28 December 2015

Doubts and worries

One thing I decided when I first started thinking about this travel blog was that I wanted to make it personal. Adding on to the huge mountain of "see these amazing ruins before they're run over by hordes of tourists and buy these authentic dolls made out of Yak hair" types of blogs didn't appeal to me; I wanted something else. I wanted to make this a journal and also share some very personal issues that I find myself preoccupied with along the way. I think it supports the aim of the trip (getting to know this person under the dreadlocks) and if someone doesn't want to know these things about me, then, well, did I mention there's like a gazillion blogs that sing the praises of different travel destinations? Feel free to check them out!

So, done with the disclaimer. Into the business at hand! I thought the Furry Little Worrymonsters warranted their own post, since these issues keep on popping up no matter how much I let them in, acknowledge them and let them have their space in my meditations. Maybe writing them out for all to see will make them recede back to the shadows, who knows. That's the way it usually goes for me, but for some reason I've kept dodging this important task and wished the worries and doubts about my journey would go away by other, abovementioned means. Well, apparently not, so time to grab the worry-beast by its horns and take a short ride around the Jungle of Anxiety. Giddiup!

Feeling sad and lonely

I think one of the biggest fears about the upcoming journey (departure in T-6 and counting...) is that I will feel supremely, heart-crushingly lonely and sad. I will see all of these lovely places, take millions on photos, but have nobody to share the excitement with. Instead on concentrating on the marvels of nature and cities filled with a myriad of colours and details, my eyes and thoughts will be fixated on other people who are enjoying their journeys with companions. Lovers holding hands and laughing at their own private jokes, safely cushioned inside in their glowing bubble of mutual affection. Friends having fun, taking silly selfies and sharing huge piles of yummy food at dinner, discussing what they experienced during the day. These sorts of things. I am aware that there will (most probably) be others travelling solo as well, but still it's pretty hard to shake the worry of "being left out", being the outsider, who will be too shy or self-conscious or whatever to seek out the company of others. I'm also quite picky about whose company I want to keep, so any group of boisterous, 18 year old backpackers won't do...

I guess the only way to tackle this problem is to do my own thing, enjoy my own company, and spot and use the opportunities for companionship as they present themselves along the way without doing the usual Lilje-overthinking along the lines of  "I don't want to bother anyone, I'm sure no one would want my company anyway..." which simply isn't true. One of the goals of the journey: Get more self-confidence. Go talk to people. I will be alone only if I wish to be.

Taxi boat - Next stop: self-confidence!

Not meeting my own absurdly high expectations

The failure in this one is a given, since there is no way in the Universe that I can fill the huge giant-sized boots I've neatly arranged next to the doorway of this trip. The only way around: search out a fitting pair of shoes, girl! As I already noted in the trip introduction post, I cannot do everything I'd like to, so all kinds of decisions, big, small, furry and oblong, need to be made. Learning to make them is one of the biggest goals of the trip. And I cannot make these decisions if I'm petrified I will choose wrong or not fill my own expectations every step of the way.

So, some serious mindfulness about this issue needs to be set in place. I will need to get in touch with myself, figure out what I want and give myself permission to do whatever it takes to enjoy this trip and not feel like I'm letting myself down if I don't see or experience "enough". If I feel like I need to be in an ashram for extended periods of time, then so be it. It will not mean (like my mind is suggesting) that by doing that I will have "failed to experience India" and "taken the easy way out". It will just mean that I've made a choice and that if the said choice doesn't feel right, I can always reshuffle the pack and pick another card. If I feel like sitting on a beach somewhere for a month doing nothing, then I am allowed to. If I come back and won't have amazing pictures of Taj Mahal and all the seven wonders of the world to show, then that's OK too. This won't be my last trip to India (or anywhere else, for that matter). There will be other chances to do more.

But my Universe, it is so very very hard to actually believe that I have these permissions, and I don't *have* to do anything, for anyone. The trip will be a learning experience, no matter what I do. The only way it is possible to "fail" is to sit somewhere, stuck in the Bog of Indecision, feeling sorry for myself and wishing I was something or somewhere I am not. This I will try to avoid at all costs. Meditation and mindfulness and journaling to the rescue!

It's ok to just be and smell the ocean

Feeling rushed and unable to settle down

This one is closely linked to the previous issue. When I have all these expectations (vipassana! ashrams! trekking! sights! photos! horseback riding! working! volunteering!), I will start to stress and rush. And start blaming myself if I'm not happy. This is my pattern. And on this trip, I'm sure I'll notice myself falling in the same trusty grooves in the road to Pattern Town many times. But I'm also equally sure, that I now have tools to change my direction, choose the paths less traveled. Sit down, breathe. Find out which emotions are there now that would like me to hurry, say "namao", acknowledge them and let them in. Experience them, give them space, so that they can then move on again. If (and when) they come back, rinse and repeat.

I think this one applies particularly to the "sightseeing" part of the trip; when I'm on the move and not engaged in another activity (like taking part in a workshop or staying in an ashram). That's when the mind starts making all sorts of demands: Do this! Go there! The clock is ticking! Hurry! It will still be like this, since this is the nature of the monkey mind, but I'll work on not giving in to its whims. If they're not awesome. Or have to do with food. Then I might ;)

Worrying myself sick or actually getting really sick

When traveling in the tropics there are all kinds of health-related issues to keep in mind. Get your vaccinations. Use hand sanitizer. Don't open your mouth in the shower. Don't order drinks with ice. These kinds of things. I already had dengue fever so I know that getting sick is a real possibility. And it's a chance one needs to take when traveling to these parts of the world. No dengue fever in Finland. But also, fresh coconuts? Not very bountiful. And of course I'll take any precautions I can to prevent getting a nasty bug, but sometimes these things do happen.

I've had some health issues and the excessive worrying to accompany them in the last couple of years, and since worrying comes so naturally to me, I'm sure I'll have my hands full with it during the trip as well. Getting sick is annoying but worrying so much that I ruin my fun by paying attention to every little twinge the body is sending (and taking it for MalariaDengueAppendicitisCancerPainfulDeath) is a completely different ballgame. And one I don't wish to play, although I am very very good at it. But I also believe I have tools to tackle this monster if (when) it raises its ugly head. And if worst comes to worst, there are hospitals and doctors. And I have an insurance. So, worrying is actually worse than the actual sickness. And more difficult to prevent... But I'll do my best!

Clouds of worry, gathering

Not being any wiser about the future after 6 months

I already wrote that it would be very very wonderful if after this trip I would have a clearer idea about the next step I want to take in my life. Where do I want to live? What do I want to do for work? Small, insignificant things like these. Which, naturally, for a person who has a hard time choosing anything, seems like the biggest and scariest  thing of all time. Which is why I've actively tried not to (over)think about these things and have faith that somewhere along the line there might be an inspiration which will help me out in choosing something. But, it is equally possible, that there won't be. And that I'll be back in the summer and still have no frickin' clue about what to do. Yes, I can always go back to translating. And yes, funds permitting, I can also sublet my apartment again and keep on travelling. But it still feels like I'd be letting myself down (here we go again with the expectations...) if I didn't have some kind of a plan after this trip. It feels like I would have learned nothing. Which is not true, but that's what it feels like.

So I will try try and try again to be kind towards myself about this as well. Not to point fingers, not to blame. There's no reason to feel ashamed if I don't have my ducks in a row any better after 6 months than I do now. I'll figure it out, or a part of it, sooner or later. And who says the ducks need to be in a row anyway? I think a freeform bunch of energetic ducklings sounds like a much more exciting formation!

So, here we go. A glimpse to what the Lilje Worry Buffet has on offer. I'll keep myself (and you) posted along the way how things go. Thanks for reading! <3

I refuse to let my worries drag me down!

25 December 2015

Route, practicalities, budget and other "serious" stuff

When you plan to travel in the tropics for 6 months, you can't just book a flight and go. Or well, technically, yes you can. If you're made of money and trust. But if you're neither, then some planning is in order. Here's a little summary of the things that make up the practical side of the trip.


I decided to start the easy way and go to Koh Phangan, my soul island, for the first two weeks, 3.1 - 16.1.2016. On the schedule: probably some acclimatizing and pinching myself several times a day to make sure I'm not dreaming all of the palm trees, fresh coconuts and general amazingness. Being reunited and sharing a house with my Portuguese friend from Be-In festival last summer also fills me up with joy <3

After that I'll head on to Mother India and start my trip there by doing a yoga retreat for 2 weeks in Santosh Puri ashram near Haridwar in the north east part of India with my wonderful Macedonian-born yoga teacher from Berlin, Marijana. Then I'll make my way down to Goa to meet an Israeli friend and more warmer climate. Despite earlier (somewhat naive) enthusiasm about only using trains and buses while in India, I think I'll fly, since spending 60 € on a plane trip that lasts for about 3 hours seems to make a lot more sense than spending about 45 € on a train ride that'd taker around 32 hours... I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to explore the wonders of Indian train travel when I've made my way south. Maybe I'll take trains on my way back up north again?

Goa is where the planned part of the trip ends. After that there's, well, room for adventure and spontaneity, or which were the wise words I used in the previous post? From mid-April till mid-May I would like to be back on Koh Phangan, since there are some workshops I'd love to go to (tantra and rebirthing). But nothing is booked. You'll know when I'll know, that's the only thing I can tell you right now.

The arrangement with my subtenant is that there's no fixed end date to the rental contract. The first fixed point when I seriously aim to be back in Europe is Boom festival in the middle of August in Portugal. But of course those tickets can be sold as well... The tiny pre-plan that's been stewing in my head (since my mind just cannot stop trying to pull some kinds of plans out of this soup of uncertainty) is to return in July, spend some time in Finland and then be back in Berlin in the end of July. And maybe travel Portugal in August. But this is all still very much a tentative thing. Which is the way I aim to keep it.

So, there you have it. Now you know as much as I do. Next up: the practicalities.


I've budgeted 1500 € per month for the trip. This will include transportation within the country I'm in (not international flights), accommodation, food and activities. The yoga retreat and workshops on Koh Phangan will be extra.

 I'll monitor my budget with TrabeePocket, since the Trail Wallet app that my travel idols of Never ending voyage is sadly only available for the Devil's own devices (Apple. *shudder*).

If I won't spend the entire 1500 in a certain month, the rest will be transferred to the next month. Or count up for workshops or other unexpected splurges.


I won't be needing a visa for the first Thailand stint, since Finnish citizens (and many others...) have a visa exemption that lets us eat ourselves silly on Thai food for 30 days without a visa. Depending on how long I'll plan to stay in April/May, I will need to apply for a visa then, though.

For India I needed a visa. I applied for a 6 month tourist visa with multiple entries. Which wasn't as straight forward as I had thought, naturally. First, if you apply in Berlin, you're not supposed to do it in the Indian embassy, but at International Visa Service Germany, a fact that isn't of course mentioned anywhere on the embassy website, which is the logical place one would go for visa related information. Oh well. And then, they need your Meldeschein to prove that you've lived in Germany for more than a year. (Needless to say, the embassy site is very silent about this fact as well.) But of course when you change apartments, you get a new Meldeschein, and mine wasn't a year old (and a rental contract for the previous apartment naturally wasn't enough proof for me living in Berlin for the past 6 years). And since I ceremoniously ripped up the previous Meldeschein to mark the End of an Era when I got the new one, I needed to apply as someone who had a permanent address in Finland. Sigh. But all is well when the end is well: I did get the visa (with some time to spare, hah!) and wasn't scarred for life by the extra trip to the IVS I had to take.

An e-visa that you can get online without the hassle of a paper visa or would have been handy if I was only there for the yoga retreat, but since my trip will take more than a month, it wasn't an option for me.

Money spent pre-trip: 58 € (Indian visa)


I'll be flying from Berlin (TXL) to Bangkok (BKK) via Cologne with the new long haul subsidiary (Eurowings) of the budget airline German wings. The bare-bones flight without anything inclusive (no food, no baggage, no nothing. A seat, maybe, if you were lucky) would have been really cheap, and even with baggage and a meal didn't cost a fortune. I'm still harboring a plan of travelling only with carry-on luggage like my travel idols at Neverending voyage have proven to be possible, but still bought the allowance for one check-in bag for this flight.

The next flight (Air Asia) will take me from Bangkok's Don Mueang (DMK) airport to Surat Thani (URT). Here I didn't purchase the check-in baggage allowance, but if I don't succeed in cramming all my stuff into my lovely new Osprey Fairpoint 40 (that's designed to fit all cabin bag allowance limits, yay!), I can modify my booking and get the check-in bag for 300 baht (7 €).

After Koh Phangan, I'll fly from Surat Thani to Don Mueang again (Lion Air this time), change to Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and hop on a Jet Airways plane to Delhi (DEL).

Money spent pre-trip: 417 € (TXL - BKK), 37 € (DMK - URT), 19 € (URT - DMK), 215 € (BKK - DEL). 

Vaccinations and medication

Luckily I already had hepatitis A/B vaccinations (Twinrix) done for my first Thailand trip back in the day (2008?), so I didn't have to take them. I also already had the jabs for japanese encephalitis and tetanus. So this time I only took the vaccinations for typhus and rabies (Rabipur). And opted for getting a small emergency ration of Malarone for malaria. Never gonna take malaria meds as prevention again after trying that in Indonesia on our scuba trip to Bunaken. Wasn't fun, let me tell you, let alone hellishly expensive. And yeah yeah, I know I would have gotten malaria meds from India (or wherever I happened to think I had malaria and needed to take them) much cheaper, but I still feel safer if I have them with me.

I'll also take 6 months worth of my thyroid meds with me plus a little travel pharmacy of painkillers, vitamins, diarrhea meds, probiotics and such. I won't take the "emergency antibiotics" which people seem to recommend, since most of my health problems have to do with taking too many antibiotics in the first place, so I aim to go as far and wide without taking antibiotics as it is possible.

Money spent pre-trip: 231 € (typhus and rabies), 56 € (Malarone)


After the wonderful dengue fever experience getting a good travel medical insurance was a real priority. That lovely little holiday in the Samui hospital would have ended up costing me about 5000 euros (if my memory serves me) if it wasn't for my insurance. This time I went with Travel Secure, and combined the medical insurance with a liability insurance. The coverage seems as good as HanseMerkur that I had last time, but it was way cheaper. If I ever need to file for compensation, I'll let you know if the budget option was a good idea or not.

I'm still thinking of getting a baggage insurance, which would cover "normal theft" (if someone steals something on a street). My home insurance covers burglary from hotel rooms and robberies, so I'm still on the fence about whether or not to get this, as it would set be back about 100 euros at least...

Money spent pre-trip: 300 € (medical + liability insurance)

Other purchases

When thinking about new things to buy for the trip, I tried to stick to the bare essentials. I needed comfy walking shoes/sandals. I needed a laptop that was small and light but that could take the climate and run Lightroom since I aim to take a lot of photos. I needed organic sunscreen. So I ended up getting Keen sandals, a used Thinkpad X220 Notebook from greenpanda.deCoola organic sunscreen plus as a luxury item, a sleeping bag liner (practical for the iffier hostel/train beds). Oh, and some vacuum bags that will hopefully get all my stuff to fit in the carry-on bag. One can always hope, right?

Edit: I also ordered a wire lock and a clothes line.

Money spent pre-trip: 17 € (vacuum bags), 30 € (sleeping bag liner), 89 € (sandals), 318 € (Notebook), 30 € (sunscreen), 10 € (lock), 6 € (clothes line).

New life, new journey

Things have changed quite drastically after the last trip. A new journey is about to start, but this time there is only one traveller. And the trip will be only 6 months instead of the whole year tour which was the plan with my ex.

The last couple of years after us living on Koh Phangan I have also started to go through other quite major changes. Call it age 30 crisis or what you will, but I realized I've never tried if my wings will hold me and let me fly solo. I've always been in long relationships and based my life on something else than myself: Being a partner. Being a student. The last two years have been an ever-deepening trip into my self, a soul searching journey. I've gotten into yoga, meditation and spirituality. And have worked hard to recognize my previous patterns of behaviour and try to change them where needed.

This journey I'm about to embark on is a continuation of this "let's try to discover who this girl called Lilje really is" venture. No, I don't think I need to go anywhere to find myself or find happiness. Happiness lives in me and I could pursue it without a coconut in my hand while lounging in a beach bar on a tropical beach somewhere. But if there's a possibility to enjoy the said coconut on the said beach, then why not?

Plus I really do need a break from work. I've been a translator since 2007 and have gotten deeply routined in the same kind of work. While it has been quite easy money most of the time and allows me to choose my working hours and go gallivanting around the globe if my finances can take the hit, it does nothing for my soul. Also sitting in front of my computer every day is very very lonely (and it's killing my back). I crave to have a team, doing something worthwhile together. Or to find out, if I could find a way to make a living of some of my passions (cooking, baking, yoga...). I still have no clue about so many things, but I hope by removing myself from the comforts of home I also change my brainwaves and set them coursing into unknown territories and exploring what the next step in life could be.

One of the biggest goals on this trip will also be to learn how to make decisions without freezing in panic and then ending up choosing nothing at all or letting others take the lead. It is a trait of mine I really don't enjoy: feeling that whatever I choose, I choose wrong. If I choose to go somewhere, the best party or the most amazing ruins or the most serene beach is somewhere else. So I freeze, scrutinize everything into the tiniest of details and, needless to say, end up no happier as a result.

The thing is, the best party is right here. The most amazing ruins are the ones I'm currently seeing. And the most serene beach is the one that's stretching there right in front of me. And it's just purely sad, if I cannot see the things that are right there to be enjoyed with all my senses because I'm too worried that The Paradise Is Somewhere Else. It's all about mindfulness and the mindset of feeling that wherever I am, that's exactly where I'm supposed to be at that point in time. The other mystical Better Places just simply don't exist for me at that moment, since I cannot be in multiple places at the same time. My reality is the one I'm currently experiencing, at this moment. And by thinking about What Could Be I'm living in a fantasy land and not in the moment. This is something I really want to pay attention to on the trip: To really BE where I am. To try not to have this sense of hurry to get to the next (potentially Much More Amazing) place quickly. To not feel ill at ease wherever I am and not to have a constant itch in my feet that urges me gogogo faster, move on, be on my way already. I want to slow it down. Really pause and smell the flowers, or whatever there is to smell. To breath. To have the sense of space and time; that I have both in abundance.

Sure, as my travel time is limited, it pays off to pick out the sweet spots I want to see. But whatever I do, I won't be able to cram everything in. I can't do workaway/wwoof, endless workshops on Koh Phangan, learn Ayurvedic massage, do cooking courses in India, live and practice in a variety of ashrams, do vipassana, experience all the places in India currently on my list (Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ellora caves near Aurangabad), Kerala, Gokarna, Hampi, Goa...), see and dive Spice Islands in Indonesia, go do some volunteer work in Nepal.... the list goes on and on. I will have to make decisions, and pick and choose what I can do in my limited amount of time. And more importantly, choose only a couple of these things, and be genuinely OK with my choices, not ending into endless second guessing loops which not only throw me off balance and disturb my peace of mind but also effectively prevent me from enjoying what I actually get to do and experience.

One of the things I usually always did before a trip is to plan everything to the tiniest detail, and then end up disappointed in myself if I don't manage to accomplish everything. This time I've consciously taken another tactic and tried to plan as little as possible so as to leave room for adventure and spontaneity. Also digging up too much information only makes the endless "what ifs" of choosing "wrong" that much worse. It is now exactly 9 days before my trip and I'm only now letting myself start charting out the things I might want to see and do. And I'm already regretting that I started so "early", since the good old panic of not having enough time, of choosing wrong, of feeling let down by myself is starting to rear its head. So, I'm taking a step away, breathing, writing this blog post instead of feeling sad about all the places I won't be able to see and not feeling joyously excited of the stuff I will do. Meditating and exercise always help, so I did both this morning.

So, this is the background. Stay tuned for next post: the practicalities.

17 December 2015

End of the line: D-town

Hello. Long time no see, eh? The last trip was kinda left hanging in the air, but I had a good reason. A mosquito-borne one. Hint: starts with a "D". Yep, you guessed it. My friend the dengue fever paid a lovely little visit which landed me in hospital on Koh Samui for 8 days, during which my platelets and white blood cell count  tried to recover the best they could and I tried to keep my sanity by bingewatching Sopranos. Another day, and I would have finished the whole thing, but on the 8th day the dear doctor proclaimed me well enough to leave the 4 star all-inclusive accommodation.

So, how was it, you ask? Painful? Well, not really. I took my painkillers like a good girl and bore patiently with the nurses who were barging in at all hours to take my temperature, bring hospital food (not awesome even though in Thailand) and just generally hustle and bustle around. My face swelled up and got red and I was super weak but besides that, as tropical diseases go, I think mine wasn't too horrible.

But, after that I didn't really feel like doing anything but hang out under a mosquito net on my bed and wish I'd be home. Which I soon was: we cut the trip short and returned to Berlin a month ahead of schedule, in March. Just in time to welcome a fresh bout of freezing temperatures and snow. Thanks, Berlin. But it was still good to be back. The end.

So, what am I still doing, blogging? The trip is done, no? Well, my friends, read on to the next post!