Posts categorized under ‘People’

Hitchhiking through Armenia, Georgia and Turkey

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

About a week ago I finished my hitchhike from Vanadzor in Armenia to Ankara in Turkey, a trip of 1500 km. I managed to get a ride from all kind of car, taxi- och bus drivers as well as a long comfortable ride in a truck. Several times the drivers invited me for food and/or a place to sleep for the night, even though we most of the time could not even have a basic conversation because of the language barrier. Here are some pictures from the trip:

Hitchhiking_Armenia_1
Vanadzor, Armenia to Spitak, Armenia (21 km)

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Spitak, Armenia to Giumri, Armenia (46 km)

Hitchhiking_Armenia_3

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Giumri, Armenia to Achaltsiche, Georgia (164 km)

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Hitchhiking_Armenia_5

Hitchhiking_Georgia_1

Hitchhiking_Georgia_2

Hitchhiking_Georgia_3

Hitchhiking_Georgia_5_walk
Short walk out of  Akhaltsikhe

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Trying to take a shortcut through the mountains, but after some hour/s realizing the road is blocked with several meters of tall snow

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So have to hitchhike back to Akhaltsikhe again…

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Beautiful waiting place in Akhaltsikhe as the sun sets

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Achaltsiche, Georgia to Batumi, Georgia (320 km)

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Batumi, Georgia to Rize, Turkey (130 km)

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Morning in Rize

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Moving slowly between the cities but at least moving

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Finally got a ride with this amazingly kind truck driver

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A few hours of dinner with his family and then back on the road

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Night stop sleeping inside the truck with early start again

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Cheese delivery driving me some 10s of kilometers

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Last route about 100-120 km arriving to Ankara with these guys

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Faces of Asia

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

I realize I haven’t been updating the web site for a while and although I have been in Bulgaria during the last months I decided to post some sunny faces from my backpacking trip in Asia from the beginning of this year.

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

 

Dangerous travel destinations

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

A hot topic between travelers is which cities or countries that are the most dangerous to visit. Everyone have their own opinion and the list of dangerous places is as long as the list of people adding a place to it according to their experience or what they have heard. The same goes for which places people think are NOT dangerous, and the two lists are strangely similar.

So what is the background to this phenomenon? Here are a few ideas of what can tribute to people’s opinion:

Mean world syndrome
Two of the biggest influences on people today are television and newspapers. Because bad news sell better than good news people get brainwashed and start to believe that the world is worse than it is.

Beliefs & Life experience
Any impression people are getting from ANYTHING is based on their base beliefs and past experience in life, which in turn is connected.

Different travel patterns
People have their own way of travel, their own personal style and preferences. Depending on if your travel is based on travel guides or companies, recommendations or pure improvisation you will much likely experience different things even when traveling to the same destination.

Random meetings
We usually base our impressions on who we meet and speak to, and even if people have the same travel patterns and style they will meet different locals because of general randomness in life. Even if the locals have a general idea of their own city the opinions differ a lot depending on their social status and living style, experiences and so on (beliefs & life experience). These opinions will then mirror to the travelers that meet them.

WHO is it dangerous for?
Another perspective is that people think if a place is dangerous for some people, it is also dangerous for them. There are for example a lot of places which are more dangerous if you are in a criminal gang or working as a police. But that doesn’t mean it is more dangerous for local people or tourists.

Dangerous travel destinations

Posters in Guatemala City for lost or killed people

Travelling alone VS travelling with a friend

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Sometimes we travel alone and sometimes we travel together with one or more friends. Both variants are great and should be experienced by everyone. When you are travelling alone you have no one to adapt to, never having to make compromises. Every decision is your own. Things are more difficult but you feel more pleased after accomplishing them. You have time to think about life, sometimes too much time. Meeting new people is on autopilot, it happens automatically and all the time.

When travelling together with a friend on the other hand people tend to cling together, or at least not have the same need to meet new people. You always have someone to share all the new experiences with and someone who you together with can make good decisions. Your combined shared knowledge becomes a strength as well as your combined muscle power.

Be sure to take a friend you know well, or have a backup plan if you get tired of each other. Many friendships have been destroyed because of travel, but many friendships have also become stronger.

Enjoy however you are travelling and make the most out of it!

Travelling alone VS travelling with a friend

Romani language

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The Romani language is for most people a mystery, both when talking about it’s history and how it is structured today with inspiration from other local languages. Here I will give you some background information on the origin of the language and how it became what it is today.

The origin of the Romani language
The Romani language started as a military language in India. Because of a large number of mother tongues in India the Indian people used this invented military language as a common language while they were in the army. When the Indians later moved away they continued to use this language between each other as they had no other way to communicate.

How the Romani language changed
After moving out from India the, what we today call the Romani people, encountered new words that they added onto their own vocabulary. This could be either words for things that was not a part of their original culture, or new words that came along with time passing, like words for car or television. Of course these new words were taken from the language of the country they were currently living in, and this is also how we today know the path of the Romani people’s travel.

Today’s Romani language dialects
The Romani language has four main dialect groups: Southern (or Balkan), Vlax (or Danubian), Central and Northern. The dialects within these groups are all different but the dialects that have changed the most from it’s original language are the dialects spoken today in Scandinavia, Britain, Spain and some parts of the Balkans where only the Romani vocabulary remains.

To finish of for this time, here is a Romani saying (proverb):

“A good man can find treasure in poverty,
while the fool will perish even in church”

Romani language (Roma neighbourhood in Serbia)

Source: We Are the Romani People by Ian F. Hancock

International Roma Day

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

8 April is the International Roma Day, a celebration of the Romani culture with the goal to educate people about the Roma people and the problems they are facing. The Roma people are commonly discriminated when it comes to housing, healthcare, education, law enforcement and employment, as well as being target of attacks.

Here are some earlier posts about Romani:

Origin of Romani people

Anti Roma explained

Photographing the Roma people of Serbia

International Roma Day

Anti Roma explained

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

As I sadly continue to meet people all over the world that are anti Roma and being able to count the “other side” on my fingers I thought it’s time to explain why Antiziganism is so common and how it all started.

Misunderstandings about the Romani origin
Because the first Romanies came into Europe around the same time as the Turkish invaders and Islamic crusaders a lot of people thought the Romanies were connected to those events and people. In Germany they were even suspected as being Turkish spies.

Not only is the Romani history difficult for outsiders to understand, it is even common for Romanies to not know all the details about their own history. This makes it even more difficult to spread the correct information as there is so much misinformation.

Being without a country of their own
Another problem comes from the fact that the Romanies have no home country and because of this nobody to stand up for- or represent them. For example in a recent conference against intolerance all the different national delegates were allowed to speak besides the Romani as they “don’t have a country or government”. This also makes it easier for people to blame problems in their country on the Romanies when they don’t get the chance to defend themselves.

Romani culture
As the Romani culture encourages Romanies to keep together without much interaction with other cultures a lot of people see them as “the others” which adds to their suspicion against Romanies. This also makes getting to know their culture more difficult for outsiders, and without people understanding their origin and culture they are “mystified” and stereotyped. One example of stereotypes is the Gypsy style that many people connect to being free from work and responsibilities, similar to the hippie style.

The Romani culture also have similarities with Indian culture in occupations and way of living, which in the original homeland of the Romanies [India] have normal or even high status but in Europe are the total opposite. One example of this is the large amount of children that is seen as a fortune as well as a survival strategy in the Romani and Indian culture.

So these are some of the reasons why Antiziganism is still going strong with no trace for it to become better during any near future. One notable thing to think about is that in this modern age racism and discrimination against dark skinned people is generally looked at very negatively in most parts of the world, but at the same time the majority of people are showing Anti Roma tendencies and discrimination against them is still to this day the default.

Roma family, mother washing clothes in the background

Roma kid with big pants

The origin of Romani people

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Most of my friends know that Romani people is one of my biggest interests and Bulgaria is a good place to be if you want to help the Romani people as there are at least half a million of them living right here. But where did the Romani people originally come from?
Well, about 1000 years ago the people we today call Romanies were living in north India, more precisely in the Hindu Kush mountain area. But at the same time as Islam was spreading into India, the Romanies fled out towards west. About 250 years later, in the late 1200s, they arrived to Europe and the Balkans. Shortly after began a 500 year long period in which big parts of the Romani people were enslaved, a period that only ended in 1864. This long period of enslavement did of course make a huge impact on the Romani people and left them with a very uncertain future when the slavery ended.

One common misunderstanding is that the Romani people came from Egypt, and this is also how they started to be wrongly named as “Gypsies” instead of the correct term “Romani people” or the subgroup “Roma people”

I will continue with these posts about the Romani people now and then, in the hope of that people will make less false presumptions and also learn more about their origin and culture.

Romani girl

Moshav & Kibbutz in Israel

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

While hitch hiking in Israel me and a friend got a ride by a guy who’s family are living in a moshav, and who were himself planning to live there in his near future. He invited us to visit the moshav and we ended up staying there for two days, living as a part of his family.

A moshav is a type of community or settlement with the members of the community owning their own farms, in comparison to the kibbutz where the community shares the farms. In a moshav the people get a specific amount of land for farming when they get married. Nowadays it is more difficult to find good farming land which have resulted in some of these farms have been placed in the no mans land between Israel and Jordan, thanks to a agreement between the two countries. The same agreement gives Jordan a bigger ownership of the Dead Sea which is getting smaller and smaller every year because of mistreatment by the salt companies.

In this specific moshav where we were staying, the Zofar moshav, 2 out of 3 people were workers from Thailand. These people work on the farm land but with no other integration in the community. They even live in specific areas of the moshav which is only for them. Walking around in the moshav you can hear the loud music and karaoke singing from these areas, and to walk there feels a bit like walking around in Thailand.

Besides the no integration part of the Thai people, the feeling of a moshav or kibbutz are of utopia. Everything is perfect, beautiful and calm. The relationships between the different families are close and only a few people or families have chosen(?) to be for themselves. The area around the moshav is amazing desert and perfect for walking, jogging or even taking the motorbike or quad out for a spin. Still, with the desert looking like it will never end you know in the back of your head that if you need to go to a town it is only some hour away.

Not only can a moshav be self sustainable and also sell what they produce, some of them are using solar power both for themselves and to sell the extra power they don’t use. This usually means a small initial investment that is already payed back within 5 years, and then 15 more years of around 2 000 euro per month earned per family for the power they sell to the power companies.

All in all a moshav is a very nice way of living and it seems that also the young people are interested in keeping this tradition alive, although sometimes with newer technologies and ideas.

Moshav
Zofar moshav

Agricultural worker
Farm worker

Family house
Family house with solar power

Family dinner
Family dinner with amazing food, wine & kippas (hats)

Farm dogs
Well trained dogs that do not enter into the houses

Cat and toy
Curious cat

Ping pong table
What is a sunny day without playing some ping pong?

Tea pot with palms
Tea and palms

Sheep fucking
Sheep’s having some fun

Family breakfast
Breakfast (Jachnun; dough with spicy tomato sause) with the neighbours

Dog upside down
Dog taking a rest upside down

Bird cage
Bird cage with tons of birds…

Hungry cat
…And one hungry cat outside

Lunch plate
Again food.. This time a quick lunch before hitting the road

Israeli desert
Beautiful desert with camels

Negev desert

Moshav farms
Farms in the distant

Moshav tomato farm
Tomato farm

Moshav paprika farm
Peppers farm

Cockroach robot

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Yesterday I went to a robot fair here in Sofia that is arranged to show off the projects that the students in the university are working on and for them to make connections. The theme of the robots were supposed to be robots that can help people in their homes, but most of the robots were more to show the possibilities with robot technology then to do something practical. The robot that amazed me the most was the Cockroach robot, which is like a car for a cockroach. The cockroach is walking on a ping pong ball and this is then telling the robot which way to drive. If there is a risk for collision this is detected by the robot and small fans start blowing in front of the cockroach to make it change direction.

The guy who made this robot, Valentin, have the idea that for the next step connect a small robot to the cockroach brain and this way be able to control the cockroach with a remote. Although I feel bad for the cockroaches I think Valentin treats them good as he has a big collection of bizarre animals at home as a hobby.

Although Valentin invented this exact cockroach robot the idea was inspired from ConceptLab.

Also right now in Sofia there is a 3 day extreme sport movie festival with movies of varied quality. Today is the last day of the festival and for more information and the program, follow this link: http://www.predizvikatelstva.com

Bolsjefabrikken – Danish squat / culture center

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Today is the last day for me in Copenhagen before heading back to Berlin. Of the things I experienced this time in Denmark, besides meeting my family, the best was definitely the “Panicroom” event at Bolsjefabrikken that takes place now during 15 days. The idea of the event, which consists of workshops and concerts, is to collect money to be able to buy the squatted area. Bolsjefabrikken, or Candy Factory in English, is a group of people who have taken over two big houses in different areas of Copenhagen. The name comes from that the original building that they occupied in 2008 was actually a candy factory.

In order for the group to buy Bolsjefabrikken they have to collect 500 000 euro. Because the squat is relatively unknown both for foreigners and people here in Copenhagen this will be a difficult task. To help them you can go to this web site and click on one of the building bricks to give them your support by a donation of 10, 20 or 30 euro.

Bolsjefabrikken

Work in progress sign

Bolsjefabrikken books

Iceland trip

Bolsjefabrikken art

Bolsjefabrikken graffiti

Banksy is not a tagger

Energy lamp

Running projector

Squat concert

Teddy bear

Bolsjefabrikken København

Thoughts on a bus

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I wrote earlier about the importance of backup plans and today I got reminded of this on the bus trip from Berlin to Copenhagen. I overheard a phone call of a Spanish couple sitting next to me. They had booked a hostel some days earlier but never got the booking verified. Now when they called the hostel the booking didn’t exist, and after borrowing my laptop and using the free wifi on board the bus they realized all the hostels in town were fully booked because of a football match. They also tried doing a last minute search on Couchsurfing but without luck. A sms to my father confirmed what I already knew, that there were no possibility for me to let them stay in my fathers apartment. What happened to them after arriving to dark and rainy Copenhagen? Nobody knows, but I gave them my contact details to use if they got into trouble or needed help. Hopefully they could sleep in a couch or floor at the hostel that lost their booking.

Before you start traveling into unknown territory you can prepare against situations like this. First mentally, by visualising how it would be to sleep in a backyard, park or beach. If you think this would be overwhelming for you, then you need to make a backup plan. This would typically involve having addresses and phone numbers to other hostels, friends or just researching where you could sleep if everything is fully booked. Bringing a tent with you while traveling is very helpful in these situations, although it is usually difficult to find a decent place to put it up. Be careful with your backup plans though; if you like spontaneous travel, backup plans take away all the fun of improvising.

This situation also made me think again about the way I am living when I am visiting Copenhagen. I always travel here for short periods of time, usually a weekend trip. Because I have very limited of time in Denmark  I spend it all with my family. This means, although I have traveled to this country for a countless number of times during the last 20+ years, it is the country in the world where I have the least friends. If the situation with the Spanish couple in the bus would have happened in any other country, where I have been before of course, I would have been able to help them quickly and without problem.

The situation is also interesting because when you travel and something happens, like you run out of money or you have no place to stay, you are really stuck and need to stop and think your way out of the situation. This is even more difficult in big and civilized cities then in smaller towns or more southern cities. It takes so much before somebody reach out to another person to help him, if it ever happens. My suggestion to you is to do more. Give money to musicians and artists on the street. Buy the street paper, paper tissue or flowers that the homeless people sells. If you see somebody lost, give them a hand in the right direction even before they ask for it.

The Importance of Getting to Know Local People

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

If I have learned one thing with all my travels it would probably be how important it is to get local friends in the country where you are staying. Not because of the social factor, but to really understand a place you need to understand the people, and to see how they are living their every day lives. This means, if they go to the church, do sports, have hobbies, go partying and so on, go with them, participate and be open minded. This is the only way to learn about the real culture and way of living in a region, and is also why I recently noticed I have lost all interest in travel guides or programs. These guides and TV programs are almost always made by foreigners with very short experience of the region, and who probably themselves read in guides what they should visit, see or do when arriving before creating their own guide. At the same time they are the result of only one opinion, and that is also why it is not only important to spend time with local people, but to meet a lot of them and with different local cultures and viewpoints of life.

A walk in the park part II – Open Air Berlin

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

During the summer in Berlin it’s very common with Sunday parties and yesterday I went to a friends Open Air party which they organize for the second year in a row. The party takes place in a park near the area Wedding and just next to the river, which makes it a beautiful surrounding with both the feeling of the nature and at the same time people passing by just taking a walk in the park.

Usually these events start in the early afternoon and continues to a short time after the sunlight have disappeared. It’s very uncommon that the police in Berlin shuts down these illegal Open Air parties and if they arrive to the place they usually just ask polite to turn down the volume a bit, or sets an end time when the music should be stopped.

For me these Sunday parties are way better then going to a club and the atmosphere reminds more of a festival then a pub or a club. Sundays are perfect for a chill out party and to get beautiful nature, great music & friends at the same time – it can’t be better!

For you who know your minimal techno, here are the lineup for yesterdays party:

Rndm [DIAL]
Simon Beeston [Highgrade]
Chris Schwarzwälder [Bar25]
Fabian Drews [mama-j]
Convex Shape [Iwillchange.Ipromise]
Holger Hecler [juciemarket]

Minimal Techno Berlin

Wild Wedding

Open Air girls

Open Air equipment

Open Air Berlin

Open Air tent

Open Air party

Party sunset

Open Air packing

Comparison of Berlin areas

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

After living in Berlin for 1+ month I had to move to another apartment when the owner was coming back to the room I rented. Even though I really liked living in that apartment, not only because of the people living there but also because of the location, this gives me an interesting opportunity to compare how it is to live in two different areas of Berlin.

The first area I was living in, Friedrichshain, is the main clubbing area of Berlin and where a lot of tourists end up at least for the night when partying. Here you find famous night clubs like Berghain, Suicide Circus, RAW and so on… There is not one single night in the week where the Warschauer straße is not full of people, mostly foreigners, all the way to late morning. Here you find a lot of Asian restaurants, mainly Indian and Thai, together with the usual kebab places that is one of Berlin’s trademarks. There is not so much shops in the area, mostly second hand clothes, which makes it less crowded during the day times. At the same time it’s very near to tourist monuments like the Berlin Wall or the Oberbaumbrücke.

Yesterday I moved to Neukölln, which is the up-and-coming area of Berlin. This area has during the last five years become more and more attractive, and at the same time more expensive, to live in. Here you can find a lot of restaurants, bars and cafés combined with a huge Turkish area. Neukölln is more “ruff” then Friedrichshain and at the same time more social, probably mainly because of the mixed southern nationalities living here. As soon as our moving truck arrived to the street, a gang of people came to help us carry our things up to the 4th floor, and some even came back the second day to continue to help us.

So why do I need a moving truck to move, when everything I own is in my backpack? Actually, at the same time it was time for me to change apartment a German couple I met in Dahab about 4 months ago told me I could stay at their new place where they are currently moving into. So here I am, helping them to move & fix their apartment in Berlin and at the same time I get the opportunity to live together with good friends I thought I would not see again for a long time.

Peace out

Living in Berlin

Apartment areas Berlin

Nation Of Gondwana

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

After having moved to Berlin and finally found an apartment which I share with four+ Germans, I went last weekend to the open air festival Nation Of Gondwana. This is a minimal techno festival which takes place just one hour outside of Berlin, surrounded by a beautiful forest and a small lake. The last 3 days before the festival had been cold and rainy, but just in time the weather cleared up and was perfect during the whole festival weekend.

To go to the Nation Of Gondwana, take the train (about 4 euro one way from Berlin) to Bahnhof Nauen and from there the free shuttle bus that goes about every 30 minutes to the festival area. If you are not travelling with a tent, Woolworth in Germany have a cheap 2-3 person tent for around 20 euro. Price for the two day festival is 30 euro, which includes a trash fee of 5 euro that you get back if you collect your trash and leave at the exit. If you like camping a good idea is to come one day before the festival to enjoy the beautiful area.

Festival field

Early festival

Chill out zone

Festival lake

Festival sunset

Festival tent

German forest

Camping in Ras Muhammad

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Sometimes things just come to you when you wish for them. One recent example is that I really wanted to visit Ras Muhammad one more time before leaving Egypt in about a week from now. What happened to me was, one morning a girl I met the day before called me and asked me to join her and her free diver friends to camp one night at the Ras Muhammad. They were leaving town within 15 minutes so it was a quick decision followed by rush packing. Just a moment later we were leaving Dahab in a rented car full of free diving and scuba diving equipment, heading out for Ras Muhammad.

The group was very mixed, with 8 people from Russia, Brazil, Argentina, France and me from Sweden. We also had a big dog with us (“Hurry”) who was currently traveling the world, on his way to Bali. Dogs (and camping) are not allowed in Ras Muhammad, but we managed to talk the guards to let us pass with him.

When we arrived everybody went into the water directly, followed by a Argentinian barbecue and some vodka. The weather was warm and there were no problem sleeping under the stars, except for some biting flies and mosquito which i still have 50+ dots from.

The next day we went up early and went free diving in Shark Reef. Everybody were excited for what we would see, and like the day before we again find a shark (or he found us). This time, the about 1½ meter shark swim up to one of us to check him out. Also, we found a lot of turtles and other beautiful animals during the 2½ hour swimming in strong current.

After Shark Reef, we went back to the first reef to do some combined free- and scuba diving and then head back home to Dahab.

Note: If you are trying this for yourself, have long sleeves and a sleeping bag with you. Be very careful with the current, and don’t get into the water if you are not familiar with how it is moving at that specific reef. Drink a lot of water and stay in the shade, as one of us got dehydrated and had to go to the hospital.

Shark bay Sharm

Ras Muhammad guitar in the morning

Ras Muhammad camping

Shark bay Sharm Egypt

Ras Muhammad stingray

Ras Muhammad shark reef

Freediving Ras Muhammad

Ras Muhammad big fish

Ras Muhammad Yolanda reef

Ras Muhammad big school of fish

Ras Muhammad fishes

Ras Muhammad free diving

Ras Muhammad napoleon fish

Ras Muhammad toilets

 

Ras Muhammad turtle

Ras Muhammad swimming turtle

Ras Muhammad freediving

Military action in Dahab, Egypt

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

During the last week here in Dahab the military have started to tear down a few illegally built houses. People started building these houses after Egypt’s revolution thinking nobody would care about it, which they didn’t before now.

Because of this, a group of locals have started to do a walking demonstration on one of the main streets every night. This is the first time there are any problems in Dahab in connection with the revolution, not counting the week without phone or internet in the whole Egypt during the demonstrations, and the recent lack of tourism.

Meeting & leaving friends

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I meet people almost every week that I fall in love with. It can be very chilled out relaxed people, or people with interesting life goals and missions, or just very individual people that are fun to be around.

At the same time as I am very greatful for the chance to meet all these people, it gets very tiring to keep saying goodbye to them, knowing it will probably take years, if ever, to see them again.

I could choose to stay in one place, or to only travel between the countries where I have friends who I should visit, but if I do this I know I lack out of so many future friends from different cultures and backgrounds. The choice is mine and already taken, but it’s not always an easy choice.

In a near future I will probably choose one or two “base” cities in the world where I can come back more often between my travels, and where I can take care of long lasting relationships.

“Nice one mate” – Sam

Emergency First Response

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

This morning in Dahab at 6 am I heard a semi loud crash, followed by a rumble some seconds later. When I look out my balcony I see people running to the hostel Bishbishi just 10 meters away, where I stayed last week before finding an apartment. Remembering my Emergency First Response (EFR) course I did just a few days before, I create a plastic object to be able to safely give mouth-to-mouth and CPR if needed. Then I run down to Bishbishi to see that two connected houses have collapsed.

Out from one of the house a naked guy is walking, covered from top to bottom in stripes of blood. He is telling people his girlfriend is still under the rumble (which I don’t understand how he could manage to get out from). Also he says he can not move one of his legs, as he [is forced to] sit down and relax while half of the crowd starts to support the roof with wooden sticks to push it up.

I tell one guy to call the ambulance and he runs away, but don’t come back. After a short while I see another guy with a phone and asks him if he called the ambulance, which he confirms and I passes on the information to the hurt guy and the guy looking after him.

After a while the girlfriend is able to exit the rumble and they unite. They are helped to the main street where the ambulance arrives 5 minutes later and transports them to the hospital, together with a shivering shocked girl. At the same time their parents, who are up in the Sinai mountains, are notified.

The outcome from this accident (they are all fine and recovering at the hospital) was incredibly lucky and could have been much worse. The feeling of being at the scene just a few days after doing my EFR was a bit unreal, but makes it even more clear how good this course is. It can be done by everybody and is very easy to do. I really recommend everyone to do it, you never know when it comes in need!

To learn more, click here

Want to be a pilot? Think again.

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

I recently met some travelers in Dahab and we started talking about what they work with. It turns out most of them were pilots and they told me how difficult it is today to be a pilot because of how the low cost airline companies like Ryanair treat them. They told me that to start working for companies like this you have to pay 20 000 euro for an “introduction course” and of course not being payed during the course either. Some airline companies have made a routine to earn money this way as the course only costs them around 12-14 000 euro. Then, after 6 months they fire the pilot and recruit new pilots that again have to pay the introduction course.

If you still are interested in becoming a commercial pilot the price for the education is about 60 000 euro.

Be a pilot

Carnaval de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

The carnival here lasted for one whole month and still i realized now that i didn’t write a single word about it in the blog. Although I liked it one month is more then enough, so I was happy when it finally ended. The carnival parties were mostly focused to the weekends at the Santa Catalina square, but the whole week you could see people in the evening who were dressed out. The most common dresses are for the guys to dress like girls (transvestites / shemales) and for girls to dress up sexy to for example cowboys, policemen or super heroes.

There was some unluck with the weather for the people that don’t like rain, as the two biggest events of the carnival took place during the rain. Both of them are within the last period of the carnival:

Gran Cabalgata (the Grand Parade)
This is a  crazy parade with 200 000 people walking 7 kilometers, from the north to the south of Las Palmas. Everybody are in costumes, both the parade attendants and the crowd, and the feeling is very vibrant with music and dancing.

Pasacalle De Carnaval Tradicional / Los Indianos
Imagine La Tomatina but with flour/talk instead of tomatoes, and you have Los Indianos. A several hours flour/talk fight that results in everybody being totally white and even with the sky as one big cloud covering the long street this is celebrated on. The tradition started with people that came back rich and successful to Gran Canaria after living abroad for some years. When they came back they were dressed in all white clothes (to show their success) and their friends and relatives who were meeting them in the harbor were throwing flour on them.

The carnival takes place during 15th of February until 12th of March and to read more about it you can visit the official web site.

Carnaval Gran Canaria

Carnaval clowns, Las Palmas

Carnaval sexy dancers

Carnaval smurfs

Carneval shemales / transvestites

Carneval crowd, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Carnaval Gran Canaria 2011

Carnaval Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 2011

Las Palmas Carneval

Funny transvestites / shemales

Marge Simpson costume, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Los Indianos 2011

Pasacalle de Carnaval Tradicional Gran Canaria Las Palmas

Flour / talk people (in pub) Las Palmas

Waltz

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

While doing a short backpacking trip I met a girl who was currently working at a hostel in Puerto de Mogan on Gran Canaria. She told me she is travelling the Waltz lifestyle, doing pottery. This means people who have studied at least 3 years of handicraft then leaves the country and travels around the world working in different workshops to learn from them. The goal is to do this for at least 3 years and 1 day, and to work at least half of the time in a workshop, while staying maximum 3 months in one and the same workshop. She also told me that because she moves around so much even after 2-3 weeks in one place she feels restless. While travelling they need to be in a special dress, for example white clothes with special zippers on the pants, a hat and a walking cane which is in the form of a natural spiral.

This mission is mostly performed in Germany and a few other countries in Europe. Most people in Germany (where she was from) just know about this culture, but not the details. To read more about Waltz, here is a link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journeyman_years#The_German_.22waltz.22

Street selling & artists in Lisbon, Portugal

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Because one of my friends is selling artworks on the streets here in Lisbon I have talked even more than usual to other street artists and performers here, trying to help her. What I have noticed is that the police are much more liberal here than in other countries in Europe. Most people that earns money on the street are never bothered by the police, and only a few newcomers gets their stuff taken away if they are not liked by the local police. Also it’s a big difference between the winter- and summer season here, with very little business in the winter period and during the summer business bloom for everyone. Even before Christmas the business were bad for everyone but the beggars and expensive shops.

I have also been in contact with some shop owners selling different kind of handicraft or importing art from other countries. They tell me that the rent for a small shop in any of the many different shop areas here are from 1500 euro per month and up, which means that it is very difficult for new companies to afford it. The art shops that are here already don’t sell so much and even have whole days sometimes without even one customer, but they have had the same store/contract for 10 years and have very good rent deals because of this.

All in all, Lisbon seems to get more and more expensive, with the result that there are over 4 000 empty buildings (of total 55 000) here at the moment because of people leaving the city. This means that the city is actually shrinking in population every year because of the high rents. On top of this they have a whopping 24% of the residents that are 65 years old or more. Because of all the young people having to live outside Lisbon, more than half a million people (with 400 000 cars) commute to the city every day to work.

Even with all these empty buildings Lisbon is very difficult to squat in according to several sources. Either the police interfere and throw everybody out in the middle of the night, or the building gets demolished. For me it seems strange that the Portuguese police have so liberal view on some things, but at the same time are much tougher on squatters than for example in Spain.

Street artist; freeze juggler (Lisbon, Portugal)

Street artist; spray painter (Lisbon, Portugal)

Street artist; street musicians (Lisbon, Portugal)

Walking for sick children in Holland

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Stefan Le Belle, walking for sick children in HollandYesterday I met a traveler that just arrived to Tarifa a few hours earlier. This 26 year old guy from Holland, Stefan Le Belle, told me that he is walking from the most southern point of Europe’s mainland, which is here in Tarifa, to the North-Cape in Norway. He is doing this both as an adventure and to help sick children in Holland. To be able to do this he has found sponsors that for example donates one euro per day he is walking, which should add up to around 300 euro total for the about 300 days he calculate the whole walk will take. On the way he has a GPS that tracks every step he makes and on top of this he will blog about his trip on his web site. He will also write down every small cost of the trip to make sure that most of the sponsored money actually goes to the children and not to his own expenses.

Because Stefan had no place to stay I let him stay at my place here in Tarifa, and this morning we walked out to the most southern point of Spain to start his journey. The weather was rainy and although it was to foggy to see the beautiful African coast, the two oceans meeting here created a very nice scenery.

For more information about Stefan or to donate money,
visit Stefan’s web site by clicking here

The Ancestors

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I was invited to lunch at a newly found friend’s place, a Mozambican girl born in Maputo, and after the food we started discussing religion. She told me about the different beliefs in Mozambique, and the most interesting for me was the Ancestors, which usually are combined with a “normal” religion.

Most people here in Mozambique (and also in South Africa) believe that when the old family members die they become a personal “god” and looks after their family. Once or twice per year the living family members worship the Ancestors through a ceremony that can for example include sacrifice of an animal and dancing. Usually the family do this when they need something specific, like rain for the crops. Because they don’t have a specific place to worship and pay tribute to their Ancestors, they usually have a specific tree instead that they go and sit under while doing this.

This is another proof that the family bonds in the southern countries are tighter than in the north of Europe. Also in these countries it is obvious for the younger family members to take care of their elders (including the husbands parents) when they can’t take care of them selves. This is totally opposite to Scandinavia where it’s the norm to move your elders to an “elder home”, where they have employed people to take care of them.

Living situation in Mozambique

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

One day when I was at the pub with a friend I asked her about the living situation of the poor people here. I have seen several camps here and also you see people building their own very simple houses everywhere along the roads between the cities. What I wondered was if they are living there illegal like the Roma people in Europe, or if they own/rent the land. What she told me was astonishing!

How it works here is that you go to the old people of the area you want to move to and ask them if there is some free land there. Then they will give you a land for free, but only if you build a house there with the intention to live there. You can also go to the government and ask them for a not specific place to live, which will result in you getting land at a random place, again for free.

The catch is that if the government needs the land in the future, for example if they are going to build a road, you will need to give back the land to them. BUT you will be given a new place to live, and also some money to replace the house you have built on your old land.

I am really interested in the lives and complications of the Roma people and wish that they could get a deal like the poor here in Mozambique. Also people here don’t look down on these people, which leads to them easier getting a job and not getting excluded from the society as the Roma people often are.

Swaziland, a travel log

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Welcome to Swaziland

One week while staying in Mozambique I decided to go to Swaziland. After about 4 hours on a small and fully packed mini bus from Maputo (6 euro) I arrive to Manzini in Swaziland. After buying some food and taking a quick walk around I continue to Mbabane, about 45 minutes away. This small town is situated just next to the mountains. The plan is to call my Couchsurfing host who I am supposed to stay at for my 3 nights here in Swaziland. But when I try to call him I realize I have no signal with my mobile company here. On top of this, the mobile store don’t sell sim cards TODAY (they are all sold), and the internet places tells me their internet is broken. Anyway, a nice café owner borrows me her phone and I manage to set up a meeting for 4 hours later (the guy is busy at the moment, which is weird because we decided to meet about this time).

Manzini minibus market, with street food

Street food (grilled meat) in Swaziland

While I wait at the place for the meeting, a fancy sports restaurant, I realize some of the food here seems similar to Indian food. This is something I also noticed in Mozambique but didn’t think further on. Later on I learned that this is because around 200 years ago a lot of Indians was moved here as cheap labor to work on the sugar cane fields. Nowadays they have created a big community in the southern Africa.

Back to Swaziland… The local people seems really nice here, calling me “friend” all the time and doing everything they can to help. Even when I asked a taxi driver about the (cheaper) mini bus earlier, he told me how much I should pay for the mini bus not to get tricked.

For the currency, they use Rand here, the same as in South Africa. Be aware though that if you withdraw money from an ATM machine you will get Swaziland currency, which is worth exactly the same, but you will need to exchange/use it before leaving the country as you can only use it here.

After checking a magazine and some billboards, still waiting for the Couchsurfer, I realize there is both a wildlife sanctuary nearby, plus a lot of adventure sports like white water rafting, caving, mountain biking and warm natural springs. I only have two full days here this time before I have to meet some friends for the Kruger Park in South Africa, but I look forward to these days for exploring this interesting and beautiful country!

When the guy finally comes to the restaurant where I am waiting I realize it’s the wrong guy because of a mixup of phone numbers. I borrows his phone and calls the other guy, which now is occupied and wants me to take into a hostel for the night instead. Later on I found out this was because of the guy having a date that evening.

Early morning. The hostel I finally ended up in yesterday was in a handicraft center and protected park, so I start the day with a short walk to see the surroundings accompanied by beautiful bird song. Finds a coin phone but it’s out of order since yesterday (what is it about me and phones on this trip?). Borrows a phone again in a shop and calls the Couchsurfer. The guy tells me to call him from the original place from yesterday one hour later. Walks there, tries to buy a sim card without luck again. Borrows a phone.. And finally we succeed to meet half an hour later!

After driving around and doing some choirs we drive home to my new friend “D”. On the way I learn that he has family from Finland and has lived there for some years. His mother is also a finish consulate here, as I can see on the flag that welcomes visitors on top of their house. D does not have a job so he has a lot of spare time, which he use to activate local kids. On top of this he is starting a business with handicraft workshops with the goal to get the Swaziland artists to create more individual and unique handicraft, instead of stick to the stuff they know sells.

D’s house is a nice cabin surrounded by beautiful mountains. Here I do some work and then we drive around to pick some kids up and continue to a school on top of one of the mountains. Here we do indoor climbing, basketball and ultimate frisbee with the energetic and incredible positive kids.

Swaziland - climbing at university

When everybody finally is out of energy we drive to meet a Canadian couple who have lived here in Swaziland for a month now. They actually came here with the intention to stay for 3 days, but liked it so much they stayed for longer. While hitch hiking here they met a guy who was going on a long trip and borrowed them his house for free if they look after it and the two dogs (called “Big dog” and “Small dog”) + one cat who lives there. Sadly Small dog was attacked by 15 wild dogs today and has some nasty bruces to prove this. Small dog is a Jack Russel Terrier, the same crazy and self confident dog that I was traveling with in Greece for a month.

Big dog & Small dog

When we arrive to the house the lights are out and we only have candles plus an open fire on which we make some food. After a nice evening with a lot of interesting talk and travel stories I decide to stay for the night.

The next day we go up around 7 to run for a while and to take a morning dip in a nearby, ice cold pool. I then decide to take a walk in the center, so me and a friend hitch hike there. After walking around for some hours, and also working for a while from a café with a beautiful mountain view, I go with some more friends to an art exhibition of an university here. The exhibition is great and shows the students final works before leaving the university and entering the big real world. After the exhibition we go back to the house and relax with some beers at a nearby lodge.

Cellphone repairs store in Mbabane, Swaziland

Swaziland house near Mbabane

Swaziland art exhibition at the university

In the next morning I go up at 6:30 to hitch hike to the Kruger Park, where I will meet some friends from Mozambique. The hitch hiking have to wait though because a minibus stops and picks me up almost immediately. In the middle of the way the bus stops and the driver handles out tickets. I soon realize why when around the corner a police car stops us to check the papers of the bus. This is common here and a lot of minibuses seem to be illegal but still have no problems. The feeling in the bus in happy and cherish, with the people joking and having fun with each other. I think about the differences here and north Europe, where people take maximum distance between each other in the busses. Also I realize it will be difficult to leave Africa with its smiling and happy people. I came here thinking it would be a dangerous region in the world, after so many people warning me. But what I have found here is an incredible helpful and friendly people.

Swaziland mini bus with people inside

Actually, taking a minibus is one of my favorite things to do in Africa. The interesting road, African music pumping in the speakers (if you are lucky) and really positive and easy going people.

I make a stop in Pigs Peak, a small town with beautiful surroundings. Here I also find an ATM machine to increase my zero euro in my wallet to 7 euro, not wanting to take out to much because of the Swaziland currency.

Pigs Peak, Swaziland

Swaziland - Pigs Peak mountains

After about 2 hours, 3½ euro and 3 minibuses in total I arrive at the South African border “Jeppes Reef”. Now when I have crossed the border  its only about 2 hours to klimatipoort (3 minibuses, total 5 euro) before reaching my final destination, the Kruger Park.

Photographing the Roma people of Serbia

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Last week I was in Serbia to take photographs for an article about the Roma people living there. This was a great experience which included meeting a lot of interesting people who was living in these camps or trying to help them.

The main problem the Roma people in Serbia has today is that they have no type of identification. There is a possibility to go to another town to get this, but the trip plus the cost for the identification can be as much as 150 euro per person, which is of course impossible to save up to when you don’t even have money for your daily food. Without identification you are not allowed to get an apartment, hospital treatment or to work, which means no income. A lot of the people collects and returns paper though which barely gives enough money for food. The rest lives from food found in the trash.

The second problem is that the Roma people have no fixed place to stay and are unwanted everywhere. A lot of them move to Belgrade in the belief that it is easier for them to find a job there. Some tries to go to other countries with trucks, paying with their last money/jewelry/possessions, to find themselves get thrown back to Serbia again. When they arrive they get left outside by the police (that follows them from the country throwing them out) outside the Belgrade airport with no money, no information and no idea where to go. Most end up on the streets and after some time hopefully move into one of the about 150 Roma camps in Belgrade, which is houses of cardboard built up on a trash yard. After some years the government will destroy the camp to be able to build on that ground, and you will have to start from the beginning again.

Most of the Roma children don’t go to school because of the parents needing them to work instead, begging or collecting paper. On top of this they can’t afford to pay for the food the children need to buy if going to school. Also, if the children is born or have lived the main part of their life in another country they can’t speak or understand the Serbian language which will disable them in school.

The pictures below is from one of the camps I visited, this one in Belgrade. The spirit of all the people I met was very high and everyone being very positive and warm, although they have been informed that their camp will be totally destroyed to the ground within two months because it disturbs the view of a newly built modern house with expensive apartments, where by the way their old camp were placed before getting destroyed. They will probably not be told the exact date and the government will not allow photographers or other media people on the place when this happens.

kid girl begging for money

romani gypsy paper collecters

gypsy camp rooftops

gypsy house and skyscraper

The old camp was destroyed to make place for the building in the background. In two months time this camp will be destroyed for creating a better view for the people living in the new building.. No replacement living place will be offered to the people living in the camp.

gypsy houses and trash

young child walking in gypsy camp

gypsy kid with beer bottle

gypsy mother and son

gypsy romani housewife

happy romani friends

kids, mother washing in background

roma children in gypsy camp

roma kids play fighting

romani camp belgrade

romani children belgrade

romani cute girl

romani gypsy mother

romani kids playing in backyard

romani kids serbia

romani woman meeting

romani woman washing in camp

romani woman

old gypsy roma woman

Rafting opening season in Kresna

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Just back to Bulgaria and the first weekend happen to be the opening season of rafting, great! One of my friends was earlier in the Bulgarian rafting team and last weekend I joined her to do the first rafting of the year. Below you can see the pictures from these days.

Microphones in mountain

Trekking in the beautiful nature with mountains

Blurred rafters below

Descent into raft

Green kayak in stream

Kayak head down

Overview from mountain

Paddling rafters

Raft in stream

Rafters far below

Rafters with green nature

Rafters paddling

Rafting for beginners (lesson)

Rafting lesson

Rafting seen from above

Stream

Yellow kayak in stream

Trees in different colors

Cloud and trees

Green salamander (amphibian)

Veliko Ternovo + status update

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I realize it was a while since i wrote here. I’ve now moved back to Sofia about two weeks ago and have done a lot of things, but most of all, spending time with my friends here. On top of this one friend from Milan came to visit Bulgaria, and we rented a car for a day trip to Veliko Ternovo. This is the old capital of Bulgaria and a very beautiful picturesque city. Below you will find some of my pictures from this trip.

Tomorrow I will go on a trip to visit friends & family in Italy, Sweden & Denmark. When I return to Sofia I will write a blog post with tips on how to pack your travel bag small & efficient.

Veliko Ternovo river

Veliko Ternovo - house near river

Triple locked box in Veliko Ternovo

Blocked window in Veliko Ternovo

Not so homeless dog in Veliko Ternovo

Balcony with clothes in Veliko Ternovo

Interesting view in Veliko Ternovo

Different place to have a WC - Veliko Ternovo

Beautiful view in Veliko Ternovo

Sunset - end of car trip to Veliko Ternovo

Going back to Sofia (for a week)

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

For the first time when I’m in a new country I miss my “real home”, which for now is Sofia in Bulgaria for me. I miss friends, the wonderful people in general, the nature (most of all the mountains), trekking, sports (indoor climbing and so on), warm thermal springs, the great tasting (and varied) food, drinking coffee while walking and a lot more. I also miss being on the road…

That’s why I will be going to Sofia tonight and stay for about a week. What I don’t miss is the cold weather and I know Sofia is covered in snow right now, while Istanbul will be extra warm this week. But I really don’t care right now, and I also left some winter clothes in storage in Sofia so that shouldn’t be a problem (I didn’t bring them to Istanbul because I thought it would be warmer here).

Too bad my Turkish flatmate couldn’t join me this time, would be fun to show him Bulgaria, but I know there will be more opportunities in the future. And when I come back to Sofia next week I will have visitors from Spain and Sweden which I also look forward to! Until then, enjoy some random pictures below from the last week here in Turkey:

Sunset in Istanbul

Sunset in Istanbul

Istiklal street in Istanbul

Istiklal street in Istanbul, with an ocean of heads

Houses in a suburb in Istanbul

A common sight in Istanbul's suburbs

Building construction in Istanbul

Building construction in Istanbul with low security for the workers

Kartepe ski resort

Kartepe ski resort, about 3 hours from Istanbul

When you meet someone special

Monday, January 4th, 2010

When you meet someone special, should you stay in/move to their country to be a part of their life, but at the same time give up your own dreams and goals? Or should you let that person do the same (if they want) to stay in your country or travel around with you?

I guess on both questions the answer should be NO.

Torrevieja VS Sofia

Monday, October 26th, 2009

After one week in Sofia I start to see and feel some differences between my last living place, Torrevieja, and here in Sofia.

Most obvious are the weather. From having to hide from the sun in Spain (still in October!) to having to buy more winter clothes in cold Sofia. Some days ago I was trekking up in the mountains in the outskirts of Sofia in the middle of the night to watch a meteor shower with a group of Couchsurfers, and it was below zero degrees with frost. Good think we had blankets and vodka.

Another difference is that almost everyone here speaks English or at least understands it. As usual people are a little bit shy in the beginning to speak but after a while you realize they are quite good at it. I’m still throwing out Spanish words by mistake, but have started to go to a language exchange to learn Bulgarian, as well as practicing the Cyrillic alphabet.

People here are really warm and helpful, but they seem to be wherever I travel. Just some people ignore you in the street when you ask for directions, but that is nothing new either. The rest stops and help you for 15 minutes, showing the path and distance on their GPS and so on. Maybe it sometimes have a small connection with how secure people are with speaking in English.

The prices here are incredible for still being inside Europe (almost comparable to Asia in some cases). You can get a kebab or slice of pizza for 60 cent, normal restaurant food for 3 euro, rent a central apartment with high standard for 200 euro a month, or a central room for 80 euro. Every time you get the bill somewhere it gives you a big smile =).

The food is great. Not only cheap as I mentioned above, but the variety and quality of the food here is really good, and I find so many food dishes here that I have never seen before. On top of that they need to write how many grams every dish is in the menu (it’s the law), which is very helpful. Be prepared though that it can take a lot of time to get the food, and that you won’t get it at the same time if you are a large company dining together.

So far I really like it here and plan to stay for at least 3 months (until January). In this time I will also check out other cities and countries close by as this area has a lot of unexplored places for me.

The Sacromonte caves in Granada

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

For the last week I have been traveling and meeting people so I’m a little bit late with the postings in this blog. Anyway, one week ago I went to Granada (on my path Torrevieja -> Granada -> Fuengirola -> Madrid -> Sofia). I was supposed to meet and stay at one CouchSurfers place, but she never answered my calls so I found a cheap central hostel instead. For me it’s always worth living central in a city just to save time, if not the bus/metro-ride itself is interesting or the area you have found. In New York for example I lived in the outskirts of Manhattan in wonderful Spanish Harlem which is a must see in my eyes, and still close to the Hyde Park and the rest of New York if you have good walking boots.

Ok so now back to the topic. Granada was just lovely as every Spanish person I’ve ever met before have told me. A lot of tourists of course, but still very easy to find “hidden” spots you can have for yourself or to spend time with locals. One of the highlights of the city was my walk up to the hills in Sacromonte. There are a lot of people here living for free in caves where they have furniture and all the living capacities they need. I had heard that there was a museum where you can see one of these caves, but I could not find it and just climbed up the hills random. Suddenly I was lucky and walked straight into the area where all these caves are.

Sacromonte caves in Granada

Sacromonte caves in Granada

The best thing with this area was that it was totally deserted of tourists, apart from a group of 7 young persons I met and joined. These persons were local students that had just arrived 2 weeks before from Canada, France and Poland. After looking at the cave area we had a picnic break and then did some more trekking up the hills for some hours. Finally we found the way back and went to one of the guys apartment. After some drinks and snacks we went on to his favorite Marrakesh restaurant. The food and tee was great, as for the company, but the best thing was the restaurant owner who spoke 7 languages fluent (Arabic, Berber, Spanish, French, English, German and Italian)! He was also able to switch between them without a problem, sometimes in one and the same sentence. And his humor was great, joking around with us and sitting down at our table for a long time with the result that the food became almost cold before we started eating. Great day and evening and always fun with new friends!

More caves in Sacromonte, these even with solar power

More caves in Sacromonte, these even with solar power

Alhambra in Granada, view from the Sacromonte caves

Alhambra in Granada, view from the Sacromonte caves

Picnic and later trekking with Granadian students from Canada, France and Poland

Picnic and later trekking with Granadian students from Canada, France and Poland

Microloans made easy – Kiva

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

For the last 10 years I have gave money to different kinds of charities. Some year ago I found Kiva (thanks to my mother), an organization which allows you to easily do microloans to a big part of the world where it is really needed.

The website gives you opportunity to browse through the database of people that need a loan. All these loans are for misfortuned people that wants to make their own income through starting an own business, instead of just getting money for the moment. Usually these people can’t go to a regular bank because they don’t have money to secure the loan, they have no credit record as they have never been employed before, or they are not able to fill in the paperwork as they are illiterate.

For each person in the database you will see their business idea and how much they want to loan. You don’t personally have to loan the whole amount to them, instead you put in as much money as you want and other persons do the same until the amount is collected.

When you have loaned out money you will get regular reports from Kiva about your loans and repayments. You are never guaranteed to get the money back, and you don’t earn any interest on these money. As you get your money back, you can relend them to other entrepreneurs, or you can select to withdraw them.

The minimum amount to get started is only $25, so you have no reason why not to do it! This is also a great long lasting present to give to someone.

www.kiva.org

Things can change quickly

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Today I talked with the guy who will rent an apartment to me in Sofia, Bulgaria, because I wanted to know where and how to get the keys when arriving two weeks from now. He then told me that he had changed his mind about renting out the apartment. This puts me in an interesting situation as I already have bought the tickets to Bulgaria and canceled my current apartment here in Spain. I was in an (angry) shock.

Lucky for me the weather here has also changed from rainy storm to a warm blue sky. As I needed a break I went down to the beach for a swim right after sending out some requests to people about a new apartment. The beach had already been somewhat renovated and had just the right amount of people (mostly locals) suntanning. The water was clear and warm, not full of trash as I thought it would be after the floodings. When I came back to the apartment one hour later I already had two mails about apartments in Sofia, so everything looks bright again. I also found places to stay in Granada and Madrid which I will see on the way to Sofia.

This should be a lesson to me to have backup plans more often, but also a good knowledge that whatever happens everything usually works out anyway.

The last weeks in a country

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Yesterday I had to clean the apartment because the owner was going to show it to someone who wanted to rent it after me. I never like to think about leaving an apartment because I always get really fond of them and have a lot of memories connected to the apartments. The last time it was easier because we were two persons who left the apartment/country at the same time, so we supported each other and tried not to think about it too much. At the same time, we were living there for a longer period in time and also had a lot of common memories and shared experiences.

I always get mood swings the last weeks before moving to a new country. These goes from being depressed about leaving my new friends, going to my favorite places for the last time, wondering if I should stay instead of continue to move and so on. But at the same time I am excited about escaping my daily habits and soon having new surroundings to get to know, while at the same time meeting new people and learning about their culture.

The mathematics of running into people again

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The last weekend in Cartagena I got several new great friends. One of these was an Italian guy who just moved to Cartagena to study there for 10 months. He took my phone number and we decided to meet up someday in the future. The next day I was sitting at a restaurant eating tapas in this 200 000+ inhabitants city, when the same Italian guy walked past and looking in through the door. I was a little bit surprised but not too much as these kinds of things happen to me a lot. Lately I have started to wonder if this also is common to other people.

The restaurant where we found each other again was not near any special place nor near where we were the night before. Not either did we have any common interest that could have drawn us both to this area at exact this time. It was just totally random as I see it.

As I now know around 10 people in Cartagena, this should mean that the chance of running into one of those friends are 1 in 20 000. I have only been to this city 6 days in total, which also should mean that every one of these days is a chance of 1 of 3 333 that I run into somebody I know (from that city, if everybody you see is a new face to you). This usually happens to me in a lot of cities, not only this one time. In other case I would also calculate all cities this don’t happen in, to get a lower number.

In a regular active day I estimate a normal person who are in the city center see about 500 detailed faces in a day (this was an empty Sunday, but lets ignore that). That would mean that my 3 333 now is down to 1 in 7, not so impressive anymore.

Of course there are a LOT of more factors, like how good your face memory and eye vision is, how tired or thoughtful you are, if you look at shop windows or people, how many hours a week you are in certain central areas, if you are indoors or outdoors, how many people are around you, if you are sitting still or moving, your and the other persons age, how good looking or interesting they are, where you work, where you live and so on.

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Bottom note: This also happens to me in much bigger cities, for example in London, where I also know even fewer people. And once I ran into a girl in another country than I first met her in (on the same trip, without knowing we were both traveling in the same direction). If you have similar stories, please share them as comments here below!

Ocean of people near the harbor in Cartagena, at the Sailing MedCup Circuit

Ocean of people near the harbor in Cartagena, at the Sailing MedCup Circuit

Improvised weekend full of adventures

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

This weekend was full of small random adventures. It started with me going to Cartagena, not knowing anyone there and never having been there before. Before the weekend was ended I had 7 new good friends, done trekking, cliff jumping, tried fishing octopus with hands (a friend managed anyway ;o), went into a military base and down into an active submarine, traveled to Murcia for a festival and survived a lot of partying and crazy driving. Sleeping I did first night at a nice girls (and her mother’s) home, and next night we slept 8 people (who did not know each other from before) in a flat somewhere in Murcia.

Submarine in Cartagena

Me and my CouchSurfing host on top of a Submarine in Cartagena

How was all this possible? Well it’s easy, thanks to a website called CouchSurfing.

CouchSurfing is a website where you meet people all over the world, most with traveling as a common interest. The members of the site can choose to host people, which means that people they have never met will sleep in their couch, extra bed, floor or whatever is in their apartment. The idea is NOT to offer a roof over the head though, but to meet people and learn about their culture, and making new friends all over the world. You can choose if you want to host someone at your home, [sleep at someones] couch or just meet people over a beer or show them around your city.

This is also a great way to learn more about your own city, both because people ask you a lot that you then want to learn, and because travelers tell you about their experiences in your town (or you join them in experiencing new stuff).

After creating an account on  you can do a search in the town you are traveling to, or even in your home town if you just want to meet new interesting (almost all are!) people. If you want to stay at someones home there are several ways to check them before if you feel insecure with this idea. First you can see their verification level, that is, if they have verified the address where they are living. Then read their profile and get a feeling about the person. The last (and best) way though is to see the persons references. If 20 people have met up with the member before and are all writing good stuff about her/him, why would your experience be anything but brilliant?

When you have found your host, send him or her a message (couch request) and tell why you want to meet them and stay at their place. In the beginning or if you are not used to travel, you should have a backup plan if something goes wrong. A good idea is also to have the phone number of your host, and try to send him or her a message before leaving to see if the number is correct.

If you still are insecure about the idea of staying in a strangers house, then start with just meeting someone for a chat, and you will soon be as addicted to the website as I am!

Some statistics taken from the website:

CouchSurfers 1,396,973
Successful Experiences 1,450,280
Friendships Created 1,613,972
Positive Experiences 3,599,635 (99,994% of all experiences!)
Countries Represented 231
Cities Represented 64,888

Good luck! I look forward to hear about your great experiences!

Audi MedCup

Preparations for Audi MedCup next week

A small illegal village in the outskirts of Cartagena

A small illegal village in the outskirts of Cartagena

Perfect place to cliff dive, snorkel and catch/grill octopus

Perfect place to cliff dive, snorkel and catch/grill octopus

Some fishermen in Cartagena

Some fishermen in Cartagena

Bicycle race in Murcia

Bicycle race in Murcia

Food charity in Murcia

Food charity in Murcia

Oh and by the way, my total travel budget for this weekend was less than 9 euro.

So it starts

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

I have loved to travel my whole life and felt trapped in my home country. When my travels was most extreme I traveled to a new country every 3 weeks. After a while I got tired of not having enough time to learn about a place before it was time to leave again. Also I had dreamed for as long as I could remember to move abroad, so I did it. First place was Milano, totally random and just because I could find a place to stay there really fast. I bought a one-way-ticket and wanted to stay for a minimum of some weeks, which very fast became 5 months and one of my best experiences ever!

Now I travel around and stay for 3-6 months in every country.