The Gift of Giving

I have many faults, but greed is not one of them if I may say so myself. Despite this, I am possibly the worst gift-shopper on earth. More than once I returned from a birthday/holiday shopping spree with beautiful presents for well.. myself and nothing for my giftee. While this may give you the idea I’m utterly selfish, I blame my perfectionism for not being able to buy gifts. Especially when it involves those close to me. You can imagine this degrades the boyfriend’s birthday to the worst day of the year.

This year I think I actually did well. His actual birthday is not until tomorrow but I decided it’d be better to stay ahead and surprise him on friday. So, all the way through last week I have  been arranging my gifts, while ensuring he had no clue. My idea was book a hotel room and invite him there by emailing his professional email address.

The first step obviously was to book the boyfriend so I picked some random movie to see and a restaurant I supposedly wanted to have dinner at. Then, the second problem was booking the hotel room without a credit card since he would find out that way. Thankfully hotelspecials.nl allowed me to book the room and I even got a discount as a bonus. Also I tortured myself with the task of getting him a record player and some vinyl records. Normally we divide roles very traditionally, where he takes care of all technical things and I make him food as a reward. However past week I studied audio equipment, looked for music in a smelly old record store and hooked up my newly found treasures all in secrecy. Frustrations about not being able to say a word and needing help nearly made me give up at least four times.

Thankfully that moment where he entered our hotel room with the key I had hidden in his car, to find his birthday cake, presents and champagne completely astounded takes away all my frustrations and makes it instantly worth it. I realize, as I look at him playing with his new toy or as he is finding new records in that same shop, that successfully surprising him gives me more joy than receiving any gift ever has and for a moment I am truly happy, only because the gentleman is too.

 

Advertisements

Feeding the Piggybank

The reason I started this blog was because I wanted to show how easy it is to travel if you are on a tight budget. I had worked in tourism before and learned the most occurring motivation not to travel is a financial one. Since I’m still a student I’m not rich (yet) and I don’t really want my boyfriend to act as my credit card, so we bought a piggy bank in which we save money to travel. 

We’ve been saving since january or february 2013, and we started of slowly. When I counted our money in august we had saved about €400. Lately however, both of us have become mildly obsessed with collecting change. I find myself drawing money from an atm in front of Starbucks to spend it at Starbucks, where I would’ve normally used my debit card. On saturday we reached new extremes, when we were at a concert and had to buy beverage tokens (is that what you call them?) They where €2.20 each, and we needed about 8 or so. BUT that would bring us to an amount of €17.60 and €2,40 change. The ‘adult’ decision was to get 14 tokens, twice what we needed in order to get more change.. 

Saving has become pretty expensive lately. However we do get some childish rewarding feeling every time we collect some change. Then counting our assets makes me feel eight years old again. I love it. We now have €630,74 and will use it to enjoy our first small-change-funded-trip together this weekend. Hello Prague!

By the way; Happy Movember!

Image

Is it right?

As for traveling I grew up in a mixed environment. There was my grandfather who had once been mistaken for a member of the mob, had eaten live monkey in China and had gotten food poisoning in Japan. Then there was my mother who always told me the grass was much greener at the other side and inspired me to travel. But only when I’d come of age, because there was also my dad. My dad’s a very strong and bear-like man, but he has some secret fears. He is scared of flying, foreign languages, other cultures, being homesick, foreigners in general, foreign food, foreign music anything beyond the boundaries of our garden and basically anything he did not grow up with. As a consequence the only traveling I knew was spending summers at our safe (dull) summer house in the south of France, eating the same food as we did back home and listening to the same music. 

Imagerave

When I graduated high school I was still a minor and therefore no world trips where to take place. My decision was to temporarily be a good girl and go to business school, for the mere reason of being able to study abroad later on. This is where the fun began. Really my only objective was to leave my parents, though I was not allowed nor financially capable to leave the house. Therefore going abroad was the only option.

I took some vacations when I could, but the true adventure came in South Africa. I was curious and hungry for adventure, so I was friendly to anyone, naive and too open-minded. This led to me almost being harassed by men my dad’s age, having to use the service entrance to my apartment cause some guy I’d dated would await me in front of the normal one for weeks, my drink being spiked and accidentally smuggling weed past port security onto a yacht. Furthermore I got drunk in countries such as Morocco and Egypt, pissing off local authorities. 

Also back home I was still craving danger and I made crazy plans such as crossing Africa by myself from north to south, trying dangerous sports and moving to Asia. Until I was eavesdropping on two students in the train the other day. Student A, I’ll call him Tom had spent some time in South Africa. He spoke for a while about all places that I had visited and loved so much. Then he spoke about his friend, a 20 year old student from France. I’ll call him Jean-Pierre, cause that’s what all French are named, right?

Jean-Pierre spent a summer in Cape Town, partying a lot like students are supposed to do. One night he was driving, fairly intoxicated and he got pulled over. The police hinted for a bribe, but in his drunk state of mind Jean-Pierre refused and expressed hatred towards this corrupt system. The police officer arrested him and took him to the station, where he was led into a cell with three officers. The officers raped Jean-Pierre and released him the next morning. Upon his return to France, Jean-Pierre tested positive for HIV.

This story really hit me because I knew it is a reality in South-Africa, occurring on a daily basis. Secondly that could’ve been me. We were the same age and I was just as careless. Well except for the drunk driving maybe. 

That is where I started wondering. South Africa is extremely big in corruption but also in tourism. Isn’t it ethically wrong to visit a country where these malpractices occur and where so much injustice is done? 

Let me know what you think!

Love,

Sophie

Planning to Jump Off a Bridge?

Jump from Bloukrans Bridge, South Africa. Just now, I was browsing through my photos and found this shot:

Image

 

 

Looks pretty cool right? I kind of look like a superhero, even though all I had to do was jumping down when I was told to. Maybe I should remove the cable with Photoshop, hmm. If only I knew how to.

If you are ever planning to drive the Garden route or suddenly find yourself around Plettenberg Bay or Knysna in South Africa, there is no excuse for not jumping. As a matter of fact, the oldest person to jump the bridge was 96 years old I think and I think I can safely say that you are not over 96. The cool thing about this bridge is that you can tell all your friends you did the highest commercial bungy in the world. 

For me, this was the first time I did bungy jumping, but it definitely won’t be the last. I’m kind of an adrenaline junk so I tried skydiving as well, which is more exciting but in a different way. The cool thing about this jump is that as you jump you look down and there is nothing, no safety nets, no people, just a peaceful valley that you are approaching rapidly. 

I think that I paid around 650 ZAR, or 65 euros when I did it early 2012, but prices may have gone up a little. Still, it’s worth every penny. 

What’s the most exciting thing you ever did? Have you tried bungy jumping at other interesting places that I should try? Let me know!

Love, 

Sophie

Time for Autumn Comfort Food

Last Saturday was super rainy and grey here, so my boyfriend and I couldn’t really find discipline to leave the house. We figured we had to do something with de day, so we decided to bake an apple speculaas pie. As always while He was doing all the hard work, I was playing around and wasting time. But actually it wasn’t a waste of time, cause I discovered that if business school wouldn’t work out I can always become a marzipan sculptor! See for yourself:

20131021-163559.jpg

20131021-163638.jpg

I wanted to make it brown by covering it in spices, but gave up halfway. Still I think it’s really cool.

My Blue Coat

Me and my blue coat first met early 2013 in the beautifully romantic town of Lugano, Switzerland. Since then it has accompanied me on travels to varies cold destinations such as Munich, Helsinki, Tallinn, Brussels and Amsterdam, where it has always provided me with warmth and comfort. 

Me and my blue coat fit extremely well, because it is one of the rare coats not judging me by my strange no-boobs-no-belly-fat-legs-broad-shoulder-man-ladylike bodyshape, but embracing it perfectly. On the downside it seems to be very needy of attention and always very present. People have recognized me because I was hanging out with my blue coat on moments that I would have not been recognized. 

Image

Despite your neediness and the fact that I do not always wear you, blue coat, I still love you deeply. 

Love, 

Sophie

P.S.: Still taking cold showers and everyday I begin to dread showering more! WHY did I start this?!

30 Day Cold Shower Challenge; Let’s Do It!

Sometimes you just need that extra motivation boost to get over that one task that has become a standard to-do list decorator. Other times you need a big motivation boost and in my case I need an XXL elephant-sized motivation boost. My friends, family and even people I don’t personally know have all attempted bravely, but failed horrendously. Okay, maybe that’s a tiny bit of an exaggeration. Not that many people helped me, but still this sketches out the situation for you. It’s bad. 

Now, a while ago I read about the 30-day cold shower challenge and I figured it was worth a shot. I even took a few cold showers then, but I didn’t really have anything difficult to accomplish at the time, so I just quit. But now I’m back, and I will succeed. 

For those too lazy to click the link: The CSS is a challenge where you take a cold shower every day for thirty days. On day one you set your goals for which you need to be motivated. By taking the shower every morning you constantly remind yourself you can do it and therefore changes you will succeed are greater. 

Now, I’m scared typing this already as cold water is my biggest fear. No, really. I always say I have no fear of physical pain other than the fear of being cold. In fact I’m more afraid of cold water than I am of death. I sure hope the afterlife is warm then. In the past my fear of cold water has led me to stand on poolsides, beaches or boats for hours, wanting to jump in, but not daring to. Worst of all is when people try to ‘help’ me, by splashing water, holding my hand to jump or pushing me. If you want me to not be your friend anymore; that’s the road with least resistance. 

Often I play games by my own rules. Well, no actually I don’t, but I’d like to. So I’ve changed the idea a little. I will allow myself warm showers after workouts and have cold showers in the morning. Somehow I think my skin won’t clean if all my pores close and the same for shaving my legs. Since I normally take two showers a day anyway, I think this exception is fair.

I’ll start tomorrow and let you know how awful it was. Has any of you attempted taking cold showers? Let me know. Posts on what my goals are and how it’s going will follow, so come back regularly. 

Love, 

Sophie

Image