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Movie lover. Growing Capoeirista. Space enthusiast. Dedicated craftsman. And best of all, homegrown Los Angeles native. Wait, how in the hell did I end up in China!?
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Ahh, Sydney, Australia, have you been? It was the next stop on my “F**k It” world tour. Wait, what? That's right, my "F**k it" world tour--the first time in my life where I'd successfully saved a ton of money, quit my job, and said "F**k it, I'm going to spend the next 3 months traveling wherever I want, when I want, and nothing could stop me."
This is all facts, too. I made trips to Wenchang, China to see my first ever rocket launch. I spent 5 days in Hong Kong with a friend, and made a big solo trip to Dubai, which turned out to be one of my coolest adventures yet.
And then came the time to hit Sydney. But you know what? (*Cue the scary theme music*) My plan to explore the “down under” didn’t start off as smooth as I'd hoped. And actually, I didn’t even plan it at all.
Trouble in Paradise: Getting to Sydney
It's true: Before landing in Sydney I had actually planned to tour India for on a 4 day adventure. I bought roundtrip plane tickets to New Dehli, booked a hotel—paid upfront, too—and was super excited to finally see the Tahj Mahal, or so I thought.
Game time. I showed up to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (I lived in Shanghai, China), made my way to the check-in counter, and WHAM: “Do you have a visa?" “Sure, my Chinese visa is right here." “No, do you have a visa for India? You need one." F@#! Trouble in paradise.
Can you believe that the entire thought of checking whether I needed a visa to enter India had completely slipped my mind? Completely. So what was there to do?
Visa on arrival? Nope. New Delhi's airport didn’t offer it, supposedly. What about electronic visas? I’d need at least 3 days for processing. And to add icing on the cake, both the flights and hotel were non-refundable. I was s**t out of luck.
There were two options: Take the loss—a 3700 RMB ($550) loss—and head back home to plan for another day, or, still hop on the plane to Hong Kong, of where I had a layover, and buy a ticket to some other cool region of the world that was cheaper to fly to from there than Shanghai. Hey, this was my “F**k It” world tour, so what do you think I'd do!?
By mid-day I landed in Hong Kong, researched cheap places to visit, and finally decided to hit Sydney, Australia, a travel destination down the line on my bucket list. That's right, “F**k it!"
More Trouble in Paradise
Did you know that Americans need visas to visit Australia, too? I sure as hell didn't.
I applied for an instant visa document online and bought a cheap one-way ticket to Sydney, Australia from an agent counter at the airport. Why one-way? Because the agency was charging the most ridiculous amount of money for the return trip.
Plus, with just an hour and half left before the flight to Sydney departed, I figured I'd check-in first, then buy my return ticket via mobile and book my hotel. I know what you're thinking: Big mistake. And you're right.
It Got Pretty Weird ...
First, at the counter I was questioned as to why I didn’t have any luggage to check-in—it was summer in India but winter in Australia, and they thought I needed more clothes. They'd also ask why I didn't have a ticket of out Sydney or a hotel booked, even though I told them my India story and that I planned to book both right after checking in. And well, the attendant wasn't buying any of it.
After the back and forth they brought in an Australian immigration officer to come and investigate. I had been officially flagged.
He arrived promptly and immediately started an interrogation. He was very polite but ridiculously thorough, so much so that it was annoying.
"Where are you from?" "What are you doing in China?" "Why are you traveling to Sydney?" "What do you plan to do there?" Those were easy. Then came the heavy hitters.
"Can I see some type of bank statement or proof that you have enough cash for your trip?" And, "Can I see a teaching certificate of some sort from your time in China?"
Well damn. This was getting aggravating. I didn’t have any teaching certificate so I wound up pulling up some pictures of myself with colleagues and students. Check. I had yet to exchange my Chinese Renminbi to Australian Dollars so I showed him a bank statement from an app on my phone. Double Check.
"Could you purchase your return flight and hotel?" Sure. All were done within half an hour. Finished, right? Wrong!
By the time I arrived back the immigration officer was accompanied by a senior colleague, and I had to explain my story and answer questions all over again. What’s more, I'd wind up missing my flight and would have to take the next trip out an hour later should I have been approved.
After a long while of intense examination, they had finally approved my trip to Sydney. Finally, I could relax.
The Last Bit of Trouble
Nine hours later, oh boy, you could imagine how thrilled I was to have arrived in Sydney, Australia. "This is going to be great!," I thought. Yeah ... right.
I made my way to the front of immigration, handed over my passport, and less than a minute later? That's right. "Please wait, we're going to have you speak to a security officer." Sh*t!
The officer asked all of the same questions again. All of them. This time I was rather visibly annoyed, but I still managed to stay cool.
After a long bout I settled with this: “Look, I’m only here for 5 days. I just want to do some sightseeing. You’ve seen my return ticket and my hotel is booked. I’m also a travel blogger. I plan to take a lot of photos and videos and put them on my blog. If you want, I could show it to you”.
It's funny, the officer whipped out an Ipad like clockwork. “Yeah, I think you should do that” "as if he didn’t believe me.
I typed in the address--www.Donesladventure.com—and after spending less than 2 minutes in a room to inspect it, the officer came back and said I was free to go H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H!
Welcome to Sydney!
I wound up arriving at my hotel—The Capsule Hotel—in the early afternoon and crashing the entire day. Ah, welcome to Sydney!
Travel Blogger. ESL Teacher. Optimistic Millennial Adventurer! -->