meetup.com – not a dating site!

Hanging out in London, searching for jobs gets rather dull after a while. I decided I needed some weekday peeps to hang with as all my other friends were selfishly at work and couldn’t entertain me. So I went on a website called meetup.com. To quickly sum up the site: someone makes a group such as “pancake lovers”, makes an event “blueberry pancake evening” and people search online, sign up to the event and then a bunch of strangers all meet up and make pancakes. It’s quite cool. There really is something for everyone, from computer gaming right through to sexual fetishes. I opted to try find a group of photographers and I got very lucky. It turned out that in two hours they were meeting up just a 15 minute bus ride from my place. Too easy! So I signed up online and went along.

I showed up to a coffee shop and payed my £3 fee to this guy named Tops who was running it. There was 12 of us. I was the youngest by a long shot and everyone was very different from one another. I really enjoyed the dynamic as we all had the same passion of photography to talk over and enjoy hearing about one another’s interests. It was a four hour street photography walk down towards Shoreditch. Tops was hilarious and had no hesitation when it came to sticking his camera right in people’s faces. It surprised me how most of the guys had opted for sexy small compact cameras instead of DSLRs. Maybe I need one like that for street photography. Strangers are less intimidated by a  small camera.

One of the dudes from my meetup

One of the dudes from my meetup

Street photography walk. This is on Hoxton street, like 50m from my flat

Street photography walk. This is on Hoxton street, like 50m from my flat

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Singapore – 2 day layover

So I did an insane job of booking my flight to London. I saved $200 and scored a 2 day layover in Singapore by spending far too long looking at flight websites and eventually booking through two different retailers using my laptop and tablet at the same time. I did have a little scare when my tablet purchase was successful but the one on my laptop bugged out. Second time lucky I got the ticket though.

Very cool bridge.

Very cool bridge.

My time in Singapore could have been better though to be honest. I went there with the standard backpackers plan of dropping into a hostel, meeting friends and exploring the city with new people. So I’m going to blame my trip not reaching it’s full potential on two factors. My hostel being average (Joyfoy backpackers hostel), and the fact I caught a cold on my flight. The hostel could’ve been great but it was just missing one very important feature. Other travellers! There was quite a few people staying there but they all seemed to be from different Asian countries and more so living in the hostel rather than staying there to socialise.

This is the guys set up in my hostel room. He had a full on lighting system set up and would wall himself off for the night. He was surprisingly more friendly than the younger guys in the room.

This is the guys set up in my hostel room. He had a full on lighting system set up and would wall himself off for the night. He was surprisingly more friendly than the younger guys in the room.

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The grand sum up of my adventure. With maps and FAQs

So it’s over, done, ticked, finished, terminado!

So I’m going to answer some FAQs.

  1. Where did I go?
  2. What were my highlights?
  3. What were my lowlights?
  4. Where were my favorite places?
  5. How much did all this cost?
  6. What was the most fucked up shit I saw?
  7. What now?

I’m a strong believer in self reflection and self improvement. Here’s the sum up of all my adventures over the last four months. I’ll start with the geography side. I’ve split it up over two maps. A global map and another map with just Europe.

world map trip

Global map. Not including Vietnam stops while travelling up the country.

After making the global map myself I then decided for the Europe section it would take me all day to draw a map of my trip in Photoshop. I instead recruited a website to take all of the leg work out of it for me.

europe map

Map of Europe. Not including Sail Croatia stops and day tours on Contiki and what not. Starting in London and finishing in Istanbul. As you can see it’s not the nice logical loop of Europe I intended on taking.

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Istanbul – character explosion

We arrived into Istanbul quite late. We got dropped right into the area where just three days previous there had been big anti-ISIS riots where 30 people died. From what I gathered the Turkish government were letting them train near the Turkish border on Turkey’s side. We were worried as to whether the riots would affect our trip or not but asides from having to delay going out to the bars a few hours on Saturday night (due to riot police in the streets) we were unaffected.

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Best present for Mum from a traveller

Argh. Present shopping. Okay. Like any traveler I left all my present shopping to the end to avoid having to carry that extra baggage. So that left me with my final European stop, Istanbul, to pick up presents for Mum, Dad and sister. Dad and sister were easy enough with the over qualified gift provider of the Grand Bazaar. I got a quality replica leather belt with some designer name and a Turkish spice grinder for Dad. For my sister I got a pretty cool Michael Kors bag.

Mum loves dolls and has an entire room dedicated to them back home. We creatively call it the doll room. She is especially keen on national costume dolls so getting her a doll while abroad makes a lot of sense. However this was surprisingly difficult. There was no dolls to be seen. I picked up a nice tea set with tea bags out of desperation but still wanted something more special as all Mum’s love special gifts. I noticed some wooden Pinocchio dolls in one very overpriced tourist store. This didn’t seem like a great option as Pinocchio is from Italy, not Turkey and they were nothing special. Probably made in China. Plus being made from wood I wasn’t even sure if he would get through New Zealand’s strict bio security border.

Over lunch I decided to roll with my only real contender, Pinocchio, and just hope he makes it through the border. He’s a puppet so I proposed the idea to my travel buddy, Louise, to bring him along on our tourist stops for the day and take photos of him exploring Istanbul. With these photos I could create postcards using a cellphone app, Touch Note. The app charges about $1.90US/card and they print the cards and send them in the mail to the recipient. I’ve sent a few home in the past and they’re always a hit. So the concept was that the postcards should just beat me home as I have five day in Australia before getting home.

As predicted we had a lot of fun and made two cards into mini collages. So here’s the result of our days effort:

Card 1

Card 1. Pinocchio was a bit rude with the shadow image but he insisted on it making the cut.

Card 1 reverse. I blanked out my Mum's address though so you can't go outdoing my presents. It uses my FB profile photo for the stamp and includes the location I sent the card from.

Card 1 reverse. I blanked out my Mum’s address though so you can’t go outdoing my presents. It uses my FB profile photo for the stamp and includes the location I sent the card from.

Card 2

Card 2

Card 2 reverse. I may or may not have also been drinking at this time.

Card 2 reverse. I may or may not have also been drinking at this time.

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