New York, New York


THE city of New York is said to be one of the least forgiving in the western world. Or so I was told before my first visit two years. And yet, I find the majority of its inhabitants are some of the most amazing, considerate and brilliant people I have ever come across.

Unlike most big cities where you become so used to your surrounds, Big Apple dwellers don’t seem to tune out the rest of the world.
Maybe because they are constantly reminded that they are on borrowed time in this incredible city and never seem to forget that once upon a time they too were new to the city.

Since the second we stepped off the plane, we have been assisted without even asking for help. I don’t think that even happens in Australia. On a couple of occasions I have questioned whether the helpfulness of the New Yorkers were actually genuine or if they were just trying to lure us to where they wanted us (we gave the really sketchy guy the slip in the subway, so I guess we will never know).

I put all this amazing (and some possibly dodgy help) down to Karma and in particular travel Karma. As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe in paying it forward and not expecting anything in return. Today, in the subway at 103rd and Broadway, we were about to board the 1pm train, but we literally couldn’t fit on, so we waited for the next one. Before the doors of the train closed, a man pushed his wife through the doors and somehow managed to squeeze through them himself. And she practically collapsed onto the ground in front of us in a coughing fit, dry-reaching and crying. The woman had (as far as we could tell) had been crushed by the overcrowdedness of the train. I had never seen it so packed. It looked like a can of sardines.

The African-American woman continued to choke, cough and splutter, while her husband held her up. I felt so helpless, I have no medical or first aid training, so I couldn’t do anything medical to help. The only thing I could do was offer a bottle of water we has just bought to the man. He then was looking for tissues to wipe his wife’s face and thankfully I had some. So, I handed them to him. The look he gave me will stay with me always; it was a look of restored faith, appreciation, hope, and genuine heart-felt thanks.

We were about to jump onto the next train and he simply said “thank you so much, hope you have a great day”.

There is no better feeling, than helping.

I think as a society we are all so focused on getting ahead, buying posessions to show off our “wonderful lives” on social media that we can’t see past the ends of our noses (I got that from Mary Poppins – she could teach people a thing or two).

So, when you are next in a foreign city or see people visiting from other countries in your home city, don’t be closed off.

You never know what can happen if you open your mind and heart.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas

10474686_10152256363507198_121762171010154429_nLAS  Vegas is the decadence capital of the world. Wherelse can you eat,drink, sleep, gamble, shop or have sex as much as you want, with as many people as you want (paid for or not)?

There is no denying this city of sins appeals to a broad range of people. Maybe not those with strong religious ties, but the majority of us.

For me, on this world tour, it is the cities lack of depth that appeals to me.

I can take what I want from this city and no one will judge me. If I want to laze in bed till 3pm in the afternoon, eat one meal a day, drink a carton of beer and gamble away, then so be it. Unlike other cities where you have to make the most of every second to fit in all the sightseeing, you can do as little or as much in Las Vegas.

The best thing about Vegas is its proximity to the Grand Canyon and the over-abundance of tours to one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Against the expert advice of friends and fellow travellers we opted against the helicopter flight over the canyon (which I had done in 2012) and renting a car and went on a Grayline bus tour and despite it taking 20 hours from leaving our hotel till getting back, it was the right option for us. When on holidays I prefer not to put added pressure on myself. Travelling is already stressful enought on a marathon journey like ours, and you have to pick your battles.

This is my second trip to Sin City and both times I chose to stay at Circus Circus, a hotel which is 45 years old, not for its low rates but for its character and distance from The Strip. Sure I could have stayed smack bang in the middle of the craziness that is any hour of the day or night in the heart of The Strip, but I prefer low key chaos. And Circus Circus is this personified.

Just remember what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and on Facebook, Youtube and Instagram.

Karma exists

I HAVE always been a firm believer that Karma exists and more importantly when you are touring around the world, travel Karma exists.

A couple of years ago I met a lovely Aussie boy, on a very long Greyhound bus trip from Banff, Canada to Vancouver. I was broke, my shoes were falling apart and money was still a couple of days away.
So, without a second thought, he gave me $100 and said: “don’t worry about paying me back, just pay it forward”.

Even before this I had been an advocate for such exchanges and always helped the homeless out with food, tipped buskers and always been willing to lend a helping hand.

Fastforward to June 2014, and I was in Los Angeles, for the second time in my life. The city was familiar and I did not feel like a tourist, as I did the first time. Despite being on holidays, I still had my ‘news hat’ on and saw things a bit differently. Instead of being fearful of the homeless people that lined the streets in Santa Monica, like a lot of “tourists” I encountered, I wanted to know their stories, buy them a decent meal and not ignore and discard them the way society and the US Government has.

My boyfriend, Lion and I met a middle-aged African American man, whose name was ironically Sydney. We bumped into him at the corner of Broadway and Third Street, Santa Monica. He had said something about borrowed time with this angel (me of course) and I thought he was asking for the time, so we got to talking. He told me he was a Vet and he had lost his wife and kids post-war. The tall and slender man was well dressed for someone who sleeps on the streets, but his greyish, patchy stumble along his jawline and cloudy eyes told a different story.

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I said: “I won’t give you money, but do you want us to get you some Starbucks?” To which he replied: “I don’t eat that shit”. I laughed, at the thought of a hungry man turning down a hot drink and savoury snack. So, I asked him what he wanted to eat. He said: “I could go for some Asian food”. For $15 he got a good, hearty meal with a drink and you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. I asked him if he would pose for a quick photo, to remember him and he was happy too (photo to come – can’t upload from camera on this computer).

We encountered a lot of homeless people during our time in Los Angeles, on the most part there were a lot of “slack homeless people”. Just to clarify, I will not give money or buy someone food who is not doing something to better their circumstance. It is one thing to walk around asking for money, but laying in your own filth with a sign saying “Will take money or food” is just insulting, unless however, you are disabled.

One homeless man we met in the Metro at Hollywood, was a man leading by example. At first, I thought he was actually working as a Metro station attendant, as he had intricate knowledge of the Metro system, all the way down to the fact you had to get off at the LAX airport stop and then get on a free shuttle to the terminal of your choice. He showed us the lines we would have to take to get to our destination (three line changes) and even how to save money, by buying a day pass. The well-dressed man even showed us how to operate the teller machine. And it wasn’t until he said: “If you feel like my advice has been helpful you can donate some money to me”. I surely did! Best few dollars I have ever spent!

This trip to the States, it seems I am on a different journey to my first trip. As I have already done all the touristy things (well, I have now done them two times as this is my boyfriend’s first trip abroad) I was really trying to get to know the locals and find out more about the city full of dreamers (and those whose dreams never came true).

One of my first observations of Los Angeles in 2012 was it is if America’s dreamers rushed west and stopped where the land stopped. I still believe that is true. There is something sad but beautiful about watching the hundreds of super-talented buskers scattered around the county, playing their hearts out in the hope they are noticed by someone important. My second observation that still rings true is success in LA can be spectacular and failure equally so.

Los Angeles is definitely right up there on cities to visit, be open minded and don’t have your head too far up your arse when you come to visit or you might miss some incredible and lifechanging experiences.

Kissing selfies spread germs

HAVE you ever got a cold then given it to your partner.

Then just when you think you are getting better, get given the same cold back from the person you gave it to.

And if that is not bad enough, pass it back to your partner again a few days later.  

That is the story of our World Trip.

But we have no let it ruin our adventures in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

However, I blame my obsession with kissing selfies and the cold weather of both Californian cities.

Finding the perfect travel buddy

FOR seven years I had been travelling alone. Then came along my boyfriend. Some backpackers would say that could throw a spanner in the works and at first I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. But, my boyfriend of two years has fit into the world of backpacking surprisingly well, despite a few moments when he was obviously completely overwhelmed by the lack of comforts when travelling this way. 

I had similar thoughts when I started backpacking in 2007. How do I shower and get changed in a shower cubicle with no bench or hangers? How do you hang up the wet clothes that can’t go in the dryer? And what happens if you need to rest during the hours you are not permitted into the hostel, due to cleaning?

Last night, while in San Francisco, due to washing our clothes late, we ran out of time to get them all dry. Thus, the question how do you dry clothes without a clothes horse or dryer, in a room where there are no hooks? Lets just say this was the question or straw that broke the camels (my boyfriend’s) back. 

This morning, after temporarily checking out of our hostel (room change), we took our 15 items of clothing to the nearby park, which had a couple of picnic tables and chairs. We laid all the clothes out in the sun and waited for two hours until they dried.

Queue the National Parks officer and accompanying police officer. I don’t know if there was a complaint made about “two hood-rats” loitering or two homeless people airing their clothes, but the two men with badges came an d grilled/interogated us. Their first question, which was very obvious was: “what are you two doing here”. To which I replied: “Trying to dry our clothes because the hostel laundry wasn’t open until 4pm”. He said “do you two have any alcohol or marjuana on you?” I innocently said: “No”. To which he asked another question about when the last time I smoked any marjuana. My next response shocked me, as I never lie to police, but I said it without thinking: “2004” (it was actually 2008). And then I followed that up with “We are good, I promise”.