Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One year of travels!

One year ago today, on the 1st of May, 2013, I started my travels in Iceland.  From that early morning start (arriving to just above freezing temperatures at 6:30am) I bounced around 21 countries and ended here in Melbourne.  Some countries were just a quick visit, others like Turkey and Australia, have been for multiple months.  It has been a blast and I want to thank everyone who has made this such a great trip.  So much fun to reconnect with old friends and make new friends in each country, living an adventurous, spontaneous life that took me to many a new place.  Can't say no to something new and exciting.

Although it was snowing in Iceland, I considered the start of the trip, the start of summer.  With an extended summer in the south of Turkey, I had over 6 solid months of summer, before a couple autumn months, a few weeks of winter (snow in Bosnia and then snowboarding in Andorra) and then back to milder winter temperatures in Portugal and Morocco.  Then straight to the middle of summer in Australia where the weather is still decent.  It's be amazing to be out in the world with good weather, blue skies and happy people (sunshine makes people happy, proven fact).  Sometime in the near future I'll be heading back to the US for more summertime.  Looking forward to it!

Hope everyone is loving life and smiling!  You know I am.


Autumn has started in Australia

Saturday, April 26, 2014

In the country!

Back out road again in Victoria, exploring small towns, hiking and enjoying good times with friends who also had a Tuesday off.  Tis a good way to live life, with not many people out and just an open road to explore, with farms, hills and small towns to see.

Hanging rock!

As with any good road trip, you have to stop at places you don't know and just look good. The first of these stops was at Hanging Rock, which turned out to be wicked.  Volcanic rock shooting up on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere.  Rocks everywhere, going up, down, side to side and full of lore, history and culture.  Back in the early 1900s, on a school trip, a few students went missing, 5 hours later one girl came back with no memory of what had happened.  A teacher went looking for the students and she never came back.  Two weeks later, one girl was found, also with her memory missing.  The good stories from the middle of nowhere!  (well, good as is entertaining, not so good for missing children).

On next through epic countryside (epic for Australia which is known mostly for its outback and beaches) to several small towns which were full of natural mineral springs, spas and art deco buildings.  Just one main street in most of them and you can drive through in just a couple minutes.  Definitely a contrast to the large metropolis of Melbourne.  Good vibes out there, but seeing the cafes and culture in the big city upon our return was definitely a happy sight.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Road tripping!

What do you call a road that is by the ocean and is amazing?  The Great Ocean Road, of course!  Just over an hour away from Melbourne starts the epic drive along amazing scenery, daunting cliffs, major waves, small beaches, quaint towns, with koalas and kangaroos around to complete the picturesque image of Australia.  It's an iconic trip and after Melbourne, is the most popular thing to see in the state of Victoria.  I'd been on it 4 years ago as part of a surf trip, which was amazing, and yet we didn't see the main sights. This time, it was more relaxed, with lots of stops, lots of sights and some great adventures with 4 people having fun driving on the left and laughing it up.

Via a new car sharing website, where you rent fellow people's cars (rather than have them sit on the street unused), we rented Shaun's car, an older Mitsubishi that was already a bit dinged up, which is perfect for a road trip in Australia.  All set to rock with our gear, I drove us off to the Great Ocean Road. Fun driving on the left again, and running the show, and then stopping whenever I wanted. The beaches out here actually have waves and offer both great surf and the opposite of just hellish waves destroying the coast.  Fun to look at and we did get in some swimming, although it was on the cold side.  Going into autumn these days, and yet the sun was shining and we were in sandals and shorts.

The small towns are pretty cool and made for nice coffee breaks and walks on the beach.  The epic scenery of the cliffs and rocks were to come on the second day, so we stopped off in towns, beaches and took our time with good viewpoints and koala spotting.  Had probably the best view of a koala in the wild in all my 4 times in Australia.  It was smiling and winking the whole time, as it lived the life of a celebrity 5 meters up above, dazed on eucalyptus.  In the distance were kangaroos later on, some colourful birds around as well as a porcupine walking across the road.  We tried for a sunset at the 2nd most southern point in Victoria, only to walk through 10 ft bushes the whole time with no end in sight for 30 minutes. 

Dinner was at the only place around the area (literally 45 minutes from anything) and was the antithesis of American service.  Order at counter. Take your cutlery with you.  And the answer to can we have some water for the table? "No."  Sort of a motor inn/diner/empty place in the middle of nowhere.  Entertaining and we managed to laugh it up before driving off in the dark to a free campground to set up the tent.

With 4 people, we had 1 sleeping bag between us (plus random duvets) and 1 huge tent.  The tent turned out to be a large 4 person tent with attached foyer, and not the right amount of poles.  Quite entertaining to set up, and we had the neighboring Germans help us as well.  Ended up with one huge rainbow pole over everything, one end sticking up and no rain cover.  This would be a major fault due to the fact that it was mostly mesh all up top, and that it would begin raining in the morning.  Pierre, our resident French traveler who had no blankets, slept in the car, while myself with my visiting friend Katrin and other traveler Mollie bundled up in the middle to try to stay warm.  Sprinklets of dew would wake us up with wind in the trees.  Once it started drizzling, but that stopped so we kept sleeping.

We awoke to our foyer collapsed into the rest of the tent and it raining.  Some puddles in the corners and everything a bit damp, so we grabbed what we could to go to the car, and as we exited, the tent fell completely down, poles included.  With a few hours sleep in us, and a fogged up car, we headed back to our finest diner for a coffee.  Turns out the place across the street was open, with great people, good Aussie service and tasty egg McMuffin sandwiches.  Made the morning that much better before setting off for the 12 Apostles.

The 12 Apostles (currently 7 due to erosion) are epicly placed out in the ocean and are massive.  Very impressive and are perhaps the most photographed place in Victoria.  Definitely worth a trip out there and we snapped away our cameras while being blown around by the wind.  We walked along the beach soaking up the view (had stopped raining by then) and after kept moving our way west to see the other main spots such as the arch (an arch), the London Bridge (currently an arch due to the rest of the bridge collapsing in 1990), the Grotto (arch with grotto-like characteristics on the ocean) and the thundering cave (ba-boom! noises).

Some more small towns and that was it, time to turn around and head back to Melbourne through the green hills, past the sheep, into the dry flatlands that is Vicoria and back to the city.  Stopped at a rest area to change drivers and helped an Aussie couple change their tire with the jack in our truck and were deemed good Samaritans for the day.  Just an all around amazing road trip right before the Easter weekend  Good times indeed!

Pierre, me, Mollie and Katrin

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Where to travel?

So TravelAdvisor recently released their top 25 destinations around the world to travel to.  I've been to 20 of them!  Loving the world and loving to travel!  That's the name of the game. 

Check out the list and see where you've been, or learn about some new amazing places out there beyond your bedroom walls:

Top 25 Destinations per TravelAdvisor in 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy April!

What's happening everyone?  The autumn has officially hit Melbourne, meaning grey skies and some rain.  It's that time of year when the northern hemisphere starts talking about great spring days, and my days of playing beach volleyball and relaxing in the sun are winding down.  Funny hearing about the warm days in the US, which are the same temperature as our cold days down here. 

The last few weeks have been pretty damn good.  Moved into a badass house with two great housemates in a great location; started a new job at the front desk of a hostel; been busy out and about with friends and enjoying everything this amazing city has to offer.  Just last night a bunch of friends and I had a private tour of the Melbourne Observatory, on a night that ended up being not so clear, and yet we managed to learn a lot, laugh a bunch and be entertained.  Finally learning some astronomy, and enjoying looking out of a huge telescope.

As a traveler, it's always been an idea to work at a hostel, be surrounded by the world and enjoy a loose work environment.  It's finally happened, and I do get paid to talk with backpackers and give them tips on the great city I live in.  Despite a shoddy booking/check in system, I'm having fun, learning some new tricks of the hotel industry and beefing up the resume with new skills.  The hours are quite varied, with some night shifts (literally working the whole night and getting off at sunrise) some days, and some middle of the day til midnight shifts.  All over the place, but it's good money, and depending on the hour, I get paid more thanks to Australia's work policies.  For example, I make more money working between 12am and 7am, than I would during normal working hours.  And the rate goes up on Saturday and Sundays, so let's get those weekend shifts and let the money pour in!

The comedy festival is still going on, and so far I've seen two performances, with another lined up in a couple hours.  Getting my laughs in, and keeping those laugh wrinkles in good shape.

As with Melbourne street art, life is pretty thumbs up!

And I found where the sidewalk ends.  Thanks Shel Silverstein!