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It arrived. Finally. November 24th: the date I took off from London on my way to Sydney, Australia on a ticket that cost me £10, or I like to think of it as one thousand pennies.

On August 3rd, almost four months ago, I got in a queue outside STA’s London Victoria office where I stayed until two days later, Wednesday, August 5th to become one of 150 people to be named the new ‘£10 Poms.’ And here I am. Writing to you from a home in Lane Cove, Sydney, where I’ve been settling in for the past five days and getting ready to start this new chapter of my traveling.

So last Tuesday, I boarded my Qantas flight and made myself as comfortable as I could. Unforunately, £10 only got me Economy Class (shocking really…), and I also somehow managed to land a seat in the very last row of the plane. Not ideal, but I made it work. Several movies and a short nap later we were in Bangkok where we were ordered off the plane to walk through the airport, go through security again, and re-board at a new gate minus some original passengers and plus a few new people making the trip from Thailand down to Sydney. Several more movies and another nap later and I woke up to my first Australian sunrise. I don’t think any of this was real until then.

Before I knew it, I was on the ground, backpack in tow, being driven to Lane Cove by the lovely Nad, Johanna and baby Kamran who, along with Nad’s brother Sal and India, the golden lab, were kind enough to host me during my previous stay in Sydney back in May (well, Kamran wasn’t around back then…).

In the last few days I’ve spent a lot of time around the house trying to adjust (the jet lag is killer, my days tend to start around 4:30 in the morning…) and organising my plan of attack which right now just entails finding a job as soon as possible.

Last Saturday I was cordially invited to an American Thanksgiving meal by a few old friends from BU who now call Sydney home. About thirty of us drank, ate and made ourselves thankful by the beach in Double Bay. Not your typical American Thanksgiving scene, but I wasn’t complaining about eating turkey and pumpkin pie with Sydney Harbour as a backdrop. It could definitely be a lot worse.

This week is official job hunt week. Cross your fingers that next time I write here I’ll be employed… Wish me luck.

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So November the 14th rolled around. Ten days until I leave. Hmmm should probably sort myself out and maybe see a few people before I disappear. Right. Let’s go.

Day One: A trip to The Photographers’ Gallery in London with Tom before heading to the Apple Store. I love the Apple Store – so many pretty things. So many things I can’t afford. But I still got seen by a lovely Genius who fixed all the little bugs on my Mac and bought a World Traveller Kit which is AWESOME. Okay, a tiny overreaction, but it lets me charge my iPod (and my laptop if I switch the plug) anywhere in the WORLD! So basically it’s a box that comes with all the little plug ins to switch in the white block thing. But I was excited. After dealing with plugging in adapters on top of adapters to find the right combination, it’s pretty thrilling. Then we headed to Bizarros for a really nice Italian dinner near home. We were going to the new Moroccan place for it’s opening, but overcrowded buffet and eating while standing up wasn’t our idea of a good meal. Day One: check.

Day Two: Sunday lunch with Johanna and Tamsin at Pearl Liang. My very late discovery and probably one of my favourite restaurants these days. Yummy Dim Sum and super cheap. Perfect.

Three: My last English Fish ‘n Chips!! Ok, it ended up not being QUITE my last, but certainly my last one from a greasy take away soaked in vinegar and tartare sauce. Sooo good. I can’t resist a good English chippie!

Day Four, November 17th – Dinner at Las Iguanas and rather expensive cocktails with the lovely Nims. I’ll miss that girl. Can always be trusted to come out for a good drink and a chinwag.

Wednesday, the 18th – Off to La Porte Des Indes with my godparents who are nowadays in possession of all my worldly belongings that didn’t fit in my backpack.

Day Six – My last day at Black Tomato! Although they’ll be using my talents while I’m Down Under. Good company, good internship, and good people. Then I headed into East London to another late find and another favourite restaurant – Lahore. REALLY good food (try the pork chops: simply mouthwatering).

Day Seven – The Big One. Leaving drinks. I randomly chose Thai Square in Trafalgar Square as the meeting point. It ended up being pretty successful although we were just about the only non-Asian’s in the place, but that was no reason to not enjoy ourselves and we certainly did. Lots of people made it out including my lovely ex-housemate Hannah, my original London friends (two of whom have headed off to Thailand, so you can read about their trip here plus if you’re looking to get some good, cheap Thai shirts and accessories imported, or want some bespoke artwork and furniture designed by two great people, Sophie and Claudia are the girls to talk to!) along with Tom and Miguel (the suave one).

Day Seven/Eight – My leaving drinks and the following day all kind of blend into one since my head never hit a pillow in between. After (thankfully) grabbing a night bus home from Thai Square, Tom and I were home for….ten minutes? Then it was off to Liverpool Street Station where we accidentally bought First Class tickets on the Stansted Express. Oops. We traveled in style to the airport and grabbed the VERY early flight to Berlin!

Four days until I leave. To be continued.

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Well, it’s official. In one week I will be boarding a plane headed to Sydney via Bangkok, on a one way ticket.

It’s hard to really get my head around it all. The fact that I haven’t started packing at all probably helps with that.

Last weekend I managed to head up to Glasgow to see my lovely family one more time before I leave the hemisphere. I realised that having spent the last 12 years of my life in a different continent, whether it was North America, Asia or Australasia, my family have gotten older (and wiser?) and I haven’t been as close and in touch with them as I would like. My ‘baby’ cousin Lucy is 12 years old which seems impossible, my older cousin Martin is married (I was lucky enough to make it to the wedding), and Raymond is in his last year of uni and getting ready to go around the world with his girlfriend.

As excited as I am to head Down Under, it’s definitely going to be hard being so far away yet again. On top of that, I’ll be leaving an amazing home, with the best neighbours I could have asked for, and a job that is the closest to perfect I’ve come so far (I basically get to do this – travel writing – all day, what could be better?).

So here it goes. A week of manic running around and seeing all the faces I’ll miss before I walk through the gate at Heathrow.

That’s my sentimental post of the week. The next one will be more upbeat as I’ll be recounting what is sure to be a fantastic week of celebration and farewell. First stop – a nice little dinner with the one and only Nims at Las Iguanas. As long as I figure out how to get there in the next two hours…

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I’ve had some issues with Internet connectivity lately so here goes the very delayed last entry to my traveling blog. Since I left Australia I was back in London for two weeks, doing some work for a quick bank account boost, and I’m currently in the States visiting friends and family for a few weeks.

Here it goes:
So after leaving Sydney I headed up to Byron Bay with the Wills. We got off the bus after what ended up being a pretty sleepless night for me and arrived to several backpacker staff with their vans trying to draw us to their hostels. It worked; Will, Will and I were too tired to do any deciding ourselves, so we followed a blond Canadian named Eric to his van and he took us to Aquarius hostel.
We checked in to the nicest dorm I’ve ever stayed in and picked beds on the top floor of our duplex style room where we met Katie, another Canadian who had also just arrived.
Our first day in Byron was spent watching the rain POUR down like I’ve never seen before. We realized that this may go on, so we found out about bus trips to a place called Nimbin – a hippie town that hasn’t moved on since about 1968. We took a very psychedelic bus tour to the town listening to Pink Floyd, The Doors and other ‘free love’ bands to arrive in a multi-coloured tie-dye town. Walking down the main street was an exercise in turning down one offer after another for weed, brownies, more weed, cookies…you get the idea. I took a tour of the Nimbin Museum whose design concept was something along the lines of ‘here’s some stuff I found on the street/at the flea market/in my cellar.’ There was stuff EVERYWHERE, and none of it seemed to make any sort of sense. Hippie heaven. At the end, before exiting, we met a 50-something year old woman rushing off yelling “just wait 15 minutes guys, I’ll be back with the cookies soon, I just have to pick them up from my house.” This wasn’t just a nice lady who baked things for visitors. She made her money making tourists feel like they were on a Grateful Dead tour, or a character in Ken Kesey’s acid charged life. On the way home our bus driver pointed out all the ‘beautiful shades of green’ in the countryside and took us through the mud back to our Byron home. Where it was still raining.
Unfortunately the rain continued so after meeting the backpacker staff and we spent our nights exploring Byron Bay nightlife with them and spending most of our days watching the rain come down with two days of sun that we spent on the beach and walking to the lighthouse – the Easternmost point of mainland Australia.
After a few days I decided I needed to make a move up north if I wanted to see more of the country. One problem. All that rain? Causes problems. Like flooding. In both directions.
Nobody, myself included, could get in or (more importantly) OUT of Byron for a few days.
I embraced my fate and paid at the reception for more nights at Aquarius. At least I could hang out here with people I liked, and I got free dinner every night, even if it was the same stuff over and over again… free is free. Plus we entertained ourselves with pub quiz nights and poker tournaments.
For all the less-than-ideal weather, I had an amazing time in Byron Bay thanks to the Wills, Katie and the Aquarius staff. After deciding that it was time for me to leave I realized that my time was now quite short, so instead of heading up north I headed back to Sydney and the twins. Since the highway was still flooded I took a flight from the small airport inland that was still accessible down to Sydney airport where Joh met me to take me back to another few days of home comforts. Mike and Lisa were still around so I spent my last few days seeing them, taking a day trip to the Blue Mountains, and going to the Sydney Aquarium where I saw a platypus! They’d been hiding when we went to the Sydney Zoo in my first week, so I was glad to check off that last Australian animal from my list after kangaroo, wallaby and koala among others.
I also cooked a meal for Nad, Sal, Joh and Lisa that went down well, I think?
I loved Australia, a sentiment perhaps not expressed well enough in this shortened version of my time there, but I have decided to save up as quickly as possible for a return trip on a one year work-holiday visa.
So that’s it! I took a flight from Sydney back to Bangkok where I spent a day doing some last minute shopping and sharing my stories with new travelers experiencing their first nights abroad on Koh San Road. Then it was back to the airport to travel back to London and home.
Seven and a half months later, a term of teaching and an amazing backpacker experience through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and finally Australia and I’m back where I started. Back in the Foster home in Crouch End, London. Dreaming of my next adventure.
I’ve had a great time writing this blog and plan on setting up a more permanent URL to continue life as a blogger, so watch this space for a final update and a name URL address.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and sending me all those great letters and packages. I write for you. 🙂
“The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.” – St Augustine.

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I arrived at Bangkok airport on May 12 to find out that my parents lovely next door neighbor, Betsy, had managed to get me upgraded on my British Airways flight to Sydney! So I went from being a poor backpacker living in dirty guesthouses to walking in to the Business Class lounge with all the other richer travelers. I felt slightly out of place with my clothes that I’d been wearing for the last week of partying and my bare feet, but hey, they still let me in!

After a long flight where I watched Milk, Happy Go Lucky, The Reader and Frost/Nixon in the World Traveler Plus section of my Bangkok to Sydney plane I arrived in this strange place, where people spoke English, and signs were in English, and people weren’t bowing to greet each other….I didn’t know what to do. I decided to put my sandals on since I was now the only barefoot person in the place, and it was FREEZING!!! Okay, not freezing maybe, but that’s how it felt after months of wallowing around in oppressive heat.
I got through immigration, found my backpack and went through the crazy strict Australian quarantine to wait to be met by a complete stranger, a friend of my godfather’s who I knew very little about. After a few minutes I was met by two identical twins, Nad and Sal who took me in a real car! It wasn’t a tuk tuk, or a songthaew, or a Bangkok taxi or anything. A REAL car! Weird.
Then they drove me back to a real house! Where I met Joh, Nad’s girlfriend, and India, they’re lovable Golden Labrador. It was all very….normal. I haven’t had normal since I left London back in mid-October, so it was all quite a shock. I napped in a double bed with a duvet and everything! Then when I got up, I watched TV on this HUGE widescreen and was reminded of the joys of cable.
After that, Sal took me to a mall! Like the ones I go to in the States, with a food court and everything, where I was overwhelmed by choices of food and I found myself wanting ANYTHING but Thai food! There was a Thai stand, but I was surprised to find how little I wanted to go near it. However, to ease myself in to all this normal food, I did have an Indian curry. Baby steps.
After my re-introduction to the Western way of life, Joh took me on a quick driving tour of Sydney where the sight of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House really made me realize where I was. Australia!! We met Nad for a drink and some dinner at the Opera House bar sitting outside under a heat lamp with the lights of the Harbour Bridge behind us. Not bad.
I spent the next few days seeing some of the sights with Will and Will, my friends from Koh Pha Ngan, my good friend Lisa from my days as a Thai English teacher who now works as a nanny here in Oz, and Mike, an Irish guy who I ran in to several times on my travels through Laos and Cambodia, now living and working in Oz himself on a one year visa.
I had lunch with Nad and Sal in Darling Harbour, where I also watched fireworks on jet skis with Mike and some friends. I went to The Rocks market with Lisa after an AMAZING buffet lunch with her in the revolving restaurant in the Sydney Tower where I was able to look over all of the city on a perfectly clear day. Oh yea, and I ate barbequed kangaroo. Never thought I’d say THAT sentence. I saw Manly Beach and the surrounding area with Nad and Joh, and went to the Taronga Zoo with the Wills.
I also experienced nightlife being back in a city. My first night out was with the Wills. I hadn’t quite adjusted to wearing shoes at that point, and I in fact didn’t really own any except some unimpressive sandals. My friend Bella had given me her sandals that were slightly nicer, so I wore those but since they were the closest thing to shoes I’d worn in quite some time they immediately started to hurt. I carried them around, putting them on to get in the door of bars and then promptly taking them off again. I got some looks for walking around Sydney barefoot, but not much I was going to do about it. I bought a pair of nice warm suede boots the next day, don’t worry.
After about a week of this city life, I joined the Wills on an overnight bus up north to Byron Bay. I planned to go there for a few days then head up to try to see Frasier Island, the Whitsundays and whatever else I had time for. My plans changed slightly once we got there thanks to Mother Nature, but that’s a story for my next entry!

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