Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Travel Money - Get the Best Deal in London and when you Travel

Take some cash with you when you travel abroad for places that don’t accept plastic like small shops, taxi’s etc. Cash machines do not give you the best rate for changing money, you will get a better rate if you exchange cash at a foreign exchange.

To change money there are a variety of options. I find that Marks & Spencer’s, Travelex and the Post Office are all a rip off. The worst foreign currency exchanges are the ones in the airport which have huge ‘margins’ (the difference between what they buy a currency from you and what they sell it to you). 

Never pay commission, but just because they are advertising 0% commission doesn’t make their rate any good. Check online, I check Yahoo Finance. Then you want to get the closest rate to this that you can. 

If you live in London, Edgeware Road has a good selection and rates. The best place I have found is Thomas Global exchange which has 4 branches in london.

In general go to the little hole in the wall places with one guy cooped up in his little glass prison cell and he will have better rates than the high street banks, stores and even the chain currency places. Competition is good!

Better yet, exchange money directly with your friends. Just look online and get the rate at that time for the currency you have from Yahoo Finance and calculate it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Big Jellyfish Surprise while Snorkeling in Thailand

I swam right into a jellyfish by accident while snorkeling. This occured while I was on holiday in Thailand near some small islands off the coast of Ao Nang.

I happened to be filming on my new GoPro Hero 3+ camera which is excellent by the way and I highly reccomend getting one.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Free NYC Travel Guide from a Local

Having lived in New York City, I have visited many a time. However it never ceases to amaze me the great places in New York that so many people seem to overlook or not know about. 

Therefore I feel it is my duty to become a travangelist and recommend these places to everyone I hear that is visiting my favourite city in the States – New York. 

Malfunctioning Signal NYC - Photo: Francis Shenstone
One of the secrets of Grand Central that I discovered on my own years ago, and has since been written about yet many New Yorkers are unfamiliar with is the “Whispering Gallery”, located in front of the Oyster bar. To summon its magic a couple must split, head to a separate corner, face the corner and whisper.

There is also the famous Junior’s cheesecake to be had in Grand Central and some nice chairs to sit in and admire all the people passing by.

While in New York you have to try the NY style pizza which is available by the slice for a very reasonable price. Just go in a pizza place and ask for a "slice" this means a slice of margerita style pizza. 

If you want to avoid the mayhem of Central Park when the sun is out, head to Grosvenor Island on the free ferry for the day. You can rent a bike or relax on the “beach” and gaze out at Manhattan from this great car free vantage point.

To enjoy a barbecue while in New York you can get the metro to Roosevelt Island and use the barbecue’s that they have in the park. You just need to bring charcoal and food to cook, and preferably something to light the charcoal with. From Roosevelt Island a great view of the Upper East Side can be seen all the way down to Midtown.

A great view of Manhattan can be found at the many rooftop bars, my favourite being the aptly named - The Rare View Rooftop Garden - which is located at 37th and Lexington and is accessed by an unmarked side door around the corner from the restaurant “Rare”. To ascend to the top you must be over 21, knock on the door and show ID. It seems so secretive and I guess it was, maybe after this article is published it won’t be so secretive anymore.

For some late night dining in style you can head to what my friends have nicknamed “The Lifestyle” it is a gyro stand on 53rd and 6th, the only one I have seen with a line than can extend half a block, yet hands out food more efficiently and rapidly than any other street food stand I have ever seen. With a cult following and a fan created website, the food speaks for itself. The tasty “platter” which consists of gyro meat of your choosing on a bed of rice with salad, with a delicious white sauce and/or the spicy red sauce, is perfect after a good night out on the town.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Travelling is addictive and healthy

The travel drug is addictive, but not necessarily bad like other drugs. It helps many people get out of a rut by. The fear of the unknown or the fear of flying holds some people back. 

Travel has long been the only available to the rich, but in this age of budget airlines and Couchsurfing, it is now available to all.

The main thing that prevents most people from travelling more is TIME and making it your priority, so I say do it while you are young and have time. We are all given exactly the same amount of time in each day, it is up to us how we use it -- our choice. I personally believe everyone should travel and your first passport should be free.

I am a big fan of Erasmus and although I haven’t done it myself, I did my own thing and went to the US, I think this should be more available in other countries

It would create a better society and help more people experience travel. This would also create a culture that is more accepting of others from completely different countries. If I have friends all over the world why would I be racist or intolerant of others? If I travelled more, I would probably realise that we humans have a lot in common no matter where we are born or raised. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Travelling alone - making new friends

Travelling alone is not as lonely as you might think. I have been travelling “alone” for over six months now, and have met more people in this period than I would normally meet in about five years of normal life. I have felt less alone than I ever have and had one of the best times of my life.

The secret is communication. It is no good travelling alone if you are shy and don’t like introducing yourself to people, or striking up random conversations. I believe this is something that can be learned and practiced as I used to be shy.

Me flying solo in Ecuador - Photo: Tim Torres
I have met people in the most random situations, helped people in strange situations and bumped into people I know from the other side of the world while travelling! I have had more than my fair share of coincidences in my travels. I have also met more of the nicest, kindest and good people in my travels than I had met in my whole life.

It is all about your comfort level, but I know plenty of girls who travel on their own in “dangerous” countries. However, they don’t try this for their first backpacking trip. 

You build up to something like that, just like you don’t try running when you haven’t even crawled.

Common sense is needed and if you don’t have it, at least have the brains to travel with someone who does.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Most Important Thing in Life - Relationships

The following powerful statement changed my life:

“The only thing you take to heaven with you is the relationships you make here on earth”.

After hearing this I thought about the relationships in my life and thought if I died right now, what relationships have I developed in my lifetime? 

Just a few of the great guys I know from University
I figured I needed to stay in touch with old friends better, and call the people I love more often.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Inception Explained and Unravelled - Interpreting the Confusion

After watching Inception four times and starting to dig a little deeper I have developed a theory about Inception, I checked online a bit to see if someone else had already come up with my idea, but I didn’t see it anywhere so I felt compelled to share it with the world.

Disclaimer: Spoiler alert! If you have not seen Inception, this is not for you, stop reading and go watch Inception. If you have seen Inception and are still trying to work out if it was all a dream or not and you are prepared to dig a little deeper then read on!

Once you have seen Inception and wondered whether the top at the end keeps spinning or not and if Cobb is back in reality or if the whole thing was a dream, you begin to see deeper into the plot and realise how intricate it is.

Reality or not, the bigger point that many people missed was that Cobb didn’t care to find out if it was reality or a dream, he was just happy to be home and see his children again. He left the top spinning and ran out to see his kids.

Cobb: I need to get home. That's all I care about right now.
Ariadne: Why can't you go home?
Cobb: Because they think I killed her.
Ariadne: [silence]
Cobb: Thank you.
Ariadne: For what?
Cobb: For not asking whether I did.

My theory is that Saito and Mal were lovers. Mal famously says ‘Do you know what it is to be a lover? To be half of a whole?’ Mal killed herself on the night of her anniversary by jumping off the balcony. You don’t kill yourself on your anniversary if everything is fine in your relationship. Mal could have picked any other day of the year to leave what she thought was a dream.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Travel Poem - The Difference between Travel Secrets and Nomadic Wisdom

Living on the edge is still taking up space,
I am enticed no longer by the rat race.
Accomplish your dreams before it’s too late,
Seize the opportunity do not idly wait.

Like a lonely satellite I did wander,
Perceiving places and people to ponder.
Belief in ideas is timeless and essential
To learn, grow and realise ones potential.
Simplicity will be the traveller’s goal supreme,
When you lug your life and are living the dream,
Less beats more like a man can only lug so much,
I love relationships so let’s stay in touch.

To truly enjoy living life to the max,
It’s vital to chillax and stop bleeding tax.
Title does not define – I serve while I can,
I live the truth and am a slave to no man.

Where I have gone is greater than an aged address,
And better than belongings I possess.
You can go on without money and have fun,
But expire the second your time equals none.

Forever remember what you have been taught,
Pity no one that perishes for lack of thought.
Enjoy existing no envy no regret,
This is travel wisdom from nomads I met.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The High Line Park New York City Video Blog

The newly opened High Line Park which still has sections under construction is a great place to visit in NYC. 

The Park is built on an elevated train line that used to be used by the meat packing district of New York. The train line lay abandoned and was due for removal when someone had the idea of turning it into a park. The long thin route of a train line makes an ideal walkway, and when it is completed it will be a very long walk through the west side of Manhattan.

The park is a great vantage point for looking out across the city as it lies above street level. There is some very nice wooden furniture on which to soak up the rays or just watch the crowds of people walking by.

The park weaves it way through buildings and gives a glimpse into offices, apartments and the famous Standard Hotel which bridges it - great for watching or being watched. It doesn’t get more touristy than this folks.

Enjoy the video blog, I wasn’t sure whether to edit it and add music and change the voice over, or to leave it as the raw footage that it currently is so let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travel PTSD - When Home is not Home Anymore

Disclaimer: I am no expert in PTSD. Travel PTSD is by no means making fun of the very serious and real issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The following excerpt is taken from the Post Deployment Health Assessment from the US Department of Defence’s questionnaire screening for PTSD and if you answer yes to any of these four questions, you are at risk of suffering from PTSD. 

Have you ever had any experience that was so frightening, horrible, or upsetting that, in the past month, you:

  • Have had any nightmares about it or thought about it when you did not want to 
  • Tried hard not to think about it or went out of your way to avoid situations that remind you of it. 
  • Were constantly on guard, watchful or easily startled
  • Felt numb or detached from others, activities or your surroundings

You are at risk of suffering from acute PTSD if you experience this within 4 days of returning and if it lasts for less than a month. You are at risk of suffering from chronic PTSD if the signs last longer than a month. Sometimes the onset of symptoms can be delayed until years later. 

Thanks to Stephanie for letting me pick her brains about PTSD - she is a grad student in social work that is studying Veteran Affairs.

Defining Travel PTSD

Travel PTSD is like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but When Returning from Travelling

Symptoms include:

•    Reverse Homesickness - missing people and places from abroad
•    Inability to focus on everyday tasks/dreams about travelling
•    Boredom, insecurity, uncertainty and frustration
•    Feelings of alienation or withdrawal
•    Need for excessive sleep