Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Korčula, the last three days: Butch Gastronomy and the Pupnat Kid

Korčula, Croatia (Korčula, Hrvatska)
Our remaining three days on the island of Korčula were mainly spent lounging at the beach and feasting at konobas (small family-run eateries). One beach we visited, called Orlandusa, we almost had to ourselves apart from some nude and semi-nude bathers. 
We stayed an extra night at the Zavalatica apartment, as it provided a good base to explore the island, and the harbour looked like this! Stunning. One morning we sat by the water's edge and dipped our feet in under the warm sun. Yannick explains: "Necia beached herself on the pier by the water's edge and didn't move for an hour. Looked like there'd been a murder over there." Couldn't have said it better myself. 
We ate lunch two days in a row at Konoba Mate in the village of Pupnat, which had two charming churches. Any time I referenced the konoba, I did so in an Australian accent because although 'mate' in Croatian is pronounced mah-tay, I couldn't help but put an Aussie twist on it. Put a goat on the barbie, mate! 
And we did eat goat. Kid, to be exact. It was a speciality at the konoba and you had to reserve it one day before. We hadn't known this and tried to order it on the first day, but had to make do with other traditional foods: commencing with an antipasto platter of cured meats, pâtés and cheeses, we then tucked in to ravioli stuffed with homemade goats cheese in a butter sauce and handrolled makaruni pasta in a tomato sauce. It was all delightful, and we decided we had to try the kid. Rocking up the following day with a reservation we were very excited to eat goat for the first time, but found it to be very similar to lamb, and quite bony. It was tasty, but we actually preferred the pasta dishes. 
Our final night was spent at an apartment in Lumbarda, with beautiful views of the town and harbour below. We chatted with the apartment owner who was very friendly and recommended a few nearby beaches. As we had heard that olive oil produced on the island was a specialty and sought-after, we asked where we could find some. He regrettably told us that last year's harvest had not been a good one, and any Korčula olive oil in the shops wouldn't be up to standard. 
A little disheartened by this news, we set about making dinner and discovered at the bottom of one of the casserole dishes "Made in Yugoslavia". I guess they don't make them like they used to! 
By this point we had developed a taste for an aperitif of chips, cheese and Dalmatian ham sprinkled with olive oil. We ate out on our terrace with grape vines growing around us, swaddled in sleeping bags, and as we are the classiest of people we whipped out our portable stove and toasted marshmallows to add to dessert crêpes (there was also both chocolate and caramel sauce - can't have marshmallows on their own). 
That evening we heard music drift up from the town and walked in to investigate. Just as we arrived at the scene (a bar on the waterfront), the catchy brass band ceased to make way for rather a lot of talking followed by children dressed in traditional garb dancing to unappealing violin "music". We hung around for a while and enjoyed the lights reflecting on the water, but eventually couldn't take it any longer and returned to our apartment. Very shortly after settling back down on the terrace, the brass band took up a tune again. Our timing is immaculate!
In the morning we decide to take a look at the Lumbarda waterfront in daylight hours. But as we opened the front door we noticed a note and a gift bag. The apartment owner had left us three little bottles of his own homemade olive oil from the 2013 harvest! It was so nice. He didn't have to do that. We wrote him a long note back about how generous he was and left a Toblerone as that's all we could give as thanks. 
In the town there were sailboats and a pleasant coastal walk which we strolled along for a time. 
But most of that time was actually spent trying to get close enough to a lizard to snap a photo. There were so many! And they are so fast! 
One thing I have to say about Croatia is that it is often a difficult mission to find any new restaurants or apartments as the streets aren't really named most of the time, meaning that the Google Maps for Lumbarda looks like this:
How are you supposed to find anything?! Enlighten me. We would just resort to asking someone at any bar or café we could find and to be fair, it always worked. Croatian postal workers must undergo some insane training in order to do their job and not get lost. 
We lunched at Konoba Meslina, where we were given a big bowl of fried bread things described as "like bread, but better" that were amazing (and free of charge). Fabienne was tossing up between two dishes, and was urged by the waiter/owner to try the traditional meat stew as he argued you could get chicken anywhere in the world. But not chicken like Croatian chicken! I had eaten too many of the bread things to finish my meal, but that chicken is so damn good. I asked him if it was a secret recipe or if he could spill the beans, and he said that the only fact he could divulge is that he adds butter to it at the end of cooking. So tender. So scrumptuous. He also gave us three shots of liquor: limoncello, a cherry sherry, and his homemade grappa (these were also free). 
Before the ferry ride out, we tried to find special Korčula biscuits and wine, but all the shops were closed. Fabienne and I spent the ferry ride lamenting that we were leaving and cooing at how nice the water was. 
Back in Orebić, we went to the beach. It was the best day ever. 

Today's post was almost called: Olive You, Korčula (I'm Beached As, Mate)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Korčula, day one: Hello Paradise My Old Friend

Crossing the Bosnia-Herzegovina border back into Croatia was like coming home. There were so many things to love! The roads were well maintained, the scenery was killer and we could see the coastline again (we knew in our hearts that the water would be crystal clear even if we couldn't see it in the dimming light). I may have had a small breakdown due to how nice Croatia is, and there may have been one tear shed. 
As a welcome back present, we were treated to this gorgeous sunset on the way to Orebić along the Pelješac peninsula - pink and orange all the way across the sky!
We slumbered in a cozy apartment and took the ferry across to the island of Korčula the next day. 

Korčula town, Croatia (Korčula, Hrvatska)
The Orebić-Korčula ferry crossing takes only fifteen minutes, so I didn't have time for my customary boat nap. Instead I gazed down at the blue water and the seafloor beyond. I knew it! Clear water! It's so beautiful...sob.
While the centre of Korčula town itself was scarce on parking, we drove around to the hill behind where there was parking in abundance along the side of the road, and it was even shaded by trees.  
Taking a leisurely stroll down a residential path to the town, we spotted a little white cat hanging out by an abandoned building. 
Entering the stari grad, we were initially struck by how touristy Korčula was, but then we found that it was the coastal road and the area between the entrance gate and the cathedral that were frequented, while any street not on the direct tourist route was quiet and pleasant. 
From a plaque down this street I learned that Marko Andrijic, a celebrated Croat architect and sculptor, was elected by the townspeople to be head architect in designing all the public buildings of the town in 1485. Fun fact: that was quite a long time ago. 
One of the remaining guard towers had been converted into a bar where the Massimo staff members winch your drink up to you on the roof. It may have been too early for a drink, as when we arrived the barkeep said we could just go up and have a look around. There was nobody there, and while it would have been nice to sip at a wine while admiring the view, it was also great that we were allowed up without having to pay. As could be expected, the water was blue and clear as glass when you looked down from the top. Snorkelling, anyone? Best to do that before the cocktail methinks. 
An odd belief that Korčulans seem to hold is that Marco Polo was born on their island and not in Venice as the rest of the world thinks. Their theory is mainly based on the fact that Korčula was part of the Venetian Empire during Polo's time and that his father was a merchant from Dalmatia (upon moving to Venice he changed his surname from Pilic to the Italianicised Polo - both meaning 'chicken'). Apparently because it's not confirmed where the famous explorer was born, it could be Korčula, and this is the basis of the myth. Croatians have backed it so much that one of the former presidents opened a new Marco Polo museum in China, leaving Italians outraged. You can't help but laugh at all the hotels and shops named after him. 
Ahungered from all our wandering, we went driving in search of a picnic spot. Traversing craggy hills, we popped out by the coast where the sea looked freakishly blue. I'm serious, it looked unnatural. Yannick said that someone had been messing with the saturation settings in Photoshop, and that is exactly what it appeared had happened! If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I never would have fallen for it. I might have had another mini-breakdown. It was too good to be true! We eventually found ourselves at Vaja Beach down a gravel track where the stones were white as snow. A nearby Englishman kept telling anyone who would listen about the UV rays that bounce off the stones as a hint to apply more sunscreen than usual, and that he didn't normally wear aqua shoes but where sea urchins are rife it's a good idea. We enjoyed the beach thoroughly through swimming, sunbathing, and JUST LOOK AT IT WILL YOU? JUST LOOK AT IT. I want to learn Croatian so I can live there. We saw lots of little fish in the water, and even some strange ones that looked like teensy swordfish. Two negatives we encountered were that we were attacked by mosquitos on our visit, which I've never experienced on a beach before, and sadly there was a huge pile of rubbish heaped up beside the cliff. 
As the afternoon turned into evening we left to find our apartment in a village called Zavalatica. We not only had two terraces, but also a gas stove which we roasted marshmallows upon and combined with Domaćica biscuits to form pseudo s'mores. 
The wifi didnt work properly, but do you need it if you have s'mores and this view? It's like a damn fairytale! It was the best day ever. 

Today's post was almost called: Waiter, Winch Me Up a Cocktail - I'm on Top of the World!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

How to Travel Cheaply: Accommodation tips

As part of my series on travelling on a budget, today I bring you my top tips on accommodation:

Camping
My first segment is on camping because in most countries campsites are cheaper than other forms of accommodation and you get to be one with nature. In bustling coastal regions, campsites are often abundant! Camping is almost always my first choice. Sure, you're cooped up under a bit of plastic when you sleep, but sitting outside enjoying the fresh air more than makes up for it. You can read, cook a meal, write a blog, and chat about what you did that day on a patch of grass under the wide open sky. 
What's not to love? Well, there are a few things: 
- You'll need to cart around your tent, sleeping bags, and other camping essentials. This can make for a heavy backpack, so camping is much easier when you have your own method of transportation in which you can store these items. 
- You're one with nature. This is a positive and also a negative, as waking up next to a forest or river is awesome, but you'll have to cope with heavy winds, rain and extreme temperatures much more than when you're indoors. 
- In some countries it can be difficult to find campsites, so you'll need to do your research beforehand. When I road tripped through Spain in 2013, I didn't expect that there would be fewer campsites than in France and on my first couple of nights I ended up staying at hotels because of this. Looking up campsites online before you go to an area is essential. 
- It might not be as cheap as you think. In peak tourist season or in highly sought-after destinations, some campsites can get away with charging ridiculous amounts of money for a tent pitch. In Corsica we paid €35 for two people for one night's stay. You could pay the same amount for a decent hotel in Greece. That being said, the camping was much cheaper than staying in a Corsican hotel or hostel, but be prepared to fork out extra in certain locations. 
Take these cons into consideration, but also think of the abundance of positives with camping. This is also a great option if you want to travel with your dog, as there are campsites that allow animals. Imagine trying to find a hotel that does that!

Staying with Friends or Relatives
If you have friends or family who live where you're travelling to, hit them up and ask if you can stay for a bit. Not only do you get to stay indoors for free, you get to visit your pals!

Couchsurfing
A great alternative to camping is couchsurfing, where you can sleep on the couch (or floor or private room depending on the place) of a stranger for free. Sound scary? Not really as there's a website, couchsurfing.com, where both the couchsurfer and host gain reviews based on previous experiences. I've only hosted couchsurfers and never couchsurfed myself, but I plan to in places such as Germany where couchsurfing is popular and the accommodation can be expensive. I've hosted three groups of people, and they were all lovely. Though it is free, they all left little gifts when they left such as a bottle of wine or chocolates. If hosts get the time, they may go out with couchsurfers to show them a bit of the place they live in, so this is a great way to meet locals and see the city through their eyes. It allows you to meet people from all over the world and share experiences. You may find yourself trying to set bananas and rum alight for a slapdash dessert!

If you intend to couchsurf, I would recommend hosting beforehand so that you can accumulate a few reviews - that way hosts will know you're not a murderer. 
It must be said that one major drawback, at least for me, is that you are around people pretty much all the time unless you're lucky enough to stay in a place with your own room (and even then it can be a bit rude to just go off by yourself instead of socialising with your host). As an introvert, it can be very tiring to not have time to myself, so for me couchsurfing would not be a viable long-term accommodation solution. 

Housesitting
Another (almost) free option is house sitting, where a home owner will go away and need someone to look after their house while they're gone. In most cases, they have pets and that's what the majority of house sitting is all about. There are different levels of responsibility, and in some cases you may need to help with gardening or house maintenance, look after elderly animals that need medication, or simply provide company and food for their pets. But it's not always cats and dogs - I've seen listings with horses, chickens and even goats! All websites that are devoted to bringing home owners and housesitters together charge a fee, and the most popular website is trustedhousesitters.com where it currently costs €83.88 for a one year membership or €47.97 for a three month membership. 
As I write this, I am my first house sitting assignment in France, and all is going well! The UK is definitely one of the top countries that home owners are posting listings from, but there are ones from all over the world including the U.S., Mexico, Finland, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. If you like spending time with animals, I'd reccomend giving it a go. After all, it's mutually beneficial for you and the home/pet owners. 

Hotels
In order to maintain a frugal travelling life, I usually avoid hotels. Yet in places where they are as cheap or cheaper than camping, I go for it. Why not?! In Southeast Asia, I could have stayed in hostels but some hotels were only a little more expensive and I travelled in luxury! Of course, many frugal travellers choose hostels - it's up to you and your budget. I use booking.com when making reservations at hotels.
Something that I simply must mention is the availability of apartments in Croatia and Montenegro. Apartments are self-contained units that include a bedroom, bathroom, living area and kitchen. As Croatia is a popular camping destination (for naturists especially), the prices are high, yet it's easy to find an apartment for around the same price as camping. We even found apartments that were cheaper than the camping options and ended up sticking with apartments all through Croatia and Montenegro. That truly was luxury travelling, as you had all the comforts of home while on the road. I also booked these through booking.com, but there are countless more that aren't on the website. If you're so inclined, you could just ask at various apartments what the price is and decide for yourself - in the evenings, apartment owners take to the streets to promote their accommodation using handmade signs reading "rooms" in several different languages. 

AirBnB
Like a cross between a hotel and couchsurfing, AirBnB allows normal people to list their spare sleeping space online - and the guest pays an amount decided by the host. Whenever camping isn't available in a location, I check AirBnB as often there are cheaper options than at a hotel. But be aware that you'll need to reserve the room at least a couple of days in advance - it's not like booking.com were you can book half an hour before turning up to the hotel. AirBnB is similar to couchsurfing in that you get to stay with a local who can give you information on the surrounding area and if you're lucky they may even show you around. At an AirBnB we stayed at recently, our lovely host drove us to a wine bar, bought us a drink each, showed us around the town a little, and took us to the supermarket so we could purchase some items for dinner. 

Hostels
I'll be perfectly frank: I do not like hostels and stay in them only when necessary. However, they are a cheap option that many travellers utilise. Depending on the hostel, you can get a bunk in a large dorm room, a bunk in a female-only dorm if you're of the feminine persuasion, or even a private room. You can learn more about staying in hostels by clicking here for an article by Nomadic Matt

Thanks for reading. Hopefully you found this information useful. What did I miss? Share your yogurts in the comments below!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

How to Travel Cheaply: Transport tips

I recently posted on how to save money in the lead up to travelling, and today I bring you a follow up: how to travel on a budget. Instead of travelling for two weeks in fancy hotels and eating out every night in Michelin star restaurants, I want to be able to travel for as long as possible. This means cutting back in many areas including accomodation, transport, and food. Let's start with transport

Airplanes
Depending on where you'll be travelling, flying may be necessary and may be one of the largest expenses you have for the trip. I'm no expert, but my layman's advice is to:
1. Book well in advance. As soon as you have tentative dates for your travel, start looking at booking airfares. DO NOT leave your flights til the last minute looking for last-chance deals. This is stressful and in the end you will likely pay more anyway. 
2. Shop around online. There will be various deals that airlines provide, some of which save you a ton of money. You can sign up to mailing lists to receive deals straight to your inbox (Ryanair provides cheap inter-European flights and they send emails frequently). 
3. If you have a complicated itinerary, enlist the help of a travel agent. I thought that travel agents were old fashioned and unnecessary as I know how to use a computer. Not so! On our latest trip, we planned to go through Australia and Southeast Asia on the way to Europe, and it turned out that it was actually cheaper to book through an agent than do it ourselves online. We gathered quotes from over ten travel agents around the country to compare prices, and STA Travel provided the best deals. They organised all the flights for us (we chose to book the accommodation ourselves), and it took the worry out of so many connections. Again, you need to shop around as prices can fluctuate dramatically between travel agents: the most expensive quote was for double the price we ended up paying!

Cars
Roadtripping in a car is by far my favourite way to travel, as it allows freedom not only in terms of destinations but also schedule - you can go anywhere, any time you like! The cheapest way to travel by car is to buy a car secondhand and then sell it again once you've finished your trip. This can be complicated due to the processes you need to go through to purchase the car, register it, and apply for insurance, and these can vary drastically depending on which country you intend to do this in. I recommend doing in-depth online research and asking friends who live in the country if they know the process. If you can drive away from your own country (not possible in New Zealand), it will likely be much easier than trying to do it once abroad. 
An easier way to do this in Europe is the Peugeot EuroLease scheme, in which you technically buy the car from Peugeot and sell it back at the end, but they do all the work and it's pretty much just like renting a (brand new!) car for a fraction of what you would pay normally for a car rental service. (I will be writing a full blog post on exactly how we used Peugeot EuroLease for our Europe road trips soon.)
When filling up the car with petrol, shop around. Don't wait until you're in the red to fill up, as many times you'll be paying much more than necessary. I've found that in Europe and New Zealand, supermarket petrol stations are generally cheaper than popular brands. NEVER fill up on the motorway: petrol stations can get away with charging extortionate prices. Instead, drive off the motorway into a town or the outskirts of a city where prices will be lower. 

Trains
Trains can be much cheaper than airfares and car costs, but they generally take much longer depending on where you are going. However, once you've started your trip and need to get within countries or continents, trains are a good choice. Passes are great value if you're going to be travelling enough to make benefit of it. Again, I'm no expert as I prefer car travel, but Nomadic Matt has a great article explaining it all here if you're considering utilising rail.

Ferries
As with any other transport, book well in advance for ferry crossings where you can, particularly in high season. With small ports, it may be okay to rock up half an hour before and buy your ticket, but it's always best to be prepared for the worst case scenario. In some areas there will be only one ferry service, but for busy crossings you will have multiple companies to choose from. Directferries.com  allows you to compare prices between companies, and is the website I use when booking ferry tickets. 
When you book, never pay for a seat or room unless you are desperate. These added features are ridiculously expensive and often there will be seats for you to use anyway (but be prepared to sit or sleep on the floor if they are unavailable). 

Bicycles
Full disclosure here - I can't ride a bike. I never learnt. But I've heard great things! Certainly one of the cheapest ways to slash transport costs is to cycle. Your expenses will be the initial purchase and any subsequent repairs, but apart from that it's free! There are of course limitations, such as storage space, a lack of shelter from the elements and the need for decent leg muscles so consider this when you plan how you'll travel. 

Hitchhiking
I've never done it myself, but hitchhiking is an option when considering cheap travel. An informative article on hitchhiking can be found here if you're interested in exploring this possibility further. 

Tours
Though I have a tendency to flinch when I think of going on a tour, sometimes it's unavoidable ("I promise I won't get lost in that complex of caves") or simply easier than doing it yourself. For instance, in Vietnam we booked a taxi to the train station in Hanoi where we caught an overnight train to Cai Rong. From there we took a van to Sapa and then did the reverse three days later. However, when we were looking into visiting Bai Tu Long Bay (Ha Long's little sister), we found that it would be difficult to find our way without speaking Vietnamese. So we booked a tour through  Ethnic Travel, who allowed us a certain level of flexibility and freedom. It was still a tour - shudder - but we mainly utilised the tour company for the transport side of things, and it worked out to be a helluva lot easier than booking all the components ourselves. We even got to kayak, which was great fun. We'd never be able to do that normally as one of us would have to sit out to watch the valuables. 

Inner-city Transportation
When getting around within a city, my strongest recommendation for transport is your feet. Walk around, get to know a place really well. If you're going too far to walk, or you need to get there quickly, you can probably take a metro, bus or tram depending on the city. In some parts of the world you may need to take a taxi or tuk tuk, and it's best to ask staff at your accommodation (or other trustworthy locals) what prices you should be paying for a ride. I'd stay away from tourist trains or sightseeing busses as they are just awful, but free walking tours are an option as well as bike rentals. Segway tours seem to be on the rise... I prefer walking thank you. Gimmicky transport such as horse drawn carts or gondolas are often very pricey, but if you're really keen on one then share the ride with as many people as you can to bring the cost-per-person down. 

Thanks for reading. Hopefully you found this information useful. What did I miss? Share your yogurts in the comments below!

Friday, 23 October 2015

How to Save Money for Travel: 10 tips for budgeting and cutting down on expenses

When you first start to plan your trip, everything is exciting! Then you realise that you have no money. The good news is that saving for travel is actually easy, you just need to really know where your money is going and reduce expenses where possible. Let me tell you how.

1. Record your Expenses
The first step to be able to cut out expenses is to record where you are actually spending your money. It can be quite an eye-opener: I realised I was spending $10-15NZD per day on buying my lunch rather than bringing it from home. You'd think I would have known that before laying it out on a spreadsheet, but I didn't realise just how much it added up to per week (up to $75!). Your online banking may allow you to export your expenses in spreadsheet form - this is a great way to get started as you can already see your expenses breakdown from the past year. 
I take the time every evening to write down my expenses manually, as sometimes I pay for items with cash and it allows me to see if I stayed on budget each day. 

2. Categorise Expenses 
By putting your expenses into categories, you can easily work out how much money you are spending on food/accomodation etc per month and from there can work out how much you can cut down by. The main categories I use are accommodation (usually only rent), bills, transportation, communication (mobile phone, Skype top ups), groceries, medical and pharmacy, and other food/drink (that was not bought at a supermarket, eg. meals out, coffee to go etc).

3. Cut Back a Little More Each Week
This is where it starts to get difficult, but you can probably already see a few expenses that you don't need. Most people find that not buying as many takeaway coffees can make a big dent in their ongoing expenses - if you spend $3.5 per day, that's a saving of nearly $100 per month if you stop buying them entirely. Also reducing your budget for clothes and shoes can have a dramatic effect on savings. My advice is to scale back what you're currently spending in each category by $10 per week and see how low you can go. 
A few tips for small savings that will add up are:
- Buy a cheaper version of supermarket products (a budget brand of pasta rather than the Italian brand).
- Make repairs and alterations to your clothes instead of buying new ones.
- Walk or cycle as much as possible instead of catching the bus.
- Upsize your meal: instead of a 6" Subway sandwich, get a foot long and save the rest for later. That way you get two meals for only a couple of dollars more than the small size.
- Bring snacks from home rather than buying them on the fly. That $1 chocolate bar may seem cheap, but it adds up. 
- If your town has a farmers market, load up on your fruits and veges from there. It's often a lot cheaper than the supermarket (but do be prudent as some items are actually pricier than at the store). 
- Refill your water bottle from the tap rather than buying a new bottle. 
- Buy in bulk wherever you can. If you eat a lot of rice, buy a large bag rather than a small bag - it costs more initially but in the long run saves you money. 
- If your computer/phone does something weird, ask your friends if they know someone tech savvy before taking it to a repair shop. Often a friend of a friend will be happy to take a look for free. 
- Save money on your electricity bill by using hot water bottles and extra blankets in the colder months. Heating the house can get expensive, but heating up the electric jug isn't. 
- Borrow movies from friends rather than going to the cinema. 
- Buy hair cutting scissors from the pharmacy and cut your own hair. It saves a lot of money, especially for girls. You can find video tutorials on YouTube on how to do it. 

4. Drink Less Alcohol, Smoke Fewer Cigarettes
Alcohol is expensive, especially when bought at bars. Cut back as much as you can, and whenever possible buy your alcohol from the supermarket to keep your wallet happy. The same goes for smokes. This tip will also benefit your health. 

5. You Don't Need New Clothes
In the year-long lead up to my 2015 roadtrip, I went clothes shopping only twice: the first time for a few cheap tops that I needed for work and the second for a pair of winter boots as my previous ones were literally falling apart. Sure, it's fun to have new clothes. But you don't need them until you really need them. The same goes for bags - I saw a cute cream and pink bag in the store for only $40 but the bag I had still worked. It didn't look the best, but it was a fully functioning bag and I let go of the thought of purchasing a new one that I didn't need. If you can, repair clothes and shoes where possible to get more life out of them, even if this includes duct tape! Second hand stores are great places to go for cheap clothes that are new to you. 

6. Learn to Cook and Eat Out Less
When I saw that my lunch expenses were really adding up, I looked into finding recipes for quick and healthy meals. Everyone has their own tastes so I recommend going online and finding ones that you enjoy. Then cook twice the amount for dinner and bring the leftovers for lunch. You can even cook all your meals in advance on the weekend and store/freeze them for the coming week. This not only saves a lot of money, it is also a way to eat healthier. When I don't feel like cooking, I still prepare my own meals. I do this in two ways:
- Mixing a tin of chopped tomatoes with a tin of red kidney beans or lentils and heating it up on the stove. You can also add frozen spinach to make it even healthier. 
- Heating up mixed frozen vegetables as an accompaniment to a tin of beans or tuna. It might not be exciting but it is easy, cheap and good for you. 

7. Don't Live a Life You Hate
These tips are to help you save for travel, but in the lead up to your superawesome trip, you still have to have some fun. If you really love to have a few drinks at a club with your friends every Friday night or need some retail therapy, then plan accordingly and reduce your other expenses to compensate. For instance, I do not buy the cheapest toilet paper, instead opting for the soft Kleenex brand as that is something I appreciate. Another is that I love to have a dinner out on occasion, so I plan ahead and reduce other expenses. We all need our creature comforts, and these are unique to every person so use your discretion. 

8. Don't Be Discouraged
There will be days when you go out and buy that thing you wanted. You might not even think twice about it, and then feel guilty later. I'm here to tell you that this is normal and if you persevere you can easily get back on track. The most important things are to keep recording your expenses, keep trying to minimise them, and keep making adjustments to your budget. 

9. Ask for a Raise
If you feel that you are putting in more work than your wage reflects, go out and ask for a raise. During my last job I got two raises, and both were because I asked for them. 

10. Make Money Elsewhere
Selling your old clothes or books is an easy way to do this, but you can also turn a crafty hobby into an Etsy store if you are so inclined, or just sell to friends. If you like to make greeting cards or beaded bracelets, someone probably wants to buy them and will if you spread the word. If you can play an instrument, go forth and busk!

Do you have tips to add? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Mostar, part two: the City Beneath the Bullet Holes

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mostar, Bosna i Hercegovina)
In the morning we began a leisurely start to the day, but grew concerned when our texts and calls to Teo remained unanswered by the check out time of noon, and we had not yet paid. Eventually he rocked up and exclaimed "I forgot about you guys!" Despite his forgetfulness, I'm very glad to have met Teo and been given a tour of his city. 
Our first stop on our own tour was the old town, where the iconic bridge Stari Most dominates most outside perceptions of the city. 
Young local men frequently dive from the top of the bridge into the freezing 5m deep water below. Upon surfacing, they expect some moolah from tourists. Built in 1566 by the Turks, Stari Most (literally 'old bridge') was heartwrenchingly destroyed in the Bosnian War and subsequently rebuilt in 2004. 
An exhibition of war photos was shown at a museum right next to the bridge. The photographer was Wade Goddard - a New Zealander! With no prior experience he turned up to Mostar in April 1992 to give photojournalism a try. What he captured were moments of turmoil and tragedy. 
I won't go into detail about the war, but I suggest watching the BBC documentary 'The Death of Yugoslavia', which can be found in entirety on YouTube. It was immensely helpful for trying to understand a complex series of events and longstanding racial tensions. 
Teo explained that the Turkish influence was alive and well in Mostar, as can be seen in many traditional foods served. Several cafés we passed in the old town were offering Turkish tea to accompany your hookah, and we ourselves partook in baklava and burek. When comparing the Bosnian to Slovenian burek, I found that they were both tasty fast food treats, and initially couldn't decide which was better: both were different versions of pastry filled with meat, potatoes and onions, or cheese. However, the Bosnian burek won out in the end as Teo promised it would. 
It seems that although this part two isn't called 'Tales of Teo', it's full of Teoisms and interesting information he provided. For example, the above photo shows a fenced off building lot which declares itself a Jewish Synagogue. Apparently when the Jewish community asked the government if they could build a synagogue, they were provided with the money and the space with which to begin construction. But as soon as they tried to build there, they were told that although they had the means, they did not have permission! That beurocracy could rival the best French offices. 
Each street reminded us of the war. Everywhere you looked, you would see bombed out buildings with holes gaping where their windows and the roof once were. 
Even in buildings that had not been abandoned, the scars from gunfire were blatant. 
Road signs and even museums stood broken and empty, faded with age. Even in years to come, when all the bullet holes are plastered over, memories of the splitting of the former Yugoslavia will still remain. Yet in a city ripped apart by war, it was difficult to feel sad when the inhabitants carry on their lives cheerfully. 
We may have delved into a "building of broken glass" as my dad says (his email read "it's too late for me to tell you, but 'Nooo, don't go in!'"), but the scariest part of our trip into Bosnia-Herzegovina was the potential of undetonated mines lurking right off the road. We had been advised not to stray from known rest stops, which we abided with all due caution.
It was the briefest of visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I would like to learn and experience so much more of their history and culture. I know I've been saying this plenty, but I'll be back!