Wednesday, 30 April 2008

How To Travel RTW

A couple of posts ago I went into my Bucket List and on the first draft (which was online for a day) I went into my travel plans briefly. Realising that they were more worthy of a longer post, complete with elaboration, I decided to rewrite the blog entry and save the information for a few more weeks. Now I have decided - since the hype from my music post has died down - to publish these plans in full, as they currently stand.

I will start by explaining what I mean by "RTW". For those of you into travel, this acronym (for "round the world") is an important one, since it refers to a trip that is usually a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Few people can afford to take the trip (both financially and because of it's duration) more than once in their lives and most people tend to do it before they turn 30.

Having 8 hours a day to think at work (since I often forget my iPod), I have found my thoughts increasingly focused upon my trip home, when I finally return to the UK, recently. Since travel is one of my main passions in life, a RTW trip seems like the best thing for me as I make the transition between young adult and mature adult (one who is ready for university and life).

Having had all this time to think about things - and with the Internet at my disposal when I return home each day - I have been able to plot a basic route with estimated costs, duration, distance and itinerary. Instead of returning home by flying a single jet East for 8 hours I have decided to be slightly more creative and go West instead. 8 hours is currently looking more like 2 years!

In 2010, having been in the country for 2 years, I will volunteer for the Winter Olympic games in Vancouver. After they finish I will begin preparations and last minute fundraising (probably returning to the 65-hour work week lifestyle for a few months!) before I am set to leave Canada in June.

The current plan is to travel down the west of America - stopping at various cities, national parks and points of interest - as I make my way towards southern California. If I can include work on a Summer Camp in this leg then I will since it will be a nice way to meet more friends, earn more money and have a great time. Once I reach San Diego I will board the first of many planes for the journey and head across the Pacific.

Having hit up some attractions (cities/national parks etc.) in Hawaii, Tahiti and Fiji, I will reach the northern tip of New Zealand for the second cross country road-trip of my journey. Visiting attractions as I go, I plan to reach the southern island within a few weeks and then fly across to eastern Australia.

In Australia I am told that work is available as a fruit picker in springtime so I will look into that as a job for a few weeks; aiming to make Australia the second working destination on the journey. Sightseeing plans include Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef and the southeastern cities.

Photography is also a huge pull for a trip like this and I hope to get many
awesome photos as I go - as well as some footage to add to my "Life Video"

Heading away from "western civilization", I will catch a plane or boat to Indonesia for my southeast Asian leg of the journey. Passing through Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, I will reach China! The plan is to get the first of my three ESL jobs somewhere in China and also visit the many ancient attractions and diverse cities.

Preparation for this job will require a 4-week ESL course through a university in the coming months.

From China I will head to the Middle East, passing through Burma, Bangladesh, Tibet and India as I reach Pakistan. Hopefully one of these countries will be my second ESL experience as I stay 4-6 months in another Asian country! From Pakistan I plan to fly to Saudi Arabia before travelling through Egypt and Israel to Eastern Europe. Once past the East Mediterranean islands and through Turkey, my trip will become a join-the-dots between capital cities as I make my way North West towards Germany.

Along this stretch of the journey, I again intend to get some work in and am looking into another ESL experience, maybe in Romania. From Germany, around Christmas 2011, I will make my way along the final stretch of the journey and see Holland, Belgium and France before reaching London in the summer of 2012, as the Summer Olympics begin!

Inspirations for this planning have been drawn from many areas of my life but one notable person that has done similar things with his life is Matt Harding, who in 2005 danced in front of landmarks around the world and became a viral video. Another viral video was of a guy that flew with a GPS tracker and traced the journey on a world map - drawing his self portrait!

Since a full time companion on these travels will be hard to come by - not many 20 somethings have 2 years to spare on travel, nor the desire to put off University until they are 23 - I am instead appealing to people to choose a period of the journey that interests them and join me for that leg. Hopefully this could result in a lot of variations throughout the journey for me and it will help me to grow and mature. By the time I reach home, I should be more than ready for University - where ever I decide to go!

Friday, 25 April 2008

How To Explore Music

The delay on this blog entry can be attributed to me not wanting to come across as conceited with the title. This feeling emerged when I started on the blog entry a few days ago and was trying to choose the title. I felt that "How to enjoy music" gave off the impression that I was writing to change musical tastes and I am clearly not.

Firstly, I'd like to say that music is very personal and what one person may love, another may hate - sometimes citing the same reason! As people change their music will also change. For example, the first tape I ever owned (yes children, before CDs!) was "Spice" by the Spice Girls. Despite it being an international phenomenon and selling millions, I have now grown out of it completely!

When I first meet people and we begin to discuss music I always manage to blurt out a question that I always regret. The question is "what kind of music do you like?". The answer is often either "oh, you know, this and that" or "everything"; both infuriatingly vague answers that are often incorrect. This is second stupidest "introductory" question behind "are you on Facebook" since everyone seems to be!

One girl I met in England answered "everything" to the question and because the rest of the people I'd been speaking to were interested in mainstream pop, I pressed on with the conversation hoping to find some similar tastes. After a few questions I realised that she either was very sheltered and believed "R&B, Old Skool Hip Hop and some Indie" to be "everything" or she was just lazy and hadn't wanted to say "R&B, Old Skool & Indie".

Unfortunately, my answer to the question is often as vague. I'd like to be able to sit and reel off the types of music I like, the bands I listen to most and the songs that mean something to me but at this point there are so many that it would be like picking a favourite child.

The reason for doing this blog is that I have had a productive few months in Canada as far as my music collection is concerned. With downloading music being legal here and the music scene being very different to the UK, I have found a lot of cool music from around the world using torrents, Wikipedia, blogs, iLike, and friends! My iTunes library is currently speeding towards 30GB and I probably add/delete 20 albums a week!

I recently decided to see some live music this summer, having only seen Mark Ronson and small gigs before now and am in possession of Radiohead, Oasis and Jack Johnson tickets for August! Radiohead is set to be the first band I see that I knew of before buying the tickets. Jack Johnson will be two days later in the same venue and then Oasis less than a week later! This of course will be the second best musical week during the summer if I can get tickets to the Pemberton Festival, headlined by Coldplay, Tom Petty, Death Cab For Cutie, Nine Inch Nails and Jay-Z!

My concert tickets for August

I managed to find the tickets, that had sold out before I got to the Ticketmaster store, on Craigslist and have had much luck so far - a far cry from the offensive replies I got when I was searching for accommodation (for being English, for asking questions and for not being able to view the house before I arrived!). Naturally the pervy "Free accommodation for girls 18-25 with 'Friends with benefits' arrangement!" still exist but I have found out how to better filter the wierdos when I am searching for things!

Since I came to Canada to travel as well as work, I have been told that I can take as much of July/August off as I want so I have quite a few plans coming together! Since Danny also is thinking of taking the summer off to travel, we may end up heading somewhere together which would be sweet! Also I applied (and was recently interviewed) for a paid leader position the SummerFun program run by the youth groups I work at, which would be throughout July.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

How To Break Records

Four months ago I knew nothing about how this trip was going to turn out, beyond, at that point, choosing which airline to fly by. Although I knew that I'd be working as a landscaper, I had no idea what that entailed. I had only just begun talking to the Bowen family (via email) and really had only a month to prepare for the biggest change of my life.

By 2006, the longest I had been away from home was 2 weeks (with the Scouts) in Switzerland (although my two brothers had been there too). By 2007, this had increased to a month (Borneo) and with no family members. Early 2007 saw this increase to 7 weeks (at University, though still in the UK).

For each of the above, however, I'd had at least 18 months to plan the lifestyle change and I wasn't ever the only person I knew doing each thing! Summer Camp was another step up because I only decided upon it around 4 months before, was only told where I'd be all summer 2 months before and was the only person I knew who was going (also knowing no one who had been in the last 10 years!)

My record "time away from home" became 95 days as I toured North America post-camp; experiencing much personality change and growth! This was also great because I didn't know anyone for the majority of the trip and so was able to make many new friends from all over the world!

This trip recently broke the record set last summer and Monday was Day 96 on my trip! In terms of big milestones, I am set to hit three figures on Friday! This record looks only set to grow since I don't know when I'll be back in England, especially if I am travelling straight after leaving Vancouver! Maybe my record will hit quadruple figures before I am home again!

This week was not just about one milestone though, I also recently passed the "longest time in a job" record set by Summer Camp, School Cleaning and Restaurant Waiting of about 410 hours. This record also looks set to continue growing since I am doing well in the job and have plans to stick at it for at least another 6 months! Interestingly, my shortest ever job was less than 1% of this current record, at three hours! (I decided against three jobs at once and voted "Electronics Store Assistant" off of the schedule, after one day of training!)

Because things come in threes for me (good or bad), I also have news of a third milestone that I beat this week. The evidence for the acheivement is sat in front of you and I am proud to announce that the first half of my New Year's resolution has been reached. For those too lazy to read all my blog posts, my resolution was to blog my Canadian trip for at least as long as I managed last year when resolving to blog my University happenings.

My resolution now shows potential for me to continue this blog through December and on to a new year, which is excellent news for people that were hoping I'd stick at something for once (my relatively small "hours in a job" record being testament to my habit of wanting change and new experiences.)

I have managed to organise myself much better over these last few weeks and will enjoy the free time that leaving the Flying Beaver (this coming weekend) will afford me. My room is tidy and my thoughts uncluttered. I am even considering a notebook to keep my ideas in (both for blogging and my more ambitious dreams!)

Proof that milestones and records need not be huge to make an impact, I recently hit a golfball 150 yards in a straight line at the driving range (a personal best!) - though I was aiming for the area where the others had all been landing at the time (due to the tractor being in the vicinity); Murphy's law at its very best!

I also bowled a triple figured score at "Lois Lanes" cosmic bowling on Monday which I was proud of, though it was far from the winning 146 recorded by one of the children! The record low, recorded by another child, was 19 in an entire game!

If this was a fable with a moral, I'd wrap up by saying that records can be beaten every day so long as you are open to trying new things and sticking at them! I am definitely enjoying where this thought process is taking my life at the moment!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

How To Work At Camp

To say I enjoy working with kids is an understatement. A similar understatement, in terms of magnitude, would be to say that the moon is slightly bigger than my thumb! Prior to the "Kids Club Camp" last weekend, I was probably more excited than most of the kids!

Firstly it meant an entire weekend of being creative (keeping kids entertained is all about inventing new games, telling jokes/stories and making cool things) and having fun - things that I really enjoy doing!

Another reason to be excited was that I wouldn't be working. Since arriving in Canada, I have averaged over 40 hours of work per week, despite various days off! I hadn't had a weekend free since I started at the Flying Beaver in early February, even for Easter!

Essentially though, I was excited to the core because I love camp! Any chance to escape routine has been pounced upon immediately since I was a small boy. When I was 6 years old I joined scouting. Through the next 12 years I learned how to camp, build fires, make shelter, hike, navigate, lead, work in a team, tie knots and make useful things from sticks and string.

I spent last summer at a Summer Camp for the first time in my life. Instead of tents in a field there were buildings, climbing walls, basketball courts and a pool! The experience was amazing and completely unlike anything that I had ever done before so I was thankful to have had the opportunity to try it; originally recommended it by one of the teachers who accompanied my team through Malaysia when I went to Borneo in 2006.

At Summer Camp, I worked with the kids as though they were friends and we were all hanging out. It paid off. I managed to get about 20 kids that seemed to adore me and followed me around from place to place whenever they spent time at the adventure course. They became known as my fan club and it felt really cool to have people that were really happy to see you each day.

One girl who had been on an element with a different ropes course instructor came to me when she was done and said that she hadn't enjoyed it because I wasn't her instructor at the time! Another group of girls offered me money for my email and cell phone number!

Modelling my freshly spray-painted T-shirt

When I joined Kids Club in February, I was looking for something fun to do some evenings each week and had been told about Kids Club and FUEL (the Monday night club) by my cousin and some friends who I met in Whistler on Snow Jam. I never expected there to be a camp and I wasn't even sure that I would keep going each week if other things came up.

As it turned out, last weekend was probably the second best weekend I have had on this trip so far (behind Snow Jam, obviously!) and I enjoyed everything about it!