Read this: A Traveller’s Year compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison

A Traveller’s Year 
compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison

I hope everyone reading had a wonderful Christmas and were able to enjoy some time with their loved ones! I also hope that if you had a Christmas wish, it came true; all I really wanted this Christmas break was to have a bit of time for some quiet Boxing Day reading before going back to work today (what I wouldn’t have given for just one more day off…), and I happily did 🙂 Among the books that have had my attention this Christmas weekend was this absolute gem, which I picked up around this time last year.

It’s my dream book; a compilation of travel writing, from books and journals, from both men and women, covering a time span from the 1700s until the current day, with a few entries per day. The writings collected cover everything from grand adventures to epic voyages to the regular yearly vacation.

While I’ll read just about anything but a romantic sappy love story,  a vast bulk of my book collection is made up of old travel writing. Stephen Brooks’ “New York Days, New York Nights.” Frank Korbl’s “Born To Travel.” Jan Morris’ “Journeys.” Ralph Parlette’s “A Globegadder’s Diary.” Tiziano Terzani’s “A Fortune Teller Told Me.” Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar.” And my hands down favourite of the vintage adventure genre, Cedric Belfrage’s “Away From It All: An Escapologist’s Notebook.”

This book is like all of them combined, plus more, on steroids. It’s the most beautiful collection of travel writing, with every piece offering something different from places all over the globe, all written very differently yet all so descriptive in their own ways…

“I have spent one hour in St. Peters, walked through the Forum Romanum, and seen the Arch of Septimus Severus, the portico of the Temple of Saturn, the three beautiful columns of the Temple of Vespasian… How I like to write down the illustrious names of what I have all my life long so much desires to see! I cluster them together like jewels, and exult over them.”
– Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, NOTES IN ENGLAND & ITALY (1858)

I’ve been trying to read the day’s entries before I go to bed each night, and if you’re head and heart are filled with wanderlust and dreams of adventure, too, this is the perfect book to treat yourself to this new year; pick up a copy here!

Through my eyes: making tracks in Hanoi

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I’ve seen some odd things on my travels, and tend not to be too surprised anymore when I see people doing things that are really different to how we do things at home, but this one still took my breath away.

The rail tracks that run through Hanoi literally run through Hanoi. As in, they’re set in what just looks like a slender alley-way between rows of homes and shops, with very little room to move on either side. That was all well and good, until I skipped my way across the tracks to take some photos, and noticed a family finishing up their breakfast. In the middle of the tracks. I’m talking, little plastic stools and table set up with bowls and chopsticks actually on the tracks, and small children running back and forth across them, and no one batting an eyelid.

We crossed that railway several more times during our stay in Hanoi, and I got less and less worried about oncoming speeding trains each time I guess you can get used to anything…

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The #👫WorldTour…

This week, husband and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary, and 12 years together… wow. When we started dating back in 2004, it wasn’t immediately apparent that we had a heap in common. Except for travel. We used to spend hours talking late into the night about all of the places we wanted to see, all the adventures we wanted to take. He wanted to drink rum and listen to music in Havana. I wanted to  sail on the Nile and see the pyramids in Cairo. We discovered that we both desperately wanted to see New Orleans, which led me to discover a surprising appreciation for jazz music in this guy, and he to discover my odd fascination for mythology and the occult. We wanted to safari through Africa and stare out over the concrete jungle of New York City. We wanted to eat pizza in Rome and hot dogs in Chicago. We wanted to world.

But, we were young. We were university students with casual jobs and wages. We graduated together and wasted no time getting to work; we were both big dreamers, but husband had no idea just how stubborn or determined I could be once I set my sights on something, a fact that I think he’s come to respect (and fear).

Not quite a year after graduating, we were renting our first place together. We had to set aside our dreams of world travel so that we could get established in the working world and pay the rent and bills. A few years later, we felt the pressure to be “responsible” and bought land to build a house on (“because you should have been paying off our own home instead of someone else’s while renting,” said all of the grown ups). We moved into our shiny new home on a big chunk of land over Christmas 2009. A few months later, we were engaged, and in October 2010 we were married. We wanted a big, USA adventure for our honeymoon, but with a new house and a wedding within 12 months, it was impossible. So, once again, our dreams were shelved so we could be responsible adults.

Not long after, we realised we were both miserable. We loved each other very much, but we hated where we lived. It too big a house for us, with a mortgage that wouldn’t allow us to actually LIVE. We started planning our escape, allowing ourselves a glimmer of hope that our dreams of travel might actually be possible after all. I didn’t need dreams, though; I needed something concrete. I went into woman-possessed mode, and before long had a plan to get us on a 4 week trip to Egypt and Europe. In March/April 2013, I finally got to fulfil my lifelong dream of travelling to Egypt. I think  a lot of people assumed that we’d take that trip, “get the travel thing out of our systems” and be a proper married couple and start having babies. It just made us more determined to not make the same mistake again of doing what everyone expected; we already tried it that way, and we were both miserable.

Move along another few years, and were in a new house which we both adored. We got braver and planned our big trip to America (finally), for 6 weeks. Financially, it wasn’t easy (we went less than 2 years after the EuroTrip) with a mortgage and bills to pay, but hard work, a lot of sacrifices and sheer determination saw us get it done, and it was incredible. I also managed to save enough money to take a few trips on my own in that time, which was twice as tough, but also infinitely more rewarding.

Not long after returning from America, we realised that if we weren’t ready to “settle down” and have a kid because we wanted to travel, then we should stop wishing and start doing. We set ourselves a gargantuan goal; a four month trip around the world, the one we’d been talking about since 2004, to depart in September 2017 (keep in mind, we only got back from America in January 2015, just got back from Vietnam last weekend, and still have the mortgage & bills to pay). And guess what?

It’s happening.

Finally.

This time next year, we’ll already be a week or so into our 4 month adventure of a lifetime, and we are beyond excited! The planning and budgeting and sacrifices that are making this trip possible are bordering on absurd, but none of it seems hard. This is what we have both wanted for the longest time, and we’re so very ready for it!

Our itinerary will include…

  • Banff & Jasper National Parks
  • Yosemite & Sequoia National Parks
  • Ketchikan
  • Chicago
  • New York
  • New Orleans (duh)
  • London
  • Dublin
  • Iceland
  • Paris
  • Barcelona
  • Ronda
  • Bern
  • Munich
  • Berlin
  • Prague
  • Vienna
  • A whole lot of Italy
  • Osaka
  • Tokyo
  • Koh Sami

 

We have a whoooooole hell of a lot to organise between now and then; being on a budget and having a set date we need to be back home and at work, we’ve decided to book our flights and accommodation in advance rather than winging in. That may sound incredibly daunting, but it’s actually not as scary as it sounds; over the next 12 months leading up to the trip, I’ll be putting together a series of posts on how to deal with the logistics of such a big trip, so if this is something you’ve always wanted to do, too, you can’t use the “too hard” card as an excuse 😉

I’m also putting a call for help out there – if you have any recommendations on where to stay (cheaper hotels/Airbnbs), what to eat, what to see, lesser known experiences, please let us know!! We want to see and do and eat as much as we can, and if you live in any of the places we’re planning to visit, I’ll bet you can tell us a hell of a lot more than any guidebook can!

But for now, it’s head down, bum up, and off to work I go. On the train to work, it’s hard to believe that this time next year, I’ll be on my way around the world…

2016 travels // trip one: Tasmania

For a “quiet” travel year in 2016 (in preparation for a monster year in 2017), we’ve suddenly found ourselves with three trips lined up… oops!

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I’ll be logging off from work in a few hours and flying over to Hobart with the husband for a much needed week-long break from life  : )   I’ve only visited Tasmania once, and that was for a family wedding, so we didn’t see too much, but have been wanting to go back and see it properly ever since. I’m really looking forward to some quiet time and time to ourselves and exploring and seeing some beautiful new places!

No doubt I’ll be blogging all about it when I get back, but in the meantime, feel free to follow along on my Instagram account 🙂 Happy Easter everyone, and safe travels to anyone else who’s getting away from it all over the break!

My (meaningful) New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

Happy New Year amazing people 🙂 While I don’t actually really celebrate the night in a big way anymore, I am a big one for fresh starts and planning to succeed. I’m also sick and f-ing tired of making the same idiotic resolution every year to “finally lose weight and be skinny.” Because that absurd sentence has robbed me of so much time and happiness and sanity over the years, it’s embarrassing. So, this year, I’m making a very strong and conscious effort to remember who I was before the world told me who I should be, and making some more realistic and meaningful resolutions.

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I miss the girl I used to be. I never gave a shit what anyone else thought of me. I wasn’t religious, but I was very spiritual, and that gave me great comfort when I was practicing regularly with candles and crystals and oils and what not. Things that used to make me feel good on bad days were going for a walk with my camera and photographing random things on the way, and collating those photos in little notebooks. Braiding my hair and painting my nails made me feel prettier on my ugly days. Cooking and eating weren’t obsessions and sources of anxiety, they were enjoyable. I was so creative. I still am, but I stifle it a lot more now, because the world tells me that making money and working and doing the socially acceptable things are more important than following the passions that make your heart sing. I wore what made me feel good, even if the fashion disciples would have died laughing at me. I didn’t apologise for my introversion, and if I wanted to stay at home and read for 3 hours instead of going out for a big group dinner, that’s what I damn well did. I studied for fun, things that I enjoyed studying, like Egyptology and mythology.

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That’s who I am, really. That’s who I was. That’s when I was a little happier. It was hard to realise that, actually. I think I’m done wasting time trying to be who the world wants me to be. I think I know that being happy means being me, unapologetically and unashamedly. It’ll be hard at first, changing this much while battling depression and anxiety and disordered eating. It’ll mean I’ll lose some “friends.” It’ll mean I’ll get frustrated. But without the dark, you can’t see the stars, and I think it’s finally my time to shine now.

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This year, my resolutions are all centered around getting back to that girl. This year, I will:
• take 10 regional Victorian road trips
• take 2 solo writing/yoga retreats
• meet 8 new bloggers in the attempt to find my tribe
• visit 10 different markets in Melbourne
• read at least 30 new books
• move my body for 30 minutes each day
• move back towards daily yoga practice and meditation, knowing that it will help my depression and anxiety
• take a course to learn something new, just because I want to, not because I “need” it for a career or job
• make more of an effort to dress up every day, braid my hair more and paint my nails, because looking lovely makes you feel better
• minimalise materialism & clutter
• live more by the moon cycles (thank you for the suggestion Vanessa!)
• cook a new recipe each week from one of the dozens of cook books on my shelf
• spend more time in my book nook
• finish that little (big) project I’ve been working on all of 2015 (you’ll find out more soon, don’t worry – I’m gonna need your help with it!)
• find new ways to channel my creativity

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I hope everyone else has some time over the weekend to give themselves some realistic goals for the year ahead, goals that don’t involve changing yourselves to fit in with society’s bullshit expectations, but goals that bring you back to who you truly are at your core. Because there’s only one of you, and if you’re the best version of that possible, how could you be anything but happy, successful and totally at peace?

Happy New Year, friends 🙂 xoxo

Eat here: the little pink Pad Thai cart on Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

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So this is a ridiculous story. I went to Thailand for the first time a few years ago with my best friend, E (who I had lunch with on the weekend at Sookie La La, which I’ll write about a little later this week when my motivation levels are low and brunch cravings are high). Our accommodation was down the south end of Patong Beach, and on our first day there, we walked along the street parallel with the beach for a while to get our bearings. We found this little, bright pink food cart around lunch time, with a pair silently firing out the most incredible smelling dishes. Stomachs grumbling, we stopped to check out the menu, and decided to order ourselves a seafood pad thai each. It was probably the best pad thai I’ve ever eaten – fresh like you wouldn’t believe, cooked up right under our noses, under a flurry of hands and sauce bottles and woks and noodles. It was a very fond food memory from our time there…

When I went back to visit Phuket again early last year with husband, I told him all about this fantastic little food cart that we ate at numerous times during my last trip. We walked up the beach to the spot I thought I remembered it being, on a snowball’s chance in hell it might still be around. No such luck 😦 We walked a little further, until the sun started to get a bit too strong, and decided to double back and find a spot on the beach to leave our stuff so we could go for a swim. What happened next, I still don’t believe, and if husband hadn’t been there as my witness, no one else would either… Dead set, as we walked back past the spot where I remembered the food cart being parked, it drove up onto the side walk, turned around into the same spot, and officially opened for lunchtime business!!!! I actually literally stopped in my tracks and sat down on the nearest block of concrete to make sure it wasn’t just a heat and hunger induced hallucination… Husband didn’t waste any time – he ran straight over and ordered 2 serves of pad thai (good man).

While a little spicier than last time I had it, it was every bit still as delicious, and I do believe it was the same people working the wok, much to my disbelief! I was beyond stoked to have been able to find and repeat this food experience, and even happier to find it was still as delicious as I’d remembered it! That meal, to me, is perfect, and what travel is all about – cheap and delicious food ordered off a menu by pointing to pictures in lieu of English descriptions, served by real people and being eaten by locals as well as tourists, on the side of a road with my feet in the sand. That’s what travel and experiencing it all is about. That’s real. Has anyone else been to Phuket’s Patong Beach and seen these guys??!

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Read this: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
by Jules Verne

It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago I read Around The World in 80 Days, another Jules Verne classic, and one of the original “travel” books. I really loved that book because while I was reading it, I was totally wrapped up in it – it was all-consuming in the greatest possible way, completely took me away from my world for a while. I picked up a copy of another one of his very well known classics, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea a couple of months ago, and finally got around to reading it in August. Much like Around The World, it’s a complete whirlwind adventure, fantasy and at the same time, kinda believably plausible; Verne was so, so far ahead of his time writing about crazy submarines! And not only ahead of his time, but his tale has stood the test of time – anyone heard of “The Nautilus” or “Captain Nemo”? That’s where they’re from. Hell, Nemo’s submarine even has a home in Disneyland – that’s when you know you’ve really made it!

But anyway, the book. Basically, we’ve got Captain Nemo and his submarine, The Nautilus. You’ve got the Frenchman Monsieur Arronax, his faithful man-servant Conseil, and the Canadian Ned Land who somehow get caught up in Nemo’s world, and an adventure that takes place below, in and under the sea. Douglas Hill introduces this version (published in 1969), and when I finished reading it, I found that I vividly remembered this part of his introduction which I think describes it better than I can:

“With this approach, the full mind-expanding effect of his work can be felt. We come away from Verne with our imaginations exercised – not our social consciences or our skills at literary appreciation. And certainly not our tendencies towards vague and dreamy flights of fancy. Verne’s books in most cases cannot accurately be called fantasies. He had built a direct line to our rational imagination, and he puts it to work in relation to the clear-cut technological world around us. It is an unfamiliar, and therefore often unforgettable, form of exercise for readers who are not addicts of science fiction. 
Verne’s ability to set up this line to our imagination, and to keep it operable long after the books have been read, grows out of the immense enthusiasm with which he relates his stories… And it is contagious: we are carried away, too…”

The story is relayed by M. Arronax after said events have unfolded, and Captain Nemo is painted as quite an odd and mysterious character. He’s incredibly defensive about his decision to leave “earth” as we know it and live out his days in/around/on the waters of the sea. Why? We never really, definitively find out… but he is very passionate about it, as you can well tell from the exchange below that he has with M. Arronax…

“You like the sea, Captain?”

“I love it! The sea is everything… In it is supreme tranquility. The sea does not belong to despots. Upon its surface men can still exercise u just laws, fight, tear one another to pieces, and be carried away with terrestrial horrors… But at thirty feet below its level, their reign ceases, their influence is quenched, and their power disappears. Ah! sir, live – live in the bosom of the waters! There is only independence! There I recognize no masters! There I am free!”

Without giving it all away, it’s another consuming read; if you enjoy travel and adventure books for their ability to help you take a break from the real world, like I do, this will more than fill that desire. It’s beautifully descriptive and vivid, an easy read, entertaining, and full of possibility. Pick up a copy here and enjoy 🙂