Welcome to round 108 of ‘Meet a Random Traveller’. The series dedicated to bringing attention to fantastic people all around the world doing their thing.
Random Traveller #108
Who are you?
Hi! We are Jess & Hai, a travel-obsessed couple from Melbourne, Australia. Jess is a writer and Hai a photographer, and together we document our travels on our site, Notes of Nomads.
What’s the deal?
Notes of Nomads is a travel blog all about “experiences” sourced from 35+ countries and counting. We focus on putting memorable experiences at the heart of travel, whether that be wandering the local markets for free or spending up on a far-flung adventure. What we think provides the best experiences, gives insight into a country and culture, and what inspires us are what we write about.
Where are you right now and what are you doing?
We are seven months in to an indefinite RTW trip. It’s a journey that has taken us to twelve countries so far, from SE Asia through to Europe. Right now we are house-sitting in Berlin where we are taking care of possibly the two most adorable cats in the world!
How did you come to the decision to move to Japan and what other countries did you consider at the time?
On our first RTW trip, we visited Japan for two months and absolutely loved it, and thought of all the countries we had visited, we could definitely see ourselves living there. We also considered moving to New York for a time, but ultimately decided on Tokyo because of the ability to immerse ourselves in a radically different culture and language. We definitely think it was the right move for us. After four years, we really had to tear ourselves away from this mesmerizing place!
What’s your favourite type of transportation and is there one particular journey that sticks in your mind?
We love long-distance train travel. We love that you can walk around and stretch your legs, that you don’t have to wait until a stop to use the bathroom, and that there’s a window out to whole parts of countries you may not have been able to see otherwise.
In fact, the whole reason we took the route we did on our current trip was to take a train! It had long been a dream of ours to take the Trans-Mongolian and Siberian Railways from China to Mongolia and right across Russia, so we planned the entire first part of our trip to fit in with train schedules and the seasons (we didn’t want to be snowed under in Siberia!). It meant moving quicker than we would have liked through SE Asia but it was a sacrifice that we were willing to make for an experience of a lifetime.
We camped out at the station on the Chinese-Mongolian border with our French cabin mates while the train’s wheels were changed to fit the tracks, we travelled in a compartment with a Mongolian girl and her father along with a fridge and a whole apartment’s worth of stuff as she made her way to Russia to start her new life as a university student, and we made countless new friends in our third-class cabin across Russia. Think one big dorm with 50+ cabin mates in our longest continuous stint of 5 days (Russia is a big country!). We played cards with business women, drank beer and exchanged coins with tattooed truck drivers, and learnt card tricks from a magician. Sure, it was slow, tiring and we didn’t get a shower for a week, but it was one of the most memorable journeys we have ever been on.
What’s the weirdest food you’ve tried while travelling and would you have it again?
That would probably have to be guinea pig in Cusco, Peru. It came out whole with teeth, claws and a capsicum in its mouth and we had no idea how to begin eating it. In the end, seeing our confusion, the restaurant owner came out and offered to cut it up. Some people liken it to the dark meat of chicken, but it certainly has its own distinct flavour. Not something we’d order again for the taste, but we’ll certainly try anything once and we never say never.
After Berlin, we still have no idea, and we’re OK with that. Our rough plan is to spend at least a few more months in Europe, then go to Africa, drive across North America, explore more of South America and then, if all goes well, join the 7th Continent club in Antarctica. Exact destinations and timeframes are constantly changing. Seriously, we have days where we don’t know where we’ll be sleeping that night and after contemplating various options just hop on a train to one of three cities that are on our radar. Last time we did this was in late December when our choices were Düsseldorf, Amsterdam or Paris. In the end it doesn’t matter as long as we don’t stop discovering.
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