Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Eurotrip Part 3 - The Final Countdown Begins

Oh how time flies when you're hopping between countries and having the time if your life. I'm not even sure where to start with this post, it's been so long! I cannot believe two and a half months have already passed and that I'll be going home in less than a month. I never want it to end! But at the same time, it'll be nice not to share a room with 8 other people for a change. 

As I start writing this post, I'm sitting enjoying a glass of wine by the Grand Canal in Venice, watching the gondolas go by. Life could definitely be worse. Since my last post on the Greek Islands, I've visited quite a number of places so I'll try to skip all of the boring details and just write about the best (and worst) stories of the past couple of months. 

Here goes..

Barcelona
Most places that I'd loved up until this point were largely to do with the people I was with at the time. In Barcelona, I did meet some great people but I also fell in love with the city. It's such a beautiful place with amazing architecture, great food, a beach.. What more could you want! I loved Barcelona so much that I forfeited flights I'd already booked to Ibiza to stay longer. Plus Ibiza is supposed to be crazy expensive and didn't really sound like my type of place. 

In one of my typical travel fail moments, I booked a flight in the middle of the night and arrived in Barcelona at a ridiculous time of about 4.30am. I also forgot to save the address to the hostel in my maps. Luckily in the directions, they described the hostel as being next to "Topshop".. So some young girls I asked for directions were able to point me in the right way. Not having booked accommodation for the night, I slept on the hostel couches.

This was the first city I'd visited where (for a couple of days at least) there were no other Australians in my room. Us Aussies tend to be everywhere! Instead, I was lucky enough to meet a couple of lovely Israeli girls, Shay and Leanne. It was incredibly interesting to talk to these girls about their country and such an eye opener to hear that having to take refuge in a bomb shelter several times a day was completely normal to them. They also had to do a compulsory 2 years in the army after finishing school. Their culture was completely foreign to me and really made me appreciate just being able to feel safe in my home country. 

I explored the city of Barcelona on a bicycle with a group of Welshmen who were hilarious. I couldn't understand a word they said when they spoke amongst each other but it was a great day nonetheless. They were the first people of my trip to notice the scars in my stomach and ask me about them.. I also think they had the best response when I told them about my surgery in which they asked me "did you start making and selling crystal meth to pay for your treatment? Are you the real Heisenberg" (Breaking Bad reference for anyone who hasn't see the show). At this point, I knew they must be ok.

Cycling Barcelona with the Welshmen

I made a good friend in Barcelona - a French Canadian girl by the name of Shawn who is studying in Barcelona for the next few months. She has an extremely cool job and helps with camera work during the filming of movies (a little bit jealous). It was great to find a friend to hit up the beach with and we also discovered the BEST tapas in Barcelona by chance when getting completely lost.

Shawn and I

Tapas, tapas, tapas!

After 6 nights, I said goodbye to the city of Barcelona and took a bus to Madrid where I would catch a train the Portugal the following night.

Lisbon and Lagos
I arrived in Lisbon early morning after taking a night train and arrived at the hostel at the same time as a girl who was soon to become one of the best friends I'd make in this trip- Gina from Nebraska. Gina and I hit it off straight away and ended up spending the next few days together in both Lisbon and Lagos - we did a walking tour, we discovered some delicious cheese sandwiches (just cheese, yes), we had some delicious food cooked by "Mama" the lovely owner of the hostel, we climbed a mountain in Sintra to explore a castle and went zip lining through the trees, we did the worst pub crawl of our lives (walking at least half an hour between pubs), we lazed on the beach, drank some cocktails and for the first time in my life, went skinny dipping to celebrate our last day in Portugal together with a little craziness. Basically, we had an action packed few days in Portugal and had a lot of fun in the process. Just to clarify, the skinny dipping was on a deserted beach.. But when the waves started sweeping away our belongings, I looked up to see about 10 elderly people on the cliff watching down at us chasing after our things whilst trying to put our clothes back on.

Gina and I 

Castle in Sintra

Zip lining!

Beautiful Lagos

After Lagos, I took a bus back to Lisbon and flew back to Barcelona to then take an early flight to Munich for Oktoberfest. This was not my best travel day. I arrived at the airport and dropped my phone which stopped working completely. I then took a 25 euro taxi to my "airport" hotel and had to do the same thing the following morning back to the airport. The next few days would be the most expensive.. But some of the best days I've had so far this trip.

Oktoberfest
I arrived in Munich and went straight to the Apple store to try and get my phone fixed. Little did I know, the iPhone 6 happened to be released on the same day and hundreds of people were lining up outside the store. The chance of getting my phone fixed was minimal but somehow I did the impossible and convinced the staff that the fixing of my phone was of upmost importance and they performed a miracle and fixed it for me (at a cost of 150 euro of course). I then purchased my outfit for Oktoberfest and made my way to the campground.

I was a little nervous getting to a campground on my own but met a girl named Annie fairly soon after arriving who was also traveling alone. The atmosphere at the campsite that night was nothing I could have imagined. It made me extremely excited for what the actual festival would entail. That night Annie and I met James who introduced us to his group of friends and they embraced us as part of their group for the following couple of days.

The first day we woke at 5am to leave by 6.30am just to get in line to get into the halls and get a table. They let us in at about 9am and we then had to wait until 12pm for he beers to start being poured. After this, the atmosphere was absolutely crazy. I cannot even explain how amazing this day was. The beer was great (coming from a non beer drinker), people were standing on tables skulling 1 litre steins, everyone was in costume, we had a great waitress and by the afternoon, the beer hall was just full of having an insanely good time. This was easily one of the best weekends of my life. The second day was hard to follow the first but ended up being equally as enjoyable. This is something I think everyone has to experience to understand. 



View from the Ferris wheel 

The following day I took a bus to Prague and arrived so exhausted I went straight to bed. 

Prague
Prague is another of my favourite places to date.. Mostly because of the people I met there. Prague marked the start of the group that would then on be referred to as "The Commonwealth". The Commonwealth included members from New Zealand, Canada and of course, Australia. Being completely wrecked after Oktoberfest, I had to have a couple of quiet nights but the nights I did go out with The Commonwealth were so much fun that I ended up booking flights after I left to meet up with the guys again in Budapest. It was in Prague I learnt to play the infamous drinking game "Flip Cup" and also discovered that I had quite a talent for playing this game. I also learnt more drinking games in the hostel bar called "The Rave Cave" than any other place.

Prague was not just about partying.. I also completed my first ever escape room. For those of you who don't know, an escape room is basically a room full of clues that you have to solve in an hour in order to escape. I completed the game with a Canadian by the name of Steve and in our case, we had to solve our clues to stop a bomb (pretend of course) from detonating within the hour. We thought we were terrible at the game as we had to keep asking for help and realized we couldn't remember anything from high school like how to read a map or what Roman numerals stood for. However, we found out at the end, there are usually groups of at least 4 people trying to solve the clues and we'd picked the hardest room so as it turns out, we were much smarter than we thought. Steve and I had a great day and little did I know at the time, this would soon turn into a classic case of girl meets boy; girl and boy get along extremely well; boy lives in Canada; girl books flights to go and visit boy in Canada. But prior to this, there was still Berlin and Amsterdam to explore!

The John Lennon wall, Prague

Steve and I escaping our bomb room

Berlin and Amsterdam
I found Berlin to be a strange city. It's a huge city but so quiet in terms of it's inhabitants. I did a couple of tours in Berlin that included a lot if the war history. It was actually quite upsetting to see a concentration camp and hear a lot of the stories from the past. I visited the Jewish memorial museum which included a lot of letters to families along with the history. I found myself not being able to read any of these letters because, although under completely different circumstances, I know what it's like to receive a letter from my mother who I was never going to see again. At that point, I decided I'd seen enough of the war history. 

On a lighter note, I did go on a really fun pub crawl which took us on an unusual route and to places that wouldn't usually be included on a pub crawl. These included a bar that Rammstein used to own (very gothic and strange), an absinthe bar and an outdoor club. This was really cool and I made a few good friends including Brandon who I would later meet up with again in Rome. 

The Berlin Wall



After Berlin I headed to the beautiful city of Amsterdam. It truly is beautiful. I know it tends to be well known for another reason entirely but going on a walking tour and hiring a bike to ride around the city, I found Amsterdam to be one of the prettiest places I'm yet to visit. Once again I made the mistake of arriving at a ridiculous time of 5am; this time on a night bus. The bus driver seemed to drop us off in the middle of nowhere and pointed us in the direction to the train station. It took 2 hours to find my hostel but I made it eventually and ended up meeting a great group of people on my walking tour. Id also made a couple of fellow Aussie friends in Berlin who happened to be staying in Amsterdam also so I met up with them for a night out and a nice dinner. The thing I'm finding with traveling recently is that I keep running into people I've already met. It makes traveling alone so much easier as I never tend to actually be alone.

Amsterdam

Budapest - Part 2. Commonwealth Reunited 
After 3 nights in Amsterdam, I caught a bus to Brussels to catch a cheap flight to Budapest and reunite with The Commonwealth. This has probably been my biggest failed attempt at travel planning yet. I arrived at the Brussels bus station realizing I had no idea how to get to the airport and couldn't find wifi anywhere (not even in the Starbucks I bough a coffee from for this sole reason). After an hour, I found the train to the airport, bought a ticket and almost boarded the train until I noticed at the last minute that my flight was in fact, from a completely different airport. I asked at an information desk who were not even 100% sure where I had to go but went for the best guess (which luckily turned out to be correct). As it happened, the airport id booked was actually almost 2 hours away from Brussels. Seriously this is a warning to everyone to never let me plan any sort of travel for you!

Eventually I made it to Budapest to be reunited with The Commonwealth crew and just in time for the Sparty. To explain, a Sparty is basically a giant party in a pool/spa. I wish I had photos to explain further as it's nothing like anything else but nobody was willing to risk taking their phones or cameras. After a couple of hours, things started getting a little too crazy at the Sparty and I witnessed some things in the pool I never needed to witness and felt as though I needed to shower for days. So I left. 

The next few days were probably the most fun days I've had in Europe yet.  We hired a Beer Bike which basically involves cycling around the city whilst drinking a lot of beer. I felt terribly sorry for the hostel receptionist who had to book extra night for each of us at the hostel which we chose to organise right after the beer biking. One of my fellow commonwealthers, Josh (a kiwi) and I later participated in an open mic night and got the crowd all singing along to some Britney Spears. I also witnessed a Jäger train which involved a lot of jäger bombs being tipped over wit a domino effect. I also got to spend time with my favorite Canadian, Steve, during which time I decided to go and visit him for a few days whilst in New York and booked my flights. 

I was supposed to leave Budapest after 3 nights but ended up extending my night to tick something off my bucket list that I've always wanted to do - paint balling. I didn't care how much it cost me to change my flight, I was going paint balling regardless. And I was so happy I did. We had SO much fun and I even got a couple if battle scar bruises in the process. Well and truly worth it. 

The Commonwealth! Beer biking

Josh and I singing some Britney

Paint balling 

After 3 nights out in Budapest, we were all pretty exhausted after paint balling and decided to spend a quiet night in with a movie. The movie of choice was Finding Nemo. The following morning I had to get up early and say goodbye to Commonwealth friends to catch a flight to Rome. 

I think this is enough typing for one day. I look forward to writing my next post on Italy, London, New York, Canada and Paris soon.. Although I really hope the time goes slowly because it's almost coming to an end! 

As always, thanks for reading!
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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Eurotrip Part 2 - The Greek Islands

Hello from Santorini! The Greek Islands have marked my first couple of weeks of travelling alone so I thought I'd share some of my stories and adventures as a solo traveler so far. 

In all fairness, I have very rarely been alone as I've been lucky enough to find it very easy to make friends in all of my hostels and have managed to meet some great people along the way. 

Mykonos
My first stop on my Greek Island adventure was the lovely Island of Mykonos. The first mistake I made as part of this stop was booking a 6am flight from Milan. This meant I had to be awake at 2.30am to catch a taxi to the bus stop and then take a 1 hour bus to the airport to be able to check in on time for my flight. Being in holiday mode, it's very rare that I'm able to fall asleep before midnight so I think it would be an overstatement to say I managed about 2 hours sleep that night. I fell asleep instantly when I sat down on the plane. 

I realised whilst waiting at Milan airport that I hadn't organised a transfer to my latest hostel. In a desperate attempt to have them pick me up, I sent an email at about 5.30am. Sure enough, I arrived at Mykonos airport with nobody to pick me up and tried my hand at using the pay phones to call the hostel to come and get me as apparently it was only a 5 minute drive away. Of course, the pay phones would not accept any of my credit cards which was the only method of payment. 

Absolutely exhausted and walking into the hottest temperature I've encountered yet, I went and asked a bus driver how to get to Paraga Beach who responded that there was no bus because it had already left. I was left with my final option - getting a taxi. This proved to be almost an impossible task as, with all due respect to Italians, they do not understand how to 'line up'. Person after person pushed in front of me until after about an hour, on the verge of tears and at the end of my tether, I desperately yelled at a cab driver to 'PLEASE TAKE ME!!!!!!!'.. and so, 15 euros later for a 5 minute drive, I made it to my hostel at Paraga Beach. Fair to say, I spent the remainder of the day asleep on the beach. 

After getting some sleep and feeling like a normal human being again, my next mission was to make some friends and not spend the next 3 days completely alone. The first person I met in my room was an Italian by the name of Marko who couldn't speak a lot of English and basically sat and stared at me as I organised my bag, making me feel quite uncomfortable. Then I met 3 of my other roommates (and soon to be friends, whether they liked it or not), New Zealanders living in London - James, Christian and Michael. Explaining that I was traveling alone, they kindly invited me to join them for drinks. Ignoring the fact that this was likely a sympathy invite, I took them up on the offer and successfully made my first friends as a solo traveler. 

The following day, my Kiwi friends had plans to explore the island on scooters they'd hired the previous day. Never having ridden a scooter myself, I opted for a quad bike which I figured would be much easier and safer to ride. We visited about 10 different places which had all sold out of quad bikes for the day (strange considering there were often plenty of them parked there...) so the only option was to ride on the back of one of the boy's scooters (don't worry Dad.. they were safe drivers and I wore a helmet.. and I made it out alive). So we spent the day exploring all of the less populated areas of the island - climbing over rocks and haystacks along the way.



 That night we decided to check out one of the most 'popular' clubs on the island at Paradise Beach. Much to our disgrace, we paid a 30 Euro entrance fee and walked in to an empty club where the cheapest beers were 9 Euro and there was a DJ we'd never heard of playing to a practically empty crowd. Fair to say, we didn't stay long. The following day was spent exploring Mykonos Town, relaxing by the pool and later followed by a much more successful night out in the town with no cover charges. The next day we all embarked on a 4 hour ferry ride to Ios where I said goodbye to the Kiwis who were staying at a different hostel. 

Mykonos Town


Ios
A lot of people had told me previously that Ios, the party island, is full of other Australians. They weren't lying.. we were everywhere! Even a lot of the restaurants and bars were run by Australians. I must admit, I felt a little more at home than in Mykonos. 

On my bus ride to my next hostel, Francesco's (would recommend anyone staying in Ios to stay here), I sat next to another solo traveler, Katy from England and later on met 2 other English girls, Bex and Mia and another Australian, Kara. We all instantly became friends and had our own little group for the next couple of days. 



During the day at Ios, everyone tends to go drinking at Far Out Beach Club, then retreat back to the hostel for a nap and/or more drinking, then head to the clubs later that night (which were conveniently located just around the corner from our hostel). I managed to follow this structure for exactly one day and after that, could barely look at a drop of alcohol for 2 days. I decided I'm probably not cut out for the party island lifestyle. 

Luckily on our second night, the other girls were happy to go out for a nice dinner and a few of us had a very early night. Katy and I ventured out via bus the following day to Maganari (could be wrong on the spelling) Beach which we'd been told by others, was the most beautiful beach they'd ever seen. We arrived to a horribly windy day and tried to brave laying on the sand but were in pain from all of the sand that was blown into us by the harsh wind. We retreated for some lunch and luckily noticed there was an area over a small hill that was much less windy. We were worried we'd have to spend 5 hours waiting for the next bus home sitting uncomfortably in the wind and stinging sand. Over the small hill, I also ran into my New Zealand friends again. 

My fourth and final night in Ios, I attempted one last night out. Katy and I went out for a nice Thai dinner and later received an invite from our Kiwi friends to dinner at the exact restaurant we'd just been to, to celebrate James' birthday. So we went back for the second time that night and ordered dessert followed by beer pong at Lost Boys bar (just to brag.. I got 5 beer pong balls in, in a row.. nothing short of a miracle for someone so uncoordinated). We finished the night at a nice little live music bar by the name of Circus and I convinced the musicians to let me get up on stage and sing a song with them. I made sure to embarrass James with a Happy Birthday shout out. 

That concluded my stay in Ios and I caught the ferry the following morning for what I hoped to be a few very relaxing days in Santorini. 

Ios

Santorini
Completely exhausted from Ios, I was hoping for some nice relaxing days in Santorini and I haven't been disappointed. I spent the first afternoon exploring Fira and ordering a ridiculously expensive Greek Salad then ventured back to my room and met a few of my roommates - Liam, Hannah and Tayla. After 5 minutes, we all became friends and decided to cook dinner together. That night was spent jamming on the hostel guitar (Liam happened to be an amazing singer and guitarist) and playing card games with a few other hostel guests. Couldn't have hoped for a better first night!



Tayla, another Kiwi, was also a solo traveler so we decided to hire quad bikes together the following day and explore the island. So began what I like to call 'The Adventures of Kate and Tayla'. Lucky for both of us, we got along really well and became travel best friends basically straight away. We discussed how funny/awesome it is that overseas you can meet someone and become friends instantly, whereas that doesn't tend to happen back home. We spent the day riding our quad around the island, exploring beaches and amazing views. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and I ordered 'fried fish portions'.. which were actually WHOLE fried fish.. just very small fish and were almost impossible to eat. Tayla then broke her sunglasses which kicked off a series of funny moments to follow over the course of the next couple of days. 



Later that night, we planned on buying some wine, cheese and biscuits and driving up to Oia to see the famous sunset (very romantic). We were running a little late and raced the sun to try and get there in time (cautiously and safely of course). We arrived just in the nick of time to find the sun setting behind a giant cloud and didn't see a sunset at all. Not to despair, we instead visited Oia and took in the sights of the beautiful town at night time. 


The following day I'd booked a tour that included walking over a volcano, swimming in some hot springs and once again visiting the sunset in Oia with dinner on board the boat. We had until 12pm to return our quad, so Tayla and I went for a little ride before I had to go. That morning I'd been nominated for the latest social media trend and fundraising activity - the ice bucket challenge. Tayla and I went to a restaurant on a beach close by to our hostel and asked a lovely Greek man for a bag of ice.. It took him a little while to understand what we meant and when he did, he figured we were having a party and was very concerned we wouldn't make it to the freezer in time. Not wanting to confuse him even more, I decided against asking to borrow a bucket and did more of an "ice bag" challenge. My nomination was at least complete though improvised. 


We dropped the quad off and I departed for my tour. Little did I know, the boat that was holding the tour was called Afroditi and was nicknamed "The Love Boat". I was the only solo traveler on the tour amongst a sea of couples, families and elderly people. It was the first day I felt out of place and didn't make any friends but I had to look at the humour in it and made the most of my romantic day by myself. A friend back home who hosts a radio show even decided to create a segment based upon my situation about "when you've felt out of place".

I returned to the hostel and had one more night butchering some songs on guitar and drinking some red wine with Tayla before she left for Ios today. 


Highlights
All of the great people I've met and managing to make some good friends whilst traveling alone

Finding an English friend who has agreed to do the Harry Potter tour with me (thanks Katy!) 

The beautiful scenery of each of the Greek Islands

Exploring the islands on scooter/quad bikes

Relaxing time on the beach, reading my book (the Kurt Cobain biography is a great read)

Jamming sessions and card games in Santorini

Completing my ice bucket challenge on a beach in Santorini with passers by looking at me very strangely 

A beautiful sunset from Francesco's on my last night in Ios



Fails and Funny Moments
Booking a flight at 6am and having to be up at 2.30am

Trying to get to my hostel from Mykonos airport

Paying 30 Euro entry fee to a terrible club

Paying 4 Euro for a gyros, losing my receipt and having to pay again to get my food because the bartender "couldn't remember me"

Ordering nachos in Mykonos that were basically an entire bowl of cheese

My attempt at driving a scooter (it didn't last long and I remained uninjured.. As did the scooter)

Going to the "most beautiful beach" in Ios on the windiest day possible

Tayla and I racing against time to make a sunset that didn't happen

Slipping down stairs at Oia (typical)

Anyway, that's about all for now. I'm enjoying some alone time in possibly the most beautiful hostel I've ever stayed at. I fly out to Athens tomorrow, followed by Barcelona in a few days. Thanks for reading and I hope to have some more stories to share soon!
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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Eurotrip Part 1 - The highs and lows of being an Australian backpacker in Europe


Hello loyal readers,  it's been a while! I cannot believe it's already been a month since I left Melbourne and made the 24 hour journey to Europe. I have already had the time of my life which makes me incredibly excited for the rest of my trip. I've had a few people ask about my Blog so I figured it was about time I shared some stories. So as I enjoy some much needed downtime in Milan, I've started jotting down some stories from my journey so far. It's probably more exciting for me to write about than for anyone else to read, but I've been extremely slack with keeping a travel journal so this will at least serve that purpose.

Without trying to sound cliché,  so far I've discovered that a place is only as enjoyable as the people I'm with. The places I've loved so far have had a lot to do with the people. I think I could be in the most beautiful place in the world but without good people around me,  it wouldn't be the same. I'm also finding that I appreciate a lot of things that I would generally take for granted back home. And I guess that's the point of traveling!

I'll try not to ramble on too much but here are some of the highs, lows and funny moments of my trip so far.

Pre-flight.. Just a little bit excited

 Zagreb and Tomorrowland

My first stop on my Eurotrip was Zagreb; capital of Croatia.  Random I know but this was the place I'd organised to meet a few friends to fly to Belgium for Tomorrowland. I had a couple of days by myself to begin with to revive from the flight so I arrived at my hostel extremely daunted and hoping I'd make a friend to explore the city with.  Being a typical Australian traveler,  my first stop was the hostel bar and it was there I made my first friend and immediately lost my fear of traveling alone and not meeting anybody. A couple of days later, I was reunited with my old work friend Pete and met two of Pete's friends; Joey and Evan before we headed to Tomorrowland the following day. 

The days that followed were completely crazy. For those of you who don't know what Tomorrowland is, it's a 3 day dance music festival with DJs playing across a number of different stages over the full 3 days. It was the most well organized festival I've ever been to in my life. Every detail had been thought about and the whole set up was absolutely amazing. The photos below don't even do the festival justice but give you an idea of just how incredible it was. 

    

The Tomorrowland Crew

Alexa and I

View of some of the crowd

As crazy and amazing as the festival was, it was very full on and made me realise that even though I had a lot of fun, 3 day dance festivals aren't really my thing. I figured, at least I went to the best dance festival in the world to figure this out! In saying that, we also had a great group of people and I managed to meet up with my friend Alexa from Melbourne so I didn't by any means not enjoy the festival.. I just prefer a more relaxed atmosphere.

Highlights

David Guetta playing Titanium to an amazing fireworks display - highlight of the entire festival

Arriving at Frankfurt airport (I think that was the one) to free drinks and food for all Tomorrowland travellers

The entire set up of the festival - transport, food, the stages - everything!

Buffet breakfast every day at the hotel (have to enjoy the small things in life!)

Fails and Funny Moments 

Arriving at the hotel with Pete (both single travelers) to our room with a double bed and "Mr and Mrs Fulford" (my surname) displayed on the tv

Killing time between flights back in Croatia by watching Planet of the Apes and not being able to understand a word the apes were saying because the subtitles were in Croatian

Having a crazy Croatian cab driver who told us he didn't actually own the cab then tried to sell us his paintings AND told us he was a spiritual healer and gave us his business card.. (his and number written on a piece of cardboard). I was just happy to make it out of the cab alive

Arriving in Split at midnight after the festival to realise we'd accidentally booked accommodation for August rather than July 

Split and Sail Week Croatia

Pete and I arrived Split after Tomorrowland, planning to have a few quiet nights before yacht week which basically includes partying every night in a different location in Croatia. The quiet nights did not happen. We stayed at a great social hostel called Adriatic and had such good people in our room each night, we had to go out with them. Out friend Lakkis (another ex work colleague) also joined us in Split so the reunion called for a few celebratory beverages. The next 5 nights or so in Split included a pub crawl, jamming sessions in the hostel room (thanks to someone bringing a guitar along), and far too much drinking. The days basically consisted of lying on the beach and eating icecream. It was a great week with equally great people. I was a little bit sad to leave to go on our sail but this didn't last long.

Lakkis, Pete and I at a beautiful viewpoint in Split

Pete and I arrived at the yacht and I was quite surprised to see that it actually was a small yacht and unlike all of the bigger sail week boats. To begin with, they made the assumption again that Pete and I were a couple and put us in a room with a "double" bed that was actually not much bigger than a single. With all due respect to Pete, I didn't really want to have to share a tiny bed for a week on a yacht with no air con so they moved us to another boat and to and even smaller bunk bed which worked out just fine. 

We had such a great group on the boat with a few other Aussies, Brazillians, Canadians and a Scottish guy. We were a little nervous moving boats (and they were nervous for us to join them) but by the end of the week the group was all very close and we were all sad for it to come to an end.

We stopped at a number of beautiful Croatian locations including Makarska, Vis, Hvar and a couple of others I can't remember the names of (terrible I know and makes me realise why I should've been keeping a travel journal). Each day we'd wake up, go for a swim and just lounge around in the sun then party at night. We were living the life. 

Makarska 



The Sail Week Croatia crew (minus Pete)

Highlights

Adriatic Hostel and the awesome people we met there plus nights spent jamming in the room

Banana and Nutella crepes and eating icecream every day

Getting lost in Split and ending up at the most beautiful view point in the city

Seeing Pete and Lakkis attempt to busk on the streets of Split and make 5 Kuna for their efforts (about $1 AUD)

Waking up and jumping in the ocean every day

Our sail week Croatia family

A club in Vis inside of a castle

Fails and funny moments

Our "free wifi" on the boat only working for about 2 days.. Then realizing how much better off we all were without it

Me not reading our sailing booking properly and realizing the day before that we didn't actually get to go to Dubrovnik (King's Landing for any Game of Thrones fans) which was the place I was most excited about

Me not reading our sailing booking properly again and thinking that by "breakfast and lunch provided" they meant that they cooked for us.. We had to cook and clean 

There were so many activities listed on the website for our sail but we didn't have access to any and watched from afar as the boat next to us had a crazy amount of fun with all of their activities (to be fair we had an amazing time.. But there was a little bit of boat envy going on)

Budapest and Sziget Festival

This is the part I'm most excited to write about. Being the most recent, I have a better memory of what happened each day and also because Budapest and Sziget Festival have been the best part of my trip so far. 

I arrived in Budapest on Sunday just over a week ago, completely exhausted after sail week and ready for bed. I met up with my friend Maddi who was also happy to have a quiet night. 

Next minute, we met our Scottish room mates who were going on a pub crawl and decided it'd be a great idea for us to join them the night before a week-long festival. We were also joined by Maddi's friend Alice and her new Canadian friends Adam and Mark who had decided to stay in Budapest a few extra days after realizing how much fun Austrlaians are (and Budapest is a pretty great place). The pub crawl turned out to be a much bigger night than expected and the following first day of the festival was an absolute nightmare. We really didn't think that through.

All struggling with hangovers and lack of sleep, we made our way to the festival in what was easily 30 degrees heat minimum. After Tomorrowland, I had high festival expectations. Also being a Falls Festival regular back home, I assumed a week long camping festival would be similar in Hungary with designated areas for camping. We arrived with no idea where to camp or what to do.. Not one at the information points could help us and we eventually discovered there was no designated camping area and we had to just find anywhere we could fit a tent. After hours of searching and struggling in the hear with our tent and backpacks, we finally found a campsite then failed miserably at putting our tent up. Luckily, our nice Dutch neighbour felt sorry for us and helped us out. By this point, I'd started feeling pretty terrible and was losing my voice. Still, I stuck it out and watched Blink 182 and had a great night but had completely lost my voice by the end of the night which would then continue for the next 3 days. We tried to pack 5 of us into a 3 person tent and realized the music pumping right outside our tent was not going to stop (it stopped at 5am for about an hour or 2). 

I lasted about half an hour camping and bailed. Adam, my knight in shining armour, kindly escorted me back to the city which turned out to be another massive fail. We got off at the wrong train stop, waited for another train then realized the train we actually had to catch closed at 11pm. Stranded on the wrong side of Budapest, we opted for a taxi and I pretty much wrote off the whole first day as an absolute nightmare. 

We felt terrible for Adam and Mark who were meant to leave for Prague after the first day.. Once again, they couldn't leave their awesome Australian friends and decided to stay a couple of extra days. We had our own little Sziget family and after a terrible first day, we certainly made up for it over the next few days and had the time of our lives. 

Our Sziget family

The next few days included seeing the likes of A Day to Remember, Jimmy Eat World, Imagine Dragons and Skrillex. Voice or no voice, it was amazing. Maddi and Alice decided to brave out the camping but the Canadians and I found a hostel at the last minute so I made the trek back into the city each night. After a couple of failed public transportation attempts, we found taxis to easily be the best option. 

A Day To Remember

Jimmy Eat World


On Thursday, we were extremely upset to have to say goodbye to our favourite Canadians and lost half of our Sziget family. After pushing their stay back about a week already and forfeiting numerous pre-paid costs, they couldn't justify staying any longer.

Maddi, Alice and I headed back to the festival on Thursday after they left and arrived to the busiest day yet (and the muddiest after a day of pouring rain). I rushed to get to the stage to see Bastille who were amazing then saw Lily Allen who seemed completely wasted and Macklemore who put on about the best show of the whole festival. I left with about 2 inches of mud covering my entire shoes.

After that we decided we needed a couple of Sziget free days to rest up for the final day on Sunday. Sunday included The Kooks, Outkast and my favourite of the day, Calvin Harris and an awesome fireworks display at the end. Then it was all over!

What started out as a nightmare, turned out to be one of the best weeks I've ever had. Whilst I wouldn't go back to Tomorrowland, I would definitely go back to Sziget. Maddi and I stayed in Budapest until yesterday then said goodbye to Alice and left for Milan.

Highlights

All of the amazing music

Our Sziget family

Meeting the nicest Canadian guys ever and them delaying leaving to hang out with us.. And maybe partly to see the music. Also, hearing them try to imitate our accents 

The ham steak incident - Adam and Mark spending the equivalent of about $20 Australian dollars each (expensive in Hungary) on the most disgusting looking ham steaks I'd ever seen

Maddi's discovery of the best cafe in Budapest and eating breakfast and lunch there every single day

Eating icecream every day (yes this is a common theme)

The pizza shop next to Wombats hostel which we also ate most days

The pub crawl

Fails and funny moments

The entire first day of Sziget (pub crawl before a festival is never a good idea)

Losing my voice for 3 days

Sziget camping and trying and failing to put up our tent (I may have stated that I know how to put up a tent beforehand..oops)

Failing at using the public transport about 3 nights in a row then finding out we had to take a train, a tram then a bus to get home. Never going to happen

The common Hungarian response when asking a question or ordering food being "no" or "not possible" with no explanation (yes, we don't know their language so partly our fault.. but funny nonetheless)

Not receiving my wine I ordered at dinner about 75% of the time

Managing to sneak alcohol into the festival (sorry festival security).. But leaving with my backpack and managing to accidentall sneak my alcohol back OUT! 

Last day watching Calvin Harris with Alice and Maddi


The Kooks and mainstage


My Canadian friends, Adam and Mark 

One month down, 3 to go

Currently relaxing in Milan, I'm preparing for what are bound to be a big couple of weeks in the Greek Islands followed by Spain, Portugal and Oktoberfest.

Tomorrow marks what would be my little sisters 24th birthday. Being a pretty special and significant day to me, I'm excited to be able to celebrate in a beautiful country with great company. Maddi and I are going to head to Lake Como for the day with a picnic and go out for a nice Italian dinner to celebrate. 

Thanks for reading, I look forward to sharing some more stories soon!


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