Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Why Travel Solo?

Why travel solo? It’s become one of the big questions I seem to hear over and over again; Won’t I get lonely travelling solo? Wouldn’t it be easier with some one else? Is it dangerous to travel solo? Are you worried about being able to meet people?
Fresh Coconut milk!
As a human being with my own wandering mind and natural anxieties all of these questions had crossed my mind. Sure it would be easier and probably cheaper to travel with some one and I’m sure there would be a slight increase is safety but safety isn’t something that bothers me. For the most part I’ve found even the so-called ‘dangerous’ third-world countries like Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala to be some of the most friendly and inviting communities I’ve come across.
For all of the benefits of travelling with a friend there’s an equally big and inviting list of travelling solo.
Freedom: Is there anything as freeing as waking up in a new place filled with endless opportunities for exploring the sights, culture, people and cuisine? I have endless opportunity for exploration and it’s not marred by the usual indecision that comes between people trying to decide what to do. This allows me to go with the flow, ran around town guided purely by my own energy and desires.
This is why I travel.

This is why I travel.

Meeting New People: As I found out on my last trip, when you travel with friends from home it becomes far too easy and comfortable chat with them rather than getting out there and meeting people. Travelling solo you don’t really have a choice; either you meet new people or stay in your room alone. I met some fantastic people on my last trip, people that I will consider friends for life but I feel I only met a fraction of the people I could have met had I made more of an effort. At the end of the day, it will sound cliche but backpacking is as much about the relationships you form as it is about the actual destinations.
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Stepping outside the comfort zone:  This is a big one for me. It lies at the core of my backpacking philosophy and it’s the stand-out reason I’ve picked India as my next journey. Travelling for me isn’t about 5 star hotels and first class flights, I want something that will challenge me. It could be anything from skydiving to trying to order food in a foreign language, both these things and everything in between give a great sense of achievement . All forms of backpacking are going to come with moments where you take a trip outside your comfort zone and this is only multiplied when you decide to rock it solo.   Adversity goes hand-in-hand with travel, inevitably you’re going to miss flights, check into a dodgy hostel, maybe have something stolen or trek around a town trying to find accommodation. It’s not all doom and gloom though because it’s when you get forced outside your comfort zone that the next point really takes place.
Tarantula's in Guatemala
Character Building: I learnt more about myself in 9 months of travel than I had in any other period of my life. I feel as though from the moment I left to the moment I got back I had completely transformed myself as a person. I gained an entirely new perspective on the world around me and discovered passions I wished to pursue, one of them being further travel.
I don’t think you’re ever quite alone when you’re traveling, the backpackers trail is so full of amazing people that you very quickly forget that you got there alone and often end up on adventures you’ll never forget with friends you made over a beer at the hostel the night before.
theboywander

Fusion restaurants – yay or nay?

Fusion restaurants – the idea of mixing the best of different cultures and their cuisine. I love Thai food and I love Indian food, they both are very flavoursome and as I’m discovering – very, very spicy. When I stumbled across a Thai/Indian Fusion restaurant in the back streets of San Cristobal, Mexico I thought I’d hit the jackpot. They share a lot of spices between the cultures including; cinnamon, ginger, chilli, tumeric, coriander, cumin and a bunch of others. I had barely eaten that day and was prepared to treat myself to a few dishes. The American couple who had recently opened the restaurant bought out our first meal and I think I’d had 3 spoonfuls before the plate hit the table. I was bracing myself for an explosion of fusion flavours and was left terribly disappointed. It lacked spice and it lacked flavour. Thai and Indian rely very heavily on flavour and spice, in fact, that’s what they’re known for the world over. Fusion had left me unsatisfied but not completely done with fusion restaurants.

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Inside the fusion restaurant in San Cristobal was a very comfortable layout of low tables and cushions. As well as paper and crayons for a drawing competition…I lost, as you’ll see below.

In Panama, after eating chicken and rice for one too many nights in a row we went out in search of a south-east asian restaurant and found another fusion cafe. We were skeptical but the place looked very inviting and we were hungry. We found ourselves similarly underwhelmed. That was it, I was completely done with fusion food, if a restaurants name or menu had the word fusion in it I wasn’t going anywhere near it. This was all well and good, I stuck to strictly Thai or strictly Indian or strictly Chinese, etc and was rarely disappointed.

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The portrait I ended up with, Do you think it’s close?

Cut scene to Cartagena, Colombia a month later I was checking into the hostel and the lady at reception picked up on my Australian accent. She said I absolutely had try The Australian Fusion Cafe – here we go again. My homesick heartstrings were tugging at my chest and I knew I had a duty to my land of birth to at least try it – besides I hadn’t had vegemite on toast in months, something I had eaten religiously since I was a pup.

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Finally! Vegemite on toast

Lunchtime the next day I walk in the door and am greeted with a ‘G’day mate’ from Ian – the chef and owner, originally from Perth. Ian wasn’t in the kitchen though, he was sitting down at a table under a sign that read ‘Kangaroos – Next 5kms’, across the table was a mate of his who just touched down in Colombia. It was 11am and they were catching up over a beer, this was starting to feel authentic. I ordered vegemite on toast (it was almost obligatory for me) as well as the Stockmans Pie. The servings were huge and delicious and I only just got through my meals. Fusion was scoring some points. In a week-long stay I visited 3 times and tried the sausage roll, the fish and chips and the nachos as well as my fair share of lamingtons.

I have since had amazing meals that you could call south east asian or european fusion. I’ve come to the conclusion that when done right it allows for some delicious experimentation between cultures but when done poorly you’re left halfway in between nowhere. While I’m not completely back on board with them, I’ll keep the options open if someone recommends one.

What are your thoughts on fusion restaurants? Are you a fan? Or still slightly skeptical like?

 

Indian food burns

Indian food. It draws a fine line between a blissful kick and choking back tears as you drown yourself in a glass of milk. As far as how much I can handle, I probably fall somewhere in the middle….by Australian standards. I realise this puts me way behind the ball in terms of Sri Lankan, Nepalese and Indian food. How was I ever going to fully appreciate traditional dishes if they left me in tears, sweat and a state of delirium. I mentioned in my first post The Boy Wander Begins I’ll be heading to India in late January/early February so it was time to become acquainted with Indian food.

It was time to kick my tastebuds into gear. I planned to build some resistance to the fiery Indian curries. I set about tracking down some more traditional Indian recipes and found some at a local market. I had a choice of a few curry recipes ranging from 1 to 5  chillies on the spice recommendation. In my ignorance I laughed off anything under 3 chillies and settled on a lamb Madras that weighed in at 5 out of 5. I picked up the recipe bag which contained the seeds and spices, the 5 dried chillies and curry powder. I head off to the local shops and grabbed the rest of the ingredients (it’s worth noting I didn’t buy any sour cream or yoghurt).

Three hours later I had cooked up a huge pot of the world famous Indian dish – Lamb Madras and was quite pleased with myself, my whole house smelt delicious and I sat down to eat. First mouthful goes in and I spend the first 3 and a half seconds disappointed by the lack of spice, and those 3 and a half seconds were the only time I spent fooled by that though. As chilli seems to do so well, it lulls you into a false sense of comfort and then hits you in the face with flavour. Two mouthfuls in and I looked like I’d run a marathon, my face was red and sweat was welling up on my cheeks and forehead. I checked the fridge knowing full well we had no yoghurt or sour cream that I could mix through to knock back the heat a bit but it was worth a hopeful search.

At about the halfway mark I actually started to get a little used to it and it turned out to be one of the best curries I’d made. The rest of it is currently being re-heated and awaiting my attention; this time I have sour cream in the fridge though. Indian food certainly got the best of me the first time around but I’m feeling better prepared for my next meal.

As I said in Travelling at Home, travel isn’t only about getting to a new country to explore the culture, you can also explore your own countries take on a foreign culture or with a bit of research explore Indian food in your own kitchen.

How do you handle spicy food? Are you cut out for the heat of Indian food or like me do you need some training?

theboywander.