wellington

I spent the last few days in Wellington representing my company as a sponsor at a web conference. Whilst my daily schedule was jam-packed, fortunately Wellington is very small so I still was able to squeeze in some local exploring and taking some snaps in any opportunity I could.

The botanic gardens had a small collection of cacti and succulents (despite the cold weather), and there was a fair bit of street art, especially around the Cuba Street precinct which reminded me a lot of Fitzroy in Melbourne.

overseas travel tips for australians

I travel overseas for work quite a bit so I’ve worked out a few things that make it easier and more streamlined when traveling abroad. 

Here they are in case they come in handy for you:

  1. Vodafone overseas roaming is a godsend for traveling Australians. It’s automatically activated for post-paid accounts and charged at aud$5 per day for 90 odd countries (including all the big ones like USA, Canada and the UK) and free for New Zealand! Since it’s automatic you can use your phone as you would at home to make and receive any number of calls and use your included data. I used to use Optus but their $10 daily travel packs are limited and complicated so I’m so glad I made the switch to Vodafone. 
  2. Using foreign ATMs is risky. I’ve had cards swallowed by ATMs whilst abroad which is a PITA so I avoid using foreign ATMs completely, avoiding ATM fees, skimming and potential card loss. I do this by having a few hundred dollars of currency of each country I regularly visit which I use for things like very small purchases where cards aren’t taken and tipping. I keep the currency for multiple trips so I don’t need to get currency for each trip. For everything else I have a 28 Degrees MasterCard which offers fee free currency conversion so I use this whenever I travel for all purchases. 
  3. When departing Brisbane airport you can use the BNE Airport App to generate a QR code which you can use to print departure cards at the airport. This saves standing around trying to fill out your departure card at the airport with everyone else. For other airports I keep a few spare departure cards in my passport pouch and fill them out at home so they’re ready to go. Same applies to arrivals cards for coming back into Australia – I always have one pre-filled to avoid filling it out on the plane. 
  4. Australians can claim the GST they paid on items costing $300 or more that they purchased during the 60 days before their departure. You need to take the receipts, and items to the TRS counter at the airport (after customs). There’s a TRS app you should use to prefill your details which allows you to use the express queue (which can still take some time – so be early)
  5. Drinking plenty of water is the most important thing you can do on any flight; especially long haul ones. I always take my own water bottle and fill it during the flight during the filtered water dispensers which are typically near the toilets. You’ll need to empty it before taking it though airport security but you’ll be able to refill it airside at water fountains available in all airports.  
  6. If you’re an Australian traveling to the US  on an ESTA, you can use the kiosks on arrival into immigration. You don’t need to fill out the blue US arrivals form given to you on the plane (no matter what the flight attendants tell you).
  7. When coming back into Australia avoid bringing any items which you need to declare (such as wood or food) as this will slow you down a lot coming back in. 

This year I’m experimenting with taking carry on luggage only so I’ll see how that goes. 

That’s all for now. Here’s wishing you a streamlined overseas travel experience. 

→ travelling with young kids

I recently read an article by Mariam Navaid Ottimofiore (via Kitty) about the benefits of traveling with young kids:

“If I had a penny for the number of times, well-meaning friends and family have looked at me and asked “why do you travel so much with young kids? It’s not like they’ll remember any of it!”

The words between the lines are of course this idea that travel is wasted on their young minds. That all they will have, are photographs to look back upon when they are older. That they won’t remember hiking up temples in Cambodia, or riding on mules to explore the lost city of Petra. They won’t remember feeding giant tortoises in the Seychelles, or visiting the memorial church in Berlin. That the true benefits of travel can only be enjoyed as a young adult. That the money spent on traveling the world with them is somehow wasted.

To this I usually respond tongue-in-cheek “well, then why take them to a playground or push them on a swing? Why read them a book or cuddle with them at bedtime? They won’t remember any of that either.”

Travel is the same. Except wait, it’s even better. It’s about the experience. Of making memories together. And this is the part they will remember.”

Overseas travel with young kids is insanely hard but we’ve found it very worthwhile. We’ve taken our young children to Malaysia (Junior Pixels), Los Angeles/San Francisco (Junior Pixels), Sri Lanka/Singapore (Junior Pixels and Little Bear), Auckland (all three) and San Diego/Palm Springs/Los Angeles (all three), and we still have fond memories.

And it’s not only about the kids: it’s about us having fun too. Why wait until the kids are old(er) to have fun ourselves?

We’re taking our three boys to Malaysia (via Singapore) at Easter this year to experience another culture, and we’re all looking forward to it already.

lake tahoe (jan 2017)

I spent the last three nights in Lake Tahoe for a quick work trip. Lake Tahoe is a large lake that is split between California to the West and Nevada to the East. The Northern Nevada side just East of the border has a number of old-school casinos since gambling is legal in Nevada.

Two days before I arrived the area had one of the biggest snow storms in recent history which meant it was a winter wonderland every where we went. The drive up and back from Reno (the nearest airport in Nevada) was very scenic to say the least 😍 (see time-lapse video below)

 

rainforest rail trail (burringbar train tunnel)

Whilst in Northern NSW today I took the opportunity to check out the disused train tunnel at Burringbar. It used to be used for the XPT service that ran from Murwillumbah to Sydney that was discontinued in 2004 (Kitty and I caught this train to Sydney in 1998 for Schoolies week).

There’s an unofficial ‘rail trail’ that starts at the beginning of Tunnel Road where you can walk 2.5km to the entrance to the 500m tunnel and then back again (if you wanted to skip the 5km walk you can drive along tunnel road to right near the entrance of the tunnel and jump the fence).

walking across the brooklyn bridge 

I’ve spent the last day and a bit in New York City on my way home from Philadelphia.

Yesterday I met some Aussie/Kiwi expat friends living in Manhattan for lunch and they suggested we meet in DUMBO for pizza at Juliana’s and walk back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s been about 10 years since I’ve walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. The views are better than I remembered but the crowds were much worse than I remember. It was jam-packed and particularly hard to cross with my friend’s three young kids walking. It was however a stunning clear sunny day so I can’t really blame half of New York for wanting to walk across it.

field with dandelions, philadelphia

Browsing through Instagram today I found a random comment about a large green ‘plastic wrapped’ building in Philadelphia with a lens you can look into to see some art. Unfortunately the description of the location was rather nebulous (‘near Monk’s Cafe’) but I still managed to find it during my lunchtime walk today (it was on the corner of Chancellor St and S 16th Street after all).

The art installation is called ‘Field with Dandelions’ and it consists of the building wrapped in a plastic dandelion field print and a small lens which looks into a diorama of a field with dandelions. Quite amazing really. I’m glad I found it!

 

 

customs house, philadelphia 

Walking around Philadelphia today was sunny and warm; not what I was expecting in November. 

The United States Customs House building looked beautiful in the sunshine surrounded by autumn leaves and with the United States flag fluttering in the wind. 

long haul haze

I do quite a few long haul international flights per year for work, and it wasn’t until a colleague recently pointed it out to me, that I realised that I, like many people, upon check in to the airport go into a zombie-like haze for the entire duration of my long haul flight(s). 

During my recent trip to Canada I vaguely remember being in such a state of consciousness whilst watching a movie on the plane called Demolition which was about a guy taking things apart. Watching that film mostly non-compos-mentis at 40,000 feet was a surreal experience 

toowoomba carnival of flowers

We’ve been talking about going to the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers forever so today we made that a thing. It was a little smaller than I expected (having been to Floriade in Canberra) but I was still impressed.

We had a nice brunch at Picnic Point Park before driving back to Brissie. The view from Picnic Point Park was amazing 😉

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hiking alta lake, whistler

I was looking for a hike that I could do from Whistler Village for a few hours without a car and without a lift pass. Lost Lake is too close (and short) so I decided on Alta Lake which is a larger lake to the South West of Whistler Village.

It was easy to find, and despite the lake not being all that scenic, there were some great views of the surrounding mountains. I also managed to find some old car wrecks and some giant wooden chairs lakeside.

I walked around 12km in total in about two and a half hours; it was very enjoyable.

 

whistler train wreck

This week I had a chance to check out the Whistler train wreck site: a part of the forest near Whistler where several train carriages rest that were part of a train derailment in 1956.

The area has been declared a legal graffiti zone so each carriage is colourfully decorated in all kinds of spray paint.

I’ve never seen anything like it; it was like an urban jungle in the middle of a forest. Amazing stuff.

 

whistler peak 2 peak

I’m in Whistler, Canada for a week of work with a little bit of play.

Today was a play day so we rode a gondola to the top of Whistler Mountain where there’s another gondola that goes across to the peak of Blackcomb Mountain. The weather was cool and climatic, changing the landscape almost constantly.

We saw some great scenery and I got some good shots. Well worth the time up there!

 

travel throughout your decades

Travel in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, because every decade you will have different constraints and experiences. e.g 20s may lack money, 60s may lack health. So don’t wait. It is money well spent.

I found this little gem on an Australian forum I frequent. 

It’s easy in your thirties with young children to forgo travel by putting it in the ‘too hard’ basket, but it can still be very rewarding when you actually do. 

I imagine the forties will have similar challenges of traveling with teenagers, but I don’t want to get too old to realize I haven’t traveled enough. 

socal feb 2016

I spent five days last week working/playing in Southern California, specifically La Jolla near San Diego.

I drove from LAX to La Jolla and back, which was a nice drive but difficult with lots of freeways, rain (on the way down), traffic (all the time) and of course driving on the wrong side of the road.

So, so, so many succulents and cacti everywhere.

Here’s some pics: