Reflection.

What a whirlwind the past couple of weeks have been! I’ve just got back home from a much needed break in Byron Bay, and boy did I need it! Sometimes you don’t realise how much you need a holiday until you get it, and when you do it’s like a great sense of relief washes over you, leaving you feeling fresh, pure and ready for more of whatever life has coming up for you.
The last couple of months have been an absolute rollercoaster for me. There’s been the typical trials and tribulations of everyday life as well as unexpected highs and happiness. Although, when tough times are put upon us it’s sometimes hard to rise above it and you become consumed by this false sense of negativity. I’m not supersonic and have definitely fallen victim to these ill feelings from time to time. I’m only human after all.
One of the things that I love most about travel (even if the destination isn’t very far in distance) is the sense of refreshment that you gain from being away from your regular life. Being given the chance to escape from routine, unwind and reflect is a wonderful thing. The clear perspective you gain when away, for me, quite often helps me in resolving issues that made me feel uncomfortable and reinforce some decisions that I’d have made prior to leaving, encouraging myself that I made the right choice.
As most of you will know by now, I have been a frequent traveller since the ripe age of 18 months. Outside of Australia, my home is in a small country town in Montana called Chinook, and beyond there, my home is the road. It’s where I am most comfortable and free to be myself without harsh (nay, any) judgement. It’s an unfortunate thing, but I’ve found in my returns from travelling that some people (even people who I called “friends”) have been quite cruel and have not held back what they thought of my constant moving. When I was younger this hostility would upset me immensely, but as I’ve grown older and travelled more, I’ve learnt to move past these negative figures. I accept that everyone is different, and that people are going to want to do different things with their lives, however I don’t have the space or energy for negativity in my life, so when someone is being particularly nasty towards me (especially when in regards to what I’ve been lucky enough to experience in my life) I let them go. My life is much brighter without these darknesses that seem to get a kick out of putting others down.
The reason that I am writing about this is that I have recently been reading on other blogs the struggles of some people who have just started travelling and are struggling with coming to terms with the hostility they are receiving from people whom they thought were friends. I know how isolating these peoples behaviours can make you feel, and I want to reassure you that these people are within a minority and that you are better off without them! While it sounds stupid, I can guarantee you that these peoples negative attitudes is 100% due to jealousy. Which is crazy!
When these events occur it can be pretty devastating, but there is an immense positive that comes out of them! You come to learn (and greatly appreciate) the true friends you do have back home, who are always encouraging of your crazy plans and are understanding of your constant moving.
Another positive from this minor drawback is the fact that by continuously travelling you are forever opening up your mind to new experiences, places, people and friendships. The friendships that you make abroad last a lifetime and the bond is unbreakable. The only sucky thing about this is that your dearest friends live so damn far away!

If you’ve been keeping up to date with my other blogpost’s you’re probably wondering what the heck any of this has to do with the motorcycle trip that I recently introduced you all to. While I was in Byron, the memories of the motorcycle trip were frequently popping into my head. When Henry and I were travelling around North America last year on our two-wheeled baby, we were astounded by the kindness of other people. Everywhere we went we were being stopped to have lengthy conversations with other motorcyclists, travellers and locals who were all willing to help us out in whichever way they could. We had discounted bike repairs, accessory offers, advice on great bike routes and even places to stay if we needed it! We were treated so kindly by so many people, which I guess is something that can sometimes be overlooked in everyday life.
I was reminded of this kindness in Byron. Byron Bay is a fantastic place that I recommend you all visit if you haven’t already done so! Everyone there was so friendly, it reminded the both of us of our bike trip. It was so nice to get away from our routine’s in Wollongong and enjoy being around easy-going, friendly, relatable people.
While this post is a bit off-field of the promised Motorcycle sequence, it has been something that has been on my mind that I’ve wanted to share. I will continue with the motorcycle trip posts and am also very pleased to announce that an Oceania album is going to be added to the gallery! Yay!

I hope that there is someone out there who has read this and are now feeling better. There are always going to be Negative Nancy’s in all fields of life, it’s just important that you learn to rise above them and don’t feel bad when you realise that they’re negativity in not needed in your life!
Like always, if you have any questions or would like recommendations feel free to contact me, I’d love to hear from you!
Happy travels,
Kachina 🙂

2 Months. North America. Motorbike. 8000 Miles.

There’s been a noticeable gap between blog posts over the last month. Life certainly likes to show it has no limits when the semester is coming to an end! While I have been busy over the last four weeks, I have also been feeling way too nostalgic as I keep thinking of what I was doing/where I was this time last year. Life certainly is such a precious thing, and it seems that the most random of situations prove to prevail this point. For me, travelling is that one thing that motivates me to get up and move, to work hard and make the most of this gift known as life. Getting out there and pushing yourself well out of your comfort zone – that to me is carpe diem in a nutshell!
I’ve been lucky in that I have done a lot of travelling since I was a kid, so I’ve seen a lot and been to a lot of amazing places. I often get asked if I’m ever going to settle down and stop travelling. To be honest, that’s something I just can’t comprehend. For as long as I’m breathing there’s something out there for me to see! With this passion to be constantly moving in mind, the thought of finding someone to settle down with and who would understand (and hopefully share this passion) seemed pretty slim. I wasn’t being pessimistic, I had just come to a point in my life where I finally realised what exactly it is that I wanted, and a partner didn’t really seem to fit the mould well. However, like the saying always goes ‘you find someone when you least expect it’, and of course this came wonderfully true when I left Australian shores at the end of 2013 to embark on 7 months of travel (and a little bit of study :p ). I had no intentions of meeting anybody, in fact the only talk of the possibility of meeting someone prior to leaving was joking with my friends that I might have a Vegas wedding. Fast forward to my second day on the MSU campus; it was orientation day for all of the international students, I was meeting so many people who, in the coming weeks would become my new adopted family and best friends. Little did I realise that the boy who I sat next to at lunch who was wearing funny shoes would become someone so important and special to me! Over the next couple of weeks, Henry (funny shoes guy) and I became very close, we shared the same sense of humour and were constantly in fits of giggles, and shared the same passion for travel. It didn’t take very long for either of us to realise that we had something unique, and within a month of being in Bozeman we decided to take that leap and became a couple.
Since it had been set in stone that I would be attending University in America, I had made plans with a friend in Australia to meet up in California somewhere and spend 6 weeks travelling together. While I was in Bozeman the plans still seemed as if they were going ahead until a nasty knee injury meant that my friend had to spend the money she’d put aside for travel on surgery. I felt so bad for my friend knowing that she was in so much pain and I wasn’t around to give her support, but at the same time I was also put into a bit of a panic as I realised there were only 4 weeks left before uni was out, and I now had no idea what I was going to do with myself for 7 weeks. I’d already planned about 10 days worth of travel, meeting up with some of my new friends and catching up with other friends and family in the country, but I was still unsure of what to do with the remaining time.
Since November, Henry had been planning on travelling around America on a motorbike, utilising a tent as his accommodation for the entirety of his trip. While I thought the bike sounded cool, the 7 weeks of camping wasn’t entirely appealing for me and I had never thought of traveling with Henry on his motorcycle as I had too much luggage. One night in Bozeman, I was particularly worried about what I was going to do and Henry asked me if I’d like to travel with him on his bike. Initially, I thought he was joking, so I kind of shrugged it off, until he reassured me that he wasn’t joking. We’d just have to plan for me to ship most of my belongings back to Australia, and keep a small bag that would fit on the back of the bike and it’d be fine. It seemed easy enough to do, so without much further thinking we were both online, buying motorcycle and camping gear.
The saying is hindsight is always 20/20, and in regards to riding a motorcycle around North America for 2 months, this saying is definitely correct. In terms of technicality anyway. Even now, Henry and I still laugh at how ridiculous we must’ve looked with our two duffel bags and back pack each on the bike. Although, I do still argue that I think we did well to condense so much considering we had been living in such a cold climate for 6 months, and were  still traveling on the motorbike in cold climates too. The most important technical thing we have both taken from this experience is that packing is hard. Especially when you’re travelling through several different temperature zones.
Technicalities aside though, I think for the both of us, it is easy to say that this trip has definitely been the most adventurous trip that either of us had done. And the most crazy (After all, i’d only known this guy for 5 months and I was trusting him to drive with me on the back of a motorbike for 2 months)!
This trip is a great example of how spontaneity can bring so much fun and light into your life! While I would (and could) love to take you all through every step of this journey now, it would be very lengthy. So over the next couple of weeks I will continue to blog about this trip (the planning of it, where we went/what we did and the final leg of the trip). Can’t wait to continue sharing this story with all of you!
Happy Monday,

Kachina 🙂

Leaving Bozeman for the big motorbike adventure

Studying Abroad in America

While travelling around America at the age of fourteen, I became enchanted by the idea of going to an American school. I’d seen so many films based on high school in America and I thought that it just looked awesome and I had to be a part of it! Whilst visiting a friends house in Virginia, I told her of what interested me, and before finishing the conversation we were in the computer room together looking up local high schools that I could possibly attend on an exchange program. I was so excited by this idea that for the rest of the trip I was constantly scribbling down notes and ideas on what the future could have in store for me. Upon returning to Australia and back to the comparably boring Australian high school scene, I asked my year advisor how possible this opportunity would be. Much to my glee, he was all for it and encouraged me to go ahead with it, the only drawback though was that when I returned to Australia I’d have to repeat a year of schooling. That was very unappealing to me, so quite ignorantly I put that idea on the back-burner and promised myself that one day I’d get to an American school.

Fast forward eight years and I made it happen. I started university in 2012 and was immediately captured by the amount of international opportunities that the University of Wollongong had on offer. Listening to so many different people tell their stories of where they went and what they did had me in a trance and I quickly started changing (whoops grades) what needed to be done in order to make myself a candidate for University representation abroad. My dream for several years was to attend the University of California – Berkeley, but upon learning how competitive just getting a place at the University was made me rethink what I was really seeking in going to an American college. Honestly, all I wanted was to experience was the true American college experience that has been depicted in countless movies and TV shows, and to attend at least one Frat party and drink jungle juice out of a red cup ….. and to study of course …
So I booked an appointment and asked the Study Abroad office lady for a list of colleges that weren’t as competitive as UC, LA, Miami etc. She gave me a list of Universities, which included Montana State University. I’d previously decided that I’d like to go somewhere new, where I hadn’t been before and having grown up and the state of Montana being like a second home to me, I initially wrote MSU off as a possibility – even though the Office lady didn’t stop raving about how good of a university it was without me having said anything. So I went home with this list and thought hard about what choices I had to make. Montana kept popping into my mind. Whilst initially I was unsure of Montana as an option, Bozeman was one of the few ‘cities’ in Montana that I hadn’t been to and going to University there would be a little bit like going home. It meant that I could be the closest to my family in Montana than I’d ever been before when not travelling for an extended length of time. So I sent a text to my loved ones in the small town of Chinook (about 320 miles North-East of Bozeman) asking how it’d be if I lived only a drive away for six months. Needless to say the response was along the lines of ‘Oh my god!!’. My decision had been made.

December of 2013 saw me pack 7 months worth of life in to two bags and fly to Montana – my home to be for the following 6 months. To write about the entire exchange in one blog post would be impossible. I could write a post per day. But in general, doing an exchange program has been one of the most fun, exciting, sometimes sad but mostly adventurous things I’ve ever done. It is definitely something that I’d recommend all University students do, given the opportunity! My first couple of days in Bozeman were spent on an absolute high. Everything was just how I’d imagined it – but better! Everywhere was covered in snow, my room and the cafeteria were quote “exactly like the movies”, and sporting events such as the Basketball were extreme! I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere and everything related to being in Bozeman.
One of the greatest things about studying abroad is the people you meet. The people you spend you’re time with whilst abroad become more than friends; they become your family. You see them every day and spend most of your time with them. The connection you make with these people is unbreakable and will last a lifetime. I still think about Bozeman and the people I met over there every day, and being back in Australia only makes me appreciate the simplicity of the relationship we all shared even more.
Being in Montana was escaping the everyday routine of being home in Australia. There was no work, only time for fun to be had! Typically, a week in Bozeman was class for a couple of hours during the day, any time surrounding either side of class was usually spent with friends, eating, drinking, watching movies, going for coffee or just hanging out. Weekends usually consisted of partying or just chilling watching movies, with occasional weekends away. Other people spent most of their time on the ski fields. Personally, the idea of skiing sounded like fun, but in reality, I sucked at it and having three year olds whiz pass you on the bunny slope while you are struggling to even stand up is a massive deterrent. Alternatively, I spent a lot of my time at Walmart. Seriously, that place is like a black hole that sucks you in for hours at a time, taking chunks of your money along with it.

While you’d think the Australian and American college lifestyles would be very similar, the reality is very different and the American college culture does not disappoint. The biggest difference I found between American and Australian universities is the college pride in the States. Everywhere you go in America, houses are swamped in the colours of their local University. Going to events, supporting your college really reinforces the pride there is. For me, the event that I most frequented whilst abroad was the basketball. It was never dull, the entire stadium would be decked out in Blue and Yellow (MSU colours), there’d be cheerleaders and the dance squad doing their thing, the school band (who would yell out to the opposition telling them they sucked, which was very amusing), Champ (the school mascot) would be walking around, sometimes there was even a blimp that would be floating about and when MSU would score a point, the crowd would jump up and down, cheering so loudly that feeling anything but pride for your University would be impossible.

It’s been over a year now since I did my study abroad, and there’s never a day where I don’t find myself reminiscing, or planning future trips back. If I could go back in time to change anything, there’s honestly not a single thing I’d do differently – except maybe stop time so that we could enjoy being in Bozeman forever.

I will post more about my student exchange in the future, but if there is anything that I’d hope you’ve taken away from this blogpost it’s to get up and go! Go on exchange and experience what else is out there! Experience what it’s like to live in another country!

Oh and also, just in case you were wondering, I did go to a FRAT party and drink out of a red cup. Although the party only lasted like half an hour before the cops came and busted it, I did finish my drink …. so mission completed!
If you’re reading this and just getting ready to go on an exchange to America, I have a challenge for you. My proudest accomplishment whilst abroad was that I managed to eat at least one slice of pizza everyday for three weeks (you may think that that sounds gross, but their pizza is so good you don’t understand until you’ve been somewhere where it’s on offer, for free, all you can eat, all day every day). If you can beat that, I will buy you a pizza of your choice in Australia! It’s an unresistible reward for a challenge that you know is worth it 😉

Happy Travels,
Kachina 🙂

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Getting pho real with Intrepid

Before sharing my Vietnamese experience with you, I think I owe you an apology in regards to my noticeable absence over the last couple of weeks. It’s a sad excuse, but you never really notice how quickly time goes by when you get so caught up in every day events. I’m making the promise now (really, it’s on the internet and that stuff never disappears) that I will share stories on a more frequent basis and won’t go AWOL without warning you first. And what better day is there for re-connecting with travel stories than on a miserable rainy day?! Hopefully this will transport you to a sunny, place even if only momentarily.

2012 was a busy year. It was my first year of uni  – making lots of new friends, learning so many new things and really trying hard to get used to a new way of learning. Amongst all of this, I was also planning a holiday with some friends to Vietnam. Since watching the Top Gear Vietnam special, the country had very quickly made its way to the top of my ‘to go’ list. After spending months contemplating the travel options that were available, my friends and I decided on booking an Intrepid Tour. If I’m being really honest, I wasn’t keen on the idea of going on a tour at all. From what I’d seen, tours were a big bunch of people who jumped from sight to sight in major cities, following a leader who carried a flag. Or they were large groups of people who’s idea of travel was to get hammered every night and spend 10 minutes at major sights, capturing their clichéd poses in front of the sights. I was worried about going on a tour and experiencing something like the above and not having a lot of time to do my own thing. Having already travelled a lot, independence is something that I thrive upon and I didn’t like the idea of having such a strict itinerary.
My apprehension in regards to tours naturally lead me to researching the crap out of Intrepid, and needless to say, I was impressed with what they offered. Unlike other well known tour companies that really don’t have a lot of focus on the culture of the visited area, Intrepid is a tour company that really focuses on experiencing the culture of whatever country you are in. Instead of hiring tour guides from Western countries, Intrepid Tour Guides are locals – giving travellers a cultural experience that you wouldn’t gain from several other tour companies. There are so many little things that Intrepid include in their travel deals that impressed me; the tour-phobe. They incorporate a lot of spare time in their itineraries, giving travellers the freedom to do what they want, in terms of age restrictions, they are pretty well non-existent, meaning that you can enjoy the company of people who have come from all different walks of life and most importantly, they give you time at each destination! You’re not at one place for a measly single night, it’s usually a minimum of three days per stop and your time is basically unlimited at each sight, so not only do you get to take your photos, you get to really experience and learn about the area!
Knowing all of this about Intrepid made me feel a lot better about being a tour member, but there were still moments of uncertainty leading up to the trip.
I flew into Hanoi alone and met up with my travel companions a few hours later at the hotel. Having spent 5 weeks in Nepal a year earlier, I was expecting Vietnam to be similar in terms of it’s socio-economic standing and was surprised to see that Vietnam is quite developed in comparison. Our tour was to start in Hanoi, however we had arrived a few days earlier in order to overcome any jetlag and to get a general feel for the country. The time that we spent in Hanoi prior to commencing the tour was spent walking around the city and having daily massages – a must when in ‘Nam!
A few days later we had a tour ‘meet and greet’. Including the tour guide there was around 15 of us in the group, ranging from 20 to 40+ years in age. It was exciting to be meeting all the people that we’d be travelling with for the next couple of weeks!
We had all signed up to be part of Intrepid’s Vietnam Express Southbound tour where we would travel around Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). For the entirety of the trip, the general feel was a laid-back, happy-go-lucky kind of style. Everyone got along well and we all shared a love of travel. The days were spent sightseeing (alone or as part of the group) and the nights were made up of good food, good company and a good couple of rounds of beers.
Vietnam was magical, it was everything that I thought it would be and more. I was constantly being blown away by its endless beauty. Like to what I experienced in Nepal, the locals were all so incredibly happy! I loved that everywhere we went we were always greeted with a smile. One of my favourite moments of the trip was at a nightclub in Hue. Not because of the party-scene, but because we went in as a group and there was no alienation of anyone due to age. Everyone that was in the club was there to be surrounded by friends, having a good time! I absolutely loved it, especially as over here (in Australia), being above a certain age and going to a club comes with a lot of negative connotations, it was so nice to see people enjoying their time in Vietnam irregardless of age.
To sum it up, travelling independently is my preferred method, however in countries where it is safer to be part of a guided tour than to be alone, Intrepid is my company of choice. I enjoyed my travels with Intrepid and have since recommended them to people who are seeking experiences similar to mine.

A Nepalese Coming of Age Part 2.

My first couple of days in Nepal were spent with me remaining in a somewhat shell-shocked/’oh-god-what-have-I-done’ state. After being introduced to Thamel, the area in which I would spend most weekends with other volunteers, I was sent off to my new home to meet my host family and taken to my work placement. My first impression of my home for the coming 5 weeks was literally ‘wow’. After driving through several back streets we pulled in front of a big, bright pink house that I was told would be my home. Bright colours aside though, I was welcomed into this new atmosphere with open arms and three gorgeous puppies, excited to be greeting their newest family member. After peaking around each room in the house and dropping off my bags, it was time to go to MSPN, the HIV/AIDS rehabilitation centre I would be working at. I was feeling very nervous and apprehensive. I certainly did’t expect to receive the greeting I got upon arrival. The gate only had to open ajar before I was inundated by a mass of the cutest children running up to me saying ‘Namaste Didi’ (Namaste is hello, and Didi means sister – what women older than your age are called). It was love at first sight. Looking at these kids, you couldn’t tell that there was anything wrong with them, they were healthy, happy children.
On that first day I was showed around the living quarters for the infected mothers and children, the office and the classroom. I was shocked to learn how ill-stigmatised HIV/AIDS still is in Nepal. It was like they were stuck in the 80’s. The office was plastered with newspaper cuttings of children who had been expelled from school for being HIV+. It was crazy. I remember looking at these articles and looking outside at this group of children, who were happily playing, being normal kids and wondering how a disease so devastating and out of their control could put them in such an outcasted group within society. This was the first of many eye-opening experiences I had.
After the quick tour of MSPN, I was sent back to my host home to relax over the weekend and get ready for my first full week of work. From the moment I got home that day, my first weekend in Nepal was different to any weekend I’d ever had in Australia. My roommate in Nepal had gone away for the weekend, so I wouldn’t meet her until Sunday. Friday night was spent at a local pub with two of my host brothers and a group of their friends. Every 10 minutes the lights would turn off because electricity isn’t very good in Nepal. Saturday was spent hiking around the mountains that surrounded my new home with one of my host brothers. And on Sunday I took a taxi into Thamel and met up with some volunteers I’d met upon arrival. Coming home that night was interesting. I was excited as I’d finally be meeting my roommate – a girl from New York who is still one of my closest friends to date. I’d got home and we’d been talking for all of five minutes when the house started shaking. We looked at each other and questioned why the other was shaking the table, we realised a few seconds later that it was an earthquake. Our host Mum, Neeta came running upstairs, screaming at us to get out of the house. It was a pretty frightening experience. Everyone on the street was lined up out the front of their houses. Needless to say, my start to Nepal was already very different to anything that I’d ever experienced before.
The next couple of weeks in Nepal I experienced a lot. To begin with, there was Dashain (the biggest annual festival in Nepal) which was also the reason for my vast weight gain – So.Much.Rice! Aside from this though, there were times that I felt sad and shocked – when I learnt that there was a hospital a 10 minute walk away from MSPN, but they wouldn’t accept patients who were HIV+, so instead these children had to drive over an hour to get to a hospital that would accept them as patients. I was shocked when I saw the state of the hospital – it was like a huge, dirty, over-crowded train station. I felt gratitude. Gratitude for living in a country where there is no societal division as obscenely cruel. Gratitude for living in a country that has medication available and affordable. Although, these feelings of gratitude were often swapped for feelings of disgust. Disgust at the first world for not funding more towards these countries that so desperately need it, disgust at all the things we take for granted. But above all of these conflicting feelings, I found myself feeling a happiness that I had never felt before, a love, passion so strong, it was unbreakable. I had a constant feeling of resonation with the land that surrounded me and the people who were there to share this amazing experience with me. There are really no combination of words that can describe the feelings I had whilst in Nepal. To put it most simply, I was really learning so much, about people, the world and myself.
To be able to recount my time in Nepal from beginning to end would take an infinity. Long story short, this trip opened up my eyes to a whole new world and has largely made me who I am today. Since spending time in Nepal and gaining an intense first hand experience of what it’s like to live with HIV/AIDS in a third world country has sparked a passion in me and has been the cause of many charitable events that I’ve participated in. Even four years later I am still acting on making a difference to what I saw in Nepal. Most recently, I donated $200 to the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation and have signed up as a volunteer with them – and can’t wait to start doing some volunteer work for them!
For me, my Nepal story was the beginning of really learning what travel means to me. It has shaped what I want to do in the future and has given me this drive to want to go out there, experience the unreal and make a difference. It’s these experiences and feelings that I want to share with everyone, I can’t be selfish in keeping this all to myself – it’d hurt to do so!
I hope this has sparked something in someone somewhere!

Have a happy and safe Easter,

Kachina.

If you have any travel questions or would like to know anything more about Nepal and my time there, feel free to contact me via the ‘Contact’ tab, I’m more than happy to help!

A Nepalese Coming of Age. Part 1

It still feels like it was only yesterday that I bid a teary farewell to my family at the Sydney Airport in September of 2011. Not only was I embarking on my very first solo trip abroad, I was starting a new page that was to commence a new chapter in my life that I could have never predicted.
Every traveller has a trip that stood out to them, that will always hold a very special place in their heart. At the age of 19, I was naive and ready for a good time. I had been travelling with my family for 17.5 years and had experienced and seen a lot for someone of my age. Even with all of that in mind though, nothing could have prepared me for what I would learn and experience in Nepal. From the very beginning of the planning stages, Nepal was a special story. I finished high school in 2010 and had decided that I wanted to take a year out to travel before starting a University degree. The early months of 2011 saw me travel to the Gold Coast, Europe (Italy, Germany, Switzerland and France) and Port Macquarie – I wasn’t short of adventure and achieving my gap year goals. Although I knew I still wanted to travel elsewhere. By that point, I’d known for a couple of years that I wanted to work at an American Summer Camp. Once I’d returned from Europe, I started looking into what was available for me in North America and was finding a position very difficult – turns out that Camp America preferred people with more ‘life experience’ to help run their camps. I felt very deflated, and started looking into what other options were available outside of Camp America. It was at this point that my father came home from work one day and was telling me about a co-worker whose daughter had just returned from doing volunteer work in Nepal. Out of curiosity Dad and I googled Nepal and were amazed by what we saw. The endless supply of pictures online of this country were amazing! An outstanding beauty that can only be explained by seeing it for yourself. Before even giving myself a chance to think it through, I quickly looked up volunteer companies in Nepal and sent off an application form. Within a fortnight I had a response saying that I’d been accepted into Project Abroad‘s volunteer program in Nepal, working with malnourished children. I was stoked. In the small gap of time between sending the application off and receiving the acceptance I had spent hours researching Nepal and purchasing travel guides online. I knew it’d be a different kind of  adventure that I hadn’t experienced before and was excited to be going somewhere new.
The next couple of months were spent working my butt off and preparing for a 5 week stint in Nepal (followed by 6.5 weeks in North America) helping to look after malnourished children. Two weeks before I was due to leave Australia I received an urgent email from Projects Abroad stating that my position was being changed from working with the malnourished to working with HIV+ children in an HIV/AIDS rehab centre. I freaked. I hadn’t been taught a great deal about HIV/AIDS. At them time, all I knew about it was that it is an extremely contagious sexually transmitted disease that can also be transmitted through intravenous drug use and sharing of saliva and it can kill you. I got so worked up and anxious about this change that I wanted to cancel the trip. Luckily, both of my parents work in hospitals and were able to sit me down and explain HIV/AIDS to me properly and were able to make me realise that I didn’t have anything to be afraid of.
So come mid-September, I was off. I remember getting on the plane and being so dumbfoundingly confused. Catching an International flight was something that I had done countless times, I knew the process like the back of my hand, and yet I still managed to sit in the wrong seat. Whoops. From that moment on, I felt that this idea to go volunteer in a third world country was doomed. My flight had a stop-over in Guangzhou … which was delayed. Not what I wanted to hear. I got even more wound up again by the fact that I couldn’t get in touch with the Volunteer Company who would be picking me up at the airport in Kathmandu. I went to the bathroom and cried. Already, all I wanted was my Mum. Although, I knew I had to keep on going.
Finally, I arrived in Kathmandu. It was late at night. I was shocked to see that the International Airport was literally a giant shed in between a few mountains. There were taxi drivers harassing people at the baggage claim (which surprisingly didn’t worry me as I’d already read about what to expect at the airport in my new bible – the Lonely Planet‘s Guidebook on Nepal). Eventually I found the people who were picking me up and was kindly surprised by how welcoming they were – I received a special traditional Nepalese scarf. As we drove into Thamel (the main tourist hub in Kathmandu) I was disappointed to see that everything was so dark and dreary looking. I kept wondering ‘what have I got myself into?’. That night I cried myself to sleep. I was so overwhelmed and already experiencing culture shock.
Unfortunately, this spiel of negativity didn’t disappear in my sleep. I was woken up in the early hours of the morning by loud street noises and a sweltering heat that had me feeling uncomfortably nauseous. I grabbed the first thing I could (my only packet of zappos) and ate what was left of them, trying to fill my body up with much needed sugar and was beyond disappointed when I vomited them all back up again five minutes later.
Luckily, this was the end of my beginner’s bad-luck. Later that morning I had my orientation and met another volunteer (a girl from Melbourne named Kaveeta) who I became good friends with. After being shown around the city, we decided to do some of our own sightseeing and went to Swayambhunath Temple (aka Monkey Temple). It was beautiful. Although being new to the area we got lost. While trying to get ourselves back on track we passed some children who were lined up in a row, squatting. Immediately I told Kaveeta to start walking faster. This wasn’t because seeing these kids openly pooping in public made me uncomfortable, I was scared (ironically) shitless that they’d then throw their poo at us and rob us. A situation that I had read about in the Lonely Planet Guidebook. Of course, Kaveeta looked at me with a strange look but did as I said and stepped up the pace.
It’s funny looking back on that situation now, how absurd it was that I was so frightened of these children going about their business. Little did I know then that this was a turning point for me and that the rest of my time spent in Nepal would include some of the happiest moments of my life.

To Be Continued …

Traveller VS. Tourist

I believe that there are two types of people in the realm of travel and world exploration – the traveller and the tourist. Neither one makes a person better or worse, they are just different styles in which people prefer to experience the world and the wonderful things it has to offer.
So which one are you? There are many different factors that contribute as to what kind of wanderer you are. So lets start with some key points to helping you identify which best describes you.

Case Point 1: The tourist
– Travel mostly during peak-seasons
– Interested more in major cities that offer lots of tourist-friendly activities
– Spend a couple of days at a time at each destination
– Tend to eat mostly at restaurants
– Assimilate with the group in which they travel with (for example, many tour groups have restrictions on allowed ages)
– Tend to stay in nice hotels for the duration of their trip
– Communication with locals is minimal
– Have a tendency to say that they’ve “done” places (which I can’t make sense of). For example, you’re at the Leaning tower of Pisa in Italy, you see a group of people enter the site. They are there for all of 10 minutes in which they pose with the tower, take a few photo’s and leave. Firstly, I can’t comprehend how one could fully experience the location and history of the area for what it is in 10 minutes and secondly, upon asking these people where they have been, they are most likely to respond with a comment along the lines of “I just did Pisa”, which in no way, shape or form makes any sense, but is used a lot in tourist-lingo nonetheless.

So I guess you could say that being a tourist means being more interested in going to big-named places that are well-known for their famous sights – sticking to what is known will be safe.

Case Point 2: The Traveller
– Prefer to travel during the off-peak period
– More interested in going off the beaten track rather than seeing big cities
– Prefer to spend an extended amount of time at each destination in order to get to know the area, the people and understand/become part of the culture.
– Strictly eat as cheaply as possible (sandwiches, granola bars, nuts etc.)
– Tend to stay in hostels or with locals
– Avoid using the term ‘done’ to describe the places that they’ve been to
– Avoid sticking to a strict itinerary and prefer to leave time for unseen adventures
– Travellers travel not just to see new places and experience new things, but to learn (about the self, other people and the world in general).

To be a traveller means going out to experience new things, to find meaning. To be a traveller means to do the in-ordinary.

While there are different styles in which people choose to travel, there is one thing that we all have in common – the time in which we choose to travel. There is no better time to travel than now, so go out there and do it!
Happy Travels,
Kachina 🙂

Flying Etiquette 101

Travel  by air. A necessity for getting from one place to another in a timely fashion. Quite often it is tedious, exhausting and needed. And quite unfortunately, there are so many people that make this vital part of travel an absolute nightmare. So here, I have written some tips on how to fly, knowing that you won’t be that person annoying fellow flyers – that’s something to take pride in!
First off the bat. Carry on luggage. Nothing makes me quite so mad as seeing other flyers with huge carry-on bags! Especially when they push their way through to be sure that they can fit all 5 of their bags in the overhead compartments, leaving little room for the people who follow the rules and remain considerate of other people on the flight to store their bags. So, rule number 1: When organising your carry-on bag (usually you’re allowed 1x carry-on baggage and 1x personal item equalling a total of 10kg) don’t go over the size/weight limit of your carry-on bag. Store your carry-on in the overhead compartment, and keep your personal bag at your feet. Also, don’t push other people’s carry-on in the overheads around, it’s rude, there could be breakables in their bag and you wouldn’t like people handling your bag like that either.
During the flight:
1. Never, EVER take your shoes and socks off! Taking shoes off and leaving socks on is fine, but please, for the love of god, keep your feet covered! And within your space! There is almost nothing as frustrating as having someone’s bare-feet resting on your arm rest.
2. Never wake a fellow flyer up! There are two important things that aren’t certain when travelling. Sleep and food. On every flight I take, after small talk to the people sitting next to me, I tell them that if they need to get up during the flight and I’m asleep to climb over me, and if the food is coming around, wake me up (admittedly, I’m not very good at the latter, but most airlines will put your food aside if you sleep through meal-time). While these requests may seem odd to someone who hasn’t travelled long distances before, it is a completely normal request and frequent flyers really do appreciate an understanding from other travellers.
3. If you are flying with small children, please refrain them from running around the cabin and unnecessary screaming. This point doesn’t really need explaining, just don’t do it.
4. Generally, don’t be rude and inconsiderate of the other people you are sharing the plane with. It’s really that simple.

Finally, when the flight is over, unless you have a quick flight transfer, there is absolutely no need to push and shove to get off the plane. Everyone WILL be getting off, people don’t get left behind!

The above annoyances I’ve listed are the things I find so many people doing way too often! If anyone has any other flying nightmares/pet peeves I’d love to hear them!
Have a good week, happy travelling!

Affordable Travel

So often I am asked how I can afford to travel so much. Or when not asked, people make the silly assumption that I come from a ridiculously wealthy family (which I can assure you is not the case). When really scrutinized, being able to travel often comes down to two things, a desire and wait-for-it … common sense! When saving up for a trip, your every day actions can and will affect your ability to save up. So where do you start? For me, the usual process is as follows: 1. Choose your next destination! 2. Research, research, research. You need to gain an idea of how much getting there will cost, living expenses and what the exchange rate is like. 3. Once you’ve grasped a fairly good idea of what money is like at your desired destination, it’s time to figure out how much money you’ll need for your time away. 4. Once you’ve figured out how much you need for your time away, you need to sit down and make a budget. Look at how much you earn in a month, detract money for rent, bills, food, petrol etc. Whatever you have leftover at the end of each month can be split between savings for your upcoming trip and money for yourself at home. Quite a lot of the time when I’ve been saving up to travel, I’d leave myself with $20 per week for myself. It was hard, but it is 100% worth it once you step foot on your new adventure! Work hard, play hard. Whilst saving money plays a big part in affording to travel, there are also other ins and outs that are worth knowing about to minimize costs whilst abroad. When going abroad you don’t want to be spending a large portion of your money on the airfare. Planes are your mode of transportation for getting you from point A to point B. If you can save $700 by going on a budget airline, that means an extra $700 for yourself while you travel. There are lots of travel websites out there, the one that I use in Australia is https://www.jetabroad.com.au/ When flying in different countries, it’s important that you research the best flight search engines, and cheaper airlines. For example, when flying domestically in Australia, I usually stick to Tiger Airways. When flying around Asia Air Asia, China Southern and China Eastern offer cheap flights. RyanAir offers  cheap flights around the UK and Europe. United Airlines and Southwest are airlines that offer cheap flights around North America. Following other search engines like SkyScanner and Kayak can also be useful in comparing prices of flights. In terms of accommodation, there is an array of websites available, making affordable accommodation only a click away. Some websites that I like are hostelbookers, airbnb and couchsurfing. All three websites offer cheap (and free) accommodation to suit almost every kind of traveller. Once at your selected destination. Some of the best ways to save money include, using the public transport instead of taxi’s and buying and cooking your own food from supermarkets rather than eating out. When I travel I am always reminded of how important it is to keep fit as well. If you’re able to walk long distances for long periods of time you can save a lot of money! I hope this post has been helpful. It’s also important to remember that there is no shame in going without when you are saving to travel. I’ve never had nice TV’s, DVD players or clothes; I’d rather spend that money overseas. Happy Travelling! Kachina.   Also, I am very pleased to announce that the Gallery has published! So feel free to have a sticky-beak 🙂