Culture. Shock.

Sometimes while traveling you come to a point where you realize that the world is upside down. In a good or bad way you feel different and you notice the difference you just got into. As if you traveled in a time machine, you step into a new world…. Hallo culture shock!

I experienced my last culture shock when I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after living in Cuba for two months. What a difference in architecture, transportation, people and life style. The moment I entered a grocery store I suddenly realized it… First of all I was in shock of all the food, the variety of brands and all the choices you have based on prices. Compared with Cuba it was strange to see a full stocked store and I even had a choice of brands, quality and prices for everything I wanted to buy. First I felt as a kid in a candy shop but a moment later I couldn’t decide out of 30 types of toothpaste which one I should buy. Too many choices is not good for me, I didn’t feel happy at all, it was too hard. And so I left the store without toothpaste….

People in Argentina are at first sight much more frio (cold) and super serious. Walking down the street without hearing music or people telling me “mami”, “chica” or something else was strange… I figured out that many Argentinos are very nice and friendly but the further south I came the lesser warm hearted and happy they seem.

In Argentina and especially Buenos Aires, a lot is modern and similar to Europe. But at the same time there are things that are less developed; the roads, many poor people, corruption, an unstable currency and a lot of robbery and even violence. I was a bit confused because it felt as walking down a European city but I should be much more careful about myself and my belongings, difficult! To compare this with Cuba it is in some cases better (the roads), there are a lot things the same (poverty, corruption) but a very important thing is different; in Cuba I feel so much more safe. Of course there is some violence but in general Cuba is such a super safe country to be, live or travel in.

When in Cuba I got used hearing music everywhere; on the street, in the houses, in cafes, in taxis etc. This also means that people are dancing in many public places too. Here in Argentina it is just like Amsterdam; in general it is quiet, very quiet. After ‘only’ spending two months in Cuba that is a thing I really miss and I would love to keep on hearing music everywhere I go. Music can makes such a big different in how people feel, act and react. For me personally it keeps me feeling so happy and energetic. I can’t live without music anymore.

Experiencing a culture shock, even a small one, opens your eyes. It makes you realize things that remind you of your own culture and behavior. It is super interesting and mainly caused by traveling between countries (hint hint). So let’s keep on traveling in our time machines and learn from every culture (shock)!


Veggie. Hari.

A lot of people know the term Hare Krishna or they’ve heard about it. In Amsterdam they are walking and chanting in the city center on Saturdays; I never knew what they really did…

Until now. The Eco Yoga Park near Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a Bhakti yoga ashram as well; Hare Krishna is the word for people who practice Bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga means there is a connection between you, god and the loving relationship. They learn what love is and how you can love everything and everyone in this life. Therefore they live their lives with devotional service.

The community lives at a beautiful tranquil place, away from the big city. When you enter the property you can not avoid the big white temple, here they chant and meditate a few times a day. They build their own houses, yoga studio/cinema and kitchen with ‘restaurant’ and of course the huge vegetable garden!

So far, everyone is very friendly and open to share whatever you have questions about. It is interesting to see how devoted they are and that they learn to love everything and not wanting to have things for themselves because everything is for god. I believe there is some truth in their practice but at the same time I think it is okay that you do sometimes treat yourself. Some people are already open hearted and give a lot, even they can’t have something for them self?!

While helping in the kitchen I learned the “Yoga of the kitchen”. Before you start you clean your hands and mouth. You can not eat or drink while working in the kitchen; very hard when you see and smell fresh baked bread or your favorite veggies… During cooking you try to meditate and focus on the things you do. That way you give a lot of love to your food and you can taste that. The food that they provide is amazing, colorful and tasty! And they use as much as possible from the garden, how great!

The yoga classes they give is the purest form of yoga; hatha yoga. We start with meditation and chanting the Maha mantra of Hare Krishna. During class we focus more on the internal than external body, a whole new experience for me! You become more aware of your sentiment and energy flows. It is a bit slower than the style I like but definitely not easier…

I am only halfway my stay, so I wonder what more I will learn… Conclusion after one week at the argentinan Hare Krishna’s;
– love the people and things around you in a non selfish way
– Eat more veggies than you already did, your body appriciates that
– Take some quiet time once in a while, it helps you to think things through
– Practicing yoga, meditation and chanting is key
– You don’t need much to be happy
– Cold showers are not that bad; actually quiet good for the blood circulation

I must say that this slowly healthy life style works very well for my body but at the other hand I can not leave Argentina without eating a good steak…. Sorry Hari!


The. Ultimo. Beso.

While relaxing in my hammock, I look back on the year 2015. I realize that last year was life changing for me, especially after the car accident I had in September 2013. I had to recover for almost a year and that made 2014 a rough year; but full of new insights and life lessons. Although I rather not had this accident, I learned a lot from it. So 2015 was a new year; healthy, full of energy, open for changes and time to follow my dreams.

The first big decision I took was to quit the job I had as a web editor. After five years working in a great environment with lovely people, I still felt not content. I had to travel three hours a day, and sit for hours in one place; after all that happened the year before, it made me tired and my energy level was low. And there was a voice within me saying I could be happier when doing something else…

For me changing my routine and solid basis was a big thing. But as soon as my sister asked me “What is the worst thing that could happen when you quit and you don’t have something else yet?” I knew the worst thing was moving out my house and live with my mom… Well if that is the worst; try it! So I talked with my manager in the end of March and we arranged my final work day; 30 September. In between I had time enough to make a new plan, right?

My new plan, where to start? What do I really want to do and makes me happy? Where would it be and how do I see my future? These questions kept me busy for months because I could not answer myself. So I decided to talk a lot with my closest friends and family about it, follow some workshops about mindfulness and how to make a change in your career and take time for myself to write things down. I am thankful with all the lovely people around me, they gave me so much love and support during this time. I realized that I wanted to work in a dynamic/energetic place where I can interact with people. In June the idea came up to deepen my yoga practice, which helped me a lot with recovering in 2014, and do a Yoga Teacher Training. How great would it be if I could share my yoga practice with others? So I googled and with my passion for travel I combined the two and decided to do it in Costa Rica and travel a few months after in Central and South America.

But before going to Costa Rica, I had a holiday planed to Cuba in June… After the recovery year in 2014 I could finally go on a salsa dancing holiday with my dear friend Francisca. Looking back on this holiday, I think it was already the start of change. I choose to set my arrow tattoo there; it symbolizes my accident, the positive thinking and to have the opportunity to follow my dreams. Besides that I met the sweetest and warm hearted guy ever; my current boyfriend! Coming home I had to work three months more and then the big adventure would start. I decided that the first destination after Costa Rica would be Cuba again and I wanted to experience carnaval in Brasil with my sister.

My last day at the office came by soon and I had to say goodbye to a lot of amazing people. Then I had one week time to organize my last things and of course give my family and friends a big hug before I would leave for months. It is never easy to say goodbye but at the same time I knew this was best for me and that I could see them again when coming home. First destination was Costa Rica, my Yoga Teacher Training; an indescribable experience with a fantastic group of people who became my second family. Physically and mentally I was in the best shape ever and felt so strong, happy and energetic. I never forget what my teachers and the rest of the group taught me, this was really valuable for me.

Then the nerves came because I was going back to the boy I fell in love with. Two months Cuba were so great; he showed me what real love is and together we traveled all around the country. We were part of many special moments like birthdays of his mom and friends, a sweet 15 from a Cubana in his hometown, a celebration of oritia Santa Barbara, Christmas in Remedios and many more unforgettable moments. Not missing out on my first yoga job of course; teaching two weeks in a resort in Varadero! How ironic that my first job is in Cuba?!

After two months I gave my last kisses of 2015 to my love and took a plane to Argentina. There I celebrated New Year with my hostel buddy Patrik; picnicking in the harbor of Buenos Aires and watching the firework.

Last year I met so many incredible people, traveled to wonderful places and had amazing experiences, I am so grateful for that! In 2016 I will keep on sharing my energy with others. I wish everyone can follow their dreams and live a healthy, happy life! As they say in Cuba: Salud, Amor, Sexo!