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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

10 Signs You Might Have A Travel Addiction

Yesterday I visited at the US embassy in Seoul, Korea.  It was for a problem I think most people won’t ever have to worry about.  The problem was my passport was almost full and I still have 3+ years left until it expires.  There were no places left to put visa stamps. So why is it a problem? When traveling to a new country you could potentially be denied entry to the country due to no room for a visa stamp.  It seems the US passports are given a lot fewer pages than most other countries, especially since they are valid for 10 years. I guess they are not  optimistic about us traveling much. Either way, it cost $82 to get more pages put into my passport book and was a fairly easy process of making an appointment, dropping off the passport and getting it mailed a week later.  After going to the Embassy, I started thinking about a few other things that I have noticed about life as a backpacker.  I am sure most people with a passion for travel have some of these in common.   

(For more information on adding visa pages scroll to the bottom)

10 Signs You Might Have A Travel Addiction:

1.       Facebook newsfeed is full of different languages
2.       Have your passport number memorized
3.       Collected enough airline miles  to travel around the world
4.       A bucket list that continually grows after every trip.
5.       Have a bag full of coins from all the currency you have                     collected and it keeps growing.
6.       Can say “Cheers” in 10 different languages.
7.       Know which airplane aisle has the most legroom
8.       You’ve made travel plans for the next few years.
9.       Email inbox is flooded with travel deals
10.     You check flights even though you have no plans to travel

My appointment was on a Monday in Seoul. The passport had pages added and it was delivered to my apartment 4 hours away on Tuesday. Talk about good efficiency with the US Embassy and Korean mail system. 

For more information on adding more pages to your passport in Korea visit (Seoul Embassy Website) and visit (Seoul Appointment Page) to schedule your appointment. 

(Updated Passport: New 24 pages start from A and are in the middle of old pages)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

10 Things You Didn't Know About South Korea

I have been living in Korea for the past 4 months while studying my MBA.  The culture here was unfamiliar at first, but I am learning a lot and really love it so far!  Korea is full of some luscious landscapes, delicious delicacies and extremely friendly folks.  The Korean people have been some of the nicest and most friendly people I have ever met.  Since moving here in August I have learned some mind boggling, neat and intriguing things about Korea and decided to compile a list of the most interesting.

                                                          (GIC Magazine photo shoot)

So here are 10 things you didn’t know about South Korea….

1. They Deliver McDonalds!
And many other things like beer, groceries, and just about anything you can think of.  It puts a whole new meaning to fast food.

                                           (McDonalds delivery Bike-Free delivery over $7)

2. Penis Land  
Not to be confused with Pen Island. The name sums it up enough. There is a park here that is full of Penis statues. (Trust me I’m not making this up!) The park is called Haeshindang Park.

                             (Nicole and Will surfing a massive Bush Wave on their Penis Surf Board)

3. Blood type matters:
 In Korea many believe your blood type reflects your personality. This philosophy is similar to people’s beliefs in horoscopes.  Instead of asking your ‘sign’ some will discuss your type of blood.

Here are the general beliefs related to blood types:
·         Blood type A: reserved, perfectionist, obsessive, secretive, considerate.
·         Blood type B: creative, flexible, forgetful, lazy, negative reputation in Korea as “players.”
·         Type AB: empathic, rational, critical, They think with their head not their heart.
·         Type O:Athletic, confident, arrogant, Outgoing and passionate

4. Korean Kimchi is likely to join UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Food List this year.

 Kimchi is a fermented vegetable side dish and it is served EVERYWHERE!  Every restaurant serves it and I think its delicious and some varieties can be a bit spicy.  If you aren’t familiar with UNESCO, it is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  UNESCO is a committee of 195+ countries; their job is to preserve the most important culture around the world whether it is food, natural wonders, or man-made architecture around the world. The pyramids of Egypt, Mount Fuji, and leaning tower of Pisa are a few World Heritage Sites.

                                                   (Kimchi is the red stuff in the small dish)

5. Group blind dating is very common:
Blind dates are called a “Meeting” or “So-getting.” These blind dates normally take place over dinner and drinks.  They are very popular for some University students. Actually, a few of my Korean friends met their wives this way.

6. The fastest internet in the world. 
Korea is a technology powerhouse, it makes sense that they are ahead on internet speeds.

7.  Most plastic surgery’s in the world (per capita).

Around 1 in 77 people have had plastic surgery. (Korea Herald). Don’t worry America, by sheer numbers the US is winning this superficial race, but when you consider number of surgeries per person, Korea takes the lead.

8. Age Matters!
When you are born you start at age 1 not 0. It’s the only country that follows this method.  But when you visit Korea, be prepared to get asked how old you are.  Often times it is one of the first few questions when meeting a new acquaintance.  Age and the elder are treated with a huge amount of respect. Also, when dining or drinking out it is common for the eldest person to pay for the bill.

9. Korea is one of the highest paying countries in the World to teach English

Teachers can save up a lot of money here. Almost all teaching contracts include your flight to and from the USA, a free apartment, and generous salaries with some good bonuses. If you want to travel, have a college degree and are a native English speaker then you are qualified for practically all English teaching jobs in Korea.

10. Samsung runs this country.

20% of South Korea’s GDP is from Samsung.  Everyone knows Samsung from their quality TVs and Cellphones. But did you know they have an extensive line of products such as vacuums, construction equipment, door locks, medical equipment, and much more.
                                                        (Photo Credit:

Well I hope you enjoyed my list and there are still plenty of new things I am learning every day which I will do my best to share these at a later time. One thing I am certain of though is how friendly and caring South Koreans are. It has been a great experience thus far and I look forward to the rest of my Korean adventure!

                                       (My awesome classmates! Photo credit: Anton Hermansyah)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Relocating to a New Country with Under $5,000: 16 Essentials tips for moving to Australia

This post is based on my experience of moving to Australia with less than $5,000.  I met one person who moved to the Land Down Under with just $1,000! There truly is no magic number of savings you need. It all depends on your comfort level. The less money you have, then the more motivated you will be to find work and live cheaply.  Although this is about my move to Sydney, it will hold true for relocating anywhere in the World.  I have lived in Prague, Czech Republic and am currently residing in Gwangju, South Korea.  Since Sydney is known as one of the most expensive cities in the World, I thought it would be a great example for those who think they don’t have enough money to travel or move somewhere new. Moving to a new country is not as difficult as you might believe.  Even with the language barrier here in Korea, it really has been ALMOST as simple as moving to Australia. 

                                   (This proves I am Koalified to blog about Australia)

I had nothing lined up before I left the USA for Australia, actually I had no clue what I would do for work when I moved to Europe either.  Both worked out extremely well though!  In Sydney it took me around 2.5 weeks to find a job; I would spend about 4-5 hours searching at night and all day on the beach.  The unemployment is very low in Australia, but many companies are hesitant to hire backpackers due to work restrictions.  Don’t let this discourage you; there are still plenty of opportunities. If you want to find an office job though, I recommend searching for a temporary contract.  Sydney is not cheap, but if you are smart and have good spending habits, it will be no problem.  Drinking is by far the biggest shock, because alcohol in the store is similar to the price in a bar.  So you will learn to pre-drink and get an acquired taste for goon.  

Living in any foreign country comes with difficulties, but it is an amazing thing to experience. Hopefully these 16 tips will make your trip easier!

Before you book a flight you should do a few things:
1.)    Open a travel credit card.  Doing this allowed me to fly for FREE from the US to Sydney and I was even able to do a FREE layover in Hawaii for 3 days.  Click here for more information on travel credit cards. *Don't forget to notify ALL your Debit/Credit Card companies that you will be out of the country.*

2.)    Start researching visa information. Australia, New Zealand and Ireland all have easy visa programs for working and traveling. But Europe is not so easy to find legal work (for Americans). *See bottom for more visa information

3.)    Dust off the cobwebs from your resume and start applying for jobs before you leave.  CHANGE your address to local friends or hostel.  Most of the time recruiters will not even look at a resume if you aren’t living in the city.

4.)    Apply for your Australian Tax File Number (this is done online and will be mailed to a friend or your hostel). Doing this a week or so before you leave will save you some time and you NEED this number to get paid.

5.)    Don’t stress so much, everything will work out fine.  There is only so much you can do before you actually get to the city.

6.)    Unlock your cell phone. Sprint was able to unlock to my iphone 5, so when I arrived it was simple to get my phone working. Check craigslist for used cheap phones. The US has by far the cheapest cell phones. Calling the US & UK is FREE for most Vodafone and Optus plans (you get around 200 minutes a month, use them!)

7.)    Most important is to start networking and get in contact with anyone you know or might be acquainted with. Use sites like or if you have no network of friends.  Couchsurfing is also a great way to meet people and look for a free place to stay. 

8.)    Decide on the priorities. I wanted to start working right away. But if you can afford it I would suggest traveling for a month or two. This way you get to meet a ton of new people and it will be easier to find a job. Figure out if you want casual work or full time? Do you want to work at a bar or in an office? Maybe you just want to work in a hostel to live there for free. Deciding these things will help narrow your job search and will change the strategy on finding a job.

Once you Land in the Country:

9.)    After you land. It is time to head to your hostel or place to stay. Luckily for me a friend was generous enough to let me crash at his apartment (Thanks again Digby!) Hostels run around $150-200 per week and this was similar cost for my apartment in Bondi. It is best to stay somewhere temporary until you find a job.

10.) Use your illegal “student discount.” Sydney public transport is expensive, but necessary depending where you live.  The weekly unlimited pass was around $45, but students get half price. Over 6 months living there I was never checked, nor were any of my friends, but beware you will most likely get a $200 fine if you are caught due to the fact the discount is only for local students.  BUT in Europe having an ISIC or any valid student card will get you a ton of great discounts even for foreigners.

11.) Spend hours on (Australian Monster) and (Similar to Craiglists) to find jobs. Find a hostel with free internet (Sydney is very stingy on FREE Wifi, so finding internet can be a hassle). Hint: All the travel shops on George Street offer free Wifi and Computers.

12.)  Beware of the too good to be true sales jobs.  A lot of these are a waste of time and pay commission only for door-door sales. Luckily I found a great sales job on, although it had some minor bumps, it was a lot better than door to door sales.

13.) If you are a good looking girl, you can make around $25 /hr working in a bar.  $20-25 per hr is about the average pay in Sydney. About 95% of bartenders seem to be girls, so it’s a good job if you can get enough hours. If you are a guy and want to make a lot of money, manual labor is the way to go. Some friends were making $50 /hr working maintenance in factories.  Find something that fits your personality and overall goals. 
(This was during a work meeting, sales was a good fit for me) 

14.) CALL a temp or recruiting agency. STOP sending emails.  Be proactive and give the recruiters a call or stop by their business.  I had little luck with emails and the bigger agencies tell you to submit online. Find an average sized agency and arrange a meeting. 

15.) Go crazy on Tuesday! Tuesdays have a ton of specials in Australia, Half price movie tickets, pizza specials at dominoes, Hungry Jacks deals, and a lot of places have $10 steaks on Tuesday/Wednesday.

16.) No worries! Have fun and relax it is the Australian way mate! You are in a new country. By far the best way to land a job is by meeting people.  Go out with the group in the hostel.  Networking is a lot more important than sending random emails or job applications. Be proactive and ask hostels for help/suggestions. A lot of job openings are advertised in hostels.
                      (Australia's most Eastern point with a bunch of friends I met in Hostels)

Remember that once you find a job, things will not seem as expensive since the average salary is pretty high. Everything is weekly in Australia, pay and rent are all on a weekly system.
 To break down a week of normal expenses let’s look at my average week expense statement. Income $1000 per week ($660 after tax the other $340 per week is returned to you when you file for taxes.) You can apply to be an independent contractor for some jobs and pay less out of you paycheck.

Rent $170 + Food $100 +Alcohol $80 +Transport (cabs/public) $45 + Other (cell, etc) $45= Total $440

So that’s a total average of savings around $560 per week.  I worked for about 4 months and traveled for 2 months and still had some money left over.  This is just my spending habits, but people have done it for a lot less and of course more.

Groceries are surprisingly not that expensive compared to America. The essentials are all reasonable, but some things are way more. Mainly fruits and veggies (Remember the backpackers picking these are getting paid $20/hr) so the price reflects that. Not sure why, but Gatorade and Powerade are extremely overpriced as well.

Average costs of things in Sydney:
Box of Goon wine: $12
Bottle of Vodka: $28-35
Case of beer: $40-50 (always cheaper to buy a case, 6 packs are overpriced)
Weekly rent: $150-200 for shared room ($350-400 for private)
Cost of a decent meal $15-20 (lots of specials on Tuesday like $10 steaks)
Beer at a bar: $4-7
Can tuna at Coles: 5 cans for $4 (lived off tuna for 6 months)
Milk, Eggs, Bread and pasta noodles can all be bought for around $1 (Coles Brand)
Footlong at subway: $7 (six sub special)
Eat Kangaroo, it’s cheaper than most meat and deliciously healthy  

The visa process is super easy and can all be done online. See the link below. It took less than 48 hours to get approved. Applying for an Australian visa I super easy, but there are a few restrictions. You can only work 6 months for one company over your yearlong stay.  A lot of companies have separate branches which can be used as a loophole and allows you to work for a full year under “two companies”.  There are a lot of opportunities for work here in Australia, but I’ll be completely honest. You will have to work hard to find a good job. I spent 2.5 weeks sending out resumes and interviewing before I found a good job. Before moving out here I would at least allow for 4-5 weeks before you find something you like. Sites like and are best for finding work, but nothing beats word of mouth. I highly suggest staying in a hostel when you first arrive to find out about more opportunities.
Click here for the info about getting a visa in Australia (USA Link) (

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Interview with Where is Kait?

A few months ago, my friend Kait asked me to answer an interview for her travel blog "Where is Kait?" (Here is that interview if you never had a chance take a look.)  Kait is a very experienced traveler, who is continuing her journey to Australia in January! We met each other while I was living in Prague. It seems like our paths are similar having both spent a bit of time in Prague, Croatia and her upcoming trip to Australia. I am sure we will meet again soon somewhere in the World. Anyway, please enjoy her wonderful interview. Also Follow Kait on facebook here or check out her travel blog here!

1. What do you think the difference is between being a tourist and a traveler and would you describe yourself as one or the other or both?
Oh those damn tourists! We all hate having them around don't we? You know, those people dressed all funny, walking around huge tour groups, or taking up all the space on the beach? Or taking funny photos in front of national landmarks. The fact of the matter is, we are all tourists sometimes and there is nothing wrong with that.
I would mainly describe a tourist as someone visiting a new place that just wants to relax, take some photos and see the sights mainly. Whereas, to me, a traveler is someone who makes more of an attempt to get in with the locals and experience more of the culture of a destination.
Depending on where I am and the point of the trip, I would describe myself as both. Sometimes a girl just wants to lay on a beach the whole time!

2. If you could pick anywhere in the world to live for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
That is really hard for me to choose, because there are still so many places that I haven't been. If I had to pick right this moment, it would be Croatia. It is the most incredible and beautiful place I have been on my travels so far, and I absolutely loved the 5 months I spent living there. Plus, given its location smack in the center of Europe, you have easy access to travel to a ton of other great countries so easily.

3. What is one thing that you have learned while traveling that you wish you had know before you left?
Be yourself! I know that this is kind of a cheezy answer, but if there is one great thing I have taken from traveling, it is that you don't need to impress anyone. I used to be so self-conscience and worried about getting other people to like me. Then I went traveling and, because I figured I would never see these people again, I could totally be myself and cared less about what they thought. It was because of this that I have actually made the best and closest relationships with a lot of friends I have made. We except each other for who we are and think we all pretty much kick ass

4. What is the most challenging thing that has happened to you while traveling and how did you overcome it?
The most challenging thing for me has been saving and spending money wisely while on the road. I've come to the point where I have been completely broke in a foreign country, but luckily I found work and everything worked itself out. It is still something that I haven't quite mastered yet, but I am definitely getting better. Plus, in the end, its just money! The experiences are worth every penny.

5. Tell me one strange or funny indecent that has happened to you while you’ve been abroad?
Once, I was on a evening ferry by myself, headed from Split out to a very non-touristy island to meet up with some friends. There I was, reading my Kindle and listening to music, just minding my own business, when a much older Croatian man plops himself down in front of me and starts chatting to me. I made polite conversation with him for a bit - with the little Croatian I knew, and the very little English he could understand, but things took a strange turn when he kept touching my legs and laughing and talking about Monica Lewinsky endlessly. Needless to say I got out of the situation as fast as I could and escaped to a different part of the ferry. I was very happy when we got off and he missed the bus I was on.

6. Is this your last big traveling experience or do you plan on doing another big trip (or trips) in the future?
Oh HELL NO this isn't my last! I have just been granted my 12 month Work/Holiday Visa for Australia and am hoping to move there in January. After that I am planning on doing South East Asia and then South America. I will conquer the whole globe eventually!

7. What is the best day that you have had traveling so far?
I know it doesn't sound like much to someone that wasn't there, but a day that stands out in my mind in particular was one spent on some rocks in Split, Croatia with a bunch of new and old friends, drinking and being silly and sharing past travel stories. Looking around the group, we had Americans, Canadians, Australians, Irish, and, if I remember correctly, some French. Some I knew from living in Prague, some from working in Croatia, and some we had just met. Its moments like that that I treasure and live for! Its the simple things...

8. If price didn’t matter, would you choose to stay in a hostel or hotel and why?
Well it would depend on the situation, but 90% of the time I will choose a hostel. It is a great way to meet people while traveling and get advice on what to see and where to go. Plus, anything that saves you some money is a plus in my book.

9. What advice would you give to people who are about to embark on their adventure?
The first thing I always tell people is to stay in a hostel. Put yourself out there to meet people and just be yourself. Don't worry about the little things that may go wrong. It will be full of ups and downs, but it will be one of the best damn times of your life!

10. Besides friends and family, what is one thing that you miss(ed) from home?
Driving. In the 2 years of living in Europe, I did not drive once, and MY GOD did I miss it.
Also, Flamin' Hot Cheetos Limon. Love those damn things.
BONUS: Tell me about the most exciting hookup you have had on your trip. (You know you had at least one!)
Oh, I love this question. The beauty of traveling in your twenties is that you are going to meet a TON of like-minded and fun individuals who, like you, are all looking to have a good time. This + copious amounts of alcohol = hookups happen!
However, I would have to say that the most exciting one for me would probably be the one that began as a hookup and, very unexpectedly, turned into something more. Unfortunately things didn't work out in the long run (distance and different paths in life always pose a problem), but it is certainly something I won't forget.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Why Our Perception of Travel is Flawed

I think one of the most misleading things about travel is the association that it is expensive.   I blame the travel industry and US airlines having a sort of a monopoly on certain flight tracks. We have this flawed perception that to travel long term you need to be a wealthy millionaire. While this may be true for some vacations, the backpacker’s lifestyle is nothing close to luxurious, but it is something I and many others love. I’ve stayed in very nice hostels for $5 a night and couchsurfed for free. I would prefer this method any day over a 5 star hotel due to the fact you meet amazing people in hostels and couchsurfing. My flight from the US to Sydney cost me $50 because of frequent flier miles. (**Open an airline Credit Card for free flight…it is well worth it! Click here forsome great tips). We went homeless for 3 Days for the Running of the Bulls In Korea I’ve eaten VERY well on $5-10 a day. Travel can be cheap if you do it the right way.

(You can even get Free hugs when traveling)

Here are the excuses I hear for not being able to travel…and why they are bad excuses.

#1 Excuse: I don’t have the money to travel.

Let’s start off with why you think it is so expensive to travel?  Think back to your family vacations.  With my experience we would always travel in peak seasons, stay in nice hotels, and eat out every night. All this equals high expenses. But if you are only traveling for 2 weeks out of the year like most Americans, It is okay to have this type of trip. Now, you are thinking back to the time you spent a summer studying abroad. It is still the same lifestyle, eating out every day, going out every night and traveling every weekend. This all leads to high expenses. My 3 month back pack trips have consisted of eating dirt cheap every day, couch surfing and using the majority of my money on drinks, transport and accommodation. Traveling the US by air can also misguide your perception of traveling. For instance I once flew roundtrip in Italy for 6 Euro ($10). Europe is known for cheap flights and a highway of interconnecting trains that give you an easy and cheap way to travel.

What happens if you don’t have the money to support yourself for an extended trip? Well you get a job. Work abroad. It is a lot easier than you think. I just spent 6 months in Australia on a working holiday visa. The visa cost around $300 and was approved in 24 hours. Hostels in Sydney are packed with 90% of the people on this same visa. For some reason there are not too many Americans taking advantage of this great opportunity to work and travel. If Australia doesn’t appeal to you then there are plenty of other countries available on similar visas like New Zealand and Ireland.

#2 Excuse: I don’t have enough time.

Quitting your day job and moving to another country is not for everyone, but there are still a lot of opportunities to travel locally in your own country.  Make those 3 day weekends count. Take a cruise; though they are a bit rushed, it is the best way to see a lot on a short amount of time.
Extended travel is not welcome by the US culture. Society says we must go directly from High School to College and then get a desk job, followed by getting married and buying a house and then come the kids. This path is great for some and I understand why it appeals to most. But what I don’t get is the people who are unhappy with their job and lifestyle. You control your life and if you are unhappy then find a new job and start changing your life. Why must we wait until our 60s to retire and start traveling? In the UK or Australia they have a thing called “Gap Year” where you take a year off to travel (before University or after). If you don’t do this, then most people think you are weird and it is a big opportunity to explore and learn about the world. In the US, I hardly know anyone who has done something similar to taking a year off to just travel. It is not normal for us to travel for an extended period of time, but once you get the travel bug it is impossible to lose.  
#3 Excuse: I’m scared of traveling solo
This is one I personally think is the hardest to overcome, but once you do it will take you places you never could have imagined. Traveling solo takes a bit of courage and a lot of independence. It is definitely not for everyone. Being on the road by yourself you learn to throw “no” out of you vocabulary. Once you learn to do this, things will be a lot easier.

 For example, walk into a hostel, meet a nice group of people and say “YES” to when they ask you to join them for sightseeing or a night out. You need to be very sociable when traveling by yourself, unless you actually want to see and do everything by yourself.  I prefer to meet new people and being alone gives you that extra push.  There are times when it can be hard though, maybe the hostel is empty or people just are not friendly or inviting. Trust me this will happen, but 90% of the time (if you are trying) you will meet some amazing people! One of my biggest tips about traveling alone is to plan as little as possible. This way if you meet a great group of people, you can join them and not have to stick to your predetermined itinerary.

(Some of the awesome people I met while traveling Australia)

There are still a lot of other things I have been asked. Like, “When are you going to start your career?”
I always respond with “My career started sophomore year of college. I am interested in International Business (Student Exchanges) and all of my previous work in some way or another has helped me grow professionally.” Although, the career path maybe different than yours, it doesn't mean it is better or worse. It’s different! 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Running of the Bulls: Survival Guide

How to Survive the Running of the Bulls in Spain

It was crowded, hot and very humid aboard the sweat-filled bus. The majority of the passengers were covered head to toe in white clothing. Some sporting red scarves and handkerchiefs (handkerchiefs has weird spelling). We had just hopped on a bus in Madrid and were heading to Pamplona, Spain to RUN WITH THE BULLS!! Whilst on the bus we were told about one of the coolest travel groups, Friday Night Club. (Click here to read about it)

I was traveling with one of my best friend’s, Drew. We had no reservations when we got to Pamplona, but we did have a bit of a plan.  The Plan: Spend 3 days sleeping in the park and check our bags into the bus station. We said the first night would be a calm night; so we were well rested to run with the bulls the next morning. First part went well, but there are no “calm” nights at the festival.

After arriving in Pamplona we went to check in our bags. During this we met three really nice English guys and decided to form a bit of a group. The original plan of not drinking and taking it easy was over within about an hour. The five of us checked in our bags and went out to start exploring the city. Pamplona is a fairly small place, but the thousands of people make it seem massive. We walked out of the bus station to a splendid display of fireworks followed by a bit of rain.  My first thought was, hope the rain goes away due to the fact we plan to sleep outside for 3 days with no tent or cover. The rain slowly dispersed and it was time to get some sangria inside of us. There were people everywhere, live music and so much else going on. 

After indulging on a few things of sangria it was time to enjoy some beers underneath the cover of patio umbrellas. The night was still very young and it was time to play a few of the famous drinking games and meet some other festival goers. After this we were off to explore more of the festival. A short stop for a bathroom break turned into an all-out WAR. A SANGRIA WAR! Apparently this is the popular thing at the festival. Dumping loads of sangria on each other. (I just think it is a waste of perfectly good Sangria!)  After all of us were very wet and sticky, we decided it was time to continue on.

The English bros picked up a few sangria flasks and notice how we all are very messy after the sangria fight. Our clothes were bleach white and new about 4 hours ago. 

After picking up the last few things of Sangria it was time to head off and check out the bar/club life of Pamplona. The streets and bars are packed with people, but it is spread out enough to make them still enjoyable. We bar hopped for the next few hours and before we knew it the time was 6:30 am and the run would start at 7:30 am. 

So we headed off to take a quick power nap for 30 minutes. We found ourselves the most comfortable part of Pamplona, a very well kept fountain in the middle of a roundabout. We all had a nice nap and shortly after the sun was coming up, this meant it was time to head off to a run I will never forget. The rain had made the course slippery and since it was a weekend, today would be packed full of runners.

We gathered inside the running track and do a few stretches and get in the zone. I was really just hoping to not get gored by a bull. We started right at dead man’s corner after a few suggestions from other runners. This would allow us a good run of the course and let us make it into the stadium (hopefully).
After all the anticipation we finally hear the gun shot. You can only imagine until you see massive bulls running towards you, parting the sea of people like Moses. After the shots fired we dart off, about 45 seconds later people start moving out of the way and running for their lives. It wasn't this simple though, it was chaos. People were tripping over others and causing massive pile ups.

See if you can spot me!

Luckily I made it safely into the stadium despite a small collision with another runner. The run seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. It went so fast, but the satisfaction you get making it safely into the stadium is beyond belief  There are thousands of spectators cheering you on, but the adrenaline rush continues. During the run most of us were split up. After a bit of searching we ended up regrouping.  Once you make it into the stadium they release bulls into the ring (with corked horns).  They are still very dangerous, but won’t be able to gore you!  We witnessed a few people get tossed and sent to the hospital. This is when I got a few chances to touch the bulls, getting your hands on the bull is so exhilarating. They let about 6 bulls out at different times and after this the stadium empties out onto the streets. Someone either gets gored or is killed every year, luckily we all made it out safely (well sort of).

After the stadium started to clear out and the 5 of us regrouped we noticed one of our friends was extremely disoriented.  Our buddy Stuart told us he had been trampled by the bulls. I’m thinking he just fell and got hit by a few people. He barely had a scratch on him! (Well a few scratches and slight concussion). I kept thinking there is no way he was trampled by bulls. My thoughts were soon proven wrong.

Throughout the streets are professional photographers taking pictures of the bull run, you can go to a building and see if you made it in any of the pictures (Similar to after riding a roller coaster at Disney world).  We ended up finding a good one of us and another photo where we can see his feet up in the air and a bull jumping over him. The photo looks like he should be in the hospital with very serious injuries.  

The next day one of our buddies Garf noticed the same picture was on the front page of the local newspaper. What an amazing picture. No way could this photo ever be topped! At least not with a more serious injury. The rest of the day we slept in the middle of the park on towels (it’s normal and hundreds of other people are doing the same thing). 
(Stuart being a legend)

The rest of the festival was spent walking around and playing around at the carnival.  Make sure you actually watch the run and make it inside the stadium. It is great to see the run from the other point of view. It’s free to get into the stadium and watch the run. The festival has a lot to do, but I think 3 days and 2 nights is perfect. It was time to head back to Madrid! We had not showered for 3 days, it is definitely was one of the nicest feelings. 

Remember: It is not possible to out run the bulls. Unless you started too close to the stadium. In this case you will run into the stadium early and get chanted at by thousands of fans calling you a pussy and throwing stuff at you (because there is no risk starting at the end).

A few tips & rules about the run:

No bags or backpacks allowed on the course 
If you look too intoxicated you will be escorted off the track
No cameras allowed (for safety reasons)
o Check out the photo shop to snag some great shots of the Bull Run
Start around dead man’s corner (this gives you enough time to make it into the stadium, which is the entire goal of the run)
Stretch and get ready for the most adrenaline fueled run of your life
Watch out for people (people are far more dangerous than the bulls due to the numbers and people looking back while running)
Once in the stadium get ready for bulls to be running around you
Try the local beverage: Coca-Cola mixed with Red Wine
DON’T be worried if you have no accommodation. Hope for good weather and sleep in the park. Trust me hundreds of others are doing it too. 
GO! Inside of the stadium to watch the Bull Run. 
GO! Even if you are not going to run, it is worth going for the festival. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Day tripping in San Francisco: Ginormous trees & Incredible views

If you have already checked Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Warf and the Golden Gate Bridge off your list it is time to make a few road trips outside of San Francisco.  All of these places make for perfect day or half day trips. 

Day 1: Muir Woods via Marin Headlands:

It is time to hop in your car and start the journey north. Get your camera ready and make sure you have some snacks. It is going to be a busy day. Now it is time cross the architecture juggernaut, the Golden Gate Bridge. If you have time you can walk to the massive bridge, but it is a LONG walk, I would recommend biking if you really want something else besides driving. Shortly after you cross it is time to make a right onto Conzelman Road to get to this amazing viewpoint below and begin the journey onto the Marin highlands. Follow this one way street for amazing views, secluded beaches and a rundown military base. You will literally want to stop every few minutes because around every sharp turn lies a view that tops the last. Depending on how long you stop I would put aside 2-3 hours to really enjoy it. (Unless you want to spend all day at a secluded beach) After cruising the 1 way streets it is time to head off to a park full of those massive red woods.

Muir woods “national monument” is pretty close from the Headlands and for sure worth the trip. You can spend a full day doing 5+ mile hikes and what not, but we were just here to wander around and looking at the ginormous trees. A few things bugged me about this place. First it was $7 to look at trees in a park? Yeah, I thought the woods would be free too. Either way it is definitely money well spent. Another thing that was annoying was how many signs they had about not touching the trees and rules posted everywhere. I felt like I was back in elementary school with all the restrictions. Don’t let these minor complaints turn you off, the place is incredible. Take a stroll and be at ease in the wilderness.

Day 2: Big Sur and Bixby Bridge

The trip up to big sur was great and really not too far of a drive. We didn't have much planned, but make sure you do before you go. Cell service is pretty non-existent once you reach a certain point. Unfortunately, we were not able to find the famous waterfall. Cruising up the highway 1 was on par with some of Europe's famous drives like the Amalfi coast in Italy or The Dalmatian coast in Croatia. Steep skinny roads with beautiful coastal views and crystal clear water. The waterfall is shortly past bixby bridge and apparently only a 5 minute walk from the highway. Either way Big Sur was such a relaxing drive with breathtaking views.

Day 3: Half Moon Bay

It’s time to hope in you car again and back onto the majestic highway one. We did Half Moon Bay in a half day, but it really just depends on personal preference.  We really had no plan and just started following the GPS to Half Moon Bay. The sun was shining and we didn't have a worry on our shoulders. My friend and I decided to sort of wing it and the day turned out great.  Our fist stop was the Ritz Carlton. Here were some great public beaches and a very scenic golf course. The public beach is very secluded and there weren't really many people around. After chilling at the Ritz we decided to grab some beer and sea food. We ended up going to a Brewery/restaurant right by the Ocean. Coincidentally named the Half Moon Bay Brewery. We ordered a beer sampler and got the sea food sampler as well. The food and beer were delicious and the atmosphere was very nice since you are seated so close to the sea.   

San Francisco is such a great city. You can be out enjoying the beach one day and then drive two hours to be shredding the slopes at Lake Tahoe. San Francisco is by far my favorite US travel destination and I hope to live there some  day.