Travelling Perception

I have been thinking lately how my way of travelling changed during the past few years. I am not counting the time when I was 19 and left Poland for 3 years to live in France, but the time when I came back, started my professional career at the age of 22 and started travelling. At the beginning it was just for holiday once a year, later on a few times per year. I remember my first holiday – it was Rodos, a Greek island. And an organized trip :/ Crap, did I really do that?! Did I really buy an organized trip by a travel agency? Was I that lazy? Yeah, I did it :/ I do not blame myself for that, it was just easy. I was young, did not have much experience in travelling, not mentioning traveling on my own, and wanted to go abroad. But ss they say – there always has to be the first time for everything. It came, a bit later on when I made some observations about traveling and decided how I really want to travel.

Travelling with an agency is simple – they organize everything for you and you do not need to worry about anything. My opinion now is that even though it is that simple, you might miss a lot. First of all – if you buy an all-inclusive trip you will not eat outside and taste local cuisine as you are provided with the food in the hotels’ restaurants, so what is the point of spending more money to try local cuisine? You have already paid quite a lot for you trip, haven’t you? Second of all – you will probably not move from the hotel. And again – you have paid already for accommodation, so what is the point of going to and exploring another place as you already have what you need. Third of all – you are so lazy to make an effort to organize a trip on your own that you make it the easiest way possible and just stay in one place the whole holiday. My question is – so what is the point of traveling if you want to stay only in one place, eat and drink just because you paid for it? You can eat and drink at home too, can’t you? 😉 These are the observations based mostly on myself. I used to travel like that a bit, luckily only a few times. It happened I went to all-inclusive trip 3 times in my life. I visited already 20 counties so far and some of them more than once. That means most of my trips were prepared by myself and for myself 🙂 In Greece I was 8 times already and I know it is not the end 🙂 So in general out of around 50 times I flew abroad, only 3 were all-inclusive. However my way of travelling changed so much over these past few years.

These all-inclusive trips are not such a bad idea if you know how to make most of them. However in my opinion these are usually used to go abroad, especially to a warm country, stay in a hotel for a week, get drunk every night, eat a few times a day, go to a beach, and have fun. And there is nothing wrong with that. Just it is not my style of travelling at all! I want to explore the place I am in, meet new people, either locals of foreigners; try local food; get on a local bus and admire the views; organize everything on my own – book the hotel I want to stay in, Airbnb or a much better option – Couchsurfing; eat in local restaurants, see how local people live and work there. Yet that way of traveling took a bit of time for me to learn. Now I mostly travel on my own. To be free. To feel free. To get the emotions travels give me – like getting lost and finding the way out, or making my brain work quickly in finding a solution no matter what might happen. And adventures always happen when you travel 🙂 People I meet on my way are always helpful and amazing. Those I met through Couchsurfing will stay in my heart forever as they teach me and show me that all of us, around the world are good, warm, and open-hearted 🙂 If I was only traveling through all-inclusive trips I would never experience such incredible places and meet such great people. It required a bit of courage for a lonely, young girl to pack one day and say to herself – ok, I am doing it on my own, I do not need a companion, we will see what world has for me to offer and hell yeah, I am going on my solo trip! 🙂 I do not even member now what country I chose for my first lonely trip, yet I gave myself a chance to do so and knew I could make it on my own. No regrets at all! The best decision I ever made! Now, when I want to travel I just buy a fight ticket, make a plan for my trip and off I go. I do not search for people to keep me company, the best company I am already in , and that is myself 🙂

I do remember, at the beginning, that I felt a bit ashamed to sit in a restaurant and have dinner on my own. As if I needed company, either male or female, does not matter who, but there had to be someone with me. As if I was not allowing myself to have a meal on my own, as if I would be judged by the society that I am a single girl nobody wanted to go on holiday with. So, I felt, there had to be something wrong with me, right? Now I know the only thing that was wrong, was my way of thinking. Everything is totally ok with me. I have right to sit in a restaurant and eat on my own. I have right to travel on my own. I have right to see all of the places I want to see on my own. I have right to be on my own! 🙂 I do not need others to make me feel good, because my mood depends only on myself. If I do not feel good with myself, no one will make me feel better, not even a traveling companion. Another thing I have learnt – how I manage my emotions is the key to my happiness. The truth is I never feel lonely while travelling – there is always nature right next to me, there are always amazing views surrounding me, there are always people around even though they are strangers, there are always thing happening 🙂 And I love walking around in a foreign country, admiring life happening there, enjoying every single moment, tasting coffee and food, seeing how people rush to work or relax by the beach. I think life is amazing, and the only thing you need to do is wanting to see it that way. Not being afraid of being on your own with your own thoughts is another succesful key if you want to travel alone 🙂 I stick to that. No more all-inclusive trips in such case 🙂 Just experiencing beautiful life happening around every single day!

A girl – a Lonely Traveler

Why I am travelling alone? Is it still such a strange thing to see a girl who travels on her own? Lots of my friends tend to admire me for doing such a thing. And for me it is not a big thing. I just want to do it, and I am doing it!

From the beginning now 🙂 I think it was my dad who subconsciously encouraged me to travel. I remember when I was young he was reading me to sleep “Gulliver’s travels”. It might have been that time my mind started getting used to the idea of traveling. When I was 19 I left Poland and went living as an au-pair girl in Paris for a few years. I need to mention I did not speak French at all then. I spoke English, yet those who know a bit of French culture will immediately figure out knowing English was not much of a help 🙂 I leant French there. Brave, isn’t it? As some may claim that going to a foreign country may be risky for such a young girl, I think it was just an adventure for a 19-year-old girl. It taught her how to manage in such a cosmopolitan city like Paris. It was 2002. In Poland capitalism was only 13 years old, and even though the capital and the country itself was quickly developing, it was nothing in comparaison to a 12 million Ile-de-France region. My 3 years adventure of living in France taught me only amazing skills, like: becoming very independent and more tolerant, counting only on myself, managing in all kinds of situations and finding out what freedom means to me. I am now not afraid of buying flight tickets and going abroad alone. I would even say I love it! What I love about traveling alone is that I do not need to compromise on anything. I go to places I want to see and visit. I do not need to ask anyone for their opinion or plans for the trip or for the day. It may sound egoist, and yes I am aware of it. Yet I prefer to travel alone than in a bad company. Most of us know how hard it is to find a good companion, especially when it comes to traveling. People have different needs and expectations. In my life there are only 2 people I am willing to travel with – my father and one of my girlfriends. The reason I can fly with them is that they know some unpredictable things and situations will happen and they do not panic then. They are both chilled out and relaxed, they love enjoying life, so if we feel like sitting in a café and drinking some, we just do so. Both of them do not care about money that much, so we are not counting penny for each meal in a restaurant or each souvenir that we buy to know how much we have left. Of course we are being reasonable and not wasting money on stupid things, just enjoying every single moment of our journey.  Rest of my friends do not travel the same way I do, so there is no point going anywhere with them, as it would be only waste of my energy.

What does the travelling alone give me? Lots of positive emotions. Facing challenges. Proving myself I am invincible. Crossing my boundaries. Realizing I am amazing. I love the feeling of getting on a plane, then landing in a foreign country and the story begins – finding myself, asking for direction, searching for places I want to visit, tasting different food, enjoying sunsets and sunrises, admiring landscapes, listening to the sound of sea, ocean and wind. Feeling the universe, understanding it, being grateful for such an opportunity of being where I happen to be. This is what I get when I travel. All range of positive emotions. And people I meet on my way are amazing too: couchsurfers, pedestrians, other tourists. They are always helpful and always making me smile.

Many times, here in Poland, I heard my friends saying that traveling alone is not such a common thing, especially for a girl. I keep wondering why? Are women afraid of doing so and being alone? Are we still thinking only by having with someone around our life has a meaning? Are Polish women still brought up the way they need a man to take care of them, as they are a weaker sex and need protection? Really, are they? If so in my opinion they are missing a lot. Especially their freedom, as they have resigned from it in order to get a false sense of security provided by men. I am aware I am a grown up, does not matter a girl or a boy, as an adult human being I know I am responsible for myself. No one else! At least that is the philosophy of life of a Polish girl who travels alone 🙂 And loves doing it! There are so many amazing places for me to see and I cannot wait to buy another ticket after my 8th Greek holiday this year I am starting soon 🙂 I am sure the moment I come back I will be googling some other flights to places I have never been before. In my opinion we are living in such amazing times and the world is so open to any of those who are willing to take the most of it. And I am one of them 🙂 I want 100% of this world! I know the opportunity is there, just waiting for me to take it. So why would I be like most of Polish girls waiting for their price charm to arrive, when I have millions of flight routes to choose from and still at least 100 countries to visit! I may be egoist, I may not be adapting to society by not having a family and kids, yet I am happy in every single day of my life as thanks to my travels I am such and my open-minded person that has so and many plans for the future! Not only these concerning traveling of course 🙂

Bergen – in Norway

It was just one March weekend break. I left on a Friday and came back on a Monday. Quick trip. A very quiet one with lots of amazing views. I love travelling to countries that make me feel safe, and I admit Norway gave me such a feeling 🙂

When it comes to the weather it was not that cold, anyway one day it was snowing and foggy. In such a northen part of Europe I would never expect a great weather, especially that not even spring season started. What I was told by a friend who has been living there for the past 10 years was that during the summer the tempartues are around 14 degrees. That is not even summer for me :/ Anyway it would be nice to check myself one summer weekend how really Bergen weather is  🙂

As most of us know Scandinavian countries are expensive. I do agree. Well, the truth is it is just food that is so expensive, and it makes me wonder why? As for the tram ticket from Bergen airport to the city center I paid around 5 euros, for a simple lunch I had to pay at least 30. The prices in the restaurants as well as shops surprised me. I thought that 30 euros during my Cote d’Azur trip for lunch or dinner was quite expensive, after visiting Norway I changed my mind and now claim that was not that much 😉 perspective change 🙂 and in the South of France I always had a glass of wine to go with the meal. I did not do it in Bergen, that would probably even double the price. Anyway the food was delicious and I really enjoyed it, but I could spend a fortune there on it.

It was March, winter season, there was still snow in the mountains what made my trip more interesting. The most incredible thing is that Norwegians are so close to nature. I was again couchsurfing and to my surprise a Polish girl hosted me. Her flat was situated in an area that you simply go out from the block of flats, turn right and then turn back and there is a path going into the mountains. We had a nice 1 hour walk to the top of it. Just a perfect Friday afternoon in a deserted mountain area where you can calm yourself down. I love Norway for that 🙂 I even envy them they are sourrounded by such lovely landscapes. For me, in my native country, it requires taking a train and a few hour trip to be so close to the nature as they are.

Bergen is a nice spot if you are interested in the views. You can climb mountains around its area as well as take a boat to see the fiords part. I could not miss that! The trip was 3 hours long and I thought it would be terribly cold there. It was in fact, but the boat inside was perfectly warm, so what I was doing was from time to time getting outside, taking lots of pictures and coming back inside 🙂 see these incredible shots below

The feeling the city gave me was amazing. I felt calm, relaxed, safe and protected. I knew nothing would happen there that would cause me any harm. The trip, even though, was a quick one, will stay on my mind 🙂 and finally I saw myself how Scandinavian countires look like. I have visited mostly all parts of Europe, and now at least a got small portion of its Northen part.

Once I read again some of Jo Nesbo’s books I will perfectly know where the plot takes place 🙂

Couchsurfing Adventure

What really couchsurfing is about and what does it mean to me?

In brief it is hosting strangers or being hosted in somebody else’s house or apartment in a foreign country.  I started using the website and getting to know its community 4 years ago, 2014 to be exact. I tend to host people as I do not travel that much. I am working professionally and am allowed 26 working days off in my country – that gives one and a half month overall. I think it is a lot anyway. Till now I invited to my flat around 70 people from different continents. A lot, I know. And each of them brought something interesting into my life. I do not mean gifts, but emotions 🙂 Some brought just their presence, some their smiles, some their incredible life stories.

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I do not remember each of the person I hosted, however there are some that I still have in mind. Especially my couchsurfing love story that really happened 🙂 I know in some cases people use the website for the sexsurfing. Well… their choices, I know I do not need to agree to such behaviours. My aim when starting using the website was to meet international and open-minded people. And I try to choose only those. When a person sends me a request I do not accept them immediately – I look at the profile, I look at the way the request is written, I look at the pictures of the person and then listen to myself and my intuition whether to accept them or not. In 99% of the cases my intuition was right – I chose people who brought real positive energy into my life. There happened only one that treated my apartment as a hotel :/ Apart from that nothing wrong happened. Really?! Some would ask  – nobody stole anything from your apartment? Nobody hurt you? Nobody cheated you? Well.. NO 🙂 I stick to my opinion about people that they are good, and maybe that is the reason I attract and invite to my life only these. The best is yet to come – I even give them the keys to my flat! Crazy, isn’t it? The times we are living in, when you only hear bad things happening around the globe, there is a Polish girl who hosts strangers and even gives them keys to her flat 🙂 And still nothing bad happened to her! And I am even 100% sure nothing will in the future. First of all, because I choose people I want to host carefully. Second of all, because these who do the couchsurfing are intelligent and respectful. Third of all, because you can learn so many interesting things from them and expand your knowledge about the world without leaving your flat. It just required logical way of thinking and the state of mind allowing yourself to be free.

My love story from couchsurfing was unpredicted and unexpected. You never really know who enters your flat 🙂 So there was this Korean guy that was supposed to stay with me just for 4 nights. And we got on so well that he stayed for 4 months overall. He is not living with me anymore, he has his own plans in life for the time being and he has the right to do so. Who knows, maybe in 10 or 20 years we will be together again? 🙂 The most important is what I learnt back then about relationships. That these can work out, that people can live together without creating negative atmosphere around them, that it is possible to build love between two people if both are trying. I also learnt that if I did not allow myself to feel so, I would have locked myself from such positive emotions and experience. So one day he left, could not stay longer in the Schengen area and had right to continue his life somewhere else. I was not angry at all back then, just a bit sad. I know as a grown up I am the one responsible for the way I feel and my mood depends only on myself. He is not the one to make me feel good. I am just grateful I was able to live what I had with him. And my memories about these 4 months make me smile. We are still in touch, still calling each other from time to time, still caring about each other. Each month he is in a different country, yeah – a real traveler 😉 Previously I was thinking that if you love someone the person has to be right next to you and with you. I now know it is not true. You can love and care about someone who is far away. Anyway I am not waiting for him to come back, I am living my own life as it is, dating others, building relationships with other people and hosting new couchsurfing ones. This Korean guy was just such an amazing and positive story that happened to me unexpectedly during the whole hosting experience. 🙂

 

There are others I still remember. Like a Cuban guy that was on an exchange program in Spain and decided to travel around Europe while being here. I do remember him as I had big doubts before accepting him. First of all he was new on a website, that means he had no references, second of all he was 19 (!!!), third of all he was a man. And I did not really know if I wanted to host such a young guy I knew nothing about and had no idea if he was reliable. I am over 30, so I thought with such a young person I may not have much in common. However I told him honestly about my doubts, and got in return such a sincere response that I decided to accept him. No regrets at all! We spent an evening talking till 3 in the morning about everything! That is the couchsurfing experience I love 🙂 And imagine now he is working in CNN as a journalist. It was a few years ago that we met. He grew up and started his professional career 🙂 We are still connected on Facebook, still in touch, still remembering what we experienced together and still thinking maybe one day in life we will meet again. I would love so 🙂 He is only one of my amazing couchsurfing experiences. There were so much more, but if I wanted to describe all probably the article would be 90 minutes long 🙂

I usually host people. I do not use the website the other way round that often. However I started doing it recently and the experience I got was of course, there was just no other option, incredible! Lovely people I met, as they hosted me, in Portugal, Morocco, Taiwan, South Korea and Norway 🙂 The ones I hosted were: Greek, Finnish, Chinese, Indonesian, Iranian, Syrian, Turkish, Ukrainian, Taiwanese, Angolan, Algerian, Peruvian, Romanian, American, Colombian, British, Egyptian, Canadian, Russian, German, French, Spanish, South Korean, Portuguese, Swiss, Tunisian, Filipino, Australian, Argentinian, Singaporean, Japanese, Mexican, Cuban, Italian, British and even Polish. Now when I look at the list of all of these people it amazes me! What amazes the most are the positive emotions they brought to my life as well as a bit of their culture, their lives, their stories and their freedom 🙂

When I discovered couchsurfing community I thought that in order to get something, you need to give first. So I started from giving, that is hosting. At the beginning I did not really know what to expect and who to expect. As the proverb says – expect the unexpected 😉 With some time I have learnt that when it comes to accepting people there are my rules in my place, however when I am being hosted I need to accept the host’s rules. Fair enough. If you are flexible, chilled out, like meeting new people and while being in a foreign country you prefer to see it through locals, the website is the best place to be.

I am going to continue my couchsurfing adventure. I am going to trust people as I was doing till now. I am grateful to whoever invented it that I have such an amazing possibility to meet foreigners, spend time with them, get to know their life stories, share my observations and sometimes even meet them again in another country 🙂

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Philippines

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One of my this year’s holiday destination was the Philippines. I wanted to visit the country after reading, a few months ago, a reportage. It was describing people living there on the cemetery. It sounded terrible and made a big impression on me, especially because there were some moving photos assigned to it. I knew it was only describing the worst part of the country as well as the society that allows such things to happen.  Anyway I decided to check how life looks like on the islands. And moreover it’s a good destination for holidays, because it’s always warm there. Not only warm, cheap too!
Before going there I did a bit of a research, because of malaria existence in some parts of the islands, and my plan was not only staying in the capital. About Manila I can only say that I totally don’t recommend it. I heard a lot of bad things about the city, and these occurred to be true. Terrible traffic jams, lots of poverty around every corner, people wanting only to screw you, lack of sense of security and many other negative experiences about the city :/ However when it comes to islands, all went just fine 🙂
From the beginning now. I landed on an international airport in Manila and immediately flew to Tagbilaran, a city in Bohol, the island I spent some time on.  They impression about the airport is that the international one looks quite similar to all of the international  airports, however the domestic one is very tiny. There are only four gates, and so many flights taking off to all of the Filipino islands, that it is incredibly crowded and it is hard to find a place to sit. I had an impression of being kind of loaded to a plane and then taken to my destination. Apart from that the plane was on time, everything went smoothly, just the size of the airport and amount of people crowding there was stunning.
About Tagbilaran and Bohol island I can only say good things and I really enjoyed my stay there.  The island is connected by two bridges to another one – Panglao that has to offer many interesting beaches. Mostly the islands are about the beaches. When you are on holiday, in a warm country, on an island, you usually sunbathe and rest by the ocean. Both islands, Bohol and Panglao, offer scuba-diving, trips around the area and many touristic  attractions. I went on a daily trip where in the scope I had attractions like:     sightseeing of Chocolate Hills – a very popular spot in the island located in the middle of it. They do make an impression as the view is amazing when you climb one and then have a view around others. Then we were taken to a place where I could see some small monkeys, later on there was a cruise on a river Loboc with lunch on a boat! Next stop was crossing the bridge made of wood, that was really moving when you’re walking on it, visiting  a zoo where I could hold and touch a snake! I really touched it, even though it was terribly scary. There was also a quick stop in the middle of a forest, just to take some pictures as the trees there are incredibly tall what is impressive. There was one thing for people who like to have their adrenaline flowing quickly in their veins 🙂 As far as I recall it was called Zipo-line. You could cross or rather fly from one spot to another. You lay down,  are being  zipped in a straitjacket and just fly between two hills seeing a stream just below and incredibly green landscape of forest around. I did it! It was fun, it was safe, it was good 🙂 If I could I would do it again and take my mobile with me this time to register the view. The whole trip took one day, from 10 AM until 6 PM. In my opinion it was totally inexpensive. To be driven by van, quite a modern one, to all of the above mentioned spots, the trip cost 400 pesos – that is about 7 euros!!! For the entrance to all of these places I had to pay additionally. That day I spent around €25 and my day was full of attractions!
When it comes to Bohol itself, I need to admit I felt safe there. Nobody cheated me, nobody wanted more for a taxi that it should be, nobody harmed me. I did not catch malaria! Before going on holiday I went to a doctor who told me in the Philippines there is malaria. It sounded as if was to catch it immediately if I do not take the drugs she prescribed me. Anyway I did the research on my own and then decided that I’m not going to ruin my liver and take these pills. First of all they are incredibly expensive and  do not guarantee you will not catch malaria, they only guarantee when it happens, you will not die. I checked the WHO website to see how malaria issue looks like in the region I was going to visit. Then realised there’s no point taking the pills.  Most of the time I was going to spend on a beach anyway.  I always listen to myself and I always try to be reasonable. In that case the decision I made was a good one. So if you are planning to visit some Filipino islands, not going on a mission, staying in hotels and not in the middle of forests, I do not think taking pills against malaria is necessary.
When it comes to the beaches on these two islands I need to say they were not that impressive.  They look okay, quite pretty, and the view is totally amazing. However there are so many shelves by the coast, that you need to be careful when you are getting into the water. The water was really clean and just sitting by the ocean and admiring the view was something I will always remember 🙂 Was it a big WOW? Not it was not, it was just nice.
In my opinion the islands are really good spots to go on holiday, if you want to relax, enjoy good food, feel okay, and get yourself into a real holiday mood. I’m not a person that would look for trouble or hang out after dark, or get drunk, taking into consideration the fact I am travelling alone. During the day, on the beaches and in the city everything was okay. 100% safe. However I can’t say the same about the capital. I really don’t like Manila and don’t want to come back there. It was because I got cheated by a taxi driver and I do not like the fact of taking advantage of me just because I am a tourist. I do understand that the country is cheap, because it really is, but it doesn’t allow its citizens to cheat. That’s unfortunetely what happens when you travel in underdeveloped countries. It did not happen on the islands. I think it is because the islands are very touristic and they usually live from tourism, even the internal ones. In Manila however I paid four times more for a taxi that I should have. First of all what I’ve learned about the taxis is that you take a white one, because they are metered. The yellow ones are usually the ones that have no meter and can take whatever price they want. So be careful. I even  heard a story of taking from a passenger, for quite a short trip, around 2000 peso. That is a lot, about 40 euros! I only paid 600 instead of 150 I should’ve. The taxi’s meter was running like crazy. 10 euros for 15km ride is not a lot some may say, and I agree, but I don’t agree with the fact that the local would pay four times less what I paid, just because I am a tourist. Overall I am happy I only stayed one day in the capital. Honestly there is nothing to see there, except for the poverty that you see on every corner and the traffic jam. A good thing was that I met a great person from Couchsurfing. We spent a lovely evening in the Mall of Asia chatting about life over a meal.
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Overall about the Philippines my impression is that it is a good place to go. If you’re going to one of the islands, or to some of them, skip Manila. The country is cheap, you can have a really good rest for not a big amount of money. I think it is one of the cheapest countries I have visited so far!
One thing that made me wonder and started to be annoying after a while was the fact that the Filipinos were always calling me ma’am. Is that because they were colonised by the Americans? Is that because they felt inferior to me? Is that because they wanted to be polite? Is that because that’s how they show respect to another person? I still don’t know the answer to this question. Sometimes when I was shopping and paying for the groceries in the shop or other stuff I’d prefer to hear a simple “thank you” than “thank you ma’am” as if I was a madam myself not a tourist and a normal human being.