Tag archive for "port douglas"

What I’m thinking Friday, 20 April

Blog, What I'm thinking

What I’m thinking Friday, 20 April

5 Comments 20 April 2012

It’s April 20 and the weather is starting to get chilly in parts of the southern hemisphere. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the switch in seasons down here, but the weather where I’m living at the moment really feels like Autumn in northeast USA.

I walked out of work this week to hoodie-weather and the smell of log fire. This is the first time I’ve felt Fall in over two years. It’s my favorite season, but I’m not looking forward to what follows. Hopefully Mount Maunganui stays somewhat warm in the winter.

Starway.org

Two “100” events seemed to dominate my feeds all this past week, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking and the 100 day countdown to the London Olympics. I never realized there were so many travel opportunities having to do with the Titanic, but I’m keen to visit some in the future.

For now, these are some things I’ve been thinking about this past week.

What I’m reading

On the subject of the Titanic, Mariellen at Breathe Dream Go wrote my favorite post having to do with the famous ship. The Titanic is linked with several of her personal memories. I never thought of the ship that way, but I have about other things. Thanks for opening up.

Aaron from Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures also opened up about a personal experience in his guest post for Globe Trotter Girls, “Jumping into the “Travel Closet” in Egypt”.

In the post he talks about traveling an an “out gay man” through Egypt where “people are commonly arrested for being gay”. He wrote about a personal encounter there with someone who questioned him on the matter and asks the readers what they would have done in that situation.

Wandering Earl opened up about a much lighter subject. In his post “There’s nothing wrong with a 40-hour workweek”, he asks “What’s wrong with work?” Like him, I love work. I usually get a bit restless after a few months of travel without work. Plus I love working abroad because it gives me a chance to get to know people and live as a local.

What I’m watching

While we may have “unlimited internet” where we are living at the moment, like buffets in New Zealand, that doesn’t really mean unlimited. The internet slows down tremendously after we reach a certain number of MBs. So basically, I haven’t been able to watch anything this past week.

Not even Mad Men!

But I did just learn how to play snake on YouTube videos while waiting for them to load. As soon as the dotted-circle appears, hit one of the four arrow keys on your keyboard and the circle will turn into a snake. Continue using the arrow keys to direct the snake to eat circles that appear on the screen.

Qysh.me

What I’m Googling

I watched an episode of David Attenborough’s Nature’s Great Events this week, so I was Googling a lot, especially about phytoplankton.

Did you know that phytoplankton is responsible for half of the earth’s oxygen? The one-celled organism does so during photosynthesis when oxygen is released into water.

What I’m seeing

Ghost of travels past. I’ve written a lot about Port Douglas this past week. It’s been nice to look back and reflect on my time there, but sad to remember how many great things there are to do there and not be able to actually be there right now.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What I’m planning

Some unexpected travel ideas popped up this week. It started while reading Christine in Spain’s post about how to live in the Spain. Ric and I always talk about spending some time in Spain. It’s easy for him because he has an EU passport, but as an American, it’s going to be a bit trickier for me.

Christine’s post was so helpful on the matter. I’m going to follow up on one of her work suggestions in the next year, so hopefully I’ll get to live in Spain in the future.

But the planning didn’t stop there. We would be going to Spain right after New Zealand. I thought, maybe it be fun to try and reach the European country by going completely overland after flying from New Zealand to Thailand.

Has anyone ever done something similar?

It would be a pretty epic trip traveling through central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. We’re both pretty excited about the possibility of it.

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I still believe in paradise

Australia, Australia, Blog, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Moving Abroad

I still believe in paradise

7 Comments 19 April 2012

If you haven’t noticed, the theme on Heels and Wheels this week is Port Douglas. It’s been almost two years since I first stepped foot in the this tiny piece of paradise in Far North Queensland, Australia.

I still can’t stop thinking about it.

I didn’t write a lot about Port Douglas while I was there. In fact, I didn’t write much about anything. I was so immersed in the lifestyle there that all I did pretty much was…live. I didn’t waste loads of time catching up on places I wasn’t living or researching places I wanted to visit in the future. Instead I spent my time living like I belonged, as if no other life existed outside the town.

I’m a contradiction in many ways. I like pickles, hate cucumbers. I embrace city life, but long for seclusion. One of my biggest contradictions is that I love travel, but I have a slight obsession with small-town life.

I grew up in the suburbs of southern New Jersey. Sure I was close to small towns, beaches and big cities, but the suburbs where I am actually from was kind of like a limbo to all those things. Where I’m from there are a lot of people, open spaces, strip malls and schools. It’s not the city, but it’s definitely not a small town. Sure you might bump into someone at Wawa, but you don’t see the same barista every day at a one-of-a-kind cafe.

I don’t know if it was shows like Gilmore Girls or towns like New Hope, PA, but something long ago gave me this longing for small town life. A place where everybody knows my name. A place where I can walk into the town center from my house and bump into friends along the way. A place where there is a small enough number of people to feel like you’re part of a community, but more than enough people to keep things lively.

Yet, I also love visiting places where no one knows me, meeting new people and trying new things. I know I’m weird, but I found a place that brought these two contradictions together and it was Port Douglas.

The town is not very big. In fact its center is pretty much just one street. But it’s beautiful. God is Port Douglas beautiful. Plus it’s so relaxing. A visit there almost feels like one to the islands. Port is mainly a destination town, but a small number of people call it their home. So living there, you get a mixture of locals who you’ve known for years and visitors who arrive in bulk every few days.

How small town does this street look? Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It was a job that led me to move there while living in Australia. At first, my time there was not going very well. I wanted to use my time in Port to work on my blog and get in shape. It all started out well enough. I was working, blogging and running. Plus I was meeting loads of people from my hostel, but the fact that I had set up a lifestyle for the town and not the opposite, led me to frustration.

Within a month of living in Port, I was hating the job that brought me there and didn’t feel like I was really getting to know people because I wasn’t going out so I could wake up early and run. Finally, I let go and though I lost that job that brought me to Port as well as my workout routine, I gained something spectacular.

Between the people at the hostel and the people at my new job, I almost felt like I was part of a big family. Every day I’d go to work and come home to find out what mischief “the guys” were getting into. We slept together (by that I mean six bedroom dorms), ate together and played together.

The guys.

After a few weeks the people I recognized from town started to recognize me. I had a coffee shop I visited every day and the guys there knew my drink, my name and a bit about me. I had a friend who I went for regular Sunday breakfasts with. Eventually I also found a partner here. This is where I met Ric, which adds to the town’s meaning to me.

When I was living in Port, that was all I was doing. It was the good life.

It’s been almost two years since I left and I still get choked up thinking about it, because the thing about Port Douglas is, I can never go back.

I said this to a friend as we boarded a bus to finally leave the Port Douglas.

She looked at me funny and replied, “Of course you can. You can always go back.”

But the truth is, I can’t. None of us can. Sure we can visit the town and I’m sure I will visit many times in the future, but the summer that I had there, the feeling, I can never go back to that. It’s sad, but I think it’s just a part of life. Sure Port is special to me, but I’m sure everyone has a place that’s special to them the same way. Everyone has a Port and while we may never be able to go back that place will stay with us forever.

“And me, I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…” – Richard “The Beach”

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Hump day photo: The Sugar Wharf

Australia, Destinations, Other, Photography

Hump day photo: The Sugar Wharf

No Comments 18 April 2012

This view is one of the biggest things that made me return to Port Douglas and stay for the season. I originally arrived planning to only spend a few days then move on. During those few days I stumbled upon Anzac Park, the Sugar Wharf, St. Mary’s by the Sea and a tiny, secluded beach bringing all these things together.

I remember sitting on a bench in the park looking at the sight. It had been cloudy all day until that point. The clouds separated and the sun peaked through. I thought to myself, “I’ll be spending more than a just few days here.”

And I did.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

After visiting Cape Tribulation I came back to Port Douglas for Carnival. I left again for Cairns to return the campervan a friend and I traveled the east coast with. After losing our wheels, we waited around Cairns for a few days wondering what to do next.

I’m really into signs and was waiting for one in Cairns. On the way to a yoga class one morning, I bumped into the owner of the hostel I stayed at in Port Douglas. He offered me a job at his hostel in Port Douglas.

If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.

I returned to Port the next day.

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Live and work in paradise

Australia, Australia, Destinations, Moving Abroad

Live and work in paradise

2 Comments 17 April 2012

The working holidaymakers guide to Port Douglas, Australia

Known for its luxury resorts, high-end restaurants and lavish tours, Port Douglas, Australia may not sound like the ideal backpacker destination.

But someone needs to cook for, serve, guide and clean up after the town’s many visitors. This makes Port Douglas a wonderful choice for twenty-something, working holidaymakers to find a job and much, much more during their year in Australia.

Located in Far North Queensland, most backpackers end up in Port Douglas desperately needing work after a few weeks or months of traveling the country’s east coast, a fun, but expensive trip. The mixture of beautiful beaches, a tent city and hundreds of party-loving travelers make the tropical village a haven for working holidaymakers.

Above all, make sure you have a work holiday visa or proper work permits to work in Australia. The country welcomes foreigners, but can be pretty harsh on people who work illegally in the country.

Those interested in making a home out of Port Douglas during their stay in Oz should arrive at the end of May and stay until about October, this is when the town is busiest and the weather is best. People arriving at this time of year need only to show up and book a room, the rest will fall into place.

To make the transition easier, here are five tips I can offer from my work holiday experience in Port Douglas.

Where to live

Whether you like hostels or not, it’s best to stay at one for the first few weeks of your stay in Port Douglas. Yes, it’s much cheaper than the area’s pricey hotels, but it’s also the best way to make friends and find out about work opportunities in town.

Dougie’s tent city is affordable and fun. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Out of the four or five hostels operating in Port Douglas, Dougies is by far the favorite for for affordability, scenery and community. The large hostel and campground is about a twenty-minute walk away from the town center. Situated across the street from Four Mile Beach, the massive hostel has a pool, bar, kitchen and common area.

What makes this hostel so special? 

Tent City. Located behind the dormitories, the camp area is packed with tents amongst jungle scenery. Filled with backpackers, tent city is a sort of travel commune. To top it all off, the resort only charges campers $75 per person, per week and your tent can be as large and lavish as you want. In fact, some of the tents here have refrigerators, televisions, mattresses and decor inside. It’s perfect for people who value their privacy, but enjoy the hostel life.

But camping in the tropics or hostel life in general isn’t for everyone, especially not for long periods of time. If you are planning to stay in Port Douglas for six months or longer, it might be a good idea to lease an apartment. With a few roommates this can be as cheap as $80 a week.

Those that don’t want to be tied down to an apartment can always rent a room somewhere. The best way to find one is by asking the locals at work or in town. They might have space or know a friend that does. Also, check for postings on bulletin boards at hostels or around town, read the town’s weekly newspaper, Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette. Gum Tree isn’t a good source in Port Douglas, but it’s always worth a try.

Where to work

It’s good to arrive in Port Douglas early to get first pick of the job market. That said, the start of the season can be pretty slow, so you might not receive a lot of hours until about a month in.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Most of the jobs offered here are in hospitality and tourism. Chef is probably the most readily-availble position in town. People can also find work as a divemaster/instructor, tour guide, waiter or waitress, housekeeper or bartender. That said, it is possible to find other jobs here. A newspaper, medical center and other businesses operate out the town.

The best way to find work in Port Douglas is to prepare a great CV and walk around town handing it out. People interested in work as a chef or server can pretty much visit all over town, but the bulk of the restaurants are located on Macrossan Street. Those interested in working on a dive boat should visit Marina Mirage.

Hotels lining Port Douglas Road require large staffs for positions in housekeeping, concierge or in their restaurants. For boutique hotels, it would be best to just visit and speak with a manager. This can also be said for larger hotels and resorts, but look out for when they’ll be hosting open interviews or job fairs. Large hotel companies will usually post ads about this in the local paper.

People should also look out for postings at hostels. To be honest, I just wouldn’t bother searching for work online, it’s more effective to search in person here.

Also keep hostel work in mind. A lot of hostels trade free accommodation in return for few hours work there a week. You can also find paid work at hostels. If you are staying at the hostel in which you receive paid work, they might offer you discounted room rates. Living where you work has its ups and downs.

Where to party

After all the basics are covered, money and shelter, it’s time to have a bit of fun. Port Douglas is by no means a party town, but party-loving backpackers always find a way to make this place exciting at night and throughout the day.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

While the best place to party changes each year, Iron Bar is always a great place to start. The centrally located bar has karaoke every Tuesday, live bands every week and usually stays open the latest on Macrossan Street.

Other great bars to check out, include Court House Hotel, Rattle n’ Hum, Central Hotel and Paddy’s Irish Pub. The town has heaps more bars and restaurants that will host parties throughout the season, so be on the look out.

Outside of the town center, Dougies hosts themed parties throughout the year. You’ll also hear about house and beach parties if you’re living here for the season.

What to do in town

The area has loads of activities and attractions, but if your making Port Douglas your home, you’ll probably be more likely to try low-key things. Of course Four Mile Beach is a great place to spend your days off swimming and playing in the sun. You might also want to try weekly activities like film nights at Central, $5 fish and chips at Lure and dinner deals at the Tin Shed. Basically, the more time you spend here, the more you’ll hear about things to do.

The view of Port Douglas’s Four Mile Beach from Flagstaff Hill lookout point. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

How to get there

Port Douglas is located just off Captain Cook Highway, about an hour north of Cairns. It’s easy to reach by car. Those traveling around Australia using public transportation must arrive in Cairns first.

The Queensland city has an airport and is easily reached by bus. From Cairns, use Sun Palm to get to Port Douglas. The local transit service charges $35 for a one way trip from Cairns city or airport to wherever your destination is in Port Douglas. They also offer transit around town and its surrounding areas.

Also, if you book your accommodation before arrival, check to see if the hostel or hotel offers free pick ups from Cairns.

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Top ten things to do in Port Douglas, Australia

Australia, Destinations

Top ten things to do in Port Douglas, Australia

10 Comments 15 April 2012

Miles of beach at your finger tips, a laid-back town life and one of the world’s oldest rainforests only a short drive away, Port Douglas is the epitome of tropical paradise. Located in Far North Queensland, Australia, about an hour north of Cairns, this tiny village may have originally been settled during the gold trade, but its the town’s natural beauty that’s proven to be its most valuable asset over time.

The getaway begins when you turn off Captain Cook Highway onto Port Douglas Road. Palm trees line the straight road, as mountains and farmland disappear behind you. This long road is filled with some of Australia’s most impressive resorts, including the massive but somehow still hidden Sea Temple and Spa Resort, which also has a golf course, and the Sheraton Mirage, which sits on what they claim to be the largest pool/lagoon in the southern hemisphere.

And this is all before even reaching the town center.

The small town center is packed with restaurants that have been dined by the likes of former president Bill Clinton and bars that have been partied at by actor Matthew McConaughey, as well as delicious eateries and everything from high street to import shopping experiences. Not to mention that on both sides of the town center are two very different sea scenes. On one end sits the long and sandy Four Mile Beach, on the other the Sugar Wharf and Meridien Marina.

The resort town stretches out quite a bit and offers an array of natural attractions, activities and more.

Waiting for a free ride on a wednesday at the Port Douglas Yacht Club. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

10. Free sailing at Port Douglas Yacht Club

Every Wednesday, Yacht Club members welcome visitors to go for a sail on their boats, free of charge. Those interested should arrive at about 4 p.m. While this activity is free, preference is given to people who buy a dinner ticket for that night at the club. Show up and sign in, then wait for the call to hop on someone’s boat and sail into the sunset.


9. Cane Toad Racing at Iron Bar 

While these small amphibians usually tend to hide out in sugar cane fields or swamps, they take the stage at Iron Bar at 8 p.m. every few nights a week. This show gets pretty busy some nights, so arrive about an hour ahead to find a good spot to watch and buy a ticket. The show is about an hour, but you can make a whole night out of it. The restaurant serves deliciously greasy foods and it’s a great place to party as they feature live bands, karaoke and drink specials every night.

Map of Port Douglas from www.tourismportdouglas.com.au

8. Shop and cafe-hop around Macrossan Street

The main street in the town center is lined with art galleries, clothing stores and cafes. Find one-of-a-kind, beach pieces at Moonshine Bay or stop in some Aussie favorites like Witchery and Jay Jays. After a long day of shopping, have a coffee at one of the many cafes or restaurants on and around Macrossan Street. Origin Espresso offers a Melbourne-caliber of coffee in a cozy spot just off Macrossan, on the corner of Grant and Warner Streets.

7. Fish in town or out to sea

Judging by the size of the town’s mascot groper George (don’t worry we’ll get to that later), the waterways surrounding Port Douglas must have some good catches. All you need is a rod and some bait to fish off the Sugar Wharf. Those interested in a more adventurous fishing experience can go out to sea with Fishing Port Douglas or rent their own pontoon and fish around the area’s mangroves where an array of wildlife lives, including crocs.

Party at the Sugar Wharf during Port Douglas’s annual Carnival celebration. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

6. Have a drink or two

The destination town is packed with great restaurants and bars for every budget. Sip on bubbles at Zinc, try a cocktail at Bistro 3 or just have a good ol’ schooner at the Central Hotel or the Court House Hotel. The town is by no means known for its nightlife, if that’s what your after then head to Cairns, but you can have some amazing nights out or entire days taking a few back in the hot, Australian sun here. The Court House, or the “Courty” is definitely the town’s most iconic spot to dine and an ideal place to soak up the sun, but Iron Bar, which has karaoke, live bands and more, usually stays open and busy much later.

A lot places around town offer happy hour, but only On the Inlet, located near the Marina, offers happy hour with a 250 kg groper. Every night at 5 p.m., a staff member feeds George, the massive groper, as guests watch. It’s quite a sight to see. These days a lot of George’s buddies join in on the fun too. Get their early, as its hard to find a good viewing spot closer to feeding time.

Purchase fresh and locally grown produce at the market. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

5. Browse through local produce and goods at the Port Douglas Sunday Markets

Every Sunday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., farmers, bakers and artists alike set up stalls around Anzac Park. Located right on the sea, you can’t find a better location for a Sunday market. Try produce from all over the area, sip on sugar cane or pineapple juice, maybe even try some of the area’s coconuts.

You can browse through import clothing, admire photography and paintings by local artists, purchase hand-crafted leather and wood goods, even get a massage at the markets. While visiting Anzac Park, make sure to check out St. Mary’s by the Sea, a tiny chapel right on the water.

Taken from Low Island, you can’t get much closer to paradise. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

4. Snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef and Low Isles

Everyone knows Cairns as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but boats operating out of Port Douglas reach the Outer Great Barrier Reef as well. Several Port Douglas boats offer daily trips to the major dive and snorkel destination.

Another great trip to sea offered from Port Douglas is the Low Isles. Spend the day prancing around Low Island, a tiny island with a red-topped lighthouse and snorkeling around the island searching for clown fish, sea turtles, reef sharks and more.

All boats depart from Marina Mirage, which doesn’t get mentioned enough in this post. The Marina is another great section of the town which offers dining, shopping and more. Visitors can book nautical trips from here.

A crocodile sits on the banks of the Daintree River. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

3. Spot a croc

Australian crocodiles are not hard to find in the Port Douglas area. Though you don’t really have to worry about crocs hanging out at Four Mile Beach, I would be careful around mangroves in the area, especially in the Daintree, the tropical rainforest in this area.

There are a number of crocodile-sighting tours operating around the Daintree. Crocodile sightings are quite normal in Cape Tribulation and another good way to see crocs is by renting a pontoon boat, which was mentioned under the fishing section of this post.

Crocodile sightings shouldn’t stop people from visiting the area. If anything, they should make people want to visit it more. Crocodiles are one of the oldest and least changed species still around today. A sighting is pretty special. Areas that are unsafe to swim in are usually marked. Just follow the country’s guidance and be smart about where you swim.

Fan palms shade the Daintree. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2. Visit Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge

The scenery in Port Douglas town is spectacular, but drive only twenty minutes away and it keeps getting better. The 16,965-hectare Cape Tribulation National Park is filled with lush rainforests, unusual plant life, unique animals and long beaches.

To reach Cape Tribulation, visitors must pay $12 ($21 return) for the vehicle ferry crossing the Daintree River to the National Park. From there, just one street goes through the area. Along the way signs mark scenic lookouts, beaches, walks and businesses. Some things to check out include Cape Tribulation beach, Daintree Ice Cream Company and the Blue Hole, if you can find it. (Some things are meant to be kept off the beaten track.)

It’s hard to miss the park’s ferns and fan palms as they shade the whole area, but a more unique find in this area is the endangered cassowary. You’ll see plenty of road signs warning drivers to slow down for these big birds, one of those signs is even quite famous now. While you are more dangerous to this dwindling species of bird than they are to you, they are dangerous when threatened, so don’t come too close if you’re lucky enough to spot one.

A lot of companies offer tours of this area, which include pick-up services from Port Douglas. While one day is a decent amount of time to explore the area, it has a few options for accommodation, so it’s possible to spend a few nights here.

A great day trip or stop along the way is Mossman Gorge. Spend the day hopping from rock to rock and swimming at the gorge. The cool, clear waters are quite a treat in the sweltering hot tropics.

The view of Port Douglas’s Four Mile Beach from Flagstaff Hill. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

1. Spend the whole day at Four Mile Beach

Purple mountains ahead, green forests to one side, calm seas to the other and miles of golden sand ahead, this is easily the best attraction in Port Douglas. Visitors will most likely spend most of their time at the beach, doing more than just sunbathing.

Start the day here with some exercise. The sand on the beach is compact enough to run on without strain. Yoga and boot camp classes are also offered here.

Next, spend the bulk of the day tanning and swimming in the beach’s bath-like waters. Maybe climb on the rocks or walk up to the Flagstaff Hill for a better view.

Just because the sun goes down, doesn’t mean Four Mile Beach is closes. When the moon is full, this might be one of the most romantic places on earth. You might even find a bonfire, music and backpackers here some nights. Join in, friendly travelers and locals welcome the company.

These are just a few things to do in Port Douglas, the great thing about this village is how it unfolds. It may look small, but just when you think you’ve seen everything, you’ll find an artist in residence’s home and gallery or a new walk not far away. Come for a week, stay for a life time. That’s usually the way it goes in Port Douglas.

Port Douglas is one of Australia’s many gorgeous destinations. The country has something to offer everyone, from secluded beaches to lively party towns. Taste the wine, sample the surf and soak the sun. Are you ready for your Australian holiday? Check here for great deals on flights to Australia.

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Heels and Wheels from A-Z

Online Goodies, Other

Heels and Wheels from A-Z

4 Comments 03 January 2012

As my two-year travel anniversary quickly approaches, this post was a great way to look back on my current journey and previous trips that led me here, all the moments and places from A-Z.

Thanks to Adventurous D for nominating me. I hope everyone enjoys reading about some of my experiences and that my nominees will have as much fun looking back as I did.

A: Age you made your first international trip.

I didn’t just cross a border to Canada or Mexico my first time. Nor did I go on holiday at some fancy resort in the Caribbean. No, my first trip abroad was a leap into travel. At age 16 I spent 40 days traveling across six countries in Europe as an ambassador for People to People.

To be honest, I can’t really remember whether or not I was scared, but I imagine I was. Not only was this my first trip abroad, but it was a trip I embarked on with strangers. Sure my group of over 30 high school students met a few times prior to leaving, but other than that, we all knew nothing about one another.

The trip was extremely eye-opening. I saw, not only how different the world is, but also how much fun it is to embark on a journey solo and how close a person can become with total strangers. I traveled to Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, England and Belgium. After that trip, I was hooked.

B: Best foreign beer you’ve ever had.

Though I must admit I’m partial to craft beers in Northeast America and not a huge beer drinker anyway, I do thoroughly enjoy Hoegaarden. I actually started drinking the Belgian beer in England. Someone ordered a shandy from the bar I was working at then. I had no idea what a shandy or a Hoegaarden was at that time. It was my first week. The managing bartender said I had to try the beer topped with a bit of lemonade. I did and I was hooked. I think that’s all I drank the rest of the year.

C: Cuisine (Favorite)

Sushi. Even I think it’s absurd how much sushi I eat and how often I actually crave it, but it’s the only type of cuisine I’ve never been sick of and constantly crave. I haven’t even eaten it in Japan, the holy land, yet.

I first tried sushi when I was 12. A new place opened in my hometown and my dad convinced me to go. After our first experience in which we ate an entire boat full of raw fish that was meant for 4-6 people, we pretty much went back 2-3 times a week. In fact, we’ve followed the chef from that first restaurant all around NJ and Philadelphia. He’s a good friend now. Weird.

I probably eat sushi at least four times a week. I’ve been to Tokyo twice just for layovers at the airport. Both times I couldn’t find sushi for sale anywhere, which was a huge let down. One day I’ll visit Japan and on that day I will probably gain 20lbs.

D: Destinations. Favorite. Least Favorite. Why.

Once upon a time I could easily answer this question, but now it’s really hard. I have a lot of favorite destinations around the world, so it’s really hard to pick just one. I’ll give three that come to mind and all of these are probably more for the experience I had there rather than the destination itself.

First is London, England. This is the first foreign destination I ever actually lived in. I fell in love with this city hardcore. Yea the people are grumpy and it’s extremely expensive, but it has a special English charm that keeps me coming back. My favorite part of the city is how you can spend months, even years, exploring it and still you’ll find something new.

Next has to be Port Douglas, Australia. I spent the most amazing summer there. It has everything; great town life, beach, sun, even rainforest. That was all amazing but what made this tropical getaway special for me was the people I met there, including my man!

Last I have to mention is Thailand in general. I just loved everything about this country. The people were so kind, there is so much to learn about the culture, the food is amazing and it’s beautiful.

Hammocks, one of the many reasons I love Thailand.

It’s really hard for me to name a least favorite destination. The only thing that comes to mind is Sofia, Bulgaria. I only spent one day there and was conned within the first five minutes. It was my first time being conned too. This was when I was 20 and very naive. I had that bad experience and for a while just said the city was terrible. Now that I’m a bit older and have traveled a lot more, I want to give the city and the country another chance.

E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’

I think every day of my travels I’ve said ‘wow’. That’s why I love the life so much and keep coming back for more. That said, I can think of two events that were especially loud ‘wow’s’. Funny enough, both of those events actually took place under water.

First is swimming with a whaleshark in Donsol, Philippines. It was an event that I’ve been looking forward to doing for years and years, but it was also the build up. I tried to see one of these amazing fish three days in a row.

Finally on my third attempt and last day in the area, spotters on my boat started seeing whaleshark shadows. Swimmers pretty much have to jump off bangka boats like Navy Seals if they want to catch a glimpse. I plunged in heart beating, but fearless. When I finally caught my first glimpse, I was absolutely stunned. They are such beautiful creatures.

My first whaleshark sighting in Donsol, Philippines.

Next involved seeing quite a few sharks under water and another one above water in Malapascua, Philippines. I had been diving on the island for about four weeks before this dive. It was a 5 a.m. dive and one that I got to go off on my own with friends rather than follow a group. During the dive, my buddies and I saw quite a few thresher sharks and one hammer head in the distance.

I came to the surface with a massive grin, looked off into the distance only to see yet another thresher shark jumping in the air. Someone on the boat actually commented on how amazed the look on my face was.

F: Favorite mode of transportation

Definitely by boat. The ride is an experience and it usually leads passengers to somewhere really unusual.

Not a bad way to travel, hey?

G: Greatest feeling while traveling

The arrival. Nothing beats that moment when you arrive at a destination with no plans and no idea what’s next. It’s scary, but it’s invigorating.

H: Hottest place I’ve traveled to

The volcano on Santorini,Greece. I’m not positive it is the absolute hottest place I’ve ever been (Cambodia was pretty damn hot). But I visited the volcano in July, which is a boiling month for Greece anyway (think 40c/110f), hungover. I literally felt like I was burning alive.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where

Thailand is known for its hospitality and friendly customer service. Match an already friendly culture with a high-end hotel and you get unheard of service. I visited the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok for a spa service. They were so kind. I’ve never received service that good.

J: Journey that took you the longest

I’ve done 30-hour bus rides, overnight ferry trips and days driving to a destination, but nothing compares to the hell I went through on my last trip from USA to New Zealand.

The journey, which started in Philadelphia, was already long, four flights over two days, with a night in Wellington then one more flight to Blenheim the following day. But because of a freak hail storm in August, the journey ended up being six flights and at least 20 hours worth of layovers and delays.

Altogether, the journey actually went on for a little over 50 hours. Not to mention I missed my original last flight and spent way more time in LAX and Philadelphia International Airport than I ever want to again.

One perk about the journey is that it forced me to splurge on one of those fancy private airport areas for the first time. Well I tried to. The people in the front actually let me in for free. I think they saw how defeated I looked and threw me a bone.

K: Keepsake from your travels

I’m not a big souvenir gal. In fact, I never buy anything that I don’t actually need on the road these days. However, there are two items I’ve been given on my travels that I really cherish and hope to keep forever.

Funny enough, both are from Italy. The first is a glass horse I was given by a glass smiths in Murano, Italy. I visited the island in Venice to see some of the most famous glass blowing operations in the world. They were such flirts. They gave me a small, blue, glass horse. I loved it because of what it was and where it came from.

But my favorite keepsake from Italy or the world for that matter, came from a toothless artist who didn’t speak a word of English that I ended up having a conversation with on my train from Rome to Naples. At first, I have to admit, I was nervous to speak to the guy. He was older, dusty and looked worn. He sat across from me and smiled with what few teeth he had left.

Somehow we started talking about where I was going. Pompeii came up. He demonstrated from his sketch book and stencils that he was an artist. Then he pulled out a drawing. It had two kids staring up at something and a shadow cast over them. At first I didn’t know what they were staring at, then he pointed to the shadow and exclaimed, “Arghhh”. It was a monster.

He gestured for me to keep it. We shook hands at the train station and went our separate ways. I still have the drawing and constantly think about that man. Just goes to show that sometimes you should talk to strangers.

L: Let down sight. Why and Where?

Le Grand Casino in Monte Carlo, Monaco. I just build up this fantasy of Monaco in my head that was impossible to fulfill on a backpacker’s budget. I could only afford a few games of black jack that lasted about 15-minutes and that was my night spent. So the place just didn’t impress me as much.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel

Everyone talks about the Eiffel Tower when it comes to Paris, France, but my true-love travel moment in the city of love occurred at Le Sacre-Coeur. I remember walking up the stairs and this grandeur structure appearing.

That was incredible, but what really captured me was what awaited me behind it; artists lined up around this classic French scene of cafes and creperies. It was such an idyllic scene and something I never expected to find until the moment it hit me. I fell in love with that moment and travel in general.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed at

Rydges in Port Douglas, Australia. I had been living in a hostel for two months, mainly in a full, six bedroom dorm. Anyone whose ever done this for more than a week, while working will know how wearing it is. I couldn’t take another night at the place, so I booked a last-minute room at the local hotel.

Rydges was my well-needed getaway from hostel life.

I arrived before check-in, lounged by the pool for ages, then went to my room and spent the entire night either in its massive tub with jets or on its feather-down bed amongst a dozen pillows. Flat screen, air-con, thick walls, heaven.

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?

Flowers, docks, my feet, street lamps and food. I probably take about 100 photos of all these things combined on every destination I visit.

Enough said…

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?

In my current passport I have a total of 66 stamps. Some places were stamped more than once for multiple entries, other places weren’t stamped at all. Some I can’t understand, but here are the stamps of the countries I can read; France, Netherlands, England, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Philippines, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Greece, USA, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Australia, Aruba, Belize, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, Italy and Hong Kong.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.

Vic Hislop’s Shark Show in Hervey Bay, Australia. That’s all I have to say about that.

S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking out for while traveling.

Attractions and extreme sports. I won’t eat for days just so I can afford to go bungy jumping or rent a motor bike to visit a desolate beach. That’s why I travel and I don’t mind paying lots of money for it, because I may never have the chance to be in that one place again.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done

Times Square, solely based on statistics that it’s the most-visited tourist attraction in the world.

U: Unforgettable travel memory

Too many to mention. Paddle boating on the river in Prague, three days of diving on the Great Barrier Reef, exploring Angkor Wat, eating gelato at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, an endless night with strangers in Amsterdam, sneaking into a posh house party in London. They’re all unforgettable and pop into my head randomly all the time.

V: Visas. How many of them and for where.

Four: Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia and Laos.

W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where.

I forget what kind of wine it was, but in Tuscany at a restaurant overlooking vineyards while eating spaghetti cabonara. Can’t imagine a better moment for a nice glass of wine.

X: eXcellent view and from where

Watching the sunset from on top of a white clay house in Oia on Santorini, Greece. Perfect.

This very sunset.

Y: Years spent traveling

Collectively, I’ve traveled abroad for almost three years of my life. On one trip, I traveled for a year and a half before returning back to NJ.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where

No one beats the fans from Philadelphia. Born and raised in South Jersey, I’ve always supported Philadelphia sports teams. They’re known for being a$$holes, but I love them. I love their passion, their anger and their celebrations. Best night of my life was when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. We almost destroyed the city that night, but it was some party.

Now it’s your turn! I pass the A-Z torch onto:

Lauren from The Life that Broke

Jose and Natalia from Natalia and Jose Luis’ Travel Blog

Annie from Wayward Traveler

Lavanya and Pawel from Iced Chai

Chelsea and Kinsey from Travelin’ Chucks

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

From solo to couples travel

Dispatches from Down Under

From solo to couples travel

22 Comments 16 March 2011

“We’re going traveling,” he says to me with a cheesy grin.

It was 6:30 a.m. on our last day in Malapascua, Philippines and our first day traveling together. Though I was feeling a bit rough from my snorkel test the night before, the final stage of any good divemaster course in which candidates funnel a concoction of booze, I couldn’t help but smile also.

Anyone whose followed my blog or even just looked at the about me page knows that solo travel was my thing. I’ve always prided myself on being able to go anywhere in the world alone. But something changed on this trip.

It all started about eight months ago in the tropical village of  Port Douglas, Australia when I started waiting tables at a place called Mango Jam. I was a bit nervous to be doing a job I hadn’t in years, but my friendly co-workers made me welcome and at ease. I liked everyone that worked there, but one chef named Ric in particular stood out a bit more.

That first night we all went to Iron Bar for karaoke. Ric and I spoke a bit, but he seemed a bit shy or uninterested, so I left it at that. I asked another girl there about him and she just said,” He’s parsley!” which was a code word for hot one of her friends came up with when she first saw him.

If he was uninterested when we first spoke, then he would want nothing to do with me by the end of the night as I sang “Jessie’s girl.” I’m probably the worst karaoke singer, but I just love it too much to resist.

We stayed friendly with short conversation as I came in and out of the kitchen to pick up food, but that was it. Then one day he came into work on his day off, slightly pissed, and came out of his shell to me by means of licking my face and picking my nose.

I was in love.

Close

Ric and I picnicing in the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia.

He wasn’t uninterested, just shy. Since I was leaving about ten days after that I figured what the hell and went for him. We started a little work romance that we both knew was just a fling since I was going and he was staying. I felt more, but knew it didn’t matter. I was content with bouncing around the town with him and sneaking into his tent.

And I thought he was too.

Then came my last night. He stopped at my hostel to say hang out for a bit and say goodbye. In the middle of it, he got a call from a friend.

“Nah, I can’t make it. I’m doing something,” he said. “I know. I know. I’ll catch the end of it.”

When he hung up I said if he needed to go I would understand.

“Nah, it just the first Liverpool game of the season,” he said. “My mates were wondering where I was.”

That’s when I knew it was true love.

Living in England for six months, I know how important footie is to them. Knowing Ric for just two months, I knew how important Liverpool was to him.

I left Port Douglas for a month and we kept in touch. I came back  and a week later we moved in together. He left before me and we met in Melbourne. We celebrated the holidays together. He met my dad. We were both upset to say goodbye when I had to leave Australia in January for the Philippines.

He stayed in Australia and saved up with plans of making it out in two months.

Two months?

I couldn’t even get through a day without him.

We made it five weeks, then he made the ridiculous journey to meet me in Malapascua.

He was the last thing I expected in the travels and the best thing I found. While we’ve been living together for about four months, technically we still have not traveled together until now.

Our travels together officially started when we left Malapacua in route to Hong Kong. Since this site is about my travels, it only seems logical for him to join it. So as of now, Heels and Wheels is no longer about solo travel, but about traveling as couple.

Together on our last night in Malapascua, Philippines.

Together on our last night in Malapascua, Philippines.

Ric and I both know traveling together will not always be easy. All couples fight and travel can add extra stress. So to prepare for this big change in my travels I went to traveling couples Amy and Kieron of Don’t Ever Look Back, Laura and Roberto of Travel for Love and Mike and Luci of 1000 Fights for tips and advice. Read what they had to say here.

Welcome Ric to Heels and Wheels and the wonderful world of travel blogging. Be kind to him-he’s still writing with the outdated form of English.

Get a room

Australia, Destinations, Tips & Facts

Get a room

No Comments 29 August 2010

I’m a firm believer that no matter how thrifty or cheap a person wants to keep his or her travels, every once in awhile that person must treat herself or himself.

While it may be important to watch the cash flow, so the trip can last longer, it’s also important to remember that this is a trip abroad and should be lived to the fullest. So travelers should spend on themselves or something they really want to do on the road, because they can do nothing at home for a lot less money.

I’m a pretty good judge of when I’ve reached my limit and after two months of living in a six-bed dorm, I can say without a doubt that limit was reached. Between disagreements over the air-con, people coming in late at night every night (including myself) and sleeping in bunk beds, I was getting between two and four hours of sleep a night for a good few weeks and had to escape.

So I did what any smart woman would do. I checked into a hotel room. My own room, with no guests and nothing to do all day but lay around and pamper myself.

I booked the room on Orbitz after a really rough night where I achieved zero hours of sleep. The website offered a wide range of rooms costing $100 and up in the Port Douglas area. I selected Rydges on Davidson St., which was $115 for the night. A small price to pay for my sanity.

At that point anything would have been nice, but my room at Rydges was extra nice. It wasn’t just a room. It was a suite, with a kitchen, living area and bathtub with jets. Yea, jets!

Freaking out like a dog after someone mentions the word walk, I arrived an hour before check in. The room wasn’t ready so I spent that hour at the pool and laying around on couches in the common area. I already felt cleansed of all the germs I had picked up over my months living in a hostel.

Once I checked in, I discovered the place also had a washer and dryer, so I headed back to my hostel, where I was still checked in, grabbed all my laundry. Then it was straight to the bathroom where I exfoliated and masked my face then laid in the tub for a good hour. I did my nails, treated my hair even washed my feet.

Afterwards it was straight to bed, which was covered in pillows. There I watched a few episodes of my favorite two TV series at the moment, True Blood and Mad Men. I had saved a few planning to watch them all in bed, but I only made it through half an episode of True Blood before knocking out.

I slept the entire night through and even slept in, something I hadn’t done since I’ve been to Australia I believe.

My night at the hotel was so good I did it again the following week with a girl friend, which was just as relaxing, but a bit more fun and less money.

No matter what tickles your fancy, it’s important to invest in that every once in awhile. I think a hotel room is a great option because it can be cheaper than some spa services and lasts much longer.

Some tips to finding the cheapest rate:

  • check deals on travel booking sites like Orbitz and Kayak
  • call the hotel on the day of your planned stay for last minute deals
  • ask around people at the place your living, someone may work a nice hotel
  • if you work in the area, check if the hotel does industry rates
Love at Jai

Australia, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Photography

Love at Jai

No Comments 25 August 2010

Have I mentioned how much I love Port Douglas yet? Something about the tropical village just takes hold of you and causes you to act in ways you wouldn’t normally act. Love, or something like it, is an often occurrence and sporadic is a way of life. Everyday I woke up there I didn’t know what my day would entail and planning just never seemed like a good idea.

One random day, my good friend Dorcey and I turned a trip to Jai Gallery into a proper photo shoot. Amongst countless photos of her and I posing to look like Kate Moss and Anna Wintour, this one just happened by accident. Nico, an artist working in the shop at the time, had left out flowers that sat perfectly around the word “Love” written in black marker on a table in the porch out back.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

To see more photos, check out the gallery “Chai at Jai” on my facebook page.

Leaving Port Douglas

Australia, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under

Leaving Port Douglas

4 Comments 21 August 2010

After three months, I’ve finally left Port Douglas.

I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of great people and places during my travels in Australia, but this was by far the hardest, because it wasn’t just a person or place.

It was home.

My time in the tropical village definitely had it’s ups and downs, but included more laughter than tears and sun than rain.

With Alex and big brother Joe at a secret beach we found on a road trip to Mossman Gorge.

With Alex and big brother Joe at a secret beach we found on a road trip to Mossman Gorge.

As with most things in my life, it was a “sign” that brought me to Port Douglas. I ran into an acquaintance on the street in Cairns who offered me work. Short on cash and at the end of my two-month blogging journey up the east coast with The Word, I took up the opportunity without hesitation.

It was extremely hard saying goodbye to my other half, Bobbi-Jo, but at that point we were both kind of clueless as to what we should do next and sitting in a desolate Cairns became more and more unappealing by the minute.

There were some opportunities for me elsewhere, but I decided to follow what seemed to be the easiest place to make quick cash. I came to the town looking to do only that. After two months of dealing with, “what’s your name” and “where are you from” on the reg, I was a bit tired of introductions and just wanted to not be new or meet anyone new for awhile.

This mentality led to a disastrous first month in my new home in regards to both work and relationships. By the end of June I was starting to doubt my belief in “signs,” which has pretty much guided me through most of my life. I regretted following my pockets instead of my heart and I was even thinking of packing my things and leaving.

An easy thought when you’re on the road, I laid in bed a few nights planning out the logistics of where would be easiest place to escape to next. Determined not to leave the town uttering the word “mistake,” I decided to stick it out until my originally planned departure date, which was August 16.

Things got better, then they got worse. I couldn’t figure out how to make everything right  again and go back to being my normal happy self.

During a conversation with a friend on the couch at Iron Bar, he said, “Bobbi, you have to simplify things.”

I started to think about everything on my shoulders at that point. The unusual dramas of my new life magnified by the fact that I was miles and miles away from the place where I feel safest and most at ease. Then I took things apart.

The major issue in my unhappiness there was the thing that led me there to begin with, a job. A job I didn’t even care about, nor was right for. Once that was out of the picture it was as if everything was right in the world again. I found new work, waitressing at restaurant on Macrossan Street and freelancing at the local newspaper.

Throughout all my struggles, it was strangers that came to my aid without hesitation or complaint. Strangers that became friends and friends that became family.

My Dorcey horey and James acting tough.

My Dorcey horsey and James acting tough.

After all the drama dissipated, I saw Port Douglas for what it was, paradise, and the people in it for what they were, perfect. It’s hard to believe that 20-somethings could manage to live in such a spectacular place, but we did. Leaving it for a big city, something I was eager to do a month in, was not easy.

In a modern art class I took in college I learned about Ernst Kirchner’s painting “Street, Dresden.” The colorful painting depicts a busy city street, full of action and people. Yet there’s something unsettling and cold about it. According to the MOMA website, Kirchner painted the people’s faces to look like masks with vacant eyes to show the alienation and loneliness of modernization in the city at that time.

When I first learned about the painting, I understood his thought behind it, but I couldn’t relate. Living only 20 minutes from Philadelphia, in the busy suburbs of also New York City and Washington D.C., I always felt at home in the city and at ease surrounded by people.

After leaving Port Douglas and arriving in Brisbane earlier this week, I finally understand Kirchner’s feelings about Dresden.

To say Port Douglas is a small town is an understatement. There is one main street (Macrossan) where I could find not everything I wanted, but everything I needed (Tim Tams, pizza and chai), I couldn’t walk down the street without bumping into someone I knew and I had a coffee shop where the owners knew me by name and drink. The town is safe enough to leave a purse on the counter and run to the toilets and clean enough to never have to wear shoes.

Brisbane isn’t the biggest city by any standards, yet I feel completely lost here. Seeing me the first day here, people would never guess I came from the northeast America. It took me three times circling the same block to find the street I’m staying on. I almost got hit by at least four cars. I even got lost in a mall, which is shocking considering I’ve spent the majority of the last 20 years of my life in various malls.

I can’t think of Port Douglas as a place anymore, but rather a time. One that is definitely in the top greatest of my life and one that I’ll never be able to recreate. Everyone in the town is so friendly and welcoming. Everyone in my hostel was so caring and open. We shared some wonderful moments together and while I know I’ll share more with those people individually, it will never be everyone and it will never be like what I just left. That’s one of the worst aspects of living abroad. The groups that form include people from all parts of the world, making it hard to reunite that same group again.

Life in Port Douglas was like a crazy camp where there were no wake up calls, booze was encouraged and people could get away with sneaking into the opposite sex’s tent.

I complained about it being too small. I complained about it being too loud. I complained about being sick of Iron Bar. But sitting in my own room, in a large city with tons of different bars filled with tons of different people, I miss home.

In fact, I’m feeling really homesick for the first time in about three years and for the first time ever about a place other than my normal home.

My love for the town and the people in it has led me to book a return flight in September. It won’t be as long a stay and it won’t be the same Port Douglas as a lot of people are scheduled to leave before then, but a lot of the reasons that made the town special to me will still be there.

And I know that will make me feel like I’m coming home for the first time in a long time.

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