Author: billyfreeze

Fighting bugs in Australia

It was starting to get dark and I was in  the middle of nowhere. Australia is a big country and there’s a whole lot of nothing in the middle or in Western Australia where I was headed. It was my first big backpack trip and I was on a budget of almost nothing. I had never hitchhiked in my life but after about 3 weeks of it, I was getting pretty well seasoned. My original trip had been booked to spend 2 weeks in the country, but somewhere along the way I had changed my ticket to 6 months.  I had an ambitious plan of traversing a loop around the entire country. What I hadn’t figured on was that there are not a whole lot of people in some of the areas that I was traveling in. It had been pretty easy in New South Wales and around Melbourne, but once I got to Coober Pedy, the desert town where Mad Max 3 was filmed, cars were few and far between. People who were willing to stop in the middle of nowhere for someone they didn’t know were also becoming rarer. I had been pretty lucky the last few days. I had met an Australian forest ranger whose sole job was to visit aborigine villages in the outback and make sure that they were taking care of what few eucalyptus trees and...

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Dodging Tsunamis in Fiji

I had always wondered about the mystical islands of Fiji. When you hear “Fiji”, one automatically thinks of pure drinking water, amazing beaches and the movie “Blue Lagoon”(where it was filmed). A friend of mine had asked me to help her find a deal to Fiji and after I had done a  little research for her, she changed her mind and decided to go to Cancun; I had gotten so excited about what I saw, I booked it for myself. Fiji doesn’t disappoint. It’s made up of 2 main islands and countless smaller ones with high end resorts or simple huts for economy traveling. We had spent almost a week on the main island of Viti Levu and had explored the Sigatoka sand dunes, gone bull shark diving and found lots of other fun stuff  when we decided it was time to do a little island hopping. There are lots of independent tourist agents who are happy to put together an entire trip from ferries to accommodation. As we ordered some nachos from Nadi’s Hard Rock Cafe, we found an agent who put together a great package for us. We would be leaving the next day and spend a couple of nights on 3 different islands including the “Blue Lagoon” island in Yasawa. We were excited about changing up our trip a little and made sure we stayed near the ferry...

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Are You Safe Traveling in a Muslim Country?

Every time I post on Facebook that I’m headed to Dubai or Oman or anything with the letter “Q” in it, I immediately start receiving warnings and words of caution from my friends about where I’m going. At the moment of this writing, a handful of people have met their demise at the hands of a terrorist group called ISIS. Trust me, I’m sympathetic to the families who have lost their loved ones and I think that travelers should be cautious when visiting countries that have known terrorist groups. However, in my opinion, not traveling because there are terrorists abroad is like not swimming because you read an article about a recent shark attack. I have traveled extensively through North Africa (which is mostly Muslim), Turkey, Dubai, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, etc. and at this moment I’m in the Maldives which is 100% Muslim. Am I afraid? Not in the slightest. I’ve found this religious group to be some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered. Very few would hurt you, steal from you, or try to cheat you. I’m not saying everyone is perfect, but we’re talking about a religion where devotees pray 5 times a day, wash themselves relentlessly and hang out in mosques. My question is, when was the last time you prayed 5 times a day? Opponents to the Muslim faith often criticize the fact that...

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Popping the Maldives Bubble

I’m sitting here enjoying my last day on one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen. The sand is sugary white. The palm trees lean and    sway with  scores of coconuts. The crabs run away and come back every time they think I’m not paying attention to them. I’m in the Maldives, a collection of some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever photographed.  For many people, the name of this place evokes the impossible travel dream: an expensive tourist destination that they’ll never reach because of the distance and the cost. It’s like Bora Bora, Zanzibar or the moon.  All it takes is a quick search online and one must decide if they’re going to go to Maldives or pay for their kid’s college. I’m writing this is to let you know that this is not the case. You can travel to the Maldives and it doesn’t need to be the most expensive week of your life. I arrived in Maldives late at night (which is usually a bad thing) and had only my first hotel night booked. My research seemed to show that most hotel transport involved ferries, seaplanes. and other transport that you don’t really want to organize at midnight. I sent a Facebook message to the hotel and asked them how I could get to their place. They assured me it was easy. It only required a walk, a...

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The Worst Train Story Ever

At the moment, I’m riding on a train in Sri Lanka towards Colombo.It’s not crowded, everyone has a seat, and it is ridiculously cheap. Since this is my first train here, I expected something much worse.Last night before I made my decision to take this mode of transport, I was discussing my options with a German couple. One of them asked me to tell them about my worst train experience. As I told my story, I realized I should put it in writing before I forget any more of it. It was 25 years ago and I had just cut my teeth doing the “vagabonding” thing. I had discovered my lust for travel in Australia, spent a few months hopping trains in Europe and had decided I wanted to do something legendary. I was getting married, we needed a honeymoon, and I had six months to kill. Yes, I used to travel for six months at a time. That was before mortgage payments, car payments, insurance and all the other stuff grownups have to do. My new wife, Helen, had never really been anywhere more exotic than Cancun , so I had a surprise in store for her. We were going to Africa! We didn’t have much money (money should never stop your from traveling), so the plan was to camp out, prepare our own food and take cheap public transport....

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