How to Be a Mindful Traveller

I am sure that your first thought upon hearing mindful + travel joined together is that its about being hyper-conscious and conscientious about each and every little detail of everything you’re doing when you’re on vacation or out there one the road. But that is not what I mean.

I believe that travelling is not just about capturing the perfect Instagram picture, or sharing our every moment on Facebook. Before social media we travelled differently. Of course we had our cameras and captured moments, but these moments were for ourselves, they were treasured memories not staged photographs to please our followers and gain more likes.

These days it is hard to escape the feeling that everyone is travelling and perhaps we are missing out. And that maybe travel has become more shallow than before. Is travelling really only about becoming famous on social media? Or making your Facebook friends jealous? Now more than ever, we need to take time to think about how we can be a mindful traveller, an admirer of earth. How can we get back to a more simple way of travel, like we enjoyed before Instagram and social media changed the way we travelled?

1. Take Your Time

Don’t rush. If everything you do and everywhere you go is rushed because you’re in a new place and want to see everything, chances are you won’t actually see anything. Take a deep breath and think about what you actually want to get out of the experience.

How to Be a Mindful Traveller
A peaceful morning spent in the park

Do you want to see everything as fast as you can? Or do you want to have real and meaningful experiences in this new place, build relationships with people, and create memories?

Take three conscious breaths and stop dead in your tracks long enough to notice where you actually are. Take your time to prioritize your own awareness and realize the significance of each place.

2.Feel Each Step

Your body always exists in the present moment, whereas your brain can travel far from where you are. If you’re walking, notice each foot as it touches the ground, lifts and swings.

Notice the feel of the air on your skin. No need to make a big deal of it. Just enjoy the sensuality of being in your body. This awareness will help you remember how you actually felt as you travelled through a distant land, a new place, and a new culture.

3.Savour Each Moment

Eating? Taste your food. Hiking? Breathe in the fresh mountain air. Talking with a local? Really listen to them and remember what they say. Looking at beautiful sites, landscapes, and world wonders? Don’t think of it as only something to capture for Instagram or to share on Facebook.  Immerse yourself in the moment, and remember it.

4.Get Local

Don’t forget why you travel. To experience something new! The ability to go to a new place and remove yourself from your own cultural upbringing and constraints is a perfect way to practice acute awareness. Notice the subtle differences and embrace them. 

5. Relax and Rest

Put away those devices for awhile and have some time that is not governed by schedules, deadlines, and the latest news and information. Drink in something that is timeless and simply cannot be captured on a screen.


“One of the most powerful things you can do when you’re travelling is to let go and passionately wander. “

How to Be a Mindful Traveller
Beauty in the middle of the busy city

4 Wonderful Experiences to Try

Once upon a time, holidays tended to consist of going somewhere hot, eating something (more or less) exotic and then tanning for as long as possible. But, as welcome as relaxation is, today’s travellers (rightly) demand more varied affairs, balancing indulgence with adventure, and comfort with exploration. And this opening up of what a vacation can and should be has also meant that wildly different regions now welcome tourists to take in experiences only known to locals even a generation ago. And so, we present here a handful of exclusive destinations to give even the seasoned traveller something new to look forward to.

Mt. Fuji, Japan

https://unsplash.com/photos/9Qwbfa_RM94

  1. A cherry blossom tour of Japan

The cherry blossom season is definitely the right time of the year to visit Japan – this is when the country’s already breathtaking natural beauty is raised to another level. Whether you’re exploring the urban delights of Tokyo and Osaka, the natural splendour of Mount Fuji, or the historical charms of Kyoto, each location on your itinerary will be enhanced by the cherry blossoms spreading all around. The Japanese celebrate this time of year with ‘Hanami’ (flower viewing) parties – where friends and families gather together underneath the blossoms to enjoy each other’s company and appreciate the natural spectacle all around them.

 

pine trees on mountain with white snow during daytime

https://unsplash.com/photos/DS55CX0wYKk

2. Heli-skiing around the globe

A world away from the cosmic dance of celestial bodies – but still very, very high up – the technological adventure that is heli-skiing is gaining in popularity every year. For the uninitiated, this involves a helicopter transporting skiers to mountain spots inaccessible (or at least impractical) from the ground. This not only means pristine ski-ways in soft snow but also much less crowded slopes. Canada and the US lead the way, with multiple operators in British Columbia and Alaska, but there are also opportunities in Switzerland (naturally), New Zealand and Japan.

https://unsplash.com/photos/ZTIEPcsjJaw

3. The timeless ruins of Bagan

While Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat have been on the tourist trail for some time now, another awe-inspiring archaeological wonder – in Myanmar – has somehow stayed off the map, despite its comparable scale and grandeur. The more than two thousand superbly preserved Buddhist temples in this historical complex are surrounded by the ruins of more than double that again. Many of these are almost a thousand years old – countless otherworldly pagodas rising through the trees. Best of all, until tourism fully catches up with Bagan, the site can be experienced without the kind of crowds that can distract from the ancient architecture.

aerial photo of city highway surrounded by high-rise buildings

https://unsplash.com/photos/Fr6zexbmjmc

4. The future today, in Dubai

From the remains of a lost empire to a marvel that’s still under construction – the global city of Dubai offers an incredible vision of the world-to-come. Especially well-suited to family holidays, the futuristic landscape offers up landmark skyscrapers boasting the world’s fastest lifts, and a shopping mall containing 1200 shops (making it, yes, the world’s largest) but also a floor-to-ceiling aquarium with 30,000 fish. Truly, this is a place built for superlatives – from the magical islands reclaimed from the sea to fountains which spout higher than the London Eye.

Four reasons why it’s time you take a Road Trip in Germany

Nestled among nine other countries, Germany is an expansive paradise for travellers who love to be on the road. Its idyllic mountain scenery and lush countryside combined with deep pride in its automotive exports are a formula for some of the best driving conditions in the world. The diligence and care they take in the cars they produce are reflected in the pristine, perfectly maintained autobahn. Here are just four of many reasons why a road trip in Germany should be on everyone’s bucket list.

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1508698947694-5ae81f424907?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&ixid=eyJhcHBfaWQiOjEyMDd9&auto=format&fit=crop&w=1189&q=80

  1. Go on a nostalgic journey through an enchanting Fairy Tale Route

The Fairy Tale Route is perfect for the young at heart, spanning from Hanau where the Brothers Grimm were born to Bremen. There are countless charming towns and villages along the way that still retain that picturesque medieval quality we associate with The Grimm Fairy Tales.

 

Some of the places you pass through actually featured in the stories – such as Hamelin, where the Pied Piper legend was born, Alsfeld, where Little Red Riding Hood’s house still stands, and Bad Wildungen, where Snow White lived.

 

  1. Lovers of wine can follow a route dedicated to the beloved grape

The ‘Deutsche Weinstraße’ is the oldest wine route in Germany, having been established in 1935. It starts in Schweigen-Rechtenbach, on the border of France, continues throughout the stunning Rhineland-Palatinate vineyards and ends in Bockenheim an der Weinstraße.

 

From March through to October many places along the German Wine Route host some of the largest outdoor wine festivals in the world. Everyone from amateur wine drinkers to expert sommeliers can soak in the heritage and majesty of the wine-growing region.

https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1537640538966-79f369143f8f?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&ixid=eyJhcHBfaWQiOjEyMDd9&auto=format&fit=crop&w=1053&q=80

  1. Enjoy a thrilling driving experience with access to roads that have no speed limits

While there are certain stretches of road that do impose limits, Germany is the only country in Europe that has no official speed limit on motorways. Drivers go at speeds of up to 150mph and sometimes more, with the government believing people do not need to be micromanaged. For the ultimate road-trip make sure you choose the right car and have a clear plan of your route. If you do decide to drive fast, be sure to have read the relevant highway information and adhere to all regulations.

 

  1. Spend a day in areas of astounding natural beauty like Lake Konigssee

The name means ‘Kings lake’ and at 190 meters, it is the deepest lake in Germany – surrounded by the steep cliffs of Mount Watzmann, all road trippers should wind down with a trip here. Fellow travellers recommend typing Hotel Bergheimat in Schonau am Konigssee into your navigation system. This brings you to the main road that leads into the Konigssee where there is a large area for designated parking that is close to the lakes and boats.

https://unsplash.com/photos/7uDRk7fnou8

As well as the ones already mentioned, there are a number of routes in Germany that are connected by a theme. The roads are signposted clearly and provide road-trippers with tried and tested circuits that suit their interests.

Why I Walk to Explore places like Rathmullan in Ireland

Rathmullan, situated in County Donegal, Ireland is the perfect location to ‘get away from it all’. While driving along the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland we spent the night in Rathmullan and the next morning walked along the Milford Sli na Slainte (path to health). With it’s wonderful beach and wooded hillsides we could relax and enjoy the quieter pace of life that is characteristic of smaller Irish villages.

Rathmullan, situated in County Donegal, Ireland
The beautiful Beach of Rathmullan, situated in County Donegal, Ireland

The Milford Sli na Slainte is a path that started at the pier and took us all along the beautiful beach to a rocky outcrop at the mouth of a small river. After crossing the bridge over Maggie’s Burn we turned left onto the Fanad by-pass road. This road took us through the countryside, along pastures and woodland until we once again got back to the town centre.

Here are ten reasons why you should sling on your best walking shoes and explore the countryside:

  1. Walking is free exercise. Walking is as close to free as it gets. You don’t need fancy shoes, or clothes, or equipment. If you head straight out your front door, a walk will only cost you some time and a little rubber off the bottom of your shoes. Many people are surprised to learn that walking is actually a serious form of exercise. Although you may not feel like you are working too hard, in just one mile you can burn off over 100 calories.

  2. Walking connects me with my surroundings. One can’t possibly notice the many small details of buildings and woodlands while driving. When you’re on foot, you notice all kinds of things you’d never notice in a car. I always thing of a walk as an opportunity to explore the area and to admire the scenery. I usually try to do some research beforehand and find out a bit about the area and always take my camera with.
  1. Walking changes your perspective. You start to see where the environment is built for people, and where it’s built for cars. Cosy shops lining the street become more inviting. It’s while I’m walking that I notice the frost on the grass, or a rabbit hiding behind a tree, or the moon peeking out from behind the clouds.
  1. Walking inspires curiosity. Who built that building? What was it like then? Who uses it now? What is over that hill? Are those berries edible? Wouldn’t it be cool to have a coffee shop on that corner? You might not know where you’re headed, and that’s ok. Getting lost in nature is the bes thing ever!
  1. Reduce your carbon footprint. Many of us would like to make a personal contribution to climate change, and here is a simple way that you can… ditch those car keys in favour of walking shoes and avoid carbon emissions completely. Every trip (however short) you take on foot is one you aren’t taking in your car. That’s good for you, and it’s good for the environment.
  1. Free your brain. Anxiety, stress, and mental health issues are common issues that people face in today’s society. Walking is a perfect way to zone-out, de-stress and rid yourself of all the negative thoughts in your mind from the day. A brief walk can melt mental fatigueimprove memory, and even help stave off the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. Taking a walk is a great way to leave all the worry of the day behind.
  1. It’s a Great Way to Enjoy the Weather. Summers are short and oh so sweet. I just can’t wait to get outside, and while I haven’t figured out how to be able to spend all day on a blanket at the park, walking somewhere gives me a great excuse to savor a few sweet moments of sunshine. I have nothing against the other seasons. I love rainy spring walks, and crisp fall walks. I even love bundling up for an icy winter walk, especially late at night. Every season (and day, for that matter) has its moments. Walking gives you a chance to soak them up.
  1. Its Great for Your Creativity. English wordsmith William Wordsworth is said to have spent much of his life on foot, walking. Henry David Thoreau often walked up to 20 miles at a time before he put pen to paper. Virginia Woolf was a regular walker. In fact, there’s a very long list of writers who considered walking part of their craft. If you’re a creative type, the walking path might just lead to enlightenment.

 

  1. It’s an Excuse to Get Some Ice Coffee. Walking is a great excuse to pick up a cup of ice coffee to enjoy along the way. At least you’re burning some of those calories, right?

 

  1. It’s the Perfect Time do do Some Reflecting. We often think of meditation as something that happens when you’re sitting still, but in reality, that’s very hard to do. The washing machine will chime. The phone will ring. Your neighbours will make noise. If you walk, your brain will be able to do its quiet wandering with less distraction.

 

What are your reasons for walking?

What I learned from my Ireland Road Trip

Road Trips are a commitment, there’s no way around that. And once you’ve started, there’s absolutely no getting out of it. Well, I guess you could always hop out halfway and call for a cab, but that’s for quitters and it’s also slightly dangerous. Stay in the car.

Going on a road trip Through Ireland, along the Wild Atlantic Way with my friend Amy sounded like the best thing ever! It was only once our trip had started that I realised we would have very limited space for most of our trip. My travel companion was literally twelve inches away from me for most of the day. I also quickly learned that the driver needs to be fully focused so there was no talking while she was trying to navigate the treacherous back roads along the Irish coast.

I think the big thing about Road Trips are that everyone, at some point along the journey, finds themselves wondering why on earth they decided that this was the best way to travel? And yet, despite this moment, you will get back in the car, and continue the adventure. And then – maybe not immediately, maybe not in a week, but eventually you will realise that there were also lessons learnt along this journey.

#1 There is no such thing as too many snacks.

We were both travelling on a very tight budget so before heading out, we thought that skimping on the number of snacks we purchased was one of the best ways to save a little money. This was a very big mistake. We realised this half way through our journey and this time round, properly stocked up on snacks. Snacks were an important component to keeping the both of us sane on this trip.

#2 There is no such thing as too many stops.

Sure, it was important to reach our destination eventually, but it was the stops along the way that I remember most clearly about our time on the road.

Being able to stop whenever we wanted was one of the greatest benefits of a road trip so we tried to take advantage of it! Whenever you saw some beautiful landscape or a great look out point we took the time to pull over to the side of the road to enjoy it!

#3 Just be present.

Like a lot of people I am guilty of taking a lot of photos, more than needed. And in doing so I often miss out of the moment. Just by taking in the scenery and not looking through my camera lens constantly I felt more present.

I realised that I had to stop rushing through the sights and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the scenery. I tried to slow down and take in my surroundings with all five of my senses. While on this road trip I was forced to relax and do one thing at a time. When we weren’t driving somewhere we focused on what we were doing right at that moment, whether it was hiking or having a cup of coffee or walking along the beach.

Even though we were busy almost constantly, I felt more present, and time seemed to last longer.

#4 Silence is okay.

I don’t always deal very well with silence. While travelling I am usually either talking or listening to music. But I quickly learned that my travel partner needed to be fully focused so there was no talking while she was trying to navigate the treacherous back roads along the Irish coast. At first I found it quite frustrating to drive in silence, but it did give me the chance to think and to take in my surroundings. There were a number of wonderful, peaceful silences that I experienced with my fellow traveller while driving through scenery that looked like it could be from a documentary.

#5 Patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s a necessity

If ever patience were required, it is on a road trip. Things go wrong. You get lost. Sometimes things go wrong and there is nothing you can do except breathe, take a step back, and find another way. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do except wait and be patient.

There is traffic. You’re have to deal with other drivers. There are 20km/ph towns and 80km/ph highways. Your GPS is wrong or does not know where you are. We knew we were in Ireland the moment our GPS couldn’t pronounce the names and settled for spelling it. Your sandwiches will get soaked, cheese will spoil and milk will go bad. You and your road trip partner will probably get on each others nerves at some point.

It happen. We had to deal with it. I had to embrace the chaos.

#6 It’s the Company You Keep

At the end of the day, what matters most is who you are with. This holds true in any circumstance, but especially on a road trip. Choose someone you can get lost in conversation with for hours. Someone you can be yourself around. I’ve learned that you truly know someone only after you’ve ridden with them in a cramped vehicle for days on end and witnessed their driving, and what they really look like when they wake up in the morning.

#7 Go With the Flow and be Spontaneous

I love lists and checking things off and knowing what’s supposed to happen before it does. In our day-to-day life, it’s natural to try hard to maintain strict control over things. We plan and budget, set up meetings, and schedule activities. Our lives are often ruled by our calendars.

On our road trip however, all of that went out the car window. It was quite a challenge for me to go on a road trip where I didn’t have every minute planned. Not knowing where we were going to stop next or even spend the night was quite stressful for me. It took me some time to feel comfortable with having no plan and to just go with the flow. By not having a set itinerary we had time to stop at amazing scenic spots we would have missed otherwise. We got to lingering at deserted beaches and ended being so busy enjoying the moment that I even forgot to look at my watch.

I learnt that the main key to enjoying every aspect of a road trip is to relax and go with the flow.

#8 Choose experiences over things

We lived out of a car (actually, a crossover van – thank you, Amy!) for 3 weeks while driving along the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland. I tried to pack light but after 3 weeks there were still things I brought that I hadn’t used, and clothes I packed that I didn’t wear. Truth be told, I didn’t miss them one single bit. There wasn’t one time that I thought “I wish I’d brought…”

I also didn’t miss any of my stuff from home while we were gone. I was too busy living to worry about stuff. I have decided to travel lighted, to acquire less and to do more in the future!!

#9 It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

A real Road Trip is all about the journey and not the destination. Even though at times the experience seemed endless I was never quite truly ready for it to end. The sore butts and the cramped feeling of being so close to someone else 24/7 are just some of the memories I’ll be taking with me forever. It’s the stops along the way, both expected and unexpected, that really make a road trip. The quaint small towns, weird roadside attractions, and even getting lost that add to the excitement.

When the trip was finally over, there was a sense of loss. So relish the journey—every part of it.

#10 Following your dreams isn’t easy – nor should it be.

Following mine has taught me so much more than these lessons. Many of them aren’t clear, yet, but they will be. And when they are, I’ll share them.

These are just some of the lessons I learned from our epic road trip. What have you learned from your own experiences?

Pubs of Ireland

Sláinte!

In an Irish pub, patrons toast each other sláinte (pronounced “slaan-sha”) as they clink glasses of Guinness. Derived from the Old Irish adjective slán (which means “safe“), sláinte literally translates as “health” and is used as a stand-in for the more time-consuming “I drink to your health!”

Just some of the beautiful pubs we passed while driving the Wild Atlantic Route of Ireland.

Why Nature is Good for the Soul

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Just an hour’s drive from the bustle and buzz of downtown Cape Town lies a large and peaceful reserve: Cape Point – one of the most scenically spectacular parks in the whole of South Africa.

Being out in nature is not only good for your physical health, it is also very beneficial for your mental health. Have you noticed how grumpy people get in winter compared to their mood during spring and summer? I think it is because we don’t always get out into nature during winter and that this affects our mental health negatively.

Here are some reasons why nature is good for your soul.

( All of these photos were taken on a recent trip I went on to the Cape Point Nature Reserve. It is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.)

1. Nature helps to center your mind

If we don’t watch out we are constantly glancing at your to-do list or worrying about, our finances, our relationships, or something else. It seems like we constantly have a never-ending list of things to do. We need to make it a point to give ourselves a cognitive break by distracting ourselves with the sights and sounds of the outdoors. Watch and listen to the birds chirping, the waves crashing, the trees swaying in the wind, and the bugs moving around you. Taking at least a 30min break a day will help improve our mental health.

2. Unplug and Escape the technological trap.

Multi-tasking, particularly with electronic devices, is a leading cause of stress. Breaking free from the never-ending loop of your Facebook or Instagram newsfeed should be a top reason for getting outdoors. After all, staring at screens too long can hurt your eyes and strain your neck, and it’s often a sedentary activity. Nature, on the other hand, offers a beautiful window into real life. Put down your phone. leave your devices behind and head into nature and just enjoy the calming effect this will have. Nature allows us to to leave the stressors of our everyday lives behind and instead focus our minds on something more pure. By centering your mind, you can relax your body.

3. It Lowers Stress Hormone Levels

It’s true that many of us don’t realize how highly strung we’ve become until we take a step back from it all, let go of the pen welded to our fingers, and tell our shoulders to come back down from our ears.

A recent Dutch study suggests that spending time in nature and performing repetitive tasks such as gardening can fight stress better than other leisure activities.

In Japan, this has really caught on and forest bathing is now an official stress management activity. Research into the effects of these au naturel excursions has found a significant decrease in anger, anxiety, and depression, as well as better immune function.

4. Nature Heightens the Senses and Memory

Spending time outdoors can actually strengthen your senses and memory. When in nature, you’re exposed to plenty of sights, smells, sounds, and touches and have ample amounts of new things to take in.

These experiences help enhance all your senses, and being outdoors has also been proven to improve short term memory. You don’t need to spend hours outdoors even short periods of time are very beneficial.

5. Learn something new.

Walking around and exploring your surroundings is an excellent opportunity to learn something new about the world. We often take things for granted and it’s only when we look around us that we notice how little we know about the world. What’s the name of that flower that you see around the corner every day? What sort of tree grows along the path you are on? And what do you call that critter that scooted across the road this morning? After a walk, Google what you saw or take out books from the library on flowers, trees, or animals to find answers. You can also arrange for walking tours with experts or visit local botanic gardens that have informative signs. Then when you go for walks with others at a later date, you can wow them with your newfound knowledge.

6. Nature can help you keep it together

It’s all too easy to get caught in a busy cycle of working non-stop and not taking breaks to go outside, relax for a moment, and breathe in some fresh air. But having a good work/life balance is crucial if you want to have a long, happy existence.

Nature is the glue that can help you keep it together in this increasingly noisy world, as research shows that it can improve both your mental and physical health. No matter how far you feel like travelling, you can always spend at least a little time in nature each day. Whether you take a short, 10-minute walk around your neighborhood or a one-hour stroll along a trail in the woods, getting outside more often is a wonderful first step toward living an even healthier life.

5 Reasons Why Nature is good for you

Recent studies show how important feeling part of nature is to our physical and mental health. I have personally found this to be quite true and think that a connection with nature makes us healthier and happier people. I always feel better or rejuvenated after spending some time out in nature.

Here are my top 5 reasons why nature is good for you.

( All of these photos were taken on a recent trip I went on to the Cape Point Nature Reserve. It is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.)

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Out in Nature at Cape Point Nature Reserve

1. Sunny Skies = Vitamin D, which Helps Your Body Function More Efficiently

While working sometimes a day or two passes without us actually stepping a foot outside. I try to work in a morning walk into my daily routine, to get some fresh air and hopefully some much needed sun. Vitamin D is crucial to humans, helping to prevent disease and infection and improving bone health. It can also elevate mood and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and more. Vitamin D also improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure by literally relaxing your blood vessels. And all we need to do to get more of this vitamin is to spend a bit more time out in the sun.

2. Natural Light Normalizes Your Sleep Schedule

Did you know that getting a good dose of sunlight can also help you feel refreshed and relaxed by helping regulate your body’s melatonin production? This is because the sunlight helps regulate Melatonin, a hormone that controls your body’s internal clock (basically, it makes you sleepy). I find that I have trouble falling asleep and suffer from insomnia if I don’t get enough sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Sunlight, especially in the morning, helps regulate your internal biological clock, making it much easier for you to get a good night’s sleep—and wake feeling rejuvenated.

3. Nature Changes Your Brain – For the Better

We all spend more time staring at the bluish glare of our laptop screens than we do appreciating a good sunrise. Spending time in nature is great for concentration, mood, and offers a general mental boost. Just strolling around outside doesn’t really require any elaborate thinking or action, which is great for your mind.

I find the sound of the ocean often puts me in a relaxed and meditative state. A walk in nature, produces calming and beneficial results for our brains making it easier to think clearly and concentrate on tasks.

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Cape Point is one of the country’s most popular tourist sites

4: Get some exercise. Become a Fitter, Healthier You

I’m a firm believer in the idea that nature is good for one’s health. Being out in nature often involves some form of physical activity, whether it be strolling through the park, biking through the mountains, or an exciting river raft ride. This activity both improves physical fitness and our overall health

While I’m out in nature, I usually notice a mixture of people, ranging from relaxed strollers to those who are hoping to burn calories or get fit. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about nature—all the different ways that you can use it while you enjoy some beautiful scenery along the way.

5. Happiness!!

Let’s face it, being in nature just makes us all happier in general. The great outdoors changes brain chemistry in a positive way, improves mood, decreases stress, provides opportunities for fun, and is simply downright beautiful.

All this ends up making for a happier and, thus, healthier you.

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Even though on a clear day you feel as if you could see to Antarctica from Cape Point, it is at least 6,000 kilometres away.

Herd up close

We got really up close to a huge herd of Elephants. The herd approached us from the front and then walked past us. I am sure that if I really wanted to touch one of them I could have just reached out. It was amazing being surrounded by these beautiful majestic creatures and an experience I will always treasure.

Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups of related females called a herd. The herd is led by the oldest and often largest female in the herd, called a matriarch. Even though the elephant that walked right to us was a female, she was still extremely intimidating.

Herds consist of 8-100 individuals depending on terrain and family size. I did not count how many elephants were in this herd but I am sure it was more than 25. 

Timbavati Private Game Reserve
First glimpse of a tiny baby in this huge herd
Timbavati Private Game Reserve
The herd just kept on coming!

When a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd. This small calf was safe between two females and they made sure that he did not venture close to us. Males leave the family unit between the ages of 12-15 and may lead solitary lives or live temporarily with other males.

Timbavati Private Game Reserve
The baby or calf is protected at all times

This was definitely one of the top amazing moments I had in the Timbavati.

Timbavati Private Game Reserve
Saying goodbye to this beautiful herd

Wordless Wednesday: White Rhino

Our First White Rhino spotting at Shindzela within the Timbavati Private Game Reserve.

The white rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros is the largest extant species of rhinoceros. It has a wide mouth used for grazing and is the most social of all rhino species.

Giraffes at Shindzela Safari Lodge

Giraffes at Shindzela Safari Lodge
Spotting our first herd of giraffes while on Safari at Shindzela Lodge!

While on my first Safari at Shindzela tented safari lodge within the Timbavati Private Game Reserve I got to see some of the most beautiful animals. Giraffes have always fascinated me and getting to see them up close was amazing!!

They such regal looking animals, and moved at a slow and relaxed pace, even though we were just a couple of meters away. It is quite hard to imagine that these tall creatures can run at speeds of up to 35 mph over short distances.

Giraffes only need to drink water once every couple of days. As they get most of their water from their plant-based diet. I guess this is a good thing considering their height makes the process of drinking quite difficult.

Giraffes’ tongues can be up to 20 inches long and are darkly coloured, which is thought to help protect them during frequent sun-exposure. I tried to get a glimpse of this darkly coloured tongue but it seemed quite impossible, even though we were so close.

You can tell if a giraffe is male or female by looking at the horns. Both male and female giraffes have horns, but the tops of the horns on a male are almost always bald while a female’s horns will be completely covered with hair. Females don’t fight, so they never lose the hair on their horns.

They are beautiful creatures and I would love to see some more of them.

Giraffes at Shindzela Safari Lodge
The giraffe’s scientific name, Giraffa camelopardalis, comes from the ancient Greeks’ belief that it looked like a camel wearing a leopard’s coat.

10 Ways that Traveling has Changed me.

As I look back, I know that packing my life into a suitcase and leaving the safety of my home country was the best decision that I could have possibly made.

It was only once I moved away, turned my life into a journey filled with uncertainty, that I grew up in unexpected ways.

While traveling alone I faced new challenges and get to know parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. I ended up being amazed by myself and the world around me as I learned and broadend my horizons. I unlearned certain things and start to grow in humility, and evolve. I felt homesick and i made memories that will stay with me forever.

1. The word “routine” is dismissed from my vocabulary.

From the moment I decided to move abroad my life turned into a mixture of emotions. I was constantly learning, improvising, dealing with the unexpected and surprised by what I found. There is no place for “routine” anymore as I am constantly on an adrenalin high. How can you not be? My travels took me to new places , I formed new habits, met new people and constantly had to overcome new challenges. Starting anew is terrifying, but it is unusually addictive and the thought of routine now scares me.

2. Its not Bravery or Courage to go after what you want.

Lots op people told me how brave I was to travel alone, and that they would also do it if only they weren’t so scared. But I know, it is not bravery, as I am also scared every time I move to a new, strange country. Each trip abroad shakes my certainties and brings fourth my fears. It is purely about wanting it with all your heart. From the moment I decided to live my dream I had to deal with whatever came my way, no matter how scared I was.

3. There is no more “normal” for me.

While living abroad I realiuzed that “normal” only means socially or culturally accepted. Everytime I moved and embraced a different society and plunged into a different culture, my notion of normality dwindled untill there was nothing left. I learned that there are other ways of doing things, I discovered new things to believe in and got to know myself better.

4. Things and people come and go.

I learned the hard way, that now, most things and people in my life are just passing through. I have almost perfected the right balance between bonding and letting go, almost. I had to learn to let go of things. Wherever I moved to I ended up stockpiling new clothes, new books, and even mugs. But there always comes a day when I have to pack my life into my suitcase again and no matter how hard I have tried, I can never take “my new life and things” with me. It is only now, after I have realised that you buy something for then and there,not for always, that it is easier to let go of the things accumilated along the way.

5. My languages get all muddled up.

Everytime I live in a new country I try to learn the local language. For me it is a way of embracing the new culture and getting to know the locals. This way I also soak up cultural references and unfortunately swear words from this new language. So sometimes when speaking to friends I will let a word from another language slip in. This confuses some people and sometimes instead of understanding from where I come from now, they end up teasing me. I had to learn not to let this get to me, as they might never have had the opportunity to learn a new language.

6. Be patient and ask for help.

While living abroad, the simplest task can sometimes become a huge challenge. From processing paperwork, taking the right bus to ordering something to eat can become a nightmare! There has been lots of moments of distress for me, but I found that being patient and just asking can make the worlds difference. There always seems to be someone around, willing to help you out, someone willing to explain and sometimes even someone who is willing to show you how to get back to where you live.

7. Home” is where you are at.

From the moment I squeezed my life into that purple suitcase of mine my old “home” ceased to exist. No matter how foreign each country or city is when I move there, there always comes a day when I suddenly feel at home in my new city. Home is the person travelling with me, the people I leave behind, the streets where my life is taking place. Home is also the random things in my new flat, or my local grocer who always greets me in the morning. Home is al those memories, those phonecalls to family, postcards to friends and all the photos I took along the way. Home is truly where the heart is.

8. Freedom has its price

I have always been free, but somehow fredom feels different when travelling. I had to give up a lot and make it work thousands of miles away from home. I miss out on birthday celebrations, friends weddings, family get togethers and life at home. It is not that I don’t want to be there, I wish there was a way to be in two places at once. I have this whole new world around me, filled with new adventures, new people to meet and experiences to be had. The fact that I have been able to live my dream, despite missing out on those special moments with friends and family, has made me feel like I am capable of anything!!

9. Talk about your travels in moderation

My life had been changing at a non-stop pace while I was travelling, and I couldn’t wait to share all my travel stories and those anecdotes that had been piling up. But unfortunately, at home, life’s the same as always. Everyone has gone on with their daily routines and as you overwhelm them with your stories they come to see you as pretentious about your travels. So I learnt to be careful, and to only share my journey when someone asks.

10: There is no turning back

Now that I know what it means to give everything up, what starting from scratch means it is not a daunting thing to try it again. How could I not keep on travelling, discovering and marvelling at the world every day?

How has travel changed you?

Friday Facts: Sagrada Família

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is like a blast from the past as it was in 2005 that I had a quick glimpse of this amazing building.

Did you know….

The La Sagrada Família will take longer to complete than the Egyptian pyramids. It started in 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026. The Great Pyramid, by comparison, only took 20 years. But like the Pyramids this Cathedral also doubles as a buriel place.  Antoni Gaudi, the chief designer, is buried in the crypt below the church.

Gaudí disliked straight lines and angles because they don’t often appear naturally. Instead, he based his design on the swirling curves of nature. If you’re a keen observer, you’ll find trees, water flows, flowers, sunlight, etc. everywhere in the interior.

Sagrada Família
Rene and me on one of the walkways of Sagrada Família

It is the most visited tourist attraction in Spain with 2-3 million tourists a year! It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.

 

The Blood sport Bullfighting should be banned.

Bullfighting in Spain is deeply controversial. It is called a “fine art” by its supporters and a “blood sport” by its critics.

Years ago, during the famous bullrun, I had the opportunity to watch a live bullfight in Pamplona, Spain. I have always associated Spain with bullfights so it came as no surprise that I would want to watch a bullfight while being in Spain. I thought that I knew what happened during a bullfight, but seeing it live opened my eyes. After watching this gruesome ‘sport’ up close I will never recommend it or even condone it again.

So that you can decide for yourself whether you want to see one when you are in Spain I will tell you a bit about what happens during a bullfight. 

The bullfight started with a parade in the ring where everybody involved in the bullfight presented themselves to the public. It looked like they were getting ready for a show. Moments later a door opened and the first bull entered and the spectacle started for real. It was cruel and I had to force myself to watch and not to leave.

The bullfighter entered on horseback, armed with barbed sticks. He then proceeded to tease the bull and stuck these small barbed sticks into the charging bull’s back. By the time the bullfighter had finished with this ‘ritual’, blood was dripping down the bulls back and you could see that he was in pain.

Next the bullfighter armed himself with a lance which he stuck into the flank of the bull. Only after the bull had been tired out and stuck full of holes did the bullfighter get off his horse and take up his muleta. A muleta is the red cloth that he used to coax the bull.

The bullfight ended quite bloody when the bullfighter used his sword to kill the bull. Personally I thing there is nothing noble or sportsman like about this.

Here are the Arguments For Bullfighting.

  • Bullfighting is an art form that should be seen as an equivalent to dance, or music.
  • It is a traditional in many areas and in places like Spain, it is living history. Bullfighting has existed for much of human history, and within Spain it dates back at least 1,000 years.
  • Bullfighters are skilful and behind all the pomp and ritual, the bull is actually being killed in a very efficient manner.
  • The bull is usually eaten after a fight, so its death is not in vain.
  • Far more bulls are killed to be eaten by abattoirs than die in the bullring.
  • In some places bullfighting is perceived as being an integral part of the regional culture.

Here are some Arguments Against Bullfighting

  • The practice is barbaric. Essentially, bullfighting is ritually slaughtering an animal purely for fun.
  • Tradition and recognition does not make it art. Other once-traditional animal sports, from the fierce lion-tiger battles of Ancient Rome to medieval bear-baiting and cockfighting, are now deem wrong,so why is bullfighting any different.
  • As there is no competitive element, bullfighting cannot strictly be called a sport, but it is seen as an art form by its fans.
  • It is not just the bulls who suffer, horses are also injured and suffer death (not to mention the bullfighters themselves, who can be maimed or killed as well).
  • The death of the bull is extended and painful, making it unnecessarily cruel. The argument that the bullfighter kills the bull efficiently is clearly questionable, if anything, the customs of the spectacle demand that the animal’s death is drawn out, rather than quick.
  • People who are for bullfighting play down the amount of bulls killed, but figures gathered by animal rights groups suggest that 2,500 bulls are killed in Portugal each year and in Spain the figure is closer to 30,000.
  • Bullfighting inflicts unspeakable suffering on the animals, from the confusion and panic created by the crowd noise to the physical abuse the bull will sustain throughout the spectacle. The death might be quick, but the fight is barbaric.

Compassionate people understand that this cruel and bloody spectacle is needless and unjustifiable violence, and opposition to bullfighting is growing both within Spain and around the world. And each year there has been a decline in the number of bullfights.

What do you think?

Are you for or against bullfighting?

Wordless Wednesday: Scenes from the Wine Country

The many wine routes of the Western cape, South-Africa offers something extra alongside its reds and whites, be it a game drive, a nature walk, a memorable dining experience or a tasty wine and chocolate pairing. Even if you don’t drink wine, the route has much to offer in scenery and beauty.

Scenes from the Wine Country
Scenes from the Wine Country

Friday Facts: Pinnacle Point Estate

 

Pinnacle Point Estate
My view when I woke up early morning when staying at Pinnacle Point Estate

Did you know:

Pinnacle Point a small promontory immediately south of Mossel Bay, on the southern coast of South Africa. It is located on four hundred hectares of prime land, of which 100 hectares is nature reserve, home to indigenous wildlife, birdlife and 264 varieties of fynbos! Set on a cliff-side overlooking the Indian Ocean, the spectacular golf course and expansive Estate, has unsurpassed 270 degree views of the Indian Ocean.

Excavations since the year 2000 of a series of caves at Pinnacle Point have revealed occupation by Middle Stone Age people between 170,000 and 40,000 years ago. Human remains have been recovered which are c. 100,000 years old.

Pinnacle Point Estate was recently voted South Africa’s Best Golf Course. This 18 hole championship golf course was designed by the well-known South African golf course architect Peter Matkovich who opened the course together with Top Irish Tour Golf Professional Darren Clarke in November 2006.

Pinnacle Point Estate is in the middle of everything that the Garden Route has to offer.

The Gardens of Waverley Hills estate

Waverley Hills estate
Waverley Hills estate

A while ago, while my parents and I were touring the wine district of the Western cape, we had lunch at the Waverley hills estate situated between Tulbagh and Ceres, close to Wolseley, South-Africa.

Waverley Hills estate
The beautiful view from the Waverley Hills estate

This estate entered the organic wine market in 2002 and now has hectares of vineyards and olives they grow organically. We had lunch in the beautiful restaurant with its views over the valley and rolling vineyards that lie at the foothills of the breathtaking Witzenberg Mountain Range. It was a cold, rainy day and the lit fireplace inside set the perfect mood for lunch accompanied by some of the estate’s own wines.

Exploring the gardens on this cold and wet afternoon was a fabulous experience. The gardens surrounding the restaurant are filled with indigenous fynbos. They have grown their own plants since 2007, and even have a Fynbos nursery where the public can purchase plants. I didn’t get the chance to see the nursery for myself, but will make a point of visiting it next time I am in the area.

Waverley Hills estate
Waverley Hills estate’s beautiful fynbos garden

The only thing that did bother me a bit while walking through the beautiful gardens were the snake warning signs. Knowing that they mostly come out when its hot and sunny didn’t take my fear away completely.

The Beauty of McGregor Valley

McGregor Valley
View of the beautiful McGregor Valley

McGregor is a small village in the mountains of the Western Cape, South Africa. It is roughly 150 km east of Cape Town and was one of our stops along our wine route adventure. McGregor is a unique, eccentric village away from the crowds where you can unwind, step back in time and just relax. The village is home to a vibrant community of artists and there are a couple of top-class galleries to choose out of. I will have to return again soon to visit all the galleries as I only had the chance to explore two or three galleries while we were here.

The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley

After spending the day with my parents looking at houses and properties for sale in the area we had a very relaxing evening at the Lord’s Guest house. The lush, abundant McGregor Valley is part of the Breede River Valley and is defined by its absolute beauty.

McGregor Valley
What a beautiful view of the mountains and McGregor Valley
The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
This is the perfect place to relax with a book

The Lord’s Guest house, was once a family-owned fruit farm, but is now managed by a group of passionate winos, who have made it their goal to produce superlative wines. Apart from its wines this guest house offers some of the most beautiful views of the McGregor Valley and the blue mountains beyond. The indigenous splendour is breath-taking with it’s rich in intriguing birdlife and beautiful vegetation.

The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
The stone buldings of The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
Looking out over the valley after breakfast

Inspired by Scottish passion and the rough natural geometry of the rock of which it is built, each stone hand-selected and each item meticulously chosen, the result is a luxurious combination of age old craftsmanship and elegant convenience. The guest house takes one back to a time of extravagant luxury and exemplary refinement. With 4 star management and exquisite style I felt like royalty during our short stay.

The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
What an amazing view!!