A magical Mirissa night

Adventures, Travels

I had the BEST night in Mirissa on Saturday. It was my last night at the Sunshinestories retreat, so me and the staff went out for a big dinner and lots of drinks. Mirissa is a beach that I’ve had as the background on my phone for the last four months, impatiently waiting to explore it in real life. It did not disappoint.


Sweet Tosca had brought her GoPro, which her, Hanna and I made good use of while exploring Mirissa Bay, trying to contain our excitement for just how beautiful the sunset was that night. 

 It was the kind of night that was almost too good to be true. We couldn’t stop repeating how in love with life we were, as we were dancing our asses off to a way to repetitive techno beat on the sand of a beautiful beach in Sri Lanka underneath the swaying palm trees. We had good food, great drinks, new friends and nice strangers, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better fireworks went off and blended into the sky along with the light show from the beach club that was making its way across the ocean to the rhythm of the music. The cherry on top was skinny dipping in the Indian Ocean before stumbling into a tuk tuk to make our way back to the villa. 


I’ve already made plans to meet them there next Saturday. And the next. And the next. 

// Annika 

A walk around Galle 

Travels

The first full day I had in Sri Lanka was to be spend in the beautiful city of Galle. I woke up in my surprisingly comfortable hostel bed after a much needed 11 hours of sleep.

The hostel I had chosen offered breakfast, so after realizing I only had half an hour left to eat before breakfast was over, I ran downstairs. The cute Sri Lankan man garding the front desk was quick to ask me if I wanted my eggs scrambled or if I wanted an omelet. Quite the service for $12 a night. As I enjoyed my breakfast (which included my first ever papaya. Yum!) I looked into the street laughing at all the Chinese tourist walking by. Every women had to stop in front of this beautiful wooden door that was located straight across from the hostel to get their picture taken. Chinese people and their cameras is such a classic.

The hostel room. My bed is in the far corner

The Pedlar’s Inn Hostel as seen from the street

The night before I had made plans to go to the beach with my new friends, but I quickly realized that I’d be at the beach every day for the next five weeks, why exploring the streets of Galle seemed like a better option.

Galle is the fifth biggest city in Sri Lanka and houses Asias largest remaining fortress built by European occupiers. My hostel was located inside the fort, a UNESCO world heritage, so I quickly decided that a stroll on the fort walls was the best way to start my day. I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here.

 My stay in Galle was much inspired by my Lonely Planet guidebook. The book guided me to the most adorable restaurant for lunch called Mamas Fort Galle. The restaurant consist of one dining table that only seats 5 people, as well as a few tables in the street. When I entered the restaurant a couple was sitting there with their Lonely Planet guidebook out on the table. Quite the advertisement for the restaurant! The place was run by the one and only Mama, a cute little Sri Lankan lady that made an exquisite rice and curry.


After lunch I walked almost all streets of the fort. I was enjoying getting lost on purpose and wandered into many different shops. It really is such an interesting place, especially due to the Dutch heritage which is very obvious on most buildings in the fort.


I ended up shopping a tiny bit as I bought a poster to hang in my apartment. The Sinhalese writing means “village leader.”


After walking in the hot sun for five hours I had gotten pretty exhausted, so I decided to go back to the hostel to lay down. Two hours later I woke up shocked after taking what apparently was a much needed nap. The addition of two new backpacks in my room revealed that I had gotten new roommates while sleeping.

I decided to go back to the fort to watch the sunset, with a quick stopover at Dairy King for ice cream on the way. Great decision.

Back at the fort I was approached by a nice Sri Lankan man. We chatted for 30 minutes and he told me about Galle and how he plays Cricket on the national team. He invited me to come to his cousins restaurant for dinner with him, but still a bit scared from the Lonely Planet take on women traveling alone I turned down his invitation. I regret that now, because meeting the locals really is a special part about this trip.


I ventured back to the hostel and met up with the Irish and the Aussie and went out to dinner. A young Spanish man joined our crew and once again the night was filled with travel tales.

The next day it was time for me to make my way to Ahangama to check into Sunshinestories. For the first time ever I faced the horror of having to repack a backpack…

It just doesn’t seem to fit

// Annika

My first impression of Sri Lanka

Travels

When landing in Abu Dhabi I was blown away by the landscape. Nothing was green, the complete opposite of Sri Lanka

I made it to what just might become my new favorite country! My journey to Sri Lanka went Copenhagen to Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi to Colombo. 

Sitting at the gate in Abu Dhabi I had taken out my Lonely Planet guide book. I read the “Understand” and “Survival guide” parts of the book, and as I reached the section “Women Travellers,” the nerves started kicking in. 

“”Are you married?” could be the snappy conversation starter you hear most often, so consider wearing a fake wedding ring and carrying a few pics of your imaginary partner back home. Women traveling alone may be hassled while walking around day and night, or while exploring isolated places. Physical harassment (grabbing and groping) can occur anywhere. Single women may be followed, so try to be connected with larger groups of people. There have also been cases of solo women being attacked by guides at heritage sites; again, don’t go alone” the guide book states. To be fair the sections ends stating that unpleasant experiences are more likely to be the exception than the rule, but that didn’t save me from the images now running through my head. 

I got to enjoy a beautiful sunset when leaving the Abu Dhabi airport

“Why are you traveling alone again!?” I questioned myself, but as I sat down in my seat on the airplane my nerves started to calm. Flying by Nice Little Penguins came on shuffle on my phone, and for the first time ever I actually listened to the lyrics: 

Here I am, I am on my own. For the first time really on my own. So will I make it, will it work alright? Can I make it through the night? And I go uuuuuh, uuuuuuuh I am flying

I couldn’t help but laugh and after receiving a weird glance from my side buddy of the next four hours I was so ready to go. The “LET’S DO THIS” mentality was back. 

After hours of charmingly sleeping and waking up with my mouth open, I could see the Sri Lankan landscape beneath me. I think this is when it really hit me, in the best way possible. I am spending nothing short of five weeks in this palm tree covered heavenly country. Five weeks! I’ve only ever spent five weeks in Denmark or the States before. This is huge. Trying to contain my jittering body from exploding from excitement I took a few deep breaths and smiled to the Sri Lankan rice fields rolling by me with the speed of lighting. 

After the easiest walk through immigration I waited for my suitcase for half an hour before I followed the exit signs, hoping that they would lead me to my driver. The reason why I had a driver was, long story short, my suddenly worrisome and incredibly nice dad who pulled some strings among business connections to get me a contact in case of emergencies, and ended up with both a contact, a car and a driver. When he had asked how much it would cost the answer had been “View it as a gift to your family sir,” so I couldn’t say no that. 

Sure enough there he was, Mr. Sudath, a very smiling Sri Lankan man holding a “Ms. Annika” sign. 

The Sri Lankan landscape is incredibly beautiful. I have never before seen so many shades of green

Mr. Sudath and I had 160 kilometers of driving ahead of us, so I was happy to discover that we very quickly bonded with big laughs over my awful pronunciation when giving the Sinhala language a try. Instead I showed off with my newly acquired knowledge of Sri Lankan culture and history, and he helped me out with filling in the gaps. 

He told me, in his incredibly charming broken English, how his main job was being a farmer, but whenever his boss had VIP clients who needed a ride, Mr. Sudath was the one he called. After laughing at the fact that I was a Very Important Person a car honked at us and made signs to say something was wrong with our vehicle. We pulled over to discover that the left front wheel was flat..

Luckily the car had a spare wheel hanging on the trunk, and after 30 minutes of struggling Mr. Sudath had managed to change the wheel with just a little help from his VIP guest. Throughout the action we had periodically been honked at by cars, which according to Mr. Sudath was due to my light skin and blond hair. It was also the event of the day for the village located on the side of the highway, as at least 7 people stood lined up by the fence to watch the wheel changing happen. Quite a first Sri Lankan experience I got myself! 

The road when we had just discovered the flat tire

It’s hard to see, but behind the palm trees and bushes are villagers starring at what was going down. I waved at them a couple of times, which seemed to really amuse them

The road 30 minutes later after Mr. Sudath had fixed the flat tire

A total of 27 hours had passed from when I walked out the door of my apartment to putting down my backpack in my hostel room, so it is safe to say that I was exhausted. 

I got to spent about 37 seconds in my new room before I was invited to dinner with two of the other guest, an Aussie women and an Irish man. Now that’s hostel living for you. 

We met up with a French women that the Aussie had met a few weeks prior in Colombo and ventured out to eat a well deserved meal. The best thing about meeting people in hostels like this is that everyone is like minded and have a very essential thing in common; the love of traveling and exploring. All dinner long we all shared stories of previous trips and dreams of those to come. My favorite moment was asking the French women what she did at home, as she responded saying “you mean my job?” because she is oh so right. What you do at home shouldn’t necessarily be what your job title is. The answer to that question should be so much more. 

My first Sri Lankan curry. I would like to state that this pictures doet not do it any justice. It was incredible.

I of course had to order a Sri Lankan curry, as I had been waiting months to try one. Luckily it was everything I had expected it to be, so now I am going to sleep under my princess like mosquito net as a very full and happy camper. 

Only five hours into my trip, my five minutes of extreme worrying in Abu Dhabi have proven to be incredibly unnecessary. 

// Annika

Goodbye Flo (Day 4)

Travels

I am currently people watching at a Starbucks in the Frankfurt airport, waiting for my next flight to take me to Abu Dhabi, before I eventually end up in Colombo. With a five hour layover I have plenty of time to finish up the tale of my mini Florence trip. 

My flight was leaving in the afternoon, so when I woke up I said goodbye to my Airbnb host and journeyed to Paiges apartment to store my suitcase for the day. 

We went to a little cafe for breakfast, where I enjoyed my last Italian cappuccino and my first Italian cannoli. Definitely better than the ones I’ve tried in the states. On our way to breakfast we had to cross the Florence marathon/half marathon/some other run. So many people were out cheering, and running by the famous duomo they had quite the view. 

I look mad about it, but really iI was quite happy

After breakfast we went to see the David statue. One of the only things I had on my list before arriving. But when we got there the line was so long that I decided no statue would be worth the wait, regardless of how tall, handsome and naked he might be. So the David I’ll have to come back for another time. 

The next activity of the day was a million times better anyways, cause Paige and I were meeting up with one of my long lost American best friends who also studied in Florence for the semester. She had just gotten home from spring break and was ready to spent my last Florentine hours with me. 

After endless hugs we went to get pizza, strawberries and grapes before journeying up one of the mountains encompassing Florence to enjoy the view. 

Such a clear division of the city and the countryside. Both are beautiful

❤️❤️❤️

I bought a Mona Lisa poster up there, for some reason I had a vision that it would look great in my living room. Four months later it’s still wrapped up.. I gotta get on that. 

After walking back down it was clear to all of us that we deserved gelato, so we went to one of their favorite places and stocked up. We climbed the wall to jump down on the dried up river where we could sit and devour our ice cream. 

I had a blissful hour of sitting with two of my very best friends in a sunny spot on a river in Florence. There’s something very special about meeting friends around the world. I got to know these two beautiful creatures in Connecticut, and there we were in Florence. A month earlier Paige and I had shared a bottle of wine in Copenhagen. There’s just something about international friendships, especially when it’s the kind where you can go a year without seeing each other, and within two minutes of being back together it feels like you were never apart. 

Sadly it was time to leave. The shitty thing about these friendships is saying goodbye to someone, not knowing when you will see them again. But it’s all a part of the deal. 

A quick walk to the trainstation, a shuttle to the airport, two short flights, a metro ride, a bus and seven hours later I sat down on my couch in Copenhagen. 

Best extended weekend trip. 

// Annika

One big adventure coming up

Adventures, Personal

So! It is July 21st. This is a special day due to two things: 1. It’s exactly six years since I moved to the United States (in three days it is exactly two years since I moved back to Denmark, man time flies) and 2. I’m going to Sri Lanka today!!!!


When the year first started out and I was planning my upcoming trips I thought that a Costa Rica / Nicaragua trip was in the cards for me this summer. Somehow that turned into Sri Lanka instead, and now I’m at the airport, patiently waiting to board my plane.

I have quite the “Annika it is time to move even further out of your comfort zone” trip planned. Five weeks of my own company is what awaits me once my plane takes off. Five weeks exploring a country I have never before been to, in a part of the world I have very little experience with. And you know what? I am SO excited. And a little bit nervous. But as my friend said; “You’re supposed to be nervous. If you weren’t nervous it’s no fun.”

Anyways, it is not like I’m going to be backpacking alone through the entire country for those five weeks, even though that sounds pretty incredible also..
The first two days of my trip I am completely on my own, but that’s about it. I’ll be spending those days in Galle, where I’ve already booked a hostel.
The next week I am staying at a surf and yoga retreat called Sunshinestories, located in Ahangama. They brand themselves on having unlimited fresh coconuts, so I am not complaining. I found Sunshinestories through Instagram about a year ago, and ever since laying eyes on their admirable way of life I have dreamt about testing it out.
For the remaining four weeks I am going to be volunteering at a newly opened hostel in Weligama called Hangtime Hostel. The twist on this is that I am not quite sure what I am going to be doing, but I get free accommodation, yoga and surf board rental in return, so I am a happy camper.

So yeah, the biggest adventure I’ve ever been on is still undoubtedly the one that started in this exact same airport six years ago, but this is the second biggest adventure and I could not be more excited to see what experiences, lessons and friendships it brings me.

// Annika

 

Blown away by Cinque Terre (Day 3)

Adventures, Travels

Day three was all about day tripping. Before my arrival in the land of life changing food I had googled my way to Cinque Terre, so when Paige told me she had considered suggesting just this destination as the origin of our day trip, it was a done deal.

My favorite picture of the day, partly due to Paige’s great editing skills. Me photographing Manarola.

Cinque Terre is a part of the Italian Riviere, and is made up of five little fishermen villages; Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosse. All five towns have a unique charicterisic to it, which is part of what makes this place so mindblowingly beautiful.
The five villages together make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is something I had actualy never heard of until I researched Cinque Terre. Of course now I am intrigued and would like to see all 1052. Wish me luck…

Cinque Terre isn’t that close to Florence, so with a three hour train trip and three different trains ahead of us, we had decided to leave super early.
I journeyed to Paige’s apartment before the sun had risen, which gave me a beautiful good morning view of the river parting Florence into two.

After our trainride through the Italian landscape, we got into Riomaggiore as the first town. Without taking a single picture of this beautiful little village we quickly started our hike towards Manarola. We had our water bottles and were ready to go! Our initial plan was just to hike to Manarola and spend the whole day there, but that quickly changed as I felt it would be dumb to not see all of the towns now that we were finally here.

All along the hike they had these creative signs – I loved it

 

This is me wearing a skirt and A LEATHER JACKET for a hike. Who am I!? I was hating on myself for the entire hike due to my poor choice of clothing

 

 

What we hadn’t realized was how much of a workout this hike was actually going to be. Apparently Riomaggiore and Manarola are very close, and there is an easy walkway carved out in rock through the mountain that Paige and I had decided to walk above.
The route we did is called The Beccara trail (#531), and for its beautiful views it was worth every step up the mountain and every step down the mountain on the other side again.

The beeeeeautiful streets of Manarola

This rock might have been the biggest tourist attraction I experienced while in Italy. Count the iphones and selfie sticks in the picture please – It’s hilarious

Just WOW! When you make it in to Manarola you have no idea of what gorgeousness you’re standing in the middle of. This is when you have to continue your hike up the side of the other mountain to reach the view above. WOW I tell you. We of course had a little bit of Gelato before heading up here.

Minutes after eating our gelato we found this place on the side of the mountain and decided that it was lunch time. This place definitely reaches top 5 of best view of the places I have eaten.

Around this time we made a deal to eat something in every village. Which turned out to be such a great decission.
It is possible to hike through all five villages, but due to laziness and awful choice of clothing we quickly realized that hiking between two villages was more than enough.

We found the Manarola train station, bought a ticket and boarded the train. A few minutes later we reached what might have been the train station in the world with the best location.

To the horror of our tired bodies we realized that even though we had arrived at the Corniglia train station, the only way of actually getting to Corniglia was by conquering a 200+ step stair. I took a deep breath, looked at the couple next to me each carrying a suitcase and felt very blessed that I despise all only had to carry myself up there.

The stair was decorated with beautiful cactuses all along the way which made my inner plant hoarder squeak from happiness. Plant pictures galore

Of course reaching the top turned out to be well worth every step. We celebrated with more gelato (when in Italy….) as we enjoyed the stunning view.

Corniglia seen from next mountain

We didn’t spend much time in Corniglia before we once again made our way towards the train. Next stop was Vernazza.
After another train ride that didn’t take much more than three minutes we arrived, and to our surprise Vernazza turned out to be even more gorgeous than the other three villages. Vernazza has a Little bay, which gives it a very different character from its sisters. True to our deal we quickly found a restaurant that could serve us cava and pizza.

After taking endless Picture in Vernazza we were ready for to see the last village the UNESCO World Heritage site had to offer; Monterosse.

Once againg completely different from the other villages, Monterosse turned out to be a beach town. We found a touristy bar that served frozen drinks in very large plastic containers, and both decided on a Piña Colada.
We sat on the cute rocky beach and enjoyed our well deserved frozen Little wonders while listening to the calming sound of the baby waves hitting the shore. We quickly both fell a sleep, and considering the fact that I woke up with drool on my arm, I’ll say it was a pretty good nap.


We had made dinner reservations in the second town, Monarola, so we caught the train back to finish off our day of eating.
As we arrived the sun was starting to set which allowed us to get a beuatiful sight of both the village and the ocean.

When making reservations for dinner I told the waitress my name three time. Annika, it’s A.n.n.i.k.a. I guess Enica is pretty close

I enjoyed another glass of wine along with lasagna and a personal favorite of mine; caprese salad. After dinner we considered getting gelato a third time, but sadly we didn’t end up going for it.
We strolled back to the other side of the mountain to catch a last glimpse of the beauty of the place before we made our wack back to the station to journey on our three our trip back home to Florence.

img_7454To finish this post off all I really have to say is GO, GO, GO! This is definitely a place that should be on everyones travel bucket list. Even after having just been, it’s back on mine, simply because I’d like to have more time to explore.

My ideal Cinque Terre trip would be spending one night in each village and actually doing the hike between all five of them. All of the villages are so small that you could see everything they have to offer in just one day, so this would be an ideal way to experience Cinque Terre to the fullest. The cherry on top would be taking a boat ride along the coast also. I can only imagine how beautiful all five town must be when seen from the ocean..

// Annika