Saturday, 3 October 2015

Back to Bali - Last Episode

After 13 months of travelling around the world, we are back to where we started. I feel content, fulfilled and joyous with our journey, which provided an incredible transformation for both Alex and I. It is hard to explain in words how the change happened as it was a slow but continuous process. With each step taken, each person met and each place visited I gained something of value. 

This amazing trip is slowly coming to an end but the journey of life never ends. Every single day provides us with opportunities to grow, heal, help and serve others. We are all part of the same human family and no matter where we are on this planet, we want to achieve similar things, such as happiness, peace, and finding meaning in life.  

The reason we came back to Bali is simple. First of all, our funds lasted more than we thought they would. Secondly, we need to stay at one spot and integrate all the changes we have gone through before heading back to Australia. 

At the beginning, we wanted to stay in Ubud for a month. However, we extended our time to 3 months in this amazing island of healing and transformation. We have met many like minded people who either live in Bali or come and go quite often. They became our soul family. After 13 months on the road, we have the feeling of belonging again. We have a routine of yoga, breathwork and some other conscious processes. We are connected with amazing healers both Balinese and expats. These 3 months give us the opportunity to deeply immerse into a new way of living that is conscious, free and aligned with our highest purpose. 

Our Soul Family in Bali

We already have our return tickets back to Sydney on the 11th of June 2014. After such a journey, it is impossible to go back to our old life and we are certainly in the process of building a new one aligned with our highest calling. I am not sure how this new adventure will look like, but I know that it will be beautiful. I honour this deeply healing and transformational journey and feel ready to take the next steps on the path, not knowing where it will take me. 

With Balinese Friends

What happened to my fears, anxieties and worries? Some of it is still there. I still get a little anxious about the future. However, I developed enough trust in the flow of life and universal guidance that is available to each and everyone of us. All we need to do is tap into our inner guidance or intuition and let it guide us in this miraculous voyage called life. 
Thank you for taking the time connecting with us through this blog. I hope our journey provided some inspiration. Maybe it planted a little travel bug that will grow in time. I hope that our adventures will bring some positive change in your life as well.

I would like to close this blog with the quote I posted on Facebook when we were in Colombia:

"On 12.02.2013, my wife and I left our jobs, gave up our apartment, sold our furniture and started a journey into the unknown despite all our fears and anxieties. I now can say that this year was the best year of my life. We visited amazing places, met incredible people, faced our fears, developed gratitude and trust that everything works out for the best on this beautiful planet of ours. I feel transformed, free and alive. Do not let fear hold you back living your dreams! Love to you all!"

Thank you for being part of our journey. Be Happy!

P.S. For some insight about my current life (1,5 years later), please check out my website on counselling and mindfulness at Conscious Beginnings.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

New York & San Francisco

New York, New York

Leaving South America after 7 wonderful months was a challenge. So many beautiful memories, amazing scenery, experiences, and wonderful people is what I recall when look back in time.

On the 19th of February,  we took a flight from Bogota and arrived at Newark Airport at midnight. Thankfully, my brother, Alp, who lives in New Jersey picked us up, as the weather was around -5 degrees Celsius with snow and ice everywhere. It was definitely a big shock after many months in the warm climate of South America.

Upon arriving at my brother’s house, we were unexpectedly welcomed by my parents. They flew over from Turkey to surprise us at the end of our trip. It was a great surprise to see them again after 8 months. 

Family time
Our week in New Jersey was all about family time, sharing our travel experiences and connecting. After being on the road for such a long time, this was an excellent opportunity to enjoy the warm family environment and rejuvenate.  

It was great to see my niece, Lara, whom I  don't get to see very often due to distance. We played a lot, took her to ice-skating, listened to her stories. It was fun to act like a kid again with her. In fact, this week gave us a good opportunity to reunite as a family.  

Alex and Lara at ice-skating
We visited Manhattan a couple of times. In one of those days, Alex and I walked for 6 hours in downtown. We were absolutely freezing at the end of the day as  New York was having one of the worst winters in history. It is a charming city to however, in winter it can become a freezer. Timing is important!

We visited a few outlet shopping centres and managed to get some good bargains. After more than a year on the road, we needed to replace most of our clothes and this visit was perfect for that. It was surprising to see how cheap the prices were in the US compared to Australia.  

We enjoyed my sister-in-law’s, Esra, and my mother’s delicious cooking. It was a perfect way to relax and recover our energies. We were very well looked after. A big thank you Alp and Esra for their excellent hospitality and to my parents for making the effort to come to U.S. to see us. I am grateful to have such a caring family. A week passed really quickly and once again it was time to say goodbye without knowing when we would meet again.

On the 1st of March 2014, we caught a flight to San Francisco to visit a dear friend from high school, Aycan, and his family. After a long flight, we were welcomed by a much warmer weather and a big hug from Aycan. 

Aycan and his wife, Bahar, live in Sunnyvale which is an hour away from San Francisco. It is in middle of exciting and multicultural Silicon Valley. During our time, we visited the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Muir Woods National Park, Half Moon Bay. We also did the magnificent Big Sur scenic drive. Aycan and his wife, Bahar were excellent hosts and did their best to make us feel welcome.

It was the first time we were meeting their two year old daughter, Ela. She is adorable but didn’t quite like us at the beginning. She would scream and cry every time we tried to communicate with her. Luckily, she warmed up to us slowly during our stay and we became good friends at the end.

One of my best moments in San Francisco was a night organised by Aycan. He invited one of my primary school friends, Burak, whom I haven’t seen for more than 20 years and another dear friend, Murat, from high school. It was fantastic to see them and meet their families. Lots of memories were discussed with laughter and joy. It is lovely to have friends all around the world.  

After 10 beautiful days in the Bay Area, it was time to leave our dear friends and catch our flight back to our second home, Bali. A big thank you to Bahar and Aycan for their hospitality and friendship. Although, we hadn't planned to go back to Bali when we started our journey, we definitely needed some time to integrate our experiences before heading back to Australia.       

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Palomino & Cabo de la Vela

Palomino Beach

Leaving the beautiful nature of Tayrona National Park was difficult but our next stop Palomino, a small Caribbean town, did not disappoint us either. According to Brad Cohen’s article in 2012 on BBC Travel, it is Colombia’s virtually vacant paradise. Although, it was not as vacant as Brad calls it in 2014, it is still worth the visit. 

We found a nice hostel not too far from the beach, Aluna Hostel. It was run by a wonderful lady, Luciana who was in her 60s. She became depressed and lonely upon retirement and loss of her husband. Instead of giving into depression, she sold her flat in Bogota and built a beautiful hostel in Palomino where she gets to meet new people every day and provides a motherly care to travellers. It is very inspiring to see people not giving up into life’s difficulties or depression but make the best of their current situation. She was a great role model who proves that we are never too old to change our lives and achieve our dreams.

Our Colombian Friends

The next morning, Luciana took us and some other Colombian travellers to the beach where the river joins the ocean. We had a lot of fun on the way and became good friends. They told us that they floated from the top of the river into the ocean the day before and it was fantastic. So, we decided to try the floating experience too. After borrowing two truck tire inner tubes, we made our way to the starting point with a local guide. After an hour and a half walk over the hills, we started to float down the stream. It was an enjoyable experience to let ourselves go into the cold water stream till we reached the sea. It took around 4 hours and was lots of fun.

Once we got back to the hostel, we met a Brazilian couple, Danieu and Leticia and a Colombian couple, Laura and Gustavo who were leaving for the Cabo de la Vela (Cape of Sails) the next day. Although we had no intention to visit Cabo de la Vela, we decided to join them. The beauty of being on the road is the spontaneity we had every single day. We were free to change our plans and follow the flow of life.   

Pile of Azucar at Cobo de la Vela

This desert paradise is located in the Northern Colombia and requires 2 hour drive on dirt roads after exiting the highway. It is definitely of the beaten track and is slightly challenging to reach but was definitely worth the adventure. The trip involved a bus, a private taxi and a 4x4.

Relaxing at the beach of Cabo de la Vela after a long ride

It is a desert next to the ocean where you can witness amazing views and enjoy virgin beaches. The accommodation was very basic but did the job for the night. In the afternoon, we visited the Pile of Azucar which was a good spot to relax and swim. At night, we had some fresh fish, said goodbye to our friends from Brazil and Colombia and went to bed early as we had to wake up 5 am to catch the jeep back into the town.

With our friends Danieu, Leticia, Gustavo and Laura

The next morning we started to make our way back to Santa Marta through Riohacha which is the capital of Guajira province. We spent a couple of hours in this mid-size town. We visited the promenade next to the beach where you can find local sellers waiting for tourists. We bought a colourful bag for Alex and caught a bus back to Santa Marta.

Shopping in Riohacha
The last days of this adventure wasn’t planned at all apart from the Tayrona National Park. We simply went with the flow, met inspirational people and visited some amazing places. After these experiences, we decided to make more room for synchronicities and freedom in our travels and lives. It was wonderful to experience the flow of life and the magnificence when we don't resist it.  Trusting the process of life and knowing that all is and will be well is one of the biggest lessons I have learned during this trip.

On the 17th of February 2014, we caught a flight from Santa Marta to Bogota where we would spend the last two days of our South American adventure. This time, we to stayed in the historic neighbourhood in downtown Bogota which was a lot more interesting than staying at the suburbs. 

Candeleria is the old city of this massive metropolis. During our last two days, we visited the Botero Museum, Monserate, and the Gold Museum. We did a free walking tour which gave us a better understanding about history of Bogota.

Bogota Gold Museum

We were also invited to a great dinner by Felipe’s parents. Cecilia, Felipe and his parents showed us an amazing hospitality and care during our time in Colombia. A big thank you to all of you from the bottom of our hearts.

In our last night in South America, we visited our friend Billy whom we met at the Asuncion Airport. He is a musician and has interesting views on life. It was a pleasure to spend time with him again.

South America definitely provided more than what we could have asked for. Each country we visited nourished us in different ways. I felt joyful, transformed and happy at the end of our 7 months in this magical continent. It was very hard to say goodbye but we know that we will be back one day!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Santa Marta & Tayrona National Park

On 4th of February 2014, we took a bus to Santa Marta which is a major port city in the north of Colombia. A good Colombian friend of us from Sydney, Felipe, kindly offered his parents’ summer house as long as we wanted to stay. We are grateful to him as accommodation in Colombia can be quite expensive compared to other South American countries.

Night Life in Santa Marta

Santa Marta is one of the oldest cities in South America which has a rich architectural heritage. It is not as lively as Cartagena, but is surrounded by magnificent natural beauties. The first couple of days, we spent some time discovering this historical city and checked out the beaches around it. Due to its central location, it is easy to visit many different spots such as El Rodadero, Taganga and Playa Blanca. 

A great tourist attraction close by is Minca, which is a small town nestled in the foothills of Sierra Nevada Mountains and is only 14 km away from Santa Marta. Sierra Nevada region is the home of many indigenous tribes such as Kogi, Ijka, Wiwa and Kankuamo. 

Minca is an ecological paradise which is famous for its incredible hikes and organic coffee plantations. Upon arrival, we had a delicious cup of coffee in one of the local cafes. Although, Colombia is famous for producing high quality coffee, you don’t really get to taste it that much as most of it is exported to Europe and to the U.S. We consider ourselves lucky to be able to taste some good organic Colombian coffee from Minca.

After our coffee break and a lovely chat with some locals, we did a 3 hour track in the forest which ended at La Victoria coffee farm where you can get an interesting tour of this coffee plantation. Our guide, Jamie, was lovely and provided valuable information to start our own coffee farm in the future. At the end of the tour, we were served different types coffees which were harvested at the plantation. 

Tayrona National Park

After a week of relaxation, we were ready for a new adventure, Tayrona National Park! It is set on a jungle covered coast in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is one of Colombia’s most popular national parks. We left with our backpacks on an early Sunday morning and entered this amazing rainforest from the Calzona entrance. We walked for 6 hours until we reached Don Pedro Finca which is a small camping area where you can rent some tents. There are other accommodation options, but I would suggest to camp at this site as some of the camping sites had more than 50 tents next to each other. A nightmare in paradise! Don Pedro Finca is off the beaten track and it is far less crowded than the other sites. After our tiring hike, we enjoyed a nice swim in one of the nearby beaches. Priceless!

Meeting with Kogis

The next day, we walked in the national park and visited some other beautiful beaches. My favourite one was the Piscina Beach where we spent most of our afternoon. It just felt like paradise. In one of hikes in the park, we accidentally walked into a small Kogi village. Most of the habitants were working outside of the village but we met a young mother with her two children who told us about their daily lives, traditions and challenges. It was amazing to meet such cultures who live in harmony with the nature. An invaluable experience.

Unique nature in Tayrona National Park

At night, we prepared our dinner from ingredients we carried with us. It is advisable to bring your own food when you visit Tayrona National Park. Although, there are places to eat, the prices are quite expensive.

We spent the following morning at the Piscina Beach, and then made our way to the main exit. On our way out, we saw amazing flora and wild life. This incredible park is a wonderful place to spend at least a couple of days.    

Tayrona National Park