Japan Adventures

I arrived in Japan a little over 3 months ago. I got off a place in Tokyo, boarded a minivan to Hakuba through the night and woke up at about 1am in a very rainy Hakuba. I woke up next morning and went for a very disappointing ski. 

The weather was less than perfect and they had very little snowfall, this continued for a few weeks to the point where I considered apply for jobs elsewhere. I was having to spend 30 minutes of my lessons taking students up the gondola at a cost of ¥5100 ($55) plus the cost of a lesson, and then walking them up and down with their skis and then waste time taking them back down. I felt we were giving a bad product due to the lack of snow, and I was the face of that product for my students.

Luckily I stuck it out because a few weeks into January we got a monster dump of snow, 2.6m in about 5 days. Things got a lot better from there as it opened up the mountain to us.

I lucked out with accomodation, I was put up in an old guest house at the base of the neighbouring mountain, there was only a few of us there, it was tidy and had central heating. A rarity for Japan. There were a few conflicting members of the household who didn’t last long, otherwise we were a tight nit family.

The Japanese ski resorts weren’t really what I expected, I feel the media has done a great job at selling them to westerners. From my understanding, Japan had an economic boom where they popped up everywhere, followed by a recession, and it doesn’t appear in most parts of town things have changed since then. So without snow Hakuba looks very run down, old and grey. With snow it’s a winter wonderland. We also didn’t get the “average” 10-12m of snow, we topped out at about 6 but the snow conditions were still better than most resorts I’ve been too and when it snowed it really snowed.

I came to Japan with the attitude of “I’ve chosen to be here. Nobody is making me. So I’m just gonna do what I’m asked with a smile” my experience and good attitude got me perks that not many others got, I was responsible for the house company car, I got to do lessons at other mountains regularly and being duel certifed meant I could work everything, and got a really good variety of lesson. I felt well and truly valued as a team member at Evergreen and have been invited back next year.

A few things you have to get used to living here.

  • You can’t always get by on English. Google translate was a great help but you’re not always going to find someone who understands you.
  • The mountains don’t like you leaving marked runs. I’ve had passes taken of me for this here. Never had that happen anywhere else. Some resorts are coming around to this and have intact put areas aside just for this.
  • The food here is magnificent. I felt like I was playing Russian roulette in the supermarkets at first, but within a few weeks I had tourists asking me where stuff was. But try everything you can. I now eat Octopus. I never thought I’d say that.
  • Onsens. At first the idea of stripping down in front of friends and strangers and taking a bath together isn’t appealing. But you really must try it if you come to Japan. It’s really not that bad. And he onsens are great.
  • Drivers. If they get lost of frazzled they will drive insanely slow. Then just stop with hazards on. Because if you have hazard lights on, you can do what you want.

So much has happened that I just can’t fit in one blog post, I’ve had a blast but for now my season is over, my wife made it to Japan in one piece and for the last week we’ve been road tripping around Japan. I’m sitting in the car on the way back to Nagano to extend my visa so I have the option of returning next year and then off to Tokyo for 4 days. But il write about all that in another post.

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Skiing Has Taken Me Around The World

I was planning on writing a review of Rome once I got the chance but something more exciting has come up.

After I sold my business and did my trip to attend Nicks wedding, I said to my wife that I wanted to do a trip to go and enjoy myself before I went back into serious work again. After all I’ve worked 6-7 days a week for the last 2 years. I felt I’d earnt it.

The 2 options I came up with were:

1. Travel to Thailand or another tropical place and procrsss from dive master to dive instructor. Not because I wanted to teach full time, just for personal education really.

2. Apply for a working holiday visa to Japan and then apply for work in the alpine regions as a snow sports instrcutor as that was my previous profession. It would be the last time I would qualify for this visa, having not been elegible in the past, so really my last chance for a season in Japan.

At first I was excited at the thought of skiing again, but wasn’t sure if I’d get the visa so decided in diving. Regardless I applied, as it was free, but had designated myself to Thailand and spend most of my time researching dive schools. 

Just over 2 weeks ago my Japanese working holiday visa was approved. My brain switched and all of a sudden started dreaming of tall, cold snow mountains. I put out some feelers for jobs and within a week I had secured a job in Hakuba. One of the largest ski resorts in Japan. So 2 weeks ago I was checking it dive schools. In 5 days time I board a flight to Tokyo.

It made me realise that Skiing and snowboarding have literally enabled me to travel the world. That trip I took to whistler 9 years ago to qualify as snowboard instructor has led me down this path. And once again, it’s managed to bag me my first choice of jobs in Japan. 

If I was just a snowboard instructor I’d probably have no hope of getting work this late in the season. Probably not much better if I was just a ski instructor. But as a Duel certified level 2. I’m much more appealing to snow schools.

Japan has always been on the itinerary one day. It’s taken me a little longer than I planned to go. But it’s finally happening and I can’t wait. 

I’m thankful I have a very understanding wife who is letting me go alone for the whole winter on the condition that I pay for her to visit in march. There’s not many guys that can say their wife would let them do that. But she knows how much I want this, and we support each other with the opportunities we get, even if that means we have to be apart for a short time.

My next post will very likely be from Japan. Hopefully with some great things to say about a county that has captivated my imagination for many years. Sayonara Australia. konnichiwa Japan!

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Venezia

After spending time at home with family and friends, and visiting Switzerland for a few days for my cousins wedding we caught a short flight from London to Venice.

After arriving at about 5pm, we found our quaint little hotel hidden away in the backstreets of Venice, put down our bags and went out to explore. This stared off rather well, I’d been given a tip to look high up the walls for directions to major atttactions. First up the Realto Bridge, although some renovations going on, pretty impressive as bridges go. Next up to St Marks Square, as an walked through a walkway into this place my jaw just dropped. I spent the next 20 minutes looking up and around going “holy s**t look at that!”

After being amazed by everything we saw it was time to find our way back to the hotel. Easy right? I got us back to the Realto Bridge no problem. I got us half way back to the hotel but because my guestimating caused us to veer off track and end up in the university districts, opposite side of Venice to where our hotel was, I estimate we walked about 10km our first night. Some very sore feet and a delicious gongonzola gnocci later I was sound asleep

Our only full day in Venice we got up early and met our guide from Free Walking Tours Venice, a bright a bubbly Italian local keen to show us the hidden secrets of Venice, and that she did, she talked about the history, culture and issues that Venice as a city faces today, all while showing us a very un touristy side of Venice. Really was worth every cent! We did actually left her a tip as a thank before you call me cheap.

After lunch we explored abit more with a guy we met on the tour, we found a hidden secret, there’s a shopping mall that’s about 6 stories high and they have free roof access, for now, that looks down onto the Realto Bridge and over Venice. No doubt it won’t be long before they charge for this privilege like they do for everything else in Venice. 

The plan for the last day. 

Get up>have breakfast>walk to the train station and purchase train tickets to rome> grab a drink> grab bags and head to rome. Easy right?

We go to the purchase tickets part. And the train we planned to get on was fully booked. As was every other train to Rome with that company for the day, and half of the next. Well bugger. After abit of a panic we found another company also going to Rome and managed to get tickets on their train. 

In summary. Venice is pretty amazing. If you want to see a lot you either have to be very keen to walk, or spend all your money on boats. Every corner you turn you’ll want to whip out your camera and take a photo of yet another photogenic building. This place really captures your imagination and makes it easy to get a feel for the history of the island. Would love to go back someday and spend abit more time checking out the museums and the island of Murano.

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Adventures in Singapore

I am currently traveling with my wife, the main purpose of the trip is to attend a wedding in Switzerland, but we are making the most of our trip and with some stopovers in places we have been yet to explore. Singapore was our first stop.

Although I had been told Singapore was a great destination, it had never struck me as a place to add to my bucket list. Our flight routed through Singapore so we decided to check what all the fuss was about.

Our first flight was with Qantas, having never flown with Qantas before I didn’t know what to expect, but clearly in the last few years they have got their act together and we were surprised to have a really great flight, faster than scheduled, loads to keep us busy and some really delicious airline food. 

We landed in Changi airport about 6pm local time, and took a train from the airport into China town, at a cost of S$2.90 each and then walked to our hotel. Our hotel was The Club Hotel, on club street in china town. It’s an old colonial building that’s been completely modernized inside, with touch screen lights and air conditioning, brand new bathroom and a free stocked mini bar. The kicker. A free smart phone to use with unlimited data and unlimited international calls. Overall thoroughly impressed. 

This is club street and also my favorite picture of the trip.


Day one:

We went to Sentosa Island, this island is a tourist trap, it has theme parks, and aquariums ect but we wanted to see it all so we took the day there, it’s easy to get to, public transport takes you anywhere you want in Singapore for about S$2 and then you catch the monorail across to Sentosa for S$4. We started our day at Universal Studios, the park was a lot of fun, it was low season and lines were short so we got through the whole park in about 4 hours with about 45 minutes for lunch, my favorite ride was the transformers however it did make feel sick due to the difference in what you felt and saw. Mid afternoon we went to the S.E.A Aqaurium. They have a pretty impressive shark tank on the way on, some interesting exhibits on the way through then a spectacular main large tank filled with sharks, Manta and Devil rays and many other great ocean life. We sat for about half an hour just watching this tank.


After a trip back to the hotel to shower and get ready, we walked into Clarke Quay, grabbed a bite to eat and went on a Bumboat ride which was worth every penny. We got a nighttime ride up the river and into the bay which had a recording that explained a lot of history about the building and the area I found very interesting, we also got to see the city and the Marina Bay Sands lit up for some great photos.


Day two:

Our last full day in Singapore we explored China town, we opted to explore ourself rather than take a tour and had a great morning, we explored a few temples and bustling street markets then caught the train to little India. I didn’t enjoy little India as much as I thought I would, it appears a lot of the promo pictures are taken in one tiny street but we found a museum that detailed the history of Indians in Singapore and then stopped at a delicious Indian restaurant for a late lunch. The afternoon took us to the world famous Marina Bay Sands resort, a wander around the luxurious shopping mall with all your high end boutique stores then across to the sky park to see the magnificent views of the city and the botanical gardens.


We headed to the 2 domes for the evening, cloud mountain was first, spectacular set up with the worlds highest man made waterfall and a sky walk that takes you from the top back down with some hidden surprises underneath. The super tree park, however, was the highlight of the night, we laid in the park and watched as the solar super trees put on a show to music for about half an hour then saw the last dome before heading back to China town and our hotel for the night.


Day three:

Our flight wasn’t until 10:40pm. So we had to find a way to entertain ourselves all day without walking around in the heat so we weren’t sweaty and sticky for the 13 hour flight to London. We decided upon the museums, we did the National Museum of Singapore, which was a fascinating way to spend a few hours learning about the history of Singapore. The afternoon was spent at the ArtScience Museum exploring their exhibitions, all in chilly air conditioning. Once last stop back to China town for dinner and to collect our bags before dragging our luggage through the train system during rush hour back to the airport.

Singapore was a lot of fun. I loved the contrast between old and new right next to each other. China town was a definite favorite area and id reccomended our hotel to anyone. Definitely a great destination for a couple of days. I’d probably run out of things to do if I stayed much longer but I’d like to visit again someday. 

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2 Years Without Alcohol. Complete.

I will always remember when I was younger thinking I’d never tire of going out clubbing and getting wasted.

By the time I got to Australia, I had already got bored of endless drinking and partying and you will not find anyone here that has ever known me as a big drinker. 2 years ago I realised I had unintentionally gone a few months without drinking and decided to see if I could go a year. It wasn’t even close to a challenge. It’s now been 2. And here’s what I have come to realise.

  • I hate drunk people. Being around drink people makes me realise what an asshole I used to be when I was drunk. I do not want to be anywhere near drunk people anymore and I think a lot of people don’t realise how bad they really are when they are drinking.
  • Drinking is expensive. In the last 12 months I’ve bought a house and a business. I’m not saying that it’s all money that would have been spent on drink but that money you spend on your Friday and Saturday nights could definitely be put to better use.
  • I feel good, every day. I don’t wake up hungover, regretting or wondering what I did the previous night, I feel good. I get up early, I enjoy the sunlight hours, I dive, I surf, I skate.
  • I never have to think about if I can drive or not. Because I don’t drink. Questioning if I’m drink driving or not is not a problem I have as I’m always sober.

I don’t plan on abstaining forever, and I don’t have a problem with people who do drink, I just don’t want to be around them when they do. Being sober isn’t a challenge for me and I know it can be for some, but cutting it out of my life has definitely had its benefits. Could you go sober for a year?

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10 Things I Hate About Bali

Growing up a million miles away from Indonesia, In a country well known for is “excellent” weather, the name if the infamous island of Bali conjured up images of a tropical paradise in a far away land. Since living in Australia, Bali is only a short 6 hour flight away from us, and my wife and i decided we would go see what all the fuss was about, so we booked a hotel, boarded a plane and started our adventure, However Bali wasn’t quite what either of us had in mind. Although i ended up enjoying my time in Bali, our first impressions weren’t good.

1. The Noise

The First thing you notice about Bali is the Noise, the only way to describe a walk through Kuta or Seminyak is that its a full on attack of the senses, It seems hard to escape, people grabbing at you, vehicles everywhere, music coming from bars, flashing lights, honking horns. Its exhausting.

2. The Traffic

The traffic is crazy. its predominantly scooters and small engined motorcycles. Break lights and indicators are optional. Horns are a must have accessory and flow of traffic is optional. Yet somehow it works. If you look around, no cars have scrapes or bumps, the motorcycles don’t have scuffs down the side where people have fallen of. Infact the only accident i witnessed the whole time i was there was a tourist who thought he knew better than our taxi driver slowing down for a monkey and flew around us to find …a monkey and he ended up on the floor with his rental scooter.

3. The Shops

There are 3 kinds of shops in Bali, Shops the same as you get in westernised countries such as billabong and quicksilver, all at inflated prices. Shops that have local arts and crafts, most of which are restricted to bring back to Australia, and the dodgy shops, you know the kind, they all look the same, full of fake t-shirts, sunglasses, electronics ect, and you cant walk past one without being pulled in or called “Boss” and told to look inside then followed around. I would have purchased al ot more in Bali if i hadn’t been harassed every time i went within 50ft of a shop.

4. The Environmental Unfriendliness

Bali’s water sanitation is not at a level where you can safely drink from the tap, So a lot of drinking water comes out of plastic bottles, There aren’t many bins around so everyone throws stuff on the floor instead, streams are polluted with household waste and a lot of plastics

5. Small 4 Stroke Engines

The sound of small 4 stroke engines will haunt me for a long time to come. Its the bulk of the noise you hear in bali, with nearly everyone owning one, and tourists rocking around on them, the noise is EVERYWHERE.

6. The Beaches

Now, Maybe i’m just spoilt living on the Gold Coast, we’ve won several awards for Australia’s Cleanest Beaches, and i didn’t see a great number of beaches in Bali, but the ones i did see were filthy, i was surfing with plastic bags floating around. My guess is its mostly waste from tourists too.

7. The Taxi Drivers

Prepare to be honked at. All. The. Time. they honk to get your attention as you walk down the road to say “need a taxi?”. There is only one company everyone recommends in Bali. Blue Bird Taxi. because they don’t try and rip you off, they use a meter where as everyone else judges you by how you look or which hotel they picked you up from and tries to pull your pants down over the price. Example, one guy tried to charge me $10 for a ride into town, i knew from experience that a Blue Bird taxi cost $5 for the same trip, i said “No, do it on the meter” he tried to negotiate then gave in. Total price for the trip $4.

8. Australians

Australians and the British don’t have a great reputation amongst the traveling world, They are loud, obnoxious, and party hard. Their behaviour dosent change in Bali.

9. The Drugs

The media is filled with stories of Indonesia being tough on anyone involved with drugs, However they are clearly losing their war on drugs. All you have to do is walk down any main street and you’l get 10 people offer you Prescription drugs, Marijuana and Cocaine. In Broad daylight. Indonesia needs to look more on their doorstep to tackle the drug problem, rather than using foreign law breakers as a chance to flex its muscles to the world.

10. The American Dollar $

Bali has never been a military base for the US, you don’t meet many Americans there, yet everything to do with tourists is charged in US$. Which is really frustrating when you arrive in Bali with Rupiahs (the local currency) only to get shafted on the exchange rate yet again every time you want to book a tour or trip and want to pay in Rupiah, a currency which you would assume would be preferred.

Like i said, we enjoyed our time in Bali in the end. We climbed a Volcano, Hugged a baby elephant, and took an Indonesian cooking class. But we wont be returning there. Im not somebody who can sit still and we found very quickly we ran out of things to do that didn’t cost a bomb or was another version of an activity we already did. It just wasnt’ what i was expecting.

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Hey, you ride a bike too, and thats pretty rad

The Motorcycle Nod.

Its what we do to acknowledge that “Hey, you ride a bike too, and thats pretty rad”

Ive been riding bikes since i was a kid and got a road bike the first day i could.

Growing up in England, it was what you did, you see another biker, you gave them a subtle nod as a sign of respect. Riders of sports bikes rarely acknowledged Cruisers and vise versa and nobody acknowledges scooter riders. But It was like a private club that only bikers could enter.

Traveling around the globe, Ive seen a few variations of this. In mainland Europe, riding on the other side of the road people either lift their left foot off the foot rest, or point a finger on their left hand down and out. it all means the same thing. Respect.

Australia seems to have forgotten this. I ride a bike daily in this country and actively try and continue this act of respect, but rarely receive it in return.
Its always at the point where i feel like i’m the only one and i’ve given up, and that one guy i don’t give a nod to, Nods. and my faith is restored.

So if your a biker, weather you ride a cruiser, or a sports bike, or something in between, give your fellow biker a nod. show a little respect and say “Hey, you ride a bike too, and thats pretty rad”

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Video Games Are Evolving

The video games industry is evolving.

Ive been hooked on video games since i was a kid, I remember playing Duck Hunt on my cousins NES and being in awe, i remmebr the first video game that really got me hooked, Tony Hawks Pro Skater. I played the demo of this game more than any game i had owned at the time.
Video games have come a long way since then and i’ve had a lot of different consoles. Everyone has their opinion as to what the best console is, but at the end of the day its whatever console you have the most fun on that matters.

The game industry these day is trying to push in a different direction, if what i read is to be believed, Both Sony and Microsot want to run game shops out of town, they want to makes games available online only. and i understand their reasons, from a business point of view i get it. They feel that the second hand games market means less games are bought from them. What i don’t get is how they think its going to work with the way things are right now.

Some positives of this plan for the consumer:

  • You don’t have to que up at a midnight launch or even leave your house to get a new game.
  • You can download it instantly
  • You don’t need to change disks every time you want to change game
  • The game loading isn’t restricted by disk read speed

My number 1 issue with how they are going about it right now is the price.

  • They have no cost of producing the hard copy product
  • You don’t get that feeling of unwrapping a new game
  • You cant lend a game to  friend
  • Your purchase has no resale value
  • You already pay a fee for the online service

So why, when i can walk in to a store and purchase a hard copy of a game for between $70-100 would i pay $110 for a download version of it? it makes no sense to me. i would very much like to utilise this service, however it dosen’t make logical sense to me.

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Running In The Park

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I was never good at motivating myself to excersise. I am one of the lucky few that doesn’t struggle with their weight. I’ve had my stints at the gym before but I’ve never enjoyed it and never felt any success with it.

Recently I started running, I dabbled here and there with it but never consistently. I resorted to running late at night due to the sun and heat during the day and had a little more success.

Earlier in the year my wife had a genius idea to get up at 6am and do a 5km run in a park with 250 people who do it every Saturday morning as part of a volunteer based event called Parkrun.
The morning of parkrun, we were both thinking we made a huge mistake. What were we doing? Were we insane? I promised my wife is run with her, so i set a good pace and made sure she crossed the line without stopping. It was the start of an addiction.

Tomorrow will be my 7th parkrun, and not my last. I have managed to set a personal best every week so far and have been running 2 more times a week to improve. Running is now something I enjoy, rather than feel I have to do to keep in shape. I compete against myself

So tomorrow, I’m going to get up at 6am, head to Main Beach, and try to set a new personal best. Maybe il see you there.

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