Where this blog and my travels are at

I have been back home for about four months. I was away for a year and five months while travelling, volunteering, working and learning a language across two continents and nine countries. I met some amazing (… or at least different) people, and  had experiences that I could never have predicted. I also have twelve published draft posts, and six unpublished ones

This blog has laid dormant for a while but I’ve decided that I’m going to finish the posts I have in drafts. So expect another six posts. Or five. I say five because two of the drafts are about the same topic. One written after two glasses of wine, and the other was written in sober and logical light of day. The wine post is a lot angrier, but I’m unsure which is better. We’ll see.

Expect some musings about money & travel, the world, and about reading and writing while travelling. Also expect some more practical articles about places, spaces and culture in Spain and elsewhere. If you’re lucky I might even add my journal entry about the journey of my jar of peanut butter (which is amusing to me at least)

Perhaps I’ll add in a couple more about my time in Canada, or the roadtrip  I

DSC03211.JPGdid through the US. My sister and I were crazy enough to drive from New  Orleans to Vancouver in 4 days (This is drawable and visible on a map of the world!).Then we sold the car a day after we got back to Vancouver, the day before our flight back home.

However once this is all done I really want to start…

A NEW PROJECT

I want to create a site that displays ordinary people’s stories, from every place in the world, searchable by location

You’ve probably heard travellers say this before but… despite all our cultural and visual differences… people are essentially the same.

We’re not clones, and our cultures aren’t the same. However we all have goals, experience friendship, love, disappointment and most of us like playing games and dancing in the kitchen :).

So I want to take a ‘sonder’ through the lives of people from every country in the world and collect a story from them all. Perhaps a story about their Christmas, or a wobbly tooth. Perhaps I’ll also ask their favourite colour, place, word or person. I haven’t decided on the structure  yet.

Why?

Because I like people. And the more people I got to know from all around the globe the more I cared about what was happening around the globe. That was because suddenly  all these things happening were happening to ‘my people’ rather than to forei16028-illustration-of-a-globe-pvgners.

So I want to show that you have something in common with everyone. I also think it might be fascinating to compare stories from around the globe in 2015.

The site is definitely not ready yet -but keep an eye on Faces From Places

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The world is the perfect size to bring us together yet keep us apart

Long-term travel has long been romanticized by the likes of Elite Daily or the average travel blog.

And clearly, I agree. Travel is awesome.

I’m such a curious person and there are always more places to see, more things to learn, more interesting people to meet. I love the perspective travel can give you. However it also breaks my heart and I don’t see travel as the end game or the ultimate lifestyle.

And like any other lifestyle, it comes with both positives and negatives – and these aren’t often shown on the internet.

While in a fit of homesickness, I actually wrote a list of all the negatives or bad things that have happened to me since I’ve been away from home. However I don’t really want to subject anyone to that list in its entirety (especially without the positives), or dissuade anyone.

Instead I really want to share my most favourite, favourite, article about lessons learned from travel. (HERE IT IS).

Why is it my favourite? Because its absolutely real, I can relate to each point and I don’t feel that it is try to ‘sell travel’ to it’s audience.

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In a nutshell this guy, Mark Manson, travelled the world for five years and writes of the following five life lessons gained.

  1. Happiness is common – Human Dignity is not.
  2. Travel gives you a perspective on life, but limits your ability to commit to things.
  3. The best part of the culture/country is also usually the worst (Side note: Although not the point, I read that Spanish food is responsible for most cases of food poisoning in tourists not India!
  4. 4. The majority of the planet doesn’t care what you say or do (so just be who you are)
  5. 5. The more you travel the more you lose sight of who you are.

But please read the article! Mark Manson is much more eloquent, articulate and insightful than I am, and those points will make a lot more sense on his site.

2. Is the worst, yet the best.

I feel like I’m a tourist, transient in other peoples lives – getting to view theirs without really building my own. I love to get to know interesting people well, but conversely what I hate the most in the world are goodbyes.

I’m at a stage where I want to start working towards things, and building a life other people would be interested in. However I still want to see the world, and I’m both scared of the temporary and the permanent. I’m still torn – I’m trying to decide whether to go to Argentina and teach English or stay home and get a permanent job.

Anyway. I’m not sure what the point is. In my opinion travel isn’t the utopia, or end goal. Yet it is by all means fun, rewarding and educational (woohoo I feel educational is a cool word)

Despite this you may have to say goodbyes you dont want to say, or go to the dentist, miss more than one place at the same time, be unable to fully support friends/family or worry about money. Im not saying don’t do it – just don’t expect perfection.

The first shower after 10 days is the best shower you’ll ever have

Sometimes when I’m acting ‘all professional’ in my current office work, I like to think about the time that I lived in an un-powered caravan and didn’t shower for 10 days. Other times I think about the times I hitch-hiked for groceries. Or any number of strange situations I shouldn’t attach my name to on the internet.

Haha. You people don’t know me. I’m even wearing makeup!  You have no idea…

NB: I would never voluntarily avoid showering for 10 days. Except in those cases where the outside temperature and the (deliciously chilled mountain) water is just above freezing and there is no way of getting dry.

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Deciding what to do the week before. I chose the most uncomfortable option

Back in October/November I decided that I would like to have the experience of living and working in Portugal as well as the experience of living on a farm. I was able to organise working on a Permaculture farm through Workaway, although this farm was also advertised on WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). If you are looking for similar projects you are probably better off looking there.

The idea behind ‘WWOOFing’ is that one works for 4-6 hours per day on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. This supplies a farmer with cheap labour yet, also allows for a ‘worldwide’ spread of (local) knowledge and ideas on organic and sustainable farming practises. As with all other work exchanges, it also allows for an excellent cultural exchange and is a means for budget travellers to travel longer and see places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

“Permaculture” is organic farming taken one step further. It is hard to find a simple definition on the internet, so I will try my best. It is an integrated whole-systems approach that works with, and involves people, society and nature to ensure the sustainability of agriculture. Was that clear? 🙂

Working hard

The particular farm I chose to work on was un-powered. I don’t mind feeling disconnected from time-to-time, so I thought this would be three weeks of labour and learning, with limited facebook access while eating very fresh, organic, vegetarian food. WORLDS CHEAPEST DETOX.

Yet I didn’t consider the real consequences of the lack of power before signing up.

No hot water. No light. No getting dry. No warmth.

I think I would have been fine if it had been summer rather than late Autumn.

Despite that I’m glad I did it. I’m all for diving into experiences head first, just to see how they turn out. If I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t be able to say I’ve done the following:

  • Showered in 5C water in 5C temperature, and then avoided showering for ~10 day

  • Gone on a hr long road trip for the sole purpose of paying for a hot shower
  • Slept in my ‘holey’ caravan with all my clothes on each night so I was warm enough to sleep (another ‘what am I doing with my life’ moment)

  • Was vegetarian for 2.5 weeks, ate plants I’d never seen and felt absolutely fine.

  • Lived with people who produced 95% of the food they ate, and only worked a few months of the year.

  • Done the dishes for 3 meals, for 8 people outside – at the outside sink, in the rain.

  • Not been able to get dry for hours due to the cold temperature and lack of power.

  • Spoke to the son (of the English immigrant) who said his favourite subject at school was P.E. because he got a free hot shower afterwards. He didn’t shower at home in winter.

  • Walked 45 minutes almost every day to the nearest town so I could sit in front of a fire and get dry, connect to the internet and power and drink 0.50 euro cent coffees (x2) in the little cafe where no English was spoken.

  • Been pitied by the old Portuguese lady who owned the cafe. She would gift us with things like roasted chestnuts and biscuits (because in her mind we’d have to be pretty poor to be working on a Portuguese farm in the middle of nowhere)

  • Seen the absolutely most beautiful scenery on this walk into town, which I could never take a photo of – because my phone would always be dead by this time.

  • Not been able to eat goat cheese,  because it smelt too much like the goats from which it came. That, and the smell reminded me of cleaning all their shit (‘mucking out’) out of their ‘enclosure’.

chestnuts

The trip back into civilization (aka Porto)  was a journey in itself. I had to navigate a taxi, bus and a train while at my peak homelessness appearance. I was just incredibly thankful for the beanie (toque/hat) that I had to hide the 10 day grease on my hair that normally needs to be washed daily. The whole journey is etched in my mind and the shower anticipation was incredible.

Once I returned to society I was just so unbelievably, incredibly happy just to be in a state of mundane normalcy.

Powered, showered warm and with a salty, greasy ham and cheese sandwich in hand I did not venture outside the hostel for 1.5 days.

Hitch-hiking for food in France

Some times you have these moments. Actually perhaps it is just me who has these moments.

I arrived at the camp site at which I was completing a Workaway. It was in a beautiful location in the South-West of France; about an hour by car from Gap and perhaps 10/15/20km from the “shithole” town of Barcelonetta. Apart from those places there was nothing… but beautiful nature and good company.

Unfortunately I had arrived with no food. One of the staff took pity on me, and donated me a packet of pasta, and a bit of butter to tide me over until I could get to the shops. Luckily, a few days later one of the staff gave me a lift to the shops, but being the idiot I am I only bought enough food for a few days, not a few weeks – and no one was heading to the shops again.

A couple of hard-boil egg meals later I was back down to the original packet of pasta & stick of butter. I think I ate only pasta for 1.5-2 days.

Facing another monotonous meal, I remembered that I had some Cola-Cao in my backpack that I had bought months ago. Cola-Cao is essentially the powder for chocolate milk, and the Spanish consume it like it is crack.

Lightbulb idea.

What is chocolate? Its… cocoa, sugar, and butter… right?

Given Cola-Cao is probably just cocoa and sugar, if I added it to my butter pasta … I would have the deliciously different chocolate pasta! Way more interesting!

However, two mouthfuls in, the idea didn’t seem so fabulous any more.

And so came the moment I mentioned. “What the fuck am I doing with my life?”

Oh that’s right: eating “chocolate” pasta, in my caravan home, because I’m working in exchange for food and accommodation. I’m a hick and a bum, and I have to eat this because it is the last of my precious pasta.

I resolved I was going to have to hitch-hike to the grocery store the next day. I would have done so earlier, but I had mentioned to my mum on a previous phone call that I might, and she had freaked out and regaled me with tales of evil people, and hitch-hiker murderers.

Yet faced with the risk of death via a hitch-hiker murderer and the risk of death via self-inflicted starvation, I decided to hitch for groceries.

And it was fine! Good even!

My friend and I (he was also volunteering there, and had hitched before), did this a number of times over the proceeding weeks. Everyone who picked us up was a couple, and nearly all of them had travelled for extended periods of time in the past. The exception was the old French couple (non-english speaking – but my friend could speak a little French), who seemed to think picking us up was a great adventure. Generally speaking it probably would have been nicer to spend more than 15 minutes in a car with our ‘hosts’ – they were all kind people with interesting lives.

I’d still be hesitant to hitch-hike by myself as I don’t want to hitch with the kind of ‘host’ who would only like to pick up single girl. However I’d definitely do it again! And it was another thing I did this past year, which I never expected to do.

Any hitch-hiking stories? Or ‘what the fuck am I doing’ moments?

Spanish 101 for Guiris (From the Guiri Perspective)

Essential Spanish 101 aka Spanish from the Guiri perspective

Interesting Words/Phrases (literal translations in brackets if I know them Additional Spanish in Italics)

Friolera/o: A person who is always cold. Yes, there is a word for that. Amazing! A word that describes me! A person who is always hot is Calentita

Cono: It means pussy.. or ‘cunt’… however the meaning is far less rude than in English. They use it how we use fuck… not literally… just all the time. Its much less rude then c***

Que Cono! Joder!

Me cago en la leche. (I shit in the milk) Yup. If a Spanish person says this they are PISSED OFF. There is also ‘me cago en todo’ (I shit on everything)

La pera, la leche. (The pear, the milk) Basically this means something is THE shit. (But not just shit). ‘Eres la pera‘ (you are the pear)

La mierda de vida: (The shit of life.) AKA fuck my life.

Cutre: Encompasses the meanings of ‘shitty’, ’seedy’ and ‘dodgy’. A bar can be cutre, as can a road, or a person! You can basically use this word for anything… bad.(English doesn’t work quite the same way – a road can’t be ‘seedy’)

Culo: (Ass) The Spanish looove talking about asses. This includes the ass of the milk, the the bread, and other things. Basically it means the ‘end’, the ‘last’ piece. Quieres el culo? (Do you want the end/ass?)

However Toma por culo (take it up the ass) is a common Spanish insult.

Tienes un culo gordo!

La Verguenza: (the embarrassment) In a land of tapas, there is always the ‘last piece’ and this is called ‘la verguenza’ or in English… the shame/embarrassment…

Quieres la verguenza? (Do you want the shame?) 

Foca: (seal) I’m not sure whether this is commonly used in Spain or just among my group. But they use it the same way we use pig. FATTY.

Desaparecida/o: (‘Disappeared’ person) I like how we don’t have a word for this. Aka me when I lock my phone in a room and don’t reply to messages for a week.

Pirulo: Thingymajig according to wordreference 😛 Basically a word for when you don’t know the word.

The things I said all the time:

No entiendo (I don’t understand) Also no te entiendo, no lo entiendo

Que!? (What!?) / general exclamation/surprise/ couldn’t understand

Mi espanol es malo (My Spanish is bad)

No se…. Quizas … (I don’t know… maybe) The answer of a indecisive person (or someone who thinks about their actions)

Holaaaa (Hey!)

No pasa nada (Nothing happens) I’m not sure about this translation. Used like No worries!

De Nada (‘of nothing’) i.e. ‘You’re Welcome’

Que Asco! (How disgusting)

Ya lo se (I already know that!) haha I’m so rude

Que Pasa? (Whats up/Whats happened?)

Que tal?  (How are you/ How is… X)

Tengo que… (I have to)

Gracias (Thanks)

Quiero X (I want X)

Tengo hambre (I’m hungry)

Tengo frio (I’m cold)

Al menos (At least) I’m more optimistic than I thought

Lo siento (I’m sorry) I’m western and I have to apologize for everything.

No me gusta el tiempo pasado (I don’t like the past tense)

Did I leave out any interesting phrases?

Mejorada, San Fernando, Coslada

Mejorada, San Fernando, Coslada

During my first workaway (and during the weeks after) I spent a lot of time in the towns of Mejorada Del Campo and San Fernando De Henares. These places lie on the ‘outskirts’ of Madrid, and I would best equate them to suburbs. Although not  normal tourist destinations, my time spent there has been a highlight of my trip.While I was studying Spanish I took many trips via the metro or train to visit, and as a result I am now very well acquainted with Atocha train station, and the consequences of missing the last train back into central Madrid.

And so… Places I enjoyed visiting:

Mejorada Cathedral/ Catedral de Justo Gallego:

mejoradaThis is an interesting cathedral. My understanding is that one man, Justo Gallego, decided that Mejorada was in need of a cathedral and therefore he was going to build it. He started the work some forty fifty years ago, however the finish date still isn’t in sight, although the creator is approaching his 90s. He has worked almost entirely alone, although he now has help from volunteers, including architectural students.

Yes, it isn’t finished; Yes, it’s debatable whether it is safe; Yes, the council wants to take it town. However I’d definitely prefer to visit an unfinished cathedral (or broken down one) over a perfect completed one. Its also a kind of a cool story.

Here is an article from 1992  about it! And a video (in Spanish) which shows the interior & he creator.

Todo Tapas San Fernando

According to Facebook this awesome tapas place has moved to Coslada,although when I visited it it was in San Fernando.

Ahhh, Spanish hospitality. I could buy one drink and be brought ‘tapas’ and ‘pinchos’ all night. Although I’d normally buy more than one drink because… What? Beer is good, and they were nice enough to bring me free food all night anyway! (Perhaps thats the logic behind tapas?)

You can also buy a more substantial tapa for 1 euro, or a maxi-tapa for 2 euros, and be set for the night. Unless you were a total foca (seal/pig/fatty!) The food is simple but good (burgers, eggs, potatos, croquettes).

It was funny that almost everytime I visited this place it rained – in Spring and Summer….! It almost became a rule: Jade & Tapas = rain.

Hot chocolate place/bar

If you like coffee and chocolate and cream, and all of these things mixed together, you’d like the coffee/chocolate bar I went to. Unfortunately I can’t remember it’s name though. I had one the most awesome coffees of my life here, consisting of purely coffee and condensed milk.

Medieval Market

On a visit to Mejorada, while I was still attending Spanish classes, I  attended a Medieval market. The market wasn’t too different from other Spanish markets, but it was medieval themed, and there was dancing, costumes, music and things for sale. R + A’s parents were nice enough to buy me shirt as a gift of thanks, although I feel like they definitely did more for me than I did for them.

The cool thing about Spain is that always seems to be something on, be it a local market, medieval market, or a fair – all things I was able to attend in the area.

The Irish Bar

Although not a tourist attraction, my friends loved the local Irish bar. I think this was because there was a pool table, a foosball table, and cheap beer with tapas. Interestingly, the tapas weren’t cooked food and were things like lollies, nuts, popcorn and crisps.

I wouldn’t consider it was a ‘real’ Irish bar, and instead consider it a wonderful Spanish/Irish fusion. The Spanish part due to tapas, Spanish beer and the late closing time. I was never there too late – (~1/1.30am), however a bar in the suburbs in Australia probably would have shut by 10pm. I love this about Spain.

The area is perhaps not the place for a tourist – but it is full of great people, and great opportunities to experience the Spanish culture

My Valentine’s to Everyone

So I’m single on Valentines day. Whatever.

Today I was walking along the street ruminating this when I began to think about all the people that have been in my life this past year. And you know what, people are fucking awesome. So heres to my homies at home, the people I’ve met for a short while, and the people I’ve forged deep friendships with.

I LOVE YOU FOR:

  • Your fascination and excitement with novelty and the entire world

  • Making me laugh every time I see you

  • Listening without judgement

  • Seeing though peoples bullshit

  • Your enthusiasm for life

  • Challenging my perception of the world and my place in it

  • Your open mind

  • Your determination despite adversity

  • Supporting me

  • Your self-confidence, and your determination to improve other’s confidence

  • Your kindness, which you do not draw attention to.

  • Your complete fucking weirdness and resultant hilarious stories

  • Making me laugh at myself. Uncontrollably

  • Your unconventional ideas

  • Exploring places with me

  • The strangest hypothetical & philisophical discussions (both at home at away!)

  • Your quiet braveness in what you say and what you do

  • Acting like an idiot with me

  • Introducing me to your culture (in ways you don’t quite realise)

  • Your unique and interesting perspectives

Hugs. I miss everybody in all their places.

The world is your oyster and travel is what you make it

I’ve recently moved to Vancouver, and as a result I’ve been reading the Vancity Buzz in an effort to familiarize myself with the city while sitting in front of my computer.

I stumbled across this article, The truth about backpacking Europe (and why I will never do it again) and although I agreed with a lot the author had to say… it really annoyed me.

She basically said: if you’re looking for culture, if you want to replicate anyone else’s experiences (duh), if like small comforts etc, etc… don’t go backpacking

To which I would like to say… Expectations are fine, but don’t go to Europe, or anywhere or even do anything with a one-size-fits-all approach while still holding expectations.

USE YOUR IMAGINATION

I started my trip mildly unconventionally. I completed a Workaway helping some girls with their English, took Spanish classes ,  took a brief trip to Salamanca, went on a road trip (to take videos/photos of possible filming locations!) , a few days in Lisbon, and then completed a volunteer program with Diverbo .

I think I was about two months in at this stage, and I decided it was about high time I did some ‘conventional travelling’. AKA Solo travelling through Andalucia/the South of Spain, staying in a hostel in each destination for 1-2 days and ticking off the sights before catching a bus to the next destination.

I am slightly to ashamed to say, I didn’t really like it so much.

I loved South of Spain, but I didn’t like the hostels. I also didn’t like moving between places by myself every 1-2 days.

I feel mean saying that because I’ve had some great times in hostels playing drinking games and exploring the locations with others HOWEVER….

There is often a snorer, a smell and an inconsiderate packer with a noisy plastic bag. If I’m late back at night, I’ll likely wake someone in the dorm up. However if I’m having an early night someone will likely wake me up when I’m coming in.

I like the freedom and the sleep quality of my own space.

However the real issue was the moving. Travellers are good conversationalists but eventually I did not want to tell anyone where I was from, what I did, where I was going and where had I been. Short stays means there is the potential to have this this conversation A LOT. Towards the end of these 2 weeks I began to avoid meeting people, purely so I could avoid this superficial conversation.  You’re hardly ever alone as a solo traveller, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel lonely.

Disclaimer: I loved some of the people I met in hostels, and most people like hostels more than me! To each their own!

However, most likely on a meditative bus ride, I came to the realization that I could travel however I wanted. That I didn’t have to travel in a particular way, or even in a straight line was such a freeing idea. I was free to make decisions based on experiences and let my whims take me where they wanted; be that staying or going.

I did later ‘hostel-hop’ but I kept these trips shorter and in between longer stays. I’ve been away for (an anxiety inducing) approximately 300 days, and I can count 41 nights that I spent in hostels.

Instead some of the mildly unconventional things I did included:

  • Leaving countries, to return later

  • Au- pairing in a little village north of Barcelona

  • Visiting a friend competing in a sporting event

  • Renting a place in Barcelona with a friend I hadn’t seen in years and his odd housemate

  • Working on a permaculture farm… without power

  • Going out of my way to reconnect with friends I made earlier in my trip: in new cities or in their own

  • Staying with awesome locals on Airbnb

  • Taking Spanish Lessons again (in a new location!)

  • Crashing 2x birthday parties in France and in Spain and struggling through language differences

  • Staying with a Swiss family for a week and going hiking in the surrounding mountains

  • Visiting the middle of nowhere in Spain and Portugal. (Tiny towns without English speakers)

  • Travelling from Switzerland to Portugal through France and Spain by bus

  • Working on a campsite in the beautiful nature of South of France

  •  Visiting extended family and friends I made in England

Things I wanted to do, and could have: (but time and money are precious resources)

And I’m comparatively boring! I haven’t even:

If you think about it, travel is about moving your body from one place to another. Surely you can find some way to do this that is in line with your goals and interests.

If something is not working… change! If you’re burning out… stay still a while.

I definitely got to see my fair share of culture, and connected with people, nature and ideas more than I did buildings.

The world is your oyster people.

The flight over – Perth to Madrid

AKA – Nerves, people are wonderful & Y’all be ok

I’m writing this blog in retrospect. At the moment I’m actually sitting in a cafe in Edinburgh, using the internet and waiting for Claire to finish work so we can drive home together. I actually left my ‘homecity’ of Perth approximately 7 months ago. The past seven months have been the most intense and experienced filled months of my life, full of crazy highs and lows, experiences and lessons learnt. However the plus side to writing in retrospect is that I know what the good and bad things were, and which experiences have affected me even though I might not have realized at the time.

Annnnddd… Segue!

wing-221526_640I often think about my flight over. I hate flying. I get nervous when the plane takes off and compulsively scan the air hostesses’ faces for the slightest signs of distress, or over-friendliness which could actually be a concealment of distress in order to keep the passengers calm as the plane bursts into flames. I try to be asleep during landing so I don’t have to experience it.

However the scariest thing about this flight was that I was leaving my friends and family behind, and I wasn’t sure when I was going to return. The truth is I bought a round the world trip (at super-short notice – 2 weeks- also very cheap – cheers STA), but the dates were flexible and I always intended to change them.  All I knew was that I was going to arrive in Madrid, to be picked up by a girl who I had met over the internet on Workaway and I didn’t have much of a plan for the next year.

At 22, I felt like a child pretending to play ‘adult’. “Yeah, I got my shit together”

However on my last leg into Madrid (from Qatar) I met a woman on the plane who was returning from an extended stay in Asia. She was from Madrid and she was able to significantly improve her English during her time away.  I told her about my plans for Spain, I was going to help some girls with their English, and try to learn Spanish. She told me Madrid was great for young people and I was going to have fun with the girls. I loved her enthusiasm (and I now love the enthusiasm of Spaniards in general!) and she gave me a real confidence boost. 

After arriving in Madrid I spoke to a guy while waiting to pick up my luggage and considering the possibility of what might happen if my lift and accommodation didn’t show up. What would I do? However I was already speaking to another solo traveler, who would have happily spent time with me, yet I’d been in the country all of 5 minutes. I’d be fine.

IMG-20141101-WA0009

I then walked through to arrivals to meet Ruth and Alba, and we said our quiet hellos.

How times have changed!

One day I want to be the friendly traveller on a plane who makes the travel newbie feel better, or the airport random who makes the nervous traveller realize they’ll be OK.

And on average, everything was ok!