Going home after a long time…

going home after long trip

I am going home after a long time

As you are reading this, I’m finally boarding the plane that will take me home to Italy. If I planned everything really well and there haven’t been any delays, in this exact moment, I should be taking off from Bangkok and toward Myanmar, India, UAE, Germany and eventually, home. I am finally sitting on board that same plane that I’ve already cancelled and postponed 3 times. It’s bittersweet, I’m still shit at saying goodbyes to old friends, new road friends and places, despite the millions I’ve already said in the last few months. But it is time.

I’ve finally accomplished all the things I wanted to do during this long solo journey and this chapter of my life is now completed. In the best way possible in fact. I could not ask for more since the main goal has been achieved. That is becoming a calmer, wiser, slower, finest, better version of myself. The world and its beautiful people have shaped that little, scared, lonely “girl” that was desperately crying at the airport in Istanbul in September 2015. That  girl does not exist anymore and she has been replaced by a stronger, fulfilled, empowered woman who loves herself and the world around. I can travel alone. I can travel alone for twenty months (and counting). And not only I can, I LOVE travelling solo! In fact travelling solo is THE BEST and nothing compares to it.

I am ready to go home also because I’ve managed to achieve my second, accidental goal. After so much struggle and hustle, doubts and failures, today and for the past few months, I am standing tall on the tiny successes of my location independent lifestyle and since it’s been exactly 12 months that I’ve been able to travel only with the income made on the road, I can finally call myself a real digital nomad and for thsis I stick a little invisible DN badge on my chest. YAY!! I made it. I freaking made it.

The journey has been incredible and so powerful and so amazing and especially humbling. The places and people I’ve met made me the person I am today. And I gotta be honest with you, I’m having a massive crush on me right now 😍. Like my first real self love in 32 years, mate.

As I have learnt so much about myself, I realised that I was more scared of the known than the unknown. I realised that the fear that normally entangles people to stay in normal lives was what boosted and fuelled my trip. Where others remain stuck in the intricated world of doubts, fears, insecurities, I took advantage of them and decided to shape new opportunities just for myself.

And I forgave myself. I realised that all the things I did, I said, I wanted were necessary. Every single little thing. Finally, I looked up to the mirror, deep into my big brown eyes  and while hugging my naked self, I said the words: “you are forgiven”. Because in life, sometimes, you can prepare yourself, but you cannot predict what life throws at you and you can’t blame yourself for wanting more, for having bigger dreams, expectations, love for life, for loving the unexpected more than the expected, for loving freedom more than boredom. You can just be you. And I can just be me.

And I am finally ready to go home 

In the past 20 months, I have had some of the most incredible experiences of my life, I have slept in the middle of  deserts, I climbed on top of mountains, volcanos and rocks, I’ve swum with turtles, dolphins, sea lions and clown fish, I have seen countless sunrises and sunsets, I have slept in 543875426043 hostels, campgrounds, luxury hotels and in my tiny tent on the side of many Aussie roads. I have been blessed by incredible people, my time was wasted by a couple of assholes too (hello, f***ing German mechanic in Cairns!!).

I’m scared but also excited for everything that lies in front of me during this Italian summer that I’ve been dreaming for a while. I am mentally getting ready to be overwhelmed with emotions, smells and tastes. I am already physically ready to welcome all those familiar hugs, kisses and strokes I’ve been missing for so long.

649 days.

20 months.

13 countries.

4 continents.

25 flights.

15 trains.

43 buses.

6 cars.

35 scooters.

3 bicycles.

1 camel.

Everything is exactly as it is meant to be

During all this time, I have planned little, the few plans I had were normally cancelled, postponed or changed. My return couldn’t have been any different. During my journey around the world, I always tried to get off the beaten track, often missing the must-see, must-dos, must-bes. Some days I was plain lazy, others too busy with work, others too sad to leave my bed, some days I was filled with such an intense joy that I thought my heart would explode. On this trip, I learnt what pure happiness means. I was blessed by it when I was staring at the Taj Mahal while the sun rose on the horizon and my incredible friend, Prabu took the beautiful photo that symbolises my trip.

I was overwhelmed with true joy when surfing for the first time in Sydney, but also when I was lying naked and alone on a beach in Western Australia or when I hiked the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand, danced the traditional dances in Fiji and Samoa, when I first tried Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, when I relaxed tubing in Laos, or while seeing my business blossom naturally and effortlessly after so many stops and failures. I was happy surfing again in Canggu, hugging a dear friend on top of the rice fields in Ubud, or while talking about love and commitment with a long-lasting stable couple or when I realised that perfect love does not exist and we are human with another favourite couple I am lucky to call my friends. And I was happy to discover that life is all this. It’s made of little, brief moments when everything is exactly as it’s meant to be and nothing, absolutely nothing, could be any better.

Because everything is already perfect. It is as it is meant to be.

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Am I ready to go home?

Of course not. I thought I would by now, but the thing is that no one ever feels completely ready when the moment to board that last plane comes. Surely no one who has the bad habit of setting super high expectations for themselves. And I’m guilty of that, of course. Nobody feels as changed as they had planned to be when they firstly left home. Personally, I don’t know if I have truly changed or if my current conditions and mindset make me act as a different person to whom I was before. What I do know now, and I know it really well, is what freedom tastes like. And it tastes like sea water and honey, watermelon and chilli. And it tastes like Life.

During my journey, I also learnt the meaning of losing everything. Of feeling lost and really alone. Of not knowing who you are or what do you belong to. But the most important lesson of the entire trip was that Another Life is Possible. If you really lose everything, if you don’t have anything else to lose, then you gotta start all over and build something new, something amazing just for yourself. And believe that you can

I am scared. 

I know I’ve lived as much as I could. Not by ticking off things off of a list, I’ve only been to 13 countries in 20 months, but by embracing the people and the world around me. By letting it go under my skin, day by day, person by person.
I am not going home only after 20 months of travel around the world, I am going home exactly after 10 years of living abroad and away from my family and friends.

It’s freaking scary. It’s overwhelming and is frightening and exciting. As I walk down into the tunnel to the plane, there are thousands of emotion exploding inside me. While I was packing Frank (my big backpack), one more time, I had tears in my eyes. Today, I learnt to welcome all these emotions as I know they are all part of the journey, they are all part of life. And I also know that soon enough I will be going back to the other home I’ve created for myself. The one up there in the sky. Or on the road. Because I feel home everywhere. The world is my home. Because my home is everywhere and anywhere I have been. But also where I haven’t been yet.

They say home is where the heart is

But my heart is wild and free

So am I homeless or just heartless

Did I start this, did it start me

They say fear is for the brave

For cowards never stare it in the eye

So am I fearless to be fearful

Does it take courage to learn how to cry

So many winding roads

So many miles to go

(Passenger)

I am always gonna be fine

But as I went through security, as I got another exit stamp on my passport, as I am sitting on this plane, I feel stronger. Stronger than ever. Because the road taught me that I will be fine. I will be fine always and everywhere. Nothing can break me because nothing was fixed to start with. The truth is that not only I found myself. But I found that little, permanent home, just inside myself. The perfect place to rest after a long day, the cosy home I made for me only. In a world where nothing is permanent, constant, I learnt that I AM my own constant element in the equation of life.

Only me on both side of the equal sign. And it’s more than enough.

going home after a long time

Embrace Life as it comes

It’s impossible to know what might happen next. Or why. What this situation will bring to you. Or which way you will take when faced with a big decision. Why some things will be destroyed. What makes some other blossom, die or change. How people get sick, change or leave. How people can love you, make promises, break them, break your heart. Live without you. Forget you. It’s impossible to explain why children die while the sun still rises every morning. It is impossible to understand. But it is unavoidable.

It took me 5 years, 1 month and 2 days to become the person I dreamed to become. To fully transform the little girl I once was into the woman I imagined I could be. I aspired to be. I ought to be. It took so much out of me. It broke me into a million little pieces, but they say that sometimes you need to smash a crumbling house in order to build a stronger one. And so I did.

Set fire to your boats

I set fire to the boats of my safe life, I scratched my title and experiences, I chose freedom while fear, hustles and struggles were burning all around me. And I fell. Oh gosh, I fell so deep. I burnt myself too.

I felt more alone than ever. It was like I was the only person remained in the universe. But that was ok too. Because alone was what I needed. What I wanted and because by learning to be alone I became much stronger, so much wider, so much better.

I no longer beg for attention, for love. I no longer need love to fix me. The waves crashing on the beach, the birds singing, the clouds moving above my head, a familiar tune in the background, a smile of a stranger, my own smile. All of this are enough. They are more than enough, they are everything.

They are everything.

My life, my wonderful life, like all lives, so impermanent, so imperfect, so fragile, yet so powerful, so mesmerising, so scary. So remarkable. So mine.

going home after long time

Live life to the fullest.

Exit your comfort zone. Feel uncomfortable, feel scared. Do something on your own. Miss your friends. Feel lonely. Eat the food you’re not used to. Pack your backpack, sweat. Sleep on bunk beds. Sleep in the middle of the desert. Don’t sleep and party all night. Rise early. And feel strong, feel connected. Lose yourself. Lose everything. Just let it be. Breath. Look at a beautiful sunset on the other side of the world. And feel at home wherever you are. Feel that you are exactly where you need to be in this moment. Live in the present, forget the past, don’t stress about the future. They do not exist. Be. Here. Now.

Make it remarkable. 

So yes, after these last 20 months exploring the world, exploring myself, loving the world, loving myself, I am ready to go home. I am ready to go home after a long time.

 

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“Mystery” Revealed: How I afford to Travel

money

The question I get asked the most is:

Why ?

Why I left my job to go travelling?

It is usually accompanied by wide-open eyes and incredulous disbelief.

I actually never seriously thought about the answer up to when I really had to think about it for an interview I was giving. It was the right time to stop the automated answering-machine of the “I needed a change / I wanted to see the world”.

It was time to be honest with others and mostly myself and I finally put it out there and you can read the latest version here.

The second thing I get asked more frequently is How? Or better:

How do you afford to travel?

This question is  also normally accompanied with wide-open eyes and huge curiousity, suspicion, envy and/or a good degree of hope.

Well, let me tell you now once and forever. I’ve answered this question many, many times individually, but I’ve limited free time now so I don’t want to do it anymore. I will be replying to all the future messages with a link to this post and as I’ve been working on it for weeks I believe I’ve created something really honest, comprehensive and clear. So, I’m pretty sure the below -with some percentage variations- will be valid throughout 2016. Unless, something major will change in my income flow (like I win the lottery! Hurrah!), in which case I will promptly update this post. 🙂

I hope I’ll be able to answer all your questions and curiosity, but if, after reading through, you still have doubts or need advice, please feel free to leave me a comment below and I’ll try to answer and help you the best way possible.

Like my very good friend and inspiring travel blogger Gloria said in an Huffington Post article that went viral last year: “People think there’s this magic formula out there. This one-size-fits-all-encompassing route that gives everyone an equal chance of seeing the world.”

There is not such a formula!

You are alone and you need to find your own formula and make it work for you and only you know which one is it. I won’t tell you what to do, not will I say that my path is the one you need to follow. This is my experience and it can work for you or cannot.

So, let’s set things straight right away.

 [This is a long, honest post, so if you wish to read the juice, short answer, you can jump to a few paragraphs below to the first numbered  list]

I am not a millionaire and my family isn’t either. In fact, my family probably sits in the lower end of the Italian middle-class AND I’ve been independent since I was 14.

Yup, at that age I got my first job, waitressing in restaurants, cafes and pubs. That year I received one of the “worst news ever” for a girl that age: I suddenly had to wear spectacles and, as I was competing at regional and national level in gymnast tournaments, I surely did not want to do that: I had to buy contact lenses and my  parents would never approve such an superfluous  expense.  week after the diagnosis, I got my first job. I was 14 and I never took a break up to last May (2015), when I left my 8-year corporate job.

I’m 31 years old now.

That means that I’ve worked 16 years straight in my life.

NON – STOP.

You probably already know where this is going, but let’s do some melancholic and nostalgic fast-rewind first that will help you to have a clearer picture of how I afford to travel.
At the age of 17, bored of my low-paid waitressing job, I decided to spend a summer entertaining German and French  kids in a resort in Sicily, Italy. The same year, as I had to pay for my driving license, my income wasn’t enough so I managed to get a leafleting job in the afternoon in the freezing winters in northern Italy, and another one at a bakery on Sundays where I had to start at 6am, get changed in the car around 12pm to go to my other restaurant job for another 8-10 hour shift.

Later on, when I was at uni, I had four jobs at the same time AND attended lessons.

Yes, I was tired. Actually I was exhausted most of the time. I wasn’t great at uni and I often fell asleep in class or missed  lessons because I was too tired to drag my poor body and mind out of bed, or I had to take extra shifts but I was saving money.

So, what happened after?

Well, after my shining 8-year career in the hospitality industry – while I saw and experienced very little of what people my age where doing – it was time to move on and hope for a new, more-rewarding, less tiring job and I happened to find a (paid) internship in London.

Most people would say that I was lucky (but I don’t believe in luck, so call me that if you wish, but I know I worked my a** to be at the right place at the right moment. So, Mrs Luck has very little to do with this story (or my life in general; but this is another article I’m writing at the moment).

The internship which was meant to last only two and half months, ended up lasting 6 months (insert here: I worked 12 hours, went the extra mile on every single project, took on more projects than expected and beaten the competition) and again, as money were not enough as an intern, I got an evening job in a pub too. Bear in mind that at that time I didn’t finish uni yet. I was still writing my thesis while working two jobs and trying to enjoy London too!

After I graduated, I got hired on a permanent basis by the company where I was interning and there you go, I was on the corporate ladder in no time.

From here, I don’t want to bother you with the details of all my achievements, frustrations, fights, tears, FOMOs, promotions, loneliness and injustice I went through to get where I was last year. Let’s just say I spent 8 years working extremely hard  in corporate, less-corporate, non-corporate companies in London and Milan to arrive where I wanted to be by the age of 30.

Throughout my first 30 years on this planet I also made a lot of sacrifices – not going out drinking, clubbing, dining or spending money on stupid things (even though I have done that a few times!) while consciously keeping my greater goal in mind.

When I did entered the forth decade of my life and I had to change the number 2 with the number 3 in front of my age, I was, in fact, proud, satisfied and accomplished in all my career goals and it was time to do something new. It was time to open that mental drawer where I secretly herded all my sheepish dreams and take them out and see what would happen.unknown.gif

Saving is my lucky pot at the end of the rainbow, a pot I’ve built for myself through the years and where nobody ever chipped anything on my behalf. Nope, my parents never gave me any financial support, if we exclude the time I had to change tires of my car and I had not enough savings.

earned  every cent that now represents the fuel I’m currently and slowly burning to explore this wonderful planet of ours.

What else am I doing?

I’ve decided to be completely honest with you as I think there is already so much bulls*** online about bloggers who show off their full-time blogging career when daddy is actually paying all their expensive stays and first-class flights around the world. Or where in fact bloggers and instagrammers are sent off to wonderful locations (Yes, I’ve done it too!), but for free, so they are not actually earning a living, they are simply having a great holiday in a fantastic place and the price tag for that is a blog post or a few insta-pictures. Well, a little advice here: don’t get fooled by those who say you can make a living out of blogging. They can’t. You can’t. I can’t. 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999% can’t live J U S T off of blogging (and I’m including Instagram here). I saw and know too many people who left their solid job to pursue a career as blogger or Instagramer and the majority of them failed miserably. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying it’s truly hard and uber competitive. For a million users who are dreaming to travel the world on press trips and a suitcase pack filled with sponsored gears, there is one or two who actually do. For a 10000 who receive gifts and props there are a handful who (ask to) get paid. And no, I don’t get paid to *just* travel and sit by a pool drinking cocktails after a Swedish message at a spa. I wish! 🙂

unknown.gifKeeping this truth in mind, I knew that once I left my safe job, I had to re-invent myself and possibly create a new me.

So, let’s fast-forward to last Summer when I actually left my prestigious job to pursue my passions and my desire to travel.

What did I do exactly? I decided to become a portfolio worker, or a creative freelancer or a jack of all trades, call it what you like: I’m somebody who’s left behind the idea of sitting in an office for 40 years, but is realistic about her needs and will work hard to make ends meet.

Wrapping up the answer now, mystery is finally solved! Here is how I afford to travel. It doesn’t mean it is how you can afford to travel, it doesn’t mean you need to copy and paste the below to your life.

As I said above, you need to find your own magic formula!

Here is how I diversified my income  (as you can read in more details under my Contact page):

  1. Savings (as mentioned above and there is a whole chapter about minimalism and saving I’m going to write about soon…
  2. Management consulting/Project Management: the same job I did before but for my own clients and on a freelance basis now;
  3. Writing
    • Magazines: The Guardian, Il Sole 24 Ore, Mission and others
    • Blog posts, guest posts and reviews
    • Ghost writing (you would be shocked to know the amount of famous bloggers who actually don’t blog at all!!!)
  4. Photography:
    • photographic assignments: travel, lifestyle editorial and commercial (since February 2016, I’m represented by Townsend/London
    • Instagram coverage
    • prints – check my shop now! My first photographic memoir about India is available in pre-order now with 20% discount till end of February, Shipping worldwide from September 2016
    • photography workshop (you can book your ticket for the next one on my shop)
    • photographic content for my clients’ channels
  5. Social media:
    • Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat strategies and campaigns, competitions, brand ambassadorships, takeovers for small, medium, large clients in travel, leisure and lifestyle. You might have seen some on my channels but others are handled completely behind the scene (anonymously) by me
  6. Affiliation: you might have noticed that in the last few posts I’ve added some affiliated links. I’ve only used these for products I LOVE and brands I TRUST. It’s an incredibly tiny income (0.12$ in December! YAY!), but every little helps, right? By the way, it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but it gives me a micro percentage of your purchase.

So it’s H A R D and you might be thinking that I’m suggesting to give up your dreams, but I’m not. I’m actually giving your some

Practical Tips:

  1. Jump like Tarzan.
    Yes, don’t leave your current liana before you safely caught the next on: If you have one, keep your safe, permanent job as long as necessary before you start your gardening, photography, writing, knitting, painting or whatever business you want to get in. Keep your focus and goal, but don’t get fooled by the people bragging about how easy it is. It is not easy. And it requires loads of work, day and night, weekends included.
  2. Keep doing what you love on the side, until you are 80% sure that your new creative lifestyle can be sustainable.  Keep doing it  because you love it not because you seek success or you think you deserve success.You don’t.
    I don’t.Nobody was born with the granted amount of success. Or money.Maybe your art will be successful or maybe mine will. But I know for a fact that what people appreciate the most (even in terms of Instagram likes if you want), is when I put my heart our there when I share my creativity and not when I think I got a good shot or I’m aiming for thousands of likes.
  3. Ask yourself this simple question:
    Are you willing to try without the success or without the guarantee of success (and I’m not talking just about financial success), or not?Because if you are not, then perhaps you shouldn’t pursue a creative life. Maybe this isn’t the right path for you. Perhaps you should get your head around the fact that if you mainly want money and fame, there are plenty of jobs that pay extremely well (I just left one behind) and the path to get those is tough but not as tough as in the art / creative world.But, on the other hand, if you are really committed to your dream and your art, well then forget the money, stick to your job and keep creating on the side (at sunrise or at night if necessary!)
  4. Save. Save. Save.
    Yes, I hear you, your answer is: “Well, you *did* leave your job!”Yeah, I did, but before doing that I spent years saving up for this big jump. I carefully decided exactly my moves and crafted a budget that  allowed me to take the risk without becoming homeless but actually travelling in the meantime. As I said, I’m a realistic dreamer: 2016 is the year of my leap of faith, the plan is to eliminate the use of #1 and #2 from my revenue stream above while increasing the others. Is it possible? I don’t know yet, what I do know is that I’m working super hard to get there, I will work extra-time and constantly pushing the boundaries of my creativity, inspiration and comfort zone.And unless you are willing to do the same (or have very rich parents/partner), don’t jump. The cliff is extremely deep, wide and dangerous. If you jump without a working parachute, you are mad. No, you are stupid.
    And stupid people don’t succeed. They normally just smash on the ground and then bother others to pick them up. Well, I’m not going to pick anybody up because… Well, because I told you not to jump in the first place 😉
  5. Don’t set yourself  an irrational monetary target, if you do, you are going to fail. When you try to create anything under that pressure, you won’t be able to to put your heart in it and your work will be s***, your art will pay the consequences and ultimately you will too.So. Just. Don’t.So, my ultimate honest and heartfelt advice?
  6. Get a job that pays well, start saving from your very first check. Expand your knowledge and become a portfolio worker rather than a specialist. Or, at the opposite, become the best expert of a niche where you can indeed expect to be paid extraordinarily well. Stick to the job until you are ready. Then, and only then, set off for your trip/start-up/restaurant/art studio whatever you have in mind.

Is it hard? Immensely.

Is it fun? Absolutely.

Is the best choice I have ever made? No doubt.

Think about these points and make your own decision and ask yourself: am I still willing to sacrifice my savings, my free time with an extra job and maybe sell my beloved possessions?

Well, if you are, get ready and go. If you are not then, maybe you can try with the lottery or wait for that third-degree auntie to leave you a million $ inheritance.I’m going to leave you with  two examples of success that I’ve recently came across.

One is Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the world phenomenon Eat, Love and Pray, who kept her three jobs while and after publishing that book. Now, here we are talking about millions and millions of dollars, but still she kept waitressing during the day and writing at night. What does tell you? If you really love your art, you will find the time to dedicate some time and maybe, just maybe it could become your full-time job.

The second is an insightful podcast interview to Lauren P. Bath one of my ever favourite and most inspirational instagramers and one of the earliest “influencer” (probably when that profession didn’t even exist!) She worked super hard both in her career as a chef and later as an Instagramer/marketing strategist. She never took anything for granted. So, why should you? Listen to the podcast here.

And, remember…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Start Somewhere.

Make it Remarkable. 

[And about books, if you wish to join our bookclub and discuss about her latest best seller Big Magic , register your attendance here.]

The moment you stop expecting success and money from your art,
you will finally be free to create and dedicate your heart and soul solely to the purpose of art.
Nothing else.

 

Agra – A Photo Essay

Agra is that one city that everybody who visits India has to pass through. Not because it has something special, but because it’s very close  to something extraordinary and famous in the entire world. A little bit like Alice Springs in Australia or Anaheim in California, Agra is a gateway to something else, something pretty incredible in fact, it is not exactly a city you would normally include in your itinerary if it didn’t host the best, grandest, most beautiful monument on Earth – at least, in my humble opinion.  Something that everybody in Europe, USA, South America, Australia and the rest of Asia has seen at least once in a postcard, TV or a magazine.
I’m obviously talking about the Taj Mahal, that one and only building I wanted to see since I was 5 or even younger as I found a postcard and fell in love with it straight away. 25 years later and having brought that card with me in 3 different cities across two countries where I lived in the past,  the dream became real as I was standing in front of all its grand beauty.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, the white marble mausoleum on the southern bank of the Yamuna River is in fact a tomb that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal.  It took about thirty years and about 20,000 artisans to complete, but Shah Jahan didn’t actually had time to enjoy the outstanding monument as his son quickly imprisoned him to take over the reign.

Anyhow, enough words for now, I let this white, huge, moving, perfect building speak for itself.

Photo Tips:

#1 Leave  your tripod and big expensive lens at home. They might let you only take one camera/lens, definitely not a tripod or a gorillapod and you will be asked to leave it outside, no storage facility from the gate I entered, so I kindly had a shopkeeper looking after my stuff while I was inside.

#2 Enter from the southern gate, it’s the least popular for some reasons, but the queue is also the faster one.

#3 If possible, go there in the morning as soon as it opens (normally at sunrise), to get some nice #empty shots, but stay there until people arrive to give some scale to the building. If you wish/can, you should go back around sunset to capture the changing colours of the marble. Ideally, find a place to set your camera on a stone or something for a long time-lapse.

#4 Boat trips are not longer available; the river’s water is very polluted, therefore dangerous  – however, local people keep having sacred baths by its shores.

#5 Tickets are 750Rs (about £7.50) for foreigners . It’s worth going back if you have the time!

* * *

While in Agra, there is also another outstanding place you should visit: Agra Fort, the one fort (among millions) you must visit while in India. The photo essay continues:

Stay tuned for my Indian adventures!

On the right track…

Why on the right track? Because, cycling is cool again. Thanks to the Olympics and Bradley Wiggins, owning a bike and being able to get around London on it, now represents an achievement. We are back on the right track because cycling respects the environment and allows us to do some inexpensive exercise on top of seeing the world at a different pace from an overground perspective.

But cycling is back also around the world, and a little selection of my bikes’ hunt from my travels exhibited at Vinarius in London, wants to show that people are cycling again and more than ever, not only here, but also in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Ubud, Venice, Rome and beyond… In this show, bikes are pictured as models, as status symbols as objects of desire or as part of our daily life. But what if you couldn’t ride? What if your disabilities didn’t allow you to cycle the world? What if your legs wouldn’t collaborate when you were sitting on your shining fixie?

On the Right Track supports Wheels for Wellbeing a Brixton-based charity that removes barriers to cycling. Through their person-centred approach they enhance disabled people’s lives by ensuring that anyone can access the physical, emotional, practical and social benefits of cycling. For this reason, and to get us all back On the Right Track, I’ve opened a JustGiving page where I’m hoping to raise £500. Any piece sold through this exhibition will contribute to this goal with 100% of the sale given to “Wheels for Wellbeing”.

These pictures are available in other size, type and format; if interested please contact me to thestorytellerphotos@gmail to arrange your prints and/or make an “offline donation”.

If you are not interested in any prints, but still wish to contribute directly to the fundraising, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/OnTheRightTrack to make a donation.

Thank you for your help and support.

 

In loving memory of P, a great cyclist who helped me to get back…

On My Right Track

 

Greece Off Season

There are some obvious advantages from traveling off season, for example flights and accommodations being much, much cheaper, less crowds around and shorter queues to museums and restaurants. And I have traveled “off peak” a few times now to be able to affirm that is, by far, my favourite way to see places. I love avoiding the rage of cheap airlines’ hostess if my hand luggage is 0.8cm longer than allowed, or having that extra sit in between me and the next fellow passenger where we can both put our stuff. I love peace and calm. It might well be because I live in one of the most populated cities in the world, but when I travel, I don’t want to have the same stress I have at home. I want to be able to find peace in a peaceful place.

Santorini

Anyhow, having said that, when you go to Santorini off season is totally different.

It is like being on a movie set but before the stars and director arrive. It’s like being there with the scenographers, the costume designers, make-up crew, before the start day. Everything is getting a fix, a new layer is being put, the set is being finalised: walls are freshly painted in white, doors and windows fixed, steps and stairs re-done. Wherever you look, there are painters and handy men doing their things. And there no actors (aka= tourists) whatsoever. I mean to say the complete truth, while I was in Oia, there were 8 (eight) other people, clearly not locals,  who were also exploring the beautiful island in an awkward (or less popular?) time of the year. It was just fantastic! Can you imagine having one of the most famous islands in the world just for yourself (and very few others)? Well, that’s the feeling when you go to Santorini in January. The advantages are others too. A friend of mine who was there with me this week, who also visited it in the summer, said it was impossible to take a singular picture without head, arm, leg or a** of someone suddenly walking in front of your camera. She also told me that on some spots it was necessary to queue for 40/50 minutes to take that specific, famous pic. Now, I ain’t a patient person, that wouldn’t have gone done well with me at all. I would have skipped the picture and gone home without. A local we met told us, like it’s written in the Frommers guide to forget about Oia postcards-looking sunsets during the summer as there are too many people and it’s impossible to get a nice spot, unless, of course you are lucky (and rich) enough to have rented a cave house with a terrace or you are staying at one of those luxurious hotels with a swimming pool on the balcony.

Well, I got both in January: one of the most amazing accommodation I ever stayed (in one of the typical cave houses), with a stunning view of the Caldera, the sunset and the rest of white & blue Oia, for a very, very reasonable price. On top of this, I also got the sun and the warmth, of course not the summer warmth, but warm enough to walk around in my t-shirt and get a shy tan on my face too.

Santorini There are obvious, but small, disadvantages too, I’m honest: for example there were only two restaurants and one bakery open in Oia. But hey, I hate taking decisions and having too much choice, so while we were there we made sure to try both and choose our favourite without too much thinking. If you are not a minimalist like me, and love your shopping while on holiday, you probably would go mental staying in a place where there are no shops open.  But for me, being totally uninterested in buying touristy crap, it wasn’t an issue at all, I actually didn’t miss it at all.

Fira, being the capital is a completely different story: shops, bars and restaurants were mostly open, the choice was much harder and longer, but we easily decided to have a very long lunch at Cafe Classico, one of the best views in the whole island. Food was lovely, local white wine too, the view spectacular and we also managed to had a nice chat about the island with the owner as he only had other few guests while we were there.

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The other thing I love while traveling off season is that locals have time. They are naturally inclined to spend more time with visitors, they aren’t stressed by the queues I was mentioning above and oftentimes they are willing to sit down at your table to share some funny or interesting facts about their city/island/village as it obviously happen in Santorini. It’s is a unique advantage you can never get in the hectic months of the summer and the one I love the most: being able to connect with the locals and scratch under the surface to understand the place and the people I’m visiting. That’s the difference between being a tourist and traveler, I believe and I obviously put myself in the second category.

Other interesting facts about Oia, this tiny cute village in the north part of Santorini, is that there are probably four wi-fi routers and you can basically connect with the same password wherever you go, or worse, your phone will connect letting you know you have a new email, whatsapp or something. As soon as I realised that, I made sure to turn off all my notifications 🙂
Holidays for me is time away from the “digital society” too. If I’m travelling solo, it’s the opportunity to connect with locals and meet other travellers, if I am with friends, like this time, it’s our chance to have quality time together. So it was this time too: I would only connect to post a couple of pictures and make my friends around the world jealous (joking! Or maybe not… ) But I knew, from experience, that all the rest could wait and so it did wait this time too.

Santorini

The last two days of our trip were spent in Athens, Greece capital, a city pregnant with history and social differences. It was there, outside the idyllic, almost-fake-looking Santorini, that I realised the poor state this country still is. Not only looking at the fading facades or scrappy buildings, but mainly looking into people’s eyes and faces. If you, like me, are an alert observer, you could see and feel the general resignation, disappointment, delusion and defeat that soaks Greek people on Athens streets.

Greece is not just ancient history, you must remember that its legacy had and has an incredible influence on our current global culture. Think of the Olympics, but also of philosophy, theatre, fashion and not lastly, democracy, possibly the most important heritage they left to the modern world. I was walking among the ruins where this word was born, and I was thinking about its origins : in Greek is “δημοκρατία” which combines the elements demos (δῆμος, which means “people”) and krátos (κράτος, which means “force” or “power”), basically “people power”. If you think that these ideals of fairness, personal freedom and ultimately governance by the population itself where born in the 5th century b.c., it is quite breathtaking and impressive.  As I was thinking all of this, it was also shocking to realise that Greece was, very unfortunately (and very similarly to my own home-country, Italy) let down by its own democratic government which spoiled itself with huge and unacceptable public spendings for decades. Since the global financial crisis which hit Greece in 2009, the Greek demos has been suffering six straight years of steep decline only rescuing 0.8 GDP growth last year.

Athens I really wish Greece the best with these new election at the end of the month. I really hope this amazing country will find the way to its glorious and shining previous outlook. I wish the stunning beauty and history that surrounds its cities and islands will help the Greek people to look up and find their smile again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on traveling off/on season, but I’d also love to hear your ideas on past, present and future Greece.

Live More. Do More. Be More.

More picture from Santorini & Athens here.
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