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Total Immersion Tourism

11 Dec

This weekend marked the first anniversary of our leaving on our great voyage and I thought I needed to write something. Not as a couple but as me, Kimble.

I don’t think my feelings post trip have really been expressed. I think Priscill and I share a common set of feelings we don’t need to share, they go without saying but I need to document something.

The Return

While we were away I started experiencing a disconnection towards the end. I don’t know whether what I had was depression, sick of traveling or just plain homesickness but I had had enough. Even the magical cities of Paris and London had lost their shine.

Getting back home was great, for about ten seconds, until we all collapsed into a jet lagged, virally infected stupor which we didn’t recover from for almost a month. Once we were better we visited friends, ate food we missed, visited places we loved and things were wonderful. For a couple of weeks. Then reality kicked in again and we started trying to piece our old life back together. Problem was we couldn’t. Pris went back to work for her old employer which gave her some sort of semblence of normality but apart from that we couldn’t have our old place back and I couldn’t have my old job back. Not that I wanted it but the reality of our world changing forever was sinking in.

I wasn’t ready for an office job yet so set off to make the game I was working on available on more devices. The problem was, I also had to look after a two year old. The two did not mix but I spent almost three months fighting the fact only to cause myself untold dispair.

Finally I gave up and decided to look for work. The problem was that work didn’t want to come to me and I, still in denial didn’t really want to go find it. Eventually I took the initiative and landed a job very quickly. Still there as of writing this.

Itchy Feet

I am not settling into the routine of normal life very well despite being back just over six months now. I dream of the USA and Portugal every day. Perhaps glorifying it in my head like the refugee who ran away from a violent country dreams of what his homeland should be like.

We have our second daughter coming in two weeks and I want to run away to South America. I need to remind myself of how straining uprooting your life is.

Lessons Learnt

It is hard to put your life together when you so disconnect yourself from it. We and especially I, made the mistake of trying to totally cut off all attachments and even relationships to an extent when we could have saved a few. That damage is irreversible. I still feel a little lost because of it. I think before we do it again we will buy a home. It will be our base to come back to, you can always rent it off when you leave.

You can’t travel forever. Eventually you’ll start to feel homesick. Only those with truly no family, friends or attachments will avoid this. I have yet to meet such a person.

Man must work. Well Kimble must anyway. I understand some can manage to never work but I was built for the fight, to create things, it gives you purpose. Even though I was working while away it always felt like my hobby not my occupation. Make sure you have something that generates an income and feels like a responsibility if you are the type that needs purpose. Traveling itself becomes purposeless after a while. You need to tell yourself “I am working to support my travel”.

The most important lesson of all though is that we learnt that to truly experience a holiday you need to drown yourself in it, you need …

Total Immersion

Paris is not just the Eiffel tower, the Moulin Rouge and some stinky cheese. It’s living in a cramped apartment, hauling shopping up three storeys of stairs, cooking haute cusine not paying 200 euros for it in a snooty restaurant. It’s the suburbs, the markets, the people yelling at you because your French sucks.

Lisbon is more than Fado and St George castle. It’s fish fresh from the markets. More ways to prepare bacalhau than there are days in the year and more hauling shopping bags up three storeys of stairs but after you’ve walked 5 km up a steep hill with them. It’s realising you can’t just go to the shopping centre for that battery you need, it’s going from shop to shop being told to try Da Silva the instrument maker up the road who then says Henrique who owns the camera shop round the corner might have some.

Total immersion is living in a city like the locals do, eating as the locals do and attempting to communicate with the locals. It is an amazing thing and it sure scrubs all the golden shine off a place like Paris but you learn to appreciate places like never before. You’ll also be the ultimate guide for anyone wanting to visit. However, all your friends who did the whirlwind tour so many Aussies and Yanks do will be steamingly jealous.

The only problem you may find is that instead of trying somewhere new you may just find yourself going back time and time again. A short holiday somewhere new just never seeming as exciting as going back and immersing yourself again. Even if it’s just for a week.

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Back to Sydney

28 May

The 8th of May was our last day in London. Our flight back to Sydney via Hong Kong left at 10:30PM. We had a whole day to burn so we decided to rent a car and drive to Windsor for a quick visit. The day went by too fast. Kimble collected the car about 12PM, getting back to the Hilton at Canary Wharf almost 1PM. We then made our journey to Windsor getting stuck in London traffic for over an hour. We arrived in Windsor at almost 3PM. We popped into a pub near the castle and had beef and chicken pies. Afterwards we had a quick wonder around Windsor. It’s a really nice little town.

Next time I have to stop over in London for whatever reason I will choose to stay in Windsor, it’s closer to the airport too.

At about 6PM we made the 15 minute drive to Heathrow airport to drop the car off and head to Terminal 5 where we were catching our Cathay Pacif flight from. Check in was uneventful, we managed to get a whole row of seats to our selves.

We had to wait for a couple of hours before getting on the plane, so we had an early dinner at a pub style restaurant inside the terminal.
After dinner I popped into Zara. For 3 months in Europe I managed to buy NADA from Zara, partially because every time I went I was with Kimble and Camilla. Big shopping deterrents!  On my last day of travelling I managed to find a nice pair of pants and a top! Yeah!

The flight was LONG! The first flight took 13 hours, Camilla slept for most of it but I didn’t sleep well at all. We got off at Hong Kong exhausted, the stop over was a quick 1.5 hours. We took Camilla to a kiddie play area for some running around. The airport was ridiculously hot, Camilla was stripped down to just her pants.

So after a quick break from flying we got back into another plane for another 10 hours of flying. Camilla slept a little but again I barely slept.

We arrived in Sydney at 6AM on Thursday 10th of May completely exhausted. My parents were kind enough to pick us up from the Airport. It was a strange feeling arriving back. It felt like we had never left, but obviously in 5 months of travelling we had changed!

The following 2 weeks were a blur. We experienced the worst jet-lag we had in several years. I slept day and night. A couple of days after arriving we all became ill with a viral infection. It took me over a week to get over it. It probably made getting over the jet-lag that much harder because of it.

I think it will be a while before I jump on another long haul flight again!

 

Bad things comes in threes?

2 Apr

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted last.

We have been busy taking Kimble’s mum sightseeing around Lisbon.

Last week Kimble’s dad arrived from Sydney and stayed with us for three nights. We had two intense days of sighseeing. My feet were hurting so badly after day  one that on the second day I chose to stay home while they went out to visit the Fado Museum.

Kimble’s mum and dad left a couple of days ago. They have gone off on their own European adventure, travelling around Italy, France and the UK. The apartment felt very empty the day after they left. We didn’t do much for three whole days. It’s been hard getting used to getting up early again. Margaret was such an angel looking after Camilla first thing in the morning while both Kimble and I slept in until about 10am.  We are slowly getting used to our old life and have re-introduced the sleep in roster.

Over the last week lots of bad things have happened.
Anxiety levels are currently high!
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  1. Kimble’s laptop slows down to a halt and he can’t work. One day his computer decides to not start. We discovered that the hard drive had lots of bad sectors,  it took over two days to fix it. He still needs a new hard drive and we have no idea where to find cheap hardware in Lisbon. But for now his computer is working again.
  2. Car Accident. I get a call from my parents saying that they received a call from Chatswood Police Station. It appears that my 10 year old Daewoo Lanos which is parked outside Kimble’s parents home has been hit by a car. I  recently renewed the rego, spent almost 800 bucks for a car I probably won’t drive again. Luckily the idiot who hit my car is a Mercedez owner and has insurance. Fingers crossed the insurer writes off the old bugger and give us some cash. Annoying that we are not going to have a car when we get back but hopefully we will get more $$ than we would if we sold it privately. Check out the damage.  
  3. Lost 280 Euros.We had initially planned to stay in Portugal for 3 months, but we changed our minds and decided to go to Paris instead. Our flights are frequent flyer flights.  We decided that we didn’t want to use the Lisbon to London flight we had originally booked.  I went ahead and booked all the transport and accommodation for Paris.We decided to do a stopover in Hong Kong which we didn’t book before we left Sydney. So I rang Qantas to tell them of our new plans and advise them that I would like the Lisbon to London flight cancelled and use the unused stopover for Hong Kong.The very unhelpful Qantas staff says  It couldn’t be changed and if we didn’t turn up to the to London flight they would cancel our last flight back home (London to Sydney) out of the computer system. Everything I booked for Paris is NON-REFUNDABLE!! arghhh. We had no choice but to book a flight back to Lisbon so we can catch our Qantas flight and not have our flight home cancelled. Plus we lose the Eurorail tickets I had booked.  So on the 3rd of May we have to fly back to Lisbon to catch our original Qantas London flight leaving on the 4th of May. What a pain! I wish I had called Qantas before I made our plans for Paris. Oh well, live and learn.[/ordered_list]
Do you believe in the old saying “Bad things comes in threes”? We are feeling very annoyed with all these bad things happening,  fingers crossed nothing else bad happens.

Our time in Lisbon is running out. We have thirteen more days before we head to Paris.  In two days time  we move to our next rental apartment closer to the centre of Lisbon. We have been extra lazy ever since Kimble’s mum left and we still have a whole bunch of places we have been meaning to visit for the last 2 months which we haven’t. By being closer to the action we hope to actually get off our butts and visit these places.

Change of plans

20 Mar

We had initially planned to stay in Portugal for three months. This decision was based around three things:
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  1. Money. Portugal is very cheap in comparison to cities like Spain and France. For two months worth of accommodation we  spent 1,300 Euros. That works out as 21.50 Euros per day!
  2. Weather. We wanted to live in a country that would be warmer during the winter months. Portugal met that expectation, most days have been around 18-25C and we  only had a handful of cloudy and rainy days.
  3. Ability to communicate. I wanted a coutry where I could easily communicate with the locals. Speaking Portuguese met that criteria for me and Kimble has actually learned some new words. He is not fluent, but much better than before.

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So what has changed?

Our stay at the rental accommodation in Lisbon ends on the 4th of April. We were trying to work out where to go next and felt like we had to explore more of Europe. After all it seems silly to only stay in one country for three whole months. So after much research and budget crunching we decided to go to France!

We are now spending 18 nights in Paris. Our EasyJet flight is booked for departure on 15 April. I found a nice apartment in the 16 arrodisement for 1,740 Euros, this is tre expensive considering we paid less for 2 whole months in Portugal. But I figure this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we don’t want to get back to Sydney and regret not having gone to Paris. It will break the budget but I hope it will be worth it.

The next challenge is to figure out where to go after Lisbon. Before we head to Paris we still have 11 nights in Portugal that needs to be planned out soon. Especially since it’s over the Easter break. We are thinking of going to the Alentejo region which is suppose to be very pretty, but I am unsure of where exactly to go.

I find it extremely frustrating not knowing where I am going next and not having accommodation booked. But these things always work themselves out and we always ed up with a place to stay.

Travelling with a toddler is exhausting. what were we thinking?

2 Feb

I never thought I would say this…but I am tired of travelling! It has been two months since we began our trip and I can honestly say that I am exhausted and in need of a babysitter!  Travelling with a 17 month old toddler is hard work!

Don’t read this the wrong way. I love my daughter but travelling  kid free is so much easier. Here is what I miss:

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  • Relaxing meal time
    I miss just having to feed myself. It would be nice to have a meal without having to chase a toddler around, tell her not to walk on the table, ask her to stop crying. We can’t eat out for dinner any longer. It’s takeaway every night!
  • Visiting museums and  galleries
    Visiting museums are not the same anymore. I can’t read or appreciate the exhibits. Again, it’s all about chasing Camilla and making sure we don’t lose her. I don’t know why we keep going back. It’s so tiring! I always leave exhausted and keep telling Kimble  “no more museums!”.
  • Relaxing at the hotel at the end of the day
    Pre kids we would go back to the hotel and just relax. This is no longer possible. It’s all about entertaining Camilla or making sure she doesn’t kill herself by climbing on furniture. We are lucky if we get two or three hours to ourselves after she goes to sleep and that’s if she goes to sleep at all.
  • Routine
    Toddlers love routine! At least Cami loved her routine before we dragged her around the world. Some days were just awful as she would get over tired and scream her head off! Refuse to sleep, you get the picture. Not pretty!
  • Babysitting
    We miss  our parents who would babysit for us whenever we wanted giving us time to ourselves.
  • Traveling Light
    We used to travel with two backpacks and small day packs. Now, we travel with a 100 litre suite case, 65 litre backpack, camera/laptop backpack, stroller, car seat, porta- cot, toys, nappies, formula. You get the picture!
  • Relaxing at the beach or by the Pool
    Gone are the days where I could sit by the pool and read a book or go for a swim without having a toddler attached to me or worrying that she is going to drown.
  • Sleeping in
    On our honeymoon back in 2009 I remember sleeping in until 11am. Ahhh those were the days! No more. These days we’re lucky if we get  to sleep in until 8am. Most days we are up by 7-7:30am.
  • Relaxing during Flights
    I used to love long haul flights.  My goal was to watch as many movies as possible before landing at the destination. Now I dread long haul flights. I don’t get to watch any movies or even read a book. I run up and down isles making sure I don’t loose Camilla. When everyone is trying to sleep it’s the worst, if she cries you get the dirty looks! If you are a parent, you know what I mean. I learned to smile back, that shuts them up! There is no point in feeling bad for others, there is only so much a parent can do to keep their child happy.
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Before I left on this trip I knew that it wouldn’t be anything like our previous travels, but I miss the things listed above BIG time! Two months of traveling down another four months to go! Camilla has been really good for most part and has  adapted amazingly well to the constant changing environment.

I’m hoping life in Portugal will seem less like a holiday and more normal as we won’t be moving around as much.

 

USA: Love & Hate

31 Jan

After spending two months in the USA we have compiled a list of what we loved and what we hated about the USA.

LOVED:

  • Cheap petrol – A gallon was on average $3. We spent  just under $400 on our 45 day road trip.
  • Huge food portions which were excellent value for money! Rather than ordering two main dishes we would only order one.
  • Cheap booze. – Kimble loved the cheap beer. Much cheaper than back home. Lucky because he could have drunk the budget in a few days.
  • Dishes are complete meals – In Australia you order the curry and all you get is curry. In the USA you get rice, condiments and sides.
  • 80 miles per hour freeways in Texas. The drive went by so much faster.
  • Cheap public transport – We only used the subway in Washington and NY.  For less than $3 you can go anywhere.
  • Mexican Food in California, Arizona and Texas. In the beggining of our trip we went crazy with Mexican food. That was all we ate for the first few weeks.
  • Florida in Winter – We were there in January and everyday was over 23C. It was just a perfect winter getaway.
  • Drive-through – In the car loving cities people do not get out of their cars for anything. T+he queues to the drive through were longer than the queue inside the store. It was faster to park, get out of the car, order your meal than go through the drive through which is supposed to be the most convenient option.

HATED:

  • Most USA cities are built for driving. We missed walking!
  • Coffee tastes like pencil shavings.
  • Confusing names for dishes – Mains are called entrees.  Entrees are called appetizers. You can imagine how confused we were the first time we went to Panda Express, it took 10 minutes to work out what was what.
  • Been stuck inTraffic in LA, San Antonio, Houston, Florida. Just terrible!
  • Chinese food – All the restaurants we went to are full of sweet dishes like orange chicken, bourbon chicken. Highly addictive, but not real Chinese.
  • Expensive one-way car rental hire –For a period of 37 days we paid over $1,800. We could have bought a car for that much!
  • American Flags every where. Yes, we get you love your country but how many flags are needed. Texas was the worst offender. The photo below was taken in New York.
  • Too much processed food. When you can’t cook for yourself it’s difficult to find healthy nutritional meals. It was always easier to pick up a fast food option that was highly processed. Even a loaf of bread had thirty ingredients in it.
  • Medical advertising – When you get sick in Australia you visit the doctor and hope they give you the best care. In the USA there are ads for medications you probably don’t need and for hospitals outcompeting each other. It all seems sick to me how commercialised medicine is here.
  • Spanish – Ok what’s the official language in this country? English or Spanish? There seems to be millions here who get away with never speaking a word of English