I’ve been back home now for just under a month. I still don’t know what I want
to do with my life, but that’s something for another time – I need to start
sorting stuff out soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d take a look back over
the last four months (and more), and pick it all apart.
First of all – it was a bloody amazing holiday. However, I had no epiphany
moments, no game changing discoveries about myself, no “sitting on the side of
a mountain and coming to some great realisation about life, the universe and
everything”. I kinda figured that wouldn’t happen. I think the only thing that I
really came away knowing was that I really missed playing music, and it’s the
one thing I truly love doing, whether it’s playing in a band or seeing bands.
So I just got on with having the best time I could, and apart from a couple of
minor back-packing niggles, for the most part I achieved it. I saw some
gobsmacking places, went to some of my favourites cities (more than once), did
a few vaguely mad things (mad for me anyway), and spent over six months in
bright sunshine and hot weather. I got to hang out with some good friends (some
of which I hadn’t seen for years), and made a few new ones. Oh, and I got a few
new tattoos, courtesy of my friend, the very brilliant and talented Mary Joy Scott.
My European start of the trip was pretty amusing:
- Gay Pride in Amsterdam!
- hanging out with The Bouncing Souls in Vienna, and getting onstage with them
- me and Jackie doing one day of sightseeing in Vienna with massive hangovers
- cutting my Amsterdam trip short to fly back to see The Bronx in Kingston, the
night the London riots broke out
America was brilliant from pretty much start to finish.
The only problem I have
with the place is at least 50% of the cab drivers are utter retards. It was a
pretty relentless few weeks here (including Chicago in May, and San Francisco
at New Year), and we did a lot:
- getting to hang out with Tim, Tom, Kelly
and Alex on and off for over a month
- Tims awesome friends in Chicago who did so much for us while we were there –
CJ, Jim and Mel
- seeing Chixdiggit and Marked Men in Chicago, and getting to a Cubs game (and
watching them lose!)
- spending a lot of time with my SF friends for a change – Suzanne, Tom and
Mary (and Nikki!)
- getting back to SF for New Years for a manic week to see X, attend Suzannes
birthday and get a mega tattoo off Mary
- my best bud Lisa coming out to Las Vegas for a week, staying at Hooters,
shooting guns, and seeing the Grand Canyon and Valley Of Fire
- hanging out with my old Ship crew, Jon, Jeff and Nicole in LA. First time
seeing them for over 5 years, and didn’t seem like a day had passed since the
last time we saw each other. Was only a brief trip to LA, but the guys helped
me out a great deal with places to stay/keeping me amused, and was such a great
- Awesomefest in San Diego. I liked San Diego A LOT. I dunno if I’d ever go
back outside of Awesomefest happening, but as a first time trip and being a
tourist it was brilliant. Sunny, hot, great beers, great bars. LOTS OF MEXICAN
FOOD. Loved it.
- New York – for being awesome. Rockafella Centre, Staton Island Ferry, Manitobas,
and seeing Juliana Hatfield for the first time in 15 years at City Winery (and
puking in their very posh toilets!)
- going to see Bob Mould in SF, getting to meet him, and seeing him do the rock
thing AND the gay disco thing in the space of one night.
- The Academy Of Sciences in San Francisco
- The ridiculous SF pub crawls in SF that me and Suzanne did over the space of
- Hooters – every one of them!
Then it was onto Fiji, which was 50% incredible:
- loved the Blue Lagoon
- swam with sharks, did a cave dive, two massive hill walks and lots of
- met lots of awesome people, including Will and Carole, a young groovy American
couple that kept me company for the whole trip in Fiji. Think they liked having
a drinking buddy – I certainly appreciated their presence the time I was there.
- hated Waya Lai Lai with its shit food, weird villagers and bed bugs
Australia gets broken down like this:
- hated Brisbane, which was full of arsehole backpackers.
- Fraser Island was indescribable. All I can say was it was like being on the
island in LOST. Had the best tour guide, and a good tour group. Had a brilliant
three days, the highlight being the third day where our group of three got
taken to some really random remote places away from the other tourists.
- Sydney. Was only here for three days, but should have been longer, as it took
me a few days to get my bearings. I think the best thing about Sydney was
discovering James Squires beers and getting drunk in The Rocks! The worst thing
was missing The Drones and Dropkick Murphys playing by two days!
- Featherdale Wildlife Parks kangaroos, wombats, kookaburras and koalas
- Perth was all kinds of amazing.
- getting to see all my old friends in Perth who I hadn’t seen for over 10
years (Ray, Shirley, Martine, Mark, Tarnya) and have them put me up for far
longer than they should have, getting to hang out with Kelly and Alex again,
and meeting some of their groovy tattooed punk rock friends.
- finally getting to see OFF! play, after missing them in every country/city I’d
been to in the last six months
- Kelly and Alex taking me to Rottnest Island, and doing an 18km bike ride to
the far west of the island
- Kelly and Alex taking me on an insane DIY beer tour into the Swan Valley to
try out some different breweries
- Mark driving me to the Pinnacles National Park and back again. Four hours
there and back, 20 minutes in the park! All we wanted to see was a very long
road and a Pinnacle that looked like a penis. Job done!
- Kellys mum driving us around Perth for a day, and getting to hand feed wild cockatoos!
- the ridiculous meaty BBQs put on by everyone throughout the holiday
- Fremantle, the Little Creatures Brewery and Bon Scotts statue
- the beer – James Squires One Fifty Lashes, Little Creatures Bright and Pale
Ales, and the Nails IPA only found at the Sail And Anchor in Fremantle
- drinking said awesome beers practically every day. Especially the day I sat outside
the Lucky Shag on the river, drinking pints of Golden Ale, eating a massive
steak, sitting in the sun listening to the cheesy cover band.
- Kings Park and the main city of Perth
- The Two Feet And A Heartbeat walking tour
- the wicked birdlife – my inner ornithologist came back with a vengeance
And the final stop, Singapore:
- the zoo
- my stupidly posh hotel
- Clarke Quay
- more Little Creatures
The downsides break down into two sections – backpacking and my rucksack. And thats about it.
Backpacking really wasn’t for me. Apart from meeting relatively normal people
in Fiji and Fraser Island, I spent the rest of the time on my solo part of the
trip not meeting anyone. With Fiji and Fraser Island, it was as though everyone
was kinda thrown together – in Fiji, it was because everyone was following the
same route round the island. In Fraser Island, it was because you were stuck on
the same tour together. But everyone in those situations didn’t appear to be
rampant 18 year old boozehounds...unlike the ones I “met” in Brisbane, Byron
Bay and Sydney. Basically these were people I’ve actively been avoiding my
entire life in the UK, so Christ knows why I would want to hang out with these
people now. I also wasn’t spending time in the few hostels I stayed in hanging
out there – I had money to go out, eat a nice evening meal, have a few (good
few) beers. So by not hanging out in hostels, I wasn’t really meeting anyone. My
arrival in Brisbane (at 1am) put me off immediately – it was like a bad night
out in Croydon. Coupled with my prison like hostel, populated by the kind of 18
year olds that run riot on the last night of the Reading Festival, it changed
my mind on backpacking as soon as I got there. Byron Bay was another kettle of
fish altogether – if you aren’t a surfer, you may as well be invisible. That is until the drunk Bogans come out on a Friday and Saturday night. Then I wish I could have been invisible and ignored. I liked Byron Bay as a place, but the people
there left a lot to be desired. After this, I booked hotels and was quite happy
being on my own, and got on with enjoying myself. And bloody enjoy myself I did!!
As for that bloody rucksack – worst mistake I made! Serves me right for not
going with my initial preference. I found a side loading Berghaus rucksack,
with a detachable day pack, wheels and a handle which I thought was ideal.
However, looking at research online, no one had a good word to say about it. So
I ended up buying a normal top loading backpack (a Vango 60+10), which I hated
the moment I started trying to pack it. Forget the fact I never once needed to
use it as a rucksack – it spent the entire trip either in a plane hold, in a
cab boot, or on the floor of my hotel. I never once carried it for longer than 15
minutes! The thing that eventually got to me though – I met more than 5
different people who were all travelling with my original choice, the Berghaus!
So my point is – for anyone going on a big trip – work out if you will actually
need to use your backpack AS A BACKPACK! If you aren’t going trekking or
camping in the wilds or wandering around cities aimlessly trying to find
somewhere to stay, DON’T BOTHER. I wish I could have found some helpful advice on this before I went away – but every Backpacker site I found was incredibly biased towards taking a rucksack. I guess its fine if you are travelling all
round Asia. I however was basically on a mega extended city break – with a few
beaches thrown in as a change!
And thats it. Best idea I’ve had in years, and a pretty brilliant 6 months. I’m
so glad I sold the house, quit my job and did this, even though I haven’t got a
clue what to do next.
Maybe I’ll just do the trip again – but this time do it backwards, starting in
Singapore, and hitting Melbourne instead of Sydney. Hmmm, wheres that bank