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Category Archives: Travel

Taking some time off and the complete serenity of it

Not long ago I wrote about how important it is to timely act upon all decisions and urges we have, and not put things off (you can find the post here). I mentioned there that I was planning to take a few weeks off between my two jobs because I had never before had the chance to do that. Well, now my time is up and I wanted to share how the whole experience went for me. Spoiler alert: It was one of the best things I have ever done and few things in life have made me happier.

One of the first things that happened was that I was put in uncomfortable situations. I travelled with a group of other people, who spoke a language at which I don’t feel super fluent; I travelled alone, going on daily excusions, communicating with people I never met in my life, explaining and sometimes defending the fact that I was travelling alone. I travelled with my boyfriend and we were offerred overpriced touristic ‘attractions’ which made me feel quite uncomfotable. But all of these weird and uncomfrable things did expand my horizons, one way of another.

Secondly, I got to visit stunning places I always wanted to go to. All of them — to some extent but not equally — had rich history, interesting culture, beautiful nature, delicious food, soulfood music, friendly people, interesting flora and fauna, and all the air of a new place that charms and mystifies you.

When you take away the stress and pressure of your job, of the daily routine, of all small troubles and trepidations you have in your everyday life, something wonderful happens. You open up for new experiences, you start noticing the small beautiful details of things that surround you, and stop sweating off the small stuff. You become content with little and you want to do more. But then again, it is easy to feel that way when you have nothing to really worry about.

I had the chance to spend time reading books, doing some sports, watching movies and TV series, to find new music that calms and inspires me and overall, open up and allow myself to be moved by different forms of art. In the past, whenever I had some free time, I would devote a bigger part of it to learning something new, usually related to my job, or related to learning the local language (in my case, Dutch). But now I read for pleasure. I watched silly, as well as beautiful movies. I watched TV series about beautiful places and women leading ordinary lives but having extraordinary friendships. I ran outside when the weather permitted and simply enjoyed the sun and breeze in my face, taking in the view wherever I was. I listened to music that gave me goosebumps. I sang in the shower to it and danced to it while no one was around. I lied on a gorgeous Caribbean beach and simply looked at the wind playing with the palms’ leaves.

For a few weeks I simply did nothing but I felt everything, experienced so much and have seldom before in life had this feeling of pure content and serenity. I focused on myself, and at the same time, focused on everything and everyone but me. I reflected and felt grounded. I travelled, I saw, I sought and felt complete and utter freedom. Would I have felt this way if things in my life were different, if say I did not have a job waiting for me, or a person happy to see me back from each new trip? I don’t know. Will I ever be able to travel as much, and to feel this way of complete freedom and satisfaction with my life and feel like I might not have everything I ever wanted but I have more than I ever hoped for and needed? I don’t know. Will I be able to go to some stunning, gorgeous places any time soon and forget about all the little troubles I might have at that point in my life? I certainly hope so. It might not happen to me again but these past few weeks have been among the best and happiest time in my life. I felt I have travelled a lot but I always felt at home, I always felt safe, sometimes homesick though not sure for where. And now I returned and feel at ease. I feel sad it is over but I am energized and ready to tackle a new challenge. But I have to admit a very good part of this all was that there was someone, always awaiting for me to return.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Happiness, Travel

 

Daydreaming of one of the last unspoiled paradises

As I was in a need of a much deserved break from work, I came across the name of an island I had never heard before — Palmerston. It is a coral atoll from the Cook Islands, according to the article in the Wikipedia page, and is located what is seems to be at the end of the world.

Apparently, reaching the island is quite a challenge as it is situated some 500km northwest of Rarotonga. And everything about it seems to be magic. There is no money, no war, no fights, no problems in the way we are used to think about problems. Or to quote one resident (the population is less than 70 people), interviewed by the BBC, “Nothing goes wrong in Palmerston”.

If you go to their official website, you almost wish you could transport there immediately. Hospitality taken to the extreme, and “people matter more than time and things”. So just sunny, white beaches, coconut trees, few and very friendly faces, colorful fish and birds, and absolute freedom. Isn’t that the dream? If only getting there was easier. Then again, if it was easier, perhaps it would have been less special. And check the photos on the website to gain a better idea of the reclusive, peaceful and at the same time — absolutely out-of-this-world charm and spirit of the place.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Travel

 

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What you do not get to learn/see when travelling but maybe wonder about

As I am reeling from my recent excursion and looking forward to the next, hopefully more relaxed one, I got to think about how much travelling enriches and changes us. Isn’t travelling just great — simply in the small ways we learn to be more open about the world, more perceptive, more tolerant and knowledgeable? There is a new, magical world opening up in front of us, making us forget about the problems we have had back home in a heartbeat.

So far so good. However, for me, there has always been something very nostalgic in travelling. And it has nothing to do with me quickly falling for a place, finding my peace, and satiating my curiosity (all of these things do happen to me regularly though), so that I do not feel like I want to leave it. I feel nostalgic when I am there because as much as a new world is opening up in front of me, just as much of it remains hidden, perhaps never to be explored by me.

When you travel and visit new places do you ever wonder how does the average person live? Whenever you take a guided tour through some historical place, such as a castle or other monument, the guides always seem eager to explain what the king/queen did, how he/she acted, what he/she was famous for, mixed with a funny anecdote or two. No one ever tells you about how the average people lived, what they did, what kind of values they had, what was important for them in those days…simply what was ordinary life like.

Or as I am wandering through a new (often gorgeous and fascinating) city, I often ask myself if I would be happy living there; and how do the strangers I meet live like. Or what is life like for whoever lives in that corner house on the small square with the many flowers on the balcony. And strangely, these are questions I do not ask myself whenever I am back home, wherever home might be. Perhaps it is the transience of it all — my brief glimpse on the small square with small, colorful houses and the flowers of the balcony, and my subconscious knowing I will probably never return the this place again and thus trying to hold the memory for as long as possible. There is hardly a way to explain it without sounding corny. Whatever it is, it is definitely something to be cherished — a slightly sad feeling of not belonging, or everything being fleeting, or nothing, including you, lasting forever. You blink and it is all over.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2014 in Nostalgia, Travel

 

The importance of travelling alone. And not

I’d travelled alone before multiple times, but usually for conferences, which does not exactly qualify as spending days on my own discovering a new city or country. This time for the first time in my life I decided to take it a step further and after the conference to spend a few days on my own in Portugal. This was my first time ever visiting the country, and I am always apprehensive about getting along in non-English speaking countries (since English is the only foreign language I speak well).

And I have my reasons to be apprehensive. It happened to me before that due to some misunderstanding I missed my bus and was stuck at a Prague bus station pressed by time to go back and with no money for a ticket back. Or as I was taking a bus to the airport in Madrid (which a friend reassured me was going to the airport), ended up in the outskirts. So I was alone at a bus stop at 6 am somewhere around Madrid, needed to catch my flight and no one around I could ask. And the list can go on…

So basically I always worry unnecessarily and fear the worst when it comes to travels. There were no major mishaps this time around (yet, as I am about to fly back today), but I have to say in only 10 days I have experienced more than in over half a year of my regular life.

First of all, let me say that I found Portugal to be very beautiful. Being an old country, it has a lot to offer in cultural and historical perspective. And being a former sea and colonising power, you can tell it used to be a very rich country. The churches and old buildings are richly and expensively decorated. The current shabbinnes only contributes to its charm. And I will definitely would like to come back one day and explore more of it.

Now, there are also some things I wish were different. I did not enjoy the fact that somehow they try to rip off tourists in one way or another. For instance, I take a cab from the train station to the hotel, and though it was shown one price on the meter, somehow he was asking me for double the price. When I asked why, he seemed no longer to understand English. And there are many cases like that.

I also was quite stricken by how many beggars and homeless people you see on the streets. Not so much in Lisbon, but in all the other cities I visited. And I come from one of the poorest countries in the EU, and even for me it was overwhelming. And there were some really heartbreaking cases, such as a woman with proteases on both legs, sitting prostate in front of one the major monasteries, or an old lady without eyes playing (I forgot which kind of) musical instrument on the street. And everyone is just being cheerful, soaking in the sun and the glamour of the old historic streets, the contrast would not be any more distinct. Observing this made me appreciate living in a country with properly functioning social system. It is beyond sad to see these people, forced by necessity, to sit on the street, using their shortcomings and disabilities as a way to get by. The inequality is simply everywhere…

Now about getting by on my own. I was apprehensive, especially during my stay in Porto where every one on the streets is talking to me and seems to want something from me. I was lost many times, I walked in circles — which very often here implies climb hills — I asked for directions (and I am the kind of a person who believes I can do it all on my own, so it is very difficult for me to ask for any kind of help), I met some rude people (who urged me to be rude myself), I met some genuinely kind people, I had interesting conversation with a Portuguese lady on a train, I ate food I had never tasted before in my life, I ended up being in small, local bars, family-run restaurants, dimly lit, and suspiciously looking diners, some fancy and quite beautiful ones as well. I climbed so many hills, took the old streetcars taking you on a journey winding through those small streets with old houses where you see people chat in front of their front doors, laundry and flowers hanging everywhere, and the air is somehow filled with the smell of freshly and deliciously cooked meal. And I had to be pushy, I had to be shameless, I was sightseeing alone so I had to constantly nag some random people to take photos of me, I had to get used to be having a meal in a restaurant alone (but thank God for books!), I had to use gestures to explain to the bus driver where I needed to go (btw, never take a bus in Lisbon because they do not announce the stops, and they do not stop at every stop, so the only way for you to know where you are supposed to get off is if you travelled that route before…or ask the driver to stop, of course). I also had the most embarrassing moment in my life yet; as I was crossing the street on a red light (no one waits for green light here as it usually takes forever for the traffic-light to change), I happened to be passing above the metro, which happened to be passing underneath right at that moment. So you’ve seen the famous photo of Marilyn Monroe? Well, I could not hold down my skirt unfortunately. And this happened in one very busy square. I also for the first time in my life while on a city trip visited so many museums and looked at some many pieces of art.

Sometimes when I was seeing a group of friends having a blast, or just couples being together, I was a bit jealous of them that they have all these amazing memories and experiences to share with. And it makes it so much easier — if you get lost, you are lost together, if something happens to you, you’d know there is someone there you could lean on.

But I realised how important it is to be comfortable with being with yourself, and being a single child and having a complicated childhood, I’ve been very skilful at that since an early age. When travelling alone, you do not build memories with someone, but you get so enriched but what you see and what you experience, you are pushed beyond your limits, you learn to be independent and completely self-sufficient, you learn to find piece and comfort in the small things in your trip — not in the moment you shared with someone special for you, but in the small treasures that you discover along the way. Travelling alone is definitely underrated and, at least for me, did offer me more experiences than I could imagine. But my next trip I do not plan to do on my own 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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