Travel Blog 12; In Need of a Second Wind

Although it might not be The Ritz, more like The Nits, I must say that my last hostel had some surprisingly strong Wi-Fi going for it. So strong in fact that I was able to use it to catch up on the previous weekends card of boxing. Predictably enough Anthony Joshua did away with Eric ‘ Upper Mid-Card At Best’ Molina in efficient fashion but it was Whyte vs Chisora that was the real highlight. Two very good but not quite great British heavyweights trading blows for 12 straight rounds and although they may have been gassed after 5 of them and neither would have stood a chance in a title bout you cant deny that it was exciting and both guys showed more guts than a Romero marathon.

Now my mind works in mysterious ways and as one of my few readers you may wonder how and why it managed to draw a comparison between the sight of these two pugilists scraping all the way back in Manchester and my current mind state and stage of my journey. It did though and I felt inclined to write about it, that’s kind of how it works for me. The main reason for this being that, like the once mighty but ultimately underachieving Dereck Chisora at the sound of the fifth bell, I am frankly gassed and although I have the urge to keep moving forward I feel like I could use a second wind.

Now don’t get me wrong my travels are nothing like a boxing match. I don’t get paid to do it and only 3 people in the last 13 months have tried to punch me and only one of them succeeded (and that chicks hands were so dainty and soft it could hardly be considered a punch) but mainly due to some culture shocks, serious jumps in temperature, a bout of illness and the fact that I’m not a massive fan of my current location a few days ago I seriously contemplated packing up, saying ‘f*ck it!’ and heading home. I mean just because Australia have accepted me doesn’t mean I have to go.

Its true though, this writer is not a big fan of Malaysia. Thailand was great; the weather was pleasantly hot, the booze was cold and readily available. The locals ,although basic at best when it came to English, were still relatively warm and helpful and it was impossible not to meet other travellers and despite what some will tell you the country is well organised and the locals play a fair game. Singaporeans are also cool and having my own local guide and friend at hand made the country a particular highlight for me. Alternatively and I must stress that this is PURELY my own opinion derived from my own experiences but Malaysia feels like a direct paradox. The weather is sticky and suffocating, drinking is frowned upon and expensive and perhaps most distressing of all; the locals I have interacted with are flippant, rude, unhelpful and, dare I say, rather prejudice and incredibly dishonest. Oh and they spit, by God they love a good hawk and even more so when it almost hits your shoes and the sight of some 5,3 local Malay-Indian lass in KL with a pair of the fastest, hardest and most dangerously accurate fists I’ve ever seen literally giving some poor European girl the Floyd Mayweather treatment (complete with head movements, foot-work and taunting!) outside a restaurant nearly had me packing there and then. Swear to God despite the predictable size difference Whitey didn’t stand a chance and it took 3 guys to eventually pull the local girl away, one of those ‘you know its bad but you just cant stop watching’ type of scenarios! That along with the way that they pretend they cant understand you when you ask them questions, allow others to be served before you despite you being ahead in the lines, tut at you in the street and purposely block your way on pavements to try and force you onto the road all leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Oh and I once caught one guy in a hostel trying to go through my trousers (no I wasn’t wearing them!) thankfully a fellow traveller dived in as well meaning that he won’t be trying that again anytime soon and some jelly-brained chick at a bus station purposely sold me a ticket to Singapore for the wrong date forcing me to pay twice because, you know, white privilege and stuff right?

Don’t get me wrong its nothing I cant handle. Having people stare disapprovingly at me as I walk down the street and trying to block my path is eerily like what walking down the school corridors was like back in Corpus Christi High and for all the flaws the women in this country are often incredibly striking, when they aren’t Mohammed Ali reincarnated and trying to do the striking, but it does zap the soul a little. Making friends in Malaysia is more difficult as there are generally less travellers, they seem less inclined to socialise (with the exception of Penang) and as mentioned the locals just don’t want to know meaning it can even get a little lonely.

Couple this with the aforementioned intense heat of Asia, the different food and the fact that a lot of local people give off a ‘We want your cash but make no mistake you aren’t welcome here’ vibe and treat and speak to you in a manner that would have the socialists and liberals of the UK up in arms if we did it to our visitors and the whole thing has got me feeling a little disheartened.

I’m finding it harder to get up in the mornings, I walk around in directionless dazes, partly due to my British-ness but also down to past experiences I hate asking for directions or help and, for the first time in years, I’m struggling to socialise. I’ve also developed a greater sense of paranoia towards strangers and although I’ve secretly known this all along its still tough having to witness first hand that double standards and the judging of people before you know them based alone on their appearance or race is not an exclusively western thing. In fact if anything and for a number of reasons they’re worse for it here. Who would have guessed?

Now please don’t get this twisted I am not trying to discourage people from visiting SE Asia, or even Malaysia, rather just exposing a few home truths that are not going to be exposed in the brochures, on the websites or by the travel agents. You will get heat stroke, you will get sick, you will get scammed and quite a few of the people there perceive you as a millionaire who has never worked a day in his or her life (when ironically their job consists of sleeping on a desk and telling people ‘no have’ or ‘don’t know’ in response to simple questions) so in their eyes you deserve such treatment and aren’t really a human being like they are. Not always the case but often enough to make it worth mentioning. Fact is that as rewarding as it is long term travel can become oddly stressful and can tire you out and you’ll certainly find yourself going through peaks and troughs. Mainly because when things do go tits up there’s nothing you can do about it. Most times its small things that are worth just laughing about but occasionally it can throw things into chaos and the lack of empathy from the people at fault can be enraging and believe me they are usually at fault.

Metaphorically I guess I could say that this stage of my journey is like that 6th round in the fight where exhaustion is starting to set in and I need to land something good to spur me on. However as mentioned, the situation isn’t nearly that desperate or strenuous and its important to keep that mentality in mind as even through the tough times being able to travel is a privilege. It is however a personal challenge at times and like our old boys Dereck and Dillian I plan to power through and go the distance. I just hope that Cambodia is bringing a different vibe to the party. Just calling it how I see it and have experienced it as always so I sincerely hope none of the opinions in this piece have caused any offense and as previously mentioned I am not judging entire races, religions, groups or genders; just the ones I’ve met.

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 11; The Quest for the Train Ticket

So yeah I’m in Thailand now. Have been for over a week in fact. In very much the same way as James Buckley’s character in the first Inbetweeners movie greeted the shores of Malia (which was actually Magaluff but, you know, logistics) my initial reaction was as follows;

“F*ck me its hot. Might be too hot…”

It still is an all, hot I mean. It doesn’t matter if the sky is full of sunshine, cloud or even torrential (and I do mean torrential) rainfall it is sweltering over here. Don’t get me wrong I fully expected it but the first few times you feel it are a shock to the core and all points in-between. Luckily, as mentioned in a previous post, I was met by a good friend of the family at the airport which certainly took the sting off things a bit but after an initial run-down of the ‘hood, so to speak, I was left to my own devices. In a city the size of Bangkok this is somewhat daunting but not quite as much so as you may imagine.

The reason for this? Firstly the transport links are good, like really good. Buses run regularly and often, the underground and BTS systems if anything are more reliable than the London Underground has ever been to my knowledge and even though the traffic is a slog, even on Sundays, you will get where you’re going with a little bit of patience and it won’t cost you much either. Secondly the people. Now before I go into this I want to do away with a false and shockingly common misconception that I think has probably been created by travel brochures and other marketing ploys and it kills me to do this but here goes; Thais DO NOT speak good English. Many speak non at all and although some are, many signposts and street names have not been translated. Yet despite this, by and large, the people are often still helpful. Hop on a bus and 9 times out of 10 if you tell the money collector where you want to go they’ll give you a shout when its time to get off. Ask for directions in the street and more often than not they will try and direct you and if you do happen to get on the wrong bus, minivan or boat then they’ll let you jump out and redirect you without a charge; least that’s what happened to me.

The food is awesome, as I knew it would be but not going to lie after almost 12 days of eating it I have had a mild touch of the ‘Thailand-Tummy’ and the ‘Changovers’ can get a little rough but there’s usually a lavatory near by oh and by the way, the whole low toilet with a shower spray thing is very much in around these parts. Just thought you might want to know. The nightlife in Bangkok is pretty live as well and there’s plenty of sites to see. Even with the country currently being in mourning all these aspects are still very much alive and the grand palace at night when the Royal’s come driving through is quite an amazing scene and one that you can’t help but join the locals in unison with, even though you technically don’t have to. I don’t know it just feels respectful and like the right thing to do if you know what I mean.

Only been in Bangkok so far and just got into Chiang Mai via a night train and what a mission to get that ticket it was. As I said before; getting around Bangkok may not be too difficult but it can certainly take a while. Rising early (ish) I headed to my usual market place to see if I could grab a minivan heading there, they usually take me to Victory Monument so I figured why not? No, that’s why! So that idea went begging but the guy holding down the station gave me a number of a bus that goes to an underground station that I can THEN use to get to the main train station to book my ticket.

So I dash across the street, not literally people, with traffic like Bangkok’s its just not worth the risk, to catch this bus and after a pretty tolerable wait it turns up. So in I hop instinctively. The bus gets halfway up the street before the lady giving out the tickets reveals that THIS particular bus isn’t going to the station I need to get to and that the ones that are carry the same number but are in-fact Yellow in colour. Rather than any other colour under the sun.

 What followed would not have been out of place in one of those Hangover movies. Hearing this news I was in a hurry to get off but the driver didn’t seem to into my request and the previously mentioned lady didn’t seem to understand it whilst all the while this bus was getting further and further from the stop I needed to be back at by the second. The door was open, the pavement was in leaping distance, due to the build-up the bus was slowing down a little and…yeah. Not going to lie I didn’t land as elegantly as I had envisioned and had a couple of grazes on my elbow and leg to show for it but I was out of the bus and knew now to get on the right one. Actually, as it goes, the Yellow’s stopped at a different stop just ahead of the original one but it didn’t take long for that to get pointed out so no harm done. Ten minutes later I was on-board.

This journey went on, like ridiculously, to the point where I thought we heading for the end of the earth, clearly I had forgotten about how big these ‘big’ cities really get. Honestly, I was starting to think that I’d missed the stop but every time I asked the lady she insisted that all was good. Seriously, I’d been on this thing for a while though but out of the blue when I was just about ready to consider getting off and risking it on foot the lady who gave me the ticket all of a sudden pops up behind two other standing passengers and tells me that we’d reached my destination. Seriously though I was sweating bullets at that point; I’d never been in that part of the city before and all I knew was it was a long way back to familiar territory!

So having hit the underground I got my ticket from an attendant who actually spoke very good English and was offering a lot of help. The underground, as I said is very simple though so didn’t need it but the gesture was nice. Once I got to the main station purchasing the ticket was a piece of p*ss and after all that I had beer and food on the brain; off to Khao San it was but not in the way I had envisioned.

Outside the station, shockingly enough, were a slew of taxi drivers and I had every intention of trying to flag one (meter only though, mind you) but was instead advised by a security guard that I could get there for free or at least as far as The Palace, which was close enough, using a free Shuttle Bus. So your damn right I did and once I got there I happened to witness a few members of the Royal Family passing through (kind of a big deal or it was at least for me!), got given free food and water by some volunteers and was directed the rest of the way to Khao San where, predictably, I got steaming drunk, ate more food and didn’t get back until gone 9:30am the next morning. Sweet!  

So that was my Quest for the Train Ticket and I’m happy to say that with some help from some lovely locals and a few mighty bounds of my own (literally) it was a success. Not going to lie I am not used to countries like Thailand and this whole thing is being run on a strictly day-to-day basis at the moment. Its hot, it kind of stinks in places, I’ve seen more rats than I care to count and this place has got more Thai’s than The Godfather (yeah I know, not my best but couldn’t resist). Still, its exciting and whilst still keeping my guard up I am starting to feel more comfortable.

Who knows what’s next and how long it’ll be before I hit Australia for the next main leg of Tha Bozz on Tour. All I know is I’m in Chiang Mai, I want Elephants, Muay Thai (watching not playing!) and maybe a few more sneaky bevvies.

I’m Tha Bozz & that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 10; Goodbye New Zealand

I can hardly believe that these next words are about to be typed by the fingers attached to my not-Donald-Trump-small-but-still-surprisingly-small hands but here goes; tomorrow afternoon I will be leaving New Zealand. For good, or at least for the foreseeable. Even more unbelievable is what comes next; give or take a week or 2 I have been travelling this side of the world for a year. Between Fiji and New Zealand its been about a year and a major chapter in my metaphorical book (maybe one day but don’t pressure me!) is coming to an end and I guess a new one is about to begin.

Where to next you may ask, well not home that’s for sure. I miss the people I left behind and I even miss Britain itself for everything wrong with it its still bloody good but I’m not ready to see it again yet and having just had my Working Holiday Visa for Australia signed off on I now have a perfect excuse not to. However, before heading down under there’s a certain other part of the world that I’ve had my apprehensive but still excited eye on for some time; South-East Asia.

I know, I know:

“Its the typical ‘Backpacker’ route, its sooooo clique and spoilt now not like it was 20 years ago…..”.

Well I was watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, sleeping with Pooki The Teddy Bear and believing that every 24th December a fat guy slid down the chimney of my house (that actually didn’t have a fireplace or a chimney now that I think about it) to deliver me and my older brother presidents if we behaved 20 years ago. So you can see why boozing on Khao San Road in Bangkok, Scuba Diving in Ko Tao and Tubing in Vang Vieng weren’t on the cards. Also, you try going to these places after almost a year in a country where they ID bearded 30-somethings for cigarettes, the police voluntarily walk you back to your accommodation when you’ve had a skin-full, neighbourhood watches are a thing and the most dangerous creature in the forest is a Possum and telling me that its not a change of pace or a shock to the system!

Alas though its happening. Tomorrow afternoon I will board a plane from Christchurch to Bangkok and feelings that I haven’t quite felt for, funnily enough, about a year are creeping back in. Excitement, confusion, intrigue and if I’m being totally honest fear. Luckily a friend of the family has agreed to put me up for a few days whilst I find my feet (metaphorically not literally; I know where my feet are and I can hardly stand them) which will hopefully take the initial sting off a little bit but still, s*its getting real.

As jittery and anxious as I may come across in this post its actually nothing compared to how I was this time last year. In fact at this precise moment I’m sat back in a comfy chair in a hostel lounge, sipping my drink and listening to Oasis, perhaps its partly down to so much time in such relaxed countries as Fiji and indeed New Zealand or just that I now actually have some travel experience, limited as it is.

On that subject though I feel I need to say something in this post; New Zealand, I am going to miss the hell out of you! I have had my loves and my hates and my ups and my downs with this place like I would have in any place that I called home for almost a year but by God NZ you varied, laid-back, easy-to-travel, over-priced, lazy, beautiful, friendly, pedantic, ridiculously safe, nanny-stated, surprisingly historical, boring, proud, exciting, multi-cultural, fun and loveable pair of rocks in the middle of the water I’m going to miss the f*ck out of you and everything you do!

Since getting here I’ve practically top-to-bottomed both islands, been hundreds of feet in the air and several feet under the water, been in boiling and freezing temperatures and been on-top of a mountain of snow and a mountain of sand (traversing both with an equal lack of grace). I’ve met people that I absolutely adore and would love to see again outside of my travels and I’ve met people that I absolutely despise and would also love to see again with matches. I’ve worked as everything from a Salesman at a crappy Call Centre selling online diplomas because why not? All the way to a Kitchen Hand at an Indian Restaurant and a Scaffold Assistant on a building site; both are positions that I was fortunate to walk away from with my limbs not to mention dignity intact.

I have also learnt what we all secretly have always known but occasionally forget until we get lovingly reminded and that’s that the best things that usually happen are unplanned. Just recently I hit Paihia intending to stay for 3 days and low and behold after 6 I was still there. Long story but an awesome hostel, an out of the blue road trip to Cape Reinga (one of my favourite spots in the country) an excessive amount of beer and some wonderful humans and hot girls played a massive part. The amount of times that one has checked into hostels with an early night on the cards and ended up steaming at 4am, stumbling through clubs, house parties and karaoke bars with people who 7 hours earlier were complete strangers is overwhelming. The hangovers were to.

The levels of kindness and generosity displayed by the people that I’ve met has been overwhelming as well. I’ve had everything from beer and homemade pizza all the way to rides and floors and couches to crash on offered to me and its my full intention to pay these warm souls back whenever I can.

Its funny, I’ve just read those last paragraphs back and they’re written as if its all coming to an end when its not. I can do all the research, ask all the forum members and friends in the world but truth is I don’t know what to expect from SE Asia, Australia or anywhere else this wily-Welshman, with a bit of Italian, may end up. All I know is there will be other people and although this can sometimes be a f*cking nightmare it does also ensure that similar good times are eventually certain to role.

Going from a place like New Zealand to a place like Thailand is like going into a fight with Anthony Joshua when your last opponent was Audley Harrison (Google him if you need to.) and Fiji wasn’t exactly the most intimidating environment you’ll ever see either. We have to step up one day though and part of the travel experience, as they say, is about stepping out of the comfort zone so that’s exactly what I’m doing. So next on the cards is hot food, hot weather, hot water, hot women (hopefully) and a lot of time spent feeling like the tallest man in the room.

NZ I love you, I’m going to miss you and I’m going to see you again I’d wager. So its haere rā New Zealand and Kia Ora SE Asia. Be safe!

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 9; Vipassana: The Verdict

So it happened; as planned on the 29th September I entered the Dhamma Medini Vipassana Meditation Centre and until around 9:30am yesterday that’s where I stayed. Entirely. I did not set foot outside of the course boundary walls, I only entered 4 different rooms (my bunk, the meditation hall, the dining area and the shower and s*itting room) and perhaps most surprisingly of all; I played by the rules. From the 29th September at 7pm until around 11am yesterday I did not speak a full sentence, eat meat, drink booze, smoke cigarettes or anything else, have any physical contact with another living thing, read any literature, write anything down, listen to any music, watch any TV/movies/internet material or engage in any sexual activity (including the single player game).
I was under the impression going into this that such circumstances were either going to lead me to a major psychological breakthrough or to a major psychotic episode. So which was it? Truth be told; neither. This is no bad thing as breakthroughs can be stressful and although psychotic episodes might get you some TV time initially they do hurt your momentum in the long-run. The truth is that this course was one of the most mentally and, believe it or not, physically draining experiences I can bring to recent memory and despite your almost sedated state so many emotions hit you so quickly. Thoughtfulness, impatience, determination, focus, absent mindedness, boredom, hunger, thirst, horny-ness (no, its not a real word before you start), restlessness, restfulness, anger and a burning desire for a B.M.T Sub, a pint of lager and a joint. Perhaps the evening prior to the evening before the course consisting of excessive helpings of house lager, a trip to a karaoke bar that Toto and The Gallagher Brothers would never forgive me for if they’d witnessed, a bucket load of Macky D’s and a 4am bedtime wasn’t adequate mental and physical preparation after all. Who’d of known!?
Now before I go any further I want to make one point completely clear; I would recommend this course, wholeheartedly in-fact. I genuinely believe that anyone that is even remotely curious about it and its potential effects after doing their research should try it, providing that they are willing and able to take it seriously. I cannot stress that last point enough because, trust me, the rules are far easier said than followed. Ten days is a lot longer than it sounds, especially for jittery, meat-eating, western-raised, impatient and angst-ridden white boys who stand around 6,2 and are told to sit straight in the same position for 2 hour stretches on a thin floor with nothing but a warn out cushion for relief; the back, knee, feet and arse pains are chronic! On the subject of pains mention needs to be made of your stomach and more-over what goes into it during the course. You are fed and you are fed well, the food provided is vegetarian and is actually pretty good (you were expecting a rant then weren’t you!?). Now don’t get me wrong its not exactly gourmet and its described on the leaflets as being ‘wholesome’ which, like when used to describe TV, film and women, is insider terminology for boring but it does get the job done and considering that its provided free of charge its bloody generous of them and I do have to tip my hat to the serving staff and all the other volunteers who work on the site; they’re doing a good thing. What does provide difficulty though is the eating schedule which is set out in a way that dictates that your last full meal is at 11am and apart from a small piece of fruit at 5pm you don’t eat again until 6:30 the next morning. Maintaining focus in these circumstances is difficult, especially when your not used to such a schedule.
I’m going to try and avoid going into details about the meditation technique itself as it is a tad difficult to do it justice within my personal word limit but let me just say its mentally and physically demanding, takes a good few days to even pull off correctly for more than 10-15 seconds and after the second or third day you’ll probably feel like quitting; don’t! It doesn’t get any easier but you will get better at it and your tolerances will naturally get stronger.
What I do want to bring more attention to though is the beliefs and fundamentals that surround Vipassana as, for me personally, some of them make perfect sense whilst others come across as frankly outdated, idealistic and dare-I-say even a little bit judgemental.
Starting with the good is of course the basics such as how we should not harm other living things, should speak only truth and for God-sake don’t go sleeping with your best friends fiancé. Quite self explanatory and all things that I can get on-board with. However there are some more slightly off-the-track ideas that I also found myself agreeing and identifying with. One of these was the idea that the source of all our misery is based around our cravings for things and feelings. As soon as one develops a craving for an object, sensation or personal feeling they are not happy as they want it again and then become unhappy all over again as soon as the thing in question inevitably disappears like it did the fist time around. This could be money, clothes, cars, food or just a really great evening of extravagant pleasure with the chick who works in the food court across the street from your hostel; the sensations created by these things will always pass and enough will never be enough. The concept of true selflessness being far more difficult than it appears on surface levels was also interesting with the idea being that many seemingly selfless acts are often committed with a desire to create pleasant sensations within ourselves and gain recognition for our deeds if only on a subliminal level. Hell, I’m honest enough to admit that I’ve been guilty of this in the past and I’m willing to bet I’m not alone.
Like I said though some of the ideas expressed just did not quite sit right with me. Of these the most prominent was the idea that we should not mourn or even feel sadness when a person in our life is taken from us at whatever time for whatever reason. The reason for this being that we are apparently not really ‘whole’ as beings; meaning that we must get rid of the concept of ‘me’, ‘mine’ and ‘I’ and instead think of our bodies and insides as being individual body parts that are simply attached to each other in order to function. For this reason we should also never view another person as being ‘beautiful’, either inside or out. An actually rather humorous example was used whereby when a man finds a woman attractive he may be drawn to her beautiful long hair but if a small strand of it were to fall into his dinner he wouldn’t view that individual piece of hair as beautiful and would certainly be put off the dinner, appetising as it may have once been.
I had a problem with this. I mean firstly because, as anyone who knows me will tell you; I don’t give a s*it if the girls whole scalp ends up on the plate. If the meals appetising to begin with I’ll make it work. Seriously though the idea of feeling nothing for other people and not loving to me does not sound like a step on the path of happiness but more like a step towards losing your humanity and what truly makes you who you are. Yes, I care about the health of my grandparents, how well my little sister is doing in school and if my older brother will ever get to grips with the concept of adulthood and these things stress me out. They might seem trivial and unimportant to somebody who has achieved ‘enlightenment’ and who now works towards a higher calling but, and with all due respect, I do feel that whilst reading into these philosophies we should stay aware of the fact that they were established during a time when sharp, pointy sticks were considered a dental breakthrough and the premier thinkers of the world didn’t know where the Sun was going at night. As for the whole beauty thing? Well a strand of braided hair from the head of that gorgeous German girl with the dazzling smile and personality that frankly knocked me bandy that I really quite regret not making a move on might not look great on its own and sitting on my pizza but everything left on the person in question still looks pretty amazing. Personality to boot. S.N. Goenka says that we must learn to tame the mind and likens it to a wild Bull or Elephant. Well I’ve got news for you Sir; Bulls and Elephants are not meant to be tamed, maybe the mind isn’t either?
I sound like I’m dishing on the course in these last few paragraphs and that’s honest-to-God not my intention. During my time at the centre, whether by design or not, I found myself stumbling across a number of self realisations regarding both events from my past and possible events of the future. Some were quite small and easy to face up to whilst others ran a little deeper and had to be taken with a king-sized slice of Humble Pie and washed down with a tall-head worth of pride in order to face up to. Whether the course intended for this to happen or not they made it all the more worthwhile and I feel that it could potentially be something beneficial. If I can find a way of putting these thoughts into words I may look into sharing these realisations in the future.
In closing; I would like to once again reiterate that Vipassana is a technique of meditation that deserves a fair shot. Whether or not I carry on practising the technique remains to be seen and some of that will depend on circumstances permitting but it was a worthwhile experience regardless. Ten days may seem like an eternity but in truth it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the techniques apparent potential so keep this in mind and don’t expect a miracle but you might just take your first baby steps towards one. Oh and as an added bonus; the site is beautiful, the air ridiculously clean and you’ll probably end up seeing Rabbits, Possums and even Glow Worms! How good is that!?
I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 8; Mentally Checking Out

As I write this post I’m sitting in the communal area of a hostel that I wasn’t originally supposed to be in, in a town that I was, today, supposed to be leaving on a bus that was supposed to turn up at a certain time but neglected to do so. The town in question is called Taupo and the town I planned to be in any minute now (as of writing this) is Rotorua. Its p*ssing down outside, I had a full sized travel pack strapped to my back, a piece of hand luggage strapped to my front and a cooling bag draped over my left arm during my stroll to the bus station only to find once I got there that the bus in question had left minutes prior and all the alternatives for the day were fully booked; wicked!

Not to be deterred I decided to walk a little further up and onto the main road between the two towns, throw my thumb up to the heavens and see if any good Samaritans were doing the rounds today. In a country that’s usually pretty good for that sort of thing I was surprised to find that after over an hour of standing in the downpour with a thumb in the air, more luggage on my back than a camel in the dessert and a look on my face that said “I’m smiling but make no mistake I’d be gleaming if you would just pull over!” no cars pulled over. Not one. After getting on the blower to the bus company I managed to talk them into booking me a ticket for the next day with no cost attached, which was actually kind of cool because I used to be a ‘lose my s*it’ kind of guy but I was pretty calm.

The walk back to the hostel that I was previously staying at almost felt a little like a walk of shame as after saying all of my goodbyes (something that I personally hate especially when its with people I genuinely like, which it was) I was heading back with my tail set firmly between my legs and the material on my embarrassingly crappy backpacker clothes ready to wilt and evaporate leaving me with nothing but my trainers on my feet and a pair of boxers around my nether-regions that look like they previously belonged to Tarzan to show for my experience.

Needless to say; today has not been the favourite of my approximately 306 days away from home as I sit wrapped in another one of my s*itty hoodies with a bottle of council pop at my side, laptop on my lap and a vending machine across the room stocked to the brim with horribly tempting microwave noodles. In fact its probably not in the top 50 and hasn’t been helped by the fact that I’ve been recently struck down with a surprisingly vicious bout of hostel flu, my favourite shoes recently fell apart in front of my eyes in a more spectacular fashion than my music career and I haven’t had anything even approaching a decent nights sleep in 2 weeks due to a roommate who’s snoring habits are so unethically bad that I initially mistook him for the 7.0 tremor that hit the area a few weeks back. These things happen though and its far from the end of the world, especially as I’ve just recently managed to, somehow, hustle the hostel in Rotorua into allowing me to push my booking back with no additional charges despite the terms stating that the booking was non-refundable but this and a few other things recently have bought something to light. Now this thing is nothing for me to panic about but it is something that I feel I must address; I have started to mentally check-out of New Zealand.

This has only been my general feeling for a short time (like as short as the last couple of weeks) but its becoming steadily more prominent. By check-out I don’t mean dislike but more become somewhat less-interested than I had been months before. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my minor quibbles with NZ since day one but after a few months, particularly in Wellington, Queenstown, New Plymouth and until recently Taupo the country started to majorly grow on me and I was pretty much in love with it warts an all; just like real relationships I guess. However after getting fired from a work-for-accommodation gig for reasons I didn’t entirely agree with and recently stepping down from my 3000th job where I was spoken to like s*it, paid late, messed around with hours and made to do the work of at least 2 people for a minimum wage that’s just a little too ‘minimal’ for a country as expensive as this is I’ve felt my passion fade a little. *Edit* an informative and (hopefully) entertaining post aimed specifically at this subject will be coming soon.

Since this my days have comprised of struggling to get out of bed before 10am for free hostel breakfasts, chilling in the local hot pools (how’s that for a contradiction), promising myself I’m going to exercise, not exercising, eating the large amounts of Indian food that I amassed from my job at an Indian Restaurant with a particularly sound and generous group of chefs, watching British Hood Movies (Attack the Block, Bullet Boy, Adulthood, SKET etc) which constantly remind me of how much safer that a lot of NZ is compared to a lot of back home and occasionally getting totally smashed. At first this was all good but the lifestyle has caused me to become alarmingly complacent and, dare I say, lazy and indifferent. I also seem to be going through a more anti-social and introverted phase with less desire to meet people. Finding motivation has become like finding coins in the couch; always worth checking for but never any guarantees of success and everything from how impossible an even mildly healthy diet is on my budget to the way that people round here seem to have this thing about walking around in public places with no shoes on despite the fact that they are clearly people who possess pairs of shoes seems to stress and perplex me. Along with the new awkwardness, complexity and overall unintuitive un-user friendly nature of WordPress’ editing and posting system; come on lads, you used to make this so easy for me!

Don’t get me wrong there are still places in this country that I want to visit before I leave and people that I most certainly want to see again and I’m hoping that the Vipassana Course mentioned in my previous post will help start me on a bit of a clearer path. However, I just feel like after almost 10 months of being here I’m starting to get itchy feet to move onto something new and for the first time really since I left home almost a year ago I’ve recently found myself missing it a bit. Truthfully I  feel like this is more to be attributed to my current lifestyle previously described than an actual desire to return to Blighty any time too soon. I Would love to teleport some of its residents here mind you.

I’m not 100% sure but I get the feeling that such feelings are natural and common when travelling for extended periods of time. To be honest, I can’t imagine myself living anywhere for longer than a year at a time at the moment and I don’t think my recent ill-health, lack of sleep and relative boredom have helped. Its just that I feel like I’ve seen most of what where I am can offer and as a result have found myself counting down the days to when I see somewhere new and when you start feeling this way whilst travelling I guess its probably time to head for other pastures, which I soon will be. After a few weeks of living the ‘Wasteman’ lifestyle I am now preparing for new experiences and could not be more excited and a little nervous for it but for now; I must make sure that I get to the bus stop tomorrow in plenty of time as I am not doing this again!

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 7; Out of the Comfort Zone into the Silence

Its been just over 10 months since I hopped on my Emirates flight from Manny Airport with a bag on my back, Adidas’s on my feet (that ended up getting robbed by some twat in Fiji!), a rimmed hat on my head and Gal Gadot on the brain (because why not?). Truth be told there were other things occupying the slightly above average sized condo’s worth of space in my generally hard-working but still somehow slightly under-achieving mind such as; can I stand the heat? (literally and metaphorically), can I stand the cold? (again), what will I do for money? And, probably most pressing and prominent, where the f*ck is Gate 9!? Damn it I need Gate 9!

I’d like to say that when I finally touched down in Auckland for my, fairly un-welcome but still surprisingly pleasant, 23 hour layover that all of the above (and oh so many more) questions in my mind took the time to simmer down and leave me in peace. No such luck I’m afraid. In fact, if anything, landing in a new place and not knowing my head from my arse served to only further convolute the convoluted and it wasn’t until I met my friendly companions for the evening that things finally calmed down…a little. Needless to say they kicked right back into gear the next morning when I awoke, having slept through my alarm, with a stinking hangover and only 45 minutes to get packed, down the stairs and to my bus destined for the same airport I touched down in less than a day before. Also factor in that I had not the foggiest on where said bus was meant to be picking me up from and the fact that I’d already, at this early stage, had to taste my first genuinely hard goodbyes to some incredibly sound folks and an incredibly attractive lass that I think I was making head ways with and I was back in a state.

Again, I’d like to say that as soon as I entered Fiji’s beautiful atmosphere; breathed the sea-air, soaked up the sun and had my first bottle of Fiji Gold that suddenly everything felt right with the world but if I did I’d be a liar and my mother raised me better than that. The process would reset itself as soon as I doubled back on myself and headed back to New Zealand and I can feel it warming itself up again for the end of October when I take my flight to Thailand (good-God I am excited for that though!) and will do the same for Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Australia etc and may even rear its fairly ugly but somehow necessary head when I head back to the other hemisphere!

Whilst, as already mentioned, I don’t want to disillusion any future travellers into thinking that this feeling is something that just goes away with time and that ‘before you know it, you won’t even get nervous about packing up your life into a bag and venturing into a country you’ve never set foot in before’ I do want to reassure you that once you’ve been in said country for a short time and found your basic bearings it does seem to wear off. Once it does for me I find I start to focus my mind on more fun stuff and a lot of fun has been had. As mentioned in a previous post I’ve done a lot of cool s*it since mid-November and have more on the brain for the future but as well as fun things I also intended to do some activities that would take me out of my comfort zone.

Now don’t get me wrong, just booking the ticket and getting on the sodding plane in the first place felt like a pretty big step into the danger zone and it was. I’ve also done a number of other things that fit the bill; walking up to total strangers and practically praying to myself that they would let me be their friend, bartering at markets in Fiji, hitch-hiking to an island (check out my first travel post, it was a mad one!), jumping from 130+ feet, snowboarding, having coitus in a bunk bed, doing stand-up comedy, briefly reviving my (very) dead rap career on a few occasions, scuba diving and openly admitting that I did and still do enjoy a number of Blazin’ Squads works.

Stepping out of the zone is hard and strenuous but its rewarding and worth doing every now and then and I think its one of the most worthwhile parts of this whole travelling shtick. This is why and, believe me the decision was made after A LOT of deliberating, I have decided to enrol onto a 10 day Vipassana meditation course at the end of September.

Vipassana is a phrase that I’m not even sure if I’m pronouncing correctly when I say it and my knowledge is limited to what’s on the three W’s and what others have told me. However two of my friends who completed the course successfully tell me that they got a lot out of it and whole-heartedly recommend it. Why is this such a step out of my comfort zone you might ask? Well firstly the course requires me to go veggie for the full 10 days (actually quite tough) and refrain from killing or causing harm to any living thing (they may as well have told me I can’t eat at all for heavens sake!). No writing, no phones or laptops, no reading material, no alcohol or drugs, no sex; fully gender-segregated dorms and, trying to write this in the most discrete and conservative way possible is harder than I thought it would be, so I’ll just say that during these 10 days I won’t be going through as much tissue paper as I usually would. You think that sounds tough, well get this; during my 10 day stay I will also be required to take a vow of silence. Anybody who knows me will understand that this is an unspeakably tough undertaking. For anyone who doesn’t; if you think these posts are overly wordy you should pray to God you never meet me.

Hopefully by the time I step out of the place I’ll be like one of those Buddhist Monks, minus the orange robes and penchant for making money off the suffering of Elephants (yeah, I went there and before you start I know that only actually applies to a small minority and most of them are great and dedicated people). Or alternatively I’ll end up having a psychotic episode. Either way I’m coming out of there with a story to tell.

In all seriousness though; I do feel like this is an opportunity that I could benefit from and I plan to grab it with both hands. There are a number of aspects of my personality that I’ve been working on trying to change for some time now and if the teachings of this course are as advertised then I believe that what I learn could help me a lot. If this means I have to stay away from tech, stay sober, shut my big mouth and stop thinking those dark thoughts about the dark girl meditating across the hall from me then so be it. I know it will be tough and might actually take me further out of my comfort zone than I’ve ever been but I’m going to play by the rules, show respect and give it my best shot because that’s what its all about.

I’m Tha Bozz & that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 6; Nostalgia Trip

Its been approximately 8 months since I took off (literally and metaphorically) from the motherland in search of new sites, sounds and adventures and just the feeling that comes with even typing such a statement is overwhelming. Both Fiji and New Zealand have so far created some cracking memories and stories that will stay with me like my inability to grow ‘stylish’ facial hair or open bean tins with a tin opener (no really!) for a long time to come.

Well, what can I say? It happened, it took a little longer than I thought it would but it has happened; the wonderment, infatuation and overall obsession with all things Queenstown has warn off. I’m not sure whether it was the insanely cold weather, the insanely high price of everything, the insanely rude manner in which (almost) everyone in any service industry conducts themselves or the insanely real sensation that I got from my job to rip my own arm off just so I had something to hit my manager with that did it but, once again, it has happened. Seems I wasn’t alone in such sentiments and as a result a group of us ended up squeezing into a friends car with all of our luggage and driving almost one end of the South Island to the other in the space of two days; we must have looked like clowns squeezing out one of those circus cars when we finally got out. To cut a long story short I’m now in New Plymouth having just left Whanganui in the middle of the North Island, after getting a ferry to Wellington to touch base with some mates and I’ve been enjoying some much needed downtime. Queenstown was a 2 and a half month binge of drink and debauchery that involved showing up to work hungover, showing up to work drunk, not showing up to work at all and, along the way, making some of the most awesome friends I could ever hope to make; miss you guys and much love!

As is often the case with downtime I’ve had some time with my thoughts and have been taking stock of a few things. Before you click the ‘X’ and get the hell off my page and never return I want to make it clear that these thoughts DID NOT involve Brexit or anything to do with it or the people associated. This subject has a strong enough throwing arm to bombard me with steaming, lumpy piles of b*llsh*t even out here in NZ so God-knows how everyone back in Blighty is feeling.

Alas, the most prominent of thoughts that occurred to me today aside from how much I’d like to sleep with Nicole Arbour and how much I’d like to see The All Blacks lose just to see how the Kiwis actually react in the face of such a rare occurrence was nostalgia. Despite being on the other side of the planet and living the sort of lifestyle that could be described as pretty darn ‘in the moment’ the fact is at times I still get nostalgic. I don’t see this as a bad thing. I think nostalgia is something that occurs inside somebody when they’ve been in a lot of different places, met a lot of different people or just done a lot of stuff and I feel fortunate enough to be able to say that I can tick all of those boxes. That’s not to say that every faze of my life has been pleasant and that every memory I have is a doddle to relive but at the end of the day I wouldn’t be who I am without all of them and neither would anyone else without theirs.

What amazed me more, during my three days in Whanganui in particular, is how the smallest and most random things can spark nostalgia like a cigarette to a match. I’m glad to say that Virginia Lake is as beautiful as the guy at the hostel assured me it was as it was a fair old mission to get there. However when I eventually locked eyes on the sparkling water, felt the warm sun on me and heard the ducks chattering away I was almost immediately taken back to my childhood when my Dad or Mum or even occasionally (when they could manage it!) both of them used to take me to Roath Park on weekend afternoons to feed the ducks and get a Mr Whippy. Roath Park, for those caught unaware, is a similar (albeit far less pretty and sunny and with much dirtier water) lake area near my old neighbourhood in Cardiff. Such nostalgia was pleasant and it didn’t stop there. I started to remember the old Volvo 440 that the parents used to use to drive us there, what a banger, our old street, again; what a banger, the layout of our old house (I actually lived in several houses during childhood but this one housed me the longest) our highly multicultural neighbours (Zimbabwe, Poland, China and several others were all representing) and even the walk to and from school from said street. All these memories came flooding back to me; as vivid as if they were yesterday and the catalyst was something as small and trivial as a walk around a lake.

Later that day it happened again when during a walk along the main high street a car came cruising past me. The car contained 4 males, I’m guessing between around 16-20 years of age. The windows were down, the music was blasting, the caps were on display and the smell coming from the vehicle indicated to me that the ciggie in the front passengers hand MIGHT have been more than just a ciggie. Despite the unimportant nature of such an event but perhaps due to my relaxed state this immediately took me back to the age of around 16-18 and my time in college. Me and my best friend used to link at around 11 most mornings after lectures, jump inside his Volkswagen and cruise Albany and City Road in a very similar fashion. Chatting s*it, sporting hoodies, headwear, blasting UK Grime that we’d heard that week on Channel U and occasionally participating in some recreational substance use. We even used to rap as well! At the time I was in a group, we used to hang out outside Benny’s Chicken (Megamix meal for £3.50!) and swipe liquor from off-licences. Truth was; we were about as threatening as Sesame Street but we were the lead cast in our own version of Kidulthood as far as we were concerned. This is quite amusing for me as a drunken female friend in Wellington once declared to me that if I were to be portrayed in a feature-length film that she would have me played by Adam Deacon. I just hope she meant the Adam Deacon we got before 2014, the one since then just scares me.

Nevertheless it amazes me how such vivid and layered memories can be pushed to the front of your thoughts by such a quick and fleeting image. Once again further memories came to me; like how during this time period me and my best friend at the time used to tell our folks we were staying at each other’s houses so we could stay out in the clubs all night and crash at my Dad’s place and drink his whiskey at 6 in the morning. Or how me and some friends used to spend whole days writing lyrics that we swore were the greatest thing since The White Album and then record them at crappy studios in the city and perform them at youth clubs and parties; mixed reactions followed. The clothes we used to wear, the slang we used to use, the neighbourhoods we used to hang around in and the banter we used to have; all bought on by one tiny fleeting image.

Even more alarming and perhaps even kind of saddening is that I don’t really see, speak to or even know the people I took these little adventures with anymore. My best friend at this time is someone I haven’t spoken to since 2010 and even longer with regards to some of the others. I haven’t recorded any music in over 3 years and the streets we used to walk and cruise mostly look different now and even those that don’t are ones that I haven’t been in for a long time.

Still, the fact is that life goes on, with or without the people that at one point you would have called family. People grow up and move on and I haven’t touched base with a lot of these people for a long time not because they’re bad people or because they’ve ‘changed’ but because we’ve moved on.

Like I said/wrote before I truly see misty eyed nostalgia as a mark of someone who has lived a varied, eventful and noteworthy life. My life has had some relatively extreme ups and downs but every era, as it were, has created some cool memories and to pull myself back into the hear and now; I feel like I’m creating more for the future out here and I look forward to relieving them with the same misty eyed adoration in the future.

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.