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The Art of the Deal

August 14, 2014 — Leave a comment
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A Street Market in Cartagena, Colombia


I was posting a picture on the BackpackU Instagram feed the other day, and realized something- I miss street markets. Random, chaotic, colorful, crazy street markets. There’s just something about roaming through a myriad of stalls and tables, perusing the locals’ arts and crafts, chatting with the chirpy vendors, munching on whatever street food happens to be popular in that part of the world… It’s fun, and coming from someone that typically HATES to ‘shop’, that’s saying something.

Part of the fun is that, in a REAL street market, everything is negotiable- from the price of a hand-knitted sweater to the cost of a can of Coke. Maybe that’s what it is- the added allure of being able to bargain for my own price, to use my superior skills of negotiation to get a good deal (HA! Yeah right…). Well, that, along with the unique arts and crafts one finds in these amazing treasure troves around the world.


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An art stall at a street market in Stone Town, Zanzibar


A good street market has a little bit of everything- local arts and crafts, bootleg video games and DVDs, fresh produce and prepared food sections- ‘Anyting you want, mon!’ as I had one vendor in the Caribbean tell me (He may have been selling more than just knock-off Adidas gear…). That’s one of the coolest things about street markets- you never know what you’re going to find. Depending on where you are in the world, there’s anything from hand-woven hats and sweaters to miniature pyramids and sphinxes (sold in Egypt, made in China), from hand-carved masks and chess boards to knock-off Armani sunglasses and handbags (‘Same same, but different!’), from beautiful works of art to creepily preserved llama fetuses (apparently a big deal in Bolivia…).


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Silver jewelry and souvenirs in a stall at the Witches’ Market- La Paz, Bolivia


On top of this RANDOM assortment of goods, you’ll almost always find that multiple stalls are selling the exact same things- right next to each other! Multiple stalls selling identical items, vendors vying for your attention at every turn, crowds of locals and travelers alike meandering through the aisles- it can be a bit overwhelming. But have no fear- BackpackU is here to coach you through the finer points of mastering the street market.


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Decorative masks on display in a street market in Kathmandu


As mentioned, the first thing you’ll notice when walking through one of these markets is that there aren’t any prices, on anything. Typically, EVERYTHING is up for negotiation, and you’ve got to be on your game if you’re actually looking to buy. There’s an art to the back-and-forth bartering in these markets, and trust me, the locals have it mastered. In order to help you avoid getting taken for every last cent in your money pouch, here are a few tips and techniques that seem to work for me when entering the street market arena- at least, I think they do…(?)

1. Know your intentions before going in. If you are just perusing, or know you’ll be back on another night to actually ‘buy’, make that clear to the vendors, and avoid talking much about prices. Once you start discussing price, vendors assume you’re there to buy, and will attempt to get you into a negotiation. If you’re not buying, this is a waste of time for everyone involved. Save yourself the hassle (and them the aggravation) of pointless negotiating if you don’t actually intend to buy anything at that time.

2. If you ARE there to buy, scout out the scene first. These markets can be HUGE, with numerous stalls and tables selling the exact same things- get a lay of the land and make some mental notes before actually getting into negotiations. It’s a good idea to casually ask about prices so you have something to compare before circling back, but try to avoid too much haggling during the initial walk-through- you’ll end up in a negotiation before you’ve even seen what the rest of the market has to offer. The vendors know they may only have one shot at you, and aren’t afraid to apply the pressure if they feel like they’ve got a sale on the line.


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Perusing the stalls in GreenMarket Square- Cape Town, South Africa


3. Try to avoid stating your price first. Some form of ‘How much will you pay?’ will be one of the first things out of the seller’s mouth if they think you are interested in something at their stall. If you say your buying price first, unless you’re already well over their selling price, you’re not getting it for that, much less anything lower. Always answer that questions with a smile and a question of your own- ‘How much does it cost?’ This might go back and forth for a while, but try to hold out until they state a price- which will typically be ridiculously high- and then you’ll know what you have to work with. Some vendors will still refuse to state a price, so undershoot your buying price by 20-30% in the hopes that you can negotiate up to that price.

4. After they name their initial price, knock off 50% of what they ask- maybe even more- and start negotiating from there. As mentioned, if you get them to tell you how much it ‘costs’, they’ll typically overshoot their actual selling price by a long shot, so it’s then up to you to negotiate them down to what you’re actually willing to pay for it.


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The famous Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo


5. Even if you find EXACTLY what you’re looking for, or stumble upon a gem and suddenly can’t imagine life without it, try not to let them know you’re THAT interested- if they know you’re in love with something, they’ll jack up the price and will be less likely to come down. Keep calm, casually ask a price, continue to walk around and peruse the market to see if there’s anything similar, and make a plan from there. You can always circle back. (Buuuut- don’t wait too long! If the market closes or that vendor packs up, you might never find them again. It happens- 6 years later, and I STILL regret not buying that painting in Hong Kong… Ugh.)

6. Make sure you have various amounts of small notes before entering into the market- that way, you can pay with EXACT change. You’ll create an awkward situation if you haggle a vendor down to a lower price, and then have to ask them for change because you’ve only got large bills. Sometimes, they’ll claim not to have change, and then you’re stuck. Along these lines, don’t get your money out before a price is agreed upon- if they see large bills and/or that you are carrying a lot of money, they won’t budge on their higher price. Flashing money around in a street market- or ANYWHERE, for that matter- is NEVER a good idea anyway… Agree on a price first, and then discreetly get your money out, preferably in exact change.


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The sprawling Craft Market in Otavalo, Ecuador–


7. Through all of this, remember to keep it light- shopping in street markets is all about the experience. Yes, you are trying to get a good price and avoid overpaying for anything, but remember to laugh, smile, and enjoy the experience. More often than not, a seller will be more willing to give you a better price if you’re friendly and engaging as opposed to cold and hard-nosed. Turn on the charm, play the game, and see what happens.

8. Most importantly, remember who you are negotiating with- haggling over 5 baht, 50 forints, or 5,000 dong is like arguing over the loose change on your dresser. Yes, there’s a sense of satisfaction from getting the price you want, but more often than not, those few cents mean a lot more to the seller than they do to you. If it’s something you really want, don’t let a few coins (or your ego) keep you from making the deal. My advice- always try to pay what you think it’s worth- to you.


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The Temple Street Night Market- Kowloon, Hong Kong


Street markets are awesome. Thanks to them, not only do I now have a collection of keepsakes and artwork from the places I’ve traveled through, but I’ve also got an album of memories that go hand-in-hand with those things I’ve bought while traveling- the old cowboy in Patagonia that sold me my gaucho knife; the local boys outside the campground in Malawi where I bought my hand-carved ‘Big 5’; the ancient Andean woman that smiled at me when I tried on the alpaca hat I bought from her… The list goes on and on. As I always say- when it comes to traveling, it’s all about the experience, and simply walking through one of these markets is an experience in itself. Whether you’re actually out to buy or ‘just looking’, wandering through a street market is a great way to meet some locals, get a flavor for the community, learn a few words in the local language, and have a great time while doing so. You never know- you might end up with a few keepsakes of your own, and some new friends to boot…


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Making friends with ‘Two Cups of Tea’. (Because ‘One cup is never enough.’) Good times!


Questions? Comments? Tell us about YOUR favorite Street Markets and tips for success- fill out the form below and get in on the conversation!


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To find your own adventures in the Street Markets of the world, check out BackpackU’s Destination Guides.


3 weeks already?!?!

October 17, 2013 — 2 Comments

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WOW- I cannot BELIEVE that it has been 3 weeks, ALREADY. I knew this trip was going to FLY by, but this- this is ridiculous…


Oh well- guess that means I’m having fun… LOADS of it. 🙂


Okay- So right now, I’m on a bus from Split to Zagreb, with about 5 hours to get caught up, so that’s right folks, it’s time for the ‘First 3 Weeks in Europe Whirlwind Recap.’ Get excited!


So, I landed in Milan 3 weeks ago, caught the airport train to the Milano Centrale train station, and then had to HUSTLE to make the connecting train to Switzerland. Picture me, backpack and daypack fully loaded, hustling through the crowded train station, hunting for the ticket office 3 floors down, only to get there and find massive lines. I knew I didn’t have time to wait, so over to the self-serve kiosks it was. Somehow, I figured out how to get a ticket to Spiez in Switzerland, the machine actually took my credit card, and it even printed a receipt for me. Thank you, Jesus! With minutes to spare, it was a sprint back up the escalators to the train platforms, and then a mad dash to the train, running/yelling/waving like a maniac to the platform conductor, trying to get him to hold the train. I made it- with about 15 seconds to spare- and then collapsed in the luggage area, panting and sweating like I had just finished 25 windsprints… Good times! I’m sure everyone else thought I was crazy… But, I was okay with that- I was headed to SWITZERLAND!!! Eventually, I caught my breath, stowed my bag, found my seat, and settled in for the 2 1/2 hour ride to Spiez.


(Quick sidenote- the bus is currently driving through central Croatia, and all the leaves on the trees are changing… Fall in Europe =  BEAUTIFUL.)


It was an awesome train ride up into the Alps- soaring peaks, small mountain towns, topaz colored lakes. I met a couple of other travelers on the train, we were all headed the same way, so we switched trains in Spiez, and 30 minutes later, I was in Interlaken.  It didn’t take me long to find Sebastian; not much has changed since we lived in New Zealand- he’s still one of the biggest guys I’ve ever met. He shouldered my daypack, and we headed over to his house to drop my stuff. Just walking through the town of Interlaken, I could tell it was going to be a great stay…


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Interlaken is AWESOME- very similar to Queenstown, New Zealand, but somehow even more beautiful. Towering peaks and jagged ridges guard the town, with lush green slopes pouring down into the surrounding valleys. The two lakes on either side of town sparkle in the mountain sun, shimmering that spectacular glacial blue unique to alpine lakes. Cafes, shops, restaurants, and outdoor activity centers line the streets, with locals and tourists milling about, going this way and that. The architecture is distinctly Swiss- traditional storefronts and awnings, along with historic bell towers and quaint little homes. Sebastian’s house itself is over 100 years old- renovated, of course- but it still maintains its historic charm. It is a beautifully ‘Swiss’ town.


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Seb and I had a great time in Interlaken. He was home on leave from Kosovo, where he is currently stationed with the Swiss Army. We stayed at his parents’ house, so I got to know them a bit through fits of laughter and broken English. They actually speak English very well- a lot better than my Swiss-German… HA! Unfortunately, Seb had a dislocated disc in his back, and that had him gimping around like an old man for most of my visit. We were meant to go canyoning, maybe so some downhill mountain biking, etc., but he was pretty limited due to the bad back. Still, he sucked it up for a couple of days, and we went on a couple of spectacular hikes, went swimming in the lake, and had a great time catching up. Much like the Tilleys, Sunday was ‘Family Fun Day’ at the Blaser household- I got to meet Seb’s sister and her 4 kids, play an epic game of Swiss family-style ping-pong, and go for a ride in Seb’s Dad’s legendary party bus. It was a great trip, for sure…


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Come Monday, I was back on the train to Milan- a lot less drama this time- and headed back to Italy. Randomly, my brother-in-law Shaun was in Milan for a work conference, so I was set to meet up with him at his hotel when I got into Milan. Train to Milan, taxi to the hotel, key at the desk- too easy! Shaun was headed out to dinner with is co-workers, so I did my own thing, and called it an early night- I was pretty tired after the weekend in Switzerland…


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I spent the next two days in Milan exploring the trendy city, visiting the famous Duomo, climbing the church’s terraces, and taking a day trip to Lago Como- a beautiful lake about an hour and a half north of Milan in the foothills of the Alps. Lago Como was really cool- it’s a holiday/resort area in northern Italy, full of traditional little towns and villages. There are several options for boat trips on the lake, each stopping at different towns along the way. I ended up buying a ticket to the town of Belaggio, wandering through its narrow alleys and stairways for the afternoon, and then caught the bus back to Como to take the train back to Milan. And no, I didn’t bump into George Clooney- apparently he has a house in the area…? The night ended with a feast at a restaurant in Milan with Shaun and his co-workers- great pasta, Italian wine, and that Italian after-dinner staple- GRAPPA. Wow- you’ve gotta be careful with that stuff, and don’t drink it around an open flame…


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After Milan, I was on the train to Resana, a small town in Veneto, about an hour outside of Venice. My friend Marianna- an Italian girl I met while working Syndey- was getting married, and had invited a bunch of us from that summer in Australia to help her celebrate. Hmmmmm… An Italian wedding, in the Italian countryside, celebrating with an Italian friend, at a party FULL of Italian food and Italian wine? Are you serious??? That’s my version of Heaven on Earth! Needless to say, I was EXCITED on the train from MIlan…


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I got to Resana without any issues, followed Marianna’s directions EXACTLY, found her building no problem, and was all excited for a happy reunion… All I had to do was ring the buzzer for #7, and wait for her smiling face to appear. Buzzzzzzzzzz… ‘Si?’ ‘CIAO, MARIANNA! Come stai??’ I said with a grin… ‘Que?’ came the response. Not what I was expecting. ‘Marianna- it’s Nick! I’m here!!’ ‘Que?’ Leaning closer to the speaker- ‘MARIANNA- it’s NICK…’ ‘Que?’, followed by some string of rapid Italian that I didn’t exactly pick up on… Uh-oh. Obviously not Marianna. Okayyyyyyy… Now what? I knew I was in the right place- it was unmistakable. ‘Salmon-colored building, right across from the train station. Apartment #7.’ I was a bit early, and she had said she would meet me at the train station when I was due to arrive, so my first instinct was to head back to the train station and look for her there. Sure enough, as soon as I started walking back, a tiny black EuroCar sped past me, with a familiar face gaping out the driver’s side window. MARIANNA! I was saved… ‘Niiiick! You’re EARLY!’ she said, jumping out of her car and hurrying over- she was just getting home from having her nails done for the wedding, of course. Through hugs and smiles, I told her I had caught an earlier train, and that the person in #7 wasn’t too happy with me. ‘No worries, maaaaate! Welcome to Resana!’ Marianna- that girl is TOO FUNNY! We headed up to her apartment, where I got to meet Daniel, her fiancé, and Mimi, his other girlfriend- a yellow parakeet-looking bird that in all seriousness rules the roost. I’ve never met a more demanding bird- food, music, kisses, her mirror- that bird gets what she wants, when she wants it. Marianna admitted to being a bit jealous of her…


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The week in Resana was so much fun. Being there for a couple of days before the wedding, I got to meet all of Marianna’s and Daniel’s families, help out with some of the arts and crafts Marianna was finishing up for the reception, spend some quality time with the rest of the Australia crew, and get on Mimi’s good side… Ha! It really was a week FULL of cool experiences- sitting around the MASSIVE table at Marianna’s childhood home, her entire family there with us speaking Italian a million miles an hour, chowing down on pizza, pasta, and homemade wine; staying at a tiny Bed&Breakfast in the Italian countryside, chatting with the elderly owner in broken Italian, Spanish, and English, and somehow getting home every night through the tiny country roads; being at the wedding, held in a BEAUTIFUL church in Trebaseleghe, with all of the friends and family; celebrating at the reception, singing ‘Born in the USA’, and eating more Italian food than I thought was humanly possible; going to the crazy ‘AfterParty’, witnessing countless uniquely Italian wedding traditions, and dancing the night away; strolling through the streets of Venice at midnight, having the entire city to ourselves, and getting lost with the locals on the way back to the car; staying at my friend Carla’s place, making homemade pizza, and getting an insider’s tour of the REAL Venice… WOW. What.a.WEEK. It was so great, and definitely an experience I will always remember.


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Well- it was raining when I left Split this morning, but now it’s bright and sunny in Zagreb… We’re pulling into the city, so it looks like I’ll have to get caught up on Croatia later on. Right now, it’s time to hoist the backpack, break out the map, and figure out how to navigate the Croatian capital… Zagreb- HERE I COME!!!! Wish me luck!


Stay tuned- there’s more to come…



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Here we go again…

September 19, 2013 — 6 Comments

Venice, Italy

Sometimes, traveling the world has its perks. Wait, what am I saying?!?! Traveling the world ALWAYS has its perks… This might be the best one of them all.

I’ve always said that it is the people you meet when you’re traveling that really make the experiences unique. You meet people with common interests, and bond with them over a shared experience. If you’re lucky, some of the friendships formed through those shared experiences stretch around the globe and withstand the test of time. If you’re REALLY lucky, some of those friendships lead to more shared experiences- happy reunions, epic celebrations, good ol’ fashioned face-time- years down the road.

I guess I’m really lucky.

Having already experienced LA FIESTA LOCA that was Federico and Cara’s wedding in Buenos Aires last Fall, this little note from a friend in Dublin appeared in my Inbox this past January:

‘Nicky – seeing as you’re a pro at traveling to weddings, how ‘bout Ireland this year?? JP and I are getting married on the 23rd of November…’

Hmmm… Ireland has LONG been at the top of my ‘To Visit’ List. I was intrigued…

Not long after, this showed up from a friend in Venice:

‘Daniel and I are getting married the 5th October, 2013, and this could be a great occasion to get the Bondi Crew back together…’

Let’s see… Venice on the 5th of October… Dublin on the 23rd of November… 7 weeks in between…


The traveling wheels started turning, and now, here we are.

That’s right, BackpackU Fans- it’s time for our next adventure…

BPU EuroTrip 2013 kicks off next TUESDAY!!! WOO-HOO!!!

12 weeks, 6 countries, 2 weddings, and countless adventures to be had along the way. Needless to say, I am EXCITED…

The itinerary pretty is loose- I learned a LOT when I tried to take on the entire CONTINENT of South America in 3 1/2 months last year- but here’s what I have locked in so far:

A weekend in the Swiss Alps with Sebastian, my flatmate in NZ, hiking, canyoning, and mountain biking around his hometown of Interlaken.

Going 5-Star for a few days in Milan, sneaking into corporate ‘meet-n-greets’ to take advantage of the buffet while my Brother-in-Law Shaun is in town for a conference.

A week spent in and around Venice, celebrating my friend Marianna’s wedding, and exploring the Italian countryside with friends from my time in Australia.

A couple of weeks traveling by train from Dubrovnik to Prague, exploring Croatia, Austria, and the Czech Republic along the way.

After taking what’s sure to be a million pictures in Prague, I’ll fly to Barcelona, and spend 2 weeks making my way to Madrid.

Then it’s on to Ireland, arriving in Dublin a few days before Maeve and JP’s wedding. While I’ve heard you need a few days of down time to prepare for an Irish Wedding, I’ve already told them they’re up against Fede and Cara- now THAT was a wedding…

After the wedding festivities, I’ll embark a 3-week self-drive tour of the Emerald Isle, during which I will visit numerous castles, kiss the Blarney Stone, and learn as many Irish drinking songs as possible. It’s sure to be GREAT craic.

Finally, I’ll fly to London, revisiting a city I last saw way back in 1997. I’m sure I won’t even recognize it, but I look forward to meeting up with friends, reacquainting myself with the city, and hopefully catching a Premier League match or two…

Like I said- the itinerary is pretty open, but it will still be a whirlwind. 12 weeks will be here and gone in the blink of an eye, but, that seems to be the way it always goes…

EuroTrip 2013- it’s going to be incredible.

Stay tuned…



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That’s a WRAP…

September 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Well, I didn’t end up winning the ‘Best Job in the World’. The position of ‘Wildlife Caretaker’ went to Canadian Greg Snell, and congratulations and well done to him- he will do a fantastic job. Yes, I was disappointed, but still, it was an INCREDIBLE experience, and I was EXTREMELY fortunate to be a part of it all. Not only did I have an amazing time (I mean, come on- a 2-week, all-expenses-paid-and-THEN-some trip to Australia, with awesome adventures and life-long memories to boot?), but I also learned so much throughout the process- along with being an intense job interview, it was an EDUCATION, that is for sure.

I experienced first-hand the absolute craziness and boundless potential of social media, and learned how to use those platforms as 24/7 networking tools. I learned how to be comfortable in front of a camera, how to be the best version of myself with media members, journalists, and during live interviews. I was introduced to innovative and creative ways to market and promote ideas and content- all invaluable skills in this crazy life I live.

The 2 weeks I spent in Australia were SPECTACULAR. Seeing old friends and returning to the spot where I fell in love with Australia to begin with; running around Taronga Zoo and going up against the Sydney Swans at the SCG; standing on the point at Remarkable Rocks, swimming with sea lions at Port Lincoln, and watching the sunset at Seal Bay; a helicopter ride over Kangaroo Island, seeing echidnas and koalas in the wild, and being doubled-over laughing watching CC chase sheep through a paddock; climbing the Harbour Bridge, listening to Cameron, Rich, and Holly play ‘Underneath This Sky’, and having a few pints in the best pub in the world- WOW. Just thinking about it now- I’m still amazed at how much was crammed into those 2 weeks…

But, as always, it’s not necessarily about the experiences you have when you’re traveling as much as it is about those you share the experiences with. I met some really amazing people while I was in Australia- all of the other Finalists, people from Tourism Australia and the SATC, numerous guides, tour operators, and park rangers, even professional athletes- people that are passionate about what they do, and dedicated to being great. It is inspiring to see that kind of dedication and drive in people, and when you’re surrounded by it for 2 weeks straight, it is impossible to ignore. It makes you want to get out there and do something great yourself, which, in the end, is really what life is all about- discovering and pursuing your own personal version of ‘greatness’, however public or private that might be.

If I have any regrets, it’s that I didn’t get to connect with the other Finalists as much as I would’ve liked. Our non-stop itineraries had us busy from sunrise to late in the evenings, with hardly any free time to spare. Add to that the constant pressure to be blogging, tweeting, and posting on social media forums, and any ‘free time’ was instantly re-classified as ‘WORK’. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve spent more time talking to everyone and getting to know them better, and less time focusing on the ‘competition’ aspect of things. The #BestCREW really was an extraordinary group, filled with remarkable talents, interests, personalities, stories, and passions. It’s a shame we had such a short time together, and that the competition ended with 7 individual jobs- it would’ve been interesting to see what we could’ve accomplished as a group. Still, I am very fortunate to have met everyone, despite the briefness, and know that we all will remain bonded by that crazy ‘BestJobs’ experience for the rest of our lives, regardless of where our personal and professional lives take us. That thought makes me smile.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, despite not winning the ‘Best Job in the World’, I came away from the whole experience in Australia with a sense of validation- a confirmation that wherever I’m headed, wherever this endeavor takes me, I’m on the right track. Making it to the Final Round of such a competitive job interview process confirmed that the way I share my interests and passions resonates- it strikes a chord in people. It catches their attention. Above everything else, that is probably the most valuable thing that I learned throughout the ‘Best Jobs’ process- that as long as I continue to pursue my passions and chase my dreams, somehow, I’ll end up with my own version of ‘The Best Job in the World’.

I just can’t wait to find out what that is…

A MASSIVE ‘CHEERS!!!!’ to Tourism Australia, the South Australian Tourism Commission, Nicole, Marc, Greg, CC, and the rest of the #BestCREW- it was an INCREDIBLE adventure!



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To learn how YOU can plan your own EPIC adventure through Australia, click HERE.

FINAL Thoughts…

June 20, 2013 — 4 Comments
Sunrise over Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Sunrise over Kangaroo Island, South Australia

‘Hey Nick- just saw this online- thought you might want to check it out…’

That’s the email I got from my brother-in-law on March 15th, an understated note that turned out to be the spark that set all of the craziness of these past 3 months ablaze.

This journey has been one wild ride the ENTIRE way through- from a fun day with my family making the initial application videos, to the whirlwind media and publicity craze of the Referee Challenge, to the preparation and anticipation of coming to Australia for the final round of this extensive interview, all capped off with an INCREDIBLE 2 weeks DownUnder. It has been amazing, exhilarating, electrifying, and exhausting…

Throughout the process, there have been moments of joy and happiness, times of stress and strain, long hours spent creating content and networking, and countless coffees to push through late nights. It has been a 24/7 social media firestorm, a non-stop sprint for self-promotion, and a daily challenge to bring the absolute best of yourself to the surface, despite the lack of sleep and an absence of energy. Yes, it is a ‘competition’, and yes, there are two others vying for the same job, but in the end, THAT is the challenge- shutting out all the peripherals, ignoring all the distractions, blocking out all the white noise, and bringing the very best of yourself to the table- EVERY.DAY.

Through it all, I have tried to maintain a bit of perspective, remembering that I am very fortunate to have made it this far in this competition, and that the best thing I can do is just be myself, embrace the moment, and enjoy every second of the experience. Those moments are what make the experience worthwhile- what make this crazy life I’ve adopted worth living…

I had one of those moments while standing out on the jetty in the tiny town of Penneshaw, watching the sun rise over Kangaroo Island. It was quiet, peaceful. There weren’t any cameras in my face, no microphones hovering over my head. It was just me, the rising sun, the seagulls, and Australia. It was in that moment that I was reminded-

THIS is why I love Australia. THIS is what drew me to the country to begin with, and THIS is what keeps me coming back for more…

It’s the grandeur; it’s the spectacle; it’s the sheer power and brilliance of nature- that is what draws me to this place. It is something that is uniquely Australian- a rugged beauty; a sense of a wide-open wilderness stretched out for miles under a massively blue sky. In my mind, that IS ‘Australia’.

My time on Kangaroo Island also reminded me how much I love Australia because of its wildlife. There really is something special about seeing a mob of kangaroos bound across the countryside, a sense of awe when spotting a wild koala munching eucalyptus high up in a tree. Sea lions and seals, white sharks and wallabies- Australia is in a league of its own when it comes to wildlife, and 36 hours on Kangaroo Island was more than enough time to remind me of that…

Most importantly, I was reminded that it’s not only the raw, powerful beauty, nor the extremely unique wildlife, but it’s also the people that make this country so special- people like Craig Wickham, Dr. Peggy Rismiller, and Captain Matt from Adventure Bay- people who love their jobs, and love sharing their passion for Australia with others. Somehow, these people have already found their own versions of ‘The Best Job in the World’, right here in Australia. In a way, it makes me envious… Envious, and anxious. Anxious, and hopeful…

Hopeful. That brings me to tomorrow- the final day of this indescribable experience. To be honest, there are no favorites- it all will be determined by what Tourism Australia and the partnering state tourism boards are looking for- and after 3+ months of working, scheming, planning, and pressing, we still don’t know exactly what that is. It will be an interesting day, to say the least…

In the end, I feel I’ve done my best, and that I’ve represented myself well. I have fought off fatigue and exhaustion, have found vast resources of untapped energy, and have brought the very best of myself each and every day. That’s all I really wanted in this competition- to be able to block everything else out, and just be myself. I have done that. Of course, I want to win, and feel that I have a good chance to do so, but again, I don’t know exactly what they are looking for- if it turns out the best of me isn’t ‘it’, I will be okay with that. It won’t be anything personal. It has been a remarkable experience, one that I have learned SO MUCH through, and regardless of the outcome, I STILL cannot WAIT to see what happens next…

Thanks for the awesome ride, Tourism Australia and the South Australian Tourism Commission- it has been an epic adventure…



If you missed my post about how I fell in love with Australia to begin with, check it out HERE.

To learn how you can plan your own EPIC adventure through Australia, click HERE.

Day 9 DownUnder was spent exploring more of the INCREDIBLE Kangaroo Island, South Australia. I was up early for a stunning sunrise over the Backstairs Passage- a nice hour spent just enjoying the peace and quiet of a beautiful morning on KI.


Down at the Penneshaw Jetty to view the sunrise…



Yes, it is EARLY, but I’m still EXCITED!!!








Welcome to Penneshaw!



After breakfast, we met up with Dr. Peggy Rismiller– the world’s foremost expert on short-beaked echidnas- and learned how to track an echidna in the wild. It was really interesting to learn a bit about her life as a wildlife professional, and to get even a tiny glimpse into her passion for the echidnas. She absolutely LOVES them, and her excitement and enthusiasm were contagious…



Sooo, has anyone seen an echidna around here…?


Then we had a bit of a tour around the north shore of Kangaroo Island, including stops at Pennington Beach and Stokes Bay- both BREATHTAKING places.


Pennington Beach, Kangaroo Island- aka- AWESOME









Kangaroo Crossing- they get the right-of-way…





ECHIDNA!!! We found this little beauty crossing the road, and he stuck around and posed for us for a few minutes… Goodonhim!






After all that excitement and photo-taking, we had definitely worked up an appetite, and the TOP BLOKES of Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours (Craig, Scott, and Ron) set up a delicious lunch for us on a local farm- bush-dining at its finest!



Scott, from EKI Tours, hard at work… Can you tell he loves his job??



Bush-dining at its absolute FINEST! Cheers, EKI!



Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island



Who’s happy to be in Stokes Bay? This guy! Too bad we couldn’t go for a swim…



After lunch, it was back to the airport to hop on our CHARTERED PLANE back to Adelaide… I’m telling you, Tourism Australia and the South Australia Tourism Commission did it up RIGHT for our itinerary- A MASSIVE ‘CHEERS!!!’ to them!



Flying in style back to Adelaide…



Luckily, the pilot came included with the plane…



Beautiful sunset on the way back to Adelaide…



Back in Adelaide, we had a great dinner out at a local pizza place called ‘Melt’– DELICIOUS! The Dessert Pizza- chocolate, crushed pistachios, and frangelico cream- annnnd, that’s all you really need to know…



Gourmet pizzas at Melt in Adelaide… DE-LISH!



Dessert Pizza- Mmmmmmmmmm…….


Day 9 DownUnder- yet another MASSIVE success! Stay tuned, there’s still MORE to come!


Twitter: @n_tilley

Through Tourism Australia:




To learn how to plan your own EPIC adventure through Australia, click HERE.


Day 8 DownUnder entailed a trip from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island- an island just off the coast of South Australia, covered in national parks and wildlife reserves. I had missed a trip to Kangaroo Island on my first visit to South Australia, and was definitely excited to get the opportunity to see it this time around.

As the photos will show, it didn’t disappoint. Kangaroo Island- a rugged wilderness, sculpted by nature and time, it’s incredible local wildlife unique to that anywhere else in the world.


Kangaroo Island- THIS is why I LOVE Australia…


All aboard!- Hopping on the regional plane from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island



Stunning scenery- our first look at Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island



Somewhere, over the rainbow…



Remarkable Rocks- Kangaroo Island



Amazing erosion at Remarkable Rocks




Remarkable Rocks



Team Wildlife Caretaker, enjoying the day at Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island, South Australia



Media call at Remarkable Rocks



Always the center of attention…




Remarkable Rocks- Kangaroo Island, South Australia



A first-class lunch with Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours




Ready to take flight over Kangaroo Island




The KI Coast



The Great Southern Oceam- anyone want to got to Antarctica?



Flinders Chase National Park- Kangaroo Island



A storm passing over Kangaroo Island



Flying low over KI



Ummm, yeah- it was pretty good…



Back on the ground after an EPIC helicopter ride



Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island




Sunset over Seal Bay



After a MASSIVE day on Kangaroo Island, we were all ready for dinner at the Penneshaw Hotel



Garlic and goat cheese bread- YUM




I was so hungry, I forgot to take a picture before reducing my plate to rubble…




A great dinner at the Penneshaw Hotel



To learn how to plan your OWN amazing adventure through Australia, click HERE.



“Ready mate? Here they come- let’s get amongst it!”

FINALLY- it was time. I checked my mask, took a deep breath, and stepped off the back of the boat. The plunge took my breath away- not because of the temperature of the water, but because of the clarity. Air bubbles swirled around my face, blocking my vision as I sunk into Seal Cove- a small bay just outside of Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. My heart thumped, the adrenaline rushing through my system; I searched the sandy bottom, scanning the seafloor for the locals we had come so far to see. I had come to Port Lincoln for this moment, and was ready for the experience of a LIFETIME.

And then, there they were- a pod of Australian sea-lions, eagerly swimming out from the beach to meet us. We had seen them lolling on the sand, seemingly oblivious to our arrival, but had been assured that all we had to do was get in the water, and they’d come out to play. That’s EXACTLY what happened. Before I knew it, we were surrounded by these graceful beauties of the sea, twisting and turning here and there, rolling over and flipping upside down. I was shocked by their playful curiosity, with their unbounded boldness- they weren’t afraid of us at all, and seemed to almost be more interested in us than we were in them. Almost…

Port Lincoln is one of a VERY few places where you can swim with Australian sea-lions, and I had been wanting to do exactly that ever since visiting South Australia in 2009. I expected it to be an awesome wildlife encounter, and the reality of actually doing it was more than I could have imagined. It was INCREDIBLE- easily the most interactive wildlife encounter I have ever had- and that’s saying something. The sea lions wanted to PLAY- they wanted to chase us, only to effortlessly flip around and have us chase them. They were keen to show off their aqua-acrobatics, laughing at us clumsy humans looking awkward and ridiculous in our efforts to mimic their grace. They made us look BAD…

South Australia is such a unique place, with wildlife unlike anywhere else in the world, and swimming with the sea-lions of Port Lincoln was a totally ‘Australian’ experience. Nowhere else can you get so up-close and personal with such an amazing animal, and be brought face-to-face with ‘South Australia’ in such an amazing way… I miss them already.



To learn how YOU can plan your own EPIC adventure through Australia, click HERE.

Day 6 DownUnder

June 15, 2013 — 8 Comments


YoyoYO- it has been a LONG day, but here is a VIDEO journal of what Team Wildlife Caretaker got up to on Day 6- our FIRST in SOUTH AUSTRALIA!!!!

It all began with a broken zipper at the hotel (Hence the duct-taped duffel bag…), then- flight from Sydney to Adelaide- transfer to Cleland Wildlife Park- interaction with Olivia the Olive Python (she.was.AWESOME.), media call with the South Australian Press with Olivia draped ALL OVER ME- some QUALITY time hanging out with Hank the koala- flight from Adelaide to Port Lincoln- a great dinner at Sarin’s at the Porl Lincoln Hotel, including MASSIVE Coffin Bay King Oysters… YUM!

What.a.DAY! And stay tuned- there’s more on tap for tomorrow…


Twitter: @n_tilley

Through Tourism Australia:

Here’s the video:




To learn how YOU can plan your own EPIC adventure through Australia, click HERE.



Day 5 DownUnder

June 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

Ok, it’s going to be a LIGHTENING ROUND for Day 5, as there are more stories to tell, and I need to get CAUGHT UP! 🙂

First things first- we visited Taronga Zoo bright and on Thursday morning, got to get up close with koalas and kangaroos, and then had some cool wildlife interactions overlooking Sydney Harbour. Even if you don’t really like zoos, Taronga is still well worth a visit- the exhibits are world-class, the range of wildlife is HUGE, and the views are SPECTACULAR. There’s no doubt about it- these animals have the best views in ALL of Sydney!


Welcome to Taronga Zoo



Mark the Media Director giving us the briefing for the day, cameras rolling (ALWAYS…)



Getting to know the locals…



G’day mate!




Morning, boys- what’s for breaky?






This Diamond Python was checking me out…




Team Wildlife Caretaker at Taronga Zoo




Team UK with Ben Southall- the winner of the first ‘Best Job’ contest




Soaking in the AMAZING scenery at Taronga Zoo




Jambo! I met some of this guy’s buddies when I was in Kenya…



The BestJobs Crew at Taronga Zoo

The BestJobs Crew at Taronga Zoo




After the trip to the zoo, we headed over to the Sydney Cricket Ground for an adrenaline-pumping afternoon of Australian Rules Football training. Citibank Australia is a MASSIVE supporter of the legendary (and current cup-holding 2012 champion) Sydney Swans, and put on an awesome Footy Experience for us at the SCG. We were lucky to have three of the current players put us through drills, share some pointers, and give us a glimpse of what it would be like to play in the AFL. ROUGH, that’s for sure. It was a BRILLIANT day, and we were all excited to do something physically active. We were kicking balls all over the place, flying into tackles, and learning all about this incredible sport unique to Australia. It was AWESOME, and I am definitely feeling it today…

Welcome to the home of the Sydney Swans!



Getting our pre-game speech in the players game room



Let’s GET IT ON!




Hanging with Swans LEGEND Adam Goodes- he’s a 2-time league MVP, and the Swans’ all-time best player… So yeah, he’s a big deal.



Getting some tips from current Team Captain Jarrad McVeigh



The Sydney Cricket Ground



The 2012 AFL Championship Trophy- FREAKING SWEET!



It was an epic day at the SCG, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to act like a REAL footy player. Cheers to the Sydney Swans and Citibank Australia!


So- that was Day 5. Sorry it was so brief, but I really needed to get caught up! Stay tuned- there are more adventures to follow. Next up- SOUTH AUSTRALIA!


Twitter: @n_tilley

Through Tourism Australia:


To learn how to plan your own EPIC adventure through Australia, click HERE.