Croatia also won the world cup

It was a pure coincidence that I happened to be in Zagreb during the final of the world cup – which, to the surprise of everyone, France was going to play against Croatia. Even the Croatians themselves hadn’t expected to reach the finals (for the first time in history) and so the preparations were spontaneous, almost hesitant. Only on the morning of the big game did the main square get transformed. The balconies were wrapped in flags and the big statue of Ban Josip Jelačić on his horse got dressed with a huge flag around his shoulders.

Statue of Ban Josip Jelačić with a Croatian flag

Ban Josip Jelačić

Contagious euphoria

We had to change our initial plan of watching the game at the main square Ban Josip Jelačić as it was already packed with people a couple of hours before the start of the game. Nobody wanted to miss this event, not even those who couldn’t care less for football. The city was full of people in Croatian shirts, from the grandma to the new-born.

Many people were wearing red and white ties – not because they wanted to be formal, but because Croatia actually claims to have invented the tie. Ironically, during the Napoleonic wars it was the French who became intrigued by the unusual, picturesque scarves distinctively knotted at the Croats’ necks and adopted it. The word “cravate” in French is apparently a corrupt French pronunciation of the word Croate. And of course, on this particular weekend not only locals were dressed like this, but also Asians and other tourists – the euphoria was contagious.

Croatian merchandising

“Proud to be Croate”

Even though the colours of the two teams were the same, it was obvious that only Croatian supporters were here thanks to the emblematic red and white checkerboard, which you can also find on the middle of the flag. “I really hope Croatia wins today, it would be so much more than just a victory for the football team but also a victory for the whole country, a sign of unity and hope for the future”, said Kristina, a 29 year old Croatian.

“We are a very young country and with our difficult past and the challenging current economic situation, a victory would bring us more together.” Croatia indeed has had a difficult past, having seen a change of regime many times in the last years, from being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Socialist Yugoslavia and finally becoming independent in 1991. Kristina’s words made us hope for a Croatian victory even more.

Ban Josip Jelačić square in Zagreb

The main square of Zagreb

Ćevapi, pivo and football

Having realised there was no chance to watch the game from the main square, we bought the typical Ćevapčići (minced meet with bread and onions) and a few Ožujsko beers (Croatia’s most popular beer) and went to Zrinjevac park instead, one of the big parks in the heart of Zagreb. We found a spot where we could see more than two thirds of the screen – not too bad.

Ćevapčići in Zagreb

Traditional Ćevapčići

I had expected to be able to tell the course of the game just by watching the fans – which turned out to be a wrong assumption. Even though the two goals for Croatia provoked loud screaming, lightning colourful fires and starting chants, to my big surprise I almost didn’t notice the first goal for France. Sad faces, for sure, but no boos or angry shouts as I’ve seen in other countries. The fans seemed very fair, even though with every following goal of Les Bleus, the hope of the Croatians faded noticeably.

Therefore, the surprise at the end of the game was even bigger: only a few minutes later, the Croatians were smiling again and started singing and shouting. “We are still proud of what we achieved”, a Croatian told me. The streets were packed, in every corner there seemed to be a party. We joined happily and couldn’t stop smiling as we watched fireworks being lit in the middle of the street, people waving enormous flags, and passing cars being shaken by the crowd. Even two police officers couldn’t hide their emotions, so people ended up taking selfies with them to the amusement of everyone.

Zagreb is a party place

Party in the streets of Zagreb

The next day, we walked around in the city, and even though it was Monday and not the weekend anymore, there were way more people in the streets than I’ve seen on Saturday. It was a day of celebration and if we hadn’t known better, we would have believed that Croatia won the world cup. At 2pm the national team would come back home from Russia, so everybody wanted to welcome them.

Unexpected wait

I wanted to head South instead and took the bus at 4pm to Zadar – a huge mistake. After only ten minutes of driving, we had to stop. The crossing in front of us was blocked, thousands of people were standing there and the whole traffic stood still. We waited and waited. After one hour, I lost hope and started thinking whether I would have to stay another night in Zagreb.

Two hours later, a police helicopter arrived, flying close above us. Many people left the bus to go and have a look, and since the bus couldn’t go anywhere anyway, I did the same and approached the crowd. Just in time! The bus with the national team just passed, the guys standing on the roof, waving flags and celebrating. Our long wait got compensated! It was a fun experience to be part of this and I didn’t mind that we arrived 2,5 hours late in Zadar.

The national football team of Croatia

Croatia’s football team on top of the bus

The owner of the sunset hostel I’m staying at in Zadar, Marina, told me that she’s been watching the game at the hostel and that many of the guests were actually from France! So she ended up wearing a French t-shirt while a French guy wore the Croatian t-shirt. “It was such a great night – full of joy and mutual respect!”, she told me. “We are so happy we became second – and to be honest, it’s much better that France won, because they would have been very sax if they’d have lost. Like this, everybody is happy!”

Two years on the road – and hungry for more!

When you transform your hobby into your lifestyle.


I started my trip around the world two years ago. After almost 30 countries on all the continents (except Antarctica), I have seen so many nice corners around the world. From the active volcano Telica in Nicaragua to the wild mountains in Lesotho, the stunning Amazonas in Colombia to the Sulphur lakes in New Zealand, and the bustling streets of New York to the starry sky in the Himalaya.

Nicaragua volcano

The active volcano Telica in Nicaragua

Somehow, I have honed the art of inserting myself into authentic situations everywhere I go. I danced cumbia with an old guy in a sombrero at a wedding in Mexico, slept on the concrete floor of a monastery in Myanmar and cooked momos with Nepali girls. I got my car broken into in South Africa and bitten by a street dog in India, ending up in a public hospital where no one spoke any English.

I drank tea with Bedouins in the mountains in Jordan and ate biscuits with old Chinese men who were playing a board game in the courtyard of a house. I got drunk on sake and sang karaoke in a bar in Japan, and on tej and danced at a reggae festival in Ethiopia. I got to drive a minivan in Senegal, a taxi in Palestine and a tuk tuk in India.

Chinese experience

Eating biscuits with old Chinese men who don’t speak any English.

As a journalist, I also got to write a lot of interesting stories. I wrote about my nude experience in a traditional spa in South Korea where I was the only foreigner, and about the ritual of a tribe in Ethiopia where women are being brutally hit by men. I wrote about why Australia’s government is killing kangaroos, and why the trendy turmeric latte is nothing more than an old Indian coughing syrup. I wrote about a Palestinian refugee who became one of the most successful Arabic teachers of the Middle East, and why an Australian family is living in camping sites instead of a house for seven years now.

(To have a look at all my articles I wrote during this trip, check out my map or my list)

Jordan beduin

My British travel buddy and me drinking tea with a Jordanian Beduin.

I’ve also learned a lot of useful (and useless) things. I’ve learned the difference of solitude and loneliness and I’ve learned that richness has nothing to do with money. I’ve learned that hand signs are not universal but facial expressions are. I’ve learned the one and only word to respectfully shake off a street vendor in Senegal (and no, it’s not «No thank you»), and how to confidently use every different kind of toilet on this planet. I’ve learned that the best gift is time and that the best weapon is a smile.

I lost two phones, a laptop, a camera, a hat and my comfort zone.

I found hope, love, confidence and cheap flights.

I’ve eaten my way through all kinds of different cuisines but I’m still hungry for adventure and thirsty for the unknown.

Travel around the world

Not all who wander are lost.


Want to know what kind of blog post I wrote exactly one year ago? Then read: «One year on the road – and still not enough»

An inspirational story from Palestine: from a refugee to one of the best Arabic teachers in the region

Disclaimer: I wrote this article for the Swiss magazine «Das Magazin». Since many friends asked me for an English version, I decided to publish a translation on my blog. Here you can find the PDF of the original article, the copyright belongs to «Das Magazin».

Arabic teacher Basil Zboun from Palestine

A day in the life of Basil Zboun

Growing up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem, Basil Zboun (28) worked his way up to become one of the most successful Arabic teachers in the region. Today, he lives in his own house together with his wife and his children – and yet he misses the camp sometimes.

«The refugee camp in Bethlehem looks very different to how people in Europe probably imagine. There are no more tents – camp Aida has existed since 1950; two years after the declaration of independence of Israel and the expulsion of around 700,000 Palestinians from the former British mandated territory. Since then, real houses with kitchens and bathrooms were created and it has become a normal neighbourhood. But life here isn’t normal. Again and again, there are clashes with Israeli soldiers. Palestinians throw rocks over the wall, Israelis respond with tear gas, and it repeats. I can tell which type of tear gas they used just by the simple smell of it. Four times, I almost got killed – sometimes instead of tear gas, the soldiers shoot munition blindly in the crowds. The permanent mortal danger is part of growing up here.

My grandfather fled from a nearby village which became occupied by Israelis. My parents were born in the camp, the same as me. I lived here for 24 years. This refugee camp, which receives support from the UN, holds a youth center as well. When I was 13 years old, they were looking for volunteers for an exchange project with Europeans, and they were looking for an Arabic teacher for beginners. As I was back then, full of energy and zest for action, I raised my hand immediately. The project was a success and I was proud that I, the small boy, got to teach some Arabic to adults. Apparently, I was doing a good job because from then on, I was asked every year to give the Arabic classes. Suddenly, even employees from NGOs contacted me and asked for private lessons. When I was 16 years old, I founded my own company as an Arabic teacher. Today, I have students from 15 different countries from all over the world – thanks to Skype I can teach people in Japan or the United States.

Later, I studied engineering and I still work in this field next to my job as an Arabic teacher. I work very hard – I have always been like this. It is normal for me to work twelve hours a day. As a result, I ended up with earning enough money to be able to buy a piece of land outside the camp and to build my own house. At first sight, it might look a bit ostentatious, but I wanted to treat myself with everything I wasn’t able to have in the camp: a spacious garden with fruit trees, a nice balcony, big windows. But the first thing I bought for the house was something completely else: a huge water tank that carries 100,000 litres of water – in the camp, we only received a small water delivery once a month, it was never sufficient! Now I finally have enough water.

I live here together with my wife, we have two children. Yet, I still go back to the camp regularly, once a week at least. It is my home; two cousins and many friends still live there. I’m thankful that I grew up in the camp. I acquired skills which I would never have learned in a sheltered childhood. Above all, it taught me to work hard and to set goals. I’m convinced that we can achieve anything if we just try hard enough – no matter in which conditions we grew up. One shouldn’t remain in the passive role of a victim. Because even though I live in Bethlehem – the city which is sealed off from the rest of the country by tall walls, the city where soldiers control at checkpoints who is going in and out – my impact still reaches the whole world. Thanks to my work, hundreds of people in different countries learned Arabic, and this fills me with pride.»

The other side of Beijing

When we think about Beijing, famous landmarks like Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace or the Forbidden City come to our mind. But there is much more to see in Beijing, and it is relatively easy to discover the local life off the touristic path.


Imagine an industrial area with old warehouses and shacks made out of red bricks which now host galleries, museums, studios, bookstores, craft shops and cafés. Strolling along those buildings, you find artistic sculptures, charming patios and colourful flower pots, and you see fancy dressed women asking their husbands to take pictures of them in front of the graffiti walls. It feels like being in hipster Soho or Berlin Kreuzberg, but with an Asian touch. This is 798 Art District, my favourite part of Beijing.

Courtyard in Beijing's art district

Courtyard in the art district

It bears a certain irony though that the art scene decided to settle down in the former working area, in the old buildings of factories from the times of the Cultural Revolution when culture, art, creativity and individualism were oppressed. On some walls, you can still see the old Maoist slogans and some shops sell vintage Maoist junk and t-shirts making fun of the former chairman (but also Hitler or even Trump…).

China Beijing Art District

798 Art District in Beijing

Hidden old town

Who is rather looking for traditional places in Beijing needs to know how to find them. While the centre of many European cities still lies around the carefully preserved old town, in Beijing and many other Asian countries this is rarely the case as old areas often got torn down in order to build a modern part of the city.

In Beijing, there are still some parts of what used to be the old town, but they are mostly hidden behind stylish buildings, cut off the main road. The government felt shameful for those less fancy and less shiny parts of the city and cleaned up big areas, which means either they renovated it or completely destroyed it so they could build a new neighbourhood.

Renovated hutong in Beijing

A renovated hutong

To find the real old town in Beijing, you need to look for hutongs. Hutong is the name for the old, narrow alleys with traditional courtyard residences, formed by single-story, concrete buildings. In the past, there were more than 3000 hutongs around the Forbidden City, but today only about 1000 of those still exist.

But this is where the local life takes place, especially outside on the streets, since the buildings usually are very small. Walking through these neighbourhoods you might find kids running around, cats sleeping in the sun, families sharing meals and old men playing the traditional Chinese game Mah Jongg.

daily life in hutongs

Daily life in hutongs

I was surprised by the large amount of (clean!) public toilets in those areas, but thanks to a Chinese girl I met through Couchsurfing, I learned that these toilets were not built for tourists – many of these old houses simply don’t have its own bathroom, so public restrooms and showers in the streets serve as common bathroom, still today.

Even though hutongs are becoming the more the more popular amongst tourists (national as well as international) it is still relatively easy to find some streets in which rarely a tourist passes by. Yet, some of these neighbourhoods seem to go with the time and get commercially oriented, opening rooftop bars and having cafés with patios and offering fancy hand drip coffee. No surprise that this is a place where mostly local hipsters and expats hang out.

Green lung

Another part I really liked in Beijing are the parks, like Beihai park or Jingshan park. From the latter you have a nice view on the Forbidden City and modern Beijing. Even though you don’t really escape the smog in those parks neither, it is at least a nice possibility to bypass the traffic and rumble on the main streets.

Public park in Beijing

Green spaces in Beijing

The locals as well enjoy their green spaces, not only for a walk but as a multifunctional gathering place. Picnics with the multigenerational families seem to be the main activity here, couples rent small boats to row on the lake, and you will also find people doing exercises, Tai Chi or running, or groups singing and dancing together – something which wasn’t possible a few years back.

Beijing dancing

Dancing in a park in Beijing

#EvaMeetsWorld – Dawid: Holidays that changed his life

Dawid was looking for a new job when he found a volunteering trip to Nepal. While the data analyst was mixing cement for a new school on the top of a mountain during his holidays, he realised that this trip was about to change his life.


I met Dawid in a small town more than 140 km outside of Kathmandu. Dawid is a 29-years old Polish guy living in England. He was part of a project which aimed to rebuild a school that had been destroyed by the recent earthquake. My friend and I went to see their project and to give a hand for the day. Quickly I realised that for Dawid, this was not just an interesting way to spend his vacation, there was more to it.

Looking for a job and finding a trip

Travelling has always been part of Dawid’s life, up to four times a year he tries to go somewhere he’s never been before and be it just a different town in the UK for a long weekend. He loves to discover new places, especially in his own way: «I don’t like to visit a city by taxi or rickshaw, I usually run», he says. He doesn’t use a precise map but just runs through different streets. «I love getting lost because then I find myself.»

A picture of Dawid in Nepal

But actually, Dawid was not looking for vacation when he found this trip to Nepal: «My main drive is knowledge», says Dawid. «In my job, I haven’t learned anything new in one year, so I was browsing for a new job, without any specific idea in mind, more a bit like window shopping…»

While looking for different job offers, he happened to stumble upon a Canadian organisation that was looking for volunteers for a school-building project in Nepal. The earthquake of April 2015 had destroyed many schools, one of them in a small town on a mountain close to Gorkha where the epicentre of the earthquake was. The plan was to work on the school for two weeks, and to do some sightseeing on a few days, to see the Himalaya and Kathmandu.

A picture of the place where the school is being rebuilt

No fear of challenges

Dawid got interested. He liked the idea of combining travel with volunteering. This trip was quite expensive, even the flight itself. «But I wanted it really bad, so I made it happen.» This is a Leitmotiv he follows in his life in general. «I hate standing still.»

When he was 19, he left his home country Poland to go to the UK in search of work. He was not afraid of arriving in an unknown country, no, he was hungry for the unknown. He found a job, an apartment, friends. He realised he had managed to build himself a new life in a completely different environment. When the company proposed to send him to the branch in Singapore, he happily accepted this challenge, too.

So Nepal was his next big adventure. Used to work on a computer as a data analyst for a behavioural marketing company, he found himself in a sleeveless shirt mixing cement with water under the burning sun. And surprisingly, he felt satisfaction. «Volunteering for an NGO is much more rewarding than working for a company where you are just a small fish in a pond», he says.

A picture of Dawid in Nepal

Doing something good while travelling

This experience made Dawid discover that there was something in his mind that had been sleeping for years: «I don’t want to make money, I want to do something that matters.» His first decision was: «No more two-weeks-on-the-beach vacations: I want to do something good when I travel.» There are many NGOs who are in need of volunteers, and at the same time, it would allow him to discover a new place, a new culture. «Anyway, it is not possible to say which projects deserve more attention, so I just pick the ones which are in a region I’d love to discover.»

Soon, he realised that this would not satisfy him. Why only doing good when travelling? «I decided to quit my job and look for work in an NGO», Dawid says.

Meanwhile, he found a job in an NGO in Honduras and left the UK for good. A new life is awaiting him.

And he’s sure to go back to Nepal, too. A freshly made tattoo on his leg keeps a permanent reference mark of this experience on his skin: a volunteering-travel trip which had literally changed his life. His advice to other travellers: «Don’t think too much, but have an open heart.» And: «Don’t take a cab. Just walk.»

A picture of the tattoo Dawid got

One year on the road – and still not enough

I started my dream – a trip around the world – exactly one year ago. Time for some reflections.


So here I am, in a coffee shop in Japan, publishing this blog post while thinking about all the things I’ve seen and experienced in the past 12 months. It’s incredible. I’m probably as surprised as you are that it has been already one year since I started my trip around the world. It feels like I left only a few months ago, yet if I think about all the experiences I made I feel like I must have been on the road for years, so intense and rich has my trip been so far.

So here are a few thoughts about my trip, travelling alone, what’s the best part of a trip around the world – and what the worst.

 

Why a trip around the world?

Some people ask me whether this is a self-finding-trip or even if I am running away from something. The clear answer is: NO. As unspectacular as it sounds, I just love to travel, to explore unknown countries, to learn more about a new culture, to meet strangers and become friends. I am very curious and I learn more by experiencing things on my own than just reading or hearing about them.

I have travelled a lot in Europe during my studies. Because Europe is small and compact, I was able to spend a long weekend every now and then in another country. I had not seen much outside of Europe, so now I wanted to discover the rest of the world. Also, it was the perfect moment to go on this trip: I had finished my studies, gotten some working experience (and saved some money), had no apartment, no kids, no dog.

Streetart in Morocco saying Why not

Why not?! Street art in Morocco. Photo: Eva Hirschi

 

What were my favourite countries so far?

This answer is very subjective because I feel it’s mostly due to the people I met during these trips and the experiences we share. Therefore, I’d say Ethiopia and Myanmar because these are the countries where I had the most magical and intense moments on my trip. They were also by far the less touristic ones. Also Nepal, India and China, as well as Senegal and the US (well I’ve just been to New York on this trip) were amazing. But every country I’ve been to so far was a great experience, I don’t regret visiting any of them.

 

What is travelling alone like?

First of all, I’m not alone all the time. Either I am lucky to have friends joining me for a lap, or I visit friends in their home country. I consciously picked most destinations according to where I have friends. But there are a few countries on my way I want to see even if I don’t know anybody there. Also, my local friends can’t spend their whole time with me since they have to work/study, so sometimes I travel on my own.

I am a very sociable person, I love to spend time with people. I’m definitely not a loner. To be honest, I am still in the process of learning how to be alone without feeling lonely – sometimes I manage better, sometimes not. But travelling alone definitely has its advantages too, I am incredibly spontaneous and more careless because I’m only responsible for myself and don’t need to have a bad conscious if something goes wrong or not as planned. Since I have a very optimistic attitude, I try to consider unplanned things and mistakes new adventures.

Graffitti with the words "Make your own luck"

Street art in New York.  Photo: Eva Hirschi

 

What did I learn?

Honestly, I feel like I learn something every day. Sometimes it’s just small things like different perceptions about life, little cultural customs, different social behaviours. Sometimes I feel like I add huge pieces to my picture of the world, the global context, for example when I talk to someone about the history or politics of a country. I feel like – even though I studied International Relations – I have learnt more about the world in the past few months than I did in the three years of my Bachelor’s degree. Then again, it’s valuable to have some basic knowledge and theory from university that allows me to put new experiences or findings into perspective and think about them critically.

The answer: The egg came first.

Sometimes you find the answers on the street. Photo: Eva Hirschi

Also, I learnt a lot about myself. That I am able to find my way in a completely different country without knowing the language and without internet access. I learnt trusting strangers, listen to my intuition, be spontaneous and flexible, be open-minded and uncomplicated. I learnt not to take things for granted or consider them to be better at home than in other countries, but to understand different lifestyles, economic orders and social standards.


What is best about a trip around the world?

I love the freedom. I can go wherever I want and do whatever I feel like. I am dependant on much fewer things than back home. I can change plans spontaneously or just go somewhere without any plans. I love meeting new people from different backgrounds and hearing their stories. I love learning and discovering. I love experiencing the local culture and trying to get involved as much as possible. I love facing challenges and adventures, and, to a certain extent, even being vulnerable.

Ticket to anywhere

A bag tag my dear friend Lorène offered me for this trip. Photo: Eva Hirschi

 

What is the worst on a trip around the world?

I discuss this topic too because I feel like I only showed the shiny side of a trip around the world until now. Of course, not every day is a crazy adventure and I’m not happy and smiling every minute of this trip (even though I am maybe 90% of the time) – which is totally normal. The worst is being sick, as it is much more stressful in a foreign country than back home. The worst is not seeing my godson growing up. The worst is not being able to be fully there for my friends and family, not to be able to help or support them, and to see them taking big steps in their life without me participating. I sometimes feel like I miss out a lot.

A compass in the world

Only the compass always points in one direction… Photo: Eva Hirschi

Also professionally by the way: I miss many interesting events, conferences, networking occasions, working experiences, job offers. And there is this uncertainty about how potential employers will consider my long trip around the world, even though I manage to work part time at the same time.

Oh and one thing I consider really annoying meanwhile: small talks! Really. I feel like I explained to about a thousand people where I am from, what I do, to which countries I’ve been and where I go next. Of course, these are totally normal questions to ask someone who’s on a trip around the world, but I almost want to print the answers on a sheet and give it to new people to read so I don’t have to repeat them every few days…

 

Do I miss home?

No. Not home. Nor Switzerland. I feel comfortable wherever I am, I can adapt easily and I realised that I don’t need any material things to be happy. Already as a kid, I was never homesick so I guess I have the wanderlust in my blood. What I do miss incredibly: My family and my friends. Not that much in the beginning to be honest, but now I miss them more every day.

At the same time, I’m incredibly lucky that some of my closest people are joining me for parts of my trip. My brother came to Canada, my two best friends joined me in Morocco, Senegal and South Africa respectively in Nepal, and my mother will visit me in Australia in two months. And I believe my late father is accompanying me as my personal guardian angel.

My friends

Mes cheris joining me wherever I am…! <3

But also all my other friends back home do a great job staying in touch with me, integrating me as far as possible in their daily life by sending me messages, pictures, videos, calling me regularly and making me feel still being a part of their life, even though I am so far away. You don’t know how important this is for someone on such a long trip. Small shout out: Guys, I love you!

Postcard into the world

The sweetest digital but actually non digital message ever! From a Dutch girl I was travelling with in China and who saw me writing a bunch of postcards… Thank you so much, Floortje!

 

When will I go back to Switzerland?

Honest answer: I don’t know. I don’t have a ticket back home (yet). I used to say «when I’m fed up with travelling». But then I met this Japanese guy in Myanmar who wanted to become a monk, and when he asked me the same question and I answered «I don’t know», he added: «so when you’re satisfied.» And this is so much of a better answer.

 

Trip around the world

Trying to conquer the world… Photo: Eva Hirschi

Solo travelling in India as a woman

There are many horror stories and prejudices about travelling in India as a woman. I travelled one month from the North to the South of India, most of the time on my own, and had an amazing time. So I thought I might share my experiences with you and give some recommendations.


When I told people I would travel to India alone, many were very surprised, sceptical or even shocked. «Alone, as a woman, really?», is a phrase I heard often. Many told me to be careful and talked about all the stories they had heard about girls getting robbed or raped, if not even killed.

After all those stories I thought I would better ask someone who definitely knows whether travelling through India as a blonde European girl was a big risk or not: My (female!) Indian friend who is living in Ahmedabad. Her answer: «It usually not a problem (given that you practice caution)»

Train rides in India

Train rides in India.

So I started my journey in November. The first two weeks I travelled with her and her friends, then I visited the touristic part (Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi) on my own, spent another few days with her and then travelled alone down to Kochi. And I must say: It was absolutely fantastic! I had no bad experiences, neither with men nor with women (okay, one bad encounter was the one with a street dog who bit me, but I doubt it was because I am a blonde European girl travelling alone….).

Of course, I cannot tell whether I was just lucky or if I was just very careful. Also, I must say I travelled in touristic places only (on purpose, as it was my first time in India and on my own, I felt it would be more secure to go to places where they are used to see tourists). Anyhow, here are my few basic rules I followed during this trip:

  • Dress properly – as conservative as this may sound, it is important. I do not say that it is the ultimate protection and that only lightly dressed women get stared at or raped. You can be sure that as a (very) blonde woman I got a lot of attention anywhere anyhow. But it is important not to provoke either. And even if a girl does not mind having men staring at her, in my opinion, it is also a sign of respect to dress appropriately to the culture. In hot and not very clean India loose and wide pants or a long skirt are more comfy anyway than hotpants. Instead of tank tops, I wore long thin blouses which would also prevent me from getting sunburnt so there are several reasons which speak for such an outfit.
Travelling to Taj Mahal in India as a woman

Travelling to Taj Mahal

  • Hitting the bed early: I always tried to reach my accommodation before sunset, so I could see the surrounding area during daylight. If I felt secure I would maybe just go grab a bite close by, but not going out wandering the streets in the dark on my own. As a tourist, it is hard to know which areas are safe or not, so I preferred to stay in my room, read a bit and most of the time I would fall asleep early anyway, exhausted after a long day. And – theoretically not being a morning person – I started enjoying the early hours of the morning when the city just wakes up.
  • The thing with the ring: Many people recommend to wear a ring and to pretend to be married. Actually, an Indian guy I met on the street told me if someone annoys me, I should just tell this person that my husband would not allow me to talk to strangers. This seemed to be a good answer, especially coming from a local and male person. In the end, I did not wear a ring but I felt like every second person I was talking to would ask me anyway sooner or later whether I was married or not. It is not necessarily because I felt safer when I started replying with «yes», but because I actually got a bit annoyed by their surprised, even shocked reactions when I told them I was not. 26 years old seems to be rather «old» for getting married for some Indians, so I prefer to say «yes» anyway.
Travelling in India alone as a woman

Indian marriage: The groom arrives on an elephant.

  • Taxi/Rickshaw drivers: When I would take a rickshaw or taxi, I would usually either write down or take a picture of the license plate of the vehicle (in a way the driver sees it) or call my hostel/guesthouse and hand over the phone so he could explain the way to the driver who rarely knew the small, cheap places I stayed in – and in this way he would also know there was someone waiting for me and knowing where I was. I also used Uber a lot, which made me feel more secure, too.
  • Look for female accomplice or families: In public transportation, I tried to sit next to women, old couples or families because I felt more secure that way. And not only foreigners risk getting stuff stolen from a train ride, so sometimes families showed me how I could tie my backpack to the metal pole underneath my seat to be sure it does not get stolen while I would be sleeping.
Women only waiting room in Goa at the train station

At the train station in Goa.

  • Special lines for women only – actually, not only foreign women take care in India but also local women. In train stations or at the subway, the lines for the security check were usually separated for men and women, which was a big advantage because fewer women than men take the subway in India, so the line was moving quicker for the girls – finally the opposite to the bathroom lines… Also, waiting rooms are separated by sex which was very comfortable. At the subway in Delhi, there is even one waggon reserved for women only at the very beginning of the subway. But do not think it is easier to get into this one than into the common ones – Indian women are really good at pushing their way through, too. 😉
Only women allowed in this zone at the subway in Delhi

At the subway in Delhi

So after travelling one month through India on my own, I can say it is an amazing country definitely worth a visit – also for the female solo traveller. I met many amazing people and had a great experience. Talking with many Indians I actually got the impression that Indians seemed to feel sorry for this bad image India has gotten, and they wanted to show that it is just a minority that treats women disrespectful or is only interested in your money.

The good side about this whole polemic is that it raised awareness for solo female travellers. It is not only important in India to be cautious when travelling alone, but also in other countries. I recommend being rather safe than sorry, stick to a few basic rules and also listen to intuition. With this mix, travelling in India – and in other countries – as a woman is definitely a great experience!

Female solo travelling in India

Travelling as a woman in India? No problem!

 

How a beauty contest aims to change the caste system in Nepal

Even though legally banned, the caste system is still a social reality in Nepal. Several projects try to fight this social stratification. Surprisingly, this challenge is also the aim of a beauty contest. I met the winner of the first beauty contest for the «untouchables».


On my trip in Nepal, I met Chet, a young woman studying health sciences in Kathmandu. With a friend, we stayed at her apartment which she shares with her sister for a couple of nights and spent a lot of time with these two smart, funny and kind ladies, walking in the city, having coffee or cooking traditional momos together. We learned more about Nepal and its society, and that the two belonged to the «dolits», also known as the «untouchables», the lowest caste.

The lowest caste of Nepal are called the Dolits.

Cooking momos with Nari and Chet.

The caste system structures society and determines the professions and social classes of Nepal. The four main groups are Brahman (priests and scholars), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaisya (merchants), and Sudra (labourers), which are divided into subgroups.

It is not possible to tell to which caste a person belongs just by their appearance. But in situations where Nepali need to present themselves to someone, they must tell their full name – not only the first name but also the family name – which reveals the caste they are belonging to. Chet’s full name is Chet Kumari Bishwokarma.

Castes still matter

Even though Nepal’s society, especially in big cities like Kathmandu, became more liberal and open these last decades, there are still many situations in which the caste matters.

My friend Lorène, Chet and me in Kathmandu.

With Chet and my Swiss friend Lorène in Kathmandu.

Chet gave us one example. At university, she has friends from different castes. But if she gets invited to a birthday party of a friend from a higher caste, she usually tries to avoid it. «I know that the family will not be happy to see me. Even if they might not tell me directly, I can still feel them stare and know they will talk about me behind my back. So I prefer to stay at home», Chet says.

Officially, the discrimination between different social classes is forbidden according to Nepal’s constitution. But the caste system is still a reality. Several projects aim to raise awareness of these problems and try to open Nepal’s society. Not only NGOs with educational projects, but even a beauty contest. Such an event was organised last year for the first time, with the aim to find the most beautiful «Miss Dolit».

Beauty and politics

This is not just a beauty contest where girls need to trip on the catwalk and throw smiles at the cameras. This contest was accompanied by a month-long preparation session where the participants would not only attend beauty classes about make-up or styling, but also learn how to speak in public, or how to become more self-confident.

The first beauty contest for the lowest caste, the dolits, in Nepal

The idea is to foster the self-esteem of the lowest caste in Nepal’s society. Therefore, famous people like Min Bahadur Bishwakarma were invited to speak to the girls during the preparation sessions. He is a member of the Dolit community himself, but also a famous politician representing the Dolit on a national level. With his speech about his own struggles but also the success he achieved even though belonging to the lowest caste he wanted to encourage the participants.

«He is a role model for our community. It was very inspiring and motivating, and an honour, to hear him talking to us», says Chet. He also talked about the origins of this societal system. «Most of us didn’t know much about this, it was very interesting – and important.»

Sister’s support

Chet actually never wanted to participate in this contest: «I was convinced I was too short anyway.» But her older sister Nari motivated her: «Height doesn’t matter, you should at least give it a try», Nari said. So Chet participated.

Me with Chet and her sister and traditional Nepali clothes

Talking about height… In Switzerland I’m average, in Nepal I’m a giant. Me with Nari and Chet.

One of the hardest parts for Chet was learning how to walk in high heels – it was her first time, and since she was shorter than the other girls, her heels were even higher. «I felt so much pain, it was very tiring!», Chet remembers. But being a very determined person, she wanted to go through the whole contest.

Smartness counts

During the finals, every girl got to wear a traditional dress and a modern dress. But the show was not only about presenting the clothes, they also had to answer questions. Chet’s question was «What would you do to unite Dolit people?» Not an easy task. Chet talked about the important role of information.

«First, I would inform the people, talk about the background, create awareness about the system. If we are not united, everyone looks down on us, so we need a strong bound to fight together.» But this alone would not be sufficient, she supports programmes like the beauty contest to raise awareness but also to foster the self-esteem.

This traditional dress is made out of dhak, a Nepali fabric

Chet wearing one of the traditional dresses made out of the Nepali fabric dhak.

Before crowning the winner, awards were given for different categories, for example for the most beautiful smile or the best walk. Chet received the award for «best discipline» – which made her even more proud. «This means a lot to me because for me working hard and having a good discipline are very important values.»

Then the coronation ceremony took place. Chet thought she would stand no chance against the other participants – so it was a big surprise when she heard her name when the winner was announced. «It was an incredible feeling, I have never been so happy and proud in my whole life», she says. It was the first time she had won something – and something she had worked hard for.

Confidence building

This experience had a big impact on her. «My sister and my friends told me that I’ve become much more confident», she says. «I want to use this for encouraging other girls. Everybody should believe in themselves.»

Chet wins the beauty contest for dolits

She hopes that this title might open new opportunities. She wants to become a social worker, and do volunteering for people of her community who have a difficult life. «Dolits are not given education because, according to their caste, they are going to be shoemakers anyway», she explains.

Even though society is slowly changing, there is a lot of progress to be made: «We, the Dolits, build temples, but we are not allowed to get inside because we are considered impure. This needs to be changed.»

Mardi Himal Trek – a hidden beautiful trek in the Himalaya

For our hike in Nepal we chose a less popular trek in the Annapurna region, it was called the Mardi Himal trek – and it turned out to be the best decision we could have made. It was an authentic and beautiful hike up to 4500 meters with a fantastic view of the Himalayas!


(Find some valuable tips for your hike at the end of this blog post)

My friend and I had one common box we needed checked on our bucket list: completing a Himalayan trek. A Nepali friend of mine recommended the Mardi Himal trek – a short (five days) but beautiful trek up to 4500 meters above sea level with a fantastic view on the Annapurna mountains and Machhapuchchre.

Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

Mardi Himal Trek – Photo: Eva Hirschi

Since it is a relatively new trek, opened officially in 2011 with tea houses in regular distances up to High Camp, it is not that famous yet (and not in Lonely Planet!) which means it’s less crowded and even cheaper than the popular ABC circuit, so we agreed it would be perfect for us – off the main touristic paths. Because of its length and simplicity, it allowed us to complete the trek without a guide.

Although guides can be very useful and important for longer treks, we felt more comfortable doing it our way, feeling confident enough coming from another mountain country, and hiking in a team of three, together with my friend and her adorable boyfriend.

We started our trek from a village called Dhampus, a one-hour jeep drive from Pokhara. We arrived in Pokhara from Kathmandu by a public bus, took the jeep our Nepali friend had booked for us, and spent the night in Dhampus at the lodge called «Paradise view» to get energy for the next days of hiking.

Hotel Paradise View in Dhampus before starting the Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

The view from our hotel in Dhampus – Photo: Johannes Nachbar

Day 1: From sunrise through the forest

The first day, we got up at 5:30am to see the night fading and the new day arriving.

Instead of having breakfast, we started our trek right away. Our Nepali friend recommended this so that we would have a nice view of the mountains for breakfast, and not start the trek with a full stomach. The beautiful sunrise itself gave us the strength and energy we needed to start our adventure anyway.

The first day of our trek led all the way through the forest. Even if I couldn’t wait to be close to the mountains, I enjoyed this part a lot since the forests in Nepal look so different from the forests in Switzerland. We saw many beautiful rhododendrons and other plants, and even discovered a small Buddhist temple with a nice view of the valley.

Temple on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

Buddhist temple in the forest – Photo: Eva Hirschi

We arrived at our breakfast spot roughly after 1.5 hours of hiking. Deurali (2100m) consists only of a few houses and you get a nice view of the mountains. Our recommendation for a tasty and strengthening breakfast: milk porridge with fresh fruits! With this energy, we reached our first accommodation, Forest Camp on 2600 meters, within a bit more than three hours from the breakfast place.

The first part of the trek was quite steep, but later on, there were some parts that were flat or even went downhill, so all in all it was well balanced. After this first five-hour hike with an elevation of around 1000m, we relaxed at the nice «Green view Hotel», playing with the owner’s kids who were spending their school holidays up here.

Hiking through the jungle on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

Hiking through the jungle – Photo: Johannes Nachbar

Hint: Take a shower (bucket shower but with warm water right from the fire) because later on, you won’t get a chance to…

Day 2: Passing the tree line and arriving… in the fog

After a good night of sleep, we continued our trek again early in the morning around 6 o’clock. Today’s hike should reach an elevation of again around 1000 meters in order to reach High Camp. Our goal was to get breakfast at a small teahouse on the way.

After half an hour, we reached a house from which we had a nice view on Machhapuchchre again. We continued straight through the forest and realised later that this must have been our breakfast place. But after two more hours, we already reached Low Camp so we could have a break there – there was a stunning view too!

Break at Low Camp on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

Not tired yet 😉 Breakfast break at Low Camp.

After the last part through the forest, we reached the tree line but instead of having a nice view of the surrounding mountains, we entered into a cloud of fog. Every few meters, the fog became thicker and thicker, adding some adventure and mystical flavours to the experience. We enjoyed it, knowing that in the next early morning, the sky would be clear again.

Head in the clouds on Mardi Himal Trek in the Annapurna Region of Nepal

Head in the clouds… – Photo: Johannes Nachbar

After two and a half more hours of hiking, we finally reached High Camp (3550m). At this point, we could only see a distance of three meters and there was a freezing cold wind. We went straight to our accommodation: the «Fishtail Guesthouse», where we warmed up in the fire oven, drinking hot milk tea.

Raj Kumar is the owner of this guesthouse and one of the most welcoming and nicest Nepali we met on our trip. For the next two days, he would make sure that we always got some nice hot tea or our beloved Dal Bhat – a Nepali meal consisting of rice, a lentils soup, some vegetables and pickles. On a trek, it is the best food to get energy, or as the Nepali say: «Dal Bhat power – 24 hours!»

Warming up next to the fire with milk tea at High Camp on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

Warming up next to the fire with milk tea – Photo: Johannes Nachbar

Day 3: Breathtaking experience – in two senses

The big day had come! Today, we wanted to hike as high as possible on Mardi Mountain. We got up before sunrise, but late enough so we wouldn’t need any torches. We knew that the foggy clouds would rise soon after 9 or 10 o’clock so we didn’t want to miss the clear view before.

The first part of the hike direction Mardi Himal Base Camp was very steep, at some point, we almost needed to climb the rocks. Soon, the sun rose above the mountains and it quickly became warmer (also because of the bigger physical effort for sure).

Title

Beautiful hike – Photo: Eva Hirschi

We realized how the air was getting thinner with every meter we gained in altitude, and one friend had to deal with some effects of altitude sickness, feeling nauseous and having a headache, we took it slowly and made sure to drink enough water and to eat chocolate and nuts, to keep our blood sugar level up.

After two hours, we reached the first viewpoint. We were just in time to enjoy the last minutes of a clear sight on Machhapuchchre, before the clouds started to enclose the peak, then the rest of the mountain, like a white winter coat.

First view point on Macchapucchre (Fishtail) on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

First viewpoint on Mardi Himal and Macchapucchre (Fishtail) – Photo: Johannes Nachbar

But we were not yet satisfied; our goal was to reach the upper viewpoint.

We hiked for two more hours, enjoying the view despite the – here in the high altitude higher – physical effort. Finally, we saw the sign with colourful praying flags on it – we reached almost 4500 meters! An overwhelming feeling overcame us, looking on the white giants on one side, and the valley with a dark mountain range, which seemed endless on the other side.

Upper View Point on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

We made it – almost 4500 meters above sea level! – Photo: Eva Hirschi

The clouds were rising, so we decided it wouldn’t be worth to hike up to Base Camp because we wouldn’t have had any views anyway, and would make our descent unnecessarily more dangerous. After a break, we started our hike back. On our way, we met a smiling Israeli with a long white beard sitting on a rock, and a bunch of Nepalese next to him. It turned out they were part of the rescue team, searching for a missing Israeli guy.

We had an interesting conversation with the man, about the power of mountains, the weight of years and the understanding of strangers. Instead of searching planlessly the area, they would try to understand the behaviour and thoughts of the Israeli, hoping to be able to trace his way by logic rather than by chance. We left them not without promising we wouldn’t take the short cut, but take the longer but safer way back down (not mentioning though that we had taken this precise shortcut on our way up…).

Pure happiness. View on Annapurna mountains on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal.

Pure happiness. View on Annapurna mountains. – Photo: Lorène Métral

Finally, we reached High Camp again. The rest of the afternoon we spent heating up with tea first, then relaxing with a well deserved Nepali Ice beer. At one point, we found ourselves sitting around the warm oven in the middle of a group of Nepali, who offered us Nepali Whiskey, which is mixed with water and drunk warm. Soon, we felt the heat also inside the body and had a funny, laid back afternoon.

Day 4: Down, down, down

Since this was our last morning high in the mountains, and since we’d become used to getting up early, we decided to enjoy the sunrise one more time. We climbed up a small hill behind the guesthouse and could feel the euphoria filling our heart as the sun started dipping the mountains in a pinkish warm light. We felt the sunlit loneliness as if we were the only ones in this magical world.

Sunlit loneliness in the Annapurna mountains on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

Sunlit loneliness – Photo: Eva Hirschi

Then began our descent. The first part was truly beautiful and we realised which endless view we had missed when we were hiking up in the thick fog.

We couldn’t help but stop every few meters to take pictures or just to enjoy the majestic view. At Badal Danda, we got breakfast and saw the clouds coming up. Especially in this time of the year (October in our case), it’s worth to get up early since clouds are coming up rather fast, mostly around 9:30 to 10 o’clock already.

Feeling like on top of the world on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

On top of the world. – Photo: Lorène Métral

Then the path re-entered the forest, and the descent turned out to be more challenging than expected. Instead of going down to Forest Camp, we took the left path, which led to a village called Sidding. Not only was it a steep path, but also there were many loose rocks on the ground, which made it slippery. My friends soon felt their knees but I was lucky and didn’t feel any pain except for the tired feet.

As we reached the first houses of Sidding, next to rice fields and bamboos, we had a tea break before looking for our tonight’s accommodation. Raj Kumar, our friendly host at the High Camp had organised us a home stay accommodation – at his family’s place.

We were looking forward to this experience, even though we soon realised that there was a language barrier. At least with two men we were able to communicate, and especially with one of Raj’s brothers, we learned a lot about the current working situation for Nepali men.

Homestay in Sidding in Nepal on Mardi Himal Trek in Nepal

Our homestay in Sidding – Photo: Eva Hirschi

He told us that many Nepali would – because of lack of job opportunities in Nepal – go working in the Gulf states or in India, under harsh conditions. The employers take away their passports the day they arrive, so they can’t leave the country before the contract is over, which often lasts for three years – so they can’t defend themselves against exploitation nor visit their families. Now, he was back after having finished his working contract in South Africa, looking for a new job, maybe in Japan.

Full of thoughts, we went to bed.

Day 5: The jeep ride – an experience itself

The next morning we changed our plans. From Sidding, we could have continued our hike for three more hours before taking a jeep back to Pokhara. Since my friends were dealing with knee pains, we decided to take the jeep directly from Sidding, since the further hike would have been as steep and difficult as on the former day.

So we found ourselves on top of an old jeep, driving down what wasn’t even close to a road to Swiss standards – not enough, in Switzerland there certainly are at least ten laws why we shouldn’t do this. The word «bumpy» wouldn’t do this experience any justice, my hands got blisters from holding myself on the bar, trying not to fall off. The jeep passed over stones and through a small river, which came from a waterfall next to the road – what a crazy experience!

Jeep drive from Mardi Himal Trek to Pokhara in Nepal

Standing in the back of the jeep was certainly less bumpy than sitting on top… Photo: Eva Hirschi

Once we reached the flat land of the valley of Pokhara, my bottom was very happy and I could finally enjoy the view on the Himalayas better, without needing to hold myself convulsively on the bar. This jeep ride was almost more exhausting than the actual hike in itself but definitely worth the experience.

 

Precious Tips:

Trekking permit: Before starting the trek, you need to get an official trekking permit at the tourist centre. For Mardi Himal trek, you need two different permits: Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) and TIMS Card (Tourism Information Management System). Each one costs 2000 Rupees (20 dollars) and you need two pass photos for each permit. If you don’t have any photos with you, there is a possibility to get pictures – for free! At some points on the route, you will find checkpoints where you register your name, so authorities know who’s on the trek. And who’s missing – so don’t forget to check out in the end again (also possible via phone if you don’t pass a checkpoint, as us)

Accommodation: A Nepali friend booked our rooms one day before we started our trek and we were happy since sometimes, it seemed that certain accommodations were fully booked. The rooms are very simple but clean and good. The bathrooms are rudimentary and outside, so bring a torch to be able to use them after sunset.

Water: For ecological and economical reasons, we brought two one litres bottle each and refilled them up at the teahouses on our way for free. We used water purification tablets my friend had bought in Switzerland and some drops to make disappear the chlorine taste. In high altitudes, the body needs more water so make sure to drink enough.

Electricity: From Dhampus on, there was no electricity available in the rooms anymore. In the lodges, they have electricity for the lights, but usually you can’t charge your phone or camera, or only do it if you pay for it. It’s easier and safer to bring a spare battery for your camera and a power bank for your phone.

Prices: the prices are fixed and transparent. The higher you get up the mountain, the higher get the prices, but the difference isn’t big. For a room with two beds we paid between 350 and 550 rupees, a Dal Bhat was around 350 rupees and tea or coffee around 60-80 rupees.

Clothes: We did our trek in the end of October, which is the beginning of the winter season in Nepal. The higher you hike, the colder it gets. From High Camp on we were happy to have windbreaker jackets and a cap.

What to bring: Sleeping bag (even if some lodges provide blankets, it can get very cold and you’ll be happy about your comfy and warm sleeping bag!), water purification tablets, two water bottles of one litre each, some snacks, sunscreen, a windbreaker jacket, a power bank, cash. A map is not needed since the path is well indicated and there are few chances to get lost.

#EvaMeetsWorld – Jesse: Combining travelling, blogging and finance

A 31-year-old senior associate in business finance quits his job, his country and finds himself on an eight months trip through Oceania and Asia. To keep a foot in his field, he produces podcasts with entrepreneurs.


I met Jesse in Bali at the backpacker hostel where I was staying. It was my first day in Indonesia, Jesse had already been travelling for a few days in this country and arrived in Bali two days ago. The two of us, a beer in our hand, started to talk and share our stories. Quickly, he attracted my attention with his interesting thoughts, his joyful attitude and his funny stories.

Financial guys don’t travel in suits

Jesse is that type of person who easily starts conversations – about everything possible; be it travelling in Indonesia, Kafka’s books, or the second presidential debate between Clinton and Trump. Jesse quits the topics of small talk pleasantly quickly.

His favourite subject, though, is finance. With his beard, his curly hair and his sleeveless shirt, I must admit he looked somewhat like a hipster surfer boy to me, so I was surprised to learn that he had been working in finance for eight years before.

 

#EvaMeetsWorld Jesse in Vietnam

Jesse in Vietnam

Jesse had worked for a private venture capital company in Washington D.C., meaning he’d evaluate investment opportunities, execute transactions and help companies to perform better. A good job, sure, but he quit: «I enjoyed my work, but I felt I wanted to do something which has a meaning. And I want to create», says Jesse.

Creating not necessarily in a purely artistic way, but if you have a look at his blog and Instagram profile, you quickly realise that Jesse doesn’t just want to analyse numbers but express himself.

Looking for inspiration

Before going on this trip, he had applied for another interesting job and taken it as a game-changer: Either he would find himself in a completely new job, or – in case he wouldn’t get it – he would go travelling for eight months.

In the end, the company decided to employ someone else but Jesse wasn’t disappointed – travelling for a few months had been on his bucket list for quite a while.

A few pictures of Jesse's Instagram profile

A glimpse of Jesse’s Instagram profile

He felt like a trip far away from home might help him to find out what kind of job he would like to do and how he could add meaning to it. «I want to learn about the world and to inspire myself to think outside my former perspective», says Jesse about his travel motivation.

Quitting a job without cutting ties

To keep a record of his trip, Jesse has his own travel blog. Very organised, as he is in his daily life, too, each blog post is composed of the same three categories: surprising discoveries, the brief history of the place and things he did there. It gives an interesting glimpse of his travels.

A very interesting feature of his blog are the KPIs, Key Performance Indicators (no surprise he uses such a technical name, right?). Here, Jesse writes down in a very transparent way how much he’s been spending during his travels.

There are different categories, such as lodging, food, alcohol, entertainment and transport. In simple but pretty graphics, he shows the average cost of a day in a specific country. «I enjoy having a quantitative look at something», he says.

Jesse Budget Metrics on his travel blog

Check out his blog for more detailed graphics

It also helps him keep track of his travel budget. But moreover, he wants to help people who travel in providing them with a transparent view on travel expenses in different countries.

Indeed, it is a helpful and fun tool to get an idea of the «price» of a country, even though Jesse admits that sometimes, this precise tracking makes him too mindful about his spending

Another very interesting feature on his blog are the so-called «startup journeys». Jesse produces podcasts in which he interviews people who are investors in start-ups or small businesses, or entrepreneurs themselves. «The aim is to get in contact with people in the same field career-wise and the podcasts offer a good ‘excuse’ to meet interesting people.»

Jesse during an interview in Indonesia for his podcast.

Jesse during an interview in Indonesia for his podcast.

The podcasts are not only a clever way of networking, they also show that Jesse keeps connected with his work during the travels. «I want to have something to show when I come back, so it doesn’t look like if I’ve been travelling and partying for eight months», he explains.

Solo-travelling in Oceania and South East Asia

Jesse started his trip in Australia and New Zealand and is now exploring whole South East Asia. He has got eight months because he wants to go back to the US for the wedding of a very good friend.

«Travelling alone has its advantages and disadvantages», he says. He enjoys the freedom of doing whatever he likes, of going wherever he wants. «But being alone sometimes means being lonely», says Jesse. It pushes him to get out of his comfort zone.

Travelling alone, he gets to meet a lot of new people. «There is actually something bittersweet about making new friends while travelling because you know after a few days, your paths will separate.» And what advice would he give to other travellers? «Be open minded, don’t over-prepare and get outside your comfort zone!»


On my trip around the world, I meet many different people and some of them leave an inspiring mark on my heart. In this series #EvaMeetsWorld, I aim to give a small glimpse into someone’s life in another part of the world, may it be travellers, locals or expats.