I love Singapore! (And I haven’t even been yet)

The journey to a destination doesn’t have to be the boring part. Apparently there are adventures between connecting flights and I’ve found a great one with Singapore Airlines.

It makes me sad that we often miss out on these, I for one have made this mistake and I’m trying to avoid doing this on future travels. I want to squeeze as much experience out of life and travelling 35 hours from London to Sydney is a heck of a long time to see nothing but in-flight movies and airport terminals.

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I’ve just got back from my mums, I went back to see my goddaughter and felt it would be a good time to take some of what I won’t be taking to Australia back to her place. That is probably 99% of all things I own. Judging by how messy my flat can get I assumed I had a lot of stuff that needs emptying before I leave. It turns out I don’t have too much stuff, I am just messy.

I’ve also learned that I have been stupidly paying more for my train journeys than I should have been. Instead of buying ‘off peak’ on the touchscreen ticket machines, I should have clicked ‘more options’ and purchased a specific time. This is my own fault, as my train journeys are roughly every couple of months it is something I haven’t thought about. Now that I need money more than ever, that extra couple of quid each way is welcomed.

Here I am waiting for the train yesterday. Drifting off topic a little, I have an ever growing fascination with castles. They never bore me, a constant reminder that the closest we can currently get to time travel is looking at what has been left for us. It seems from this view that the line runs right into the castle. Very platform 9 and three quarters, that. It doesn’t, the Victorians didn’t seem to care how close to the castle they got, clearly appreciating a carriage with a view.

Whilst all this was happening, I emailed Singapore Airlines as I was told that they offer hotel packages for travellers with long layovers. What did I have to loose? With the good customer service I was told to expect from this airline they emailed back pretty quickly, offering to book me in for their Ambassador Transit Hotel, paid for in 6 hour blocks. This didn’t really appeal to me, however they also offered to book me onto one of their Free Singapore Tours (FST), offered to those with long layovers. How cool is that? It can be found on their website, by clicking the link or heading for Plan Travel- Privileges- Free Singapore Tour.

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One of two tours can be picked. The Heritage Tour or the City Sights Tour. The Heritage Tour seems to be more of a tour of history and culture, taking us through areas of historical importance and the ethnic enclaves of Singapore. The City Sights Tour seems to be more of the modern sights, such as Marina Bay and the amazing Avatar-like Supertrees. I love the historical and cultural aspect of any place I go, however as each tour is 2.5 hours, I feel I will be able to digest the sights a little easier than the history. Also, the City Sights Tour is only offered to those with a six hour layover or more, the Heritage Tour is available to travellers with a 5.5 hour layover. As I will be there for a whopping 17 hours, I was lucky to be offered both. The City Sights Tour appeals to me a little more with this in mind, like a forbidden fruit. Sorry, 5.5 hour layover people!

Reading the descriptions it seems like they may cross paths, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. I struggle with choices of this nature. I have decided on the City Sights Tour and have been booked in. It seemed very quick and efficient, all I have to do now is experience it first hand. Afterall, I can always book the same airline back and choose the other tour!

For the time being, my blog will be focused on my travel planning. It helps keep me organised. After I arrive in Sydney, I will mix it up a little with my usual inputs on anything and everything. Whatever reason you decided to follow my blog will hopefully be justified with a post you can relate to. Of course, travel and photography will play a huge part.

Which of the tours would appeal to you? If you have ever been, I would love to read your stories and if there is anything I should look out for in particular.

Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

 

 

First class for £30!

Yesterday was different. Not only did I find myself in a vegan restaurant eating a falafel and hummus wrap (it was delicious by the way) I almost spat it out when a naked bike ride cycled right by the window. Sadly for them it was a pretty cold day..

Cleansing my soul

At the minute my routine is:

Eat.

Blog.

Work.

Prepare for Australia.

Sleep.

Repeat.

Not that I would dare to complain, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is not the lack of free time that I would change, it is the time spent doing things that I have to do that isn’t what I want to do. We wouldn’t spend our lives wanting as much free time as possible if our lives outside of that free time were spent doing what we enjoyed.

I’ve been considering how I will get to London in September, as the only travel I had booked up until last night was from London to Sydney. Flight would be the easiest, taking under an hour and would mean I didn’t have to spend time getting through the hectic traffic in London to the airport for my next flight. Trains would be a (still pretty convenient) three hour trip and it is much easier for me to get to Central Station than Newcastle Airport. Coach would be the cheapest by far from only £8, however I hate sitting on a coach for 8 hours knowing that it would take the same amount of time to get to New York City. Madness, huh?

This thinking process ended with one email. Virgin East Coast sent me an email warning me that their sale was ending at midnight. A sale I didn’t know was even on! £30 train tickets from Newcastle to London. Not only that…
FIRST CLASS!!

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My first ever view of London was this one, after stepping out from the Underground.
This may not be as much of a surprise to my readers outside of the U.K., depending on how cheap your rail travel is. Here it is in no way cheap. Looking at tickets today the prices range from £36 to £121, without the free upgrade. As I opened up the email at work I assumed the £30 fare was the cost of an upgrade with clever wording, however as the pages loaded it seemed like the real deal. 


And here I am, £30 poorer but increasingly more organised, starting a tiring three day journey to Sydney with a smile, free beers and meals for the first leg of this epic journey. Thanks Virgin!

Have you ever been first class? Did you get a great deal, get it complimentary or simply like more luxurious travel?

This is a first for me, I will be sure to blog this experience on route to London come August 31st.

Travel Diary: So long America, it was fun :(

I wanted to find an image that represents the USA in differing ways for this post, I decided on this picture taken in Austin, TX.

The famous yellow taxi. Glass highrises dwarfing the one storey eateries lining the grid traffic systems. Right lane driving. These all stand out to me as a British traveller.

My home city of Durham bans building over two storeys high in some areas to prevent obscuring any views of the cathedral, or so I was taught on a geography trip back in school. Grid systems would be ideal, sadly this is impossible when our city was built when horses were the main mode of transport. It was also important to build in an area that was difficult to conquer, common throughout Europe. It is a city that has always taken my breath away, not just because of the views but the effort needed to walk up to the market place. You can see why the centre is pedestrianised, and how this spot was perfect for the building of a castle and cathedral.

Credit: Van Rhijn Aerial Photography

But this post is about the New World. Today, I received notification that my US visa expired. It isn’t something that I have looked to renew as I have spent the years since 2010 in Malaysia, Brazil and short breaks in Europe. A lot happens in this space of time. I lost my father and uncle in recent years which of course took the wind out of my sails. I had no ambition to travel at all but thanks to great friends and amazing family, I got back on my feet. I would love to have went back the States and it feels weird that I haven’t, I made great friends and still keep in touch.

Sometimes we don’t get upset that something is over until it is over. I haven’t thought much about the visa still being valid but now I see it isn’t, I slumped a bit. If anything it is a reminder that I need to visit this great nation once again, one so vast that one image alone cannot portray the United States of America accurately. I miss the food, the friendly people, the numbered streets and alphabetised avenues and people thinking I’m Irish or Australian.

My visa expiring has inspired me to visit again one day!

Pre-travel goodbyes

I love the inside of this card.

Happiness is living your dreams whilst you are wide awake…

It is getting to that point in which I receive the good lucks and all the bests. When it starts to hit me and the feelings of excitement dwindle a little, the realisation hits me of the sacrifices made in moving to another country. I won’t see my family for a little while. My ‘little while’ may be a long damn time for some, it depends how you perceive one year.

They need me and I need them. I also need to live, if my family didn’t do the same in their youth, what stories would they have to tell me? Would I be here at all?

Thank you to the two Scottish Margaret’s for this one!

The reality is that even though my family will miss me as much as I will miss them, we all have a duty to self progress. To be a little selfish and to treat ourselves as much as we want to treat those we love. What better way to show how much we love family than to give them something to be proud of? To show them how well they have raised us, the ambition and drive placed within us materialised in the form of a plane ticket and new footsteps in unspoiled sand.

My visit to Texas back in 2010 was the longest I have been without family, thirteen months. Oddly, I was always someone preffering to stay at home. I loved my home comforts. I assume university helped me out of that comfort zone, after my second trip to New York City during my degree. I realised long-haul wasn’t a scary experience and thanks to the Jet-stream over the Atlantic, the return journey home was a pretty short one. If I remember rightly it was only 6 hours 30 minutes (ish), sharing the whole back row with one friend. A journey back home from another part of the UK may take that time (driving of course) and that would be without such homesickness. Homesickness for me is prevented by not thinking of how far away my family are in miles but in time. No matter where we are in the world, family are pretty much in reach within 24 hours.

Please forgive the quality of the images below, I used a cheap camera. I didn’t have a smartphone back then and have never owned a professional photography camera. FYI, the first picture was from my first visit in 2008, when the foundations were still being cleared and prepared for One World Trade Center and memorial. My visits to NYC have been 2008, 2010 and 2011. The One World Trade Center is under construction in a couple of images, snapped in 2011 after I left Texas and flew from New York to London. I still didn’t own a decent camera!

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The first two visits were only short breaks, five days each. I remember flying to Dallas on that first long stretch away from home. As the green card was being placed on my tray and the captain announced how long of the flight was left, it finally hit me that I would be away for a year, starting there and then. A year! I am glad it hit me when it did, if I felt the same feeling of reluctance earlier I may not have bought my plane ticket. The feeling didn’t last long, my brain instantly stimulated by new accents and weather, new foods and sports. When I did need to contact home I could do in an instant thanks to Facebook and Skype. The whole experience wasn’t as daunting as I feared it would be whilst I filled in the green card. I still firmly believe it was the best year of my life.

I also seem to remember more of that year than I do all the years since combined. Despite having many more trips, a year of travel consists of so many stories and new experiences. Similar to how we feel about aging, time flies the older we get. As a child everything is new. Every colour and word, every animal and sound. The more our days become increasingly similar to the last, the less we notice the hands moving on the clock. Travel for me is a time machine slowing down life. When I think of being away for such a long in Australia come September, I think of the benefits.

Like a gym session, don’t worry about how crap you feel doing it, think of the results!!

Photographs change.

A dark alley. A stranger looking toward a building that is no more, another victim of the ruthless enemy of time. In the reflection, a blue sky that was previously gracing our above, the window acting as a brief time capsule into the very recent past.

Our images regularly catch things we do not. I love taking photographs when I have the slightest urge, they can be a wise investment. I sometimes learn lessons from such images, even if that was not the purpose for capturing the moment in the first place.

I love how a picture that does not change can be so different over time. A reminder that events are set in stone, imagination and realisation constantly changes.

Our normal needs more crazy

I don’t think this horse has a name, just a legacy. It is a recent addition to this street and has heads turning every single time. Why wouldn’t it? It is a horse on roller skates for crying out loud!

Then again, that is all it is. A horse and roller skates. Two very normal things combined to completely throw us off guard. Add some bright colours into the mix to truly go off the rails.

Normal+Normal=Crazy.

Something so simple is very effective at grabbing attention, it is that easy to stand out. Our everyday is very repetitive, our work patterns and dress codes, our watercooler conversations and elevator silences. A dog rocking pink shoes at the beach is like an oasis in the desert for our under-stimulated eyes and boy, did he like the attention.

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There is a reason we weren’t satisfied with black and white television. There is a reason colouring books exist. Colour adds so much more to our lives. Nothing compliments a sunny day like a burst of colour. Nothing gives hope to a cloudy day like a brightly painted house or bright yellow camper van. We need colour to stay sane and these bright blessings aren’t given enough chance.

My flatmate never wears black socks with his suits. He insists that avoiding them makes him happier and more motivated for the day ahead. I insisted that my fathers funeral was a colourful one. Even the darkest days need light, you could say they need them the most. Can you imagine if we all decided to wear greens, yellows and pinks everyday? It wouldn’t seem attention seeking or over the top if it was the new normal.

We set the standard for what is normal, why not raise the bar a little? There would be an even greater appreciation for those that go beyond that.

To infinity!

 

Missed opportunities

I wanted to post a little earlier than usual today due to a huge roar of thunder. You know the ones you can almost feel as well as hear. The ones that put your windows and underwear to the test.


I was still half asleep when I climbed over my bed and to the curtains, looking out to horizontal rain that I can only describe as painful had I not been sheltered. I love this kind of whether but for a different reason. I was hoping to have a beer outside as I did when I took this picture a couple of days ago, I don’t think today will be the day.


Sadly I didn’t stay awake long enough to watch the whole show. My body wouldn’t let me. It is sobering to think that I can only wake up when my body says so. I fall asleep when it says so too. I only came into existence when someone else’s body said so, that’s really crazy. My atoms were always out there somewhere, not organised enough to form a consciousness. The storm today was incomprehensibly small compared to the ones I have missed over the billions of years before my existence, smaller than the ones happening right now throughout the universe.

I shouldn’t solely blame sleep with this in mind, being awake doesn’t help much either. As I have posted previously, all we can do is stare and wonder. We know some of what goes on up in space, this isn’t enough to grant our senses the ability to focus on it.

It is frustrating to know what we cant see but it is pretty amazing that our species is developing tools that overcome this. Thankfully the future looks brighter than the skies today.

On top of the world

Blogging is great therapy. My daily routine has changed completely since deciding to write every day and with that, my motivation to do so much outside of blogging. It is like obtaining a master key but not to enter a room, to escape one. A dark room that left little desire to spread a message, one that I wouldn’t want to spread without a healthy frame of mind.

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That master key thankfully works to unlock so much more. I get out of bed earlier. I have breakfast. I will do twenty push-ups if I know I won’t be able to go to the gym today. I spend the day looking around for motivation for my next post instead of looking for a clock telling me when I will be able to go back to bed. I have more reason to get out of bed and more meaning to my days between sleeping.

Healthy eating is another, I don’t need to seek as much happiness from junk food. I have never been a very unhealthy eater but I am still seeing benefits. There is less boredom in my day, less desire to find excitement in areas that don’t benefit my body and mind. If my mind is constantly stimulated I have less time to rest my head on that pillow of procrastination. It is simple but effective. I used to be Indiana running away from work ethic, I prefer to be the ball of motivation chasing my doubts and pessimism away. Once it is rolling, it is much harder to slow down.

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I enjoy being the ball.

I am saving money as I am not spending it trying to pass time. Saving for greater things to blog about. You will see where it takes me in the next few months, providing I don’t lose my passport before then. Ah! There is another positive. I don’t hate waiting for fun things I have planned later in the year as I am having fun today. They say good things come to those who wait. Why wait, and why not have fun everyday? It is possible. There is a huge wasted opportunity when living for something you have planned later in the year. All attention is on that calendar date and crossing the boxes until it arrives. What happens to the days that have been crossed off? Were they just seen as stepping stones? Each one consists of 24 hours, that is a huge chunk of time to let slip by. After a few of these it isn’t days but life that is slipping by. Don’t make that mistake.

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The more I aim to do the worse I feel when I do not keep busy. As long as this busy consists of things that I enjoy, I feel good. It has been said that one of the biggest regrets from people on their death bed is working too hard. I believe that if work is your ambition and consisting of things you enjoy, it won’t be work. Our aim is to find work that we want to do, not that we need to do to keep going.

If I can live a life mostly consisting of what I enjoy, I will feel good. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best day is today. There is no quicker way to get to where you want than to start right now, and hopefully I will not have to ride so many cable cars to feel like I am on top of the world.

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Remembering home

Your next destination has a reason to thank the place you currently call home and I love that. As contradictory as it probably seems, one of my biggest delights whilst travelling is to see something that reminds me of home. For me, it is new found pride. It is realising the world shrinks the further we travel and how often I am reminded of the place I was raised.

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No matter where you are, there will be some kind of influence from back home. In food, in entertainment, in sports or in language, I love knowing that when I start to get sick of the same four walls and travel somewhere new, I will regain pride in the place that I left. I do this all the time and have felt this everywhere I have been.

Some people feel that leaving a hometown is to lose love for that place. This could well be the reason, it may not. I have always wanted to leave my hometown and if anything, it makes going back so much more special. I look forward to driving by that welcome sign, probably more than the current residents that drive by this sign each day. Surely there is beauty in leaving a hometown behind if it helps to build new appreciation.

My family have always been this way. Whenever I tell people where I am from, the usual response is ‘Oh really? Whats your last name?’. Our identity is strongly associated by the last name in my hometown, boringly I have to tell people that my parents moved there months before I was born and that my family doesn’t date back generations in this one place. A conversation killer but again, a great excitement arises when I travel to visit my family far and wide.

Some aspects remind me why I left, for this travel has done me good. If we stick to one community, how open minded can we be? You could argue that the internet has helps us escape this from our living rooms, we can now grow up in one place with all the associated cultures and beliefs and read about a thousand others, speak to anyone anywhere and make new decisions. I very much doubt this will make anyone lose the desire to travel and neither should it. If anything it is a great advertisement to the complete shifts in opinion and understanding that can come from popping the bubble and stepping outside.

Pepper and salt on chips and fish

Why is salt and pepper in this order?


Did a group of people back in the day sit down and establish that ‘pepper and salt’ sounded awful? Does ‘salt and pepper’ only sound good because it has been the norm for so long?

I guess it is the same for good and bad, Mr & Mrs, fish and chips, tea and biscuits, Ant and Dec… Mixing up the ‘normal’ order sounds very odd.