Greetings from the Southern Hemisphere!
As part of a hopefully recurring series here at Nerd Fitness, I’ll be updating everybody each weekend on where the hell I am and what the hell I’ve been doing while on my 35,000-mile epic adventure around the globe.
Because this is a travel post, it’ll be slightly different than your usual Nerd Fitness article. Don’t worry though, It’ll still have the same Steve Kamb flavor, complete with asinine metaphors and mind-baffling tangents. You know, the good stuff.
WARNING: It is over 3,000 words with lots of pictures – so get comfortable.
Let’s do this thing.? I have other pictures uploaded to my flickr account, so make sure you check that out as well.
Last Sunday night, I hopped on a plane out of LAX and flew halfway around the world to Sydney, Australia. It was a 14.5-hour flight, I had a terrible cold and stuffed up nose, and I had a MIDDLE SEAT. I then remembered that the flight was costing me 1/16th of $418. And the reason I was in a middle seat was because I moved my flight UP a week at the last minute, which didn’t cost me an extra dime.
So, no complains out of me.
Overall, my flight with Qantas was actually pretty awesome – I got a chance to fly on their new model double-decker jet, where even the economy seats are pretty swanky. While flying, I watched Slumdog Millionaire, 127 hours (trippy, but good), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King for the 17th time (which got me fired up for New Zealand), Gladiator (which made me want to visit Rome), and Braveheart (which has me already planning a side trip to Scotland while I’m over in Dublin in August).
It also has me wondering how long it would take to learn to play the bagpipes. Unfortunately, the pipes are one of those instruments where you either sound like a dying cat with emphysema, or you sound like an angel after decades of dedication. I don’t have decades, but what I lack in experience, musical ability, and general overall talent, I make up for with gallons of blind faith that I will succeed at anything I do no matter how impossible it might be.
To my future roommates/neighbors when I get back to the States in October – no that’s not a hyena exploding, it’s me practicing my bagpipes. And yes, I’m playing “Amazing Grace” for the 94th time. The fact that you can recognize it means I’m getting better.
Well that was quite the tangent, wasn’t it?
Other than a random nosebleed at 3AM – made infinitely more exciting due to the aforementioned middle seat predicament, my stuffy nose, and zero napkins or tissues within a 30-foot radius – I arrived safely in Sydney at 9AM, eager to take my first steps on a new continent.
Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!
My six days in Sydney were quite enjoyable. Sure the meals (along with everything else) were comically overpriced, but it’s still a great city with beautiful views, lots to do, and a population that is so much friendlier than any other big city I’ve ever visited. But holy **** it is expensive.
My highlights from my days in the city:
- Meeting up with Shawn, a long time NF rebel and the first man to officially own a Nerd Fitness t-shirt down under. Shawn was nice enough to be my welcoming committee, meeting me at the Sydney Opera House and showing me around the city. He even treated me to lunch and a beer. Thanks Dawsy, I hope your wife and two kids are doing well!
- Running through downtown Sydney on a workday while wearing a safari hat, cut off t-shirt, basketball shorts, and my Vibram five-finger shoes…surrounded by people in suits and dresses. If there was an award for “got the stink-eye from most Australian young professionals,” I would have won unanimously. Unfortunately, there is no such award yet.
- Randomly seeing a tweet from Rob Hanly who invited me out to a bar with his friends. Although I was feeling under the weather, I decided to make the trek out because he was nice enough to invite me. You know those people who can make you feel like you’ve known them for years after about five minutes? That’s Rob. One of the most personable, easy going, and entertaining guys I’ve ever met, Rob introduced me to half the population of Sydney and quickly integrated me into his close circle of friends. Thanks Rob, you made my night. And to Rachel, Fiona, Ben, Nick, Emily, and the other dozen folks I met: thanks for letting me be an honorary Australian for the night, even if I did bail to go home and sleep. In my defense, it was a Tuesday. And it was already midnight. You crazy kids.
- Getting my picture taken with a ferocious Koala at the Wildlife Encounter Park. And by ferocious I mean semi-comatose. Just a great day of cracking jokes while looking at animals with Sophie, Becky, Raury (did I butcher the spelling like I butchered the pronunciation?), Bobby, and Freak – his name’s not freak, but it sounds kind of like that, so we just went with it.
If It’s the beaches
After a few days of exploring the city, I kind of ran out of things to do. Don’t get me wrong, I like overpaying for food and drinks as much as the next guy, but I’m a beach lover at heart. The beaches around Sydney are famous, so I made it a point to get out and see the two of the more well known – Manly and Bondi.
Thursday afternoon was spent over in Manly. I don’t generally believe in love at first sight, but I’m fairly confident I fell in love with the town within two minutes. Imagine a small surf town where New Orleans architecture meets San Diego weather, atmosphere, and culture. Because I grew up on the beach and spent two years in southern California, I instantly felt at ease and at home. Throw in a great beach, fantastic waves for surfing, and far less overpriced meals, and that’s a recipe for love, my friend.
After my friends caught a ferry back to Sydney, I decided to stuck around for a few more hours to soak up as much awesome as possible – running along the boardwalk, doing a great workout in the park overlooking the ocean, and having an incredible conversation with a New Zealand native as we watched his son catch wave after wave with the sun setting in the distance. Not bad for a Thursday.
I came home that night, immediately adjusted my travel plans to spend a few extra days in Manly, and then made plans with Andy to visit famous Bondi Beach the following morning.
Steve and Andy’s Male-Bonding Day at Bondi
So who the hell is Andy?
Andy was my roommate at the Blue Parrot Backpackers, my lodging for my five nights in Sydney. Andy was born in New Zealand, grew up in England, and is in Sydney interviewing for jobs, hoping to land a good gig with a global company that will allow him to travel. He’s also one of the wittiest and funniest people you’ll ever come across – I’ve never met anybody who picked up on my brand of humor so quickly and fired it right back at me. I’m fairly confident I could convince Andy tomorrow to give up his job search and go on a comedy tour together instead – we’d certainly crash and burn, but what a fun two weeks THAT would be.
On to Bondi. Unfortunately, our day at the beach was slightly marred by overcast clouds that lasted the entire day. It did, however, allow Andy and I to get some pretty great pictures, exchange awesome stories about our childhoods, and discover that we’re both mamas’ boys (don’t worry Mom, I mean that in the best possible way). It also gave Andy plenty of time to convince me to change my arbitrary English Premiere League team allegiance from Manchester City to Andy’s favorite team, Aston Villa.
That’s right Man City, you’ve been dumped.
You probably didn’t even know I was a fan, because I don’t exactly “watch the matches” or “care if they win,” but I have to move on. I have a new team now. GO VILLA! I told Andy that years down the road I expect to meet him in England so that we can go drink with Villa hooligans and then go watch a match. Not surprisingly, it was a pretty easy sell.
Raining on my parade
After a day of hiking from one beach to the next, Andy and I decided to head back to the Hostel and lay low for the night. Andy plays semi-professional soccer (football to you non-Americans) for a team down here in Australia and had a game the next morning, so he already had a low-key night planed. Due to the weather forecast (buckets and buckets of rain for the next few days), I called up American Airlines once again and had them change me back to the 6:15AM flight the following morning to get me to New Zealand.
Looks like my love affair with Manly will have to wait until my next visit.
Now, being the stubborn and frugal traveler that I am, I had the bright idea to skip booking a hostel for the night and instead just go to the airport, crash there for a few hours, and then get up at 4:30AM to get through customs and head off to Auckland.
With a few hours to kill before until Andy’s bedtime and my airport time, we spent our night in the lobby being heavily entertained by Andy’s new roommates for the night – five Canadian girls studying abroad to get their masters in occupational therapy. These ladies proceeded to tell Andy that they would probably wake him up when they got back from the bars, accidentally try to use his face as a ladder while climbing into the top bunk, certainly try to spoon with him, and most importantly keep him from getting any sleep before his soccer match the next day.
At this point I did what any good friend would do: I laughed in Andy’s face and bid him adieu….but not before giving him one of my Nerd Fitness t-shirts. I decided that I don’t need four of the same shirt, as everybody probably already thinks I’m a hobo. I plan on trading at least one (or all) of my shirts for other people’s awesome shirts, and then having a few more NF shirts shipped ahead to my next destination to repeat the process.
That’s what we call global advertising, sucka!
Back to the story: my trip to the airport was far more enjoyable than I could have expected, thanks to four Australian teenagers who were on their way out to the burbs after a night of drinking in the city. They proceeded to quiz me on my knowledge of Australian slang, growing more comically incredulous with each additional “I have no clue what that means” response from me.
Lachlan and friends, thanks for the entertaining train rides – you have my card, you better email me.
The floor of an airport is clean, right?
Upon arriving at the Sydney airport, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had shut down the airport for the night! AWESOME. There was a small section of seats outside the gates, but they were all taken by people who had been there for hours, so I was left with no options other than the floor.
I blew up my inflatable pillow (first use), pinned my big bag between myself and the wall, and laid down on the hard tile floor. I spent the next 30 seconds wondering if I’d ever be able to fall asleep.
Four and a half hours later, I woke up with drool all over my face, feeling well-rested and surprisingly spry – Thanks floor! I checked in, flew through security, hopped on my flight to New Zealand, and passed out immediately.
New Zealand and Primal Eating
I knew I was going to love New Zealand before the plane wheels even touched the ground. The ocean was so blue, the grass so green, and even the white fluffy clouds overhead looked happy to be there.
Even the airport was ridiculously good looking.
I spent yesterday wandering around Auckland, decided it was a lot like Sydney (though far less pricey and not as large), and made the decision to only spend a day or so in the city. After getting settled into my new residence at Queen’s Street Backpackers, I met up with Sue, a lady who’s been reading NF for the past year and has been exchanging emails with me about what to do while in New Zealand. She invited me to join her and her boyfriend Mel for a home-cooked Paleo dinner, and there was no way in hell I was turning THAT down.
So how’d the night go?
Let me put it this way: Sue and Mel are now two of my favorite people. For dinner, along with a class of Riesling (from New Zealand), we had roast lamb (raised in New Zealand) covered with a great Moroccan spice, a garden salad (complete with vegetables from their own backyard garden), and grilled sweet potato slices fresh off the backyard barbie. Mark Sisson would have been so proud.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was the best meal I have had in a LONG time.
After dinner, we sat around and exchanged stories over tea before Sue brought me back to my hostel so that I could crank out the article you’re currently reading.
Not bad for a first week, huh?
Random Thoughts Thus Far
I’m getting the hang of this “wearing the same thing every few days” thing. Other than the previously mentioned issue of spending too much time in the same place (where I’m wearing the NF shirt too often), the living out of a bag thing is going very well. I’m digging the three ex-officio boxer rotation. Wear one, wash the other two in the sink while showering, hang them up at the end of my bed while sleeping, and they’re clean and dry for the morning – same with my shirts.
I can’t wait to get healthy. It’s been over three weeks since I’ve woken up feeling 100%. I honestly don’t remember what it feels like to not wake up feeling like crap. I haven’t been eating much because my appetite is shot, I haven’t been doing any strength building exercises because my whole body is sore, and I haven’t been as active because I’m really tired. These past few days have been a HUGE improvement, so hopefully I can kick this cold for good by Tuesday.
This trip makes me feel like I’m in college all over again. Because I’m traveling alone, I feel like I’m flashing back to my first day at Vanderbilt: not knowing anybody, being kind of shy the first day in a new place, eventually coming out of my shell, making an effort to befriend those around me, and then having an absolute blast with my new friends. Unfortunately, every few days, I have to repeat this process as I move onto the next town. Fortunately, that means I get to make all kinds of new friends all over the place.
I have yet to meet another American traveler. I’ve been hanging out with Brits, Welsh, Scots, Irish, Canadians (lots of Canucks), Dutch, Italians, and more…but no Americans! A lot of these people are here looking for work because they can’t find any at home. I know LOTS of Americans can’t find work right now, so it’s surprising to me that I haven’t run into ANY that are doing what the rest of the world is doing – chasing good opportunities and seeing new places along the way.
I’ve only had one bout of homesickness, and it was early in the week, around 3AM when it was hot as hell in my hostel room: I hadn’t met any of my roommates yet and I couldn’t sleep due to all the crap in my nose and throat from being sick. Fortunately, the next day started my road to recovery, I met Andy and the other fun people in my hostel, and quickly embraced the fact that I’m doing something that very few people will ever get to do in their lifetime.
I’m not following the Paleo Diet while traveling. Honestly, I’m just worried about getting enough calories into my system on a daily basis so I don’t waste away. Australia and New Zealand are quite expensive, and I’ll be hiking A LOT, so there’s no way I can afford to (nor have the time to eat) 4,000 calories of high quality food on a daily basis. I’ll do my best to eat well, but I envision lots of compromises along the way. Again, I’m more concerned with total calories for the near future – this doesn’t mean I’m switching to a diet of Cokes and ice cream. It just means that I’m going to do the best I can considering my budgetary, location, and time restraints.
Not having free Internet access all the time is a blessing and a curse. It’s tough for me to get my work done when I can’t track down a wifi connection. That being said, I’m also spending a record amount of time doing things away from the computer, and my hours at the computer are ten times more productive because I’m generally paying for bandwidth by the hour and can’t afford to screw around all day! Throw in the unexpected travel days and random adventures, and I’m always a few days or weeks behind on my emails. I apologize in advance.
Week 1: COMPLETE
Week one is in the books! If all goes according to plan (which it never does), this might be the week where I cross a thing or two off my bucket list, which would successfully bump me up to the next level in my Epic Quest of Awesome.
Back to your regularly scheduled programming tomorrow – next travel update coming next weekend!
PS – Make sure you’re following me on Twitter as I update that with more frequency through the week about my adventures.