The Blue Lagoon; a Heaven on Earth

Among the barren-looking wasteland where the surface of the unstable ground is volcanic rock and a soft green moss ground cover is the only form of plant life; sits a heaven on Earth. A heaven known as The Blue Lagoon.

This murky blue haven is where we spent our first full day in Iceland and what an introduction it was to this diverse and unique country. The Blue Lagoon are a series of geothermal hot springs set in the heart of the Icelandic landscape. They contain silica mud, sulphur and other magic minerals which help you feel rejuvenated after bathing, or wallowing, in the warm water. The springs are naturally renewed every two days and the healing and relaxation properties are something to behold.

Being November in Iceland it is cold but this did not stop us from wanting to visit one of Iceland’s major attractions. Arriving at the Lagoon it doesn’t look like much. The first thing that hits your senses with every breath is the smell; an undeniable egg, bordering on rotten egg, smell which is a result of the sulphur. With egg filled nostrils and after a few minutes walk through a walkway surrounded by tall volcanic rock we found the tall glass doors open into a reception where the clean-cut staff welcome you with friendly faces.

The Walkway into the Lagoon
The Walkway into the Lagoon

We had each paid a €60 as part of our package deal to Iceland with Reykjavik Excursions and Iceland Air. We received entrance to the Lagoon and its facilities as well as an electronic wrist band for the lockers and to form a tab and the bar and shop, a neatly folded towel and a fluffy gown along with a free beverage and an algae mask. Equipped with all that and a pre-booked in water massage we found ourselves to be giggling like little girls at the prospect of being pampered in this natural wonder.

The bathrooms are comfortable and clean. One tip I will give anyone wanting to visit this blue paradise; conditioner is key. If you don’t want your hair to feel like dried out straw or stale spaghetti from the sulphur in the water then use conditioner, more than you have ever used before and then add more, trust me it will help.

Faye and I were lagoon ready
Faye and I were lagoon ready

Wearing our bathing suits during an Icelandic winter certainly wasn’t what I was thinking of doing while on holiday but it was unforgettable. Walking out of the bathroom block we tip-toed onto the frozen wooden path, hung our fluffy gowns on the outside racks and quickly made our way from the single digit outdoor temperature to the warm double-digit murky blue water.

The temperature of the lagoon is like that of a nice warm bath, the floor feels slimy between your toes and at first we walked and then ended up ‘gracefully’ doggy paddling from one end to the other so as not to wet our hair; which realistically didn’t last very long. This is probably because any time we ever try and be graceful ladies one of us ends up failing in some sort of epic proportion and we break out into hysterical fits of laughter which has been described by any as a cackle.

Entry to the Lagoon
Entry to the Lagoon

With our giggles behind us we began observing others in the lagoon we saw they all had an interesting tinge to their skin. A white green gooey substance was being applied by partners and friends onto each others faces. One thing was sure; we wanted to do the same.

Faye and I awkwardly swam over to these large white tubs, which are scattered throughout the lagoon, using a plastic spoon we slopped this clunky substance into our hands and then began spreading it all over our face, neck and shoulders. This mud is silica from the lagoon, not only did it feel good but it has rejuvenating qualities which will make you reconsider using any other type of mud mask found on the grocery shelf.

We rubbed silica all over our faces
We rubbed silica all over our faces

We ‘gracefully’ rubbed silica mud onto our faces, followed by algae masks then we sipped on freshly pressed fruit juices and had a light lunch in the cafe. We nibbled on salmon sushi fresh from the Icelandic waters some 30 kilometres away.

The in water massages were next and it truly was a unique experience. We ‘gracefully’ swam over to our masseurs; Faye was rather happy when she found out she was with the Icelandic Viking looking man who possessed an extraordinary beard.

Being an in water massage we were told to lie on a sort of floating yoga mat, a soaked heavy blanket was placed on top of us and the massage began. Every now and then we were dipped into the hot springs to ensure we didn’t get cold. It was absolutely incredible and each and every minute of the hour spent getting that massage was heavenly. The massage was not the cheapest you could find in Europe but it was worth every penny and cost us around €95.

Before leaving the lagoon a staff member asked us how long we had spent in the lagoon. We had soaked in the Icelandic minerals for over eight hours but time did not play a role in this heavenly experience. Everything had exceeded our expectations; the service was excellent, the facilities were more than adequate and the price was reasonable.

Blue Lagoon Bliss
Blue Lagoon Bliss

The Blue Lagoon is an absolute must when visiting Iceland. It is an affordable experience which will leave you feeling rejuvenated and it will certainly be something you won’t forget.

To Live the Suitcase Life

So many people seem to call themselves well-travelled these days but many seem to live something they imagine to be the suitcase life.

Once you have lived out of a suitcase for over two or five years then perhaps you can call yourself reasonably travelled.

The idea of being well-travelled does not mean staying in 5 Star hotels and having mummy and daddy pay for it all. It means; getting lost and not knowing which direction to turn, scraping pennies for the £3 meal deal at Tescos, having all of your belongings stolen in a land where not a soul speaks English and waking up in the middle of the night with a swollen face from the bed bugs who have bitten you in the early hours.

I am well-travelled and this is something I would not trade for the world.

There are so many ‘travellers’ and impressionable bloggers out there who call themselves well-travelled but who have no real idea what it truly means.

In my job I travel every day and I take people for whirls around Europe. I enhance their experiences by showing them the time of their lives. Some of these people are what most consider to be well-travelled but really they are only beginning to get their first glimpse of what real travelling truly means. They have budgets and commitments which anyone who is travelling should have. For many of these temporary suitcase travellers they really do have the time of their lives, I know this to be true as many have said that they felt liberated, free and happy with the people they have slowly become by travelling over time by discovering new cities and cultures. They live the temporary suitcase life but ultimately return to normality where life is comfortable and constant; something we humans crave.

I like to think that I show them the real world and not some jaded image of how people think people should be travelling these days.

The real suitcase life means hanging around a laundromat until your washing is dry enough that it won’t smell like mould in the next 3 days, it means wearing flip-flops in the shower and hearing the person snoring in the bed across the dorm as you imagine throwing a pillow at their head; and in some instances you do. These descriptions merely scratch the surface of a real suitcase traveller.

I cross countries every two to three days and yes in my job I get a snapshot of cities; but these cities I return to, the locals become friends and the customs become ordinary.

To live the suitcase life means to you become a local; you are greeted in the language of the country you are in because you are seen as one of them. You don’t stand out and flash your Prada handbags and free top-notch accommodation because all that does is scream ignorant tourist and spoilt little brat.

You spend your free days (which are few and far between) searching for something new to do where the tourists do not exist and where you feel as though you fit the mould of a local. Your holidays are spent scouring any possible resource for the best bargain to the most remote place you know. It becomes a new adventure to add to the never-ending list you have not written down but have scrambled in your head with everything else you wish to achieve before you have to get “serious about life”.

To live the suitcase life is not for everyone but rather for those with the spirit for it. It is for those who have nothing to prove to everyone else. Nothing to show off to the endless followers with floppy hats claiming that they are wanderlust when really all they are is delusional. Delusional about reality and what it really means to travel.

I salute all who really embrace the suitcase life and all the hard times that go with it. I admire those even more who take those hard times with their suitcase and who make friends with people that they never thought they could, who live life on budget they never thought that they could manage, who fall in love with remarkable cities and who see the world with new eyes because they have truly travelled and know that they have gained a world of experience from it. To live the suitcase life is to take anything that comes your way and to turn it all into noteworthy memories and times that you shall never forget.

If you really live the suitcase life then you know what I am talking about because you are in it, living it and breathing it because the normality of life that humans crave does not fit us. We break the mould each day, we become locals in several countries because we know how they live. Everyday we get up and our suitcases are packed and ready to go, ready to see what awaits us at our next destination.

To those who truly live the in this never ending moving world that I speak of; go and make memories while living your suitcase life because it certainly is the best time of your life.

 

10 Lessons Learnt On the Road

From putting on your ‘big girl’ panties, to letting go of the tight knit control you have on your life. Packing everything into a suitcase to pursue a life on the road is not for everyone but once experienced you learn a few lessons about who you really are and the things that you can do, even if you have never thought you could.

Here is what made the cut of the 10 most important things learnt on the road:

1. Put your ‘big girl’ panties on

Nobody does big girl panties like Bridget
Nobody does big girl panties like Bridget

Just like Bridget Jones; we sometimes need to wear our big girl panties. Why might you ask? Well it is not so we can have a hunky Hugh Grant discover them and be absolutely mortified. No, it is because he won’t always be around. You may have to do some things on your own; cart your own suitcase across a city you have never seen, deal with people who may not have any inclination to help you or to be friendly and because the people you love are not always there for a hug or an old-fashioned whinge.

2. Things don’t always go as planned

That’s right, this means that you won’t always be where you need to be on time. You cannot control each and every detail because let’s face it folks; shit happens. It happens to the best of us; flights get delayed, traffic can set you back hours and public holidays can throw a spanner in the works. As a control and planning freak with compulsive OCD this can make you tear your hair out, chew your nails to the bottom of their nail beds and develop a nervous twitch in your right eye. Here is the thing, as good as you think you are at planning, you can’t do anything about it. Sit back in the airport and watch the passengers go by, relax in the car and be thankful it’s not you in the car wreck and join the festivities in the public holiday parade.

3. How to packPacking

Spending your life on the road sure does help you prioritise and the four extra pairs of shoes, hair straightener, nail kit, make up brushes and full bottle of mouth wash belong at home. Think practical, this may be difficult but you must persevere because you do not want to be carting around five extra kilograms each day when you don’t use it. A handy trick is to take everything you think you should pack and halve it, then you are nearly there now go and put the extra shoes back in the cupboard.

4. Relationships, really?

Some people can do it and hats off to them but unfortunately in this day and age there aren’t many people who would be willing to wait around. Especially while you galavant around the globe with selfies in the most exotic places while they sit in an office and turn green with envy. It is difficult for both parties and often results in a teary mess that can be avoided. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder and if you are willing to try then go for it and good luck to you.

5. Be spontaneous, you can do it.

Put fear aside because there is not enough space for it in your suitcase. Jump in, have experiences and make memories that will last a lifetime. If you think that you can do it you are halfway, now you need to do it. Sometimes there is nothing better than being spontaneous and seeing where it is you end up.

6. Enjoy and appreciate the little things

Learning to appreciate the little things in life is a very important thing to learn. It’s sometimes about sitting in a park and watching an old couple walk past, children playing and laughing or having a conversation with a new friend you have just made. You don’t always have to be doing big things to see the beauty in the little things.

7. Patience is really a virtueTake what you need

The more patience you learn the more you can appreciate. it doesn’t help getting your knickers in a twist because you don’t understand what is going on; sometimes you need to wait and all will be revealed in time. Be patient with yourself too, life n the road is not easy and sometimes it can take a while to adjust and learn things about yourself.

8. You are not the centre of the universe

Get out of you bubble that only you occupy because there is no need for it. In fact, burst that bubble entirely, get out of your comfort zone and realise it is not only you that matters. Life on the road teaches you to adapt and make new friends. You learn that there are other people in the world that matter and the friendships you make on the road are often the pure and last.

9. Call me cultured

Travelling can be an annihilation to the senses, overwhelming and fascinating all at the same time. Exploring new places and cultures helps you grow as a person. It allows for a common understanding of humankind and what makes each of us tick. You learn to accept people for who they are even if that means that you are sometimes perplexed by their customs.

10. Compassion

We aren’t all fortunate to see what the big wide world has to offer. You see what others who are less fortunate than you have to go through on a daily basis and you think yourself lucky that you don’t have to worry about what they do. It teaches you to be compassionate towards others whether you like it or not and you learn things about yourself that you never thought possible.

A life of endless travel will enrich your life in more ways than anyone could ever imagine; whether or not you take the step out the door is all up to you

“Is This All Worth It?”-Contiki Training Part Three

Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher once said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Sometimes we do things in life and later question if the decision we made was worth it. Is becoming a Contiki Tour Manager worth it?

Being a Contiki Tour Manager is not for everyone and on training a few people fell by the wayside and decided to leave while others left on their own accord.

It takes a certain person to do this job and if you happen to be reading this blog for an insight then let me be honest with you; it is no walk in the park and if you think it’s going to be some kind of holiday you are sadly mistaken. From the moment you wake till the instant you go to sleep your brain is buzzing.

On training the only time you get to yourself is in the shower or when you sleep, even that is limited. You get off the coach and run in cities you have never seen, hoping you are running in the correct direction. Your actions get questioned on a daily basis and often you find out that the running you did, around the city you have never seen, was not as beneficial than if you had you run in another direction. The trainers push you harder each day, testing your patience and ability to remember facts on the spot.

You drag yourself out of bed every morning after a few hours sleep, you try your hardest to keep your eyes open on the coach when all they seem to want to do is close and on a daily basis you get told that you are not good enough and need to improve.

Is it all worth it you may be asking? Well the proof is in the pudding. This is the most incredible job, many say it’s the best job in the world, and being away from it during the Christmas season has made me realise that this is true.

Never before have I heard of a job that allows for so much personal development, one where you hop on the coach in the morning in one country and you are in a new country by lunch time. Where you meet incredible people from all walks of life and experience different cultures while sharing memories with clients and colleagues that become your best friends.

I don’t find that I am the same person I was before Contiki, I am a better version of myself. I think I can speak for many of the tour managers when I say that training and life on the road changes you.

What are these changes you may be wondering? Well it took me a while to figure it out for myself.

I have fewer plans, perhaps you can say I am more of a free spirit or a nomad. Before Contiki I always had a set plan; I was to finish university, get a top paying job, find a place to live, get a boyfriend and a dog and settle.

Settle? The last thing I want now is to settle! So what if I don’t know where I am going to be in 5 years and I don’t have a structured plan for the way my life ‘should’ turn out? I am living life to the fullest, seeing more of the world than most and having the adventure of a lifetime. The wise Lao Tzu also said “A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

Travelling opens your eyes to the big wide world and when you travel you see the world a little differently. You develop a profound appreciation for the way that other countries and cultures work, understanding what makes them tick.

It’s like leaning how to swim; you are thrown on the deep end, without floating armbands to bring you to the top, but eventually you learn to paddle your way to the edge and before you know it you are swimming with a huge grin on your face.

Not many things are easy the first time round but once you get used to it you find you improve. You begin to swim in places where before you felt like you were drowning.

Working with people and ensuring you have effective communication skills, that transcend cultural boundaries, is something you learn through this job. Working with people is not easy and often presents itself with challenges that make you rethink your approach. I have learnt patience working as a Tour Manager and figured out ways to communicate in different situations.

Like any job there are days that are more testing than others but there has not been one day where I have not wanted to be working as a Tour Manager. Or where I have questioned my decision to pack my bags, leave my friends and family for an adventurous life on the road. I know that they are there supporting me with every step I take.

So if you are questioning whether to do the same, or are at a crossroads in life without any idea of which way to turn remember this;

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” It may be time to take that step.

Let the Training Begin…

19 Countries, over 12000 KM, 68 Days; welcome to Contiki Training.

In three months I will be packing my bag for a trip that I can only describe as a once in a lifetime opportunity. A whirlwind of adventure that will see me wake up in one country and fall asleep in another, if I get any sleep at all.

Recently, I saved all of my pennies for a Contiki Trip, I travelled with a friend from London to Athens with a bunch of 50 crazy travellers, during a hot European summer, making memories that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Contiki
Contiki

When I returned to Australia I started my final semester at university, still unsure of what I wanted to do once I graduated. I had seen Contiki advertise a Tour Manager position for Europe and the requirements seemed simple enough; be a confident speaker, have a European passport or be able to obtain visas, to preferably have travelled before and to be bubbly and outgoing. I possess all of the above and my most treasured travel item is my EU passport.

I poured my heart into my online application and a month later I was flying to Sydney for a group interview at Contiki HQ. With 20 people in the group interview the vibe was tense, many crumbled under the pressure when giving their speeches, myself included. I picked it up where I left off and after a long and stressful group interview, I scored myself a personal interview that same afternoon.

Never have I been in an personal interview that challenged me more. Trying to get a smile out of my interviewers was near impossible and serious thought went into each and every answer I gave. I walked out not knowing what to expect, all I knew was that in two weeks I would have my answer.

The email I had been waiting for.
The email I had been waiting for.

Two weeks later I was hurtled out of bed with the news that I had been accepted on the training trip. I laughed, cried and jumped at the good news. I’ve never wanted anything so badly before. Since returning from my last Contiki, I have had an urge to travel, to explore and to see the world from a different perspective, now I have that chance.

March will see me leave Australia for eight months and endure a challenging training trip before being offered a position as a Contiki Tour Manager in Europe. I am currently completing a huge assignment to help me prepare for my trip.

19 Countries, 12000 KM, 68 Days
19 Countries, 12000 KM, 68 Days

Overwhelmed and excited are two words I would use to describe how I feel about jetting off to Europe and when I mapped out my trip I figured out that I will be visiting 19 countries, covering about 12 000 KM, all in just 68 days. Not very many people can say that they have done that. I simply cannot wait.

So  sure to follow me by email to keep an eye on La Petite Globetrotter for tales from my crazy European adventure.

The World is Your Oyster, Go Exploring.

Your Gap Year Opportunities Explained.

BY CHLOE DU BOIS 

So you have decided that you want to take a gap year after year 12 and not commence tertiary studies? Well, as exciting as it may sound, there is a lot more to a gap year than you may have thought. First you need to decide what type of gap year appeals to you. Your choices include;

  • A working gap year
  • Training with the defence force
  • A volunteering gap year
  • A travelling gap year

First things first, before you decide on which gap year most suits you, there is one thing you are most definitely going to need. Money makes the world go round, and unfortunately you are not going to get very far without it. Unless you are a trust fund baby and have a bottomless bank account, you are going to have to get it somehow.

If you are forward thinking enough to have planned and saved for your trip by spending your school days with a part-time job, then credit must be given where credit is due, well done! If you haven’t planned that far ahead, there is no need to worry, there are ways and means of funding your gap year.

The majority of the time, if travelling overseas, a flight needs to be paid for and perhaps the cost of your chosen program. This is where you can possibly turn to the people who love you the most in the world. That is right, mom and dad. Setting up a loan from your parents is much easier than doing it through a bank and they will probably be more understanding than a bank would be with repayments.

So you now have the money to go on your gap year, there are a few more considerations that need to be taken into account. As mentioned earlier the type of gap year you choose is very important, each of the gap years can take you to any location in the world. Where you go will certainly impact your experience.

A working gap year

You could teach English in a different country

There are thousands of programs that cater to any need with a working gap year. You can work locally, nationally or internationally. Most of the programs internationally require you to pay for your flight to your destination, and an initial fee for the company which organises the job. There are a wide variety of jobs available for school leavers including; camp councillors in The United States, a ski or snowboard instructor in Canada, or working in a bar in The United Kingdom. Programs vary in length from a month to twelve months.

There are a few organisations which are more recognised than others and they can help you decide which route to take:

If you do decide to take a working gap year, you will need to be prepared because it is not going to be easy. First of all you may experience a certain amount of culture shock. Not every country is like Australia, and secondly you are going to need to work hard.

The Australian Defence Force

Join the Australian defence force

If working hard is what you are after, join The Australian Defence Force, they pay up to $40 000 a year if you sign up. You can work for the Navy or the Army and it is a twelve month program. This gap year is a highly competitive one and there is no guarantee that you will be accepted, and if you are accepted there is no obligation to serve longer than twelve months. The Australian Defence Force website explains all the terms and conditions of your enrolment:

A Volunteering gap year

Helping those who are less fortunate is a rewarding experience

Not only does a volunteering gap year make you feel better about yourself  and allow you to make a substantial difference in communities that are in desperate need, but it also highly regarded by employers. Having experience volunteering can be one of the best things you can do in a gap year. There is never enough help that can be given to those who are less fortunate. You can do it by yourself or in a team with people you already know. Programs allow you to volunteer from two months to twelve. There are a wide variety of programs that cater not only for people in need, but also for animals.

Volunteering has seen a huge increase in recent years, and the cost you incur is usually only the flight to your destination. Most often accommodation and meals are provided. What you do need to be careful of is not getting exploited. You are required to volunteer for a set amount of time, but you should not be made to feel as though you are being taken advantage of. Another piece of advice, read up on where you are going, many developing countries have diseases you may never have even heard of, and if you are concerned it would be a good idea to consult your general practitioner before leaving.

A travelling gap year

So none of the options above really appeal to you? And you really just want to see the world with a backpack? Well then this is for you. Backpacking or simply travelling for a year will be an unforgettable experience. With travelling, either on your own, or with a friend, there are a few handy tricks to know. Firstly, plan ahead. Yes, the need for spontaneity and fun is understood, and by all means be spontaneous and have fun, but know where you are going and, at the end of the day, how to get home.

Secondly, it may be handy to have a list with a few important numbers. The Australian Embassy may be handy for after you were spontaneous. There are many companies that organise specific trips where you can travel around Europe, ‘Greek Island Hop’, or tour The United States, your opportunities are endless.

Finally, whatever it is you choose to do with your gap year, whether it be in working, volunteering or simply travelling remember to have fun, it will possibly be the best year of your life.

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