Category Archives: Travel

Around the world

A “6:50 p.m. Photo” Project Retropective

When I left for my secondment to the U.S. in May of 2012, I decided I wanted to try a little photography project. Every day, I would take a photo at 6:50 p.m. of whatever was around me at that time. This isn’t a new idea. I had first heard about it back when I was a LiveJournal user (so you know it was a long time ago!) and had actually done something similar on a 2007 backpacking trip around Japan (sadly, those photos seem to have gone missing). I wanted to keep this daily log of my life in the U.S. because I knew I wasn’t going to be very good at making daily blog posts.

I picked 6:50 p.m. as the designated time because I felt confident that I would be doing something interesting then. I would have finished any work for the day and would be exploring New York or whatever city I was in. I may just be eating dinner, but given how amazing the food scene is in New York, it was bound to be something interesting and memorable.

Well, I just spent the weekend cleaning up image links on this blog after reinstalling it (more on that in another blog post), so I ended up going through every 6:50 p.m. post I made. It was a little depressing to look at them, especially considering my assumption that I would be doing something “interesting” at that time. The main thing that struck me was that I was actually still in the office quite often, or commuting to or from work.

There were quite a few days without any logged photo too. I know that a few of them were because my phone battery had gone flat, but most were missing because I was on a plane and my phone was switched off.

Another recurring theme was just the view from my apartment or hotel room. I wasn’t out and about, I was lurking in my room. Even some pictures that look like I was out exploring were really just coincidentally taken on my walk home for the day. Now, I’m not worried about staying at home to get out of the heat or to exercise or to study Japanese, but I did still spend a large amount of time not doing any interesting.

It’s disappointing for me because before I arrived in New York, I had found a number of sites with lists of events happening each day. There were also friends to catch up with and food to try, so I’d have a choice of at least two or three things to do every evening. But I rarely did even one.

I think a lot of this was due to the travel exhaustion I mentioned in my last blog post. Long weekly commutes and long hours at work left me with little energy at the end of the day. Some of the missing posts were also due to me being asleep by 6:50 p.m.! I noticed there weren’t any posts from my time in Atlanta either. I’m sure I was either at work or at home by 6:50 p.m. though, since I didn’t have a car and Atlanta is not a city you can enjoy without one.

It wasn’t all completely uneventful though. I’m pretty pleased with the adventures I did actually have. All the posts from Burning Man and Japan are missing, but that was because I had no internet connection. I’m pretty sure I was having an interesting time though 🙂

Despite the negative tone of this post, I think the 6:50 p.m. project was a worthwhile one. I did manage to log quite a lot during my six months in the U.S. and these photos coupled with my social media posts are my memories of the trip that might otherwise be forgotten. It was also a project that garnered a lot of interest from those that witnessed me randomly taking a photo when an alarm sounded, heh.

Additionally, this retrospective of the project has taught me something – namely, I need to better manage my energy levels if I’m going to make the most of my time. I know now that I burn out if I travel too often, or work too late. I need to make sure that my work pace is sustainable, and my commuting minimised. It’s something that I had thought about for a while but has just been confirmed over the last few weeks, and with this little post.

Time is the only resource you can’t get back after wasting it. I’m going to try and utilise all of it from now on.

Time Off

Gosh, it’s been a long time since I blogged here. And so much has happened since then too.

I’m on the verge of a one-month break from work. I can’t lie: I’m really looking forward to it. I won’t be going anywhere – that’s the whole point.

My life has been lived out of a suitcase for over a year now. In February 2012, I moved out of my rental apartment as the landlord had sold it. I couch-surfed for a few months (visiting Margaret River and Uluru in the interim) until leaving Australia for my secondment in New York. While I was based in New York, I didn’t actually work there, so I was travelling weekly – first to Philadelphia, then to Atlanta. And, of course, while I was in the States I did some touristy travel – to Chicago and the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. Then there was my 30th birthday holiday extravaganza in Japan via Singapore…

My U.S. secondment was meant to be for a year, but I heard news that my off-the-plan apartment was going to be completed before I was due to return – and being unable to pay for rent in New York as well as a mortgage, I came home to Australia in November 2012. But my apartment wouldn’t be ready until February 2013 – so again I couch-surfed, this time with my sister in Geelong (which, as you can imagine, meant long commutes to work in Melbourne every day).

My time in Geelong was broken up a little with a 2-week long project in Singapore and then three months in Bangalore, India where I was a trainer for ThoughtWorks University graduates. India brought its own travels – to Hampi, Bandipur and Mysore. I was also meant to take another trip to the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, but I was asked to cancel my leave and go to another project in Singapore.

My mortgage and settlement were finalised while I was in India- so I had an empty apartment in Melbourne waiting for me! I asked if I could have a week in Melbourne between my projects in India and Singapore, just so I could move in and sign papers. While I was in Melbourne though, I heard that the Singapore project was canned (so I lost my holiday in Madhya Pradesh for nothing, oh well). But! Now this meant that I could now stay in my apartment in Melbourne! So for a few nice weeks, I lived in my new apartment, that had a bed and…not much else. I had sold all my furniture a year earlier, so while I was living in my new home, it wasn’t really that comfortable until I started getting a few basics: fridge, table, sofa…

Unfortunately I didn’t even have a chance to finish doing all that until my next project sent me off again – this time to Sydney. I’ve been travelling back and forth every week for a few months now. Weekends in Melbourne have been spent scrambling to buy more furniture, appliances – even basics like a toilet brush.

I’m getting to a point now that the basics for living comfortably are now in place in my apartment. I’m nowhere near done unpacking though: I still need to install bookshelves for my library, bring out my various game consoles and set up a work desk for crafting. But those things can live in my storage cage for now. The fact that I have an armchair and I can curl up with a blanket to read while eating something I cooked in my own kitchen – this has been bliss for me. And it makes it very hard to pull myself away to catch another flight to Sydney.

I’m typing this at the airport while waiting for my penultimate flight to Sydney. From the end of next week, I’ll be taking a month off work. I won’t be travelling anywhere. I want to stay at home and just enjoy it. I love travelling but the last 18-odd months have really ground me down – especially the time in India, where my health took a dive and hasn’t fully recovered since. I think it’s the living-out-of-a-suitcase aspect that caused that.

That, and not really having a place to call my home. Filled with my things. I sold a lot of my belongings when I moved out of my rental – and placed the rest in long-term storage. I took a lot with me to the U.S. – then back home again. And, since I never really got the hang of packing lightly, I took a lot with me to India too. Carrying the things that were important to me around the world doesn’t make life easier. I know I should pack lighter, but when there’s nowhere to keep the leftovers – what choice do I have?

I do have a home now. All my things are safely in my new apartment in the middle of Melbourne. From a packing point-of-view, it’s helped a lot; I never have more than carry-on luggage for Sydney. It’s also just a nice, settled feeling: this is my home.

So I’m going to be spending my month off enjoying my new home. Repainting it. Adding bookshelves. Making it truly my own. I’ll also spend time getting healthier – getting more sleep and enjoying the apartment’s pool facilities. I want to spend time reading, coding, writing, studying…It’s so hard to do any of these things when you get home from work and just fall straight into bed from exhaustion.

I haven’t lost the travel bug completely, mind you. I’m planning to spend the New Year break in Tokyo, and an opportunity just came up to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway next year. But for the rest of this year, I’d really just like to stay in Melbourne. This city has changed so much while I’ve been gone. I want to reacquaint myself with my hometown.