Tales of a Passport

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I am a person who can be described as ‘quite attached to’ her passport. I recently got a new passport as my old one expired and I wasn’t excited about this at all. This was not only because it cost me close to 450 Aussie dollars, but because my old one is just fine thank you very much. Sure, it’s starting to get a bit ratty and damaged, but so am I with 10 years and more than a few long haul flights added to my life. I was mortified when they cut my passport in front of me – so flippantly damaging a document I have protected better than I have protected myself or any other possession for the last decade.

My last passport was my first passport as well and you tend to think fondly of anything that was your ‘first’. Perhaps now it should be called my ‘inaugural passport’. I remember trotting off to Aussie Post during my lunch break as a 22 year old, making sure my hair and make up looked ok (I still ended up with lumpy hair!!), so I could get my application in and get myself off on my very first overseas adventure. Ironically and now hysterically I took myself very seriously and thought I was a bit too ‘old and mature’ for a Contiki trip, but nevertheless I was excited beyond belief about finally leaving the shores of our big old Island and jetting off to see how the others live.

It is amazing to think back now about how much has changed because of this one little 35 odd page book that came completely empty save for my lumpy hair and intentionally sour faced photo. It is now filled with stamps, visa’s and dates which are all memories and stories from adventures in different corners of the world. It more than keeps a record of the entry and exits, but represents the places I have visited, the things I have seen and learnt about the world as well as myself, the amazing people I have met, the weird and wonderful foods I have eaten and all of the places I have left a tiny piece of my heart.

I compare the inaugural photo with it’s successor (somehow STILL with lumpy hair!!) and instead of thinking about how excited I was about the anticipation of my upcoming adventure, the guy at the photo shop had to take about 5 shots because I literally could not stop smiling, laughing and looking around. This could very likely be because I am that kind of smiley easily distracted person regardless of the activity, but I think the fact that I love my life and that as the saying says ‘I will never be the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world’ is one of the reasons I cannot wipe the smile off my face and that the girl in my inaugural passport photo, could never have imagined the fun that was ahead and the adventures she had to look forward to. She would never in her wildest dreams have imagined a life so great, a life so full.

So, based on that, I now look at my new passport a little more fondly and think ‘oh the places we will go’.

First stop, Paris, because as Audrey says ‘Paris is ALWAYS a good idea’.14408994_10154973830031490_1019860392_n

 

Picture Perfect Jordan

I have what’s known as cover photo choice dilemma. It’s a delightful problem to have and it’s a problem most commonly suffered by lucky people who travel a lot and indulge in a little (too much?) photography. I’m happily overcome with this issue and as mentioned before, happily infected with the travel bug.

One of my recent big trips, also happens to be one of the most photogenic destinations I’ve been to was Jordan. If you’ve been paying attention (and I would never judge you if you confess that you have not), you’ll recall I’ve mentioned this before and moreso I mentioned how excited I was!!

Although I am very often described as an ‘excitable type’, I am always nervous to get too excited about upcoming trips as I think this has the propensity to heighten the expectations and lead to disappointment. With disappointment not being something I am a fan of, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Jordan lived up to and exceeded my expectations – and I suspect that even if I had researched it to death, I’d still be saying that!

This low expectation thing for me (ironically as a Travel Agent) extends to pre-planning and research of a destination in detail, again so I can continually be in awe of what I am doing/seeing and learning about a place. This is one of the reasons I book group tours. Small group adventure tours to be more precise. I’ll confess, I barely even read the itinerary of the tour I booked, I saw that it went to Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and a few other surprises (Jerash, Amman and Madaba) and said yep that sounds perfect. I picked a tour with ‘On the Go Tours’ as I had been recommended them by a friend who had travelled them and thought that Jordan was a place I might like the 4 star comforts, without having to be on a 40 seat coach with 70 year olds taking photos with their Ipads or hungover 18 year olds. I got all of this as well as a little company for this solo social traveller!

As always, I don’t have the attention span to sit and tell you all about the in-s and out-s of our itinerary and to be fair, no matter how knowledgeable our local guide was, I couldn’t tell you what year Moses was buried at Mount Nebo, but I can give you a few of my highlights and insights and of course a few snaps I took along the way!

  • Stuff in Jordan is really really really old. We were bandy-ing around words like ‘BC’ , ‘old testament’, ‘Stone age’, ‘Iron Age’ ect – you literally cannot comprehend it sometimes and furthermore, that it is so accessible, you can walk right up and touch ancient artefact and mosaics
  • Jordan is really really quiet at the moment. With the current ‘situation’ in the Middle East, tourists are hesitant to visit Jordan. There has been a decrease in visitors (and bear in mind Tourism is the industry they rely most on) of 80%. Although I understand somewhat why people are skipping it for places perceived to be safer, I can promise you I never once felt unsafe. We drove right up to the Syrian border and past some of the refugee camps where some of the 2 million refugees they have taken in live and not once did I feel threatened or uneasy. In light of this, it did mean that for a majority of the time, we had place what felt like to ourselves – there were even times in Petra (granted not directly in front of the infamous treasury building), that there was not a soul around other than us, so if you ask me, now is the BEST time to go!
  • Jordanian people are some of the friendliest, most curious and gentlest people I have ever met. As a people lover with a genuine curiosity for different cultures, I feel like you might suggest I say this every time I visit a new country, but I can vouch for myself (and I often do), that in Jordan, they couldn’t be more deserving of this title. Jordanian culture deems nothing is too private, so be warned, they will ask you just about anything! Unlike in many touristic countries, those working on market stalls, will accept no thank you from and then just have a little chat (or tell you how far you have  left to go up the 500 steps up to the (amazing) monastery in Petra while you are huffing and puffing and considering stopping to buy a scarf just as an excuse for a rest after all). I never once felt harassed at tourist sites to buy – quite unbelievable for a country with one of the ‘Seven New wonders of the World’.
  • As a woman, I never felt uncomfortable at all in Jordan. Both in the smaller towns and the big cities. I always dress conservatively when in a Muslim country, not just because it helps to minimize any unwanted attention as a western woman, but because it is respectful. I do have to say however, that this did not seem to be a major factor on this trip. Women are very liberated in Jordan and can do/wear/go anywhere they wish.
  • It’s not a cheap destination (especially if you like a drink), but it couldn’t be more worth it! My big tip again is to book a tour where there are a few things included and your guide can help with the tipping and buying of entry tickets as it’s hard work and potentially more expensive otherwise. Our guide took us to places where the food was a little cheaper (amazing local food to try as well!) and told us when to stock up a on alcohol before heading to the pricier destinations.
  • The Dead Sea is amazing, weird and something you absolutely have to experience.

You can check out the full itinerary we did here. Its unusual to come back from a trip and feel like I had enough time and saw everything I wanted to see, but I found this to be true when I came back from Jordan. I loved it eleventy billion out of ten and my genuine recommendation is to get yourself to Jordan soon and to run, don’t walk !

 

 

Un-expec-vacationing

It’s Easter Long weekend! I am here in London and I will outwardly pretend that it is because I don’t agree with paying the higher prices to go away at Easter or that it’s because my grand vacationing plans fell through, but secretly (and this is just between you me and the lamppost right?), it’s because I was kind of disorganized and didn’t plan anything. I mean in my defense, Easter kind of snuck up on us no?

Now don’t sit there are feel sorry that I am not gallivanting around Europe or surfing in wales (Jodie!), because I have been having myself an unexpectedly great long weekend. Completely self-indulgent and with the making of plans stopping precisely at the immediate future. (disclaimer: Not too dissimilar from how I like to live my life anyway, but again, lets keep that between us!).

What I have noticed is that if you relax, let life lead itself and turn down the speed of life a bit, you notice some pretty funny things that happen around you. You also eat at weird times.. but that’s another blog all together.

So far this weekend there are a few things I have literally gone ‘I absolutely was not expecting to:

  • see the sun to come out on Good Friday in London; but I am so pleased it did. It’s been some time since I have been able to sit for as long as I feel soak up some rays, try and attract as many puppies to steal a pat from them and I literally feel both happier (yes it’s possible!) and healthier for it! It’s unusual for the sun to stay out longer than you can here!
  • hear my friend to say “hold this while I turn my coat into a carry bag”
  • absolutely love doing yoga at the top of a 525 Foot building nicknamed the ‘Walkie Talkie’ (http://skygarden.london/news/sky-high-yoga) (refer images one and two)
  • find a fabulous new hairdresser who at close to 60 years old was telling me she recently did the walk of shame home after a night out at one of London’s biggest clubs and for her to be surprisingly less trashy than I’ve just made her sound
  • accidentally over-mustard-ed myself to the point of tears with a (delicious) Salt Beef Sandwich at borough market that had cheese melted onto it with the teensiest little blow torch you ever did see
  • see a perfectly (polka dot) gift wrapped present sitting neatly in the fridge, recipient un-known (refer image three)

Based on the amusement I have had so far this weekend, I am pretty pleased that I have two more days to do with as I please. I’ll start the rest of it by making myself about the eleventy-billionth cup of tea.

Happy Easter peeps! Hope the bunny is kind to you tonight and you eat your body weight in hot cross buns if that’s your thing!

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London Calling

Much has happened since you all last tuned in. I’ve had a change of scenery and I am a little further away from the beach and a lot closer to London. So close to London infact, I’m IN London.

On the way over here, I had a little jaunt in Thailand and Morocco. Some time in the next little while if I can find the inspiration I might put a ramble together for you all on that part of my adventure. No promises.

I’ve lived in South East Queensland for all my life. Don’t misunderstand me, the Gold Coast and Brisbane are both amazing and I miss the beach every single day, however you know the saying that the world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page? I thought it was time to skip through a few chapters. I should also add (confess) that as soon as somebody (the internet) told me that I would not be allowed to have a Youth working Visa in a few months I turned into a defiant ‘youth’ and decided I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me.

So, I’m here! I thought I should share my early observations of living in London.

Firstly, it is amazing! So full of life, culture, history and quirkiness. It is a place where famous people mix with us everyday folk. There is always something happening and somewhere to explore. As long as you don’t stand to the right on the escalator to the tube or walk on the footpath without watching, you can literally be whoever you want to be and nobody bats an eyelid.

London puts on a terrific summer. The beautiful long days, where you leave work and you still have 5.5 hours of sunshine, how could this not make you happy? So may parks to sit in, pubs to sprawl out of (no need to worry about staying inside the pub here, just pop on out onto the street, nobody minds!) and general people watching as Londoners take advantage of the beautiful warm weather, soaking up the sunshine and being outside as much as possible.

Transport is one of the most talked about topics in London that and weather. So today, there was much to talk about. As my very dear London expert friend reminded me today, it’s a cultural way of life here.

Talking about transport and I hate to add in a sad note, however today, according to Londoners, the world nearly stopped as there was a Tube Strike. There was chaos and stress across the city. You could feel the blood pressure of the people walking past you. People were seen yelling and screaming, cars stood still in the streets, they crammed onto buses and huffed and sighed their way through the day.

Now, to balance out the weather and transport conversation, when said weather gets ‘out of control’ (most recently hot), it sends the transport system into shock. Trains go missing (how do you loose a train?), and everybody panics and has a look on their face as if they have just eaten a breakfast of razor blades.

As we know I can talk, I have popped a few of my most recent transport and weather observations into dot point for you to skip through nice and quick. Londoners really do melt in the hot weather.

  • They love the heat however anything over 28 degrees and they cannot physically cope. It gets dangerous to be English in these conditions. I am however cruising around in my element.
  • (When) the tube (is running) it IS hot. Even for this warm weather hardy Aussie, it’s like an oven down there.. it’s not quite the underground hell on earth that said red faced Londoners make it out to be, but it is pretty hot and sticky.
  • Getting a seat on the tube/bus/train is a tactical operation – people will near knock you down to get to the doorway before you just incase there is only one left. Even if they are only going one stop.
  • The ‘outfit check’ is a legitimate morning weather check. That my London Expert Friend has taught me It can be all shorts, t-shirts and thongs (UK translation: Flip Flops) one day and coats and scarves the next day. A quick check out the window to see what the earlier commuters are adorned with is much more reliable than a weather app.
  • Even after the outfit check, I still recommend taking a cardigan and some kind of rain protection
  • Because of the above, your handbag needs to be 100 times bigger than it does on the Gold Coast. I’ve been tempted to just pack my carry on size suitcase for a quick trip to the shops
  • Londoners rush everywhere. They don’t even know why they are doing it. They can’t stop. If you don’t run, you might be forced to wait 2 minutes for the next tube and if you are a true Londoner, you’ve then got that ‘just swallowed those razor blades face again’

In other news, I’ve been having fun with a bit of my Aussie positivity and a simple genuine greeting, stops the Londoners in their tracks, they look back at you, shocked and for a moment they slow down. In the harsh city, the soft, gentle moments are very precious and they stand out even more . Sweet moments of clarity:

  • Smiling at strangers
  • Finding a quiet street
  • A slow walk home with a close friend in the middle of the city with nobody around
  • Happy dogs
  • Sitting back and watching the tourists take selfies by Tower bridge and seeing the joy on their faces and their excitement at being in LONDON!
  • Spotting something amusing (picture muscly fit guy doing stretches and looking cool in the park and very tiny happy fluffy puppy comes screaming through the park bouncing around him and jumps all over him and then runs off)

Well, even though it has been 7 months to catch up on, that is enough rambling for now. If you have any other London observations you want to discuss, please pop them down in the comments.

Here are some visuals.

London's Tower Bridge

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