Two Russian Spies in Rotterdam? A Hostel story

Two Russian Spies in Rotterdam? A Hostel story

„It was a summer, when two young Russian guests came to our Ani&Haakien Hostel in Rotterdam to do the check-in. They were two friendly guys, maybe a bit serious, like people can be :) They were carrying two suspicious long thin hard cover bags with them. With big eyes I was fantasizing about two Russian spies with guns coming to our Rotterdam. I asked the guys, what they are doing in Rotterdam and what they brought with them. They said they would go to an event and that they have their boats with them. So I mumbled a bit „Yeah

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The power of spontaneity - College, friendship, and travel!
Santa Monica, California, USA

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The power of spontaneity – College, friendship, and travel!

I live in Fullerton, California and attend CSUF with my friends. None of us knew each other before coming to college, but we were all brought together by sheer luck. Our friendships have blossomed and we have been on so many adventures together throughout the first semester of school. It was sad to be heading home for winter break, but when we returned to school it felt too good to be reunited! Our first weekend back we decided to take a trip to Santa Monica, which is about an hour away from Fullerton (depending on traffic). We found a parking

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Travel with Rose-Colored Glasses

Travel with Rose-Colored Glasses – My Nicaragua Experience

Nicaragua was not kind to me. My luggage was delayed, I had a violent bout of food poisoning. My belongings were drenched with rainwater when a hostel roof collapsed, and I suffered through a debilitating, week-long illness. And when my prized dSLR was stolen from my hostel dorm room? I had thoroughly had enough. (Are hostels safe? Analyzing the safety) But if Nicaragua taught me nothing else, it’s that every single experience is valuable. Every experience shapes you; I learned from those hardships and am better off because of them. Travel comes with no guarantees except that it’ll be worth

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Hitchhiking in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Lajares, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

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Hitchhiking in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

No transport, no rush! Hitchhiking: the golden answer to budget travel! It doesn’t cost a dime plus you can meet interesting people, and get a sneak peak into their lives. In Fuerteventura we were hitchhiking from Lajares to the beach in El Cotillo. It’s only a 10 km ride, and hitchhiking is very common across Fuerteventura and the Canary Islands. However, it was our first time ever. The very first cars had big yellow and white corporate stickers on them. The tourists that were driving them looked at us with big scared eyes…”No, dear tourists, we are not planning to

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Morocco Desert - Our experience in the cold desert of Morocco
Desert, Morocco

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Sun Rise in the Desert of Morocco – Lasting Travel Memories

Travel Memories! We love to think back of our time in the Moroccan desert. Back in 2013 we were staying in the wild city of Marrakesh. It was loud, it was colorful, many different smells run through our noses. It was truly a wow-experience to get to know Marrakesh. One day we got the opportunity to hop on a bus to a desert adventure. It was a bus tour with local guides on their way to the far desert, stopping at a few small towns in the mountains. On the way we crossed the majestic Atlas Mountains, and there are

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This special Feeling of Coming Home - The Smell of Licorice
Hamburg, Germany

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This special Feeling of Coming Home – The Smell of Licorice

I don’t like licorice. It tastes weird, also it’s sticky and doesn’t look nice. In the subway station next to my apartment, there is a small stand selling it. When I’m not traveling, I pass it every day. What I love about it is the smell, that tells me: you’ve made it, you’re home. Coming home from a great party? Licorice. Coming back from an endless feeling trip? Licorice. And the best part: stumbling over a market anywhere in the world where someone sells licorice: Home.

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Rishikesh, India - meat, eggs and alcohol are forbidden
Rishikesh, India

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Rishikesh, India – meat, eggs and alcohol are forbidden

Located at the foot of the Himalayas, crossed by the river of Ganges, Rishikesh is an important pilgrimage city. From here the Ganges heads to the Himalayas, and from here pilgrims start their voyage to the holy places in Garhwal Mountains – like we did on our trip “On foot to India“ (originally in German: Zu Fuß nach Indien). Like in many sacred places in India meat, eggs and alcohol are forbidden in Rishikesh – an absolute dream destination for vegetarians and vegans. Lakshmana, this lion among men, one of three brothers of Rama, whose deeds are written down in

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Chickens, Goats, and Abba - the bizarre bus through Ethiopia
Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

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Chickens, Goats, and Abba – the bizarre bus through Ethiopia

I always use public transport; I believe it is the best way of getting to know a country. On route from Lake Wenchi to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia I had not only the bumpiest journey of my life but also the most bizarre. Chickens casually strolling around nibbling on my toes, two goats strapped on the roof, people sitting on my lap meanwhile the driver also acted as a DJ playing only ABBA tunes for 3 hours. Loved it.

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In Paris I helped an elderly couple and they surprised me!

In Paris I helped an elderly couple and they surprised me!

I was moping in my French-speaking-blues on the metro en route to the 7th arrondissement. I decided to exit and walk off my foul mood. As I departed, I heard a mixture of laughter and Irish-accented bickering from an elderly couple in front of the metro map. I established they believed their destination was, “sortie,” which means, “exit” in French, much to my amusement. I located their hotel and guided them. They were exhausted and I left them to recuperate on a park bench. I proceeded trying on expensive boots. Flustered, the man interrupted asking me to find his vanished

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Reykjavik, Iceland

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I met my Fiancé thanks to Vikings and Bus Hostel Reykjavik

Last July (in 2014) I traveled by myself to Iceland. I arrived at the Bus Hostel Reykjavik in the evening, and the following day I walked around Reykjavik to do some sight-seeing. On the back of the map I got from the hostel, there was an ad for a museum about vikings. I decided to go there, and by the end of the tour you had the option of dressing up as a viking. I of course wanted to do this, and I also wanted a photograph of myself in said costume. So I walked up to a random guy and

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Ramallah, Palestine

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I had the Worst Coffee of my life in Ramallah, Palestine

I love to think back and getting reminded about my travels in Palestine. It was highly interesting to experience both Israel and Palestine by my own, to talk to people, and see the daily life outside the news. We left Jerusalem in the morning, and when we arrived in Ramallah, I felt like a coffee. So we looked around, and walked into an old café: heart-warming people, Arabic music, and the worst coffee of my life! The coffee had caraway in it which is a great spice but not within a mix for coffee. However, as a caffeine-lover I drunk

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Our morning traffic was a herd of goats - Rural Petrich in Bulgaria
Petrich, Bulgaria

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Our morning traffic was a herd of goats – Rural Petrich in Bulgaria

Having spent 6 weeks in the small village in Petrich, Bulgaria, I must say that it was the biggest cultural shock I have had to date. We went there (11 other students and I) as part of our university course, with the aim to create a geological map for our dissertations. We were staying with a bulgarian family, who didn’t know any English. Hence, the past few weeks before our departure was spent learning the Bulgarian language. The Bulgarian community in Petrich were lovely and we were warmly welcomed upon arrival. One lady came up to us and hugged us all, which was

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Walking solo in a GULAG of the Stalin Era in Russia
Perm-36, Russia

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Walking solo in a GULAG of the Stalin Era – crimes of the past

In Siberia you read a lot about GULAG and their unfortunate guests. So we had to go to Perm-36, a former soviet labor camp where “country enemies” were imprisoned. In a forest 100km northeast from Perm and closed for tick-borne encephalitis, as we discovered after 2 hours in a bouncy minivan, we managed to enter the camp thanks to a kind employee and walked through barbed wire fences and bare dorms with wooden beds. It’s touching to see how people had to live for minor crimes like being late for work or reading censored books.

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Ticking of the bucket list: Cage-diving with Great Whites
Cape Town, South Africa

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Ticking of the bucket list: Cage-diving with Great Whites

So, this is a sneak preview of my old Bucket List: – 14. Learn how to swim – 15. Go cage diving with Great Whites And then one day in November 2014 I said: “Sign me up for the cage diving with great white sharks, please”, ok so I may have skipped a step with learning to swim, but really how essential was it to know how to swim when going cage diving with Great Whites? After attending an amazing International Civil Society Week in Johannesburg, South Africa, I jumped at the chance of taking a two day trip to

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Danger and Fear Climbing the Italian Dolomites Mountain
Dolomite Mountains, Canazei, Trentino, Italien

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Danger and Fear Climbing the Italian Dolomites Mountain

Having experienced many exposed and challenging Via Ferrata, I thought my rational fear had subsided over time. That was until me and my friends had to cross an icy bridge that was completely open to the elements. Without the usual pseudo protection of my carabiner clips and iron wire, I suddenly felt extremely at risk. Either side of the foot-wide ice-crossing were drops that had no bottom and considering we were climbing on a mountain that stood over 2000m tall, my guess is that if I had slipped, I would not be re-telling this story today. If I learnt only

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Waiting for Kumari, a goddess in Kathmandu

Waiting for Kumari, a goddess in Kathmandu

We were in Kathmandu waiting for Kumari to come out of the palace. She is a goddess and a very young girl, chosen among a large number of Newari female candidates according to strict body figures and after frightful trials. She cannot lay her feet on the ground, so servants carry her on a sedan out of the palace. She’s not looking to anything in particular with her composed gaze, almost ignoring everyone. It’s a bittersweet condition: her destiny is already written, she soon will be a woman and will lose her goddess status, as another Kumari shall be appointed.

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Skydiving 15,000 feet over Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand

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Skydiving 15,000 feet over Queenstown, New Zealand

Absolutely petrified. That’s one way of describing my anxiety before jumping out a plane at 15,000 feet. But I had never done anything like this before so that made it desirable. What makes traveling different is the unknown, the ability to experience new things without over thinking it. So that’s what I did; at 15,000 feet of course. And I can honestly say that it was the best experience of my life. Complete silence as I free fell into nothingness. It was exhilarating.

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Climbing away from the Russian Mafia in Thailand

Climbing away from the Russian Mafia in Thailand

The Russian mafia had a gun pointed at the owner. Trouble is usually found when I get feisty at a bar, not innocently laying in silky pajamas (actually tradional Thai clothing for massages) receiving a massage in Phuket. He bellowed, “I give you money! You give me disrespect!” The girl giving me the massage motioned me to follow, crawling toward the back of the establishment. As Mr. Mafia’s attention ventured to expose spectators, the gal quietly removed a large Buddha painting, reveling a hidden door. I channeled Alice in Wonderland and climbed to safety, as the fuming Russian and his

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1 1/2 Month of Travel and Work in France

I was studying abroad in Strasbourg, France and wanted to do the travel around Europe and find myself deal. While I was planning, a friend in the programme introduced me to HelpX, a network that lets you work internationally for room and board. You typically work 4 days out of the week and travel for the rest. After some searching, I decided to go for it! For a month and a half, I worked at an organic hotel and restaurant in the tiny village of Tichville, France. Population: 10 people and hoards of ducks, chickens and cows. I worked as

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In The Footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi and Napoleon

In The Footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi and Napoleon

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When you walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the journey begins with a day-long hike through the Pyrenees, starting in France, ending hours later in Spain. Most pilgrims continue to Santiago de Compostela, another 790km away. My son and I wanted to be like most pilgrims, even though our plan was just to walk for another two days, ending in Pamplona. We climbed high into the mountains and came down through a thick forest, arriving late afternoon. But my feet were covered in blisters and

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The Sleeping Dragon - Dalai Lama And Me
Salzburg, Austria

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The Sleeping Dragon – Dalai Lama, Salzburg, and Me

I can feel the snowflakes softly falling from the sky. They land gently on the tip of my frozen nose. At the top of this mysterious peak, famously called “sleeping dragon” by the Dalai Lama, I am alone. It is just me and the mountains. Okay, that’s not exactly true. It’s just me and a dozen yapping crows soaring through the mist. Up here on Untersberg, as I look down at Salzburg below, I know that it’s me against the world. That it’s just me and the silence that threatens to engulf me whole.

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Are there wolves in Umbria? Nicola did not reply

Are there wolves in Umbria? Nicola did not reply

“Are there wolves in Umbria?” Just silence from Nicola while the howling was still coming from the valley. We were alone, sleeping in a tiny tent in the wood along Spoleto – Norcia, Italy abandoned railway. We had been too adventurous cycling along the hills and camping in this isolated spot. Maybe we (and by we I mean Nicola) could have learned how to light a fire to protect from the animals; maybe we were going to be attacked by a pack of wolves. “Nicola?” He quietly answered “A few”. Wolves sounded far from us, but I felt frightened and

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How Istanbul put My Life in Order - Never give up

How Istanbul put My Life in Order – Never give up

I arrived in Istanbul with a negative bank balance and a dire need for employment. I was couchsurfing to tide me over and set out one day to explore the megapolis. Before I knew it I was on the Asian side – literally a different continent – in a giant bus hub with no English speakers in sight. Lost and overwhelmed with life in general, I asked for a sign that everything would work out OK. Then I looked up and saw my couchsurfing host – the only person I knew in a city of 20 million. We went back

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Walking a Waterfall and Meeting Up with Local Students
Dehang, China

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Walking a Waterfall and Meeting Up with Local Students

One of the best moments of our trip to China was in Dehang, a traditional Miao Village in Hunan. There we met a Chinese couple who led us along a trail to the tallest waterfall of China and we walked behind it: so exciting! Back to the village, we were looking for something to eat but nobody could speak English. Seeing us in troubles a class of students dragged us in a traditional restaurant with them: they ordered tons of food we never could have been able to, they were so friendly and they offered us some local rice wine

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Traveling to Jamaica To Record our 1st Reggae Song

Traveling Jamaica to record our 1st Reggae Song – Travel Story

Our adventure in Jamaica started with a wonderful mistake. My boyfriend and I had booked a hotel two hours away. Instead of paying $50US to sit with tourists on a charter, we paid $2US and traveled with the locals. Four days later, we stood on the side of the road to catch another $2US public bus to Ocho Rios. Bumping into a local couple we befriended, they set us up with some of their friends that were going to pick us up and drive us around to find a new hotel.  Rule #1 Always trust your gut. Our new friends

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From Zero to Kilimanjaro, the Highest Peak of Africa
Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

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From Zero to Kilimanjaro, the Highest Peak of Africa

This was it. What was I thinking? “Stephanie, you have never climbed a mountain in your life, never mind starting with Kilimanjaro.” At that stage there was no going back, it was time to take on the challenge. After spending two months living with a Massai Tribe, the decision came to tackle Kili with three friends. This was an experience I will never forget. These overwhelming feelings of happiness, fear, tiredness, excitement and anxiety all at once. Standing at the highest peak of Africa I told myself, this was my time. It was time to challenge myself and do it

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Drinking Shots with Vietnamese War Veterans
Hoian, Vietnam

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Drinking Shots with Vietnamese War Veterans

It’s true that it’s the people who make the difference! I’m lucky to be traveling with my best friend Hannah but don’t worry about doing it alone either because we have met the most incredible people…. Like stopping for a bike break in Hoian and ending up doing shots of rice wine at the insistence of Vietnamese War Veterans, some of which were missing limbs but still had the biggest smiles and funniest stories.

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Sandboarding with 65k through Namibias Dunes
Swakopmund, Namibia

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Sandboarding at 65k through Namibia’s Dunes

We left Swakopmund, Namibia early in the morning and drove out to the dunes with the sand boards. It was a difficult trudge to the top and I gulped when I got there and looked down the slope we would be using. Too late to wimp out, though. I smeared the bottom of the board with wax, clipped in my boots and performed the backwards somersault they had shown us how to do to get started. Then I was up on my feet and scudding diagonally across the dune, balancing better than I imagined, and picking up more speed than

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Kuala Lumpur

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From Hell to Heli-pads

From monkeys climbing on my head to sleeping on train floors to cocktails on top of the world… Travelling gives you the greatest opportunities and the weirdest lessons, both teach you a lot about who you are (and what you can handle). One night it’s an overnight bus with jagged metal arm rests, A/C in your face and two Asians crammed on one seat watching you sleep and the next night you’re being taken for cocktails on a helicopter pad overlooking Kuala Lumpur. 12 hours can make a big difference. One night we were sleeping in a floating bamboo shack

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