Finding the ‘real’ Tibet

Of all the views of our journey, the Tibetan Plateau was the one to transfixed me. For the first time, I felt myself truly and totally riding the journey. I never tired of looking out the window at the seemingly endless green plain and huge blue above. My thoughts remained present in the landscape, thinking only in wonder of the naturally treeless land rolling by like an ocean and contemplating the life that might be happening inside the intermittent white tents…

The Tibetan Platue: Endless grass and boundless sky.

The Tibetan Plateau: Endless grass and boundless sky.

We (now joined by Jarmo, perhaps the first Polish-Sichuan chef ever!) were hitch-hiking through the accessible regions of Amdo Tibet. This is not to be mistaken with the Tibetan Province – closed to foreigners unless you’ve the budget to fork out big for a guide who’s guaranteed to make sure you don’t see too much! There are, in fact, places where Tibetan culture exists that have no access restrictions and nomadic life may even be better persevered than within the Tibetan Province. Inspired by this blog, we chose to take a route between Chengdu to Xining to learn something for ourselves about this ancient civilisation. Continue Reading →

We made it: Australia to Poland NO FLIGHTS!

Today we are writing to you from POLAND!!!!!!!!! We have made it the whole 25,000km from Wendy’s Melbourne, Australia, to where we sit now in lounge room of Jurek’s mother in Katowice, Poland, without taking a single flight! Around 15,000km of the way, we hitch-hiked. Project Drop the tension was cooked up while hitch-hiking east coast Australia – why don’t we keep going to Poland? we thought. We wanted to travel to get ideas and inspiration from different cultures for ways to live our own lives and decided that might be interesting for other people too. Wanting to travel consciously, our idea was broadly to explore cultures of sharing along our flight-less way: to meet people from a range of diverse backgrounds taking local action for more a human-friendly world. 1 year, 2 months and 10 days later, we’ve made it! We have officially completed our conscious overland journey crossing halfway round the globe, visiting 15 different nations. WOW!

We made it to PL!

We made it to PL!

It’s surreal for us to be here and have our clothes folded away in drawers (!); we imagine it will take some time to adjust back into living life in one place. No doubt we will have many more ideas, reflections and perhaps conclusions to share with you in the coming weeks and months as we fully churn all the experiences that have gotten us to where we are now. But for now, we wanted to mark the achievement by looking at some of the huge contrasts we’ve had along our way:
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Trolley bus: outsider in Belarus

Minsk. “How is Belarus different from Australia?” they asked me at the weekly couchsurfing meet up. There were 40 or so people at the event. 5 were foreigners. I feel like a celebrity. They want me to tell them about the rest of the world. What is it like out there? They want to know about my work history. My salary. Our retirement age. My opinion on the refugee crisis. “How is Belarus different from Australia?” Can I think of one way in which they are the same?

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Saint Petersburg pay-as-you-feel: Addis Coffee

“My name is Marina,” laughs the girl in dungarees, standing behind a table covered with small jars containing spices. She switches back to Russian. “My friends and I were experimenting at home with different methods of making coffee and then we decided we needed more guests!”

Marina is a founding member of the collective behind Addis Coffee, a Saint Petersburg coffee workshop running on a pay-as-you-feel donation system. The workshop is ‘underground’ St Pete literally, being located in a series of rooms that were once a bomb shelter. Marina and the team have renovated the space, so it now feels very homely with blanket covered couches, board games and a guitar they welcome musical guests to use.


Marina at the Arabic Coffee station.

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Real food Russia

Roadside stall

Roadside stall, a common sight on Russian highways

Russian language does not have the word “organic”. Or, it technically does, but no-one uses it. Rather they use the word “artificial” when speaking about food produced with the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or GMO crops. And in Russia, even for those living in the cities, it is very possible to choose to consume non-artificial foods. Natural food is abundant in Russia, and we’re meeting all sorts of people who understand and value the importance of such food.

“The food has soul, spirit to it.” Says Nastya, a Ukrainian now living in Moscow. “When I go into a supermarket, the food is apathetic. I have no appetite for it. I grew up going to markets in the West Ukraine where you buy eggs off one lady and cheese from another. And I choose this one because I like her hands. Here, there is a direct transaction of the food, from one hand to the next. Continue Reading →

25 photos to make you re-think China

China is often shrouded in stigmas and stereotypes. From the outside heading in, I had an idea of what I expected to see. However, we found China to be a massive and multifaceted place, full of surprises. Here, we’ve selected some images that might help shift your thinking or broaden your perspective of China 2015.

Highway, Yunan Province: The roads in China are a breath taking work of engineering. Entering from Laos, where the road is so muddy our bus was often going up hills sideways to avoid bogging, the contrast was stark. In China, mountains and valleys are no obstical, the road continues straight, tunnelling through the mountains and bridging over valleys, for kilometers, if that's what it takes. The roadside reading "Descent for next 54km" is probably not in existence anywhere else in the world. They have special emergency breaking areas for trucks when breakpads get too hot on the constantly angled declines.

1. Highway, Yunnan Province: The roads in China are breathtaking works of engineering. Entering from Laos, where the road is so muddy our bus was often going up hills sideways to avoid bogging, the contrast was stark. In China, mountains and valleys are no obstacles: the road continues straight, tunnelling through the mountains and bridging over valleys, for kilometers, if that’s what it takes. The roadside reading “Continuous downgrade for next 54km” is probably not in existence anywhere else in the world. They have special emergency breaking areas for trucks when breakpads get too hot on the constantly angled declines.

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Russia: first impressions

While tales from China and Mongolia are under construction (we’ve upped our travel pace in the last month!), I’m breaking our usual chronological series to pass on the spirit of our current surroundings. I couldn’t wait to tell you about our first experiences in Russia. We have just entered the country from Western Mongolia into the Altai Republic in southern Siberia.

A few facts about Russia that made me a little anxious about coming here: it went through the biggest organised genocide in human history; it hosts some of the most polluted places on the planet (and it has sucked dry an entire sea!); it was involved in starting a war in Europe in 2014; its TV cites sersious spokesmen saying gay culture was invented by the West to control population growth; temperatures of -40ºC are annual here. The country’s currency fell so dramatically this year, almost overnight, that Russians living in Thailand started making jokes about renting out their places in Thailand to holiday in Moscow (the Ruble is in rubbles). In Russian language there are words expressing such grim misery that they don’t translate to English. I was apprehensive about what we would find in this country and how we might be received, as representatives of ‘The West’.

Yet… It’s just amazing here! Turns out there was nothing to fear. In fact, quite the opposite. We’ve been blown away by Russia! And the beauty of the Altai Mountains, known by some as the most beautiful place on Earth, falls second to the generosity and hospitality of the people of Russia.

The road we entered Russia on

Entering Russia from Mongolia, the landscape doesn’t really change. But an hour down the road a whole new world awaits!

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Mindful Farm

Tucked in a valley of the densely jungled mountains, north-westward of Chiang Mai, there lives a man providing for his wife and daughter in the only way he can: farming. His practices are organic and natural, the only he’s ever known. The gates are open for anyone the world round to come and spend time, contribute to the running of the farm, learn something about growing food and take part in evening meditation. The Mindful Farm is a practice of living together.

Looking out over the garden view

Welcome to the Mindful Farm! Looking out over the garden view

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Lombok Backpackers

Thanks to our friends in Adventurous Sumbawa, we connected with another wonderful group on the neighbouring island of Lombok. Lombok Backpackers are a group of locals passionate about the natural beauty of their island home (click the link to their facebook). In the provincial capital Mataram they have their ‘Base Camp’. Base Camp is a open-house set up for travellers to stay as long as they need for free. There are just a few basic rule: no drugs or alcohol in the house, clean your room when you leave and help keep communal spaces clean. In the evenings, the travellers and locals gather in the outdoor area to swap their adventure stories of the day, share food and make music.

We asked the owner of the house, what made him want to create this place? He replied “I’ve always loved trekking and snorkelling and having my friends around. So I thought to make a place where this can all come together.”

Music and maps, Lombok Base Camp

Music and maps: Lombok Base Camp

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Adventurous Sumbawa

Panti Putih on a small island near Sape, Sumbawa's eastern gateway.

Pantai Putih on a Pulau Bajo (Sea Gypsy Island) near Sape, Sumbawa’s eastern gateway.

Sumbawa is the mysterious island between Flores and Lombok. Mysterious because it was very difficult for us to find any information about the place! The Lonely Planet made it sound like it was better to skip over and our usual go-to online sites, TravelFish and WikiVoyage, were also drawing blanks… Naturally, this made us even more determined to go to Sumbawa and find out for ourselves. Continue Reading →