Reflecting on the Mountbatten Institute – 10 Year Alumni Anniversary


The ticketing agent wasn’t too impressed as I put my two oversized pieces of luggage on the scale. “They’re overweight. You’ll have to leave some things behind or pay a hefty fee.” This was March 2006 and I was saving any extra penny I had for pints and weekend escapes across Europe. Needless to say my mom and sister walked away with mismatched shoes, college sweatshirts and other items forcibly deemed unnecessary overflowing from their arms after saying a tearful goodbye. My teddybear somehow made the cut though.

I arrived at London’s Heathrow and was instructed to sit on the ground in the arrivals hall with the others who had landed before me while we waited for the rest of the intake to arrive. I was exhausted and nervous. I had no idea what to expect from both the Mountbatten Institute (formerly Mountbatten Programme), nor the other 29 participants who joined me from all corners of the US.

Joanna and I bonded over going to uni in Baltimore. Emily (Z) and I made friends quickly as she was the only volunteer who responded to my invite for a smoke outside to break the ice. I learned it was neither academia nor international work experience that brought her here though. It was simply, Europe!

We were brought by bus to a hostel in Paddington for the first few nights. I was in awe at the amount of luggage Erin, also a fellow New Jerseyian, had managed to bring over. We were going to be in London for a year. Each of us at a different work placement, from mostly prominent banking to only two of us in marketing/special events roles. Erin was fashionably prepared for all of it.

I met Angele on the hostel doorstep later that afternoon. I didn’t believe her when she told me her name. After all I had never met anyone from New Orleans before. Angele, Jaime, Heidi and I walked to Portobello Road the next morning. Flashbacks of my time studying abroad only 3 years prior flooded in and I felt overly confident that I had already mastered London during my first time living there at 19. I was so naive about how this next year would change me forever.

Mountbattens on Portobello Road

First day in London, Portobello Road; Courtesy of Heidi Kristin.

See, what made this time so much more different than the first time I lived abroad was simply, it was no longer my first time. Sure we were older and more mature. I mean most of us were at least 22! College was in the past and we all had a minimum of a year of professional work experience under our belts. To leave our happy lives of “adulthood” behind meant that there was an additional element that unified us all – we were all true travelers at heart and for many of us this wasn’t our first rodeo abroad.

That night our friendship bonds began to form deeper as we partied into the wee hours at the Hiccup Bar in the hostel’s basement, flirting with foreign boys and searching out new partners in crime. Late that night Emily (S) greeted us with Indiana-based childhood friend Gerrad, as they both were the last of the group to arrive. I knew then that we were onto something good.

Fast friends at the Hiccup Bar, Paddington

Fast friends our first night at the Hiccup Bar, Paddington; Courtesy of Sarah Lauderbach

I started work shortly after at the international leading market research firm Forrester Research. I was an Event Coordinator managing corporate events for the C-level suite where my bosses provided exclusive and customised research consultancy to Europe’s most prominent organisations. I was lucky that my direct supervisor Daniel was one of the original Mountbattens, an English gent sent to NYC years earlier, so his appreciation of a life split between professionalism and adventure was well understood. As part of my role I galavanted around London sourcing amazing gifts to include in our prestigious event invitations such as mini port bottles to invite them to our VIP event in Portugal or tea from Harrods for our annual London event. Later that year after a private tour of Tower Bridge I hosted dinner inside its historical walkways.

While in the Mountbatten Programme we were also working toward our Cambridge-endorsed certificate in international business practice. Throughout the year we were whisked away to attend educational seminars at prominent places such as the UN in London, and other talks in Paris, Oxford and Cambridge; but also participated in team building exercises in Dorset and Brighton. The days were long but the nights were even longer as we surely took advantage of the mini breaks at hand.

Punting in Cambridge

Punting in Cambridge; Courtesy of Jamie Bettcher

My most prominent reflection of Mountbatten lives amongst the friendships that were created during post work drinks sipping pints and eating chips for dinner to save our pennies for weekend escapes across Europe. A typical weekend included dancing to our favourite cover band The Fabulous Feedback Band (now replaced by much younger lads) at Leicester Square Irish pub O’Neills on Wardour Street, arriving home at 4 am, taking a 30-minute nap before heading to catch the budget National Express bus only just in time for the cheapest flight of them all at 6 am. We’d arrive in a new city, drop our bags at the hostel and by 9 am were exploring and trying to figure the new foreign place out with a thick hangover to make it extra special. It wasn’t uncommon when returning to London late Sunday night and being asked at customs where I just came from that I’d stare back blankly, the trips started to blur into one.

Mountbattens in Paris

Mountbattens in Paris; Courtesy of Stephanie Otanez

This was 2006 remember. Likely only a quarter of us were on Facebook. I refused and was still on MySpace. I called my mom weekly from my international calling card and only would SMS (text) my friends in emergency situations. After arriving in a new town, it was an old-school map and an inkling for the closest pub that got us around.

Once we met the South Africans, thanks to an introduction via Angele and her co-worker, weekends were also spent in east London having traditional braiis while sunbathing in their backyard, learning South African longarming dances late in the evening at Zulu’s and sharing our cultures over too many Savannah ciders. We hosted an amazing Halloween party at the Leicester Square Australian pub, Walkabout, to show our South African and English friends what the holiday really is all about. Em (Z) and I kept the tradition for 4 years later in NYC , and they still were they were the most celebrated parties of the year.

Halloween at Leicester Sq Walkabout

Halloween, 2006 at Walkabout Leicester Sq; Courtesy of Jaime Bettcher

Living in communal housing was a challenge as it took college-living to another level. 8 of us shared a 4-bedroom townhouse in between posh Maida Vale and sketchy Kilburn Park. As most of us shared a bedroom with a friend, Emily (Z) and I’s friendship became even closer as we also combined wardrobes and the large bottle of water to quench our frequently hungover thirst was passed between us as a nightly ritual. When it came time to host the other Mountbattens’ for a good old fashioned American bbq, our house, known as the “crack house” (no drugs were involved) was the place to be. It might have been termed that for our residence in proximity to the ghetto, or the pure debauchery that took place regularly. Frankly, our flat ran out of water most mornings, and Em Z and I, the last to wake up, would flip a coin on who would get to shower before work.

Mountbattens celebrating

“Blade” and “Bullet” celebrating at the flat after returning from Paris; Courtesy of Andy Cervantes

From March 2006-March 2007 I was lucky to not only experience more of London and the UK than ever before, but also 13 other countries. We cheered steins at Oktoberfest in Munich, ate baguettes under the Eiffel Tower, hiked under olive groves in Cinque Terra, and bathed in ancient outdoor baths in Budapest. We ate perogee in Kraków, smoked a spliff in Amsterdam and sat for hours trying as many beers as we could at a small ancient beer house in Antwerp. And the above was just touching the surface.

Salzburg pretzel twins

Pretzel twins, Salzburg, Austria; Courtesy of Jaime Bettcher

Being a Mountbatten alumni makes me so proud. I was lucky to move to the NYC area upon returning to the States, along with many of my closest friends. With one of my dearest Mountbatten friends, Jaime, we have mutually made it our mission to keep traveling somewhere new in the world each year together. The bond that you have with a fellow Mountbatten is for life, and still very true today. Once a Mountbatten, always a Mountbatten as the saying goes. It truly is a global lifeline and I’ve met fellow Mountbattens while traveling in Australia, Thailand, Japan, California and South Africa. We are travelers and we are one.

On March 6, 2006 I boarded a flight from Philly to London not knowing what the opportunity would provide. Today is March 6,  2016 and I am writing this on a flight from Philly to London to return to my home now. Ten years later to the day and I am living my dream back in London after a few detours in NYC and Australia getting to know the world beyond Europe. I’m lucky that many of my friends in London today are former Mountbattens, and wherever I go “home” in the world…be it London, Australia or NYC, Mountbatten unifies us all. I feel extremely lucky and grateful for the opportunity.

Mountbatten reunion

Mountbattens reunited exactly 10 years later to the day: Courtesy of Angele Cory

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3-Day Pressed Juice Cleanse


The evening before I started my pressed juice cleanse I had nightmares. I dreamt about being tempted by chocolate, steak, waffles and cold beer which made me fail at the task of staying ‘clean’. I agonized about the unattainable. Not only because I was on a strict no-solids, no-alcohol, no-caffeine regiment, but also because those delicacies I fantasized about also weren’t available to be purchased or consumed from my office, where I unfortunately was in my dream. Plus, I don’t even like waffles.

My decision to cleanse was fast and without waver. Coming back from a long New Year’s celebratory weekend in Sydney my body felt overworked and screamed for a rest, both mentally and physically. I even contemplated running off to a wellness retreat for a few days, and a few thousands of dollars of debt. Luckily once I discovered I didn’t have the transport means to get there I came to my senses and started brainstorming on something much more sensible albeit my first time ever going 3 full days without a solid meal. Others may not deem that as sensible.

I chose Pressed Juices simply because they are a Melbourne based company and they made the whole experience easy for me. After a bit of research, I felt confident that I would get the right balance of nutrients to sustain off solids for 3 days at the same time do my body some well deserved recovery and rejuvination. The process was simple:

  1. Choose your cleanse: Basic, Advanced, Master
  2. Choose for 3, 4, or 5 days
  3. Choose 6 of 8 juices to consume daily. The options online were presented from a drop down list in a calculated way so that from whichever option I chose I had the right balance of fruit, veg, nuts and nutrients in the next.
Pressed Juice: Almond Mylk

Pressed Juice: Almond Mylk

Juice 1: Black Lemonade – pre-selected (Alkaline Water, Lemon, Activated Coconut Charcoal, Cayenne) Juice 2: Green 6 (Spinach, Cucumber, Silverbeet, Cos Lettuce, Pineapple, Lime, Mint) Juice 3: Earth 3 (Beetroot, Apple, Lemon, Ginger) Juice 4: Green 2 (Spinach, Cucumber, Lettuce, Celery, Kale, Parsley, Apple, Lemon) Juice 5: Earth 5 (Carrot, Orange, Pineapple, Celery, Lemon, Turmeric) Juice 6: Zest 3 (Grapefruit, Mint) Juice 7: Save the Date Almond Mylk (Filtered Water, Almonds, Vanilla Bean, Sea Salt) Juice 8: Slippery Elm – pre-selected (Alkaline Water, Licorice Root, Marshmallow Root, Chia Seeds, Slippery Elm Bark Powder, Cinnamon)

  1. Pick up (with 8 stores to choose from in the Melbourne area and apparently a pop up coming to Richmond soon!) or Ship for an additional charge. The shipments were made to my office in two installments containing a day and half’s worth of juice per delivery. Because they have no added preservatives and are unpasteurized, the daily delivery meant that I knew that what I was drinking was fresh.
  2. Start juicing!
Pressed Juice: Delivery

Pressed Juice: Delivery

Day 1: I woke up hungry from a light dinner the night before in which I’m still unsure was a good thing, or set me up for success. I was excited and eager to try each juice, anticipating one before the next in the hopes that it would be equally as tasty as the last, or in the cases where it wasn’t my favorite, at least better. As the 6 primary juices are meant to be consumed over 12 hours, I found myself constantly checking the clock every two hours in anticipation of my next juice. In fact, I’d even argue that it made me more productive at work as I rewarded myself in between small tasks and projects.

Around mid-day I was relieved to know the Earth juices tend to have more fruit than veg and the sugar intake was most definitely welcome. Coming down from Earth 3 I started to feel a slight light headedness. By Earth 5 I was starving. I managed to maintain my composure and stand by my cause at dinner time while my roommate cooked the most enchanting smelling pasta.

I found Zest 3 absolutely refreshing and the almond mylk interesting to say the least. By the last juice it was nearly 10 pm and I was spent. I must have started too late in the morning as I felt like I had been consuming all day and a bit bloated with water weight. I went to bed hoping to feel lighter in the morning.

Day 2: I approached the second day with the same amount of enthusiasm as the first and was really ready to do this thing. I didn’t feel in the slightest that I would break. Two juices in however my tummy gave a rumble.

Throughout the afternoon I truly got to understand what the meaning of ‘cleanse’ was all about. By late afternoon I felt back to ‘normal’ in juicing terms and looked forward to one juice to the next. Simple mentions of solid food items and the normal task of walking by a restaurant made me talk in detail about the ‘could be’ but I knew it was all in my head. Things became a bit awkward that evening when I went to a friend’s house and BYO’d my juice to his dinner gathering, strong and proud.

Day 3: Despite not being able to finish my Slippery Elm the night before, I woke up hungry again. However, overall for the last day I felt great! While my intention wasn’t to use this as mechanism for dieting, overall I felt lighter and tighter and I anticipate over the next few days as I transition back to solid food the water bloating will reduce.

As the afternoon wore on I noticed that my intervals between juices were getting shorter. The hunger pains were definitely increasing, but I also wonder if it was my subconscious knowing I was getting closer and closer to ‘real’ food.

During  my first two days I felt the need to keep my juicing a secret in the office but by day 3 I had a few converts convinced. On the last day I joined my friend to Hawthorn’s Pressed Juices store as he wanted to try it out on a one day trial. Shopkeeper Morgan did an awesome job explaining the various cleanses and juice combinations and for a second I was tempted to even go for day 4.

However, going to bed knowing that I completed this awesome, healthy challenge made me feel empowered and gave me the want to continue to think more healthily about how I approach my eating and drinking habits – even if it is just for a short time before I get distracted again.  Baby steps are best but I will definitely take Morgan’s recommendation of trying a 3 day cleanse seasonally.

Favorite Juices: Earth 3, Zest 3 and Black Lemonade
Least Favorite Juice: Slippery Elm, Green 2
Pressed Juices: Thanks for such an awesome experience. One tip, your bottles are so hard to open butI look forward to seeing you move from plastic to glass in the near future, and in Richmond soon!

Lisa Vecchio with Pressed Juice

Lisa Vecchio with Pressed Juice

Christmas in South Australia


Port Neill Bay

My first Christmas in Australia, what can I say. Simply put I was sold on the promise I was going to shear a sheep.

Christmas away from home will never replace Christmas as I know it, nor should it try to.  But at a minimum this Christmas gave me insight into a new Australia. I wanted to avoid the feeling of Christmas but in the end I walked away with more than I could have anticipated.

I flew to South Australia the evening before Christmas Eve to spend the holidays with my flat mate Wes and his family. All I knew about where I was going is that I would first fly the hour to Adelaide, then get on a small commuter plane and after arriving in Port Lincoln drive another hour north. Tell that to any Australian and they nod, “ah the middle of nowhere”.

Peering out of the window before landing in the Eyre Peninsula, farmland stretched for hundreds of miles then hit the sea. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the contrast of country and sea smashed against each other. I started picturing mermaid sheep.  Mer-sheep? But once I arrived I was greeted with such gracious hospitality that didn’t stop until I boarded the plane back to Melbourne.

Rockeby Farm Pantry

Rockeby Farm Pantry

I spent that first evening on Rockeby Farm, the family farm Wes grew up on. Driving down the pitch-black dirt roads late at night, the air quiet, I squirmed at the thought of knowing that there was no one around for miles. Everyone knows I’m scared of the dark. But the old farmhouse, built in early 1900s, was warm and I spent a few hours getting to know his parents, Sue and Mark, who kindly taught me a bit about their farm properties as we sipped a few wines. We spent only that first night on the country farm though and were off to the beach in Port Neill for the next few days.

But first Wes took me to town. We spent Christmas Eve morning sitting on the Tumby Bay pier eating fresh chicken sandwiches from Ritz Café, watching a young boy expertly fish alone off of the side, as Wes told me stories about growing up in such a small, rural area. Tumby as it’s known, is a good 30 minutes from the farm and is where he went to school – one school for all children from kindergarten to 12th grade. There were 46 kids in his grade when he started; he graduated with 16 and was only one of 6 to go to university. Talk about small town ambition.

He then whisked me away to Boston Bay Wines, a small boutique vineyard and cellar door set on a hill where the vines overlook the ocean, just outside of Port Lincoln. We sampled the gamut and stocked up for Christmas with their Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and award winning Riesling.

There was no stopping us there, so we were off to Delacolline Estate next. Stepping out of the car we were greeted with the sound of hundreds of bees chatting away over their afternoon lunch.  I was so ecstatic at the thought of visiting my first lavender farm, the sweet scent overwhelmed the property and the fields of purple snuggled next to the vines made for a beautiful backdrop. Not to mention the 2005 Riesling was a stand out and we also couldn’t resist a bottle of Sparkling Shiraz, as it’s an Aussie Christmas tradition after all.

The Eyre Peninsula is known to be one of the purest seas in the world. Remote and desolate, with many untouched bays it makes for pristine fishing grounds. It’s a region that prides itself on sustainability and is where seafood such as oysters, abalone, tuna, prawns and more is exported from daily.  Of course I had to try some. Sarin’s Restaurant in the Port Lincoln Hotel is the best spot in town to devour the famous Coffin Bay oysters, which is exactly what we did before stopping off in quiet and stunning Coffin Bay itself.

We stayed at the beach house for the next few nights, and that evening I accompanied his parents and siblings to the local pub. Wes unfortunately had an emergency oyster spew on our ride home so recovered in bed alone. In a town of 300 people, the one pub is where everyone, and I mean everyone, goes for a social gathering; parents, grandparents and small children included. I felt a treat being introduced as the foreigner from far away America and giggled to myself as it seemed every second person was named Hannah.

I woke up Christmas morning to a quiet house and decided to start the day with a run on the beach. As I approached the half-moon bay of Port Neill, Mark’s words at the pub the night before couldn’t ring in any truer. He told me, “Why go to a beach with lots of people? If there’s people, just go to the next one”.  I told him I never knew such a luxury.

Port Neill Beach

Port Neill Beach

As I began to run, I saw the sand ahead, the water clear blue to my right and the sun beaming down against it; and that’s when I got emotional. I think it hit me all at once. The sparkling water and unexpected beauty really let the distance and pure remoteness sink in. Christmas, and this couldn’t be any more of a contrast of what I’d be doing at home. It’s exactly what I asked for if I couldn’t have the real thing. In that moment I felt the luckiest person in the world, and it was a moment for me that was incredibility awesome.

Even more awesome was when I got back to the house I had eggs and bacon waiting for me. We then exchanged a few gifts. I was overjoyed for the generous touch of perfume from my flat mate and homemade heating pad Sue made with grain from the farm, a gift I had been secretly hoping for. Even more special was the Christmas-themed box and stocking that made its way from the US then onto the plane with me so I could open a gift from my family on Christmas morning. The day followed with an impromptu game of tennis in the sun, some reading and sunbathing and the enjoyment of our wine purchases from the day prior.

Wes watering flowers in the sun

Watering flowers

Boxing Day, while still very casual and relaxed, was celebrated with even more grandeur as all of Wes’ 3 siblings and their partners, as well as his grandparents attended at the beach house for a traditional seafood lunch feast.  As I cracked open my popper, I found myself realizing I’ve picked up some Aussie slang like the common contradictory response of “yea, no”. The outback must have gotten to me.

Before getting too settled in Mark had myself, Wes’ brother Lewis and girlfriend Chelsea out on his boat at dusk to catch the next day’s lunch. Chelsea and I caught 7 snoek between the two of us, a great success as it was her first time fishing.

On my final day Mark, Wes and I headed back to the farm. Unfortunately due to the holidays there wasn’t enough time to get the sheep ready for shearing. Mark made up for it though and gave me a full tour of the farm. First he emptied the trough, and then Wes and I hopped out of the cab of the truck to herd 340 lambs from one paddock to the other. We simply walked along through the fields, both casually and slowly, and those fools just kept running away…right where we wanted them to go. My deed was done.

That evening we BBQ’d the most exquisite, uhum, lamb for dinner then ended in the late hours laughing till I cried playing the vulgar game Cards Against Humanity the Australian edition with the family.

Thank you Wes, Sue, Mark, Lewis, Karl and Hannah for your amazing hospitality, beautiful homes and an amazing holiday adventure!

Everything in the world can be on your way


I’ve always been envious of those who have literally traveled around the world. You too likely know someone daring who’s done it. They buy a ‘round the world’ ticket that entitles them to travel to a pre-specified number of continents, then a specific city on each continent, to be used in one direction over a maximum length of time. This type of ticket offers freedom to those people who have time at a very affordable cost. The benefits to an independent traveler mean that they can ‘generally’ stay for as long as they like, move on when ready, and can decide when and how to make the most of their destinations.

Last month I circumvented the globe. I can assume this counts too, but it wasn’t your typical trip or initially intended to be as such. I reclaimed my old haunts while in London, sipped wine in Paris, explored architecture in Oxford before a 12 hour stint in NYC to grab a pint and a snuggle with old friends. I moved on to Charlotte to celebrate my sisters wedding then relaxed on the beaches outside of Charleston before an afternoon of fine dining over lunch with the ladies back in Manhattan. My long hauls took me from Melbourne to London (via Dubai) to New York then back to Melbourne (via LA) and alas, global circumference.

Sitting on multiple planes (for an entire day at times) during this 3 week whirlwind of a holiday sure gave me a lot of time to think. Here are my 5 biggest reflections while circumventing the globe:

  1. Australia really is really, really far away. But it’s not the distance I took note of, by now I’m used to the flight time. What was more interesting is that for the first time since living here for close to 3.5 years the segregation of Australia to the rest of the world became prevalent. I was clueless that I missed out on major global media scandals, was reminded of diversity walking through the streets of New York and how few Americans I encounter living in Australia compared to the constant sound of a hard ‘R’’ that accompanies the American tourists in central London.
  2. Don’t let jetlag control you; jetlag will control you. Despite a motto of ‘just ignore it and it will go away’, jetlag really is the pits. And whilst I was in and out of cities faster than being able to unpack a bag, there was no time to waste on an extra nap or late sleep in. Once you throw a few wines into the mix your body clock is even more thoroughly confused. If you can ride the jetlag wave, all power to you.
  3. Frequent Flyer Status is holy. In a world where I’ve achieved One World Gold status, which entitles me to the business lounge, free food and alcohol, free Wi-Fi, priority check in, priority baggage and occasional upgrades, flying a non-partner airline is like going back in time. The disappointment, as self-entitled as it may sound, to have to pay for wi-fi while waiting to board a flight or annoyingly wait in a ridiculously long and disorderly queue makes me cringe at the thought. I can at least say I witnessed non-Gold perks during all the flights it took to obtain it in the first place.
  4. Waiting to write drains the intensity. I have pages and pages of notes from my trip encapsulating the emotion I felt when stepping outside Victoria Station for the first time in 8 years to seeing my nephew for the first time in 8 months. Unfortunately, there’s too much to say and sometimes it feels all too late. Next time, I’m writing to you on the go.
  5. The world really is a small place, and quite accessible if you make the opportunity to see it all! It is possible to fly around the world – even if you’re not on a yearlong journey with a backpack strapped to your back. And while I’m still envious of those who take an extensive amount of time off to discover the world in one pre-paid for direction, I’ve also discovered that hopping over to London before my trips to New York, or maybe somewhere else in Europe is quite do-able. I don’t need to wait another 8 years to see the places I love.
Louvre

Catching up with an old friend in the rain outside the Louvre, Paris.

2013 in review – thanks to you!


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Thank you to all my readers for your continued support!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year

Lisa @thesetwoeyes.com

A few things I learned along the way


For anyone who wishes to travel more but may be scared, so am I.

For anyone who would like to explore the world, I understand it takes time and money.

For anyone who is curious about other cultures, they’re not so different after all.

For anyone who wants to taste something amazing, challenge your pallet.

If experiences are the key to life then traveling is the experience.

Here are a few things I learned along the way.

  1. It is a small world after all.
  2. But the world can be a lonely place.
  3. The goods news is there is always a friend to be made.
  4. People are people at the end of the day, despite race, language, sexual orientation – smile at them.
  5. Remember where you came from.
  6. Others will always do what they need to do for themselves. Do what you need to do for you.
  7. Anything is possible, if you make it happen.
  8. Follow your dreams. Then keep following them.
  9. Someone else will always do more. Most people do less.
  10. Explore as if you’ll never return.

On top of Table Mountain

The Art of the Long Haul Flight


Flying economy is a skill. I mean this whole heartedly. But flying long haul economy is a talent.

Sort of like the band Nada Surf’s “teenage guide to popularity” in the 1996 alternative hit “Popular”, the below is my ABC’s to a successful long haul flight.

Firstly, it all starts with the airline. There are airlines that I praise, as do others hence why they win awards. They soar in excellence for in-flight service, entertainment, customer care, culinary delights, cabin décor and leg room. Of those I’ve personally flown I put Qantas, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Air New Zealand and Emirates on this list yet I know there are still many more to dip my luxury toes in.

Jaime and I on Emirates from JFK to Thailand via Dubai in 2009

Then there is the DO NOT fly list. And I will more than happily cough over an extra few hundred dollars to avoid this list. This includes Olympic Air, Iceland Air, United or better yet, any US airline both internationally and domestically. But those are all a story for another day. Let’s assume you’ve done the sensible thing and purchased a ticket on a credible airline.

Eileen and I not happy campers on Olympic Air on our way to Athens in 2008

You’ll need to arrive at the airport approximately 1.5 hours before the flight, merely due to immigration hold ups as you will undoubtedly experience a smooth check in procedure as your chosen airline is a professional and competent organization.

After checking in and upon clearing immigration, grab that bottle of water and start the stretches. Long haul flights are long, and you want to avoid leg cramps otherwise known as DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Use the furniture such as a chair to prop your leg up on and reach for your toes. Try the big floor to ceiling window next. Put your hand on the glass while admiring the massive plane you’re about to board and the base of your foot against the bottom of the window to stretch your calves. Next grab hold of the vending machine to stable yourself while pulling your leg back to stretch those thighs.

It should be almost time to board. They may call you by row number, or request flyers with more elite statuses to approach first, however I like to assume I’m one of the elite and begin boarding as soon as possible. Yes, it’s annoying to have to sit on the plane longer then needed however people can be stupid, and if you can avoid watching them try to awkwardly maneuver their suitcase into the overhead compartments or tell their child…not that row, keep going, not that one either, hurry up people are waiting…you get the idea.

The big debate – aisle verses window. You’ll need to make this decision the moment you purchase your ticket, because not only do you want your preferred seat you also want to be as far in the front of the plane as possible and this can only be guaranteed if you choose your seat immediately while booking.

I see the perks in both sides of this debacle yet I’ve been a loyal snoozer to the window for nearly ten years. So saddle in to your window seat, remove your shoes and put on a comfy pair of slippers, or slipper socks is what I prefer. Pack your water, Kindle, and journal into the seat pocket in front of you but leave the iPod behind, there’s plenty of in-flight entertainment to satisfy your aural needs. Open the in-flight magazine and let the journey begin.

To put the next 24 hours of flying into context, let’s assume you’re flying from Sydney to New York. The first hour will be spent reading the in-flight magazine from front to back cover, even admiring all those lines dotting around the world map in the very last page while you envision yourself and all the air miles you’d acquire connecting them. While reading, safety procedures will be conducted by the air hostesses in the background.

Once finished the in-flight magazine, turn on your in-flight entertainment screen on the headrest in front of you and scan the entire list of movies, yes even the classics, TV shows, games, destination guides and the flight map. Pick at least 4-6 of your favorites. Begin movie # 1.

Around the time that movie #1 ends you’ll have been distributed a menu for the duration of the flight, as well as some sort of compliments bag containing an eye mask, tooth brush etc. Dinner will now be served, yet it’s probably only noon or 1 pm in the afternoon. Enjoy it, it’s probably delicious and while you’re at it drink at least 2 mini bottles of red wine throughout the process. You’ll need them and they’re free.

An hour of fine wining and dining and then your meal will be collected. You’re now about halfway into movie #2. You may feel the urge to go to the toilet but not just yet, you’re in the window seat remember. Wait until movie #2 finishes, take a peek at your neighbors, and then do the old, “I’m really sorry, do you mind?” with an apologetic smile.

The next part is up to you. The lights are dimmed, it’s probably early afternoon, and it’s time to pretend it’s night time and sleep meanwhile you’ve only been awake for less than 8 hours. You have a few options – movie #3, but then again, you know you’ll never make it through the whole thing; read, but you’ll probably piss off your neighbor with that darn light; or just go for it, sleep. For approximately 6 hours.

At some point they’re bound to get up, and if they do, that’s your one shot. Do a few laps around the plane, and hang out in the very back by the toilets. You’ll thank yourself for getting a good seat in the front and not having all the people like you linger in the back. Plus, they usually store extra snacks back there so help yourself.

It’s movie #3 time and will you look at that, the cabin lights are slowly glowing brighter. Rise and shine! Breakfast is served, and it’s an option of hot eggs and mushrooms and bacon or boring cereal. Go for the eggs! Yawn, yawn but you know what this means, you probably only have 3.5 hours left. This is very exciting. That’s only one more movie, and a few reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

Take a moment to fill out your landing card so you don’t waste time at customs in LAX and flip over to the flight map. Spend the last hour watching yourself get closer and closer to landing. Boom, you’re there before you know it.

Now, you’ll most likely have a minimum of 2 hours in LAX but after clearing customs and having a beer or 2 at 7 am California time you’ll be on another plane shortly. 5.5 hours to New York is a breeze, and because you will have barely slept on the first leg, this is your chance to catch up because once you land in New York, its go time, probably only 6 pm the same day you left Australia. Weird.

So now that you have this excellent advice from a well versed long haul economy flyer, I wish you luck on your travels to visit me here in Australia or elsewhere around the globe. I’m embarrassed to say I just booked a long haul economy flight on United to visit Philadelphia for Christmas and will not be privileged to any of the aforementioned perks however will stretch adequately prior to boarding.

Put It On The List


Thesetwoeyes.com was recently featured in Bucket List Publications. An exciting day for me, but as I got to thinking I wanted to return the favor and give BLP a proper shout out. You see, Leslie Carter turned what was once her travel blog into a publication that features other people dreams coming true, or what one would refer to as a their “Bucket List”.  Aside from taking submissions for articles, she also accepts submissions of bucket list requests, and works with donations to help conquer other people’s dreams.

Humph, a bucket list, ey. Now, my immediate thought was what kind of cool thing can I write about and ideally get for free. But then I realized, I’m not adventurous. I do not have sky diving, great white shark swimming, bungee jumping, river rafting, mountain climbing dreams on my horizon. I have respect for those who do, however let’s be realistic, I’m a huge wuss.

The thing is, lately I’ve been fairly content with my accomplishments. That’s not to say I don’t want more. I think the most difficult thing about traveling is knowing there is so much more you can do, so many more people you can meet, food to try, landscapes to see. I am not ungrateful for what I have already done mind you.

Once the travel bug bites it does not go away. Reading articles on Bucket List Publications makes me feel envious of those who write about safaris in Africa and treks through the Amazon. But I am too aware that others can say the same for my travels. That’s the hardest part. When you surround yourself with other travelers it’s all so every day. It’s easy to be less mindful that you are sharing experiences in a unique subset of society.

This past weekend I had casual conversations with a handful of people about Vietnam’s best travel spots. Vietnam did you say? I sure did. I could count on two hands people I’ve encountered in my life who swear up and down that Vietnam is a beautiful country, with rich history, culture, fabulous food and a price tag that would make you go, saaayyyy what? Cheap.

Telling your parents your spending thousands of dollars when you own not one item of value to your name to travel to Vietnam is like your child telling you in 20 years that they are vacationing in Iraq. See what I’m getting at?

So before I arrived on the continent of Australia you could say I had a “Bucket List” of things to accomplish. I’ve reached deep into my nightstand drawer to dust off my uhum journal from when I first arrived. I’ll tell you what it says, shhh.

  • New Zealand: Check
  • Uluru:
  • Melbourne: Check
  • Asia: Check
  • Quit Smoking: Check
  • Lose Weight: Check/Uncheck/Check/Uncheck
  • Byron Bay: Check
  • Western Australia:
  • Outback:
  • Friends: Check
  • Wineries: Check
  • Indonesia/Bali:

Looks like I’ve still got some work to do. But would I call these my official bucket list? Would I look back and have regrets for not booking the first flight to the middle of the country to climb a sacred red rock? Maybe a small amount.

So here I am again, ponder ponder, what do I truly desire, if I could go anywhere, try anything. And I think and I think and I come to the realization that, well, I want to live abroad; but I currently am. I want to live in London; I’ve done that twice. I want to travel the world; this year I will have reached 30 countries if I make it to South Africa in October. I want dear friends; I have plenty. I want a loving family; they love me too much.

So Leslie Carter, I guess as long as you keep publishing my blog posts while I’m lucky enough to actively live my bucket list I will be reading to see who’s dreams you’ve made come true and supporting it 100 percent with gratitude to you and envy of them.

Image

Living the dream. Stradbroke Island, Australia.

A Virtual Reality


Virtually speaking, I thought it would be a good idea to video my life here in Brisbane for a 7 day period. Wouldn’t my friends, family, and those people I don’t know but secretly adore who follow my whereabouts be interested to see where I live, work, and socialize? In theory, great idea. In practice. Not so great. But I did it anyway.

Below is a 4 segment series of ‘A Video Diary’ which took place in Brisbane from October 1 -11, 2011 (note, a bit longer then the 7 days I anticipated. It’s quite easy to fall in love with the camera). Don’t worry, I cut out all the inappropriate stuff!

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Segment 4

Now that you’re done watching my affairs I thought I’d share with you a few more things. Firstly, Oktoberfest in Brisbane. You saw it with your own eyes and could you have expected it to be as such? I was surprised by much of the authenticity and flair to the event. As soon as I heard the word Prost shouted at the top of every one’s voices my mind and body rushed back to Munich 2006. Oh the memories flooded in.

Now I would say it was a blessing in disguise that my costume never arrived in time. I would have been one blending in with the crowd. How appealing it was too see how many people took this grand event so seriously. So there you have it. $10 beer steins and schnitzel. I can’t wait until next year!

On a different note you may not know that at the young age of around 12 or 13 my bestie Nat and I thought we had discovered a phenomenon: the shortening of words. Yes, it was magical! In the summer you wore your bader (bathing suit), you hung out with your G’s (girlfriends), as you discussed the sitch (situation; made popular prior to The Situation debuting on Jersey Shore).

So there you have it. It stuck and it spread. From Nat to Ab to Kris to Ker to just…G. At the time however, it was appalling. How will you get a job if you speak like that?! No one will understand what you’re saying! I’ll tell you now dear friends and family, I’ll tell you who knows what the heck I’m saying – Australians! If there is a rule book to shortening words and making up new ones the Aussies have it down pat!

You know what else that have down? Doing away with cheques. When I set up my  new bank account months ago it would actually cost me money to get cheques. People just transfer money from one account to another, for everything! To get paid, to pay the cleaner, to buy concert tix off a friend. Everything. I think the US should move toward this model.

Did you notice how in the US area codes just keep changing? As the population grows, that oh so sacred three numbers that used to be associated with your home phone is no longer the association to your state etc. Well, as discussed last time, because the population is so small, each state has its own prefix, as in one, and all mobiles start with 04. Every single mobile in the country. Impossible I say!

I’ll leave you on a final note as it is Friday evening and beers are being had in the kitchen, at my work, directly above from where I’m typing. I finally found an Australian hobby. I’m learning it at the moment. Not this very moment, but this moment meaning last week and the weeks to come. Are you curious yet?