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Archive for the ‘Post Trip’ Category

2012 has been a fun-filled year for Kelly and me, even more so because of all the visitors we’ve had to Austin in recent months.  I absolutely love when we are able to re-connect with people from our trip – it just reinforces that the short, yet intense bond you shared at one point doesn’t change over time or despite the distance between you.

Kelly and I met Marianne in Argentina towards the beginning of our travels and were able to meet up with her again in Australia.  After graduating from medical school in Norway, she had some vacation time and decided to come to Texas.   We had a blast taking her around the town, drinking, dancing, and stuffing her face with Tex Mex.   Her timing couldn’t have been better since she was here for Kelly’s 30th birthday ‘Party Like It’s 1982 – Electric Boogaloo’ shindig.

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Breakin

Us and Marianne!

Us and Marianne!

We were also proud to talk Marianne into doing her first ever keg stand and she reminded us that she is still the caipiroska making queen – just as she was several years ago at the Blue Parrott in Sydney.

Luke the Aussie visited us not long before Marianne.  He stopped in Austin for a couple of weeks on his way down to travel extensively in Mexico and Central America.  I had visited Luke 8 months before in Melbourne, so I was thrilled to get to spend more time with him.  Besides the usual Austin haunts, we were also able to check out a couple of Austin staples that I had not yet experienced for myself – Hamilton Pool (absolutely stunning) and Chicken Shit Bingo.  In case you were wondering, it’s exactly what it sounds like.  You pick a number and if the chicken shits on your number, you win the prize.  That’s right, ya’ll.

Luke and me at Hamilton Pool

Luke and me at Hamilton Pool

Since I had Luke for a couple of weeks, we took a 4-day detour to New Orleans for Jazz Fest with my usual crew and our lovely local hosts Carol and Lionel.  We visited our favorite bars, restaurants, got pretty inebriated everyday and danced our asses off at the festival.  New Orleans is always a good time and I loved getting to experience it with Luke.  I was sad to see him go.

Pigging out at Jazzfest

Pigging out at Jazzfest

Kelly, Seth and I met Ed from London in Turkey on the bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia and hung out for a day or two while we were there.  Ed works for BP and just happened to be in Houston for a week for work and decided to make a weekend trip up to Austin.  Kelly took him out on the town one night and I spent his last afternoon with him driving him around the city, checked out Mount Bonnell, and had a drink on the lake at the Oasis.  Turns out Ed is still up to all kinds of travel adventures.   Check it out here: www.dromomaniacs.com

Having a drink at the Oasis

Having a drink at the Oasis

Kelly and I also hosted some new travelling friends – Stella from Australia and Courtlen from Canada.  Stella is a friend of Kelly’s roommate and had spent some time working in Canada.  She came to spend Austin in Halloween and we almost lost her to a band of gypsies and guy on a donkey.

Golden Girls, Ellen and Portia, and Boy George (aka Stella)

Golden Girls, Ellen and Portia, and Boy George (aka Stella)

Courtlen is a friend of Luke the Aussie’s – they met while working at a hostel together in Nicaragua – and I put him up for the weekend during Fun Fun Fun Fest.  Courtlen is probably the most hardcore traveler I’ve ever met.  He’s hitchhiked across Mexico and Central America (hell, he even hitchhiked to Austin in a farmer’s PLANE) and spent 6 months living in a favela in Rio de Janeiro.

kickin it at FFF

kickin it at FFF

And lastly, Thiago, a Brazilian work colleague of mine that I met while travelling for work, decided to base himself out of Austin for a month.  I’m making sure he is getting his fair share of chips and queso and trying to see that he packs on the same ten pounds I did while I was in his country.  Payback’s a bitch buddy.

Thiago and the ladies at Tacky Xmas Sweater Party.

Thiago and the ladies at Tacky Xmas Sweater Party.

Happy New Year everyone – hope to see your face in Austin soon!

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Not long after I returned from our trip and M and I split up, I was on the hunt for a new roommate, which believe it or not, is really difficult to find in your 30’s.  Everyone is pretty much married or living with a significant other already and although I’d have liked to live alone, it didn’t make financial sense.  So Kelly introduced me to her friend Jill who was in a similar situation as me; we checked out a few places together and settled on a duplex only a few blocks from my previous house.

I had always been apprehensive about moving in with someone I didn’t know that well, as I’d had some negative experiences in the past.  My favorite was a guy named Brian who was unemployed, never cleaned, and sat around our apartment smoking weed, watching porn, and playing the ukulele all day.  Thankfully, Jill and I hit it off immediately and I truly enjoyed getting to know her via our late night chats over boxes of wine (don’t hate, they make some really tasty boxed wine these days).  It only took a few weeks before we were besties – I couldn’t believe I had finally found someone that loved Blind Melon as passionately as I did.

Of course, ‘the trip’ came up multiple times during our discussions.  I think Jill had always had a desire to travel, so she asked me a lot of questions about how we did it, how much it cost, what hostels were like, etc.  Finally one evening she informed me that she too, was thinking of quitting her job to do some extended travelling and perhaps even find a job abroad.  I spent the next several months convincing her that this was the greatest idea in the history of ideas – and after a year of amazing fun roommate times, Jill quit her job, sold her car, put her stuff in storage, and bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica.

As bummed as I was to be losing a fantastic roommate, I couldn’t have been happier for her and PROUD that she was doing it alone.  Jill’s been gone a little over 4 months now – she’s been to Costa Rica and Panama, from where she sailed down to Columbia, and has just wrapped up a month of living with a host family and taking Spanish classes in Cartagena.  She’s living the dream and has plans to work her way across South America, eventually settling in Argentina to find a job.

Jill also has a blog about her travels.  Part of me is selfishly writing this post in the hopes that those of you that read this blog will follow the link and read hers – in turn encouraging her TO WRITE IN IT MORE OFTEN.  Yes Jill – I need to hear more of your stories in order to live vicariously through you.  DON’T DISAPPOINT YOUR NEW READERS!!!  I know I’m being slightly hypocritical, since I obviously suck at keeping up with my own, but I’m officially trying now.

You can check out her blog here:

www.whatdayisit.me

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Love and Miss You Jilly!

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I can’t believe it’s been 9 – 10 months since I’ve posted in this blog.  One thing that I’ve learned about myself over the past year is that I’m not a very disciplined blog writer.

Despite not much happening on the blog, I have been doing a fair bit of travelling for work since my post in January.  I’ll give you the abbreviated run-down.

Ukraine

This was my second trip to Ukraine within the past couple of years.  The difference between my 1st and 2nd trip was  – actually, there wasn’t much of a difference.  Lots of snow, lots of vodka, and lots of fur (one day I counted 97 people wearing full-on fur coats).   Despite the not-so-great food, Ukraine is still home to one of my all time favorite restaurants appropriately titled ‘The Ukrainian Restaurant’.  It’s like Christmas threw up in a hunting lodge.

Inside the Ukrainian Restaurant

Cold Day in Kiev

I still need to write about my visit to Chernobyl, but that deserves a post of it’s own.

 Turkey

I had not been to Turkey since Kelly and I were there backpacking in 2010 and the second time just reinforced how much I love this country, particularly Istanbul.  Much like my work trip to Thailand, I got to see a different side to the city – the 5-star hotel and fine dining side.  The food, people, and sights were incredible and my coworker and I were seriously considering just not coming home.

Not only did I make several new friends this trip, I got to meet up with an old one as well. Kelly and I met Rahim during our first week in Turkey and ate several fine meals and had many drinks at his fabulous restaurant, Adonin, near the Blue Mosque.  Due to the power of Facebook, I managed to stay in touch with him over the past couple of years and my coworker and I were able to pay Rahim a visit and again have a late night of dinner, drinks, and ‘dancing’.

Brazil

I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Brazil twice in the last few months for work.  I had never been before and was thrilled to be able to go (and to not have to foot the bill for the $180 visa).

I visited several cities while I was there – Sao Paulo, Curitiba, and Porto Allegre – but my favorite was Rio de Janiero.  Despite the fact that it was winter there and the weather didn’t cooperate as often as I would have liked, I did manage to have a couple of sunny warm days and was able to hit up Sugarloaf and the Christo statue and walk along the amazing beaches.  I must say that Rio is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.  It’s this enormous metropolis with millions of people right smack in the middle of the jungle…and on a beach.  This place is going to be absolutely NUTS during the World Cup and the Olympics.

Impanema Beach

View from Sugarloaf Mountain

Christ the Redeemer Statue

View from the Christo statue

Other than the incredibly friendly (and beautiful) people that I met, my other favorite thing about Brazil was the food.  By far my favorite South American cuisine that I’ve experienced thus far and I packed on 10 pounds between the 2 trips to prove it.  Here’s why:

Pao de Queijo – balls of fried cheese bread that is sold on practically every street corner.  Enough said.

Acai – A tasty berry blended with banana and ice , served with granola and more fruit on top.  A light, and ‘healthy’ treat that turns your lips and tongue purple as if you’ve just downed a bottle of red wine.  WORTH IT.

Acai!!!

Feijouda – A traditional Brazilian meal that consists of sausage and other pig parts cooked in black beans, served with rice, collard greens, more black beans, yucca fries, grainy stuff, and orange slices.  A nap is necessary.

Traditional Brazilian Dish

Italian Food – People always rave about the Italian food in Argentina, but I have to tell you that they are WRONG and Brazil puts Argentina TO SHAME in the Italian food department.  Also, I don’t get good Italian in Austin so I went a little OVERBOARD on it here.

Churrascaria – A mind-blowing amount of different meat on sticks served with salad, rice, fries, yucca, beans, fried cheese, onion rings, and sushi, YOU FUCKING NAME IT THEY HAVE IT.  Food Coma City.

Coxina – basically a fried chicken donut.  Yuuuuuuuuum.

Caipiroska – My cocktail of choice.  Vodka, Ice, Sugar, and muddled lime (or whatever fruit your heart desires).

My New Favorite Cocktail

I didn’t even mention the sushi.

 

All in all, a good year of travelling – can’t wait to see what adventures (and obviously meals) I’ll get up to in 2013!

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I love being a tourist in my own city.  Especially with people that have never been to Austin.  Extra especially when they have never even been to Texas, or America for that matter.

Kelly and I totally slacked on the blog the last few months of our trip and never wrote about our time in Europe.  One of our favorite weeks in Spain was spent in San Sebastian, where we met and shared a hostel dorm room with Aussies Tessa and Phil.  After late nights of drinking, world cup watching, and sand angel making, we became friends.

Not only was I lucky enough to meet up with Tessa again while I was in Melbourne this past September, but Phil and one of his college buddies, Tom, were doing a U.S. road trip in December and decided to spend five days with Kelly and me in Austin over New Year’s.

Our Austin adventures consisted of the following:

-City Bike Tour (with Kelly as guide), Chris Robinson sighting included

-Two-Steppin’ at the Broken Spoke

-Lunch at Salt Lick

-Zilker Park Chillin’

-House Party where gumbo was consumed and Tom accidently hit on an Englishman

-80’s night at Highball

-Beers and Pool at Horseshoe Lounge, jokes courtesy of Dixie the Awesome Bartender

-Visit to Mount Bonnell

-Proper dose of Tex-Mex at Maudie’s, Sazon, and Polvo’s

-Western wear shoppin’ at Cavender’s

-Gary Clark Jr. at Antones for NYE

-Long walk home from Antone’s due to the bus not showing up and no taxis stopping to pick up our drunk asses

-Cabbage, black-eyed peas, champagne, and movie recovery New Year’s Day.  The boys even made us a delicious Aussie dessert: sticky date pudding!

-Greenbelt Hiking

-Sunset Drinks at the Oasis

-Rainey Street beverages followed by a late night game of Flip Cup

-Several hangovers

It was a fantastic time – our own mini ‘Staycation’.  I’m fully aware of Austin’s awesomeness, but thoroughly enjoyed being reminded of it by showing the city to Tom and Phil and seeing it through their eyes.  Kelly, my roomie Jill, and I pretty much laughed our asses off for 5 days straight – a kick-ass way to start the new year!

The gang at Mount Bonnell

 

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Jealous Again

In the year or so I’ve been home, several people have asked me if I was able to ‘get traveling out of my system’ after spending such a long time on the road. You would think this would be the case after sleeping in hostels, wearing the same clothes, and living out of a back pack every day for almost a year. On the contrary, my trip had the opposite effect on me and has only intensified my desire to travel to foreign lands.

This past week, my coworker Max left Austin to go backpack around South America for 6+ months. When he told me he was leaving to do this, I was overcome with jealousy.  Although my job gives me the opportunity to travel internationally, there’s nothing like the sense of absolute freedom and adventure that long-term travel gives you.  I’ve realized that traveling for extended periods of time will never be off the table for me…it’s not really a matter of IF as much as WHEN I’ll set out on the next journey.

Until that day comes, I’ll have to live vicariously through Max and others like him.  You can follow Max’s adventures here: http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/levity03/

Good luck buddy!  I hate, errr, I mean LOVE you.

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One bittersweet aspect of travel is making awesome new friends and then having to part ways with them days or weeks later, knowing you’ll probably never see them again.   Most backpackers accept this as part of the long-term travel lifestyle, but I say its bullshit.  Sure, the norm is that you won’t ever see the majority of these people for the rest of your life…but some you might; you just have to make it happen!

Kelly and I met some amazing people during our travels who we still keep in touch with – Doug, Marianne, the Jeffs, Meghan, Tessa, Phil, and Luke being some of our faves and we all promised to visit each other in our respective countries.   So several months ago when Luke and I tossed around the idea of me coming to visit him in Australia, instead of thinking ‘yeah right, that’s crazy’, I thought why the hell not?!  I had received a large tax refund that I wasn’t expecting and instead of buying a computer and a new cell phone or some other ‘practical’ item, maybe I should take a kick-ass vacation.   Maybe after my break-up with M, I needed to do something a little irrational.   So I said fuck it and bought a plane ticket to Melbourne.  I’m tired of just talking about things I’d like to do and want to actually DO them.

Luke and his other 5 roommates were kind enough to let me crash with them for the duration of my stay, which gave me the opportunity to be immersed in Aussie ‘culture’.  Basically, they are all crazy (in a fun, obnoxious way).  My first couple of days in OZ I spent recovering from jet-lag.  I slept in, took a train into downtown, checked out Federation Square, the ACMI museum, walked along the river AND got to reconnect with Tessa, whom Kelly and I met in Spain.  We met in Fed Square and had a hard time recognizing one another since we had on make-up, had done our hair, and had on normal clothes…we were only used to what we looked like as grubby backpackers!   It was so great to reconnect with her.  She gave me a walking tour of downtown Melbourne, took me to the Queen Victoria market to buy souvenirs, and showed me the ‘footy’ stadium where all of the AFL (Australian Football League…much different than American football) games take place.  Victoria peeps are nuts about their teams!!

Along the river

Tessa and me!

Me in front of the footy stadium

That weekend, I went to the Park Life music festival downtown with Luke and crew.  We all dressed as cyclists, which seems somewhat ridiculous, but ended up being an awesome idea…very easy to find one another in our neon jackets.   Saw some bands, drank too much, and acted like fools…overall, a super fun day!

On Monday, Luke and I departed for Alice Springs to begin our tour of Ayres Rock (Uluru), the iconic sandstone rock formation in the middle of the Northern Territory.   I was very excited about this, since Kelly and I were only able to see the east coast when we were in OZ the previous year and I was pretty bummed I didn’t get to see Uluru.  To be honest, Alice Springs is in the middle of NOWHERE and is sort of a hole.  We strolled around town, met a 69 year old Dutch woman traveling the world by train in 80 days (so inspiring!), took a nap, ate dinner, and had an early night.   I think we were both still recovering from the debauchery of the weekend.

After a 5 hour drive the next morning, we made it to our campsite near Ayres Rock.  The plan was to hike the ‘Valley of the Winds’ trail, but due to the high heat, the trail was closed.  Instead we did a couple of short hikes around the Olgas (another group of rock formations) and headed over to Uluru for sunset.  As all of my faithful readers know, weather never seems to cooperate with my travel/site seeing plans.  It was very cloudy that evening so the dramatic color changes of the rock that I had hoped to witness didn’t happen.   Still very pretty though.

Walking through the Olgas

Luke and me in front of Uluru at sunset

The next morning was one of my favorite days of the trip.  We woke up early as hell in the morning to make it to Uluru and walk around the base of the rock during sunrise.  Luke and I were able to separate ourselves from the rest of the tour group, which was nice.  The weather was perfect, the sunrise beautiful and the rock itself was incredible.  It’s fricken massive and the colors are amazing…almost like it’s GLOWING.  Honestly, it’s mind-boggling that this giant rock is sitting in the middle of completely flat terrain for hundreds of miles.   Luke and I discussed climbing the rock, but decided against it, as it’s sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people in the area.  They prefer you don’t trample all over their special mountain.  OK, fine.  The climbing trail ended up being closed due to the wind anyway, but honestly I wouldn’t have wanted to climb it either way…the ‘trail’ is basically a chain that you cling to up a steep ass mountain…it looked terrifying.  People die doing this every year…no thanks.

Sunrise

On our walk. Shadows are fun!

Uluru

That afternoon our tour group was supposed to drive another 4 hours to hike King’s Canyon the next day (supposed to be amazing).  Go figure, some arsonists had set a bunch of bush fires, which resulted in the road to the canyon being closed for the next 4 days.  We were slightly bummed, but again, you can’t get too upset about things you can’t control.  Our guide took us to watch the sunset with a view of the Olgas…Luke and I splurged and got tipsy on a bottle of wine and had no trouble keeping each other entertained for the rest of the evening.  We slept outside under thousands of stars, which were absolutely beautiful…totally worth freezing our asses off the entire night.

Waiting for sunset at the Olgas

We made our way back to Alice Springs the next day, saw some local park areas, and then met up with several people in our tour group for dinner.  Afterwards, we had many drinks at the bar next door, danced a little and basically made fun of all the crazy ass locals that were there…a lovely end to our time in the not-so-lovely town of Alice Springs.

My last full day in Melbourne was spent at Luke’s house with his roommates and friends watching the AFL Championship (basically, the Aussie version of the Super Bowl).  Luckily, the team they were pulling for won.   Lots more drinking ensued (I was able to introduce them to my favorite drinking game – FLIP CUP) and then we hit up the town for more shenanigans.   Felt pretty rough the next day, so we laid around, watched movies, and I packed up all my crap to be ready for my 3.30 a.m. taxi pick-up to take me to the airport.

It was a pretty quick trip, but I’m so happy I went.  Not only did I get to see some cool shit, but got to reconnect with old travel buddies and make more new friends.  I have to admit I was a little nervous to go and spend 10 days with someone that I had only hung out with for a couple of weeks over a year and a half ago.  I mean, what if he totally sucked in ‘real life’?  Obviously that wasn’t the case and Luke and I got along just as well as we did the day Kelly and  I met him in Turkey.  I hope we get to see each other again… I know we will, it’s just a matter of making it happen.

Marianne, Doug, Meghan, the Jeff’s…you’re next!!

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Almost my entire life, I’ve had this terrible habit of biting my lower lip.  Biting and/or picking at it on a daily basis until it ultimately bleeds (slightly disgusting, I know).  I’m not sure why I do this and even worse, don’t even realize I’m chewing on my lip until my sister, parents, or friends I’m talking with call me out on it.  I’ve had this painful habit for as long as I can remember and have never been able to remedy it…coating my lips in gloss, lipstick, thick-ass lip balm – nothing works.

Then something strange happened in September of 2009.  Kelly and I left for our round-the-world trip and a couple of months into our journey, she said to me, ‘Hey I noticed that you haven’t really been picking your lip much since we’ve been on the road’.  When I thought about it, I realized I had actually not done it AT ALL since the day we hopped on that first plane to Costa Rica.  A huge accomplishment for me, but not one I truly thought I’d maintain…we’re talking about breaking a life-long habit here.  I chalked it up to the excitement of new adventures but figured after a few more terrifying bus rides in third world countries, I’d be back to unconsciously bloodying my lip in no time.

Months went by and I never really thought about it.  As our trip came to an end, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been biting my lip THE ENTIRE ELEVEN MONTHS we had been traveling.  Amazing!  I felt I had kicked this nasty habit for good…and without even really trying to!!  Yay me!

Unfortunately, this didn’t last.  Literally the day I set foot back in the US, I started knawing on my lip again, not even realizing I was doing it until I tasted the blood in my mouth.  As much as I tried to be conscious of what I was doing and control my actions, I’d always end up messing with my lip again.  I’ve been home a year now and I’m still picking at it, as if that fantastic year of progress never even happened.  WTF?

I had never really considered that jacking up my lip on a regular basis was a quirky way for me to deal with stress – after all, I did it during other periods of my life when I felt stress-free.  Or was I stressed and just didn’t know I was?  Is there something about the daily grind and living a socially acceptable, ‘normal’ lifestyle that makes me anxious on a level that I’m not even aware of – and this anxiety manifests itself by making me tear at my lip on a daily basis?  What was it about traveling in foreign countries for a year that seemed to cure me?

I have no fricken clue, but it’s definitely worth pondering on an uneventful Wednesday evening.

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