Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Working & Holidaying Down Under: Visa Info & Tips for the Big Move!

I've decided to create this post because I still get heaps of people contacting me asking for advice on how to go about planning a year in Australia. I'm still very happy to answer individual questions, but here's a go-to for all you Aussie-lovers and/or wannabes out there...

Working Holiday Visa

Basically, if you are between 18 and 30 years of age (have to apply before your 30th birthday so technically you can be 31 while under a WHV) and have not obtained the same visa in the same country, you are most likely eligible to live in that country for up to 12 months! How awesome is that?! For all the facts, check out this link. In Australia, you can even stay a second year if you pick fruit for three months! (Really wish I had been able to do this.) If you think there is even the slightest chance you'll want to stay longer than a year, I recommend looking into this and doing it sooner than later. 

Obtaining a WHV is very easy. All you have to do is fill out the form online. My application was approved within 24 hours. Make sure you are set on going because (1) it's a once-in-a-lifetime visa and (2) you have a deadline to set foot in the country after receiving your visa approval (I believe it's 90 days). You are able to come and go as you please, but you only get 12 months from the date you land in Australia under this visa. Again, you can find all this info on the website.

A little overwhelmed? No worries, mate. There are plenty of resources to help you on your way.  

Many of the emails I receive are in regards to Cultural Embrace, an organization dedicated to getting more young people out in the world, whether to teach, volunteer, intern, work, or just play! I went through CE when planning my big trip across the world. Although I'm glad I did this, I would not necessarily say it's for everyone and this is specifically in regards to the Work in Australia program. To get a better idea of how this program (or ones like it) may or may not benefit you, I have created two lists:

Reasons you should consider CE when planning your big move:

  • You have never travled by yourself or have never lived in foreign country before. Venturing out on your own, especially to live for an extended period of time can be scary. Thus, it can be comforting to have the help of an organization to get you there, make sure all the t's and i's are crossed and dotted before you land, and assist in getting you settled those first overwhelming days. CE set up an airport pickup, the first few days of lodging for me, and an orientation with the Work and Travel Company in Sydney, which was a fantastic intro to the Australian culture as well as a place that set me up with necessities like a cell phone, bank account, and social events with other WTC members.*
  • You want to get there ASAP! When I made the decision to go live in Australia, I wanted to leave the next day! Slight exaggeration, but I didn't want to stay any longer than I had to. CE helped in this way because they knew exactly what I needed to accomplish before leaving and guided me along the way. They provide you with a check-list, contacts/links, and take care of some of the business for you so you can concentrate on packing. 
  • There's a good chance you won't stop traveling after this adventure. Be sure to cruise around CE's website. They offer tons of different kinds of programs. Some of these may take place in a country with a different native language or with stricter visa restrictions. You may benefit from CE's assistance with these programs. If you go through them once, you'll be guaranteed more discounts in future expeditions.
  • You appreciate reliable and friendly serviceI gotta say, the people over in the CE office really do take care of you. From the moment I showed interest in their program, I was assigned to one representative who was my point of contact throughout the entire process. She was always there to answer questions, got back to me immediately if I left her a message or wrote her an email, checked in with me constantly, and all the while very attentive to my needs and concerns. If for any reason she was out of the office for a few days, another staff member would take over with ease.  
*If social events and connecting with others is a big concern as a solo traveler, please don't forget there are fantastic social networks out there now for travelers, ones I wish I had known about when I first set foot in a foreign land. While preparing for you trip, make sure to check out sites like Tripping and Meetup. If you're anything like me, you're going to want to immerse yourself in your new culture by meeting locals- people outside the backpackers' bars. 

Reasons you probably don't need CE to plan your trip:

  • You have traveled alone or lived abroad before. If you are an experienced independent travler, you may not need the guidance or assistance of such programs. For me, it was nice to be connected to an organization simply to make the big move a little less hectic and difficult. However, now that I have done the year away on my own, I probably wouldn't need to go through something like this (at least not for the same type of trip and in an English-speaking country).
  • Your main concern is employment and/or housing. I hate to say it, but from my experience, I had to find a place to live and work on my own. CE did hook me up with WTC, for which I am grateful. For the first couple months, I was in the WTC office all the time and it was an extremely helpful resource as far as always being able to answer my questions and better acquaint me with life in Australia. However, they do not guarantee job placement or finding you a place to stay. Sure they can book hostel dorms for you and they have some listings posted on their bulletin boards, but these are limited and you'll find yourself waiting around for a job this way. I should say that if you have no preference in how you make money while you're there, they do have plenty of labor-intensive factory jobs. I for one wanted a job in which I could meet people and be engaged in the aussie lifestyle aka hospitality. It wasn't until I printed out about 30 resumes and spent a day cruising the streets of Sydney speaking to as many managers as I could that I nailed a job. Despite the blisters, I got to know the city very well in one day (I knew of places and streets that some of my aussie flatmates hadn't heard of). In addition to this, the job I did get lead to another job once my six months were up (WHV time limit for each employer). Hospitality is great this way. Plus both jobs were really fun and I was able to make great friends from them (and in Australia, the hourly wage is WAY better than the US). As far as housing goes, I found my place through Gumtree. There are heaps of ads posted here every day. 
  • You're on a strict budgetThis program was not cheap (and I believe the price goes up every year). It does get you hostel discounts, a WTC membership which provides more discounts on various attractions, etc. So depending on what you intend on doing while away, this could be cost-beneficial. The YHA discounts were nice when I was traveling around, but I didn't spend my year backpacking like many on the WHV do. This leads me to my concluding point:
  • You have time to do some research. Unlike me, you may have more time (read: more patience) to plan your trip. Therefore, you can really establish your cost-benefit analysis. Maybe the fees are worth it in the end. Maybe you feel confident in figuring it all out on your own. Time will tell. Literally.  

  1. First and foremost, you need to take advantage of this visa regardless of which way you go about obtaining it and what you decide to do once you have. Remember: once in a lifetime!
  2. If you're not sure where to go, check out Cultural Embrace for great ideas and keep an eye out for specials by signing up for their newsletter or liking their facebook page.
  3. If you're not sure where to go, pick Australia! You won't regret it. Trust me. 
  4. If you have any further questions about the Australian immigration/WHV, working in Australia, anything about Sydney or my personal experience, please do not hesitate to contact me: lauren.nicholl@gmail.com

Hope this was helpful! I love hearing about people's travel experiences, especially down under, so make sure to share your thoughts! "Ta!"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tourist in Her Own Town- Second Stop: Crissy Field

I went to meet some Tripping peeps to film our diski dance video (stay tuned) promoting cultural exchange/ the World Cup. Getting to the Presidio from Vallejo was not a pleasant journey due to the normal Bay Bridge traffic so needless to say, I arrived 45 minutes late and not in the best of moods. At this point, I just wanted to get this over with and move on with my day.

My mood immediately one-eighty'ed however once I stepped out of the car. I felt the sun's warmth, the bay's breeze, and soon after caught the breathtaking sights of San Francisco. Hello home! I had only been to the Presidio a couple of times prior to this. Both times were at night and I was lost so the scenery received very little of my attention. It literally is a breath of fresh air in/out of the city.

Right: Butterscotch- our tripod/audience/critic 

After trying to make the best of our filming and choreography "skills" in the midst of families flying kites, couples running, and out-of-towners on bike tours, we called it a wrap. The rest of the group went on with their days, but I couldn't leave, not just yet. Yes, I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge countless times and have probably snapped over a dozen pictures of Alcatraz, but I have this condition: have camera, will photograph. Uber-touristy spots not excluded. (When I lived in Sydney, if I was walking or ferrying by the Opera House, I could not not take a picture. It was like my camera had a mind of its own. Opera House pictures probably take up a gig on my laptop.)

After taking some photos of all the necessary sights, I still didn't want to leave. So what if I had things to do and that I was already 45 minutes behind schedule? It was so beautiful out and I was thoroughly enjoying being a tourist. So I went into the Warm Hut Bookstore and Cafe to have a browse of all the SF souvenirs and memorabilia and grab a little bite and a large iced coffee. I had my own picnic table outside in the sun with my own impeccable view of Alcatraz and the city. I don't even know how long I sat there, but while soaking up the vitamin D I soaked up the plethora of surrounding languages and amused myself with thoughts of hypothetical journeys these tourists were on. Usually I would be envious of such travelers, but hey, today I got to be one of them, even if only for an afternoon. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tourist In Her Own Town- First Stop: AT&T Park

One of the many things on my list as a new San Franciscan has been to go to a Giant game! It's one of those things that I feel needs to be checked off one's list as part of the initiation process or something.

To be clear, I will always be a Padres girl. I will probably eventually be a Giants fan (once I am fully initiated I suppose), but they will never take the friar-shaped spot in my heart.

At last night's game I wore Dodgers colors. I'm still pretty indifferent at this point, but Lindsey gave me the ticket and she's a die-hard Dodgers fan. So I wore blue and white to support her. (Plus I grew up with a Dodgers dad so it wasn't too much of a stretch.)

Things I learned from my first AT&T Park experience:

1. Giants HATE the Dodgers. I couldn't believe how many "Beat LA" and "Dodgers Suck" shirts there were and other such "Beat LA" logos scattered throughout the stadium. With that being said, I was surprised at the turn-out on a Monday night and impressed with how much blue occupied the seats. Padres games are great, but they are never these heated. This made it a slightly different baseball experience.

2. Giants stadium is very pretty. Reminds me of Petco- right on the water, intimate, clean, close to downtown with plenty of great happy hour/ pre-game bars to frequent.

3. Talk about microclimates! There are 50 in the seven-mile city apparently. I think I experienced at least five within the three hours I was sitting in one spot. I'm still slowly learning how to properly layer in the city and I think the Giants stadium deserves its own chapter in the manual.

All-in-all baseball games are always fun and this was no exception. I may not be a die-hard Giants fan quite yet (or ever- I'm still uneasy about the prospect), but I can confidently label myself a big fan of San Francisco. This isn't news, but I find this love reinforced with every new experience. It's a different kind of tourism exploring a city knowing it's your new home.

Monday, June 28, 2010

@WanderLoz Get the Best of Where You Are!

It's Monday. The weekend festivities have drained from my system. I've had a full night's rest and a venti iced coffee. I'm ready to take on a new week.

Besides the ridiculous amount of caffeine in my system, I have the inspiration of others fueling my enthusiasm this morning. Last week and through the weekend I have been living vicariously through all the attendees at the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) in New York City via Twitter. I have been an avid travel blog follower since returning to the states after a year away. I've found a comfort in reading about others' traveling experiences. It reminds me that the world will always be there for me to explore regardless of age, relationships, circumstance. As long as you have dreams, you have the power to pursue and reach them. The idea of being surrounded by like-minded and travel-driven individuals for an entire weekend in one of the world's most exciting cities kept me glued to my computer screen for the better part of my days last week (as if I'm not already).

There are so many amazing blogs out there that I find myself spending more time reading them and less time working on my own (hence no entries this month). I figure these people are actually exploring the world. They're out there doing incredible things. I'm stagnant. I'm just trying to find a job so I can (1) pay off my debts from last year's adventures and (2) save for the next trip. That's not exciting.

It has occurred to me recently that okay, I may not be hiking Machu Picchu or tripping across Southeast Asia, but I am experiencing a new chapter, one that I am sure to learn from, in a city that many people dream to visit. In addition, I have been places and therefore have my own words of wisdom I'd like to think.

I had already been thinking about how I need to document my thoughts and experiences more in order to be better prepared to do so when I do make that round the world trip. This point was reinforced by Christine Gilbert of AlmostFearless in her interview by RunawayJane (see her answer to no.3). Another blog worth mentioning and a particular post that moved me this morning is by OverYonderlust. Words written by these fellow travelers keep me grounded and life in perspective and for this I am grateful. Lastly, it was TravelholicA's tweet (see title) that affirmed my recent thoughts and set this post in motion...

As this is already getting a bit lengthy, I will conclude this entry with what I had originally intended on writing about: San Francisco. This is the beautiful city I am now exploring and this past weekend happened to be PRIDE, one of the many festivals that make this city so vibrant, colorful, and alive. It is something I am passionate about and something that made me proud to be here and nowhere else in the world. I am lucky to be in a city that is open and accepting to all walks of life; a city that offers something to any and all cultures; a city so technologically driven and exciting to be a part of today.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Still Slightly Upside-Down and Backwards

It's really depressing when it suddenly dawns on me that I'm no longer a Sydneysider. Don't worry, I'm not crazy. I am fully aware that I don't live in Sydney anymore, but every once in a while I'll realize the Aussie in me is not as present as the day before.

To elaborate, today I realized that I no longer "speak in questions" as my American friend once pointed out when he came to visit me in Sydney. I've lost the heightened inflection at the end of my sentences that was once so natural to me. It's like losing your sexy sick voice- you always expected it to go back to normal, and you may not notice when it does, but when you do, you can't help but miss it. I'm not even really sure how it sounds anymore; I can't even fake it. :(

I still find myself walking on the left side of busy sidewalks. I find it amusing because it used to drive me crazy when tourists would walk on the right side in Sydney and not recognize and adapt to the Australian way of pedestrian etiquette. Now, instead of moving over to the right side, I keep to the left. I think it's a sad attempt to stay connected to my life down under. (I do move to the right on escalators- don't want to upset people at the bart station.)
I am happy to say that even though I find it difficult to stick to the right side of sidewalks, I am once again a confident driver in the states and always stick to the right side of the road (it did take a brief and somewhat frightening period of second-guessing).

Although it is difficult to keep up a working vocabulary of Australian lingo, there are some words I refuse to give up, despite the confusion it may cause with my friends here. Usually I can get by with things like "brekky" (breakfast) or "sunnies" (sunglasses) due to their obvious derivatives and the fact that my friends aren't stupid. I love "arvo" (afternoon) and I can't get it out of my head so I'll use it regularly (most of my friends know it now and some of them even use it!). "Cheers" and "heaps" will always be a part of my regular jargon and occasionally I'll reply "that's alright" instead of "you're welcome". I still find myself answering questions starting with "yeah..." (For instance if someone asks how my day's going- "yeah, it's been good, thanks.") I still have to double check if I'm using "entree" properly (here= main course; oz= starter). I get weird looks when I order a glass of "cab sauv" (vs. "cab"). It's strange that one year away can trump 23 years at home when it comes to how I walk and talk. Although such exchanges may cause confusion, I enjoy it because it allows me to explain a part of Australia and thus a part of me.

Despite the faded Aussie in me, "Lozza" is still there. She will never leave. That is the beauty of travel- the act itself is inherently temporary, but the impressions it leaves are permanent. I'll wrap this up with one of my favourite quotes (that's the other thing, I have to constantly check my spelling- I'm just going to leave that for effect): "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." - G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, May 20, 2010

That's Amore!

I read a great blog post about a dining experience that may have lasted too long and cost too much, but ended up being a memorable meal, not only in the food itself, but in the hospitality and service. The writer asked for readers to share their stories and I felt compelled. After writing it all out, I was having trouble posting it for some reason, so I thought I'd at least share it on my blog:

This reminds me of a dining experience I had in Melbourne, Australia at Mulatta, a quaint, authentic Italian restaurant on the upscale Chapel Street. I took a train and trekked about 20 blocks after a full-day in the St. Kilda sun. I was more tired than hungry and definitely had already spent my weekend's budget. However, I promised my aunt and uncle that I would go try "the best pizza in the world" (this coming from my aunt who was born and raised in Abruzzo, Italy and is probably the best Italian cook I've ever met). They had spent a few months in Melbourne and after discovering Mulatta, would frequent there a few times a week, and soon became a part of the staff's family. So being that it was my last night in Melbourne, I felt obligated...

I got an uneasy feeling walking down Chapel Street unable to ignore the plethora of designer shops and people out dressed to the nines. This was not going to be a cheap meal. And to add to it, my hostel roommate was originally going to accompany me, but decided to save her dollars and stay in. This was all on me.

I finally found Mulatta. It was a perfect spot for a nice date with the candlelit white table cloths. Too bad I was by myself. The owner wasn't in, but I found the manager on duty and mentioned the names of my aunt and uncle. When he realized who I was talking about he almost leapt for joy. So passionate; so Italian. He immediately had a table set for me and as I was looking over the wine list, he had a full antipasto platter sent to my table.

I couldn't help but get caught up in the romance of the Mediterranean atmosphere so I ordered a glass of Chianti. The menu was extensive to say the least- the pizza alone took up about four pages (each one somewhere around $20). At least I'd probably have lunch for tomorrow? The food was phenomenal. The mozzarella was so light and creamy, the meat was so fresh, the flavors out of this world. As I enjoyed my delicious starter and the colorful conversations around me, my waitress came around and topped up my wine (uh-oh, I hope she knows I didn't want a bottle). The pizza came and I was already filling up, but one slice was definitely not enough. I swear I forgot I was in Australia for a minute.

As I indulged in the "best pizza in the world" and my second (or third) glass of wine, the manager came and sat with me for a while and we exchanged stories. When he had to tend to his job, another waiter came and took his place. He knew my aunt and uncle well and had so much fun telling me stories about their time there. This night was picking up. I came in alone, but over dinner, had the pleasure of TWO dates with very attractive Italian men. Meanwhile, the waitress made sure my glass was never empty... I could only eat half of the pizza and I was busting at the seems, but I was so so happy. Of course, they insisted I had dessert. I could not physically endure another bite. I resisted. I was perfectly content with my wine and my company. I guess I stuck around too long though because eventually they persuaded me to "try" a "little" gelato. They brought out THREE scoops of gelato! And I'm pretty sure I ate all of it.

Almost three hours had passed and this had become such a highlight to my weekend, I didn't care how large my bill was (plus I had a whole bottle of Chianti in me- nothing could upset me). I approached my waitress on my way back from the restroom to ask for the check. She told me not to worry about a thing. What? Nothing?! Not even the pizza??? I couldn't believe the hospitality. I got a chance to go back to Melbourne later in the year and brought a friend with me so I had someone with whom to share the amazing food, atmosphere, and people.

Salute... mate!

Where has the time gone?!

This seems to be the theme of my life at the moment.

1. My last blog post was over a week ago! Apologies (to whoever reads this thing aka Dad). Sometimes life gets crazy, no? I'm not complaining. I actually had somewhat of a social life last weekend...

Friday I spent all day shopping and crafting with college roommate Coco in preparation of my first Bay-to-Breakers experience (more on this later). It's been a while since I've made costumes (since Australia is not as into theme parties and Halloween- what I live for), so it was very fun, but also stressful due to the time crunch. This was reminiscent of my college years- costumes, procrastination, spending way too much money with Cokes. (PS. I just realized college was THREE years ago! What?! Seriously, when/how did that happen?)

It was my aunt's birthday so some family came up and we spent all of Saturday wine-tasting in Napa Valley. This was another exciting first for me. I had only been to Napa a couple times prior, but this was my first tasting there. For a lover of wine, I was in heaven at this event at the Napa Wine Company which featured hundreds of wines and amazing food to complement. I don't even want to think about how many glasses I probably ended up having. That evening I caught a ferry into the city to meet Lindsey at her Team-in-Training fundraiser. But went to bed early so I could wake up at 5:30am... to drink! (I didn't even do this for Picnic Day.)

Coco picked me up before 6am with the top of her friend's BMW convertible down and the music blasting (thank goodness for seat warmers). We go to her friend's place and start to get festive in our "party animal" costumes we worked so hard on. We got some bagels in our bellies to anchor the alcohol we were about to consume. I had two tequila shots by 7:30am. Oh man...

We filled up our 2 liter water bottles with "skip-n-go nakeds" (amazing combo of vodka, lemonade, and beer) and headed to Washington Square Park to meet the 160 "partymelons" and start the long B2B walk... You can probably guess how the rest of the day went. Needless to say, it was a great first B2B for me. :) But I think I'll lay off the booze for a little while...

2. I have a very intimate relationship with my computer. We have so much fun, time seems to just fly by when we're together...

Despite my recent lack of blogging, I am actually ALWAYS on my computer (when I'm not frolicking the streets of San Francisco in a kangaroo outfit). I have become OBSESSED with social media sites, travel blogs, start-ups, etc. I can't get enough. I flip open my macbook, and it's not just facebook I catch up on anymore, but twitter, StumbleUpon, the blogs I subscribe to, plus anywhere these sites take me. Turns out there is a whole other world outside of facebook! Crazy. And all of a sudden, it's five hours later and I've outlasted some of the Starbucks employees' shifts.

Don't worry, I am fulfilling a cause. I am actively networking and promoting Tripping. It's amazing how much you can do with social media nowadays. (I'm just hoping I will get paid for it someday.) I have also had a couple of meetings with the CEO of Tripping and she has given me even more ideas on ways I can spend quality time with my laptop. The love affair continues...

3. Umm, I'm 25 in three weeks?! W.T.F.

It's been my plan for over a year now that I would celebrate my 25th birthday in Vegas with my girlfriends. For one, it seems to be a good setting to deal with the "quarter-life crisis," but the main reason is that I've never been! And I think I might be the only one. I've been struggling with the mixed emotions about getting older; late-twenties is a big deal! I go back and forth with how and who I'm supposed to be at this point in my life. I'm still young, but getting past that point when "Vegas behavior" is acceptable. But that's the beauty of Vegas- in Vegas, nothing matters. And if I had a choice, I'd want my turning 25 to stay in Vegas.

But whoa. It's coming up! I have been so caught up in my relationship with my computer, that I've neglected my Vegas planning! This will hopefully be remedied tomorrow when I meet with Lindsey, my planning hero.

4. My blog posts always end up longer than intended, and thus, take a lot of time to write! Thanks for taking the time to read them. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day Four- Hey Soul Sister


quote of the day: "A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles." -Tim Cahill

today's destination: Regent Street, Paddington, Sydney, NSW

I received a text message at 6:45 this morning from my dear friend, Cass in Australia. I decided to dedicate this blog post to her and our experiences living together in Sydney.

First Impressions
Looking at several apartments and houses trying to find a place to settle in my new city, I had my share of interesting encounters. Plenty of nice people, but there weren't any with whom I particularly clicked. Cass was the one who answered the door at the share house on Regent Street... in a towel... dripping wet. Looking back, this was the perfect introduction because Cass is one of the most honest, uncensored, and approachable people I know. Luckily, the other four flatmates were lovely as well and I immediately agreed to move in.

Kindred Spirits
Right away, I knew Cass and I would be great friends. We balanced each other in a way that I don't think we even realized until we established this great friendship. And as much as we like to talk, it was one of those unspoken things. I found a sister in my sister city.

Tourists in Her Own Town
One thing Cass would constantly tell me was how me moving to her home made her recognize how much she loves it. She was ecstatic showing me around and introducing me to the Sydney she knows. She was as fascinated as I was about the differences between our cultures and loved learning from one another. We fed off of each other's excitement of Sydney. She would play hookie on a sunny Friday to take a ferry with me. She came home early from work to help me prepare a traditional Thankgiving dinner and I got to experience my first summer Christmas at her family's house. She also took advantage of her holiday time and we road tripped up the coast of NSW to Byron Bay, where we set up camp, got tattoos, and I learned how to drive a manual. :)

Helping Hands
When I stopped working, Cass found a smaller apartment and offered for me to stay there rent-free so that I could save money to travel. For this I am forever grateful and I can't wait to return the favor someday...

I can't guarantee that everyone will meet a Cass while tripping, but I hope that they do meet people that add balance and depth to their lives in some way, enjoy where they are at that moment, and lend a helping hand with even the smallest gesture. Whether a tripper or a host, there are never enough ways to appreciate and explore.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day Three- Lost in Translation


quote of the day: "To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries."- Aldous Husley

today's destination: Tokyo, Japan

I will never forget the culture shock I experienced in the outrageous city of Tokyo. If there's such a thing as a utopia, this place is the closest I've come to one. A few reasons why:
  • guns are illegal
  • 12 million people in a city and NO ONE gets in your personal space
  • you don't have to hold on to your valuables with a death grip
  • there is no trash on the street!
  • spirituality and serenity are present amidst the traffic and technology with the beautiful parks, temples, and gardens scattered throughout the city
  • people will never approach you to bother you, try to sell you something, or beg for money; however, if you need help, they won't leave your side until they get you to where you need to be
In regards to the people of Japan, I would describe them as incredibly helpful, efficient, and respectful. My family and I went to Japan through a AAA travel package. Everything was scheduled from our hotel check-ins to Mt. Fuji tour. Our itinerary would read "be in hotel lobby at 8:30am" and upon arrival we were greeted by a friendly Japanese man or woman who escorted us to a bus that took us to a train station where we were greeted by another person who had our tickets and took us to the tour company where we were passed off to our guide, etc., etc. Everything was structured and on-time, it was unreal.

Despite the extreme efficiency and organization, we had a very real experience with a local who was not on our itinerary and this encounter revealed how their linear way of thinking can almost be counter-productive...

I had a friend living in Tokyo at the time. He had been teaching English for a couple years and thus, was fluent in Japanese. He wanted to take us to a shop in Shibuya, but couldn't remember exactly which street it was on. So, naturally, he approached a lady on the street to ask for directions... in Japanese. She responded to him (in Japanese) saying she'll be right back; that she will get someone who speaks English. She quickly came back with a friend who spoke very broken English. While she was trying to give us directions with exaggerated gestures and few more words than "straight" and "right," Luke was responding in Japanese to show he understood. However, it never seemed to register that she could speak to him in the language he was speaking to her.

To add a bit of a visual, Luke is probably about 6'2", redhead with freckles- a "sore thumb" on the streets of Tokyo. My mom is Japanese (doesn't speak Japanese). My dad is white. Making my brother and I 'hybrids.' My mom was approached the most, followed by me and my brother, and the two white guys were barely noticed, even when Luke initiated the conversation... in Japanese!

There are many levels of culture shock and they affect all parties involved in different ways. It is most important to be sensitive to these differences while traveling. In addition to hosting and making connections with trippers around the world, don't pass up the opportunity to learn another language! Possibilities are endless while tripping!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day "Two"- Going Down?

DAY "TWO" (I apologize for failing the SECOND day of my blogging quest; however, I did not have access to the internet yesterday.)

quote of the day: "Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." -Benjamin Disraeli

today's destination: Melbourne, VIC

This weekend I stayed with Lindsey and joined her for a happy hour gathering with her running friends. One of these new acquaintances mentioned the word "Australia" and my ears perked. She's moving there. I just moved back from there. We bonded. She will be getting her Master's degree in the lovely, fashionable, artsy city of Melbourne. I was lucky enough to visit this enchanting city twice in my year down under.

I treated myself to a long weekend in Melbourne for my birthday last year. It was my first trip outside of NSW and I was going by myself. I checked into the new Central YHA early Thursday morning and walked ALL over the city. There is nothing quite like the excitement of the first day in a foreign city. And Melbourne is so delightfully different than Sydney. It has a different aesthetic, charm, and intimate feeling.

After a day of befriending Melbs, I befriended Sarah- my roommate for the weekend; a funny girl with one of the most entertaining accents from Oxford, England. Not only will I always remember the sing-songy way she talked, but I will never forget all the talking we got to do in the first hour of meeting, for we had the fortune of being stuck in the elevator on our way out to meet her friends for dinner. We were going down two floors by the way. Just as Sarah realized she left the beer in the fridge and had to go back up to the kitchen, we were halted by an unsettling jolt, followed by silence.

Of course the emergency phone wasn't working and we were forced to yell for help. Luckily the guy at the reception desk could hear us and we all established that we were stuck between floors. They had to call for support and we were told to hang tight... for an hour. Talk about a great way to get to know a person very quickly. It's just too bad she forgot the beers. They would have really helped settle our nerves for when the mechanic came and had to hoist us up little by little, each abrupt pull scarier than the last.

After climbing out of the lift once we were a few feet above the first floor, we gathered ourselves and thought of a plan B for dinner. Actually, we insisted the hostel treat us and they did :) a jug of beer and a couple pizzas in the restaurant downstairs. Sarah and I continued our "first date" and once our nerves were calmed with the first sips of James Boags, we actually had a great night. After dinner, I found myself so exhausted from the day's activity and the evening's commotion, I decided to stay in. Back up to the second floor. For the remainder of the weekend and the weekend I spent there three months later I only took the stairs.

*Don't forget to sign up for Tripping! Maybe the next time you're stuck in a lift in a foreign country, you'll at least be in good company...

Friday, May 7, 2010


For the next two weeks, I will be dedicating a blog post every day towards my promotion of an up-and-coming hospitality and travel website called Tripping.com. This may ring a bell from my previous post about the Around-the-World Contest. Well, unfortunately I was not crowned the winner; however, I would like to thank those who did reference me and let you know that you still helped me out tremendously. Soon after the contest was completed, the CEO contacted me inviting me to try out for their Social Media Board. This is a company and a cause I am very passionate about so for those of you who didn't get a chance to help me out in the contest, you can still make a profile and help me in promoting Tripping and getting a seat on the board! And really, it will benefit you more than anyone in the end.

So every day until May 23rd, I will be posting up facts about Tripping.com in addition to travel quotes and anecdotes from my own travel experiences. One of my biggest regrets is not documenting my trips in writing. But I figure, why not do it now? Luckily, I have always been good at capturing my travels on "film" so I have plenty of photos to help me tell these stories...


quote of the day (from one of my favorite authors): "To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." - Bill Bryson

today's destination: London, England

Almost four years ago, a new friend and I decided to travel together for a couple weeks before our respective study abroad programs. Our first stop was London, a first for both of us. This was also the first time either of us had traveled by ourselves and landing in a foreign country gave us an overpowering sense of freedom and courage. After a nine-hour flight (side note: happened to be the day of the liquid bomb scare at Heathrow airport- luckily we were in the air when all this was going on) and figuring out the "tube" system, we dropped our bags and hit the town.

We cheers-ed at Cheers (a touristy bar in Picadilly Circus) and toasted to a new adventure, one where we could do anything and be anyone. With all the new-found courage (with a push from my shot of tequila no doubt) I decided to be daring and go up to an attractive young chap on the other side of the bar. He turned out to be a lovely Londoner having a boys' night with his brother and friends. We ended up having a few drinks and dancing the night away. Their friend picked us up from the bar and they all decided to give me and Lindsey a tour of their beautiful city. They showed us all the famous spots- Big Ben/ Parliament, the Eye, etc.

In the midst of our tour, we had an encounter with the London police. We were pulled over for having too many people in the backseat. Really? We're gonna get a ticket our first night in a new country? It was really difficult to take these guys seriously- not only were they wearing these ridiculous hats, but they were SO cheerful and friendly. We made friends with them, took photos with them, and were let off with a "warning." So far, London rocks.

We continued to drink and dance the night away at one of our new friends' flats. He had a beautiful view of Ben and we danced on the balcony until the sun came up. Perfect first night of our trip.

Since that night... I traveled around Western Europe for six weeks and had an overnight layover in London on my way home. I had gotten in touch with the brothers and they invited me to stay with them for the ten hours or so until my flight. When arriving at the flat, I was greeted like an old friend. They had friends and family over, bought me a bottle of tequila remembering that's what I was drinking that first night, and we celebrated in our old fashion until I got back on the plane. Full circle.
The following summer, Lindsey and I (now the best of friends from our traveling) found ourselves in Europe again and were going to stop in London for a few days on our way home. We hadn't spoken to our London friends much since we last saw them, but thanks to facebook, we got in touch and they were more than happy to host us for the weekend. Being at the end of our trip and seeing as how expensive this city is, we were more than grateful. And we ended up having the best time not doing anything touristy and just hanging out with our local friends for three days.
This past week, that attractive chap I approached all those years ago happened to be in Los Angeles on a business trip. It was his first time in the states and he asked if I could be his host this time. It was so fun being a tourist with him. I hadn't looked at LA in the eyes of a foreigner before. So not only was I able to return the favor and catch up with an old friend, I was able to enjoy LA in a new way.

This is what Tripping is all about. Making friends and contacts all over the world. Gaining new perspectives. Saving money!

Tripping.com was created in January of this year and already has thousands of members from over 80 countries! Join the party.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Raindrop Reflections/Revelations/(Ramblings)

You know that perfect stay-in-and-watch-movies kinda weather? Today is just that in Northern California. However, it gave me the urge to get out. I'm not out for a hike or a swim or anything, but I am doing my own rainy weather exploration... (Apologies in advance for the ramblings- I have no idea what I'm about to write about and it probably won't interest you in the slightest, but here it goes...)

I love cafes. I get this strange thrill when I discover a new place that offers a cozy atmosphere, noteworthy coffee, possibly a unique/healthy menu, and of course, free wi-fi. It's embarrassing to say, but I often google cafes in surrounding areas and make mental notes to try some out in the future. Well, I figured today is the perfect day to "get out" and do just that, and I knew exactly which surrounding area I was going to google. A couple weeks ago, my aunt took me to this amazing sushi restaurant in Benicia, called Matsuri. Besides the wonderful dining experience, I couldn't get over how adorable downtown Benicia was. So here I am, at Java Point Cafe, just a couple blocks from the water's edge, with my GIANT mug of coffee* and time to take a breath and write. I am a happy, happy girl.
*I still forget how much bigger everything is here in the states. I mean, this is a German stein-size mug of coffee. Soy mocha to be exact. And it was only $4! I also still think in terms of Australian prices, which is good b/c everything seems cheap to me, which in turn is bad b/c I tend to spend more money than I have. I digress.

Although I am still definitely in a limbo stage of life, I am very happy. I have no job, no house or car of my own, no money, no man... and yet, I'm smiling. A lot. I've realized that it's because of where I am (in every sense) and the quality of the people in my life. It's good to put a finger on this because honestly, I was a little perplexed as to why my mood has been so elevated since I'm kind of bored and anxious to get out of limbo (patience really isn't a virtue of mine).

If you read my "Evil Twin" entry about my frustrations with indecisiveness, you'll be happy to know that I have embraced my Geminian counterpart. Times are tough right now. I've spoken with many people who are searching for jobs, have recently been laid off, or are struggling in their own way. I now see myself as lucky to not have one profession in mind. I think I'd be good at many different things so I'm continuing to keep an open mind, throwing myself out there and whatever bites is meant to be (at least for now). I'm excited to see what fate has in store.

I'm also really happy to be up in the bay area, which is reassuring since I came up here based on my gut and without any form of a concrete plan. (I do miss Sydney every day; it almost hurts. So I just don't think about it too much.) I am an independent person and can be very content on my own (hence why it's possible for me to pick up and go to a random foreign country), but it is amazing the change I feel being in close proximity to the majority of people I know and love. I get to see and talk to my closest friends on a daily basis; a luxury I haven't really had since college days. I have also reconnected and reestablished friendships I hadn't realized I was missing so much.

In addition to the people in my life, people out of my life also contributes to this new energy and happiness. I have recently experienced an emotional breakthrough: I am finally over 'the ex.' I have persistently tried to convince myself of this, but despite my persuasive abilities, the heart won't budge until it's ready. Perhaps not knowing when it will be ready is some form of cruel and unusual punishment for ever falling in love. Now, I'm happy to say, my heart is finally on a level playing field with my head. It is still hard for me to understand the idea of someone who was once the most important person in your life can all of a sudden not exist in your life, but somehow I can accept it. And I'm so glad I have because I feel the difference; it's like I'm constantly exhaling, releasing all things unflattering about myself and toxic in my life. Hello peace of mind.

Speaking of breakthroughs, the sun has finally Red-Rovered it's way through those intimidating rain clouds. Time to go outside...

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Think I need some more content in this "WanderLoz" blog?? Well, help me wander!

There is this awesome new website called Tripping.com that connects people all over the world through the love of travel. It's like a facebook for wanderlusts! It's a place for people to share their travel tips, stories, photos, and possibly their couches to like-minded travel buddies.

Obviously you want to check this out and start your own profile. All I'm asking from you is while doing so, please put my name (Lauren Nicholl) in the "referred by" box. By doing this, you are helping me fulfill my dream of traveling around the world. And guess what? The winner gets two tickets. ;) IMPORTANT: In order for a referral to be counted, the new member must also have a complete profile compromised of unique responses to each section in the 'Info' tab, 1 profile photo and at least 1 additional photo in the 'Photos' tab.

Thank you to anyone who reads my blog and does me this gigantic favor. I'll see you on tripping.com!



things don't always work out the way you plan
friends don't always follow through
sometimes you have too much faith in those
who have little faith in you

timing will make or break you
feelings are often unclear
love somehow fades away
to where, I have no idea

despite the bumps/forks/dead ends
you will always find a way
because you have the faith in yourself
to explore another day

sadness, pain, and disappointment:
emotions we must meet,
but help us grow and open doors
thresholding the bitter to the sweet.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Evil Twin

Ugh. I almost didn’t publish this post because it is such a contrast to its prior. Honestly, in this moment, I feel like a different person than the author of “Chais and Chats,” but that’s part of it, right? Ups an downs. And although I usually keep a level head, positive outlook, and am mindful of the big picture, it is important to vent on off-days. This is why I created this thing. So, I’m venting...

I have always been attracted to astrology. I often find myself picking up a birthday book or zodiac calendar at Barnes & Noble thinking that by reading about my sign (for the 100,000th time) will explain things to me; it will provide an answer for which I am so desperately searching. The only thing that becomes more clear to me is that I will never escape this desperation because I will always be a Gemini.

Gemini, the sign of the Twins, is dual-natured, elusive, complex and contradictory. On the one hand it produces the virtue of versatility, and on the other the vices of two-facedness and flightiness. The sign is linked with Mercury, the planet of childhood and youth, and its subjects tend to have the graces and faults of the young. When they are good, they are very attractive; when they are bad they are more the worse for being the charmers they are. Like children they are lively, and happy, if circumstances are right for them, or egocentric, imaginative and restless. They take up new activities enthusiastically but lack application, constantly needing new interests, flitting from project to project as apparently purposelessly as a butterfly dancing from flower to flower. To them life is a game which must always be full of fresh moves and continuous entertainment, free of labor and routine. Changing horses in the middle of the stream is another small quirk in the Gemini personality which makes decision making, and sticking to a decision, particularly hard for them.

I pride myself on being versatile and dynamic. Because of this I have befriended many different kinds of people. I have always enjoyed the jobs I’ve had (to an extent). Because of this, I have been able to travel the world, stay in some questionable hostels, adapt to life in a different culture, and not suffer horribly from homesickness. For this I am grateful. My endless interests and possibilities keep me going.

But some days they drag me down. I imagine it’s similar to coming down from an ecstasy high. All this energy, motivation, feelings of hope, love, and invincibility only to be struck down suddenly, leaving me feeling empty, unsure, and sad. Is there a Geminis Anonymous I can check into?

The last few days I have been doing little more than searching for jobs online and writing cover letter after cover letter. I’m good at writing cover letters because it’s easy for me to momentarily get in the mindset that THIS IS MY DREAM JOB, whether it’s an event coordinator for a high profile venue, a bartender at a spunky new wine bar, a counselor for orphans and foster families, or a media planner for a start-up ad agency (to name a few). My head is spinning. I’ve been riding on my positivity wings for a while, really believing I can do whatever I put my mind to. I just wish sometimes I could put my mind to ONE thing. This is the frustration I’m experiencing today and why this flight has come to a halt, a layover if you will.

I am so jealous of people who know exactly what they want to do. They have a plan. They take the necessary steps. Bam. Pau. They’re there. This makes me want to go back to school where things are planned and orderly; I know how many units I need and how to achieve them. One small problem: I don’t know what I want to study. Again, too many interests! Is there a degree that will give me the knowledge and skills for any and every career? If there is, sign me up! That and GA will have me set. I guess life is the closest thing to such a wildly comprehensive dream program and I’m already signed up for that so I guess it’ll have to do... Ugh.