Tag Archives: Australia
June 3, 2013


Still busy moving into the new place and haven’t yet had time to work on any travel-related stuff.  Thought I’d post a story I wrote some time ago, about spiders in Australia.  It was originally written with a different audience in mind, but rather than spend time editing it for the blog, I’ve decided to simply post it with that caveat.

It was the second night after we had moved into our new, one-bedroom apartment.  We were in Highgate Hill, a couple miles outside the center of Brisbane.  Very suburban, but with just enough trees and parks around that it still seemed a little wild.  You would see possums running along the telephone wires at night, bush turkeys digging around in our neighbor’s yards during the day.

The previous tenant didn’t leave us a very clean apartment.  We scrubbed the hell out of it the day we moved in, but I can’t say I was terribly surprised to see a huge cockroach in the kitchen that first night.  We resolved to clean behind the appliances and buy a bunch of roach traps in the morning.

Oksana, having scored a Work and Holiday Visa, was by that time employed.  On the night of “The Arachnid Incident,” she’d gone to bed around 10-ish.  I had decided I would take a shower first before turning in, myself.

Our bathroom – or rooms, rather – were split in two (which is not uncommon in Australian households.)  There was a tiny, rectangular room with just a toilet and enough room for the door to full swing inwards.  Adjacent in the hallway was another door into the shower room, where we also had our sink, mirror, and laundry apparatus.

I needed to use the bathroom first, but since I was going to take a shower anyway, I went ahead and stripped off my clothes and left them in the hallway. (We had a dirty clothes basket in the bedroom, but I didn’t want to disturb Oksana.)  I went into the bathroom, closed the door, and sat down to do my business.  I couldn’t tell you how long I was in there.  It could have been awhile. I had my iPhone with me.

So I’m just sitting there, you know? Sort of leaning over, looking at the iPhone in my hand, when something pushes its way under the door.  It was big – easily as big as my hand, though its legs were nowhere near as thick as my fingers.  Hairier than my knuckles, though, I can tell you that.  The worst thing, by far, was how fast it moved.  Once it unfurled its legs from under the door, that fucker moved!  Skitter-skitter-stop.  Skitter-stop.


May 25, 2013


About six months ago I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about updating Postcard Valet.  This was after a few months spent worrying about why I wasn’t updating the site during our last few months in Australia.  Though I regret not explaining why I haven’t been updating, the rationalization for why was an easy one to make.  Once we got on the road again, at the end of the day I barely had the time and energy to back up our photos and keep up with my daily journaling… Writing for the blog – let alone video editing – would have completely exhausted me, as well as taken away valuable travel time.

Considering we just drove onto the Alaska Marine Highway and, in about six hours we will return to Juneau and our trip around the world will be at an end, I thought this would be a good time to finally write about what Oksana and I have been up to. (more…)

April 11, 2012

An Invitation to Visit Australia

As I mentioned previously, Oksana and I have decided to spend a year living and working in Australia.  However, we’re trying very hard to replenish some of the savings we burned through traveling around the world, so playing the tourist isn’t something we’re planning to do while we’re in Brisbane.  Though it’d be a shame to live an entire year in Australia and not see anything outside of Brisbane…

So we’re making plans.  Plans which may involve you, especially if you’re one of our friends or family members (or pretty much anyone on our Facebook or Twitter list!)

Although I haven’t really had the opportunity (yet!) to share what happened on our Galapagos trip – the one where we invited friends and family to come along with us – both Oksana and I viewed it as a big success.  We had 5 people join us in Ecuador; a good friend, his cousin (who we’d never met at all), and a family of three I barely knew in passing.  We all hit the streets of Quito, found ourselves a luxury cruise at a reasonable price, flew out to the islands, and spent a week together on a boat.  Afterwards, our friend stayed an extra week with us in Ecuador, where we took him on a day trip into the jungle.  I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all.

Solo travel has its own rewards, but there’s something immensely satisfying about sharing adventures with other people.  For that reason, I’m not only glad I got to travel the world with my wife, but I’m also thankful that other people joined us, as well.

I know that many people consider Australia to be on their “bucket list,” that is, a place they want to visit before they die.  If you’re one of them, why not consider joining us Down Under later this year?


April 9, 2012

Living Down Under

When we were planning our trip, it was only supposed to be a year-long thing.  July 1 to July 1.  We were both hoping that our jobs could be held for us, but in my case, that didn’t work out.  I’m glad.  We would have lost out on a world of opportunities if we’d had to rush back to the daily grind.

Just after we left the United States, we heard about one of those opportunities from a fellow traveler in Ecuador.  He (or she; wish I could remember who it was!) told Oksana about Australia’s Work and Holiday Visa program.  Basically, if you’re 30 or under, you can apply to live and work in Australia for up to a year.  I was over the age limit, but Oksana was both qualified and intrigued.  It seemed like a risky proposition at the time – spending almost 3 days worth of our travel budget on the application fee – but ultimately we decided to give it a go.  Maybe, if everything worked out just right, we’d be able to extend our trip.

Two or three days later, she received confirmation that her visa had been approved.  It stipulated that she must enter Australia by December 28th, 2011.  Perfect!  We had a full year to decide if we were going to use it.

By the time we were in Thailand, we had met many Australians while traveling and most of them had suggestions about where to stay and how to go about finding work.  During our month of downtime in Phuket, Oksana started the job hunt, mostly using Seek, Australia’s job search site.  She sent her resume to dozens of recruiters and companies and collected an impressive set of rejection letters.  We learned that companies don’t often give interviews to applicants who can only work a maximum of 6-months in one place…

Getting her resume out there wasn’t a complete waste of time, however.  She had a least one Skype conversation with a recruiter that specialized in auto-industry work.  He confirmed what we already knew: Just after Christmas (which was when we were planning to arrive) was literally the worst time of year to be looking for a job.  Nobody’s hiring during the summer holidays.

He asked her to contact him when we arrived, though.  Maybe something would turn up.

March 25, 2012

Thoughts on Singapore

While on the bus from Malaysia to Singapore, I reflected on all the Southeast Asian countries we’d traveled through.  Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, in that order.  I realized that (excepting a small backwards step to Cambodia) we had been easing ourselves back into the first world with every new country we visited.

Once I started to look for them, I found arguments to support this theory everywhere.  Bathrooms steadily improved, from bucket-flushing in Laos to modern toilets in Thailand and beyond.  Hotel keys changed from big, metal skeleton keys to RFID-enabled plastic cards.  Safe drinking water was more readily available; we could once again drink from the taps in our Singapore hotel.  Internet access speed increased and wifi hotspots, while more prevalent, were also more often locked down and monetized.  English in Laos was only found in hostels and travel agencies, but by the time we arrived in Kuala Lumpur it was the de facto standard.  In Singapore, we could watch the local news (a novelty for us!) because the major newspapers and television news broadcasts were all in English.

Perhaps the most obvious indication that we were climbing back up to U.S. standards was the lessening number of scooters on the road.  It was literally impossible to view any stretch of road in Vietnam, no matter how short, and not see a motorcycle somewhere.  There were fewer in Cambodia, fewer still in Thailand.  By the time we arrived in Singapore, it was almost all cars again.

Anyone who has traveled extensively knows that reverse culture shock is a very real thing.  Setting aside the psychological problems that some travelers cope with after being in a third-world country long enough (being unable to share experiences with friends and family because they’re don’t care about or, conversely, are jealous of them; difficulty readjusting to “the daily grind,” etc.), there are many surprises – some good, some bad – waiting for you when you return home.  Toilet paper in public restrooms.  Drivers sticking to their lanes.  People showing up to appointments on time.  Having to make hundreds of choices in a grocery store.  High prices.  The constant barrage of advertising.

Personally, I’ve noticed it always takes me at least a week to stop mentally preparing my approach to each and every person in public.  How do I translate my question into Spanish?  What gestures can I make if they don’t understand me?  Shut up, brain!  I’m back in the States!  I can just ask in English!


November 10, 2011

One Year Abroad

Last year, on November 10th, our flight from Miami to Quito kicked off our trip around the world.  Since then, we’ve traveled tens-of-thousands of miles across five continents, seen amazing sites, and met amazing people.  One year later, to the day, we’re still going strong.  We just arrived in a new city, Thailand’s Chiang Mai, and because of a fantastic coincidence, we happened to arrive during their Festival of Lights (Loi Krathong.)  We pretended the whole city was turning out to give us a huge anniversary party!

Originally, our year of travel was supposed to begin on July 1, 2010.  We’d budgeted $100/day for the entire year, setting aside a whopping $36,500 for our trip.  But we had setbacks and delays in the States which eventually delayed our trip by three months.  By the time November 10th rolled around, we had already been gone from home 140 days.  Assuming we’d stuck to our travel budget, that was $14,000 already spent.  We discussed it and made the tough decision to start again at zero – time-wise and money-wise – when we flew to Ecuador.

We did fairly well in South America (aside from spending too big a chunk on the Galapagos Islands), but Africa pitted our travel budget spreadsheet against us.  We regained some ground when we stayed with friends and family in Europe and Russia, saving on housing, but the transportation costs caught us again.  By September 12th, we had exhausted the $36,500 we’d set and realized that any remaining travel costs would be coming out of our savings.  We had fallen 58 day – almost two months – short of our goal.


July 1, 2011

One Year of Travel

One year ago today, we left our home in Juneau, Alaska, and started our trip around the world.  If everything had gone according to plan, we would be returning to work after the Fourth of July weekend.  Thank goodness things didn’t go as planned!

A quick recap:

  • Our trip started with a road trip through the Canada and the United States.  13,000 miles later, we’d visited Seattle, the Redwoods, San Francisco, Las Vegas, the Outer Banks, Key West, Manhattan, and Niagara Falls.
  • An unexpected family emergency delayed our plans and we stayed with my grandparents from mid-August to early November.
  • On November 10th, what we considered to be our “real” start date, we flew to Quito, Ecuador, and met five friends for a week-long trip through the Galapagos Islands.
  • From the end of November, 2010, to May 1st, 2011, we worked our way through South America, exploring Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.
  • We rented an apartment in Buenos Aires for a month and played the role of ex-pats for a time.
  • May found us in Africa, a first for both of us.  We have since worked our way north from Capetown, South Africa, through Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania.  We’re in Dar es Salaam right now, bound for the island of Zanzibar for a week or two of relaxation.

In all, over the course of a year, we’ve passed through 15 countries.  That may sound like a lot, but I expected to be much further along by now.