In my wildest dreams about my upcoming trip to Venice, fancy hotel rooms with river views and posh canal-side aperitivi with a side of olives in the sunset kept swirling through my head. I’m generally of the very budget-conscious type when it comes to travel, but a trip to Venice is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and doing Venice on a budget without splurging on a little luxury here and there made me feel like I was going to miss out on some Venetian quintessence. So when I was given a chance to have all of my river view aperitivo fantasies come to life at Hotel Gabrielli Sandwirth, it goes without saying: the decision was pretty simple.
I get asked pretty much daily what camera(s) I shoot my photos and videos with, so today I thought I would present you with an updated version of what is in my camera bag as a few things have changed since my last post. My approach hasn’t changed so much however: I still do not put so much importance in my camera equipment and tend to cheap out wherever possible because breaking sh*t is a favorite hobby of mine and I do believe good photography lies a lot more in the eye of the beholder rather than in whatever expensive piece of equipment you are gagging to show me with so much pride (hint: don’t). That being said, lately I’ve invested in a GoPro and a few other gadgets after shooting a lot of videos that all ended in the trash for being too shaky (cycling + filming = not awesome). So back by popular demand, here is what’s in my camera bag these days (I still don’t have a camera bag!)
This post has been a long time coming because I still to this day cannot find the right words for it. My original thought was to offer some kind of guide to the places I went, what I ate, what I packed, how I paced myself and so forth. But for some reason, it feels pointless. Besides, during the month and a half that I cycled the 3,000km from Istanbul, via Bulgaria, to Milan, I fully disconnected from any form of online activity, from updating my social media to gathering facts for the greater good of blogging. I was too busy taking in whatever the hell I was putting myself through, absorbing what was thrown at me, the brutal climate change after nearly two years in the heat of South East Asia and physically trying to keep up with a four-year veteran cyclist. Here are a few thoughts I gathered nevertheless.
Bologna is a charming overlooked gem amongst hotshot destinations like Rome, Venice and Florence (but don’t get me wrong, I love these cities, especially Florence! Wondering what to do in Florence?) and I fell in love with it the second I stepped foot into its narrow, glistening cobblestone streets. The porticos covering the majority of the walkways within the old city make it the perfect place to explore in any weather and the edgy vibe from the large student crowd, alternative culture, progressive left-wing politics and excellent food make it the ideal place for those in search of more off-the-beaten path tourism. And no, Bologna doesn’t equal mortadella. Here are a few things I got up to, but there are so many more things to do in Bologna.
Parma is mostly known for ham and parmesan which, as you might have guessed, aren’t exactly my cup of tea. To be perfectly frank, I didn’t quite know what to expect from Parma, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. And what better feeling is there than discovering activities, sights and food that are all in line with who you are and what you love! Parma turned out to be an unexpected little haven of health and vegan food – the art part obviously didn’t come as a surprise, but contributed to a lovely getaway I can’t recommend enough. Here is what I got up to.
I arrived in Italy straight from a hectic holiday in New York City and couldn’t have dreamed of a better place to start my trip than in Parma. A city rich in history, culinary wonders and culture, Parma is also a quaint and gorgeous place to unwind, cure a jetlag while roaming the romantic streets aimlessly, stopping in cafes at random for apero and indulge in a little dolce far niente for a day or two. It’s also home to the gorgeous and relaxing B&B Al Battistero d’Oro where I had the pleasure to stay in the first three days of my Italian holiday.
There are many places in South East Asia that have become synonymous with the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle – ditching the regular nine-to-five to work remotely or bootstrap a new business from a warmer climate, with a much lower cost of living and even better quality of life. We visited Chiang Mai last year and loved the city for its culture and easy way of life, and it always stayed in the back of our minds that if there was one place in Asia we’d be happy to put down some roots and live, this was the it.
Run-of-the-mill chain hotels and organized tour groups aren’t so much my cup of tea. As an independent people-person type of traveler who loves supporting small family-owned businesses instead of large impersonal corporations, getting off the beaten tourist path and meeting with locals wherever I go, peer-to-peer platforms such as AirBnB, Couchsurfing, Bla Bla Car or Warmshowers have always been some of my favorite alternative ways of traveling. What’s better than to discover a new place in the company of a local who knows the lowdown much better than a plain old book, takes you to all the magical yet unknown locations and is just so happy to help you discover their home town? One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting with locals and seeing “normal life” through their eyes in the places I visit.
2016 is here! I will be turning 35 at the end of the year, and while this big number makes me LOL in correlation to my level of “adultness”, I can’t help but notice that fear is still holding me back sometimes in life and this is the year I would like to change that. So I made a 35 by 35 bucket list. In this year that will be leading me to my 35th birthday, I have challenged myself to do all the things I have never done, mostly things that absolutely frighten me and that I always told myself I would never do, but also things I have never done for absolutely no reason. I know this list is completely insane and chances are high I will not be able to do even half of it, but listing this and challenging myself to some of these things I hope is a first step in taking actions to ridding me of my fears.
In 2015, I meditated in silence for 10 days with Buddhist monks high on a mountain in Thailand, became a yoga instructor deep in the jungle of India, watched the sun rise over holy temples in Burma, cycled from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and from Istanbul to Milan, slept under the stars about a hundred times, visited fourteen different countries and met so many amazing people in the process. 2015 was also a year of great loss and I am ready to start anew.
Wherever you are, may this next year be full of adventures, health, surprises and happiness!