Summary. Of. Travel.

Time really flies when you’re having fun… Six months flew by while traveling through Central and South America. Another valuable trip has been added to my travel list. I am very thankful I gave myself the opportunity to let everything go in Holland to go traveling with a free open mind. I made my choices well thought and that’s way I will never regret them.

It all started with my yoga teacher training in Costa Rica; a life changing experience where I learnt lots about myself and made a strong connection with all my fellow yogi sisters and brother. Blessed with the knowledge and insights my teachers gave me, I left to Cuba to teach my first classes in a beautiful resort.

The reason why I picked Cuba as my next destination was because of a sparkling personality I fell in love with earlier that year. I choose to go there and give ourselves time to get to know each other better and to find out if there was more than just a holiday fling. And there was more…! I found true love and we build a connection so strong that we created the foundation of our relationship. Two months passed by and before the end of the year I had to leave my love behind.

My next destination Argentina was waiting for me. I started 2016 in Buenos Aires where I celebrated a new year full of opportunities ahead of me. I needed to get back to my inner self and decided to join the Eco Yoga Park for two weeks. In this bhakti yoga ashram I found tranquility, learned more about yoga and made new friends from all over the world. I had an overwhelming good feeling being part of the community. Before I could leave the country I had to go to Punta Tumbo, a penguin paradise on earth. I finally saw my favorite ones in their natural habitat!

On the time I arrived in Brazil I was already 3.5 months away from home. I had to wait at the airport because my sister was coming to backpack three weeks with me! Reunited and full excitement we began our trip in Rio de Janeiro; an amazing big city with a variety of people and places. Carnaval was starting and we got the full Brazilian experience in Rio, Salvador and Itacaré. After these wild and unique parties it was time to see part of this huge country’s nature in Chapada Diamantina and the impressive Iguazú waterfalls. Both my sister and me enjoyed every second in Brazil despite the ‘negative image‘ it still has.

I wasn’t ready to go to Holland yet so I decided to go back to my second home Cuba. Together with Yunier (the boyfriend) we traveled to the eastern side of the country where we both hadn’t been. While discovering the beauty of traveling together we visited friends and family, went on adventures and shared our passion for salsa dancing. Unfortunately after five weeks reality hit me; I had to go back to Holland and leave my love and his beautiful country behind….

Writing this blog on International day of the Sun reminds me of the warm feeling, the love and kindness everyone gave to me along my trip. I learned so much and had the privilege to meet so many beautiful souls in such wonderful places. Thank you all for that!

~ namaste ~

TRAVEL FACTS
4,236 photos taken 182 travel days 5 countries
19 flights 6 currencies 12 pasport stamps
5 languages spoken 17 yoga classes given 7 birthday parties
1 yoga certificate 130 hours salsa dancing 1 “sweet 15” ceremony
2 hospital visits 1 traditional medical treatment 3 road trips
10 sunblock bottles 35 days plant based diet 50 fresh coconuts
150 days eating rice 16 açai smoothies 4 antz bites

Back. In. The. Days.

Some people wish they could escape from their stressful life and the digital world we are connected to all day long. Almost everyone has a smart phone which they use often; while traveling, at the work/school, in the gym but even worse; while you are with friends or family too. You are connected with your digital friends all the time even when you’re surrounded with people you love. Sometimes you miss (valuable) moments because you were writing your next message/tweet/post…

Do you remember how it was before the invention of the mobile phone? You scheduled to meet your friends and family and you were fully in that moment without any distractions. You did not have to check online how many likes you had because you would hear that from your friends in person. A place where it is still like this is Cuba ~ as long as the country doesn’t change. Compared with other western countries they got stucked in time. For those who want a digital getaway… Go to Cuba!

First of all there is hardly internet, only at the hotels and central parks. Then you need to log in with a prepaid card ($2 p/hr), so they make it hard and expensive to use the internet. Because there is only internet at those places, the rest of Cuba are still working with systems which are not connected to the internet. In shops you can’t pay by card, the banks handle everything by hand ~ they still use the big secured safes, you can’t Google (my best friend) wherever you want and so on…

This all brings a lot of peace to the people. Friends hanging out on the street, musicians play music and dance, a family is watching tv with all their family members and older men are playing domino. That is a typical street view in Cuba. I noticed during the last few months that I disconnecting with the digital world is not so bad, I even enjoyed it very much!

My very late new years resolution is to use my phone a little less while back at home…. See how that works out!

(Un)Safe. Brazilian. Summer.

HOT HOT HOT, that is the best description when talking about summer time in Brazil. It comes back everywhere; the temperature is about 35 to 40 degrees Celcius, the people are pretty and have good sporty hot bodies, dancing samba and forró with brazileros… Besides that it is a popular travel destination especially with the Olympic games in August. So why go there in Summer you might think. Well, in summer there is the biggest event of the year; carnaval, you can cool off easily at the prettiest beaches with a fresh coconut or caipirinha in your hand. Ate the same time, when living in the northern hemisphere, you escape winter! Reason enough to go!

Telling my dear ones at home about my plans to go to Brazil, the first thing they replied was that it’s unsafe and dangerous. Then hearing I would travel there with my tall, blank and pretty sister, they told us we are looking for trouble. The funny thing is that we had such an amazing experience. And after ‘only’ three weeks I decided I haven’t seen enough so I need to go back some day…

Back to the safety part… First of all, it all starts with your own attitude, behavior and why of thinking. When you hide your money in a money belt (my sister) or in your bra (me) you don’t walk in the street with a big (hand)bag and your money is safe. Dress normally and don’t show off any luxury looking accessories is rule number 2. Then there is the part that you don’t want to be in the dodgy dark places, like in every city in the world. So know where to go of become friends with locals so they guide you.

Is that all? Well no.. Of course there are robberies here, and they are more violent than Europe for example. The favelas are not safe to go by yourself and you should never take an empty bus, but further more you need to relax a bit while you are aware of the things and people around you.

Unfortunately sometimes bad things happen during the day, like one of our new friends. He got kidnapped, robbed, shot and beaten during the day (4 pm). The police found him in his boxer short and brought him to the hospital. Fortunately he is alive and is back home now to recover from this horrible incident. Sadly things like this happen but you can’t avoid it…

But yes, you can travel Brazil and be safe, like my sister and me. The people are so super friendly, kind and polite. They help you at any place at any time and share everything they have with you. There was not even one grumpy grandpa we met! The country is huge and has stunning nature with a lot of treasures. From deep green valleys with lakes, dunes, waterfalls to more dry area, to jungle fever in the Amazone. And of course don’t forget all the amazing white sandy blue sea beaches, there are thousands of them…

You don’t have to go to Brazil but if someone asks me I would be the person who encourage it, it is A-MA-ZING!

Obrigado Brasil

Special thanks to my sister who made this trip memorable <3

Carnaval. Off. The. Bucket. List.

Like many other people, carnaval in Brazil was on my bucket list. This year I was already in South America and decided to take the opportunity and celebrate carnaval in the land of samba. My sister heared my plans and decided to come over to join this unique experience….

Rio de Janeiro was our first stop. On the 29th of January it wasn’t officially carnaval yet but Brazileños like to party so there were already bloco’s; a carnaval street party. In total they made 10 days of partying instead of the normal five… For us the perfect way to experience this event in different places of Brazil.

Like Rio is huge, the bloco’s are huge… There are bloco’s which move or parties which stay in one place. Everywhere and at every time of the day there could be a bloco; from 7am-1 pm, 2-6 pm, 6pm-12am or anything in between. We started with a small one during the day with 3.000 other people (the big ones are up to 500.000 people!). On the streets of Rio people in the greatest costumes are dancing and celebrating. Of course including a (bad quality) beer, cocktail or some kind of chemical mix drink in a plastic bag(tube?)…. In 35 degrees Celcius partying on the street is a very hard task you know?! We had a great impression of what to expect the next days. Later when we got in out hostel, we heared this specific bloco ended in a shooting with 1 man killed an 2 others wounded…. Welcome to Rio…

City of carnaval no.2: Salvador. Besides the bloco’s in Salvador there are two main areas for carnaval; the historical center of Pelourinho and the big street parade (parcours) of Barra/Onda. We wanted to start small and slow but we got off the bus at the wrong bus stop so we eventually started with the big street parade in Barra. Along the main avenue are huge tribunes/stages where you can have an exclusive party and good view over the parade for “only” € 150 per person per night… Or, like what we did, you can walk with one of the samba bands in the parade and experience it from street level. You feel the music and all the energy so intense, what a feeling! Everything in detail was taking care of, including the samba dancers in their tiny but beautiful outfits.

The next day we made it to Pelourinho; a smaller family friendly type of carnaval. The afro style women in their white dresses singing and dancing on the street in a more traditional way. Samba bands are also playing and the members and supporters of that samba school is walking and partying with them while walking the streets. Next to that there are concerts at every square you come, very lovely! We spotted ‘our’ samba band also in a crowded club; a girl told us they are famous here in Bahia province; lucky us! Walking back to the bus station we saw parts of the dark side of Brazil like the favelas, dangerous dark alleys, polices fights, drugs dealers… We made it safe to the bus because of our local friend and when we got off the bus, the bus made a U-turn so our stop was not on the usual route but know the driver knew we would be safe at home, so kind!

Third and final carnaval stop: Itacaré. This small coastal village breaths relaxation, has a good laid back vibe, colorful houses, happy people and amazing beaches. I already fell in love with this place by entering… The carnaval has a different style here; instead of samba they play fohol and reggae music, the carnaval is on the boulevard and beach, people are more relaxed and kind to eachother, very safe! Only at night there is carnaval because during the day people sleep their hangover off… The night starts with a band playing on a big truck, followed by a few cars with an incredible amount of speakers and decibels. The whole village walks with the parade or watches on the side and party hard. The rest of the night we enjoyed live performances of different bands at the beach, including the famous band of Salvador, lucky us. Dancing bare foot with a cocktail with our crazy Swiss and several Brazilian friends; our best carnaval night!

Many people warned us for the dangerous streets of Brazil, it sometimes is dangerous but you must know where to go and how to behave. We made some local friends and that is the best thing to do; they inform and warn you while you’re partying and they keep you away from the dark alleys, police fights, drunk/drugged people etc… The Brazileños are so super friendly and helpful that our experience is super and I wish I can come back for carnaval next year!

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)!

#yesterdaygetsjealous

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!

 

Teaching. In. Paradise.

Trying to sleep when you feel nervous is difficult. Maybe you turn from side to side or you try to count sheep to fall in sleep again. For me that was not working on this morning; I had to teach my first yoga class this morning and it was just there; the nerves.

Besides that, the weather is horrible, there is some kind of a tropical storm going on. Lightning, thunder, rain and palm trees that bending back and forth. On this moment I was not sure whether this was just a random storm or if it was a sign not to teach….

Nine minutes to go and no students yet…. End up having no students… I hear myself thinking “This is not so good for my self confidence”…. But I will just blame it on the weather. In the end my colleague from the entertainment team came for class, the lucky bastard got a private lesson!

It felt good to be teaching, definitely because I have only done my own practice over the last month since I graduated for my Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica. I am very thankful for my teachers Jennifer, Jenni-Lee, the two Laurens and all of my fellow yogi sisters who have taught me this new skill I feel so good with. A new life has begun… Up to tomorrow, hopefully the weather doesn’t keep the 400 hotel guests in. Or should I seduce them with something sweet 😉

During 15 days I had only a few students per class and they were great! Starting the day with a morning class with enthusiastic students is super. Two yogi vergins (never practiced yoga before) even got into it and are going to find a studio when they get home, isn’t that great?

On this yoga journey I met a lot of lovely people so far and it keeps on going, they are so warmly and open hearted. Even when I told that I just got certified as a yoga teacher and make a few mistakes in my cues, they kept on focussing and listening to me. I even helped one lady so much, she suffers from a spinal injury and could not even walk a small stairs by herself, her husband carried her… A few hours after my morning class we met again at the beach and she thanked me because she felt so good and she even walked the stairs up and down without any help! I felt so happy for her and encouraged her to keep on doing  yoga poses to keep her spine loose.

Two weeks flew by I realize I thaught at such a wonderful place in this world. The yoga studio at the resort was great, but teaching at the beach during sunset felt magical! The manager even wanted to stay in contact so I could come back and teach whenever I am back in Cuba ~ I am such a lucky girl!

 

 

Sugar. Baby.

All day every day my sweet tooth has a little party here in Cuba. Almost everything you can eat is dulce (sweet) or if not naturally, the Cubans like to add a little ~ read: a lot ~ sugar to it. After waking up the first portion of my sweet enemy is already waiting for me. Breakfast includes a bowl of fresh fruit, a glass of mango juice (with added sugar), a fried egg and bread with butter and honey….!

As the day passes my eyes have seen piles and piles of sugar. From ice cream, popcorn, coconut balls covered with caramel, colorful decorated cakes, sugarcane juice, pizza or a cup of coffee with the additional 3 teaspoons of sugar… No wonder the six pack of most Cubans is covered by a smooth sugar belly.

My body (and belly!) was slim after the healthy vegetarian diet during my yoga teacher training in Costa Rica, but now it feels like I am gaining weight every day…. So every day I have several discussions with my sweet tooth whether I eat something sugary or a little less. Luckily I am not really gaining weight because of my daily yoga practice, two hours of salsa class a day and salsa dancing at night in the club.

I wish I could continue the plant based diet but here in this country it is just not possible. So many of my veggie friends (and other things) are not available here. In the grocery store you don’t have choices; the mercado has only one type of oil, shampoo or anything else you need. No wonder why they do their dishes with washing powder instead of soap for dishes or why they cook their food every time in the same style. You have to be practical here because life is expensive. So you live sober, eat every day the same and you just enjoy the happy feeling of sugar as much as you can!

 

The. Real. Cuba.

While traveling I like to see the a country through the eyes of a local. Sometimes that can be a real challenge, for example in Cuba. The locals are depended of the money they make of tourists, they are really poor but they rather not show that. They will do anything to make you comfortable, also if that means they hardly have something to eat. That reminds me not to expect only to see a bright side, because most times there is a very dark side too.

Trying to see the real normal life, you’ve to avoid the touristy places as much as possible. That can be hard as this whole country makes a better living with the income out of tourists. You make a better change when hanging out with the locals. If they allow, you come a little closer step by step.

It starts with the double currency they have; the moneda national (pesos) and the convertible (CUC) which is 25 peso is worth 1 cuc. Cubans get their salary paid in peso; for the majority that is somewhere between 30-60 cuc per month. They can buy food such as rice and beans with peso, all the rest they have to buy with CUC and these things are very expensive for them. Four rolls of toilet paper for example cost 1 CUC, their (half) daily income! Most of other articles are priced the same as in western countries.

But for everything is a solution in Cuba, they are intelligent and super creative. They trade new clothes with tourists for anything they have, they repare every electronical device until it is really not worth it (that is very very long), they created a shared taxi system to travel in and between cities, hot showers with no running water are possible by boiling water and put it in a bucket… and so on.

It is all about good connections here, that’s how they help each other out. Buying fresh baked bread in the bakery at night or drinking the neighbors’ most biggest coconut ever are examples of that. But waking up in your boyfriends house and the first thing you see is your clothes washed by his mom and drying in the sun ~before 8 am~ is the highlight for me knowing this is Cuba.

Back in Havana you see homeless people looking in garbage bins for food…. Boxers wearing different shoes or shoes wrapped together with duck tape, a street full disabled people trying to sell sun glasses and so on. This country has many sad sides but if there is a place where people are strong, having courage and the will to survive while staying friendly and happy…. You must be talking about Cuba <3