But, what do you eat?

Great company to visit Cambuskenneth Abbey in Stirling, Scotland
Great company to visit the ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey in Stirling, Scotland

When I meet new people, there’s always a point where I end up having to explain my diet choice.

In order to test out the reaction, I usually mention how I can’t do dairy because it gives me an upset stomach. I used to be able to process it but since it’s been years since I’ve eaten it regularly, my tummy no longer likes it. Most people react quite well to this.

Mentioning you don’t eat meat also comes down quite easily since most people will understand why some people don’t like to eat dead animal flesh.

Where it creates confusion is when you add to this that you don’t eat eggs or honey.

That being said, I’ve made exceptions in the past, especially when I go to a friend’s place and they have cooked for me. Forgetting about the eggs, cheese or honey. Not all vegans do that, and usually I end up asking myself what I value more, my friendship, or the trace of animal product that can be in the meal. I will usually mention it though so that next time they’ll be aware or I’ll offer to be the one cooking.

But what do you eat?

Just like my Muslim friends during Ramadan which get asked the same question over and over again: not even water?

The question that always comes up for vegans is: but what do you eat?

If you look at me, you’ll see that I’m clearly not starving. And I’ve never eaten as varied as since I became a vegan. I like to experiment with new flavours and ingredients. I get inspired in my cooking by Indian and Vietnamese food a lot because I love the spice mix they use. I simply adapt some of the recipes.

And with all the faux-meat products out there, it’s easier than ever to eat veganised versions of what I used to eat like paté chinois, any recipe with mince meat, sausages, etc. There’s even some veganised chicken nuggets and mozzarella! So when I get a craving for comfort food, I know I can easily find it.

Not everything vegan is healthy though. Cakes and cookies are easily made vegan, so are pancakes and ice cream. Chips are vegan half the time, even the shrimp flavour ones (don’t ask what’s actually in there!). And my classic go-to for on the road unhealthy snack, oreos, are vegan. Once again, far from healthy, but still accessible to someone who decided to cut animal products from their diet.

It’s a personal choice

Everyone’s got their own personal reasons for becoming a vegan. Maybe you care about animals and see that there’s not much difference in killing an animal for its meat, or having it suffer in horrible conditions for its milk.

It can be for compassionate reasons: I love animals just as much as I love humans. Which is why I try my best to help them all whenever I can, not eating animals and volunteering with vulnerable humans.

If I can feed myself without hurting anyone or any animal, why wouldn’t I?

Some people also chose to become vegan for environmental reasons. There’s no need to keep polluting that much to feed ourselves. We can feed a lot more people with the same about of food it takes to feed cows.

Maybe it feels hypocritical to be okay eating meat or milk coming from cows, pigs, goats, but not from dogs and cats.

The reasons for becoming vegan are numerous and different for each individual.

To me it comes down to a very simple sentence: If I can feed myself without hurting anyone or any animal, why wouldn’t I?

How can you even resist this awesome vegan cake?
How can you even resist this awesome vegan cake?

I’m not the preachy kind of vegan because I know it needs to be a personal decision. You can’t force someone to think like you. And I don’t want to be the one always showing disgusting videos. I’ve seen them. It helped me understand what was going on. And if you want to learn about how meat is produced, you can easily Google it. And if you want to see it, there’s plenty of great non-gruesome videos on YouTube.

If you want to educate yourself, the information is out there. It’s not my place to try to convince anyone to do anything they are not ready for. That being said, if you are interested to know how easy it is to feed yourself without animal products, I’d be more than happy to cook dinner for you! And if you are nice enough, I might even share my vegan ice cream!

While we are still young

Funny how things just tasted better when we were young.

Funny how things just seemed so easy when we were young.

-Dolores O’Riordan, When we were young

Lately, and as usual, I’ve been thinking a lot. And one thing that’s been on my mind is how easily we forget that we are still young.

Of course, if you ask a 20-year-old they might think differently. For them, someone young would be a 15 years old. But if you ask someone ten or fifteen years older than you, they will for sure tell you that you are still young. And there’s a pretty good chance they will tell you there’s still time.

So why do we keep looking at our past as our best time? Why do we still keep thinking that we are too old to try something new?

If you stop and think about it, you might realise you have been doing this too. Maybe you’ve seen that new class at the local community centre, maybe it’s hot yoga, pilates, Spanish, whatever it is that you saw, if you are anything like me, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve talked yourself out of going because you thought something along the following lines:

”I’m too old for this. I probably won’t even be able to follow.”

”It’s been too long since I’ve done a Spanish class or any class for that matter. It will be too hard.”

Or my favourite: ”I should have done this when I was younger. It’s too late now.”

Any of this sound familiar?

If not, great on you for not letting your self-talk preventing you from trying something new!

Trying something new: Aerial Silk

A few months back, I was in Dundee, Scotland and I wanted to go to a yoga class to help me remember some of the movements and get some motivation to do my morning workouts on my own. I did a good old Google search and found a studio not too far from my friend’s flat. I was about to book a session when something caught my attention. There was an Aerial Silk course starting the next Friday. It was a four-week session, and I happened to be at my friend’s for a month.

My first reflex was to think, wow this looks amazing. And four weeks would actually work perfectly with my travels plans. But as soon as I started looking into the pricing and eventually signing up, doubts crept in.

I hadn’t really been working out as much as I would have liked. I felt out of shape, and although this would be a good opportunity to get back to exercising, I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it.

And would I even be able to go to all 4 weeks? I had friends to catch up with, and it was on a Friday night. How realistic was it that I would actually make it?

And surely aerial silk would require some upper body strength, something I was clearly lacking now.

I was well on my way to talking myself out of even trying when I finally snapped out of it. Fuck it, I told myself. I quickly grabbed my wallet, got my credit card out and paid for the course before I would change my mind.

It was now too late. I had just spent a decent amount of money. I had to go and give it a try. And if I wasn’t good at it, it didn’t matter. I was going to learn something new, something I had always wanted to try.

The class was starting a few days later and I had managed to get myself to look forward to it.

On the Friday night when it was actually time to go to the class, I was having coffee with some friends and having a good time. I seriously considered not going, but then I realized I would probably hate myself afterwards for not even giving this a try after spending money on the course.

I said goodbye to my friends and headed towards the studio. The studio is located in an old church, a pretty clever second use of the building if you ask me. But that’s not what I first noticed when I went in. I was a bit early, as usual, so I went in the changing room and got ready. And soon I could see that everyone joining me were all in their early 20s, so much younger than I am. And definitely looked in much better shape than me.

Shit, I thought. What was I thinking? I can’t do an Aerial Silk class… I can barely follow a normal yoga class. But I was there now, I couldn’t really walk out. That would be even more awkward.

I had a quick chat with myself. I was going to give the first class a try, do my best and would evaluate afterwards if I was going to come back.

The teacher got all of us 8 young-ish women to stand in a circle. We would play an icebreaker game and introduce ourselves to the others with an adjective defining us, followed by our name and an action. I seriously considered running out again, but before I knew it, it was time for me to come up with something.

Oddly enough, everyone had used adjectives that started with the same letter as their names. All I could think of was adventurous. And while not really groundbreaking, it was actually rather accurate. So I blurted Adventurous Andrea. I now had to add an action. Some kind of movement. I couldn’t think of anything. Like every time when the spotlight comes on me and I am not ready, I froze. The teacher, quick on his feet and obviously used to this, did a ”looking out at sea” kind of movement. I could now breathe again as it was someone else’s turn.

I was getting pretty certain this was a bad idea by then. But we started warming up. And next thing I knew I was smiling and laughing. Some of the moves were very silly, and it helped remove all the tension I was feeling up until then. I decided to give it my all, do my best, try to enjoy it and go from there.

The class was actually very demanding, and before we even got to use the silks, my whole body was shaking. But thanks to the endorphins now running through my body, I was now relaxed and happy.

He showed us our first move on the silks and it looked truly impressive. I didn’t think I could actually do it, but when I looked around and saw the incredulous faces of everyone, I knew I was not the only one thinking I couldn’t possibly manage to do that. No one wanted to be the first one to admit it, so we all swallowed our pride and gave it a try.

And it worked.

I was clearly not elegant, but it didn’t matter, I did it.

And it was fun.

Quickly, everyone started encouraging each other. We were all unsure we could even attempt to do any of the moves, but we all could see that all that was necessary was a little encouragement and the guts to give it a try.

Aerial Silks, Heart Space Studio, Dundee
Aerial Silks, Heart Space Studio, Dundee

The class was over before I was ready for it. I was physically exhausted, my whole body was shaking, but it almost felt like I was high. Which in a way I was. I was high on exercising, there was a lot of endorphins released that evening, but mostly I was high on not giving up, and managing to actually do some of the movements and poses that looked impossible from the first try.

A week later, I was back at it. I didn’t have to talk myself too much into going because I remembered how much fun I ended up having the previous week. And although it was even more difficult physically, and some of the moves I really struggled to do, my mind was in a different place. I was now happy to just give it a try. It sure helped also to see that it turns out I wasn’t that out of shape. Although I was not the most flexible, or the strongest, I was still better than quite a few younger women. It was a great ego boost!

And I was really happy I had talked myself out of leaving and had given Aerial Silk, and myself, a chance.

This story was a good reminder to me that every day we are still younger than we will ever be, so it’s never too late to give something new a try and you never know, you might discover your new passion!

What is the new thing on top of your bucket list?

If you are ever in Scotland and want to have some fun climbing on silks and spinning around, the Heart Space Yoga & Bodyworks studio is located in Dundee, and they also have a sister studio in Glasgow.

Hanging and relaxing
Hanging and relaxing

Settling down for the summer

Skydiving, or the best feeling in the world
Skydiving, or the best feeling in the world

After being on the road for the last few years without getting paid for most of the work I did, yay volunteering, it was getting time for me to get an actual paying job.

I had loved my first skydiving experience so much, I wanted to stay in that field. While I was housesitting a lovely blind dog in London and catching up with some friends, I had applied for jobs in a few skydiving centres in Canada. After chatting with two of them, they both offered me a summer job.

I had to decide on which location and team seemed more fitting, and I finally decided that Gatineau would be a good option. It’s close enough from Quebec  City that I can see my family and friends, but it’s also an area of Canada I really don’t know anything about.  I knew I could double up working and discovering a new area.

Addicted to change and freedom

I have now been working there for 3 weeks, and like any other new adventure, after a few weeks, the novelty effect starts wearing off. And it makes me uncertain. I always go through the same mental process when it stops moving. I know for most people it’s when things change that it makes them uncomfortable, but with me, it’s the opposite. It makes me anxious when I can expect what’s next.

I tend to feel trapped when I have the feeling that I know exactly what I’ll be doing in a month or a year from now. My body and mind crave the freedom I’ve been calling my life since 2013, excluding my attempt at coming back to a normal life 3 years ago.

Not quite like the white sand beach of Kenya, but still very pretty!
Not quite like the white sand beach of Kenya, but still very pretty!

The more I travel the more I realize I am addicted to freedom. Just like any addiction, when it comes times to stop, you experience withdrawal symptoms. Now, of course, it’s not like I’m physically addicted to drugs, but I do have cravings. I have moments when all I can think about is packing my bag and hitting the road again. And I have to stop and remind myself that in order to be able to keep traveling the world, I need to replenish my bank account.

The job and the team at Go Skydive are actually quite good. My colleagues are great, positive, encouraging and everyone is super supportive. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such an environment where everyone seems to be aware of how hard everyone else is working. The best part of my job so far is to keep learning about skydiving and also getting to talk to people before their first tandem and seeing the pure bliss on their faces afterwards. Half of them are really anxious and excited, and the other half are either super relaxed because they are adrenaline junkies or because they have not yet realized what they are about to do. And since I’ve always liked jobs that are super busy, I feel in my element, especially during the weekends.

Becoming Canadian again

I keep thinking that everyone sounds funny when they speak because I haven’t heard the Canadian accent in so long. And although I’ve been told I now sound Scottish, I know my inner Canadian will resurface soon. I’ve already had a few Tim Hortons’ coffees so my reinsertion as a fully fledged Canadian is well on the way.

One of my new neighbours
One of my new neighbours

Since arriving back and settling in Gatineau, we’ve had a few evening of bonfires. I got the chance to see some pale Northern Lights, and the mosquitos found me again. I’m definitely adjusting to being Canadian again. I don’t think I’ll get into the whole hockey thing though, that would be pushing it.

But before you know it, I’ll be the one sounding funny, hey.

Always far from some of my friends

Being back in Canada also means that I get to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time. And since I got a new job, I’m also making new friends in the process. But it doesn’t make it any easier to be away from the people I love that are spread all over the world. This is one of the major downsides of my lifestyle. I’m always far away from some of the people I care about the most since they are all in different countries. I’ve never been so thankful in my life for technology, mainly WhatsApp, and Messenger!

Learning to be patient

I’ve had death and sickness in my friend circle lately, and although it was not unexpected, it makes you rethink your priorities in life. I do not want to be the one to have regrets if I don’t make it to 50 years old. I’d much prefer living my life right now, pushing my limits and settling and relaxing when I’m older.

First landing, a bit far from the dropzone, but I managed to avoid all obstacles; the parachute landing in the tree after I touched the ground.
First landing, a bit far from the dropzone, but I managed to avoid all obstacles; the parachute landing in the tree after I touched the ground.

That being said, I also seem to have to learn to be patient, and not stress about things not happening quickly enough for my liking. I am working on that aspect in my life right now: learning to be patient and trying to enjoy having some routine and not having to rethink my entire life every few weeks. But to say that this comes easily would be lying.  Like anything else we learn in life, with baby steps we’ll get there!

Finding a new goal

After reaching my seventh and final continent, I knew I needed a new goal. Living a life without really knowing what I am trying to achieve doesn’t really appeal to me. I need a focus to direct my effort and energy towards. I had liked my tandem jump so much, that I had decided to apply for jobs in skydiving centers. I knew it would be a great opportunity to get my solo course done, learn a lot from other people’s experience, and hopefully get to experience the awesome feeling I had during my jump in Kenya.

I have now started working towards getting my solo license. I’ve completed my ground school and went for some fun time in the wind tunnel. And thanks to my passionate and understanding bosses, I’ve even managed to get my first three jumps done in the week after my ground course. All while working!

It made me realize that this is definitely something I want to do. I find the whole skydiving experience to be truly relaxing. I know most people find it frightening, but to me, it has a calming effect. From the time in the small plane going up to standing by the door looking down, there is nothing else like it. The feeling of falling towards the earth, opening the parachute and having fun under the canopy, all of it is truly amazing.

For the remaining of the season, I will be working at GO Skydive in Gatineau, so if you happen to be in the area, feel free to come say hello, and maybe get your first tandem in! You never know, you might even discover your new passion!

Getting ready for my first front flip out of a plane!
Getting ready for my first front flip out of a plane!

Fifteen years from now

In Monaco, enjoying my first Euro trip on my own
About fifteen years ago, in Monaco, enjoying my first Euro trip on my own

I received an email from Niall Doherty a little while ago that quite hit home. If you don’t know who Niall Doherty is, I highly recommend visiting his website. I’ve been following Niall for years now, back when he had just started his 44 months round the world trip without flying, and I have to thank him for sharing the link that got me to go to the Antarctic on a sailboat and also for inspiring many crucial realisations that made my life what it is now. Definitely someone worth following!

Not that long ago he went back to his hometown for a visit. He was talking about how fifteen years ago he was working at a dead-end job in a department store, and how some of the people he was working with were still there. It reminded him that while they seemed okay with their life, fifteen years ago he knew that kind of life wasn’t for him. And he ended the email by asking what we wanted our lives to be like in fifteen years from now. Which brings me to this.

Fifteen years ago

15 years ago today was May 9th, 2002. Wow, just writing the date down is making me feel queasy. Thinking about all that happened in the last 15 years is making my head spin. The early 2000s seem like a lifetime ago, yet at the same time, they feel like yesterday.

In 2002, I was also working in a dead-end job in a supermarket. It was my first real job and within a few months, I had been promoted to night supervisor. Which meant that at only 18 years old I was the one responsible for handling customer complaints. Although it was a good first job, I knew I didn’t want to do that for my entire life.

I was hanging out with the people I was working with. We would go out almost every day, and party until most people were actually going to work. That’s when we would go to sleep. We were free, we didn’t have anything holding us back. We could party all we wanted, the only thing we had to do what to get to work for 4 pm. An easy job, some great friends and a few flirts here and there, no responsibilities whatsoever. That was a great life for an 18 years old.

Partying for Quebec National day, which explains the blue theme
Partying for Quebec National day, which explains the blue theme

I had a great time during that year although I knew this was not what I wanted to do with my life. Before all of this happened I had started college, as had done all my friends, but I had gotten sick with a misdiagnosed mono which took me months to recover from. I wanted to go back to school but didn’t want to be going to school for the sake of going to school. I wanted to do something that interested me.

So I decided gaining life experience couldn’t be bad for me. Learning the cost of living, and becoming an adult.

I was so naive back then. I had no clue that 15 years later, I would still be expecting the adulting thing to kick in at one point.

It was a good decision to be working since, even with all the partying, given that I was still living at my mum’s place it allowed me to put money aside and eventually leave for 2 months in Europe on my own.

That was one of the best experiences of my life and one that made me realise that this was what I wanted to do with my life. So when I came back from my Europe trip, I went back to school in tourism.

Fifteen years from now

Fifteen years in the future brings us to May 9th, 2032. I’ll be 47 by then. Fast approaching 50. Seeing those numbers here makes me fully aware it will probably happen very quickly since I don’t have the feeling that being 18 years old was that long ago.

It’s funny how easy it is to get into a routine and think that this is all there is to life. You get a boyfriend or husband, a career, a house and a dog. And keep going until retirement. After all, it’s not that long. And you are already old.

This exercise of looking back at how much I have accomplished in my life in the last 15 years makes me rather hopeful as to what I can accomplish in the next 15. Fifteen years is a long time. Heck, even 10, or 5 can be long enough to change your whole life. To repurpose it.

It’s never too late to take actions and aim for your goals. Settling for average and pushing your dreams aside will not make them achievable. And thinking that you are too old for this shit will not help either.

The average life expectancy both in Canada and the UK is now over 80 years old. That means that in 15 years I’ll be able to do the same exercise and still probably have another 15 years to plan for.

Which begs the question, what do I want to do with my life? Clearly, there’s still so much time to take advantage of to live a full life. I know that how we define a full life is a very personal choice, but one thing remains, there’s time.

Plenty of it.

So, let’s define our full-lived life and go after it.

Nothing is stopping us. Let’s not stop ourselves.

What do you want to look back on and think: ”wow, what a ride!”

We might not be 18 anymore, but we are still young!
We might not be 18 anymore, but we are still young!

Funny moments and challenges in Kenya


During my stay in Kenya, which was mostly in Diani Beach, I had great experiences but also had to face unexpected challenges. I had really mixed feelings about my experience but as you’ll see it had actually nothing to do with the place itself, but more to do with my own personal struggles. I didn’t see enough of Kenya, staying only on the coast, which means that I will have to return to have a go at the more ”traditional” Kenyan experience, including the safaris and hiking.

Kenyan transports

In order to get around Kenya, there are many transport options. Some short flights are available between the bigger cities and tourist destinations such as Diani, the Masai Mara and Lamu. They, however, don’t have the character and potential for a true adventure of the matatus, the shared minibuses used by the locals. In villages and cities, there’s also always the options of taxis, of tuk-tuks, the motorcycles which can seat up to three people in the back and the boda-boda, the motorcycle taxi.

Sweaty in a matatu
Sweaty selfie in a matatu

One thing that can become quickly stressful and overwhelming is stepping out of a matatu since all tuk-tuk, boda-boda and taxi drivers all come around the door and try to convince you to keep travelling with them. Everyone is talking at the same time and some people are trying to grab your hand for attention and it’s just an overall chaos.

Matatu adventure

After being in Diani for way too long, I decided to go to Mombasa for a few days and after a few nights there, I decided to have a look at the Distant Relative Ecolodge in Kilifi. I was joined by two of the girls working at the Tulia hostel in Mombasa. In the morning we walked to the City Mall to get our first matatu to the destination.

Our first matatu ride to Mtwapa was uneventful, although a bit on the crowded side of things. It started raining when we arrived in Mtwapa just when we had to try to find our new matatu. Melissa found one going in the right direction but we had to wait until it was full to leave, which took a very long time of sweating in a not moving minibus. Eventually, it was full and we left. It was nice to finally have some fresh air going through the vehicle. The rain stopped and we kept going North, stopping regularly to pick up or drop off passengers.

Kenyan village on the way to Kilifi
Kenyan village on the way to Kilifi

At one point, for an unknown reason, our matatu left the main road and ended up going through a small village where most roads were blocked. The driver had to give some bribe money for the locals to move the tree trunks and other stuff that was in the way before allowing us through. It was already a bit weird but I thought it was a good opportunity for me to see some villages from up close. I was still enjoying the ride although it was now taking much longer as the driver didn’t seem to know how to get back to the main road. We kept going in circles for a while longer, trying out different dusty streets, handing out some more money. Eventually, he took one last turn and we were back on the main road.

Later on, we got to a hill and as it was descending we started to go quite fast. The driver was getting momentum for the relatively steep hill ahead. We were going up the hill when the engine stopped. A few minutes earlier when stopping to let someone off, the engine had stopped and some of the guys had had to go outside to jump start it.

This time around though, we were on a hill and it looked like the brakes had also stopped working. To be fair, I don’t know that the brakes were actually working to start with. The driver tried to pull to the side as soon as the engine stopped but because of the hill, we quickly started to go backwards.

Since the matatu was already halfway across the road, we were now reversing in the upcoming direction and straight into a small precipice. Fortunately, there was a railing and it was strong enough to stop the vehicle as we hadn’t picked up too much speed yet. Although the collision still managed to create a matatu shaped dent in the railing. When we were sure if was not going to go any further, everybody, looking super scared, got off the minibus. We all gathered around while some of the guys decided to push the matatu back onto the road, probably hoping to jump start it again and keep going.

Matatu now safely down the hill
Matatu now safely down the hill

I joined in to push, getting some very confused looks from some of the men, and we got the bus back on the road. As soon as it reached the middle of the street and was almost in the right lane, it started going backwards again into the upcoming traffic. So we stood there, watching the matatu make its way back down the hill with the driver trying to control it and move it away in a junction.

At that moment I was so very grateful that I had had the presence of mind to get my bags before getting out of the minibus otherwise, I would have had to go back down the hill to pick them up. A few other matatus had stopped to see what was going on and to help and when it was clear our matatu was not going to go any further, we all got in a new minibus and went on our way. Everybody on board looked a bit more tensed by then, and one of the ladies had a nervous breakdown, crying and praying loudly.

We were back to moving towards our destination when shortly after, a police officer waved us to the side. The driver went out, they had a quick chat and we were once again back on the road.

We were almost to Kilifi when we met yet another road block with military men stopping all traffic. We stopped briefly once again and eventually we were back on our way. We finally arrived in Kilifi after what was a much longer road trip than anticipated. We stopped at the local supermarket to buy some food supplies and have a short break before getting onto our next transport. We got on boda-bodas, the motorcycle taxis and arrived at the Distant Relatives backpackers without any more incident.

On the way to Kilifi
Matatus on the way to Kilifi

Don’t let that incident scare you from taking the public transport in Kenya though, while it is true that they can be far from your usual Western safety standards, it was the only accident I saw during two months of using matatus and other transports. While it is also true that accidents do happen, and people don’t seem to be following any road code, accidents still happen everywhere else too.

That being said, you can always pick a matatu that looks a bit more recent or well maintained and remember to never sit in the front seats. Although you get a much better view, in case of an accident they are considered to be the most dangerous seats. You don’t have to get in the first matatu that stops unless you are going to a very unusual destination, there will always be other matatus stopping shortly after. As usual, when travelling, you should always trust your instincts.

Adapting to the Kenyan life rhythm

Life in Kenya, or at least in Diani Beach, works at a very different pace than in Canada or Scotland. I don’t know if it’s because of the weather, but people are rarely in a rush to do anything. Especially in stores and restaurants. Rushing does get you sweaty quickly so it might be part of the reason but to me, this was a very big challenge. Learning to adapt to quiet times of doing simply nothing is not as easy as I would have thought. It was, however, a very good practice of being in the moment and learning to truly enjoy it.

Pool in Tulia Backpackers in Mombasa
Swimming pool in Tulia Backpackers in Mombasa, Kenya

In my life, I’ve never been that comfortable in not doing much. When there are quiet moments, I make myself busy. Whether by writing, reading or finding something else to do. Staying idle is not something I’ve ever really known how to do. Even sitting on a beach I usually find it impossibly challenging. I sit for a few minutes and then quickly get bored and start drawing in the sand, go for a swim, collect shells. Anything to keep my hands and mind busy.

During the skydiving boogie though, I barely had any time to myself. We were working hard and playing even harder. Every day. And this was much closer to the actual rhythm I like in my life. Work intensely for a while, then relax for a bit, and repeat.

Being taught how to dance the African way

One night in Diani, after a few drinks at our regular spot, 40 thieves, a lovely beach bar located way too conveniently right next door to the drop zone, we went out to Tandoori, another local bar where I met two new girlfriends. They made it their mission that night to teach me how to dance like an African woman. Kenyan sure know how to move, and they do manage to move their bodies in unexpected ways and let me tell you it is definitely not as easy as they make it look! I had a great time though with my two new friends, which may or may not have been prostitutes…

Monkeys in the kitchen

When I first arrived I would always tell everyone how cute the monkeys were. And I couldn’t really understand why people would call them fucking monkeys. But after a few times of them breaking into the house, stealing and eating all my food, it all started to make sense to me.

The first time they came in, we had left the kitchen window open but someone must have walked by the house because they left quickly without stealing much.

The second time, I was alone at home working on my laptop with my back to the kitchen. I heard some noise but didn’t think anything of it since I was sharing the house with a few people. Eventually, I did clue in though, that no one was actually home at that moment. I went to the kitchen and came face to face with a massive blue ball monkey. He was hanging onto the shelve and eating fistfulls of oats straight from the container. I opened the front door and tried to shoo him away. It didn’t work though as he decided to do the same thing, trying to shoo me away from his newly found stash of food. We had a bit of a staring contest and oddly enough used the same techniques to try to scare the other one off. I was stomping and moving my hands in all directions to make myself look a bit scarier. He got on his back legs and did pretty much the same thing, slightly moving towards me. Which worked and made him a lot scarier…

I ended up retreating to one of the bedrooms for a few seconds before realising I was certainly not going to let a monkey win and steal all my food! I grabbed a towel so I would have something else to shoo him away with and went back to the kitchen with my new found determination. He was back to the oats and when he saw me coming in, he locked eyes with me, extended his right hand, grabbed my bag of crisps and ran out of the door. To say that I was a bit upset would be an understatement. I don’t mind monkeys eating my oats, but my crisps are off limits!

Trying to come back in for more
One of the cheeky monkeys trying to come back in for more snacks

They broke in the flat a couple more times, every time coming in through a different window and breaking the window screens. Eventually, we started to keep all the windows locked. On one of my last nights, I was coming back from the store with a couple of items thinking I was going to finish my pasta and that the food I had left at the house would be plenty to last me before my departure. Next thing I knew though, the monkeys had come in again, but this time not only stole my pasta, tomato paste, oats and raisins, but they had left a massive mess behind them, probably trying each and every package to see what it tasted like and then throwing away the stuff they didn’t like. For the remaining of that day, every time I would look out the window or go out, I would see one of the monkeys eating some of my uncooked spaghetti noodles. I kept thinking that surely the package would be somewhere around the house, but I couldn’t find it. The next morning though, the empty packaging was waiting for me when I opened the front door. I’m not sure if this was a message that they wanted more since their package was now empty, but I did not give them the chance to steal any more of my food; I left Diani the next day!

Night swim with stars in the sky and in the water

I found the Distant Relative backpackers in Kilifi to be a truly magical place. Not only it is an Ecolodge, which clearly would appeal to my hippie side, but when I went there, I managed to relax, and write. Something I had been struggling to do for a while. Every time I manage to get back to writing, it instantly makes me feel much better.

I was also now travelling on my own. I made it there with 2 newly met friends, but they were staying only for one night, so I had time to process some of my thoughts and feelings and reflect on my experience. Stepping back and being able to look at your situation from a different angle always makes it easier to see what the actual issues are.

Distant Relative Ecolodge in Kilifi
Distant Relative Ecolodge in Kilifi, Kenya

I spent my days swimming in the pool, writing, and simply enjoying the moment and the surroundings. It was exactly what I needed at that point.

The Distant Relative Backpackers is located very close to a small beach on the Kilifi creek where I enjoyed sitting in a tree and listening to the small waves coming in. The beach boys were present of course, but not as insisting as in Diani Beach. Or maybe I was just lucky.

Relaxing in a tree on the beach next to the backpackers in Kilifi, Kenya
Relaxing in a tree on the beach next to the backpackers in Kilifi, Kenya

The true magic, however, happened at night. I was lucky that the sky was mostly clear on the nights I was there. And thanks to the lack of light pollution, the number of stars visible was simply incredible. But that was still not the best part. At night you could go for a swim in the ever warm waters and see the amazing bioluminescent plankton. The plankton light up briefly when they are disturbed. It is a phenomenon I had seen on the sailing vessel Infinity when I was at sea, but to be able to get in the water and see the water light up as I was moving was truly magical. It felt like stars were both in the sky and in the water. I spent a very long amount of time in the water, moving my hands and body slowly, making some ephemeral drawing with sparkling stars. A truly eerie experience.

Fully realising how fucking lucky I am

When you travel to poorer countries or meet people who struggle to make ends meet it’s a given, at one point you’ll realise that you’ve been rather blessed to have been born in Canada, the States, the UK or in Europe. Not only can most of us afford to live very comfortably, with way too many possessions, we are lucky enough to have access to decent education and jobs. We take all of this for granted, but when you get to other countries where it’s not always the case, it makes you become more conscious of how lucky we are.

Not that we have done anything more to deserve this treatment, we simply happen to be born in the right place at the right time.

Another thing that we rarely think about when coming from richer countries, is that we can move so freely. There are so many countries we can go to without needing to apply for visa. Or when we need visas, very often we can get them at the border or online before arriving. That is so easy. When you happen to come from Kenya and you want to go visit some friends for a few weeks in Europe, Canada, etc. You have to apply for visas. Visas that take ages to process. It’s almost like our governments really think that because they happen to be born on that piece of land, they need more screening before we can allow them in the country. Or as if they think that visitors will not want to leave and go back to their home country. This blatant racism and the colonialism that are still so very prevalent in Kenya really did shock me. You would think that we, as human, would know better by now. That we would have learned that skin color and nationality doesn’t mean shit. It doesn’t define you as a good or bad person. Or as someone who will abuse the systems or behave as a decent human being.

Another thing that shocked me is the number of people that are from deemed ”civilised” countries and come to poorer countries to do despicable shit. That is beyond me. How can we allow that to happen, yet while making sure to close or make our borders very inaccessible to people like you and me, people who just want to go say hello to their friends, see something else, discover new cultures and come back to the comfort of their homes? That is a question that I, unfortunately, do not have an answer to yet.

Losing myself in Kenya

After enjoying myself during the Skydiving boogie and partying a lot, I realised I had lost my focus. I was no longer doing my exercises in the morning since I had to work early and then became too lazy. I needed a break and some time to process reaching my final continent and accomplishing that life goal, but next thing I knew it had been a few weeks and I was still doing the same thing. I still hadn’t made a decision on what to do next. I kept sending emails and resumés but nothing worked. I was getting discouraged so I decided to distract myself with some more partying.

Diani has a great tourism potential. It’s relaxing, and it’s really easy to meet people to go out with every night. But it’s empty. It doesn’t bring much of the human connection I usually need or the longer and deeper conversations I want in my life. It all stays on the surface.

It’s fun for a while, don’t get me wrong, I really did enjoy it, but at one point I realised I was losing myself. And it can be really difficult to find yourself again once you’ve gone back to all your old bad habits.

Diani Beach, Kenya
Diani Beach, Kenya

I wanted to go away, but since I didn’t know where to go and I had friends to hang out with, it made my decision to leave more difficult. Eventually, though, I decided it was enough. I had had enough. I needed a break from that place.

I’m not sure what made it so difficult for me to leave Diani Beach. Sure I made new friends and I had fun, but I was clearly unhappy. Profoundly stressed out. Not knowing what I was going to do next, trying to get jobs in different areas and not getting any responses, all of that took a massive toll on my morale and it was easier to stay there, in my little comfortable bubble, and get my brain fucked up enough in the hopes that maybe I would stop thinking and worrying.

Obviously, it didn’t work. I never stop thinking about options and over analysing everything. So not only did I not come up with an answer, but I started gaining weight and could feel my decision to party every night was affecting my health and my motivation to do anything.

At one point people started to tell me that I looked stressed out and not like my normal smiling self. That hurt me because I knew it was true. I didn’t want to see it, but I was ruining myself. It’s hard to believe you might be truly unhappy when you live in a magical setting. You are at the beach, it’s sunny and warm all the time, you’ve made new friends (although for most of them you have absolutely nothing in common except the drinking and partying).

How can you possibly be unhappy?

My friend's amazing house in Mombasa, Kenya
My friend’s amazing house in Mombasa, Kenya

As much as I struggled to learn to relax when I first arrived, I quickly became quite lazy. And that’s not something I am used to. I like being busy, exploring, writing, moving and being active. But the heat and the hangovers got the best of me. I lost that spark in me. Even the idea of going to explore somewhere around was not tempting at all. I barely explored anything around the drop zone and the beach. It felt like a magnet that was preventing me from making any decision and from remembering who I am and what I actually like.

I was lonely when I arrived in Diani and I was way too happy to find people to chat with. And to start creating a history together. A history of going out, getting wasted and hooking up, but a common background nonetheless.

I had been craving human connections and mistook this experience for genuine links between people. I did found new friends but the truth is, with most people I met there, I didn’t care any more about them than they did about me. I simply was lost, and while this doesn’t explain everything, it makes it a lot easier to understand why I felt unable to leave.

I felt like I was on a path of self-destruction, but I couldn’t stop myself. Sometimes we know we need to stop doing something, but we lack the will-power to actually take action.

In order to find a way to force myself to leave, I started telling people I would leave on the following Monday. I wanted to be there for one last weekend of partying. So on Sunday, I made sure to pack my bag. I would not leave myself any more excuses to further delay my departure. And on the Monday afternoon, after having breakfast at Stilts because the monkeys had stolen all my food again, I went to say goodbye to everyone and got on a matatu to Mombasa.

I felt relieved to leave, even though I did not go far, and I was still hanging out with some of the same people. I did, however, start to exercise again. And did not drink for a couple of days. So when my friend said he was going back to Diani for the following weekend, I knew I could not go back. Because if I did I would not only have lied when I told everyone that next time I would be there, I would be coming to skydive, but I knew it would be impossible for me to leave again. By telling people I wouldn’t come back before a boogie, I made sure that it would prevent me from returning since I hate going back on my words.

I don’t want this to sound like it was a bad experience. To be fair, I am the only person responsible for sticking to my routine, and not forgetting my priorities. It would be a lot easier to blame my discomfort on someone or something else, but I’m the one that allowed myself to get lost for a while because it felt good to go back to some old habits. When I realised this, it was up to me to change it.

I stayed at my friends for a week and on Saturday morning, I found a decent priced ticket from Mombasa to London. I didn’t think any longer about it and quickly bought the ticket. My flight was leaving the next night. As soon as I made the decision, I felt myself reverting back to my relaxed and happy self. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Although I still didn’t have any plans, London felt like a logical place to go back to, halfway between the places I had sent resumes to and filled with friends to catch up with.

As much as I had some internal struggles to deal with, I still very much enjoyed Kenya and I do feel like I haven’t seen much of what the country has to offer. That is why I know I will return one day, hopefully in a near future, and I’ll enjoy every minute of it, matatu rides included, but in the meantime, I’ll appreciate the much cooler weather of London!

Instantly more relaxed after having booked my ticket to London
Instantly more relaxed after having booked my ticket to London

Skydiving in Kenya



Ever since leaving for my round the world trip in 2013, I’ve always had that crazy dream of touching all continents. I didn’t think it was at all possible then since I couldn’t picture an affordable way to go to the Antarctic. But since I went on Infinity and touched land in South America, my only continent missing was Africa.

Finally reaching my last continent

I was looking for ways to check that one in, but couldn’t really find anything appealing enough, and I was busy travelling around Europe. When my working holiday visa was about to expire, I decided to have a look at workaway since I had enjoyed my experience in Jordan so much.

I quickly found a workaway gig that stood out. Helping out in a skydiving club on the stunning Kenyan coast. It was too good of an opportunity to pass on, so I sent a message. They needed help for the boogie, a skydiving event which gathers skydivers from all over the world for some great jumping during the day and great parties at night. Once again, how could I pass such an opportunity, especially since there would be the possibility of getting my first jump in as well! There was no way I was going to pass this, so I booked myself a ticket to Ukunda, with quick stops in Istanbul and Nairobi.

It felt like a long journey, especially the second flight since my TV screen wasn’t working, but eventually, I made it to the sunny and extremely hot and humid Diani Beach.

Stunning Diani Beach, Kenya
Stunning Diani Beach, Kenya

My first day was spent enjoying the beach and the surroundings of the drop zone. The white sand beach with sparkling turquoise water, tall palm trees and lush vegetation, and the adorable baboons, sykes monkeys and interesting blue ball monkeys made it for a gorgeous setting.

One of my cute little friend
One of my cute little friends

The first couple of weeks were really laid back. There weren’t that many people coming in, except for a group of UK guys doing their AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) course and a few tandem jumps. The days were going by quite slowly with my job being to edit some of the tandem videos. I did enjoy that job quite a bit because it was very funny to see people’s reactions to jumping off a plane. It can be a bit of a sensory overload especially for the first few seconds of the free fall and their faces captured that hilariously funny moment.

Skydiving in Kenya

After a few days, it was my chance: there was space on the plane and Angelo was willing to jump with me. So he geared me up and we went in the car. Between the moment where we mentioned I could go on that day and the moment when I was sitting in the car there was only about 15 minutes. Just enough to start understanding what was going to happen and start to get excited. The ride to the airport is really short since the Ukunda airstrip is located only a couple of kilometres from the drop zone.

Time to go up!
Time to go up!

When you get to the airport you have to go through security, which obviously wearing a tandem harness would set off the metal detectors. After a very quick pat down I was waved through. Walking in front of people waiting for their flight and seeing the look on their faces was quite funny. Some of them seemed quite interested and others ones would have never traded the safety of their slightly bigger plane to mine.

UK guys relaxing before the jump
UK guys relaxing before the jump

The flight was interesting. Everyone piles up sitting backwards, and off we go. It’s a fairly small plane and it can be quite shaky, but to me, it is a lot more reassuring when it moves a bit and I can feel I am actually on a plane.

The view from up there is amazing, and you get to see Mombasa and how spread out the city is. The whole time going up I was oddly calm. I was expecting for the adrenaline to kick in, but instead of being scared I was simply excited.

And Im next!
And I’m next!

What I was going to do hit me when I saw all the guys sitting in front of me jumping all at the same time to make some formation. It’s at that moment I realised I was about to jump off a perfectly good airplane to go land on a fairly small strip of white sand beach. I got nervous and excited. It was about time since a few seconds later my legs were dangling off the side of the plane and next thing I knew I was quickly falling towards the beach.

Time to jump!
Time to jump!

The first few seconds took my breath away. The sensations were a lot to process at once. But very quickly it all made sense to me. I could finally understand why the people I had just met were all addicted to jumping. The amazing scenery and the feelings of the free fall just brought so much calmness in me. We were not even done the 60 seconds of free falling and I knew that was it.

I was hooked.

I would now have to find ways to jump over and over again.

Once the canopy opens, everything becomes so calm, it feels surreal. There’s no more sound, and you are flying above a gorgeous white sand beach. That part of the descent last for about 8 minutes. Eight minutes I never wanted to end.

Already time to land on Diani Beach
Already time to land on Diani Beach

But sadly for me, it was already time to land on the beach. That was the end of my first but surely not last skydiving jump.

Skydive boogie

The ten days or so of the boogie went by so quickly, the work days were quite long and the nights quite short. I started helping out with the accounting, not something I’m truly a big fan of, but something I can do nonetheless. The idea was to make sure that every single participant could have access to their balance on their account at any time during the day. And since they were buying jump tickets, packing tickets, rig hire as well as food and drinks, it was a lot of entry for about 100 skydivers.

River mouth landing
River mouth landing

I met some of the craziest yet amazing people during that boogie. From my favourite group, a bunch of Egyptian dudes who all came together because of one of their common friends to a group of UK military guys and many people in between, I had an amazing time.

A few skydivers
A few skydivers

Some of the planned activities were amazing. The guys at Skydive Diani had planned a lot of different setting and locations such as a sunset landing on a river mouth. On a different evening, people were landing on a private island. They even organised a sunrise jump and a sunset jump with all three planes dropping the skydivers at a very short interval. Between these jump activities and the many barbeques and dinner, it was work hard, play even harder.

Fly-by by the river mouth
Fly-by by the river mouth

I barely slept for 10 days but I had an amazing time and met insanely passionate people. Definitely my favourite kind!

As usual, my ”plans” for what’s next are very blurry, but I do aim to see a bit more of Kenya. While the coast is lovely, Kenya is a large country with tonnes to see and do so there’s still much more to explore and discover!

Since I got hooked on skydiving, all I can think and talk about now is how to find a way to work in a drop zone, earn some money and get my skydiving license. If any of you guys know of a dropzone hiring, please, I’m begging you, let me know so I can scratch the itch once again!

New Year Resolutions or setting yourself up for failure

2015 New Year view
New Year location in 2015

It’s been slightly more than one month now and you did it once again. You told yourself this year was going to be different. You would stick to your New Year resolutions.

Right?

It was this time of year already: the oh so popular New Year resolutions. And now you’ve reached the moment when you scrap them and tell yourself that New Year’s resolutions are stupid anyway.

If you are anything like I used to be, the following should sound very familiar.

End of December

You’ve said it last year, and the year before, but this time it will be different. You will stick to your New Year resolutions. You truly believe it. You know you can.

Whether it is to stop eating junk food, exercise more, spend less time watching tv or learn a new language. This time it will work. You are motivated. You fully adhere to the New-Year-New-Me philosophy.

You simply need a new outfit, cooking supplies, or a book to learn Spanish.

So you go to the store to make sure you have everything you need to follow your New Year resolution.

Between all the parties and the family stuff you have to attend, there’s not much time to get started, but it’s not even January yet, so there’s still time.

You go through the holidays, over-indulging because it’s the holidays and that’s what you should be doing. It’s too hard to say no to that piece of cake, and anyway, you only do this once a year.

Waiting for the right moment

You’ve known this all along, but I’ll remind you once more. There’s no such thing as the right moment. Ever. Have you ever asked your friends with kids if they had become pregnant at the right time? Chances are they didn’t.

What about your travelling friends? Ever asked them if this was a good moment to sell everything and pack their bags? It probably wasn’t.

It will never be the right time. You’ll never be fully ready for the next step.

So why do we always wait for the right moment to start something? The only reason I can see is that it’s an easy excuse to use. I’ll wait to start on Monday. Or next month. Or next year.

January rolls around

It’s colder but slowly the days are finally starting to get a bit longer. You have yet to start your New Year resolution but you’ve been so busy recovering from all the holiday celebrations, Netflix was a much more tempting option for your days off.

Then you start working again and get back to your old routine. You knew this was going to happen, after all, it’s the same every year. You always have the best intentions but as soon as January rolls around, you are busy. And you forget.

Next year though you will follow through. You will not fail yourself once again.

Any of this sound familiar?

How to actually achieve your New Year goals?

First off, let’s stop calling them New Year resolutions and let’s call them habits. And pick something you actually want to do and are ready to commit.

Do you have something you’ve always been wanting to do, always pushing it a bit further away because of time constraint? Or lack of motivation?

One thing you have to make sure, though while picking your new thing, is to pick something you truly want. If you are okay with your current weight and body shape, don’t go picking exercising just because everyone else is doing it. Same for languages. Maybe that’s not something you are truly interested in. Maybe you want to learn to improve your writing, stop smoking, become a better dancer, master coding or learn how to fix your car. Be honest with yourself. Because whether you succeed or not, you are doing this for yourself.

One thing I’ve learned from the last few years of finally succeeding in creating new habits and sticking to them is to never wait for tomorrow to start.

Take the first step now. If you want to start exercising, leave your computer, put on your PJ bottoms, yoga leggings, shorts whatever you’ve got, and get stretching. Do some light running in your living room. Do a short abs routine. Whatever it is you can think of, get up and do it. Now!

Put your phone or laptop aside and get to it.

If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, head over to Duolingo. It might not be the best tool to get you fluent in your new language, but it’s a start. Aim to do at least 2 lessons. They are quite short lessons, so it shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes.

It’s a lot easier to make up excuses, or delay the start because you clearly need to wait until you have the proper equipment, right?

You want to improve your writing or drawing skills? Get a piece of paper and start writing or drawing. It’s okay to write ”I don’t know what to write”, or to draw a flower, a box or anything else you can think of now.

Want to learn about mechanic or coding? There are tons of website that can teach you just that.

You don’t have to be good. Hell, you shouldn’t be. You should suck. You won’t be writing your first novel today, or be able to do chin-ups now. You don’t have to. That’s the beauty of the first step. You wouldn’t expect your little nephew to start running as soon as he starts crawling now, would you? Same applies to you. Baby step, falling down and getting back up.

Once you have done it for the first time, repeat the same thing tomorrow. Don’t worry about doing it right. It’s still not the time for that step. If you want to get back in shape, take 5 minutes to do stretches. You can go for a run if you really want to, but your goal today should be to get it started. Stop waiting for tomorrow, Monday, or next year.

One of my very high-tech calendar, including all my codes and notes
One of my very high-tech calendar, including all my codes and notes to keep track of my progress

Keeping track of your progress

I use my little calendar so I can keep track of my progress, not to beat myself up, but because I like to be able to write that I’ve done it, it is sometimes enough to get me started.

Last year, on January 1st, 2016, I wrote in my journal the following: ”I wish for myself for 2016, travel, love and money. I will travel more, help more and keep being my (most of the time) positive self to keep making people feel better and see that love and kindness is so much better than being violent and being scared of what’s different. I also wish for myself to be able to truly embrace who I am, being truthful to myself and honest with everybody. While of course being respectful.” Glad to be able to say mission accomplished, I succeeded and lived exactly the life I wanted. Some days I did not manage to fit in my workout, and some days I didn’t do my languages lessons. But you know what, when I noticed I had missed a day, instead of beating myself up, I got to work. I did my abs routine, I went on Duolingo for a short lesson. And it got me started again.

Setting goals for yourself

When setting goals, always make sure they are reachable. Aiming to be making 100 000 $ online if you’ve never made any money that way is not realistic. Not impossible, but a bit far fetched.

Don’t make the very common mistake of trying to start everything all at once. Pick one goal, get it started. And when it’s part of your new routine and you do it without having to think about it, then you can get another one.

My goals lately, which are very much a part of my morning routine now have been to:

  • write at least one page in my journal every day,
  • exercise at least 5 days a week,
  • do my German and Russian lessons 5 times a week (I’m at very different levels in all languages and have started learning over time, not all at once!)
  • and do one thing that scares me, 3 times a week.

Now, this is the new one I’ve added for the last couple of weeks only as that the rest of my routine is mostly set. Doing something I find scary three times per week minimum serves to push me a bit further out of my comfort zone and allows me to reach new levels. It doesn’t have to be something obviously terrifying like skydiving. It tends to be small seemingly insignificant things, but that for some reason scare me.

A few examples from a few weeks ago:

  1. Starting a conversation with the cute guy that walks his dog in the park.
  2. Sending a message to a successful blogger who will be in the same country as me to see if we could meet up.
  3. Going to a protest on my own, knowing that there was a good chance I would meet friends over there, but deciding to be okay going on my own no matter what.

My goal of doing at least three things that frighten me per week means that I have to identify them first, write them down, and then do them. Once I get started and manage to actually accomplish that goal, I am much more confident in my abilities and tend to add more things.

Why are you still reading? Get started now! No more excuses of waiting to get started.

What is your goal? What do you want to accomplish now so you can look back a few months or a year from now and think: ”good on me for doing this!”

Iceland or nature at its best

Road trip in stunning Iceland
Road trip in stunning Iceland

Spur of the moment a few weeks ago, I decided to invite myself and join a friend for a few days in Iceland. It had always been on my wish-list and after sending countless friends to this incredible insular country, it was time to see if for myself.

It did not disappoint. Au contraire. It was so amazing, I seriously considered not getting on my plane to come back to Scotland. Even though I have been to many countries that I loved, I never considered not leaving when my time was up. Except for this time.

I loved my Icelandic experience so much that for the first time in my life, I actually could picture myself moving somewhere in the country. And settling. Somewhat anyway. I would obviously need a job and all (by the way, any of you happens to know someone hiring in tourism in Iceland?) but to come back and actually consider this is a very weird feeling, to say the least!

At first, I was worried to see if I would like Iceland as much as I thought I would. My expectations were so high, I was actually afraid of being disappointed. Instead, I fell in love with the place even more than I thought possible.

This was to be a small incursion. A little taster of Iceland.

Road trip in Iceland

Because we had a limited amount of time to spend in Iceland, we opted for a three-day road trip. There are plenty of tours available, but I do like more independence when I travel, so booking our little SUV was ideal.

Flying to Reykjavik from the UK is very quick and easy, especially if you only bring a carry-on size bag. I flew with EasyJet from Edinburgh and arrived in Reykjavik at 7 pm. One thing everyone recommends to do is to use the duty-free shop before you leave. The prices are apparently a lot more expensive in the city. I didn’t want to pay more than necessary for my drinks so I picked up a few bottles.

In order to get to the city, there are two bus companies, offering transfers at roughly the same price. I picked the Grayline bus. They bring you to their bus depot before putting all the travellers on mini-buses depending on which area you are heading. The other company, FlyBus, brings you to the BSI coach terminal. One thing that is worth mentioning and that my friend learned the hard way is that there are no more buses to the airport after 4 pm on Saturdays in winter. So make sure to look the schedule ahead of time, unless you want to stay in Iceland!

The minibus dropped me off at the Grayline office in the city centre and I met up with my friend at the Oddsson hostel. I don’t know if we were just lucky, but the vibe at the hostel was great. There’s a massive lobby and chill-out zone, and a great kitchen with big tables where people can sit around and make new best friends. My favourite kind of hostels.

Northern Lights -photo by Rizza Mae Sorino
Northern Lights -photo by Rizza Mae Sorino

Following my previous experience in Northern Canada, I knew it was worth having a look at the aurora predictions, so while everyone was getting ready for a beer pong game (without a ping pong ball, they had to be creative and ended up using grapes and shredded wheat), I grabbed my jacket and walked along the water. I ended up spending well over 2 hours outside. I wasn’t sure I was going to see anything at all as it was raining when I came out but sure enough, the sky cleared and there they were. Fairly faint but still very pretty pale-green moving auroras.  It was a magical start of the trip.

Adorable Icelandic horses
Some of the many adorable Icelandic horses

Day one – Icelandic horses, geyser, waterfalls, and lagoon

Before even taking the time to visit the capital, we picked up a car and hit the road. We followed the Golden Circle, driving through the very scenic Thingvellir National Park. We quickly found some Icelandic horses, so we had to stop to pet them for a little while.

Geysir
Geysir

We hadn’t made a plan before we left, so we improvised along the way. We stopped by the Geysir and found tonnes of tourists. We walked around the site, seeing the big Geysir erupt a couple of times and quickly got back to the quiet roads. Everything is signposted, so as long as you know the name of the place you want to go or at least the first few letters, it’s fairly simple.

Gullfoss waterfall
Impressive Gullfoss waterfall

We followed the sign to the impressively powerful Gullfoss waterfall. After enjoying the scenery for a bit, we got back in the car and took a side road. Everything was so pretty, every turn, the road and the scenery were even more amazing. At one point we saw a tour jeep parked on the side of the road, so we decided to have a look. It turned out to be the Brúarhlöð canyon. A great spot for some peace and quiet.

Brúarhlöð canyon
Peaceful Brúarhlöð canyon

We finished our first day of the road trip by a stop to the steamy Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugin). It was quite crowded when we arrived, but soon the tour buses left, and it was very quiet and relaxing. We soaked for about 2 hours before heading back to Reykjavik.

In the hostel, we met up with a bunch of cool travellers, mostly from Canada, the States and the UK. At one point, people noticed the Northern Lights were still visible so my new Alaskan friend Rizza and I went for another walk along the bay. The auroras were a bit brighter than the day before and it was great to share that moment with someone as passionate about Northern Lights as me!

The not so secret Secret Lagoon
The not-so-secret Secret Lagoon

Day two – snowball fight, black sand beach, and private pool

For our second day of the road trip, we were joined by Rizza and Adam. It was a great road trip, checking all the boxes for an epic adventure. Gorgeous scenery, laughter, great conversations, snowball fight… it was a truly amazing day.

Our new friend Jeff
Our new friend Jeff

We left Reykjavik but this time drove on the route 1 towards Vik. Our first stop of the day was along the road as we saw some people taking pictures. As there was enough room to safely pull over, we did. The snow was in perfect condition for a snowball fight, so we couldn’t resist! Rizza also made a new snowman friend called Jeff.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Our first stop in a proper attraction was at Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This is a unique waterfall. At about 60 meters high and with a fairly thin cascade, it probably wouldn’t have the massive amount of tourists it gets if it wasn’t for the fact that you can walk behind the waterfall. It was as amazing and wet as I expected it to be. We quickly got drenched but it was well worth it!

Getting soaked behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Getting drenched behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall

About 500m to the side of the waterfall we found another great sight: Gljúfrabúi waterfall. In order to see this one, you have to walk in the canyon on some rocks, or in the water, since the rocks are so slippery! Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a decent picture because of all the water spraying everywhere so in order to see it you might have to fly to Iceland yourself! I would highly recommend bringing a waterproof jacket and a change of clothes should you go there, though!

Glijufrabui waterfall
Glijufrabui waterfall hidden in the canyon

The sunlight in Iceland is truly amazing. It’s definitely the kind of light one finds only in the Northern countries and I love it. It makes for such dramatic landscapes as it brings out many different shades.

View of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano from Iceland Erupt
View of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano from Iceland Erupt

We stopped briefly at Iceland Erupt. A centre that explains the story of the eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. You can actually see the glacier covering the caldera of the volcano from the road, and it’s a good reminder of how powerful nature can be.

Skogafoss waterfall
Skógafoss waterfall

After Iceland Erupt we went to Skógafoss waterfall. I didn’t get too close this time, as I was almost dry, deciding instead to go up the fairly long flight of stairs to see it from the top. It was great! I even climbed onto a little rock formation before realising it wouldn’t be easy to come back down as it was quite the drop and the rock eroded way too easily. But being the little monkey that I am, I still had to climb it.

Solheimajakull glacier
Sólheimajökull glacier

Afterwards, we stopped at Sólheimajökull glacier and it was simply stunning. It’s a great walk to the glacier and there’s so much ice to see. It’s really impressive yet there’s only a tiny bit of the glacier that is visible from this area.

Afterwards, we went to Reynisdrangar where we saw the black sand beach and some of the strongest and biggest waves I’ve ever seen crashing onto a beach. Coupled with an amazing island and the Basalt Sea Stacks, once again it was truly stunning.

Reynisdrangar
Reynisdrangar, the black sand beach with amazingly powerful waves

We kept driving to Vík, the southernmost village of Iceland, and checked in the Vík hostel where we were lucky enough to get 4 beds in the same dorm. We relaxed for a bit and went to Suður-Vik to get some food before hitting the road again for one last epic adventure for the day.

Some other people had mentioned a pool they had been to and how they had had the whole place to themselves. That sounded pretty appealing to all of us, so after getting directions from a guide we met walking back from the glacier, we drove to Seljavallalaug, which is one of the oldest pools in Iceland. It was built in 1923 and there’s a trickle of water coming in from a hot spring somewhere nearby.  It is by no mean hot like a lagoon, but it’s definitely worth going!

Getting there was half the fun. We made it to the end of the road with the car and from there we walked about 15 minutes towards the end of the valley in total darkness. It would have been a perfect setting for a typical teenage American horror movie. Four tourists following rough directions, heading to a pool where there’s absolutely nothing around, in total darkness and including a few challenges like crossing a stream and trying not to trip on rocks.

We had trouble locating the path as it was pitch black, but eventually, we made it. I was pretty glad both Rizza and I had head torches, otherwise, I’m not sure we would have been brave enough to give this a try! The water was actually not that hot, more like the temperature your bath water gets when you get out of it, but it was still quite a cool experience to be in the water with no one else around, swimming and looking at the surrounding mountains silhouettes, knowing the glacier was right there too. Unfortunately, the sky was not clear so we didn’t get to see any Northern Lights. My newly found friends were the perfect companions as I’m not sure that many others would have been down to walk to an unknown area, in a very dark night to try to find a pool! It was a perfect end to a great road trip day.

Road trip! photo by Rizza Mae Sorino
Road trip photoshoot! photo by Rizza Mae Sorino

Day three – black sand beach, photoshoot and back to the lagoon

The last day of our road trip was another very interesting day. We left Vík at around 10:30 and our first stop was another small black sand beach (Kirkjufjara beach) which boasted a great view over a rock with a hole in it, a little bit like Percé in Canada. It was so windy and rainy, I loved every single minute spent outside as this is my favourite kind of weather when you can feel the full force of the elements. It makes me feel like I can finally breathe.

Kirkjufjara beach
Kirkjufjara beach

Later on, we stopped at a random spot because Adam had a look out of the window and his hat flew away. We turned around to pick it up and did a little photoshoot as the view was simply amazing once again. We made our way pretty much straight to the airport to drop Rizza off as it was already time for her to head back home.

Some of the amazing scenery along route 1
Some of the amazing scenery along route 1

Afterwards, we returned to the Secret Lagoon where we joined a few people we had met at the hostel. When we arrived at the lagoon I wasn’t feeling super sociable so I said a quick hello and swam a bit further away. I’m not used to travelling with people anymore, and sometimes you just need a breather. Especially when there is the option of soaking in a very relaxing lagoon!

We stayed for another two hours in the water and it was amazing. Very relaxing once again.

We headed back to Reykjavik, dropped the car and met with all our friends in the hostel. It was Friday night, so we had to have a look at Reykjavik’s nightlife. It’s not something I do much anymore, going out dancing, but this was a great night where I met many locals and had an overall amazing time.

Hallgrimskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja

Last moments in Iceland – church, food, and wanting to stay

For my last day in Iceland, I went to Hallgrímskirkja, an interestingly different church in the centre of Reykjavik. As always when I am in a city, I had to go up the tower to have a look at the view. And as to be expected, it was lovely!

We went to Gló for a very tasty meal (they have options for vegan, raw and meat-eater alike) and it was already time for me to get on the bus and get back to the airport.

It was the first time in my life where I thought that missing my flight would actually be amazing. I mean, I would have to stay in this awe-inspiring country. It could be a lot worst!

My love story with Iceland is far from over. We have just started to get to know each other, and already I know I will return. I’ve never felt compelled to stay somewhere in my years of travels, but Iceland clearly won me over.

If you happen to know of a tourism business in Iceland who would be interested in hiring a passionate and friendly Canadian, let me know!

Adam, Rizza, Qasim and I, by the Sólheimajökull glacier. Photo by Rizza Mae Sorino

Choose love

Quebec City
Quebec City

I was going to write something totally different today but with the shooting in a Mosque last night in my hometown, Quebec City, I feel the need to write about it.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “it doesn’t matter, it’s happening too far away, in places where they deserve it”. That kind of thinking is usually the reflex after a drama. You count your blessing, happy this stuff always happens far away. You don’t feel that concerned until it happens to you. Or close by.

Some of the comments after the shooting were in the lines of “I can’t believe it happened about 1km away from my home”. That’s where it hurts apparently. When it’s close to home. As long as it doesn’t touch you it makes it easier to ignore. But when it happens in your backyard, it makes you realise it could have been you. You might not be that special snowflake after all.

This shit is happening every day all over the world. It is time to open your eyes and make it stop.

Do not fall for Trump’s and other’s hate speeches and “safety” measures.

This demonising of the other instead of showing compassion and care is what allowed all previous genocides. I still wonder how can people not see that and still fall for it.

Divide and conquer has lasted long enough. It’s time to change our approach. This one has been faulty from the start.

All humans are the same. We all want and need the same few things in our lives. Shelter, food, safety, love through either family or friends and feeling like we belong and we matter. Just because you don’t understand something or someone’s choices doesn’t mean they are wrong. And while you can think that they believe in something stupid, it doesn’t mean they are not worthy of the same basics as you. Killing other people for a cause has never really worked. People may convert or pretend they do, but if that’s not genuine does that count for your God?

We need to stop this nonsense of being scared of everything that is different. If we can get along interspecies, why can’t we get along within out own species?

Mosque in East London
Mosque in East London

I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand people who hate on other people because they are different. But I’ll keep trying because maybe one day I’ll find the clue or the way to explain things that will make sense to them. A lot of people in the West believe in God because they were told and taught to. And people in the Middle-East believe in Allah for the exact same reason. If you are going to believe in a religion, at least do the work. Get to know your religion. Truly, in and out. The pretty and the ugly. Compare it with others. Inform yourself.

Don’t go only looking for confirmation bias. You know what I’m talking about. Confirmation bias is to go look for information that will corroborate what you believe in. If you are interested in someone, you will notice the ”signs” that they might be interested too all while ignoring the ”signs” pointing to being just friends. This applies to everything. It takes a lot more work and humility to consider you might be wrong.

Maybe you don’t know everything.

Being right, or believing you are, doesn’t give you the right to force that onto someone else.

Question everything.

Be honest with yourself and admit your flaws.

Nothing is perfect and no one has all the answers but if we work together maybe we’ll find some answers.

Be human.

Choose Love.

The impressive number of things we get to choose everyday

Delicious raw vegan cake from the Raw Vegan Café in Chisinau, Moldova
Delicious raw vegan cake from the Raw Vegan Café in Chisinau, Moldova

We get opportunities to make decisions all day. Every day.

We choose who we talk to.

We choose to hold the door for the person following us.

We choose what we eat. Chips, chocolate, veggies, meat, etc.

We choose to buy from a business with similar values.

We choose to get upset over what someone who disagreed with us might have said.

Every single moment of your life, you make a decision.

Will you take tea or coffee?

Will you text that cute guy?

Will you have a drink or keep it alcohol-free tonight?

There are tons of opportunities to make your life what you want it to be.

You get to decide on what you eat, what you buy, what you do, how you react, what you say. The list of things you decide on every day is endless.

I’m not saying you should always decide on what’s best for you. Every so often my decision between eating healthy or having a burger and fries will be really easy to do. And I won’t feel bad for it. I’ll appreciate every single bite. And I’ll make a different decision at the next meal.

One of the only times my decision is already made for me is when I find some vegan ice cream (Booja Booja’s Hunky Punky chocolate is the best!) Or vegan cheesecake. That’s always a yes. I don’t think much about it. The instant happiness I get from it is what I choose!

Not actively choosing

Not making a decision, is actually deciding. If you are in a relationship and decide not to tell your partner something, this is still a decision.

Not all decisions are action based. Not doing something, not replying to someone. That’s also a decision.

It’s easy to forget how much we can actually change our lives and align them with our goals or priorities. Without much work. Simply being aware. Being there in the moment and realising that we are the only people responsible for our lives and what we decide to do with it.

All decisions are not all food related, obviously.

How you decide to react to someone being rude is a decision.

What you tell your colleague and how you say it is a decision.

Every lie or half-truth is a decision.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t lie, or be rude. But make sure you do it consciously.

Every day and every moment of your life you choose to be who you are and what you do.

Choose wisely.