Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why it is okay to change your travel plans

Here’s the story. For my Christmas/New Year trip this year I had a plan in my mind: I would go to Italy, then spend 5 full days in Switzerland and then go to Germany for a week. Now, I’ve never been to Switzerland and I’d obviously heard some very nice things about it, so the idea of going to this fascinating country was very tempting.

I applied for a visa, was given one and then let the topic rest a bit, as it was a bit too early to decide what and where I wanted to do (early October, 3 months in advance) – the important thing was plane tickets and I’d already purchased them at a good price.

I had several locations I wanted to visit in Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux/Vevey, Lucerne, Interlaken, Bern, Zurich, maybe Basel. Initially, I wanted to cram all of that into 5 days. Which was quite unreasonable as I later realized - I did not want to visit all those cities just to cross them out on my list and several hours/half a day is just not enough for me to fully enjoy the experience of visiting a new town.

So I talked to several friends who’d been there and started playing around with locations that I wanted to visit (keep in mind I don’t ski). Geneva and Lausanne? Lausanne and Lucerne? Geneva and Lucerne? Lausanne and Interlaken? Geneva and Zurich? I was looking at affordable hostels here and there, but in the end nothing felt right. Nothing at all. I spent at least two weeks stressing out about my itinerary and then for some reason I thought of Cologne and some other German cities and then, within a day, I booked all flights/trains for my prolonged stay in Germany. It took me only two hours to come up with a updated travel plan (Cologne, Munich and a day trip to Brussels) and I’m very satisfied with it. You know why? Because it feels right! And I want to be there asap. With Switzerland, I was lost and felt discontented and there was quite a risk of me not being happy about my trip in general. And that's so not what I want to remember about the great trip that I was supposed to have.

So what conclusions I can make for myself (and hopefully others) based on this example?

  • it’s okay to change your travel plans
  • if a destination doesn’t feel right at the moment, then switch over to something else because… why risk being unhappy with a trip?
  • try booking hotels and hostels via booking sites that foresee cancellation free of charge (, in order to avoid losing money in case you change your mind or there’s an emergency
  • at the same time, if you for instance booked a hostel via (and they normally charge you 10%, it most definitely is non-refundable) and now hesitate about going to your selected destination, it’s best to lose the 10% (which is normally not much.. 3-5 euro, but of course that depends on your choice of accommodation) than end up hating your trip, right? It’s important to be wary about money, but at the same time there’s no need to be overtly fanatic about it
In other words, travel and be happy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Next trip: Thailand or Germany?

The moment I quit my job, I started thinking about my next trip. You know the usual data mining, flights, hotels, things to discover, the whole nine. I had already had another trip planned that I was happy about, but who can be satisfied with one trip if you can have several?

The thing is, I really want to go to Thailand. I want to see Bangkok and then, as it was eventually decided, Krabi and Phi Phi Island. Initially, I also wanted to go to Hongkong (or maybe Kuala Lumpur, or Phnom Pehn), but decided against it because I realized one country would probably do for my first official visit to Asia.

I found reasonably priced tickets, thought things through, came up with an approximate itinerary, booked accommodation in Krabi Town and then we found out my mother has some health issues she needs to take care of. Maybe she's going to have a surgery in December. And maybe not. My sister and grandmother are both willing to take care of her... but do I want to find myself 10 flight hours from home and know my mother just had a surgery and worry sick about her without being able to attend to her? Not really. So even though it's not yet clear how things will progress from here, I've decided to stay home simply because family comes first.

The funny thing of course is that those tickets are still available online, I mean it's just 5-6 days before I would be setting off and these cheap tickets are still out there, on! Very, very tempting!

Instead, my new Plan is: I have tickets to Milan on Dec 23 and from Berlin on Jan 7, which was how I originally planned to spend the holidays. But now that I quit my job, there's nothing stopping me from stay longer in Europe and finding good use for my one-year multiple entrance visa to the Schengen zone. So I'm in talks with the airline to rebook my flight back from Berlin to Mar 3, 2011 and basically my trip would look like this:

Dec 23-25: Milan, Italy
evening flight to Cologne, Germany
Dec 26-28: Cologne, Germany (with a day trip to Brussels, Belgium)
night train to Munich, Germany
Dec 29-30: Munich, Germany
day train to Karlsruhe, Germany
Dec 30-Jan 3: Karlsruhe, Germany (with a possible day trip to Strasbourg, France)
night train to Berlin
Jan 3-Mar 3: rent an apartment/room in WG in Berlin, Germany (undertaking trips to Stockholm, Copenhagen and ..?)

Right now, I'm very very happy with this itinerary. So maybe Thailand is not going to work out this time, but instead I'll spend some quality time in Europe, attend the Berlinale and enjoy the spirit of Berlin for a while.

Life is good. Travel when you can!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Istanbul Chronicles: Bosphorus tour, fish sandwich, bagels

Day 5

Took another Bosphorus tour and finally had the famous fish sandfish. The fish itself tastes great (straight out of the water onto the grill), but the bun and the half a kilo of raw onions? Not so much. Fresh pomegranate juice is a must here though. Also sesame bagels are a must. Bagel lover will be my next nickname.

On Sundays, it seems, everybody sleeps in at least until noon. Sunday night, however, turned out to be even busier than the night on Friday, a lot of trade going on, lots of people shuffling around, the city was vibrant.

All in all, a really cool and unusual trip, never expected to enjoy it so much. Lots of walking (hills all around), chilling, gazing, interaction with people, cats galore and memorable minutes and hours.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Istanbul Chronicles: main attractions, Turkish delight, shopping

Day 4

Again a lot of places visited and revisited. Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Fish Market, Istiklal Street, Taksim Square, Gulhane Park, Golden Horn bank, lots of water-pipe smoked, Turkish delight consumed and also a dove took a shit on my head as we approached the Grand Bazaar – good times.

Much as I enjoy being here, I must say that I’m amazed at the amount of crap that is sold everywhere. You know, the made in Turkey stuff. It’s pretty awful. But lots of people are buying stuff, so I guess it must up somebody’s alley. Also, souvenirs are of a very low quality, lots of stores are splattered around and yet it’s just too complicated to dig out something decent. However, we then found some stores with hand-made jewelry, clothes, etc. that we were content with, but there are only 4-5 of them in the entire city.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Istanbul Chronicles: Topkapi Palace, meditation, service, blondes in Turkey

Day 3

I just love sitting down on the small fountain square between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, it gives me this feeling of uh… completeness. I even succeed at making my talkative friend shut up for a while and try to contemplate the beauty of things around us. :D

Today we also went to the Topkapi Palace to get an idea how sultans lived back in the day and turns out, those people were not much different from all the Russian tsars who enjoyed bling from gold, sapphires, rubies and the like. I’m not a big fan of looking at all this fancy stuff, so we mostly walked around and marveled at the architecture from the outside. Then we sat down at the most expensive café in Istanbul (according to our bill anyway) and enjoyed some staring into the Bosphorus, its boats and ships.

The cool thing about Istanbul is, it’s flooded with French, German, Italian, Bulgarian people, but not Russians. We met maybe 3 or 4 couples altogether during our entire stay. Also, most locals working in the tourism industry and around it speak very decent English, all waiters we met also possess sufficient knowledge of French, Italian and some for-fun Russian.

There was some pestering involved on our first day here (Turks do seem to like blondes), constant attempts at compliments and flattery, invitations to come in and buy some stuff, go out to dinner, etc., but all of it pretty harmless, or maybe it’s only so if you’re friendly and have a sense of humor about. By the end of our trip, it all felt natural and turned out to be part of the appeal of the city. Local vendors seem to be good-natured and like a good laugh, saying something harmless and yet hilarious as you pass by that makes you crack up.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Istanbul Chronicles: Bosphorus tour, Blue Mosque, Beyazit

Day 2

Nice home-made breakfast on our hotel terrace enjoying featuring some people watching / city slowly waking up. It’s nice to see locals slowly going about their day without hurry or stress.

Went inside the Blue Mosque, the interior is fascinating and unusual to a European eye or simply someone who has seen too many Catholic and Orthodox cathedrals.

Then took a 1.5-hour long Bosphorus tour where one is able to see the contrast between the wealthy and the poor of Istanbul – great way to recuperate and spend time with purpose after a long walk around town.

Went to the Museum of Modern Art, visited the Body Worlds exhibition ( where actual people were used to create mesmerizing images (and by images I mean actual exhibits made from defunct human flesh and bone).

Then walked around Beyazit and Taksim for the longest time shuffling mostly through crowds and enjoying the unique atmosphere the new town. Also had some tea, coffee, smoked a water pipe, added some wine to the combination a bit later in a couple of restaurants down the Istiklal street. Things aren’t so great with alcohol around here, apparently Islam is not big on alcohol beverages in general, but even the most tourist-oriented of places can’t boast a good selection of wine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Istanbul Chronicles: Sultanahmet, fat cats, expensive dining out

Great first day in Istanbul

After a tedious check-in and passport control at the Russian side, we finally took off and the 1 hour 40 minute flight to Istanbul lasted a mere second due to us blacking out as we gained the altitude and expert piloting… only to be followed by a rough landing. We arrived at our hotel at 6am and amazingly enough, we were allowed to check in at the time (originally they said we were supposed to check in no earlier than 12.00pm).

The room turned out to be pretty great – a solid new three star hotel with a terrace for breakfast and an occasional smoke for my friend (5 days, 4 nights, 60 euro per person, I kid you not). We caught up on some sleep (our bodies and brains ached for it) and went on to have a day-long stroll about town seeing most of the major attractions in Sultanahmet and around it, starting with the Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern and ending at the Spice Market (where we found ourselves by accident and it was quite an experience… not for the faint of heart).

The most enjoyable thing was the awesome mood the reigned in and around us – the weather, the people around, the nice conversations that were started out of the blue, the Mosques, the ever present Istanbul cats that have no shame and yet are sweet and fantastic looking (are they sort of like cows in India or what?), we also particularly enjoyed the calls to prayer that at certain times are heard anywhere and everywhere though loudspeakers.

We then went on to have a great and overpriced lunch at 4pm on our way back to Sultanahmet.

All in all, a good start of our first trip outside Europe and America.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2010 Trip #5

Leaving for Istanbul in a couple of hours. I have done my reading and preparation, but no obsessive planning - I have sort of let go and wonder what will come out of it.

I'm going with a good friend who is a loud and talkative type, I hope to retain my sanity during these days. :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Coming back to real life

I feel so content at the moment.

I worked for 13 months at this job and for 13 months I spent 4-5 hours every day getting to and from work. Can you imagine that? 20 hours a week, 80 hours a month and so on. Imagine how much time was lost. Of course at first I tried reading books and I did read quite a few on the train, I also made an attempt to refresh my French, but I guess that's not what my brain wanted at 06.30am. Eventually I gave up trying to do something productive with this time and tried to sleep (on my morning ride) and it proved to be almost impossible, I have a thing about falling asleep in any kind of transport, maybe because once when I fell asleep in the car as a passenger we got into a car crash.

Getting back to the subject and without further ado I must say that due to all this time on the road I sort of fell out of life for some people.

In these four days that I've been off work I've finally started to feel like I am alive again. I went to a family lunch at my grandmother's. And yup, I don't even like family events, but I like to know that I choose to go or not to go depending on whether it feels right at the moment, not because I'm so bloody tired that I don't want to see or talk to anyone. That makes a huge difference.

In these four days I was also reminded that I have friends and buddies and former colleagues that I can trust, have a meaningful conversation with, who I can support or be supported by. I almost forgot what it's like, simple interaction that feeds the mind, in this year+ that I've been commuting. I had time to talk to my college classmate for an hour on the phone and not feel pressured by time, sometimes when she called me previously I didn't even pick up the phone - it's not because of her, it's because I was so drained I felt like if I started talking to her, I would be even more exhausted.

I was heavily supported by a couple of friends during my last two weeks at work and during the time when I realized I had feelings for a co-worker, now a former co-worker. They've been there for me and it has meant a lot to me.

Today I had lunch with a couple of people I like, one of them who quit a similar job in the company, only she quit half a year ago. She and I then had some alone time and it was a pleasure to talk to her and see where she is in her life right now and tell her where I am. Also by accident we met this crush of mine, the former co-worker... That was quite a coincidence. Later in the day I went out with a friend and accidentally met a former colleague from the job I had before the last one. I wonder how accidental or coincidental that actually was... What I know is it gave me an incredible awareness of things around me.

Tuesday night I'm leaving for Istanbul. Before that on Monday and Tuesday I'll probably see a couple of people I enjoyed interacting with before I fell out of life. And I know I'll enjoy it anew.

I really feel the decision to quit was a great one. I'm coming back to life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

How I quit my job - Part 1

I am of the opinion that your job should not define who you are. Just like age. Or sexuality.

Moreover, I've come to realize that being unhappy at one's job tends to influence one's life as a whole and if it truly is so and has been for a while, it's time to move on to other things.

My discontent at work started in early August, I'd just come back from vacation and the thought of coming back was unbearable. Sure, most people get that feeling, however it was a feeling that did not evaporate in a week or two, but stayed with me till the very end influencing how I function completely.

First of all, it needs to be said I commute at least 4 hours a day. Actually, if I calculate right, more like 5. I have (correction: had) a 8.30-5.00 job, I was leaving the house at 6.05am and coming back at 7.30pm or later (7.00pm if I was very lucky). I took the train in the morning to a small town where the company that I worked for is located, then took a half-hour walk to the factory or a slightly shorter bus trip always preceeded by waiting for 10 minutes in the wind. In the evening, I went back with somebody who had a car to the outskirts of my city only to use public transportation once again and be strayed in traffic for another hour to finally get home.

In other words, it was a fairytale.

The job itself was not fulfilling. My boss, GM of the company, was afraid to confront a member of the management team and this person ended up ruling the company, that made a lot of people miserable. Also, he was supposed to be my only boss, but I ended by being bossed around by a lot of people and my manager did nothing about it, they all could freely load me with assignments and when I pointed at that, he'd pretend to be willing to do something about it and he did not in the end. Honestly, I don't feel like reciting all reasons for leaving because it would just send me back to being frustrated, so I'm just going to say that the job made me miserable and that's not something I want to remember 30 years from now - boy, I was so overworked in my 20's, I put int so much overtime, I got calls from my boss at midnight, at 6.30am, I was really unhappy and did nothing about it. Nope, thank you.

And I do realize that most people in this sad world are unhappy with their jobs. I don't think it'll be an exaggeration if I say it's about 80-90%. Most people don't do their jobs for fun or for the selfish act of trying to be happy, most of them try to make a living. But I am positive that I can't be miserable for long and I know I can do better than being stressed all the time.

So between the beginning of August and the end of October there were maybe 3 or 4 days when I did not feeling like resigning. And those were not really job-related reasons, if I remember correctly I interacted with colleagues a lot on those days, so that means the boss was away on business trips.

There were several last straws the came with a series of VIP visits that I had to put together although I'm not the even the travel coordinator or event manager in the company. The visits were back to back, we had over 40 visitors altogether, all set up for different dates, meetings, agendas, etc. I had to juggle all of that while my boss kept only complicating the matters by re-inventing the wheel and micromanaging.

I'd written a template for my two weeks notice a while back, all I had to do was to put the date in it. And on October 21 I did just that.

Human interaction

People. If you think about it, there are so many odd things about human relationships. Two spring to my head at the moment.

First of all, it's how different people have different opinions about the same person. For example, you think somebody is just fantastic, caring and fun to be around and then you find out somebody else (and I mean somebody whose judgement you would by all means trust) thinks the same person is mean, not pleasant to deal with and not somebody they would turn to. Or you think somebody is not responsible, passive agressive and your friend thinks they are sweet and comfortable to be around...

Does this mean we're all the same? We're all the same and it's just that we all encounter one another under different circumstances that end up shaping our opinions of each other? After all, yes, we all want to be happy and content and there's good and bad in everybody, so is it just that oppotunities decide on who we'll be friends/amicable with or who we will try to avoid?

Secondly, it's how there are people you like, love or respect, are attracted to and then something happens and you don't or aren't anymore. This has happened with my love interests in the past. I really loved somebody in the past, it was completely unrequited and sad for me and then after I'd gotten over it (took me a long time), I was able to realize that I can't even respect this person right now. She's not really somebody I would look up to or even want to be friends with... Ok, I was very young when I was madly and deeply in love with her, but this still makes me question my judgement. Or is it just how the human brain functions? We idolize somebody we love overlooking their bad parts and then when love is gone, it seems there's just the negative that's left? Are we really so blind?

Another example from only several months ago. I found myself being attracted to somebody, very much. The feeling/emotion was mutual. We had sex a couple of times and it wasn't great. Maybe I should've waited a little bit, but I guess I felt it wasn't worth it. I was the "top" in the sex that we had and while I made it clear, I was very, very eager to be on the receiving end as well, that didn't happen. Also, there were several aspects about the whole thing that turned me off. So basically, it was like a switch, I went from being 'on' to being 'off' in a matter of hours, maybe even within one hour - after feeling strong attraction for that person for several weeks.

I think it's all very weird and, ok, she wasn't reciprocating and ok, some things weren't perfect (although I imagine other people would be turned off as well), but why did I feel instant repulsion? I would've thought it'd be more or less gradual, but nope, it wasn't. So the question is, why does it take us (or is it just me?) so relatively little to go from from one thing to its complete opposite? What is the brain-functioning behind this?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...