Montenegro is my soulmate…

It’s one thing to adore a remarkable town like Kotor, but it’s another thing to fall in love with an entire country like Montenegro. It’s no secret that Kotor has been a notable place in my life for the past 3 years (five visits and counting) but I’m starting to believe that Montenegro as a whole may just be my soulmate. It was by touring with 360 Monte Travel agency on my most recent visit that I came to this conclusion so I want to talk a little about my experience with them.

As a last minute decision I found myself on a day-long boat tour of the beautiful bay of Kotor. I’m not usually a tour company girl — everything I do is usually solo and self-planned — but I was in for an exceptional day! Relaxing on a boat being fed fruit and champagne, jumping off of it to swim through vibrant blue caves, and seeing unique sights along the way… well, that was all dreamlike enough, but as a bonus I also met some really incredible people and for me that’s the best part about travel.

After this wonderful experience I decided to book another tour with 360 Monte. After much deliberation I jumped on the Northern Montenegro tour because it was a part of the country I hadn’t come close to exploring. While the bay is indescribably beautiful and certainly attractive as a tourist destination, it was important for me to see that there is so much more to the country — especially after having been here so many times! Our guide Slobodan was amazing, giving us information and telling us stories which got me hooked onto Montenegrin culture.

I had been warned that there was going to be a lot of driving involved, but to be honest I found that to be part of the magic. The countryside, towering mountainside, twisty roads, mountain plains and canyons do not get boring. This is as much a feature of the trip as the marvellous stopping points along the way (Salt Lake, Tara Bridge, Durmitor, Black Lake and Ostrog Monastery — yes you do get to go inside). Everyone was laughing and forming new friendships, and with a little car dancing to keep spirits high and some local food along the way all I could do was smile and appreciate the wild beauty of Montenegro’s North.

How I know Montenegro’s my soulmate:

1. It has beauty and soul.

It will charm you every chance it gets, from the mountains to the sea and all the wonderful people in between.

2. It calms and exhilarates.

There is no wrong way to spend your time here. Wild nights, lazy days… it simply lets you follow your heart.

3. Its stories never bore you.

It was love at first sight, but every tale told will make you profess your love for it even more. You’ll be enthralled.

4. You love it beyond all others.

It’s true love when you’re in an open relationship with the world but would give all it up to be here once more.

5. It leaves you wanting more.

After all this time I’m still constantly discovering and seeing this place with new eyes — and I hate leaving!

As with all travel experiences they are what you make of them. Sometimes you just connect, find your type of people, and get seduced by your surroundings. We’re all different, but for me Montenegro is what the fire inside me now burns for. I rarely give recommendations, but if you want to make the most out of your experience in this country come to Kotor. These are my five favourite businesses in town:

1. Old Town Hostel (budget accommodation done well).

2. Palazzo Drusko (amazing luxury accommodation).

3. 360 Monte Travel Agency (offering 4 day tours and transfers).

4. Scala Santa (restaurant with great food and atmosphere).

5. Letrika (great coffee by day, phenomenal bar at night).

My vows to Montenegro:

1. I’ll learn your language (just give me time).

2. I’ll come celebrate with you when I graduate.

3. I’ll do my best to capture you in my writing.

4. I’ll not forget the times we’ve had together.

5. I’ll cry everytime I leave you (100% guaranteed).


In good company…

What is it that makes travel friendships so incredible? I have been travelling on and off for years, almost always solo, yet there are so few times I would ever say I felt alone. Even the times I was lonely I would say that was by choice, and mostly out of stubbornness and not because there was no opportunity to socialise. But even those stubbourn lonely moments lead you back to people if you let them, like the time I broke my foot in Montenegro and sat debilitated in my apartment for 5 or 6 days before I was able to overcome my pride and ask for help. Once I finally did great things flowed on from it and proved that not even my pride or broken bones and ligaments could stop me from finding silver linings and amazing people.

I think what happens to you when you travel on your own is that you’re stripped of routine, familiarity and responsibility and what’s left is the purest version of yourself. It is this version that people react to and their reactions for the most part are a direct reflection of who you are at your core. When you travel longterm without accompaniment you naturally drop all the pretences and live more openly and I suppose it is this openness that attracts good company in kind, be that of local citizens or other travellers crossing your path along the way. And here’s the great thing: friendships like these when they survive can actually be resilient as hell.

And how do these friendships survive? Is it possible to maintain them for years after a brief encounter? I think so. I know so, because I still feel incredibly connected to some people several years on and keep in regular contact. We still share jokes, memories, and ideas. Some of these friends I can imagine still knowing when we’re old and grey, laughing about the time we had way back when and (if we’re lucky enough) the times our paths crossed again afterward. The mere idea of that makes me smile, and the hopes I have for each of their futures fill my heart along with the gratitude I have for having known them now.

I think when you travel on your own the world shows you who you are, and if you don’t like who you had once been it gives you an opportunity to evolve. Doors open and limits dissolve, and you cross paths with people who are going through a similar experience with minds wide open. This is a positive thing to connect with and while we are all so different we are also indeed the same and we laugh and bond and sometimes cry when we have to say goodbye because there is no certainty in when you’ll meet again. Travel friendships may appear to come out of nowhere, but they’re written in the stars as we stumble our way wide-eyed through a world we can barely ever truly know, but at least we know we’re in good company.

Special thanks to my friends at Old Town Hostel Kotor and 360 Monte Travel Agency. These are the people you need to know to take your Kotor experience to new heights.

Until we meet again…


Photography by Erika Kochanski.

How do you say goodbye to a place that never fully leaves you? The answer is you don’t. You take it along for the ride with you wherever you go until you are able to return again. Then you welcome it with a new hello and allow the familiar to become something entirely new. I came back to Montenegro thinking I had returned here to hide out in Kotor but I was in denial. I wasn’t coming back to hide away from the world at all, I was simply coming home.

Up until the first time I met this place I was counting countries. Apart from countries that housed family, I had not considered revisiting places I had already been to an option over the chance to go somewhere new. Then back in 2015 I came to the Balkans for the first time not knowing what to expect and everything changed. I stopped counting and I started returning.


I have been meaning to write a decent blog entry since leaving the UK, but it’s hard to write Kotor when you’re living Kotor. As much as the town and its people inspire me, it’s become a place that puts me under a magnifying glass and I am faced with all the parts of me that I’m not always so willing to embrace. But Kotor accepts my demons, even encourages them in a way that I once believed to be self-destructive — but now I know otherwise. We make unfathomable connections to others when we’re bound by the truths of our raw selves. We don’t need fixing, just embracing. We don’t need defining when we just let ourselves be.

There’s a part of me that also wants to write about the beauty of Montenegro, because it is exquisite, but I am still emotionally swept away and going through the pain of leaving it all behind again. I am enjoying Croatia now, but my heart is of course still in Montenegro. Maybe it always will be. As my Montenegrin friends tell me, I will be back again. They appear to be very confident in that fact, but then they seem to know me better than I know myself sometimes. I trust that they are right.


In a place that couldn’t be more different than where I come from, a place that is as confronting and confusing as it is comforting and insanely beautiful, I have a surrogate family. They leave me realising that the only enemy I have is myself. I am allowed to be messy. Good bad ugly mess. Raw. Pain. Love. Overwhelmed. When those dislocated emotions get turned up to full volume and you think they might just eat you alive, out of nowhere comes this human safety net whose presence feels like a hug. But I think you need to have gone through the pain to fully appreciate the embrace.

I don’t trust my brain to bottle it. It cannot be preserved indefinitely. I try to write about the polished limestone and the hearty laughter but I can never do it justice. This is why I know when my friends tell me that I will be back again that they are right. If people are soul food, then Kotor is delicious and can be enjoyed with a side of natures splendid majesty. Whatever the rest of the world strips from me, it is replenished here in so many different ways. One need only trust that the stars will align for my return sooner rather than later of course.


Go forth and absorb…


Photography  by Erika Kochanski.

Heaven on earth does exist. For me there are a several places that have conjured up that feeling and one of them is being alone in a library full of old books. Their musty smell, the dark creaking wood under your feet and the cold feeling at your fingertips as you run your hands along the black metal gates that protect their fragile priceless pages. Hundreds of years of history and I’m lucky enough to be standing in the middle of it and I am filled with respect of dead authors and their living words.
As a writer these places mean more to me than expensive museums and art galleries. They are great too, but my funds do not stretch so far and so these are the places I turn to. I seek them out and they humble me, and travel should be humbling.
Who says seeing great sites has to be expensive? Not all the great sites in this world have been made into tourist traps. Some are free and uncommonly known. The Chetham and John Rylands libraries are two examples of my favourite sites in Manchester, and they need not cost you a penny to see (although I did leave a voluntary donation in honour of preserving these precious books).
The best part is that if you look hard enough you will find gems like these hidden in every part of the world. Not just old libraries, but unique places that will touch you just by standing in their presence. Mountain peaks, old ruins, the important places made of legends you hold dear, or unique architecture that sends chills up and down your spine. Art is everywhere. We take it into our minds like we breath air into our lungs and we take just as little time to appreciate it. Travel is that opportunity, so go forth and absorb.

New writings ahead…


Photography by Erika Kochanski.

Next week I leave Germany and continue on where my travels left off. I have been here for three months, and while I will return for Christmas, the world is calling and I must go. My feet are itching and opportunities await.

Over the next few months I will have much to explore, new people to encounter, old friends to hopefully meet with again, and ample time to focus on my writing. I have a new novel I have been working on and I am very excited to be able to take the beautiful story that is mapped out in my brain and let it flow through my fingers and take form. Much of the groundwork has already been written, and all the foundations in my head are solid, but it takes time and patience to turn an idea into something beautiful and that I should have in spades for the next little while.

The truth is I have two novels mapped out, but there is only one I have any interest putting my energy into. When I think of who I was when I wrote Polarity and Indecision and now look at myself as I am focusing on my next novel, I feel like I am looking at two different people. That is a good thing, and it will hopefully keep my writing interesting rather than repetitive.

So while it is goodbye Germany for now, it is also hello world and nothing has ever excited me more than jumping into the deep dark waters of the unknown. One cannot write big if one does not live big first.

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.

Under the Irish sun…


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.

There is no wrong way to see Japan…


Photography by Erika Kochanski.

“But it’s not just another day, is it? Another coffee; another sunrise. It’s not just another bus ride or plane trip: it’s saying goodbye to a dream you just fulfilled, a new home you found on this earth, and new friends you discovered in your heart.”

I wrote this on the morning of my departure back to Australia after spending over a month backpacking through Japan. If it was sensible to say an entire country could be your soulmate, I believe I would declare Japan as mine and I was full of melancholy about leaving it behind.

There are lists upon lists of things one should attempt to do in Japan. The “must-see’s” and the “must-do’s” of experiencing the country. It can become overwhelming, and the one thing I found while talking to other travellers and residents was this: there really is nothing you can do wrong! When it comes to your own personal journey of exploration here the Japanese have created an environment where even a wrong turn leads to something magical. No journey compares to another. So long as you are willing to see and experience what comes your way you will not be disappointed.

I have been wanting to write an appropriate post on Japan since I arrived, but nothing has been poetic enough and the task of selecting a photos from the plethora of moments I have captured along the way is seemingly impossible. I have come to the conclusion that the spirit of Japan cannot be captured, and that the cultural experience contained there has to be absorbed rather than defined or described. Japan gave me earthquakes, sakura, autumn leaves and snow.

Japan I miss your flavours.

Scary, delicious freedom…


I’m sitting here, drinking my coffee, staring at a piece of toast wondering what will become of me? I am here again, ready to embark on a trip to another foreign land that I only know about through words, pictures and pieces of film. Nothing prepares you, because a new place is rarely like anything you’ve ever encountered before and it rarely is what you thought it might be, it’s so much more. There is such greatness in uncertainty.

I’ve been pacifying myself for weeks and months trying not to be too eager, not to get too frustrated, not to get too ahead of myself so that when the time comes I’m open to every experience that is presented to me. I don’t want to be locked into any preconceived misconceptions or false fairy-tale ideals. Life is not a fairy-tale, but it is an adventure and that is exactly what I’m so keen to have: an adventure full of scary, delicious freedom.

I want to be scared because that gives me a chance to confront myself and grow. I want to taste what the world has to offer because there are more flavours to the world than we could possibly consume in a single lifetime. I want to meet with the open road and throw my old ideals out the window to make room for new insights. Perhaps one day I’ll eventually figure out a way to process and express all this newly obtained knowledge.

What it all comes down to is this: I am not running away from routine, I’m running towards change. Change is so important. It’s wonderful. It’s something to embrace rather than be threatened by. Adaptability is an asset, a strength, and there is nothing that requires adaptability more than an adventure. No one can tell you how it will turn out, where it will lead, who you will meet, or what obstacles you will encounter along the way.

So what if the unknown is scary and that some of the experiences along the way might be a harsh mixture of bitter and sweet? Nothing will prepare you for what it feels like to chose your own direction in life. Adventure can be found starting a new job, getting married or a many number of other ventures. It can be found anywhere that you dare to seek it out. Take the bull by the horns and really show yourself what you’re made of and live.

So don’t waste your time judging other people’s affairs. There is no logical reason to make comparisons between your journey and theirs. If someone’s daring adventure is starting a family, embrace it. If the call for you means throwing yourself into a different country, take pride in it. Not everyone was made to grow in the same direction so cheer on and encourage those who are running enthusiastically toward great change in their lives.

For me, today, it means taking a bite out of my toast knowing that in a matter of days I will be taking a bite out of a completely different culture. I can’t wait to drown my every sense in Japan. I look forward to being overwhelmed and in awe of everything I find. I can’t wait to wake up amid this upcoming escapade and see what I can learn from it. Japan: if you’re willing to be my teacher, I’m willing to be your student for five weeks of the unknown.

Japan here I come…


Photography by Erika Kochanski.

This little piece of metal and plastic. I bought it over a decade-and-a-half ago, around the time I used to steal travelogues on Japan. You know, before they handed them out freely and used to keep them hidden behind counters at travel agencies for serious clients who had serious potential for purchasing tickets, not young teens with sticky fingers.
This little piece of plastic and metal sat in a drawer for years before it got its first use: flying to the U.S. to spend time with my then boyfriend and meet his family. I was thankful that it was finally useful, even though in my heart I still pined for it to be used in Japan. When I told him this, we started planning to go. I bought [more] books and excitedly wrote [more] lists of things we could see, but this dream slipped away yet again when I realised it was never going to happen, that we weren’t meant to be, and so I stuck this little gadget back inside a box in a drawer and there it has stayed ever since.
It has travelled in that box to every place I have ever rented and lived, and now it sits back in the same drawer it was first put in all those years ago (although that drawer has been stylishly painted and refurbished since then). I had travelled to 23 countries outside of my own in that time, seen the world in so many different forms, and yet I still continued to deny myself the one place I desired to see the most. A denial for good reason perhaps – a certain stigma had been created around it through various events – and so I didn’t find myself worthy of ever bringing this dream to fruition. Until now.
On Monday I was tired of dreaming. I threw aside all my other plans and research, the half-a-dozen other countries I was mistakenly putting ahead of it on my list as if purposely keeping true dreams on the back-burner, and started reconnecting with old ideas again. Over time they had become less tainted by the past, and so a new excitement grew inside stemming from the old.
On Tuesday I bought a ticket to Japan.
On Wednesday I took this little piece of plastic and metal out of its box and smiled while looking at it for the first time in a long time. Out of all the things I have donated to charity to downsize my belongings while travelling abroad, this I was never able to let go of and now after all this time it will finally be able to realise its potential (as do I).

What a way to see out 2016 – an emotional roller-coaster of a year already – and get me ready for my 2017 life teaching English abroad. It is crazy wonderful how time moves our desires around in circles until we reach the places and maturity levels needed to go after them properly. I don’t think I would ever have been able to fully appreciate the opportunities presented me these next 12 months at the level I currently am if it wasn’t for the pain, hardship and sacrifice of my past. It has made all of this that much sweeter.