Year away

A year ago I packed my stuff in boxes and showed them to my dad’s tiny attic, piled all that I thought necessary in my old backpack, and left for a trip that was intended to be 2 months of yoga in Bali, then a bit of Vietnam and back home. A year later I did not do yoga but instead started surfing, ended up going to Cambodia too, and have been living and working in melbourne for 8 months, and a myriad of unexpected things have happened.

New skills learned: Surfing, driving a scooter, scuba diving, selecting cacao beans for chocolate production, letting go of things, proper headstands, knife skills, how to survive alone in tight situations (ie you’re not allowed to enter a foreign country and you find that out at the airport, or how to escape a motor vehicle accident situation in another…or how to change the scuba diving BCD vest in pitch black darkness in the middle of the sea)

Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.
Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.

Appreciation for things: Sunshine and warmth, fresh fruit pretty much straight from the trees, sea and marine life, nature, bicycles, people’s help, good company, trial periods at yoga studios and gyms, exercising, work, having the opportunity to do basically whatever, learning new and growing. New friends!

Bali style breakfast by the pool.
Bali style breakfast by the pool.

Best foods: Crate cafe breakfasts, Gado Gado and fresh mangos in Bali, tuna steak at Christmas dinner in Gili, rice paper rolls in Vietnam, the delicious meals at Hariharalaya in Cambodia. Smashed avo and poached eggs at Organica cafe in melbourne, Hummus from South melbourne market. Drinkwise: Fresh coconut water and coffee coffee coffee.

All the (vegan) rolls.
All the (vegan) rolls.

Accommodation: 3 Bungalows in Bali, one private villa. One month in the same hostel in Canggu. Hostel in Vietnam, one night in a “family stay” in the mekong Delta, and another one in a border town hotel. 4 hostels in Cambodia, one night in a bus, 10 nights on a retreat. (Luckily) I’ve only spent time in 1 hostel in Australia, and times of homelessness I was able to rely on the help of 5 friends.

Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia
Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia.

Love life: I learned that the Finnish word for love, rakkaus, apparently sounds like “crack house”. Fair enough. I’ve had more action this past year than ever before, mostly because I’ve been open-minded and just gone out. I have definitely learnt more than I thought I would have, and even though I got sick of dating and lost my faith in finding “the one” (or even someone I could imagine spending a whole weekend with), I am now closer than ever to realizing my feelings and where I stand in life. Winning!

I made someone popcorn for their flight.
I made someone popcorn for their flight.

Dealing with health: Eating probiotics, eating local. 2 Doctor visits, one dentist. In Cambodia I got bitten by a mosquito in the eyelid on the day I was supposed to go on a scuba diving trip to a remote island. Early trip and waking up the only doctor of the hospital to get cream I didn’t end up using, luckily that was nothing more serious. In melbourne I went to a GP to see if I have sinus infection (I didn’t), and had my wisdom tooth pulled.

Holidaying in Byron Bay.
Holidaying in Byron Bay.

Public holidays: I have pretty much skipped every holiday; Christmas I spent on a beach having a barbecue, New Years I was at another beach, Easter I only hid eggs for my housemates but that was it…I have enjoyed the Queen’s Birthday, and I understand why Anzac day exists, but having a public holiday for football and horse races is a bit strange to me. Nevertheless, I’ll take any reason to have a special day!

Halloween pumpkin at work.
Halloween pumpkin at work.

In the last year I have had more experiences I would never have had if I had stayed home, and going out of my comfort zone has proven worth it and beyond. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will bring along! And in the sad poor pictures front, by the end of the month things will look brighter and I will be able to write my hometown with a capital letter again! YAY!

I love love love that animal suit.
I love love love that animal suit.
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Songs of 2015 (or Travel)

We all remember the good ol’ days with c-cassettes and how you’d have to tape your favorite songs when you heard it from the radio, then just rewind back and forth to find what you wanted to listen to…or when we bought cds with cool leaflets and in some lucky cases the song lyrics. After discmans came the tiny mp3 players that only played songs on shuffle, then the iPod with it’s funky look and freedom to (not to) choose shuffle play. Nowadays the only people who listen to vinyl are hipsters, true music lovers or maybe old people too?

Short story long, after using different internet playlist/radio sites and apps, when I got a deal for free Spotify premium for 6 months a year ago, I took it and haven’t looked back since. I reckon paying 10€ a month for unlimited music and offline playlists (travel tip!) is totally worth it. Since leaving home almost a year ago, I’ve created a library of music that reminds me vividly of certain good times and places. Spotify allows me to find great new tunes and add them to my lists, so I don’t get too bored with what I already have. Sometimes I shazam a tune (like Cranes by monkey Safari that I heard in H&m), I have a friend recommend me something (such as Coastal Love by Honne), or then I hear a tune with someone and listen to it on repeat for a week (Kavinsky ft. The Weeknd – Odd Look is a premium example of this).

I have no Finnish music on my Spotify playlists except for a travel song my brother gave me, titled Afrikan Tähti (Star of Africa). Throughout this past year I have been very much into Ben Howard and Alt-J. I have happy memories listening to mumford&Sons, and a month ago I really really related to Glorious by Foxes. At the moment I am trying to not get bored of Losers by The Weeknd, which would be expected since I’ve probably listened to it close to hundred times this past 2 weeks.

You could of course follow me on Spotify to see what I am hearing (username: nyyhkypaperi), but in case you just want to have few new tunes, here is a list of songs I have found dancy/comforting/relaxing/touching/misc this past year. I would love to get more recommendations for new tunes! The following is in chronologic order, definitely not best to last. If you’re going to hunt down just a few, go for the bolded ones.

Quindon Tarver – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
Bliss n Eso – I Feel Free
Angus&Julia Stone – Grizzly Bear
Hermitude – Speak of the Devil
Alt-J – Bloodflow, Bloodflow pt II, Fitzpleasure, Taro, Hunger of the Pine, Left Hand Free
Hozier – Take me to Church
Ben Howard – Keep Your Head Up, Conrad, Black Flies, Oats In The Water
Vance Joy – Riptide, Georgia
Peking Duk – High
Robin Schultz – Sund Goes Down
Jamie XX – Loud Places
major Laser – Lean On
Kite String Tangle – Given the Chance
Jarryd James – Do You Remember
Jason Derulo – Want You to Want me (got to have guilty pleasures!)
mumford&sons – Believe
Of monsters and men – I of the Storm
Daughter – medicine
Susie Suh – Here With me
Fink – Looking too Closely
Chet Faker – 1989
Safia – Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues
Foxes – Glorious
The Weeknd – I Can’t Feel my Face, Losers, The Hills
Kavinsky ft. The Weeknd – Odd Look
The Antlers – Kettering

Kidnap Kid – Like You Used To
SBTRKT – New Dorp, New York

Can’t wait for the rest of the year’s tunes!

Half year

Exactly 6 months ago I was packing my life in boxes, laughing at the Helsinki rain that was almost constant, waiting eagerly to get to Bali. I said countless goodbyes and “see you next year”, thinking I’d quickly visit California and be back home in February. Little did I now, half year later friends are asking me if I am coming back. I am in Sydney, packing my (hand)back to go on a road trip! These past 4 days in Sydney have been as gloomy (weather-wise) as I would’ve expected maybe in Finland, but not in Bondi beach! Life is weird; I definitely would not have expected half of the things I’ve experienced, seen, opportunities and people who have just come up. This definitely happen for a reason, and going with the flow is the best way of making sure you get the most out of things.

Surfing-grown biceps scuba diving in Gili Trawangan, Christmas 2014
Surfing-grown biceps scuba diving in Gili Trawangan, Christmas 2014

 

Bali: surfing, scooter driving, farm visits, scuba diving, fresh fruits.
Vietnam: People and hassle, cacao, river trip, fresh spring rolls.
Cambodia: Scuba diving, meditation and yoga, poor people and begging children.
Australia: Work, people, culture, conversations, future. Things just keep on coming up, there’s no way I’d go work in a farm for 3 months because there is so much happening right here, right now.

Tourist thingy, check.
Tourist thingy, check.

 

I still have one protein bar in my backpack that I brought with me from Finland. I think I’ll keep it, as a memory of my trip; when I left Helsinki, I think I had like 10 of those bars with me. Let’s see if one makes it back to where it left from.

A Bali C

I managed to make it to Saigon, despite having problems with entry both in Singapore and in Ho Chi Minh; I was ready to buy a ticket back to Bali and skip Vietnam altogether! Some reminiscing of the Island of Gods follows (pictures still lacking due to probably the worst internet connection so far!)

Atmosphere: Smiles, flowers and offerings for Gods, everything is in harmony, even the chaotic traffic. No matter where you are, the Balinese are going about their daily rituals with a smile on their face.

Bikinis: No need to explain. You could probably survive only with bikinis, shorts and flip-flops. Yeah okay Buddhism too.

Canggu: Not a surprise, this one. I spent over a month in this upcoming hipster village, where life seems to stand still and days float by even if you just lied by the pool and listened to music in between surfs.

Diving: I overcome my doubts regarding breathing underwater. Bali hosts some amazing diving spots, and I will definitely return for more!

Environment: aka nature. Various yet always beautiful.

Fruits: Fruits are aplenty in Bali. Now in season are bananas, papaya, different sorts of mangos, mangosteen, snakefruit and jackfruit, just to name a few. You can also find guava, oranges and imported apples at the supermarket. My favorites are definitely papaya and mango, but I also like mangosteen and jackfruit a lot. I did have durian once, but I was a bit disappointed with the small amount I got for my money.

Gado Gado: Both hot and cold, sweet and savory, gado gado is one of my favorite Indonesian dishes. “Mix Mix” is often variable, but includes different steamed or blanched veggies like spinach, cabbage, carrots and beans. The mix also always has fried tempeh and/or fried tofu, and sometimes a boiled egg. It is served with rice and krupuk crackers if you’re lucky. What makes gado gado special is the peanut sauce that identifies the dish. I found instructions to make the sauce, maybe I’ll give it a go at home, since it is just so fulfilling with the light veggies.

Gado gado sauce, easy to make raw version too! 1 cup of peanut butter (or crushed peanuts), 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp soy sauce. Add crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Mix with 1 1/2 cups hot water and devour!

Heat: Yep, it is hot. I notice it the most when going into a shop/car that has AC and then coming out. Phew! Some days the heat really hits, but when combined with a mild breeze, it is lovely. I have not needed my long sleeved shirts at all. It most definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas is coming.

Islands: Bali is the island of gods, and it is surrounded by lots of other islands. The most popular tourist destinations are Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and the Gili’s that belong to Lombok: Meno, Trawangan and Air.

Jalan: Street. Most of them not pedestrian-friendly, and are definitely not designed for handicapped. Watch where you step and you’ll be fine.

Kuta: Party hell. You can find most tourist stuff here, and some enjoy it. I preferred a quick visit once or twice just to realize how well off I was at the tranquil hoods.

Light: The sun comes up around 5.30 and and goes down around 6.30. Solid amount of sunlight every day works like magic for me. Even if I haven’t had enough sleep, I wake up with more energy.

Massages: Everywhere. Cheap. I wanted to get pampered at least once a week, but ended up getting only like 4 massages in 2 months. I’ll regret that later! From foot reflexology to Balinese and Tai massage, you can easily get your stress washed away or just get a deep relax for 1.5 hrs.

Names: I recently discovered why everyone is called Wayan, Nyoman, Ketut or Made. People are named by their order of birth, so kid #1 is Wayan, kid #2 Nyoman etc. Kid #5 id again Wayan. There are some extra names too, and the 1st girl is called “Ilo”, coincidentally “joy” in Finnish!

Other travellers: Though I did meet some lovely local people, I spent most of my time with fellow backpackers. And what a wonderful group of people did I meet and share experiences with! Mostly from Australia, but other countries too, some surfers, some not. Great talks, great trips, great surfs and lots of good new music for me.

Paradise: May it be a beach, a mountaintop, the rice fields, a jungle or a village, unless your idea of paradise includes snow, changes are Bali has it.

Quality of life: Simple things matter. People wake up at 5 am to cook, make offerings, and to go about their day. No one complains, they enjoy the simple things and take the day as it comes.

Raw food: The raw food/organic restaurants put emphasis on local, organic ingredients that have grown in rich soil. Of course in this climate and environment it is easier to grow produce than, say, in Finland, but I wish we had more of this kinds of places back home! Week or a month is nearly not enough to taste all that just Ubud has to offer.

Sun, sea, surf: All of it. Loving it.

Traffic/taxi: Crazy. Both of em. There is a logic of driving the left side of the road, but then again you can do whatever maneuvers you want as long as you don’t hit anybody. Not nearly all death-defying scooter drivers wear helmets, and some scooters have as many as 4 or 5 people on them. Insane.

The “taxi” refers to the lack of public transportation. If you’re brave enough to drive a scooter, you’re fine. If not, you’ll hear “taxi, taxi” yells at least every 2 minutes in Ubud. I do prefer walking, but sometimes the distances are just too long. Then it’s the matter or bartering the right price. Oh, my.

Ubud: Inland village/town in the center of Bali, Ubud has become the hotspot for tourists looking for the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ experience. Surrounded by rice fields, filled with raw foods cafes and yoga centers, Ubud is truly to place to seek for enlightenment and to relax. The town is very western, so don’t expect to see the “real Bali” here. Lots of massages and other pampering  available besides superb food.

Warung: Local food, cheap. Pick and mix your favorites. Delightful amount of veggies.

Yoga: Pretty much Finland-prices, I was a bit shocked how big thing yoga is. I went to a few classes, but could’v done way more if it had been more reasonably priced. Yoga retreats are aplenty with wealthy wallets.

Missing a few but that’s life.

Ending and beginning

A year ago I was sitting home, watching outside to the darkness and shivering at the idea of going outdoors to the damp coldness. I decided that no matter what, next year I would not spend the winter in Finland. As I watched the New Year’s fireworks on a beach few nights ago, I was happy I made that promise to myself to change the circumstances that made me unhappy.

One of my favorite spots in Helsinki, Sandro. Many happy times (and food comas)!
One of my favorite spots in Helsinki, Sandro. Many happy times (and food comas)!

 

Two months ago I came to Bali, not having a clear idea of what was ahead of me; perhaps I was thinking of going to do yoga in Ubud, chill, enjoy the sun, learn how to be alone truly enjoying it, and be merry. Well, I did go to Ubud, only to find out that it was not the place I really wanted to spend my time. Luckily I had been thinking of Canggu, and the small, rapidly growing surfer town was more my spot. After a while I got anxious about what I was “supposed” to do in terms of being a backpacker – go and see as much of Bali as possible. I would prefer to continue my travels as it has been so far: staying put in one good place rather than spending days on different means of transportations, waiting, crammed, carrying the backpack with me everywhere, just to do it all over again after a few days. So I stayed. I met people, some of them for a longer, some for shorter time, I overcame my self-doubts regarding driving and the ocean, I allowed myself just to be (some day with more success, some with more anxiousness), go eat out at least twice a day, and to just enjoy the flow of time.

Livin' on the edge.
Livin’ on the edge.

 

When thinking of where to spend the end of 2014 and the first day of 2015, I had a few options. Despite my growth during this trip and otherwise, I am still struggling with indecisiveness, so making the simple decision of “where to be” cost a bit too many brain cells. I decided to do what I felt like doing, to go back to Canggu. I was staying in a different hostel (not as good as the previous one), and didn’t know but a few people around. At the end, I ended up going to the same villa where I spent my birthday, having a barbecue with the local men, then continuing to the same beach bar where I spent countless happy hours and just regular (yet also happy) hours. I managed to get one more surf session and to eat one more time at my favorite cafe, go for one more drive around the hoods, and to have witty company with someone with puppy dog eyes. All the fun made leaving a bit harder. And the fact that despite ordering 2 taxis for 7 am, none came. Luckily we figured that out, not that good service from Blue Bird taxi, though!

Ain't too bad for a Christmas.
Ain’t too bad for a Christmas.

I am now at the airport, where the wifi is better than anywhere else! Too bad I don’t have time to upload more pictures. Next 3 hours will be on the plane to Singapore, and there to Ho Chi Minh. Hopefully the lack of sleep from the past 3 nights will keep me occupied. We’ll see how the big city life is after all this relaxation and small town entertainments! Happy New Year, friends! I have a feeling its going to be the best so far.