How yoga can cure reverse culture shock

Blog, What I'm thinking

How yoga can cure reverse culture shock

1 Comment 21 November 2013

“You’ve been on a journey around the world, now it’s time to go on a journey within yourself,” the instructor at the front desk says to me as I’m signing up.

It’s my first day back to my local yoga studio since a short visit home in January, my second day back in the USA and I had been telling him how much I needed to get back into yoga immediately to find some sort of peace.

After three and a half years of traveling the world, I finally came home. Not for a visit, not for a short trip, but a one-way ticket home. It’s hard to explain the emotions and feelings that come with that sort of return. I saw the world, changed in ways I didn’t think possible and now I’m back in my old bed, living not far from where I grew up.

Reverse culture shock.

I had dealt with it once before after coming home from studying abroad for six months in London and backpacking Europe three months after. It’s a very real problem and an extremely sad and lonely time in life if you don’t deal with it properly.

After that trip, I moved into an apartment close to the university I was attending – on my own. I fell into a deep state of depression, hardly left my house, started smoking and packed on about 20 lbs. That was after only a nine month trip, so I wanted to be extra cautious and proactive about dealing with coming home in a healthy manner on this much longer and much more life-changing adventure.

I spent quite a bit of my recent trip learning more about yoga and meditation. I lived on yoga retreat in Dungog, Australia, volunteered at a yoga center in Brisbane and even meditated with two monks in Siem Reap Cambodia, so I knew about the inner peace and outer strength yoga could help me with. That’s why, on this scary return back to life in the USA, the next place I visited after home was my local yoga center, where I paid for an unlimited month and signed up for a 30-day challenge (30 classes in 30 days).

This decision has helped me deal with reverse culture shock by reminding me to stay present, teaching me how to overcome any bad feelings or challenges that come with returning home and keeping me in good health, physically and mentally.


Photo: Jason Affleck

Be Present

You might have returned home, but your head and heart are still a million miles away. Whether you find yourself chatting endlessly about travel stories to every person you see or comparing every thing about your home culture to the cultures you experienced abroad, you’re living in a different time and place.

I found myself closing my eyes and picturing the places I had lived, where the bed was, the color of the floors and walls and style of the sheets. It’s nice to remember moments from our trip and share them with others, but it’s also important to take advantage of the present moment and keep looking forward to the next adventure.

Yoga is all about being in the present. During balancing postures, you have to focus solely on what your doing, positioning your body properly or even just one point on the floor to hold your balance. In meditation, you’ll hear your teacher constantly instructing you to let all those random thoughts that fill your head just pass through until your mind reaches complete silence, so you can just relax in your focus.


Photo: Darko Sikman

Challenge Any Bad Feelings

Yoga is so much more than exercise. The positions you get into and ways in which you push the body all add up to some sort of mental lesson. On my return to yoga, I kept feeling nauseous in one pose in particular, camel. It’s a fairly simple pose compared to the rest but I found it harder and harder to push myself in it for fear of being sick. As soon as the thought hit me, my instructor was saying that this is normal to the entire class, that these are bad feelings from the body creeping up and we need to take them on and that your body is going into a sort of simulated “fight or flight” in positions like this. By testing the body in this safe environment – you’re strengthening your defense to things that may pop up in the real world to scare us. Push yourself deeper and challenge those feelings.

During a class, you’ll deal with it physically, but that physical training teaches you how to challenge mental bad feelings in the same way. Face all that negative and sadness head on and move past it. Don’t fall into a self-deprecating cycle, but instead go through the negativity and challenge it.

Lily yoga

Photo: !STORAX

General Health

There are a million and one reasons people feel sad and there are plenty of ways to deal with those feelings.

Coming home can be very hard. Don’t push it off as a problem that’s not real. You’re at a moment of weakness, which can lead to bad habits. A few drinks with friends to forget about your problems, leads to more and you’re spending the next day on the couch with a massive hangover. If you’re anything like me – that hangover will lead you into an even sadder state and you might find yourself having another few drinks to avoid it. It’s okay to have a few and enjoy being home, but when you’re already in an emotionally unsure state, the most important thing is keeping your mind and body healthy.

Exercise releases endorphins which naturally flow positive feelings through the body. On top of that, you’ll feel more self-confident when you look great and with a goal in mind, you’ll have something to work towards. It’s really incredible what a difference a little exercise can make in your life. So if you just got home and your feeling kind of lost, spend a few days doing any sort of exercise, it doesn’t have to be yoga, and see if you notice any sort of shift in your mood.

Reverse culture shock isn’t the end of the world, but it can be a real time of low feelings for a lot of people. Treat it like you would any other changing time in your life. For me, yoga gave me a place where I could reflect on those feelings and move past them. My favorite thing about travel is learning and experiencing new things, getting involved in yoga made it so I could keep on doing that, even in my hometown.

Returning to the USA after three and half years living abroad

Blog, Dispatches from Down Under

Returning to the USA after three and half years living abroad

22 Comments 19 November 2013

I’m going to be honest. The lack of writing on this website over the past four months has a lot to do with the fact that I was afraid of this post. A post that would be a sort of conclusion to the very trip that started the website. A post about my return to NJ after three and a half year of traveling and living abroad.

How do you write the ending to a trip you dreamed about your whole life?

A trip in which I swam with giants, soared from the sky, spear-fished with aborigines, climbed volcanoes and faced my greatest fears. A trip that made me trust in strangers, drop ties with possessions and completely enthral myself into communities that just days before I didn’t even knew exist. One that would have me moving into eleven different residences with a total of 38 different roommates and two cats, plus more hostel beds and dorm mates than I could count.

Rondel. The cat that made me fall in love with cats. – Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

A trip that taught me there is no one meaning of success and that ambition might have been the only thing holding me back from finding true happiness. A trip that would allow me to find answers to my questions on religion and spirituality. A trip that would have me fulfilling every dream I had for myself and my travels within six months and then totally giving myself up to chance.

I came into this trip with a plan: to travel and write. I would fulfil all the little goals that went with that plan only months after the start of my trip. Beyond those plans, I thought that would be it for my long-term travels and vagabond lifestyle. I can honestly remember thinking before going on this trip that I would “get it out of my system”, come home and settle into a career, marriage and children – all the things I thought were just part of life. I thought travel was an itch I could scratch and then move on to the next thing.

That’s not quite how it all worked out.

Once this trip exceeded my plans and expectations – I would no longer be the one dictating my future. I would no longer allow the restraints of where I came from or the ideas I developed in that small space control what kind of life I was going to have. Running out of plans opened me up to see a new way of living, to put my faith in new people, find a sense of true belonging and even to fall in love.

Now I know the most unpopular ending to any solo female travel blog is the one that involves “prince charming”, but that is exactly how my story went. The greatest lesson I learned in three and a half years of travel was how to fall in love and the greatest thing I found was a guy to catch me when I did.

Ric and I cruising in Malapascua. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Ric and I cruising in Malapascua. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I’ve never had a problem doing anything on my own. Being alone was never a bad thing for me. In fact, often times, I preferred it. And before hopping on a plane to Australia on January 26, 2010 – I was content in the possibility that I always would be alone and I don’t mean alone in the physical sense whether that be with friends and family or with a partner. I’ve always had the the most amazing people in my life that would be there for me, no matter what, but in my head – I was still alone. And as for marriage or any type of partnership – I actually saw myself getting married at least ten times – but never really giving into it – always facing my biggest problems and greatest joys in life – alone – at least in my head.

This trip, the people I met throughout it and the situations I was in with them (good or bad) – would change that.


When you’re on the road in a new place, away from everything and everyone you know, often times you have to put all your faith into strangers. Whether this be something as small as receiving directions or as large as sleeping on some random person’s couch because otherwise you’d have no place else to stay. What came out of dwindling bank accounts, lack of a home and inability to call the people I had always known at the drop of a hat was a new kind of trust in people and the ability to share the ups and downs with whomever I was with at that moment. Somewhere along the way I realized that I wasn’t alone in it all and as if the pieces fell into place all at once – I met Ric and knew I never would be again.

Ric and I the day after we arrived in New Zealand.

Ric and I the day after we arrived in New Zealand.

I never intended this to be a trip where I found myself or the true meaning of life. I knew exactly who I was before getting on that plane three and a half years ago – in fact, I never would have been in that position if I didn’t know who I was. What I found on this trip was other people – that most of them are actually good and that we are in this crazy life together.

So to Lise and Veronica who taught me that no matter what language we speak (English, French or Italian) there can be understanding (even when cursing about weeding lantana trees in the bush). To my joyful “Shirley” who taught me that the things we have are only as good as the people we get to share them with (even when it comes to Kate Moss tops). To Bobbi Small who taught me that it’s possible to be strong – even when you’re scared and to question any restraints you have for yourself. To Hans, you gorgeous Brazilian man, who showed me compassion and warmth and of course a new way of making carrot cake. To my new English family who accepted me without question. To my family and friends at home who have always loved and supported me. To all the many travelers I met over the course of these past three years – whether we shared a couch at Iron Bar, divemaster training in Malapascua, a dorm room or the weight of my backpack on a long walk. And of course to the bear of the man for whom I get to travel the rest of my life with – Thank You. Thank you for all the little moments and for helping me realize that even though I thought I left America on my own three and a half years ago – I never was.

You were all there with me.

Lise, Veronica and I on a day off from Yoga in Daily Life Dungog, NSW.

Underwater in Low Isles with Milla.

Sailing the Whitsundays with Dorcey, aka Shirley.

With Bobbi Small on the Great Barrier Reef.

How do you write a conclusion to three and a half of the best years of your life?

You don’t.

In the words of my wonderful fiancé (we’re engaged by the way) as I pined over this post in our London flat – “This isn’t the end, just another chapter complete Bobble.”

I did it.

It was my dream to move abroad and go on a trip with no fixed end date and I actually did it. In the past three and a half years I’ve lived in Australia, New Zealand and England. I’ve traveled to the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, China and Canada. I even got to explore my own country a bit.

It became clear to me pretty early on this trip that it wasn’t so much the places I was going to – but the nomadic lifestyle and the people I would encounter through that way of living that would propel me into a life of travel.

“Its a toss-up when you decide to leave the beaten track. Many are called, few are chosen.” – W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge’

Dear Bobbi: 21st Century Pen Pals

Blog, Online Goodies, Other, Photography, What I'm thinking

Dear Bobbi: 21st Century Pen Pals

4 Comments 27 August 2013

For anyone who has ever had a pen pal or random travel partner they met in foreign lands who became their best friend – this website is for you.

Those who have been reading my site from the start (LEGENDS!) will know that almost four years ago I was in the running for “The Best Backpacker Job in the World”. There was a YouTube video that involved me scuba diving in a hot tub, which I bothered loads of people to watch to help me win. Sadly – I did not, but weirdly – another girl named Bobbi did.

I went to Australia – where this “best” job took place and ended up “working” it anyway with the other Bobbi (her name is Bobbi-Jo by the way and you can check out her blog here). After surviving shark tanks, monstrous spiders and wild cow stampedes – we parted ways, but never lost touch. In fact, not only did we correspond through emails and Skype over the following years, but we also managed to live in the same countries (New Zealand and England) and even the same city (London) again.

Now that we have the big bad Atlantic between us – as we did when we were just strangers with the same name entering random YouTube contests long ago – we’ve decided to keep in touch as pen pals of the 21st century.

May I introduce – Dear Bobbi.

A tale of two Bobbis. To the left is my photo of the New York skyline, to the right is Bobbi-Jo's of the London skyline.

A tale of two Bobbi’s, to the left is my photo of the New York skyline, to the right is Bobbi-Jo’s of the London skyline.

The website is a transatlantic correspondence between me and my name twin. Twice a week we’ll post photos with the same theme, such as self, skyline and fruit. Follow along as we send photographic love letters across the pond.

Have you ever met a great friend on your travels that you still keep in touch with? Have you ever had a pen pal?

Share your stories below!

If you want more Bobbi: Follow Dear Bobbi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Preparing for an era party on a budget: Blitz

Blog, Destinations, England, What I'm thinking

Preparing for an era party on a budget: Blitz

1 Comment 07 June 2013

I’ve never been to a city that does throw back parties as well as London. Maybe it’s because the city has such a long and rich history, maybe they just know how to party, but I love it.

A “fancy dress” requirement is regular at private parties here and the themes are always so interesting, tarts and vickers anyone? Plus, dress up parties aren’t just for private gatherings, there a common affair at locations all over the city.

Last month I visited the Belle Epoque Party in Shoreditch, dedicated to late 19th century Paris, and I really don’t think I was completely prepared for it. I didn’t realize how much people dress up for themed parties here and honestly couldn’t afford to do it myself. It’s something quite special for 20-somethings to still embrace dress-up as much as they did at four and this time I intend to play the part.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the Blitz Party, a 1940s-themed party in a bunker just in time for D-Day. Times obviously were not great in the world back then, but style was, and I have a pretty good idea of how to dress for this party, without breaking the bank.

1940s girls

Photo: Young Red Violets


First thing’s first, when it comes to dressing up for a 1940s party: it’s all about the hair. For this era, you could get away with doing just your hair to fit the part and keeping everything else pretty simple. Victory curls are the most well-known 1940s look, so that’s what I am going to go for. There are some well-known vintage hair stylists in London, like La Belle Jolie in Crystal Palace, but I’m going to give this a go on my own, so I can splurge on a dress. All you really need to do is Youtube 1940s hair to find a few looks to choose from then and learn how to do it yourself.

Make up

Luckily, this step is fairly easy for my party’s era. Dark eyebrows, simple eye makeup, red lips and maybe a flick at the end of your eyelids with wet liner. Plus at the last era party I attended they had vintage make up artists, The Beauty Queens, on site giving complimentary makeovers. So I’m going to leave myself a bit blank in hopes of that. If all else fails, think WWDD (What would Dita do?).

1940s make up

Photo: Chlo-beau make-up


One complaint people might have about visiting an era-themed party is that they have nothing to wear.

This is my problem as well.

No, I don’t just carry a 1940s vintage dress with me around the world, but I would like to. I’ve chosen to invest in this, because I know I’ll wear it again. It’s very trendy right now and I love the look anyway. Luckily, there is no shortage of vintage stores in London. I’m going to head to Carnaby Street and Portobello Market today as well as hit some second-hat shops along the way. I’m looking to spend no more than £60 on my dress and I’m not too fussed whether or not it’s actually vintage, but they are a good place to go for inspiration. Time Out has a great listing of vintage stores in London. 


Other than creating a dance to “Zoot Suit Riot” by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies in my friend’s basement when Swing was a fad in the 90s, I have no idea how to dance for the 1940s and just realized the meaning of that bands name… I don’t think it really matters that much, but it would be cool to show up with some moves. Returning to Youtube, practice these dance techniques while getting ready for the night.

By tomorrow you should be look mighty spiffy! Looking forward to seeing how my look is actually going to turn out and of course going to the Blitz Party tomorrow night. Are you going? What did you do to complete your look?

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Where I’m off to in summer 2013

Blog, Destinations, USA, What I'm thinking

Where I’m off to in summer 2013

14 Comments 23 May 2013

There’s something in the air, literally.

I’ve had this fascination with Montana since college. I don’t know where it came from, but I do remember the first time I voiced it.

One night in college and I bumped into a guy I knew in grade school at Bob and Barbara’s in Philadelphia. He said his parents had retired there and it was stunning.

I looked at him with wide Bambi eyes and asked.

“What’s it like when you walk off the plane? What’s the air like?”

He knew exactly what I meant.

“Amazing,” he replied.

Coming from a city-heavy northeast USA, I couldn’t even fathom how spectacularly natural Montana is and how clean and crisp air would be when I was having that chat with an old acquaintance. But I’m happy to report that five years later, I’m going to find out for myself.

This summer, I’m going to: MONTANA.

Photo provided by Lone Mountain Ranch

I can’t remember being this thrilled to visit a destination since Prague in 2007. It’s not that I’ve not loved the places I’ve visited since then. I just think that everyone has a few spots in the world they put on a pedestal, Montana has been hoisted and praised by me for years.

This trip came about in quite an exciting way too. Every Christmas Passports with Purpose offers a long list of travel-oriented prizes put fourth by different bloggers and websites. To enter for a specific prize, people make a donation to the charities the organization is supporting that year. I must be the luckiest traveler alive, because I’ve won twice now. In 2011 it was a bungy jump and swing package at Nevis Bungy in Queenstown, NZ and 2012’s prize was a week vacation at Lone Mountain Ranch via Trekaroo.

On top of accommodation, meals and what not, the trip includes horse back riding, canoeing and a visit to Yellow Stone National Park. It really just gets better and better.

Photo provided by Lone Mountain Ranch

I’m looking forward to just being in Montana and experiencing its natural beauty, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for a bit of lush tripping. If you know me at all, you’ll know I always travel on a budget and sometimes get by on a trip by the skin of my teeth. It will be nice to have my own log cabin, restaurant food and all the good things luxury travelers take for granted.

Photo provided by Lone Mountain Ranch

Photo provided by Lone Mountain Ranch

One other difference in this trip from my usual travels, I’ll be traveling with this girl:

You may have seen this photo on hostel walls across Europe. Pretty much the greatest person in the world.

I’m going to leave that photo there as a teaser and explain how special she is to me in a later post. But I will say before Ric, she was my ultimate travel partner. We’re both at a major transition in our lives, so I can’t wait to just spend some time hitting the road with her and righting the world.

Where are you headed this summer?

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From elephant rider to Save Elephant Foundation, Thailand

Blog, Destinations, Thailand, What I'm thinking

From elephant rider to Save Elephant Foundation, Thailand

6 Comments 16 May 2013

I had this vision of myself before visiting Southeast Asia, wearing a green dress, riding an elephant through the jungles of Thailand.

It started with my love of animals, turned into a must-do for the region because of all the photos I’d seen of others doing the same and inevitably led to something purely selfish, self-absorbed and ignorant.

Visit Thailand. Ride an elephant.

Looking back now, this sounds like the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of and I’m ashamed to say that I was so lost in the campaigns for travel in Asia, that I neglected to think about something that really matters to me, animal welfare.

I don’t know how I could have been so stupid?

These are wild animals. They stampede. They live in locations where people do not. What sounds right about a mere human, with no experience with them, hopping on top and telling them what to do. What seems okay with them doing tricks in a crowded street.

They’re not scary. They’re not mean. They’re just not meant to be for your amusement.

I looked for elephant riding opportunities in Thailand that advertised themselves as ‘kinder to the animal’ than other companies. But they weren’t. Towering creatures chained up by the foot, caged in bamboo huts. How could I have thought that this elephant activity was any better than the rest?

And it only got worse once jumped on…

It just didn’t feel right. I cringed every time I watched the mahout (person in charge of the elephant) hit her on the head with this sharp sort of hammer, which was often, to get her going in the right direction.

My next trip to Thailand, I decided to see the country’s indigenous creature in a different way, saved.

One of the rescues at ENP as a bath in the river that runs through the park. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I could go on and on about my one-day visit to Save Elephant Foundation’s Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai and everything that’s right about the organization, but I know that’s been done a million times over by people much better at it than me, so I’ll just talk about what was the most important interaction at the park for me.

I think everyone who visits ENP has one elephant that affects them most. The one they share a moment with or just relate to their stories. Mine was Jokia.

Jokia is Save Elephant Foundations many rescues. She’s completely blind, so it’s unclear where she’d be now if it wasn’t ENP. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Elephants were used in Thailand’s lucrative timber industry up until 1989 when heavy flooding, due to deforestation, led the country to ban logging in 1989. That said, illegal logging continued after the ban.

This has been one of many reasons or problems with elephant welfare in Thailand. Not only were the elephants often treated horribly when working in the timber industry, but afterwards there was sort of an unknown of what to do with the animals and mahouts didn’t have the money or space to take care of them. They couldn’t go back to the wild. They were practically domesticated. So a lot were used in tourism. Forced to walk the streets in Bangkok for money (Yes, that happened), sleep under highway bridges and take peanuts from drunken tourists holidaying on the island.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

A lucky few were rescued by people like Lek Chailert and either transitioned into the wild at Elephant Nature Park or are still living there now with plenty of space to breathe.

Jokia is a saved elephant with one of the saddest and cruelest stories I’ve ever heard.

Jokia, born in 1960, was pregnant while working in the illegal years of the logging industry. An elephant’s pregnancy can last for about two years. But her mahout didn’t know or didn’t care and pushed Jokia harder and harder to get more work done. She had her calf while logging timber uphill. It fell out and she was not allowed to stop to check if her new-born calf was dead or alive.

As any mother would, Jokia became extremely depressed after this happened. She wouldn’t work let alone move, so her mahout would stab her in the eyes regularly to get her up and moving. It left her completely blind.

Though Jokia didn’t have a happy life. The story does have a happy ending. Jokia is one of Save Elephant Foundation’s many rescues.

My first introduction to Jokia was by Mae Perm while visiting the park in October 2012. You’ll see elephants pair off and sort of stick with their friend or companion at the park. Mae Perm and Jokia are one of the most well-known pairs there.

Jokia and Mae Perm arrive, side by side. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I felt a little bit scared as I heard that loud elephant yell while we were all standing on the ground waiting to get up close with the animals.

A mahout told us to not be worried. He explained the Mae Perm will do that for Jokia if she’s going the wrong way or if somethings in the way, because she’s blind and wouldn’t know if her friend didn’t say something.

That was it. I was in love.

The beauty, sensitivity and gentleness from these animals I didn’t really expect visiting the park.

I just thought I would see them all doing their own thing, running free, but really the visit was all about getting to know their individual personalities and struggles.

I spent most of my time with Jokia, feeding her. Unlike the younger elephants that you just handed fruit to, Jokia would lay her trunk on the concrete stage that people stand on during the feeding section of the visit. You have to place bananas or pieces of pumpkins in the middle of the rolled trunk and touch it gently to let her know something is there.

That’s me feeding Jokia.

As I said, I think everyone has their own moments and experiences at the park and that was mine.

So here’s my message to you, from someone who has fallen for the tourism campaigns and regrets elephant riding. Don’t bother with it. Not only is it wrong, but it’s also not nearly as special as as the experience you’ll have at a place that actually cares for and looks after their elephants.

I know we all want to escape the world while we’re on holiday, but it’s not possible and it’s not fair. You have to be responsible for your actions and how you treat all species and the environment.

Not only a place that rescues elephants, but also stray dogs. The two species roam the park in harmony. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Some people just don’t know that the animals are treated poorly or just don’t really give the simple activity the thought they should. If you’re one of those people and have made it this far through my blog post, now you do know, from someone whose been both sort of tourists and seen both sides. I hope you won’t ignore it any longer.

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Do our fears grow with age? Another reason to travel while your young

Blog, What I'm thinking

Do our fears grow with age? Another reason to travel while your young

4 Comments 14 May 2013

It hit me as I was being chased by a man in a “Bane” mask at the London Tombs, a haunted activity part of The London Bridge Experience.

I’m scared. I don’t like this. Get me out of here as soon as possible.

And I love Tom Hardy…


I don’t know what happened to me. Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. In fact, I treated the 31 days leading up to the big day in October with more respect and interest than the 25 leading up to Christmas as a child. I’d pack my weekends with hay rides and haunted houses, scary movies and readings. I was still scared going to these things back then, but I buzzed off it.

Then it hit me. I’m not 12 anymore. Even at the tender age of 26 the seriousness of life and consequences have gotten to me without me even knowing it.

I started to feel this at the Nevis Bungy Jump in New Zealand when Ric and I visited in January 2012. I had bungy jumped the year prior in Cairns, Australia voluntarily. In fact, I’d say bungy jumping was number one on my to-do list in Australia. Yet, as I stood on the tiny pod, suited up to take one of the biggest plunges available in the world, for free I must add (I won a Nevis Bungy and Swing from Passports with Purpose that year), I couldn’t even bring myself to think of doing it.

One of the attendants came over to me after Ric’s jump and asked, “So are you going to do it?”

“No,” I said with the most serious face imaginable.

“Why not? It’s great once you do it,” he responded with a care free tone that all the nutters in this line of work seem to have.

“I just don’t want to,” I said.

The smile went away from his face and he walked away.

That was it. I just didn’t want to do it. Was I scared? Absolutely. But I’ve always been scared at these sort of things, that was what attracted me. Unfortunately, somewhere between 23 and 26, I lost my edge.

I think this is natural for most people as they age. Even with subtle differences, like not wanting to push yourself as hard at the gym, because you’re worried about the next day or not wanting to buy that flash car you dreamed of, because it might be unsafe, it starts to hit you. We’re not immortal. I never thought I was, but I just never thought about it at all until recently.

Looking back, I am so happy I took the risks I did in travel, in my career choices, at 23, because I’m not sure now, even though I’m only three years older, I would have had the balls to leave home and travel to a country with no one and nothing, jump out of a plane, dive with sharks and quit a safe job to make it at something I’ve always dreamed of doing.

I still think I have a whole lot of chance and risk-taking left in me. I’m still in my 20s and have a few years filled with endless stupid mistakes and bad decisions left in me. (I’m hoping the next decade will come with less.) In fact, I think I’ll probably be somewhat of a risk-taker my whole life, but I do notice myself slowing down. It’s shocking, but it just makes me that much more happy that I tried all those things people told me I was crazy or stupid for doing when I had no hesitations to try them.

I wasn’t a complete baby in Queenstown. I did do the Nevis Swing. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I hope I snap out of my new fears, but I don’t think it’s a phase. I think it’s just a part of life. We grow older, grow wiser and grow out of taking certain crazy risks. But not all of them. I encourage you take as many risks as you can at any age and I don’t think this applies to everyone. My dad skydived for the first time at 59. I just think it’s natural to fall out of that fearless attitude you had as a child, which is yet another reason you should travel while your young, rather than leaving it for ‘one day’.

What do you think? Have you slowed down with age or are you still the same wild person you were at 21?

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Do you have to drink while backpacking? Pressure on the sober backpacker

Blog, What I'm thinking

Do you have to drink while backpacking? Pressure on the sober backpacker

32 Comments 30 April 2013

Backpacking and alcohol.

To me, the two always seem to go hand in hand, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

I’ve traveled through most of my twenties and have found that usually more than anything, tourism companies use alcohol and parties to lure in my age group. But not everyone wants to drink during their trip or at all. Those who are non-drinkers all together or even just for a night might feel left out at a hostel, quite often actually.

I’m going to be completely honest about myself.

This is probably as much alcohol as I had at the famous Full Moon Party in Thailand. I was very ill during most of my visit to the country and barely drank or ate, for that matter, at all. I forced myself to do so during this event, because it’s what you do in Thailand. I spent a lot of money and really didn’t enjoy the entire experience.

I do drink every now and then, but I think when it comes to alcohol in my life, I’m extremely moderate and healthy. After spending time in England, I’ve found that a lot of people would consider me a non-drinker, though I don’t see myself that way.

I was your average freshman in college. I partied every single night, but was over it by sophomore year. I took advantage of the London drink culture when I studied abroad in the city at 20 years old and I’d say I was a pretty average drinker when I backpacked Europe that same year.

As I’ve grown older though, I’ve slowed down my drinking dramatically. It was no big choice either, just the way I developed I guess. I’m 26 years old now and I never drink for the sake of it. I don’t drink when I’m bored. I rarely am bored anyway. I absolutely hate shots and most alcohol for that matter. People who try and force me to chug things or take shots of alcohol, especially tequila, actually piss me off in that moment.

Why does it matter to you if I take a shot? And I promise you I will vomit immediately after. It’s happened a few times.

These days, on average, I’ll drink one night every two weeks, but more on special holidays or when visiting certain locations. Sometimes I’ll drink during the day if it’s really sunny and I’m with people in a park or at a beer garden. I don’t see the point in drinking things I don’t like the taste of. I like getting chatty over a bottle of wine with friends and I’ve faced the facts that when I do drink one glass of wine, 99% of the time I’m finishing the bottle. I love wine, the culture around it and trying different varieties.

Wine tasting in Wanaka, New Zealand. Moderation is key. You don’t have to get smashed to enjoy drinking activities on your travels and you don’t have to miss out on activities, because drinking is involved. There is compromise, even for 20-somethings.

This is how I am mainly because I just don’t get the urge to drink often. I also don’t have an off button during the times when I do drink, so there’s no such things as a calm night for me when it comes to drinking. Further, I for one don’t really like the idea of spending the entire following day in bed and running to the toilet every hour too often. I’ll do it for a good night every once in a while, but not often.

I, especially don’t like drinking when I’m traveling, because to me it’s money that I’d rather be spending on activities or even just another day on the road. Plus, while I can give up a day of being hungover in normal life, I refuse to do that in a destination I’ve never been to before and may never visit again.

I feel very much okay with myself on this subject and I have no problem telling people no these days.

That wasn’t always the case though.

In Europe, my first backpacking experience, a night out wasn’t so much a problem for me, because I was 20 and bounced back pretty quick the following day. However, I can remember one instance when it stopped me from doing something spectacular.

Obviously, we don’t have volcanoes in NJ, so you can image how excited I was when I booked a day trip to see Mt. Etna while staying in Taormina, Italy. Booked for my last day in the city, that would be my only chance to see Mt. Etna. However, I made a few friends in Taormina and spent the night prior partying with them as it was my last night. Long story short, I drank too much, overslept, I still haven’t seen Mt. Etna in person and maybe I never will. It was a good night, but I never spoke to those people again and I would have preferred the following day.

Obviously this is not my photo, because I missed my chance to see Mt. Etna. Photo: kevinstandage

I can’t remember if I laid off the booze after that, but I do know that drinking became a serious dilemma for me on my next backpacking trip three years later.


Home to Ayers Rock, one of the world’s oldest rain forests, koalas and kangaroos, yet for some reason most of the brochures and hostels on the east coast of the country plan more around boozing and parties than the country’s beauty.

Australia is a drinking nation and traveling the east coast is so much about boozing. I was doing ‘the best backpacker job in the world’ then, which was actually a nightmare at times for me, because I felt like I had to go out every night and visit every bar to fully describe my experience.

I didn’t drink on the famous Surfers Paradise pub crawl and everyone kept asking why.

This was not good for me at all at that time of my life.

I’d say I was over heavy drinking before even arriving in Australia, but to add to it, at the start of my visit in to the country I spent a few weeks on a yoga retreat that really made me look at life and how I wanted to live mine differently.

This is Veronica. I had quite a few conversations about alcohol with her while WWOOFing at Yoga in Daily Life. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

One of the things I noticed most about yoga during my first retreat was that it’s a completely sober lifestyle. This made me realize I wasn’t the yogi I thought I was and never would be, but I took that experience and incorporated it into my life, deciding to only drink rarely from that point on.

A lot of other travelers didn’t understand that. So in Australia I often felt peer pressured, unhappy and isolated. I did end up drinking more than I wanted to and most nights I don’t regret because I had a great time, but at the same time I hated that I was being pushed to do something I didn’t really want to do on MY travels.

Which brings me to my point.

Your travels are your travels, nobody else’s. I don’t judge people who go on trips only to drink and I don’t think people who have a few nights out on their holiday are bad in anyway. That’s their decision and if they’re having fun and are happy, that’s all that matters, but I think the people who choose to not be involved in that scene deserve the same understanding and respect.

I’ve found that some people can be quite petty and judgmental about non-drinkers on the backpacker trail.

It’s not fair at all.

Making the choice to travel is such an incredible thing. It requires a lot of balls and often a lot of saving. Not everyone is on the same budget or has the same amount of time, so how they choose to spend the time they worked hard for, is completely up to them. Know that about everyone you meet in hostels, on tours or in exotic locations and treat them as you would want to be treated.

I’m not going to lecture you on the risks of alcohol. While some of us may be naive to them, I think we are all well aware of them. Though I will say that those risks are heightened while traveling, because drinking is more accepted on holiday, alcohol is more readily available and, to be blunt, there is a lot of hate in this world and tourists, especially the drunk ones, are often more vulnerable to it.

You don’t have to drink while backpacking and you’re actually better off not doing it. The people who make you feel like you do, should be nothing but ashamed. There are a lot of people who choose not to drink while traveling, so never feel alone or like you have to compromise your morals or standards to feel apart of the group.

Have you ever felt peer-pressured to drink while backpacking?

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Why cabaret is the ideal weekend escape

Blog, Favorite Things, The Arts and Cabaret, What I'm thinking

Why cabaret is the ideal weekend escape

No Comments 26 April 2013

Full-figured women dancing on stage, acrobats swinging their bodies above it, parties that require dress up and make believe, green-fairy cocktails and feathers, endless amounts of feathers. If you haven’t noticed there is a new trend in nightlife, cabaret and 1920s-inspired parties.

I first noticed it in Brisbane, Australia when I visited Cantina, my first cabaret, at the city’s Fringe Festival in 2010. I was instantly-hooked and kept my eye out for more events like it. Cut to over two years later in London and there’s no end to them. Since arriving in this city, I’ve been to parties dedicated to the turn of the 20th century, I’ve met hair and make up artists who only style people to look like 1920s bombshells, I’ve been given passwords to speakeasies that nobody is suppose to know about but everybody knows about and of course, I’ve been to a few cabaret shows.

The Black Cat Cabaret at Cafe de Paris in London. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I. Love. Cabaret.

What’s not to love? These events give people a chance to try a different look, visit really unique venues and are the closest we’ll get to time travel.

I think that’s what’s so alluring to me. Obviously, you all know I love travel, but what you might not know is my love for the history of the places. I’m a sentimental sod and I can’t think of the last time I visited a place without thinking about the memories of their past.

Belle Epoque Party in London. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

In Bangkok, I walked in the footsteps of Somerset Maugham by going for tea in the author’s lounge at Mandarin Oriental. In Hollywood, I thought of all the starlets of the Golden Age who performed at Paramount and Warner Bros. studios, which I has the chance to visit. Finally in London, a city with a lengthy and incredible history, not only do I get to imagine the city’s past in my head, but I also get to see it come to life.

That’s what this trend is about, re-creating the lifestyle of a former period in time. I adore it and considering that you’ve landed on this travel blog, I think you might as well. Instead of planning an escape to a different city this weekend, why not do so to a different time? Cabarets and speakeasies are popping up in major cities all over the world, so have a look to see what’s available in your town or nearest city. You’ll find links to cabaret shows and events in a few cities around the world listed below.

Cabaret in London

Cabaret in New York City

Cabaret in LA

Cabaret in Las Vegas

Cabaret in Paris

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Those first time travel chills at TNT Travel Show

Blog, Destinations, England, What I'm thinking

Those first time travel chills at TNT Travel Show

No Comments 12 March 2013

When I went on my first trip abroad I couldn’t even find friends willing to go with me let alone an entire event to assist me in my planning. Needless to say I was very excited to hear that events like the TNT Travel Show exist today.

I visited the show this past Saturday and it got me giddy about traveling, even though I’m not really planning anything at the moment. Tour operators and guide companies from around the world set up booths at the Business Design Centre in London to meet with and assist people dreaming of a big trip.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

They also gave away small goodies, discounts and even full trips. Plus tickets were free to the first so many customers to this event and only £2 each after that, so why wouldn’t you go.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The show went beyond sales and planning as TNT organised talks and seminars with some incredible speakers. I attended Chris Coe’s “Travel Guide to Better Photos”. The talk was easy to pick up for beginners, but he covered things that even season travel photographers could use. There were a lot of other talks I wanted to attend over the weekend-long event, including Dylan Lowe’s on Social Media and Travel Storytelling and Toni White’s on Solo Travel, but I had work to do. Whomp whomp.

Practicing new found photography knowledge inside the Business Design Centre. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Beyond the talks and information, this show had the same atmosphere I felt on my first trip around Europe. Lots of eager travellers meeting people from around the world.



Plus, like any backpacker joint you’ll find on the trail, there was free booze and condoms for all. Hooray!

Free shots of whiskey and candy from MacBackpackers. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Free condoms from Wicked. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

All in all, it was just a fun travel event. Of course, first time travelers age 18-39 will benefit the most from it, but even those who have been on the road a few times or for a long time can join the party and learn new things. Isn’t that what travel is about anyway?

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