#164 on the Bucket List aka Donate my hair to ThinkPink

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on how far I’ve come with my bucket list. It’s changed quite a bit, I’ve added things, deleted some, but kept the numbers to leave room for new challenges. There’s still plenty to do and experience out there :-)

One of the things I recently completed was donating my hair to ThinkPink. I’d been growing my hair out for a good two years, when finally (!) I got to go to the hairdresser. I’ve never been happier to have it chopped, but knowing that it all went to a good cause made the visit even better.

The hairdresser told me she wasn’t sure whether my hair was going to be long enough, but I told her to go ahead anyways and so got chopped off quite a bit. Eventually, the pony tails she had cut off were 25 centimetres (!), well over the necessary 20.

If you want to donate your hair, you can do it anytime and at any salon. Just make sure that your hair is long enough (20 cm is the requirement) and that you get it cut off dry.
For anyone interested in Belgium, here‘s where you can order your envelope to send your hair travelling.

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#109 on the Bucket List AKA Start a Blog

I’m guessing it’s not on everyone’s bucket list: start a blog. I started my first ever blog  when I was in Hungary for 6 weeks. It was written in Dutch and it was a way to keep in touch with my family for what, at the time (I was 16 then) seemed a very long time in a very far away country. My second blog was the one I had during my exchange year in Australia. It was also written in Dutch because again, it served mostly in updating my family and friends on what was going on in my life ‘Down Under’. Now, I look back on it as a sort of diary of all the things I did. However, by the end of the year I had been immersed so much into the English language that my Dutch blog posts were a minefield of English expressions and words. Most of the time, I felt like there was just no Dutch equivalent that had the right connotation, and writing in English somehow just started to ‘feel right’.

When I finally started this blog as a way to write about my Erasmus in Sweden, its purpose was the same. However, with the permission of my Grandma, who doesn’t know any English, I decided to switch to English entirely. My aunt said she’d translate and apparently, they had come to this sort of Sunday ritual, where my aunt would read my blog to my Grandma. You could say they’re my biggest fans, I guess :-)

I really enjoyed blogging about what was going on in that strange country called Sweden and I exhilarated in coming up with new categories to post on other topic as well. My category Dear Somebody is the one that I am most proud of, because it was not about me, but about showing someone I cared about how much they meant to me. So when I came back to Belgium, I had no idea whether I was still allowed to have a blog because I felt I didn’t have anything interesting to contribute to this world wide web. However, when I came back from my trip to Indonesia, I felt the need to share again. Just like itchy feet syndrome, I believe there is the itch to writing; I simply have to pick up a pen or a laptop and write. Slowly but surely then, this blog has grown into a platform where I can totally be ‘just me’. Whatever strikes my interest, whatever poem I have written, whatever quote moves me, whatever music I enjoy, I can share it. I’m not sure if everyone appreciates me spamming their Facebook feed full of my blog posts, but I guess it’s not worse than people posting daily pictures of their dogs or kids: I, like them, share what I am passionate about.

After almost two years of owning this blog, I think I can safely say that this has become my favourite hobby. I intend to keep up my writing, without making any promises on when, how often, why; I like to be a free writing bird. I hope my blog will be a mirror to my own evolutions and changes, my own path. I hope it will go the places I will go. And I hope you’ll join me along the way.

Love,

Silke

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It is my dream to one day own a typewriter like this.

 

#149 on the Bucket List AKA Have a Lazy Day at the Whitsundays

Ever since my exchange year in Australia back in 2011, the Whitsunday Islands had been at the top of my to visit-list. It just looked like such a dreamy destination. So, when I went back to Oz in 2013, I decided it was time to finally visit. Off I went, on my own, to spend five days at Airlie Beach, visiting two of the Islands while I was there: Whitsunday Island and Hamilton Island. Both very different but very similar in that they were simply stunning. I was stunned. I have never seen an island more breathtaking. Needless to say, I’m already planning a second trip (in my mind, unfortunately). I didn’t do very much: I walked around, took it all in, looked at the setting sun, felt the cool sand between my toes, talked to some cockatoos friends and returned home, knowing I would be back someday. And if you’re not convinced to go yet, here are some of the pictures I took.

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#43 on the Bucket List AKA Eat Haggis in Scotland

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have noticed I’ve been spamming everyone’s feed with pictures from Scotland, using the hashtag #belgeniusbackpacks. Well, good news, I am back! And I promise there will be no more Scotland pictures after this (unless of course on Throwback Thursday). Danger has subsided.

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So here goes, a full report on my solo citytrip to Edinburgh. I will be treating my day in the Highlands as a separate subject, though, just because I’d like to share more pictures. Will link it here as soon as it is up. I will not be doing the usual day-to-day blogposts about my trip, simply because I think it’s handier for you guys to read if you’re ever visiting Edinburgh yourself. Brace yourselves, a very long blog post is coming…

Where I stayed

I stayed at a hostel called Castle Rock Hostel in a 4 bed female dorm. If you’re not interested in a full review you might like to skip this part. The hostel has been chosen as the most popular hostel in Edinburgh of 2016 and was nominated in the category best large hostel worldwide, and I can see why. The staff is very friendly, mostly run by internationals staying there longterm. They have everything for hire that you could possibly need (adaptors, towels, hairdryer,..) and are very willing to give you any information you need. The hostel itself is spacious (including the rooms), with lots of rooms to explore and relax in and enough bathrooms so you never have to queue. You get a free locker and bed sheets, which is nice if you’ve been sleeping in your sleeping bag for a while. WIFI is fast, without having the hassle of a password. Showers are great and very clean (I swear, I’ve never seen such clean showers in any hostel); hot water and enough shower pressure, which is something I appreciate! The kitchen, too, is clean and spacious and has all the utensils you need if you like to cook your own meals. Also, how cool is their home page?! Location wise, it’s located right off the Royal Mile, which is the main street throughout the City and from which it is very easy to navigate to other places.

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What I saw

Arthur’s Seat is what used to be a volcanic hillside, but is now known to many as the best lookout point (from a height of around 250m) over the city of Edinburgh. The walk is relatively easy (I can attest to that, being absolutely terrible at walking uphill, hiking or anything remotely related to that), provided the weather isn’t too bad. I went on my first day and besides being blown away by the views, I almost literally got blown away by the wind. I imagine this place to be gorgeous on a crisp, sunny autumn day. It takes about an hour to go all the way up. Recommend!

Holyrood Palace aka the Queen’s residence in Scotland is rather a pricey place to visit, at least I think so. If you only visit the palace, it’s £11 for a concession ticket, which is around €14. If you want to visit the gallery that is attached to it as well, it’s even more. You do get a free audioguide though, which is good, because it tells you some interesting stuff about rituals they perform at the palace, what the rooms are for and a lot about the history of Mary, Queen of Scots. If you’re not all that into history, royalty or just this sorta thing, I don’t think it’s worth the ticket. Still glad I went though, it was nice and warm inside after a rather adventurous hike to Arthur’s Seat (see above picture). On the other hand, the café, which you can visit without having to pay for entrance, had really nice scones and tea.

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The Royal Mile is the main street in Edinburgh. Note, however, that this is not its official street name but rather a name for the collection of street names that make up the one mile. It goes all the way from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and it takes about 20 minutes to walk its length. There’s some really old and pretty buildings on the way, and the small shops just give it that really cozy atmosphere, even though it is a really busy street. It’s also where all the souvenir shops are located.

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On that same street you will find two churches. The first one is called St. Giles Cathedral.
This one is free to visit, but if you want to take pictures, they ask you to pay the small fee of £2, which go back into the church’s upkeep. I liked to just take a break from walking and sit there for a couple of minutes to take in the beautiful arches.

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The other church is called Tron Kirk. However, it is no longer used as a church, but now houses a very cute little hipstery market. A very cool idea, if you ask me.

Another street that is worth exploring is the bend that is Victoria Street. It’s not far from the Royal Mile and is part of what is referred to as the old town. It has a lot of nice looking restaurants and is a very colourful sight to see. A treat for the eye.

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On a rainy day, which there are many of in Scotland, let me tell you, it’s nice to go out to one of the museums. The first one I went to is the National Gallery of Scotland. Unless you stop and read every sign about every painting, it doesn’t take very long to make your way through the different rooms. But then again, it’s a free museum, which is always great. The second one I went to is called the National Museum of Scotland and this one gets a big thumbs up from me! It’s free too, which is amazing, because it’s a beautiful building on its own, filled with lots of very interesting exhibitions, mostly about history, culture and science. I honestly think I spent more time looking at the ceiling and the beautiful floors, though. This one will take you a tad longer to get through, considering it’s a lot bigger.

Edinburgh Castle is probably the most prominent feature of the city and therefore worth a visit. It’s got some good views, good exhibitions and an audio guide that lets you pick what places you want to learn more about by typing in the according number.

Where I shopped

As a fulltime shopaholic, the brand and shops that we don’t get in Belgium, was something I had also been looking forward to as part of my trip. Some of my favourites included: Space NK (for more high end make-up and skincare), Boots and Superdrug (for drugstore make-up), River Island, Next, Topshop (for the accessories), Debenhams (for its interior), Jenners (for its exterior), Paperchase (for its gorgeous notebooks), Scribbler (for its postcards. I actually didn’t buy any because it was simply too hard to choose) and last but not least Waterstones (for its book inspiration). Most of these can be found around the Princess Street, George Street area. Happy shopping!

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What and where I ate and drank

Considering the title of this blog post, I obviously had to try haggis. Although I initially wasn’t very keen on it, because I have a tendency to not like meaty things – and really, how meaty can something get? – but I did try a little bit of my new friend Viv on our Highland trip and though it wasn’t anything but salty. Later that night, we tried some more at a restaurant called The Cellar Door. The food there was divine (I had fish and chips, de – li -cious) and even the haggis wasn’t too bad. It reminded me a lot of bitterballen actually, and Viv, who lives in Amsterdam, agreed.

For some great fika (tea, coffee and cake), I’d recommend Patisserie Valerie. Probably not as British or Scottish as it gets, but the best carrot cake I’ve had in my life. For real. I initially planned on having tea at the cafe next door, The Elephant House, known for being the place where J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book, but the selection of cake next door just looked so much better, I couldn’t resist…

If you’re looking for a good place to get a traditional  High Tea (which I didn’t do, because they are always made for two or more), Holyrood Palace Café, the Signet Library or Patisserie Valerie is the place to be. These are traditionally served between 12 and 4pm.

On Sundays, it’s nice to go for a Sunday roast. Or so I had read. I found it nearly impossible to find one. I’d nearly lost all hope, when I came across the Beehive Inn. Made my day.

If you like Italian food, I recommend Bella Italia (a chain) or Pizza Express.

Oh, I also tried some whisky, because I felt I couldn’t leave Scotland without. Let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea. Haha.

 

To sum up

I really, really enjoyed Edinburgh. Especially as a solo traveller, going places can be quite intimidating at first (“Table for one, please”) and I always felt the need to sort of apologise for showing up somewhere by myself. But no more. In our current society, where “me time” is such a central objective, I don’t see why I should not be allowed to take that time somewhere public, without judgement. I feel like Edinburgh was just the place for that. I’ve never met so many solo travellers, both in and outside my hostel. And Scotland’s friendly atmosphere makes it really easy to meet people; everyone, from shopkeepers to restaurant owners and people you meet in the street, are genuinely nice people. And all of a sudden travelling solo doesn’t seem that daunting anymore, and one (solo traveller)and one (solo traveller) makes two (not so solo travellers).

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Now, go explore!

Love,

Silke

PS: For more pictures check out my Facebook album or Instagram

 

 

#50 on the Bucket List aka Watch the Sun Rise

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a thing for sunsets and sunrises. There is just something magical about them. No matter what is going on in your life, no matter where you are, this is always the one thing you can count on: the sun will set and will rise again. And every sunrise brings a new day filled with possibilities. You just have to look for them, both the sunrises and the opportunities.

If I had to pick one sunrise, though (up until today that is, because I’m sure there’s plenty to follow) it’d have to be this one: somewhere in the middle of our stay in Luxor, Egypt, the five of us somehow all woke up at 5 am and snuck out to see the sun rise over the Nile. We didn’t talk very much, but we sat side by side in our pyjamas and just watched the world wake up. Speechless, I guess.

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So, if there’s anything I would like to wish you, it’s to consciously experience as many sunsets and sunrises as possible.

What’s your favourite sunrise or sunset experience? Let me know!

Love,

Silke

 

#60 on the Bucket List Aka See the Aurora Borealis

As I see another generation of Erasmus exchange students in Sweden go off on their nordic adventure, I have been frequented with thoughts and recollections of my time ‘up there’. This number on the list was just one of those things I simply needed to have ticked off  before I die. No question about it. Little did I know that seeing this amazing phenomenon once would never be enough. I am craving more and am already planning another trip up North (in my head, that is, unfortunately).

It was on my Lapland trip, those very first days of 2015, that I saw my first (but, as I said, certainly not last) northern lights appear. Here’s what I wrote back in 2015 about those first impressions:

We found ourselves wrapped up in a snow suit in one of the chair lifts. Excitement. After only a couple of minutes on the lift, we reached the top of the clouds and it was after only half a minute that we saw the Northern lights. There were shrieks, laughter and sighs of amazement. We all felt so blessed and the cold couldn’t really touch us anymore. (Read the rest of the story or more about my Lapland trip here)

And so we stood there, gazing at the sky in awe until our neck hurt and our fingers and toes were numb. I can still recall that same feeling whenever I see a picture of the Aurora. One of pure happiness. So, to anyone still doubting whether or not to book a trip to Lapland or Iceland, or any other place up North, do it. A lifetime of fond memories await you.

And oh, here are a few photos, taken by a photographer couple who were there, on that same night. And I managed to find their Facebook page WITH the photos that they took while we were there. So really, this is exactly what I saw. I just didn’t take the photos myself. Enjoy (and check out their page or website too)! These photos were taken in Abisko, Sweden at the Aurora Sky Station.

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