Keep your friends in high places

One of the things I will miss the most about living in Europe is the variety and diversity. There are plenty of countries within, and these countries are small compared with some of the mammoth nations some of you may reside. 

A two hour flight in any direction will almost guarantee you a different language, traditional national dish and with this, a great time.
I cannot wait for the weekend to be over and to make the most of this. In three days time I will depart northern England and with barely enough time to watch an in flight movie, land in sunny Spain. It has been a while since I have travelled short haul, it is nice to sit back and relax without the worry of what I am going to wear to get me through a 14+ hour flight. If you haven’t travelled long haul, choose comfort over style and thank me later!


My flatmate travels regularly throughout Europe with his job. I feel he is incredibly lucky. Then again he isn’t, if we see our careers as fate decided by the Sorting Hat, where does our ambition come into it? It doesn’t and like a muscle, if it isn’t used it starts to fade.
A group of us were chatting around the kitchen table two New Years Eve’s ago about the year ahead. My  travelling friend mentioned his trip to Germany for a conference amongst other trips. This caught the attention of another friend who is a pilot for a low budget airline in Europe. It turned out they were on the same scheduled flight, my pilot friend and my business travelling friend. How cool is that? The pilot insisted that he would do a call out, full name and all, claiming to have a very special passenger on board, special because he was the Duke of a town nearby. He stuck to his word and from this day on I take everything I hear from a pilot with a pinch of salt. 

It cannot imagine having a friend in the cockpit of a passenger jet I am flying in, the same friends I wouldn’t trust to hold my phone for a second. 

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and your pilots in a very good mood!

Spain: 4 days to go

Today, it is all about the Euro. Many of you liked yesterdays post so I thought it would make sense to let you all in on my next few days worth of plans (or lack of), before boarding that plane to the Mediterranean.

For the record I am not taking much money to Spain. Roughly…hold up, where is the Euro symbol on my keyboard?!

*does a quick Google*

*Alt+E doesn’t work, grabs iPhone*

Roughly €500. €400 of that will be on a Travel Card, the rest you can see in cash. Now, back to the laptop.

I will probably take the least amount of money out of my friends, I don’t feel I will need as much money this time around. It is only for a week and it won’t be involving many costly activities or travel outside of the resort. I will buy cheap food, drink and the occasional taxi to and from popular districts. I also need to save £3000 for Australian customs later in the year, I have been warned that not having this amount in my bank account is enough for them to turn me away, and I don’t want to travel for 35 hours to be turned away.

It seems this isn’t often checked but that is not a risk I want to take. Sometimes in life risks are the best things we ever do, other times they are just plain silly and if anything, hinder any opportunities awaiting us. Can you imagine the awkwardness of a 35 hour flight back? I hate being rejected from a bar for being too drunk let alone an entire country.

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I have found Travel Cards to be very useful. Mine is operated by MasterCard and therefore can be used anywhere (in certain countries only) for up to three years. Any bars, restaurants, ATM’s. I was warned there would be a (grabs iPhone) €2 charge at ATM’s but with no charge for using the card directly anywhere this won’t be a problem. I would much prefer to lose a card and be able to cancel it instantly than lose a whole wad of notes with colours almost as bright as the sun. The kind of notes Hubble would be able to detect on the surface of Mars… whilst it was observing Jupiter.

Are you one to take plenty of money on a trip, or does it depend on where you are heading? I have never been one to take extortionate amounts, then again any long term travel I have done was paid for by working out there, thankfully I was paid by my current job half way through my months travel in Brazil last year. It has been a long time since I went on the typical week or two week holiday, in fact it is the first ‘lads’ holiday I have taken in my life, tradition for males in their 20’s.

27 isn’t too late, right?

Spain: 5 days to go

I don’t often go clothes shopping, usually it is shortly before a holiday. So when I walked into the store yesterday to the smell of brand new clothing, my senses were like ‘Hey! I know this smell… We are about to go somewhere!’

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I am only away for a week, so I bought cheap. Items that I won’t worry will get ruined during this period. In my experience, the further I travel the less I worry about what I wear. There isn’t that fashion expectation seen at home. I feel like I should care more about what I wear on my way to work or the grocery store more than what I do when I leave my countries borders. It sounds so strange to say out loud.*

Is it because I am travelling I feel less worry about what I wear? There is no need to overcompensate with designer clothing to stand out, all eyes are on us when we are away thanks to social media. Why try to keep up with the people that are walking to work in the rain whilst I am at the swimming pool? For these seven days, I’m winning!

Maybe it is because I am relaxed on holiday. I am away from my ‘normal’ life, the uncomfortable work shoes are left at home, I probably won’t wear a belt either. This is going to be a week of pure comfort. £80 jeans don’t guarantee that but £6 swimming shorts certainly will.

Also we are of course, anonymous. Apart from my six friends I won’t run into a boss or ex girlfriend. No one has any previous knowledge of me and the anonymity is great. Saying that I have bumped into a friend in the middle of New York City, which was incredibly strange to say the least. Trusting my friends to not post a picture online of me wearing some ridiculous outfit for my birthday (I turn 28 whilst I am away and I wouldn’t put this past them), I can relax knowing the embarrassing things I do will be in the minds of people I will probably never see again. There is beauty in such a seemingly sad reality.

One thing I am terrible for is packing. If I had as much ambition to pack as I would to travel I wouldn’t need to use movie images to portray the joy I feel walking through an airport terminal. I always forget something and that something always seems to be the thing I want to wear the most. Clue- it isn’t the captains hat. I steal that as I am departing the plane.

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I think I will pack more for my week in Spain that I will for my year in Australia starting September. This was the case during my year in the States, too. My 6 am flight was taken after an all nighter in a local pub followed by a drunken 3am bag pack. If you are away for so long, why not get most of the things whilst you are out there? I have spent an afternoon taking smashed glass and clothes soaked with vodka out of my luggage after a holiday. It wasn’t pretty. Some things aren’t built for air travel yet.

Where are you packing to go this year?

 

*Saying this, I was once approached by security walking through the metal detectors at an airport. He said there was nothing to worry about, he just loved my Spiderman long sleeved jumper I had on at the time. Sometimes the clothes you care the least about bring the compliments.

The travel stories sound great but… did you tan?

I was with three German friends yesterday, they were travelling from Stuttgart to Newcastle for a weekend break. They underestimated the Scottish sunshine as I watched them come back from a day trip to Edinburgh. It’s there and craves attention from time to time. One of them came back more red than a Stuttgart away shirt.

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Of course, the featured image isn’t northern Europe. It is Belém, Portuguese for Bethlehem. I loved this city and the regions around it, if I was in danger of sunburn it was this place. It is a shame, I used to tan so well. Maybe it was the parental guidance as a child and my clear lack of self reliance to apply enough sunscreen. I am fine with this though, it isn’t the main focus of my holiday.

It seems to be the main focus for so many people. When I arrive home after a trip, more often than not my skin colour will be the topic of conversation. Whether I tanned or not, I have to go through the cliche who-has-the-browner-skin competition.

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I have five right arms. Great for carrying groceries, terrible for balance.

For many Brits, holidays abroad are simply for the sunshine. To be able to sit down outside with a beer and do nothing. To get a great tan and show everyone back home. It seems like this is what is perceived of my reasons to travel too. Not the stories of what I did or where I went, what food I tried and how much of the language I learned. Just how hard I tried to sit still to get brown enough to prove I went away in the first place.

I do often come back with a little colour, but this shouldn’t be the only evidence that any journey was worth it. If anything the lack of tan may prove I was busy doing other things, venturing away from the hotel pool from time to time. If I go all that way I want to make it worth it. I want to take this opportunity to do what I cannot back home and sample a new experience that my great grandparents were not able to.

I wonder if I went back in time and visited my great grandparents, would they take any interest in my change of skin colour at all, considering the huge amount of curiosity they must have gathered knowing I had travelled overseas? Or would they spend the whole day sitting down with me asking what such an experience was like? The smells from the restaurants, the appearance of the natives, the warmth of the rain and the height of the mountains.

The tan fades. Experiences don’t.

I met a famous person yesterday

She was really nice. I am always hearing stories of certain names being a little snobby or rude, I have not experienced it personally. I have met a few purely because I live and work in a city, I learned a couple of things from my encounter.

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I will warn you, if you are under the age of 25 you may not know who this is. I realised this yesterday with so many people asking who she was. I knew her thanks to my parents as they were/are fans.

Chaka Kahn, anyone?

She asked if I was going to her gig which is today, I said I couldn’t unfortunately but I was able to get my mum a ticket. She told me to say hello and that she hopes to perform well for her. I haven’t been able to get hold of my mum to tell her as of yet. From my experience, most famous people I have met have been very welcoming and are happy to engage in a little conversation. Even if they didn’t give much time to do so, I am sure I would understand. I guess the reason they are famous is that they are very busy catering for a huge amount of people. If anything that makes me appreciate them more when they make time for small talk. Something I struggle to do at times without the millions of fans expecting me to deliver.

Things I learned yesterday:

  • You can still be busy without sacrificing kindness.
  • Americans love Nandos in the UK, if the group I met yesterday were an accurate reflection of 320 million people.
  • The city that I am proud of is just another place for some people. All the lives here, all the history… just another dot on the map for someone on tour. Not that I am offended, every place is like that for someone.
  • I need to slow down when I speak to people from overseas, although my accent is much easier to understand compared to some natives. Good luck getting in a conversation with a taxi driver here, I am slowly becoming bilingual in that respect.

I love city living for this reason, I never got this in the small town I grew up in. No big groups coming to town, little tourism from overseas, every day being very similar. I need difference on the daily or I go insane.

 

A confession

The truth always comes out. I have lied about things in the past, hiding from reality is exhausting. That is not the only reason I value the truth, I want to be the best person that I can. So with this in mind, a little confession.

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I am going to Benidorm this month. There, I said it. I hope you’re all happy now. It feels so good to just say it and get it over with, as if the weight has been lifted. An 18-30’s holiday with seven lads, this isn’t going to be a holiday to learn about the local culture or to find ourselves. I am going to hopefully spend my time not being tied to a lamppost and having more full-english breakfasts in a week than I have here in England.

I will, as I always do, try to speak a little of the language and learn about the people. It is just a little difficult when the locals are British, although certain accents can fool me into believing they are from a different country. Our accents are fascinating like that.

I am reminded of a funny joke Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle made on a panel show, talking about the time a Scotsman had a fight with a terrorist after he tried to blow up Glasgow Airport. That isn’t the joke. That actually happened.

‘Apparently the man saved hundreds of Scottish people from getting badly burned by attacking the terrorist… How? These Glaswegians were flying to Malaga!’

During this period I will try my hardest to take interesting photographs and keep questioning life without the obvious influence of alcohol. I am confident there is more to Spanish resorts than sunshine and British people.

Photo credit: Ran Berkovich– Unsplash 

Destination: Sydney

Time: 00.00

Check online banking. Payday is finally here.

Time: 00.05

I head to the Australian government website and apply for the Working Holiday visa.

Time: 00.35

Online form completed, I eagerly await it being authorised and sent to my inbox.

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In fact, as I wake up this morning it seems to have already been granted. Can that really be the case so soon? Not that I am complaining, I remember how long it took to get my J1 Visa in the United States.

A bunch of forms printed, filled in and sent back, an arranged interview at the embassy down in London, train tickets purchased, a day in the embassy, security checks and all belongings taken away from me and finally, a stamp in the passport. Not that I am complaining here either. It was worth it in the end. This wasn’t so straight forward for a friend as he lost one page of his documents on route. He had to wait outside for us and come down another day. Immigration have no time for that.

Their visa was a little different. I had to work for one company for 12 months. With my Aussie visa I can work wherever the work is, as long as it is no longer than 6 months with any employer. Sounds like a good deal to fuel my years holiday. Of course if any company decides to sponsor me I can extend my stay. If I do farm work for three months I will be able to extend for another year. What I find exciting on this trip is that I have no idea where I will be heading in the next few years. Will I head back to Europe? What if I find that special someone and build a family in Australia? Being a single guy in his late twenties is a little strange like that.

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I feel everyone has some kind of advantage. If you are in a relationship, awesome. I assume the relationship is one in which both people have similar interests and can feed off each other in terms of inspiration and funds to travel. If you are single you have a free pass to do what you want , when you want with little impact to anyone. Take a week or a year out, it’s up to you. If you are reliant or have someone rely on you, blog about it, tell your story and build a following, your unique perspective of what it is like to travel will be picked up by curious ears I am sure.

This may be the last year I blog from the UK. Thankfully I have a couple of years left of my twenties to blog with as much content as I can, I will make the most of it.

It is amazing that we have the option to follow people as they travel and document their lives through blogs, vlogs and social media. I am sitting here reading about lives in lands that historical populations did not even know existed, wishing I was there as this summers day is so dark I need my standing light on despite being early afternoon. If that doesn’t motivate me to get up and go I don’t know what will.

I will see you all on the other side, I will be here until then if you want me.

First image: Liam Pozz– Unsplash

Second image: Josh Wip– Unsplash