Episode 24: That Time I Was The Weird One

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript for Episode 24: That Time I Was The Weird One

Hello. Welcome to this week’s podcast. All about the stories in the July chapter of my second book, 365 Dates of Travel: The SECOND six months. So hopefully some of you have read the stories by now and so this will be background, or, if you’re not quite there yet, a sneak peek at what’s coming. 

In July, I have a story from Scotland in 1998, a story from New York in 1999, which is when I went to the 30th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. So I went to Woodstock 99. I went to the Netball World Championships in Jamaica on a very long flight in 2003. I started a drive to Far North Queensland in 2005 in my new car, Lottie, or my old car, Lottie. There’s a lot about Africa in 2012 and there’s also quite a bit about Tasmania, which happened in 2022, and a few other mini dates and stories in between. 

Scotland

So, starting with the Scotland story, I think it’s actually the last story in the book, but we’ll start there in date order, seeing as most people seem to like that. It’s also an insight into a little bit of the nanny world. People have been asking me for years to write my nanny stories, and there are a few little snippets in this book. 

There are a couple of dates from this trip and it was definitely a unique experience. I was trying to do something different, as I often did with my nannying, and I always regretted it, to be honest. But I ended up in Scotland with this family and even though we started in London and we were supposed to go to Ireland, in the end, it just didn’t work, the whole thing. I didn’t enjoy it when I was in London and then it kind of got worse once I went to Scotland and it kind of ended in a bit of a disaster. But I also had a little bit of an interesting tale to tell along the way.

 As you know, I keep everything, but I literally still have the advertisement that was in the magazine that they advertised for the nanny in, so the actual words that they used in order for me to get the job. Seriously, I don’t know why I keep all these things, but it has been very useful for writing this book. 

Woodstock 99

I’m guessing a few people will be interested in my Woodstock 99 stories. If you have heard anything about Woodstock 99, I mean, it was the Woodstock that ended Woodstocks. It was a complete disaster. When it comes to what was said in the media and how it will always be remembered, I do urge you to watch one of the documentaries around. 

It’s hard to imagine I was there, like I was really there. I have to admit, though, I had an amazing time and so did all my friends. So despite the disaster that it was that everybody considered it a failure and a nightmare and people lost their lives in more ways than one. But we had a lovely few days of music and fun together as we little nannies went off to Woodstock 99. 

It’s an interesting little story, but I definitely don’t live up to the hype of the story. The hype is bigger than me, but I was technically there when all of that was happening, which is just mind-boggling and a spoiler alert, maybe here, but literally when people thought they were playing in the mud, they had no idea what they were really playing in. I’m so glad I didn’t play in the mud of any kind.

I still remember how hot it was. And nobody, even the organisers, were prepared for the weather situation, and it really made a difference. Always being a bad redhead, I had the wrong clothes, no hat, probably no sunscreen, and there was no shade, and I definitely got sunburnt. 

I’m glad to say I have improved a bit along those sorts of lines. I mean, basically I just avoid heat at all costs and probably I would have just disappeared if it had been now there’s just no way I’d be able to cope. I think I’ve got worse with the heat as I’ve actually got older. 

World Netball Championships in Jamaica

In 2003, I went to the netball world championships. So for those of non English background, or English the country English background, people, netball is only played in countries where England has had an influence. They play netball in Canada, but it’s mostly only in the schools with an English background. But countries in the Commonwealth, everybody plays netball. It is the highest participation sport for girls in those countries and you can’t live in Australia without having played a game of netball at some point in your life. 

And boys play, there are boys teams and there are mixed teams, but it is still majority a women’s sport, and it actually started out as women’s basketball. So I’m not going to go out into the whole history, but it is actually quite interesting in how netball started. Basically, they were adapting the rules of basketball in the late 1890s so that women could play, given the fact that the fashion of the day, of course, was full length dresses and very puffy sleeves.

 So, just as a little fun, note the reason why you have to stand three metres away from your opponent, you are not allowed to stand any closer. And a lot of that is because if you had your arm up, your puffy sleeves would get in the way. So I think that’s quite funny. And obviously you’re technically not allowed to run in the game, not with the ball at least. And again, a lot of that was to do with your skirts because you’re not supposed to be able to run that far in skirts. Hence why players have different parts of the court they could play in, because it wasn’t considered possible or a good idea to run from one end of the court to the other, given the fashion of the day. 

There’s all sorts of little bits of tidbits and stories about netball, but basically it is a game that I love and it has definitely saved my life a few times in various ways over the years. It’s really hard to imagine my life without netball. I have had to give it up since my frozen shoulder, which happened during the pandemic, but I still love it. 

There are a lot of netball stories in this second book, The SECOND six months. Background is given at various points. And so if you do want to read the netball stories in order, that is not a bad idea. Have a look where the first netball story is and it will show how the stories in this book particularly came about because there’s my social netball playing and there’s my experience with international or professional netball, which are the stories mostly in the book. But Jamaica is an interesting little story. You don’t get the full story. Again, I’ll have to tell you exactly what happens at the end in a later podcast. 

It starts off because I booked so late; it was just impossible to get flights. And I still remember like this is back in the day when the internet really wasn’t a thing, so it was really hard to try and do lots of research. You had to rely on a good travel agent because the travel agent was the one who had to do the deep dive into finding the way to get to wherever the person wanted to go. And because I was booking so late, all the direct flights, and definitely all the cheap flights, had completely gone. 

I’m so grateful that all the notes are in my normal everyday diary rather than notepaper or scrap paper or anything which would have been thrown out. In my actual diary, I’ve got page after page of all these crazy ideas about how to get from Melbourne to Kingston, Jamaica, and it’s really not an easy spot to get to from Australia. There’s quite a lot of places to go or places that you have to stop or go via in order to get there. It’s just in a really awkward position. 

Quotes of $4,000-$5,000 in 2003 were an absolute fortune. I still think it’s probably the highest flight or most expensive flight I have ever paid for. I had one recently that was $3,600, because of the pandemic, but the flights in here was $3,800, so that is a lot of money. Now, I would not be happy paying that. I was not happy paying $3,600, but I did. But $3,800 in 2003 was literally a fortune. I was still nannying back then. I was a well paid nanny, and I did take a pay cut when I originally started nursing from my nanny salary, but I still wasn’t earning a huge amount of money, so it was a lot to pay. 

I am so grateful that I paid because it is one of the most interesting netball experiences I have ever had. And I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t gone. So I’m really glad I paid the money, and I found a way to get there, but it was horrendous. 

I still remember walking around the airport where I had a four-hour layover and nothing was open. Who’s ever heard of an airport where nothing is open? Not even one shop. I know not all the retail shops are going to be open at 2:00 am, but there’s always something, whether it’s a duty free or a snack bar or something open, but there was literally nothing open. 

I remember I was hungry even on the plane. I was flying China Airlines and didn’t realise until may return flight that at any point during the flight you could ask for a cup of noodles. I saw people sort of doing it, I think, but I didn’t understand. I assumed they’d brought the noodles themselves and they were just getting the boiling water. But no, it was an actual thing that people who knew what they were doing or had flown the airline before, they knew that at any time between meals you could just ask for a cup of noodles and you would get a cup of noodles. So had I known that was a thing, I would have actually done it. Coming back, it was a whole different kettle of fish, so I didn’t need it as much, but I knew and was prepared to ask for a cup of noodles if I needed it. But on the way over, I didn’t know I could have had as many noodles as I wanted. And I didn’t expect to have an airport that was completely closed and I couldn’t even get a bottle of water. So 4 hours of not having food or drink and already hungry from the plane. 

It was a bit of a disaster, and I was just so tired. I was exhausted. It was the worst flight I think I’ve probably ever had. So you can read all about that and the crazy route and everything that I took and the other crazy routes that were actually considered along the way. But I don’t regret it at all. I was only in Jamaica for three days, which is ludicrous. I actually spent more time getting to Jamaica and returning. So the flights there and back were actually longer than the time I spent on the ground. But you’ll understand more when you read exactly why I went. And later down the track, you will find out what happened in the end and why it was absolutely crucial I went.

Africa 

 There’s quite a big jump then. I don’t have any stories and I didn’t actually do a huge amount of travel for quite a few years in around those early 2000s. But a lot of this chapter is on my Africa trip of 2012. So I had Africa 1998, Africa 2012 and Africa 2014. I saved 2014 trip for the second year of stories which is not coming out. So I will potentially do a lot more talking about that trip in later podcasts.  

The 1998 trip sort of didn’t quite go as planned. Africa was unfinished business and so you also meet Lottie in the second book. So Lottie was my answer to start with to the unfinished business. And I eventually realised I was never going to get Lottie to Africa and drive around Africa because I wasn’t going to do it by myself. And I didn’t have any friends who wanted to do it either. No one I knew was interested in that sort of trip and I thought it’d be a slim chance of finding other people who would want to join me, like strangers who want to join me. So I kind of felt like it was never going to happen, so I’m going to have to look into joining a tour. 

I still wasn’t a huge fan of tours at this time. 2010 in Libya, was my first ever group tour. So I was still technically against group tours. I knew how important it was to have the right tour and particularly the right vehicle after poor old Lucy gave us the mechanics tour of Africa. Being a group tour, I couldn’t rely on myself to make sure that everything in the vehicle was fine. I’d done all the research that I was going to put into play with Lottie. So I was scared. I wanted to do a big long trip; I wanted to do a proper overland. But if I picked the wrong vehicle, the wrong company, it was going to be an absolute disaster. So I wasn’t prepared to just book a long trip without knowing more. 

Researching tour companies

The internet was a little better by 2012. So I spent a lot of time online reading reviews, reading trip reports, travel blogs, all sorts of things, trying to work out what tour company to go with. I looked at every photo. It was really frustrating when some tour companies didn’t put photos up of their vehicles. This is something that you’re going to spend weeks in, all day. It’s going to carry all your equipment that you’re going to sleep in. You want to know that it’s going to be comfortable, and it has everything you want.  

I would zoom in and zoom in and zoom in and look at every little detail that I possibly could because all the trucks were slightly different. And I really wish I’d been in London at this point. The travel expos over there, the vehicles would actually go so you could hop in the vehicle, check it all out, see the seats, see the windows, and how it all worked. And I was so desperate to be back in London so that I could physically go to one of the expos. Of course, they’re not going to put the trucks on ships and ship them out to Australia to a travel expo. We had to just go in blind.  

I’d also heard so many stories, like even before my original Africa trip in 98, during that trip and post both online and from people who knew people, that if you get the people wrong on the trip as well, it can be an absolute disaster. Everybody had a story of coming across somebody crying in the bathroom because of something to do with the group or the tour company they were with. 

I already knew I was probably prone to that. I’m not great in group situations and I’m not great at mucking in and just helping out. That’s why I had avoided group tours all those years because I knew it was going to be stressful and difficult and that I could get it wrong and it would be a complete and utter disaster. And I was not prepared to have eight weeks of disaster. I’ve been wanting this trip for years and years and years. I wanted it to be the best it possibly could be.  

I could easily discount a few companies based on the truck or information that they had on their website or that weren’t long enough or just too many disaster stories. And so I wheedled it down to two tour companies and I couldn’t decide between the two. One was a lot more expensive than the other. I didn’t want to go for the expensive trip in case I would have been just as happy on the cheaper trip because I’m talking probably at least double the price. So if the cheaper company turned out to be okay, well then that was great, giving me more money to spend on other trips or during that trip. 

Reconnaissance 

I decided I would do a short trip with each of them and then decide which one I would book a longer trip with. So the 2014 Africa trip was actually with the tour company that I chose between these two tours. 

The first company was Africa-in-Focus and the second company was Acacia. Now one of the main differences between the two vehicles was, well, one was just pure luxury, and it’s still the best vehicle in the whole overlanding world that I’ve ever, ever seen. It’s no longer running, but it hands down is the only company I would ever really want to go back with in an ideal world. And it was the right choice for the second tour, the big tour. 

Acacia

I liked the idea of the second tour company, Acacia. They had all your main luggage inside the vehicle, so if you were on a twelve hour drive day you could access all of your luggage. So if there was something in your big bag that you really wanted that was going to make you more comfortable, you could access it at any point. And each individual person had their own locker, so you didn’t have to share. I liked that aspect. The seats didn’t look as comfortable, there wasn’t as much legroom and it was all very metallic. So obviously metal makes it easier to clean, but it could also make it hotter if it warmed up in the sun and not very soft or anything under your feet. 

Africa-in-Focus

Africa-in-Focus had so much legroom. I could stretch out my legs. It was like being in business class on an airplane. And the storage options, there were multiple storage options. So your big bag was under the truck and you did technically share it. So if there were two of you, there was one outdoor storage unit for one set of double seats. There weren’t enough people on there to have to share or sit next to somebody. So I had a whole double to myself, therefore I had the outdoor storage to myself. But you couldn’t access it during a long drive day unless you’re at your lunch stops or your afternoon stops. 

But inside you had a storage locker, again that you shared with each double seat. So you could have quite a lot of stuff inside the truck just in case you needed it without needing to access your big bag. So I had extra pairs of shoes. I had pillows; I had all my camera gear; I had snacks and drinks. So there wasn’t any need, or it didn’t make any difference, that I couldn’t access my big bag. And if there was something I didn’t need one day, I just put it in for the next day and it was done. So the whole luggage situation sort of didn’t seem to matter. I didn’t need access to my big bag, which Acacia was offering. 

Acacia lockers

The downside with the Acacia luggage, because every single person had their luggage at the back of the truck. So when you actually got to a place, everybody needed to be in that one small space at a time. So there were about five or six lockers on top of each other. So you can’t have six people all trying to get their bags out. You can’t even have one person from each lane really trying to get it. So it was a bit of a nightmare when you arrived somewhere trying to get your stuff out without either pushing someone out or being pushed out or getting hit on the head by someone’s bag, or you hitting somebody with your bag. So that was a bit of a mess, which that definitely wasn’t an issue with the Africa-in-Focus truck. 

Fellow tour mates

Also, because the Acacia trip was cheaper and the Africa-in-Focus trip was more expensive, you got a different clientele. And I definitely felt better with the older clientele than the younger clientele. I wasn’t the youngest on the Africa-in-Focus, but I was the oldest on the Acacia tour. There was one quite annoying girl on the Acacia trip who over and over again announced how she was the oldest on the trip and she really wasn’t. She never asked me how old I was, but obviously she thought she was older than me. But I can’t remember now by how much. But I was definitely the oldest and smirked to myself every time she called herself the oldest in the group.  

I did not get along with many people on that trip and I got the experience of what everybody was talking about, how when you get it wrong, it can go so bad. It was pretty bad. And I was one of those people who was crying in the toilet, so I did try and avoid the crying in the toilet section, but it definitely happened to me on one night where I just had enough. And it’s unfortunate, it’s hard. You can’t predict who’s going to be on a group tour and you just have to join and hope for the best. But that is the only trip where I had an issue. 

I’m the weird one

I’ve always said, and I’ll still stick by this, that there is always one weird person in every group tour, and on this particular group tour, I was considered that person. I was the weird one to all the others. And it is a bit and a little bit of a spoiler alert here. I had already been in Africa for a few weeks by the time that tour started. It was the second tour, and so they were all coming fresh from Europe and Australia and hadn’t ever been to Africa before. 

So one, I’d been to Africa before and I’d already been there for a few weeks. And there is this Africa frame of mind that you do get into after you’ve been there for a while, which makes a difference in how you actually enjoy your trip. Like, if you don’t get into that Africa frame of mind, it can be pretty awful. Some things will really get to you, but once you’re in that frame of mind, then everything just slides off and you just enjoy it and you love it. Africa gets inside you and it never really leaves. It’s an amazing place, and I do love it in all its different incarnations from north, south, east. 

So I’d already acclimatised. I knew what I was coming to or had already experienced some of the stuff that we were about to experience. I’d had my hair braided in really tight cornrow braids because it’s just so much easier than having to worry about your hair every day. I didn’t have to wash it; I didn’t have to brush it; I didn’t have to worry about what it looked like, and it was just blissful. But it didn’t turn out exactly to what I expected it to, but it’s what I got, thanks to the language barrier of Rwanda, because I did get it done in Africa. So here I was with that. And I’d also, the spoiler alert, got a black eye when I was whitewater rafting. So I was in the Africa frame of mind. While they hadn’t even known that was a thing yet, I had this really weird hairstyle, and I had this black eye, so I didn’t exactly present well. So, you know, bad first impression or they just didn’t know what to think of me and it just went downhill from there. 

The honeymoon couple

Throw in the honeymoon couple. Oh my God. That was just crazy. Seriously, who goes on a budget camping tour for your honeymoon? I’m sorry. Go somewhere in a nice hotel first and then go on a camping tour. But don’t literally have your wedding. Get on a plane and arrive on a group tour of a budget camping trip around Africa. I just think that was pretty ludicrous. But everybody else thought it was the best thing ever, and they got perk after perk after perk.

“Oh, we’re going to stay here. There’s one room with air conditioning. Who would like it?”

Well, everybody just said, they can have it, meaning the honeymoon couple. For me, air conditioning was like winning the lottery. And just once I would have liked to have had at least an option to put my hand up and say, “Oh, I wouldn’t mind having it.” But no, that was never an option. Every little thing that came up like that, everybody said,

“Oh, the honeymoon couple has to have it. Oh, it has to be the honeymoon couple.” 

So not that I’m bitter about the honeymoon couple, but oh my God, I’m bitter about the honeymoon couple. They were just really annoying. And there’s a story in the book which I won’t talk about today, but there’s a story in the book about another situation with them. The trouble is everyone kept giving them everything, so then they expected everything, like they literally thought they had to have everything and the rest of us couldn’t have anything, so it really didn’t endear me to them. 

Group dynamics

And there was definitely a lot of group dynamics happening on there that could be a bit nasty, and I don’t like that and I don’t deal with that very well. So that’s a lot of my personality and I know that and that’s why I did avoid group tours for so long because I knew it just doesn’t suit my personality. I mean, I’ve got used to them over the years and I’m a completely different person now than I was in 2012, that’s for sure.  

I’m going on a group tour in a few months’ time in September, and I have no qualms about it. Actually, that’s another whole story. But yes, they’re not as scary anymore. I’m older, I have a lower care factor these days, or a higher care factor, whatever it is. As in, I don’t care anymore and I really don’t care if you don’t like me, so if you don’t like me, that’s your problem. I don’t have a problem with it. But in 2012, that was a huge thing. I needed to be liked and if I wasn’t, it was quite heartbreaking and heart wrenching and frustrating and I’d get annoyed with myself and upset and I just didn’t want Africa to have any of those things in it. 

The decision

So I definitely did not choose Acacia for my second trip. And a lot of that definitely was to do with the people on the trip. And like I said, the luggage situation wasn’t ideal, the truck really wasn’t ideal either. So Africa-in-Focus was the way to go. And I had an amazing eight weeks with Africa and Focus two years later in 2014, which you get a little bit of a hint at in The SECOND six months book. Just one little day, indicating that something sort of special happened along the way. 

Acacia good points

But I did do some great things with Acacia in animal sightings and a hot-air balloon ride over the Masai Mara, which was amazing. I’m really glad I did that. That obviously was an optional extra, but I did that while I was on the tour and we definitely did have some good animal sightings, so it was worth it. 

I met a lovely couple from Denmark. Well, they used to live in London. One is from Denmark and one was from Ecuador, and they’re the only people I sort of stayed in touch with afterwards, just via Facebook. I haven’t seen them or spoken to them since then, but that was the only saving grace amongst the whole group and that was the connection to Denmark. 

She actually lived in the suburb, or grew up in the suburb next to the suburb that I lived, so we had a lot in common, which is definitely helpful when you are trying to make connections with people. So that was nice. I’m always happy to talk about Denmark, as you know, so it wasn’t a complete disaster, but it is definitely something I never want to relive again. 

Tasmania

The July chapter also has quite a few pages on the Tasmanian trip I went on in 2022. It was one of the first biggish trips, obviously not to another country, but in Australia, since the Pandemic, and it was really nice. I’d never been to Tasmania before. I always knew I was going to love it, and then somehow I just never went. And it’s just down below, like I’m in Victoria and we joke about how it’s kind of like going overseas, because you do go over water to get to Tasmania. That’s the little island underneath the Australian mainland. 

And it was amazing. And I was on a road trip. I had my car; I went on the overnight ferry, packed the car to the hilt. I was, for some reason, in real disaster preparedness mode and had everything under the sun packed in the car, and it was great. I could just go wherever I wanted to go. I had no plans to stay in any of the cities as such. Like overnight, yes, but no activities. Everything was about being in the outdoors. 

And it was winter, so it was cold, but I had every winter weather gear possible because it was all packed in the car, because you can take everything when you’ve got the car, because you don’t have to worry about airline luggage limits and everything. 

It’s also one of the first trips since writing the stories. So based on what I wish I had, it’s one of the most documented trips ever. So they’re quite long stories and that’s literally because, well, one, it’s fairly recent, so I have good memories. I have more photos than I’ve ever taken on any trip because a lot of those photos were actually extra data collecting for being able to write the book. So it’s an interesting little change in how I travel and how I document because of writing this book. 

Wrap up

But I think that’s enough for now. So I do hope you are going to read the July chapter. There’s quite a few interesting little stories in there and I will reiterate that, yes, any of the stories in any of the books or any of the trips that haven’t been finished off, so to speak, that don’t have the start to finish, I will do podcasts about what happened on the rest of the trip. So instead of writing the second year’s worth of stories, I will be talking about them on the podcast in the future. So if you do want to hear more about a particular story, then definitely keep listening to the podcasts and watch out for the ones that talk about the trip that you’re interested in. 

Next week, I will be reading some stories from the chapter and little bits of introductions. 

Thank you very much for listening today. I hope you found something to laugh about and I wish for you an interesting day.

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