Category Archives: Travel

Visiting Amsterdam

I went to Amsterdam a number of years ago and I always intended to go back.  I was glad when the opportunity came up to go again with a few friends.

Airport to city

It was quite simple to get into the city from Amsterdam airport.  We took a €6 train into Centraal, then took a taxi to our accommodation, which cost about €35 in total.  The other option would be to take the tram from Centraal that costs about €3 per person.

Stayed in Airbnb

For this trip, we decided to stay in an Airbnb property.  There were four of us travelling for four nights, so we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment close to the centre.  It was great to have a kitchen, dining table and shared living room for us to hang out in.

Things to do

So much to do in Amsterdam!

Canal ride

High on the to-do list was a canal tour.  Amsterdam has loads of pretty and picturesque canals, so we joined the Blue Boat Canal Cruise for €18.  We were able to buy tickets on the day.  It lasts about 75 minutes and everyone got headphones to listen to the pre-recorded tour information in their chosen language.  It was also fully covered and heated, so no need to worry about the weather.

Rijks Museum

As we purchased our tickets for the Rijks Museum from the canal cruise company, we got to pay €15 rather than the usual €17.50 per ticket.  I was really impressed with this museum, there was such a huge range of things to see – from Rembrandt paintings to pocket snuff boxes!

 

Walking tour

I’m a big fan of the Sandemans free walking tours.  I booked us spots for a morning tour that started near the Royal Palace.  It was a good way to check out the city on foot and learn about Amsterdam’s history.  We covered the National Monument, the red light district, Anne Frank’s house and more.  As with all of these free tours, you leave a tip at the end for your guide – however much you feel is reasonable.

Anne Frank’s House

I’d already visited Anne Frank’s house on my last trip.  My friends hadn’t been before, but unfortunately they weren’t able to get tickets!  Tickets were temporarily available online only at that time, and it was already fully booked.  If you’re interested in going, definitely look into booking tickets online as soon as you can.

Places to eat

Food in Amsterdam was really amazing.  There’s a lot of Asian influences and international food is available everywhere.  Here are some of my favourite places that we went to.

Food Hall – Vietnamese

Luckily this Food Hall was just around the corner from where we were staying.  There was a lot of variety in the food available.  I went for the Vietnamese noodles, which was really tasty.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Asian Kitchen

This is a very low key cafe style restaurant with great food and even greater food portions!  It was on the cheap and cheerful side, and we were all satisfied with our meal. There was a flower market just across the road too, which we investigated after lunch.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Blauwe Hollander

This restaurant was recommended to us by our Airbnb contact for actual Dutch food, since we were enjoying so much Asian food!  It’s a nice restaurant near the central area.  Turns out Dutch food is quite hearty!  My pea and bacon soup was really nice and we all had some version of ‘stamppot’ that includes mashed potato and meat.  It was really good.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

De Vier bakery

I’m really sad I didn’t make it to this restaurant because it looks amazing.  Fortunately, my friend did bring me some Dutch pancakes (poffertjes) with Nutella and strawberries for me to eat.  They were so yummy.  Dutch pancakes are like little mini pancakes, that are delicious with Nutella!  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Pancake Bakery

This was a recommendation from the tour guide, and I have to say it was a disappointment after the De Vier pancakes.  The restaurant itself is small and cosy, the disappointment was that the ‘chocolate sauce’ was not Nutella.  It was some generic dark chocolate sauce, which just didn’t taste as good!  I’d recommend the De Vier bakery if you get a choice, unless you don’t care for Nutella.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Holiday conclusion

I had a really great time in Amsterdam.  There’s something very chilled out about it, people are very friendly, it’s easy to get around by tram and the food is great.  In fact, I think I’ll go back again one day.

 

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Filed under Amsterdam, Art, Europe, Restaurants, Travel

A trip to Bangladesh: Sylhet and Dhaka

After ten long years, the opportunity arose for me to visit Bangladesh again.  Even though I’d visited many times as a child, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  I love the hustle and bustle of Bangladesh.  There is something very beautiful, real and raw about this country.

I noticed that there was a lot of construction and development going on everywhere.  Bangladesh is the kind of place where you still buy your fresh fish and chicken from the markets, or from a man passing through the residential areas.  This is one of the things I always appreciated since I was young – seeing a live animal being killed and knowing where the meat on my plate came from.  This might seem cruel or gross, but in the Western world it is easy to forget our chicken wings came from a live animal.  It is a reality that I wish more people could witness to understand and appreciate that there is a life before our plates.

I went on a day trip to a beautiful place called ‘Rattar Gul’.  It’s a river area that was about 1-2 hours drive from Sylhet.  We rode on a little wooden canoe through the mangroves with two boys paddling.  It was scenic and beautiful.  We stopped at a watch tower and took the steps to the top to see the wonderful views.

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For me, the food in Bangladesh is amazing.  There is a dish called ‘poochka’ or ‘pani puri’ which is little hollow round crisp shells filled with chickpeas and tamarind sauce is added on top.  Lovely.  And for some reason, Chinese food in Bangladesh is phenomenal.  Foreign food in restaurants everywhere is often catered to the local customers, so the Chinese food in Bangladesh often has extra spices added to it and it tastes delicious.  I even found a Pizza Hut in Dhaka that was tastier than Pizza Hut in the UK!

Dhaka is the capital and notorious for its bad traffic nowadays, but it’s not really the end of the world.  I visited Jamuna Future Park, which is a HUGE modern shopping mall and also where I found Pizza Hut.  It’s so big that I couldn’t cover it all in a couple of trips and it would be easy to get lost.  It is good for people who fancy some modern shopping with fixed price tags instead of haggling at markets.

I visited some of the University campuses just to have a look around and ate at some great restaurants.  That always makes me happy!  Bangladesh is a great place to explore and there are some other areas like Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar that I would have liked to see as well.  That may need to be saved for another trip.

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Ryanair has changed its hand luggage rules

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Previously on Ryanair flights, you could take a small bag (35cm x 20cm x 20cm no weight limit) AND a large bag (55cm x 40cm x 20cm with 10kg weight limit) with you into the cabin for free.

The new rules for Ryanair hand luggage from 15th January 2018 are as follows:

  • Without priority boarding: 
    You can take a small bag into the cabin for free, and
    You can take a large bag that will be placed into the hold at the boarding gate for free
  • With priority boarding:
    You can take a small bag AND large bag into the cabin for free

In a nutshell, you can still take a small bag and a large bag on Ryanair for free, but the large bag will be placed into the hold if you haven’t paid for priority boarding, which costs £5 or £6.

If you don’t want to pay for the privilege of having your large bag near you during the flight, make sure you close it with a padlock before you kiss it goodbye at the boarding gate!

Further information on Ryanair changing its hand luggage allowance is available by clicking here.

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The mind-growing effect of living abroad

I’ve lived abroad a few times in my life.  The first time was when I was 21 years old and worked in New York for a year as an intern.  The second time, I went to live in Agadir, Morocco, for three months.  And the most recent time was in Costa Rica for six months.

The locations and experiences were very different, but there was one thing they all had in common.  The level of personal growth I experienced was phenomenal.  I changed and grew in so many ways that I never would have experienced if I stayed settled and working in the UK.  I’m grateful for all of these experiences that in some way shaped the person I am today.

Having lived in London already, the transition to New York was quite easy.  Especially because everyone spoke English.  Looking back, I realise the largest part of why this experience was so much fun was having a large group of intern friends who were just as curious and eager to explore and enjoy NY as I was.  Having friends to share adventures with is a wonderful thing.  I loved the buzz of life, and knowing my time was limited meant I made the effort to do as much as I could as quickly as possible.  Having to start a new life in another country somehow made me very assertive.  I wasn’t so worried about what others thought of me as before.

Morocco was a completely different experience.  It felt very ‘foreign’.  I didn’t understand any Arabic and I was forced to make use of my school French and develop my language skills.  I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of a less modern world, like buying all of your fresh fruit and veg from a market stall, and appreciated how everyone took the time to relax.  Agadir is based by the beach, a beautiful place, and it’s where I learned the importance of enjoying life, remembering to take things slowly once in a while and enjoy the beautiful views.

Costa Rica is a very beautiful country, and the experience of living there was nothing like what I expected.  Funnily enough, it’s where I learned to enjoy relaxing at the beach properly with friends.  I used to find sitting at the beach quite boring before, but I finally understood the joy of spending hours in and near the sea.  I loved living in Quepos, a little village near Manuel Antonio on the coast, for six weeks.  I adored being surrounded by tropical forests, humming birds and I even had a tear in my eye when I saw a flock of wild scarlet macaws near my home.  It makes me feel so awful when I think of how these beautiful red parrots are only seen in cages around the world.  Being immersed in nature was an amazing experience, as were the horrific thunderstorms I witnessed (from the balcony) in rainy season.  Truly magnificent!

Moving to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, made me appreciate all the things I’d taken for granted about living in London.  I kind of assumed that all capitals across the world were similar to London – international, full of work opportunities and great restaurants!  It turns out that’s not the case.  I found the language barrier to be a barrier in getting to know the locals, another reason to improve my Spanish skills.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to visit rainforests, waterfalls, beaches and volcanoes around Costa Rica.  One of the highlights was visiting Tortuguero and going kayaking for the first time… by myself… with a random dog that insisted on joining me!  It was amazing and I loved ‘adventure dog’, he was awesome.

I learned a lot from my time living abroad.  Living somewhere is completely different to just visiting a place for a weekend or a week.  You get a different feel for the place and understanding of the culture.  I learned that people are kind and helpful, but most of all, I learned that I can rely on myself.  That gave me a lot of confidence in myself – knowing that in a foreign situation you can and will always find a solution for what you need.

I also learned and realised that sometimes you can’t control everything.  Things happen in life, and you just have to go with the flow.  I learned to let go of a lot of my life expectations, and sometimes the distance from ‘home’ also helped me to accept and let go of the past.  Making the effort to step away from your everyday life helps you to see life from a different perspective.  Somehow, travelling and living abroad really helped me to grow spiritually and accept everyone and everything more than before.

Going to new places makes your senses come to life as you have to pay attention to everything around you.  It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and experience different ways of living.

I’m grateful that I’ve had these opportunities to experience personal growth, and I’m aware that this kind of growth would have been very limited if I hadn’t travelled and lived abroad.

I realise that living abroad is usually a huge step, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering it.  Most people actively manage their career growth, but I think personal growth is just as important in life, if not more.

 

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Filed under Costa Rica, Morocco, New York, Travel, Wildlife

Seven Jobs That Let You Live And Work Abroad (As Your Own Boss)

Article by Arianna O’Dell (2016)

Tired of the corporate rat race? You can do these jobs just as easily overseas while reporting only to yourself.

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Right now, I’m sitting at a coffee shop in Bucharest, Romania, with my laptop and an Americano. For the past five months, I’ve been traveling through Europe and the Middle East while simultaneously building a marketing agency​ I can operate from anywhere in the world.

As many people are finding out, digital technology makes it easier than ever to work across borders. From Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Madrid, Spain, “digital nomad hubs” are popping up across the globe.

Freelancers and entrepreneurs alike are coming together to work outside the confines of traditional offices. And as remote work becomes more a norm than an exception, we’re likely to see more independent workers congregate even in cities where big industries and corporations aren’t anchored.

People I meet on my travels often ask me how I’m supporting myself and whether they can do it, too, using their own skills and backgrounds. The road to happy self-employment isn’t always as smooth as the one to a steamy espresso in Spain, but I’m living proof that it can be done–and so are the other digital nomads I’ve met who work in other fields.

Based on conversations with them and my own experience, here are seven professions you can pursue from just about anywhere.

1. DIGITAL MARKETER
If you’re passionate about social media or can’t get enough of launching pay­-per­-click campaigns, you don’t need a cubicle in an office tower to do that. Digital marketers (like me!) are finding the role lets us comfortably support ourselves from anywhere in the world.

“A​s a digital media professional,” Sharon Tseung tells me, “I’m currently managing e­mail newsletters and paid ads for clients. I also blog about how to make money online while traveling.,” she says. “When I realized the living freelance expenses abroad were far less than San Francisco rent, working overseas was a no­-brainer.”

With U.S. clients and Greek rent, Tseung has been able to fund her travels and embark on a full year (and counting) of remote work. From startups to Fortune 500 companies, there’s an array of companies that offer remote positions and are open to contracting freelance talent, particularly for marketing roles.

2. PUBLIC RELATIONS PROFESSIONAL
A PR pro knows that early-morning pitching can make or break an outreach campaign. For me, I found that working from the Middle East gave me a big advantage since it put my schedule six hours ahead of my New York City clients.

In Tel Aviv, it was possible for me to build and execute media campaigns for clients based further west; all I needed was a stable Wi-Fi connection and an international clock. If you’re skilled in communications and can write a compelling press release, a career in public relations can be your golden ticket to a new adventure abroad.

3. WEB DEVELOPER
The U.S. B​ureau of Labor and Statistics​ has projected that employment of web developers is set to increase 27% between 2014 and 2024, “much faster than the average for all occupations.”

Many employers have turned to remote options for these needs, making a freelance career in web development a more feasible and remunerative option for remote workers than it was even a few years ago. Companies including Amazon, Dell, and IBM allow some developers to work remotely or on a freelance basis. As technology demand rises, companies are always on the hunt for talented web developers, no matter where they may be based.

4. GRAPHIC DESIGNER
If you dream in Helvetica and know your way around Photoshop, a career in graphic design can help you bring in the necessary cash flow to live and travel abroad. Glassdoor puts the average graphic designer’s salary at $61,192 in New York City, about $10,000 higher than the national median pay for the role.

But you may be able to do quite a bit better when you don’t have an HR department to negotiate your earnings with–and what you do earn may go further overseas anyway than it would in Manhattan. And one recruiter recently told Fast Company that design opportunities are popping up in industries where they didn’t much exist before. “You need a product that looks really good whether you are a software designer or a shoe manufacturer,” she said, which could be putting talented–if nomadic–graphic designers in higher demand.

5. CONTENT ENTREPRENEUR
Many digital nomads choose blogging as their revenue stream. Through paid sponsors, ads, and affiliates, it’s possible to generate thousands of dollars each year. Jason Wuerch, a content entrepreneur at Frugal for Less​, recently chose to move operations overseas after he realized it was possible to work on his company while spending half as much money on rent as he would have in Portland, Oregon.

“My love of Europe combined with a smart financial decision made moving to Romania the right choice,” he told me. I can relate–it was a similar calculation that helped me make my own leap earlier this year. If you love writing but find that running a blog isn’t your calling, many writers find freelance work on platforms like UpWork, Fiverr, and others.

6. E-COMMERCE ENTREPRENEUR
Got something to sell? You can probably sell it while working abroad, even if your target customers are back home. The U​.S. e-­commerce sector grew 14.6%​ in 2015, making it a ripe market for digital entrepreneurs. It depends on what you’re selling, of course, but all you may really need is a Wi-Fi connection and a distribution partner for fulfillment. (Even if you’re making a product that requires you to stay in one spot, production costs are still lower in many places overseas than they are domestically.)

With a few weeks’ time and a touch of creativity, you can create your own digital business, whether it’s a line of jewelry, phone cases, or even kitchenware. And even if you aren’t producing your own goods and selling them online (which can require more of a full-fledged operation), creatives around the world are earning passive income and supporting their travels through sites like Etsy​ and Zazzle.​

7. E­-LEARNING AND VIDEO EXPERT
Over the past decade, video technology has given rise to education platforms like Udemy​ and Skillshare. ​Entrepreneurs can now create and sell a course on an unlimited number of topics.

Whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, or restaurant server, as long as you’ve got some kind of useful instruction to give, you can build a course that’s relevant to your industry and get paid to show others the ropes by video. And if you’re skilled at widely available tools like Final Cut Pro, a career in video production or e­-learning might be for you.

Derek Merdinyan of Video Igniter made the plunge into digital nomadism almost five years ago. “I’ve done the calculations, and running my business remotely means I have lower overhead costs and can pass the savings on to my clients,” he says.

Digital media is here to stay and, increasingly, a viable way of supporting yourself abroad in a range of industries. From public relations to graphic design, these cross-border career paths can help fund the expat life you’ve been dreaming of.

Arianna O’Dell is the founder of Airlink Marketing, a digital agency that helps hotels, restaurants, and travel destinations attract and retain clientele.

This article and any associated images were originally published here:
https://www.fastcompany.com/3062111/seven-jobs-that-let-you-live-and-work-abroad-as-your-own-boss?utm_content=buffer5f152&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Dickens Festival in Rochester, Kent

I enjoyed a lovely day at the Rochester Dickens Festival. Rochester is lovely on any given day, but even more so when the sun is shining and the streets are full of live music, plays, food stands and people dressed up in Dickensian costumes.  There was such a great atmosphere.

I was pleased to see lots of fair rides at the Rochester Castle grounds.


As well as lots of trade stores selling all sorts of arts, crafts and other things.

My friend and I went to Quills for lunch, which had been on my to-do list. I had a delicious all day breakfast (for lunch).

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And my friend’s burger looked absolutely delicious.

We spent some time along the high street and popped into some of the charity shops to look at books. Followed by some lovely hot donuts from a stall, because there’s always room for dessert!

It was a great day and I look forward to returning to the Dickens Festival in future.

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A wonderful trip to Thailand – The North and Chiangmai tour

September 2016

In my mind, I was going to Asia for four or five months to travel around Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and any other countries in Asia I decided to add along the way.

In reality, a three week trip to Asia was much more convenient and affordable, and also a good compromise given I’d spent six months in Costa Rica and was wrapping up my travels.

The actual plan was to spend two weeks in Thailand and one in Malaysia.  Thailand has been very high on my ‘to visit’ list, mainly because I love Thai food.

As I was travelling solo, I decided to join a tour for the first week followed by a week in Bangkok.  This post is about the first week with the tour.

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Street markets

I had a look at various tours and settled on the Bangkok to Chiangmai Express tour with G Adventures.  I hadn’t used this company before, but a couple of friends recommended them, the price was reasonable compared to other tours, there was no hill trekking or mandatory cycling (not my cup of tea) and I liked the varied itinerary that included multiple places, nice hotels, a floating raft house and an overnight train.  Exciting!!

I arrived in Bangkok on a Monday morning in September, the same day the tour was starting.  Luckily I was able to check in early to the hotel after my 15 hour flight from London, so I had a few hours of sleep and woke up in time to have a wander around the area and grab something to eat before the introductory meeting in the evening.  The tour guide and our group of ten tourists seemed friendly enough.  We went out for dinner together and called it a night for an early start the next day.

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Cooked rats

I should point out that September is the rainy season.  In an ideal world, this trip would be in November during the best weather.  However, having lived through a rainy season in Costa Rica, I know there are a lot of perks to rainy season.  Flights are cheaper, there are fewer tourists around and the weather is generally cooler.  After all, a bit of rain isn’t going to ruin my holiday!  It did rain pretty much every day, but usually only once or twice for an hour or so in the late afternoon or evening.

The tour started in Bangkok and we worked our way north via private van and an overnight train.

Most of our travels were in air conditioned vans, which was great with our luggage in the hot and humid weather.  We stopped at little cafe style restaurants for lunch and dinner that provided decent and cheap meals.  For me, all of the food was amazing and delicious. I’m a fan of spice and it was hard not to find a flavoursome dish at every place.  And I was thrilled that a meal usually cost less than 80 baht (£2 or $3).

We visited so many different places. In Bangkok we visited the Wat Pho giant Buddha.  Our guide explained a lot of history about every place we visited.

 

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Bridge on the River Kwai

One of my favourite parts of the trip was the raft house.  I had imagined we’d be staying in a wooden hut on stilts in the water.  The raft house was actually a little white house-ship that was docked at the side of a lake.  It was not luxurious, and it was definitely different.  The real surprise was that a  motor boat connected to the raft house and pulled the whole thing along the lake!  We all sat on the deck and enjoyed the ride.  We ‘parked’ along the lakeside on the mountainous side and the motor boat left us.  This was our isolated stop until the morning.  I hopped in a canoe with three new tourist friends and we paddled around a couple of bends.  The views were amazing.  Our canoe was precariously balanced with four of us, which added to the fun. I’m pleased to say there was no tipping over.  Some of the others had a swim in the warm water before dinner, which was served at an open table and delivered to us by a motor boat. It was a quiet and relaxing evening, and I loved sleeping in a floating house!

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A raft house being pulled along the lake

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Beautiful morning views

There were a lot of beautiful temples and ruins on our agenda.  I liked the places we stayed at and breakfast was included everyday.  Sometimes we had time to explore on our own or relax.

The overnight train was an interesting experience, and one I was glad to have the guidance of our tour guide!

Another highlight was the cooking class that I signed up to in Chiangmai.  We visited a local market to buy fresh ingredients before going to the cooking school to make spring rolls, green curry, tom yum soup and pad thai.  I was really impressed by how easy it all seemed (of course it helped that the school pre-prepped a lot of things for us!). I actually feel I could make all of these dishes again.

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Meat market

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Cooking the best Tom Yum soup

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Also in Chiangmai, some of us in the group went to a ladyboy cabaret show, which was a lot of fun.  It consisted of beautiful ladyboys dressed in cabaret style outfits, feathers and all, performing dance routines to classic hits like ‘it’s raining men’. There was a great atmosphere and everything was in good jest.

The tour finished on a Sunday morning and I decided to stay an extra night in Chiangmai before heading back to Bangkok by train.  I had a great time at the Sunday night market which had a variety of items on sale and amazing food stalls.

In a country that feels so ‘foreign’ – different language, culture and food – the tour was a really nice and safe introduction to Thailand. I appreciated the good company and having someone to ‘hold my hand’ when going to restaurants, tourist sites and using tuktuks for the first time.

I did go on to spend another week in Bangkok which was really fun and felt like a breeze to get around on my own after a week with the tour.

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