Our second destination in India was Goa, known as the original hippie town, attracting backpackers since the end of the 1960s. A perfect place to relax and “take it easy”. Although the atmosphere of spirituality, smoking pot around the campfire and full moon parties was still there, it also felt like a place overwhelmed by decades of mass tourism. The small streets were packed with western travellers, mostly British. The little shops and markets were designed to sell things to these day-trippers and felt less authentic than we might have hoped for. The pubs were offering dishes that didn’t come close to the regional, traditional recipes we had tried in Mumbai. Luckily, our cabin was located on the beach away from the main party street, offering a breath-taking view over blue water waves and white sand.
We arrived in Mumbai during India’s so called ‘bank note crisis’, during which people were queuing all day to get cash out and some even reportedly paid others to wait in line for them. As we were warned about this beforehand, we got rupees out straight upon arrival at the airport. With nobody waiting in line for the cash machine there, nor for immigration, everything ran perfectly smoothly. I even remember asking the immigration officer if ‘that was all’ and him saying yes – but nodding no… This Indian head wobble thing was something I would soon get used to.
My friend Aneree was waiting outside for us, in her car with chauffeur. It was lovely seeing her again; her enthusiasm about showing us the city in which she was born and raised made us feel really welcomed. She had a day full of activities in store for us, but first brought us to our hotel for some refreshments and a meal, which was great after all those long hours of travelling. During the car ride, I started to have the feeling of being part of a movie scene. Everything was so different, so full of colours – from the exotic fruit stands next to the road, to the beautiful traditional dresses the women were wearing. I was hit by a fragrance of local spices from the street shops and vendors who were all around. The roads were filled with cars, busses, motorcycles, cows and people trying to manoeuvre around each other. My ears were beeping from the noise of the many, many honking vehicles trying to find a space in the madness. There are about 22 million people living in Mumbai alone, which is more than all people of the Netherlands put together!
Sometimes you spontaneously think of something fun to do, like ‘hey, let’s go shopping’, or even ‘let’s go online shopping’. Which is exactly how one morning, out of the blue, my mum and I booked us an exotic trip abroad. It was raining outside, we had to cancel our plans for the day, and then… we went online. We stumbled upon a website advertising sunny deals to escape the miserable weather and it was just – so – appealing. Soon I would finish my second masters’ degree and officially say goodbye to the student life and start life as a working lady. In fact there would be only ten days in between my last day at university and the start of my first real job as a therapist, which for me was the perfect excuse for a last minute getaway. Knowing that to really get good sun exposure in January we would have to travel as far as the Canary Islands, not the cheapest destination, we initially laughed the whole idea off. Then another thought popped up. India… exotic land, place of spirituality and relaxation, ideal to recharge before taking on the working lifestyle! India is not exactly around the corner either, bút we reasoned that once we got there, it’d actually be quite affordable to get around. Good thinking right, well hmm… getting there turned out to be easier said than done.
‘Wolf warning in effect’, read the poster at the start of the Rainforest trail we were about to walk. Supposedly, a pact of wolves was active in the area, showing bold behaviour towards people and dogs. There had been a number of recent attacks and therefore we were given advise on how to act if we were to come eye to eye with a wolf… or wolves. Most importantly, we were told to keep the ‘eye-to-eye’ contact – to not turn around or let alone run away! Then, to step backwards while raising our arms to make ourselves appear larger and let the wolves know who is boss by speaking to them in a loud, impressive voice… something I simply didn’t see myself pulling off. If the wolves would approach us despite these precautions, we were meant to throw sticks and stones at them. The last sentence of the warning poster gave me no peace of mind either: ‘If all else fails, then fight!’.
We woke up early to make our way to Telegraph Cove, a port town on the northern part of Vancouver Island. Here, a boat was waiting for us to take us out on the ocean for a couple of hours. Ever since watching Free Willy, it has been my dream to sail the waters that killer whales call home. The tour guides, who were all marine biologists and researchers, welcomed us and told us what to expect from the upcoming trip. To create more realistic expectations, they explained that there had been no sightings of orcas for a while now, but that we were likely to spot some sea lions and dolphins. I was worried, as this would be our one and only chance to see orcas – we would soon leave Victoria Island and travel away from the coast, deeper into British Columbia. Then, just ten minutes after the boat’s departure, the captain received a signal from one of the fishing boats out on the ocean…
Sana is known for being a hippie town in the middle of waterfalls, wildlife and spectacular natural sights. It is located in the mountains of Casimiro de Abreu, about 1.5 hours away from our place in Buzios. At eight in the morning, we were packed and ready to go hiking there for the day, explore the countryside of Brazil and bath in natural pools. We were waiting excitingly outside of our apartment for the tour guide to pick us up.
However, at 8.15 there was still no sight of our tour guide. This wasn’t the first time that someone showed up late during our time in Buzios and my mum assured me that it was just a matter of ‘Brazilian timing’, nothing to be worried about. Secretly I was quite concerned that something had gone wrong with the booking, especially when at 8.30 there was still no tour guide around, but right when we thought it was acceptable to phone up the tourist office without coming across as neurotic Europeans, a car stopped in front of us. A man in a bright pink shirt greeted us and introduced himself as Juliano. It turned out we had a private-chauffeur who would be our guide for the rest of the day!
Many of you probably know the concept of home-exchanges through the movie ‘The Holiday’, where Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz decide to swap places: a little cottage in England for a mansion in the USA. This movie happens to be my favourite feel-good movie of all time, and it’s the way my mum and I have been traveling for many years. I love to explore the world by exchanging homes, because you get to ‘live’ somewhere and feel less like a tourist, save a lot of money and often get really great insider tips as a nice bonus! Among many places, we have stayed in a massive house in San Francisco of a former Harvard University law student, a gay couple’s flat in New York, and a large farm in England. Now, we are in Brazil for the next 2.5 weeks living in a house with a swimming pool at a peninsula’s coastline.
I always knew that one day or another, I would move to Canada. When I was as young as 4 years of age- or I should better say as far as my memory goes back – I remember telling everyone over and over again that I would one day live in this country. Six months ago, at the age of 22, I finally went and did it: I made the move to Montréal together with my boyfriend. My time here has been a wonderful experience and absolutely met my expectations (see, the 10 things I will miss most about living in Montreal). However, I have also missed Europe and started to appreciate certain things about it more. In this blog, I will name a few of these things. Also, in this blog post I am holding my first giveaway contest! More info about this at the bottom of the page.
In less than a month, I will be returning to my home country, the Netherlands. Therefore, this is a recap of the 10 things I will miss the most about living in Montréal.
10) My favourite hotspot: the anti-café. This is a place where you pay per minute, rather than per drink. What this means is that you pay 3 dollars for the first hour you are there, and 2 dollars for the following hours (with a maximum of 9$). Basically, during your time at this cafe you can consume as many cups of tea and coffee as you would like, in addition to having unlimited cookies and snacks. If you know me, you know that I drink a crazy amount of tea every day and that I hope to have a huge tea corner in my future dream house. Therefore, this place completely suits me.
My favorite thing about traveling? Serendipity. The moment that you just start driving without a plan and stumble onto something wonderful. Specifically in America, driving around looking at the beautiful scenery and the houses that you’ve only seen in film settings, is something I love to do; and more often than not, you will find a nice local place to eat that tourists don’t know about. My mother and I discovered North Hero by accident, a small place in the state of Vermont.