A Travellerspoint blog

The Pros of Celebrating Birthdays Abroad

Celebrating one's birthday away from home inevitably means celebrating away from friends and family. However, there is also pros to this kind of celebration.

sunny 20 °C
View West Africa on askgudmundsen's travel map.

My 18th years birthday was held in Rome, the 20th in Egypt, the 24th in Canada, the 27th in Mongolia and now I have turned 30 in Morocco. So though it sounds like bragging, I am getting pretty good at celebrating abroad. The obvious con of celebrating your birthday abroad is that you do not celebrate with your friends and family, but instead with complete strangers.

Rooftop Celebration

Rooftop Celebration

That is also the first pro. For ‘strangers’ do not stay strangers for very long when you travel. Especially when travelling alone. You simply become more outreaching and engaging to not go insane from loneliness. This is why the same three or so questions always initiate a new meeting between travellers at hostels, guesthouses and bars across the world: “So, where are you from?”, “How long have you been in *insert country*?” and “How long are you staying for?”. It is simply the etiquette for approaching new people to create friends out of strangers. Add to this, that most travellers are alike (compared to the general population). Young of mind, adventurous, fond of the unknown, open-minded and in need of turning strangers into friends. So why is this a pro of celebrating birthdays abroad? Because most travellers like a party and a birthday is an excuse for having a one. Parties are and will always be the easiest way to turn strangers into friends. So birthdays make up a fast track of making new friends, where the alternatives are rather stiff conversations over breakfast or semi-forced travel talk on a roof terrace as the sun sets. Just because making friends is a necessity and travellers are alike, does not mean that it is a piece of cake. A birthday help smoothes things along.
Secondly, having people who, few hours or days ago, were complete strangers celebrating you feels splendid indeed. That people you just met, think that they should celebrate you is really something, which makes the brain cells that control self-worth tingle. Thirdly, you hostel will do nice things for you, e.g. give you a free room/bed, provide dinner, a birthday cake or something else that will make you really happy when you travel on a budget. Sleeping arrangements are averagely a quarter of my budget when travelling. So I happily take any freebie I can get close to – and birthdays often equal freebies.

Room Upgrate (and a fes)

Room Upgrate (and a fes)

This year was no exception. Upgraded from a dorm bed to a private room, birthday cake on the house, birthday songs in English, Spanish, Korean and Arabic, and a party that included alcohol, something rare in an Islamic country like Morocco (though it is not illegal here). The point of this is not only to brag about my birthdays abroad or tell people at home that I had a nice birthday without them. I sincerely would encourage you to try this. At least once in your life. Travel abroad, preferably alone, during your birthday week, and try it out. I cannot stress enough how fantastic it is to have people who barely know you, celebrating you. If you feel sorry for friends and family, you can always through a birthday for those people a week before your actually birthday. Trust me; they will probably not care that much.

Goodbye Fes

Goodbye Fes

On that note, I hope you will give it a go. Having also enjoyed this birthday abroad, I arrive in Rabat today and move in with the host family (more about the later), whom I will be living with for the next four weeks of French lessons. I start school tomorrow.

Take care, wherever you are!

Posted by askgudmundsen 02:56 Archived in Morocco Tagged travel birthday travelling abroad fes celebration fez Comments (0)

Hashish Mountains of Morocco

Experiencing the grass capital of Morocco

sunny 16 °C
View West Africa on askgudmundsen's travel map.

Sitting on the top of the southern bit of Europe, looking at Africa, I find myself without any real expectations going forward.

The Blue Town, Chefchaouen

The Blue Town, Chefchaouen

Walking just behind the waterfalls near the blue facades and winding alleyways of the town Chefchouen, we passed fields upon fields of marijuana plantages. The Rif Mountains is one of the prime location for Morocco’s big production of weed and hashish, and this is clearly visible when visiting the region. So while all the guidebooks praise the town for it’s old blue Medina (old town), the relaxing atmosphere and beautiful walks in the area, they tend to forget to mention that any visitor will be smack in the middle of the Marijuana-land.
While it is not necessarily to any discomfort to visitors, the marijuana trade is huge and you cannot avoid it. It is simply something you have to accept to a certain level. Both young guy and old men on the street is inevitable going to ‘psst’ at you offering in drugs – multiple times a day. This might not be any more hassle than the touristy restaurant staffers that tries to drag you into their establishment of the central street of any European tourist destination. A firm “La, shukran” (no, tanks) or three should do the trick. More ignoring is the hassle from guys who want to show you their marijuana farm.

Colours of the Medina

Colours of the Medina

They tend to be way more persistent. Mostly because those offers work in the same way that “would you like to come to see my shop” comments on market works; you will be pressed hard to buy their products, except in this case that product is marijuana. Whether you buy something might determine whether they suddenly want to take admission for showing you around. Having a bunch of marijuana farmers circling you, insisting that you own the something for having showed you their farm might not be the least intimidation experience so changes that any marijuana farm visit is going to be expensive are good. If you are keen to buy anything, you should seek advice at your hostel or fellow travellers who know a decent dealer.
Which brings us to the third annoyance. It is not necessarily an annoyance to everyone, but hostels will inevitably be full of hippies and other smokers who will be lounging around on the roof terrace for most of the day, enjoining life. This crowd might not be for anybody, and the sweet smell of burnt grass coming from the table next to yours might not be everybody’s favourite idea of breakfast. Though I particularly appreciated their relaxed attitude to… well, everything.

Alternative River-Crossing

Alternative River-Crossing

That said, the “Blue Town” is absolutely a lovely place to wander and get yourself lost in, which will eventually happen when you make your way into the Medina. The further into the Medina you get, the small, winding street the alleyways was full of daily life developing. Once in a while, you will pass a bunch of kids who stare at you in wonder or a couple of old men laughing silently at you. In both cases because they know you are walking into a dead end to corners ahead and have to walk a confused walk-of-shame for getting lost when you walk passed them a second time when you backtrack your way back out of the dead end. Further away from the city and the marijuana fields both the hikes and the waterfalls grow more impressive. A day’s outing is worth the effort, as many of the hikes add some adventure to the beautiful surroundings with slippery slopes, some alternative means of river crossings and some rather confusing and unmarked paths.

Take care, wherever you are.
Cascades d'Akchour

Cascades d'Akchour

Posted by askgudmundsen 10:40 Archived in Morocco Tagged travel morocco weed blue_city chefchaouen marok hashish rif_mountains Comments (0)

The Surprising Lack of Expectations

Sitting on the top of the southern bit of Europe, looking at Africa, I find myself without any real expectations going forward.

sunny 18 °C
View West Africa on askgudmundsen's travel map.

Do not get me wrong; I am incredibly excited about the prospect of heading out on a new adventure. Like a bear waking from hibernation, remembering the taste of its first kill of the spring, I too have not forgotten the fantastic feeling of arriving in new places, meeting new people and having new experiences, learning more about the world we are living in. But as I am sitting here on the Rock of Gibraltar, or simply the Rock, I have a curious lack of any real expectations for this trip. Wherever my brain would usually put expectations is instead just a fuzzy void.

View of Africa from the Rock

View of Africa from the Rock

It might be because I have done it all before. I am setting out on my fourth longer-than-three-months journey (I will return to why three months is the relevant time frame in a later blog entry), so the routine of it all might be setting in. It just does not feel like the exciting, “life changing” new beginning anymore – though I kinda feel it should be. I mean, a year of anything is quite a long time, especially living out of a backpack.

Entry to Gibraltar by crossing the runway

Entry to Gibraltar by crossing the runway

Maybe it is because the cliché of “expect the unexpected” actually holds true very often on such journeys. If this is true, it is simply easier to go in with as few expectations as possible and then just roll with whatever is thrown at you, good or bad. Or, it could just be because West Africa is simply unchartered territory, even for me. I simply do not know what to expect. Unlike “regular” travels, this is quite frankly a little different. Normally, you would have the comfort and safety of a guide book. But no guidebook really covers West Africa, the one I have is from 2008, so most accommodations mentioned will be closed down, transportation options will have changed, numerous sights will have opened and closed since, and all of the prices quoted in the book will be outdated. So I am to a larger degree than normally travelling in the dark.
Further, most other places have a decent amount of other travellers, English-speaking locals and tourist infrastructure. Even places like the Middle East (increased media attention means for curious travellers going there, where it is safe) and Central Asia (a very traditional route for overlanders and bicyclists travelling between Europe and South-east Asia or Australia) have a rather large crowd visiting. West Africa does not.

Off across the sea

Off across the sea

The only way I know to deal with these situations is pretty much to embrace the uncertainty. The fact that I rarely know where I will be two days from now or where I am going to spend the night will just have to be welcomed as part of the fun. The adventure of travelling in distant lands have always been that the simplest of everyday decisions, such as where to go to bed and how to get something to eat become challenges that define much of your day. Only when that is settled can you begin to wonder about the sights, history or peoples of wherever you happen to be. With those thoughts written down, I sail for Africa. Wish me luck!

Take care, wherever you are.

Posted by askgudmundsen 07:00 Archived in Gibraltar Tagged africa morocco travels gibraltar west_africa Comments (0)

Stop at this Road Blog

semi-overcast 14 °C
View West Africa on askgudmundsen's travel map.

“Make sure you're at the military road blocks before noon – otherwise, the soldiers will be drunk and abusive...”

Still the weapon of choice

Still the weapon of choice

This has been a sound travel advice for most of Africa in the past decades. Rumors have it that the situation most places has improved. I hope so. Mostly because my next adventure takes me through 18 African countries, most of which are located in what is unchartered territory even for the most seasoned travellers: West Africa. This part of Africa has always been the 'holy grail' for independent travellers. It is isolated, poor, has terrible infrastructure and few other foreigners to ask for help. There is no credible guidebooks (the Lonely Planet for West Africa is appallingly poor; Rough Guide's is from 2008), numerous armed conflicts and diseases like Malaria (and now Ebola)... But West Africa is also home to welcoming peoples, fantastic music and a wild side that promises adventure!

With those words of introduction, I am happy to welcome you to this new blog. As the name 'West African Road Blog' suggests, I will be blogging from my travels on the African roads and off roads. Whether my mode of transportation is buses, bush taxis, trucks, camel or something even more strange – and I shall do my best to poke as much fun at the actual road blocks along my route… To the degree where I won't be shot or arrested. Anyway, I hope you will check in on me once in a while.

West Africa

West Africa

Beginning on March 10 and for the next year or so, I will be reporting back from the following countries: Morocco, Western Sahara (yes, that is a country), Mauritania, Cape Verde, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Mail, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger and Nigeria. At least that is the plan, but plans are made to be changed, so let us see how far I manage to get. So far, I know that the first month will be spent in Morocco learning some French. As 11 of those countries are Francophone – and I speak no French whatsoever – is seems worth it. Even though this blog's action-packedness might suffer a bit here in the beginning.

If you want to keep yourself updated, you can either subscribe in the menu to the right or follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/westafricaroadblog/.

Still a little low on pictures from Africa, so here is me in Kenya

Still a little low on pictures from Africa, so here is me in Kenya

Posted by askgudmundsen 12:09 Archived in Gibraltar Tagged africa travels west_africa road_blogs check_points Comments (0)

(Entries 61 - 64 of 64) « Page .. 8 9 10 11 12 [13]