Winter at the Mediterranean Sea: an encouragement

This can be winter at the Mediterranean: Cappuccino at a lonely beach …

 

For many people a winter holiday at the Mediterranean Sea is not interesting at all. Either they want to go for winter sports on the more or less snow covered mountains, or directly further away in direction of Asia, Middle America or on the other side of the world, to travel after the summer.

On the other side there are many cheap offers, all-inclusive or just the flights and then you might to consider such a trip. But what do you have to expect and: is a winter trip to the Mediterranean worth it? Here I try to find an answer.

The good news are, that the weather is way warmer than in middle Europe. With a bit luck – sunshine and temperatures around 20 degree. During nights temperatures drop only in exceptional cases to the freezing point. Swimming is then only for the hard-boiled, but to spend the day outside, reading, going for walks or visiting attractions is perfect. Not to mention the incredible calm in comparison to other seasons.

… blooming meadows …

 

With a bit bad luck it can happen, that it rains cats and dogs for several days, maybe even with strong wind. As most of the houses are not built for cold and wet, this can get uncomfortable.

Regarding the weather everything is possible. From days of sunshine with temperatures above 20 degrees to several days of rain showers with strong wind.

The best thing about the mild winter is the blooming nature. The landscapes are green – full with flowers, a blaze of colours, the air is clearer and the clear views can be breathtaking. It is a perfect time to visit attractions, and to be on your own while visiting archaeological sites or other attractions. It is also good for hiking, although not in the mountains – as there will be snow in higher altitudes.

Tips

  • Head far enough in the south, as it might get too cold otherwise. As rule of thumb I would say not more to the north than Rome.
  • The coldest time is usually from mid-December to  end of January. This is also the time with the most rain. North Africa is especially good at this time.

… and a nice fire to warm up.

 

  • Don’t forget warm clothes, fleece, a good raincoat and sturdy shoes
  • Search for an accommodation with heatable rooms. This is going to be the air condition very often, but the main point is to get it a bit warmer.
  • Is there a nice common area in the accommodation, to sit, chat, read or drink a beer in the evening? This is especially nice around a homely open fire in the evenings.

Tu sum it up: For those who want mainly to spend their holiday (sun)bathing at the beach, warmer places would be the better choice. But for all the others it is worth considering.

 

 

Slow travel (2): How to – some ideas and tips

Street cafes – a really nice invention

 

To travel slow has many advantages, as described in this post. It is fun and more relaxing. Today I continue with advices and tips.

The good thing is: each activity can stand on its own. Even if we are – for what reason ever – on the rush, it is nice, to find in between at least small steps to take it slower. Just try it!

And: if you are not traveling at the moment, you can try one or the other thing at home. There is a lot to see around the corner.

 

Stay longer at one place

Stay a few days longer and try one of the tips below. Maybe you want to experience a second accommodation, enlarges the perspective.

 

Walk

Just start to walk, along the beach or explore the quarter around the hostel. There is always something to discover. I also like to walk in direction of an attraction – a broad look at the itinerary and then I am off.

 

Rent a bike

Especially in rural areas the ideal mean of transport to an easy going exploring, but with a higher radius than by foot.

 

Make a break – in hot countries especially over noon

Sit down for half an hour or so, and let the attractions impress you – and often you even find benches. Street cafes – my passion. Sitting and watching life going by. Or just taking some rest in the hotel room or on the balcony. We need time, also to “digest” all the things we have seen.

 

Strolling around markets – always an experience

 

Visit a market and cook something

Have a look at the local products, by some fresh vegetables and fruits and cook something. Of course this is not possible everywhere, but in many hostels, there are kitchens nowadays.

 

Search details

On the street, at the beach, in temples or in cafes. Let your eyes wander and look closer. This is not only an exercise in mindfulness, it also leads to new insights.

 

Make photos with intention

And this leads me to the next. When you make photos don’t just click quickly and then move away to the next sight. Search for and find new perspectives, lighting conditions and details (see above). The results are not only better photos, but also a new view on well attended and photographed attractions or on every day life.

 

Attend courses, activities

I am a fan of cooking and yoga classes, but everything is possible of course. Cinema, theater, language classes or street parties – a look at local newspaper opens up a whole new spectrum of possibilities – and enables new experiences not listed in your guidebook – not to mention the nice people you are going to meet.

 

Go to the “fringes” of a destination

Especially in India I found this interesting. At beach villages or in smaller tourist spots there might be a whole new world opening up.

 

Travel by bus and train – also during the day

It is quite popular to travel with night-bus or -train to the next destination. Of course the advantages are not to dispute (saving one hotel night and arrival in the morning, when there are enough free beds available), I still prefer to travel during the day. Zooming through the landscape, the bustling activity  during the stopovers are always part of my travel highlights. Especially good for trips up to six hours.

And what are your tips?

 

 

 

Slow Travel (1): Five reasons for decelerated trips

Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place (Rumi)

 

It was in Hampi (India) the place I learnt to love so much, when I sat down in one of the many restaurants to drink a chai in order to escape the midday heat. There I met a young man who traveled the “whole” Indian subcontinent in six weeks. Well I suppose it was less the whole subcontinent than a travelling through the Lonely Planet highlights.

We started to chat and we told each other about our travels. He was surprised to hear about my slow way of traveling. I could really watch him realising, what he was missing alone in Hampi, because he was there only for three days, hurrying through the temples and of course by renting a rickshaw alone every day.

But what are the advantages of traveling slow and how can you do that? Here the attempt of an answer.

 

1. Experience destinations in a different way

When you stay longer at places or attractions, you can experience them in a complete different way. No ticking off of temples, museums or townscapes but instead diving in, feeling with all senses, making breaks and just resting at good places – all this enables deeper and awe-inspiring experiences. And you don’t have to ask yourself which persons you met at which places, or which attractions have been where.

 

Make a break (Pai, Thailand)

 

Many of us want to see as many different things as possible within a short time-frame, under the motto “Who knows, if I ever come back”. But this does not work, as there are always more places, you want to see – no matter how much in a hurry you are traveling, and how much attractions you see on one day. If you see it like this, traveling on your own initiative is always a decision against something, and it might be wise to experience the places you decide for with all senses. The good news: There is always something to see, as you want to see more, the more you are traveling. And on the spot you often find more options for sightseeing and activities, which are not mentioned in your guidebook.

I met on my travels many people who were sad, because they had not enough time for the single places and all – no matter how speedy they were traveling – had activities or places on their list, which they couldn’t do. It is as always: the decision for something is also the decision against something else.

 

2. Meeting people

The small shop at the corner, the “favourite” pub, or the guest house owner. If you stay longer than two, three days on a place you meet more people. Of course travelers but also locals – insights in every day life and nice chats are way more easier.

 

3. To be left alone

In countries where it is usual to be chatted up is part of the daily routine, it can be a relief to stay longer at a place. The main actors (taxi and rickshaw resp. tuk-tuk drivers, street vendors and other “friends”) remember faces and persons quickly according to my experience and leave you alone on the third day at the latest.

 

4. Traveling cheaper

This might be an important one. To stay at less places for a longer time reduces of course the transport costs. Same is true for walking or renting a bycicle instead taking a driver for one day. Sometimes it is also possible to negotiate the price of your guesthouse, when you intend to stay longer.

And if you take a bit of time for some research on the spot you might find the really good and/or cheap offers. Those are not always the most obvious.

Additionally it is also less likely that you are ripped off. I think mainly because at the latest after two days you  not only know the pricing structures but also the local tricks.

 

5. And last but not least. because our world is fast enough anyway.

Really. There is no reason to be as busy as at home on travels. It does good to do nothing sometimes, and this works nowhere better, than when you are on the road. Travelling as intentional contrast programme to the often hectic every day life enables not only different experiences and deeper insights but also a more relaxed view at our environment – also after returning home.

 

*****

Which reasons for slow travels do you have? I’m looking forward to your comment.

And next here practical tips how to travel slow…

 

 

 

 

Travelling in India as women alone – including some tips

In India there are mostly more men than women on the streets (Jaipur)

 

I took so many good advices with me to India – about right behaviour, being chatted up and the status of women. All this might help to alleviate the culture shock, but it does not prevent it. And although you can for example read everywhere, that wearing Indian clothes is the better choice, I was still astonished which difference it made – in the perception of my counterpart namely.

And of course it is then difficult to retrace, that a free belly under the loose sari goes absolutely without saying, while the free shoulders or a wider decollete often trigger more than lecherous eyes. Many female tourists don’t realise that, others adapt and some enjoy that also.

Especially at the beach this is striking. Wherever a foreign women wears swimming clothes outside from the main tourist ghettos, it will attract a bigger or smaller group of men (well at least two in any case). These guys are looking, passing by and holding each others hands or shoot photos without any embarrassment.

 

Tip 1 – Wear appropriate clothes (really) – and use a scarf

It sounds so simple and old fashioned, but it is true. You are simply perceived in another way and you meet people on “eye level”.  I felt even better, when I bought my first Indian blouse (kurta) and combined this with soft trousers. In these clothes I always felt well and “dressed”. A light scarf is a good friend for all kind of situations – protects against the sun, looks and sometimes from air condition – I always had one in my day pack.

It is not foreseen to be alone

There is something additional for women traveling alone. I’ve often been asked, during my bus and train rides, where my companion is. Many Indian men ( and I suppose women too, but they usually do not start a chat) cannot imagine a woman traveling alone – without male protection. This can sometimes evoke a very helpful protective instinct.

 

Tip 2 – Ask for help actively

I often asked for the right bus or the right address, which had as consequence that the addressed person took me under his wings until I sat in the right bus or until I was on the right place. With time you get a feeling to ask the right persons, speaking a bit English and willing to help without hidden agenda.

Completely different gender relations

Women in India have a complete different status than in western countries. The female image is traditional and the genders are separated in a stricter way. To get to know each other better, or to touch each other before the marriage, is not foreseen, while at the same time the gender gap is increasing. That means because of targeted abortion and negligence, there are less women. This hinders the battle against children marriage (which is still widespread in the economic weaker North). And in many states there are almost no women on the street. Detailed information about the situation of women in India is available on Wikipedia.

All this can explain, why women travelling alone are often looked at, as if they came from another planet Additionally family has in India a much higher significance and importance than in European countries. Nobody is left alone – there is always someone from the family present, for most people the only available safety net.  To leave someone alone, is not foreseen. I met for example in the train a young man, whose parents moved to his city after he managed to find a job far away from home in the south.

 

Tip 3: Sometimes it is helpful to have a story ready.

Because of all this reasons it can be helpful to have a “story” ready. I told for example, that I am a widow. This had a huge impact on my conversational partners, and I was left in peace then in a different way and with respect.

Many tell about husbands or parents, which stood in the hotel just on that day. The clou is for sure to relate to an Indian husband, whereupon I would suggest to know a bit the country, its people and to speak one language, if you do that – it could be embarrassing otherwise. But I did not always talk about myself being a widow. This has to be appraised from case to case, because for many people the western lifestyle is not a closed book. Sticking to the truth can be the start of interesting conversations.

 

Differences in cities and tourist regions

In big cities you find a different picture. Here I met many young women, well educated and fluent in English, with western clothes, who even might drink a beer in the evening. These women transport a picture of a changing country, and I am very grateful for these contacts and experiences.

It makes also a difference how far the travelled regions are in their touristic development. The more touristic a region is, the more the relation between solo traveling women and male residents is changing. The interaction is more open and informal. Nobody is going to be surprised that this leads to one or the other affair – but this is another story.

 

Tip 4: Search the women

At a cooking class in a private household next to Hampi

 

In some states like in Kerala it is easy. Here the women are more self-confident, can be seen more often on the streets and many of them speak English. This makes an exchange quite accessible (Have a look at my article about Kerala). I made also good experiences with cooking classes. They enable fascinating and authentic insights in female living environments and a special intimacy arises via the common work and eating. I also had a unique encounter in Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), where I met an inspiring women. She byes the crafts from the surrounding villages and sells them in her small shop in a narrow street. The chat I had in this shop, sitting on a beautiful carpet, has reconciled me in a way, as I started to get really angry about the obvious discrimination of women in Rajasthan.

Conclusion

I met in India way more women traveling alone than in South-East- Asia. The question why this is so, is interesting, but would go beyond the scope here. It is remarkable that many travelers are in some search of themselves, of their path of life and understand their trip as spiritual search. And in comparison to South East Asia India is a more direct and intuitive experience. Here people stare at you and often you will be in the middle of attention – so you may experience yourself in a different way. The right blend between open acceptance of interesting opportunities and due caution is in my opinion one of the biggest and most interesting challenges, India can give you.

 

Further reading:

My top tips for women traveling to India: A good and extensive article, full with tips from one of the leading travel blogger about India.

Happy, safe solo traveling – India by yourself: Detailed and full with information, not only for women – worth reading!

Five reasons why travelling in India is not so scary: A  beautiful article – I especially like the focus on how amiable and helpful many Indians are.

The women traveling solo question: An excellent article, showing that staying at home is way more dangerous, as most of the violence against women take place in their direct social environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying a lot, saying goodbye and new shores

Looking back – Turkey under clouds

 

Sometimes I am not travelling slowly but really fast – almost in Warp drive. For example, the last few days. After more than five months in Turkey, I arrived on Saturday safe and sound in Vienna – by drizzling rain an just a few degrees above freezing.

The next day very early on a plane and jetted to Spain. There I am going to houasesiet from end of January for at least two months – a beautiful house with a large garden. A day later I was back in Vienna. And today straight to Salzburg – again only for two days.

… and forward. Spain I am coming (soon).

 

Now I am tired. Sitting in wet and cold Vienna and trying to handle all the impressions from the last days. I am already missing Turkey and try to find the energy for all the stuff I have to do.

The next month is a time of transition. I am going to dissolve my appartment in Salzburg (too expensive, as I am only using it for a few weeks per year), and in the same time built up a small base in Vienna, for a stopover between my trips to rest and for repacking.

With all this hustle and bustle I am happy to celebrate christmas with family and friends for the first time since quite some years – although the wet and cold weather is difficult for me. And here on this blog I am going to continue with reports from Turkey and elsewhere. Soon.

Notes about my semi-nomadic lifestyle

 

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

 

A semi-nomadic life, always on the road, an existence as a vagabond – a lot of people are surprised when I tell them about my chosen lifestyle. Most people I know want to take roots, build something up, and to live in a (selfchosen) community.

I always had  the desire to be on the way, to travel, to linger, to explore a landscape, city or region, and then move on, in search of new impressions and impulses. For many years  traveling  was for me the most important triviality in the world – taking every opportunity to travel,  whenever possible adding a  weekend during business trips and, of course, travel  long as possible during holidays.

But I never got enough. Southeast Asia for two months, later five months in India –  and there’s always more to see. In consequence of all the travelling I start to look different at things. I’m interested in the big picture and in small details. Less and less I want to travel in a hurry and instead prefer to stay longer, sometimes even weeks, in a place. Travelling slowly does not only mean to visit fewer places in a certain amount of time, but also to explore by foot or on bycicle.

“I want my life to consist only of travel” – what I actually knew for a long time, I realized it for real during my five-month trip to India. I  don’t want to stay at one place for eleven months, just to see in the 12th month, what I missed in the preceding time. I want to spend my life in different places – and I can strike roots temporarily – like now in Turkey, where I will stay until before Christmas in a lovely cottage in the forest.

Then I am going to  spend 6 weeks in Austria. Because this is also important to me – not to lose touch with my roots. But in February, the wind and my desire to travel will drive me forward again.

The financing of this is done with a  mixture of work (online and on “the way”) and sometimes in kind (such as food and housing) and saving(which of course is easier in countries with a lower purchasing power …)

How long this lifestyle is going to please me is written in the stars. Currently, I want to live in nature and to spend as much time as possible outdoors – and I am very grateful that I have  at present good opportunities to pursue this wish. Everything else the future will tell.

Silent days in Agonda

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Cow at the beach

A small village on the coast of Goa – a Catholic church, small hotels on the beach with cabins, a few restaurants, private guesthouses. At the beach, more cows than people and more locals than tourists.

I’m accommodated in Simrose,  a nice place to arrive – in a breezy beach cottage overlooking the sea, with a mosquito net included.  At that moment I think, that the 1,000 rupees (about 15 €) I pay are very cheap. That will change in a few days later.

For me, the days are ideal for acclimatization. I practice yoga at the resort next door, hang out in cushion landscapes and read a lot. And the sea of course – the Arab by the way – I have not seen such waves for a long time. Swimming  is not really possible as they are really high. But one can well jumping along them. It’s also fun.

The best in Goa are the sunsets- as everyone tells me, because at almost all beaches the sun goes down over the sea. This considerably increases the pair density, as it seems to me. Accordingly, the beaches are very hot in the afternoon and have no shade.

 

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Sunset a la Goa

One afternoon I’m going to the busy neighboring beach Palolem, and I realize that I’ve made the right choice with the village of Agonda. But the bustling beach life there is also nice to visit.

 

Palolem Beach

Busz life in Palolem

 

A colorful mixture of Nations on the beach, cricket between umbrellas and cows, and restaurants with cuisine from around the world flock, a busy, yet peaceful atmosphere.
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Cricket in Palolem

 

In Palolem, I meet Wilson from Kerala. With him I’m driving for one day to secluded beaches – Turtle conservation areas where there are only restaurants but no accommodation. These beaches are calm, even lonely. Especially the second beach where the restaurants are hidden in a pine grove, is my favorite. And Wilson is not only a good guide but knows also about fish. With keen eye he chooses one, who will then be served Goan style with rice, dhal and salad. And we feast sort of into the sunset.

 

Fisch Goan Style

Fish Goan Style

 

Over the clouds – Thoughts on traveling

“I have never thought so much, existed so much, lived so much, been so much myself, if I may venture to use the phrase, as in the journeys which I have made alone and on foot. […] I can scarcely think when I remain still; my body must be in motion to make my mind active…[t]he absence of all that makes me conscious of my dependent position, of all that reminds me of my condition—all this sets my soul free, gives me greater boldness of thought, throws me, so to speak, into the immensity of things, so that I can combine, select and appropriate them at pleasure, without fear or restraint.”

(Jean Jacques Rousseau)

I’m sitting in an airplane, looking  at snowy hills and enjoying the view. Again I am wondering, what makes this charm of traveling. And at he moment  I unpack my notebook, I realize that this view from above the plane is  a metaphor fo rme. I “lift” myself up above things and may reflect them, but I am by no longer part of them. Or as my friend D. says so beautifully, when traveling is one is alway a bit on the side. This feeling is  particularly strong during  long train or bus rides,  when reading is only a short-term option.

 

 

Breakfast table in a guesthouse in Krabi (Thailand)

As the means of transport get  slower, the reflection leads me increasingly back to myself –  I move everything, which is in my mind, around  in my head back and forth, analyze myself and my surroundings from the front and back, until everything dissolves by itself until  I only walk or cycle – and nothing else – what a treat. And that’s probably the reason why pilgrims have in all world religions as a high priority.