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Last Wednesday, I planned to meet up with four friends: two of my London pals and two girls who came into my life during my travels in Asia: Laura, was only involved for a single night on Koh Pha Ngan, but is one of the few who I’ve managed to stay in touch with, the other is Claudia, who, if you’ve been a regular reader of this blog will be a familiar name to you. But I couldn’t resist when what could have been a small, quiet night began rolling downhill and picking up more and more people as it went. It started with Sophie (one of the London pals) messaging our ‘usual’ Wednesday night drinks group on Facebook:

Sophie 12 October at 18:17 Reply

Hello this wednesday we are headed to cha cha moon just off carnaby street for some gorgeous food! We will meet outside at 6.30pm, then head to the john snow pub for 7.30pm!

Lots of love xx

Then I confirmed plans with my two traveling friends, Laura and Claudia; which grew to be Laura, Claudia, Claire, and eventually Emily.

Marianne McPhee 13 October at 09:37
You girls still up for tomorrow? Does Cha Cha Moon (just off Carnaby Street) at 6:30 work? Hope so! See you soon!
Claudia 13 October at 10:36 Reply
yup, def still up for it and sure that is cool beans for me! see you then! xxx
Laura 13 October at 13:38 Reply
Change of location and cuisine… gosh we’re CRAZY. I’ll be there as soon as I can….
Claire is coming as well… I think. I’m SO HUNGRY xxx
Then my friend Chris, who I only know through STA Travel Buzz, announced his presence in London that night on Twitter:
Curiouscheese: on the train to London now… @alice_walkabout @fillingthepages @statravelbuzz drinks later tonight?! X
Since Cha Cha Moon was clearly becoming the place to be, I passed along the news:
FillingThePages: @curiouscheese @statravelbuzz @alice_walkabout What time? Meeting people 4 dinner @ Cha Cha Moon – lots of traveling peeps, can meet there?
Lucky for me, Alice picked it up:
alice_walkabout: @FillingThePages i may well do that, thanks for the invite @statravelbuzz @curiouscheese you up for it? x
Finally, less than two hours before meeting time, my mobile phone began vibrating with a message from Miguel (that suave Portuguese neighbour I’ve mentioned before):
Miguel: I’m meeting Jess at 7 for dinner on Goodge Street, want to join?
Me: I’m meeting friends at Cha Cha Moon around 6:30, come there instead?
Miguel: Ok…I am meeting jess in oxford circus tube station at 7pm and we will meet u there..k?
So I extended the message to Miguel’s housemates:
Me: Meeting at Cha Cha Moon at 6:30pm
Tom: See you there!
So a dinner with four lovely ladies, turned into a meet up of 13 people from all different walks of life. And not once was a word spoken between myself and any of them. All I needed was Facebook, Twitter and a mobile phone.
Not one person at the table knew everybody else there and the evening was spent enjoying great (and cheap!) food at Cha Cha Moon and a few pints at the John Snow Pub. It was a simple night, but sometimes the simplest of things can make for the best memories. Now three of us are headed to Australia, two are off to Thailand, one is aiming for Canada, another for the USA. A rare night that I thought deserved it’s own entry.
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A few weeks back I mentioned attending the STA Australia event. They filmed us asking various questions about Australia, and now the lovely Claire has our answers! Check it out, but listen closely. Claire talks really quickly.

Not exactly a Travel ARTICLE technically, but some helpful information about Oz, and a TAW is way overdue.

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STA Meet Up

I spoke briefly about this on my previous blog. Here’s a link to STA’s blog about our most recent Australia themed meetup. Some good videos and photos on the links, so take a look.

http://www.statravelbuzz.co.uk/sta-travelbuzz-meet-up-goes-aus-tastic/

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On Thursday I went to the STA Travel Buzz office where Shapes, TimTams and Victoria Bitter were the contents of my healthy? dinner…

After reuniting with Cam, Alice and AJ from my ‘Around the World’ tour of London, plus a couple more £10 Poms and other STA Explorers we ate, drank and were generally merry running around in our Australian hats – corks and all, until Saxon sat us down for a little Ozzy talk. Apparently Magnetic Island is the place to be. Less than two months until I head down for those keeping track. (!!!)

So Cam has been asking us to look back on traveling and how it has changed over the last 30 years (they’re really squeezing everything they can out of the STA 30th anniversary thing). I haven’t been alive for 30 years, but here are my few thoughts on how travel has changed that I’ve noticed.

Hmmm…..

I’ve had a quick look at some other responses, and music is a trend. I’ve just spent the last month and a half iPod-free and have certainly come to appreciate how dependent I am on that little machine. BUT I have to say, especially on long haul flights, my iPod is not my saviour. It’s that amazing IFE (In-flight entertainment). I do not go to the cinema as often as I’d like because 1 – it is way too expensive these days, and 2 – all my friends feel the same way: it’s rare that someone is around to convince us all to part with that money when we’d rather use it for dinner or a few pints down the pub. As a result, the films shown on long flights are pretty much my main source of newly released hits that I never got to see.

I need something to look at when I’m sat in the same seat for that long, since sleeping comfortably when you’re not dropping thousands on First Class (which obviously I do all the time…in my imaginary world where I’m a famous and insanely rich writer….) just doesn’t happen.

I’ve been on a lot of long flights in my life, and on most airlines (Virgin Atlantic is my current favourite) the entertainment systems have become pretty amazing. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t choose from all those on-demand movies, television shows and games.

I know some planes still start all the movies at the same time, and you can’t choose the film. And god-forbid I ever get on another plane that only has those screens in the aisles. When you are sitting just a little too far away, or directly below those things: literally a form of torture.

There are other obvious thoughts: the Internet makes researching destinations and booking tickets a piece of cake; the world is a much smaller place.

Thirty years ago, there were a lot of places that I wouldn’t have been able to visit. This past year I spent about eight months in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. 1979? Not so sure I would have been so comfortable heading over a mere four years after the Vietnam war.
Africa is still a continent with a lot of struggling countries, but it’s becoming more and more accessible as a destination. My friend Olly goes there quite regularly these days and recently returned from his newest tour.

No smoking on flights. I remember flying with my mum once and having no choice but to sit in the smoking section of the plane. I don’t think a confined metal tube is really the best place for smoking, so that’s a change I’m definitely okay with.

A change I’m not okay with? Back in the day, one of my favourite things to do was to go into the cockpit. Anyone else do this? The air stewards would take me up, and I’d get to sit in one of those extra seats behind the pilot and co-pilot and watch them as they played with all those buttons and dials that somehow managed to keep a massive chunk of metal airborne. These days that’s definitely not possible. Probably something to do with terrorism, but a damn shame if you ask me.

A few random thoughts about travel: check.

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Black Tomato recently released a pretty cool old-school newsletter with loads of great tips on where to travel and what to do when you’re there.

There’s some pretty nice, upmarket hotels that maybe not all of us can afford, but it’s a great way to get some inspiration for your next holiday!

I really recommend looking at it, even if you’re not looking to travel right now, I just love the design!

Download it here

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I’m a £10 Pom!

At about 8:15 am on Wednesday morning I became one of 150 £10 Poms going to Australia for….well £10 obviously!
My new home in 3 months!

It all started on Monday afternoon when I arrived, bag and borrowed tent in hand, to the STA Travel office near Victoria Station in London. Two full days ahead of schedule and I was still 23rd in the queue! I was pretty nervous and couldn’t decide whether or not to even stay. I had spoken to someone in the office earlier that day and they said they thought each of the designated £10 Pom offices would be able to process about 20 tickets on average. I was cutting it very close!
But I started talking to the guys in front of me, Toby, Suzanne, Craig, Kim, JD and Titu who were all really nice and they persuaded me to stay. I knew that camping on the streets of London was going to be an experience in itself so I dropped my bags and started to get to know my new neighbors!
Everyone had interesting stories to tell. There were some people in the queue like me, who had been traveling recently and just can’t seem to stop now! A few people, like Toby and Suzanne are going over to meet their Australian boy/girlfriends and I think a lot of people just couldn’t resist such an amazing deal!

We got as comfortable as we could on the concrete streets, shared a few beers and several card games before settling down in our tents for our first night. It wasn’t exactly a peaceful night, with trucks driving so close it felt like they were about to crash into the tent, and police/ambulance sirens screaming past, but I just had to keep reminding myself why I was here!

Checking out our story on page five of TheLondonPaper!

Checking out our story on page five of TheLondonPaper!

The next day we were all a bit groggy, but we set up some camp chairs and got ready for an entire day of sitting on the street. The morning dragged, especially when the rain came, but luckily it didn’t last and the afternoon went a little faster! For dinner some of us decided to go to the pub for a hot fish ‘n chips meal. We actually felt quite strange sitting inside on chairs with a table, we didn’t know how to act! Just one day and we were already used to our pavement lifestyle.

Finally, after a second sleepless night, it was time for the big show! We had already been interviewed, photographed, and filmed by several different newspapers including TheLondonPaper, DailyMail plus AP and Getty Images and a few others, but on Wednesday morning the press were really out in full force.
STA made us bacon sarnies in the morning, and as an STA staff member was squirting ketchup onto Suzanne’s roll for her, they were surrounded by three photographers! Who knew bacon rolls were so fascinating!

We packed up our tents and bags, queued up and anxiously waited our turn to finally enter the office, trying to act normally around the giant kangaroo, koala, and all the press. I was actually a little sad to end my time camping out. I met so many great people; the only thing we all had in common was our desire to go to Australia, but it was enough to bond us together.
At one point, everyone in my new group of friends was inside except me and I started to panic a bit! But I was shortly called in and told that I would be receiving a £10 ticket to Australia! Only four more people behind me received tickets at the Victoria office so I count myself as very lucky!
The new £10 Poms!

I still can’t really believe it has happened. I really just bought a flight to Australia for £10! Despite slight back pain, I had a fantastic time camping out on the street with my new friends, everyone in the queue was so great, I think we all had a good time, even those who weren’t able to get the £10 tickets in the end. From my group in the queue I’ll be the last one to get out to Oz, leaving London on November 24th and arriving in Sydney on the 26th! We already have plans to meet up once we’re all out there, and I can’t wait!

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Going Back in Time in Old England, Sip by Sip
New York Times: Henry Shukman

Since I can’t always be traveling myself and I sometimes need inspiration when trying to think of what to write about next about the place I am living in, I’ve decided to add this weekly posting to my blog.

I’ve just returned to the UK and will be finding things to write about concerning this country, and especially London, so I thought I’d start with a New York Times article on England and the English pub. The article starts by pointing out England’s difficulty in defining its culture, and what better way to define English culture than by its pubs. Old English pubs are a dying breed, but check out this article for some recommendations and a story of one man’s tour through some English establishments including the Hook Norton Brewery in the beautiful Cotswolds villages of England.

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