When touring the world abroad, you can't help but feel the trip could've been done even better if not for this or that. Our minds are funny like that. The recent JustZeusBooks' tour of Europe, however, was perfect. Did it go as planned? No. Did it matter. No way. Was it perfect because of this? Yes. Yes, it was. The weird turns in mood, weather, map direction and schedule created a travel concoction that would be the envy of every wizard's magic spells book.
Whether bunking in hostels, licking your lips through ritzy restaurants or adventuring through seemingly unchartered terrain, each of us should aim to see the world through the rosiest of glasses, no matter the context. The beauty of your very own trip is just that; unseen - by you. The trip advisory blogs, journals and even the snaps on the back of postcards cease to truly prepare your eyes for the appetising delights of your unique exploration.
Regardless of your endeavours, things invariably will quickly turn from moments of bliss to mishaps and even horrors. So, without needing to fondle too much with global ideals, let's jump straight into our '5 must have tips' when on holiday.
1. Prepare to pay. Travelling the luscious landscapes of Iceland, alleys of Amsterdam, the intrigue of igloo haven Finland or just moseying the parades in Paris; prepare to pay, and then some. With the currency conversion at a not so pleasing rate, fill your pockets before you venture. Whilst we are on this topic, stop thinking about it. Resign to the fact, it is expensive. Stop your mind from estimating and budgeting according to the good ol' Aussie dollar. It makes your holiday that much better by simply excepting the fact, you are going to pay top dollar, and then relish the equally important fact: it is oh so worth every penny. Above all, in six weeks, six months, six years; what will remember? Expense or experience? That's what I thought!
2. Make the most of every minute. We get it, holidays are about R & R. But who cares about that when on tour in Europe. With so much to do, find ways to cheat procrastination so that not a moment is missed. Travel at night across the continent. Plan ahead, devise routes based on organised chaos. Get from A to B whilst losing yourself in back streets, cafes, bars and hidden treasures. Cover more whilst ticking boxes. Confused? Good. That's how you make the most of your trip. The key here is to be smart, not lazy. Earn your sleep by walking the cities instead of bussing or using the underground systems. Unplanned incidents are just as rewarding and memorable as those that are planned. Now try planning for that...
3. Pay extra to be closer. Although paying top dollar on accommodation isn't as inviting as paying less and saving for each experience, you will find the beauty of proximity. This will inevitably be a huge time saver, not to mention convenience to, well, everything! If there's one thing worth thinking about spending up on; it is your accommodation. Be wise by researching what each short term residence offer. Research hostels with central locations that still offer comfort and/ or the inclusion of a morning meal. Don't be one of those travellers with that "hotel from hell" or "near Hostel" experience. Be the salt and pepper adventurer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. Try hostels, luxury, shanties, camping, igloos, Air B & B and anything else; whatever the means, just make it central. The real benefit of having the stay a little closer is that you don't have to spend time on transport systems getting to where the real action is. You don't need to worry about the 'outer' ghosts, gypsies and pirates we often hear about. And you don't have to worry about discomfort - your headspace will be much more at ease if you pay a few extra bucks a night and camp a tad closer to the hustle and bustle lit cultural centres.
4. Avoid airports. Although, at times, you may not have a choice, be innovative. Sometimes it's not what you do, it's how you do it. Why not try catching a ferry or an overnight express train? Many might think jumping on a plane may be a wiser choice due to the time saver element in travel. Think about this: how long do you waste waiting in lines at the terminal? How central is the airport in each destination? Or, how does the cramped, smelly and draining aircraft cabin sound after even twenty minutes of that kid behind you or that incessant baby crying two rows ahead? Not convinced? An example of this, you may ask? Here's one. Wake up at 5:45 to get to the central train station via the Metro train system by 6:20. Once you are here, you lug your heavy and oversized cases through early morning city foot traffic just to find the rural train lines. Finally, you find the right 'one way' ticket for that train system (that's right, the Metro train ticket is different to the rural train line). Next, you're constantly checking the clock, hoping the 6:40 hasn't left Platform 17. It's 6:42. You missed it. That's ok, there's another rural line that heads to the airport at 6:47. On Platform 3. Your mad dash pays off and you make it. Once you arrive at the airport, there's a line up to get into another line, but you still don't know which gate you are leaving from. You are starting to get annoyed at this section of writing, right? Well you haven't even got to the waiting at the check in line, the customs or boarding gate. Then there's the twenty minutes of boarding, the irritating passengers, uncomfortable seats and the agonising ear pain on decent. All this worry just to be on time for a 9:30am departure. You get the picture. But the harsh reality is; the "five hours of saved travel time" is actually spent doing all of the above and more. I rest my case. You're there for a good time, not a long time, right?
5. Experience it your way. "Oh, you have to see this", "make sure you try this" and "seriously, don't go there". We can all relate to this. In fact, here I am preaching to you with many of the aforementioned. You are your own boss in very little in life but on holidays; this is exactly what you are. Take control! Ride Rome, rollerblade Nice, take a bus top tour around London and sleep in a Teepee in Croatia. Although it is wise to read up, check the internet as to what those before you have treasured, it is just as, if not more important to be your own tour guide. Get lost in each and every experience. Forbid yourself from your comfort zone; eat local delicacy and binge on jaw dropping history, create pathways for those anxious bystanders and lap up the essence of distinctive culture.
It really doesn't matter what you do when you are on holiday in Europe, as long as you remember to stop, take a breath, pretend your eyes are a panoramic camera, then scan! At every corner, literally, there's a little piece of magic. Hidden in every small back street store might be the perfect gift you've been searching for. Just over that rise may be the money shot for your whole trip. Eat, drink, converse, read, write, create and repeat. Experience the infectious bug of travelling. Get out and explore our amazing world. You deserve it!
'From rags to riches' you often hear when talking about success stories. What does that even mean? Will 2017 bring about success and happiness for us all? Is happiness built upon riches? What does it take to feel rich? And for that matter, true happiness?
Recently, whilst sitting on a bus; carving the scenic landscape, en route to Monte Carlo, Monaco, the inspiration for this blog entered the scene abruptly. Despite having to line up and pay the bus driver a small fare, this 'thing' felt not the need for either. With breasts the size of voluptuous bowling balls and a face resembling a museum laden leather football from the early AFL days, she stormed to her seat and proceeded to batter herself with a further layer of putty, which I think was labelled makeup. Closely behind was her spouse; rather miserable despite modelling top of the line designer evening wear and a sporting tan; years in the making. He footed the bill and sat along side this leather purse with legs. He tried to spark conversation about the galaxy of all things and was greeted with several "shhh's". This may have been because the severity of countless injections had left the poor wife's orifice in such a way, merely a straw could fit and allowing for only that shhh gesture. Either way, I'm pretty sure this was a common and regular occurrence when they conversed. He gave up and made an overly loud phone call in his smuck German accent which reeked of pretentious charm. I sat and wondered between thoughts as I took in the magical imagery occurring beyond the bus window.
To be this way takes a certain persona, I thought. Rich, or to at least be perceived, I wasn't sure. What was most uncertain in my thoughts were two pondering motions. Why this pair would have the need to catch a bus to get from A to B when the odour they attempted to fill the air with was of filthy wealth. A chauffeur perhaps? Limousine? The other was on that of their insulate relationship and the meaning of wealth and it's correlation with happiness.
Would you rather be rich and unhappy or poor and happy? At surface level, most would answer quite quickly: the latter, of course. But with most of us unhapppy about this or that anyway, why not be rich whilst we drown in misery? If I, like so many of us, do indeed set out to make 2017 the best yet, the one where we make a huge impact on the world around us and beyond, I must make reference to the 'rags' component of this blog's title.
Over two harrowing experiences, leaving me rather despondent, the rags of the human society simply baffle me. Experience two.
My two fellow travellers and I brave the minus 8 degree day Berlin has offered albeit a clear and sun licked one. We are meandering the slightly unjustifiable yet still very raw concentration camp of Sachsenhausen, about 45 minutes out of Berlin (that's right, this stuff happened on the doorstep of Hitler's house itself). Wearing a heck of a lot more than the striped rags given to the victims of the deathly Nazi regime, the icy wind chills our breath as we breathe through scarves and snoods, overlying four or five other layers. "Two hours of this is the least we can do", we tell ourselves. The conditions for a trio of sun baked Aussies are torturous enough yet nothing can compare, now or ever, to what 5.4 million Jewish Europeans endured merely two generations ago. But what I admire most as I scan the seemingly untouched barracks, dead zone electrified razor wire fence line and gas chambers are the fables told upon plaques within both this camp and the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Berlin's heart.
How you fear what may the next corner's demons bring in our lives; the slog of the everyday workplace, being turned down when you've put yourself out on a limb and even the craziness of our county's financial downturn. Picture a life without everything you've ever known; forget pretentious people, parties and parades. I read of stories of pain, suffering and inhumane extermination as I walk the aisles of the unknown, tears welling, yet one story rings true in my mind. One of happiness. An unknown victim, who never threw herself in harm's way nor did she save a troop behind enemy lines. But she is an unsung hero all the same. This lone character simply smiled.
With everything going on around her, this invisible Jew put a smile on her face and brought hope. She was shot dead on the spot, as well, this deed was unseen here before but this caused a contagious outbreak. Even the Nazis finding hard to exterminate everyone's smile. With her last breath, she spoke of forgiveness. Not for what was bestowed upon her and those around but she asked for forgiveness for her own behaviour. "I have not smiled since I arrived and now I depart". This resonated with me a great deal. What an insane thing to leave this world with! I'm still puzzled with it.
From the glitz and glamour of Monaco, where a smile is just as scarce as a nutritious meal in a concentration camp, to the solemn streets of Berlin; the attitudes are vastly intangible.
For so many; past, present and future, forecasting the next step in the walk of life, we seek / will seek the same thing: happiness. Yes, we seek what we often cannot obtain but this, we can. The means in which we go about acquiring this is our flaw. Bring hope with every day that dawns in 2017. Be kind to yourself but remember to always put others first. We are all people, with so much to give. Instil happiness.
After depositing several last dollops into the fresh air, not only are you pleased with yourself for the ridding of internal toxins, you feel safe to enter the next achingly cramped, slightly claustrophobic venture. The best part of your recent dismissal is that of a wind laden tarmac offers an innocent and unnoticed escape for your most unwanted misdemeanours.
You take your assignment and settle in, an hour and fifteen minutes is going to be a breeze. The air-tight cabin is always overheated and sends you dreary, you bow your head to one side and begin to drift.
Turbulence? You query as an unwelcome rumble disturbs your journey beyond the clouds. Smooth sailing, your assertion intervenes, and a positive glance at the clock ensures this trek will soon descend. Then it suddenly hits you.
At first a stammering, then a slight tremor. You try to ignore, open the window shutter, an imagination will only get you so far now; you're wide awake and on full alert! A grumbling manoeuvre from within and it's game on; twenty-five minutes of holding an uncomfortable release. But it twists. Then it churns. Before long, you're shuffling in your seat and trying to gauge whether anyone is watching. You take a deep breath and consider your next move. Sit up straight perhaps? You ask yourself silently. Adjust my safety buckle? This might squeeze it all in.
Just three minutes have passed in what feels an eternity, you loosen your shirt. Is it getting hotter in here? You wonder perilously. Wait. Movement from beneath. Like a deep inhale, the menacing geyser about to erupt subsides. For now.
Although the captain request preparation for landing, settling your angst a little, there is still an agonising five minutes until you're free. Like a gulp, your insides brace for one heck of a climax. Will you make it? It's anyone's guess now. The irritating passenger in 12e directly in front of you is now grinding at your conscience, egging you to get jittery. STOP MOVING ABOUT, YOU JERK! I'M TRYING TO HOLD A RIPSNORTER IN BACK HERE! You imagine clasping the neck of this incessant traveller when a bump hits hard from below. Surely not? You realise the plane has crunched into contact with planet earth, at last.
As the seatbelt illumination dissolves, it seems that unpleasantry has arrived. Like the meniscus fluid about to budge passed its capacity ridden container, you can't take much more. A stench begins to sneak its way through the jammed aisle. The facial expressions of the onlookers begin to play out The Exodus, it's violating the most of our innocence. Even the dealer can't stand it, you fill your cheeks with air, hoping the wave of toxicity will move on, leaving a bearable whitewash. A small rumble, almost a creak, a door opening from within your undies. Wait. You've still got yours. Wha?... Why?... How?...
Your grumbling has made the tumultuous trek and still a foul odour is, dare I say it, terrorising the plane! You scan the immediate area, amongst people trying to duck for cover, shield with scarves or barricade behind fellow passengers, you spot that distinct look. It's that look of fear, embarrassment and shock all in one; that look of guilt! Here, you have had one almighty battle to withhold nasal torture and this disgusting, vile, inconsiderate... you! Passenger 12e stands and takes a bow. "Well played...Well played". Another day, another airport.