Sunday, 30 May 2010

What is your Ecological Footprint?

I wanted to find out what mine was, but more importantly I wanted to know what I can do to lower my eco-footprint. So, I went to Greenside-Out (Training course held in Eselnita, Romania from 22-30 May 2010).

Simply put, eco-footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems and natural resources.

The concept of ecological footprint is based on the assumption that anything that consumes items or energy needs a certain amount of land, water and other natural resources to live the way it is. That means the more active and consuming someone or something is, the larger the ecological footprint for him, her, or it.

Are you one of those people who uses the world's natural resources as if they will never run out? Well, let me tell you this, if we keep on going as we do, then they will run out FAST!

I could give you a whole list of things that you could and should be doing to save resources. But I am not going to. I am just telling you to REDUCE.

Reuse bottles, bags, paper, clothes, etc
Eat seasonal and local produce
Don't let water run while shaving/brushing your teeth/washing dishes
Unplug your appliances when not in use
Choose to go by foot/bike instead of the car
Energy efficient light bulbs

Start reducing your eco-footprint today, so that future generations (of humans as well as all animals) can enjoy a healthy planet with clear air, water and food.

PS. Click here if you want to find out how green you are and what you can do to reduce your eco-footprint

Friday, 21 May 2010


That’s how many seconds I’ve got left. Until my time is up. My time in Belgrade that is.

With so little time left, I have got to get myself together and really make most of each day. Here is a list of 11 things I’ve got to do before I say sayonara to this place:

1. Talk to random strangers and demanding they become friends with me in Park Prijateljstva (The Friendship Park), because, you know, the park’s gotta live up to its name

2. Sort out the mess that’s called Slavija Trg, but like this

3. Drive up north and take the EXIT to Novi Sad (Been hearing this talk about this famous EXIT festival in Novi Sad ever since the day I got here. I don’t really get what’s so special about an EXIT. And I surely don’t get why they need to organize a festival around it. I mean an exit it’s just a road that takes you off the highway into a city – how awesome is that? But hey I’ve got to figure out what all the fuss is about)

4. Order a pljeskavica but ask for the vegetarian option

5. Get Victor a pair of boxers. Poor guy’s been banned to Kalemegdan only because he forgot to put his trousers on

6. Stop time on Republic Square on 30th of May ;)

7. Reenact the Titanic “I am the King of the world” scene on a boat on the Danube

8. Burn myself a mixed CD with typical Serbian music (read turbo folk), cause turbo folk rules. To all of you who don’t like it: you have no taste in music. Whatsoever.

9. Being a typical Dutch, I miss my bike. What better way to practice my favourite past time then by organizing a bike ride along the river starting from Zemun à la this

10. Swim to Great War Island to get up close and personal with the Smoke Monster. Oh, wrong island?

11. Celebrate my mastering of the Serbian language by getting a tattoo with “pisati inspiriše”

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Going Solo...

No, I am not referring to your (Facebook) relationship status here nor the Ayaz hit song. I am talking about traveling by yourself, on your own, just you, yourself and I...uhm, I mean: traveling solo :)

In my previous post I mentioned how fun and exciting the journey part of the travel can be - meeting random adventurous and intriguing characters that you would not normally meet when you go about your daily life. But you don't just meet these people - you have a higher possibility of meeting them when you're alone.

Think about it - let's say you're traveling with your friend(s)/significant other/family (or company in any other shape or form), would you then approach other people on your journey? Most likely not. You're probably going to hang with the people you're traveling with. Also, others are less likely to approach YOU, when they see you're already talking with your travel partner(s) or when you're surrounded by others. That's just the way it is.

- This is why I prefer to travel alone, yeah just me, myself and I.

Not only does it give me all the freedom and independence in the world (think - sleeping in as long as I want or actually in my case, get up as early as I want. You see when I travel, I don't 'waste' my time sleeping. I like to get up early, and with early I mean before sunrise! Yeah I know, I am not your average Joe [I mean Jane, but Joe has a better ring to it in this case]. Other perks include going wherever you feel like and stay there as long or as short as you want. Basically, free to do whatever you want, whenever you want), but another major reason I choose to travel by myself is the fact that I meet people (travelers) easier. When I am alone, I am more likely to just talk with others, because well, even though I like traveling alone, I do it because I like to meet others along the way. Especially wanderers and vagabonds. You know the type, those carrying a big backpack and looking rather scruffy (but in a good way, not in a BOris way).

So, there I was, by myself, in the bus to Mostar. It was the night bus, I didn't expect many people, since it was just a random weekday. But boy, was I wrong. The bus was packed, there was not a single seat left. I was sure that BOris was going to sit next to me as usual...and he did. I was told that the road to Mostar is a bumpy and windy one..."That's gonna be one long and uncomfortable ride", I thought.

- I prepared myself for one of the longest nights of my life...

But then, this guy walked in (Backpack? no. Scruffy? not really. Cute? Totally!). I noticed him immediately, because he was wearing this bright yellow shirt. His seat was somewhere in the back..."Darn", I thought, "here I am, sitting next to BOris, yet again. Why, God, why? Why couldn't I get a seat next to Yellow dude?"

The bus started moving and I turned my mp3 on and UP. A few hours into the ride, we had a break - at last! I couldn't wait to get out of the bus to stretch my legs and get some FRESH air.

That's where we started talking, Yellow dude and I. Turned out he was going to Mostar for some days and that he lives in Belgrade. We talked and talked until the bus started moving again - and I seriously couldn't wait to get aboard to snuggle up to... BOris. Unfortunately the seat next to Yellow dude was still taken.

After the next break, and after some passenger left the bus, I noticed the seat next to Yellow dude was free, so I was there in a blink of an eye. Finally, Yellow dude and I could continue our conversation. And we did, until we reached Mostar. There, we exchanged numbers and promised to meet up when I'd be back in Belgrade.

Back in Belgrade, we met and...what is it they always say? Ah, the rest is history :)

- Well, the rest was indeed HISTORY, because that was IT.

What, you actually thought we'd live happily ever after?! I'm sorry to disappoint you but this ain't a fairy tale, my dear reader, this is life. MY life! Welcome to my life.

But the point of this whole story is not about finding your prince on a white horse (white bus in this case). All, I'm trying to say is that the journey was a whole lot more fun because of this dude. And I wouldn't have met him, talked to him, if I had been traveling with someone else. That I know for sure. So, if you haven't traveled by yourself because you're afraid to or just never even considered it, why don't you give it a go? I may not have found my Mr Right(Now), but that doesn't mean you won't (that is if you're single and ready to mingle)! And even if you don't meet your prince(ss), at least you'll have had an enjoyable journey and in the end, that's all what matters, right?

(Still wished he called back though)

Friday, 7 May 2010

It’s all about the journey…

Over the past few months I have spent countless hours in buses and trains on my way to trainings and exchanges in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia amongst a few destinations. Some people can’t get to their destination quick enough – they hate those long, uncomfortable and bumpy bus rides.

- I am not one of them.

No, I am one of those people that truly enjoy the journey. Sometimes the journey itself is even more fun and exciting than the actual holiday/destination is. For me holiday starts much earlier than arriving at the destination. It starts as soon as the first plans are made, and the excitement heightens with the preparations and packing, but the real fun begins, the moment I step into the bus/train/plane. That’s when things get concrete – that’s when the adventure begins.

I love the long rides – in fact, the longer the better! Any journey less than 5 hours isn’t a real journey. But how to spend all those hours in the bus? Some sleep, some read, some listen to music and some talk. When it comes to traveling I think sleeping is a waste of time (and besides I cannot sleep in overcrowded buses anyways) – I don’t want to miss a single second of my surroundings. Reading makes me nauseous. I either listen to music or I talk.

-I prefer to talk.

OK, maybe not with BOris (you know that person who claims half your already tiny seat and whose BO you can detect from miles away) who bores you to death with his tales of…actually I don’t give a darn what he’s saying, just get him a breath mint already. And some deodorant while we’re at it. 9 out of 10 times BOris chooses the seat next to me. In that case, my mp3 is my savior. But that one time, when God (and BOris) gives me a break and someone really interesting ends up next to me, that’s what counts. It’s those fascinating characters that cross your path, which you’ll remember.

-They make the ride worthwhile.

Andy, for example, decided one day to hop on the bus in New York to go all the way to Los Angeles just to buy an Obama t-shirt. He took 5 days for this trip, most of which was spent waiting at the Greyhound stations and on the bus itself…We met in Las Vegas and traveled together to Kansas City, which was a 10+ hour drive. We talked the whole way. About Obama, politics, Greyhound, Americans, life, reincarnation, aliens, public toilets and other random topics. When we reached KC, I felt like I knew this guy all my life…

Then there was Mr. O who tried to sell his son to me. And he was doing a pretty good job. Come on, what girl doesn’t want a well educated man, who has his own law practice with a beach house in Dubrovnik, a six figure salary, and who is tall, dark and handsome (Mr. O may have been exaggerating just a bit)?

-Well, I didn’t.

You see, after the whole pimping-the-son-to-me part, Mr. O mentioned that he was already married BUT he hated his daughter in law. He confessed that he’d much rather have a “nice exotic young lady such as yourself in the family.” Though flattered, I wasn’t ready to pack my bags and break up any marriages just yet.

And I have to mention this guy who had been walking around Europe for 23 months straight. He had been to every country. When asked why he decided to walk instead of, I don’t know, take the bus, he replied with “walking is faster.” This guy was compelling – his philosophy and experiences really made an impact on me and made me reassess my priorities in life. For me traveling is therapy. It is educational. It is inspirational.

-It is life.

Traveling is as much about the journey (if not more) as it is about arriving at your final destination. It is not just about getting there. As Ursula K. LeGuin says: “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

That guy I told you about who walked Europe, well his name was Gump. Forrest Gump (not the ‘real’ one – if there is such a thing – but still). Next time you’re off somewhere, keep your eyes and ears open and more importantly OPEN your mouth. Because you never know who you’ll meet and that one person might just change your life.

- And oh yeah, enjoy the ride :)
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