Being a tourist in London

Discovering LDN with family

This weekend has been a family packed weekend. Both our parents have been/are here passing through our home from a roadtrip through the UK or about to head to one respectively.

Usually there isn’t enough time to do touristy stuff in the London, but this time around, my parents stay for 2 days and I became a tourist. We visited Kew Gardens, to which I have only been in winter time when there is a light show, and Camden Market, cause my parents have never been.

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens recently opened the newly renovated Temperate House, which my parents were keen on seeing. And since the weather was wonderful, we also had a little picnic with some delicious but questionable looking crumble. I didn’t know that Kew Gardens was as big as it is, as I had only walked a small path in the darkness of winter. There is a treetop walk that is rather knee-melting, if you have issues with wobbly built pathways in 18m height, but the view is definitely worth it.

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

The second day we ventured out to Camden Market. I think it has been 2 years since I last went, so I was curious to see what has become of it. It was a Saturday and brilliant weather, so as expected, there were a lot of people roaming the streets and market halls. It’s definitely become a lot more organised and cleaned up since I’ve last been with lots more shops and food. Talking about food, I’ve had a great vegan doughnut and some of the best falafel I’ve ever tasted.

Camden

It’s time to start dreaming again

dream big

It’s honest time today, so please bear with.

My husband and I had a conversation the other day about dreams. Rather, it was more a conversation about how I should (could) make use of my time currently before we start travelling in 2 and a half months time. I am currently not working, so I have time available to me with which I can do something or several things. I could explore something I’ve always wanted to do, could spin some ideas about starting my own business or something else entirely. I also currently drive things that need to get done around our trip and house renovation.

However, I don’t go and explore. I don’t currently take the opportunity of my available time, which I won’t have forever. I don’t do it to the fullest extent and I find myself going back and forth on whether I should or shouldn’t.

I feel guilty that I have this time available, so I do as much as I can for things that “matter”, such as the trip, house stuff and various other logistical things that need to get done in life. I am someone that puts other people and to-do’s first before I eventually (if ever) get to myself, though I have gotten so much better at it over the past year. I also feel that whatever I’d start to explore now, I’d have to stop anyways when we’re travelling and then put all the effort back in after 6 months. Also, there are way too many things I’d like to try out, so I am also struggling with the luxurious dilemma of where I’d even start. It’s all too overwhelming (and privileged) and it is easier, at the moment, to play the ostrich game.

Not only do I feel like I have to take on all this extra stuff because I am not working, I also feel guilty for not using this time to pursue my own interests. Something my husband said during our chat made a penny drop and whilst I still don’t quite know how to tackle what’s in my brain, I know not to dismiss it and tame it. I will also try not to feel guilty about having this time whilst others don’t, but instead learn to treasure it and be grateful that I am given this opportunity to explore and dream. I am certain I will fail at times, but I will try.

I know I haven’t done this kind of real talk since I wrote about my brain surgery journey, but I think it could be a valuable thought process/learning to share. I think a lot of us are struggling with shutting off thoughts about our dreams (however big or small), taking a step toward making it happen or even allowing ourselves to have any. Sometimes, we tend to put barriers in front of ourselves where there don’t have to be any. There are enough barriers in life already, no need to invent them.

And yes, that is the rational part of me talking. Clearly, I have had some very irrational thoughts about this whole process and no, I haven’t stopped thinking them or felt any less doubt, though recognising what is tearing me in different directions mentally and emotionally surely must be a good thing.

Thanks a bunch for reading. I hope this wasn’t too much of a downer and maybe even gave you a little nudge to be better at this whole “do more of what makes you happy and explore your dreams” thing, as cheesy as it sounds. But somebody once said it, so it must be true.

Places we’re going to in Indonesia

Places to go in Indonesia

The last few weekends have been heavily focused on getting some more flights and places booked for Indonesia. Indonesia is the first country we’re going to and it is not easy being “flexible” and have a “let’s see where we’ll end up tomorrow” attitude because it’s all islands. You can’t just catch a car or bus to quickly hop over to another place; you either need to fly or take a boat. I’ve read plenty of posts and comments on taking ferries and boats for smaller distances (Lombok to Bali) and there are quite a few horror stories out there. For most parts, we’re going to take the plane. It’s not very expensive, so it is ok. But taking planes does mean that we have to book now, cause most planes for travel within the country easily book out (so I’ve read). And we’re less than 3 months away from take-off (eek!).

I didn’t think that figuring out places for Indonesia would be quite this hard. I suppose it isn’t, if you only look at the Unesco World Heritage site (ha!). Once you start looking elsewhere and get to reading various blogs and sites, then you’d almost want to ditch every other country on the list and just tour around the islands of Indonesia for 6 months. They have such diversity from one little island to the next big one. It is crazy to decide and give yourself a time limit. So far we’re at about a month.

Also, we have to take into account travel time in between places. You’d think that because it’s all scattered, it’d be easy to get from one place to another. Don’t get me wrong, I suppose it is fairly easy and there are a lot of airports and options. Though one trip we booked to get all the way to Papua takes 15ish hours excluding the ferry to get to another tiny island, when a direct flight would be 3ish hours. I am not complaining, it is what we chose and are aware of, but it is making me rethink other locations further down the line when, on paper, we’re already at the end of September and haven’t even left the country yet. Oh the irony when I said “scattered” and “easy to get to places”, ha!

On to the less waffly bit

In case you’re curious, the sites we’ve used so far to book flights within Indonesia are Skyscanner and Nusatrip. I also saw that Tiket is an option (as recommended by Lonely Planet), which we might try for the next flights.

Where we want to go

Jakarta
I think this might only end up being a day or two, as we have a lot of other stuff we’d like to see. At this stage though, I am even unsure, if passing through there is even worth it compared to other places.

Does anyone have any recommendations on what to see/do in Jakarta?

Temples
Hot on the list are the Prambanan and Borobudur temples. Just google these names and then stay in awe for days. They’re also both on the UNESCO World Heritage list, so we figured, if we’re going to see temples in Indonesia, then these two should be it. They are also relatively close to one another on Java island.

Lombok
Most people told us that Lombok would be better than Bali for a beach time out, as it is less touristy and less crowded. There is apparently a pink beach and Mount Rinjani, an active volcano you can hike around and up. We might also make a day trip to the Gili Islands which are said to be rather beautiful (but also touristy, so we’ll see).

Komodo National Park
How cool would it be to actually see a real dragon? I mean, it won’t take me on its back up in to the clouds à la Daenerys, but I’ll take what I can. The time we’re going though is when they usually have their little dragons, so hopefully we’ll still see at least one. From a distance I shall think, as I read that they eat whole deer and young ones can climb trees.

Papua
We’re going to West Papua, more specifically to Raja Ampat, to spend a few days at the beach and snorkel our way through corals and clown fish. Getting there is a bit tricky, so we chose to take the ferry to Waigeo and back. Fingers crossed it’s all going to be fine. By the way, Raja Ampat is an archipelago with one of the most biodiverse marine life.
Also on Papua, we’re going to the Baliem Valley where the Dani people live. It’s quite tricky finding accommodation there, so should anyone have any tips…much appreciated.

Recipe – Carrot soup à la Nordic

Carrot Soup New Nordic Diet Isabell

Last week I started an online course, actually 2, about food. More specifically, one is called “The Science of Gastronomy” and the other “The New Nordic Diet”. The first one is a lot more scientific, as the name suggests and explains more background as to how this whole heat transfer thing works and impacts how we prepare food, how our senses shape how we experience tastes and flavours and comes with some fascinating experiments I wish my teachers would have done back in school.

The Nordic course, talks all about the New Nordic Diet. I didn’t realise that this was actually a proper term coined by the founders of renowned Noma in Copenhagen and probably contributed to the invasion of Scandi food and design over the past 10 years. Besides the course being a bit, erm, flat and not really a course in my opinion, I was intrigued what kind of food that would be. So I googled, got inspired and had an idea. As it so happened, we got a load of carrots and I always wanted to get THE carrot soup right and I might have just done that this time around.

What you need

Serves 4 people.

For the soup

  • about 600g carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other oil)
  • 100ml apple cider vinegar
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1l water
  • Salt and pepper

Carrot Soup - New Nordic Diet

For the dressing

  • 200ml yoghurt (dairy or non-dairy)
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Salt and pepper

This is how you do it

The soup

  1. Cut the onions into small pieces and, in a pot, fry in the oil for 3-4 minutes on a medium heat. Add the chopped garlic half way.
  2. Add the carrots (wash/peel and cut them into small pieces) and add plenty of salt and pepper.
  3. Stir everything and add the lid to sweat the vegetables for about 5 minutes, stirring them occasionally. Lower the heat a little, as you have the lid on.
  4. Add the apple cider vinegar and vegetable stock, increase to medium heat and let the liquid reduce to half.
  5. Add a litre of hot water (I boil mine in a kettle) and let everything boil for 20-25 minutes or until the carrots are soft.
  6. Blend it all in a blender (hand blender will also do).

Carrot Soup - New Nordic Diet

The dressing

  1. If you have a blender, add all the ingredients in there and blend. Depending on taste, you may want to add more of a particular herb.
  2. If you prefer, you can also just cut the herbs finely and mix it by hand with the yoghurt.

Carrot Soup - New Nordic Diet

Serving
Simply add a spoonful of the yoghurt dressing on top of the carrot soup and serve it.

Carrot Soup - New Nordic Diet

House renovation – floors, walls and lots of planning

Last week we continued our adventure of renovating our house in the south of France. Not to worry, there hasn’t been a standstill since last time we were there – my parents have done A LOT!

As we’re going on another adventure in a few months, there was a lot of planning this time around. My husband and I already spent a couple of hours drawing up our ideas but it’s nothing like being in the space that’s being transformed to see if it actually makes sense.

We talked types of flooring, thickness of said flooring and how it could fit all together (pro tip: best is if the different materials reach the same thickness on the same floor, otherwise you get weird transitions and such. We’re still working on that!), sockets and light switches, types of light switches for the staircase, doors and windows and more flooring.

I also continued plastering the wall, but had to unfortunately leave it to the trained professional after one day cause my wrist wasn’t willing anymore. Instead I helped out here and there, did some weightlifting in the form of beams and floor boards and fixed an extension cord.

I have to say, once the floors are starting to be there, it all seems a bit more like a home. I can’t wait until all the walls are in and I can paint the bathroom.

Last Monday, there was a small flea market were everyone empties their attics and tries to circulate mostly strange things by selling them to other people in the village. It just so happened that we found the first frame for our living room wall. Maybe my mum is gonna paint me something. On that note, I think she needs to paint more than one painting for our house according to the video below. (Thanks ma!)

Side note, I did the video entirely on my iPad to test how I’d get on during travels. It took forever and I have still a few things to figure out.

Travel planning – The top 8 things to do first

Travel planning top 8 things to do first

It is exciting when you decide to travel for a longer period of time, though when you start thinking about all the logistics that need sorting before you go, it can be pretty daunting to figure out. If you’re anything like me, that to-do list writes itself in your head every time you’ve got a minute to not think about anything (a.k.a the shower). To avoid that list becoming the entirety of your committed memory, I suggest writing it down somewhere. We started out with a brain dump in a spreadsheet, but for an organised and in control person like me even that started becoming a massive jumble. I could no longer just go with the flow, cross my fingers and hope that we won’t forget to do anything before we take off, so I organised it in a Trello board (I know!). I categorised everything, added bits and bobs here and there, gave all items due dates and put them in chronological order. (I can literally see you eye-rolling)

There were a few things that needed sorting out first to not fall into anxiety induced sleepless nights (unlike my husband who falls into deep sleep anywhere anytime without a worry). We have now done all of them and it feels great. Sure there is still a lot to do, but having the major, potentially travel blocking items, done is such a relief and it doesn’t take away from the excitement for the actual travel.

1. Decide on a budget

And length of time, I suppose. Though the budget might dictate the length of your travel once you’ve done a bit of research as to how much in average it costs per day per person. There are so many sites out there where you can find information on that, especially for areas like south east Asia. Best is to google and ask friends who have been to the countries you want to go to.
The budget will also depend on what kind of travelling you’ll want to do. Are you only going to do low-end budget accommodation? Do you prefer hotels to hostels, etc.? Think about it and adjust your daily rate per person for that country.
Remember that there are expenses already before you actually go on the trip such as vaccinations and buying a backpack (don’t cut corners on this. Trust me, it’s not worth it!), so track that money.

2. Check that your passport is going to be valid

In my case it wasn’t so much that my passport wasn’t going to be valid. It was starting to fall apart and may not have the “minimum 6 empty pages” for stamps and visas by the time we’d done 3 countries. German passports are supposed to last 10 years but mine wasn’t playing that game. After googling and contacting the embassy to ask whether my passport would be accepted, I decided to book that appointment to be on the safe side. Lots of entry requirements of the countries we want to visit state that they may not accept dodgy looking ones.

3. Decide on a route

Since our list of countries are mostly in south east Asia, we checked the weather info of every single one to design our travels around raindrops. I am sure we’ll still be running into the occasional tropical rain showers, but at least we tried to make a sensible rough plan. Note the “rough” part here, cause I am very much aware that we will change our rough plans from one day to the next and could end up somewhere we hadn’t foreseen. Which is part of the whole adventure.
However, check the weather, the proximity, take a map, draw some routes, repeat it a bazillion times to your friends. Maybe you want a bit of exciting land travel in there to avoid too many plane tickets (cause budget 👆). Maybe you don’t care flying criss-cross in which case, lucky you, one less thing to think about.

4. Sort your vaccinations out

Where I grew up, you get vaccination cards to help any GP or vaccination-giving person keep track of what you’ve received and what you need to get. It’s a little yellow leaflet and it’s worth so much when you’re planning something like this. Otherwise, call your parents and hope they’ll remember.
In the UK, you can simply call your GP and say where you’re going and they’ll tell you what you’ll need. Of course, I also did my own research and checked what vaccinations are recommended for each country and what are part of entry requirements. I suppose this is country specific, again, in the UK, some vaccinations are given by the GP through the NHS, others need to be done privately and you need to pay for them.
When I called the GP and found out how long the vaccination process is for Hep B, I immediately made an appointment with Boots pharmacy only to find out on the day that there was a shortage of Hep B and rabies vaccines nationwide. I was told that maybe some private clinics still have stock. Luckily, the second (also not the cheapest) private clinic I called had them, enough for 2 people, and we went for our first shot immediately the next morning.

5. Book that first flight and accommodation

Reading, asking friends and talking about the trip doesn’t make it yet a reality. My husband and I would talk daily about our travels, but hadn’t booked anything yet. It is another threshold that is odd to step over because then it makes it real!
There was still a lot to figure out but we said f*** it, let’s book the outbound flight and accommodation for a week. The whole time when discussing the route, we always started with Indonesia. I also thought a week to arrive, freak out and get adjusted to the timezone in a guaranteed warm and sunny place would be ideal to kick off our travels. It also gave us an extra kick in the butt to get into second gear with all of the not-so-fun organisational stuff that need to be done so we’d be able to leave.

6. Get your travel/health insurance

Another one of those things that you didn’t think of when dreaming about backpacking through the Vietnamese jungle. It is a bit of a minefield, like anything insurance related, but it is important. I know, no one wants to think of worst case scenarios, but if crime shows and movies have taught me anything is that anything is possible. I don’t want to sound too bleak, but you know what I mean. I suppose my 22 year old would have been more lax about it and just winged it…wait who am I kidding, I would have totally gotten the same insurance to make sure my Mama could fly out in case of emergency. Or get the natural disaster add-on, cause you know, Tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanoes…
What I am saying is, it is important to know what it is that you wouldn’t want to pay for but need in case something goes wrong however big or small. Most backpacker insurances offer more or less the same thing, with different excess levels (the higher the personal excess, the lower the total insurance premium), activities covered, add-ons etc.
InsureandGo and Columbus Direct were the final two from our research in the UK.

7. Decide what to do with all your stuff

We’re renting a flat, have a some things in it and no family with empty garages in the country. There was a lot of back and forth as to what we’d do. We like our flat, we like our area, but in the end we made the choice to give up the place and put everything in storage, cause a) it’s cheaper, b) we’re more flexible and c) we don’t have the responsibility looking after a sub-letter, if that would have been possible.
With that decision, we slowly started building a list of things that bring us joy and we want to keep, that we want to sell, donate or throw. The Marie Kondo method certainly helped with deciding on the size of storage. Bonus part, the storage company we went with offer 2 hours free van hire, which might be all we need cause they are a 5 minute drive from the flat.

8. Write a packing list

I already shared our packing list in a blog post a few weeks back, so you can read all about it there and if you’re planning a longer trip similar to ours, you can download the PDF.
In short, get used to lists cause you’ll be making a lot of them. I got a lot of tips from friends through my post, which really really helped refine our list to what we’re currently plan to. Another friend sent me this link and it is great for both men and women.