Hobbit Holes (N. Zealand)

New Zealand ~ Matamata– 2016 / Middle Earth ~ Hobbiton – 2016

If you are a person who is deserving of friends and life in general then you probably love The Lord of the Rings. If you don’t then you are likely the person at parties who people try to avoid; and/or you enjoy boring said people to death by talking about different types of cling-film and the different uses it can provide.. It appears obvious to suggest this but please seek professional help – you are a certified creepozoid.

Thankfully I am not one of these people. In fact I am entirely enchanted by the world of LOTR...it certainly seems a lot better than the real world, a place jam-packed with subway maps, timetables, and mortgage payment plans. I mean why would a person want to live in an apartment building when they could live in a Hobbit hole? Why would you fly with Easy Jet when you could ride on a Great Eagle? Why would…well the list goes on; and every question is as necessary as it is ridiculous. Call it market research or perhaps just fan-boy admiration but I had to go and look at Tolkien’s world for myself.

And so I headed to New Zealand to live out this little dream: AND WHEN I SAY LITTLE DREAM, I MEAN HUGE.

Once I’d arrived in Auckland I noticed straight away how polite and friendly people were; they would say things with a smile, would engage in humorous conversation with total strangers, and give help without any expectation of anything in return. Lovely. They were not however Hobbits…they weren’t even elves for that matter, and this was most disappointing. They were just plain old men, who I had learned from the trifecta of books, films, and Top-Trumps cards, are the most susceptible to the ring’s powers and not to be trusted. They make great burgers though, so that’s one pretty decent bonus.

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I decided to look further afield – and booked a day tour to Hobbiton; the land of Bilbo Baggins, The Green Dragon Pub, and the pitter-patter of countless hairy feet (hopefully).

The landscape during the journey was breathtaking. Despite the stranger next to me not sharing the arm rest, and the faint wiff of egg constantly stinging my nostrils I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a ride in a bus as much. There were rolling green hills as far as my eyes could see, deep blue skies strewn with powerful clouds, and flashes of wildlife which I had never seen before (no, not dragons). It actually reminded me of home, of England…aside from the palm trees of course.

Once I got there I was overcome with excitement, and so were the other members of the group – half of which confessed they had never seen or read The Lord of the Rings…this surprised me but I worked out rather quickly they must be under the hold of some sort of enchantment. Perhaps born from magic, but more likely the effect of the wonderful luscious hills of New Zealand they had witnessed on the way over here. But that wasn’t to be the end of the day’s spectacles…

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We spent the day winding through the pathways of Hobbiton, hearing amusing and surprising little factoids from the lovely tour guide:

“…the party scene took two days and they used a low percent alcohol ale so the cast wouldn’t get as drunk…”

“…many of the supporting cast in Hobbiton were just the cast member’s children, who were staying here anyway during the filming…”

“…there are actually no Hobbits. They are not real. John please, stop asking…wait…stop crying…please!”

Wasn’t a huge fan of that last one. But after the extensive tour, and many many photos to document the once in a lifetime experience…

…we retired to the Green Dragon Pub; the famous haunt of Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry.  This was fortunate timing as the heavens had just begun to open, and soon the muddy pathways would become sludge – so off we scurried as fast as we could, all the way to the inviting warmth of the pub’s wood fire. Here we were told that due to it being “Good Friday” they were not allowed to sell us the lovely amber ale and dark stout…what exactly was good about that totally escapes me, but it was with a sigh of relief that I then heard we would be given one for free. Technically they are not selling it, so perhaps that is okay. She didn’t sound sure, but I couldn’t have cared less and grabbed it before she changed her mind!

On the way back to the city I popped in my tunes (The Lord of the Rings’ soundtrack as planned) and took pleasure in the beautiful scenery once more, which was now a fiery orange sky as the impending night battled with what was left of the day. It had been everything I had wanted*, and more…and there was a joy to finally doing something which I had dreamed about for so long.

Actually I say everything, but I would have certainly loved to see some Hobbits. So it’s more like “everything I had wanted, but less.” Despite this it was absolutely spectacular, and if you ever get the chance, GO!

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Taco Bell Romance

The title says it all really! This is a tale of true romance that took place in the most romantic of all romantic locations..a Taco Bell. And a Taco Bell bathroom at that!  Trust you’ll get a giggle from it…enjoy! 

If you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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Broke? Travel Anyway!

I often get emails, and messages from people – asking the same question – “how do you afford travel? Are you from a rich family? Do you have connections? Did you get some crazy compensation deal – and have decided to blow it all on roaming the world rather than making sound investments?!” 

Well, no. No to all of those. I wish it was something as easy as being in a car accident – and getting free money, but it isn’t. It’s kind of like The Wizard of Oz…it looks like a spectacular vision until you see the cogs turning behind the curtain. Yes, the actual facts of the matter are a lot less glossy – and  whilst this may be hard to take for some…I actually work. 

Take my first major trip on my own, for example. My year abroad studying in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

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For two years before that I worked at an electrical store, moving televisions around, and trying to sell people outdated SCART cables they didn’t want…taking overtime whenever I could, whilst also taking shifts at my Aunt’s pub on the weekend…all the while squirreling away money whenever possible. With no disrespect intended, I wasn’t like the others that were accepted on to the study abroad programme (Newcastle UK – Atlanta USA) there would be no money from my Mother, or Father…I’m one of five children, I would feel rude even asking.

But I made it – and before I knew it I was in the midst of my own travel scrapbook! Carving out new memories for myself…whether it be visa worries at passport control, attempting to make the transition to the different pace of American life, or dancing insane jigs with Waka Flocka, I had flew from the ordinary day-to-day, and was living out these once impossible fantasies!

Sounds dreamy, dreamy – I’m sure? But the truth was my budgeted money soon ran out, and there were a couple of very hairy months – I recall that after weeks of eating next to nothing I sent my parents a whimpering email explaining the situation…and I received something along the lines of – “you’ll figure it out.” And I felt it was harsh, but the fact is…you will…if you want it that badly – you will. (And I’m still alive, so I guess I did!)

Study abroad programmes can be a great way to get away, and experience a different culture first hand – there are often great schemes, and incentives – with mine I was actually reimbursed for any costs throughout the year. Which meant I had thousands to play with at the end of it all – long story short, two weeks in Greece with some of my best friends from back home. 

My second major trip came just after I graduated university- although I was recruited before I had even been given my degree…and a month after I flew out to Beijing, China.

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Again I had saved, and saved working some terrible job – this time around it was a sportswear store, selling people trainers, and trying not to touch their sweaty feet as I assisted them with trying on their shoes. Not ideal – but a means to an end. This was just so I had some initial spends, as the programme actually flew me out at no cost, and many of the site-seeing trips, and other interesting adventures were paid for, or massively subsidised.

Either way, there I was again – in a totally foreign, and unknown environment…forced out of my comfort zone…but that’s what it’s all about…I was experiencing all of the weirdness, that was so different to anything the 9 to 5 version of myself would be encountering…whether it be bizarre disputes over taxi fares, relaxed views to public pooping, or trying to sample local dishes without being sick (such as dog) – I knew these were memories that would last a lifetime.

And thanks to the cheap day-to-day living China affords, I was able to save a little for the NEXT trip…you see, that is important – always have the next trip in mind. 

My third major trip to Scandinavia came unexpectedly…but was well worth it…

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My sister – someone who has worked all over the world with nothing more than a can-do attitude, and flexibility – found a two month long  job in the Arctic Circle at a remote lodge…it was placed right between Sweden, and Finland. Did I fancy it? Well…OF COURSE I DID! There was a catch though, we had to fly out (again at their expense, so no worries) the following day! You see, sometimes the opportunity comes abruptly, and if you ponder over it too much, it will go to someone else – you sometimes just have to grab it, and say YES! 

And I certainly did. Before I knew it I was crashing snowmobiles in Sweden, experiencing The Shining effect first hand in Finland, and after I finished my contract – experiencing the raw natural beauty of the Norwegian Fjords first hand.

The work was often not pretty; six day weeks, with long hours – and if my boss was ever pissed off he would make me scrub toilets for an ungodly amount of time…but still…huski racing? The Northern Lights? Spending a night in an igloo? You can’t tell me that wasn’t worth it. 

For my next major trip, I was off to South Korea! I scraped together the last of my meager savings – put up with the horrendous visa process…and then went on my way!

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And I couldn’t have asked for more! Yet again I was flown out at my employer’s expense, provided with a cosy home to stay in for free, and continue to live very comfortably – whilst also having an amazing time, with some amazing kids, in a truly amazing country! And, using Korea as a base, I have been able to save very efficiently, which allows for a great many adventures; including a  Christmas trip to Vietnam,  an interesting excursion to North Korea’s border, a heat-stricken jaunt to Nepal…back home to England, and Scotland – then on to Italy, Hungary, and Austriathen…well, you get the picture – the world suddenly doesn’t seem as hugely inaccessible as it once did!

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You see it’s not difficult, you just make it difficult. If you really want to travel, like really, really want to…then be willing to work, and be willing to take every opportunity. Rich, or not – you’ll get there – so stop just posting random sunset photographs, with “W A N D E R L U S T” etched over them, and start planning that next trip…and start filling up your passport, and with it your little book of memories. 

~

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Tweety Bird

The other day I was at a shopping center, and needed to pee. Nothing out of the ordinary there! After all, I often need to pee…well not often, I don’t have bladder problems, or weird kidneys – don’t get the wrong idea, it’s not like a running to the bathroom every two seconds thing, just you know sometimes – I just drink liquid, and then…it’s like…I think we are over-thinking this, can we please move on?

Ahem. So yeah, errr…I headed to the bathroom…

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I walked past a guy leaning on the wall, who then decided he would tail me in…quite odd behaviour – I would have probably been more concerned was I not bursting so much to urinate. In fact, I would have definitely highlighted him in my peripheral vision as a possible lunatic, and taken the necessary steps (using a cubicle) so I wouldn’t have to deal with him. But the burning pain of the wee-wee clouded my judgment. 

Instead I just picked a urinal (hate that word, I know you didn’t ask – but still, urgh), and got down to it. He was a starer…I could feel his eyes on me, you always can – I tried to man-oeuvre myself for minimum genital visibility, using a bit of coat, and left hand to provide some camouflage…but he didn’t give up – this whole process made my whole process stop, I couldn’t handle the pressure of the sudden audience I had…but I was strangely still desperate to go…if only he would stop staring this whole thing could be over with! I began to sweat, and shake – as the sharp shooting pains ran through my lower regions.

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I changed tactic. I began to stare back at him, not like…at his…I wasn’t doing eye for an eye, I was staring at his eyeballs instead – I also coupled this with a look which I hoped said loud and clear; “I am not enjoying this little exchange, so can you kindly please stop staring at my penis, thank you ever so much, and good day!”

He turned away, the complete relief flooded out – I turned to read the advertisement on the board in front of me, something about hair-loss by the looks of it…I pondered whether I would ever get it done, will I go bald? I am not sure if-

“TWWWWEEEETTTT, CHIRRRUPPPP, TWEEET – TWEEET!”

I instantly spun around to face him again, he was smirking…what a psychopath…oh, hahahaha – let’s pick out a guy who is clearly dying to pee, and then torment him so that he can’t do it…let’s stare at him, let’s make strange weird noises, everything, anything – to drive him MENTAL.

I tried not to let him bother me, I stared into the other corner…imagined running water…visualised the wee-wee…

“TWWWWEEEETTTT, CHIRRRUPPPP, TWEEET – TWEEET!”

There he was again. And what could I do? I can’t exactly run up to a police officer, and announce “excuse me, this man…he won’t let me pee!”  I mean, I certainly haven’t ever witnessed that on an episode of CSI – maybe they should do a story-line regarding that subject, make people aware that this stuff does happen, and it needs to STOP!

“TWWWWEEEETTTT, CHIRRRUPPPP, TWEEET – TWEEET!”

He turned to face me, smirked…and then headed out of the door, obviously didn’t wash his hands, but then again who has time to wash their hands in between creep sessions? He has a schedule to keep Godddamit!

But at last I was alone, at last I could pee in peace.

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In that moment, I was on top of the world – had someone else been there, I may have attempted a high five…well actually, that would be very unhygienic, but you get my point – it was a simple pleasure, but an amazing one…it felt like a victory for some reason.

“TWWWWEEEETTTT, CHIRRRUPPPP, TWEEET – TWEEET!”

There he was again!?!?! As I was washing my hands, I looked around the corner, expecting to seem him perched there giggling to himself….I checked the cubicles…I began to wonder if I had imagined it all in some bizarre delusion…

“TWWWWEEEETTTT, CHIRRRUPPPP, TWEEET – TWEEET!”

That’s when I looked up, and saw a huge speaker with the words “BIRDS_RELAX_1”

Naturally I felt like a fool – but then I did the usual self protection of my ego, internally questioning as to why anyone would create such a device. Especially in a men’s bathroom…could there be anything more scary, and less relaxing, than a bird of prey circling a man with his err, manhood, out?

Pfft…well, at least I know for next time. Sorry for the hostile stares Mr. Creeper!

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