Galway Film Fleadh: A Unique Insight into Irish Culture

m-galway_film_fleadh_largeI just stepped out of Galway Town Hall and into the rain after a day of local films. I feel that in two days I’ve learned more about Irish culture than in the previous week and a half. (That’s what happens when you slow down and travel slow!) Each film showed just a sneak peek into a subculture of Irish life and history, which was just the peek I was hoping for…

 

 

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A cross-country run not a sprint: language and locals in Tarija, Bolivia

This is a GUEST POST written by my adventure-loving travel friend, Steph Dyson, of Worldly Adventurer!
Find and FOllow my girl, Steph, here for all your adventure or volunteer travel cravings!

 

tarija, bolivia language localsTarija, Bolivia

As a literature graduate and former English teacher, I’ve always been a strong believer in the power of the spoken word. Well, actually what it boils down to is, I just love talking.

Whether it’s making terrible cheese puns or trying to inspire my former students to love the English language as much as I do, I know how heartening, world-changing, and downright essential words are.

But, as a native English speaker, it’s easy to take for granted how easily those words can be found when we travel. A vast proportion of the world speaks English – why would we need to know another tongue? I’ve never subscribed to this argument, so when I first moved to Bolivia in October 2014, language acquisition was the name of the game.

Having thrown myself into a culture where even my daily 10 minute commute to work was a test in avoiding being run over by careering minibuses or errant taxi drivers, and where at night time they turned the traffic lights off (whether to conserve energy or what, I still don’t know), I was desperate to learn Spanish so that something, anything might start making a little bit more sense.

 

Learning a new language is about the long game – or the cross-country run.

 

But, as anyone who’s gone to live abroad will attest, learning a new language is hard work. It’s not a quick, victorious sprint across a finish line. It’s the linguistic comparison of the long-distance cross-country run I was forced to do each week as a child in school.

That run was always the same: a slippery descent through damp grass where your brain desperately tried to work with your feet to stop you from falling, followed by the stretch of thick mud where you got stuck and someone always lost a shoe, and topped off with the final, lung-busting section of uphill to the finish line…

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Are you calling me free-spirited?

 

san salvador airport free spirited

About to board my flight to San Jose, Costa Rica

Last night I received the best complement I may have ever gotten from nearly a complete stranger. After meeting me on the airplane and spending about eight hours in San Jose together, Josué shared,

 

“I noticed you were writing every time I woke up from sleep. You didn’t look like a dirty hippie mochilero. You look like a regular girl…” He felt comfortable enough to invite me to share his pre-paid car service to the city and I felt comfortable enough to go with him. One of those ‘trust your intuition’ situations. He went on,

travel adventures free spirited

Josué works for a snack company and invited me to join him on his cheese tasting business meeting. We staged this picture after I told them their work made them look a lot like drug dealers. Hilarious!

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My Proudest Travel Moment: Calm in a sea of Chaos

proudest travel moment calm in chaos

My proudest travel moment actually happened in New York. While I’ve had so many moments along my travels that I’ll never forget, there’s something about solving a problem and maintaining emotional composure that just makes me feel so strong and unstoppable. My proudest travel moment happened one evening at JFK after I’d been traveling on the Amalfi Coast for two weeks. If you’ve ever traveled in southern Italy, you might know where I’m headed with this one.

proudest travel moment angry italian airport

 

There had been a strike at Naples International Airport. (These strikes happen so often; I think there are more days on strike than days at work!) As a result, all our bags had been left in Italy, obviously.

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Americanah: The Best Travel Book EVER!

adichie-americanah- best travel book ever

Americanah is the best book I’ve ever read. I almost just cried finishing it (but I can’t say why)! I really appreciate honesty and author,  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was the most transparent and talented writer I have ever encountered (though I’ve only been a true book-lover since college). Americanah is the best travel book ever! This is NOT one to sweep under the rug.

 

americanah book- best travel book ever

The gist

The gist of Americanah is this. Ifamelu, a young, opinionated, Nigerian girl doesn’t fit the mold. Ifamelu leaves to complete university in the States because strikes and instability are interfering with daily life in Nigeria. After being ripped from her boyfriend, friends, and family, she experiences a serious case of culture shock.

 

What makes Americanah special?

Like all great, dynamic stories, you can’t say Americanah is all about one topic; not race, or living outside your culture, or finding yourself, or cultural difference, or change, or even love. It’s a piece of someone’s life, in all the colors and shades.

Also, the experience of living long-term in a foreign country is one that thousands of people experience all around the world. And still, I haven’t found much in the way of books and storytellers who share stories and feelings that I’ve also experienced in my time living abroad. Until now. I hate to come across as a saleswoman, but Adichie expressed feelings that I’ve never even talked about with another person. Her honest portrayal of her ever-changing relationships with her home culture and her adopted culture felt, at times, like my own story.

I had never before felt like a narrator was my personal friend until reading Americanah. That’s powerful stuff. I’d absolutely LOVE to meet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or hear her speak. TOTAL friend crush.

 

Books that “Change your life”

americana book- best travel book ever

When people talk about books that changed their life, in my head I roll my eyes and think “Yeah fucking right!” Now, I won’t go as far as to say this book changed my life, but I will say that my perspective and the way I think has definitely changed. The other day I was at Port Authority wasting away time, eyeing the fashion selections on a magazine stand. Pre-Americanah-Heather would have already been feeling a bit chubby just looking at the perfect curves and lines of the featured models, weighing the pros and cons of the purchase. But instead, there I was, Post-Americanah-Heather, noticing the overwhelming number of whitewashed faces instead of imagining how that dress wouldn’t look quite as good on me.

I won’t go as far as others to say this book changed my life, but it definitely changed my perspective…and so, it changed me.

It goes without saying that I absolutely love Americanah and highly recommend it. Adichie has made herself my favorite author and I look forward to reading her other books. This is a book to inspire travel but also a book that feels like home.

 

Here’s more of her wisdom and eloquence via her TED talk…

‘The Danger of A Single Story’

 

 

 

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Working on my relationship with the waves in Puerto Viejo

I saved surfing for my last day in Puerto Viejo for a reason. The ocean and I didn’t have the smoothest start.

I was a little thing with messy bangs and carefree ease on some Rhode Island beach. I trusted the world the way children do so willingly and so naturally. My dad and this then-full head of hair took me out past the breaking. Up on my dad’s shoulders, we joyfully cried, “Weeeeee!!!” every time a wave pulled us up and bounced us back down.

Before I knew it, a wave came from behind and ripped my tiny body off my dad’s shoulders. I was breathing in water, too young to even know how to swim, until the ocean spat me out onto the sand, my dad fighting the undertow to come help me. I coughed up seawater, then immediately scrunched up my face to ball my eyes out as my mother ran to comfort me from the dry safety of her towel.

 

playa-negra-surf-puerto-viejo

Stretch of Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo

 

puerto-viejo-surf-airbnb

My Airbnb splurge that was WELL worth it. Wouldn’t have found Kendrick without the Hidden Jungle Beach House in Puerto Viejo.

There were years where I wouldn’t get close to the breaking, afraid of its power. Even still, I don’t like to put my face in the water. So, surfing in Puerto Viejo felt like one part challenge and one part fantasy. Go big or go home, right? Johnny Tsunami style!?

When I saw Kendrick he was already in the sea. My heart was racing before I even set foot in the water. Despite his calm energy and lightness, I felt anxious, only hearing half of the instructions I was being given. I felt urged to rush into the water, almost just so it would be over sooner.

After dodging some huge waves, I rode one in, just on my belly. It felt amazing. Like flying. Fighting the waves to get back out, I again found myself on my board, breathing shallow, my eyes worriedly searching for a wave that might suck me in and spit me out again, leaving me breathless and defeated on the black sands of Playa Negra. And so we danced this dance and I tried to study the waves as Kendrick taught me to.

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Steph’s World of Adventurous Travel: Meet the Worldly Adventurer!

When I found Steph, she stood out. She is an honest voice and cares about immersing herself in different cultures (South American ones at the minute), whether she’s adventuring, volunteering, or taking a siesta in between! She takes you with her into her world of adventurous travel. Our travel identities are both centered around building meaningful relationships and experiences through travel, which is why we decided we were blogger soul mates!

Ever wondered what it’s like to live, volunteer, or travel your way through South America? My girl can tell you…

adventurous-travel-steph-worldly-adventurer-Salt-flats-perspective-shots

 

Q: Where were you when you fell in love with travel?

A: I was quite a late developer when it came to a love of travel. Aside from yearly camping and walking holidays in the South of France with my family, it wasn’t until I was at university that I really discovered what all the fuss was about. Thanks to the Erasmus programme, I spent four months living on the shores of Lake Geneva in a city called Lausanne in Switzerland. My student halls were at the top of the hill overlooking the city and, on a clear day, you had stunning views all the way across to Mont Blanc on the other side of the French border. There were also a family of red squirrels that lived in the tree opposite my balcony. I was smitten…

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The Dark Side of Playing Hooky Abroad

weekend-in-poland-playing-hooky

 

Krakow was calling but the clock was ticking. I decided to play hooky from work so I’d have time to see Krakow. I had a lovely weekend strolling the cobblestone streets of the Jewish quarter, getting more than my dose of perspective at Auschwitz, and tasting a variety oIMG_2631f pierogis at this adorable hole-in-the-wall place my Krakowiak friend had recommended. It rained the perfect amount that weekend. It was just enough to justify spending most of Sunday in a café cozied up with a book, some hot tea and a big ‘ol crêpe. It really was a weekend of dreams and no one at work gave me much heat about missing a Monday.

 

It was evening when I arrived at the dingy bus station at the end of my romantic weekend with myself! As I scanned the busses, I couldn’t make sense of the Polish hieroglyphics on my own ticket. The numbers seemed in no way relate to the bus numbers listed. I didn’t give in and ask for help until it was five till 17:40. As I mimed my confusion to the all-powerful bus lady, she enjoyed conveniently not understanding English until I persisted,

“Zis for train.” she managed.

“What? Where is the train station?”

“Zet vay,” her eyes rolled and I suddenly didn’t have time to care. I sprinted through the tiled passageway with my small, silvery, rolly bag in tow. Not three minutes later, flapping into the correct station, another lady yelled,

“Trrain gone.” as if picking up where the other left off.

 

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A Place To Call Home: An American Girl Among European Men

I was living with 5 men in a pink, 6-bedroom, duplex flat in Nusle, the neighborhood ‘infamously known’ for its gypsy community within Prague 4. I may not have planned it that way, but there I was.

living with european men

 

Finding a flat in Prague isn’t the easiest. In fact, I’d go so far as to call myself an expert on how not to find a great flat in the city of a thousand spires. So, when I stumbled upon the bright photos of this spacious but charming apartment, I was sold.

 

awaiting my glamorous life to start

 

I tried to arrange to meet up with the two guys already living there unsuccessfully. With time pressure for my work visa…and the fact that I’d already been working illegallyliving with european men for two weeks, I decided to say “Fuck it!” and go all in. It’ll be fine, right?

 

My lovely new square, or namêsti in Czech, was called Namêsti Bratři Synkü. (Try saying that even just once at normal speed! This was my second time not being able to correctly say my own address!)

 

 

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My meet cute in Positano

Imeet-cute-travel-love-italy-101-dalmations could tell he noticed me. I noticed him too. We both sat on the dark, smoothed stones with the loveliness of Positano hanging off the cliffside at our backs and the calm, blue Mediterranean stretching out in front of us like a perfect blanket. He was a beautiful, tanned stranger. We happened to have the
same idea.

 

I had spent the day hiking the unbelievable Path of the Gods (a total must when you’re near the Amalfi Coast). I was successful at sweating nonstop throughout the day in the strong, Italian sun. After, I swam at Arienzo beach, away from the crowds. When I arrived in Positano I sat myself on a shaded patio with white tablecloths, candles in the afternoon, and a clear view of the sea to indulge in some lemon cake. Shockingly, the cake was gone pretty quickly.

I wanted listen to the gentle waves splashing and rolling across the rocks without interruption… and without wasting valuable Euros on a silly beach chair.

 

 

He stood out. I chose a spot to sit behind him, but maybe a little closer than I normally would have. (Aren’t these the moves women make to inspire men to ‘make the first move’? Hah!) I saw his peripheral scan, assessing the situation to see what variety of creep had chosen to sit so close. He looked back at me and our eyes met for a moment. I could feel my core muscles tense up under my shirt. His substantial backpacking pack lay nearby as he sat with his elbows wrapped loosely around his knees.

 

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