30 March 2012

Lost in Hollywood

Today was one of my favourite of days ever. Lewis, Manuel, Vanessa, Ludo (French) and I decided we wanted to see the 'Hollywood' sign up close, sweet.

It turned into a much bigger adventure than originally planned, and a much more memorable one also =D But I will let pictures do most of the talking.

Trekking through Hollywood to get to the location of our shuttle bus.

A very classy area.
After catching two trains, then standing at the wrong bus stop for an hour, Vanessa using her Spanish speaking skills to ask for directions, and a 20 minute bus ride later, we finally made it to the starting point of the Hollywood sign walk. Little did I know that there was a Astronomy Observatory up here! Space is one of my favourite topics, so this was a great surprise, and this observatory doubled as a museum. The exhibits were amazing!

The Griffith Observatory, cool!
After spending an hour exploring, it was time to head outside. The views were absolutely breathtaking, there were times when helicopters were flying over the city and we were level with them!

Travel Buddy posing with L.A city in the distance

Travel Buddy just enjoying the sights. He is pretty brave, one strong gust of wind and no more Travel Buddy ha!


It was now time to hike up the mountain to get closer to the Hollywood sign, although Ludo decided to head home.

And we're off!

Vanessa looking apprehensive as we debate whether to take one of the risky short cuts
L.A city down far below

You can very faintly make out the Hollywood sign on the distant hill

Finally we made it to the top! Although it turns out the actual Hollywood sign was on a different hill than the one we were on... ha. The views were just so cool, I can't remember the last time I have been up this high.

Travel Buddy enjoying the sights
The sun just about to clear the horizon, cool!

The amazing gang

And before long it started to get dark as we waited for the sun to go down.

Oh, it got really cold, so I've burrowed Lewis's beenie and just put my hat on top as well
Lewis enjoying the sprawling L.A lights below

Now as you can see, it got real dark... and we are still at the top of the mountain obviously. Getting back down in the dark was tough ha! But great fun. Manuel told a story that apparently this mountain got closed to the public a few years ago because a lady got killed by a mountain lion. A plausible story, although I am not sure if it is true, but regardless it scared the hell of out Vanessa so a good laugh was had by all.

Hanging out with these guys was a hell of a lot of fun, it was strange to think that only 2 days ago I was still in Australia!

28 March 2012

Touch down in LA

Travel Buddy tucked in, ready for the flight to LA.

Plane flights suck.

It is 13 hours from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, America... erghhhh. And that's actually lucky because it was meant to be a 14 hour flight, but I guess even the pilot knows how stupidly boring the flight is so he must of put his foot down.

But on that note I can announce that I have actually landed in America!

Although I am too tired for it to really register at this point...

The flight wasn't too bad I guess, I was on one of those Airbus A380's which was pretty smooth. The only downside of the flight was that I just happened to be in what I bet was the only seat on the plane where the button to lean your seat back wouldn't work... so that made sleeping tough.

Oh, and then there was that time the guy in front of me put his seat back... so the TV was about 10cm from my face.

Not to mention that for some reason I was sitting in between a husband and wife... whom for some reason opted to sit away from each other... which later became clear when they were completely ignoring one another (awkward...).

Then of course when I finally managed to fall asleep in my perfectly upright position, said wife got really sick and started throwing up everywhere... that smelt nice. And despite my strong suggestions to the husband of "I don't think your wife is going too well", he still wouldn't swap seats with me.

But I'd have to say that my favourite part of the flight was when I asked the air host for some help filling out my Arrival/Departure form. It was going fine until he read the address of the hostel I was to be staying at, looks at me with a questioning glance, and goes:

"Oh, you're staying on Crenshaw Blvd, LA... hmm."

"Yeah... why's that? Is it not a nice place or something?" My voice a little higher pitched than usual due to my already frayed nerves tearing a little further.

"Ha, well...", obviously he then notices the distress in my eyes because he suddenly changes his tone "Nah it's an alright place, I've been down there once."

There was a little too much emphasis on the word 'once'.

"What do you mean 'once'!?"

"Haha, nah don't worry it's fine. Just don't go out at night time".

What does that mean!? I call after him to ask more questions but he doesn't reply. He either didn't hear me, or knew a lost cause when he saw one. 

Good times!

Like always, I seem to get on the wrong side of the authorities every single time. Airport customs officers at Los Angeles International Airport was no exception. He was not happy at my answers... Ha! But I somehow got though, and miraculously managed to get from the airplane, through customs, baggage, quarantine and then into a cab in under 45 minutes! That has to be a record.

Taxi guy was boring, wouldn't really talk much. He only got chatty when I asked him what he thought of Crenshaw Blvd in which he replies with "depends which part of it you are staying on" (apparently it is like 20km long and there are different 'neighobourhoods' along it). I said I didn't know which neighbourhood I am in. We eventually pull off the highway onto the off ramp... to my right while we wait at the traffic lights is a mattress, three homeless people, high (yet completely broken) chain-link fences, tonnes of graffiti, and I swear I saw the taxi drivers' eyes dart to see if the doors were locked.

I want to go home!

'Please turn left, please turn left' I thought to myself as we wait for the lights to change. Thankfully we did, with a sudden dramatic improvement in the state of the area! Palm trees, nice looking apartments, shops, clean(ish) streets... it was now that the taxi driver explained to me that LA is split into 'boroughs'. We were now entering a Korean mid-to-upper class dominated part of Crenshaw Blvd, where as the part before was a lower class African-American district (the place I am told to avoid).


I checked into my hostel to be greeted by a super-friendly staff member, got shown my room, got settled in, then went to check the place out. It turns out I make friends scarily easily at times, as before nightfall I'm already friends with Manuel (Holland), Lewis (England), Julia (Germany) and Roger (American).

Spent the night chilling with them, with Lewis on guitar and Julia singing along. I already know we are going to have some great times over the next few days.

And that was my first day in LA.

26 March 2012

I leave in 2 days time!

Guys, it has finally arrived!

What has? You may ask, for even the most regular of readers have most likely understandably forgotten because it has been such a long time coming.

Basically, in 2 days time I embark on my trip to New York City!


I must say actually that reading that post I linked above is pretty amazing and rather surreal, to read something that I had written over two years now, having no idea that it would be the launch pad for a life changing event. I know as I typed those words, all that time ago, that I didn't truly think that I would actually take my own word and make it all happen. But alas, after literally months and months of preparation of obtaining VISA's, booking flights and accommodation, quitting my job, selling all my stuff and so much more that I didn't blog about, it is hard to truly take in that the day has actually arrived.

Tomorrow I leave for Sydney, Australia where I will stay with family for a few days before flying out to Los Angeles and taking it from there.

Of course I am already missing my friends... it was so humbling (and at times surprising) to see how much some people will miss me. I hugged Kate like there was no tomorrow, Kane came up and gave me a very heartfelt goodbye which I didn't expect, Carolyn got me an amazingly thoughtful gift of a small 'St Christopher' necklace piece that apparently signifies safe travels, Jason (my best mate) wrote an epic message in the goodbye card, and there was just a lot of general 'we will really miss you' from absolutely everyone.

And of course there was the big, strong hug I gave to Polly and saying a very sincere 'I am really going to miss you' and hearing a 'I will miss you too, it has been so much fun having you around' in return that I will not forget for quite some time.

The best and worst part about this trip is having absolutely no idea how it might play out. Worst case scenario is I just hate being away from friends and family so much that after only a month I return (which isn't really that bad anyway). Best case scenario is I make some friends and find a job pretty quickly, and without really realizing it months have gone by and I am having fun. Or an even better scenario is I meet a nice girl. 

But I guess regardless of what happens from today onwards, in the very least I can hold my head up and say at least I gave it an honest go.

Wish me luck!

23 March 2012

Goodbye home, you've been good to me

- Move all my stuff out of my rental house back to my parents house to prepare for my America trip.


Today… I moved out of my rental house. In two days time I embark on my America adventure. Am I excited? That seems to be everyone’s go-to question. With most people I just fake an answer of ‘yeah totally, it’s going to be amazing’, while others with whom I have a deeper friendship with I answer more truthfully with ‘yeah, I guess so, it should be good’.

The reason for my perhaps ungrateful sounding response? Well nerves for starters, my fear of the unknown, of failure, and just the stress and pressure of this whole adventure. But there is another reason, a more overlooked reason by others.

Basically, I am going to miss the absolute fuck out of my friends and current life.

Two years ago life was absolutely terrible to be honest, I was dreadfully depressed (the result of a tough break-up and other similarly devastating events), with things not really improving the following year either… in fact I was actually getting further depressed about the fact that I was still depressed, as I had figured life would eventually start to brighten up, yet it still hadn’t by that stage which got… depressing.

After about 18 months of depression, in March last year when things were starting to look like they would never improve, life all of a sudden got a hell of a lot better. I moved out of my crazy sharehouse into a sharehouse with one of my good mates, and we had an absolute blast. Then I all of a sudden made two new friends, whom introduced me onto four of their friends, and before I knew it I found myself a part of a really unique, friendly and interesting group of friends. One of whom is the friend who invited me to China last year… who would of thought!

Jump a few months forward to around July last year and I found myself getting to know my best mate Jason’s University friends (he did a different course to me) and before long I had fallen in love with these people and in turn they’d fallen in love with me. We had just… unforgettable times and fun together. We truly, truly did. And it was with this group I of course met Polly… which as you all know I have fallen for immensely, more than I have fallen for a girl for many years.

Then despite all odds, life got even better because just last month I moved into Brendan and Polly’s house temporarily before I was due to leave (which was an unexpected event)… and had the most funfilled, loving, memorable month of my entire life.

And now, it is time to leave all that behind.

Living up to the name ‘Out of Sync’ perfectly, it would appear.

At times I just get so angry at the Universe. Why oh why do I have to leave when life was going so perfectly. Or why couldn’t I have enjoyed it all a little longer even. Or how about my 18 months depression and loneliness could have only been 6 months instead… argh!

I decided to do this America trip in March last year before any of this amazing stuff happened… at the time I remember thinking that I might as well leave this place as I had nothing holding me here. I couldn’t have in my wildest dreams known that life would have improved so much in the following 12 months.

These friends have been absolutely incredible… Polly, has of course been incredible. And while they all know how much I love and appreciate them (I made sure of that by writing each one of them a card which said everything I couldn’t say to their faces), no one knows why they truly mean so much to me. It is because they saved me, from me.

I am leaving a great life in the chase of a completely uncertain one.

So when I get asked ‘Are you excited?’, and I give a perhaps ungrateful sounding reply of ‘Yeah, I guess so, it should be good’.

That is why.

21 March 2012

LivingItUp: The final weekend

This will be the last post in my 'Living It Up While I Still Can' series where I try and do as much fun activities with friends and family as I can possibly squeeze in before I take off for hopefully a year abroad in New York City starting March 2012.

Red wine, oh how you get me every time.

I will keep this post short and sweet, as it is more of a reminder for myself of what an amazing weekend I've just had. The very last weekend before my trip to America.

- Polly, Brendan and I went nuts last night. Got hammered on red wine, eventually decided we need food for dinner so we walked down to the supermarket at 9.30pm. Me with my hiking backpack on my back, Polly walking the dog, and each of us holding a glass of wine... it would of been a great sight to see ha!

- Polly and I accidentally walked into the supermarket still with the dog, hilarious!

- Polly was busting so ran outside to the public toilets... they were for some reason closed so she had to run all the way home, hilarious.

- Finally we all got back home and started our attempt to make chicken schnitzel wraps... Polly was on getting the burgers ready duty, which she did fine. Brendan (who was pretty buzzed at this stage) attempted to dice lettuce by smacking a large chef's knife straight onto our marble stone bench top! Then, completely randomly, he shouts "I think the dog wants some lettuce" and whooosh! he just threw his diced lettuce into the air! It was the most random thing in the world, I literally just fell to the floor laughing... classic.

- I was on cooking chicken schnitzel duty... used too much oil in fry pan, was spitting and splattering all over my arms but I was just standing over it for some reason, getting burnt saying 'ow, ow ow, ow'... but not moving out of the way for some reason. Polly tried to save me but I refused ha.

- Then we all chatted on the outside dining set (it was a nice night), can't remember what we talked about. Then Brendan eventually passed out on the couch, and Polly went for bed soon after, and I stayed up a while longer realizing how lucky I am for life to have turned out this good for me, but at the same time knowing I will deeply miss it once I am gone on my trip.

18 March 2012

Is officially unemployed... awesome!

I quit my job today. It was awesome =D

Well, in reality I had told my boss over 6 months ago that I was planning to travel to America for an extended amount of time and that it would most likely be happening in March 2012... but that is still technically quitting!... although it wasn't one of those grand 'I QUIT!!' storm outs that most people dream of doing. Far from it actually, I really loved my job, my colleagues and boss... it was a reluctant leave in many ways.

Coming this June would of marked my forth year at the company... which absolutely blows me away, I honestly still remember my first day!

I was lucky enough to get a 3 month internship at a software development company in my second year of University. I have no idea how I got it to be honest, my computer programming skills at the time were far below satisfactory, but I rolled with it and went to the interview anyway, somehow got the job, tried my best, they liked me enough to hire me as a permanent employee once the initial internship expired and yep, 4 years later I am now leaving.

My final day was simple, just how I wanted it to be. I wrote each colleague a card (there wasn't many), we had a great final lunch together at a fancy restaurant as a treat from the boss, said our farewells, and then I went home. Officially closing what was one of the biggest chapters of my life.

Because of that job I now have nearly 4 years of industry experience straight out of graduating from University, have a pretty respectable savings account now, and have learned so many invaluable skills that I couldn't have learned anywhere else. It truly has set me up for life... and all that from simply on a whim applying for an internship that at the time I was convinced I was far too unqualified for. Amazing.

Oh, and why did I quit my job? Because this time next week I will be traveling around America!

15 March 2012

LivingItUp: Dinner, Golf, Beach, Bowling, Lunch, Dance

Another post in my 'Living It Up While I Still Can' series where I try and do as much fun activities with friends and family as I can possibly squeeze in before I take off for hopefully a year abroad in New York City starting March 2012.

It is now the second last weekend I have here at home before heading off to America, so naturally I am trying to make the most of it.

Friday night Brendan, Carolyn, Polly and I went out for dinner at a pretty nice restaurant, which turned into a really awesome night out. Made plenty of jokes with Brendan for most of the night, then Polly and I got into our increasingly frequent play fighting, where she thinks she can make a joke at my expense and simply get away with it but clearly she must forget who she is dealing with as I will always attempt to counter it ha. Good times.

Saturday I played golf with my mate Steve, which was an awesome idea to his credit as I haven't played golf for quite some time so that took up early afternoon. When I got back home Polly returned soon after and we just hung out at home for a while (which... yeah... sigh...). She helped me look up hostels for my upcoming trip to America, I made her laugh a lot which is always good.

Then for the third time now Polly and I took the dogs to the beach... which is killing me. This time felt even more 'couple like' than ever before. It was me who drove this time with her in the passenger seat next to me, and this does sound straight out of a sit-com but I kid you not on the way we actually had an argument about directions... ha! Granted it was a very fun and light-hearted argument, it was actually a hell of a lot of fun, but nothing says 'couples' like an argument about directions. I wrote about the day in more detail in my last post, because of course the day meant a lot more to me than she realizes. Oh well.

That night I went back to my parents house for a family gathering which was great, everyone loved the tattoo, and was also very interested in the upcoming trip, so it was a good night.

Sunday I hung out with my best mate Jason the entire day, met up with our best mate Karl for lunch, then our other best mates Michael and Steve for dinner and some ten-pin bowling. Turned into an epic night... those guys rock, they will be greatly missed.

I went home Sunday night so I could be home for Monday as it was a public holiday which meant Brendan and Polly (my housemates) would be home from work. The three of us went out for lunch with a few friends of ours which was great fun, then afterwards we went to the beach with the dog again. That night I went to Swing Dance class because I never get to go to the Monday class but obviously could today... yeah, Monday class is stupidly hard, it won't be missed ha.

So now is my final week to spend at home before the big trip. I have every day booked out with activities and catching up with friends, but I still have quite a few things to do for preparation (including buying my backpack which I still haven't done!). Not long now guys... yikes!

*None of the names used are real

09 March 2012

An assumption

Today, was an absolutely amazing day.

Polly has two dogs. She was going to take them to the beach at lunch, I asked if I could accompany and she said yes. So today an average boy and an amazingly beautiful girl and two adorable dogs got in the car, and drove to the beach. The windows down, sun shining, music pumping. And we talked, and laughed, although most of the time was spent in comfortable mutual silence, which was nice.

We arrived at the beach, I had one dog on a lead and she had the other, and we walked side by side down to the shore. We took off our shoes once we reached the sand and took off the leads on the dogs, whom immediately took off running, like excited dogs at the beach do, leaving Polly and I to walk along after them. The sand in our toes, the sea breeze on our faces, the warmth of the sun watching over.

Whilst walking we talked, and laughed, and there wasn't much silence this time, but there still was some, but it was a comfortable mutual silence, which was nice. We got our feet wet, and laughed at the dogs playing. I love the freedom that an empty, flat beach gives you, so I took off running as fast as I could with the dogs chasing and running all around me in some unbeknownst to me agreed upon game. I sprinted nearly as fast as the dogs. I like to think that Polly was watching me while I ran, perhaps thinking something nice about me.

We stayed on that beach for over an hour. It was peaceful, fun... it was very 'couple like'...

At random intervals we would pass another dog owner, sometimes it was a family, sometimes it was an individual, sometimes it was a couple. I liked the fact that these other people once they seen us, an average boy and an amazingly beautiful girl and two adorable dogs, that they would no doubt assume that we were a couple. And I loved that, I really did. Of course it was a false assumption, because no we are not a couple, but it was really nice to at least just for the afternoon be the image of that assumption.

And I have known this for such a long time, that I miss, and want in the future, that someone to walk dogs with, or to go to a restaurant, or to be forced to see those silly chick flicks on a Saturday night at the movies just because you know she wants to and it would mean a lot to her if you went and seen it with her. To be a couple. I have been wondering why it hasn't happened already to be honest... it has been a terribly long time since it last was.

So while it may not happen with Polly, I just hope that someday soon an average boy and an amazingly beautiful girl and two adorable dogs are seen by other dog owners at the beach, and the people who see them would no doubt assume that they are a couple, and their assumption would be correct.

05 March 2012

So... remember that girl?

Remember about a month ago I mentioned the girl Polly (not her real name of course) that I was terribly taken in by, and remember my last mention of this topic where I declared that I am going to put it all behind me because it could never happen between us... well after a few weeks of successfully 'putting it behind me', as my strange luck in life would have it I now find myself living with her for a few weeks before my trip.

Seriously Universe...!?

This was in no way intentional on my part, my landlord randomly called a few weeks ago saying that she needed me out of the house rather quickly, and I of course still have a few weeks to go until my America trip, so staying at Polly and Brendan's (her housemate and my good friend) house who had a spare room and was in a good location was the logical thing to do.

So, what's it like living with the girl you are secretly crazy about and were in the process of trying to... not be crazy about? Interesting is one word that comes to mind... other words include terrifying, awesome, confusing, lucky, unlucky. I would try and sum up how it is like, but I think you guys could imagine yourself in this position easily enough.

Six months ago when I first fell for her, I did not think this is where I would end up ha.

Sigh. In other news, I have moved house (obviously) but this allowed me to knock off a few items on my New York City trip 'to-do' list, mainly getting rid of a lot of stuff that I no longer needed, and I sent the rest of my belongings back to my parents house which was a huge burden off my mind so that's a positive for sure. And besides the Polly thing, living at this new house has been amazing... I have only been there a week so far but in that time it has been so ridiculously awesome. In the last rental house both housemates moved out about 5 months ago leaving me on my own in a large 3 bedroom house, so it is nice to have company again, and even nicer that the company is two of my favourite friends Polly and Brendan.

Man life is so terribly complicated sometimes... or all of the time. Too many commitments and games and worries and options and surprises, do we ever just get some no-strings attached peace and quiet sometime?

01 March 2012

Worlds hidden beauty

My friend posted this on Facebook the other day, taken from some news website. I thought it was pure brilliance, and really enforces the way I see what the world is really like, sadly. Take note of the message here, and try even for just one hour to explore a place you've been to millions of times before, and see what beauty lies just under the surface.

"Joshua Bell plays in a subway"

Joshua Bell playing his violin in a subway.
 A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?