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In Summary

So that's it. Our advensha is over. I'm writing this while sat in my mum's living-room back in my hometown of Liverpool. We have been back for exactly one week now and it still doesn't feel entirely real. Every time I pick up my phone to message or call someone I do a little calculation in my head to figure out the time difference and whenever I look at the price of anything I halve it (thanks Australia).
It is taking some time to get a 'normal' sleep pattern back - I'm averaging about 5-6 hours of sleep at the moment but it is increasing every night.
It actually feels like we've only been away for a long weekend - mainly because nothing has changed back in Manchester and Liverpool. Actually that's probably a bit unfair; 3 of our friends have had babies, but aside from that, everything else is just as we left it.

I think it's going to take a little bit of time for us to really appreciate what we've done and where we've been. It's all a bit of a blur at the moment.
I've just re-read my 'The night before' blog post and it feels like I wrote it a lifetime ago. I said I was feeling numb, and to be honest, that's kind of how we feel right now too. We're in limbo - tired, confused, apprehensive and lost. We've been going through boxes of our stuff with a fresh and ruthless eye. After all we've been living out of a bag for 6 months so our definition of NEED has narrowed greatly.

I'm afraid I don't feel able to write a comprehensible 'conclusion' to our advensha, so instead I've done what I do best, formulated a list...

Best and Worst

Favourite country:
Aisha - India
Lauren - India

Favourite place:
Aisha - Bagan, Myanmar or Penang, Malaysia
Lauren - Udaipur, India or Penang, Malaysia

Favourite street food:
Aisha - Poh piah (Malaysian)
Lauren - Gobi manchurian and bread pakora (both Indian)

Favourite restaurant/café food:
Aisha - Annen Hoi in Hội An, Vietnam did the most amazing tomato tofu. Hui Yuan vegetarian buffet in Melaka, Malaysia was by far the tastiest buffet I have ever had. Also Capitol Satay, again in Melaka was both delicious and fascinating.
Lauren - The first place we had Thali in Jaipur, India. Also Millets of Mewar café in Udaipur, India.

Favourite people:
Aisha - Myanmarese
Lauren - Myanmarese

Favourite activity:
Aisha - Being sat in the sand dunes of Pushkar, Rajistan while watching a dance show, magician and the setting sun.
Lauren - Trekking through the rainforest of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

Favourite swimming:
Aisha - In the crystal clear waters of the Andaman sea off Koh Ngai island in South Thailand.
Lauren - In the Arabian sea off Patnem, Goa, India.

Favourite accommodation:
Aisha - Jungle House in Vientiane, Laos followed closely by Tordi palace in Rajistan, India.
Lauren - Luna Villa Homestay in Hội An, Vietnam closely followed by Old Town Guesthouse in Melaka, Malaysia.

Favourite religious/spiritual site:
Aisha - Swedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar or Ta Prohm in Angkor Cambodia.
Lauren - Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where one of Buddha's eyebrow hairs lives (ahem).

Favourite journey:
Aisha - I loved the Indian sleeper train from Ahmedabad to Mumbai in India. It was cramped, dirty and public but it was a great experience.
Lauren - The private transfer from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong (Thailand to Laos) in an air-conditioned, swish people carrier.

Favourite beach:
Aisha - Otres in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
Lauren - Patnem in Goa, India

Worst experience:
Aisha - The scary stray dogs in Ayutthaya and my camera breaking for a second time in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (it's still not fixed).
Lauren - Our experience in Mali Mali Guesthouse, Langkawi, Malaysia (pervy man).

Worst accommodation:
Aisha - Our hotel in Mumbai, India that had no windows, a toilet that didn't flush, a strong smell of petrol and there were ants everywhere. BTB Battambang hostel was pretty awful too - no security, really dirty and rude incompetent staff.
Lauren - Mali Mali Guesthouse in Langkawi - dirty (fungus growing in between tiles in bathroom) and unsafe (bedrooms were accessible from the main strip).

Worst food:
Aisha - Jaljeera juice in India - which was basically curry flavoured juice and the 'pork satay stick' on Vietnamese train which was covered in wiry hairs and was probably a week old.
Lauren - The poh piah in Kuala Lumpur mall food court that was drenched in sticky tamarind sauce.

Worst journey:
Aisha - The double-decker bus we took from Bangkok to Surathani with the crazy drunk lady and her boyfriend who ended up getting thrown off.
Lauren - The journey from Sihanoukville to Battambang on which poor Lauren was vomiting throughout.

What We've Learned

About ourselves:
One of the main things we've discovered is that we both love animals much more than we thought we did. Wherever we were in the world we always seemed to find a cat, dog or bird to cuddle and coo at.

That we love each other - a lot! We have spent 24/7 with each other for 6 whole months. We've not had to text/call one another for 6 months because we've always been beside each other. We've been together 2 years now so for a quarter of our relationship we've been travelling. And, aside from a handful of very insignificant arguments (usually due to hunger, exhaustion or being lost) we've loved every second with each other. And of course we've grown stronger as a couple as a result of all the experiences we've shared.

That although we do really enjoy architecture, history and art, we mostly love people - talking to them, learning about them and seeing things through their eyes if only for a short time. We definitely enjoy a good balance of high and low culture and there's also no denying that we appreciate our creature comforts and time to ourselves.

About each other:
Aisha - Lauren is far braver than she lets on and although she can be softly spoken and avoid confrontation, when she feels it's right she will stick up for herself and for me.
I already knew that a hungry Lauren was an angry Lauren but this has been cemented during the trip. Excessive heat also doesn't make for a happy Lauren; but to be fair sometimes the temperature was pretty unbearable even for the locals. Thanks a lot El Niño!

Lauren - Aisha was not as fussy or meticulous as I thought she would be. She was quite happy for me to make decisions about what we were doing or where we were going.
Aisha's also the best person in the world (besides my lovely mum Joan) at looking after me - my physical, emotional and mental well being.

About travelling:
We always managed to form some semblance of a base or 'home' for ourselves. I reckon this is part of our human survival instinct - to feel safe and secure. I (Aisha) was a little concerned that on days when I might be feeling down that I would struggle because I couldn't go 'home' to lock myself away, but thankfully this was never an issue. Our hostel/guesthouse/homestay always became our temporary 'home' wherever we were and, as such, we always felt snug.

Packing

Things we would have been lost without:

  • Keen sandals - Even though they gave us the most ridiculous Croc-style tan lines, these comfortable, waterproof and durable sandals were amazing and I must say, after a while we even grew to quite like their appearance too,
  • Stolen shampoo - If we were ever in a hostel that had shampoos in a dispenser in the bathroom we were straight in there with one of our empty tubs filling them up. I count it as a small victory that we didn't buy shampoo once in 6 months.
  • Pens - I found two mini biros before we left and put them in our passport wallets and they were invaluable.
  • Oats - Most of the breakfasts we had while we were away consisted of porridge oats with some local fruit and/or seeds and nuts that we made ourselves. Of course when free toast / pastries / yogurt was available we made the most of that too but we always made sure we had some oats and soya milk with us (neither of which were hard to find).
  • CEX laundry bag - The large drawstring plastic bag I got when I bought my mini laptop from CEX in India served as our dirty washing bag throughout the 6 months and, whenever we handed it over to launderers we always made sure we got it back.
  • Bench dress - Lauren brought a light cotton dress by Bench with her and it served as a brilliant nightie for when we were in private rooms without an en suite and needed to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. As it was so hot whenever we had the opportunity we slept naked which posed a bit of a problem when we were sharing a bathroom. This dress was the perfect throw-on item.
  • Tiger Balm - This wonderful potion (which was invented in Singapore) was an amazing for a whole host of skin ailments - insect bites, rashes, itchy bits, spots, blisters and even worked as a decongestant when we were bunged up.
  • Google Maps - As much as I hate to admit it, the internet, specifically Google Maps, saved us many times. Every traveller will tell you that getting lost is an inevitable and accepted eventuality and, without the help of Google Maps I'm positive we would have ended up stranded on more than one occasion.

Things we didn't end up using/needing:

  • The majority of the first aid kit - To be honest, this isn't exactly a bad thing, it just means we didn't have any major health issues. It's now going to live in my car.
  • Cable ties - I do think we used one or two of these along the way but, for the most part, they weren't that useful for us.
  • Pliable camera tripod - We should have realised that we weren't going to be attaching one of our expensive cameras to a random wall or pole away from us - we would have been asking for it to get stolen.
  • Travel notes - In the run up to the trip Lauren had handwritten some notes on places of interest and transit information for various countries we were visiting. Unfortunately these notes ended up packed deeply away in Lauren's backpack only to be found after we'd already visited the countries that the notes were on.

Things we wish we would have brought:

  • Sudocrem - The wonder-cream. Luckily we had Tiger Balm as a backup but I would have loved some Sudocrem too.
  • Dental floss - I did actually bring some of this but it ran out quite quickly. A lot of the foods we were eating had lots of 'bitty bits' in them - herbs, spices, veggies, fruit, meat etc so dental floss was a bit of a necessity to avoid tooth decay. I ended up buying a packet of toothpicks as dental floss was ridiculously expensive in Asia.
  • A proper hairbrush - We'd bought a small travel hairbrush that unfortunately broke after a few months leaving us with crap plastic combs we'd gotten free in a hotel. Thank god I'd had my hair cut short.

What We'd Do Differently
We wouldn't beat ourselves up as much about feeling fed up and bored sometimes. Losing momentum periodically is inevitable and not the end of the world. We've learned that it didn't make us ungrateful or dull - just human.
I (Aisha) do wish I'd have bothered to do some diving. We were in some of the most well-known diving spots and with hindsight I should have splurged on doing my PADI. The upside is that I'd now realised I'm interested in it and so can pursue it back at home and when I next go away.
There are also quite a few things I wish we could have done in Australia. We weren't really tourists in the country as we were mostly visiting people not places. If we'd have had more money (our budget only allowed $80 per day which is approx. £40) we'd have definitely visited the North of the country and seen the Great Barrier Reef. But this has at least given me a thirst to return and this time, in their summer!
Lauren wanted to add that if she could have, she would have gone around Southeast Asia when it was slightly cooler - but I do think it was a fluke that we were there while El Niño was throwing its weight around.

Stats

Have a look at our travel stats here: https://www.travellerspoint.com/stats/advensha/

Final Thoughts

As a final thought I want to express my thanks for everyone that had joined us on this journey by reading this blog and/or watching our videos on YouTube and looking at our photos on Facebook. I'm really proud of myself for starting and finishing this blog project. It has helped to build my confidence in pursuing a creative/media career in the near future.

I also hope that we have inspired one or more people to at least think about taking the leap to quit the job you hate and go see some of the world. We haven't regretted our decision for a second and as much as being unemployed for the first time in my adult life is fucking terrifying (especially for an overly sensible gal like me), I know in my gut that I've done the right thing - whatever happens.

For now we're going to give Bristol a try and see how it suits us. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you go on to have your own advensha!

Posted by advensha 03:06 Tagged adventure best travellers scary backpacking backpackers worst favourites final_thoughts list summary unemployed its_over Comments (0)

Australia: Melbourne (and on the way)

rain 14 °C
View Advensha on advensha's travel map.

First visit (Mon 6th June - Tues 14th June)

We spent Monday morning getting everything packed up ready for our relocation campervan adventure to Melbourne. For the benefit of those who don't know about 'relocations' the idea is that a car or camper-van hire company (of which there are many in Australia) need a vehicle relocating from one place to another. Picture this scenario; Tristan and Brittany are archetypal American backpackers and have hired a funky 4-berth Jucy camper-van from Cairns and have driven south to Sydney and left it at an office there. Jucy Campers in Sydney already have their own fleet and so need to get this camper back to the Cairns depot. This is when they'll advertise on various relocation websites for some stingy, flexible sods (that's us) to drive said camper back to its hometown for not a lot of money (often $1 per day). Sound too good to be true? Well the cons are that you have to rely entirely on what trips come up on the websites and so must be very flexible with your dates. The other thing is that you are restricted by both a kilometre and duration allowance. So if you want to relocate the camper but fancy going on a bit of a detour for a week to Alice Springs - you can't. Overall though for us, the cost is benefit enough - we only have to pay for fuel and an 'admin' fee to cover tolls and linens etc. For those of you interested, during our time in Australia we have used 3 different relocation websites and had only positive experiences; Apollo, imoova and transfercar.

Anyway, back to the blog in hand...

To get to the Apollo camper depot from Coogee we had to get 2 buses and a train, a 90 minute journey. This wasn’t all bad as it gave me the opportunity for a few cat naps. I also managed to fit in a steak and onion pie from a Vietnamese-owned bakery while waiting for our last bus.
We finally made it to the arse-end of Sydney were our modern Toyota camper-van awaited. After finishing the formalities Lauren climbed up to the driver’s seat and tried to figure out the pull/push hand-brake and two pedals. Navigating Sydney’s foreign roads was a little scary but we did make it back to Coogee and even managed to find a parking spot outside the house. We had a cup of tea and chucked our bags in the van along with some carrot cake made by Jeanette. We set off from Sydney much later than we wanted to, mainly due to us not realising how far away the camper depot was. After only an hour of driving it started to go dark and the weather-front we’d been hearing about began to move in. One monster of a storm was about to annihilate the east coast with high winds and torrential rain. A few people had suggested taking the coastal roads to Melbourne as they were apparently very beautiful but, because of said storm, they were closed. Plus it was dark anyway.

While driving 3 hours along the Hume highway Lauren battled to stop the 2.6m high camper-van from blowing into the other lanes. Our windscreen wipers were on high and the roads were very badly lit so overall it wasn’t the smoothest of journeys. Soon enough though we landed at Yass Caravan Park where we would stop for the night. Yass town is a strange, sleepy place that looks like it’s stuck in the 1950s. The town has little to no television reception and the first sign we saw said “beware of falling limbs”. I thought this was some sort of pun until Lauren explained that limbs mean tree branches.

We parked up and ran to the toilet block where I suffered a sudden and nasty bout of diarrhoea. While I shivered on the toilet for 20 minutes Lauren plugged us in to the electricity, sorted out our bed and made us some toast and tea. Anyone would think my gastric troubles were a ploy to avoid doing chores. I eventually made it back to our mobile home and wrapped myself in a hundred layers. We were actually very cosy on our foam mattress with only the rain and wind to be heard outside.

The next morning we made the most of the hot showers and got off nice and early on our way to the funkily named Tocumwal (pronounced toe-come-wall). There we were meeting Peter and Sandra; our new friends that we met in Vientiane, Laos. The 3.5 hour drive was much more scenic than the night before; farms, forests and blue skies with lots of amazing colourful feathered creatures to be spotted.

We parked up on Peter and Sandra's drive and remarked at how much their neighbourhood looked like Ramsey street; large, fairly new spread-out bungalows and big gardens. We chatted for a while before Peter and Sandra drove us around the town. We saw the Murray river which was unusually low, where lots of people go to free bush-camp, canoe, swim and fish for Tocumwal's famous spotted Murray cod. There was a sweet old disused mill, a train station now only frequented by the occasional freight train. We even saw some wild kangaroos hopping around. It felt a bit like the wild west. Apparently what puts Tocumwal on the map is that it's a hotspot for gliders - glider planes than is. The famous four time world championship winning German glider Ingo Renner moved to and became naturalised in Tocumwal. He even has a street named after him (where he still lives to this day at age 77).
After sampling the sights we were then treated to a long dip in Peter and Sandra's hot tub along with an ice cold bottle of cider while a roast was being cooked on the BBQ. It was pretty delightful. We filled up on roasted goodies and wine while waxing lyrical about Australia and travel destinations before retiring to a proper bed with a proper mattress and everything. Needless to say we slept like babies.

The next morning we were on our way again, headed to our next state - Victoria. We made it to Melbourne in just less than 4 hours and dropped our camper-van off at an industrial estate miles away from anywhere. Luckily, Lauren's old friend Janya (whom she met 8 years ago when she herself lived in Melbourne) and her boyfriend Dan very kindly drove 40 minutes to collect us. Unfortunately, our welcoming weather in Melbourne was grey, rainy and generally miserable. Reminiscent of good old Blighty actually.

We spent our first evening in Melbourne chilling out and catching up with Janya and crew at her home in Balaclava. We sat in their lovely boho garden under the stars with Mollie the dog, a few chickens, a couple of sneaky possums and some drinks. Janya and her cousin Tom are kiwi and her boyfriend Dan is from Kentucky, USA.
The next day Janya took us on a pub crawl around St. Kilda; Lauren's old stomping ground - to both reminisce and introduce the area. We met a few of her eccentric friends; Tripper - an elderly guy who rides around on a chopper style bicycle wearing all leather with no teeth and comedy spring-eyes glasses and, most notably, Ray - an old, wise and very interesting aboriginal guy who calls Janya his daughter. What struck me about St. Kilda was the prevalence of many more old and interesting buildings than Coogee and also a completely different set of residents. Compared with Sydney, St. Kilda seemed to be brimming with (for want of a better word) 'riff-raff' - there were homeless people, drunkards, drug addicts wandering around begging for change or a light and in certain areas, sex-workers. As well as this there were also many more native Australians. Despite the very noticeable presence of the undesirables - the area didn't feel remotely unsafe, in fact it felt welcoming - to all people, hard-up or not.
That night, after a brief rest from beer-drinking, we went out again to a local bar called Lost where a live rock band was playing. Janya, Lauren, Ray and I enjoyed the music and chatted away putting the world to rights. When the band had finished we proceeded to dance around like idiots to our own music choices that we played through Youtube (a bit of Where's Me Jumper never hurt anyone).

For the next two days at Janya's we did next to nothing - a bit of shopping, a bit of reading and mindless telly-watching and a lot of sleeping. Such is the joy of not having an itinerary.
We then made our way to another one of Lauren's old friends from the same era; Claire. Claire lives right on Fitzroy street in the heart of St. Kilda in a lovely art deco style apartment with a cute courtyard in the middle. We met Claire's huge man-cat Ezra and got ready for a nearby house-party for another one of Lauren's buddies Bower. The party house was very modern and huge and right on the sea-front. We mingled, drank Passion Pop (like Lambrini) and managed to find the dog of the house (as we do)- a huge soft golden retriever. We spent the last hour drunkenly playing fuse-ball in the garage at the back before we sneaked out and on the way back to Claire's, ate a cheeky Coneheads (chips).

All hungover the next morning, we had big breakfasts at Miss Jackson café where a really weird Canadian waitress was awkwardly oversharing to all of the customers while getting everyone's orders wrong. We then walked around a cold but bright St. Kilda - along the pier to where the fairy penguins live in the rocks. The water at Port Phillip Bay glistened in the winter sun and all was calm.

The next day Claire took us on a nice long walk around Albert Park where we saw plenty of wonderful wild Australian birds. That evening we partook in our first pub quiz (which they call trivia night in Aus) since Thailand at The Local Taphouse pub. We met Claire's friend Emily and her boyfriend Brian who joined our team (Quiz on your face was our name - original I know). The pub specialises in craft ale which is great or most people but for a non-beer drinker like myself it can be tricky to get hydrated. At one point Lauren was getting a round in and after being turned down for about 5 different spirits she knows I like, she settled on a recommendation from the barmaid - Campari. The barmaid told Lauren it was orange flavoured, and, knowing I enjoying a Cointreau, Lauren bought it over for me. As you may already know, Campari is actually hell-flavoured (grapefruit). She couldn't have picked a worse tipple for my awkward taste-buds. The Campari stayed put on our table for the rest of the evening.
Unfortunately we didn't win the quiz but we had a lot of fun nonetheless dancing to the 90s classics the cool quiz-master lady was playing.

The following day we left for our ride-share to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road (see Adelaide blog post).

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Second visit (Mon 20th June - Fri 24th June)

We travelled back to Melbourne in a really great little Hyundai i20 car that we were relocating through Europcar. We collected the car from Adelaide airport where we were met with some very rude and condescending looks and grunts from the manager. Clearly he didn't like the idea of two unkempt backpacker females driving his spotless hire car the 725km to Melbourne. Little did he know I drive like a grandma not a boy-racer. This time we took the inland route along the National Highway A8 as we'd already done the Great Ocean Road on the way there.
As per our usual luck, the weather for the first hour of the 8hr drive was incredibly foggy and drizzly. I couldn't quite figure out how to put my fog lights on so I just used my dipped headlights and drove very slowly. The visibility couldn't have been more than a couple of metres ahead. I managed 4 straight hours of driving on what's an almost perfect straight, unchanging road. I was quite proud of myself. Lauren then covered the last 4 hours. Along the way we marvelled at the funny little towns; namely the inventively named 'Border town' and the mad looking Old Tailem Town - Australia's largest Pioneer village, complete with stables, a hydroplane and plenty of barns.
We arrived at Claire's in really good time at around 6pm and head straight off to another quiz night - this time at the Elsternwick Hotel pub. We met Claire's other friends Emily, Cat, Hannah and her boyfriend Alex. This time we called ourselves 6 girls and 1 cup, because we're classy like that. Again we didn't win but Emily DID win a jug of beer so that's pretty good.

Lauren dropped our favourite little car off the next day and then we spent the day doing some wandering and shopping at my favourite 'Op shop' Sacred Heart, followed by Aldi. Another quiz was awaiting that night at Windsor Ale House (aka Pint on't Punt) where Lauren managed to get a vegetarian parma made from aubergine. Thanks to our well-rounded genius, this time we actually won the quiz with first prize being an $100 bar tab. Fuck yeah! With a name like 'Get your Schnitz out for the dykes' of course we were going to destroy the competition!

The next morning while Claire was in work we had a mini disaster in the form of the shower not turning off. The crisis was averted quite quickly with the consultation of an emergency plumber and we eventually made it out to Melbourne centre where amazingly we'd not yet visited. We checked out the impressive and widespread street-art, perused the art gallery and ate curry from an amazing tiny Indian shop/café.
That night we went to Janya's to meet Roger (another one of Lauren's old friends from Liverpool) and his girlfriend Tara. I brought along a really cheap tawny port I'd bought from Aldi and pretty much polished the whole bottle off. It was an interesting 30 minute walk back to Claire's.

Our last day in Melbourne consisted of drinks in an Irish pub with Janya and some of her friends followed by a cosy night in with Vietnamese takeaway in Claire's with her friends. A fitting end to an indulgent and fun-filled week and a half in St. Kilda. Now back to Sydney to meet a certain new addition to the Jones family...

Posted by advensha 20:35 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne rain road_trip storm highway st_kilda camping scary street_art gliding wind drunk campervan caravan jacuzzi cider pub_quiz relocation hot_tub tocumwal yass st._kilda trivia_night lesbians Comments (1)

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