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How Do You Keep Travelling

At least once a week someone asks me how do I do it. How do I keep on travelling and how do I it with money. Aah money. The magic word for which every backpacker would wake up for. Just whisper in their ear: “Hello sunshine! Time to rise and shine! Money is waiting for you!”
BAM! I garantuee you, that person will jump out of its bed and be wide awake.
Money, expecially among younger backpackers, seems like a never ending struggle. It is like water in the desert: where can you get it?

In this blog I would like to give you some tips on how to save and earn money while travelling. I will mainly focus on countries where I have been and where you can obtain a Working Hoiday Visa (WHV) such as New Zealand and Australia. With a WHV you can legally work up to 6 months for the same employer. Check the immigration websites for more details as every country has different rules and regulations. Also, make sure you know your rights; there are very nasty companies who do not pay you the right amount or tax you more than you should be.

Little important things to think about, but firtst of all, I would encourage everyone to go travelling. Even if it’s just for a year or so. It really opens up your mind and might makes you change it too. Were you planning on studying? Perhaps you change your study. Did you really wanted to work in IT? Maybe you find out you enjoying working in construction more and maybe your relationship is as good as it seems. Travelling gives you knew insights and perspectives on your live but also on yourself. Some people call it: “finding yourself“. It sounds a bit too dreamy for me but you will find out a great deal about yourself and work on your social aspects. You might needs to push some boundaries and step out of your comfort zone more often than you hoped for.

To keep on travelling might have been a conscious descision or not. You might have , at one point, decided to continue and explore another country. Others just go with the flow and they have just ended up somehow, travelling on. I belong in the latter catergory. It was the mere suggestion of my partner who suggested that we could go to Australia after New Zealand, and so we did. We started dreaming of other places and where to go next. Because you as free as a bird, you can do whatever you want to do and that feels great.

However, this doesn’t mean I am lying on the beach the whole day, sleep in, stay up late, party and consume lots of booz and drugs, like some of my friends and family are thinking. I would like to get this huge misunderstanding out of the way. Surely, there are backpackers who do that and love it but if you are travelling on a long term basis – let’s say, longer than 1 year – it becomes a lifestyle and who wants to live, needs to eat. Who needs to eat, needs money to buy food. Thus, you probably need to work at some point. (There are still many backpackers calling their parents for money…). Travelling can be hard work. We tend to wake up early and go to bed around 9-ish. Making a cup of coffee or tea involves a bit more than just putting the kettle on. Little things take much more time as you have limited space or facilities.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love camping and living in a car but it does require some energy.

When we settle down for a few months to fill up our wallets, we both go out looking for a job. I will be the one backpackers waking up with the whisper: “money is waiting for you”. But to get that money, I will have to work.

So here we come to tip no. 1. WORK. The magic word. But not every backpacker will jump out of its bed to work. Specially if you don’t like your job. In my case, I’m working 2 jobs and both of them are quite OK but not fantastic. It does bring in a fair bit of income but it is brain draining too. Knowing it is just for a short period – usually 2 or 3 months – I can deal with it.  Easy jobs are not dreamjobs. For example housekeeping. It is something I have done many times before and very easy to get. Still, I absolutely loathe it but when I look in the long term, it will keep me on the road for a while.

You don’t need to do things you don’t like. I choose to work easy jobs as I want to start quick and work hard to earn a lot of money. That is why I don’t look to long for a job and take the first thing I get. Others do look a bit longer and ending up with someting they more enjoy – or not.
A huge adventage of working while travelling is that you can try many things. Actually, you can do anything you want! In the countries where I have been, nobody cares about your education; as long you have the right attitude. Your experience list will grow rapidly. I can proudly say I have worked as a: cheesemaker, vegan baker, kitchenhand, sheep herder, housekeeper, doorknocker, car sales(wo)man, barista, waitress, receptionist, grape picker. On a blue Monday I have changed engine oil and break fluid for someone on a parking lot in Christchurch.

Tip no. 2 will sound like your mother. Or an accountant. Simply, don’t spend that much. Do you really need to stay in a caravan park for $45 a night? Do you really need to have a take-a-way coffee every day and $3 croissant? You can spend your money in a more sufficient way. Think in the long-term and about practical things. Great that you have 5 different shorts and 3 pair of jeans but how do you want to carry that around? It is better to invest in things you will need on the long run on your journey than buying new stuff all the time. Good hiking shoes or a head light are one of the things you can spend your money on and enjoy them for a long time.

So the conclusion? How to keep on travelling?  First of all: work whenever you have the change. Even if you don’t really have to work but you are still settling down for a few months, you should find a job. You will be grateful in the end as it will keep you on the road for a long strecht.
Second: don’t spend all your earnings on crap you don’t need. In matter of fact, try to safe up as much as possible. Let’s be honest, do you really need to have 6 pairs of shoes? And third: work and travel your own way. I have met many backpackers who either work 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, or people who don’t work and be drunk every night. These are 2 complete different examples of how you can travel. Most important is that you do it your way. If you don’t feel comfortable working 7 days a week, than don’t. Keep things fun; it is your journey.

Bed versus Couch

Probably you just had your INKOM and either had your own room or stayed at a friend’s place. During my first introduction week, I had a girl from my group staying at my flat for a week, until she had find her own 8m2 room. Perhaps you can consider this as my very first Couchsurfing experience. It turned out well: she is still one of my best friends.

If you are not familiar with Couchsurfing and are looking for alternative ways to travel, than this might be a good option. The Couchsurfing community has been esthablished in 2003 as a nonprofit organization. At the moment, it has over 5.5 million members, being active in 97 000 different cities, in 207 countries. It is a worldwide platform for local hosts and nomads. Hosts offer their so-called Couch to travellers, in return of a home-cooked meal or other favour, such as painting a wall. The website creates an opportunity for international voyagers to connect with the locals and to come closer with the culture of the country.

The thing that makes Couchsurfing special is that it is completely based on trust and mutual respect. There is no money involved and often even not appreciated. The cultural exchange and unique experience are more important.  The mission is “[…] a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.”(http://www.couchsurfing.com/about/about-us/) The more you interact with the local community, the more special your journey will become in return.

Personally, I cannot agree more with the statement, especially after my own experiences with Couchsurfing. Last year I have travelled through Singapore and Java (Indonesia) with this service and it was the best decision I have ever made. I ended up teaching English in the slums of Jakarta, got on a radio show in Yogjakarta and attended a traditional Indonesian wedding. These specials moments enhanched my journey.

If you don’t like the idea of melting in with the local culture too much or you would like to have your own private room – with Couchsurfing it is usually a surprise how your bed looks like – than I can advice you to have a look at AirBnB. The American firm was erected in 2008 by 2 friends who thought it was a good idea to rent out a spare room out to travellers. They would only stay for a short time so they pumped up some airbeds and the idea of Airbed and Breakfast came into being. Today, AirBnB is almost as big as the Hilton Hotel group, with 3 million guests, booking 10 million nights in 34 000 cities, across 190 countries. Different from Couchsurfing, this is a paid service. You pay the house-owner and AirBnB gets 3% of the fee for bringing the renter and owner in contact.

AirBnB provides an easy way for locals who have a room to spare and would like to earn a little bit extra, cover their rent or would like to meet new people. When you want to stay somewhere but don’t like the high prices hotels offer you, you simply pop online and have a look if there is anything cheap available – very often AirBnB is more affordable than most hotels and hostels.

The different options between private room, shared apartment or a complete house for yourself, make it easy to choose your level of communication you wish to enquire. Whether you want a private castle or a cupboard, you probably can find it on AirBnB. Another plus, especially for highly touristic areas, is that you know where exactly at what location you will end up. Than you are sure that you won’t spend heaps of money on public transport to get to that one particulair church.

So what are the main differences and similarities between these services?

The biggest difference between them is their mission. Couchsurfing is completely based on trust, cultural exchange and social. No money on the table, only favours. If you are thinking “but buying ingredients to cook a meal costs money too!” than you are better of going to a hostel and Couchsurfing is not your thing. It is not about money, it is about being grateful for the unique experience hosts provide you. And that doesn’t have a price tag.

AirBnB’s mission is more commercial and can be seen as a hospitality company. “Unlocking unique spaces, worldwide.” Connecting. Creating. Sharing. Making money. Saving Money. The intension is not necessarily social, however, it is still a good alternative next to standard hotels, as each AirBnB room is different. It opens unique doors, at unique locations.

In my opinion, the most important similarity is the communual idea of sharing. Either you share culture, your couch or inside information, it doesn’t matter, you are sharing something. In that case, it makes an unique way to travel and to explore new places. Choose the way you feel comfortable with. Make your travel experience unique. Make it count.

 

 

 

Sizzling Sydney

You could almost hear the city breathing. Aah rain! It was a relief. After Christmas it hadn’t rained anymore. Now, when the first drops fell on the heated pavement, it was like water on the barbeque. Sizzling. Ssszzz
Sydney’s temperatures have been up between 25-35 degrees, week in, week out. It calls out for a day at the beach and that is exactally what most Sydneians do. The sandy shores of Manly, Bondi and Congee are overcrowed with enthusiastic surfers, bomshells and beach boys. We walked along Manly beach, zigzagging between the visitors, tourists and ice cream-eaters. Nothing special, in our opinion, but then again I’m not a true Sydneian and not a true sunbather. A beach is a beach. Sand ‘n’ sea, water ‘n’ earth, yelling children ‘n’ sand castles. Recently there was a shark spotted in the area. How exciting.

The famous ferry to Manly was everything execpt enjoyable. On a Sunday, when the public transport is only $2,5 for a full day, the whole city had the same of going to Manly. The line to the ferry terminal was incredible long but luckily the boat has a capacity of 1000 passengers. Within 15 minutes we sailed off. The Indian family next to us had at least one camera per person: ready to capture Australia’s biggest harbour with splendid views.

Our dissapointment wasn’t a surprise. It is a natural thing what occurs when you are travelling for a longer time. Being spoiled with breathtaking views, lakes, waterfalls, indigenous sites and stunning routes make everything look normal. Nothing is special anymore and comparisments with previous experiences ruin your present visit. I’ll give an example: when we were at Lake Waikaremoana, New Zealand, we said to each other: “Oh look, another big lake.” But of course, although it is beautiful, an overload of beautiful things will accostom you to it. As soon we were back in Auckland, we realized how astonishing our journey has been. Take a look at your holiday pictures, maybe you will be surprised too.

Back to Manly, Sydneys famous overcrowed beach. Why is this beach so populair? What makes this sandy shore so special? If you ask me, it looked more like a public catwalk than a recreational area. The amount of trained bodies walking around made me feel like it was Baywatch Live. Yes, it was nice to walk on the boulevard, to watch surfers cathing their waves and to enjoy the sunshine. But can’t you do that on any other ordinairy beach? Don’t get me wrong, I like beaches. Perhaps the sand in my cheese sandwich and the screaming children around me make it an unpleasant experience.

A few days after we tackled Manly Beach it started to rain. The showers were more than welcome because of the high temperatures of the last few weeks. Maybe the Sydneians wouldn’t have admitted it but 23 degrees instead of 35 is very pleasant. On the news people complained that this autumn weather isn’t summer. Perhaps they were annoyed that they couldn’t go to Manly Beach. Fair enough, there are more things you cannot do when it is raining. No sizzle on the barbie. No tanning, drippin’ ice cream, an ice cold schooner or thongs and skirts.

Personally I only see one downside of the relatively cool weather of the past days. Namely, I have hanged my laundry up to dry. But it doesn’t.

Ka Kite Āno- see you again!

Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest N.P and the land is a vital part of the Māori history. If it so happens you are there and you got a day to spend, you definitely should do the Tongariro Crossing, which takes you literally through Middle Earth. The walk is 19,4 km and takes 6 to 8 hours. On the way you can do several side tracks leading to the Soda Springs or the summit of Mt Tongariro. Since my arrival in New Zealand I have walked the crossing three times and done all the side tracks except Mt Ngaruroe. And that is exactly what we were about to do.

Mt Ngauhuroe is also known as Mt Doom in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The sleeping volcano is 2290m high and that doesn’t make the climb an easy scrawl. There is no marked path going up the 45 degrees steep slope and the loose tephra makes it even harder to climb.

During my way up, I got in contact with a local from Christchurch, Mike. I was relieved he was there because I am not an experienced climber and I was afraid that I would fall backwards or get hit by a falling rock. Luckily, non of this happened. Mike tried to keep my mind of things by talking about what I have done during my stay in New Zealand. My internship in the NZ film industry gave enough material to talk about.

One thing we discussed was the quality of Kiwi films. From my point of view, New Zealand makes either very intense movies such as Once Were Warriors (1993), Whale Rider (1992) or the screenings are about zombies: Dead Alive (1992), Black Sheep (2006) are just the beginning of a long list. Every country has its preferences such as France likes romance, America enjoys vampires and the UK can laugh about its own humour. But New Zealand has something very interesting, in my opinion. Mike agreed with me when I stated that the New Zealand film industry has one unique feature which represents the local culture namely, Māori films.

The Māori are the original inhabitants of Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand. Their roots lie in Polynesia and between 1250-1300, several groups of settlers immigrated to New Zealand and upon today, the Māori culture is present in day-to-day life. Examples are the famous tattoos and the language usage in the media, sport events and public facilities. The intimidating haka is a traditional warrior dance which is preformed before the start of the game of NZ’s favourite and most popular sport, rugby.

As for that, the Māori culture puts its stamp on the film industry.  A recent example of such a movie is The Dead Lands (2014) which is completely written and spoken in Māori. The film follows the tale of the chief’s son Hongi, who must avenge the murder of his father in order to honour the souls of his family after his tribe has been slaughtered by another tribe. Hongi has to pass through the forbidden and feared Dead Lands, wherein a mysterious Warrior lives, also known for its brutal act of killing. My friend who worked on the film told me he never had to make so much fake blood and clean weapons as he did for this film. I won’t spoil the end because it is something you should see for yourself but I can tell you it is loaded with honour and respect.

After spending almost one and a half year in New Zealand, I still find it very fascinating how the Māori and Western culture collide. The fact that a tribal culture survives in a dominant Western lifestyle seems to me unique. The adaptation and changes Māori culture has undergone are tremendous but fascinating in every single way. The ongoing effort that is being made to keep the culture alive deserves nothing more than great respect to their cultural heritage.

Furthermore, films produced and screened in Māori language should be more encouraged to bring the culture to the main public, especially outside New Zealand. It could unfold more interests and respect from the native younger generation. Overseas it could simply increase the knowledge about the Māori culture. All in all it would be great example for other situations such as the Aboriginals in Australia.

In between time, we had reached the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe. The view was breathtaking and we could see up to 200 kms. It made it so obvious why the Māori immigrated to NZ. I would have done it too, with a view like that.
Our time here is over, but I am pretty sure I will return.

Aotearoa: Haere rā– farewell, or shall I say ka kite āno – see you again?

What a shock!

For some reason, we always arrive in cities during rush hour. Now, Kiwi rush hours are not the same as the Dutch ones, but still. It is a shock when you have been in the outback and backroads for a few weeks and suddenly there´s a car next to you. Or two. What do you mean with; three lane highways?

The worst experience, we thought, would be Wellington. The most windiest city in New Zealand – and it sure was – and probably the most windiest capital in the world. We arrived there around 5 pm, just when whole working-Wellington though “Let’s go home!”, where ever that may be. After spending 3 hours looking for a free parking spot and some food, we gave up and drove 30 minutes along the coast, out of the city center, to find the most beautiful, out-of-the-wind-spot along the coast. How grateful we were.

We thought that if our Nissan Homy survived the Wellington roads, it could survive any road. Unfortunately it wasn’t prepared for the Christchurch roads.

If you’re in Christchurch, you’ll be surprised of the rural road conditions of the area. How? If you had been following the news, you might remember the news item on an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. There have been two major ones.

 In my two weeks time there, I experienced three shocks, which I didn’t realize because they were too deep underground and too weak. Maybe I should be glad for that, considering the damage the earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011 have done. The former had a magnitude of 7.1 second and lasted just 40 seconds. The latter only took 24 seconds, but with a magnitude 6.3 and just 10km southeast of the city center, this quake caused much more damage than you could imagine. Roads were split, buildings collapsed, many people became homeless and in total, 185 people died.

Today, you know when you’re in Christchurch. You don’t need an iconic church to recognize this city -also because there is non. Walking through the city center makes you feel you entered a war zone; buildings are broken down, most houses are empty. The Starbucks has not changed at all – part from the dust and broken lamps on the floor. Still, you can find the coffee cups and newspapers of that day lying on the ground. The Levi store next door has its jeans in the shopping window, while the convenience store is packed with dated energy drinks because that was in discount back then.

The roads are still a mess. One way or not, humps and bumps are everywhere. For instance, the bridge to the suburb New Brighton gave our car a completely new interior and reorganization. And where on earth would you get a flat tire? Exactly, down town Christchurch, where a drugsdealer comes out of his house, in the pouring rain, to help you out and offers you free weed – “You’re alright there, buddy?”

You know you’re in Christchurch when there are locals living in their car for more than 6 months on the same parking lot where you are staying – the council doesn’t provide them with a house, with electricity. You know you’re in Christchurch when there are more parking lots than cars and where you can park your car for $1 per hour. You know you’re in Christchurch when art and graffiti paintings are on every building. And you know you’re in Christchurch when the navigation system leads you to a laundromat which doesn’t exist any more.

The Friendly Island

One of the most fun parts of travelling is the growing collection of stamps in your passport. Unfortunately you don’t get that many in Europe due to the Schengen Agreement, but outside Europe… oh la la! The more stamps you have, the higher you are in the ranking of ‘world travellers’. In my old passport I had scraped a bunch of stamps from Canada, America, England and a few European countries. We simply asked the custom service. When my passport expired I had to go  to the municipality to renew it and I had to hand it in: bye souvenirs!

My current passport will expire in four years but I’ll definitely keep it. Why? Because I can show off with one of the most exotic stamps which put me in a higher position on the ‘world-travellers’- ranking: The Kingdom of Tonga. The smallest kingdom on earth and the first country to see the sun rise.

As you might know, I’m doing an internship at the New Zealand Writer’s Guild till February. New Zealand is not so far away from pacific islands such as Samoa and Fiji. That is why we (a group of 8) decided to take the one-in-a-lifetime-opportunity and go on a five day trip to Tonga. If you are already on the other side of the world anyway…

The island Tonga lies north east from New Zealand and south from Samoa. “It points to the ocean”, said one of my friends when she had looked it up on Google Maps. True story: Tonga is really small. It has multiple islands (52, to be precise) but the main and biggest island is Tongatapu, which is about 260 km2: that is about 10 times smaller than Limburg. So when I say small, I really mean small and it also means that you have seen everything –  really everything – in less than a day: The stonehenge, dating back to 1200 AD: the underground swimming pool in a cave: the capital Nuku’alofa: the Royal palace and its tomb… don’t miss the unique palm tree with three branches – the only one in the world! I can die in peace now. Or lie on the beach first. Or crack a coconut. Or pick some bananas.

You probably won’t spend all your savings for an exotic stamp and a 48 hour flight to see this. Especially if you can’t survive without your hair spray, internet, warm water or smooth rides we were transported in a van with plastic folding chairs in the trunk; zigzagging between the coconuts which were scattered all over the road. Neither if you want to improve your English because people just don’t speak it: They speak Tongan which has some unpronounceable phrases such as Fakamolemole toe tala mai” Please say that again.

When I asked one of my travel friends what his favourite bit of the trip was, he said: “The culture, definitely the culture.” I have to agree with him: I can’t really compare it to other cultures I’ve seen. The island has never been colonized by any other country and that might be the reason why everything is so ‘real’. Sometimes it looked like time stood still in Tonga: clocks were almost nowhere to be found and if so, the time was incorrect or they were out of battery. The island created its own time and space and lived by the rising of the sun: I’ve never seen a moon shining so bright as in Tonga.

Auckland

Hello stranger!

“I’m sorry, are you from here?” A guy with curly brown hair, holding an acoustic guitar, looked at me. “Are you from Auckland?” he asked again. It was raining. It was my second day in Auckland, New Zealand. Technically speaking because I had woken up at 4 PM, thinking it was 12 o’clock (thank you iPod) but after a quick look at my watch and a knock on the door of my Chinese room mate, I found out I’ve slept more than 19 hours. That jetlag really got me. Even my 2 day stop-over in Hong Kong hadn’t helped. “No I’m not”, I replied, “are you?” “Well, kinda, I’m from Hamilton”. “Where’s that?”, not knowing any other city in New Zealand, apart from Christchurch and Wellington (well done Marie, well prepared). “Bit south. And you’re… English? You sound British.” I smiled “Thanks, I guess”. Well hello stranger, thought. Here you are, in the middle of Auckland, standing at a bus stop, talking to a complete random person. Why does this happen to me? Maybe God has a plan. “No, I’m from Holland, next to Germany, Belgium, you know.” And that was it. That was the start of a 3 hour long conversation about languages, music, passion, films, books, New Zealand and Europe. We ended up in a small French café (in Auckland, yeah). The owner was a French woman, Françoise, half Parisienne, half Marseillaise. Live music playing in the background, nice company and it was pouring and raining outside. 2 hot chocolates please !

The complete stranger turned out to have an Irish name and Venezuelan roots. His study, Spanish and French, didn’t stop him from making music. His dream, to become a world famous musician, was still far away, but his motivation wasn’t. “May I have a look at your iPod? I’m sorry, it might be a weird question, I know.” “Would you just stop staying ‘sorry’ then? You just sound like a Canadian!” (Step on a foot of a Canadian and he will say sorry). He smiled. Although it didn’t help much because after that he kept on saying sorry. This stranger was really an awesome Kiwi.

On the third day, I had to move to another room. This time, I would have 2 roomies. I guessed at least one of them would be Asian, since they’re everywhere (which is good, if you want to find cheap sushi. However, if you don’t like them, it’s a different story). The Vietnamese girl tried to explain what she was doing and who the other girl was. Unfortunately, I was too distracted because of the HUGE fish, she was preparing (including the head and tail. At one point, the eyes popped out. She ate it). The other girl was French, and the next day, we took off to Takapuna, which was just 20 minutes by bus. After a lovely hike, up to Mount Victoria, we enjoyed the view and Willy Wonka Chocolate (too bad; no golden ticket). The ferry took is back to downtown Auckland in just 10 minutes.
I start to like strangers.

Lakes, design and coffee

In April I visited my friend in Copenhagen. The next time I arrived at Københavns Lufthavne, I was on my way to Helsinki, Finland. During your Erasmus time you get to know a lot of new people. In May, I decided to book my trip to my Finnish, Riina. So it happened; waking up at 5:30 AM, catching my train at 8, up in the air at 9:30. Suomi, here I come!

Finland is, for the people who don’t know, locked up between Russia and Sweden. It has only 5.4 million inhabitants, which is not that much since the country is around 8 times bigger than the Netherlands (with approximately a population of 16.7 million). The country is famous for its lakes and islands. Just look at the map and you will see what I mean. Moreover, maybe some people know Suomi better for winning the Eurovision Songfestival (2006). Or the high prices. It might not be the ideal place for folks whose wallet is just as empty as their fridge (like me). Except, if you know where to go. With my guide Riina-Malla, aka Riina or Riini, it couldn’t go wrong. Well… it became a similar experience as with our guide in Brno: “I just feel like her”, she said when we arrived in Suomenlinna, the only and oldest fort Finland has. “I don’t what or why all these buildings are here”, referring to our splendid visit to Hrad Veveří (“We don’t know what it means, it might be English, but it might be French as well. We lack funding to do research on the origin of this cupboard” blablabla).

Suomenlinna, by the way, is worth visiting. Just stroll around the island, which is basically one big museum. The only difference is that there are still people living there. The landscape will reminds you of the Teletubbies or the Shire, part from the huge canons and other military stuff which can be found all over the island.
Helsinki has more to give than just one fort and high prices. Take a look in the white Helsingin tuomiokirkko (aka Helsinki Cathedral). Don’t go here on Saturday because every hour, there will be a wedding. Great if you love Say Yes to the Dress or Four Weddings, but not so great if you want to see the inside of the protestant cathedral. The other red brick stoned church, a bit further down the road, is called Uspenskin katedraali (great word for hangman or Wordfeud). From up there, the view is marvellous. But not as marvellous as you can get from the Torni Hotel. Why go there? Because you can have the best shit ever; a toilet with a panoramic view over Helsinki plus its area.

I’ve met Riina during my Erasmus in Vienna. Vienna likes alcohol and so do Finnish people. Unfortunately, alcohol is very, very expensive in Suomi. So what to do? As much Austrian people drink wine, beer and other stuff, Finnish people tend to have more coffee (kahvi)  in their veins than regular blood cells. Don’t expect your favourite cappuccino or sugar sweet lattes; Finnish don’t rape their coffees; they drink it pure and black. Or with a lot of (cold) milk; luckily Starbucks hasn’t opened a branch in Helsinki, yet.  Riina took me to a place called café Regatta (note; when someone says ‘cafeteria’, they mean a café, not a snackbar). The little red house was situated by the shore; a crackling fire, little sparrows twittering around and… good coffee with free refill. For hipster hunters, Helsinki would be an utopia. Finnish design (e.g. iittala) is to be found not only in the Design District, but also in the clothing of the inhabitants. Some creations could go straight to the catwalk and Armani or Chanel couldn’t hardly better them.

Helsinki has surprised me, in many ways. The views, the culture, the people, the nature… Helsinki is beautiful and doable in a few days. But really; make sure you have a local guide. Riina showed me all the secret and hidden places in the city; places where no tourists were there to be found. I ate the biggest soft ice cream of the city; had sushi behind a rock club (Kuudes Linja; lots of metal heads past us), together with 6 other native, blond, Finnish people (iittala cutlery and Ikea table). Of course, you communicate in English because sometimes you need 5 words to translate the Finnish word to English, because the Finnish language doesn’t use prepositions and make endlessly long words which are almost unpronounceable. For example
Kiitos vieraanvaraisuudesta: Suomi on kaunis ja vierailun arvoinen maa.

which means: Thank you for the hospitality: Finland is a beautiful country and worth visiting.

 

Blown away

There are a lot of reasons for not visiting your friends abroad. Although they are your friends, you can’t visit them all. Money, will be the first and most important one, followed by time.
Last year, one of my best friends went to Malmö for 6 months. I promised her to visit, but I never did. The main reasons were indeed money and time, however, it seems to be that I had enough money to buy a Pinkpop ticket (passe-partout). Read more