I have now lived in a country for over 4 months and have not participated in a FREE HUGS day. This is a new record for me. What in the world is FREE HUGS I hear you non believers ask? Well you can read the full story here but let me give you a little summary.

The FREE HUGS campaign was started by Aussie native Juan Mann (a pretty fitting name, I’m sure you will agree) a few years ago. He wanted to share the love and spread happiness to strangers simply by giving out hugs to people on the street. It sounds a little strange, sure, and a lot of people say “but of COURSE hugs are free , who in their right mind would PAY for a hug” but this strange concept has made its was around the world to every city large and small and has brightened up millions of people’s lives.

The man who started it all

Spread the love

How do I know this? Well it has brightened up my day on a number of occasions and has even spurred me on to give out other things for free such as 500 hand-made cards on Valentines day. Giving out the free hugs is ten times as rewarding as actually getting one. Seeing strangers run up to you with a big grin, then embracing them in a big bear hug is something very special. It will make you smile, laugh and maybe even cry. I can remember hugging one old woman in Dublin who said she had not been hugged in years. This is a very sad thought as everyone should be hugged, in my opinion, every day.

My first free hugs experience was at a couchsurfing event in Edinburgh, Scotland. The weekend, dubbed “Edinburgh Rocks” included a world music night, bbq, scavenger hunt and game sin the park. Then on the final day I was told we were doing “Free Hugs”. I was totally new to the idea, laughed at the idea of it but was excited to see how it would pan out. To this day it is one of the best, most rewarding, most memorable few hours of my life. It helped that the 40 or so other couchsurfers were full of positive energy and love for life and that Scots loved receiving our hugs.

Free Hugs in Edinburgh

Valentines Day, Dublin Free Hugs

After such an awesome experience I organized a FREE HUGS day in Dublin, the first of many followed by “Free Hugs for Christmas”, “Free Hugs for Valentines Day” and “Free Hugs in the park”…all a great success. The next summer, while in Toronto I jumped at the chance to give out free hugs at “Pedestrian Sunday” in Kensington Market and a few weeks later found myself standing outside DEMF, Detroit Electronic Music festival giving out hugs to party goers and homeless people alike. Lastly, I had the opportunity to give out free hugs in Hyde Park in Sydney earlier this year, another awesome day out.

So now Korea, my love, its your turn. I’m interested to see people’s reactions and I really hope they wont be too stand offish as I realize hugging culture is not as big in Asia as it is in say Europe or America. So, if you fancy spreading some joy come along to FREE HUGS HONGDAE this saturday! :)

Free Hugs Toronto

Free Hugs...coming to a place near you!

17 wineries, 84 wines and 1 smelly cheese shop.

Ahhh wine tasting. My favourite hobby on a friday night. So you can imagine my excitement at the thought of spending a WHOLE weekend tasting wine. This post will not be all that informative…we did not learn a whole lot about wine and often time the wine we liked the most was the cheapest of the lot. We did not do a winery tour nor did we go inspect the grapes or whatever other bizzarre things tourists come here to do. Our mission was to drink as much wine as we could, and we did a mighty good job.

Our group consisted of our tour guide for the weekend and fellow couchsurfer Warren, Dariuz from Poland, Gloria (G-Tran) from the U S of A, Linda from The Netherlands (although you would swear she wasn’t with her perfect english and lack of dutch accent) and little old me.

We left Sydney at the crack of dawn Saturday morning (ahem 9am but still way too early for my liking…!) and headed towards the wonderful Hunter Valley, arriving just as the wineries opened at 10am. Morning brunch was of the liquid variety, namely 2 reds, 3 whites and some dessert wine. Mmmmm dessert wine..ya got to love that Botrytis Semillon.

Tower Estate, Winery no.1

Pepper Tree, Winery no.2

Warren had us on a strict schedule…no more that 25 minutes in each winery in order to see as much as possible. Some people would call this rushed, we however looked upon it as a marathon, a wine tasting marathon, and we were very happy indeed.

We continued on to winery after winery, from Tempus Two, Harrigans, Pepper Creek, David Hook, Oakvale and Keith Tulloch to Tyrells and many more. Some shared the premises with Sky-diving centres (a few glasses of wine and anyone would jump from a plane I guess!), others with churches and convents. The wildlife was also abudant as we discovered in Hope winery where we proceeded to scare away about 10 huge Kangaroos!

Warren, Gloria and Linda @ Tempus Two (no.3)

Hope Estate, Winery no.4

Linda running towards out last winery, No.17

 It was one of the best days of my Ausralia trip. It was great to be out of the city with an awesome group of freinds spending the day drinking absolutely delicious wines. Oh and did I mention it was all for free?! All the wine tastings are free (up to 6 wines in each winery but they always offered us more!!). Whenever we got hungry we would detour to a cheese factory or chocolate shop. We dabbled in champagne and sparkling wines and even ended up in the Blue Tongue Brewery where we tasted 6 beers, of which we all agreed the ginger beer was the best.

More jumping at Lindemans

Wine makes us JUMP!

Janet, Dariuz, Warren, Gloria and Linda @ Hope Estate

 By 6pm Saturday we were absolutey exhausted so we headed to our home for the night, a nearby campsite. Once in the door we decided to chill out guessed it..a bottle of wine, one of the many we had purchased. We brought 2 more along to the BYO Thai restaurant that evening but as hard as it  is to believe, we could not finish the first bottle between the 5 of us. Bed was calling.

Up bright and early Sunday morning we again opted for a liquid breakfast. We’re hardcore like that. We fitted in about 7 wineries before lunch including the beautiful Bimbadgen estate, Lindemans, Rosemount, Mcguigans cellar and cheese shop, Peterson Champagne house and Debortoli. Phew. We were welcome wherever we went and were never made to feel uncomfortable for not purchasing (although to be fair we did buy A LOT of wine!!). The wildlife was amazing, the scenery stunning and the wines…don’t get me started on those mouth watering wines…

So in summary over the 2 days we went to 17 wineries,a  smelly cheese shop, a chocolate shop, a brewery, champagne house, tasted over 84 wines and lots and lots of delicious types of olive oil, basil dips and other delicacies. Go wine tasting in the Hunter Valley…its one of the best things you’ll ever do. Ever. 

Keith Tulloch Winery

Bimbadgen Estate (Winery no 15!!)

Kangaroo Valley

One of my first day trips out of Sydney was a 10 hour drive down through the wine region of Kangaroo Valley in Southern New South Wales. Silvia, an Italian Couchsurfer and I were given a free tour by Sam, another Couchsurfer who was in the process of setting up a tour company in the region. We travelled through some really quaint and quiet villages, up hills with spectacular views over the valley, to some beautiful wineries with delicious wine and even spent an hour walking above the tree tops.

Here are a few snaps from the day.

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Pirates of the Pacific!

Everyone knows that spending New Years Eve in Sydney will be nothing short of spectacular. Everyone can picture the endless bursts of light as the fireworks explode over the picture perfect Sydney harbour, celebrating into the wee hours in some classy club with classy people or at some party on Bondi Beach making strangers your friends and calling alcohol you nemisis, (well the next morning anyway)!

I decided to do something a little different. 

I splurged a whole weeks wages on a New Years Eve Pirate themed cruise of Sydney Harbour, which was being organized by The Globe. The (outrageous) price included a dinner on board and ALL YOU CAN DRINK all night long. Happy days. Getting ready was as much fun as the cruise inself. Candace, another Canadian I befriended, and I spent the afternoon getting ready. I had to ‘leg it’ to the fancy dressshop in Bondi Junction to look for a hook, an eyemask and maybe some funky fishnet tights only to came across about half of the hostel looking for similar accessories! In the end I bought most of my outfit in a nearby charity shop and dollar store, which turned out to be a lot more original and a LOT cheaper!

The cruise was due to set sail at 6.30pm so the gang from the hostel, about 30 of us in full Pirate costumes, made our way down to Darling Harbour, with beers in hand. The strange looks we got from people were priceless. In fact I’m pretty sure the guys may have scared a kid or two. When we eventually made it to the Harbour our cruise was nowhere to be seen. We did come across an awesome tall ship which we charged towards.

“Arrgh me mateys! Lets commandeer this ship!!” one of the lads roared as we all shouted “Arrrr” back at him.

The guests on board the $1000 a ticket luxurious vessel observed us with curiousity and we returned there amused gazes with fierce looks! How dare they sit there, looking all pretty on sipping expensive champagne on OUR ship! We eventually found our boat which was a far cry from the mighty Pirate Ship we failed to board, but which we loved all the same for its copious amounts of free alcohol. We spent the evening mingling on deck, dancing down below to all the latest hits and had front row seats to the most spectacular, mesmesiring, fantastic fireworks display I have ever witnessed.

We sailed out of Darling Harbour as the sun was setting on 2009 and sailed back in, a liitle drunker but a lot happier in 2010.

 A great decade, a great year and a great night.

Arrr me mateys group shot

A shadow of my former self

Pirate chat

Sailing into the Harbour

Sunset cruise

Acting like ruthless pirates!

Smile! You're in Syndey!

Fireworks at midnight

Happy 2010 from Sydney

Ode to the Globe

Read/sing  to the tune of ‘Fresh Prince of Belair’ (JUST FOR GIGGLES)

Now this is a story all about life,
Working and partying on the same site
I want to tell you the deal, it won’t take a min,
here’s your key and some linen- now your all checked in

Welcome to the Globe, here in Kings Cross,
home of the blue room…and memory loss,
We like chilling out, drinking, downing some goon,
Playing Kings all night..getting up after noon.

One night all the guys- they dressed up all Blue
drank too much beer- one passed out on the loo!
Be it arguing with each other and loosing a fight to a door,
Yet another guest will start shouting “Stop sleeping on the floor!”

Sunday comes round, but it’s no day of rest
It’s off to O Malleys for a Sunday sesh!
6 dollar snake bite…leaves you a mess!

More Germans, more Frenchies, some Canadian chicks
all the boys are thinking about is their….
need for a beer pack of six! ;)

A Smurf Christmas

Spending Christmas and New Years in a Hostel was a real first and is not for the faint of heart or weak of liver!! On Christmas Eve a lot of the long termers from the hostel (guys who had been treating it like a home for months) decided what better way to celebrate Christmas than to dress like Smurfs, which was bizarre and hilarious in equal measures!

The huge group of did a bit of a pub crawl around Kings Cross, only to to turned away again and again for ‘having too little clothes on’,  ‘being covered in paint’ or because ‘the photo on your id does not look like you (well duh I currently look like a smurf’. We ended up, of course, in O Malleys Irish Pub circa 3am singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, whilst downing cheap jugs of snakebite. Fun times.

Christmas day was crazy. I was on reception from 9am to 2pm (my first time ever working on Christmas day!), which merely involved me pumping out my fave cheesy xmas tunes throughout the hostel and giving out free candy canes. I do believe I may even have drank a beer or two..tut tut!

Later I met up with my best Canadian buddy, Sarah and the two English girls, Guss and Tilly, who I had met in Nomads Westend Backpackers. We partied the day away at ‘Sunburnt Christmas’ in the Bondi Pavillion, which included a wet t-shirt competition, awesome Dj’s and about 5,000 drunk backpackers in bikinis and santa hats. It would have been more fitting to call the event “Wet Wet Christmas” as the sun was far far away!

Sarah and I spent much of the time swimming in the warm (ahem) waters of Bondi beach, prancing around in the rain chatting to randomers and ended up, as always, back in the hostel blue room drinking into the wee hours of the morning.

A somewhat unconventional Christmas, to say the least.


Scary Smoking Smurfs1

Smurfs hit Kings Cross!


Guss, Janet, Tilly on Bondi Beach


Sunburnt Christmas @ Bondi


Sarah and Me

The Big Blue!

After bidding farewell to Ali in Auckland my next stop was a place I have been excited about going to all my life. In my mind I had conjured up images of spectacular fireworks shows over the harbour, hot surfers riding the waves at Bondi beach and dressing up all swit swoo for shows in The infamous Opera House…it could only be Sydney.

Within only 5 days of arriving in Australia I had 2 job offers. The first was working on a remote Horse farm 3 hours north of Sydney (where temperatures soared to over 40’c!). The job entailed feeding, washing and exercising the horses for a few hours each day and in return I would get my own farm house, free food and a little pocket money.

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