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WALL EXCHANGE LIST BLOGGERS MANIFESTO
Andy Andersen From: Backpacking Diplomacy, UNITED STATES To: MindfulTravelbySara, SPAIN
Jury's Motivation:

“Changing the world one backpacker at a time”: this mission stated on Andy’s blog heading explains the ultimate aim of travelling better than many words. Changing through travel (especially travelling in a certain way that is the way chosen by backpackers) is slow, is not frenzy, it takes time. But it can really be very rewarding and effective. The image of the slow ride of camels on the background of the writing brilliantly conveys the impression of this slow but continuous and steady development. Same as diplomacy that is not a sudden and violent event, but can bring priceless results. Little slow things can make great changes , and bloggers can contribute a lot to.

Sara Rodriguez From: MindfulTravelbySara, SPAIN To: Backpacking Diplomacy, UNITED STATES
Jury's Motivation:

With a very clean, engaging homepage, balancing the perfect amount of photos and writing, Sara is a blogger with a purpose - mindful travel. She has created a portal for travellers to interact and learn from her experiences, offering a very personal perspective yet making it relevant to the masses. Her appreciation for the people she meets along the way is evident, which is what hostelling is all about. Her blog is well-organized and offers a wide variety of topics and posts whilst also being easy to navigate. Her written content and photographs are of very high quality, which really adds to the polished, visual feel to her blog. She shows originality by proposing every Friday a "Friday's Pick", a post dedicated to that specific day of the week. Her motivation is clear – to travel, discover new people and cultures and communicate it to her audience in her best possible way.

Audur Osp and the travelling elf From: I heart Reykjavík - a one person guide to Reykjavík, ICELAND To: The Sweeping Swallow, ISRAEL
Jury's Motivation:

This blog offers a warm welcome to those wishing to find out more about Iceland, its landscapes and cultures. The layout is dynamic, with the perfect balance of managing to engage the audience without looking cluttered. As she says, those who travel to Iceland will find a fascinating place with unique scenery. At the same time, by being part of the Big Blog Exchange, she would make her dreams true of leaving the island and discovering new places and cultures. A native of Iceland and advocate for the country, this blog provides an honest and realistic account of what to expect when visiting; what’s worth it and what isn’t. Audur has a sincere enthusiasm to share her country, and you’ll find her blog easy to navigate, informative, and piquing your interest in visiting Iceland. The Big Blog Exchange would allow her to open her world and lead her followers to another exciting destination.

Ali Karp From: The Sweeping Swallow, ISRAEL To: I heart Reykjavík - a one person guide to Reykjavík, ICELAND
Jury's Motivation:

From the moment the wallpaper of this blog loaded showing a well-worn leather chair, I felt I wanted to settle in and make myself comfortable following Ali’s adventures. I was drawn into her tales of travelling around remote villages of South Africa and recognised in these the power and importance of travel to not just provide new experiences but also to change perceptions as much as change of surroundings, expose yourself to different cultures and undertake a journey of personal growth. Ali manages to avoid the inherent narcissism of personal blogs by tackling bigger picture concepts, e.g. such as questioning the lasting meaning of sustainable tourism in day to day life. The recommended music choices for each post were novel and I had not encountered them used in that way before – I loved it! I liked her real traveller photographs and obvious immersion into the experiences she has had. I am sure she will be an excellent participant in The Big Blog Exchange.

Kisty Mea From: The Style Mermaid, SINGAPORE To: Challenge Sophie, UNITED KINGDOM
Jury's Motivation:

We all know that laughing and smiling is a universal way to understand other cultures, and Kisty’s blog certainly made us all smile. The graphics she uses, and the way she decides to put together her posts are really inspiring, creative and full of personality – which is exactly what we are looking for in a BBE blogger. We love her simple, yet engaging layout and we think her well written posts are full of inspirational tips, interesting information and lots of personal, witty anecdotes. We look forward to welcoming Kisty on board as one of our bloggers, and we can’t wait to see how she presents her exchange.

Sophie Roberts From: Challenge Sophie, UNITED KINGDOM To: The Style Mermaid, SINGAPORE
Jury's Motivation:

Sophie’s blog is all about taking on new challenges, which is exactly what the Big Blog Exchange will be. We love her enthusiasm, passion and creativity in each of her posts, and she has really perfected the balance between images and written content. We can’t wait to see how Sophie tackles her newest challenge – The Big Blog Exchange!

Rosario Lamastra From: Blueheaven, ARGENTINA To: Kapcha The World, NEW ZEALAND
Jury's Motivation:

Seeing the world through art and capturing that through the lens of a camera is a gift to share’ is something that Rosario has implied in her motivation and has shown through her blog. Her stories are written well, with pictures to capture the imagination of the reader. Her blog is simple in format, but colourful and entertaining in design, and we have loved reading about her experiences. We really enjoyed Rosario’s video, which was well edited – and well thought out, giving us a real indication and a real feel for her hometown. We look forward to seeing how her creative flair is brought out in the BBE project.

Katherine Kearsley From: Kapcha The World, NEW ZEALAND To: Blueheaven, ARGENTINA
Jury's Motivation:

Katherine mixes all her interests to create a blog that is inspiring, engaging and easy to read. We love how she writes and photographs her experiences, quite literally ‘kap-cha-ring’ (capturing) them as though you were sharing the experience along with her. We loved reading about her afternoon tea visits (where our mouths watered over the delicious looking cakes), as well as her posts about her travels and we think she is going to make an excellent Big Blog Exchange traveler.

Rafael, Luíza e Natália From: 360meridianos, BRAZIL To: The Green Geekette, FRANCE
Jury's Motivation:

Reading 360meridianos blog, you can really grasp the fact that travel is a real passion for the contributors! Their travel reviews, tips and posts are easy to follow, well written and are accompanied by high quality photographs. Above all each post has a personal touch when writing about experiences in different parts of the world, which allows us to engage with the writer’s personalities. Their motivation is aligned with what the Big Blog Exchange is all about - to learn about cultures and to share your experiences, whilst educating the world.

Claire From: The Green Geekette, FRANCE To: 360meridianos, BRAZIL
Jury's Motivation:

Claire is nothing if not candid and makes sure that each post is fun, engaging and insightful, providing a unique perspective and serving her readers’ best interests. Her wealth of content explores everything from travel to Facebook to the working world, and her thirst to be part of something larger than herself would serve the Big Blog Exchange well. The sentence she uses, "I pretend to be the change, rather than waiting for it to happen", really summarises why she should be chosen – as she uses her blog as a chance to change attitudes. The Green Geekette is easy to read, nicely designed, well-structured and welcoming, and so we can’t wait to have her on board as one of our winners.

Camie Juan From: Wild - Spirit, PHILIPPINES To: Lunch For One, GERMANY
Jury's Motivation:

Of course, we would love to have a ‘wild spirit’ in the 2013 Big Blog Exchange, especially one who is so open to travel and who expresses her experiences on her blog so passionately and with such enthusiasm. The passion, creativity and flair Wild Spirit has shown during the competition stage has impressed us a lot, especially with her specially designed graphics and beautifully written articles. With her ambition of becoming a ‘citizen of the world’ using the power of blogs, we would love for Wild Spirit to start to fulfil this through the Big Blog Exchange project.

Tina From: Lunch For One, GERMANY To: Wild - Spirit, PHILIPPINES
Jury's Motivation:

We were not only enticed by the delicious looking recipes on Tina’s blog, but also her witty, well written content and her stunning photography. We love how she mixes food and travel, something that will hopefully be very insightful in her Big Blog Exchange journey – and how she mixes her interests together. She has a very simple but creative concept to her blog, and we love how her personality and flair shines through. We think she would make an excellent wildcard, and we can wait to see what cuisines she will be tasting, trying and (maybe) cooking on her travels.

Liesbet Maroye From: Liesbet à Paris, BELGIUM To: Swedishgarden, SOUTH AFRICA
Jury's Motivation:

Her motivation and enthusiasm in becoming one of the 16 immediately embraces you when you visit her blog. Her motto: "Nothing is impossible" is particularly inspiring, especially within the content of the Big Blog Exchange. The high quality writing style and vast amount of attractive and descriptive photos makes for easy, engaging reading – in addition to her blog’s easy, simple yet effective structure. The personal passion for travelling and hostelling is very apparent, and although understated, Liesbet’s blog is very professional looking, with an inside look into her culture. We love how she made a countdown on her blog in aid of the winner’s announcement date and similarly, we thought the recent ‘Big Blog Exchange syndrome’ post on her site was very clever and equally, very creative.

Didintle Ntsie From: Swedishgarden, SOUTH AFRICA To: Liesbet à Paris, BELGIUM
Jury's Motivation:

Like the Swedish garden that Didi has named her blog after, this blog is about growth and the hope that something will blossom out of the cultivation and nurturing of the soul and spirit. Didi has undertaken some similar experiences in the past through her involvement with the Youth Initiative Program. Her blogging about that experience was comprehensive, insightful and enjoyable to read. And it is more than evident through her blog that Didi is someone who connects with people from different cultures. This gives me confidence she will make the most of being part of The Big Blog Exchange. Reading her personal motivation for entering this competition made me want to swap lives with her!

Jeremy Fowler From: Jeremy Fowler, CANADA To: cheeChingy.com, MALAYSIA
Jury's Motivation:

Jeremy’s poignant motivation has touched not only the jury, but also a vast number of bloggers around the globe, who continue to find his blog inspiring and motivational. Travelling and exchanging lifestyles and scenarios can really change not only your life but also the attitude of people around you. Jeremy’s struggle against cancer is a symbol for what everybody of us wants to change and overcome.

Chee Ching From: cheeChingy.com, MALAYSIA To: Jeremy Fowler, CANADA
Jury's Motivation:

Chee Chingy is a frequent poster with a very unique and creative flair in the content she creates. The result is a blog very personally expressed blog that undoubtedly sticks out in a sea of other photograph focused blogs. Well written content sprinkled with her creative illustrative interpretations of daily experiences and a touch of heartfelt humour, we have ourselves a winner, for sure. We are really looking forward to seeing how Chee decides to document her Big Blog Exchange experience through drawing and blogging.

New York City on Crutches

I’ve spent a lot of my adult years trying to be appreciative for what I have rather than what I do not. Admittedly, this isn’t always an easy task, especially in a world that constantly preaches more. Though life seems to throw things in your direction ever once in a while just to make sure ...

The post New York City on Crutches appeared first on Backpacking Diplomacy.

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Entrevista Viajera con GlobalGrassHopper

Es un honor poder entrevistar a una pareja inglesa de viajeros únicos, con los que llevo hablando casi un año y de los que solo tengo palabras positivas. 
Becky & Gray from GlobalGrassHoper 

Becky junto a su marido Gray, forman GlobalGrassHopper y han sido incluidos en por medios tan importantes como National Geographic, Lonely Planet y The HuffingtonPost. ¿Queréis saber un poco más sobre sus aventuras por el mundo y sus proyectos?

1. ¿Cuándo y por qué decidisteis dejarlo todo y viajar alrededor del mundo?

yo solía ser nómada cuando era más joven, viajar durante muchos meses seguidos pero ahora he cambiado mi mochila y los albergues por hoteles y maleta. ¡Ahora vivimos una vida seminómada! 

Vivimos cerca de Londres pero viajamos casi todos los meses. Es difícil contar porqué amo viajar sin que suene a lo típico, pero creo que algunas personas han nacido con la necesidad de experimenta diferentes lugares. Yo soñaba con viajar por el mundo cuando era pequeña, y nunca he mirado atrás.

Entrevista Viajera con GlobalGrassHopper

2. ¿Cuándo empezaste con el blog?

Acabábamos de casarnos, e hicimos un viaje único a través de Nevada y California y cuando volvimos, decidimos escribir sobra nuestra experiencia y colgar las fotos online. mi marido es fotógrafo y diseñador Web así que la combinación era perfecta. 

Le pedimos a varios de nuestros amigos viajeros que se unieran, para así poder cubrir más destinos, para después convertirnos en un recurso para viajeros independientes.

Entrevista con GlobalGrassHopper

3. ¿Qué es para ti lo mejor de viajar?

Cuando no viajamos, vivimos en una ciudad que es muy distante, por lo que una de las mejores cosas de viajar es conocer a gente nueva. La gente que conoces en los viajes puede hacerlos inolvidables.

4. ¿Qué es lo que siempre metéis en la maleta?

Desde que empezamos el blog, siempre llevamos el portátil, ahora nunca viajamos sin él.

5. ¿Qué tipo de viajeros sois?

Solíamos ser mochileros, pero ahora somos viajeros independientes con maleta. A medida que pasan los años, ¡preferimos una cama cómoda al final del día!

6.  ¿Cuál es vuestra experiencia más memorable?

Es una pregunta difícil, pero diría que Islandia en invierno. Para empezar, no estábamos nada seguros de ir en Diciembre, ya que muchas carreteras estarían cerradas por el tiempo, pero tan pronto como llegamos a Reykjavik, supe que habías tomado la mejor decisión. 

La ciudad estaba rodeada de montañas nevadas y en esos meses, el sol no llegaba muy alto durante el día, así que los paisajes helados eran únicos bañados con un tono rosado de fondo

Entrevista Viajera con GlobalGrassHopper Iceland

7. ¿Y la peor?

No sé si lo llamaría la peor experiencia, porque fue muy interesante pero daba miedo y fue a la vez de los viajes menos cómodos. Fue una noche en la Cárcel Karosta de Letonia. 

Antes era una cárcel de verdad, que ahora se ha convertido en una excursión macabra. Si eliges la opción de "Detrás de los barrotes", puedes experimentar de primera mano la vida en esta prisión tan estricta. Después de esta visita, me costó unas semanas recuperarme. 

8. ¿Hay algún destino al que no queráis ir?

Nos cuesta viajar a países donde ves un maltrato evidente hacia los animales, así que hay países a los que nunca volvería por esa razón; pero quitando esa razón, no tacharíamos ningún país de la lista. 

Muchas veces, los destinos de los que nadie habla son los mejores para viajar.

9.  Tres cosas que siempre tenéis en cuanta cuando planificáis un viaje.

Tengo que decir que nos guiamos mucho por lo fotogénico que es el lugar donde vamos (siempre tenemos en cuenta cómo puede quedar en el blog); cómo vamos a llegar hasta allí y si hay lugares no turísticos que ver. Nos encanta conocer lugares que son poco comunes, así que es un factor muy importante para nosotros.

10.  ¿Preferís relax o aventura?

No somos de la clase de personas que se pasa el día sentado en la playa pero tampoco somos aventureros extremos. Por eso quizá nos gusten tanto los viajes por carretera, porque nos dan independencia para explorar un país y ¡tenemos la combinación perfecta de relax y aventura!

Entrevista Viajera con GlobalGrassHopper Caribbean

11.  ¿Conocéis España?

Tengo especial cariño por Cataluña, en especial Gerona y Barcelona, que son ciudades con una arquitectura única.

Entrevista Viajera con GlobalGrassHopper Barcelona

12.  ¿Alguna cultura que haya cambiado vuestra manera de pensar?

Me encanta el modo de vida californiana – el ritmo de vida allí es muy diferente y no tienen miedo a ser personas sanas y cuidarse. Yo no como carne y allí no tuve ningún problema para encontrar todo tipo de restaurantes. 

13.  ¿Alguna vez habéis probado el couchsurfing?

Nunca, pero hemos probado a alojarnos en varios apartamentos con Airbnb – la experiencia fue muy positiva y  fue genial vivir como un local por un tiempo. Definitivamente repetiríamos.

14.  ¿Cuál es vuestro consejo para quien acaba de empezar un blog?  

¡No te rindas! Si trabajas duro durante los primeros 18 meses, entonces el llamado efecto "bola de nieve" llegará. Tener un blog consume muchísimo tiempo pero es muy divertido y nosotros no cambiaríamos nuestro trabajo por nada.

Entrevista Viajera con GlobalGrassHopper in Lapland

15.  ¿Cuál es vuestro próximo destino?

Nos vamos al ver el mercado de Navidad de Edimburgo dentro de muy poco y estamos planificando nuestro viaje a Cuba después de las fiestas. Una persona de nuestro equipo está a punto de volver de Gambia, así que dentro de poco, ¡tendremos post muy interesantes!


Autora: Sara Rodríguez
 
Si te ha gustado el post, ¡Compártelo! ¡Muchas gracias! 
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Ride and River Adventure in Bolivia

Upon arriving in Bolivia, I embarked on an incredible adventure through the Bolivian jungle with Gravity Assisted Mountain Bike Tours and Andean Epics. They promised to deliver an off the beaten track experience that would kick off my South American adventure with a bang. Instead of writing a day by day diary of what happened during our six days in... Read more →

The post Ride and River Adventure in Bolivia appeared first on Challenge Sophie.

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Liesbet Maroye

Liesbet à Paris, Belgium

Wake up somewhere new: Paris

Hostelling International started 2015 with a new campaign: “Wake up somewhere new” with a focus on some of their hostels in Northern Europe. They asked me to deliver some content about my years in Paris, and so I did. I also found the title of the project applicable on me, as I also woke up… FULL STORY

Dear Cape Town – I have a dilemma

Soundtrack Suggestion - Nakhane Toure “Just like heaven” I’ve been pretty silent of late regarding issues of current affairs. Well, it’s been more that I have been fairly silent on social media. Towards the end of last year I embarked … Continue reading FULL STORY

Rosario Lamastra

Blueheaven, Argentina

Londres: Entregarse por completo a una ciudad

Desde que soy chica fantaseaba con la idea de estudiar en la universidad más importante de arte,... FULL STORY

Katherine Kearsley

Kapcha The World, New Zealand

Savour the taste at Short Round in Thornbury

Short Round has become one of my favourite brunch places in Melbourne. This bustling cafe on High Street in Thornbury is a great place to head for a bite to eat any day of the week. The menu changes seasonally so there’s always something to delight the taste buds. The have speciality teas on the menu which change as well as seasonal drinks like hot toddies to warm you on a winter’s day. The presentation of the food is really a stand out for me. I’ve never been disappointed by the plate of food put in front of me, and yes I’m one of those people, I always have to grab a quick snap as the plate looks so gorgeou s. Whether it’s edible flowers, or the bright colours of the various foods, they are all Instagram-worthy dishes. The staff at Short Round are lovely and always seem to recognise me, even if it’s been a few months since I last visited. It makes me feel welcome and like one of the locals. Short Round does not take reservations, so on the weekend expect a bit of a wait for a table. I’ve never waited more than 15-20 minutes though (and that was […] FULL STORY

Rafael, Luíza e Natália

360meridianos, Brazil

Conteúdo para blogs de viagem: blogar é contar histórias

Gostar de viajar não basta. Blogar sobre viagens envolve fazer as malas e conhecer o mundo, claro, mas o que diferencia um blogueiro de um viajante comum é um intenso desejo de contar histórias. No caso do 360, essas histórias são contadas principalmente por meio de textos, mas a internet permite outros caminhos. Há aqueles […]

O post Conteúdo para blogs de viagem: blogar é contar histórias apareceu primeiro em 360meridianos.

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A la découverte des cabanes de l’Île d’Oléron.

Oléron pour moi, c'était un peu les vacances de mon enfance. La côte atlantique, où petite tourangelle, mes parents nous emmenaient...

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How to: Half-Braided Headband, the Perfect Hairstyle for a day out with Girlfriends

I’m one of those people who believe that you have to look your best, as much as possible, when heading out in public. Not only is it presenting yourself well but it helps in giving you that confidence too, which can affect how people deal or react towards you and vice-versa. Your crowning glory is usually the one thing that can pull a whole look together, if your hair looks good, the rest of you do too. A few months ago, I was invited by Preview All Things Hair and Sunsilk to learn how to create a half-braided headband and to film a video for you guys too.I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m a braids kind of girl and have done numerous looks with braids and so I absolutely enjoyed this look and even learning how to do it. I’ll admit, it takes practice but it’s doable! It’s the perfect look for those girly girl days out with your friends; it’s sleek, chic and definitely easy to do! For this hairstyle, we used Sunsilk Smooth & Manageable shampoo and conditioner. I found that smooth hair made this hairstlye manageable because it was easier to control the sections of hair for the […]

The post How to: Half-Braided Headband, the Perfect Hairstyle for a day out with Girlfriends appeared first on Wild Spirit by Camie Juan.

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Vanillebrötchen nach Familenrezept

Vanillebrötchen nach Familienrezept Ich musste erst bis ans Ende der Welt fliegen, um mir klar zu werden, dass „Jingle Bells“, Weihnachtsdekoration in Schaufenstern und Weihnachtssüssigkeiten für mich unwiderruflich mit der Winterzeit verbunden sind. Und wie oft hörte ich im Gespräch mit älteren Damen, dass sie mich beneiden das ich in den nächsten Tagen in den Flieger von Tasmanien in Richtung Europa steigen würde und ein „echtes“ Weihnachten feiern könnte. Weihnachten ist ohne Zweifel für mich nicht nur mit Winter sondern eben auch mit Tradition verbunden. Ob es über das traditionelle Weihnachtsessen nach dem Besuch des Weihnachtsgottesdienstes ist, oder von der Weihnachtsdeko bis zum Weihnachtsmarkt. Dabei darf natürlich eines nicht fehlen – die Plätzchen oder wie wir Schwaben sagen „Gutsle“. Jedes Jahr finden sich dabei die Klassiker auf dem Teller wieder – Lebkuchen, Spitzbuben und Vanillebrötchen. Besonders die Vanillebrötchen sind ein Klassiker, und ein echtes Familienrezept stammt es doch von meiner Uroma und wurde nur etwas abgewandelt. Den so leicht Vanillebrötchen aussehen, die Plätzchen haben es in sich. Jedes Jahr übernimmt meine Mama das backen der Klassiker und jedes Jahr beginnt das bangen – bekommen die Vanillebrötchen auch wirklich Füsschen? Quasi gleichen sie hier dem französischen Klassiker Macarons. Aber sie sind auf jeden Fall das warten wert – und wie sagt man so schön – es kommt auf die inneren Werte an, und Vanillebrötchen schmecken auch ohne Füsschen wunderbar.   Vanillebrötchen nach Familenrezept   Speichern Drucken Author: Tina Seidling Zutaten: 3 Eiweiß,Klasse L 3 Eigelb Klasse L 250 g Puderzucker 250 g Mehl, Typ 405 2 El. Vanillezucker od. etwas gem. Anis Zubereitung: Die Eier und den Puderzucker mit den Rührbesen der Küchenmaschine zu einer hellen Creme schlagen, mindestens 10 Min.rühren. Den Vanillezucker bzw. gemahlenen Anis und nach und nach das Mehl zugeben. Ein Backblech einfetten und bemehlen, mit zwei Teelöffel aus der Masse kleine Häufchen setzen. Diese sollen an der Oberfläche glatt fließen, dürfen aber nicht verlaufen. Über Nacht in einem kühlen Raum (nicht Kühlschrank) trocknen lassen. Am nächsten Tag den Backofen auf 160°C Ober-Unterhitze vorheizen. Nun jedes Blech nach einander für 12 Minuten backen. Dabei die letzten Minuten Blickkontakt halten so das sie nicht zu dunkel werden. Sie sind perfekt wenn die Vanillebrötchen ein Füsschen haben (nicht bei Anis) und nicht gebräunt sind. Je nach Backofen evtl. für 12-15 Minuten backen. Etwas auf dem Blech auskühlen lassen, und dann auf einem Backgitter vollständig abkühlen lassen. Vor dem backen des nächsten Blechs den Ofen erneut aufheizen, bis dieser 160°C erreicht, erst dann backen. 3.5.3218  

Dieser Beitrag Vanillebrötchen nach Familenrezept wurde zuerst auf Reiseblog Foodblog Lunch For One veröffentlicht.

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Jeremy Fowler

Jeremy Fowler, Canada

The New JeremyFowler.ca

To My Valued Readers,

Hello. It has been too long, I agree. 

All good things never stay the same. The move, they change, and they become something different. I recently entered a relationship with the beloved show 30 Rock. I knew when I started watching, I would only have seven seasons with the show- I knew Liz and Jack would straighten out their careers, friendship, and relationship and then I would have to let go. 

When I started the blog, I knew that it would be my 30 Rock. I was entering a long term relationship and I knew it would end. To be honest, I struggled with it- my life became cluttered and my commitment with the blog started to crumble. I took a couple of extended hiatuses and through those, I realized I needed a change. I wanted to write about topics of importance and create change, but what came out was rants on topics that interested me.
  
So, I have exciting news! I have taken the last couple months away from the blog to work on some special projects and structure my creative goals and I am pleased to announce that I have decided to reformat the blog! The address will be the same and you will still be able to enjoy past articles. What's different will be the content. I have always tagged the blog as a lifestyles blog; however, there was never a theme to the articles- there was no goal. So expect more! More photos, regular content, and a theme.


Details to come!
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Hanoi: 4 Different Types of Coffee You Must Try

Vietnam is synonimous with its coffee. I really really really really (Really x infinity) love Vietnamese coffee because of its distinctive aroma and strong taste. The first I did after I checked into my hostel was to hunt for coffee!


Vietnamese Coffee (Ca phe da)


The cream of the crop, authentic Vietnamese coffee, either black or add a little condensed milk to it. I usually drink black but I cannot resist the latter as it's really really delicious haha. Ca phe da is made from medium to coarse ground coffee and is dripped using the traditional coffee filter. Prices range from 20000VND to 30000VND depending on where you go. I find that it's cheaper in the many cafes around than buying off street stalls, not sure why. o_O

Coconut coffee


There's this chain of cafe called Cong Caphe is a military themed cafe, and the pricing is on the steeper side but you can to enjoy the WiFi and comfortable seats, why not right?


One of the most recommended one is coconut coffee. I love coconut and coffee. This was around 40000VND, still cheaper than the blended drinks here in Malaysia!


Bed of real coconut slushie on top of strong Vietnamese coffee? Sign me up!

Yoghurt coffee


In the bid to finish all my money before departing to the airport, I bought yogurt coffee from the same cafe. Who knew yoghurt can go so well with coffee! Vietnam, you are doing coffee right! It feels like drinking a smooth conconction of milkshake, and it tones down the strong bitter taste of the coffee which made this a very enjoyable drink.

Egg coffee


If you do not fancy coconut or yogurt in your coffee, why not try egg coffee! Famous place to have it in Hanoi is in Cafe Giang.


The egg made the coffee really frothy, but I don't really like it. It's too sweet for me, and I could not really decipher the taste. Maybe it's too adventurous for me. Haha.

Cannot wait to go back and drink more coffee and explore Vietnam again! Seriously it's one of my favourite country to go to haha.

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A casual drive through a cloud of volcanic ash

Thousands of migrant birds (some all the way from South Africa) dotted the skies above me as I drove my Nifty Swifty Suzuki further down the South East coast towards Vagnsstaðir. There is this surreal abundance of natural beauty in Iceland which almost made it impossible for me to keep my eyes on the road. [...] FULL STORY

Andy Andersen      From: Backpacking Diplomacy, UNITED STATES
Manifesto

SUMMARY

One of the major purposes of this Exchange was in teaching how cultural exchanges can change people’s lives. That is a principle that I strongly believe in. The great thing about traveling is that it is an opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, which is probably one of the greatest gifts that you can receive because you will never look at life the same again. Taking this approach to this Exchange actually enabled me to see and experience some things that I may not have been able to if I had planned out everything.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

In reflecting over the past few weeks, it is somewhat difficult for me to make a simple summation of all my experiences. In reality, so many things have happened in the last few months that nothing overly simple comes to mind. Recently though, since June 7th I have had a tremendous opportunity thanks to Red Española de Albergues Juveniles, or REAJ, the Spanish branch of Hostelling International. They pieced together a fantastic itinerary for me and I have been exposed to a multitude of things. I have had the opportunity to stay in hostels ranging from a castle in Toledo to others with community partnerships. I’ve been fortunate to meet wonderful people from Spain, and I have been shown the utmost hospitality from them. Not to mention that I have seen some incredibly beautiful places as well. Below you’ll find a recollection of my thoughts on the Big Blog Exchange.

When I found out that I was going to Spain, I decided that I would take a different approach to this trip. Instead of planning out some things or trying to fit everything into my time in each new city, I decided that I would just allow things to be. I would meet whoever crossed my path, and I would experience whatever I encountered along the way. Taking this approach to this Exchange actually enabled me to see and experience some things that I may not have been able to if I had planned out everything. For example, I wouldn’t have really gotten to engage with the people of Spain on such a personal level if I had been focused on seeing every monument, church, or ‘things to do’

Right now is an interesting time to be traveling in Spain. Due to the unfortunate downturn in the economic situation of Europe, several nations particularly Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, and others have been hit especially hard. It is difficult times for the people of Spain, most specifically the youth which are being hit the hardest. In spite of this though the Spanish people have attempted to adjust in whatever ways they can and support each other. There are some who go to the point of protests and others who have lost everything. I will say that unlike other places that I have been when the economy was bad, the Spanish people still know how to enjoy life.

That is one principle that I will take with me from this Exchange. 

There are two more main principles that I will forever remember this Exchange for, and they are two that coincide with one another directly. The first is as travellers, we are extremely fortunate to get to experience the world first-hand. We get to see incredible things, meet incredible people, and get to personally experience both the good and the bad that the world has to offer. This opportunity for me is one that I will never forget. I realize that as a percentage, the amount of people who have the opportunity to travel is quite low in comparison to the ones who cannot for either financial, economic, or even political reasons. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to see Spain up close and personal.

One of the major purposes of this Exchange was in teaching how cultural exchanges can change people’s lives. That is a principle that I strongly believe in. The great thing about traveling is that it is an opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, which is probably one of the greatest gifts that you can receive because you will never look at life the same again.

The journey does not end with just saying that we as travellers are fortunate; it goes further than that. By being granted the opportunity to travel and gain new experiences, lessons, and knowledge, we are obligated to share those things and carry them with us or all is done in vain. What is the purpose of knowledge if it sits on a shelf collecting dust that benefits no one in society. Travellers have a sincere duty to the experiences that they receive, and that is a principle that has been re-branded in my mind permanently.

It is nearly impossible to sum up an experience with images, but if I were asked I’d choose these three:

The reason that I chose this picture is to represent beauty. I could have chosen any number of Spanish buildings or palaces, but I chose this sunset because it can be more versatile. In Spain, I have witnessed beauty not only in the architecture and history, but also in the people and their treatment of others. Spanish people are warm and hospitable people.

This picture of tea might be somewhat odd in comparison to the others, but it is to represent time spent learning from others whether it is in talking to them or interacting with the people that you meet while traveling. I have learned a great deal from meeting and spending time with others.

I chose this picture to represent perspective. Perspective is something that you get while traveling and exploring the world. You realize that not everything works like it does at your home and no two people live the same way. People generally want the same thing from life, but there are a million ways to get there.

 

Sara Rodriguez     From: MindfulTravelbySara, SPAIN
Manifesto

SUMMARY

This contest was about changing the World through blogging. And I think it’s really appropriate. When you live to the fullest and enjoy every moment of the journey, since you plan the trip to your back home; you are continually learning and growing as a person. Traveling alone makes you more conscious about the environment around you and it enables you to experience everything in a different and more unique way. You can't depend on anyone and you have to do the hard work but you also have the opportunity to meet amazing people who, although they pass fleetingly through your life, always leave a smile, a story or an unforgettable time

 

 

Big Blog Exchange Manifesto: A journey comes true

When I was a little kid, I was told that if we wanted something badly enough, eventually it would be fulfilled. We all know when we grow up, that this is not always true. But what is certain is that when you approach something with a positive attitude and do something with all your desire, it can often occur. Not by magic, but with effort and enthusiasm.

 

When I knew I was one of the winners of the Big Blog Exchange international blogger contest, I could not believe it, but I was so happy, I knew that I would enjoy this opportunity as a dream come true.

 

And so I did ...

 

A suitcase, a passport, a camera, a computer and thousands of miles ahead. This is normal when I travel, but what I didn't know, is what I would be bringing with me on my trip back home.

 

During the exchange, I have overcome personal challenges that have made me more confident of myself, it may seem cliché, but although sometimes I have traveled alone and liked it, I took this experience as a moment of personal encounter, meeting other travelers and having unforgettable experiences. And everything went just as planned.

 

Traveling alone makes you more conscious about the environment around you and it enables you to experience everything in a different and more unique way. You can't depend on anyone and you have to do the hard work but you also have the opportunity to meet amazing people who, although they pass fleetingly through your life, always leave a smile, a story or an unforgettable time. You are able to know a little bit about their lives, how they think and how they view the world from a different point of view. You discover their customs, culture and language. That makes you think that a better world is possible and people can actually communicate and be together.

 

I always look for new places to meet and one of the towns that I was excited to visit was Boston. A three day stay I did enjoy the best of it. What I liked and made me feel full of positive energy was renting a bike and cycling the entire walk along the river, from Harvard University to the famous Boston Common. I discovered a strong, united and eager city that is looking forward. Really impressed with the sense of unity they have.

 

San Francisco and Los Angeles are cities that I already knew, so I looked for new experiences and neighborhoods where I haven't been before or haven't been able to visit yet.

 

Living Santa Monica as a local, walking on the beach, bike riding, testing the organic delicatessen in the area... I discovered that this town of Los Angeles is dog friendly and there are from parks to spas dedicated to our four-legged pets.

 

Driving a rental car in the U.S. alone presented no challenge in itself, but for someone who knows me, should be aware that my orientation is a little lacking. The bad luck was that I didn't have GPS and had to guide myself with a map. At first I panicked. Driving with a map? Me? Then I started to laugh. Sure you could do it! It may seem silly, but it was such a rewarding feeling that I could drive all the way and enter in San Francisco without getting lost even once... I did it!

 

And what about Hostelling International? Another of my pleasant surprises. I haven’t stayed in hostels since my Italian Interrail trip 10 years ago, and I didn’t know what to expect. The experience was so positive! The Hostel of Boston, one of the most new and ecological hostels of United States was a place worth discovering. Santa Monica’s was like a boutique hotel, modern, colorful and next to the beach, located in one of the best areas of Los Angeles.

 

People working at the hostels were so kind to me cared until the last detail to make me feel comfortable at all times. Not saying that at Pigeon Point I felt like a queen when I was told I had booked a hot tub to myself at dusk and I enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets, with the sea and the famous lighthouse views. Could I ask for more?

 

Nature has always been part of my life. I'm passionate about animals and the environment. I enjoy the outdoors and on this trip, I wanted to have some time in contact with nature. Whale watching in Boston and see the elephant seals approaching Año Nuevo State Park to molt was like I was inside a wildlife documentary. The cliffs of San Francisco Bay, the lighthouse at Pigeon Point and its shy and small North seals, Santa Monica Mountains...

 

I was asked to summarize the trip in a single photo. Personally I think that's impossible, but as I love sunsets, this image inspired me and I will remember that moment forever.

 

This contest was about changing the World through blogging. And I think it’s really appropriate. When you live to the fullest and enjoy every moment of the journey, since you plan the trip to your back home; you are continually learning and growing as a person.

 

On the way back, telling your experiences and write them down on the blog, whether good or bad moments, makes people who read what you've written, feel what you feel and live through your skin, every landscape, every story, every culture, every image...

 

Travel, feel, live...

Audur Osp and the travelling elf      From: I heart Reykjavík - a one person guide to Reykjavík, ICELAND
Manifesto

SUMMARY

If you would ask me whether the Big Blog Exchange fulfilled its purpose of changing the world through blogs and bloggers my answer would have to be yes. It definitely changed one person’s views towards more tolerance and understanding and that is surely a start. Now it’s my duty to pay it forward; live, explore and keep an open mind.It also taught me so much about myself and how easy it is to slip into a state where you start looking at the world as a big bad thing instead of the amazing wonder that it really is. It reminded me that you can enjoy the company of people you don’t agree with and how much you can learn from listening to their reasons and thoughts.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: Exploring the self through a new destination

How does one summarize a 10 day trip to a country like Israel? A country so full of contrasts, history, religion and opinions that just thinking about it gives me a headache?

When I told my friends and family where I was going and how it came about most of them congratulated me. Others told me to watch out for bulldozers and not to walk into the separation wall. When I told them I was happy to have been chosen but that I wasn‘t sure about the country some confessed that their excitement about the destination was not completely genuine either. So before I even had time to open a guide book or look up what to see and do in Israel I was already bombarded with opinions, generalizations and a lot of doubt. Some of it came from the environment but a lot of it came from me. I was faced with the question whether my opinions about Israel and the conflict with Palestine was a good enough reason not to visit and whether it was socially responsible to participate in something that would force me to write a potentially one-sided view of a complicated area.

It’s a worthwhile question to ask when you travel, no matter the destination, because sometimes the social impact of your decision to travel somewhere is greater than your desire to see the place. Should a LGBT equal rights believer spend their money in a country like Uganda and consequently support a government that makes it illegal to be the person you are born to be? Should an eco-conscious traveler visit Iceland that hunts whales and which government is willing to sacrifice unspoiled nature and wild life to make an extra buck? When does the issue become so big that there’s no way around it?

Then there were those who told me to look at it as a unique opportunity to get a firsthand experience of a place that in reality I knew very little about. Apart from news about the conflict and biblical references I could hardly have told you 5 things about Israel or its people without having to look it up. I wasn’t even sure which continent it belongs to due to the European roots and cooperation and proximity to North-Africa and the Middle East. I also thought about how it would affect me if someone decided not to visit Iceland based on aforementioned reasons. I’m not particularly for the whale hunting and I very much believe in protecting the environment so I hate to be affiliated with the things a government I didn’t vote for stands for.

With all that in mind I decided to give Israel a chance. I decided to leave the politics at home and approach this amazing opportunity with an open mind. An open mind doesn’t mean you throw away your beliefs and principles. It just means that you are willing to try to understand the place you are about to visit without being affected by your predefined views of it.

Israel surprised me. It surprised me in more ways than I can describe in a few words. It also taught me so much about myself and how easy it is to slip into a state where you start looking at the world as a big bad thing instead of the amazing wonder that it really is. It reminded me that you can enjoy the company of people you don’t agree with and how much you can learn from listening to their reasons and thoughts. It gave me a glimpse into a traditional society where, unlike where I come from, religion plays a significant role in the everyday lives of people and how that’s not always a bad thing. It also taught me that it can be a very bad thing. It made me understand what living under a constant threat, real or not, skews the norms and how things that are unimaginable in one country become everyday life in another. Most of all it reminded me how much and why I love to travel.

If you would ask me whether the Big Blog Exchange fulfilled its purpose of changing the world through blogs and bloggers my answer would have to be yes. It definitely changed one person’s views towards more tolerance and understanding and that is surely a start. Now it’s my duty to pay it forward and the first step is writing this manifesto. Live, explore and keep an open mind. The world will be better for it.

 

Ali Karp     From: The Sweeping Swallow, ISRAEL
Manifesto

SUMMARY

I didn’t change. I woke up. I feel like I woke up to the power of their love; of not being afraid to be open-minded. Iceland you are a tonic for tired eyes, you managed to get me thinking outside of my own native beliefs. We are all one. No less, and no more.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

So the time has come for me to gather my thoughts. My 10 day Icelandic adventure came to an abrupt halt sooner than I had anticipated. I tend to find this with most of the trips which I embark on – the feeling that I only truly begin to settle down around the time which I am meant to be packing up and heading back in whichever direction is home.

I feel as if my brain has seen so much contrast, and oftentimes it seeing so much SURREAL contrast, that it took me a while to understand where I was. What was I doing here? I had seen Iceland on the NatGeo Channel countless of times. I had always admired its serene beauty – but Iceland was on the complete opposite end of the world to my little home in Cape Town, South Africa. I did not expect to find myself on this bizarrely beautiful little island so soon.

One thing I noticed about Iceland in the summer is that the place is teaming with tourists. This specie of people are hugging their sleeping bags and clutching their cameras. You can tell who they are by their shoes, definitely. All hiking and no fashion (I do not exclude myself from this statement). Tourism has substantially helped boost this little economy which was left badly bruised after the worldwide recession hit in 2008.

For a people who face 6 months of tortured darkness followed by 6 months of unsettling brightness as a result of the midnight sun, Icelanders remain to this day the happiest, most charismatic people I have come across yet. I do not know whether it has something to do with the glacier water that they drink (seriously try the tap water there, it is phenomenal!) or the crispy-fresh air which they breathe – they have got to be doing something right.

What I really want to focus on in this post is reflecting on the human experience. Having grown up in Israel and furthermore immigrating to South Africa as a child, I have lived in two significant and highly politicised countries. Matters of contrasts, differences, and tolerance have been at the peak of every mountain we have had to overcome – therefore I would hope that it does not come as a shock to you, dear reader, when I begin to explain the culture shock which I had experienced on arrival and throughout my stay in Iceland.

When I say (or write/type) the words ‘culture shock’, I mean them in a very specific sense. Iceland is a country with the population number of a mere 320 000 people, 200 000 of which inhabit its capital, Reykjavik, a massive difference to South Africa’s estimated population of 50 million.

The socio-economic sphere of the island is in harmony. I definitely believe it has something to do with an amalgamation of factors. From what I grew to understand over the past 10 days was that the end of the Cold War brought the USA to the shores of Iceland, where they helped build and upgrade new and ageing infrastructure, introducing a new way of life to the Icelanders.

Value Added Tax is set at a whopping 40%. This undoubtedly makes Iceland a very expensive country to visit as a tourist from the tip of Africa, however at the same time it is able to ensure the maintenance of a productive and capable state system, able to cater for their small nation. Another interesting thing that I learnt was that Iceland does not entertain a military, posing no threat to anyone.

Everybody has electricity. Everybody has running water, even hot water from the geothermal activity happening in and around Reykjavik. There are no homeless people on the street corners, people throw their trash in the trash bins provided. A solid foundation has been formed where the quintessential tools needed are made available to survive, especially through the rugged harsh weather conditions. The locals smile at you when you pass them in the street, promoting what they love instead of bashing what they hate. They do not appear abrupt, or lacking in social graces; however I did find that they have a quirky sense of humour but are relatively approachable and are brilliant story-tellers.

People like to know stories about themselves and others through a different set of eyes. That is why we tell stories and ask so many questions. And here I sit, I stand, I wait, watching others feel and do things that I couldn’t feel or do for myself. But I sit behind my lenses, filling in journals, always following at a distance.

So in conclusion, I didn’t change. I woke up.

I feel like I woke up to the power of their love; of not being afraid to be open-minded. After all being open-minded does not mean that your brain is going to fall out. They teach their children well too, to embrace a stranger as one’s own. Iceland you are a tonic for tired eyes, you managed to get me thinking outside of my own native beliefs.

And I can still taste you on my lips and smell you on my clothes. And I will share you with all - because you are a beauty - a singular gemstone in a mine of dull rock.

I feel that when we travel we are much more tolerant and accepting with regards to that which goes on around us, predominantly due to the fact that we expect or almost ‘foresee’ the contrast before leaving our homes, we expect or ‘foresee’ the difference. We are only travelling for a certain amount of time so for the most part we don’t have the seconds to lend to taking any form of offence. Well I know that I don’t anyway. I live, attempting to embrace the freshness, the unfamiliar territories that my physical, mental and emotional being to cross.

I know that I would not have been able to experience most of the things that I experienced on this trip to Iceland without the generosity and dedication of the Hostelling International team. Jumping into the snow on the largest glacier in Europe; The feeling and sound of that white powder crunching under my feet; driving over the eerie crevasses in the icy floor; having my first snowball fight; visiting certain areas of the Island which are only accessible in the summer months and with the proper gear and equipment; snorkelling Silfra where the cleanest and clearest waters in the world lie in silvery pools of water; embarking on my first one-(wo)man-wolfpack-roadtrip driving on the other side of the road to which I am used to (almost causing me to chew off my own wrists), trying to prove that I am not young and terrified, but rather an intrepid adventuress.

Although I am sure that my descriptions of Iceland seem uncanny, I do wonder what Icelanders who visit my hometowns of either Cape Town (South Africa) or Haifa (Israel) think of my culture(s). I walked around Iceland all starry-eyed and open-mouthed, willingly allowing myself to be sucked in to this wonderful bubble that these people have created for themselves. But alas, life is different on my end of the world. The sun rises at different times; different animals dot our hillsides; and people of different backgrounds walk our streets.

Despite having said this, we are all one. No less, and no more.

Hostelling International, thank you for making my life not only easier, but richer too.

Until the next time,

Kisty Mea      From: The Style Mermaid, SINGAPORE
Manifesto

SUMMARY

This has got to be the most unbelievable and interesting contest on the Internet so far,I literally cried when I received an email indicating that I’m part of the 16 bloggers. I’ve learned that anything is possible with a little faith and trust. Peter Pan once said that all it takes to fly is have faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust. While I never had a chance to see a real life fairy (they exist!), my form of pixie dust came from the people — the Hostelling International — who made the Big Blog Exchange a reality.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

Visiting United Kingdom, particularly London, has always been a dream of mine. However, my passport does not entitle me to a “Book A Ticket and Just Leave” lifestyle. I’m required to apply for a tourist visa for most countries and that involves a lot of careful preparation. I’ve been planning my Eurotrip for the longest time and I even made a goal to hopefully visit Europe in 2013.

Who would’ve thought that my wishful thinking would indeed become a reality?

 

I stumbled upon the Big Blog Exchange (BBE) website out of pure luck, to be honest. I remember sitting in front of my laptop at one in the morning, browsing different blogs and one of them has the BBE Vote button. After voting for this blogger, I read the mechanics of the contest and it got me excited. This has got to be the most unbelievable and interesting contest on the Internet so far. Yes, there were online contests where you get a free trip but it is never something like this. Joining the BBE contest was easy, but maintaining a spot in the Top 25 wasn’t. I’ve experienced a lot of problems; one of them was getting reported every single day. The closer we come to the end of the competition date, the harder it was to stay optimistic about the whole thing. In the end, what happened was everything I hoped for: to be part of this incredible journey. I literally cried when I received an email indicating that I’m part of the 16 bloggers.

 

The live draw has got to be my favourite part before the trip. Everybody I know on Twitter was also checking the Big Blog Exchange website, and when it was announced that I’ll be going to England, we were all tweeting to each other like a maniac! Even it was virtually happening, you can feel the celebration and sincere joy of everybody who supported me.

 

The Youth Hostel Association (YHA) is Hostelling International’s National Association for England, and they were the ones in charge of my itinerary, accommodations and tours. They decided to send me to the following places: Stratford, Shropshire, Manchester, Lake District, City of York, Whitby/Robin Hood’s Bay, Oxford and London. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed that my time dedicated for London was too short but it was understandable because the point of the contest was to see the whole country, not just one city, and it was hard to fit it all in 10 days. My itinerary also didn’t include the typical popular tourist spots, such as Bath, Windsor Castle and Stonehenge, mostly because of the massive queue during the summer. I was lucky though, since I got to visit those places during my trip extension.

 

Since they covered my accommodations, I have a confession to make: I have never stayed at a hostel before. I’ve always been curious how they work but too scared to try them, especially in a foreign country, where I’ll be staying on my own. I just didn’t know what to expect! Will I be sharing rooms with a male? Are the showers like those in school gym? Will the rooms look old and unkempt? But thanks to this competition, I finally got an idea how a hostel works. The YHA hostels in England were not scary or dark or dingy as I thought or expected it would be. In fact, most of the hostels I’ve been to are refurbished and are full of bright and colourful furniture that give a youthful and fun vibe. Shared rooms are only allowed for those of the same gender, and some rooms even have their own bathrooms. They’re also full of CCTVs (not inside the rooms) and other security measures, which ensure their guests safe and comfort. All in all, my first hostel experience has been favourable and I would definitely consider it in my future adventures.

 

I’ve learned a lot of things during this trip; one of the things is to affirm that United Kingdom is not just about London. When you think of United Kingdom, London is the first thing that comes to mind. UK is composed of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. England alone is huge and each town or city in it varies from one another. Each of them has their own history and theme. Manchester contributed a lot to the Industrial Revolution and this was evident in the design of their buildings, while York is considered England’s most haunted city. They even have several ghost-walk tours. More than anything else, I really liked the countryside most. I have never seen a series of mountains and valleys in Singapore, at least none that would make me feel I’m part of Lord of the Rings or any action-packed medieval adventure.

 

When you travel, you learn new things that you’d wish your home country were also doing. This can be anything: from public transportation to their way of life. For me, I wish Singaporeans adapted the British English instead of creating the “Singlish”, and that they do not have a workaholic nature. English people are also very polite and thoughtful. They would say “thank you” when you open doors for them, greet you good day or cheers, and they would really get your attention when you dropped something. This is something I wish EVERYONE, not just Singapore, would adopt because the world would be a much better place if we have our manners and etiquette.

 

Last but not least; I’ve learned that anything is possible with a little faith and trust. I’ve always felt intimidated with the woes of applying for a tourist visa and the amount of money I need to conjure to make it happen, but this adventure gave me a new shed of hope to travel the world. You don’t have to be too filthy rich to travel; you just have to be well researched and prepared.

 

The past few weeks have been INCREDIBLE and AMAZING! I don’t think I can ever coherently summarize the 10 days but it is a moment that I will forever cherish. I’m very lucky to be one of the first few people to go on this adventure but above all I am grateful to be able to travel and share this experience through the medium that I love the most that is blogging.

 

Peter Pan once said that all it takes to fly is have faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust. While I never had a chance to see a real life fairy (they exist!), my form of pixie dust came from the people — the Hostelling International — who made the Big Blog Exchange a reality. Thank you again to Hostelling International for this wonderful opportunity, thank you for opening doors for me to a new adventure.

Sophie Roberts     From: Challenge Sophie, UNITED KINGDOM
Manifesto

SUMMARY

The Big Blog Exchange was the first project of its kind and I honestly think it’s one of the best initiatives I’ve come across.Winning the Big Blog Exchange was a dream come true, I entered the competition on a whim because one of my mantras is always to explore new opportunities and I thought this looked like a really fantastic one. It was the experience of a lifetime – you always hear about people winning trips abroad, this time I was that lucky person.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

I spent most of the 10 days in Singapore with an extra treat of my last two days being in Malaysia.

 

I Loved:

 

The Feeling of Adventure

I loved arriving in Singapore, with the next week being an open book and an opportunity to explore, live and learn. It was exciting to feel the tropical air as I walked out of the airport and to start building up my own feeling of what ‘Singapore’ meant to me. I never forget the places I visit, the people I meet and the way I felt when I was there.

 

Exploring New Lands

I loved the combination between having a fun packed itinerary of destinations and activities to fill my days whilst also having free time to explore on my own. I am not new to independent travelling or backpacking so this was a great opportunity to immerse myself in the local culture and travel in my own style. One of my favorite feelings is arriving in a country with nothing but my backpack and no fixed plans other than a thirst for adventure. It’s freedom for me.

 

Singapore

Singapore was beautiful, urban, contrasting, and a place unlike any other I’d been before. Living in London, one of the biggest and most culturally diverse and rich cities in the world, it is a rare occasion that I travel half way across the world to visit another city. Without the Big Blog Exchange, I wouldn’t have taken the time to get to know Singapore in the way that I did and I loved it. I loved all the stunning architecture, the cleanliness, the food, the tropical air and the people I met. The things I found difficult to adjust to are the addiction to shopping malls, being inside, diet heavily based on fried food and noodles and the lack of encouragement for personal independence, especially for women. I’m used to taking advantage of opportunities as they arise, whereas in Singapore they are used to have everything planned, structured and not break out of that.

 

Amazing bars

If you like great bars – Singapore is the place. You have Raffles Hotel where you can drink the famous Singapore Slings. Marina Bay Sands where you can watch the sun go down whilst enjoying the most incredible infinity pool.   Before this you can enjoy dinner at one of the many outdoor dining spots with delicious Singaporean, Malay, Chinese or Indian food and ice cold beers.

 

The Big Blog Exchange

The Big Blog Exchange was the first project of its kind and I honestly think it’s one of the best initiatives I’ve come across. Although I wished that all 16 winners could have met up at some point before or after and shared our experiences, I loved thinking about everyone setting off on their own adventures. When I found the time in between making the most of my trip and blogging about it, I checked out what the others were up to and loved seeing their photos. Each person deserved to be part of this exchange and each person truly seemed to make the most of it. I was lucky enough to meet up with Jeremy Fowler winner of the Big Blog Exchange from Canada who exchanged with the winner from Malaysia. Singapore is a very small country and as Malaysia is only 1 hour away, Jeremy came to Singapore and then we both went back to Malaysia for a few days. It’s the first time I’ve ever met another blogger and we had a great time talking about blogging, our journey to winning this competition and about sharing ideas on how to engage our visitors. We also talked a lot about our goals and dreams for the future and had lots of fun in Malaysia sharing a few beers!

 

Sharing my experiences

Most of all from this experience I loved the focus the big blog exchange gave me during my travels. Each day, not only did I aim to do the most interesting things I could, but I also spent a lot of time thinking about how to share them with my readers. Sharing my experience gave me a focus I wouldn’t have had otherwise and it made me happy receiving comments from people that they were really enjoying my posts and photos.

 

Writing my blog and hearing that people enjoy it is a dream come true for me. I love writing, I love taking on new challenges and thinking about how and why push ourselves to achieve new goals. Bringing this into other people’s lives, enjoying the journey myself and encouraging others to take on new challenges is the best thing in the world for me.

 

Rosario Lamastra      From: Blueheaven, ARGENTINA
Manifesto

SUMMARY

Talking with local people and learn from their own countries was one of the most amazing things in the trip. “Nothing as getting to know a place through the eyes of a local person”. I met local bloggers and I realized how beautiful is to share what I love with people who make the same in a different country and surrounded with a different culture. I learned how important is searching for authentic stories and see how citizens live the places in which you are a simple traveller. I swapped countries with Katherine, observed another culture and doing it, I also learned more from my country.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

9 flights, 1 bus and over 32 hours traveling allowed me to meet North and South Island of New Zealand. During 10 days I was able to do what I love in a country I never thought I would be able to visit. At the beginning, I couldn’t believe that in only 10 days I was going to visit 5 different cities from this country and this was one of the most challenging things of the trip. People prefer to stay more days in the same place to be able to get to know it in a deeply way. In my case, the different stops allowed me to compare and distinguish them. It gave me the opportunity of knowing the special characteristics of each city.

Taking pictures, writing on my notebook, observe the people that surrounded me, look out the window in the plane, getting lost in the streets and find the most incredible place to eat in town, were some of the things I really loved of the trip and that remember me how important is travelling and discovering new cultures.

I think visiting another country inspired me in the best way and opened my mind to create new ideas. My ten days in New Zealand and the activities I made gave me the most interesting stories that I could share with the readers. I understood how special is to learn the history and culture of countries through my own eyes.

A lot of things really surprised me from New Zealand: most of the people think it is a destiny for adventure people and don’t know it is also incredible for people who love cities. My first stop in Wellington really surprised me. I never thought that one of the most important cities and the capital of a country could be so small. Let me tell you it is one of the coolest places I know. The fashion style and the places you found in each corner are surrounded by an amazing atmosphere where people seem to worry only about having a good time. I walked down Cuba Street and participated in a Jazz Festival in Wellington, to realize that, as everybody says, it is one of the smallest and coolest city in the world. In only a couple of hours a plane took me from this landscape to an opposite one: Queenstown; a place where mountains surround the small town. People was enjoying walking at the waterfront with a hot chocolate from the traditional Patagonia store on their hands and watching the sunset. The most interesting thing is how I lived Queenstown in two different ways: one day I chose to walk over the water front, observe how people live and have dinner in a hidden restaurant call The Cow. And in the next day I was able to go over the mountains with a zip line and enjoy the view of the whole city while i was in a luge adventure.

In my third stop in Christchurch, I dedicated one day to visit the city with Brindi, a local citizen, who showed me how everybody have the force and dedication to establish the whole city that was damaged after earthquake. A vintage bike tour all over the botanic gardens showed me how lovely is Christchurch and explained me why people are working so hard to rebuild the city. From the other hand, one of the things I loved from the trip was the idea of visiting smallest, so I made a road trip to Akaroa. A place that definitely made me travels to another period.

When I thought I had already learned everything that I needed from New Zealand, I arrived to Rotorua, the best place of the country to live a Maori experience, be part of a haka performance, taste their typical food called hangi maori and share that moment with people from all over the world.

What I needed to finish this incredible trip was visiting Auckland. I walked down the main street, Queen Street, where I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the people clothing. To have an Auckland local view, I visited different neighbourhoods and the traditional fair at the coolest place called Ponsonby. Finally, when I went up 328 metres, at the Sky Tower, and I was watching the whole city, I stopped for some minutes, and I thought about each city I had visited during the trip and how grateful I was for having the possibility to dedicate myself on learn about a place I never thought I was going to know.

Talking with local people and learn from their own countries was one of the most amazing things in the trip. Nothing as getting to know a place through the eyes of a local person. I met local bloggers and I realized how beautiful is to share what I love with people who make the same in a different country and surrounded with a different culture.

I learned how important is searching for authentic stories and see how citizens live the places in which you are a simple tourist. I swapped countries with Katherine, observed another culture and doing it, I also learned more from my country. Wellington, Queenstown, Christchurch, Rotorua and Auckland, showed me how incredible the world is and above all: how nice is to search the opportunity to know more about it.

Katherine Kearsley     From: Kapcha The World, NEW ZEALAND
Manifesto

SUMMARY

This was everything I hoped it would be and more. You can be anywhere in the world and see so many things, but it’s the people you meet and the relationships you have with those people that make the trip what it is. It’s these friendships and random days or nights out with people that in years to come I will remember about this trip more than anything else.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

So I’m back in Melbourne suffering from the post travel blues, wishing I were still in Argentina. I had such an amazing trip and I’m still processing all the amazing things I did and saw and all the great people I met along the way.

 

So more important that what I did whilst away is probably what did I learn?

I can’t say that this trip changed my view on the world as such. I’ve travelled a lot already so this wasn’t the first time I’ve been somewhere foreign on my own. But there were a few things that I did discover/remember or become aware of.

 

Jet lag will always get you no matter what you do. Even being lucky enough to fly in Premium Economy on Qantas didn’t help to stop it. It wasn’t so bad going to Argentina but coming home it’s hit me hard and a week after arriving back I’m still only just getting over it.

 

No matter where you are in the world, what the language is or which program is on if there is a TV people will always congregate around it. In Argentina it was a lot of football. Everyone would hang out together in the lounge area of the hostel and watch whatever team was playing and even pick sides. I will still laugh when I hear the announcer scream after a goal is scored – the word Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllll that seemed to go on forever.

 

Whatever language someone is speaking, you always know when they are telling someone to F**k off. And for some reason it seems to be the first thing you remember in that language too. Why is it that swear words are so easy to learn and remember?

 

It doesn’t matter if I don’t speak the lingo, I can always make myself understood with my version of pigeon English and sign language. My serious lack of Spanish did have it’s issues but I always managed to get what I needed in the end and always managed to barter to get the price I wanted. I’m still saying ciao ciao to people when I leave!

 

I think above all else, it was the people that I met on the trip that made it what it was. It’s these friendships and random days or nights out together that in years to come I will remember about this trip more than anything else. Dancing tango with Rosario and then meeting all her friends and going out to a nightclub and dancing to cumbia music. She’s such a sweet girl and I loved being able to meet the blogger I was swapping countries with. She made me feel so welcome and I really appreciated the effort she went to include me in things.

 

The drinks and the asado with the hostelling international staff, Silvana who loves Bon Jovi and is so bubbly and friendly, Agustin who is hilarious and I will forever remember singing along to cheesy 90’s pop on his iPhone, Andres who loves mate and is the computer wizard at the hostel and would always stop and say hello whenever he saw me, Leticia who likes to drink and party as much as I do and is the life and soul of the party, Yaniis who is the quieter one of the group but lovely and a really genuine person, and finally Cristian who organised my trip for me, put up with all my changes and suggestions, answered any questions I had, sorted any problems I had out with ease, cooked a mean asado and put on a fantastic night out and is definitely a great asset to the hostelling international team.

 

Then there were the travellers I met. First was Sheila who I met on the flight from Melbourne to Sydney and kept me company all the way to Santiago before she headed off to Brazil and I to Argentina.

On the boat on the way to Colonia, I met Everton, a Brazilian guy who lives in Buenos Aires. We spent an hilarious day together in Colonia exploring the old town in our golf cart that we rented to shelter us from the rain, and that I almost crashed when I forget to put on the handbrake. And he was a great person to have around for photos as liked to take as many as I did and would always get me at my best angle!

Then there was Erick the travel writer who is in Buenos Aires for a month to learn how to tango so he can write about it for his book. He also applied to be part of the Big Blog Exchange but didn’t win unfortunately but it was funny to come across him in the hostel.

Then there was the amazing Irish couple Emer and Sean who were always up for a good night out clubbing or a good meal. I met them in the hostel in Buenos Aires but then they were in Mendoza at the same time and we had a laugh on the winery bike tour together. The kind and beautiful husband and wife team, Sumita and Gautam, who I admired so much as they are off travelling the world together for a year, blogging about it on the way.

 

In Iguazu I met up with 3 girls from Ireland Lynda, Tracy and Sally, we had a great night in the hostel chatting, then I ran into them in Buenos Aires in the MALBA art gallery and again in Mendoza where they came on the bike tour too. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of their adventures whilst they are travelling and am excited to catch up with them in Melbourne later this year where they are going to stay and work for a year.

 

Then there was Dorcas, the New Yorker who is originally from Puerto Rico. We spent some great days and nights together in Buenos Aires. Finally the two Brazilian guys, Igor and Glauco who I got lost in the nightclub on the pub crawl with, and who danced the night away with me! There were others that I met – too many to name everyone – including the staff at the hostels, Jezebel at the Hostel Suite Mendoza who I spent most nights hanging out and chatting with, and especially the ones at the Hostel Suite Florida, who by the end were like family I’d been there so long. They were all amazing and helpful and I miss seeing their smiling faces every morning.

 

One of my favourite quotes by Maya Angelou is: “People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget how you made them feel”. Funnily enough one of the other bloggers mentioned this in one of her posts and I think this is because the feeling must be the same. You can be anywhere in the world and see so many things, but it’s the people you meet and the relationships you have with those people that make the trip what it is.

I also realise that I will literally talk to anyone when I am away, which I will say is a good thing. Even when we couldn’t speak the same language I managed to have conversations with people along the road. Despite everything that has happened in my life over the last few years, I’m glad that I haven’t lost that attribute. I’m obviously careful and safety conscious, you have to be when travelling, but I find a smile and an attempt to be polite and chat is usually all it takes to make a friend, whether a temporary one in passing or ones that I will hopefully stay in touch with for years to come.

Finally, I want to say a massive thank you to Hostelling International Argentina and in particular Cristian Calomarde for everything he and HI Argentina team did for me on my trip. From all the work it took sorting out my fantastic itinerary, the last minute changes, and catering to any needs I had no matter how weird and bizarre. Also a big thank you to The Big Blog Exchange team and Hostelling International Head Office in London. Thank you all for this amazing opportunity. I only wish it could have lasted for longer. I’m still dreaming of being in Argentina and can’t wait to get back there and explore more of the amazing country I didn’t get to see this time around.

Rafael, Luíza e Natália      From: 360meridianos, BRAZIL
Manifesto

SUMMARY

How can a trip change my life? The Big Blog Exchange experience was an amazing opportunity to experience, discover and try another piece of this world and share with readers and non-readers a little bit of our impressions and thoughts. I believe I have changed because I have been able to experience new things. By learning with the locals we can expand our own knowledge about the world and find out that we are not so different and that we are not so distant from each other, despite the thousands kilometres between the countries. Travelling brings people closer.

 

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

Paris

Travelling is my passion. Every time I walk the distances between me and a place I don’t know yet, I feel that I am living to the fullest. There is no room for indolence on the road. At every curve, we are forced to deal with the new and unexpected, and fight with old concepts. We are used to saying on 360meridianos that it is impossible to see the world and remain the same person and my trip though France wasn't different.

 

Lyon

I believe I have changed because I have been able to experience new things. I tried cheese with cherry jam and found out that mixing salty with sweet flavours can be a good idea. I put my feet in the Mediterranean Ocean, ate the famous ratatouille - (that’s right, that one from the Disney’s movie) -, discovered the taste of fresh cherries and felt in love with raspberry tartlets. I also confirmed that I don’t like squid, not even a little bit. I visited an oyster farm and got to know the history of a castle that is older than my country. I went to a match of a sport I had never heard about and was told that there is a Cesta Punta team in São Paulo. I saw the white houses with red or green details in many villages of the Basque Country.

 

Not to mention that it was the first time I had backpacked completely alone. I saw every time I managed to find the right train or my hostel while I was carrying my entire luggage through the streets of a place I didn’t know, as an accomplishment. I also tried to speak French sometimes and, although I was only able to say a few simple words, I was happy to notice that I could understand what people was trying to tell me, even though my last French class was years and years ago.

 

As it was my second time in France, I had the opportunity to go deeper in its culture, since it wasn’t necessary for me to do the classic tourist check list in Paris. During my trip, where I was able to explore the 'inner' France, I noticed that the country is far more than just the Parisian glamour. It is also rural, it is also sunny and hot, it is also a place for surfers and fishermen and for small villages where people live slowly. I couldn’t get all this glimpses of the French life if I trust only on the movies or the TV to show me.

 

Sète

The Big Blog Exchange experience was an amazing opportunity to experience, discover and try another piece of this world and share with readers and non-readers a little bit of our impressions and thoughts. Just like every stepping-out-of-our-comfort-zones experiences and growth moments, the 13 days I travelled - with the support of Hostelling International - are not only registered forever in the thousands photos I took and in the blog posts I wrote, but also in my memories. I will never watch a movie about France or eat a croissant or think about the French people in the same way anymore.

 

Carcassonne

Every culture is different and kind of exotic for those who watch it from the comfort of their homes. It is only when you take a plane and travel to a distant place, talk to people, eat their food and learn about their history that you can completely grasp that culture. That is why travel is lethal to prejudice and it is the best form of education I have experienced in my life so far.

 

Biarritz and Basque Villages

You might think that those are just small and superficial stuff. Maybe you are right. However, what are we but the sum of our experiences and memories? It is this small discovery that generates a global understanding. By learning with the locals we can expand our own knowledge about the world and find out that we are not so different and that we are not so distant from each other, despite the thousands kilometres between the countries. Traveling brings people closer.

 

Claire     From: The Green Geekette, FRANCE
Manifesto

SUMMARY

I understand that it maybe seems a little conceited to say that this trip changed my life, but I think that it really actually had. I know that those 10 days changed me forever, so much more than the last few years. I have discovered that I can be a « new » me, a person who doesn’t need other people to be herself... but who need others to interact and share with, no matters what! I have also learned 2 facts from my trip. First is that sometimes, you need your own moments and second is that travelling alone doesn’t mean travelling in loneliness, I never met so much people that during those 10 days.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

Monday, 24th June, 10 :38 P.M. Almost a week that I’m back in « real » life. Nearly 7 long days that I’m really in trouble to write those words. Not because I miss inspiration, but you know… put some words on those 10 so particular days of my life seems definitely like a taste of « end ». And « end » is all that I never wanted about them. From the bottom of my heart, I wish this could have lasted forever…

Before going to Brazil, I never went to South America. And if I can be totally honest, that was definitely not a continent that attracted me. Curious thing is that now, I really have some difficulty to find why… Because now that I’m back in my everyday life, I can’t stop thinking about Brazil and all these countries that I have to discover. All that I want is to leave everything again, just for this feeling to be on the road, more alive than ever.

At 25 years old, I didn’t think that I could change anymore. You know, I wasn’t a kid anymore, I had succeed to build a brand new life 5000 km from my friends and family. I thought that I was really close to that « adult » me than everyone become one day. And now… I feel so weird, so uncomfortable because I know that those 10 days changed me forever, so much more than the last few years…

Without being a little « princess » I always knew that I was a lucky girl. I had the chance to have two loving parents and a fantastic sister, and the only really painful thing is my short life was to lose my brother 10 years ago. I don’t want to minimize it, but usually if it’s not something you hide from people, it is most of the time something you « forgot » to talk about because, as much as I miss him, I don’t want to be defined only by this tragic lost.

At least, not anymore. Because I spend the last 10 years in the fear. 10 years being worried to death to lose again some others people of my family or my friends… 10 years to worry about giving and getting enough love. I know realize that I spend so much time to be frightened of life, that I actually forgot to live... until today.

Brazil was my first travel by myself. I never travelled alone before, on one hand because I didn’t had the opportunity, and on the other hand because I didn’t felt brave enough to go in a foreign country without knowing anyone (or the language!) … Before leaving for those 10 days, I still didn’t know that I was ready, and I can now admit that I was really scared!

I always thought that it’s essential to travel with some kind of buddy, because to me, what happens to you is always better when you share it. But I learned 2 facts from my trip. First is that sometimes, you need your own moments. There’s nothing that feels like being alone on a moto-taxi, your hair blowing in the wind, feeling warm and cold at the same time when the heat of the day is getting down with the sun falling over the mountains…

Nothing like eating an açaï ice cream alone on Copacabana beach by a rainy Monday morning… I never thought that I can say something like that one day, but yes for a while, I really enjoyed to be only by myself… I felt guilty at the first glance to be so lucky, but when I felt my heart beating so hard, I just forgot all about that selfish sensation because I knew at this exact time that I belonged to all of those places...

Second fact that I learned is that travelling alone doesn’t mean travelling in loneliness. Actually, I never met so much people that during those 10 days! I always considered myself as a shy person, you know, I love to talk with people but when you travel with your usual buddy… it’s always easier to stay together because you don’t really « need » anyone else.

But when you’re travelling alone, you have no choice than going towards people! And I must admit that I really like to discover the person that I can be when I’m all by myself. Brazil made me discover that I can be this very open person that has no fear of talking with people that I don’t know and that I probably never going to see again…

I forgot my shame feeling of not being totally English bilingual, and for the first time I dared speaking longer with this German girl at Foz do Iguaçu when she asked me to take a picture of her because she was travelling alone… I struck up some friendships with people that I never could meet anywhere else. Above all, I understood that friendship is all about being at the right place, at the right time. And I definitely felt at my place during 10 days!

This seems pretty fun knowing the fact that I wasn’t really used to be such an adventurer before… When one year ago I cared only about my comfort and that sharing a dorm was kind of unbelievable for me, now I just want to go back to youth hostels! Because I discovered with them a brand new way of travelling: cheapest accommodation and above all, the best place to meet people travelling on their own like me!

So I think that everyone can figure how hard it was to go back to my everyday life… I almost cried in the plane because those 10 days were way too short! It’s not a lie than to tell you that my heart broke each time I left a city… and especially when I left Rio which was the last of them. 7 days ago. 7 days that I can’t stop thinking about the happiness which Brazilian people welcomed me with. 7 days that I can’t imagine my life anymore without coming back to South America.

I understand that it maybe seems a little conceited to say that this trip changed my life, but I think that it really actually had. One my closest relative told me he was surprised that I changed my mind about South America… But I must say that I’m now really considering about learning Portuguese for coming back to leave a couple of months in Rio, or at least learning Spanish and do a road trip in South America! Which was totally out of my plans a month ago… crazy right?

I’m not frightened anymore… I know that I can travel by myself if needed. I know that I can speak English almost fluently if I want. I know that I’m brave enough to talk to strangers. I discovered that I can be a « new » me, a person who doesn’t need other people to be herself... but who need others to interact and share with, no matters what!

https://vimeo.com/69055850

As I truly believe than a picture is worth a thousand words, I realized a small video of my 10 days of travel, and you can be sure that I’m going to talk about it again and again this summer on my blog… So, once again, a huge thanks to Hostelling International and Big Blog Exchange without whom this couldn’t ever happened!

 

Camie Juan      From: Wild - Spirit, PHILIPPINES
Manifesto

SUMMARY

The Big Blog Exchange may have only lasted 10 days, but to me it is an experience, a fond memory that I will take with me for the rest of my life.This unique journey in Germany gave light and opened my eyes to so many things. I believe the Big Blog Exchange project not only helped me open my eyes, but helped open the eyes of those that followed my journey as well. Loads of my readers have followed my trip and have expressed their views about what they had now learned about Germany and its people, all through what I’ve written.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out how to write down a summary of a 10 day trip that single handedly made not only my dreams of traveling come true, but also changed my life in ways no one else can understand.

Before this trip, I always thought I was just cruising through life, as if on auto-pilot, stuck in a routine that had gotten too comfortable in a way that was slowly wasting me away, which is a lot to say for someone like me of such a young age. I was never the type of person who was lucky in placing bets, or scratch cards, or winning anything for that matter, and so the Big Blog Exchange project was honestly a long shot for someone like me, especially knowing the tough competition there is out there.

But I guess after my whole lifetime (so far) of having the urge to travel and see what else is out there, the Universe heard my 23 years of plea and granted me a jumpstart on a dream I always thought was going to be possible when I’ve started to get wrinkly, living off my retirement fund, going from country to country with my equally wrinkly husband, wearing sun visors and rubber shoes, with a belt bag to match, the perfect touristic old couples outfit! And hey, better late than never, right? Well I suppose the Big Man up there had other plans for me. It’s funny how the world works, sometimes. You’ve got your perceived notions of what the reality of life is like and then it does a total 180 and says, “Nope, sorry! You’re totally wrong. Here, have a trip to Germany and have the time of your life, learn what you can and share it, you’ve always wanted to change the world, right? Here’s your chance! Take it and jump!” and that I gladly did.

My ten days in Germany was an experience I could never trade in for the world. Every single waking moment of each day, I literally would say, “You’re really in Germany, try to let that sink in… Okay, it’s not working, maybe tomorrow.” I can’t blame myself for the way everything felt so surreal, every single day I was reminded that not everyone is as lucky as I am, and for that I will forever be grateful.

The first day I arrived in Germany, I was greeted by Thomas and Ulrike from DJH. They were friendly and welcoming, making sure we took care of all important businesses (like my German Rail Pass and German SIM card) before getting me to the hostel to rest. While we were doing errands, it was like a mini-tour of Frankfurt and got into conversation about the differences of Manila and Frankfurt as cities. Of course, in my personal opinion, Frankfurt wins it by far! Hard truth, it’s no secret that Manila needs a lot of improving. I had a lot of fun with Thomas and Ulrike, they were funny and made me feel very taken care of.

My second day, I set out on my own to travel to beautiful Bavaria. A short bus ride to the main train station, and I arrived just in time for the next train to Munich. I enjoyed the view of the beautiful countryside, noticing all the vast fields and solar panels, which led me to assume that the countryside of Germany uses solar power as electricity, something I admire a lot because I support eco-friendly projects and preserving Earth’s water and energy. Anyway, I spent 4 nights in Munich. I mostly toured around the city using the U-bahn and enjoyed it quite a lot! It also made me feel like a local, which made me realize that living some place like Germany would be well suited for me. Commuting in Germany was something I found to be really hassle-free! I also visited the Dachau Concentration Camp, with 3 other girls from America that I had met from the hostel, where I further learned about World War II history and the role Germany played in it. That was an emotional moment for me, and makes me wonder, if at a certain point in time a country can believe in something so much and can impact history the way they did, maybe we can do the same at present, only in a much more positive light… maybe.

The next few days in Munich was spent exploring around the city, trying local food like Leberkase and eating ice cream despite the freezing weather. The day before I left for Berlin, I visited the countryside of Bavaria where Neuschwanstein Castle was located, a very touristy part but nonetheless a must-see!

I then made my way to Berlin, first I spent two nights in Am Wansee, near Potsdam where I took a day tour of Potsdam and Schloss Sansoucci, another beautiful palace. Potsdam was a great city to visit, and because I only had the day, I decided to take one of the tour buses that also have audio guides for information. The next two nights in Berlin was spent near the city center, I had the chance to have breakfast with DJH’s CEO Bernd Dohn.

We talked about the youth hostels, my experiences and how Germany was for me lately. I learned that they purposely planned my trip to be completely on my own, and I told them it was a perfect plan as I expected to venture out in a foreign country and learn as I go along, mistakes and triumphs and all. In the city center of Berlin, I was able to visit the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall’s East Side Gallery, four museums in Museum Island and stumbling into an afternoon flea market.

My experience in Berlin was something that challenged me. I constantly got lost around the bus lines; I was always frustrated, and was always tired. At the end of the day, I would go back to the hostel feeling defeated, and suddenly also feeling very alone. It was naïve of me to think that everything would continue to go smoothly, all because from Frankfurt to Munich, everything was going as planned. I had not prepared myself for the challenges that arose, getting lost, feeling tired, feeling alone… The three most common things when traveling alone and not having had time to make friends around you. But I took these experiences, and turned it to something positive. I told myself that it was okay, it was my first time, and these were bound to happen one way or another. I told myself to smile, look around you, you’re in Germany! Everything will be okay. And you know what? It was.

My last leg for the Germany trip was visiting Cologne, an hour away from Frankfurt by the speed train. I spent a night in Cologne, I walked around the city and visited the Dom. Although I’m Catholic, I don’t believe in everything my religion says I should believe, but I’m a very spiritual person. I spent an hour inside The Dom, contemplating, praying and saying my prayers of gratitude of how immensely blessed I had been being there at that very moment. The Dom was an incredibly beautiful church, with its gothic architecture and stained glass windows, it felt so serene and safe inside. Albeit, the loud and scary church organ being played was a little distracting, and I have to admit gives off the feeling of being in a Frankenstein movie. The experience was interrupted by two drunk American teenagers who went inside the place and disrespected the altar. The priests had to cut visiting hours short and made everyone leave. That was the most upsetting part for me.

In totality, my experiences in Germany gave light and opened my eyes to so many things. In traveling alone, not only did I learn things about myself, but I also learned a few things about the locals. Germany was a country of friendly people, they keep to themselves and mind their own business, but when the time came that you needed their help, they are assistive and as helpful as they could be, despite the sometimes language barrier. I was in constant contact with the DJH representative (Mr. Markus) who would give me helpful tips in places to visit, travel, etc. Even Tina’s (my exchange partner) father had a twitter account to keep in contact with Tina and me, and would also help me if I had inquiries or problems. I was traveling alone, but technically I had all these people rooting for me and guiding me in my journey.

Being in Germany has opened my eyes and taught me of the differences of my country from another...And how we could possibly learn from them and lead by their examples. Germany was a country that took pride in their culture, and even so with their painful history, it was apparent to me that they not only use their past as a way of learning and shaping their future, they also respected it and made sure that it would never happen again.

I believe the Big Blog Exchange project not only helped me open my eyes, but helped open the eyes of those that followed my journey as well. A lot of my readers have followed my trip and have expressed their views about what they had now learned about Germany and its people, all through what I’ve written. The project went by in a flash. It went by so fast that I wasn’t able to completely take it all in and write as much as I wanted to, but it will not stop there… The Big Blog Exchange may have only lasted 10 days, but to me it is an experience, a fond memory that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

 

Tina     From: Lunch For One, GERMANY
Manifesto

SUMMARY

What made that trip so special? Camie's family who not only picked me up from the airport, making sure I was able to face the Philippines and welcomed me with open arms for their father’s day lunch on my last day! It was a pleasure to be the "daughter" for one day! We might not be able to change the world, but it is possible to step out of your world with just reading blogs, realizing the pro & contra sides of where you live and trying to change them! We might live on different sides of the world, in different time zones, but through the Big Blog Exchange we have really been able to interact further than a click of a mouse!

 

Bloggers Manifesto

How is it that 10 days seems to fly by if you're away - but simply don't pass by quick enough if you stuck in your office? The 10 days of the Big Blog Exchange have been simply flown away, the time passing so quickly I couldn’t believe it when I was back at Manila Terminal 1, waiting to board my plane. Was it just 8 days ago that I arrived at this airport, unsure what to expect and not really looking forward to spend the time in a hot, humid, wet season region?

To be fair, I had no real clue about the Philippine’s when I realized I would be swapping blogs & country’s with Camie. I even had to use Google maps to find out where in Asia I would end up.

There was no knowledge about the Spanish & US past, the mangoes, lechon or white beaches. Somehow I pictured Manila to be a typical Asia city, ugly, unsafe, not welcome, nothing to do and Terminal 1 to be the horror of every traveler. How wrong I was (even with Terminal 1!!).

Where did I end up?

Bohol

After surviving a domestic flight, (no Philippine airline is allowed to fly to Europe - so I listened more carefully to the safety instruction & even read the card!) I was picked up for my countryside tour - a typical thing to do on this island. And somewhere between the Butterfly Farm, (cute but as soon as they open their eyes scary) Tarsiers and the famous Chocolate Hills I started to relax, to get into the typical beach & holiday mood. Know what I mean? When even the heat can't bother you, it feels so easy going?

I manage to stick to that for the next two days, exploring the lovely white beaches, maybe shocking some of the Filipinos as I simply sunbathed with my bikini & didn't dressed up with shirt & pants for a swim. Even a short boat trip was sneaked in, snorkeling with nemo & co before I took the ferry in a pitch dark night over to Cebu.

Cebu

A slight shock after the relaxing and small Bohol; with lots of traffic, taxi driver who had no clue where I wanted to go. But the first Spanish sights, a surprise visit to a mess and mainly lechon. A special way of roasting a whole pig and Cebu seem to get it right! Juicy, tender & I could have eaten a lot more then the 250 g portions (and I had it for breakfast, lunch & dinner). No wonder people tend to buy kilos of it to take back home. And me exploring the Mango factory, or better to say dried mango. I so wish I could grow one of those trees in my front garden - could handle the up to 10,000 mangoes per harvest!

But Cebu also is the island, with green hills & falls and the chance to swim with whale sharks! Sure that’s an adventure I will never forget, to open your eyes under water and watching with surprise, excited and a bit careful those large animals swimming along & around you!

And Cebu was also another change to explore some beaches & snorkeling! Loved it - and I'm not a beach girl!

Manila

Living in a part of Germany where traffic is huge, I was surprised how easy it was to get in Metro Manila - maybe because it was a weekend?

I manage to explore what Filipinos love most - malls, shopping, all you can eat buffets at luxury hotels, and even the wheel at the largest Mall of all - the Mall of Asia (where nobody was before 11 am on a Saturday) & to learn in a nice way about the Spanish & US past of Manila. And even manage to see the United States World War II memorial! Even Terminal 1 was so nicer as expect, no lines, free wifi & lots of space!

But what made that trip so special?

Everyone out there who followed me before & during it on Twitter & Instagram, helping me along with hints, tips!

Meeting Filipino bloggers in the amazing Hostel Where2Next with the charming owner Vicky playing our host! So nice to see that bloggers have the same troubles in every country!

Camie's family who not only picked me up from the airport, making sure I was able to face the Philippines and welcomed me with open arms for their father’s day lunch on my last day! It was a pleasure to be the "daughter" for one day!

So can we change the world with the power of blogs?

We might not be able to change the world, but it is possible to step out of your world with just reading blogs, realizing the pro & contra sides of where you live and trying to change them! We might live on different sides of the world, in different time zones, but through the Big Blog Exchange we have really been able to interact further than a click of a mouse!

Use it! Be in touch & maybe we can change the world in the future with the power of us blogger!

Liesbet Maroye      From: Liesbet à Paris, BELGIUM
Manifesto

SUMMARY

Being an amateur blogger, I didn't know what my chances to be part of this great project were. So, I had a go, brushed up my blog and tried to gather as many votes as possible to pass to the next round. Hearing that I was one of THE 16 made my motto “Nothing is impossible” even stronger. Changing the world with 1000 blogs, and 16 winners, it may seem unrealistic and a little bit ambitious. But, the fact that 16 totally different strangers, change life/blog/country/culture with each other and blog about it, is a start.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

There it is; my church tower. It could have been any other symbol, the Eiffel tower or a tree.

But for me, this is my first landmark. The one we saw when we entered our village after another journey, a family holiday, a weekend.

I’ve already seen a lot of church towers. All of them in Europe, but this last year, I felt the call to explore other horizons, to pass the boundaries and to discover other continents. The chance to discover another culture and continent, thanks to the BBE came at the right time. Being an amateur blogger, I didn't know what my chances to be part of this great project were. So, I had a go, brushed up my blog and tried to gather as many votes as possible to pass to the next round. Hearing that I was one of THE 16 made my motto “Nothing is impossible” even stronger. If you really want something, try and work at it.

 

The whole Big Blog Exchange Experience didn't leave me cold. On the contrary, even if I travel a lot, it has influenced me and opened my eyes on certain aspects. Before reflecting on the whole experience, I would love to invite you to go with me into a virtual tour of my 10 BBE-days (or 14.400 minutes captured in 7 minutes).

 

Movie

 

 

 

What is so special about this unique project and opportunity?

 

Meeting other people

Elizabeth who travelled the world, Simon the HI-guy, the crew from the different hostels, Xenny from Hotspots, Maksi an Estonian security agent who spent two weeks in South Africa after a mission before returning to Estonia, the 3 Dutch ladies and the 2 German youngsters on the 5 day Garden Route, the Kenian and UK guy I met on the boat to Robben Island, and all those other people I randomly met or spent some nice hours with. Travelling brings people closer to each other. You meet people who are like-minded, who also want to discover a country or culture, who like to spend time with “travelling strangers”. You meet the “world”: we talked about the differences in cultures and habits, but even being strangers and different to each other: we were amazed at the same moment about the same things; we all enjoyed the same sunset/stunning views …

 

Discovering the variety of fauna and flora

I have seen and done a lot of amazing things in South Africa: I fed ostriches, rode elephants, saw hippos, could nearly touch a penguin, approached a colony of seals, went on game drives. I rode through a lot of amazing landscapes, where after every hill and every bend, the landscape changed. During our 1500 kilometres on the Garden Route, I’ve seen vineyards, bushes, forests, sand, oceans and rivers. Everything you can imagine, sometimes similar to landscapes in Belgium/France, but most of the times so different and unique. I always get touched by landscapes and views. I think I couldn’t hide in my blog that I am a landscape-addict. I adore it.

 

Experiencing another culture

My first encounter with South Africa was The Lion King, and then there was a little glimpse of it through Madagascar and a lot of documentaries. To be honest, it was one of the countries on top of my bucket list (next to Australia and New Zealand). Last year, I made an agreement with a friend that within the next 5 years, we would fly to South Africa. There is something about this country that appeals to me: the rhythm, its history, the African way of living, the beauty of nature.

It is not the first time I experience another culture: there are enough opportunities to get in touch with other cultures in Europe. But, it was the first time I lived another “culture” in the country itself. All I can say is I definitely liked it!

 

My first impressions were that Capetown looks like a European city (not very surprising given its history), but with an African soul. The evening in the township shebeen, the township tour and the celebration in the Baptist church; the crew members of the hostels, guides and (South) African people I met, showed me each their part of South Africa: they revealed me a glimpse of their story, of their life, of their culture. And by talking to them, you discover once more that things, obvious for the one person, aren't always that obvious for the other.

South Africa is a country with a very young history. Although the apartheid itself isn’t that present anymore, the memory of itstays very important. “We should forgive but not forget”, these words of Nelson Mandela are like a motto for a lot of people. The townships are a living, but hard, example of it. Many people live in the townships, because they can't afford a house in the city. People living in shacks, people living in houses built by the government who tries to help these people to find a home. And even if this situation looks rough to us, all the people I saw in the streets, smiled and went on with their lives. The township guide told me they know times are changing, and that they have to look forward. I think that the whole township experience had a profound influence on me.

Discovering another culture is living and experiencing the beauty and particularities of the culture, but also digging deeper and daring to look beyond the curtain of comfort.

 

Sharing with friends and followers

=> Big Blog Exchange: changing the world using the power of blogs

Changing the world with 1000 blogs, and 16 winners, it may seem unrealistic and a little bit ambitious. But, the fact that 16 totally different strangers, change life/blog/country/culture with each other and blog about it, is a start.

 

The fact that you reach your audience, the people who read your blog because they share your thoughts, your view on the world is also a beginning. The fact that you bring another culture into their world can be an eye-opener for everybody.

                 

I didn’t know South Africa was this beautiful”. “It's always great to see our country through someone else's eyes!” “I didn't know that ...”

 

A blog can be a way to get rid of prejudice, to open the world to people who can't/don't travel that far; to share a culture, a country and experiences with your readers. We can change the world one step at a time: by myself, my blog and onto my readers.

 

Reinventing yourself

By travelling alone for some time (even when you are in a group), by meeting other people, by immersing yourself in another way of life, there is also a moment where you meet yourself. Where your start reflecting on yourself, on the way you live now, on how you've lived until now.

This whole BBE-experience made me develop my blogging skills, showed me the importance of social media in the whole “sharing your thoughts/experiences/other cultures-process” with the world.

 

I am convinced that it is not such a bad thing to leave your church tower for a while. I did it by moving to France and by travelling a lot. It offers you a way to see how other people cope with their search for happiness, to discover other views on life, to appreciate the things you have, to learn from others and to adopt their way of living.

I like to come home but after a while I feel the need to start exploring again. It calls from deep within me, that Wanderlust, this urge that knows no boundaries. A powerful desire to explore our beautiful planet even further, from vast landscapes and oceans to the close connection between people. That moment when strangers become friends and you realise that leaving home is actually coming home, home to our amazing planet.

Didintle Ntsie     From: Swedishgarden, SOUTH AFRICA
Manifesto

SUMMARY

My big blog exchange experience has been a myth-busting, future-moulding, idea-planting, cultural and reality exchange sprinkled with magic, hot air balloon rides, mind-expanding conversation and the most amazing people and warmth I could have ever fantasized about. A full trip. No gaps left unfilled. My journey with Big Blog Exchange has reminded me how powerful the world of blogging and exchanging cultural stories and realities is.

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

The Big Blog exchange came at a time when I was spinning with work and projects and was quite honestly needing a distraction from my full hands. It also came at a time when a group of students from Denmark (The Kaospilots) were leaving to go back home to Aarhus. I was particularly sad about the void their departure would leave in my life (they were not only friends but people I had been working tirelessly and around the clock with for the past 3 months non-stop on this amazing projectwhich I will now continue working on), not realising that The Big Blog Exchange would come and swoop me out of that swiftly as I departed 2 days after my friends left!

 

I have to be honest, there was a part of me that felt that I should have openly requested to go to a continent either than Europe as I had been there before and then I stopped myself; realising that I didn’t know what was in stall for me and that I needed to learn when to let go of the reigns (maybe the myth is that this doesn’t change anything and that I don’t ever actually hold the reigns to my chariot?) however, this was a very big step in my personal growth. I am used to putting a target on what I want and going straight for it, it’s not even something I think about, it’s just the way I am. I am a lioness at heart (star sign Leo and I think this points to some of the reasons for why this is a default aspect of my character. I’m a predator).

 

So this experience of “letting go of the reigns” was powerful because it reminded me that my choices affect others more directly than I may recognise and that there is always a ripple effect. What I mean here is that Liesbet would not have had the experience she has had. And I think it’s safe to say that she has cherished this experience deeply and wholeheartedly.

 

My thoughts of Belgium have been turned upside down and emptied from my basket. I was expecting a tour of cities, average food, cold weather and cold people but instead I enjoyed the familiarity of Belgium, I enjoyed that each meal didn’t need to become a snippet from an episode of Fear Factor. Going to Belgium was the perfect taste for what I needed. I was also way too exhausted when I left to have been able to handle being in a place where I didn’t understand the language! I speak 6-and-a-half different languages; Afrikaans being one of them and Spanish being the half. Afrikaans and Flemish are very similar and I had the luxury of being able to tune in and out whenever I wanted to. I also found that people embraced me more because of this fascination with the language and the similarities. I could speak and be understood and vice versa!

So this aspect of my experience was my very own real-life experience of “Myth busters!”, Belgium was most certainly NOT dull! My basket is now filled with a rich selection of facts, images, memories, tastes and fuzzy feelings.

 

I see every experience as a lesson knocking on my heart and it is always up to me to open and let it in or let it knock until it leaves and returns bigger and badder! That’s how I believe life lessons work. I had a hard time with the idea of not writing on my own blog, after all my friends and my family would want to follow my experiences right? Pretty selfish I would say.

 

 

 

The minute I started blogging on Liesbet’s blog I learnt new things about blogging. She is so super-organised! I’m not kidding, she has categories for every possible umbrella topic and also has installed some widgets that I might want to use on my own blog (the language translator in particular as my stats show that I have readers from all over the world and have been ignoring this aspect of making them feel more welcomed to my blog), definitely something I will be looking at improving on my own blog. The funny thing is that I am finding it hard to detach and get back to writing on my own blog. I still haven’t posted my pre-written posts on my blog. Perhaps tomorrow then…

 

I have also previously used words to paint my experiences, thoughts and images. This was mostly because I didn’t own a camera (as I mentioned in my winners interview) and it helped knowing that it would make my posts more colourful if I had a camera and so going on a quest to find a sponsor for this. Which I succeeded in doing! A special thank you to Mike Orms of Ormsdirectfor this part sponsorship!

 

I can’t stress how much I enjoyed taking photos of my surrounds and also taking photos with the specific intention of making particular comments and jokes on my blog (such as this post about my Belgian Boyfriend that Tine and I fought over!)

 

My blogging style will be much richer and welcoming to my readers who might prefer images to words. I have actually had a friend from Rotterdam tell me directly that she prefers this although she does enjoy my writing, as sometimes she doesn’t have the brain-power to read, but would much rather let the images do the talking. Big Bonus to switch over from laborious (yet totally enjoyable writing) to letting images carry some of the weight of expressing what I wish to share. I have a love for making videos but need to be a little more patient with myself with developing this muscle – all in due time Didi! One thing at a time!

 

The people I met (especially the people who worked for Hostelling International in Belgium namely Les Aubergesdejeunesse and Jeugdherbergen) went way beyond the call of duty, in fact I would openly call them friends and when I make a trip back to Belgium (it has to happen!) I will be visiting them and catching up with them. The level of care and love that went into the time we spent together was overwhelming. This also burst open and dissolved the myth that Europeans (or Belgians in this case as they would fall under this umbrella) are cold and dull people. No mam! There was certainly not a dull moment, if anything this Vibrant South African found herself needing to catch a breath and ask for some time for naps!

 

I consider myself a very considerate and open person, but every time I travel I am put face to face with my not-so-open self, the part of myself that has all these perceptions and beliefs that I have now made my own without first-hand experience. Travelling unravels these and asks me if they are true. Most of the time, they are not. Because nothing is ever as simplistic as these pre-packaged hand-me-down perceptions tend to be. Travelling reminds me of this at every turn.

 

Part of my life’s work revolves around building and contributing towards tolerance (something that South Africans have benefitted greatly from! Hence no civil war after Apartheid) and seeing as travelling tends to be expensive I have chosen to use blogs as a virtual travel space and opportunity for reality exchanges. This is why, a few months ago, I have launched my project called The Travelling Speech Bubblewhich is an attempt at teaching under-resourced students of the Media, Image and Expression program of IkamvaYouth in Makhaza Khayelitsha (township in Cape Town) how to blog. My journey with Big Blog Exchange has reminded me how powerful the world of blogging and exchanging cultural stories and realities is.

I do feel that this experience has given me the fuel that I needed to continue (I was feeling a little demotivated and low on resources and energy before leaving and was questioning the ability to continue this project and would go as far as questioning it’s importance and relevance in the South African landscape given the spectrum of issues we face over here) but now I see the importance of my work and why it is necessary and I am reminded that the resources are there, they just need to be distributed differently and also that it’s sometimes just about asking! So the next few weeks will be dedicated to working hard and tirelessly to make this project a beam of undying light. Imagine how wonderful it would be to read about a young Xhosa boys daily life in the township of Khayelitsha? How eye-opening and myth-busting would that be?!

I will admit that I sometimes wake up afraid of failing, afraid that I have given birth to something that I may not be able to take care of. But this experience has awoken me to the reality that there are many hands and hearts that are passionate about this sort of work and this way of enlightening each other about our cultures and our stories. So I keep calm and continue with this in mind.

I honestly didn’t believe that I would be sitting here in my apartment in Cape Town having been so deeply impacted by this experience. How impactful can 10 days in Belgium be?

 

Well, the only way to summarise this trip is this: My big blog exchange experience has been a myth-busting, future-moulding, idea-planting, cultural and reality exchange sprinkled with magic, hot air balloon rides, mind-expanding conversation and the most amazing people and warmth I could have ever fantasized about. A full trip. No gaps left unfilled.

Figure 1: When I was younger (and even now in my more grown-up days) I used to fantasize about how it was to travel in the olden days. I once saw an image of a man standing with a hot air balloon deflating in the background, he looked triumphant. He looked interested, he seemed like a crazy person who was consumed with exploring the world at all and any cost. This image is my own version of that. It signifies doing the out-of-the-ordinary, it reminds me of the feeling I had before going on, the doubts, the fear, the butterflies, moths and what felt like dragonflies in my tummy and the feeling just before jumping off a cliff into the unknown. Everytime I see this image I think of my grandchildren and how cool they will think I was. Yes! I feel like I’m living my own version of “around the world in 80 days”…

 

Figure 2: I chose this one because it surprised me, it’s so beautiful and I forgot I had taken it. I also never look at the world from this perspective, because I hardly ever stop to look upwards. This was probably the one moment I did this. I love looking at the same thing/topic/person from a different perspective. This reminds me to do that more often! Also to do things that surprise even me (the good kind of surprise though!)

Figure 3: This is precisely how I feel about Belgium now. This was taken on the last day. And I look at it now and chuckle because it was a silly picture taken for fun at the time but now as I scroll through my hundreds of images I see that this was quite literally the end of a courtship with Belgium and Belgium had won my heart. Tin Tin can be spotted all over the place in Belgium. He is an icon. It was also whispered in my ear that cartoons are at the heart and soul of Belgian culture. This image has so many parallels I may need to write an essay about the parallels and how perfectly suited it is to sum up my visit! Who would have thought!?

Figure 4 I know I’m cheating, but I couldn’t resist – this was an image captured on my last night in Belgium (in Brussels) and the sky was so spectacular it was as if it was a personal send off just for me. Like Brussels was saying, we will miss you and here is one last kiss. Please come back soon. I know I may sound weird and slightly deranged, but I promise really was truly incredible… (and this image doesn’t even begin to do justice to what the naked eye witnessed!)

 

Jeremy Fowler      From: Jeremy Fowler, CANADA
Manifesto

SUMMARY

By the time I started packing, the only thing I was expecting to see was tall buildings and some vector borne illness. I was in for a big surprise. During my exchange I have learned so many lessons; lesson one about myself: I really value home. Lesson two: People are the same where ever you are in the world. Lesson three: be prepared to eat something you may not agree with. My advice after my experience; spend some time seeing the world and getting out of your comfort zone

 

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

What a time I had in Malaysia. It was really an incredible experience. I don’t really know where to start, so I guess I will start with the live draw.

 

I was at work watching the live draw. I’m not sure how much work was being done by anyone in the office that day; we all seemed to be keeping an eye on where all the winners were going. In my head I was thinking of all the places I wanted to go and I kept watching them fall off the list. I made a list of all the country with winners and sure enough, I was the last pair to be announced.

 

I was overwhelmed. Once it became clear I was going to be in the Top 100 I had lot of people asking me where I wanted to go. I would reply that I wanted to go where I wouldn’t plan my own trip to; some place in the world that I wouldn’t think to go. I wished to go such a place and my wish came true. I had no idea what to expect from Malaysia.

 

I did a lot of reading about the place and I saw a travel nurse. By the time I started packing, the only thing I was expecting was to see was tall buildings and some vector borne illness. I was in for a big surprise.

 

I left home on June 5th. I felt under prepared to leave for a trip half way around the world. I have not done much international travel. Well, I have never done any international travel, nonetheless, travel by myself. The furthest I have ever gone by myself was Augusta, Maine, USA, only 400 miles kilometers away from my home. I have only been on an air plane by myself once on a domestic flight. I was nervous.

 

I dropped off my car at my Uncle’s house outside of Halifax and got dropped off at my buddy’s house. We headed off to the airport at 2:00 a.m. When I got to the airport, everything was closed; I couldn’t check in, I couldn’t drop off my bag, I couldn’t sit comfortably with so much going through my mind. I sat there and waited.

 

Only 25 hours later, I landed in Malaysia. Before I got there, Malaysia was a fantasy place, not unlike a place on a board game you’d visualize when you landed there, but it was never real. I got there and all of a sudden I realized that this was a real place. That is the problem with sheltered life; I could read about places and see photos, but they were only as real as Hogwarts and Neverland.

 

I spent the next four days exploring Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding area. I hit a couple of personal road blocks. I thought everything was going to kill me; the food I ate, being in the sun, mosquitoes, traffic, and ice cubes. I lived in fear while trying to gain the local experience. I also had a lot of troubles with the internet which made it hard to post to the blog, twitter, and most importantly, my family. My grandmother always said that it is really to get homesick when you can’t go home. She was right; it was tough being alone and not being able to reach my loved ones.

 

Lesson one about myself: I really value home. I am really comfortable here. I have a comfortable job, comfortable relationships, comfortable living situations, and so on. It weighed heavy on my heart being away. I missed my dog.

 

This is something that you have to know about traveling, especially backpacking by yourself; you have to be prepared to leave everything behind. You really have to take in your surroundings and immerse yourself in the culture. Once I realized that my family was fine, my dog was fine, and everything wasn’t going to kill me, I started enjoying myself more.

 

I have been exposed to other cultures and races before; however, it has always been in the comfort of my own culture.

 

Going to Malaysia was the first time that I ever experienced culture shock. I have gone from small town to big city and tropical regions on family vacations, but it was always with people who looked like me and spoke my language. Although we may have seen the world differently, we could at least create a discourse on the topic. Once I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, I quickly realized that I was the foreigner.

 

Malaysia is a very multicultural country. The population is primarily made up of people of Indian decent, Chinese decent and indigenous Malay people. The official religion is Islam with a large Hindu population as well. The official language is Malay; however, English is widely spoken because Malaysia was once under the British Empire.

 

There was still a barrier with the language, but it is incredible how people can communicate. Before I left, a friend of mine who lived in Thailand for a while sent me some advice in an email, one of which was: smile and they’ll love you. So I did. Whenever I was in a situation where I didn’t really know what was going on or someone didn’t understand what I was saying, I would smile and we’d get through it.

 

Lesson two: People are the same where ever you are in the world. When we have visitors on the East Coast of Canada, (I’d like to think) we do our best to accommodate them the best we can. That is how I feel about the folks in Malaysia. Although I don’t speak their language at all and I had no understanding of their culture, they did their best to help me along.

 

Lesson three: be prepared to eat something you may not agree with. I guess I am talking specifically about me being a vegetarian. There is some really great food in South East Asia and to be honest, the diet worked really well for me. When I found out where I was going, I decided that I would need to reintroduce animal proteins into my diet, and tried without much success. Let’s just say it was messy. But it didn’t really matter; there was always something I could eat there although there may not be much selection. I was forced to have some chicken flavored noodles on the plane because I need to take some medication. You do need to be ready to turn your back on whatever dietary belief you have; there may be situations where you don’t have much of a choice.

 

Also, I ate the durian. It was awful, but I did it.

 

If you announced in Canada that you were no longer allowed to chew gum, the penalty for vandalism was a beating with a cane, and you’d be hung for any amount of possessing illegal drugs, there would be a riot. The entire country would look like Toronto after the G20 summit or Vancouver after the Canucks lost in game 7 of the Stanley Cup.

But in Singapore, it works. There are some really strict laws that I don’t necessarily agree with nor do I think they make sense; however, I can say that I really liked Singapore, as those laws didn’t particularly affect me. The whole country is really clean, beautiful, and it felt really safe. I may have felt safer in Singapore than my own home.

I will say one thing about Singapore. Pulau Ubin is a beautiful island off the coast of Singapore. It is very rural and is only home to a couple hundred people. It is in danger of being developed like the rest of the island. I just want to say don’t do it! It is the last little bit of nature that Singapore has and I think they should keep it that way!

My experience was absolutely incredible. I have had so many people ask me when I got home if I would go back; in a heartbeat. 10 days on the other side of the world may have been a little much for my first experience traveling; however, I did have some great guides. It is a whole other world out there with so much more to explore.

It is really great that you were able to read about my experience, but I definitely encourage you to actually go. Spend some time seeing the world and getting out of your comfort zone. The world is too big to blog about in 10 days; once you check it out yourself, you’ll understand.

I want to thank the sponsors of the Big Blog ExchangeHostelling International, along with my host National Association, HI-Malaysia, and HI-Singapore, and my own country's HI National Association, HI-Canada.

Chee Ching     From: cheeChingy.com, MALAYSIA
Manifesto

SUMMARY

Before this trip started, I have no idea what to expect. But I guess it was better. Today I am sitting here after my trip, and so many thoughts began running in my head. This trip really gave me the courage to embrace the idea of travelling alone.

Bloggers Manifesto: How can a trip change my life?

These 2 weeks in Canada have been amazing. I have never been to the other side of the world before, and I truly appreciate Hostelling International for making this a reality. When I stepped out from the arrival gates, I was greeted with smiles and I knew that I will be well taken care off here in Canada.

This is the first time I’m travelling alone, and it made me realize that there are so many things for me to discover. I met so many travelling backpackers that have inspiring stories, learned about new cultures, see things that I have not seen before, and gain experiences in so many aspects. In such a short period of time, I managed to read maps and got myself by just looking at it. I am so proud of myself as my sense of direction are beyond help.

And what I reckon would be the best part is although everything is so different from my home country; there were many similarities as well. For example, when we talk about certain issues, or when interests are alike no matter which country you are from. I also learnt about the different culture and lifestyle of others and it was eye opening.

I went to so many amazing places in Canada and I wished I could just document everything with my eyes and share everything with my readers and the world. The camera can only do so much, and often I felt that I wished I had something amazing that instantaneously capture whatever that I am seeing.

I cannot wait to start blogging comprehensively on the places I went, and being on this trip gave me the idea to travel more, and I am looking forward for my first backpacking trip soon. This trip really gave me the courage to embrace the idea of travelling alone. I still have so many things for me to see, do and experience and I want to do it as soon as possible! :)