Category Archives: Travel

The Magic Is In You – Hidden Places

I’m so excited to be travelling to southeastern Europe this week.  People keep asking me where I’m going, and I still have no idea!  Even though I’ve embraced planning more recently (see my post ‘How To Be An Organised Free Spirit‘), I’m going back to my old adventurous ways on this trip!

I’m sure I’ll check off some famous tourist sites, such as Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, and Kotor Bay, Montenegro, but what I’m most looking forward to are those precious moments alone in hidden places.

You don’t have to venture far off the beaten track to find them, you just need an explorer’s attitude!  If you give yourself time to get lost, you can appreciate your surroundings even if you aren’t where you intended to be.

I remember being amazed at the dramatic scenery of Cappadocia, Turkey, along with many other tourists.  The hot air balloon ride was out of this world, and the fairy chimney rock formations were incredible.  However, the best part was getting lost in this arid landscape.  I vividly remember quiet moments alone, away from the main sights, scrambling up sandy slopes, through bushes, with thorns in my shoes!

Rose Valley, Cappadocia

You don’t have to travel far to discover secret treasures though.  I’m still finding new hidden spots within walking distance of home, and often have to remind myself of where I am, as I feel like I could be hundreds of miles away.

That’s the beauty of going somewhere new, even if it’s just a quiet park you’ve never been to before.  For a moment you feel as though you have been transported to another world.

Meditation

Explore a hidden place, near or far, or just somewhere quiet that you’ve never been before.  As you take in your surroundings, contemplate how many hidden places there must be in the world.  Even if you spent your whole life trying, you couldn’t begin to see them all.

As you explore this new place, let it be a reminder of the endless adventures that are possible.  Adventure doesn’t need to be about location, it is a feeling that comes from within (see my post ‘The Benefit Of An Adventurous Mindset‘).  If you keep your eyes and mind open there are opportunities everywhere to make new discoveries.

Greenbank Cemetery, Bristol, UK

Notice the tingles of excitement you get when discovering a new corner of this beautiful planet.  Your senses become heightened as you experience this place for the first time.  Spend as long as you wish soaking in this feeling.  Try to capture it in a few words or photos, so that you can return to it later.

There are so many amazing miracles happening all around us.  Let this experience of exploring a hidden place be a reminder to stay tuned in to the spirit of discovery, so that we can witness more of this magic every day.

Exploring hidden places is such a great way to find a bit of peace and reset our busy minds.  Is it something you already do regularly, or something you want to do more of?  Let me know in the comments below 🙂

 

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Fairytale Magic In Killarney, Ireland

My time in Dublin had been nice.  I’d spent hours getting lost in the museum absorbing all the history.  I’d walked for miles, stopping to admire amazing architecture and eat at yummy vegetarian restaurants.  But it wasn’t until I was on the bus out of there that I really started to relax into the trip.

I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but the cows in the fields looked happier than they do in the UK.  Everything seemed just that little bit softer.  There was hardly any traffic, and I imagined how awesome it would be to come back on an epic road trip.  For now though, I was very happy not to be driving, and drifted in and out of sleep, listened to music and day dreamed about what was to come.

We passed through some gorgeous towns that I would love to visit one day, and then we began the approach into Killarney National Park.  The scenery became more rugged, and I finally felt like I was on an adventure again.  I’d felt excited at the airport, as I always do, but Dublin was so much like home that it didn’t really give me that holiday feeling.

Even while I was still on the bus it felt easier to breathe in these wild surroundings.  As we emerged from the forest into the small town I saw some serious walkers with all their outdoor gear, obviously about to tackle some of the surrounding peaks.  There were horse drawn carriages to take tourists wanting a less physically demanding holiday around the park.  I was somewhere in the middle.  I intended to do lots of walking, but no mountains this time!

My hostel was an idyllic haven, truly a home away from home.  The people were lovely and welcoming, and all the rooms were named after animals!  Everything inside was made out of wood, which combined with the fresh country air to create the feeling of being on some kind of retreat.

I met the most wonderful guy from Canada, whose eyes lit up when he talked about his time in Ireland.  He had an almost Irish sounding accent, as he was from a very isolated part of Newfoundland where there were a lot of Irish immigrants.  Maybe that’s why he felt such a strong connection to this country.

I love meeting people from all over the world, especially when they have such different lifestyles to mine.  There is something really special about people who live away from the hustle and bustle of big cities.  They radiate such a gentle calm presence.  I don’t think I could live in a rural area (I need good vegan pizza and all my friends near me!) but I feel such a strong pull towards that simpler way of life.

From what I had gathered from my conversations with other travellers, everywhere in the national park was extremely beautiful, and I could easily spend many days walking and exploring here.  I was excited but tired, so took a nap and just spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the town, preparing for an adventure the following day.  I felt like I was already settling into the slower pace of life that Killarney invited.

On my first full day there I took a walk along the shores of the vast lake to Ross Castle.  A German girl I’d met in Dublin had recommended the route, so I followed in her footsteps.  I was not disappointed.  Almost immediately I spotted a grey heron as I walked along the river that led to the lake.

When I reached the lake I basked in the stillness, taking in the shimmering water and majestic hills that surrounded it.  I imagined people hundreds of years ago experiencing that same feeling of wonder as they stood on these very shores, gazing at the beautiful landscape.  I continued my walk, sometimes next to the water, sometimes deeper into the forest, surrounded by wild flowers and lush green leaves.

Just as my feet were beginning to ache, I caught a glimpse of Ross Castle between the trees.  Seconds before I took this photo, a ray of sunlight shone through the parting clouds, illuminating the castle.  Obviously, as soon as I got my camera out the sun disappeared, but it was a magical moment!

The castle perfectly reflected the drama of the landscape, creating an otherworldly fairytale scene.  It was a strange feeling to reach the castle and be surrounded by people again, who had come by car or horse and carriage.  There was something extremely satisfying about arriving on foot, as I drive almost everywhere at home!

I decided to walk back along the road, which was long and boring, because my legs couldn’t handle going all the way back around the lake!  When I reached the hostel, I immediately collapsed on my bed for a snooze, cooked a huge bowl of pasta, and psyched myself up to do it all again the next day!

I had a vague plan to explore the area around Muckross Abbey as I set off on my next adventure in the national park.  The sun was shining, and the lake looked stunning.  The soothing sound of the lapping water made me want to lie down on the pebbles and take a nap, but I had a lot of ground to cover so I kept walking.

Eventually I reached the abbey ruins, and took my time exploring every nook and cranny.  Suddenly the clouds came over, and it looked like it was about to rain, creating an eerie atmosphere.  The sun soon came back out, and I avoided getting wet, but thought I should probably get a move on in case the weather changed again.

Muckross Abbey

The path got more and more scenic, luring me further along until I reached Muckross House and gardens.  Arriving in the gardens was like stepping into some kind of paradise after the long walk.  The beautifully designed gardens were so soothing, and completely distracted me from the blisters on my feet, hunger and general exhaustion!  I was only at the half way point of my walk, but felt totally revived by the heavenly surroundings.

The return journey was a lot easier than I’d imagined, but I still fell asleep again as soon as I got back!  I felt very content when I woke up, which was lucky because my tranquil retreat had transformed into a noisy hub of activity.  It was a bank holiday weekend, and there was a huge car rally happening in the tiny town.

I could understand why, with such amazing roads around the lake and surrounding hills, but it was a bit of a shock to be woken up that night by revving engines and car horns!  I can sleep through almost anything though, so although a little confused, I still got plenty of rest.

The next day I had a lazy start, and took a gentler walk along a circuit where I could see herds of red deer, and more magnificent views.  I had planned on taking a day trip to the Dingle peninsula, having heard amazing things about it.  However, I decided to prioritize relaxation over trying to do absolutely everything in a short space of time.

On my trip to Costa Rica last year I got sick twice (I rarely get ill at home) because I pushed myself to do more than I genuinely wanted to.  I met some great people who were packing in all of the sights, and although I enjoyed days out with them, I much prefer to go at my own pace.  So I learned my lesson, and passed on the fabulous sounding tour.  It felt really good to honor my own feelings though, instead of thinking that I ‘should’ be doing more.

So Dingle is another place to add to the list for a future Ireland road trip!  It’s exciting to have a country so nearby that I have barely begun to explore.  I’m not sure when I’ll go back, there are so many more adventures to be had in new countries before then, but with my tent, a car and some friends, it will be a completely different experience!

I headed back to Dublin feeling relaxed and invigorated, ready to enjoy some more good food and tourist attractions before heading home.  Even with the crazy boy racers, Killarney had been the perfect relaxing break in the countryside that I’d been hoping for!

Have you been to Ireland?  So many people I met recommended Killarney to me, and now I see why!  Where in Ireland would you recommend going?

 

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A Letter To My Fellow Solo Adventurers

This post was inspired by a good friend of mine who is moving back to Bristol soon after spending many months living alone in Cornwall, one of the most wild and beautiful parts of our country.  I recently went to visit her, and she showed me some awesome places, but also told me how she’d been struggling with loneliness.

Beach near Porthtowan, Cornwall, UK

This is an all too familiar story to me, having recently cut short my travels in Costa Rica to be with friends and family for Christmas.  Obviously I’m delighted my friend is coming home, as having loved ones around you is one of the most precious things in the world.  But I know that people like us will always crave new experiences and adventures, and sometimes this means having no one to share them with.

This letter is to myself, my friend, and the thousands of other brave souls out there living unconventional lives.

Dear Adventurer,

I know you feel like you are alone right now, but you are wrong.  I am thinking of you when you feel sad because you think the difficult path you have chosen was a mistake.  I am with you when you are admiring a breathtaking view with a feeling of melancholy because there is nobody to share the special moment.

Even when your adventures don’t feel as enjoyable as they should, know that you are still inspiring me.  I can see you with the wind in your hair out there living life, when I am wrapped up in my blanket at home planning my next escape.

When you’re worrying about your next move or trip, know that I’m here doing the same.  Planning, scheming, getting excited, and thinking ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?!’.  There are so many of us, we shouldn’t feel alone.

Monteverde, Costa Rica

I’m with you when you are gazing longingly at photos of faraway places, wondering if it is worth leaving the supportive embrace of home to take on a new challenge.  There will be struggles whether you stay or go, and know that you are not alone in this.

We are separated by time and space, but we are always together.  Next time you are at the top of a mountain, swimming in a river, or walking on a deserted beach with sand between your toes, say a quiet hello to me.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Sometimes we will get to experience adventures together, and these will be all the more amazing.  Our brave solo adventures have strengthened our adventurous spirits, and when we are together it is magical.

Thank you for choosing the road less travelled.  Soak up every unique detail because I want to hear about it all.  The world through your eyes is such a beautiful place, and although I will never be able to fully share your experience, the glimpses I get bring me so much joy.

Next time you are out exploring alone, remember you’re not just doing it for yourself.  Your courage helps keep the spirit of adventure alive in all of us.  Whether you’re travelling the world, or simply out surfing for the afternoon, your actions have an inspiring ripple effect, spreading an empowering message to so many others.

Baldi Hot Springs, Costa Rica

When you’re lost in the wilderness, or lost in a maze of confusion in your own mind, know that you are never ever alone.  We share the same dreams, and every step you take towards yours brings me closer to my own.  Let’s create a world where we celebrate our individual paths, enjoying the moments where we intersect, and giving each other the strength to walk sections alone.

All my love,

Tess ❤

 

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7 Ideas For Awesome Quests

The best thing about going on a quest for me, is all the awesome adventures you have along the way.  When you throw yourself wholeheartedly into your quest, you will come back with so much more than you set out to achieve.

Sometimes, when you finally reach the goal, place or object you were seeking, it is better than you ever could have imagined.  Other times you may be disappointed, or fail on your mission.  But when you look back on a quest, it is often the journey to accomplishing your goal that is the most memorable and satisfying part.

On the road in Bolivia.

Having said that, the feeling of pursuing a grand quest is what makes the journey so exciting.  You can build an epic adventure around any quest, whether it is something extremely silly, or wild and extreme.  Here are some ideas to get us started…

1.  Reach a high point of a city, country, or the world.

I recently travelled to Dubai because it is home to the Burj Khalifa, which was the tallest building in the world when I visited the observation deck at the top.  Someone may have built something taller by the time you are reading this, and I will probably be planning to scale that too!  Although going to the top of the Burj Khalifa was the main goal of my Dubai trip, the other experiences I had in that crazy city far outweighed those few moments of bliss stepping out onto the 1/2 km high viewing platform.

View from the top of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai.

Reaching Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal was another significant moment, which was part of a far more amazing trek through the Himalayas.  But you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to reach a high point.  Find the tallest building in your city, or make it your mission to climb all the hills in your area.  It can be as simple or elaborate a quest as you desire.

Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal

2.  Go celebrity hunting.

First of all with this one, it doesn’t have to be a celebrity you have any real interest in.  It’s about the thrill of the chase!  When we discovered a certain B-list celebrity lived near our parents houses, my friends and I had a great time climbing trees and running through muddy fields trying to catch a glimpse of him.  None of us were fans (not that I’m aware of anyway!), but we still had fun with our binoculars trying to see into the blacked out windows of his passing car.  Don’t judge me for this until you try it!

Climbing a tree to get a better view of a local celebrity’s house!

It is best done with friends as a purely recreational activity, otherwise you are just a weird stalker.  Don’t take it too far and get arrested, or develop some kind of crazy celebrity obsession.  If this happens, begin a new quest ASAP!

3.  Learn a new skill.

Learning to scuba dive was the main purpose, and BY FAR the best thing about my trip to Indonesia a few years ago.  However, the gorgeous beaches, stunning scenery, amazing temples and beautiful boat trips were a massive bonus!

Ubud, Bali

My quest to learn basic conversational Spanish while in South America was (almost) fulfilled when I found myself chatting to a local in a bar in Cusco, Peru after a few drinks.  Words were just flowing out of my mouth.  The grammar was all wrong, but we managed a semi conversation.

Long bus journeys passed by in the blink of an eye, while my head was buried in my Spanish book.  It was also a great excuse to relax and watch TV with subtitles, picking up many new words and phrases.  If you make learning something new your quest, I guarantee it will bring enjoyable experiences into your life.

3.  Follow a river all the way to another town.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Mainly because I have a terrible sense of direction and it’s hard to get lost while walking alongside a river!  There is something so appealing about the idea of arriving in a new or familiar place the same way as the river.  Plus being next to water is always so relaxing.

You could take this to the extreme and follow a river all the way to its source, or all the way out to sea.  Or you could embark upon a quest to walk its entire length.

4.  Find the oldest tree or building in your area, or further afield.

This one may involve a bit of research, but that’s all part of the quest!  I am planning to visit a really old tree with a friend soon, and it got me thinking, I wonder where the top 10 oldest trees in the UK are?  I could find out with a quick google search, but then I would probably end up on a whole new quest that I don’t currently have time for!

Amazing tree in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Going on a quest to find the oldest buildings wherever you are can be fun, even if you’re not into history.  Plus you might learn something!  Once you’ve ticked off the oldest buildings in your home country, you can go on a quest further afield to discover some amazing places.  When you approach it in this way, you may find that you are more interested in history than you first thought!

Bristol, UK

5.  Give yourself a time limit.

Not all quests need to have time limits, but it can make things more exciting!  I remember going on a quest to find an indoor rollercoaster in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  A fellow traveller and I gave ourselves an hour to get there.  We had no idea where it was, and we ended up running through the city like maniacs.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When we eventually found it, we realised that it was far too expensive to be worth the money for us poor backpackers, and we didn’t even go on!  But we had a really fun time and an epic mini adventure.  We saw parts of the city and spoke to people we never would have otherwise.

6.  Food quests are the best.

I won’t write too much about this one, or I will make myself hungry.  I’m always hungry, and earning enough money to satisfy my gigantic appetite is a constant struggle!  If you love food, food quests are probably something you undertake pretty frequently anyway.  Just make sure you have an emergency snack with you, or the quest could turn into a hangry rampage pretty quickly.

7.  Turn a goal into a quest.

Want to save up money for your next adventure, further your studies, or start a new career path?  Whatever your goal, life is an adventure, so completing your mission should feel like a quest, not a chore.  Think about WHY you want to achieve this goal.  What aspect of it makes you feel excited and alive?

Start to re-frame your goal in a way that makes it feel like an adventure.  Dedicate a notebook to your quest, and jot down any helpful words or images that come to mind.  What will life look like when you succeed on your quest?  Focus on that, and ENJOY THE JOURNEY.  Remember that being on the quest is as much the purpose as reaching the goal.

You can never have too many exciting quest ideas… please share yours with me in the comments below!

 

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Finding Your Adventure Sweet Spot

My adventure sweet spot involves turquoise water and a warm sunny place far away from home.  Or short hikes up to beautiful view points along well marked trails.  Or long days meandering slowly and getting a little bit lost amongst strange landscapes.

Fairy Chimneys, Cappadocia, Turkey

Right now I am snuggled up with 3 cats in someone else’s lovely cosy home next to a warm fire, writing about adventures.  Housesitting, at this time, provides me with the perfect comfort/adventure balance.

It has taken me a while to find the right level of adventure for me, and it constantly changes.  I used to push myself a lot further out of my comfort zone, but often found myself in situations that didn’t make me feel good.

There is a certain exhilaration that comes with surviving being stuck halfway up a cliff face while your climbing partner tells you they can’t find a way up, but this was not an experience I could keep repeating.  There are people that thrive on the epic adventures that trad climbing provides.  I am not one of them.  Give me a sunny hill walk or a scuba dive in crystal clear tropical water any day.

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Travelling to places where I don’t know anyone or speak the language, with no guide book, is fairly within my comfort zone.  But I have to know where to find good vegan food or I fall to pieces!  That is a step too far outside enjoyable limits for me!

I am very comfortable in the water, and love to dive deep under the sea.  Being in water is relaxing for me.  I have no fear of sharks and am a strong swimmer.  However, big waves scare me, and surfing is way outside my comfort zone.  I could be happily lost at sea for hours in a calm warm ocean, but the idea of jumping from a cliff into cold water fills me with dread!

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Sometimes adventure finds me, like the time I lost all of my belongings in a huge fire, and was stranded in southeast Asia with no money or passport.  Or the time we got flung out of our boat on a whitewater rafting trip and I smashed my face on a rock.  Those experiences were far from my sweet spot, but have helped me realise what I want from an adventure.

White water rafting in Peru, seconds before the accident.

Sometimes an adventure for me is as gentle as an idyllic drive through the English countryside to visit a local tourist destination.  But I also love rollercoasters, travelling alone to exotic places, and wild windy days by the sea.  It isn’t so much about the surroundings or activities, as it is about the feeling I get from them.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, UK

The point I am trying to make with my disconnected ramblings, is that to find your adventure sweet spot, you have to let go of what you think an adventure should look like.  Adventure comes in infinitely many forms, and I have barely scratched the surface here of things I would consider to be an adventure.  Everyone is different, and our comfort zones can change every day.  What is thrilling for me could be terrifying to someone else, and boring to another person.

Write lists of possible adventures that scare you, or that you would find too stressful, and ones that are well within your comfort zone.  Use these to make a new list of ideas for potential adventures that could provide you with just the right level of excitement.

Getting lost outside San Jose, Costa Rica

Once you have some ideas, now comes the fun part… trying them out!  You may find yourself further outside your comfort zone than you intended, or you may find some experiences less fulfilling than you expected.  But over time you will get better at hitting your adventure sweet spot.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

The perfect level and type of adventure for you may change all the time, but chasing after it is such a worthwhile activity!  So go camping, climb a mountain, take a leisurely walk in a national park, swim in some freezing cold water, light a fire, or book a holiday somewhere warm and sunny.  Find that adventure sweet spot, or have fun trying!

I would love to hear your ideas about what makes a good adventure.  Do you need an aspect of danger, or do you prefer to feel more at ease while exploring new terrain?  Do you have a particular activity that draws you in and keeps you coming back for more, or do you love to try many different things?  Leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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The Benefit Of An Adventurous Mindset

For me, the benefit of an adventurous mindset is that everything feels lighter.  If we have many mundane tasks to accomplish in a day, they can seem boring at best, and often quite daunting.  If we are too far inside our comfort zone, even the thought of going to the shops can seem like a mammoth task.

Canaima national park, Venezuela

However, if we have a much bigger goal as our focus, the details all fall into place.  Just the other day, I was having a dilemma over what food to buy for dinner.  I found myself procrastinating and not wanting to leave the house.

Then I thought about what I’ll do when I’m away travelling.  I’ll be cooking a lot on my next few trips to save money.  I imagined being in a foreign supermarket, grabbing a few random items off the shelf, and cooking up whatever delicious creation I could manage with limited ingredients and kitchen facilities!  I certainly wouldn’t be wasting valuable time worrying about what to have for dinner, when I could be out exploring!

Monteverde, Costa Rica

I left the house immediately, got the shopping done in record time, and made a very simple delicious new meal with my spontaneously purchased ingredients.  I didn’t even do anything exciting that day, but by remembering and deciding to be that more adventurous version of myself, the jobs I had to get done became a lot easier and more enjoyable.

I have countless other examples of being brought back to life by my adventurous spirit.  Before I went to Costa Rica, I’d become very comfortable at home in the UK, and was starting to get into a bit of a rut with work.  Booking my trip really got me focused, and I achieved far more with my business in those few months than I had the whole of the previous year.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Planning a huge trip isn’t necessary to feel that excitement though.  If you struggle to get in touch with your adventurous side, I highly recommend going on a mini-adventure.  One of my best days out last year was a completely unplanned trip to the Exmoor coast.  You don’t have to go far, you can just take a few hours out of your day to explore somewhere new, or do something completely random.  Sometimes you’ll get lucky, the weather will be perfect and you’ll see lots of amazing things.  Other times will go less smoothly, but the exhilaration of a spontaneous adventure will be more than worth it.

If we’re feeling weighed down by life, and struggling with the small things, we need to remember that life is one big adventure.  We can get into a comfortable bubble and forget how grand and amazing this world is, but it doesn’t make it any less true.  When we follow our desire to make the most out of life, and start to think and act more adventurously, smaller problems seem to fade into the background.

Bristol, UK

It’s hard to worry about what we look like, how clean our house is, or whether we’re achieving enough at work when we have mountains to climb, forests to get lost in and trips to plan!

Do you naturally have an adventurous mindset, or do you have to work at it like I do?  Whether you struggle to get out of your comfort zone, or are an adrenaline junkie, leave me a comment below.  It’s always nice to know we are not alone!  When we find the right level of adventure for us, I believe we can all thrive.

 

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Blissful Solitude In La Sabana, San Jose

I’d made my first proper friend since leaving the UK, and now that they were gone I felt much more alone than I had at the start of my trip a couple of weeks ago.  We had plans to meet up again, but I was left with a feeling of loneliness that was far more complete than during my initial days of exhilarating isolation.

The thought of a journey with no end date that had brought me so much joy when I set foot on the beach in Miami, now left me feeling empty and lost.  Having no fixed plans and total freedom to follow my heart wherever it took me had been the best feeling in the world.  I would never have to compromise my desires for anyone else’s, and the future was a beautiful mystery.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, Costa Rica

Now I was a little way into my amazing adventure, alone for the first time in several days, the dark side of this freedom began to sink in.  Expansive anticipation was replaced by a crushing sadness, and the weeks ahead that had been so full of promise now seemed bleak and daunting.

The thought of calling anyone back home, or socializing with fellow travellers, didn’t appeal to me at all.  Despite not wanting to feel so alone, part of me knew it was exactly what I needed.  La Sabana park in San Jose was the perfect place for some quiet contemplation.

I took out my note book, and as I sat at the picnic table trying to write, I felt the steadiness of the nearby rocks calm me down.  The soothing green lake gently eased my mind, and I started to feel some inner peace trickle through the gaps in my worried thoughts.

I always spend a lot of time by myself, and am content with my own company.  However, being so far from home for an unknown amount of time, and no real plan, left me feeling a deep loneliness that I’d not experienced before.  But as I walked around the hazy green park, I began to appreciate the gift of this opportunity to confront one of my biggest fears.

The stillness of the water helped me to find a little stillness in my mind.  From this place I realized I had a choice in how to respond.  I could let my loneliness upset me, or search for a distraction.  Or I could face the feeling, and deal with it in a calm and rational manner.

It is perfectly natural to be afraid of isolation.  As humans we need each other to survive.  The fear of being alone is a very primal one, but at this time my survival did not depend on having friends or family around me.  I had only been away a couple of weeks, and had already made at least one friend that I knew I would stay in touch with.  I had been away for long periods of time before, and my family and friends at home always welcomed me back with open arms.  I was in no immediate danger of becoming isolated in any way that would be detrimental to my life.

The intense feeling of being alone was very real, but the worries were not.  After realizing this, I was slowly able to release these worrying thoughts.  I focused on soaking up the magic of this idyllic haven as I continued my walk around the lake.

My fears gradually dropped away, and I was left with the same sense of being completely alone, but now I perceived it differently.  Instead of fear, the feeling gave me peace.  The aloneness was an opportunity to experience a deeper part of myself that had been afraid for so long.  In accepting this part of myself, I felt more whole, which brought me a feeling of blissful solitude that I hadn’t experienced for a very long time.

Knowing you can feel content without anything external to ground you is an empowering realization.  You feel an unshakeable peace that stays with you wherever you go.  It is so much easier to make friends and be sociable when you’re perfectly happy being alone.

Every time I travel solo, I come back with a little more inner peace.  It’s a wonderful thing to know that we are capable of creating our own happiness from within.  We can use this happiness to bring joy to others, or enjoy it all by ourselves.  It is ours to do whatever we want with.

This wasn’t the end of my struggles with loneliness on my solo travels, but it was an important moment that I wanted to share.  Remembering how I felt at this time, and how I overcame it, helps me reconnect to this feeling of peace with being alone.  Another thing that helps me is knowing that millions of people all over the world experience similar feelings.  If you are able to, I would love for you to share your experiences in the comments below.  We are never really alone.

 

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Merge With Nature

Of course we are already one with nature.  That’s how we got here in the first place.  But we are very good at acting as separate beings.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact space and isolation can be amazing for allowing new inspiration and creative ideas to flow.  But feeling our connection with all of life can do wonders for expanding our minds too.

We may experience this connection spontaneously when our surroundings and state of mind are just right.  Perhaps we are visiting an amazing waterfall, or are relaxed at the end of a day spent in a very beautiful and peaceful place.  In these kinds of circumstances we are very open, and are able to feel the external world in a profound way.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

We can also consciously choose to cultivate this connection.  It may be as simple as intentionally creating situations for ourselves that are conducive to experiencing the natural world on a deeper level.  Planning to do something we don’t normally do, such as snorkeling, or visiting a new place can really open us up to a stronger connection with nature.

As always, remembering our intention is the most important thing.  When we are in the water, or up in the mountains we have to remember why we are there.  We are choosing to FEEL our surroundings as part of ourselves.

A calm mind and heart are essential ingredients, so meditating with nature can be the perfect way to deepen our bond.  Find a rock, tree, river or anything you choose to focus on.  You can tune into the object with your hands, whole body or whatever feels right for you.

Stay relaxed, with your eyes open or closed.  Embrace the object with your heart, and feel its subtle qualities wash over you.  It doesn’t matter if you feel nothing whatsoever.  Quieting your mind enough to try, and being out in nature, will bring benefits regardless of the outcome.

With a commitment to this practice, you will inevitably be able to feel more of the world around you.  There is no rush, as it is a beautiful never-ending process of falling in love with the universe, and uncovering its treasures.

Do you find it easier to connect with one aspect of nature more than any other?  Do you already feel a deep bond with your environment, and how do you nurture this bond?  Let me know in the comments below ♡.

 

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Dubai – An Awe Inspiring Mega City

Everything about Dubai made my head spin.  On many occasions I felt like a tiny ant lost in a mechanical world.  More than once I had to abandon journeys on foot because giant buildings and 12 lanes of traffic came between me and my destination.

Though at times I felt frustrated by this mad artificial universe, I was also equally amazed and overwhelmed with awe.  More than once I was reduced to tears by the magnificence of this strange metropolis.

Seeing the glittering lights of the city from the top of the tallest building in the world was an undeniably special moment for me.  I’d desperately wanted to visit the Burj Khalifa since I first heard of the plans to build it.  The fairy tale like quality of a tower stretching up nearly a kilometer (830m to be exact) into the sky spoke to my inner child in a powerful way!

The experience was made all the more dramatic by the fact I nearly missed my slot to visit.  I had to run through a seemingly never-ending tunnel of moving walkways to get there, just in time to use my extremely expensive non-refundable ticket.  The relief, combined with a journey to the top in an elevator traveling up to 10 meters per second, left me feeling like I’d been reborn, as I suddenly found myself ejected onto the 148th floor observation deck!

Giant skyscrapers looked like tiny toy buildings beneath me.  Dubai wasn’t dwarfed by the soaring tower though.  My bird’s eye view allowed me to witness its sheer scale, ever-expanding into the surrounding desert.  I was also mesmerized by the most impressive intersection of roads I have ever seen, allowing miniature cars to glide with ease through the city and beyond.  I came back down to earth with even more appreciation for the construction of this unbelievable place.

I’d experienced the Burj Khalifa from the ground for the first time a couple of days before.  Every evening there is the spectacle of the Dubai Fountain, where water, music and light are used to create pure magic in front of the glistening tower.  This show is repeated several times throughout the evening and is free for everyone to enjoy.

Strolling through the Dubai Mall was another of my favourite activities.  Hearing the call to prayer reverberate through the huge shopping centre was an extremely powerful experience.  It was strange to witness this against the backdrop of such large scale consumerism, but the pristine shiny chambers provided the perfect acoustics, and actually enhanced the effect of the beautiful spiritual song.

When the hypnotic waves of melodic perfection had finished penetrating my soul, I was off to see the giant aquarium!  There is something for everyone in the Dubai Mall.  As well as watching the beautiful sea creatures, I loved to watch the people watching them.  There was always a row of people happily pointing and taking pictures of the large section of the aquarium that is free to the general public.

Another relaxing place to while away the hours in the mall is at the waterfall.  I wish we had waterfalls in our shopping centers at home, maybe people would be a little less stressed!

If fake waterfalls aren’t your thing, there’s always the olympic sized ice rink, indoor theme park or cinema.  The possibilities for non-shopping related activities are endless.  I can’t comment on the shopping as I didn’t do any, but I can imagine the joy that over 1200 shops in such lovely surroundings would bring to an avid shopper!

All the air conditioned malls, tunnels and towers left me craving the outside (a place that I frequently forgot existed here!).  It is VERY difficult to walk anywhere in Dubai though, as my disastrous attempt at visiting the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary demonstrated.  After getting within 500 meters of the place on the bus, I was forced to abandon my trip due to a fenced highway between me and my destination that was impossible to cross.

This experience made the successful walks all the more enjoyable.

I managed to navigate my way along tiny pavements, through, under and across vast roads and buildings, out into a space open enough to observe the majestic skyline.

It was the marina that really stole my heart though.  There is magic everywhere we go, but near the water it’s much easier to see it!  All the shades of sunset reflected in the gentle ripples, and combined with the twinkling city lights to create an enticing glow, inviting me to stay.

I longed to jump into the water, buy a boat, or live in a glittering apartment overlooking the beautiful marina.  Anything to be a part of this special place.  But instead, I took a piece of it with me to hold in my imagination and my dreams.

That’s how I cope with leaving places I love all over the world.  They leave impressions on me that I couldn’t leave behind if I wanted to.

 

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La Fortuna – Was It All A Dream?

My time in La Fortuna was far from perfect.  I got very sick, spent way more money than I intended to, and missed a lot of the things I went there for.  However, my overall memory of it is shrouded in a hazy dream-like wonder.

As I stepped off the bus I was welcomed to town by this little guy, whose magical doggie healing properties made carrying my heavy rucksack up the hill to my hostel much more bearable!

I had no plan for La Fortuna, so happily went along with some other backpackers for a whirlwind tour of the region.  I was so lucky to be driven around in a car all day, stopping when we wanted to, exploring the area and checking off some of the major sights.

When we arrived at the hanging bridges in Arenal, I felt like I’d finally arrived in the Costa Rica of my imagination.  The forest was packed with excited tourists, and it was pouring with rain, but I was high up amongst the tree tops at last.

I paused on the bridge, feeling it bounce slightly beneath my feet.  It was a strange and unforgettable sensation, being suspended in the canopy, enveloped in mist, held in the embrace of the rainforest.

Unfortunately, the mist that made the forest all the more beautiful, hid the famous Arenal volcano from view.  We drove through the trees over winding bumpy roads in an attempt to get closer and perhaps catch a glimpse.  At one point a faint outline began to appear through the cloud, only to disappear again for the next few days!

Whilst waiting for the volcano to show, I passed the time at possibly the best hot springs resort in the world.  I spent an entire evening at Baldi Hot Springs with friends from the hostel, and the next day I went back again alone to soak up more of the blissful magic!

I can’t recommend highly enough visiting hot springs at night.  It’s like a lucid dream that is too perfect to be real, and you’re enjoying far too much to wake up from.  With 25 thermal spring water pools, there was always something new and amazing to discover as we made our way through the dark steamy oasis.

That’s not to say I wasn’t utterly mesmerized in the light of day by the sight of cascades of water filling crystalline pools, surrounded by lush vegetation.  My heart was full to bursting as I explored every corner, feeling all the muscles in my body relax into the hot soothing water.

From floating in paradise, to drifting away in a strange and troubled sleep, I found myself in bed sick for the next couple of days.  So much for the ‘healing’ properties of the spring water!  It was difficult to be annoyed though, as after camping and staying in dorm rooms, a rest in my own private room was just what I needed!

Covered in thick cloud, I’d given up hope of catching sight of the elusive volcano.  I’d almost forgotten it was there, and I certainly didn’t realise I had a view of it from my balcony!  So on my last day in La Fortuna, as I was lazing in bed, I was awestruck when the clouds parted to reveal the mysterious, slightly threatening peak.

What an amazing treat to be lying in bed with such a view.  It was almost worth getting sick for!  However, having spent a small fortune and recovered enough to travel, it was time to leave this popular yet mostly hidden wonderland.  Frustratingly, there was so much more to discover in this area of geological wonders, but I had already spent far longer than I’d planned to there.  The cloud closed over the volcano again, and it disappeared, as though it was all a dream.

Where do you go when you dream?  Have you been somewhere so magical it makes you feel like you are dreaming, even though you are awake?  Leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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