It’s been a very long time since I last posted, and a very busy last month I’ve had. I’ve been working here in Tel Aviv full time as an Arabic teacher/Translator/Literally any other work that needs doing. I’m also trying to finish up my final project for University. So you can say that it’s been…hectic.
That being said, I’ve still got my two weeks in Vietnam to tell you guys about- I haven’t forgotten! But since I’m a little too busy at the moment (my project is due this Thursday), you guys will have to make do with some photos instead.
See you all soon for story time!
-Carissa “Someone Please Help Me I’m Stressed” Rawson
So, today I’m going to do something a bit different. I began writing this blog as a catch-all for travel- from rewards points to fancy hotels to stories about the things I do. But lately it feels like all I’ve done is tell you guys these stories. And that’s good, really it is. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.
The thing is, I’ve got more to say. So I’m gonna try this a bit. Maybe some reviews on cool travel items I’ve found/used (no, they don’t pay me for it…yet (Though I did join Amazon’s affiliate program so if you buy through the linked photos they will maybe give me money? Who knows!)) Or some recommendations for what to pack based on where you’re going. Maybe even inspirations for dream vacations (I did a couple of these some months back, but wasn’t sure of the reception)
Do these things interest you guys? Let me know in the comments!
And without further ado, my abbreviated list of the coolest and best travel gifts for the holidays (and no, not the awesome novelty ones that you’ll use once and throw into the back of your closet):
1.An excellent travel backpack:
I found my current backpack, an Osprey FarPoint 40, using this list. And it’s gone with me everywhere. I switched from a rolling bag to a backpack fairly early on, because cobblestones are hell and most of the world isn’t paved.
I know, these sound dumb. I was as skeptical as you, believe me. But then I got some, and my life was changed. These things squish your clothes smaller than you would have ever thought possible, and keep everything super organized so when you get to where you’re going, you can unpack in seconds.
3.A plane amenity kit:
I can’t tell you how many flights I took before I finally gave in and accumulated my amenity kit. Half the time airlines will give you bits of these free- but if you don’t want to take forever to gather it all, buying premade ones is cheap- and worth it. My own kit has a pair of socks, chapstick, an eye mask, earplugs, breath mints, a toothbrush/toothpaste, and some lotion. Trust me, they make a huge difference on the plane.
4.Noise canceling headphones.
This probably seems obvious to a lot of you, but I can’t recommend these enough: I initially went with a huge, bulky pair (like the ones you’re probably thinking), but I got tired of carrying them around all the time. Now I use noise canceling earbuds, and they’re both tiny and effective. Awesome!
Look, travel isn’t always glamorous. And if you’re gone for a long time, your clothes are gonna get dirty. I always keep these laundry sheets in my bag, so any sink I come across can be turned into a makeshift washing machine and I don’t have to keep turning my underwear inside out.
6.A universal adapter:
I actually forgot this once, in Australia, and ended up paying $25 Australian dollary doos for an Australian adapter. Don’t be like me. Bring your own. This one is good for basically the whole world and costs much less to purchase online.
7.A microfiber towel:
I’m going to guiltily admit to you all that I don’t have one of these. But I wish I did. I have dried myself off with t-shirts…at least 5 times. Do yourself a favor. Save your clothes. Bring a towel.
8.A reusable tote:
Raise your hand if you buy souvenirs on vacation! Right, that’s 99% of you who said yes, and 1% who were lying. I always bring my extra bag with me because I end up bringing more crap home than I left with. I also use it as my mini bag on planes, in which I stash all my carry on necessities (amenity kit, iPad, cellphone, etc), so I never have to take my backpack out of the overhead bin. These things can cost 99. cents and take up no room. Get one!
9.A portable battery charger:
People make fun of me for this brick- I don’t blame them, because it is literally the size of a brick and who needs that much charge? But I’m the one laughing after I’ve recharged both my iPad and my cellphone 4 times without needing to rejuice this thing. It’s excellent for things like camping trips where you’ll be away from electricity for a day or two.
Ok, this one can be changed up, truly, depending on how attached to your laptop you are. But I didn’t want to haul a heavy computer around the world, so I invested in an iPad and a keyboard case, and saved myself a lot of back pain while managing to stay relatively functional. (I do all my blogging on here, even).
11.A laundry bag:
Again, something really simple but really necessary. I hate packing dirty clothes with clean ones, and a cheap bag keeps everything neatly separate.
12.A packable rain jacket:
Something small, light, very foldable and super useful when it’s yucky drizzling outside.
So there you go. I realize this list isn’t all that glamorous- I mean, soap, really? But these are the kinds of gifts that will make a big difference in the quality of your travel. I’ve tried and error-ed in a lot of big ways through my trips, (falling into a volcano, anyone?), and these are the trusty things that have made the cut and earned a permanent place in my bag.
I’m not going to lie here, I was more than a little excited to head into the outback. I mean, it’s something we hear about…all the time, don’t we? There are a thousand thousand memes about how everything in Australia wants to kill you, and of course I wanted to see that for myself.
I signed up to go on a two-day camping trip which sounded really cool and also promised to do some awesome things, like watch the sun set over Uluru, rise over Kata Tjuta, and hike round the Outback.
I’m going to be upfront here and tell you guys that I was mopey on this trip. And everyone was utterly in love with my RBF (resting bitch face), which meant that I somehow earned the moniker “the quiet girl.” The truth was, I had just come from hanging out with amazing new friends for a week and was missing them. Starting all over again just wasn’t appealing to me.
So that kind of set the tone for my trip. While by the end of it, I had made a few new friends, it was a much more sedate experience, self-reflective more than chatty, and that’s ok.
But it does make for less stories.
Anyway, our first day was mostly spent driving down. It was eight hours from Alice Springs down to the camp where we were staying. (We also picked some people up from the airport). Since we left at 7am, this meant we showed up mid afternoon, had some sandwiches, and headed out to Uluru to see what all the fuss is about.
Now, I’m not a very spiritual (or religious) person. And Uluru is essentially the Bible for the Aboriginals for whom this is their ancestral home. My lead up to this place had been about the energy thriving through great stone monolith, the incredible vastness of its face, and the history that it had written for the people of the land.
Don’t get me wrong. Uluru is pretty cool to see. But I think for others the experience had a lot more meaning. To me, it was a huge, sacred rock, and that was neat. But for others it is literally a Bible, and that’s infinitely cooler.
What do I mean when I say “Bible?” Well, the Aboriginals here “read” the rock. All of their stories are “written” into the cracks of the stone. They mean it. They’ve got explanations for every facet of the rock, and there are even places, “women’s areas,” that are forbidden to take photos of.
After we traversed bits of the base (which is quite massive), we headed off to the museum, where we spent about an hour before driving out to take in the sunset from afar.
Funnily enough, we weren’t watching the sun set behind the rock; rather, we were standing with our backs to it while it descended from the sky. The colors it casts on Uluru’s face are supposed to be incredible.
I say “supposed” because, hilariously, the second the sun was meant to hit Uluru, it was obscured by clouds and remained so for the entirety of its setting. It did make for some really nice photos of Kata Tjuta, though, which was behind us.
So we’ve just left off with Cairns and one of the highlights of my trip- where I successfully managed to SCUBA dive not once, but twice. Unfortunately, this also happened to be the part of the trip where Katie, Shuaib, and I had to split up. They were staying on longer in Cairns, while I was due to head to Alice Springs and the Outback for a chance to visit Uluru.
Does anyone remember when I talked about my trip to Naples, where I found out after arriving that Naples was generally considered to be an unsavory and unsafe place to be? And how maybe a little bit of Googling could have saved me from that realization?
My first clue here was when half the people appeared to be homeless. My second clue was when everyone shut at 5pm and rolled steel cages down in front of their storefronts.
I had originally planned on staying 4 nights in Alice Springs, and thank God I did not, because I completed (essentially) the city’s sole attraction on day one, which is a hill that is slightly higher than the rest of the city.
I stayed in a hostel here too, one of the best as recommended by tons of internet sites and even Lonely Planet. It calls itself quirky- and that’s true. I slept in a shipping container.
Anyway, Alice Springs is most famous for being known as the final outpost before the Outback, and that’s true. I left early the next morning, eager to finally get into the “bush” and be wowed by the Australian landscape.
Carissa “No Really Hobos Sleep in Shipping Containers” Rawson
It’s a wonder what peer pressure will do for you. After leaving Airlie Beach, I had literally one day in Cairns before heading over to Alice Springs (and the Outback). After my most recent failure at scuba diving (not two days before) I was content to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. But I don’t know, maybe I was all jazzed up about the skydive, or maybe I couldn’t bear the look of incredulous disappointment on Katie and Shuaib’s faces when I told them I wasn’t going to dive, but I went ahead and signed up for scuba diving. Again. Third time’s the charm?
And it was!
This last time I was able to hold the panic at bay. It helped that it was a really simple beginner’s dive, and I clutched the instructor’s arm the entire time I was doing it, but scuba dive I did. Not just once, twice.
It went so well that the instructor suggested I get open water dive certified. Lol.
Anyway, we had a fantastic time, and after the two dives were over, we still had plenty of time to snorkel, which we spent looking at fish and attempting to teach Shuaib how to dive underwater, which was…less than successful.
If you guys know me at all, you know that my goal in life is to do pretty much all the things. Why is this pertinent? Because when Katie and Shuaib casually mentioned that they wanted to go skydiving in Airlie Beach, I was all:
And so we booked the skydive. I’d actually been 4 times previously (because I’m insane), but hadn’t gone since about 2013. So it had been a while.
I was surprisingly not nervous, but I had a blast terrifying both Katie and Shuaib, both of whom were first-timers.
“Are we gonna die up there?” -Katie and Shuaib
This was the first time I ever did photos and a video, though, so I have actual proof of going. Now enjoy.
Shuaib playing it cool as a cucumber
I will literally never get over Katie’s “death is nigh” face.
Who doesn’t look like this while skydiving?
*internally* “Time of death, 12:36 p.m.”
MY PARACHUTE DIDN’T OPEN. You can see the exact moment in the video when I realize this.
I think out of all the thing I did during my trip to Australia, the two days I spent in the Whitsundays were my favorite. Not only did I have an awesome group of people to hang out with (hi guys!) The Whitsundays are home to some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
Like Whitehaven Beach, whose sand NASA uses in order to clean its lenses.
It was off the coast of Whitehaven Beach that I attempted to do my basic skills for SCUBA diving again, barely succeeding before failing miserably in the actual attempt.
Fortunately for me, the hot guy who worked on the boat picked me up, assuring me that I was gorgeous despite my utter failure.
This is foreshadowing to the fact that he later tried to pick me up with the same term, at which point I asked him if he knew my name.
It’s ok though, because then I found out that our crew had earned its own special name- the fivesome. Cliques for life, you guys.
We also woke up disgustingly early in order to climb to the top of Whitehaven Beach to watch the sunrise. It was exactly as spectacular as you’d imagine.
Perhaps my favorite part was when they unveiled the two story inflatable slide, which we took turns sliding down straight into the ocean.
That, and our many, many, disastrous attempts to take a good photo of the five of us on a stand-up paddle board.
Anyways, it was an awesome two days, made all the better because I found friends (real friends!) to spend it with.
Having become fast friends with Katie and Shuaib, I decided to hop into their car in lieu of taking the train on the way up to Airlie Beach.
However, first, we headed down to Tin Can Bay to see some dolphins, on the advice of Katie and Cassi.
So, we woke up at 5am and headed the hour and a half out of the way in order to go hang out with some river dolphins at 7am.
Long story short, the dolphins, which were due to arrive at 7, in fact did not turn up until 9:30. So we sat, and waited, and waited, and waited some more.
We waited for so long that we took photos of the laminated action shots of the dolphins and pretended they were ours.
Finally! Two dolphins arrived and we got to spend a brief few minutes hanging out with them in the water before making the 13 hour trek to our hostels.
We were super authentic along the way, eating at Macca’s and (in my case) ordering only ice cream and french fries.
We didn’t get in until about 10pm, at which point we headed to our separate hostels. (We had already prebooked everything).
Mine was a little less than…great.
I was awoken bright and early by the sounds of my bunkmake noisily leaving, which I extra appreciated because she had kept me up with her snoring the night before.
So! Along the way to Airlie Beach, we five had decided to book a two night Whitsundays cruise together. Kati and Cassi met us separately, having driven their camper van up to Airlie Beach, so the next day we all met up and headed out to the boat.
Our first day started late, so we only had time for a bit of a swim before settling down to dinner and continuing on our way. We found out later that our swimming spot was a favorite hangout for sharks, but luckily none of us managed to get eaten.
Oh! I almost forgot to mention the best part.
Look, I know space is tight on a boat.
But why did I have to sleep in a coffin?
Above the engine room?
At least we were all smushed in together, so we all got to suffer equally. That’s true friendship, you guys.
Anyway, coffin bunk aside, there’s something so unspeakably cool about having a (nearly) private boat sailing you amongst some of the nicest islands in the world.