All These Places
There comes a time for every traveller when they must accept that they have run out of money and it's time to return to work.
That day came last week for Nathan and me, so we decided to return to the world of routine, and we're now trying to set up lives in the UK.
We flew into London on Friday, and are now residing in a friend's garage while we get ourselves jobs, a flat, and bank accounts. (Curiously, it seems that to get one of these things you really need the others so I'm interested to see how we work our way out of this chicken-or-the-egg situation.)
After months of unpacking and repacking every couple of days, it's a bizarre feeling to stop being on the move, but also quite a relief.
I wouldn't have thought I'd get sick of unstructured, fun time every day, but actually there's a lot to be said for a less limited wardrobe, a washing machine, a bedtime, and a hair straightener.
There are many things that months of travel help you to perfect.
I now have a knack for packing an excessive amount of unnecessary belongings into my slashy. Much like in a game of Tetris, where there is a gap, I will fill it.
Nathan has also taken some travelling skills to the ultimate level, including wheeling both our bags at top speed across French cobblestones when we're running late for an 8am Busabout pickup.
However, I think his most impressive new talent is the selfie.
Travelling as a couple, you end up with lots of photos of each person, but not so many of both of you. This is why the selfie is all important, and Nathan really has mastered it.
Today I stood on a 400-metre-high cliff face in Switzerland and watched the man next to me jump off.
The good news is that he was a base jumper and made it to the ground in one piece. The bad news is that he was obviously crazy.
Apparently base jumping is the thing to do in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland, and going up a mountain in a cable car today we saw at least 10 jumpers heading for an "exit" (you can talk like a base jumper if you just listen in to their conversations, you don't actually have to throw yourself off a mountain).
These people are easy to pick because they look really athletic and rugged, and wear intense outdoor clothing and an I'm-in-the-zone face. The biggest giveaway is that they are carrying a helmet and a pack with a parachute sticking out of it.
There have been at least 30 base jumping deaths in the Jungfrau region, including three in the past year, so clearly this is not the safest activity.
When it comes to accommodation, I am a tad high maintenance. Though I am impressed with people who do the couch-surfing, $5-a-night rooms, and camping things, the fact is, I would become a deeply unpleasant person if I travelled like that.
Nathan began the holiday with an "I don't care where we stay as long as it's safe" mission statement, but dropped that about two weeks in, adopting instead a more "if it's okay for celebrities, it's okay for me" attitude. He's harder to please than me now.
However, after five months travelling and with ever-decreasing funds, we've had to embrace reason and lower our accommodation sights.
Enter HostelBookers.com, our new and valued friend.
Until this holiday, hostels were one of those things I hadn't experienced, but knew I didn't like. Much like oysters, I was pretty sure if I tried them I would be unimpressed. And would gag. But I was wrong (crazy, but true)! A lot of hostels are way better than hotels.
I have iPad envy. The symptoms began some time ago. The excessive "just-trying-out" sessions on other people's tablets, constant popping into Apple stores to see if I can buy one for $50 or less (surprisingly, no), and the growing resentment toward my own, 3G-incapable, Macbook Pro 13".
Things got worse when we started on the Busabout tour around Europe, and every other person on the buses was doing sudoku, playing that Shopping Cart Hero game app (it is amazing), or watching movies on their iPads while we drove from country to country.
On the ride from Madrid to San Sebastian the Busabout guide instigated a boys-against-girls quiz, and you could see all those iPad users using their 3G advantage to look up answers. I strongly disapprove of cheating when I can't do it.
I found a carnival in Paris where you could win an iPad on a skill tester machine, but apparently I am not skilful (or the machines are rigged), so that didn't happen either. Now I have become the lurker who creepily stares at other people's iPads through the cracks between bus seats.
Six months ago, this issue was among the most pressing pre-travel debates Nathan and I had: tablet or laptop?
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