Monday, October 20, 2014

Why travel as an identity thing isn’t so bad

While chatting to dad recently, it came up in conversation that he thought that my identity was somehow wrapped up in going epic adventures overseas.

Although I think he is right to some degree, as I often get asked where my next holiday is, he comments reminded me of the complex nature of identity politics and what leads people to do what they do.
This got me thinking on why I have this inherent need for travel but I can comfortably assure people that I don’t do it because it is preserved as cool or for the kudos. I do it because it is ingrained in deep within my soul.

Coming from an “Anglo-Swiss” heritage with a bit of  Dutch, Scandinavian and Indonesian (way back) thrown in as well as who just happened to be born in Australia, I had a global outlook pretty early on. Ever since I was little, I’ve been interested in what was happening in the wider world (I’ve got dad to thank for that) right from politics, food, books and to how people lived differently to me.

Moving to the world’s most isolated and boring city of Perth aged 14 (also, got Dad to thank for that) did nothing but inspire me in wanting to leave as soon as possible. Right from the get go I wanted to leave this dullsville town and be part of something bigger.

These experiences stayed with me for the rest of my life. International Relations (among things) was a major theme throughout university studies and I continued to travelled as much as possible. Backpacking around Europe, development projects in Thailand and Romania, internships in Malaysia and China as well as a journalism project in India, study programmes at the UN were all highlights of a life spent travelling.

There is so much about travelling that I love. It makes me feel so alive, it has opened my eyes and taught me so many things about the world and myself. I can’t help but see travelling as a positive experience.
But more recently when I have been in more of a financial position to go travelling is when that it has become more of my identity.

Of course you need money to travel so having a permanent job with paid holidays is a fundamental requirement but, more importantly, it is the job’s inherent mundane and repetitive nature of the position that inspires me to make sure that the time I spend away from work is full of things that I love and make me happy.

After all, everyone needs something to look forward to in order to survive the mundane.  

But wouldn’t you agree that you are more than the job that you do or even defined by the more negative challenges that you face in your life?

While I do a mind numbing job that is soul destroying at best and I refuse to be drawn by it as much as I refuse to de defined by my physical disability; there is just more to life.                   

But there is more to my life than my job-to-pay-the-rent and my well used passport. I’m an avid reader, political hack, a choir girl and, not to mention, a home owner. I guess it is just that travelling is the most extreme thing that I do.

Travel will always be a part of my life. It drives me to work multiple jobs so that I may meet my financial responsibilities and go on epic adventures overseas. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon and I am always planning my next adventure, trust me!     

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Singapore proves to be a great place for a weekend get away

Due to an over zealot Frequent Flyer flight booking blitz a few months ago, I ended up with a solo flight from Singapore to Perth.

For a while I regretted booking this flight as there were more direct and cheaper ways of returning to Perth but I knew that pushing it a few months would mean that I would another little trip to look forward to.

I even thought about cancelling this flight or even just letting it go because, with a mortgage, I couldn’t really justify going overseas again so soon after a big trip to Europe and the Middle East. 

With this City State being almost the same flight time from Perth as to one of Australia’s cooler cities on the east coast (not to mention cheaper thanks to the various budget airlines) paying a visit to Singapore is a great idea.

It is tropical, green, lush and a super clean metropolis with so much going on and a fascinating history, not to mention food that is to die for. The urban environment is a cross between the ultra new office towers and colonial buildings that look like big white wedding cakes.

There is shopping, there is food as well as art and culture.

After flying in from Perth on the “red-eye express” and easy trip on the MRT, I made a beeline for Little India where I was staying in an AirBnB accommodation. It was great to enjoy some local food and tea and soon I realised I would have to put my diet on hold as there was so much food to try and enjoy.   

Next visit was the Asian Civilisations Museum which was awesome. With its interesting and diverse collections, it has to be as good as any of the top museums in the world. The museum is well designed and laid out while not being too long. It is currently showing an exhibition of porcelain which is beyond beautiful.       

Over the next few days there were visits to Chinatown, Singapore Art Museum and National Museum of Singapore for a big history lesson.

A highlight was going to the Tiger Beer Brewery which is totally cool and great value! It is in the industrial part of Singapore so I opted for a tour that picked us up from a more central location and drove us back. It was great learn about the history of Tiger Beer as well as try the new beers on offer which is really why most of us were there. As per usual, 6 out of 8 people on the tour were from Perth – we seem to like beer a fair bit.

A trip to Singapore wouldn’t be the same without a shopping expedition and a visit to Starbucks.

The last item on the literary was a visit to Changi Prison. As with Tiger, it was a bit out of town so I again (I had my bag with me this time) opted for the organised tour option. While learning about the atrocities committed during WWII, it was good to be reminded of the strength of the human spirit and how good we have it in Australia.

Soon enough it was time to head to the airport but not before some food and refection. I came to the conclusion that I have to visit Singapore again (for longer next time) soon as well as Malaysia, Vietnam and India because the Asian region is so amazing, vibrant and interesting.

Oh dear, I think I maybe addicted to travel.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Time is not equal

If you pay attention to anyone on the conservative side of politics in Australia recently, you will notice that one of their favourite topics of conversation is how much should people be paid if they have to work on the weekend. 

In their opinion, every day is the same and the weekend no longer exists in modern day society, so therefore any government regulation of private business is an infringement on their individual’s right to make a profit.

Paying people more during the weekends (plus times such as evenings and nights) is a millstone around the neck of business and this money should be reinvested into making a profit.

I’ve always found this idea that the whole conservative discussion around the weekend a little confusing.

To being with isn’t conservative supposed to be pro “traditional family values”, so what are they trying to do by not compensating people who work when they would traditionally spend with their families and friends?  

Also, many on the right of the political spectrum argue that Australian society has changed and that notions of the weekend is no longer what it was in the past. The majority of people no longer go to church on Sundays or spend it quietly with their friends hanging out at home.

People now expect shops to be open, restaurants and cafés be fully operational so that they are able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, or brunch before moving on to the popular “Sunday Session” at the local suburban pub. All these venues (not to mention movie cinemas, concert halls, swimming pools and gyms, etc) all need to be fully staffed in order to provide the level of service that we have come to expect in this country.

While what people might do on the weekend might be different in 2014, I don’t think it that it means that the concept of weekend has diminished. Australians still value Saturday and Sunday (plus any time outside work such as evenings) to be special and exclusively theirs to do what they want.     

Many conservatives would argue that because of the changing nature of the workforce and the rise of the “fly-in-fly-out” workforce, the idea of communal time off is no longer current.

Although they have a point, in that the working week is no longer constrained to 9-5 and Monday to Friday, I don’t think that Australian society is at the stage yet where Tuesday or Wednesday morning has the same value as the weekend.

If you have been out at all on Sunday mornings in your local area, you will know that they are quieter than a normal weekday morning. This is because it is the weekend and most people are enjoying a sleep in and a chance to get up slowly.

Those of you who use public transport, you will know it is a lot harder to get around on weekends. In all their wisdom, the people at the public transport department still believe that fewer buses and trains are needed on weekends (especially Sundays) because fewer people are out and about during this time of the week.

I will not believe that the weekend has equal value as the other 5 days of week until there are no separate public transport timetables for the weekend and those culturally important events happen on a Tuesday morning. Until then those who work unsocialable hours will continue to expect penalty rates as compensation for not spending time with our friends and family.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sixteen Ounces of a good time

I love Saturday morning breakfasts out, especially when a good café is involved and I get to spend time with an especially good friend.

Last Saturday was a lovely sunny spring day, a friend and I picked out a local café to enjoy breakfast, drink coffee and chat.

I’ve always wanted to try Sixteen Ounces, as I have heard lots of good things about this café and I’ve only been there to pick a takeaway coffee before work.

This café is a relatively new place but is as good as any of the more established cafés in the immediate area. Unlike the others, Sixteen Ounces has a defiant cooler vibe to it, thanks to its funky décor.

The staff were very friendly and efficient. They who soon took our order and before we knew it, our food came out.

I ordered an Avocado Smash which includes avocado on bread with a sprinkle of Feta and my friend had Hollandaise Bratwurst Toast.

We both like them and agreed that they were at the upper end of not bad; not that they was anything wrong with them, but they were a little ordinary and needed a little chutney or a bit of garlic and lemon to add a bit of zing and punch. They were well presented and just the right size.


Our coffees were lovely and looked good. You are able to enjoy the house blend as well as the single origin blend but the HB is the one that they use in their default grinder. My latte was good but I liked my Long Mac more as it had more flavour but I am just a strong coffee kinda gal.  

They also have a wide range of snacks and cakes and would be perfect for afternoon tea but get in early because they shut at 4.30. 

This brings me to their opening hours. It would be great if 16 Ounces could open longer as its cool atmosphere would make it perfect for younger people to meet for dessert and coffee later in the day. The Imp Cafe (East Vic Park) does it and it would be great to have a cooler cafe closer where I could stop off for coffee on the way home after a late shift.   

This café is great. The vibe is great, the staff are great and the food is nice. What more could you possibly ask for in your local café? We will defiantly be back!  

Sixteen Ounces on Urbanspoon  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Architects and Heroes creates perfection in a cup

With Perth weather getting warmer, it was the perfect day for a coffee and lunch with friends.

Being in Subiaco we were keen to enjoy some good coffee while enjoying the popular local past time of people watching and what better place to visit is the neighbourhood superstar - Architects and Heroes.

Our timing was perfect as an alfresco table cleared as we arrived and were soon offered menus and glasses of water by staff.

We poured over the coffee menu and trying to decide what kind of coffee to use for our Long Mac and Flat White. My friend chose grinder 1 (a sectional blend which has elements of raspberry, honey, malt and cinnamon) while I chose grinder two (a Costa Rican blend that has coco, caramel and orange flavours) as I usually love coffee with a slightly tangy flavour.

After we choose what food to enjoy, our coffee soon came out and from the first sip it was clear why it was Architects and Heroes is considered to be one of the best cafes in Perth. The coffee wasn’t the major caffeine hit that you find at other cafés but I still thought my Long Mac was perfect.

Our food was soon brought out and one friend loved their stake sandwich and loved its sweet and oniony flavour. My other friend and I both ordered Vegetable Toastie and were pleasantly surprised. They were a great combination of veggies and chutney (which wasn’t overbearing or too spicy) while being easy to eat and not too greasy. It would have been nice to have wholemeal bread but we still love them.       

The décor is cool and has a great vibe. The only problem is that it is closed on Sunday which is a shame considering that going out for breakfast is one of Perth’s favourite activities.

I look forward to come here again to explore more of their perfect coffee while watching the world go by and a moment in the sun.

Architects and Heroes on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Harvest Espresso is the jewel in Victoria Park’s coffee strip

I’ve visited Harvest Espresso to pick up a quick coffee a couple of times but I’ve never been there for anything more substantial. So when I was meeting a friend there mid morning, I thought I’d treat mum to breakfast and spend some quality time together there before my coffee date.

Since Harvest Espresso is a tiny café and is very popular, it is a good thing that we arrived early as we were told there was a half hour wait for a table. Putting our names down allowed us to run a few errands before having breakfast.

On our return, we didn’t have to wait long to be seated and our orders taken. As they handed out menus while we were waiting outside we already knew what we wanted and that speeded up the process.

The staff were friendly and good humoured considering that it was a busy Saturday morning and they were flat out. Our food was a little slow coming out but it was hectic so completely understandable.

We ordered a Cheese and Avocado Ciabatta Sandwich and a Mushroom Omelette with an assortment of roast vegetables. The serves were generous and full of flavour.

The coffee (Five Senses) was perfect and their Long Mac is powerful enough to propel you into outer space. 

But what is so great about Harvest is that, as the name suggests, the menu changes with the seasons and so do the floral centre pieces that were sourced from a local florist.  

Yes, this unassuming café (blink and you’ll miss it) is small and you probably will have to wait for a table on the weekend but it is worth it. Once you get a seat, you’ll love it and the wait will be worthwhile.   

Harvest Espresso on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 4, 2014

Discovering the mother country

It kinda nice to have one place though out your life that you’re able to return to regardless of what happens.

I guess that it is just luck of the draw that this tiny part of Switzerland would remain a constant in a life that is full of change.

Every time I go back to the tiny village where mum’s family have a house I can’t help but ponder how much life has changed since the last time I was lucky enough to visit. It always makes me want to reassess my goals, values and where I am going or not.

This time I was able to go with Mum and Dad for a cousin’s wedding and it was wonderful in so many ways. Not only was Mum able to see so many of her family, I was able to check out some of the places that I hadn’t been able to do as a kid.

We also visited many old favourite places and did things that were characteristically Swiss like enjoy a Fondue on a side of a Swiss mountain.

After the wedding my mum, dad and aunts stayed in a at a cousin’s place (who was out of town) Monthly which is an unremarkable city but provided a great base to discover other parts of the country.   

We visited a salt mine, an open air swimming pool that was among the mountains and crossed over the Swiss/Italian border at St Bernard and St Maurice, which included an amazing Abbey as well as many more places.  We felt privileged and so happy to see the most amazing views, villages and buildings.

With Mum and Dad to keen to head back to Le Paquier, I wanted to see more of the mother country before flying out of Zurich.

Luckily, I had always wanted to visit St Gallen which is not far from Zurich. So after saying a sad good bye to family and crisscrossing Switzerland I arrived in St the ancient (and very wet) city of St Gallen.

It was made famous by an Irish monk who brought Catholicism to Switzerland and established an Abbey that is home to an amazing Library. While the Abbey is quite small, there is so much to visit and with its wooden panelling makes it quite breath taking. There were quite a few churches that were nice to look at while escaping the rain if nothing else. Finally, I got to visit the Textile Museum which was cool.   

I am so glad I got to visit St Gallen; it was so nice to wander the streets and take in the quiet building and tiny streets even if it was raining. I hope I get a chance to visit this town again and hopefully the weather would be better.

With a trip back to Australia looming, it was time to take a very
 efficient Swiss train to Zurich.  

It was a bit of whirlwind trip to this city and I did spend a lot of time getting lost and wondering the wrong direction but I did get to visit the Art Gallery and National Swiss Museum. The Art Gallery was great and seemed to go on forever and the museum was ok, although it was a little bland. There was nothing to that made me understand Switzerland better; it could have gone into its role in the global political system and international banking, for example.

It was also time to stock up on Swiss chocolate – predictable, I know but it had to be.

It has been good holiday, although a little too short but I look forward to coming back to Switzerland and to discover more of the land of my ancestors.