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Celebrating holidays around the world

August 22, 2012

Americans tend to think of themselves as some of the greatest celebrators and holiday decorators around, and I admit I’ve felt that way from time to time, but there are a lot of countries that really have us beat.

I’ve celebrated a lot of different holidays in a lot of different places. It never gets less strange seeing palm trees decorated with ornaments or jungle huts strung with tinsel. I’ve celebrated the biggies all over. I’ve done Christmas in Sweden and Australia, put together makeshift Thanksgivings in Ecuador and Australia, and rung in the New Year in Thailand, Sweden and Australia. I’ve also had the fortune to witness the celebrations of countless unique local holidays in other parts of the world. And I always try to get as involved as I can, whether it’s checking out bull fights and riding party buses during Founder’s Day festivities in Quito or wearing a crown of flowers, eating herring and drinking schnapps for Midsommar in Sweden.

There are different ways to bring the holidays alive. The thing that separates countries like the US and Australia from what I consider to be even more festive countries like Thailand and Peru is this: we go all gung ho for our own holidays, but in other countries they go all gung ho for ALL holidays. In the States we go over the top to decorate every public place and every home for, say, Christmas. (Australia, from my experience, seemed to go more over the top in public but less so on a personal level as in decorating their own homes.) Read more…

Celebrating Swedish Midsommar

August 8, 2012

During my visit to Sweden, I was fortunate enough to take part in one of the Swedes’ favorite celebrations: Midsommar.

Being avid nature-lovers in a country, well, bursting with nature, many Swedes have country homes. So for this year’s Midsommar festivities we headed to the country home of a friend of a friend. I was the only non-Swede in attendance, so upon arrival I was immediately pummeled with questions about what I knew about Midsommar. I admitted I didn’t know much.

“Well, we make a cross and then bury it in the ground,” one girl explained, pausing to try to find the right English words. “It’s a symbol of, like, fertilizing Mother Nature.”

I admitted that I had not known this about Midsommar. I kept to myself that it sounded a little bit weird.

Oscar and I were promptly sent to the lake to gather wildflowers to decorate the cross. There’s a very “this land is your land, this land is my land” or “what’s mine is yours” philosophy when it comes to land and nature in Sweden. You can pretty much go clip wildflowers from anywhere, except the bluebells which are of course the prettiest but are endangered. You can be fined for cutting them. Read more…

Weird & Wonderful Things: Sweden

June 12, 2012

ImageSo, in case you aren’t in the know, I am in Sweden now.

Coming from Florida, the biggest “shocks” to my system are pretty much what you’d expect. I came from 90+ degree weather and people wearing tank tops and flip flops, to gray, rainy, 50-60 degree weather and everyone walking around in coats and boots.

Also, coming from one of the oldest communities in the United States, I didn’t realize how much I was not used to seeing kids around. There are so many kids everywhere here in Jonkoping. It’s crazy. I am not at all adjusted to that. They’re kind of annoying… haha!

Last night we watched the Sweden vs. Ukraine soccer match, part of the European Cup. It was a little confusing because both Sweden and Ukraine have the same colors, so the whole stadium was blue and yellow, but Sweden’s team had to wear these dark blue jerseys instead of their usual ones. Sweden lost, so that was a bummer. They did win the Eurovision Song Contest this year, though, apparently. So there’s that.

Anyway, in just the past few days I’ve collected a few random bits of knowledge that I would like to share, accompanied by some visual stimuli, with you now in a sort of makeshift Weird & Wonderful Things post. Read more…

Spotting manatees in Florida

February 21, 2012

Once upon a time, Oscar and I went snorkeling in Crystal Springs, Fla., the only place where you can go snorkeling with manatees. (Or at least that’s what they say.) It was March, which is still technically “manatee season,” but we didn’t see any manatees. It was kind of sad.

More than two years later, we went manatee spotting again.

This time it was December — December 9, our official anniversary as a couple, in fact. The day before had been cold, which is a good thing if you’re going manatee spotting, because cold weather = colder water = manatees coming in from the gulf to find warmer water. This time, we were at Manatee Park, north of Fort Myers, Fla. And this time we were canoeing rather than snorkeling.

While coming across manatees while snorkeling would probably be amazing, canoeing meant we could cover a lot more ground. Read more…

What’s happening to the Girl in 2012?

February 4, 2012

I know it’s been a while, but I haven’t disappeared!

I actually have a full-time job now writing for the newspaper down here in Florida, so that takes up a lot of my time. However, I do have some posts in the works on Florida-related things AND I have a pretty big thing on the horizon. I don’t want to talk about it yet since things are just getting started and a lot is still up in the air, but let’s just say I will be getting out of the States again in 2012….

Stay tuned on that, and I will have some fun Florida posts up as soon as I am able.

Sand Sculpting World Championships in Southwest Florida

November 22, 2011

So I may not be traveling the world at the moment, but living in Florida there are some interesting things going on now and then. Over the past month, Southwest Florida has played host to two major competitions in the Sand Sculpting World Championship, and I just happen to live smack in between this year’s two host beaches.

Earlier this month, Siesta Key (“America’s #1 Beach” as they like to remind us) hosted its second annual Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition, which is basically the World Championship competition for doubles. We went on the second day of the five-day competition and many of the sculptures were already shaping up into some amazing things. Read more…

The New 7 Wonders of Nature

November 16, 2011

The New 7 Wonders of Nature have been announced, and I have to say I’m a little bit surprised by the outcome. While I’m proud to say I’ve been to three of the seven wonders, I am pretty amazed at some of the things that were  left off.

Here is the list. (They say this is still a provisional list and there is still a possibility of change in outcome, but I doubt it.) Read more…

What Budget Travel Looks Like

September 28, 2011

Literally, what does it look like to travel on a budget and keep track of all your spending? It looks like this:

While I kept an excel sheet, I didn’t exactly carry my computer around with me everywhere, so I had this little moleskine journal I kept in my purse with me at all times. Every time I grabbed something to eat or drink, bought a bus ticket, picked up a souvenir, etc. it went right into the book. I was also attempting to track my spending by category (food, activities, transport, etc.) so I had a highly sophisticated system of doing this as well… by which I mean, I just wrote what the money was for above it. Read more…

Seven reasons you should do a working holiday in Australia

August 30, 2011

If you’re under the age of 30, and from one of many eligible countries around the world, getting a Working Holiday/Work & Holiday visa for Australia is almost unbelievably easy. Furthermore, if you’ve entered the workforce in the past few years, going to Australia to work for a year might even help further your career!

Even though they talk a lot about the GFC (Global Financial Crisis), Australia has remained remarkably sheltered from many of the negative economic effects other places in the world have experienced. After I graduated in 2009 (with a degree in advertising, an area not doing the best in such an economic climate) I could not find a job. When I returned from my trip to South America and my visits to Sweden and Jordan, I made the decision to move to Australia more for personal reasons (aka a Swedish boyfriend and a vague “non-goal” I’d had for the past ten years). It wasn’t until I got to Australia that I realized what a great decision it was for other reasons. Read more…

Should you visit Australia on your RTW trip?

August 26, 2011

Maybe… Or maybe not.

If you begin your round the world trip in Oz, then it may be a fine idea to include it… although you better budget accordingly or you may find a yearlong RTW trip turning into nothing but a two-month RAT (Round Australia Trip). That being said, over at BootsnAll they do make a good argument for using Australia as a destination to begin your round the world trip. After all, it is a nice place to ease into a big trip (especially if it’s your first) with a friendly, English-speaking population and a fairly familiar and comfortable Westernized culture.

However, during my year living in Australia, I met up with two of the people I had previously befriended while traveling in South America, as they were each continuing their RTW trip in Australia, and both of them were eager to get out of Australia after spending very little time there. Read more…

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