Youth vs. 20 Something (Holidays)

Is it better to look at ancient podiums – or dance on sticky ones in nightclubs? 

WAIT. Hold that thought…as I suppose you could do both…although just the one time – after all UNESCO people are such sticklers when it comes to boogeying on their priceless ruins. But for the sake of this post how about we pretend that the two are mutually exclusive? And that one sort of trip contains that of an avid flip flops and socks wearing tourist, and the other of a red-necked nuisance. Okay?

You see I’ve been fortunate to go on both sorts of trips and they are – OH HEY LOOK A VISUAL AID RATHER THAN ME EXPLAINING!

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Yup. Athens and Zakynthos (Zante); both in Greece but both completely different – just look at that distance, oooh wee. Actually this is why I HATE HATE HATE with a capital claw hammer when people check off a country from their “been to” list after seeing just one city during an hour long coach stop. NEWS FLASH: You haven’t been to  England if you have only seen London, no more than you have visited China by taking a selfie on the great wall of China – sorry to be that guy…but…well…facts and all that. GO SEE MORE THINGS, NOW!

And also location aside, holidays vary massively…simply put they are not all the same! If you go for a nice church retreat to Holy Island with some holier than thou nuns, you are likely to have a different experience than a pupil widening weekend to Ibiza with the boys from your five a side team. So stop trying to pretend you can see it all in one go...you can’t. 

So with all that in mind, let’s compare the two trips – and see if there is a winner (spoiler alert, there isn’t):

First up is one of the most famous cities in the world – although these pictures barely do it proof (thanks to my goofy stupid face, apologies internet):

 

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Athens, Greece: Aged 25 (2016) – This was part of my mega-trip after leaving South Korea I met with my sister and headed to the birthplace of democracy and the old stomping ground of my boy Zeus…don’t worry, there was still a lot of beer!

Key moments:

  • Having the amazingly delicious, and healthy (not true at all but it’s nice to tell yourself lies sometimes) gyros every single day for every single lunch. I also learned I had been pronouncing the name incorrectly…it’s “gee-ros” not “guy-ros” apparently.
  • Spending ages in lines to see the amazing historical sites…and then feeling cheated at the fact they were propped up with unsightly bits of scaffolding.
  • Having a staring match with this grumpy guy in a laundrette – and losing. Atheniens are some of the most miserable people I have ever met (but perhaps they have good reason to be.)

But this wasn’t the first time I stepped foot in Greece…the first time was a lot more lively and a lot more hazy too…I give you, Zante:

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Zante, Greece: Aged 19 (2011) –  Oh to be young(er)…more tan, less hair, and a whole lot of memories. Good times – minus the times I was throwing up of course…

Key moments:

  • Having two double hotel rooms with a balcony connecting both just for our group – ideal. But due to some sort of error (or accidentally on purpose?) I had to share a bed with one of my pals…weird at first, but after a few hundred shots of unidentified alcohol: not at all. 
  • Getting talked into allowing multiple friends to have a go cutting off my hair…which essentially looked like a half stripped kiwi for the rest of the holiday…and actually for years after. 
  • Whilst off his head one of my friends almost drowned himself in the sea, but was fortunately saved by a couple of random guys – who were aptly dubbed his “Guardian Angels” for the remainder of the trip. Safe to say he was a lot more careful after this experience.
  • Almost crying upon returning to my home and ordinary life…as life on this paradise island was pretty much well…errr…paradise. Which sort of makes sense I suppose.

But alright,  which one is better? Almost dying from exhaustion after two weeks of non-stop madness, or feeling a newly stuffed belly a cafe hopping vacation gives you?

Well…NEITHER.

There’s a time and place for everything – especially gyros. ALWAYS GYROS.

But I guess my advice is that you take the time to just enjoy whatever kind of experience you are experiencing…just go with the flow and enjoy it for what it is. Don’t cram. Just live in the moment…that way you will have something organic to savour later on.

Wait…why am I suddenly so hungry? 

Gotta go eat something, bu-bye – but make sure you leave some sort of experience you have had in the comments – don’t let me be the only one…my God that hair cut and earrings…what was I thinking?!

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Teaching English Abroad: THE HOW TO VIDEO

After a constant influx of questions surrounding teaching English abroad and all that jazz, I decided at long last to make a brief(ish) and pretty basic video surrounding the subject…I realised as I was doing it that I shouldn’t go too far into detail as it would be a few hours long…so this really is the bare bones.

Here I talk about where you can teach English, the best sites on which to find jobs, and a couple of my own experiences surrounding the field. Will probably do a couple of more detailed videos if people seem interested!

Any questions just get in touch! 

Oh, and 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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Night in an Igloo

I often notice that spending a night in an igloo is on quite a few people’s bucket lists…and I think it’s clear why this may be; after all it’s out of the ordinary, a one off experience, and at the very least there’s potential for fun (if not frostbite and/or hypothermia.) 

As children we see drawings, cartoons, and photographs of these strange and snowy lands…and the igloo is a constant if not integral feature of this setup – it fills young and old minds alike with wonder as to whether the inside is warm and toasty…despite being made completely of chunky slabs of ice.  I mean surely it is right, or how would people survive the bitter cold?!

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Well while I was in Finland I was lucky enough to get to spend a night in one…it was a now or never situation as soon the slightly hotter March temperatures would melt them to the ground. So of course it was a yes without much hesitation. I  had some slight reservations mind you, so I piled on all of the clothes I had just in case (glad I did), from socks, to long-johns…hats, scarves, gloves…jackets, body warmers – the lot! I ended up looking like a cross between the Michelin man and a greasy German sausage; the only skin showing being my pink chubby face  and my constantly snivelling wet dog-like nose…

I went in with a friend I worked with, and my older sister: and we began to note how the outside looked rather bizarre, like a goblin barbarian camp – not sure where that idea came from, but it just looked otherworldly, you know? A long way from the winding uniform streets of my hometown,  the clanging of old clock towers, and the hustle and bustle of the bus schedules. Here there were strange ice huts, looking completely different to the post-card type of igloos my imagination had always held on to…instead they were draped in the skins of dead animals, and held together with strange sharpened wood…I could have sworn I had witnessed something similar in one of The Lord of the Rings movies – but anyway, I digress…

I was first into the igloo and threw myself straight into the center – meaning I was going to be a lovely cosy hamburger pattie with two agitated (and rather jealous) human bread-buns on either side…I had to ignore that and think of the bigger picture though: there was now a much lower chance of me freezing to death that night – try not to judge please, sometimes in the arctic wilderness you have to be savage like that:

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The inside was just as bizarre as the outside and almost as cold; so I got straight into a sleeping bag still fully clothed like Joey on that episode of Friends – and then from my little cocoon surveyed the whole area…as my sister kicked me in the side and made every excuse under the sun as to why she should get to be in the middle as opposed to me. No sale. 

The place was adorned with even more animal skins, and there were a number of candles scattered sporadically around the outer ring – probably serving as both ways to warm as well as to add a little more quaint beauty to the otherwise sinister looking unlicensed fur store…I mean sure they were relatively comfy, but it made me feel slightly sadistic to be lying on Rudolph and all of his other now dead pals…

Anyway, I tried to forget about how some of Christmas had died just to keep my bum comfortable – and actually started to warm up a little…was still shivering though – so we passed around a bottle of the Finish spirit Minttu, hoping slurps of it’s 40% alcohol charm may work wonders and ease some the discomfort. It sort of did…we then fell asleep sometime after that whilst talking about the stars, the animal furs, and of course – the horrendous cold which was mostly all we could think about:

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I woke up the next morning warm and toasty though! Well all apart from that small opening I had for my face…which was now covered in frost on my eyelashes, and bogey icicles from my nose – but hey, at least the rest of me was okay – who needs a face anyway?  Not me!

But there was one monumental problem…I had to pee…desperately. And that would mean both going outside and leaving my lovely cosy cocoon, as well as potentially losing out on my commanding human hamburger position – this could not happen, no way…there was just too much on the line, the pee would have to wait. So I thought of other things…like…snow, ice, water…and…urgh…forget it…

As soon as I stepped out the -20°C temperatures hit me like a steam train and I knew that there was no getting back to my previous state – the other two were up now anyway, complaining about me leaving the door open (ooops) and the fact that they had to go to work in ten minutes…whereas I had managed to arrange a late start: “you sneaky bastard! How did you get that?! Totally not fair!” – this meant I could get my stuff together, brush off all of the animal hair (which was no small task!) and head back to the “Santa House”
as it was known, and get some solid sleep in a real bed…within, you know: four solid non-ice walls.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life. Like, not dying of hypothermia. Know what I mean? Still a fun experience and one I would recommend to anyone! But…just make sure you pack a bottle or two of that Minttu, it really does work wonders.

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2016 Travel Plans…

Here is a brief run-down of my plan for 2016…it’s rather comprehensive – but if I pull it off then that’ll mean a whole host of new stories for Storytime with John! 

So wish me luck, please!

Oh, and 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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Tokyo Tantrums

Japan ~ Tokyo – 2015

Tokyo has a big city sort of reputation to it, an air of grandeur accompanied with a sense of mystery somewhere within the non-stop luminous glare of the lights and the 24/7 rush…

So many films have painted a picture that has made an impression on me, and because of this it was high on the list of places I wanted to see…so when I realised I had a long weekend coming up I didn’t hesitate and booked it up straight away! Just a couple of hours to get from my home in Korea to the unknown world beyond – armed with nothing but a friend’s recommendations (which proved invaluable) and a feeling I was soon to be in my very own Lost in Translation remake…

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Sidenote: when travelling you really do need to think long and hard about who you will actually travel with. Well maybe not too thorough – nothing too ridiculous, but at the very least you need to see a clean bill of health (both physical and mental), a criminal background check, and dental records. Also check their voice and typical conversation topics as otherwise you may be locked in with the most boring groaner on the planet – which is never going to be fun. With this particular adventure I was meaning to go alone originally, and then at the last minute a lady friend of mine tagged along…which brought some erm, shall we say – complications? 

Anyway I mean this sincerely when I say that Tokyo is a marvel. So much to see and do, a far cry from the more reserved and traditional parts of Japan I had visited earlier in the year.  But oddly I found it manages to retain a fantastic balance between the two often conflicting sides; you see one second I’d be staring up at a 60 foot tall science fiction juggernaut in the form of the powerful Gundam, the next I was wearing a traditional yukata and relaxing in an onsen…then I’d blink and be back to the mad rush of the Shibuya scramble crossing! I was completely in my element, roving around searching for the weird and wonderful, straining my neck to try and see as much as I possibly could…it was everything I had dreamed about for so long, and so much more…

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But yeah: the ghost at the feast…the wasp at the picnic…the drunk and slightly creepy uncle at the family reunion. Hmm, that last one was a bit weird, but you get my point – this is the part of the story where I say what didn’t go so smoothly, and most of it had to do with my travel companion: hence my warning earlier. You see I try my utmost to remain as friendly and light hearted as possible during trips, as from experience I understand that it can be a pretty stressful period if you let the small things seep in and truly affect you…if you do that suddenly the foul smell of a certain street, the incessant honking of horns on the road, or perhaps even your friend’s breathing can have you suddenly enraged beyond all comprehension: like smashing an axe into a locked door screaming “heeeeere’s Johnny!”  sort of level rage. So it’s best to take a deep breath instead, and just let most hiccups roll off your back…

However, my lady friend didn’t share this ethos…which meant that any small thing became the reason for a monumental day-ruining mood. Juxtapose that dark rain cloud along with my attempted cheery sense of humour and you had quite a pairing; something like if Voldemort was to meet one of the Teletubbies. Well actually that’s unfair (to he who must not be named): it would only be like that if Voldemort had the emotional range to both grimace and groan about public transport, and literally burst into tears about the levels of salt in Japanese food…as it stands I don’t think he is quite on her level yet.

I can understand the frustration though, Tokyo is huge and it’s far too easy to become dazed and confused by the sprawling subway system: which I honestly think was designed by someone throwing spaghetti at the wall, and saying: “that’ll do just fine.” We took many wrong turns during our days there, and the hours were long and well travelled…but I don’t see how it helps remaining silent or dragging your feet along as if you are a pathetically non-threatening zombie, or almost defunct robot:

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There is an answer to such problems though, and one which I will gladly share with all of you…and that is; beer. Yes, you heard it here first! The golden elixir is the perfect remedy to all sorts of ailments, including the frustration you may feel when a friend (or something more) is becoming more than you can bear. Thankfully there was a so-called “English pub” just off a side street near to the Shibuya crossing…where for three times the normal price I could enjoy beer, ales, and all that good stuff as if I was back amongst the smoke and laughing guffaws of my homeland…“Wait, it’s how much?! Jesus tap-dancing Christ!? It’s not worth that!”

But yeah, that’s how things go! Ups and downs, smiles and frowns…you have to take the good with the bad, and try to carve out memories that will last: and despite all the issues we were still able to do that…pretty much.

However I must now look for an AA meeting in South Korea: so yeah, wish me luck. 

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Travel Tips!

Okay, finally got down to this one! I’m certainly no expert, and don’t really claim to be – but I feel like I can at least impart some advice I’ve picked up along the way! I will say this; they are (mostly) all just common sense – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth saying! 

Hope they help!

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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Drunk Sign Language

On another seemingly normal day I ran into a new friend…sort of…well, a random stranger who had a rather urgent message for me in an unknown version of sign language. I have actually no idea what was going on – but it takes all sorts to make this weird and wonderful world, right?

Still haven’t got the foggiest clue what was going on…

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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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!