Before I left to travel around the world last year, people around me had their worries about whether traveling is such a good idea in the current politically unstable global climate. I was not sure whether I could expect to travel freely and safely. We seem to live in a world that is dominated by terrorism, killing and wars but also indifference from those who are not directly involved as well. But me, I did not want to believe that this world is as bad as people try to make me believe, or as bad as I see on television and in newspapers on a daily basis.
However nobody was able to convince me not to go and, therefore, it was my mission to travel and prove people wrong: I can say here today, that traveling is safe, immersing yourself in new cultures is a great experience, and different foods, habits and religions don’t necessarily need to be an invitation for war. Traveling around the world is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn about others and about yourself. I have become a traveler of this time.
Let me share my story with you and, in that way, I wish to strengthen my hopes that people of the next generations are not destined to suffer from the limited thoughts and visions of our current leaders.
New Years Eve 2002
“Any ‘good’ ideas we can come up with for the New Year?”
“Hmmm, let’s have another glass of champagne and think about it.”
“You know what I would love to do. I would love to leave everything behind, pack my bags and travel around for a while.”
“Ha, ha. I will join you. Yes, it is sooo nice to DREAM about these things.”
This has become a wish and my newly invented and proven philosophy: Keep dreaming, hope your dreams come true – a man needs to have dreams. Does this ring a bell?
Dreaming is nice, but dreams don’t have a natural gift of just coming true. Dreaming invites the mind to submissively rest in hibernation. We are lazy and so we love to immerse ourselves in dreaming. Dreaming is the perfect excuse not to act. Once you start wishing though, well, it kind of activates the mind and it will try to find ways to make things happen. I realized that I hadn’t been living according to this philosophy for a long while. Until New Years Eve 2002, I figured, I have to turn this whole thing around – my dream has to become a wish! Ten months later, my life-long dream became a reality! I resigned from my position as Operations Manager EMEA (quite nice a career for a 28-year-old by the way), cleaned out my fridge and left for my first destination. And it really wasn’t any more difficult than that. And, I only wished for beautiful and fantastic things to happen.
My journey starts in The Netherlands, then to Mexico via London, Belize, Guatemala, LA, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands, Western Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India and finally Nepal. Only the flights were booked, everything else is one big adventure. During my journey I have been keeping an electronic diary: on my website, Petra Stormen, where you will find beautiful anecdotes of my daily life, some of which below.
Belize, Caye Caulker – a shiny shower
I’d been wishing for a shower ever since I got onto the Belizean bus. Now that I have a roof above my head and a shower. I head off to the shower, with my armed with my Biotherm aquatic scrub gel and flip-flops. I open the tap and besides a rumble in the far distance there is nothing. No water. I look at the shower and then I am being attacked with something greenish coming out of it. BLEHHHH, such a horrible smell. Well, I guessed that is possible and I decided to postpone my shower until tomorrow. So, the next morning, I get all ready again with my Biotherm aquatic scrub gel and flip-flops ready. The shower, here I come. Besides the rumble, there is nothing again. No water, again. I know now not to look at the shower, the same greenish stuff is coming out of there again. This must the be only shower in the world where you come out smelling worse than before you went in! I decide to ask Joe, the general manager of Sunset View Hotel, what the problem is. Not with the lack of sunsets, but with the water, of course. He said, “Well baby, this is the way the water ALWAYS smells. Our rainwater is collected from the roofs and the garden and stored underground and the tree and plant roots filter it!” I said, “Oh well, that’s ok then Joe, thanks for the information!” I learned such an insight into tropical water collection! What do you reckon, can I brush my teeth here anyway?
New Zealand, Abel Tasman – to kayak or not to kayak?
We discuss one of our wishes: I had this romantic idea of kayaking in Abel Tasman Park. The brochures and leaflets show this wonderful blue sea and beach atmosphere. But in all honesty, the weather has been bad lately and the nights are really cold! I have visions of hoards of backpackers hopping around on the same beaches and most important of all: I am kind of feeling lazy. So, no kayaking in Abel Tasman for Petra! Enough excuses you agree, right?
Early in the morning I am on my way to Hokitika. At a junction on the road, we turning toward Abel Tasman and we decide to go there after all. On two squeaky wheels we turn around and head toward another destination.
The sun starts shining and it turns out to be a beautiful day! So we, hardened campers, set up the tent and take the boat to Anchorage. And guess what: we walk to Bark Bay. Don’t these names sound romantic? Another 4 hour hike, but the park and the view make up for all the pain and suffering. What a great day!
Oh, and I forgot to tell you one thing: I saw loads of kayakers, sweating, cursing, and paddling against the wind on 3 meter high waves. I saw three kayaks elegantly capsizing. I was thinking, he is not going to get back, the poor lad. They definitely seemed to flock on specific isolated beaches, isn’t that a cozy thought? It was bound to start raining again and, during the night, I bet everyone is fighting for a place around the campfire to cook their meals, such an appealing thought!! (And me, the queen of cheese land, I smiled, because being lazy is not always the dumbest attitude.
New Zealand, Fox and Franz
Finally I make it into the Alpine region. Yes, a little sense of Christmas with white snowcapped mountains in the background. The area is similar to European Alps I would say: cows, mountains and wooden cabins. Thank god nobody is yodeling, otherwise, I would start doubting myself! And, what is the most obvious thing to do when in a mountain area? WALK, WALK, and WALK again. So off I go to ‘do’ the glaciers. It’s raining really hard and my trousers (suited for tropical temperatures) only stick to my legs, cold and wet. I am not really sure why I wanted to get here so desperately. Our aim after all was to become the world’s hippest beach packers. Hmmm, time to make a wish, I wish for sunshine. Luckily there are two glaciers: Franz and Fox, one is wet and one is sunny (don’t ask me which one is which as I don’t know!) But, guess where I went? In all honesty, I have seen cleaner, whiter, bigger glaciers, but as these are situated in rainforest and near the ocean, they are somewhat special. I find a quiet place to watch the whole thing and, all of a sudden, a somewhat older guy and woman pull my sleeve.
Well, I know I am good-looking (ha,ha,ha), but that is a bit over the top. I probably ended up with my biggest and most fake cheeseland smile on their picture. Hey ho! They are happy and waving their red and white umbrella goodbye! On our way back (to Fox or Franz) we stop the car to pick up two hitchhikers and, guess what, it’s them again – the umbrella-picture people. Swiftly they jump into the back of our Bluebird and off we go. Hmmm (SNIFF SNIFF) slightly embarrassed I open the car window a little, a disgusting smell is penetrating the car’s interior. Rick looks at his boots to see whether any purple colored clouds are rising from them and whispering to me: “it’s not my boots and then it hits me.” It is them, they stink, blehh, they keep the conversation going meanwhile in Czech, as it is not my favorite language and I seriously lack Czech vocabulary I tell them in my perfect friendly dutch: “Hello it’s so nice that you sit here in MY car and STINK, no fresh mountain air, pure and disgusting P-air!” Thank you very much for that! And happily (they more than I) we continue our journey to Franz or Fox.
Fiji – How to send an email
After a lot of trouble and re-organization, I finally arrive on Waya Laila, one of the Yasawa islands. The weather is fantastic, the beaches not as white, and the ocean not as blue as described in brochures, though! I need a change of mind, which can be easily done. Okay, I can start enjoying this immediately. I express the wish to send an email to our friend on Waidroka Beach. That is okay, says Jim the manager of the place where I stay overnight. Here is how sending an email works.
1) Write your message on a piece of paper and keep your fingers crossed.
2) Jim calls his sister on Nandi.
3) Jim’s sister notes down the message and email address.
4) She then goes into town to the internet shop.
5) Jim’s sister sends the email message.
6) The guy in the internet shop promises to call her once she receives a reply.
7) Reply received.
8) The guy in the internet shop calls Jim’s sister.
9) Jim’s sister goes back to the internet shop and writes down the reply on a piece of paper.
10) Jim’ sisters returns to her house.
11) She makes a call to the receptionist at the place where I am staying.
12) The receptionist notes down the content of the reply, read out loud by Jim’s sister.
13) Jim takes the message to you.
14) Operation completed.
Please make sure you reserve about two days for this process and don’t expect 100% accuracy!
Cook Islands – Rarotonga’s Police Station
The plane’s runway in Rarotonga seems just a little bit too short, especially in the darkness. BRRR, I wished for beautiful things, you remember? When I wake up though and gaze at the blue lagoon of Muri Beach, all doubts have disappeared. This is the most beautiful view I have ever seen in my life. But I do not have time to hang around, I have to go to the Police Station! Anyone who wants to drive either a car or scooter is obliged to have a Cook’s driver’s license and you can buy them from at the police station. Now I did not intend do any driving, but of course I wish to be the proud owner of my Cooks drivers’ license. So Police Station, here I come! I put my driver’s license on the desk in the little building that houses the only police department on the cooks. The police lady looks at the document for minutes, she studies it, back and front, frowning and frowning and not really in a friendly mood, but maybe it is just show, but maybe something is wrong. Okay, she says, take a seat and leaves for the next room, closes the door behind her. So there I am sitting in the Cook Police Department on a little wooden bench, as if I am a criminal, guilty I look around. All of a sudden I hear my name “Please come in” and I have to follow her into the next room. She still has this very-serious-I-am-going-to-arrest-you-look and I have to admit, just for a slight moment, I get nervous. But then, I can’t control it, I start laughing, I just can’t stop any more. My picture is taken and put on the driver’s license. It costs me 10 bucks and, when I pick my license after half an hour, I can’t believe it: The ever so strict police lady smiles at me and meanwhile outside, 4 other tourists are taking their scooter driving test, one of the guys fails. What a laugh. So I rent a small scooter (including ET basket in front) and explore the island. This takes no more than 34 minutes. Well at least that was our record then. Armed with our snorkeling equipment and kayak, I explore all the beautiful spots! In the most beautiful blue water I have ever seen (at room temperature just like a good wine).
You imagine yourself swimming in a tropical aquarium. Brightly colored fish swim around and nibble our legs. And if you can find the energy to lift your head out of the water, the view is tremendous: white beaches and palm trees surrounded by a clear blue sky. How does that sound to you? Our week here is too short and I say goodbye to this tiny paradise!
Samoa, Perfect Paradise
Samoa is the perfect paradise, anyone visiting here has to admit that. My wish for the perfect beaches, the perfect corals in a beautiful blue ocean comes true! Unfortunately two weeks ago a cyclone has done its share of demolition on and around the island. Thousands of trees snapped like matches, with damaged coral and lost looking fish in the lagoons.
I spend a week here and rent a small room in the Virgin Beach Cove. The room comes with private beach and there is a cook who will make sure that I won’t starve. I wake as the sun rises, snorkel at 6 in the morning, organize a cup of
coffee and watch the crabs digging their way around the beach. Once in a while some of the inhabitants of the small village pass by and they have a good giggle about the western strangers. Never before in my life have I met more friendly people. They actually thank us for visiting their island. In no way I can explain to them why we are there and how different our homes are. I won’t tell you too much more as I hope that this non-spoilt peaceful place will remain as it is!! Just one more thing though: I discovered that I have a natural talent for cracking coconuts. It’s in my genes.
India, what more can I wish for.
Once I arrive in India, every single wish I have been making during my trip seems to be a bit, hmmm, let me try to find the right word. I don’t know yet. Most of my wishes have been about enjoying ourselves, dragging ourselves from beach to beach, about beautiful weather, about finding nothing but bright colored beautiful things, enjoy myself, treat myself to nice things, no negatives, no stress, no bad things. In the first train in India I run into this kind of ugly fairy with a magic wand. She hits me hard and all my wishes appear in the kind of right perspective. Everything falls into place. The left and right sides of my brain become friends, something they never seemed to have been able to do before. They need to, because what I see and experience in India requires a balanced personality. I have seen a lot, therefore, I can honestly say I gave India a fair try. I travel from Trivandrum to Agra. All by train, no luxury, no Oberois or Palaces, but just simple food with guesthouses and trains our home for a long time. I have seen the poorest of poor people and the richest of rich people. I have met fantastic people, who tried in their own way, to find legitimate reasons for defending India as it is. And I have met horrible people, who proved each and every healthy-thinking person wrong again. I don’t like India as a country to travel in, and I am not ashamed to admit it. But I love India for learning a lesson had to learn: there is only so much one should wish for.