James Ferrux – from Joke Writer to Professional Poker Player

remarkable

After the successful first 10 interviews of the series of “They made it remarkable” in Italian and because of a growing demand to translate them to English, I’ve decided to switch to this language from now on and move the future interviews here.

Welcome.

 

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JOB: Poker player and writer
LIFESTYLE: Digital nomad
SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook
AGE: 32
NATIONALITY: French

 

Where are you from?

I was born in France, raised in the Antilles, Cuba, Canada, Asia, and currently still growing in Morocco

Education?

I managed to stand it only until the end of high school. I started working when I was 18.

What did you do in your previous life?

I had many jobs but the last one was joke writer, comedian assistant and baby-sitter.

What do you do today?

I play poker, travel, still write for pleasure and baby-sit myself.

Why did you decide to take the jump?

I had reached a certain goal, an apartment in Paris, a fancy job for a famous TV network, I could buy all the sneakers I wanted each month, had finally that great DVD shelf I had always dreamt of, but I felt like Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean, I didn’t have taste for life anymore, an empty vessel… So I let myself hit rock bottom, I was like in a balloon that cannot stretch anymore, I felt I needed to get out, get some fresh air. When I realized I could get out I punctured my way out, I did it the quick and noisy way!

Did you need to study something new or go back to uni to change your life?

I felt I needed to change my perspective, to take some distance, flip the microscope the other way around. Let everything go, went to Asia for a while to figure out what I would miss, what would survive in me. I understood it was all shitty because of me so I needed to work on myself. I changed my energy, I was not resisting anymore so finally I was able to see and accept the opportunities to try something different. It all started with a “group therapy” kind of thing, where I learned to reposition my ego and then I went on reading, learning meditation, travelling, putting myself first and all that cool stuff…

make remarkable

Since you’ve changed direction, have you ever thought you made a mistake?

Yeah of course, mistakes are like drafts, experiences, tests, try-outs, warm-ups, it’s just a way to learn and improve… It’s what makes great bloopers in movies so they are indispensable. Trying not to beat myself too hard for each one I make is what changed. I repeat to myself the cheesy Zen line

“it’s okay not to be okay”

What were the hardest challenges and tough moments before and after the change?

The toughest if I can call it that is what is still going on today and what has always been, it’s feeling “forced” to explain and justify the way I live, the way I think to friends and relatives and all those who think they know me better than I do. “Why the heck did you leave the herd ??” I seem to read in their eyes. So it’s always the same 20 minutes small talk to finally hear them saying:

“oh you’re probably right, maybe I too should take control of my life and do what I want before I turn into compost…”

And then they go back to their predigested life and talk behind my back like I went completely rogue.

But who cares? I’m happy.

make remarkable

And the biggest satisfactions and achievements?

Becoming a profitable poker player like I planned 10 months ago, being able to leave France for good, living anywhere I want and pretty much doing whatever I want without owing shit to anybody. I am free.

Do you think your new lifestyle is sustainable in the long run?

I completely stopped projecting myself in hypothetical futures, I am right here, right now. Whether it’s poker or something else I’ve managed to make a living so far. You know the saying,

“The bird doesn’t fear the branch he’s lying on breaks, he trusts his wings”.

There’s always a way to make it.

Considering your new life: what is more important education or experience?

To me, education sounds with “educastration”. I wouldn’t trade my years travelling in different cultures, my adventures, my disappointments, my discoveries through experience for any certificate in the world. “Diploma is the deadly enemy of culture” said some famous French guy (Paul Valery).

How important was knowing other languages for your change?

Lucky for me I’ve always loved English and I learned Spanish in Cuba so that covers pretty much a lot. I understand it can be an issue if you can’t communicate, but don’t worry you’ll find a way.

remarkable

How has your life changed since you jumped off of that plane?

Actually, I’ve never taken so many planes since I left the old me. I love to play with my senses and change decor. Everything that happens now is the direct result of my actions, no one else to blame or to thank, that’s what changed.

What would you recommend to people who are hoping to pursue a similar career to yours?

Nothing, just listen to your heart, your guts or whichever organ you like to converse with and go for it.

“Listen to your heart, there’s nothing else you can do. I don’t know where you’re going and I don’t know why, but listen to your heart before you tell him goodbye” – Roxette

Have you read any books, listened to podcasts or watched movies/vlogs that have inspired you to exit the loop?

Yes, a few classics, Eat Pray Love, The Power of Now, The Four Agreements, Liberez votre cerveau by Idriss Aberkane, to learn thinking outside the box, and probably a list of 30 more mystic books that some fellow travellers keep adding titles to…

make remarkable

Would you say your life is remarkable* today?

YES. AND IT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING…

 

*remarkable: extraordinary, exceptional, amazing, astonishing, astounding, marvellous, wonderful, sensational, stunning, incredible, unbelievable, miraculous, phenomenal, prodigious. HAPPY. 

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If you are also tired of your life and feel as there must be something more beyond what’s “normal”, join the 
Make It Remarkable revolution on Facebook where we share successes, failures, tips and practical info to leave the cage and CHANGE your life. Yes, Another Life is Possible.

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NOTE: Yes, the links above are affiliated to Amazon. If you chose to buy the books using them ca 0.00001% of the price goes to support this website.

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

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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. 

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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

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 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

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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.

Sorry Sydney, Melbourne wins

When I started blogging, almost 10 years ago, I had the firm intention to write and post everyday. At that time, I used a platform called Fotolog and in the evening, upon finishing my homework for school,  I would use my parents desktop computer to upload a (horrible) grainy and heavily edited picture along with my day reportage, a poem, a story or a meaningful quote. Many years have passed, I have since closed that photoblog and opened two more, including the one you are currently reading and the only one I’ve designed from scratch. I barely manage to write more than 4 blog posts a month and sometimes (much) less than that. Sailing early days as freelancer since launching last year has been crazy scary,very intense, inspiring and extremely rewarding. Often, an enlightening (and painful) lesson on my own limits and skills. To be completely honest, I had the best intentions to keep you posted on my down under travels, but Life {aka adventures, hikes, new and old friends, explorations, lessons, realisations and my new job} took over and here I am with an overdue overview of my month in Melbourne and the beautiful state of Victoria. 

Like my other very popular Indian guides, here’s your CREED*, collecting all the most important things you need to do while visiting this wonderful part of the world.

Here’s your:

Melbourne & Victoria’s Creed

COFFEE

Market Lane Coffee
An Australian legend that must be visited (and tasted!) to be believed! Be prepared for long queues, but they are well worthy before or after your visit to Queen Victoria’s Market. 

Monk Bodhi Dharma
A very tiny and cute cafe with some seating indoors. It’s set in a very well hidden place just off Chapel St in an unassuming car park. The staff is cool, hipster and fun, the blend used beyond words.

 

Brother Baba Budan
Another very tiny and cute cafe in the CBD with a quirky ceiling filled by hanging chairs. The place is very small and baristas’ attitude a bit arrogant and rushed, but that’s – I learnt – is what happens when a city is named global capital of coffee (aka: most baristas in Melbourne have the superhero attitude and arrogance, while they are pouring milk on a flat white they put on the face a surgeon would while transplanting hearts.)

The St Kilda Dispensary
A very peculiar coffee-shop in the beautiful St Kilda settings. The interiors are designed with a pharmacy in mind and everything served with that concept in mind, including the caramel-injected muffins 🙂 

READ

Melbourne State Library
You should know by now that I’m addicted erm, in love with books, libraries, (some librarians) and bookshops, so you can imagine my face and emotion when my friend Toni Frazer took me here after our delicious lunch at Supernormal (more below). The State Library of Victoria is a wonderful example of Victorian architecture and hosts the state’s largest public reference and research library. Make sure to visit La Trobe Reading Room (in the pic) with it’s wonderful white and imposing domed roof.

Books for Cooks
Another favourite at the Vic market: I spent entire afternoon here browsing the many titles and reading about new and old recipes from around the world. I have to admit I also stole a few ideas for my hostel nights & friends 🙂

Grub Street Bookshop
Another cute bookshop that gives Melbourne that special hip vibe without turning hipster. I loved browsing around for a few hours and filling up my reading list for the next few months, erm..years!

Books

The Melbourne Design Guide
It is clear that architects of major (and minor) talent have played with Melbourne’s architecture in the last few decades. The result is a messy, beautiful mix of styles and ambitions. You can learn more with this quirky and fun guide.

The Underbelly 
An interesting look into Melbourne’s underground world of crime, police corruption, hitmen and dead people during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Not for the faint at heart.

EXPLORE

Philip Island
One of the must do while in Melbourne. The world’s famous destination – and one of the only places – where you can see many, sorry I mean thousands of tiny penguins roaming around like in a Disney cartoon. To see this natural wonder, I decided to book my day trip with the best providers in town: Go West Tours which not only offers a day long exploration of Island, but also a cheese and wine tasting around lunch time and one of the funniest drive through the day. The Little Penguins that will delight you in the evening, are the smallest in the world and are only found in Southern Australia. The Penguins Parade is quite commercial and the viewing platform isn’t the best (some people had a very close look at the little animals, while others sitting at the back could only catch a glimpse of one or two). It’s also quite an expensive experience, but fortunately, all the money made goes back into research. Please be aware that photography is not allowed, since the flash blinds the little penguins so put away your camera, phones and whatever else for the preservation of this delicate species. (footnote: it’s a shame, for a semi-professional photographer like me, that the growing number of people with big cameras who don’t know how to use them (aka turn off their flash) once again affected my experience – the pictures you see here are not mine but of Go West Tours – this happens more and more often in churches, libraries and other places, not because artworks could be affected by photography, but by the flash, so here’s my request people and amateur photographers: read your manual, learn how to switch off your flash or simply buy a much simpler camera 😃 thank you!

Mt Donna Buang
Another Melbourne surprise that I only discovered thanks to the fantastic @igersmelbourne and the Melbourne Crew communities who invited me to one of their exclusive photo events. Thanks to Ben, Mallory and @ktaztrofk @deecamino, @sharoo0n,@s.wei_, @elleidaujackiemaz94 and the rest of the gang for making me feel SO welcome and for showing me such an amazing part of your city!

Great Ocean Road
This was another top priority in my to-do list for Australia, along with surfing, Uluru and the Whitsundays (yes, I know some common expectations, sorry! :P) So, having been able to drive down one of the most scenic roads in a 1970s WV Kombi, was not just a dream come true, but the end of a lifetime obsession. With my friend Taherah we drove up and down the Victorian coast with the beautiful AppleJack and stopping in all the little towns on our way. I hadn’t seen my friend since 2010 when she left London where, back then, we were working together at posh weddings/events as waitresses, to relocate to Melbourne where she leads a very successful career in cancer research. It was emotional to see her again – I had my doubts I wouldn’t see her ever again – and it’s true sometimes that distance is just mental and we had a real blast during our time together. Taherah is also a keen and talented photographer, so our road trip was filled with impromptu stops along the way to take just-one-more picture.

So, a long-lost friend, a beautiful Kombi and one of the best roads in the world? What else you need? Well, the sun would have been sweet and a few stars also would have made everything perfect, but I’m not here to complain. It was just perfect. Thank you to @hireakombi for making my dream come true!

The Grampians
This beautiful National Park is better seen in autumn or spring, when the full shades of the trees and leaves are in full bloom. But, there are also impressive aboriginal artwork and more than 50 bush walks along 200km of tracks. In winter it can be very cold so remember to wrap up warm and bring an extra blanket. Along The Grampians, you must visit The Balconies, accessible via the Mount Victory Road northwest of Halls Gap. The walk to the lookout is 1.6km return and once there it offers one of the best views over the Victoria Valley.

Brighton
A day in Brighton, even in winter is another must do. Take a friend for a stroll on the beach and make sure to walk up to the little beach cabins: they are all different and colourful and a few shots here are a must! I went here with another good friend of mine, my dear Shifa, who I’ve first met in India during my travels there back in Autumn. Shifa is now studying in Melbourne and slowly adjusting to the (coooold) life down under. She’s another friend I wasn’t sure I was going to see again, but Melbourne you know, it’s just a melting pot where I got to gather with so many new and old friends that my heart was totally filled with love. 

Warrandyte State Park 5/04
An underrated park in the suburbs of Melbourne. It’s quite hard to get there by public transports, but I guess you could always hire a car instead. The walk goes along a nice creek, but the best surprise was actually seeing a few dozens of wild kangaroos jumping around and playing with each other. So cute!! 

EAT

Gelato Messina
Since opening in Darlinghurst in 2002, Gelato Messina has had one clear goal: to set the benchmark for gelato in Australia and, oh boy, as an Italian pure blood, I can tell you that they have clearly achieved their target: their gelato is to die for. Overprices (as many things in Australia), but well worth every now and then.

Supernormal
Chef Andrew McConnell’s new restaurant in Flinders Lane is a beautifully, minimalistic designed space that houses a large open kitchen and bar. With Asian inspired dishes and drinks, this is the perfect spot for lunch, dinner, events and even karaoke.

DREAM

YHA North Melbourne

I’ve never been a big fan of hostels, in particular those bed bugs filled backpackers that are very popular in Sydney and along the East Coast, but when I finally booked my stay at the YHA I understood why this chain is so popular and attracts so many people all around the world. The cleaning standards and the little details here at YHA, make all the difference since that what makes them stand them out from the competition. If you get the YHA membership, you can also take advantage of many interesting discounts and offers including the GreyHound bus and rental cars.

 

Thank you note

This article is partially sponsored – all views are my own.
First and foremost, Olympus Australia, Manfrotto and Lowepro for providing me with the best tools on the market and being a constant support and source of inspiration.
A huge thanks also to HireAKombi, Will & Bear, GoWestTours and Jeep Australia to allow me to experience and explore Melbourne and surroundings in the best way possible.

Canberra ain’t just for politicians…

Not sure why, but everybody who I enquired with, told me not to waste my time in Canberra. I did in fact took it out of my draft itinerary back in December and only put it back very quickly when my good friend Lara invited me for a ladies-only launcheon at PodFood, a 1930s cottage in the gardens of Pialligo plant farm for one of her #PassionforProvenance event. I longed to see and hug Lara again after meeting her in London a year ago, and yes, I  couldn’t stop thinking about the six-course meal awaiting for me since her email popped into my inbox. Owner and (incredibly young) chef John Leverinck makes magic with his hands and the local produces of the area. Thinking about that meal I cannot avoid licking my lips and tasting that entire delicious feast in my mouth. And once again, what I love more about Instagram is its community, so the ladies that Lara gathered where not only great photographers, but also incredible human beings. Check the other stunning picture on #passionforprovenance.

Having been stable in Sydney for six weeks, trying to recover from my Indian travels, I was itching for a new adventure so I jumped on the Internet and booked my tickets with Murrays Coaches. So, here I was, on a fabulous coach, ready for yet another adventure, my first downunder!

The express service from Central Station to Canberra takes only 3 and half hours to reach the destination. The fun part to travel by coach vs your own vehicle is that you get to meet other people you wouldn’t normally chat to if you were in your own car. Additionally another big bonus (for us, insta-addicts and bloggers) is the USB socket available on each row. On the way there and back, both drivers were hilarious filling the trip with quirky notes, interesting facts about Canberra and various jokes so that the journey was fun and not only “a ride”. So, hey a big high five for Murrays!

Once I arrived in Canberra, I was more excited than a child at Christmas about my stay at Hotel Hotel. I read and heard about it since my times back in London, so I was over the moon when I walked in and finally witnessed the majestic entrance made of more than 2150 pieces of recycled timber whoosh on the walls and the stairs designed by March Studio.

Hotel Hotel
is more than a place to stay, it’s more than a hotel, it’s a Hotel Hotel. With two capital Hs.

Nestled in the New Acton precinct area and part of the Nishi building, Hotel Hotel is the result of an deep partnership between more than fifty designers, artists, artisans and fantasists. Hotel Hotel  was created with people – people in mind as it’s stated on the doors at their other entrance. The founders chose a stylish design over a flashy luxury one. It’s cool, without being overbearing.

On the first night I managed to stay in one of their apartments which was oh! so well-decorated and beautifully thought through that I immediately felt at home. I normally don’t feel 100% comfortable in hotels, there is something that is too pretentious and fake in some of them, so it’s hard sometimes to feel good. But Hotel Hotel -and handful others I had the opportunity to visit in the past year- have this feeling that just makes you feel more than welcome, they make you feel at Home. A home away from home, basically what a nomad like me needs from time to time. On the second night I moved to a Creative Room which was equally beautifully designed with concrete walls and columns and work art and books all around. Both rooms had the largest king sized bed I have ever seen, dressed with the whitest and softer sheets ever and six (six!!) pillows. Little details like the French Press, Aesop bath products, vintage lamps, a granny-style rug on the bed, the last bestsellers next to the classics on the shelves are the ones I look for whenever I stay in a hotel. They are the little touches that make everything different and special.

You need to go and experience it first hand to understand what I am talking about, but I hope the pictures below will help a bit to give you an idea of what I mean.

You might think that I have spent the entire weekend in bed (which in fact I was really, really tempted to do), but my gorgeous luncheon and Canberra adventures were awaiting…

Download your free and printable CREED city- guide by clicking

here

Editor notes: My trip to Canberra was kindly sponsored by Murrays Coaches and Hotel Hotel – all views are my own. 

January Book Club: Big Magic

what is creativity

I’m an old-fashioned bookworm, the kind that smells books before buying them, the type that touches the pages as they were some precious, ancient manuscripts. I love physical books, but one “habit” and guilty pleasure (and probably the hardest), I had to give up for my year of wanderlust and travels, was to stop buying them. I struggled -lots, failed – twice, but I also didn’t want to carry kilos of stories in my backpack. The solution was to bring my trustworthy, old kindle with me and fill it with all my favourite classics and all the new releases I could get my hands on. I have to admit that I can’t read only one book at the time, but isn’t that also part of the fun? 🙂
So, in January I was reading a blogging manual, The Corrections by Jonathan Frenzen, 30 days in Sydney by Peter Carey and of course, 
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The world-acclaimed author of “Eat, Love and Pray” is back again with something different this time. A manual to creativity generated as a written form of her famous TED Talk, she also called a self-help book written with the voice and the tone of a friend who has been there, done it all.

I guess that if you are reading this, you’ve probably read it too or are going to.
If you haven’t read it yet, maybe you should stop here and come back when you’ve done so to avoid spoilers; if you have finished and put it down already then we are finally ready to kick off the first edition of this digital, long-distance book club (please subscribe now on the event on my Facebook page and send me a message with your email address so I can add you to the hangout).

WELCOME!

A couple of Side Notes

  1. As you know, this is my first time that I not only attend a book club, but also the first time I run one (yeah, I’m crazy I know!), so bear with me while I learn the tricks and forgive me if it isn’t perfect…Any tips & tricks, help and suggestions are always welcome 🙂
  2. During our Google hangout session, we will be focusing on the following topics & questions, the virtual seats are limited to ten and you can check here and if you confirm your attendance you will need to send me your email address so that I can add you to the event. If you miss out the event, don’t fret, you can obviously read through and leave your views below. I’m really curious to read your take on the book.

Creativity

Gilbert describes creativity as something external that comes in the artists’  and writers’ world almost by accident. She believes that an idea is something that has it own life and floats around until it finds someone suitable and ready to pick it up and bring it to life. I was quite put off by this idea, to be honest and I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with this book at the beginning.

I’m a bit skeptical about her philosophy, but some of the examples she described are quite amazing . I’ve always believed that talent and creativity were “embedded” in certain people from the moment of their birth. And you? What do you think?

  • Are you creative?
  • Were you one of those talented kids?
  • What do you create and what’s your creative process?

Courage VS Fear

You might have already read what I wrote about fear and how she was in fact the one who got me out of my comfort zone and easy life in the UK. I was scared to be missing out, that I would never be truly happy despite all my successes and accomplishments on the corporate ladder, frightened I would postpone my own dream to travel to prioritise the common rat race to a shining CV and spotless career. But then death met with my fear, they shook hands and lift me up to where I am now.

So yes, I agree with Gilbert distinction between good and bad fears, or more carefully the ones that kick your ass and the one that make you dig your head (and your ass) underneath the duvet when you could be out creating. You want the firsts, you want to kill the seconds.

Have I killed all my fears?

No way!  I’m still a little terrified person. I’m worried that my new lifestyle will just drain my savings and I will be forced to go back to the real world. I’m truly shitting my pants at the thought that I will never find anybody to hire me again if I had to go back to the real world. I’m freaking out sometimes that I have no talent at all and this is just a happy illusion. And possibly, I am even more terrified that all of this might actually work and I might actually make it.

As Gilbert said, “We have to be careful of how we handle our fear – because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process”. I tried to kill mine for over half of my life. I though I had murdered by creativity too, but in the exact moment I set off on this trip, she was back, right next to me, asking me to play with her. She and I are on the road together and we are like Thelma & Louise kinda thing. She tells me the route, I drive. Has fear ever affected your life? And your creativity?

  • Have you managed to kill a fear that was bothering you? How?
  • Was there any passion, dream, idea you had when you were younger that you put away because you were scared of the outcome?
  • Do you consider yourself a brave heart or a scared self?

As long as you live under the fear of failure or disappointment or any other thing that holds you back in “the realm of creative expression”, you may never discover the thing that gives you life

Enchantment: Inspiration & Ideas

As mentioned above,  I personally don’t believe in Gilbert’s mystical view of ideas floating through space and time patiently waiting to find their soulmate. Of course there are occasions when two people have the same idea and she even bring one exceptional personal example, but I’m still skeptical and I prefer to think that ideas are unique to the individual and they are born into people’s mind rather than animated things that fly around and are grabbed randomly by the first available person. Maybe I’m silly, but I work hard for ideas to come to me. Which doesn’t mean I sit outside waiting for them to appear in front of my eyes, but I read, I look, I study, I engage with people, I discover, I experiment, this is what pushes me to create and this how pieces of life take the shape of ideas in my mind. Do I need to be inspired? Yes. Do I set time aside to create? Yes, at the moment is almost 24/7. And you?

  • Do you believe ideas are there free for all to grab?
  • Can you work without inpiration?
  • Are you disciplined enough to actually get stuff done also on those gloomy not inspired days?
  • What do you feel when you are hit by an amazing idea?

Look back far enough and you will find people who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them. You will find people who spent their lives making things

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 23.12.50.png

Permission

I personally agree with the author and I don’t think you need an educational permission to be an artist. In fact, I will go even further than that: you don’t need education to be successful in anything. Take the majority of the truly amazingly successful people in the world and they did no go to school or finish their education. I’m taking about Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Sean Connery, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Henry Ford and Allan Sugar.Of course, I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t study, I am saying that it is not a mandatory thing for a successful life. Sometimes drive and passion is all you need…but this is a whole new subject/post that I want to discuss in the future.

The same (and probably more relevant) is in the art world. I’ve witness so many people wasting dreams because they couldn’t afford a formal education in fine art, design or photography. On the other hand, I’ve met countless people who thought that because they did have an art degree, a design or photography certificate were entitled to create and were expecting to be successful.
Boy, let me tell you, it does not work that way. As Gilbert said, these courses can help you to feel more confident, but don’t expect the right to lead an artistic life because you studied art.

  • Do you have faith in your capabilities or are you waiting for someone to tell you are good enough?
  • Do you think a formal education is what you need to be an artist?
  • If you could go back would you attend the same university? If you didn’t attend one which course would you choose?

But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgment about you are none of your business

Persistence

I stopped writing for months. Not that’s not true, actually, I never stop writing. Probably not one entire day in my life. But I did stop publishing on my old blog and I almost this the same on this one too. I had readers, engaged comments, consistent views, statistics where sky-rocketing and then, WHY?
Well, my blog wasn’t perfect. It isn’t perfect now either. In fact I hate the design of it (oh yeah, if you know a great designer who would help me for a service barter please, let me know 🙂 ), but I decided to just do it which is pretty much the same thing that Elizabeth Gilbert suggests. Forget about the fact that you can’t reach perfection, stop thinking you need an entire day for your painting, abandon the idea that you could only be a writer/musician/singer/actor when you will be able to dedicate yourself to it full time. This is just a sophisticated way of procrastination. Start today, start now, do something. Don’t let perfection or fear stop your creative process. Just embrace it.

I love reading about Elizabeth’s various waitressing jobs and it felt she was really talking to me as I spent 8 years going exactly the same. I no longer felt a loser afterall, I’m not feeling a loser now that I’m looking for a similar part-time job while my business kicks off. I no longer care about other people’s judgment because I’m finally doing what I love the most, and I stand taller than anybody who hasn’t done it yet.

But do it without expectations. Don’t ask your art/idea/creativity to support you, do it just because you love it, and act as a parent who loves his child without expecting anything in return. Flourish and nourish this relationship every day and take the process of making something as your biggest reward.

Babu Huts

  • Do you expect or wish that you art will support you financially or are you just doing it for you self?
  • Are you able to create or are you waiting for the right moment?

I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it

Trust: Success VS Failures

I would be an hypocrite if I said I’m doing what I’m doing just because I love it. Well, no one really is. I left my job in London to travel, photograph and write stories. That is the main goal, but of course I’m hoping that these three passions of mine will one day combine into a Magic Formula that will also allow me to have a decent life. Of course I’m hoping to meet Success on my path this year and go on a date with him and possibly marry him and never think again about my corporate life. Yes, I’ll admit, I dream of a life doing what I’m doing now and I’m not ashamed of admitting it.
But I am also very realistic about the possibilities, risks, competitions and I wouldn’t take a no as a failure, I won’t take a refusal as a reason to give up or a closed door as the end of my journey.

  • Do you let failure affect your creativity?
  • Do you do it for fame, money, success or what?
  • How do you deal with failures?

And one of the questions  I loved the most from the book:

  • What do you love doing so much that the word failure and success essentially become irrelevant?

Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 23.34.39.pngSo, what is your final vote of Big Magic? How did you feel after finishing?

Personally, my creativity flow and my soul were refreshed and energised. I loved the stories she shared, but I especially loved the fact that she put her life and heart out there among the lines. I felt as she was in the room with me and she was laughing about her failures and sharing with a light hearted voice her incredible success. Her tone makes me want to hug her and wish for a friend like her to drink a glass of wine together and somebody who never takes her/himself too seriously, somebody who can laugh at himself and at the same time talk about success without bragging about it.

Big Magic inspired me to create more, to believe in myself and my current projects more. As a result, once I finished reading it, I shot several pitching emails that were sitting on my draft folder for weeks, I’ve wrote a whole three new chapters of what might take the shape of a book, I’ve pushed my photographic limits with new techniques and style I hadn’t tried before (coming up soon…), I basically took whatever was in the air and I created.

And I never felt this good.
Thank you, big magic.

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest will take care of itself.”

 

We will be back next month with our February book. Perfect for my current nomad lifestyle and I believe ideal also for many of you with the same passion for travel.

Girls Who Travel by Nicole Trilivas

Same date as before, see you here vino in hand, notes in the other and let’s chat about us, girls who travel 

Happy reading and happy travelling, my lovely tribe!

“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.

 

Your Definitive Packing List for a Year (or more…) of Wanderlust

 

So, you are finally ready to set off and embark on that train/plane/bus/boat/bicycle/feet that will take you away for a year or more and you are facing the tricky question of:

What the heck shall I pack?

Packing for a weekend away or a short holiday can be difficult. Packing for a year of wanderlust can be daunting and scary, especially if it’s your first time. For some stupid reasons, I personally left it until the very last minute despite being well aware of the importance and urgency of it all. Unfortunately, I lost myself in the online jungle of recommendation of other travel bloggers and let’s be honest, there is lots of crap out there.  So four months ago I got on my plane to Istanbul unsure I had all the things I needed for the following 12 months and quite sure I had missed something.

The truth is that I hadn’t forgotten anything, in fact I had (many) more things than I needed and that I soon left behind (more about this below). Like many beginners, I fell in the most common trap of reading detailed packing lists of other travel bloggers and ended up “over-packing” with stuff that had no use for me.
So, if you are about to hit the road for the first time and you have no idea of what to take with you, here is my personal, heartfelt advice after 4 months on the road.

Rule number one and only one:
u-n-d-e-r-p-a-c-k.

Easy-peasy

Remember that while traveling, you’ll be constantly packing, unpacking, packing again, checking that you’ve got everything, screaming if your stuff doesn’t fit or having huge fights with your backpack zip which will refuse to collaborate with you on a daily basis. What to do then?

Yeah, you got it right, I told you: Underpack. What I want you to do (and wished I had done so in September too!) is leave your home with almost a third of your bag empty in order to keep that spare space that you’ll need (and deeply love) while on the go. In order to do so, there are a few things I want you to keep in mind ahead of the actual packing process:

  1. You can buy most of the things on the road, yes, even in some of the most remote area you will find shampoo, chocolate and underwear; depending on where you are going some of the things you will need will cost a fraction of what you would pay them at home;
  2. When you are on the road, you will need less things than in your normal life
  3. There isn’t really any difference between packing for 6 weeks or 6 months, because you’ll just do laundry about every week or more, so just think you are going away for a short time and don’t stress too much!

So, this is my packing list and the items that I have with me right now. Bear in mind that after the first month on the road I sent a package home with things I no longer needed or wanted and I also donated some other items that were no longer necessary to me.
This is my current backpack and possibly the one I will keep for the next 6-12 months.

Your home away from home

Now that you are about to leave the comfort of your house, your backpack will become your home. Exactly like a snail, your chosen backpack will be your shell and exactly like that you will have to carry it on your back on buses, trains, planes and on foot many, many times during your travels, so my advice is to keep it minimal. The optimal weight should be around 8-10kg, less if you can, or maximum 12kg if you must.

Leave your suitcase at home. Yes, even if you are planning to stay in 5 star hotels and resorts leave your trolley home. I could tell you about one of my stay in a 5 star secluded resort where in fact I had to reach the harbor by walking on semi-submerged boulders, cross a river on a very tiny long-tiled boat and ultimately climb a very narrow and steep staircase where my car was waiting for me. Now, I easily managed to do all of it, but people who where carrying large or medium suitcases really struggled and had to ask for help as well as pay extra for their large bags. Even if you are over the age of the usual backpackers (what is that, anyway?), think again and buy one for yourself. Even if you aren’t planning to “backpack” in the conventional sense of the word, ditch the suitcase and trade them in for a good, sturdy, waterproof backpack.

My Bag(s)

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

 

41MxLQlZGlL._SS160_Osprey Farpoint 70 Travel Backpack
(Main backpack volume is 55 liters and the Farpoint Day is 15 Liter). Yes, I must admit, I had a few fights with this bag at the start of my trip: things seemed to take more and more space and the bag seemed to get smaller every day. I later learnt that everything needs to go in the right place every time, exactly like the pieces of a jigsaw which needs to be in the right order in order to make sense. Fast-forward to four months later and I now love my bag and it’s like my second skin. I use the small one for my tech gear when in transit and my large one for everything else. The two of them, currently weigh 10.5kg together.

41808o+499L._SS160_

Quequa Waterproof cover
For your bag, not only protects it from water, but also from tear and dust when in the plane booth as well as the other transports

Newfeel Foldable backpack: this is one of the best thing I bought for my trip. Not only is super tiny, but it becomes handy in million occasions like food shopping, beach, hiking, sightseeing. It only cost me two euros and I always have it with me in case I need some extra space.

Two cotton shopping bags: perfect for a day by the beach and for your laundry or just in general for you to carry around your things. There will be moments when some things won’t fit in your bag, so they are always very handy. I have one normal size and a smaller one which is perfect for little things or even to keep things separate in your bag.

One leather shoulder Camera bag: this is a late addition to my travel kit that I bought in India. I didn’t really need it, but it’s extremely handy for those other situations when you can’t be completely casual and/or business meetings I need to go to. I love it and it was a massive hit on my instagram feed some time ago and before you ask, no, you can’t buy it online 😉

 
The Essentials

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These are like THE MOST  important items, without them you can stay home and forget about your trip. Don’t only pack them, but throughout your trip always hold on to them like they where the most precious items you ever own – which in fact they are when you are traveling:

Passport – do I need to add anything to this? Well, I just say that in order to enter most countries, you will need to make sure to have at least 6 months left on it

10 copies of your passport – like your money, they should go half in your day-bag and half in your backpack/hotel

5-10 passport-sized photos – you will need them for visas and other documents on the road

Health and travel insurance – I use Worldnomads

Two or three debit/credit cards – don’t stack them all together in your purse/wallet, but use different locations and remember them!

  1. Credit/Debit Card with free cash withdrawals abroad
  2. Credit/Debit Card for purchases and backup
  3. Prepaid Credit/Debit Card  additional backup (trust me it’s never too many! Insert long story here…)

Cash – take approximately $200 or £200 for emergency and spread them around in your belongings. Dollars are universally accepted, but any international currency would do in those tricky situations you want to avoid.

Business Cards if you are planning to meet potential clients on the go

Airline Miles Membership Cards

 

Medical Kit

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This is as essential as the section above, especially if you have some permanent conditions. It’s a great idea to also have a mini medical-kit with you at all times especially in some third-world countries or where some diseases are more frequent and common.  Your medical kit should include some of the below, but obviously only you know what are you weak areas and what you should bring with you. I currently have with me:

Plasters

Bandages

Antiseptic handwash

Antidiarrhoeas (Imodium)

Antacid (for indigestion)

Ibuprofen / paracetamol

Antihistamines (mosquitos can be a big problem in some places)

Motion Sickness Pills: I never got motion sickness but then I was very sick on my ferry from the Andaman Islands as the Ocean was very rough.

Sleeping pills: I’m a late-sleeper and early-riser and when I feel I need to sleep more, I knock myself out with a couple of natural, valerian-based tablets.

Lavender essential oil: for the same reason above (thank you Rachel!)

Tea-tree Essential oil: endless ways of using it and a best friend while travelling!

Condoms (yes, girls too)

Clothes

Right, ladies (and gentlemen!), this is the moment where I’m telling you to forget your fashionable habits at home and think smart.  I’m not telling you to look like a lost soul or a homeless, but to smarten up your wardrobe and matching skills.  You must leave home most of your clothes and start thinking in multiple outfits, if you are not doing that already. On the road, life will be easier (less choice=less drama), but the crucial moment is when you pick the things that are going to come with you for the next year or so. Below is my current selection and the things I have with me right now. Sometimes I struggle, most of the time I’m extremely happy that I don’t have to waste time choosing what to wear, only one time (at the Opera) I felt I was underdressed, but I was excused as I had very little notice. 

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Fashion tip #1

Try to pack only clothes that match together or that have a similar tonality. Ideally, select dark or neutral colors (especially for your bottoms).

Learn to dress in layers, depending on the temperature, you will need to learn how to dress adding or removing layers. Of course, if you are traveling to Iceland or to the Himalayas you might want to bring that bulky, fat, super warm jacket, but unless you are going there, then the layers’ strategy will work for most places around the world.

Fashion Tip #2

Roll your clothing – yes, folding won’t work for a backpack, it’s much better if you you’re your items very tightly so to minimize the air and to avoid wrinkles

Underwear X 5
Socks X 3
Bra X 2
Bikini X 2 (2 swimming costume/boxers)
Short shorts X 2

Jeans 1
Light long trousers X 2
Leggings 1
Dresses X 1 (for those fancy occasions or elegant dinner)
T-shirts / vest tops X 5

Longsleeve top 1 (for temples, protect against mosquitos)
Shirt x1
Fleece (it can get cold at night, especially in the desert)
Hoodie (to keep warm on planes and at night)
Waterproof Jacket

Ultra-light Uniqlo puffy jackets
Beach Towel: use a lovely sarong
Belt x1
1 x large scarf or pashmina
Hat

 

Footwear

Obviously, it all depends on your destination(s). I can tell you to bring your flip flops/thongs, but I believe you will make little use of them if you are going to climb Mount Everest or cycle through Africa, right?

So, considering I’ve been doing some adventures as well as some beach time and city exploration, this is my current mix and I love it.

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Adidas Ultraboost 2 black: they have no visible brand and that’s great for me as I don’t want to be a walking advertising board

H&M Espadrillas: recent addition to my mix here in Sydney as it’s very warm for my trainers but my sandals aren’t ideal for very long walks

Crocs Flip-Flop: had to replace my Hawaianas recently as they broke down and there was no way to repair them. I’ll let you know how I like them soon!

Sandals: bought these almost 8 years ago in a little shop in Spain, everybody, especially me loved them. They are super-comfortable and almost fashionable! 😉

 

Toiletries

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Nothing. Yes, leave at home everything. EVERYWHERE in the world you can buy these things and you do not need to carry them all the way from your home country even more because you will end up taking too much.  Well, take with you a travel toothbrush and small-sized toothpaste, that’s all you need for the flight or in case your bag get lost. 
So, once you are at your first destination, head to a supermarket and buy the followings:

Tooth floss/paste/brush

Shampoo / conditioner (not pictured)

Deodorant

Bodysoap

Aesop Sun cream (at least SPF 30)

Aesop Aftersun / moisturiser

Make up (I personally only have one black eyeliner, one mascara, a red and a pink lipsticks)

Lip balm

Cotton buds

Nail clippers

Tweezers

Comb/Hair bands

For Ladies Only (from home):

Mooncup

Braun Silk Epil

Pacifica Solid Parfume (it smells delicious, it’s super-light and compact and lasts a life time, plus no worry about breaking it in your bag!)

Boys
Leave your electronic razor at home, beard is SO sexy! 😛

 

Tech Stuff, Photo Gear and Gadgets

If you, like me are working while travelling, you will need some of the below. If you instead have decided to take a total break from the digital world, you can skip this section completely and jump to the next one.

Remember to back up and get insurance all the items you particularly care about!

Mini ipod for long train or bus journey, days at the beach and back up for saving battery of my phone

Olympus OM ED10 (plus extra battery) with 14-42 and  Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens

4x SD card

JOBI Gorilla pod

iPhone6

Power bank x2: a small ANKER (thank you, Anna!) for my out and about and a TECKNET 15000mAh with dual USB for those long train/bus journey with no power outlets. It was  also very handy in India where I used it every other day or even in those guesthouse or hotels where there is only one plug or it’s too far from your bed!

WD 1TB My Passport External HD and robust anti-shock case 

USB stick (1GB) for those things you might need to print on the road or those pictures you take of strangers and want to print and give to them

Kindle: I’m a book-worm so I can’t go anywhere without a good book. The battery life is great (one month or more), and if you’re planning on getting away from it all there’s no better company than a good book.I have an old one that I think Amazon does no longer sell, but if this one breaks down, I will surely buy the Voyage or Paperwhite 

11 inch MacBook Air: Whilst I travel, I’m also working. If you’re not working and just want to keep in touch with people and access the internet, then an iPad mini or your smartphone would be perfect for the purpose

Go Pro Hero 3 with waterproof case and pole

Triple UK plug: Every day I have at least three things to charge (phone, laptop and camera) so this bulky item has become my life savior when there is only one plug available

Apple iPhone6

One spare cheap phone (just in case!)

Headphone Splitter (to watch movies with your mate or travel buddy on planes, stations and/or buses

1 x Travel Adapters (to charge all this equipment)

Camera, phone, kindle and video battery chargers

 

Miscellaneous

Super Glue – a must-have for all those quick repairs, it’s incredible to see how easily things break when you are constantly using them.

Plastic bags: there will be moment when your bikini or towel will be dump or wet and you will be on your way to the airport: one or even two of these freezer-kind of bags are going to save your life (and the rest of your stuff!)

 Packing Cubes: these were introduced to me by a packing pro and since I bought them, my travelling life has changed. All my clothes are organised so I know exactly where to look for a specific item at any time eBags cubes and the Eagle Creek packing sleeves.

 Locks: you can either choose a Combination lock or one with the key, the risk is that you might lose it

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Sunglasses: I love my folding Wayfarer Rayban, the box is super compact and they are just perfect for any kind of adventure

Travel towel: they don’t feel amazing, but they dry super quickly and that something you need while travelling

Rab Sleeping bag Silk liner: for the occasional dirty bed or for when there isn’t one, yup it can happen!

 Eye mask, I cannot sleep if there even the tiniest light so, my beloved silk eye mask became my best friend on train, buses but even hotels and guesthouses that didn’t provide pitch black

 Ear plugs, for planes or even while working in noisy cafes

Inflatable travel pillow, perfect for that nap waiting at airports and on planes

Sewing kit: yup, another handy thing to fix those things that might become loose on the road

 Swiss army knife: it’s cool to have one 😉

Shoe cover: shoes can be the more disgusting thing to put in your bag, instead of taking plastic bags, try and get some covers, they are lighter and don’t take space at all!

Pen and paper: who knows, you might find some inspiration while on the go or you might need to share your phone with that cute girl/guy you’ve just met!

 Camomille bags (a taste of home…)

Digital Luggage Scale

 Travel Laundry Soap

Little Mirror

Tiny hot water bottle

Light

Digital  packing list & Apps

I’m not going to tell you that you are not a real explorer if you bring your smartphone with you, like so many travel-gurus on the net. I’m telling you bring your phone but use it only when truly necessary or when there is nothing better to do (which won’t happen often while travelling). There is no point in avoiding technology when it can be so helpful to us, so bring your phone, get a local SIM card and make your life easier. Yeah, you will still be considered a cool traveler!

Apps

Google maps

Pennies: great to set a budget and keep an eye on it everyday

AccuWeather: to check forecasting of your next destinations

Tripadvisor: it’s not the bible, but it can give you an idea of the places and the features you are looking for

Zomato: like the above

Shazam: you never know which or where you are going to hear your favourite new song!

Townske: up-and-coming, community-based global city-guides. This is an essential to find cafes, galleries and restaurants and you can be a contributor too!

Sleep Better: not only while travelling, but for everyday life as it wakes you up at the right cycle of your sleeps

Postagram: little cute app to send your phone pictures as postcards to your family and friends

Skyscanner: check the best price for your flights comparing all the different airlines

Instagram: of course! IG is not only a great photo sharing app, but also the perfect way to meet locals and expats in the places you are visiting

Spotify

Skype on laptop and iPhones

Twitter

Facebook

WhatsApp messenger for iPhone: great app that you can group message friends & family for free over wifi

Photo editing apps (but this will be a separate future post!)

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Things to do before you go
(VERY IMPORTANT STUFF!)

Notify your bank of your travels, mine has a section on my online banking where I can compile a detailed itinerary, some others might require you to call up or to send an email. Check some time before your departure. There is nothing worse than being locked out your card at thousands of miles away from your home with no cash at all (yup, I’m talking from personal experience here!

Make sure to do some research for your back-up card(s) and make the right choice. Most cards will charge you for withdrawal and payment in foreign currency, see which one offers the best deal in your home country

Set your google drive as your go-to back-up: Create a folder of digital copies of documents, credit cards, tickets, travel insurance, contact details and everything else you might need. If you lose everything, you will have a safe copy in the cloud.
Some people suggest to keep physical copies of your credit cards, I say don’t! Have them online or emailed to yourself or to someone you trust, but don’t carry physical copies with you. It’s very easy to make payment with the copies and you might be lose all your money in no time.

Unlock your phone: some new generation phones are locked by the carrier, so make sure to unlock it before you go. The process can be dreadful and long (especially if you bought a Vodafone device at Carphonewarehouse in the UK, my gosh! Never again!), so start calling the customer service far in advance. If you have an unlocked phone you can pick a local SIM card wherever you are and use data as you were at home. Do not use data-roaming, unless is a life-threatening emergency!

*

Ready, steady, Go?!?

No, not yet. Before you leave, pack and unpack your bag in the comfort of your home. Do it in different moment of the week and maybe make a sketch of how you placed your items. Put the bags on and walk around your house for 20 minutes or more. If you are ok, you are ready to go. If you are suffering, sweating or crying then go back and re-pack again.
You will soon realise that items will fit better in one or the other position and it’s better you save yourself time at home in the preparatory phase rather than getting frustrated with these experiments while you are away (yup, another personal testimony here!!!). If you have a weekend away before your big trip, take the opportunity to test the bag and your packing skills too.

I hope you’ve found this article useful. I certainly wished I had these information  4 months ago!

Additionally, if you enjoyed this post and are interested in buying some of the products above, you can click the links to my Amazon shop: it doesn’t cost you anything more than the displayed price and it will give me a micro fee on the products you purchase. I’ve only added the affiliated links on products I truly value, love and trust. I wished I had this kind of list and links a few months ago, when I was spending days comparing products online, well you do have it now…easy-peasy! 😉

[Note: This is NOT a sponsored post, but my own personal recommendations!]

Don’t forget to leave me a comment below to let me know your packing tips; share my post on your social medias and if you have any other  packing questions, please let me know via my facebook page or Twitter. If you wish to help me creating boards on my baby-born Pinterest page, I’m here .
As alwaysy you can find my photographic journal on Instagram and peak my Aussie adventures on snapchat {sab_storyteller}.

See you there and don’t forget to Make It Remarkable! 😉