Potential snags are coming up…

Russian visa, how do I obtain one outside of the USA? This is going to be tricky. My initial plan was to travel to Helsinki, Finland and apply at the Russian embassy there but it’s not so simple. Not only do the Russians require a ton of documentation (which I may or may not have on me at the moment), they might outside reject my application since I didn’t apply for it in the USA. I am going to take a shot in London, see what the Russian embassy there says.

This might be the same for India and China down the road but not as bad as Russia I think.

So US$130 for a Russian Visa…and all the hassle…is it worth it for St Petersburg and Moscow? A tourist visa is only for 14 days I think… I have to think about this one. Maybe bypass Russia altogether this time around?

Lessons learned so far…

Not a complete list but these comes to mind at the moment…

– I need two pairs of pants. One pair is inconvenient because when you wash one pair, you gotta wear something else if you want to go out instead of say, my board shorts, which is all I have now that I lost one pair of pants in Cork. I would look silly wearing it in the streets so I’m sitting in my hostel typing this while laundry is being done.

– Wearing sports sandals only sucks. My feet are calloused and black after 3 weeks, I had to buy a pumice bar and scrub the dirt/hard skin off. I am looking into getting a pair of hiking shoes, wear them with socks.

– Screw doing laundry in the sink. Unless you absolutely have to, just take it to the laundromat. At least your clothes will be washed/dried properly and smell fresher. Or maybe I just did it wrong. But whatever, I hate damp clothes dripping in my hostel room anyway. Plus, have you seen hostel sinks? Not the cleanest thing out there.

– I don’t like old overnight trains. Much prefer buses to travel long distances. Maybe I just need to get on a nice overnight train.

– It is not easy to get away from anything touristy in Europe, especially during the summer. Even the small places have quite a few tourists. Next time I hit up a small town to “get away”, I’m getting a single room, maybe at a B&B place, so I can be as anti-social (private, alone) as I want. Sometimes, with all the people I meet on the road, I can appreciate alone time to relax, sleep, shit in peace.

– Get a guide book (Lonely Planet, Rough Guide etc.) It helps. I can thank Kiera for this one. Of course, sometimes it’s good not to always have your nose in it but it helps.

– Tours aren’t just for tourists. I am beginning to stop thinking that way. I just can’t learn everything on my own or I will miss out on lots of things.

– Czech beer is just bloody awesome and cheap.

Need a little peace and quiet

I’ve been traveling to a lot of major cities and I expect a lot of tourists everywhere. I’m longing for a place far from the city, maybe a small coastal town to wake up in and sit in a cafe, drink coffee, read a book (visiting Anne Frank’s annex made me interested in reading her diary, I still haven’t read it!), write, ponder, reminisce, think, whatever.

Gah, was too cheap to pay €8 for a new paperback ‘Diary of Anne Frank’. I am hoping to run into a used bookstore like Half Price but in Europe (and one that sells English language books!). Got a Sudoku book but there’s only so much Sudoku I can do before I get bored.

Transportation/Hostels/Misc Costs

I’ve been traveling primarily by bus from city to city (Eurolines). Costs vary depending on distance, cheapest have been €15 from Irish city to Irish city and as much as €50 from Amsterdam to Berlin. It’s a lot cheaper than train but much slower (and not as comfortable to sleep in over great distances).

Within a city, in Ireland, I used the buses or walked. In France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, it’s all about the metro lines (subways). I biked around for a day in Amsterdam, that’s how everyone gets around there but big countries like France and Germany require the use of metros or you will be walking a lot. In France/Belgium/Germany, you can buy tickets at the stations but in Netherlands, everyone uses a pre-loaded access card to scan in/out of terminals. Once you get the hang of the metro system in one country, it’s pretty much similar to the others (at least from my experiences so far). Know what line you need to get on, know your stop, know what direction to go (read: know the name of the end of each line).

Hostels vary from €10-25 for dorms (4-10 beds in a dorm, fewer beds usually mean more costly but also depends on how nice the hostel is, how popular the area is, how reputable the hostel is etc.)

I think for the most part, transportation and hostel fees are a bulk of the cost. Cost of eating/drinking will depend on you. For me, I mix eating street food (€2-4) with the occasional sit-down restaurant (€10-20) and also hostel cooking (€3-6). I don’t drink much so I save there (pint of beer can cost €3-5, cheapest I’ve bought was €1.50 for a bottle of Jupiler).

Museums (€5-15) , tours (€10-20) cost money but I’ve recently discovered the wonderful Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours (Kiera told me about it actually). They are the best thing to happen to a budget traveller. I also enjoy wandering and getting lost and taking out the guidebook to find my way home. Or go sit in some park that all the locals love to hang out at.

Losing things along the way…

Remember when I said I couldn’t update my blog for a while? Sometimes it wasn’t just the internet.

I had arrived in Cork and was unpacking when I realized my netbook wasn’t with me. Oh shit, I must’ve left it in Galway!

I didn’t panic immediately, I realized I made some friends in Galway and one or two ppl mentioned going to Dublin. I shot out a mass email asking if anyone was going to Dublin within the next day or two…Sebastian answered my call and said his friend Justin was going that day. *phew* so he brought my netbook to a Dublin hostel where I collected it later that day.

And when I reached Dublin, I realized that I had left my little bag of dirty clothes in Cork! Shit…that contained two of my shirts, and one pair of my travel pants. I was pretty disappointed in myself and sad.

Oh well, stuck with the few clothes I do have. I did a wash in the sink in Paris a few days ago, hung them all up. Bought an extra cheap plain t-shirt too. Going to look out for more items in the coming weeks.

Final Goodbyes in Dallas

I suck at goodbyes. I’ve been told that when you’re on the road, you say so many goodbyes so often you get good at it. I guess I will be trained in the art of goodbyes in some time.

Played my last pick up soccer game at Brookhaven on Thursday. I had been wanting to get in a decent game so I could leave on a high note. I was frustrated on Tuesday so when Thursday rolled around, instead of thinking about having a good game, I just tried to focus on on having as much fun out there as I could. I scored a decent goal, then later punted a kick off which Jon W. controlled beautifully before turning and scoring a spectacular  goal 5 seconds into our game (one of the best pick up goals I’ve seen ever, and I’ll take that assist), then set one more up later, got some decent crosses, played decent defence…anyway, I was happy to sign off in that manner. Most importantly, got to say goodbye to lots of friends I made there.

Cleared out the apartment on Friday, lots of last-minute packing and moving. I left a broken vacuum, an old broom, some paper towels, toilet paper, some air freshener behind. If hobos broke in, they could set up shop easy. Loaded up Peter’s Navigator, loaded up my car, had a shitload of wings, then came down to my sister’s place to stay the weekend.

Got to watch Chelsea/Liverpool and ManUtd/Sunderland this morning with some friends at The Londoner. Had a blast although the Chelsea result didn’t go our way. But as they say, “Football, bloody hell” and anything could happen in the final week. Said my goodbyes there too and left my old folding soccer goals with Jay, guess it’ll continue to be part of Brookhaven pick up games.

Other than that, I sold my TV and am ready to head back to Austin tomorrow. After that, camping with my buddies and then head off into the unknown.

Oh yeah, here’s my backpack which will be my friend/home the entire trip:

Everything I’ll be carrying with me with fit into that REI Flash 50.

Vaccinations

I’ve already gotten vaccinations a few weeks ago. Hep A, tetanus/polio boosters, yellow fever, and typhoid to complement what I already have been vaccinated for in the past. Will purchase malaria pills in regions that have it, or some ppl have suggested, stay covered up during peak biting hours, take precautions, and if needed, deal with it if you have it. It’s cheaper that way apparently.

Sold most of my stuff, only got a sofa, TV and car left. Other than that, lending some stuff to Lesley/Donnie to put in their home. Storing the rest of my clothes/books/CDs/DVDs/minor things.

Bought stuff for my first aid kit today, gotta be prepared just in case. Going to finish shopping at REI this weekend, gotta get a micro-fleece, some proper socks, sports sandals, and other minor things. Lastly, the backpack. Going to be traveling as light as possible.

Informed a few good friends about the impending trip just now on facebook, having told a few already beforehand. I thought I’d let a few others know, they might wonder what happened to me (maybe).

Other than that, just waiting it out. I am nervous & excited. More nervous. I don’t know what to expect ahead of me. Some ppl might wonder why I want to do this. I’ve wanted to do this since I can remember. On the bucket list, right at the top, I don’t know why it’s up there but it’s one of those things that has a window…you can’t do it when you’re tied down. The timing was right, I was financially ready for it, I’m taking my chance and going for it.