Monthly Archives: April 2013

Halfway

71 days in, 71 days out.

The halfway point is already here. 

Pretty crazy really, it feels longer than 71 days but also as if it’s all happened so quickly. In very, very few ways has this been anything like I expected it to be. For both good and bad. I’ve certainly got some epic stories to tell and I’ve had moments of unabated joy, and some where nothing sounded more appealing than jumping on a plane and heading home. I’ve been skydiving, scuba dived on the Great Barrier Reef, partied with some Swedish girls and a Scot whose been traveling his whole life, met two fellas named J Wiggy and Carl from an island of 300 people. I’ve slept in stranger’s houses, woken up across the entire city, been caught out in near hurricane force winds on the edge of a cliff, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing sheer faces, and sat on ledges high above the ground. I’ve learned to live on my own, how to shop at the Queen Victoria Market successfully, I’ve been to Sydney, taken spontaneous train rides to Newcastle, slept in parks, cars, on top of mountains, learned to drive on the other side of the road, driven the entire South Island of New Zealand, seen some of the most amazing and awe inspiring views on the planet. I’ve been to music festivals, rock concerts and more. Melbourne is natural to me now. I’ve done so much and I know there’s some already forgotten. I’ve yet so much to do and know that I won’t be able to do it all.

Life looks to be changing gears now, on more than one front. Not that I can give many specifics. It’s been a hell of a ride so far, cheers to the second half trumping the first.

 

Still Walking,

Rug

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Boundaries & Bubbles

The point where what should be extraordinary begins to seem normal is a strange situation to find yourself in.

I found myself walking through the Chinatown district of a city halfway across the world. I found myself walking with ease, a certain comfort and poise that would have been unthinkable six weeks ago. Six weeks ago I can distinctly recall attempting to walk down Little Bourke St attempting to find some cheap, scrumptious Asian fare and being quite overwhelmed. Bright neon signs, flashing my retinas with multiple Asian languages, my nose barraged by scents & spices and my ears assailed by a cacophony of languages. Try Shanghai St Dumpling, Ghin Khao, Noodle Kingdom, walk down a side alley for some place called New Kum Den, try our curry, we have the best sushi, freshest fish, spiciest dishes, on and on with the constant siege of the senses. Sensory overload.

The other night, same place, same time on a busy Saturday night in this lively city of Melbourne. Walking down Chinatown in search of some tom yum, pad thai, fried rice or whatever else caught my fancy; except this time I was able to savour all of it, less barrage and more indulgence of the senses. Despite this something nagged at me just a little. A little bug, an itch and a tingle tipping me off. I needed to explore more, push boundaries again. It was still an awesome experience, but this time I felt entirely comfortable. And for some reason this struck me in a not entirely positive light. I don’t think about which way to look crossing the streets (I know, it sounds silly but you’d be amazed how hard of a habit it is to break when you grew up with look left then right and it’s switched on you), I don’t ever need to pull out my phone for directions, it’s all become pretty natural now.

“Natural and comfortable” in a foreign city brings with it positives and negatives. It’s kick ass to be able to know exactly where you are, being comfortable and confident allows you to enjoy the city in many ways. You know some little tricks and shortcuts, you know that you have certain favorite places and sections of the city. It also makes you complacent. Comfortable means that the brand new sheen and excitement aren’t there anymore. Comfortable makes it easy to fall into a bubble, to begin to hit a simple routine and roll through days without the sense of adventure that was a constant during the first months of this adventure. It makes you return to the same few haunts over and over. You stop expanding and growing. Bubble. Not to say establishing certain favourites is bad, just that when surrounded by such a vibrant city it would be a shame to box oneself in. I’ve spent the better part of two weeks mostly within the four block radius of my apartment and the university. Sure, it’s nice to keep a low profile for a while, but I’m not here to be comfortable. Living abroad is not about falling into a routine. It’s about constantly being on your toes and ceaselessly pushing boundaries in some way. So though there is much to be said for some routine and some rest and recharging, it is vitally important to remember why you are abroad in the first place and to take advantage of it to the fullest.

A few more tips for any of those reading this and planning on going abroad in the future:

  • Make a budget, even if you blow it out of the water, and you probably will, it’s a much better peace of mind knowing where your money is going and how you can save as opposed to checking your bank account and seeing decidedly smaller figures than you did a week ago
  • Remember who you are, why you came and stick to these things. Growth is good, change can also be negative and it’s important to recognize the difference
  • There’s a huge difference between dead horse (what they call tomato sauce) and Heinz ketchup. And yes, it is a big deal. I want ketchup, not tomato sauce with my eggs

I would hope that this little adventure bug sticks with me even after I return home. Looking back now, it is easy to see how much I allowed myself to stay inside the box. I fully intend to change this mindset upon returning and believe that this is an excellent lesson to apply anywhere. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world, our hometowns may seem dull and we may feel we have seen it all, but there are always boundaries to expand, new things to try, and bubbles to be burst.

 

Still Walking,

Rug

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Two Guys, One Spoon

 I’ll start off by listing the places we slept: Couch, hostel, park, airport, on top of a mountain, a house called “the ghetto” and in El Cheapo.

So here’s the story of what happens when two guys go to Sydney, Newcastle and New Zealand with one spoon and attempt to drive the entire south island in 8 days.

Wednesday morning saw me up and at the bus station at 4am to catch a bus to the airport for my 6am flight to Sydney. We got go Sydney with zero plans and decided that heading to Bondi beach was a good idea. So we caught a bus that direction, hopped off and walked 5 km with all our backpacks of stuff uphill to the beach. Just the beginning 0f much walking and vagabonding about. Bondi is famous for a reason, great sand, sunshine, perfectly clear water, and a classic surf town vibe. All was well till I walked over barefoot on the rocks and gashed my toe real nice and had to buy band aids to fix that up. A nice little travel scar to start the trip off with. No big deal really, headed down into the city after that to check out what Sydney was about and spent most of the day just wandering around the city and checking stuff out. Frankly, wasn’t all that enthralled, it felt just like another city, nothing distinct about it’s character or personality. The Opera House and Harbour Bridge were the standouts as they are pretty spectacular. Met up with a couple of people we know from Cairns and Chapman who were kind of enough to let us crash on their couches for the night. Went to a real good Malaysian food place that was quite good after traveling on about 3 hours sleep and walking around all day with a stuffed backpack. Best discovery of Sydney was made here, the restaurant served a drink called Teh Tarik which is a traditional Malaysian tea. It’s the nectar of the gods in my opinion. 

The next day saw us grab breakfast at a place which served quinoa toast topped with eggs avocado and bruschetta. Pretty delicious. Went over and checked into the only night of hostel stay we had the whole trip, walked over to Darling harbour which was a real cool area and then took a monorail around part of the city. Yes, they have a monorail. Went back to the hostel, went to the room next door because frankly our room kinda was a downer, before heading out for the night. Ended up at a bar across town and managed to get separated crossing a rainbow road. Literally. Sydney has a massive gay population and we managed to get lost and separated in the gay district which was interesting getting back from to say the least.

Went back to the Opera house and Bridge the next day after walking through and napping in the botanical gardens which were impressive. Then walked over the bridge go north Sydney which we both found more to our liking and more laid back to have some bomb fish and chips. Walked down the street and saw a train station and decided to catch a train for $4 up to Newcastle which is a beach town kinda city. Got there pretty late and decided a park was a good place to sleep, woke up and realized we were much more in the open than we realized. Oh well, walked out to the lighthouse and point and then hit the beach for a few hours after checking out the town. Caught a train back to the airport to catch our flight into Christchurch.

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Landed in Christchurch at 130 am, grabbed a food and slept for a couple hours till they woke everyone up at 5am. Great way to start off Easter Sunday. Decided to walk the 15km into town at 530 am and did. Christchurch is still in ruins from the earthquakes in 2011 and we didn’t realize this till we went to walk into downtown and we’re confronted with fences and caution tape and wrecked buildings everywhere. Let’s put it this way, there wasn’t a Catholic Church open for Easter mass. Disappointing and creepy.  There was a piece of street art with the outline of the Christchurch cathedral and the words “we will smile again”. We honestly couldn’t even find somewhere to get breakfast. The only shopping center in town was built of storage containers and closed. IMAG1558

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IMAG1567So we got back to the airport rented a car and got outta town.

Driving on the left side was quite fun and not really hard at all. We drove down through a couple of cool towns along the east coast and hit a few scenic spots to see seals and penguins. No penguin sightings though. Got into Dunedin about dinner time and grabbed some food, checked out the town and headed west towards Te Anau. Slept in the car and drove into Te Anau the next morning, stocked up on food and booked my kayak trip before heading to the Fiordlands and Milford sound.

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The sheer scale of things there was amazing. It was just gorgeous and so impressive to see it all. Almost to much to take in and comprehend. Picked up a couple of German dudes hitchhiking and gave them a lift into the park. Driving into the fiordlands entails some of the most epic scenery on the planet as well as th 1km long homer tunnel. After the tunnel the drive leads into Milford. We realized we had missed our intended hike and backtracked a bit to get to Gertrude’s saddle. We hiked up it starting about 4 pm. It’s one of the most incredible hikes I’ve ever done and only Yosemite compares. Waterfalls, glacial valleys, a lake high atop the saddle and absolutely breathtaking views. We pitched our tent on top of the saddle overlooking the glacial valleys and Milford Sound. We woke up about 4 am to snow coming down on us and had to climb down in the dark with only one light. It was pretty sketchy but an unreal experience. Got back to the car and drove back to Milford to kayak on the sound which was just mind blowing. Being in a kayak surrounded by 4500 foot cliffs and mountains and waterfalls on a real deep fjord is something that you honestly can’t wrap your head around.

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After that we started driving to Queenstown and picked up another hitchhiker who turned out to be originally from Modesto, CA and lives in Queenstown. He offered us a place to crash on his couches for picking him up so we took him up on that after checking out Queenstown and going to Ferg Burger which has some seriously huge amazing burgers. Planned on going out but ended up just hanging out in “the ghetto” as its called with the guy we picked up and a few of his roommates, roommates being from Italy, UK and other places. It was all in all an unexpected but very cool night and experience. Went and hiked Ben Loman Saddle the next day  for some more awesome views of the mountains and lake surrounding Queenstown. The range near Queenstown is called “The Remarkables” and lives up to it’s billing. Combine that with views of the Southern Alps and you quickly see why Lord of The Rings was filmed in New Zealand.

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Left Queenstown that night and headed up the west coast, slept in the car after driving some very windy and dark mountain roads and seeing some of the clearest stars I’ve seen in my life. I absolutely love starscapes and plan to be among them one day. The next morning saw us at the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers which were quite something else. Straight out of the land before time, big glaciers coming down rainforest valleys, and not 5 min drive off the coast highway. We took the opportunity to fill up our water with pure glacial water which was very pure and crisp.

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After that we continued up the west coast into Greymouth and then cut inland towards Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park. Slept in the car again, woke up drove to Abel Tasman and walked 25km of the Great Coastal Track there. It’s literally a tropical paradise. Not something you’d ever expect in New Zealand, but beautiful and enchanting all the same. IMAG2233

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IMAG2246The following day saw us over in Marlborough Sounds hiking the Queen Charlotte track after having a mild confrontation on a mountain road with a cow just strolling down it. Had some spectacular views there as well. The next day we went down to Kaikoura slept in the car on the beach and woke up to sunrise over the ocean with snowcapped mountains surrounding the bay. Just plain beautiful. We then went and saw the fur seal colony on the coast and then walked up a small track to see seal pups playing and frolicking in a stream and at the base of a waterfall in a pool. Yes, seal pups, in a pool at the base of a waterfall. Followed this up with another hike to get a good view of the ocean and daunting snow capped mountains behind us.

That about wrapped up our trip other than a gorgeous sunrise over a river the next morning and 8 hours in the Christchurch airport.

All in all, a crazy, exhilarating and epic trip with lots of stories to tell, experiences and pictures to share.

 

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Learning Curves

Each and every day is another change in the tides. Some days the energy bursts forth from me, some days I run as a beat up old pick up, all stutter stop and stall outs. It’s all so incredibly volatile, it becomes hard to do much beyond keep moving, keep adapting, learning, and growing.

Such is life I suppose. It’s a reality that all begin to face one day and many quickly come to loathe and dread. As for me, I’ve just begun. Just begun to find my feet in the world, just begun learning how to keep those not so little necessities of life from dropping rainclouds on my big ideas and grandiose plans, hell it’s hard enough from keeping them from raining on my everyday joys. It’s not easy learning to manage your own life for the first time. Any who say otherwise are simply puffing their chests. Add in the small factor of doing it in a foreign country and you end up with a real steep learning curve.

I guess as I’m going about writing this I’m still struggling with so many moving pieces in my head that it becomes so hard not to let them all fall to the ground. Times like these can oft lead me dangerously close to places I’ve been before and never want to be again. It’s hard to fight yourself because you’re not even aware that you’re doing it. You can’t say oh well my enemy will likely make this move or that play; you know exactly what you’ll do, except you really don’t.

I dunno, at this point I’m just chucking words and thoughts out on paper to give myself some sort of release or seeking some inspiration. I’ve hit the point where I’m beginning to feel the wear and fatigue of the last two months. The little boy inside me would love nothing more than to run home to mom and hide in her arms. Hell, part of the 20 year old me feels the same way. I guess when you’re blessed with such a loving family that it makes it pretty hard to be away. It also makes it so much easier. Knowing that you have such amazing support at all times and in all conditions makes it easier to pick yourself up a little bit. 

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So the previous paragraphs were written a few days ago. I’d just gotten back from a whirlwind 12 day semester break that saw me travel to Sydney, Newcastle, and the entire South Island of New Zealand. I reckon it’s worth recounting some of that trip as it was one hell of a trip. I’ll put that in a separate post. The result of that trip and the preceding two months was a burned out and worn down self, something reflected in my previous writing. Since then I’ve picked myself back up and have gotten rest and nutrition to revitalize.

“Do what you gotta do, just don’t stay still, otherwise life moves on without you.”

A little bit of sage advice from an older brother who knows a hell of a lot more than anyone gives him credit for, including himself, and probably me. It’s a small bit of advice that seems to make so much sense out here in this extraordinary world that I’ve found myself in. It’s so simplistic and blunt, yet so effective; certain things have to be taken care of in order to keep the wheels spinning and the engine humming.

It’s a steep learning curve as I said before, and I do believe I’m beginning to reach the top of it so I reckon I’ll leave some things I’ve learned for anyone else who goes abroad,

Lesson #1: Everything is more expensive than you think.

Lesson #2: Nothing will go smoothly, and that is what will make it all memorable

Lesson #3: Every tough experience is making you that much better. Appreciate it.

Lesson #4: You can and will adapt and thrive in any given situation. Just relax, breathe, and keep pushing forward.

Lesson #5: Do what keeps you healthy and happy, don’t get caught up in negative spirals.

Hopefully someone reading this is able to get some guidance and help from these.

Since dealing with a major identity change and depression brought about by post concussion symptoms I’ve taken a vested interest in my brain and how to enhance the brain in general. The latest result of this, following nutrition and proper supplements for my brain, is a foray into lucid dreaming. For those who don’t know what this is, it’s when you become aware that you are dreaming within a dream and proceed to control the dream. This allows you to do essentially anything you want. More importantly, It has been used in the past by Greeks and Romans to allow them to build “memory libraries”. Huge libraries of memories and information within your mind that allow for greatly increased memory and retention. Another result of lucid dreaming is a much sharper sense of the world around you. All of it intrigues and excites me. We’ll see how it goes for me. 

Another note, I may not end up doing all of next year at City University in London and delaying my departure for there until Spring. This being due to a couple of factors. Financially, I doubt I’ll have a whole lot of funds left when I return home and 2 months isn’t enough time to earn sufficient funds really. Academically, I’ve found that though I am adapting to the different style of learning out here, I do greatly prefer the education at Chapman and want to take full advantage of that. Also, another semester at Chapman would allow me to take 18 units and get even more ahead in my program, therefore allowing me to take tea and crumpet tasting in London and having more free time to travel and less stress. It will also be good for me to have more time at home to properly rest and prepare to go abroad again as it is a pretty big endeavor  I’d also like to potentially do an international internship in Summer 2014, possibly in Hong Kong, but that’s a whole other process and decision to consider.

Regardless, there’s nothing I can say except that I am unbelievably blessed to even be here and have begun to rediscover the excitement that I had prior to hitting a wall last week. Excited for what the future holds.

 

Still walking.

 

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