The Culture Shock of Home

You’re on the plane about to go home after your incredible travel journey. You start reminiscing about all the things that you went through and smile. Just like that it’s over.

Exhaustion sweeps over you as you get off the plane. You walk extremely fast to go through immigration but the tourist in front of you has a million boxes of rice noodles and just won’t budge. Finally, you walk out of what feels like a claustrophobic space, (aka, your mind). This is the moment. It’s like a red carpet event and you’re about to make your big entrance. Walking down the departure strip, you scan faces for your loved ones.

“Ah, I swear if they aren’t here, I’m gonna kill them! I said 8:45am!!!” Finally, your eyes meet as you run towards each other .The welcome home balloon gets in the way as you hold on so tight with your face buried in their neck.

**

That excitement of being home lasts a little while. That’s until you realise that everyone has gotten on with their lives. You show photos and they ask how your trip was, and after that it’s like no one really cares anymore. You’re home, you’re safe and they’re back in their work office waiting to heat up last nights dinner for lunch.

People talk about the culture shock of arriving into a new country, but not many people talk about the culture shock of returning home. It is actually a thing, and closely linked to post holiday depression. The transition can be somewhat strange. You miss your backpacking buds and want to be exploring with them. You think about all the crazy nights and how nothing here at home could ever compare. A part of you almost feels like you don’t belong at home anymore because you’ve left your heart in so many other places.

The thing with going home is that everything is still the same. It’s you who has changed and become a different person. You feel like no one can understand the things you tell them because they weren’t there, but old mate José from Columbia who’s a hundred miles away would completely get it. You then jump on his Facebook and stalk the pictures he’s taken as he continues travelling through.

The adjustment is hard. You don’t want to become a robot stuck in the norms of society, but you need money to get away again and experience these crazy wanderlust things. So, as you heat up last nights dinner for lunch in your office, you think about José from Columbia and smile. You open up SkyScanner and contact him through that annoying Facebook messenger app.
“Hola, José! So I’m thinking South Africa next Summer. Wanna come?”

The culture shock and post holiday depression slowly sinks away as you begin to free fall back into the routine of that everyday life … but never for long ;)

Once the travel bug bites, there is no antidote & i KNOW i shall be happily infected for the rest of my life.

“Once the travel bug bites, there is no antidote & I know I shall be happily infected for the rest of my life” – Michael Palin

The Hoi An Hype

Every backpacker I met in Vietnam spoke fairly highly of Hoi An, so I guess you could say I was pretty excited to get there. What exactly was the hype about, you ask? Well, Hoi An is one of those towns where you could spend forever and be content with the most simple life. You wouldn’t need any of those material things, because Hoi An doesn’t revolve around any of that. It’s so relaxed with never ending amounts of things to do that your social media accounts will be the last thing you’ll be checking.

Being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the old town is one of the best I have seen in all my travels (..yes, I went there). With peaceful lanterns that fill up the streets and the river, the town creates this vibe that makes you really feel a sense of appreciation. Being fairly small (and absolutely gorgeous), the old town in Hoi An is manageable by foot whereas the actual city is good to be explored with a bicycle as it’s not as crazy as HCMC or Hanoi (yikes!), so there’s less chance of you being hit by a thousand motorcycles! Usually people have been to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Min before heading to Hoi An, so the change in traffic is absolutely refreshing! You’re actually able to cross the road without fearing for your life!

Away from the traditional streets of the old town, Hoi An offers a beautiful strip of white sandy beach, which is the perfect place to unwind and cure that hangover from the night before. With some amazing seafood joints lined up by the water, some barbequed shrimp and a cold Huda beer is the ideal combination to have you recover in an instant! Also, going on a weekday, you’ll find the beach to be empty which allows time for a peaceful nap just before the sunsets ever so gracefully by the gentle waves.

Lazy Hoi An days!

Lazy Hoi An days!

Sapa Trekking

It was a 12-hour night train from Hanoi to Sapa. One of those trains where the toilet is a metal hole in the ground so you have to squat like a sumo wrestler. My squatting skills aren’t that great at 3 in the morning, so you can imagine what happened. Going in the the bathroom with only socks on, I slipped on the urinated floor and almost fell into the hole. Unable to sleep after that horrific experience, I was fairly exhausted when we arrived. With the mini van pulling up to our hotel, we were swarmed with the traditional women of Sapa. I felt famous and a little overwhelmed. Is this what paparazzi is like? I hid behind my friend as we made our way up the stairs to freshen up and have a big breakfast.

Sapa ladies making conversation. . "where you from?" is the lure!

Sapa ladies making conversation. . “where you from?” is the lure!

The trek began a couple hours later. Leaving the hotel, the women followed us on the trail trying to make small conversation so we buy something off them. I found it so amazing that they would do the same track in little flip flop shoes, and we were huffing and puffing in our sneakers. Every time we’d stop to appreciate the view, it just got more beautiful each time. It was like a staircase of different shades of green that made you feel like you were in another world. Every time I get to a place like this, it always reminds me why I travel. It’s to experience those small moments that make you realise how much there is out there and how insignificant material things are.

Pictures just don't do complete justice!

Pictures just don’t do complete justice!

We trekked for two days, did a home stay where we drank rice wine and slept on mattresses on the floor where a huge spider got comfortable next to my bed. I woke the next morning unsure of where he had gotten! Maybe I accidentally ate him in my sleep…

Sapa trekking was one of the best things I have ever done. I’m not the fittest person, so something like this was painful, but so worth every second. I fell about four times and by the end, I was covered in mud and dirt, but I still felt so fresh and alive. It’s one of those things you can’t explain to the full extent, you just have to experience it for yourself. The haggle of the Sapa ladies, the rice fields, the fresh water rivers, the pain in your body and the beautiful views all blend together to create one of the most memorable experiences ever.

These shoes are gonna be fun to clean back home!

These shoes are gonna be fun to clean back home!

Castaway Craziness – Halong Bay to Hanoi, Vietnam

I should have known it was going to be messy when they said there were 80 backpackers signed up to the Castaway tour. We gathered together at the hostel with our colourful sombrero hats and got ready for the three-hour bus ride to Halong Bay. With nothing else to do as we waited for the boat to take us in, the shot gunning of beers began at about 11:00 am and didn’t stop for 48 hours.

Finally getting on to the big boat, which was the accommodation for the night, the party continued and everyone had become friends. One of the first activities of the day was kayaking. Being extremely keen and quite drunk, I jumped in with one of my new American friends. We kayaked through little caves and strolled through the water so peacefully. I started feeling really enlivened, when I decided that I wanted to jump off the kayak. With a beer in my hand, my denim shorts still on and my phone in my bikini top, I jumped straight into the water.

Beautiful Castaway Island!

Beautiful Castaway Island!

After what was too late, I came to the realisation that my phone was in my top and quickly pulled it out. It was soaked but I didn’t care at that moment because my beer had gone and that was more disappointing. One of the guys held on to it as I tried to get back into the kayak but pulled too hard, filled it with water and tipped it over. I swam over to another kayak as the Dutch girls tried to help me on but I accidentally tipped that one as well.

As I had become the girl who tipped kayaks, everyone agreed that I should just stay away from them, so I held on to a rope in the water as they dragged me back to the boat. Climbing up the ladder to get in, I didn’t realise the distance from the top ladder step to the floor of the boat. Jumping and landing horribly wrong, I smashed my knees and forehead extremely hard, which ended up in excruciating pain for the next few days.

I couldn’t believe that it had only been a few hours into the trip and I had tipped two kayaks, destroyed my phone and smashed my knees! Eek! The day continued and the party got wilder. We drank, ate and played ridiculous drinking games that ended up with people’s arses on fire, clothes swaps, and awkward licking behaviour (…guilty).

Crazy drinking games!

Crazy drinking games!

**

With day two starting at 7am, everyone was hanging badly as we made our way to Castaway Island. I woke up with a pain so bad in my knees; I actually thought I had broken something. Also, I could feel the flu approaching with a sore throat that made alcohol unbearable. I spend the day relaxing and put off drinking until 3:00pm, which was late for the Castaway crew.

Getting a few vodka redbulls in me, my sick feeling had disappeared and I was ready to party again. We mingled, played some more games and had a huge party on the island. Towards the night, the planktons had come out into the water so everyone went for a night swim to check them out.

With the Halong Bay experience coming to an end, we arrived back in Hanoi the following night. Just looking at everyone’s faces, it was like they had been hit with a bat. Deciding that I wanted a quiet night, I checked into my room and had a much-needed shower to wash of all the regret from the past two nights. Heading down the bar for what was meant to be a quick bite to eat and one drink, I ended up at a Vietnamese rave drinking chronic mixes of strong liquor.

The Vietnamese rave was pretty impressive. Set in an outdoor area with strip poles and foam machines, the DJ controlled the crowd with her sweet mixes of local and Western music through the early hours of the morning.
Feeling completely knackered, I only lasted a couple hours before I headed back to my dorm and had a much needed rest before doing it all again the next night!

Viet DJ going off!

Viet DJ going off!

I’m Bored . . Let’s Go To Vietnam

I was overcome with that feeling as I stood in line to check in my backpack. It’s that feeling that I can’t describe. As the attendant hands me my boarding pass, that feeling boils like a pot of stew. Then walking through the tunnel to get on to the plane; that is when the eruption of excitement, nerves and happiness begins because I’m actually about to do this crazy, spontaneous thing. It’s when I realise that this is what I was born to do.

**

I booked my flights to Vietnam one week ago. I don’t even think I realised that I booked it until I went to bed and thought, “oh shit, I guess I’m going to Vietnam on Monday”.

A lot of things led me towards this spontaneous trip. In a nutshell, the biggest thing would have to be disorientation. Everything happened so quickly when I got back from Europe and I was thrown into situations, which I thought I wanted, but I didn’t. Months past and one day it suddenly hit me that I needed a positive change of direction.

People think that quitting something is weak, but it actually isn’t. If you quit something because it’s not for you, then it shows strength. It’s society’s rules that make people question their decisions. It’s really simple though. If you don’t like something, then change your attitude. If that doesn’t work, then change the entire situation.

The past five months that I’ve been home have been exhausting. I haven’t had time to just take a moment and actually realise what I was doing. I lost motivation to write or do anything, and was stuck in a rut. I can gladly say that I am now 100% back to my old self, and could not be happier. I’ve overcome all the physical, emotional and mental things that I was going through and have come out so much stronger and so motivated to work on my career and my life.

So just a bit of advice to everyone as we embark on this Vietnamese journey together. . Do whatever the fuck you want in life. People always ask me why I go here, how I go, don’t you have to work, blah blah blah. I seriously just do what I want, it’s truly that simple guys. People don’t realise how precious life is. I’m not going to sit back and wait for things to happen for me. I’m not going to wait for the ‘right’ moment. What is the right moment? If you wait for that, you’ll be waiting forever.

Wanderlust: a strong desire to travel.

Wanderlust: a strong desire to travel.

The End of The Eurotrip

I never thought I’d be the girl searching for the 1 penny that she dropped on the ground as she rummaged through her beaten down Mimco wallet for the correct change to give the restaurant. Oh damn, now he’s delivered my beverage and poured it into my glass while putting one arm behind his back. He flashed a beautiful smile and walked away. Ah, does this mean I have to tip him now? I guess I better fumble through and see what I can dig up. How’s 1 Euro? Ah, but I was saving that for a congratulatory beer tomorrow night. Shit, I’m so poor. Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m nearly home.

**

I guess its goodbye Europe. We had some good times, didn’t we? Just thinking back to Granada, Hvar, The Greek Islands. . It’s like a distant memory now.

I look out the window as the plane slowly drives on the runway in Helsinki. It’s covered in beautiful white snow, which is amazing because through the whole trip, I hadn’t seen snow properly, until I left my hostel. As I leave to slowly make my way home, snow is falling and I’m greeted with beautiful pale scenery that I will never forget.

What are the chances that on the last day of my Eurotrip, I see snow! -Helsinki, Finland

What are the chances that on the last day of my Eurotrip, I see snow! -Helsinki, Finland

The trip was a hell of a ride, but I wouldn’t change any of it. The experience made me so strong and a truly feel like a different person than who I was before I left. It’s like a new sense of maturity, independence and gratitude has been found.

Challenges were seen everyday on this Euro trip. I want people to know that it isn’t as glamorous as it seems, especially doing it alone and for a long time. But, the feeling is so liberating when you get past the hardness of it all. It’s something so indescribable, but it overcomes your mind, body and soul.

Backpacking gives you this feeling which I can’t completely explain. . it’s like you finally find what you’ve been searching for. .until the next craving of wanderlust, of course! ;)

Stay tuned! xo

The Bavarian Boy – Munich, Germany

I walked through the city of Munich like I had been living there for years. There was a certain comfort that the town brought out in people, along with delicious beer and great food.

Strolling through Marienplatz, I heard the sounds of Latin music. In front of the Glockenspiel, there was a zumba class that was taking place on a huge stage for International Women’s Day.

As I stood there and watched the various characters dancing, a guy approached me and began speaking to me in German. He had luscious brown hair and deep green eyes with a perfect tan.

“Ah sorry, English?” I said, awkwardly of course.
With his Ray Bans hanging in his blue checked shirt, he laughed and introduced himself in perfect English as we continued our conversation.

The zumba performance was coming to an end, so the German asked if I wanted to grab a drink. Not feeling bothered to socialise, I thought one drink couldn’t hurt, and since he was a local, he knew where all the good beer gardens were. It was like I had my own personal German tour guide!

We sat on a crowded table (the only way!) and enjoyed a litre of beer each and a pretzel while getting to know each other. The sun was so warm on my back and the water by the garden was moving ever so peacefully.

Pretzels and Beer, what more do you need!

Pretzels and Beer, what more do you need!

With the sun slowly going down, the German took me around Munich and told me about the significance each area portrayed. We ended up at his favourite coffee shop/bar and had a few more beers before heading back to his apartment to chill out.

It was so strange being in somebody’s home as I hadn’t been in that kind of environment for eight months. It was a beautiful apartment. The lights were dim and the open space of his living room and study made it very relaxed. His whole wall was a bookshelf, which was my favourite.

The German got some cold beers as we chilled out on the couch and watched movies. We had already gotten to the stage where we didn’t need to talk constantly. We were happy just quietly enjoying the company of each other. . that was before our tummies started to grumble! Getting in a cab, we found the nearest German pub and indulged in pork knuckle, schnitzel and more beer.

An epic Bavarian meal!

An epic Bavarian meal!

After an amazing feed, the German took me to a number of local pubs and clubs. What I loved about this was that there were no tourists, just Germans everywhere! We drank more beer until I realised that the 4 litres of beer was slowly hitting me. The German walked me back to my hostel with his hand grazing against mine, as we said our final goodbyes and never saw each other again.

One drink had turned into a 4 litres of beer, 3 bars, 2 movies, 1 amazing Bavarian meal and a great 12 hour friendship.

The Never Ending Journey – Lisbon, Portugal

The time was 6:00am when I thought I had arrived into Lisbon. As I hopped off the train, something felt weird. The station didn’t look very safe, and considering I was in a well-known town, it should have.

Walking through with my pack, I looked back over to the train tracks and noticed a wooden bridge that people were running across to get to the next track. I knew that was unusual, so I said to a little Portuguese woman, ‘Lisboa?’ Her eyes grew large and she shook her head and said the name of some town, which is where I was. “You, unsafe!” She told me and scurried away.

Completely exhausted and furious, I didn’t know what to do. Everyone was staring at me like I was crazy. A man who was on my same train tapped me on the shoulder. “Where are you trying to get to?” His English was perfect and I could tell he was from Spain. He explained to me that I had to go to the ticket office and get a new ticket to Lisbon. The ticket centre was over the tracks, so I began my walk.

As I got onto the tracks, rain started belting down heavily. It was so intense that I felt like I was about to fall over due to the force it had. As I sang Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’, I somehow made it to the ticket office and approached the officer. He didn’t speak a word of English and couldn’t help me at all. What was I meant to do!?
Thankfully, the Spanish man from my train had come to the rescue. He spoke to the officer and they told me what train to catch. Because of the time zone, I had gotten off at the wrong station and ended up in some rural town! After 25 hours, I finally made it Lisbon at 10 o clock in the morning.

After a much needed proper shower, I headed out with a guy from San Fran who had moved to Lisbon in 2010. He showed me around the cool city and took me to a cool art exhibition, which was done in a little village. The exhibition consisted of painted photographs that were hung outside houses, and when you would look inside the houses, you would see a similar scenario being played out. For example, one painted picture was of Portuguese men drinking coffee. When you looked into their house, you saw these men sitting around the table, drinking coffee!

That night, some of the guys at the hostel took us around to different Portuguese restaurants where we got to try traditional food and drink. These places were hidden, so it was an authentic experience where locals surrounded us. After a few shots of the traditional liquor, I could feel exhaustion sweeping over my body, considering it had been two days since I had actually sleept in a bed. I let one more shot of the warm liquor hit my stomach as I curled up in my bed and slept for 12 hours.

The most photographed street in Portugal!

The most photographed street in Portugal!

Too Much Tapas – Granada, Spain

I arrived into Granada with a dead phone, no idea where my hostel was and a really bad hangover. Jumping in a cab, I didn’t even know what to tell the driver. “Donde?” he asked me while flicking through the Spanish radio stations.
Finally, the hostel name came to me. “Oasis ahh backpacker?” I told him in excitement. He looked at me puzzled and handed me his phone with a Google search open.

Five euros later, I made it to my hostel. Absolutely starving, I put my pack down and ventured off to find some yummy food. As I began walking through the Arabic influenced streets, two men called out to me. Without even realising, I turned around and we made eye contact.
Just a tip to solo female travellers; never ever make eye contact with a man, especially if he is trying to talk to you. Why? Well, because they will follow you.

Arabic influences in Granada, Spain

Arabic influences in Granada, Spain

These two men followed me for quite some time. I managed to stay on the busy streets, but they just wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally, I found refuge in a little kebab shop, which was fairly busy. I thought I had escaped these guys, until I saw them waiting for me outside, staring at me with a disgusting look on their faces.

After a while, they disappeared and I ran back to my hostel. At that stage, I didn’t like Granada at all and actually felt a little unsafe. That was until I entered my room and was greeted by my new roommates, aka Julio and Consuela, who had given me the nickname Shakira. It was apparently a thing they did in Spain where everyone had a different, exotic name.

That night we went out for tapas and drinks. If you don’t know the tradition in Granada, it goes a little something like this. When you order a drink at a bar, you’re given tapas for free! Amazing, right?!
We hopped from bar to bar and ended up meeting a lovely Canadian couple (could’ve guessed they were lovely without me saying it) as we stumbled through the city drinking tinto verano (red wine, lemonade and ice) and eating paella and jamon (cured ham).

Jamón!

Jamón!

After a few days of exploring, we started our final day together at noon as we ventured off to grab ‘breakfast’. Julio decided he was going to go out for a drink and tapas, so of course I tagged along.
One drink and tapas turned into eight drinks and we ended up getting back to the hostel at 5:00pm. We got ready and joined Consuela who was waiting for us to watch the Flamenco. She had brought about six new backpackers and we had a few with us as well. The group was ever expanding.

Pura Vida! with Juan, Juanita, Julio, Consuela, Alejandro, Enrique, Lucia, Rosa & Carmen

Pura Vida! with Juan, Juanita, Julio, Consuela, Alejandro, Enrique, Lucia, Rosa & Carmen

The flamenco is a must in Spain. I had never seen anything like it. With the passion and love in the dancers eyes, the performance was so powerful and left us speechless. I can still hear the music and beat when I close my eyes.

The night carried on as we hopped from bars to clubs. With tinto verano, mojitos and shots, you can imagine how crazy the night got, especially since Julio and I had been drinking since noon.

I crawled back to my hostel at 7:30am and I had to be on a train at 9:00am to make my way towards Lisbon, which was going to be a very long journey. As I got off the train from Granada and into Madrid, the hangover had hit, very hard. I had a nine-hour stop in Madrid as I waited for my overnight train towards Portugal. Too sick to do anything, I put my backpack down in the middle of Madrid Atocha train station, and took an uncomfortable nap with a police guard standing next to me the entire time.

As my next train was from a different station, I jumped on the metro to begin the journey. I have never felt so sick in my entire life that I had to get off the metro three times as I thought I would be physically ill. It was at that moment where I just wanted to be in my warm bed and needed someone to tell me it was going to be all right. I stretched out on the metal seat at the metro and cried for a solid amount of time because the pain was too much.

Finally getting on the overnight train to Lisbon, I started to feel a little better after taking advantage of the disable bathroom in Madrid. With its facilities, I freshened up and threw away all the clothes I was wearing that crazy night in Granada (the full story is quite vulgar), and cleaned myself up. Even though the hangover was the worst thing I had encountered, Granada will always be one of the best times in my life and one of my favourite places in the world.

No Hablo Espanol! – Barcelona

An elderly man comes up to me as I’m sitting in the common room of the hostel reading the English to Spanish dictionary. He begins talking in Spanish as I tell him, ‘no hablo Espanol’. He responds with ‘English?’ I nod as he continues rambling on in Spanish.

After about ten minutes, I realised that this man speaks perfect English, but he was trying to help me learn. Reaching into his bag, the man takes out a bunch of worksheets and continues to tell me in Spanish that he teaches English to Spanish children. . I think. Well, that’s what I figured out through the random English words and the worksheets.
By the end of our conversation, I gathered that this man was a writer/poet and he used to be in the military, where he lived in a house in Morocco for 2 years! After giving me his card, he offered me a cheap rate (for Spanish lessons, I hope!) and we continued sitting together in the common room to watch Spanish game shows. It just shows that there is always a way to communicate, no matter what language or culture you find yourself in.

**

There has always been hype about Barcelona, and I truly see why. You could spend years in the city and still be amazed with all that it offered.

To gain a historical understanding of the incredible city, I took a tour with an Irish lady who had been living there for 5 years and knew all there was to know about the city.

Being in a small group of 6, we were able to connect more with our Irish-turned-Spanish guide. She told us random stories about markings that were on buildings, the significance behind street names and certain events that had happened in non-touristic areas.

What I loved about Barcelona was the contrast splash that fills the city. There’s modernism on one side and then Gaudi’s infamous work blended with medieval and gothic themes on the other. The little alleyways and streets create an exciting vibe, which I think makes Barcelona so cool.

After the tour, the group ended up sticking together and finding a cute little restaurant for lunch. As it was a Thursday, it meant that all the restaurants would offer Paella (a traditional Spanish rice dish) as a starter in the ‘menu of the day’. This special ‘menu of the day’ is a 3-course menu that is available during lunch hours for a cheap price, usually between 7 to 11 Euros.

As we finished off our Sangria jug, we trekked to the beach to take in the view. The palm trees, the warm weather and the waves were a beautiful combination. We strolled along and ended up jumping in a cable car to go to the castle. . or ‘cas-tell’ as my new South American friend would say.

Barcelonnaaaa beach!

Barcelonnaaaa beach!

After a long walk, we finally found this ‘cas-tell’ and the view was worth the hour and a half hike. The gorgeous beach just looked so peaceful as it lay against the architecture that looked like little monopoly houses all stacked against each other.

As I looked around for my new friends, I realised that everyone had gotten lost during the hike except my South American friend. Obviously finding it hard to switch between speaking in Spanish and English, she began rambling on in her native tongue which made me realise that the English to Spanish dictionary didn’t do anything. I screamed ‘no hablo espanol!’ and that’s when I realised that I needed to learn the language quick. I can proudly say more than no hablo espanol now.