Volunteering in Holland

Hello!

I really want to tell you about the volunteer work I am doing. Currently, I am working for Greenpeace Netherlands and ‘Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland’. And I feel so enthusiastic about this! A few months ago I decided to sign up myself on the volunteer platform ‘Greenwire’ by Greenpeace Netherlands. You can find all the upcoming Greenpeace actions in Holland on this platform. A few weeks ago, I went to the volunteer evening at the office in Amsterdam to get some information about the options for volunteers. After they had presented results of earlier projects, I followed a workshop on the plastic bottles by Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola is not recycling the plastic they are producing. All their bottles exist for 97% out of new plastic. This is really harmful for the environment. During the workshop, we were brainstorming about an action against Coca-Cola which would take place in The Hague. It was super interesting and I really loved to do something for a more sustainable world.

Greenwire Netherlands

Second, I am volunteering for ‘Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland’ as a language coach (taalcoach). I am helping Maryam -a refugee from Somalia – with learning Dutch. I started with this work about a month ago. I am so happy I signed up. I am meeting with Maryam every week to practice assignments and to talk a lot about literally everthing. I think Maryam is enlightening me. I have been traveling a lot, but I have never met people like Maryam. She told me she has never been to school. Of course, I know that there are girls in every part of the world that are not going to school. But still, it was quite shocking for me to talk with her about this. I felt super spoiled and even guilty.

Vluchtelingenwerk

I am learning a lot from both Greenpeace and Vluchtelingenwerk. I think everybody should be doing some kind of volunteer work. It doesn’t matter if this is related to health issues, society and humanity, or environmental issues. As long as you want to put some effort in your neighbourhood, city, country, or just the world you are living in. It is challenging for the personal development and knowledge about various issues, it is good for the people you are working with, and organizations or institutions will appreciate your work. I am also doing this work to expand my professional network. It would be awesome to work for organizations like Greenpeace or Vluchtelingenwerk.

Until next time!

With love,

Isabella

 

 

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How to explain Anthropology to my friends ?!

Hey guys!

I’m sorry, it’s been a month since my last post! In the meantime, I’ve been studying and working a lot. I have to say that I really like my study and my job as a waitress. But, I’ve been experiencing some difficulties the last few weeks. And those difficulties are always about – according to my friends – explaining the ‘weird’ kinds of studies I do. And indeed, after my college year in Cultural and Societal Education, and my Bachelor degree in Arts and Culture, Cultural Anthropology is not really a topic that attracts a lot of students. And to be honest, I don’t know why. Because: Anthropology is awesome!

So, at the moment I’m following the MSc program in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology in Leiden. As I said, lot of people ask me what it actually is. And every time I find it really hard to explain. I awkwardly say something like ‘it is about cultures’, ‘it is about research’, ‘it is about NGO’s’… Eventhough I think this is the best study for me, I find it very hard to actually tell why it ties in with what I want in my career. Yes friends, you got me there!

Let’s check how the website of the master describes the program. The website says ‘the program is about how to do research into the ways in which people experience and cope with global problems at the small scale of their everyday (universiteitleiden.nl)’. Mmm.. Is it more clear now? I don’t think so… Let’s switch to my research project then. Maybe you will have a better view of my interests and field if I tell you a bit more about my research internship in general.

So, in January 2018 I will go to Ghana to do my fieldwork. I hear you thinking: Why? Ghana? Fieldwork? Well, in the first place because I love to travel and Africa is the only continent in the world I haven’t been to yet. But the most important reason is because I want to get a bit familiair with a country like Ghana. How cool is it, that I’m actually going to live in a town (Tamale) in the northern part to experience how it really is to be in that specific place. That is the ‘out of your comfort zone 8+’! So, what am I going to do in that town then?

I will do my research project in collaboration with the Amsterdam based company Closing the Loop. Closing the Loop recycles old batteries and mobile phones in countries like Ghana to reduce the e-waste. However, they’ve experienced that the people there have a whole different perception of waste management and climate risk than that we have in Europe. Thus, I am going to research how young women in Tamale interact with the environment according to their waste management. This means that I will look how the women think about climate change, how they talk about green topics, how they think about waste recycling, think about the value of their mobile phones, think about e-waste… etc. Of course, my research is more complicated and academic than I explain here. But anyway, this sounds cool, doesn’t it?

When looking at my project, the explanation on the website becomes (hopefully) a bit more clear. I am going to research how young women in Tamale deal with a global problem like climate change. I am going to investigate this by giving workshops on environmental awareness on secondary schools. And this kind of research is exactly the thing that I am really enthusiastic about. And in that way, I think it ties in so good with my future career goals. Because: I would love to work for a NGO like Greenpeace. And how nice is it then to do active research on human-environment interaction in Ghana? I can tell you, that’s really nice…

I don’t think the concept Anthropology is more clear now. But, hopefully, the topic that I am studying right know became a bit understandable for you! Now you also understand my struggles when I have to explain you where my study is about. It is just soo broad! It is possible to choose whatever kind of topic you want to focus on. The only thing is that it has to fit in a global context (which is basically everything). Anyway, I understand if Anthropology is still a bit vague for you… But at least, I tried to explain you how I feel about it. It keeps me busy, I find it interesting, and I think that is the most important.

Till next time!

Isabella

Back in Rotterdam!

Hey guys!

So, my Lonely Planets about South-America, Cuba, and New York City are now on my new closet in my new room in Rotterdam. I finished my travel diary and I just uploaded my 3000 (!) pictures of my trip on my laptop. I’m looking around in my new home and it feels strange. My whole trip feels like a big dream, an adventure I made when I was sleeping for a very long time. But off course, I wasn’t asleep, because everything is new now. I just started my MSc program in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology and I found a new job as a waitress last week. I have a new house, and celebrated my 23rd birthday… What did all just happened the last 5 months? Not only I traveled from Peru and Bolivia to Canada, but I also changed my whole life from a fulltime worker into a student again. It is something that I already planned for a really long time, and especially my study is something I really want to start. But still, what happened with my adventurous life? Where did it all start 5 months ago?

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As you all now, my trip started in Peru. I traveled here with a group of 18 people and a wonderful guide, named Gino, through the country. From Lima to Nazca, Arequipa, Chevay, Cusco, Machu Picchu… All the people on my group were so kind and friendly. I had a great start of my trip. Thank you guys for teaching me the card game ‘hobo and the president’ and helped me to give names to my little lama, elephant, and buddha I was carying with me on my trip. After, I did a Spanish language course for a week with a super cute teacher that was super enthusiast about everything I did (and that was not much to be honest haha). In my group, I met lovely Irish girl Clara, with who I traveled to the Amazon, after my language course. The Amazon was amazing and I remember I was so happy to practice my Spanish and that the guide said my Spanish was ‘bastante bien’. After this trip, me and Clara traveled to Titicaca lake and Bolivia together. I’ve seen the most beautiful nature ever in my life. The salt flats are magic, cold, and so beautiful. In Bolivia, I got sick for the first time. I remember I puked 15 times that day and I had to catch a flight to Colombia that night. When I arrived in Colombia, I fel in love with the country, the people are so friendly and so positive! For the first time in my life I found a city (Medellin) inspiring for my life. The people here do not complain, they forget the past and contiue their lives with a smile. In Colombia, I traveled from Bogotá to Medellin and the Caribbean coast. I took surf lessons, salsa classes, and made my own coffee. However, I also had some health struggles. I got food poisoning for the second time and had on the worst point 57 muscito bites on my legs. Also, I had to get more common with traveling by myself in a country considered by the Dutch government as ‘dangerous’. Lucky for me, nothing bad happened so I’m proud to say that South America in general is amazing!

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After, I sailed from Colombia to Panama with stops at the San Blas Islands. I’ve never seen such a tropical Paradise in my life. Snorkeling and tanning were the daily activities. From Panama, I took a flight to Cuba, where I spent 2,5 week. I consider Cuba as my favorite destination. Also, because I met so many other travelers here who wanted to share their days with me. I liked to spent more time with the people here to get to know them better. Also, Cuba was for me a whole different world, so interesting and so frustrating but amazing. I loved it! Cancun, Mexico, was the first destination that I considered as a bit American. I saw big resorts with names as ‘Golf and Spa’ and a lot of big cinema’s, restaurants, and clubs. The Maya ruines in Tulum were really pretty though.

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And then: North America! My first stop was New York City where I met so many beautiful people as well. The city felt a bit like home after spending two months in latin American countries. Washington DC was amazing as well. I had a wonderful 4th of July here. And off course: Chicago! Where I stayed 3,5 weeks and got to know the city very well. My last country on my list was Canada. Well, it was not really on my list, I made a spontanious decision to go there as well. I’m glad I did. It is such a laid back country. I will always remember the Canoe-trip and my days in Montréal, because Montréal is the best city! After Boston and again New York City it was unfortunately time to go home.

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I’m so happy I made this trip all by myself. I’ve seen so much, I’ve learned so much about the history of all the countries, got to know people from all over the world, with all different stories, I’ve seen so many different cultures on my trip, so many stories, all connected together on two continents, on one world. I’m so happy I could meet all these people. I can now say that South America is not that dangerous as everybody thinks and that USA is full of nice people as well!

To be honest, I’m also glad to be at home now and to chill with a cup of tea while thinking back about my trip. Sometimes, on unexpected moments, a funny story or a beautiful memory pops up in my head. When I’m running outside, when I’m taking my shower or cooking my dinner. And I hope this will last for a long time! Because except that I learned that I’m sometimes not that open minded as I always thought I was, or that I don’t need so much stuff and clothes in my life (or maybe I do, because: CLOTHES, duh), but I also learned to appreciate the memories and home. For now it’s okay to be back in Rotterdam, to face again a new chapter in my life and to wait for new adventures to come…

Hopefully they come fast, because I’m already bored (no, just kidding, or maybe not 😉 )

And oh! By the way, I will continue with this blog eventhough I’m not traveling at the moment.

The last part of my trip…

Hey !

On August 3rd, I arrived in Toronto, Canada. This was the beginning of the last 3.5 weeks of my trip. And I remember that I really liked it to travel and stay in the hostels again.

Toronto is a huge international city. I really liked it there, and after New York City, Washington DC, and Chicago, I’m a bit more used to megacities now. I did all the tourist hotspots during the first three days I was here. I visited the University of Toronto, went to the harbour side, to the Distillery District, and the Lawarence market. The Distillery District and the Lawrence market are for me two top sights in Toronto. The District is a small old neighbourhood where a lot of artists are located. Besides that, I could find some cool vintage shops and cozy coffee places. I loved the Lawrence market because it is one big indoor market with so many delicious food stands. Off course, I love food, but this type of food (think about tapas and cheese) reminded me of countries like France, Spain, and Italy, which made the market for me it even better 😉

Because I couldn’t go to Canada without visiting the Niagara falls, I took a bus to the falls from Toronto to spend one weekend in this area. I was glad to go to some ‘nature area’ because after all those big cities I was really in for some nature hikes. However, I was a little bit dissapointed in the falls because the place is so touristy and they are basically located next to a small ‘Las Vegas’. For me, the magic was a little bit gone, but it was still nice to see the falls off course. In the night, they have a lightshow that lights up both the American and the Canadian falls. Which is cool!

After Toronto and the Niagara Falls, I took an 8 hour bus to the capital of Canada: Ottawa. I stayed here in the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel. This hostel is located in, off course, an old prison. The prison closed in 1972 and opened as a hostel in 1973. Until 1972, a lot of aweful things happened there, like tortures and executions. As backpacker, you stay in the old cells, where you share your dorm with 4 to 8 people. On the 8 floor, it is possible to sleep in the cells ‘of death’, where people were waiting for their execution. The story goes that it is haunted there 😉

Ottawa itself was a small but interesting city. It’s Canada’s 150th birthday this year so there was a lot going on. For example, on the first evening I went to the Parliament to watch a lightshow about the history of Canada. Besides that, I visited the Canadian war museum, the museum of Canadian history, Chinatown, Little Italy, and I did the Haunted Walk of Ottawa one evening.

After Ottawa, I did a 3-day Canoe tour with Wild Adventures Canada. This was amazing! The tour took place in Algonquin Provincial Park, which is maybe not the most interesting nature park of Canada, but it is kind of easy to get there from Toronto and it is beautiful as well. The park exists out of more than 2000 lakes and a lot of forests. I was with a small group of 3 people and one guide. We did wild camping on one of the islands in the lake. It was really wild camping: so no electricity and we had a campfire to make our food on. We canoed or hiked every day to other parts of the park, viewpoints, and waterfalls. We wanted to see a Moose, but we were unlucky so we haven’t seen one.

My last stop in Canada was Montréal, the biggest city in the Province of Québec. I loved Montréal! It was so French with a lot of cozy restaurants and bars, unique boutiques  and an old city centre. It was so cool! When you’re there, definitely eat Poutin, which is a typical Canadian dish. Furthermore, you can just enjoy your days with walking around because there is a lot going on in this city. There are photo galleries on the street, art exhibitions, festivals… I had a really great time there.

And then… Back to USA! Boston was still on my list of places in North East America that I still wanted to visit. I spent 4 nights here. Boston is interesting because of the history. I did the Freedom Trail through the city and it learned me a lot about the first Europeans that arrived in USA. Besides that, I visited Harvard University and did a tour there as well. Harvard University was really impressive, not because of the buildings, but because of all the inside stories and the important inventions and research that has been done here. I wish I could study there one day…

One week ago, I took the bus back to NYC from where I had my flight back to The Netherlands. I still can’t really get it that I’m already home. The last 4,5 months went so fast. It is the end of my Panamerica trip. I finished my travels in Boston and NYC, thinking over the last few months and my new future as master student Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. I’ve seen so many beautiful places, and people that are connected with each other through shared history and culture and language. I learned so much about the countries I’ve been visiting. I can now say that South America is not that dangerous as everybody thinks it is. The continent is full of super friendly people, the same for USA. I started to love USA and Canada as well, and I will definetly be back one day.

Next blog will be about what I learned on my trip and about my new life at home!

Love,

Isabella

Bella’s Chicago

Hello!

Because I have spent 3.5 weeks in Chicago I decided to write reviews about most of the places I went to. This post will therefore be a bit Lonely Planet like but from my personal point of view. I hope you enjoy it and that you can use it one day!

Workaway

A really good option to get free accommodation in Chicago is to find volunteer work on Workaway.com. This is a website for backpackers that would love to stay at some place for a bit longer. I was so lucky to find a really good spot. I spent 3.5 weeks at Francesca’s house with dog Dolce. I worked from 8 till 12 in the morning every weekday to ‘earn’ my accommodation and some food.

What to do?

Art Institute

If you love Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Seurat, and other super famous painters: go here! They have everything from Religious European to Impressionism and American art. I liked it a lot.

The Field Museum

This museum is big! I spent here 2 hours and it was still not enough. Go visit the Africa department and do the nature walk. Seeing the dino Sue is cool too.

The Shedd Aquarium

Zoo’s are not really my thing as I am a vegetarian and I really care about animals. However, seeing tropical fish, penguins, and dolphins is fun and the Aquarium offers a lot of info about water, coral, climate, and tropical animals.

Museum of Contemporary Art

This museum is lovely, however you need to be interested in modern art. They have a really good exhibition of the Japanese artist Murakami till September this year.

Adler Planetarium

The Planetarium offers great information about our solar system and space in general. However, the museum is small but this makes it easy to combine with the Field Museum or the Shedd Aquarium which are all located in the same area.

The Museum of science and industry

I’ve been visiting a lot of museums ha 😉 ? This museum is too big to be honest. It is easy to spend here a full day. But they have some interesting topics about genes, airplanes, human bodies, food, trains, WWII etc.

Rent a bike

Get around by the Blue Ventra bikes and cycle the beach coast route. I started in the south at the Aquarium and went all the way up to North Av. Beach. Every 30 minutes you’ve to make a stop to check your bike in and out again. I combined these stops with lunch and coffee breaks (brought my own).

Walk around down town

Please go explore down town by yourself to find your own favorite spots! Use Google Maps or get a good street map at one of the hostels. I walked around down town to see the shops. I like shops as ‘Forever 21’ and ‘Victoria’s Secret’. Those can be find at Michigan Av a.o.

Go explore the Blues at Buddy Guys Legends

Nice Blues music here! Concerts start in general at 9PM but there is also pre music during dinner. Admission is 10 dollars.

Buckingham fountain by night

Go visit the fountain by night as there are light and music shows often.

John Hancock building (360 chicago)

Please don’t go to the official viewpoint because this will cost you 25 dollars. Go to the lounge! Ask at the counter where to go. Over here, you can order a Coca Cola for 6.90 and the view is the same. It is beautiful!

Kayak Chicago

Kayak Chicago is a company that offers tours on the river. The 3 hour tour is a heavy work out (yes even for a sports fan like me) but it is worth it. Tip: Buy your ticket on Groupon to safe more or less 20 dollars on the price.

Free Walking Tours by Foot

I did two free walking tours in the time I was here. Go to freetoursbyfoot.com to book yours! I can recommend the Lincoln Park and Gangster tour and the West Loop tour. Tours are free but they ask for a tip for the guides.

The Zoo plus the garden

The Zoo at Lincoln Park is free and they have some impressive animals like tigers, lions, sea lions, gorilla’s, apes (all sorts), zebras etc. When you enter the Zoo at the West entrance there are some beautiful gardens as well that are free to visit.

Go visit a baseball game

Be prepared: a game will take like 4 hours but it is a typical American thing to do. Go to m.mbl.com to buy your ticket for the Cubs or the White Sox. Prices vary from 7 till 70 dollars.

Festivals

Thai food festival

This is a festival with good Thai food in Lincoln Park in July. They also have some stands with typical Thai clothes and there is Thai music. However, be there early because the food was all gone when I arrived at 6PM.

Chinatown Summer Fair

Market in July with a lot of stands to buy stuff. I bought a nice vintage handbag here.

Fireworks at Navy Pier

During Summer, there are free fireworks at Navy Pier. On Wednesday it starts at 9PM, on Saturday at 10:15PM.

Music and movies in Millennium Park

During the whole summer there are concerts in Millennium Park. On Mondays and Thursdays there is music. Every Tuesday a movie is playing (anno 2017).

Sheffield Music Festival

Festival in July with music close to Fullerton Subway station at Lincoln park. I liked it here because the festival also offers free garden tours and a visit to one of the churches.

Michigan Art Festival

Free festival in July down town. It is kind of a market where artist can show and sell their art. I liked it!

Sports

Go Run Chicago/CARA sport

Check out the websites or Facebook pages of these organizations to see if there is a run in a park close by! It is free but registration is necessary.

Summer Fitness class at Navy Pier

Every summer on Tuesday at 6Pm there is a free fitness class at Navy Pier. It is a good way to dance off your Chicago Style Hot Dog.

Summer sunset yoga at Navy Pier

Every summer on Tuesday at 7:30 PM at Navy Pier. Beautiful way to try yoga if you’ve never done it before. Free!

Markets

The French Market

Located at N. Clinton Street, this market has everything from fresh salads to sushi, chocolates, wine, good cheese, and fish and meat. Of course, it is a bit pricy but worth a visit!

The Randolph Street Market

This is a really nice vintage market that takes place in July. I bought a super cute jacket here. You’ve to pay entrance to visit but it is sooo worth it. General admission is 10 dollars but if you’re a student it will cost you only 5.

Where to eat?

Smoke Daddy BBQ

This place has the best veggie burger in town. Well, that’s what I think! And they have cheap beers for 3 dollars and good cocktails. Winning! (Located at Division Street)

Parlor Pizza Bar

Kind of expensive place because a meal will cost you 20 dollars. However, it is always crowded here and that makes this place fancy and cozy. (Located at Division Street)

Pizzianos

This pizzeria, located at Division street, offers the good typical Chicago deep dish pizza. You can have an individual slice for 8.90 dollars or a small one with a drink for more or less 20 dollars. A small pizza is enough, because the pizza is super filling.

Patso’s last Place

This snack bar has delicious Chicago style hot dogs. And even has a veggie dog! The orders come with a lot of fries so please be prepared. A veggie dog with fries is between 6 and 8 dollars. (Located at Chicago Av.)

Places to drink?

Big Shoulders Coffee

Even though I prefer tea, this place has a good cappuccino. It is located on Chicago Av. next to the Blue Line Metro station. They have vegan options as well.

Atomix Coffee Bar

My favorite coffee bar in town! This place has good and big cappuccino with soy milk for 4 dollars and it is a nice place to get work done as it is a flex work place as well.

Fatpour Tap works

Good place to go out on Division street (Jup, I love Division Street). They have some cheap beers for 3 dollars and you can even have dinner here before going out.

Uptown Neighborhood

Just this whole neighborhood is an amazing place during the night. There are late night restaurants, theaters, cinemas, bars and some clubs.

Nice parks and beaches

Because Chicago is located at Lake Michigan, it has some good beaches and of course a lot of parks. Here a list of the parks and beaches I’ve been visiting during my stay:

  • North Av. Beach
  • Oak Street Beach
  • Montrose Beach
  • Ohio Street Beach
  • Smith Park
  • Humboldt Park
  • Millennium Park
  • Grant Park
  • Milton Lee Olive Park]
  • Polk Bros Park

General Tips

On Chicago on the Cheap (website and Facebook) are a lot of cheap and free options about festivals and activities in and around the city.

Use Hostelworld.com to find good hostels in the city. My favorites are Holiday Jones Hostel and HI Chicago.

If you’re running out of budget or just really want to meet local people: use Couchsurfing. There are a lot of local Chicago peeps on Couchsurfing.

 

Who! That are a lot of recommendations right? However, I really liked to write all this down for you. What I already said, hopefully you can use this tips one day. Maybe ‘Bella’s Chicago’ will be your new guide book 🙂

The Big Two!

Hello again!

As a few of you probably know, I am traveling through the United States at this moment! I am currently in Chicago, but this blog is about New York City and Washington DC: The big two!

New York City

Let me be clear: I loved NYC! But it was different then I expected it would be. When I thought about NYC, I thought about a city where everything should be possible. From having dinner in the middle of the night in fancy restaurants till clubs and bars open till late, crazy art galleries and highly fashionable people.

However, the city turned out to be a little bit different. Of course it is super big and there is a lot going on every day. But most restaurants close between 10 and 11 and a lot of bars are only open till 2AM. But for me it was not a big problem as I am a backpacker and at the moment too poor to pay for a 20 dollar meal and a 11 dollar glass of wine.

But besides the fact that NYC is super expensive, it is also super cool! I loved walking around through the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Even the neighborhood Queens, where I stayed in the Q4 hotel (a really good place by the way) had nice streets with ‘cheap’ shops and nice food spots.

In NYC, I basically did all the touristy things. But what I would like to recommend is Chinatown and Little India for the amazing food. If you’re ever in NYC; don’t forget to visit the temple in Chinatown! For a dollar you can receive your personal message in life. I liked to chill in Highline Park in the sun. It is a good place to read a book. Furthermore, I went to the MET museum. It is sooo big! I spend two hours there and I only have seen 2 departments out of 8. Do you think the museum is too expensive for you? Go to the Chelsea Art galleries. The admission is free and the art is modern, but interesting. Of course I have been to the Empire State Building and the statue of Liberty as well. I visited the Empire State Building during sunset! = recommended! I thought it was super pretty.

 

Washington DC

Hello city of politics! I spent my days in DC together with two Dutch girls (José and Stefanie), one girl from Argentina (Jessica), and local Tyler. We’ve been visiting the Museum of American History, the Washington Monument, the WOII Monument, the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Monument, the Holocaust Museum, the Capitol and the White House. We’ve seen a lot!

I liked Washington DC because it is more easy-going than NYC. Also, the city center is small. We were able to walk to everything. It is also super practical that all the important highlights and museums are located in one park. We were really happy with that, because it was super warm during the days we were in DC.

On July 4th, we went to the parade and to a student party and we saw a concert with the Beach Boys and The Four Tops in the park with fireworks at the end. Beautiful!

What I would love to say about America is that I really like the people here. There’s always someone on the street ready to help me out when I’m lost or just searching for a place to go. In Washington DC, I even spent a night in a student house because they invited me over! I would like to thank all my new friends and also the strangers for helping me out and giving me recommendations!

Thank you Panama, Cuba, and Mexico!

Hi there!

The month of June was really special. I have been visiting three countries of the Central America and the Caribbean region. On May 31st, I left Colombia to sail from Cartagena all the way to Panama. This was a trip of six days and we made stops at the San Blas Islands ak. PARADISE. After Panama, I went to Cuba for 2,5 weeks where I traveled around the west side of the island. On June 21st, I took a flight to Cancun, Mexico for a few days from where I traveled to New York City!

Panama – San Blas Islands

To be honest, I do not know Panama that well because I stayed only one night on the main land in Panama City. But the San Blas Islands officially belong to Panama as well. The sailing trip was amazing. I did not really know what to expect, so I did some preparations like covering up my things and clothes in plastic and getting some seasick pills. I was really careful with what I ate and drunk during those days. I did not want to become seasick. But I did~t! So I was able to enjoy the trip haha! The first day, we spent on the open sea between Colombia and Panama. The other full three days we spent on the San Blas Islands. We basically lived on the boat, but we could jump of into the water every minute of the day, we could go for snorkeling, or swim to the small islands. The San Blas Islands are islands how you draw them as a child. Some of them are literally two squared meters with only one palm tree and a starfish close to the beach. The water is so super clear and blue. I have never seen something like that before. We could eat fresh coconots of the trees everyday. And during snorkeling I have seen the most beautiful coral ever. The colors here are still really strong. During one of my snorkel trips I have also seen a stingray. Really special! Lucky for me I did not see any shark or crocodile (which supposed to be there) haha!

Cuba

Cuba was a really special experience. The country is beautiful but poor, the people are friendly but also a little bit focused on your money, it is getting more modern but still has a long way to go, they have Wi-Fi but you have to pay for it and even then it is not always working, they have a cash based economy but they have NEVER change so you do not only need cash but also the right fixed amount of cash… etc. But I am so happy I have been there. Cuba is totally different than the countries I have been before. In so many aspects. The cars are old. And some are not the beautiful old Chevrolet’s, no! Most of them are just really old cars with no radios and broken windows. Even the taxi drivers drive sometimes in cars like that. The roads are very bad… But it is amazing there! In every city you can find multiple live bands, playing on the streets and singing their best songs. As soon as the locals hear the music, they start dancing salsa or rumba. Since a few years, the Cubans have a little bit – read little bit – more freedom than before and that makes them happy. They have the possibilities to rent rooms in their houses for tourists or to start small shops. And they want to show you how happy and friendly they are by making for example the best breakfasts I have had so far. Complete with eggs, bread, fruits, and cake.

I find it hard to say which part of Cuba I liked the most. I traveled from Havana to Las Terrazas, Vinales, Playa Larga, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Varadero, Matanzas, and back to Havana. I think I liked Vinales and Trinidad the most because there I saw the typical Cuban landscape, heard the best Cuban live music, and danced salsa in some clubs. I also really enjoyed Havana, but this city can also be a bit dirty and crowded, which can be hard to handle. I met a lot of other travelers in the big places like Havana, Vinales, and Trinidad. I had a really great time in Cuba.

Mexico

I still regret that I only spent three nights in Mexico. And not even in the real Mexico, but only in Cancun. Cancun is a vacation place for Americans. And that is how it is. Everything is so super MEGA big. The cinema is huge, the bars and clubs are big, the restaurants offer only unhealthy food like pizza, fries, or big Mexican dinners, and the boulevards look like Las Vegas. Besides that, Cancun has a hotel zone which exists out of super-deluxe all inclusive resorts with names like ~Spa and Golf~ and ~Royal Beach Resort~.

However, even though my first impression of Cancun was a bit negative, I had some good days here. The hostel where I stayed was big as well, so I met a lot of people there. On the first day, I went to the beach with three American girls. On the second day, I did a full day trip to Tulum, the Maya temples, and Playa del Carmen. I did this trip together with a German girl, Franziska. I liked the trip. The temples where beautiful. But also Tulum is a touristic place and it was really crowded here as well. The same for Playa del Carmen, which is a boulevard full of shops close to a beach.

I would love to have spent a little bit longer in Mexico to enjoy the very good food a bit more and to visit other, more Mexican-like places. I will come back once! For now, it is time to explore New York City and maybe some other parts of the US and Canada as well!

Viva Colombia!

Hola!

Bogota

It’s been a while since I wrote my last blog. The last three weeks I traveled through Colombia, all by myself! I really loved it. I started my trip in Bogota. I stayed there in the Cranky Croc Hostel, a friendly place in the city center. From there I did a lot of activities. On the first day I went to the gold museum. This museum is super interesting. It tells a lot about the history of Colombia and the meaning of gold. On the second day I did the graffiti tour and the free city walk. Bogota is beautiful and interesting. The graffiti artists try to explain a lot of important messages about politics, social inequality, and racism… I love arts and I like artworks even more when they have powerful messages. For me the graffiti tour was therefore a special one. On the third day I went to the viewpoint of the city together with an Irish girl, Ciara, who I’ve met during the graffiti tour. In the afternoon we went to a soccer game of Santa Fe against The Jaguars. It was a great experience! The supporters are so passionate about the games. Even if the football itself is not of high quality…

Medellin

After three days it was time for me to leave Bogota by bus to Medellin. Yes, the place of birth of the criminal Pablo Escobar. After a bus ride of 8 hours I arrived in the Happy Buddha Hostel in El Poblado. El Poblado is a hip area in Medellin where are the bars and good restaurants are located. I went out for dinner and the next day I did the free city walk in Medellin. This was one of the best free city walks I ever did so far. Our guide, Pablo, * yes he has many troubles with that name during his travels*, showed us the modern city center. Medellin has a lot of modern buildings. It is warm in the city, warmer than in Bogota, and the people are amazing. The locals are also in some kind of way funny because some of them have never seen tourists before. So they stop and stare at you like you’re coming from a different planet. The sights in the city are maybe not that beautiful, but for me it was the history that made Medellin that special. Even 5 years ago, Medellin was not a safe place with a lot of drugs, prostitutes, rubbings and so on… Right now, the city represents hope. For example, at the end of the tour, we visited two artworks of a duck. One artwork was exploded because of a bomb. A lot of people died during that terror attack. The artwork next to it is the same one, but in good condition. These works represent both the history and the future of Medellin. As Pablo said during the walk: “you guys are part of the new Medellin, the tourists who come here show nowadays that we are on the right way to became a safe and modern place”. I loved his messages so much. He also said that even the history in Colombia is really bad and recent, people forget about their problems and try to smile and be happy every single day. Personally, I think we need more of that positive spirit in The Netherlands.

The Caribbean Coast

My third stop was Costeno Beach, a surf camp close to Santa Marta. After 6 weeks of traveling through mountains and cities I was really ready for the beach. I did nothing much there. I just chilled a bit and took some surf lessons as well. Lucky for me I was able to get a private room there, so I had my own bed and shower for a while! After this beach I went to Tayrona Park to do some hikes there and stay for one night at a hammock at the tropical beach. I did the hike with three Canadian girls and one girl from Germany, Leah. I spend most of my time there with Leah. I loved the park but the campsite was really bad. We had to share two toilets with 200 people. Disgusting! The hikes were nice. We had to walk through rivers and a lot of mud to reach the camping. This made it even a more adventure than it already was.

After Tayrona Park I went to Palomino for three days as well. The only thing I did there was chilling on the beach. Palomino is a kind of a hippie place and is really lay back. Besides that, I was suffering from a really bad cold so I had to take it a bit easy. From Palomino, I went all the way back to Santa Marta to take a jeep to Minca. Minca is a village in the mountains which is good to escape the heat of the coast. Here I met two German girls with which I did a hike to a coffee farm and the waterfalls. Our hostel was called Mundo Nuevo and is a biological hostel which tries to do the best they can for both nature and people. They even sort out all the rubbish they have and they only serve vegetarian food!

Today I end my time in Colombia in Cartagena. I arrived here two days ago. Cartagena is a wonderful city with a lot of colorful streets and cute houses and good places to go for a drink or two. From here I did a trip to Islas Rosario and to Playa Blanca beach, including a snorkel trip! Tonight I will start my sailing tour to Panama. This will take 5 or 6 days to get there. Along the way we will pass by the San Blas Islands. I am looking forward to it!

Colombia is such a nice country. It is safe, the people are really friendly and most of the places I have been to were really chill spots. I loved every single minute of my weeks here! Thank you Colombia! 

 

The Amazon and Bolivia

Wow! The last 12 days were amazing. The last weekend of April, Clara and I went to the Amazon (The Manu rainforest in Peru) for 3 days. The trip was great. We slept in tents in houses in the rainforest. The first house was from an Italian guy that organizes trips in the Amazon. The second night we slept on the other side of the river in a typical jungle house. It was so nice! The nature was really beautiful and the little villages in the jungle really differ from the villages in the mountains.

The day after we came back from the jungle, we left to Lake Titicaca. We travelled from Cusco to La Paz with the Bolivia Hop. A good organisation! The busses are nice and cheap and the activities on the lake are included as well. Our first stop was in Puno, a little bit boring city in Peru. We did a full day trip on the lake from here to the floating islands (among others). It was touristic but also worth a visit! The second stop was in Copacabana, our first Bolivian city. This is a chill lay-back city. It reminded me a bit of a surfing town. Here we did the Isla del Sol tour. This is also a very beautiful and sunny island. Check the pictures on my Instagram!

On Friday May 5th, we arrived in La Paz late in the evening. My first impression was: big, chaos and dirty. The same night we went for a party in The Wild Rover, the Irish hostel were we stayed for the night. On Saturday we explored La Paz by a city walk and a cable up to the top of the mountains. The city is interesting. I am not sure if I like it or not. I like the unorganized character of the city but I don’t like that that makes some places unsafe and dirty.

The 3 days after La Paz were fantastic! We went on a trip to the Salt Flats in Uyuni. It was beautiful. I cannot describe it with words. We saw Flamingo’s, Vicunas, beautiful landscapes, flags and the statue of the Dakar Bolivia, we saw the sunrise in a hot tube, slept in salt hotels… Just look at the pictures and *if you can* make sure you’ll visit this place some day!

Yesterday I said goodbye to Clara. Now I am really travelling on my own. This morning, I arrived in Bogota, Colombia. New adventures ahead!!

Hikes are…. fun!

Buenas noches!

This was a hell of a week! But I loved every second of it. Last weekend we went to CCaccaccollo, a little village close to Cusco to spent a night there with a local family. I stayed with two girls Clara and Alex in the homestay of Theodora. She was our ‘mammi’ for this two days. We played a lot with the children there, of which the girl is named Cusi. She was only 4 years old. Her cousin was 6 years old. The family took great care of us. We received a lot of food from them and they were really friendly. Our mammi only spoke Spanish so I had to practice my Spanish a lot! Besides the eating, we also played football with the locals, worked on the land, and had a cosy party during the night. The second day we received a tour through the village and were able to buy clothes and souvernirs. I bought an Alpaca hoodie and a nice bracelet. The bracelet includes symbols that represents ‘a princess eye’. Must be a good one! 🙂

After the homestay we prepared for the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail was definitly the most amazing and beautiful hike I have ever done in my life. We started on Tuesday 18th of April. We walked for about 12 kilometers to our first campsite in the Andes mountains. The first day was not that bad, the whole group was really optimistic, eventhough it rained hard from time to time. The hike was easy and the view was really special!

These days we were really ‘camping-like’. The tents we used were small. I shared mine with Clara again :). We weren’t able to take showers and we must used squad-toilets on the campsite. And yes, it were toilets which we had to share with about 40 to 100 others. However, I still love camping and the food was delicious! We had our own porters and chefs with us during the trip and they took good care of us and prepared a lot of traditional Peruvian food. Nice! 🙂

The second day was really hard. We had to climb up to the highest point of the hike: the 4215 meter point. It is named: The Death Women’s Pass, because of the form of the mountain. Not because a lot of girls pass out here ;). However, I almost passed out during this day. It was really hard. I had to tell to myself I was not a quitter, so I continued. But after 4125209 stairs your pretty much done with it. Reaching the top felt therefore even more as a relief. Together with Gethin, a guy of our group, I was the first one that reached the top. After that, it was still 2 hours walking down to the camp again.

The third day we had to walk 16 (!) kilometers. Okay, the distance is maybe not thát long for someone who already finished two full marathons in her life, but this is different. We had to climb a few mountians, walk back down again, climb up again…. It was exhausting. But also really beautiful! I’ve seen a lot of different kind of nature. Like rainforest, high mountains, waterfalls, etc. Super pretty! At the end of the day we reached an Inca sight on top of a mountain from which we had a beautiful view over the other mountains. It already felt like we had won the ‘game’. The whole group was together to enjoy the view. We had a good time!

The last day we had to wake up around 03:30 in the morning. (Yes you read that right!). We hiked the last 6 kilometers to the Machu Picchu. We had a full morning to explore this Inca city and temple. It was so special to be here! The last couple of months I was only able to see it on pictures on Google, but now I have my own Machu Picchu pictures. The experience of this whole trip, the Inca Trail and the Machu Picchu tour, was great! The guides where super nice, my group was even nicer. I have met so many friendly people during the last two weeks that it feels strange to continue my trip already. Lucky for me I’m not going to do it on my own, but with my lovely travel mate Clara!

 

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So, after Machu Picchu it was time to say goodbye to our group. On Sunday, I went with four ‘leftover’ others to the Rainbow Mountains. This was an exhausting trip as well. We were picked up at 03:30 again in the morning and had to complete a hike of 5 kilometers in a high altitude of 5000 meters. We were so tired that we decided to rent a horse instead of completing the hike by ourselfs. During the hike, it started even to snow and hail. However, it was all worth it when we arrived at the top. The view of the Rainbow Mountains was beautiful. It felt like we were walking in a unicorn landscape.

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On Sunday evening, I arrived at the Milhouse Hostel in Cusco. Me and Clara will stay here for five days straight. That’s nice because we need some rest. I also take Spanish classes here in the mornings. On Monday morning I had my first lesson. The woman is nice and I love to learn Spanish. The hostel itself is also great. It is big hostel with a lot of other backpackers. I have the feeling that I can spend a good few days here! The G Adventure trip was really nice and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I am now also ready for new adventures!