Wanderlust

noun
a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.

Thailand… AKA Paradise

Well I just found this blog I started and didn’t finish so I will post it now ha ha…
t has been Nearly three weeks since I arrived back in the UK from Thailand, but everyday my mind is filled with the memories of the most beautiful beaches, sea, and people I have ever had the pleasure of encountering.
We will behind where my last post left off.
After my final day of the northern Thailand trip I made my way to Koh Samui with a friend I had met earlier. I hadn’t originally planned for this trip but as I had two days to spare ( and wasn’t about to stay in Bangkok) I decided that I might as well visit all three islands of the Gulf of Thailand. It was a long night and day of trains, buses, and boats, but when I finally arrived on the island I knew I had made the right decision to come.
Keep in mind I have never travelled to a tropical destination before, the best beach I had seen was in LA and this is not even fair to compare. We got to the “hotel” where we would stay, I booked a beach hut and the rest of the day was spent wandering the beach, and falling asleep in the sun…
Which resulted in a horrific sun burn, yes, even after being in the Thai sun for two weeks. Never the less, Ko Samui needed to be explored! We were told that the place to go for the night life was Chaweng beach so that’s where we headed. But, first there was the lovely detour to find some friends who were staying on the island and then resulted in us getting lost and walking forever before hopping on the back of a motorcycle taxi. Yes three adults, one small motorcycle. It was interesting. Anyways the Ko Samui night life did not disappoint, minus the extreme redness of my skin it was a good night with good food, strong drinks, and good company.
The next day it was decided that (don’t kill me dad) the best way to really see the island would be to rent a motorcycle, ok scooter, motorcycle just sounds cooler. It was perfect, hoping on and off, getting a little lost, it was definitely the best way to see Samui and I would highly recommend it.
The next day was the day I had been waiting for, after hearing so many good things, I was finally headed to Ko Tao, so after saying goodbye to my beautiful Samui beach, and buddies I headed to meet my newest addiction… Scuba Diving.
First of all to those who have never been to Ko Tao, it is a teeny tiny little island, but it is so incredibly beautiful, laid back, and just generally cool. There really is no other way to describe it, the Ko Tao life is just lay back, watch the surf, and have a beer. Although for those looking for a little adventure while in paradise, I think diving is exactly what you need.
I did my open water course at Buddha View a wicked little resort, with great instructors, and delicious BBQ every night. I’m not going to lie, my first diving experience was not great. I hated the way the regulator felt in my mouth, the way water got in my mask, the way I felt all floaty. I wasn’t sure I could do it, I had a panic attack in the pool, which was filled up to my waist. So obviously I was freaking out the next day when we went into the actual ocean. I got in a did my first skill, which was to take off my mask, but when it came to taking my regulator out I freaked out again and had to surface. I thought everything was going wrong, I was scared and since I was breathing so fast my buoyancy was all messed up. I actually thought nope, this is not for me where the heck is the boat. But my awesome instructor calmed me down, made me laugh and brought me back down again. Then we went for a look around and instantly my fear left. I saw the fish, the corals, a tuk tuk that had been sunk there, and suddenly it all became natural. And the rest is history, we did two more days of diving and I was hooked. No more fear, just complete exhilaration and delight at being in such a different environment.
I completed my open water diving course with flying colours, and with three days to spare I figured I might as well continue onto the advanced course. I am so glad I did this as it gve me the opportunity to do a night dive. Which is literally the best thing I have ever done. Diving in complete darkenss with just the light of your torch sounded like it would be terrifying, but it was so peaceful and the ocean becomes a completely different place at night. My diving experiences in Thailand ( don’t know how I was going to finish this sentence so we will end on this note: Thailand was the best experience of my life and I can not wait to go back!)

My New Love

I never would have thought that one person could experience so much happiness in two weeks, yet here I am a 15 day into my Thailand trip and I’m still bouncing off the walls from excitement every morning.
Arriving in Bangkok is somewhat of a blur, after traveling for two days ones mind tends to go a bit fuzzy. I somehow managed to get to find a cab, haggle a bit and get to my hotel. The next day the adventure started I met my group of 15 who would spend the week of adventure with me and off we went. To make it easier on me we will refer to them by the locations in which they are from. The first night I dragged my jet lagged butt out on the town with Manchester and Saskatoon jr. Bangkok definitely knows how to throw a party. Between the insanely large and cheap beers, the chaos of the street, and the awesome company, my introduction to the country which will be my home for five weeks went off with a bang.
The next day we toured Bangkok. The first thing that hits you when you leave the hotel is heat, followed closely by a strange fish smell which after a while you realize will never go away so you might as well get used to it. The chaos of Bangkok was something I expected but the juxtaposition of poverty and upper class was not. Obviously I assumed that there would be a fair amount of poverty in Thailand, but I was surprised that next to a fairly pricey hotel in Thai standards is built directly beside shacks that are falling apart and in complete disarray. I found this strange about the temples as well, they are so decadent yet all around each one is a city that is in shambles. But perhaps that is just a western point of view.
That night we rode off to Chiangmai via sleeper train, which has not become something I enjoy. Chiangmai was much more enjoyable for me than Bangkok it runs at a slower pace, the hustle and bustle if the city still exists, yet it seemed much more relaxed. Our days in Chiangmai were filled with Thai cooking classes, Thai boxing, the night markets, and my personal favorite a chance to get up close and personal with a tiger.
Next we head into the jungle starting at the small town maesariang where we hired bikes and went swimming with the locals in the river. Then the real adventure began, we ride for an hour in the back of a pick up truck to a small town in the hill tribes area. We trekked for 3 hours along not much of a path, resulting in many scratches and bruises, and ended up in a hill tribe village. We met with the locals then jumped on elephants and had a tour of the nearby jungle. It was bizarre to see such massive creatures hanging around the village as if they were horses or cattle, and riding on one through the jungles of Thailand was extremely uncomfortable, but an experience I will never forget. The locals in the village were extremely welcoming and as curious of us as we were about them.
The next day we visited the village school and brought along some footballs (soccer balls) and volleyballs to give to the kids, then started day two of our trek, an exhausting and frustrating day of down hill to a river where we met our bamboo rafts that would take us to our camping spot for the evening. The ride down the river was excellent, hopping off whenever the river got deep to swim along the raft was exactly what I needed after 3 hours of sweating on the trek. The camping was excellent as well, we had a great night around the campfire learning drinking games from our different countries, including some Thai games.
Our next stop was Auyttaha, after another lovely trip on the overnight train. We spent the day visiting some beautiful temples, and visited the night market for dinner. Sticky rice with mango plus meat on a stick will forever beat out any five course restaurant.
Next was a day at Erwan national park in the seven waterfalls. I finally got to see my monkeys! And the waterfalls were beautiful and great to swim in, though I ripped the bum of my swim suit and there were insane amounts of tourists. That night we slept on a raft house on the river Kwai. It was so serene and a great way to spen our second last night.
Our last day as a group was spent at the bridge made famous from the movie bridge over the river kwai. It was an interesting day to learn about the POWs from WWII, but the bridge itself wasn’t that impressive. But that was it the last full day of the 15. From there we travelled back to Bangkok and all we our separate ways. It was an amazing tw weeks. There is no other way to describe it, never could I imagine that two weeks could hold so much adventure and laughter. Now I am spending my days on the beaches of southern Thailand but we will update that later. :)

Its Go Time

Well here we go again ladies and gentlemen,
For what feels like the one hundredth time since October I find myself sitting in a airport in a country I know little to nothing about.
Today we are in Hong Kong, a city that I would love to experience but unfortunately today it’s just the airport I will be seeing. I am making my way for a 5 week jaunt around Thailand and now that I am nearly there I cant believe I am actually in this part of the world. Asia has always seemed like such a far away and mysterious place and now that I have finally made it here I can’t sit still with excitiement.
The Thailand adventure has started with the longest flight I have ever experienced, 11 hours, which, I know is not the longest possible, and I know many people who have done longer, but for someone who has never done more than 9, that last two hours were a killer.
However, flight time aside, it was a fantastic trip. I higlhy recommend Cathay Pacific, they provide excellent service and amended my greatest problem while flying by providing a decent amount of leg room. Also since I am very easily entertained, when I discovered how to recline my chair, I was very much amused. Rather then tilting the back of your chair it scoots your bum forward, and after sitting for longer then a normal work day I was extremely excited by this feature.
Anyways after taking my regular dose of motion sickness pills I managed to exist in a mostly comatose state for most of the flight, I watched a few movies, and tried my hardest to not annoy the shit out of my neighbor by constantly kicking her, which I failed horribly at.
So now I am nearly to my destination, I need to go find out what time it is here so I can catch my next flight. Bangkok awaits and I can not wait to meet up.

So Long 2011, 2012 BRING IT ON!

Well here we are folks the end of another year. Usually by this point I look back on my past year and think Ya good year, things happened, some didn’t. BUT THIS YEAR!!!! Holy cow was it a year. I made some great friends, grew a little, and had some incredible adventures. First of all graduating from University, a feat that felt like it would never come. However, I did it I have my degree and it was really five of the best years of my life.

The biggest moment of 2012 was my decision to leave everything I know behind and pack my bags and move to Europe. I have had some amazing times in countries I feel so lucky to have seen. I have learned that I can settle somewhere new and find my place wherever I go. It has only been three months but it just keeps getting better.

2012 has some big shoes to fill but I have a feeling that it might just be a contender for BEST. YEAR. EVER. We start with tonight New Years Eve, new friends, new places and good drinks!
January brings skiing in Austria, February and March is Thailand time and from there on who knows. I just know that the year will be a great one filled with new experiences, adventures and my amazing family and friends both from home and abroad!

So have a very happy new year and I wish that everyone’s 2012 is a year that tops all others!

Whiskey, Ghosts, and Bodily Functions

So day one in Edingburgh, a city I just realized I have been spelling wrong for a really long time…
My trip started yesterday with a very long bus ride, yet funnily enough I think I enjoy being on a bus for 10 hours rather than a plane for 9 hours. For one, the bus stopped twice which allowed me to get off stretch my legs, get a coffee, and avoid using what I can only imagine would be traumatic experience, using the bus loo.
Anyways I arrived in one well rested and ready to explore piece.
I managed to find my way to the hostel after figuring out my left and right, I will tell you now future travelers, this is a very vital skill, if you can learn which way is right and which is left you will avoid walking up and down the same ramp about 10 times also learning that St James and St Andrews are completely different words is a good skill to acquire as apparently i can neither tell directions, nor read.
Well that one speed bump was overcome and I found my way to my comfortable, friendly hostel, where I feel like I am on a serious drug trip as I walk though the hallways.
The Caledonian Backpackers Hostel is great, the staff are friendly there is a nice little bar, a kitchen, comfy beds, and it’s right in the middle of everything. For my first hostel experience I would say its a two thumbs up type place. Most surprising for me was my ability to sleep though the night with 9 other travelers in the room with me. The only awkward part was me a) dropping my kindle on the girl in the bottom bunk below me, and b) waking up before everyone else, then going on to wake everybody else while I shuffled around getting my crap out of my locker and then turning on my light to investigate the whereabouts of my kindle.

So yes I got up, and went to explore this awesome city, and obviously the first thing to do in the morning is to learn how whiskey is made and then drink whiskey at The Scotch Whiskey Experience. It starts of with a Disneyland type ride of sitting in a whiskey barel while it takes you on the magical journey of the life of a scotch whiskey. Some process involving water, barley, sugar, and time. Really the only thing I remember is that a barrel can lose up to 2% of it’s content a year and they call it “the angels share”. Anyways after my awesome little ride I got to choose the whiskey I would like to try ( I chose one from the Speyside region which, if you must know, has fruity hints in it’s flavor), I got to see the worlds largest collection of whiskey, and “enjoy” some whiskey. I’m not th biggest fan of whiskey but when in Rome.

Next up on the trip was a walk along the royal mile. Which is where I somehow managed to spend the rest of my day minus one detour to a pub which I will speak of later. So I was walking around waiting for a tour I had booked and I found a super cool street performer, he was a sword swallower and fire breather, it was cool not much more to say about that.

Ok so tour time, I joined merrkat tours, no not the African paranoid gophers, but market with a scottish accent, they took me on a historical look at the underground vaults of a bridge that I don’t remember the name of, some travel writer I will turn out to be. BUT they are according to the BBC the most haunted place in the UK. Before you ask no I did not have any meetings with those from the underworld, but I did learn a lot about the goings on in Edingburgh in the 17th and 18th centuries. The best part was about poop, because I am the most mature adult ever, but the thing is the streets here are really really tiny, and there were thousands of people who lived along these streets, and they didn’t have plumbing and everything just ended up in buckets which got thrown out the window and onto, yep that’s right, the people below. They had a law passed called the law of nastiness, which said they could not throw their buckets out until after dark, but ew… It didn’t really help.

After this tour, I went to The Last Drop, named for the location it was built, which was the square in which the public hangings took place. It is a pub which I highly recommend to any Edingburgh travelers. I had a delicious meal, and it’s just a really cool little place to hang out, it had a great atmosphere, and a chalk board on the back of the bathroom stall door to write notes on. This obviously made my day.

After dinner was another tour, a ghost tour, and this one was slightly disappointing. I went with a Witchery tour, and I think they cater to younger crowds as it was very very kitchy, the tour guide was dressed up as what I can only describe as a vampire, and there was a slightly entertaining man who would jump out from behind corners and what not to scare us. The information we were given was interesting, but the banter between the tour guide and the weird costumed guy was a little over the top, and it got old very quickly. BUT I learned about the poop situation again.. This time however it ended up with a bucket of water being dumped out on my feet by the strange costumed man, then that bucket was placed on my head which resulted in wet hair, wet jacket, and dirty glasses. So not a tour I would recommend I am afraid.

I had an amazing first day in Scotland, and although traveling by my lonesome still feels a little weird I am very glad I am pushing myself out of my comfort bubble and experiencing the world. I can honestly say I am having the time of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Back To Square One

It’s been a month since I moved across the world, and it seems like I have a lot of work to do before I am really settled in, but we’re going to take one thing at a time.
For now my goal is learn how to drive! I feel like I am 15 again, learning how to drive from square one. You would think it wouldn’t be to hard but when you consider how different the roads here actually are it’s not surprising I am having a few difficulties. For example:

1) there are about 60 million people living in a space smaller than the province of Alberta, creating a conflict with the amount of traffic I am used to dealing with.

2) the space issue comes into play again when you consider the size of the roads, after driving on the wide sprawling roads of Canada, I find myself drifting towards the edge of the road to avoid oncoming traffic on roads that feel like one car would be a stretch to fit, never mind two cars.

3) After driving an automatic for the entirety of my driving career I now find myself trying to learn how to drive a manual, add this to being on the wrong side of the car as well as the road and it feels like I am a disastrous car accident waiting to happen!

So far I have managed to keep myself, my car, and my fellow drivers safe, minus one slight stalling incident while trying to get into a roundabout. Everyday I am venturing a little further and getting into slightly busier traffic and who knows maybe by next week I will be able to venture into a town! But for now we will take it one step at a time and really this is just one more story to tell.

I Heart Germany

I think I have a new love and it is for a country. I have been in Germany for two days and I never want to leave. I met family at Baden Baden airport the town in which was apparently Hitler’s favorite spa, and when you have a town named Bath Bath it makes sense that it is famous for bathing mustached men.

On the way to my home for the five days I am here we drove through Germany then France then back into Germany it is the simple things like that, which make traveling in Europe so different, in North America you could never be in 3 countries before noon, and I may have gotten overly excited about this fact. It was kind of like when you are on time lines and jump back and forth because it’s like you are traveling time, other people do that right?

Anyways my next big adventure was breakfast with my family consisting entirely of bread of course (its the European way) and then off to the swimming pool to entertain the kids. The swimming pool was pretty typical minus the changing rooms, no gender seperation, just a giant hallway of little rooms with doors on two sides one way facing the entrance one way facing the pool. It was weird and I took a picture, my first one of my trip actually because yes I am that cool. Another difference that must be implemented in Canadian swimming pools everywhere, is the GIANT beer that I enjoyed pool side in a public indoor pool mind you!

My vacation has quickly turned into a food and alcohol fest, the evening after drinking beer at the pool was spent at a wine festival drinking neuerwine, a wine that has not quite finished fermenting and is kind of fizzy and absolutely and completely delicious, apparently tourists are usually wasted at these festivals because the neuerwine tastes like juice and is super easy to drink. Although judging by the local old men on the swings, and the sparkly purple jump suited man providing the entertainment, I feel that the neuerwine effects pretty much everyone.

I had my taste of rural Germany and today was spent in the urban center of Klon. We took the train from Neustadt to Klon along the Rhine, it was beautiful I took roughly 20 pictures of the first castle I saw then quickly realized there was a castle on every corner of the river. So I decided rather than enjoy the scenery it was time to introduce my 3 and 2 year old cousins to Angry Birds.

Klon is a beautiful city with roughly the same population of Calgary, yet it seems much much busier. Today we just roamed around the city center and I was mesmerized by everything including: the walk up windows at burger king, the girls in fuzzy pink bunny suits outside a store, and the increadibly well groomed men. I can completely see myself living here and although the language differences scare me a little, especially when old ladies start just talking away in German to me, the atmosphere, the food, and the people make Germany an amazing place to travel to.

I’m on a Plane!

Actually I am sitting in the airport waiting for my plane, and any hope I had of having an empty plane are quickly going out the window I’m nit entirely sure how they will fit this many people. Oh well once I drug myself enough I will sleep not matter how tightly I’m squeezed into a plane. Oh little side note. Apparently I am stopping in Glasgow so woohoo! There’s an extra however many hours that I am going to get to sit on a plane.

Packing: a.k.a. If I can’t figure this backpack out I’m not going

Its the day before I leave and yep, I am just starting packing today. For those of you who know me this is not a surprise, for those of you who do not know me let me introduce you to the worlds worst procrastinator. I of course knew this was going to happen, I tried to change my ways quitting one of my jobs two weeks early, making small attempts to write packing lists, yet once again I am scrambling to get things done. Even as I sit writing this I have a giant pile of clothes and other miscellaneous items begging to be packed, and all it took was one slight disagreement with my backpack to set me back another 5 minutes. Ok I will come back to this post time for round 2.

Dilemma number 2: As I have mentioned before I am moving to the UK, I’m not just visiting for a couple of weeks. This is creating a rather large problem as I decide what to pack. I am trying to keep my bags as light as possible while at the same time bringing as few bags as possible. It’s not working. I am definitely the typical girl when it comes to shoes and I am beginning to realize I may have to limit myself to the basics. I also love jackets and sweaters, unfortunately these items are bulky and heavy. I’m starting to think I should have purchased some of those vacuum bag things you see on late night infomercials. Although that might not help with the baggage weight situation.

4 hours later and I am almost done. After packing and repacking and packing and repacking I think I have my suitcases down to an acceptable weight. Really they should make exceptions for people not merely going for a few weeks vacation. I fully realize I am not moving to a country where they do not make clothing but I like my clothes thats why I bought them. Now all that’s left is to clean the mess that I have made in the process. I must keep telling my self this is worth it because at this point the stress of packing is kinda bumming me out.

Here We Go

I have decided to reopen my thoughts and experiences to the blogosphere and since I am embarking on quite possibly the biggest adventure of my life I have finally found a consistent theme!

For those who don’t know I am moving to the United Kingdom. Why you may ask? I honestly can’t think of and answer for that other than, I just am. I graduated from University in the spring and seeing as I have no real ties or obligations holding me down I figured why not see the world.

So here we go:

Although my main reason for travelling has been, “because I want to” I have had a few inspirations that i believe instilled the wanderlust that has taken over every cell of my body; the first being these guys:

Three guys close to my age who literally just decided to take a year out of their lives to take a video camera and see the world. Ever since I saw Departures I knew I had to go to as many places in the world as my budget and physical abilities will allow. I may not have the camera equipment but I definitely have the passion and desire to experience things completely foreign to me in every sense of the word.

My second inspirations are my parents; my mom moved to Canada from the UK when she was in her 20’s and never looked back. It is her courage to take a leap of faith that inspires me and I know she would be very proud of what I am about to do. My father also had the traveller spirit in him. I grew up listening to stories of working on the trains over the summers travelling from one end of Canada to the other and working his way up from dishwasher to head cook, and stories of hitchhiking from Montreal to the Yukon and the amazing people he met and experiences that are as unique as they are unforgettable. My parents were fearless and spontaneous and I would like to think that I have inherited a smidgen of what allowed them to follow their hearts and passions.

So in 8 days I am taking off, I don’t know when I will be back but thats the joy of it I am defating my fear of the unknown and I think we are going to have a wild ride.

-Kathleen