The Travel Bug Episode 1: The Adventure Begins

The Travel Bug

Author’s Note

DaveHi, I’m Dave and this is a collection of stories and experiences I have had whilst travelling around the world. I have been in the habit of blogging on my Facebook page about these experiences and a few of my friends and family indicated I should collate these experiences and possibly write a book about it. I do not consider myself and writer and at times my lack of ability with basic grammar may come through so I do apologise.

This is not really travels guide like the Lonely Planet and it’s not a fictional story. I have not included any names of friends but I am sure some will recognise themselves in places. I hope I do not offend anyone by not mentioning them specifically, or worse not mentioning any detail at all regarding them. So if you feel slighted at all, I’m sorry.

I am focusing on three trips I have made; these include a brief recollection of driving around Australia for a year (2004), a more detailed account of North America, South America and Eastern Europe (2008), and a third trip to Central America and North America (2012). I have also included very brief details of what motivated me to travel through living in the United Kingdom for two years, 1999 – 2000 and how it shaped my personality.

Daves Travels

I wish I could also go into more detail about my time living there but I was not in the habit of writing at that time, I tended to be more focused on work, socialising and drinking an excessive amount  of pints.

Currently I believe I have travelled 50 countries and that may not sound much to a veteran traveller. I have been away from home for 5 of the past 14 years which is quite some time I figure. Continents I have not been to include Africa and the Antarctica though I tend to remedy that with a trip to South Africa in 2014 along with more USA and Europe (it is very expensive to head to Antarctica; though I have investigated it, I suspect I won’t however as I do not like the cold and I travel on a light budget).

I believe through these travels I have changes as a person and it those changes have been a positive for me. I also hope to travel a lot more in the future as there is way too much to see out there and so little time.. I am thinking of settling down and possibly getting a mortgage and a domestic situation which I have always viewed as sacrificing the travel experience, though others may know better though and as I have not travelled as part of a couple then I do not really know what that is like. (Note that nowadays I am not necessarily against the idea, it currently just has not worked out that way).

I do know for me, travelling by myself, meeting new people and being completely self-reliant has been a wonderful growing experience and that it’s best to do whilst young so as to get the most out of the experience. The reason I say that is living on a budget, being or getting fit and all aspects that entail being young is fantastic when one is out there in the world. However in saying that, you’re never too old to travel. I still think travelling is the best thing one can do. 


Editor’s Note

EdWelcome to “The Travel Bug” a collection of stories written by my good friend Dave, reprinted here with his permission.

I’ve known Dave for a very looooong time now and we’ve had many adventures together. Sadly, we have not travelled together and these adventures are purely his own.

This series of adventures fulfills 2 objectives:

  • For Dave – he is able to relive his journey and broadcast the stories via this medium
  • For me – I’m able to read his story (finally!), practice basic editing and apply some design which I hope will really bring his story to life.

At the time of writing, Dave is planning to travel some more and he will therefore have even more stories to tell.

But for now this series is already loaded, with his own journal close to having 100 pages of great fun and adventure!

Without further ado, let’s hear it from one of the most well-travelled persons I know.

PC


Prelude – 1998 to 2004

How it all began

Well I guess it started around 1998, I was out night clubbing in Kings Cross when I ran across a man who described himself as Rastafarian, a rather huge black English guy of Jamaican decent. His most notable feature besides his size were several gold chains hanging around his neck. I discussed in a lengthy conversation about London and music, I was in the Underground nightclub on Bayswater Road.

Jamaica Man

To describe this as a rather heroic move on my part was quite an understatement. Despite my near recent discovery of drinking beer, bars, night clubs, I’d say my ability to socialise could do with a little work and I wanted to expand my horizons. My social group did not really go beyond school friends and a few workmates and holidays as an adult for me (same as a child) was a visit my grandparents in Melbourne.

Women were a complete mystery to me when it came to romance, scoring, pulling, picking-up, one night stands all were an alien unheard-of-language. It was not as though I was completely clueless with women, I did have several friends that were girls and was quite comfortable in the “friend zone”. However moving past that was almost impossible for me (keep in mind I was also 24 so a bit of a late bloomer). After this brief conversation I decided that it was time to pack up Australia, uproot my life and head overseas.

In short I was a bit of a nerdy type though not in a studious, motivated smart enough way to attend university. My major hobby besides newly discovered beer was to play a lot of sport, however I did possess any  particular skill or ability that would lead me to playing Australian Rules football or cricket for Australia, though I did play for Mt Colah D2’s, quite a few levels below the test team (the furthest point from). I also liked to spend a lot of time driving, whether it was in Sydney or out to rural areas. Essentially I was shy and in need of a change

After thinking more and more about this “move” overseas, I discussed the idea with my mates who were very supportive though none of them had been overseas at the time. I then went and applied for my United Kingdom tourist visa. About a month after being granted the visa I was on my way. I resigned from my job as a Fund Administrator in the field of Superannuation and packed up. At the airport my old man mentioned “I’ll see you in a month or so”. Feeling sick to my stomach and very apprehensive, I wholeheartedly agreed with him.

I did not see my old man for 2 years.

To England via Japan

Leg 1 Japan UK

Japan

On the way through to the UK, I firstly travelled with a friend from high school, firstly to Japan to the city of Kobe to stay with another friend this was January of 1999. I had always had an interest in Japan, this stemmed from reading James Cavell’s Shogun, samurais, Bushido and Zen was something that very much interested me at the time. I actually spent a couple of years studying the language, none of it really stuck though I could get by with very few basics, to this day I have not the skill (or patience) for languages. The first thing I noticed about the Japanese is that it never seemed to bother them if you never made an effort in the language, unlike a lot of other countries I have visited since.

I spent 3 weeks there, travelling around on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) from town to town, checking out Tokyo and the party district of Roppongi (lots of night clubs), then down to Hiroshima, Nagasaki,  and Kyoto.

The first hostel ever stayed at outside of Nagasaki, I ended up playing cards with a very old Japanese guy, and I offered him a 20c AUS coin, he grinned from ear to ear, went away for 20 min and then came back in full WW2 Japanese kit including a katana (sword). He then gave me some Japanese currency from World War 2.

This travelling about was starting to appeal already and my hang ups were starting to fade.

The ‘LVE Boat’

My friend and I left Japan and flew to the United Kingdom; we were booked into a Contiki trip, basically a three week excursion for young foreigners around Europe. I suppose it was intended as a cultural experience, but to be honest I think it was more about getting drunk, making friends and hoping to pull a girl at the end of the night. Considering myself as shy, the idea of a package tour with a group of 50 new best friends very much appealed to me and it’s a good way to get around if you are not into planning or thinking ahead. I also thought it would be a good way to connect with people that might be doing the same as myself and moving to London. However besides my friend, no one else did this and lost contact with everyone on that trip not long after. Unfortunately Hotmail was not the best way to keep in touch with people and Facebook was not going to be around for a while.

The holiday itself was a bit of a haze, we travelled from England to Paris, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and then back to England. The trip took in all the major tourist cities over three weeks. The people whom I did meet were pretty cool and I even managed a few “romances” on the tour, as far as girls and not being in the friend zone, this travelling was working out for me much better than Sydney already.

We were holidaying through winter which was an interesting time to see Europe. The Winter Carnival was in full effect in a few of the countries we visited, face painting, wearing of masks and celebrating winter was great fun though I never really found out what the celebration was about (no Wikipedia at the time). I can’t really go into too much detail about this holiday as I was not writing and would I do not consider these “tours” as adventure holidays or backpacking (which is the focus of these stories). It was however a great way to visit several places quickly and in safety. I also used it to discover places I subsequently went back to visit later. At the time it suited my shy former self, however, I would not recommend such tours now as it was difficult to meet locals and get a sense of the places, also being on a set time from one country to the next means you cannot stay where you are if you wish too.

England

After the trip, my friend and I parted ways and I spent the next couple of months depressed, it was winter in England and I was living in Croydon (a depressing place enough without the cold), I had a few friends a couple from back home that looked after me for a while and helped me to get set up, which I very much appreciated. However that was not a longer term situation and I ended up living in flat share with a 50s + homeowner for the next few months proved to be pretty quiet.

My first job was working in St Helias hospital as a cleaner for 3.50 pounds an hour and by anyone’s standard this was pretty miserly. The only memorable thing about that job I suppose was working in a geriatric word for old women that had outlived their families. I had a lot of conversations with these women whom had no one too talk too and on more than one occasion, passed on whilst I was working there. It was all quite sad really and occasionally very sad indeed.

A month later I picked up a job working accounts receivable at a department store for twice the money, that was actually less than half of what I was earning back home. I had heard stories of people doubling their income in the UK, however this was not my experience and I was starting to question what I was still doing here? Fortunately a few of my mates from home moved over and it was quickly determined that we should get an apartment together in the area of Brixton, South West London or SW9. The next 18 months I was there were some of the best and worst times of my life. I had a variety of low paying administration jobs which culminated in working at the Millennium Dome as an accounts officer. The Dome was one of the biggest wastes of government taxes on essentially a tent, which closed down prematurely. My role essentially was on the phone refusing to pay out contractors for legitimate services as the private sponsors had pulled out all money for sponsorship leaving the government to fund the project (who was also running out of money).    

I eventually lost my job there due to advances from my rather rotund boss who made sexual advances towards me at the work Christmas party, to which I laughed heartily…. The following day I was out of work.

Other highlights included making many new friends and essentially remoulding me from the shy type sometimes having difficulty meeting people, too an outgoing, friendly, centre of the party type person. This included making friends with all my neighbours in my block, befriending every Australian that came across my path, loads of alcohol, and going out 7 nights a week as I never got hangovers (this unfortunately is no longer the case). I went to a lot of club nights, travelling from London to Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester, Leeds etc. to check the world’s best DJ’s and dance and clown about. Also at this time, I started spending a lot of time at the Walkabout hotels in London (Australian theme bar) where I quickly met successive girls, engaged in several “Romances” and subsequently managed to see past the “friend zone” which I relished with aplomb. London was a great time.

The low lights I suppose was losing my best friend at the time over an argument that may have been about a women, though it was more to do with how I dealt with friends back home and how they treated me and now I how I viewed myself and expected to be treated. I had always felt like a follower of my school mates, those and others that I met through them in my early 20’s (Note -school friends from my grade, not other school friends that I met through my brother from lower grades which I am friends with now) and I did not feel their equal and was often humiliated or made fun of. I discovered it was easy to make friends and reinvent myself in the UK and those that put me down no longer had to be part in my life. Growing up is the same for everyone, gain new friends and lose contact with the old, living in the UK I guess was more dramatic regarding this as I was far away from home.

Another low light I suppose was being held up at a bank in Kennington, two Rastafarians held what could have been a knife to my back and robbed me. I argued with them and was subsequently stabbed, I then attempted to punch one of them too which he laughed and said “Is that the best you got man?” I had a few stitches, from this I learned that I should bulk up a bit and also I was a lot less fearful than I used to be. I figured if that didn’t scare me so much, then there were a lot of other places and potential situations I did not have to fear, even this had a positive and consequentially growing effect on my mind.

The love for travelling

Love for Travel Bug

In the time I was there, I also discovered the love of travel, this initially started with weekends away to places such as Berlin, Barcelona, Paris and other European capitals. London was like home and so going to these other places was a holiday, just very frequent as Europe was so close to the doorstep. I met up with European girls I had met in London or I’d chase down a DJ at a club event I wished to attend. I then spent a week in Ibiza clubbing as much as possible; this involved a lot of cash and the place totally blew my mind and I totally loved every minute of dancing, night clubs were the reason I headed to England and Ibiza was mentally the grand finale of night clubs, it’s the best way I can put it. I do occasionally go to nightclubs now and am partial festivals but after Ibiza the night club scene had less of a hold on me. A week after Ibiza, I was on the way to being a backpacker or if you prefer, an independent traveller.

Backpacking

My first backpacking experience was through the islands of Greece and bussing about Turkey then Thailand. This trip took approximately 6 weeks and was one of the best of my life, mainly because I discovered in my mind the point of travelling.

Travelling isn’t setting in a place and pursuing a lifestyle that you would back home, which in many ways London was. It’s actually moving about from place to place, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and the glorious unpredictability of it all.

Travelling is not knowing what’s going to happen next and whilst clubbing, drinking and “romancing” was and is good fun, I have never found it compares to not knowing what’s going to happen next.

Greece

The Greek Islands involved travel with a mate and lot of partying with fellow travellers, I also spent a lot of time going to temples and visiting museums, 3 Unit Ancient History at school was the only subject I passed. The Athenian Agora was a highlight was it was a favourite subject in school. The islands involved staying in several hostels and meeting other independent travellers that were not part of any tours, Contiki or otherwise. I was also not on a time clock so could move about when I felt like (though I did end up back home a couple of months later due to lack of funds and a loan from my parents).

Turkey

I travelled the majority of Turkey by myself and became self-reliant. This involved taking bus’s and sailing about Western Turkey, seeing many historical sights and experiencing the friendliness of locals, I actually ended up heading there again 10 years later because I enjoyed it so much.

Thailand

I then said my goodbyes to London and headed to Thailand for a few weeks this involved train travel down south a bit of partying, letting my beard go, not many showers and downing Red Bull in a haze at the Full Moon Dance party.

I was dreading returning home after two years away, it would be good to see that family but the idea of getting a job and reality generally was a scary thought.

Back home

Upon returning to Australia I was immediately depressed, I believe this is quite common for the overseas traveller or an expat, I guess what’s not so common is how I went about fighting this feeling of boredom. I guess most people start looking ahead to the next phase of their life, settle down with a partner, focus on their careers, get a pet, start a family etc. I sat around counting down the days before I could go again; the trip however had maxed out several credit cards and a parental loan which took a few years to pay back. Unfortunately my love of travel had also affected my judgement when it came to finances; something I still struggle with today (though less now), I found that it’s hard to justify the idea of getting a mortgage or a wife when Buenos Aires is only a 13 hour flight away.

I spent the next few years going up the work food chain to where I eventually got a role in Information Technology. I am thankful for this, not just because of the challenge the work can involve, but also the higher salary. This has allowed me to take more some excellent trips and pay the debt off quicker than it would of, say in an administration job like I had before I left for the UK.

I also started up a household in Bondi Junction which involved work mates at the time, UK friends and their friends coming over to stay and live in the house I had leased. If I wasn’t going to get overseas anytime soon, I was then going to bring overseas to me. This subsequently involved a similar lifestyle to one that I had in London, I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as Sydney was way too familiar to me, but good times and friendships ensued, unfortunately  the house didn’t hold up to well and I lost my bond by the time we parted ways.

The next trip I had intended was too head to Ireland on a working visa, very much in the same vein as what I had done in London. Unfortunately 6 weeks into my trip, my father fell very ill and I had to return to Australia, by the time my father recovered I had already settled back into Sydney and I figured my travelling days were over, at least extended trips anyway…… However something always bugged me about being back in Sydney, mainly the amount of backpacker friends that I had made had seen more of Australia than I had. This was becoming more and more frustrating and I essentially decided to put an end to this by quitting my job, jumping in my utility and headed off to backpack Australia…….

Dave


Backpack

In the next episode, we follow Dave around Australia in his Ute. It’s a monstrous ride once again right in Dave’s (our) own backyard!

We do hope to see you guys then.

Notes:

  1. World map courtesy of http://www.southernseaventures.com/choose-your-trip/world-map/
  2. At some point, we will release ‘The Travel Bug’ in pictures to really bring some of these stories to life.
  3. If you so happen to have any comments, I am sure Dave will be happy to take them and answer via this blog.

[ Dave: unless I’m actually overseas travelling somewhere, it can be distracting :) ]

Read: Part 2 Travelling Around Australia (part 1) now

Ed


The Travel Bug

The Travel Bug is a collaboration project that goes through Dave’s travel journals around the world.

Dave is a Technology specialist by day and social butterfly by night.  He is scheduled for yet another trip in May – July ’14.

PC likes getting the job done by day and writes, designs and codes during his spare time. He also enjoys having a drink with Dave and hearing his tall travel tales.

We hope to entertain you through this collection of stories.

Bug Creators


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