Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Sunday in Edinburgh is pretty slow, and it’s freezing outside so I’m inside for a bit, waiting for my room to get ready.

I’ve stayed at a different hostel every night.  Edinburgh is great for hostels–I’ve paid about £12 a night at each hostel I’ve stayed at, and they’ve all been clean.

Friday night’s hostel was great.  It lacked character, but the building was brand-new, and the rooms were super clean, modern and quiet.  I stayed in a mixed 12-bed dorm and it was quieter than six bed dorms I’ve been in.  And there were two sinks in the room, as well as two separate bathrooms and two separate showers, which was about the best arrangement I’ve ever seen.

Saturday night I stayed right on the Royal Mile.  This place was alright.  It was clean and other than the reception guy being a jerk to everyone, it wasn’t bad.  But it was full of long-termers and long-termers are always weird.  No exceptions.  The dorm did have reading lights at every bed, which was phenomenal.

Tonight I’m staying at Castle Rock Hostel, which is at the end of the Royal Mile right–almost across the street from Edinburgh Castle.  Talk about a great view.  This place is huge.  I haven’t seen my room yet, but the reception is super friendly, there are computers and wifi, a huge common room and at least two smaller ones, perhaps multiple kitchens, and at least one dining room.  I haven’t even seen it all yet.  And it’s in this ancient building.  This is a winner for sure.

A lot of people only know about hostels through um, the movie Hostel.  I’ve never seen it but I’m fairly sure it didn’t do a great job of providing an accurate picture of a hostel. You meet so many people at hostels, even if you’re trying not to.  For instance, on Friday night as soon as I walked into my room I met Soo Young from Korea, and Phil from Chicago.  We ended up going out for a pub crawl where we met a few Canadians and Australians.  Somewhere along the line we lost Soo Young, because she decided to go back to the hostel, but Phil and I people-watched as the drunk pub crawlers continued to get drunker, which is always entertaining.

The next night I stayed at the hostel and met a person from London and two more Americans (this place is crawling with them) who live in Oregon.  The two girls decided to take a backpacking trip around Europe and Turkey and this is the end of the road for them.  They left this morning for Ireland, and they’re flying home from Dublin in a few more days.  People are coming and going everywhere, and everyone likes to talk about where they’ve been and where they#re going.  Phil is almost done with a three-month around the world trip.  One of the Canadians was flying by the seat of her pants, going wherever she felt like it and not planning ahead at all.  I mean, at all at all.  She didn’t even know what continent she was going to end up in next.

That’s why hostels are great places.  Staying in a hotel, you don’t get to meet people and that’s where the real fun comes in.

Agh, my time is up.  It might be a few days before I’m back as I’m leaving on my tour tomorrow.



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I finally made it to Edinburgh yesterday afternoon after some interesting setbacks.

My bus/ferry to Edinburgh was supposed to leave at 6.30 in the morning because the other time was 11.15 and of course that was already full by the time I bought my ticket.

That night I could not sleep.  I have insomnia and apparently it was acting up.  Plus, I was a little worried about walking the streets of Belfast by myself before daylight–not that I was going anywhere other than the main road, but it is kind of a dodgy town and I’d just spent about an hour talking to a Polish guy who was living there and he couldn’t hate the place more.  So with that encouraging conversation, I proceeded to fall asleep at about 3 am.  You can see where this is going.

I woke up at 8.30 and as soon as I realized it was light out I’m thinking…oh shit….there are only two buses a day to Edinburgh.  I just missed the first one, the second one is full, and I’ve already booked my hostel for the night in Edinburgh so I’m paying for that whether I’m there or not.

At the bus station the lady looks at me like I’m an idiot.  Maybe I am but there’s no reason to be so sassy.  I’m still jetlagged, you Irish wench.

She was pretty insistent that there was no room on the 11.15, even made a big show of looking it up on the computer.  As I was about to give up in despair and try to find Plan C, a guy in the back of the office pipes up, “Is it just for one?”

Yes, yes, yes.  Turns out there was indeed a space available.  I had to pay a £10 late fee but by that time  I didn’t care.  It was cheaper than paying for a hostel I wasn’t going to be at or trying to buy a completely new ticket altogether.

The buses weren’t full, by the way, and neither was the ferry.  I’m convinced that woman just didn’t like me.

While I’m waiting in the Europa Bus Station this old Irish couple sits down next to me and the woman starts talking of course.  They’re Irish.  She pegs me as an American right away and then proceeds to tell me about how much they enjoy John Wayne and want to go visit America.  She wants to see Hollywood and Los Angeles and New York, but they’re afraid to travel to the US because they’ve heard it’s so dangerous.

They think I’m very brave for traveling on my own.  “Don’t trust anybody! Not even your own mother,” admonishes the old man. They made sure I got on the right bus and wished me luck.  They were adorable.

Finally finally after almost a full day of traveling I got into Edinburgh at about six thirty at night.

This is the most utterly medieval, pretty town I’ve ever seen.  The streets are cobbled, the buildings are fantastic, all ancient and stone.  There are churches everywhere, a lot of them now housing cafes, reception halls and the like.

And of course there’s Edinburgh castle looming on an extinct volcano right at the end of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s main street and the place to go if you have a sudden urge to buy a kilt or listen to bagpipes.

Earlier today I paid the extortionate £12 fee to enter Edinburgh Castle.  I wasn’t exactly disappointed, because there’s a lot to see and a few small museums and a lot of information, but the tiny bits of the actual castle that you get to see are not very authentic, and you can’t wander through the place.  They let you see Mary, Queen of Scots’ bedchambers, an old room where important political finaglings went on, the great feasting hall, and a small area underground that shows the remains of a tower that was built there before the present castle. I also got to see Scotland’s Coronation Regalia–the real stuff.  It looked old and not as impressive as I thought.  Any third-rate noble could have afforded that.  With the Regalia was the Stone of Destiny which sounds like something out of a trashy sci-fi novel and in actuality is a giant white, chalky square boulder with an iron loop in either end for carrying.  They didn’t, of course, explain the story behind it so I guess it’s up to me to solve this mystery.

There was also a National War Museum, which was interesting because of the information on the Jacobite uprising and the pictures and artifacts from the Scottish and English past.  The poor Scots have had a hard time of it with the English.  It seems like most people have, actually.  India, Ireland, Scotland, etc etc.

There is a profusion of walking tours in this city and I’ll probably go do one later today.  Last night I did a pub crawl with some people from my hostel dorm.  It was supposed to take us to local places, but instead we went to two hostel bars, a tourist pub on the Royal Mile, and  a not-very-happening student bar in the basement of some place.  Oh well, at least I got a few “free” drinks out of it and a shot of terrible whisky.  Yum.

Edinburgh is seriously awesome.  I wish I had more time here, but I’m leaving on Monday morning for my Highlands tour.  Scotland, what I have seen of it so far, is rugged and gorgeous.  There are a lot of trees, mostly melancholy pine forests and wild, bushy stands of trees which are jsut now starting to turn yellow.  The place feels a lot wilder than Ireland.  There are coos everywhere as well as sheep.  And food, even in downtown Edinburgh, is almost affordable.  There are these great kebab-falafel-fish n chips shops called Yum Yum, and they have these huge long tubes of lamb and chicken spinning on a vertical spit.  When you order, they cut thin slices off of it.  It’s cheap and tasty.

My time in the internet cafe is almost up so…later kids!

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1.) Everybody is an Australian.  No exceptions.

Ok, a few.  But the percentage of Australians traveling compared to other nationalities is staggering.  And they literally run every hostel ever.  They are the ultimate traveling nation.  And their cousins the Kiwis, according to an Ozzie I was talking to last night, have supposedly over half their total population overseas at any given moment.  Wow.  Imagine if half of America was off gallivanting about in SE Asia and Europe and Africa and South America.  No one would ever be able to get anything done with us hanging around.

2.) Frozen dinners are never edible.  No exceptions.

No, really. There are no exceptions this time.  They are always made out of radioactive material.

3.) Americans have the best passports on the planet (with the possible exception of a passport from a strong EU nation)

With an American passport, you can freely travel or get a visa for almost anywhere…except Cuba.  With passports from many other countries, you’re limited.  Or visas are nearly impossible to get.  With a Polish passport, for example, you need a visa to get into the USA.  Not a problem, right?  Except the visa is only given out in cases of never, or if you have a lot of money.

PS. Polish people believe that JFK was killed by our government.  A theory worth looking into.

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I definitely don’t look anything like my passport photo.  Luckily.

I didn’t even have dreads back then.  I hope no one gets sassy with me.  I’ve already had one run-in with Homeland Security.  I wouldn’t exactly be jumping for joy to have another meeting, either.  They’re rude little bastards.

That is all.  Now I have to go do important things.

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I freaked out for the first time today.  I was looking at hostel availability in Belfast for October 8, and I looked to see what day that was.  A Thursday.  Ok.  And then I realized: that’s next Thursday.  The Thursday after this one.  I’ll be in Belfast.  And I had a little moment of freakout.  Which is good.  I was starting to worry about myself because I couldn’t stop thinking about the trip in a theoretical sense.  Much better now.  I suppose.

Will next Tuesday never arrive?  No, I take that back.  Time is suddenly going at quite the blistering pace.  FOUR days.  Wow.

Anyways, since I think this is about the last post I can handle before I leave, I thought I’d share a little bit of itinerary info for those of you who want to know where I’ll be.

Tuesday: My plane leaves at 3:54 pm.

Wednesday: I’ll land in Dublin in the morning after a wonderful all-night flight in cattle class.  Last time I flew Aer Lingus, though, they weren’t bad at all and we had a new plane, so hopefully it’ll be the same thing this time.

Then I’ll have the day to wander around Dublin.

Thursday: Going to Belfast and spending the afternoon/night there.  Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll even get to see/participate in a riot!  That would be exciting.

Friday: taking the bus/ferry from Belfast to Edinburgh.

Saturday-Sunday: Edinburgh and surrounding (I really want to see Rosslyn Chapel)

Monday-Friday: 5-Day Highland Tour through Macbackpackers.

Saturday: London.  Don’t know how long I’ll be here yet.  After that it’s on to the Netherlands and the rest of mainland Europe!

I’ve been kind of packing, but I suspect I’ll make the final decision on what clothes I’m taking and everything on…say, Tuesday morning.  Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

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I got my Eurail pass in the mail today.  I wasn’t going to get one at all, but after looking up actual point-to-point ticket costs I saw how it might add up to way more than I wanted to pay.  So I bought the Global 3-month pass, which covers 21 countries.  It cost me $1359, more than I actually earned in an entire month of working, and it was rather painful to part with that much money all at once.  So hopefully it’ll be worth it in the end.  


I’m going to keep track of all the extra reservation fees and so on that I have on the trip and at the end tally up how much I actually spent with the Eurail pass as opposed to how much I would have spent on point to point tickets.  


The only thing I’m still waiting for now is my Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring guidebook.  The new version comes out on October 1st and I’ve pre-ordered it through Barnes and Noble.  If it doesn’t get here in time, I’ll just have to get a different one. 


The money is still coming in–I’ll probably have about $8500 by the time I leave.  If I add up everything I’ve spent on Eurail passes, plane tickets, backpacks, insurance, guidebooks, etc, I earned well over my goal of $10,000 and did it in less time than I’d hoped for too.  W00t.   


I’m starting to feel slightly anxious.  Have I overlooked something important?  What if I forget to pack something?  What if I get robbed?  At the same time I feel like I’ve planned the trip to death.  I have three different ideas for itineraries and hopefully won’t be following any one of them.  I’ve read every website that exists on indie travel and backpacking Europe in particular.  There’s not a lot more I can do at this point.  

It’s like this before every trip though.  Once I’m in the airplane, it’ll be different.  I’ll be fine once I actually land and start traveling instead of just thinking about it.   


Right now I’m focusing on the beginning of my trip: Ireland and Scotland, and to a lesser extent, London.  Would I be a bad tourist if I skipped the Guinness factory tour for the second time I’ve been in Dublin?  Everyone asks me if I’ve done it and it’s kind of like going to Hawaii and not surfing, but I’ve heard it’s not that great and is expensive.  The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam is supposed to be a lot better, and how many beer factory tours can you really take in your life?  I feel like one is sufficient.  


I have two days of work left, and then a week off to get everything packed and ready and my affairs sorted out at home, and then I’m off!  

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Bootsnall readers may or may not have noticed the recent article on Chris Guillebeau, writer, traveler, and entrepreneur.  If you haven’t read it yet, go read it, and then check out his website.    I found it both interesting and inspiring. I know I’m definitely thinking about future trips in a much less theoretical sense now. Round the world? Why not?

Chris explains why living the life you want, whether it be traveling, entrepreneurship, or anything else, is more possible than you may believe. And you gotta love his motto–in such a conformist society, “You don’t have to live your life the way other people tell you to” is quite the freeing statement. Of course, you don’t have to live your life the way he tells you to, either–you’re free to sit on that second mortgage and student debt and car loan, with your $25,000 SUV, and dream of living in a grass hut in the tropics. Or you could sell the material belongings and do it. Your choice.

I’ve always felt very strongly how ridiculous it is when people say they “can’t afford to travel.” As Guillebeau explains, that’s just not the case. It’s not that people can’t afford to travel, they just allocate theri available resources in different ways. You choose to spend that money on a new car or a nice house rather than a two-year round the world trip. You choose to remodel your living room rather than spend a month in Australia. In many cases, especially in the USA, a super-affluent nation, it’s about choice. It’s not that you “can’t,” it’s that you decided not to.  And we’re so locked into these mainstream choices that not doing what society expects you to almost becomes unthinkable–which is why people get defensive and start saying “can’t” a lot.  You’re a free person.  You can do whatever you want.  There are exceptions, but in the majority of cases people are just making excuses because they’re afraid to step outside their comfort zone.  

So either sell that car and jump on the plane, or quit your whining, basically.

And I can’t wait to pull this line of discussion on the next person who tells me they’re jealous that I get to go to Europe. It’s not like I had any special circumstances that allowed me to go. I made the conscious decision to not own a car, not go to college for a year, and forgo much of a social life (which costs $$$) in order to save enough money for the trip. I have enough money to buy a nice car now, if I wanted to, or pay for my first year of college, but I’m choosing to spend it on this trip.

And on another exciting interwebz development, a certain hostel booking-review site is paying $10 US for every hostel review you submit to them. I’d love to tell you what site it is, but I’m a greedy bastard and if everyone started doing it there might be less reviews for me to do. Juuuuust kidding, folks. The site is hostelz.com, and hopefully I’ll be able to write at least a few reviews.  That’s a few pints of Guinness, anyways.  I get to take pictures, write, and earn money at the same time!  What’s not to love about that deal?   

Has anyone done this?  How speedy are they on payments?  Do they often reject reviews?  Many hostels have already been reviewed, but oodles more remain to be seen to.  I should be able to get at least fifteen-twenty in during my trip.  Nice!   

And to wrap this up, I leave in two weeks…or 13 days, 18 hours, and 37 seconds according to my computer countdown.  Could time go any slower?  Departure date is crawling along…and I’m still not good at waiting patiently for things.

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