Its Warm Up ‘Ere – Two Mancs in Darwin

Winter. Even in Australia its pretty grim and I was starting to think the Melbourne chill would never leave my bones. That coupled with working none stop since the end of April could only signal one thing – it was time for a holiday.

Thinking of where to go and who to spend it with there was only one person who came to mind. Brought together by Oz, a dormant friendship of twelve years, Andy and I had just spent three hilarious weeks together in Melbourne and I was gutted when he left me in search of sun and gin in Darwin.

Loud, proud and as northern as a Greggs Steak Bake, we went waaay back, all the way to college, permanent fixtures round the bike sheds gossiping and puffing on menthols.

Meet Andy

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So it came as no surprise that within hour of being reunited I was talking talking like Bette Lynch and chain smoking Vogues

THROB

After the giddiness of being reunited the following morning we set off to sun ourselves silly by the waterfront. He’d only been here a week but Andy looked as dark and golden as a Hob Nob, whilst I lay next to him like a pasty Rich Tea finger. Chatting and catching rays I asked what was on the agenda for out first night..

“Oh” he gushed, “we’re going to Darwins only gay club…THROB!”

With a name like that how could I resist. And if the name wasn’t hilarious enough we were rewarded with a Batman and Throbin drag show on arrival and the best music i’d heard out in Australia.

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I didn’t know who was straight or gay, Andy could have been the only one in the village, but it didn’t matter and we danced our socks off rolling home at 4am.

Bolton

The next day brought more sun and relaxing by the pool where it became evident that that 80% hostel was tattooed and northern. I swear, take away the crocodiles and this could have been Bolton in a heatwave, and whilst some may not want to meet neighbours after travelling to other side of the world, I found it comforting to hear such familiarity, confirming my view that we are a bloody friendly lot.

“Danny love you better cover up, you look like raw bacon”

Never one to mince his words Andy kept me and our new friends, sisters Becky and Nicole from Blackpool, in stitches all day, singing and giving out to the boys about their lack of sun protection.

Though tempting as the sun was we knew we had to get out and see a bit of the ‘real’ Darwin. After all, this was croc country, and I wasn’t leaving before seeing or at least eating one. So with a tour booked for 6am the next morning we did the only thing grown ups do when they are left to their own devices, went to the local ‘Ibiza’ club night and went to bed at 3am.

We should be in bed….

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Sassy

Dragging myself on to the bus, sunglasses firmly affixed, Andy did not fail (yet again) to astound me with his level of sass (‘It’s hard being so so sassy all the time’), belting out Donna Summer in the back.

Yet despite the onslaught I did manage to fall asleep, and opened my eyes to the Outback! Like proper real Australia! It was beautiful, stretches of orange and red and not a speed sign in sight unlike nanny state Victoria.

After a tour of some very unusual looking termite homes we headed to Lichfield Park to take in the waterfalls, even this ‘this one isn’t that impressive’ one.

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Feeling so content near the water I was happy enough not to get in it and enjoyed some quiet time in the sun. Andy meanwhile took full advantage of open water, swimming out and proceeding to make gestures which I innocently mistook for Vougeing when he wanted photographic evidence of how far he’d gone.

Here in the Northern Territory YOU COULD BE NEXT!

Ominous words from our slightly racist boat guide on the Adelaide River. Not even a week before us a local had been gobbled by a croc retrieving his fishing line, and when the buffalo meat started flowing I could see how stupid that was, they were everywhere!

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Whilst I was fascinated hovering near the window trying to look them right in their pre historic eyes Andy went rather quiet. At first I thought he may have just been having a little time out but he did appear to be genuinely terrified and gave strong words to the meat swingers above yelling:

“You better get that meat away from me love!!!

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Thankfully though they seemed more interested in buffalo than Mancunians and after seeing them up close and personal we retreated back to the safely of the river bank, me promising sunsets a large gin on our return.

that’s more like it

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And as we headed back to the city I mused on Australia’s variety and vastness, a world away from posh coffee and breakfasts in Melbourne. There was so much more to see and I couldn’t have been happier with my new home and the prospect of exploring it all.

But alas my last day beckoned as I’d only taken a few days off to make the trip and we spent it laughing and soaking up more of the sun by the wave pool (note not the beach, the crocs like it there too).

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As I prepared to take the red eye flight back to Melbourne (straight to work the next morning) I had my final gin with Andy, filled with sadness to be leaving my long lost sassy friend behind.

Who knew when we would be reunited again, or where for that matter, but one thing was certain, I wasn’t going to leave it a whole 12 years until next time…..

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Moving on out: The best from BOC and the Melbourne Dream House

Before I’d even landed in Melbourne my residence at Back of Chapel was sealed by Gen, former resident of four months and good friend from home, though I was somewhat resistant to the idea having just about enough of my share of dorm snorers and 1am bag rustlers across Asia.

“Oh you’ll love it” she assured me, “I loved it so much I stayed four months!”

But I thought she had gone soft in the head. There was no way I would be sharing a bedroom for four months with no wardrobe or early morning access to a hair dryer. I thought I was far too old and as someone who used to get miffed if a few dirty cups were left in my London flat, I’d surly go insane.

No, I would stay a few weeks to get on my feet, then find a house share and live like a real person.

Well that was three months ago and oh how wrong I was.

Now I know it’s cringe, (I do, really) and I usually hate reading these kind of things but man, I’ve met some truly great people here! A big old Victorian fronted house the place had such a good feel to it and reminded me of my first year at university, which was one of my favourite years. And just like that year I hope I’ve made some lifelong friends who have not only made the first few months, but have made me realise a few things about myself and my former outlook.

‘Murica day decoration

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So many mates!

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The big learning point being, somewhat paradoxically, that I’m so much more happy, creative and ambitious when I’m not taking myself too seriously and worrying about where I’m going and the stations I should have reached. Which oddly were all the things that underpinned my resistance to hostel living. How can you hold down a decent job and live like a backpacker? Well, quite easily actually when you stop living in the what you ‘should’ be doing and start living in your present.

Now I may not always get 8 hours, frequent local bar Lucky Coq more times than Id care to admit and wear my unicorn onsie to bed every night, but professionally I’m thriving, loving my new job and setting goals for the future. All the things I thought I had to be serious and square about in order to achieve in the past.

And so as I prepare to move in to the dream house this Saturday with roomie and hostel bessie Molly, kiwi power duo Mel and Sophie and Nick (yes we’re dominating) I’ve defiantly learnt something of real value in the most unlikely place.

I’m going to live here!

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New room. Really.

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But I’m done with talking about myself. A picture tells a thousands words and I hope these ones sum up how awesome everyone has been and the fun we have had.

Here’s to lights on in the morning and making food in an oven. I hope the good times continue to roll!

Just another Friday night….

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Much love in this place

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Iced Jem buddy and joint custodian of Bowley, the red hostel bowl

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Nb: The above picture depicts a real life Australian, with a real oven who has not resided at BOC.

Roomie!

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And fellow Dorm 5 resident Guy (bottom bunk)

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Just one last group shot…

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A year older and maybe, just maybe, a little wiser…

A year ago today, clutching a very strong drink, I took the first step in bringing change, adventure and uncertainty in to my life.

I’d had the itinerary a few days, the idea a few months and the dream since I was about 16, but as I shrieked ‘just book it!’ to the agent the other end of the phone for my one way ticket I thought I was going to throw up.

I did in fact nearly throw up about 10 minutes later on the belief that I’d spent everything I had with a month left till payday. With visions of eating super noodles forever I remained a worried mess all night, wondering whether I could get a refund whilst friends kept the wine and reassurance flowing, telling me I’d made the right decision, that everything was going to be ok.

That day also happened to be my birthday, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I’d just bought the best present I could have ever given myself.

As I welcome in 28 today I’ve come over all reflective. I can’t believe it was only a year ago that I booked that ticket and clichéd as it sounds feel like I’ve lived more in the last 12 months than I ever have. But experiences and passport stamps aside the best thing of all is that I barely recognise the girl who didn’t sleep on last years birthday scared of the unknown.

Today I feel so much more settled and relaxed, even in absence of certainty because deep down I know things always work out, whether it’s being stranded in the middle of Delhi in the dead of night, or arriving to a new city with no money, job or proper shoes.

I didn’t know what awaited me last year and if someone had told me I’d be residing in a hostel living like an 18 year old (on top bunk) yet earning like a 28 year old I would have laughed!

Birthday bunk!

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And so as I celebrate 28 with twenty five of my new friends representing all four corners of the globe perhaps the worrier me has finally been silenced, and this year I have actually gotten just a little bit wiser..

Here’s to 28!

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Shake, Rattle and Roll: Sailing the Whitsunday’s

With a glimmer of hope on the job horizon and a whole bank holiday weekend ahead (not that it matters much to the unemployed) it was time to take a holiday from the holiday and head up the East Coast.

Excited to see friends I’d not seen in years, Gen and I escaped the Melbourne drizzle full of promise of sun, sailing and beach side bliss. The trip would begin in Brisbane heading down to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast before a mammoth drive up to Airly beach, jumping off point for the Whitsunday islands. From there we would take a three day cruise round the islands, sunbathe and snorkel to our hearts content before heading back down with a stop off at Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. It all sounded perfect, Gen had three new bikinis and we were very excited.

A bloody big country

It seemed like we had been on the plane two minutes yet when we stepped off we could have been in another country. Brisbane was hot hot hot! All perfect and shiny, a world away from the grey skies we had left behind, even the Boris bikes here were sunny yellow making the streets look all jolly. I also had it on good knowledge from a Brisbonian that it rarely gets below 20 degrees and ‘when it does people seriously start to have breakdowns’.

Wow. It made me think someone messed up and built Melbourne in the wrong place.

Can someone bring Melbourne up here please?

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Reunited with Rachel and Dixon who now live in New Zealand, we hung out in their plush rented apartment ready to head out to Surfers Paradise the next day.

Well, that was the plan, until we realised we had booked accommodation for the following weekend. Still it was a happy mistake as we ended up staying in Coolangatta, which is just the place you picture when someone says they are moving down under to live the good life. The beaches were beautiful the streets immaculate and everyone was tanned fit and gorgeous.

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Equally as picture perfect was Surfers Paradise. Stretching along the Gold Coast next to an impressive skyline the sand was white and the waves rolling, good news for Dixon who got to surf and escape us girls talking about what we ate yesterday.

Fitting in

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We grew in size with the addition of Spacey (yes it’s kind of his real name, even his mum uses it), also living in New Zealand, and set off the following morning for an epic road trip. When I told some Australian friends we were planning on doing the drive from Brisbane to Airly in a day they looked at me blankly with a ‘are you serious’ face. But we chose to rely on google maps over local knowledge which told us it was a mere 12 hours.

KEEP PLAYING TRIVIA!

A few hours in it was time to obey the Queensland road signs which advised us to ‘keep playing trivia! – it may save your life!’ and ‘arrive alive’. By the end of a few games of ‘I went to the supermarket and I bought…’ and ‘my vagina is’ our alphabet skills were second to none, certainly keeping Dixon on his toes as main driver.

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In fact it’s amazing how we all kept each other amused for the 16 HOURS it took to get there, stopping off only a few times in small towns that looked like something out of a wild Wild West film. Still, we had arrived in one piece and were ready to meet the rest of the gang the next day.

South Hemisphere Crew!

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As we bordered the boat taking up almost half of the space we were all in good spirits, even though the sky was grey and I was starting to regret my packing choices.

And my fears were not unfounded. As we got going with a briefing that included ‘make sure you locate your life jacket because this thing can sink faster than shit through a goose’ we started to rock, and roll and uuuggghhhh..

No sooner than half an hour in and Rachel had turned green, I was soaked, Gen wanted to get off and Tom was counting down the days till he could go back to Sydney pay people their superannuation

The boys on the other hand didn’t seem phased by the waves, multitasking beautifully singing and drinking beer whilst holding on. And given that 60% of the boat were already drunk and none of us had located our nearest life jacket I worried it’s was only a matter of time before someone (probably Baz) ended up in the sea.

But after a rough start, girls slightly smug that we had slept whilst the boys looked like they needed to swim off that hangover ASAP we donned up our blue morph suits, dived in and gawped at the scenes below. Which was about the time I started to really appreciate where we were, even if I was cold wet and wanted to vomit 80% of the time, you don’t get a turtle with your breakfast back on dry land do you.

And so as we sailed back on day three, the sun finally making an appearance we laughed that whilst we certainly didn’t wear any of those new bikinis the whole thing had defiantly been an experience…

Student living and the $200 Challenge..

Everyone told me Australia was expensive. But holy mother of god did I not realise how much until I got here.

Relaxing back in to my student days at Back of Chapel Hostel in Melbourne’s trendy south, I didn’t think I was spending all that much. Sleeping in my day didn’t get going until noon and even after that I wasn’t doing a great deal aside from lounging around and observing the rubix cube fascination that had seemed to take over the house.

new neighbourhood

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Unlike some of the hostels I had stayed in in Thailand I didn’t hate this one. An old house with period fireplaces and a big communal kitchen made it feel just like being back at uni, and the fact that it was single handidly keeping the Australian goon* industry alive only added to the experience. In short I felt about 19 again and didn’t have a care in the world.

This attitude also extended to the idea of finding a job. ‘I’ll just give myself a week or two to settle in’ I said, after all I couldn’t even navigate myself across the the city without getting hopelessly lost. Many a fun night followed and after catching up with some Australian friends, not to mention being reunited with Bianca thanks to my friend Lew who I met in Rishikesh, I started to feel that maybe it was time to start the job hunt and just casually check in on the bank balance.

she’s back

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“Careful kids. Never drink and bank. EVER”

Why I decided checking my account after a particularly big night was a wise idea I will never know. Calculating that I’d gone through about $1400 in two weeks (£700) I started to feel even more sick than I already did. They should put some kind of banner on their website to stop anything like this happening again – don’t drink and bank kids!

Where the money had gone I wasn’t quite sure. I’d had days where I’d only spent $10! How could I have gone through so much? I didn’t have any new fancy clothes to show for it, no adventures gastronomical or otherwise, only a few bits from the op shop and a couple of good nights out.

So I came to my own conclusion that Australia is a cash vortex which gobbles up cash until you start contributing something back. It was time to find a job.

$200 Challenge

In the meantime I had to live on as little as possible whilst I registered with agencies and gave myself repetitive strain hitting the ‘apply’ button on Seek. With a cheaper room for a week thanks to Gen moving in to a sublet and letting me share, I concluded I could live on $200 all in.

As it currently stands on Thursday evening (and I’m getting ready to go to the pub) I have $25.20 left in the kitty to get me through until Saturday with rent paid until the end of the week. Not only does having a budget teach you self disciple it also gives you an interesting insight in to yourself when you write down what you spend your money on, my main purchases being coffee, frozen yogurt and shoes from the $2 bin.

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Will I make it through until Saturday? Will I become a fully fledged human being again with a job, bank account and Tupperware lunch in the next few weeks?

Stay tuned to find out. In the meantime I hope you have a great Easter break! In the life of one who is unemployed I will be spending mine in the Whitsunday islands..

Oh and I paid for that one in advance. Totally not coming out of the $200 budget or on my credit card at all….

*Goon – a sweet 5 litre box of sweet wine for $9

I’m an Alien

I have a new found respect for city tourists.

You know the ones, stopping dead in front of you to stare at Big Ben causing a face plant situation before you’ve even had your morning coffee.

I’m not afraid to admit that I hated these street flounders back in London. Always getting in your way when you were already late for something, that is until I became one myself.

Despite travelling across the Asian subcontinent alone all common sense and navigational skills go out go the window the second I pair up with someone who knows their way around. Taken under the wing of my good friend Gen from home, I hadn’t so much as looked at a map or a street name since I arrived. But when she headed out to an interview and I made lunch plans the other side of the city I was let loose, alone.

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Same same, but different

Having been to yoga that morning strolling with a (great) coffee in hand I felt like I’d slotted seamlessly back in to my old life. Some semblance of routine was back and my head must have been stuck somewhere in the northern hemisphere amongst the laid back bars and restaurants of Chapel Street which bore little difference to the ones I used to frequent in Islington.

My first task was to get the tram to the Central Business District, or CBD. I didn’t give it a second thought. Arriving at the right street I could see trams and started to look around for a platform. In the absence of a platform I walked up and down a bit before being horrified at the fact that I didn’t actually know how to get on the dam thing.

But I couldn’t possibly ask someone. Not only would I people think I was a complete nelly I sounded like the Queen whenever I opened my mouth round here.

Stealthily disguising my tram shame I hid behind a lamp post until the next one came, taking note of the stop (by the side of the road, like a bus stop) and etiquette before shuffling on to the next one. I was on! All I needed next was to change in the city to go north, simple stuff.

Five minutes of window gazing and ‘OMG I’m living in Melbourne, this is so cool’ later I realised I didn’t actually know where I was getting off. I’d been armed with some loose instructions of getting off a few stops after the main train station but had no names. Investing faith in the tram map (which will win no awards for design and layout, sozzels Melbourne) I was still none the wiser. I’d have to regally ask someone or risk being even later than I was already running.

Huh?

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Does Australia have pay phones?

With instructions in hand I realised I was really really late. But as an alien of a few days standing I had no phone.

Mmm, no phone, need to call someone. Should I ask that person if I can use their phone? Wait a minute, what did we used to do in this scenario? I swear there was something..

As my brain spluttered and churned up pay phones (!) I dived off the tram to make the call, giving myself bit more time in the bank.

‘How you going?’

Says everyone here. Though at this moment I wished someone had asked me ‘where are you going’ and proceeded to take over and direct me. After identifying the correct numbered tram I went the wrong way (to which I will hold the tram map vicariously liable) then got off at the wrong stop. By the time I’d found where I was going I was in a right flap and ready for a drink the size of my head.

But I had made it. Even if it had taken me an hour and a half with a red face from the afternoon sun. Having a great catch up and lunch I was almost over my alienness until I tried to buy beetroot, to find the only pickled variety came in a CAN, like peas or something.

Yes. I think I’m going to be an alien for a while yet…..

I’ll Be Seeing You…

Some things just call for a big massive drink.

Such as goodbyes, especially when it’s to your best friend and you’re retreating to opposite sides of the WORLD. Yes for the last two weeks I have been lucky enough to have my best friend Fiona come join me in the islands of smiles and videoke, the Philippines.

“Mate, we could have fun in a cardboard box. I just want sand and cocktails”

With such detailed guidance there was only one place I had been that I knew could deliver in abundance: Boracay.

I must admit I was worried as to just how much fun we could have there, or anywhere for that matter, as experience told me that together we are a power house of good times. Such as the time we kept the only bar in a sleepy German village going until 3am, or made an impromptu onsey party with strangers. Together my cheeks ache as we don’t stop laughing.

After a planned hiatus of rice terraces where we trekked, made friends with village elders and discovered Sagadas only late night lock in, we spent a week in Boracay.

It may have only been a week but any longer and we would have needed another holiday. Island friends, cool Koreans (man they can party) invites to Chinese condos, parasailing over crystal clear seas and almost missing our plane, is to scratch the surface of what we got up to.

Impending arrival…

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Ready to go

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Tribal friends

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Sagadas only lock in…

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The Korean Selfie

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Rice terraces

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Parasailing!

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It was the best of times and it wasn’t until we got to the airport in Singapore that I realised how great it had been to be with my oldest friend and the realism that I wasn’t going back to the world we had shared before.

“Enjoy your new life in Melbourne!”

Words not intended to but made me freak out! My last plane ticket, I’ll have to get a job, a house, I have no normal shoes, what am I doing! After we said an emotional goodbye and I watched her walk away for what felt like forever I felt the weight of my aloneness bear down on me. Everywhere I looked people were together, off to wherever on holiday or maybe starting a new life, and here I was dragging myself off to the other side of the world for who knows what.

But then I remembered the girl who five months to the day previously had sobbed and sobbed boarding that first plane, who had sat shakily in Qatar en route to Delhi and who looked around the first hotel room and thought, now what? It had all turned out good, better than good and I realised how far I’d come and those butterflies I was feeling were actually excitement more than fear.

So as I sit here with a glass of wine I cheers myself (partly because I’ve got no mates now), to starting a new chapter, to the unknown, to new friends whilst never forgetting the old. I hope you will stay tuned to join me….!

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Parasian: Postcards from Hanoi

I think I may have fallen in love.

With winding streets, french country style buildings, dainty singing birds, beautiful cafés and the best food I’ve had in months, Hanoi quite simply charmed the pants off me. As a capital city I was expecting more of the same as it’s corporate brother, Ho Chi Minh City, but my expectations couldn’t have been father from truth.

And with another ex pat stay with my friend Rhiannon I was in for a real treat of moped riding, pho eating and the best coffee ever.

Step inside the Old Quarter to see for yourself. I challenge you not to fall for Paris meets Asian crazy…

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Singing birds. Ones with the sweetest songs can sell for upwards of $200

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House numbers a la Paris

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Stamps on the walls: handy man calling cards!

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The view from Cafe Du Tri, coffee shop circa 1931

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Voila!

Live before you fly

With six flights to take in two weeks this disappearing plane has given me the jitters.

Even though my rational side knows it’s safe, with falling coconuts and death by donkeys being statistically more likely, it has still ignited something within me, something that goes far beyond a fear of flying.

Enter – The Existential Crisis

No one wants to die. In fact it would not be too outlandish to claim most people fear death, and even those who don’t probably don’t want to be there when it happens, despite it being our only true certainty in life.

Take this and a situation where you have no control, so vulnerable at the hands of engineering and human error it’s no wonder disasters such is this is are so abhorrent and inconceivable, they’re just not supposed to happen.

Passing time with fellow Chang vest avoider Olivia, who I met in Hoi An, we chatted late in to the night feeding our morbid fascination with the case, not only trying to solve the mystery but overworking our empathetic side, putting ourselves in the position of relatives, wondering what we would do if that was us.

And so as I waited for my flight back to Manila all these things were very reassuringly whizzing round my head and I tried to pinpoint what it is for me that is most scary about dying.

It didn’t take long to decide: put simply the fear of going without having left a mark on the world, of not reaching my full potential, of not contributing something of value to others (whether that be work, relationships, kids whatever) that makes my time here worthwhile.

Actual plane fear

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Then there’s the second thing: if I knew my time was so limited would I be doing anything differently. This I think is a very interesting question. As I mentioned in my going East page I’m a fan of the how to live before you die speech by Steve Jobs who talks about how knowing he would die soon was the one thing that kept him truly living.

Again it’s a morbid thought, but one that requires some consideration. If you only had 5 years left as opposed to 50 what would you be doing so differently, and what does that say about the path you are currently on? Of course it’s a slightly unrealistic notion to live each day as if it was your last and I’m not talking skydives and scaling mountains every day here, but rather acting on those quieter voices which stir your curiosity, so often banished to the ‘that’s not realistic drawer’.

And on this point I did feel content (even though I was still scared to death that disaster could strike twice) because for once I did have the courage to act on those thoughts many months ago, to not listen to the ‘what if it doesn’t work outs’, to follow curiosity over logic, to just go and see what happens.

But on point one I was most defiantly not at ease, I’ve not so much as made a dent on leaving a legacy, I don’t even know what I can or want to contribute! I am most certainly not ready to go.

All this morbid introspection made me realise a few things: that the pursuit of dreams is really important, that I’ve got much more I want to give (in whatever guise that will appear!) and that right now things are not half bad.

And so when I stepped on to the Tarmac I savored the humid air, waved to the ground staff (got to love Filipinos) thanked my lucky stars I was there in that moment and bounced out of the airport full of life to live another day.

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Return to Blighty: A Weekend of Ex Pat Luxury

Yorkshire tea. Clean showers. A washing machine.

All things I haven’t seen in the last few months, no wait, probably four months since I left the homeland. Though sad to be leaving the Philippines I was excited for my next destination and another rare luxury: being met by my friend Gemma and her boyfriend Lee at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

There would be no negotiating of taxi fares and scratching my head looking at a wad of strange notes in the middle of the night, all would be taken care of and I would be welcomed with open arms.

“Look at you!”

Exclaimed Gemma as we want in for an embrace. I wasn’t sure if this was a good or a bad thing but when I did actually look at myself against her gleaming white apartment I looked like a teenager who had just dragged herself home after a rock festival.

If looks weren’t enough I also smelt like one. In what felt like such a sanitary environment the pong from by backpack had nothing to disguise itself against, a potent mix of sun cream and damp. Even the stuff I thought was clean smelt rotten in such clean air conditioned air.

Tea

The next day I was woken with a fresh cup of Yorkshire Tea. Even though I’ve been to some big tea countries on my trip, nothing beats a good northern cuppa. I drank mine down and proceeded to luxury two of the day: a hot shower and blow drying my hair.

Now this all may sound a little dramatic but I was relishing these little rituals that I’d long forgotten about. To drink from a tap knowing it won’t make you horrifically Ill, to open a fridge and have what you fancy, to go to a toilet that was truly clean…

And cliched it sounds not having them made me appreciate them, whilst also making me feel like a badass that Id left them behind, that I didn’t really need them, that I wasn’t as vain as I thought.

My own designer

As I arrived over the weekend and Gemma was off work we headed out for some shopping, but not any old shopping. Here in Vietnam it’s more than acceptable to pick out your own fabric and get a tailor to whip up a design of your choosing. It can actually be cheaper than buying clothes in a shop and if you’re anything over a size 10 you may not be able to fit in shop clothes in any event.

If I lived here this would be my crack cocaine.

Within 10 minutes I had three different prints and designs in my minds eye for 50’s inspired dresses. I’m glad we we left after an hour of browsing before I bought anything else. Which it turns out I did, just after we left the market, snapping up a beautiful Lancôme leather bag at a vintage shop for £7. Well I can’t go to Melbourne looking like a sack of spuds can I?

Polished up with friends

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In all my shopping hair styling excitement I’d not really been paying attention to what was going on in the street, my favorite part of being in a new city. Yes it seemed I was experiencing a different kind of culture here, the ex pat life of home comforts, a miniature English network in an Asian metropolis.

And at first I felt a little guilty for it, like I should be out eating street food and drinking coffee in street cafés with locals. But actually this was just as insightful (not to mention fun), making me wonder whether I could return to London in light of the comfortable and laid back lifestyle witnessed here.

So I lapped it up, meeting great people, eating fantastic food and hanging out in a cool courtyard bars. But deep down I knew it wouldn’t be too long before the blow dry would turn, the clothes would become smelly and I’d be eating by the roadside again..

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