The underrated joys of solo travel

Cetatea Rupea

In and around Rupea Fortess. Romania

It has been a while since I went travelling but as more time passes, the focus of my nostalgia tinged memories shift from places and things I set out to see to the people and memories I chanced upon by pure accident.

The two girls, roughly my age or younger who I asked for directions in the nonsensically numbered streets of Zagreb stand out more than the distinct architecture or beauty of the city.  We walked together in the darkness for a while, in an attempt to find my hostel. I’m not sure how long it took since we were walking around without a clue, though I definitely had less of a clue. I was a foreigner (noob) and they were foreign students from neighbouring countries so they understood the feeling.

Plitvice

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The highlight of my travel was getting to see Plitvice Lakes National Park. I loved the place so much that I came back the next day for a second dose. I spend the majority of both days wandering through the park in a kind of quiet ecstasy.  On the first day at Plitvice Lakes National Park, I entered the park through one of the lesser known entrances, thanks to the local driver who showed me around the park as he talked about his love for his family, the family restaurant and cage fighting. I believe soccer (or football?) was mentioned a thousand times throughout the day as well.

Plitvice

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

I was on my own for the second day and entered through the main entrance. The park was ridiculously busy even in the lead up to peak season with tourists moving in swarms, humming with chatter and blinding each other with camera flashes (of which I was also guilty, let us be honest). But just as it was with the first day, the best moments occurred away from the crowds, noise and go pros. Veering off the track a little helped me breathe in the beauty of this magnificent offering of nature’s without having to worry about holding up the lines that would inevitably form if everyone moved at a pace that would actually let them enjoy the experience. I had been dreaming of this place for months and months, so I wanted more than just a fleeting moment and an overflowing camera.

A peek of the Museum of Applied Arts, while roaming the streets of Budapest, Hungary.

Then, there was the kind, middle- aged man who was heading for the Carpathian mountains on the train from Budapest to Brasov who bought me food because the shop only accepted Romanian Leu. There was the personal tour guide who shared my love for cemeteries and photography, with whom I traded stories of Denmark for the history of Vlad the Impaler, Hungarian architecture and the Roma people. There were the dorm mates I tagged along with to a beer festival in Budapest though I am not the biggest fan of beer and ended up having a pretty good time just eating, listening and observing.

Cetatea Rupea

In and around Rupea Fortess, Romania

When I lay awake at night, thinking about the travel I cannot presently afford and the memories past, it is the unplanned experiences and the circumstances I was unprepared for- blunders of the solo rookie traveller and sweet, serendipitous moments alike- that I miss the most.

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Wonder Woman

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about things I love onscreen but the release of the historic Wonder Woman film seems like a good time as any.

Quick, spoiler free review on the film for those of you have not seen the film yet:

Firstly, despite what the reviews and critics are saying this is not a film that is close to perfection or ‘almost perfect’ as I have heard a few put it. Very, very, very few films are. HOWEVER, it is a film about hope and humanity and it delivers those two concepts extremely well to an audience who – let’s be honest- were probably starting to lose hope in humanity altogether which is a big part of why the film succeeds with such a large range of audiences. This film is for the comic book geeks, the DC geeks, the Marvel geeks (come on, even the Marvel actors, writers and filmmakers are on board), the feminists, the egalitarians (you know feminists are kind of the same thing right? but I digress), the children, men and women who have been waiting for a female led superhero movie (and also those that have not REALIZED they have been waiting). It’s a superhero film with a lot more warmth, hope and old school slow motion action than I have seen in a while. Trust me, you want to see this and you want to see it on a big screen.

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Endless nostalgia

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I’m not always the best at sorting through my emotions, so I’ve put off this post for as long as possible. The last few weeks of my OE in Denmark were bittersweet to say the least. It’s a classic contradiction- torn between your newly acquired love affair with this place and a yearning for home.

There is a feeling of happiness that you get to relieve the intense homesickness you’ve been experiencing but there is also a deep dullness that starts to form in your heart as time ticks by a little faster with each passing day. The classmates who you’ve come to love start breaking down at farewell gatherings; now every moment I would have taken for granted over the last few months becomes significant as I slowly start to realize that we can never get back these moments again.

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I left Denmark for a week to go travelling before I actually headed home, and this feeling hit once again when I got on the bus that would take me away from the city that had in many ways become my home. Some of my friends came to say goodbye, and they waited at the bus stop till I was on my way. I waved through the tinted glass knowing they couldn’t see me, and they waved from outside not knowing whether I could see them. I teared up and it was one of the very few times that I did. I couldn’t escape any longer from the inevitable goodbyes, because it was happening right then and I had to face it.

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I always joked about coming back ‘super cultured’ from my OE, but the truth is I do feel different. Maybe it’s not in the same ways I joked about, but in the ways I view myself and friendships, and the world around me. I was overwhelmingly happy to finally get back home that I felt like I immediately reverted back to my old self in some inexplicable way. But the truth is I am not that girl anymore, but I am. I feel different and I can barely understand it from inside the bus, so how can I help anyone else understand it looking through tinted glass.

 

It’s on us

Click here for full article

Less than a month after Vice President Joe Biden penned an emotional letter to the woman sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, the White House has announced sweeping new rules for future visits to colleges campuses.

Under the policy, President Barack Obama, Biden, their wives and members of the Cabinet will no longer visit higher education institutions where officials are deemed to be doing a poor job tackling the troubling frequency of reported sexual assaults, according to The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin.

The move is the latest in a series of dramatic steps taken by the White House to make it easier for victims to report the crime and for schools to punish offenders.

(Source: Huffpost)

 

København

There is so much I could say about this wonderful city, so many feelings that arise when I think about the few days I was lucky enough to spend there…but rather than blather on about it, I’ll just leave a few photos here to do talking for me.

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View from top of Christiansborg Palace, also the home of Danish Parliament.

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The colours complemented my scarf so naturally had to take a photo.

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Went past many, many adorable and quirky cafes on walking tours, but this was one of my absolute favourites.

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I didn’t get to go inside the famed amustement park the first time I visited Copenhagen so I took photos from outside instead.

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When it seems too charming to be real but it is

I love it here, but sometimes I miss home and when that happens…well this is what happens- a lot of time spent thinking about the past through pictures.

This is a place in Akaroa called Giants House, you have to pay to get entry inside but I would say it is worth every dollar. All the artwork featured outside by artist Josie Martin is done with mosaic tiles, and just thinking about the amount of work and planning that went to this makes me tired but the end result is beautiful.

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Oh my sun, welcome back!

I like Aarhus so far; it is wonderful when it snows, the old buildings are beautiful and here to stay without the looming possibility of earthquakes and aftershocks. But one thing that is not so great is the rain. With rain comes unhinged winds and chills that seep through your clothes, but the worst part is that it masks the sun. I thought I was getting used to not seeing so much sun, or maybe I was accidentally getting my dose of Vitamin D elsewhere. Whatever the reason, I was starting to think that the human relationship to sun I was used to might be exaggerated, but  then the most beautiful thing happened a couple of days ago. The rain stopped, and the sun came out to say hi in all its glory and I jumped with joy in my head.

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So long story short, my friend and I decided to make the most out of this unusual winter weather and went to the deer park in Marselisborg-Moesgaard forest. It took us well over an hour to get there, even with the help of several local runners (my hands were starting to freeze even with insulated mittens on but these people are made out of something stronger I swear) as neither of us have any sense of direction. We finally found the park and I sighed in relief…it was worth it.

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It is an enclosed area, but the different deer species walk around freely, giving us a chance to get close to them. Tip if you plan on going to a deer park/petting park or zoo or any kind: BRING FOOD FOR THE ANIMALS. They are not interested in flirting with you unless you have something to offer, something like carrots perhaps.

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There are many picnic benches scattered throughout the park, and I made a mental and verbal note to come back here many times. I’m curious and excited to see how the park looks in spring, and perhaps even on my birthday so that I can celebrate with two of the most wonderful things in this world: open nature and food.

 

The confusingly contradictory lives of Danes

On one hand there is all the smoking, drinking and consumption of pork that makes me genuinely concerned. On the other hand, there is all the running around in spandex in weather that is made for hot chocolate and movies while swaddled in blankets. It boggles my easily- boggleable (shhh) mind.

All the stories  you have heard are (probably) true. A friend told me recently they saw an elderly, seemingly disoriented woman drinking a beer on the bus the other day and I was not surprised. The university bar at DMJX is called Friday bar and I think that is a common thing for universities across Denmark. They open on Fridays, and the drinking starts in the afternoon and lasts well into the night. Weirdly enough, despite this heavy drinking culture I have not encountered any annoying drunk behaviour (you know the kind of stuff I’m talking about…) outside of bars- I wish this was the case in New Zealand but, alas, I guess we can’t have everything. You can’t smoke inside public places, but many of the buildings contain multiple small, open courtyards (kinda like an atrium if you will) and it is very common to see people going to these areas  or even outside in between classes and during breaks to get in some smoko time. I actually have no idea if some of these are designated smoking rooms or free for all as I tend to stay away from them- growing up with a pretty aggressive anti- smoking media culture can leave you with a deep sense of discomfort towards second- hand smoke.

Despite all this, every day that I’m outside in all my glorious layers and winter accessories I pass by those I call ‘unnaturals’. There are always a few of these fit specimens running on the foot path at all hours, in their thin, tight, layers making me reconsider the extent of human potential. Then I console myself by thinking about their Viking blood, go home and eat till I can’t anymore, then eat some more. I’ve been told by Danes that the obesity levels here are increasing but even with that, I’ve seen very few that could be categorised under problematically obese. So I sit here and wonder and wonder while eating Mister Choc (it’s German chocolate and it tastes like heaven), how do I categorize Danes? Ridiculously fit and made for the cold, or crazy unhealthy? I’ve come to the conclusion, that I can’t solve this mystery so if you’ve managed to read this far I’m so sorry that was kind of useless. But now you know what I’m thinking.

First- time solo flyer: Story of a rookie on OE

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When you haven’t travelled by yourself before, the idea of going on an OE can be daunting. I know because I’ve been going through it for the past few months. I got a partial scholarship to study abroad for a semester in Denmark (!!) this year, but the overwhelming happiness in being accepted lasted a few weeks before it was gradually overshadowed by fear and apprehension at this seemingly impossible task ahead of me. Denmark was one of the very few countries I was willing to travel to because of my extremely picky nature, but even the thought of going to this beautiful, relatively peaceful and exciting new country  wasn’t enough to shake out the ‘what ifs’ running through my head. If you are finding yourself in a similar situation and freaking the f*** out, read on…it may be helpful but I won’t promise anything.

  1. You aren’t the only one.                                                                                                       It is always tempting to think that you are special in the way you feel and react to these kind of situations, but it can also be alienating. I eventually started talking to others who were faced with the same exciting albeit terrifying experience ahead of them and guess what? It helps! No one can understand how you feel in these situations quite like those who are in the exact same position, so engage with others and start getting excited!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       DSC_0638.JPG
  2. Don’t always trust the internet.                                                                                         I googled how to fit in with Danes (in hindsight, that was obviously a mistake) and it took me to pages talking about the Viking descendants that are blonde, lithe and unnaturally tall. That is obviously not what a 5’2 midget Indian Kiwi wants to hear. Stereotypes often have some kernel of truth in them (sometimes) and may of the native Danes are taller than the average New Zealander or Indian, but the city I live in is teeming with all kinds of people from different cultures and background which is a dream for a student about to study under the ‘inclusive journalism initiative’. The internet also led me astray in predicting the weather, it is very, very cold here but definitely not as cold as many make it out to be. Anyway, point is- internet is a useful tool and you would be a fool not to use it, but take everything that isn’t from authorised sites with a grain of salt.

3. Stop worrying.                                                                                                                               This is DEFINITELY easier said than done, but I only survived the past few weeks prior to arriving in Denmark by simply refusing to pay attention to the incessant ‘what if’ voice in my head. Think of it as a white noise machine, do what you gotta do and stop thinking about things you don’t need to. Don’t build up unrealistic expectations in your head, but get excited because it will be an unforgettable experience and one that you will hopefully love.na (2).JPG