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Reflections Of A Year Abroad…Part 2

Here continues my final reflections from my year abroad.. and just in time to start my new adventures coming up…

New Zealand

New Zealand, like Australia, was one of the top contenders for “where I might want to live when I grow up…” While Australia was vast and overwhelming, NZ was stunning and easy to travel in. The people were also downright “nice” as the Aussies put it. Heck I was even wished happy early birthday by an immigration office when they had to double check my info that apparently is similar to a person of interest

I loved NZ and the Kiwis and got to amazing things there. Like dig my own hot tub at Hot Water Beach. Cover myself in thermal mud and take relax in a sulfur spring in Rotorua. Jump off a mountainside and paraglide, screaming all the way, in Queenstown.

Free as a bird

I even ade it to all THREE islands: North (right upto the tippy top), South and Stewart Island (the 3rd) where I did trade work at Bunkers Backpackers, one of the best spots in all of NZ.

A drink with the locals

The Worst Part Of NZ: would have to be the hacking cough I developed for about 3wks, felt so bad for my fellow dorm mates, oh and the price of lamb (so much for my bday roast 😦 )

The Best Part of NZ: friends, paragliding, mud and Stewart Island.

A Reason to Come Back: Everything

Malaysia and Borneo

The plan post NZ was to go volunteer in Sri Lanka at an animal shelter. They had contacted me and asked me to come promising accomodation and no fee. Sounded perfect and I was all set with tickets. Mid Tonga I got a message saying a returning volunteer was staying for 6mths and they were giving her my accomodation, but I could still come I just had to pay to stay… Well that blew that plan out of the water. My ticket on air asia was a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and then to Sri Lanka. I had great friends who I hadn’t seen in years in KL. So I scratched my 2nd ticket and ate the losses, planned a short visit to KL then discovered a converted oil rig in Borneo (a short flight) for scuba diving. Sounds like a perfect recovery plan to me.

I can’t tell you enough about how great it was to see my friend Chauw (first time in 7yrs) and meet his fabulous wife, Viven, and dog Pakkun (who really runs the house). They welcomed me like a long lost relative and put me up, fed me, and showed me around. It felt like home and I can’t thank them enough. I only wish I had had more time to stay.

Great Friends/Family

But Borneo beckoned and since I had to go through immigration it counts as a country on my list. The Seaventures Dive Rig, a converted oil rig, was incredible and with a sealavator that went straight into the ocean a diver couldn’t ask for more. This was my first DIVE VACATION and my first in tropical water, the rig made it truly spectacular in every way.

THE SEAVENTURES RIG!

The Worst Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: Leaving

The Best Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: friends and diving

A Reason To Return: Friends, diving and so much more.

Nepal

Nepal is a country I have always dreamed of going to and never thought I would. Most people go to trek, to get to base camp at the very least. For me, I wanted to buy myself a singing bowl. Since the first time I saw one of this beautiful bowls that “sing” as you pass a wooden stick around the outside, I have promised myself to only get one when I got to Nepal. It took me almost the full 3weeks to find the right one, but she sings just perrtty for me and I love it.

Nepal was fascinating and, unknown to me, would introduce me to someone who would change my life for good in many ways, but bring it crashing down with a terrible betrayal.

But you can’t blame a country for the actions of one person and so I focus on the people like Laksmi and her family who essentially adopted me in Pokhara. I went to dinner at their house, helped my new little brother, Gaurab, with his homework, even moved hotels closer to them (with Laksmi’s husband’s help). I spent many good hours chatting with Laksmi and I will miss my “sister” very much.

The Worst Thing in Nepal: The traffic and pollution

The Best Thing in Nepal: The people and the shopping and the history

A Reason to Return: The people, the shopping and the history

Germany

Cathleen, who I had met in my first country of Peru, and I had joked about me coming to Germany on my way home. Low and behold fate saw to it that I did. While I was super sad to leave Nepal, I was super excited to Cathleen again and well Germany in December means: Gluwein, Bratwurst, Christmas Markets and Christmas Cookies. Woohoo!

Cathleen met me in Hamburg with her amazing friend Hendrik, who put us up for a few days. Then came the whirlwind tour of Hamburg and Berlin with a final stop in Leipzig where Cathleen lived. Fate also allowed me to catch up with Carolin and Nadine, friends from Australia.

The Worst Thing in Germany: My heartsickness at missing a guy and ending a trip (not really Germany’s fault).

The Best Thing in Germany: Gluwein, bratwurst and Christmas markets… and fabulous friends.

A Reason to Go Back: need I repeat the above?? Oh and add the bakeries and the cold meats, mmmmmmm…..

Home

So after 347 days on the road, just shy of a full year, I finally made it home! For those of us who love long term travel, going home is both a blessing and a curse. We get our own bed, we see family, have home cooking, and 3 days later we want to pack our bags and head out again. As someone once explained to me, finally giving me an explanation I could use for non travelers, “traveling is a double edged sword…you live you grow you explore but you never feel settled”.

Starting my job as a vet nurse with a mobile vet barely 3 days after getting home at least helped that trapped feeling from catching a full hold. And being mobile kind of felt like I was still moving.

Ready to Monitor in Surgery

Something I learnt on This Trip: I am stronger than I look, and I love being near a warm ocean.

My Most Memorable Experience: Shaving my head for charity

My Worst Experience: Can’t say that anything was terrible, but let’s just say I learn a lot of lessons about life.

One thing is for sure, I prefer living abroad and plan to find work that gives me that. As much as I loved all the travel, there are times you want to stay put for longer than a month or 2.

So stick around and join me on upcoming adventures including Italy, Korea and Thailand…

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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Return to Real Life

17th December 2011

Return to Real Life

After catching up with friends the following day in Seattle I flew out on Saturday morning back to Eugene, Oregon and my folks. It was fantastic seeing them and being back, but with every piece of clothing I unpacked I wished I could be repacking. The urge to keep moving is always strongest for me when I return. However, my bed was a blessing even if it did come with 2 cats vying for the most uncomfortable position they could put me in.

Fortunately I would not have to do the dreaded job search, a low point for any world traveler. A mobile vet I had worked with before leaving needed a new assistant and I would start Monday… no recovery time for the wicked I guess. It was good to start work and be occupied, it was also a bonus that being a mobile clinic meant it was almost like I was still traveling. However, that only lasts for so long and pretty soon I knew I would be leaving again by the end of 2012. Returning in the middle of Oregon winter doesn’t help the cause to stay at home either.

Return of the Vet Nurse

Boyfriend, Schmoyfriend

I had not heard from Buddha for a week and after another week on Christmas day I finally said “ENOUGH!!!”. I was sick and tired of being played and strung along with the excuse of bad connections. I had been wearing an Irish Claddagh ring for 10yrs, always on the single side and had turned it to being in a relationship when we had skyped back in Germany. I took it off and packed it away so over always having that define me. I decided to focus on getting my vet nurse certificate and focus on a year here in Eugene before looking for something permanent and well paid abroad.

The day after Christmas I got the first of many texts and calls. He sweetly told me how sorry he was but that he had been in India doing a required course for the ship, that he missed me and wished to skype me every day. I fell for it but was skeptical for a long time.

The truth was that the Australian girl he had lived with the past month had left that day. She had told him to stop stringing me along and so for 2 weeks he did. But now that he had no one else to sweet talk he turned his attentions back to me. In truth I can’t be completely bitter towards him, as the attentions and feelings of being loved were some of the happiest memories I have had and would also lead to a trip to Italy and a cruise where he asked me to marry him. But that is a story for a later entry…

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in RTW, Travel

 

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Homeward Bound….

15th December 2011

Early Starts

Nadine only got home around 6am, she was exhausted. The job in Cologne/Koln took a lot longer than they had planned, she works in construction, but it had been decided that it wasn’t worth leaving it half done.

I got up at 7am and, very quietly, started getting everything ready. We had to leave the house by 8am at the latest as we had to drive to Cologne/Koln for me to catch the train to Frankfurt. It would take at least an hour to get there but we gave ourselves almost a full hour extra just in case. Yvonne was driving and 10min before we were ready to leave we bundled Nadine into the car. She was so tired and just slept the whole way but was determined to come with.

Murphy’s Law

Why is it that when you have a long trip ahead of you and you make sure to have extra time, Good ‘Ol Murphy steps in and cause major traffic issues. We couldn’t believe the amount of traffic, add to that getting lost when “Murphy” tampered with the GPS.

In the middle of all this stress about trying to get to the train station I suddenly got a call from Buddha, it was really short but he wanted to tell me that he had got his dates for the ship and he would be embarking on January 14th. It felt so good to hear from him and that he wanted me to know what was going on. Of course now I realise it was just him making sure I stayed on the hook.

We got to the train station in time to see the train pull away… at least we think it was the train. The signage was a little confusing and we weren’t sure where we were.

It didn’t help that I DESPERATELY needed to pee, am sure Murph’ had something to do with that as well. Yvonne left Nadine and I standing in the middle of the walk way and ran off to find out our options. I went in search of a bathroom quick but the only one involved paying and I didn’t have time to think about that.

Train 2

Luckily there was a train leaving in about 5mins that I was able to get on and so we ran back up the stairs to the platform and spent about 3 of the 5mins trying to figure out which train I was supposed to go on. The biggest bummer was that this train was meant to take an hour longer which meant I would have barely an hour to get checked in for my flight.

Finally we found an attendant who confirmed this was the right train and I said farewell and got on. I was really sad to leave Nadine and my new friend, Yvonne. Their family had been so good to me and so welcoming, I would miss them terribly.

I found a seat and settled my bags and then rushed to the loo. Oh such relief… to be on a train and heading to the airport. As I sat down and breathed a sigh of relaxation, the attendant was kind enough to inform me that I was in 1st class but only had a 2nd class ticket… oops, I wondered why this train seemed really comfortable. I made my way to the next car and managed to find a seat on the aisle next to a very nice German lady. Confirming that we were indeed heading to the Frankfurt train station/airport I promptly nodded off feeling completely exhausted from the morning events.

Dash To Check In

When you are nodding off travel always seems faster and it felt like just a few minutes before my wonderful seat mate woke me up to tell me we were here. I dashed out tripping over my bags in the process and feeling completely rumpled and half asleep.

I hate it when that panic of missing your flight kicks in and no matter what you do you can’t shake it off. Going up the escalator from the tracks I found myself in the main station, however all the information boards spoke of trains and there were no signs for the airport. With panic rising that perhaps I HAD got on the wrong train I headed to what appeared to be a walkway to airlines. I was flying with Iceland Air and anyone I asked just looked at me blankly.

Panic was building up to outright fear that I would miss my flight as there was maybe 45min left. I ran down the walk way and finally found a board that showed Iceland Air and what terminal I needed. Now for anyone who has ever been to Frankfurt Airport, you know how huge it is. Its almost like a reasonably sized town with its own public transportation in place. I hopped on the bus going to my terminal and was soon chatting away to the others who had commented on my flag patches covering my backpack. It was good to take my mind off the drama of catching my flight. I leapt off the bus and ran into the terminal finding the check in desks for Iceland Air. There was no one around which obviously meant check in was over.. right? Huffing and puffing I handed over my passport and asked “am I still in time, can I still get on the flight??” The check in clerk smiled and said “of course its only 11am, the flight doesn’t leave till 1.15pm”.

Oh, wait the train was meant to take 3hrs and it only took 2??? Oh thank Murphy for giving me a break.

Security and Water

Feeling way more relaxed I called Nadine to let her know I had made it safely and ahead of time. Then headed for security. I completely forgot I still had water in my water bottle and only realised when the security guard picked it up and looked at me. Already through the scanner I quickly downed all the water. Then came the security shuffle. It goes something like this:
Guard 1: indicates I have to exit and go through again.
Heading that way
Guard 2: stops me and says its fine
Guard 1: says I have to go through
Step to the gate
Step away
Step to the gate
Step away
Guard 3: makes final decision and lets me through
Guard 1 and 2 scowl at each other.

All rather amusing. I found the gate and then decided to try and call the boyfriend and actually got through. It was great talking to him and he told me he wanted me to join him on the ship for a trip and he would pay, that he missed me and was thinking of me. (Super sweet, gave me warm fuzzies blah blah blah…of course he was also asking 2 other girls at the same time to visit him on the ship and he would pay! Oh well focus on the warm fuzzies of the moment).

Just a Little Hot Water…

Since I had more time than I had thought I decided to grab a little something to eat and drink. You think airport food is expensive in the states, in Europe it’s downright exorbitant. I opted for a muffin and just a glass of hot water as I had some tea I could use. When I went to pay they had charged me 1.50euros for the HOT WATER!! Good heavens how ridiculous!

We all know Frankfurt Airport is enormous, but when you see the employees getting from A to B on bicycles it gives enormous a whole new meaning.

Then I went and relaxed and checked the internet, at least wifi was free in the airport, for the first hour. After my hour was up I spent time calling friends and saying farewell… farewells are the hardest part.

Iceland Air

The first flight was Frankfurt to Reykjavik, Iceland. It turned out the entertainment system didn’t work and the seat arm didn’t go up. Luckily it was a short flight and they did provide us a croissant with ham and cheese. The cute part of Iceland air were the headrest covers and such that quoted little poems and sayings in Icelandic and with only a few days till Christmas all kids got gifts and chocolates.

Icelandic Poem


Soft and Cuddly

Final Leg

Arriving in Reykjavik we all had to go through immigration. So I get to have an Iceland stamp for visiting the airport. As I was waiting to go through there was a US guy who was being reamed by the immigration officer, didn’t want to be him for sure. I managed to find something to eat, a rather unappetizing sandwich I must say but something, and with an international leg coming up of 12hrs + I was sure to get a couple of meals on the flight…

Looking out of the windows waiting for my, now 1hr delayed, flight, Iceland lived up to its name. Snow as far as the eye could see. Having a delay is always dangerous as you end up circling the stores and I soon discovered I had an armful of candy.

The flight was pretty full but luckily the middle seat was free and there were good movies on the, working, entertainment system. I was starving and looking forward to some grub… until I received the menu and realised you had to pay for food. I have never been on an international flight where I had to pay for food, and the cheapest was $15 for a chicken breast that was very much airline food. Air Asia is the only airline that I have flown on where they charge for food. But that is a super budget airline and they tell you as part of your booking process and allow you to pre order. What ya going to do though, food is food and I was starving.

US Arrival

Finally we arrived in good old Seattle. My friend, Colleen, was meeting me and going to catch up with some friends at a local Pizza place. I got a little worried when she wasn’t at the baggage claim, and managed to borrow someones iPhone (they had to show me how to use it) to try and call her. After about an hour she finally arrived, turns out she had been held up at the border to Canada by a rather stupid remark to immigration by someone she was traveling with. I never understand why people don’t just shut it and smile sweetly when passing through a border.

But soon we were at the restaurant and a couple of my friends managed to show up. The food at Raizzi’s Pizza was delicious and I inhaled as much as I could. Then it was home to sleep, glorious sleep.

Good Friends and Good Food

Well the journey was almost at an end. A journey of epic proportions, lessons and life long memories.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Last Day!

14th December 2011

Today was my last full day in Germany.
Today was my last full day of my year long sojourn.
Tomorrow I would be winging home to real life.
Tomorrow I would be trying to figure out what to do next…

Early Starts

Nadine had a job to do in Cologne / Koln, and had to leave at 4am in the morning. She felt really bad about it as she was not sure what time she would get back of even if she would get back the same day.

This meant that Yvonne and I spent the day exploring. We went to a local craft shop near her house, and looked for strings and such so I could teach her to make jewellery. Then, she suddenly turned to me and said “Want to pop over to Holland?”.

Popping Over the Border

Coming from countries that did not have neighbors a hop skip and a jump away, that statement left me speechless. And anyone who knows me will know that is almost impossible to do.

So after dropping the kids off at school we hopped in the car and set off across the border. Its even weirder when you have no border control or passport stops. The only way to know you had left Germany at all was a slight change in housing design and the appearance of Dutch. I discovered my Afrikaans background meant I could understand a lot of it. Oh the fact that my cell phone provider switched mid commute.

We explored clothing stores, bought some coffee, found more craft stores and had a small lunch. It was fantastic, a day out before I big trip is always good to take your mind off of it. Yvonne, not being very fluent in English, had felt really nervous about spending time with me. But with hand signals and a little Dutch/Afrikaans and a limited understanding of German we were able to create our own language.

After buying some Christmas Gifts and finding some 100% wool fuzzy inserts we headed back to Germany.

Packing Up Emotions

My emotions were bouncing all over the place. It seemed to have taken such a long time to get to this point, to even start my trip. Now after 9 countries, 2 hemispheres and 345 days on the road, it was all coming to an end. Adding in a new relationship that was already having communication issues, you can only imagine where I was at.

Yvonne kept my mind off things by making me a bottle opener and some magnets using pics from my travels, in exchange I taught her some basic strings to make bracelets and necklaces. We also made Buddha a bottle opener using one of his favorite monkey pics. (Back home I would mail it to him but apparently it never did reach him).

Then it was time for bed. Nadine still wasn’t home and it looked like she might only be home around 5am in the morning and we had to leave for the train station in Koln by 7am.

Tomorrow involved a train to Frankfurt, a flight to Iceland and a flight to Seattle. I love to travel, its only the traveling part that gets me down on occasion.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Chillin’ Out and Underwater Rugby

13th December2011

I didn’t do much today, Nadine was at work so I attempted to catch up on my blog and hung out with her sister looking at photos. Feels so good to be in a place where you can do that and not feel uncomfortable because it is someone else’s home.

Swimming and Rugby

Nadine picked me up in the evening and we went to do some swimming. Nadine tries to go swimming every week and watch a group of the guys play underwater rugby.

Yup, you heard me right, underwater rugby. In other words a bunch of guys in small tight swimsuits romping around like a group of seals chasing a ball… and they call it a sport!

It was hilarious to watch and good fun. We headed home for a nice hot home cooked meal. I love this family!!

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Farms, Horses and Bratwurst!!!

12th December 2011

I Am Not Going To Call

That was the plan, no more calling that is it. But… mornings were the best time to reach him, maybe just one more time… Bingo! He answered, was so good to hear him. Apparently he was out at his mother’s place and was hiking up near the cell tower so had better reception. (Good Lord and I fell for that one too). But at least it put my paranoia at ease for the moment and I could enjoy the next few days.

Horse Farm

Yvonne was excited to take me to a friends farm who raised horses. She was Dutch and had married a German Farmer. The horses were stunning and it felt so good to be around such majestic, calming animals. We helped her get some of them out of the field and chatted about farm life.

My Final Christmas Market

The afternoon involved blog work and meeting Nadine in town. She took me to an amazing bead store, it was like heaven in little boxes with shiny things everywhere. I make jewellery using a special string and a variety of beads. Almost too exciting for one person to stand.

Nadine was excited to take me to her favorite Christmas Market, not the local one but one that was over an hour away. It was great fun and we spent a few hours walking around, looking at things, eating mini donuts like things filled with custard, and sugared nuts and drinking gluwein. Again it took me a long time to find the right mug and we must have walked to every single stand to check out the mugs. Finally I settled on one that was the best option.

My 5th and Final Gluwein Mug

And of course the last, but most important aspect of any Christmas Market, the bratwurst. It was delicious as usual but there had been a running trend of the bread roll getting smaller and smaller as I toured through Germany, and well, this bratwurst got first place.

I Think The Bread Is There To Hold The Sausage

A great night out with a great friend.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Farewell Leipzig :( Hello Nettetal :)

11th December 2011

Morning Pastries

Today was another farewell day, I would be moving on towards the town of Cologne and another friend that I met in Coral Bay, Australia. Cathleen told me to sleep in and went out to buy us some fresh bread and pastries for breakfast. No better way to start the morning than German Pastries and coffee with a good friend.

Rideshares and Directions

We had managed to find me a rideshare to close to Cologne where Nadine lived and they were picking me up at noon. We packed and clean and got all sorted just in time for the rideshare to call and say they were running late. Well, they were a bunch of students who had come down for a party…

I called Nadine to let her know and get directions, it turned out she lived almost an hour from Cologne, but had used that town as it was the only one that was well known. She lived in a town near the Dutch border called Nettetal. Being a little irritated with life in general I got a wee bit frustrated. Cathleen, in her usual wisdom, told me it would be fine and all work out.

The rideshare arrived and I was suitably impressed by the very swanky car, not bad for students. Even had a seat warmer. I was given the front seat and after a tearful goodbye it was time to say farewell to a very good friend. Can’t wait to catch up again soon.

Soon we were on the road and chatting about what they were studying and my travels. I tried to call Buddha on and off but kept getting the network down message. (Maybe that was the one day the network really was down and the one time he wasn’t lying to me…maybe). Anyway we organised with Nadine to meet us at an offramp just outside of Cologne, and after missing the ramp the first time we finally found it.

Part of the Family

It was great to see Nadine again. We had met the first week or so in Coral Bay, she was part of my German Contingent, a running joke as our group was about 6 parts Germany, 1 part Bavarian and me and it seemed that with every one that left another German joined.

We caught up on the hour drive to her sister’s house where she lived, I felt really bad that she had come all this way to pick me up. Sometimes life surprises you with the kind of friends that are happy to go out of their way to be there for you. I had just left one such friend and was realising I had another one sitting next to me. No matter what curve balls life might throw at me, its good to know that occasionally it tosses me someone who has my back.

I was welcomed as part of the family by her sister Yvonne and her husband and 2 kids and nephew. They also had a couple of goats, sheep, a shetland pony with an attitude and 2 large dogs. It felt so welcoming and everyone was excited to meet me. The teenage boy had given up his room and Nadine and I shared it.

Well dinner was cooking I went to take my stuff upstairs and found it had already been taken for me, too cool. I sorted out my stuff and checked some email, I was still feeling very unsettled and stressed and wished I could talk to Buddha as it had been a few days, all I could do was email him and hoped he would reply. (Of course now I see that was wishful thinking as it turned out the girl he was living with had told him to stop stringing me along and he was beginning to listen to her).

Heading downstairs I felt comforted by the fabulous family dinner and all the chaos that came with it. More adventures await in the morning.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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