Don’t miss the train

There was one train that stopped in Broken Hill, Australia and it only came a few days a week. I missed it and I was crying to the ticket agent while she was giving me options I couldn’t afford on my backpacker’s budget. I was in the middle of Australia’s outback and I guess I was going to be staying for another day or two. At the time it seemed like a horrible day, but these are the things that can happen while traveling.

To be fair, this was my fault. I arrived at the train station on time and waited for nearly an hour. There was an announcement over the speakers saying the already late train was broken down and they believed it would be an hour until it arrived at the station. It was early morning in Broken Hill, so I left to get a cup of coffee a few blocks away. While at a cute cafe I hadn’t visited during my time there I looked over the menu and ordered a small breakfast. I waited with my coffee for my carryout order to be ready and boxed up. It took a total of fifteen minutes and I started back to the station. I heard train noises coming from the station. I went running with my not very light backpack, coffee and bag of freshly cooked food to the Broken Hill train station a few short blocks away just in time to run up the flight of stair to see the last of the train pulling away. I yelled out and began to cry, a reaction I do not normally have when things turn upside-down on me. The ticket attendant tried to comfort me and give me options to get out of this lonely outback town. These options included buying another ticket leaving a few days later or getting a taxi to drive to the next town the train was stopping at and asking the train conductor to wait. The cab ride would be cutting it very close and the train would only be able to wait about fifteen minutes. I did not have money to pay a taxi to speed to the next stop a few hours away. I was also not able to get my money back from the train I had just watch leave without me. Still very upset and felling defeated I left the train station and walked down the road still with hot breakfast in hand. I Found a parking lot with a space for me to sit unnoticed under a ramp and called my mom. She did what all great mothers do and told me it was going to be all right and there were other options for me. I knew this to be true, but I was just so mad at myself. I let my mother talk softly to me as I ate my delicious breakfast still sniffling. With my head hanging low I went back to the small hotel I had just checked out of and explained my situation and asked for another night. The owner was so kind to let me go back to the same room which wasn’t yet made up.

I did make plans to leave and I was only delayed a single day. I caught a bus very early the next morning and said goodbye to Broken Hill once again and watched out the bus window a beautiful outback sunrise as the bus drove down Barrier Highway back towards Sydney.

Oktoberfest!

Welcome to the beer fest of all beer fests!

Oktoberfest in Munich Germany puts on a grand show every year for almost 7 million people starting at the end of September. But before you can drink a pint of beer there is much planning, prep, and building that must go on with a team of highly skilled teams create a new vision each year. There are 700 vendors ready to set up for the weeks of madness ahead. The area of the event is already a construction site by July and doesn’t stop for ten weeks. The first thing that comes to mind is the giant beer tents. There are 14 major tents and 15 minor tents. In the biggest tents, there can be upward of 8,000 festival-goers. The tents are made of all wood grounded to concrete that is poured every year. For the management, this is a full-time job planning and pulling off this annual party. Several thousand people come together to wrap up the project in the few weeks of construction. Tear down is about half the time of set up running around five weeks. Most parts are stored in storage containers and delivered to the storehouses in Munich

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I planned my visit for the opening day. It was a calm morning when I arrived with my mother and took a stroll down the main road of beer tents standing tall. By the time we doubled back, the roads were filling with beer drinkers waiting for the day to get started. We picked the Hippodrome tent and sat and had a bite to eat and noticed that most tables were reserved. We quickly learned that there is an opening parade and each owner comes into their tent and taps the first barrel and the beer drinking does not stop for a few weeks after. From the beautiful windows, I watched the parade roll by with barrels of beer and horse-drawn carriage and everyone was dressed for the occasion. There is such a buzz for the town for the opening day, Like the city of Munich has been waiting to unwrap its gift for months, watching the structures go up for months in town.

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My favorite photo of my mother joining me October Fest in 2013

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Yes, this is a blurry picture but they move so fast with all that beer! This was the best I could get an even more beer was rushing by, being gripped tightly by fingertips.

My advice is to get here early to get a seat or wait for the short lines of smaller tents. I definitely would recommend going to multiple tents for different environments in each one. If you have a larger group it pays to plan ahead of time and reserve a table in a tent of your choice. All of Munich books up for this beer event, so planning ahead helps get more of what you are looking for before it’s booked up. My last bit of wisdom is if you drink a few too many pints, there is a nice grassy hill to rest your eyes until the next round. It’s all a very happy party and the locals are waiting to welcome you in. Do your country proud, don’t make a drunken fool of yourself. We have all seen this too many times. Safe travels and smart drinking!

Be local

Go local! We have heard it said, but what does that mean to you right now. If you are sitting at a desk not doing work you should be or sitting by a pool on a far away island you can find what is off the beaten tourist path of chain stores and malls if you look around.

Being a local in your current city, home town when you visit family, or find something local in a far away place. It’s always worth it to go local and see how people are going about daily life. If the locals love a great restaurant, it’s safe to say the food will be worth the trouble.

If you need to be pulled out of your fast food comfort food zone then listen to these reason why going local, anywhere, is important everyday.

  • Big box stores dont need anymore of your money.

Which do you think gives better service and quality, the multiple billion dollar corporation paying minimum wage workers who have trouble answering questions or the small locally owned businesses ran by a family and is tied into the community. I would rather put my money into the hands of a small business owner even if its cost a little more.

  • Google doesn’t always know everything.

There are places in this world (believe it or not) that are not connected to a Facebook page or Google maps. When you are in the far corners of the Earth you may not be able to understand what information is on the internet. If you happen to pass a place where the tables are full and there is a line, there must be a good reason and its usually worth the wait. “Greasy spoons” and “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants have some of the best homemade cooking in every city.

  • Locals know what’s happening

As you are strolling by a busy lunch spot for the afternoon rush of the blue collar area and decide to see what the fuss is all about then you have made it past the first step. The next part is tricky (not really) and involves speaking to others. Ask your server or eat at the bar and talk to a person near you. See what is going on around you. Even if you are asking about what is going on in your own area you still can learn about amazing places from word of mouth. When you are in a place with a language barrier there are always still ways to ask about great things to do. Draw a picture, translate a question, or hand and body language talking. It seems like a lot of trouble but the rewards can be amazing, even if it’s just the tale of getting lost on the way.

Supporting the little guys doesn’t just benefit the small business owner. It is good for you the consumer! Usually going small means it’s not a touristy spot and the prices are cheaper. In the cases that you pay for for an item chances are the quality is much higher then the cheaper box store version. I would rather purchase a homemade gift to a gift anyone could buy on Amazon.

This is a photo of a woman I meet selling woven elephants on the sidewalk outside a market. I gladly paid for this fine craftsmanship and a very unique souvenir from my time in Thailand. Go out and get lost, or meet your neighborhood Baker and make a new friend. It may be the most fun thing you do all week.

Reichstag 

Walking up to this large front lawn of the Reichstag on a nice day makes me want to sit and have an afternoon lunch. There is no time for this in Berlin there is just too much amazing things to see. The Reichstag building is a parliament building and has strict guidelines to get in the door. Registration is free to enter but you must register before you enter. Be sure you bring your passport. I never tell anyone to go wandering around the city with their passport on then, but every rule has its exception. The dome and the roof terrace have different times for the terrace and dome. The Reichstag is also closed for maintenance and holidays throughout the year, so be sure to check opening times and dates when planning your visit. I did not pre-register before going to the Reichstag. I did wait in a long that moved pretty quickly, bringing in a small group of people in to check passports with faces before we were allowed up to the elevators to the dome and terrace.

Walking into the beautiful glass and mirror dome that spirals up to the observation deck overlooking Berlin. The dome is 23 meters high and 40 meters wide and designed by Sir Norman Foster. Foster originally planned an air cushion-like flat roof and only under political pressure planned a dome. There are guided tours available and a wealth of knowledge and fascinating facts that are hidden in the Reichstag. One such fact not largely known is that there are still Cyrillic graffiti left by Soviet soldiers after the siege in 1945. It has been carefully preserved and can still be seen by visitors today. There is also a bullet hole from the Second World War.

The Brandenburg Gate is a short walk away. The city is very well laid out from The Reichstag building. The Holocaust memorial isn’t too much further than the Brandenburg Gate and Museum Island is further past that. I don’t recommend trying to push yourself and see it all in one day. There is so much to see in this city, so plan for full days of exploring no matter how long you are in Berlin.

Reichstag is a must if it is the first of the fiftieth time you are coming here. Just the walk up to the top is a piece of living art to the view of this unique city. I can’t get enough Berlin.

There is a restaurant on the terrace serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations are required for dining here and the menu is on the pricey side, but the views are free. The hardest part about visiting Reichstag is deciding whether to visit in the daytime or at night.

Florence

The colors in Florence is one of my favorite things about this city.

Incredible detail from floor to breathtaking ceiling.

After a long warm afternoon, I treated myself to a nice pasta dinner. It was so delicious that in my haste I forgot to take a photo. I did, however, get a photo of my amazing custard with a blackberry sauce.

Hello Berlin

Berlin may bring up mixed thoughts and feelings upon hearing the name, but the city has grown to be a cultural and artistic hotspot.

The Holocaust Memorial is a maze of different sized columns numbering 2711 in all. The artist meant for the memorial to be confusing and disorienting. It is not taken kindly if you climb on the memorial, so please be respectful.

The great Brandenburg Gate always seems to be filled with life. This gate marks the former city gate where the beginning of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel.

While walking around there was a “checkpoint” where I received an old school passport stamp for Checkpoint Charlie at the east and west side of the Berlin checkpoint.

The water world of Venice

When I finally got away from the crowds of tourists I found hidden alleys and secret cafes with very strong coffee.

I came over the bridge to the multiple islands of Venice by train and stepping into a madhouse. I checked my backpack at the Santa Lucia rail station for the day and made it out into the mobs of people.

Only having one day for this beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea was definitely not enough. I started off with the steady flow of people slowly walking over bridges and down wide paths lined with shops of all kinds on either side. Taking in the sights I came to see from my guidebooks, and taking a few photos of the dressed up gondolas ready for the next tourist ride; I decided to get off the very beaten path. The random turns I made took me further into the real city of narrow alleys and no flashy tourist signs. Needless to say, I was very lost for a bit but I had the rest of the day to make my way back to the train station. I finally had to ask for directions and stayed closer to the station and ate sweets and drank coffee until my night train arrived. I swear I was buzzed off caffeine and sugar by the time I stepped on the train.

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.

Vegemite yuck!

Vegemite is the yucky, think, salty spread made from leftover brewers; yeast. It was made by Cyrill Callister in Melbourne, Australia in 1922 and the locals still love it today. For me, there isn’t much love for Vegemite even if it does have Vitamin B in it. Waking up to a free breakfast is one of traveling’s perks, but seeing five gallons of brown mush waiting at the table I know my options are limited. Like any good travler, I always try new things even if it’s just once and can write a blog post about how much I don’t care for it. To each their own.

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.