Sunday, January 30, 2005

Update that's not an update

After two and half weeks without writing some of you are starting to complain/get concerned. Not to worry, all is well except the CD-writer on the laptop which broke down and is in the shop. I have a ton written that I haven't been able to post because I don't have the computer.
Anyway, I'm in Melbourne now, flying to Brisbane Tuesday and having a great time (though today was sad because our tight-knit group split up).
Plenty to read soon so rest your eyes.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I Wish There Were Pictures Too


The trip’s first downer struck on day two. Somewhere between getting on the bus home that evening and going out an hour or so later, my day pack went missing. It hasn’t turned up and almost certainly won’t. The biggest loss is my new digital camera, but also annoyingly gone are: pairs of shoes and sandals I bought earlier that day, my Let’s Go Australia guidebook, and the bag itself.

So far I’ve replaced the fancy Teva sandals with a pair for $2 thongs and am getting a Lonley Planet guide from Dana who is about to leave the country. Oh, yes, Dana. She’s a friend of my friend Katie, and she’s spent the last three months in Sydney. “It hasn’t been as great as I hoped,” she admits, but hey it’s warm and exotic. It was on my way to meet her that I realized my bag was gone so she had to deal with me whining about it until we got drunk and the lost bag became easier to take. “Traveling the world is more fun when you’re drinking,” I told her.

Another friend of a friend has shown me a good time. Thomas Odelfelt’s Connecticut chum Dave invited me out last night. He’s lived down under for four years now and introduced me to a slew of fun, hard drinking Aussies. Somehow the country manages to be constantly buzzed without all the bad connotations Ireland suffers for it’s drinking. We were supposed to go to dinner “after a couple drinks” but five rounds later Dave decided dinner would be a waste and instead bought $200 worth of liquor and invited us all back to his place. It was one of those perfect 60 degree nights out on his suburban porch and we proceeded to get drunker until the need for pizza took over.

I can’t remember his sober name, but one of Dave’s friends is known as “The Bull” once he gets wrecked . “Be careful when he gets here,” Dave warned seriously. “He’s as dangerous as anyone you’ll meet.”

The Bull charged out onto the deck around midnight after throwing some back someplace else. “I’m here for Brook!” he said, as if he needed a reason to be here. “You’re the Boss,” he decided and proceeded to pick me up out of my chair. “You look like Springsteen. Roll up your sleeves and get up here with us,” he insisted.

Still jetlagged, and having just started some antibiotics it was all a bit much. Not long after someone shouted from a window that it was Wednesday night and we were loud and something about the cops. So then everyone had to go home and that was okay with me.

I’ve made one hostel friend so far, a Canadian name Katherine who’s spending the year in Australia. She’s heading up the coast tomorrow. I could probably be more social—-the smoking blonde to my left looks like she could use a friend-—but I haven’t been so far.

There is something different to this kind of lifestyle. One major difference is how money and time work as commodities. Back home I had plenty of money (more or less) but not much time (relatively); here it’s the opposite proportion so spending an extra 15 minutes to save a buck or two makes perfect sense.

There’s also way more alone time and down time. You live in your head a lot because you can go long, long stretches without even speaking a word. Then when you open your mouth the words stick in your throat because you haven’t used your voice in so long.

There’s a sense of loose community among the many people here in such similar situations, but there’s also an isolation since it’s a group of people so accustom to being alone.

Not sure how much longer I’ll be in Sydney. My next stop I think is heading up the eastern coast to hit all those great beaches. Still plenty to see here, though I took today off after getting burnt pretty good at the beach yesterday. In a way it feels like wasting a day to just sit around and chill but really that’s half the fun of this year: being able to take things in at a slower pace.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Don't Say the "Y" Word


Greetings from picturesque Australia where there are more ‘roos than people, more blondes than men, and more beer than water. Or so it seems at first blush, if you’re lucky enough to blush just once amid all the blondes and beer.

In Australia they drive on the left, everyone knows that. But you might not know that they walk on the left too, a fact that caused a couple awkward pedestrian moments on the five mile stroll from my hostel in Kings Cross all the way to Northern Sydney. The Cross is backbacker and nightlife central here and you’ll never find a description of more than three words that doesn’t tab it as “seedy.” Think Greenwich Village with hookers.

Door to door it took me 42 hours to get from my parents’ place in Rhode Island to the Original Backpackers hostel here. I arrived in Sydney without any accomidations and this being high season there was a nervous moment upon arrival wondering if I’d find a place and realizing just how very alone I am and just how very long a year is. The cure came quickly: an available hostel, a beautiful sunny day, and a resolution to focus on the day or week or month ahead but not the daunting “y” word.

Yes its warm and sunny. Ten hours after touchdown I already have a tan. Yes people are friendly and yes the city is beautiful. I viewed the Sydney Opera House from seemingly every conceivable angle today so I can check that off the list.

You probably not only know about the documentary I’m attempting but have been subjected to my camera accompanied by questions along the lines of “Why don’t you come too?” Given the impressive array of reasons all you American working stiffs gave, it was funny to talk to the girl at the travel agency down the street 45 minutes ago. She asked where I was from and I told her.

“Oh, New York. I’m so jealous,,” she said. “People come in here everyday and they’re from Germany and Canada and the States and here I am. I wish I could get out of here. I’m going to soon.”

It all sounded so familiar.

Umm, so just to paint the picture: I’m staying is a big Victonian House turned hostel. My fairly small room accomidates eight and costs $26/night (about $20 U.S.). Right now I’m out in the open-air common space, there's a TV showing cricket, a kitchen, and plenty of tables. Two trees shoot up through the wooden floor and canapy the deck. A little radio plays 80’s pop. Are you ready for this? For a while I had free wireless internet out here (though it just went away.)

Well the sun is fading so I best be getting on with my evening.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The 14 Hour Sunset

Somewhere above Russia

I’ve just been asked to “return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt.” On this New York to Seoul flight instructions are always given first in Korean so you’ll notice passengers adjusting their seats or fastening their belts a moment or two before you understand the PA. It can make you feel a bit dumb when you realize you’re 30 seconds behind the rest of the plane. The turbulence is minor though and standing in the bathroom line during the jitters is easier than staying upright on the express 3 train rumbling towards Times Square.

We’re flying over the far eastern coast of Russia, a white snowy expanse that it’s hard to imagine anyone ever setting foot on. It’s hard to tell where the land ends and the ice flows begin. Given all that I’m forced to reconsider the many armies sacrificed in Kamchakta’s defense during marathon RISK sessions. Its proximity to the Northwest Territory notwithstanding, it’s a far overvalued hunk of ice.

We’re 10 hours into the flight but the time has passed pretty smoothly so far. We’ve been chasing the sunset the whole time and its hanging on the horizon in roughly the same place it was hours ago. When we land in another four hours (at 5:20pm local) it should be sitting there still.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Here I Go...

My plan is to use this blog to communicate with all of you back home while I’m away. I’m hoping its easier than a mass e-mail but if its not I’ll resort back to that. By far the most common request is for my itinerary so here it is:

  • January 8 to March 15 – Australia and New Zealand
  • March 15 to June 7 – Southeast Asia (and hopefully India and Nepal)
  • June 7 to July 12 – Eastern Europe (the last two weeks with my family in Greece)
  • July 12 to October 18 – Western Europe (moving generally north to south)
  • October 18 to December 20 – South America

I hope to see many of you out there somewhere. Shoot me an e-mail and we’ll figure something out. I will have e-mail access and will check it a couple times a week or more.

So here’s what’s happening as Jan 8 approaches…

Forty-eight hours until departure and I can tell you this about planning a year-long, ‘round the world trip: It’s a pain in the ass.

I intended to have two weeks in Rhode Island to get everything ready but airline booking forced me to leave a week earlier. I haven’t really slept all week and now I’m literally dizzy with exhaustion (or is it a sinus infection?). A partial list of the crap I’ve been doing: getting medical insurance, deferring college loans, preparing my taxes, setting up my bank account, confirming my flight, setting up my laptop, making copies of all the vital things I’m sure to lose at some point, loading my IPod, etc etc etc.

My bag is 98% packed and its actually lighter than I expected, probably under 50 pounds. Its mainly camera, computer and other electronics. I’m bringing very little clothes: 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of shorts, 1 bathing suit, 3 t-shirts, 1 sweater, 1 collared shirt, 4 pairs of socks, 4 pairs of boxers, and a rain coat. Avoiding cold weather for the year makes packing easier.

I still don’t have a wallet or a guidebook so I’m off to buy those now.

What will I do when I arrive in Sydney? I dunno. It’ll be 8am and I will have been traveling for 30+ hours. I’ll find a hostel and maybe sleep or grab lunch or something. After a week or so I’ll go somewhere else, depending which way the wind’s blowing. Not sure if it’s a good plan, but it’s the plan I got.