60 Days

Tags

, , , ,

There is nothing like a string of assignments and end of semester exams to rush you through 25 days. I’m just beginning to gather my thoughts again after all the madness.

I’m still waiting on enrollment confirmation from BOKU – This is a final formality, and then I can finalise my accommodation and visa application. The days left in Hobart are few and the amount of stuff to do seems to be rapidly increasing.

I’ve had the chance to make some good decisions, though. In the spirit of collaborative consumption, I’ve been cleansing and culling the amount of ‘stuff’ I have. In Botsam and Roger’s book What’s Mine is Yoursthe role of ‘stuff’ is considered in depth. The reality is, I seem to have an awful lot of it. From shoes to books, it is time for a big cull. What value do they bring to me? How often do I use them? Can I part with them without guilt of sentimental memories? Largely, the answer is yes.

I was discussing change and the upcoming journey with a friend, who described it as the start of ‘watershed years ahead’. I found this particularly poignant, with reference to years. 

Once I get back to Australia, I should be able to finish my degree with a mere three further units – a single semester, all things going to plan. And then, there is a whole new raft of opportunities pending… honours, masters, employment. All of these options are scattered in various locations, so it seems logical to start stripping back to the essentials now.

This sits well with me on many levels. The lesser known reference from ‘fight club’ is ‘the things you own end up owning you’. And it is very true. I need to reduce my stuff ecologically to reduce my footprint, and to increase my mobility. Of course I won’t part with the cumbersome but important pieces – Nan’s blackwood organ will be lugged around by four to six removalists many times for the rest of my life, it seems!, but there is a lot of stuff I’ve been enjoying finding good homes for. There’s always been a minimalist in me busting to break free and enjoy industrial design, but I ended up comfortable and surrounded by frilly Victorian antiques. Such is life…

This is now also my approach to travelling next year. The decision to take a rucksack and not a suitcase was a surprisingly long internal dialogue, but truth be told I’m excited at the thought of throwing a few pairs of jeans, a pair of boots, a big warm jacket and some T shirts into a pack and heading off.

With no illusions that the remaining 60 days will be chaotic, stressful, emotional and exhilarating, I’ve just got to keep moving forwards…

85 Days

Tags

I would have thought signing away 140 days of leave, or sending off enrolment forms written in German would have been up there with the moments that made this seem ‘real’. Yet today when the calendar clocked over to 85 days left on the island, and I started looking at accommodation for London, suddenly everything seem very real.

There are many motivators to take this time off work: it has been a long, hard slog working and studying. I’ve studied by correspondence, and am craving peers for discussion and thought. But as someone studying sustainability, particularly interested in cities and sustainability, the “great good places” of Europe are calling – and what better Great Good Places to explore than the coffee houses of Vienna?

The ‘Great Good Places’ are stolen from the work by the same name of Ray Oldenburg, who wrote about the role of the part public/part private spaces such as cafes, coffee shops and bars, and the roles they play in society. I’m an avid people watcher, and I love observing how strangers and friends alike move and interact in urban areas.

The role of transport in connecting people to life opportunities also enchants me. Australia’s urban sprawl and low density housing has many externalities, from automobile dependence (and thus oil dependence) and the rise of antisocial ‘carchitecture’ through to the effects of creating pampered prisoners, the children whom rely on parents to get anywhere as public transport is either unreliable or deemed unsafe.

For me, I knew I had to study in the field of sustainability, and I’ve had the chance to study units that have convinced me that the front line in the battle for our environment is our cities. This trip is just as much about adding new (European) ideas and value adding to my degree as it is about getting me from Hobart and immersed into some of the greatest cities in the world.

Give me a city where women and children feel safe to cycle. Give me a city where rail, light and heavy, connects people to work, school and home. Give me a city with density and architecture that enchants and creates intersecting moments. Give me arts, music and farmers markets. Give me London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna…

And so it begins

Tags

, ,

In 2013 I moved into an amazing apartment looking out over the Derwent River in Hobart. Top floor, with a great deck, mountain views from my office and an amazing kitchen. I had lucked out. So here I sit, upon my couch, looking out over the yacht club and contemplating packing up my entire life.

Life is very comfortable at the moment. My house is idyllic. I have a wonderful job. I’m surrounded by beautiful people. So it seems the perfect time to do something completely outside of my comfort zone. In less than 100 days, I’m moving to Vienna, to live and study at a university in a country where I don’t speak the native tongue, during the middle of a European winter.

What surprises me is how suddenly this has all become very real. I was at the ATM today, and thought to look at my card to check its expiration – I will have to get a new bank card before I leave, was mentally noted. The list making has commenced. What to cancel, what to suspend, what to pack and what to give to charity. Its methodical and rational (for now).

With less than 40 days left at work, a huge change is racing towards me.

Brilliant.

Luggage

Tags

, , , ,

I often feel that any travel related story is a Platinum (TM) First World Problem. “Oh no, our flight to Paris is delayed! Quelle catastrophe!”…

Traveling often, I am plagued by the first world problem of luggage envy. Standing in line with all the other suit and ties one can not help but compare one’s carry on luggage with those whom he finds himself surrounded by – its like the unintended observances at a gentlemen’s urinal: I doubt one would admit to partaking in it, but one just can not help but be impressed occasionally, and feel slightly inferior by comparison.

I have a simple black trundle case that suits me for work travel perfectly. It is sturdy, has a life time warranty, and rather well set out. I can live out of it quite comfortably for a week. But it is like comparing a utility to a BMW, at times. Perfectly functional, but – well – it just isn’t… pretty.

I found myself in New York (note the casual dropping of enviable travel locations – bonus points in any white whine) and in the beloved Strand bookstore. It was at that moment I lost all self control. I had been diligently avoiding purchasing books for the prior three weeks of travel but suddenly with new found energy and resolution, I decided to unleash the Amex and pick up a what felt like four cubic tonnes of reading material.

This posed a slight problem. How was I now going to get all of these beautiful books home? It turns out, although I had more that enough room in my checked luggage, cling filmed books look suspiciously like drug parcels during airport screenings, and the TSA kept opening my bags (A FWP in itself).

I had a light bulb moment and assumed that this was the perfect time to release the proverbial stone upon two birds: I could buy a pretty carry on case to put my books in and travel home.

So I purchased a gorgeous little roll on case. It was more like a duffle bag with wheels. It was stream lined and, most importantly, looked great. Getting back to the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I could fit in it, as well. It was looking like a great acquisition.

Until I arrived at Atlanta airport.

At gate A3 and needing to get to Z546 in forty minutes.

So I started running, as most people seemed to be. Running for the gate and my connection onto Los Angeles. Running for freedom!

And then it started.

Above a certain pace – shall we say, slightly faster than a brisk walk – my beautiful luggage develops what can only be described as a case of speed wobbles.

Picture a poor, flailing, scrawny man running through a major airport with a suitcase convulsing on two wheels behind him. It was no longer rolling, more so rapidly bouncing from one wheel making contact to the ground to the other. This was not a quiet process either.

Maximum velocity was soon reached. This is the point at which the wheels can no longer absorb the jolts and jiggles, and like a beached whale giving up on life, it merely falls upon its side.

Picture it, ladies and gentlemen. Me, sweating and swearing, dragging my beautiful case on its side whilst listening to the stitches crackle and pop, praying that it could hold the excessive weight of books I was smuggling aboard the plane. If only I had been practical.

Damn these first world problems. Damn them.

Inked

Tags

, , , , ,

I am admittedly prone to the occasional bout of OCD. That kind of paranoid frenzy that stops all events, appointments and even drinking whilst I purge whatever fixation is captivating me out of my system. It often strikes of a weekend, when suddenly I am overcome with the desire to clean out “that” cupboard or sort out a collection of five years worth of IT junk.

I suppose it plays into my transient nature. I like moving around and try to avoid accumulating clutter that might weigh me down. Note, I try. My addiction to Victorian lead crystal and antique furniture is hardly advantageous when one is packing to move rentals yet again.

But the general concept sits well with me. One of my latest purges was to remove all biros from the house. They appear everywhere. In random drawers, cupboards, boxes of stationery. All in various states of depletion and subsequent states of reliability. The only time I ever feel I need a huge clump of pens is when entering an examination and I enact a Mr. Bean style survival mechanism in case all previous 50 back up pens fail, thank god I’ll still have numbers 51 – 70 in my clear plastic bag.

ImageIt was a lazy Sunday, and I purged the last of the damn biros from my house. It left me with my desk set – a mechanical pencil and a fountain pen, and two parker biros in the kitchen drawers for shopping lists and scrawled notes that my matching pen and set should be spared from. This, it seemed, was a small victory for my mental sanity. I had purged yet more clutter from my house, as I continue to wage the War Against Waste.

All was well and good until a tragic first world problem struck.

A new credit card arrived. Ah, the smell of fresh platinum in the morning. I eagerly ripped it out of its cardboard box and went to make my mark upon the ridiculously small signature panel on its back. Alas. None of the ‘actual’ biros in my house would write on the plastic strip. The fountain pen was obviously out of the question. And I was about to run out for dinner. All of those innocent biros that I had cut down in their various states of ‘prime’! Surely one of those hundreds of bastards would have sufficiently gripped upon the plastic and inked my name upon it?

My only option was to deface a card I have to live with until 2016 with an illegal signature in black permanent marker. Like a common bogan tagging the back of a toilet door.   

Image

Not So Chance Encounters

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

There are certain social norms that must be adhered to. The first meeting. A carefully crafted interaction between two gentlemen.

A tête-à-tête over a cup of tea in a little jazz café followed by a stroll of the surrounding heritage area. Very civilised.

We parted ways and agreed to catch up the following afternoon for a cheese and wine sampling. This also, promised to be very agreeable.

gentlemen

One of my most heinous first world problems are Mornings. I consider them most cruel as there are 365 of them in a year.

They are simply not agreeable to me. I wake up lethargic, foul tempered, looking like I’ve been dragged backwards through a pub brawl.

In fact, I’m not even sure how it is possible for Happy Morning People to exist. What freakish genetic disorder must one possess to bounce out of bed looking fabulous and generally be joyous at such ungodly times of the morning? And why must they flaunt it?

It is now winter time in Hobart which makes things even worse. It is terribly dark and cold first thing of a morning and the early starts give me terribly lethargy and a general haze for an hour or so until I fully awake from my slumber. And then I have to peel off my layers of snugly-warm but fashion questionable winter sleepwear.

But back to the bello. The following morning he decided to surprise me and leave breakfast on my door step. This in itself is an endearing act. Kind and chivalrous. Until things went horrifically wrong. In my slumbered haze I wandered out into the kitchen to draw the curtains over the French doors, revealing myself in all my morning glory.

Or exposing the portal to hell. However one looks at such things.

There I stood, half slumped over, blinking in the soft morning light, attired in my two piece plaid, flannelette pyjamas, striking bed hair to accentuate my balding, bright red woolly Explorer Socks and the remnants of a face mask on my forehead, giving my complexion the healthy and radiant look of someone plagued by scabies. The boy in striped pyjamas from the wrong side of the fence.

Such a productive morning. Not even 9am and I managed to kill all the Magic™ from the perception of my character. See, that is one of the benefits of meeting someone for the first time. No matter what we say (or admit), generally first encounters are crafted in some manner. We might wear different clothes. We may not swear as profusely as normal. Perhaps we actually succeed in withholding that Silent But Deadly from crop dusting our new boss. But alas, oh no. I had shattered all illusions. Reality hit hard and fast and I assume I will have to pay for his trauma counselling.

Money Laundering

Tags

, , ,

This truly may be the climax of my First World Problems. Perhaps I shall peak too early on this blog. Firstly, my plans for regular forays into my first world dramas have somewhat suffered. However, spending all day looking at computer monitors rarely inclines one to spend their leisure time doing the same. In fact, I had to write this post by hand in bed first. Quelle Catastrophe!

It should have been just another Thursday. I logged into my internet banking and the balance looked fine. I hit log out and something caught my eye. An $900 transaction. Two of them. I logged back in, and noticed two sets of nearly $1,000 debits matched with a corresponding credit the next day. Lots of them. They appeared to be from an offshore company I had never heard of and could not find anything about when searching for their merchant name.

Forget having to walk 14ks to the well, I had to ring my bank and cancel my beloved Platinum Visa. And then the true horror of having to cancel all my direct debits.

Ah the internet. Convenience and frustration at its best. Having to log into all those sites we never check but should. All those companies who hold our details and bill us and we never question.

Perhaps I should question more often, or at least take a gander. It seems that I had been financing terrorists or a meth lab for god only knows how long and neither my bank nor I had noticed.

A true first world problem. Not being able to keep up with all your money.

Soldier On

Tags

, , ,

It was one of those shamefully delightful evenings. Early on a Saturday night I had retired to bed, with some trashy DVDs and a bottle of port. Yes sir, like a proper alcoholic. A friend touched base via SMS asking what I was up to. At this point, one could paint a picture. Was I having a quiet drink? Was I already out or heading out? Who was I kidding. I had my track pants on and a bottle of McLaren Vale “daddy long legs”. I fessed up and was delightfully pleased to find that he was drinking at home alone as well. And yes. Drinking alone together is less sad. So via the bottle shop to stock up with further supplies, I soon found myself exceedingly drunk watching the extended directors cut of the Lord of the Rings.

I knew my only commitment the following day was a leisurely dinner at one of my favorite restaurants to celebrate a friends birthday, so my seedy walk home mid morning the next day thru the CBD wasn’t ringing any alarm bells.

The sun was viciously bright. I strolled on feeling greasy, tired and dehydrated, whilst trying to simultaneously not vomit and telephone my friend. The standard happy birthday greeting. And what have you got planned for today? I knew the plans. We would have a fabulous tapas dinner with a curious selection of foreign wines. Delightful.

And then it struck. They requested my company on the occasion of his birthday. For a bush walk.

Right.

How hard could this be?

They were older friends. We were probably going to stroll around some wheel chair accessible duck boarding and then retire to a quiet dinner. I dragged myself home – which granted, was already a considerable walk, had a quick shower and a coffee. I was set.

The first hint that this was not merely a quiet walk through the botanical gardens came when the arrival at our destination simply didn’t. We drove on. And on. Climbing and winding, out beyond the CBD and into a strange area that I had never set foot in before.

As we pulled up into the car park, yes indeed, we weren’t in Kansas any more Toto.

However, just as I had suspected, clear tracks, duckboards and picturesque look outs over water falls. How civilized. And yet, the track kept going. And so did we.

Leaches.

Now there was something that I, in my track-pants and runners, was not expecting. Curiously, it seemed that the faint traces of blood in my alcohol stream were insufficient to support the poor creatures, and for the entirety of the trip whilst many clung aboard, only one little sucker decided to have a go.

The elevation continued to increase, and the track became more abstract.

We walked on. I hadn’t eaten since 6:00pm the night before, so the stop for biscuits at morning tea time was ever so civilized. It was at this point that I stupidly offered to carry one of the backpacks. I failed to recall prior to hoisting the pack onto my back that traveling with a Dutchman does have its advantages – they think of everything – as well as its disadvantages – I was carrying a small commercial kitchen and what appeared to be enough rations for a nuclear winter upon my back.

Further, we climbed.

The wet bush abruptly ended and as we rose above it we began to crawl through dry, twiggy and overgrown paths, winding ever further upwards. For what seemed a good half hour I had to hold my hands above my head as the track was so narrow the hedge like border did not permit you to leave your bare arms hanging by your sides.

This was no leisurely bush walk. We were casually climbing a “challenging” grade walking track to a summit of 1260m.

My legs were shaking, whilst my stomach seemed to be rotating itself – possibly lubricated by the immense amount of sweat I was now dispensing. Oh joyous moment when three hours later we finally reached a small hut, and luncheons were served.

No wonder the bloody backpack was heavy. Out came tea cups, cutlery and masses of all types of food. Whilst I do appreciate the finer selections of cheeses and cured meats, on this particular occasion I would have gladly suffered with tomatoe and ham had I not had to lug the contents of the larder three quarters of the way to the top of a mountain.

Thankfully, this food was exactly what I needed before embarking on the final survivor esque leg of the journey. The final ascent to the summit was primarily compiled of large borders for one to jump around and across like some kind of deranged mountain goat on two legs.

As we reached the summit, the truly touching moment came when the true connection to and significance of this mountain top was revealed, and how glad they were that I could share their special place with them.

So there we were. Looking out over the immense, wild west coast. My two dear friends in loving embrace, as I delicately spewed the precious little food I had eaten over the last 12 hours down the rock face into the valley below.

And dinner, you may ask?

By the time we arrived back in town, we had to suffice with a takeaway.

First world problems: having to share significant moments with your friends. On the top of a picturesque and stunning mountain, in the arse end of civilization as we know it.

Fragile Fromage

Tags

, , ,

Refrigeration has been on my mind of late.

In the 1920s the household fridge was revolutionized. No longer were these devices filled with lethal gasses (flammable and or just plain nasty) and banished outside lest they leak and turn your house into an improvised explosive, oh no. Now safe, non flammable and non toxic, cooled with newly synthesized chlorofluorocarbons, they could take pride of place inside the kitchen.

Unfortunately the beloved CFCs also turned out to be ripping a gaping hole in the ozone layer as they break down in the atmosphere. Meh. At least the tonic water was cold.

Today, fridges are no longer filled with CFCs, however they are still a cause of contempt and problems. Not just any old problems, first world problems.

I have recently been preparing for an interstate business trip. This in itself is another first world problem. How dare someone pay you to go away and meet with other people in a warmer state! I was crawling towards my time off, and had arrange a little luxury for the evening, to distract me from the stress of work and study and life in general.

The simple pleasure of relaxing with some nice wine and cheese.

It is a difficult ritual to establish and one must plan it with care. The wine must speak for itself whilst not overpowering the cheese. The cheese, in all it’s dairy goodness, should compliment the wine but be the centerpiece. Thankfully one should only buy Captains’s Table biscuits for cheese so at least one part of the equation is static.

I excitedly opened my bottle of red and gathered the local Brie in question. I cut my sliver and was about to place it onto my biscuit when I noticed the cool touch of the delicious dairy against my skin.

The cheese was cold.

Far too cold.

And now, my dear whitewhiners, can you see the predicament? One can not simply partake in refrigerated cheese. The taste, texture, consistency will all be wrong! That delightful dairy can not ooze slowly over the tongue and palette when it is essential the fromage equivalent of an ice cube!

And there is only one solution.

One has to wait, for one’s cheese to come to temperature.

Let’s be honest: patience is not my virtue. So naturally I consumed a rather large quantity of wine before adding any food to my stomach.

And in my drunken state I proceeded to eat the entire wheel of cheese and roll into bed like a fat bastard, moaning about being far too full.

LUXURY.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.