Being home

I know I haven't written since we departed for Australia and I do apologise..... To be honest was having so much fun in Australia and trying to really take in our last destination.  

Australia was easily tied 2nd with Vietnam for my favourite country - with India being first. We stayed with two girls we met in India (Shanon and Jenna) in their apartment in Leichardt. We then rented a rundown 1999 Toyota van-turned-camper for a week and ventured North from Sydney (NSW) to the Gold Coast (Queensland). Along the way we hit a few National Parks, with our favourite being Border Ranges. We saw some crazy stars. And discovered pine orange and goon. Here's a picture of the stars - not the highest quality but took me awhile to get shutter speed right. 

Brightness all the way up is best.  

Brightness all the way up is best.  

We were lucky enough to stay a night at J/S childhood home on the Gold Coast and then go to Curumbin Wildlife Sanctuary the next day where we got to pet and feed kangaroos and see an awesome bird presentation. Our first van ended up breaking down in the parking lot of Curumbin so Jake and I set up camp for the night. The next morning we got towed and were given a <15,000km 2016 Toyota van (which had a much improved sound system). We then stopped at Byron Bay for roughly 1.5 hours and then hit the road for 13 hours to make it back in the morning to drop the car off. 

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After the road trip we stayed with my Uncle, Aunt and cousins. It was really kind of them to taken us in and feed us; if you're reading this Rog, Lisa, Ol [happy birthday mate], Lottie, Bel or Rem then from Jake and I, thank you so much for letting us crash and eat and drink. 

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My birthday was a fun day. Jake took the wheel for the day (we rented a car) and we went to Sydney Fish Market and ate some delicious seafood paired with some good wine. My uncle brought me to see Liverpool play a friendly against Sydney FC. Even though i'm a United fan, it was an awesome time and pretty special to see Steven Gerrard play live. We did part of the Bondi to Bronti walk. 

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We did a lot more, but you'll see a lot of that in the video I am putting together of the trip. Australia was amazing and I want to thank Shan, Jen, and my family for making it such a special place. 

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Missed my last flight. I thought my flight departed SYD at 10 PM but it was 10 AM. $1000 later I got a flight the next day. I made it home in one piece after a 6 hour delay in LA. 

Its really weird for me to be home. I've written many versions of this blog post, but i'm having a really hard time explaining how it is to be home. I got pretty depressed when I got home. I think it had to do with the fact that not everyday was a new discoverery or adventure. I love home, and always will. It's just been a much harder transition than I had anticipated. 

Video coming super soon....Thank you to everyone who stayed up to date with my blog throughout my travels.  

 

-E

Goodbye Vietnam

Vietnam has been quite the experience. I have learned how to ride a motorcycle here, experienced the terribleness that is bed bugs, gotten sick, seen the destruction that the United States government caused here, and met some really incredible people. Most importantly I have traveled roughly 1.6 thousand kilometres from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). 

Currently on a bus from HCMC to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Going to Cambodia for roughly 9 days, then heading back to Vietnam for less than 24 hours to catch a flight to Australia!  

Next two weeks are going to be amazing. I'm hoping to post more pictures soon.

You will be missed....

(insert sad music)

Sold my bike. Miss it already. Sad day. Needed to sell it though as was getting too expensive to repair (rip my gear box). Steven you will be missed. 

 

 

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The Hài Vân Pass

About to ride what some consider the most beautiful mountain pass road in the entire world - the Hải Vân Pass. Currently eating lunch on the side of the highway.  

As the days go on I am getting more and more comfortabl on the bike. It really is the best way to see the country.  Will post some pictures once I reach the next destination of Hội An. 

 

Hanoi to Ninh Binh, leg one

Leg one was a success. We knew there would be issues with the bikes; however, we did not expect that 9km into our journey out of Hanoi my friends chain would snap.  

We were on the side of the highway making our way to the Ho Chi Minh Trail when we had to pull over. We tried to call the mechanic but they did not pick up so our other friend had to ride back into Hanoi, back to the hostel to get in touch with the shop. After waiting 1.5 hours they showed up on the side of the highway and did the repair right there for us. 

After that we were on our way! We had roughly a 4 hour journey ahead of us. It is absolutely beautiful riding in the countryside. Rice party fields, small villages, cows and water buffalo are just some of the things you see while riding. 

Overall pretty good success with the bikes. Have really gotten the hang of it. Only issue is my bike doesn't like second gear very much, so will take to a mechanic to get that fixed.  

Next stop is Phong Nha.  

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Bought a bike

Bought a motorcycle yesterday. It is the classic "fake" Honda Win that every foreigner buys and rides in Vietnam. Spent 30 or so minutes yesterday teaching myself how to drive a manual on a "quiet" street in Hanoi. Knowing how to drive a manual car did help a lot with getting the timing of releasing the clutch and giving gas so thanks parentals for owning two standard cars.  

Off on a quick two day trip to Halong Bay before I start the ride.  

I know I was warned a little about Vietnam but it's brilliant- glad to be here.

Thailand -> Vietnam

It's been real Thailand - you've treated me well. shown me what paradise is like for the past two weeks.

Spent the past week in Krabi (costal town on West of Thailand) and Phuket. Best way I have to describe Phuket is a bunch of old, beer bellied Russian men with girls that are much much younger than them. Interesting for sure. It was definitely the most developed out of the four I visited. Not a bad thing; however, I would suggest spending more time on the eastern islands if you're heading to Thailand. More relaxed and less built up. Just my opinion though - to each his own.

Tomorrow I fly out at 6 AM to Hanoi, Vietnam. After a few days of preparation will start the epic cross country road trip (N to S). The plan is to attempt what the Americans were unable to do in the war, only backwards. Wish us luck.

Check out my Instagram for a short video made up of some clips from the trip so far. My plan is to have a longer one, which I will upload to YouTube at the end of the trip.

Speaking of the end - after roughly 37 days in Vietnam we will be heading to the land down under to see the Smith Aussie family and two friends from India. Should be a good time.

Koh Pha Ngan -> Koh Samui

Spent the day yesterday riding around the island (KPN) on a scooter. It was absolutely beautiful. Ate a ton of delicious street food. At sunset went to meet a friend I met on the bus ride/boat ride to the island at a bar. Had yet again another beautiful sunset. 

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Today woke up and packed. Ate a half descent breakfast sandwich on the beach and then caught the ferry to the next island on my island hopping adventure - Koh Samui. Currently sitting on the beach after spending a few hours in the water. I think I can get used to this.....

Plan for tomorrow is to go on a snorkelling excursion. For $40 I get transportation to and from the boat, gear rental, breakfast, lunch and snorkelling at the famous Ko Tao island. Great deal if you ask me. 

To say i'm having a great time would be an understatement.  

Koh Pha Ngan

Thailand is beautiful. Flew to Bangkok and spent two days there (super hot and muggy but a lot of fun on Khao San Road). Two days ago took a 10-12 hour bus ride to the south of Thailand where I caught a boat to the beautiful island on the east coast called Koh Pha Ngan. It's paradise. Here are a few pics - more to come if I decide to ever get out of the water.  

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An Ice Cream on the marsh

A tradition when my family comes to Neston to visit my Grandmother is we walk on the Park Gate marsh front and get an ice cream. 

Today Jake and I went and it was as great as ever. Plan for tomorrow 03/03/17 is to go to some museums in Liverpool. We were going to go to a Manchester United match this coming Saturday; however, tickets at an affordable price sold out overnight. Oh well, will have to visit the theatre of dreams another time.  

a view of Wales from the marsh

a view of Wales from the marsh

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Chester

Went into Chester today, a two thousand year old city! Walked along the city walls and then went into the Cathedral which was beautiful - surprisingly something I have never done considering I've been coming to this part of the UK since I was born. 

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Just finished reading my book A Man Called Ove it was fantastic. Easy read. Highly recommend. Can't believe I actually read a book.... Now reading A Long Way From Home, which is what the film Lion is based off of. It's really great especially since I just was in India. 

I was in a dressing room trying on some random clothes (didn't buy - saving money) and I looked at the mirror and I was in shock. I look like i've gained weight, which for me just doesn't happen. Rip me. My version of the freshman 15. 

Neston

Currently visiting Grandmother in Neston, UK. Jake and I are just hanging out, sleeping, and eating a lot of food. The life if you ask me....although not sure grandmother appreciates it. 

Back in London

Currently in London again visiting my family. Met up with Jake again. Today, 23/02/17 we were booked to go up to Chester to see my Grandmother; however, storm Dorris got the best of the UK.

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Amsterdam was amazing - spent my time relaxing in coffee shops (sorry mum), going to art museums and eating delicious food. After a lot of thought I have decided to leave Europe. I wasn't feeling it 100% and am eager to get to warm weather - figured Europe is a place that is best to come to when you have a lot of money (which I do not).

After talking to a few friends in Australia, I have decided to head to Vietnam. I'm really excited to get away from ultimate western society and make my way towards South East Asia. Plan is to fly into Ho Chi Minh and over the course of a month, by motorcycle, ride along the coast heading north towards Hanoi.

If anyone has any recommendations or "must dos" in Vietnam comment below! Thanks for all the support.

Europe!

Sorry for not writing in awhile. I was having so much fun in India with the people that I met, I didn't want to use up free time. Anyways, left India Feb 10, and flew to London. I am not one to get overwhelmed by much; however, that being said, the transition from India to London was huge. The second I got off the plane I saw more white people than I had seen all month. The food was overwhelming with so many options and combinations. Lastly the cost of everything. I was living off a very small amount of money in India and in London that sum could barely cover a single meal.  

London was fun overall. Finally got to eat beef! Got to see my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin for a nice meal. And got to see dark and depressing London winter in all its glory (sorry dad). 

Currently it is 16:41 on Valentines day and am sitting in my hostel in what is arguably the most romantic city in the world - Paris.  

Off to see the Eiffel tower and get my fix on cheese, baguette, and some red wine.  

Hope you all have a great Valentines Day.

 

Traveling as an American in Trump's America

I am an American. There is no denying it. My passport says so, my birth certificate says so....everything about who I am is American. That being said, recently I have had a really hard time with that fact because I am now traveling out of the country as an American.

Even just a few weeks ago that used to be something to brag about, something to hold your head up high and puff your chest out about. Its America. A great country. Under Barack maybe even the greatest country. A country where all are (technically) born with unalienable rights....a country where it shouldn't matter who you are or where you come from (again, technically but that's for another time.)

But sadly those times seem to have come to an end. I have found myself walking the streets of India choosing very carefully who I tell that I am an American. I have found myself 90% of the time saying that I am Canadian......and we all know how Americans feel about Canadians ;) We are the laughing stock of the global powers. We are a joke. No one takes us seriously anymore. No longer do people, when they hear I am from America, want to know about the cities, the beautiful National Parks - all they associate us with is Trump. Because the unfortunate reality is that we now exist in Trump's America - not the people's America.

My father texted me and just warned me....that with the legislation Trump has been pushing through this past week, people will likely jump to conclusions and have preconceived notions about who we are and what we believe. It pained me to read that because it only reaffirmed what I was already experiencing.

In my tour group, my friend Jake and I are the only Americans. I immediately noticed that they have majour generalizations about us. Whether it be social, economical or political it all got to me and I found myself having to fully defend my country. Defend its integrity and legitimacy. Defend its name and honor. I had to try and defend our political system, one that was once praised and modeled after, but now mocked and laughed at.

I think it has finally hit me that America is not all that it is built up to be. There is a lot to be done domestically but also internationally in terms of our reputation and legitimacy. We are not the country we once were.

Thank you to anyone who took part in the Women's Marches around the country and around the world....you are what I love about my country. You are what it truly means to be American.

Someone who really embodies that ideal for me is my Mum. She, along with millions of other women and men took to the streets to protest and make their voice heard. She has taught me everything I know about what America is and I want to thank her for that. Huge shoutout to her because Jan 30th is her birthday! Happy birthday Mum. Love you so much. Sorry I am not there to celebrate with you.

To end, I think what I am finding hardest is taking pride in my country. A place that I have unlimited love for has left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and now I am thousands of miles away learning what people really think about us. All in all this is when it is up to people such as myself to demonstrate that not all Americans are like our lovely elected President. So I am suiting up and going out with my best attitude and hopefully will be able to show some people what it truly means to be an American.

Finishing up in Delhi and heading to Jaisalmer for a camel safari

I would say the most important thing that happened to me in Delhi was getting lost. Jake and I were trying to find our way to a restaurant for a nice lunch and ended up in a crowded local market. We had been to many markets beforehand; however, there was a different vibe about this one. The people were poorer - manyappeared to be living right on the side of the street.

I knew the socioeconomic divide was massive in India. I just didn't know it was quite like this.

We had found ourselves in an extremely poor neighborhood.

There were beggars asking for money and food. Children running around pulling at your shirt. It was something I was not used to and to be honest left me completely rattled. That being said, it was a completely necessary thing for me to see. I could not leave India without seeing how a huge percentage of its citizens live.

The next day, Friday January 21st we met yup with our tour group to begin our 22 day adventure around Northern India. Our first day we packed up our things and made our way towards the sleeper train where we would be spending the next 19 hours. 

Jake and I both occupying the top bunks (ignore my big toe).

Jake and I both occupying the top bunks (ignore my big toe).

About 13 hours into our journey, at around 5 AM, we were woken up by our guide to news that our train would not be making the rest of the journey to the city of Jaisalmer due to a track malfunction. I had heard the trains in India weren't the most reliable; however, was not expecting anything to go wrong with ours.

Thankfully, we were able to hire a private bus that would take us the rest of the way to our final destination (a 5 to 6 hour journey).

As if things could not get worse, halfway through our drive, our bus got a flat tire. Yeah.....everything was against us getting to Jaisalmer in time for our camel safari in the Thar desert.

In short, we eventually made it with enough time to watch the sunset on our camels as we made our way into the heart of the Thar desert where we would be spending the night. More on that coming tomorrow.

A visit to Humayun's Tomb

Pictures are worth a thousand words.... 

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Humayan's Tomb is considered the predecessor to the infamous Taj Mahal. I am pretty sure you can see why. Day three was nothing short of beautiful. 

Delhi Day 1 and 2

Regardless of what people tell you - Delhi belly is real. My first full day in India was spent getting well acquainted with my new friend, the porcelain throne. 

Day two began bright and early to the wonderful sound of tuk tuk horns, barking dogs and large Indian families moving out of the hotel. After deciding to skip both the warm milk with cornflakes for breakfast and the cold shower, Jake and I set off out of the hotel into the craziness that is Delhi.

There is no great way to explain just how loud and busy the city of Delhi is, other than to see it for yourself. Once you exit the hotel you are met with tuk tuk drivers who are offering you rides to every possible location, little kids who want to shine your shoes (or feet if you were wearing flip flops like I was), and ladies with young children who want money to help feed their children. As you can imagine it is a lot all at once, and to be honest it can be quite overwhelming.

After saying "no" and "im all set, thank you though" roughly 50 times, Jake and myself were approached by a man in a tuk tuk. We both simultaneously looked at each other and thought "oh no, here we go again." However, this man seemed to just wanted to chat. He asked us where we were from, how we were liking India so far and said welcome to my country. That was it. Just as we were walking away we decided to ask him for a ride to Connaught Place, one of the largest and busiest commercial centers in New Delhi.

Our short journey from the hotel to the center of Connaught place was an entire experience on its own. I thought Boston was home to the worst and most aggressive drivers but driving in India is on a whole different level. I think the best was to describe it is organised chaos. There are street signs, lane lines and traffic lights; however all are rarely followed. Each driver / cyclist has a destination in mind and no one is going to get in their way of getting there as efficiently as possible - even if that means hitting a few cars on the way and even driving on the sidewalk to "avoid" traffic. 

I am really glad that we met RP, our friendly and honest rickshaw driver. He was genuine and kind. He asked us what we wanted to do and made many suggestions; however, left the decision making to Jake and I. He brought us to a delicious restaurant which was filled with locals - a complete hole in the wall, and a place we likely would never have experienced if it weren't for RP.   

 

Myself and RP

Myself and RP

All in all, Delhi day 2 was a majour success and I am excited to see what tomorrow brings. 

And....we are off!

After much anticipation the day has finally come. My friend Jake and I are off to our frst destination.....New Delhi, India. 

More coming soon.

 

 

some friends came over for dinner and to say bye.

some friends came over for dinner and to say bye.

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