24 March 2013

Flying back home to Australia! Maybe...

Welcome to the story of how I got home to Australia after my 11 months of travel.

It all started with a scheduled flight from Los Angeles to Australia at 10.40pm.

I was too nervous to do anything big during the day, due to the fear that I'd either somehow get injured, stranded, or lose something valuable, all of which would prevent me from catching this flight.

The. Worst. Fear!

Missing this flight was not an option.

Earlier in the day I made friend with a fellow Australian, Alex, who was to be catching a flight back home at the same time as me. Win! Having someone to talk to on the way to the airport, and then wait with while at the airport too, was much welcomed indeed.

We arrived at the airport. We lined up in our respective carrier lines (I was flying Qantas).

Alex got through his line no worries.

After 11 months abroad, I was literally counting the minutes to just be on this very last flight to be able to return to my greatly missed home...

... only to be told...

... once I reached the counter...


Come on!

It was terribly shattering... I couldn't believe it. Every time I try and leave Los Angeles, something always happens to prevent it! Sigh.

Thankfully, Qantas set me up with a free hotel room the night. After about an hour of pacing my hotel room in frustration, I kind of relaxed when I realized I get a nice dinner, a super comfy bed and a room all to myself, all for free. Which was actually kinda awesome. With some music blaring and a good movie on the TV playing, the night got pretty fun!

But it was still a very small consolation, I was meant to be flying home already!

The next morning I awoke early, got the shuttle to the airport, and lined up yet again, this time for a 10.20am flight instead. I was not happy that I was to be flying a 14 hour flight during the day now... and not during the night like I had specifically booked for.

Long story short, after a long customs line, and a couple of panic attacks, I was finally on the plane bound for Australia. How surreal it was.

I guess I don't have any stories of how my flight was this time. It didn't have married couples sitting away from each other like previous flights, or that time there was a guy so large sitting next to me he took up half my seat and I thought he had a heart attack until I realized he was just trying to let out a sneeze. Compared to most of my flights, it was pretty tame. Which is a good thing!

14 hours on a plane is not fun, but the thought of heading home outweighed any negatives

At around 9pm at local Sydney, Australia time I had arrived. I was pumped! Until I realized that I had of course missed my connecting flight to Melbourne, Australia (which is where I live) due to the delay... which meant another night spent in a hotel room before catching another flight the following day. Which this time was a lot more fun I admit. Two nights in a row of hotel rooms, free meals and service? It was a mini-holiday!

I wasn't even hungry to be honest... but it was free so...

I had attempted to leave America on a Thursday... it wasn't until the local time of Sunday did I arrive home in Melbourne! 5 days it took me to get home! But oh well, I wasn't really surprised. That right there summarized the entire trip really; the complete randomness, strangeness and unpredictability of it all.

And alas, I can say for certain (seeing as I am typing this post from my house) that I have officially made it back home to Australia.

To greet me at the airport upon my arrival was my very best friend Jason, which was a great surprise as I didn't think he was coming due to all the delayed flights. But it was certainly welcome, and damn cool, to see him again. My family of course was 30 minutes late.

And that... well. I don't want to say 'and that is the end', because to be honest it feels like I am still traveling. My room feels temporary, like just another HelpX arrangement, and that I have to get moving again in a few day times like always. My bag is still packed, and I have forgotten what contents were even in my room, on my shelves, in my drawers.

Tomorrow I have to go apply for a new drivers license as my current one expired whilst I was away. I guess that is the first step into 'normalcy', yes? Who knows. I certainly don't.

The majority of my friends and family don't even know I am back to be honest. Something done of purpose mainly for the intent of surprising them, but also because I'd much prefer a quieter return to be honest, to be able to do my own thing for a little while longer. Which is a strange to say of course, seeing as I have missed them so much, but, well, if you went away for a year and came back then I am sure you'd understand what I mean.

This post is certainly not my last, but it is close to it. Once the surreality of being back wears off, I guess that is when this blog will truly end, but for the time being... I am still traveling for a few more weeks I think.

18 March 2013

A return to where it literally all began

In March 2012 I officially set off from Australia to begin my travels around America. After countless adventures, challenges, and twists, I have officially done a full circle, for I have now arrived back at the very first hostel that I stayed in when I began this trip: the Duo Housing hostel in Los Angeles! To return was fantastic, for it still remains my absolute favourite hostel out of my entire trip, and was such a fitting place to finalize this trip with too.

Awesomely all the same staff at the Duo Housing from my first time here are still working there, and even better was that they all remembered me well, with many big hugs thrown my way as I first stepped through the door (something much welcomed after sitting on a lonely airplane for the last 6 hours!). To be surrounded by, what I'd say are friends, was so refreshing, lifting, and something I had missed for quite some time.

This was a cool find! This was pinned up on the board in the Duo Housing hostel, where people can write thank you notes and whatnot. This is a letter I wrote back when I was here last time! I had completely forgotten all about it, and it was awesome to see it was still there.
 So what's the plan? Well... I hate long plane flights, so I definitely wasn't keen on a direct flight home to Australia from New York City, so much like when I first began this trip I have opted to stop over in Los Angeles before moving on. That little rest makes all the difference. Although it is a short rest, as my plane back home to Australia was in 3 days time!


Better yet though is the blue skies and sunshine that Los Angeles receives. After being in the chilled and snowy New York City for the last 4 months it is something I was looking forward to for weeks! One of my good travel mates Pedro works at the Duo Housing, who I met during my last stay there, and he had a day off so we went to explore some sights of Los Angeles that I had yet to see. Specifically, the observation deck of the city Town Hall which offered some amazing city views.

Made an awesome new Japanese friend named Akio, who is hoping to become a director some day. As part of his travels he specifically came to Los Angeles to visit their film schools, which are meant to be some of the best around. I decided to accompany him on one of his tours of the Los Angeles Film School Academy, which turned out pretty awesome!

The following day I was really looking forward to sitting on the beach all day... which of course didn't go to plan. I caught the bus, which got stuck in a traffic jam, and after an hour I gave up and took a bus back towards the hostel, dismissing my beach dreams! But, as my luck would have it, I thought I'd give the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art a try again, as it was quite enjoyable on my first visit. Things just kept better and better, for I somehow accidentally managed to get into the museum without buying a ticket, thus saving me money. Win. Then, within my first 5 minutes, some lady informs me that a free tour is about to begin... count me in! Tours are awesome.

This tour turned into one of my favourite of my entire trip, for it discussed one of my favourite topics: Ancient Civilizations!

Now normally when I go on a museum tour and recap it here on the blog, I get all enthusiastic and like to share some of my newly gained knowledge with you guys... but I think I will refrain from doing so this time. Despite how interesting it was to learn about the first two pictures above, the ones of the large wall carvings, that were apparently a part of a collection that spanned the walls of an entire palace, with over 60 of those wall carvings throughout! It is believed that they told a story and a message, particularly to enemies or newcomers that entered the city, basically declaring how strong and powerful the city was and that confrontation is best to be left undone. But, whatever, I won't go into detail like I usually do.

So that turned out into a pretty awesome day in fact... and did, I admit, make me have a slightly higher opinion of Los Angeles than I previously held before. Interesting.

My blog is a bit out of order and timing of late, for I have been far too busy and lazy to keep on top of it. Tomorrow, in fact, is my flight back home to Australia. And wow am I nervous. And excited. And in complete disbelief!

11 months. Eleven, long, far away months, is how long I have been on the travel road. It is time to go home.

Let's just hope tomorrow goes to plan shall we?

14 March 2013

My very last day in New York City

Today my friends, was my very last day in New York City as I take my first steps towards heading back home to Australia. Tomorrow I fly to Los Angeles where I will hang out for a couple of days, before flying to Australia after that. My thoughts and impressions on this revelation?

Disappointment at leaving. Immense excitement about returning home. Doubts that I did all that I could have with the time that I had. Pride at all I have achieved in the time that I had. The list is as mixed as it is infinite.

Now, despite the fact that you'd think that I'd be pretty familiar and comfortable with this thing called 'traveling' after participating in said 'travel' activities for quite some time now... you would in fact be quite wrong and I still freak out whenever I am going anywhere new.


Why? No idea.

It could have something to do with the fact that plans rarely... go to plan, and I worry that this final, and arguably most important plan (to return home to Australia), might not go to plan, which is a plan that I can not afford to not go to plan!

So... we shall see what happens.

Anyways moving on. As my insane (although unpredictable) luck would have it, it was a beautiful weather day despite the huge snow storm that had passed over this area of the country only two days before hand, leaving the day wide open to exploring just one last time.

View from my apartment window... better get outside! Side note: how cool are the snow-capped rooftops?
Outside the apartment

My first destination was another 'must see' item which was to visit the real life pub that the pub from the TV show 'How I Met Your Mother' is based off! It's called McGee's... and whilst it wasn't quite like the one on the show, it was still pretty cool.

The bangers and mash, coupled with a beer, made for a damn good lunch
After lunch my destination was north, because what better place to have a nice, casual walk in New York City than Central Park? Little did I realize how incredible this walk would turn out to be.

As mentioned we had been hit by a fair bit of snow the last few days, with today being the first blue skies in quite some time. Well, while the roads and sidewalks were mostly void of snow, I didn't realize that of course there would still be snow in the parks!

Magic followed...

I think you will agree with me here, but below are some of my favourite of photos that I have taken on this entire trip. It was magical to say the least.


It had been... a rather indescribable day really. The surprise of a snow covered Central Park was just the absolute perfect ending, as I really couldn't have asked for any better a send off from this absolutely amazing city. I feel honoured, blessed, and lucky to have been here for as long as I have, and in the way in which I have too. To have been able to live in, work in, and experience the true essence of what this city had to offer was not only a dream come true, but a 'dream expander', meaning that it went beyond even my wildest dreams.

11 months ago when I first landed in Los Angeles I had no idea what was in store for me. I kind of wish I could go back in time and show myself one of the pictures above, to tell myself not to worry, that it will all turn out pretty damn good in the end with not one stone unturned or page unread.

On my return from Central Park to my apartment, I could have opted for the 1 hour long walk back, which I would have been happy to do. Or even the cheap $2.25 subway ride was a viable option. Instead, I wanted to stand on the side walk, to stick my hand out, and within 30 seconds have a yellow taxi dangerously swerve over three lanes of traffic, blatantly disregarding the others on the road all in the effort to get a fare, just one last time. To be able to sit in the backseat and stare out the window as we drive, watching in silence the always bustling streets, the skyline littered with highrise buildings, the parks, and streets vendors, and art, and the truly countless other characteristics that this city has on every street.

To soak it all in, to admire its beauty, its intricacies, its people walking around, and most importantly to be able for one last time feel and remember what it is like to be apart of all this, to actually to have been one of those small unique intricacies, even if it was only for a little while.

What a true adventure it really all was.

Looking up 5th Ave, and 12th street, as I got out of the taxi, thankful for the day that had been
Tomorrow morning I catch a flight to Los Angeles, where I will stay for a few days before catching my flight home to Australia later in the week. I won't try and describe how I think and feel about that, as it is far too difficult to do so. On one hand I don't believe that after all this time I am to be returning home. On the other... well, I can't really convince myself that these past 11 months weren't just some long drawn out dream.

Either way, I can remember today as best as I can, and for what it was; a grand, and final goodbye to a city, to a dream, to the truly ultimate adventure that was; New York City.

10 March 2013

Goodbye unexpected NYC job

With my time here in America coming to a close very shortly, a few days ago was my last day at my unexpectedly obtained job in New York city, and what a surprisingly awesome day it was made all the more memorable by the great people I was working with.

There were talks of 'Friday night after work drinks' at a nearby bar for a small farewell to me, but I only expected a few people to show up really, as I didn't really think I'd made too high of an impression during my 3 months there.

Turns out that that was not the case at all, and to my humbled delight every single staff member came out to wish me good luck and a fare well, making it a very fun and memorable last night! Plenty of beers and stories were shared, and I hope I impressed some of my 'travel spirit' enthusiasm onto a few of the others who, in my view, work far too hard.

I still cannot fathom how it all came about, for 3 months later to be leaving behind one of the personally expansive and most beneficial experiences of not only this trip, but my entire life. To be able to now put underneath the 'Employment history' section of my CV that I've worked in New York City... looks pretty damn cool!

The hangover the following day on the other hand was not welcomed...

Now I'm obviously used to traveling by now, but it turns out that preparing to come home after such a long time abroad is much more work than I originally thought, as annoyingly it is not as easy as 'just pack your bag and go' as I had hoped it would be. There were gifts to buy for friends back home (which of course I left to the very last minute as always), a few 'must see' places still on my list, and a few 'goodbye dinners', and of course the much dreaded packing of the backpack... which after all the gifts is now much more of a challenge than before!
First up on the 'must see' list, and recommended to me highly, was the High Line Park in New York City. I had heard so many good things about this place during my entire trip, but I was always under the impression that it was far away... turns out it was about 5 blocks from where I was living!

And wow was it awesome, I cannot believe I waited until one of my last days for this! So for a brief summary, the High Line is actually an old above-street-level train track (think of a monorail really), that I think runs nearly the length of Manhattan actually. It's been unused and abandoned for... a long time I think, so volunteers have slowly replaced all the dingy tracks and machinery with cool pathways, colours, art, and plants, making for the perfect hide away and vantage point for street views.


Definitely one for the Highlights gallery.