Bali

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About a week and a half into my trip I was up late, doubting myself, doubting my choices, doubting pretty much everything that made me end up in a hostel in Melaka with 3 friends. I was supposed to have a great time, supposed to enjoy every second of it and yet, something held me back.
A long talk with an old travel buddy and a spontaneous decision later I was the proud owner of plane tickets that would take me to Bali. It was only for a week and I, of course, doubted that decision too, right away, but nothing could have been more right.

Bali healed my soul in a way I could not have anticipated. I was finally able to let go of everything that weighed me down. Stress I took with me from back home, stress from pressuring myself into doing as much as I could, seeing as much as I could in the weeks prior. I was finally able to catch up on lost sleep, let my body rest, let my heart rejoice in old and new friendships, lazy mornings in bed, massages on cliffs and afternoons at the beach.
The air smelled like frangipani and incense, the people were gentle and polite, the food healthy and light, and my life was suddenly healthier than it had been in a long time.
If all of this was possible in a week, I’m excited to see what could happen when I go back (because that is certain) and stay for a longer period of time.
Bali has completely enchanted my heart, body, and soul.

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* All pictures featuring me taken by Krystin Ross.

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Merry Christmas

Year after year I look forward to Christmas for months. Sometimes I get teary eyed thinking about it when I’m alone in my car… in September. I’m not kidding – I don’t even know why Christmas has become such an emotional holiday for me in the past couple of years.

Anyways, this december has been quite stressful for me. Filled with university work, my new job, discovering and learning new things about myself and trying to become the kind of person I want to be. It’s been a struggle but also rewarding and beautiful.

For everyone else who’s having a hard time this holiday season, know that you are not alone. I hope you find peace and quiet moments with the people you love and if you ever need to get something off your chest then feel free to write me a message me wherever, whenever.

Christmas is celebrated on the eve of the 24th in Austria and while I wait for my family to come over to stuff ourselves with Raclette and chocolate fondue, let me quickly share the recipe for the aperitif I’m going to serve in a little while.

 

Cranberry-Pomegranate Sparkler

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Ingredients:

1 cup of pomegranate juice
1 cup of cranberry juice (unsweetened if you can)
juice of one big mandarin (or orange)
about 5 tablespoons of mandarin simple sirup

For the mandarin simple sirup:
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
the zest of 1 big mandarin (without the bitter white stuff, so really only super thin layers of the peel!)

How to make the simple sirup:
In a sauce pan put together the sugar, water and mandarin zest. Heat up until it’s boiling and the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool completely.

How to assemble the drink:
Combine the juices and 5 (or more, depending on how sweet you want the mix to be!) tablespoons of the sirup.
Pour into champagne flutes and top of with champagne.

You can chill the juice mix for hours until you’re ready to serve the drink. For the champagne to not mix with the juice I’d recommend pouring the champagne over the back of a teaspoon that’s pressed to the inside of the champagne flute.
As decoration I’ve used rosemary sticks with fresh cranberries.

Recipe adapted from here.

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Travel Stories – Food: Street Vendors

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Food is a huge topic when traveling, no? It’s an even bigger topic when you’re traveling to what we’d call a developing country.

Let’s address some topics that might be of concern:

Street vendors (and food sold at markets):

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People often warn you, “Don’t eat food from street vendors!” But should you really? Is it really that unsafe?

In my opinion: No.

It can be, sure, but if you pay attention you can very easily find out where it’s safe to eat from and where it is not. Keep your eyes open, and observe closely. Are there other people buying from that vendor? Does it look clean and fresh?
A tip (and this goes for street vendors as well as restaurants): if there are a lot of locals it’s most probably safe and definitely delicious.

My experience was – not only in Thailand but in India and Nepal as well, – that you can find the absolutely best, most delicious and authentic food in tiny roadside restaurants or at street vendors. When I travel with my family, we generally always try to stay clear of typical tourist restaurants. We stumble in the most unlikely places and have the craziest, but most delicious and yummy food you could ever imagine. Plus, it’s much cheaper!

The same thing goes for local markets. You can find amazing fruit, vegetables or pastries there, but rely on your common sense and if you’re unsure about it, then I’d say better safe than sorry.

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Raw food:

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In general there’s this rule you should stick to:

Cook it, peel it or leave it.

That’s it, not much more to say about this one. It’s pretty self explanatory.

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[Photo credit goes (sadly) not to me but to a close family friend. All pictures were taken in 2004 on my first trip to Thailand. We forgot to take our own camera. Stupid, I know.]

DISCLAIMER:

All opinions and recommendations on this blog, but especially concerning these travel stories, are solely based upon my own experiences and in no way imply that anyone else will have a similar experience. All travelers are encouraged to use good sense and to keep their eyes open whenever venturing forth into a new place. Please use your common sense and listen to your own instincts.  Each traveling experience is unique to the person having it and I hope you have many!

Travel Stories: Togo

I’m currently in the process of preparing a speech about how to travel safely and smoothly through Thailand and it’s mostly consisting of personal travel stories. Things to watch out for. Stories to illustrate the different mentality. Anecdotes to show that life in an other country may be different but not necessarily better or worse. I’m thinking about writing some of these memories down and posting them on this blog. You can view it as a short story, or maybe as a tip in case you plan on traveling. It’s totally up to you, I’m only here to share my experiences ;-)
For more info click here.

Let’s start with my first Sunday morning in Dzemeke, a tiny village in Togo.

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We were advised that we should go to church. The plan was to introduce us to the villagers, and as the village actually consisted of a collection of small villages, we ended up going to not just one church, but four.

The whole experience was a bit strange and surreal as none of us volunteers were even the least bit religious. We were welcomed with open arms though, and everyone was so friendly and nice. All the women were dressed in their finest, most colourful clothes and they were looking absolutely gorgeous. The music was full of rhythm and it seemed like fun – such a huge difference from what I knew church to be.

One thing they couldn’t quite understand though was how we could not believe in God. How we could not have faith. A conversation with one of the men living in the village went like this.

“So you don’t believe in God?”
– “No, I’m afraid not.”
“And you don’t go to church on Sundays?”
– “No, no point in going when you don’t believe in God, you know.”
“So what do you do on Sundays when you don’t go to church?”
– “I don’t know… sleep in, I guess. Spend the day at home with the family.”
“That’s it? That’s all you do on Sundays?”
– “Yeah…”

It was the strangest thing and that moment showed me how drastically different we see certain things. Nevertheless, they welcomed us to their community, eager to show us a part of their culture and life and it certainly was an experience I won’t ever forget.

I attended a catholic school, yes, I went to mass and had religion classes. I’m baptised and confirmed but those were more done out of tradition than belief. I haven’t been to church since I finished school and I don’t think I will go again any time soon either. I don’t want to get into a huge discussion about religion, I only meant for this to be a little story, something small that had a big impact on me.

Here are some of the churches we went to:

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