STORY TIME: The Fontana di Trevi incident.

colosseum and sun

Throwback to a good ten years ago (God, I feel old). Italy. Rome. The Trevi Fountain. Nice right?

Picture me and my parents, happily enjoying the sunny day as we stroll through the Roman alleyways in the direction of the Trevi Fountain. It’s not my first time in Rome – I have been here a few times and kind of know my way around already, but the fountain is something I have maybe only seen once before, and too briefly to remember it well.

As we approach the monument, we find ourselves crushed by the crowd of tourists enveloping the fountain, gasping for air as we squeeze through and try to get closer. Keep in mind that the fountain isn’t as I’ve seen it recently, you can actually get right next to the water without the barricades I saw the last time I was in Rome, preventing you from even going at arm-length distance with it. So we decide to get closer, in order to admire it from a better angle and get away from all the cameras flying around.

As you may know, the Fontana di Trevi is also famous because of all the coins constellating its floor, as people use this little trick to make a wish and hope it will come true. As a young person at the time (who am I kidding? Even now), I am completely enthralled by all the shiny objects sparkling below the surface of the water, eagerly rummaging through my bag to find a small coin to throw in, together with my coveted wish. 

Now you need to know here that I am quite a superstitious person. I like to blame this on my southern roots, but it’s probably just my poor mental health, leading me on through life as I fear for any scaffolding or black cat coming across my way. Either way, this means that the excitement for the wish-making activity ahead of me is growing stronger by the second, as I think hard of something worth spending that important 1-cent coin on. 

Once I have decided, boom.

I turn around.

Close my eyes.

Think about the wish as strong as I can.

Throw the coin in.

And then the magic happens.

Then I hear a loud splash.

And the confusion starts.

“A small coin can’t be that noisy”, I think as I turn around. Now this is the part where I explain the side note: as it happens, in that period I had taken the habit of always storing my mobile phone up my sleeve. It was simple, fast and a very easy reach whenever I needed it. Not to mention a good hiding place for wanna-be thieves on the street. In short, the perfect hiding place.

Well my friends, as you may now imagine, this hiding place turned out to not be as perfect as I thought. Especially when you’re using all your arm strength to throw a coin as far as possible. And the phone flies out with it.

Into the fountain.

Fast forward to about 10 seconds of panic, and I am now anxiously trying to convince a policeman to let me go into the water to save my beautiful phone. As you can probably guess, the answer is no. The Trevi Fountain is a historical site and as such, people are not allowed into it, which is good for Rome and bad for my now dying phone. After 5 minutes of discussing and being told that I will have to wait until the fountain gets cleaned ( which is gonna happen hours later ) in order to get it back, I decide I need a back-up plan. My mother and I then proceed to look for something long enough to reach the phone and somehow push it towards the side, where we can easily get it.

Alas, nothing is available and the anxiety is growing, as Japanese tourists and casual passerby’s start noticing the situation and taking photos of my drowned phone (I like to think that somewhere, out there, there are photos of my phone and people still look at them and laugh). 

At last, a light shines through. We march into one of the shops and ask for something long to use in our mission, but the shop keeper has none. However, he quickly becomes invested in the tragedy and decides he wants to help us. He runs to the back of the shop and, after a few minutes of rummaging through stuff, finally comes back with two small brooms and tape. Motivated by the cause, he quickly gets to work and tapes the two brooms together, then hands us the finalised product and wishes us the best of luck.

At this point, the situation is quite ridiculous: a shop keeper just fabricated an ax-like weapon, the police is looking at us as if we’re insane, people are taking photos, my phone is probably dead and my father is nowhere to be found. We get to the fountain, check where the phone is and get ready for the plan to take off, when yet another obstacle in this endless story arises: both my mum and I are short as fuck, which means that even our weapon isn’t long enough to save the phone. We look around, exasperated and tired, when the hero of the situation steps in: a man offers to help, takes the reins of the situation and, after a few tries, finally manages to push the stupid thing close enough for us to reach it with our hands and finally bring it back to safety.

After the whole ordeal, the square is now in an amused frenzy, my father is still nowhere to be found (where was he?? I can’t even remember) and my mum is emotionally exhausted.

Yet, the most amazing thing about the whole story is yet to come: I pick up my phone, give out a small scream of joy which is quickly substituted by the knowledge that it’s probably dead by now, then inadvertently push the “turn on” button out of habit. And guess what?

THE PHONE WORKS.

 


 

As always, thank you guys for reading and I hope you’re having a great day! If you like the blog or would like to read more, feel free to click the follow button in the sidebar – left side of the page! 🙂

Elena

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This blog post was NOT sponsored by Nokia, however they do deserve a shoutout because only they know how a fucking phone can endure this physical strain. Kudos to you guys.

LONELINESS

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To a lot of people, loneliness can be a familiar feeling. It doesn’t have to be constant, doesn’t have to be something negative, but something that we all go through at some point. Be it because of an empty house, people leaving or solo travelling, this feeling seems to grip you all of a sudden and not much can be done to help it.

Travelling on your own, it’s easy to feel lonely, perhaps when you get back to the hostel, late at night and not having someone to chat with, perhaps roaming around the streets and seeing something that reminds you of someone who is not there with you. You miss that person, wish they were there so you could maybe pop into the bar and get a pint together, spending some time with a familiar face and enjoying together the uniqueness of the place.

Some people revel in loneliness, some hate it. I am a mixture of both, as I do enjoy my alone time but also deeply crave the company of others sometimes. I love people, communicating and creating relationships. I like to experience things but also to have someone to discuss them with, have a conversation and share different perspectives. It’s nice to be able to share something new and create memories together, meeting later on in time and reminiscing those times spent together in that place, on that date, a small secret you both share and keep hidden in the back of your mind.

Loneliness is inevitable and shouldn’t scare you away – it’s a part of travelling and a part of life itself. It doesn’t need to make you sad and you shouldn’t look at it as something negative, but an experience to go through in order to grow and learn to come to terms with yourself. Being alone, out there, on your own, can really help you focus and have a positive impact on your perception of yourself, as scary as it might sound. 

At the same time, being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean being alone. Sometimes we might be surrounded by people, even friends, and still feel lonely. It’s a feeling that I am still trying to wrap my head around to this day, sometimes coming up in my heart with no apparent reason and no events to cause it. One minute you’re fine, the next your heart seems a thousand pounds heavier as you look around and feel as lost as ever. It might be because someone is missing, or simply because you feel the need for some time to yourself, an opportunity to shut everything out, close your eyes and focus on your mind.

Either way, loneliness can come in many forms and can surface at the most unexpected times, leaving us with little to fight it with and forcing us to come to terms with our emotions in order to stay focused. When travelling, I fight it by keeping in contact with friends and family, messaging them or sometimes even calling them to tell them about my day, the new things I have experienced or my plans for the future days. That’s the beauty of the technology I discussed in my previous post, earlier commenting on its power to surround our everyday lives and making us feel small, now praising it for allowing us to maintain contact even when far. Odd, isn’t it?

In the end, travelling is a two-way street. Some like to be completely on their own, some like company. Some like a mix of both. One day I might wake up and just explore, without feeling the need to speak to anyone, the next I might stay on the phone all day talking to a friend. The next one I might just go out and speak to strangers, creating new friendships and perhaps connecting with other lonely people looking for some warmth. 

At the end of the day, these are all parts of life. We’re not on our own and, despite the fleeting feeling of loneliness, we have to keep thinking that it’s going to be gone in a while and that we should instead exploit it to make sense of those things we might not have time to think about normally. Loneliness is also a pot of gold for writing and artistic expression, where you lower your guard and let the feelings flow. Why not make a positive out of it then, exploring ourselves and digging a bit deeper, in order to come out richer than we were?

With that said, I turn the question back to you: do you ever feel lonely? If so, what do you do about it? Do you just let it wash over you or do you try to fight it back? Do you think it’s a positive or negative feeling? I would love to hear some other points of view!

As always, I hope you’re all having a lovely day and I will see you at the next post. Also, if you like the blog posts, feel free to hit the follow button on the right side of the page! 🙂

Elena

A PLACE TO UNWIND: OFF-GRID SCOTLAND

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Sometimes, you need a few moments in life to sit back and relax. As fourth year at uni takes its toll on me (or more like, punches me right in the face) and work takes up most of my free time, I often find myself gasping for breath and needing a few moments to close my eyes and step away from it all. 

I used to think that stressful times were the best times, as you have no time to think – or overthink – things, just quickly moving through the days and hardly realising what is happening around you. For an over-thinker like me, it was a sort of treat, as it prevented me from spending too much time munching over past events, forcing me to constantly be on the move and not give anything a second thought. With fourth year quickly going past and two jobs keeping me occupied 24/7, it’s sad to say I barely had the time to even talk to my friends or family, who rightfully made me notice how little time I was devoting to them without even realising it, to the point where even I started to think maybe it was a bit too much. I needed a break.

The opportunity to do so took its form in my former Rotterdam flatmate, who decided to visit me for a few days in the not-so-sunny Aberdeen. As he himself has been working on his thesis for University, we found each other agreeing on the fact that a break from it all was more than needed, therefore quickly got on the internet to find a close-by spot. 

We found our place in a small, secluded hut in the Scottish countryside, about half an hour away from Aberdeen by train. The place was listed on Airbnb as an “off-grid” living experience, which kind of made me laugh as it’s funny how the mainstream, hipster vibe of off-grid living is now allowing people to put up the most random accommodations up for grabs on the web. Either way, the small hut actually answered our needs perfectly, as it had no power sockets, wifi or outside distractions, completely immersed in the Scottish woods and requiring us to rely on natural elements to get by. 

We spent the afternoon cutting wood, which I found way more entertaining than I originally thought. I also decided to give myself the nickname of “Elena the woodchopper”, as I personally think I have a gift for this particular activity. We then spent the rest of our time playing some games, cooking in the hut and focusing on the here-and-then, leaving out the daily worries that characterise our normal lives in the city.

Surrounded by trees, the small hut contained all amenities one could ask for. From a proper stove to cook, to kitchen utensils, to blankets and a beautiful wood burner to keep yourself warm through the night, it served as a perfect off-grid lair to hide in for a few days, keeping us away from outer world distractions and giving us the opportunity to fully live in the moment.

insideinside the bedtrees

Although it might sound stupid – or needless – to say, going away for a couple days really does help you to distance yourself from daily preoccupations, especially when there is no wifi for anyone to contact you. The absence of the internet can give you a sort of freedom that we sometimes forget we have, enabling us to just be by ourselves without the constant interconnection that technology represents. Especially during stressful times, this ability to unplug can seriously help you calm down and see things more clearly, as nothing else is there to distract your mind.

In these situations, time can also seem like an insurmountable mountain. “How are we going to spend the time?”, I found myself thinking as soon as we got there. As it was only 3pm and we had two full days ahead of us, I was kind of worried that the lack of any outside activities would be too much to handle and we’d end up getting bored. I was soon proved wrong, as we realised engaging in outdoor activities such as cutting the wood, collecting all the water for cooking, heating up the cabin and playing some games took up more time than we thought. Actually being able to enjoy the moment makes you lose track of time, especially when you’re with someone that you enjoy the company of, and that’s something that in this day and age we sometimes find hard to believe unfortunately.

The experience got me thinking a lot though, and I couldn’t help but wonder when enough is enough and why we are feeling so stressed that we need such a drastic break from our daily lives. Is it possible that “normal” life is wearing us out so much that we need a throwback to older, simpler times when we didn’t have all the comforts we are presented with today, where we had to work to obtain things and where nothing came from granted? With the advancement of technology, isn’t it strange how natural it feels to actually go back to times when this didn’t exist?

I munched on these thoughts as I sipped my tea out in the open, smoking a cigarette and listening to the wind. Isn’t it odd how travel as far as you want, your mind will always catch up with you and take you back to your good, old worries? While running away can be a good thing, helping you clear your mind a bit before returning, it’s also quite worrying how widespread this need is and it made me realise I should perhaps work on my daily routine and find ways to relax and breathe without feeling the necessity to constantly unplug from it all.

windowsmoke

What do you guys think about this? Do you often feel the need to unplug and if so, what are your tricks to do that without being too extreme? Do you think a couple of days out there in the open can really help?

Either way, I hope you’re all having a lovely day and I will see you at the next blog post!

Elena

 

SLOVENIA GUIDE: LAKE BLED

lolo and bled

When talking about Slovenia, Lake Bled is always on everyone’s tongues as they spill out all the good recommendations on the country. Nestled in the Julian Alps and right next to the Triglav National Park, the lake is apparently the background of fairytales, with such a unique beauty that could hardly be compared to anything else. 

We drove towards Lake Bled from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, on a sunny morning of July. After numerous stops on the way, we managed to finally reach the place around 4pm and kind of by accident. As it happens, our Airbnb was actually by Lake Bohinj – where we were initially headed to drop off our stuff – just half an hour drive away from Bled. While planning, I didn’t realise that we would end up driving through Bled to get there, so I was definitely not prepared for the sight we were welcomed with. It was JUST SO BEAUTIFUL. 

The sun was up in the sky, warm and donating the whole scenario yellow-tinted hues, reflected on the water. People were playing, laughing, tanning or chilling with their loved ones. All around us was life and and at the centre of it was a massive, crystal-coloured surface, the water so still that it felt like we had fallen asleep and ended up daydreaming. In the middle of the lake, a small island quietly announced its presence, inundated by the sunshine and the echoes of laughter bouncing off the lake. It was heaven. So much so that as soon as we got there, we realised one night there wasn’t enough and quickly booked an Airbnb for a second one. 

bled island
Bled island

Lake Bled in itself is quite a small place, where everything is pretty much at walking distance or, if you want to venture in the country’s nature, about half an hour away by car. To match the amount of tourists visiting each year, the lake is surrounded by bars, restaurants and ice cream shops, as well as late-night bars and casinos for travellers looking to drink their nights away. Boat tours to the small island go in and out all day, as well as boat renting available for those who’d like to just relax in the middle of the lake for a couple hours. When on the island, it is almost mandatory to ring the famous bell, which is way heavier than you’d expect and way less exciting that you would think – but hey ho, it must be done.

As we ventured into the (cold) water of the lake, I found myself swimming alongside fish and birds, as well as other tourists who had decided the frigid temperatures were worth the experience. Getting to the middle of the lake (or almost, as I’m lazy and get tired too easily), we got a 360degree view of the whole scenario, gifting us with a strange sense of calm amidst the floods of life going on all around us. Safe to say it was one of the best swims I’ve had in a while.

Over the lake towers the Bled castle, sitting at the top of the hill and overlooking the cheerful spectacle that lies underneath. This is the oldest castle in Slovenia, built in the Medieval times and standing at an altitude of 130m over Bled. The castle can easily be reached by foot in about twenty minutes, following a short but quite easy hike up the hill, and serves its purpose about right: had I been an enemy, I would have rather let the mission go at the prospect of having to walk up the steep hill, or just cried at the thought of hurting such a beautiful, majestic thing. I mean, really?

Although we were a bit disappointed by the hike, it’s still nice to walk up the rocks and admire the nature around you. As there are steps and easy routes to reach the top of the cliff, it wasn’t particularly tough or demanding and I think most people could do it. Alternatively, tourist buses also take you directly to the top, so if you’d like to be lazy, I can happily inform you that there is a way to do that. 

bled from afar
View from the hike to the castle
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Bled grad at night

In case I have managed to convince you to visit Lake Bled (that would make me very happy), here is a list of prices for your trip:

If travelling from Ljubljana, you have two options: either get the train, which drops you off a few km away from Bled, or take a direct bus which will take you directly to the place. This departs from the Ljubljana central station, takes about 1:30h and costs 7 euros for a single ticket. As it happened with us, we drove with a car so the price was just normal fuel costs, which don’t differ too much from neighbouring European countries. Here you can find more information on all of these.

To visit the castle, the cost for a regular, adult ticket is €7.50, whereas for children it’s only €5.20. This only includes the visit to the castle. Adding up the funicular costs to go up will take it up to €10 for adults and €7 for children, whereas you can also get a family price of respectively €19 or €26 for the two deals, where there is a maximum of 2 adults and a minimum of one child. Alternatively, you can also get an all-round ticket which will grant you access to Fužine, Cekin, Tivoli and Ljubljana Castles, for the reasonable price of €11 for adults and €5.50 for children. More information can be found here, where you can also check opening times and restaurant opening times, depending on week day and time of the year.

To visit the small island in the middle of the lake, you can either pay for a boat tour or rent your own. A boat tour will be around €14 per person (one-way), whereas renting your own boat comes up to roughly €15 euros an hour. To be honest, we thought it was a bit of a rip off so did not do any of them, but if you ask locals I am sure they will give you more detailed information as websites seem to have differing prices depending on where you look. Alternatively, you can also swim up the island! That was my main option.

Eating and living in Bled can be a bit pricey, especially considering prices in the rest of the country. This is understandable as it is quite a touristy place, however it is something to keep in mind when visiting. Unless you do your own shopping or eat in take away places, prices in restaurants can be quite high, especially in the area right next to the lake. However, you can definitely find some rather cheap Airbnbs, at the starting price of around €40 / €50. Here is the one we personally stayed at and which we found absolutely brilliant, as it is basically a massive guest house with a big kitchen, an even bigger living room and an outside area where you could meet and chat with other travellers. Although slightly far from the lake (about 15 minutes walking), this didn’t really bother us and the location proved to be great (although I’m sure having a car helped 😜).

Overall, our experience in Bled was amazing. It can get quite crowded and it has a touristy vibe which not everyone might like, but the nature and the scenery is just so beautiful that we really didn’t care. Especially on a sunny day, you can just get a coffee or an ice cream, sit by the water and simply enjoy life, without a care in the world. Although we did visit the National Park and the Savica Waterfalls, the best moment we had was merely laying on the grass and soaking up the sun, just living in that exact moment and imprinting it in our memories.

savica waterfalls
Savica Waterfalls

If you are ever in Slovenia, I don’t just suggest you but URGE you to go to Lake Bled. Travel as much as you like, you won’t find a place like this one anywhere else. Trust me – you won’t regret it.

With that said, I hope you’re all having a lovely day! Feel free to comment to ask more questions, or to simply agree or disagree in case you have been already.

Until the next post,

Elena

VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDE: Halong Bay

Next up on our Vietnam guide series is Halong Bay (or Halong-a, as my guide pronounced it), a conglomerate of tiny islands constellating the Vietnamese shores and creating an absolutely stunning set up for locals and foreigners looking for some peace of mind. Here is a short video I put together, with clips from the trip and creepy background music because I thought it was funny.

We started our journey on a bright Monday morning, with a shuttle boat that quickly drove us from the Halong bay coast to our home for the next couple days – a fancy cruise ship designed to take us through a 48-hour trip through the Vietnamese coastline. After waiting a good half hour in the queue, we finally managed to reach the ship and settled in our suites, which were nicer than we thought to our great enjoyment, although the imbalance between temperatures outside the cabin (hell-like) and inside (icelandic) was quite a shock. 

Our first stop was a fishermen village entirely on water. As we floated through it, I was amazed by the disparity I could clearly discern from our normal, Westernised ways of living compared to the people inhabiting the bay. The houses were quite small and its people lived almost entirely on sea food, fishing everyday for sustainment and rowing the waters daily to reach different spots along the coastline in order to get anything else they might need.

One thing that struck me was a whole family living on a boat, that I witnessed as we took a boat tour around the village. The entire family – made up of four people – was living on a small rocking boat, merely presenting a small room (which I guessed is where everyone slept, tucked together under the blankets), and a small outside area where their clothes were air drying in the Vietnamese wind. I thought of all the places I have lived in before and all my usual standards for living, realising how incredibly different not only my habits, but also my entire conception of a home, were from this.

Travelling to such different places in the world, one of the things that never fails to amaze and interest me is the way that people approach lifestyles, from daily routine to mere accommodation situation. That family didn’t look unhappy, didn’t look dissatisfied with their home, but was merely living in the moment and happily accepting what the future had decided for them. It was quite a shock because – especially in the West – we are always striving to do more, achieve more, become more, whereas these people had the ability and perseverance to accept the place they were born in and face life like that, with a kind of internal calm that I feel people in EDCs are sometimes missing. It was bizarre and refreshing at the same time, reminding me of the reasons why I travel so much.

As we proceeded in our tour, we were taken to the edge of the bay, after which the open sea enveloped everything around us and made the land its own. As the floating villages constellated the entire area, this meant that the waters weren’t always clean, often presenting rotten food or used utensils that people didn’t need anymore. I was also shocked by the incredibly high number of jellyfish happily swimming through the waters, some of which were inhuman sizes which I wasn’t even aware existed. (Thankfully?) we were informed that tourists are not allowed to bathe in these waters, much to my psychological wellbeing as swimming alongside these terrifying creatures would have probably scarred me for life.

We spent the rest of the day chilling on the cruise ship and enjoying the weather – turns out the Vietnamese humidity is sufferable when you’re laying on a reclinable chair in Halong Bay, with wind in your face constantly refreshing you. If you are in Vietnam or close-by Halong Bay, I highly suggest you take this tour. Just sitting there, with a book in hand as the ship drove me through the bay, was an experience I could never forget. I would have happily stayed there for days, even weeks, admiring the calm and stillness of everything and enjoying the environment. There really is no place like it.

On the second – and last – day, we took another boat tour to the Dau Go caves, a beautiful underground spot that attracts thousands of tourists each year. These are situated in one of the small islands along the bay, whose small hill overlooks the nearby isles and the passing ships which cruise over the bay every day. Although the warmth was already bad as it is, the cave ended up being a small corner of hell, as the high number of people breathing and sweating in such a relatively tiny space made survival almost impossible and left me weak and light-headed. Despite that, the caves were actually a little gem in the bay that I am glad I got to see. At the end of the inside path, tourists are welcomed by a small alcove surrounded by trees and nature, which never fails to bring out the worst selfie-craze in people. This makes actually enjoying the view a bit difficult (especially if, like me, you are not a massive selfie fan and can’t help raging at people deeming their photos more important than the actual situation), but not impossible. 

As we walked down, a small beach opened up to us, where people were just sitting together, chatting and chilling (and taking more photos). We were sadly informed that tourists are not allowed to bathe in these waters either, which again is fair enough because a) the waters were a bit dirty and b) that would probably ruin the scenery, as hundreds of tourists constellate the bay with their mostly naked bodz. #loveyourbody

The trip concluded our two-day cruise along Halong Bay and made the memories unforgettable. It was honestly one of the best part of my visit to Vietnam and I couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone in the area. The peace you get while sitting in the sun, enjoying the wind in your face and the beautiful scenery in front of you is something that cannot be completely explained – you need to live it.

For more information, visit Lonely Planet, which provides good and useful articles on what to do in the bay, what to see and useful things to know before going.

Until next time!

Elena

MEETING THE PRINCE OF LIECHTENSTEIN (NOT)

Check out my latest adventures in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, and our failed attempts at meeting the prince. Features lots of awkwardness and social anxiety.

 

Have a lovely day!

Elena

WHY ‘ENVYING’ ISN’T THE ANSWER

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When you travel a lot, you get used to hearing the same sentence all over again from friends, family members, or even strangers. The three words that they think make a lot of sense and might make you feel good about yourself, but that never fail to frustrate me. ‘I envy you’ is something that I hear way too often, and I finally wanted to address this issue that’s been bothering me for quite some time now.

It is no lie that travelling can be costly. Plane tickets, train rides, accommodation and entrance to tourist attractions do weight on your wallet and there is no denying that – it is a part of travelling and to some extent it can make it harder for people to afford that trip they have been dying to go on. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way and, contrarily to the public opinion (among people who don’t travel much, at least), there are multiple ways in which you can afford to travel without having to spend your entire paycheck. You just gotta open your mind a bit and go past the conventional ways of travelling (I’ll be doing a more specific post on this soon – stay tuned to the blog!).

When my friends tell me that they ‘envy’ me, that I am living the life while they have to stay home and work / study, I tell them ‘why?’. Why am I luckier than you guys, with a modest family behind me, in no way rich, with responsibilities just like any other person on this planet including education, working and all that boring stuff. How am I luckier? 

Admittedly, I do have my own blessings in life. First of all, I have a family who supports me and always tries to provide me with the best options in life. I am grateful of that and, to some extent, I do believe that my exploring persona wouldn’t be the same without this kind of support throughout my adolescence. However, as I said, that doesn’t mean that I am extremely lucky in a financial sense, because my family is very much in the medium range and has always been. So how do I do it, you might ask. Why do I get to do all things while other people can’t?

In most cases, my answer is that I want to do these things. I know it sounds stupid, over simplistic, maybe a bit presumptuous, but it is the truth. I am constantly on skyscanner on the lookout for cheap flights ANYWHERE, I have been using couchsurfing (both to host and be hosted) for quite some time and I always try to reduce my spendings to a minimum. This includes my normal living situation – meaning I don’t go out as much, I don’t eat out as much, try to work when I can and I am always trying to save some dolla – and also my travelling situation, which again means I don’t book all those tours, pay all those attraction tickets or try all of those restaurants when I am away. I simply do the best I can to see and live the place I am visiting, without too much fuss and simply enjoying the experience. 

Once again, I am aware that this does not apply to everyone. Some people do have responsibilities which cannot be ignored, such as a 24/7 work that does not leave you any time to travel, a family to look after or maybe some other impediment that physically prevents you from being able to take the trip. However, I gotta say most of the time it is a mental barrier that is stopping people from travelling as much as they should or they would like to. A lot of my friends are too scared of being on their own and, for lack of friends to travel with, they choose to stay home instead and just call me lucky when I talk about my own trips, which I often take on my own (I wrote about this here). Some other people are convinced that travelling is this massive investment, when in reality finding a cheap as fuck return ticket is easier than you think, and after that you’re just gonna spend slightly more than you would on a daily basis (especially if you decide to couchsurf). Some think that you need an enormous amount of time to travel, when in fact you can easily take a short two-day trip somewhere close, because travelling isn’t just going abroad but also exploring your own surroundings. 

Point is, I agree that travelling can be expensive at times. That factor depends on where you want to go, how you want to travel and the kind of person you are. But that aside, travelling is not just for the “lucky” people, because it doesn’t just take luck but also commitment and motivation. Anyone can travel as long as they want to, so stop “envying” people and start working on it! Most of the travellers I have met during my trips were people who had worked their asses off the save money and, despite not having much, set off on their adventure anyway and found unique ways to keep themselves going. I even read about a guy who set off to Iceland with $200 and after months he was still there, which is quite impressive considering how bloody expensive Iceland can be. And if they do it, why can’t everyone else?

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Bottom line… Travelling is not a waste of money and it’s not harder than you think. It’s a personal investment in the sense that if you decide to put in effort, time and savings, it will reward you with experiences you will never forget and that will always shape you through life. If you’re looking for ways to travel cheap, keep an eye on the blog as I will be posting something more specific on that soon. 🙂 In the meantime.. don’t be scared, don’t have prejudices and don’t overthink the situation. Just shut up, go out there and start exploring! The only one stopping you is yourself. 🙂

Elena

NO PLACE IS PERFECT.

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I love Italy. I truly do. Countless times we’ve been told there is no place like home, and I can testify and support that thought like I can scream my own name to the world. After travelling to many places and falling in love in different corners of the world, I can’t hide the fact that being back always brings a happiness to my heart in ways that can’t even be described.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not about not being able to be away. I could easily and gladly spend months, even years of my life, in other places. I have done that with the UK, I could do it right now if I was offered the chance, on the hunt for something new to call home even just for a little while. There is something about being able to move away, start anew, that excites me, bringing a thrill that I am constantly craving in life. However, I can’t deny the fact that Italy is something that I could never completely let go of.

Some might say I am really lucky to have been born in a developed, relatively successful country, the winner of a randomised lottery which placed me in an advanced part of the world. I see it when I travel to less developed countries which, although absolutely stunning, have people struggling more than we do. I see it again when I see hoards of immigrants trying to make their way into my country, looking for something more and a place which will finally give them what they deserve. I am absolutely not trying to brag or put myself on a higher level, but merely stating a thought which is universally acknowledged.

This morning I woke up in Rome, where I am visiting my mother for a few days as she’s been working here for quite some time. As I lit up a cigarette and had my morning coffee, I just couldn’t help but think how lucky I was. Not because I am from here, or because I could just chill in the morning lights with not a care in the world – that’s not what I am talking about. As I contemplated my situation, I realised I was in freaking Rome – one of the epicentres of the world – a place of history and life, the city where most of our cultures started and an international hub which to this day brings millions and millions of people each year to admire its landmarks and ruins. A piece of our past and a piece of our present, if you will, showcasing the roots of our societies and exhaling history with every breath taken.

I thought back on all the people I have met during my travels, from other European countries to farther away lands, their ways of living and their ways of life. I even thought back to my friends, back home, some of which never really go out to see the world either because they think they can’t or they simply don’t care. I thought back of all the times I bashed my own country, thinking I could get out and find something better, something which could give me more. Through time though, I realised that the “more” I was talking about didn’t exist: each place has got its own characteristics, good and bad, and we just gotta learn to live with both. There is no perfection in this world and no safe heaven we can run to when everything goes wrong. We just gotta make the most of what we’ve got.

Being here, in this moment, made me realise one thing: it doesn’t matter where you are or what you do, there will always be something you want to change and always something which makes you extremely grateful to be in that precise place surrounded by all the things you know and have learned to accept and love. We can go on for hours about wanting to leave it, move away, do something better, but the reality is that we all just need a reason to stay. As I woke up in this magical city, which I love with all my heart, I realised I am lucky because I have finally learned to accept it and I can now see how fucking blessed I am to have all these things around me.

In this this blog post, I talked about the unfairness of feeling entitled to a land more than another, somehow calling a country ours when in fact it’s just a strip of land that everyone and anyone should be able to reach, no matter where they were born or where they come from. I raged at the thought of people having their head so up their arse they couldn’t show any sign of empathy. I even felt sorry for the people emigrating towards my country, because it can be a close-minded, sad little corner of the world. But I can’t deny the fact that I do love this sad little corner of the world, which is also what pushes me everyday to always look further, explore new realities and compare them to my own. Because as I said, none of us live in perfect lands the same way as none of us is perfect.

With all of this said, I don’t even know where I’m going. I just wanted to express what I was feeling and throw out there a thought which maybe some of you can share with me. What do you think? Have you found a place that you think is perfect? Do you think it doesn’t exist? Do you agree in saying that nothing is perfect and we just gotta accept it and make the most of what we’ve got? Let me know!

 

I hope you’re all having a lovely day ,

Elena