So here we are in Sydney, luckily today it was warm, but when we arrived yesterday it was raining and freezing, for a second I thought we'd arrived back in England. What a shock going from 30 degrees in Hong Kong. I think the tan we had achieved disappeared in an instant. Not to worry we have a year to work on it.
Three days in Hong Kong was plenty, we saw the Peak, Temple Street night markets, shops, shops and shops, and to top it all off I think we sweated out about 10% our body weight. The rooftop pool at the hotel was great for the sights but didn’t help at all as it was only 2 degrees cooler then the air temperature. Cold showers all the way. The hotel was complete with concierge, our bags were brought up to the room straight away and as we really didn’t know how much to tip Nathan gave the lovely chap 50 HK dollars, little did we know that the average is 5 HK Dollars, no wonder they followed us around the rest of the trip. The hotel was pretty pricey so we decided to venture away from the hotel (and McDonald’s) and eat in an original Chinese cafe/restaurant, this was extremely cheap which compensated for the fact that we were the only two English people in the place but we couldn’t complain the food tasted amazing. I haven’t touched duck or rat after seeing the hanging ones in the streets, although the chicken I did buy tasted a little funny? I couldn’t grasp the difference in money at all; it doesn’t feel right to be handing over what looks like 250 pounds for food, so I left this to Nathan who had no problems handing over large amounts of cash. Nathan also couldn’t get over the fact that the scaffolding was made of bamboo, seriously he thought it was crazy.
So off we jetted to Sydney, I have to admit Qantas
were definitely a better flight company than BA; good food and service although we were both so giddy we didn’t sleep a wink. When we arrived in Sydney it was so wet and windy we weren’t impressed, arriving at the hostel was easy with the free transfer the hostel provided that we were staying at. There was however a mix up with the rooms we booked, (or so they thought) apparently we'd booked in for an en-suite double but they’d over booked so we ended up with a double and a shared bathroom across the hall, to compensate we got a free breakfast for the entire stay and a free cruise on the Sydney harbour. Who am I to tell them that we'd booked the double with shared bathroom all along; hey we are backpackers now so have to aim to get whatever we can for free.
So the hostel-what can I say-it’s basic! It’s very similar to staying on 18-30's package holiday complete with tannoys to let you know what’s happening at night and in the morning; no good when we are shattered from travelling. Talk about culture shock, but nothing that a good night’s sleep can’t cure, oh and our own pillow cases, seriously Sam if you are reading this tell Claudia's fella thanks for the tip, so far the best thing we have packed. As for my hair Rachel, don’t even go there it’s a total mess and I’m missing the GHD's like mad, my only comfort is that there are quite a few other people with hair that look like me (thick and frizzy).
We've spent today sorting out our banking and Visa’s, I can’t believe how non fussy it was! Seriously in and out in no time so we figured it was a good time to treat ourselves to a well-deserved rump steak and a beer. *The funniest thing about this if you can remember Lisa, was how I’d got a map online and you helped me to work out how to get around by marking the street names with a star, absolutely perfect, only the thing was I thought the actual stars were exactly where the buildings were so we spent a good 20mins looking for a building that was half a mile up the road; don’t worry we saw the funny side. Since this we have ventured to the Victoria Quay, the Maritime Museum (it was free), we’ve seen The Opera House and Sydney Bridge (the walk to the top does not look easy), and feel pretty ok with everything at the moment. Thanks Lisa for all the tips, I felt a lot better seeing street names that you’d mentioned. We haven’t found the pub at ‘The Rocks’ yet dad but don’t worry it’s only the beginning of the week. We've been to the Wake Up Hostel and used our free drinks vouchers for a schooner of Tooheys and we've signed up for a pub crawl tomorrow so that should get us meeting a few fellow backpackers, although sane ones I hope.
We head to Cairns next Tuesday and are ready for a bit of normality, oh and sun, no seriously today was nicer, so hopefully the rain will hold off till we leave now, we keep forgetting its winter! Lindsay x
So we’ve booked our return flight tickets to Australia for next year’s adventure it turns out twelve years on and I’m still happy to compare the ‘better airline’ only this time around the preference was on how accommodating it will be for our children over how decent the food and sleep will be, luckily trip adviser, if you read between the lines, can pretty much answer any question, that and good old common sense. We’re more of a ‘just get there as quick as we can’ family than the ‘let the kids stretch their legs for 10 hours in an airport because it saves us a couple of quid’ kind. Let’s face it, as giddy as I was in 2006 I’ll be lucky for that emotion to peak before landing with a six and two year old to keep entertained, my saving grace will be that I can pretty much guarantee we’ll be arriving to sunshine seen as it will be summertime, which will save me a whole lot of written words discussing the ever changing weather conditions we appear to have little prior knowledge of researching in 2006. Then again it’s a very British thing to do, and I suspect I’ll find scope to let you know how warm it will be, apologies in advance.
Speaking of landing, I’m so keen to take you all on the adventure we had in 2006 but once again this email sheds little light on the places we went and the experiences we are about to share. I did think about skipping it, I mean what does it actually tell you about Sydney, but then I could never skip it, the nervousness in walking around with a map printed from the UK in hand shows the reality of what it feels like to step out of your comfort zone, to be miles away from home and everyone you know, and keep walking forward regardless. The next time we land in Australia the same girl who spent weeks multitasking our shared reception job while comparing maps with me, the one who gave me the courage to travel, is the very reason (apologies for repeating myself, you know this right if your following my blog) we are heading back next year, she’s getting married. Our current conversations are now to discuss bridesmaid dresses and of course sneak peeks of the beautiful brides dress. I’m in awe at how our friendship has remained solid across the miles, even with months in between conversations it flows straight into the humour and honesty needed to be able to call it a friendship that is intended to be lifelong. I of course have been bombarding Lisa with all our travel plans, not a printed map in sight (*quite clearly in 2006 the joke was me), I consider myself accomplished at being able to solo plan a travel adventure to not only include some repeat visits to our favourite places from many years ago but to incorporate new experiences, there are bound to be a few ‘mishaps’ along the way but these are often the best conversation stories to relive over and over again; Australia we’re ready to recapture you.
I have to admit reading in horror me discussing ‘the rat’ that wasn’t a rat again in Hong Kong now makes me determined to return to either confirm (unlikely) or define just what delights are hanging and know now that I’m ballsy enough to taste it to settle this matter, it’s a shame we’ve already booked our flights as I’ve decided this has now become the first on my ‘things to do before I die’ list. I am confident though that when I said three days was plenty in Hong Kong that for my young twenty something self it was, travelling over on the Star Ferry for the view from the Peak was quite simply the most inspiring sight I think both Nathan and I had ever seen at this period in our life together. I can still see it clearly now and when I think of it I can almost feel how sticky the temperature was, how brave I felt and how I fell a little bit more in love with the man standing next to me at that very moment. They say opposites attract and on paper we are, but I believe what truly unites us is the deep love and willingness we both have to take a gamble on life; Nathan you sold and boxed up your belongings, you rehomed Charlie your cat and joined what was no longer to be ‘my adventure’ it had become in this moment ‘ours’ and with this the sense of a future together that before this we hadn’t ever discussed. This isn’t a space to write a romantic novel though, and remembering the clothes I was wearing that day, in particular a backless vest held together with a couple of pieces of string, quite the fashion statement piece to keep me cool in that heat, I’m soon reminded of my naivety as I became once again the subject of many a look and hushed conversation as I was passed by locals; how was I to know showing so much flesh in Hong Kong is not the done thing. My younger self if I’m truly honest couldn’t quite understand why this was so offensive, my, and I say ‘matured’ with a note of ‘there’s so much more to learn’ self, having lived and visited other countries since is now much more considered of other peoples cultures, being the odd one out is no longer something I’d think to discuss as a novelty in an email because I’m much more likely these days to be found engaging with locals firsthand, this kind of interaction is the perfect reminder of how materialistic our lives can become if we choose to let it and of how little of these things we really need to live a happy life. I have no regrets at our whirlwind three days in Hong Kong, our impatient selves were more than ready to fly on to Australia where we believed our adventure was waiting to begin, it’s clear to see now that it had already begun right there in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Kowloon, and I know when we return our eyes will be wide open to its beauty and differences, the only shop you are likely to find me in will be the local ‘tat’ shop buying another fridge magnet.
At this point in my journal I’ve only been without my trusted GHD’s a week, reaching out to my sister for solace makes perfect sense here, we were two of a kind when it came to a GHD obsession. I once had to make an emergency stop on a motorway slip-road as my car engine was dramatically about to blowup while driving in the ‘fast lane’ and exit the car while it was still moving, it’s fair to say that the obsession winner has to be handed to my sister who as I believed was running in the opposite direction away from the car with me was in fact when I looked back, chasing after it, boarding it whilst moving, and emerging with you guessed it, her GHD’s, and only then willing to turn to following in my direction. True story. I couldn’t have known then how badly conditioned my hair was about to become from salty sea water and cheap shampoo, I wonder if later on I discuss the dodgy backpacker haircuts I received and how to be frank I’d stopped ‘giving a crap.’ I was part of a tribe, a backpacker’s tribe, everyone we met had sun bleached wild hair, even Nathan at one point had enough hair to pass off a Mohican look. I imagine this could probably be the reasoning behind hairdressers being sought after, ranking high on Australia’s ‘skills required list.’ Worth checking if you are hairdresser reading this who fancies a change of scene.
Whenever I travel now my hair straighteners are always the last thought; realistically am I going to be going anywhere that I feel my hair isn’t better off tied back in a ponytail to save the time of straightening for what will last in all likelihood an hour before one the kids have needed a sweaty hug and sent it back to its wild carefree roots. If I thought about my GHD’s on my travels again I don’t remember, I do however remember my first haircut in Lincoln on arriving back home in the UK, it was bitter sweet, gone was the aforementioned and in the mirror looking back at me was someone with healthy revived hair in the neatest bob straightened with none other than a pair of GHD’s. I remember in that moment feeling desperately torn wanting to return to the carefree year out we’d just returned from over the new enjoyment in setting up our first home together and the welcomed responsibilities that this may come with. I think you can all guess we chose the latter, for a short period at least.
Some things haven’t changed though, Nathan still can’t resist pointing out unsafe scaffolding, but more so I think the reason Nathan and I work so well together is an acceptance of how we plan things. I’ll do all the ground work of forming a route, together we then look at how possible it is. This is usually the point Nathan always has to reign me in, I admit I was planning our 2006 year out into a little over three weeks. It worked! Ok, it worked if we literally waved at each destination as we passed by in a whirlwind of internal flights. The trouble is, as I said earlier, the adventure we had, is so visual even all these years later that I want to relive it all. I’ve accepted we can’t, instead we have finalised a route that allows travel and space to explore together, and the rest, well the rest can wait. I still have a dislike for handling foreign currency, it’s not the purchasing of things, it’s that moment when you automatically convert it back to the UK pound and realise the difference which results into a conversation of whether we should or shouldn’t have purchased said item and usually ends in me talking myself out of whatever it is. I’m pleased to say I’ve relaxed this line of thinking over the years, when we are taking a break that’s just it, ‘we’re taking a break from life as we know it,’ new experiences are there to be tried, the cost becomes irrelevant, if it is going to bring joy in some way, do it. Hence when we booked our recent flights, I spent weeks scanning all the airlines, everyday clicking on skyscanner waiting for our anticipated travel dates to show online, then comparing, almost booking, waiting, still waiting and then there it is, the best of all options is there for the taking, book it. Crap, I need Nathan either in person or on the end of a phone, there is an almost lead weight in my fingers stopping me pressing the ‘confirm’ tab, a little voice that says I can’t spend that amount of cash can I, this isn’t ideal is it, a million reasons why we shouldn’t yet knowing deep down we were going to book it, and then he does it, (for the record please don’t assume I’m an anti-feminist, I’m perfectly capable of looking after and supporting myself, I’m all for women’s rights and certainly don’t require permission from anyone other than myself to make decisions, this is about marriage and working together, agreeing outcomes and understanding that whatever difficulties may arise despite the predicted enjoyment that we are in them together. I just had to clear that up) booked. Calmness resumes, excitement, gratitude, and a million other things to plan and book in, so while I tell you all of our previous adventures I know that a new one is also just around the corner waiting to be written. I’m pleased to have been reminded of the pillowcase tip, I’ve added these onto our essentials list; many a place we stayed didn’t have them or equally they’d seen better days making mine a welcome sight in an evening, they also doubled up great as a laundry bag which will be even handier since the demise of the plastic bag.
Thinking about my money handling ways I’m sure it stems from my mum who I remember every month watching her as she worked out in an A4 ruled paper book the wages that had just been paid, assigning carefully pockets of money to all the specific outgoings and savings her and my dad had, over the years her philosophy of every penny counts has rubbed off on me, Nathan often laughs when I count to the pence (I have a book too), but laugh not as we’ve seen first-hand how they add up, for years mum had filtered away any spare money and was able to say unbeknown to my dad in 2006 that she had enough in savings to plan a trip to New Zealand to visit her sister who she hadn’t seen for many years. Not only did they visit New Zealand, but also Bangkok, Singapore and Sydney, it’s fair to say it was the farthest either of them had travelled and if mum was still here I have no doubts she’d have still been filtering her penny’s aiming for the South African Safari she’d dreamt of. It’s heart warming to discover this early into sharing my past journals how alike my mum I’ve become, in fact I probably always was, we both handle money with a distinct understanding of its worth if its managed well, being thrifty in everyday living offers opportunities to do more of the things you crave with the people you love.
To Isabel and Zack; When I was around eight years old I once stole ten pence in 2p coins from your nana’s purse, I wrapped them in a handkerchief and stuffed them into my coat sleeve. As your nana walked me to school each step I made the money jangled until she discovered it. I took the money because I really wanted to be able to buy a packet of Space Raiders crisps from the school tuck shop at break-time and didn’t understand then how important each penny was to our household. It wasn’t the words your nana said to me that I remember; it was the disappointment in her eyes. That look has stayed with me always. I don’t know why that packet of crisps meant so much to me, peer pressure perhaps, but I would say this to your nana now, my childhood was filled with joy, I never felt that I had gone without, and that lesson taught me there and then that if you want something it will always feel more satisfying if you have earned it through hard work and learning to find the motivation to save even if it means you momentarily giving up certain things you like to do. When your dad and I arrived in Australia and stood in the fuss free queue (absolutely for the life of me can’t decide what I would have compared this to that I’d experienced in life already), we each deposited £5000 of hard earned cash into a bank account, it doesn’t sound possible to live on this amount of cash and experience all that we did in this backpacking year out, but let me assure you, while you’ll learn of the different jobs we did along the way to boost our funds, this was essentially every penny we had to our name, we spent it all on chasing adventures and to date it was the best £5000 I’ve ever spent; work to live not live to work.
To Mum; It never crossed my mind just how free spirited you actually were; to step out of your comfort zone and climb Sydney Harbour Bridge and fly to the top of Mount Cook in New Zealand to walk in snowcapped mountains is proof you embraced the fear of the unknown, for all these years I believed this was my trait to pass on, I see now I couldn’t be more wrong, I inherited it from you. I’m sorry that you only had chance to discover a small handful of other countries before cancer stopped you short and stole your life but I want you to know that this trait lives on through us all, and none more so at this present moment in time than with Dad, who with a large dose of jealousy as his destinations now far exceed mine, continues to surprise us by doing at least one thing out of his ordinary when he’s on his travels; swimming in open water in a Wadi in Oman, chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland and Sky Diving in Brazil to name but a few. We’re eagerly waiting to see how he survives a week’s guided cycle tour of Vietnam in October despite no recent bike training or even owning a bike for that matter, has he bitten off more than he can chew might be an obvious question, I don’t think so, the thrill comes from not over thinking these things, he’s fully committed and loves nothing more than to relay the stories of his travels to your grandchildren who adore his narratives; that and there’s a support vehicle.
I am a 'wannabe' Nomad who currently lives in Sheffield with my husband and two children. I genuinely love exploring new places but finding time to fit this in is tricky so more often than not I'm found in the closest independent coffee shop because nothing cheers me up better than a decent coffee.