What I learned during the first month travelling

 One month down, many to go!

   

It’s been 6 weeks since I started my trip. During this time I went to two countries and eight cities, met many people, made new friends, experienced different things, and learned a few. I was busy most of the time, I had only a few days I could stop and think about what I am doing and what I am going through. Since this trip is not only about traveling (actually this is just a very nice tool used for expanding my comfort zone and self-knowledge) I decided to share some thoughts:
1. Be a traveler, not a tourist  

  
The first thing I learned on this trip is that being a traveler is different from being a tourist. I used to do 1 month trips every year (FYI in Brazil by labor law we have the right to take 30 straight days of vacation) and during these trips I always had everything planned day by day. I did just the same during the first four weeks, but at some point I realized that this wasn’t the way I should do it. There were days when I just didn’t feel like going out, that I wanted to wake up late and rest all day long and it took me some time to understand that it’s fine not do anything once in a while. It is also ok not to have your whole trip planned, sometimes I decided what place to visit or which city to go next while having breakfast. That’s the spirit of a traveler, your are flexible, always open to changing plans, you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and you don’t care, because tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet! And that’s the way to go, day after day.
2. A friend in need…

Do you have friends you can really rely on? I know I have, but less than I thought. When you are traveling alone for a long time loneliness eventually hits you. 

  
Since I decided to do this trip, I knew it was the right time, I was mature enough to face this, I prepared myself physically and mentally and I felt very confident. I still feel that way, although loneliness hits me way ahead than expected. One day I was so excited about the place I was in, how beautiful it was and how cool the hikes I planned to do were, that I felt I had to share such nice moment with someone. So I tried for some days to talk to a person I trusted, even though we have been friends for few months only. It was one of those people you get along with very well, so I thought we would continue to share good and bad moments of our lives. Well, I was wrong and after insisting on a conversation that felt more like a one sided interview, I felt very very disappointed. But was I disappointed at this friend that hadn’t matched my expectations or at me that had created an image and expectation of a person I barely knew?

This question made me think about my concept of friendship. Not everyone thinks the same way I do, and some types of behavior that I think are negative might be normal to others. I’m not saying the person was wrong or mean, but only different. That means I will have to be more careful when choosing who to talk to in each situation, even with people that share the same definitions of friendship I do. That’s a lesson I’m learning the hard way… or should I say the best way? 😉

I don’t expect to have moments like this very often, I am used to be by myself and I enjoying being alone for long periods of time, but I am sure that eventually I will have this type of feelings again, after all that’s part of the path I decided to follow.

3. … is a friend indeed 

  
On the other hand I was surprised with some people that I believed they wouldn’t even care about what I’m doing. People that I haven’t talked in years and suddenly they are sending me messages supporting my adventures, cheering me up to keep it up, traveling with me through my posts here and in Facebook, in some cases even calling me on Skype just to hear my experiences.

I received huge help from friends and distant relatives in Japan, people that I wasn’t even that close with, but once they knew I was around they insisted on meeting or gavinha me visiting them. I had such a great time! It never crossed my mind how nice it could be to hang out with them, and how much I could learn from them. It was also surprisingly good to meet people on the road and later on receive news from them or know that they are following my blog.

Are they better friends than the ones that let me down? Not necessarily. I guess in the end it is all about managing your own expectations. Easy to say, hard to do. So let’s keep up working!
4. It’s so hard to keep this blog up to date!!!! LOL
Cheers

Jeff

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Meeting my origins | Japan – Tokyo

A dream coming true! That’s what I realized when the airplane touched the ground. I have always wanted to come here since my childhood, but even when I was planing this trip I never thought I would feel such emotion for arriving at the country my grandfather was born. Although I also have Italian blood running in my veins, the influence of Japanese culture is very strong on my family, so it felt like I was in some way meeting my origins.
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As soon as I had gotten my bags and left the landing area, I was hit by the first shock: I was still inside the airport and there were signs in Japanese but no English translation, or even romanization. I was lost! Although I know hiragana and katakana, and speak very basic Japanese, I cannot read kanji (Chinese characters) nor understand most of what they say. But luckily a good friend of mine went there to pick me up. She took me to the hostel and showed my around the neighborhood while explained how some things work in Japan.

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Kabuki statue

When I arrived to the hostel I had another cultural impact, here you have to take off your shoes before you get in. The same goes for temples and even some museums. During the first weeks here I learned new things every single minute! From daily tasks like using the restroom, taking shower, buying subway tickets or food, to cultural behavior:

* It is considered rude to talk to Japanese looking straight on theirs eyes all the time

* Every time you have to pay for something you will find a small plate on the table. Put your money in there, do not handle directly to the salesperson

* Japanese people usually slurp when eating noodles such as ramen, soba or udon. For them this is an expression of appreciation for the meal

* Every conversation begins and ends with bowing

* There is no tipping in Japan. If a place requires tips a service charge will be added to your check

* As a ‘Gaijin’ (foreigner) Japanese people you try to avoid you, so if someone sitting at your side in the subway change to another spot as soon as it’s free, it’s not because you forgot to use deodorant 

* When eating Japanese food, never stick your chopsticks into rice, since it is associated with the rice bowl placed in the funeral altar where they light ?incense?

* If you take the subway after 10PM there is a high chance to meet !drunk! high spirit people going back home after a happy hour. Their behavior at these moments are tolerated by Japanese society

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Tsukiji fish market

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How to use japanese toilet

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Going back to Tokyo, what an amazing city! Just like other metropolis, it is full of things to do, places to go and the most varied stiles of people in the world! I saw all kind of styles there, from very traditional people using kimonos and yukatas, through normal western social cloths, crazy undefined looks (sometimes nerdish), colorful punks, to cosplays (anime costumes) and lolitas. What was more amazing is that I saw all of these people simply walking on the streets like anyone else without feeling ashamed or being disturbed by others who might not share their values. In other words, they respect each others differences. This is something that is lacking for mankind in the rest of the world.

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Typical japanese students posing to a photo in front of a shinto portal

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Statue of Hachiko, the dog that waited for this owner everyday after his death

I think it’s clear diversity is one of the cities main characteristic, and that’s the same for sightseeing. During the day you can go to amazing temples and shrines, visit vivid neighborhoods or go to beautiful Japanese style gardens. Asakusa shrine is a must, one of the most impressive and beautiful (and free!!) in Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyouen National Garden is a great place to spend a sunny day just relaxing. It isn’t free but it’s cheap (only 200 Yen) and totally worth the value.

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Shinjuku Gyouen National Garden

 

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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku

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Another one from Shinjuku Gyouen National Garden

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Lotus Flower

I also recommend visiting Akihabara, even if you not an amine fan nor into electronics (which are what make this neighborhood famous), because this is the place to immerse in one of the most popular universes of Japanese culture, especially on Sunday which is when lolitas and cosplays are ?desfilando? their best costumes. Shibuya is another neighborhood that worth visiting. Best time to go there is during rush hour so you get to see how busy Shibuya cross gets (it’s is considered the busiest cross in the world) and at night when the lights are on.

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Shibuya cross at night

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Bright street in Shibuya

Speaking of which, the night transforms the city into another world! Streets are still full of people and illuminated by bright and colorful neons and LED screens, making them even more attractive and fun. Going out during the day and at night are totally different experiences. The atmosphere is different, the type of people you meet on streets are different and even common places during the day turn into nice sightseeing at night.

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Tokyo tower

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Asakusa Temple

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Asakusa Pagoda

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Asakusa Portal at night….

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…. and at daylight. Which one is more beautiful?

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Bridge and boats during the day….

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I spent a week enjoying Tokyo and I was able to fulfill all of these days with very interesting things to do, and I could’ve stayed more if I had the time. Even if you get sick of the city, you can do short day trips to places around Tokyo. This was a good start for knowing better Japanese culture. But I want to see the other side of Japan, the countryside. So my next step is to go to any small town around Japanese Alps! I’m not sure yet where, but the answer will come in time 😊

See yah 

Jeff

Melbourne

Time to talk about Melbourne! I could feel one of the differences between here and Sydney as soon as I arrived: the weather. Oh it is so cold and rainy here! Anyhow, I would not let the weather spoil my plans to know this city that is in the top 3 best cities to live in the world.

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Melbourne

The first thing I did was to meet very good friends that are living in Brisbane and were visiting Melbourne. It has been over an year since we last met, so I spent a day hanging out with them. We went to St. Kilda Beach, one of the main beaches there, where is the famous “Luna Park”, and walked around CBD.
 

Luna Park

 

After they had gone back home, I did a day trip with their family to the Great Ocean Road. This was by far the best I did here. The landscapes you find on this road are breathtaking! One day was too short to enjoy the road relaxed. I could easily spend a couple of nights there exploring every details of that place. Still in one day it was possible to see wild koalas, kangaroos, colorful parrots, and go to the main lookouts. Luckily this was one of few days when the weather was good and I could take awesome pictures.

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Wild Koala. Did you know they sleep 18 to 20 hours a day? How luck was I to find one awake!

 

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The next day I did a free walking tour which was the best thing to do to get a good overview of the city, and also to know places that usually are out of touristic guides. By the way, I strongly recommend to do this kind of tours on the first day at the place you are visiting. I always get a lot of cultural information about the city and also a long list of things to do, places to go back to explore with more time, and nice cheap restaurants to eat.

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Flinders Street Station

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Secrets of Melbourne

During the rest of the the time I was here I went to the main touristic attractions, parks, museums and beaches. One famous beach I went was “Brighton Beach” which has these colorful bath houses along the shore.

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Brighton Beach

Now I can tell why Melbourne beaches are not that popular. First of all the city is cold, secondly they are not that beautiful, but they do are great places for sailing, kite surfing, wind surfing, etc.

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Kite surfers

Melbourne is great for urban tourism. If you like architecture, modern buildings, museums, stadiums, etc, that is the place for you. One cool place I went is “Hosier Lane” which is an alley where street artists are allowed to expose their work (graffiti is illegal in Australia).
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If you are into museums I also recommend going to “National Sports Museum” and to “Shrine of Remembrance”. On the first you will find vast material about Australia’s most popular sports – among than, Australian Football which the closest sport to “Quidditch” I have ever seen – and A LOT about Olympic Games, since its first edition. In case you have forgotten Sydney hosted it in 2000. On the second you will learn many facts about The First and The Second World War, focused of course on the role played by Australia.

 

Roof of Shrine of Remembrance

 
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As you may have noticed I appreciate more nature than manmade things. Thus to me Melbourne turned out not to be as attractive as I thought. On the other hand, thinking of it as a place to live, it becomes more interesting. Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia – worldwide sports events, festivals, and concerts usually take place here – public transport system is good and the life cost is a bit cheaper than Sydney. So between the two of them which one is better? Well… I think it is up to you to decide. I have my answer, but I would rather keep it to myself 😉

Well, time to continue with my trip. Check my post next week to find out where I am heading right now.

Cheers
Jeff

Sydney

Sydney! This is where everything started. I was here last year and spent almost a month exploring this city, so there were few places left to go. As soon as I had gotten off the airplane I thought “Hey, this city does feel like home” and this was the feeling I had the entire time I was there. I was already familiar with the transport system and the main places in CDB. I could get here and there very easily, although I still don’t know all main intersections, which are the reference points they use there. I knew where to go to buy everything I needed or where to find good and cheap food. Obviously Sydney is a huge city, so there still are many places to go and a lot to find out about. I had only few days in the city, so I went to places around CBD that I couldn’t go last year. I spent a day walking around Chinatown. The neighborhood itself is very interesting, full of good restaurants (by the way how can Asian food be so good and so cheap? I’d rather not know the answer) and nice buildings with Asian architecture. But the most amazing thing there is the Chinese garden. Check out some photos I took there:

Chinese garden

Chinese garden

Tea House

Tea House

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Dragon Stone

Dragon Stone

I also took some cool photos from Sky tower. Here is one of them:

Sydney bay

Sydney bay

Another thing I couldn’t miss this time was the Blue Mountains. This is a national park (the second largest canyon in the world) full of trails to hike, caves and climbing spots. I spent 3 days there and I have to say, it wasn’t enough time to explore the place entirely. There is so much to explore there!!! On the day I arrived I did a half day hike to Wentworth falls. This was my first contact with the eucalyptus forest that covers that area. Initially the landscape looked poor and repetitive, but once you are inside this forest you notice a big diversity of fauna and flora! Starting from “The Three Sisters” I walked on the edge of the cliff full of lookouts and at some point I went down to see the falls. Then I walked back into the Leura forest. To close the day I had to go up back to The Three Sisters by the Giant Stairway. I thought the name was one of those names that they made up just to thrill tourists, but in fact it was quite accurate.
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Lonely mountain

Lonely mountain

Bounder

To serve, to strive, not to yield

The three sisters

The three sisters

Next day I went to a longer trail to Leura cascades and Gorgon falls. The original plan was to start at The Three Sisters, going down to Leura forest using the same stairway I used the day before and continue the trail inside it. But the view from the cliff was so amazing that I changed my plans and went by the cliff top walking track, which was a good decision as you can see in the next photos.

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Gorgon falls

Leura falls

Leura falls

Check the smoke on the left side

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I got to the falls faster than I expected, maybe because I changed the trail, but since I had time, I decided to go until Evans lookout. There I took probably the most beautiful photos from the canyon. You can see that the pictures that the fog looks gray instead of blue (that gives the name of the place, the blue “fog” is in fact the evaporation of a oil produced by eucalyptus trees). That’s because there was a fire on the top of the cliffs.

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More smoke

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Even though this was my second time in Sydney, I was again amazed by the life quality this city offers. The criminality rate is very low, they have a public health system that works, very efficient transport system, and their lifestyle is just perfect! You work 8 hours per day and as soon as the clock reaches 5PM you go to the beach, to a park, or simply go home. It is also very common to see people working out during lunch time. I am quite sure I would enjoy a lot to live in a city like this.

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Cherry blossom

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Sunset at Sydney bay

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Habour bridge

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Sydney Opera House

 
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Opera house again. I just never get tired taking photos of it!

 

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Thank you Sydney for the amazing time I had there! Next stop: Melbourne

It has began!!!

Hey guys, I’m back! I know, it’s been a long time since my last post. I have done A LOT of things in the last few months. As you may know I’ve been dealing with physical issues, mainly on my left leg. Since then I’ve been hiking, climbing and practicing Yôga… Well, not regular Yôga but DeRose method. I’ll write more about it later. All of these things have been done with two purposes in mind: increase my self knowledge and get on shape to a trip around the world.

Stairway to...

Stairway to…

Marumbi

Marumbi… which is close to heaven 😉

I’ve been hiking a lot! After Caratura mountain I went to Pico Parana mountain, the tallest mountain in the south of Brazil,before that I had gone to Marumbi mountain which is not the biggest but it has hard tracks to get to the peak, and after Pico Parana.

Mountain Pico Parana

Pico Parana Mountain

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I had my biggest challenge and final test before I started traveling: a 14 days course/expedition called FEAL (that in Portuguese stands for Foundations of Outdoor Education) driven by Outward Bound Brasil, which is an affiliate of Outward Bound International that is an independent not-for-profit educational organisation that helps people discover, develop and achieve their potential. This course was held at Chapada dos Veadeiros, an ancient plateau with an estimated age of 1.8 billion years located at Central Brazil. I had such a great time there that I could start a new blog only to describe all experiences and learning I had during this course. Again, I will write more about it later. Long story short I passed in this test and now I think I am ready to do this trip… Which in fact has already started!

Two weeks ago I left Brazil and headed to Australia.  Firstly I went to Sydney. I have been there last year, so I already knew most of its attractions. Basically I only did a quick stop over there, but I did managed to go to the Blue Mountains. This place is full of tracks to hike and climbing spots to climb.  I spent three days there which were not enough to explore this region.

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After that I went to Melbourne, the second largest city in Australia. Its vibe is totally different from Sydney. Both are big cities, they have their own charms, but while the last pushes you to an outdoor life style, the first makes you to stay home, protected from the cold and rainy weather.  Melbourne is a city to people who enjoy urban turism and lifestyle. If I were to live there I would enjoy its infrastructure but to fulfill my desire to be in touch with nature as often as I can I would have to travel a lot to explore all natural attractions that surrounds it, like the great ocean road.

Next week I’ll write more about my experience in Sydney and Melbourne. Stay tuned!

First test of the year: Climbing Caratuva mountain

I decided to start this year testing my physical conditions, which is very important for the plans I have for this year. Since 2013 when I fell down from a bike when doing downhill in Bolivia, I have been suffering with pains on my left leg. Last year I did many RPG and osteopathic sessions, which made me fell better for my regular activities (indoor rock climbing, Yôga, skating), it was time to test my body. So I decided to spend new year’s eve on a mountain!!! 😀

The chosen mountain was Caratuva, which is the second highest mountain of the south of Brazil. It is 1860m high and the trail to get to the top has around 6 Km.

Caratuva Mountain

Caratuva Mountain

On December the 31st we went to the base camp (or should I say base farm?) left our car there and started climbing. It took 5 hours to get to the peak, in a slow pace because our group had people from twenty-something to almost-sixty.

I was surprised with my performance on the way up. No pain at all!! Although the real challenge would be going, which is when knees and ankles are more stressed.

I did it!!

I did it!!

We spent the night there, celebrated new year (we even had champagne!), and woke up on January 1st with this amazing view!

View of Parana Mountain

Dawn at Caratuva – View of Parana Mountain

After a quick break fast, it was time to go down. I was feeling OK until the last two kilometers, when the same old knee pain was back. It did not prevent me to finish this trip, but I will definitely have to find a way to totally heal to do longer treks.

To my Dream Reader(s)

I do have a dream reader… actually more than one, but usually when I want to say something to them I just say it (in private). I don’t have to write things on a blog and hope they’ll read it. Then who are my blog’s dream readers?

Initially I’d only use this blog to share my future travel experiences with family and friends, but after I started blogging101 course I found out that there are MANY people going through the same process that I am! I’m glad to find all of you and to read about your doubts, questions, goals, feelings, experiences…. I do hope to somehow connect to all of you to share our thoughts.

I was also amazed by the number of people that use travels as a way to get to know yourself. It’s good to see that I am not alone and I am sure that soon our paths will cross.