My love letter to the United States of America 

Personal

It all started in Florida, but quickly grew its way into East Coast road trips, Route 1 adventures and a trip that brought me halfway across the country. We zigzagged a few states here and there, and before I knew it I needed more than my fingers and toes to count the States I had visited. By the time I was 15 my family and I had travelled to the country 19 times. When my 16th birthday came around my roots were torn up from the familiar Danish ground and relocated to what was to become my 2nd home.

When I turned 21 I had been to 33 states. Some I passed through within hours, others I spent days exploring and a selected few I lived in for years. I grew up traveling the U.S. in the back seat of cars.

I fell in love with surfing on the beaches of Hawaii. I got a picture with Minnie Mouse at Disney World in Florida, not to be confused with Disney Land in California where I met Pocahontas and almost peed my pants on the Indiana Jones ride. I had my first New Years kiss to the sound of the ball dropping at a high school party in Connecticut. I drove two hours with college girlfriends to shop at Trader Joe’s in Orlando. I survived a category 4 hurricane in the basement of a hotel that was falling apart in Florida. I stood on all four in the famous cross where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet, the only place in the country where you can be in four states at once. I ordered room-service in Las Vegas with my sister while my parents were trying their luck in the casino. Forever the biggest piece of chocolate cake I have seen. I danced the day and night away at a music festival in New York City.  I considered eating my way through a meat challenge in Virginia. I flew over Grand Canyon in a helicopter. I got to see my then boyfriend win the national championship running the mile at Harvard University. I slept through the fireworks over Niagara Falls. I graduated high school and got to throw my cap in to the air. I gazed out over Manhattan with my best friends from a rooftop terrace. I spent a weekend learning the ins and outs of snowboarding in Vermont. I got asked to prom spelled out on cupcakes in the middle of calculus class. I saw shooting stars on the beach in Cape Cod, skinny dipping with a Corona in my hand and some of the best people surrounding me. I met a little girl in Central Park that wanted me to teach her how to do cart wheels. I got a tattoo of an airplane in Tampa. I swam around in one pool after another, always pretending I was a mermaid. I got to experience a true Hamptons weekend, and everything that comes with it. I got stopped by a police boat in the Gulf; “According to Florida State Law its against the rules to be outside the railing of your boat.” I drove 1,300 miles down the East Coast to get to my college. I experienced a different world in New Orleans. I watched my first meteor shower on Compo Beach. I drove thorugh Death Valley and was amazed by what I saw. I got a glimpse into space in Houston. I went on endless amounts of walks and was always greeted with smiles and hellos. I met some of the most amazing people I will ever know.

I could continue that list for days, but I bet it got pretty boring after 5 memories, unless you were one of the people that I got to share them with. I have had countless amazing and unforgettable experiences. Many of them I can thank my parents for, but even more I can thank the beautiful people of this country and it’s mind blowing scenery, nature and cities.

What is really interesting (and most of all sad) is that I’ve met quite a few people arond the world who doesn’t have the United States on their bucket list. People that wants to see the whole world, except for the states. The reasons are always political and stereotypical.
Whenever I get asked a question ending with “isn’t it like that in the States?” or people state that “that’s how it works in America” I always make a very clear point about how the country (in term of stereotypes) should really be viewed as 50 small countries, and that because your cousin experienced one thing with an American in Oregan 5 years ago, it doesn’t automatically mean that the 20 million people living 2,800 miles away would’ve have acted that way or said those same words.

Please don’t leave the United States off of your bucket list because of the stereotypes, because of what you have heard, because of what you have seen on the news or because of the election that turned Donald Trump into the president..

The United States is an incredible, beautiful and diverse country. For what it is and for all it has yet to become. Yes they have some serious issues, but what country doesn’t.

Open up your mind; there’s so much you don’t know and so much you have yet to see and experience.

// Annika

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Traveling solo

Personal

Edit: I can see that I started writing this post December 19th 2015. This was after my first solo trip traveling to Portugal. I remember feeling almost embarrassed back then to say that I was traveling on my own. Oh how things have changed. I then continued writing almost three years ago before I headed to Sri Lanka on a five weeks solo trip. Lastly I edited the post after returning from my solo trip to Turkey last summer. For some odd reason I never posted it, but now here it is. 

“Who are you going with?” Time after time this is one of the first questions I get asked when talking about a new trip I’m planning. “Myself” I answer proudly.  An answer that’s usually reciprocated with a nervous smile. Some people flat out ask “Why!?”
Others say something like; “Oh… but.. you’re going with a group right? .. Or an agency?” When the answer to that question is “No,” the nervous smile turns into a weird look, and so the explaining begins..

To me traveling solo is the feeling of complete freedom, strength and independence.

Each time I feel happy when traveling alone it is a different kind of intense happiness than other people can give me. It’s happiness completely created from within, and experiencing that I am capable of feeling that kind of happiness solely brought upon by myself, brings me the strongest feeling of content.

The happiest of campers after completing a challenging hike all on my own through caves in Cappadocia, Turkey

Solo traveling is done by many, but questioned by even more. Nonetheless it is something I have come to love. I might even say I’ve gotten addicted to it.
Each trip is a growing experience, and every time I connect with a foreign stranger I get an exhilarating feeling. In the strangest way, traveling alone makes me feel more alive. This feeling is mostly derived from becoming friends with people holding a different nationality. It makes me feel both wildly excited and incredibly calm to know that all around the world are friendships waiting to be had.

When I travel alone I experience everything more intensely, and I get to know myself better. I push boundaries, move outside of my comfort zone and each time I reach a new destination, I start over from square one.

Every solo trip start out with me being nervous. “What have I done?” “Why am I doing this?” are just few among the many questions that runs through my mind when I am at the airport, waiting impatiently to board the aircraft.
Traveling alone is not easy peasy flowers and butterflies. There’s no one to hold your spot in the two hour long service desk line you’re forced to wait in when you missed your connecting flight and you’re two mili seconds and a rain drop from peeing your pants. There’s no one to help you out when you’re five minutes from the airport and realise that you forgot your passport at the hostel you were staying at (yes, this really happened…). There’s also no one to look after you late at night when a person is following you on the way back to your hostel, somehow appearing at every corner even though you continuously make the weirdest turns. These are few among many issues that you potentially have to deal with all by yourself. There are lonely moments and moments when things go wrong and I’d do anything to have a travel buddy by my side, but they are few and far between.

Another question I often face is “aren’t you going to get sick of your own company?” To be quite honest, I think I am the only person in the world I could spend 24/7 alone with for five weeks without getting sick of my own company. I kind of have to be able to do that. And truthfully, each time I travel alone, I find myself being surrounded by more people than if I had been traveling with a friend. You meet so many new people – new friends – from all over the world.

I’ve come to know incredible souls from Canada, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Russia, Holland, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Turkey, Germany, Spain and so many other countries. These might not all be people whom I stay in touch with on a weekly, monthly, or even yearly basis, but if I ever visit their country I’ll be sure to stop by to give them a hug and share a bottle of wine. Just as they all know that if they ever come across Copenhagen, they’ll have a place to stay and a tour guide at their disposal.

“Those who fly solo have the strongest wings” said a quote I once read. Now, I believe that nothing is stronger than the bond two people, whom have chosen each other, share, but to further strengthen that bond, I truly think that it is paramount to know that you are able to “fly” on your own, without having someone ready to catch you if you break a wing. If you ask me, traveling solo is something everyone should do at least once in their life.

I don’t intend to always fly solo, to always travel alone, but for now it is undoubtedly my favorite way to explore, experience and grow. Little by little. Trip by trip.

So please don’t make me explain.

// Annika

So I moved to London!?

Personal, Travels

Why yes. Just like that. Time has flown once again, and it’s been six months since I’ve published my words here. In the grand scheme of things six months is nothing, but this time around six months in my life has been enough to turn absolutely everything upside down. In the last six months I’ve finished the first year of school, quit my job, sublet my apartment, gotten an internship, lost a friend, become closer with others, gained a boyfriend and oh yes, moved to London. I’ve even managed to live in the same country as my parents for a few weeks. Something we haven’t done in years. So yes. Life has been crazy to say the least.

My London move isn’t permanent, since it’s due to a six months internship. I’m working with marketing for VisitDenmark – the national danish tourism board / advertising agency. Basically my job is to get the brits to travel to Denmark. It’s the perfect fit for me.

Moving here was quite an impulsive decision. I hadn’t considered doing my internship abroad, but all of a sudden it was the only option. I was between New York, Bangladesh and London, but here I am, in London. Trying something new.

I spent the first week being incredibly overwhelmed. I’ve learned that Copenhagen is just a pocket sized city, so living in an actual city has been quite a change. I quickly learned that the tube made my life miserable, so living in a place where it wouldn’t be a part of a daily routine was an absolute must. I ended up in a room in an apartment with six roommates that costs me more than double of my entire apartment in Copenhagen, but I only have a 15 minute walk to work which is BEYOND AMAZING for London. My landlord is shit, most things in the apartment aren’t working and I’m sharing a bathroom with four guys, but the room works perfectly fine for the short period that it is.

I came to London with the ambition to see all of UK during my six months over here, but gaining a boyfriend and thus a long distance relationship that “takes away” every other weekend has made me adjust my ambitions a little. However, I still want to see a lot. I’ve been here for more than two months now and have spend most of my time exploring London. I’ve also already been back to Denmark twice and have visited both Berlin and Paris. BUT. Starting tomorrow it’s time to explore the UK. I’ve acquired a train ticket for Cambridge and will journey on a day trip tomorrow. I’m excited.

I’ll be back. With pictures. And words. The usual. I also had planned that I’d be catching up on the many travels I haven’t written about in here during my time in London, but we’ll see if that actually happens.

// Annika

Doing absolutely nothing in Malaga

Travels

I usually prefer to be a traveler, an adventurer or maybe even an explorer when I get on a plane and head for somewhere new. This time around, however, I was a tourist on vacation.

You know the kind of trip where it really doesn’t matter where about in the world you find yourself, because all you really do anyway is relax. It was a first for me, and I liked it more than I was expecting to (though it definitely won’t replace my usual way of traveling).

And to say that the country of origin didn’t matter AT all would also be to lie. I did visit the Picasso museum in the city that the artist himself was born in, and all of the time that wasn’t spend laying down on my beach towel was spent devouring Spanish food, wine and sangria. Something that most definitely taste better and feels more right when you’re in Spain.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve relaxed like this (well that’s not true – it was in Turkey about a month ago, but that was a bit different as I was still being active with kitesurfing).

My top three moments of the trip were:

Nudist beach – We visited a nudist beach, which was a first for all of us. The first few minutes were a bit odd, but I quickly adjusted to the nakedness of everyone. The craziest part was that there was a bar/cafe. Ordering drinks and eating lunch in a cafe were two things I never thought I’d be doing naked, but now I can check em off of the list. Other than feeling incredibly free, what was so amazing about the nudist beach experience was that it really had me thinking about and questioning why being naked at the beach isn’t the norm. Why was bathingsuits ever created?
A man got in the ocean with his two friends while we were there and uttered a loud “Eyyyyy – it’s as free as we can be.” And he was right.

Beach + beer + talks – One of our days at the beach turned into a deeper conversation than we usually get into. And one beer turned in to six. All of a sudden it was 8 PM and we had missed lunch time. It was just one of those perfect days, and there isn’t much more to say about it.

Boat trip – We went on a three hour boat trip on a huge catamaran. Being on the water was incredible as always. Especially stopping the boat in the middle of the sea to continously jump of and get back on the boat. I loved it.

And of course also all of the food I ate…

The gist of my trip was somewhat like this:

Day 1: woke up and went to the bakery, ate breakfast, went to the beach, went to dinner, went out for drinks, went to bed.

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The view from our rooftop terrace – The whole building had acess to it, but we didn’t meet anyone else up there

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Una cerveza por favor

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We had the BEST dinner on the first night. Here featuring tuna tartat and the next picture duck tartat, which was a first for me.

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We found this incredible bar that was owned by a very ecentric lady. The look of the place was not very inviting, but she had every bottle of alcohol and mixed some killer cocktails. We visited a few times.

 

 

Day 2: woke up and went to the bakery, ate breakfast, went on a day trip to a nudist beach, ate lunch at the beach, came back and had dinner, watched a movie, went to bed.

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Visiting a nudist beach for the first time was a really cool experience for me

Day 3: woke up and had breakfast, went up on our rooftop terrace, went grocery shopping at a market, went to the Picasso museum (where they also had an incredible Andy Warhole exhibition), went back to the rooftop, cooked and ate dinner, played games and drank wine on the rooftop, went to bed.

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A street artist had placed these old school pixelized mosaics all over town on street corners. I of course loved it.

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I loved the architecture in Málaga. Esepecially how most windows in the old buildings were really double doors.

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I am in love with this picture. I had never seen it before. 

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Day 4: woke up and had breakfast, went on a three hour boat trip, went to the beach, went to dinner, watched a movie, went to sleep.

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Day 5: woke up and had breakfast, went on the rooftop all day, went out for ice cream, did some shopping, went to dinner, went to a hookah bar, went to bed.

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I looooove this picture. Our rooftop tanning days could only happen because of this shower. At least every half hour you needed to wash off to be able to handle the heat. 

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Day 6: woke up, went out for breakfast, went to the beach, went to dinner, went to bed.

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Nature is so freaking cool. LOOK AT THESE BABY SHELLS.

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Some of the best octopus I have had. Yum yum yum.

We basically did nothing and saw nothing! But I’ve read three books, eaten a whole lot of amazing food, completely unwinded and worked on my tan with such an intense effort that I haven’t shown since my University of Tampa days. And most importantly I’ve become even closer with my two best friends.

Malaga was great. I loved the palm trees, the architecture and the food, and the Picasso museum is definitely also worth a visit. The beach isn’t really anything special, but it has a good view and is perfect for adults who like being in the water. The negative side to the city is that it is touristy, and there’s way too many Danes (this comes from a person who prefers not meeting any Danes when traveling).

If I had to choose, I definitely prefer the adventurous trips where I get to explore and have my mind blown with new experiences, but one doesn’t necessarily have to leave out the other. And this trip taught me that just laying is completely okay. Sometimes.

// Annika

Dream come true – Floating above Cappadocia

Adventures

As I mentioned in my Cappadocia post; flying in a hot air balloon above the magical landscape of Cappadocia is what brought me to Turkey in the first place.

And I honestly couldn’t think of any other activity that could get me to set my alarm for 3:37 am. For the hot air balloon I did it without complaining.

Getting up was actually easy peasy. It always is when you’re truly excited for something, regardless of the time. And it also helped that a few other people in my dorm room were also getting up, and for those that were still a sleep I couldn’t leave my alarm ringing.

After quickly getting ready I walked out of my dorm room and saw the stars, and instantly got the most amazing feeling in my stomach. The sky was completely clear and I could see sooo many stars. Also at this point in time I knew that the trip was really happening. This was a major relief since it had been cancelled three days in a row before I got to Cappadocia due to too much wind.

I got picked up by a car that did a few stops around Göreme and then took us to the balloon central. Coincidentally the three sweet Australians that I had watched the worldcup finally with were also in my car. Here we had a tiny breakfast and was briefed on what was going to happen. We then got in a car with the pilot we were granted, and off towards the ballons we were. At first our driver couldn’t find our pilot or our balloon. We probably spent an extra 10-15 minutes driving around before we finally located Deniz. That made me a bit worried, as I was about to majorly challenge on of my fears (heights!) and really just wanted everything to run smoothly. In the end everything worked out, and before I knew it the balloon was slowly but steadily being filled with air.

As we first started ascending a little girl on board started singing “I believe I can fly, I belive I can touch the sky” – It was so cliché, but with those words she nailed what I was feeling too.  But now, let’s let the pictures do the talking.

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Seeing the big valley with all of the balloons going up was beautiful in itself, and at this point I still didn’t even know what was coming for me.

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Thats me right there! We were about 20 people in the basket, but it was big enough for everyone to stand by the side. The basket was dividided in to four parts. I shared my little compartment with a an aussie couple on their honeymoon and a british couple (living in L.A) on a quick get-away from their kids.

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The landscape though…

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The background on my Iphone has been a picture of me surfing in Sri Lanka for the last 2 years, but this picture have beaten it for now. Just. Wow.

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Hiiii from a happy potato

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I mean……

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Notice the bride in the middle of a photoshoot!!!!

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There’s about 100 balloons in the air each morning.

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Descending!

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Bye bye my beautiful balloon.

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Our lovely pilot Deniz.

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As we were landing one of the guys catching us plucked a flower mid-landing and gave it to me. So sweet.

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We celebrated our trip with a cherry juice champagne drink and a piece of cake.

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The landscape bathing in the orange dawn light was too good to be true.

I got back to my hotel at 7 am and wow. They brand it as being an experience of a lifetime, and it truly was. It was worth every penny. It didn’t feel real. I was left, and really still am, speechless.

// Annika

Hiking through Cappadocia

Adventures, Travels

The whole reason for my Turkey trip was visiting the Cappadocia region and more specifically; flying in a hot air ballon above Cappadocia.

I had decided to take a night bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia to save time and not travel during the day. This was a BIG mistake. Here’s a little something I wrote while on the bus:

I’m awake after a night of horror. I woke up when a crying baby was sat down next to me. Why? How? Nightbus never again.

We made a stop. I took of my sleeping mask and pulled out my earplugs. I ran to the bathroom. I got Oreos. I returned to the bus.

We took off again and my eyes were starting to adjust to the light. When I really opened my eyes I realized how beautiful it was. Mountains to the left, flat fields and a lake to the right. A sheephurder passed by with hundreds of sheeps. The sun was rising, and the light was orange. Everything was peaceful, and the baby had stopped crying.

A dead sheep on the side of the road put a dimmer on my joy for a second, but then there was sunflower fields. And how can you not smile when looking at a sunflower field?

The bus driver and steward only spoke Turkish. We made multiple stops, but each time I didn’t understand what they were saying. I kept checking Google maps; a lifesaver for always being able to check you your location, even with no service. I still kept asking “Goreme?” just to make sure. But no no, not yet. I got flashbacks to China visiting the Chinese wall. I looked up from typing this and all of sudden the scenery had changed. The caves, the fairy chimneys. There they were. And it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Welcome to Cappadocia.

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Happy camper!

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The first view of the incredible Cappadocia landscape

I spent four days in Cappadocia, which I’d say is the perfect amount of time. You can do a lot of hikes, but still rest and relax. There’s no stress. My time in Cappadocia was affected by the fact that I had a cold and couldn’t do crazy hikes, so I relaxed a bit more than I usually would’ve done. I can definitely return in a few years to see the rest, but I still feel like I experienced a whole lot. My days went someting like this:

Day 1
The first day in Cappadocia was unreal. I saw what I think is the most spectacular landscape I’ve ever seen (but then what about all of the other places I can’t help but think). I had the most gewy ice cream and mashed potatoes of my life (I love gewy as a consistency) and I slept in the softest bed sheets of my life. Wowza that’s a good day. Not to mention my incredibly adventurous and thrilling hikes.

I arrived early in the morning at the bus station and walked straight to my hotel. I had booked a bed in a dorm room at a hotel, which was really nice since the place manages to both have the more luxurious hotel feeling and the feel of a hostel at the same time. I arrived at the hotel too early to check in, so I just changed my clothes and dropped off my bag.

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Like most of the hotels in Göreme, the place I had booked had most of its rooms placed in caves

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I headed straight for the famous Open Air Museum, but on the way there I spotted some caves of off the side of the road that I wanted to explore. Doing so turned out to be the best possible start to my Cappadocia adventure, as I ventured through some seriously cool caves off of the beaten track. And I had it all to myself.

Being all by myself and venturing into the caves, it turned out that I was a bit scared of actually entering the caves. For some reason, my solution to this was filming myself while doing so, which actually worked really well. A big bonus to that is that I was left with a bunch of videos of my actual reactions of seeing the caves, and with those videos I’ve made this little film (I speak danish though..).

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This landscape. I have no words.

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My happy face after exploring the first cave. I could not have been more in my element.

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Back on the track I headed toward the Open Air Museum. The museum was really cool, mainly because it had quite a few churches where the murals had been preserved. However, due to my adventure earlier in the day I arrived at peak hour, which meant multiple tours and hordes of people. I rented headphones that told me all of the details of the museum and wandered off on my own, trying to avoid the mass.

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This was a seven story building that used to house af group of nons

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When you see murals like this inside of, what from the outside looks like, a rock, you have to be awestruck.

After the museum I was exhausted (mainly due to the horrible nights sleep I had on the bus) and walked back to my hotel for a four hours nap.

When I woke up it was both dinner and World Cup finale time, so I walked into the town center and found a restaurant showing the game. I was quickly joined by a Turkish man, that worked as a tour guide in Cappadocia. We were chatting when three aussies joined us. They had been on a tour with my new guide friend earlier in the day, and coincidentally we had been on the same night bus. We had a fun few hours together, but when the game was over I was more than ready to return to my bed. My new friend offered to take me to see the sunset in his favorite valley and stop by his local deli to try a traditional turkish sandwich, but I didn’t feel completely safe doing so and really just wanted my bed.

When I made it to the hotel the view was looking a bit too good to go straight to bed, so I headed for the roof top terrace and enjoyed the sunset.

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Day 2
The second day was the most eventful out of my time in Cappadocia. My alarm was set for 3:47 am as it was the big hot air balloon day. Since this was such a big deal for me and I have way too many pictures from the trip, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blogpost just for the balloon.

When I came back from the balloon trip I grabbed breakfast and went straight for a nap. img_4132

After waking up from my nap it was lunch time (food-nap-food – What a pattern huh?). I went to the local pide place (the turkish version of pizza) and had a delicious eggplant and cheese pide.

I had decided to hike Rose Valley, which was quite a far walk away from where I was staying. On the way there I strayed from the main road a few times and discovered more awesome caves all on my own. img_3720img_3724img_3737

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Spot the self timer queen

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One of my stops away from the main road was when I decided to walk towars this church (that I’ve forgotten the name of..). When I got there I pad a tiny entrance fee and was given a flash light from an incredibly nice turkish man. I was sent in to the church all on my own to explore.

This building turned out to be really cool cause there were multiple rooms to walk through, connected by stairs and little walkways. My journey through the church ended when clausthrophobia hit me as I had walk a few seconds crouched down through a tiny alley without any light appearing. That was a bit too much for me to handle, so I turned around and continued my walk towards Rose Valley.

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When I got to the place on the road where I had to make a left turn to head for Rose Valley I was already pretty exhausted. I had a cooking class to attend later in the day, so I had a time frame I had to keep my hike within.

I started walking towards the ally and could see from above how beautiful it was going to be. The closer I got though, the more intricate the walkway became. Those who know me knows that my sense of direction is incredibally bad, so walking through the path heading there I was starting to get a bit worried. Walking further, my worries turned into feeling a bit scared and uneasy, and I could feel in my stomach that this hike maybe wasn’t the best idea. Baring in mind that Lonely Planet advised solo female travellers not to hike alone through the vallyes, and the fact that I hadn’t seen another person for about half an hour. I considered walking back for a bit, but ended up going for the hike anyways. Because adventure you know.

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These are the rock formations that Rose Valley are know for, but once you make it to the ground an incredible landscape of many different rock formations awaits.

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Look at this house!! It’s a full on mansion. The small square holes were made for pigeons to stay in. Why the pigeons needed a house I never really figured out.

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And then all of the sudden it looked like this

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And then like this

After walking for a bit I ended up meeting a couple, which settled my nerves a bit. At least I wasnt the only person in the valley. I also met a group of three young russians, one of their reactions being “are you walking alone!? Isn’t that scary??” … But at this point it wasn’t scary at all. I was just enjoying the incredible scenery surrounding me. Sadly I had to walk pretty fast through the vally to make sure that I would get back in time, but it all ended up working out.

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Towards the end of the hike this little turkish family had a small “cafe.” I bought more water (I had run out, which is never good when hiking) and couldn’t help myself when they had fresh squeezed orange juice. The oranges were surrounded by wasps and I’m pretty sure that a fly was squeezed into my juice, but at this point I really didn’t care.

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This gianormus house marked the end of the house. Today I regret not going in there, but I was in a rush to get back to town and still had about 3,5 km to walk. Next time!!!

After walking a big further a man passed me on his moped. He ended up turning around and came back for me. “Göreme?” he asked. Yes was the answer. Up until this point I had turned down rides from all of the men that had approached me, but I was SO exhausted and really too tired to care about what might happen. Afterall I could always just jump off of the moped, right?

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My knight in shining armour

While driving he asked me what I was doing the next few days, and I said that the only thing I had planned was to go on an ATV sunset drive. As it turned out he ran one of those tours and got me a reservation with a “special price for you.”

With the ride I had enough time to jump in the pool (oh myyyy that felt good) before showering, and then it was time for my cooking class.

The cooking class was something I had read about in Lonely Planet, where it is praised as one of the top five eating experiences in all of Turkey. I think I can agree with that.

The class takes place in the house of a turkish family, where they life husband (Tolga), wife, two kids and the parents of the husband.
Tolga picked me up from my hotel, and as soon I got in his car I could tell that this experience was going to be special. For the entire half hour we talked, and Tolga told me all kinds of details and stories about each town we would pass through.

When we got to the house I got to meet the lovely grandma (she was the main instructor in the cooking class, but as her english wasn’t the best, Tolga was helping too), the wife and the two kids. They were so warm and welcoming, and I was sat down in the couch with tea and cookies while the grandma and son entertained me. There was a language barrier but we managed to get by and still have conversation, the son helping out with his bit of english.

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It was me and a sweet Australian couple that did the cooking class together. They were on my hot air balloon in the morning too, such a fun coincidence.

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Grandma rocking away with her incredible cooking skills

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SO MUCH FOOD

Now, I won’t get into too much detail about the night or the conversations we had, but it was a very special experience that I will never forget. Getting to be a part of a family like that and seeing the local life upclose was amazing, and even though they have cooking classes almost every night they made me feel as though this night wasn’t just one among all of the others.

When I left I promised the grandma that I would return for my honeymoon (she was really excited about the idea of me finding a husband) and the sweet, sweet Tolga told me “you’re not alone, not single. You’re family now” and made sure that I knew that if I ever needed anything while in Turkey, I should just let him know.

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My new turkish family pictured with me wearing the handmade scarf that the grandma gave me as a gift

Day 3
On day three I felt the effects from my incredible day two. I had had three huge experiences packed in to one day, and I was left exhausted. I managed to sleep until 11:30 am (pretty good for a dorm room), and stayed in bed until 1 pm before I dragged myself up the many stairs to the pool. I stayed by the pool, enjoying my book and the feeling of the sun on my skin until the late afternoon when I had gathered enough energy to go for a hike.

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On the way to Rose Valley and the Göreme Open Air Museum I had passed a valley on the side of the road that I really wanted to visit. It was called Honey Valley, but I have later given in the name Penis Valley. You can see for yourself in the pictures.

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I obviously had to have a timer picture with one of the penises.

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After my hike I went straight to dinner at the Top Deck Cave Restaurant; a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. The mixed meze plate (gets me every time) was amazing, so I was a happy girl.

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Last activity of this very quiet day was watching the sunset from a place in Göreme called Sunset Point. I walked through the town and uphill and was very pleasently surprised with the spot. You had a 360 degree view of Göremes surroundings and everywhere you looked it was nothing short of beautiful.

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I LOVE this picture

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And this one.. Look at the moon!!

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Day 4
On day four it was time to watch the hot air ballons from the ground, and so I set my alarm way too early again to wake up and walk to Sunset Point. As the pictures show it was well worth the pain of waking up. I sat there in awe until I was the last person left and every single one of the ballons had returned to the ground.

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I had my usual breakfast at my hotel and went straight back to bed for a long nap. At arond 1 pm I managed to get out of bed and drag my body to the pool. I relaxed and red my book for a few hours before heading for an early dinner. Still feeling a bit sick I wasn’t up for another big hike, so I saved all of my energi for my last Cappadocia activity; the ATV sunset tour.

I arrived at my new friends tour hub and went straight on a shuttle bus. The bus took me and a bunch of other people to the ATV parking spot where I was given a mask and helmet. I was starting to be a bit nervous, thinking back to the last time I had rented a vehicle. In Sri Lanka I had rented a moped and after having it for 5 minutes I had already crashed it into a house…. So…. High off of reading the Power of Now I decided that right in this moment there was nothing to be scared of, and so I got on the ATV.

Luckily it was quite easy, and after a few minutes I was speeding ahead. Now, the tour was a bit so and so. Riding the ATV was SO fun and it’s definitely a really good way to see the landscape and head to multiple valleys quickly, but the next time I’ll rent one and head off on my own. Riding just isn’t as fun when you’re a part of a snake of 15 ATV’s… Still worth it though, and now I know that I am more than capable of riding one.

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I felt pretty badass sitting here

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My new friend that gave me the ride back from my hike

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So. Much. Dust. I usully have quite dark hair on my arms, but not this evening.

I had initially made plans to meet up and have a cup of tea with my new turkish friend from the cooking class, but after the ATV tour I was completely out of energy, so I ended up cancelling. I’ll have to see him the next time I go to Cappadocia instead.

When I returned to the hotel I jumped in the pool, and after getting out two german men staying in my dorm room invited me to have a beer with them, and so I spent my last night talking, laughing and sharing stories with them. I’m now more convinced than ever before that I need to go to October fest i Münich.

Day 5
On the last day all I did was wake up, grab my bag, head into an airport shuttle and stare out the window until I reached the airport. I was flying to Izmir and heading to a small local coastal town called Gülbahçe where a week of kitesurfing was awaiting.

Going to Cappadocia should be on everyones bucket list. Just saying.

// Annika

Three days of Istanbul

Travels

Wow.

I think that’s a good word to describe the city. It’s crazy, bustling and just a little bit too much like I’ve only ever experienced Asian cities be (Istanbul is also half Asian, so that makes sense), and I absolutely love it.

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As my plane started descending towards Istanbul I was shocked by it’s greatness. I knew that it’s one of the biggest cities in the world, but it still surprised me just how vast it was.

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After catching a bus, walking for a bit and getting on a tram I made it to my hostel on the first night. I caught this moment heading there.

Instead of writing about my three days and every experience I had A-Z I’m gonna write in four categories; the classic must sees, the must sees according to Annika, the downside and the best memories.

The classic must sees
These are the things that the guidebooks will tell you that you absolutely have to see. And I may or may not agree, depending on which sight we’re talking about.

The Blue Mosque was the first thing I went to see in Istanbul. When I arrived late at night (I lived in the Sulthanamet district where all of the big sights are (big mistake — I wish I had lived in the über cool and less touristy Karaköy) I saw both the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya in the dark and was absolutely mesmerized by their greatness. At this point in time, I didn’t know which one was which though.
Anyways, I arrived at the Blue Mosque in the morning, and after covering up with a scarf I went in without waiting in much of a line. It was beautiful, yes, but to be honest I was a bit disappointed. This definitely could have been because of the major construction going on inside (and outside) of the church, since most of the ceiling was covered and that’s where the true wow factor is. To me it’s debatable if it’s worth a visit.

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The Aya Sofya was next up and god damn it, once again construction was happening. But even with the construction going on, Aya Sofya had me. What an incredibly beautiful building. It’s scale is unreal and the detailed mosaic painting displayed on the first floor are nothing short of amazing. Definitely worth a visit.

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The mosaic was probably the most spectacular ones I have ever seen

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A ridiculously beautiful building

The Grand Bazar was the third stop on the first day. I had met a German guy at the hostel the night before who had told me not go, and I almost wish I had listened. The Grand Bazar completely drained me for all of my energy, so much that I returned to my hostel for a nap after I had visited. I was disappointed with the stores that were inside the bazar, as they were really all of the same. The same bowls, the same leather jackets, the same shitty toys and the same fabrics. I was expecting something more unique and raw, which it probably used to be before tourism came along and ruined it. You also have to deal with every single shop owner trying to get your attention, which is a lot to handle. Now I know I would never not go myself, because it seems like something you just have to visit. But I wouldn’t say it’s worth it. I preferred the Spice Market and the surrounding streets instead. It seemed like it was more for the locals and less for the tourist, but still with a significant amount of tourist. The streets around the Grand Bazar are cool to walk around in though. Here you see the locals shopping. It’s still intense in these streets, but you’re outside and the shopkeepers aren’t trying to pull you into their stores.

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The area around the Grand Bazar. Something really interesting in Istanbul is how each street had a specific thing they were selling. I passed a sock street, an underwear street and an entire street where every store sold hardware supplies.

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This picture was taken at the Spice Market, which I preferred over the Grand Bazar.

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The Spice Market.

The Bosporus is the waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara which then connects Turkey to the Aegean Sea following the Mediterranean Sea. Due to this, it is a significant international waterway, but it is also a waterway that divides Istanbul into two pieces. One being European and the other being Asian. Due to the incredibly cool fact that Istanbul is the only city in the world that is located on two different continents, the guidebooks will tell you that you MUST sail from one side to the other. In reality, you don’t really notice that you cross continents, but you can say that you did it. I’d say that catching the ferry from one side to the other is definitely worth it though. Mainly because you get to go on the water (which I LOVE) and have a beautiful view of the city, but also because the waterfront of the Asian side seems a lot more local and residential than the waterfront of the European side, which is always cool to experience.

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The view from the ferry while waiting for take-off

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The Asian side is known for having the best street art of the city. I only spent about 30 minutes on the side and found some incredible pieces.

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The must-have-atleast-one-fresh-squeezed-orange-juice-a-day-cause-it-is-so-cheap juice of the day, heading back towards the European side.

The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul (thank you Wikipedia). Once again I had chosen a poor time to visit, as the water in Basicilia Cistern was emptied out due to construction.. The cistern is completed with 336 marble columns, each 9 meters high, and it’s definitely a very impressive piece of architectural work. But as a tourist you walk through the cistern on a wooden bridge with a whole lot of other tourists, which is never the best way to explore. Unless it’s too hot for you and you need time to cool down, I would say that the place isn’t worth a visit. But then again, now when I’m writing this I’m wondering why I didn’t like it? Maybe I was just tired.

Another classic must see is The Topkapi Palace, but I didn’t make it there. Maybe next time. Oh and also going to a hammam. I didn’t do that either, but I definitely will during some part of my Turkey trip (edit: I never went to one 😦 dumb).

The must sees according to Annika
Now this is where it gets fun. These are the things that I would repeat if I went back to Istanbul.

I went up in the Galata Tower, which is definitely a very touristy thing to do. But sometimes those things aren’t bad. I have a thing for seeing all cities I visit from a birds eye perspective, so I always go looking for buildings or monuments that can help me get that good overview. In Istanbul I chose this tower, and the view was nothing short of spectacular. You could see both Europe and Asia, the Golden Horn as well as (probably) thousands of mosques. I wonder if anyone ever counted them.

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The tower seen at dusk when I first discovered it’s existence on my first night.

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A panorama was necessary.

Another must see/do is sitting under the Galata bridge at sunset. The Galata bridge connects the old part of town to the newer part of town crossing over the Golden Horn, and that leaves you with an incredible view of the city and its waterfront. Under the bridge is a bunch of restaurants, but there’s also a platform that’s perfect for just sitting and staring. And so I did for about an hour and a half.

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“My future shine as bright as my Nikes” was the Instagram caption of this picture. Obviously.

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The sunset did something that I’ve never seen before, and I actually haven’t figured out what it is that happened yet. There was something that looked like a square rainbow coming from the sky, but with no rain in sight. Nonetheless it was absolutely breathtaking.

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The little boat that I had eaten my balik ekmek from before the beautiful sunset started to show its face.

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Now, this must see isn’t actually something I did myself, because no one told me about this place.. But doing a picnic with the locals, watching the hundreds of boats resting on the Sea of Marmara is VERY high on my to-do list for the next time I visit Istanbul. I discovered this place when I was on the shuttle bus heading for my over night bus to Cappadocia, so by then it was too late. But on the waterfront of the Bosphorus there is a huuuge park, and the park was filled with locals grilling and having picnics, and it looked like an incredible time. Next time!

On the first day, after having knocked off the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, Basilica Cistern and the Grand Bazar within a few hours, I was exhausted. I went back to my hostel for a nap, but woke up just as tired. So then I decided to take the tram until I got bored. I got on at the Sulthanamet stop and basically sat on the tram until I couldn’t get any further. With a good podcast series in my ears, this was the perfect way to see what the outskirts of Istanbul looked like. And so I sat there with my eyes glued to the window for about three hours.

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This is where I ended up.

After my tram adventure, I discovered my favourite part of town, and so walking around Karaköy became a favourite activity of mine; something I did on all three of my days in Istanbul. Karaköy is to Istanbul what Nørrebro is to Copenhagen, and those who know me know that the love I feel for Nørrebro is serious business, and thus I instantly felt at home among all of the street art, the grungy feel, the many cool restaurants and small shops.

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Coolest phone booths I have EVER seen.

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The colours though.. This street was the absolute coolest.

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Just call me self timer queen.

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Istanbul Modern is Istanbul’s museum of modern art (I bet you hadn’t already figured that out from the name), and I really liked their exhibitions. It’s not the biggest museum ever, so it’s very doable to see it all in an hour or so, depending on how long you look at each piece. I left the building feeling very inspired to go home and do weird projects in my apartment, and that is all I can ever ask of a museum.

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I’m definitely making a sculpture of dices one day. Maybe not as big as this one though.

Eat lots of food. Well this is really a given anywhere in the world, but the Turkish cuisine is really nice. I’m especially a huge fan of meze. It’s the turkish version of tapas, and everyone that knows me know that I loooooove tapas. I also loved the turkish ice cream (although I didn’t try it in Istanbul) as it’s consistency is more gewy than any other ice cream I’ve had. And the corn being sold all over. And the fish sandwich (balik ekmek) served on the waterfront.

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This meal was to-die-for. Lamb perfectly grilled. Yum.

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The balik ekmek boat.

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Meze all day eurhday.

My love of roof top action goes hand in hand with wanting to see any city from a birds eye view, but the roof top action is more about eating and drinking while doing so. I was lucky that the hostel I had booked had an awesome roof top, so every morning my breakfast was spent gazing out over the Bosporus and on to the Asian side of the city.

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When my parents were in their 20’s they sailed on a boat like this, working for Maersk. And they’ve even sailed on the Bosporus. So weird to think about. They had adventures here too!

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The downside
I hate to say it but…. the Istanbul men. No let me correct myself; SOME of the Istanbul men. That’s the downside to the city. That and cats. I am really not a cat person, in fact I’m a little bit scared of cats (it’s dumb, I know..) and there were sooo many cats in Istanbul.

Back to the men though. I wanna start of saying that I never felt unsafe or threatened, but there were two instances where I was ready to fight the man bothering me because it was WAY too much and probably one hundred instances of just catcalling/men trying to get my attention in different annoying or funny ways. I wrote down my favourite “conversations” I had with men that were a little more creative than just “Hello Beautiful” or “Hello where you from”:

Him: Hello
Me:
Him: Madame
Me:
Him: Remember me from last night
I had to hide my laughter as I walked away.

Him: Hello
Me:
Him: Hi Lady I’m tourist too
Me:
Him: Where you from
Said a very Turkish looking man in broken English.

Him: Hello
Me:
Him: Are you from italy
Me:
Him: You look like from italy
This one is funny because I just really don’t look Italian. And I got it twice. It must be a compliment in their mind.

Him: Hi
Me:
Him: Hello
Me:
Him: Kizz kizz
Me:
Him: Miauuuv
Just NO 😂

Him: Hi!
Me:
Him: Bye!
I laughed.

On the first day I had a hard time ignoring them. I usually always make a point of smiling at everyone I make eye contact with, and I would never ignore someone that talks to me, but in Istanbul my entire trip would’ve been filled with conversations with local men if I had gone about these situations how I usually would. On the last day I had it all figured out and I could finally do it without feeling guilty; big dark sunglasses, don’t make eye contact, don’t even turn your head at them, slightly lift your hand to decline them instead of saying no and most importantly just keep walking.

The two instances that were too much happened within a few hours. The first one happened when I had stumbled upon a lovely park by accident. The second I walked in there I sensed a man turn around to follow me, but I didn’t think much of it. I sat down by a fountain for what must have been 15 minutes before I continued walking. I noticed he was walking behind me. I stopped after a little, and he walked ahead of me slowly. I saw the opportunity to cut him off and make a turn. Shortly after I had done so the two cutest turkish teenage girls stopped me to talk and practice their English. After ten minutes of talking to them I continued down my turn, away from the stalker. But to my surprise he had continued walking and taken the turn from the other side, so we met once again. The only point of the turn was an ice cream place, and he had gotten in line. I wanted to get ice cream, but continued to walk instead. He of course got out of the line and continued following me. After walking for a few minutes I sat down on a bench to read, and he sat down next to me. FINALLY he spoke a word instead of just following me, but I declined him with a NO and kindly asked him to stop following me. He sat and looked at me for a few minutes until I got up and left. And this time around he luckily didn’t follow me. Was following someone for 30+ minutes ever a good way to start up a conversation!?

The other situation happened when I was sitting at the Galata bridge to watch the sunset. Long story short, this incredibly annoying man kept talking to me for 10-15 minutes while I ignored him/tried to tell him that I’d like him to leave me alone so I could enjoy the sunset. After trying to persuade me by letting me know that he was a captain and attempting to show me pictures of him in his uniform, he eventually gave up. At least for a few minutes, then he returned to give me the last one of his mentos and kept talking. Let’s just say that that didn’t work either.

Now to be fair, the city is also filled with wonderful men. Like the man that chased me down the street to give me my bus pass after I had dropped it, or the man that got my attention to make sure I didn’t get run over by a truck as well as every single man that worked in all of the restaurants I ate at. They were all so kind and offered the best service. One even gave me a gift as I left the restaurant.

Anyways, the men didn’t effect me in such a way that I don’t want to come back, but you definitely have to be quite a ballsy girl to deal with them (if traveling solo, otherwise I don’t think it’s a problem at all). The good outweighed the bad on this trip by millions of miles, so let’s finish off with that part.

The best memories
These are the moments that were too good to be true. The moments where I couldn’t stop smiling simply because life is just so amazing. And traveling. Traveling is so amazing.

Sunset and dolphins: So I’ve already mentioned my Galata bridge sunset session twice in this post, but there’s still more to tell. After the incredibly annoying turkish man had finally left and I was fuming with anger, I decided to let it go. I focused on the sunset, on the weird rainbow square, on the glistening ocean and on the warm air making my hair blow in the wind. It was an incredible moment. And then there they were. The dolphins. Now, I didn’t know that there were dolphins in the Golden Horn, and dolphins have all days been my favourite animal. Their gentle movements through the ocean took the moment from incredible to unforgettable, and I sat there for an hour and half, with my favourite tunes in my ears and just enjoyed the fact that I was right there in Istanbul experiencing that perfect sunset.

Just pure joy: Okay so this one is a bit odd, because it can’t be linked to one specific thing that happened. BUT. When I was walking home from the above mentioned sunset, some kind of drug must have entered my body through the air I was breathing, because my happiness level was through the roof. I had Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t stop the feeling” in my ears, and I literally couldn’t stop the feeling as I was basically dancing through Sulthanamet heading back to my hostel. I live for the moments where I manage to be so much in the moment that the most intense feelings of pure joy rushes through my body, and this was one of those moments. Because life. Because traveling. Because being happy all by myself. Because feeling like nothing can stop me. Just because.

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This happy of a face can’t be faked.

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A screenshot of the note on my phone from that night.

Chatting to local girls in the park: When I was at the park I randomly stumbled upon (actually I was in the middle of being followed) these three lovely girls came up to me and started talking. At first I wondered why, but then I realised that they were seizing the opportunity to practice their english. They probably only understood about 50% of what I was saying, but they got to ask me every question that they knew. They asked if they could get a picture with me, and after taking it I need to get one too. We talked for about 10 minutes, and I can’t quite describe why, but it just made me so happy.

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Meze orgasm: I had read about meze, so I knew I would like it. “A selection of small dishes.” We all know that means that I can taste multiple different things in one meal. So I am IN. I had mixed experiences with Lonely Planets food recommendations, but I decided to give them another chance. And boy am I glad I did. I arrived at Antiochia and had the classic awkward solo-traveler-asking-for-a-table-conversation:

Me: A table for one please
Water: Only for one!?
Me: Yes……..

I’ve never heard a waiter ask “only for two people!?” .. Anyways, the waiter was incredibly nice. I chose the mixed meze plate and when he brought it out I could’ve cried from happiness. My picture definitely doesn’t do it justice (I’m not into photographing food.. nature is my thing. Food I like to just eat), but on the plate was some of my favourite things to eat. So I sat there, by myself, in a restaurant filled wit couples and families. I had a glass of wine and was what basically bread and dip for dinner, and I was just so happy. It was my first night in Istanbul (that didn’t include just walking straight to my hostel at least), and it had just been a really good day. And I was thinking to myself “How can something taste THIS good!?” while planning out how I was gonna copy the meal when I got home. After eating so much that I could barely get out of my seat, the waiter came to me with a gift; a handmade soap from the restaurants shop. Now, it might be something that all guests get, but nonetheless it made me very happy. Food joy at its finest.img_2972

That’s all for now! Goodbye to Istanbul. Next up was four days in Cappadocia after surviving 11 hours on a night bus, but much more on this later.

Oh wait. Just a little bit about the people I met. My days in Istanbul weren’t that social. It always differs when I travel solo. Sometimes I am all in on meeting people, making friends and hanging out with everyone, and other times I really just want to enjoy my own company. In Istanbul I met a german guy the first night that I chatted to for quite some time, he was incredibly nice and gave me lots of tips for the city, but when I woke up the next morning he was leaving #hostellife.
I made friends with two australians (not traveling together) also staying at the hostel, but we didn’t hang out outside of the hostel. The aussie girl was incredible cool; she was living in Greece with her new boyfriend and working with refugees, but at the moment her visa-run to Turkey had failed and she wasn’t able to return to Greece. I didn’t get her info, but I really hope that she’s been able to get back to Greece to reunite with her boyfriend. I love all of the crazy stories I hear and the cool people I meet when traveling solo. It’s always so refreshing to meet people who have chosen to live life differently.

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A picture of the Istanbul version of Copenhagen’s “Strøget.” It didn’t fit in anywhere else in the post, but I like it too much to not include it. So here it is.

// Annika

 

Travel anxiety

Personal

Google anxiety and the first thing that comes up is a definition stated in Medical News Today:

“Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave and can cause physical symptoms

I am lucky enough to only feel one kind of anxiety in my life; travel anxiety.

Travel anxiety are feelings that occur in my body before I go on solo trips. It’s caused by different things for different people, but for me it’s the following thoughts that return to my mind every trip I take:

  • “WHY do I have to do this to myself!?” – In this thought, the “this” means leaving my comfort zone. WHY do I have to make myself leave my comfort zone in such extreme ways? I ask myself.
    In reality I love leaving my comfort zone. I love the thrill, excitement and adrenaline rush I get after doing so. But travelling solo is an incredible intense way of playing with my comfort zone, why I always question my travel decisions before I take off. I blame myself for booking the trip, and for not remembering that I get these feelings, and that they could be avoided if I would just travel with other people. And yes, it would be so much easier and safer to travel with friends or just stay at home, but easy and safe is far from how I want to live my life. And that, among many other reasons, is why I have to do this to myself.
  • “What if somethings goes wrong?” – The risk that something goes wrong is definitley more than doubled when you travel solo compared to when you don’t. You only have one brain and one set of hands to get you out of tricky situations and you’re an easier victim to crime when you’re by yourself. This actually isn’t something that worries me at all, because in the big picture the risk that something goes wrong is still pretty small, but it is something that worries other people. And they always bring their worry up, and put it on me.
  • “Did I pack everything?” – This thought always hits me, but over the years I’ve been better at handling it. In reality, if you have your passport (and maybe a visa) and your wallet, you should be able to handle pretty much every situation. Even though I try to feel comfortable knowing this, I am always semi uneasy about forgetting something.

Right now it’s 00:37 and I’m laying on my couch in Copenhagen. My body was filled with anxiety half an hour ago, but writing this post helped. Writing always helps. The little bit of anxiety that’s left I can definitely handle, and once I land in Istanbul tomorrow it’ll all be gone. Oh yes, I’m leaving for a 16 day solo trip to Turkey tomorrow. Which is why the anxiety is once again back in my body. More on the trip coming up!

Earlier today I saw this picture on Facebook, and it made me both sad and happy. Sad for the thousands of people that had commented and tagged their friends, and happy because I am definitely not one of them. It reminded me that I’ll take all the travel anxiety you can possible give me over going no damn where. Any day, over and over again.

Capture

In 24 hours I’ll be sound asleep in my hostel bed in Istanbul (if everything goes right that is), and I cannot wait. Goodbye comfort zone and hello unforgetable experiences, new friendships and memories for life. Under the thin layer of anxiety I am so happy I keep doing this to myself.

// Annika

Huangshan

Travels

The next part of our China adventure was set to take place in Huangshan, also known as yellow mountains. “I can’t believe we’re on top of a mountain in China” is a statement that defines this next part of the trip pretty well.

We boarded a train late at night from Shanghai and I woke up with an “ANNIKA, we need to show the guy our ticket” 11 hours later. With a little help from sleeping pills I had managed to sleep 11 hours straight on my first ever overnight train, and I had slept wonderfully.

Thirty minutes later, at around 7 am, we had made it to Huangshan and got off the train. We were both expecting it to be a pretty small town, but exiting the train station it quickly became clear to us that this was the city of at least a million people (we later looked it up on Wikipedia stating 1.4 mio. as the population). China still hasn’t seized to amaze me with its greatness. Fun fact: there’s more than 250 cities in China with more than 1 million citizens. That’s more than 250 cities in China that are bigger than Copenhagen.

We got out of the train station and were completely overwhelmed with the signs, cars, busses and people. It was a mad scene and so much was going on for how early in the morning it was.

Our first challenge of the day was finding a bathroom, as we had been stupid enough to exit the station without peeing (in China you need a valid departure ticket to enter the train stations).

We walked around for a bit, but no bathrooms were near. We ended up spotting a hotel, and figured we could ask to borrow the bathroom in there. The guy managing the desk was a sleep, but as we were desperate we snuck around him. We passed a man in an office on the phone, but luckily he didn’t spot us and we found the bathroom. Quite the crime riders, but when you have to go you have to go.

We made it back to the train station to find our bus. We didn’t really know what to look for, and the lost look on our faces was spotted by way too many incredible eager chinese people, all trying to make us choose their bus. The chinese can seem very intense in situations like these, and we ended up in a bus with a lady that was basically screaming at us, but luckily it was the right one.

 

Quick breakfast at the trainstation

 

The bus took us to a new town where we had to catch our second bus. We figured all of this out through the bible (Lonely Planet guide book), but it wasn’t exactly precise, so once again we were left a bit confused.
We ended up getting a ticket for something that we weren’t quite sure what was, but luckily it ended up being for the bus we were supposed to catch. I’ve never been more challenged than when traveling through China. It can be incredibly stressful not to understand any signs or any of the people surrounding you, but it somehow always worked out.

We finally made it to the bottom of Huangshan Shi and could begin our hike.

 

The “hike” was filled with stairs. Actually it was basically all stairs. The first thing about the hike that blew my mind were the chinese men carrying up groceries for the hotels and stores on the top. We read that they do one walk up a day. Their bodies must be dying slowly, and seeing them go through that made happy about paying a whole lot more for all the goods we purchased on top of the mountain.

When we were walking up the fog was so dense that we didn’t to catch any of the views, this made us a bit disheartened, but it was still incredibly beautiful.

 

 

Then we found this sign and it turned out we had almost 3 km left to walk through the fog

Posing with a picture of the view we were missing out on because of the fog. BITTERSWEET.

 

Despite the extra long walk we ended up finding our hotel. We had originally booked bunkbeds in a dorm room, but we were so tired from walking and decided that since there wasn’t a view to be seen, we might as well take a good long nap.
And so we upgraded our dormroom to one with two queen beds, and it was the best decision ever. We had cup noodles for lunch and had a good loooong nap before we headed to dinner.

 

Another great english translation – Would you like some stone frogs and stone fungus? I didn’t order it myself, so I sadly can’t tell you what it taste like

After a good nights sleep, we woke up around 10:30, half an hour after breakfast had ended. We had once again managed to sleep through our alarms, which basically makes us pros by now.

We had woken up at 5:30 to check on the sunrise conditions, but could, after opening the shades, quickly conclude that there would be no beautiful sunrise over Huangshan for us on this otherwise fine morning.

A bit disheartened about the whole weather situation, you know being on top of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world and not being able to see a darn thing, we started gathering our stuff to head down and start the 15 kilometer hike of the day to get down the mountain.

We headed out our hotel room and had a near heart attack when we to our big surprise could see more than just 10 meters ahead. All of sudden out of nowhere we could see the famous cable car, the incredibly unique yellow mountains and the sea of clouds below us. We couldn’t contain our excitement and were jumping up and down, hugging each other in pure happiness and extreme appreciation that we’d actually get to experience Huangshan the way it was meant to be seen.

Still pretty happy

 

After running around the top of the mountain surrounding our hotel, trying to see all of the different pads that lead to views such as the Bear Paw and the Monkey Gazing Over the Sea we started our journey of the Western hike down the side of the mountain.

 

This is the very top of the mountain. We sat here for a little and enjoyed the view, but quickly hiked on to trails with less people. 

 

 

The next hours offered us both up and down hill stairs and ended up in what felt like a marathon (actually two) of constantly walking down stairs for an hour and a half. My legs and knees have never before been in such pain.

We ended the day taking our two buses back to Huangshan Shi (this time without a single second of confusion over where to go or what bus to catch) were we found a street kitchen belonging to a cute little family. There were quite a few places to chose from, but we really couldn’t tell them apart, so this one ended up winning us over because the daught in the family came up to us in the street with the menu.

 

We enjoyed an incredible 28 ¥ dinner and headed to the train station, where we boarded our night train for Nanjing. Part 3 of our China trip coming up.

Another nights sleep on a train


Add Huangshan to your bucket list, that’s all I have left to say. Just do it.

 

// Annika

 

 

 

 

 

Euro travel pact

Personal

The three biggest thought processes I had during the weekend I spent in Amsterdam was 1. “I am in LOVE with Amsterdam,” 2. “I LOVE life” and 3. “WHY don’t I do this more often?” 

To elaborate a bit on that last one; it really is a shame. With the plane ticket, the apartment, the food and the bit of shopping I did (really I only bought cheese) I probably spend a total of $400. Not bad at all, compared to what I got out of the trip. 

This I why I have made a pact with myself that I have to do at least three mini euro trips every year. They’re cheap, easy to fit in to a busy schedule like mine and you still get SO much out of it. Paris, Berlin, London, Prague, Rom, Faroe Islands, Barcelona, Stockholm, Dublin, Iceland. Yeah I think you get the picture, the list is never ending. So you are here by a witness of this pact that I have made with myself. Feel free to comment mean things at me if I don’t stick to it!

Edit: This post was written December 22nd 2015 (wow I just had to doublecheck when typing that – that’s two and half years ago!!!!!). I never posted it because I wanted to write about the above mentioned Amsterdam trip first, but that post is also still saved in my drafts. So here it is.

I’ve stuck with the pact though!! Which makes me very happy. In 2016 I went on weekend trips to Florence, Italy, Prague, Czech Republic and Utrecht, Holland. In 2017 I went on weekend trips to London, England (twice), Reykjavik, Iceland and on short trips to Oslo, Norway and Malmö, Sweden.

On every trip I still get those same feelings of “I LOVE life” and “WHY don’t I do this more often!?”

For 2018 I’ve only been to Budapest, Hungary this far, but the year has only just begun.

I’m pretty sure I’ll try and stick with the pact until I can’t walk on my own anymore.

// Annika