Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Out and about
How dare these clouds attempt to block my view! Selfish naturally occurring bastards! Actually, this was what I saw outside my balcony when I woke up and I thought they looked pretty cool against the mountains….hence, the picture.
Today was my first full day in Queenstown. It’s really a pretty amazing place. I imagine it’s a lot like other ski resorts around the world (I’ve never been to one), so I can see why people might want to visit places like this once in a while. Wherever you look, there is something beautiful staring right back at you. It’s so green and fresh looking…like this mysterious village that has suddenly appeared from another world.
There are a variety of clothing and ski stores, bars and restaurants and gambling, of course.
There is a nice park by the water where people just hang out/chat/nap (the guy with the socks didn’t move the entire time I was there…I should have poked him with a stick).
There’s a beach area off the center of town for people and critters to splash around in…
Along with a variety of water-themed activities available for anyone who has a few dollars to throw at the various vendors all around.
Last night I walked around town, wondering where to go and what to do. That is one of the challenging things about traveling alone…you don’t know anyone when you get somewhere, so you either force yourself to go into a place and make conversation or you end up wandering around aimlessly feeling like some kind of stalker lurking in the shadows.
I went into one of the many bars and got into a conversation with James, a guy from England. He lives in a town about 2 hours away from London (although I told him that most of us just assume that London IS England and that he will just be from London to me) and has been traveling around since September. He is close to the end of his journey, likely ending with one last stop in New York for a few days before heading back to England in a couple weeks. He’s a really nice guy with a fun sense of humor and he had been drinking since around 1:00 yesterday afternoon (and I met him around 9:00 pm). So we ended up continuing that tradition until almost 3:30 am last night/this morning.
Today was his 25th birthday and, to celebrate it…he bungie jumped off of a nearby bridge. I met him for lunch (well, onion rings, chicken tenders and springrolls…and several beers) after his jump, which, from what he said, went really well. Although he was a bit hungover before his noon leap of faith, he came out of it alive and intact, there was no hurling or heekering, and his drawers were still dry…so that’s always a good thing.
We spent a bit of time chatting with the bartender, a pretty girl from Canada who has now been away from home traveling, working, studying for 17 months. She was really nice, funny and seemed to be enjoying her time here in Queenstown.
There are so many people here who travel/work their way around the world for weeks, months and, in some cases, years. Many of them start out just traveling a month or so (since, in many countries, the standard holiday allocation is 4-6 weeks a year) and then end up working for a while in several of their destinations (starting pay is around $15-$19/hour for many of the most basic jobs). For those of us in the states, the idea of having more than one or two weeks off a year is a miracle by itself, but to have 4-6 weeks and actually be expected to take it…well, welcome to “Fantasy Island”!
Two Irish girls I met on the train from Arthurs Pass had been traveling since October and still had a few more months to go, before deciding if they were going to extend their travels a bit longer. I spoke to a guy from Belgium who started out traveling for 6 months, which then extended to 2 ½ years…and he had no plan to stop yet (he was working for a month in Arthurs Pass to save some money to continue his trip). James and I met/hung out with a guy from Ireland tonight who has been traveling for the past couple months and is planning to head back up to Australia (after going to Thailand for two months) and work there for a while.
If money wasn’t an object, I’d likely travel for at least a year or more. It’s really an amazing experience to be completely away from everything that you are familiar with and just immerse yourself into a completely new country, environment, and mix of people. If you haven’t done it before (and you actually enjoy traveling or need to get out of a rut), I highly recommend it. It can be life changing…
Something else I’ve found interesting…tipping in restaurants and bars is not expected, which has taken me a while to get used to. I have had a few different people rush over to me after getting a drink and handing me back the $1 coin I left saying “Oh, you left your change on the counter!” and even had a couple of bartenders say the same thing. Isn’t that funny?
That happens in the states all the time....