Challenge Complete: 2 weeks of blogging every day

finish line photoI talk about challenges a lot. I do them regularly. I like how they're short, hard, and full of variety. You can experience something without doing it forever. They're easy to start because they don't last that long. My only problem is stacking them on top of one another. That doesn't work.This post is the last in my most recent challenge, 2 weeks of writing. A small mastermind I'm in decided that we all needed to publish more. What better way to focus on something daily than to do a challenge around it. 2 weeks of publishing daily. My plan was to post on numerous blogs but all of the posts ended up here. I learned a few things doing it.Capturing good sources (and having them ready to use for writing)Writing is great when everything is in your head and you just have to spit it all out onto the page. I've been practicing with doing that more. No interruptions, no research, no checking, no looking for things. Just writing. It can be tough to do. You need the details from other articles and other places to be able to write accurately and make sure you get all the parts of the idea in your article. These sources have to get found at some point. Probably before you write your article. I'm trying two different approaches with this, passive and active. I'm no pro but this what I've learned playing around with blogging challenges.The passive approach is to gather things as they come across your radar. When you see a link or read an article that could be useful in an article you can save it in Evernote or something similiar. The web clipper extension for Evernote is amazing for this. You can highlight passages right on the page and tag things later. I save them to a Clippings notebook and then file and tag them all at regular intervals. It gives me a second time to read through all the articles as well. This approach can work great for a group of articles that you read related material regularly or things for a personal blog. It could be hard to get enough material for specific articles but just sitting around and waiting for the right sources to float by.The active approach is to look for sources for an article you have already started. You start the article, then go look for sources that have good information, pulling out parts you can use or quote. It reminds me to writing research essays in school. Pick a topic. Research. Write. This is probably what method you should use if you need to write specific articles or just have a headline or topic to start with. If you need to research to write an article, that time has to be factored in. I always forget this fact and sit down to write, forgetting that another chunk of time needs to be devoted to research and only then I can write something slightly intelligible.Schedule writing ahead of timeRemembering you have to write and publish an article right before you go to bed sucks. Schedule in time to write your article at some point before that. Ideally it's in the morning when you are fresh but any time during the day works. I like getting it started in the morning and finishing it in the evening. The ideas percolate over the day.PicturesI used of header images for blog posts this blogging challenge. I used the ImageInject Wordpress plugin to quickly find a photo that worked. Some of them are pretty corny. I could have spent more time finding a nicer photo but it was quick and easy. ImageInject searches through Flickr and Pixabay. There are a bunch of image search plugins out there. 2 weeks of bloggingHere's the 2 weeks of blog posts!October 21: This post!October 20: Travelling Clears Your Habit Slate (actually posted on the 21st)October 19: Find Your CuratorsOctober 18: ChunkingOctober 17: Don't Let Your Life Get Stuck In Maintenance ModeOctober 16: Where Todo Lists FailOctober 15: Trello TipsOctober 14: Becoming AwareOctober 13: Being Strong to be Useful: Being Thankful for MovementOctober 12: Goals that actually work? Base Them on ActionOctober 11: Finding Flow: Just 4% HarderOctober 10: Abundance Over ScarcityOctober 9: Being Intentional is Difficult but Worth ItOctober 8: Coffee and Ideas Meet Again

Being intentional is difficult but worth it

herd photoBeing intentional is one of the best ways to make your life meaningful, satisfying and have impact.If we drift around, letting life, friends and family make all our decisions for us, we probably have an easy life but not one full of meaning. By choosing our friends, our work, our hobbies and everything else we want to have in our life intentionally, life can mean so much more.It can be tough to be intentional all the time, having to choose everything, not just going along with what the herd is doing. First you have to choose if you are going to do something different for every difference choice, and then you have to actually decide what to do. It's time consuming and uncomfortable. It can be the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day.Here are a few things I've found make it easier.One thing at a timeAs with all habits and changes, go one step at a time. Don't try and do 10 different things at once. You'll get burnt out and give up. Being intentional is hard work. It's a lot of thinking and planning and sometimes going against the people around you. Take it one step at a time and you'll see more success.PlanningPlan ahead. If you are purely hoping that you'll be able to do what you want to do when the time comes no matter what then you might be mistaken. If you haven't thought about what you want ahead of time then you may not even know. You'll be pressured to do what the group is doing. You'll be pressured to do what society wants you to do. Having thought about it ahead of time makes it much more likely to happen.Support GroupHaving a group you can rely on to talk and ask questions is crucial. It's best face to face but there are also many online. Don't worry about not being able to find one, they are out there. You will probably have to do some digging though. The best one is probably not the first you'll find but something is better than nothing. Always be looking and keep the best groups close.AlignmentHow can you align other many activities together? If a few activities are all heading in the right direction then they might just play off each other. Often healthy intentions can build off one another. You start eating healthy because you've been going to the gym a lot and don't want to waste all that hard work. Being intentional about your health and what you eat and how much you move is a very good foundational block for your life but it can be really hard to get started. If it aligns with many other things in your life then it will be easier to keep going.Photo by cocoparisienne

Novelty Leads to Learning

An interesting article on the Buffer Blog talks about how novelty triggers our brain to do more learning.

It makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. When you were wandering around in the jungle or on the sahara you would want to learn as fast as possible when something new came around. This wouldn't really be you but caveman-you.

If there was something you had never seen before that could possibly kill you, you'll want to be alert and ready to learn everything you can. Caveman-you wouldn't last very long if you didn't learn that the sabertooth that wanted to eat you was a bad thing. Humans are only around to this day because they learned quickly what would kill them and what wouldn't.

Since we don't have any sabertooth tiger's or dinosaurs to chase us around today, what good is it?

This comes in handy when you are learning. When trying to stuff all that new job information, foreign language words or programming rules into your head, you want them to stick. It's frustrating when you have to do it over and over and over again.

Because your brain loves novelty, you'll want to use that to your advantage.

The Buffer article, suggests 3 things.

Add in something new

If you are going over the same old information over and over again, you are going to get bored. Throw in the odd new thing once in a while to keep things interesting. We all know that when things don't change we get bored. Keep things interesting.

Change your environment

Switch up where you are. Joel Runyon calls this "Workspace Popcorn". Work for a couple hours in one place and then switch it up. The switch gives you a break, lets you move, lets your brain turn off for a bit. Apparently our brains will be more tuned for learning after you switch environments as well.

Learn after doing something new

Your brain will be primed for learning right after you do something new. It doesn't have to be related just new to you. It could be something small or something big. This also reminds me of a side effect of Flow that increases your creativity for a day or 2 after a Flow experience. I feel like my brain is firing twice as fast after I exercise. There might be an element of novelty in there as well.

Go for new

So new things prep our minds to learn. Set up those new experiences and then the learning right after. You don't want to look at all those programming rules any more than you have to right?

Random March 14, 2014 Edition

So much cool stuff, so little time. These are some things I've collected from around the web lately.Work musicIt's hard to find music to fit your mood. It's even harder to find music that fits your mood when you are working. Digitally Imported comes close.http://www.di.fm/ResonateDo you write, present, speak or do anything that needs to connect with people and change their minds. You need to read this book. Nancy Duarte goes through exactly what makes famous speeches and presentations resonate with people.http://resonate.duarte.com/Ultra-runner adviceI think I'll be picking some of this stuff up. It's good.

  1. 1 legged practice - do everything on one leg
  2. Bridges
  3. Planks

And do them daily!http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/the-current/raising-rippers/The-cross-training-secrets-of-ultrarunner-sally-mcrae.htmlTrelloBest thing I've found for managing tasks. It keeps them clear and the feeling of actually moving things around is like moving stickies around on a whiteboard.Tips 1: Make a main board that links to each project board that shows your high level view for each context, home, work, personal projects.Tip 2: Add attachments to Google Docs to store information. Don't try to store things in Trello cards.https://trello.comMurallyThe dashboard for your life. The closest thing I've been able to find online to a whiteboard. You can drag and drop Has a "catcher" app for Android and iPhonehttps://mural.lyMicro Clearfix HackIf you have spent any time in HTML and CSS you know the floats are a bugger and getting rid of them is even worse. The Clear-fix hack has been around for a while but it just got even smaller.http://nicolasgallagher.com/micro-clearfix-hack/CrossFit Open 14.3 ReleasedWe're in the middle of the CrossFit Open Competition right now. I just did this one today. A 8 minute AMRAP of box jumps and deadlifts. I made up into the 275 pound deadlifts. Going to be sore tomorrow.http://games.crossfit.com/workouts/the-open/2014#tabs-3Deliberate practice, flow to performI've been thinking and reading a lot about Deliberate Practice and Flow. Deliberate Practice is the hard error-wrought practice time that you have to push through to get good at anything. You have to continue to push hard if you want to become the best at anything. It's very difficult but required for being the best. Flow is less frustrating and exists where too easy and too hard meet. It's the goldilocks of task difficulty where it's right in the middle and just right. Too easy and you get bored, too hard and you get frustrated. Deliberate Practice is pushing through flow where you may not be learning much and getting frustrated, but learning more.

I'm sick of smokers

Roaming around in Sydney today I couldn't help but notice the multitudes of smokers everywhere. There was nowhere I could hide from the digusting smoke flowing from everyones mouths and nostrils. Normally I don't really care what smokers do to their own bodies. If they want to inhale all that horrible stuff, go for it. Unfortunately being in the city everything is close quarters and there's really no where to go when someone lights up in front of you.Other human addictions don't usually affect a great number of peole. Yes, every kind of addiction affects someone you know but smoking seems to affect so many more people. How many people breathe in the smoke someones exhaled on a busy street? A lot. They may not get much but it's certainly not clean air. Combined with the exhaust that fills the air in most cities, it's a disgusting mixture.Aside from gum, I think I see more cigarette butts lining city street than anything else.  Doesn't anyone think to use a garbage can? I'm sure some of them do but there are still a significant portion of the smoking population that think it is ok to through their butts on the ground, out the window or into the ditch. I see it the same as throwing a drink can on the ground. It's still littering!!

Blog Problems

Hey everyone!  Hope everyone is having fun working, playing and everything else you are doing.I've been running into some issues going to this blog and it coming up with an error. If anyone else runs into this problem can you email me at ross.collicutt[at]gmail[dot]com, facebook me, or leave a comment? I'm not sure what the issue is and I'd like to get it sorted out ASAP.Thanks!

Australia is a big place

Having spent a big chunk of my time driving after Adelaide, I can tell you that Australia is a big place. I knew that buying a car and seeing all the sights on my own meant there would be a fair amount of driving. No one can really tell you what driving in a place like this is going to be like. It's just one of those things you have to experience for yourself.To view the last few big driving legs of the trip, check out the links to Google Maps.Adelaide to Broken HillBroken Hill to DubboDubbo to MilesMiles to Airlie BeachAirlie Beach to CairnsEveryone says tourists come to Australia and think they can drive from one place to the other in no time. Coming from Canada I know that it would take more time than that and vowed to keep in mind the incredible distances and time things accordingly. I'm still a tourist. I was looking at how much driving I'd have to do in the next few days in Adelaide and saw the distance from Dubbo to Cairns, over 2000 kms. Hmm, that's a long way.I was happy to be on the road seeing everything rolling by my window but I was also anxious to get to Cairns. It was on the drive from Dubbo to Miles that I left a little later than I had hoped and assumed I would make good time on the highway. I did make good time, stopping only when I needed too and taking quicker routes. It's still a long way to go. I was having fantasies of driving all night and reaching Cairns in the morning, spending a day to recover and then hitting the beaches. Driving is all fun when the sun is up and the weather is good but as soon as the sun goes down, so do my eyelids. Driving is about the last thing anyone would ever want to do to stay awake. Windows open and music blaring, I was heading to sleeptown so 1400km shy of Cairns, I ended that days drive in Miles.A quaint little town of maybe a few thousand whose main strip consists of a few shops, a 24 hour trucker stop and a caravan park across the road. I inquired at the caravan park about a tent spot(really just for my car) and then said sign here. 15 bucks later and I'm outside with Chuck(I'm not sure his real name) seeing where to put my car. There were caravans everywhere, except for a small path into the middle of them from the driveway. 15 minutes later, Chuck's exhaustively explained the possible variations of parking my car in the small patch of grass and I pick one and drive in.Aside from the trucks cruising past every 30 minutes and the bright lights shining in the back of the car, it was a good sleep. 7 am and I'm up, showered, and on my way to Airlie Beach. I'm excited to see something I've read about, to see somewhere I'll be spending some time in the next few weeks. After a few breaks and driving almost 11 hours, I arrive in the party town of Airlie Beach. It's basically one strip with a beach on one side, houses on a hill on the other. Along the main street, there are travel places, clubs, hostels, hotels and ice cream shops. That's about it. My kinda place :)A quick look at all the brochures in the reception and kitchen and I'm jittery with excitement. Snorkel here, dive there, swim here, take a boat ride there. Many, many things to do and only so much time and money to go around. I'll have to choose wisely what I do in the weeks to come. It would be all to easy to spend everything I've got and more on all the different tours and things to do here.

Around the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne

After doing some reading and talking to people here, one of the last things I really wanted to do here was run "the Tan". It's a 3.8 kilometer track around the Royal Botanic Gardens across the river from the MCG towards St. Kilda. I had ran from the hostel one of the first days I was here down to Federation Square and back so I knew the way and it wasn't that far but I wasn't sure how I would feel after going around the Tan track and then heading back up to the hostel. I wanted to go around the track twice, once at a slower pace to warm everything up and then once at a quicker pace to see how fast I could do it in. Apparently the fastest time is just over 10 minutes for the 4(ish) km track. I'm not sure when this was set or who did it but that's what the free tourist bus said.At first I thought I would take the tourist bus across town and then down into the gardens, do a bit of sightseeing and then run the track. I started thinking about how much training I should be doing before the half marathons in the (Canadian) fall and decided to go a bit further. I would take the free City Circle tram to Fed square and then run to the gardens, around it, and then back to the hostel. I got so excited when I started to walk towards the tram that I thought I'd warm up right away run all the way down to the track, around it and back up.After going past the tram and down into the city I decided I was warmed up enough and started to job a bit. Big fail!! Both my right ankle and left knee flared up in pain every time my feet struck the pavement. Not quite what I was hoping for but it was cold. I'll just walk quickly and get really warmed up and then it will be all loosened up and ready to go. More walking and more walking and more walking then..... more walking. It was still pretty painful to run at all, even at a very very slow pace so I kept the walking going and went all the way across the water and into the gardens.My fantastic plan to run around the gardens the first time taking pictures wasn't materializing like I had hoped. I took this as a sign and gave up for the moment and just headed around snapping photos of everything interesting I could find. The Royal Botanic Gardens are actually one part of a massive green area the starts on the North end with Alexandra Gardens. I wandered through here first, past all the rowing boathouses and into the Queen Victoria Gardens. Both very nice but still basically green areas next to the water. After this was the King's Domain. Another nice area but the good stuff was next.Still heading south I hit the shrine of remembrance. A massive monument to those that died during the first world war, the entrance and visitors center are beneath it. Heading into the Crypt from there, it's got a large statue of a couple soldiers in the middle with large columns all around and flags on top of the columns. It was very dark and dreary in here but interesting nonetheless. Heading up the stairs brings you to the main level that is ringed by a hallway filled with books of the names of the fallen. Upstairs and outside from here was a balcony around the top of the building. Nothing near the view as the Eureeka Skydeck but not a bad view of the city and the rest of the gardens.Out of the Shrine and down to the Royal Botanic Gardens I was pleasantly surprised that it was more than just another green area. It was absolutely chock-full of plans from everywhere. Every different type of plant from Australia and overseas and information about them all. There were different areas, the arid garden, fern gully, South Yarra River Environment. There's a small man-made lake that covers a bit of t gardens and is home to many different types of birds. There were a few signs explaining the low water level of the lake. Apparently the recent rain has come nowhere near replenishing the lakes to their previous levels.I was almost all the way around the gardens when I heard large booms from near the shrine. They had arranged artillery there and were firing them off at 12 for the ceremony. I headed around that way to see if I could see one of them being fired but I was just a minute to late. In my haste to see the guns firing I started to jog a bit. Finally, after 2 hours of walking, my ankle had finally loosened up a bit and i was able to jog slowly. I found the nearest distance marker on the Tan and started off as slow as I could go, feeling out everything and making sure all was satisfactorily warmed up. I'm not sure if it is the same every day but most people seemed to be running clockwise around the track. Of course, there were a few rebels jogging it backwards and we'd see them twice on each lap.Half way around, there is a killer of a hill that isn't too steep but is fairly long. It took all my energy just to get to the top. It's downhill for a ways after this so I rested up as much as i could. By this time I was almost done my first lap and trying to get myself psyched up for the all out second lap. My first lap time was definitely abysmal at 26 minutes.The second lap started much better than I thought it would. After all the pains and cramps of the first lap, I assumed the second would be the same or slower. It started well. About half way through all my energy completely faded. The fact that it was almost 2pm and I hadn't had lunch yet and only a small breakfast wasn't helping. Almost all the way around I ran past a girl about 8 or 9 running the same direction as I. I was a little bummed when I found it hard to pass her. I figured I'd just sail past her. Wasn't the case! Finally after a lot of pep talk, I made it around to the final distance marker and managed to make it to the drink fountain that was close by only to find it didn't work. Another half a kilometer around the track I found one that worked and slurped at it hungrily.After running the track, I had every intention to run back to the hostel all the way through town. That sure didn't happen. I found some lunch up Swanston Street and mished it back to the hostel with all the energy I had left.Despite the ankle problems it was a satisfying trip. The rest of the day will be spent recuperating, finding out details of the fire show tonight and resting for the footy game tomorrow!

A free bus ride in Melbourne

After taking a ride around on the City Circle tram to see a bit of the sights in Melbourne, I found out about the free bus that goes around the city as well. This would be a little bit more comfortable and would go further than the tram. Trams are a decent way to get around but are not my favorite method of travel. They lurch and screech along the track and throw sparks any time there is a junction between the cables above the cars. Also, someone had the fantastic idea of the using the oldest trams for the city circle ones. They go a bit slower than the newer ones and are definitely not as comfortable. The seats are old the doors creak. Naturally, when I found out about a bus that did nearly the same thing but it was newer, more comfortable and drove past more, I jumped at the chance.IMG_0566Aside from seeing sights around the city, the free tram and bus are a decent way to get around if you don't want pay anything. There are many other trams and buses that go straight to particular destinations and these are the preferred method for those just wanting the fastest route. Seeing as I haven't had to be anywhere by a particular time for the last 2 weeks and won't have to for another 2 months, these slower, scenic rides are the way to go.The bus ride takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to go around town and drives past a bunch of different things. There are 13 stops that you can get on and get off at. They run every 30 minutes from 10am to 4pm. Along with the small blurb of information in the pamphlet I got at the hostel(also available on the bus), the bus driver has something to say about every attraction. There are also recordings of information about many of the major attractions you drive past.I got on at stop 8, beside the Queen Victoria Market but I'll explain from stop one where the buses begin and end their tours. Stop 1 is at the Arts Precinct. This area has a bunch of arty things to see and do in it including the Performing Arts Museum and the National Gallery of Victoria.Stop 2 is Federation Square. This is Melbourne's "meeting place". There are a bunch of bars, cafe's and shops around the main square that are filled with a bunch of steps. There is free wireless here which instantly makes me like it. I spent about an hour there today catching up with some emails and talking to friends. Its a bit hard to see the screen with bright sunshine but it was worth it to be outside! The Ian Potter Center, part of the National Gallery of Victoria is here as well as the Australia Centre for the Moving Image. Stop 3 is the Sports Precinct. This place is pretty important to Melbourne as they're crazy sports fans. The Melbourne Cricket Ground (AKA the MCG or simple the G) is here which is their biggest sports complex. Major Aussie rules and cricket games are played here. There is one on Sunday that I'll be attending.Stop 4 is the Chinatown Precinct and Theatres District. That one is pretty self explanatory. I realize at this point that they name everything. Every road, block, group of blocks, garden and grassy area has some name. Stop 5 is the Melbourne Museum and Carlton Gardens. The museum holds an IMAX theatre and a huge number of displays and is right next to the world heritage listed Royal Exhibition Buidling, which is a massive old building in the middle of a fantastic gardens. Stop 6 is Lygon Street which is the centre of the Italian culture here. 7 is the University of Melbourne. The Ian Potter Museum of Art is there as well.IMG_0565Stop 8 is where I got on at the Queen Victoria Market. This massive market servers over 200,000 shoppers a week and takes up serveral blocks. The Flagstaff gardens are close to this stop as well, one of the pretty places to run in town.Waterfront City and the Docklands are at stop 9. They don't officially label this as a different city but they don't refer to it as Waterfront city and think of it as a different place to live outside Melbourne. Not a bad way to do it, I say. You're commute is a walk across the street to a tram that will take you wherever you need to go. Also here is a massive shopping complex and one of the world biggest ferris wheels, the Southern Cross. Another stop along the water is the Docklands Stadium and Victoria Harbour. This is number 10. Around here is Telstra Dome which another sporting venue similar to the MCG but slightly smaller.Stop 11 is Williams street. It's another stop downtown close to a lot of the shopping and eating along the main streets in town. Stop 12 is over the river in Southbank. This more expensive part of town is home to some of the largest buildings here and pricey hotels. The Eureka building is also situated here which is the worlds tallest residential building at 92 stories and almost 300 metres. The viewing level is the southern hemisphere's tallest as is quite the view. You can see almost anything and if you can't quite then there are many binoculars trained on more interesting things around the city. The best part of the experience is another $12 and is called the Edge. It's a glass box 3 metres by 3 metres that slides out from the edge of the building. They stuff you inside with a few other people with the glass smoked so you can't see anything. Slowly the whole block moves out the side of the building and suddenly the glass goes clear and suddenly there is nothing beneath you but 88 stories of air. Kneel or lay down on the glass and it feels like there is nothing between you and the ground. It's quite the experience.IMG_0651Stop 13 is the end of the trip at the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens. These beautiful gardens hold a couple of other attractions within their borders as well as numerous sculptures and a massive shrine dedicated to those lost in times of war and peace for Australia. There is a 3.8 kilometer track around the gardens locally known as the Tan. It is the place to go to job in Melbourne and there are official and unofficial times from various people scattered across the internet for running around the track. I plan to run this track in the next few days and see how I stack up!Though the free bus ride isn't the most exciting thing in town, it definitely is informative and gives you a good idea and starting place for your tours. Being free I highly recommend it to anyone new to the city to get their bearings and decide what to do next.

Melbourne

IMG_0548I definitely feel like I've grown up in a pretty small town when I come to Melbourne and the tall buildings impress me. It feels like Vancouver but bigger. There's an older feel to it though. There are some older churches and other buildings scattered throughout the new high rises. From the Federation Square I could see a couple of churches that I have no idea of their age. They seem to be quite old because of the architecture and they look even older because of the brand new glass buildings all around them.I was told there were a couple things to watch out for in Melbourne, the trams and the dreaded hook turn. Hook turns are just a crazy way of doing a u-turn. There aren't as many roundabouts here as in other parts of Australia that I've seen. I'm assuming it's because they take up too much space. U-turns are a piece of cake with round-a-bouts, it's almost as if someone was thinking when they said lets make a lot of roundabouts. You want to do a u-turn? Just go around the roundabout all the way. Simple. You're not sure where you are going? Go around the roundabout again. Easy. Don't go around too many times as you might get dizzy and drive off the road. I haven't done it yet but I've not had a reason to go around a roundabout more than once.Trams are all over the place in downtown Melbourne. At first, all I noticed was a bus-like vehicle screeching down the track, throwing sparks off the cables and stopping every once and a while. As a pedestrian and driver you have to watch out for them as they sort of have their own rules of the road. Tram goes and then everyone else goes. There are a few signs that flash "Watch out for tram", but they don't appear regularly. I had very little idea about how they operated when I first arrived but the idea seems pretty simple. There are a bunch of different tracks and they are numbered. They go from one end to the track and then back. Certain tracks go to certain areas of the city. For example number 16 goes from the University of Melbourne to St Kilda. It hits the end, and then turns around and comes back. Pretty simple. They pretty much stop and open their doors and every intersection they stop at and you can hop on or off. There are some actual stations that they stop at and people can line up at but most of the "stations" are a strip in the middle of the road with a railing that you stand by. Trams whiz by on one side and traffic on the other. It's not very relaxing.Once you get on the tram you can ride it as far as you want. Tickets seem to be $6.80 for a day pass before 6, and they drop to $3.70 after 6. Getting a pass lets you ride all day. Getting a pass is not exactly an easy task though. There is a large machine about the middle of each tram that you stuff change into(no cards or bills) and you get a ticket. There are 3 rows of buttons and you select one button from each row depending on what kind of ticket you want. I asked someone how to do it when I got on the first one and he did it for me so I still don't know which buttons to press. After you have a ticket you just stuff it in a little validation machine each time you get on and off and it says stuff on the screen like "validated". I'm not sure what happens if you try and use the tram without paying. Most people seem to pay somehow but some don't. I'm not sure if they have a ticket and just don't validate it or they actually haven't paid. I was going to ask the driver when I got off at my stop but apparently it's against the rules to talk to the drivers.Downtown Melbourne is set up as a gride of streets about 5 blocks by 10 blocks. A free tram called City Circle runs around this grid all day and doesn't cost anything to ride. It's a neat way to see the city and get around if you've got a bit of extra time. There is also a bus that goes around the city but out a further than the tram. I'm not sure exactly where this goes which means I have to go adventuring!IMG_0554I'm in Melbourne for a few more days to catch a footy game on Sunday so there will be another post about this pretty city and some photos to go along with it! ( Uploading photos from the hostel takes forever!!)

Driving Down the Coast

The Saturday after we got back from Kosciuszko, I headed into Queanbeyan and picked up some maps and a camping guide for Australia. Normally I'm all for doing everything online but being on the road lately and not wanting to pay for internet has definitely put a crimp in my online style. Most of the hostels have some sort of internet. Usually it's free to get on some computer for a period of time. Wireless is almost always pay-per-use though. There have been a couple very kind cafe's that have free wireless for anyone to use. Macdonalds, unfortunately, is the only other reliable source of free wireless that I've found. I feel bad using the wireless and not buying anything so I've only used it when I've gone it to eat something but I have seen a couple people just stroll in and set up their laptop. Armed with the maps of the major regions of Australia, I highlighted the path I'm most likely going to take for the rest of the trip. I had originally planned to fly into Sydney, drive down the coast to the Great Ocean Road, all the way back up the coast to Cairns and then back down again. That's a lot of driving and a lot of sightseeing in places I would have already gone. After some good recommendations, I've changed my plans to go through the Great Ocean Road, up to Adelaide, across to Dubbo through Broken Hill, up to Cairns travelling on the inland highways and then down the coast.  It will be more driving that I was going to do originally but I will be able to see a lot more. Coming down along the coast goes through lush green coastal country and going through Broken Hill to Dubbo will get into dry desert country without having to actually go into the outback. From Canberra, I headed out to the coast to Bateman's Bay. The drive was nice, changing from dry, dusty areas to lush green foliage down by the coast. There was a bit of rain almost the entire way down which made driving a little more sketchy.  Just before Bateman's Bay the road comes down out of the mountains and is a very steep road of switchbacks.  Before most corners were signs of trucks tipping over and very slow speed limit signs. They were for good reason though. I spent a little bit of time almost sideways going down these hills. After that adventure, I sure paid attention to how fast I was going!!IMG_0461 Bateman's Bay was a small town with a main strip running parallell to the water. I headed straight to the Information Centre and they gave me some good information on where to get wireless, where to eat and where to sleep. I chose a little caravan park called Pleasurelea down the beach and headed out there to sign in. They had a strange welcoming party here but I felt welcomed nonetheless.IMG_0452Out for a quick 10k run along the walk beside the highway and the beach and then I was ready to figure out the next day's adventure.I had originally planned to go from Bateman's Bay to Eden or possibly just past and then camp there for the night but I got a little excited with all the driving and just kept going. I filled up on fuel in Orbost and then continued right on to Bairnsdale. I probably could have made it right into Melbourne from there but I didn't want to arrive in t big city later in the day with no plan.IMG_0492IMG_0496IMG_0506IMG_0508

I found Mitchell's Caravan park after taking a wrong turn and heading a bit down the highway. It was a decent park, with facilities better than Pleasurelea. I chose a camp spot in their field, which wasn't a big task since there was no one else camping there.

I hopped into bed early and caught up on all my journal writing. I had been ok up until the day we hiked Kosciuszko and then everything fell apart. I have never been a big journal fan but I wanted to remember where I went and what I did on this trip. I'd never be able to do it otherwise. I've been experimenting with short videos on my camera, talking about where I am, showing a bit of the scenery or what I'm looking it. It's nice and easy for times when I can't sit down and write something out in my journal or on the blog.

I didn't think it would get very cold that night but still zipped right in my sleeping bag. I'm using a -1 rated down bag that packs up quite small. I wasn't freezing but I sure wasn't warm. I had another blanket in the car that I pulled out and threw across my bag and I'm debating getting another. I think I will be in hostels until it gets a bit warmer and dryer.

I didn't mind getting up early though, as the sun was rising and there was a trail right beside the campsite waiting to be run. 

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 The trail goes from one bridge beside the caravan park to one a couple kilometres down the river. It's hardpack dirt most of the way and is quite pretty. There are a few docks along the way that may be used for fishing. I took a few quick shots along the run but I had to keep moving to get warm! 

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As a side note, I totally think the girl's running and picture taking idea in Yes, Man! could take off.  After the run, I did a bit of organizing of all my gear in the car. It's a wonder I haven't lost anything in there yet. It's not pretty. I guess as long as I keep it in the car, I'll be able to find it eventually.

I was a little worried about getting into Melbourne with all the toll roads and freeways everywhere. It definitely is a big city but it's not too bad getting around. Maybe I'm getting used to it? I remember just a week and a bit ago coming through Sydney and totally being freaked out. Just follow the GPS, it knows all!

I'm not sure what I was expecting but it was definitely a disappointment to come out of the lush, green coastal valleys into Melbourne. 

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I was unsure of where I was going to stay in Melbourne at first because where are no caravan parks close by and I'd have to find parking for the car if I stayed at a hostel. I found the Melbourne YHA that had free underground parking though which solved my dilemma. After Manly Backpackers in Manly, this YHA is super nice!

Tomorrow I'm off to see the wizard.... I mean to adventure around in Melbourne and meet up with a couple of aspiring LIP's (location independent professionals)!

 

Kosciuszko

I stayed in Canberra for a few days and then it was time to see Kosciuszko. I had never heard of the mountain before doing some research on Australia and thought it was a cool idea to go hike the tallest mountain there.I had no idea what the weather would be like and how much snow would be there.I stayed near Dalgety for the night and then headed out through Jindabyne to Charlotte's pass to begin the journey up Mount Kosciuszko. On the way out we ran into some cattle on the road which slowed us up a bit. It was an obvious reminder that we were not in the city any more!IMG_0349Jindabyne and Thredbo are sleepy little towns that come alive during the ski season. Australia has just started to get some snow so the good snow is right around the corner. They're similar to Courtenay on the Vancouver Island, although a little less so now since the highway goes straight to Mount Washington. Both the towns are fairly small and offer accomodation and transportation to the mountain along with heaps of outdoor shops for renting and buying gear. Just past Jindabyne we went into Kosciusko National Park. Day passes to get into the park are about $12 and annual ones $190. I was fortunate to be with a couple of volunteer firefighters that get annual passes to all the parks.Climbing up to Charlotte's Pass we went over a few little streams and past the coldest weather station in Australia. We went past Perisher Ski Resort and could see the dry grassy beginnings of all the incredible cross country ski trails in the area. There is only a tiny bit of snow up there right now and the resorts have started to make snow on the colder nights to help things along. All the trees were still visible as well as the fire damage to them in some of the areas.Many of the forested areas here are hit with fires at one point or another. A lot of the time, the fires aren't hot enough to completely kill everything and life comes back fairly quickly. The heat of the fires open up a lot of seeds of the trees and brush. If it's too hot though, it kills many of the trees and life takes much longer to come back. The burnt, dead trees are a bad fire hazard since they will light up more easily in the future.A little further up the road from Perisher is Charlotte's Pass, the highest village in Australia. It runs a couple lifts here in the winter. In the summer, the road is clear and goes up to a simple roundabout and a bit of parking. Facing out towards Kosciuszko there is a bit of a boardwalk off to the right with some informational signs. Off to the left is the road that winds it's way up Kosciuszko. IMG_0376The route we took is about 18km there and back from the top of Charlotte's Pass. There is also a route that comes out of Thredbo up the chairlift. This trail is a little shorter and runs along a metal boardwalk most of the way. We hiked along the road from Charlotte's Pass that used to be open to vehicles. About half way up there is a little building called Seamens Hut that is maintained by a group of volunteers in the area. It's mainly used for emergencies in the winter but it's a nice little spot to get out of the sun in the summer and have lunch.IMG_0387A couple kilometres after Seamens hut our road meets up with the trail from Thredbo. As we hooked up with the path from Thredbo there weren't many people on the trail but looking up we can see a flood of school aged kids on their way down and sliding on the bit of snow that's there.The trail up to Kozzy(Australian for Kosciuszko) is mixed going from dirt road to inlaid flat rocks to metal boardwalk to this plastic material designed for erosion control. It was thick black plastic and was set into the ground and filled with sand and dirt. It was basically a whole bunch of little pockets that held the dirt and everything else around it in it's place. The pockets that weren't full ended up being quite the tripping hazard.We finally hit the mob of kids coming down from the top and I felt like a fish going upstream. They were not paying attention at all and we ran into a few. They were wearing all sorts of clothing. Some had tights and thing sweaters on and others had huge boots and snowboard gear. I'm assuming it was a guided school tour as the last person had ski patrol gear on and a radio blaring bad music.STA_0410We shared the summit with a young couple with two children who had rode their bicycles most of the way up. They were from Australia but had never been up the mountain. It was chilly at the top so we only stayed for a couple of photos and a voicemail to a friend. We trucked it down the mountain, making sure we didn't slide off the edge on the snowy sections and had lunch at Seamens hut. Apparently the animals that live in there make all the surfaces quite dirty so I was careful not to put any of my food down.The trip down was uneventful and much easier than walking all the way up. The weather was starting to close in so we didn't take our time. By the time we hit the bottom we managed to stay in a pocket of sunshine most of the way up and back. This was very lucky for us. The region is notorious for quick weather changes throwing snow and rain in all directions. We might have had a bit of rain the day before or after but picked the perfect day for the summit.I started reading "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer only a few days ago. They speak extensively in it about the 8,000er's, the 14 tallest mountains on Earth. They fall into this group because they're all above 8,000 metres. Those who summit these tough peaks enter into an elite group of people. Another group, not quite so elite as those that have climbed the 8,000er's, are those that have climbed the 7 summits. This group are the tallest mountains on each of the continents(roughly) and include Mount Everest in Asia, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Denali in North America, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Elbrus in Europe and Aconcagua in South America.In older texts and lists, Kosciuszko in Australia was the 7th peak in the 7 summits. Since it's ridiculously easy to climb and there is still debate on what counts as a continent over here, the Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, New Guinea tends to me more officially regarded as the 7th peak. It is the highest point in Oceania.I still like to think I've done one of the 7 summits and I'm sure if you asked some of the older climbers, they may say Kosciuszko is the 7th peak. Saying that, I've only got 6(sort of 7) left to go! Who's up for a trip to Kilimanjaro?

Australia War Museum in Canberra

Canberra is a very beautiful city. The parliament buildings are in the center, to one side of the man-made lake Burley Griffin. Across the water from Parliament Buildings is the Anzac parade and the Australian War Museum.The War Museum is a beautiful building in itself. It has a massive amount of Australian war history in all the exhibits, ranging from World War 1 right up to current peace-keeping missions. I found the World War 2 information and Vietnam displays the most interesting.IMG_0252The photo above was just outside and displayed the rows and rows of names of those that didn't come back from the war. Reading through all the information was pretty intense. Some of the stories were straight from journals and diaries that were sent back from the front lines or somehow lasted over the years and found their way to the museum.One note that had me a little choked up was a young soldier writing to his wife. He had written in his journal the entire time but he was about to leave on a mission that knew he wouldn't come back from. He packed up his journal and some letters and had them sent back to her. His last note said, "if this finds you before I do, I won't be coming back."After seeing all the horrendous details from all the wars Australia has been involved in I'm glad I had no part with any of it. I'm incredibly thankful that I can live my life without being forced into a war and spending years in wet, muddy, death-filled trenches.On a lighter note, there was only a bit of cloud today and it was mostly sunny and warm. I'm in Canberra for another day and then off to the Snowy Mountains to climb Mount Kosciuzko!

Crazy backroads

Made the trip down from Goulburn to Queanbeyan yesterday. The trip was in two sections. A very mild mannered drive from Goulburn to Bungendore along some beautiful "backroads". The roads are nice but 2 lanes and quite narrow and the speed limit is 100, so it's technically a highway. They could have made the roads straight but as usual they made it very windy. It's doesn't move back and forth as much as the mountains but consistently has long sweeping curves. Bungendore is a sleepy little town with a bunch of shops and tons of arty galleries for everything from woodwork to painting and jewely. I've never seen so many arty stores on one block. They've got one school that has some football going on. I watched for a bit and instantly wanted to play again. By the time I set off with the family I met up with to their place in Queanbeyan, it was starting to get dark. I'm not familiar with the roads at all and it was the first time I've drivin in the dark here. It felt like the oncoming traffic was inches from my window. Not my idea of a relaxing drive through the countryside but we made it none-the-less. Some fine kangaroo meet was on the menu for dinner and it was my first time. I wasn't sure what to expect but it wasn't anything spectacular but wasn't horrible either. With a bit of rice peanut sauce, it was a delicious meal. Tomorrow and Tuesday I'll be cruising around Canberra talking a look at the sites. Apparently there are some fantastic things to see in the middle of the City including some galleries and memorials. I'll be checking out the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain as well. I'm not usually a sucker for the places that offer a view for some stupid amount of money but this one intrigued me. I had originally planned on running up the mountain but found out there was  a road and large tower on it.

Chillin in Goulburn, NSW

Sooo, I suck at updating my blog?Recap: I flew into Sydney, took a train to Circular Quay, met up with a friend named Imogen and took the ferry over to Manly. Done.I was at Manly Backpackers for a few days.  I went to the Commonwealth bank as soon as I could to make sure all my money was in order. 0 dollars? Damn. My money is not in good order. After activating the account, the money was actually transferred into the account and I was ready to roll. Next step, buy a car.One of Imogen's friends, Sarah, had mentioned gumtree.com as a good place to find cars so I hit that up. The hostel had a few good ads up on the bulletin boards in the front entrance so I checked them out as well. One of the ads was for a 94 Holden Commodore, 2100ish right in Manly. Perfect. Call him up. Awesome guy from Northern Italy. We took the car out for a drive. It's got a bunch of camping stuff in in already. Seems to be in good working order. He says 700k to the tank, I say not likely, and I agree to buy the car. I didn't want to rush into it so I get the car the next day. 11 the next day, 45 minutes in the vehicle registration place and it's mine. Having a car radically distorts your view of the amount of stuff you have. We park on the beach and he piles all his stuff into his backpack and his surfboard bag. I don't know where his boards are going to go but not my problem!I have a car! Shit. Where do I park?Still not really sure, I park up the street from the hostel. Hang out for a few on the internet at the hostel, grab a few things from the room and off to the car. Oh wait need some food. Off to the grocery store for a bit of food and then to the car. Ok. Go.There are 3 headlands on the coast from Sydney that are all beautiful places to visit. South head, Middle Head and North Head. I had run almost all the way out to North Head from Manly beach so I decided to visit there. What a beautiful place. It was ridiculously windy, but still very pretty.I parked again at the place up the street from the hostel and I didn't end up with a ticket so I guess I'm either lucky or that was the right place to park. The next day was the start of the real adventure. I drove down through sydney and along the Hume Highway to Goulburn.Wow, either I'm a small town boy or Sydney traffic is stupid. My brain was in OMG mode the entire time. The GPS guided me through it thankfully. I'm going to avoid that place while driving North.Goulburn is an awesome town of 24,000. There is one main street that makes up downtown and the rest is small streets with houses on them. Driving is nice and relaxed. The best part about it? I giant concrete merino sheep that stand 3 stories tall. Check out all my photos on flickr if it doesn't make it to this blog post.A few facts about Goulburn It was the first inland town in Australia, made famous by it's Merino Sheep. Goulburn Brewery is the oldest Georgian style Brewery in Australia( I don't know what Georgian Style means). I had a light stout beer there earlier today. It was a different than what I'm used to but quite tasty.Tomorrow I'm off to Queanbeyan in Canberra and the Snowy Mountains. After that it's Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road.

Countdown to Australia Trip: 16 days to go

I was going to do a post on New Zealand today but decided to keep that for later. I'm going to fill you in on my first trip to Australia. It was almost 6 years ago now and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I went with my high school rugby team and it was quite the adventure.Hostel in SydneyThe first hostel we checked into Sydney was tiny. Like most hostels, it was just cheap accomodation. We didn't spend much time there. The first couple of nights were spent in the hostel and then it was out to billets houses to get a feel for the enemy, I mean mates we'd be playing against.The billet we bunked at in Sydney had a beautiful house that we didn't even get to stay in. We stayed in the full size guest house in the back yard. No biggie. While we were there we picked up a rugby game in the stadium in Sydney.  Note to all you travellers that would like to remember what they did and where, take lots of photos of signs of where you are and what you did and write a journal!! I can remember what we did on our trip easily enough but exact names and places don't come easily!Only 3 days into our trip we had to actually play a game. I don't know if the side we played was extremely good or we were all still jet-lagged and not used to the extremely warm weather, but the game did not go very well.Representing CanadaFrom there we headed off to Newcastle for some playing in the surf, playing rugby, watching rugby and general shenanigans.The image off to the left is just before the game in Newcastle where we lost only by a few. The weather was much more pleasant for a  fast-paced rugby game and we were accustomed to the atmosphere. The people were fantastic to stay with, hang out with and play against.  We checked out another rugby game after that and then prepared for the epic bus ride that would take us to Surfer's Paradise.Surfer's was definitely most entertaining city we stayed in. We arrived to beautiful weather and the hugest beach I've ever seen. There were surf paddling competitions happening on the days that we were there, which brought a lot of people to the beach.  The billet we stayed at owned a large piece of property a ways out of town so getting a ride anywhere was a bit of an issue. We rode some ATV's around one of the days chasing kangaroos in the fields which made up for the lack of proximity to the city.The game we played there was also the most entertaining. Getting to know the other team well before you play adds another element of enjoyment/humour/misery to playing any sport. We almost won this game, it was a close one, it could have gone either way. In the end the team from Surfer's came out on top.Upside down at DreamworldA day later we were upside down at Dreamworld, an amusement park and zoo on the Gold Coast. They had heaps of rides and animals of all sorts. If you find yourself there check out the really tall ride. It's very similar to the Hell-a-vator in Playland in Vancouver but the opposite. You get strapped in with a bunch  people and they raise you up the tower. The tower is huge, when you're at the top you can see for miles and miles. You slowly ride up this tower until you're at the top. Once you're there you can take in the incredible views for what seems like forever. After a random amount of time, ride-operator-guy decides it's time for you to lose your lunch and you freefall. It's not a natural feeling. It's one of those rides that your stomach is in your throat the whole way down and then you can finally breath once you put your eyes back in your face at the bottom.Another quick jaunt up to Brisbane for a couple days with the last team and the final game. We actually won this one, which was quite satisfying. Our time in Brisbane was all too short though. From memory and photos, it seems liked we rolled in, played a game, had dinner on the river and flew out the next morning.The flight and ferry home seemed to crawl along while I was there but now seems like it flashed by. For some reason I slept fine on the way down but hardly slept a wink on the way back. I boarded the ferry in a tired stupor and manage to stay away most of the way back. We arrived bump and bruise free and slept for 2 days.I remember most of the trip very fondly but have one regret; it went too fast. We saw a fair bit and got to meet a lot of great people but it's just not enough time to sit down relax and really enjoy the cities, their accomodations and, dare I say it, the locals.Keep up to date and in touch with me on Facebook, or find me on Twitter. I also try to keep track of Awesome Series Adventures on Pureoutside. I'll be posting the odd Australian adventure there.~Ross- for the adventure -

Countdown to Australia Trip: 17 days to go

Fraser Island and the Whitsundays are often the most talked about portion of a travellers trip in Australia.Fraser Island

Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the worlds biggest sand island. Most of the trips here consist of crazy travellers driving around the island and it's beaches in large 4x4's. You can have a guided tour if you like but the cheaper and more adventurous route is the self-driven tours.The island is surrounded by gorgeous beaches and there are many trails on the island as well. The Fraser Island Great Walk is a nice way to see the island on foot. It is 90km though so be prepared!Other exciting things to do would be swimming down Eli Creek, the largest creek on the island. There is a boardwalk that provides easy access to the top. There is the wreck of the S.S. Maheno to check out, laying out in the open on one of the beaches.Whitehaven Beach

Whitsunday Islands

There are 74 islands in total. The largest and most famous being Whitsunday island. One of the best attractions here is Whitehaven beach. Whitehaven beach on is georgeous. The beaches are almost all crushed coral which gives them their pure white color. Try and plan your sail on days with good weather as parts may be uneventful or cancelled if the sun doesn't shine.You can get to the Whitsundays fro the ports of Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. Tourism offices offer everything from sail tours of the islands to jet boat, helicopter or float plane tours.  Careful of the long boat tours, they can get a bit itchy(as can any budget accomodation in Australia).When you've made it out to the islands, you can hang out on the boat and just take in the view, cruise around on ocean kayaks or rafts or hop right into the water with your scuba or snorkel gear. The diving can be exceptional in any spot you choose with some good ones being Hayman and Hook Island or Manta Ray Bay.

Countdown to Australia Trip: 19 days to go.

Canberra

Whenever I think of Australia, Canberra is not the first city that comes to mind. I wasn't really aware of it's existence until I found out I had family there and talked to them. I knew  Brisbane and Sydney were big cities in Australia but I wasn't sure what Canberra was.As I've been doing a lot recently, you can find out a bit more about the city itself here http://www.visitcanberra.com.au/ at their website. They've got a neat little flipbook for things to do. As a side note, once you start using the flip book you realize that it's completely impractical for finding information :S It does take away from the monotony of staring at wordpress blogs though!

Things to do in Canberra

Forest bobsledding

I had no idea what this actually was until I found a youtube video on it. Defintely have to give it a try though. I'm not sure how fast you go or how to stop but the guy in the video goes down the track with a 3 year old while taping the ride on his phone. It can't be that crazy!

Parliament House

I found a few photos in Google Earth of the Parliament house. It's definitely a touristy thing to do but the building looks pretty interesting. http://www.panoramio.com//photo/4501558 . In going to to other countries, I would like to at least learn a little bit about their culture, history, politics and not just spend the whole time running and hiking! Very close to the Parliament house is this crazy looking tower on Black Mountain. Seems like the mountain offers a pretty good view of the capital region so I may check that one out. If there is a mountain, I feel obligated to run it.

Queanbeyan

On the outskirts of Canberra lies a little town called Queanbeyan. I've got family here and will try and meet up with them for a bit of a visit and a tour around the town.

Kosciuszko

I mentioned Mount Kosciuszko in my last post but it's actually south of Canberra and very close to Jindabyne, a smaller town outside of the capital. Hopefully they don't get much snow and I'll be able to make it to the top!I don't plan on spending too much time in Canberra so I won't put anything more in this post but I'll update it as I come across more interesting things to do!~Ross