I walk the streets of Japan ’till I get lost…

…because it doesn’t remind me of anything.

Anyone uncool enough to be familiar with Audioslave would know these lyrics and could have joined me in consistently singing them whilst getting lost in the streets of Japan. Needless to say, my travel companions didn’t appreciate my penchant to sing karaoke outside of karaoke bars nearly as much as I did. My poor singing aside, Japan is best described as a sensory overload within which, nothing actually makes sense. Rule number one in Japan is not to question anything; lest you go mad searching for logic. Basically, Japan is to crazy what Russia is to gas; sitting on enough reserves to supply the world for decades. “What the actual f**k?” becomes a daily question to which “…because Japan” is the most accurate answer. And it is precisely this inherent madness that enchanted me so much; that out of everywhere I have ever been, I yearn to go back to Japan the most. In no particular order (and certainly not a complete list) here are a few of Japan’s ‘quirks’, experiences and lessons I’ve learnt:

1. Efficiency is just not always a priority: On the surface, Japan is seen as a technological wonderland of science and innovation. To an extent this is true, with whole suburbs being dedicated to electronics and wireless internet literally being dispensed from vending machines. However, doing mundane tasks like checking into a hostel or sending a postcard require a minimum of 10 pages of paperwork and an abacus. I wish I was kidding. One chain hostel my friend and I stayed at calculated the amount we owed using 12 steps by hand, on paper. Hiring portable wifi for 5 days required the same set of forms to be filled out everyday whilst exchanging pre-paid Disneyland passes for tickets was a 15 minute process. Whilst some aspects of Japan run at extreme efficiency, like the amazing train networks (but only before midnight), other services seem to pose an extreme resentment for automation.

2. Toilets resemble the bridge of the Starship Enterprise:  Going to the bathroom is an new adventure every time, so much so, that when you encounter a normal western toilet, you don’t know how to react. All Japanese toilets are equipped with a bidet, which is a flowery term for a burst of water that gets fired at your tenderness. More complicated toilets involve multiple settings you can adjust depending on your tenderness’..ahem, sensitivity. What’s more, toilets are equipped with seat warmers, deodorisation, a catalog of relaxation music and multiple flush noises (yes, you read that correctly and no, I’m not kidding).

3. Shinjuku station is the scariest place I’ve ever been:  Anyone who can master Shinjuku station should be given God status. It is the world’s busiest station in the heart of Tokyo and has 36 platforms, over 200 exits and on average 4 million people pass through it everyday. Hours were spent everyday just trying to get out of the station, and then inadvertently walking the entire way round it as we took the wrong exit. Speaking of stations, in Tokyo, when walking through them one must always walk on the left, except on escalators where you stand on the left and walk on the right. Naturally, in Osaka the opposite rules apply. As for everywhere else, you must always read the signs as you sometimes have to stick to the left and sometimes to the right. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative, after all. Japan1

4. ALL of the convince stores and vending machines:  Between 7-11, Family Mart and Lawsons (my personal favourite) it feels like Japan has as many convenience stores as people. And they sell everything from fresh sushi to cosmetics to see-through umbrellas (for when you accidentally get caught in a typhoon). Everything is packaged 5 times over, to the point that I feel safe in assuming that Japan has declared a shadow war on both plastic and trees. But then outside each connivence store (and most other places) is a complex recycling system where each material has it’s own bin. Fittingly, Japan uses the most plastic packaging material per capita in the world whilst also boasting one of the highest recycling rates in the world. As for vending machines, they’re located on every corner and sell anything from beer to camera batteries.

5. Drink outside, smoke inside: With booze so readily available from both convenience stores and vending machines, drinking in public is commonplace. It’s even legal to do so on public transport (but speaking on the phone is frowned upon). Smoking however, is prohibited on the sidewalk except for around public ashtrays. The smaller a bar or restaurant, the higher the chance you’ll be allowed to smoke there. Then there are the pachinko parlours, which are an array of outrageously loud slot machines seen through extreme smoke. And it wouldn’t feel right to write a post about Japan without mentioning Golden Gai or ‘Piss Alley’ as it’s more colloquially known. It is a collection of nearly 200 tiny bars over 6 alleyways in Shinjuku, Tokyo. A nightlife unlike I’ve ever experienced. And the plum wine. Oh, the plum wine!

6. Unparalleled history and people: Whilst experiencing the ‘cities within cities’ of Tokyo and Osaka was a delight for the senses, the more laid back and traditional Kyoto and Hiroshima were just as mesmerising (topics for another post I feel). Becoming a Geisha (and then subsequently stalking a few real Geisha) in Kyoto and experiencing the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum were two of my favourite experiences whilst in Japan and made me realise just how much diverse history such a relatively small country has. As for the people we encountered, I don’t have words to describe their kindness and humility. Each time we stopped someone and asked for directions (which was often) we were met with graciousness to such an extent I haven’t experienced anywhere else in the world.

Geisha Classiness.

Geisha Classiness.

Japan itself is incredibly diverse and it’s culture is so different from ‘the West’ that I feel I could go on writing about little experiences forever, but I’ll spare my readership of 4 such turmoil and end on a fun point…

7. Maid cafes are a thing: So are cat cafes. And owl cafes. And robot cafes.                                                                                                         …because Japan. There are so many more quirks, encounters, and interesting facets I have to share about Japan. Some places seem to occupy a special part of you and Japan (and Tokyo in particular) has definitely been one of those places for me. I simply can’t wait to go back and explore every nook and cranny. And then go back again every time the seasons change.

 

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Ain’t no mountain high enough…

Let me start by giving this story a little context: a few months ago my friend, lets call her ‘G’ and I decided to go overseas to celebrate the end of our academic years. G was in the thesis year of her degree and I was suffering through my Masters, thus we thought we’d go somewhere warm and sunny to relax and rejuvenate. We picked Tahiti, bought bikinis and cleared our calendars. Upon arriving at the travel agent to book our flights, we noticed a poster for a sale on trips going to Everest Base Camp and subsequently made fun of the masochistic people who would voluntarily spend their hard earned holiday time trekking to such a place.

In an attempt of self preservation, my mind seems to have blacked out the 2 hours we spent at the travel agent. The next thing I remember, I was handing over my credit card to pay for flights to Nepal and a non-refundable 19 day trek to Gokyo Lakes and Everest Base Camp. To this day, G and I are still perplexed at how quickly it all happened.
Now, as the inter-webs are bursting with blogs recounting the day-by-day experiences of the trek, I thought I’d spare my readership of 4 of all the boring details. Instead I’ll just make a few comments about the things I learnt whilst on the trek/ things I should have known if I’d bothered to do any research before actually going on it.

Let’s talk about OH&S:
I’m terrified, mortified, petrified and stupefied of flying. My completely rational fear stems from both not understanding how planes work and from knowing that human beings are not evolutionarily equipped to fly at great speeds in metal containers. I also possess a considerable disdain for airports and struggle to go near one without first drinking a bottle of valium.
So it’s only natural that on the first day of the trek we flew a teeny-tiny plane from Lukla 'airport'Kathmandu to Lukla ‘airport’. I use inverted commas because the Nepalese people seem to be set on calling Lukla a real airport whilst I think a more accurate description would be ‘runway to death’.
Quite literally, Lukla ‘airport’ is comprised of one runway which is inconviently situated at a 30 degree angle on a cliff. Should the plane not stop in time, you fall off the cliff and join the wreckages of the multitude of other planes whose breaks weren’t up to scratch. Lukla is actually the most dangerous ‘airport’ in the world; a fun fact to learn whilst on the plane flying to it.
To make matters worse, getting to Lukla involves flying through small corridors in-between mountains all whilst watching the pilot take their hands off the steering wheel to wipe the windshield with toilet paper every 5 minutes.
I have no doubt though, that if you don’t spend the hour flight screaming and fearing for your life, it would be quite a scenic trip.

Sherpas and Porters are actually super-heros in disguise:
In Lukla we met our Sherpas and Porters who would stay with us for the duration of the trek. The Sherpas job was to guide the group and generally keep us alive whilst the Porters job was to carry our kit bags. On average the Porters carried 30kg each on their backs (two kit bags, first aid kits and their own packs). They always walked ahead of the group and managed to complete each days trek in half the time we did and with a smile on their face. Their sheer athletic ability commands the upmost respect and puts the rest of us to shame.

2It’s easy to forget that the only means of transport above Lukla is walking, thus everything from food to bricks needs to be carried up the mountain on foot. Seeing men and women carry up to 60kg of building materials on their backs up the mountain for a livelihood is a humbling experience that puts a leisurely walk with just a daypack into perspective.

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Frozen hair

Brrrr, it’s cold in here:
Due to both poor planning and sheer stupidity, we undertook our trek in December which is one the coldest months of the year. Everything above the tree line was frozen over which made for some stunning scenery, albeit slippery walks. The nights got to -26 degrees celsius which really put sleeping bags to the test. Rather than having competitions on who could walk the fastest, the group got competitive over who could wear the most layers of clothing or feel their toes for the longest.

The scenery is unbeatable: 
The terrain changed everyday and the topography was just incredible. Waking up to snow capped mountains and waterfalls everyday is an experience I’ll never forget. For me, the most beautiful part of the trek was the Gokyo region, which is comprised of the three highest (and bluest) lakes in the world each with snowcapped mountains in the back ground. Walking up to Gokyo peak we were face to face with four 8000-metre giants: Everest, Cho Oyo, Lhotse and Makalu along with the Ngozumpa Glacier and the third lake. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world and consequently no photo can do it justice.

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Who needs doctors when you can self-medicate: 
In any other situation most members of our trekking group would be put in psychiatric wards for the amount of pill popping that went on. Most days included concoctions of at least 5 different medications to counteract aches, pains and the dreadful altitude.

Dr. G was very impressed with herself. I was not.

Dr. G was very impressed with herself. I was not.

G, who is  studying medicine became the resident doctor and spent her days diagnosing and prescribing for everyones ailments. After a nasty slip on ice which caused my hand to develop elephantiasis, she even became a medical MacGyver shovelling ice into a bag to make an ice pack, creating a splint out of cardboard and fastening so many bandages to my arm and body that I felt half mummified.

You actually can get drunk in the cold: 
On the way down, the carb-loading stops and the drinking begins. Namche is home to the highest Irish Pub in the world at 3445m; frankly it’s sacrilege not to go in and have a drink (or 12) there. We also experimentally proved that you can indeed get drunk in the cold and that we’re considerably better at walking on ice after a few everest beers.

Wouldn’t have had it any other way: 
Despite the physical and (more so) emotional challenge of the trip, I loved every minute of it. Overall, the trek was physically easier than I anticipated it would be, but emotionally it was more challenging. Going into it not knowing exactly what to expect enhanced the experience and ‘curveballs’ such as the weather and broken scaphoids only rendered it more memorable.
Whilst the paths are becoming busy and increasingly more tourist friendly they still have an authentic feel. There is nothing like the Himalayas to make you feel utterly insignificant (in the best way possible) and getting home after 19 days of trekking to feel an unbeatable sense of pride and achievement.

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Yakkity-Yak

I still have many more tales and memories from the trek, be they the incredible food, pushy yaks, wonderful people, scary suspension bridges, questionable hygiene practices, helicopter rides and fun times. The trip has left me with many incredible memories and is something I would recommend people to do in a heartbeat.

In hindsight, Nepal was just as relaxing, rejuvenating and (probably) more incredible than Tahiti would have been, just with more yaks.

A Postcard from Croatia

Okay, someone needs to get me out of here!
I’m encompassed by intoxicating beauty, inconceivable tranquility and warm hospitality; all whilst being immersed in a culture and history that contextualises post-war Europe.
I’m surrounded by a plethora of rustic castles bathed in soft light and kissed by the gentle sun. I spend my days grazing on heavenly food and basking in the perfect weather whilst walking along breathtakingly beautiful beaches. I spend my nights revelling in world-famous nightlife and in the company of ridiculously handsome and excruciatingly delightful locals, visitors and friends.

If I don’t leave now I fear I’ll never return home.

If I don’t leave now, I will never feel content anywhere else in the world. For no where else is this awe-inspiring, this stunning and this exhilerating. How am I ever going to return home and continue living my life when I have seen and experienced paradise? How can I return to normalcy, knowing that my normalcy doesn’t include spending endless hours lying in lavender fields reading books and drinking wine, while birds chirp brightly? Or eating freshly caught fish whilst butterflies dance around me and the cool gentle Adriatic breeze blows over me.

How can I leave a place that is a jewel of the Mediterranean and not look back and dream of staying forever? A place that incorporates bewitching architecture, heavenly landscapes and Renaissance culture while at the same time, illuminating that the counterpoint of existential pain is humans’ deep capacity for happiness.

A place that irrespective of it’s geographical location; a part of the world that has played witness to so much destruction, heartache and tribulation is, like most of the Balkans taking steps forward to peace, stability and rightful prosperity. How can I leave here, part of a land that I emanate from and not be moved by it’s history, it’s trials and it’s beauty?

Someone needs to get me out of here before I irrationally decide to stay forever.

But I know at the end of the day, another home, far away from this one awaits me. And I’ll leave; reluctantly, but I’ll leave. For I know it won’t be long before I come back…

Layla and I with an amazing view in Hvar - an island off Split.

Layla and I with an amazing view in Hvar – an island off Split.

Keep Calm and Rule Britannia

Disclaimer: If you’re English, easily offended or unable to take a joke it may be best if you stop reading this now.

Can I just say, I love the English!
Their default setting of forming an orderly queue as soon as more than two people are assembled. Their sweetness: “Mind the gap please.” Their constant need to complain (which my English friend explained “It’s not that we’re whiners, it’s just that we like talking and everything happens to be shit.”)

I love how all the desserts are called puddings and have names like spotted dick. I love that all the pubs have names like Badger’s Arse, the Vicar’s Cock and the Hairy Snatch (and before you ask, yes I went to all three.) And I love how adorable their justification and better yet, denial of the class system is. If you have second-class stamps, a monarchy, hereditary titles and use the nationality of your nanny as a social class marker, it may be time to admit to the class system.

But most of all, I love how the English speak English. I love that their initial response to every request is “Sorry”, like they’ve forgotten to deal with my request without possibly being able to pre-empt it. “Could you pass me that paper?”, “Oh sorry, here you go.” “Could you tell me where the bathrooms are?” “Oh, terribly sorry, first door on the right.” “Would you be so kind as to take your pants off and moon walk across the room whilst holding a milk crate above you head?” “Frightfully sorry, yes, just a moment, how dreadfully rude of me.”

I was in London for a week and I loved every moment of it. I wasn’t in London for the weather or the food though. I was in London exclusively for the pubs and the chat. Words like ‘knackered,’ ‘wankered’ and ‘twat’. Terms like ‘feeling poorly,’ ‘she’s a right nutter’ and ‘he’s a pompous git.’ I love that pants are ‘trousers’ and thongs are ‘flip flops.’ I love that the elderly are described using words like ‘barking,’ ‘batty,’ ‘bonkers,’ and ‘barmy’ and that’s just the b’s.

People don’t kiss, they ‘tash on’. The boys are ‘lads’, the girls are ‘birds’ and you’re not ‘attractive’ you’re ‘fit’. But most of all I love that you don’t get drunk you get ‘mortal’ and everything is ‘proper’ or ‘well;’ well good, well done and well right.

The typical tourist shot...

The typical tourist shot…

I love that there are so many incredible sights to see and how enriched in history England is. I love just how good the public transport system is (I think I spent half my time in London just riding the tube and getting excited every time I went past a Monopoly station). I love how despite the amazing public transport system, Londoners still find reasons to complain about it. I love that when I got off at Clapham Station there was an announcement: “The temperature is expected to be mid to high. Please take note of information on the platform posters and carry a bottle of water with you at all times. If you are feeling unwell, please approach a member of staff.” It was 23 degrees.

And I love the pubs. Boy oh boy did I love the pubs. “Fancy a pint” became music to my ears. And I can’t possibly write a post about London without mentioning ‘The Church’ (and the subsequent pilgrimage to the ‘Walkabout.’)
The Church: A fine establishment for a classy Sunday session.
It’s just unfortunate that it gets taken over by hundreds of drunk Australians in costumes every Sunday between the hours of 12 and 4 for a ‘piss up’ like no other. In the space of 4 hours I lost my dignity, self respect and any respect I had for my friends who encouraged the outing to The Church. Not to mention, my eyes have been irreparably scarred for life.

But amongst all the festivities, I do have one complaint to make about England. Everything I wanted to buy was double the price and then a bit more than I thought it would be. Oxford Street committed daylight robbery on my bank account to say the least. And this was made even worse by the English customer service mantra: ‘First-World prices; Third-World service’. But my complaint quickly gets countered by my love of English fashion.

Lie back and think of England? Don’t mind if I do.

Reality sucks; I wanna go back to Hogwarts.

So after a few glorious months away in Europe, I’m back in Melbourne. Upon hugging my mother hello, I had completed everything I wanted to do in Melbourne and am now ready to leave again. This is not a reflection of my life here, but rather a reflection of just how good the past few months have been.

My initial intentions of posting about my travels whilst away died within approximately 30 minutes of me arriving on European soil (coincidentally, the same amount of time it took for me to have a cider in my hand). So now my head is bursting with destinations and stories I want to share with anyone I’ve pestered enough to click on my page.

It seems logical (to me at least) to tell you about the last place I went to, first. And that just happens to be Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! I don’t know about you but whenever I read ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry‘ in my head I hear it said in a deep, booming, dramatic Dumbledore sounding voice. No, just me?

Now just to clarify, I didn’t go to the actual school (my acceptance letter got lost in the mail a few years back) but I did go to the Warner Brothers London Studio where all the magic was made. And it was only the greatest day ever!

The tour starts with the Great Hall and proceeds to go through all the authentic sets, costumes and props showcasing the British artistry, technology and talent that went into making all 8 movies. Surprisingly, more adults than children visit the studios and as a general rule, the children that do come are considerably better behaved than the adults.

At the studios you’re give the chance to fly a broomstick, drive the Weasley’s blue car and walk down Diagon Alley. There are also snitches to be found, emblems to be collected and the unwritten competition between friends where the first to state what movie and when any prop, picture or costume was used gets a point. It gets very competitive and mildly violent very fast.

Seeing Gringotts, Ollivanders and drinking Butter Beer outside Privet Drive is a truly magical experience and the energy and excitement of all the other visitors and staff is incredibly contagious and uplifting. Basically, if you’re not a delusional crying mess during and after the tour; you’re doing it wrong.

If you manage to get through the whole tour without fainting from excitement (it’s actually harder than it sounds) you get to the mystical and spell-binding (albeit expensive) gift-shop. A place where small children and grown men alike were crying over £30 marauder’s maps. Thanks to the gift-shop and after being sorted by the trusty sorting hat (twice for good measure) I can now rock my new authentic Ravenclaw scarf when I go out (I know I’m really showing off my geek cards/cred here).

Overall it was just an incredible day and place to visit. It was obvious that a lot of care was taken to ensure that the studios felt authentic and still held surprises for the tragic’s among us who have read and seen the movies more times then they care to count. The studios had so much positive energy and happiness that they felt like a tangible anti-depressant, and thus the true magic of Harry Potter was shown.

The last time I re-read all 7 books was the summer of 2010/11. Visiting the studios has inspired me to do it all again…so let my re-re-re-re-re-read (I’m just estimating here) begin.

The following are a few happy snaps from the day:

Nikola Tesla, you electrify my world!

Firstly I want to apologize to my avid readers for not posting in so long. I know there are only 5 of you and I’ve spoken to each of you individually in the past week but nonetheless, I feel a public apology is required to make me sound popular and in-demand.
I’ve spent the last 8 weeks travelling through Scandinavia and the Balkans. Or more accurately I’ve spent the last 8 weeks falling in love with Scandinavian men, eating Swedish Meatballs, getting fat due to eating too many Swedish meatballs, pretending I can drink new people I meet under the table, only ever succeeding in drinking myself under the table, trying to understand Balkan politics, getting a headache and giving up, generally re-falling in love with the Balkans, their people and culture and picking up the odd Canadian at various stages of the trip.

Now that you’re updated on what I’ve been up to I can get to the point of this post…and that is to declare my love for Nikola Tesla. Now before you say it, I know he died nearly 70 years ago and was reportedly in love with a pigeon, but I’m choosing to ignore those minor details and focus on the bigger picture.

Coming from a Balkan background, I grew up hearing stories about Tesla and his inventions, but after visiting his museum in Belgrade a couple of days ago I only now grasp the true genius the man was and how much he has impacted the world as we know it.

Tesla was a super-genius whose intellect placed him dangerously on the precipice of “great scientific mind” and “bat-shit crazy”. He was born in 1856 in modern day Croatia to Serbian parents (this is where the aforementioned Balkan politics can get complicated but I digress). Tesla spoke 8 languages and almost single-handedly developed technology that harnessed the power of electricity for household use. His inventions include electrical generators, FM radio, remote controls, robots and florescent lights just to name a few. In between accidently causing earthquakes and enormous bolts of lighting, Tesla also harnessed the power of Niagara Falls and created the first hydroelectric plant. Tesla did advanced calculus in his head, memorized entire books word for word and successfully pulled off scientific experiments that modern day technology still can’t replicate. Pretty hard act to follow if you ask me.

But despite his colossal genius, he was a naïve businessman and was constantly taken advantage of.
In 1884 Tesla began working for Edison in New York. Edison offered Tesla $50,000 (a modern day million dollars) to improve his DC generators; when Tesla did just that Edison stole his idea and told Tesla he simply didn’t “understand American humor”.
Naturally, Tesla quit working for Edison and started working on his alternating current electrical system. He entered a contract with Westinghouse that would earn him a dollar per horsepower royalty for his AC system. Given today, everyone in the world uses his AC system, the contract would have effectively made him the richest person in the world. But Tesla tore up that contract and gave his invention away for free. Whilst Edison measured the value of his inventions by how much money they made Tesla measured his by how much good they did.

The case of the radio is another where Tesla was robbed. Marconi was an Italian inventor who won the Nobel Prize for inventing the radio. When he became world famous for sending the first translantic message Tesla was quoted as saying “Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents”. In 1943 an American Supreme Court ruled that Marconi in fact stole many of Tesla’s patents and thus Tesla was the true inventor of the radio. Yet despite the ruling, Tesla never received a Nobel Prize.

Of course like most other diabolical masterminds, Telsa was also mildly insane. He was prone to nervous breakdowns, had bizarre visions at night and occasionally thought he was receiving electromagnetic signals from Mars (although, who are we to say he wasn’t?) He also suffered from OCD, hated round objects, human hair and anything that wasn’t divisible by three.

The sad part of this whole story is that Tesla died alone in a New York hotel room penniless and in debt. The FBI confiscated all his personal belongings and his body was bizarrely exhumed years after his burial and cremated. His ashes are on display with all his remaining possessions in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, the only one of its kind.
Despite being one of the greatest minds ever to have lived, having nearly 300 registered patents and contributing so much to society, Tesla today remains largely overlooked among lists of the greatest inventors and scientists of the modern era. It’s clear when you read about his life that money and recognition meant nothing to him. He was a true inventor who found happiness in his creations. He was a man displaced in time and the definition of true genius.
Here’s hoping more people learn about his contribution to humanity, his ‘madness’ becomes embraced rather than feared and his name lives on.

How to behave in airports: A guide

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way responsible for anything that happens as a result of you following this guide or anything that happens during your life as a result of your debilitating inability to understand sarcasm. Additionally, this post was written on a iPad with anxiously shaking hands and a severe time limit (I’m being called to the gate and about to engage rule 6) so please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors. 

I find myself in Sydney airport staring down the barrel of a 15 hour flight and bottle of valium. Rather than sitting here constantly visualizing my plane exploding, I’m forcing myself to observe my surroundings and focus on something other than my imminent death. Which brings me to my realization of my utmost hatred of airports. They’re gigantic; stressful shopping Mecca’s that someone has cleverly added a sterilized smell, complicated signs and a few runways to.

To ease my flying anxiety levels (I don’t understand how planes work and thus am scared of them) I thought I’d comprise a (non-comprehensive) list of apparently compulsory behaviors when in an airport:

DEPARTURE:
(It should go without saying that you should arrive late. It’s so painfully obvious that it doesn’t warrant it’s own point).

1. You are the most important person in the airport. Actually, you’re the most important person that has ever lived.
This is an idea that you can (and should) apply at every possible juncture of your trip. It is imperative that you remember you are the most important person in the airport. This gives you complete license to behave in ways that outside the airport are seen as rude, abrasive, arrogant and completely unacceptable.

2. Queuing is more of a guideline than a rule.
In airports, queuing doesn’t really apply. If you happen to find yourself in a line, tut loudly and ensure everyone around you knows exactly how annoyed you are at having to line up.  Ensure you wait for the opportune moment, when the person in front of you is retrieving something from their backpack or checking their phone and then try and squeeze in front of them. You can make the most of this situation when you have a family – getting four people and a crying baby into the gap is an excellent technique and will be appreciated by all. Lastly, do not give anyone in the queue any personal space. At all. Ever. Stand no more than 20 centimeters away from the person in front of you and make sure your bags are touching them at all times.

3. Checked baggage must be oversized and unreasonably heavy.
Ensure that any baggage you check in before departure weighs no less than a Mazda 2. This means that not only can you obstruct everyone around you with an enormous bag that is impossible to move; it will also cost you the total GDP of Botswana to get it onto the plane. When you’re inevitably told that you will have to pay an extra fee for your significant weight violation, make an extremely emotional, Oscar-worthy scene before paying the fee you knew you’d have to pay.

4. Act as if security is ruining your life.
When you arrive at security, don’t do what they ask. Don’t remove your coat, belt and shoes and don’t put your phone, laptop and metals in the tray provided. Just don’t. As you hold up everyone behind you; when you get asked to do the aforementioned things, exhale loudly and act as if you have just been accused of international terrorism. When placing liquids into small plastic bags, ensure they’re all over the permitted limit and then loudly complain about the ‘bureaucratic insanity’ and ‘post 9/11 nightmare’ this ordeal is.

5. Shop like you’ve never shopped before.
Shop like a pissed off zombie with a penchant for extreme capitalism. Ignore that you have no space in your hand luggage and buy everything you can see. When in doubt, buy two.

6. When you’re called to the gate, engage rule one immediately.
You should always engage rule one, but here it’s particularly essential. Speed is of the essence. Take no prisoners. Run and verbally abuse everyone to get to your gate. Nobody has immunity now. You are the master of your destiny, and no one should dare come between you and your specially reserved seat next to the other less-specially reserved seats.

When you’re at your gate, don’t take a seat and wait patiently until you’re called to board. Stand at the desk and force a smug, self-righteous smile. You standing there will inspire everybody else to think that they aren’t going to get a seat on the aircraft. Before you know it, your behavior will have encouraged the entire plane to stand up and queue for the next hour. You are doing an excellent service.

7. Holding everyone behind you up is vital to your happiness.
Do not follow instructions and have appropriate documents ready to display. Actually make sure they are at the bottom of your bag and you have spilt at least half a bottle of orange juice all over them.
Additionally, when you’re told that your hand luggage exceeds the permitted size and you have to check in it (after obeying rule 5 of course), remember that this is entirely the airline employees’ fault. They personally made the rules and are intentionally ruining your holiday. Rip them a new one for keeping the rule consistent. All whilst holding everyone behind you up.

ON THE PLANE:

1. Behave like a total wanker. (It’s an all encompassing rule).
Where possible, behave as inappropriately as you can. Speak loudly so everyone can hear you. Poke your children until they are grumpy and crying for the entire duration of the flight. Fall asleep on the person next to you. Complain about the lack of leg room by kicking the seat in front of you. Criticize the price of drinks and the fact your 2-hour flight doesn’t come with an in-flight meal. If, by chance you do have an in-flight meal ensure everyone knows that you hate airline food and it tastes like cat piss. Also, make sure everyone is aware that you’re listening to the latest Lady Gaga single and artistically, it’s the best work she’s ever done.

Further ideas include taking a window seat and going to the bathroom every 20 minutes, laughing like a demented hyena at any in-flight entertainment and speaking loudly through safety demonstrations. If challenged, loudly proclaim that you can swim and don’t actually need any advice.

ARRIVAL:

1. Get up and get your bags before the aircraft is parked.
The split second after your plane has made contact with the runway, take your seatbelt off and grab your bags from the overhead compartments. Members of the crew may tell you not to, but they’re not even your real Dad and you can do whatever you like. Don’t forget to make negative comments about the weather and scramble to the front of the plane to ensure you disembark first. Ensure, where possible you obstruct and hinder the lives of others.

2. Make picking up checked baggage as big an ordeal as humanly possible.
Use points 1 and 2 to navigate your way through passport control. Ignore the fact there are hundreds of bags that needs to be processed and loudly explain to everyone that your 4 minute wait is just unacceptable. Get in the way of anyone trying to get their bags. Complain how you will never travel with *insert airline* ever again. Combine this with a loud telephone conversation about your nightmare trip for full effect.

India, you’re incredible!

Out of all the places I have travelled to, India has been my favorite. Trying to explain the country to people that haven’t been is like explaining astrophysics to a 5 year old or social skills to Sheldon Cooper. Just impossible.

India is organized chaos to the absolute extreme. Regardless of whether you go north, south or somewhere in the middle you’ll be surrounded by people, cows and maddening traffic. The holy mantra written on the back of each vehicle is what keeps the system going: HORN PLEASE. Everyone seems to drive with one hand on the horn and the other on their mobile. The roads of India make up most of it’s soundtrack. A chaotic symphony of deep blasts, staccato honks, high-pitched beeps, Bollywood music booming from radios and verbal abuse being yelled at anyone and everyone on the roads. It’s as though Indians drive by sound, but many are deaf.

There is also a strict pecking order on the roads: pedestrians are on the bottom and must dodge everything, bicycles give way to cycle-rickshaws, with make way for auto-rickshaws, which stop for small cars, which give way to big cars, who are subservient to trucks. Buses only stop for one thing (and no, it’s not customers – who jump on whist they’re still moving). The only thing that will stop a bus is the king of the road and lord of all this maddness: a cow.
Cows know they are in charge and enjoy messing with the system. They’ll step off median strips just as cars are approaching, stand in the middle of busy intersections and turn up their noses as they pass elephants and camels.

All this goes on as people are curled up on the sidewalk asleep, slum dwellers find places to squat for their daily ‘ablutions’, whole families fight over who sits where as they all fit on a single motorcycle and food gets cooked in stalls along the footpath. There’s color everywhere, spices get sold by the kilo and stunning patchworks come together on the sidewalk. Women roam the streets in beautiful saris and wear as many plastic bangles as can possibly fit onto their arms. They carry baskets of food on their heads and get followed by stray dogs and monkeys. Kids play on the streets, the Gods are worshipped but cricket stars are worshipped more. Stalls selling fruits I’d never even seen before pop up on every corner, the most basic of slum houses all have satellite TV’s, Bollywood soaps are watched religiously and most importantly, despite the incredible and widespread poverty, everyone always has a huge smile on their face.

After a while, you get used to the bizarre noises, smells and traffic vibrations and can’t help but join in on the madness. As a tourist, you soon learn to accept that you will never be able to understand how the organized chaos works so you just have to embrace it. You learn to enjoy the food, learn how to communicate with the people (ambiguous head-shake anyone?) and even learn to tolerate the diarrhea explosions. It’s all just part of the adventure. Not having a plan is the best plan.
The south is much more relaxed than the north. The ‘suits’ in the north (mainly in the bigger cities) are replaced by 70 year old hippies in the south. Nothing makes sense, but everything works. Every city is different and even if you spend a lifetime exploring every corner of the country you still won’t see it all.

I spent an absolutely incredible month in India traveling from Delhi to Goa. One post can’t even begin to do my experience justice so watch this space. In the meantime, here are a few snaps I took that might better explain the unexplainable. I can’t wait to go back.