The wild Welsh wind…

2 Wales

Photography by Erika Kochanski.

Wales. It has treated me well this past month. While I have spent my entire time exploring the Northern half of this beautiful country, I can only assume that I will someday return. When I landed here I knew nothing of its beauty, and when I leave, headed for England, I must say I will miss it. I will miss its gorgeous coastlines and incredible mountains. I will miss Snowdonia. I will miss the kindness and quirkiness of the Welsh people with whom I somehow feel I fit in. I will miss Wrexham where I spent the majority of my time and made good friends. There are just some corners of the world where you sense that the majority of people are happy about their place in the world and simply existing, and this is one of them. Wales. The chats with random strangers. The friendliness of passers by. Laughs shared, songs sung… when it all comes to and end next week it will all be carried forward in my heart. I am so glad my journey brought me here.

In the past month I have visited several towns, many of which the names I can barely pronounce, and all of which have stolen my heart. The weather has been kind, the food has been good, and while the mountains have left me in awe it has been the Irish sea that has stolen the show. How I had missed the sea, not having really seen it so purely since last year. Growing up with access to the open ocean, I hadn’t realised how much it was part of me until the past few days here in Aberysthwyth. I got the first sense of it on the bus along the coast to Conwy. There are so many places here worth exploring, I certainly hope I get another chance to come back here and explore them further/again. I would like to see more of the South as well one day, but for now, my journey will take me in the direction of Nottingham and the English East Midlands area. I feel good about my decision to explore a different area of the UK rather than the typical tourist hotspots, because it really does feel like another world here compared to my time in London a few years ago.

Cheers to future adventures.

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Under the Irish sun…

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Photography by Erika Kochanski.

I have been in Ireland for 9 weeks now and Ireland is wonderful. When I got here it was all about the frost (and we even had a little snow), and now it’s all about the daffodils. I have certainly been through some ups and downs whilst staying here but also I am incredibly proud of myself at confronting a few of my fears that I had been avoiding for a very long time. It’s just proof that you need to occasionally put yourself out of the box to challenge your comfort zone and build on top of the greatness you already have inside. Not that I’m calling myself great, but I can see my potential now and that’s a fine thing.

In just shy of 4 weeks I will find myself in Liverpool, and by then I hope to have completed my transition into veganism. From all I have read it is a good place to be a vegan, as is where I am headed in Wales after that. That has what this year so far has been about: learning about myself and trying to figure out why I’ve been so unhappy. When I reconnected with vegetarianism a month ago I rediscovered myself. I had spent so long ignoring my core principles and feeling guilty for them that in the face of everything I know it was eating me up inside. Then I learned more, and it was the first time in a long time that I had found a passion for something again and I knew what I had to do to take it further.

I am not going to preach veganism here, that is not what this blog is for, but I do encourage you all to look within yourselves and ask yourself if your eyes are open or closed to the world around you. Ask yourself what you really know about what you eat, who you compromise your ethics for, and how much you know about the political environment of this planet we call home. Your core principles are your own, but if you are unhappy try and find a way to align what you practice with what you preach. None of us is perfect, and it isn’t about perfection. This world is flawed, but it won’t get better unless we do something!

I have travel plans booked up until the end of June, but I still am deciding where I want my journey to take me after that. Luckily I have plenty of time, and plenty of options. The important thing is I know the vibe I want my journey to take, and I am generating ideas all along the way of all kinds. Useful ideas that I can see bettering my life for the foreseeable future. Business ideas, book ideas, and I am happier and more confident that ever before.

The collector.

Nature

Photo by Erika Kochanski.

I am a girl of nature. I think I always have been. When I was a kid I made soup out of flower petals, twigs, water and dirt then my family would sit down and pretend to eat it. I grew out of making garden soup, but not out of nature. Now that I’m older I’m the kind of girl who rescues snails and ladybugs from the pavement or a preying mantis from a car bonnet. I escape to cities temporarily for the greatness they offer, but feel most at home when it’s just me outside catching the last of the day’s sun-rays somewhere on the edge of civilization where wild things roam.

I get my kicks out of spotting a hawk flying overhead or hearing a woodpecker in the forest. I love the rain. I feel alive in the wind. I would rather spend an hour watching a bee collect pollen than ten minutes in a nightclub. Birds make me smile; I often stop to watch them swoop down over a running stream. I jump over slugs so as not to squash them. I take photos at strange moments, but it is usually because something small and seemingly insignificant has taken my attention. That’s how I end up collecting a billion photos of random things throughout any journey I undertake.

I never thought of myself as a collector, but now when I think of it I suppose I am. I am a collector of experiences and memories. My photos are a way to capture time the way I see it. When I look over them I feel an air of peace; a certain feeling of quiet. Every photo, no matter how odd the subject matter, can pinpoint a moment in my life which becomes frozen solid in my memory. This is why I take photos when I travel, because without them memories become less accessible, they may even wither and die as they fall into the forgotten. I do not want to forget.

Spring in all its glory.

Spring

Photo by Erika Kochanski.

I am sitting here in this beautiful old town we call Buxtehude (featured in my book for those who have read it or intend to). Known from the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales, this city will be my home for the next couple of months before I go off backpacking. This year I’ve elected to hit less countries over a longer period (stretching out my visits so my exploring is a more relaxed as I do so much on foot). Apart from Germany, planned travel includes Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Turkey and Malaysia. Thank goodness I’m good at saving.

Back in 2011 when I arrived in Germany for a year long stay, I got my first taste of what it was like to see Spring emerge as a spectacle. I was also fortunate enough to see the entire year of seasons pass in full, something I had never experienced before having grown up in tropical Queensland. Although through travel I had seen all the seasons in various stages, the experience of seeing each season as a whole with all the traditions and transition was magical. It is one of the things I am looking forward to seeing again.

Right now Spring is emerging. It is budding everywhere. When I arrived the cherry trees had their blossoms already and many of the trees were still bare. Now I’m seeing the tulips and daffodils spring up everywhere from the side of the road to people’s gardens. It’s not just the flowers though, there’s also the wildlife. On my evening jogs back home in Australia I’d cross paths with all sorts of parrots, kookaburras and kangaroos. Here I’m running into black birds, wild hares and deer as I run along dirt roads that run between fields.

There’s more to this place than the flora and fauna, although because I am particularly fond of nature I do tend to notice these things first. All matter of things I’m rediscovering and realising that I did miss them. Less obvious things, like the way bakeries smell here or the way the buildings and streets look. It’s the taste of things that haven’t been eaten since the last visit and words forgotten until seen on a menu or inside a recipe book. It all comes rushing back, and while things do also change there is comfort also in the things that don’t.

So now that I’m finally getting over about seven weeks of various illnesses (four back in Australia plus another three here), I’m looking forward to what’s ahead for the rest of 2015. My head has been so foggy lately that it was difficult to decide what to write about. I have gotten some lovely responses with regards to my book (plus one not so nice which kind of threw me backwards a bit, but that’s the world of writing I suppose and I have gotten past those negative words and focused on the many more positive ones that outnumber them).