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CGSwans flies north for the winter

Discussion in 'Europe - General' started by CGSwans, 23 Feb 2017.

  1. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Well, the autumn, winter and a little bit of spring, in fact. There'll be no winter for me at all this year, just the northern spring and the meek and mild season that passes for 'summer' for all of you northern hemisphere types.

    I am 17 days away from pressing 'play' on a plan that has been four years in the making. Four years of dreaming, researching, tweaking, pilot testing, second-guessing and, most of all, saving. Lots and lots of saving.

    The dreaming has been going on for much more than four years, to be truthful. I've wanted to do the big backpacking trip - something of a rite of passage for Australians - since I was a teenager, but for a variety of reasons when I turned 28 my overseas adventures still only totalled six days in Bali in 2012.

    The researching started in earnest in 2013, when after some rather seismic life changes I found myself possessed of a job that allowed me to start putting money away, and the option of taking some time out to see the world in my own time, in my own way.

    The tweaking is still ongoing, though it's very much around the edges now, with most of the details decided. Versions of this trip were scoped and discarded that would have seen me going away in 2014 or 2015. At one stage it was to be a year long, starting in the US to pursue my bucket list agenda item of volunteering on a Presidential election, before stints on each populated continent.

    For various reasons that didn't happen either; commitments at home combined with slower than desired savings meant the US component was dropped by early 2015, and so I went for a short trip there that year instead. (as an aside, you can be sure that I'll be there for the 2020 election, if we're still around by then). Ultimately I simplified things by discarding all the continent-hopping and landed on what I'm about to start: six (and a bit) months in Europe.

    Then came the pilot-testing. With only six days experience outside of Australia - and none travelling solo - I needed to ease into it before trying a trip of this magnitude. For one, as an insulin-dependent diabetic, I needed to have a feel for how active holidays in different climates, with different food, would affect my diabetes management. More generally I needed to test how my budget assumptions would work before I tried to spend an awful lot of time - and money - in some of the world's most expensive destinations. And I needed to know that I would actually cope with the unknown stresses and strains of stepping outside my comfort zone.

    So I took three trips of increasing complexity: a week in Singapore in February 2015 challenged me at the most basic level: would I have the guts to get on the plane? Would I be crippled by fear at being in a foreign country on your own? Would I be able to sleep in hostels? Could I live out of a backpack, insulin supplies and all? The answers were the right ones for each question.

    Later that year I went to the US, which added jet lag, a longer duration of three weeks and some city-to-city travel into the mix. And in May and June of last year I went to Japan, throwing language barriers and a challenging food environment for diabetic vegetarians in as well.

    I learned a lot from all three trips. I love solo travel. I'm more adventurous and self-sufficient than I dared hope. I can keep to a budget without compromising my experience. If things go wrong I can fix them. And along the way my life list of zoos visited grew from 33, with just two outside Australia, to 58.

    I won't claim the second-guessing is all over; a big part of me is terrified at the thought of being away from my partner, family, friends and home town for so long. I'm even missing an entire AFL season. But I've given notice on my apartment, gotten a six month leave of absence from work, booked flights, trains and hostels and it's all too late to back out of it now. I've saved the money and it's time.

    I'm leaning against posting a detailed itinerary like, say, SnowLeopard does for his great trip threads. But as a teaser, I expect to cover more than 17,000km - well over 10,000 miles - as I zigzag across the continent. Once I land in Europe after a couple of days stopover I won't board another plane until it's time to turn for home: I've made a conscious choice for all of my travel inside Europe to be by surface transport.

    As with my US and Japan trips, zoos will form a plurality of the attractions I visit, but they aren't the sole focus of the trip. There will be plenty of them but I'm also going to immerse myself in plenty of palaces, cathedrals, town squares, art galleries, museums, ancient ruins and maybe even a beach or two. Even so, I can say with confidence that, having seen only 33 collections at the beginning of 2015, by the end of this trip I will have reached my century.

    I will of course attempt to write about my trip; I've done it in fits and starts on previous holidays but getting into writing again is a big goal for this adventure. It's something I used to do with a modicum of skill, but I'm very rusty now and I'd like that to change.

    I'm conscious, though, that I will be treading well-worn paths on Zoochat; with perhaps a couple of exceptions I expect to largely go to zoos that are familiar to many of you who might read what I write. With that in mind, I'm very interested to hear suggestions for how I can approach this thread in a way that's engaging and will keep you reading.
     
    Last edited: 23 Feb 2017
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  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    my advice, don't worry too much about what other people want and concentrate on writing what you want to write in the way you want to write it. And the use of "likes" now means you can see people are reading even if they don't comment.


    I like this :D

    Solo travel is something that not everyone is cut out for. I know someone who literally cannot go anywhere by himself. Obviously I am a solo traveller through and through. It means you can do whatever you want without having to compromise. If you want to sleep in then you do, if you want to go a hundred kilometres out of your way for an insignificant reason then you do, if you want to change your plans halfway through then you do. I'm not saying that travelling with someone else is wrong, but ... um, I'll just put a full stop here.
     
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  3. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    I hope so that one day in the next 5-10 years, I will land in Australia on a visit. Because now I need visa (obtainable online) for Australia. I can only go visa free in most European countries (except UK & Ireland), or in most of Asia, then, Cuba & Iran :), South America, and other countries, but not in USA, Canada, etc.

    What European countries you are going to visit?
     
  4. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    This is certainly the form that my travel blog proper wil take, but just as it will not focus so heavily on zoos nor do I imagine that my thoughts on art galleries or castles will be the right fit on Zoochat.

    I fully intend to travel with my partner in future, but there will need to be some component of independence as well. Once you've been the auteur of your own story it's hard to share a co-writing credit.

    Tourist visas suck, and hopefully the world's current turn away from integration won't halt the progress that has been made towards eliminating them.

    Itinerary is something I'll be keeping close to my chest for now.
     
  5. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Zoochatters are a varied bunch. Write about the non-zoo stuff and people who are interested can read along, the others can skip over paragraphs - or perhaps even become aware that the Louvre wasn't just a made-up place in Edge Of Tomorrow.


    I am fated to never travel with anybody. If I spend travel-time with someone for longer than a few days I grow weary of their company and must be away lest they vex me more.
     
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  6. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Don't let that stop you :) it certainly has not stopped me discussing non-zoo highlights of my trips to Germany!
     
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  7. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    did you do trip reports for Germany?
     
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  8. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Hah.
    Hah.
    Hah.

    :p

    Fun thing about finally getting a job, and it being nightshifts - the mental energy to write thousands of words of prose all at once gets sapped..... still working on them when I can; the next post, as it happens, will deal with one of the aforesaid non-zoological attractions.
     
  9. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I find that the more distance there is between the event and the writing about the event, the less inclined I am to put pen to paper (er, fingers to keyboard. Whatever). It just gets so much more difficult.
     
  10. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    Actually I think most people would welcome reports on almost any of the collections in Europe. Either they are underdiscussed,and this includes a lot of really major zoos in my mind, or they are the opposite and then a fresh pair of eyes brings its own value.

    Very much looking forward to seeing whatever form of itinerary you decide to share.
     
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  11. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Are you kidding?:D
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    well I thought even if they were very brief they'd be better than nothing.
     
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  13. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Definitely; that is why I am looking forward to Thylo resuming his account of his travels around the UK :) I believe he is still writing the accounts - and has finished the day-to-day discussions - but is holding them all back so he can post them more regularly once he has a chance to write the actual zoo reviews.
     
  14. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @CGSwans : My fingers are crossed that this becomes one of the truly great ZooChat threads. Your opening few paragraphs had me hooked and I've always enjoyed your writing on this site. Whether it is about the 40+ European zoos that you plan to visit, the cathedrals that you tour, the palaces that you marvel at or even the scantily-clad locals that you meet on the beach...it will all be read by many of us as we live vicariously through your adventures. I look forward to you telling us about your journey! :)
     
  15. SealPup

    SealPup Well-Known Member

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    How is Japan a challenging food environment for vegetarians? Just eat Buddhist temple food. And if you must have dashi, ask for kombu and shiitake dashi. It is easy to be a vegan, in Japan, compared to the USA or the Netherlands.
     
  16. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Shrugs. Different things are challenging for different people. I did eat some shojin ryori meals but they can be cost prohibitive if relied on too much, and aren't all that widespread either. I made it work.
     
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  17. SealPup

    SealPup Well-Known Member

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    I prepare my own food as I travel, its worth it.
     
  18. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    I can barely cook toast so I'm largely reliant on cheap meals out, especially on the shorter trips I've done up until now. I'll try to self-cater more on this one through sheer necessity.
     
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  19. SealPup

    SealPup Well-Known Member

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    If you had trouble in Japan you will have it in Europe: in the Netherlands they put egg products in the orange juice. I was astonished.
     
  20. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    I'm vegetarian, not vegan, so that's perfectly fine.
     
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