Ever Present

I haven’t written anything for a while now, I suppose you could consider it writer’s block. If anything it is more a result of lack of content, the result of me assuming that my everyday life and thoughts aren’t always worth writing about.

I turned 23 recently and decided to take a trip to Los Angeles to celebrate. I booked tickets to see my Lakers play, a ticket to see Lorde and was lucky enough to be gifted a ticket to Universal Studios so that I could experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For anyone who knows me, this is basically my ideal holiday and it was made even better by the fact that I got to stay at my friend Amy’s house and catch up with her and her family. I figured that the trip would also be a great opportunity to source content for my blog and various social media profiles.

We live in a world where oftentimes we are caught thinking about how something may be perceived online. We wonder whether that angle will look good on Instagram, whether that Snapchat will have the desired effect or whether what we’re thinking is truly worthy of another Facebook status. I posted to my Instagram story whilst I waited at Calgary airport, I thought it would be fun to run a poll and interact with my friends. The poll was decently well responded to and I did enjoy hearing what people thought even though the question was far from serious. I updated my story with another similar poll once arriving in LA which yielded similar results, however this ended up being basically my last social media post during my vacation.

I did take my camera with me to LA, but I didn’t use it once. There are so many great photo opportunities in Hollywood and the surrounding areas but I had seen them all before. As I planned each day I realised I had less and less time to get to these spots and photograph them as they just weren’t high enough on my priority list. As I sat on my phone trying to figure out the best public transport journey to Rodeo Dr I realised that I had no reason to go. My sole purpose for going to Rodeo Dr was to get a photo, a photo that I would share on social media, reap fake internet points on and completely forget about. I didn’t go to Rodeo Dr; nor did I go to Runyon Canyon, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood Blvd or Disneyland. I had no desire to return to these places, and Instagram likes were certainly not enough of a motivator to deviate from my plans.

I spent my time trying new things, going to new places and eating all of the delicious foods I could afford. I did all of this without experiencing it through the lens of my smartphone or my camera. I feel that this post is in some ways hypocritical, I have spent countless hours posting on social media over the last decade. I have attempted to build a “brand” and gain followers in the hope of income or sponsorship in the future. However, when it comes to travel I have realised that some moments are best experienced to the fullest extent, with the commitment of each one of our senses. I am in no way saying that rewarding experiences and social media are mutually exclusive. My intention with this post is to urge people to find a balance when travelling or even in our day to day lives.

In this modern age, we are expected to be available at any moment. We all have a smartphone, we all have the social media apps and we all know that realistically everybody we know should respond within a few hours. Due to this, there are times when we fail to be present in the moment, times when we miss a facial expression or a passing comment that may have made a memory so much more than it is. It is imperative that we allow ourselves to be enriched by the world around us, by the people we know and meet, by the experiences that we have each day and by the challenges that we face throughout our lives.

As I get closer to leaving for my road trip, I remain torn between my desire to live in the moment and my passion for capturing it. I know that my trip will be filled with many incredible sights that my friends and family would love to see. I also know that it will be filled with people, moments, lessons and decisions that will be best experienced and processed without the prying eyes of my followers.

It feels great to be writing again, now that the Lakers are out of playoff contention I have a little more time on my hands. It’s less than 3 weeks until I’m full time travelling again and I cannot wait!

 

Mitch Dale

 

 

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Returning To Niagara

When I made the decision to leave Toronto, I knew that I was leaving many unfinished journeys behind to begin a thousand new ones. With a few days left, I figured I would venture back to Niagara Falls to see it from the Canadian side. As I’ve written about previously, my last trip to Niagara Falls didn’t really go as planned. I appreciated the falls when I was there, but I knew I didn’t get the experience I was really hoping for. On my first visit; it was hot, crowded, bright and the views from the US side are generally accepted as the worse ones. I decided that I would spend my second to last day in Toronto going to have the Niagara Falls experience that I really wanted.

I wanted to go in the afternoon, I wanted to see the sun set through the mist of one of the natural wonders of the world. I found a bus that left from Toronto that was only $13 return, so I booked it the night before for a 4:30pm arrival at the falls. I booked my return bus to depart at 7:30pm from the Niagara bus terminal, around a 40 minute walk from the actual falls. I figured that if I walked each way, I would have almost 2 hours at the falls, enough time to sit and marvel at the power of the water surging over the cliffs. I boarded the bus with my backpack and camera, ready to finally truly see what all the fuss was about.

Being a weekday, there was some afternoon traffic as we left downtown Toronto. This was to be expected, and it was allowed for in the approximate duration of the ride listed on the website. As we got further and further from the city, the traffic did not seem to be thinning at all. We crawled along the highway, barely rolling as the commuters made their way home around us. I brought up the Maps app on my phone only to be met with a spiderweb of yellow and red, there were no green streets ahead. As we slowly moved forwards, so did the clock; it was almost 5pm and my phone was telling me we still had around an hour to go. I knew that there was a later bus, so I made the decision to call the company and change my return ticket to the later departure time.

You can imagine my confusion when I called the ticketing office and was told that the “modifications team” had gone home for the day. I queried what customer service was on offer at this time of day (4:40pm) and was told that only new ticket sales could be processed. I spent the next 5 minutes pleading my case with the lady on the phone, explaining that I had no time left to get this trip done and that due to the traffic I would surely miss out on any chance of seeing the falls and still making my return bus. She assured me that there was nothing she could do other than sell me a ticket for the later bus (at triple the price of my original one), and that I could call the next day to attempt to get a refund which she deemed unlikely. I politely (rudely) refused her offer, and made sure she knew how ridiculous it was that their customer service team was unavailable during normal business hours. I hung up on the call, opened Maps again and tried to devise a plan. Our estimated arrival time per the app was 6pm, although we had to make a stop before then which would push us out to around 6:15pm. The driver was very apologetic but this didn’t really help, I had to get to the falls.

I quickly googled the average walking pace of a human being (5.0km/h or 3.1mph) and assumed that I’d be a little faster than that. Based on these calculations I could make it to the falls by 6:45pm, have 15 minutes to get my full Niagara experience and then get back to the depot for my return bus. I was determined to make it happen, and I knew that I wasn’t going to let this particular inconvenience get the best of me.

I practically broke open the door of the bus as we pulled up, I had been waiting next to the driver for the last 5 minutes of the ride like some insane person. I decided that a brisk walk would not do and broke into a jog, my backpack bouncing behind me as annoyingly as possible. I had maps open in my hand, watching as the ‘distance to destination’ grew smaller. I was making good progress, but it didn’t take long for my body to remember I’m not a 16 year old athlete anymore and let me know via some painful cramping that I needed to slow down. I began to walk, not just any walk though – I swear on that day I could’ve won any Olympic speed walking event. Drenched in sweat, I rounded the final corner to be met by one of the most magnificent views I’ve ever seen.

I wasn’t quite sure whether I was out of breath due to my physical exhaustion, or whether the view had quite literally taken it away. As I said, I had been to the falls before, but I had never seen them in all their glory. I strode along the riverside pathway, unable to look away from the constant flow of water breaking over the rocks below. I had my earphones in, I can’t quite remember what song was playing but it wouldn’t have mattered – the moment was perfect.

In a funny way, my second attempt at seeing Niagara Falls was the exact experience I was supposed to have. When you travel, nothing ever really goes exactly the way you want or need it to. There are always little things that could’ve been better, things you could’ve done differently or situations you could’ve handled with much more dignity. But the rewards are always there, and my reward was one of the most beautiful feats of nature on the planet. Of course, I didn’t have too much time to take in the falls; I snapped some photos and sat on the grass as the sun set.

This sunset was a significant one, it was the last one I would see on my east coast journey. It was the sun setting on a really important and defining portion of my life, a time that I learnt what it truly meant to feel happy and free. As the sun rays danced through the mist of the falls, they illuminated the faces of all the people around me. We were all sat there in awe of Mother Nature, her raw power and unrivalled beauty on full display. As I began my journey back to the bus depot, I kept my head turned until the falls were completely out of sight. I didn’t want to miss a fragment of the beauty, I wanted every memory tissue being formed in my brain to remember this moment. I will always remember the feeling I had as I sat down in the bus to return back to Toronto and prepare for my departure the next day.

I learnt a valuable lesson that afternoon, that determination will always be rewarded. It may not always be the reward you want, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the one you need. I very easily could’ve put my feet up in a Niagara cafe until my return bus came, resigned to my Niagara bad luck. But I made the effort to go and see what I had come to see, and I don’t regret it one bit. It won’t be the last world wonder I will see, and it sure as hell won’t be the last time something goes wrong on this crazy journey.

 

Mitch Dale

 

Tuna Turmoil In Tokyo

Since moving to Alberta, I have a new found love for skiing. Yes, I’m well aware that snowboarding is way cooler and that most people would assume that’s what I’d do but that isn’t the case. There’s just something about sending it down a pitch with two planks strapped to your feet surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world that really does it for me. Although my friends probably couldn’t tell, I had actually skied before I arrived out here.

Only once, at a ski hill called Gala Yuzawa just outside of Tokyo, Japan. I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Tokyo with Staz (my mother, for the uninitiated) for my 21st birthday in April 2016. Of course, having never seen snow before, I made it a priority to go to the closest snow available so late in the season. I was overwhelmed when we arrived at Gala Yuzawa – since then I have seen enough snow to last me a lifetime, but you never forget your first sighting. I moved faster than the bullet train we caught to get there as I rushed to take the gondola up to the ski runs. We rented our skis and gear and set off to feel the wind in our hair and marvel at the mountain range surrounding us.

Staz had been skiing before on some of her trips to New Zealand so she gave me some pointers on the way up our first chairlift. We both fell on our first ride down, it hurt much less than I expected it to which I thought was great! I skied straight on through to the lift line for my second run, the excitement building as I thought about what I’d done wrong and how I could improve. I made it down without falling, honestly I thought after that I could ski – that was it, I’d made it down without without injuring myself or anyone else, easy done. Unfortunately, Staz didn’t have as much success on her subsequent attempts.

As I came down to the lodge after attempting (and failing) the intermediate run, I found that Staz had already returned her skis to the rental shop. She told me that she’d fallen quite badly on her last run down and something didn’t feel quite right in her knees so she was going to call it a day. Admittedly, the snow was basically just ice this late in the season and staying upright wasn’t exactly the easiest task even on the green runs. I gave the intermediate run one more (successful) attempt before also returning my skis and heading back to our apartment in Tokyo.

Once we got back, Staz expressed that her knees were still quite sore but hoped that a good night’s rest would help. *Spoiler Alert* The good night’s rest did not help and her condition had become significantly worse overnight. Upon attempting to get out of bed, Staz realised that without some serious pain medication it was unlikely she would be leaving the apartment that day.

Staz became mostly bedridden due to her injuries from that point onwards. She insisted that I continue to go out and enjoy myself. This was hard to do, but I still managed to have a great time despite feeling terrible for her every time I came back to our apartment. There wasn’t much she could do except walk to the store nearby for supplies, looking back I’m not really sure how she maintained her sanity in that room all day. There was however one particular attraction that Staz refused to miss out on, the morning tuna auctions at Tsukiji fish market.

If you haven’t heard of the tuna auctions at Tsukiji, they are exactly what they sound like. Each morning, fishermen bring in their catch and the chefs, hotel owners and restauranteurs of Tokyo come to place their bids on the prized tuna fillets. The sights and sounds of the auctions along with the immense size of the tuna make Tsukiji one of the most highly recommended tourist destinations in the country. The trouble with attending the tuna auctions (which is free), is that everybody wants to do it whilst they are there. This means that the market itself has to limit the number of attendees on any given morning. To do this, they allow people to line up any time before the ungodly hour of 3am to secure a place at the auctions. We read all of the reviews online, the step-by-step instructions of how to get there, when to go and what to do upon arrival.

We set our alarms for 1am that morning, deciding that even a short rest would be better than none. Once our alarms went off, Staz loaded up on painkillers and we began our journey to the world famous Tsukiji fish market. The trouble began once we finally hailed a taxi on the streets of Shibuya, we were the only people on the street at that time. Once we hopped in, the Japanese driver politely asked us in his best English where we would like to go? “Tsukiji!” I told him, only to be met by a confused gaze in the rearview mirror. I repeated myself a few times, each time adding more of my surely racist Japanese accent in the hope he would understand. I tried changing the pronunciation, I tried playing charades and Staz even had a few goes too. I eventually found the Wikipedia for Tsukiji in the hope that he would at least recognise a photo of the place. As soon as I showed him my phone screen his face lit up, he had seen the Japanese kanji 築地市場 and exclaimed “ohhhh Tsukiji!”, pronounced exactly the same as we had been saying it to him the whole time. We had wasted valuable lineup time at this point so told him we needed to get there as quickly as possible as he began to navigate the quiet early-morning streets.

He dropped us at the end of a short road, much to Staz’ disappointment, and told us the market was just down there. He showed us the fare and in her zombie-like state, Staz tried to pay him roughly 15x his asking price, placing a wad of cash equal to around $400 AUD on the centre console; we are very lucky that the Japanese are an honest people. Once the polite driver worked out the correct payment, we began our slow march down the market road. Staz had hoped that getting some movement into her knees might help alleviate some of the pain and stiffness but this did not prove to be the case. She told me to go on ahead to secure us a place, we had arrived just before 2am and weren’t sure what the line would be like.

As I turned the corner to arrive at the market entrance, I saw a single guard stand with no line at it. I couldn’t believe our luck, we were the first ones here and would definitely get to see the famous tuna auctions! As I hurriedly approached the guard’s office, still worried somebody would beat us to it, I noticed a sign in the window printed in English. The sign read “Tsukiji tuna auctions entry closed” or something along those lines, I took this to mean that they hadn’t opened the line to this morning’s visitors yet. I was wrong, they had opened the line, filled the line and closed the line a whole hour before we even got there. I please my case with the guard, not even sure that he understood English, but he assured me there was nothing that could be done. Staz was still hobbling along the road towards the markets, I was almost too scared to tell her. A young American couple arrived to the guard at the same time as Staz, only to be met with the same disappointment. We all tried to convince the guard to let us in, there is no doubt in my mind that they could have made us fit.

Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done. We made our way back to the main street, hailed another cab and returned to our apartment around 3:30am. We did actually decide to return to the market during opening hours later that day. It was somewhat underwhelming, perhaps amplified by the disappointment earlier in the morning. Staz continued to struggle for the rest of our trip but did manage to walk the palace gardens and have herself a really nice day exploring one of the greatest cities on Earth.

As always, every failure is a lesson. We learnt that you need to pull an all-nighter if you want to see the tuna auctions, that skiing at the end of the season isn’t ideal, that being able to move without major discomfort is a huge key to travelling and that sometimes things just don’t go your way. One day I’ll take Staz back to Tokyo and you better believe we will see those damn tuna auctions, hell I might even throw in a bid. Until then, I’ll stay content with my memories of a great trip – a trip that taught me how quickly plans can change and how difficult it can be to adapt in certain situations. I can’t wait for the day that we can laugh about this as we conquer another city together.

 

Mitch Dale

 

 

Stranger Danger

I was taught very early on in my childhood not to talk to strangers. I think it’s safe to assume that most of us are taught this very valuable lesson as children, and for good reason. As a child, it is very rare that an adult who you don’t know would need to talk to you for any genuine or well-intentioned reason. As an adult however, strangers become a part of life; they become the majority of the people surrounding you.

The further I get from home and the familiarities of my life thus far, I find myself much more inclined to talk to and befriend strangers. I consider myself a good judge of character, and there are usually pretty clear body language indicators that can be used to determine whether a stranger is willing to engage you. Not everyone you meet will want to have a conversation with you, nor will everyone have your best interests at heart – but the same can be said for people you’ve known your whole life.

It is impossible to truly experience a city, town or even country if you don’t talk to the locals. Engaging with the community and finding out what really makes people love or hate where they live is essential. Whether it be small talk with a cashier, a friendly question to someone waiting with you at a bus stop or a light probe into the life of your Uber driver it is always worth making the effort. In some countries and regions, you will find that strangers might even start the conversation for you!

I have had some great experiences with strangers, and there are even some I now consider friends. One particular instance is from when I was living in Toronto and trying to get myself established in a new, fast paced city. I had organised an Airbnb for my first week there and had found a couple that I would be housesitting for after that. However, I didn’t realise that I hadn’t quite linked up my dates properly and would have a night’s accommodation unaccounted for. I was certainly not in a financial state to pay for a hotel or find another Airbnb on such short notice and the two backpacker hostels in the city were both full. I decided to post on the r/Toronto subreddit; for the uninitiated, this is a reddit community dedicated to the city of Toronto for news, events, discussions and the like.

I created a thread explaining my situation and asking if there was anyone who could help me out for the night. I had a few responses but one user sent me a direct message asking for a little more information about myself. We exchanged numbers and social profiles so that we could get a rough idea of what the other was like. He decided (foolishly) that I wasn’t an axe murderer and said that he’d be happy to put me up for the night! I couldn’t believe my luck and immediately started to pack my things knowing I wouldn’t have to stay up all night in a McDonald’s with work in the morning like I had planned.

The next day, we organised a time that I could come over once we had both finished work. I messaged a few people to let them know I was staying at a strangers house just in case they didn’t hear from me afterwards. I then got on the train to the suburbs and arrived at Rob’s house. Having dragged my two suitcases through the streets to get there, I was so relieved to arrive. I was expecting a cough to sleep on at best, a carpeted floor at the worst; but Rob had a full bedroom for me with a double bed! I chatted with him and his friend for almost an hour before we all retired for the night. I had a great sleep and wasn’t murdered in my sleep which was definitely an added bonus of staying at Rob’s place. In the morning, Rob made sure everything had gone okay throughout the night and then proceeded to invite me to a rugby game with his friends that weekend.

I ended up taking Rob up on his offer of the rugby that weekend. I went to an apartment nearby the one I was then staying at and met a few of his friends. We went to see the Toronto rugby league team play followed by Canada v USA in a national team friendly. I must say, the quality of football compared to what I’ve watched for years back home was somewhat lacking. But the atmosphere was great and I was there with a fantastic group of people!

I ended up leaving Toronto shortly after meeting Rob for reasons that I’ll expand on in the future. It’s unfortunate because Rob and his friends were an awesome bunch of people and I think there was certainly some potential for long term friendship there. Rob and I still have each other on social media and we are certainly no longer strangers, maybe one day in the future I can return the favour. *Rob if you’re reading this and find yourself homeless for a night in the same city as me please let me know!*

Always keep in mind that many of your closest friends were at one point strangers. Strangers are some of the greatest people you will ever meet, and I can almost guarantee that your life will be enriched if you allow yourself to open the door to the unknown. It won’t always work out for the best but life is all about taking risks. Next time you’re on a trip or even in your own city, turn that acknowledging smile into a friendly hello because you never know what might happen!

 

Mitch Dale

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I find that each time a message pops up from a long-lost Facebook friend or whenever I speak to people from back home, the same few questions are asked. My answers change in length and clarity depending on my mood and the person asking but they usually have the same general content. I figured this would be a great place to compile and keep a list of the questions I’m asked most frequently and my answers to them.

Would like to begin with a funny story about the term ‘FAQs’ though. We had a cleaning lady when I was a kid who we eventually let go because she raided our kitchen and let her kid play my Playstation. Anyway, one time I joined her kid while he was playing my Playstation (weird) and he was showing me all of these awesome cheats for GTA San Andreas. He had all these cheat sheets printed out from the internet from a site called ‘Game FAQs’ – which would go on to become my go-to cheat/tips website for the rest of my childhood. When I asked him about the site he told me “yeah my friend told me about it, it’s called game fags”. At the time I had no reason to question the pronunciation of the letter Q in this particular instance so I went with it. So that is the story of how I spent the next few years telling all of my friends about ‘Game Fags’, unknowingly using a gay slur whilst trying to help them beat their favourite game. On to the questions!

How much did you save before you left?

I saved roughly $10,000 AUD before I left for the US. This amount wasn’t purely in cash savings, there was certain travel investments I made and money that had been set aside to pay for things I knew I would need to pay for later on such as insurance and domestic travel. I arrived with $1000 USD in cash and the rest split between my travel card and my Australian bank accounts.

How did you find a job overseas?

My first role overseas was as a camp counsellor at an American summer camp. I got this role through a website dedicated to placing Australians at summer camps overseas. There are multiple different companies that provide this service, I personally used CCUSA but have many friends who went through different companies. Please note that it is basically impossible for the average joe to acquire a working visa for the USA and that the camps are done on a J1 visa which you cannot have any other form of employment on.

Before departure, I went through the necessary processes to obtain a Canadian IEC (International Experience Canada) visa. This visa allows me to spend up to 2 years living and working in Canada. I applied through the Canadian Government Website which was honestly a super easy process that anyone could do themselves. Do NOT pay a company to obtain your Canadian visa, you are literally giving them free money – it is so easy to do it yourself!

I initially moved to Toronto once I got to Canada and was lucky enough to secure a job in my first 3 days there. I joined some Facebook job groups for the industry I wanted to work in (hospitality) but I was pretty much open to anything at that stage. Fair warning though, I did succeed in getting a job through one of the Facebook pages, however I handed out 50+ resumes between the time I arrived and the commencement of that job and did not receive any calls for interviews. It is really about luck, being presentable, sociable and having a decent/good resume.

I will write an article at some stage on my time in Toronto and how/why it didn’t work out. I got in touch with some friends I’d met in the US a short time after arriving in Toronto who convinced me to fly out to Calgary on a one way ticket to get a ski hill job. I was lucky enough to be given the direct HR email to a couple of different hills. I arrived on a Sunday, interviewed on the Tuesday and moved in to staff accomodation on the Friday – again, this isn’t super common but sometimes life finds a way! Several of my friends have used various overseas job agencies such as The Working Holiday Club to find jobs prior to arrival. These services can be useful but they can also be an unnecessary expense for the frugal traveller.

Why’d you decide to travel/leave?

Essentially I felt that my life in Brisbane had become a little stale. Ironically, I had made so many new friends and reformed close bonds in the two years prior to my departure. I think I had always known that I would give living overseas a go at some stage, I just wasn’t sure when that would be. I was working full time, playing social sport again and spending a lot of quality time with friends and family. I constantly thought to myself though that I could be doing all of this overseas, in a foreign land with a foreign culture – finding out more about the world and myself.

I don’t think that independence was an aspect of it for me, but I do enjoy travelling alone just as much if not more than travelling with friends. Basically, there was nothing really tying me down in Brisbane, so why stay there working an essentially dead-end job to pay bills I didn’t really have? I knew that I would miss my friends and family and miss certain aspects of my day-to-day life, but (hopefully) they will all still be there when I get back one day.

Where are you going next?

At this stage, I have plans in place to begin a comprehensive road trip of the United States in April this year. I am thinking that this will take around 8-10 weeks, depending on how long I stay in certain places and how far my money takes me. I am picking up my friend Theresa halfway through my road trip and she’s going to come back to Australia with me so that we can both hopefully work and save to travel all throughout Asia at the start of 2019.

When will you be back?

As per my answer above, after the road trip I expect that me and T will arrive back some time in late June or early July. As for how long I’ll be back I can’t say, it could be 6 months it could be a year – I’ll be out again as soon as we have enough money to do what we want to do.

What’s your favourite city or place you’ve been?

This is such a tough question but it is one of the best ones to ask. I feel like this question will get you the most passionate answer from anyone who’s been overseas. For me, it’s a pretty close race between Los Angeles and Tokyo.

I feel at home in LA; I’ve been going there annually since I was 10 years old and I feel like by now I know it almost as well as Brisbane. Every time I touch down there and hop in the taxi to the hotel (Amy’s house from now on) it all feels so familiar. I know exactly where I’m going to head as soon as I drop my bags off, and that as long as it’s not a Sunday my first meal will be Chick Fil A.

LA is such an insane mix of cultures, it truly feels like a city that contains one of the most diverse populations in the world regardless of whether statistics back that up. So many of my favourite brands, artists, movies, athletes and subcultures got their start in LA. So many people in LA are trying to ‘make it’ and for that reason it has a magical aura that makes you feel like nothing is impossible.

Tokyo was such an incredible overload on all of my senses that I feel like I still haven’t processed it all almost 2 years later. I was only able to go for a week but I immediately knew it would hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. Despite the feelings I have towards LA, Tokyo is the city that I am always longing to return to. Tokyo has quite literally everything you could ever want. It is filled with history, technology, amazing food, brilliant architecture and of course Japanese people! You can spend your morning strolling through the palace gardens surrounded by beauty and serenity, then spend your afternoon in Akihabara surrounded by lights and crowds. You can go thrift shopping in Harajuku, then take the train to Ginza and empty your bank account at the store of ant designer you can think of. I have a feeling that I will go to Tokyo many times before I’m done, maybe I’ll even end up there one day.

What’s your craziest story?

Right now I would say its a 4-way tie between…

The time I drove across the Tennessee border to buy fireworks before letting them off in the Appalachian mountains.

The time I fainted in the shower, split my head open and woke up on the floor completely naked with two Scandinavian housekeepers mopping around my lifeless body.

The time I rode in the back tray of a pickup truck (ute) on the highway in the pouring rain singing High School Musical songs with Amy to try and keep our minds off of our impending deaths.

The time I rode a Skidoo (snowmobile) down the wrong run on the hill and nosedived it at 50kmh+ off of a small cliff and somehow didn’t die.

All of these stories can be expanded and explained if you’re interested, just send me a message!

Honourable mention to the time I got mugged in LA as described here.

What’s on your bucket list?

As of right now (‘x’ denotes that it has been ticked off)

  • Mt Fuji
  • Meiji Shrine – x
  • Taj Mahal
  • River Ganjes
  • Stonehenge
  • The Acropolis
  • The Coliseum
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Auschwitz
  • Hiroshima
  • Grand Canyon – x
  • Lake Moraine – x
  • Rocky Mountains – x
  • Mount Hood
  • Niagara Falls – x
  • Yosemite
  • Zion
  • Yellowstone
  • Salem, MA – x
  • New York City – x
  • Montana
  • Iceland
  • London Parliament
  • Swiss Alps
  • Pompeii
  • The Andes
  • Patagonia
  • Giza
  • Petra
  • Antelope Canyon
  • Isle of Skye
  • Kanas Lake
  • Uluru
  • Mt. Everest Base Camp
  • Faroe Islands
  • Galapagos
  • Easter Island
  • Antarctica
  • Loch Ness
  • Budapest
  • Havasu Falls
  • Neuschwanstein Castle
  • Horseshoe Bend
  • Shaftesbury

I’m sure I will add and remove places to/from this list as time goes on, but thats it for right now!

Hopefully I have covered most of the questions people wonder about me and my current lifestyle. If I haven’t covered a question you have, as always feel free to contact me through any of my social links or via email!

Mitch Dale

Money Saving Travel Tips Pt. 2

I’ve continued to think about ways that I’ve saved money in the past or heard of others saving money whilst travelling. I personally think that the keys to saving money when travelling are self control and planning in advance. These two major points paired with some of the tips from this article and Part 1 should serve you quite well when you’re pinching pennies overseas.

Accomodation

On many trips, accomodation can end up being the biggest expense of any. Needing somewhere to sleep each night is a necessity and the quality of sleep you’re getting can easily make or break a trip. Hotels have long stood as the premier travel accomodation, but things are beginning to change.

Airbnb! I will go ahead and assume that most of my readers have either heard of or used Airbnb by now. In case any of you haven’t, Airbnb is an innovative platform on which people can offer their homes, rooms, boats or even backyards for people to stay in. Generally Airbnb is cheaper than a hotel, however there are always high-end choices available for those who choose to travel in luxury. The lodging available on Airbnb differs greatly – I have stayed in private rooms, shared rooms and also had entire apartments or houses to myself. One of my favourite parts about Airbnb is that often you can interact with the hosts and learn some great things about their city! This is purely by choice though and you will find that most hosts are fine with leaving you completely alone if that is what you would prefer. If you’re looking for accomodation anywhere in the world, I would say that Airbnb is a great place to start even if it is just to gauge lodging costs in a particular location.

Hostels! Prior to my most recent US trip, I hadn’t actually ever stayed in a hostel. When I took the plunge and flew out to Calgary to try and find a ski hill job I ended up staying at a hostel in Banff. Admittedly, I had friends there and we had a pretty good group going as soon as I arrived, but there were several people there alone who would interact with us in the common areas. The common areas of hostels are not only great for saving money by doing your own cooking and cleaning, they’re also a great place to make friends and meet likeminded people. Chances are, if you meet someone in a hostel they’re going to have some great stories to tell and be on some sort of journey similar to your own. Hostel costs vary by region but they are also generally cheaper than hotels depending on your room choice. It is most common to share a room with 6+ other people; the beds aren’t usually great but you’ll get adequate rest and potentially make some lifelong friends during your stay!

Couchsurfing! Couchsurfing has been around for quite some time, I think most of us have crashed on the couch at a friends place at least once in our lives. Some may not know however that Couchsurfing is something that can be done at strangers places all over the world! Many people would find this daunting, but you can choose to only couch surf with verified users – of course you should still read reviews and take all of the necessary precautions. Hosts do not charge people to couch surf, mostly they just want to learn about you and use your travel stories to fuel their very own adventures. Much like hostels, couch surfing is as much about making friends as it is about having a place to sleep!

Housesitting! Housesitting can be a little tougher to organise than the other accomodations that I’ve suggested, but it is a great way to save or even earn money whilst overseas. There are many websites such as Trusted HousesittersMind My House and House Sitter that help to pair you with a house that needs sitting! I have also found success on local Facebook real estate groups for whatever city I’m in. My parents just recently had a lovely couple housesit for them whilst they were overseas and it went really well. Be warned that generally people need housesitting due to pets or other upkeep requirements and that there can be a little bit of “work” involved, hence the reduced or nonexistent cost. Housesitting can be a great way to really feel like you’re living in a foreign city rather than just visiting!

Eating Out

Eating out is basically an essential part of the travel experience. Trying foods that you never even knew existed, finally going to that restaurant you saw online or splashing out on the most expensive meal of your life are all fantastic things to do when you’re abroad. Unfortunately, constantly eating out is very difficult to budget for and can quickly put a pretty big dent in your spending money if you have to try everything you see. There are a few ways to keep a couple of extra dollars in your wallet when you decide to hit the streets for your next meal.

Sharing! If you’re anything like me, you want to try everything on the menu every time you go somewhere. Doing that would obviously be very irresponsible both financially and physically, but by sharing your meals you can try a couple of dishes instead of locking yourself into just one. This is obviously difficult if you’re travelling alone, but there are times when having a few different appetisers will satisfy you just as much as a main meal with added variety and a reduced cost. If you are travelling with a partner or in a group, definitely consider splitting your meals so that you can sample as much as possible without breaking the bank.

Don’t Overindulge! Without even knowing you, I can almost guarantee that you don’t need the large. Even when I’m not travelling, I always find myself ordering way more food than I really need. It is easy to be drawn to the extravagant dishes or the oversized servings but rarely are they your best option financially. Not only does ordering and eating too much food cost you more money, it can also ruin a day of travelling by making you sluggish or even sick for the rest of the day. Always pace yourself when eating on holidays, remember that you can always go back for more or go somewhere else, but they’re not going to give you a refund on food you don’t finish!

No Set Meals! In our day to day lives, it’s quite common to have your 3 daily meals that you eat around roughly the same time each day. When you’re travelling, this definitely isn’t a necessity and breaking this habit can help to save money. Several little snacks throughout the day can definitely get you through without needing a big dinner to finish off. If you are staying at a hotel (don’t) and take advantage of the free breakfast, you may not need a full meal until the afternoon; a night time snack would suffice later on but many people are convinced they need a full dinner. When travelling, you should eat when you’re hungry, not when you think you should!

Alcohol! This is an interesting subject for me to discuss, I really am only able to have a one-sided opinion on this. I don’t drink and this has saved me money almost every weekend since I’ve turned 18 and on countless meal cheques. When travelling, it can of course be very tempting to order a beer, wine or cocktail when you’re eating out – you’re on holidays, why not? Well, you’ll find that alcohol is generally at least double the price of a non-alcoholic beverage. I know that many people will disagree with my views on this subject, but not drinking while you’re on holidays (or ever) will most definitely save you a decent chunk of money. Alternatively, if you do want to drink consider taking some BYO alcohol that you’ve purchased from a liquor store – this will still save you money and you might even have some leftover to take with you!

Hopefully these tips can help you to save a little bit of money on your next trip! The last thing I want to do when I holiday is come back with an empty bank account worrying about how I’m going to pay my bills before going back to work. Holidays shouldn’t end in stress, and they certainly shouldn’t bring about any financial stress while you’re on them!

 

Mitch Dale

 

 

On The Road Again…

As I begin to finalise my plans for the ultimate US road trip this Summer I’ve been thinking about all of the different possibilities. I constantly ponder what I might see, who I might meet, what I might learn and of course what might go wrong. There are so many variables; you’ve got potential mechanical problems, breakdowns (mechanical and mental), finding places to sleep, staying warm/cool, abiding by the road rules and most importantly staying awake. It’s the latter that I am most concerned with, what if I fall asleep on the road?

This past summer I became the designated driver for all of the trips I took with my friends. I drove on all sorts of different roads in a number of different states. For the most part I was a great choice of driver; I’m cautious on the roads, don’t drink so never drunk or hungover and I have a fire playlist at all times which is backed up by my near professional level vocals. There was one particular drive however that made me doubt my abilities as a safe road tripper.

We all decided partway through the summer that it would be a great idea to go and see Niagara Falls. For anyone considering this trip from the US, make sure you go over to the Canadian side because it is 100x better. Niagara was only about a 5 hour drive for us, but we figured we would break it up a bit as we had to leave quite late at night. We organised to take two cars and stay overnight in a ski resort turned summer Airbnb in Swain, New York.

We were originally supposed to get on the road right around 10PM for a 1AM arrival into Swain. The plan began to fall apart as I waited in the carpark well past 11PM for everybody to be ready. From memory it was pushing midnight once we had the cars loaded and seats assigned. I’d be driving the truck with Theresa, Kloei and Steph – a crew that is very hard to beat might I add. Myself and the other driver Austin sorted out directions on our phones and set out into the night.

I’d driven this particular stretch of the New York highway several times already, but for some reason all of the signs and exits seemed a little further apart. The headlights coming in the opposite direction streaked a little more than usual and all of my favourite songs didn’t sound as good as I remembered them. As per usual, me and Theresa belted out all of our favourite Ed Sheeran tunes while the girls in the back rolled their eyes as they tried to get into semi-comfortable sleeping positions. It was during this first hour that Theresa told me that her mother always got mad at her for falling asleep on car rides. She then proceeded to assure me that it wouldn’t happen on this one, I stupidly took her word for it.

We made a pitstop at a diner off the highway just after 1AM, the food was terrible but also I hadn’t really brought enough cash for a decent tip so I would like to apologise to that waitress. In hindsight, I should’ve got a coffee at the diner despite American coffee being trash. However, Austin assured me that we weren’t too much further and I was dreaming of the perfect night’s sleep in the king size bed that Theresa and I had already claimed. I decided to forego the coffee and stick out the rest of the drive without a caffeine boost, hopefully my terrible omelette would get me through.

As we pulled back onto the highway, my eyelids were heavier than the workload Lebron James has had to shoulder since returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I persevered, wearily following Austin’s taillights into the night, passing signs for vacant motels that were becoming ever more tempting. A standard period of road trip silence had set in but I knew I needed to break it; I needed to break it like the promise Theresa made me about not falling asleep, because as I turned to ask about her deepest and darkest secrets I couldn’t help but notice she was lights out. It was at this moment that I knew I had some serious decisions to make. Do I pull into a motel and admit defeat? Do I wake Theresa up and deal with the wrath of a young woman awoken from her slumber? Do I fall asleep at the wheel and let fate decide? (Please note that I only considered that last option very briefly)

I knew that there was only person who could save me in this situation, Lorde. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am quite a big (huge) Lorde fan. I figured what better way to get me through this last little bit of the journey than to vibe out to my favourite artist of all time. It didn’t take me long to realise that part of the reason I like Lorde’s music is because it’s quite mellow and relaxing; the exact opposite of what I needed in this situation. I pulled over and reassessed the music situation, coming upon a playlist I made in 2012 during my obsession with rap. It had everything from Eminem to Horrorshow in it and I knew that keeping up with some of the great MC’s would keep me alert enough to make it to our destination.

These memories aren’t exactly super clear due to my state of tiredness at the time, but I can guarantee you that I ran through all of those lyrics without skipping a beat. I was going line for line with Eminem, harmonising with Drake and I swear I was blowing Busta Rhymes out of the water on ‘Look At Me Now’. I’m not actually sure how the girls didn’t wake up during ‘Not Afraid”, maybe they did and just wanted to sit in silence and witness one of my greatest ever live performances. Whatever the case, we made it to our accomodation around 3AM, where the bed Theresa and I had expressed our desire for was immediately snatched by Cam and Alysha who we have still not forgiven.

I haven’t ever really told the girls how close we came to being in a very bad situation that night. I’d like to think that I never would’ve really let it get to dangerous levels, but looking back I think by the end we were well past that. There was a time where I thought rap music might be my career, but I never thought it could potentially have saved my life.

As I prepare to get back on the road I use memories like this to ensure I have adequate supplies, rest and of course passengers. Hopefully having a bed in the back of my van will make it significantly easier to get some sleep if I find myself getting tired whilst driving. But if not, I’ve always got my 2012 rap playlist to save the day!

 

Mitch Dale