Travelling has taught me a bunch of things.

Nowadays it seems that the internet is flooded with articles about travelling. What is the best way to travel, pro and cons of travelling, lessons learned while travelling. However this might not be the case. I am following dozens of websites and blogs related to travel, so this clearly has an impact on the sorts of articles I am seeing every day.

I travel. I do not often write about it, I do not always post pictures of what I see. This is by all means a personal reflection of certain things I noticed about myself and it is all due to travelling. I do not want to say that all my adventures changed me profoundly, because I don’t think they did. I had a very good idea of who I was long before I started country hopping, and that, at its core, it never changed. Nevertheless, travelling made some qualities, and equally some flaws surface more often.

I have read a bunch of articles about how the best way to travel is alone, or with a friend, or with a partner, or backpacking or luxury travelling. I have travelled alone, with my travel soulmate who is currently stuck in Sydney, with a partner, in a group. I went backpacking. I hitchhiked,  I slept in hotels, hostels, motels, air bnbs. I also slept on beaches and I camped. I worked abroad and I partied. Do not get offended but I do not think there is a perfect way to travel, if you want to travel you will do it anyhow, and what is comfortable for you is the perfect way to travel.

So, all this travelling I have been doing has taught me that:

  1. Where I am from, it does not matter, and I wish people would ask that less frequently. I am a Romanian living in England, and that is my home. There are certain parts of me which are truly English, and I would argue, certain parts do not belong to any country, Romania or England, but are purely me. Travelling made me realize the world is more diverse than we think. I have met a girl who was half Portuguese, half New Zealander, born in Hong Kong, living in Australia. New Zealand born, raised in Australia, living in America, Indian who lives in America, Syrian who lives in France. Individuals tend to say more than one country when asked ‘where are you from?’ because people might have the wrong impression about the country of origin or they simply identify with more than one culture.
  2. Travelling teaches you to be more open. Yes it does. But I was open before I started travelling. However, it taught me how to be more reserved, especially  in my private life. I learned that it is ok not to share everything, and it is more than fine to be the odd one at the hostel from time to time, if you simply want some alone time.
  3. Travelling taught me to eat things I simply do not like. I am not a fussy eater, and I have never been, however there are certain things I would rather die before I would buy or cook (maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you know what I mean). Travelling erased that idea; you eat what you are being offered; even more so when the people you meet go through the trouble of cooking for you (my advice would be that if you are vegetarian, vegan or have any allergies, you should let people know in advance).
  4.  My story might be very good, but someone else’s story might be great. Meeting people is a great way to discover different places and get to know different cultures. Once you start travelling you are going to have amazing stories and people will be interested in your experiences and they will be impressed with your adventures but you will also meet individuals who will make you think that even though your story is great, their story is better. And they will feel the same. and you will accept that , because you will learn that there are not two people on this planet who travel the same, and every story you hear is as good as the previous one.
  5.  I learned I am very easily entertained and I am almost never bored. I do not need much, actually I would even dare to say, that providing everything is ok, I do not need anything to just be happy.
  6. Finally I learned that even though a good amount of people I met have a good reason why they travel, I do not have one, and that is more than fine. There are people who travel in search for spirituality, or in search of something they are missing, or in search of love, or they simply travel because of work, money and a million of other reasons, however I just travel, and I don’t know how to answer this question. I travel, and if I will ever find the reason why I do (if there actually is one) I will know then, but until that time comes I shall continue country hopping.
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Your left, my right! After 3 weeks in Spain…

I have been living in Vigo, Spain for three weeks now. After the initial cultural shock that I had for the first few hours of my first day here, I am slowly getting us how things work around here; just in time for me to move again. Well..it happens. The first two weeks went very quickly, partly because my friend Maria was still here, and most of the times I was just following her without noticing anything around me. It is not that I didn’t want to notice anything, or I didn’t want to take my time to absorb everything that this little port town has to offer, I just never had the time walking with Maria on the streets. If anyone who reads this, knows my dear Estonian friend, they would understand that when it comes to walking, Maria has 2 speeds: very, very fast and extremely fast; so fast that in the last few days of her being here, I simply refused to keep up with her. I was walking behind her, and in her own words…’we looked like a broken family’. But nonetheless, she was very understanding when I kept asking her the same stupid questions about streets and how to get home. Then, my whole family came to visit, so again, no time for myself or to get used to my new environment, apart from, we were eating out every night so I was clearly exercising my Spanish.

However, this last week I have been by myself, and I am slowly starting to get used to Spain. I am starting to like the very hot sunny days, the little cafes and restaurants, the markets, the atmosphere. I have been working with 6 years old kids, absolutely lovely kids, and thanks to them my broken Spanish is getting better. Although the look on their faces when I speak half in Spanish with a bad accent and then half in English with my English accent, is absolutely priceless, nonetheless they get what I mean, eventually.

There are a few things that have amused me a lot since I got here, and I started interacting with locals, or people who have been here longer than me. Also, there are a few things that I learned from the Spanish, and a few things that Spanish people should learn from the other countries equally. Do not take this list as offensive, it is my personal take on it, and I think it is quite amusing.

1. All you need is enough money to go out drinking, you will automatically have food for free, and good food as well. We all need to love Spanish restaurants because of their free tapas, with any sort of drink you order.

2. Fresh fruit, fresh veggies, fresh fish. Enough said.

3. Siesta time. If at the beginning it is rather hard to adapt that half way through the day everything around you closes, soon you start enjoying that nice afternoon nap, which allows you to party more in the evening.

4. Crema Orujo. Which is by far my favourite alcoholic drink in the world right now, and if you ever come to Galicia, do not dare leaving without trying it.

5. If you are like me, or my dad, and you like to have cold drinks and also would like to be able to buy them in any shop, do not come to this part of Spain. Good luck finding a supermarket who serves cold beer or water, there’s none. Who on Earth likes to drink their beer at room temperature when there’s 30 degrees Celsius, goes beyond my understanding.

6. Spanish parents (please do not get offended, that is not my intention here), take it down a notch. Your kid will be fine if he is 5 years old and has a scratch or if he is playing in a closed park, in a summer camp without close supervision. It is not the end of the world. Your kids cry way too much, and they are way too overprotected…life is not getting any easier, but I am not a parent, so maybe I should not give any advice.

7. However, one more thing on the advice list, from a non-parent. Stop feeding your kids so much sugar. You have amazing food, amazing fresh season fruits. Having sugary cereals or biscuits for breakfast and then, having the same for a snack, or worse, such as cookies or muffins it is not the way forward. If you give a 6 years old child money to buy his own meal, you know what they are going to buy? 5 euros worth of chewing gum. Yes, you read that right. He is supposed to eat healthier than that, but then again, that is my personal opinion and I am sorry if I offended anyone. Also, it needs to be mentioned that this does not happen in every household in Spain, I am just giving a few examples which shocked me as an outsider.

8. Dear Spanish people, I know it is hot most of the year, but a kettle is a brilliant invention.

9. Also, I kindly suggest to stop starring so much at other people walking down the street.

All in all, my experience here has been amazing. I have two weeks left, and I am sure that by the end of it, I will ever so slightly miss Galicia…and I will clearly miss Crema Orujo.

House shots with hard boiled eggs.
House shots with hard boiled eggs.
Cies Island!
Cies Island!

My dear Maria!

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My dear Maria!

Oslo a pied on a very hot end of summer day!

It’s a funny story how we (my friend Mandy, again, and myself) started our journey to Norway. After the little planning that we usually do before embarking on a new adventure (like buying our plane tickets and deciding over the dates), we wake up at 3am one morning ready to go on yet another adventure this year. Who would have thought that it will be a holiday full of surprises. The wake up call that morning wasn’t our alarm, no..it was far from it, because I think we were still half asleep when we were walking towards the bus station to catch a coach to Stanstead when Mandy got egged. Yes, she had a raw egg thrown at her (you can read the whole story here:http://whynottravelmandy.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/an-uneggspected-journey/ ). My hysterical laughter and she feeling almost sick definitely woke us up, and prepared for 3 brilliant days in Oslo. I need to let everyone know that I wasn’t laughing at her, and I did apologize to her on plenty occasions for my laughter, but it is what I do in situations like this, it’s like a coping mechanism. Otherwise I couldn’t have washed her hair in the bus stop, or in the airport’s bathroom, and probably I wouldn’t have carried a smelly jumper in my backpack for 3 days. Soon after we got to the airport and we got rid of the smell, the day looked brighter (having a shot of whisky at 6am and a full session of make-up, makes you feel 100% better)

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We managed to board the plane and get to Norway. Once in Norway, we had a rather long train journey from the airport to Oslo central station, but apart from the massive confusion of how expensive the ticket was (Mandy’s app wasn’t working properly) we were very happy we were in Oslo. (FYI, the ticket was around £16).

The rather long train journey wasn’t bad at all. We were very lucky the sun was out (and it stayed out for the next 3 days as well), and the views that Norway has to offer are very breathtaking. Looking through the train window couldn’t help but think on how different western and especially Scandinavian countries are to Eastern European ones. One can mainly see the difference at the countryside. In western and nordic Europe everything seems neat and in order and beautifully placed. It is peaceful and quiet and just perfect. I don’t think I could ever emphasizes enough how neat and perfect things look. Especially when you’re just passing by on a train. Here you can really find tranquility unlike the Eastern European countryside which gives you a chaotic feeling, where there’s a mix of everything and an unbelievable contrast  of colours and people and music and nature. I love them both, and I can relate to them both.

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Once we got to the central station in Oslo, we stopped for a coffee in Starbucks (and some wifi of course). What happened next, came as a surprise. Not in a million years I would have thought that this is going to be one of my first experiences in Oslo. This random guy and his group of friends (or better said brothers and sisters) started talking to me out of the blue. After the introductory bits and pieces that you normally have with someone that you haven’t met before he told me that him and his mates are going around town healing people. When I first heard ‘healing people’ I thought I didn’t understand right, so I asked him again, just to confirm. Yes, him and his group of friends, were preaching Jesus word and were apparently healing people who needed help. So after asking me if I have any pains, and me saying that my back hurts from my backpack they started praying to God to heal my lower back. They’ve done twice just to make sure God is hearing them and they filmed me. Yes, there’s a video out there (which I hope it will never go viral) which proves the fact that these guys prayed for me (and my lower back).

After Starbucks, we decided to take on our backpacks and start exploring Oslo, discovering it’s beauty. The first stop was the Opera which was indeed beautiful. The uneven roof on which you can climb to the top, the amazing views of the pier it gave me a sense of accomplishment and freedom. I think (for me) the feeling that would describe Oslo the best is freedom.

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We soon figured out that Oslo is definitely a must-do cities in Europe, and if you can understand it’s a bit more expensive that the usual places you go, you can have a lot of fun.

I can proudly say that Mandy and I did Oslo on a budget, and we haven’t really miss any important details. We walked. And I don’t mean, we walked the normal distance someone walks in a day, we walked the entire cities, we visited everything, and everything was done a pied. We walked through different neighbourhoods, we got lost and we walked some more. We ran, we jogged, we hiked in amazing parks, we walked. Yes there were times when we were wondering which way is better, of course we made poor choices, but did we enjoy it? Absolutely, every minute of it.

A few things I noticed about Oslo, maybe a few things that I wonder about Oslo, and a few that I don’t particularly like.

  • I think they are somewhat obsessed with nakedness (the statues I mean)
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  • They have a few very strange sculptures
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  • They somehow managed to build up houses and restaurants in the woods, without destroying (too much) the nature, so you can easily go for hikes and enjoy the fresh air, and even lay down in the middle of a football field at high altitude (which we did).
  • At crossings they have two red men and just one green. We were wondering why is that?
  • There are not as many tourists as you would see in any other place in Europe, you can take your time when sightseeing and taking picture because there’s no crowd behind you waiting to do the same.
  • You need to pay for the toilets (I just thought I need to let people know this :D)
  • They claim it’s one of the oldest capitals if Europe, it doesn’t look like one, and that is somewhat disappointing. Everything appears to be new, and it just doesn’t give you a feel of the history and traditions.
  • If you dare to seem puzzled when you pay for something the answer is going to be ‘This is Oslo, it’s expensive!’ (Like we didn’t already know that, but thanks for being kind enough to remind us).
  • If you spend a few days in Norway, you’ll think the beauty is truly palpable. Everything around you looks beautiful and everyone around you looks stunning.
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  • We found a public toilet covered in newspapers (yes, you needed to pay to get in).
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  • That was Oslo. Mandy decided she wants to move there. I decided I want a roadtrip around Norway.

Belgian fries, Belgian Chocolate and Mango Beer

That pretty much sums up my weekend in Belgium. But of course it was a lot more than that. Not just the time spend in the land of good beer and extraordinary chocolate, it’s worth describing, but also the amusing and unexpected journey to it. And by unexpected I mean, we literally didn’t have a clue what to expect from a 9h coach journey. Let’s face it, getting the coach from London Victoria to go anywhere it’s not particularly fun, but when it’s cheap, and you want to travel, you have no choice but be uncomfortable. My friend, Mandy and I, didn’t get much sleep on those 9h (although that was the initial plan), and the reason for that was because we were totally unprepared for it. Every time we were dozing off, the light came on and the driver was saying to get off for some reason. The best part was when we finally got on the ferry and we thought…that’s it. We can sleep, but guess what, we didn’t. As soon as we boarded the ferry, we needed to get off the coach, and go upstairs. We thought that’s fine, is only for like 10 mins, whilst everyone is getting ready. NO!!! A very big NO! It was for an hour and 35 mins to be precise. Some of the people are definitely doing this journey more often than my friend or me are. They were prepared. They went there early, made sure they got a sofa, or a chair, or two chairs, or a chair and a table, or any combination of furniture that they could find, and sleep on it. They had pillows, and sleeping bags and blankets. Don’t get me wrong, I had all of them, but I left them in the coach, so I found myself wandering around the ferry in a desperate attempt to find a place to sit. Ohh….and when we found a half decent place to lay down (on the floor, of course), the music started. It was 1:55am. No one, but no one wanted to listen to music at that time. So we wandered some more.

We finally made it to Brussels. We got there at 6.30 in the morning. So what is there to do that early in Brussels (or anywhere)? Go exploring, get to know the city before the crowds of tourists and the busy locals take it’s beauty away. We walked aimlessly and took pictures with statues (we also touched some statues, but that is now a tradition), we’ve seen the flower carpet in Grand-Place, took pictures of the City Hall. We were doing what every tourist does, but without the crowds and the fuss. I highly recommend to get to a new place, and start discovering it early in the morning. You will learn things you wouldn’t normally do if you go there at midday. I will share with you some facts, that probably most of you didn’t know about Brussels.

1. Forget about Paris being the city of love. Go to Brussels, or just go to Belgium. People there are very much in love. You always see couples on the streets, in the parks, kissing at the bus stop, or in the shops. People having romantic picnics and dinner and holding hands.

2. Fashion! Never thought fashion is a big thing in Brussels. Well…it is. Very nice dressed people, and the local designers have some brilliant stuff on display. Ohh…how I would have loved to have the money to buy some things.

3. 15th of August it’s a Bank Holiday. We learned this the hard way. More than half of the shops and cafes were closed that day, when we were desperate for some breakfast and a hot drink.

4. Chocolate taste good, more than good, anytime!

5. Men. Brussels, and Belgium, it’s a very manly city and country. There were groups of men, just men everywhere. Every 20metres, another group of 4-5men. All chatting away..waiting for something and staring at us when we were passing by.

Once the streets get busy, and the markets are up, the atmosphere is completely changed. You can definitely see and feel it’s the capital city, and not just any capital city, but one that speaks two languages. You are never quite sure if you should start your conversation in a shop with Bonjour or Hallo, but nevertheless you try, because you want to feel as authentic as possible (we even talked French to the taxi driver, to make sure he’s not taking us on any detours). So once the vibe in town is changed and the craziness comes out, you have one thing to do (or maybe a couple or more).

1. Have dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant (and go for the frog legs). They are delicious, and you can’t find them in many places.

2. Have one (or more) of the over 2000 different beers that you can find in Brussels. I had the mango one, purely because the 3 Turkish men in front of us let us try their beer first. We tried mango, chocolate and honey. I went for the mango, Mandy for the honey. If you can’t find anyone who is willing to give you a try of their drink, your decision will be impossible. There are too many to chose from.

3. Stumble upon and Irish pub, that serves beer for 1 euro and then go upstairs, where the pub is weirdly transforming into a club.

4. Go to a bar and enjoy the drinks. It is so much more fun than a traditional pub. (English pubs)

5. Go to a night club. And it will be something completely different from probably any night clubs you’ve been before. In Brugge, my friend and I wanted to go dancing, but I suppose Belgians don’t dance. The night club was absolutely packed and everyone was standing up, barely moving. They do not dance, they drink, and smoke and listen to very loud music. If you want to dance, you’ll feel a bit of order. (we’ve done it anyway).

6. Buy some Belgian fries, and enjoy them covered in mayonnaise. (in case you can’t have dairy, have them plain), or a waffle.

7. Talk in French to the taxi driver.  

P.S. The photos will follow shortly.

Here they are:

 

More statues touching!
More statues touching!
Chocolate!
Chocolate!

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Mango and Honey Beer!
Mango and Honey Beer!
More beer!
More beer!

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Statue touching!
Statue touching!

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Smallest hot chocolate in the world!
Smallest hot chocolate in the world!
Frog legs!
Frog legs!
Cheap lunch! And beer!
Cheap lunch! And beer!

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Flower Carpet!
Flower Carpet!

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Half decent place to sleep!
Half decent place to sleep!
People actually prepared for the journey!
People actually prepared for the journey!

I left a part of me in Iceland!

I find it rather difficult to summarize my first encounter with Iceland. How come I went to Iceland? Simple. I just woke up one morning, and before I rolled out of bed I checked my Facebook (do not judge me, everyone is checking Facebook or Twitter or something along those lines), and I read something about the summer solstice. It sounded interesting, so I booked a return flight to Reykjavik, and it was one of the best decision I made this year. As soon as I landed and took the bus from the airport towards the city, Iceland took my breath away. I have never felt more relaxed and at peace with myself. Everything seemed so beautiful to me. I usually have no expectations when I’m travelling. I don’t think about how awesome, or how bad it’s going to be. I let myself decide whenever I get there. And Iceland stole my heart.

I went there all by myself. And if any of you are having trouble travelling by yourself, and you’re wondering if you should do it or not, go to Reykjavik. I met some amazing people. I never felt alone, and there was always someone around. First, I couchsurfed at Brian’s house (an Irish man, moved there for the summer, because Iceland stole his heart as well the first time he visited it). We got along great almost instantly, and within 2 hours we knew so much about each other, that people would always think we knew each other for years. Then, I met Luc, a French guy who was also couchsurfing at Brian’s, and he is awesome. Probably one of the most approachable people I know. And last, but not least, I met Tiana, who started talking to me whilst we were queueing for the toilet, and ohh boy I am so glad she did. We became friends instantly, and we had great fun walking around Reykjavik.

But, apart from meeting extraordinary people, who definitely made my stay in Iceland even more pleasurable, I need to tell you about the Iceland. I was overwhelmed by it’s natural beauty. My words it won’t make it justice, I know it won’t, but I think the best way to do that is to show you.

Iceland from above!
Iceland from above!

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One of the symbols of Reykjavik.
One of the symbols of Reykjavik.

Reykjavik is a small town, and as long as you stay there more than 2 days, you are going to know your way around, even know some shortcuts to get to the hostel, or the house you are staying.  I visited on the summer solstice, in June. That meant it was summer. Summer maybe for them, because, personally I was  freezing. I had at least 4 layers on my at all times. Also, there was 24h of daylight. Yes, you read that right. It was probably the most confusing time of my life, and I loved every bit of it; your body doesn’t really slow down, and I can’t describe what you feel when you look out and you think it’s 5 pm, when actually, it’s around 1am. Even if it’s a small town, there are plenty of things to do. There’s a flea market every Saturday, where you can find some awesome things if you have the time to look for them.You have local designers shops and vintage ones (one of the best thing is that you do not see international brands), you can walk around and enjoy the fresh air and the nature and you can eat indulge in their cuisine. 

If you are not afraid of trying different things, you can always have a whale steak, or try a sample, or maybe a lobster soup. If your aren’t too adventurous with your food, you can always have a tasty meal at Chuck Norris Grill. Yep, Chuck Norris Grill, first country that I saw that, but very ingenious, and very good (I actually ate there twice).

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Lo
Wha
Wha
Whale Steak!
Whale Steak!

If you do stay more than 2 days in Iceland, I think the best way to spend time is to go on an excursion around the country. You will then see some pretty amazing places. Waterfalls, geysers (which in my opinion, they’re a force of nature), volcanoes, and even the tectonic plates widening the gap between them, and you can finish the day by enjoying a relaxing evening at the Blue Lagoon, which I truly believe is heaven on Earth. Let’s not forget that you can also go whale watching, and see the northern lights if you’re going in the winter (that’s on my to do list for next time). 

Vikings!
Vikings!
It was truly boiling water.
It was truly boiling water.
Steam coming from the boiling water in the ground.
Steam coming from the boiling water in the ground.
Part of the Blue Lagoon!
Part of the Blue Lagoon!
Waterfall selfie!
Waterfall selfie!

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P.S. Everyone in Iceland is incredibly good looking! Very beautiful people!