Guess what everybody… It’s my travel-versay! February 17 marked one year of life on the road and to celebrate, I’m publishing some excerpts from my personal journal that haven’t made their way into the blog the first time around.
New York, New York
I’m having a legit panic attack and yet, I seem to be the most reasonable person in JFK. The girl next to me is straight up Vanna White-ing the electrical outlets under the bar to a pair of Germans who want to charge their cell phones. She’s on her way to Helsinki to celebrate her 24th birthday and I’m not sure why she picked Finland in February but a lot of people have told her she’s crazy for going by herself and that makes me think she’s probably on the right track.
Cape Town, South Africa
Met a girl named Abby at a juice bar in Camp’s Bay. She asked me to co-write a musical about the band Chicago with her. Fifteen minutes later, she accused me of stealing her idea for a musical about Chicago. The next day, she texted me to see if I would reconsider, which is the craziest part because I could have sworn I gave her a fake number.
Cape Town, South Africa
I taught a group of Portuguese people the saying, “TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?!” It’s their new favorite thing. One of them then shouted it at the guitarist when it was time for his break, then another at the waiter when he brought us the bill (that we asked for). I left just before we were about to get thrown out.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Working from the lobby of the Belvedere Manor pre-departure for the safari. The receptionist just walked by and asked me, “How is your work-typing going?” This is probably how most of the world sees me. As a typist. Great.
Tuli Block, Botswana
On a game drive, a fellow safari goer said to me, “You shouldn’t take pictures with a flash because it’s disrespectful to the animals.” I said, “I don’t have to use it. It’s light out.” And he said, “Animals can be stunned by the flash.” So I said, “My iPhone doesn’t even have a flash.” And he said, “Yes it does and don’t use it because –“ and I was all like, “I KNOW! THE ANIMALS DON’T LIKE THE FLASH. I HEARD YOU!” And then everyone else shushed me for scaring the elephants. I hope he’s happy.
En Route, South Africa
I saw an ostrich out a bus window and that’s the most interesting thing that happened in the past three days.
Camp Chobe, Botswana
Everyone just went apeshit over a pair of zebras and I was like, “What’s the big deal?” I was being serious. Then a woman said, “That giraffe the other day was really something special.” Like she’s seen enough of them to single one out or something. It seemed like a perfectly average giraffe, but that’s just me.
En Route, Zimbabwe
For fun, on the 9-hour drive today, I reread the briefing materials for this safari. The first line was literally, “It is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.” I’m one for the destination. So we learned that.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Went on a white water canoeing trip down the Zamabezi River. The guide started by explaining what to do if we encounter a hippopotamus, which basically amounted to him telling us to do whatever we want for the last four seconds of our lives. Later, he got very offended that I didn’t want to take a picture of a fish eagle. I said, “Birds don’t do it for me,” and he was all like, “It’s an eagle,” and I was like, “That’s still a bird though,” and he was like, “It’s different.” And I didn’t seem wise to argue with him so I just said, “I’ll take your word for it,” and then pretended to take a picture.
Johannesburg, South Africa
On a conference call for work, someone asked about my trip then announced he was going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “It’s really rugged there,” he said. “You have to wear a helmet.” “When you’re skiing?” I asked. And he was like, “Yes, when you’re skiing. I don’t wear a helmet all the time.” It’s like he doesn’t even realize that he smells like rosewater and his last name is a type of salad.
If there was one stop on my travels that people want to hear more about, it’s Madagascar. Apparently the only thing more entertaining than a story about the time I sat around an African industrial port for four hours and was the one from a a week later when I outran a cyclone in a truck held together by a tree trunk and a belt. Actually… when I put it that way, I get it.
In honor of my travel-versary, here are a few extra bits that didn’t make it in the first time around. But first, the most glamorous picture I have ever taken in my entire life:
Arrived in Madagascar where the customs and immigration department completely ran out of arrival forms. Things can only go up.
I was literally writing someone an email about how I had to pay a bribe to a police officer last night when an airport security guard approached me and asked for a bribe because my carry-on baggage was overweight. I said, “I already paid the first guy for that,” and he pretended not to speak a word of English even though he just spoke to me in perfect English. I paid him anyway, but only half of what I paid the first guy, which, coincidentally, is half of what I paid the police officer last night. I don’t like this whole bribe thing, but at least the cost is going in the right direction.
Nosy Be, Madagascar
Today I walked up to the front desk of the hotel and asked for their help arranging a speedboat to Ankify. I pronounced Ankify like it rhymed with “honk-if-eye.” No one ever heard of the place. So then I wrote it down and they were all like, “Oh! Aunt-KEY-fee! Why didn’t you say so?” And I was like, “Well I was trying.” And they looked very skeptical, like Ankify is general knowledge or something. I got news for them.
On the ride to Anivorano, Maurice’s son ate a dozen oranges and kept wiping his hands on my jeans. I let him do that because it was distracting me from my bigger problem of trying not to have an asthma attack from all the dust blowing through the windows. I was just about to ask Maurice to stop so that I could dig my inhaler out of my suitcase, when his niece, who is 13, produced a hunting knife from under the front seat and in one continuous motion, skinned the rind from an orange. Then she dropped the knife onto the rusted floor of the car right at the feet of Maurice’s two-year old daughter. The baby, by the way, couldn’t have cared less… she acted like she was allowed to play with hunting knives all day long and this one was nothing new. After that, I decided not to ask about the asthma inhaler. I’m not going to be remembered as the girl who was taken down by dust.
Everyone is talking about this cyclone that’s supposed to hit tomorrow. And by “everyone” I mean two German men who are watching live satellite images of the storm on their cell phones and already worrying about their flight being canceled four days from now. So congratulations to me, I’m no longer the most ridiculous person here.
One of them asked me when my flight was and I said I was leaving tomorrow by car. And he was all like, “Well good luck with that! Some of the holes on the road are two meters deep. If it rains, there’s no way to get through.” And then, for effect, he held a hand up to his chest and added, “This deep. Some of the holes are this deep.”
I quickly found a French person and asked, “How high is two meters?” And when he held his hands well above his girlfriend’s head, I went right back to the Germans and said, “I asked around. That’s not even two meters. So relax. OK?”
“Well if it’s raining really hard, sometimes a bridge will just wash out,” the guy continued. “You’ll wait 12 or 13 hours on the road until you can pass. And you better hope the car doesn’t run out of gas.”
I went back to sitting with the French people and without an ounce of self-awareness said, “Some people are so dramatic.”
Nosy Be, Madagascar
Met a girl at the airport. She was 21 and had a huge bandage on her face. Of course I had to ask. She had infection that she got when she popped a zit. Even with the huge piece of gauze taped to her cheek, she was the most put-together person in the whole place. I’m including myself in that statement.
Somewhere between fanning myself with the The New York Times in the check in line at the airport and shouting my confirmation code at a South African Airways employee, I realized that I have a problem: I like to worry. Like really.
There’s a saying: The worst trips make for the best stories. One need look no further than my recap about the southern Africa safari to know that’s true. But, unfortunately, so is the opposite: Good trips make for, at best, mediocre stories. Which is why the most eventful thing that happened during my three months in Europe last summer was that I got my hair done on the same day I decided that I could speak Spanish. Surprisingly, my time in Asia was the same. I already wrote about the best parts (disaster date in Hong Kong or surfing in Indonesia) and there isn’t really that much more to tell.
This is a long way of saying that I’m not going to post journal entries from either of those places and instead skip right to Australia, where if you remember, one of the first things that happened was that my neighbor shut off my water line at midnight. Without further ado:
Sat down on the plane and the guy in the middle seat just realized there’s no in-flight entertainment. “What do they expect us to do?” he asked. He was straight-up horrified. I shrugged. “Well I guess we could talk,” he said hopefully. I immediately put in my headphones and said, “Sorry. I like to zone out on planes. Anxiety.” That’s a lie, of course… I wasn’t sorry at all.
The Airbnb without water is now short a back door. Literally with just seconds left until check-out, I managed to rip it off its hinges while taking out the trash. It was the second time in one week that I had to contact a woman on vacation in Tasmania, who, once again, assured me that “This has never happened before.” Helpful.
Melbourne is a lot like Brooklyn, which is not a compliment.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
I suggested to Ryan that we take a road trip to the Twelve Apostles. I ignored the fact that the weather called for torrential downpours and left out the part about how I get carsick – both of which came back to bite me. Within an hour, I had all the vents in the car pointed directly at my face and was about to ask Ryan to pull over when I saw something slumped on the side of the road. “What was that?” I asked and spun around to get a better look. To answer my own question: The first of 27 dead kangaroos that we would come to see that day.
Halfway up the mountain, Ryan and I met a guy from Atlanta who not only ignored the sales clerks’ warnings about hiking alone, but also had the nerve to do it in a pair of jeans. “They were ridiculous,” he complained. “The way they told it, we’re all going to die up here.” I still wasn’t convinced that we weren’t, but I felt a lot better being in the company of two people who were cocky as hell about their ability to read a topographical map.
“They were a little extreme,” I agreed. “Besides, in all your trips have you ever really had any close calls?” Ryan shrugged – which pretty much sums him up perfectly. But the other guy said, “No, not really… I mean, there was one time I was hiking Mount Rainier the day before those six people died and my guide had to leave our group to go help rescue the ones who were stranded… And there was this one time that I was hiking in Georgia when Russia invaded with a few tanks. And then…” He gave a third example, but I don’t remember what it was. It’s kind of hard to recall all the details when you’re in a blinding panic.
We were warned that the trail was covered in snow, that we'd never be able to find it, and, in the off chance we did, we'd be all but certain to die on it. We went anyway. New post on the blog: www.adviceineeded.com / Make Your Own Trail. Thanks again to @knoisewater for leading the way… and always giving me great material. #travel #travelgram #travelblog #kosciuszko #sevensummits #australia #thredbo #hiking #trekking #mountain #snow
Halfway through the trip back to Sydney, I asked Ryan if he wanted to drive the whole way or break it up into two days and he gave me a big song and dance about the terminology he uses when he realizes he’s about to take off in a plane that isn’t fit to fly. I was tired, so at the end of it, I skipped all the obvious questions like, “HOW FUCKING OFTEN DOES THAT HAPPEN?” and “SHOULDN’T YOU CHECK ALL THAT BEFOREHAND?” and instead was just like, “So you want to drive all the way to Sydney tonight or not?” And he was all, “That’s what I just told you.” And I was like, “No, you did not. You just described a plane crash…” but only in my head because we still had three hours to go and the last thing we needed was an argument. Or more metaphors.
Anyway, we drove all the way to Sydney and that turned out to be maybe not the best choice because five hours later, the last little stretch of highway into the city was inexplicably closed in both directions and no detour was posted. We drove in circles for an entire hour before Ryan, exhausted and frustrated, yelled “Is this how it ends? Seriously?! Is this what we’re going to do – just drive around Sydney until dawn until they reopen the highway?” Of course we weren’t. We were going to drive far enough in the wrong direction so as to sufficiently trick the GPS into finding an alternate route to the hotel, at which point we would paid $50 for parking and I would drop my laptop on the lobby floor. For our grand finale, we would both fail to locate our room’s “Do Not Disturb” sign, which was especially pitiful considering that we would realize the following morning that it was on the door. Geniuses. Both of us.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
My vomit tour continues. Today I threw up on a boat tour to the Great Barrier Reef. Despite that, a Scottish girl invited me to spend a few days with her when she goes to New Zealand next month and a private jet crew invited me to take a road trip with them the following day to a place where you can hold koala bears. I agreed to both because why the hell not?
Related: if you want to inspire jealousy among a group of people on a snorkeling trip, just say that when you got cold and swam back to the boat alone, you happened to see a shark. Totally works. Also, I totally did.
South Island, New Zealand
Met up with Nikki in Queenstown, who has been touring the south island of New Zealand without incident for two weeks. Within hours of my arrival, we experienced a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, major road closures and two canceled helicopter rides… not to mention four straight days of rain. In my defense, she should have known this would happen. After all, I introduced myself on the boat as, “Nova from New York. Excuse me I have to throw up.”
Queenstown, New Zealand
I went to see a doctor for what I was concerned with the early stages of shingles. As it turns out, they were only flea bites. “FLEA BITES!” I screamed. “How can this be a flea bite?!” I said that because fleas are small and my bites had swollen to the size of golf balls. And he was all like, “Well. You’re probably highly allergic to fleas.” So there’s that.
Then I took some medicine, forgot about the flea bites and went into a Lululemon to try on shirts. A sales clerk named Kendall whose only concern up until that point was to sell me an overpriced tank top, saw my arms and got visibly upset. “Oh don’t worry,” I said when I saw her take a step back. “They’re just fleas.” That explanation didn’t seem to help, so I added, “They’re old.” And then I left. And I did not by the tank top because Kendall was kind of being a snob about the whole thing.
Mt. Cook, New Zealand
I have a bone to pick with Hotels.com. Yes – the room I booked is, in fact, 40 km from Mt. Cook National Park… 40 kms through a mountain range. Here comes another 6-hour road trip.
New York, New York
Arrived in JFK. A man in baggage claim is wandering around, shouting in Spanish and shaking the stump of his amputated arm. Home sweet home.