Mother’s Day in Australia

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Today is Mother’s Day in Australia! My friend is having a family get together at her house & we’re all making a dish for the table. I’m going to make a salad – I haven’t cooked in 4 months! That’s desperate! A salad isn’t even cooking!

We went for a wee walk in Bundereen & it was beautiful. Australia has so much to offer! I love it! I loved getting together with my friend’s family. They are all so nice & have a great sense of humour. They welcomed me straight into the family fold & I didn’t feel like an outsider for one second.

Packing was tough but I am certainly becoming more ruthless which is a tremendous achievement for me! Being a backpacker with hoarding tendencies is a burden, physically & mentally. Any minuscule step towards overcoming this is a triumph in my eyes!

Tomorrow I set off for China. I’m sad to be leaving Sydney because I had such a wonderful time.

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The perfect day in Sydney

My second day in Australia was the most perfect day of fun! In the morning my friend & I went to a really cute Saturday farmers market. It was full of fresh food stalls, baked goods, juices & street food as well as fresh flowers, homeware & skincare. I loved browsing & tasting all the different foods. I had a fresh juice for breakfast & a steak salad for lunch. I feel healthy & content. I think I’m having a reverse culture shock coming back from Asia.

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Next up we went to the shops to pick up a few bits & pieces. I ended up in Mecca – a Sephora-esque shop. I found a miniature Origins night mask that I’ve been searching for for over a year! I also finally bit the bullet & got a neck support for the remainder of my travels. I just can’t cope with dozing off inflight for 2 minutes & waking with crippling neck pain. It will be worth $20 & the hassle of carrying the bulk of it around.

After shopping we went to the cinema to see The Jungle Book in 3D. I really miss the cinema when I travel despite not going much when I stand still. The movie had amazing CGI effects. 3D has developed a lot over the past few years & it doesn’t hurt my eyes half as much! FYI The Aussie popcorn is just salted, I adore a mixture of sweet & salted….

We went back to my friends house & her boyfriend was waiting for us with a bottle of bubbles! We went for the most delicious Indian meal & finished the bubbles & a beautiful red wine. This Indian was on par or maybe better than the food I had in India. I got a bit of angst eating the Indian food in India for fear of the hygiene levels of the establishment & I am so happy to shake this worry back in Western countries!

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Totally full & exhausted after our fun filled, perfect day, we got home & quickly dispersed to bed. What a lovely day. I knew I was right to look forward to Sydney again.

Back to Sydney!

With a sad farewell to Thailand, a brief stop in Kuala Lumpur & a mandatory McFlurry, I jet back to Sydney. I’m so lucky to be able to see my friends again! I’m so excited about going back to Australia! I had such a nice time last time I was in Sydney catching up with my friends & I can’t wait to see them again! I’ve really missed the western culture as well – which is not something I’ve ever missed before whilst backpacking.

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After doing zero shopping for the past few months & with my limited clothes selection either falling apart or driving me crazy I am super excited to pick up a few things! My flip flops are deteriorating off my feet & I’ve been wishing for them to last until Australia so I hope they endure the final steps until I find a new pair. I also need non backpacker clothes such as jeans & new tops as my others have holes or I’m sick of wearing them. I’m terrible at not being able to throw anything out so it will be interesting to see how proactive I am when it comes to the crunch! I’ll be back in Europe in a month & unwilling to buy clothes at Swiss prices, therefore shopping is high on my list.

I look & feel especially atrocious & haggard after my day of travel although my mood immensely improves when I meet a dear friend for lunch. We went to Bar Luca & got burgers. Not any old burgers – I assure you. This was the best damn burger of my little life! We got the ‘Blame Canada’ which contains all sorts of culinary delights as bacon, cheese, maple syrup & poutine. I sincerely URGE you get one if you ever drop by Sydney. It was simply incredible! We ate these in an orgasmic state on a grassy patch overlooking the sea. We took it in turns to cry out with pleasure & admiration. Paired with the joy of seeing my friend again, you could say I was in a somewhat euphoric state! My lord it was AMAZING!!! I was craving a burger since March & this one has to be one of, if not the best burger I’ve had in my life. It was so reassuring to eat without the fear of getting sick.

In the evening I met my friends for food & drinks. It was so lovely to catch up but I’m sure I wasn’t much craic because I was wrecked from all the travelling. I had alcohol for the first time in 2 months & I didn’t really enjoy it. I don’t even know why I bothered drinking at all. It just felt like I just did it out of habit. A part of me regrets it because I didn’t need it or want it. By the time I got to bed I had been on the go since the night before. I have to be kinder to myself before I make myself too haggard!

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Lying in bed I contemplate how it’s so strange to be doing ‘normal’ things like shopping again. It’s dawning on me that this adventure has an expiry date & I don’t feel ready to give up this lifestyle just yet.

My exit plan from Nepal

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I’m at another crossroads of my life. It’s more of a spaghetti junction. I could go anywhere in this world – within reason…. Myanmar looks hauntingly beautiful & backpackers speak fondly of it. Bhutan would be incredible to visit. Mongolia is high on my list. Japan has been sitting on the forefront of my mind. My cousins can’t recommend Vietnam enough to me. Thailand is a country I adore. Then I have to think of my finances…. I could go back to New Zealand to work. I could nanny again. Working on super yachts is another option. Back to Ireland & spend time with my family in the homeland after all these years? Another country? Another career change? Am I getting too old for this shit??

I’m open to all suggestions. One option is to nanny in Switzerland & Spain for a few weeks for a family I worked with before. It would get me to Europe for the summer, I would be closer to my family, I could replenish my funds.

Sat in my hostel in Nepal with travel options, destinations, prices & dates scribbled on to a notepad I close my eyes & melt into my bed. My mind is a busy chattering of what I could do next. So much research into expenses, visas & possible itinerarys. I just want to choose something & throw myself into planning. I’m worried that I’m running out of money & as time ticks by, my options diminish.

Kathmandu, Nepal

I woke from my delightful slumber to a vacated dorm room. All 9 other people had left early to go hiking, rafting or catch flights. I savoured the peace & indulged in the comfort of lying down. Heavenly! I got up, had a hot shower (!), changed rooms & felt ready to go for a wander. This is my favourite thing to do in a new place. I love the initial not knowing what to expect. I adore having no preconceived ideas about a place & seeing what it is all about unfold in front of my eyes. I take in the scenery, architecture, colours & smells, the characteristics & mannerisms of the people, their interactions & facial expressions. My senses feel at their most alive, my eyes wide in anticipation & excitement, my being is fully alert & inquisitive. I step into the bustle & discover Kathmandu.

Immediately I feel an air of calm in comparison to India. I feel safer instantly & the men do not feel as though they are sexually interested in me or undressing me with their eyes. This was one of the first things I picked up on & obviously an issue I had at the forefront of my mind. The relief was smile inducing. I merrily walked along the bustling street stepping out of the way of shopkeepers sweeping their doorways & buying fresh fruit for breakfast from the fruit seller on his bicycle.

In less than a minute I was in the busy tourist area with people haggling their items & asking me if I need a hiking guide. I politely declined & continued my walk along the crooked streets. I like to walk until I am almost lost then make my way back. I feel empowered getting to know the streets & alleys & I form a map in my mind, noting landmarks & familiar signs. I located a few restaurants the owner at my hostel has recommended, a book store, the post office, ATMs & companies offering trekking packages.

I feel content here & have a grasp of the area. My plan to come to Nepal was last minute & I have done little prior research on the country. This isn’t a negative point. It just means I need to retreat back to my hostel to speak with fellow backpackers & gather information on what I can do here. One of the downsides to travelling sporadically is having to do your research in your exploration time. I meet people here who have all their plans made well in advance enabling them to make the most of their time in a new country. At times I envy them when I can’t join them for an activity because I have to find accommodation for the next night or price trekking packages & make decisions on the road. This small inconvenience is incomparable to the opportunity of freedom I possess.

Arriving in Kathmandu, Nepal

Do you know that ambience you feel? I think every area has a certain atmosphere about it. Even an empty room. I’m not sure whether it’s the atmosphere of the room or the residual atmosphere created by people who were last in it. As soon as I landed in Nepal I felt it. I was much more relaxed & basking in the pleasant atmosphere. The queue at immigration was non existent for foreigners & the clerks were patient & friendly when telling each of us what to do when we kept approaching with incomplete forms.

FYI you need the following:

  1.  The immigration form (your airline might give you this inflight)
  2.  Another form which I got from a clerk
  3. You have to pay for your visa at another counter (I paid 38euro for a 30 day visa) & take the receipt with you

It was a delight chatting to the friendly clerks. They wholeheartedly welcomed me & recommended places for me to visit. …flashback to Malaysia when the immigration clerk didn’t speak to me & burped in my face when he stamped my passport. The baggage area was small & packed with people. It took a while for our luggage to appear so I merrily sat on the ground reading my book. Upon leaving the airport, security requested my boarding pass stub to confirm the luggage was mine I presume. Luckily I didn’t throw this out already! I arranged with my hostel for a taxi to Thamel for 1200NRP (£8). This is a luxury I don’t normally indulge in but I think it was worth it to not have to think anymore after my day & a half in transit & without valid currency.

In comparison to India I already have a good feeling about Nepal. I am exhausted from my non stop travel of over 30 hours. Tucked up in bed in my new hostel I stretch out my legs with glee at finally being comfortable & horizontal. I adore this position.

What a long, mentally challenging day & physically exhausting day of nothingness.

I’m like Guinness, I don’t travel well.

Can I get your wifi password please?

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The solemn backpacker oath uttered daily. As soon as you take a menu you feel entitled to have access to their wifi. Half the time it’s probably the only reason you picked that cafe.

Indian’s with their dry sense of humour have made me laugh on more than one occasion with their wifi passwords.

The waiter stares me straight in the eye & announces ‘wifinoworking’ to the absolute horror of my friends & I we ask in panic that the wifi isn’t working hoping for a different response. “No, wifi no working. The password. Wifi no working.”. After several similar exchanges it becomes apparent that this deadpan comedic genius is telling us that the wifi is in fact active & working & the password to access it it ‘wifinoworking’. Fucking hilarious! This brilliance gives me faith in other people when I see how much pleasure they can squeeze out of an otherwise mundane job.

Here are some more gems I came across:

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Most creative method for telling you their wifi password!

Sleeper bus India: Hampi to Bangalore – Endurance Travel

People think travel is so easy & fun. I beg to differ. Budget travel can be a fucking nightmare! This evening I’m taking the night bus to Bangalore. I’m feeling a bit sickly from yesterday but think I have pulled it together for tonight. I really hope so! I have heard one story too many about people throwing up & expelling diarrhoea out of sleeper bus windows to even contemplate what could go wrong on this trip.

I have to check out of my hostel early & hang around waiting for my evening departure. I had lots of time to recuperate & bid farewell to the lovely people I met here. I crossed the rice paddy in darkness with my phone torch guiding me. My backpack already digging into my shoulders & making me sweat under the weight. To save on a taxi fare to Hospet I arranged a boat to take me across the river after the normal service closed. The price they quoted was obviously doubled when I went to pay. Dickheads. I am so sick of this shit.

The price of a tuk tuk is over twice the price of the rate during the day. When I was in a terrible mood storming to the bus stop the tuk tuk driver rocked up & agreed on my price. I got dropped off over an hour before my bus was due & had to sit & wait on a plastic chair on a dirty smokey street with Indian men staring me down while growing more anxious about my safety & what state the bus will be in. I am very aware that I am far from home, physically & culturally. I don’t feel safe. Since my incident in Goa I am very aware of the gender ratio in my vicinity. It always tilts unfavourably towards majority male. When the bus arrived the staff were very half arsed about whether it was my bus or not so I had to check with everyone I seen whilst alighting the bus & it still wasn’t clear. HOW CAN THIS BE SO DIFFICULT!!!??? Someone working here should know where this bus is going!!??? I’m not being unreasonable!!!

When I pulled myself onboard with my luggage I was directed to my bunk which I was assured I would share with another female. I was relieved to see an Indian woman sleeping but less enamoured to see her child also in that small space. By this stage I’m exhausted & squeezed myself onto the bunk doing my best not to bump them. I closed my eyes, obviously annoyed, & tried to drift off willing myself not to suffer the desire to urinate.

Nine hours later we arrive in Bangalore, although that is not fully clear. Apparently no one in India can be sure of any destination or location. I mean, I’m on a fucking bus for transportation – TELL ME WHERE I AM!!!!! I drag my sorry ass out to the middle of the street in a sleepy daze to an audience of shouting tuk tuk drivers impassioned with ripping me off. I quote them the price I’m willing to pay & they quote me double. I walk off & perform this routine for about 15 minutes until someone agrees – then I’m speeding along the street of Bangalore going down alleys & crossing freeways in the quiet 5am dawn with an Indian man I don’t know or trust. It is so risky to travel alone in India. I do not feel safe or comfortable & I have exposed myself to being so vulnerable.

The 5am tuk tuk ride of accepting my total vulnerability


I am so relieved when 30 minutes later I arrive at a hostel & I haven’t been driven to some murder den. I get out alone in the quiet street & figure out which entrance to use & how to wake up the staff. Mentally & physically drained I drag my backpack up 3 flights of stairs to my musty room with a dirty bathroom. I urinate for the first time in 11 hours concerned that it is bright orange. I close the window & liberally apply bug spray to myself. I dig through my backpack for my pyjamas lost in a sea of rolled up, stuffed & scrunched belongings. I half heartedly make my bed & fall into it wondering why I bother.

Yes folks, this is a snippet of that ‘holiday’ my friends & family do not acknowledge. This isn’t a ‘holiday’, this is endurance travel – not for the weak!

Ubud

With little research & a few trusted opinions I have opted to start my Bali adventure in Ubud. People have told me Kuta is really touristy & full of Bogans (Aussie chavs). I get the impression that it will feel like just another tourist resort & won’t be especially Balinese – which is the experience I came for.
If Ubud isn’t that touristy to people I would hate to see the more touristy Kuta! Ubud is bustling with people. Every 20 steps a guy on the sidewalk is shouting taxi at me & waving a sign. I have developed a comedic slap stick walking motion to indicate to the taxi drivers that I am indeed walking & happy to do so. I look crazy. This has not deterred my idiotic reflex response.
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The footpaths are broken & quite narrow with people stopping sporadically in front of me. Other tourists walk straight towards me in couples expecting me to somehow evaporate to let them by then reappear behind them. Even someone I was with commented on how people almost walk into me…. I’m short but I exist dammit!!! This little town is too much for me. I have to escape to peace.
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I acknowledge my irrationality

After 2 nights in Ubud finding my bearings & getting frustrated with people I am heading to the East Coast of PadangBai.
Peace out folks ✌️
Please note, I’m not hating on Ubud! My body & mind seem to be craving a peace that the streets of Ubud cannot offer me. Everyone I speak to adores Ubud. In fact, I haven’t met anyone else who dislikes it! Maybe I’m just hangry…..

Do you dive??

I’ve ventured 15,000 feet above land, now to delve beyond sea level…..
Any advice on PADI Open Water Diver course? I’m contemplating doing it in Bali. Holler at me if you have recommendations or advice. Friends have highly recommended places in Thailand to learn to dive though I doubt I’ll make it there in this trip.
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Ever thankful *bows & backs into the shadows*