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This Jet Lag Thing…

May 3, 2016

“How will I ever survive today”? I thought on the plane back home from New York, when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to sleep before we arrived in Copenhagen. Now I finally understand why people fly business class! I can’t sleep in an upright position so I stayed awake during the entire flight, trying my best to get at least a quick power nap, but soon realized that was never going to happen. I watched the movie Carol (which is great btw and oh, the costumes! True 50’s extravaganza), played some games, and watched a few series and then we finally arrived, ahead of time and everything.

Before going to New York, I had never flown more than 5 hours and never experienced jet lag. The first night in New York, we watched a Bond movie, fell asleep at 9pm (3am Scandinavian time), and woke up at 4 am. It took a few days but we managed to turn it around pretty well. So I thought that maybe I could handle this jet lag thing after all and thought I’d handle it well the other way around too. But boy, was I wrong.

My body doesn’t really know what’s happening to it. I sleep four hours at the time and feel hungover for 7-12 hours before I finally get four more hours of sleep. Yesterday I ate spaghetti and ketchup for breakfast AND secondbreakfast (it’s a thing, I swear). I feel sick, tired, and occasionally want to cry. Needless to say, I can’t wait for this jet lag thing to pass and for things to go back to normal.

Photo: Alyssa/Flickr creative commons

Food, Places I've Been, Travel

The world’s best burger at Superiority Burger, New York

April 27, 2016

Even before I had booked my trip for New York, I knew I had to try the burger that GQ dubbed “The world’s best burger” late last year. I never get to try all those fancy burger which is a shame for a foodie like myself, but I jumped from joy when I learned that this burger is actually vegetarian. So today we headed to East Village and found it. Superiority burger is located right next to a cat shelter with crazy cute cats hanging out in the window. There weren’t that many people there so we ordered and received our food pretty quickly.

superiority burger new york

You can stay there and eat, although it’s very small, or take the food with you, which we did. We went to Tompkins Square park and sat on one of the benches while we enjoyed our burgers in the sun. A perfect lunch! We were surprised at how small the burgers are, they’re more like slide rs, but they were really, really good. The patty is fully vegan and no one knows what it’s made from but it has a really nice texture. The dressing has a bit of a sting to it and vegans can choose to get vegan cheese on top. All food at Superiority Burger is vegetarian and some is accidentally vegan – however, all vegetarian meals can be made vegan.

Superiority Burger is located on 430 East 9th St, New York

DSC_1598

…the first bite

The world's best burger

Jacob right outside of Superiority Burger and the cat shelter

Superiority burger NYC

Corner of Avenue A & 9th Street

Places I've Been, Travel

Throwback Thursday: My Spring In Spain

March 31, 2016
moving to spain

One of the best things I ever did was deciding to move to Spain for a while when I was 19. I had just finished school, didn’t know what to do next, and didn’t have a full-time job or an apartment. I decided it was the perfect time to move to another country for a while. I had long been wanting to go to the US but that kind of move would require a visa and more money than I had. Spain was warm and only a four hour flight from home – plus, I had always wanted to learn Spanish. I applied for a job, got it, and a month later, on February 28 in 2007,  I landed in sunny Málaga with a suitcase, a boyfriend and a mind set on a new adventure.

Getting settled

When you’re moving abroad, people will tell you to get as many things fixed in beforehand as you can. We didn’t. We had a job and a little money for the first month or so but that was about it. We had no place to stay and we didn’t know anybody there. So after our first night in a hostel in Fungirola we went apartment hunting and only managed to find a really horrible, small room in a run down hotel by the promenade. I don’t want to go into details out of respect for anyone reading this, but trust me when I say it was absolutely disgusting, but we really didn’t have a choice but to move in.

Ronda, Spain

On a visit in Ronda

We had a few days to settle in before we started our new jobs. We fixed some practical things like a bank account and a social security number and were excited to start our new job with our fantastic new colleagues, who were also young Swedes. Unfortunately three hours into my first working day, I realized that telemarketing just wasn’t for me. So I quit. It was the shortest job I think anyone’s ever had and it’s really not like me to give up on something so quickly, but when I know something’s not right for me, there’s nothing that can keep me there. Oh well, you live and you learn!

Everyday life

I started taking Spanish classes instead in a neighbouring city called Benalmádena to where I commuted every day. I had really, really good teachers and learned Spanish rather quickly. I got to know a really nice fellow from Japan, but he was only there for a few weeks and I was left with two other students: one elderly, Canadian man, who didn’t understand that Pablo is a Spanish name, not a word, and a German girl who barely spoke English. And then, one day, a new Swedish girl, Caroline, started and we instantly became BFF’s. For lunch we’d buy olives and bread, and lay on our school’s sunchairs while talking about everything. Sometimes we’d go to her place after school, a big villa with a pool and view of Morocco, and sometimes I’d go back to Fuengirola and soak up the sun on the Los Boliches beach while  listening to Amy Winehouse.

After somehow sticking out a month in our horrible little room, we managed to find a proper apartment in Fuengirola, in the lovely little neighbourhood called Los Boliches. We lived on a street we dubbed “Alex street”. There was Alex, my boyfriend, Alex, the Cuban ex-boxer turned bartender who owned the bar on one corner of the street, and Alex, the Polish fast-food chef who owned the fast food joint on the other end of the street. We’d eat at Polish Alex’ place (I’d always have french fries with ketchup and quickly gained weight but it was the only vegetarian thing they had) and we’d drink mojitos at Cuban Alex’ place.

One evening we got robbed by a gang of young guys who were hanging out on our street, clearly looking for trouble. They came from nowhere and punched Alex (the boyfriend) in the face while the others grabbed his wallet from his pocket. Before I had a chance to react, Alex (Cuban bartender) came out of his bar with a baseball bat and screamed profanities at the idiots who robbed us so they ran away. Afterwards I called the police, and since they didn’t speak any English I had to explain what had happened in the little Spanish I’d learned. When the police arrived they managed to find them and one of the robbers was busted for marijuana possession. What’s that word….? Oh yeah, karma.

One of my fondest memories from this time is this homeless man in Fuengirola who took it upon him to also take care of homeless dogs (So sweet!). He’d wander around with an old pram, carrying his few belongings and 6-7 sleeping dogs. One of the dogs was really fat, or so we thought until one day 4 puppies joined the homeless man and his little family grew bigger. This man is to this day one of my personal heroes. Not only did he take care of those dogs even though he barely had food for himsel, he always smiled at people as he walked by, always fed his dogs before eating himself, and once I saw him helping a woman in a wheelchair up a slope. He never expected anything back – no food, no money and not even a smile. But when he got either of these things he was always grateful and kind. Even on days when I felt really blue and sick of it all, I would always lighten up whenever I saw the homeless man with his dog friends and think that the world isn’t such a horrible place after all. It can’t be when there are people like him. I wasn’t the only one impressed by the man. Once when we were shopping for groceries we saw him walk in with a middle-aged woman, carrying a shopping cart. Turns out, she bought him a whole shopping cart full of food, dog food, water, clothes and much more and I will always remember the smile he had walking out of the grocerie store that day.

Exploring southern Spain

While Fuengirola is great, I really wanted to see as much of southern Spain as possible, and we had access to a car so we took every opportunity to travel. We visited Marbella and Puerto Banús where all the rich people would enjoy oysters in the restaurants while the not-so-rich gathered around to admire their Lamborghinis. We visited Estepona, although I have no idea what we did there. We visited Málaga, home town of Pablo Picasso, the beautiful white village of Mijas, wonderful Granada where we wanted to visit Alhambra but arrived a few minutes too late. We drove all the way to Sevilla, which we really loved – I still want to go back some day and visit it again. We saw the majestic, scary bridge in Ronda. And of course, we went to Gibraltar where monkeys roamed free in the mountains.

Sevilla, Spain

Gorgeous details on a bridge on the Plaza de España

Sevilla Andalucia

The Plaza de España

Sevilla, Spain

A younger me visiting Plaza de España in Seville

We experienced Spanish easter, Semana Santa, in Málaga with a huge parade and golden statues of Jesus carrying the cross. The weather shifted from rainy and cold-ish to sunny and really hot. Slowly we got to know more and more people, we developed routines, had favorite restaurants and a favorite spot on the beach. Spain started to feel like home.

My Spanish course ended in June and believe it or not but I ~almost~ spoke fluent Spanish after around three months. But end of school also meant end of money and we began to long for Sweden again. Sure, Spain was beautiful, sunny and fun but it wasn’t entirely easy to live there either, especially when you do not eat meat (I gained around 8 kilos in 4 months), the only job options for us back then involved telemarketing and frankly, the heat by the end of June was a bit too much for me. So we packed our things, partied one last night with our Swedish friends and managed to make it on the flight back home in the nick of time. It was only four months of my life, but I remember that time of my life so vividly thanks to all the things I got to experience living abroad. Despite living in Fuengirola, which is occupied by Scandinavians, I learned much about Spanish culture and the Spaniards thanks to my school. I got to know wonderful people who I still keep in touch with. And most importantly, I made memories for a lifetime.

gibraltar-ronda

Left: Gibraltar from the Siege Tunnels

Travel

7 Moneysaving Tips for Traveling in Europe

March 1, 2016

So you’re visiting Europe for a few weeks/months and want to experience the most of it although you’re on a tight budget? No problem! Here are a few moneysaving tips for traveling in Europe:

  1. Choose your destination with care: Some countries/cities in Europe are cheaper to visit than others, so choose your destination/s with care. Eastern Europe is much cheaper than say France or Scandinavia, both in terms of travel costs, but also in terms of food, hotels/hostels, and shopping. If you absolutely want to visit say France, Sweden and Italy, look up which months are the cheapest to visit. In e.g. Italy restaurants have different menus depending on when you arrive, where the only thing that’s changed is the price tag of the meal. Generally, it’s cheaper to visit Europe during October-March.
  2. Book in advance and compare prices: Book your flights, trains, and hotels in advance and you’ll be able to save a lot of cash. Use services such as hotels.com, momondo.com or trivago.com to compare prices on your flights and stays – there is a lot of money to save this way.
  3. Hotels/hostels/AirBnb: Hostels are often the cheapest to stay at anywhere in Europe, whereas AirBnb can be fairly expensive (often exceeding hotel room costs). If you don’t want to sleep in the same room as others, you can look for hostels with private rooms. Also check out booking.com for private accomodation in bed & breakfasts, these places by far have the cheapest rooms per night in at least Croatia and other countries where there aren’t that many hotels. You’ll often be able to find rooms that are cheaper and nicer than in hostels.
  4. Transportation: Flights can be really cheap if you book in advance, especially budget air lines like RyanAir, WizzAir and EasyJet. These are often cheaper than trains and save you a lot of time. Buses are however the cheapest, but of course also take a lot of your time. However, you can find overnight buses that will take you to your destination while you sleep – plus you’ll save money on accomodation that night! Also, and this might go without saying, always take a bus/train transfer (whichever is the cheapest) from the airport, and never go for a taxi. As far as transport on site, public transport is often the cheapest way to get around. See if you can get a specific tourist pass or 48 hour pass – many of these also include great offers on museums etc.
  5. Eat like a local: If you can, cook your meals at the hostel – this is by far the cheapest alternative. Otherwise, you will be able to find cheap food even in fairly expensive cities like Oslo and Paris – look for “ethnic” food like falafel places, Indian, and local fast food. Never eat in town squares or tourist-packed areas as prices are always on the hefty side around those places. Instead you can go explore the outskirts of the city you’re in – don’t be afraid to wander around, and you’ll find amazing local restaurants. Get your food to go and sit down in a park or on the street for some great people watching.
  6. Drink tap water: In most places in Europe it’s okay (and encouraged) to drink the tap water. Buying water is just wasteful when you have perfectly fine water in your sink. Fill a plastic bottle and always have it at hand.
  7. Party plan: Make a budget for partying, as this can sometimes be a bit more expensive than you think. Buy beer, wine or liquor in grocery stores and start your partying at home before you head out for a bar or nightclub. Look up some places you can visit without breaking the bank in whatever city you’re in. Some places may require an entry fee, some are just overall expensive and some are really, really cheap, so planning where you’re going can definitely pay off.

7 moneysaving tips for traveling in euripe

 

Top picture: Unknown source.
Bottom picture of Paris by Moyan Brenn (Creative Commons)

Motivational, Personal, Places I've Been, Travel

When I Fell in Love with Traveling

February 7, 2016

This year is going to be my year of traveling. After years of trying to find what makes me happy (as in really, really, madly happy) I’ve learned that traveling is one of those rare things that fulfills me. And after the last couple of months, which have been really difficult, I’ve promised myself to do a lot more of what makes me happy. The thing is though, I still have a job to keep; I’m not blessed with untold riches so I also need to fund my expensive hobby. However, my happiness is not in traveling all the time. I’m quite content with having an everyday life where I can put my knowledge to the test at my work, binge watch Homeland any given Sunday, cook food, pet my beloved cats and long home for the weekend just to be able to open up a bottle of wine. But I get bored quickly and need a trip to look forward to every now and then.

I have always been curious of the world, of other people and other cultures. I wanted to explore it all but always put my traveling plans aside due to insufficient funds and no friends who shared this passion. So it wasn’t until 2009, when I was 22 years old, that I fell in love with traveling. It was me, my best friend at the time, and a rented scooter in the island of Rhodes, Greece.

I had a rough year; I saw the end of a relationship, me suddenly living alone and paying all the bills, getting out of a depression and having almost daily panic attacks. All the while, I was running my own company and studied full-time at the university. Ambition is my middle name! So when summer came, I really needed a break. I took a week out of my schedule (which is difficult when you’re the one in charge of your own salary) and decided that I needed to get away. Badly. My sister worked and lived in Rhodes at the time, so me and my then-BFF decided to go there for a week. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I was single, had finally started to feel better and learned to handle those panic attacks and my finances were finally looking okay, so there was no stopping me. I was set on having fun. We lived in a pretty nice room with a huge terrace with the most amazing sunset (see picture below). We could see all the way to Turkey from there. During the days we hung out on the beach, read books and ate ice lollies. We laughed. We ate a lot of Nutella on white bread. We fought and made up. We Googled people we met the night before. We befriended the parrot in the hotel reception and tried to learn it dirty Swedish words. I guess it wasn’t appreciated though, because the parrot started to catcall men passing our hotel any time we were by the open windows.

Falling in love with traveling

Amazing sunset from our hotel room in Rhodes.

One day we decided to explore the island and rented a scooter. I have no idea what kind of scooter they gave us because we were able to drive at more than 100 km/h, which we of course did all the time. She drove, I sat behind her holding on for dear life. Truth is, my friend did have a license for driving it, just not one that was valid in Greece. So we kindly begged someone with a real driver’s license to rent it for us while we hid around the corner. It worked.

We’d spot a little path somewhere and drive down it just to see where it would lead. Sometimes it was somebody’s house, painted in traditional white and blue, other times it was an olive tree or beautiful beaches where we went for a swim before we hopped on our little ride again, off to the next place we found. We’d slow down and say hi to the goats that were literally everywhere, wave to hot guys we saw. At one point a car came towards us, driving in the wrong direction and we had nowhere to go. I held on to my friend’s waist and thought that was it. We were going to die. But the car steered away and as we finally relaxed and thanked our lucky star that we were okay I said “It wouldn’t have mattered if we had died, because I finally felt like I would at least die happy”. That was the truth. There was nowhere I would rather have been than exploring a Greek island with my best friend at that time and it forced me to live in the moment and not to worry about what was waiting when I came back home. I still believe that living in the moment, as cliché as it may sound, is the key to happiness.

Rhodes

My sister and I back in 2009 (how do you like my glasses?)

Acropolis in Rhodes

The Acropolis in Rhodes

Whenever I go traveling, every problem, worry and bad thought seems to vanish and I only think about how I am going to make the most out of those days. Next week doesn’t matter. It’s all about enjoying life as it is right now, in the place I am right now. There’s something very peaceful about that.

Here’s to 2016 – my year of travels.

/Anja

 

Travel

My Travel Bucket List – The Top 10

November 20, 2015
New york skyline

If I could be one of those really, really artistic persons who writes a book once every ten years and can live off it, that’s what I would do. And when I’m not writing my future bestseller novel, I would be traveling the world with people I love (of course, I would be so rich none of my friends would need to have a job so that they can travel with me, haha), discovering what so many others already have discovered, but in my own way. I would eat at fabulous restaurants, take fancy cooking classes, go to wine tastings and go truffle hunting with one of those truffle dogs. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be. Unfortunately, I am not one of those super-skilled, bestselling writers. And despite my childhood goals and dreams, I am not super rich either. So I will have to keep my 9-5 and take every chance I get, every vacation week I have, to go travelling the world. So far, despite being a student most of my life, I have managed to travel to France, Germany, Spain, England, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, and Bosnia. But there are sooo many cities left to visit. So many good restaurants left to try. So many pictures to take. So much wine to drink… You get the drift. Anyway, here’s my top 10 travel bucket list, in no particular order:

New York
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been wanting to go to this magical city. I’ve been singing “New York State of Mind” by Jay Z so loud in clubs, Americans have approached me, thinking  I was one of them. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something drawing me towards New York, despite the stress and the many people there. I want to eat in one of those hipster restaurants, try the world’s best best (vegan!) burger, drink cocktails in some fancy new bar, drive in a yellow cab, see 30 Rock, go to the Jimmy Fallon taping, go for a walk in Central Park, shop ’til I drop, party on rooftop terraces and maybe run into Lena Dunham, my dream BFF. Anyhow, I’ve decided I’m going there in 2016. It’s time to start living 😉

Tokyo
I’ve been wanting to go to Japan ever since I was 16 and watched my first anime movie. I want to visit in spring, when the cherry blossom’s in full spring. I feel like there are so many fun, weird, and cool things to try here I would need to stay a month at least!

tokyo skyline

Sardinia
We were supposed to visit Sardinia this summer but we were out a bit late and everything was super expensive. However, I really want to visit this Italian island, eat good food, visit the magical beaches etc.

Nice
I do have a thing for the Mediterranean! Although French food isn’t particularly my taste, I’ve heard that Nice is a bit influenced by Italy and Italian food is my favorite. I’d love to stroll down the promenade, dive into the waters of the Côte d’Azur, shop clothes I can’t afford and drink mojitos while admiring the sunset.

Cape Town
To be honest, I really want to see the penguins. I bet Cape Town’s amazing, but the penguins are what makes me want to book a flight now, now, now!

Cape Town penguins

Hamptons
I don’t know if I’ve been watching too many TV-dramas or if it’s the fact that I could combine a New York City visit with a beach vacation, but Hamptons is also a must-visit for me. I want to stay in a huge villa with a pool, have a cocktail in my hand 24/7 and wear pretty summer dresses.

Venice
The reason I haven’t been in Venice yet is the crowds. I hate crowds. Sometimes crowds are okay, but most of the time I hate them and I’ve heard that it is extremely crowded here. So for me, this would be a visit either in early spring or fall, when most other people aren’t there.

Mexico in general
There are so many places in Mexico I want to visit… Playa del Carmen, Cabo, Zihuatanejo, Tulum just to name a few. I really don’t like tequila (it reminds me of too many drunken nights in my start 20’s) but I will eat so many beans, and tacos, and whatever else a foodie vegetarian can get her hands on. Mexico has the history and the beautiful beaches. Plus, it would be an opportunity to brush up on my Spanish skills.

Cape Verde
Sure, I’ve heard of Cape Verde before but it was honestly the TV show White Collar that made me want to “go to there” as Tina Fey would say. The handsome, out-of-this-world-beautiful man flesh that is Matt Bomer was there in season 4 and it just seemed like such a beautiful place to visit. I have no idea what to expect in Cap Verde but the beaches, the colorful buildings and the promise of sun sounds compelling.

14044577753_cb1c56e9d3_k

Rome
History, good food, good wine, and fine art. It’s a shame I haven’t visited this European cultural capital yet, and I plan on doing so whenever I get the chance. It’s only a 3 hour flight away, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get away over a long weekend. With Rome, I really look forward to discovering the small streets, visiting museums, drinking good wine, maybe renting a little Vespa if we get the courage and find a small restaurant serving pizza so good I dream about it for the years to come.

One thing I need to add here… I would love to visit Australia but my phobia of spiders and other insect creatures prevents me. I think that the panic from just seeing a huge, furry spider with its too many legs would send me into a coma, or give me a heart attack. So Australia, I’d love to visit but maybe next time never.

Have you been to one of these desitonations? And which ones would you recommend? Let me know!

 

 

Pictures all under Creative Commons license:
Top picture/New York: Arne Bornheim
Tokyo: Moyan Brenn
Cape Town: Matthew
Cape Verde: Caroline Granycome