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andrea http://whereisandrea.com Austrian expat in Peru * Wanderlust Tue, 12 Dec 2017 23:41:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 My solo travel finale on Brazil´s best beaches http://whereisandrea.com/my-solo-travel-finale-on-brazils-best-beaches/ Wed, 07 Dec 2016 23:56:54 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1311 It´s my last day in paradise (as of today: Ilha de Boipeba) before it’s time say good bye to caipirinhas, tapiocas and açaí. While I am strolling along the island´s deserted white-sand beaches one last time, I am thinking back of the 2 incredible months I got to spend in this overwhelmingly friendly country. My solo journey around the world is coming to an end and my heart feels light when I recall all the gorgeous beaches where I briefly left my footprints.
Barra do Cunhau, Baia Formosa
Barra do Cunhau, Baia Formosa
I keep bumping into the same people on this small island, like the European couple I had met a week earlier exploring the beautiful Chapada Diamantina national park. On their last day on the island we only chatted briefly each time our paths crossed, I figured they´d rather enjoy some alone time. This morning I realized that’s how I was going to celebrate my last day of solo travel in paradise. Just being with the person that I created so many memories with: myself 🙂
Praia da Barra Velha, Marajó island
Praia da Barra Velha, Marajó island
When I first started my adventure in Cape Town almost two years ago, I met a German expat for a drink who had just finished his own trip around the world. He left me with my first wanderlust lesson: You first gotta learn to enjoy being on your own. 19 countries later, I have to smile when I realize how right he was (btw he also remembers our meeting, soon he is going to celebrate the 2-year-anniversary with his girlfriend that he met that same evening).
Sao Miguel do Gostoso, Ceará
Sao Miguel do Gostoso, Ceará
You are not lonely if you like the person you are alone with.
Praia do Pesqueiro, Marajó island
Praia do Pesqueiro, Marajó island
I am often asked: What´s the highlight of your journey? I can´t quite settle for only one memory, so I keep switching between diving with manta rays in Indonesia, roadtripping in Namibia, backpacking in New Zealand, … (omg, too many adventures!). However, half-way around the world it became less about the places I explored or the bounderies I over-stepped, but about my wanderlust moments
Jericoacoara, Ceará
Jericoacoara, Ceará
… when I was traveling on a bus, just random thoughts running through my head, watching local villages, mountain tops, or palmtree farms fly by, embracing the uncertainty of not knowing where I would sleep that night, not having a plane to catch, place to reach nor deadline to meet.
Baia dos Golfinhos, Pipa
Baia dos Golfinhos, Pipa
… when I no longer constantly craved the company of others just for the sake of not being alone at the other end of the world, but instead ventured off to explore some Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley or to meditate on another mountain top in Sulawesi on my own; choosing to connect with nature over having backpacker small talk.
Praia dos Carneiros, Tamandaré
Praia dos Carneiros, Tamandaré
Mom (looking at my Instagram): Why are you always alone?!
Praia do Francés, Maceió
Praia do Francés, Maceió
… when I found myself sweating during a trek through the jungle or freezing in a tent on top of a volcano, where I would suddently enjoy a deep conversation with someone I barely knew and might never see again; random connections and little comments that stuck with me and changed the course of my actions ever since.
Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
… when I let go of control and instead lived in the moment and let life surprise memeeting my next roadtrip buddy sitting down at a natural hotspring or getting stuck inbetween boat rides on the Amazon in what turns out to be a village with gorgeous river beaches.
Alter do Chão, Pará
Alter do Chão, Pará
Bestie (calling from Barcelona): This Andrea is speaking 100% from her heart, where is the one who plans her life with post-its and excel sheets?
Galinhos, Sao Miguel do Gostoso
Galinhos, Sao Miguel do Gostoso
My wanderlust moments have become less frequent since I booked my Xmas flight home (first time back in Europe, wow!). Well, and since I fell in love half a year ago (ooops). Too often now I catch my rational mind pushing the mindful me into the corner. I have enjoyed being the sole owner of my time and appreciated every time I got energized by magical places or inspiring people. On my last day in paradise the idea of soon going back to a 9-to-6-office-schedule seems far-out.
Praia do Gunga, Maceió
Praia do Gunga, Maceió
Time is not money because it never returns.
Praia de Maracaipe, Porto de Galinhas
Praia de Maracaipe, Porto de Galinhas
Lately my mind has been craving 1st world luxuries: Spanish tapas, Italian coffee, Austrian deserts (Bananenschnitte!), tasty vegetarian food, a “real” Gin & Tonic (Hendricks, with a slice of cucumber), Swiss chocolate, cheese and white wine. My back is looking forward to unpacking my 17kg backpack one last time and getting to sleep in a bunk bed. I wonder how I will feel about choosing between more than 4 shirts and wearing heals and perfume again soon.
Jericoacoara, Ceará
Jericoacoara, Ceará
The sun is about to set over Boipeba as I finally reach my favorite palm-lined beach. Having explored the world for 650 days, my heart is filled with gratitude. I have had the time of my life, I was inspired by the people around me, I learned to live true to my values and to be in touch with my feelings. Still there are so many beliefs to be questioned, so many ideas left to be explored, so many insights to be put to use.
Last shameless solo selfie at Cuera beach, Boipeba
Last shameless solo selfie at Cuera beach, Boipeba island

I feel good about starting the next chapter of my journey: going home 🙂

Camel jockey for a day in Kenya http://whereisandrea.com/camel-jockey-for-a-day-in-kenya/ Sun, 09 Oct 2016 20:49:04 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1282

International Maralal Camel Derby? O que é isso?

My first camel race in Kenya

The friendly Brazilian guy I had just met while hiking Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro was curiously looking at the camel logo of my flashy red T-shirt. It couldn´t help smiling. Just a few weeks ago in Nairobi I had had the exact same reaction when another backpacker first told me about the African camel derby over breakfast.

Sim, é verdade! This August I participated in a camel race in Kenya 🙂

Camel Derby Maralal 2016

You came in 4th in the amateur race and won 200$? Tell me more.

Rio´s famous Christ the Redeemer statue was covered by the clouds, and I was in no rush to take my selfies. Just like Lominjira, my vain racecamel that was in no rush to cross the finish line on the last 300m of the race and instead chose to enjoy the applause of the hundreds of Samburus, Masais and expats who head ventured to Maralal for the weekend.

So you just rocked up in Maralal and rented a camel

Pretty much. I could hardly find any information about the race beforehand and tried my luck by arriving at the beginning of the Maralal festival weekend. It turned out the amateur race was taking place that Saturday morning. Everything was well organized, I paid the 80$ registration fee and got myself a camel that would be cheered on by my camel handler all throughout the 10km race.

What do you mean “you camped with the camels”?!

Camping with the camels was actually less scary than rolling out a sleeping back next to a cocky kea in New Zealand in February or camping with the hippos in Zambia last year. People don´t seem to know they can camp at the Yare Camel Club that organizes the camel derby, so I was the first one to pitch my tent there and only had to share the campsite with the racecamels.

“In my life before traveling the world” would I have imagined that I was going to earn money by taking part in a camel race all by myself in Africa? That I would sign up for a language course in Rio de Janeiro and end up telling people about it in Portuguese? That there was now a hilarious camel calendar available in Kenya with my picture on the cover? 😉

Maralal Camel Derby Calendar 2017

Just like the Brazilian guy up on that hill today, I doubt I will see anyone who any of the characters back in Maralal again: neither my racecamel Lominjira; nor the friendly festival organizer who got me one of his fastest camels; nor the friendly Kenyans who shared their photos and videos of me after the race. Apparently, I keep having the most memorable moments when I least expect it. The camel derby was one of them, and I am grateful I still have a few more highlights lined up before heading back to Europe.

Before the camel race in Kenya

Life is what happens while you´re busy making other plans. Just enjoy the ride.

School books for Malawian children http://whereisandrea.com/school-books-for-malawian-children/ Wed, 17 Aug 2016 01:23:04 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1230 Chilaweni is a charming community in Southern Malawi where people share the same values, greet each other walking along the dirt roads, and go to African or Christian church on Sunday. However, for many residents everyday life is a struggle: houses are cut off from electricity and running water; charcoal is a luxury and people cook with wood; the nearest supermarket is a 90 minute journey away; people die of malaria, because they cannot reach the next hospital; and even though there is no garbage collection, the dogs don´t find enough food and are skinnier than anywhere else.

Hills of Chilaweni Malawi

I first visited Chilaweni in the summer of 2015 in order to renovate the local primary school. Our team of Quest Overseas volunteers was supposed to put in bigger classroom windows so that the kids in the last rows would be able to read from the chalkboard; copy the content of the text books onto the classroom walls; and paint a world map to make up for the atlasses the school lacked. Hundreds of dark-brown children´s eyes constantly observed every movement I made and any step I took was accompanied by someone yelling “Andrea” until I waved back at them. I didn´t realize until after leaving Chilaweni in tears that these African kids had changed my life forever.


School kids in Malawi

In June I was happily swinging above the hill tops of Ecuador when Quest reached out to me again for another project in Chilaweni. I meant to explore the Brazilian Amazon next, instead a few weeks later I found myself on a plane to Africa where this year´s team was to build a community kitchen and the first playground in the area. I met Denis again, the headmaster of the primary school, who told me that things hadn´t changed much since last year: the school´s funds were very limited and there were only a few textbooks available; children were not able to take notes in class, because their parents couldn´t afford exercise books; as a result, too many kids still had to repeat the same school year.

School children in Malawi

After having enjoyed living my dream for the past 16 months it was time for me to give back. Education is the key to making our world a better place and I figured the Chilaweni Primary School was a good place to start. Little money goes a long way in Africa, and small changes can leave a big impact on a small community like Chilaweni. I learned it would only take €1.000,- to buy writing material & the text books of the most relevant subjects.

Let´s create my first crowd fundraiser!

Charging electronics in Chilaweni

Putting together an online fundraiser isn´t rocket science, but being located in a remote village did add some challenges to it. Luckily, I was supported from all sides. A family that did have access to electricity let me crash their living room where I painfully uploaded my photos of overcrowded classrooms. My friends back home kept reminding me of why I was putting up with long-drop toilets and bucket showers once again. A couple days later the fundraiser went online 😀

School books for Malawian children

The response on Facebook was overwhelming! Anywhere from Australia to Europe, people got right on it and only the first ones actually made it on time to support my African community from their living rooms and offices. Within 3 days we reached 101% of the fundraiser´s goal and already two days later Sam, the owner of Bookmate, welcomed Denis and me into his store in Blantyre on a Saturday morning to order 400 text books (104 English, 104 Maths, 104 Chichewa, 41 Science, 36 Social & Environmental Skills, 8 Agriculture).

School books for Malawian children

On Monday the first school books arrived at the Chilaweni Primary School. Two days later I went to town to extend my visa and stopped by the stationary wholeseller to spend the remaining funds on writing material. When Sam gave me a lift back from Blantyre to deliver the remaining text books, he was surprised to see how I filled up the trunk of his car with 1.440 pencils, 1.300 pens, 1000 exercise books, and 192 rulers. Back in Chilaweni Denis jr. and the other kids helped together to store everything in the school until it would reopen in September.

Kids in Malawi Africa

In a nutshell, it only took one week to fundraise, purchase and deliver the school books and writing materials to Chilaweni. For the first time in the history of the primary school there will be a text book lying on every school table; every student will be able to take notes in the lessons; more kids than usual will pass their exams, hopefully. While I am still amazed by how little time and brainpower is needed to make an impact in a developing country, and I am grateful I was able to be part of it.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped the children of Chilaweni to come one step closer to achieving their dreams!

Chilaweni Primary School in Malawi

Stunning scenery around Apu Ausangate http://whereisandrea.com/stunning-scenery-around-apu-ausangate/ Fri, 20 May 2016 00:00:47 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1188 Finally in Lima, I am enjoying a “Libanes sanguch” in a modern café in Miraflores, the neighborhood-to-be in Peru´s capital. It´s lunch time and the place is packed. Everyone around me gestures hectically and is dressed nicely, I am glad I changed from my pyjama pants into my jeans before leaving the 21h bus from Cusco.

While I am waiting for my next couchsurfing host to finish work and meet me, I quickly pass all stages of just another culture shock. I have a hard time believing that I spent the last week trekking and sharing a tent at -10º between green valleys, countless alpacas, snow-capped peaks, and blue lagoons.

Stunning Scenery Ausangate Trekking
I was swept off my feet by beauty all around Apu Ausangate

A few days earlier my friend Jette and I had called up Hernan, a local guide who lives 2km outside of Tinqui, the start and end point of the Ausangate trek. Hernan doesn´t have email (yet) and solely relies on references to capture new customers, so we were lucky to find his phone number (984134098) published on Tripadvisor.

After a 3-hour-10-soles bus ride from Cusco Hernan picked us up at the main square of Tinqui. I was able to rent hiking poles and a warmer sleeping bag from him, and we agreed to to do a 7-day-tour around Ausangate with a detour to Rainbow Mountains.
(In retrospect, Ausangate incl. Rainbow Mountain can be trekked in 5 days).

Ausangate Trek in Peru
Our day 1 & day 7 consisted in traveling between Cusco and Tinqui as well as relaxing at Hernan´s home.


Stop at Abra Arapa in Peru
Day 2. We headed out from our guide´s place in Rudeana towards Upis and eventually reached the Arapa Pass (4.800m). It feels like luxury to the both of us to have 2 mulas carry our stuff after Jette crossing Patagonia by bike and me solo trekking in New Zealand.

Approaching Apu Ausangate, alpacas blocking the way
Campamento Puka Cocha near Ausangate
Day 3. We set up our tents at the Puka Cocha camp (4.500m). The temperatures go down well below zero at night and I didn´t mind getting up early. The breathtaking scenery made up for the lack of sleep.


Across Abra Apacheta during Ausangate Trek Peru
Amazing views during the Ausangate trek after crossing the Apacheta Pass (4.800m).


Alpacas around Lago Ausangate Cocha and Apu Ausangate in Peru
Zen total at Lago Ausangate Cocha (4.600m). Only alpacas around Apu Ausangate.


Trek up Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Day 4. By 5am we left our camp in Chillca (4.500m) and reached the beginning of the trail up to Cierro Colorado hike just when the sun came up.


Hiking up Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Hiking the last kilometers up Rainbow Mountain. No day-tourists from Cusco to be seen yet.


Cierro Colorado during Ausangate Trek in Peru
All worth it! Overlooking the valley of Cerro Colorado, one of the most beautiful places ever.

Rainbow Mountain from all angles.
Campamento de Soracuchumpa on Ausangate Trek
Physically the most challenging day of our Ausangate trek! It was hailing and raining when we crossed the Jampa sector that afternoon. We finally set up camp at the Soracuchumpa campsite (4.700m), and I couldn´t believe my luck to find an unlocked hut there to sleep in and stay warm that night 😀


Hiking in Jampa sector in Ausangate
Day 5. Endspurt! No blue sky needed to enjoy the views around the Jampa Sector.


Jampa Sector of Ausangate Trek Peru
We made it!!! On top of the Camp Pass (4.900m), our last pass to cross during the Ausangate trek before we got to enjoy the hot springs in Pacchanta.


Ausangate Trek in Peru
Day 6. The sun is back! Before returning to Rudeana, we backtracked our steps from Pacchanta (4.200m) and paid the 7 lagoons around Ausangate another visit.


Azucocha lagoon in Ausangate, South America
Taking in the views of Ausangate and connecting with nature one more time at the Azucocha lagoon.

As much as I enjoy being in the city and all the comfort that comes with it, it´s escapes to nature like this one that make my RTW trip truly inspiring. After two chilly months in South America I am craving the heat and tropical climate, but I still haven´t had my share of trekking in Peru. Next stop: Huaraz!

Mindful around Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley http://whereisandrea.com/mindful-around-machu-picchu-sacred-valley/ Sun, 08 May 2016 09:10:01 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1158 It felt good to have Alejandra here and travel with her around Machu Picchu and Cusco. My friend came by all the way from Mexico and not only did she bring new laptop along with her but also lots of laughter and good energy. Our 5 days of girl chat and climbing hundreds of Inca stairs went by much too fast, so once she left I decided to return to the Sacred Valley “just for another two days”.

Chilling in Machu Picchu
Alejandra and I chilling in the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu

Two days in the Valle Sagrado quickly turned into two weeks. If you take the time to let the Sacred Valley work its magic on you, you will find out that it is not only a collection of inca ruins scattered around a beautiful valley. It´s also a spiritual place where travelers experiment with traditional medicine to release negative energy and emotions; a hospitable place where I became a frequent guest of a retired expats who specifically rents a separate studio for couchsurfers; a peaceful place where an indigoneous local took me on an adventurous walk off the tourist trail…

Machu Picchu in Peru
Waiting for the rain clouds to disappear in Machu Picchu

… and also the place where I “coincidentally” happened to be on time for a meditation retreat held by the Spanish Institute for Mindfulness that allowed me to gain gain deeper insights into mindfulness and happiness, some of which I would like to share here.

Machu Picchu in Peru
Stunning setting of the one of the 7 new world wonders, Machu Picchu

First remark that our zen buddhist Dokusho Villalba made us write down in our notebooks when we set down cross-legged on our meditation mats:

The ultimate goal of life is to be happy.

Calca lagoon in the Sacred Valley
I hiked up to the lagoon during my mindfulness retreat in Calca

We learned about buddhist values and dove into the philosophical theory behind mindfulness.

We can´t know reality directly. We don´t perceive of things in themselves. What we perceive as reality is in part created by our minds. Immanuel Kant

Calca lagoon in the Sacred Valley
Moments of mindfulness in the Sacred Valley

The map is not the territory. No one can have direct access to reality, given that the most we can know is that which is filtered through the brain´s response to reality. Alfred Korzybski

Moray ruins near Maras, Peru
Moray ruins near Maras, Peru

Our emotional equilibrium is like the ocean. No matter how bumpy it might get on the surface, remember that the floor of the ocean remains calm.

Stunning view over Ollantaytambo
Stunning view over Ollantaytambo

Conscious breathing has become a main aspect of my trip. Unsurprisingly, the mindfulness retreat was all about it.

It´s not me who breathes, it´s the body. It does not represent me, but it´s part of me.

Ollantaytambo in Peru
Visit of the free ruins in Ollantaytambo

Where do we draw the line between “me” and “the rest”? All conflicts are conflicts created by borders. There would not be any conflicts without borders, because it would all be one.

Ollantaytambo in Peru
My inca marathon around the Sacred Valley

Nobody can achieve happiness by locking themselves up on a remote island that is surrounded by an ocean of suffering.

Pumamarka in Peru
Recicling mindfulness in Pumamarka

Mindfulness is like energy. It´s recicleable, we can regain it if we take time to rest and meditate.

Inca ruins in Pisac
I enjoyed having the Inca ruins in Pisac to myself

Mindfulness is not an intellectual knowledge, it can only be experienced. Happiness can be achieved through practising mindfulness and being in the moment.

Good times in the Sacred Valley in Peru
Good times in the Sacred Valley in Peru

After three beautiful weeks around Cusco and the Sacred Valley it´s time to keep moving! I am grateful to my friend, couchsurfer host, meditation buddies, locals, shaman, zen master, and friends online who helped me to recharge my energy and refuel my solo travel spirit. Ready to take on the 7-day-trek around Ausangate 😀


From Chile to Bolivia http://whereisandrea.com/from-chile-to-bolivia/ Tue, 19 Apr 2016 18:40:14 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1118 There are two ways to cross the border from Chile to Bolivia on land. One leads past stunning landscape, volcanos, geysers, lagoons, and wildlife; the other one might turn your trip into a nightmare. I tried them both.

Are you scared?

I had just gotten off the phone with Antonio, the Chilean friend I had only made 2 days earlier on Couchsurfing, and the only one I could think of calling before 6am. I happened to be the only tourist on the dark sidewalk in front of the “Frontera del Norte” bus terminal in Calama, where I found myself desperately holding on to my big backpack that early Thursday morning. The backpack they had NOT managed to take away from me.

Flamingos in stunning Laguna Colorado
Picturesque 3-day-tour in a jeep from San Pedro to Uyuni. Flamingos in stunning Laguna Colorado

No, I am not scared.

It wasn´t even a lie at that time, I was just detached from my feelings. My chest was trembling, and I couldn´t think straight. I kept kicking my backpack anytime I remembered something else that I had packed into my daypack before I meant to take the public bus from Chile to Bolivia. The daypack they DID manage to literally take off my hands.

Beautiful sunrise on Isla Incahuasi in Salar de Uyuni
Beautiful sunrise on Isla Incahuasi in Salar de Uyuni

But your daypack is right here, isn´t it?

The looks I earned from the bystanding locals ranged from amused to pityful. None of them had moved a finger to help me, and I will never find out who of them was in on it. Probably the smiley woman to my right. No, that totally-different-looking daypack they had placed next to me to distract me wasn´t mine. It would magically disappear again 5 minutes later.

Laguna Verde in Bolivia
Stunning lagoons in Bolivia: Laguna Verde…

You´re save here, they have already stolen your stuff, ha ha ha!

Eventually a driver offered me to wait inside his bus until it started getting light outside. I sat down next to a group of Argentinian tourists that were clearly entertained by my drama. They had arrived in Calama that same morning, but the driver hadn´t let them off the bus yet, because “it was dangerous”. Why did he make me wait outside? It was much too soon for Argentinian jokes on my  behalf, and I moved to the driver´s cabin.

Laguna Blanca
… Laguna Blanca

What was in your daypack?

The bus driver was curious. Emm, my GoPro, cell phone, camera, sun glasses, … everything ALMOST. Expect something had felt different that early morning when I, barely awake, packed my stuff and randomly decided to wear my money belt which I hadn´t used anywhere from Africa to New Zealand. What had I hidden away in it? My passport & half my bank cards, thank god! I wasn´t stuck in one of Chile´s most dangerous places.

Cementerio de los Trenes in Uyuni
Old trains at Cementerio de los Trenes in Uyuni

Do you have a boyfriend?

Seriously? I was still upset two days later when I went to file charges and didn´t expect the police officer to start the questioning by flirting with me. In the police report he wouldn’t even bother mentioning the accomplice who pretended to help me to recover my daypack that morning in Calama. The one who must have been disapointed about me not leaving my big backpack behind when he tricked me into following his buddies away from the bus terminal. The one I´m so glad I didn´t listen to, despite my shock, when he sent me off the other way into a a dark alley all alone. The one I wouldn´t see again afterwards, and that i would fail to describe to the police, just like the others.

Quick stop by the geyser in Bolivia
Quick stop by the geyser in Bolivia

I would love to have a boyfriend.

In these moments. Preferably a strong and tall one. I might have been fine that morning had I not been there on my own. I might not have been struggling with anxiety in crowded places since. I might be able to sleep on night buses without clinging on to my new daypack. But that boyfriend just hasn´t presented himself yet, and life is too short to wait around for him. So for now I keep going, even though I am not comfortable traveling solo again just yet.

Salar de Uyuni
Do you want my spare pepperspray? – Thanks Jette!

Things like that happen to anyone who travels for a long time, this is just a minor setback.

I am very grateful for the empathetic messages and support I received from many friends and fellow travelers after I lost my solo travel spirit. For the rest, I know it´s difficult for anyone who travels neither much, nor far, nor alone, to understand why this incident is still on my mind 3 weeks later. I am not putting my feelings into words here to pitty myself but to finally move one. The point is I am not depressed, because I have to buy a new laptop. Or because I lost several weeks of photos. But because I have a hard time letting go of the sense of calm and trust that had taken one full year to build up and that I consider the best part of traveling solo. It disappeared within seconds that morning on that sidewalk in Calama, and I miss it.

3 days in a jeep past beautiful lagoons
Possibly the most picturesque tour of my RTW trip

Will you come home?

Not yet. This is not the way I want to end my amazing journey around the world. There are still plenty of gorgeous places to visit in South America, and I know it´s just a matter of time for the negative feelings to fade. Until I learn to embrace the beauty of solo travel again, I will choose nature of cities. I am looking into volunteering options. And I am very excited for my friend Alejandra to join me in Peru for a few days tomorrow 🙂

Salar de Chiguana
No train in sight in Salar de Chiguana
My journey to the other end of the world http://whereisandrea.com/my-journey-to-the-other-end-of-the-world/ Fri, 18 Mar 2016 03:12:00 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1078

Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen. Adriana Huffington

Exactly one year ago I ventured out to travel around the world. When I first boarded the plane to Cape Town I didn´t imagine that it would take longer than a year until I set foot on the streets of Barcelona again. In fact, I wasn´t even sure if I could last longer than 6 months. Without seeing my family and friends, having some sort of routine or stability, calling some place my home. Sure, I had emptied my walk-in closet, left my apartment, given up my job, there was not turning back. But would my wanderlust keep me going all the way to New Zealand?

Hump Ridge Track Fiordland
I traveled New Zealand for 2 months, most of which I spent on the gorgeous South Island

This journey has taken me a long way since then, both physically and spiritually. My family and friends still mean the world to me. I missed Christmas for the first time, because I was busy building sandmen at the other end of the world. My grandmas are getting older, and I am aware that postcards don´t make up for the oceans that I´ve put between us. Fortunately, traveling in the 21st century no longer means being cut off from home: I was able to finish my work days in an remote village in Malawi by skyping with a Skype call; I could exchange a few words I will never forget with my grandmas on Christmas, because my mom put me (her laptop) on the dinner table. I still can´t help feeling selfish sometimes, aware that nothing can bring any of these moments back.

Life is a sum of all your choices. Albert Camus

Lake Tekapo New Zealand
Empty roads and poor phone signal on the south island, I felt more isolated than in Africa (Lake Tekapo)

I am constantly on the move. Every day I meet new people and say good-bye to them again. I enjoy making fleeting connections with similarly wired people, we click with immediately. Beautiful places touch my soul within minutes. The tasks of getting set up in a new country have become repetitive, even though I am still surprised how little they differ between the developing and the so-called developed world. Traveling has become my routine and knowing that Europe is only a couple long-distance-flights away is as much stability as I need right now.

Kepler Track Fiordland
Tree hugger. I still hate goodbyes (Kepler Track)

I know one day I will happily sit down again on what I will call my own comfortable couch. I will enjoy sleeping in my own king-size bed instead of a squeaky bunk bed in a crowded dorm, just like I will be grateful for living in an apartment instead of a used car (actually that´s how I spent two of the most exciting months of my life). But for now, I feel just fine without this comfort. I have gotten used to putting my feet up on another worn-out hostel couch, to lying down on an inflatable mattress at a friend´s place, and immediately feeling at home. The world has become my playground and my wanderlust keeps me going.

Queen Charlotte Track New Zealand
Choosing the view from my tent over my own bedroom (Queen Charlotte Track)

How have these 12 months changed me? Where should I start 🙂

You look like a hippie! Reunion after 2.5 years with my expat-bestie Brenda in Bali

Stating the obvious: I don´t look the same. I have embraced the travelers look and haven´t worn neiher jeans nor heels in a year. My hair is no longer straight (yes, I finally left my flat iron behind). My weight is still not back to before-Africa levels. My finger nails are healthier than ever before, only my toe nails change color once between continents. My skin always stays slightly tanned, the dark scars from my clumsy accidents might forever mark my legs. Any new wrinkles still don´t keep others from underestimating my age by up to 8 years.

Kepler Track Fiordland
No time to straighten my hair (Kepler Track)

I no longer feel that attached to things. Instead of hoarding clothes in a walk-in closet, I have gotten used to living out of a 50l backpack. Anything I don´t use stays behind. When my fancy flip flops fell apart before the full moon party in Zanzibar, I got cheap ones at the beach shop. When I lost my Indonesian shorts somewhere around New Zealand´s glaciers, I replaced them with second-hand ones. Yes, I keep taking tons of photos, and it would make me sad to lose any of them. But at the same time I would no longer feel devastated about it. I know I don´t need them to remember how I felt when I swam with stingless jellyfish in Sulawesi or when a hippo scared the living hell out of me in Zambia?

Lake Pukaki New Zealand
I did get attached to Denis, the Subary Legacy 1998 I bought in Christchurch to explore NZ (Lake Pukaki)

Lost time is never found again. Benjamin Franklin

I have become more selective with whom I spend my time with, and that´s a good thing. I am both an optimist and an empath, a combination which can be draining at times. After everything I have seen on my journey I have little patience left for anyone feeling sorry for themselves over stupid stuff. I embrace the freedom of walking away from naysayers and I have gotten a little better at conserving my energy the few times I don´t. I am getting less frustrated with those who “admire what I´m doing” but have a million reasons to stick to 1st-world-habits that don´t fulfill them. Life is too short for excuses.

Nugget Point Lighthouse Catlins
Sunrise during freedom camping (Nugget Point)

All alone? You are so brave! (still makes me smile)

Ever since I can remember my wanderlust kept pushing me out of my comfort zone, but many times my inner child was tamed by daily routine and other people´s opinion. Farther away from home then ever before, my craving for adventure has reached the next level. I am taking on personal challenges that I couldn´t have imagined before like bungee jumping from 134 meters in Queenstown or getting an in-situ-maori-design tattoed on my foot in Auckland. My hands were sweating, my jaw clenching and my heart racing every single time. And then I still went through with it.

Cascade Saddle Mount Aspiring
Why do I put myself through these multi-day-tracks? They were my favorite part of my kiwi road trip (Cascade Saddle)

Whether you think you can or you think you can´t, you are right. Henry Ford

Constantly switching between different cultures, races, languages, sceneries is overwhelming. I will never forget how frustrated I felt when I ended up in a teenie-dorm in Australia after having traveled around developing countries for 9 months; or how lonely I felt freedom camping on my own after having interrupted my solo travels for the first 4 weeks of my road trip. I might have quit earlier had I not found my way to stay emotionally stable: meditation. I first experimented with meditation upon returning from hiking the Rinjani volcano and at this point it has become a daily habit. Meditation helps me to take a step back and balance my energy before I seek the next adventure.

Karamea Scott´s Beach
How lucky am I? (Scotts Beach, Karamea)

Would I have prepared myself different for this trip had I known what was to come?

When you try to control too much, you enjoy too little.

I am glad I had taken care of certain preparations. I got my vaccines and figured out the visa situation for my first travel destination. The Austrian in me ordered additional debit and credit cards which came with an additional travel insurance. I don´t pay commission withdrawing money, because I specifically opened an account with a Spanish bank that didn´t charge any abroad. But one thing comes to mind that I would actually do differently now: prepare less & get going! I have learned that my travel route changes constantly; my friends back in Barcelona helped me to file taxes from a remote island in Malawi; I got myself a new passport in New Zealand. Everything can be figured out on-the-go, even at the other side of the world.

Hump Ridge Track Fiordland
Follow the sun. Planning doesn´t get you anywhere in New Zealand. (Hump Ridge Track)

Fellow travelers usually assume I am traveling on a round-the-world plane ticket and are surprised to learn I don´t. When I planned my trip, I felt the urge of buying an (overpriced) RTW ticket for the sake of holding on to what felt like a little bit of security at that time. Resisting this urge made my trip so much more special. Not only would it not have saved me any money, but it wouldn´t have allowed me to experience this level of freedom which I couldn´t have imagined before and which I have gotten so used to that I sometimes forget about.

Mount Aspiring National Park
One-way-ticket only (Mt Aspiring National Park, unedited by Maddog Murph)

Just go with the flow! Advice from my atheist skydiving master Alfred

Rocking up with my car in the next town, unsure whether freedom camping would get me in trouble there. Getting stuck in an African village, not knowing how I would be able to travel on nor when. Coming from a  prudent culture, it took me a long time to embrace the uncertainty of what was going to happen next. I have learned that there is always a way out and the worst situations turn into the best stories. Living in the moment is an important skill that I got to practice quite a bit in New Zealand. I am still getting better at it every day.

Arthurs´s Pass South New Zealand
Freedom camping under the stars (Arthurs´s Pass, unedited by Maddog Murph)

Nothing lasts forever and in a few months I will find myself on a plane back home. For a long time I have dreaded the moment when I would “return to my old life”. To an office routine, to 1st-world-conversations, to places that don´t inspire me. For a long time I have wondered how I will feel when this amazing journey comes to an end, but different to a few months ago these thoughts no longer worry me. For one year I have proved to myself that I am able to adapt to a dynamic environment full of life´s surprises. I am confident that many beautiful moments will be waiting for me even after this dream is over.

Lake Tekapo New Zealand
Last flower standing (Lake Tekapo)

To be honest with myself, I know I am not going to “return to my old life”. All the places that I have connected with, all the people who shared their secret to happiness with me along the way, have turned my world around. There´s just no going back to where started 12 months ago. I know will let go of some habits or even friends, actually I already have. Does this worry me? Not that much anymore, because it will free up time to take on other habits and meet like-minded people, both of which excite me.

Cascade Saddle Mount Aspiring
Making friends with the keas (Cascade Saddle)

South America is the last stop on my way back to Europe. I have had an amazing year, and no words could describe how grateful I feel to live this unique experience. Not every moment of my journey has been a happy one, much less an easy one. But I wouldn´t want to change a single thing. Every experience has helped me to grow, to enrich and inspire me on some level. I have never felt as alive as today.

20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn´t do than the ones you did do. Mark Twain

Mueller Hut Mount Cook
Looking forward to more sunrises to come in South America (Mueller Hut)
Solo adventure in Queenstown http://whereisandrea.com/solo-adventure-in-queenstown/ Thu, 18 Feb 2016 08:19:54 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1047 Two days ago at the road junction in Twizel my travel buddy and I eventually went separate ways. 4 weeks of traveling and living crazy adventures together all over New Zealand´s South Island had completed thrown me out of my solo-traveler-mode. Sad, tired, lonely, I drove down south to Queenstown in my 1998-Subary-Legacy. After traveling around the world for 11 months it was time to slow down for a few days. I needed to take a break and some time to re-energize.

It had been raining for days in the adventure capital of New Zealand. The hostels in town were fully booked, so I kept busy refreshing my search on booking.com and move accommodation every day. Figuring out my next travel stops and chatting with the girls in my female dorm helped lift my spirits up, but I seriously struggled to recover my happy-self. I needed a serious energy boost.

This morning I got up early before the rain set in again in order to bungy jump down 134 meters from the Nevis bungy pod. OMG!


Nevis Bungy Jump
Shit, I am really doing this!


Nevis Bungy Jump
Never look down from the world’s third highest bungy jump!


Bungy Jumping in Queenstown
Adrenaline rush. 8 seconds of free fall!

And how could I have refused to purchase the video of my epic first bungy jump? 😉

3… 2… 1… bungy!

I loved it!!! Not quite the 30-second-free-fall I enjoyed skydiving above the Namibian desert, but this time there was nobody attached to me. It was just me, standing on the edge, taking a leap of faith and jumping head first. All solo.

10 reasons to stay away from Raja Ampat http://whereisandrea.com/10-reasons-to-stay-away-from-raja-ampat/ Wed, 30 Dec 2015 00:18:25 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=1003 When I first arrived in Indonesia in August, I didn´t know which of the 17.000 islands to visit nor how much time to spend there. The Asian country with the 4th highest population is not only the cheapest country I have ever backpacked through but also the perfect place to improvise along the way, so I was only left me with a few first-world-questions.
Was I fit enough to climb up to the summit of the Rinjani volcano? Should I renew my visa (impossible, I got the free 30-day-visa) or do a visa run (cheap & quick visa run to Malaysia)? Was it worth carrying my own snorkeling gear around (definitely, small feet=no fins outside the Gili Islands)? But it was one particular question that kept popping up in my head all the way from the misty ricefields of Sumatra to the gorgeous beaches around Kuta Lombok.
Should I visit Raja Ampat, the most exclusive Indonesian tourist destination?
I decided to book a flight to Papua and spend one week in the Indonesian archipelago.
Enough time to think of 10 reasons why you should stay away from Raja Ampat.
Beach hut in Raja Ampat
My beach hut on Kri Island in Raja Ampat
1. Scuba diving and snorkeling have never made it onto your bucket list, and you still wonder why people spit into their diving mask.

Scuba diving around Melissa´s Garden
2. You get easily bored with yourself when staying on a gorgeous tropical island surrounded by white beaches and palm trees.
Kri Island in Raja Ampat
One week in Raja Ampat paradise
3. You prefer the winter over the tropical climate and break out into a sweat when learning that the owner of your beach hut is recovering from malaria.
Beautiful corals in Raja Ampat
Beautiful corals in the Raja Ampat archipelago
4. Island hopping isn´t your thing and turquoise not your favorite selfie-background-color.
Views around the Fam Islands
Stunning view during my day trip to Fam Islands
5. Exploring the Indonesian archipelago with the richest marine biodiversity on earth and hanging out with a wobbegong is less exciting than your usual daily routine.
Wobbegong in Indonesia
Wobbegong, the funkiest-looking animal I have seen on this trip
6. Hiding your grocery bag outside of your hut to avoid late-night-visitors is more than you can take and underwater wildlife gives you the shivers.

Sea snake gliding through the water at 15 meters
7. You can´t understand why bules get out their tripod when they spot a palm tree, because you grew up climbing palm trees on a tropical island.
Palm trees surrounding Kri Island
Every girl her own palm tree.
8. You no longer feel the magic of snorkeling with turtles and  don´t see eye-to-eye with fish babies.

Clouds of fish babies all around Raja Ampat

9. You are just really not into shark selfies.

Scuba diving with sharks in Raja Ampat
Scuba diving with plenty of reef sharks in Raja Ampat
10. You are running out of money and 20€ per person for a private bungalow & 3 daily meals / 35€ for a 60-minutes-dive with manta rays don´t fit in your travel budget.

Scuba diving with manta rays at Manta Sandy
Which place has been my favorite on your RTW trip so far?
For the past 9 months I have been struggeling to answer this question without naming at least 3 countries. Now I have found my answer…
Kri Island in Raja Ampat
… so please stay away from my paradise 🙂
Traditional Tana Toraja http://whereisandrea.com/traditional-tana-toraja/ Wed, 09 Dec 2015 04:45:11 +0000 http://www.whereisandrea.com/?p=978 Selamat datang! My name is Toni and I am a real albino buffalo from Tana Toraja, the cultural epicenter of Sulawesi.

Albino buffalo in Tana Toraja
Albino buffaloes are worth up to US10.000,-

Life at home revolves around 2 things. No. 1: DEATH.

Did you know that Toraja families keep the deceased at home until his funeral?

Coffins & skulls at Kete Kesu
Coffins & skulls at Kete Kesu

You might find it even more surprising that there are plenty of tourists who put up with endless bus rides all the way to the middle of Indonesia´s second largest island to trek around the hills and ricefields of Batutumonga or to take their selfies in front of our traditional graves.

Traditional hanging graves in Pana
Village trek past the graves in Pana

Our people believe that you can take possessions with you in the afterlife. so in order to avoid grave plundering they used to hide the dead in elaborate caves. Not so their toddlers.

Baby graves in trees
Baby graves in trees near Suaya

The remains of babies were actually buried in trees so that they would continue to grow. And then there are the Tau Tau.

Tau tau in Lemo
Tau tau in Lemo

That´s what we call the wooden effigies of the dead that used to be put on balconies in front of the graves. Many Tau Tau were stolen, so people just keep them at home nowadays.

Highlight no. 2 of Toraja: ME! And my fellow buffaloes, I guess.

Buffaloes sold at the market in Bolu
Hundreds of buffaloes sold at the weekly market in Bolu

In your country you guys might fill your garages with fancy cars and bikes, but here buffaloes are the status symbol of every family!

A buffalo in every Torajan backyard
A buffalo in every Torajan backyard

Just look at the Tongkonan, our traditional house. Even the shape of the house roof looks like my horns.

Tongkonan, the traditional house in Toraja
Tongkonan. Traditional house in Tana Toraja

People here treat me with respect!

The same can´t be said about other animals, like the roosters. Wanna know what´s their (last) highlight? A fight in somebody´s backyard where they can call themselves lucky if someone bets on them.

Cock fight near Makale

Not to mention the pigs, just listen to their whining. These fellas even get sacrificed wedding.

Bolu market

Yeah, I am different!

Buffaloes don´t do weddings; we are the heroes of the true Torajan highlight, the funeral (told ya that death is a big thing here).

Traditional Toraja funeral ceremony
Traditional Torajan funeral ceremony near Rantepao

10 years have gone by since that lady died and her family has saved up ever since to afford the elaborate ceremony. Her son died in the meantime, and they invited a thousand people to their joint funeral ceremony which lasted a full week.

Toraja funeral near Rantepao
Toraja dress in black, just like Western funerals

Even tourists are welcome – just bring a stack of cigarette pack and you will be invited to join the party.

Selfie at the funeral ceremony near Rantepao
Selfie at the funeral ceremony in Batan

Yeah, lot´s of eating & much else going on at a Toraja funeral. Traditional dances, parades, bull fights,…

Busy funeral ceremony

…animal sacrifices…

Animal sacrifices at Torajan funerals