What’s Going On?
It’s been a busy and exciting few weeks for me at Aussie on the Road. Not only have I produced a pair of sponsored posts and picked up an ad partner in the form of Getaway Lounge – but I’ve also got my first two guest posts coming out really soon. Keep your eyes on Gap Daemon for my piece on the concept of doing a Farewell Tour with somebody you have to love and leave.
There’s also my first piece going up for Glenfiddich Explorers – I run off my favorite nine beach bars in the world. Watch this space for a more detailed run-down of my picks as well.
My travel savings fund sits at over $500 now, which isn’t bad for a month that included paying to move my internet service and paying off bond on my new place in Sydney’s inner west. I might just make it to back to Fiji before winter next year.
My Travel A to Z
After my abysmal failure at completing the 30 Day Travel Challenge earlier this year, I’ve developed a bit of a reluctance to participate in the chain letter style things that occasionally do the rounds in travel blogging circles.
But the teenage kid who used to hang out on Quizbox.com for countless hours just can’t resist the urge to answer questions. Especially when they’re about two of my favorite topics: travel and me.
I got the nod from Raymond over at Man on the Lam and with nothing better to do while I sit on hold with one of my colleagues, I thought I’d give it a crack.
A: Age you made your first international trip
I was an embarassingly late bloomer on this front. I didn’t board my first plane until an overcast November afternoon in 2007. At the ripe old age of 23 I was off on my first overseas trip and I was doing it for a year in a country in which I didn’t speak a word of the language or know a soul.
It was a terrifying and heart-breaking experience to move away from my comfort zone and my fantastic family, but it changed my life. Best decision I ever made.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
I’d like to say I tried some remarkable Korean beers (they don’t exist) or that I fell in love with something like Fijian Vonu – but the best beers I found were some of the microbrews I sampled during my brewery tour in Portland, Oregon. I can’t split the brilliant beers I sampled at Rogue or Widmer breweries, and I think I’ll always have more than a soft spot for the humble Bud Lite as well.
Honorable mention goes to some of the Aussie microbrews I’ve tried. The 4 Pines Kolsch is remarkable but doesn’t quite qualify as foreign, even if I do have to ride a boat to drink it.
C: Cuisine (Favorite)
If I could nominate places I’ve fallen in love with the food of but haven’t been to, it would be a dead heat between fragrant Thai and authentic Mexican. But since I’ve never set foot in either of these bucket list worthy destinations, the honor really does have to go to Korea.
Say what you will about the lack of seasoning in their seafood or the reliance on the wet dog smelling kimchi, but in my eyes you can’t beat a communal galbi meal or a good serve of spicy ddeok galbi. I miss my post drinks twigim (deep fried everything) and my visits to Paris Baguette for too-sweet interpretations on Western breads and pastroes.
D: Destinations. Favorite. Least Favorite. Why.
My favorite destination so far would have to have been New Zealand. I’m sure Amanda from A Dangerous Business can relate 100% to my love for the shaky isle. I don’t think there’s a place on earth with more natural beauty and more remarkable contrasts. Franz Josef and Milford Sound alone were mind-blowing.
I haven’t had a least favorite yet. I really can’t say that any one overseas trip has been bad or underwhelming in any way. I’ve been lucky.
E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’
Aside from being overawed at the awareness that I was standing on another continent when I first stepped out of Incheon International Airport and into the icy air?
I was nerdishly excited when I got the chance to stand out front of the Goonies house in Astoria, Oregon in 2009. Having been brought up on what I still believe to be one of the best kids movies of all time, it gave me more than a little bit of a fuzzy feeling.
Points also go to standing on top of Franz Josef Glacier last year; scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and realizing it wasn’t at all terrifying; and first kisses had with girls I’d never have met if I hadn’t taken the plunge and stepped out of my comfort zone.
F: Favorite mode of transportation
It’s got to be the big jet plane.
Everytime I hear the engine pick up and feel that first surge as we jet along the runway I feel my heart skip a beat. It only gets better as there’s that moment of almost weightlessness as wheels leave tarmac and we’re en route to a new adventure. Whether it’s been jetting off to a new country, returning home after a long time abroad, or just heading someplace for a few days away: I’ve never had a journey start with a plane ride that hasn’t been a whole lot of fun.
When I’m not flying? I’m a big fan of the humble walk. You see so much more and it’s healthy. Can’t knock that.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling
I almost went with Raymond’s comment about not knowing what’s coming yet. There is undoubtedly something freeing about having no idea what comes next.
But I’m going to be cheesy and stick with the hopeless romantic motif that seems to pervade this blog and say it’s the thrill of meeting a kindred spirit a thousand miles from home. I’ve known (in the Biblical sense even) some wonderful and beautiful girls while on the road, but I’ve also made some friends who have persevered well beyond our time together.
I’ve had relative strangers hold my hand and pray with me in the street when I was having a rough night. I’ve plucked up the courage to flirt with pretty girls and friends run interference on rival suitors for me.
I’ve been wired money, had an old high school friend travel across the entire Korean peninsula to be with me for my first birthday away from home, had friends take me to flower shows to cheer me up, and had more drunken deep and meaningfuls than I care to remember.
To say that I’ve been blessed with a remarkable run of luck with meeting people – friends, lovers, well wishers, and drinking buddies – is an understatement. It’s the facet of travel I miss most while I’m penned up at home.
H: Hottest place I’ve traveled to
While Phoenix, Arizona was definitely not cool and Gwangju in South Korea summoned up some God awful humidity in my two summers there – it really wouldn’t be fair to go past my experiencing living and traveling around the New South Wales outback as a kid.
While it wasn’t technically travel as I do it now, I spent a total of two years living and traveling around the scorching red centre. When I was seven and eight I lived in Tibooburra in the far north western corner of the state and experienced the surreal experience of getting horrendous burns on my feet while running between my house and the school barefoot.
There was a real beauty to the way the heat shimmered off the red earth and the almost complete lack of trees. Watching flocks of emu run about and waking up to a pair of kangaroos rifling through the tangle of near dead weeds that passes as a garden. It was a wonderful experience and one I’d love to sample again now that I’m old enough to appreciate it.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
Korea has a really interesting service culture. While there’s definitely an undercurrent of xenophobia that means you’ll sometimes be treated like a second class citizen for daring to step foot in a restaurant or store – the country has this wonderful obsession with ‘service’. This can come in the form of a free can of green tea with your purchase at a 7-11 or the abundance of free snacks and side dishes served up in bars and restaurants.
The best I’ve experienced?
It was a stinking hot summer afternoon and I was fresh back from a visit to a thoroughly underwhelming Korean ‘beach’ that seemed more open sewer than beach. The sky overhead was ominously dark and the rumbling of thunder didn’t give me enough warning, and a torrential summer downpour caught me a few blocks from my apartment.
I ducked inside the local Paris Baguette where I shivered and gratefully accepted a free cup of tea. Seeing that I was drenched, the elderly woman who owned the shop ducked into the back and returned with an umbrella. She gestured for me to take it and explained using her limited English that I could return it tomorrow.
It was a simple thing, but it was greatly appreciated.
J: Journey that took you the longest
My flight from South Korea to the United States in 2009. Not only was it a grueling 24+ hours including stopovers, but it also felt like forever because I was excited about seeing my then-girlfriend for the first time in two weeks. That trip just wouldn’t end!
K: Keepsake from your travels
Despite being something of a hoarder in my younger years, living out of a suitcase and knowing you could only take that one suitcase with you when returned home has meant I’ve had to be a bit more ruthless. I’ve managed to take back a few love letters and photos from my times abroad, that’s been about the extent of it.
L: Let down sight. Why and where?
I guess I was a little underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon after I spent a bit of time there, the feeling I felt when I first saw it was enough to say it wasn’t a let down.
I’m a guy who is very easily pleased. I used to tell girls that I was ‘easy’ when they’d ask what I wanted for dinner or where I wanted to go this coming weekend, and that holds true when I travel. I’m happy as long I am on the road and with good people. I don’t do disappointed.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
I think the first time I stopped, looked at my life, and went ‘Wow, I’m a lucky guy’ was at the Boryeong Mud Festival in 2008. I had just gone through my first adult break-up and definitely dwelt on it to an almost emo level, but as I stood out in the Yellow Sea with fireworks bursting overhead and dozens of newly made friends in the water around me or back on the shore, I realized I was living the dream.
I haven’t looked back since.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
I’m tempted to give further props to Lazy Paddles, but comfortable doesn’t really equate to nice.
The nicest hotel I’ve ever been in would probably be the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. It wasn’t particularly orante, but it had a freaking waterslide through a mother-freaking shark tank! That’s awesome!
Plus it had a pretty sweet pool, a big comfortable bed, and gave us free beer while we gambled ten cents at a time on the video poker screens.
I’m not really a lap of luxury kind of guy, obviously.
O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
I’ve noticed that I can’t resist taking a shot of a road, path, or bridge centered in the shot. I’ll include a few examples below just so you can experience the full width and breadth of my depravity.
P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?
I feel like I just came up short in a dick measuring contest with Raymond. Four passports and over forty countries? Way to make a guy feel inadequate!
I’ve been to a paltry seven countries outside of Australia and New Zealand didn’t even have the decency to stamp my passport on account of me being an Aussie. There are a trio of Korean E-2 visas and one shiny looking Chinese tourism visa as well.
But I have a great personality girls, honest!
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.
This has hands down got to be Love Land in South Korea. I won’t rattle off details here. Go read about it in my entry about Hot Sexy Sex in South Korea.
R: Recommended sight, event, or experience.
As I said earlier, I’m a man who is easily pleased. I find it hard not to recommend something I’ve done because chances are I enjoyed it.
If I absolutely had to nominate one, it would be the full day climb on Franz Josef Glacier. The temptation might be there to wimp out for a half-day but trust me – a day on the glacier still isn’t enough time.
S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while traveling.
The occasional good meal. I still haven’t full recovered from my epic binge at Hard Rock Cafe in Port Denerau, Fiji.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done
Spending a day wandering around Dream World and snapping photos like an over-eager Japanese day tripper. I drew a lot of odd looks from locals who couldn’t figure out why an Aussie guy was so excited in his picture taking.
Wandering around the Grand Canyon snapping photos was pretty touristy too.
U: Unforgettable travel memory
All of them! I have a bit of a steel trap memory for experiences. I couldn’t say which stood out the most. This whole site is a monument to them.
V: Visas. How many of them and for where.
I accidentally answered this earlier. Three Korean E-2 visas and a Chinese tourist visa.
W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where.
You know, I honestly don’t think I let a single glass of wine pass my lips while I was out on the road.
While the old cask of goon was a staple in my University diet and I’ve indulged a wee bit more in my time back in Australia, I think the only good wine tasing experience I’ve had has been over-indulging on wine at the Sydney Good Food & Wine Festival.
I couldn’t tell you what it was called, but my hangover the next day would seem to indicate that I liked it.
X: eXcellent view and from where
Sneaky sneaky. I was wondering how you’d cover ‘X’.
The Grand Canyon was pretty stunning, but I can’t go past Milford Sound. It wasn’t necessarily a traditional ‘from on high’ view – but look at the evidence! How can you not be blown away by that?
Y: Years spent traveling
Not nearly enough. Raymond got that right.
I’ve been traveling on and off for four years now, but only about two and a half of those have been spent continually out on the road.
I really need to fix that.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where
Coming from a nation of zealous sports fans, I’d have to give the tip of the hat to the South Koreans and their passionate love of the South Korean national football team.
It’s matched only by their love of whichever team is playing Japan.
You Got Tagged
Since Raymond has gone ahead and tagged Mica from Kaypacha Travels, I’ll throw out five different names.
- Nicole from Bitten by the Travel Bug
- Byron from Byron and his Backpacks
- Samuel from Nomadic Samuel
- Anthony from Man vs Clock
- Mel from The Mellyboo Project
Have at it kids!