Camper Van Road Tripping in Australia – My Vagabond Dream

A friend asked me recently what I’d like to do for my next adventure.  A whole slew of things crossed my mind – a sailing voyage, a big game photo safari, an Antarctic exploration – but none of those quite hit the mark because the truth is – for my next adventure, I want to have my wife and my little girl with me and neither of them are quite ready for those extremes – and then it hit me.

Australia Surf Adventure

I’d like to get a camper van and explore Australia.  The more I thought of it, the more it sounded like the thing to do. So much so, that I started looking at the options.  In truth, at the moment, we don’t have the option of renting an expensive camper or RV or even of airfare when it comes to it – but that didn’t stop me from finding one of the coolest options available – and I’m going to share it with you, because who knows? Maybe you will make it down under before we do.

A little bit of research turned up oneway campervan relocation  – here’s why I love this – you can get a camper van for almost nothing if you drive it to their destination. In some cases they even provide you with gas money! This is so awesome as to be almost unbelievable, but when I checked it out, it’s totally legitimate. Here is a bit from the website:

Rental companies frequently need to move and relocate campervans around the country. This can be due to seasonal changes or because demand for vehicles is greater in different cities due to festivals, sporting occasions or other events. Rather than pay for a driver to relocate a campervan, rental companies offer them to the travelling public at knock down prices producing the perfect win-win outcome.

Could it possibly get any better? Well, I suppose if they paid for my family’s airfare, took us on a big game photo safari, gave us a sailing adventure to the Antarctic, and fed us – that would be better, but that’s a dream and this thing is a reality. Totally off the hook cool.

camper vanIn continuing with my Vagobond dream, I would want to drive from Sydney to Melbourne to visit our friends who live there, we would of course, have to take a surf trip along the Gold Coast and then – if we wanted to get really crazy – we would somehow find a way to get a campervan in Tazmania – o’ we would fit right in.

sailing in australia

Alright, now I’ve got to figure out how to get us to Australia….

What’s your vagabond dream?

Sydney, Australia – Last Part – Sydney to the Airport

The best part of living in Hawaii is that when your trip is over, it’s time to go home – to Hawaii. Honestly, I miss my family and am ready to be back with them.

I’m super stoked to be going home to Hawaii where my wife and daughter have been silently suffering (and pretending to have a ball with me gone <wink>) because I’ve missed them – but I just want to say, I really love and appreciate Australia. It’s rainy and grey today – there’s not much I want to do in the several hours between hotel checkout (11am) and airport check-in (3pm) but I’ve bought and filled a bag with souvenir gifts and now am sitting in the remarkable library in Sydney’s Green Square, catching up on writing about my trip, organizing photos, and charging all of my devices before I head to the airport.

This is yet another example of how Aussies get it right. Beautiful underground library with garden in the center, glassed in, cafe at the entrance, beautiful glass pyramid shaped upper portions, plenty of seating, clean, nice, safe, adult and kids sections separated by just enough to allow all to have fun. Meeting rooms, power ports (USB and plugs) all over the place. Great design, functionality, and use. The kids can check out mini commodore 64s, music kits, and much more. Free wifi – it’s really what a library should be.

Sydney Pro Tip: On the way to the airport, hop off at Green Square, go to the Library and charge up all your devices, do your last minute emails, etc. Or, if you have need to work while you are in Sydney, this is better than a coworking space. 

Yes, I’m going to miss Australia – I know there are problems everywhere but the Aussies seem to have a better handle on how to live than Americans do.

I woke up this morning and drank some free coffee in the pod hotel before taking the tram to Circular Quay and then catching the ferry to Manly Beach. It’s a grey and rainy day again – great for Australia, not so great for travel. The ferry trip was nice but my shoes were still wet from yesterday and they’ve begun to smell to high heaven – and I’m about to get on a flight for ten hours where it’s nice to take the shoes off. I will have to fix this.

There’s really not much that I want to do and now I’ve got a backpack and a bag. I don’t particularly want to sit in the airport for six hours – nor do I feel like walking around with baggage. I suppose I could have paid to leave my bag in a locker – that would have been smart – but too late now. Plus, capsule hotels are  sort of depressing places to hang around – I just wanted to check out.

I spent nearly as much on souvenirs and presents as I spent on all of my Sydney accommodation.

I think all there is to do now is head to the airport, try some of that beautiful sparkling Tazzy wine I didn’t try while in Tasmania, enjoy the free upgrade to a Quantas flight instead of a Jetstar Flight – and get back home to my beautiful family. I’m grateful I had the chance to experience a little bit of Australia. I’d like a lot more – but next time I want to have longer and to have my family with me.

Cheers.

Day Trip from Sydney, Australia – The Blue Mountains on a Rainy Day

cassarowy bird Australia This was the only organized tour I did – and I made sure that it was an active tour so I wouldn’t be trapped in a bus with the cruise ship / baby boomer crowd.

The tour was good – our guide, Gaz was a cool guy and had a good tour with equal parts beauty, history, culture, and message – but the downside (just for the tour, not for Australia) was that it rained all day and the fog obstructed most of the views. Our stop at the wildlife refuge was interesting but wet and most of the animals were huddling away from the rain. There were some nice waterfalls and some great views of cloud filled valleys below us (but obstructed) along with lots of information about aboriginal culture and a lot of wet hiking Lots and lots of steps, muddy trails, and elevation ascent and descent.

It was about 8 miles total with the equivalent of about 65 floors climbed. So, elevation wise it was a better workout than I’ve been getting but not quite as much as I’ve been averaging in terms of distance.

I’m glad it rained – it put out the last of the bush fires – but if you can avoid doing this particular trip in the rain and fog – it’s probably better.

Launceston, Tasmania, Australia – Part 1

Launceston, Tasmania, AustraliaJetstar, which is the airline I’ve been using to get around Australia runs these cheap Friday Fare Frenzy sales – you have to be able to match the times they offer for, but my trip to Tasmania only cost me $39 Australian – and I had two nights in a different Pod Inn booked in the town of Launceston. My seat mate on the plane provided me with plenty of recommendations of what to see and do while I was there.

One of the key things he let me know was that everything closes at 3pm in Launceston on a Sunday. After catching a hotel shuttle from the airport, I confirmed this. It felt like a ghost town. The Pod Inn in Launceston was an upgrade from the Space Q pods in Sydney, but I think I will avoid pods in the future none the less – I’ll write about that in my ‘Aussie Pod Review’ though.

In any event, my arrival in Launceston was easy – although there was a Launceston, Tasmania, Australiamoment of panic when just after I filled up my water bottle in the airport, the flight attendants came around weighing bags – I abandoned my water bottle for a bit and came in under the 7 kg after putting on my coat and putting everything heavy into my pockets like chargers licorice, and spare battery.

The weather was cold-ish upon arrival. My walk around the town showed me plenty of empty streets and with the weather grey, a sort of depressing but pretty town with everything closed and no one out of doors. I went back to the pod and went to bed – more than 15 miles walked and feeling a little bit tired.

Launceston, Tasmania, AustraliaThe next day, I woke up to grey and a light rain – I hiked a loop up the streets and through neighborhoods and then to the beautiful Cascade Gorge where I saw my first wild wallaby and a whole bunch of pademelons – and maybe a wombat, but I’m not sure of that one. The sun came out and the day turned glorious. My hike down through the gorge was beautiful. Next a walk along the riverfront and then a trip to the Victoria Art Museum – which was free and very cool. Next a walk through town and a cheap sandwich.

Launceston, Tasmania, AustraliaTrying to figure out what to do with my day, I stopped in the tourist info spot and the very nice hostess suggested I go to the James Boag Brewery Tour. It was a good idea. The tour didn’t start until 3pm so I had some time to kill so I went to the other Queen Victoria museum where I was surprised to find a lot of dinosaur skeletons as well as one of only a few stuffed Tasmanian tigers and a very descriptive display about the loss of the Tasmanian tiger.

Jame Boag & Son The brewery tour was a sort of typical such thing with mostly boomer age Aussies. We walked through the brewery and then drank a few very nice beers accompanied by some very nice Tasmanian cheeses. After this, I was hungry and not feeling cheap due to the alcohol so I decided I would take myself out for a nice seafood meal. I found a beautiful hipster restaurant called Cataract on Paterson which sounds like a medical problem in American English but in Australian means more of a cascade. I had a Waldorf salad and a whole Australian Snapper in a spicy Asian sauce – which came with another salad that I will eat for breakfast tomorrow. Delicious meal – grand total $63 AUS – which seems pretty reasonable for a nice seafood dinner with a beer (about $43 US)

I was curious about the fish and googled it and found the following – according to wikipedia, it isn’t a member of the snapper family at all. One thing for sure – this was one delicious fish!

Australasian snapper (Pagrus auratus) or silver seabream, is a species of porgie found in coastal waters of Australia.

My friend Gaye had told me there was a casino here and I was surprised to realize I didn’t have much interest. I used to love gambling – but I seem to have lost my taste for it. Just to make sure I popped into a game room and played $5 AUD until I lost it – I just really didn’t have much desire to do it. Which is pretty cool, actually – but surprising that something like that could change.

Launceston, Tasmania, AustraliaLaunceston is a nice place when the sun is shining. Tazzies are a friendly people – although, perhaps like a lot of small American townspeople – they tend to be pretty chatty and seem willing to engage you in conversation until you break it off – no matter where you go – shop, restaurant, on the street, in a cafe. When I left the casino, I happened upon a group of Launceston poets doing an open mic reading. I was at the tail end of it, but it was cool – really gave me an insight into the inner nature of these folks.

Sydney, Australia Part 3

Glebe, Sydney, AustraliaI suppose my travel mantra has become ‘wake early and walk a lot.’ In some cases I’m strolling 16 miles per day – which means that I am seeing a lot that others are missing, not spending a lot, and generally feeling pretty good and seeing attractions, neighborhoods, and sites before most people wake up or get out of the house on their way to work!

Yesterday, my day in Sydney was a travel day, so I didn’t really expect to do or see much – but in Sydney, that’s a lot no matter what you do.

My first walk was across the Sydney Harbor Bridge – so, I left Chinatown and began moving towards the bridge. My wanders the day before had brought me to the other side of the Sydney Opera House and through the Botanical Gardens. Now I went into the neighborhood called ‘The Rocks’ – which is Sydney’s oldest. I wasn’t there to stroll the markets, have a meal, drink coffee, or have a beer though, I was there to walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Sydney, AustraliaA walk up a hill and then three flights of old brick and stone stairs and I was on the causeway.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a heritage-listed steel through arch bridge across Sydney Harbour that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district (CBD) and the North Shore. The view of the bridge, the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera House is widely regarded as an iconic image of Sydney, and of Australia itself. The bridge is nicknamed “The Coathanger” because of its arch-based design.
It is the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 134 m (440 ft) from top to water level.[6] It was also the world’s widest long-span bridge, at 48.8 m (160 ft) wide, until construction of the new Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver was completed in 2012.

The views were magnificent. With my morning exercise done, I set out on my next task – Exploring a bit of The Rocks. There was a weekend street market where I bought licorice from a gentleman who has been making and selling licorice in Sydney for 40 years! Licorice is one of my favorite sweets and I thought Dutch Licorice was my favorite, but his blew the Dutch stuff out of the water. Another win for Australia!

In The Rocks, I browsed the bakeries until I found  the one that appealed to me and bought a sausage roll to go- then I went and sat on the rocks looking at the famed Circlular Quay and enjoyed my budget brekkie. It was nearly time to check out which meant it was nearly time for lunch so I figured getting a small gelato wasn’t going to do any harm – plus, it was starting to get hot.

I got back to my pod just in time to check out. Then I faced a dilemma – should I push the limits of airport check in time and try to see a little more or should I be my usual very early check-in guy. This time I threw caution to the winds – I checked out and grabbed my 7 kilo pack and set off for Circular Quay again. Once there I caught a ferry across Sydney Harbor to Luna Park – which is a magnificent art-deco themed amusement park. Sort of like the pier at Santa Cruz.

I was really pushing it but I caught the ferry back, caught a train to the airport, and actually made it on time. The only thing I missed was my usual sitting in the airport for three hours – which, to be honest, is usually time I enjoy and use well – but in this case, I was happy to have had a nice ferry trip and some site seeing instead.

 

Sydney, Australia Part 2 – Sydney Eye, Glebe, and LGBTQ Mardi Gras Sydney

Sydney, AustraliaMy flight from Melbourne was a little bit delayed but I got back just before sunset. It was nice that I had the capsule hotel waiting for me – and it was worth the roughly $30 to have had it the night I was in Melbourne.

I met a new friend, Sally from Waga Waga – a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and we joined forces to go to dinner in Chinatown. Like me, it was her first time staying in a capsule hotel and we both laughed about how strange it was. Dinner was great conversation and an okay meal of Chinese food and then back to our capsules for what turned out to be a not very comfortable night of sleep for me – someone in my capsule room had gotten cold and turned off the air conditioning by unplugging it – this person more or less was just thinking of themselves since the AC is shared by all. When I complained about the temperature in the morning the desk person complained about people unplugging it.

Anyway, up early for another 15000 step walk. As usual, I set off in a random direction with no plan. After a long time of wandering up and down byways, I ended up in what is now my favorite neighborhood anywhere – Glebe. Mellow, leafy, lots of cafes and restaurants – and lots of super yachts parked nearby in Blackwattle Bay.

I walked to the Fisherman’s Wharf, checked out the fish markets, then crossed a crazy pedestrian bridge to Darling Harbor before crossing a more tourist oriented bridge back to downtown where I went straight to the Sydney Eye tower and paid too much to go to the observation deck – it was cool, but even though it is the tallest building in Sydney – it’s like the 35th tallest in the world – so I’m not sure it was worth $29 to go up there and take a few photos – but I think I would have regretted not going – so, I suppose it was worth it.

Sydney, AustraliaMy old iPhone 6s is ready to be upgraded. The batteries die far too quickly and it is getting harder to charge. Since the battery was at 1%, I went back to the old capsule and plugged in for an hour or so to charge up. My plan for the rest of the day is to head down to the Rocks, maybe book a show at the Sydney Opera House for Tuesday night when I get back from Tasmania, and then head to the big LGBTQ Mardi Gras Parade. Everyone tells me it’s going to be an amazing parade and show – since I’m here, there is no way I’m going to miss it.

Tomorrow I fly out to Tazzy for a couple of days – then back here where I’ll most likely catch an opera house show, take a day trip to the Blue Mountains, and then head back to Honolulu. Time is going far too fast here.

Sydney Eye Just after I finished writing the above, a bizarre old American woman in her 70s walked into the common areas of the hostel and started tearing through her bags. She said she had been arrested after being falsely accused of stealing some Englishman’s Nike pants – and now she had to move to another accommodation. It was her who was being arrested when the police woke me up the other morning.I tried to ignore her. She went behind me and said loudly, “I’m going to dress up as a dominatrix and go to the parade, do you wanna be my dog?” I declined the offer. The she came over and began giving me a head massage – which I resisted but then said “Fuck it, this feels pretty good” She had been a masseuse at some point, and a slumlord landlord, and a Santa Clara train operator and now her kids had moved in with her so she was on her way around the world. She noticed an odd bump on my head that I noticed recently as well and said – “You might want to get the doctor to check that out – it could  be a tumor.”

Maybe it is, I hope not, but I will get it checked out.

I saved my work and went on my way.

Mardi Gras Sydney LGBTQThe Sydney LGBTQ Mardi Gras was a huge parade and party – without a doubt the biggest party I’ve ever been to. I bought a $10 stool to stand on and watched with a group around me that quickly became a sort of street family as we were all pushed and shoved by the massive crowds struggling to get from one point to another. There was a sweet couple of Persian girls, a bunch of binary locals, and a couple of middle aged gay dudes in our ‘fam’ and it was cool how we all took care to watch out for one another. Crowds like that, not my favorite. It was my first time at a Gay Pride event and I have to admit, LGBTQ people know how to have fun and enjoy life much more than most people. I’m glad that our world is changing and becoming more acceptable of people being and loving whomever they choose. It was inspiring to see the surviving marchers from the first parade in Sydney back in 1978 – they were met by police back then, beaten, and arrested. Today, the Sydney police had a section in the parade as well – there were gay and lesbian cops, footballers, rugby players, firefighters, and lots of unicorns, rainbows, fairies, and leather/bondage men as well. I don’t know what percentage of the tens of thousands in the crowd were LGBTQ, my guess is that most of them were not, but it was amazing to see the support, the spirit of fun, and the camaraderie of the event. I feel very fortunate to have been here during this event. It must be interesting to be coming of age during this time of greater acceptance – when I was in my teens and twenties there Mardi Gras Sydney LGBTQ was no acceptance, in fact, a person coming out was more likely to be beaten or fired or mocked or even killed for their sexual or gender identity choices if they didn’t conform to the binary ‘norm’. Then being in the hyper-macho Marine Corps during the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ period – there were no gay people around me. I’m sure some of my friends and colleagues must have been queer through the years, but I was never aware of it because it was a hazardous time for anyone brave enough to come out. Add to that the stigma of AIDS/HIV in the 80s and 90s and it’s no surprise that the first gay men or lesbian women I met were after I got out of the Marine Corps. I worked as a waiter and bartender at a hotel bar in Raleigh, North Carolina that was notorious for queer clientele – and a strange cross category – conservative southern politicians. This was where I made my first gay friends, but I never let them become close friends because 20+ years of anti-gay indoctrination had made me Mardi Gras Sydney LGBTQ
prejudiced and scared. I look back now and I realize how terribly brave they all were and recognize how much I lost by not having them in my life. By the time I left that job, I was somewhat comfortable with gay culture but I still recognize that there is some part of me that retains those old learned fears – which is so silly. Last night was a great step towards actually getting over it.

I didn’t party the night away like many did – once the walkway was navigable, I walked back to Chinatown, grabbed a beer in Charlie Chan’s Bar, watched the fascinating crowds, and then made my way back to my pod.

Melbourne, Australia – Ned Kelly’s Armor and 15,000 Steps

Melbourne, AustraliaI’m loving these many miles of walking early each morning. The neighborhood we live in, in Hawaii isn’t a great walking neighborhood. It’s surrounded by freeways and military bases as well as military housing so there isn’t anything in the way of interesting people watching, architecture, or even natural beauty around us.

Melbourne, on the other hand, this city is made for walking. I walked along the river and through the narrow alleyways and shop corridors of Little Collins – I found a closet that had been turned into a cafe and an alley that was turned into a micro-gallery.

I walked through Chinatown and through several shopping malls that ran between streets. I walked through the gardens, around the Melbourne Museum and along the streets with great delight. Melbourne has a busy cafe culture and I’m amazed that every other city doesn’t. Why is this so hard? In America we are forced to drink burnt Starbucks in paper cups and no one has a chance to sit down – but the same space we use for two parking stalls in the USA is used for two cafes and seating for fifty.

I went into the beautiful Victoria Library and saw the bullet ridden armor of Ned Kelly.

Ned Kelly (December 1854 – 11 November 1880) was an Australian bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and convicted police murderer. One of the last bushrangers, and by far the most famous, he is best known for wearing a suit of bulletproof armour during his final shootout with the police.

I was led to it by a beautiful Sri Lankan librarian who greeted me when I walked in, asked what I was there for, and then offered to walk me to it. Australia is far more multi-cultural than the USA, both Melbourne and Sydney are even more multi-cultural than Hawaii or San Francisco. I know there are problems here, just as there are in every country – but I freely admit that Australians do life better than Americans do. If we lived in a world where you could simply pack up and go where you want regardless of visas, working permits, or nationality – I feel fairly certain that I would pack my family up and bring us here. Alas, nation states don’t allow humans to move so freely, it’s a wonder they don’t make birds get passports.

Ned Kelly's ArmorI took the free trolley tour around the city – it was crowded with tourists, most of whom seemed to have come off of cruise ships – in any event, they were remarkably like the tourists we have in Hawaii who come off of cruise ships. Several of them complained about the crowd on the bus – I reminded them it was free with a laugh and said “You really do get what you pay for”. One older woman turned to me and said “Have you been to the jail here?” I was a bit taken aback – she saw the surprise on my face and clarified ‘The Old Melbourne Gaol’ – I laughed and admitted that I had not been there. I knew I looked a bit rough in my black t-shirt and two days of beard growth, but I hadn’t expected that.

My friend Gaye let me know that she was driving out towards Avalon Airport (which is about an hour outside of Melbourne) and offered me a ride with she and her friend Pete. This was a way better option than catching the Skybus again and having to ride it for an hour and a half. I’m one of those people who likes to be three hours early though.

I took the free tram down to South Melbourne where Gaye suggested I grab some quick Turkish food from the market there. Again, Australians do things better than we do in the states. The market wasn’t dirty old food trucks, it was great fresh food. Gaye suggested we grab a pint at the pub before we left. I liked the idea, but it made me nervous because I’m one of those people that likes to be very early for flights.

Melbourne, AustraliaWhen Pete mentioned there was some traffic – I suggested we skip getting the beer Gaye had suggested – which, in hindsight was a mistake – but to be fair, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it because I would have been sitting there thinking that I was going to be late – so skipping it was the right move after all.

The traffic was light and so I find myself here at Avalon with nearly three hours before my flight. The check in took about a minute and though there is an earlier flight, the agent told me it would be $50 to change my fare to the earlier flight – frankly I can use the time here to use the internet and catch up on my planning…

Also, my bag was definitely weighed this time so I’m glad I kept it under 7 kilos. The first internal flight where they didn’t weigh the bag may have just been an anomoly.

 

Arriving in Sydney, Australia – My New Favorite City

Sydney Harbor BridgeI used to tell people that my ideal city was if you could take Vancouver, British Columbia and combine it with Quebec City – then put it in Hawaii. That’s pretty much what Sydney, Australia is. I can’t believe no one ever told me.

I’ve only spent less than 24 hours in Sydney so far – but I love it. It has everything – ferries, boats, skyscrapers, surfing, beaches, museums, big green parks and botanical gardens, and every type of restaurant you can imagine. In many ways, it feels more like an Asian City than a European or North American one – which makes sense, but it feels clean, safe, fun, technologically advanced, and easy to get around. Everyone speaks English (obviously) and even though I changed money, I could easily have just used my credit cards and Apple Pay for everything. Okay, I didn’t actually physically change money, I just used an ATM to withdraw some cash in Aussie dollars.

Wise Monkey Pub SydneyCustoms was a breeze. I caught the train to the city and walked to my hotel. Okay, I’ve said before that I was doing this trip on the cheap – the thing is, I’m 48 years old and hostels aren’t as fun as they were when I was in my twenties – so I didn’t want to do that. Plus, they were more expensive than I remembered – so I was looking at options and I found something cheaper – and it was something I’ve wanted to experience for a long time – capsule hotels. I thought I would have to go to Japan to experience capsule hotels (when I was in Japan, I stayed in hotels because money wasn’t so tight at that point).

On this trip I’m in Sydney, then to Melbourne for a day, then back to Sydney for three days, then to Launceston in Tasmania for a couple of days, and back to Sydney for a couple more days. With the exception of Melbourne – I booked my whole trip in capsules. I’ll review capsule hotels later – for now suffice to say they were a super cheap way to make sure I had a private bed, a bathroom, and a place to stash my gear if I needed. Total expenditure for capsules was less than $250 for ten days.

Anzac MemorialIt was evening when I arrived and the train was mostly underground until just before my stop at Central Station. I grabbed a kebab (because you can’t get a good kebab in Hawaii) and walked around Sydney in the dark – went to Chinatown, wandered some streets, and saw that I was staying in the district that could easily be called the massage district. Thai massage, Japanese massage, etc. It was incredibly windy and the temperature was perfect. I didn’t get hit by any cars or trams – but the other side of the road is hard to get used to.  After a 10-hour flight and days without sleep, I wasn’t up for getting a meal, going out, or anything else – so I crawled in my capsule and went to sleep.

I woke at 5am fully refreshed and decided to take a walk through Sydney before I went to the airport to catch my flight to Melbourne – a 10:40am flight.  I wanted to see the Sydney Opera House and as usual, instead of looking at maps or reading a guidebook, or checking the distance – I just set off on a wander and figured I would go in the right direction. I grabbed a lovely cappuccino from a Georgy Boy’s, a local  chain, and set off walking.

Somehow, I managed to wander to the Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park, the Botanical Gardens, and after about an hour was at the Sydney Opera House looking at the Sydney Harbor Bridge and marveling at how much bigger things are in real life (except the Mona Lisa and the Sphinx) than they look in pictures. The skyscrapers, the towers, the colonial buildings, churches and more. Australia isn’t an old civilization – but there are areas in Sydney that certainly have some history.

It was amazing to walk back to my capsule and be among the amazingly good looking people in dresses and suits on their way to work. It sort of felt like maybe you aren’t allowed to live and work in Sydney unless you are very good looking – but of course, that can’t be true – but none the less – I was struck by the fashion and fitness of the majority of the people I passed and walked with.

I was back at the capsule by 8am, had a quick shower, grabbed the train to the airport and was ready for American style department of homeland security – nope. This was a domestic flight and in Australia – that means that I checked in online, got texted my boarding pass, walked through security without having to show it or my ID to anyone, and went to the gate. The only question the X-ray people asked was “Do you have any aerosols?” to which I honestly replied nope.

With that, I drank a coffee and boarded the aircraft. Next stop, Melbourne, which I know nothing about except that my friend Gaye lives there.

Travel in the Time of Covid-19 – Vagobond in Australia – Back on the Road in 2020

It seems like the only times I really travel are when the world is in turmoil. September 11th, H1N1, Arab Spring, the Great Recession, and now – coronavirus. I don’t plan it that way, but it’s what happens. Also, for some strange reason, the world resists my attempts to see it – so there is always a bit of a personal struggle.

I’ve always wanted to come to Australia. It’s been a dream since I was a child. When I was in high school, I lost faith in the system I was in and my father motivated me by offering a trip to Australia if I got straight A’s. I was up to the challenge, but he, unfortunately, was not. It wasn’t the first nor the last disappointment I felt in my life – but it was certainly formative. I’m not sure why I waited this long to come here, maybe I was waiting for him to make good on his promise – but I think after 32 years, he’s unlikely to fulfill it. I sometimes joke that I am so sure that Australia will be the place I want to stay that I avoided going there so I could see everywhere else first. So far, it hasn’t disappointed, but unless the pandemic blossoms and flights are cut off – there is nothing besides death that would keep me from getting back to Hawaii because my wife and daughter are there.

I bought myself this trip in December when I saw an incredibly low fare from Honolulu to Sydney. My wife had work, my daughter had school, but there was nothing I needed to be doing in Hawaii – so I went for it. My mantra has been ultra-budget because this is a luxury – I’m not a rich person by any means – at least not in the sense of money.

I’ve been getting excited about this trip and knowing that I would be taking it has helped me through some minor depression and anxiety about life in general. One week before takeoff – I was munching on some macadamia nuts and suddenly felt what might be the most excruciating pain of my life. I cracked a tooth and for the next three nights didn’t sleep a wink but lay hunched up in a little ball of pain, hoping the pain would go away. I’m American and I don’t have dental insurance, I can’t afford it. It’s either after school care for my daughter so my wife and I can work, or dental insurance. This was too much to bear though – I went to the dentist and had an emergency procedure done that should have helped – it was $1000, but after a few more days, the pain was still there, though not as bad as it had been – now it only hurt when I ate or drank anything. A second trip to the dentist confirmed that I would need to see a specialist but that doctor wouldn’t be available for nearly two weeks – not until after I had returned from Australia – at least there was no reason to cancel my trip.

So with less money and chronic pain, I went to Honolulu International Airport which was a scary place to be with nearly every Asian person there (which seemed to be the majority) wearing coronavirus masks. The good news is that we don’t have any COVID-19 cases yet in Hawaii and Australia is also on the low end of things – but still, one can’t help wondering if one of those many people might be a carrier.

My budget flight (Less than $200 each way! Less than a trip to the USA) which was a JetStar flight – here’s a measure of how I travel without doing much in the way of research – I didn’t realize that I had to have a visa for Australia. Luckily for me, the flight was delayed and the very nice desk agent arranged my visa for me (a $70 value) and gave me a free meal voucher ($12) for the inconvenience of the delayed flight. She also, very kindly upgraded me to a window seat with an empty seat next to me which enabled me to sleep for a large part of the flight. Sleep that I desperately needed.

The flight was uneventful until just before landing. I had tooth pain, but in general, the meal before the flight carried me through and between reading and sleep, it passed without much event. As we got close to Sydney, the clouds looked like nothing I have ever seen before. I was struck by a dark cloud that looked like a devil and a light cloud that looked remarkably like an angel. As we made our final turn and descent into Sydney, we suddenly entered the dark cloud and hit turbulence like I’ve never felt before – the lights went on and off, the engines made some very strained sounds and the plane was thrown around like a toy. Some passengers screamed – I didn’t but in my head I said “I guess this is it. I’m not ready to die, but please look out for my little girl.” I’m not religious, but I guess I was praying to the universe. The plane shook again and then came out of the clouds. The small white cloud that looked like an angel was there. I said a mental thank you as we landed. For a moment there, I thought my time had come and it was a similar feeling to when they told us that nuclear missiles had been launched at Hawaii from North Korea a few years ago – I looked around at the people around me and thought “Huh, this is it.” A mixture of sadness and disappointment, but no regret.

Australian customs and security is much more civilized and easy than U.S. – I was through in a breeze with my 6.5kg of baggage (the free allowance) which consisted of a small backpack, a laptop, cords, phone, kindle, water bottle, toiletries, and a few changes of clothes.

Next post I’ll write about my first  impressions of Sydney.

Making Money While Traveling – A Few Ideas

I wrote this back in October of 2010 – but it’s still true today. In fact, in 2019 – it’s even easier. They call us digital nomads now! Funny how the world changes – when I started this blog – there was no such thing and few of us doing it – today – the world is crowded with digital nomadism. To update this a little – I hit a really good stretch with Vagobond for a while – selling links – then Google changed the pagerank algo and it dropped to nearly nothing. Same goes for adwords – it was good and then it became not so good. 

 

Earning money while you are traveling the world isn’t as hard as you might think it is. Of course, making a lot of money…that’s quite a bit harder! I can’t say that I’ve mastered the art of making a lot of money whether I am on the road or stationary, but I have learned that no matter how bad the economy is, no matter how depressed a place I might live in, no matter where I am- I can find a way to make a few bucks. Definitely enough to get to somewhere else, take care of my wife and me, and hopefully to have some fun along the way.

Lots of travelers today are having good luck with affiliate marketing and blogging. I’ve been pretty successful at blogging in terms of people liking my writing and coming again and again to my blog, but I can’t say I’ve really had much luck with making money at it (but thanks for the anonymous donations Mom!). Same goes for affiliate marketing. As you might guess, this post has some affiliate links in it (not any more). It won’t cost you anything to use them if the programs look interesting to you, and it will throw a little extra my way if you sign up for them. There it is – full disclosure! (Of course if I were sneaky, I would probably be rich but honesty is a profit killer.)

Of, course, one way that I make money is by teaching language. As a Native English speaker, the world is clamoring at my door to offer me money for teaching others to speak English. I happen to be a very good teacher, so that helps. To get my teaching credential, I went through an online TEFL course. That and being a native gets you through the door and into most countries.

You might want to get more than just the certificate though and start learning how to teach too!
The sad part is how many teachers I meet who don’t know how to teach at all or who are just plain terrible teachers. It just goes to show, that even if you aren’t a good teacher, you can make money in foreign countries as a teacher. You just need to get your TEFL certificate.

Of course, I think the best way to make money while I am on the road is by writing. It’s amazing how many people don’t think they can write, but in fact, if you can talk, you can write! It’s as easy as that (presuming you know things like letters and spelling). You don’t have to have a dictionary vocabulary. You just need to be able to say things in a conversational tone. That’s the tone that works the best on the internet.

There are millions of outlets for writers if you take the time to look.It might be exactly what you are looking for to make some money while you are on the road.

What do you do to make money while you are traveling?

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