Malaysia won’t leave you speechless…

Malaysia is so much different from its neighbouring countries both on the north and the south. Landing in the dense, smoky urban jungle of Kuala Lumpur can be a massive shock, especially for me as I was coming from over a month spent on the pristine beaches and unspoilt natural beauty of Samoa and Fiji.

Malaysia isn’t beautiful – and this is the first time I say this of any country I’ve visited – sorry my dear Malaysian friends, no personal offence intended!

At the end of my Pacific wandering, I was looking for a place to meet up with my best friend and spend Christmas together. I shall be honest, Malaysia was our choice simply because for both of us (from Samoa and from Italy), it was the cheapest flying option.

Info about Malaysia

60% of the population in Malaysia is Muslim and you will find (and hear) mosques everywhere. But, you can also find temples too. Around 20 % of the population are Buddhist and Hindu.
Malayan is the language of the country and I recommend you learn a few words before heading there. It’s always nice to be able to say hello and thank you wherever you go.

Before heading to Malaysia

Currency

The local currency is Malaysian Ringgit and the current exchange is 1 USD = 4.46 Ringgits. Withdrawing money from  ATMs is easy and Malayan Bank doesn’t charge any commissions for foreign cards.

Safety

Malaysia is very safe. I’ve never felt at risk or in a dangerous situation while there. It’s like this in most of the countries in Southeast Asia I have been to.

How to get there

If you want to get by plane, there are many cheap flights companies coming from the countries around Southeast Asia. Air Asia offers good deals, especially flying to Kuala Lumpur. Check Skyscanner to make sure that you get the best fare if you are coming by plane.

You can also get to Malaysia overland from Thailand and Singapore. From Thailand, you can get there by train or bus.

Visa

Securing a visa for backpacking Malaysia isn’t going to be an issue. Most of the countries have free visa for 30/90 days to visit Malaysia. You just need to hold a passport with at least 6 months left, and you should get your stamp at the airport with no issue.

Weather

The weather in Malaysia is quite unpredictable and different from part to part. Peninsular Malaysia can be wet any time of the year even though the wet season officially lasts from November to March. The dry season is from April to October.

How to get wifi in Malaysia

Getting wifi in Malaysia is easy. You will find wifi almost everywhere. There are many places like malls, shops and bars where you will find wifi. And the connection is really good compared to a lot of countries in Southeast Asia.

Accommodation

Accommodation is very cheap in Malaysia. There are a lot of hostels where you can pay $4-5 for sleeping in a dorm and there are beach cottages for even less!

Below you will find my recommendations as always under the Dream section.

Kuala Lumpur

Initially, exhausted by 14 months of non-stop travelling, I spent almost three weeks in KL hosted by a dear Instagram friend from London who has relocated there with her husband. I lived the great life in her stunning apartment a stone’s throw from the Petronas Towers; I could actually see them while typing away on my Mac in her living room and while swimming from her awesome pool. Valeria totally spoiled me with her scrumptious and healthy lunches and I also managed to get back to the gym in the morning too. It was strange to finally settle back in the old home life and routine after so long on the road. It really felt strange to have a home, even if not mine, even if only for a short time. And it was amazing. Thank you, Vale! <3

The capital of Malaysia is a huge, messy, work-in-progress Asian city. Traffic jams are guaranteed every day and it’s far from being a pedestrian-friendly town. However, being the perfect shopping capital in South East Asia (after its bigger sister and architectural inspiration, Singapore), it’s a place worth a short visit (two or three days are enough).

Things to do in KL:

Petronas Towers and Marini’s on the 57

Sri Temple  

Batu Caves  

Brunch & Work at VCR

Get lost in The Rabbit Hole…. 

For some mysterious reasons, I have no pictures of this place even after spending several awesome nights there…I can’t tell you exactly where it is, but the Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole is here 🙂
Address: 16, Changkat Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Pulau Pangkor

After exploring KL, my best friend and I headed to the ocean for some well-deserved relax and beach time.

– Directions: take a bus from KL to Lumut and then the ferry from there.

 

Georgetown / Penang 

Georgetown is such a well-made cocktail of cultures, religions and history that my friend and I struggled to leave when it was time to catch our ferry north.

 

MUST – DOs in Georgetown: 

Upside Down Museum

Malaysia

Caffeinated break at Wheeler’s Coffee

Malaysia

Wander along Love Lane for some weird encounters…

Malaysia

Eat, Love and Eat. And Repeat 

Thanks to its Malayan, Chinese and Indian communities that gather to this peninsular country many centuries ago, here you can find incredible types of food that will never leave you hungry. Malaysia is truly foodies’ heaven and even the most sophisticated palates are going to find something new and delicious here.

malaysia

Dream at House of Journey

A cute, little hostel with an incredible vibe and staff. Minimal breakfast is included. Wi-Fi is weak but free.
 
Address: Pulau Pinang, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

After spending a few days in this little multicultural town, Fede and I got the ferry  to Langkawi 

Langkawi

Langkawi is the perfect place for relaxing that you can’t miss it when backpacking Malaysia. It’s a cheap place to buy alcohol and devices. And if you think about the usual party places of Thailand, Langkawi is not one of them. It’s a place for you to enjoy the beach during the day, and the quiet peace at night.

Do NOT Dream at Tubotel

I rarely leave bad reviews, but Tubotel really was a massive disappointment. The staff is poorly trained and far from friendly. Facilities are often dirty and despite they have and advertise having wi-fi, it is always turned off for some obscure reasons (even when politely requested…I work online!!!) The location is also inconvenient and next to the airport/port. No beach. We only stayed here because we made our booking at the very last second for NYE and it was one of the very few places available (we now know why!) The only plus of this place was the generous breakfast which was free and delicious.

Malaka

While backpacking Malaysia, Malaka or Malacca must be part of your itinerary. This old colonial town still retains the charm of the Portuguese influence and architecture. I loved this place maybe because it’s totally different from the other places in Malaysia.
friendship

Masjid Selat 

Work from 

Kaya Kaya Cafe

A very lovely cafe that serves excellent coffee and sumptuous meals. WiFi is quite good too.

Kaya Kaya cafe

Dream at 

Ringo’s Foyer Guest House
Address: Jalan Portugis, Kampung Dua, 75200, Malacca

The owner of this hostel is a character and full of life person who will take you to explore the town by bike and he’s always making sure the guests are having fun and are comfortable. The hostel is very nice and clean and in a OK position. I reccomend it ! 🙂

Directions: from Langkawi take the ferry to Kuala Perlis and from there catch an overnight bus to Melaka.

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Lost & Found in the Pacific (part 2) – Samoa

If in Fiji I got totally lost, Samoa is where I truly found myself again. My last post was all about my wild three weeks healing, flirting and finding a way to build my broken heart and shattered self-confidence, but it was only in the calm waters of Samoa that I really faced the sudden mess of my Life, the unsustainable pain, the shock of losing my chosen One. In Samoa, I had to move on and decide if I wanted to waste my last few months on the road crying over the spilled milk or face it, feel it and f**it.

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Murakami  

I decided to f**k it.

I landed in the capital of Apia after a brief flight from Nadi, where my driver greeted me for the long ride to my accommodation on the beach (see below for details). 

As he was driving, I was thinking about my recent memories of Fiji. I wandered, looking out of the window, if my next 10 days in Samoa would have been similar, but I had no expectations. I learnt to leave them behind. Nowadays, after sixteen months on the road, I travel without plans, ideas or programmes and I let the places and the people to amaze me.

All the time.
Everywhere.

This is for me is the purest way of travelling, where you explore for the pleasure of understanding, of being surprised, of letting the new country, city, people to take you by the storm. Anyway, as I was lost in my train of thoughts, we were taking the coastal route through an endless line-up of tiny villages, as most Samoans live along the coast. The villages were all extremely beautiful. Simple, but clean, with beautiful lush gardens and coconut plantations and natural forest. The road was winding and bumpy making the journey ever more interesting. People on the streets were coming back from work or school. In Samoa, most men wear the traditional lava-lava, a skirt that ends right below the knees, the kids are in their cute school uniforms while women have a more western look and traditional tattoos on their tights. There are tons of schools along the way, maybe as many churches, it seems. While we ride, we can see many family burial sites, prominently positioned in the front yard of the house, usually they are a pyramid type of tomb, sometimes single graves topped with a stone. There are no typical stores however, but little kiosks selling all sort of things. On the street, there are chickens, cows and stray dogs relaxing, sleeping or wandering. By the time we arrive at the destination, the sun was setting on the horizon and…

…and there is where Samoa hit me on the head.

samoa

I knew that there would be coconuts, sun, salt, and breathtaking natural beauty, but I did not know Samoa was a true untouched heaven, an incredibly stunning country lost – like I was – in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What makes this tiny island country very special is the deep connection and love for the Fa’a Samoa, the Samoan way of living, so evocatively alive and deeply embedded in the people of this country which I immediately grasped on that first night.

Rarely you see so much unspoilt tropical beauty, very few hotels, no international supermarkets and the lack of hectic pace of modern life. The tiny South Pacific island nation of Samoa really is something incredible. I have seen a number of places in the world as you know, but Samoa truly is still unspoilt, wild and untouched as people had told me.  

WHEN TO GO:

Samoa is an incredibly beautiful place. It is not just the tropical flowers, the fresh air and the warmest people, it is the music, the dance, the sweet scents and the meaning of life which take a totally different perspective here.
Avoid the wet season from November to March but expect rain throughout the year. I was there in December. It rained every day for a little bit, but the peace of the low season is unbeatable.

samoa

SLEEP & DREAM AT:

Taufua Beach Fales – Lalomanu Beach, Upolu 

Incredible and wild home away from home for a week. This very laid back, far from fancy, family-run beach establishment of fales is paradise. Perfect if you want a quiet, chilled place to relax and go to bed rocked by the crashing waves. This was the perfect place to sooth my soul and heart: remote enough to ensure peace and quiet but at the same time with just the right number of guests and shows to keep you entertained.

Here, I slept in one of the traditional fale, an open cottage without walls, just a roof supported by pillars and beams, that in Samoa is often used to greet relatives and friends and sometimes, like in my case, even for sleeping.

Samoa

Samoan Outrigger Hotel – Apia, Upolu 

An exquisite boutique, family-run guesthouse with fale-style private bungalows set in a lush garden around a nice swimming pool. There are also normal hotel rooms in the main building. Complimentary breakfast.
Samoa

 

TOP 10 THINGS TO-DO IN SAMOA:

If hanging around the pool is not your thing (hello, traveller!), then consider renting a car (you can usually get the international licence on the spot through the rental company), and go about touring the island instead. Waterfalls, lagoons, diving and surfing spots, all make the trip worthwhile. Also: If you consider road tripping or backpacking in Samoa, be mindful that almost all land is in private hands, and that beaches are usually only accessible after paying a small fee to the local village.

1 To Sua Ocean Trench – Upolu

Magic is real! This is a giant swimming hole, thirty metres deep, filled with sea water and connected to the ocean by an underwater channel. You will need to climb down a very steep ladder in order to go for a swim.

To Sua is a “big hole” (this is the actual Samoan translation) that was created many, many years ago through volcanic activity making it one of the major attraction in Samoa (and a very Instagrammed sight too).

A swim in the To Sua Ocean Trench is unforgettable and this place was probably my favourite sight on the entire island.

 

Samoa te sua ocean trench

2 Fia Fia Night

Fia Fia is a tradition that you must experience while in Samoa. During the event, fire dancers, delicate female dancers, and super fit male dancers, songs and traditional food all come together to create a remarkable and memorable evening. Breadfruit, chicken, fish, fresh fruits, pork and taro are traditional foods, with kava being the traditional drink (like in Fiji).

Fia Fia Fia Fia

3 Lalomanu Beach

This is one of Samoa’s most pristine beaches, on the southeastern tip of Upolu. Here you can hire a beachside fale (I recommend Taufua Beach Fales), swim, snorkel, eat and soak up the sunshine. I was staying here for the first part of my holiday and many day trippers were coming to visit this gorgeous beach.

4 Robert Louis Stevenson House 

After Te-Sua Ocean Trench, this was probably my second favourite thing during my time in Samoa.

When Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous author of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Wordsworth Classics), arrived in the South Pacific in 1889/90 he found a warm, tropical paradise filled with friendly people and he decided to settle here with his family. Stevenson had been struggling with the ill health of his lungs all his life and the climate in Samoa seemed perfect, so much better than his Scottland or his wife’s America. So he bought an estate in Valima, right outside Apia and moved in with his wife, her children from her first marriage and his mother.

The house is still in the exact same conditions as a century ago: there is a half-completed jigsaw upstairs which totally mesmerised me, there are dresses, combs and books and of course, the studio where Stevenson completed some of his best works, including Kidnappedand Catriona

A visit to this museum/house is a must-do while in Apia and if you haven’t already, buy a copy of one of  “Tusitala” (Stevenson’s Samoan nickname, which means the “Writer of Tales”) there.

5 Papapapaitai Falls

The Papapapaitai Falls is a beautiful sight and my pictures don’t give them justice. Just off the Cross Island Road you will find a small bay to stop and admire them. As far as I know, there is no direct access to the fall, but you can see them from here: an incredible water stream down into a deep gorge.

6 Papaseea Sliding Rocks

Another gorgeous place to explore and have fun with your friends. Papaseea Sliding Rock is located at Seesee in Faleata District about 15 minutes drive from Apia. The sliding rocks are divided into two waterfalls where you can swim and slide for some extra fun.

There are one 5 meter slide and three smaller ones at the base of the steps and it is an ideal place for cooling off on a hot day.

7 Namua and Nu’utele Islands 

The translucent lagoon around Lalumanu beach is beyond beautiful and thanks to its rich marine life, it is now a reserve that protects a magnitude of tropical fish species. From here, you can head off to Namua Island just a little further to the north where you can swim with the endangered green turtle or you can explore Nuutele Island and see the most magnificient seabird nesting grounds of the Pacific.

8 Sunday Mass

Samoan people love to joke, sing, dance but are serious about three things in life: God, family and food. With regards to the first, with a couple of friends I met on the Island, I decided to go to a Sunday mass to see what the fuss was all about. We understood nothing of the service, of course, but the calm, the peace, the voices and the singing brought peace to my messy head and restless heart. Sunday in Samoa is a day of rest in which everyone goes to church dressing immaculately in white

Sunday in Samoa is a day of rest in which everyone goes to church dressing immaculately in white. They were elegant and beautiful and their procession to church reminded me of old movies and photographs from another era. It was an incredible experience that I highly recommend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Umu

While in Samoa, you must eat as much fresh fish and tropical fruit as possible. Also, make sure to try the Island fries made of taro and banana instead of potato. If you are lucky (like I was!!!) you will be invited to try the traditional Sunday lunch, the most important communal meal of the week (to’ana’i), with locals at their village.

The meal, which is cooked over the Samoan Umu, a traditional above the ground stone oven heated by glowing hot lava rocks normally features a whole pig, tons of different vegetables and coconut-based delicatessen. The food can be placed directly on the rocks, wrapped in banana leaves or in coconut fronds for cooking. Useless to say that we ate too much of all the delicious food that was offered to us by the incredibly generous and friendly people we’ve met.

10 Get a bus ride to the markets

Moving around Apia is simple and the city isn’t too big to walk everywhere. But, why walk when you can hop in one of the fun buses that populate the capital? Grab a map and board on a local crazy, brightly colourful bus. It’s cheap and it’s an incredible experience that you must try.

In Apia, the bus terminals are located next to the food market in Fugalei and also opposite the flea market at Savalalo. Apart from these two terminals, there are no designated bus stops, so you will need to wave down a bus (use your whole arm and keep your palm facing downwards) as it approaches and ask the driver which bus you need to catch. The seats are wooden benches, and if the bus becomes full, the locals will opt to sit on each others’ lap, rather than stand in the aisles. You will also be offered to sit on some strangers’ lap, so don’t be offended or scared and just embrace the Samoan way of living 🙂

The produce market in Apia is open every day of the week but is best from Monday to Saturday and it offers a dazzling array of fresh local produce. Go there for lunch and walk along the various stalls that serve some cooked Samoan favourites to nibble on and be amazed by the number of bananas, the taste of coconut and taro in all shapes and sizes.

If you are on a hunt for Samoa’s traditional, fine handicrafts like baskets, bags, sarong and more, then head to the Apia’s Flea Market on Beach Road (Monday to Saturday), which sell everything from colourful Samoan clothing to crafts.

samoa

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
Henry David Thoreau

samoa, fiji airways, fiji

In the Fa’a Samoa philosophy, natural disasters like strong hurricanes or tsunamis are blessings, as they wipe away existing structures and the arrival of donations help replace the faulty roads, bridges, houses and electric lines with new ones. It is there, talking with the locals about the last tsunami, about the family that manages Taufua Beach Fales lost over 80% of their members and how a local teacher saved the lives of dozens of Australian pupils simply following her instinct from the wave, that I understood.

I understood that in life, sometimes we need to be hit by a massive, unexpected, tragic tsunami that will take us completely down, almost suffocating us, depriving us of oxygen and hope, and only there and then, on the edge of losing everything, we must find the reasons and the way back up. Where we can breathe again. And it is there, once again swimming in incredibly crystal clear waters that I promised myself that I would go through it.

I wouldn’t let myself drown.

I know that I can survive
I walked through fire to save my life

* Most pictures were taken with the new addition to my Olympus family: Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera – Red

Disclaimer: there are affiliate links above; if you use the links you will send a small commission my way which will help me maintaining this blog. Thank you and if you like this post, please share the love <3

 

 

Lost and Found in the South Pacific – Fiji: from honeymoon destination to singles’ paradise

Disclaimer


This is a personal, heavy and bittersweet post. I recommend you to stop here if you are not into failed relationships, cheating bastards and heartbreaking stories. I don’t often share my personal and most intimate stories here, but today I want to tell you one. Maybe because I still have some dust and detritus on my chest that I want to get rid of, or more likely because I want to tell you that it does get better. If you, like me, have been unlucky enough to fall in love with a selfish, dishonest, horrible person who broke your heart and torn your confidence apart, let me tell you, there is hope. There is always hope. I started writing this post almost two months ago when I was dancing with the devil who kidnapped my personality and self-confidence. I’m publishing this here now, from Chiang Mai, where my heart is healing, my mind is light and that person belongs to a past that I don’t ever want back. There is also loads of swearing and bad words below so readers should be older than…um… 15? Not sure, but if you mind offenses and bad words, then stop here 🙂 thank you and see you next week with my about Samoa! 

*

It’s precisely because of the pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive—or at least a partial sense of it.  ― Haruki Murakami

As you probably know, I got my heart broken (aka smashed, torn, ripped out and pierced) on November 4th (yes, today  exactly marks the 3rd anniversary, since that horrendous day when my insensitive ex decided to leave me over the phone at 15 thousands km of distance), while I was travelling around New Zealand as a guest of Pure New Zealand. The frick, after four and half years together, didn’t even had the balls to jump on a plane and tell me this in the face. No, the usual spineless human being let the message being carried on a freaking weird and long Whatsapp conversation that went on like this, while where I sobbed and begged, begged and sobbed:

 
I-still-love-you-SO-much.
I think about you every day.
When I have sex I think of you.
I imagine touching your skin and I can still recall exactly the smell of your skin. 
This new person is nothing compared to you. But.
But I wanna see what happen with this new fucking buddy because you are far and hard work for me.
And I am lazy. Fucking lazy.
 

WTF, right?

Redundant to say, that I spent my final weeks in New Zealand crying like a baby, barely eating and knocking myself to sleep with cheap bottles of horrible red wine and tons of sleeping pills passed on by a friend. I had awful thoughts. I had scary intentions. And I fell. Down, down, down that endless hole. Maybe you don’t know I also chopped my hair on a particularly drunken and freaking scary night in Franz Josef when I couldn’t stand my reflection in the mirror any longer.
Yes, my ex left me for someone else, which is the most humiliating and painful thing that can happen in life a relationship.

 

*Pro tip here: Ladies & Gentlemen, NEVER-EVER tell the person you are leaving behind that you fell in love with someone else.

 

NEVER.

 

Tell them you are confused, tell them you need time for yourself, tell them you might be gay, tell them you want to become a monk, tell a huge, fat, freaking lie. But. Do. Not. Ever. Say. There. Is. Someone. Else.

 

EVER.

 

As a last option, grab your balls and tell them you don’t love them anymore perhaps. Tell them your heart doesn’t beat the same way anymore. And yes, this is LESS painful and more bearable than been cheated on and being left behind like a bag of garbage or a used tissue.

Please. I beg you. Listen to me.

Do it for me and do it for the person you once loved/cared about.

Please.

So. I was saying that in New Zealand I was mentally and physically shattered and, at that point, dating other people was out of the question. The one and only goal was to stay afloat. AKA stay alive and nothing else. New Zealand is incredibly beautiful, but my eyes were constantly blurred with tears and the lush landscapes were filled with sad thoughts and intentions. New Zealand probably hosts the saddest memories of my life and it’s such a pity because it’s such a wonderful country. I make a promise here to you, to go back when I will be in love again, happy again to create new and remarkable memories. With someone better, someone stronger, someone worthy.

I had considered stopping my around-the-world-trip and book a very expensive flight to go home and beg my ex to love me.

One more time.

Just one more time.

But thankfully I have incredible friends and family and everyone said the prick should have run after me after all this time. And especially after ALL the chances I had already given the fucker to come back to me and the endless times I forgave already in the four and half years together.
The cheater was the one turning the back to me, not me. The lier should have run to the airport and book a very expensive flight to get me before I flew off.

But I did. I flew away.

Fiji – Expect the Unexpected

I’m not Beyonce or Angelina Jolie, but I did happen to have a few guys chasing me. For the entire time since we had been apart, in fact, I did have a few guys flying around me but I always waved them away as you would do with bees.

[I am allergic to bees BTW.]

But let’s be honest for once, I have no idea if the time on the road relaxed my London stressed and wrinkled forehead or if the tan made me more attractive because I never had so many guys running after me before. But I had a few in Fiji. More than a few actually, plenty in fact (I know my ex reads this blog so let the sucker suck a little.)

And yes, the pics below are a metaphor of the amount of human fish swimming around me in Fiji.

I have no idea why, but it was only in Fiji that, still inebriated by the incredible amount of alcohol and drugs my body had endured in the previous weeks, that I let go of all my principles, constraints and hopes.

I finally let go and life just started flowing back through my veins.

And in that moment, finally and for a while, I enjoyed being single. I have no idea how many flirts and salty kisses I had on those stunning, palm-fringed beaches, I don’t even know how many new flags I’ve added to my global collection (thanks Jon for the idea!)

What I can tell you is that Fiji is no longer a honeymoon destination, but a singles’ paradise.

Try to believe. If you are single, book your flight now and test it for yourself.

Fiji – Singles’ Paradise

Let me put this straight from start. Fiji is no longer a honeymoon destination, but quite the opposite, it’s Singles’ Paradise. Yeah, you read that right. And no, I did not know that before. And yes, I had so much fun indeed.

There, among the crystal blue waters and white, palm-fringed beaches is where I started healing my broken heart. Or maybe not, it’s just where I said F**K YOU and pressed the Pause button to my pain.

 “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ― Haruki Murakami 

I didn’t know there was one, but it does exist and it’s like the fire exit when there is a building on fire.

I knew there was something strange right from the beginning. I knew that my time in Fiji was going to be extraordinary as I met my first friends right at the airport and ended up sleeping in a stranger’s room in the wrong hostel that first night. The next morning, I bumped into some New Zealand’s buddies on the ferry to my first destination and that’s it, as soon as I landed in Waya, my life was -positively- upside down. 

I don’t know how or why it happened, but suddenly I had more guys (and girls) swarming around me than in my entire lifetime. I have no clue of how that could be possible, again I am not Jessica Alba, I can only think it was a sign of the universe (or god if you believe), telling me that the world is full of hot, interesting, smart people and the one I had lost was just a tiny person unable to love. It was the universe talking to me and telling me:

Hey Sabs, look around. First, you are not alone; second: pick and choose who you like.

And so I did.


I picked and choose.

I picked and choose.

And had fun.

Loads of fun in fact.

I was a whole. Again.

No longer half of a broken One.

I was me.

And people loved me for who I was. They did no try to change me.

From day 1 to day 22 on the gorgeous Fiji islands, I had fun, fun, fun with the sexy travelers that like Robinson Crusoe were landing on my sunbed shore. And I don’t know why, but a female, married friend who’ve met on these stunning islands told me:

 

Sabri right now, you are like a magnet, it’s impossible to stay away from you.

 

At first, it didn’t make any sense to me at all. I didn’t think my self-chopped hairstyle was attractive, nor my mosquitos-bitten legs or my far from the perfect body. It was something else.

Not only in my sexy dates but, finally liberated by the weight of a failed relationship and moved away from the burden of a person who was flat, boring, old and dishonest, I blossomed in my social life too. I suddenly remembered who I was before changing and adapting to the bastard: my energy was back, my love for life too, my interest to meet new people and get to know them was finally part of me again. And I made many friends without feeling guilty or worrying about what the cheater would think.It was the energy of my internal fuck-you-process and the consequent sense of freedom that perspired from my persona.

I think.

I can only think of this, because man, I was as shocked as you are now.

And maybe this sounds like bragging, and maybe it is for once, but I had never had such a success ratio in my life. LOL! But this is life, ladies (and men) the moment you really are NOT ready to open your legs arms, men (and women) from all over the place start just falling right at your feet. And it’s like this, that night after night I was feeling better and stronger and wanted and desired than ever. No longer rejected. One empty person rejected me, the world still wanted me. I could stay. Just a bit longer.

Is there better cure than slutting around when your heart and ego are broken and the person you love dumps you FOR SOMEONE ELSE? 

Perhaps. I don’t know. But for me, for those three weeks, it was a god/universe-sent break from the lying-on-the-floor, face-buried-in-the-pillow crying healing process that I had been on for weeks in NZ. 

And of course, it wasn’t just the sex, the salty kisses or the summer romances. It was putting things into perspective.

It was stopping to admire the incredible beauty that was surrounding me, it was appreciating the lucky star that allowed me to be there (instead of being home begging a selfish-cheating-human-being to love me!!!).

It was just falling in love. With life again. In all its simplicity. And with some of the most extraordinary people I’ve met in my life. Friends, flirts and my old self, most of all. If one person in this world did not want me, it didn’t mean the world was rejecting me. It was just this, one, specific, extremely selfish and horrible human who rejected me and hurt me like no one else before in my life. 

People are sent to our lives to teach us things we need to learn about ourselves. – Mandy Hale.

My Fiji realization hit me there and then. I knew I was ready for all of the things I had feared up to that moment. I sobbed once more and I realised that I want to be happy. I acknowledged I deserved to be happy. I wanted all the things everyone wants. A stable, committed, strong, faithful person next to me. Nothing more, nothing else. And I was so shocked and also deeply relieved that I’d finally gotten there.

Life and Love were all around me.

Fiji – The little things that matter

And it was embracing the little things that soothed my broken soul, day after day. 

Running on the beach when the first lights of the day were peaking through the mountains. 

Breathing in and out with consciousness at my yoga classes looking into the endless ocean at dawn. 

The hysterical laughs with Theo, Jon, Charlie, Lou and Stuart. 

The amazement in front of the miracle of every single day starting in those gorgeous islands. 

Hiking up a mountain at sunrise under a torrential rain when I kept going anyway because it’s only when you reach the top that you can see the other side.



The hours spent meditating while chasing colorful fish in one of the best reefs I’ve seen in my life.  

The newly acquired (even if unwanted) freedom that being out of a relationship can bring to the mind. 

The infinite shades of blue and orange and red and yellow when the sun was sinking into the horizon.

The sand between the toes, the hair and everywhere else.

Getting lost in dark underwater caves with a bunch of strangers. 

Katie and Steve who told me that compromises are what make love last, and Sonia and Mike who revealed that “not sweating on the small things” was the secret sauce to their +40 years marriage.

Sam and Rosie, young, beautiful and in love.

It was admiring the beautiful and perfect bodies of the local rugby player on a hot Sunday afternoon surrounded by only locals. 

And the kids on top of tree supporting their favourite handball team.

It was the incredible connection with a Dutch guy over the span of 12 hrs.

It was Mina, from China, her beautiful tattoo and the selfie stick she gave me as a gift. 

It was the hugs with Kim and Laura.

It was kayaking with Irene and Joe.

It was learning to fish with a bunch of lovely girls and a cooler full of champagne and beer.

It was the flirts, the kisses, and the meaningless sex.

It was the drinking games and one wild night washed away by far too much gin &  tonic.

It was the lightness of no promises, no expectations and there was a taste of freedom and possibility.
Of what I could have. If I could only hold on to myself and no one else for a little bit longer. 

The local dances, songs and vibe. Their incredible culture and attitude to life. 

And, just like that, by the end of the third week, I was just free. Suddenly, emotionally and happily free.

And there I was on the last day, hoping to stay just a little bit longer. To allow me to add a few more memories to the load to take away with me.

Excited about the future and what it could hold for me. Excited about the countless options and possibilities. Excited about the people I had met and their stories. No longer thinking that that fraud was my One. It definitely wasn’t.

And Fiji taught me that I deserve someone who’s excited about me, who chooses me over everybody else. Every day. Someone who doesn’t need breaks from me, someone who isn’t scared of love, someone who doesn’t only take, but gives back too. Someone without commitment issues. Someone who isn’t damaged from the past and knows how to fight. Someone who believes in us.Not forever. But forever, for now

Vinaka Vaca Levu Fiji

There is where my new life began. These are the memories I will best remember from my months on the road. Where I blossomed again like a very late spring flower. Where, like a prisoner, I was finally freed after being caged for almost 5 years.

These are stories that take the highlight of this incredible journey.This is where I found my true self again. The person I want to be. The version of myself that belongs to me and suits me so well.

No more compromises, no more faking to be someone else. 

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; 
and we travel next, to find ourselves.

 

Reading suggestion for your single holiday in Fiji:

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

The Power of Now, Eckart Tolle

 

All underwater pictures taken with my new baby Olympus

 

Note: there are affiliated links above. As usual, I only recommend products I have personally tried and loved. if you buy through the links above, a few pennies from your purchase come my way so that I can keep maintaining this blog <3

New Zealand: A Visual Journey around the South Island

No matter what you’ve already heard or read about New Zealand. It will amaze you. After travelling the North Island aboard my green big Kiwi Experience bus on behalf of 100% Pure New Zealand, it was time to catch the ferry to the South Island and I had great expectations since everybody I’ve met kept saying “Wait till you get south”. Let me tell you: they were right. If the north island is stunning, the south island is heaven to the eyes and, especially, the heart.

Snow-capped mountains, crystal turquoise lakes and rivers, incredible cliffs and white sandy beaches, gorgeous hikes, wild waves, adrenaline-filled jumps. New Zealand has it all and more.

Once again..sweet as.

Sometimes words are not necessary. Sometimes they are simply not enough to describe what the eyes can see and the heart can feel. This was surely the case for me when travelling the South Island of New Zealand. For this reason, I’ve decided to create a visual itinerary rather than a detailed one as I’ve done for the North Island. The links below the pictures will take you to the various accommodations and activities I have done during my time there. If, by the end of the gallery, you want to know more, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below or drop me an email.

Here’s a visual inspiration for your trip to the South Island.

If you wish to book your own Kiwi Experience bus, you should head here and make sure to tune for my second post about the South Island soon-ish! 😃 If you are interested in booking accommodation with Xbase / Nomads click here

 
 

Notes:
1 – I was a guest of New Zealand’s Tourist Board in collaboration with Kiwi Experience and the partners mentioned above.  All opinions are always – authentically and completely – my own. 

2 – There are affiliated links on this post – as you know travel writing is one of my many jobs, this means that if you book through the links above, a small % of your payment goes towards this blog and my further travels. 

Loved this post about New Zealand? Feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

 

New Zealand – A step-by-step itinerary around the North Island

If you followed me for a while here, on my Instagram or my Facebook page, you know that I am not a big fan of organised tours and guided trips, but back in September, after 13 months travelling all around the world, I was quite exhausted of all the planning, researching AND driving, so when Kiwi Experience, the leading kiwi bus tour operator, invited me aboard their big green bus around Middle Earth, erm..New Zealand, I jumped at the opportunity and said “Sweet As!”  I chose the Rangi Pass which basically consisted of six weeks of being comfortably escorted to gorgeous places, planned routes, accommodations and activities sorted, leaving me all the time for enjoying, photographing, making new friends and taking in all.

 
Oh yeah, actually Sweet as. 

Auckland  

I love walking everywhere and be able to see everything at my own pace, but when you are extremely stretched with time, the Hop on hop off Explorer can be the best solution to make the most of the time at your disposal without rushing from place to place and missing out on things. With a very interesting and useful commentary, this is the best way to see all the big 14 attraction the city has to offer including the Sky City and Sky Tower, the cute Parnell Village, Auckland Waterfront and Mission Bay Beach and of course the stunning Auckland Museum.


Auckland museum 

A must see for visitors and locals where three expansive levels tell the entire story of New Zealand as well as the Maori and Pacific cultures which all merged on this unique country. In the Volcano section you can also experience a close-to-terrifying first-hand earthquake experience…. yup, it felt real. There is also a great Maori Cultural Performance every day at 11am, 12pm and 1.30pm. Not far from the museum, there are the wonderful Winter Gardens set right next to a duck pond and a natural spring (free of charge).

 

 

 

 

Must stop for breakfast or a coffee break here:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLiAsxtAF4z/?taken-by=the_storyteller

When in Auckland dream at x Base 

Location. Location. Location. Right in the middle of Queens Street you have this huge hostel which, not only offer basic dorm accommodation, but also ensuite rooms so high up that you would feel like you can touch the sky (and the Sky Tower) with a finger. The hostel also offers a great Base Travel “agency” to book all your trips and excursions around New Zealand and beyond. And if you are here on a working holiday visa, you can also get tips and job interviews through their Job Search office.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLf41cPDT7R/?taken-by=the_storyteller

or at Nomads

Another large hostel with plenty of floors and dorms to choose from. This, like all the other XBase/Nomads hostels, is also a party hostel. Don’t expect to have long, relaxed night sleep here (unless you book a private room and buy earplugs), but who’s here to sleep anyway?

* in all Nomads/Base hostels the Wi-Fi isn’t included and it’s 5 bucks for 24 hrs, not cool (but very common in New Zealand)


Bay Of Islands 

Face to face with the dolphins with ExploreGroup

Enjoy a day cruising around the 144 islands that make this stunning bay. Stop to admire pods of dolphins jumping and playing with the boat and enjoy an earthy lunch on a deserted island like a modern castaway.

 
Fly high with Kiwi Parasailing

For a different perspective of this gorgeous area mixed with a little bit of adrenaline, book your flight with Kiwi Parasailing in Paihia.

 

Dream at XBase

A very cute collection of low-raised dorms with that beach vibe. You have a small hot tub outside and a great bar with happy hour and a delicious bbq what else you need? Book here


Coromandel Peninsula

Hot Water Beach

Visit this nature’s wonder where you can soak in your own hot water pool right on the beach. Stay as long as you want, but definitely until sunset!

 

Walk to Cathedral Cove 

One of the best walks on the northern island where the landscape, with the green grass on the left and the ocean on the right, just fills your soul and lift your spirit.

Dream at Top 10 – Hot Water Beach

Top 10 Hot Water Beach was one of my favourite stay in the northern island as I managed to get an upgrade to one of the deluxe cabins – yup all by myself. My hut was extremely cute, clean, tidy and there was everything I needed (including a fridge, kettle, coffee and the most amazing mattress in whole New Zealand!)

 

 

 

 


Waitomo

This was one of the absolute highlights of my trip around the North island. Just imagine an afternoon spent abseiling down the seemingly bottomless depths of the Black Abyss (35m in total darkness!!), flying fox, climbing waterfalls and tubing in dark caves only illuminated by glowworms. This is what I call a must-do in New Zealand. If you feel a less extreme adventure, there are also other interesting options.

 


Rotorua

There is so much to do in Rotorua that at least a couple of nights at XBase are necessary. This is another cool place to spend some quality time especially in the large pool outside.

About 30km south of Rotorua, there is one of the largest and mystical geothermal areas in New Zealand. Waiotopu (Maori for “sacred waters”) has many colourful  hot springs as well as the Champagne Pool, the Artist’s Palette and the beautiful Primrose Terrace. If you are there in time, try and catch the Lady Knox Geyser at 10.15am daily.

 

 


Polynesian spa

After a long day walking around the wonders of Waiotopu, there is nothing better to relax and soak in the peace and the wonderful view from this gorgeous piece of paradise. Make sure to go there before sunset and just enjoy the peace and the warmth filling you from the inside.

Tamaki Maori Village

As mentioned above, I’m not a big fan of organised “cultural” experiences where you get to see artists performing ancient rituals and dances.
But my overnight stay at the Tamaki Maori Village was surely something different, where everything felt authentic and unstaged. A few lucky ones (those staying for the night) were welcomed by a great afternoon tea, we had the honour to play some of the traditional Maori games followed by a great feast at dinner in buffet style.
I was amazed by the haka dance and pleased to learn a few words in a song we all sang together at dinner. Book your experience at Tamaki if you wish to get a first understanding of the Maori culture and tradition.

 


Taupo

Taupo is one of the many beautiful kiwi towns sitting on the shore of a beautiful lake. At first sight, I knew Taupo was the place for me and in fact, I extended my stay an extra night at XBase. During my time there I did a couple of extreme activities. Firstly, throwing myself off at 47m attached to just what looks like a normal rope as my first-time bungy jumping with Taupo Bungy.

 

Secondly climbing up the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the most exhilarating, incredible, beautiful walks of my entire life with Tongariro Expeditions.

 




 

 


Wellington

The tour of the North Island finishes off in Wellington also known as Windy-Welly where the museum Te-Papa offers the most interesting and interactive space I’ve ever seen as well as providing the most incredible experiences for children as well as taller children.  In Wellington, I also decided to spoil myself to an AMAZING pizza and I can swear by it (I can’t swear by many outside the Italian borders and this is one).

If you have time, make sure to grab a flat while or brunch at Caffe L’Affare and to catch the cable car to the Botanic Gardens. Also,  if you like me are wi-fi and books addicted, make sure to check the Wellington City Library (super fast and FREE wifi) and make sure to stop at Unity Books for a general browse or to pick up a new travel book for your journey. I, appropriately, bought Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide To Getting Lost, a witty, well-researched and fascinating investigation into loss and getting lost, that combines personal memories, philosophy, psychology and it will open up a world of new thoughts. The perfect companion for my trip around New Zealand (and the endless one  inside myself).

And again, best hostel in town is XBase, great location, fun staff and here again I was upgraded to a double room.  Sweet As.


More about KiwiExperience in New Zealand 

The buses offer all modern comfort and huge windows to admire the landscape outside. The drivers are all super-knowledgable and fun to hang out with. Especially Kyle and Fly were incredible and they went over and beyond their role to help us.

Ideal for:

+ first-time travellers with little experience of planning/researching and/or travel-exhausted people (like me) who want to be spoiled and escorted from place to place for once 😃

– young backpackers who are manly looking to party at night and have a great time meeting lots of new friends in New Zealand

– English-speaking travellers: all commentary and info are only in English so if you don’t have a fluent English you might end up missing your bus or most of the stuff going on

Possible improvements: 

– as an independent traveller and a photographer I suffered lots as we couldn’t stop to take pictures of the incredible landscape that were passing in front of our eyes from the bus’ window -> I would highly recommend much more photo stops, at the end most people come to New Zealand once in their lifetime!

– lots, lots, lots of paper to fill every day, that could easily be integrated by an extension in their nice app. The papers, despite the very old-style method, make everything smooth and easy ahead of arriving at your next destination

– the check-in process at Base needs big improvements. When the +50 disembark the bus and run to the check in desk it can take a good 45 minutes to finally get into your room. Same for checking out 😔

 
 

If you wish to book your own Kiwi Experience bus, you should head here and make sure to tune for my second post about the South Island soon-ish! 😃 If you are interested in booking accommodation with Xbase / Nomads click here

 
 

Notes:
1 – I was a guest of New Zealand’s Tourist Board in collaboration with Kiwi Experience and the partners mentioned above.  All opinions are always – authentically and completely – my own. 

2 – There are affiliated links on this post – as you know travel writing is one of my many jobs, this means that if you book through the links above, a small % of your payment goes towards this blog and my further travels. 

Loved this post about New Zealand? Feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

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9 – Must-Do Activities on the East Coast of Australia

As you probably already know, my 10-month Aussie adventure finished off with a long road trip down the East Coast in my beloved Jucy Crib, a koala named Bruno* and Mr Beard. And, after having gone through all the billion pictures and video I took on the East Coast, I’m here to share with you my favourite things to do if you are also planning to explore the same part of the world soon. Otherwise, feel free to bookmark this post to your wanderlust list for future reference. As always, please use the buttons below to share the love with your friends and family! <3   

 

1 – Gelato, Sweet, Gelato at Gelocchio in Cairns 

First and foremost: G E L A T O. All great road trip should start with a special kick, even better if this is a gelato snack. And I’m not talking about normal ice-cream here. I am talking about actual-home-made-Italian-gelato. Don’t get mistaken by the size of the little shop, they have a huge range of flavours, from the most classic like chocolate and pistachio to the more local and researched ones like macadamia and cashew nuts. How gorgeous! 

Address: 9/93 Aplin Street (just off The Esplanade), Cairns, QLD 4870

Follow them on Facebook

gelocchio
 gelocchio-2
 

2 – Koalas, Fish and White Sand at Maggie’s

This castaway-like paradise filled with palm trees, national park reserves and gorgeous hiddenMaggie Islandbays is just off the coast of Townsville, Queensland and it’s a popular tourist spot for both locals and foreign travellers. With only 2000 residents across its 52sqkm, Magnetic Island (locally know as Maggie Island) is the perfect getaway place for a relaxed week(end) away.

Bruno

It’s an easy 20/40-minute ferry from Townsville and you can choose between Sealink (20$ with last minute discount) or Fantasea ($30 pp). You can also opt to bring your car to the island, but it’s quite expensive and unless you are going for an extended period, it would be more convenient to use the public transports on the island instead.

Whether you are on Magnetic Island for a day or for a month, there is enough to keep you busy. In fact, in such a tiny island there is so much to see and experience that I’m a little bit sad Mr Beard and I only spent a day there. Maggie Island Walking, snorkelling, wildlife spotting, swimming, hiking and beach hopping it’s all there for you. If you are dreaming of seeing koalas in the wild, then the Forts Walk is the one you want to do or if you wish to see some cute wallabys then Geoffrey’s Bay is  the place to be. If you are more of an ocean baby, then dolphins, turtles, rays and sharks all love cruising around Maggie in various season. Remember to take your snorkelling gear! Additionally, if your tan needs a little top up, stunning Radical Bay, peaceful Rocky Bay and gorgeous Arthurs Bay are all there for the taking.  Even if you are not a pro hiker, you should really wear your boots and hit the numerous trails: the gorgeous scenery, lookouts and wildlife, make up for the heat and steepness of (some of) the walks.

3 – The Whitest Beach in the World with Cruise Whitsundays

In early September, another dream of mine came true, as I stood at the Hill Hinlet Lookout looking across the spectacular view over the Whitsundays and Whitehaven beach. In front of me, the greatness of the nature in a million shades of blue was showing off. There are no right words to describe what I saw, I can only hope my pictures will you give an idea of its perfection. There are only a few places in the world where my consumed and well-travelled eyes have gone wet and this is one. Here, where the magnificent beauty of white sand and blue water has overtaken imagination. Thank you to Cruise Whitsundays to make my dream possible and thank you for your outstanding boats and crew.

Oh! And for the backpackers out there, you can also check out the tours on Awesome Whitsundays for huge discounts: I know what it means to travel on a budget, mate! 😃

Follow Cruise Whitsundays on Facebook and Instagram #cruisewhitsundays

4 – The heart of the world with GSL AVIATION  

There are tons of tours and ways to see the glorious Whitsundays, but only a few offer such a spectacular view over this unique part of the world. Since the first time I saw a postcard of the Heart Reef, it’s been my dream and priority to make sure to witness its incredible beauty with my own eyes and it’s for this reason that we booked our scenic one-hour flight with GSL Aviation. The six seater plane is of most comforts, their pilots of incredible local knowledge and professionalism and well…the flight was simply incredible. Not only I got to tick yet another item off of my dreams list, but I also managed to see from above the gorgeous Whitehaven beach where I chilled a few days before and many other sights, all from up in the air.

Follow GSL Aviation on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

5 – Test your Survival Skills on a Deserted Island with 1770 Castaways 

Since watching the famous Tom Hanks movie, I always wanted to experience life as a survivor on a deserted island. Bruce, the founder and pilot, and his brilliant team have managed to recreate exactly that wild adventure just off the cute town of 1770 / Agnes Water. Ok, so the flight first. This wicked adventure starts of with a literally breath-taking flight to Middle Island which alone is worth the experience. My tip? hold on tight 😛 Once arrived at destination, a very basic camp has been set for us, modern castaways and from there you are left (almost) on your own. There are loads of activity to fill the three days on the island, like kayaking (who knew those things were so heavy!!!!), cave exploring, boating, fishing and sand dunes (so much fun!!!). We shared some very amazing moments during our days there and I can definitely reccommend adding 1770 Castaway to your East Coast adventure.
PS: the beef stew in the evening prepared by Luke is to die for! 😃

Follow 1770 Castaway on Facebook and Instagram

6 – Face to Face with Whales with Blue Dolphin 

As the names suggests, Blue Dolphin Marine Tours offers more than a simple tour, it offers a once in a lifetime Experience. Aboard the luxury Sailing Catamaran, founder Peter Lynch will make you comfortable and go the extra mile to make sure all guests are lookedfv after and having the best time. Seeing the whales jumping and playing just a few meters away from the boat was simply incredible and one of the best way to see them in their natural environment. The super plus is Peter’s in depth knowledge of these cute giants since he spent 30 years working with them, 14 of them as a marine mammal trainer and the fact that he doesn’t keep it to himself as, helped with some whales toys, explains and describe the differences of the all on the way to them.

Follow them on Facebook  and  Instagram

7 – Get Sandy on K’gari with  Drop Bear Adventures

One of the highlights of my 10-month travel around Australia is definitely my trip to  K’Gari with Drop Bear Adventure. K’Gari is most commonly known as Fraser Island – sign the petition here to give it back to its original name given to them by the Butchella people (aboriginals).

Mark and Hana, the founders, have managed to create a team of friendly, fun, funny and knowledgeable people who all love K’Gari in the same way, and share the love with the small group who visit the island with them. 

During our tour we managed to see some pretty stunning sights and beautiful landscapes, while also having lots of fun 4WD driving along the beach and in some rough paths inland.

Accommodation is included in your tour and I was spoiled by Hana as I stayed at one of their double ensuite at the Beachcamp Eco Retreat, an awesome glamping camp. This amazing spot is perfect for couples but also for independent groups and families with their own or rented vehicle. The team here was again super knowledgeable, but also caring, warm and charming and loving and prepared some very delicious meals for us during our stay. If instead you are more interested in a wilder night on K’Gari 😛  you can choose between the Beach House Hostel and the Drop Bear Camp. 

Also, if you want some real, honest and independent tips in the Australian jungle of travel agencies and promoters, have a look at Hana’stravel advice blog where you will not only find some very informative articles, but also some very honest tips and tricks about travelling down under. 

More Info & bookings: 
Follow DropBear on Facebook and Instagram

8 – Slide Away on a Kayak with Kanu Kapers

Make sure to save some energy and time during your trip down (or up) the East Coast, for this incredible adventure in one of the least known and off the beaten track areas in Queensland. Kanu Kapers is eco-friendly and they provide a variety (1/2,1, 2, 3 day self-guided or guided) of kayaking tours in the unique Noosa Everglades, the gateway to  the Great Sandy National Park and Fraser Island where a spectacular scenery mix with abundant wildlife, including 726 species of flowing plants and ferns. Another interesting fact is that these sustainable eco-tours are run by Vivienne Golding, former Australian Kayak Champion now MD of Kanu Kapers: could you be in safer hands than hers?

More Info & bookings: www.kanukapersaustralia.com

Follow them on Facebook

kanu-kapers kanukapers-noosa-everglades-25-f16

9 – Get Comfy in a Sexy Jucy van 

There was no way for Mr Beard and I to do all these adventures on the East Coast if we didn’t have our own vehicle. Generally, I’m not a big fan of cars, but I can tell you that the comfort of having a van where we could eat, sleep and… off we go every day is what made out trip possible (and F U N ! ! ). Australia is made for road trips and camping so Jucy is the best option when it comes to travel down under. Make sure to check my road trip recipes here if you haven’t already! 😛

 

 

 

Thanks to  all my sponsors for allowing me to allow me to  take part to all these amazing adventures. Thanks to JUCY for helping me make this road trip possible. Find out more at www.jucyworld.com and follow them on social media @JUCYworld. I’ve travelled down the East Coast in a Jucy Crib – all views are my own.

whym: the travel app that every (real) traveller needs

I always dreamt of travelling, to explore new lands and to understand other cultures and when I was little I had this dream that I was obsessed with. I wanted to be able to speak all languages in the world to be able to communicate with every one. Of course, it didn’t take me long to understand that all languages was a bit too much for me (and for everyone)!. But when I enrolled to high school, and having this dream still in mind, I choose for a course where I could learn as many languages as possible. In my case it was English, French and German. Not a bad start, right? The truth is that today I totally forgot my German, my French is very rubbish, but English became my second language after working and living in London for almost a decade. Oh and I picked up Spanish in between too.

But Italian, English, French and Spanish haven’t been enough for me. By now, you should all know that I’ve been travelling for quite a while, in fact I’ve recently celebrated my first year of Freedom. After the Emirates, India and Australia, I am about to board a plane to New Zealand before getting lost among the Pacific Islands. During this time I kept thinking I needed something. I needed a great travel app.

I have spent the last 10 months in Australia where English is obviously the main language, but staying in hostels, campgrounds and in the Australian bush, I have met people from all over the world. I shared desserts with a Portuguese family in Cairns, slept under the stars near Uluru with a bunch of Germans, Spanish and French, lived with Chinese people in Melbourne and Koreans in Sydney. And you know, English can take you a long way if the other part can speak it, but it can’t take you deeper. I love talking and getting to know people from all over the world, so here’s where whym comes in handy. Thanks to this little travel app, I’ve managed to learn about ancient cultures in China, secret granny’s Thai recipes as well as refresh my French. Thanks to whym I understood that I don’t need to learn all the languages in the world, because whym knows (almost) all of them! 

registerOf course, Google Translate and tons of other robot translation are great to translate a menu or to ask for directions, but to TALK, to really have a conversation, they are quite crap. I think there is something very comforting about walking around an unknown city with an interpreter in my pocket. I surely feel much better now that I know that whatever train I need to take, price I have to pay or direction I have to ask, my favourite travel app is going to do it for me. Just in case.

And, in a worse scenario, what if you are stuck in a tricky situation: a hospital bed, a remote airport or some strange embassy. Well, having the option to communicate properly makes me feel better (and calmer). You know for that just-in-case peace of mind that makes travelling so much easier.  

But how does whym actually work? 

The idea of whym is simple: to connect travellers and businesses all over the world to a professional human interpreter within 60 seconds via a click of your smartphone. Yeah, easy right? It’s pretty incredible to be honest. Once you have registered on the app, whym can identify you and connect you to a huge database called InterpretersPortal, where 2,300 freelance interpreters are logged 24/7 and available to take your call. All in less than 60 seconds. How cool is that?

yeah, but I need Mandarin? 

Languages It’s a growing expansion process, but whym already offers 13 languages, including French, German, Russian, Arabic, Italian, and yes, also Mandarin.

 

And so, after testing this travel app for a couple of months, along with other travel blogging colleagues like @AnnaEverywhere, @Abrokenbackpack and @Talesfromafork, I can confirm that whym is the one travel app that makes exploring easier and more fun.

With whym, language barriers are a thing of the past. 

Try it for yourself and download whym now from Google play or the App Store to prepare for your next wild adventure!

Footnotes: this post was sponsored by whym – all views are my own 

Easy, Yummy, Cheeky Road Trip Recipes

If you, like me, have been on loooong road trips, you know that there is a point when you are so bored of the same canned stuff that you start skipping your meals or start going out too often. I reached that moment on my fifth straight month on the road when I started my #eastcoastinterlude (aka the last leg of my Aussie adventure) and decided that my diet had to change. I needed road trip recipes 
Travelling with our lovely Lady Monster (a giant, old 4WD car) had its limits since we always needed to set the table, chairs and kitchen in order to cook, but having a mini-kitchen sheltered by the elements and of easy access is what pushed me to go back to the stove! That’s also why, I started browsing the internet (and repetitively calling my mum aka the best chef in the world!) for ideas and tips for easy road trip recipes that she made for me and my siblings a couple of decades ago. Mr Beard and I managed to cook all the below (and SO much more!) in our little kitchen and it was always so much fun experimenting a new, minimalist and fast way of cooking in our Jucy as well as to be able to wash the dishes and cutlery straight away (=little details that matters while on the road!)

BREAKFAST – Home-made Granola Recipe

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I l o v e granola. I had my first date with it a few years back when I was living in London and it’s been true love since. In my continuos effort to ban all plastic as part of the zero waste movement, considering the crazy prices of these little boxes and the fact that most of the times you only find broken grains, never enough nuts and far too much raisins and tons of cinnamon (I HATE cinnamon!), I decided to make my own. Most traditional cookbook will tell you that you need a oven for the perfect granola, trust me: a stove-top granola is top-notch, mate.

You will need: 500g rolled oats, 200g mixed crushed nuts, a pinch of salt, coconut chips and dried berries and fruit.

How: Heat a heavy pan over medium-high (the one provided by Jucy is simply perfect!), and once it gets hot, add in enough rolled oats to coat the bottom of the pan in a single layer and add a pinch of salt. Cook the oats, stirring or shaking the pan constantly until golden-brown, make sure to keep an eye on it because the oats can go from perfectly toasted to overdone in a fraction of a second. Once they’re done, pour them out onto a baking sheet on a plate and let them cool for a bit. Then, you pan-roast chopped nuts like almonds, macadamia, cashew nuts or pecans and when you are done add those to the oats with the coconut chips.

For your breakfast of Champions, stir the toasted oat-nut mixture into yogurt along with fresh strawberries and bananas or others. If you are feeling extra naughty, add a little maple syrup or honey and you will be ready to go for an amazing day.

LUNCH – Cous Cous Salad Recipe 

After billions tuna sandwiches, salmon, ham & cheese wraps, I decided to go back to one of my favourite (and super easy) dishes, the gorgeous, light but filling Cous Cous Salad. What I love the most about cous cous is the fact that is so versatile and it can be used as a side, a salad and even a main. It’s extra special as it can be served hot and cold and it’s always yummy.

You will need: 200g quick-cook couscous, 250ml boiling stock water, 1 or 2 tomatoes, 1 zucchini, 3 small peppers (capsicum for the Australian readers…), 1 avocado, mixed spices and herbs, a little bit of butter.
NOTE: the truth is that cous cous goes with everything and anything, so you can totally ignore the ingredients above and put whatever you like in yours!

How: Place the couscous in a large bowl with the butter in the middle and pour over the boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate or a lid and set aside for 5 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. In the meantime, chop your vegetables in tiny cubes and stir them into the cous cous. Season the couscous well with salt, chilli, spices and herbs and drizzle over a bit of extra virgin olive oil and you will be ready to eat! Bon apetit!

DINNER – Italian Frittata Recipe 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMr Beard and I had far too much pasta during our three months of travels together, so we decided to give carbs up and opt for more healthy and earthy food. My mum sent me her original recipe of the Frittata Italiana and how could I possibly not try it?

You will need: 4 eggs, olive oil, chopped brown onion, 1 large potato, salt, pepper and parsley

 
How:
Start by cutting and frying the potatoes; to this in the right way, you will need to wait until the oil is boiling hot. Once you’ve fried all the potatoes, put them aside to cool and put the sliced onion on the hot pan with some more oil. Make sure to stir well until they become golden, then add the potatoes  and mix them together in the pan for 2/3 minutes. Then take them off of the stove. In the meantime, beat OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe eggs in a bowl, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and parsley then stir in the potatoes and onion. Return the pan to the stove, and heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat.

Scrape the eggs and vegetables back into the pan and shake the pan gently while you lift the edges of the frittata, and tilt the pan to let egg run underneath and set. After a few minutes, when the bottom of the frittata has set and with the help of a dish or with a twist of the wrist (that’s up to you, I won’t take responsibilities!), turn the frittata upside down to cook the other side.  Cook gently for another 2/3 minutes paying attention not to burn it.  Now your REAL italian frittata is ready, you can both serve it straight away or you can let it cool and serve it cold which is exactly what you need from roadtrip recipes!

I hope you will enjoy these road trip recipes! I would love to hear your suggestions, please feel free to comment below with your fav dishes!

 

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Thanks to JUCY for helping me make this road trip possible. Find out more at www.jucyworld.com and follow them on social media @JUCYworld.
I’ve travelled down the East Coast in a Jucy Crib, all views are my own.

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See My India

“My mum is very upset. I forgot to send her a message last night to say I was fine. Despite the fact I left home 8 years ago and lived in 3 different cities in two different countries since, she is currently very worried. When I was living in London, we would chat once a week or less, but since I’ve touched Indian soil, she has been extremely worried. Do you know why? Because there is this pre-concept/rumour/urban legend in the Western world of India being extremely dangerous for female travellers, the impossibility to walk on the streets without being sexually harassed (there is harassment, but of another type which I will discuss on my blog later this week….), of men touching you without permission or various other risks for women. So, my mum, for the first time in 8 years, requests me to keep her constantly updated of my movements: morning, afternoon and evening.. That’s why, even being the least tech mom I know, she is on Snapchat now 😅 My mum, and many, many other people around the world think of #India as a scary country – thanks to the media btw – but I’m here to try and destroy this idea forever. I’ve been asked by a few local people here to help spreading the word so, here I am to do so as I desperately want the world to know that – if you are smart enough and respect the local culture – India IS safe. It’s been only two weeks, so maybe too early for such a statement, but let’s see if I will have to change my mind or not. I’m willing to take this challenge on. #letschangewhattheworldthinksofIndia

This is something I wrote on my Instagram 45 weeks ago while I was travelling around Rajasthan and the rest of India. Back then, I was still at the very beginning of my three-month Indian tour that would later take me to eleven states of that beautiful country. Fast forward to today and I still stand for what I wrote back then. My trip and adventure around India was just filled with the most incredible memories and experiences and despite whatever the media says, I’ve always felt safe and secure.

My mission to change what the world thinks of India hasn’t stopped when I left the country back in December. In fact, I’ve started a solitary campaign to address the questions and the doubts of all my friends, relatives and whomever was asking my opinion. I have kept this cause close to my heart – as I’ve always hated prejudice, racism and stereotypes – with the hope that more and more people interested in the Indian culture would finally leave their fears behind and just go.

https://www.instagram.com/p/91eSUnsQ1d/?tagged=thestoryteller_inindia


It was with immense humbleness and excitement that I have accepted the role of brand ambassador and testimonial for F5 Escapes,
an alternative travel company, based in Bangalore, India with a vision to redefine the way women travel India. Their goal – like mine – is to make India a preferred destination for women travellers from across the globe.

Their next tour leaves in November and in 18 days you will have the unique opportunity to explore some of the most amazing places in India all in the safety and comfort of trusty hands. I couldn’t  recommend F5 Escapes or this specific tour strongly enough. What you have to do is to drop me a comment below letting me know you are interested and I will send you all the info and put you in touch directly with one of the amazing F5 Escapes girls. For a very convenient price you can witness and experience the best that India has to offer and I am sure will be amazed by this incredible country.

5 FACTS ABOUT F5 ESCAPES: 

  • 3 years in operation
  • Incorporated in India as Zingara Solutions Pvt. Ltd
  • 250+ trusted vendor network across India for end to end logistics support
  • 600+ customers – Indians and expats
  • 100+ tours – groups and customized itineraries

See My India #3

A photo posted by See My India © (@see_my_india) on

THE F5 ADVANTAGES:

  • Experience with flights ticketing
  • Experience handling international women travellers
  • Good industry connects for seamless end to end logistics
  • Local tour leads from different parts of India know their land like the back of their hand
  • Well-researched, destinations already executed with current set of women customers

THE TOUR

The Itinerary

  • 17nights/18days (departing in November / January / February and March)
  • Delhi – Agra – Amritsar – Dhramshala – Rajasthan – Kerala – Delhi
  • A glimpse of desert, Himalayas, beaches and backwaters at a moderate pace

If you wish to know more about the tour or F5 Escapes, please feel free to drop me an email to sabrina.andrea.sachs@gmail.com or leave me a comment below.
You can also check more of my Indian shot here and you are still in time to pre-order a copy of your “See My India”, a photo memoir of my travels there here.

A slice of tropical paradise in Port Douglas

You know I’m not a big fan of big, global, heartless hotel chains where you end up waking up in the same room whether you are in Paris, Rio or Sydney.  As you have already read here and seen on my Instagram, I’m a big fan of boutique hotels and quirky accommodations that have a personality and do things differently.

So, when I was invited by QT Resort for a stay at their slice of tropical paradise in Port Douglas, I couldn’t decline the offer!

QT is not quite what you’d think, it’s not your ordinary hotel, it’s an eclectic mix of design and art, it’s style and luxury, with a touch of quirk all in #QTstyle!

The Experience

My day started with a wonderful SPA treatment at their spaQ where my incredibly talented masseuse managed to magically soothe each and every knot around my shoulders and back after five months of wild (read uncomfortable) camping around Australia. I literally felt like I had a new body when I left.

QT ResortAfter the restoring treatment, we were welcomed for lunch at Estilo where we had gorgeous mini-burgers and smashed avocado on toast… Yum!

We later went for a few laps at the olympic pool and I once again promised myself to learn how to play tennis while watching a couple hitting hard the ball.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sipping fantastic cocktails at the pool where the young brilliant barman asked us for our favourite spirits instead of a name which made every round a nice surprise to our thirsty palates.

QT Resort

Dinner was served at Bazaar, a beautifully-designed restaurant inspired by international street stalls, souks and bodegas that recreates a traditional marketplace which offered various options of vegetables, meat and fish. I obviously went for half a dozen oysters and some fresh salad before trying a couple of those cute mouthwatering desserts. Everything was of course washed away with a beautiful South Australian sauvignon blanc. I am not a big fan of buffet especially at dinner and I would have much preferred the usual experience of ordering a la carte instead, but still the idea behind is very original, but in my opinion it would work much better at lunch time.

QT Resort

 

Breakfast was probably my favourite meal at QT since it has about five or six different types of yoghurt (HURRAH!), LOADS of fresh fruit, pancakes and hash browns, eggs, sausages and bacon, and plenty of pastry. I think that nowadays hotels which want to really stand out from the mass should offer real espresso coffee along their breakfast: it would make everything so perfect rather than the usual instant coffee…

EXTRA

While away Bookshop & Cafe
This cute little cafe quickly became my favourite in the week I spent in Port Douglas. Not only they have a great selection of books about all topics, but they also serve wonderful coffees and delicious cakes. I went back there day after day and the staff won my personal award for the most welcoming and friendly service in the whole of Australia. Well done!

THE FACTS

I was a guest at QTResort Port Douglas, all views are my own. You can book your own stay through their website here. I enjoyed my QT 2 Bedroom Villa Garden View which is $439 per night with breakfast included or $395 if you are a QT Member: it’s completely free to join and you can earn points towards FREE nights!

QT is perfect for…. stylish tropical breaks and romantic weekends away

Address: 87 – 109 Port Douglas Road, 4877, QLD, Australia

 

What do you think of this hotel? Are you planning a trip to Port Douglas and considering a stay here? If you enjoyed this post or have any questions about this hotel, please leave me a comment in the box below! x

Want to read more about other special accommodations? Check out my brand new DREAM section here

Port Douglas