I found out about Blablacar through locals that I had met in Europe. This service is alittle like Airbnb- essentially, drivers list their trip on blablacar and you can pay for a seat and be a passenger. The website has a review process where you can rate the driver and their driving skills and they can also rate passengers. Once you’ve locked in a trip, you pay (with card) and then get a code to give your driver after your journey. All of this is done via the site but the only thing you do need to sort out with the driver is a meeting place.
- It is cheap! I found that the trips were about half the price (if not more) than a bus or train tickets. If you’re regularly moving around a country, these travel costs can add up quickly and also leave little room to be flexible if train costs increase closer to travel dates. I thought that blablacar helped to cut travel costs during my holiday.
- You get to meet locals. I love meeting new people on trips and what better place than being in the same car with each other. We have chatted about life in our respective countries, our dreams and life in general. One of my drivers is actually in Australia at the moment and hopefully we will get to catch up!
- You can see part of the country. What better way to see the views than the front passenger seat of a car! I found that my drivers would point out different things along the way and we also got to talk about road tolls!
- You can pick who you want to take the trip with. This is dependent on what towns you’re travelling between as some towns tend to have alot of trips happening and some with not so much. If you have choice, you can pick which age group/gender you want to travel with which I think is a good thing.
- Language barrier. On one of my trips, there was a huge language barrier (I can’t speak spanish) and the driver couldn’t speak english. BUT WE MANAGED. It can be awkward if there is a language barrier but it’s generally ok.
- Meeting place. Once a driver agrees to take you, you both have to settle on a meeting place. Usually, the driver has the final say and it can be hard to try and find a place you can easily get to with your luggage without having transport costs blow out. I had very good luck and found someone where I could walk to most of the places but you might not always have this luxury.
I am currently writing this in Prague, not that I have actually seen much outside the area I’m staying at yet. I landed mid-morning after the mammoth 21 hour plane trip (3 flights in total) and have since spent my afternoon in bed feeling sick. Yes, I have thrown up. Yes, I’m currently drinking some peppermint tea and yes, I am about to eat some blueberries.
This trip has been kept under wraps for a while. I initially booked this trip about 3 months ago and it has been crazy until now. Oh yeah, did I mention anywhere on my blog that I’ve submitted my PhD thesis? This is the post PhD party and a 2.5 month one at that. Minus the getting sick bit. It is safe to say that this trip is the first in years where I don’t have much to really think about and can try and relax. Does anyone even know how to relax anymore?
I’m not sure how often I will be posting but probably not every day as I’m also keeping a personal diary (old school handwritten).
Leaving you here with the mystery as I need to be un-jetlagged, quicken the drying process of the currently flooded bathroom floor after my shower and I also need to make up for the 3 hours sleep I got over the past 2 days of flying!
Keep living guys,
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I was recently in Seville, a town situated in south west Spain in the Andalusia region. Having arrived from milder cities of more wintery temperatures, I was greeted with 39-40 degrees during most of my stay in Sevilla. Armed with no working knowledge of Spanish (bad bad pre travel prep), a previous week of no […]
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A moment of peace A few things move me to tears of happiness- scenes of animals being saved or seeing their behaviour reflect that of humans on a moral level, seeing good friends after a long time and a moment of peace in a place where you are overcome with awe. I had organised a […]
On the road alone
The last few trips abroad I have taken alone and I’ve been asked a few times “ how do you do it? don’t you get anxious or afraid?”
Yes. If I’m going to a new country, anxiety levels are quite high and even in a city I’ve been to before, I’m still a tad anxious. This is because I feel like other cities that are not your own have a dynamic that you’re not familiar with and are unaware of and this brings uncertainty and anxiety. That’s not to say, I know my own city inside out and back to front but you know your trains lines, which streets/suburbs to avoid and the general geography of your own city.
I think the bottom line of traveling alone is being comfortable with yourself and trusting yourself and your own instincts.
It’s time out from your busy life, time to enjoy how your brain works (sorry, brain reference) and pushes your comfort zone on how comfortable you are about being with yourself. Watching a movie, eating at a cafe/restaurant or going to a bar alone are things that are usually associated activities you do with other people but if you want to see a movie or need to eat, you kind of just have to go at it alone don’t you? We’re all human.
Trust yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else. Your ability to quickly adapt to your new surroundings or your inner homing pigeon that gives you that feeling that maybe you’re on the metro heading the wrong way will surprise you. You just have to let yourself experience it, make mistakes and then get on the right metro again. No limbs lost, the world is still spinning.
People are also mostly genuinely nice. You’ve seen some shifty people around and can identify them. Scammers are out there just be aware. Most people will want to help you, let them. Ask for help when you need it. Trust your own judgement about the people you come across (and you will come across many people).
Being afraid and anxious is normal. The only way I’ve come to deal with this is to trust that I will survive and to just go with the flow.
Here is my top 10 list of perks.
1. You can enjoy getting lost in the streets. You have all the time in the world, can pick which streets to go down and stop to look at things without having to worry if the other person is enjoying themselves or hurrying you along.
2. You can have whatever you want to eat whenever you want. Cake for dinner? yes please.
3. You can take as long (or short) as you want in museums. If you’re the type of person who likes to read every placard under every painting, go right ahead. If you’re the type of person who walks in and out of galleries in under 2 minutes, go right ahead.
4. You don’t have to have the “what do you want to eat?” conversation with someone before every meal. But may have this with yourself.
5. You’re more likely to make more friends. This depends on many things and circumstances but you’re forced to become more open
once you start craving social interaction.
6. You get a whole large bed to yourself. If you’re lucky.
7. You can walk around naked or in your underwear and not have to worry. 110% comfort.
8. You can have a whole dish of dessert to yourself.
9. People might be more inclined to help you. You’re less threatening or people are just nice regardless of whether you’re traveling alone or not.
10. Lots of me time. You get more and more comfortable with yourself.
Any other perks?
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First semi-couch surfing experience. For those who don’t know, couchsurfing is all about fostering international exchange by having the opportunity to meet and stay with locals when traveling. You can surf, open up your couch and host surfers or attend events in your city organised by other local couchsurfers. The whole essence is to share […]
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Winter in Helsinki I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do some work in Helsinki in 2013 and was there for 3 weeks at the end of their winter. As an Australian that had only seen snow once before this trip, the prospect of arriving in a snow laden city with temperatures below […]
I had always wondered what spurred people on to get into a strangers car engaging in small talk as you head in the direction of a mutual destination, until it happened to me. I say that it happened to me because I had not planned it & it was a decision made within about 15 minutes.
I was in northern Finland in a small town called Rovaniemi for a winter weekend alone. One of the last attractions I wanted to see before leaving Rovaniemi was the Santa Claus Village and after seeing Santa & all the other attractions they offered, I went back to the information desk to see when the return bus into town would arrive. Having misread the timetable earlier in the day, I realised that the next bus back into town was in 2 hours and I didn’t fancy waiting around. As I was getting my passport stamped (with the official Artic Circle stamp, this was how far north I was) and discussing other transport options back into town (taxi or wait) with the lady at the information desk, a man who appeared to be friends with the lady, offered me a ride back into town. I first declined
because this is how all good murder movies begin when all my stranger danger bells started ringing. He told me he & his wife were heading back towards the city and that it wouldn’t be a problem, the offer was there if I wanted to take it. Take the ride or wait for 2 hours with nothing to do?
I decided to take the ride and found out while chatting to them in the car that their daughter married an Australian guy. He must have seen that I was Australian when I was getting my passport stamped and I wasn’t going to get murdered and buried in the snow anymore. They took me sightseeing around town, to visit works of the famous Finnish designer Alvar Aalto and took me to a rooftop that overlooked the town. They dropped me in the city centre after my mini tour around town and bid me farewell. I don’t think we exchanged names at all but for strangers, they really went out of their way for me and it’s things like that that makes the world go round.
The next hitchhiking experience occurred about 3 hours later. I was waiting for the airport shuttle in the lobby & then out in front of another hotel until a cab pulled up. A guy who I had seen waiting in the lobby stuck his head out & asked if that taxi was mine. After telling him that it wasn’t, he went back in & reappeared with 2 older men and all their luggage. As they were loading their luggage in, they asked if I was going to the airport as well (I think my bag gave that away) and offered me the last seat in the taxi for free. Turns out they were on a business trip & the taxi ride was actually free. I got to the airport in one piece & the men were really interested in what I thought about Finland. There were only positive things to say. For a country that really keeps to themselves, the hospitality they show to others would say otherwise.
Would you have taken the rides offered if you were in my position? Would you ever hitchhike at all if the opportunity presented itself?
Here is my list of 10 things.
1. You don’t know what you’re buying at the supermarket. Sometimes, you can generally figure it out but other times, you either buy the wrong thing or something that you weren’t looking for.
2. You’re afraid a local will laugh at your silly question. I would suggest you ask anyway.
Or end up lathering on body wash thinking that you’ve bought body cream.
3. You don’t know where you’re going. You have no idea which way is north or south, you swear your place of residence was around this corner and walking to main roads to see a street sign become routine.
3. Directions take 10x longer to figure out. Even if you do know where you’re going, the first time you take that route requires some research and memorization and even then, you may not make it without taking an extra 1/2hr detour.
4. You notice how many words you mispronounce with your ‘home’ accent. As an Australian, this is really noticeable due to us having our own special accent and our own set of words that no-one in the rest of the world uses.
5. You start to get upset or frustrated that you don’t know the local tongue and you stick out…..like a tourist.
6. Ordering food becomes challenging if there is only local language on the menu. Then you proceed to ask the waiter/waitress to translate every meal and its contents to you.
7. You are secretly on the look out for people who will ask you for directions and hope they don’t. Let’s be honest, you don’t even know where the street you’re on will take you.
8. You have mixed emotions when you over hear a conversation in your native language. Yes, I understand them and then No, i did not travel all this way to meet people from the same country as I.
9. You feel like a phoney when you start saying small phrases in the local language. Please do not engage in conversation with me because the extent of my knowledge of the local tongue does not extend past hello, good thank you and thank you.
10. You return home wanting to learn that local language. Then once you start, you come to realise that you don’t know anyone you can speak to on a daily basis to practise the language.
Do any of these happen to you too?