents Australian!

More stops on my journey and more markers of those places on my wrist. I would buy a few and break one here and there. By the time I returned home I only had about three or four left but as the wooden beads of Nepal wear against my arm I am reminded of amazing stories every time. I love it and I won’t be taking them off anytime soon.

Solo, one way, extended trip

Coming back after a extended trip can be hard for anyone. There are many emotions evolved in the days before you leave and the trip home. Weather it is a few hour car ride or a full day flight, the travel beings the emotions of home very real.

My latest trip was almost eight months long and I learned a lot about the world and about myself as cliche as that may sound. For me it was after the first few months I adjusted to life on the road and out of a pack. I started my trip in Auckland, New Zealand and stayed in most of the major area of the city for the first three weeks, and man did I ever get my bearings of a city then walking it everyday for three weeks for most of the daylight hours. After the innatinal first weeks my mother took the twenty something hour flight to come see her globe trotting daughter. My mother, being the planner she is, had all of our ten days filled with things to see and do on this once in a lifetime trip for both of us. We travled from north to south island and back again. When I finally had to tell my dear mum goodbye I had to be on my own again and for this trip my defining moment. Having to plan where you will sleep and how you will get to that bed you booked in the most beautiful picture the hostel can create, you learn how quickly judge pictures and rating. Which I feel I had learned from hostel hopping in Europe on a tight budget. After a few mad hostels in New Zealand and one or two in Australia I learned quickly that five US dollars could mean the difference between a small or out of the way compared to toilets soaked in drunken pee from the bar hostel downstairs. Reviews are worth the read and also worth the time to write.

  • Www.Booking.com always gave me the most results generally in my International travels
  • Www.hostelworld.com come up with much fewer results but are all on a backpacker/ budget level.
  • Www.couchsurfing.com is a way to meet locals that are willing to open up their home to you after registering and filling in important details to the website and matching with locals that want to show you their city. You may have to do dishes or keep clean in exchange for a very local tour,home cooked local food, and a place to lay your head.
  • Www.YHI.com comes at a price of a year membership at a very reasonable rate. I have found over many counties that this organisation have overall the best accomadation at comparative prices. The rooms are always clean and the location is usually near the things you came to that area for. I have nothing but nice things to say about Hostel International.

Like in most things, the people in each place can make or break even the nicest hostel. Community living isn’t for everyone.

After getting used to this life of everyday new city, new people, and new

Waiheke Island

This beautiful island beach is a thirty-minute ferry ride from Auckland city center and is a perfect escape from the busy city. After more than three weeks of walking every section of Auckland, I needed a rest from the city and the always go momentum. By accident, I found out about Waiheke Island. I was on one of my many walks to see what hidden corner of the world I could find and somehow started talking to a man walking to work. After telling him my plans and what I have been doing he suggested this gem. I had seen it on the map and read about the island, but thought it was too far or too much for the ferry. In short, I was wrong.

This is just what I needed, a peaceful day at the beach. I walked off the ferry and checked the return times to find I had all day to play of the Island. I started off to the closest group of shops on the beach which was short and slightly warm. I stopped in a few stores and changed into my swimsuit and worked my way down to the beach. Walking along the beach edge and climbing over rocks until I found my own little spot away from anyone. I ended my day with some local wine and pasta. Also, I discovered a week before this trip a wine from Waiheke Island called Man-o-War which I fell in love with and bought a bottle for my mother. I try to eat and drink as local as I can, everywhere I can.

Byron Bay Lighthouse

Just keep following the path up and you will find the lighthouse. This 1901 lighthouse is open from 10-4 and a local group gives a tour for a donation. Byron Bay Lighthouse is the easternmost lighthouse in Australia. I spent a lot of time walking the paths both up and around the lighthouse and into the woods that lead to the beach. Lots of boulders and dense forest to be found at the point of Byron Bay. One moment I would feel like I was the only one in the area and a runner would run by with a steady pace of breathing and then the woods would go quiet again. The trees ate up all the sounds and felt a world away from the Ocean.

Byron Bay is a must for many backpackers and has a reputation for a reason. It’s the vibe they say, and when you walk around town you can’t help but feel it. It may be the dirty hippies making crafts and selling weed on the sidewalk. There are still name brand shops linen the few main blocks of town. In the right time of year, you can see the whales migrating from hilltops. Even if it’s not the right finding year you can still see amazing sights from the top of any hilltop.

 

Thailand ◇ Temples

With a few shoes out front and a warm breeze blowing down the center on the small temple off the busy road filled with tourist. This line could describe many small temples all over Thailand. Taking the side roads is part of how I travel and I am able to get a better feel for the area I am in. I have walked many miles and found some unbelievable places hidden from the guidebooks.

There is so much more wonder for me personally when I simply glance at a tourist map and explore,better know as getting lost, in back roads and alleys. Wondering where the mass of daily commuter and travels aren’t going gives a better feel for what the real city is like. I was given some advice before I left to get off of the well traveled sight seeing path. Even if you are a backpacker, there are still common hot spots a majority  of them end up finding. The advice I received was simple, get off the beaten path. Whether  it is going to the next town over, or going a few blocks down from where you are right now.  You can literally do this from everywhere, even your own home. Find a new bar, hidden shop, or local gem just behind your block.