September 30, 2011

'The Route'

Traveling is all about the unpredictability of where you'll end up.  Or so I'm told.  I'm way too much of a planner slash control freak for that kind of carry on but I came up with a way that would satisfy my OCD tendencies and still give us the freedom to travel around ad hoc.  The joyous wonder that is the sheets of Excel became the host for what we'll now call 'The Route'.  Viva Glam.

Why bother with a loose week by week breakdown?  Well it meant when we went in to book our Round-The-World ticket we'd have an idea of how long we wanted to spend where and make sure we got in everything we wanted to see.  It also meant it was easy to let friends know where we were going to be should they wish to visit us!

Month Week    Date    Flights   Things of interest     Proposed places    Country   Continent
 Sept           1

Once we had 'The Route'  we made our joyful way into Trailfinders where we booked the Round The World ticket.  I was shocked at the bargain these RTW tickets were.  We managed to get in all of SE Asia, Oz, The States and home for approx 1700 blips and when a return trip to Vietnam is coming in at 1200 it feels like even more of a bargain.  Nod of approval for RTW tickets.

Let's get Technical, Technical. I Wanna Get Technical

Hello, my name is Andrea and I'm a technology addict.  

Not in the traditional sense however, as in I need to have all the latest gadgets and gizmos.  Oh no, nothing as interesting as that.  More that I hate to be without my necessities - phone, email, internet.  Although for the duration of this trip I'm going to try and reign in my addiction I'm certainly not ready to go cold turkey.  Here's what I found out trying my plan my techno hits. 

Pay-As You-Go
I settled for changing my phone to a pay-as-you-go tariff.  Why?  I wanted to keep my number; I'm pretty lazy so didn't want to have to sign up to new networks, plans etc and also I really wasn't planning on using my phone that much.  Pay-as-you-go meant I'd have it there for letting Mum know we were safe and in case of emergency and could top up as I needed.  It would also encourage me to stay off data - aka operation internet shut down.

International SIM
These seem to be getting much more popular these days.  MaxRoam appear to have the best offerings, for Ireland anyway.  

Local SIM's
This was a recommendation from many people however, as we're not really staying anywhere for more than a few weeks, didn't think this would work as a main mobile solution.  However, local SIM's are cheap so we may pick them up when we're going to be in the region for long enough and we need them.

I had a Sony Vaio which I totally hearted, however it was way too heavy to bring with me.  It was time to step over into the darkside and embrace an Apple.  I was torn between an iPad and Mac Book Air (11 inch).  Weighing up the options the Mac Book Air won out.   They weigh in and around the same weight but you have much more functionality with the MBA and it's oh so pretty.  Also, we were counting on using the laptop for downloading movies and watching DVD's and you can buy the Mac Book Air SuperDrive for the DVD functionality.  The iPad was winning for reading books on but given we were going to chase the sun, I was worried about its functionality in the sun.  Investing in a Hard Drive was also a winner for bringing a number of movies with us and for storing pics, music and films along the way.  We went with a 500GB LaCie hard drive in case you're wondering.

Not as straight forward as you think.  There are two types of readers - ones that replicate paper (eInk) or LCD which is backlit.  The benefits of the eInk ones are a longer battery life and they are easier to read in the sun.

I was all set to buy up the Amazon Kindle but on closer inspection (and direction from lovely Conor) you are bound to buying only with Amazon.  They are the greatest online book store for sure but subconsciously it gets my back up when these type of restrictions are forced upon you.  Sony has gorgeous little ones that range from the basic functionality all the way up to 3G and WiFi enabled (not necessary but nice).

Stuck with what I already had from the Dublin Streets days - the trusty Canon PowerShot G11.

September 17, 2011

We heart Dublin - John Mahon

Even though both of us at Dublin Streets are leaving the joyous city, we'll always have a continuous, pasionate love affair with Baile Átha Cliath.  Whilst we're on our way out, there are loads of peeps on their way in.  We're always being asked by visitors to Dublin what are the best things to do.  We're pretty lazy so we put it up to the people we'd ask ourselves to tell us their favourite bits of Dublin. We then photographed them in their favourite Dublin hangout. Enjoy.

John is the big boss man at the Bernard Shaw, part of the mothership Bodytonic.  He's also the man behind sporadic clubnight HSSH.

John Mahon in the Bernard Shaw

Best place to eat dins?
The Winding Stair for the view and all round ambience; Juniors for top nosh, buzz and an excuse to have a pint during the usual wait for a table; Coppinger Row for the grub and banter with the guys who work there and Mulligans in Stoneybatter for the attention to detail with food & drink.

Best place for cheap eats?
Apriles across the road from The Bernard Shaw; Odessa for their fiver meals; Captain Americas for delicious nostalgia.

Best place to booze?
I do most of my boozing (and living) in The Bernard Shaw so there I suppose but when I break out I like Grogans for Sundays; The Old Stand for killing time and late afternoon pints and maybe Slattery's after stretching the legs.

The Bernard Shaw

Best place to rave?
Total bias once again but I clock in for raving at The Twisted Pepper.  There's not a lot of great club spaces in this town unfortunately.  Music venues, yes, but not the small dark rooms with good soundsystems I like.  There are plenty of spots with unrealised potential though.

Best place to shop?
The internet.  I hate real world shopping.  I get palpitations.

Best place in Dublin? 
I couldn't possibly name one, Dublin is a city of a thousand reasons to love and hate it at the same time.

Best thing to do in Dublin?
Walk from the Martello Tower in Sutton to Howth village on a sunny day.
Take the DART to Bray, look out the window between Dalkey & Killiney.
Check out all the food and farmers markets.
Go to IMMA.
Phoenix Park & all the other things under my nose I don't fully appreciate.

Best place for Sunday brunch?

Best place to sleep for people visiting Dublin?
The Grafton Guesthouse and Kelly's Hotel  are bang central; nice and simply designed and relatively cheap.

Best night out?
I'm usually working weekends but when I do bust out I tend to look for promoters rather than regular nights.  NightflightLunar DiskoDiskotekken & Downtownsounds all put on regular shows I like.  For a guaranteed laugh regardless of what's on I'd probably go to Ukiyo or The South William.

The South William

Best kept Dublin secret?
Do the aforementioned Sutton to Howth walk- pack some ham sandwiches & ales, look for the old telegraph poles half way around, sit down - eat; drink and breathe in the view.

What to read for what's going on in Dublin?

If you had one day left in Dublin what would you do?
Have a pint and pretend its not going to happen.

Where's your favourite place to travel to outside of Dublin?
New York, hands down.  For all the obvious reasons and for the thousands of little reasons you find every time.

The Suitcase

Now, I know how boring this sounds but believe me, I never knew there was so much to suitcases.  And it is really boring but so were the 50 gazillion hours I spent on the internet trying to figure out the best option to pack my treasured fashions in.

So I started out where all good travelers start on the travel blogs.  BIG MISTAKE.

It started off with some talk of backpacks.  BLEUGH.  I feel exactly the same about backpacks as I feel about flip flops in the city.  Disgusting.  Let's be honest, we live in a pretty modern world these days, even the more remote places have discovered the wheel.  The only time I can possibly think you'd need to put a bag on your back is, em.. never.  And the more I read, the more I found seasoned travelers saying the same thing.  Wintown.

Once I'd pacified my mind that a suitcase was the right decision, it was time to talk size.  Never in my whole life have I thought about the litreage of a bag.  Back to the trusty travel forums and the recommended literage was 45 litres.  This meant nothing to me but it sounded pretty big and this was spoken of as the largest you would need.  Well... on inspection, 45 litres is tiny.  Fair enough, I'm not planning on hiking up any mountains or walls or anything in fact and if I was 45 litres would be perfect for carrying.  Me on the other hand if you remember - lying and festivals.  I'd be able to handle much bigger. Ahem.

After searching all baggage shops and websites, the bag I found to be the complete winner was the Wander-Full Duffle with Wheels from Samsonite.


Why was this perfect for me?

1:  It's Fuchsia.  The only other colour that could have trumped it would have been a gold one.
2:  It's big (111 litres) but not too big.  Because of the design, you can tighten the straps and it becomes much smaller.
3:  It has different compartments inside.  I'm pretty OCD when it comes to where things should go so it means everything has a place in my bag.
4:  It's on wheels but also has multiple handles in places that make it easy to throw onto a boat; onto a TukTuk etc

Working 9 to 5

Handing in my notice was terrifying, once I did this there was no going back.  I honestly loved my job in Thinkhouse and couldn't imagine life either not working or not working there.  But at the end of the day - another deep moment - you have to branch out and give everything a go.  I'd never been travelling and was starting to get bored.  Not of my job but of working.  Of going to the same places every weekend.  Of hanging out with the same people all the time (I obviously love these people very much - sound forevs!)  Everything was just getting a bit samey.

I was stuck in a weird place too.  I was slowly shifting out of the joyous party lifestyle I'd enjoyed for em, let's say a couple of years.  But also, totally wasn't ready to batten down the hatches, embark on a mortgage, husband and kids.  In my eyes, this year was going to give me time to get over the hump.

I wanted to be sound and give enough time for replacements to be gotten, handovers to happen etc so gave three months notice.  My tip for the top here is to give as little notice as is possible.  You try really, really hard to stay focused but the whole time you have a song running through your head:

'I'm going to be travelling the world soon.  I'm going to be travelling the world soon.  I'm going to be travelling the world soon.  I'm going to be travelling the world soon. La la la la la....."

In my instance, I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy the luxury of a sabbatical.  This is something that doesn't happen very often from what I can gather from various peoples reactions when I told them I was taking a sabbatical.  I did however have to contend with the possibility of just giving up my job and at thirty, this is something that you don't decide on easily.

However, the way I finally got to the point of making the decision was, corny as it sounds, you do only live once.  You have one chance at this and although I loved my job, the six years could blend into one.  This one year would stick out forever.  Nike really did hit the nail on the head when they said, Just Do It!

Where In the World?

All guns blazing, it was time to figure out where the hell I was going.

I decided there were two passions I wanted to indulge:  Lying & Festivals

I wanted to lie down for a substantial amount of time with lashings of Vitamin D penetrating my skin.  Given that I was aiming to leave around August/September this meant we* were going long haul first.  This kind of meant we were going to South East Asia.  We planned to cover off all the obvious ones - Thailand; Cambodia; Laos; Vietnam.  India kept popping it's head up but we'd heard really mixed reports about travelling in India but in the end we decided to give it and Sri Lanka a go.

Optimum lying in Thailand 2009

While you're down that neck of the woods, it's kind of remiss to skip Oz. Weirdly enough, I've never had any urge to visit Australia so this came as a shock to me that I was considering it.  Michelle on the other hand has been 'travelling' for the last two years and has spent most of her time there.  I figured in for a penny and all that.

New Zealand was a runner for a while if it coincided with the Rugby World Cup.  All those big arms and thighs in one place...swoon.  However, stinger for us, we were going to be too late for that and going back to the objective of maximum Vitamin D, we ruled New Zealand out because of the temperature. And before you argue, yes, it's still warmer than Ireland but we're after the really good stuff of more than 24°.

I started off by making a list of all the festivals I wanted to go to.
Kate at Sonar 2011

It looked like the next stop was the glorious US of A.  Apart from festivals, there were a few more stops we wanted to get in while we were over yonder.

Vegas - I used to dream of getting married here.  Suitably tacky, I imagined the white Dynasty dress, and an Italian American who ran the show (the glamorous, romanticised version of course not the new fangled gangster version)  etc. I've moved on and now expect that I won't be too fond of it but it would be a crying shame not to get a goo of where my matrimonial magic could have happened.
New York - My Godmother lives here for one.  She was my style inspiration growing up - always full of jewels; every type of accessory; frills and flounces and big shoulder pads. Also, because it's NY and  I ♥ NY.
Florida - Obsessed with CSI Miami, end of.
Mexico - surely we could get some lying in here.  We'll probably be tired after the festivals!
Denver  & Dallas - Surely they had museums for the holy grail of TV - Dynasty and Dallas?  On closer inspection this was ruled out as apparently not many people want to visit such a museum.  Philistines.
Cuba - All I heard from everyone I spoke to was 'You have to see it before it changes'
Canada- to visit our other Dublin Streets half - Matt.

Then for the home stretch, we'd venture around Europe for the festivals and lying where we could.  Only a loose plan exsists so far for Europe as it's a long way away.

Dynasty:  Oh the Glamour

The Finale
I've always been obsessed with Italy - from the food; the wine; the sun; the men - It's got it all.  I decided it was only fair to finish off with a whole month travelling up and down the country.  I simply cannot wait!
Gratuitous pic of Italian rugby team thanks to
 Dolce & Gabbana

We controversially left South America out as we just couldn't fit everything in.  Next time.

*I forgot to mention I was going with my dearest and very gas little sister, Michelle.  We're pretty different but intrinsically we have the same buzz going on.  A major bonus of going with family is that little battles never become bigger wars.  Well with us anyway.

September 9, 2011

what the hell are we doing?

There we were - working away in Dublin, having what should have been the time of our lives.  And we were.  But all of a sudden it felt like there should be something *else*.  Not sure what that was, the only solution that sprung to mind was to go travelling and try and figure out what that something else was. Ha, not even stepped on a plane and already sounding like a hippy.  Gas.

The decision to go travelling was something that was made very quickly but not easily.  I loved my job; loved my apartment; loved my friends; loved my social life.... did I really want to give it all up?  I decided the best thing to do was rip the plaster off before I was able to re-stick it.  Deciding on a Monday night in bed, I handed in my notice on Tuesday.

What now?

Once the decision was made, that wasn't the end of me wondering if I was doing the right thing.  Oh no.  I spent hours lying awake in bed going through the reasons I should stay and why I should go.  At the end of the day I came to the conclusion, and this is going to be really deep...... why not?

Now all that was left to do was plan the type of trip I wanted.