Growing up in a family with two brothers and a dad who are crazy about cars, there was no way for me to not somehow get involved with that topic. Once I got my own driver’s license – after miserably failing at my first attempt – I started to understand why driving cars can be really fun and even relaxing. Today I enjoy long drives during which I can just clear my mind. Think about it, when do we have the time these days to be all by ourselves, away from technological distraction, and just reflect? So although my focus is definitely on fashion, I was super happy when I got invited by the Autostadt Wolfsburg to stay two nights at the Ritz Carlton and enjoy the special summer program they are offering. I had no idea what I was expecting though.
Since I traveled around Australia with my GoPro last year, I decided to always record a follow me around video whenever I go on big trips. I realized that my travel videos are something I still love watching from time to time, bringing me back those beautiful memories and reminding me that it actually happened. Of course we always take photos, but seriously, among all the hundreds of photos we take on holiday, how many do you eventually look at later? Maybe a few, if at all. I guess there are only around 10 photos of a trip, which you will like looking at again, the rest simply did not capture your experience in the right way. But what I love about travel videos, is that they are an accumulation of all the impressions you’ve had, squeezed into a couple of minutes, making you feel as if you would still be there. Continue Reading
I’ve done so much traveling during my exchange semester in Sydney, I did not really find the time to post about all the amazing places I have visited and experienced. But this has got to change now. Let me start off with one of my highlights.
Here is my Fiji Travel Guide for Broke Exchange Students.
When you happen to be on the other side of the world, you should definitely exploit the fact that you are much closer now to certain places – So I decided to take the 300€ flight from Sydney to Nadi, an amazingly cheap deal considering you would probably pay more than 2000€ flying there from Europe. But to be honest, I only knew the Fiji Islands from the movie The Truman Show, in which the main character so desperately wants to go to this remote and beautiful place. So… I kinda wanted the same thing. I teamed up with two other exchange students and we decided to just go, knowing we would try to spend the least possible.
In Fiji you don’t book an accommodation – you book islands
When visiting Fiji, you do not go prepared; you go with the flow. We had nothing planned for our trip, we only got some advice from a couple of people who already went there. The only thing we had booked was the flight and our first stay at the hostel in Nadi, the main city in the west. The reason was that we wanted to be spontaneous and get the best offers from the locals. Highly recommended to us was the Bamboo Hostel, which was full of students and young people from all over the world, where we stayed in a 32-bedroom (!!!) for like 12€/night. Sounds horrible, but the hostel had an amazing fireshow, pretty good food and most importantly, really cool people.
So on the first day we sat together with the local travel booker from the hostel and made up a plan for the next 5 days. The woman told us that in Fiji you don’t book an accommodation – you book islands. A little geography lesson for you: The Fiji Islands are, as the name implies, a collection of many little island groups. Each island has a maximum capacity for carrying people, which is why you kinda “book the island”. Also, each island is rated with stars, like a hotel.
When the Cheapest Islands still feel like Paradise
One island group is called the Mamanuca Islands and known to be the backpacker islands, since it is one of the cheapest options – perfect for us broke students. After calculating through all options, we decided to spend two nights in Beachcomber Island and another two on Bounty Island before a last night back on the mainland. Booking an island you basically get everything inclusive: the transfer to the island on a boat and back, the accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet, towels and an amazing entertainment slash getting to know the great, great Fijians living on the island. Let me give you some more info about those islands – I know this is what you are waiting for.
- Beachcomber Island had a capacity of like 40 people and was somewhat mid-priced within the Mamanuca Islands.. You sleep in a super cool wooden shack, sunlight enters the room in the morning and fans create a light, fresh breeze. Waking up in a bunk bed could never be more relaxing I think. Beachcomber is so tiny, you can walk around it in 15min. The sand is white and soft and snorkeling is also possible. They say it’s the party island, however when we were there it was pretty empty – we did not mind though. The funny local DJane still played her songs every night and it was fun listening. It was definitely my favorite island.
- Bounty Island: This island was a little bit more expensive than Beachcomper. The reason we decided to go there was probably that we were thinking we are going to the island which is always shown in the Bounty Chocolate ad. Well, that was not quite the case, but it was still a really amazing island.
- Nadi: Beaches at the mainland are not that great, but there are a bunch of other activities you can do, like visiting temples and markets, hiking or going to their famous mud pools. We decided not to book any activity (you know… broke-student-life) but we took a bus into the city and discovered the main road with its shops and a nice Buddhist temple.
They say Fijians are the happiest people on earth
Yes the beaches are great, the water is extremely clear and the sun is just perfect – but one thing that fascinated me the most were the Fijians themselves. I have never ever met such nice people. The moment you enter Fiji, a group of Fijians already stands at the airport, sings and plays the guitar. And you know what? It does not seem like a tourist thing – I truly believe they loved that they were making music and with that, other people happy. This was also the case when we went into the city and met real locals in their daily life. They were always so friendly, helping out when we looked clueless, with a constant smile on their face. I don’t know why they are so happy, but maybe the more appropriate question would be why are we not happy most of the time. A little sidenote – you find people of all believes in Fiji living side by side in harmony. Muslims, Christians, Hindus… It was really nice to observe that.
So, when going to Fiji, be open and get in touch with the locals. Have a Kava (You know when you get there!!) and sing with them in front of a bonfire. It makes you reflect so much about yourself and the way we live our life. What does matter, what doesn’t matter. I remember the calm nights on the island, talking for hours with my friends about life and the future, looking at the bright stars.
Fiji is more than just a pretty place – it’s a little escape from the life you know.
Watch my Travel Video:
I became a huge Italy fan the moment I had my first Italian lesson at school. Part of my enthusiasm about the language, people and the culture was definitely the result of my teacher’s own passion about Italy. While this definitely influenced me, I believe that another major reason why I feel so connected is the fact that the Middle Eastern culture and how I was raised is quite similar to the Italian one; plus of course it has its own unique charm that I simply love. Despite all that, I somehow never managed to visit Italy besides being one week in Venice and only one day in Rome. As a fashion enthusiast, Milan was therefore always on top of my travel list. So when Aveda invited me last weekend to the Master Jam 2016 in Milan, I was more than excited. Beauty stuff, an entertaining show, loads of inspiring people and Italy – could I ask for anything more?
Okay, let’s take one step back. Aveda is a hair and beauty brand that produces products that are solely made out of natural ingredients, which they mostly sell to beauty and spa salons. The Aveda Master Jam is a „two-day celebration of beauty, wellness, fashion and art“ – yep, this basically means loads of creative people from the industry coming together and presenting the latest trends and techniques in the beauty industry during workshops and on stage.
Together with the two German bloggers Eline and Farina we explored beautiful Milan during the day, got an amazing hair treatment (Read here!), and in the evening went to the Masterjam 2016 show – for those of you who follow me on Snapchat/Instagram (@ranhelwa), I hope you got a nice insight into the event, for those who missed it, here are a couple of photos that hopefully give you a good idea of the show. I simply love how the creative industry is always evolving and improving – those who think that cutting hair is just about taking a pair of scissors is oh so wrong…
In friendly cooperation with Aveda Germany.
Before I’ll be talking about Denim and Leather and all that fashion-stuff, let me share some thoughts with you.
Having traveled all around Australia and being more adventurous than ever, there is one thing I promised to myself that I will change about my old behavior back home. SEE. MORE. OF.EUROPE. I’ve met so many people from all over the world that told me how much they envy me living in Europe, cause it is so easy and relatively cheap to get around. From most cities it only takes you a maximum of 2h traveling to explore a completely different country with a unique culture. I never realized how precious Europe is with its many different people, histories and cultures. Having lived in the Netherlands, I can even say that Dutch people are dissimilar to Germans despite their geographic proximity. And I love this.
To be fair, Ive seen a bit of Europe already, but that was when I was younger, not consciously experiencing the new city I am in and basically just running behind my parents. And before Australia, I have not been traveling much, claiming I was too busy, although being a student is probably the time where you are most flexible in your life (apart from retirement obv.). I lived two and a half years in Maastricht and I did not even go to Amsterdam… well despite only once for Fashionweek but that doesn’t really count! Since it is only a 2,5h car drive from home, I took my two besties and we went for a spontaneaous trip to Amsterdam. We had a great time and I am happy that I can tick Amsterdam off my list now. Wanna know what else is on top of my list? Prague – Budapest – Rome – Barcelona – Istanbul … It continues, but those are definitely my priority at the moment J If you have any suggestions, let me know!
Enough life lessons. So, that day I was in Amsterdam, I wore the best material combination. Denim and Leather. And I’ve been wearing these two pieces quite often since I’m back home, because unfortunately I forgot to take them to Sydney .. now I kinda have to make up for all that time I wanted to wear them, but did not have them with me!!
here comes my second travel video from my time study abroad time in Australia. You can find my first one about my life in Sydney on my channel as well.
In this video you can see the following destinations: Cairnes, Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands and Fiji Islands. I hope you like the video and could get a little insight into these beautiful travel destinations.
When I chose Sydney for my semester abroad, I knew that living there was going to be extremely expensive. Australians are pretty much used to it, especially because they also earn higher salaries accordingly. However, as an international student, you know that you will end up super broke by the end of the semester. So, with weekly rents that added up to almost twice the rent I paid back in Maastricht and limited time to cook a cheap meal at home, it was clear that I had to cut costs on other things. Luckily, there are plenty of activities to do in Sydney that are for free. Most of them are outdoors, but with an annual average of 236 sunny days a year, one does not really have to worry about the weather anyway. Here are five low-budget things to do in Sydney, that will only cost you the transportation to get there.
1. Do the Bondi to Coogee Walk
Want to explore Sydney’s beaches? Well then the Coogee to Bondi walk is the right thing for you. It is a pretty easy route of about 5km that is also ideal for jogging or running. My recommendation – grab a nice and fresh Smoothie at Calipress Juice at Coogee and then start walking along the beautiful coastal line, passing by Coogee, Clovelly, Bronte, Tamarama and Bondi Beach. Beyond the lovely beaches and cliffs, you will also get to see cool surfers (or maybe try out surfing yourself!), the old Victorian Waverly Cemetery, the Bondi Ice Berg Pools and many other things. Furthermore, it offers plenty of opportunities for sports, like the outdoor gyms, surfing, kayaking, snorkling and other things.
2. Visit the Figure Eight Pools in the Royal National Park
Only 1,5 hours by train from central Sydney you can reach the Royal National Park. It covers an area of 15k hectare and is supposed to be the oldest purposed national park. Since it’s so huge, there are so many things to discover and sooo many hikes to do. However, what we were after were the famous Figure Eight Pools! Recently extremely trending on Instagram, getting there is not too easy. Once you are there though, the view is simply amazing – one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. You need to be careful, however, and check the tides before you go there. You will only be able to see the pools during low tides. Once the tides are starting to get higher, make sure to quickly get away, since the strong waves will hit the rocks and seriously injure you.
3. Walk over the Harbour Bridge
You could pay over $300 to climb over the Harbour Bridge … or you can simply walk over it for free. You will get an amazing view and see the Opera house and the Sydney Skyline from a unique angle. My recommendation is to do it around sunset time and in that way enjoy the beautiful lights and colors in the sky reflecting on the city.
4. Feed Kangaroos at Morisset Park
The kangaroo picture is basically obligatory when going to Australia! So, instead of paying to get to the Zoo and see kangaroos through a window, you can simply take the train to Morisset and experience these cute animals in their natural habitat. Make sure to buy some bananas before you go, so you can feed them! Furthermore, I can assure you that they are super tame and you can pet them without being scared – no they will not box you. Just be nice to them, and they will be as cute as they look to you!
5. Go Hiking in the Blue Mountains
Another low-budget must-do in Sydney is going to the Blue Mountains! You can either go there for a day trip, or even spend a couple days there camping. Do not ask me why, but for some scientific reason, this mountainous area takes on a blue-greyish color when viewed from distance. The hikes there range from easy to extremely difficult and exhausting, so make sure to check the routes first before you start your hike. The Leura Cascades is one of the highlights which you should definitely check out as well, and fortunately getting there does not take a too hard walk!
I spent 5 amazing months in Australia and filmed my experiences with my GoPro. This is the first video about my time in Sydney. Videos about my travels across Australia, Singapore, Fiji, and Tasmania will follow! :)
I have not posted about my semester abroad in Sydney at all during my whole stay. I usually would apologize for being such a lazy blogger but to be honest, I think its legitimate if I say that I just did not want to waste any time sitting at the laptop writing posts when there was so much to explore outside. But now that my adventure has come to an end and I am leaving back home tomorrow, I feel like I need to write down some thoughts while they are still fresh.
There will be 2-3 more detailed posts about my semester abroad and everything I have done here and of course at least one video! Since I will have one month at home filled with doing literally nothing, this is for sure not an empty promise.
So, how does it feel leaving this place, which used to mean nothing to me and now is filled with plenty of memories?
Well, it’s is so difficult to describe it, that I will just have to go with… It’s weird! But let me tell you something that might help you understand. I spent the last couple of days in Sydney the same way I spent my first days here – just walking through the city with no plan where I’m going. However, this time it was different, it was more conscious. During my first strolls through the city I was impressed by the main sights; the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and all the touristic must-sees. Excitement was huge and the story was yet to be written. During my last ones, I paid attention to way more details of my surroundings. Sydney is more than just the major attractions – its beauty is reflected in many more aspects. It might just be that one building at the corner of the street, or the cute coffee place located where nobody would expect it, or that flower booth in the center of the business district, or that amazing musician in the inner city, or…, or… But apart from all these things that create this lovely atmosphere, it is the memories that make Sydney so unique and special to me. The activities I’ve done, the people I met, the moments I will never forget. Walking through the streets, random memories kept popping up in my head. Memories that made me realize how quickly time passed, while at the same time realizing how much I became part of the city and that I am not a tourist anymore.
Home. Home is where the heart is they say – and as much as I love Sydney, my heart is where my family and friends are. I am happy to say that I have made most of my time here and that I have not wasted a single minute. It is time to go home and yea, I am ready to leave. But I know, I will return one day.