Monday, November 28, 2011

Such a long time ago PT 2

Apartment hunting. 
Overdosing on poorly taken tourist photos. 
Discovering everything. 
The new car smell.
The beginning, the start, the 'everything's before you'
the what ifs and wanna-be possibilities

Looking back now, such a long time ago.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Such a long time ago PT 1

1. A photo I took of a random guy who gave me his number in Toulouse the very first time we went there for caramel vodka shots in our new Zara clothes, way back when I used to stay out past 12pm. He had a shaved head and talked spanish when I spoke barely any and I took more shots and ripped the paper in half.
2. Salmon and lime with vanilla and black sesame seeds from the best kept secret tapas bar in Ronda, our very first road trip ever. Back in the day when we were still shy about leaving Malaga and animals were still included in my diet.
3. Stevie. Stevie Wonder - this baby tiger looking thing my room mate Sabine had found abandoned in the hood of a car, a kitten just a few days old who I stayed up all night with feeding him with a little feeder tube of milk and wondering at how something could be so tiny and new.
4. Boiling a dozen eggs then spending the afternoon painting them all Easter-like for the giant feast where we bought about 50-75 euros worth of groceries for that one night.
5. Waking up after the first house party to our first house-warming "gift".

First semester - it feels like such a long time ago, doesn't it?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The only thing you know for sure

It's a big call but here it is, one of my favourite places I've been this year. The south coast of Portugal, the Algarve. The beaches of Arrifana and Monteclerigo, the rocky cliffs along Lagos, the lighthouse at Cabo de Sao Vicente and the learn-to-surf beaches of Sagres.

It seems like a lifetime ago now. Though that's how it's been this entire year, time stretching and ripping so far there's gaps of time where I can't place where I was or what I was doing. And trying to catch everyone up back home is a lost cause. It's been too long between drinks to be able to say what I've been doing, what's really been going on. More weeks away, more wine and stories, tapas and to-do-lists. There's been road trip after road trip, country after country, weeks away, classes missed, plans to make more plans.

It's the home-stretch, the final quarter. The sun still shines but there's a bite to the wind and a coolness in the air that was absent all of summer. Night eats more into the day sooner than I thought. I've had to buy stockings again and take out all blazers and jumpers. Looking back, it's coming full circle and it's scary. Scary to think of going home after a year away, scary to think that you'll fall apart because you've changed too much, scarier still to think things will go back to being the same.

But there's new plans and bigger dreams and the things that scared you before are childs' play now. You'll go back to tell them you know where your favourite place is in the world, to tell them you know what it's like to go cold at night in a foreign country without a place to stay, the sinking of your gut as you realise you missed your flight, the adrenaline rush of climbing a mountain, of getting to that lake, of stepping into that medieval castle hundreds of years old, of standing where leaders stood, where revolutionaries spoke, where reforms were made, regimes rose and fell, where history was made. And you'll always, always have that - whatever else comes after.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Postcards from summer

How do you summarise a summer? How do you put it into words or pictures or a reply months of train-ing, bus-ing and plane-ing it from one side of Europe to the other, the hostel-to-hostel experience, the unplanned adventures, the mishaps, the sunsets or the infinite number of faces and names you met along the way?

You don't, you can't. But here's well I'll start, with a story.

Exactly half way through my summer traveling I was on a ferry from Santorini, one of the most beautiful islands of Greece, to Athens. At this point I had been through the coast of Portugal, the North of Spain, the South of France, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and the week of island hopping with friends through Greece. In Santorini I bought 8 of the first postcards I had ever bought in my life finally deciding that if I was going to send a postcard, a Volcanic island with white, red and black beaches and a sunset famous the world over was definitely going to be it.

I sat on the ferry hastily trying to capture everything that had been going on the past six weeks. I wrote to my best friends in Australia, my little sister, my family, my friends from university and elsewhere. Then we arrived in Athens, stayed the night briefly until I woke up at five am, leaving for my flight to Istanbul. I said goodbye to my friends and left, not only did I leave them but only at the airport I realised I left all of the postcards in the hostel.

My friends later said they didn't find it, they were lost or gone or left somewhere under the bed or the locker somewhere in that hostel room. I was actually devastated, the words and pictures I'd chosen so carefully were gone.

Just over a month later I was in Bosnia when I got a message from my family. They had received a postcard from me addressed to one of my best friends, one I had written her from Santorini. In the corner of the postcard was a small note from a guy named Walter who said he had found them all, paid for postage (I didn't have any stamps on any of them, let alone some of their addresses) and sent all of them from Athens.

Slowly, over the next couple of weeks, everyone I had written to started getting my postcards, all with a little note from Walter just letting them know he had sent it. Good ole Walter. Here's a thanks to him, for what I've come to learn is probably the single most important thing I learned this whole trip, that people are nice, kind.

I don't know how many times my sanity, safety and general wellbeing was saved by some unknown passenger on a bus, some person I'd stopped on the street, people who had seen my so-obviously-not-from-here face and pointed me in the right direction and even walked me directly to my hostel. Oh, and that time I had a hysterical break down my first night in Montenegro and it took two little old ladies and a teenage girl to calm me down - though, that's another story.

Thank you Walter, wherever you are, I'm sending a postcard your way.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

No words

Lisbon, Berlin, Prague and Marseille

After 3 months, 17 countries and 1 backpack I'm home. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

There are places I have not been..

The last time í wrote on here I was by myself, traveling in the south of France. Now, as I write this, Ive two months of backpacks, hostels, overnight trains and buses and ryan air flights behind me. Im not traveling alone anymore and Ive been almost as far away from Spain as you can be without leaving Europe.

I met an old friend in Paris, drank beer and laughed with new friends as the lights on the Eiffel Tower sparkled every hour on the hour until they stopped. In Amsterdam I slept by canals, read books on eating animals and dissenting soldiers in Iraq, spoke over Italian and thai food about materialism and consumption. There too, I said goodbye to one of my first room mates who let me stay in her house and cycled me through the coffee shop filled streets.

Prague was chai lattes with a friend I had no idea would be there and one day where the rain didnt stop and I didnt leave my hostel save to get some goodies from the bakery that went nicely with tea and a Michael Moore book. My first time in Germany was showing up at my hostel in Berlin only to find out Id booked it for the wrong month, having dinner with 3 madrilenos and going on a 4 hour walking tour, in spanish.

In Greece we played drinking games, did push ups and chin ups, went on a boat ride to cliff jump and snorkel and relax on a beach all to ourselves. We rented quad bikes and drove along the coast, in Santorini to the town of Oia which stole our words and was impossibly still and quiet that early morning the same day we were leaving. There were no clouds in the sky and I wrote post cards on the ferry that I would leave in Athens.

Now theres only just over a month of traveling left before I head back to Spain, back to language classes and finding a new apartment and the second half of the rest of my life in a bubble. Where did the time go and why does it feel like there are too many places I havent been.. Its true what they say, travel so far for so long and you forget why youd ever want to stop.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

No I`m not alone, just far from home

Two nights ago I slept on the concrete floor in a corner outside an airport waiting for my plane to Madrid that was arriving no less than 11 hours later. I laid out my towel on the floor, wore as many clothes as I could and cuddled up to my backpack in the spot the nice policeman recommended where the wind wouldn`t get me. (Sorry Mum and Dad if you`re reading this!)

Backpacking is one giant no-frills goosebumps style choose-your-own-adventure. It`s taking advantage of the free breakfasts at hostels and using the bread, ham and cheese for sandwiches for lunch. It`s turning the map around over and over trying to figure out where you are, only to eventually fold it up, put it back in your bag and trust that you`ll find your way back somehow. It`s getting over the travel fatigue, getting out of your room and making yourself talk to strangers, walk to statues and ports and parks and do things you probably won`t have the chance to do again.
And yes, it`s sleeping outside of airports because you didn`t realise airports actually close and were banking on getting a nice spot on the airport chairs close to your boarding gate. Part of it is being scared, being cold, being lost. Its getting lost and found over and over and over again. Between all the lying on beaches all over Europe, taking siestas in parks by ports and monuments hundreds of years old, listening to buskers and watching street performers do their best to make crowds of tourists laugh and throw coins into worn-out hats. Between all the glory of everything you think traveling Europe is and is supposed to be, there`s the other moments that make you realise how lucky you are, just when you`re about to take it for granted.

One of my biggest realisations so far has been how reliant I am on other people when traveling by myself. I know nothing of where I am, and now for the first time traveling outside of Portugal and Spain where my spanglish won`t get me by - I know nothing of the language either. But people surprise you, they see your terror-stricken face and smile and ask you if you need help. All the time I just keep thinking `People are so nice, Why aren`t I this nice to people back home? ` I`ve had a South African guy buy me a custard tart waiting for a bus in Sintra, outside of Lisbon in Portugal while the wind and fog swallowed the view and my stomach grumbled. There was a French girl who more or less held-my-hand from when I got off the bus and put me on the metro on the way to my hostel here in Marseille. 

There are the stories of the wierdos too but most of those encounters are saved for frantic skype-dates with family and rapidly typed facebook chats with friends. The wierd and the wonderful, they`re all on show and all part of it. Now, I`m just enjoying the people watching, days of walking until my haviannas give me blisters, of having a cold cheap european beer at the end of a long day and curling up in my hostel bed because now I know what it`s like to be homeless for a night and can think of nothing better than a warm blanket in a room with a lock.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Alive, lost and somewhere in the world.

The funny thing about traveling by yourself is that you're actually not alone all that often. You meet people on the bus, at the train station, waiting for taxis, on walking tours and in hostels. The same misty-eyed travelers' look of confusion and awe plays across their faces and instantly you have something in common. Dazed and confused in a place you've never been.

You exchange the 'Where are you from'-s and 'Where are you going?'-s, stories of where've you been, wierd people you've met and places you've been that made you lose your shit. You go on random adventures to eat custard tarts in Belem and see turrets, playing royalty in castles and palaces in Sintra. You crawl through holes in large rocks that lead to small coves and beaches in Lagos and trawl through the thieves market in Lisbon.

And still there's the freedom of doing whatever you want, without agenda, without accountability to anybody. It still freaks me out a little. The world keeps expanding and getting smaller at the same time, but always I feel on top of the world and completely lost in it that it blows my mind. One week down, 11 to go. My life in one backpack. Though still alive, somewhere in the world.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Brave it.

I've packed up my room back into a suit case and put everything I think I'll need for 3 months of traveling into a backpack. The walls are bare and the glare from the window without a curtain looks strange, like a hostel. Shoes are packed, bags away, candles and incense sticks and things I've already collected over the last 4 months in enviro-bags at the foot of my bed.

Alternating between bouts of nervousness and denial, one empty room later it's all starting to hit me. The trips I've done so far have been mini-holidays, often over-packing and having too many summer dresses, being too well prepared, having familiar faces around and always heading home just as my bed was getting cold.

This time I'll be heading out on my own, trying not go robbed (hey, I've got a pretty good track record so far), lose anything (my passport, my standards of personal hygiene, my sanity etc.) and taking everything in. It'll be two days here, three days there, a country a week or even every couple of days. It's going to be  baguette fighting in Paris to the haunts of Dracula in Romania.

Recently returning from my post-university-exam vacation in Malta, I've been thinking a lot about being brave and what that means, about the incredulity at how different travels can be. I sat cross-legged on a ferry to the crystal blue waters of Comino reading about the travels of asylum-seekers washing up on the shores of Italy, Afghans detained back home in Australia and so many others in the true recounts of Caroline Moorehead in the book 'Human Cargo'... and again it showed me something bigger, braver. I watched the trailer for 'Go back to Where you Came From' and received emails from 'Welcome to Australia'. It's these links that put things in perspective, that show me what brave is, what it looks like. Somebody traveling to live.

Again, if you haven't checked it out already have a quick squizz on Will Travel 4 Life on what's going on, how you can get involved or just read up on the issue yourself. The links for the great campaigns that are also there and you can click on the links above.

The knots in my stomach are still there and there's a lump in my throat when I think about everything that lays ahead, the hours spent in transit, sleeping in airports, watching europe through the window of a bus, train and plane, the hostel after hostel after hostel. Yet with all the amazing things I'll know I'll see its the amazing things happening in the world bringing to the fore issues of Aslyum-seekers and refugees that it gives me hope and makes me brave. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Surreal in Sevilla

Sometimes I still pinch myself because I don't believe it's real. We drove into Sevilla with the windows down pointing out all the ladies in their elaborate and gorgeous trajes, polkadots and fish-tails and large bright flowers on top of their heads. We changed into dresses and skirts, painted our lips red and bright pink and donned heavy, oversized earrings. Walking the streets we followed the crowd of decked out Spaniards in ruffles and rainbow colours, some passing us on horse back and others on carriages. We sat in a private caseta, drinking rebujitos and watching everyone from little girls to old ladies dance the Sevillana.

Life continues to feel like it's been cut straight out of a movie, the good kind, the ones that don't go straight to the shelves. And I keep thinking at some point I'll wake up and it'll all be some dream that was too good to be true. So I pinch myself sometimes just to make sure.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A little to the left of spain..


Portugal went like this. An old renovated beach house, Guns & Roses soundtrack, catching navajas, barnacles, oysters and muscles, first time catching a wave, playing checkers with pebbles, watching skin turn from brown to black, driving from beach to beach in search of the best waves, letting the dog out to run in front of the car, lessons in 'the life of a surfer', feeding an ostrich on the side of the road, standing on the cliffs above beaches and falling in love with the real sand and the crashing waves so much we confused Portugal with Australia. We ate like kings, slept like babies and forgot that life was anything but beach time. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Venga, Vamono.. Come on, let's go.

Spent the day making pancakes with strawberries and nutella, looking up festivals in Italy, hastily scribbling names of cities and countries on dates on my calendar. Last night we huddled on a bed covered in blankets peeling mandarins and watching children's movies, talking about the tricks time keeps playing on us and all the things we've done.

It's already the tail end of the first quarter of our year in Spain. The end of the settling-in honey moon period, no more trips to ikea to make a room feel like a home, no more days wagging school and heading to the beach, no more mercadona grocery shopping or sunday 'family' dinners.

Summer's coming fast and soon enough it will be time for four months of living out of a suitcase, reverting to sign language because I know nada of the language, holding maps and looking for street signs, moving from hostel to hostel, figuring out the metro, catching planes and trains and buses. It's time for free wi-fi and shiny new everything. For traveling by myself and meeting a few familiar faces along the way, in London and Madrid and Mykonos.

It just got real. It's time for hellos and goodbyes, for different countries every couple of days, every week, every month. For new phrases to learn in languages I'd never heard spoken aloud, for beaches that rival those from home, for people to create stories with, to fill gaps where the last ones had left off. It's time for tough skin and quick memories and time that's going to go quicker than I'm used to.

Here goes nothing, once again.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Climbing mountains, near-death and Twenty One years.


I've missed a plane, almost been robbed, climbed a mountain, seen the coasts of Africa and witnessed the salvation of a bird. I turned twenty-one, learned the value of time - in the minute it takes to run from one side of the airport from another, in a night - who you can meet, what can happen, whole chunks of experiences you might not even remember, or in a week - where everything changes and leaves you grasping at memories.

It's been hard to keep this updated, to think about what to do for Will Travel 4 Life, to take time outside of planning my European summer, the weekends coming up, what I'm eating for dinner, where I'm going tonight and who to invite to the next house party that as was inevitable this poor little blog got a little neglected.

Between the road trips and train rides and missed flights everything has changed. I realised how quickly things can change. You look around and can't believe where you used to stand but look ahead and there's miles, daydreams and oceans before you're where you want to be. 

We took a roadtrip and visited Ronda, built on cliffs, hidden caves and mountains with mouths that gape open and wide. We stayed in a tiny town of white-painted houses called Parauta where we slept in sleeping bags on mattresses on the floor while the dog howled and the wind blew. We climbed mountains with bushes that scraped our legs and rocks that we felt under our unprepared canvassed feet. Our stomachs growled as we walked the 3 hours and 7kilometres up the highest mountain in Malaga. Our mouths dropped as we stood on clouds watching birds flutter and the coast of Africa in the distance. 

The night before I turned twenty-one I was in Barcelona and almost got robbed. It was 6am in the morning and we were walking to a day-club. Two of us behind, walking and talking about nothing in particular. My friend turned her head and yelled, I grabbed my bag and was grabbed in turn. I had never held so fast and hard onto something in my entire life. We laughed later with racing hearts and said it was my coming-of-age ritual.

We went to Nerja where only weeks before we had named it Paradise. The calmest, freshest, clearest water. It was there we floated belly-up while the sun kissed our faces and the water froze our hands. The day we came back for the third time the waves came with a vengeance. We braved the water, and trembling from the sea-shore I watched as my friend, fatigued and weary, almost collided with a rock face. The sequence still replays in my head. We hugged her in disbelief and went for pizza and gelato.

It's these moments, that back in Australia seem to come with pauses and spaces but here seem to crash into one other, a queue of mind-freezing-moments pushing up against each other.

You don't have time to take it in, you barely have time to breathe. So you click your finger over the button of the camera and write down as many words as you can before the next set of adventures gets underway, leaving you a loss for words and memory.