In no particular order:
1. Not waking up hungover after a big night out.
2. A really comfortable pair of shoes that look great and last forever.
3. Learning how to say something awesome in another language. C’est magnifique!
4. Driving in my car with the windows down, singing out loud to my favourite song (the daggier the better) and not caring if anyone hears me.
6. Recieving a postcard or handwritten letter in the mail.
7. The anticipation at the top of a ski run or chairlift and looking out towards an expanse of fresh, fluffy, white powder snow and knowing I’ll be first person in the world to go through it.
8. Watching sunsets.
9. When my hair decides to behave and looks fantastic.
10. When you hear from someone out of the blue who you’ve been thinking about recently.
1. Driving with the windows open with the air-conditioning on – it isn’t exactly environmentally friendly I know, so I rarely do this, but there’s nothing like the feeling of driving with all the windows open, wind in your hair, music blasting, singing at the top of your lungs. If only I had convertible…
2. Trashy magazines – I don’t actually buy trashy mags but every now and then, at a doctor’s waiting room or the local bookstore or when borrowing a friend’s copy at the beach, I like flicking through the glossy pages to catchup on celebrity goings on; whether it be about Lady Gaga’s latest outfit tragedy to Brangelina’s newly purchased orphan. There’s just something voyeuristic (and addictive) about the concept of knowing what these people get up to on a daily basis. Are they normal? What does she look like without make-up? Look at Britney’s flab! Really shows how shallow we can be sometimes, and I feel almost dirty once I’ve gone through a couple mags.
3. Excessive shopping – It always catches me out; I pop down to the mall to relieve my boredom on a Saturday afternoon, and a few hours later I’m walking out with a dozen shopping bags. A few days after I separated from my ex-husband, I moped about in the Mall of the Emirates, and in my depression mode I walked into Gucci and decided without hesitation I would buy a bag, a wallet and a pair of shoes. Then walked into another shop and bought a pair of jeans. Then some make-up. Then got an extravagant haircut complete with highlights and treatments. Whilst my credit card probably wasn’t happy about it; it certainly gave me that wide-eyed instant adrenalin rush and feel-good factor that only shopping can give you.
4. Chocolate ice cream – My premier choice in junk food. I know Italy has fantastic gelato, as too does Argentina – however I can never say no to a Marble Slab special of Chocolate Swiss mixed with French Vanilla with a generous helping of pecan nuts. Drool. Then you’ll see me at the gym for the next 3 days trying to work off the calories. But its so worth it.
5. Karaoke – yes I LOVE Karaoke. I can’t help it, I’m Asian, its in my DNA. My local establishment in Dubai was a Japanese Restaurant inside a 5-star, 54 floor toblerone-shaped building where I’d belt out traditional favourites like Livin’ on a Prayer and Like a Virgin in a tightly packed room of other drunken expats. If funds were low, my flatmate and I would crank up the Singstar and annoy all our neighbours with our voices, which were anything but 5-star.
6. Travel planning… that is beyond me – I often dream of cool adventure trips like diving the Galapagos Islands, riding a motorbike through Africa or sailing the South Pacific, however I don’t have the required licenses to do any of these so the experiences have always been beyond my reach (although in saying that, it does inspire me to get qualified!). I also love dreaming of trips that require ridiculous budgets like lounging about in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives or seeing the Antarctic on an icebreaker…but I’m quickly brought back to earth with a thud when I look at my bank balance. But there’s no harm in dreaming, is there? The most extravagant trip I’ve ever taken was a 3 week South African safari complete with all the luxurious trimmings; and whilst it made a considerable dent in the savings, it was worth every. single. cent.
7. Cheese and Crackers – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My eyes go hazy when I see a plateful of soft, gooey Brie or crumbling feta rolling in glistening olive oil, most often accompanied with the usual mezze staples of prosciutto or salami. Not great for the thighs but there is an evil pleasure in convincing yourself that this is only ‘finger food’ so it really doesn’t count.
8. Staying in a really really expensive hotel – I was 19 when I stayed in my first 5 star hotel with my boyfriend, the Regent (now Four Seasons) in Sydney. From then on, I was hooked. I remember the feeling of crawling into fresh white sheets on a massive super King size bed, playing with the dimmers on the lights and looking out at the amazing views of the harbour. I get excited about raiding the mini-bars and trying to make cocktails with the miniature (and very expensive) bottles of booze and soda. I delight in the thought of breakfast in bed, cable television and extravagant bubble baths. I once stayed in a hotel in that had a glass window from the bathroom looking into the main room so that you could lie in the bubble bath while watching TV. In a resort in Oman, you could swan around in the pool all day, getting served cocktails at the swim-up bar, or grab a sun-lounger on the beach and be waited on hand and foot by ‘butlers’ who are never too far away, awaiting to take your next order. I took a birthday trip to Paris with my mum a few years ago and treated ourselves to a gorgeous hotel a couple blocks from the Arc de Triomphe. We were the only guests and were treated with amazing hospitality. And mothers being mothers, she proceeded to collect every single mini shampoo, soap and sewing kit in the room and even asked for more from the housekeeper. But to them it was not a bother. That’s the whole point of being in a luxury hotel; to feel important, cared for, like there’s nothing you can’t have. It’s like being a princess. And I think it’s okay that every now and then, if I have the means, I will happily fork out for the pleasure of being treated like one.
9. Wearing pyjamas all day – There’s nothing like the satisfying feeling of lounging around in your pyjamas all day. Not getting out of them is a sign of defiance of the routine; of apathy; of pure unadulterated Sunday morning laziness.
10. Drinking on a school night – I’m doing less and less these days but the midweek drink used to be my specialty. There’s pleasure in the first sip, but when you’re getting home at 2am on a Tuesday, you know there’s going to be regret in the morning.
What are your guilty pleasures?
All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.
Today, in one of my cleaning frenzies, I emptied out my laptop bag. Much like when one empties out a wallet you find all sorts of weird and wonderful items. I hadn’t assessed the contents of my laptop bag for a while – obviously my laptop has been the only thing I’ve removed from there, and since I’ve had the bag I don’t think I cleaned it out much. So it was like opening up one of those time-machine chests that they made you do in school where you put silly pictures in so that children of ‘the future’ could see what life was like back in 1988. Anyway, it was a bit like opening a time machine, because the stuff I found all have specific stories and memories attached to them. So, without further ado, here is what I found…
1. House Keys. These keys are actually keys to my very first flat in Dubai. God knows why I still had them and what they were doing in my bag. That flat was like a half-way house, with all the comings and goings of different people that I think we got about 8 different sets of keys cut. I guess these were the forgotten set. I wonder if I can still go back to that beautiful flat in the Marina and sneak in to see what it looks like now?
2. Homemade birthday card. This was given to me for my 29th birthday by my friend’s gorgeous kids. They, their dad and my flatmate woke me up on my birthday at about 9am with breakfast in bed, a cupcake with a candle in it, a bunch of flowers and this cute card. It was almost enough to make me forget I had a raging hangover. Hopefully I don’t accidentally throw this out one day because it really does bring a smile to my face.
3. Boarding Pass to Nice. This was my first trip to Nice. It was organised at the very last minute as a friend of mine was also there visiting her boyfriend who was working on a yacht in Cannes. I wasn’t even sure if I could get on the flight (being on standby). But I was so glad I went as I had an amazing weekend, and even got to pose on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. It was then that my love affair with the South of France begun. (Yes, I photo-shopped my name out, I would like my anonymity to remain!)
4 & 5. French train tickets & timetable. This kind of goes with the boarding pass. When I arrived in Nice that first time, I had to catch a train to Cannes, normally a twenty minute ride away. Me, being easily distracted and confused, jumped on a bus heading in the opposite direction and ended up in Monaco. I eventually realised my folly that Cannes was not in the vicinity of Monaco, finally found the train station and made it to Cannes, 2 hours later. On my next trip to France, I decided to pick up a copy of the timetable to prevent these silly mistakes from ever happening again.
6. Dubai Metro ticket. I sporadically used the Metro when it first opened, and whilst it was a pleasant experience it didn’t stop me from still driving my car to work. However on closer inspection, I assessed the date on this ticket. I think this was around the time I crashed my car (or rather when someone crashed into my car) so I was forced to use public transport for about a week until it got fixed.
7. My Emirates business card. Yes I’ve photo-shopped the details out again. I felt so special receiving these; because not only did the logo sparkle in gold, they were my very first cards that were bi-lingual. On the other side of the card, everything’s written in Arabic. I found it exciting to see my name written in another language; I then spent hours trying to copy the characters so I could learn how to write my name in Arabic.
8. Recruiter’s business cards. Not quite as exciting as Arabic cards, but before I went to South America, I was in Sydney for a couple of weeks running around seeing recruiters in the hope of securing a job by the time I returned from backpacking. However, seeing these today only served as a reminder of my crappy employment situation.
9. Cinque Terre tickets. This was one of my Mediterranean Summer trips that I took with my ex. It reminds of me that hot summer day in August that we took to the path of the beautiful Cinque Terre; a six hour trek along the coastline of five picture-postcard towns. I remember that night we had dinner at a gorgeous restaurant perched above a cliff in Monterosso, and after stuffing ourselves with seafood, went and got hammered on mojitos at an Irish pub. It was an amazing trip that I still have fond memories of.
10. Australia Sticker. I bought this on my first trip back home after being in Dubai for a year, but I don’t remember why. I bought two of these, and decided I would stick one of them on the bottom right corner of the back windshield of my car to proudly display my Aussie-ness. If you’ve lived in Dubai, you’ll understand what I mean – everyone has stickers of their home country’s flag on their back windscreen!
What are some weird and wonderful items you’ve found crumpled up in your bags?
All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.
As anyone knows, going to South America is fraught with dangers. This is by no means a macabre list; but a few observations of how close one can come to ending their life during their travels in this continent, if they’re not careful. Take heed; these are (my) top ten ways to die in South America.
1. Death by walking
Being a pedestrian is a tough job in South America. You are at the bottom of the traffic food-chain. In the western world, a zebra crossing means a car must stop to let someone cross the road. There; its a mere inconvenience. In Brazil, 38% of all traffic accidents are from pedestrians, in Chile this is 46%. To cross a road in a Latin country, you cautiously step out onto the road into what may be a break in the traffic, close your eyes, run like hell and hope for the best.
2. Death by taxi
I’ve been in many taxi’s around the world, from the polite, knowledgeable London cabbie, to the odour-challenged cabs of Dubai. South American taxi drivers are indeed polite and sweet smelling, however their aggressive driving skills make you wish you would rather be walking instead. It’s no surprise then, that despite the region’s reputation for being the crime & murder capital of the world, traffic accidents are actually a larger cause of death.
3. Death by beef
No, there is no outbreak of Mad Cow disease in South America, but it is very easy to die of meat overload. You wouldn’t want to be vegetarian in places like Argentina; red meat is pretty much a staple and can be eaten at any times of day. And it is an absolute sin to say no to asado.
4. Death by buses
If there’s anything worse than a taxi, its a bus. Particularly in Bolivia. I once took a bus from Uyuni to Villazon for an overnight ride, and made the mistake of peering out of the window. The bus was clinging onto the side of a high mountain pass, in the rain, still doing about 100km/h. You would think that Argentine and Chilean buses tend to be a lot newer, thus safer, however the drivers all must think they are in a Ferrari judging by their driving.
5. Death by Dulce de Leche
The buttery, caramel spread from Argentina (a staple for breakfast) that is oh-so-sweet on the tongue but oh-so-deathly for the arteries. Indulge in enough and I’m pretty sure you could die from the sugar content alone.
6. Death by ATMs
No, ATM’s don’t jump out of the walls and attack you, but there are some horrible stories of attacks that happen inside the glass boxes that ATM’s are housed in. You swipe your card to get in, type away at the machine (sometimes in Spanish so it takes twice as long), and as soon you get out, thieves pounce on you to pilfer your hard-earned cash. Another story I heard around the block is of thugs who stop you at gunpoint on the street, force you to a (or several) ATM/s to withdraw every single cent you have, then dump you in the middle of nowhere. Yikes.
7. Death by alcohol
As any backpacker knows, sampling the local beverages is all part and parcel of getting acquainted with the culture. Whether it is caipirinha’s in Brazil, fernet in Argentina or a pisco sour in Chile – we know to well that too much can lead to a visit to the nearby hospital for a good old stomach pumping (not that it’s ever happened to me!). Know your limits, and never try to keep up with a local!
8. Death by ice cream
I’m specifically referring to Argentina for this one. Their ice creams are unbelievably smooth, creamy and entirely addictive. I think I managed to have one every day in my stay; anymore and I probably would’ve had a coronary.
9. Death by kissing
No, Im not talking about transmitted diseases, I refer to the Brazilian male species practice of ‘kiss rape’. Normally occurring on a dance-floor, a foreign female can be bombarded by over friendly Brazilians who think it normal to surround a girl and try to ‘kiss rape’ her while all she wants to do is dance with her friends. It’s considered quite normal behaviour for men. They like to move pretty fast – it goes from a “Ola” to “I love you” within a matter of minutes. There’s small chit chat for about 30 seconds, they then go in for the kiss. I reject, they try again. I reject twice, three times, they still try. I’ll walk away and they’ll follow me. I go to the bathroom and they are there waiting for me when I come out. How on earth do you get rid of them? Even if I tell them to f!@# off they still give me a dazzling smile (OK, there’s no denying they are cute) and try again for a kiss. Is this what it’s like to be female in Brazil? I’d rather be dead.
10. Death by dancing
You can’t write a post about South America without mentioning dancing. It’s in their blood. Every night, in any country, there is something dance-related happening. If you try to keep up with the locals however (especially the frenetic samba!) I’d say you could probably die. Did you know there was something called the Dancing Plague that killed numerous people in Europe in the 1500’s? I’m surprised Brazil hasn’t had an outbreak of this yet.
All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.
I’ve been unemployed now for a total of 122 days. Granted, 75% of that was spent on holidays, but the last month to say the least has been boring, tedious and soul-destroying. Unemployment and job hunting, despite the initial delusions of carefree days and endless sleep-ins, is NOT fun. Not after over a month of looking for job. So here’s my top ten of things I HATE about being unemployed.
1. Irregular sleep patterns. Its not great when I do eventually find a job, I will have to go to bed and wake up at ‘normal’ times again.
2. Lack of money. No explanation required. But when you’re going through your backpack fishing for scraps of foreign currency to convert into $AU, its a desperate situation.
3. Cabin fever. Being at home is great, but it is rather soul-destroying
4. Going to job interviews. I live quite a distance away from the city, and a 50 minute commute each way for a half hour interview is an utter waste of my time.
5. Bad taste in television. The longer I am unemployed the more my taste in TV shows deteriorate. Judge Judy anyone?
6. Diet. I’m eating anything and everything that’s in the cupboard, regardless of fat content. And the results aren’t good!
7. Aimless ‘internetting’. I spend a large part of my day going from Facebook link, to blog, to YouTube video, to tweet, to YouTube video, to torrent download, to TV website, to blog, to Facebook…. the cycle is endless and rather mind numbing.
8. Not getting out of pyjamas until absolutely necessary. The latest I’ve gotten out of them was at 7pm. Kind of gross!
9. Not using my brain. This speaks for itself – I’m not making any quick decisions, planning projects, writing emails, having arguments with passive aggressive colleagues – I’m losing my office etiquette altogether.
10. Money! Such an issue I had to mention it twice 😦
Fingers crossed something comes up soon…
1. Sleep. If you can. I suggest ear plugs, eye mask, a good pillow.
2. Read. I read an entire book and probably couldve read another two.
3. Eat. Pack snacks and water. I wished I had brought some booze too, wouldve helped with achieving point 1.
4. Chat. If you’re with fellow travellers this is easy, if you’re alone try speaking to the locals. At one stop a local started chatting to us but in Portuguese and despite our blank looks and attempts to tell him we didn’t understand, he kept chatting away anyway.
5. Write. I did a bit but because there were no folding tables it was all written on my lap and now I can’t even read it myself.
6. Plan the rest of your trip. I had some long discussions in my head about where I would like to go next. It made me rather anxious so I didn’t do this for too long.
7. Trying to find the most comfortable position. In between the sleeping, eating and chatting you are constantly trying to be comfortable. Legs out, legs crossed, left side, right side, arms up, arms crossed. It was rather futile because no matter how much you try you’re never going to be comfortable anyway.
8. Sing. Even if it annoys others, its something to take your mind off the time and the numbness in your legs.
9. Clean out your bag. Sand, tickets, wrappers, old receipts, This took a good hour or so.
10. Watch the scenery. Much of the scenery is the same; farmland, town, farmland, town. Some of it the same as back home, and every now and then you’ll see something interesting, like a very thin horse or children playing soccer barefoot.
1. SLEEPING ~ long, drawn out naps & lie-ins whenever I want.
2. EATING ~ wherever, whenever, whatever at no set schedule or time.
3. READING ~ hopefully be able to finish a book from cover to cover – uninterrupted.
4. ME ME ME ~ Only worrying about me, myself and I.
5. SUNSETS ~ being able to watch one every day.
6. LAUGHING ~ more than stressing or crying.
7. FRESH AIR
8. BEVERAGES ~ sampling the local beers/wines/liquers
9. PEOPLE ~ that speak a different language yet somehow still manage to create a connection with them
10. NOT WORKING ~ not having to wake up at 6am, not having to receive passive aggressive emails from colleagues, not having any deadlines other than the ones I set for myself.