Hannibal Lector shaving my balls

Wednesday 11 February

It’s been a while dear readers.  You must forgive my tardiness, but I have always sought quality over quantity with my travel updates.  As such (and as I’ve not been doing much traveling), not a great deal of adventure or excitement worthy of note has occurred (nothing I could print anyway), and so I have been absent from my usual regalings.  For that I apologise profusely, but you’re just going to have to wait for something remotely entertaining.  I assure you something is on the horizon.

I have idly spent my days watching back to back episodes of Hannibal.  If you haven’t watched this incredible TV, I suggest you do so tout suite and bon appetite.  It’s outstanding.  However it has left me with a number of unpleasant side effects.  This includes incredibly vivid dreams about becoming a serial killer.  What concerns me is how much I actually enjoyed them.  You’d be surprised at just how satisfying the thought of going postal on stupid people really is.   Not so gratifying experiences have come in the shower cubicle; when the timed lights snapped off and quite irrationally I imagined a pair of decayed dead hands reaching under the partition to grab my ankles and pull me to my bloody demise.  Consequently, the hurry to escape this potential event made shaving my balls significantly more dangerous.  I do not recommend doing the gardening in the dark.

And so Zagreb is in the process of chewing me up and spitting me out.  The city has always been good to me, tossing up new friends, enticing women and memorable events with wild abandon.  But as ever, once again the travel sense is tingling.  The road calls.  Recently I have become somewhat stagnant, while  the universe has been conspiring to provide me with subtle signs that I should be packing my bags.  Many partners in crime have moved on.  Crazy Erasmus students have departed for pastures new.  I regularly sleep alone in an eight bed dorm room.  I was served a totally uncooked chicken in a canteen.  My toast dropped Vegemite side down on the kitchen floor.  I stared at my embarrassingly flaccid penis in front of a gorgeous naked local girl.  One little hint after another.  I have finally got the message.

It is with a heavy heart then that I must leave my beloved Croatia.  Who knows when I will darken her door once more?  What might have been had I been able to stay?  Will we ever meet again?  For now, time and tide wait for no man, and I must away in the coming days; envisaging a triumphant return to Sofia on the back of a Donkey; where I’ll probably be found dead next Winter.  In Zagreb, the driving, silent, snowy landscape through double glazed windows serves only as an excuse to remain.  The East beckons, and with it, the promise of Viagra laced Turkish Delights.


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Tuesday 02 December

Having a lot of time on your hands while you plan your next move/world domination can have an interesting effect on oneself.  You can either use this period for personal development; learning new things, getting fit, contemplating your navel.  Or you can sit about on your arse playing online chess, watching back to back episodes of Breaking Bad and eating a raw broccoli and a packet of “Active” corn snack rice crackers a day.  The irony isn’t lost on me.  I had reached a state of inertia.

Since the shit has hit the fan, there have been various consequences, none of which I am able to divulge.  I have therefore spent the last week or so still in Zadar, biding my time, while I await a multitude of news and/or care packages with which I can finally be on my merry way with.  Once again all will be revealed in due course.  He who laughs last…blah, blah…etcetera, etcetera.

There are plenty of positives dearest readers.  I have all but given up hard-core drinking and smoking.  I managed maybe three weeks without a cigarette, but then caved in after some stressful women stuff.   You know – the usual.  However, in a month or so, I’ve had less than forty smokes.  That isn’t bad at all.  Nor have I been drunk.  I had one small night out, bought a goon box of wine with some friendly Croatians at 5 am in the morning, and managed half a cup before going home.  It’s still sitting on my windowsill, and not a drop further has been supped.  I am a shadow of my former self, and on this occasion, it’s a very good thing.  In spite of being recently informed that part of my charm was my alcoholism.

So maybe my adventures will start to take a turn for the mundane if I’m unable to include booze fueled shenanigans and debauchery?  Am I to become chaste?  You can have fun without alcohol right…?  Time will tell, but I do know one thing; my dreams are insane.  I mean INSANE.  Like trying to find Spiderman while piloting a bright orange, mountain rescue rebel snow speeder, with a cat on my head while a girl screams “WHERE’S THE BUTTER?”  Perhaps I’ll start writing entries about my unconsciousness if I can’t get into any hedonistic trouble.   Give up smoking people – you get free David Lynch cinema every night.

Aside from all this, I had a lovely ten days revisiting Bosnia with my future ex girlfriend, scored a cracking little action camcorder for 56 quid on eBay, made inquiries about a Bulgarian country house with a swimming pool,  read a shit load of books, and got a hair cut.  Oh and speaking of books, I’ve finally decided to begin the initial beginning stages of beginning the beginning of my novels beginning.  I’ve had a solid idea for a while now, so it’s time I started writing.  And by writing I mean basically watching loads of films set in the late 18th and early 19th century.  Similar to the time I watched  that stonewall classic, Dante’s Peak, in order to prepare for a geography exam on volcanoes.  I got an ‘A’.  Cheers Brosnan.

And so going forward my cheeky chums, I have decided to pay a visit to Italy.  I did one of those “my-back-pack-is-bigger-than-yours-and-I’ve-been-to-more-countries-than-you” travelers ego maps that rubs it into EVERYONE ELSE’s face where you’ve been in the world.  I stopped short of posting considering how pointless it was.  However there was a great big blank space slap bang in the centre, in the shape of Italy’s boot.  Since Venice is less than four hours away and I found a ride share for 18 sheets, it would be rude not to tick it off.  While I’m at it, I’ll attempt a shoe-string, whistle-stop tour to Florence and Rome too.  Buy my Italian flag sticker for the guitar, weep openly in the back of a gondola by myself, and then make haste to Turkey, with plans to finally leave Europe behind.

I’ve waffled on long enough. It’s nearly time to get back on the road again, and hopefully my next update will be somewhat more entertaining.  The hitch will continue East, to central Asia and beyond.  I’ve been giving serious thought to dipping my toe into the acting world again, and I hear they’re holding open auditions for Jihad videos.  It’s a good job I’ve given up the booze; as from here I’ll need to keep a good head on my shoulders.





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Birthdays, good friends and arseholes

Wednesday 05 November

Well it’s been a while folks.  Back in my home from home.  My only home to be honest.  And what a lovely place it is.  Made new friends, saw some old ones, and enjoyed a spirited return to these shores; including a rather wonderful birthday.  Yes I recently turned the ripe old age of 35.  Wow.  Where does the time go?  I was invited out with good friends and Drunken Monkey hostel staff for an end of season/Stuart’s birthday dinner and drinks.  But it was more about me obviously.  It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.  Case in point – old friend, seasoned traveller, lover-not-fighter, man of the world and business consultant extraordinaire; Murray Johnson arrived – and I actually shed a tear. Although don’t tell him that; there was just something in my eye.

I had not seen Murray since we braved the wilds of Central and South America to complete the charity ambulance rally together, some three years ago.  Memories flooded back while the wine flowed, and it seemed like we had never been apart.  On return to the Drunken Monkey, I was booed off as a DJ, danced wildly behind the bar, and partied well into the early hours with some of the best friends I have made on the road.  Some happy times indeed in Zadar’s beautiful Indian summer.  Alas it is with a heavy heart and great regret that things have turned sour.  Alas, for the time being, it is my home no longer.

As much as I would like to strike fast and strike hard, I know that will hurt others I care for. So I am forced to not utilise the scathing prose I have come to know and love so well. I wish I could, but I step aside for the greater good and for those that mean the most to me. Some day I will be in a position to enlighten you (perhaps in the book and film deal…!), and to not let the bullies of the world succeed. But there is a time and place for everything. Maturity has taught me to know when this is…or more specifically, when this isn’t. So in the mean time, I will pick up on my journey from this transition point and move forward. Know that I will explain all of this at a later date. I promise you that. But for now, we wait for the moment when we can look back with a smile of success.

Fear not dear readers for I am safe and well, a little shaken, but very optimistic that people will be held accountable for their actions.  I feel very much broken-hearted, although romance is, I assure you, not involved this time.  The pen, as they say, is mightier than the sword (or words stronger than fists), and smoke will be coming off these keys once again and when the time and place is right, and to great effect.

More importantly, there’s four white hairs on the left hand side of my chin, my running shoes have been returned (thank you Hostel Mostel, Sofia) and I’ve discovered a new porn actress I like.  Oh and I’m now three days without smoking or drinking.  One door closes and several open.  For whatever lies ahead, I’m going to be in great shape.

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Pastures old

Sunday 12 October

After leading 18 pub crawls in a row, spending three months in Sofia (a large percentage of that either sick, drunk or both) and burning the candle at both ends, I was looking for a way out.  Salvation came in the form of an email from a friend.  A conversation similar to the following exchange ensued:

“What are you doing over the Winter?”

“Well I’m meant to be hitchhiking East.  Turkey next, Georgia, Azerbaijan…etcetera, etcetera.”

“Do you want to care-take the hostel until March?”


It was a no brainer.  The chance to find my sanctuary.  To spend the off-season as a hermit.  Little or no contact with people (there would be few guests in Winter – if any at all – to subjugate my penchant for misanthropy).  Take myself away from the temptations and vices I’ve so utterly succumbed to.  Learn a language.  Cardio and weights everyday.  Significantly improve on guitar.  Teach myself new recipes in a giant kitchen.  Read.  A shit load.  Keep the hostel from burning to the ground and a blind cat alive.  Better myself.  Hide away until I’m sound of body and mind, and I don’t look like I’ve eaten all the pies.  It was an opportunity too good to miss.  Besides, in the current political climate, one could lose ones head hitching to India.  I decided to temporarily put it on hold.

And so after lengthy goodbyes, I’ve dragged myself out of Sofia and onto a 17 hour mammoth coach ride.  Memories of last year’s epic summer still fresh and ringing in my ears as the countryside zips by in darkness.  Thoughts of the possibilities of a bright future.  It was difficult to get sleep.  Especially with the exposed stomach of a beached whale snoring in the seats adjacent.  But for the first time in as long as I can remember; I was excited.  It felt good to be alive again.

Arriving at the bus depot and it all started to flood back.  Echos of meetings, experiences, good times.  A chair I’d sat on in that exact spot when parting company.  I know that I will never have a summer quite like it.  Perhaps I was returning to try to claw it back, to rescue something so thaumaturgic from the annuls of time.  Chasing a hidden wonder.  A drug addict vying for another hit.  Either way, the hair follicles tingled as the sun rose, and I set eyes on the Adriatic once more.  Bleary eyed, adrenalin fighting sleep, I walked the short distance from the terminal to my residence for the next six months.

The Wild Fig hostel, Zadar.

I was home.

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The romance of the bus station

Tuesday 12 November

Punctuality was always a real stickler for my dad.  I remember being hounded through my coco-pop breakfast and not allowed to read the cartoon pages of the Sunday Post as we were ‘late’ for church.  Of course we’d always be the first to arrive, an eon before anyone else, which proved a real bone of contention in the dead of winter when we’d always be there before the heating was turned on.  We’d shiver in the pews, my dad beaming, but woe betide you if you were ever late for anything.  A trait he has naturally rubbed off onto me.  This is particularly evident in encounters with women.

The big hand is on its way back up to the twelve.  She is over half an hour late.  As usual you stand around the station and ponder if you’ve got the meeting point right.  You shuffle nervously, second guessing your current location, dwelling on previous directions.  With no phone anymore, contact is impossible.  It’s got to be done the old fashioned way.  Similar looking girls come and go, and there is that skipped-heart moment of recognition that quickly turns to disappointment.  Then you flirt with the idea that she’s not coming.  Then you burn a cigarette down and contemplate leaving.  That’ll teach her.  HAHAHAHAHA!  Screw you.    Someone you’re never going to see again.

Just as you start to sing the first few bars of an Elbow tune, you catch sight of her bustling up the stairs with a bag in tow.  Here’s where all your previous thoughts about opening greetings fly out the window and you make a snap judgement on how to deal with it.  She stammers ‘missed tram’ apologies, you say it’s all fine with a dismissive brush of the hand – but inside you know you’re three quarters of an hour away from her leaving your life.  Every second counts.

In the end there isn’t much you can do.  You’re two people caught on a different path.  A chance meeting which will eventually turn to separate ways.  That day has arrived.  You’re insides sink as she steps on the bus, as circumstances prevent anything else but the inevitable.  This isn’t the movies.  It’s not the moment you sprint through the terminal, leaping bags and narrowly missing toddlers to be tell her how you feel before she makes the greatest mistake of her life.  In the rain.  Before you’re arrested.  But don’t worry -she’ll wait for you.  This isn’t that.  This is a cold night in Zagreb and she’s got a ticket to ride.

Awkwardly you thrust the envelope into her hands as she departs.  “Some travel reading” you smile.  You hope it came off as a charming, heart-warming, cheeky nod, but in reality you probably looked like the pathetic shit-sack you are right now and you need to grow a pair.  The contents of the analogical wounded animal you’ve just handed over – dragging it’s way over the cliff to a bloody death – is a short letter of feeling and a three euro trinket you hope might someday kindle some affectionate memory.  But alas, that fairground arrow has missed it’s target.  In reality they will both be deposited into the first motorway service rubbish bin.

“What’s the fascination with lovers at the station? – you have to tear yourself away.”  A mumbled line from a fitting melody is the only comfort to the guy left on the platform, forcing a turn to not look back, because you wouldn’t meet those eyes anyway.  “Pick your feet up pal” you hear a voice say from somewhere.  Yeah I know old man.  I’m still waiting too.

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Returning to old haunts

Thursday 07 November

It’s funny how life works.  How things can come full circle.  I’m standing at the Lucko toll booth on the outskirts of Zagreb.  Exactly the same toll booth I stood at back in May, before embarking on a whirlwind summer of excess.  So – am I going back to Zadar, you muse?  He can’t be!  Alas dear readers, I’m not; but I am going back to Vienna.

Gasps of horror arise.  When are you actually going to India?!  All in good time my friends, all in good time.  Right now I’ve been offered a chance to go to the annual hostel conference for free, and it’s too good of an opportunity to turn down for a number of reasons.  And one reason in particular.  That I’m not going to tell you.  Networking darlings, networking.  I only hope they don’t recognise me at the hostel after I got thrown out last year for telling a cleaning lady to go fuck herself.

So very soon the Wild Fig team is being whisked through three countries and I find myself back for the third time in a city I can’t appear to leave.  Within seconds of arriving I’m frequenting the old haunts and reacquainting myself with the old crew.  I’ve not had a drink in a week – something of a record for me – and back where the beer is tasty I don’t intend on remaining dry for much longer.  I’m in bed by a shameful 11pm.

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