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From Golden State to Golden State and Beyond

I know it’s been quite a long time since I last wrote. Truth is, you get in a routine working abroad, and there isn’t much to write about. But quite a few things have happened in the last four months or so. As you know, after backpacking through South-East Asia with my bro’s I flew to Australia. After hitch-hiking for a couple of days, and staying a few nights in a lonely town, I scored a job gardening at El Questro Wilderness Park. On my seventh day in Oz I was working. This is where I stayed for six months. May 3, 2012-Oct 29, 2012. Now I know this would be nothing for most folks, but for me six months was an eternity. This is the longest I have stayed in one place since graduating high-school. I usually work about three months in one spot and then hit the road for as long as possible. But, the longer I stayed the more money I saved. I also met my girlfriend Lana here, and this was the real reason for staying until the end of the contract. It was long and really long at times but I managed.

Working at the Wilderness Park was fun. Really, as much as I bitched about it from time to time, I did enjoy my stay there. The company itself was okay. A big corporate company from the USA, that was all about money. I got sick of the budget cuts, and always having to watch the clock, not to mention the ridiculous politics, but the people I met there and the memories I made with them made it well worth the wait. It was a journey, only one I hadn’t encountered before. It built patients, and stamina. When your living with sixty people all the time, and working with them with no place to escape….you can imagine your shit-list grows a little more everyday. “A good surfer, is a patient surfer.” Even though I was far from the surf, I still recited this everyday.

Oct 29th eventually came and we were all happier than a pig in shit. We partied, said good-byes, and then all split our separate ways. Lana and I headed to Darwin, where we spent one night and then caught a flight to Adelaide, South Australia. I loved this place. Western Australia was great, and very beautiful but like I joked about it all the time, it was like the “surface of Mars”. Always hot and sticky. South Australia reminded me of California. A dry and temperate climate. We booked a studio right on the beach front for a week in West Beach, just a ways down the coast from the heart of Adelaide. For a week we spent time just chillin’ on the beach, sleeping in and eating like royals. It was killer and I fell in love with the beach community there, especially with Gleneg. But you know how it goes, time flies on holiday and stands still when working. Lana got a job at a five star luxery lodge on Kangaroo Island. It’s only about five miles off the coast. Me on the other hand, I had to fly back to California and run the Christmas tree farm that I had been doing for years. It would be a long seven weeks, but it would be my last time I work the Christmas tree farm.

It was tough to say the least. It was a real culture shock getting back, driving on the right side of the road, and paying with different currency. I had grown so use to Oz, that it really hit me. That easy going life style was gone, and I was back in the land of competition and stress. But I pushed through. It was a lot of hard work but I enjoyed it because I knew it was my last. It was also so great seeing family and friends that I hadn’t seen for nearly a year. I missed them very much. I made use of what little spare time I had though, and began to severe ties with the foundation of Sonoma. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to rely on this town for money making anymore. I had used this beautiful wine country town as headquarters for the last six years. I milked it for what it was worth, working in so many places, and relying on tourists to pay my wage. I couldn’t do it anymore though. It’s such an amazing place, and you couldn’t ask for a better town to grow up in or live in for that matter, but I had lost my appreciation for it. I had seen so many different places and regions in the world, exploring so many of the corners of this planet, that it just killed me going back to Sonoma, California where it managed to not change since high-school. There was no more excitement or thrill and I knew if I didn’t leave it now, I would begin to hate the very place that gave me the opportunity to go out and travel. To go see and feel something so different. I closed my local bank account, and opened an online one. I bought everything that I might need from stores I counted on to keep me going on the road. Basically I prepared for the largest crusade I’d ever do, and possible my last one. Now the only thing that is in this town, are the friends of a life time that I’ll always have. My family, and the families that I had grown into. And the memories that will be with me forever.

After seven weeks of back-breaking work, I was finally on a plane back to Australia to be with my girlfriend. I was stoked to say the least. Lana picked me up at the airport, we spent a night in Adelaide, and then it was back to Kangaroo Island. I had tried several times to get a job at this lodge that she’s working at. I’d write frequent emails to the manager, but nothing ever came up. So at this point I didn’t know where I’d be working, and there were only a hand full of places near by. To give you an idea of this island, it’s the size of Manhattan but with only 4500 people. Most of which are on the eastern side. There are only three towns and they are barely towns. You can walk across them in a few minutes. The lodge is on the western side, along with a national park, and a wildlife sanctuary. To best describe the west-side, it’s like the Moon. There is hardly anybody here, you can drive for an hour and not see one car on the road, and the sailor’s on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific probably have better communication. Seriously, I waited four days to have a signal for five minutes to be able to write my father an email.

I stayed with Lana at the lodge for three nights. I wasn’t really allowed to, and being a stranger to this place I felt like I was walking on egg shells. Eventually I got kicked out by the manager, and I had to figure something out quick. I had no car, and there was no work. At this point, it looked like I might have to get a job on the eastern side which was about two hours away, which you can imagine…isn’t really practical. So, on the last minute before I was going to get a ride somewhere from one of her co-workers, I called up the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, just five minutes down the road. Turns out they needed somebody. Boom! Within in an hour or so, I had been hired and was situated in my new living quarters. I live in an old airplane hanger, converted into a flat. It’s cut-throat but I love it. I started working right away after being hired.

So I work at a visitors center on this wildlife sanctuary. It’s a 9500 acre piece of land full of Kangaroos, Wallabies, Possums, and Koala’s. Tourists come here to see the animals in their natural habitat, and to do the “Koala walk”, which is a walk down an avenue of Eucalyptus trees full of Koala’s. It’s my job to make the tourists coffee’s, and to take big bus loads of them on these walk’s, and tell them all about these fur balls. It was nerve racking at first. I had never seen a Koala before, and all of a sudden I was to take people tour guiding and tell them about these things. After a week it was a piece of cake though. I read the books like crazy and soon I knew almost everything about them. My favorite part of the job is taking folks out on nocturnal tours for an hour and a half, showing them all the animals awake and active. I get paid $20 an hour, live for free, and my porch over looks fields of kangaroos. It’s a real trip.

We bought a car the first few days. We had no choice. Now we’re the proud owners of a 1992 Toyota Camry with nearly 200,000 miles on it. Not bad for $1200. For the last two months we’ve been cruising around the island exploring everything we can on our time off. Just the other day we swam with dolphins, which is something I’ve wanted to do for ages. The landscape of this island looks very similar to Northern California. But it’s a bitter-sweet feeling living on this island. I like the whole remote thing, you know. You could set off a nuke out here and maybe 10 people would notice, but it’s such a chore going to the grocery store. Takes me an hour and a half, and it eats about $30 in fuel.

My work/holiday visa expires at the end of April. Lana’s is about the same time too, so the big question was, do we stay here until the end, or venture off and work somewhere new for the last two months? After two weeks of thinking we finally agreed. Let’s get the hell out of here, and down to Tasmania. Tasmania is the island state off the south coast of Australia. It’s been the most intriguing state to me since I can remember. So the plan is simple. We leave in a couple of days, onto a ferry to the mainland. One night in Adelaide and then a two day drive to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road. Then back onto another ferry to Tazzy. We’re going to wing it, nothing lined up. Just rock up and start looking for jobs. It will give us about seven weeks or so to work and make some good money. Then we’re going to South-East Asia for a two month holiday, which I am looking so forward to. Then New Zealand for a year or so. Not sure how or when yet, but we’ll build that bridge when we get there. After all the best plan is no plan. It leave’s lots of doors open.

So on that note, it’s all good in the hood. Keep you all posted in the later time.

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Livin’ It

Things are still going great out here. We went into town last Friday, and after a bit of rough-housing, I really screwed up my finger. Time will heal it though. Gardening is smooth running, just busy busy, and the life out here is incredible. Not much new to report, just making money and enjoying the daily life out here in Oz.

Peace.

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Outback

Things are still rockin’, and I’m having a great time out here. I finally got my bank account set up, mailing address, and most importantly a tax file number. Without this number, the government was taking out about 47% of my wage for tax! Work has been fun, and in fact I usually spend about two or so hours on my days off going to the homestead just to make sure some lawn gets water.

It’s a pretty cruisy job, and there is always something to do. I’ve made a few good bud’s and every Friday we’re sure to get out of the colony, and into town. Kununurra is the armpit of the state, but it’s different, and you have to get away otherwise cabin fever sneaks up.

There isn’t much else to share. The week flies by, and the weekend arrives before you know it. Oh yeah, get this. Today is a public holiday so I don’t work, but I’m still getting paid for it. Figure that one out. If only Uncle Sam was that nice. About the only big event here for me, was when I ordered some beer,Sierra Nevada, from online and had it delivered to me out here in the outback. It cost an arm and a leg, but I have a piece of home now.

Keep ya updated in the latro time.

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"You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take."

— Ryan

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Oz

Life has been killer. I’ve been living just outside Kununurra, Western Australia and working as a gardener at this place calledEl Questro Wilderness park & Homestead.Let me tell you how I got here.

So as you know I ended my Southeast Asian backpacking trip in Bali after surfing it up for two weeks. We all split up, and I flew to Darwin to score a job in Kununurra, WA for fruit picking. The first day on the road, my hitch-hiking brought me to Katherine. This place sucks, and is an armpit of the state. Finally made it to Kununurra, WA after scoring a lift with these French guys. I get to Kununurra with expectations, which was my first mistake, and I totally thought I would grab a job fruit picking in no time. Well, I wasn’t the only backpacker trying to do the same thing, and some of them had been waiting, living at the hostel for weeks trying to score something.


Yeah,…I said to myself, “Forget this place”. I have a bit more motivation than to just sit around waiting for a phone call from this place called the job shop. I don’t even have a phone to begin with. Thankfully I got lucky and grabbed a job as a gardener at this placeEl Quesro Wilderness Park & Homestead. This job is absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. So I’ll give you the lay out. I work Mon-Fri from 6-4 usually up at the Homestead. It’s my job to make sure everything looks pretty, and maintained right. After all, people are paying $2500 a night to stay at these rooms near the gorge. I live back at the Station with all the other workers in my cozy barrack called “The Swamp”. It’s sic, and it reminds me of the hostel life. I live here for free, and chow hall is free too. We get to eat as much as we want, and the food is always, I mean always phenomenal. Especially my lunch which is prepared by a top notch Chef at the homestead. I get paid really well, and have plenty of opportunities to accumulate over-time.

Everyone is soooooo nice here, and it’s been extremely sic hanging with everyone. 4x4ing to working is also pretty fun. My original thoughts were to hang around for two months, and then split to the east coast to backpack for a while. Then I thought I would hang for three months, and then go score another job down south, and just surf. I’m living in the outback, 1.5hrs away from any town, so as you can imagine there’s no surf, and the gills have dried up. But now after being here for a couple weeks, and realizing how epic this gig is, and how fortunate I am to have gotten this job, and what a pleasure it’s been kickin’ it with all my new mates here…I’ve decided that I’m going to stay the entire season. I’d be shooting myself in the foot if I didn’t later down the road.

The season runs until the end of October. That gives me two weeks roughly before my Christmas Tree farm needs to be set up. Save up for six months here, make bank during the Xmas season, and then I can come back to Oz for New Year’s and stay another four months on my Work & Holiday visa. By then, I can afford to buy a pick-up, or what they call here “UTE”, and a surf board, and just cruise around hitting up the coast. We’ll see, that’s far down the road, and many dollar bills away.

Things are going really great though. I’m having a blast, and believe it or not I’m loving the gardening. There’s so much to learn, and I take it personally. After all, it is my garden.

In the latro time!

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Bali > Darwin & More

Asia kicked ass. I love it sooo much, and spent the last two weeks of my travels kickin’ it on some remote, quiet little black sand beach just surfin’. It was epic. It sucked because, it took me a good week to tune myself up, and get on it again, and once I start rippin’ it,…it’s time to peace out to Australia for work.

I flew into Darwin on Friday, and the next morning hitch-hiked to Kununurra, Western Australia. It was 800km away, and took me 2 days, but I saved $180, because the bus wasn’t cheap. Now I’m here, and this town is really depressing. It’s in the outback, and to my surprise there are about 200 backpackers here too looking for work. It’s a bummer too, because the fruit picking season hasn’t started yet, and won’t start for another month, so there goes that idea.

I’m lucky though, because it’s only been two days and I scored a job. I start tomorrow. I’m going to be a gardner/landscaper on this rich resort in the outback. It pays nice, and I get to live for free. I felt like I was in the Great Depression, because everyone talks about finding work, and we’re all in the same boat, or hostel I should say, looking to earn some cash. If I didn’t score this job today, I was going to hitch-hike nearly 2000km to Cairns and score some work there.

It’s back to first world prices again, and my bank account is getting more space in it. Thankfully though, I can start working hard now, and saving some mula. In case your wondering, Kununurra really sucks. Small little town in the middle of nowhere, depressing, and not cheap. Nothing to do here except rot, or fruit pick. Anyway, couple of months of work, and then I’m free again.

I miss Asia, I miss surfin’, I miss mountain biking,….and I miss my bro’s. This last trip was legendary. A real crusade. But here’s to another journey in the land down under.

Cheers…

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Water Fest

Holy smokes! The water fight festival, which celebrates the New Thai Year, was spectacular! The best way to describe it, is like I did for the tubing in Vang Vieng, Lao and the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan…..A Fairytale. We’re on this small island, and every shop is selling water guns like the ones you bought as a kid, the super-soaker. I bought one for nearly ten dollars, and later that night you just go nuts. Water is vital ammunition, and everyone is desperate for it. We spent two nights and one full day just going ape shit, battling everyone in the street with these water guns. It’s so hard to describe, but it is sooooooooo much fun! I spent almost thirty dollars for three different ones. The first one broke, and then the second one broke while I was battling, and I finally settled on a backpacker soaker for my third.

It was amazing, and it was totally worth staying past my Visa for Thailand. Which by the way cost me another thirty dollars at the border, and I had to sigh all these alleged offender papers. Everything was in Thai, and it was titled Royal Thai Police Report. Oh well, what are you going to do. Now we’re in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and this city is really beautiful. Sadly though, the streets still smell like shit. Yesterday Wes, Matt and I hit the streets and checked out the KL Tower, which is 421 meters high. After spending a good amount of time up there, we then checked out the twin towers with the bridge between it. Basically the building is one big mall. Today we’re going to check out some cool looking caves, and chill out. Tomorrow is the big day. We’re flying to Bali, and I can hardly wait.

All is good in the sun in this part of the world.

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Tsunami Warning

Today is a hella beautiful day. After Koh Samui, we headed over to Koh Phi Phi. Adrian and I were here before, and we’ve come back again with Wes and Matt. I had forgotten how beautiful and chill this island is. As I write this, I’m sitting by the water overlooking these giant lime stone cliffs, enjoying a cup of Joe. There is no traffic on this island, and you have to walk or ride a bicycle everywhere you go. The island truly kicks ass. So we get here a couple of nights ago, and get a place to stay. We have to kind of hide out a bit, because there’s supposed to be only two of us in our room, but we’re all staying in it. We have this sic little cabin on the hill for only four bucks a night.

It was a hell of a journey to get here. Van, then boat, then bus, then boat again. It took us about 9hrs, so when we got here we just chilled out the first evening. Yesterday was definitely an adventure to say the least. We booked a snorkel tour around an island farther out from Koh Phi Phi. It’s actually the island they filmedThe Beachon. So I’m chillin on the sand, sunbathing while the rest of the krew is down the shoreline a bit, when this guy starts to shout and tell everyone to get back on the boats. They’re about 15 different boats from different tour agency’s, so everyone starts to hurry and get to their boat. But people start to run, and this guy says there has been an earthquake and there is a tsunami warning. At first I’m thinking, “yeah dude, that’s a hella bad joke”, especially after what this country went through in 2004

But then I see boats taking off and people trying to swim to their boat while it takes off. Everyone was straight panicking and running, and the boat drivers were leaving people behind. Like everyone for themselves. Then I start thinking, maybe something legit is going on. I’m looking for Adrian, Wes and Matt, and people are telling me to get back on. We finally meet up, and the boat floors it out to sea. Only when we get a considerable distance away from the island, the boat driver kills the engine. We’re all trying to figure out what is going on, and if this real. It was a trip to see all the boats just speeding hella fast, cutting each other off and trying to get away from the island.

The driver gets on his phone and tries to figure out what is going on from some other driver. We start hearing the guy yelling on the other side of the phone. Then we hear the news that some gnarly earthquake just hit Indonesia, and there is a tsunami warning out for the whole region. We’re all looking out in the far distance trying to see anything, but everything looks good. For the next hour we ever so slowly trickle closer to Koh Phi Phi, while the driver constantly checks his phone. We eventually get close enough to see Koh Phi Phi, and it was freaky seeing all the boats from the island chillin’ out in the water. Seriously every boat had left the island and was preparing for the worst out at sea.

Our driver gets the word from another boat that we’re okay until 6:30pm. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but the driver then flipped a bitch and gunned it to shore. I guess he figured he has enough time to get to the island, drop all these backpackers off, and then peace out back to sea just in time for the next aftershock. Talk about surreal. It was like something out of a movie. As we get closer to shore, we see that the island is abandon, and there isn’t a soul in sight. Remember, this island has a ton of tourists and shops on every freaking square inch of land. He drops us off, and everyone starts to run and walk hella fast following the evacuation route. Every shop was closed and there was only a couple of folks with radio’s chillin’ out trying to figure out what the scoop was.

We get to an evacuation site, and realize that our cabin is higher, so we split back to our place. We’re up there for a while and there’s people here and there talking about what is going on. We sit back and drink a beer, trying to chill out. I wasn’t worried at only, honestly. We were high enough, and there wasn’t anything in sight on the horizon when we were dropped off. Eventually we were told that the warning had been put away, and it was all good. But it hella wasn’t. We hit the streets, and no one was open. Only one guy was open selling chicken drum sticks. He was making bank, that’s for sure. Then we hit up a backpacker bar, and chilled out talking with some peeps. Apparently, there had been an aftershock and there was a small swell scheduled to hit in two hours.

I don’t know what was going on, because the news was in Thai, and while some people said we’re fine, others said that there was another warning. You would see some locals running with radio’s and other’s just lounging opening their shop. Talk about mixed vibes. But eventually, everything was lifted and people started rushing the streets again to party it up. We chilled out at a tattoo parlor until three in the morning, drinking some beers watching our friend get a tattoo. It was actually hella fun. Today is fine, and people are back to their daily island life routine. But every boat is still chillin’ off shore in case there is another alarm.

There is a big water festival tomorrow across Thailand, so we’re sticking around for that, and leaving the following day to Malaysia. Two days there, and our flight to Bali is on the 17th. You know Southeast Asia kicks ass, but you have to remember too that Southeast Asia will also kick your ass. Throughout the trip your constantly at about 90% as far as health. And then just when you think that your 100%, you get the shits or some bad achy feeling for a few days. You never know what is going on, and the only thing you can do is ride it out. You get use to it eventually. Anyway, we’re all doing well and having hella fun out here in paradise. Time to go buy a super-soaker gun for the water fight tomorrow.

On the flip-side.

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Wild & Crazy

Full Moon Party was absolutely EPIC! For most of our time on Koh Phangan we just chilled out, going out every other night. The Full Moon Party was one of the best parties I have ever been to. We cruised down there early, and didn’t leave until 8:30am. I was really feeling like drinking and getting blind and feeling like hanging myself the next day, so I went to one bar, bought a joint, and just cruised the rest of the night stoned. It was so cool. One side of the beach was chilled out, and the other side was ragging.

Hella tired the next day, but still going. We eventually left the island, and yesterday arrived on Koh Samui. I hella like this island. We’ve only had two nights here, which were spent just lounging on the beach with a few reebs. Tomorrow early in the morning, we’re heading back to Koh Phi Phi. It’s a chill island with no roads on it. Today we also bought our ticket from Malaysia to Bali. We have two more nights on our Thai Visa before we have to peace out. Three or four days in Malaysia, and then we catch a bird to Bali to kick it on the beach, sunbath, and surf some waves for about two weeks. Then I fly to Australia. I applied for a Work & Holiday Visa, and $270, and two days later, and I now can go kick it in the land down under, while working, and it’s all legit.

Hella diggin’ the island hoppin’.

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Full Moon Party

After traveling about 18hrs. by bus and boat, we have finally got the hell out of Bangkok, and we’re chillin’ on Koh Phangan for the full moon Party with our bro’s Wes and Matt. Things are so chill here. Dave our Kiwi buddy is here too, but just on the other side of the island. The first day we rented motorbikes, and cruised around. By no means are they the same as the motorcycles we drove across Vietnam, but they get us around.

I’m finally starting to feel pretty damn good. I’ve been a bit under the weather for the last two weeks. Something hit me in Hanoi, Vietnam, and then when I got into Lao I got some plumbing problems from some food. I hella miss the sandwiches there. I had a bit of a scare, so I paid some money and went to some cutty little medical clinic to have some blood drawn. Two days later, and I found out I’m all good. My blood is nice and clean, and only has alcohol in it. Ha! what can I say, it’s a constant holiday around here.

It’s so good meeting up with the boys. We’re going to be here for a good week, and then head farther south to another island. There is some gnarly water fight festival going on in about a week or so. We’ll stick around for that, and then tear to Bali for a bit. Finally I get to catch some surf.

All is good and dandy. Full moon is in three more days, and it’s going to be sweet!