Pondicherry: The French Connection

Pondicherry is a Union Territory in India and one of the few regions in India not colonised by the mighty British Empire. It was a French colony, and therefore, stands out in terms of architecture, culture and tradition. Located in South India, Pondicherry has several places of interest but my trip was focused on just one thing - the Auroville Experience. I had heard a lot about the iconic gold round ball that is the meditation centre or Matrimandir, but never had a chance to visit. Determined to see it before I drown in the madness of city life, I decided to visit Pondicherry and my family tagged along. Spread over just under 20 square kilometers, Pondicherry is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal on one side and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on other sides. Our resort - Tanto Resort - was on the border of Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu. It was close to the Auroville Ashram so we chose to spend our weekend vacation there.

I think before I narrate my experience, a small description and context setting are important to understand the significance of Auroville and why it is visited by thousands of tourists every year. For those who don't know what Auroville is - Auroville is a small, experimental township in Pondicherry that is based on the vision of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother or Mirra Alfassa. It strives to become a universal town where people live in harmony and break the shackles of politics, nationality, race, religion, etc. The mother was a French citizen and met Aurobindo for the first time in Pondicherry before the First World Wa, then settled with Aurobindo in 1920. She was instrumental in shaping Auroville and it was her vision to turn the then barren land into a flourishing township. After Aurobindo passed away in 1950, she established the Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education in 1952. She then founded the experimental township of Auroville in 1968 based on Sri Aurobindo's vision of coexistence of people from all walks of life. The township is based on Aurobindo's vision of new forms of individual and collective life. All this and the history of the place are depicted in a short film when you visit the Ashram and book your tickets to Matrimandir.

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As we came out of the film, I was overwhelmed with the idea of collective living, and a lot of what I had been observing at the Ashram started to make sense. There were so many people from different countries doing daily chores at the Ashram that it was incomprehensible at the beginning. As I walked around the place, I was called on to board a bus that was headed to the Matrimandir - another marvel that, trust me, cannot be found anywhere! Matrimandir literally translates to mother temple. But it is nothing like a temple, church, mosque, you name it! A small rickety bus took us to the golden, ball-shaped Matrimandir. As the sight of the Matrimandir became clearer, my excitement touched a completely different level. After entering the compound and showing our tickets, we were escorted by a guide who told the significance of meditation and the do's and don'ts of entering the main meditation hall or concentration center as it is called.  People who visit Matrimandir for the first time are allowed to meditate for just 15mins. However, as you visit the place for the second time, the duration is increased to 30mins and so on.

I hope I can do justice to describing the entire Matrimandir experience. You really need to be there to believe it. Beautiful, mesmerizing, tranquil - all are words understating the experience. The experience of entering the Matrimandir is surreal. Imagine entering a dome-shaped ball where there is pin-drop silence with snow-white surroundings. The place is as clean as you can imagine. After all, all visitors are asked to fold clothing so that their trousers are well above the ground. The visitors are also asked to remove their shoes and wear clean socks provided inside Matrimandir. A spiral dim-lit staircase leads to the main concentration room. As you enter the room, there are 12 white half erected pillars in a circular formation that don't touch the ceiling. In the center of the pillars is a crystal ball. Just above the crystal ball there is a small opening through which light enters the room and strikes the crystal ball. This is an extremely scientific and intelligent way to light the room. As you finish your 15 minutes inside the room, you are requested to step outside and then head downstairs to see the lotus-shaped structure just below the ball. As I got up, I felt at peace and calmness descend on me like never before. Quietly, we all walked to the lotus structure where we could see and hear the flowing water. The lotus is a symbol of the mother and the dome is the supposed to be the bud of the flower.

Once out of the Matrimandir, you can roam around the gardens and take pictures of the surroundings. In one of those gardens is a tree that is supposed to be around 100 years old. Surely, one has to visit this former French colony to enjoy serenity and beauty of Matrimandir. Matrimandir is a symbol-dream in architecture and a marvel of beauty and harmony. Explore the French connection of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo at this experimental township and have a tranquil vacation.  

Massive thanks you Medha from @travellers_neo for this guestpost! Find her at www.neotravellers.com for more. 

How to Dig Yourself out of a Holiday Rut

None of us likes to think that we’re predictable. We would love to think that we personify adventure and excitement, yet in reality, many of us Brits are stuck in a rut when it comes to our choice of holidays.

Remarkably, many of us already know exactly what we’re going to be doing and where we’ll going to be going for our next summer holiday. According to one source, more than three quarters of Brits visit the same holiday destination more than once, and nearly one in ten return to relive the same holiday more than ten times over.

Evidently, we as a nation have a tendency to accept the “we know what we like and we like what we know” mentality. While there is an undeniable comfort in the tried and tested, there are also advantages when it comes to spontaneous living. Take a chance on an unexpected holiday, go on an adventure and create stories to look back on for years; after all, life is far too short to experience the same holiday time and again.

Deciding to break from tradition and climb out of your rut is one thing, but actually putting the plan into action is quite another. Where do you start? How do you begin to break the habit of a lifetime and accept the new, impromptu you?

Go somewhere you’ve never heard of before

It might sound obvious, but adventure starts with the unknown. Begin your new holiday voyage with an old-fashioned map. Find a place completely unfamiliar to you and take a chance. If you’re strapped for cash, you don’t have to break the bank to appease your spontaneous side. There are a number of last minute cottage deals in the UK that are happy to negotiate on price. If you look hard enough, you’ll find the perfect place to rest your feet at the end of a long, active day.

Challenge yourself with an adventurous activity

There is no better way to jolt you out of a rut than to do something completely unexpected. Get your adrenaline pumping with an activity that you would never picture yourself doing. If nothing else, this will give you lots to talk about when you get home. Be bold; go skydiving, rock climbing or bungee jumping. You’d be surprised at how safe these activities actually are when done properly. You’re in no real danger, but the fact that you have so bravely stepped out of your comfort zone will give you a fresh new perspective on life and your own capabilities.

Go on holiday alone

This might be a terrifying concept for some, but holidaying solo can provide a lot of exciting new experiences. You get to meet a lot of new people that you probably would not have had time for if you were in a group of friends. You get to do everything on your own schedule and you have the first and last say on all your holiday activities. If you’re experiencing a general lack of independence in your life, adventuring off on a holiday alone might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Take your pet with you

If you can’t imagine venturing off on holiday completely alone, consider taking your dog along for the ride. Taking your pet on holiday is a trend that is increasing in popularity, as people have come to realise the benefits. You don’t need to worry about finding someone to look after your pet, or about booking them into a kennel. You can relax knowing your pet is safe and having the time of their life. On top of this, they provide great company and an excuse to get outside and explore. If you’re planning a UK staycation, places are becoming increasingly accepting of pets. You can find pet-friendly holiday cottages, most beaches allow dogs and there are even cafes that welcome dogs with a bowl of fresh water.

If you’re feeling tired of the same, monotonous holidays you’ve been experiencing for years, try the tips above — but most of all, remember that the human brain thrives on a challenge. Be bold, creative and develop exciting memories to share in the years to come.


Please note this is a sponsored post.

10 Gap Year Tips For Beginners

Gap years can be scary times. Here are 10 ways you can make your year out from the world that little bit easier.

1. Get Hired

In case you didn’t know, money makes the world go round. The only way to guarantee you’ll survive is with money, and finding work while you’re on your travels can help keep you afloat. It only has to be part-time.

2. Learn to Drive

Do this before you go. Getting around is made significantly easier by hiring out a rental car to travel about between towns. Even if it’s just for a day it can be a lifesaver when you’re in remote locations.

3. Make a Plan

Preparation is a skill that’s key throughout your life, but perhaps no more so than before you embark on a monumental journey around the globe. Make life easier by knowing exactly where you’re going and when.

4. Sort Out a Budget

On that note, it’s imperative to always make sure you’re sticking to budget. Saving is the key here, with it critical you work out exactly what you’re going to need to survive before heading out. According to the Secret Traveller: "If you’re travelling for a long period of time it’s essential that you stick to a budget, otherwise your money will disappear as quickly as that beer sitting in front of you. Spend time making a reasonable budget, and then stick to it."

5. Pack Your Pack

The last thing you’ll want when in the exotic climates of Malaysia or Hawaii is finding out you’re short on sunblock. Make sure everything you need is in your bag before jetting off for the year. It saves time and money when you’re there.

6. Check Your Health

Getting ill on holiday is never fun – and when you’re in a country with relatively limited facilities it’s even worse. Do your utmost to make sure you’re fighting fit before you travel and ensure the chances of illness are reduced.

7. Keep Energy High

When you’re away it’s easy to fall into lazy habits. Do your best to stay in shape by going for morning jogs, hikes or even cycles. This will keep your body in perfect balance - plus could give you a more positive outlook on life. Before you know it you'll be running up a mountain for that cracking sunset!

8. Don't Swim Drunk

Sure, it sounds like fun to go out on the jolly every night – but it has some serious repercussions when you go for a cheeky late night dip! Keep your wits about you and then you'll have a laugh, along with the trip on a lifetime.

9. Cook For Yourself

aking your own dinner from scratch every so often will help to save the pennies and also lets you gain a bit of independence. It's easy (and expensive) to go out for dinner every night, so put in some hard work and prepare your own dish. As advised by Nomadic Matt, "The only place where cooking your own meals isn't the most economical option is Asia, where the street food is usually cheaper."

10. Keep in Touch

Finally, it’s important to make sure you don’t lose touch with the rest of society. It’s easy (and healthy) to get lost in the world, however make sure you do just keep an eye on the news when you’re out and about! It's a also a great conversation starter with other fellow travellers!


Please note this is a sponsored post. 



Workouts & Wanderlust

It was a crisp, bright morning in early September 2014 and it was certainly a morning with a difference. No more routine, no more early morning traffic. I was going travelling; a round-the-world trip I had been planning for 18 months was finally starting.

As I boarded the Delta flight to New York, I think it's pretty accurate to say I was experiencing almost every emotion possible. Excitement, apprehension, expectation, nervousness, and pride in the decision that I had just decided to drop everything and just go and do it.

Part of the nervousness was obviously down to leaving family, removing myself from the 'comfort zone' and the familiarity of England. But also, a large part of it was attached to something else in my life that meant a huge amount to me. Fitness. It's safe to say travelling and fitness don't naturally go hand-in-hand. Exercise and maintaining a decent enough nutritious diet are certainly entwined in routine. Repeated workouts and meal planning were tough enough already, let alone when I was on the road.

I knew it was going to be a challenge. I hoped I'd just 'forget it'. However, amongst all the experiences and incredible things I learnt during my backpacking year, incorporating fitness into this lifestyle was one of them.

New York, west coast USA, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia formed my itinerary from 8/9/14 to 8/9/15. There must be something about that date. The high reaching skyscrapers in NYC, the vast landscapes of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park, the golden beaches of Fiji which reflect the sun as it sets, the magic of Melbourne, the breathtaking beauty of New Zealand which I still struggle to justify with words, the ancient towns of Vietnam and the welcoming nature of the Thai people helped form the memories I will hold with me forever.

Maybe it was all these experiences and more which cause this thing they call 'wanderlust'. Maybe I caught the travel bug. But I truly believe it's more than that. It's life. Travel changes your perspective. It inspires you. It consumes you. You want more, because you know there's a world out there of endless discovery. 

I won't say it was easy combining my love for fitness and passion for travel. But I feel it opened up opportunities. I learnt a lot about myself, found new ways of enjoying fitness and balancing it into the most incredible year of my life so far. You don't need a gym to work out and you don't need a cupboard full of Tupperware to eat healthily. I'll never forget running along the Nadi beach as the sun rose and the waves gushed on the shore. It was so peaceful; so beautiful. Then there was running by the Hudson River in NYC with all the New Yorkers just starting their day like they always would. A highlight for me was trekking up various hillsides in New Zealand and being rewarded at the top with yet another picture-perfect mountainous view.

Not forgetting the incredible cuisine on offer. Perfect fresh fruit in Fiji is pretty much what I enjoyed the whole time I was lucky enough to be enjoying the wonderful islands; papaya, pineapple, bananas. And in Asia; dragon fruit, mango, the list goes on. Furthermore, there's a large and thriving health scene in Australia with plenty of nutrition-orientated cafes and inspirational figures who are big on the fitness scene with their blogs and Instagram following. I've never tasted such amazing 'brunch' as that on offer in the suburbs and backstreets of Melbourne. Smashed Avocado with poached egg, chilli and lime dressing and toasted whole seeded sourdough. Cacao, chia seed and peanut protein balls, 'positive organic pancakes' with banana nice-cream (healthy ice cream). Amazing. So much choice and so deliciously nutritious! Don't even get me started on the coffee... Proper coffee!

Whilst I enjoyed incorporating this into my travels, I still enjoyed the odd Cricketers Arms pint on Southbank in Melbourne, a few glasses of goon on Fraser Island, a few famous Tim Tams during Tim Tam slam (just try it!), and of course, delicious Pad Thai in Asia, because that's what it's all about. Whilst I maintained my love for fitness and always will, I made the most of the opportunities and experiences each country had to offer. 

Running with breathtaking views beat any standard treadmill in the gym. Beach running certainly provides a decent workout. However, my advice to anyone with these dilemmas is to not let your love for fitness consume you when travelling. Let it become part of the experience, incorporate it when you can, but most of all, enjoy every single day and let yourself thrive. Maybe you'll go a few days without a workout or maybe you'll eat a few delicious spring rolls on Khao San Road with a 30p pint. It's all part of the experience. You can always get back into your fitness but you get one chance at making these memories. Make it count!




Adventurous Food Tourism - Lauretta Wright

Have we gone too far with adventurous food tourism?

By LAURETTA WRIGHT of www.HomeandHorizon.com

One of the great things about travelling is the opportunity to experience different cultures and traditions. And hand in hand with this comes eating local cuisine and delicacies.

I’ve never been the most adventurous with food and this has caused me to face some awkward moments on my travels; the most recent of which was on a press trip to Las Vegas. We stayed in the best luxury hotels; experienced the top night spots; and dined in the most exclusive restaurants. Unfortunately, as a ‘burger and chips’ kinda girl, the posh nosh is a little wasted on me.

So when the general manager of one of the most revered hotels on the strip took us journalists to an exclusive restaurant (more suited to the Alec Baldwins of this world than the Lauretta Wrights), and presented us all with a huge dish of French frog legs, I could have cried.

I kept my composure and decided instead to hedge my bets on avoiding being spotted not eating the delicacy, which had been placed in the middle of the table as if to say ‘this is the centre piece and you are privileged to even look at me, let alone taste me’.

But I got caught: “Go on Lauretta, have a taste of the legs, they’re delicious.” “Mmmh…” I said rather a little hurried, “I’m just eating these sautéed mushrooms at the moment, they’re really moreish…”

But my failure to steer the conversation soon became apparent. “Haven’t you tried the frogs yet? They taste just like chicken – Lauretta, you’ll love them.”

Sometimes I think us Brits are a bit thick. I had made up my third excuse for not trying the legs, yet still they persisted. Why don’t they focus on eating their own grub and leave me to it?

I gave up. “Look!” I exclaimed, very exasperated by now. “I had a really, really bad experience with frogs legs once. I ended up ill in bed for days with it coming out of both ends, and since then I’ve vowed never to touch them again.”

This was a lie of course, but it did the trick in shutting everyone up. I get the feeling I went a little OTT with my explanation though; the PR who was accompanying us wasn’t impressed that the general manager seemed put off his dinner following my outburst and kept shooting me dagger eyes across the table. C’est La Vie…

I may be one of few who is a little guarded when it comes to putting strange animal parts in my body. Just a cursory glance online reveals stories of travellers sampling anything from a pig’s head jelly in Prague to chicken feet in East Asia.

Even TV shows are jumping on the gastronomy bandwagon and fuelling the trend with programmes like ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’, daring people to eat things like kangaroo testicles. I mean, really? I’d rather crawl over broken glass…

But despite the increasingly adventurous streak that more people are seeking when it comes to gastronomy, there’s something that most of us agree on: latest research undertaken by momondo (which questioned 1,000 Brits), revealed that good food was one of the most important ingredients for a happy holiday, with Italy being cited as the greatest gastronomic nation (31% of Brits voted it the best worldwide country for food).

Following in joint second were Spain and France, yet only 4% of Brits voted Germany a grand gourmet destination, with just 1% of Brits voting for other nations Norway, Sweden and Russia.

 With our capital London boasting some 65 Michelin-starred restaurants however, it appears we Brits still commend our own cooking at home. The UK claimed 29% votes from Brits (not far behind Italy), as offering the best food worldwide. I’m not sure I’d be among that 29% myself, but I’d still rather know what I’m putting in my mouth than play ‘guess the meat’ game.

And it seems that operators are capitalising on the rise of the foodie holidaymaker, with a whole host of gastronomy options available – from city walking tours to eating with local tribes or enjoying home-cooked meals in the company of locals.

For example, Explore’s Cycle Vietnam tour is new this year and is ideal for foodies with a sense of adventure. The tour takes guests off-the-beaten-track where they will eat with the locals and learn about their unique cultures and traditions.

Guests will enjoy home cooked dinners, try fresh Vietnamese coffee at a coffee processing plant and be tempted with all manners of noodles, snacks and stir fried delights by food sellers in Hanoi.

It all sounds great! However, it seems our liking for unusual delicacies hasn’t gone unnoticed, as also on the menu is the chance to sample a traditional Vietnamese meal of grilled ostrich in bamboo, crocodile with chilli and lemon grass and even snake-head fish.

This doesn’t leave me with much choice; the only advantage I can see on taking this kind of holiday is the weight loss I’d undoubtedly see.

But instead, I’ve decided to save up £1,500 for a nice little foodie tour from RealWorld Holidays that has my name written all over it: a Chocoholic Tour of Ecuador to discover some of the highest quality chocolate in the world.

Kit Kat anyone?

An American Living in Croatia by Lara

There comes a time in every young adult’s life when we must actually face the age-old question our aunts, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas have been consistently asking us at every year at the annual family Christmas party: what are your plans after high school? My answer had always been the same - college. It was definitely my next stop, but which college that would end up being was still a mystery. Having lived in Boston my whole life; loving its charm and history, staying local was definitely an option for me. Many of my friends would go on to attend University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston University, Boston College, and the likes, while some would choose colleges in one of Massachusetts’ surrounding states. But I wanted to try something different. I had already experienced life in the States, and the wanderlust in me drove me to explore college options a little further from the place I had called home for most of my life.

So how did I choose Croatia as my next ‘home sweet home’? My family is originally from Croatia, and I have spent every summer since I was born having fun in the sun running around the beautiful country. Getting back into touch with my roots, not just during a holiday, but really seeing how it would be to live my life in Croatia as my family had for so many generations was something I wanted to experience. Every time my parents would complain about me moving so far away from them, I would blame their own travel-seeking genes that have clearly been passed on to me.

My parents moved from Croatia, never having been outside of Europe, with nothing but a suitcase’s worth of clothes to attend college a world away in beautiful California. After California, my parents relocated to Baltimore, where I was born. We followed my dad’s career next to Trieste, Italy, back to the States to North Carolina, and finally found a permanent home in a little suburb 20 minutes outside of Boston where my parents still live. My own life story is still being written. I currently live in a cozy little apartment in Croatia’s enchanting capital, Zagreb (recently voted Europe’s best festive city 2015). I am studying international business at an American University, Rochester Institute of Technology (Zagreb campus). 

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The only thing Boston and Zagreb have in common is that I consider them both my home. In all other things, Boston and Zagreb are quite literally and figuratively a world apart. When I first moved to Zagreb, everything was new to me and I was experiencing culture shock to the max, but one of the things that seemed the most strange to me was the coffee culture in Zagreb. A coffee café graced every street corner in Zagreb - literally. Every. Corner. If a street happens to be a longer street, it is not uncommon to find a row of cafes next to each other. The more shocking part about this to me was that at any hour of the day, Monday-Sunday, each café I would pass would be at least half full. I started realising why each café was always so full: the question “so, coffee?” followed every meeting with every person I would come in contact with in Zagreb! When I got my first coffee in Zagreb, I was surprised at how small the cup was, and drank it within the first 20 minutes of sitting at the café. It was only after a few strange looks and a few hours of conversation passing by that I realised drinking coffee was a social event, rather than a means of getting caffeine. In Boston, coffee equated to caffeine and nothing else. Boston has its own special way of drinking coffee however. A majority of Bostonians walk into Dunkin Donuts and order some flavoured variation of (forever and always) a large iced coffee, be it spring, summer, fall, or winter.

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The cuisine in general is extremely different in Boston and Zagreb. Croatian cuisine is typically a mix of healthy and delicious coastal Mediterranean food which is marked by fresh seafood, wine, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, as well as northern Croatian cuisine, which includes lots of meat, potatoes, and rich stews. 

Whenever I visit the coast, I go squid fishing with my grandfather. The squid often go from the sea to the frying pan in a matter of minutes, and are always enjoyed with a glass of homemade red wine. Coastal foods also make for interesting and surprisingly fitting combinations, such as figs and prosciutto – who would have thought! 

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Of course I do love my Americanmeals though, and all the grease, sugar, and cholesterol that comes with it. I have only been to McDonald’s in America once however, because my chicken nuggets tasted like a shoe box, and the restaurant itself resembled one. McDonald’s in Croatia however, are made with fresher products and better meat, and the taste is significantly better. McDonald’s in Croatia are also decorated more like a classy restaurant than a fast food joint, and are nothing like the ones I picture back in Boston with McCafes becoming much more prominent (classier versions of the traditional fast food joints). We love our burgers and hot dogs in America, but we also somehow find a way of Americanizing other cultures’ cuisines as well. Leaving an all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet in America has you feeling significantly less healthy and significantly more comatose than leaving a restaurant in China would. Luckily Zagreb also has foreign food restaurants, one of which is my favourite sushi joint called Takenoko. The only food that is missing is a Boston hometown favourite, and locally known dish – lobster

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Although I live in Zagreb for most of the year now that I am studying here, I miss Boston’s fall season the most. The changing leaves, apple picking, and Halloween are such great memories there and thinking about everything about autumn makes me nostalgic while I’m in Zagreb. However, to wash away the nostalgia, the best season in Zagreb comes along soon – Advent season. I love seeing the city all decorated with lights strewn all around its streets, skating around the ice rink on a plaza, and enjoying mulled wine and sausages from one of the many food stands that get put up around the city.

Summers in Boston are amazing, and include bonfires and many beach days on some of the local sandy, shallow, cold water beaches. They are quite a difference from Croatia’s gorgeous pebbly warm water beaches! I had an incredible summer experience in Croatia this year, which made this summer the best one of my life: hopping aboard the Oh! So Croatia bus as a brand ambassador. The bus took me and a group of young travellers all over Croatia, from Zagreb to Zagorje, and then all the way down the coast to lovely Dubrovnik, on a sight-filled, fun-filled adventure unlike any I had ever seen before, and I got to know Croatia and its charms and beauty better than I ever had before!

Nights out in Zagreb and Boston are incomparable. In Zagreb, it is all about the clubbing. A typical night out would consist of both boys and girls getting all dressed up and going from club to club. The drinking age is 18 in Croatia, but it is not particularly strict - younger people tend to go to certain clubs and older people to others. In Boston, going out is a bit different. As for the nightlife scene, it is 21+, as that is the drinking age. People enjoy clubs but also bars and pubs a lot, where it is not necessary to dress up, and a casual t shirt and jeans suffice. Boston is a city with a high population with an Irish background, which shows in many of the Irish pubs around Boston. Zagreb has some great pubs as well, such as Pivnica Medvedgrad that has authentic Croatian craft beer, as well as the Irish Sheridan’s pub, where one can find many foreign craft beers! Outings in Boston can also very often include house parties, college/frat parties, and tailgating before concerts or sporting events. Tailgating is an American phenomenon – sitting in a massive parking lot, music blaring from cars, barbequing, and playing games such as America’s favourite pastime. Baseball? No. Beer pong, of course.

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Boston and Zagreb are two separate worlds that I have the honour of getting to live in and experience. I would not give up my time in Zagreb studying and living the Croatian life for anything, nor would I for being born in the USA and growing up in the states! I would recommend both of my home cities to any traveller looking for a historic cultural experience as well as a good time!





Thanks Lara for sharing with us your experience of living in Croatia after growing up in the USA - have any of you done the same?

Travelling with MillieGoes - Jess Fournier

Travel Buddy Jess, who put up with me for over 3 months while gallivanting through Oceania, has written something up below to let you know what I'm really like... At least she was nice about it! Want to know how to find the perfect Travel Buddy? Read up my tips here

Choosing a travel buddy is a decision that can seem small, but in reality it’s actually a really big commitment. You spend all day everyday with your buddy and for some that can be overwhelming, however Camilla and I survived 3 months without an argument despite being very different people. We used our differences to our advantages and both of us stepped outside our of comfort zones thanks to the other. Our differences meant we always had something to talk about; having come from different backgrounds, going to different schools and having different aspirations allowed us to learn a lot form each other.

We started our adventure in New Zealand and I think one of the best things we did was climb Mount Eden at sunset. It was our first proper night away from home (where we weren’t stuck on a plane) and it allowed us to talk about what we both wanted to experience in the next three months of freedom. New Zealand was one of the coolest countries I’ve ever been to with the most beautiful scenery. The country renowned for extreme sports definitely lived up to its expectation with us skydiving, black water rafting, white water rafting and climbing up Mount Doom (Tongariro). Whilst we there, we learnt a lot about each other mainly that Camilla is the most organised human being on the planet, whereas I am not. I get where I need to be but am ridiculously laid back when to comes to planning and being on time. There must have been times where Mills was pulling her hair out but would know how to chivvy me along without us having a row, and for that I fully commend her.

We hit Australia after 6 weeks together, so by this time we had routines and were used to being with each other 24/7. Aus brought us new challenges with Camilla falling ill whilst we were staying in Noosa at Flashpackers Hostel which was one of the cleanest, nicest hostels we stayed in. This involved an emergency trip to the doctors to get antibiotics, but she survived to tell the tale and that’s all that matters! In this country, Mills swam with a crocodile, we toured Ayres rock, dived on the Great Barrier Reef and sailed Whitsundays along with walking a lot of Australia’s beautiful coastland. We made sure that each other was able to have the time to do what we wanted and that’s a really essential thing if you’re going to get along with your buddy.

Our final destination was Fiji and I can say we definitely saved the best until last. This place was paradise. We travelled around the mainland first before doing island hopping for around ten days. The beaches here were beyond beautiful and we got to swim in some of the riches corals in the world. Swimming with manta rays was definitely one of the highlights for both us and I’m sure it’s an experience that we will forever remember. We drank far too much kava and spent our days lazing in hammocks, kayaking or exploring the islands. It was a luxurious end to what had felt like the longest time living out of back pack.

Overall, I had the time of my life travelling with Mills and I’m sure if I ever go back to Aus, New Zealand or Fiji with anybody else I will have a completely different experience. I think that is one of the beauties of travelling and I hope she remembers our time together with as much fondness I as do. Sure, we had our differences but we made them work in our favour and writing this has brought back many fond memories that I hope stay with me for the rest of my life.  

Jess - you're awesome! This just goes to show what great friends you can make on the road and travel with.  

Will before The Broke Backpacker

Most of you know him as The Broke Backpacker. You might have seen him clinging to a mountainside or haphazardly hacking his way through a jungle. He’s kind of got the whole ‘adventurer’ thing going on. He’s famed for heading into risky countries and getting out in one piece and with plenty of jaw-dropping stories to boot. He’s known for being held at gunpoint, for nearly dying in Nepal and for travelling the world on an extreme budget. But, I know him simply as 'Will'.


Before he was The Broke Backpacker he was just another random guy who wandered up to me in a pub, bought me a drink and made it known that I was to be his best friend for the next few months. Will was still all the things he is today; namely totally nuts and in love with adventures but he hadn’t gotten round to starting his blog and sharing his adventures and advice yet, and thank goodness he has right?

Other than thinking 'where on earth could this guys from’, (Will talks kind of funny when he is excited if you haven't watched any of his videos), my first thought about Will? This is a really genuinely kind guy. Now please, don't take my description of kind like you would with nice. Nice is an awful word and means nothing, what I mean is that he was really interested in talking to me, getting to know me, showing an interest; he didn’t just want to try and get me straight back to his place in 0.5 seconds. He was, and still is, a true gentleman when it comes to women. He laughed at my shit jokes (and still does), was good enough not to point out that I blush like a tomato and has a way to make you feel completely at ease around him to share your story. But guess how much of an idiot I felt after I'd talk about the few places I'd travelled to when I was young after he opened his mouth and hinted at a couple of his recent destinations!

For me, Will was that guy that every girl has to have once in her life. It was that ‘just for fun’ relationship, the first time you date without feeling like you have to label it or feel you need to whack up ‘it’s complicated’ on facebook. The older ‘guy’, who is a few years more mature than you, who was living away from home in accommodation that wasn’t university halls (oh so grown up). It was just two people hanging out, having a laugh, with no strings attached. Looking back to my first adventure, it was Will who inspired me to pack my bag and throw myself head first into the world of backpacking. It was also him that helped me to lie to my parents about how I met my Travel Buddy, we decided it would be better if they thought Will had put me in touch with someone he knew instead and she wasn't just a complete stranger from the Internet... Now, Will is the person who I go to for advise as I throw myself into the world of travel blogging!  

For those who want to know, the way to his heart (or to his bed at least) is with cake. My famed chocolate and baileys cake was always a hit with him and his housemates, earning me the right to crash whenever I saw fit / had drunk too much. Will is also a fan of glitter. If there’s an event happening within a few hours journey from him that involves glitter, it’s a safe bet that he would race you to the door, where he would instantly cut the line. Will also enjoys being naked. His chest is forever bared (as those of you who use periscope will know), and when appropriate, Will can be found happily striding around the place in his boxers. He’s also a great guy to have around in a sticky situation, as he has a knack of talking his way out of pretty much anything. His version of breakfast in bed was 8 pieces of bacon in between some bread, with ketchup. His room was covered wall to wall with incredible reminders of his adventures, from pictures to souvenirs and quite a few travel books! The first gift he ever gave me was one of his original business cards and I remember him running over to his computer a few mornings to excitedly show me the most recent comments on his first blog site. 

I better leave him with some secrets* but I think I can quite safely say Will is one of the most interesting, genuine and kind people you will ever meet. He throws himself into every situation with a positive attitude and a ‘why not’ smile making him a bundle of laughs whenever you need it. If you get the chance, hunt him down on the road; he’s bound to make you laugh and to hurl you knee-deep into some hilarious adventure which somehow he gets you out of without a scratch... Even today, he still likes to check up on me and despite being crazy busy is one of the few people in my life who would stop everything and help if I truly needed it because that's just the kind of person he is. But on a more serious note - ladies, if you haven’t already you may want to form an orderly queue outside his bedroom door - trust me ;)

Will and I have yet to do some travelling together, but I'm planning to find him at some point during his two years of adventure from UK - PNG to meet up for a pint or two! While time has moved on and many of those feelings have dissipated, I think it's safe to say I have a massive blogger crush on him because, well - who doesn't?!

*Will also has a full collection of Star Wars actions figures in his room...If you're reading this Will - I'm sorry! I've kept it in for two years and now need to let it out. Perhaps this ruins the 'cool' persona, but I just think it makes him more adorable!


12 Experiences in New Zealand Not To Miss

Firstly it was summer when we travelled around New Zealand but never fear snow still does get a mention. We were only in the land of the long white cloud for 18 days and as a local said ‘there are only two nationalities that are silly enough to come to New Zealand for two or three weeks and that is the Aussies and the Americans.’ I totally agree because NZ is so close for us Aussies we know we will be back to explore even more at a later date. During our short time in this magnificent country we saw some incredible sights that 100% exceeded our expectations. 

1.  White Island, Volcano Experience – 49km off the coast of Whakatane, North Island

Hard hats and gas masks are all part of the get up when visiting the active volcano of White Island. Located 49kms north of Whakatane, in the middle of the ocean, this category 1 volcano is a must see when in New Zealand. After enjoying a comfortable, yet slightly damp, boat ride watching dolphins (if you're lucky whales too) we anchored in one of the bays of White Island. From here we were ferried onto the island where a local guide showed us around. Eating sulphur, following prescribed paths and watching steam emit from the crater lake measured at -0.5 acidity were just some of the highlights. Following the tour it was back on the boat for lunch and a quick swim in the crystal clear water, which was incredible.

Further details:
$199NZ for full day tour including: 
·      A light lunch
·      All transport to the island
·      Safety gear
·      Fully guided tour of White Island. 

For more info see the link below:

2.  Kayaking Milford Sound – Fiordland, South Island

The shear awe of Milford Sound is enough for most people let alone kayaking 12kms through it. Rosco’s Kayaking shows you Milford Sound from a different perspective. After taking a boat ride into the middle of the sound you jump in your kayaks ready to paddle back.  We paddled into a waterfall, filmed seals on the rocks at the base of the sheer cliffs and spent approximately 4 hours taking in the sounds beauty. A slightly sore back at the end was well worth this experience.

Further details:
$189NZ includes the fully guided kayaking tour the ‘Stirling Sunriser’ through Rosco's Milford Kayaks, from 9am to 2pm with all kayaking and safety gear included.

Other tours of different difficulty and prices are available. See the link below:

3.  Mount Aspiring National Park – South Island

We had the privilege of driving through this incredible national park twice and I wish we got to spend even more time there. Just the drive through the scenery is worth it on the way to the West Coast of the South Island. If you have time there are a multitude of walks through this natural beauty. Of the few we did our favourite quick stroll was definitely to the Blue Pools. As the name suggests these pools of a deep blue colour are beautiful and exceeded our expectations.

For further info please check out the link below:

4.  Scenic Flight over the Southern Alps – Lake Tekapo, South Island

Yes, it was expensive but was it worth it? 100% unequivocally it was. On our 50 minute flight over the Southern Alps we got up close and personal with the top of Mt Cook, NZ’s tallest mountain. Saw the beginning (if you call the top the beginning) of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and witnessed how blue and spectacular glacial lakes are. The photos really say it all.

Further details:
$340NZ gets you a 50-minute flight over the Southern Alps and was the cheapest we could find at the time. Flights leave from a range of places, we left from Lake Tekapo. For further info check out the link below:

5.  Queen Charlotte Drive, Nelson to Picton – South Island

We didn’t plan to take this road but more the route our GPS told us was best. I never thought I would say this but thank you annoying electronic device for giving us a slow yet spectacular trip to the town of Picton. This road was easily the slowest we travelled on due to its constant sharp turns. Up and down the sides of cliffs we went as we meandered our way overlooking stunning fiords.

6.  The quaint town of Rapahoe – West Coast, South Island

The town of Rapahoe was a town we stumbled upon and stayed a night in. The Caravan Park in Rapahoe is like nothing I have seen before. Run by an old couple, the wife sits in her caravan knitting, while her husband, shirtless, keeps the park in good working order. There is badminton, a pool and not to mention the showers, which were located in a common sitting room where the tv and kitchen were. Odd, I know, and unlike anything I have witnessed before. Rapahoe also gets this mention not just for its odd and quaint caravan park but for its pub on the beach. Easily the best burger I had in NZ, yes I would rate it over the infamous Fergburger in Queenstown. Definitely worth a feed if you are passing through.

Caravan Park - http://www.rapahoebeach.co.nz/accommodation/
Rapahoe Beachfront Hotel: http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g255372-d3825077-Reviews-Rapahoe_Beachfront_Hotel-Greymouth_West_Coast_Region_South_Island.html

7.  Spa Park, FREE Hot Springs – Lake Taupo, North Island

Why pay for hot springs when you can experience them in nature for free! We found that there are a multitude of spas where you pay to sit in the warm geothermal waters of New Zealand. The water is taken from nature and filtered into man made pools for you to experience, which to me isn’t the true experience at all. Therefore if you want the natural experience when in Lake Taupo head to Spa Park. After a short walk from the carpark you come to a river and a small section of waterfalls with hot geothermal water. It is literally like a hot shower and bath all in one and is like nothing I have experienced before.

For more info check out the link below:

8.  Spending the morning in snow and the afternoon swimming in Lake Taupo – North Island

Image 16.jpg

Taking the chair lift up to the beautiful Mt Ruapehu in the Tongariro National Park in the middle of summer results in still being able to see and play in snow.  On leaving Mt Ruapehu it was approximately a 1-2 hour drive to the free camp spot of 5 mile Bay Recreation Reserve on Lake Taupo. We were lucky enough to score a lake side spot and a few metres from our van was the crystal clear waters of Lake Taupo. It was here we were able to swim in the warm waters of Lake Taupo literally three hours after playing in the snow.

Mt Ruapehu scenic chair lift - $30NZ
5 Mile Bay Recreation Reserve – free camping including toilet

9.  Sand boarding at the end of 90 Mile Beach – Northland, North Island 

Fair to say I was terrified. JLO left me huffing and puffing walking up a monstrous sand dune while he bounded up leaving me in his wake. Therefore I was left fearing for my life at the top of a sand dune about to throw myself on a body board down it. What a rush it was! Only a few minor sand burns were left on ones feet but the rush of adrenaline was well worth it.  We had this opportunity as part of a full day guided tour to Cape Reinga, the top of New Zealand.

For more info check out this link below:

10. The flight into Queenstown – South Island

Earlier I mentioned the scenic flight over the Southern Alps was a must, yet expensive. If money is an issue for you, you can get a similar experience by planning your flight into New Zealand via Queenstown. I have never experienced anything like it. Having mountains either side of your plane as you are landing is something you can’t really describe and needs to be experienced. Unfortunately I was far too gobsmacked to have my camera out so this is something you will have to book to experience. 

Flights to New Zealand from Australia, check out these sites:
Qantas - http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/home/au/en 
Virgin - https://www.virginaustralia.com/au/en/
Jetstar - http://www.jetstar.com/au/en/home    
Air New Zealand - http://www.airnewzealand.com.au/

11.  Fox Glacier & The West Coast – South Island

The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is incredible. It is rugged, it is wet, it is picturesque and is a place I wish I got to explore further. Fox Glacier, situated on the West Coast, is Franz Josef Glacier's little bro. Geographically it was easier for us to get to and was also less touristy, which sold it to us straight away. We chose to do a guided walk to terminal face of the glacier for $59NZ each and in hindsight I wouldn't have worried. The public can get almost as close to the terminal face as the guided tour and hence save your money on that one. The glacier has receded quite a bit in recent times so if you are travelling to NZ make sure you visit because one day it may not be there. 

For different tours to Fox Glacier including helicopter trip check out the link below:

12.  Hiring a campervan for the entirety of the trip

A favourite aspect of the trip was having our home on wheels. As the pictures portray we went through the company Jucy and what a fantastic company they were. Our first vehicle, Jules pictured above, was a smaller vehicle with a broken air conditioner. When notifying Jucy we were able to make a stop in Christchurch and were offered an upgrade for the hassle. We then hit the road in Julius, pictured below. After the initial sadness of leaving Jules behind we grew found of Julius and realised this was the type of vehicle we should have started with. The bigger van with a few extra creature comforts made our trip of New Zealand the best it could be. Between booking in to the odd caravan park and free camping we experienced all types of campervanning in NZ. 

Paired up with the app Camping NZ, approximately $20AU, that worked without the internet we were unstoppable on our road trip of New Zealand. 

Jucy - http://www.jucy.com.au/
Camping NZ App - https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/official-camping-nz/id582914766?mt=8

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with our list? Are there places you think are better or don't deserve to be on there? Has this helped you with your travels to New Zealand? We would love to hear your feedback.

Thanks - LJO


It all starts with a couple from Aus,
Completing a travel blog simply because.
This time a year ago it seemed only dream,
For both LJO and JLO distant they seemed.
As time past they called each other mate,
A relationship beckoned it must have been fate.
Now the trip of a lifetime is booked,
With one read we will have you hooked.
This is meant to be a bit about us,
When really its about our ventures on a bus.
Lego figures to symbolise who we are,
They will travel with us, here and far.
In case you didn't know we are off overseas,
Where we will write this blog in order to please.

Want to see more? Check out out blog - http://www.hashtagljojlo.com