Happy 2 year anniversary!

I can’t believe it. It has already been two years since I started this blog. It all started with a trip to Bolivia, to see my best friend from my all-consuming, incredible and once in a lifetime experience in Oklahoma. The journey to Bolivia was my first ever solo trip and it made me learn so much about myself and the world and experience South America’s beauty for the first time. Another continent crossed off my bucket list! We ventured around La Paz, spent some days at the Salar de Uyuni salt flats and I took an overnight bus trip to see Sucre on my own.

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Sucre, Bolivia

The rest of the summer was filled with trips around Germany, a week in Ibiza and a long awaited trip to Santorini, one of the most heart-warming, dazzling and enchanting places on this earth. Exploring this tiny island by hiking from one end to the other and enjoying utter tranquility and the natural beauty of the island just left me breathless.

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Galatia Villas in Santorini, Greece

Then it was time to prepare for another adventure: a year in Wales, finishing my Master’s degree in Cardiff. Little did I know that I would find my soul sisters, two incredible souls that I know will never leave my side, wherever life will take us. We share something real, something that is beyond words, beyond this world and even beyond my imagination. Definitely changed for good! I finished off the year with a trip to Dublin, Ireland to spend some time with my dear friend Susann to ring in the Christmas time.

Besides meeting incredible friends from all over the world, I got to experience that Wales is a truly underrated country. The landscapes, cities and people in Wales are so much more than beautiful, I cannot wait to come back this summer! I also got the opportunity to go back to Greece and see Athens, Cape Sounio and the Kaisariani Monastery. Despite being robbed my adventurous spirit made me make the best of it!

During my time in Wales I was lucky to travel to Canada for my best friend’s wedding. I definitely left my heart there and hopefully I’ll be back rather sooner than later to go and collect it. I can’t wait to be back in Alberta, meander windy roads around the Rocky Mountains and just LIVE.

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On our way to the Glacier Skywalk.

2015 got even better once I handed it my dissertation and left Cardiff for good. I jumped on a plane to Southeast Asia with my best friend and soulmate Nicole to start our first backpacking trip around Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. It is safe to say that I more than fell in love with backpacking and taking the day one hour at a time, truly relishing the bliss of having the day at your disposal and enjoying a time off without responsibilities.

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Bali Bliss.

The incredible and eventful year wrapped up with a huge surprise. I got invited to go on a roadtrip through Japan! Never would I have imagined to get the opportunity to travel even more that year. I will forever be grateful and humble for this opportunity and wouldn’t want to miss the experience for the world. I got to admire Japanese architecture, eat carefully crafted dishes day in and day out and experience the craziness and mind-blowing size of Tokyo.

Nara, Japan

Nara, Japan

The new year started on a more slow note. I am incredibly happy to have found a full-time job and I even got to take a little trip over Easter, recharging from the craziness of everyday life in the Netherlands.

I am more than positive that this year and this life has so much more to offer and I cannot wait for all the experiences to come and to share them with you! Happy Birthday on wanderlust!

 

 

Hiraeth or an urge to go back to Wales.

Hiraeth, what a weirdly sounding word. It evokes a strong feeling inside my soul because it describes how I feel about Wales every second of every day. It describes a very certain kind of homesickness tinged with grief or sadness. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia or wistfulness for the Wales of the past.

I have to admit, I’ve been pretty nostalgic about my life in Cardiff, Wales lately. Those of you that read my blog regularly probably know that I love to rave about the fabulous treats and meals I encounter while traveling. And that’s one of the things I miss most about the place that I once called home.

I miss steaming hot piles of egg on toast, greasy yet utterly satisfying hangover breakfasts, delicious burgers with juicy patties, the unique taste of a Guinness after work or just the regular coffee at my favourite hangout downtown. Don’t know what I mean? If you’re ever in Cardiff, visit these places and you’ll never want to leave:

1. Looking for a place to study?

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I only discovered this gem at the very end of my career as a student but it is safe to say that they have the best coffee in town. Authentic Italian coffee with the softest and thickest foam you’ve been dreaming of. Torre Coffee, 3 Castle Street

2. For the mandatory after work beers.

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For this particular category I couldn’t just pick one place. The Pen & Wig is a more typical British pub with authentic cuisine and great beers. On Fridays its grounds are bursting with students and employees from Cardiff Uni, enjoying the edge of the weekend. Pen & Wig, 1 Park Grove

The Urban Tap House is a more artsy place that sells craft beers from local breweries. And, they make totes amazeballs burgers and fries! The interior is super laid back and the crowd is hip and happy. Urban Tap House, 25 Westgate Street

3. The perfect hangover hangout

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Definitely one of my favourite finds. Hidden away on Crwys Road, away from the busy downtown area, Stag Coffee is the best place for a hangover breakfast, the oh-so-famous and healthy matcha latte or a milkshake in summer. Stag Coffee, 83 Crwys Road

4. Teatime in a British fashion.

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Not such a hidden away gem but one of the spots I think of most. Barker Tea House has the best scones in the entire city. Topped with clotted cream and sweet and delicious jam they are the most amazing treats for a Sunday afternoon. Make sure to book a table in advance if you visit over the weekend! Barker Tea House, 8-12 High Street Arcade

5. The hippest hipster place for juicy burgers.

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Bagels and Burgers. I’ve only been able to go once but the burgers are such a treat! They have vegan burgers, you can choose from a variety of one-of-a-kind toppings and the buns and patties are just pure deliciousness! The Bagel and Burger Kitchen, 98 Salisbury Road

2015 Bucket List Review!

This is it, the year 2015 is more or less wrapped up. For me, this time of the year is always dedicated to re-living everything that has happened over the course of the last months. If you are one of those awesome fellas that regularly read my blog (YAY, big shout out to you guys!), you might remember my bucket list for 2015. It’s an excerpt from my infinite bucket list that I am hoping to check off in decades from now.

A bucket list really is like a to do list for me. As I have uttered several times, I simply like checking things off lists just to be excited for the next step on that list. But what I’ve learned this year is that bucket lists are a tad different. They really mostly fuel my excitement and are less straightforward than a regular to do list. I’ve learned how much I like veering off the beaten path and finding myself in situations I hadn’t planned out for myself.

So here is what I had planned and what actually happened:

Athens, Greece

Yep, that definitely happened! I still look back to this trip regularly. Not only because I relish thinking back to the incredible Greek architecture or the vast amounts of mouth-watering dishes we consumed but also because it made me learn a life-lesson right at the start of the new year: getting robbed and still managing to enjoy your trip.

Filopappou Hill Athens

Filopappou Hill Athens

Exploring Wales

I can also cross this off my list! And as a matter of fact, I could cross it off several times because I was lucky to explore Wales more than once. Every day whenever I wander through the streets that I currently call home or used to call home, I am determined to explore and look behind each hidden corner. But not only did I meander my immediate surroundings, I took three road trips around Wales!

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Driving around North Wales

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Skrinkle Haven Wales

Scotland

Well, I was not able to visit Scotland this year. I was all too consumed with running around Wales or sitting at my desk in Cardiff, head fuming with thoughts about assignments or my dissertation. But Scotland, I’ll be back someday!

Alberta, Canada

Hell, yeah! Words cannot even begin to describe how much this trip impacted me. Being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding, road tripping through the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen, summitting my first mountain and just loving everyday life in rural Alberta. A trip to remember and a heart lost to Canada!

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Southeast Asia

A trip of a lifetime. My first backpacking trip and also my first time in Southeast Asia. This trip made me learn a lot about myself and about travelling. And even though we’ve been back for almost three months now, I am still basking in Bali bliss with my head in the clouds and radiant sun streams still leaving warm marks on my skin.

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Black Forest, Prague and Barcelona

These three destinations still remain uncovered. With a year as eventful as this one and with as many accomplishments and changes happening, I am at peace with not having discovered these destinations. Instead, I focused on going back to my hometown more, admiring it with the eyes of a first-time visitor and building up an immense amount of gratefulness about having grown up here.

Well, were did I veer off the beaten path then? Being caught up in one-of-a-lifetime-experiences often doesn’t come planned. Just as my most recent trip to Japan did. Sitting at home, caught up with job applications with no immediate bucket list destinations ahead, I had never expected for such an opportunity to happen that quickly. A very dear friend and her family suddenly swooped me out of my rut and invited me to a road trip through Japan. Who would I be to say no that?! Against my I-am-an-adult-now better judgement I left my job applications instantaneously and went to rove around Japan.

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Himeji Castle in Japan

It made me realize that this truly is what I love about traveling. Expect the unexpected and just go with the flow. Those are the times when you discover who you’ve always been, what drives and motivates you and how you find your utter bliss.

 

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

“But the key to that is, by looking at the difference between perceived danger and actual danger – where is the real risk? What is the real thing that you should be afraid of? Not just a generic fear of bad things happening. You can fundamentally change your reaction to things so that it allows you to go to places and see things that would otherwise be completely denied to you.

Where you can see the hardpan south of the Sahara. Or you can see New York city in a way that is almost dreamlike. Or the unconscious gingham of Eastern Europe fields. Or the great lakes as a collection of small puddles. You can see the fault lines of San Francisco and the way the water pours out under the bridge.

Just entirely different than any other way that you could have if you had not found a way to conquer your fear. You see a beauty that otherwise never would have happened.” – Chris Hadfield

In this TED talk, Chris Hadfield addresses the fear of going blind in space. But the essence of his talk is about being fearless in every aspect of your life. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

If I was afraid, I would have never studied abroad – not in Oklahoma, not in Cardiff. If I was afraid, I would have never dared to travel to Bolivia, knowing I was going to be on my own most of the time. Walking around street markets, adorned with colourful garments, the scent of leather wavering around, admiring clothing and drapes made of alpaca wool. Being a woman from Europe, wandering these markets on our own isn’t always safe. Especially when you’re not speaking Spanish properly like me. You are an easy target. Never show off that you are somewhat wealthy, try to mend in and be as confident as possible, showing that you’re familiar with the area and the situation. You think taxis are safe everywhere in the world? Wait until you’re sitting in a taxi in La Paz, being asked numerous questions trying to figure out whether you know your way around the city. You suddenly realise that the taxi driver is taking you a route that you’ve never seen before – your safety is in his hands. Should you jump out or stay, just hoping to get home safely?

This all sounds terrifying. It was to a great extent. But just as Chris Hadfield says, if I hadn’t taken these risks and if I had stayed at home, not daring to leave the house and the boundaries that comfort me, I would have never experienced or seen the beauty of South America, been a student in no man’s land Oklahoma or gotten a grip of living and working in the UK.

Taking risks is never easy and it’s often dangerous. I feel as long as you are fearless but careful, you’re safe. In the end, it’s about being brave and craving these experiences, just to be dazzled again by how much this world has to offer if you aren’t afraid.

Oh, Wales…

Let’s talk Wales then. If we’re all honest, most of use aren’t quite sure what Wales really is. Sure, it’s part of the United Kingdom but is it a country, a state or a province? It is a country and a quite underrated one. Before coming to Wales to study my Master’s degree in Cardiff, I didn’t know a lot about Wales. Pictures of green hills, sheep and rain came to my mind. Mostly empty, untouched land. I knew about Snowdonia, its famous national park and I knew that Cardiff was its capital city. But I didn’t really know what I was in for coming to this place.

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Yes, Wales is all about charming. A lush countryside, enchanting forests and tiny cottages hidden away between the trees. But Wales is so much more. During my time here I was lucky to getting the opportunity to discover its beauty and fall in love with it. Did you ever think of visiting Wales? Probably not. I guess Wales is just not the typical travel destination that makes the top of our bucket lists. If you’re from Europe, it’s not far away enough to ignite your wanderlust and it probably doesn’t even have a strong destination brand for you. There’s no strong image that comes to your mind when you think about Wales and its culture is not pulling you in with an infinite force.

Recently, someone told me that Wales is a bit like the European version of New Zealand – just as enchanting and jaw-drapping but a smaller, more accessible version. And let me tell you, this someone had been to both countries. So why not pack your bags and jump on a plane for two hours instead of travelling around the world? Yes, I am an explorer that goes far and wide and urges to discover every corner of the world but sometimes it’s worth just stopping yourself and exploring what’s close to you. Be it the country you grew up in or a place that’s around the corner from where you are now.