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!

 

 

Japan – a country of paradoxes

Arriving in Japan left me starry-eyed with wonderment of everything that surrounded me. I thought I knew what to expect coming to Japan as it had been on the top of my bucket list for years. My fascination with Japan had actually started in my childhood, with me being one of the biggest fans of the Manga series Attack No. 1 or Mila Superstar in German.

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A traditional shop in Tokyo

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Shitenno-Ji temple in Osaka

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A girl wearing a kimono in ancient Kyoto

If you ever get the chance to visit Japan, be prepared to be utterly mesmerized by the country’s diversity, culture and of course, craziness. The impression that still lingers in my head is that Japan truly is a country of paradoxes. The major cities exemplify craziness in its utmost form – imagine 35 million people living in the area of Tokyo, subway stations with up to 40 exits and gazing out of the windows on top of a skyscraper in Tokyo, desperately trying to make out the borders of the city but failing entirely. Even though the city is so big in size, they still seems to fail to fit all people inside – I have never seen a city that has as many flyovers and streets stacked on top of one another.

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The flyovers of Tokyo

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View from the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka

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Tokyo tower and the headquarters of the Asahi brewery

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View from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices

And then there’s pure calmness, a soothing atmosphere of tranquility and a culture that goes far back in history but is still excessively celebrated today. Whenever you decide to leave the Japanese mega-cities to go visit the countryside or one of the myriad buddhist temples or shinto shrines, this is the aura you will encounter. Suddenly there are no sounds blasting out of shops bursting with colourful items on display, no shop owner is shouting the newest promotional deals across the street and instead of the forest of neon signs, you find yourself in an actual forest with wild deer prancing around you.

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The imperial palace in Kyoto

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Wild deer in Nara

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Scenery in Nikko

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Witnessing a wedding procession in Nikko

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Gateway to the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

Visiting Japan made me realize yet again that travel is knowledge. The more you see, the more you know you haven’t seen. (Mark Hertsgaard)

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Japanese Garden in Kyoto

Arigatou gozai…what?!

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Arigatou gozaimasu is the Japanese expression for thank you. Sounds super foreign, doesn’t it? As I knew that saying thank you and bowing is just as essential as sushi for the Japanese culture, I knew I had to memorize it somehow. The memory hook I made for myself was Koh Samui – Arigatou Koh Samui.

This small introduction into the Japanese language might already give you an idea of the challenge that traveling to Japan is. But wait for it! When you read arigatou goizamasu in latin letters, it is definitely possible to remember somehow. But what if you’re faced with the various kinds of the Japanese alphabet? The modern Japanese writing system is divided into Kanji and Kana. Kanji is a logographic way of writing, it is adopted from the Chinese alphabet. Kana is a syllabic alphabet and is divided into Hiragana (used for native Japanese words and grammar) and Katakana (used for foreign names and words). Yep, even the Japanese people get confused here.

For foreigners it definitely is not the easiest to navigate through the jungle of foreign sounds and signs. Luckily, most subway stations have signs both in Japanese and Latin alphabet. Going for dinner is a much bigger challenge. Even in cities like Osaka and Tokyo, most of them are kept solely in Japanese. If you’re lucky, they contain photos. If not, just point to whatever the person at the table next to you is having. And be surprised by what actually lands on your table!

 

Fate is for the fearless.

This will be just a quick note. But it does mean a lot to me. Recently, fate seems to be ruling my existence. As Steve Jobs once said, I am true believer of the concept of connecting the dots looking backwards. Sometimes you don’t know what will happen but you just have to trust your instincts, be intrepid and leap – more or less defy gravity.

More and more I seem to be making decisions guided by me listening to my gut. More or less always inexplicable and non-understandable by my loved ones – turning down a perfectly fine job offer, chasing the dream of living and working in faraway places or traveling whilst I should rather stay home for numerous reasons.

But then there are these people that believe in you just the same way as you do yourself. And they not only believe in you but they support you with their whole being. Or even fuel your recklessness and adventurous spirit.

For now, fate has sent me to Japan. A two-week trip exploring Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo. And who would I be to turn down such a precious opportunity to chase my bliss?!