Vote 1 Grzic

Being the change you want to see was one of those mantra’s that I have often harped upon, especially in light of the changing world. For years I had felt that leaders seemed less impressive, as the clown car dispensed one joker after the next. With the latest election being held in Australia, I knew that there was little to get enthused about so my intention was to split my votes across those who would have little to no chance of getting elected, but were willing to make the effort to throw their hats into the ring.

Then up stood my brother. It’s a funny thing when a person close to you decides to run for public office. It wasn’t really an idea that came out of the blue, (he had mentioned it a few times as we were growing up,) but certainly one I wasn’t really expecting at this election. That being said, being politically engaged and doing community minded things seem to run in the family. Across the family, they make regular donations to causes around the world, argue about social justice over pancakes as well as make regular submissions to government reports.The more I thought about it, the more I should have realised it was inevitable.

Like a good brother, I did what good brothers do and agreed to help where I could. I spent a few lunches handing out How To Vote cards to those heading in for early voting, offering suggestions on how to articulate a position, or even just helping my brother to clarify in his own mind, positions on issues that he had never really had an opinion on. All of this was also good for achieving some clarity on my own points of view. (I even had occasional flashbacks to when my father was involved in politics and he used to “encourage” us to drop party political junk mail into peoples mailboxes.) All in all it wasn’t the worst way to spend a little of my time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Candidate in repose

It was also interesting to meet people who traversed a world far removed from my usual bubble. People actively involved in national politics who were passionate about their candidates and their positions. They ranged from the very young handing flyers out for a relative, (Tweens, I believe the term is now.) to the octogenarian handing out for the euthanasia party. Some were quite vocal and theatrical. (The Greens candidates had their own greek tragedy performance about the current government and it’s heinous attempts to cut funding to the CSIRO.) All the groups, from the very left, to the very right were there, and to be honest, it was all quite light and relaxed. After all, these people had several hours to kill each day and the only people to talk to, were others in the same boat. In the quiet times, candidates were compared and people would happily discuss the overlaps between each others choice.

Election day arrived and it was still a civil affair, though with more people handing out flyers, there were those who made it inadvertently entertaining. Everyone had their styles. I for one, having worked a stand selling gluten free, cholesterol free, dairy free, nut free sugar free chocolate (Far tastier than it sounds.) at many a fair was using much the same approach. Polite but light. sweet william Making it fun on a day when people were queueing and wanting to get on with their days. Being moderate left, I was an easygoing person to strike up a conversation with about politics when the queue dropped off. I chatted with the Liberals (Conservatives), Labor (More lefties, democrats for my American friends.) Greens (Who always seemed convinced that this was their election.) and so on. One of the highlights was a man I was convinced was mentally unbalanced and may have been drinking for a large portion of the day. (His candidate got a seat on the senate.) One lady who represented a salt of the earth farmer by the name of Bob Katter whose gal on the ground took the passive aggressive approach to handing out flyers. “Support the farmers, vote for Bob Katter.” and when a person trapped helplessly in the queue declined, she followed it up with. “Oh, so you don’t support the farmers? I guess you don’t want to eat then.” (Her candidate made it in too.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A good old fashioned rally.

Then there was the Labor mob. A well oiled machine with uniform red hoodies and beanies. They wanted their people out there regardless, and with a big party behind them, they had the numbers to pick you off no matter how to tried to sneak in to the voting booth. The Liberal party had their blue and white t-shirts that highlighted the fact that they looked pretty, but were essentially useless when it came to the realities of being a person on the ground doing the work on a freezing cold, windy Sydney day. (On the plus, they had the numbers and cash to be able to afford regular cafe runs.) One of their members had developed a style where he would stop and chat with people in the queue directly in front of people from smaller and independent candidates so as to make it hard for them to hand out their flyers. Amongst all of this was the humble Australian Electoral Commission workers trying to monitor the chaos. I spoke to a young guy who had just turned eighteen and had seized the chance to get involved. When I asked as to why he was passionate about supervising the process, he told me with a gleam in his eyes, that he would earn $400, for the days work and that would cover his beer for a month.

It was interesting being involved and it became clear how slim the chances to get elected would be if you didn’t have name recognition or a massive party machine to crank out the supporters, flyers and billboards, posters showing the same heads with their plastered on smiles in perfectly coordinated outfits. The amount of printing that had gone into a few small hours of activity would be, mere hours later, consigned to the scrap heap of history. (Hopefully recycled.)

madmax

It only feels like being in Fury Road…

Well the day was done and the battle fought. My brother didn’t get elected but the learning curve was high (for all of us.) and if you follow  the news, Australia still hasn’t got itself sorted. The fear is that with no result, it all will happen again in a few short weeks. I shall put my hand up to help the Australian Electoral Commission, after all, I will certainly need $400 worth of alcohol to get through another election.

 

Smelling the roses.

Every morning I run the gamut of coffee shops on the way to work. The throngs of people that clog the walkways and obstruct people who have already got their morning beverage trying to get to their desks to show that they are on time and ready to do their company’s bidding.

Pre-made food slapped on a hot surface speedily heat it to a point that it becomes palatable. Coffee in its various configurations. Sugar enriched snacks that will give that rush that allows you to smile as you enter the room that you will spend the next 8 hours. It is a curious thing that somewhere along the way, even though we have all the technology, all these things that make life easier, life seems to be speeding up.

When I was in Croatia, a person I had met decided she wanted to get a take away coffee from the local beachside café. The staff member looked slightly confused, though to be fair this could have been a slight language area, but dutifully went off to prepare said take away cappuccino. The staff member returned moments later with a cappuccino prepared in a plastic see through cup that you would more often see at a children’s birthday party and sticking out of the coffee in the plastic cup was a straw. A coffee on the go, it seems is unusual in a country like Croatia.

On my travels I visited many places where the day’s work coexists with enjoying the day. When a shop is empty, the vendor sits out the front of the store playing chess with another vendor who has an empty store. Coffee in Turkey and Croatia is a social event rather than something that must be consumed on the run. In fact, many countries seem to take longer to do things. Turkey, it’s hard to find an open café before about 9am. Slovenia still clings to that slightly slower pace but a leisurely morning is slowly being absorbed into a more EU approach. Someone is certainly benefitting from earlier mornings, longer days and 24hr access to their staff but you would be hard pressed to prove it is the rank and file workers.

Over the years I have work more than my share of jobs in more than my share of industries. I have seen innovations come and go. Open plan offices, hot desks, flexitime. It all seems like good things but consider the next time you are at the office, when you arrive and do a little extra before you officially start work, sit at your desk and work through your lunch break or stay a little later to sort out that one last issue so your team can make service, consider that many employers count on workers doing that. Think about how many hours you are contributing each year to a business and not being compensated for. Some smaller businesses will certainly appreciate it, but when you work for a company that posts a $6Billion profit for 6 months, if they really cared that the work you are doing in your free time got done, they could most certainly pay you to do it (or perhaps even hire enough staff to do it).

It’s hard to break a cycle like that. In a world of constant pull, I have been finding it harder to hang on to those moments of quiet reflection. Those moments where you just get to sit and enjoy your lunch, a coffee or a meal with a friend. I’m a morning person, I admit it. Though not always the most alert, for the most part my body functions well enough in the wee AM to allow me to get into a day a little earlier than most. When I wake up, I stretch, (if my body doesn’t tell me to go forth and multiply) I like to cook myself some breakfast and then sit and have a coffee. Getting up a little earlier to enjoy the day is a little counter intuitive if you love a cosy bed and hitting that snooze button but not having to madly rush everywhere is also pleasant. I had also noticed of late that I found myself constantly refreshing my Facebook while I was on the train, needing a constant stream of activity to fill up the minutes of the day. I have started forcing myself to relinquish the hold my phone has on me. Not bringing it to meals. Only refreshing once every hour. They are little things but they seem to make a difference.

Everyone has to make their lives work for them as best as they can, some escape into a class of some sort for an hour or so, some cook (or watch cooking shows) and some never stop long enough to think if they could use some slowing down. Allowing yourself to take the time to enjoy something is important, I really believe that. At the end of your life you certainly wont be looking back and remembering that instagram update, or even this blog, but you may remember an amazing sunrise, a good meal with a friend where you sat and talked for hours or a leisurely walk somewhere.

 

The end of the road?

“Are you sure you really want this job?” The lady asked. Hair up in a bun, glasses and eye infection which prevented her from shaking hands but didn’t prevent her from sharing the gruesome details.

Very much Croatia

Very much Croatia

Holland was the last stop on my trip. I had seen family I hadn’t seen in years and some children that I had never seen. I noticed an interesting transition place in me, as my return date was growing closer. I really started to feel fatigue. Despite the numerous sights and limited time to see them, it was hard to find the motivation to head out into the Netherlands and explore. My bank account was drained and mentally I just was hoping for the day to arrive when I could jump on the plane and head back to Oz. That being said, even as I was driving to the airport, I was missing my European family and new friends. As an Australian, you are acutely aware of just how far everything is from where we are and the idea of simply being able to jump on a plane and visit some of these countries for a long weekend was soon to be impossible.

Back to Bondi Beach

Back to Bondi Beach

I have now spent enough time in airport limbo that I am getting quite effective at finding ways to survive the downtime. I try and keep moving, as I know that the flight ahead of me will force me into a seat for a prolonged period. Every step prior to the commencement of the journey becomes something to be treasured. Screaming kids aren’t a huge problem for me. Having a hoodie cuts down extraneous light and noise. I had a strange passenger who decided that he liked my window seat so much that he had settled into it by the time I got on the plane and with every bathroom trip I made, I would find him sitting comfortably in my seat when I returned. In exchange for not getting the seat he wanted, he would elbow me quite hard every time I rested my elbow on our common armrest and kick me whenever my feet crossed what he perceived to be the boundary between out two seats leg space. After a few beers his mood did not improve. And he got so vocal that the flight attendant had to come and tell him he was causing problems. There were no window seats available for him to be moved to so he refused to move. When the flight attendant asked if I wished to be moved I politely declined, after all, if I moved this man would then get the seat he wanted and screw that guy.

Good old Taj

Good old Taj

Getting back to Australia was a fun experience. Clearing customs was honestly quite painless, the guards happily steering people through the latest and greatest in tech to register and document my movements. Standing at the carousel waiting for my bags was the first sign I was back in Australia. The voice came over the speakers announcing that they were experiencing technical issues that were causing delays in the arrival of our luggage. “Bullshit.” Said one of the airport staff to me. “Fuckers are understaffed as usual.” Yes, I was indeed back in Australia.

Coffee Time

Coffee Time

The joy of seeing family and friends again after a long absence cannot be understated. My trip was only seven months but seeing my dad waiting at the gate was a great feeling. A bottle of water waiting for me I the delays were enough that I got to experience the joys of Sydney weekday morning traffic. The weather was typical early spring weather, cool and sunny and to be honest about the same temperature as the Dutch summer I was leaving.

Settling in back at home presented the usual issues, not the least of which was the fact that I was coming back to a life I had packed away with no clear plan for when I returned. Clothes in boxes and scattered through family homes and garages. (Some clothes remain with friends.) No job to go back to, or even poorly defined career path. I hadn’t had any writing breakthroughs that would allow me a career as a writer, (though I would be lying if I did not say I felt I had made substantial progress.)

Celebrating with a mate

Celebrating with a mate

On the plus side, I now have more than one pair of pants and clothes start to have a little variety again. The washing machine is accessible and any food I leave in the household fridge overnight will be there in the morning. I headed down to Bondi Beach to soak it all in. Coffee at my favourite coffee/second hand book store, a walk on the beach, dinner at one of my favourite eateries. Amusingly over the course of a meal, six of my good friends all came there for dinner and my quite evening became a catch up. Being home has it’s benefits.

Lunch in Slovenia

Lunch in Slovenia

I’ve been back two weeks now and I have caught up with the immediate family and friends that I could squeeze in. I have started job hunting for anything that will pay money to fund my next adventure, (though I recommend never mentioning that at interviews) and I have started to find a routine of sorts. I have gone up a belt notch and my body is craving those days of 12 hour walks through strange cities full of undiscovered sights, sounds and smells. A friend told me that he always felt depressed after a long vacation and I could see what he means. I sat on a bus after the interview with the woman with the droopy eye and considered briefly that perhaps this was the life that I get now, full of nine to five, and full of the ordinary. I didn’t really want the job, and as fate would have it, I didn’t end up getting it. To be honest there was a feeling of relief when I got the news.

Waiting for the train from Normanhurst

Waiting for the train from Normanhurst

The feeling passed, as with all feelings. The travel has sharpened my senses to look at the mundane and look for those little treats that often get overlooked in a life of routine. Things as simple as, the trees at the train station, the smell of the air and the joy of a meal with friends. I imagine things are going to be topsy turvey for a while and until I find some direction, I have plenty to look back on and plenty in Sydney to keep me occupied.

Home again

Home again

Life on the Mosel (Moselle).

Sometimes I forget just how ignorant I am. Wait for him on the Moselle (Mosel) side of the station, she told me. I was going to spend some time with an Aunt and Uncle in a little town called Dohr. It is located near Cochem, a slightly larger town. I had disembarked from the train at the Cochem (Mosel) Station and stood in a massive carpark near a sign that said Mosel station. On the other side of the station, where the main road that runs through Cochem goes, the is a beautiful long peaceful river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A winding river so close to going straight… 

If I had bothered to learn even a little about where I was heading, I would have realized that this was not the Rhine, as I imagined, but rather another impressive river called the Mosel (Moselle). So there I stood, waiting in the carpark as my patient Uncle, not realizing his ignorant nephew was standing on the other side of the station. As with all good stories though, a happy ending was achieved and I did eventually find him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Worth the walk?

A little local knowledge is a wonderful thing. (And not just when it comes to finding someone at the train station. My Aunt and Uncle are from Holland originally but they moved out near the Mosel after falling in love with the place. They enjoy their home immensely and being a short three-hour drive from Amsterdam, they are no prohibitively far from their children.

Though fairly close together, the easiest way to tell the difference between the Mosel and the Rhine is that the Rhine has train tracks running on both sides of its banks. The differences between the two rivers don’t stop there either. The Mosel, though lacking the same size as the Rhine (unless you are me and can’t tell the difference), has a more relaxed feeling to it. There are still towns, castles, a railway line, and lookouts. Apparently they make better wine than their neighbours on the Rhine. (Though I am certain there are wine growers on the Rhine would love to argue the point.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: All wine growers on the Rhine, feel free to send me bottles of wine to try and change my mind.

I always expected German summers to be cooler but the days and nights around the rivers were surprisingly warm, some nights staying as warm as 27°C at 10pm. Dohr itself, is nestled in the hills above Cochem and has the added benefit of an evening breeze. Either way, it was an amazing place to relax, have a glass of whatever you liked at the end of a day and watch the sun set over the hills. There are field everywhere producing all manner of crop and random bushes covered in fresh berries, at night, the sound of harvesters working, trying to bring in the crop fade into the evenings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Watching the boats go by.

Heading down to the Rhine you can see massive wind farms in every direction working away within the fields. Apparently the people who like them the least are the tourists who complain that it spoils their view on the week that they come there for their holidays. Someone once remarked that they didn’t think that they would have been so popular if it hadn’t been for the subsidies they were receiving. I suggested that the cost of clean up of nuclear waster or coal stations polluting the air and waterways may be more expensive in the long run, especially considering how something like that might damage a region of Germany that produces as much food as it apparently does.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Guarding Cochem

The Rhine is long and majestic and though there are boats making their way up and down the entire the day, there is still something quite relaxing about eating hot chips and watching life go by.

Towers pepper the hillsides and there is something quite humbling about seeing from on high, the way the river twists and turns, often only with a few hundred meters of land separating the river from joining itself. Overlooking them, castles of varying quality overlook the stretches of land that robber barons and minor nobility carved out for themselves over the centuries.

Many of the structures live out their lives as halls for functions as people float by on hotel barges and imagine life as it might have been.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunset over Dohr

of the structures live out their lives as halls for functions as people float by on hotel barges and imagine life as it might have been.

A day on the sea.

When you are in Croatia, the sea is one of the big attractions. The water is clear, warm, and endless. The towns along the coast are incredible. Various buildings from the bygone eras pepper the shoreline. Croatia has a rich maritime history and to this day, much of the tourism revolves around the sea.

Whilst traveling the coastline of Istria, I ended up in the quiet seaside town of Umag. Near the top of Istria and a short drive

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I need more sun

from Slovenia, Umag is one of those places that draws a large amount of European tourists. Those people that can justify the few hours of driving time that takes them from their countries to that idyllic Croatian coast. Though not having the name recognition of some of it’s larger tourist brethren like Split, Dubrovnik, Rovinj or Pula, Umag certainly has it’s charms.

If you travel down the Croatian coast you need to spend at least one of your days on one the many boats that run the coastline. For the most part, the water is rather still and one of my traveling companions is not a great swimmer and therefore not a huge fan of boats but even he conceded it was not too rough. Once the decision had been made, we decided to experience what the Adriatic has to offer. Our vehicle in question was the mighty Finsa. Berthed in the centre of the town of Umag and captained by the relaxed and very friendly Dragan, we boarded the boat to explore a small section of the Croatian coastline.

The Finsa is a big boat, it sleeps about 10 people comfortably when it does the overnight trips. Truth be told, I have often had the romantic idea to sail the Adriatic but at this time I know less about sailing that I do, that the romantic comedies of Katherine Heigl. (And I would trade

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Returning to Umag

those traumatic experiences for being able to tie a few basic sailing knots.) In the end we ended up on the Finsa. No sailing required and the closest I came to exerting myself was climbing the railing to jump from the roof of the boat. Dragan had returned from a 10day excursion the previous day so a short trip with us was a nice relaxing day for them as well. We headed out from Umag and moved through the Adriatic. Dragan took great delight in pointing out various places along the coast line. With a great many years of water time under his belt, you get the feeling that there is little he doesn’t know about the coastline but he seemed to take great enjoyment in his time on the water.

The Finsa has a good kitchen and the food that we had that day was quite excellent. There is definitely something to be said for enjoying good Istrian food and wine as you enjoy a sunny afternoon on the water. Eventually, Dragan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A well earned dinner

selected an area along the coast where the boat was sheltered and the water calm. Coming from Australia, the idea of swimming out to sea seems a little unusual. We joke about all the wildlife in Australia that will kill you but Dragan assured me that we didn’t have to worry out where we were. When I asked about sharks, he laughed, absolutely not. So I leapt from the roof of the Finsa (after much wrestling with my inner chicken) into the water.

As far out to sea as we were, the water was surprisingly warm. The lack of waves certainly keeps the heat at the higher levels. (I did a little free diving down about 6 or 7 meters and once you hit that depth you could feel the cold water.) The water was warm enough to spend well over an hour in the water and not have a chill. There are fish and sea life but certainly not the terrifying beasts you read about in the myriad of novels from ancient times. The clarity of the water has an endless feel to it though and the romantic in I could envision the mythological tales of love and loss, heroes and villains and the gods of old. The other guests ended up the water as well. Children with floaties paddled about and even Dragan took advantage of the anchored vessel to go for a swim. By the time the sun was setting on the day we were all well and truly salted, showered and fed. Fresh fish on his barbeque,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Out to sea with floaties

fresh salads, bread and wine is all part of the Adriatic experience as you travel the waters that have been part of some of the epic empires of times past. Whether it is Umag, or one of the many other ports along the coastline, a day on a boat is indeed the way to experience Croatia at it’s best.

Dragan and the Finsa can be found in Umag, www.yachtfinsa.com

Yoga and Pilates on the go.

I’m not the fittest nor most fanatical yogi out there. Honestly, I did it in Bondi originally because a friend suggested it as a means of repairing the damage years of doing martial arts badly had inflicted on me. Over the years I have dropped in and dropped out of regular attendance depending on everything else that has been going on with me.

When I left to go see the world, I was in moderately good condition.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A spot of yoga anywhere inappropriate.

I had been at the gym, a little swimming and a ton of walking. My good friend Tim, Osteopath to the Star’s, (or at least the Bondi world), had made certain I was aligned to perfection and was ready to strap on my heavy pack. Certainly I was ready for whatever the next few months could

throw at me.

Welcome to economy travel. Planes, trains, buses, automobiles. Hours upon hours that required me to contort my body into badly formed pretzels. The Indian Evil Knievel Tuk Tuk driver, who wanted to show me that the Tuk Tuk chase in Octopussy was a performance by rank amateurs, the coach ride in Nepal from Kathmandu to Pokhara where not only was I contorted by seats that were made for Nepalese people, but the drivers constant swerving and my own panic locked my muscles in such a way that if it wasn’t for the fact he was scaring the crap out of me, I would have been constipated. Hell even the flight from Lukla airport to Kathmandu was more a rollercoaster ride than half the fun parks I have been to.

That brings me to Yoga and also Pilates. When you are on the road, looking after yourself is unbelievably

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ashram food. Lot’s of it and keeping you healthy

important. Food can be hit and miss, you need to drink enough water, (and in some countries that can be a challenge.) the diets can vary according to what is accessible. Yoga and Pilates can also be hit and miss, but the spread of both these systems means that you will get a fairly good basic workout and stretch. The miracle of Google means that so long as you have an internet connection you should be able to find a class near where you are staying, (or in the case of India and Nepal, you can often find the place to stay offering a yoga class. (See my earlier blog on my time spent in the Amand Prakesh Ashram – https://wanderinggrz.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/amand-prakesh-yoga-ashram/ )

I have tried to find places to do either Pilates or Yoga when I plan to be in an area for a while. (In Nepal, I hiked to Everest so I had the exercise angle licked but other places I have been able to find classes.) When you are traveling with your world (25 odd kilos or 55 odd pounds) you really want to look after your spine, hips, general alignment and both of these are great for that. There are a few other benefits that people don’t consider though:

It helps in learning the language. Doing Pilates and Yoga tend to have a similar sort of flow and if you have done either in your native language you will quickly be able to pick up the words for postures and movement. Even when they do the class in a version of English, they throw the odd local dialect into the class and this can help with your language development. Granted inhale, exhale aren’t the most useful words but countdown from five in any language never hurts when trying to pay for your meals.

You find a reason to not party too hard. Morning Pilates is a good way to ensure that if you do go out the night before, you don’t hit it too hard. Every traveller knows the feeling of not being able to drag themselves from their bed in the morning after a big night and then the regret later in the evening when you realize that you didn’t do much that day. I didn’t do Pilates every morning, but having it several times a week meant that I kept the early rising habit and got to do a little more with each day. It’s the same with evening classes. Having to be somewhere can be a great benefit when you are trying to

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Showin’ a bit of ass!

explore.

You get to meet the locals. Some classes are all tourist but the people who often run these classes, and some of the attendees are inevitably locals. In Split after class when people would sit around, I was given shopping tips for cheap clothes, restaurant recommendations and places to check out (and often more importantly, places to avoid.)

You get to deepen your practice. This is a surprising one but often as you are out of your comfort zone, you tend to watch the instructors more closely. You are trying to ensure that you are doing things the way that they want it done and as a result, you are paying a lot more attention than perhaps you do in your regular class. A slight flex of a particular body part can change what you get from a posture very quickly and you might never have noticed as you become familiar with your regular teachers. The teachers also will often just keep an eye on the new foreigner and may and try and move you more into the posture as they may not always be as confident in your language and find it easier to just assist you.

You get out of the tourist traps. Many of the places I have been are a little bit out of the maddening crowd and you get to see places that might have slipped past your radar. I found so many interesting places that were full of local graffiti and slices of daily life.

It keeps you from getting gathering too much holiday fat. Let’s face it. Many of us have returned from a trip overboard with a little extra holiday pudge. One trip I put on so much that I could barely fit into my jeans. (A big shout out of thanks to the dodgy water on the fruit at the KL airport and the subsequent bout of whatever the local version of the Delhi Belly is. By the time a week had past and I had regained control over all facets of my body, I was back to pre holiday levels)

Anyway, I have a lot more travel and have already started checking out the local schools as I wont have a chance for Tim to once again work his magic for some time yet and there are several bus rides in my immediate future.

Hostel living: Cold showers and indentations.

Having been on the road for a while I have had the opportunity to experience a plethora of hostels and hotels. (Plethora, thanks to El Guapo in the awesome film Three Amigo’s, is a favourite word of mine that I don’t use often enough so I thought I would throw it in, not to be all highbrow but to encourage you uncultured people out there to see this wonderful comedy and those who have seen it to reflect on how brilliant it is.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beach Hostel Split

I have spent so many nights in beds that were a foot too short for me. Hostel’s with pillows that if you hit someone with them, even playfully, would give the victim a concussion. (Oh you laugh but trust me, the damn thing was a solid as the sweet bread I made last year that didn’t rise.) I have met people passing through for a night, or lingering for a while longer. (Guilty.)

Hostel living can be a fun and sometimes challenging aspect of travel. Ask most people who have done it for a prolonged period and all will tell you that after a while of hostel living you inevitably go to a hotel for a day or two to bask in the luxury of your own room. The joy when are in a room, that has a bed that is big enough, has no one snoring in it, and doesn’t smell like two British guys that have travelled to an interesting part of the world and gone straight to the pub for the next several hours and then staggered to their bunks drunk as hell.

You will meet all manner of people. Those that you click with straight away and sometimes you end up travelling for a while with. On odd occasions, you even bump into them weeks after at different hostels. Then there are those that you see out of the corner of you eye and never glimpse again. Some are entertaining and good source of information. Some are a great example of how not to travel. Every so often you get the one that

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Old Town Hostel Kotor

can’t wait to ask you “Are you a tourist or a traveller?” This of course is just to give them the opportunity to tell you why they are a traveller and not a tourist like everyone else in the hostel.

Dictionary.com was nice enough to provide the following definitions.

Tourist –[too r-ist]

noun

a person who is traveling, especially for pleasure.

Traveler – [trav-uh-ler, trav-ler]

noun

  1. a person or thing that travels.
  2. a person who travels or has travelled in distant places or foreign lands.

I love the hostel life. I admit it. I have even adjusted to sharing with random people and even look forward to what surprises the next hostel stay, or major guest change over will bring. Having been at the Beach Hostel in Split for the last couple of weeks, I have seen so many people come and go. A departure point for many of the Adriatic cruise’s, there has been a large influx of short stays as the summer edges closer. You get to meet people from everywhere, all with their stories. Some travel and work, others a few days or weeks worth of travel and they all have stories to tell.

The age groups are surprisingly varied. I at the ripe old age of 40 tend to occupy the top end of the guest ages but every so often you get someone that sneaks past me. Often they are there because it is cheap but some like the chance to interact with guests that hotels tend to lack. The staff are also a big part of the fun. The guys at the Old Town Hostel in Kotor made certain that there was always things going on and treated everyone like a best friend. Ladybird, the matriarch of the Beach Hostel is full of stories and keeps ensures that there is no shortage of entertainment. In India, and the places in Nepal that I stayed, they treated you like family and would go out of their way to ensure that

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My bed. Solid metal frame brings the pain.

you stayed safe. World House Hostel in Istanbul went to great lengths to warn guests of scams, and people who could lead guests into trouble as well as offer restaurant suggestions (Sure they probably got kickbacks but the food recommendations were always good and not too expensive.)

Cleanliness can be a little hit and miss but these days competition grows so fierce in most places that you can expect a fairly decent benchmark to be achieved and the bathroom sizes vary greatly. My current hostel the shower stalls are a little small and so often when I bend over to pick up the soap, (Yup, jokes time!) I end up bumping the tap handle. I have had more than my share of alternating between scalding hot, and freeze my ass off shower moments. There is one shower where that doesn’t happen but I am yet to successfully manage to get out of that shower without clipping my shin bone on the hard tiled edging next to the shower. (I’m fair certain I have a permanent indent.) On the plus, it means that if I wasn’t awake from the hot/cold/ just right shower, I usually am from the lancing pain that comes with ceramic edging. Between that and the constant clipping of my skull on the top bunks railing and support structure, I am fairly certain I will prove an interesting specimen on my next x-rayHostels bring so much to travel and especially as a solo traveller they make a good way to break from the isolation when you are a stranger in a strange land. With plenty more countries and plenty more hostels, I can’t wait to see what other stories, and minor injuries they bring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hostel Views always aren’t always as good as this.