What to Pack: The Essentials

Whether traveling for 2 days or 4 weeks, to the tropics or the rainforest, I’ve come to learn that there are some things you cannot survive a trip without.

I’m becoming a master packer like I tend to move around a lot to different towns when I travel and need to pack as light as possible. I’ve brought my essentials down to a science and always get away with at most a carry-on and personal item. Not only is this more convenient but I don’t have to worry about surprise airline fees.

I put together the following list and images as a reference; I hope when you’re getting ready for your next trip you can customize & utilize it as your own. You’ll notice some of these are quite obvious but sometimes the most obvious items are the easiest to forget.  Continue reading “What to Pack: The Essentials”

Coffee making in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has LOTS of river streams so there are a ton of tiny bridges on the road to help cross them, this is probably one of the steepest ones I’ve seen

Taxi Rank

I know I’m a couple days late but let’s talk about the cab ride on my first day exploring on my own.

Let me start off by saying I noticed pretty quickly that Australia was unlike New York and any other place I’ve ever traveled to because there were no cabs outside honking for customers. I also didn’t see any iconic yellow taxis in the streets. As I was walking alone after my stroll on the beach and the sun was going down I came to realize I hadn’t seen any taxis since arriving and so had no idea what they looked like (besides the vans at the airport) and what I should be looking for when trying to head home.

I started to wonder how I’d get home and having absolutely no experience hailing a cab in Australia I turned to technology and lucky for me I found a uber/lyft like application (GoCatch), shortly after I started downloading it however I came to realize I didn’t have my credit card with me, only cash. So then I thought no big deal, I’ll just ask my mom for her card information and I’ll pay her back then switch it to my card once I’m back at the clinic. Too bad it was about 3:30PM when I downloaded the app which mean it was 1:30AM in NYC and my mom was probably on her 10th dream, have to love time differences.

So as I’m sure you can imagine when these Australian locals began speaking to me outside I took it as the perfect opportunity to learn how to hail a cab to get home. After going into the surf club (which happens to be the name of lots of bars/restaurants along the coast) for some drinks I was chatting it up with Benny (the other friends were mingling around all over the restaurant and coming back and forth) and mentioned the town I was staying in. I had to pull out google maps because he had never heard of it before. Once I asked about how to get there he informed me a taxi would be between $70-100 AUD minimum, very expensive. So then I stated I knew the closest train to my house and he chuckled and quickly let me know that public transportation in Australia is nothing like NYC and to get on public transportation at this time (it was only about 6:30PM) would be extremely difficult.

At this point I figured a taxi was my only option. Now please excuse any inaccuracies, this is all information coming from one Australian local. Benny informed me that taxis don’t usually stop randomly in the streets and so the only way to get one is to either call for one or to go to a taxi rank which is where taxis usually wait for passengers and (according to Benny) they’re each located about 20 minutes apart from each other. Fearful that like Benny my driver wouldn’t have heard of Advancetown I asked if the taxis all had GPS and he assured me they did.

Now let’s fast forward, when it hit about 7PM and my phone was merely on 4% (I had my charger but outlets aren’t so easy to find here) I decided it was about time I headed home; I didn’t really think it was late I was just afraid of not being able to make it home at all. Benny took me to the nearest taxi rank and I waited about 15 minutes before I was able to get on one. Once I got in the taxi I gave the driver the address of where I was staying and turned out he had no idea where it was either. The old man told me he had been driving in the area for about 10 years and couldn’t believe he had never heard of the town.

At first I wasn’t too worried because I assumed he had a GPS system …turns out he didn’t and his phone had a limited amount of GB and he didn’t want to have to use it all on “one bloody trip” as he referred to it as. When the Internet on my phone wasn’t working the taxi driver spoke over some form of radio to someone, apparently this is what they do when they don’t know where they’re going and there’s a monitor on the right side of the driver that gives them some indication on a map of where to go (I was very surprised this monitor didn’t have a GPS system). He tried to follow this path to the best of his abilities but then lost where he should have been.

Eventually, with only 4% and extremely slow internet I was able to get the directions to my house on my phone. The driver was familiar with an area it stated to go through so he headed in that direction and I turned off my GPS to try to conserve the little bit of battery life I had. However, one thing with Australian roads is that the street signs can be quite small and if you don’t know exactly where you’re going it’s easy to miss your turn, I couldn’t even keep track of how many times that happened. Especially given the fact that this man was elderly and I could tell his sight wasn’t all there at least not in the dark. It was also hard for me because it was nearing 8PM and with jet lag still taking a toll I wasn’t used to being awake till late, especially like I was waking up at 3:30 or 4AM every day. Several times I checked back on my phone to keep giving directions but halfway through it died…

The taxi driver then went on to ask if any of the roads looked familiar neglecting to realize I had just arrived in the country 3 days before and had only driven back to the house (awake) once and it was during the day. After realizing I could be of no further assistance and I was trying hard not to panic the driver decided to stop at a gas station convenience store to ask if anyone knew where Advancetown was. He asked about 3 people and none of them had ever heard of it …. Luckily, the cashier in the store was able to look up on a GPS system and that put us in the right direction but once again after a certain point the taxi driver didn’t know where to go next.

At this point the taxi fare had already reached $70 AUD and I was fearful I wouldn’t have enough to pay the full fare. I informed the driver of my concern and he was extremely understanding and turned off the meter (as he did every time we were lost) and told me he was more concerned about getting me home than about the fare and if I had $70 AUD that was enough. He asked me my age and then told me he had a 23 year old daughter, which I’m sure had influence on his sympathy.

Anyways, back to the road…so here we were on the side of the road, having no phone, no idea where to go next and nothing but mountains surrounding us. I started looking harder at the monitor on the right of the driver because I just knew it had to have a GPS system. I asked the taxi driver to allow me to take a look at it and just as I suspected there was a navigation option! I put in my address and the first set of directions was just about the sweetest thing I heard all night! Finally, there we were with 20 minutes left until my arrival home. Once we arrived I helped put the directions back to where we came from on the taxi driver’s GPS so he wouldn’t get lost trying to travel back to Coolangatta. I got back to the clinic at around 9PM and couldn’t be happier to have finally made it to my bed.

Now I can’t neglect to mention that the next morning I found out this could all be avoided because Trish thought that I was going to walk back and meet up with them again so after the talk they tried walking along the beach to find me (without realizing I would’ve walked so far). They also ate dinner near by in hopes that I’d be back, meanwhile, I thought that when Trish said “see you later” she meant at the house. After walking 3 hours away I thought trying to walk back would be foolish. So they were just as worried about me as I was about getting home. And before you ask, I did not have Trish’s number at the time and she did not have mine..a big mistake on both ends that led to much more miscommunication than was necessary.

What matters most is that I made it back in one piece, which I partially thank my savvy NY skills for. I also have to thank that driver for being so patient and concerned with my safe arrival, but I still can’t believe in all the chaos I forgot to ask him his name. Oh and of course, where would we be in this day and age without technology.

As some of you may know Australia and New York seasons are opposite, therefore it’s winter from June-August. When I looked into the weather it still seemed like it would be relatively warm, so I wasn’t too worried. Unfortunately, this seems to have been one of the coldest starts to winter Queensland has experienced in a while (according to locals). Luckily on Thursday the weather was warm and according to the weather forecast Friday wasn’t going to be too far off so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to experience Gold Coast beaches. Unfortunately, due to wind it was a little colder than I had hoped, but that didn’t stop me!

I figured the high 70s was as warm as it was going to be while I was here and I knew I had to dip my feet into Australian sands and beaches before leaving so when Trish had a talk near a foot path to the coast I strolled down part of the coast filled with some of the most popular Gold Coast beaches. It was about a 3 hour walk I made into 4 as I stopped several times to enjoy the calm setting.

I started the walk by Palm Beach with very calm waters and paddle boats around. As I went further down there were several people stand paddling and plenty of surfers (I soon noticed how much Australians in this area love to surf) as there were a lot more waves on this beach. I got into the water in this area which was beautifully clear but it was too cold for me to dip my entire body in, although I did see some people doing it. It was interesting because these beaches all had forests right behind them but the moment I turned the corner the boardwalk of the beaches were surrounded by a more urban atmosphere. As I kept walking I passed Currumbin beach, Surfer’s Paradise, Bilinga, Tugun, Kirra, Coolangatta and probably several others whose name I missed along the way.

Like it is the winter time it was no surprise that the beach was much emptier than what I assume it usually is. There were a lot of people walking their dogs, younger folks laying in the sand, elderly couples walking along the shore (what I assume is their daily exercise) and lots of surfers on the beaches with the most waves .

As I got farther south on the Gold Coast I hit a 50s and 60s carnival that someone had actually just told me about at the clinic. When I arrived this far the sun was starting to go down and some of the shops were closing so I hope to be able to return and experience the carnival fully before it ends. As I was walking through 3 people, 2 of which I could tell had been drinking a bit came up to me to talk. I saw it as a great opportunity to engage with locals so I continued the conversation (something I would almost never do in NYC).

After a bit they told me there was a great place we could all have a drink and watch the sun set with a view over the beach, they convinced me to come along for a drink. And so my first drink in Australia was Vodka with Lemonade..oh but lemonade here is actually what they call Sprite. I’m fortunate to have met these people along the way because they’re kind of the reason I was even able to make it home thankfully…but that’s a story that deserves its own blog post.

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