A brief self study of racism turned into love

Here is something I hate to admit. I used to feel resistance or maybe even slight repulsion to Indian men. Not that I personally had reason to, but through media I’d gotten bad news from India and many of my friends (whom, of course, never been there themselves) would warn me about going. The information on Indian men stored in my brain was mainly negative. This suspicious feeling about a certain group or look (yeah, also known as racism) is something we all have. It is something we are programmed to by feeding our brain with certain associations, most of the time by actively or passively consuming media. The more we see a certain group, such as people with darker skin, related to something bad the more our brains will automatically relate people looking like that to bad traits.

This does not mean that we actively have those unfair values about darker people, it’s actually more often the opposite. No matter how openminded and equal-thinking and anti- racist we are, we can not stop this programming from happening and from controlling our brains if we keep on consuming the biased media we are surrounded by. Studies show that even people with darker skin feel more suspicion and fear when seeing darker people compared to light skinned ones. The sad fact is that as a result of the terrible bias in media; movies, series, commercials, news etc. the same programming is going on in all of us, and it does not matter how wrong or heavily biased this image is, it doesn’t even matter if the media we consume is fictional, associating a certain look to certain traits even when it’s obviously fictional and made up creates this programming of our brains and this is how we become racists – maybe you could call it the early stages. This means that most people in the modern world are ”light” racists, at least. But it is not our fault. However, it is our responsibility to be aware of how this works and work against it. The only way to change this is to feed our brain with more positive information/associations to dark skinned people than negative ones (this of course works the same for any group/look, but in this case I am using skin color as an example). And we need to get first hand information – experiential based. The deeper level of experience (thus memory thus information in the computer that is our brain) that is created when e.g. spending time and becoming friends with people of a certain look allows it to overrun the previous programming faster than for example just reading about it. But it will not happen unless you actively work on re-learning, creating new automatic associations in your brain.

Having explained this, let’s go back to me traveling to India. Despite knowing that I was wrong, having read and studied the phenomenon described above (it is called priming – read about it in the super interesting book Blink), I had this hidden feeling of fear and suspicion when it came to Indian men that was barely on the surface of my awareness. Like I said, I hate to admit it, and wasn’t it because I knew of this phenomenon I would probably have neglected it. After all, it is not very easy to realise that despite trying so hard to have an open heart and mind, despite having traveled a lot, despite knowing and loving people with all kinds of skin colors and looks, there was still this shameful, groundless racist in me.

What happened then? This year started in India, I came here in december 2016 and celebrated New Years Eve with a bunch of Indian students. In the middle of January I went on to Tasmania, Australia, and spent a couple of months down under followed by Singapore and Malaysia. During my travels India kept calling, kept reminding me of its’ existence. The first guy I couch surfed with in Australia was Indian, so was my teacher at Vipassana and I shared dorm rooms with great guys from India almost all the time. So many kind faces, so many caring smiles. They all gave me their best advice on India, they were all fun, sweet and openminded. I mean why wouldn’t they be? All in all I felt like India was sending me a message. I needed to go back. On the flight from Singapore to Mumbai, I couldn’t stop smiling. All those Indian faces, they smiled back at me. I felt surrounded by love, kindness, harmony. Instead of being suspicious, I expected kindness from them. Being back amongst Indian people made me feel calm and happy. And what is really amazing about this change of expectations is that I could feel it happen. The shift. My brain was finally re-programmed. The automatic response to typical Indian features that my brain would send me in milliseconds was positive. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not naive and I know that there are bad people here, just like everywhere. But that is not the point. The point is that unless you do something about it, you are probably a ”light racist” and you definitely have unfair, stereotypical ideas of certain groups because of the way you are programmed. It is how it is, this is brain science. It is not because of who you are, it is not in your personality or values, it is biology. Now – do something about it! Prove yourself wrong! Get out there, get to know ”them”. And if within your power, change the media stream as well now that you’re on it.

Let’s do our best!

Hanna

Destination diary: Singapore (is it worth a stopover? YES!)

Singapore. I have transfered flights here many times during my journeys, but never prioritised to stop long enough to see the city. I didn’t expect that much from it – and I was WRONG! Singapore is from now on a place I love, its’ vibe, its’ people, its’ endless possibilities. Singapore is a blend of cultures, a top scene for science and art and is super safe and easy to get around. Only negative thing I can come up with is that its’ expensive compared to the surrounding nations, but that’s why it is perfect for a few days, maybe not for a few weeks. Here’s what I did in Singapore and most of it, you should do too!

GARDENS BY THE BAY (free)

A big park down by the water, a lot of installations and very manmade – but cool! Known for the huge “trees”, you can access the boardwalk and the bar in the top of one of them for a fee if you want. There is some cool and strange art in the gardens, and there are different squares with different kind of nature. Make sure to stay here until darkness, as there are light installations everywhere and this is when the gardens come alive… AND the best thing happens att night (7.45pm and 8.45pm in time of writing) when the GARDEN RAPSODY starts among the Supertrees. At the time of my visit it was the STAR WARS edition!!! I was STOKED! And I didn’t even know the light show was happening when I was there, imagine my surprise when strolling around in the gardens and suddenly the Imperial march surrounds me and the lights go crazy… Needless to say, this was one of my top experiences in Singapore (probably wont be the same for you because now I told you about the light show beforehand haha, but definitely visit GARDENS BY THE BAY when in Singapore!

THE CLOUD FOREST

One of the two enclosed gardens within the Gardens by the bay, the other was is the FLOWER DOME. I only visited the CLOUD FOREST though, and I didn’t really find it worth the money (16 SGD entrance). Although it was cool, beautiful gardens, interesting architecture and a nice boardwalk from the top of the dome. They also show a movie about climate change in one room, an appreciated reminder on sustainability and awareness in this commercial city.

CLARK QUAY, BOAT QUAY AND MARINA BAY (free)

Yeah, you just can’t miss this unless you actively avoid it. This is the city center around the canal, this is where you want to stroll in the night, this is where you see the crazy skyscrapers and the city lights reflecting in the water. If you only have time for ONE thing in Singapore, you should stroll around here. The whole walk around this area probably takes one hour, but you’ll want to stop and embrace the view more than once so take your time! I started from Elgin bridge and walked along the water on the South-ish side, all the way to Artscience musem, then crossed the bridge and walked back on the other ridge. Just look it up on the map, it will be quite obvious. This is Singapore at its’ core, if you don’t see this area you haven’t really seen the city. I’m not saying that it’s the best part of Singapore, it is just… essential. And it is beautiful too.

CHINA TOWN (free)

When you exit the MRT on Pagoda street you are suddenly in China. The area isn’t that big, but it’s full with Chinese food stalls, lanterns, restaurants and cheap shopping. There are also plenty of hostels here, I don’t know if it is because I lived in Shanghai for a while but I loved staying in this part of town. It has more personality than the Quays and the city center, and is still on walking distance from those areas. The big and quite impressive BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC MUSEUM is here, and it’s free, so you might as well pay it a visit. It is a nice temple indeed, and if you haven’t seen many buddhist temples before you should definitely go.

LITTLE INDIA (free)


This is where you go for Indian vibes. There is shopping, food and architecture, temples and colours. I found an hour or two enough to see the area, but if you’re really into shopping you might need some more time. It is an area with nice, bohemic vibes and if you have the time you should definitely pay it a visit.

ARAB QUARTER (free)


I definitely found the Arab quarters more interesting than Little India. It’s full of vibrant colours from the shops and restaurants, you’ll find Persian mats, clothes, spices, jewellery, leather and more. There are plenty of inviting Middle Eastern cafés and restaurants (mixed with a few hip coffee shops and trendy vegetarian cafés), it is almost necessary to stop at at least a few of them and just enjoy the vibe of this fragrant part of the city. Also take the chance to visit the Sultan Mosque when walking by.

ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM

On the costly side of things, this museum (the label actually sound to boring for this place) makes for a few hours of fun and new learnings. Residing in a huge lotus flower-shaped building by the Marina Bay, you will have seen the place from a distance before you get there. At the time of my visit they hosted three different exhibitions, whereof one was aimed towards kids (they said). The three exhibitions costed 38 SGD, to visit two of them was 27 SGD and just one was 17 SGD. Due to lack of time I only visited the two that weren’t for kids; Universe & Art and Human. The first was about space travels, human in space history and technology and connected it to art and fantasy that the discovering of our universe lead to. The latter was about Artificial intelligence and its’ development, with brand new technologies up for testing. I really enjoyed the visit, and if you are somewhat interested in science, tech and art the ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM will definitely keep you entertained.

HAW PAR VILLA (free)

Maybe the weirdest attraction in Singapore, this is a theme park made in hell is based on Chinese mythology and buddhism. Brightly coloured figures, statues and paintings, a little run down and completely different than anything else you can find in Singapore (I haven’t seen anything like it in the world, to be honest). The top weirdest part is the Six courts of hell, where you’ll be introduced to what punishment you’ll get for wasting food, cheating on an exam or being rude to elders. Boiled in oil, sawn into halves, heart and guts torn out, crushed between stones and a bunch of other treatments are illustrated in the chambers, with signs explaining what kind of sin leading to what punishment. The HAW PAR VILLA is not beautiful, but it is colourful, interesting and certainly entertaining.

BOTANIC GARDENS (free)

Due to a thunder storm with rain that made me drip a puddle on the floor in the subway home I didn’t explore all of the gardens. However, the stroll in the park was very lovely, lush and beautiful and not so crowded. Parts of the BOTANIC GARDENS really make you feel like you are in the middle of a forest, other parts are more like an exhibition of different species of plants. With some time to spare and if you feel like you miss nature, it makes for a great escape from the city lights.


SENTOSA ISLAND (free to enter)

Free to enter but shit expensive to do almost anything. Once used for the Siloso fort that protected Singapore during the WWII, this island is now turned into a fun park. Many people go here to visit Universal Studios, but I found it ridiculously expensive and went for a stroll around the island and its’ other attractions instead. Outside of Universal Studios there are several other attractions such as luges, zip lining, wall climbing, Madame Tussauds and more. All of them are on the pricy side of things! One attraction that is actually free is the beaches, all artificial with sand imported from Indonesia, but still pretty great with palm trees, bars and clear water. I found it a great escape from the city and a fun area, although the bars were of course not super cheap. If you want to enjoy the beach but keep it cheaper, you can always bring food and drinks or go to 7-11 (they have cold beer in the fridge). In the night on our way back, we went to see the crane dance, a light/music-show by the water that is also free. A pretty great ending of our day in Sentosa. You can easily stroll back across the bridge from the island, and there’s really no need to pay the 4 SGD to go by train (there or back). Although our day on SENTOSA ISLAND was really great, I wouldn’t prioritise it on a shorter stay in Singapore.


AND ON AFFORDABLE EATING…

A little tip on how to make it cheaper: go for the local foodcourts! Suddenly the food will be pretty cheap (we’re still in Singapore though). There are many, but here are a few tips: Lau Pa Sat near Raffles place (cheaper in the “covered area” than on the blocked street), Chinatown Point (the main streets in Chinatown, like Pagoda street, are more expensive but still ok), Holland Village (really nice small food court, a bit off the given track. You’ll probably be the only tourist here).  And a very specific recommendation: one stall in the food court in Holland village, squeezed in one corner, serves a plate of tofu with crushed peanuts and chili (I asked to get only a little chili to avoid crazy spicy). It is probably THE BEST tofu I ever had. Crunchy skin, soft inside… I didn’t know tofu could be that good! And I payed 6 SGD (about 4,30 USD) for the tofu, stir fried greens, noodles and a small bowl of soup. Yummy!

I hope this convinced you to extend your transfer in Singapore for a few days in the city! If not, hit me with your doubts in a comment and I’ll try to convince you even more!

Enjoy the vibes!

Hanna

Being shy is just a bad habit

There’s nothing “wrong” with being shy, except for that many shy people would prefer to get rid of their shyness. If you’re perfectly happy with being shy, it’s not to be treated as a bad habit. But for the purpose of this post, I’ll aim it to all of you who’d prefer not being shy anymore.

 

Shyness is commonly misunderstood as a personality trait, “he is so shy”. But being shy is actually a behaviour, not some core part of who anyone is. Many people have been shy (or interpreted as shy) during parts of their life, or in certain groups or situations. Most shy people wish they acted more confident, because shyness is often read as insecurity and you being uncomfortable with who you are. When tending to act shy, we usually spend too much time evaluating how to act and react in our heads, adding loads of pressure to any social context and making interaction all but natural. This becomes a bad spiral, and ultimately we rather skip the whole thing, stick to our self and avoid the risk of failing.

 

This fear is normal, rejection is one of the most hurtful experiences imaginable. But when we get stuck in this spiral, we create a habit. We close our doors and stop putting ourselves out there. We avoid doing anything that requires anyones response for fear of being rejected, thus missing out of many opportunities. Most people feel this fear, and the difference between shy people and others is that shy people tend to more often than not completely avoid interacting in these situations. Confident people feel the fear to some extent, but know that it is probably misguiding them and that it is better to act despite it. Because this fear is actually a detector of opportunities. When something is important enough we feel a tension and a rush of adrenaline, indicating that there is something of importance here.

 

Thinking that we’re too shy to try is an easy way out. Like with any bad habit, they are easy to fall into and hard to break. But the first step is to see it for what it is;  a habit. It’s not a fixed part of who you are, and you can change it. To kill off a bad habit you need to replace it with a new one. This is a conscious choice and takes focused action. It’s not about not being shy, it’s about being open and social. Learning a new habit will feel uncomfortable and maybe even draining. It costs a lot of energy. But as you keep going, your new habit is slowly created, and soon enough you default behaviour will not be shying away but instead your new socially confident and outgoing habit will be your new normal.

 

My recommendation for you who feel like a little less shyness would be good is to practice. Give yourself “homework”. Such as; approach people at networking events. Talk to strangers in bars. Prepare questions and put yourself out there, ask the questions, have the conversation – even if it becomes awkward and uncomfortable. Being okey with being uncomfortable is part of the confidence you’re trying to build. Do at least 3-4 socially challenging “homeworks” per week, tell someone you trust what you’re up to and report to them after each task. This will hold you accountable and make it more fun.

 

Get out ant be awesome!

Destination diary: South coast Australia, from Melbourne to Perth

It is a long drive from the east coast to the west coast of Australia, and to be honest its something I won’t do again. Not because it wasn’t good, it’s just a tiring amount of driving and quite dull at times. For a first timer though, those hours of sameness is part of the experience and in some way poetic. We had about two weeks and wished we had another to get more time for stops on the way. Here’s our experience and itinerary of the great southern drive:

GREAT OCEAN ROAD


Most people who go here do it to get to the famous Nine Apostles. The drive is scenic indeed, the road is winding and the ocean is roaring beneath steep cliffs as you drive between the tourist towns along the way. There is plenty of options to stop here, for fuel, food, a beach break or to get a hotel bed over night. Its’ popularity amongst tourist can be spotted in the frequent signs saying ”remember: drive on the left side in Australia”. Our plan was to stop in Torquay, about an hour from Melbourne, to enjoy the beach for a while and maybe do some surfing. However, the weather didn’t agree and as there’s not much else to do there we went straight for the drive west towards the Nine Apostles.

The weather got worse, and turned into a storm. Conditions were extreme and scary, we had to drive around big branches that fell on the road and ultimately we found ourselves in a line of cars, stuck behind fallen trees. There is no obvious detour to get to the Nine Apostles from where we were, and we spent some time driving back and forth trying to see if the road would get cleared or if any detour could be used. The one road that would take us around the blocked area efficiently with just a small detour was small and also blocked, and only to enter it was scary due to the tall trees swaying in the wind with branches already fallen on the road.

We decided to take a longer detour, estimated extra time was 1,5 hours but we didn’t want to just wait in line as the police officers who just arrived to the scene told us that this would take hours. Driving up north, the wind was still strong but the rain stopped and the sight was better. We came to a small road that would take us through the rainforest, the next option of detours to get to the apostles. We had a fun time driving through the forest, we felt like quite the adventurers avoiding branches, sometimes, getting out of the car to drag them out of our way, and zig zagging our way through. One third in on the road through the lush, dense rain forest we were once again stopped by a tree, too big for us to move. Perhaps this was a good thing, in hind sight it wasn’t very smart to drive there as the storm was still ongoing and we risked getting stuck between fallen trees (or worse). At this point we were seriously considering skipping the apostles, assuming that they were overrated and not worth the hustle. But we were so close, and the weather was getting better too so we decided to go there anyway. Turning back, heading even further north, we finally found a road that was already cleared and that would take us all the way. At this time, it was already dark and late in the night and we decided to stop and sleep in the car.

We woke up at our random home for the night, looking out over a paddock with some friendly cows, and went straight for the Nine Apostles. I must say, I found them a bit overrated. However, the cliffs in the area are spectacular, I just found other views than the apostles more interesting and dramatic. After an adventurous start of our roadtrip we where happy to have made it to the apostles at all, but even more happy that the weather was on our side again.

MT ARAPILES

Maybe not for everyone, but me and my traveling companion are both huge lovers of outdoor climbing, and being only a few hours away from Australias greatest place for climbing we couldn’t resist the temptation. Heading inland it took us around three hours to get there. We arrived at a campsite where slack lines, bongo drums and happy hippies created a welcoming atmosphere. This was the kind of place where people settled for weeks to splurge in their love for climbing. Needless to say: we loved it and felt like settling as well and forget the rest of the world for a while… Everyone where super friendly, and I do nourish the hope to come back and develop my trad climbing skills some day… we will see.

Mt Arapiles is a lonely mountain surrounded by open fields, making the views spectacular. On our second day we hired a guide and equipment for trad climbing, and started out with a multi pitch to the top of a free standing pillar. Amazing! I don’t want to geek out over climbing too much, but the Arapiles certainly deserve their reputation. There are routes for everyone, and what I really loved is that you don’t have to climb super hard routes to get to spectacular, long and super fun climbs. Additionally, the bouldering is extensive and fun. And the camp ground is perfect for making friends, we were invited to climb with people we met. to have tea in our neighbours’ camps, and got recommendations on where to go and what do do for the rest of our trip. If you’re into climbing – go to the Arapiles and just stay for a few days, meet people, play music, talk and CLIMB!

SOUTH AUSTRALIA AND ADELAIDE

This is as far west as most people get when traveling this way from Melbourne, and Adelaide is a nice stopover for some city-vibes before the long drive west. You can borrow free bikes from the Bicycle SA and since Adelaide is flat like a pancake it’s a perfect way to get around. What we enjoyed most in Adelaide were the restaurants and bars, having been camping for a while some tasty handicraft beer was extremely satisfying. The museums are mediocre, and the botanical garden is nice but if you’ve been to the one in Melbourne this doesn’t really add on anything.

From Adelaide we went to Port Augusta and Ceduna. Both being small towns, but compared to the rest of the towns on the drive west they are quite big and makes for a good spot for loading whatever you might need for the drive. Note that you are not allowed to bring any fresh fruit of veggies over the state border from to Western Australia, so indulge in a huge fresh sallad and prepare yourself to survive on the canned type, as it is surprisingly hard to find any fresh veggies to buy on the road through  SA.

The state that stretches between Victoria and West Australia is not really known for anything except for Adelaide, the oysters in Ceduna and the mining. And to be honest, there isn’t a lot happening here. In the western part of South Australia the Nullarbor plains start and the more outbackish part ((compared to the real outback this is just a practice on beginners’ level, though) of the drive. Don’t miss the great view point at Bunda Cliffs, though, before crossing the border to WA in Eucla.

THE NULLARBOR PLAINS AND EASTERN WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Here comes the spectacular part of the drive, spectacular in its’ sameness and impression of endlessness. Nullarbor means ”no trees” in latin, a very literal name of the area. There isn’t much happening on the long drive that takes around tree to four days. However, the plains are beautiful. Just relax and enjoy the drive. Part of the road (190 km) is Australias longest stretch of completely straight road… Don’t fall asleep behind the wheel! Prepare before leaving an area with mobile reception by getting some podcasts an music ready, as there is no coverage here. As you get further away from civilasation, the prices on fuel are rising. Fill up the tank when you’re at a place with reasonable prices, as you might want to get a little less in the more expensive areas.

On the drive out of Eucla, we spotted some huge, white dunes from the car, and got so curious that we turned back. The dunes weren’t mentioned on any sign or information anywhere, but you’ll find them if driving down to the old telegraph station in Eucla. A couple of hundred meters from the parking and the ruin of the old telegraph starts an area with huge sand dunes, that makes for a perfect stop to play around, get some movement in your body and take some photographs before getting back on the road.

ESPERANCE AND CAPE LE GRAND

In Esperance you’ll feel like you’re finally back in civilisation. After realising that the pink lake isn’t pink anymore, but the beaches are amazing, we headed for Cape le grand. It is a national park just east of Esperance. First thing we did was the short climb to the top of Frenchmans peak. It is WAY MORE interesting than it looks! With a huge cave on the top that you don’t see from the ground. Bring picknick and enjoy the view over the beaches and rounded mountains.

There are many campsites here, but we went for Lucky bay after recommendations from locals. We went for an exploration trek around the campsite and found a whole system of shallow caves, just after the memorial of Matthew Flinders. We climbed around there with the ocean roaring under us, and if it wasn’t because the day light was fading we could have stayed for hours.

PEMBERTON, MARGARET RIVER AND AROUND


There was just one reason for us to stop in Pemberton: to climb a tree! This area has some of the tallest forests on earth, and in Warren national park near Pemberton you can climb to the top of a 69 meter tall Karri tree. At first we expected it to be a ”regular” tree climb, where you had to use just the tree but with some kind of security equipment like harnesses. Then we realised that is was a bit more organised, they actually put metal bars like steps around the tree. When we came there though, those steps were just really small and uneven metal sticks and with no other safety, if you would fall you would really fall… Except for a platform allowing a breather on the way up (and a sign for those who found the first part scary to climb down – this was the easy part) the climb goes all the way to a little crib at the top of the tree. And yes – we came here in time to watch the sunset over the surrounding forest. So worth it!
 

As the moon was rising, we headed to Margaret River and our couch surfing-host. She had a camper van in her yard that we stayed in – some may not consider it a real home but with a proper mattress it makes for a real bed! Something we didn’t have in my car or in the tent. Plus we had access to a proper shower and kitchen – campers delight! The Margaret River area was another highlight. The Boranup forest is a magical place, go for a walk or just do the forest drive. But if you drive, stop and step out in the forest because there is some true powers in those trees, their sounds and smells… Margaret River is also known for the huge caves found in the area. Although all of them are very neatly organised and comes with an entrance fee, it makes for a fun activity and the caves are indeed very interesting. We went to the more adventurous one where you get a helmet and a flash light and can then explore the cave system yourself.

Another amazing thing i Margaret River is in Hamelin bay just by the old jetty – a chance to make direct contact with H U G E stingrays. You are not supposed to feed them, but apparently people do anyway and the stingrays come up sniffing your feet if you stand out in the water. They are friendly – but huge!

PERTH AND FREMANTLE (+ ROTTNEST ISLAND)

After a long drive from Melbourne we were finally in Perth, one of the world’s most isolated cities. Here is where my travel companion from the last couple of weeks left Australia. Here is also where I sold my car, and went from road tripping to backpacking.

I really liked Perth, but my favourite area by far was Fremantle. It makes for its own little world and it is actually not a part of Perth but its’ own city, only half an hour from central Perth. Fremantle is a port city with beaches and sea views. It’s an eclectic, eccentric blend of quirky little shops, art galleries, handcrafted beers, great coffee and a very vibrant festival and music scene. Fremantle market is the place to go for food and souvenirs, but the best way to explore Fremantle is to just stroll around and enter the many art spaces and stop for coffee or food wherever you find it inviting.


I stayed most of my time in Fremantle, except for the area being way nicer with a soul and personality that suited me perfectly, the hostels made for a similar experience. All in all, if I would move to Perth at any time I would definitely settle for Fremantle.

This said, I had a great experience in Perth as well. After my friend left I was couch surfing with an amazing guy and our conversations went crazy! Touching on everything from string theory and programming to binge eating and breasts – and always with a lot of laughter. He showed me around the city, we went to his favourite waterfall, drank bubble tea, spent an hour in the arcade hall trying to beat each other in all kinds of weird games that we found, and went to a donation based indian restaurant. What’s really cool is that me and this guy were not alike at all if looking at the obvious aspects, He’s ten years younger than me, working in a completely different field and our lives are very different. What we both have though, is an endless curiosity and open minds. And this is more important than all things on the surface. I am very certain this guy will show up in my life again, hopefully I can host him sometimes. I am so grateful for couch surfing and everyone I met that way, it’s truly amazing!

Last detail on my journey from east to west: I need to mention Rottnest Island and the quokkas! Terribly overpriced every day except for Tuesdays, this little island still makes for a fun day tour. I rented a bike and went around the island. The nature is great but for me the experience was all about the quokkas! This little mammal only exist on Rottnest Island, and they are very friendly and curious so you’ll have no problem seeing them up close. Apparently the #quokkaselfie is a thing (click the link to see the feed, it’s hilarious!) and I had to join the club with this little posing fellow! It became a thing because of the quokkas always smiling, photo ready face. Looking at them up close you’ll see that they always look like a peculiar little cartoon animal.

During my time in Perth, I went inland for the meditation course Vipassana, but that’s something I covered in another post.

Eventually, I got bored with the weather in Perth and felt like something more adventurous, and since Perth is perfect for flying to Asia I bought a one way ticket to Singapore… I’ll keep you posted!

Some general recommendations:

– You won’t need an extra tank of fuel, the gas stations are close enough to each other.


– Bring extra water, just in case something happens with your car

– Download podcasts and music beforehand

– Free camping can be found at many places on the way, however most of them without any facilities.

Drive, drive into the sunset baby,

Hanna

Don’t judge the one who smells, you’re the one with a privilege

A little while ago, I spent several weeks road tripping and camping, hiking and trekking. A friend and I travelled from Tasmania to Perth (southern Australia) spending most nights in our tent on free camp sites and some nights in the car. It was great! However, hygiene was sometimes not prioritised or even possible to keep up. We simply didn’t have access to showers, sometimes for many days in a row. When the weather was warm we washed in the ocean, rivers or lakes, but some days that wasn’t too inviting. And since we only had the outdoors as our home, we didn’t want to swim on a could day and spend the rest of the day freezing… You can probably see where this is going, we were NOT CLEAN.

Despite having climbed a mountain and being all sweaty, we had to keep the same clothes on and keep on travelling the day after. We did smell. Not super bad (I think) but still. And I realised one of the most obvious things in a way I hadn’t thought of it before: being clean is such a privilege. Being dirty and smelly is the natural state for a human. This is what we all were, back in the days. We have been unclean (we probably didn’t even know the concept ”clean”, we were just getting on with our lives feeling completely normal) for most or our existence on Earth. We hade to get up and get on with our days without washing ourselves and without a clean set of clothes. Even today, a daily shower is a luxury only a small share of humanity have access to. So is being able to change into clean clothes.

Living (and currently traveling) in a part of the world where being clean and fresh is the norm, I realised how we exclude and judge people who fail to live up to those standards. How it is considered normal and fair to avoid people who smell and don’t look clean. As if that makes them less human. We don’t consider it being disrespectful to step away from them, we don’t care if they understand what we think about them – many of us probably even think that ”they should know because they should really do something about it” that ”it is not okay to be around others when you smell/look like that”. I’m not saying that I am any better, I have moved away from people on the bus because of their smell. I’ve stepped away from them. I am just like most of us. But from now on I am trying hard not to, because I realised that I am the exception.

Let’s break down the situation these people are in, according to what I can grasp from my perspective. If you don’t have a home (or sometimes don’t, or get beat up or in different ways suffer at home and need to stay away from it), you probably don’t have access to a shower. So, you would need a public shower. Those usually cost a few dollars. So does schampoo and soap. This means that even if you could swim and get clean in the wild (maybe not that easy if living in a city, or in the colder parts of the world), you would need to pay for something to wash yourself with – just water doesn’t do the trick. And you might not have clean clothes anyway, because laundry would cost you another couple of dollars. If even having enough food is a challenge, getting clean is naturally under-prioritised – that’s not where those few dollars would go.

Let’s face it: without the luxury of a shower and laundry possibilities, we all would smell! Thus, the natural state is to smell and be dirty, unless we have the privilege of treating ourselves with the means it takes to stay clean. This is not free, this is not something we should take for granted. If you can put on clean clothes after washing yourself up in a bathroom at home, you belong to the lucky ones. You are the exception, and you have no right to look down on others. Be grateful, and respect all humans, always.

Full of gratitude,
Hanna

10 days of silence, meditation and brain wrestling (Vipassana)

I’ve been trying to meditate on and off, sometimes making a successful 30 days in a row of 20 minutes per day, but never felt like I really reached the benefits I’d heard of. It was a paus for my brain, similar to a walk or a yoga session,  but I always felt like there should be another level to it. Based on the fact that uncountable studies and examples point out the benefits of meditation, I wanted to put a serious effort into the exploration of mediation practice.

I like to do things in projects, go deeper into something with focus and determination for a while, and see where it takes me. To just add an hour of meditation per day and e.g. use on of the dozens of apps or classes that popped up due to the trendiness of meditation and mindfulness wouldn’t work for me. I chose Vipassana because it would allow me to focus solely on meditation practice for ten days, instead of a short break from reality it seemed to be about hard work, discipline and deep practice. The center I went to was the Dhamma Papida near Perth, in western Australia, and this is my experience.

As a new student, you must start with a ten days course, a seemingly long time considering the challenging schedule and regulations. The rules of Vipassana are strict. During those ten days you are not allowed to speak or in any other way communicate or interact with the other participants. No gestures or sign language, avoiding eye contact and absolutely no physical contact. You are also not allowed to bring any books or writing material, so there is no reading, writing and no listening to any kind of (your own choice of) audio. That is, no information in or out and as little expression as possible (the teachings of Vipassana and the actual course are exempt, of course, and so is necessary practical information), it is about you and your brain ONLY.

The days begin at 4 with a soft but persistent gong waking everyone up, and at 4:30 the two hours long morning meditation begins. We tumbled out of our dorm the first morning, threading slowly the hundred meters to the mediation hall. The room was dimly lit and I am pretty sure we all fought hard not to fall asleep on our cushions that first day. At 6:30 we welcomed the sound of the gong, letting us know that it was breakfast time. A filling and very yummy meal was served as the daylight chased the darkness away and the day began (for the rest of the world). On the first morning, I learned that the ”no intoxicants” regulation included coffee (I could have guessed, but that was an aspect I just didn’t think of). Having travelled with a heavy coffee drinker, my past months I’d had something like five cups per day of strong coffee. Bulging two cups of black tea, I tried to fight the headache that I knew might terror me later that day.

At 8 mediation starts again, and with two breaks, we meditate until 11 when it is time for lunch. Again, the food (vegetarian only) was amazing and filling. However, this is the last meal for the day except for some fruit and tea at five o’clock. The old students don’t even get this, but are to sustain on only lemon water or tea without milk when the rest of us were having our fruit. The point of the food regulation is that we meditate better when our belly is not full, and also to realise that it’s ok to not always be full, we can live on less and hunger is just another sensation (although I didn’t feel hungry at all just light and healthy, the volume of food was for me well suited for the slow paced routine at the center). Anyhow, the lunch break continues to 1 pm when meditation starts again and goes on to 5 pm, then we had the tea and fruit and a one hour break, and then meditated again between 6-7 pm. At 7 was one of the highlights of the day; the discourse. This was a one hour class showed on video, that included the learnings, principles and philosophies that comes with Vipassana. The day ended with a half hour meditation session, and at 9 pm most of us went to bed, exhausted.

The instructions of the first days’ meditation is to focus on your breath and how it feels in your nose. That’s it. The simplicity in itself felt futile. When our minds moved from the awareness of breathing to thoughts (as it does – all the time) we just brought it back. And that’s how it went, for hours. To pick up that coffee-thread again, the dreaded headache caught me in the afternoon of the first day and the last part of the day was really hard. To just focus on breathing for hours was a struggle and it felt like I was either thinking of my pain or was about to fall asleep pretty much all day, and I literally crashed in my bed and was deep asleep within five minutes that first night.

Luckily, the withdrawal from my coffee addiction didn’t last any longer, and my second day was way easier. The first three days we were only focusing on our breathing, narrowing it down on the third day to the sensation of breath on the skin below the nostrils. I don’t know if you did the math, but each day consisted of about ten hours of meditation, and to focus on that sensation ONLY for ten hours is difficult and utterly challenging. The purpose of this narrow focus is to sharpen the mind to experience the most subtle sensation anywhere on the body. The smaller the area, the sharper the mind. These days were a practice in the sensitivity required for Vipassana.

On the fourth day we were introduced to Vipassana meditation. Vipassana stems from buddhism, but is secular in its’ nature in modern days. The father of Vipassana is the late N.S. Goenka, who was raised in Myanmar and learned it there from the monks. Mr Goenka is the teacher at all the Vipassana retreats which are similar everywhere in the world, and recordings of him talking and/or chanting are opening and closing the meditation sessions, and he is also doing the one hour discourse where you get to watch him on video. Despite the seriousness of it all, Mr Goenka is surprisingly funny – and I think we laughed out loud (a joyous relief considering the silence and non-interaction the rest of the time) at least once every discourse. Despite so much of the teachings being on audio and video and not live, the course is vivid and Mr Goenka feels present. At each course there is also an assisting teacher, and this is the person who will give the students more personal guidance and who you go to for questions regarding your practice. The assisting teacher is sitting in front of the hall and is in every way active in the teachings. On this fourth day as the Vipassana was given, Mr Goenkas voice guided us to Vipassana; sequences of long body scans in a specific order.

In addition to the body scans, day four marked the start of the ”Sittings of strong determination” three times daily. They were one hour long each, during which we were not allowed to move. Any itching, pain or sleeping limbs were just to be observed when scanning that part of the body, “observe them impersonally and know that they are just temporary” were the instructions. An example of Vipassana practice would be that you are focusing on your shoulders when scanning the body, and suddenly you are experiencing pain in one knee. Your mind will wander to that knee, and beg you to move it as to ease the pain. Instead you are to move your focus back to the shoulders, knowing that the pain will pass, and only observe it when you are getting to your knees in your scanning procedure.

The first sitting of strong determination, or ”long hold” as I started calling it in my mind, relating to holding a position or weight for a longer time during body exercise, was a real struggle. I suspect none of us new students made it all the way through without shifting our bodies at least a little. However – to my surprise – they rapidly got easier. On the third session I was able to sit still for the full hour, and after that I managed every single time for the rest of the course. The struggle wasn’t physical, it was mental. Despite kind of knowing this already, it was a realisation in itself that the physical challenge was a piece of cake compared to the mental one.

Honestly, our minds are crazy! Constantly nagging, always bringing something up that we didn’t ask for. Going through things that we thought we already solved again and again, or just ”showing” us something meaningless, or thinking about what kind of food we are going to get next… In the beginning I had sessions when I could stay focused for twenty seconds maximum before my mind took away with me. It got better, but even at the end of the course the best I could manage was to be in the meditative, focused state for like ten minutes before I had to call my mind back from some random thought.

The work on improving my meditation practice took me a long way, with the realisation that there is a lot left to work on before I can actually meditate for even half an hour without getting interrupted by sudden uncontrolled thinking.

What about the silence? Before the course started, I thought that being silent and spending all this time not doing anything but thinking and meditating would be really hard. To my and many of my fellow students’ surprise, it wasn’t hard at all. It was actually enjoyable. However, I think that if entering Vipassana with anxiety or other mental challenges, it might get really hard – for most of us the silence was the easy part.

On that note, the noble silence is broken by lunchtime on the last day of the course, and a loud, loving chatter takes its’ place (only during the breaks though). Having a last day when we where allowed to talk and share our experiences was invaluable! I am not sure how I would have made it the first days in the ”real world” if I wouldn’t have had those conversations, sharing what we’d been through.

What are my biggest learnings then?

As I am writing this, only one day has passed since the course ended. I am sure more learnings will pop up as I reflect further, but here is what I see at this point:

The major one: my mind is kind. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t sleep at night due to anxiety, my head panicking and criticising and blaming and fearing out of control. A time when I had to distract myself to not think negative thoughts, and when lone time usually involved crying. Since then years have passed and I have been working a lot on myself. I was expecting that something hidden would pop up during my ten days alone in my own head, but it didn’t. I feel like I am seeing all of me, everything inside of me, clearly. And it is all good, calm and taken care of. I am treating myself with kindness, trust and love, and I am so grateful!

The others:
– Controlling the mind is a constant challenge. The work will never be over
– Training to stop reacting to it helps in tolerating pain

Being an old student of Vipassana, I am now welcome to join any one day, three days or ten days retreat or to volunteer at any center. There are Vipassana centers all around the world, same teachings but completely different settings (and food, they say). I will definitely do Vipassana again, just spending that time with myself was really developing and fruitful for my productivity coming out of the course. Although, I am not going to do another ten days course any time soon, I am afraid that might drive me a little bit crazy.


As Mr Goenka said: may all beings be happy

Hanna

Destination diary: Tasmania

Almost four months after arriving in Tasmania (or ”Tassie”, as most Aussies would say), I am on a ferry to the mainland. It’s April, and autumn got its’ full grip on Tassie the last three weeks. The air is cool and fresh, and although the sun is still warming the land and the waters are still warm enough for swimming (kind of) the nights are really cold and I got good use of my beanie the last two weeks. Before my mind is filled up with my upcoming experiences, I wanted to give a review of how I experienced Tasmania, mentioning some experiences but skipping others. If nothing else, it’s going to help me remember.

Tasmania is calling itself ”the natural state”, and this is for a reason. There are national parks pretty much everywhere. If summarizing what Tassie is about I would say mountains, forests and waterfalls. The outdoor industry is well established and there is information and gear in most towns and parks. Another bonus, trying to tempt mainland tourists with its’ natural beauty, they have plenty of free camping spots and many in stunning locations with good facilities. No matter what time of year you are travelling in Tassie, bringing warm clothes and rain proof gear is a must. Tassie is known for its’ ”for seasons in a day”-weather, and even in summer some days get really cold and the weather can change fast. The most extreme example of this for me was during a yoga class in February. During that one our, in a big tent on a lawn, it went from hot sunny weather to rain to stormy winds and hail and back to sunshine… That said, the summers are usually really warm with a strong sun (wear sun screen!) and that was the case for most of my time in Tasmania.

HOBART AND AROUND

The first two months in Tassie I spent in and around Hobart, the state capital in the southeast. If you’ve spent some time in the bigger mainland cities, Hobart will appear as the small town it is, population only 220 000 and the streets get sleepy and close to empty after 6 pm. However, Hobart is a pretty and charismatic town, being the biggest on the island they host a bunch of festivals and the very visit worthy museum of contemporary art, MONA. MONA is a unique influence with weird, interesting and powerful art. Despite mixing new and old art, contemporary and traditional, they are extremely good at keeping a red thread and communicate it to the audience.

Over Hobart towers Mount Wellington with its’ eye-catching Organ Pipes, and you’ll find several walking trails on the slopes of the mountain. I personally recommend walking just below the pipes (a couple of walks to chose from), the rainforesty Myrtle Gully trail and making sure to get to the Octopus tree and Sphinx lookout – little gems hiding in the forests around the mountain. Mount Wellington also has some great places for rock climbing and several great mountain bike trails. Going mountain biking with two local teenagers behaving as if born on their bikes I got to see (not jump – phew!) some crazy jumps. The climb upwards was tiring and tricky, but well worth the super duper fun bike ride down through the forest.

I’ll skip telling you too much about my work at a race horse stable in the outskirts of Lilydale (in the north east), the strawberry farm and the awesome hippie house in South Hobart where I spent a couple of weeks each (wwoofing and workawaying – read more in this blogpost), and move on to the last few weeks of camping, hiking and road tripping around the island.

I bought a car almost immediately when arriving in Tassie, and loaded with a good tent, sleeping bags, a fuel stove and an imported friend from home I went deeper into Tassie and its’ wonders by driving, camping and bushwalking. Without a car it is hard to really explore all of Tassie, as some of its’ most beautiful places are remotely located (but not far – it’s a small island). This said, you can definitely find tours going to most of the parks and attractions, but they are more costly and a bit limiting (what if you want to stay an extra night in one of the national parks for example). Anyhow, me and my travel companion left Hobart driving east, ready to explore.

THE EAST COAST

This part of Tassie is categorised by beaches and the ocean. You can stop almost every 15 minutes and go for a swim and the probability is high that you’ll have an amazing beach all for yourself. Our first major stop on the east coast was the Tasman peninsula; known for its’ drastic steep cliffs that goes vertically down into the ocean waves. Sitting on one of them with your feet over the edge is something that will definitely make your heart beat faster. Despite the high traffic of walkers this is a beautiful trek, no matter if you spend four hours going back and forth to the iconic totem pole or do the full three day circuit. It is a popular challenge for daring adventure seekers to go rock climbing on the totem pole and the surrounding cliffs, and we (both climbers) were veeeery tempted, but unfortunately (or luckily?) we didn’t have the gear required and didn’t prioritise an arranged a tour.

Next major stop we did was the Freycinet peninsula, where we spent a full three days walking around the whole peninsula, including the rocky climb to Mount Freycinet. There are some good camping spots here, from which you can easily get a morning swim in the ocean as the sun rises. The iconic wine class bay was a great treat at the end of the hike, and walking barefoot was a welcomed change after the many hours of more mountainous grounds. We also got to see a wombat close up and cuddle some wild (?) wallabies. Talking about wildlife, be aware of the possums that will try to steal your food – they are used to humans and will come too close if you don’t watch them.

Next up – bay of fires! There are many free camping spots in the area and it was a perfect place to slow down. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and a great ocean view, as there are camping spots right by the beach (Cozy corner north is where we stayed). Probably the best campsite we stayed on, and it’s a free one too!


THE NORTHERN TERRITORY

From the east coast our journey continued in the north. This is diverse area. It hosts great beaches and cliffy waterside towns were the ocean roars wildly and swimming is impossible. After a long day’s drive we arrived in Marrawah in the northwest (Green Point campsite). This was one of the best places we stayed, another amazing sunset (and sunrise), huge waves and a great, wild beach almost to ourselves. And yes – free camping! From here, we drove the West Wilderness Way through the high mooreland of the Tarkine forest. A rugged and beautiful area with crooked trees and wet moores, with only a few cars per day doing the long drive on the gravel roads. If you have your owncar (and it can sustain some bumpy driving) this drive is highly recommend and will take you through a remote and dramatic corner of Tassie.

Next up: Cradle Mountain and Lake Dove national park. We were trying to get to Cradle Mountain on a sunny day, as there is only a 1/10 to get a non-cloudy day here (according to Lonely Planet). The higher altitude made it WAY colder here. Wearing pretty much everything we could squeeze into our sleeping bags, we camped at the foot of Cradle Mountain and hoped for the sunny day my weather app predicted the morning after. And we were lucky, the weather was PERFECT! Not particularly hard, except for the 3 hours it takes to get up and down the bouldery last part before the summit, it was still one if not the greatest walk we did in Tassie. The views were amazing, and the top part of Cradle Mountain is spectacular in itself. We spent almost an hour boulder-jumping on the summit to see different pockets of nature. The wait for the sunny day was definitely worth the hassle!!

THE WEST COAST

Tasmanias west coast is rugged and partially almost empty of people, with wild waves and chilly winds. However the tiny towns has got soul, and they are something completely different than the east coast. After more than a week of staying in our tent, and the last super cold nights in the mountain region, we decided that we deserved a warm room (plus, desperately needed to do laundry) and stayed for two nights at a hotel in an old mining town named Queenstown. Its a scenic and almost moon-like landscape around the little town, due to the surrounding hills being transformed by mining. Queenstown is small, but its’ got soul and heart and is something special indeed, if you ask me. it holds some interesting architecture in old european style, mixed with run down houses and some quirky shops. The feeling I got was somewhere between an the coulisse of an old western movie and a ghost town – but in a good way. The lookout over the big old mining schakt is really cool, and the drive to and from the town is spectacular (but a bit sad, considering the major scarring the mining has caused the land).

After a quick visit to Strahan (overrated – except for the Henty Dunes which were super fun!) we went back inland, stopped to admire lake Burbury and drove on towards Mount Field. The hike around Mt Field became the last hike we did in Tassie, it was beautiful but not that special. If going there, I recommend just doing the short waterfall-trail and save your feet for another hike, as there are endless options in Tasmania and certainly many more interested than Mt Field.

AND THE END…

Driving north again, we found a lovely campsite by a river not far from Devonport and woke up early our last day to get to the ferry in time. The ferry itself is quite boring so if not bringing a car, definitely go by plane as the cost is approximately the same.

And just a few more comments to prepare you, if you decide on going:

Wildlife: Tasmanias fauna is amazing. I loved seeing the wombats and wallabies up close, and the way the animals down under are so different than back in Europe make them super fascinating. However, they can get a bit to close. The roads of Tassie are literally covered by roadkills, I’ve probably seen more dead animals than live ones. In dusk and dawn in particular you will see them everywhere by the roads, so driving carefully is essential. Also, the wallabies and especially possums get used to humans leaving food in parks, parkings and camp sites. We learned this quickly when we turned around for five minutes to set up our tent and left the trunk of the car open. As we turned back to the car we had two possums sitting in the car going through our groceries!  I had to push them out using a towel. They escaped with a chunk of bread and a banana, and the whole episode was rather funny in hind site. Although, we made sure not to leave food unattained after this event.

After four months in Tasmania, I am sure I am missing a lot in this text. I’ve hopefully communicated how much I recommend this corner of the world. It makes a great escape from the European winter and is perfect for budget traveling since camping and nature experiences are usually free. Bring good clothes, your camera and a good pair of boots and enjoy Tassie, the down under of down under!

Happy hiking,

Hanna

The too much woman

There she is. . . the “too much” woman. The one who loves too hard, feels too deeply, asks too often, desires too much.

There she is taking up too much space, with her laughter, her curves, her honesty, her sexuality. Her presence is as tall as a tree, as wide as a mountain. Her energy occupies every crevice of the room. Too much space she takes.

There she is causing a ruckus with her persistent wanting, too much wanting. She desires a lot, wants everything—too much happiness, too much alone time, too much pleasure. She’ll go through brimstone, murky river, and hellfire to get it. She’ll risk all to quell the longings of her heart and body. This makes her dangerous.

She is dangerous.

And there she goes, that “too much” woman, making people think too much, feel too much, swoon too much. She with her authentic prose and a self-assuredness in the way she carries herself. She with her belly laughs and her insatiable appetite and her proneness to fiery passion. All eyes on her, thinking she’s hot shit.

Oh, that “too much” woman. . . too loud, too vibrant, too honest, too emotional, too smart, too intense, too pretty, too difficult, too sensitive, too wild, too intimidating, too successful, too fat, too strong, too political, too joyous, too needy—too much.

She should simmer down a bit, be taken down a couple notches. Someone should put her back in a more respectable place. Someone should tell her.

Here I am. . . the Too Much Woman, with my too-tender heart and my too-much emotions.

A hedonist, feminist, pleasure seeker, empath. I want a lot—justice, sincerity, spaciousness, ease, intimacy, actualization, respect, to be seen, to be understood, your undivided attention, and all of your promises to be kept.

I’ve been called high maintenance because I want what I want, and intimidating because of the space I occupy. I’ve been called selfish because I am self-loving. I’ve been called a witch because I know how to heal myself.

And still. . . I rise. Still, I want and feel and ask and risk and take up space.

I must.

Us Too Much Women have been facing extermination for centuries—we are so afraid of her, terrified of her big presence, of the way she commands respect and wields the truth of her feelings. We’ve been trying to stifle the Too Much Woman for ions—in our sisters, in our wives, in our daughters. And even now, even today, we shame the Too Much Woman for her bigness, for her wanting, for her passionate nature.

And still. . . she thrives.

In my own world and before my very eyes, I am witnessing the reclamation and rising up of the Too Much Woman. That Too Much Woman is also known to some as Wild Woman or the Divine Feminine. In any case, she is me, she is you, and she is loving that she’s finally, finally getting some airtime.

If you’ve ever been called “too much,” or “overly emotional,” or “bitchy,” or “stuck up,” you are likely a Too Much Woman.

And if you are. . . I implore you to embrace all that you are—all of your depth, all of your vastness; to not hold yourself in, and to never abandon yourself, your bigness, your radiance.

Forget everything you’ve heard—your too much-ness is a gift; oh yes, one that can heal, incite, liberate, and cut straight to the heart of things.

Do not be afraid of this gift, and let no one shy you away from it. Your too much-ness is magic, is medicine. It can change the world.

Don’t believe me? Check this: All of your favorite women, the ones who’ve made history, the ones who’ve lent their voices for change and have courageously given themselves permission to be exactly who they are. Some examples: Oprah, Ronda Rousey, Beyoncé, Kali, Misty Copeland, Janet Mock, Mary Magdalene . . . they’re all Too Much Women.

So please, Too Much Woman: Ask. Seek. Desire. Expand. Move. Feel.Be.

Make your waves, fan your flames, give us chills.

Please, rise.
We need you.

Author: Ev’Yan Whitney

Disclaimer: there’s nothing wrong with having a corporate job

These days, if you’re hanging out with people similar to me and my network, you could easily get the impression that there is something sacred about quitting your job. As if that is the one right thing to do if only you were brave enough, the one true path for every authentic and genuine human. When I left my last job that was the truth for me. It was the one right thing to do. And I know that there is a crazy amount of people out there who are in the wrong place, working for the wrong company or working for any company just because they don’t dare leaving. And for them, quitting is the right choice and I’m fired up about it because I know they really need to be motivated and inspired.
But not because HAVING A JOB is wrong. The mere reason is that everyone and everything is better when we are authentic, when we do what we do wholeheartedly. Are you having a job that you truly love, where you feel engaged and believe in what the organisation stands for? GREAT! Congratulations! Hold on to it! Hating your job but got your eyes set on another? Quit and aim for that new dream job. Do you like your job most of the time and feel like its worth keeping it to support you when you’re figuring some things out and maybe look for something else later on? Good, keep on evaluating, and as time goes by only stay as long as it is really serving you. We all have times in our lives when we are figuring things out and need some space before we know where we are going next. During those times changing your job or quitting just because you started thinking about maaaaybe moving on to something else may just put you in turmoil and not give you the space you need to hear your heart’s voice. Heck, you might just find that you really want to stay with your current employer. Thats fine.As long as you are listening to your truth.That is my one message. Be true to yourself. Break the norms, or stick to them. Forget all about the box society put you in, or bring a pillow in there and cozy it up with a life that looks similar to most people you know. Leave the job, pack your bag, bring your trombone and your gold fish and travel your heart out as a street artist if that is what you long for deep inside. Or get that house with the white picket fence, get married, cover the fridge with photos of your kids, adopt a stray cat and enjoy your life as settled down in the suburbs. As long as that is what you really want with your whole heart. I’m happy for you.Breaking the norms is harder though. People will question what the hell you’re up to (how are you ever gonna afford a house on the money from your travelling gold fish circus? And what kind of life is that for your future kids? You don’t want a house and kids? Your are going to get over that shortly, and then you will regret that you didn’t listen to me and kept your job as a lawyer!). Society wasn’t made for people like you. It’s not expecting us, because we’re not in their system. We don’t fit in the boxes, we’re building our own reality around our own truth. This causes friction, questioning and usually a lot of soul-searching because the programming from the norms is relentless. It’s not going to be easy, but if it is your truth – it’s going to be worth it.Additionally, leaving your job, doing a couple of years of WHATEVER and then go back to a corporate job is also not wrong. 
The only thing sacred here, the only thing I hold as holy, is that you stay true. Be authentic. Listen to your heart. Be all you want to be. Don’t chicken out, don’t live a lesser life because of fear. Remember what is really true, important and valuable to you and don’t let norms, expectations or fear steer you off your path.
For me, in this phase of life, the regular job and the life in the 9-5 (where are those numbers from anyway, who in the corporate world ever works as little as 9-5?) is not the right thing. If I happen to find a job I truly want with my whole heart and decide to go for that, it’s not a failure – it’s a win!
 
Do your thing,
Hanna

Bootstrapping through wwoofing, workaway and helpX

When starting up your own business money is always going to be a challenge. We might not know when we will have an income again, how long we need to survive on savings. When I quit my job to become a freelancer I knew I needed space and time to make the change slowly. I needed time to think, I needed to land after having been stressed at work and – I really wanted to travel and enjoy life without freaking out over money.My way of travelling cheaply while creating plenty of time and space to build my business was to volunteer for food and accommodation. This was not only because it saved me money, it was an interesting way of travel and getting to do something hands on and outside after having spent years working in an office. This is my experience.

My destination of choice was Australia. Main reasons: I could easily get a work and holiday visa (only applicable until you turn 31 though!), I would easily blend in in the culture and wouldn’t have to struggle with language issues/bad wifi (well, so I thought, more on this below)/cultural clashes, plus Australia is huge and beautiful, meaning that I wouldn’t have to cross borders and struggle with different visas. I have been to Australia ten years ago as a 19-year old and did the main touristic stuff on a roadtrip along the east coast, and had always been thinking about coming back. Since my last time in Australia I have been travelling a lot. Cultural clashes, different languages and all kinds of travelling hardships and misadventures is not a big deal for me, BUT it certainly takes more energy and can be a bit limiting. For this time in life I was going to focus on building a business, and I wanted to have as much energy as possible for doing that whilst still having great experiences travelling. Thus: Australia it was!
WWOOF is an organisation that connects volunteers with organic farms. I had heard about people having great experiences wwoofing before, and thats what I went with when I first left. My first place was a small farm growing mainly strawberries and apricots. They also had ponies, goats and cows, a dog and two cats. Me and three other wwoofers stayed in a caravan each with shared kitchen, shower and toilet in separate buildings. The farm was situated 45 minutes from Hobart, the main city of Tasmania. Work hours were between 7-11 which left me plenty of spare time, meaning; time to go trekking in the mountains, to read, to think and to work on my business. I didn’t earn or spend much, but I felt rich in time, in experiences, in friendships – well, in life quality.
After a couple of weeks the traveller in me grew restless, and it was time to move on. I found another woofing-host, this time a family with a big garden wanting help with a little of everything. Their home is one of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever seen. It was me and a wonderful and superfine Chinese girl, whom found the host using helpX. We picked blueberries, poured honey into jars, labelled honey jars and berry boxes, cooked with vegetables fresh from the garden, made jams and did some weeding. But more importantly we went to the beach, visited the city market, tried home made cider, had great conversations and enjoyed life. It felt like visiting a friend and spending a couple of hours helping her in her garden. This wasn’t work. Again, we worked until lunch and except for the days when we went out on some kind of adventure together I had plenty of time to work on my business. I took it slowly. I even picked up playing the guitar after many years of not touching one.After some travelling in between (rather, attending a ten days acrobatics course). I moved on to a new place. I started using workaway instead of wwoofing now, mainly because their website is much easier to navigate. This time it was a ranch where they bred and trained endurance race horses. 48 horses, two dogs and a couple of cats and chickens were my new neighbours. Work now consisted of feeding, massaging, watering, longing, brushing and riding horses. This too wasn’t work to me. And again I had plenty of time. 

This might sound like all is good and easy, but there are certainly a few cons. Main one for me is wifi. Most places have wifi in one way or another. At my first place they didn’t have wifi, but it was close to the city so I spent a couple of days at the library or at a café to get stuff done. My second place had wifi in the main building and it worked really well. The only problem was that we stayed in a separate cabin, and I didn’t want to sit around in the living room all night or have loud digital meetings when the family wanted to be there. Thus, it was sometimes limiting and I didn’t have full control over my wifi accessibility. The race horse stable also had wifi in the main building and the situation was similar but worse. This was further out in the countryside and they didn’t have broadband. Hence, they used up their fast internet in ten days (typically enough, I arrived just after those ten days) and the rest of the month it was really slow and super frustrating, not really possible to work with online projects. During the night the internet was faster though, so I managed by getting up at 5 and sit outside not to wake the family up to be able to get an hour or two with faster wifi. Frustrating but doable. In addition, I had a mobile data plan so I wasn’t stuck, but it was of course more expensive to use mobile traffic. For me it worked out quite well despite wifi access often being frustrating. I found ways around it. Just make sure to get yourself informed on the wifi-situation before agreeing on going somewhere, if wifi is crucial for you. For me not having wifi actually sometimes helped me focus on some offline work, like writing and making some digital material for branding.

WHAT IS

WWOOF:

short for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. The website is old and not so smooth to navigate, although the app they have nowadays is slightly better. Here you find farm work, mostly smaller farms. They can have crops, animals, bee hives and more. There is a local organisation for each country, if you want to go to Australia you need to join the Australian branch and so on. Membership for a year costs 40 EUR. Main drawback is that you only join one country and have to pay again if you want to continue wwoofing elsewhere. Although, if you are really into organic farming and biodynamic agriculture, this is the one for you.

WORKAWAY: 

it’s hard to categorize the kind of work you find here, they have pretty much everything. Work in a hostel reception, baby sit, clean, help with digital marketing… you name it! Workaway allows visitors to browse the hosts and postings for free, but you need to pay a 23 EUR membership fee to contact hosts. The basic arrangement is 5 hours of work for 5 days a week in exchange for food and a accomodation. 

HELPX:

also has all kinds of work, although there seem to be a bias towards house keeping and child care and not so much farm work. You can only see postings for one country at a time but you can change country without having to sign up again, you just choose what location you want to see. Standard arrangement is 4 hours of work per day in exchange for food and a room, and a 2-year membership is 2o EUR. 

SOME ADVICE FOR A BETTER EXPERIENCE

I’ve heard of places having people work to many hours, not getting enough food or not getting decent accommodation. I’ve even heard of one person leaving a place because she wasn’t feeling safe. Although I believe those are the extreme exceptions, you want to make sure that your stay is pleasant, it is an exchange after all, not labour. My best recommendation is to go with your gut feeling. If there are reviews, read them. If a place seems good it probably is and worse case – if they don’t live up to what they said beforehand – you can just leave.

You can find pretty much everything on those websites: farm work, cafés, hostels, child care, people wanting help with building a website, photographing, construction work, painting, writing… If you have specific skills and want to use them, write them and tell them what you are good at and that might be exactly what they need. 

There are hosts in and near big cities as well as far out on the countryside. Know what you’re after so that you don’t end up in the middle of nowhere when what you actually wanted was to be able to go to the city every night. Also check the hours of work, the stated hours for the different organisations are just guidelines. Ask potential hosts about their place if you need to, if you and your future host know what to expect no one will get disappointed.

Note that you can find many hosts on two or all of these websites. If you are into organic farming you should join WWOOF, but otherwise go with either HelpX or Workaway. Personally I joined WWOOF and Workaway, but if you ask me today I might have joined Workaway only. That said, I am super grateful for some contacts I got through wwoofing, and if you read or heard of a place that you really want to go to – choose based on that instead of the organisation. And join all of them if you find attractive hosts that are not on one or the other, after all the fee is low compared to what you get if you plan on staying for a couple of weeks.

Don’t forget that there’s nothing wrong with building a business slowly. Overnight success takes years of preparation!

Happy bootstrapping!

Hanna