Wandering Writer Woes #331

So, I’ve just realised, it’s April. Already! That means it’s my birthday month, Easter, and spring time. Yay! It also means I’ve only got 2, maximum 3 months to get my second instalment of Pull ready. Balls.

I’ve met so many people who’ve got glossy eyed when I tell them I’m a writer. They all say the same thing – how great it must be to write and travel at the same time. And they’re right, it is great. It’s just that time doesn’t really exist while you’re travelling. On one hand, everything is super slow and chilled. The biggest dilemma of the day might be deciding where to have breakfast that day before lounging around all day. On the the other hand, everything goes so fast. I’ll be home in under a month – where have the last 4 months gone?

The inspiration for Pull is already there. The idea is there, I just need to get it out and on the one hand, being surrounded by scenery like this is pretty much most writers’ dream.

On the other hand, I don’t want to miss it by being stuck behind a laptop screen all day. It’s taken me the best part of 4 hours just to get this blog post done – the internet was sketchy and it seems that whenever I do get some precious time to do anything work related, my laptop decides it wants to throw a hissyfit.

Still. I’m not complaining.

 

Meeting fellow travellers #2: Adoki

A while back, I did a post with the intention to get someone in the big, wide world inspired to go travel. I introduced Michael Margolies, an American travelling the world and sharing his adventures via a podcast, Walking The Earth. Well, it’s that time again.

This time, I’m introducing Adoki, a super cool guy I met, also in Chiang Mai. Right from the off, it was all about awesome coincidences. He’s also from London and it turned out I’d met a friend of his in Bundi, Rajahstan a week or so earlier, and to add to that, we also share the same birthday! So, I thought it’d be cool to get him on the blog for a Q & A.

Who is Adoki?

Who am I?
Maybe the most important and most difficult question. I’m currently in the process of becoming a philosophy teacher and am loving teaching extra large mind expanding concepts to little adults. I’m a believer of the Holy Trinity, Science-Spirituality-Philosophy, and feel within these holds a key to something beyond comprehension.
I love to see new things; to experience goose bumped infused moments that remind me about how finite and important life (I & U) is (are).

I have few passions but seek to fill my life with them as much as possible. Music. Food. Travelling ( being one of the reasons I fell into the education profession as it fills in two important criteria; meaning and holidays to find meaning). Once I was told that my totem animal was a bear. I like bears. Winnie The Pooh Is a Taoist Philosopher.

I mathematically believe in the high probability of alien life form and my favorite food is Plantain (cooking banana). (√∞=♥)

Tell me a bit about your music and what inspires you
I love many genres and all inspire. Jazz, dub, minimal tech, classical. But, I feel my inspiration comes from electronic music and sounds in general (unorganised sounds). Just thinking about it, I feel this could stem from the dichotomy, or illusion of separation, of the two. Sounds are spontaneous, uncoordinated; one minute you hear a bird chirp, the next a plate crash. They could be said to harbour a life of their own. Adding to that, I feel if we disassociate from the cause of some sounds and hear it as an abstract entity floating on its own, it takes on another meaning (try listening to the sound the tyres of a moving car make of the road – very relaxing). On the flip side of that, there’s electronic music. Synths, pads, drum loops, midi key boards; all of these not only incorporate the fact that humans are able to evolve technologically at an amazing rate, but for me encapsulates that thing, that ‘je ne sais quoi‘, that soul. Search and listen to ∆ZTEK – Feelin.

What was your ‘aha’ moment? (i.e. the moment you decided you wanted to hit the road)
Working in a Cuban bar at the age of 20 and meeting and working with people from all over the globe. Seeing them see London from a point of view I had become accustomed to was so refreshing. Not only did it make me want to enjoy the city of my birth more, but it also made me realise that there was a whole world waiting and wanting to be seen.

Where’ve you been so far?
Australia (Melbourne, Perth), Holland (Amsterdam), Mexico (Mexico city, Tulum, Guadalajara), USA ( Los Angeles), Spain (Melila, Madrid, Valencia, Almeria, Granada), Morroco, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Italy (Rome and Sorrento).

What’s the single best thing about travelling?
Fear. Awkwardness.  Being alone yet with so many others. The food, sound, smells, textures, unfamiliarity. A deep inexpiable connection with humanity/reality. To see a manifestation of the divine that has never been described in any Holy Book. 

And what’s the single worst thing about travelling?
The actual traveling part can be tedious. Living out of a bag and knowing the futility of unpacking because soon you will be on the road again. I hate that shit.

Where are you planning to go next?
I feel I need to reconnect to the Mother Land. As being from African decent, I feel it definitely needs to be explored at greater depth. So much negativity is heard in the media I feel I want to see all aspects of Africa, not just what’s fed to me on the news and adverts for aid.

What are your top 3 tips/advice for anyone considering backpacking?

  1. Be brave. Let your fear and anxiety be the catalyst, metamorphosing you to the true you.
  2. Be water. Flow, don’t be solid. Adapt.
  3. Be vigilant. All kinds of people exist in the world. Learn to filter the negatives.

Big thanks to Adoki for featuring on the blog. Adoki, I have your water canteen. I’ll bring it to you soon!

You can connect with Adoki and check out his music here:

Facebook – Adoki The Anomaly | YouTube |  SoundCloud | Bandcamp

Meeting fellow travellers: Michael Margolies

One of the cool things about travelling is meeting other people – something that’s surprisingly easy. It’s a great way to find inspiration about where to move onto next or even to take the leap and head out with a backpack yourself. So, I’ve decided to get some of the people I met on my travels for guest posts and hopefully inspire others to get out there and explore!

Back in April, towards the end of my trip in Chiang Mai, I switched guesthouses and met Michael, an American traveller who was staying in the same place. Like a lot of other people, he’s documenting his trip but what’s cool is that he does his via his podcast Walking The Earth, and I even got to be featured on an episode. I’m stoked to have gotten him on my blog for a quick Q & A. You can find details of his podcast and social media links below – so say hello!

Episode 21 no textWho is Michael Margolies?

I’m an American backpacker who is finding his way in the world! After working as an engineer for 5 years, I left my job in August 2013 to travel for an extended period and eventually try my hand at entrepreneurship. For almost a year now, I have been solo backpacking, learning about myself and the world around me. During my trip, I have also been keeping myself busy hosting a travel podcast.

A podcast you say . . . tell me more
Walking the Earth-1
Walking the Earth Podcast is a show about the backpacking experience. In the initial episodes, I share my personal journey via Skype calls to my childhood friend Justin Cassel who is back home in the US. The show has since evolved to feature guest appearances by a diverse array of fellow travelers and locals who share their stories and perspectives. One guest I had the pleasure of bringing on the show was you Natalie! (For folks interested to hear, you can check out that episode at: wtepodcast.com/2014/05/01/episode-21).

What was your ‘aha’ moment? (i.e. the moment you decided you wanted to hit the road)
I can point to a few key moments. In 2009, I took the full 2 weeks of vacation my employer gave me to travel Europe. That was the first time I met people who weren’t simply on vacation for a couple weeks, but were traveling long-term as part of their lifestyle. From that moment, I said to myself, “One day that’s going to be me!” A few years later, I found myself having what you might call a “quarter-life crisis.” I was “successful” with a “good job” (i.e., making good money), yet I was still unhappy. In September 2012, I took a trip to Peru and participated in several ceremonies with the psychedelic medicine ayahuasca. In those ceremonies, I had many revelations and “moments of clarity,” but one of the big ones was that I was living my life backwards. I was living a life where my highest priority was my career, the conventional wisdom being that career advancement will lead to higher salary and therefore more opportunities to do what I want and be happy. But in fact, I realized this was the “tail wagging the dog” and I should be taking the reverse approach: what do I want to do, and how much money do I need to achieve it? I wanted to go long-term backpacking. And turns out, I already had enough money to do it. It then became strikingly obvious to me that I should do precisely that, instead of listening to the fears implanted in me by my family, society, etc. We speak in depth about ayahuasca in episode #28.

Where’ve you been so far?
I began this trip in India, spending a total of 4 months there. Since January, I have been exploring the countries of Southeast Asia — Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and currently making my way through Vietnam.

What’s the single best thing about travelling?
Meeting so many wonderful people! It’s kind of funny, but while backpacking, it’s actually easier to meet people than back home. Not only that, but I also find that most of the people I meet are extremely like-minded in terms of values and life philosophy. I can meet somebody for the very first time, from a completely different country, and within an hour, I will often make a deep connection that I rarely share with people back home, even those who I have known for years. Meeting the locals in all of these countries also constantly opens my eyes to new perspectives.

And what’s the single worst thing about travelling?
Saying goodbye to so many wonderful people! As a solo backpacker, your relationships are inherently transient. In the beginning, it didn’t bother me as much because I was always meeting new friends. But now that I have been backpacking for almost a year, it has started to feel somewhat lonely. It is still very easy to meet people, but I know the relationships are temporary (and the intro conversations can become repetitive!).

Where are you planning to go next?
I never have plans – I have trajectories! I’m figuring it out as I go along, but based on some of my current feelings I just described, it seems I might need a little bit more stability. I don’t intend to move back to the US just yet, but I am thinking I will most likely “settle down,” at least temporarily, back in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai, of course, is the same place we met and recorded our podcast episode together 3 months ago! I just relistened to that episode, and funny enough, I even alluded to this vague plan back then, and we talked about all the reasons why Chiang Mai has everything you could want in a place to live!

What are your top 3 tips/advice for anyone considering backpacking?
Don’t plan. There’s a tendency to research and figure out exactly where you are going to stay, what you’re going to do, etc etc. Don’t do it. It will only cause you to miss out on opportunities. Go with the flow, follow your gut, and you will find even better experiences than you could have possibly planned! (Another topic we touched on in our episode)

  1. Don’t plan. There’s a tendency to research and figure out exactly where you are going to stay, what you’re going to do, etc etc. Don’t do it. It will only cause you to miss out on opportunities. Go with the flow, follow your gut, and you will find even better experiences than you could have possibly planned! (Another topic we touched on in our episode)
  2. Bring as little as possible. There’s another tendency to overpack, which kind of falls along the same lines as overplanning, because you want to be prepared for every possible case scenario. But in fact, it’s better to forget something than to bring too much. If you forget something you urgently need, you can probably get it wherever you are, usually for much cheaper. But if you bring too much, you’re now stuck lugging around on your back a bunch of shit you aren’t even using.
  3. Be independent. Go alone or in a small group (the smaller the better!), and be willing to split up and re-converge sometimes. Everyone has different priorities, and you should not have to feel like you are missing out on an experience or forced into something you don’t want, just because of your travel companions. There are also certain experiences that you simply cannot have when you restrain yourself to always operating within a clan.

Big thanks to Michael for featuring on the blog, I’m not at all wildly jealous that he’s still exploring the world! You can find his podcast here: wtepodcast.com

Go natter with him and Justin at: @mikemargolies | @WTEpodcast | facebook.com/walkingtheearthpodcast

Listen at: SoundCloud | iTunes | Stitcher | RSS Feed

Trainspotting

I love trains. They’re probably my favourite mode of transport after driving. If I could take a train to Australia, I so would and in fact, I read somewhere that China have started building some kind of tunnel for a train to go all the way to the states. How cool! Now, I’m not an actual trainspotter, that’s not my bag, but I appreciate what they do. I appreciate the way they look, and how they’re infintely more comfortable than, say, planes, which make me feel like I might drop out of the sky at any given moment, so I thought I’d dedicate this post to the awesomeness that are trains and how I’ve fared on them so far when it comes to travelling.

France

Yes, that place again. In 2012, I was constantly on trains going to Marseille from London. A 2.5hr journey on the Eurostar, followed by about 3.5 hours from Paris to Marseille. Now. The Eurostar. I first took it around 2005 and was a bit unimpressed. I’d imagined something like the Orient Express (now that I would love to experience) but it was a bit shabbier than I was prepared for. Apparently, you need to travel first class where you get champagne and foot massages and all kinds of wonderful things. In France itself, I was blown away when I saw their double decker metro trains. Why don’t we have them in London? Think of how much roomier the commute would be! And it’s fun, being able to walk upstairs on a train (or is that just me?). Yes, some are dated and shabby, but who cares? Too cool.

The TGV’s were double decker too and I just loved the approach into Marseille, one of my favourite cities in France. Stepping off the train into blazing heat and knowing I’d travelled from London to practically the mediterranean…do it! You must! If only to experience the sing song announcements from the French train information centre.

Japan

Oh, what to say. Where to begin? Possibly the best trains I’ve ever been on. The train from Tokyo Narita airport was awesome, simply for the fact that the seats all turn around so everyone is forward facing. No backwards travel sickness happening there! The metro I was a bit disappointed with, mainly because it was older than I expected and despite staying in the business district of Shinjuku, I didn’t get to see that crazy business – you know, the ones filmed on YouTube where people are literally shoved into the carriage. What I did like though, was that the drivers wore white gloves and proper uniforms, with hats. Very tidy.

But, by far and away, the best bit of the entire trip was the bullet trains. If you’re a foreign national, you can get a Japan Rail pass that basically allows you unlimited train travel for a set period of days. You can only get it in your country of origin, so you need to sort it out before you leave, but it is sooooo worth it. Not only were the trains beautiful, but the g-force was pretty cool. I remember bouncing along when I went to the toilet, it was that quick. Plus, the views on the way west towards Kyoto were awesome, including a close up of Mount Fuji.

India

It just has to be done. India is bloody huge and it’s expensive to fly from destination to destination as opposed to the train. A 1500km trip cost me £7 -bargain! Ok, so it’s not luxury. At least, it wasn’t in sleeper class, but it was fun. I was scared out of my pants if I’m honest, having heard a million nightmare stories, so I genuinely didn’t know what to expect. Apparently, I was lucky both times because it was relatively quiet. Busy (some people sleeping on the floor) but quiet.Well, apart from the girl who spent most of her time vomiting out of the window, bless her socks. A few tips:

  • In sleeper class, you get to choose between a lower, middle or upper berth, and I would recommend you take an upper berth, reason being that during the day, the bottom berth is used as a seat and the middle one is folded down. The upper one is left well alone, so you can chillax to your heart’s content.
  • Take a pair of shoes/flip flops you don’t care about, same goes for clothes, cos it’s not the cleanest of places
  • Take some kind of blanket, better yet a sleeping bag liner. My silk one came in handy because at night, it was bloody freezing, and like I said, it wasn’t all that clean
  • I’d go for a fan carriage than an A/C one. Yes, it’s hot during the day but the windows are fully open and there are no doors on the train, so fresh air usually circulates
  • On the subject of air, take some fragrant smelling essential oil to dab on a scarf or something because, man alive, there are some sections of Indian countryside that hummed to high heaven for a good few minutes. And you know its bad when the Indian’s themselves are covering their noses
  • Try the food. It cost something like 70p for a biryani and it was one of the best I’d tasted
  • Take some toilet tissue. Because there just isn’t any
  • Book your ticket well in advance. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait til the day before to get a ticket through the thadkal system (think I’ve spelled it right) which involves queuing for ages in the hope of getting a ticket in a specially held quota for foreigners to where you want to go.

Thailand

After India, the Thai train system was an absolute dream. I used http://www.seat61.com for all the info I needed and never looked back. They were so unbelievably clean and with two berths instead of three. Again, I chose an upper berth and I slept a full 8 hours. There was a mattress with real sheets! And a real pillow! And a real blanket! And a curtain for privacy! You can see why I was excited. Other great additions were dedicated spaces for your bags that you can secure with a chain, and the toilets were all super clean with about 5 basins with SOAP. Heavenly. The only downside was that they come and turn the upper berth down and the lower berth into two chairs, so you pretty much have to be awake for that. It didn’t bother me, but if you’re someone who’s going to go and get wasted in the restaurant car, be prepared for an awakening. Speaking of, I’d highly recommend taking dinner or breakfast in the restaurant car instead of in your berth. It’s nice, usually with music or a film and obviously, you meet people too. In fact, I found that I met more travellers on the Thai trains than in India. Oh, and try not to be too rigid with your travel plans because they were horrifically off schedule every time. Apparently a 4 hour delay is quite normal – luckily mine weren’t quite that bad!

index

Man, I love trains. Might actually look at inter-railing, I’ll be in heaven! Have a nice weekend all!

x

From inconspicuous beginnings…

While writing Heart Shaped Bruise this week, I got to a part where my characters go to Westport in County Mayo, Ireland for the weekend. It’s obviously a fictional story, but Westport most definitely isn’t a fictional place. I went there for the weekend in 2012 with my friend and had a wonderfully, spectacular time. Little did I know that one weekend would be what set me off on the path to travel.

First things first, it’s Ireland. No offence to the Irish, but it’s practically on my doorstep and it’s not much different to England. It’s apparently known as the adventure capital of Ireland, and I could see why. There were activities like kayaking, caving, surfing and all sorts to choose from. The most active I got was making my way up Craogh Phadraig (St. Patrick’s Mountain), the rest was spent either in pubs or being hungover.

Sometimes, I sit and wonder how weirdly the world works. On the day we arrived, me and my friend went to find a bite to eat and went into The Helm. The music was good, the vibe was good, the food looked good…until we were told we’d have to wait 2 hours to be served. So, we left, looking for somewhere else to eat, but there wasn’t anywhere that had the same vibe and so we went back, prepared to wait it out. We ordered our food, and were then approached by a french guy, who asked if we’d managed to order. This then led to a conversation, which ended up with us eating together and spending the night drinking far too much alcohol until the sun came up. Happy days.

What came out of that was a six month relationship for me with one of them. That alone re-sparked my love of the french language and gave me the final push I needed to get into learning the language, and it resulted in me spending a lot of time in the South of France. The relationship didn’t work out, but it was what inspired me to spend the summer there in 2013, and it was that summer, in 2013, that I ended up in Uzes and met the people who persuaded me to go to India and then to Thailand, and meet the people I met who’ve inspired me for the next trip.

I’ve often thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to be like Jim Carrey in Yes Man, and taking every opportunity that life throws my way. Who knows where I’d end up? I mean, I know I’m not alone in meeting one person, or going to one place, and having it lead somewhere completely unexpected. Of course I know things don’t always work out for the best, but for me, it was a perfect case of the stars aligning to put me where I needed to be, today, writing this post, on a blog I started to shout about my book.

Nuts. And it all started from one innocent (okay, it was never going to be entirely innocent) weekend. I still wouldn’t necessarily class my weekend in Ireland as travel in the broadest sense of the word. In reality, we barely even scratched the surface, but it was what started me off on this whole adventure. I’d initially thought it was my time in Uzes, but it was only while writing the scenes in Westport that I realised, that was where it really began.

It hasn’t been easy. There were times I felt like crawling under a rock and never coming back out again (Irish hangover), days when I felt like I couldn’t communicate effectively (less than fluent French in France) and times when I wondered, what the HELL am I doing here? (after experiencing my first time with an Indian toilet).

But, you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world.