Tag Archives: travel

Guten Tag

What a day I had yesterday.

It began at 9:00 AM with a shuttle to the La Spezia train station in Italy and ended around 10:00 PM at my hostel in Lucerne, Switzerland. The first leg of the trip- a train ride to Milan- went smoothly enough but I had only 20 minutes after arriving to catch the 2nd leg to Arth-Goldau in Switzerland, and I hadn’t pre-booked my ticket for fear of arriving late. As it turns out, my 2nd leg is a pretty popular route and both the next departure and the one after that were fully booked. Great. Now I have a 3+ hour layover and I get to pay 50 extra dollars for the privilege. Overall I spent more than $160 USD on the trip by train so I’ll check cheap flights next time. Luckily the Milano Centrale train station is an incredible structure so I killed some time just walking around admiring this monstrosity.

It’s interesting to travel between countries by rail; a first for me. In Italy you hear Italian and in Switzerland it’s all German, but on inter-country journeys you hear mixtures of both, sometimes from the same person.

But I digress. As the train for my 2nd leg pulled into the Arth-Goldau station there was an announcement that a train waiting at Track 5 was bound for Lucerne, my final destination. Now, when you arrive in a new country, whether by bus, train, or airplane, it takes a bit to get your bearings. People are pouring out of the train and rushing every which way, you can’t read the signs, and you don’t yet know how to purchase tickets. Time was of the essence though, so I hurried around a corner and spotted the train on Track 5. Great! Now how the hell do I get a ticket?!? Ah, there’s a self-service kiosk (these were so easy in Italy). It’s all in German! Where is the little British flag for me to click!?! Hurry! A couple of young guys come up behind me and I let them go ahead because they appear to need the same ticket and I’m clueless. I try following the blur of the guy’s fingers but there is no hope. I don’t recall what I said but he offered to help even though I could see the apprehension on his face as the train will pull away in a matter of seconds (Swiss and German transportation doesn’t mess around). He guides me until the payment section and then runs off toward the train. Hurry up machine! Print the ticket! I grab my ticket and lumber toward the train, as fast as my back and frontpacks will allow. The attendant is yelling something in German to my blonde-haired savior as he is fighting against the train door, looking at me, preventing it from closing. I board the train and thank him profusely.


If only that were the end of my day. I had printed walking directions from the Lucerne train station to my hostel and it looked like a pretty easy mile or so. Near the hostel I heard a live band playing from behind a wall, crowd cheering, Eddie Van Halen-like guitar solo. “This’ll be a cool area”, I thought to myself. I arrived at the hostel, thrilled to drop my pack on the floor and ready for a hot shower after a long day. The receptionist had no record of my reservation and we soon figured out that I had walked to the wrong hostel; mine was across town. She became my second angel of the evening by going out of her way to give me bus info and solace as I donned my packs once again and headed back to the train station. This time the band was playing a cover of AC/DCs Highway to Hell, which seemed appropriate and put a smile on my face.

Finally reaching the correct hostel by bus from the train station, I checked in 10 minutes before reception closed for the evening. I have no idea what plan B would have been had I shown up late.

So that was yesterday. I still haven’t told you about Florence and how I liked it better than Rome, nor about the nearly vertical hiking trails in Cinque Terre that are to blame for my sore calves two days later. Hopefully I’ll get time to put up some images instead of all these words!

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It’s been so long that I’ve almost forgotten how to blog. After my trip to Australia/New Zealand I came home, learned how to program Android apps, visited Colorado and Oregon, played around in Louisville and now I’m in Italy. I figured why not make my sabbatical a true year-long deal? The plan is Rome to Dublin over two months. And……. go!

I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve never been to a country whose primary language was something other than English (Aussies and Kiwis don’t count). This will be a challenge. That’s the point.

I landed in Rome at 8:30 AM, which is EST 2:30 AM, with no sleep. There’s a six hour time difference between Louisville and Rome but I wasn’t about to lose daylight in a hostel room. When my head finally hit the pillow I’d been up for 37 hours with a one hour nap. Blame the fun-loving folks I met at the hostel (two Brits, an Aussie, a Kiwi, and a Korean).

First Impressions of Rome

I’m only in Rome for three days and then it’s off to Florence so I’ll be the typical tourist doing typically touristy things. Riding into the city on an airport shuttle you see what appear to be remains of huge city walls and I thought to myself… These are probably the oldest man-made structures I’ve ever seen. Not a lot of 1,000 year old buildings in the US.

The next thing you’ll notice is the traffic. It’s a perfectly orchestrated symphony of madness. Tiny little cars merging, honking, scooters zipping around pedestrians, busses, each other, and not a single accident that I have seen. It’s like they’re all plugged into The Matrix. If you should find yourself in Rome, be acutely aware that crosswalks are mostly for show. This isn’t Portland, kid, and no one will stop just because you’re standing there looking pitiful. Locals saunter across, gazing into the drivers’ eyes or putting up their non-cigarette hand in defiance, but that takes guts.

The best advice I can give for surviving Rome is to be aggressive. It runs counter to American sensibilities but it’s kill or be killed here. There are no lines or queues: when the bus/train pulls up you just shove your way on, little old ladies be damned. I assume that if you’re comfortable with the flow of NYC or similar then you’ll do just fine.

Days One & Two

The hostel is within easy walking distance of lots of interesting things as well as the main transit terminal so getting around is a breeze. Day one was spent checking out the Trevi Fountain, the stunning Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs, and just generally checking out this buzzing metropolis.

Day two started with a bit of a panic thinking that a hostelmate had checked out with my phone in his possession but it was later found behind the dresser. A real-world reminder about the importance of security is necessary every now and then.

After this life lesson I hopped on the subway and spent the day at the Vatican. I knew the Vatican was an independent city-state but I didn’t expect it to look like a fortress with 30-foot surrounding walls. It was both impressive and imposing. The museum was definitely worth it even though I don’t go nuts over the visual arts. I wish I had taken better pics!

I leave you with the first two photos of my new collection: Asian Couples Who Dress Alike. Aren’t they cute?

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Favorite New Zealand Photos

I tend to be a little long-winded so I’ll keep it short and let you get to the photos. There are so many wonderful photo ops in New Zealand. Here are a few of my favorites from the six weeks I enjoyed in this beautiful country.


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Favorite Australia Photos

I’ve been home for a couple of weeks now and have had time to go through many of the pics and videos I took while on my trip abroad (over 1,000… 15GB worth!). What follows are some of my favorite pics from my brief stay in Australia. Stay tuned for more from New Zealand!

All of these pics were taken with a Canon S100 in P mode, usually with Vivid mode on. I adjusted exposure on the fly based on the scene.

– The sunrise pic has special meaning for me because it was taken on the flight toward Sydney. It kind of signifies a new chapter.

– The obligatory Sydney Opera House shot. Being a novice photographer, I learned a lot on this trip about how lighting can make or break a photo.

– The pic of the Joker was taken at the corner of Hosier Ln and Flinders St in Melbourne. I honestly thought I had posted a bunch of pics from the incredible graffiti in the area but I can’t find a post in my archives. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to fix that.



Aside from meeting lots of wonderful people, the wildlife was my favorite part about Australia. I’ve told friends that I didn’t realize how infatuated I was with wildlife until I found myself in a place where everything was foreign. I was very ADD… I’d hear a sound, drop what I was doing, and run toward it with my camera.

The sleepy koala pic was taken at the Taronga Zoo. The turtle, fish, and jellyfish were taken at the Melbourne Aquarium. Those little turtles move fast! I must’ve taken 20 shots before I got a decent one.

One of the coolest critters I saw was this wolf spider. At first I thought it was covered in hair, but when the hair moved and I realized this was a mamma with babies clinging to her! I’d encourage you to click for the full-size image but I take no responsibility for any nightmares that may result.

Wolf spider with babies

Dorrigo National Park

My awesome Bellingen HelpX host, Kevin, offered to take me on a hike to a nearby rainforest. I had no idea that rainforests existed in Australia, let alone 60 minutes from the coast. The hike was one of the highlights of my trip, but if you go be aware of leaches!

Oftentimes the things we appreciate most in life are experiences that were difficult or took some effort to achieve. The following photo of a simple little flower is an example of this and is probably my favorite of the entire trip. Kevin and I were walking along the trail and I happened to spot this flower, about the size of my pinky fingernail, dangling from a single spider web thread about five feet off the ground. The web was attached to a branch which was swaying with the wind, causing the flower to spin in circles but I was determined to get the shot. Thank God for digital cameras. If you check out the full-size version you can faintly see the single strand.

Flower suspended by spiderweb strand

And finally…

While hanging out at the Bondi hostel on my last day in Sydney these two gorgeous Rainbow Lorikeets decided to pay a visit to our picnic table. I’d only seen these guys in a zoo back home and here there were 10 of them in the trees nearby. I remembered from the zoo that lorikeets love nectar so I mixed up a bit of sugar water, which they happily lapped up from a tablespoon I was holding. 🙂

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Week 10 Costs

Week 10. The end of my wonderful adventure to Australia and New Zealand. I left Kentucky naïve and inexperienced, having never traveled outside of the US. I returned with more great memories than I can even recall, a bunch of new friends from all over the globe, and an underlying confidence that everything is possible.

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Week 9 Costs

Week 9 started with a HelpX stay in Queenstown and ended with a few days in a hostel in the city. I want to reiterate that these breakdowns are my best guesses. Everything charged to my credit card is accurately represented but I’m not anal enough to track cash down to the dollar so Dining and Groceries have some fudging going on (and chocolate, because I’m kind of in love with chocolate).

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Week 8 Costs

Week 8 started in Wellington and continued with me heading down the west coast of the south island.

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Week 7 Costs

Week 7 encompassed my trip around New Zealand’s north island on the Stray bus.

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Week 6 Costs

I’ve decided that these cost breakdown posts are a pain in the butt, as you can tell by how far behind I am. I think people find them useful though so I’ll try to keep it going.

Week 6 encompassed my last day in Melbourne and my first week in New Zealand and I knew it would be expensive since as it included an international flight and the Stray trip.

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Week 5 Costs

This’ll be an easy one. So easy, in fact, that I’m posting over free WiFi outside a Hungry Jack’s (Burger King).

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