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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 were doing some trip-planning last night when I noticed a link to an article on Lonely Planet titled “Learning to love Seoul.” I thought “lol that’s a HARD LESSON!” and clicked on it, and was quite surprised to see myself quoted in it:

And yet on this website recently one reader hazed Seoul for being an ‘appallingly repetitive sprawl of freeways and Soviet-style concrete apartment buildings, horribly polluted, with no heart or spirit to it.’ What gives?

They cut off the most important part, though: “So oppressively bland that the populace is driven to alcoholism.”

Now, we all know that my loathsome job harshly influenced my perception of Korea, but I do think Lonely Planet has the tendency to make pretty much any location on Earth sound fantastic. It sells guidebooks, after all.

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

Picking a title for a blog is hard.

I considered quite a few. Names that suggested a writing theme (such as “Inkwell” or “Fountain Pen”) were invariably reserved. Names that suggested literary pretension (such as “The Den” or “The Library”) didn’t sound quite right. At one point I decided to simply name it “Hack” – probably after listening to Triple J – but of course, such a simple name was already taken. Looking information up on trusty ol’ Wikipedia, I followed a few links and found a name that seemed perfectly suitable: Grub Street. To paraphrase from the article:

Until the early 1800s, Grub Street was the name of a street in London’s impoverished Moorfields district. In the 1700s and 1800s, the street was famous for its concentration of mediocre, impoverished ‘hack writers’, aspiring poets, and low-end publishers and booksellers, who existed on the margins of the journalistic and literary scene. Grub Street’s bohemian, impoverished literary scene was set amidst the poor neighbourhood’s low-rent flophouses, brothels, and coffeehouses.

Perfect. I’m an aspiring writer who will probably amount to nothing more than a hack, and the name certainly has a ring to it. Unfortunately some asshole, who hasn’t updated in over a year, already took the name. I considered naming the blog after some obscure location where Maria Edgeworth once lived and wrote, considering I may very well be a descendant of hers, but alas – she lived in exceedingly boring places. I also tried looking for a place where James Joyce once lived (surely Dublin would have interesting names?) but unfortunately he suffered from the same problem as Maria, and in any case I thought it might be just a little too pretentious to name my hosted website of frivolous scribbles after a literary great whom I’ve never read.

So I went crawling back to Grub Street, affixed the word “hack” to the end of the username and here we are. I could do better, probably, but I’ll only end up abandoning this after a few posts anyway.

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