The trip planning for 2011 is going well. Everything is coming together nicely. All of my flights are booked and the North America stage of my trip (we will call it Phase 1 & 2) are coming together nicely.
Phase 1 being Canada, Phase 2 being USA. For Phase 1 it is predominantly the Contiki Tour. I am staying 2 nights pre and post the tour in Vancouver and then its off onto Phase 2. Brad and I had looked at numerous ways of getting down to San Fran including driving the whole way but the car rental companies just did not like us driving over the border one way.
So instead we are catching the train to Seattle, $35 each got us a business class seat on “The Cascades” over the border to seattle. Good deal if you ask me!

Phase 2 begins on arrival in Seattle and we have a good 4 nights to explore seattle, before picking up our car for 3 days and driving our way south. Gonna following US 101 for most of it (apart from a bit of action on I5). I am leaving the planning of the drive up to Brad so all will be good. We are staying 1 night in Portland and then the 2nd night on the Road in Roseburg Oregon. From there it is 5 nights in San Francisco. 4 in the city and then the last night out at the airport. We did things a little different for that last night and booked on Hotwire which is kinda like the secret stays we dish out at work. I used the guides on “Better Bidding” to help, but still didn’t get the hotel we thought it would be. Not to be worried though, good location, good rate, breakfast, wifi, free shuttle to the airport. Can’t beat that.

That day in San Francisco I bid farewell to Brad as he heads south and I head East. That day as I head east was a day of plane spotter flying getting in something crazy, a backwards facing seat! Can’t wait for that. As I fly onto New York with a quick 1 hour stop in Chicago, I spend the next two nights in New York at the new “Element Times Square West”. By new I mean it only opened a week ago. I got some pretty good rates there to.

Phase 2 finishes up with these 2 nights in New York and I am going to Cram as much as I possibly can into it. A run through central park, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, A trip on the Staten Island Ferry, another broadway show hopefully, eating at Katz’s Deli, A slice of New York Pizza, another H&H bagel (cause I miss them ever so!) and whatever else I can fit in. I am sure the girls will want me to do some shopping for them so I have a feeling this will be shipping point #1 (thankfully I remember where the Post Office is just around the corner from my hotel).

With leaving the USA Phase 3 & 4 begins, this being Europe. The first part of Europe is a week in France (Phase 3) which is not really organised yet other than booking the following two tours: Neptune Tour & 101st Airborne Tour

This pretty much takes up the whole reason for going to France but I still have a couple of days in Paris to explore. But this is also where things may be interesting (stay tuned). Phase 4 is Berlin & London. Two flash in the pants stops. I looked everywhere for somewhere decent to stay in Berlin and came across the Pullman Berlin for mega cheap. $110 a night! What a bargain for a 5 star hotel! But by this time I will need to do laundry (last spot would have been New York). So was looking around for a hotel with a laundry and just had no luck. So was googling around and came across a place called “Freddy Leck” It seems to be an awesome Laundromat with a full café & bar, free wifi, lounges etc. So you can chill out while you do your laundry (im sold!), and its close to the Pullman!

From there its onto London. This was originally going to be one of my “splurge” cities. My Splurge cities were based on London, New York & Singapore. New York cause it was my birthday (and everything is expensive anyway), London cause it’s a Middle point and then Singapore because it was the last stop before I finish the trip. So after googling around I found an awesome new modern hotel, right new Waterloo station and Westminster Bridge. But I had this awesome idea, so I emailed them for an industry rate. They gave me the most unbelieveable price and I booked it straight away.

London went from a Splurge stay to a bargain stay! So instead I am splurging a little more in a couple of other places to make up for it! With London all done and organised that completes those two phases.

Phases 5 & 6 being the final steps of my holidays. Phase 5 has been the hardest to plan as I am totally in the dark here. I have no experience at all when it comes to Japan. My only time even looking at Japan had been Narita Airport and that’s about it. So I read, and I read. I used Wiki Travel, Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet guide books whatever I could get my hands on. I used ideas from friends and finally came down to the following Itinerary:

21-25Aug – Tokyo – Staying at the Tokyu Stay Ikebukuro (opens in April).
25Aug – Start heading off. Shinkansen to Yokohama for the day to explore than an afternoon Shinkansen to Kyoto.
25-27Aug – Kyoto
27-29Aug – Osaka
29-31Aug – Hiroshima
31Aug – Start heading back to Tokyo and then head out to Narita. Overnight at Narita
01Sep – Fly out of Narita in the Afternoon.

I know you are saying “stay another night in Tokyo” but to be honest, I was upset I missed out on Narita last time because I was sick and it was raining. There is a good temple there and I have dedicated the day to some plane spotting, regardless of weather.

Phase 6 is the final two stages of my holiday. Hong Kong & Singapore. I found a bargain hotel in Kowloon for my Hong Kong stay and then for Singapore I found an awesome hotel with free wifi and free mini bar. But since I have given up the booze, they told me they would put whatever I wished into it. I emailed them to after good luck with the London Industry rates and they threw in a free Upgrade and Breakfast Daily. Win Win!

So that’s where the trip stands at the moment. Pretty much all that is left now is finalising Phase 3.

Stay tuned!

So after finding, what has been a favourite website of mine, I have started to chase points more and more. Last year before I went to the USA i changed my credit card over to a points based card and I have been collecting the points ever since. Don’t get me wrong I know its something a lot of people do but hear me out.

I did something the other day that I had not done before. I churned a credit card. You may be asking what that is. Well its pretty much getting a credit card purely for the points/bonuses. The Woolworths Qantas Credit card was released with an offer of 16000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points after First purchase. So with the $89 card fee for the first year and a small purchase (no minimum cost involved) I can get a nice chunk of points. So I joined it and got accepted (although haven’t recieved anything from them officially but I can see it linked in my Everyday Rewards profile). But then yesterday I came across another deal. Join the ANZ card and they give you 20,000 points. Again a $90 fee for the first year and i can get these points. So for $180 i can pretty much get 36,000 points. This is enough for a return business class to say Sydney. But the better part is I can add these to the nice sizeable chunk I already have and these points will aim towards a nice few flights I was hoping to do when I get back from my round the world. I want to use all the points I have gotten from this trip and all those Qantas ones towards a nice trip to Hawaii maybe?

Is this a bad thing, I dunno. Could I use those $180 towards something else, sure. Is it worth the money in the long run… hopefully! will it affect my credit rating… HOPE NOT!

Well, with my new lease on life i decided to try something that normally would of scared the crap out of me. I have never really liked boats and always had a bad fear of letting things out of my control happen (rollercoasters etc).

Since i no longer have the excuse of “im to big” i cant really get out of it. So last time i saw my sister we were chatting about all the freebies i get and she told me next time i get a freebie to cairns we should go up to go rafting. I was like “whatever i wont win anything for cairns.” Two weeks later i did. So that meant i had no excuse. So we organised it for when i got back from Kokoda. Saturday rolled around and it meant time for rafting. We had both flown to cairns especially for this.

I was still a little scared, worried about falling out and smashing myself on a rock etc, especially after all those horror stories from when I was on the customer care lines of people breaking bones and stuff. Fun fun. Well I sucked it up, pushed the fears to the bottom as much as I could and off we went.

I had the BEST time. It was so much fun. I did fall out of the boat at one point coming through some rapids but i was quickly yanked back in (thanks for saving my butt ben!). The guys we went with (Raging Thunder) were all awesome and i met some awesome new people. Our boat crew were a lot of fun and I would do the trip again in an instant.

Ive put a link to some of the photos below so you can see how much fun it looks!

Tully Rafting Weekend

So… it has been 11 months since I first started this big big journey of mine. It was not an easy first morning for me. But 11 months later I still feel sometimes like im struggling but I could never think I could do the things I do now.

In the last 11 months I have lost 85kg, managed to Run 10km non stop, Trekked 96km through some of the harshest country on earth and do it all with a smile (at times). I enjoy running now, I enjoy hiking. Things I never thought I would ever say. I really do enjoy going for a run, its a good way to switch off, concentrate on my breathing listen to my cadence (which if you have any military cadence let me know cause i need some new stuff).

It has been an amazing journey, I do not regret any decisions I have made over this time. I have made some new friends, met heaps of new people, inspired others and found a whole heap of self confidence in myself. I still feel wierd looking at myself in the mirror or in photos as its just not me.

But now reality has to set in. Now that I’ve accomplished so much and have changed my entire life I need to settle in for the next big challenge. I need to settle into a normal life routine now. So goodbye car park at work and your $450 a month pricetag. Goodbye twice a day work outs, goodbye thinking about diet diet diet. I am still going to the gym once a day but now I am working to make muscle, have fun and stay fit. I am really enjoying the program I am doing at the gym at the moment (pity it finishes next week). But its awesome none the less. I have a whole new wardrobe and life feels good.

Everyone asks me what the next goal is. I guess there isnt really a goal as such. I wanna get out over the next year or so and do the things I never thought I could really do. First on that list is white water rafting. Ive always wanted to do it, just never did. Now I can and I fly out friday! Can’t wait. There a heap of things I want to do on my next trip around the world which I will put up the list. While not a “bucket list” of sorts its more a Trip Wish list.

But now I really need to get some sleep. I have to be up at 430am!