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
This episode is out! Click here to watch it right now!

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

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

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
This episode is out! Click here to watch it right now!

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
This episode is out! Click here to watch it right now!

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
This episode is out! Click here to watch it right now!

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)