So, here we are, the last leg of my journey. As I type this I am sitting in a hotel In Cancun, Mexico. It really is a...
It’s weird, you always hear about how historic and culturally diverse Europe is however it isn’t until you actually get here that you realise just how much....
I’m now well on my way to being a full fledged backpacker! I have the mindset of a traveller, I’m living day by day and I’m even...
It has been a while since my last post so I thought I should give you all a quick update on my progress! I’ve been in Australia...
Hey! OK, to start off this blog I want to tell you why I decided to take a gap year from work. Let’s get one thing straight...
Hey, hey! It’s David here and it’s GREAT to have you reading this blog! Let’s be honest. If you’re reading this, you probably know me personally as I can’t see too many people just randomly stumbling over this, but if you have just accidentally found your way here, here’s a bit about me. I’m a self proclaimed tech nerd. I love gadgets, widgets, and all manner of tech toys to play with. If it moves, flies, beeps, squeaks, or rolls, then there’s a good chance I’ve gotten in…
It has been a while since my last post so I thought I should give you all a quick update on my progress!
I’ve been in Australia for a few weeks now and I am absolutely loving it!
I think I said on one of my original blogs about how I just chose my route by looking at a world map however I’m glad I chose Oz as my first port of call. It gives me the chance to experience a new country, new culture and new surroundings without being completely different from what I have back home. Good way to ease me into the whole backpacking and travelling experience!
OK, to start off this blog I want to tell you why I decided to take a gap year from work.
Let’s get one thing straight first, a gap year isn’t just for students and recent graduates looking to ‘find themselves’ teaching English in a remote orphanage somewhere across the other side of the world. These endeavours are great, there is no doubt about that, but ANYONE can take a gap year from their life. It doesn’t matter if you are 18, 28, 38, 48 or whatever. If you think you can benefit from taking a year out from whatever it is you do then why are you not making plans?
All Cruise WIth No Crowds
For those who want to enjoy a cruise vacation without the crowds concomitant to the busy travel locations of the Mediterranean or Caribbean, consider taking a cruise to Île de la Réunion. This is a small 986 square mile island deep in the Indian Ocean that is officially part of France. It has over 837,000 inhabitants and is rich in colonial history, boutiques, and shops. The island is also known for its many French bakeries & pastry shops and white sand beaches.
Another excellent destination is Hiroshima, Japan. This city offers vacationers all the wonders of Japan in a much less crowded space. The city’s population of 1.2 million is small compared to Metro-Tokyo’s 35 million. Visitors will enjoy taking in the local sites via vibrant avenues of boutiques, long noodle shops, and sushi venues. Next, take a short ferry boat ride to the island of Miyajima and view Japan’s oldest Shinto and Buddhist shrines. Top it all off with by taking in a professional baseball game.
Shop Till You Drop
Nothing soothes the senses quite like a little bit of retail therapy. If the thought of indoor and outdoor malls is arousing then consider North Park Center in Dallas, Texas. The location is rife with artists. The location is akin to a large art gallery with multiple displays from the best artists of the past century. Spring time is a great time to visit this city as it hosts the annual Dallas International Film Festival.
Next, tone things down in the mountain village of Boulder, Colorado. Autumn is the best time to visit due to the number of events the city hosts along its pleasant pedestrian mall. Stop by the Boulder Book Store, the nation’s largest private book store, and browse for that hard-to-find book. Reading a book and discussing it has been known to keep a person’s senses alive. The weather during the fall season is about as perfect as anyone will find on this planet.
Culture, Vultures & Bonding
If the purpose of the vacation is to bond with loved ones, then Santa Fe’s museums and Spanish colonial buildings offer a great place to nurture those friendships. This New Mexico city has museums which will literally takes days to view. The regional cuisine in this city will afford plenty of surprises for the human palette while resting up in between taking in the sites. Take in tours of the city’s Spanish colonial edifices. Top it all off by taking in a walk along the mountain trials overlooking the city for a soothing nature experience.
I am not sure whether my mother would like a trip to France, shopping or a trip to New Mexico. What I do know though, it that life is meant to be experienced. My mother worked hard her entire life and I just wish she had the “travel bug” like I do. I have tried to push her to open her mind by visiting websites like SeniorityComplex.com and others where she could get ideas about her new “senior” status. However, in the end, she is just my mom. I will do my best to encourage her to travel, to experience, to live…
It’s been a while since my last post and I’m just enjoying things too much here in South America.
I left Europe after a frantic couple of weeks getting through Sweden, Denmark and Norway before hopping back to the UK for a flight to Argentina. It doesn’t seem like it at the minute but I am on the last leg of my journey going north.
A final word on Europe however. At the start I had to get used to paying ‘western’ prices for things and the modern cities and infrastructure threw me off a bit as well although I had an immensely enjoyable time. The sense of history was fantastic and whether it was strolling across the Charles Bridge in Prague, sipping coffee on the banks of the Seine or having party in Munich, the whole continent is worth checking out.
This had led me back to the undeveloped world and Latin America. Actually, I was surprised at how developed Argentina and Chile were. Indeed, they almost felt ‘European’ in a sense which was strange although this might have been because I came straight from Europe? Who knows but the people were really friendly regardless.
It was really the Inca counties of Bolivia, Peru and Colombia that I really got to see what I pictured the region to be like. There is something about the whole Inca/Ande history that is fascinating so I’m glad I can say I’ve done it. The one downside is getting used to the altitude change and altitude sickness from being up so high is a problem although it doesn’t last long.
I’ve found a lot of the countries here to be real backpacker havens; places where you can easily meet like minded people from all over the world. They have a tea there called Mate de Coca and it really helps with the sickness that comes with being so high up in the mountains. I used a lot of resources before I headed to this part of the world mainly because you hear so many different things about it and it is good to get some impartial advice.
I still have quite a few countries to visit. I’m currently in Costa Rica and I’m going to head up through Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatamala before getting to Mexico. I reckon these will be quick stops and i’ll spend a few weeks in Mexico chilling out before deciding what to do.
In fact, it has been playing on my mind a bit – my next step. Perhaps I shouldn’t worry about it much at the minute (I still have a couple of months left) however I need to have a think soon!
For now though I’m just going to enjoy my surroundings and getting back to cheap, backpacker living! It is amazing how much you get used to paying a few cents for a beer or a coffee in the morning, going home is going to be difficult!
I should be able to update more in Mexico so, until then, take it easy.
Wow, so, a year ago I was sitting at my desk in my office, contemplating how early I could feasible go for lunch and now I have done so much in the last 12 months. Actually, when I really sit down and think about the past 365 days it is scary how everything panned out and what has happened since I left last year.
What was my favourite place? Ah, so difficult to tell. I loved the vast landscapes and emptiness of Australia and New Zealand, the really bonkers way in which South-East Asia presents itself to outsiders, the history and culture of Europe that is intertwined with everything there, the varying cultures and sceneries around Latin America and, of course, the familiarity of home.
The good news is that I already have a job lined up.
I thought it would be really difficult to get back into the job market – who wants to hire someone that, on a whim, quit his old job and went travelling around the world for a year?
What I found, however, was that this actually helped me in getting a new position!
Looking for jobs was hard again. I frequented job sites, cold called companies I knew with my CV, all the usual routes. It wasn’t the actual act of getting an interview or even a position that was difficult but rather getting myself into the mindset to do so.
After months of lounging around, going at my own pace and generally have very little worries other than what the next exciting thing was that I wanted to see, focusing on my career again and going to work wasn’t the easiest transition.
Luckily I managed to find some great employers.
I’ve found that honesty is always the best policy and when I went to the interview I was straight up about the whole thing. It wasn’t so much my old job I was disillusioned with, it was the process of doing the same thing over and over for years on end. I wanted something different, I wanted an adventure.
Thankfully the people that interviewed me understood this – one had even did something similar to me but earlier on in his life – and recognized that all the things I experienced when I was abroad helped me as a person (there’s that cliché again). If you are thinking of going travelling or have stumbled across my blog because you are already travelling then don’t worry too much about your career when you get back.
I know that I spent too much time wondering how I would find employment, fit back into the routine etc… but, you just do.
It might seem strange to say that but it is true. For now I’m content. My apartment was in great condition when I came back (the guy really looked after it), I have a new exciting job, a ton of memories and I’m going to start planning my next trip in the next few years.
I still haven’t been to Africa…
So, here we are, the last leg of my journey. As I type this I am sitting in a hotel In Cancun, Mexico.
It really is a luxurious place. On some levels I felt I deserved it. For nearly a year I have been staying mostly in hostels, cheap hotels, sleeping on buses, planes, mini vans, whatever, in countries all over the globe.
Since my last post I went up through Nicaragua, Guatamala and Honduras and found them all to be very pleasant places. You sometimes hear some pretty bad things about countries in this region but it is certainly not what have experienced so far. In fact, if anything, my opinion of them all has changed dramatically.
Mexico has been the same. Sure there are some rough bits but name me a country in the world that doesn’t have this? OK, it is all very well me saying that from my 4 star hotel in Cancun but the point still stands.
It has also been in Mexico that I have been able to look over all the photographs that I have taken so far. When you are travelling over as many countries as I have and in such a short space of time it is easy to forget about all the things you have done.
The last couple of days relaxing and living the life of luxury here has made me look through all my photos from the last year. There are some really great memories in there and I am really lucky to have been to the places and met the people I have along the way. The world is a magical place when you get to see more of it.
I have a week or so before I need to head back home and I am wondering what to do with myself. It is difficult to just lounge around and not do anything after I have been on the move for so long – hence why I decided to write this blog post I suppose.
Also, if you are ever in Mexico then do visit Tulum. It is a walled city in the south-east of the country, not too far from the border with Guatamala. Enthralling for any history buffs among you.
One thing I am definitely doing when I get back is finding some Guatemalan coffee. I can’t believe that I didn’t pick some of that up when I was there. I found a little cafe near my hostel in Flores that produced some of the strongest but most delicious coffee I have ever tasted. I wish I had gotten the name of it however it shouldn’t be too difficult to find again.
So, by the time I get to write my next blog post I should be home safe and sound. Scary thought isn’t it? Well, I’m trying not too focus on it too much and instead I’m going to live it up here in Cancun for another week.
Hopefully I can be more reflective next time I speak to you all.
It’s weird, you always hear about how historic and culturally diverse Europe is however it isn’t until you actually get here that you realise just how much.
I should wind back a little bit first and comment on the rest of my time in Asia. Boy, that place was crazy. Since my last blog post I went up all through Vietnam (Halong Bay is simply a must see for anyone) and then into the tranquillity of Laos. I had little mishap with my laptop when the screen broke. I needed it fixed fairly quickly to keep up with emails from back home (it is funny how time flies) so I probably paid a bit more than usual to have it repaired – I think the guy realised I needed it done that day.
Anyway, these things are all about experiences and I have a brand new laptop screen and a lifetime worth of memories.
It has been hard paying actual, real prices again for things. I was getting too used to paying a few cents or a dollar for a meal in Asia however this has come crashing down since I made the trip to Europe.
That being said, I’m more than willing to do so if it means experiencing some of the places I have so far!
Prague for me was a enthralling place. I think I’ve planned this well as I got here just before it got too cold however seeing dusk along the Charles Bridge was as good as everyone says it is.
The centuries old squares, rustic buildings and real sense of history has stuck with me all the way through Europe. Paris, Rome, Munich Bruges, Zurich, London, Vienna, Venice to name but a few places I have visited. If Australia and New Zealand were about the scenery, South-East Asia about the culture then Europe is all about the history.
It is also nice for my stomach to have well known food again! I like Asian cuisine but there is only so much my stomach can take of tofu and rice before it screams for something it knows. I had some dreaded food poisoning a few times as well (from trying to eat ‘western’ food would you believe!) but the less said about that the better.
My mind has also been going into overdrive a bit recently. Even though I still have a lot of Europe left to discover (I had the choice between heading south to the Mediterranean or North to Scandinavia and, in the end, the chance to see snow and ski won), I only have South America left after this before I head back. I say ONLY South America; a year ago I would never have dreamed I would be where I am!
Things are going at a rapid pace at the minute so I am finding it difficult to post regularly. I will do my best though!
Currently I’m sitting in Amsterdam as I type this and I’m contemplating my next move on Lonely Planet.
Hopefully I will get another update before I jet off to Argentina. If not then I’ll speak to you all then!
Hey all, another update!
I’m all for trying out new things and South-East Asia has been all about this so far. Really, you couldn’t find a place that was anywhere near as different to home as this.
I flew into Bangkok a few weeks ago and so far I’ve made the journey from Thailand’s capital, in through Cambodia and onto the South of Vietnam. I do have story to tell though as I ended up in hospital in a couple of days ago!
A couple of things first: I was sad to leave Australia and New Zealand but SE Asia is amazing. Some places are WAY more developed than I thought (the BTS is one of the most efficient transportation systems I’ve come across) however since I crossed over into Cambodia I am really noticing how cheap things are. A beer for a few cents, hotels for 5 dollars? Never thought I would see it.
What I will say is that I’ve seem some of the most beautiful places in the world so far as well – Angkor Wat and Halong Bay are among the highlights.
So, onto my hospital experience.
Last week I made a trip to a foreign hospital. To be honest I have been quite lucky since I left home and the only ‘medical’ problems I had up until Vietnam were hangovers (not pleasant on a long bus journey) but then I hired a motorbike.
Thankfully I have good insurance to cover this kind of thing. It was my fault really - I should have been a bit more conservative in my driving and ended up taking a corner a bit too fast. Off I went and scraped all the way down my right leg and arm. It isn’t the worst injury I’ve had by any means (my broken leg when I was 8 definitely beats it) but I thought I should get it checked out just in case.
Over here they put a real emphasis on traditional medicine so this made me apprehensive and I heard from a few people that getting back to Bangkok for emergency treatment was advisable. Anyway, I got to the hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (need to stop calling it Saigon) and the process went as smoothly as could have been expected. The cuts were deep but nothing that wouldn’t heal properly in a few weeks and I got a doctor that spoke English.
I paid the fee’s (actually very reasonable) and have a form to claim it back on my insurance when I get home. My luck has been great so far on this trip and I hope it continues!
Something I found necessary reading before I got here was the South East Asia Backpacker site. It provides great advice on visa’s. Because you are travelling through a lot of countries in a short space of time, the visa process is a headache so it is great to have some straightforward advice.
I have a while to travel around here so I’m taking my time doing so before jetting off to Europe.
Who knows what awaits me next?
I’m now well on my way to being a full fledged backpacker!
I have the mindset of a traveller, I’m living day by day and I’m even starting to budget like one as well! No more fancy hotels (OK, once every two weeks is acceptable), expensive meals or flying between short distances: I’m doing this budget style and enjoying every minute of it.
It is hard to believe I even used to be in work for 8.30am every morning. Crazy.
So, I am about to fly out of Sydney and head to South-East Asia. Bangkok is my first stop (flights were easy to get) and I thought I would write a few hundred words on what I thought of Oz and New Zealand. A lot of people often compare the two but I never see why. Both have their unique characteristics that make them fantastic places to visit.
After toiling with the idea of catching a flight over to NZ I finally did so after meeting some people in a bar in Perth. They had started off there and were now on their way around Australia in a camper van. Not a bad way to do this I must admit. After a few beers (and a few more) they convinced me that missing out on New Zealand was a big, BIG mistake and that I should get a flight booked over there pronto.
The visa process got a bit mixed up as I needed one to get over there then another one to get back to Australia for all of a couple of days before I fly out to Bangkok but it was worth it in the end.
I also did something that I haven’t done in years, went biking! New Zealand was great for this, really nice countryside, open roads, fantastic scenery (especially around Christchurch) and, again, amazing people. A really good resource is Kiwi Experience and it helped me heaps before getting there.
Actually, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have found out about the Bay of Islands or had the chance to scuba dive around such a beautiful area. Definitely something that should have been on my bucket list (if I had one!) but is a life experience I am so glad I have done.
One minor emergency was my camera. You all know how I love my gadgets and can’t travel without them so when my camera stopped working I was fearing the worst. In fact, it was nearly time to freak out: visiting all these beautiful places and no camera to snap a reminder. Thankfully I decided not to take it apart myself (never ends well) and instead found a reasonably priced photographic store in my short stay in Wellington. A couple of hours and all is well (I’m still not entirely sure what went wrong).
Anyway, I’m currently in the hotel (a little bit of luxury after a few weeks of hostels) before going to the airport for my Bangkok flight.
A new continent, a new country and a new culture awaits.
So basically I am stuck in an airport waiting for my connecting flight and I thought it would be an ideal time to provide a short update.
Since I lasted posted I got everything sorted with my travel plans, packed, got on my first flight and now I have a 6 hour stopover before getting on the next plane and FINALLY getting to Sydney.
The rest of my packing and organization wasn’t as bad as expected however one thing did take me by surprise – getting used to spending more than 12 hours on a plane. When you think about it, that is half a day.
One final thing that I managed to do before I left was rent out my apartment. I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing this right away and, to be honest, I got quite lucky in doing so. Rather than just having it sit there unoccupied for the whole year that I was away I thought, “why not gain some passive income?” I have no experience of doing this whatsoever so I sort of just went for it, you know? New me and all that.
I put an ad up on Craigslist and found someone to rent within 24 hours. Not bad going. They seemed great and would look after the property for me – in fact, the person I rented it out to even works in a similar job as I did. Coincidences, huh?
Probably the best thing about doing this is that I won’t have left my apartment empty for a year. Goodness knows what I would have come back to if I did! The whole process was really easy and straightforward if any of you are interested in doing the same. I got a lot of enquires about the advert but in the end I felt that guy rented it to would be the most suitable.
Because all of this happened so quickly I almost forgot about my insurance. You need rental insurance for the property if you are renting it out something that completely slipped my mind. In fact, it wasn’t until 3 hours before I needed to be at the airport that I thought of this. Luckily my insurance company are great so all it took was a phone call and about 30 minutes on the line to get it all sorted out.
It is a weight off my shoulders knowing that everything back home is in order. I’m making some income from renting out my apartment, I know it will be looked after and I have all the paperwork and legalities in place.
A good tip is to try and rent your property out to a friend or family, especially if you are on a tight schedule. This would make the whole process easier I imagine although I got really lucky with my classified ad.
Am I regretting anything yet? Not, not really. Even though a part of my head is still in the ‘office mode’ I’m enjoying this freedom. It’s 3pm here and it is great not being stuck behind my desk counting down the minutes to going home.
Well, I better wrap this up so I can stretch my legs for a while before I board my next flight. Hopefully I can catch some shut eye before touching down in Oz!
OK, so it has been a few days since I decided I was leaving my job and going around the world. The reality of it hasn’t fully kicked in yet I don’t think: am I mad? Who knows but I stick with my decisions so here we go.
This is going to be quite a short post because I’m aiming to get away within the next week. Crazy I know. Usually people spend months or even years preparing for this kind of adventure and I am trying to do it all within 7 days.
So, what have I been up to? First things first and I absolutely crawled the internet for information. I read articles from backpackers, used the Lonely Planet forum, checked country information sites. You know, just the usual things you should do about 6 months before you leave. Well, I had six days but I’m pretty sure I have everything covered.
I even bought a backpack! I honestly never thought I’d be seen hauling something like that around but, well, new times, new beginning and new me.
One thing I would recommended for people that are thinking of doing what I am is getting your insurance policy sorted.
OK, I know, it sounds a bit drab to be talking about insurance policies before going on a year long trip around the world (maybe I am still in office mode a bit?) but after reading some forums and advice from fellow travellers I realised my own policy that I took out on a whim wasn’t that extensive.
Really I was thinking about all the different gadgets I have with me. I might be treading off into the unknown for a new view on life but I still need my iPod, camera and laptop with me – no way I was going a year without any of those.
I won’t go too far into the detail except to say that you should definitely see what your travel insurance policy covers and what it doesn’t. You might find each individual item is only insured up to a certain amount (not good if you have an expensive piece of kit in your bag) so just be careful.
In case you’re wondering, I got my travel insurance from these guys. Really helpful staff and their website was really easy to use.
Now that the boring bit is out of the way what else do I need to do? I have two days before I am jetting off to Australia. Basically my plan is (and it is a little rough around the edges still) is to get to Oz, then work my way back through Asia, Europe and South America. My logic for this didn’t extend more than looking at a map but anyway, the less I think of that the better.
So for now I am frantically trying to get everything ready. I still need to pack that backpack, make sure I have all my affairs sorted out here and then get on that plane in two days time. My mind is racing at 100mph however I know in the end it will be worth it.
Hopefully next time I will have some fantastic stories to tell you and some pictures too!