Travel Tips

Hostel people

Picture this, we walk through the front door of a great looking hostel located in. How do you know how to speak with, who to avoid and who to chat up? Below are some pointers to surviving hostel people.

Reception staff

Generally good looking females in their mid to late twenties. There are two reasons a good looking twenty-ish year old lady will find herself behind the chipped counter with check-in forms photocopied beyond recognition;

  1. She needs to the money to be here
  2. She is in love with a local

The lady who needs money to be here will hate you on principal as you are just bumming about. The lady who is in love with a local does not find it endearing that you wrote “Yes please” instead of male or female and that your job is apparently “Exotic dancer”. She will just want to finish her shift then hustle over to Juan’s place forsex. Despite neither receptionists being friend material be polite…be very polite. These ladies hover their fingers over that door buzzer as you frantically dial the intercom at 3am and watch as a lynch mob of unhappy husbands or wives close in. Be polite.

You get to your room and carefully try to fit your valuables into  locker the size of a postage stamp, on the bottom bunk seemingly dead is

Catatonic person

Two reasons can explain this catatonia. Either this person is a hard core solo traveler, they will ghost themselves away in the early hours and explore more of this country before breakfast than you will in three months. Not friend material. Even if they are lovely people, you would never keep up. The other explanation is that this bag of meat on the bed imbibed too much last night, no bother, you will meet them when the bar opens.

You have a shower, pick month old hair from your toenails, dress in your traveling best and go to the bar. Look around but don’t rush to sit down, a mistake here could be fatal to your friend mission. Leaning against the bar are two seasoned

Hostel hoppers

Don’t go there. These guys can travel for months or even years without seeing the outside of seedy hostel bars. I once stayed in a Peruvian hostel for one night before embarking on an epic two week trek in the Andes. Upon my return I saw the same two people guys holding up the same bit of bar and having the same generic “My what a cute accent, Annie was it…” conversation as when I left them. They will most definitely want to be your friend, that is until a cute German girl is in range, then they will just mock your Australian-isms and shun you in a feeble attempt to look cool.

Keep looking, oh those guys at the pool table seem to be having fun.

Pool table jocks

Pool tables are to bar conversation what internet dating is to awkward people breeding. Pool table jocks are neither interesting nor engaging. They use pool as a lubricant to try to hide the fact that they have nothing interesting to say about, well anything. Keep it in your back pocket though. You notice that hanging around the bar are some locals

Local lurkers

A risk, sometimes a risk worth taking. Generally locals come to hostels for one of two reasons; Shag a backpacker or to sell drugs, sometimes both. They ingratiate themselves with the pool table jocks in the vague hope that the pool table jocks will draw some good looking, fun girls into their net.

What about the bar tenders they look friendly, clean….

Bar staff

Bar staff are the male equivalent of the reception staff with a much higher sex drive, they would root their awkward auntie patsy if she put on a nice frock. Bar staff are great to chat to for the first few drinks but invariably the conversation will quickly descend to a one sided discussion about which girl in the room looks to be a sure bet. Get in, learn the cheap tours and sightseeing tricks and get out.

God, this is looking grim, what about that gaggle of good looking girls sitting apart from everyone else?

Pretty girl table

Now this pretty table of girls invariably will have inherited a male guard dog at some point in their trip. The girls keep him around in a hope that he could provide some protection from the pool table jocks, the guy hangs around in the hope that at some point he could get laid. In nature this is called a symbiotic relationship. If there is no guard dog go for it, have a chat. If there is, steer clear, generally guard dogs take their duty very seriously.

Janitor

Well the dusty old mexican looking dude pushing the broom. Always a sure bet for some stimulating conversation, try to see him looking for a cigarette then whip in with one before he can say “Hola”. Locals working in hostels are always a sure fire bet for a good yarn, local intelligence and a laugh. You will not regret spending that $1.50 shouting any of them a drink, usually. But he finishes work and goes home too quickly. Look around the bar, what about that weird, lonely looking dude staring at his laptop?

Guy sitting by himself on computer writing about people in hostel – Hi, what took you so long?

People on a plane

 

grey People on a plane

During my various flights and waits in airports on this journey, as is bound to happen, I have met a few interesting People on a plane. This got me thinking about the types of people you bump into on a commute:

The fretter

Whilst waiting to check in at Melbourne international I met my first fretter. He was a balding chap wearing a safari shirt and a bumbag (the international fretter’s uniform). we were at the back of the queue but I was not concerned, we still had

over two hours until takeoff. Fretter scurried up with his eyes darting from clicking departure board to board. With beading forehead and frown working overtime he turned to me;

 

“Is this the check in queue for Bangkok?”

“Yeah mate”

(there were no less the eight screens in front of us displaying all the flight numbers and code sharing numbers)

“Do you reckon we will have time, it’s a big queue?”

“Yup easy, customs is really quick in the morning”

 

 

“Good, good, my travel agent assured me I will have time but it is a big line…are you sure?”

“She’ll be fine mate, don’t worry. Where are you going? What have you got planned?”

I find that most fretters are impossible to console, distraction is a safer option; ‘I am stressed’ is best replied with ‘Oh look, something shiny’

I turned to the guy in front who was busily ‘hhmhping’ in a freakishly bovine manner and commenting on the slowness of the line. Immediately upon asking “where are you going?” I realised that this tall, lanky guy was different to my animated friend behind….

grey People on a plane

The mistrusting guy

This type of commuter is suspicious of everyone. When I finished my question he shifted his bags away from my feet and placed himself between me and his bags…well the flight was to Bangkok and I was wearing my weird hippy pants… Never, never waste time or energy on the mistrusting guy, they spend their entire commute staring down coloured children or obsessively checking their itineraries for errors. If you ever meet a mistrusting guy at a hostel or bar, just walk away, trust me!

I find my seat on the plane next a friendly, well dressed indian chap leaning forward to tuck my book into the seat pocket I suddenly realise that I had been seated next to,

The farter

There is not much to say here. If, like me, you don’t wear your Sunday best on a plane a snappily dressed Indian farter beside you will seem innocent of any smells wafting around the vicinity. Despite him wolfing down Hindu vegetarian curries continuously for the entire ten hour flight everyone within four rows was looking suspiciously at me. Slumped against the window seat I noted was a

Sleeping girl

I have only seen a few true examples of this retiring creature on commutes, their talent is rare and much envied on extended flights. Once their seatbelt goes clicks and before the safety spiel finishes they will tilt their head to one side, close their eyes peacefully and not stir for the entire flight. While watching her slumber enviously I decide that there had to be drugs involved. Looking around the sleeping cabin I spotted a faint glow coming from the middle of a row and realise that; Ladies and Gentlemen we have a

grey People on a plane

Gaming-man

The flight attendants will have to wrench his iPad or Gameboy out of his hands on final approach. I suspect that airlines position gamers on every flight and they are the ones really flying the plane, the guys in front are just terrorist decoys.

A thirteen hour ‘Angry Birds’ bender is just a warm up for the gaming man. I imagine they scuttle to their hotel in exotic lands to “Just finish this level…” They ignore any offer of food or water and sit bolt upright for the entire flight, gleefully tapping away and chuckling to themselves. Small ‘pings’ and clicks come from their earphones as they sit stock still, unaware of any clot which may be forming lower down in their legs. Having never seen one move for the toilet I can only assume that they are blessed with freakishly large bladders along with their ninja thumbs. While looking at the Gamer for signs of life my knee is bumped by

The Wanderer 

Getting up every ten minutes or so, the wanderer will never risk DVT or cramp. They have an uncanny knack of finding knees in the dark to bump, they facilitate their movement by pulling hard on the back of each headrest en route. They melt into the darkness before registering a wake of annoyed grunts being produced.

Now, I pre-booked my seats like any good commuter thinking I would be set for a decent slumber on the last leg (Bangkok to Copenhagen). I arrived at seat 29B full of promise to find seat 29A occupied by

The single mum

Yup, a nervous looking Thai lady watched me stow my bags before apologetically introducing herself…and the 10 month infant on her lap.

The long haul

I decided to do what I would if it were my niece (no, not tip Phenergan down her throat) I was polite and tried to make friends with this ticking bomb and her mother.

No success, tough crowd.

I got chatting to mum and found out that not only was she ‘The single mum‘ she was also

The exploited

I last met a group of exploited when I flew from Kathmandu to Doha in 2010. A large group of excited Nepalese men were flying to Doha for work. Little did they know they would spend upwards of 12 hours a day in forty degree (celcius!) heat building opulent mansions for rich oil barons.

The lady sitting next to me told me she was flying to the Faroe Islands (A small archipelago north of England, closer to the North pole). She looked at her daughter lovingly and told me she was moving there to marry a man who she has neither met nor knows, her eyes betrayed the story. I spend the next ten hours helping mum to keep baby happy and at the airport explaining customs procedure to her.  By the way the child turned out to be a little ‘sleeping girl’ angel and hardly made a peep, maybe she picked up on her mother’s inner turmoil.

Now on the final leg of my commute I am pleased to have avoided the worst kind of commuter:

The Guru

This guy has been to most places, he is not scared to share his philosophy with all and sundry;

“My wife and I saved for years to go to London last summer”

“Oh no…not in summer! London is faaar better in spring”

The Guru generally wears those loose cotton pants favoured by hippies (but he looks natural in them…not like other posers). Guru watches other commuters with their bumbags, safety belts and printed itineraries. He strides around airports and through immigration confident in his ability to handle anything the commute may throw at him. More often than not he will have his own blog site…

 

I have not met a Guru for a long time….but I do just love Denmark in the summer, you must go in the summer….

 

Travel with Parents

grey Travel with Parents

There are numerous blogs around which dole out useful tips on where to buy diapers in Mongolia, child friendly Asian cities or how to mute your newborn on an intercontinental flight (I strongly suggest generous lashings of Promethazine).

However, I have not yet noticed any tips on travel with parents. Most people have parents, some of us have parents that still require the occasional update on our lives:

“Yup, Hi Dad, yeah you were right Syria was a bad choice…” or

“Hi Mum… Chapelle here. What’s that….no, not that great…”

Myself? I am blessed with parents who have seamlessly evolved from two shadows haunting my childhood and pulling me out of trouble (or belting me around the ears) into great mates. Whilst planning my first world domination tour in early 2010 both of my travel virgin parents hinted at exploratory itchiness:

“I have always wanted to see the Galapagos”

“I did a grade 9 project on the Inca Trail, have always wanted to go there you lucky bugger”

Without considering the ramifications I said;

“Well, why don’t you both join me?”

I returned from about three months abroad, thrilled to discover that my parents had taken my advice and decided to join me. They not only had booked flights in parallel with mine to South America for six weeks, they had also arranged tours, hotels, taxi transfers, a Galapagos boat tour and made a shortlist of must see sights in every country we were to pass through. We had an absolute blast in those six weeks, learnt a lot about each other and shared memories that will only serve to strengthen our friendship. However, I also learnt some important pointers about traveling with Parents:

  • Your Parents have organised the logistics of your entire development. It stands to reason that they will not be happy to lob into a country with a credit card, passport and vague plan.
  • No matter how badass you try to look in dangerous suburbs, your Mum will not hesitate to lick a finger to swipe a booger off your nose.
  • There is a good reason your parents sometimes sleep in separate rooms (snoring)
  • Your Dad’s love of the Akubra hat and little Aussie patches extends beyond his home country.
  • It is extremely difficult to chat up hot Danish Lawyers on a Galapagos cruise with your parents in tow (I said hard, not impossible!)
  • Even though you have been at altitude far more often than your Mum, she will still hesitate to take your advice; “Slow. the. hell. down.” (Inca Trail)
  • Take your parents to a local nightclub and they will proudly display their lack of inhibitions and dance skill.

grey Travel with Parents

Do not despair though, travel with parents can be extremely rewarding as I have discovered;

  • Watching your parents walk through the Sungate to Macchu Picchu after 5 days trekking the Inca trail arm in arm is an extremely satisfying and misty eyed experience.
  • Having Mum steal a towel from a hotel before a 16 hour bus ride so she can nurse you through a terrible bout of gastro is extremely comforting.
  • When your parents defer to you about how to avoid a riot or strike it is strangely satisfying.
  • How many of you have spent days on a boat snorkelling the Galapagos Islands with your parents or drunk pisco sours in a shady bar in Lima with your Mum?

I know that everyone has a different relationship with their parents, clearly I am very close to mine. Since this first trip my parents have continued their travels solo and unabated. I am currently helping them to plan a six week domination tour of Europe, something I never thought I would see them do.

Traveling with my parents has introduced me to two wonderful travel companions that I already know and love. It has certainly broadened my horizons, we saw and experienced things I would not have alone. So go on, ask your parents along even for a short stint, next time you are planning an adventure. I have not regretted doing it and doubt you will. At the very least you can authoritatively correct your Dad’s grandfatherly ramblings in years to come. I just hope that our travels together has not inspired them to spend all of my inheritance!

Word to the people

I have just started online Danish lessons, love makes a bloke do crazy things! I signed up with a well known school in Aarhus so that I can listen in on my girlfriend’s phone conversations and order a beer without being laughed at! In 2010 I all but mastered Spanish (well, travel Spanish) after spending 10 months traveling in chicken and cholita infested busses throughout South America.

 

That people have to make such an effort just to communicate got me thinking, “Why don’t we make one universal language?”

 

English is already the standard default language worldwide, however, I have found that certain languages work better in certain situations. Why not pick the best language for each situation and make a fruit salad language, cherry pick the best.

 

Cursing/Insults:

 

No country is more dedicated to the art of the insult than Italy. Their curses are so beautifully constructed that after 4 years working in an Italian restaurant I thought that chef Franko was on my team whenever I messed up. In a paternal voice Franko, a pockmarked monster of a man, would say; “Never mind…Testa de cazzo” Years later I found out I was being called ‘dickhead’ ‘small penis boy‘ or ‘shit-head‘ depending on the context. Also unlike many English speakers, Italians work a whole sentence into an insult, read these few gems aloud…don’t forget to roll your R’s:

 

‘Il mortacci tua, porco demonio’

‘Torna qui, maldetto cavallo’

 

Sounds nice rolling off the tongue hey. You have just said; “Go fuck your dead relatives, spawn of the devil” and “Come here, damned horse”. They adorn their mark with beautifully eloquent insults. Italy also has a word which means “Please go and anally abuse yourself”…one word! “Vaffanculo” Italy is the insult language.

 

Arguing:

 

I have numerous German friends, they are wonderful people, but lets face it, there is nothing cute or whimsical about their language. I once asked a German friend what she was fighting with her mate about, to which she replied; “No I was just asking him to buy milk”. With all the tongue snapping ‘ach’s’ and ‘eeck’s’ German is definitely the arguing language. Even when you are being polite, in German it sounds argumentative;

 

“Ich stimme vollig mit ihnen… Sie sind ein netter mensch… Ich liebe dich”

 

Means:

 

“I totally agree with you…You are a nice person…I love you”

When friendly sentences sound so harsh this is the language for arguing, no argument!

 

Nonchalance:

 

French is definitely the language of nonchalance, not love. The streets of Paris are dripping with Parisians lounging in cafe chairs, wearing designer clothes and not caring…about anything.

 

A famous French person when asked of his failed marriage was quoted to say; “nous etions ensemble, j’ai oublie’ e reste” or “We were together, I have forgotten the rest” Already many English speakers use the French “se la vie“ I think we should pick up a few more nonchalances from this beautiful language, or, you know, whatever…se la vie.

 

Making Love

 

My vote goes to Spanish for love making words. Just the way one has to roll the R’s and purse the lips sends my mind straight to the gutter. Flower and rose sentences drip with sexy. Try reading this out…

 

“cada palabra que viene de que es mu’sica para mi alma”

“Every word coming from you is music for my soul”

 

Even rude sentences sound evocatively beautiful when read in Spanish; “Inclinado sobre una mesa, vestido por encima de su cuello”

“Bent over the table, dress above your head…”

 

Cooking:

 

I would vote to use Swedish. Not because of any particular nuance in the language but purely because of the way that Swedish chef off the muppets sounds. Imagine, if you would, that everyone in the world had to speak like him in the kitchen, how much fun would dinner time become?

 

Well, that’s it, my thoughts on one united world language. We should maybe throw in a few choice words from other languages to define really specific situations such as:

 

‘Tartle’ Scottish for hesitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.

‘Prozvonit’ Czech for calling a mobile phone and letting it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving you money.

 Ya’aburnee Arabic for “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

Jayus Indonesian for a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.

I tell you what though, when we get around to describing snow we will be spoilt for choice amongst hundreds of European Sami words (not Inuit as per popular belief).

There you have my meandering thoughts on language. If you disagree with me then I would have to say “Nur einen Versuch geben Sie bitte nette Leute“ Should you still disagree, then “‘Il mortacci tua, porco demonio!”

Se la vie…I’m off to make a midnight snack…de-borsch, de-borsch, id pudda chikken in da pot…

I challenge you to make a bucket list for the summer

Please if you accept my challenge to make a bucket list for the summer, let me know. I’d be thrilled!

Fact: Everyone dies

Fact: You are part of ‘everyone’ there are no exceptions

Fact: No one lies on their deathbed wishing they worked more

My apologies, I just re-read those first three lines and it kind of sounds like that nasty drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket yelling at the troops, but hey, sometimes the truth needs a little yelling.

Recently it seems that all the cool bloggers are writing about bucket lists so, like in grade eight when I wore fluorescent hippy pants, I have decided to follow the cool kid’s lead and challenge my readers to make a bucketlist for the summer Some people may think writing a list of things to do before you die is a bit morbid and strange. You may prefer to not consider the possibility that one day you may lie on a bed with starched sheets surrounded by machines going “Bing” or worse still, suffer a fatal running-with-scissors mishap…Morbid? I beg to differ. I view my list as quite enabling. Writing a list of goals whilst considering that I will not be here forever helps me to step out of the ironing shirts and crying over uncut grass mode that many get stuck in. A while ago now I had a friend say to me

“Go up in a hot air balloon Ben…look down on it all”

At the time I was regularly vomiting up my breakfast (due to stress) and thought she had lost the plot.

“What balloon? How the Fuck will a hot air ride thing help me?”

However, what she meant was that I needed to stop fussing over the miniature and get a wider perspective. Miniature being where I was at the time, wider perspective being, “Not dead yet”

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend my days hunched over running away from the reaper or looking depressively at burning candles, quite the opposite. Since writing my bucket list I make all my important decisions based on one criteria;

“On my deathbed will I regret not doing this more than I will regret doing it?”

Hopefully, all this ramble explains why I am now working just enough to keep afloat financially, why I’m spending the other five days in the week learning how to paraglide and why I don’t bother owning a car (or furniture, knickknacks or many clothes). Any time I start to get crazy thoughts like “Maybe I should get a full time job and settle a bit” I open the old faithful Bucket list document and add another item.

I am going to propose a challenge…if you dare;

Write yourself a bucket list and send it to me. 

I will publish it on my website (if you want) and cross things off once they are done. I will be more than happy to add new things to your list as, like warts, the list will grow as fast as you can scrape.

It does not matter if your dream is to have a tidy tupperware drawer or to bungy-jump naked in Venezuela, to overcome a fear of spiders or to climb Torres del Paine…whatever your dreams are, they are valid. No one should judge or scoff anyone’s dreams.

So after much deliberating, here is my list (please don’t judge or scoff!). This is kind of scary, having only shown a very select few people I feel a bit naked right now. The crossed out ones have been done:  Bucketlist If you want more inspiration, check out the other people who have posted a bucket list for the summer on my site you may just get inspired.

 

Buy this book!

The Red Rucksack - Available now

This business partnership has expired.” Ben has no idea what adventures are in store when he sets out to discover what lies over that next mountain.

This week's popular posts

My favourite video

Sometime getting home is the best bit!