Tag Archives: Backpacking Australia

You Can Never Have Too Many German Freunds

One of the most common questions I get in regards to my traveling is:

“Daniel, how do you have friends that live all over the world?”

It’s simple. I meet them while I’m traveling. In trains, airports, buses, through volunteering, excursions, etc. One of the most frequent means is while backpacking and staying in a variety of hostels with other solo backpackers.

Meeting new people while traveling occurs totally naturally and usually with a lack of effort.

Even here in Melbourne, I’m technically backpacking visiting loads of Aussie’s I met through previous travels and still I’m meeting loads of new people along the way.

But for some reason, a good majority of them strangely are always from Germany.

And all the German backpackers are all here in Australia. Everyone I meet. German. German. German. German. French. German. German.

It’s def not a bad thing though.

If I were to guess, I’d say my German friends now outnumber my regular friends back home. It’s true. After my week in Melbourne, that scale has tipped even further by a hesitant decision I made on my first night back in the city.

I flew into Melbourne from Launceston fairly late in the evening. I landed around 9:30pm, retrieved my bags, and took the double decker bus to the main city. From there, I walked about 15 minutes to the hostel I booked prior, the YHA Melbourne Metro Hostel.

I highly recommend this hostel by the way. It had a great common area to meet loads of travelers.

I reserved a 4-bed dorm as opposed to the 12-bed dorm to reduce my chances of getting stuck with a snorer. It just so happened that underneath my bunk was the loudest snorer in all of Victoria. It was 10:30pm, I was tired and decided to call it a night.

I actually began to doze off in between his snores and not only a few minutes later, I heard the door knob to my room being tampered with from the outside and inaudible drunken chatter. Whoever was outside the door was having trouble getting in. Still, I laid there motionless and slightly annoyed, hoping they were just at the wrong room. Mr. Snorty McSnore below me and the two drunks outside the door…

…How did I get stuck with these people?

Once the two guys finally figured out how to get inside, I popped my head up to see the faces of the culprits making all the ruckus. One of ’em came to me and eagerly introduced himself as Connor (Scotland) and the other was Nicolas (Switzerland). They apologized for being loud which was pretty nice of them to do. Connor was even amazed when I told him I was from the US. We are a rare breed here I guess? Which I think he’s right. I only met one American in Australia so far and she was a nut house.

“We’re going out for a few beers with some people waiting for us downstairs,” Connor began in his Scottish accent. “You should join us! That would be cool!”

I already made up my mind as soon as he started speaking. No. I was cozy in bed already half asleep. It was an easy no, but I thought about it and for some strange reason, I said “Yeah, I’ll come.”

Why did I say that? Now I HAVE to go. I instantly regretted my decision but I went to bed without eating dinner so I was quite hungry, so maybe I’d find some grub on the way. Plus, they were both super nice.

I followed Connor and Nicolas downstairs to a group of backpackers waiting outside.

“Man, everybody knows each other and I’m the odd man out,” I thought to myself.

Turns out that wasn’t the case. Everyone literally just met and most of them were German. Included in that bunch, were two German buddies named Luca and Mahid. They didn’t stay at the hostel, but instead were living in a camper van parked just outside the hostel.

 

 

After the night was said and done (around 4am), I was glad I went out with them. These were the most generous group of backpackers I’ve come across since…well not too long. I met another neat group a couple months ago when I first arrived in Fiji.



Over the next few days, I became tighter with the German group. I would give Luca and Mahid my hostel key to take showers every morning and in return they made me sandwiches they created up from the top of their head which included a combination of bacon, dorito-esque chips, barbecue sauce, and sriracha sauce. It sounds kinda odd but it was actually mighty tasty!

“The chips give it a crunch,” Luca would say.


As a matter of fact, this specific group of backpackers proved to be extremely useful, as they can all cook! They even cooked for me a few times while I stood back and supervised. (I did my part by washing all the dishes afterwards.)

 

I’d also take rides with them in their van to nearby beaches filled with penguins and markets surrounding Melbourne.

Within the week, our group grew with the addition of even more Germans including Tarek, a guy from the outskirts of Paris named Jules and a few other randos, all from Germany.

A good measure to tell if I like ya or not is if I start to make fun of you. The more I can make fun of someone, the more comfortable I am around them. If I can’t poke fun, then it’s because you hold some power over me (boss, teacher, etc) or because I’m unsure about you. I was able to make fun of these guys within just a few hours of meeting them. But with Germans its easier to tease them because of their funny English.

Like the way they pronounce the word “clothes” as “cloTHIS” for example.

Their English was already great, but I took it upon myself to refine it with the help of a professional English speaker such as myself.

Guys, remember to swap your ‘v’ and ‘w’ sounds in the English vocabulary!

In addition, I was able to practice my horrible German and learn a few new words to add to my dismal German vocabulary.

During the week, I would periodically leave the backpackers to meet up with other friends I knew around the area. I met up with Ben and his friends again at the noodle market and later also met Nakul’s girlfriend Latha for the very first time. She gave me all sorts of tips for my upcoming trip into India.

I also met up with a former backpacker who joined my party while I was traveling through Nicaragua. Her name is Debbie and she lived in the Fitzroy area of Melbourne.

When I last saw Debbie, I departed from her and Luke while in Costa Rica to stay with some friends of mine there. When I met up with her here at a hip restaurant somewhere in Fitzroy, it was like talking as if we had seen each other just yesterday as opposed to two years. It also happened to be Thanksgiving and so we celebrated by pigging out on the tapa’s plates she chose.

The Fitzroy area is collectively trendy with a lot of unique bars and pubs scattered in the area. Debbie graciously took me through a handful of the ones she liked the best. The Pixel Bar was perhaps my favorite. A bar filled with classic arcade and pinball machines and retro 8-bit inspired art along the walls.

I mentioned to Debbie that I planned on traveling along the Great Ocean Road the next weekend and that if she found the time, she should join along. As a matter of fact, the ordeal of me going to the Great Ocean road was crazy spontaneous. I was presented with the generous gift of a free house over the weekend by my friend Alison, another backpacker I met back in Laos, who was out of the country working in Dubai. The house is situated right on the start of the Ocean Road. Initially, I had a few friends joining me. Mychaela, Josh, and Timo; three volunteers who I met while in Fiji who happened to be in Australia. Also Clint, my friend from the States who was studying here as well. Josh and Timo both got brand new jobs and weren’t able to get the weekend off like they wanted, while Clint got the dates mixed up. Oops.

So now it was just Mychaela and I. How did that happen? We can’t hog this big wonderful house all to ourselves, so I invited some of the backpackers I hung out with all week at the hostel. I knew they would want to go and they were appreciative of me for inviting them. Debbie planned on joining us a day later.

Onward to the Great Ocean Road!




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Come to Melbourne and Experience Four Seasons in One Day!

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The Brisbanites and the Sydneysiders from the north warned me that Melbourne has shitty weather this time of year (November).

“Get ready to experience four different seasons in one day!” they would say.

Then I would think to myself. Pssshh, please. I’m from Michigan. If you really want to experience four seasons in a day for the rest of your life, just go and live there. I’ve suffered through snow, hail, rain, and sunshine all in just a few hours before. Fact!

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Besides the weather, just like the rest of Australia, my expectations for Melbourne were calculated to be nonexistent. So far I haven’t been disappointed, but this time I was doing things differently.

  • Spend about a week in Melbourne with my friend Ben.
  •  Take a four-day trip to Tasmania.
  • Spend another week in Melbourne on my own, exploring the surrounding area.

I have a lot on my plate, but first, here’s how my time with my friend Ben played out. I arrived in Melbourne via flight early in the morning where my fellow traveling buddy Ben picked me up. It was a taxing process, as I had to sleep for a couple hours in a parking lot restroom before the Sydney airport opened up. Anyways, I met him in Antigua, Guatemala (January 2015). He taught English alongside me and later we hit up the beaches of El Tunco in El Salvador after our teaching stint there was complete. My fondest memory of Ben is when we climbed up a volcano called Acatenango over the course of two days, which still has been one of coolest hikes I’ve ever done.

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He scooped me up in his little yellow jeep. Nothings changed much in his appearance except now his hair has grown longer and he was sportin’ a man bun. We got some groceries on the way, stocking up on essentials including kangaroo meat that I’ve been wanting to try and a few boxes of Weet-Bix cereal, (Weetabix in the UK)  my new obsession in life. The American cereal aisles absolutely DESTROY Australia’s cereal selection, but thank God for Weet-Bix. It’s extremelely rare to find over in the States.

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I can’t decide which one I like the best.

Ben lives just outside of the Melbourne city center and shares a home with his friend and roommate Glady. I also another friend of his and also neighbor by the name of Nick. I found myself constantly laughing whenever they spoke to me, whether they were cracking a joke or not. It was at this point I realized I have been laughing all over Australia. I think the Aussie accents make everything sound funny to me. The three of us played his N64, with all of the classics I played as a kid with Mario Party, Smash Bros, and Pokemon Stadium included in that mix.

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Ben’s a swim coach and gym instructor so I had plenty of downtime when he was busy working. I took some time to investigate the city central of Melbourne on one of its nicer days.

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From the looks of it, Melbourne appeared to be a touch more diverse as far as the people around and the placement of the different architecture and surroundings. Loads of cafe’s and cozy restaurants lined up the river that ran through the city.

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Somehow I lost the key he gave me to his place. That sucker must have jumped right out of my pocket on the train between cities.

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Also nearby was a large outdoor Noodle Market that served up lots of Asian inspired cuisine with an emphasis on noodles. Ben and his buddies took me here to get my taste buds flarin’. If you’re a fan of noodles, specifically Asian culture inspired noodles, then this is the place for you! I personally found it to be overpriced and over crowded. There was a line about 50 people deep full of patrons waiting to buy a tiny baby scoop of ice cream! Psshh.

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It didn’t look anywhere close to this amazing. Photo courtesy of Chris Phutully.

Ben is basically a party animal. Back in our Guatemalan days, he was the one known to tear up the dance floor at the bars and clubs in Antigua. I am the total opposite (unless I’m boozed up) but knowing him, I was fully prepared for at least one night in a club of sorts. Besides a button up shirt that I brought but haven’t wore once since this Quest to the Seven Continents began, I didn’t have the proper attire on hand. Luckily, Ben had some extra pants and some black shoes that weren’t anything I would ever wear, but they actually fit perfectly. We met up with his totally down-to-earth friend Alyscha at her house and pregamed a bit before going out.

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We had a great time and grubbed on McDonalds at the end.

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Speaking of grub, the kangaroo meat tasted great. Just like beef. However the thin layer of vegemite spread on toast was something I don’t ever need to try again. I tried it on two separate occasions just to make sure of what I was tasting. The verdict is: ehh, I can live without it. The fairy bread though…that was pretty scrumptious! What is fairy  bread? It’s pretty simple. All it is, is bread with butter spread and lots of sprinkles (hundreds and thousands as they call it here in Australia) on top. It’s mainly served at children’s parties but since I am a giant kid, it fit my tastes nicely.

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My first week in Melbourne was pretty low-key which was what I wanted. It was a warm sunshine and then cold sudden rain most of the days, just like the northerners predicted, but still I was able to get some work done and lounge, explore, and play the N64 at my leisure. I had another full week in Melbourne later where I knew I would constantly be on foot, so I was completely fine with relaxing all week.

But before that week, I was invited down to the island state of Tasmania for a few days. I didn’t have any intentions on going to Tassie initially, but then I thought “Why not?” Return flights are cheap and I have two friends who live there that are ready to welcome me with open arms.

Ben thanks for having me! Hopefully you get closer to my neck of the woods over in Canada. Off to Tasmania!

The World According to Will


You have to be pretty darn neat to have your name in the title of one of my blog posts.

There have only been three others to ever claim that honor: English Lucy,  German Björn, and a Mexican horse that won me money by the name of Don Porfirio. Unfortunately, Will is no Mexican horse that can win me money, but he’s still pretty darn neat enough to be added to this prestigious list.

Will is an Australian traveler I met while volunteering in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam in 2013. Before he even met me, he attempted to steal my bunk bed while I was away on a weekend trip in the country. I came back to my dorm and found someone’s giant backpack placed on my bunk, “claiming” it as theirs. I figured it was one of the newbie volunteers I haven’t met yet, so I removed the bag and chucked it on the floor. I come to find out later it was Will’s and so he kindly moved it to another bunk. That sinister bunk thief turned out to be a nice person…

Except for that instance when he joyously found humor in my neck injury…

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This was back in July 2013 while in Vietnam when I accidentally hurt myself. Long story.

Still he had the generosity to escort me to the hospital in the first place so I guess he’s actually capable of being a decent person.

BUT, there was another instance where he copied my trip to Mui Ne and took the exact same photos that I did. Some might call it an inspiration, but I call it plain old thievery!

Mine are on the left. His are on the right.

Perhaps he was truly inspired from my photos? (Probably not though. He did try to steal my bunk after all).

Anyhow, we’ve kept in contact over the years, keeping up on each others travels. In July 2015, Will came to New York for the first time where I was able to meet him there, along with a few other friends of mine including League of Eight Extraordinary Events squad member Veronica.

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We visited places of interest like the day draining Statue of Liberty, the Rockefeller Plaza, and even Long Island to name a few. I’m not a big fan of New York, but with friends like these, the trip was absolutely worth it.

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Fast forward to present day, I was now in Will’s territory exploring the sights in Sydney. During the afternoon one Friday, I met up with him at the Sydney Opera House, per his suggestion, for drinks along with Josh. Although drinks at the Opera House are typically more expensive than other places around, you really couldn’t beat the surrounding views.

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We ended up casually bar hopping and visiting another off-shoot bar where we drank too much before calling it a night.

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He’s either always stealing or sabotaging my photos.

The next day, Will had a plan to guide us (myself, Josh, and Timo) to the Blue Mountains, located on Sydney’s borders along the Great Dividing Range. It gets its name based off the blue hue the mountains get when viewed from a distance. It’s something you should see if you ever get the chance to come to Sydney. I’m not sure if I was seeing any blue but I suppose it depends on the day.

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We had the genius idea of climbing down 900 ridiculously stupid vertical steps, dubbed the Giant Stairway, to get to the valley below the Three Sister rock formations. There had to be something great down there! We come to find there was nothing special at all. Just diverging paths to longer trails that none of us were mentally prepared for. So, back up the 900 steps we went. Going down wasn’t an issue but ascending back up…I may or may not have taken more breaks than I’d like to admit. There was a cable car nearby that went back up but why spend the money?

The range went as far as the eye could see. We scoped out the surroundings while on top of Echo Point and chilled out soaking in the sights.

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Back at Will’s place, he introduced to me a show I’ve heard of but never watched called Stranger Things. We ended up watching five episodes back-to-back while chomping on delicious Indian food we ordered for takeaway. I HAD to find out what happened to Barb! Those granny glasses though…

A recent conversation on Facebook…

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Will is a huge beach bum. I knew that based on his Snapchats which mostly consist of only his feet in the sand with the ocean just at reach. #thingsbasicwhitepeopleliketotakepicsof 

Because of his affinity, he knew of some of the best beaches Sydney had to offer away from the much more touristy Bondi Beach. He drove us to Palm Beach and led us to a short trail just above Palm Beach to the nearest lighthouse where we saw the beach stretch out for miles.

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We made our way back down and took a short drive to Whale Beach, which gets its name from the similar shape of a whale’s tail.

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The weather was great, the sand felt nice, but the waves in the water itself were VICIOUS!

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Will’s in there just getting wrecked.

They were mad crazy waves but it was still entertaining! A little scary when the tide sucked you back into the ocean, but still fun.

Later on, we went to a neighborhood eatery in North Sydney called The Greens. The Greens is an indoor/outdoor garden cafe that offers spectacular views of the Sydney harbor. It was wine time once again. Oh and also more Indian food. Two days in a row, whaaaat?

 

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As far as my traveling companions go, I hold Will in high regards and is one of the people I looked forward to visiting most while in Australia because I knew it would be a hilarious time. No distance will ever cease our constant and effortless bashing on each other. Everything down to making fun of each others accents, stereotypes, mothers, etc (all in a 100% joking manner of course), we never get offended no matter how absurd we are and just laugh at everything, including at ourselves which makes the world that much more enjoyable.

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I’m certain our paths will cross again in the future, whether it’s tomorrow or ten years from now, and when it does, I know the world according to Will and it will surely be another hilarious reunion. Maybe Europe?

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Brisbane, The Sunshine Coast, The Gold Coast, and now Sydney have all exceeded expectations!

Up next: Melbourne!