Author Archives: bquach

About bquach

I am a poor wayfaring stranger while traveling through this world of woe...

Blog resuscitation…

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Hello, hello and sorry for the unannounced hiatus of my travel blog. I know each and one of you hung onto my every word as I ushered out my stories onto the bloggosphere. Your life must have sucked in the past few months. But fret no more for I come with new promises to update frequently and new adventures on the horizon!

After my uber cheap Megabus trip, I moved up to Edinburgh for work and explored the depths of that city before taking a short trip to Iceland on my way back to Canadaland. In just a few days, I’ll be headed across the other side of the world to Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore and Taiwan! It’s going to be a whirlwind of adventure so keep your ears to the ground for signs of new posts!

And miles to go before I sleep…

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Tomorrow, I embark on my super-cheap coach trip via Megabus from Birmingham to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris for a grand total of… *drum roll please*… £13.50. Less than the cost of trying to impress a girl at the bar, more than the cost of a homemade lunch and just about the same cost of some booking fees. Megabus has introduced new routes to these destinations and I believe these are super-cheap tickets to undercut (obviously) competition and generate media buzz. It’s a great deal and I’m excited to be headed out on the road again!

But, it is not all rosebuds and sunshine. The road is long and arduous. Since I’m taking the coach, it is a 12 hour ride from Birmingham to Paris and a further 10 from Paris to Amsterdam. Luckily, I’ve opted for the night bus so I will be sleeping on the lap of luxury. I kid. Megabus skimps on little features such as plugs to recharge your phone or camera, footrests and wifi but considering the cost of my travel and some of my previous sleeping arrangements, these are but minor trivialities. What I fear for is sleeping on the bus for 5 out of 9 nights. Two key things when travelling are good shoes and a good night’s rest. The former may be easier to achieve than the latter if you’re staying frugal and sleeping is only a necessity for you. So far on my travels, I have slept in coach stations and buses, train stations and trains, airports and planes, at cafes, in a garden, and in the woods (at an anarchist camp, I might add). Sometimes, it’s difficult to muster the courage to just sleep anywhere you can due to circumstances, but you eventually get used to it. This is certainly not for everyone but sleeping at an airport might be a shared experience by all despite affluence.

One of my most beloved airports in England is London-Stansted. “London”-Stansted is actually an hour north of London by bus and in the remote regions of butt-nowhere. Hence, it’s cheap for airliners to service this airport and offer reduced fares. Due to its location, however, it’s difficult when you have an early morning flight and buses that take you to the airport cost more than a limb. So, why not just take the midnight express and have a sound sleep at the airport, under the warm glow of florescent lighting, the smooth, cold plastic of the cushioned seats and the soft hum of transportation machinery. Albeit, Stansted is better than some airports, *cough* London-Luton which doesn’t even offer seats to sit on while you wait to board. It is absolutely horrific. Budapest Airport though, that is one of the luxury airports I have experienced to date. Clean white walls, modern chic furniture, free wifi… fire star airport if I have anything say about it.


Budapest Airport

Are you headed to camp out at an airport soon? Do not fear, for Sleeping in Airports has you covered. This website charts the best and worst airports of the year, lets you rate your experience and lists the amenities available to you so you can be prepared for the best of times or the worst of times.

Side note: Toronto’s Pearson Airport ranked 10th on the world list… NOT BAD!

Well, I’m signing off and off to pack for my Eurotrip. I’ll update you on my nights on the bus as soon as I get time. More adventures and tips ahead! 🙂

The road not taken… is long and arduous

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I sit here on the bus, finding myself backtracking my route to the airport. Nothing was lost, stolen or forgotten. I’m simply going to the airport through a most cumbersome and convoluted path. This was not for shits and giggles, au contraire. It has been a grueling and tiresome journey of 4.5 hours that has eroded my spirits and chipped away at my sanity. The most direct route could have found me at the airport in about 2 hours time,so why did I choose to take this ridonkeylously lengthier path? Well, the economics of travel is interesting nowadays. No longer are costs correlated with distances, but more so the popularity and accessibility of an area. Going direct from my city to the airport would have cost more than thrice what I have paid, and yet my current journey was longer and consumed more gas. I took a bus that overshot to London, and from London back to the airport. However, as both these routes are frequently serviced, they are cheaper than the direct route. With most direct routes, what you are paying for is convenience. Understandably, when you are tight on time, such fees must be paid but as a poor student, squandering time is not an issue for me… it’s actually a specialty especially when it comes to studying. Anyways, this saves me a substantial chunk of money but it is both tasking to find the route and endure it. Like many trips, this is a test which makes you ponder… How frugal am I willing to be?

If I share with you my stories, will you share your home with me?

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So next week I embark on a trip to Budapest, Krakow and Bologna. I have a roof over my head and hopefully good company to follow in Budapest and Krakow but today I set out to find a place to stay in Bologna.

I used to stay in hostels, which offered a great experience of sleeping with dozens of strangers, meeting people from the far reaches of the world and the chance to fondly reminisce about your childhood as you climb to the top bunk that you used to fight with your brother for. Hostels are great for the most part. They’re accessible, tourist-friendly and some even offer free breakfast where you can probably sneak a few pieces of toast into your bag for a later snack. But last year while I was staying in one of the grimiest, run-down crack shack of a hostel in London where I squandered but a measly £7 for the night, I met a traveler who told me he couchsurfed across Europe and was only at this joint because he couldn’t find a host in London. “What is this couchsurfing?”, I asked him. He smiled and told me it was a venue that allowed a community of globetrotters to connect with each other and allow intrepid travelers to find local hosts that offer them a place to stay in exchange for cultural enrichment. Okay, I flowered up his words. He told me it was a website that allowed you to find people to stay with when you travel. Right, that seemed legit. People can’t even get past the stigma and insecurity of online dating and here is this site offering accommodation to travelers. I was weary but as a student in poverty, the free-ness of it appealed to me greatly. So, I decided to explore this world of Couchsurfing.

I looked up the website and it was a .org domain. It didn’t make it any more legit but it made me feel a bit better. I perused through the content and decided to set up a profile. I have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… what’s one more profile in addition to my ubiquitous online presence. It was interesting. Quite reminiscent of an online dating profile, a user would have his or her interests in travels, music, books, movies life philosophy and pretty much whatever PG-13 content they wanted to put up. You get to glimpse at this person’s polished online profile. But any Joe Blow could write about how fantastically fabulous they are. What cultured my faith in this venue were the “peer-reviewers” of wayfaring strangers that have passed by and have actually stayed with the host or vice versa, references left by the host for the traveler. These comments are categorized as positive, neutral or negative and they are permanent. Once you tarnish your profile with a bad review, it sticks. It was like hitchhiking but  the cars are couches and each one has a Google review. So thus was my first foray into the world of Couchsurfing. I have been an active member of the site for more than a year and I’ve both surfed and hosted travelers from the world.

I’ve met a lot of interesting people via this venue and a few live-long friends as well! Everyone that is on the site has the spirit of hospitality and open-mindedness to culture – that’s actually what this site thrives on, the pursuit of cultural exchange. The marked difference from staying at a hostel (besides the cost) is that the host is a local and can guide you to the best local dishes, sights and sounds undocumented by Frommer’s and enrich your travel with a personal component of friendship. I’ve included a link to the site and my personal profile so you can check it out in the “Staying Frugal” section 🙂

So here I sit, shifting through profiles to find someone whose personality speaks to me. A recently innovation of the site is that you can post your itinerary and host can peruse your profile and offer you a place to stay. Tons of awesome people have offered me a place to stay in Budapest and Krakow. One guy messaged me and told me that we must have the same spirit of adventure because we share a favorite quote and so I’d like to leave you with that:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

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The journey begins!

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I wasn’t sure what woke me up today. The morning sun penetrating through my cheap off-white blinds or the warm LCD glow of my laptop that I left on when I feel asleep.

I blinked a few blinks, rubbed the sleep from my eyes and thought, today was the day!

At the precipice of a grueling work schedule filled with a blitzkrieg of clinicals and exams, I decided to start my travel blog. This idea had been impregnated in my mind by friends but I never had the motivation to click a few clicks and begin the arduous task of documenting my experiences while I travel. But today was different, I don’t know why. The cold of my room, the hum of my laptop, the sounds of cars passing by… as I lay there, it reminded me of some of the strange places I’ve slept at. I pensively reminisced about some of my misadventures. I was almost homeless in Morocco, we had a flat tire in the desert, I lost my brothers in Tokyo, I’ve stole my way into a gallery opening for free cheese and wine…  fond memories. So, as I enter this digital realm of public access I wonder if it will cause a paradigm shift in the way we interact. In a way, I will be disconnected from all of you but at the same time, I reach many more of you (hopefully, haha). If I share with you my stories, will you share your stories with me?