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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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)

 

22 hours in Marrakech, Morocco

After four amazing days at a retreat for creative entrepreneurs by HDYTI in Essaouira, a port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, it was almost time to return home. But I didn’t want to go home without having ever visited the city I’d be flying out from, so I booked a night in the gorgeous Sapphire Riad & Spa in the Marrakech medina and had less than 24 hours to explore everything I wanted to see and eat everything I wanted to eat in the dynamic city of Marrakech, a popular destination for solo travelers, couples, families as well as groups of friends. If you were ever in doubt whether 22 to 24 hours is really enough time, doubt no more. Perhaps you’d like to know more about my trip to Essaouira or read a little more about the luxurious Riad I stayed at? Don’t worry, blog posts will be up soon!

But first, here’s how I spent 22 hours in Marrakech

3 pm: Arrived in Marrakech, checked in at the Riad and got a tour around the gorgeous property – and enjoyed some complimentary mint tea and pastries. How divine!

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4 pm: The owner and staff members at the Riad were all lovely. In fact, they were so kind that I didn’t even have to worry about getting lost in the market as I was accompanied by a staff member to all the places I wanted to visit until it was time to return to the Riad for dinner. I guess he worried I’d get lost and never find my way back and end up sleeping on the streets somewhere. Which I am 100% certain would be the case if I had been wandering around completely by myself. I am a woman of few talents, but getting lost is definitely my biggest talent. I am always a damsel in distress whenever I travel solo. Always. Although that’s nothing to brag about, really.

Thanks to a male staff member from the Riad guiding me around the city, I felt safer than ever – except from when I almost got run over by scooters, bicycles and tuktuks going full speed through the small streets of the Medina.

First stop was the Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech – a museum of Moroccan photography. I would have never been able to find this museum on my own as it’s quite hidden past the souks of central old town Marrakech, down the narrow alleys of the Medina, somewhere around there, you’ll find this lovely little museum. Most of the photos displayed were in black and white and they all told a story. My favorite photo was one of a woman sitting next to two men, exposing her bare legs and laughing. She looked like a Moroccan Marilyn Monroe. Another photo I liked, was a photo of a group of veiled women. I loved the contrast between them and the leggy vixen.

I wanted to sit down and order a beverage at the roof terrace cafe, but impatience got the best of me as the waiter never came my way to take my order. So I skipped the pause cafe and focused on my photography instead.

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5:30 pm: “Do you want to visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa Koran school?” the lovely man from the Riad asked me. Of course I did. I wanted to see everything. Not trying to be holier than thou or anything but thankfully I was dressed like a conservative gal and not like a careless westerner in short shorts and a tank top like some of the tourists I’d seen in the Medina and even entering the Ben Youssef Madrasa. I love my shorts and tank tops just as much as the next girl, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a time and place for everything.

Founded in the 14th century, this former Islamic college is the most stunning piece of architecture found in the Medina (in my opinion). With a courtyard richly carved in cedar, marble and stucco, consisting entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns, this historical site is simply too beautiful to miss out on.

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6:00 pm: We spent about one hour visiting the busy market in Djemaa El-Fna. I wasn’t planning on buying anything and I barely even dared to look and no way did I touch anything at all. The vendors at the market seemed to be quite aggravated whenever I said no to whatever they had to offer. One lady tried to push me into getting henna tattoos done – something I should avoid like the plague as I suffer from eczema. I declined politely and she got seriously offended and asked me one more time, purposely ignoring my previous answer. I told her yet again that I wasn’t interested and she rolled her eyes at me and mumbled “oh la la, les touristes”. Lesson one; if you want to sell me stuff, make me laugh. Works like a charm. Just ask the gentleman in Essaouira who almost had me rolling on the floor laughing my butt off – and sold me jewelry when I wasn’t even planning to buy anything.

We finished the tour with a cup of tea at the market square, watching the sunset while acrobats entertained us with their choreographed moves.

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7:15 pm Morocco is amazing in many different ways, one of them being the way disabled people are treated. With respect, dignity and given the opportunity to work a full time job just like everybody else. Just because you depend on your wheelchair to get from A to B doesn’t mean you have to be physically bound to it at all times. Just ask the Moroccan tuktuk-drivers. In Morocco the disabled are given the opportunity to work as tuktuk-chauffeurs – and I think we got the most fast and furious one of them all.  At times I worried we’d run someone over with our full-speed tuktuk. That guy was not stopping for anyone. Buses, cars, women, children, red lights, queues, you name it – ain’t nobody got time for that!

Back at the Riad, I had about thirty minutes to relax in my room before getting ready for my three course meal. I’ll tell you all about my meal in a separate post (on the Riad). I’ll tell you one thing, though. It was delicious. Just like everything else I ate in Morocco.

8:50 am: The Riad had arranged for a guide to come meet me in the morning to take me to the sites I wanted to visit before heading to the airport at 1 pm. A bubbly Moroccan woman with the most beautiful smile and charming accent waited for me by the entrance to the Riad. She introduced herself and promised me we’d have enough time to do both the Jardin Majorelle and the Bahia Palace before returning to the Riad for my manicure appointment at noon. We hailed a cab and left the Medina to visit these spectacular sites.

Luck was on our side as there was absolutely no line to enter the Jardin Majorelle. We took advantage of the situation and the guide had me posing for photos pretty much everywhere in the garden – also for some videos that I’m not even sure I’m gonna share with anyone as I am probably the most awkward person you’d ever see on video. It’s cringe worthy, I tell you. The garden was amazingly beautiful. With the exception of one thing: vandalism done by tourists who think it’s a great idea to carve their initials into the bamboo, cactuses and other plants in the garden. It upset my guide to see it. And me too.

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Jardin Majorelle (or Majorelle Garden) is a botanical garden and the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech. The building was designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920’s and 30’s and the garden has been open to the public since 1947. Since 1980 the garden was owned by fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. Yves Saint-Laurent’s ashes were scattered in the Majorelle Garden.

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09:30 am Next stop, Bahia Palace. We hailed a cab and went to the opposite part of Marrakech. Ahead of schedule and again no line to buy tickets. Being an earlybird sure pays off!

The palace was built in the late 19th century and the name “Bahia” is actually Arabic for “brilliance” and “beautiful”. The palace was originally built for the Grand Vizier of the Sultan and was later occupied by his son and the four wives and several concubines.

Today, the spectacular Bahia Palace is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Marrakech.

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10:45 “Would you like to visit a Berber pharmacy and learn about the local products?” my guide asked me and explained to me that she loved the makeup from there as well as the spices, oils and scents. Curious as I am, I obviously said yes. I ended up buying a whole lot of products as well. A really good lipstick (finally one that actually hydrates my lips and doesn’t stain), a stinky cream for my eczema, some sort of remedy for when you have a blocked nose – and five or six other products. Saffron included – so I guess I’ll have to start searching for recipes and actually use it!

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11:30 am We still had about thirty minutes before I had to return to the Riad and I wanted to spend those thirty minutes wisely. My guide suggested that we’d walk to the Saadian Tombs and visit them quickly.

The Saadian Tombs date back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur in the 15th-16th century). They were only first discovered in 1917 and were restored by Beaux-arts service. About sixty members of the Saadi dynasty were buried in the mausoleum. Their servants and soldiers were buried outside, in the garden.

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12:00 am Back in the Riad, just in time for my manicure appointment. My fragile, broken nails looked horrible and needed as much care and attention as possible. The lady who gave me the manicure told me to eat more bananas. In Poland they usually tell me to rub lemon juice on my nails. In Norway they tell me to drink more milk. Guess I should do all of the above to maintain good healthy nails.

1:00 pm The King was in town and traffic was worse than usual as everyone had to take an alternative route since the main one was blocked for security reasons. My taxi driver got me to the airport in time and even gave me a few mandarins to enjoy while waiting for my flight. I ate one and packed two in my handbag. A little souvenir from a country that has the freshest fruit juice I’ve ever had and the juiciest fruit salad I’ve ever tasted.

As I waited for my flight I browsed through the photos I’d taken during my 22 hours in Marrakech and smiled to myself. I might not have seen it all, but I sure am happy with everything I did see!

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Why I love ChillOut Travel Store in (Oslo/Bergen) Norway – and why you will too

Once just an idea developed into a thesis topic, now a successful business – and my favorite place to hang out while visiting Oslo or Bergen in my beloved country, Norway. Welcome to ChillOut Travel Store; a travel equipment and adventure gear shop – which is also a cafe with a lounge area where you can sit down with a nice cup of coffee and the latest travel guide of your preferred destination or a travel magazine, to inspire your inner globetrotter. ChillOut Travel Store also host seminars and events – and have experienced travel advisers available to help you plan your upcoming trips whenever you’re in need of guidance.

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This place has absolutely everything you need for whatever trip it is you’re planning to embark on. Whether you’re going backpacking through Asia or Australia, hiking in the highest mountains, safari in Africa, or just a short city break in one of the European capital cities.

This is where I buy most of my travel books. This is where I go whenever I’m back in Oslo – a city I once lived in – to daydream about all the places I’m planning to visit and think back to all the places I’ve once been lucky enough to visit in the past. This is where I’d take you if we were friends visiting Oslo or Bergen together.

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Below is my interview with Emilie, store manager at ChillOut Bogstadveien (Majorstua, Oslo). Translated from Norwegian.

What would you say is the biggest advantage of working at ChillOut?

The greatest thing about working at ChillOut is that I am “traveling” every single day. I talk about the world, adventures and gain inspiration every single day. Meanwhile, it feels like we sometimes inspire people to explore the world in a way they hadn’t even realized was possible. Everyone who works here have a common interest: to explore the world – and I believe this work environment is the best I have ever experienced! Whenever people talk about ChillOut, they talk about how “good vibes” we have. I believe the reason behind it is that both our staff and costumers share the passion of traveling.

Where did you go for your last trip, and where are you going next?

I went on a couple of small trips around Europe this summer, but my latest “long trip” was when I went to Nicaragua this spring! Central America has a special place in my heart. I find it unique, exciting and extremely beautiful. For my next trip I’ve actually bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. It will be my third trip to this part of the world – and I’m working my way slowly down to South America. I’m hoping to reach Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia as well – but I’m also dreaming about getting to India and Indonesia in time for surf season. And a long hike in Nepal too. But…knowing myself, I’m sure I’ll find myself a bamboo hut somewhere and stay there for three months and just surf and nourish myself on coconuts.

What are FIVE items you can’t travel without?

  • A good backpack is top priority – can’t travel without one. Being able to walk for several hours straight with my backpack is a must, as it’s while doing that you reach the most awesome places. Your backpack is your “life” while traveling. It’s your best friend and your teammate. You’re supposed to fit like a glove, and you’ll discover the feeling of living “simple” – a feeling I hope everyone is looking to discover when exploring the world.
  • Good travel utensils and a decent knife. Personally, I love exploring foreign food cultures – especially all the fruits and vegetables sold locally. Having the opportunity to visit a local market and buying all these interesting things without knowing what to expect in terms of taste or what they look like, is very exciting! Meanwhile, nothing beats a really good pineapple on a beach somewhere – and with your own utensils and knife, you won’t need to depend on someone to cut it for you.
  • Wool clothing. It might sound strange packing wool for warmer climates – especially for us Norwegians who were born and raised into wool clothing. But wool is useful and practical in many ways and everyone should make space for it in their backpack. Unlike synthetic fabrics, wool doesn’t smell of sweat – which is very convenient when there’s a few weeks between each time the laundry gets done. It also dries quickly, will keep you warm at night, flights and long bus journeys during the night.
  • Headlamp. Entering a dark hostel dorm room in the middle of the night is not cool, and even less cool when breaking the unwritten “hostel law” of turning on the light when everyone’s sleeping. In situations like these, a headlamp is fantastic. Meanwhile, certain locations might not have as efficient power/electricity as others, and the power might go off quite frequently while traveling. So having light available is always a good idea.
  • Diary. I never travel without one. I love to write but I don’t necessarily always have the “dear diary” style of writing. I write about people I meet and their stories, about moments I’ll never forget, songs I’ve listened to, dishes I’ve eaten and places that made a big impression on me. Right there and then I sometimes find it exhausting to write about it – but in retrospect, they’re priceless.

What was the last travel novel you read – and what made you choose this one?

It was actually a travel novel about hiking in Patagonia, the fantastic national park in Chile and Argentina. It’s a place that kind of intimidates me but I know I will have to experience it soon! The nature down there looks so wild and I believe a trip there will be a highly unique experience. Thing is, I want to see everything down there, but it’s a very large area spread out in two different countries, something that makes a trip there quite the challenge. That’s something I love and I’m looking forward to completing it!

What does an average day at work look like for you at ChillOut?

It consists of a lot of work sorting all the merchandise, ordering new items and moving merchandise from the stockroom into the store. We also put a lot of work into keeping the shop tidy and looking for new ways to display merchandise to give the store a generally cool vibe. However, our main priority is the costumers – helping everyone and making sure their needs are met. Regardless of what kind of trip they’re planning. We have anything from costumers who are planning to travel the world, to those planning a weekend trip to Prague, family vacations in Spain or Everest Base Camp. There’s plenty of variety!

What is your best travel advise?

This one’s tricky! I get this question quite often, but I tend to give different answers every time. My top three destinations would be: Indonesia, all countries in Central America, and Nepal. And my best packing tip is to bring lots of smooth music to listen to while you’re traveling.

Visit www.ChillOut.no for more information about who they are, their merchandise, upcoming events and where to find them in Oslo and Bergen.

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Solo travel and Social Anxiety

We all have dreams. We all have a passion for something. But do we all have the guts to follow our dreams and face all the obstacles? Do you ever find yourself thinking “I’m not smart, extroverted or talented enough to make it”?

Is your passion the same as mine? Do you want to travel the world, write about it and inspire others to get out there, see the world and live the life they’ve always dreamed of? Did you just say “yes” to all these questions, but deep down inside you know you’d never be able to expose your life and share your deepest thoughts on a blog like this? And although you like the idea of traveling solo, you’re sure you’d pee your pants before even getting to the airport?

Trust me, I’ve been there. In fact, I’m still there. People who don’t know me very well usually mistake me for an extrovert, as I talk a lot when I’m in a social setting where it’s expected of me to participate in the conversation. Some may notice how awkward and nervous I am when I talk, while others think it’s just the way I am. Trust me, there’s so much more going on in my head than what I’m able to say out loud. I’m always anxious in big groups of people, because I always feel like I’m the one who doesn’t fit in. The outcast. The weird one. Yet, traveling solo doesn’t bother me at all anymore. It was scary the first time – just how everything is scary the first time you try something new. Being alone doesn’t bother me. But being labeled as someone who is brave, just because I went places completely on my own – now THAT’S what bothers me.

I am not brave because I travel solo. I am brave when I manage to go to birthday parties and other events where I’m surrounded by a lot of people I don’t know and I try my hardest to act normal, when all I want to do is grab my jacket and run away. I am not brave because I dine alone in restaurants or spend a week alone in a hotel. I am brave when I manage to make a phone call, when all I want to do is hang up immediately and lay down in fetal position to calm my nerves. I am not nervous about flying alone, taking the train alone – and I probably wouldn’t have a problem with going on a cruise by myself either (I have to try that one day). I am not scared of unknown places. I am not scared of blogging about my travels and sharing my tips. I am not scared of sharing photos and updates from my trips online.  What does scare me is what people I already know, think of me. I am scared of their judgement. But I’d never let social anxiety or shyness get in the way of my dreams. And neither should you. My fears will never be the boss of me. And neither should yours.

A lot of people have told me they envy me for traveling solo, running a travel blog and making a little money from it, from time to time. Now that you’ve read this post, remember that I am not braver than you. We are just fighting different battles.

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These photos were taken by my boyfriend – my current travel partner (most of the time) – in Étretat, Normandie, France

 

That time when I traveled solo from state to state (US)

A couple of years ago, I was a temporary resident in the sunshine state. A legal alien in Florida. At times I really felt like an alien, with my many “fish out of water” experiences. Humidity was completely foreign to me, and so was the concept of Walmart and its culture. Walmart in Florida was different than anything I’d ever seen before. I’m not talking about the selection of products or the size of the place. I’m talking about the people of Walmart. The exhibitionists, the eccentric men and women who just don’t care what people think, and the ones who were too spaced out to even pay attention. This was my first impression of The United States of America. And then something else happened. I started to get days and weeks off from work – which, by the way, was Disney World. I wanted to spend my free time wisely. I wanted to travel from state to state and see more of the land of the free and the home of the brave. And I wanted to do it by myself.

Before venturing into the unknown, I asked for advice from different people who had already done a bit of traveling within the US, and others who were experienced solo travelers. I wanted my first experience to be a good one. I wanted to make sure I’d be safe and not too lonely. I think I worried more about loneliness than my own safety, to be honest. How naive and foolish of me.

I ended up going to New York City. Manhattan. I should have gone to Brooklyn, as Brooklyn is more my style. In fact, I love Brooklyn so much that if anyone offered me a loft apartment and a job there, I’d drop my life in Paris in a heartbeat. Instead of four nights in Brooklyn, I stayed at Empire Hotel on the upper west side, as I used to be a big fan of the TV-series Gossip Girl. The hotel was one of the filming locations and my favorite character was the one who owned that hotel in the series.The city that never sleeps never slept. I got myself a private guide who gave me a 6 hour walking tour and I explored the rest of the city completely on my own and mostly by foot. And guess what, I have never felt as safe as I did in New York City.

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And then there was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t technically a solo trip, as I had gone there specifically to be someones wedding date. But I did spend most of the time alone anyway, so it kind of was a solo trip. I was neither impressed nor unimpressed with Pittsburgh. People seemed friendly, the Pittsburgh sandwich was quite alright (with its fries and coleslaw inside of the sandwich) and the city itself seemed like a fun place to party or watch football – at the Heinz Field stadium, obviously.

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Before moving to the US, I volunteered as a staff member for the Norwegian Travel Exposition. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to mingle with important people in the industry, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste a single minute of it. I stayed at the exposition from 10 AM to 7 pm every single day that week. Determined and hopeful. Thanks to my stubborn attitude, I was introduced to the CEO of Mall of America. It was quite a coincidence, actually. He needed to make a phone call but didn’t have a phone, and I immediately came to the rescue and offered him mine. We ended up chatting, he tried to convince me to visit Mall of America and perhaps apply for an internship. I never got around to applying for an internship there, but I did put this enormous mall on my bucket list. And I did end up going there. The summer of 2014, approximately six months after my encounter with the CEO of Mall of America. Solo. Hello Bloomington and Minneapolis, Minnesota!

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I also went to Boston, Massachusetts that summer. I had never seen this many Dunkin’ Donuts shops in my entire life. And I had never felt as close to Europe as I did in Boston. Certain parts of the city had kind of a British feel. After seven months away from my continent, it felt good to be somewhere that kind of reminded me of something closer to home. I enjoyed Boston. Too bad I’m allergic to shellfish and was unable to enjoy some of their local specialties – because their seafood is supposed to be absolutely amazing!

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People visit Chicago, Illinois for different reasons. Mine was personal. As I’m half Polish, I was interested in visiting Chicago to learn about the history of the Polish community in the city. I booked a guided tour of The Polish Museum of America and visited one of the Polish restaurants in what used to be the Polish downtown in Chicago. There I was, enjoying a meal just like the ones my mother used to make, in a country far away from Poland – yet, both the waiter, the chef (his mother) and the news reporter on the TV in the background, were right there, speaking the language. This was the first time I had felt slightly homesick during my solo travels. I was happy to be in cool Chicago, but my pierogi dinner (filled dumplings) triggered something inside me. I missed my mother.

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Denver, Colorado. If only I had a dollar for every time someone asks me if I went there to smoke grass, I’d be a millionaire by now. And the answer is no, I didn’t go there to smoke anything. I went there because I wanted to go there. The highlight of the trip was discovering an amazing independent bookstore called Tattered Cover Book Store. I bought five books there, and wanted to buy so much more. Their selection of travel books was great. No, great is an understatement. Fantastic.

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And now, let’s talk about California, shall we? I visited San Francisco and Los Angeles on the same trip, and then returned to Cali to visit San Diego a few months later. I loved San Francisco and San Diego. L.A. not so much. I felt like I was too middle class and basic (guess I explored the wrong neighborhoods) , too ugly and too non-artistic to fully enjoy what Los Angeles has to offer for people who want to be more than just the average tourist, but can’t afford a lavish lifestyle. San Francisco was as windy as I expected it to be (I was there in November) but I fell in love with the city and its hip and artsy vibe. I also had a short fling with a guy I met during that trip, which made the taste of San Francisco even sweeter. But the sweetest was the taste of San Diego sunshine, vegan tacos at SOL CAL Cafe, street markets and feeling the sand between my toes and letting the waves crash on my feet (Coronado Island). San Diego was my California dream.

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Beverly Hills (below)

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Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco

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This legal alien went to The White House. Not really, but I saw it from a distance while visiting Washington D.C. – the capital of the United States (in case you didn’t know). I saw all the monuments, as they were pretty much all next to each other, and I ate delicious street food from food trucks, alongside a whole lot of businessmen in suits. (the photo below is of the United States capitol)

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Savannah, Georgia was another city on my bucket list. Why? Well, I love the movie Forrest Gump and Savannah was one of the filming locations for that movie. I went to the exact same spot where that famous bench used to be – only to find out that it was no longer there. Well, you know what Forrest Gump used to say…”Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”.

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So the big question is; what have I learned from traveling solo? 

I have learned that it’s okay to be alone. It’s no big deal to dine alone in restaurants, visit museums alone or explore monuments and sites completely by myself. It’s absolutely fine! Sure, I had moments where I felt lonely and wished someone was there to share these memories with me. But the freedom, oh the freedom, it made everything worth it. If I wanted to visit four coffee shops in one day, I could. If I wanted to have an early dinner or a very late breakfast, I could! And if I wanted to spend two hours in a book store and the rest of the day in a museum – guess what, I could do that too!

Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel with my boyfriend, my friends and my family, but I’d rather go on another solo adventure than spend my time waiting for someone to join me on my trip, only to find out that they’re not going after all. Then what? Don’t you ever let your fear or other people’s opinions get in the way of your solo travels, and don’t you ever wait around for someone who says they “might” join you, if you’re certain that they won’t. Spread your wings. Fly solo.