Tag Archives: relationships

Tinder Travel Tips

It’s a little known fact that the whole reason I started blogging was a guy I met off Tinder. Although I know many of you will doubt me when I say this, Tinder isn’t always used for hookups. I know, shocking. It can be the greatest tool in your world conquering toolbox, if you use it right. If it can give me a job, it can give you a good night out. If you utilise it correctly.

In August 2015 I arrived in Malaga teary and sleepless, having just days before ending the longest relationship of my life. When it was over, I immediately ran away to work on a beach in Spain for the rest of the summer, because at the time that was exactly how I dealt with my problems. I still do, in a way.  I already had tinder installed on my phone, before we had broken up my ex and I had made a bet to see who could get the most matches in a day, which in retrospect was probably a sign that our relationship was drawing to its natural end.

After checking in to my hostel, I immediately fired up Tinder, hoping desperately to find a fellow soul to spend my two days in the beautiful city with. After returning from Guatemala my brother had told me how he had used Tinder to find English speaking tour guides amongst the locals, so I figured I could do the same.

11986538_10207759465964998_8654807536380595995_n

Now, first things first. If I ever use tinder in England, which isn’t often I admit, I tend to get roughly a 50% return on my right swipes. In Spain, I was getting closer to 100%. Secondly, Spanish guys on tinder tend to be a lot more to the point, and half the messages I first got were no more than dirty bootycalls, even though my profile stated quite clearly that I was only looking for a tour. If anything, this openness actually makes it easier to find that one person who you expect might not be an asshole.

Then, something interesting. I met a guy who owned a travel site, and who was looking for exactly the same thing as me. Someone normal to go and get a drink and see the city with. We ended up bonding so much that when weeks later he recommended I start writing down my experiences, I took him up on his word as if he were a closer friend than just a guy I’d seen twice on holiday. We’re even still in contact today.

11986540_10207759465164978_1235407087401788041_n

I still use tinder when I’m travelling, sometimes you just get a free tour of the city, others you walk away with a friend for life. The last tinder date I went on was in Rome this January, and it actually ended up being one of the most enjoyable dates of my life, even if it lacked that special spark which prompts a second date.  (Looking back, this may have been because we ended the night in the gay district and my eyes were slightly distracted elsewhere.)

You might hate tinder, you might think it sucks and it’s users are pathetic. Be realistic, the vast majority of young people these days have a tinder account, the chances are that at least one of them is looking for the same thing you are.

So here are my tips for using Tinder as a travel tool:

  • Know what you want from it. Are you looking for a tour? A local? Other tourists? People to get a drink with? A hook up? Make sure you’re clear in your own mind before you attempt to meet anyone.
  • Be upfront about what you are looking for.  If you’re not looking for a hook up, make that clear. My go-to tinder bio when I’m travelling starts with the sentence. “I HAVE A BOYFRIEND.” That way people know what to expect and can’t get irate when you’re inevitably not interested in taking things further.
  • Safety first. Most of us know that when we go on a date, especially with a stranger, it’s of utmost importance that someone, somewhere, knows who you’re with and what you’re doing. This isn’t any less relevant just because you’re on holiday. If you can’t tell someone back home, (or if this would be useless), tell your hostel staff. Tell them you expect to back at X o’clock and give them a phone number so they can call you if you’re not. Meet in a safe place. Preferably a place with lots of people about, and a place of your choosing. No, you don’t know the city, but a big square with lots of people in has less danger than the small cafe down a dingy alleyway that no-one has ever heard of has.
  • Have fun. We live in a world where potential friendships, unlikely hookups or even job offers are only a swipe away. Use this to your advantage and let social media help your travels not hinder them. No, don’t be that guy sitting in the hostel kitchen mindlessly swiping through all the girls on tinder until he finds that one girl on the second floor that he was too scared to talk. But where’s the harm in having a little fun whilst you’re away?

Written by Bethany Naylor

11947414_10207759475845245_2237839828613361744_n

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Constellations

 

The more that I explore this vast and mighty planet, the deeper I find myself rooted in the common ground of humanity. Each journey down a new path fuels my fourth chakra by time spent with those along the way.

 

I believe in acceptance. I believe that the things that divide us are issues based in fear and ignorance. As a child I was exposed to diversity with a side of apple pie. Romanticizing the unknown was what freed me from the gravity of suburbia. Compared to most parts of the U.S., New Jersey and New York have always offered a metropolitan mix of cultures, but many people never seized the opportunity to learn about their neighbors. We were all the parts of a well-oiled machine, disassembled and placed side-by-side on the table. Normalcy and comfort glazed over our blissful lack of awareness. Still, this fascination called to me, thirsting for exploration, knowledge, and connection.

constellations 11

 

Currently, I’m working onboard a cruise ship, sailing the seas for a second six month period of time. I first embarked early March 2016 as an American and left that fall a Global Citizen. Through those first six and a half months my family grew in size and diversity and offered me deeper connections to a world outside my own. There are roughly 1500 employees on this vessel and with only 58 of us being American, it was the first time I had ever truly been a minority. Suddenly I was living with people from almost every continent, social, economic, and religious background making our bubble like a floating UN. I have never seen a place where everything just worked.

 

Down time onboard is often spent communally in designated crew areas. Crew members shoot the breeze with others, rapidly evolving relationships from strangers to friends/lovers/family. These seemingly small experiences blessed me with a refreshed love for humanity all over again.

constellations 12

 

During my time here I have strengthened my ability to listen, which I believe is one of the most important qualities to possess. Fundamentally, we all want to be heard. When you give your undivided attention to another person you are not only fulfilling their social and emotional needs,  you’re also gaining a broader perspective without even trying. By being a silent listener. I have strengthened my inner empath, stepping outside of myself and into the experience of the sharing soul. This ability is a completely golden opportunity in itself. Carrying that out into the world continues to help me meet people where they are, in the timeline of their own life experience. These magical abilities don’t even stop with the human race. Strong listeners and empaths are able to extend their influence out to all other aspects of the conscious world.

constellations 5

When you are not exposed to the world outside your front door, it isn’t always easy to figure out who you are. Through this experience and my travels since, I have become more deeply connected to my core identity. There is a certain confidence and fearlessness acquired by diversifying your circle. By challenging the limits of my comfort zone I have been able to really cultivate these qualities, trusting in my own ability to understand what I need to thrive, based on who I am. I was stifled by my safety net for so long that I seemingly changed completely to those who knew me before. In reality, all I had done was uncover layers of disguise and years of expectation from my true self. Shedding the extra skin was just as liberating as it was to travel across the world and back.

constellations 9

 

So here I am on my fourth month of contract number two, an evolving human who can confidently say that I am constantly falling in love with the human race. I continue to bond with as many people as possible, both onboard and on land, to expand my heart’s pallet. We bond over passions and art forms and we push past the small talk early on. We embrace similarities, respect differences, and let the armor fall to the ground. When I return home again I try to bring these moments with me allowing them to free me time and again from the gravity that once felt crushing. We all keep searching for our little piece of freedom but what we can easily forget is that freedom grows from an accepting heart. Open your arms to the world and the world opens its arms to you. We are points in the universe connected by invisible thread, a mighty collection of stellar lines creating the most beautiful constellations.

Written by Allie Pizzo

constellations 7

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Christmas solo, Christmas coupled

 

When you travel alone, you travel light. The only expectations you have to worry about are your own. The only plans and desires you must navigate are your own. The only arms wrapped around you when you lie down to sleep at night are your own. (For the most part, hey?)

When you travel as a couple, things get both more and less complicated. You have someone to split cab fare and hotel rooms with. You have someone to engage with in conversations about everything and nothing. If you’re lucky (like I am), you’re travelling with someone who has all the earmarks of a best friend.

Last year I undertook my first big, solo, overseas trip to India. I spent five months there, more or less on my own. I made friends during my travels, of course, and spent time on the road with them. But at the end of the day where I spent the night, where I went next, were my choices—and mine alone—to make.

I ended up in Arambol Beach, Goa, for Christmas. It was the perfect place to be, I think, for so many reasons. Being a Portuguese settlement, the catholic influence there is relatively strong. That fact didn’t quite sink in until I turned down an alley one day and found myself stumbling upon a huge, glittering nativity scene built by children out of found objects (what some people might call trash).

nativityindia

On Christmas Eve I was invited to a live show with a few bands I’d never heard of, at a sweet venue called Twice in Nature. If you’re ever in Arambol, search it out. Great food, perfect ambience. I wasn’t into the first act that night, so I took off for a while in search of food, letting the streets of Arambol guide me, as I had so many times before. I finally landed sat my favorite egg sandwich place and found myself having some of the most delicious (and spiciest!) fish, cooked up by the owner for a couple of his friends for the occasion.

After dinner, I went back to Twice just in time to see Anna RF start their set. When I decided to go to the show, I had no idea I would leave that night with a new favourite set of musicians. I went right up to the stage while they played, dancing my heart out. Several power outages and turns of events later, I found myself onstage, in the dark, surrounded by the band, going absolutely mad with my body. When the power finally came back on, I was breathless and elated and drunk on magic.

holidayfaceart

This Christmas was a radically different experience. First, I am in Peru, which is NOT India. Second, I am traveling with my partner, which shifts dynamics dramatically.

We spent Christmas Eve in the beautiful, white stone city of Arequipa. A forty foot tall Christmas tree graced the Plaza de Armas, off to one side of the enormous cathedral that dominated the square. Nearly every store—including pharmacies and gas stations—sold panettone, a sort of fruitcake like baked good oddly popular in Peru. Advertisements saying one thing or another about Navidad dotted the city.

Feliz Navidad

After wandering through the city and indulging in a really good dinner at a Mexican restaurant, we headed back to the hotel in order to watch Nightmare Before Christmas. It has been my tradition, for well over a decade, to watch this movie every Christmas Eve. When we discovered our stolen copy was in German, we abandoned the idea. For a second, I wondered why I wasn’t struck with the loss of it. Then I remembered—2015 broke my tradition, and I hadn’t even noticed until a whole year later.

I can’t remember what movie we settled on, but I do remember falling asleep pretty fast. Then, at midnight, loud booms interrupted my sleep. I came awake with that feeling you get as a kid on Christmas morning: all of the sudden awake, and anticipatory. Steven moved next to me, and together we came up on our knees to peer out the window above our bed.

Fireworks. Everywhere. From the farthest edges of the city to the street behind our house, people were setting off fireworks. Not just bottle rockets and sparklers, though, These were full-on, probably illegal in the United States, light up the sky fireworks. While we could only see a small slice of thecity from our window, it was still magic.christmashatsperu

I guess that’s what it comes down to, for me. My Christmas in India was about as different from my Christmas in Peru as it could have been. Solo versus coupled. (Largely) Hindu versus Catholic. Beach town versus desert city. Raucous versus chill. The thing they have in common, though, is magic. In India, I was free to make whatever choices I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was not free, however, to take the hand of someone I love and enjoy those choices together.

I’m not saying one is better, or worse. I tend not to believe in distinctions like that, especially when it comes to personal experiences. They both had beauty, in their ways, and pain, in their ways.

They both had magic.

Written by Sarah Hirsch

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Travel and Home

That first morning, light burst through at a time my body told me it should fade. Thoughts scattered across my eyes, as inconsistent as the light that touched them.

 

We lay intertwined and marvelled at the concept of flying. Home felt close, connected by only a days travel. Familiarity lingered between us as we repeated the comforting words our families had left us with, comfortable vowels and nouns are reshaped and reused. Wrapped in the sheets of our new home.

15681707_10206303645589122_1683205166_o

Yet at the end of our embrace, the connection drifted. Familiar smells were replaced and goodbye hugs washed away. Soon we were wrapped up, completing the backdrop of our new surroundings. Familiar items we had brought with us became part of the now and the new. A bracelet my Mum had given me before we left clung duly to its previous context. My carry on, so carefully organised for the flight now contained a mixture of biscuit crumbs and books.

15681884_10206303645509120_1570913964_o

It was scary and yet exciting to step forward into our present. To accept the distance between us and everything we knew. To not cling so violently to the memories of home. To not hope so avidly to see those we missed the most.

We embraced the drift.

Home became the foreign land. It held the tang of excitement, just as New Zealand had before we arrived. Nostalgia twisted memories into perfection. Travel no longer felt like travel. The easy rhythm of our new country felt like home. Being far, was what we had become accustomed to and although at times it stung, overtime the ache dulled. Still, when my guard dropped, sharp memories hit hard like a wave, stopping me, recalling me to home. I learnt to let them slip and glide away. Not cling to them and demand they stay, like the mad king and the sea.

15681871_10206303645629123_429407710_o

As time drifted past, friendships blossomed and opportunities arose. I took up offers to explore and to settle. Festivals and future plans in our new home. But as plans stretched on ahead of me, their distance took me by surprise.
“Will you be here next year?” New friends chirped and I choked. I’d reply with a quiet “no” and a vague promise that I might return someday. Just as I settled it was time to start leaving again. I hadn’t planned to enjoy myself this much, to love people this much. We’d planned to arrive, explore and flow on. Collecting experiences, not pain.

15696992_10206303645469119_1345024221_o

This is where the great contradiction in travel arises. To explore is to stretch yourself thin, building connections and memories everywhere you go. There is always somewhere not here that beckons. There is always the pang of what lies behind and the enthralling excitement of what is to come.

To lurch forward and to reach back. Endlessly longing, in one direction or another.

15778331_10206327650589232_1809524383_o

 

Written by Charlotte Greenstock, edited by Bethany Naylor

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

When it doesn’t feel right

I recently wrote a post about that sense of recognition and belonging that sometimes accompanies travel. In that post, I said that this sensation is one reason I love to travel so much. It’s one reason I love being alive, really. Discovering places and people and things that make me feel more wholly me, more wholly integrated into this world. It is one of the best gifts I feel the Universe can offer.

pisac 2
So what happens when the opposite is true?

I suppose I’m lucky in this respect. There haven’t been many times in my life, especially in recent years, when I’ve found myself tangling with someone or something that lies on the other side of the resonance spectrum. It’s not a lack of feeling that I’m talking about here. Neutral territory is something I can move through without much problem. However, when I get somewhere and feel like that place is actively telling me to leave, well, that’s when things get complicated. And I’m currently neck-deep in complications.

pisac 3
It started as soon as my plane landed in Lima. Now, I know Lima isn’t exactly an inviting city for most people. It’s big, noisy, and dirty. A major city in other words, and as such, not exactly a place that most of the chill, semi-hippy folks I enjoy spending time with like to hang out. The only time I even left the airport in Lima was for a quick smoke, and honestly, the parking lot wasn’t so bad. From an objective point of view. Yet this feeling of wrongness was busy taking root with every passing minute. Have you ever walked uphill, with the wind blowing in your face? Imagine that, on an energetic level.

pisac 4
After an overpriced but delicious meal at one of the airport restaurants, I made my way to my gate and set up shop for a few hours waiting for the plane. I was exhausted of course, so at the time I chalked up my mounting unease to sleep deprivation and stress. Then finally, I was on our way to Cusco and to my destination outside of Pisac, a small intentional community in the foothills of the Sacred Valley.
Sleep came next. A lot of it. A lot more than I needed to fight the jet lag, in fact. When I was awake, I wandered around the community, my eyes wide open and my heart yearning to feel some kind of connection. ANY connection. I felt none. Not with the land, not with the people living at the community. I knew a few of the ‘family members’ from some time they spent in the United States the previous year, but by and large, I felt utterly adrift.
I’ve been here a month, having almost left at least half a dozen times, and I feel only slightly more connected and integrated than before, purely by virtue of getting to know some individuals more.

15556479_10210240679069428_2131543449_o
Still, the land itself leaves me uncomfortable. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong. For me, however, it’s a purely objective beauty. The more I experience this area—the culture, the music, the food—the more this sense of GTFO settles in. Maybe this is a remnant of a past life experience as well. When I went to Hampi, my soul sang. When I arrived in Peru, it began to cry. Is there healing to be done here? Or am I truly just not suited to be here in the first place?
I realised, as I was searching through my photos for this post, that I’ve been reluctant to even take pictures while I’ve been here. I have very few photos of the landscape and almost none of the people. That, in itself, tells me a lot.

pisac 1

By the time you read this, I will have left the community to explore other parts of Peru and South America. Away from the mountains, away from the rain, away from the expectations and obligations (real or imagined) of the family here, perhaps I will find something that speaks to me.

 

Written by Sarah Hirsch

15540266_10210240688509664_1822775917_o

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

City Of Shadows

Every so often in life we all find a person, a place, or an idea, that makes us fall so deep in love we are blinded to all of their faults and shortcomings, creating a picture in our minds of complete perfection. This false ideal is unsustainable and fragile, eventually shattering and more often than not, leaving us broken-hearted and lost. For me, that was place was Barcelona.

Barcelona. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, the home of Gaudi and his brilliant architecture, the capital of Catalonia, and one of the most interesting cities I’ve encountered in Europe. From the wide open beaches of the Barceloneta and the gleaming high buildings of the Port to the rambling cobblestone streets of El Quarto Gótico and the fairy tale gingerbread houses of Parque Güell, the city is full of magic and mysticism. Barcelona is not simply a modern, fun, and vibrant city, it also has a long, mysterious, and incredibly interesting past.

Arc de Triomf
Arc de Triomf

When I first went to Barcelona I was 13 years old. My family stayed in a small flat in the gothic quarter, I remember feeling terrified as we entered through the graffitied and barred door in a dark and silent street. I had just finished reading ‘The Shadow of the Wind’, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which to this day remains my favourite book of all time, I reread it at least once a year. The book, set in post civil war Barcelona had ignited a passion for the Spanish culture and history in me and I hold it solely responsible for my degree choice. The four days I spent wandering in this incredible city did not quench the fire inside of me, instead, fed it steadily until I made it a life ambition to live there one day.

The following summer, my family hosted a language student from San Vicente, a town very near Barcelona. We became friends and I visited her once a year for the next four years. Every time, I would spend a few days in Barcelona, simply walking and watching, breathing in the city. My favourite method of seeing a city is to in one direction until I hit a red light, then turn down the available route. The grid system of Barcelona is perfect for this. Forward, Stop, Turn. Forward. Stop Turn. Rinse and repeat until done. Now  you’re in a place you’ve never seen before and have no idea how to get back to where you started. At this point, have a beer and contemplate life, before guessing your direction again, and heading back home. These were the times I lived for. I would spend all year waiting for the next time I could go back, not even thinking about other places because my goal was Barcelona. It still is, in a way.

During my A level studies, my school offered the chance to do a week of work experience in Rosas, a small but beautiful coastal town north of Barcelona. At that time, I was working on a project on Catalonia, essentially a detailed political, cultural and historical assessment of whether Catalonia should be independent. In Rosas I had the chance to interview several of the people I worked with, and the week taught me a lot about the history of Barcelona, embellishing the sheer respect and understanding that Zafón had already instilled in me. It also convinced me that if I wanted to live in Catalonia, I would have to learn Catalan.

Beach front hotels, Rosas, Spain
Beach front hotels, Rosas, Spain

The year after, I went back again. This time with my best friend, to visit my friend in San Vicente, and a girl who had au paired in Bath, and ended up staying at her house in the final weeks. This experience opened me up to a new part of Barcelona, the nightlife, restaurants and shopping which before I had stayed away from.

After a few months of travelling and volunteering in Europe the year after I finished school, my sights turned back to Barcelona. The plan at the time, was that I’d move there in April and work a volunteering job until I have managed to find a stable job and flat, and to remain there the following three years for university. This however, was when my plan began to fall apart. I was travelling with a friend, and we had secured a workaway position in ‘The Hipstel’, a hostel in the centre of Gracia. Our flight from Venice, where we had spent a romantic weekend getting lost in the narrow backstreets, landed at midday. Within an hour, we were on the airport bus into the city centre. The fare had doubled since last time I had been and we found ourselves struggling to find cash for lunch as the heavens opened as we arrived in Plaza Catalunya. Our hostel did not remember us. They had no idea about the dozens of messages we had been sending back and forth, and could not offer us a job. We would later find out that this happened at least once a fortnight.

Plaza Real
Plaza Real

Eventually, we were provided with beds and a job in a partner hostel, two minutes away from Plaza Catalunya. Within a two weeks I was forced to find a second job, as the hostel did not provide food as advertised, and the meagre 30 euro salary a week for 40-50 hours work could not even begin to cover the costs of life in the city. Being a not very unattractive British female, who could speak Spanish, I was offered four interviews within two days and accepted a job offer on the Barceloneta. 70, Carrer de Sevilla. Bar Celoneta. What a wonderful place, what an original name. The increase in income meant we were able to live better now, and my experience there taught me how to make 14 different types of sangria, something which has never been relevant since.

Yet again, this time the city failed me. Finishing work most nights after 2am meant that rather than an easy metro journey, more often than not I had to walk home 40 minutes through the port and up Las Ramblas. Every single night, without fail, I would be harassed by drunk men, usually tourists, who wanted to know ‘what a pretty girl like you’s doing out so late at night.’ It got the point within a couple of weeks that I was so sick of having to bat away the advances of idiots, that I would instead latch onto the closest looking normal person when I left work, and make them walk me home. This, whilst wearing long skirts or jeans and high-necked tops, I can only imagine how bad it would have been were I not dressed so conservatively.

There was one night which convinced me I would never be safe living in the city alone. I was talking to two young men after work one night, I had told them I could speak Spanish earlier on in the night but they had forgotten, and we’re addressing me in poor English. Luckily, this meant that I could easily eavesdrop. That’s the story about how I ran home, after hearing two young men discussing how they would be able to take advantage of me.

A dragon statue in Parque Ciutadella
A dragon statue in Parque Ciutadella

I left Barcelona two years and six months ago, after trying for several months to make it work and being struck down at every attempt. The night I left, £500 worth of valuables were stolen, including every single photo I’d taken travelling. I’ve only been back once since then, for two hours.

Barcelona is a difficult city. There is a darkness which lurks under every doorway, behind every corner. A thick smog of shame and secrecy hangs over the city, a city where so much has happened, and no one ever talks about. I love it, and I hate it all at the same time. I am ashamed that it bested me, and I know that one day I will go back, and that that time it will work.

 

Written by Bethany Naylor

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Why I travel a Psychic Journey

There are countless reasons to travel. Each person has their own set. From exploring other cultures to discovering new foods, exposure to new fashions and languages, a desire to not feel settled or tied down. Whatever your reason for travelling, it’s a good one.  

I have plenty of my own, but there’s one I didn’t realise was important to me until after I started travelling: the feeling of coming home.
It’s that strange sense, when you encounter a place or a person for the first time, of having known them before. Deja vu, we sometimes call it, though I think that’s not quite right. A glitch in the matrix, perhaps. The explanation that resonates most, for me, is that whoever this person is, wherever this landscape is, I have experienced it in a life lived sometime far back. Before I was born into this body, in Colorado, I lived countless lives with countless people in countless places. And every once in awhile I get lucky enough to brush up against them.

Temple

Of course, this sensation happened before I ever set foot on an aeroplane. Pieces of those past lives are, I believe, naturally drawn to us. I’ve met people who felt instantly like family, or who rubbed all my fur backwards for some reason I couldn’t elucidate. I felt the connection in Charleston, South Carolina, where I travelled on an ill-fated adventure to meet up with a boy. While the station I found myself in was ten shades of crazy, the city itself broke open my heart and stole a piece of it away forever.It’s a heady feeling, and hard to describe. There’s a comfort to it, like being wrapped in my mother’s arms. A familiarity, as if I’d seen this place a hundred thousand times before. A sense of belonging that defies all rational explanation. It’s a feeling I adore, and I want to experience in my life as much as possible.

I think one of the most striking episodes for me was visiting the elephant stables in Hampi, Karnataka, India. Hampi was built in the Vijayanagara empire when rulers of that area commanded a huge amount of money and power. There are thousands of ruins around the city of Hampi, giant temples and elaborate halls built for the king and queen. The stables are located near the Zenana Enclosure, a secluded area created specifically for royal women. Within the enclosure, you can visit the Lotus Mahal, see the remains of the Queen’s Palace, and the Treasury building where it’s said the queen’s eunuch guards lived. The stables themselves are one long line of stone enclosures, eleven in all, with vaulted ceilings and domed roofs. They are one of the few structures in the area that remained untouched by Deccan Muslim invaders in the 16th century.

Zenena Enclosure

As I walked over the large swath of emerald grass between the edge of the enclosure and the stables, I was struck with a feeling that I’d been there before, many times. I felt wholly and completely at home in my own skin, and in that place. I stood in the huge rooms, pressed my hands against ancient brick, and could almost smell the elephants there beside me. I could almost feel the hay beneath my feet. I closed my eyes and heard the soft rustles of the rope that wound about the elephant’s ankle, tied to the metal hook on the wall.


The barriers between our lives are thinner than we give them credit for, I think. We have these memories, distant and fuzzy and obscured by time and space that sift up through our hearts from time to time. I don’t know if they make much of a difference for this life, but I love the subtle reminder that there is more to my experience than this life’s experience alone.

So, I travel. I search. And every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to find.

Lotus temple

Written by Sarah Hirsch

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

The Aram Bowl Effect

There’s a certain strange kind of magic in Arambol, one of the northernmost beaches in Goa, India. The first time I set foot on its sands I couldn’t wait to get away. This was the first place I’d been after spending nearly two months in the holy city of Rishikesh, studying yoga and philosophy and bathing in the Ganges river.

Arambol is not Rishikesh.

When I walked along the beach that first night with my travel mates, taking in the clash of music from the cafes and the lounge chairs strewn across the sand, it was hard not to just turn around and hole up in our shack for the night. Which, to be fair, we eventually did anyway. The next morning we beat a fast retreat, heading for the sleepy beaches of Gokarna, and I swore I’d never go back.

image

Fast forward a couple months and many emails between friends later. It was early morning as I stepped off a local bus and trundled to the nearest cafe for a cup of coffee and some internet. I had a contact from Rishikesh looking forward to my arrival. A place to stay, a person in the know, and a promise of a week or two, max, of Arambol before undoubtedly heading elsewhere.

Except, Arambol is a place that doesn’t let go easily. That first night, I think I escaped by the skin of my teeth. My second venture would not be so short lived.

My friend took me back to the room we’d be sharing so I could get settled. Like many rooms in India it consisted of a thinly mattressed bed, tile floors and little else. Just my style. I grabbed a shower while he cleaned, sweeping the floor from a squatting position with a thatch brush. It was a vision of him that stuck in my mind, this young Himalayan mountain boy in Goa for his first time, the voice of his mother still loud and clear in his ears, making sure he keeps things tidy. So far, I thought, Arambol is okay.

image

That night, when the techno music started in the bar across the street, then the cafe down the street, then the Israeli party pad catty corner to our building, I realized I might have bitten off more than I could chew, but it was too late. I was hooked.

I spent part of that night on the rooftop overlooking one of the main drags, very close to the beach entrance. Directly below my perch point was the Om Ganesh grocery store, a perfect spot to grab booze, smokes and snacks at any time, day or night. I cannot think of a better place to people watch. Russian women dolled up in heels and bustiers, vacationing Indians with a little too much to drink, hippy kids with dirty feet and straw hats they made themselves, they all made an appearance. The streets of Arambol are rarely quiet, and never boring.

image

For those who want big parties, Vagator Beach is a better bet. However, I wasn’t into great crowds of kids hopped up on Molly. What intrigued me was what I could find in Arambol itself. It’s a very small town, when you get right down to it. Everyone knows someone, who knows someone, who knows you. And everyone’s got an opinion about everything. Sure, the option exists to stay insular if you’re traveling with a group, but I find no joy in that. Rather, I wanted to get out, experience, explore.

I attended my first sweat lodge in Arambol. It wasn’t life changing, by any means, and my more recent experiences with this type of medicine have been a lot more edifying. But where else can you find a white guy from Arizona, his Goan fire tender, and a group of people from all over the world gathering together in the backyard of a cafe to sweat and sing and pray?

image

Arambol introduced me to the philosophies and followers of Osho, an Indian mystic with a rather controversial approach to spirituality. One of the cafes hosts a series of Awareness Understanding Meditations (AUM). Essentially, there are about a dozen steps to this meditation. In each stage you fully embody a particular emotion/state of being. Sadness, anger, forgiveness, sensuality. Part of that embodiment is expression; participants roam the room, and when they make eye contact with another participant that expression is engaged. Anger: you scream at one another. Forgiveness: hold each other’s hands, apologize, hug. Sensuality: a solo or partnered dance steeped in your sexiest output. It’s extreme, draining, often uncomfortable. And for days after I had people telling me I looked years younger. Yet I could never quite bring myself to go back, it was so intense.

On Christmas Eve I danced onstage with Anna RF during a blackout at one of the biggest cafes in Arambol. It was just me up there, until the band moved their instruments from the larger stage to my smaller stage, and we rocked out until the lights came back.

I fell in love. I fell out of love. I had my heart and my ego bruised, and I’m pretty sure I did some bruising of my own. And every day, every single day, I woke up thinking This is the day I leave Arambol.

image

Written by Sarah Hirsch, edited by Bethany Naylor

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

A Rescue Mission

When it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you’re wandering along an empty road five miles from your flat attempting to thumb a lift, you really begin to contemplate your life choices. The conclusion I came to? My lifestyle is mad, and I couldn’t be happier.

In the middle of exam season I was lucky enough to get an invitation from a friend in Regensburg. Within two days I had booked my tickets, jumping at the opportunity to escape the tedium of lectures and bad student food. Using Skyscanner, GoEuro and Rome2Rio I managed to organise a weekend in Bavaria with two weeks’ notice using only the money I would have spent on a couple of nights out at uni.

 

12973426_10209347954236212_7871772838751312096_o
Taking my chance to be a tourist in London that night

The downfall of my scheme was evident when, just a few days before take-off, I checked the time of my flight: 6 am. In my excitement at the time of booking I had not contemplated the thought of spending a night in the airport, which is just as fun as it sounds. But you can’t beat return flights for £24, even if some sacrifices have to be made, especially when your friend’s sanity is at stake.

 

12967953_10209347996397266_7643609656488152365_o
A church in Memmingen

By 9:20 am I had landed at Memmingen Airport, and two minutes later I was through security. It didn’t take me long to remember everything I loved about Germany when I was working there two years earlier. The greenery and natural beauty are quite astounding, but coming from the UK you really have to admire the efficiency of the German people. In Memmingen, I had two hours to kill, and luckily I arrived just in time for the Saturday food market. One of my favourite things about travelling is visiting the local markets and figuring out how I would shop if I lived there. Memmingen did not disappoint me. Set in a beautiful square overlooked by an impressive church tower, with sausages, beer and brown bread everywhere, the market completed every stereotype I had had of Germany as a child.

 

12977180_10209347997717299_4614783591753519990_o
A market in Memmingen town square

Another two hour bus journey later, passing and stopping briefly in Munich for forty-five minutes (though I will definitely return, perhaps for Oktoberfest…). I was finally in Regensburg, 24 hours after leaving Nottingham.

Regensburg is a beautiful city, divided down the centre by a wide river with many impressive buildings. It’s definitely somewhere I could imagine living when I eventually settle down. Another thing I noticed was an overwhelmingly young population. In general this means that the prices are lower, but more importantly that the city centre has one of the highest concentrations of bars and clubs in the whole of Germany. I had my chance to experience this later that night after spending a wonderful evening ice-skating at a disco at the Duomo Arena, something I would recommend for anyone visiting the area.

12977238_10209348038358315_2547393644231866606_o
Regensburg Cathedral

My top suggestions for Regensburg: the cathedral is spectacular, especially at night. Take a walk along the river and stop at one of the bars with a view, visit the holocaust memorial, go iceskating, and then end the weekend with a few too many in the Irish bar by the cathedral. For me the main objective was to make sure my friend was in a good place by the time I left, which I did by making sure we drank our body weight in alcohol, and getting her set up with a nice guy from Detroit on the sunday night.

My journey home was even more eventful than the way there. After three hours in a car with a Czech man I met on blablacar, who didn’t speak a word of English to match my complete incomprehension of German, my hopes weren’t too high for my Couchsurfing arrangement later that night. But I was pleasantly surprised. I stayed with a pair of Greek horse trainers who were kind enough to welcome me into their home at 1 am, and then still stay up talking to me for two hours and drive me to the airport the next morning. For such a short stay, that was probably the best experience I’ve ever had using Couchsurfing and I will definitely stay friends with the couple.

12961245_10209348038118309_998731266292271018_o
A town square in Regensburg

Back in London at 9 am, I had twelve hours to explore the city before my bus back home at 9:30pm. There is so much you can do in London for that long that I ended up exploring the city centre and spending 3 hours in a music shop before heading to Camden (my favourite place in London) for evening drinks.

The lessons I learnt this weekend are simple. Firstly, take every opportunity you are offered. Secondly, every friend you have is a connection to something bigger than you. Finally, everything happens for a reason, and most of the time it will work itself out.

 

 

This article was originally posted on The Wayfaring Student

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Love on the road

Your eyes meet over the box of brie cheese and discarded baguette crust between you. The slowly descending sun creates a rough mirror upon the powerful water below, throwing golden reflections bouncing across the surface. Two sets of footprints mark a path up the rippling sands of the dune where you have spent the last few hours eating good food and butchering both the Greek and the German languages. To your direct left up the beach, you can see a lighthouse. Tall, red, white, and proud, it marks the head of the windswept coastline beyond which you can see a haze which is the mainland of Portugal, a solemn reminder of the ticking clock.

(2)

As he leans in to hear you better above the wind, you see a line of silver in his hair and remember the differences between you. Culture, age, and language, even your basic interests do not align. If you were at home, this guy would be a no-go. Beautiful, yet not the kind of guy you touch if you don’t want to get hurt. Then you catch yourself breathing in, staring, and you have a decision to make.

You look around the deserted island and feel a sharp pang of envy for the solitary fisherman who remains. What a simple life that must be. You notice your hand moving towards the wine bottle half buried in the sand as he asks you what you’re doing for that dinner that night. At some point, you realise he’s not asking you personally what you’re planning on eating but expects that this day would carry on until it was time to part ways with a whispered goodnight. He sees it as a team plan and you realise that despite travelling alone to avoid that, you don’t mind at all.12512688_10208594004667944_8162276734129886991_n (2)

Do you let yourself fall whilst still trying so hard to get over someone else? Do you open up to this dark haired beauty who’s side you had not left for three days? Or maybe you end it now, before it’s too late. Maybe you go back to Faro on the last evening boat, and watch the sun’s vibrant colours until it descends too far and you are left to stumble in the darkness hand in hand to your hostel.

That night as you are cooking, he’ll try to help but in the end, will just make sure your wine glass filled at all times and talk with the other guests. When the couple from America ask if you are together, don’t laugh awkwardly. If a kindly elderly gentleman from France asks if you are in love as you carry out more glasses onto the terrace, just smile. Enjoy it. You know it’s not real. It was never going to be real, but it can still be beautiful. In bed, you’ll promise yourself that you’ll forget him when you leave and that you know it’s nothing. You can’t even hold real conversations because of the language barrier, you have nothing in common, what are you doing?

12360157_10208435540346435_676928540205791902_n

When he leaves, you walk him to the coach station. He promises to message you and you promise not to reply. You didn’t exchange numbers, and he doesn’t have internet. It will be easy to forget. You kiss him on the cheek and turn around to walk away just as you see his coach pull in. You walk without looking back and congratulate yourself for that on the way back to the hostel.

It surprises you somewhat the next morning when you find yourself back in the same place, ticket in hand. It surprises you more when he’s there walking towards you, knowing as he did that you’d be on the first bus in the morning.

In the end, it doesn’t work. He tries to buy you flights to see him and you’re too proud. You message him for a coffee when you pass through his home-town later that month but he’s too busy. You meet someone else, and he meets someone else. However, that doesn’t matter, none of that matters. That was never the point. Is it not just enough to share a beautiful experience in a foreign land? Why do we have to hold on to these insignificant relationships? When you travel you are able to be whoever you want to be. You are probably not the same person as that girl who stuck her tongue out at the show that night, and he is probably not the same person as the care-free and relaxed kid you hung out with that week. You are both playing a part, and whatever part that is it’s important to remember who you are and what’s important to you.

My biggest piece of advice in terms of love on the road is this. Let it be beautiful, let it have no boundaries and let it open your heart and mind to new people and experiences. Be spontaneous, go on adventures and have moonlit walks on the beach. Have as much fun as you want, but do not let it be real. Learn and grow from it, but never make yourself have to get on a flight home two days before Christmas with an aching chest.

Written and edited by Beth Naylor

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr