We arrived in Mexico yesterday. We got a flight out of Las Vegas on Friday morning and figured we’d just book somewhere to stay when we got to the airport. I’d heard that they have loads of minibuses picking people up from the airport and so I stood there and googled a few of the names of the hotels on the drivers shirts. We ended up going for the Hotel Excellente, which the guy said was only 45 mins away in the minibus, and had rooms available. When we got to the hotel we went to reception and sorted out the room (the driver had called ahead to let them know that we were coming).
You would love this place Kelly. It’s totally amazing! Loads of lazy river swimming pools, really private little gardens and these rooms called ‘swim up’ rooms, where you can literally walk out of your room, through your little garden and slip into the pool and swim around, picking up a smoothie on the way round. Not only that, the place is all inclusive… so you don’t even need to pay for the smoothie!!
Every night they have entertainment and last night they put on a pop-up casino in the main square. They gave you chips to use, so you weren’t using real money, but it was so fun. Obviously, Sally went on the roulette table again, and put it all on red this time…. and unsurprisingly lost it all on her first try! She then came round to me and sat and drank while I played on the poker table again… Tamara meanwhile, made friends with some American jocks, who seemed to be very impressed with her British sense of humour. The only problem was that there were loads of mosquitoes around the gaming tables – luckily I was wearing trousers so only got a few bites on my arms, but Sally is covered in them this morning. The girls who were running the tables, the dealers and the croupiers, were getting bitten like crazy too – so much so that I went to the pit-boss and told him that he had to go and get some repellent for the girls, who were suffering so badly. I’m not sure if that good deed for the day cancels out all the drinking and gambling that I did that night, but I’d like to hope that maybe it did?!!
Anyway, I’ve booked myself and Sally onto a free tennis lesson this morning, which starts in about 5 minutes, so I’d better dash… (yes, I know, it’s a miracle… I’ve got Sally out of bed)!!
OK. We’ve just spent a few days in Vegas and my enthusiasm for the neon lights, the casino tables and the noisy streets has waned massively! On Wednesday morning I went to the tour desk at the hotel and asked to go on a tour of the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t believe that they had nothing available on their books till the following Wednesday – and we’re leaving on Friday morning. They said that they had tours of various places available for the following day, and I literally chose where to go based on closing my eyes and gambling on where my finger landed on the list! I think the lady at the counter thought I was a bit crazy! Anyway, Bryce Canyon was where my finger landed.
I told Sally and Tamara where we were going when I got back to the room (yup, they were in bed again, but honestly they are cracking girls and you would love them Mum)! On the Thursday morning we got on a bus and were taken to the Canyon. The journey was a bit of a trek (good couple of hours away), but the canyon was well worth it – it was amazing! A really deep canyon, with these massive stalagmite type things stretching right up to the sky. Hundreds of them.. as the clouds parted every now and again, the light would shine down into the canyon as you were walking through these massive columns and light them up, showing all the different coloured rocks… simply breath taking. I’ll show you all the photos when I get back but you just couldn’t imagine it. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get to go to the Grand Canyon in the end too, because then I’d have missed Bryce Canyon – and another girl I met today said that Bryce was easily the more memorable of the two Canyons. So the tour lottery paid out in the end!!
You know that New York was a bit of a roller coaster, but I’ll have to update you on much of the goings on there at a later stage, because already, I’m in Vegas Baby!!!
Before I came to the States, preparation for my trip to the casino floors of Las Vegas, I researched how to play all the different games. I had always played a bit of online poker, but needed to know the rules of all the other games. So I found a brilliant website called the CasinoKlub online which instructed me on all the different techniques and rules for table games like roulette and craps. Last night I arrived at the Venetian hotel. By Jingo – the place is mahooosive! They have a river running THROUGH the hotel and you can take a gondola ride on it!! Hilarious!! I was advised to go to Vegas mid-week, as the hotels are cheaper then. So I got a pretty much palatial room for something like $300 dollars for the night. You wouldn’t believe the size of the bathroom! I’ve come here with a couple of girls that I met in New York who are off travelling like me, so we get to share the cost of the room fortunately! Sally and Tamara are currently sleeping off their hangovers because last night we hit the casino tables of Las Vegas with gusto!
We hit the casino floor at around 10pm, after grabbing a bite at a diner down the road. Sally and Tamara aren’t very clued up on gambling – so I showed them the ropes. After a good few hours showing them all the different games and teaching them the rules of poker, roulette, baccarat, craps and showing them how to use the slot machines (I can’t believe how many of them there are)! we then decided to have a competition. The rules were, that we each had $50 and we each had to see how long we could make it last and how much we could win in 3 hours. Sally was first out of the running… she went onto the roulette table and put it all on black… I wish I could actually tell you how funny it was. I could see her table from where I was (poker table) and watched the whole thing. Literally, under 10 seconds, and her $50 was all gone! She shrugged her shoulders and laughed and came over to join me, and sat with me for the next 2 hours and 50 minutes drinking free drinks whilst I made, lost, made, lost and made money over and over again! After the 3 hours was up, you’ll be pleased to hear that I was pronounced the winner! I had $22 left at the end of the gaming session, which I think is pretty good going. Tamara ran out of money around the 2 hour point and came over and joined us. Needless to say, my bum was very numb by the time I got up. After leaving the casino we decided to go and see if we could get a ticket for a show – but all we came up with was some dodgy magic show with some old has-been magician – but it was fun enough. I think we made it to bed around 3.30am!!
My first stop on my world tour is New York city. It’s a place that I have come to know so well from all the films that I have seen that I almost feel like I have been here already! Big, burly and expressive; that’s how I predicted it would be. My first impressions were pretty much like that… The people are funny, open, and pretty honest! But the thing that I wanted to see most out there was the place where the World Trade Centre used to be. I remember going to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin 3 years ago, and I to this day, remember the lasting impression that the place had on me. Some memorials are done so well, that you can almost feel the pain of those that they are dedicated to. The one in Berlin for the holocaust victims is like that. It is so clever, the way you start on the outside of all the coffin-shaped monuments, as an onlooker or observer, looking at them from without. And then you walk through them and as you get further and further into the site, you end up swamped by them, engulfed by all these towering blocks of concrete. You seem to sink into the ground as the coffin like sculptures grow taller and taller, suffocating you, drowning you. I am not Jewish, but I felt the pain, the loss, the total gut-wrenching sorrow as the memorial showed itself to me.
In New York, I wanted to go to the memorial site for the World Trade Centre to understand more of the pain of that atrocity. I went to the memorial site today.
Never have I been so moved by a monument. The abyss, the water flowing down into the bowels of the earth, as souls departing, being sucked down the plughole, away, never to be seen again. I stood there for ages, tears streaming down my face as I imagined the torment that these people must have gone through on that fateful day. But the thing that I couldn’t get passed, as I stood there in my pool of sorrow, was how many people came up to me and hugged me, or spoke to me, or smiled at me compassionately. This site of sadness, was now breeding so much love and human kindness. In a way, all the gloom and bitterness that those bad men tried to create in destroying those buildings, is constantly being thwarted by the ever present, ever rejuvenating sense of human unity, camaraderie and human connection that has replaced those buildings.
I had to leave after about ¾ of an hour. I started to feel like a fraud, because I hadn’t actually lost anyone close to me that day and there were so obviously people there who were directly affected. I just kept apologising to people that I hadn’t lost anyone and their reactions were so sweet, people who’d lost loved ones, tried to comfort me.
Honestly, I can’t say how much you should go there if you get the chance. I feel that my sense of love for mankind has intensified. I just wasn’t expecting to get such hope from the place.
– Tina – you’d love it! x
I have spent a long time considering the best way to spend my year off, before University. I have a good deal of money, (or at least, what I think is a good deal of money) saved up from working at the corner store at weekends. That, alongside my job at the pub, has saved me enough for a years gallivanting around the globe! Traveling the globe isn’t my conundrum however: I know I’m going to go around the world, but what I’m not sure about is ‘how’ I will go round the world. I don’t mean what mode of transport to take (!) I mean how I should spend my time during this forthcoming year.
My choices are; to have an organised trip, which will include working with a Non Governmental Organisation, or going for a pure experience-filled ‘voyage of discovery’, flying by the seat of my pants, with no specific schedule and as little as possible pre-booked or pre-arranged.
By working with an NGO, I will not only have a specific achievable target to reach, but I will be doing something ‘useful’ with myself. There is always this nagging voice that I have within, which sort of mocks me for my bourgeois over-indulgence of ‘travelling the world’. Traveling through countries where there are people with nothing, not a cent to their name, not a roof over their head, and there’s me, with my £400 rucksack on my back, wandering the globe, with credit cards at my finger tips, taking time out to witness other peoples poverty. There’s just something quite narcissistic and self-indulgent about it. But if I give something back whilst travelling, that self-indulgence will be minimised. I’ll be creating something useful with my time, my energy.
Alternatively, I could just buy a ticket and see where each day takes me, following no prescribed route or path. Just following the destiny of each day, with an open heart and mind. Allowing myself to really get to know the people and the places that I visit. Each day, living a life as close as possible to truth, and seeing things through another person’s eyes. Really empathising as much as possible and understanding another’s plight as much as possible. When I look at my parents, older generations, I see that they have all lost that ability to empathise with other people. They seem to always have too much to loose if they empathise too much. I sort of believe, that whilst we are young, we have to be as open to other people as possible, and that is how we grow; through understanding the lives of others.
Yesterday I spent the day looking at my options. I have found a fabulous website, which kind of lists all the available options for charity work overseas. The WANGO website – lists all the NGOs out there. From there I found reference to the VSO.
I looked very seriously into the VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas). Obviously, they primarily deal with professional people looking to help overseas, but additionally they do have roles for 18-35 yr olds, https://www.vsointernational.org/volunteering/ICS-youth-volunteering. Their website is really comprehensive and full of information on the charity work that they do. I also spent some time on the ‘glassdoor’ website, which gives a very honest account of the realities and practicalities of working with the VSO.
I really liked all that they seemed to be about, but at the end of the day, my selfishness has won out! I have decided that as I am only ever going to have 1 year in my life that is all about me, my self-awakening, my personal development and self-awareness, I will be best off investing that time in myself, rather than giving of myself and my time to others. I have decided that I want to have a selfish year. The rest of my life, according to my mum, will be about compromise, the greater good and serving others, and that this year should be and can be a guilt free attempt at personal development.
So. No NGO for me. A round the world ticket, with a few scheduled stops, and the rest is a blank sheet yet to be written upon!! I’ll be setting off for my first destination of New York in 3 weeks time and will continue to update my blog with stories and thoughts that come to me as I travel round the world.
I can’t wait!!