Tag Archives: life

Iguaçu Falls // Brazilian & Argentinian sides

I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls in my time but I must admit that the Iguaçu Falls is one of the most impressive. To fully appreciate the falls you have to see them from both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. You can also opt for a slightly expensive (but worth it) helicopter flight over the falls to see them from the sky. Of course I had to see them from both land and air and I won’t lie, I was like an excited kid at Christmas time when we went up in the air.

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On the Brazilian side you can take the Trilha das Cataratas which is a beautiful trail through rainforest with amazing views of the falls.  The path leads you to the Devil’s Throat of the falls where you can walk along a metal boardwalk to see the waterfalls up close.  Unfortunately for us it started to rain halfway through our walk and we got absolutely drenched!  Of course once we had finished sightseeing the rain cleared up and the sun came out – typical.  Still a spectacular site despite the rain though.

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On the Argentinian side there are multiple walks you can take through the park that will get you up close to the falls.  On this side you can opt to take a boat trip that will take you really up close and personal to the falls aswell!  Of course this was an option that stood out to me but prepared to get absolutely drenched!

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Rio de Janeiro // A city to fall in love with

My first stop on my 6 month adventure was Rio de Janeiro and I was nervous. This was my first big solo trip and I had no idea what to expect or what I had gotten myself into.

I got in late to Rio and somehow navigated myself to my hotel via taxi. I looked a hot mess and was wearing long pants and jacket with hiking boots in 40° heat.  Of course I got some funny looks from the staff at my hotel and I’m pretty sure I even saw some hide back laughter. However, after travelling for over 24hrs you kind of don’t care anymore.

The next day I looked a tad better and had a walking tour with a local guide. We started with catching a local bus to the top of Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa is set on a hill and has beautiful views overlooking Rio. We got off at the top and wondered the cobblestone streets down. I love Santa Teresa as it has beautiful old mansions and colourful walls with graffiti art. It’s home to many artists and bohemians and has some awesome restaurants and bars to check out too (definitely my kind of place anyway).

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As we made our way down we learnt about the history of the tram that was used to get up Santa Teresa, however there was a deadly derailment back in 2011 where a few people died. The driver was deemed a hero as he stayed on the tram to try and stop it but died trying.  The community has been in support of getting the tram back which seems to be a slow process. If you wonder around you will most likely see stickers of the tram on cars or buildings in support.

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We kept heading down until we got to the top of the Escadaria Selarón. If you get a chance you have to see this famous staircase as it is quite beautiful. The Chilean artist Selarón started tiling this staircase (over 200 steps) and people from around the world would send him tiles from their countries to use so make sure you try and spot some from your own country!

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Afterwards we made our way to Santa Marta favela. Favelas are like shanty towns or slums and are not for everyone to visit. The government has been working with favelas to try and clean them up and make them safer. The Santa Marta favela is now drug free and they have been buying paint for the community to paint the outside of their homes to make them more appealing. It was definitely interesting though and they have some amazing views from the top. Just make sure you go with a guide where the funds go back into the community.  This favela was also part of the setting for the film clip “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson and you will find a statue dedicated to him here as well.

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During our walking tour I had hit it off with another solo female traveller and after the tour we ended the day at Copocanaba beach, drinking Caprihanas and eating some local food. As we sat there talking, drinking and watching the sunset all my worries about Rio disappeared and I think that’s when my love affair with the city started.

The next day I had a lazy start to the morning and eventually dragged myself out of the hotel and into 41° heat to make my way down to the Uruguaiana markets to find some cheap carnaval costumes!  These markets are crazy and I’m not sure if it was because of Carnaval or if they were usually like this.  There are stalls galore and it’s like a little maze. These markets were packed with people, music playing in every direction and you could smell different types of food cooking everywhere. These markets are also very local, I only saw a handful of tourists here and everything was so cheap so check them out! Eventually I found some cheap tattoos, fairy wings and some false eye lashes to wear for the week.

Rio Carnaval is essentially made up of various different bloco’s (street parties) and then of course you have the Sambadrome where the various different samba schools perform and show off their costumes and elaborate floats.  Bloco’s are where the most fun is at though and they are free. Just search for the schedule to see which ones appeal to you the most and then rock up. They are held at different locations and times and each has a certain theme. During Carnaval though you will see a lot of people in costumes for a few days so make sure you dress up and join in the festivities!!

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As you can imagine I went to a lot of different bloco’s and even just walked out of a restaurant once and found myself in one that just started.  Make sure you are sensible though and don’t take any big bags.  There are a lot of pickpocketers and I only took a small bag that I kept at my front but when I could I just tucked money in my bra and didn’t take anything else. I never felt unsafe at any of the bloco’s I went to apart from when I was in Lapa where there were a few dodgy alleyways and seedy looking places. Plus I had read pickpocketers were like magicians in Lapa!

Ladies (and gents) I feel like this would not be a true post if I didn’t mention the fact that the men here during Carnaval are hawt! Expect to see lots of shirtless men with muscles (possibly in tutus or dresses but still)! They are a tad too friendly and will often stop you for a cheeky kiss or just to chat but don’t take offence as they are respectful if you say no.

Of course my trip to Rio wouldn’t be complete without a tourist trip up to Sugar Loaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue.

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Overall though my time in Rio was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to go back!!! Sadly it’s time to move on for the next part of my adventure.

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Even Wonder Woman has her bad days

I’m flying high above the ocean and watching rainbows flicker through the clouds in the afternoon sun while my mind takes a lazy stroll through my hazy memories of the past few months.
 I have been planning my big 6 month solo adventure through South and Central America for a while and now it is finally happening. My bum is on a plane seat and yet it still doesn’t feel like this is happening. I have spent the last few months on an emotional roller coaster ride stressing about this trip and worried about absolutely everything.  I won’t lie, there are things I would have done differently and things I probably shouldn’t have wasted my money on. I could have saved more and I’m sure I could have packed lighter! I’ve also had people that made me doubt what I’m doing and made me loose confidence in myself. I’m still not even sure if what I’m doing is right. But then along with the criticism I will have a small number of people say how much they admire me and how courageous I am on embarking on such a trip and in those moments of kind words I feel reassured that what I am doing is pretty awesome as silly as that might seem.
As the hours got closer things became harder, instead of months left it’s weeks left and then days and hours (and typical me, I had left everything to the last minute). Leading up to leaving, I have experienced insane lows but also some good highs. I know this will be worth all the blood, sweet and meltdowns once my feet touch foreign land but in the meantime I just have to keep convincing myself that everything is going to be okay.
My mind then wanders to what I could have done without and small things I missed and then occasionally my mind treats me with a flash of what’s in stall for me after this god awful long flight.
Soon all the what if’s won’t matter anyway because my mind will be too occupied with the adventure I will be on and all the stress will be a distant memory.
I will hit the ground running and there will be no turning back.
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Are you following your dreams?

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It’s quite easy for people to tell you to follow your dreams, go chase that rainbow and be happy; however sometimes life isn’t that easy…

Sometimes we aren’t sure what those dreams are, sometimes your dreams get pushed to the side as more important things come up and sometimes we just give up on them altogether.

For me, I had no idea what my dreams were. I was working a normal job to get by with no real passion or direction and I realized it was time to work out what I wanted to do in life. I started off by thinking about what career I could pursue, what study I could do to help me climb the corporate ladder etc and then it hit me. Here I am thinking about ways to make money and become successful but that was not something that I was passionate about. So, I started thinking outside the box and started to bring unrealistic choices into the equation. That’s when I realized that the only thing that I was truly passionate about was travel.

At first I laughed at myself and dismissed the thought, however I had unintentionally planted a seed and over the next couple of weeks I started to think more seriously about this passion of mine. I mean yes, I live and breathe travel, it’s the only thing that brings a sparkle to my eye and something that I could talk about for hours on end but it’s just an interest, a hobby…or was it?

The more I started reading travel blogs and talking to like minded people the more passionate I became and the more I realized that travelling is my one passion in life and my dream. I feel like now I have purpose and I no longer work just to get by but I work towards my dream of travelling and every little thing that I do is another stepping stone towards making my dreams come true. For the time being, I’m happy working to save up for my next adventure until one day I can fully pursue my dream.

Of course, not everyone’s dream is going to be travelling as well, we all have our own dreams that we should pursue and let’s face it following our dreams is hard work. We need to be determined, passionate, work our way around obstacles and of course never give up.

Some people will think you are crazy and your dreams are unrealistic but don’t let them discourage you. Cherish your dreams, watch them grow and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone as following your dreams takes a lot of courage and I take my hat off to anyone who does. Sometimes you need to start doing things in life that makes you happy because in the end we won’t remember all those times we worked a job we didn’t like, we will remember all the things we wished we had of done. So, follow your passions, follow your dreams and make them into a reality.

Now the question is: are you following your dreams?

Myanmar: A country to amaze

I’m not going to lie, I wanted to visit this ancient country before tourism got the better of it. I did get a lot of mixed reactions when I told people I was travelling here and I was usually greeted with a polite smile followed by ‘Where is Myanmar?’ or ‘I have never heard of it before’.
Something about visiting a place that not many people have been to excites me… but it also scares me a little too. There isn’t a lot of information to go by, you can’t get travel tips off friends or family and you rely a lot on what other people post on the internet and I will admit there are a lot of mixed reviews and tips out there. But then again what would life be like without a little mystery right?

I really had no idea what to expect from this country, I had been to Asia before but this was quite different. I started to freak myself out by reading smart traveller and stories about Myanmar. The fact that there had been bombings in the two touristy cities and old land mines everywhere started to get me worried leading up to my departure date. However on the day I was due to leave, all worries left me and I was as calm as anything… must be a good sign right?

After a fair few flight delays, lack of sleep, and my body clock totally out of whack (despite it only being a small time difference) we finally arrived at our starting city of Yangon. Immediately I had a good feeling about this place. Straight away the people seemed quite friendly and the city itself didn’t seem as chaotic as I thought it would. The traffic is quite civilised and the city seems quite clean(even the more slum areas), then as you are driving from the airport you are all of a sudden hit with beautiful glimmers of gold from buildings and pagodas as if teasing you with a taste of what was yet to come. Yep, at that moment I was glad I had decided to come here.

Stay posted for blogs to follow to give you some inspiration, hints and tips for travelling through Myanmar and of course photos!

Great flying pigs – we’re in Amsterdam!

After we gained 5kgs from the pastries in France we rolled ourselves onto the train for our next destination – Amsterdam!  As soon as we got off the train to try and find our way to our hostel we had someone come up and ask if we needed help with anything – which for us was kind of a shock because let’s be honest, no one really wants to help a lost backpacker.  They actually have information people at the train station to help with any questions or if you need directions etc and I actually think it is a great idea!  They probably have this set up in other cities but it was the first time we had encountered it and we liked it!  We also had someone give us a free drink sample and just from these two things we knew we liked Amsterdam, we probably could have just lived in the train station.  We did eventually drag ourselves away from the train station and technically for our first night in Amsterdam we had no accommodation but we were meeting up with our Moroccan stalkers who had very kindly said that we could stay in their room which was conveniently at the exact same hostel where we had the next 3 nights booked.

Our first day/night in Amsterdam was interesting to say the least.  We got in around lunchtime so we met up with our friends and went to find some food.  Now, for us it was so strange to be in a place where you could openly smoke the green stuff in the streets and buy it so freely.  We were having lunch and there are just people around us smoking and because we come from a country that is so strict on stuff like that your first thought is, what are they doing – they are going to get arrested which of course you don’t.  Still perplexed by the amount of freedom here we wandered around the streets of Amsterdam and found ourselves in the famous Red Light district.  It doesn’t look so bad during the day; however we did come across someone walking the street in a pink gimp outfit… So, anyway we found a nice little bar where we of course immersed ourselves in some local beer and where I tried a rosé beer.  Yes, you read correctly a rosé beer – it was pink and sweet and I’m not sure if you could still class it as a beer but it was pretty damn tasty!  After our exciting afternoon out we got back to the hostel for a quick nanna nap before the real fun started!

We started our night with a really good meal and then wondered down to the Red Light district to check it out at night and it almost feels like you have stepped into another world.  People tell you about this stuff but until you actually experience it and see it for yourself, do you realise that it’s exactly how people described it.  You will see a lot of girls in windows selling themselves and you will also see a lot of men walking in or out and it kind of feels like you have stepped into a large brothel and shouldn’t really be witnessing it but you are.  Just a quick note though, DO NOT take photos of the girls.  They will chase you and in some cases we have heard of them smashing people’s cameras.  A lot of these girls are doing this to pay for university or just to get by and they don’t want their family/friends to know about it so their privacy is quite protected here.

Anyway, after a somewhat interesting night we said our final final farewells to our Moroccan stalkers and had a very quiet day with a bit of sightseeing.  Now, there are a few things to see in Amsterdam but we were quite lazy and didn’t really actively go out sightseeing but if you just wonder around you can find so much to do and see anyway.  Another thing to note is that there are a lot of shops and food places and I mean A LOT!  One thing is for sure, you will not starve in Amsterdam…. Unless you have no money of course, but I’m sure the bins would be filled with half eaten food anyway…  Oh and another cool thing that you will see are Febo shops.  Pretty much its food like hamburgers, spring rolls etc in a vending machine type set up and you just put your money in and grab your food, quick, easy and you don’t have to talk to people!

Now, I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret – Amsterdam is expensive!  You can find cheap drinks and food if you look long enough but generally it’s probably average or more plus transport and accommodation are expensive.  On top of that, if you need to pee most restaurants and clubs will actually charge you to go to the toilet, even though you have just spent money on food and drinks – makes sense right?

On another note, we decided to do a bike tour of the countryside.  This was such a good idea and if you are ever in Amsterdam, I highly recommend doing this especially with a company called Mike’s Bike Tours.  We did it through them and the guys are insanely funny, good tour guides and they generally just make it fun!  To top it off they cycled in clogs, yep that’s right, clogs!  Firstly I’d just like to say, cycling in Amsterdam is chaos.  Cyclists get first priority, over cars, trams, buses and even people and instead of big car parks, there are bike parks, it’s really cool but as a pedestrian you’re not sure which mode of transport you will be crushed by.  So after we made it out of the city alive (just) we made our way to our first main stop which was one of the last few remaining authentic windmills and then we made our way to a Dutch farm.  This farm produces authentic Dutch cheese and traditional clogs!  We of course got a demonstration on how they make cheese and clogs and we even got a few tasters of Dutch cheese…. O.M.G – Dutch cheese is YUM!  If someone said to me I had a day where all I ate were either Dutch cheese or French pastries, Dutch cheese would win hands and feet down!  I honestly wish we bought more, I am salivating like Homer just thinking about it now. Hmmm… cheese…..  SO anyway back to writing… cheese… Okay after our pit stop here we made our way a bit further out in the country and then made our way through the Amsterdamse Bos, Beatrix and Vondel parks.  After 4 hours of cycling we eventually made our way back to our starting point, where we were a bit sad because we honestly could have gone for another 4hrs!

After our fun adventure we went back to check out Vondel park which is appropriately pronounced “fondle”.  This park is actually really nice to check out and it is massive!  We sat and people watched for a bit and saw some crazies come out of the woodworks but everyone seemed to be having picnics, exercising, or just relaxing and basking in the sun.

And on that note I’ll wrap it up!  So, our time in Amsterdam was brief but it is honestly such an amazing place to visit!  I got such a good vibe from the city itself and the people are so friendly and happy and the city just has its own personality it’s really quite cool. The Netherlands is definitely a place I’d love to come back to and not just to Amsterdam but to check out the rest of the country!

Look out for our Berlin blog where we ate Thai food instead of tasting traditional German food – oops.

What if the hokey-pokey is really what it’s all about? – Unknown

So, it’s come down to 20 days left until we leave and I think my excitement levels have lost momentum as I’m just at a point of are we there yet!?  All the major things have been sorted and organised and now it’s just down to how many grundies (aka granny undies) do we pack.

The last few months have been a roller coaster ride of excitement, stress, freaking out and god knows how many other emotions but we have persevered through it all and now here we are – 20 days out and I’m calm.  Through all of this there has been one thing that just keeps running through my head.  While making a lot of people extremely jealous, I have come across a fair few people that have said ‘I wish I had of done that when I was younger’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to do that’ and my response is always well why don’t you do it now?  Life always seems to get in the way of people actually living their lives and the way I see it, now is the time to get out of your comfort zone and explore the world and do the things you really want to do!  Your life will be there waiting for you when you come back.  I will be putting my personal life, my job and my finances on hold for 4 months and when I come back, I will probably be working 5 jobs to pay off my trip – but it will be totally and utterly worth it.

So, to all of you that keep putting off the things you really want to do, don’t.

-Michelle