When you accept that reality is somewhere between Instagrams wanderlust vision of the world and the bile Fox News mistakenly calls news then you will be ready for travel. I have experienced both narratives of the world along my trip. My worst moments include being assaulted, working for dodgy bosses, getting blacklisted from Vietnam and nearly dying in the Outback. I document my better stories here.
The Boss Threatened to Punch a Backpacker
Being low on money and unemployed is not a pleasant combination anywhere in the world. Especially so, in a brutally expensive country like Australia. I could not even just fly home and give up. I had organised a road trip with my friend for the following month. Somehow I had to navigate Australia for a month on next to no money. When I found a job with free accomodation everything seemed perfect. Then I turned up to my first day at work!
We were working 50 hour weeks, being paid below minimum wage, living in disgusting accomodation and had to work 13 days straight. Worst of all the boss threatened to punch one of the fellow backpackers.
I eventually found a good job in Moranbah Australia. The town restored my faith in Australia and travel. It was a great shame having to say good bye to all the Aussies in that town.
Getting Blacklisted from Vietnam
I arrived in Hanoi with about £800 and was still desperately trying to reclaim my tax from Australia. Fortunately though Vietnam is cheap to live in day to day and it only took me a few days to find a recruitment company who could set me up with work. I would later learn that MIC (Minh Quang International) has a rotten reputation.
I had timed it poorly and arrived in Vietnam just before the TET celebrations where everything closes for 1-2 weeks. Having to get by on $20 over the holiday was annoying but a pay check was only round the corner, so I naively thought.
After TET, MIC did not call me back and after a few days I gave them a nudge. They quickly responded and asked me to do a visa run to Bangkok so they could secure me a business visa. I had still not got my tax back from Australia so had to borrow money from a relative. After forking out nearly $300 on flights, taxis and visas, MIC were unable or unwilling to provide me with a job. I then did three unsuccessful trials with other schools. After the second trial I felt defeated, could not sleep and genuinely thought my trip was over. My parents were planning to transfer me some money for a flight home.
There is a fine line between stubbornness and determination and its unclear which one drove me to give it ‘one final go’. I lived in Nam Dinh for a month, grew confidence that everything was working out and then was asked to leave. I returned to Hanoi and was determined to give it another ‘final go’. Before I could stubbornly give it another go I would have to deal with some immigration bullshit. The human garbage who ran MIC had lied to the immigration police and told then I stopped answering their phone calls and turning up for work. I had to leave Vietnam.
Fortunately though my current company are amazing. I explained everything to them. They spoke to immigration, got the matter resolved and rearranged my training (it was suppose to start around the time the immigration police came knocking). What Moranbha did for Australia, Apax did for Vietnam.
I have written extensively about teaching in Vietnam here.
Nearly Dying in the Outback
As the plane came into land a smile stretched along my face. I was about to experience the heart of the Australian Outback. Who would not be happy. 24 hours later I would not be happy. I would be on my own in the dark feeling very anxious. I wanted adventure but it turns out not all adventures are born equal.
I had a day to myself till we set off for Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. I set off on an easy 5 hour walk which ended up taking 9 hours and hitch hiking home with a ‘big Aussie who had a gun in his car’. To say something went a bit wrong is probably an under exaggeration.
You could not walk to the top of the mountain, you had to climb for the last few minutes. It looked like a short but intimidating climb. Part of me was tempted to give up but I just had to see the view at the top so precariously made my way up. In typical Australian fashion the view was amazing. You could see small speckles of civilization surrounded by vast swathes of water deprived land.
After much confusion and hesitation I eventually found the right path down and slowly descended down while making full use of my feat and hands, knowing a slip on this terrain could be catastrophic. Frustratingly I was not on the right path after all. I had to crawl along a metre wide ledge and a thorn bush to ‘get to the right path’, which almost happened to be the wrong way. I had no choice but to go back to the top of the mountain.
After much deliberation I headed down the other side of the mountain. It was going to make the day far longer than planned but my choices were limited. Once at the bottom my problems were by no means revolved. I had no idea how to get to the main road and Google Maps could not pinpoint my location. I was endlessly wandering and panicking about night setting in.
I was lost, dehydrated and alone. For the third time in less than 12 months I called the police for assistance. The phone operator was going to speak to his manager and then call me back. Before he did this my phone died, great!
I had no water, no one to give me support, it was dark, if it could go wrong it had gone wrong. My body was dehydrated and tired but staying still was not going to resolve my problem.
After endlessly walking for hours I eventually saw what looked like a dirt track and off roaders. As much as my dehydrated body allowed, I bolted over to the track and in the rush nearly hit my head on a metal pole. This metal pole had a speed limit sign on it. This dirt track was actually a main road. Grey tarmacked roads are a familiar site around the world but because of my unfortunate circumstances this stretch of road felt magical. I stood at the side of the road and frantically waved when cars came past. Two cars drove straight past me. I could have cried at that point. Then for the first in five hours I had some good luck. One of the drivers had seen me. He turned around and came back to rescue me.
I never kept in contact with the driver but I will forever be grateful for his assistance on that daunting day. I woke up next morning covered in cuts and bruises but I was alive and had a roof over my head.
A lot of lessons were learnt after that ordeal! If you travel on your own then tell people where you are going, take lots of water and a emergency phone battery with you and call for assistance before the situation gets too out of hand.
Getting Assaulted in Kuta
On my second night in Kuta (Bali) I went out clubbing with a few other solo travelers in my hostel. They seemed like decent people and I was excited for my first clubbing experience in SE Asia.
After a few hours out we called it a night, headed home and decided to carry on the fun at the hostel. The other guys already had beers in their rooms so I popped to the convenience store 100m down the road on my own. I never made it to the store. Someone punched me in the face 20m away from my hostel. I am not sure why I was targeted. Maybe it was because in my semi drunken state I looked like an easy target to rob. Maybe it was because I was hanging around with some people who had been in a argument earlier in the night.I want to emphasis that I had no part in this argument.
After the first punch to my head a few locals luckily grabbed the thug and I sprinted back to the hostel. I was scared and my head was whirling, the hostel staff were as useful as dog shit but the other backpackers stepped up. They stuck with me that night. I had only known these other travelers for 24 hours but that did not bother them. They were fortunately the type of people who were willing to come to anyone’s aid.