Showing posts with label Worst To Best. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Worst To Best. Show all posts

Friday, 12 June 2020

Worst to Best: Jarexit II

Worst to Best: Jarexit II (July 2019 - December 2019)

On the 9th of June 2019, my celestial contract with Brakishu had come full circle and our deal was terminated on amicable grounds. For six months, a path had been guided by his/her warm embrace and (ignoring a handful of minor mishaps) my mission was an undeniable success! I stole inspiration apples from 10 different countries then returned to the safety of my London nest, unharmed. Thanks, Brakishu! I owe you, bro! It’s right there in the fine print!

Back then, the adventure was dubbed "Jarexit", no sequential numbering required for it was the only thing, so says ye oh Lord Kanye, amen. I hold no reservations of how thrilled I was to be back in the Queen’s England. I practised my intricate tales of risky excursions, stories ready to be passed down to future generations, neatly ordered, a beginning, middle, and end, ample character development, moral lessons learned, twists and turns and crash landings directly into the eager ears of my friends. Imagine my horror, then, as no one wanted to hear about my trip whatsoever.

I have since learned that travelling is much like a dream. For, no matter how gloriously surreal these events may seem in the brain, nobody else cares. Instead, their lives had continued with or without me. London chugged onward and my return signalled nothing profound to anyone but myself. I was merely re-slotted into the machine with polite handshakes and one-worded formalities, an acknowledgement as humbling as it was infinitely frustrating. I had just witnessed lands that no man before me had ever witnessed*! And yet here I was, in my home, without a dime of attention spent on my story?? Unacceptable! Understandable, sure. But unacceptable all the same. In a fluster, I questioned the fabric of existence as well as the termination of my previous deal. Was the plug pulled prematurely? I was having the best time of my entire life back there. Why did I stop? Why didn’t I just... carry on?

Once that thought seed had been planted there was no ceasing the flourishment of insanity. I didn’t even pack my bags for I had never unpacked them in the first place. Instead, I waved goodbye to faces that were bored of my goodbyes and, on the 27th of July 2019, Jarexit became Jarexit I and Jarexit II became the now back then. No protection spells. No rules. No time limit. No set amount of countries. No calorie counting. Total freedom with only one overall goal: I wanna go to Tokyo for my birthday! Did I make it? You know the answer. Read on anyway.

But before that, here’s my offering to you: the list below can serve your wicked ways as much as mine. Use it to test the waters before you explore the oceans. Inspect these regions through my eyes as all of the photos are my own. Read my recommendations of landmarks, heed my advice on the hostels I rested my head, and join a pub crawl or two if you feel like getting fucked up. And, hey, if you and I exchanged communication over my trails of travel then don’t be surprised if you find your name written within these holy texts, exposed for all the world to see. I didn't even ask for permission, lol, soz.

Ultimately, Jarexit II did come to an end and I slid directly into Jarexit III without a break but that’s a story for a later moment. Don’t get greedy, take what you’re given. This is what you’re given. Remember me for the good times only, enjoy.

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 10. Bangkok, Thailand

10. Bangkok, Thailand

Dates: 2 Nov 19 - 9 Nov 19
Accommodation: Hits Hostel [7/10]

The joke here is that Bangkok effortlessly topped my Jarexit I list, yet plummeted down into the deepest pits of the second round, the worst possible slot on my presentation, how embarrassing. How could this happen? How could the former king of the ladder slip and crash through every rung, ending up as nothing but a crusty stain upon my otherwise immaculate rug? I gave it roughly two seconds of thought and can relay the answer via one word: hype.

My initial visit to the Thailand capital five months previous was an empty vase of obliviousness found balancing on that line between nervousness and excitement, ready to catch the traditions of the land with nothing but respect. And what shone down with the bright Sun was a wonderfully dangerous juxtaposition of calming Buddhism spirituality and the seediest of all adult locations that I have ever exposed my eyeballs to. I last left Bangkok equating it with the exact meeting point between God and the Devil, which is the only flavour I hope for in life. All of the flavours! Let's represent every vibration equally. Let's give the dark and the light the same fighting chance.

This contradictory environment was a blessing once upon a time but in the sequel, it had swiftly mutated into a curse and, what's more, it was my fault entirely. I waltzed into this city a second time as if I owned it. I tossed my luggage into my hostel without caring that it wasn't the greatest accommodation. Because it was the greatest location! Footsteps away from the infamous Khao San Road aka "the centre of the backpacking universe" according to The Beach. And within minutes I was already hitting those streets like the cocky Western tourist I had accidentally become. And the streets hit back.

What played out can only be recalled as a montage of brief snippets. My full intention was to recreate the magic but my strategy wasn't exactly the most refined that I've come up with. I basically just drank and drank and drank for two days until I had leaned too far the devil way. One of the more troubling of my memories flashes by with lightening. I was on the back of a taxi-scooter beneath a full-blown torrential thunderstorm, trying to save my phone but also acutely aware that this could be the end of me. The roads were flooded, my driver looked terrified and each time our tyres slid out of line I heard the voice of death spitting my name. I may have been out of it but this was not fun. It was very bad.

Not that it stopped me. At some point, I found myself at one of those world-renowned Bangkok red-light districts playing pool with ladyboys because that's what I did the last time and so we needed to do that again. Maybe there's something sick inside of me but I adore the attention as these lovely ladies attempt to coerce me into bed with their broken Englishmy predefined sexuality goes haywire! Of course, it was futile on their part, I was long past the drunk where my dick would work but I bought them a million drinks so everybody won in the end. Well, except me. I had some pretty in-depth conversations with the ATMs over this period. I am 99% sure I was robbed at one point. I have this final hazy memory of vomiting into a plastic bag in the back of a taxi this time, nearly filling it to the brim, of which you will find photo evidence among the Instagram Snaps below.

And on the third day, my phone broke. It suddenly decided it didn't like the internet and refused to connect to any wifi no matter where I was. My laptop google told me to put my phone in the freezer which did work for five minutes at a time. Unsustainable. Eventually, I had to get professional help and took my soaking hangover to a massive electronics market where they fixed my baby for £50. That's cheaper than most places, for sure, but still a kick to the bank account following a series of kicks, really damaging a dude who was already lying down in fetal position. If I'm honest, I was riding in debt from my previous two months anyway, which we'll get to in good time.

For now, we can cut a long story/week short and focus on how I shattered to pieces. No surprises that the Depression Monster kicked down the door because I had invited him over. He did this thing like he always does, punching me in my tear ducts then chaining me to the bed, a position I hardly left for around three days. I worked my job from under the covers. I watched cartoons for the rest of the time. It was a low, man. Real rough. But I'm a veteran now, so what do we do? We wait. We ride it out. And that's why my Bangkok photos are all shit.

There were some good fortunes, we must always count those. For example, I found out that the artwork for The Clash's album Combat Rock was shot around these parts and I scouted that out for a while. I also had a private room and the hostel gave us free eggs in the morning so that blessed me with the space to worry about other things. Then again, there was no hot water so my cries in the shower had to be well-planned and efficient. It's funny now, but back then it was bleak to the power of bleakness squared.

The days ticked on by and the serotonin returned just in time for Friday where I met up with two Bangkok legends named Angela and Henry. They did what they're good at and cheered me up over the pass mark again, washing the sour tastes away with yummy vegan food and an acceptable amount of beer. Thank you!

After that, I could step away and examine the experience from an objective distance. I concluded that I had probably frazzled my brain a little too hard. As we'll get in a moment, my previous two months had not been easy. I ran from Dubai to New Delhi to KL to Tokyo and then Bangkok. That's a fucking overload by anyone standards and I was overdue a breakdown if we're being honest with ourselves. Regardless, there was no justification for how smashed up I was. I left the city very aware that this country tickles out a strange version of myself and I must never ever go back.

I’m less convinced now. It’s still one of the coolest places in the world so why cut that off? My third visit will surely be better. I have been put in my place. I have learned my lesson. This would never happen again. Right?

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Grand Palace, Nana Plaza, Top of the King Power MahaNakhon, The Ratchada Night Market, Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan.
(The above was lifted directly from Jarexit I, it's for the best.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing (from Jarexit I)

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Dates: 5 Oct 2019 - 13 Oct 2019
Accommodation: SS Suites @ Swiss Garden Residences [8.8/10]

Moving on and exposing a suspicious pattern: KL was also a firm contender on my Jarext I list and yet it tumbled from grace upon my second visit. Is it possible that a place will never be as rad as it was the first time? Do repeated visits wear the magic down? Is the surprise factor lost in the sea of familiarity? There's some truth in that. But, as always, it's not that simple.

The problem with this story is that I've told it so many times and it's a sobby job and I'm tired of it. What's more, every time I run over the details online, I get in trouble for it. However, for the completists, here we go again, once more with feeling: I visited KL for the second time within five months because of a girl. Naturally, she is a very very pretty girl with a certain aura so special that I'd never swiped right on anything quite like her before. And during our absence, my brain had convinced me that she might be the one. "Spend all your money on her!" was the instruction. Copy that! And so I set about doing the very best I could do.

If you chart my movements to Tokyo, KL was a weird sidestep, not exactly on the way. The price of this detour flight was not a consideration, my eagerness had taken the wheel. Next up, I paid for some accommodation which was the true budget buster but, damn, you get what you pay for! And this was a full-on apartment, inarguably the lushest place I've stayed in over my entire Jarexit II adventure, quirky decor, central location, gym, swimming pool... perfect to play marriage in! Yesss! I would convince this girl to run away with me in no time! I excitedly broke the news to her and that's when she informed me that she had very recently found another lover sweeter than me, more precious than me.

In my memory, we had a plan, one which we'd conversed about before, I have the documentation. But in her memory, this was not the case. Regardless, what was done was done and I arrived back in Kuala Lumpur with a miniature dose of heartbreak. Melodrama snipped my flowering feelings at the stem and I spent my days staring out of the window from my extra-comfortable accommodation, mourning the fantasies of affection I never had, mourning the money I would never get back. At least it was the rainy season which provided some solidarity as the gods and I cried together. Just kidding, I obviously didn't cry.

This girl and I still hung out (we watched Joker together which was my film of the year!) and that works as further evidence as to how great she is. But I was running on the fumes of insanity and I ruined everything in that special way only the Jared Brand can manage. Hindsight has been torturous and I can see how inappropriately I behaved⁠—not in any physical manner, but emotionally and mentally. I couldn't shake this dark energy of self-importance that I'd been dealt an unfair hand and, boy, did I let her know. Even after I left, I couldn't let her go, sending her loving messages and even a gift from Japan. At the time I thought I was being sweet and romantic but now I see what she saw: I was being manipulative. My full intention was to convince her that I was better than her boy, that I was the solution to her everything. It's taken me a long time to understand that I was in the wrong.

A few months later and she rightfully told me to fuck off. She has even unfollowed me on Instagram since, which is when you know it's serious.

Another conflict of character is that she's a very private person whereas I like to tell everyone everything. I respect her wishes, on the one hand. I've never told anyone her name nor has anyone seen what she looks like (which is a goddamn crime, I assure you). On the other hand, I still betray some of her privacy with articles like this one. I tell myself it's ok because there is literally no social connection between us. No public photos exist where we are seen together. No mutual friends are asked to pick sides.

Regardless, she has expressed immense loathing when I write about her and so I know that if she's reading this, she's probably all kinds of mad with me, the negative perception reinforced even deeper. And that is fair enough. But if these are your eyes, KL female girl, I want you to know that I am deeply regretful for my behaviour. I have an embarrassing history of malfunctioning when people I was once vibing with reject me and that is something I am aware of and working on. Unfortunately, this does you and me no good. The damage is done. I take the blame. I was hurt and I acted from that place of hurt and I was a dick for doing so. That said, I will continue on this mind timeline with the hope that one day we can patch things up and be good friends again because I am a huge fan of yours. We got along really well. I think we can get there.

Now that this section has reached the end of its emo trail, it's obvious why KL didn't return the most impressive scorecard. However, it's just as obvious that this had nothing to do with KL whatsoever. Because Kuala Lumpur still stands strong as one of the (or perhaps the?) most underrated city I’ve ever been to. The fact that people don't talk about it all the time is criminal and I am now doing my part to encourage tourism to that piece of the world because it's got a flow that brings me great peace. If there ever was a capital city to be miserable in, this could be the winner. I guess it's what that ancient prophet said once upon a time. You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find you get what you need. Oh, Mickey, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey!

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Petronas Towers from KLCC Park, KL Forest Eco Park, Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park, Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Museum Of Illusions.
(The above was lifted directly from Jarexit I, it's for the best)

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing (from Jarexit I)

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 8. New Delhi, India

8. New Delhi, India

Dates: 21 Sep 2019 - 5 Oct 2019
Accommodation: PODSTOP (21 Sep - 29 Sep 2019) [7.9/10]
Bunk Hostel Delhi (29 Sep - 5 Oct 2019) [3/10]

Having spent some time missioning around India with a bunch of mates in 2015, I figured I had a pretty decent grasp on the nation’s capital and I strolled in with confidence. No doubt about it, the next two weeks were going to be as smooth as floating upon a cloud. I pictured myself as some yogi guru who would make a pact with all of the gods, reaching a peak of spiritual calm that only the chosen Hindu people could achieve. I would balance a thousand plates upon my head! Brahman would accept me as its own! I would transcend my physical form! None of this happened.

It went more like this: Every morning I'd greet the day in excitement mode, rushing out the hostel doors to explore this world of potent smells, vibrant visuals and relentless buzzing noises. But the instant I stepped outside, a sledgehammer would pummel my face, my skull cracking down the middle, letting all sorts of stresses inside.

The utter chaos of this city remains unchallenged in my experience as a madness beyond realms of mortals, truly unlike anywhere else in the world. The car horns are like a thousand dicks deep throating your eardrums. The air pollution is so thick that you burn your eyes when you try to see through it. And the street plastic has conglomerated with the human faeces to create trash mountains that the cows love to eat right up, yum yum. It's a lot to take in. The poverty runs so deep that I was never sure if I stepped over a dead person or not. This would normally puncture my heart but you learn to build a shell of protection quick. You especially need to do this as a white person because the harassment is an evergrowing stack of bricks strapped to your back. Everyone wants to chat to you, they want to practice their English with you, they want you to buy their stuff, they want you to get into their taxi, they want to take a selfie with you whether you permit it or not. The people are friendly but are they? You’re never in danger but aren't you? The amount of times you say "no" in one day only ends once you stop saying it. I was shouting it.

And when you finally get back to your hostel, you crash facefirst into your pillow and your brain is upside down, filled with bees, and you swear you can’t survive another day in this sensory overload type of world.

It doesn't matter where I’ve been in my life. You name it, none of it is a speck of dirt in comparison to how gruelling this city is. It's like your spirit is being smothered by an energy turned up to 11 and I cursed myself for forgetting how much I had struggled with all of this last time, angry that I had come back to fight it again. But, as it turns out, I forgot something else too...

There's a curious charm that thrives in the noisy thick of New Delhi and it fuses itself to you. When you leave the kaleidoscopic rollercoaster that is India's capital, everything that comes next falls short. If it's not India, then it's too quiet, it's too easy, it's too boring. The unbearable intensity dries and crumbles out of your mind and you crave the dirt again. In its absence, bright vibrancy shines through the cracks and you recall how much fun you actually had. By Shiva, that was a powerful trip, man! The traffic alone is enough to make you a religious person because you pray for your life! Tinder works so well you become spoilt! And the affordability is absurd. Ubers cost a quid a pop. I had a 90p haircut at one point. I felt guilty about being British the whole time. In fact, I had one girl nearly walk out on a date because of my UK passport. Fair enough, historically speaking. Thankfully, I am a born South African otherwise she may not have fucked me that night.

Another strong flavour left on my tongue was the people I met during this stop. Partying at The Key was genuinely one of the best nightclub experiences of my life. Hey Sheen, wish we got to hang. Sup Jenny, you were a highlight. The Podstop hostel turned out to be a social goldmine and the crew from there still stand out as legends of the highest calibre; humans I'd gladly go out of my way to hang out with again. Shout-out to Eva, to Aneta, to Aakash, to Monty, to PJ and everyone else from that period, you peoples are inside of my mind permanently. Even more so, I extend a separate batch of love to Giacomo and Felix. You two dudes were the soundest of the sound and I properly enjoyed every single moment chilling with you brothers. I wish nothing but the best for both of your paths for the rest of all time.

I made a minor misjudgement when I moved to Bunk Hostel Delhi for my second week. I wanted a private room for some space to myself and it was fucked. An impenetrable language barrier, the noisiest street in India, my private toilet leaked liquid all over the floor. I tore them a new hole on, a review so vicious that they somehow managed to get it deleted from the website, a feat I did not even know was possible. Respect.

Speaking of impossibles, did you know that I am the only tourist from the whole Western world to spend two weeks in his city and not get Delhi Belly? It's true, look it up. Anyway, I wanna go back, I'm serious, let's go back.

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Lotus Temple, Agrasen ki Baoli, Raj Ghat Memorial, Jantar Mantar, The Siddh Hanuman Mandir

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 7. Glasgow, Scotland, UK

7. Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Dates: 27 July 2019 - 4 August 2019
Accommodation: Giulia's Home [N/A]

When the Jarexit II door was first opened, I didn't explode into the stratosphere like some may have done and, instead, I took the most cautious step out of London I could. This was to be an easy transition, one where I remained in the same country (the UK, even though it was England to Scotland), where everyone spoke the same language (English, even though the thick local accent meant most spoken words were indecipherable), and where the same legal tender was accepted (the Queen’s pound, even though the notes look completely different).

Hold up and let's rewind a decade or so before. This story starts with an online Italian friend of mine. We will call her Giulia because that is her name. We connected over a mutual adoration for Lily Allen and gradually interacted with one another across all social media platforms until we became real friends. This binary code manifested into reality around 2018, when we finally met in person at All Points East festival in London. We reached a mutual agreement that we were both probably ok and she said I could come and visit her in Glasgow one day. Big mistake, Giulia! As I went there and I killed her and then I stole all of her coffee.

The coffee part is true! As are many other lovely factors which I could collect into a long-verse poem and call it Giulia. She let me into her home, gave me a place to sleep, gave me her wifi password, fed me Marmite peanut butter, and then took time out of her busy life to show me around her city. And her city was cool! I mean, very wet and rainy, sure, but that did not deter my mission in the slightest. I was dedicated to the cause! And I spent every lunchtime and whatever other available hours I had to explore these naturally beautiful planes, running around graveyards, hunting down Oor Wullie statues, photographing renowned murals, attending improv shows, admiring famous artwork, eating deep-fried Mars Bars, drinking probably a bit much, and doing all sorts of other stuff, you wouldn't believe it.

But nothing compares to the mini-Trainspotting solo tour I mapped out all by myself. At least two days worth of adventure time was focused on visiting various spots from that classic film, which meant a lot to me. That movie, man. It shifted a fundamental part of my psyche when I watched it, probably because I was faaaar under the recommended age restriction when I did. It was an honour to breathe oxygen in those areas while contemplating giving up everything for heroin. I felt like a teenager all over again!

Looking at this overall list, Glasgow may not have scored high but I think the reasons are fair. One week wasn’t enough. The weather and I had some beef. The UK is as the UK does. But I did get to hang out with my long-running friend Kate and my newer long-running friend Dan and my newest friend of them all, Emma, a baby human that these two legends created. Woohoo! That was very nice. And, of course, there was Giulia. Sweet Giulia. Love of my life, Giulia. Future wife whether she likes it or not, Giulia.

Top Five Recommended Sights
Duke of Wellington Statue, Glasgow Necropolis, The University of Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Ashton Lane

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 (Trainspotting Tour) | Set 2 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 6. Barcelona/Madrid, Spain

6. Barcelona/Madrid, Spain

Dates: 24 Nov 2019 - 25 Dec 2019
Accommodation: Primavera Hostel (Barcelona, 24 Nov 2019 - 8 Dec 2019) [8/10]
Sweet BCN Youth Hostel (Barcelona, 8 Dec 2019 – 14 Dec 2019) [7/10]
Hotel Delicias (Zaragoza, 14 Dec 2019 - 15 Dec 2019) [6/10]
I Love Madrid Hostel (Madrid, 15 Dec 2019 - Wed 25 Dec 2019) [7/10]

My month-long stretch in Spain is a difficult one to summarise, stuffed to the breaking point with shimmering highlights and strenuous pitfalls, tales of love and loss, of pains and lessons, of blahs and blahs. In a fairer Jarexit world, the Barcelona-meets-Madrid city clash should have been split out into two separate chapters because the glue that joins them is nothing but a common country. Too late now, here we are.

Rushing right in and observing Barcelona, allow me to loudly state my undying love for this city. I love you, Barcelona! I adore this city so much that I've regularly referred to it as my “second home” without any regard to what my first home might be. It doesn't matter! What matters is that this was my 4th visit to this happy place and, in many ways, my favourite yet.

This elevation was owed, in part, to #ME. Over the last year of Jarexits, I had become an expert explorer, up there with the best, hence why I zipped along this familiar environment as if it was my first time, utilising sharper eyes to uncover an incredible amount of stuff I'd never discovered before. And these joyous findings united with the regular beaches and the religious establishments and the street buzz and the skyline views and the sunshine and the people (sup Alex, sup Carlos, sup Kate) until my problems evaporated and my previous adorations were reaffirmed. Oh, and Antoni Gaudi? The greatest architect that ever lived, surely. A firm fixture of the gawks. The Basílica de la Sagrada Família, my stomach. Oh, and the Montjuïc Cemetery? I’ve scuttled around graveyards all over the world but this was inarguably the craziest one.

There were even higher highs than these above examples. Crying as I watched Kate Tempest live for the first time was certainly one. The On The Rocks Pub Crawl was a goodie. Shout-out to the 8th of December 2019 where I celebrated my one year running with this nomadic lifestyle. I also have a note praising the 5th of December when Primavera Hostel fed us a free vegan meal and I spent an hour chatting to a beautiful Russian girl. Following that, my job (Pencilmation) was announced as the 3rd biggest content creator in 2019 according to YouTube Rewind and then a dorm mate I had never spoken to before handed me a Russian coin out of nowhere and said, "For memories". I feel so warm!

But as appreciated as these Mario Mushrooms were, the complete Barcelona game did not always go according to plan. In fact, when I make a list of the worst things that have happened to me during all of my Jarexit travels, the following story ranks in the top three.

To summarise for time-reasons: after a particularly inspiring day of blissful tourism, I happened upon a magical vegan grocery store at the end of the rainbow. I shredded wads of cash there then skipped home with a bag of goodies. I opted to cook happy burgers right away and separated the patties with a big sharp kitchen knife, promptly sliding the blade so deep into my left palm that is almost poked out the other side. My ring finger lost its entire sense of feeling immediately, I had obviously severed a nerve. The tiny wound flapped open like a vagina and, naturally, it began to bleed. I slapped the burgers onto the frying pan as I sucked on the hole and was then sickened to discover how much of my internal hand-meat had prolapsed out from the cut. My head spun and I knew I was about to faint so I rushed to my room and collapsed into my bed with one thought swirling around my befuddlement: those burgers are still cooking, brother. There's a fire hazard waiting to happen.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. Instead, I spent several hours wobbling around this Spanish terrain, visiting hospitals, conversing about their impossible waiting times and extortionate prices. My frugality and boredom ultimately conquered and I decided to risk it, doing nothing. For a week, the wound remained open and I couldn’t shake the trauma. My head played the VHS over and over. The city’s once flowery aura had turned dark and spoiled. One day in particular I couldn't get out bed I was so down. Thankfully, the injury did eventually heal up and, even though I am still lacking most of that finger’s sensation to this very day, I reflect upon this outcome with gratitude. Thank you, outcome. The number of ways this could have been worse is infinite.

Besides that gigantic hiccup and the fact that the Tories annihilated the 2019 United Kingdom general election (blah!), I think I was just mostly exhausted. Three Barcelona weeks came and went where I had slept in six-to-eight people rooms and I’d heard too many octaves of snores to be comfortable anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the two hostels I stayed at were each excellent in their own rights and I am still the undefeated adventure master. But travel fatigue is a real phenomenon and it was setting in fast. This wasn’t good because my Spain journey was only halfway done...

The next major stop was aimed towards the Spanish capital of Madrid but I decided to embark on a sneaky side manoeuver, tiptoeing through Borja and Zaragoza for one day and one sleeps. There was a singular reason for this and a singular reason only: I wanted to look at the Ecce Homo painting (i.e: Ecce Mono; Potato Jesus). This was the botched Christ art piece which had since become an internet sensation. The mere awareness of its existence had brought so much joy to my life already. I needed to scan its contents in HD!

Getting to this little fella was a different story (5 am Barcelona start, two-hour train to Zaragoza, 1-hour bus to Borja, 6km walk up a steep hill to the Sanctuary of Mercy church) but the smiling sun made for a pleasant trip and the cherry was oh-so-worth-it. The painting is just too funny. I was in hysterics for the rest of the day, I truly love myself for doing this for myself, it was a moment of immense pride. Perhaps even more amusing than the painting is how much tourism money this fuck-up is pumping into Borja’s economy, it's like nothing they've ever seen, truly a miracle from Jesus. Meanwhile, Borja itself was interesting enough in that derelict type of way. Although, with only a 5,000 population, it was eerily quiet and I felt like everyone knew I was there. Let's get out of here! I popped down to Zaragoza to crash out in a private room (finally!), spending only a few hours exploring this (much bigger) city. It was whirring with social activity and I was legit heartbroken to leave so soon. I half-swore I'd cover this place properly at a later date, so let me know if you're keen for that.

Such an exhilaratingly swift adventure done and Madrid finally landed my way. First time ever! And I hit it hard! Multiple spots every day, soaking my eyeballs in some truly magnificent landmarks and works of art. I had spent a fair share of my travel life in Spain but I realised I had been missing a trick. This fresh piece of the puzzle was exploding my skull out! These streets wanna party. I have it in writing that, at the time, I claimed that Madrid was better than Barcelona. Blasphemy! And not a fair statement at all! But the sentiment was made and it means more than I could express here. The cut in my hand healed up. I had a few drinks with my a-grade London pal Javier. My mana bubbled to the rim, fully replenished. I remembered who I was. I was the king.

This ego trip didn’t last. The time came to snip the fun and games to an early demise and hunch over my laptop to honour my self-imposed deadlines. You see, the end of December is always a challenging time of year for me because I have annual projects which require wrapping up. This means days upon days upon days of sitting in my cramped hostel, smashing my fists into my keyboard while everyone around me has the holiday of their life. But did they knock out an entire book titled The Top 250 Albums of the Decade? Or did they write an article which intricately picked apart every detail of the year named Dear 2019? No, they didn’t. Travelling is cool and all but work is my first love, so I look back on it without regrets. We do what we do. I clicked to publish the juices of my labour and then, on the loneliest Christmas day in history, I packed my bags and said goodbye to Spain, with my itinerary list only half satisfied. Something to do next time, I guess.

Jarexit II ended here as I flew to the Americas where the overall game levelled up big time. But that’s a different blog post...

Top Five Recommended Barcelona Sights
Basílica de la Sagrada Família, Montjuïc Cemetery, Park Güell, Cathedral of Barcelona, Bunkers of Carmel

Instagram Barcelona Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 (Montjuïc Cemetery) | Set 3 | Set 4 | Stabbing (Warning: Random Political Content) | Kate Tempest Review | One Year Jarexit Anniversary | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing (Barcelona)

Instagram Borja/Zaragoza Snaps
Ecce Homo Announcement | Set 1

Top Five Recommended Madrid Sights
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, The Iglesia de San Antonio de los Alemanes, Plaza de Salvador Dalí, Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (Retiro Park), Madrid Walk of Fame

Instagram Madrid Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing (Madrid)

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 5. Gold Coast, Australia

5. Gold Coast, Australia

Dates: 10 Nov 2019 - 23 Nov 2019
Accommodation: Ash's House [N/A]

After feeling like a pinball ricocheting around the craziest locations on the planet (Dubai to New Delhi to KL to Tokyo to Bangkok = deadly!), I had no choice but to desperately dive towards normality, a last-minute save that happened far too late if anything.

Gold Coast has never been claimed as the most action-orientated city in the great country of Australia and you might think this would work in its detriment. The fact that I had been here several months previous normally wouldn't work in its favour either. But this relaxing familiar vibe was everything I needed at that low point, offering various little prizes that most people tend to take for granted. Like friends. And not a hostel. And drinkable tap water. And English.

Wait! Our story truly starts during Jarext I where I ended that entire 6-month tour right here, the Gold Coast never considered a full-fledged chapter but rather a bonus stage after Melbourne. The purpose then was to spend a week with my long lost pal (and fellow Funpowder Plotter) Ash in his natural habitat. What I hadn't accounted for, was that I'd fall in love with the Gold Coast. Because I did. Because the Gold Coast is a fucking paradise set on chill mode. Because no other modes are available. I left with a frowny heart but, as I did so, Ash requested my return for his 40th birthday a few months later. And I said, don’t you worry, my friend. I will be there for that.

We are nothing if not the promises we keep and I fulfilled my brotherly duties right here, on the Jarexit II tour, landing during a substantially warmer season then promptly collapsing with a sickness worse than any I'd tasted during 2019. It makes sense too. No doubt my immune system had taken a beating due to the stress-induced panic that is known generally as Asia. So when my body recognised a safe place, it finally let go, surrendering to the filth and the foreign bacteria I’d exposed myself to over the last months. Not ideal but, also, ideal. If this had to happen, then so be it, this was the perfect place for it to happen in. The feeling of death watering your lungs is never going to be great but when you're on a beach, it's bearable. Glued to the couch from sweat is a pathetic feeling but when Ash hands me some homemade veggie food and a beer, I could hardly justify any self-pity, right? And, gradually, I became human again.

One of the most appreciated of feeding tubes was the one where I ate my friends. A delicious array of old school London peeps made an appearance, most notably Alan, Jock, and the legend Little Ash himself (no relation to larger Ash). Then there was this glorious line-up of newer Australian faces to the likes of Kez, Emily, Beks, Ken, and tons of others, everyone coming together for one reason only... to celebrate the big guy’s birthday. This was done properly, a Mad Max themed party which got reasonably out of control, without a doubt the hardest I've partied over this Jarexit (the competition wasn't high but whatevs). Sadly, the toxins in my system flared my diseases back to the forefront and I fell down sick again with a screaming headache but zero regrets. These are some amazing people, I felt honoured.

The rest of the trip was what truly made it. You'll probably remember the country was on fire around this time and the topic of unrest hung in the air just like the smoke in question. But it's difficult to stress when you're feeding a kangaroo, you know? There was loads of beer, loads of cake, and so much chilling on some of the most beautiful natural terrains I’d seen this year. We all need exercise and I run a lot no matter where I am. But the Palm Beach through Burleigh Head National Park to Burleigh Head Beach? That's my favourite trail in the world thus far. It heals me.

One particular moment I’ll never forget was sitting next to the Palm Beach lagoon beneath the scorching sun, craft tinnie in my hand, marvelling over the fundamentals of existence. I looked over to Little Ash and he looked back at me and we both shook our heads in disbelief. It was that inconceivably nice. Then Luci and I went and jumped off the bridge together into the water. Luci later deleted me off Facebook, which sucks, but what can you do? Anyways, Gold Coast! It melted away the mental gunk that relentless travelling seems to inevitably accumulate over time. I left rejuvenated with my batteries charged to the max, ready to move forward at an alarming speed which is not something I can say about anywhere else on this list, really.

This newfound stamina was more imperative than you'd think. I got on a plane and took a 28h50 flight to Spain which was made easier with a new idea I had just birthed. It went like this: when I'm old and I'm ready to die, the Gold Coast is where I'll live out my last days. It is that serene. It is the full-stop.

We did drink a fuckload though. I must make that abundantly clear.

Top Five Recommended Sights
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Palm Beach, Burleigh Head National Park, Burleigh Head Beach, Springbrook National Park (Jarexit I)

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing (Jarexit I)

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 4. Bucharest, Romania

4. Bucharest, Romania

Dates: 25 Aug 2019 - 7 Sep 2019
Accommodation: Motor House Unirii [7.5/10]

My decision to slide into Romania's DMs was born from strange and very sudden declarations of love from some of my most respectable travelling pals. Out of nowhere, this country was lauded as the place-to-be, do not miss it, and before I knew what I was doing, I'd purchased my flights to and accommodation inside of the nation's capital. My excitable announcement was met with a baseball bat of resistance. “No, don’t go to Bucharest! That’s not where the cool kids are! Never go to the capital city of anywhere!” Woah, what do you mean? I only go to capital cities! It’s where the best wifi is! And, anyway, it was too late, I'd already paid for everything. I made peace with my choice and pretended I was fine.

As is the nature of Worst to Best lists, the later in the game they appear, the better the time was. Here we find ourselves in the greater half so you already knew that Bucharest rocked my world. The reasons why are tougher to articulate but, my gosh, I will do my best over the next several paragraphs.

One hefty pull was the general prices. I've always welcomed travel stops that don't break the piggy. Beer was half the cost of London and I could afford a private room in a guesthouse. Both of these components are important. The room granted me the mental space to get a fuckton of work done and the workaholic gods were appeased by the sacrificed time. Meanwhile, those cheap beers served me well especially during Bucharest2Night, my favourite pub crawl from this Jarexit II timeline. And with cheeks filled with drunk, I vibrated along these streets, consumed by the wild nightlife that this city offers, a raucous buzz of social activity featuring (no exaggeration) some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, hand's down.

This little intoxicated excursion got me in a speck of bother too. That same night when I was stumbling home with Google Maps as my only ally, some wanker on bicycle attempted to snatch my phone away. He failed like a loser and then I called out to a pair locals passing by. They came to the rescue, instructing me to “run” as they restrained him, super legends. And run, I did! I was lost though so I was forced to continuously hide behind cars every time I heard his slow tires scraping down the street, dashing in the opposite direction once they'd panned away.

By some divine guidance (probably still Google Maps, I can't remember) I eventually found my hostel but I overshot it, my gate key somehow working in the neighbour's lock. When my housekey didn't fit the front door, I had just about bubbled into my limit and I was in a dramatic state. I tearfully phoned the landlord at 3 am but to no avail until I resigned to my fate and lay on the ground, hoping to get some sleep outside. At some point, I realised that I recognised nothing around me so I jumped the fence and fell, collapsing on the sidewalk, lying on the concrete for a few minutes, wallowing in this comedic moment of self-pity. I got up, dusted myself off, strolled two metres to the real gate, entered without a hitch and went to bed. I have never woken up so relieved that I somehow had all my stuff!

The rest of my sober days were spent exploring and, boy, does Bucharest have endless places to explore! I did something every lunchtime and often at the night too, yet I was unable to tick everything off of my list. I could ramble many highlights but one all-encompassing characteristic of Bucarest's appeal was the urban decay. It's unmatched as the best I have ever seen, my heart turned operatic. The sleek modern buildings standing so proud next to these smashed up dens that are crumbling before your eyes is a juxtaposition to the most glorious of orders. It's my favourite thing!

Another favourite thing was the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum which is a massive village of houses that nobody lives in, like a ghost town you can walk around and peer in windows without getting arrested. When I was there not another human was in sight which coated the atmosphere with an eerie blanket of solitude until I bumped into some sheep and I screamed. Maybe it was just my experience but even while I was in those moments, I was acutely aware that this was one of the best travel sites I had ever visited. I still consider it a peak point within every Jarexit ever.

Did I mention the weather was always above 30? So. Good. I ran a lot as a result.

Side note: as time has gone on I have started to associate Bucharest as the place where Ina lives. She is the human representative of the city, she owns it as far as I'm concerned. She is a girl I met very briefly and we became social media friends right there. Since then, we have seriously bonded over many topics and she is super nice to me, far more than I deserve. So, anyway, hi, Ina! You’re so great I would go back to Bucharest just to hang out with her (even though I was planning to go back anyway).

Oh, also, hello Anuita! You are super cool too! :D

The overall summary is that Bucharest solidified into that sweet central spot where everything just seemed to go well. My health was sturdy, my creativity was gushing, my social sack was mended, and the city itself kept on giving me what I wanted, day after day after night after day. It was the third stop on Jarexit II and before this, I was feeling very unsure of myself. My travel life seemed upside down, unsustainable, stupid. Had I made the right decision to resume rolling down the nomadic hill like this? Wasn't I too old to have ripped up all of life's responsibilities? Shouldn't I be establishing some roots rather than disappearing into the ether of global nothingness? Then Bucharest came along and was like, bro, wtf, it’s all good, keep on keeping on, this shit is fucking golden.

I also particularly enjoyed telling everyone from the first paragraph how mistaken they were. Bucharest is underrated and anyone who disses it did it wrong. In fact, I even went to the much-praised Brasov for a day to see what all the fuss was about and I wasn’t mad for it. And you know why? Because capital cities, man. That's where the glory is at.

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, Romanian Kitsch Museum, the Romanian Palace of Parliament, The Cișmigiu Garden, Palatul Adevărul

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 (incl Brasov) | Set 3 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 3. Florence/Pisa, Italy

3. Florence/Pisa, Italy

Dates: 4 Aug 2019 – 25 Aug 2019
Accommodation: Nirvana House Pisa (Pisa, 4 Aug – 17 Aug) [8.3/10]
My Friends (Florence, 17 Aug – 25 Aug) [7.1/10]

There is no way in any reasonable Universe that this Jarexit chapter should be placed this high up on my list. There were simply far too many glaring faults that nibbled at my legs during this leg and they all wore the same face. My face. It was me, I made mistakes.

The first and biggest mistake was Pisa itself. I prepared a sizeable list of things to do and then I happily skipped out into the wild, accidentally doing everything in a couple of hours. Oops! Nobody told me that Pisa was hardly a city! This was just a bunch of people gathered around a building! A building that is so shit it nearly fell over! Wtf! I seriously can't express this enough and anyone who has been here will tell you the same story: there is nothing to do in Pisa. And, what's more, I had already paid for two weeks of accommodation to do nothing in. D-to-the-fucking-'oh.

However, it must be said that this absence of activities almost maybe worked in the location’s favour. You see, I’m the type of guy who welcomes open hours to dedicate to his craft and, suddenly, I had ample of these hours do so with. I smashed my foot on the gas and made insane headway on my creative projects, zooming far ahead of schedule. Another helpful factor is that I had a super nice private room allowing me to lock the world away and keep my sneaky schemes to myself, hehehe.

Did I mention the Sun? Ah man, the Almighty Sun! Solid pal to me during this section of life, germinating energy within my cells and elbowing me to think outside of the box. Dig, motherfucker, dig! So I dug and unearthed some trippy areas to explore that most casual fans prancing through Pisa's streets may miss. I found a church which claimed ownership of a legit thorn from Jesus’ torture crown. I invented my own pub crawl which included a stop at a shot bar that boasts over 250 strange combinations. I braved the confusing transport to mission down to the charming city of Lucca for a day as well as Bagni Vittorio Emanuele beach another, drinking beers in a hammock watching the sunset. I also went on a walking tour which showed me everything I had already seen, except for one thing: a girl named Ella. She was a super cool person! She still is a super cool person, I imagine! After the tour, we went for vegan ice cream and chatted about how embarrassed we were about being Britsh, hahaha, omg, so embarrassed! The fact that she was 16 years my junior only made me feel a little bit old :(

In the end, total props to Pisa. The Leaning Tower is an undeniably exciting object to see with your own eyes (even if the daily flocking of tourism is insanely impenetrable!). The surrounding buildings may be overshadowed by their reject sibling but they're sick too, the inside of the Pisa Cathedral has its place inside of me. But once you've seen the tower almost every day for 14 days straight you do start to feel like you've been short-changed, you know? Hence why I completely skewed the wheel and decided not to jump the Italian ship just yet. I needed to get a better kick than this! And so, by following literally everyone’s advice, I jumped on a train and chugged my way to the nearby city of Florence.

Florence is the opposite bag with a seemingly infinite amount of historically important spots to check out. Except I had half the time to do it in. One week and one week only, baby! Not a second to waste! I quickly checked into a very cramped but otherwise lovely hostel and got to work immediately, my eyes on the mission, covering as much ground as humanely possible. And, as I do, I did well.

It would be impossible to name everything I achieved here but it'd be blasphemous if I didn't name-drop the Florence Cathedral Square as a location that sucked my breath away. The depth of detail in those architectural masterpieces stuck, carving their name into my heart. No matter where I was going that day, I always gravitated towards that special area first. My mind was also drowned by the bottomless amount of groundbreaking artworks I paid respects to (Michelangelo's David comes to mind, as does Botticelli's The Birth Of Venus) not to mention but to mention the gravesites that rested some of the greatest minds in history (Michelangelo and Galileo are all actually, but still).

On a personal note, my headspace wasn’t its usual cheery self here and I did struggle to connect with anyone on my level despite my best efforts (although, respect Leah, she was the friendliest face Florence had to offer!). Furthermore, I was gutted at how much everything cost! Quite a hefty sum of money for whatever you wanted to do and no two worthwhile things were in the same place. But! But the magic of Florence cuts through all of that and, on a city basis alone, it floored me with its culture and general superior vibrations. This place is truly in a league elsewhere. My artistic inspiration grew so large that it looped on itself and I suddenly knew I was a rubbish artist again. That's an impressive amount of emotion in one motion.

If you count the two weeks in Rome from Jarexit I, a total of five weeks was spent in Italy over 2019. These days were of such a strong quality that they conspired together until I found myself accidentally labelling this as my favourite country to visit in the world thus far. This is still the case. There is something here that whacks everything out of the picture but I’m unsure what it is? The greatest art/artists/architecture in the world? The strong history? The best cuisine the world has ever tasted? Yes yes yes. All of these factors make Jared a swell boy and that's why I'll forever have a plan to go back to this land “very soon”.

Top Five Recommended Pisa Sights
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Cattedrale di Pisa, The Santa Chiara Church (feat. Jesus Thorn), Keith Haring Mural, Chupiteria Shot Bar

Instagram Pisa Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Summary Shot

Top Five Recommended Florence Sights
Florence Cathedral Square, Uffizi Gallery, Michaelangelo's David, The Basilica di Santa Croce, Giardino delle rose

Instagram Madrid Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dates: 7 Sep 2019 – 21 Sep 2019
Accommodation: Top Dubai Apartment (7 Sep – 18 Sep) [8.3/10]
Leva Hotel and Suites, Mazaya Centre (18 Sep – 21 Sep) [7.9/10]

The more you read my blogs, the deeper you’ll understand how much of a big fat fucking loser I am. Just kidding! I’m not fat :( Do me a favour and stop reading my blogs.

Classic story: my trip to Dubai was because of... a girl! She lives there told me I should come on over. I knew her from High School, 16 odd something years ago and back way when I was crushing on her something fierce! Our communication had been minimal since that point but then, suddenly, there she was, on my Whatsapp screen, saying cool stuff that was by no means explicit enough to guarantee a good time, but just the right amount of liquid to spring my male brain into action. Right! Let’s go to Dubai then!

Of course, the moment I landed, she ghosted me, and I haven’t heard from her since.

This was annoying to no end because I never had any interest in this city whatsoever. Stuff weirded me out about it. Certain laws were set in a past world. The type of people who came here were usually business-orientated, seeking sneaky tax breaks. It’s also worth noting that this one guy I know was very vocal about how immoral it is to visit Dubai after I had already visited. This is due to certain structures reportedly built with slave hands and that really messed with my moral mind too. But if you can take a deep breath and ignore these unpleasantries and ignore how intensely they searched me upon arrival and ignore how on edge I felt for the first several days... Dubai ultimately popped my brain, increasing my knowledge on just how uniquely trippy a city can be.

Even as a concept, Dubai is weird. It may look like a city with all the city parts but the weather won't let you forget that you are in a desert. Especially if you go during the months I went, or so I hear. The borderline 40-degree heat was the name of the game every single day which I loved because I am a creature of the Sun, gimme gimme. Still, this environment is unignorably inhabitable by human beings, hence why an ocean of money had to be pumped into the place just to get it functioning. And it shows. The level of artificialness is a loud factor that puts a lot of people off but, damn, when you look at that skyline at night? Every sci-fi film you’ve ever loved brightens up before your eyes, stretching all the way up to the heavens. Because those buildings are tall, buddy.

In fact, that’s the craziest characteristic of Dubai. The buildings have to be the tallest (and one of them is the tallest tallest). Everything you see forever appears to be suffixed with “in the world”. No matter what it is, it’s the biggest, longest, heaviest, fastest, loudest whatever the fuck in the world. Its entire purpose is to be this record-breaking monster which just screams excess excess excess, the stink of wealth gleaming from every one of its pores. It is so utterly insane that I spent most days in hysterics as I tried to work out what was going on. And best of all, the sheer extravagance of it all meant that I couldn’t afford to do anything. No drink, no cabs, no restaurants, nothing. And so, somehow, I saved a bunch of money just by being here. Go figure.

I also lucked out socially. Tinder girls loved me even though most of them turned out to be hookers. Saily was one of the non-hookers and we got along straight away, she's hilarious and we continue to Like each other's Instagram posts to this very day. I also stayed in a highly impressive hostel (Top Dubai Apartment), emphasis on highly as it's the fourth tallest residential structure in the world, blessing us with a dizzying view of Palm Jumeirah, the largest artificial island in the world. Here, a rotation of interesting cats kept shaking my mind with their lives and I was deep into it. A whole ton of love to SuPing from China, she's a genuine human that has made my life that much better, we've kept in touch. I also met this gorgeous American girl but we forgot to exchange details and that has haunted me ever since. There was a big lesson there. Finally, high-fives all around to Denise, to Ashu, and to Mahlet. Together, we were the crew who went 4X4 dune bashing over endless desert landscapes then rode impoverished camels before eating food in front of a belly dancer. That was a crazy night!

Here’s what it comes down to: when you travel a lot of Europe, the differences can be similar and sometimes it takes a moment for your memory to retrieve which file came from where. With Dubai, every moment was so unmistakably itself, an Arabian sci-fi hallucination, where there was never any question where I was. I was in the freaking future! And, as it stands, no city has managed to 180 my opinion as expertly as this one. I was wrong and I am sorry. Dubai is sick.

It’s a good thing too because at least I’m not mad at that girl who invited me to come over. How could I be? I am grateful! It’s as if her entire existence in my life was to lure me into this experience and, even if she wasn’t part of it, I thank her for the idea. Thank you for the idea!

Top Five Recommended Sights
Burj Khalifa, Jumeirah Beach, View of the Palm Jumeirah, the Dubai Mall, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit II: 1. Tokyo, Japan

1. Tokyo, Japan

Dates: 13 Oct - 2 Nov 2019
Accomodation: obi Hostel (13 Oct - 19 Oct 2019) [7/10]
Khaosan Tokyo Origami (19 Oct - 26 Oct 2019) [8.3/10]
HopStepInn (26 Oct - 2 Nov 2019) [6/10]

Plot reveal: the string that ran down the centre of Jarexit II was a guide rope of baby steps, each notch pulling me across the planet until I ultimately arrived at the key destination of Tokyo for my birthday. I made it! Now, I know what you’re wondering... why Tokyo?? Just kidding, no one was wondering that. It’s, like, everyone’s dream to go to Tokyo, as it was mine, hence the plan. I’m a city boi after all and as far as cities go, you’re not going to find a level like this anywhere else on this floating rock of ours. Hence why, when the plane touched down, the excitement made a whistling noise through my teeth and my pupils expanded in response.

What I didn’t tell anyone is that I absolutely hated it. As a self-centred privileged Westernised white prick, I expected some level of English to assist me through my touristic ways. But within minutes of attempting to navigate this land, it became swiftly obvious that I was not going to be cared for. I had become so used to harnessing this exotic flavour of mine in Asia that I was hurt that no one in Japan gave a shit about me. The citizens were polite, sure. Excessively so. But there was this thin aura of superiority where they looked down on me, the caucasian visitor, responsible for all that was wrong in the world. They wouldn't be wrong either.

It got worse. My wires completely crisscrossed because I thought I knew how big cities function. I’m trained in the arts! But this one was set up wrong. Every single minute detail was just slightly different to anywhere I'd ever seen before. It was the first world to the cutting edge but none of it worked in the same fashion that I was used to. Everything was too expensive. Vegetarianism wasn’t communicatable. Tinder was on the hardest setting. The streets were packed with people but they were deadly quiet. And slowly, my mind shrunk inwards and I felt isolated within my own skull. Omg, this was not how this was supposed to be! And I had three weeks left of this! Buddha, help me, please!

Annoying how Worst to Best lists work because, spoiler no spoiler, it got better. Like, immeasurably better. I started to grasp the system. I simply had to click myself a little to the left then let go, allowing the ride to begin. All those confusing quirks turned out to be advancements. Every toilet, every train, every wifi connection operated on a greater plane. I became a cartoon character in a cartoon world and it was hysterical, high def technicolour of robotic surrealism, the package I’d imagined except real without being too real, an illusion of hyper-cuteness. Maybe the locals didn't appear to like me too much, but I liked them. Their fashion sense was cavity-inducing. Their language was like a thousand tiny daggers slicing up my ears in fast forward. And the general standard of female appearance was a tumbling line of heartbreak, a domino of yearning pain per every step. That part never got easier.

My birthday came and went and even though I was all alone, this solo celebration was one for the books (side shout-out to the girls who sent me birthday photos, y'all lit my smile all the way up). I set out with a magnifying glass to explore every corner that this peculiar city had hidden away, injecting the folds of my brain with quick setting jello, causing permanent damage. Or maybe that was the alcohol during the impressive Tokyo Pub Crawl party? Or maybe that was the alcohol my colleague/friend Greg fed me? Or maybe that was the alcohol my former colleague/still friend Bertan fed me too? Whatever, thanks, dudes! My little sister also joined the madness during the last week and it was here that I learned a valuable lesson: the racing-paced travel program I have developed since Jarexit I is not suited for everyone. Our energies didn’t match on the same playing field and we were forced to salvage our separate holidays by following our own paths. It's a shame but one can't blame Tokyo for sibling oppositions. Because Tokyo was all that, each and every day rammed with a frantic rush to fill my backpack with unusual crumbs until I could piece together some sort of a distorted picture of what was actually going on here, so much so that it’s tricky to identify a single event that stands above another. Well, except for one one...

I must confess to you, my readers, that I have been a little less than honest in pretending I was touring Tokyo for my birthday. Yes, this was the dream location, and yes, I was stoked to turn 35 here. But this was just a happy organisational opportunity. What really set this trip in motion was a girl I met randomly at a party two years back and, believe it or not, this wasn't even a romantic story. Truthfully, I never got her name. I wouldn’t recognise her if I passed her on the street. But some people's roles in our lives revolve around different properties and this was one of those. During a conversation that my memory has since deleted, she looked me in the eyes and said, “You have to go to Tokyo for Halloween, it’s like nothing on Earth”. I decided right then that I had to do that. And so here I was. Doing it. And she wasn't wrong. I'm not even going to try to explain this to you. Google "Shibuya Station Halloween". It’s not a normal experience. It’s the craziest shit I’ve ever seen in my life.

One other quick trippy coincidence was that the 2019 Rugby World Cup took place in Tokyo while I was here. What's more, the finals were played between my birth home of South Africa and my home home of England. Cool! I couldn't lose! South Africa won and I was happy about that, for sure. 

Anyways, sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Tokyo came to an end. But I was a changed man, man! I was bowing at everyone, at dogs, at fridges. My mind was fueled to the max on rice and it repeated what I had to do, over and over again. I had to marry a Tokyo girl. That way I could stay here forever. I can’t emphasise this enough: the decision had been made. There was something in this city and whatever it was made a wordless pact with me. There was not an atom in my being which wanted to live anywhere else and I started to make plans. Plan one: learn Japanese! 

I’ve chilled a bit now but vibes that vibe that strong don’t simply fizzle out. Tokyo was a life highlight, the Jarexit II focal point, and, as we stand, still the ultimate goal. Mark my words, I will go back there again as soon as I can, except this time with a greater understanding, a more focused itinerary, and a much longer time period to allow myself to sink into the culture like warm noodle soup, melting away to become the very best Jared I can be. Tokyo Jared.

Top Five Recommended Sights
Akihabara, Takeshita Street in Harajuku, The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, TeamLab Borderless, Shibuya Station (during Halloween!)

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 | Set 4 | Set 5 | Set 6 (TeamLab Exclusive) | Set 7 (Halloween Exclusive) | Set 8 (Halloween Solo Shot) | Summary Shot

Monstrocity Drawing

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Worst to Best: Jarexit

Worst to Best: Jarexit, my travels across the world

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

During our great year of 2018, the Astroturf Wizard of Algoraz visited me threefold. With each appearance, he wielded his conscious spork with great vigour and smashed a chain attached to a limb, announcing a new form of liberation per every strike. First, the constraints of a fixed financial location were shattered, no longer forced to suckle at a master's teet wherever they wished to lay, for now, my professional avenue had been blessed with wings, allowing me to reap the fruits of my labour anywhere that the Wifi Gods spun the sky. The next chain to go was the alcoholic mistress and her nagging cackles placing curses upon my shoulders which not only clogged my love arteries but also raped my wallet for any which gold it may contain⁠, now lifted from any future story forever. And, finally, the bounds of a lease were eradicated, my binding signature on that lawful scroll finally expiring, meaning that, for the first time in my life, I, was, well, and, truly, free.

And so I yanked out my trusty map and then I tore it to little shreds. I flipped a three-sided Smanko coin, I scanned Skyscanner for the cheapest flights and then I fucked right off using my middle fingers as paddles. There's nothing wankier than a circle of digital nomads massaging each other's shoulders about their digitally nomadism, but that's what they started calling me and I am far too busy to argue. Instead, I somersaulted from land to land using nothing but sheer determination, the Queen's money, and aeroplanes, ultimately visiting 14 cities in 10 countries in four continents in six months (and one day). And even though I have ample documentation which proves the trip took place (all photos included are my own, btfw), this story is already fading into the back of my memory like a hazy dream which never happened. Ah yes, the poison of Serosamu's brain flaps are always flaring up around this time of year.

Hence the purpose behind this blog. To hold my memory eggs close. And to show off, look at me, look at me. But mostly the eggs thing, I think. But wait! There's more! This report can also work as a wonderful resource for you! If you so ever wish to visit one of the countries below, seek this list and you shall find anything from my ratings of local hostels to my thoughts on their pub crawls and even my main tourist recommendations slapped at the end. Oh, and on the off-chance that our adventure paths crossed swords along this road, then don't be surprised if you find your name lurking within these lines. Although then again, there's also a huge chance I completely forgot about you, in which case, I bow my head and apologise without any idea who you are, sozlul. Get in touch and you shall magically appear.

You know, I was planning to write a brief intro and now look what you made me do. Here's the Worst to Best of Jarexit:

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 10. Cape Town, South Africa

10. Cape Town, South Africa

Dates: 17 Feb 19 - 23 March 19
Accomodation: Family [N/A]

Talk about an unfair positioning, Cape Town came into the game with a slew of crippling speedbumps, far too disadvantaged to compete in the same weight group as every other stop on the Jarexit tour.

The primary problem is that I know Cape Town like the back of my hand because the back of my hand has spent over a decade living in the area, meaning that there isn't too much of this place that I haven't seen already. My mind has conversed with various other minds about this curious problem, and many agree that the anticipated welcoming sense of finally coming home isn't necessarily a given, and instead, the extended absence can actually work against its flavour. Regions generally don't change as fast as people do, and when people stay in the same place for too long, their pace tends to stagnate and mimic their immediate environment. Which is to say that while my last 10 years have been exposed to so many scary edges of the world, Cape Town has stayed largely the same except for less water (there has been a severe drought plaguing the city for the last few years with Day Zero threatening the headlines on numerous occasions), less electricity (some days we experienced six hours with no power which is impossible for someone who works from home), and more violent crime (we're currently 15th highest in the world!). To make it even worse, Capetonians are so chilled that they just keep on smiling, shrugging, "That's Africa for you!" while my soft pale British centre is screaming in panic, "Can't you see how fucked this is?!".

Shit gets worse on a personal level. You see, when I moved to London, I could forget my previous life and become a fresh me because nobody knew who I once was. Fake it 'til you make it, yeah? And eventually, I became the guy I wanted to be simply because I was no longer burdened by the mistakes of adolescence that we all carry (especially because those tumultuous years predated the infinite recordings of social media). But in Cape Town? People remember that version of me and then I look into their eyes and I remember it too. Oh no, it's you! I begin to shrink into a shell I thought I'd shed and I revert back to that beta Jared I despise, pining over ex-girlfriends who haunt every corner of this miserable metropolitan while I cry to my mommy and my daddy for help. Wash my stuff! Buy me clothes! Give me a lift! Feeeeed meeeeee! And as we go on, these dusty grooves are carved out stronger, the ailment only worsening over time, which isn't great when I ended up staying here for a month and a week. The longest Jarexit stay of them all! Too long!

Of course, at the end of the day, forget everything I just said, I actually had an excellent time. You'd struggle to find a city as gorgeous as this one and the fact that nobody but my sister knew I was coming provided us with some very unique footage. Speaking of which, my whole family went above and beyond to show me a good time, and that they did, with plenty of healthy hikes among the beauty of Cape Town's endless nature, and plenty of unhealthy car crashes following at the pub. One of the most testing aspects of solo travelling is the loneliness, and there was none of that here (unfortunately no shout-out list this round, there are too many of you!). Another one of the most testing aspects of solo travelling Europe specifically is the lack of vitamin D, of which there was no problem here, the sun was fucking cooking! And, finally, due to the free accommodation, the dinners provided by parentals, and the general depth of the rand, this stay proved to be an essential buffering period for the finances, providing me with a full house of rejuvenation, ready to march on with stamina in my step and a belly full of Pronutro. Did I mention I saw The Cure live here? I did!

Top Five Recommended Sights
Top of Table Mountain, The Bo-Kaap, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Top of Lion's Head (sunrise hike!), Boulders Beach.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 (Table Mountain exclusive) | Set 3

Definitely Not a Cry For Help, Chapter Seven: Cape Town
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Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 09. Da Nang, Vietnam

09. Da Nang, Vietnam

Dates: 23 Apr 19 - 4 May 19
Accomodation: Motel Alex [7.9/10]

This tale begins with a Facebook friend I'd never met named Danny who, upon witnessing my adventures online, enjoyed regularly commenting that I better come visit him in Da Nang, "Or else!" (he didn't actually say that, but he was fairly adamant). I often explained how unlikely this turn would be, as I was trying to touchdown in capital cities for the most part and also, what the fuck is in Da Nang?

Then Thailand happened and my bank account was in tears which was when I noticed that Da Nang was not only a super cheap flight away but it was also a super cheap place to go in general. And that was enough reasoning for me! Let's go to Da Nang!

A lot of people that I've spoken to who have visited this city tell me they weren't impressed with it, but I am here to stand by Da Nang's worth and emphasise that this low positioning on my list has very little to do with the region itself. There are a surprising amount of sights to see, most of which combine natural wonders with man-made elements so harmoniously that I'm not sure I've seen such an impressive execution like this before. What's more, there is a fantastic community vibe wherever you go, everyone relatively friendly, albeit unable to communicate due to the language barrier and often staring at your hair because you're the first white person they've seen in weeks (although my nosering may have played a role). Even more cool stuff includes the Wifi which was strong and abundant (better than most first world countries), the currency which is called dong, and the exchange rate which translated deliciously in my favour. I was a fucking millionaire!

But shit went wrong. A lot of shit, all at once. I suffered from heat exhaustion which is way more intense than people give it credit for. I got into various large online arguments about spoilers. I broke my luggage wheel beyond usability. And I smashed my MacBook's screen beyond visibility (which, btw, I managed to get fixed within hours on a Sunday so props to those ninjas!). Couple this with the fact that I often spent hours in anxious tears trying to locate any vegetarian food whatsoever, resorting to cheese on bread more than I'd like to admit, and it's kinda easy to see why I fell into the darkest pit of my entire travels, a five-day uninterrupted onslaught of depression, feeling so alone (no pub crawls exist here!) and praying to just go back home to London. However, as I have noted before, who's to say this wouldn't have happened anywhere else in the world anyway? My depression is like clockwork. So predictable. Certainly hormonal.

Oh, and I did meet Danny in the end. Nice guy, which is always a relief.

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Dragon Bridge, My Khe Beach, Bà Nà Hills, Am Phu Cave, Sơn Trà Mountain.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 08. Berlin, Germany

08. Berlin, Germany

Dates: 22 Dec 18 - 5 Jan 19
Accomodation: Happy Go Lucky Hotel + Hostel [6.3/10]

Much like Cape Town, the odds were shamefully stacked against Berlin. For, you see, this narrative truly begins in 2016 for my birthday, where myself and like 10 of my bestest mates visited the area for the first time and we were all awestruck by what we found. That's a different story entirely, but let it be known that when I left, I was announcing to the world that Berlin this was the greatest city in the whole wide world wide web, hence why I was soooo excited to go back despite my acute awareness that it had impossibly stretched stockings to fill.

In what I thought was a clever attempt to recapture that magic, I booked myself into a super sociable hostel, claiming one single bed in an eight-person dorm. As this was over the Christmas and New Years period, I had visions of making brand new lifelong friends and exploring Berlin's endless party scene with them until I fell in love with someone and got married and never left, sorted.

What happened instead was an endless revolving door of revolting people coming and going, zero connections made while a choir of snores extended my bedtime and frequent early morning arguments woke me up at ungodly hours with a frown. The streets were also explosively loud as one would imagine considering the time of year. What's worse is that this hostel had no kitchen, only one tiny designated fridge space per person (for a price) and an extortionate breakfast buffet if you needed sustenance. I had resorted to stashing bread rolls beneath my bed and slapping some cheese on them until they went stale, then replacing them to start the cycle again. Even decent restaurants and grocery stores were hard to come by because everyone was on holiday while almost NOWHERE accepts cards, it's ridiculous. So if you do the maths, my sleeping cycle was shot, my diet was void of any nutritional value, and while I was out and about, it also rained constantly, leaving my general arsenal fairly depleted throughout.

This journey of hiccups came to a grand climax when, on the 2nd of January 2019, some asshole stole my iPhone from right next to my sleeping head. Talk about a painful comedown, I woke up with a sinking feeling of violation and then I had to go to the fucking cop station to make a report, cowering beneath two scary officers who spoke a very rudimentary form of English. It was agonising.

But with low lows come high highs, right? Right! And if we can ignore the hostel, Berlin itself still delivered as a city shouting with culture and awkward historical landmarks which changed the world. What's more, the (anti-)pub crawl I embarked on was loads of fun until we went to that absinthe bar and I lost everyone moments before I vanished off the face of the planet into a blank sea of green. Even better, New Years was off the fucking hook! My solid mate Brothers magically appeared out of nowhere and invited me to a small yet deborturous house party where I met Tim, Anne, and Martin, all of whom are legends and, by the end of everything, are now solid mates too. We watched the 360 fireworks from their rooftop which was about as insane as my racing heart could handle and then we spent the next day winding down at a giant spa where I saw roughly a thousand people naked (and spent roughly a thousand euros). That was one for the books.

I left Berlin battered and humbled, swiftly reminded that I was a little boy in a big world and life would fuck me up at any time if it so chose to. Alright, you win! Peace! Peace!!!

Top Five Recommended Sights
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, The Brandenburg Gate, The East Side Gallery, Nico's Grave, Alter St-Matthäus-Kirchhof cemetery.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2

Definitely Not a Cry For Help, Chapter Three: Berlin
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Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 07. Athens, Greece

07. Athens, Greece

Dates: 2 Feb 19 - 16 Feb 19
Accomodation: Athens Private Room [9.6/10]

You may start to notice a pattern when it comes to the lower section of my Jarexit catalogue, and that is this: if I've visited the country before, it tends to score lower. This is for obvious reasons. The sucker-punch of brand new sights and unique cultures is softened by memory foam, the overall wow-ness diluted as one retraces their steps rather than gazing at the world with a fresh batch of dribble decorating the chin. Athens had this problem, as I'd previously visited the region in 2012 with my then-girlfriend. This was her hometown which made it even worse because everything reminded me of her, yuck! Haha just kidding, hi, Lizzie.

With that out of the way, there was nothing not to love about this city and everything actually went smashingly well. Certainly, there weren't that many things to look at (I had to limit my sightseeing to one location per day just to stretch my time out) but the main attractions are so undeniably monumental that they do rise above pretty much anywhere else in the world in that "historic value" type of plain. It's impossible to avoid some sort of a funny feeling when you see shit like that. There were also plenty of other little spices which I adore about this location, for example, how the city is slowly crumbling all around you, how the abundance of street cats watch you from their peripheral vision, how Greek people do not give a fuck about anything AT ALL, how basically the first sunshine of 2019 hit my face here, and how the pub crawl I went on was a ton of fun (hello to everyone I met from that event, namely Hesam, Shabnam, and especially Jessica and Kathi who were kind enough to have drinks with me the next day. An extra happy point to Maria, thanks for showing us around!). And yet... somehow, above even all of these highlights, was my accommodation itself, as undoubtedly the most comfortable room of my entire trip. I felt like I was at home right away and I rated it higher on than anywhere else. I could live there, easy. Also, this is the perfect junction to say hello to Max. Hello, Max.

Athens always had the impossible task of following up Rome, which nothing had the power to conquer. But, by the end, it had won over a very special place in the greater puzzle of my tour. I owe a lot of this to my intended slower pace which made for a much calmer experience and, weirdly, the time flew by way fast, concluding with an element of sadness, apprehensive to leave, which was a first by this point.

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Acropolis of Athens obvz, Gazi (for nightlife), Mount Lycabettus, First Cemetery of Athens, Pittaki Street (and the surrounding areas).

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Cribs video

Definitely Not a Cry For Help, Chapter Six: Athens
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Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 06. Copenhagen, Denmark

06. Copenhagen, Denmark

Dates: 8 Dec 18 - 22 Dec 18
Accomodation: Guesthouse Copenhagen [6.7/10]

Copenhagen has set up a special little hut in my guts as the very first stop on my Jarexit journey. I feel like I was but a small child at this point, uncertain if my plan was even going to work, fumbling through life with my palms stretched out and a bottle hanging from my teeth, eager to step forward but also anticipating a face-first tumble, knocking the dominoes as I did so until they all fall down.

Thankfully, this city was a massive success and worked to stack upon my confidence while setting the fun-bar nice and high. I mean, I could have done without the expensiveness of this place, but it truly felt like a "you get what you pay for" type of scenario, where there was a certain type of magic here that even money couldn't buy (especially because Christmas was just around the corner, and their associated holiday markets are world renowned!). The sharp bites from the freezing air further added to this festive experience, keeping your mind on high alert as the surrounding visuals radiated with vibrant colours, granting ample breathing room due to the vast serene water landscapes which surround everything, with hardly any litter or poverty to block your fantasy skip. A-grade statue game too! I dunno, it just seemed that the quality of life here was super easy. Everyone was happy. Nobody was apprehensive to speak (a first-language level of) English to me. There was a lot of smiling shared between me and strangers, and it didn't even freak me out.

Considering that this was a big step towards the ultimate independence, it's surprising that some of my main highlights were actually of a social nature. On my first night, I met up with some old workmates who had no idea I was coming, and I then later attended the best pub crawl from the whole journey. I developed three particularly potent friendships during that event (namely Athena, Michelle, and Tristen, hi!) and these dudes were legends! Very friendly, welcoming me into their circle of trust, then inviting me to spend the whole next day with them, exploring this pretty city while comparing our hangovers. With a bit of luck, friends for life! Oh, and hey Katie!

I want to end with the Danish word called "hygge". I'm unsure how to pronounce it, but it means "quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being". There is no direct English equivalent of this word because its very definition is unique to this country's lifestyle. It's something I wouldn't have understood unless I had experienced it myself, but I have, and I do. Ok, but here's an English word for you: "Go!". As in, "Go to Copenhagen, it's rad".

Top Five Recommended Sights
Superkilen, Nyhavn, Freetown Christiania, the top of The Rundetaarn, The Little Mermaid statue.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2

Definitely Not a Cry For Help, Chapter Two: Copenhagen
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Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 05. Melbourne, Australia

05. Melbourne, Australia

Dates: 18 May 19 - 1 Jun 19 (9 Jun Aus extended)
Accomodation: Hub Hostel (8.8/10)
Gold Coast Acc: Ash's House (N/A)

Australia was placed in a precarious position before I'd even washed up on their shores, purely because it was specifically chosen to be the grand finale of my six-month tour. And as it sits here, slap-in-the-middle of my lineup, it doesn't take a genie to calculate that it delivered on some fronts, yet fell short on others.

My main complaint about Melbourne (and Australia as a whole) is that it's lacking a certain historical flavour and ingrained culture which my tummy craves. I mean, there are pubs in England which are a hundred years older than this entire city. Hence why, due to this newborn freshness, it does feel a little characterless, and my brain tended to completely switch off during my explorations, not a threatening thought to be found. I can't even count the number of occasions I awoke, standing on the side of the road, waiting endlessly for the man to turn green, and I'd ask myself... wait, where the fuck am I? This place looks like literally anywhere! I have no idea what country I'm in right now! This happened a lot. What's more, it was their winter, and I was suddenly cold for the first time in over four months. Badly timed.

However, these are insignificant complaints when you consider this as a nation who are undeniably the most chilled out people that I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a space with. Everything functions, there is a lot to see (and I saw a lot!), and the overall quality of existence is so pleasurable that's it's kinda ridiculous that the British sent the convicts here. They should have come themselves! Leave the convicts in the snow! Too late now. Anyway, the vein of social activity also pulsated particularly strong in this region as I met up with old friends (all the love in the world to Soph and Hannah, you mah girls!!!), met up with new friends I'd never met before (shout-out to Greg and Cam, Pencilmation represent!) and my hostel was buzzing with life as one of the coolest accommodations I'd ever stayed in. The pub crawl was also decent even though I didn't chat to anyone except for Hannah. Furthermore (and this might sound a bit gross and Western-y), but after the lengthy South East Asia excursion, it was a relief to converse in English to literally everyone! And drinking water directly from the tap? What a treat!

Admittedly, Melbourne should actually be a bit lower on this list, but it was bumped up due to its sneaky little side step where I slid off to visit my top-shelf mate (and fellow Funpowder Plotter) Ash in the Gold Coast. And this place was waaaaay superior! It was like LA with its endless beaches and plastic people and sunshiny weather. In fact, it was still winter over there yet it was miles warmer than London's average summer, hence why I laughed as I went for a run in the heat whilst the locals freaked out about how it was "the coldest June on record". Furthermore, my last day was an ending so perfect that I couldn't have written it myself, as we hiked through a rain forest near Kez's place followed by some surfing then a meal with another long-lost mate, Al. Such a great send-off to conclude my entire Jarexit tale, my one and only regret being that I didn't stay longer. Too easy, mate! Toooooo easy.

Top Five Recommended Sights
Melbourne Museum, State Library Victoria, the fruit bats of Yarra Bend Park (go at dusk!), The National Gallery of Victoria, AC/DC Lane.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 | Set 4 (Gold Coast exclusive)

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 04. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

04. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Dates: 04 May 19 - 18 May 19
Accomodation: i-Heritage [6.7/10]

The very fact that I was going to Kuala Lumpur showed little more than the reflection of a man who had given up completely. As the second-to-last country on my journey, I no longer cared where I was going because (after Vietnam) I simply wanted to get this over with and go home and curl into a ball and die in front of Mother Netflix. Literally, the only reason I chose KL was that the final destination of Australia became closer, meaning cheaper flights. That. Was. It. I remember even thinking to myself, "Ok, this is going to suck, it's going to be a tough two weeks, but if we can just get through it, then we'll be in Australia and everything will be ok again".

In the end, it was these very fatigued preconceptions which worked massively in this city's favour as I was caught staggering off guard by its proper city city vibes, so much so that it reminded me of London in various obscure aspects. So many different cultures and religions were mixed up together yet everyone speaks English because they learn it in school by law (a clever government tactic to encourage tourism growth). Plus the place simply works, I even managed to get my luggage wheel fixed here for free! In that same consumerism type of way, a visit like this is less about fancy landmarks you've heard of or sightseeing touristy adventures for the whole family, but rather more about the living breathing city itself, vibrating from an indescribable feeling while hiding little gems in every crevice, enough to keep me busy right until I boarded that plane again. Even the weather was absolutely fascinating with frequent explosions of downpouring thunderstorms despite the temperature never dropping below 30 degrees. I have it on good authority that it's like this all year round, and I loved it.

Side note: I watched the noise pop band Deerhoof here and then I met them afterwards SO THAT WAS NICE. Big fan, I totally groupied out too, yet another point to KL!

It's worth noting that I intentionally focused much of my time here trying to fix the gaping holes in my psyche which I punctured during Vietnam. I attacked my every fibre with all of the positive warfare I could muster, including a strict balance of exercise (I ran 33.55km over the two weeks, which is decent) and a healthy diet (I followed my self-penned Good Mood Food guide almost exclusively), which defragged my brain and filled up my stoked-pockets right to the brim again. Oh, I remember me now! I'm alright!

Finally, an extra special mention must be circled around the cute local emo girl I matched with on Tinder. We chatted, we met, we got drunk, we ate food, we fucked forever and then we stayed by each other's side for close to 24 hours following. It felt like we were in a real relationship for this brief flash of time and then we said goodbye, which was actually kinda sore. I would fly back just to see her again.

So, Kuala Lumpur then, any complaints? Sure. The drink prices are extortionate. The porn laws are ridiculous. The pub crawl was dead (hey, Ryan, how are you?). My hostel's internet connection made me want to kill myself. But other than those, this is one underrated location and more people should be talking about here all of the time. It's criminal that people don't.

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Petronas Towers from KLCC Park, KL Forest Eco Park, Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park, Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Museum Of Illusions.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 (Deerhoof exclusive)

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 03. Budapest, Hungary

03. Budapest, Hungary

Dates: 05 Jan 19 - 19 Jan 19
Accomodation: The Point Guesthouse [8.3/10]

Man, I struggled to articulate what it is I loved about Budapest, but I guess... everything? It was cheap cheap cheap, the land seemed very clean, the locals were happy to help, the atmosphere was laid back, there were plenty of beautiful historic landmarks to check out, the tidy architecture tickled my intestines, and the thick snow was a masterful touch to the slow beauty already in place. Plus, my insurance kicked in and my new iPhone arrived to replace the stolen Berlin one, so yeah! Everything! It all just went right!

In fact, my friends Tanya and Simon were visiting too, and it kinda became a running joke between us that nothing ever goes wrong in Budapest. No matter what we wanted at whatever time, it always seemed to fall in our laps around whichever corner and then we laughed as we explored these Hungarian landscapes while building snowmen and dranking drinks and ateing eats everywhere we went, costing us next to no pounds at all. Flawless! Perfection! The pub crawl was a ton of fun too and I even went on my first Tinder date ever here, so I mean... everything!

Ok, of course, I do have one complaint, and it was the guesthouse I stayed in. I mean, the private room was nice enough (and an absolute godsend after the eight-person dorm hell of Berlin), but the live-in manager was a total douche. We butted heads a few times, the most notable of which when I accidentally left a tiny piece of pasta on the kitchen counter. I was out drinking on a Saturday night when I received a very passive-aggressive text from the guy, condescendingly moaning at me for my oversight. Naturally, I apologised profusely and took extra care going forward, but when the time came to review this accommodation, I decided to mention this parental incident as part of my conclusion. This fucker then responded by calling me the messiest guest he's ever had, which is something I have never been accused of in my life! Which is why I was strangely proud of the honour. Little old me, all the way up at number 1! Imagine!

Anyways, of every place I visited, I feel like Budapest would be the one I'd most likely recommend to just about anyone because it ticks the most boxes and I feel even you could find what you're looking for here. It was pure therapy for me.

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Buda Castle, The Hungarian Parliament Building, The iron shoes on Danube Bank, The Citadella at the top of Gellért Hill, The Garden of Philosophy.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2

Definitely Not a Cry For Help, Chapter Four: Budapest
This episode is out! Click here to watch it right now!

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 02. Rome, Italy

02. Rome, Italy

Dates: 19 Jan 19 - 2 Feb 19
Accomodation: Legend R.G. [8.8/10]

The fact that Rome isn't number one on this list is daylight robbery because no city on Earth has ever moved me more than all of this right over here. I wrestled with this ranking for a while and, ultimately, this is how the cards fell. But let it be known that Rome is still my go-to answer when people ask me what my favourite stop was, hence why I'd like everyone to rather value this point as a tied first-place because that's what it is.

Oh Rome, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Three. There were three ways. As follows:

ONE: As with everything, practice makes perfect, and this applies to travel too. Rome marks my fourth Jarexit stop and, by this point, I had proven that my system worked. My footing was moving fast, my hours were being utilised to their maximum potential, and all of my previous apprehensions had evaporated into the mist, leaving me to flap my arms and make bird noises, finally free from everything. Italy's capital was the first city I truly dived into head first and, my God, I did not expect what I found. I only came here for the cheap flights, man!

TWO: In terms of historical monuments, Rome's unique slabs of recorded magic are unmatched. Any given turn and you find yourself in the middle of what felt like a film set, exactly how you imagine ancient Rome to look, perfectly preserved except twice the fucking size of what your mind could possibly illustrate alone. These seemingly endless sights tower above you, brimming with woah, a necessary distraction from the trashy streets below. It overwhelmed me with its monstrous presence and I had to eat so much pizza just to keep myself grounded. It was unhealthy.

THREE: My hostel was a social goldmine, cleverly designed to fan the fires of newfound friendships by offering free communal breakfast in the morning, and free communal wine in the evenings. And I met what felt like hundreds of people here, levelling up with at least one decent friend per each night, and usually a ton more. It was so good that even though the pub crawl was alright enough, I just wanted to come back and hang with these dudes. The number of times my heart broke saying goodbye in this hostel was enough to make a grown man cry.

There were too many of these soldiers to name, but I must give respect to the A-Team: Maelle, Lucie, Rodrigo, Sua, and especially Ahmed who was there from Day 1 until Day 14. The second-wave also deserves some love, so here it is: Gwyn, Emily, Curt, Noah, and Roshiwow. Oh, and of course, Luuk and Kaiting. And Elizabeth. Owen. Gabriel. Thiago. Dmitry. I've forgotten someone for sure.

So yeah, the thing is that there were multiple moments in Rome where the emotions rose above the vocabulary. I remember walking down the road a few times, happily chatting away with people I've only known for a few hours, off to find a pub, and then suddenly stepping out of myself, thinking... this is it. This is what travelling is all about. This means something. And then when I strolled into St. Peter's Basilica and nearly fell over, a profound spiritual experience took place within me, not exactly enough to convert my agnosticism to any solidified belief system, but a definite realisation of what Jesus meant on a conceptual basis. In one quick second, I understood the value of religious figures, not in terms of some imaginary relationship or debatable scripture or historical mumbles, but as an unachievable benchmark which I and you and everyone else could utilise to become better people. It was the closest example of a fundamental shift I've felt in over a decade and I nearly burst into tears on the spot. I was uber hungover though, so take that as you will.

Near the end, I fell quite ill, pinned to my pillow by sweat, hallucinating, the works. Perhaps this was my pores trying to reject Jesus? Whatever. The point is that this didn't taint my experience, but it did create a craving for a little privacy away from this shared space and I was ready to leave when I left. Except now I was armed with a new lease on life. I had a deeper connection with "God". And I no longer cared about trying to find something or myself on this mission because, whatever that was... whatever that was... I found it in Rome.

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Vatican City/Vatican Museums/St. Peter's Basilica, The Colosseum, The Forum, The Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius, Trevi Fountain.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 (St. Peter's Basilica exclusive) | Set 3

Definitely Not a Cry For Help, Chapter Five: Rome
This episode is out! Click here to watch it right now!

Monstrocity Drawing

Worst to Best: Jarexit: 01. Bangkok, Thailand

01. Bangkok, Thailand

Dates: 24 Mar 19 - 06 Apr 19 (23 Apr Thai extended)
Accomodation: Yaks House Hostel [8.8/10]
Koh Tao Acc: Summer Guesthouse and Hostel (7.9/10)
Koh Phangan Acc: Wan's Garden (7.5/10)

What's fascinating about Bangkok is that pretty much everyone I know who has been here told me that they hated it, and what's more, I would certainly hate it too. They informed me that a few short days were more than enough and I was insane to attempt to endure this city for two weeks. Of course, as you've worked out by now, this was not my experience. Not in the slightest.

What people get wrong about Bangkok is that it takes at least four days just to remotely get your head around the place. You've got to hang on tight otherwise it will overwhelm you until you freak out and run away like a little baby. I mean, after two weeks I had only just about got the hang of it, and even then I wasn't too sure. Although this may all depend on your appreciation for crazy cities because Bangkok is a fucking crazy city. I love crazy cities, by the way. It may also be worth mentioning that I had two of the greatest guides anyone could ask for, Angela and Henry, who showed me the ropes, took me to see Jimmy Carr, then set me free to play. Thanks, guys! Everyone needs an Angela and Henry in their lives.

Ok, so what's the big deal? Well, as with any all-encompassing-sensory-overload, it's difficult to dumb down a soul-shaping experience by using the limited space between the boundaries of language, but I'll start by relaying that it felt like my finger was stuck on the fast-forward button. This sentiment rings particularly potent when screaming down the busy intersections on the back of a Grab taxi scooter facing oncoming traffic. I could taste the backdrop of my adrenaline gland. Not to mention that the sex industry here is far more intense than Amsterdam and I spent many nights drinking in bright neon malls which were actually a collection of bars which were actually a collection of strip joints which were actually a collection of fancy brothels, enjoying the stream of 10/10 Thai models who were trying to fuck me for money while the ladyboys waved their little willies in my face. I may have felt quite powerful if I didn't actually feel as if the entire surface area of my skin has been covered with filth. Although that may have been the sweat because FUCK ME the weather was HOT. I don't think I actually breathed oxygen once while I was there.

A lot can be said for chaos, I'm all about it, but this alone is not enough to dominate all of my travels ever. Instead, the key to Bangkok was the absurd juxtaposition of it all; the disorderly seediness balanced out by the polar opposite spiritual essence, the exact point on earth where the sinful meets the holy, a loud vibration of turbulence worn like a coat upon a deeply calm centre. Buddhism, man. It's so chill, so humble, so welcoming. Just how they treat tourists with such respect is unlike anywhere else on my trip, and any exchange came with a mutual understanding that we were both helping each other out in our own ways. So yeah, take this religious stillness fucked with perverse indulgence, and you pretty much have Jared in a nutshell.

My main testament to the power of Thailand was that I quickly realised that my already-booked flight to Singapore was simply not going to cut it and I promptly skipped that part, opting to explore the country a bit further via their infamous island lifestyles. One Facebook vote later, and my friends sent me along my way to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. You may think that this subplot has unfairly manipulated the score to prop Bangkok up on this pedestal and, yeah, you're probably right. However, arguably not as much as one would assume, as these two locations somewhat cancelled each other out.

On the one hand, Koh Tao was a paradise on earth which could easily suck you in forever (I met some of its victims). It's basically a long casual festival vibe bursting from young people who chill on the beaches and hike through the mountains while popping the over-the-counter Valiums—just a real holiday feeling which I used to eat and exercise myself back into health and cleanliness. Oh, and that pub crawl? Massive. Excessively so. The biggest in Asia. About 130 people. Insane.

On the flip side, I spent my time in Koh Phangan pretty much just running away from vicious dogs trying to eat me alive, so that wasn't as great. The Full Moon Party was definitely as epic as everyone said it would be, but I am decidedly too old for that shit, and also, seriously, that dog thing still haunts me today.

All in all, I went far too hard, my accommodation was always above par, I met many cool people (hey Keyaria, hey Tobi, hey Doina, and especially hey you, Eve), and I ultimately loved it so much that I overstayed my visa by one day, my passport now proudly sporting the Thai stamp of naughtiness forever. Worth it!

Hope to see ya'll next time around!

Top Five Recommended Sights
The Grand Palace, Nana Plaza, Top of the King Power MahaNakhon, The Ratchada Night Market, Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan.

Instagram Snaps
Set 1 | Set 2 | Set 3 | Set 4 (Koh Tao exclusive) | Set 5 (Koh Phangan exclusive)

Definitely Not a Cry For Help, Chapter Eight: Bangkok
This episode is out! Click here to watch it right now!

Monstrocity Drawing (Bangkok)
Monstrocity Drawing (Koh Tao & Koh Phangan)