My name is Sandra, a graduate student majoring in Finance. I am a simple girl who want to enjoy life and travel around the world. I rarely stay in Sweden more than 4 months before I pack my suitcase and travel again.
As a person I am fun-loving, easy going but sometimes can be very strict. I like to discuss stuffs and love to meet new people for culture and lifestyle exchange. I am curious so maybe your first impression when you meet me is I am asking a lot of questions. I often want to learn about the persons I meet, the journeys they have been through etc.
In the free time I like to read, to learn and to hang out with friends. Some people describe me as hyperactive since I find it hard to stay without doing anything. I like to fill my free time with activities and sometimes I end up being so stressful. However, for me it is okay to do a lot of things since I am young and have a lot of energy so why not? :)
It still takes a while for me to realize that I am no longer a tourist in Prague but I actually live and work here. There are many reasons I chose to relocate to Prague: Not only the interesting job offer I received but also the low living cost in Czech, which makes it a popular destination for young expats relocating to Europe. The city’s rich history and beautiful architecture are among other thousand reasons. In the summer, Prague is really a popular tourist destination. Summer is also the high season to visit this beautiful city.
The most famous tourist attractions are old town square, Charles bridge, Prague castle and Prague astronomical clock. Did I mention the amazing Czech beer? Yes, I strongly believe that Czech beer is among the best in the world. I am not a beer drinker, but the feeling of drinking a cold Czech beer with friends in a hot summer night is incredible.
I decided for a one month ago to move to Prague, Czech Republic and work.
I have been travel to Prague for two years ago and I love this city. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen. After spending three days in this charming city I found myself thinking that it would be great to have chance to live here for a while. Little did I know my wish indeed came true.
The reason I chose Prague is I have been working in multiple countries so moving to Prague is a very natural process for me. I can say that I am an expert when it comes to North America and Asia but I know so little about Central Europe. That’s why living in Prague gives me the chance to to explore more about this part of Europe. The experiences are so far so good, I have nothing to complain about my current situation. I am still in training period at work and there are a lot of things to learn but I am very excited. Really looking forward to spend some years here.
After work with my colleagues- we are a bunch of young expats from different
countries in my office.
My colleague introduced the traditional Slovak alcohol - Hruškovice, made of pears
If you ask me what I think of India, I would answer without hesitation that I’m so in love with this country. For me India is the land of magic. There is always some kind of surprise around the corner wherever you go. It was in India, I went through a spiritual transformation and I am forever grateful for that. The more I get in touch with my spiritual side, the happier I am. I found meaning in everything I do, I connected easily to my environment, I glide through life’s challenges with grace. My whole life changed.
If you ever plan for a spiritual journey to India triggered either by curiosity or by your calling, I would recommend a visit to two holy cities: Rishikesh and Varanasi.
Rishikesh is a city in Dehradun district of the Indian state Uttarakhand, located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India. It is known as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’. From New Delhi, you can either hire a private taxi or take local bus to Rishikesh, the journey takes around 6- 8 hours depending on the traffic situation. The cost for a private taxi is around 3500 INR and a bus ticket costs around 300- 400 INR.
If you love yoga and look after to be more spiritual, then this is a place for you. Every year, yoga practitioners from all over the world coming to Rishikesh to deepen their knowledge and to meet like minded people. In Rishikesh, I stayed at Anand Prakash ashram, this is one of the most famous yoga schools in the district with world’s renowned teachers. Everyday I rised at 5.30 Am to take yoga class and my daily meals consisted of purely vegan food. The first few days were really challenging but soon after my body adapts to the new diet. Truth to be told, even though I love meat but I need to admit that my body and soul feel much better with vegan food.
The curiosity brought me to the Holy City of Varanasi, a North India city on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. From New Delhi, the train takes around 17 hours and the ticket costs around 400- 700 INR. People come to Varanasi for extraordinary spiritual experiences.
The most important sightseeing attraction is the Ghats located on the banks of the Ganges river. The Ghats in Varanasi are world-renowned embankments made in steps of stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions. The ghats are an integral complement to the Hindu concept of divinity represented in physical, metaphysical and supernatural elements. While in Varanasi, I decided to take a boat ride along the Ganges. That early morning, I was showered with many new experiences: religious celebrations, pilgrims perform ritual ablutions, body cremations, sounds, colors, cows, people. Yes, A picture of chaotic but still, nothing was out of the ordinary.
I finally realized one of my biggest dreams: Backpacking in Central America. In April, 2016 I visited Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Panama and went to my dream spot: Grand Canyon in the US.
People often said that traveling is good because it broadens your perspective. I think that this statement is correct in every singel way. You meet a lot of people with different personalities and backgrounds. Most of time, the only thing common between you and them is the endless curiosity about the world.
Before I traveled to Central America, I had a presumption that it would be very expensive. I looked at various travel blogs and most of them claimed the same thing. However, my experiences in those countries told a different story. In fact, I only spent 40% of my initial budget. You may think I must be very cheap then? The answer is Nope, I still be able to do the things I wanted but without letting my wallet cry.
Depending on the time of the year you travel, high season is between October and April, and low season is from May to September. In high season, the prices of everything are normally higher. In low season, less tourists, prices become cheaper but the weather is not so good, usually rainy.
Transportation and getting around
My trip looks like this: Stockholm- Puerto Rico (flight) : Norwegian air- non stop flight, took around 10 hours 160 $
Puerto Rico- Costa Rica (flight): One stop flight (usually Miami), Spirit airlines, 245 $
Costa Rica – Panama (two way bus ticket): 40- 50 $
Costa Rica- Las vegas: 170 $ (2 stops), Spirit Airlines
Las Vegas- Stockholm: non stop flight, Norwegian air 160 $
As you see, my trip to multiple cities was under 1000 $, so it is possible to travel cheap, the only thing you need is to plan in advance. According to multiple researches, the best time to book air tickets is 53 days before the departure day.
I really enjoyed to travel with Spirit Airlines while in Central America, this is a low cost airline and they do not serve meals or drinks, and neither do offer any fancy services, but it is nothing I actually bother about. This airline operates on a number of major cities in Central America, connecting to multiple cities in the US. https://www.spirit.com
Central America has a very good bus system so it is very convenient to travel by bus. You can basically go anywhere by bus. The tickets are very affordable and easy to purchase. I used to buy my last minute tickets at the counters located at the bus stations. In Costa Rica, I used to travel with the bus company called MEPE. The only disadvantage is although the distance is not very far but it still takes a lot of time due to the traffic, so plan your schedule ahead.
There are a wide range of accommodation types, from fancy hotels to budget hostels. If you are enough adventurous, you can bring your own gears to camp. There are also camping gears available for rent. Budget hostels are from 10-25 $/bed in a dorm.
If you plan to stay in Central America for a longer period, then there are also a lot of opportunities for volunteering. I met many people come to Central America and work for free in hospitality, in exchange they get free accommodation. They may work as receptionists, waiters, bartenders etc. Many hostels and bars in Central America need staff who can speak fluently English. Believe it or not, although many places in Central america are a very popular tourist attractions but many locals can not speak English. Normally, tourists used to volunteer a couple of days a week for the hotels/bars and the rest of the time, they spend on the beach or go to language schools. I think that this is really a smart system. If you are outgoing and love to meet travelers, this is a very great opportunity.
An other way is to use Couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.com). This is a website that allows travelers to find local hosts and stay for free. As this site became more popular, there are people using it for bad purpose. I have heard and myself experienced situations where hosts flirted with female guests. So always do your research and use your judgment before sending a couch request. Make sure to look for the hosts who have a great profile with positive references and who accept BOTH GENDERS, not only prefer hot girls. Myself, I only had great experiences with my hosts. I spent a lot of time reading their profiles and see if we really have something in common before I sent them request. My goal is to find a quality host that I can connect with and share great traveling experiences. It was never about free stay. Also make sure to spend time on writing a proper couch request, many of my hosts complained that travelers did not even bother to read their profile carefully and write a customized request. In many cases, they even forgot to change the the host’s name. Treat couch request letter like a job application and write accordingly.
Huge portion. I wish I could speak Spanish because in doing so I can dine at Local restaurants. Eating at local restaurants are much cheaper than going to restaurants for tourists. For example the same meal, at local restaurant is 2-3 $ while in tourist restaurants is 7-10 $.
Many hostels and guest houses have kitchens with equipments so you can also cook your meals there. The hostels offer basic ingredients such as: salt, suger, pepper, oil. Many places even offer coffee and tea.
Alcohol is widely available in stores.
Stay away from shopping in Central America, especially in Costa Rica. It is so expensive and I don’t think the quality is worth the price. Before you travel, just make sure you brought sun protection, swimming suit and personal items from your countries. Those are expensive in Costa Rica.
Is Central America dangerous?
I heard that question many times and the answer is: Depend. I have heard stories about people were robbed here. Under my 2 weeks in Costa Rica I was told about three robberies. However, according to my experience, like in other countries, bad things can always happen. The only thing you can do is to try to minimize the risk. I often heard from friends in Costa Rica who claimed that bad things happen after 2 AM. So, if you are not outside after 2AM, then it is less likely something bad will happen to you. I never for example accept drinks from strangers when I am outside, neither I accept to accompany strangers to unknown places. Never go out with valuable items or bring a lot of cash with me. Always make sure to tell friends where you are going and keep updating them information. Always travel with caution is my advice.
Things I wish I knew before traveling to Central America
I wish I knew Spanish as I would be able to experience more interesting things.
I wish I never underestimate the amount of mosquitoes and bugs there. They are many and are so aggressive. Make sure to bring plenty of coconut oil, the only liquid that actually help. Mosquitoes spray is useless.
Never pay for organized tours in Costa Rica. They are very expensive, even though the experiences are great, but still the value aren’t matching the price. Most of the things you want to experience in Costa Rica, can do in the neighbor countries such as: Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras to a much cheaper price. So, if you are on budget just stay away from those tours.
A final note
Again, travel the world is neither something that is difficult nor unreachable. I realized my dream while being a student. It was neither about time nor money. It is about planning.
There are many ways to find opportunities living abroad, example: exchange programs at university, internships abroad or scholarships. Just ask your international coordinator about available opportunities.
Home after two long business meetings. I am exhausted. On the way home, while sitting in the bus I almost busted in tears, everything is just too much. Overwhelmed by fears and self- doubts, I tried to answer the question why am I doing this? It is hard to keep the fire when everywhere you see are challenges. We believe that in order to be successful, we must step outside our comfort zones. We know it but not so many of us do. I always wondered why are we so afraid of being outside our comfort zones? And not until recently I truly fully understand the reasons: Its scary being in the unknown where we don’t have any control. Suddenly, fears become our friend, they protect us from the scary unknown and want us to go back to our comfort zones. We need to get back our control.
Seriously, I am never scared as I am right now. Everyday is a battle of should I do it or can I do it?
Everyday I try to find the reasons to remind me about why am I doing this?
Everyday, I try to not get lost in my self- doubts.
The way to success is never meant to be easy.
This evening is spent on doing some more researches.
For a few months ago, I was in Vietnam for a short tripp. The last time I traveled to the country was almost 10 years ago.
10 years ago, Vietnam was not a popular traveling spot. I don’t think many people knew about the country, they preferred to go to Thailand. I remembered the flight that took me from Bangkok to Hanoi was almost empty, many tourists got off in Bangkok.
However, things changed…
In early 2016, I flied back to Vietnam with Etihad airways, the big airplane was full of people. Seeing how excited they were to see my native country really made me happy.
If you did not yet put Vietnam on your bucket list, do it right now. There are many reasons to do it and here I will list at least 5 reasons:
1, Vietnam is cheap. I think it is one of the cheapest countries in the world. Meaning, travelers get more value for their money. It is nice to enjoy things without letting your budget cry.
2. Vietnam is safe. Vietnam is a buddism state and all we want is to live in peace and make….money. There are for sure some minor crimes like in every other country, but at least no terrorist attacks. The only major complain I heard from other travelers is that they tend to pay more for an item than its actual price. However, it isn’t a problem that only foreigners face. Even domestic vietnamese face the same problem as well. The only solution is to hone your bargain skills, just try to bargain until one of you give up.
3. Vietnamese people are friendly. Yes, they are. They like to help and they always smile. Vietnamese are shy when meeting foreigners but what cannot convey through verbal language can do through body language. So put a wide smile on your face and everything will be just fine.
The hidden smile, Photo credit: Rehahn
4. There are so many things to see in Vietnam. Mother nature has really blessed the country. There are so many things to see and to do, depending on your personal preference. If you like adventures and to see exotic culture, go to Sapa district in Northeast region. If you want to live a simple beach life, go to Nha Trang, the South Central Coast. If you want to live a busy city life, go to Hanoi or Saigon. Again, there are many options. The most popular spots are:
In the North: Hanoi, Sapa and Ha long Bay
In the Central coast: Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang
In the South: Ho Chi Minh city, Mui Ne beach, Dalat city, Mekong delta river
Sapa, source: internet
Ha Long bay, source: internet
Hanoi Hue Hoi an
Ho Chi Minh City
5. Vietnamese cuisine is amazing, seriously. I have met many travelers who went to Vietnam, the only thing they had to say about the food is it is the best in the world and I have no doubt that this statement is true. The foods are rich in tastes and have low calories. From my personal perspective, the best foods are those I found on the streets.
My mom is a fan of natural herbals. In our kitchen you can find all sorts, which she carefully plant them in small different pots. She uses the herbs mostly to everything from cooking, making tea to medicine. She seldom or never use western medicine, she believes natural herbs having the best ingredients to fight all kind of diseases. When I was a child, I did not share the love of herbs with my mom. However, as I developed the life style of a yogi, I came to contact with many different organic herbs and through many studies, I started to realize what my mom did really made sense. Natural herbs have a ton of benefits given their many incredible substances. Furthermore, herbs are very gentle to the body since you have not to worry about the bi- effects. There are no toxic chemical ingredients in herbs.
Of those herbs I frequently use: Garlic, ginger, lime, mint. You also always find organic honey, virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil in my kitchen. Those are all I need to keep a healthy life style.
After a long night sleep, you can not imagine how much toxic substances are gathered in our body, all the rest of the food and drink that we consumed the day before. Sometimes, if you are like me, having problem with digestion, you can immediately notice how tired and ”heavy” you feel when you wake up despite 7-8 hours sleep. The first thing I do in the morning right after getting out of the bed is to detox those substances. I used to make a quick and easy morning herb tea mix consisted of ginger, lime and hot water. To add taste you can also add a couple of organic honey and a few drops of pure virgin coconut oil. This drink make a wonder as it cleans the body, activate your metabolism and kick start your day. I used to drink this tea during my morning meditation, and that all I need to face all the challenges that the day may bring.
So, now we would like to talk a little about some funny things we have noticed by being here in India one month now. By presenting some situations we have encountered.
1) Watching the cinema, it is socially OK to have your phone on, with phones ringing every other minute. To shout and scream, talk during the movie. When watching a movie in India you hear about half of what they are saying because people can be talk a lot during the movies. They also have sessions during the movie when you can go to the toilette, buy some popcorn and so on. We would love for that to come to Sweden!
2) People are very friendly and welcoming in India, and they really like talking to foreigners. A lot of people will come and talk to you. Asking for your number, email. So be prepared for that
3) Then we come to the starring. Indian people stare a lot. As you are a white foreigner you have to get used to having all eyes on you all the time. In bars, restaurants, walking down the street, in the taxi, in shopping malls. Yeah, everywhere!
4) Living with a Indian family. It will be like it is your own family. They will treat you like their daughters or their sons. Really a nice experience.
5) Space. Going to India you have to learn that you will not have your own personal space. People will ”intrude ”your personal space. So you just have to get comfortable with it.
6) Indians are very close to each other. You often see people walking down the streets, holding hands, hugging each other. Guys and girls.
7) Indian eat with their hands. Even though there is a lot of sauce. Hand is their tool for getting food into their mouth.
8) Cows are everywhere! At restaurant entrance, the highway.. Everywhere!
9) After 8 pm, you cannot see any women outside. If you do, they are outside accompanied by their husband.
10) Indian food is delicious! We live on Chicken Tikka, Chicken Masala, Chicken Tandori..
11) We have seen several fights and car accidents. So we do not recommend you to drive by your self since the traffic is pretty tough.
To be continued….
This is of course a generalisation and all Indians are not like this, just some small things that are different to what we normally see at home!
During our visit in India, we have seen a lot of lovely things but there are things breaking your heart as well. When you are walking on the streets there are several people who do not have a home, who maybe have a blanket and thats it, sleeping on the side of the street. Most of the homeless people are women, often with their children. Women in India especially the ones from lower castes are often socially, economically excluded from the society in India. These people often belongs to lower castes being called untouchables, ‘not being human’, Dalit people from this caste cannot enter restaurants, churches, the water supply – public places, sit together with their classmates eating lunch.Lower castes are today 166 million people and tribes consist of 84 million people in India. Every two our it is estimated that a Scheduled caste (Dalit) are assaulted, every day three Dalit women are raped and two Dalit homes are torched and two Dalits are murmured. Tough facts presenting todays situation in India.
The other day. We where on our way home after drinking some Chai tea around the corner where we live. We saw this cake shop. It really looked delicious so I decided to buy some. Then on our way home, we pass by about 20 women with their children, living on the streets. Just by walking 5 minutes. We where just about to pass the street to walk towards our hotel when I saw this young little girl. Than i started to think how much joy these small cakes could bring her. It will probably taste delicious and i would enjoy eating the cake, however she will probably never be able to eat this, since her daily mission is to get any food into her stomach. I then turned around, walked towards her and opened the boxed. I have never seen so happy eyes shining so bright. She started screaming after her mom and they where all full of joy. This was some joy in all of their troublesome life. Giving some happiness to someone else for a moment. When i was walking away they all where waving their hand all exited and smiling. Happiness I have never seen before.
The day after when we where walking on the street. I saw this young girl again, together with the other homeless women. She was so happy. Still full of joy just by a small act from another person. You can make a difference. Maybe we will not change the little girls life. But we did bring some happiness to the girl and we made a difference. And I do believe in, what comes around goes around. So when you have the chance, do something little that can make a difference in the persons life next to you. It can be smiling to the person on the buss or helping an old lady crossing the street. All the small things matters and it does not cost a fortune to do it!
Despite our hard work- some day we could stay in our room 12- 13 hours working but we are still girls and girls like to do shopping. Here in Chennai, there is a very huge shopping center called Escape with hundred of stores and restaurants. A heaven for girls, right?
We decided to visit Escape yesterday after finishing with our interview and go for a hair cut. Two hours interview with a lot of information was so intensive so going to a hair salon was kind of relaxing for us. In Escape shopping mall, we found Toni & Guy- a British haircut brand. We booked time and waited. We asked the receptionist if she has some hair catalogue so we could check what hair style we would have. But she answered to our surprise that they don’t have those types of magazines since the stylist would consult us about what style would match with our faces. We were nervous and wondered what the stylists would do with us. This is an extremely make-over for us. Last time we cut our hair dated back at least six months ago and at that time we were able to decide what style we want to have.
After 45 minutes with hair washing, cutting and blowing. Josefine was so happy with her new look meanwhile I was not hundred percent sure about my new look. However, my hair will grow fast and I hope I will get used to my new look soon 😀
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