Written in 2001
This is where it all started. When I left Canada almost 7 months ago I never expected to be writing about such a trip from Russia. It's funny how life goes, here I am today. Doing what I love doing and on an amazing adventure. From the time I was at the hostel staring at the map and imagining achieving such a trip, and being right in the middle of it brings a real sense of accomplishment and pride. I'm here today because I believed I could do it and ever since I thought of the idea I've been working on it, day in and day out. My stay in England was the preparation part of this trip. While I had a great time there, my time was spent working as hard as possible to raise money and to plan. England is also a country with a similar culture and attitude to Anglo Canada, so I never felt like I was in a very different place. My stories and memories involve more about friends and the times I had there, not about learning and understanding new places and people. This is why I worked to go somewhere else and see the world. And actually my first stop was not supposed to be Holland, for sometime near the end I was getting ready to go to Scotland. But first I'll write about how it all began.
In early 2000 I had been invited to the United Kingdom to teach flying to the Royal Air Cadets in Dundee, Scotland. However I first had to convert my pilot licenses from North America to the UK's civil aviation authority or CAA. This would be a complicated and expensive endeavour. I chose to do it at the Oxford Aviation Academy and so arrived on March 31 2000. Having to wait for my work visa to clear I set out to make the most of this trip and enjoy myself. I moved into a hostel, found work through my student visa and started having so much of a good time I started to forget why I was there in the first place.
Oxford is a small city that is situated a little over an hour's drive northwest of London. It's world famous for its Universities, most notably Oxford University. But there are other ones. One thing I and some others were suprised to find was that Oxford Univeristy doesn't have a main campus, or even a main section. Instead it's divided into many colleges. Christ Church is the most famous. It's an historic college with a famous 12th century Church in it. Walking inside brings you back in time hundreds of years. So does the rest of the city, which is really well preserved. You can walk down most streets which have been there for hundreds of years, walk into old pubs or next to an old castle, and visit the old Colleges. Oxford has a long and interesting history, and the city has done a good job at mixing both old and new. There are also well know museums, such as the Oxford Story and the Ashmolean museum. The University is also famous for its rowing and you can see them and others train on the Thames river. Then comes the nightlife. Oxford is packed with a variety of pubs, students, foreigners, and locals. The sad part is England has a law that says every pub or bar has to close its doors at 11:30 pm. Nightclubs can close a little later, around 2. It's too bad because the pubs were fun but closed early. For foreigners like me who were used to arrive at the bar at 10 pm it was a big disappointment. So we'd go there earlier, I'll remember all of us getting drunk while it was sunny outside, that was a weird feeling. It was also a weird sight to see some of these places packed that early. All in all Oxford is nice to visit but living there is another story.
Cornmarket Street, Oxford
Having spent five months in Oxford, I can say living there is a different story. It is an interesting place with a lot of history, but beyond that there isn't that much to do except going out to pubs, and studying. The land is flat and crowded with one town or city aftter another leaving not a lot of room for the outdoors. There are a few lakes and rivers and those are really polluted. As far as scenery it is flat like a table, the weather is usually bad. To top it up you got the costs, Oxford and England are ridiculously expensive, and the people are usually cold. I still found the place nice at first but after a few months I wanted to go somewhere else. But I needed money, and there were lots of jobs in the area and the pay was good. So I stayed until I had the money to leave, and that would take months. All that said, Oxford is interesting, but to live there I would sum it up as a boring and expensive place to live. There really isn't that much to do in Oxford except working and going out at night. And believe me I had a lot of fun with those two alone, and that's what I mostly did for 5 months. From the first few days I arrived in Oxford and for the most part of my stay I lived in a hostel, Oxford Backpakers. So that equals to almost 3 1/2 months there. It was great because we had fun 24 hours a day and met people from all over the world. Some of us were long termers and got to be good friends, some had been there for over a year. We had a bar, a pool table, singing showers (music), good music all the time, except as a long termer you noticed they always played the same CDs. We also had a kitchen for everyone, where I lost a good chunk of food. We simply had a good time. We had pool tournaments, activity nights, movie nights on Sundays where the hostel rented three movies, one night we had Toga night were everyone used bed sheets to dress up Roman style. There were different room sizes usually numbering from 4-8, all were bunk beds. If you were a long termer you could share a flat with someone for the same price. It was a good deal but I prefered being where all the people were. Through that place I met people from all over and now have contacts in England, France, Spain, Denmark, Australia, the U.S., and Canada. Some of these I'll meet up with on this trip. Others I'll stay in touch with. Except I haven't done a good job of that yet. I also worked there for about a month and a half, cleaning the place and room, they didn't pay but I had free board. Not bad for only a few hours work a day. At that time I should have been studying in advance for my upcoming conversion training however I was enjoying myself so much and the moment. I still wanted to go teach flying in Scotland, but I had a hard time getting the books out. So when news came around the end of April, beginning of May, that my visa had been denied it wasn't that big a disapointment. My heart then was really with being on the adventure road. The idea of this trip and its beginning all started in this place. That big map they had on their wall made one big difference on this trip, I got many ideas just by staring at it. At times I would go in front of it in the hallway and stare, thinking and planning about all of this. It's one thing to imagine such a trip and another to achieve it. It's a great feeling to be here writing all about this almost 5 months later knowing that what I tought could be done I did. Next