Udaipur

Udaipur, also known as the city of lakes or the White City, proved to be an unexpected treat as our first destination in Rajasthan.

I was a bit nervous what our room was going to be like at Jagat Villa Guesthouse as it was only 400 rs a night, but I needn’t have. Located in the traveler ghetto of Udaipur called “Lal Ghat,” it was the perfect location to go out and explore things; and the room was just as if not nicer than our 2000 rs room in Anjuna.
A little annoyed yet understanding of Dane’s request to “cover up,” I spent our first day walking out the Observatory and Shilpgram, sweating my ass off underneath that stupid shawl. Despite being covered up, I still had a teenager yell at me if I wanted to fuck. 

The Solar Observatory is located on the lake and we assumed there would be a boat somewhere but there was no booth or boat around the area so we headed back towards town, and made a stop at Shilpgram.

Shilpgram is a “village” of sorts where you can learn about different Indian tribes of Rajasthan, Goa and other surrounding states. As you enter, you’re encouraged the watch the short videos before exploring the area.

The videos explain a little about the tribes, their traditions, their clothes and such and later that day, you can watch a show (that repeats every hour) that showcases the music, dances, rituals, etc. While the video was playing, I was approached by an Indian woman who wanted a selfie with me. I’ll never understand this, but as long as it’s women and not creepy men, I still find it amusing (and pretend I’m a celebrity.)

When the cultural shows were going on, I remember thinking “this is so much better than sitting on a beach in Goa.” Mind you, I still enjoyed Goa but as a fairly active person, it was sort of difficult to sit on my ass every day doing nothing.

Udaipur is famous for its lakes but it also has plenty of other sights to see so we were happy to be walking places every day. The coffees were a bit pricier than they were in other places but none the less, we picked a different cafe each morning to start our day enjoying the views. As usual, we were approached several times for selfies, but one time, two younger men just randomly started taking pictures of us separately (also felt like it was aimed at my chest?) and I up and walked straight back inside. Indian men .. why so creepy??

On our second day, we decided to go out and explore the Ahar Cenotaphs, a cremation ground that could be entered for free. Several signs depicted that we couldn’t take pictures but two men rapidly approached us and said “This is India, you can do anything” and instructed us to give some money to what we assumed was the guard keeper after leaving the premises. 

This is something that’s popped up several times in the last five weeks, India has many rules but they are made to be broken, everything has a price and anyone can and will be bribed. Strange, but convenient for travelers, I suppose?

Deciding not to pay for the Ahar museum (I can’t recall the price but it wasn’t the 10 rs it said online ..), we headed in the other direction towards the “ropeway,” which is a gondola that goes up a hill nearby the city center.

At the top of the hill, it was apparent that Udaipur was much larger than we thought it was, and apparent why they called it the White City. The views were breathtaking and well worth the money.

We shared our cabin with two couples from Bangalore, the women wearing tight jeans and vests. Having seen (mostly younger) women dressed like this in the previous few days (and getting increasingly agitated that I was still covering up), I asked them if this was alright in Rajasthan. They told me it was fine to expose your shoulders and whatnot, you’ll just get a lot of stares. One of the couples asked for a few selfies as well (this must’ve been like the third or fourth time in the space of two days.)

Having walked + 15 km every day for the last few days, we decided to chill out for our final two days. We booked a cooking class at a rooftop restaurant we dined at two days earlier and were ready to go by 11 am.

The class was held in the restaurants’ kitchen (while it was open) with no one there but us and the chef. He was very clear about everything and taught us how to make the basic sauce used in virtually all Indian dishes, a “dry dish,” a sweet dish and finally, delicious naan.

The class only took about an hour and a half but the food was so worth it, albeit a bit spicy. Except .. After a few bites, I felt really full .. And uncomfortable .. And at a certain point actually sick.

After that meal, we went for a walk in the area but as time went on, I felt worse and worse. By the time I got back to the guesthouse, I was sure I had food poisoning. Chills, hot flashes, painful stomach .. luckily I didn’t puke or have any diarrhea. 

I have no idea if it was a mild form of food poisoning or if it was the water I drank the night before (the lid wasn’t secured on, we couldn’t remember if one of us had already opened the bottle.) I felt a bit better after I took a tablet but couldn’t stomach the food of eating food. 

The worst passed that night, but in the following days, I’d get pains in my stomach and a general feeling of bloatiness that would last hours after eating a meal. The spicy meals were the ones that would set it off at first, so I figured I probably couldn’t tolerate spicy food but even after continental dishes, my stomach would protest. 

It’s been a few days and I still felt a bit uncomfortable after my meal last night in Jaisalmer, but got over it quickly. Dane however has taken a turn for the worst about two days after I first displayed symptoms. He seems really unwell, going through the regular symptoms of food poisoning or a really bad flu.

We are currently in Jaisalmer, having breezed through Jodhpur in two days. Jodhpur was way too busy for us so we are glad to be here. Will update on our time in Jodhpur soon.

Udaipur

Udaipur, also known as the city of lakes or the White City, proved to be an unexpected treat as our first destination in Rajasthan. 

I was a bit nervous what our room was going to be like at Jagat Villa Guesthouse as it was only 400 rs a night, but I need’nd have. Located in the traveler ghetto of Udaipur called “Lal Ghat,” it was the perfect location to go out and explore things; and the room was just as if not nicer than our 2000 rs room in Anjuna.

A little annoyed yet understanding of Dane’s request to “cover up,” I spent our first day walking out the Observatory and Shilpgram, sweating my ass off underneath that stupid shawl. Despite being covered up, I still had a teenager yell at me if I wanted to fuck. 

The Solar Observatory is located on the lake and we assumed there would be a boat somewhere but there was no booth or boat around the area so we headed back towards town, and made a stop at Shilpgram.

Shilpgram is a “village” of sorts where you can learn about different Indian tribes of Rajasthan, Goa and other surrounding states. As you enter, you’re encouraged the watch the short videos before exploring the area.

The videos explain a little about the tribes, their traditions, their clothes and such and later that day, you can watch a show (that repeats every hour) that showcases the music, dances, rituals, etc. While the video was playing, I was approached by an Indian woman who wanted a selfie with me. I’ll never understand this, but as long as it’s women and not creepy men, I still find it amusing (and pretend I’m a celebrity.)

When the cultural shows were going on, I remember thinking “this is so much better than sitting on a beach in Goa.” Mind you, I still enjoyed Goa but as a fairly active person, it was sort of difficult to sit on my ass every day doing nothing.

Udaipur is famous for its lakes but it also has plenty of other sights to see so we were happy to be walking places every day. The coffees were a bit pricier than they were in other places but none the less, we picked a different cafe each morning to start our day enjoying the views. As usual, we were approached several times for selfies, but one time, two younger men just randomly started taking pictures of us separately (also felt like it was aimed at my chest?) and I up and walked straight back inside. Indian men .. why so creepy??

On our second day, we decided to go out and explore the Ahar Cenotaphs, a cremation ground that could be entered for free. Several signs depicted that we couldn’t take pictures but two men rapidly approached us and said “This is India, you can do anything” and instructed us to give some money to what we assumed was the guard keeper after leaving the premises. 

This is something that’s popped up several times in the last five weeks, India has many rules but they are made to be broken, everything has a price and anyone can and will be bribed. Strange, but convenient for travelers, I suppose?

Deciding not to pay for the Ahar museum (I can’t recall the price but it wasn’t the 10 rs it said online ..), we headed in the other direction towards the “ropeway,” which is a gondola that goes up a hill nearby the city center.

At the top of the hill, it was apparent that Udaipur was much larger than we thought it was, and apparent why they called it the White City. The views were breathtaking and well worth the money.

We shared our cabin with two couples from Bangalore, the women wearing tight jeans and vests. Having seen (mostly younger) women dressed like this in the previous few days (and getting increasingly agitated that I was still covering up), I asked them if this was alright in Rajasthan. They told me it was fine to expose your shoulders and whatnot, you’ll just get a lot of stares. One of the couples asked for a few selfies as well (this must’ve been like the third or fourth time in the space of two days.)

Having walked + 15 km every day for the last few days, we decided to chill out for our final two days. We booked a cooking class at a rooftop restaurant we dined at two days earlier and were ready to go by 11 am.

The class was held in the restaurants’ kitchen (while it was open) with no one there but us and the chef. He was very clear about everything and taught us how to make the basic sauce used in virtually all Indian dishes, a “dry dish,” a sweet dish and finally, delicious naan.

The class only took about an hour and a half but the food was so worth it, albeit a bit spicy. Except .. After a few bites, I felt really full .. And uncomfortable .. And at a certain point actually sick.

After that meal, we went for a walk in the area but as time went on, I felt worse and worse. By the time I got back to the guesthouse, I was sure I had food poisoning. Chills, hot flashes, painful stomach .. luckily I didn’t puke or have any diarrhea. 

I have no idea if it was a mild form of food poisoning or if it was the water I drank the night before (the lid wasn’t secured on, we couldn’t remember if one of us had already opened the bottle.) I felt a bit better after I took a tablet but couldn’t stomach the food of eating food. 

The worst passed that night, but in the following days, I’d get pains in my stomach and a general feeling of bloatiness that would last hours after eating a meal. The spicy meals were the ones that would set it off at first, so I figured I probably couldn’t tolerate spicy food but even after continental dishes, my stomach would protest. 

It’s been a few days and I still felt a bit uncomfortable after my meal last night in Jaisalmer, but got over it quickly. Dane however has taken a turn for the worst about two days after I first displayed symptoms. He seems really unwell, going through the regular symptoms of food poisoning or a really bad flu.

We are currently in Jaisalmer, having breezed through Jodhpur in two days. Jodhpur was way too busy for us so we are glad to be here. Will update on our time in Jodhpur soon.

Anjuna to Mumbai to Udaipur

Last time I checked in, I was in a funny mood and eager to leave Anjuna. Well as it turns out, once we stopped worrying about ‘doing something’ during the day and just relaxed at the hostel, our stay became 70% nicer (including developing a routine, yup.) We’d planned on going to one more party before leaving, but ended up chilling at the hostel with a few people we’d gotten to know in the last few days. 

And as the last morning came to an end, I found myself not wanting to leave .. again. Part of the reason would be the hassle of packing, but it’s also hard to leave a place once you develop a sense of comfort in it. All in all though, my experience in Agonda was still nicer so I wasn’t too gutted when I did leave.

And oh, what a departure it was. Initially planning on taking two busses, after standing around for about 20 minutes, we were approached by two Indians from Mumbai to share a taxi with them. Price tag? 300 each to Thivim (400 to Mapusa devided by four + 400 extra to Thivim devided between Dane and I.) Much costlier than the 50 rs the busses would’ve cost. We told ourselves we wouldn’t go for the comfortable options anymore .. but I guess the train ride made up for that good and decent.

We’d booked a 1AC ticket each (the most expensive class) about three months ago, but hadn’t noticed that we’d been “waitlisted.” 

What this means in India is that the train is fully booked at the time of booking. Now you must know that the cancellations in India are really high so as your day of travel approaches and people start cancelling their tickets, you’ll be moved to RAC which secures you a seat on the train but not the desired class you booked unless enough people cancel for you to make it to the top of the list.

Our waitlist numbers were one and two, and we later found out that 1AC doesn’t have an RAC option so the likelihood of us getting the seats were really high … if only it hadn’t been a long weekend in Mumbai and literally everyone was going back home that night.

We were told by security to bribe the tte (conductor) and this was confirmed through trying to find a solution on the internet. While waiting for the train, we met a wonderful couple from Mumbai who was in the same boat (waitlisted 2AC.) They pretty much took us under their wing , we trailed after them in the train and followed their instructions. 

It was clear something wasn’t right as the husband struggled to make a bribe, and this was because there literally was no spare seat on the train. We’d picked a really bad day to travel as conductors usually could be bribed, it was just an unfortunate coincidence. 

After a few uncertain hours sitting on a bench in 2AC, the husband went outside the carriage and came back with a ticket for four people that would allow us all the stay on the train (but no seat.) We’d literally only met these people two hours before and they bought us a ticket worth 175 rs each and wanted no money from us. We ended up giving them 200 rs (before we knew the value of the ticket) for all their help. They ended up buying a ticket from a fellow Indian and we went separate ways. 

We stayed in that seat for another hour or so until the people who bought the seat showed up. We moved from corridor to corridor, sitting in the hallways until we got shoed away by the conductor, moving again and again. Eventually, the conductor made us move to sleeper class, which was impossibly full so we sat our bags next to the sleeper class toilets, and the smell was so bad it made me gag several times. The kitchen, filled with people sleeping on cooking tables and on cardboard boxes all over the floor which I had to climb over several times, offered no reprieve.

We sat there the remaining six hours .. impossibly long six hours. I didn’t catch any z’s and was bored out of my mind and sat uncomfortable most of the time. Dane, bless this beautiful boyfriend of mine, refused to take my more comfortable seat no matter how many times I offered and repeatedly put his warm hands on me to keep me warm (without having to ask.) He’s such a generous and kind boyfriend, I’m so lucky to have him on this trip with me, to enjoy our time together but also to take care of me.

When we finally arrived in Mumbai, we tried taking another train to the airport but after we’d boarded the wrong train, we just got out and took a taxi (only 200rs this time!)

After a well deserved buffet breakfast, we were both literally nodding off standing up .. We took power naps here and there in the airport but we were both still dizzy on our feet when we boarded the plane. I tried to sleep inside, but excitement over flying kept me awake and so I enjoyed the views.

Once landed and thoroughly wrecked, we were more than happy to share another taxi with a French couple. Such a bad habit …

So now we’re in Udaipur and it’s the evening of our second day here. We’ve been in India for about a month now so I’d quite like to make a “first impressions” blog post talking about the Indians we’ve met, the food we’ve been eating, price and culture comparisons and the scams we’ve encountered so far (already a good handful!) I’ll be writing about that in the next few days and once we leave Udaipur in three days, I’ll make the obligatory Udaipur experience post 🙂

Budget wise, we are under budget ! I was really surprised to see that we are well below budget this month as we’d spent so goddamn much money in Anjuna .. Which is good news, considering our hostel here in Udaipur is a whopping 1600 rs cheaper than the last one.

Reflecting on Agonda and last few days in Anjuna

So the last two times I’ve blogged, I did it after our experience in the particular town. However, this time I’m still in Anjuna and will be for another few days.
Anjuna is a relatively small area with a beach and not much else surrounding it, in that aspect it’s very similar to Agonda. Apart from that though, it’s like being in two different worlds. 

While there wasn’t much to do in Agonda, I didn’t feel bored or frustrated or as if I was wasting away my days by just sitting in the lounge all day. In Anjuna, we’ve still got a fair few days ahead of us here and I find myself wishing we’d stayed a bit longer in Agonda and shortened our stay here.

Our hostel in Anjuna is called Red Door Hostel and is costing us a whopping 2000 rs a night. It’s close to the beach, but not a stone’s throw away like our hut in Agonda, which makes leaving the hostel ‘a thing’ if you catch my drift. We’ve been here for about a week now and have not even once put on our swim gear and chilled by the ocean. 

The first four days in Anjuna, we went out every night to party (which is what we came for) and by the fifth night, we were spent. While it was an amazing few nights, I sometimes found myself wishing for a quiet drink at a bar somewhere. Must be the age, I guess? 

So after we got fed up with partying, we started looking for things to do to fill up our days. Well, there’s not much going on around here except partying.

We walked to Baga and back (about 11km, keeping up the fitness!) Baga is bigger and younger and busier than Anjuna but the vibe overall is the same. I’m glad we ended up in Anjuna instead of Baga because it would’ve been too much for me after Agonda, as Anjuna is still relatively quiet and relaxed.

Yesterday, we walked to Arambol (20km) in under four hours. The walk itself was busy (no back roads or trail to follow) and uninspired, we had no desire to walk back even though we initially planned on it.

Arambol is a very hippie and relaxed place. The feel of it is worlds apart from Baga and Anjuna. And still, we only stayed an hour or so before we hopped on a bus to Mapusa (30 rs) and on a second bus back to Anjuna (20 rs.) 

Having walked around quite a bit, I feel more at ease in Anjuna than when I first got here but I still don’t feel “comfortable.” It’s not a very nice feeling and I didn’t realise I could feel like this because in all of my years traveling (heading towards five!), I’ve not really felt like this before.

Traveling can be unsettling at times and sometimes it’s hard to adjust to a place, but after a few days (or hours), you inevitably end up in some sort of comforting routine. 

In Agonda, we would have a morning pot of coffee, then we would either walk down to Saxony, where Dane’s mom was staying, or laze around at our place. The 2 km road was a familiar sight after only a few hours, and we got to know the people behind the stalls, the best places to grab a coconut for a refreshing drink and felt at ease with how we spent our time there.

I guess I feel very out of place in Anjuna and we haven’t really fell into some sort of routine here (not that I think that’s essential to traveling. If anything, you travel to break routine. I’ve just observed how having some sort of routine to my day while traveling has made the experience nicer for me.)

Most days we wake up and don’t really know what to do. I can’t speak for Dane but I think we’re both looking forward to leaving this very westernized part of India and travel up north to meet up with an Indian friend we made while in New Zealand (the very same who shared a room with us when we first met.)

I’ve tried very hard to give this place a chance and to not let my negative thoughts cloud my vision. I’ve had fun here and I’m sure we’ll go to one or two more parties before we leave, but I won’t be sad to go. 

Agonda was a slice of heaven I could’ve stayed in a long time. (Dane feels different about this, he reckons he would’ve gotten bored. I’m sure I would’ve eased into the slow lifestyle and caught up with my writing and drawing.) Anjuna is a “weeks tops party town” I’m eager to leave.

Do I regret coming here? Nah, not at all. It’s still a nice place and it gave me some memorable times I won’t forget.

Next up: Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar and Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan (the desert!) After that, it’s one more month in the Indian Himalayas before we make our way to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. 

Agonda, Goa

I’m sat in the shade at a lovely hostel in Anjuna, Goa. I’ve lost all track of time; I don’t know what day it is or how long I’ve been here but I know that I should make use of this bit of time I’m having to blog about the last two weeks I was in Agonda.

So we flew from Delhi to Dabolim airport, which was a comfortable two hours or so (I honestly can’t remember.) The difference in heat was apparent immediately; whereas Delhi was unexpectedly cold at times, Goa is sweltering hot.

About an hour to two hours from the airport lays the tiny town of Agonda. I had no idea what to expect since Dane was the main organiser of our time here in Goa. Well, he did a great job!

Apart from relaxing on the beach, eating delicious food and drinking a bit, there’s not much else to do in Agonda as it literally one straight road next to a beach (about 3km long.)

It took a few days to get used to, but once you get settled into the slow lifestyle, it was hard to leave. I started drawing a bit more and ideas starting crawling in my head of stories I wanted to write.

Dane and I walked to Canacona/Chaudi a few times, which is 21km (there and back.) We took a bus once from Chaudi, which was only 10 rupees! A tuk tuk would’ve been at least 200 rupees. We only paid for a tuk tuk once from leopard valley (between Palolem and Agonda, where there’s a market every Wednesday), other than that we walked everywhere.

Dane’s mam came out to Agonda as she hasn’t seen Dane for over three years, and it was my first time meeting her as well. She’s positively fun to hang out with and I felt immediately comfortable around her. I absolutely loved meeting Julie and look forward to seeing her again (probably in Australia.)

Dane’s dad and future step mom came out a few days later (this was the second time I met them, the first was a week long road trip on NZ north island.) It was really nice seeing Kevin and Sharon again. All three of them were so generous and kind as always.

Our hostel/lodge was called Duck N Chill and though the place wasn’t flash, it was amazing. Our hut was very basic but it’s all you need in Agonda. We had our own little porch that could be closed off by curtains and when you leave the hut, you’re walking on beach sand. 

The lounge area was inviting and cosy (and right in front of the beach), which is where we spent most of our time if we weren’t at Julie’s place or spending time with Dane’s dad.

The place had been wrecked about two months before and we’d been worried we’d lost our money or if the place wouldn’t be running properly but all was fine at Duck N Chill. There were so many bad reviews on tripadvisor which is curious because it’s honestly one of the best places I’ve ever stayed in my life and the food was gorgeous.  

Whereas we ate mostly street food in Delhi, Agonda was our first real experience with authentic Indian food. There were a few dishes here and there which weren’t my favorite, but quality wise, I was enjoying all of them. The naan is to die for, and I could eat curries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I tried a few Israeli and Chinese dishes as well and was in a state of absolute bliss. The only dish I didn’t like was the Indian yoghurt called Raitha. Yuk, never eating that again!

Time flew by so fast while we were in Agonda even though we weren’t doing much. We spent our last night in a bar I can’t remember the name of but they made the most amazing cocktails ever, and even served me another drink for free (leftover in the blender.) We met so many nice people there and it suddenly dawned on us that we had to leave the next day.

There were so many little things about the place that I loved. Our lodge had a few cats about and there was one kitten that was absolutely adorable and hung around us all the time. Seeing cows walking about everywhere you go is pretty neat. Even dodging traffic and learning how to barter was getting to be fun. We even ran on the beach a few times because we’re trying to stay fit (but goddamn it’s hard to motivate yourself haha.) Apart from the alcohol, at least we’re eating healthily.

After a bit of going back and forth, we decided against taking the bus-train-bus route to Anjuna (which would’ve been about 100-200 rs) and snagged a taxi for 2000 rs (most were asking 2500.)

This is really something we should be doing a bit less in the following months though as we need to start looking at our budget a bit more. Our budget in India is about 1600 rs a day, which was easy to stay under in Agonda because we paid for our accommodation before we left New Zealand as well as the fact that Julie and Kevin were often paying for our meals and drinks (thanks guys!)

Our accommodation here in Anjuna is 1000 rs which leaves us with only 600 rs for food and everything else which is a bit hard considering we came to Anjuna to party … hard. Needless to say, we’ve been blowing our budget every single day and compensating on food (no need for transport and water costs here, we still walk everywhere and the hostel offers free filtered water.) 

It was difficult for me to adjust to the busier atmosphere here but after a few days, I was alright. I felt so safe and comfortable in Agonda that it was kinda sad to go back to being on guard and careful all the time. It’s India after all … 

It’s been about three weeks since we left “home,” and I still find it odd to think of Queenstown as home .. I mean, where do you draw the line in calling a place home? Is it time related? Roots? A feeling?

I haven’t missed it much considering I’ve been enjoying myself and there’s so much adventure ahead of us. But whenever I see a picture of Qtown on Facebook, I think “ah home” with lots of love in my heart. But I don’t regret leaving, because even though I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, I’ve never traveled in non-western countries and it’s been so great already. It’s such a different experience to traveling in North America and Europe.

It’s going to be an amazing eight months.

Agonda : 5/2 – 15/2 

Delhi

So it’s finally here. I lived and worked in New Zealand for nearly three years and plans were made and rearranged, cancelled and made again and at this very moment, I’m writing to you all from an incredibly comfy couch at a lounge overlooking the beach at a small village in India called Agonda.

 So what was Delhi like before we got to this magical place? There are honestly no words. I thought I’d be fine dealing with culture shock until an hour into arriving in Delhi and all of my thoughts could be summed up by “Get me the fuck out of here.”

Delhi is busy. Unimaginably busy. And there’s rubble everywhere, dilapidated buildings where people live .. stray dogs roam the streets, as do cows and goats and cats.

Our pre paid taxi ticket server tried to rip us off 30 minutes after landing in India. Men stared at me … non stop. No matter if I was wearing long jeans and a shirt, or a long dress and a shawl to cover my shoulder and arms. Everyone is ‘friendly’ but nothing is for free and everyone has an ulterior motive. You can literally not walk down the street without being approached several times and it’s always the same dig “nice tattoo, where are you from, where exactly, what are you doing today,etc” and then they’ll either direct you to a tourist center where you cannot get a free map as promised or they turn out to be a tuk tuk driver.

I don’t mean to be so negative about Delhi. Once I got used to the place, I learned how to cross busy highways without being hit. I got used to the stares and used to the prices. We got used to being asked to go on pictures with people.  Dane and I have become more aware of how things work around here, and for me, I guess I stopped taking it personally. 

So we only spent three nights in Delhi but became accustomed enough to forgo the tuk tuks and started taking the metro everywhere. And boy, did it lead us to some amazing places.

The place we stayed at was Maurya Hotel in the district of Karol Bach. We were originally staying at Guatam Delux but upon arriving were told it was closed for maintenance. Having heard of the many scams in India, we were sure this was going to be one of them but the staff at both hotels were more than helpful, even giving their personal phone numbers. 

Karol Bagh is a mixture of residences and shopping areas. The market is absolutely massive and we indulged in so much street food of which the names are hard to remember so I can’t recommend anything to you. We ended up having two meals in two different restaurants during our time there (and came to the shocking conclusion that everything is taxed .. whoops!) Everything else we ate was street food, and God, is Indian food lovely!

I don’t have much to say about Connaught Place as we didn’t stay there for a long time. It’s a few expensive shops in a big circle. The area looks quite interesting but I didn’t even dig out my camera to take a few snaps there.

The lotus temple and Ghandi memorial/museum left more of an impression on me. Surprisingly, despite being major tourist attractions, it didn’t feel as busy as the rest of Delhi. 

My favorite part of our few days in Delhi was our visit to the Akshardham Temple. Mobile phones, cameras, etc were not allowed and I couldn’t have been more gutted. It was indescribably beautiful. Walking up the temple … And then going inside .. And walking around the other structures … It is by far the most beautiful man made structure I’ve witnessed in my entire life. The detail, the shapes, the ornaments, .. It was immensely impressive.

So yeah, there you have it. A short blog entry for our days in Delhi. I’m going to try to keep up blogging about our travels (unlike my three years in New Zealand where I had loads of new experiences but never seemed to blog about it .. I don’t even know why. Possibly because it felt like home to me and nothing “special.” Which it was, obviously but still …)

No pictures are included in this post, I know .. I have no laptop so I might include them later but until then .. Namaste friends.

Four Years of Travel

Four years ago today, I stood sweating and swearing in the middle of a busy train station in Perpignan, trying to figure out which train would go to Argèles-sur-mer, a small town nestled between the mountains and the Mediterranean ocean close to the border of France and Spain.

Three months prior, I’d received a job offer to work as an Assistant Manager at a campground in said little town. The journey ruined my first ever and incredibly oversized suitcase and ended with a very painful twisted ankle before I even worked a single day. Not even a month later, I found myself home bound in a bus, defeated and ashamed.

My travel story starts about seven months before that moment, researching Canada and Working Holiday Visa’s online. I’d wanted to go to the US but I couldn’t work there and I soon became obsessed with all things Canada.

I can’t remember the exact moment I decided to just do it; I don’t recall clicking the button to confirm anything. I only remember the years of dreaming about traveling, I remember the conversation I had with Edward, a guy I worked with at my first job at an Irish Pub, that instigated the thought that maybe, just maybe, it’s not as impossible as people make it out to be. After all, if you can work and earn money to support yourself, why would it be so unfeasible?

So when I got fired from my second job as a Sales Advisor, I applied for a seasonal job in France, not thinking I would actually get it, while waiting to depart to Vancouver in Autumn. The whole experience was confusing, exciting and terrible at the same time. There were many days where I felt homesick, but there were also days where I regretted booking that return ticket. Most of all, I felt incredibly unprepared.

I considered cancelling my flight to Canada, but pride and determination stopped me from doing so. Nervous as hell on the way to the airport, I was thinking about all my past failures. What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t make any friends? What if I can’t find a job?

Four years later, I’m living in New Zealand and have done for the past two years. Getting on that plane was the best decision I’ve ever made. My life has changed immensely, in more than one way. The past four years have offered me so much, not all necessarily good, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I cannot express the gratitude I have for this life.

So what exactly have I been up to for the last four years? I use to update weekly, sometimes even daily when I first started out and now I barely manage to update once a year. So here goes!

July – August 2012 : Argèles-Sur-Mer, France

Well, you know how the trip started and ended but what about those 30 something days in between? I spent a lot of time on my bike exploring the neighboring towns, lounged on the beach a few days, went horseback riding and got lost while running and consequently ran my first 10K. Oh yeah, and I did work for like 5ish hours a day. Although I did get along with the other girls at the campground (I had no real co workers, they worked at the neighboring camp but lived in the same place), I made no lasting friends and have not heard from any of them since. I was kinda a loner …

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Video: France

 October – December: Traveling around British Columbia, Canada

It was raining when I arrived in Vancouver and jet lagged as I was, I blocked my own credit card and was now stuck on the other side of the world with no money and only two days accommodation sorted. My first reaction was the wallow in self pity like I’d always done before. “Why does this always happen to me?!” It all worked out in the end, sorta, and I ended up traveling around BC for three months until the situation was mostly resolved.

I WWOOF’ed in Vancouver, Victoria, Grindrod and Killiney Beach. I took care of elderly people, babysat young kids and every now and then, I’d actually do some farm work in between. I sorted through my first bout of homesickness after two and half months and wrestled my way through convincing myself to go home yet again. I drank copious amounts of coffee and discovered Tim Hortons; I bagged carrots, felted my first hat and made my own muesli; I learned how to make my own fruit roll ups, discovered Bowen Island and made friends I am very much still in touch with. After three months, I decided I wanted to stay and booked a ticket to Banff, Alberta.

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Video: On the way to Vancouver ❤

Video: Vancouver, Victoria, Grindrod

Video: Grindrod, Killiney Beach, Vernon & Kelowna

+ More Videos on my YouTube Channel !

 December – March : Work for stay, work for money and jobless in Banff

I arrived in Banff on the eve of the supposed end of the world and made even more friends on the bus and at hostels. Despite my reclusive nature, I was making friends left, right and center and snagged myself a work for stay gig at the HI on Tunnel Mountain Road. The HI is where I met my good friend Radka, whom I’ve met up with in France, New Zealand and Fiji since then.

Those few months were filled with hilarious sober and not so sober work days, Sunday Fundays with the locals, impromptu (terrible) movie nights, amazing dress up pub crawls, sunset hikes on Tunnel Mountain, bathing in hot springs, tobogganing nights where I got concussed .. all round hilarity and fun with fellow ‘vollies.’ I got myself a real job after a few weeks but quit after only a week (haha!) and stayed at the YMCA Hostel for 7 weeks where I completed my first novel, Asphyxia. Well, I pretty much completed it while drinking coffee at Tim Hortons. After which I went back to volunteering at the HI.

History repeated itself when I booked a bus ticket to Seattle when I first got to Banff and I found myself not wanting to leave this little mountain town, but I was also really excited to travel down the West Coast of the USA!

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 Video: Beautiful Banff ❤

Video: Making Lifelong Friends

Video: Fun Times at the Hostel

+ Many More Videos in Banff

March – June 2013 : West Coast USA

Washington

Ah .. How do I recap those three months in a short paragraph? So much happened in so little time, both physically and psychologically. I guess I’ll never be able to really explain any of my adventures in a few short words, so I’ll just .. recap it haha.

I started off in Seattle where I met a few goofy characters, walked to Kurt Cobain’s old place, went up the Space Needle, visited the Gum Wall and chilled at Pike Place Market.

After that I spent a few weeks at Milktopia, a wwoof’ing gig 10 miles outside of Forks, Washington (yes, the Forks ..) where I was responsible for watching goats eat grass for eight hours a day. The shack made out of recycled materials had no running water or electricity. It took some time to adjust, but once I did, it became an amazing experience. I drank out of the river, ran in the rain forest, bathed in the Bochagiel River, had some enlightening talks with my hippie hosts, and drank some moonshine with an old man who turned out to be an amazing conversationalist.

Video: Magical Washington

Oregon

Oregon brought with it the lovely, green and hipster Portland where I spent many days running and hiking in the woods. It’s one of my favorite cities I’ve visited so far and would love to go back there one day.

After my week in Portland, I ended up 10 miles outside of Gold Beach and 3 miles up Kimball Hill at a place called ‘Cloudplay Homestead.’ It was the best wwoof’ing experience I had out of all of them. Brent and Scott, my hosts, were extremely inviting, open minded, generous and kind. A fellow wwoof’er joined me a few days later by the name of Heather, who also made an incredible and lasting impact on my life. There are no words to express how happy I was in that place .. The simplicity of those few weeks hiking in the Redwoods, drinking wine while playing cards, swimming in the river and enjoying the sunsets on the hill were divine.

I’m actually still in touch with my hosts and they have recently sold their property which really saddens me (but I’m happy for them) because I really wanted to go back there one day. I ended up extending my stay, thus shortening my stay at the last farm in California.

Video: Hipster Portland<3

+ More in Oregon

California

Fort Dick is situated next to Crescent City, the place where my book takes place (and yeah, the reason why I went there) and home of Ocean Air Farms. Short but sweet, I had a lovely time on this farm planting onions, exploring the Redwoods and running alongside the ocean. Chris, an intern at the farm, gave me a ride to Eureka where I got a bus to San Francisco, another favorite city of mine. I ran my first race and earned my first medal here and fell in love with the unique city after only three days. I ended my three month trip in Santa Monica/Los Angeles and ran my first half marathon. The week in Santa Monica was a bit of an anti climax to the trip. I was mostly bored and spent my birthday alone, without any of the many friends I made along the way, on a Hollywood Tour in LA. I was happy to go back to Vancouver, a 36 hour bus trip away …

Video: Loving San Francisco ❤

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June – August 2013 : Vancouver – Banff – Vancouver Island – Montréal

I spent a few days in Vancouver visiting friends I made while I was there 7 months prior (see, I did make friends!) before I headed back to Banff. I spent a few weeks in Banff while I experienced my first flood and went back to doing work for stay.

Pretty spontaneously, Radka decided to quit her two jobs for the year and we hitch hiked our way to Vancouver (because no busses were running due to the flood) to eventually end up on Vancouver Island. We spent the following three weeks traveling around the Island to Victoria, Nanaimo and Tofino and eventually went back to the mainland to Whistler and Oyama.

These few weeks of traveling are very dear to me and I think of them very often. Hiking, running, ocean biking, lake swimming, laughing, cherry picking, hitch hiking, all round foolishness and my first ‘Canada Day.’ It was all pretty freaking amazing. Ah yeah, I also lost my purse containing my wallet, phone, passport, everything and my first reaction wasn’t the usual self pity .. It was “Alright, I’ll contact the right people to block my bank account and get the embassy to sort out the passport thing and you know .. that’s all I can do” and relaxed for the rest of the day. Like, for real, that’s what I did. Talk about growth!

After a quick stop in Banff (snuggle party!), I boarded a 3 day bus (!!!) to Montréal to work on my last farm. Days were spent getting up early to cycle 20K to the farm, pick some beans, get eaten alive by sandflies, goof around on the field and cycle 20k back to the house and eat some delicious meals after a cool swim in the pool.

The last 10 days in Canada were spent getting a septum piercing, running my first Color Run and spending my last few dollars on an oversized Incubus sweater I never wear. I also took a metro and a bus to an abandoned building, went to the top and sat there for a few hours with a bunch of strangers and some beers (filed under: maybe not the best decision but I didn’t die so its okay?) I ended up underestimating the bus fare to the airport (blocked bank account, no money!) and scrambled together a few euros I found in the hostel I stayed when I first arrived in Vancouver (!!!) and exchanged them in the bureau next door. And that pretty much concludes my time in North America.

Holy shit, this post is getting too long already.

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Video: Amazing Vancouver Island ❤

Video: Banff Flood

December – February 2014 : Saalbach, Austria

I spent a few weeks in my hometown in Belgium, and adjusting back to normal life proved to be a little challenging. I felt out of place and restless; I felt disconnected from my friends and unsatisfied with the regular routine. So I found myself another seasonal job in Europe.

I worked at a ski lodge in Saalbach, Austria alongside one co-worker and two bosses (a couple) from the Netherlands. They paid for a seasonal mountain pass, my boarding equipment, stay and food included while I worked split shifts and divided my time snowboarding, training for my first marathon and editing my first novel. I left after only two months when my mother informed me my granddad’s cancer had come back (I first learned about it when I got to Banff, Canada.)

A part of me wanted to stay, but another was eager to leave again. My granddad ended up living for a reasonably long time but I’m glad I went home to see him because he died while I was here in New Zealand.

I made a pit stop in Paris to meet up with Radka before flying to Auckland, New Zealand after running my first marathon. Needless to say, I spent those two days barely being able to walk to the Eiffel tower and around Montmartre.

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Video: Working in Austria

Video: Paris

May 2014 – Present (July) 2016 : New Zealand

February – March 2015 : Fiji (Vacation!)

Two years and two months.

I’ve been in this country for over two years. Radka was supposed to be here with me but ended up not getting a visa but I did have another friend over for a few weeks. We pretty much came straight to Queenstown and apart from one month of traveling up North, I’ve been here ever since. She left after a few weeks and it’s been just me ever since .. Well, me and a bunch of awesome fucking people.

I moved into a 10 people share house in June after securing a job at Shoe Clinic. I didn’t like the job much so I left after only 5ish weeks and became an Au Pair on Waiheke Island. I lasted even less with that job .. Barely two weeks before I decided I didn’t want to live with any boss, needing some independence, I got myself a job with Greenpeace. It seemed perfect on paper and the managers were so impressed that they decided to put me on the travel team. And yeah, this job I kept for just one week. I hitched a ride with my ex co-workers to Queenstown and crashed at my old place for about a month until I found another job at Eichardts Private Hotel. This is when my life changed forever.

I’d booked a flight during my first two weeks in Queenstown (can you spot the trend yet?) to both Fiji and Vancouver. I’d had every intention of immigrating to Canada … somehow. All of those plans changed the day I fell in love with the love of my life, Dane Aaron Dixon. I vividly remember meeting him for the first time when I first moved into the house in June and even blogged about him 🙂 When I moved back in August, we became pretty close but it was all very innocent. One thing led to another when we became roomies and it all went really fast after that. I cancelled my flights to Canada and asked my boss if he could sponsor me.

The last two years have been so life altering and filled to the brim with so many new experiences, I don’t even know where to begin. 15A Huff Street has given me friendships and memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. I laughed and cried and screamed and talked and tickled and snoozed and sung and … just everything. Summers were spent going on road trips, going go carting, cliff jumping, hiking, drinking cider on the beach/field, rock climbing, dinners out, nights out … Winters were mostly filled with nights spent playing music, watching ridiculous tv shows and movies and .. well, drinking. Lots and lots of drinking. Did I mention drinking? Yeah, lots of that.

Dane and mine’s relationship got increasingly serious as we started going on trips around the South Island, getting a car together and searching for our own little place. April 29th marked the day we got engaged and it took another 10 months for us to move out of the house into our new place alongside Lake Wakatipu. We’ve seen pretty much all of the South Island and recently explored the North with Dane’s dad and step mom. We’ve said goodbye to all of our friends and pretty much keep to ourselves nowadays. February 1st 2017 is the day we will finally leave Queenstown and travel Asia for 7ish months before heading to Australia to find jobs there. The first year I lived here, I couldn’t wait to leave and now I can’t imagine myself going.

It’s been a packed two years even though I’ve spent a lot of it working and just living a routine life like I did back home, yet it’s not the same. I’ve had six different jobs and boarded 15 planes, took 3 vacations all together (one to Fiji with Radka) and have been on business trips. I’ve become the person that gives directions to tourists and offers advice where to go to co workers who want to travel New Zealand. I am the local.

It’s been two years of laughter but also growing. Two years of a lot of new experiences, both boring and exciting. Skydiving, cliff diving, paying taxes, buying my/our first car, getting promoted, paying rent and moving house, raves and psychedelic drugs (which deserves a whole blog post on its own but I might just keep that to myself ..), caving, making jade necklaces, seeing kiwi’s, surfing, walking on glaciers, going vegan and losing 15kg (yah totally!), bathing in my first natural hot springs, trying to sleep next to someone you’re angry with (haha), seeing many natural wonders all over New Zealand …

It’s just been … Amazing.

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Video: Fiji !

Video: NZ with my friend from home

Video: Skydive

Despite the fact that I’ve been in New Zealand for over two years, I haven’t gotten around to making any decent compilation videos. Keep telling myself that I’ll start editing when we depart but it’s gonna be horrible considering I’ve now got over 291 videos to look over ..

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