Inspiration via Edinburgh

I looked out the window of the train as I headed towards Edinburgh, Scotland. I was overcome with a feeling of joy as I notice the lights shining beautifully, just like little diamonds on a silver bracelet.
Though it was hard leaving Keele, the place I called home for 4 months, being back on a train gave me a sense of peace and happiness. I like the thrill of being alone and trying to figure everything out for myself.
People always say to me, ‘don’t you get lonely?’. The only time I’ve ever felt lonely was at Keele when everyone in my block had gone home for Christmas and I was still there counting the days down till my flight into Paris. Apart from that, I have to say that I am very content with travelling independently and I prefer it.

Don’t get me wrong, travelling with someone is good as well, but I think when you’re young, there are things you need to do yourself to help shape the way you develop as a human being. Travelling, and studying abroad are a few of them.

When you’re young, you’re overwhelmed with everything that life throws at you. You go through school, jobs, career paths and sometimes you get caught up in this routine where you feel like your life isn’t going anywhere and you’re stuck in the same thing day in and day out. The trick is to get out. Get out of that routine for a while and everything starts to make sense.

Ever since I was 14, I’ve been employed. I saved my money and went to Fiji for an after school celebration when I was 17. When I turned 18, I got a job as a waitress and at the end of that year; I went to America for 5 weeks, which was my first big trip. After that, that’s when I knew I was meant to travel the world.
I worked two jobs, studied a full load at uni and 2 years later by the time I was 20, I had saved enough for a best friends wedding in Queensland, a complete Euro trip and an exchange program in the UK. I barely went clubbing, I hardly bought anything for myself and I kept my social life to an extreme minimum. It may sound boring to some, but I was happy with my work-study routine and wouldn’t change any of it.
Why? Well, because of everything I have seen so far and the fact that I am reaching my goals.

I sat first class on my way to Scotland that night, I sipped on some apple cider and enjoyed a delicious meal while a waitress asks me if I would like anything, instead of the other way around. I couldn’t have felt better at that moment.

I understand travelling may not be for everyone, but the point of this is motivation. With everything going on in the world, you really need to grasp life with both hands and realise how lucky you are to have the opportunity to conquer your dreams. So many people work and study, but they have no goals and they just do it for the sake of it. You need goals and you need passion in life, or there is no point. I love to write and I love to travel. I work because I want to see the world, and I continue learning because I want to become a better writer.
When I quit my 2 and a half-year job back in Sydney, it was an amazing feeling because that’s when I knew I had achieved my financial goal, therefore meaning that I was ready to undertake my travel one. I was ready to break free out of my comfort zone, experience new things and get lost in culture with nothing holding me back.

So whether it’s a mortgage, music, fashion, a holiday, backpacking, a dream job, art, overseas working/volunteering, a car, sport, an Apple product or a business idea; just find that passion that’s inside you and get motivated.
Work and live towards something, because everything will start to make sense.

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Eiffel in Lourve with Paris

I sat in my room at Keele sipping my strawberry cider while looking at photos of my beautiful family who were back in Sydney. Ah, Christmas time. The time I should be excited about, but was not. Everyone in my block had gone home to their families and I was left there all alone with nothing but a Dan Brown novel and the horrible feeling of homesickness. Time dragged as I counted the seconds until I would be reunited with Jay for the holiday season.
**
My eyes were planted to the entrance of my dorm room in Paris as I waited for Jay to walk in. I could feel my heart beat faster as I heard movement rustle from outside the door. I knew it was her. I threw myself into her arms as we did our usual routine of her picking me up and spinning me around like a record on replay.

“Merry Christmas from Paris”, I whisper to Jay, as we get ready for a day of exploring the city. She smiles as we put on our coats and eat a scrumptiously warm croissant while walking down the street towards Gare du Nord station. Confused as to what she needed to ‘pick up’ from there, we walk quickly while taking snap shots of the Parisian streets. It was a quiet Christmas morning, with the occasional person running across the street with a freshly baked baguette in their hand. Smiles are shared and it suddenly felt more like Christmas.

We enter Gare du Nord station as I notice Jay looking around. I also begin looking around, thinking maybe she is searching for a locker where the rest of her stuff is kept. I look straight ahead and realise that it wasn’t a metal lockable compartment that she was looking for, but instead a very special person.

I first notice the famous red coat as it sits perfectly on the woman’s petite frame. My eyes fill up with tears as I wait for her to turn around. Her dark hair falls over her shoulders like a peaceful waterfall as she flashes that big golden smile. We run to each other and hug so tightly as if we never want to let go. I stop and take a moment to look at her. It’s like a reflection. When did I start to look so much like her? It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered at that point because my sister was now with me on Christmas.

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They often say that if Paris were a gender, it would be a woman. She is passionate, full of beauty and unlike anything you can explain. She’ll have you feeling a new sense of wanderlust that can only be treated by exploration and adventure of the city. Most of all, Paris makes you feel at home.
If this were the case, then Paris would be my sister.

With only a spoonful of Paris, homesickness was cured and I finally felt like I had a piece of home with me to begin celebrating the joyous holidays. With a beautiful picnic by the Eiffel Tower at night and a day exploring the Louvre, I can definitely say that Paris stole my heart in more ways than one.

Christmas with Paris.

Christmas with Paris.

Leaving My Heart in Hvar – Croatia

I squint my eyes as I get off the train from Zagreb and into Split. The sun was so intense in the south of Croatia and I was having trouble adjusting to it. I rub my eyes and find a concrete slab where I place my backpack down and take off my thick coat.

Finding the correct street of my hostel, I begin to walk. I look around and notice the change in vibe from Zagreb. There are many more tourists and young people walking around and suddenly, I’m overcome with excitement to begin exploring. Throwing my backpack in to my new room, the adventure begins. First, the harbour.

I sit by the water and let myself breathe in the fresh air. I look around and smile to myself. The moment takes me to a place of serenity. I find a small coffee shop and enjoy a freshly baked baguette with a delicious chicken salad filling and then continue strolling through the city of Split.

**

I heard about Hvar from an English girl who I met in Zagreb. As I get off the ferry and on to the land, I’m reminded of the times I spent in the Greek Islands. With just a similar feel, I could already tell that Hvar would make it to my top favourite places.

Walking to my hostel, I see backpackers trekking in the scorching heat everywhere. I walk past two who seemed to be taking a break from the walk. I end up stumbling to my hostel only to see them behind me. I turn to introduce myself as the Australian guy says, “should we get fucked up tonight?” I laugh and nod my head as we put our bags down and head out for a cold beer and a seafood lunch, which was then followed by a lazy afternoon nap on a small pebble beach and a wild night in the town.

**

In the time spent in Hvar, our little group of three expanded to about fifteen people, and we really became a good cluster of backpackers. One day we decided to hire a boat and a skipper and go island hopping. With litres of beer, baguettes, salami and cream cheese in our esky, we began the morning bright and early and headed to the harbour. Being short two people for the boat hire, we spread out looking for two more people who would be interest in joining a group of strangers on a boat into a day of the unknown. One of the English guys found a married Brazilian couple that ended up joining us for the duration of the day and night.

The day was perfect. From island to island, we discovered some of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. The green and blue caves were magical and felt like something only in a dream. The beaches were tranquil and perfect for eating our baguettes and drinking our beers while we watched the boys play volleyball.

The caves.

The caves.

Ending the day, our skipper took us to an island called Hula Hula Beach Club. It was an outside bar like place that had everything to cater for an amazing afternoon. From tree houses to beach chairs, the island played smooth tunes that instantly put everyone in a great mood. We smoked apple cigars and drank beer while watching the waves gently flow to the rhythm of the music.
Life was perfect.

Beautiful Hvar.

Beautiful Hvar.

Beer & Burek – Zagreb, Croatia.

I’m faced with a tramline as I exit the main train station of Zagreb. The instructions said to walk straight, right? Wait, do they speak English here? I slowly turn around and walk back into the station to the Croatian girl who was selling books. “Um, excuse me. Ahh, Main Square?” With perfect English, she responded with, “just walk straight and you will find it”. I smiled and thanked her as I opened up the directions to the hostel on my phone and started the walk.

Reaching the main square, I continue to follow the directions. I obviously look puzzled, as an older man comes up to me and asks if I need help. He looked at my phone and said, “I help you, and you help me.” Before I can say anything he begins telling me the directions to my hostel. AsI smile and slowly walk away, I notice his shadow following me and begin to scurry. My backpack bounces painfully against my neck as I notice the silhouette getting closer and closer. I feel a strong hand tug on my backpack, which pulls me to a halt.
“Kuna, Kuna!” he says with his hand projected towards me. Oh, he wants money?
“Ne Kuna! Ah, sorry!”
Great. Another currency to take out! I breathe a sigh of relief as I end up losing him and notice the sign to my hostel. I enter the building and am greeted with a shot of traditional liquor, Rakia, which sends a warm feeling straight to my stomach.

**

I woke up the next day ready to venture off into the city of Zagreb. With my daypack full of random stuff, I pulled out the map and tilted my head to the side as I tried to read it. I had no idea what I wanted to do so decided to put the map away and just walk.

I followed the tramline and I heard loud music vibrating through my skin. I followed the beat, turning the corner to find some kind of Croatian festival. The place was full of red, white and blue traditional outfits that created an energetic atmosphere. I walked around finding a large array of market space that had everything from clothes, cds, cute wooden objects and delicious food.

My senses were overwhelmed with the smell of freshly baked pastries. As I wandered through, my eyes met with a spiral shaped roll that was being made by an elderly woman. The wrinkles in her hands depicted the hard years of work she had done as she continued to structure the dough. A warm smile curled the edges of her mouth as she noticed me paying attention to her work.

“Burek, burek. Take, take, take’, she said. I bought one and we shared a moment of appreciation. I continued to walk through.

***

Late afternoon came, so I decided to stop for a bit and enjoy a picnic. I walked back towards the main station, I noticed the huge park across it. The field of grass was so fresh and vibrant in colour that I just had to go in.

I got comfortable with my cold can of beer and burek, and starting looking around the park to see what interesting people there were. I noticed a young couple avidly kissing on one side of the water feature and a group of teenagers smoking aggressively on the other. Within minutes, I noticed them all screaming and running out of the park. I looked up in the sky and was met with light raindrops that gently touched my cheeks. They should go away soon, I thought to myself.

Zagreb

I continued to sit on the grass and enjoy my pastry when suddenly I felt like a bucket of water had been poured over me. The rain had gotten very heavy! I quickly chugged my beer, put my burek in my backpack and zipped up my hoodie so that only my eyes were showing as I bolted for cover. Where was cover?! I struggled to see anything. The rain attacked my face like sandpaper. At this stage, I was completely soaked and I felt like I was carrying two toddlers on my back. Just my luck, it then begins hailing intensely as everyone around me scurries into cars and shops. I fought against the hail and somehow managed to find my way back to the hostel.

My wet clothes were glued to me as I began stripping them off in my dorm room. I reeked of rain, beer and pastry; oh, what a combination! I sigh loudly in frustration and notice my new roomie laughing at me as I struggle to peel the clothes off my body.
“The rain got you to huh!”, he says, as he dries his light golden hair with the micro fiber towel that hangs across his bare shoulders.
“No shit, Sherlock”, I say while making my way to the showers.
I return to the room to find four shots of Rakia waiting for me. The new roomie smiles and says, ‘I’m Sherlock, nice to meet you”. We both laugh at his horrible introduction and let the warm liquor burn our throats. I take out the Burek and rip it into pieces.
“So, where you from, Sherlock?” I say, as the cycle of backpacker friendship begin yet again.

Santi to Serbia – Greek Islands to Belgrade, Serbia

The moment we were dreading had arrived. . leaving the beautiful Greek Islands and moving back into intense backpacking, but this time separately. The ferry ride into Athens was at night. Completely exhausted, we pretty much walked to the harbour half asleep, where we dangled our legs by the water and waited for the ferry.

The boat had arrived and everyone rushed towards it. I always find that so intriguing, when people rush towards something. I’ve experienced it for flights, subways, trains and ferries. I never see the point because things like flights and ferries, they won’t leave until everyone is there, and there is usually enough time for everyone to get on. I’ve been knocked over, caught in the middle of luggage and trapped between people all because they turn into wild animals when their form of transport arrives. So just a tip for anyone who is this kind of person: calm down!

As we all eventually got onto the ferry, an employee pointed us towards a room. Since we didn’t have any assigned seats, we thought that this was a room with lounges or something where we could try and get some sleep.
We walked closer to the room and could hear very loud noises. Peaking around the corner, we noticed that it was a gaming room. They had shoved all the backpackers into a gaming room to sleep. I quickly ran to the back of the room where I claimed my corner. I don’t think I noticed anything odd at the time, as I was so sleep deprived. But, when I woke up at 3 in the morning to see 40 backpackers all lined up in rows, sleeping on their backpacks and curled up with their jackets over their cold bodies, I couldn’t believe it! I kind of felt like an illegal immigrant, like that instance in San Fran where the cab driver chucked us in the back of his van. I put my coat back over my head and drifted back to sleep as the gaming machines played sounds of excitement.

***

We arrived into Athens later that morning and put our stuff in a locker at the main station. We sat on the ground and freshened up, as the toilets cost money and we were poor. We still hadn’t slept, but had a full day in Athens until we separated the next day. With a fresh face and clothes, we headed out to explore the Acropolis. Feeling completely exhausted, we knew we needed a nap to get through the rest of the day. Finding a park bench, we both took a side and had a fairly decent hour nap. We woke up even more tired, sore and cramped up.

Beautiful view of Greece!

Beautiful view of Greece!


Long story short, that night we caught a train into Thessaloniki, and then another one into Bulgaria. From there, Jay and I were going to catch one more train together, where I would get off into Serbia and start exploring, and from Serbia, Jay would catch a train back towards the west of Europe.
We arrived into Serbia early morning, but as there was a delay, we though Jay had missed her train. We ended up spending the day together in Belgrade, which was really nice. We went to these cool underground tunnels and caves where we learnt about the Serbian history, explored wine cellars and just roamed around the city. After a while, we realised that Jay hadn’t actually missed the train. There was a time difference and our phones hadn’t changed, so she was actually early for the train! We laughed at our stupidity, said our goodbyes and ventured off on our own adventures.

You know a bakery is good when there's a line going out the door! Belgrade Serbia.

You know a bakery is good when there’s a line going out the door! Belgrade Serbia.

The End of an Adventure.

So that’s it. My amazing 9 month adventure is slowly coming to an end. I remember when I started planning it, and now with a blink of an eye, it’s all over. It hasn’t been easy, but that’s been the beauty of it. I reached my personal goal of seeing 30 countries by the age of 21 and could not be happier. Thank you to everyone involved in this journey, from Asia to England to Europe. The things I have experienced on this trip have truly shaped me into the person I am today and I have never been prouder of myself.

Doing this alone, I’ve come to appreciate life with such a compelling gratitude that I can’t describe. The time I have spent solo, found me to be lost in my own thoughts, where I’ve discovered things I didn’t even know about myself, leading me to be so comfortable & content with who I am and what I’m doing in life.

As I head home in a few days, I would like to thank everyone who has been so supportive of my writing and even though I am delayed with it all, I will continue to post. There are still many stories for me to get through, but I promise they will all be on here soon enough. It means so much that you all read this blog, and your lovely messages have inspired me more than you could imagine.

If I could leave you all with a bit of advice, it would be to travel right now while you’re young and free. Don’t worry about that 9-5 job, those responsibilities, what people think of you or the way society tells you your life should be.Take that leap of faith and get lost in a new country because I can guarantee that you won’t be the same person after all of it. The people you meet and things you experience will become your reason to live. So in saying that, start breaking the social rules, get out of your comfort zone and embark on a ridiculous adventure. Life is too short to live without a passion so deep that leaves you craving more & more.
Life Is Beautiful guys, so go out there and enjoy that motherfucker!

Also, any backpacker keen to join me for my next adventure, contact me at ashntraveladventures@gmail.com.
Stay tuned for all the stories, as they’re coming your way very shortly!

xo Ash N

Santorini Sunsets – The Greek Islands

We arrived into Santorini just as the sun was about to set. As we got on the coach, we drove around and through the windy roads and watched the beautiful sun turn into a golden red as it disappeared into the distance. Jay and I smiled at each other, appreciating the fact that this was our last destination as a duo.

Our hostel was located right by the beach. Just as we were ready to share a room with 12 other travellers, the receptionist told us that he had upgraded us to a private room, since it was available. I can’t speak anymore highly of Anny Studios. Not only did they give us a great room, but they sent out our postcards and helped us with absolutely everything we needed. The upgrade was so delightful. Again, everything private, with a great big bed and a television! To top it off, we would step outside and the beach was at our feet.

The next day, we got up early and hired a quad. I have to say; this was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made while travelling. I started off driving and realised that I was a little uncoordinated, so let Jay drive for the majority of the day. I mean, she would actually drive on the correct side of the road.

Our ride for the day :)

Our ride for the day :)

We drove all the way around the island, and then headed to the north area which is called Oia. Apparently the most beautiful sunset in the world is seen from this place. Oia was fairly packed so we took in the beautiful views, got lost a little and then headed back to our quad where we drove off as the sun set. It was a magical moment to say the least. In regards to the most beautiful sunset, well they weren’t lying! We got back to our hostel completely exhausted, smoked some watermelon shisha while playing ‘Guess Who’ and then sunk into our marshmallow bed and called it a night.

Everyone waiting for that beautiful sunset.

Everyone waiting for that beautiful sunset.


With having such an amazing day, we realised that we had to extend our stay because there was so much more to discover. Adding an extra few nights, we headed out the following day to do a day tour around the island. It started with a hike up the volcano, which was fairly painful when you decide to wear your havianas that day. It was all worth it when we reached the main area and looked out to the beautiful water. Don’t tell the Greek Government, but I stole a rock from the volcano.. ha!

After exploring other surrounding islands and the hot springs, the day had come to an end. We picked a random Greek restaurant on the strip of our hostel and indulged in a lot of seafood. All of a sudden, the lights had dimmed and traditional Greek dancers had come out, dancing all around the restaurant. They danced and danced, and started pulling people up from the tables. Of course, Jay was pulled up and started doing some belly dancing kinda moves on the table with the 2 girls. The restaurant owner was insisting that I get up there, but I was scared the music would take over and I would break out into my usual hip hop freestyle and scare everyone. I kindly declined.

Smashing plates!

Smashing plates!

After more dancing, the restaurant workers lit the floor on fire and everyone was given plates to smash. We smashed multiple plates until the night was over, and shimmied our shoulders as we got back to eating our amazing seafood dinner.

While we were in Santorini, Jay and I realised that we hadn’t spent any time the beach, except for walking by it. Our final day was dedicated to the beach, where we relaxed and drank cocktails that we’re delivered to us by one of our favourite restaurant owners. After having a final shot with him, we said our goodbyes, and watched the sun set for the final time. We then caught our ferry out of the Greek Islands at midnight for what had been one of the best times of our entire life.

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