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The Beach by Alex Garland (1997) 436 p.

I read this novel in the first week of my round-the-world backpacking trip (in fact, I’m writing this review in a decrepit hotel in Phuket) when I was and still am disillusioned with Thailand. We arrived on the islands of the Andaman Sea only to find over and over again, on Ko Lipe and Ko Lanta and Ko Phi Phi, that what had once been a beautiful tropical paradise had been ruined by tourism, degradation, and pollution. The beaches are strewn with rubbish. The coral is all dead. The wildlife is gone. The islands are drowning beneath resorts, hotels, bars, hawkers, and endless swarms of Westerners who want nothing more than to get shitfaced somewhere warmer than London or Toronto. It’s an awful place, all the more so because it’s a corpse of something that used to be beautiful.

The Beach, therefore, fit my mood perfectly well. It’s a novel about a young British backpacker named Richard, who sees Thailand the same way I do, who wanted paradise and instead found purgatory. On his first night in the country, Richard meets a crazed Scotsman in the room next to his in a cheap Bangkok hostel, who rants about a wonderful beach and then leaves a map taped to his room door. When he goes to ask the Scot about the map, Richard finds that he has committed suicide.

With a newly-met French couple, Richard decides to hunt down the beach, on an island somewhere in a marine park west of Ko Samui. After paying a fisherman to illegally drop them off in the marine park, swimming across a channel, crossing a marijuana field guarded by Thais with AK-47s, and jumping down a waterfall, the trio discover the idyllic beach, where a group of about thirty Westerners have developed a commune of sorts. They grow and hunt their own food, swim in an unspoilt lagoon, laze around smoking marijuana and generally enjoy paradise on earth.

All does not remain well, of course. The Beach has a very strong Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now vibe, delving into the dark heart of the human soul, the things man is capable of, the horror and the violence. There’s also explicit influence from the Vietnam War in general. Towards the later passages it’s quite gripping; as Richard tries to escape the community, there was a taste of the climax of Fight Club.

It doesn’t always quite stick together. I didn’t always buy that a self-reliant, self-sufficient community could turn on itself so easy, and the escalation of violence seemed to be missing a few steps somewhere along the way; there were a few unbelievable leaps. But I bought most of it, and on the whole it was a great read.

It was also, of course, a movie, starring Leonardo di Caprio and directed by Danny Boyle. I haven’t seen the movie in years and have only vague memories of it, but it has 19% on Rotten Tomatoes so you’re probably better off reading the book. It was filmed on the southern island of Ko Phi Phi, as the travel agencies there were always ready to tell me, and because the film studio didn’t think it looked enough like paradise they brought in a bulldozer to shape the beach a little, removing some trees and adding some more sand. This angered the Thais, who said the producers had damaged the island’s natural landscape, and the lawsuits went for years.

If you ever go to Ko Phi Phi, take a look around at the huge piles of rubbish, at the endless rows of resorts, at the longtail motors dumping waste into the ocean, at the layer of scum that clings to the surface of the water all along the coastline, and you decide for yourself who did more damage to the island.

In 28 hours my plane will be taking off from Perth International Airport and launching my friend Chris and I into a realm of adventure – a realm also known as the PLANET EARTH! To be regaled with exciting tales of frustrating third-world transport, visa hassles and dodgy Asian street food, bookmark Grub Street’s sister blog,

GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD

I’ll still be using Grub Street for book reviews and other assorted miscellany, so don’t delete it! PLEASE DON’T

TIGER AIRWAYS FLIGHT 2717
DEPART PERTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (PER) 9.35 PM TUESDAY APRIL 27
ARRIVE SINGAPORE CHANGI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (SIN) 2.50 AM WEDNESDAY APRIL 28

After many many many weeks of constantly checking http://www.skyscanner.net in the hope of finding a cheap fare to Asia, Chris and I finally bit the bullet and booked a flight last night. Obviously 3.00 AM isn’t the ideal time to be rocking up in a foreign city, but unless we wanted to shell out six or seven hundred dollars for a non-budget flight, they were all at shit times. As it stands we paid $201 each, airline taxes and bagagge checking and all, which is pretty good for Perth to Singapore.

Now, in the six weeks until we leave, we need to sort out stuff like visas and proper shoes and travel insurance and first aid kits. To discuss boring crap like that, which is only of interest to people planning similar trips, I’m going to crack out the other blog I registered ages and ages ago, and which I named after an unremarkable but titularly appropriate novel: Gentlemen of the Road. Feel free to ignore it until later in the year, when it will be full of delightful adventures about breaking out in hives from antimalarial medication or getting the shit kicked out of us by Russian border guards.

43 days to go!

Chris and I went to the travel medical centre on Mill Street today, since the world overseas is a seething cesspit of hideous tropical maladies. Also because I’m a total pussy who hasn’t had a single vaccination since they were mandatory in primary school, so I’m not really safe to live here in Perth either. I thought I was being so clever when I wriggled my way out of hepatitis and meningitis vaccinations in high school. Now I want to go back in time and punch that kid in the face.

In any case, the last shot I had (tetanus, 2000) left me pale and sickly for hours afterwards, and I think I threw up when I got my measles shot the previous year, so I wasn’t looking forward to getting an estimated ten or eleven vaccinations for travelling. While we were sitting in the doctor’s office discussing exactly what we’d need I started to feel increasingly queasy and had to splash some water on my face. I am a creampuff.

Getting the shots themselves wasn’t too bad, though, so I guess my body has manned up since I was 12 years old even if my mind hasn’t. Today I got a new diptheria/tetanus shot, polio, the first of my Hepatitis B shots and the first of my rabies shots (those two both require a three-week course). In the coming weeks we also need to get typhoid and yellow fever, and decide which anti-malarials we’re going to take, since each type comes with a different set of fun side effects. Diseases sure do suck, although I guess they suck worse for the people living in the third world who actually have to get them.

Including consultancy it cost $270 for that session alone. Medicare doesn’t cover travel vaccinations. I went to the doctor for something unrelated the other day, and paid $70 out of pocket for a five-minute consultation. Isn’t Australia supposed to have free healthcare? I’ve often said that the fact that America doesn’t have free healthcare is absolutely mind-boggling, but somehow I’ve managed to become an adult with my own Medicare card without really learning how our system works at all.

I’m sort of bummed out about money in general, because these vaccinations are going to cost way more than I thought they would, and yesterday I found out that my hours at Coles have been slashed so I’m going to be earning less than $400 a week. I’ve rung up my other job three times since returning from Collie, and my boss has been “unavailable” every time. I always got the distinct impression I was just a Christmas casual, but I assumed a small business owner would be professional enough to tell me that rather than avoid me.

I’m sitting on just over $13,000, so I should easily reach $15,000 by April, but that was always the absolute minimum. I’d be a lot happier with $17,000 or $18,000. Incidentally, what is it with travel blogs and being coy about how much you spend? I find it very frustrating when reading about other travellers and trying to gauge how much our own trip might cost. It’s not the 1950’s anymore. Grow up.

Did some more planning for the first leg of the trip. The biggest hurdle is still the Russian visa/Trans-Siberian clusterfuck, or “chaos snail” as we have christened it. Getting a Russian visa requires an invitation and confirmation and you need an exit visa and all this tiresome bureaucratic claptrap. I don’t think it’s been updated since the Soviet era, and it’s going to be our single biggest headache. I couldn’t even pin down the street address of the Russian embassy in Beijing. Chinese embassy in Bangkok, Australian embassy in Beijing, Mongolian embassy in Beijing, no problems. As soon as I try to find the Russian embassy Google Maps takes me to Moscow and all the websites are five years out of date or run by third-party companies trying to sell me a visa invitation.

Speaking of unscrupulous sales, I scalped my Big Day Out ticket for sixty bucks more than it cost me, and I’m trying to figure out how much I could sell my car for. A Hyundai Excel that hasn’t been serviced in eight years, has a huge dent in the side and takes quite a few revs to get started might fetch as much as $400! Email me if you’re interested!

Chris and I have started planning our trip in more detail, plotting out a route across the globe like a dashing young Burke and Wills. Here’s our loose itinerary:

Fly from Perth to Kuala Lumpur. Take a leisurely sleeper train up the peninsula into Thailand, and laze around on beaches, snorkelling over tropical reefs and eating cheap Thai cuisine until we get tired of the unrelenting swarms of fellow Western backpackers. Cross the border into Cambodia and explore the crumbling, overgrown ruins of Angkor Wat. Head east into Vietnam and follow the idyllic coastline north, before cutting west into Laos where hill tribes and French colonial towns are nestled in deep jungle. Travel north into China, and explore the rugged wilderness of the west, Jade Snow Mountain and Tiger Leaping Gorge. Budget and Chinese government permitting, take the train up into the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, where Buddhist monks pray under the unblinking eyes of the PLA. Descend from the roof of the world into Beijing, and take the Trans-Mongolian Express to Ulan Bator. Spend some time wandering around the plains of Mongolia, with horse nomads and yurts and such, then continue on the Trans-Siberian into Russia. If the Russian visa system proves to be anything other than a Kafkaesque ordeal, devote a few weeks to kicking around Siberia and Lake Baikal. After the train eventually spits us out in Moscow, catch a plane to Cairo.

Giza, the pyramids, the Red Sea, the Sahara Desert and the Nile should provide plenty to see and do before continuing our journey south into Africa. If overland travel through Sudan proves possible, we’ll move through there as quickly as possible (not much to see, and one of only eight countries DFAT thinks you absolutely shouldn’t visit) into Ethiopia. If not possible we’ll just fly from Cairo to Addis Abbaba. Moving through the highlands of Ethiopia, we’ll travel south into Kenya, then again into Tanzania, which encapsulates everything African in one nation (minus the warfare and all that): Mt. Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, the Serengeti and Zanzibar. Once that’s been exhausted, cross the border south into Mozambique, where 15th century Portuguese forts sit in marshy river deltas. Cross the border into South Africa, which is a first-world (read: expensive) nation and offers nothing African we haven’t already seen, so make a beeline for Jo’burg or Durban so we can fly to our next stop: Buenos Aires or Santiago, depending on which is cheaper.

Upon arrival in South America, head south into the mountains and glaciers of Patagonia, before swinging north again up the Andean spine through the high altitude Atacama Desert. Pass through Bolivia if we feel like it, then enter Peru. Just as Tanzania encapsulates Africa, Peru encapsulates South America: snow-capped mountain peaks, unexplored jungle, coastal deserts, the ruined Incan city of Macchu Picchu and the mountainous shores of Lake Titicaca. When we’re ready to leave, we’ll travel downriver along the Amazon, ideally swinging in hammocks in a two-storey saloon boat piloted by a gruff old jungle expat, cutting through the heart of the world’s largest rainforest. After reaching Belem on the Atlantic coast, we’ll either island-hop through the Caribbean or (more realistically, less awesomely) fly direct to the USA. Whether by hitchiking or buying the cheapest car we possibly can, we’ll head north along the Appalachians to New York City, then cut cross-country to Los Angeles, stopping along the way in Las Vegas and the various natural parks of the nation’s west. From LA we plan to head north along the west coast, detouring into Wyoming for Yellowstone National Park, and then crossing the border into Canada. Our funds will be near exhaustion by then, if not before, so we’re limited only by our bank accounts and our imagination before returning home.

My absolute minimum budget for this trip is $15,000, and even that is shaky, influenced more by Chris’ unwavering demand that we leave as soon as possible. I’d be a lot more comfortable with $20,000. As of now, the beginning of December, I have $10,700. I have dramatically slashed my outgoing expenses and usually earn at least $500 a week. I’m on holiday for two weeks in January, but even then I should be able to earn another $7000 by the end of March, the latest possible departure date I’ve coaxed out of my compatriot.

It’s sort of hard to tell how much these things will cost. We’ll be travelling almost exclusively through third world countries where you can live on dollars a day, plan to use couchsurfing.com extensively, and have a total of three definite flights: Australia-Malaysia, Russia-Egypt, South Africa-Argentina/Chile. (I don’t include the flight from Canada back home as part of expenses, because I’ll either be broke and have to wire my Dad for some money and then pay him back when I get home, or I won’t be tired of travelling and will get a working holiday visa and try to find a job in Canada.) The vague estimates you can get from online travel calculators and guides suggest the $15,000 to $20,000 figure is fairly accurate.

Chris is several thousand dollars ahead of me, since he had a long period of gainful employment at Mornington Wilderness Camp at the same time that I was cutting my losses and escaping a South Korean hagwon in the dead of night. He also has stuff like a guitar and piano and motorcycle and 4WD he can hock before he leaves, whereas I have a Hyundai Excel worth maybe $400 and absolutely nothing else. He also earns roughly the same amount as me, so I don’t really have any chance of catching up to him unless I break his arms and put him out of work for six weeks. Ideally we’d both have some cash left over at the end of this trip, but I can’t help but look at that long list of countries (and more than a year of travelling!) and believe that either of us will have a cent to our name when we’re done.

Money’s a weird thing.

My sister scanned and emailed me this today:

There you have it, folks! For just $180 and a lot of bureaucratic hoop-jumping, you too can become a citizen of a country that you’ve never been to!

OK, so you have to have a grandparent born in Ireland too, but my cousin got Italian citizenship through her Italian grandparents, and I’m pretty sure the UK has a similar thing going on. This suggests that a lot of other European countries have citizenship-by-descent arrangements too. And in any country of immigrants like Australia or the US, there’s a lot of people with foreign grandparents.

The reason this is so useful is because of Europe’s attempt to amalgamate itself into a dysfunctional American-style union to regain its past glory. Having Irish citizenship automatically grants me European Union citizenship, allowing me to live and work anywhere in Europe. As I am just entering my early twenties and plan to spend a lot of time out of Australia, this will come in handy.

Another benefit is having a second passport. Even if you never plan to go to the country you’re a citizen of, a second passport can come in handy. There have been several times here in Korea when I’ve had to surrender my Australian passport to government institutions (once for an entire week) and it makes me distinctly uneasy to be in a foreign land without it.

I strongly advise anyone who plans to travel to take a look at their family tree and see if they can acquire dual citizenship. Well worth the time and money.

Matt Harding is one of my personal heroes. He’s the guy who earned his 15 minutes of fame by dancing badly around the world, becoming a fairly popular YouTube sensation (first video, second video, third video).

A YouTube celebrity might be a weird person to idolise, but I find him really inspiring. He was a backpacker before he ever became an Internet hit, and he writes what is easily the wittiest and most insightful travel blog I’ve ever read (my favourite entry, in which he conquers Kilimanjaro). A lot of travel writers like to think they’re Cormac McCarthy and babble on as poetically as possible about the landscape, with a few observations on the human condition thrown in for good measure. Everytime they hop on a plane they have a fucking epiphany. Matt, on the other hand, has an accessible writing style that’s full of rants and wisecracks, making it all the more surprising when he throws in his own observations on human nature – and a lot more profound. He makes travelling the world seem like fun. Reading his blog was a significant factor in my own desire to hit the road.

And he’s written a book, which is apparently not selling well, but which you can buy! If I wasn’t about to fly to another country in two days I’d definitely buy it myself. But even if you don’t, you should at least check out the hundreds of thousands of words he has typed detailing his travels to over 65 countries on all seven continents.

Choice picks:
Calcutta, India – Touching The Untouchables
Mahe, Seychelles – Chasing The World’s Biggest Fish
Singapore – The Policeman Inside
Samos, Greece – Road To Ephesus
New York – The Blackout

I put up the free map that came with my gap year travel book and have started throwing darts at it. I have no intention of going to Greenland, but it’s fun to do.

Last night I went to Mike’s house and helped him plan out what he’s going to do on the way home from his stint at Camp Schodack. We hooked his laptop up to the projector and, in MS Paint, put red dots and lines all over the CIA World Factbook Map that was now emblazoned across his entire living room wall. New York, Orlando, London, Paris, Munich, Barcelona, Cairo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the myriad air routes in between.

I wonder how many thousands of commercial aircraft there are in the sky at any given moment. I wonder how many ferries and trains and buses, how many millions of people in transit.

There’s in island in the Andamans, an Indian archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, called North Sentinel Island. Anyone can find it on a map. It’s inhabited by a tribe of uncontacted people, who are hostile to the outside world, who still hunt with spears and bows and arrows. In the 1980s a container ship washed up on their shores after a storm, and helicopters had to be dispatched to rescue the crew because the Sentinelese were attacking them. After the tsunami in 2004, the Indian government sent a chopper to see if they were still there, and the pilot responded in the affirmitive, because wooden arrows were bouncing off the undercarriage.

My cousin Georgie is a flight attendant for Qantas, based out of London. I was taking to her on Facebook at 1 am the other night, and announced that if I decide I hate Korea, then I’m taking a ferry from Incheon to Tianjin, a train to Beijing, the Trans-Siberian across Mongolia and Russia, and then a plane from Moscow to London, where I will sleep on her couch until Mike shows up and we can all bum around Europe together. I did the calculations this morning, and taking the Tran-Siberian would only cost about fifty or a hundred dollars less than a direct Seoul-London ticket. But then, it’s not really about saving money.

The longest non-stop flight in the world is Singapore Airlines Flight 21, an eighteen hour haul from Singapore to Newark. Because of the curvature of the globe it doesn’t cross the Pacific, but goes north/south, directly up over Asia and the Arctic Ocean and then down across Canada. Imagine being a pilot on that flight. You get up, shave, have breakfast, go to work, and ten hours later you’re above an iceberg choked sea with the rainbow colours of the Northern Lights playing across your cockpit windshield.

After playing around with the map, Mike and I went to Ranger Camping and Anaconda to look at backpacks. I need a good solid one for Korea and whatever comes after. I’ve sworn off Denali after the duffel bag I bought for Japan split open on the last day of the trip and ejected my possessions across the train station in Hiroshima. Right now I’m eyeing off a Black Wolf Cuba, for around $220.

There are cruise ships to Antarctica. Package tours to Mt. Everest. You can get dunked into the water with great white sharks in South Africa, swim with humpback whales in Tonga, hike into the mountains to see silverback gorillas in Uganda.

Chris has made it through the wall of adjustment up in the Kimberley, and is starting to enjoy himself. He sent me a photo of him sitting in a tree that was leaning out over a pool in a rocky red gorge, that classic Australian outback image. We’re spinning out wild ideas about travelling overland from Cape Froward to Murchison Promonotory. Via Central America or the Caribbean? There isn’t an unbroken chain of ferry services across the archipelago arc, but someone with enough time, money and determination could hang out in the ports waiting to hitch a ride on a private yacht or freighter. We’d have two of things. Central America has its own problems: the Darien Gap, a vast swathe of undeveloped jungle and swampland connecting Panama and Colombia, no roads or railways, inhabited by several different groups of guerilla fighters with a penchant for taking Western hostages.

There’s a guy called Karl Bushby who is walking overland from Cape Horn back to his house in England, an enterprise he calls “The Goliath Expedition.” He started in 1998 and he’s currently in Russia. He walked across the frozen Bering Strait.

By the end of this year I will be a dual citizen of Australia and Ireland. The way things are going, I’ll soon be able to live and work anywhere in the European Union.

The fabled snows of Kilimanjaro are shrinking, and in twenty years they’ll be gone. The islands of the South Pacific are slowly sinking beneath the waves. Cuba can’t stay a stronghold of socialism forever, and when the embargo goes, so will all the vintage cars. Last year the King of Nepal was forced to abdicate the throne, and one day there will be no more kings and queens and emperors, just bland presidencies and parliaments.

Zanzibar and Timbuktu and Xanadu are real places.

There are 203 sovereign nations in the world. I can name all of them, even the obscure ones – Bhutan, Burundi, Cape Verde, Nauru, Kiribati, Moldova, Azerbaijan – and I can place them on a map. But I’ve only been to three of them. I don’t know shit.

I still haven’t swum with whale sharks. I’ve never crossed the equator while awake. I’ve never set foot on the mainland of any continent except Australia.

I’m really tired of Perth. I’m tired of these endless suburbs, of the same people, of the same places, of the thousand kilometres of concrete curbs and roads and footpaths, of the eucalyptus trees and the shopping centres. I’m tired of my routine. I’m tired of having nothing to challenge me. I’m tired of the feeling that my life is being stripped away, second by second.

If everything goes well, then in a month I’ll be sitting in the departure lounge of Changi Airport as a stopover enroute to Seoul. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to teach kids, or live alone in a foreign country. But I’m damn well going to give it a shot. And if it doesn’t work out, then I’ll fling myself on my cousin’s mercy. You don’t have to stay anywhere forever.

I like this stage in my life. I like the fact that the people closest to me are scattered across the globe – in the outback, in London, in America. I like the fact that we are at a stage in our lives where we’re travelling wherever we want, doing whatever we want, broadening our horizons and seeing as much as we can of this enormous, incomprehensible world. You can tell when you’re entering a new stage in your life: I knew I was when I started uni, and I know I am now. It’ll certainly last for five years. It might last for ten years. It could last the rest of my life.

“We all live in cages. We don’t want to admit it, but a lot of us walk in there voluntarily, cause the stuff outside can be really scary. We have these reasons why we can’t do stuff and they limit our options until we’re forced into whatever’s left. So we sit in there complaining about what we ended up with, and eventually we forget that there’s no lock on the door.

Well I figured out about the lock. I went outside and nothing bad happened. I got some weird looks from people, but no one tried to stop me and I’m still prancing around outside the cage. I don’t want to get back in.

Planet Earth is a hoot. It’s not all hidden lagoons and virgin rainforests; there’s lots of awful shit to deal with. But that can be fun too.”

– Matt Harding
www.wherethehellismatt.com

japan

It’s not as weird as I thought it would be. I remember once saying that Japan was as alien a culture as one will find while still remaining on Earth. I’m not sure about that anymore. (Perhaps an Islamic theocracy?) I had no “Lost In Translation” moments. I didn’t feel alienated or freaked out threatened, even when travelling alone. Nor did I ever feel unsafe, even on the Osaka subway at 5:00 am. (I did get very homesick while I was sick, but that’s to be expected.)

Everybody is very committed to their job, even at McDonalds. They rush and shout and perform their duties to the best of their ability. They are exceedingly polite. Contrast this with the slack-jawed pimple-faced service you receive in Karrinyup or Innaloo. (Note, however, that I prefer our method, because I too have a job. It suits me just fine to receive that kind of zealous service, unless I have to give it in return.)

It’s very clean – but there are virtually no rubbish bins. If you buy some food or a drink on the go, be prepared to carry the wrapper or can around with you for a very long time.

Smoking is a lot more accepted – there are cigarette vending machines, and established smoking rooms in airports and train stations.

A lot of things surprised me. In Tokyo, most of the shops shut around 10 pm and the trains don’t run past midnight. This is in the largest city in the world, with a population higher than my entire country.

Everything is efficient and fast. The train system is amazing – a new one along every five minutes – and the airports are excellent. Returning to Perth, and standing in line for our baggage for about half an hour, was like having our faces plunged into a trough of freezing water by a burly debt collector.

And I loved it all. I loved travelling, checking into hostels, living on the cheap. It’s a hassle when you’re dragging your bags through train stations, but there are few feelings in the world sweeter than dropping all your crap off in a hostel room and finally being free to explore the city. In short, I cannot wait to go around the world for a year.

japan-2

Unfortunately, Japan was exceedingly expensive – about eight grand all up. As Chris put it while we were sliding down the slopes of Niseko, “We’re doing something rich people do… but we’re not rich.” It exhausted our funds – he is now two grand in the hole, while I spent nearly every dollar I earned throughout my university years. We could have travelled for approximately four or five months in the third world on that much money.

I don’t regret it at all – it was an amazing trip and one of the best things I’ve done in my life – but it does present a problem. If we want to set off at any point in the near future (tentative date, early 2010) we need about $20, 000. Last year that wouldn’t have been a problem. Now, thanks to the cigar-smoking Wall Street fatcats… well. There was an article in the West Australian today about a supermarket deli in Belmont that advertised a position for sales assistant and received 150 applications.

I work as a sales assistant in a supermarket deli.

My plan was to ditch that and try to find a bookstore job this year, but now the concept of “job security” has politely cleared its throat. I need full-time work. I do not want to do that in the deli. I’m sick of cleaning ovens and racks and trays every day, of slicing meat and serving old women. Unfortunately, I now appear to be locked in. I applied to Angus & Robertson and Boffins today. I doubt I will be successful.

I would be open to the idea of combining travel and work, provided it could get me twenty grand by next February. My friend Mike is returning to Camp America this year – but that ends up costing you more than you earn. You can teach English in East Asia with a university degree in any field – but that’s a one-year contract minimum, and applications don’t open until later in the year. You can crew on a yacht with zero experience, but you don’t get paid either.

I’m trapped in this wretched city for a year. Oh well. Maybe I can finish End Times.

japan-3

So I’m going to Japan in February.

Chris and I sort of just got offered by some friends who were cobbling a trip together, and had to decide within two days, because they’re putting a deposit down tomorrow. So this evening we drove to the ATM row at Carine Glades, well after dark, in the seedy deserted carpark with plenty of shadowy nooks and crannies, and withdrew massive amounts of money. “How much do we need again?” I called out to Chris, who was at the NAB terminal about ten metres away. “Eight hundred and fifty dollars!” he yelled back. “Eight hundred and fifty! Cash!”

And then we went to the pub and handed it over to our cohorts and now we’re LOCKED IN WITHOUT ESCAPE

The ultimate dollar tag (or should i say YEN TAG LOL) hovers somewhere around the six grand mark. I grit my teeth when I write that, as though I was passing a particularly large stool. The money itself holds no intrinsic worth to me, but it pushes back the start date of the ROUND THE WORLD TRIP by an unknown amount. Originally the ideal plan had us blowing this joint sometime around June or July in ’09, but now… who knows?

The thing is, the round the world trip is still something of a pipe dream. We’ve done no planning for it beyond the fun looking at a map stage. Whereas the Japan trip is very real and very solid, with the added bonus of the planning already having been done for us. We basically just plonk our money down on the table and get ten days of snowboarding in Hokkaido, and another ten days in Kyoto or Osaka. It’s going to be fucking awesome, but by jigger my wallet hurts. The pain reaches right through my jeans and skin and into my very soul. And becuase Chris will now accuse me of being a Negative Nancy I have to add JAPAN HURRAY HAPPY FAMILY FUN TIME BONANZA

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