How to stay in shape and avoid gaining weight while traveling

Don’t you ever wonder how some women manage to stay slim and look absolutely fabulous even after weeks, or even months, of traveling while not having access to their local gym and healthy home-cooked meals?

Don’t you ever wonder how these ladies manage to eat their way through each and every country while updating their social media feeds with photographic evidence of themselves stuffing their beautiful faces with delicious brunches, dinners and desserts?

It’s no secret that I travel a lot more often than the average person, and I know many people who travel way more than I do. And we all know the struggle of keeping up a healthy lifestyle while living in a suitcase and hopping from restaurant to restaurant, bar to bar, food truck to food truck.

When you look at me and my social media posts, you wouldn’t think I’m someone you should be taking advice from in terms of weight loss and healthy living. I have a few extra kilos, I love food so much I plan my days around what or where to eat for dinner, and I am not at all a fitness guru or anything like that.

The advice I give is based on my own personal experience and my own journey from reaching the point of feeling disgusted and depressed by what I saw in the mirror, to the point where I am now – which is maybe five kilos away from my ideal weight.

Before I became a frequent traveler and a travel blogger, I lived a life full of routines.

Four years ago, I had a full time job, I had my own apartment, I had a gym membership and I enjoyed cooking healthy food – especially vegetarian food (even if I never considered myself a vegetarian).

Going to the gym at 7 am was absolutely not a problem for me. Nor was spending hours in the kitchen cooking the perfect veggie patties and baking low-fat vegan brownies as “cheat meals” for the weekends. I have never looked as good as I did back then.

But I wasn’t happy with my 9-5 job and what I viewed as a boring lifestyle, so I moved to the US (where I landed a job in Disney World) and started solo traveling from state to state and visited different Caribbean islands with my friends – and continued traveling a lot more after returning to Europe almost three years ago.

Two years and a half ago, I moved to France and started traveling a lot inside of the country and to neighboring countries. By this time my healthy lifestyle had gone completely out of the window and I was left looking like a big fat blob.

I didn’t even realize the seriousness of it all, until I was in Norway, visiting my parents for the summer (two years ago).  There I was, sitting on my bedroom floor, trying on some of the clothes I’d left at their place before moving abroad four years ago. I was completely shocked when trying on all these beautiful blouses and dresses I once used to wear on a daily basis.

Nothing fit me anymore. Absolutely nothing.

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And that’s when I decided to make a lot of small changes in my life. 

While living a freelancer- and traveler’s lifestyle, it’s simply unrealistic to make any drastic changes. While some people manage to do that, most people won’t. Me included.

But anyone can change a few bad habits and add some new good ones to their lives and slowly burn off those extra kilos and feel like a better and healthier person – even while on vacation.

Thanks to those small changes I’ve made while traveling (and while being home, working on my laptop), I’ve lost most of the weight I gained – and I couldn’t be happier!

This is how I stay in shape and avoid gaining weight while traveling

  1. I take the stairs instead of the escalators/elevator.  I know how much it sucks to take the stairs when you’re carrying heavy luggage and feeling extremely tired after a long flight. But you might wanna give it a try, as it’s actually a great cardio exercise. You won’t need the gym when you can carry luggage or shopping bags and run up and down the stairs at the metro or train station instead. Also, when heading to the breakfast buffet at your hotel in the morning – take the stairs instead of the elevator. Staying on the first floor? No problem. You can still walk up and down the stairs just for the sake of burning calories. Consider it your little morning exercise before treating yourself to a nice breakfast!
  2. I stay hydrated with water instead of sugary soft drinks. Put a bottle of water in your handbag or small backpack before heading out to the beach, to the pool or to go sightseeing. We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, and water is so much better for you than any other soft drink. Keeping a bottle in your bag might just prevent you from heading to the nearest supermarket or vending machine and buying a can of soda whenever you’re thirsty!IMG_20170912_143342.jpg
  3. I put fruits and granola bars in my handbag/backpack. Again, this is all about being prepared for thirst and hunger to arrive at some point during the day. Whether you’re gonna explore a big city and visit a bunch of museums, or you’re just planning to hang out by the pool, a granola bar and fruits will be a better option than ordering french fries or churros from some random takeout place, just because you were hungry and needed a snack.
  4. I recently started wearing an activity tracker wristband. My boyfriend made fun of me when I first bought my FitBit, but now he wants one too. An activity tracker is not a miracle worker, but if you’re someone who loves to be challenged, you’ll have a great time using one. It will track your steps and movements, you can create your own calorie/food diary on the application – and the tracker will notify you and challenge you whenever it thinks you should be moving (not during the night, though). It might not work for everyone, but it works for me – and it’s a fun little gadget!
  5. I swim, hike, dance and ride a bicycle whenever the opportunity arises. Planning a trip to the beach to get your tan on? While you’re there, go for a long walk in the sand or jump into the water and go for a swim before getting comfortable on a lounge chair with a book in your hand. Going to the pool? Swim a few laps. Visiting a big city? Rent a bicycle for an hour or two. Staying at an all-inclusive resort? Check out the resort’s on-site activities. Yoga in the morning? Dance classes in the afternoon? Be there!IMG_20170420_220500
  6. I eat exactly whatever I want, but moderately. If you’ve ever been to a really fancy restaurant and enjoyed a three-course meal, you’ve probably noticed that the portions aren’t exactly big and you’ll be able to finish it all. You’re not left feeling like you needed to force yourself, and after you’ve finished eating you won’t feel like a balloon that’s about to explode. Think about that next time you go to an “all you can eat” buffet or enjoy a large pub meal or dinner at a family restaurant somewhere. If your main course is huge, you might wanna skip dessert. Or share one with someone else. And if you can’t even finish your main course, don’t. If you don’t want the leftovers to go to waste, ask for a to-go box and finish it later. It’s better to eat smaller portions of the things you really want to eat, than chewing on lettuce and celery every day and counting every single calorie of everything you eat. Trying local specialties is an important part of traveling. Don’t miss out!IMG_20161027_203337.jpg

 

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Where to find amazing travel themed wall decor and accessories

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If anyone ever asked me what I’m looking forward to the most, out of all the things I have planned for the rest of this year, I would not hesitate one second before giving my honest answer.

The answer is crystal clear. Moving away from here, starting over somewhere else – and getting to decorate a brand new, bigger and better apartment!

I have butterflies in my stomach, I have thousands – no, millions – of thoughts running through my head and I am beyond excited.

Next month I am leaving Paris, the French capital city, and I will be moving to Toulouse – a gorgeous city in the southwest. Close to Bordeaux and plenty of idyllic towns famous for their wineries and a more relaxed lifestyle.

I will be stacking up on expensive wines and celebrate like crazy!

Paris has been great fun, but I’m ready for new adventures.

And boy am I ready for that new apartment!

As I am currently living in my boyfriend’s apartment, I don’t have the freedom to decorate exactly the way I want and I don’t even have half of the space I need for my many books and magazines.

You see, I collect travel novels, travel guides, old issues of magazines like National Geographic and Lonely Planet – and I have this idea that one day I’m gonna cut out all my favorite photos from those magazines and pin them to my future motivation board on my office wall. My future office, that is.

My boyfriend is an avid collector, as well. He collects shot glasses and beer mugs from souvenir shops around the world. I’m too clumsy to trust myself with a collection of anything that fragile, and I make sure to stay far, far away from his collection items so I don’t break anything. So far so good.

Besides collecting souvenirs, photos and travel magazines, my man and I have pretty much the same idea of how we want to decorate our future apartment.

And it’s gonna look fan-freakin-tastic!

When two wanderlusters come together, it’s bound to result in a home filled with, well, anything travel related. Photos of skylines and beaches, world maps and travel themed pillow cases.

I will finally have my own office, and it will be decorated entirely the way I always imagined it.

With that motivation board placed above my desk, with photos from travel articles pinned to it.

And with a large world map as well as different city maps decorating the walls. As well as an enormous bookshelf where all my books can collect dust until I finally decide to pick them up and actually read them all.

To celebrate the upcoming move, I have received a custom black and white Toulouse city map from Modern Map Art – and I couldn’t be more pleased with how nice it looks!

I bought my own black frame in a local shop and framed the poster to give it an even more elegant look, and it’s currently decorating my living room here in Paris, as a reminder of our future plans and how amazing it will all be.

I know the poster will look even cooler than it already does, once we’ve found a perfect place to put it, in our new home in Toulouse!

Modern Map Art offers the perfect gifts for those who love to decorate their homes (or businesses) with city maps – and those in search of a one of a kind piece of artwork.

All you need to do is select your style, size, find whatever city (or even village) it is you’d like as decorative map art, add text, and voila – you’re done!

Now isn’t that the perfect gift for an expatriate missing their hometown? A couple wanting to celebrate a new chapter of their lives in a new city? A friend who just opened a cafe or a Bed & Breakfast and needs something cute to put on their walls?

Or just.. a gift from you to yourself, because you deserve something nice?

The posters can be used without a frame, or with a frame – depending on what kind of look you’re after.

In case wall art isn’t quite up your alley but you still like the idea of maps as decoration, Modern Map Art also offers iPhone cases and throw pillows.

Have fun decorating – I’m sure I will!

The posters are printed in Los Angeles, CA, USA and offer worldwide shipping (free shipping within the US) and it takes about 3-5 days from the time you place your order until it gets shipped. During busier seasons it might take longer.

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Losing friends because I’m a travel blogger: I’m not the problem, You are

We all know someone who knows someone who’s obsessed with traveling and shares tons of photos and updates on their social media accounts.

Whether they’re sweaty low-budget backpackers (solo or not) or wanderlusting fashionistas. Insta-famous influencers or sporty GoPro-vloggers. Trendy bloggers or old school novelists. Travelers who use modern day technology to document their journey from point A to point B to wherever it is their bucket list takes them. Those who Photoshop their photos so much it doesn’t even look like a real photo anymore – and those who keep it real and refuse to edit out any scaffolding, photobombing tourists or even pimples and mosquito bites.

I, too, am a wanderlusting blogger. Often sweaty, sometimes sort of fashionable-ish (mostly not). And just like all these digital nomads (and fabulous tourists) mentioned above, I also want to tell a story and inspire others to live life to the fullest.
Yes, I want to inspire people to take a leap of faith and just go. Explore the world. Book a plane ticket to your dream destination and never look back. Not just because traveling is fun and educational, but it will teach you how to be an independent individual.

And less of a picky eater.
And better yet, you will gain self-confidence. Lots of it. Trust me.

Heck, I’ll be happy even if I can inspire you to try a dish you never dared to try before. Or learn a few words in a different language. Or even just get you out of the house and take the bus or train to a different city and at least explore somewhere new even for just a day.

I love reading sunshine stories about people who went somewhere and did something because someone else inspired them to follow their dreams. I love when people I know (as well as people I don’t know) tell me they finally had the courage to embark on their first ever solo trip thanks to me. These people are the main reason I’m blogging and sharing updates from my travels on all my social media platforms.

But as we all know, being a blogger – no matter how big or small your blog is – comes with a risk. The risk of endless conversations with your parents who worry about you because you’re exposing yourself too much and living in a delusional bubble instead of taking that office desk job and marrying the nice guy you once introduced to your parents, then dumped because he was boring.

And then there’s the risk of losing friends. Old friends, new friends, best friends.

I’ve read tons of articles on this strange consequence of blogging.

Lonely travelers who lost all their friends due to jealousy and bitterness, and stories about friends growing apart and losing touch because of different schedules and lifestyles. The traveler who won’t settle down versus the friend back home who just “doesn’t get it” when you tell them how weird it feels to be back and how you don’t even know where home is anymore.

Most of my old friends are busy getting married, having babies, working their 9-5 jobs and spamming my news feed with “Game of Thrones”-spoilers and photos of their cats, dogs or children.

And here I am, not posting a single photo or status update on Facebook anymore – as I’m worried I’ll end up completely friendless if I do. You see, there’s a whole lot of people who’ve unfriended me and stopped talking to me after I started traveling a lot.

Yes, I might have shared perhaps a little too many photos from my adventures abroad. I’m sorry (not sorry), but I’m proud of myself and my accomplishments. Why wouldn’t I be?

Yes, I am guilty of previously bombarding my feed with photos, status updates and geotags every time I traveled to a new, exciting destination.

But, does that make me a bad friend? 

Looking at it from a different perspective, I guess what I viewed as memories worth sharing with the people I love, was viewed by them as annoying spam by an even more annoying person: me. The friend turned traveler. Solo traveler. And even worse; blogger. And to top it all off; Instagram Influencer. Yuck.
I guess they liked me better as a person before I became a “show-off”, and I completely understand how the word “influencer” will make some people want to vomit. It just sounds so…so… narcissistic. Right?

At one point, I did in fact wonder.

Had I crossed over to the dark side and become something hideous?

Was I, in fact, a narcissist? 

Are all travel bloggers narcissistic douche bags who just won’t stay grounded (literally and figuratively) or are we just misunderstood?

Are we influential storytellers or are we all just a bunch of annoying attention seekers?

Well, if a blogger is happy doing what they do and is causing no harm to anyone while doing it, it can’t be all that bad – can it?

Just how beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one person’s trash is another person’s treasure; bloggers are beautiful treasures to some – and complete trash to others. Digital nomads, traveling fashionistas and soul-searching writers are not self-centered for having a desire to share. They only do what makes them happy – and inspire others to do the same. That’s a good thing, no?

Before I was a blogger, I was a solo traveler with a half-tassed Tumblr blog and Instagram account, both full of photos with captions posted for myself to enjoy, like an online photo journal.

Turned out, people enjoyed reading my little captions and viewing my photos – so I decided to take it all to the next level and put my whole heart, soul and energy into creating enjoyable content for friends, family and complete strangers alike.

Before I was a solo traveler, I was…lost.

Before I expatriated to the US, and before I embarked on my first ever solo trip, I was stuck in a relationship I didn’t want to be in, and I had a 9-5 office desk job I couldn’t stand and I cried myself to sleep more often than not, without even knowing why I was sad. The feeling of emptiness and worthlessness was tearing me up inside and breaking me down.

My self-esteem was non-existent.

At work, I wasn’t good at what I did, and I never tried to make any effort to improve my skills. I just didn’t give a shit. I didn’t feel passionate about my work, my after-work activities, or anything else.
Like I said, I was lost. Before I became who I am today, I believed my life had no purpose and I had no reason to be living it. And strangely enough, this was all while still having a lot of friends. When I was that person. The sad downer with no drive, no passion, nothing.

Today, I am happy. I have a burning desire to create fun content, I have goals, hopes and dreams – and I have plenty of interesting stories to tell about places I’ve been, things I’ve seen and people I’ve met. I am an independent and confident woman. A healthier (but fatter) and better person than I was back then.

But most of my friends are long gone.

So, what happened?

Well. Let me just tell you what happened last time I saw an old friend who’d been ghosting me for a while after I found my happiness. We were at a coffeeshop and she was telling me about this trip she was planning, and told me she’d probably have to travel solo as most of her other friends were too busy to tag along. I volunteered to join her (I mean, I was her friend, wasn’t I?) and she immediately changed the subject.

And then she said; “Can I just ask you; how on earth did you get all those followers on Instagram? I mean, your photos aren’t even that good”.

The hours spent sipping coffee awkwardly with this old friend of mine were nothing but uncomfortable and I believe we’d both been better off if she’d just continued ghosting me and kept her thoughts to herself.

This girl was just one out of many people who for some reason decided version 2.0 of me was a shitty update with too much fancy stuff going on, compared to the previous version.

It’s hard to say goodbye, but sometimes you just have to let go.

If a person can’t be happy for you, they were never really a good friend in the first place.

Thanks to my curious nature and travel-addiction, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people who love to travel just as much as I do. I’ve met inspirational bloggers, vloggers and backpacking nomads from all over the world – and I’ve learned to really appreciate my friends back home.

The handful of friends who didn’t walk away when my life changed to the better. The ones who stayed to cheer me on, instead.

Those are the friends who will be enjoying room-service with me at a charming hotel in the south of France (for a complimentary stay) or get drunk with me at a beer festival in Germany (when sponsored).

Just saying.

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Drunken shenanigans abroad: Women share their stories

Ah, alcohol. Your best friend on a Saturday night and your worst enemy on a Sunday morning. Maybe even more often while traveling, as you might find yourself losing track of time and don’t even know which day it is anymore. Any day could be Saturday. Or Sunday. And why would anyone blame you, as long as you’re not flashing your birthday suit and puking your guts out on public property?

And even then, who am I to judge?

You know what they say; you’re only young once (although that saying and the acronym kind of makes me cringe).

A big part of traveling is socializing with locals and fellow travelers, isn’t it?

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I’ve made a whole lot of friends (on Facebook) while drunk. Heck, I’ve even become best friends with people while drunk. I swear I’ve even felt like some of them were my soul mates. Sister from another mister. Brother from another mother. You know what I mean. Pals for life. Or at least until the next day, where I completely forgot everything about them and had no idea what these strangers were doing on my friends’ list on Facebook.

I remember that one time while waiting in line for the bathroom at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, when I became best friends with a fierce drag queen. I honestly don’t remember what we talked about, except from me telling her I loved her cheekbones and her telling me she loved my dress. And somehow we became friends on Facebook.

Then there was the guy who squeezed my belly that one time when I went to a nightclub in Paris, France. I told him I really loved pizza, and that’s why I was fat. He told me I was still beautiful, so it didn’t matter. Weird. That guy did not end up on my friends’ list.

Then there was that one time when I drunk-dialed my mom while I was in a bar in Oxford, England. The DJ played an 80’s song that reminded me of her, so I phoned her up and cried on the phone. It resulted in my mom being worried sick, and me being an emotional wreck the whole evening, then not remembering a thing the next day and wondering why my mom kept asking me if I was okay.

Then there was that one time in Krakow, Poland, when I ended up making out with a guy who was my friend and only my friend and we were never supposed to be more than just friends. He was sad because all the Polish girls were more into one of our other travel companions (who normally had no luck with women at home) and I was, well, available and kind of into him at the time. The guy looked like a spitting image of Stifler from American Pie – and his behavior was quite the same as well. This is not  a compliment, so please don’t question my taste. Still, the guy made me laugh. And his dance moves were the most hilarious I’d ever seen. He tried to look as sensual as a sizzling Latino, but his dance moves reminded me more of some strange kind of disco-dancing. After leaving the club, Stifler and I started kissing in the hotel lobby, then in the elevator and the corridor – before I came to my senses and told him good night.

Speaking of dudes. Now, this didn’t actually happen abroad. It happened in my hometown, but the person involved was a tourist – so I guess it sort of counts. I went to a nightclub in Stavanger, Norway with a friend and we ended up dancing with some Swedish guys. One of them ended up buying me lots of drinks, and I kept on drinking them. We were dancing and having a great time. And then something happened that ruined the entire atmosphere. He farted. At first I wasn’t sure if it was him or someone else on the dance floor who passed gas, but as we went to the bar to buy drinks (and escape from the smell) he farted again. Was he nervous? Had he eaten a bad burrito that day? Who knows.

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I asked a few ladies (fellow travel bloggers) to share their own experiences from some of their most interesting and memorable drunken nights abroad. These are their stories (and photos).

Meeting the love of my life – drunk in Thailand

After checking into Hug Hostel in Chiang Mai, I threw my bag on the top bunk and sat down. The English guy on the lower bunk, called Ed, started chatting away to me. He asked me if I wanted to go out to a bar that night with a few other people. Of course, I said yes.

Later on, 10 of us sat in the hostel playing drinking games and then headed out to Zoe in Yellow. Although it was a bar, it felt more like a club. The DJ was blasting dubstep and everyone was chugging buckets. To my disgust, it closed at 12 am. But I was still buzzing.    I wanted to keep going!

I asked around if anyone wanted to get drinks somewhere else. Ed was the only one that said yes. So we walked down to the 7/11 to get more beer, but they couldn’t serve it after 11 pm. We turned to walk back to the hostel, when I spotted a random hotel. I asked the manager inside if he had any beer. He smiled and pulled out two cold ones from behind his wooden desk. Ed and I sat in reception drinking our beer when I noticed a bellhop cart. Somehow, we ended up pushing each other around the hotel on this cart. And even weirder, the manager just stood laughing at us!

Ed and I went up a floor and climbed onto the roof. We talked for hours. And made out. We ended up spending a week together in Chiang Mai, then another 6 days in Koh Samui and Koh Tao in Southern Thailand. When you’re travelling, you never know if you’ll see someone again.

Admittedly, I had tears in my eyes when I was driving away from him. But when I got back home to Northern Ireland, Ed flew from England to see me. We kept flying back and forth. I spent Christmas with his family, and he spent New Years at mine. A year later, we’re in the best relationship we’ve both ever had. We’ve been to 6 countries together. In November, we’re going to Australia for one year, and who knows after that. It’s strange how one drunken night can have a massive effect on your life. I certainly never thought I’d meet the love of my life!

by Chloe @ journeywithchloe

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Drunk and lost in Mallorca

Okay, let me start this off with a word of advice: DON’T get drunk and wander the streets of a foreign country. Luckily nothing bad happened to me, but I was fortunate!

When I was living in Madrid I took a solo trip around Europe. My final destination was Bergen, Norway. As most of you probably know, Norway is super expensive, and so are the flights (for Europe standards). All of the direct flights to Madrid were over 300 euros, which is crazy expensive for a European flight. Hell, I had just gone to Rome for a measly 40 euros!

The cheapest ticket I could find was to the island of Mallorca, for around 76 euros. I booked a ticket from Bergen to Palma de Mallorca, and planned on doing a stopover there for a couple of nights before returning to Madrid. Flights from Mallorca to Madrid are like, 15 euros, so I thought I might as well take a mini-vaycay before heading back to the city!

Ugh. Big mistake.

My flight arrived to Mallorca at 7:50 pm. I got a taxi from the airport and arrived to my hotel around 8:15 pm, only to find the reception to be locked and empty.

It turns out the hotel closed at 8 pm, and any travelers arriving after would be left without a room. And nothing could be done about it. A hotel closing at 8 pm is complete asinine to me, but I digress. My phone battery was dead, so I went to the closest bar to get WiFi on my laptop and book another hotel.

I should have just gone to Starbucks…

Stressed and upset Kerry decided to get a few drinks to calm her nerves. Stressed and upset Kerry had a little more to drink than she originally planned. Kerry got drunk. Like, really drunk.

Fast forward an hour or two, and I was obliterated. They take alcohol seriously in Mallorca, and one drink may be equal to two or tree drinks with the amount of liquor they put in. I’m tiny, and pretty much one of the biggest light weights ever. So by the time I left the bar to go to the new hotel, I was druuuunk.

Now, this is the time for you all to learn from my mistakes.

I had Google Maps out in one hand, rolling luggage in my other, a huge backpack on, whilst wandering aimlessly in the streets of Mallorca alone at night. I was at the point where I didn’t realize how drunk I was, and thought that I was completely in control over everything.

Probably half an hour went by and I still had not arrived to my hotel. I started walking up to people, stating that I was drunk, and asking them to call  a taxi for me. Finally, someone helped me out and directed me to where all the cabs were. Luckily, I had the name of the hotel written down so I could tell the driver where I was going.

We got to the hotel, I got out of the cab, walked up the steps, and stated that I had  a reservation. Oops, I accidentally mistook the ice cream stand that was next to the hotel for the reception!

The worker kindly pointed me to the direction of the hotel, and I finally checked in.

Needless to say, I ended up spending the next day of my “mini-vaycay” in the hotel room, terribly sick. Definitely one of those “I’m never drinking again” moments. Honestly, I am just happy that nothing horrible happened to me while I was roaming around alone and intoxicated. This is absolutely the dumbest mistake I’ve made traveling, and I would never advise anyone to make the same mistake.

Remember folks, Google Maps doesn’t work if you’re obliterated.

by Kerry @ thepetitewanderer

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The marriage counselor – drunk in the Maldives

Each time we remember our vacation to the Maldives, the first thing that comes to our minds is one particular embarrassing evening that we spent after getting drunk. While writing this down, our faces have already turned a shade of pink thinking of that crazy night and our most hilarious drunk moment till date.

We were holidaying at one of the idyllic islands of the Maldives and were staying in a gorgeous over water villa. The villa had a lovely sit out area from which a ladder led downwards, straight into the sea.

On one of the days, after watching a glorious sunset, we decided to enjoy the moment and share a couple of drinks. Two hours into the evening, we were on stage 2 of drinking, the most dangerous stage in our opinion (in our funny classification scheme, stage 1 is tipsy, stage 2 is can-drink-more-but-can’t-think-or-walk-straight and the final one, stage 3 is I-need-to-puke).

Typically, after stage 1, you are as good as good as you were before drinking. After stage 3, you would crash in bed and fall asleep. It is when you’re stuck at stage 2, that all those awkward and embarrassing memorable experiences take place.

So at stage 2, we headed to chit chat over a few more beers in the sit-out area of our over-water villa. While outside, we could hear a couple fighting in the neighboring villa. On purposely trying to overhear their conversation, we understood that they were on their honeymoon and were arguing over silly things. From their language and accent we figured that they were from the same place as us.

Rewinding three months before our Maldives trip, we were on our honeymoon in Greece and were fighting in a very similar fashion on yet other petty issues in our villa balcony.

Suddenly overcome by a sense of déja vu, Pushkaraj asked me to hold his beer bottle and without prior warning, took the ladder down, jumped into the sea and headed to swim over to the couple!

While I was still trying to fathom what was happening, Pushkaraj was in the middle of the sea, swimming with all his clothes intact, on a rescue mission, considering himself the savior of the night. In my alarmed and confused state, I crawled over the edge to see what was going on exactly. I was ready for him to be slapped and insulted for breaching someone’s privacy to this extent. Turns out, he reached their villa, climbed the ladder, walked up to them and befriended the shocked and surprised souls! He introduced himself and requested them not to fight as it’s not worth spoiling your honeymoon for! In his drunken state, he managed to give them half an hour of marital advice and how the first few months of marriage can be difficult and not as ideal and glorified as the world seems to portray. All this, when we ourselves were barely married for four months that time!

While he was chit-chatting with them, I don’t remember when I fell asleep in our villa and woke up the next morning to meet our new friends. As embarrassed as I was, I went to apologize to the amiable couple who in turn thanked Pushkaraj for helping to sort out the misunderstanding between them! For the next three days, the four of us did most of our activities together and laughed over that one crazy night.

We’re still friends by the way. I guess, all’s well that ends well!

by Meghna @ TrailingAbroad (with hubby Pushkaraj)

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The Cocktail Guru from S2 Beach Shack – drunk in Goa, India

Meet Ram -The cocktail guru of Goa, India. During our stay in Goa we stayed at a beach shack which came with a very unique bartender called Ram. Whenever we saw him we weren’t sure if we should run, hide or just drink. Every time he saw us on the beach we had to have one of his “famous cocktails” which made us swing well into most nights! I don’t even think he remembered what he put in them half the time but they came in all forms, tastes and sizes… it was such fun!

The one night it went one step further, he made a giant stiff cocktail with a giant hollow watermelon on top. Ram said that if we finished it one of us had to wear the top garnish as a hat. Keeping up with tradition, I was appointed the duty by my friends and a hour later I had this water melon cucumber hat on my head. We had so many laughs and left with good memories.

by Liza and Lisa @ Souldrifters

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What is YOUR greatest memory from a drunken night out in a foreign country?

Share your story in the comment section below.

 

 

 

5 times I was “rescued” by strangers abroad (and how you can avoid making my mistakes)

Whoever said being a solo traveler is easy and everything will go smoothly if you just believe in yourself, has obviously never been much of a traveler. Heck, even traveling with your best friend or your parents or even an organized group can be quite a bumpy ride. Life is – and never will be – smooth as butter.

Shitty situations can arise at anytime, anywhere, to anyone.

As much as I try to take the precaution of avoiding seedy neighborhoods, learning the train/tram/bus schedules by heart, trusting myself more than I trust my friends, learning the city maps instead of following my GPS blindly and making sure I have absolutely all the right documents printed – sometimes, I fail to do so. Sometimes I even fail to walk straight without tripping over my own two feet. Other times I fail to eat without spilling sauce everywhere (even in my hair), as if I was a little baby. Sometimes that’s exactly what I am. A big baby, naive and lost. And just like you’d rescue a crying baby lost in the big scary city, strangers often come to my rescue and guide me to safety and give me a blanket and a nice warm cup of cocoa.

Okay, nobody actually did that.

Except from that one time when I was 2 years old and ran away from home (naked) with the 2 year old boy next door (also naked) and the police found us in some old folks’ garden party and gave us blankets to stay warm while driving us back to our parents.

I guess, already as a 2 year old I was ready to explore the world. These days, I usually travel with my clothes on, but I still manage to get lost and get myself into tricky situations and end up being “rescued”.

Here are five anecdotes from my travels. These are tributes to locals who could have walked away, but decided to help a stranger in need. These are people I will remember for the rest of my life, because of their kindness and selflessness. 

The Colmar Teenagers

The most recent of these stories, happened only a week ago, in Colmar – a beautiful and fairytalesque town in the Alsace region in France. My mother, her friend and I were staying at a hotel in Strasbourg, another town in the same region. We made plans to take the train to Colmar and stay there for the fireworks display and celebrate Bastille Day, drink Pinot Gris (delicious white wine) and eat Alcasian cuisine, do a bit of shopping and take hundreds of photos of the colorful half-timbered houses and bridges decorated with beautiful flowers. Little did we know how much of a fairy tale we were getting ourselves into. While my mother and her friend trusted in me leading us back to the train station from the location of the fireworks, I relied on my GPS to take us there. Big mistake.

My GPS started acting up and guided us in the complete opposite direction. No wonder I didn’t recognize any of the streets, the buildings, nothing. To make matters worse, my phone was dying. We had no other choice than asking strangers for help with directions or maybe help us call a cab. “Excuse me?”, I asked an elderly couple (in French). They ignored us. I tried again.

This time I asked a boy and a girl who didn’t look a day over eighteen.

They listened. And told us what we already knew; the train station was in the complete opposite direction and we’d never be able to make there in time for the last train back to Strasbourg. Worried, I asked the boy if he could help us call a cab, as my phone was dying. He explained to us that calling a cab would be useless. By the time a cab would get here, we’d already miss our train. “My car is parked nearby. We can take you to the station, if you want”, the boy suggested. We really didn’t except this. Especially not from an age-group who is unfairly labeled as selfish.

They took us to the station, offered to drive us to Strasbourg (free of charge) if we didn’t make it there in time, followed us to the platform and made sure we made it onto the train. Colmar does not only look like a fairy tale town. Some of its people are everyday heroes, just like those you read about in the storybooks.

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The Minneapolis Mom

While living in Florida, I spent most of my weekends off traveling to other states – even those on the complete opposite part of the country. I wanted to see as much as possible while staying in the US on a work  visa. And at one point, curiosity brought me to Minnesota. More specifically Minneapolis (and Bloomington, to visit Mall of America). One day, while wandering around downtown Minneapolis, my GPS acted up (there seems to be a pattern here). I wanted to go back to my hotel, but my GPS guided me to the complete opposite part of town instead, and lead me to believe that I was on a good path. Little did I know that I was on the path to a somewhat dangerous neighborhood. Little did I know that Minneapolis even HAD a neighborhood that would be considered “dangerous”.

While getting more and more lost, I was starting to get attention from men who could easily tell I wasn’t from around there. Some were just staring, others were catcalling. I’m not even gonna get started on what level of vocabulary they were using.

A forty-something year old woman with two kids, pulled over. “Darlin’, are you lost?”, she asked. She looked genuinely concerned. I told her about my problem with my GPS and asked her for directions to the hotel I was staying at.

“Oh lord. The reception here is terrible. No wonder you’re lost. And your hotel..Honey, you can’t get there by foot. It’s too far away. Complete opposite part of town!”

She offered to drive me to the hotel. No, I wouldn’t normally get in the car with a complete stranger like that, but considering she had her kids with her, I decided to trust my instinct on this one. And I’m glad I did. The lady was lovely – so were her children – and my day ended on a good note.

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The lady and the tramp in San Diego

After a lovely week spent visiting San Diego as a solo traveler, I packed my bags and headed to the Greyhound bus station to take a bus to Las Vegas where I’d made plans to meet some friends of mine to celebrate my friend’s birthday over a steamy Chippendale’s Show and drinks. Although San Diego had been great and I’d eaten my own weight in Tex-Mex and tanned myself into a less pale version of myself, I was ready to commit seven sins in Vegas.

Arriving at the station, I was certain I’d printed every document needed. Turned out, I had printed the wrong thing. I guess I forgot to read the fine print.

“Ma’am, this is not a ticket. You need to print your ticket”. I browsed through my emails and realized I had printed the wrong attached file. How stupid of me. I asked her if I could just show the ticket as a PDF on my phone instead of the printed version. “No, ma’am. We need to collect the printed documents. There’s a library just around the corner. They have printers”. I knew where the library was. It was not ‘just around the corner’ but a five minute walk. Five minutes are precious when you’re about to miss the bus.

“But… What if I email the document to your email address, and then YOU can print it from here. I’ll obviously pay for it”, I cried. My tears were worthless to her. She shook her head and smiled “No, Ma’am. I can’t do that. Go to the library. Now. Before you miss your bus”.

I was left with no other choice than going to the library. Which, by the way, didn’t open before 9 am. The departure time of my bus was 9:15. I was screwed. I had no way of making it to Vegas, and I knew it. I broke down crying in front of everybody who were waiting in line for the library to open.

At first I was crying because I’d miss the bus. Then I cried even louder because I felt like a spoiled brat crying over first world problems. What a misery.

A lady in her forties walked up to me to comfort me. So did a homeless man who had been sitting nearby, begging strangers for a little money so he could buy himself some breakfast. Neither of them could do anything to help me, but they listened to me, they comforted me and they both waited next to me while I called my mother to ask her if she could book me another bus ticket. She booked me a plane ticket instead. A co-worker in Florida had a daughter who lived in San Diego, who happened to be off from work that day. She drove me to the airport.

I guess in this situation, my mother, my co-worker and my co-worker’s daughter were all the biggest heroes. Still, the lady and the homeless man both deserve to be praised for their selfless act of kindness and compassion.

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The bag-man in London

London is a perfect place to go shopping if you’re from a country where everything is ten times more expensive than in good old Britain, and frankly, I can’t walk through Camden market without buying a couple of bits and pieces here and there. What I should have known then – that I know now – is the importance of a solid, high quality suitcase to carry all those items in. And you might wanna be careful when buying those things at a market. If a price sounds too good to be true, there’s usually a reason for it. Exactly how that bargain dress from eBay turned out to look like a cheap version of your grandma’s curtains or your toddler’s fancy dress costumes. My leopard print suitcase was just like that. Why on earth I wanted something leopard print is another question I ask myself a lot. I’ll blame it on Spice Girls and nostalgia.

The tacky leopard print suitcase lasted three hours before it decided to fall apart. Unknowingly, I wandered the streets of London with my bright new suitcase used for my shopping spree, and a nice old backpack on my back, carrying all my other essentials for the weekend.

And then the unthinkable happened. Half of a wheel fell off. Half. The other half was still spinning around for a little while before it followed its other half and abandoned me. How odd. I decided to lift and carry my suitcase instead, as it was pretty much impossible to drag it around with only one wheel.

Bad idea. The handle came off and my suitcase fell straight to the ground and now had a major hole in it, from where the handle was attached. This was officially the shittiest  suitcase I’d ever seen. Period. I tried to hold the suitcase with both arms, to hold onto all my things and balance it up and down staircases and while rushing down the busy streets of the city. I walked into the nearest shop and asked the shopkeeper if I could buy the largest bags he had, from him. He took one look at my suitcase and seemed quite surprised with how this could possibly even happen. He gave me two enormous plastic bags (same size as those found in IKEA) and said “take them, for free. And buy yourself a better suitcase”. You betcha, I did.

He may not have been a hero, per se, but he sure made my day a whole lot easier.

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The LGBT family in Birmingham

Another one from England. I was never a tourist in Birmingham. I actually stayed there as an expat for a year and a half. But expat-stories still count. And this one is worth mentioning.

While staying in Birmingham, I often went to nightclubs with my friends there. After all, I was nineteen, and this is how a lot of nineteen year old’s spend their Saturday nights. Another thing that is sadly quite common when you’re nineteen, is having unreliable friends who’ll break whatever promises they had with you, if something better comes along. And that’s exactly what happened the one time I didn’t have enough money with me to take a taxi home, because I’d made plans to sleep at my friends’ house and was absolutely certain I wouldn’t need some kind of backup-plan. Turns out, I was wrong.

My friend took off with some guy and left me stranded outside of the club. I didn’t know any of the other people who were there, and I had no idea what to do. A girl sensed that I was sad and confused, and asked me if I needed help with anything.

I told her what happened, and she offered to let me stay at her house, together with her and her friends. “It’s my parents house, but they’re not home. They’re on holiday. If you don’t have to leave to early in the morning, I’ll cook us all a nice breakfast. If you like bacon and cheese sandwiches, that is”, she smiled. How lovely was she? How could I possibly turn down an offer like that? Again, I trusted my instinct and joined them.

The girl told me the story of her parents and how a lot of people had been mean and judgmental towards her while growing up. Her mother and father got divorced when she was a child, and the mother later came out as gay and had since been in a relationship with a lovely woman who was a great stepmother to the girl. I noticed a couple of photos of the two, on the fridge. Along with some old photos of the girl herself.

“I like both. Girls and blokes. People think it’s because of my mom, but it’s not”, she said and poured us all a cup of tea. We changed the subject and talked about music and movies until we were all too tired to stay up any longer.

The only thing I found strange in all of this, was drinking tea at 4 am. But that seems to be quite a normal thing in Britain.

If this girl hadn’t invited me to stay at her place, who knows what would happen if I’d have to walk all the way back to the house I was staying in – which was a one hour walk from the club, and near an infamous “red light area” (Gillott road, if you’re a local reading this).

Even though I’m now left with these amazing memories of everyday heroes, I might not always be as lucky. Your good Samaritan might not always be at the right place, at the right time – and who knows what would happen in a worst case scenario!

My advice is:

  • Always have some extra cash on you in case you need to take a taxi somewhere.
  • Studying a map and memorizing it is better than relying on your GPS.
  • When buying a suitcase or a backpack, quality matters. It might be expensive, but it’s an investment! You don’t wanna end up picking up your stuff from all across the street because you bought something cheap and useless!
  • Tell your friends and/or family members where you’re staying, who you’re staying with and keep them updated when bad things happen.
  • Use Facebook groups/communities for solo travelers to ask for help/advice when you’re lost, abandoned by your peers – stuck in whatever situation where you need help from locals!
  • I also recommend to write down the address and phone number of your embassy in the country you are visiting, in case your problems are way more severe than any of this!

Good luck – and safe travels!

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7 things you should do after returning from holiday

Coming home after a holiday is never a good thing. You’ve got to return to normality after a while bathing in tropical sunshine and exploring the world’s treasures, and you’re not likely to be happy about it. Don’t worry – here are seven tips to ease you back into real life after that dreaded trip back home.

Get back to a normal sleep schedule

Jetlag is a very real problem both when you arrive at your destination and when you come home. The shift in time zones means your body needs to adjust its sleep routine to fit them, and when you come back home you might find that you’re either up too early in the morning or unable to sleep late at night.

Make sure you’re giving yourself time to adjust before getting back into the swing of things – you’ll want to catch up on sleep as well as returning to your normal routine. If it means going to bed earlier than usual, do it. It’ll be worth it in the long run.

Take time before returning to work

Don’t rush to get back to work once you’ve arrived home – not that you’ll want to, anyway. You’re going to feel tired once you get home, an inevitable problem after the stress and time taken to travel.

It’s likely you’re also not going to be in a positive frame of mind once you arrive back home, with the post-holiday blues kicking in. So, giving yourself that extra day or two to adjust and settle back into normality is definitely necessary for your mental health, as well as physically.

Tackle your to-do list

It’s likely the tasks are going to pile up on top of each other quickly once you arrive home. Priorities with work and home have likely been put aside on your travels, so you’ll want to sort them as soon as you’re back to prevent the stress of putting them off further.

Expect a higher workload once you’re back in the office as you’ve been gone for a while – this is inevitable, so don’t fret and instead go in with the determination to clear the backload.

Unpack immediately

A lot of people feel to just crash whenever they get home from a holiday – 1 in 10 Britons, in factDon’t be that person. The longer you leave your suitcase full and unpacked, the less you’re likely to want to tackle it. Motivate yourself to get it empty and stowed away as soon as you’re home – it’s one less thing to worry about in the future!

Your clothes are probably going to be dirty and in need of a good wash; especially if there weren’t any facilities where you were staying. Put on a load once you’re home so that they’re fresh and ready to go when you need them.  Her Packing List has published a handy guide to get your unpacking out of the way.

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Make the following weekend a quiet one

Regardless of when you get home, make sure that you reserve the following weekend for some “me time”. You’ve probably found yourself busy and caught up in the days following your return, so having the weekend to unwind and catch up on some needed relaxation is crucial.

Try to stay home and chill out instead of finding things to do – they can easily wait a few more days. There’ll likely be nothing urgent enough for you to have to rush out, so take some time to put your priorities aside and relax.

Convert your unused currency

If you’re lucky (or clever) enough to have some money left over from your travels, don’t let it sit in a drawer until next time around – unless you’ve not got long until you jet off again, that is!

Have another look at exchange rates and see where you can get back an amount that’s as close to what you paid initially. Exchange rates do unfortunately fluctuate dramatically very quickly, so you’re going to want to have a look around and find the best deal for what you have left. Only bother if you’ve got a substantial amount, though – it’s obviously not worth exchanging a few cents for coppers.

Start planning the next trip

What better way to eliminate the blues than by booking your next getaway? CTI recommends planning another holiday once you return home as a great way to overcome the inevitable sadness of having to leave, so don’t hesitate!

Having another holiday in the future will keep you from becoming too forlorn and sad that you’re home – it really does take a toll on you. Keep reminding yourself of it to let excitement take over, instead of a longing to go back to where you just came from.

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This post is in collaboration with Ellen Collins. Photos are my own.

5 Types of annoying guys I’ve met on my travels (and I’m sure you have, too)

“It’s hard out there. The older you get, the worse they get. They’re pigs, I say. Pigs”

Those are words I’ve heard surprisingly often from an age group I surely would have expected otherwise from. And here I was thinking “they’ll grow out of it”. Guess not. People my age, my mom’s age and my grandma’s age, have all told me bizarre first date-stories of men of all ages, online and offline. Stories of how messed up they are, those poor guys who are single since forever, others who are newly divorced or divorced since God knows how long, or those who jump from one relationship to another while looking for a little rebound-action while being on the road.

The dating scene has sure changed a lot over the years. And let’s just say, I’m glad I’m not single anymore. Couchsurfing.com is no longer a great place to find somewhere to sleep, but a place to find someone to sleep with. Dating sites and dating apps are full of perverts looking for an easy lay, crazies looking for someone to troll, narcissists looking for someone who’ll admire them and their abs, loners and damaged souls looking for that one person they can confide in – and obsess with and stalk for as long as you both shall live. Yes, the internet is packed with colorful creatures. They come in all shapes, sizes, cultures and nationalities. And often you’ll stumble upon these people while backpacking solo, vacationing with your friends or exploring the new city you just moved to.

We live in a world where no matter where you go and no matter which website you use to meet people for whatever reason, there’s always gonna be that male (or female) traveler who believe taking a nude selfie is the best way to get your attention.

Before I met my significant other, I spent a lot of time trying, failing and dating around the world while traveling and expatriating. It was exhausting. While some of those dates developed into vacation flings, others became nothing more than an awkward first encounter. For what it’s worth, at least I’m left with a few funny stories and a lot of cringe-worthy ones.

If you’ve ever “Tindered” your way through loneliness abroad, or posted an ad/message on Couchsurfing looking for cool people to hang out with and ended up alone with some dude with hidden (or not so hidden) intentions, you’ll probably know at least some of these characters listed below. If not, well….don’t say I didn’t warn you.

1.The multitalent

He’s that cool guy who plays guitar, the drums, the piano, whatever instrument – he can do it. He also writes poetry or song lyrics and is an excellent cook. Can he dance? Of course he can. Is he bilingual? More like, multilingual! Is he bragging about his skills? Damn right he is. But we all love him. Mainly because we all want to BE him. This guy is still single because he ain’t got time for no relationship. He’s either somewhere jamming with his friends, practicing a new skill or exploring small islands and remote villages in Southeast Asia and South America.

Personal experience: He was the kind of guy I would have expected to meet somewhere a little more exotic, but no, I met him in Norway. A spicy Latino with wavy shoulder length hair and big brown eyes. We had been talking on and off online for a while, and he invited me to a bonfire party on the beach while I was visiting the south of Norway with my mother (and abandoned her at the hotel for the occasion). As cliche as it may sound, the guy brought his own guitar to the party, played a couple of self-penned songs and sang like an angel (in Spanish and English). As lovely as it all was, I just wanted him to finish up and give me a little attention. And perhaps even his jacket. I was starting to get cold. And bored, as I knew nobody there, besides him. Turned out, I had competition. All the girls at the party wanted a piece of him. Had he invited all of us as some kind of…audience? I had no idea. Nor did I stick around to find out.

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2.The child

He’s the guy who throws a tantrum if things don’t go his way. He doesn’t have a lot of friends, but he has a lot of cool gadgets. This is a spoiled brat who never ventured into adulthood and probably never will. Turn him down and he’ll threaten to trash talk you all over the internet or get one of his “important connections” to hack your laptop. And your phone. And your mother’s phone. And then he’ll steal your dog. Or something. This guy was born into money, but prefers to date outside his circle. You’ll either meet him at a high end nightclub or online while vacationing somewhere in the Mediterranean or at a luxury resort in the Caribbean. Whenever he’s not busy partying on yachts in Europe or Instagramming from St Barts, this guy is swiping left and right, searching for a Cinderella who can keep up with his antics – or shall we say, Tinderella.

Personal experience: I met this guy in Orlando, Florida.We went to a casual restaurant, nothing fancy. The guy seemed pretty normal at first. That was, until he turned the date into some kind of a sales presentation, where I was the buyer and he was the product. He talked about his car, his suit, his salary, his employees, his house, his future plans. Him, him, all about him. I was bored and couldn’t wait to get out of there. As soon as I got home, I received a text from the guy. He wanted to meet again. I didn’t reply. Five minutes later he called me. I didn’t pick up. New text. Another one. And another one. And he called again. And again. And again. I switched off my phone, then switched it back on the next day and received a nice little message saying “You weren’t even that pretty, anyway”.

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3.The lover

He’s the guy your mother warned you about. Smooth, great with words, charismatic, funny, intelligent and very easy on the eye. Sadly, by the time you’ve fallen head over heels in love with this guy, he’s already moved on to the next girl. This guy has a lot of friends and everybody seems to like him. You know he’s trouble, you know he’ll be nothing more than a fling – at best. He’s always up for Tinder-adventures while backpacking from state to state in the US or interrailing through Europe with his friends, but he’s not interested in settling down. Not quite yet.

Personal experience: I was alone in San Francisco, California, the first destination of a long solo trip. It was my third day there and I was already done with everything I wanted to see and do while visiting the city. As much as I loved to travel alone, I was starting to feel lonely. Very lonely. So I did what a lot of foolish girls do when feeling lonely; I browsed through the endless sea of men on Tinder. And there he was; a sexy French guy on a backpacking trip through California. He asked me questions like “what are you looking for on Tinder?” and I replied something along the lines of “err…I don’t know. I just wanna make friends”. Well. A lovely conversation and a nice walk along the streets of San Francisco led to a drink, that drink led to another drink, which led to a kiss, which led to… Happily never after.

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4.The creep

He’s the guy who just won’t leave you alone when you tell him to go away. He’s the creepy dude who’s following you around on the dance floor while you’re just trying to have a good time with your friends. He’s the guy who keeps messaging you on dating sites, even after you’ve told him you’re not interested. He’s the guy who’s catcalling you and following you around the block, before you manage to shake him off. He’s the guy who stays at mixed hostel dorms just so that he can catch a sneak peak of you changing your clothes. He’s the guy who believes you’ll warm up to him eventually. You just need a little more time. And a couple more pictures of his private parts.

Personal experience: Now, where do I even start? Oh, yeah, I might as well tell you the worst story of them all! Once, while traveling in England, I was waiting for a train from Manchester to Birmingham. At the platform, I saw a guy who looked exactly like Quentin Tarantino, who for some reason started moving his hand up and down in his pocket…while moaning and breathing heavily.  For some reason, the guy was staring at my low heeled leather ankle boots the entire time. And this is when it hit me. He was touching himself and using my boots as pleasure-material! I was disgusted. And frightened. Even more so when the sweaty Mr. Tarantino-look-alike walked up to me, still breathing heavily while sweat was dripping from his forehead. His eyes still fixed on my ankle boots, and he asked; “Can I kiss your shoes?!” Thank God, the train arrived – just in time to save me from this awkward situation. In case you wondered, I never wore those ankle boots again. Ever.

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5.The polyamorous 

He’s the guy who’s desperately looking for participants for a threesome, foursome or group-stuff in seedy clubs. He says he’s a free spirit, a curious soul, a nature’s child, a man filled with so much passion he can’t just keep it for one person. This guy loves to party – obviously with some help from either something organic or something synthetic – and loves to be surrounded by beautiful women at all times. He never seems to be looking for a relationship. Just friendships. With benefits. This is the kind of guy you might run into at festivals/festival campsites, and hostels in cities and islands known for their crazy nightlife.

Personal experience: I met this guy in Tampa, Florida. He was a model – and yes, he was obviously quite a looker. Sadly, he was all kinds of crazy. The guy was high on pretty much every drug known to mankind, and he spent the entire evening trying to get me and some girl to hook up with each other, and with him. The guy seemed obsessed with the idea of getting some ménage-à-trois action going. I wasn’t having any of it. Never had I ever indicated that I wanted anything like that. And never in my life had I been happier to return “home” from a Saturday night out. What a mess!

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Thankfully, there’s also a lot of amazing men out there, who are genuine good guys, just waiting for us wonder women to sweep them off their feet!

(Manneken Pis and all the other sculptures/statues are used in this post as illustration only. I don’t think they’d actually be a bunch of creepy dudes if they came to life)

 

Tattoo discrimination and traveling: Do I deserve to be ridiculed and harassed?

As a female traveler, part-time solo adventurer and an expatriate for the third time (so far) you can bet your sweet booty I’ve experienced quite the amount of discrimination for different reasons by different people. Sometimes it’s because I’m female. Other times it’s because I’m a foreigner. But most of the time it’s because of my tattoos.

Yes, tattoos. You either love them or you hate them, and we all have our own opinions on them. Whereas some people keep those opinions to themselves, others simply can’t wait to shout it out loud and tell you exactly how much they like or dislike what you’ve done to your body.

When I was 18, I got my first tattoo. When I was 22, I got my last one. Some of them have personal meanings, others do not. None of them were ever made to offend anyone, and not once did it cross my mind that people would view me as controversial and provocative for simply just being decorated with permanent body art.

Little did I know that my butterflies, flowers and stars would complicate traveling to the extent that I can’t even wear short sleeves or visit public swimming pools or hot springs in certain countries. And please don’t tell me I should have known better before getting them done, because it’s far too late to change that. In the western world, there’s a lot of people like me. Tattooed men and women who travel the world and want to be treated with the same respect as their non-tattooed friends and family members.

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I don’t expect countries like Japan, where people fear tattoos because they’re mainly associated with the Yakuza (Japanese mafia), to change their tattoo-ban in public places just to please people like me. Nor do I expect conservative countries in the middle east to make exceptions for people like me, when their own citizens are not even allowed to get any tattoos themselves. I respect their rules and don’t wanna cause any inconvenience.

I do, however, expect more from people of the same or similar culture as myself, of my generation or the one above.

I mean, it’s just body art. If you have a haircut I don’t like, if you’ve been under the knife and had something surgically enhanced, reduced or removed, or you simply just wear an outfit I don’t like, I’m still gonna let you be you and not try to knock you down for being different. Why can’t you do the same with me?

I’m not asking you to like people’s tattoos or compliment them. I’m just asking for mutual respect. Politeness. You know the saying; “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all”?

Because, those nasty comments (or, honest opinion, as you like to call it) are actually quite hurtful.

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Just to put you in my shoes for a second, here are some of the experiences I’ve had with tattoo discrimination while traveling.

“…You are a disgrace! You will burn in hell!” – Old lady, Gdynia, Poland

My mother is Polish and we travel to Poland together quite often so that she can fill both her suitcase and mine with Polish products (did anyone say vodka?), magazines, cheaper clothes (than back home in Norway) and shoes and whatever else she wants to take home with her. When we’re not busy shopping, we head down to the nearest spa and get ourselves some nice massages and manicures and go out for lunch and cocktails. In other words, the ultimate mother-daughter vacations. While we usually go to Krakow or Warsaw, we once decided to check out the Baltic coast for a change and spend two weeks sunbathing, swimming and having fun in the sun in Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk. While for the most part, we did have a lot of fun, there were quite a lot of old people there ready to make sure I wasn’t gonna be TOO happy or have TOO much fun. Because I am tattooed. And tattooed people shouldn’t be smiling. They should be ashamed. As much as I can deal with people staring at me and whispering, or even saying something along the lines of “your arms are ugly”, I couldn’t hold back my tears when an old lady screamed “Such a beautiful young woman, ruined. You have destroyed your body. No one will love you now. You are a disgrace. You will burn in hell” and my mother, who understood absolutely everything, translated the parts I didn’t understand. Not only did the old lady ruin my day, but she also upset my mother.

“I’m sure you’re crazy, spontaneous and up for anything in the bedroom” – Random guy, Oslo, Norway

Let’s just get one thing straight. Walking up to a person in a bar and randomly start licking their arm without even saying “hello” first, is totally unacceptable and frankly just messed up. Who does that? Oh, right. Because I have tattoos, you have the privilege to touch, kiss, bite or lick them as much as you want, within seconds on laying your eyes on them. Random people touching my tattoos when I’m out somewhere getting drunk with my friends, is something I’ve actually gotten used to. Yes. I’ve gotten used to weirdos touching my arms without my consent. However, what I didn’t expect was that one time when I went to a bar in Oslo and some random guy started licking(!) my arm. Not only did he lick my arm, but he also said something along the lines of “I’m sure you’re crazy, spontaneous and up for anything in the bedroom. I mean, your tattoos. They’re hot. I’m sure you’re really kinky”. Last time I checked, flowers, butterflies and random stars and candy doesn’t exactly scream kink. Let’s just assume he was fifty shades of drunk.

“Oh…Wow…I have to go” – Scared woman, resort, French Countryside

My partner and I often book romantic weekend-getaways to maintain the spark in our relationship. I guess that’s why we’re still madly in love with each other and happier than ever, despite our differences. He’s sort of conservative and is not at all a tattoo-enthusiast, nor was he ever a big fan of mine, and  you know what? I’m totally cool with that. Traveling with someone like me, has its consequences, though. Just like my mother, my boyfriend has also witnessed quite a lot of mean stares, bad comments and strange reactions. Like the one time, when we had a couple’s massage and the masseuse asked me a whole lot of questions about my tattoos, and that time when we had a lovely conversation with a lady by the resort pool, while I was still wearing my bathrobe. As soon as I took off my bathrobe and got into the pool, her eyes were on my tattoos and she had a look of fear and disgust on her face. “Oh… Wow.. I have to go” she mumbled, and took off faster than I could say “well, it was nice talking to you”.

“Oh no, this is not nice. Not nice at all. You’re a woman. This is ugly” – Pool Attendant, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

A few years ago, my boyfriend and I traveled to the Dominican Republic and stayed at an all-inclusive resort. Although I’m not much of a fan of organized trips and the concept of all-inclusive, I couldn’t say no when my boyfriend showed me the gorgeous photos of the hotel’s amazing swimming pools. Most of the staff was extremely friendly towards me and I had a great time talking to them while we were staying at the resort. The exception was the female pool attendant who was in charge of the towels one day when I went to drop off our used ones and replace them with new ones. Before receiving any towels, I had to stand there and listen to her criticize my look. She looked at me, shook her head and said; “Oh no, this is not nice. Not nice at all. You’re a woman. This is ugly. Why are you doing this, girl? It’s ugly!” she said and laughed in my face. After she was done mocking me, she finally gave me those towels.

“I’ve never fucked a girl with tattoos before” – Random guy, Orlando, Florida, US

First of all, let me apologize for using the F-word. I hate that word and would never have used it if it wasn’t to directly quote someone. Why should I censor what people say to me? It’s them who should have censored themselves before spitting out such nonsense in the first place. And we all know drunk people talk a lot of BS. Especially when trying to impress a woman. How on earth that stranger  in Orlando believed that saying “I’ve never fucked a girl with tattoos before” would ever get him any luck, is beyond me. He looked me in the eyes and probably waited for me to say something corny like “You poor thing! Let me change that for you!”. Instead, I turned around and ignored him the rest of the evening.

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Please note that I’ve also encountered a lot of lovely people from all around the world who had nothing but nice things to say about my tattoos. The issue is simply just that the rude people are generally those who talk loudest – and are sadly also the ones who leave the biggest mark.

Have you ever experienced tattoo discrimination? Share your story in the comment section below!

 

 

Happy 1 year Blogiversary! (the story of how it all began)

Today is the one year anniversary of ExploreLoveTravel.net!

I honestly never thought I’d ever reach this milestone, but here I am. Still telling stories, still sharing photos, still climbing up, falling down and getting back on my feet again. Then falling straight on my big fat butt once again, before getting back up and trying over and over again. Ah, the life of a blogger. Incredible, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for my muse and my “motivational coach”, my amazing boyfriend who always believed in me and always told me to follow my passion and never ever give up on my dreams. He told me I can be exactly the person I want to be, if only I believe in myself. Such a cliche, right?

But guess what, since one year ago (and for the first time in my life) that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. The road is as bumpy as they get, and boy have I been facing my fair share of obstacles. Nobody ever said it was gonna be easy, did they?

Well, when life gives you lemons, make the most freakin’ brilliant lemonade anyone have ever tasted. Or spice it up with a little rum, and call it a margarita…Because, after all those bumpy rides and obstacles, mama needs her drink!

Thanks to my male muse, I am currently working on my first novel (written in my native language; Norwegian) and I’ve started treating this blog like a business and not just some random online diary.

Still, my blog and I both have a lot of growing up to do in this crazy world of social media marketing and the endless sea of travel blogs, and I hope I’ll one day get to be where I want to be. Fingers crossed.

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And where exactly is that?

Well. Ever since I was a little girl, my dream has always been to become a writer. A writer of short stories, travel novels, memoirs, fiction, poetry, articles.

Writing has always been my therapeutic outlet for my social anxiety and all the darkest moments I’ve had to go through in my life. When I was bullied as a child and when my parents got divorced, I wrote poetry and short stories to cope with the sadness and loneliness I was going through. Just like I did when my father passed away. And all the times I’ve had my heart broken. And all the times I’ve moved from city to city, country to country, to start a new life – a better one – somewhere else, hoping that the grass would be greener on the other side.

I always dreamed it would be.

I dreamed of big city lights and endless possibilities. Those dreams brought me to the capital city, but that was still not enough. I dreamed bigger, and somehow ended up in England. As I continued searching for my purpose, still not satisfied with the path I had taken, I returned to Norway and took a break from it all. I had given up on the idea of becoming the person I wanted to be. I had given up on me.

That is, until the day I got back on the horse again, ready for battle. This is when I decided to chase the American dream, many years after running back to Norway, defeated and disappointed.

In the land of the brave, I landed a job at the happiest place on earth (Disney World, duh), where I spent most of my free time traveling from state to state – and this is when I started getting closer to realizing what I should have known all along.

I am, and always have been, destined to become a storyteller. Well, at least I feel that way.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that I’m no freaking Hemingway. Nor will I ever be as good as Bill Bryson. Nor will I ever win the Pulitzer Prize. Now that’s certain!

But there is room for everyone, even writers like me. Writers who laugh at their own shortcomings and find inspiration in embarrassing moments and awkward scenarios. Yes, that’s me. The girl who laughs at her own jokes and doesn’t have a lot of friends because most people think she’s just weird.

 

In the world of blogging, I’ve found my audience. People who enjoy my style of writing and my sense of humor. People who search for imperfection in a world full of glitz and glamour and pretentiousness.

My novel, as well as future e-books, are/will be written for these people. For the travelers who can’t navigate without getting lost. And those who can’t eat without spilling sauce all over that new, white tee.  And the ones who can’t hike on a rainy day without tripping and falling into the mud at some point. Those who accidentally fart loudly in front of their crush, thinking it would go unnoticed. Those who realize they just told the most inappropriate joke ever and wasted every opportunity they had to become friends with the cool crowd. Those who can’t even form a sentence without messing it up. Or buy train tickets. Or even hold their liquor.

You are my crowd. I write for you.

Ever since the day I created my WordPress account, while on a trip to Sweden with my mother, I knew I had made a life-changing decision. I hadn’t quite figured out my blog’s identity yet, but I knew I was on the right track. I knew how much I wanted to dedicate all my time to travel blogging. I knew how much I wanted to become a writer. I had no idea how hard it would be, but I wanted it. Now more than ever.

In the world of blogging, one year means your blog is still just a baby. But even as a baby, my blog has blessed me with freebies, a couple of paid articles and some sponsorships and affiliate links. Those are the extra compliments I need, in order to stay focused and motivated.

So guess what, I’ll keep that smile on my face and wish my blog a happy happy birthday. May there be many more!

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Why every day needs to be World Oceans Day

Even though June 8th is the official World Oceans Day , I’d like us all to celebrate this cause not just that one day, but every day, by becoming better versions of ourselves and protecting the environment while we’re at it!

And before you ask, I am not affiliated with any organization, but simply just spreading the word to applause a cause and share my own personal tips with fellow travelers, beach-goers, boat trippers and everyone else who happen to love our oceans as much as I do.

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Ever since I was a child, I’ve always felt connected to the sea. Growing up by a beach kind of does that to you. Even if said beach was no tropical one. We had pine trees and cones, not palm trees and coconuts. And that ice cold water and those orange jellyfish that were out to attack everyone, was enough to make most sensible adults stay away from getting into the water. But not kids. Kids are brave. Fearless. Maybe even slightly careless. And me, I used to be just like that (and no, I was never stung by a jellyfish).

Today, I still love going to the beach. Whatever beach. Wherever in the world. But unlike my younger days, I can’t just jump into the water and have that intense feeling of happiness and not give a damn about anything that’s happening around me. This has nothing to do with jellyfish or the water being cold.

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This has everything to do with people who disrespect the environment.

Whenever I go to the beach, I turn into a passive-aggressive, grumpy activist. Which is totally not something I wanna be. At all.

But then again…

Where is the joy of going to the beach when the place looks like a dump? Why would I want to go swimming somewhere where I’ll have to dodge plastic bottles and someone else’s trash from their little picnic on the beach? I’ve even experienced used diapers and tampons floating next to me. How disgusting is that? But that’s not the biggest issue here. Because, most importantly, why would I wanna be somewhere where sea turtles, fish or other creatures that reside in the water, get caught on things like six pack-rings or other dangerous plastic items and die from their injuries? No, I don’t want that, nor do I wanna be held responsible for someone else’s lack of behavior.

I can’t remember if the beaches were as littered as they are now, when I was a kid. But what I do remember, is that my parents raised me well and taught me to put trash where it belongs: in the trash cans. They also taught me the beauty of recycling. They taught me how one person’s trash can become…well…another person’s treasure (literally speaking)!

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So how can we protect our beaches, our oceans, our underwater creatures?

  • Support recycled fashion! Just a quick search in your browser is enough to find hundreds of different brands – big, established ones as well as small, independent ones – that use recycled ocean plastic to create new, trendy items for you to wear.
  • Even if it isn’t yours; pick it up! If you see something that could be dangerous for not just animals but also for children to step on or put in their mouths, you should – without a doubt – get rid of it.
  • If you see something, say something! You witness someone behaving badly and purposely littering? Speak up. Are they with children? Well, then it’s even more important that you say something. We don’t want the future generation to repeat the mistakes of their parents.
  • Visit your local Marine Rescue Center! Because, knowledge is power. The more you learn about the issue – and about the creatures affected by it – the easier it will be for you to know what to do to help. If you don’t have a local Marine Rescue Center, visit your local Aquarium for advice!
  • Spread the word! Talk to the people in your community. What can you do to keep the beaches clean? 

Fellow travelers, fellow humans, next time you go to the beach – be the best version of yourself. Let us all be everyday hero’s and clean up the mess we’ve made!

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