10 Reasons Why You should Volunteer Abroad

10 Reasons Why You should Volunteer Abroad

Travel has become a commodity. We often travel to visit places just because they are fashionable. Other times we go on trips because it is a “must see” (for whom?). Finally, we have impromptu trips just to get away from it all. All these are valid reasons to travel, and I personally have traveled for all of them. But earlier this year, I discovered a much deeper reason to board a plane – volunteering. This experience has left me a changed person and here are 10 reasons why.

1/ You connect to a cause you’re passionate about

How many of us go through their lives in an unfulfilling routine? We hate getting out of bed in the morning and dread going to the office. This state of being is so ubiquitous in big cities that it has become the norm. But why should this be? Every one of us has something they are passionate about, a cause larger us, than money, cars, material things and expensive nights out. Finding what that is and living your life in service of that cause will make you jump out of bed at dawn and skip to work, happy for the chance to do something you are passionate about.

2/ You meet incredible people

I spent 5 years living in London, and during that time, I have not met as many inspiring people and had as many mind-expanding conversations as I had during my 3 months volunteering in Mozambique. I met people who are fearless, adventurous, out of the ordinary and formed bonds that will last way beyond that trip.

3/ You travel cheaply

Instead of spending hundred and thousands on fancy hotels and restaurants in popular resorts, why not find an exotic location that has not yet been turned into a global holiday destination? There are plenty of beautiful places where NGOs have set up camp to protect the environment, work with the vulnerable, teach, help build. During 3 months in Mozambique, constantly eating out, having the freshest fish and lobsters on a regular basis, going on trips and even shopping has cost me around 1200 Euros. Coincidentally, that’s also how much you’d typically spend on a weekend in Verbier. There are also foundations that will provide you with accommodation, and even board in some cases, in exchange for your work. Look out for those if you’re on a budget.

4/ You immerse yourself in the country

When you volunteer abroad, you end up meeting more locals and having more local experiences than simply going on a holiday. You will have the benefit of local knowledge form your team mates who have already spent time out there, so they can give you tips on where to go and what to avoid. However, remember to explore and immerse yourself in the place to create your own experience of the country you’re visiting.

 

5/ You experience the extraordinary

We all know that saying that goes something like “magic happens outside of your comfort zone”. This couldn’t be more true of volunteering abroad. Going to volunteer with Marine Megafauna Foundation, I never appreciated what an extraordinary experience it would be. Living by the Indian ocean, swimming alongside manta rays and even bumping into a pod of dolphins during a morning swim.  These experiences were nothing short of magical, and I really wish that every person out there can experience something so profound and moving.

6/ You feel useful

To develop a high self-esteem a person needs a purpose. A key component to high self-esteem relies on how you view yourself regarding contribution. While positive contribution should be part of all of our daily lives, it can be tough when you’re living in a modern city environment. Going to volunteer abroad gives you the opportunity to focus on giving, which in turn improves your relationship with yourself.

 

7/ You discover Yourself

Do you know your limits? Physical? Mental? Emotional? Would you be able to live in – ahem – rustic conditions? I have to admit, coming to Mozambique, the 3rd poorest country in the world, from Chelsea, London was a shocker. I remember thinking on our first evening there: How are we going to last here for 3 months? A few weeks later, as my barriers started crumbling and my OCD fading, I stopped minding the absence of supermarkets, the sand that was EVERYWHERE, and even that we were sleeping under a thatched roof that would leak when it rained.

8/ You improve your CV

If you want to make a shift in your career, volunteering is a great way to do this. You can use your existing skills to find a role that is more fulfilling as a volunteer and then use this experience to transition into paid work. I used to work in Finance where I did a lot of research in my role. I applied to MMF as a researcher for the Fundraising team. A great website where you can find volunteering positions for professionals is www.escapethecity.org.

9/ You create unforgettable memories

What are you going to remember when you turn 30? 40? All those days you spent at your desk? Or all those holidays you spent by the pool in homogeneous resorts that looks like every other resort built by a multi-national conglomerate? The three months I spent in Mozambique were by far the best and most unforgettable months of my life.

I dare you to follow your passion on an adventure of a lifetime.

 

10/ You Live!

A great woman, Amelia Mary Earhart, who was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, once said: There is more to life than being a passenger. Sadly, so many of us are just that – passengers on a train that takes us down the well-trodden route of school, work, mortgages and family. Not that these are not valuable experiences in themselves. But if you have a hunch, that there must be more to life that this, volunteering may just prove you right.

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5 Ways this Hotel is the Perfect Romantic Getaway

5 Ways this Hotel is the Perfect Romantic Getaway

Romantic getaways come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, I recommend checking out the Kyrenia Palace Boutique Hotel in the Northern Cyprus. It’s within easy reach across the border in Nicosia, or with a flight to Ercan International Airport which connects to most European cities. The hotel is in a great location to explore Kyrenia and beyond, and provides great value for a boutique stay.

1/ The design

 

What happens when an antiques collector decides he wants to open a boutique hotel? Magic. Kyrenia Palace Boutique Hotel is a whimsical collection of antique furniture, paintings and artifacts from around the world. There are wooden chairs, or rather thrones, from India. A huge L-shaped Dorchester couch sits in one corner of the reception, and a Baroque sitting area from France gleams in another. Each room is unique by design and name. We stayed in Jasmine – a suite on the upper floor, overlooking the stunning hotel courtyard. It has a very sultry and regal feel to it, with all the beautifully carved furniture, large windows and heavy drapery to block out the bright sunshine. It’s the perfect place to find yourself if you’re looking for inspiration or privacy.

2/ The Service

 

Kyrenia Palace Boutique Hotel is run by a small team, hand-picked by the owner. This allows the hotel to maintain a sense of familiarity and ease. The team is very friendly and helpful around the clock. Even when they are busy, they find the time to chat to guests, making sure you’re not wanting anything and provide you with recommendations on where to visit, eat and relax. It almost feels like you are staying at a friend’s house, instead of a hotel, adding to the feel of intimacy and comfort of the stay.

 

3/ The Location

 

The location of Kyrenia Palace Hotel couldn’t be more perfect. It’s right by the Kyrenia Harbour, about a 2 minute walk, but secluded enough to be quiet and peaceful at night. It’s perfect if you want to explore the town by foot. All the bars and restaurants around the harbour are within 5 minutes reach and in the opposite direction, you have the town centre with its bustling shops and markets. The Kyrenia Castle is within walking distance, as is the oldest mosque in Cyprus that neighbours with the hotel. Note the mosque still operates, so you will be getting a free wake-up call with the morning call to prayer just before dawn.

4/ The Food

 

The Kyrenia Palace restaurant is set in the stunning stone courtyard and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is included and goes on until 11 in the morning. The spread comprises of local and imported cheeses and meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and daily specials of eggs and freshly baked pastries. It’s all super fresh and delicious. For lunch and dinner, you can order à la carte and there is a good choice of local delicacies, fresh seafood and grilled meats. The restaurant is very popular in the evening, with hotel guests and visitors from outside, so it’s worth asking the front desk to save you a spot.

5/ The Value

 

Kyrenia Palace Hotel provides excellent value for the location, service and the overall experience of the stay. There are many big hotels in Kyrenia, around the same price point, but in my humble opinion, they are too big to offer the intimate and indulging experience of Kyrenia Palace Boutique. I always preferred the quirky and unique over the standard global chain. If you’re looking for a memorable getaway in the North of Cyprus, this is a gem!


Kyrenia Palace Boutique Hotel room with breakfast starting at 100 EUR per night.

For reservations, contact Murad on +90 533 875 7000 or visit their website.


Visit Kyrenia in the north of Cyprus in 360°

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South of France for under 100 EUR

South of France for under 100 EUR

In my previous article, I shared my tips on how to travel to South of France if you’re on a budget. Once you’re there, here is what you can do to enjoy the gorgeous french Riviera without breaking the bank.

Villefranche Bay

Day Activities

There is much to see in the South of France – from antique markets, to museums of modern art, to villas that house some of the world’s most impressive collections for visitors to admire. If you get tired of the culture and the beach, you can head up to the mountains and explore the Alpes Maritimes villages that stand defying time, paying homage to some of the greatest artists that have ever lived.

 

1. Visit the museums of Nice

The Museum of Modern Art in Nice houses an impressive collection and always has interesting exhibits. Here you can see works from the likes of Yves Klein and Niki de Saint Phalle. The tickets cost 10 EUR and includes 24 hour entrance to other galleries and museums around town, including Galerie des Ponchettes, Espace Ferrero, Galerie de la Marine, Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image, Musée Matisse, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée d’Art Naïf, Musée Masséna, Palais Lascaris, Musée d’Archéologie, Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle… Children and students go for free! Ready? Set? Go!

 

2. Explore the Markets

There are plenty of markets that can peak the interest of a bargain-hunter. There are flea markets in almost every town, some of them offer better quality than others. My personal favourite is the morning market in Cannes – there you can find beautiful antique books, posters and stamps for a reasonable price. Another gem is the Flower Market in Cours Saleya, Nice. It’s full of colour and gorgeous smells. A real treat for the senses!

Flower Market, Cours Saleya, Nice

3. Travel to Monaco and Eze

One of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken was on the corniches going from Nice to Monaco. Enjoy the incredible scenery, and visit the hillside village of Eze to get spectacular views of the torquoise sea. Head to Monaco, explore the Principality, paying a visit to the Prince’s Palace and drive around the Grand Prix circuit.

Overlooking Monaco

 

4. Discover the Alpes Maritimes

Discover the beautiful villages in the countryside like Tourettes sur Loup and Mougins. Get a feeling of bygone times, stroll trough the medieval french villages with their pretty little streets and enjoy the old facades of stones and stairs bordered with flowers. Each village offers something unique, whether it’s painters studios, artisan olive oil and tapenade production or glass blowing. It’s a great change from the beach vibes of the coast, and offers incredible photo opportunities!

4. Make a Day Trip to Villefranche and visit Villa Rotschild

Discover the french riviera by bike. Pedal through the old town of Nice towards Villefrance and marvel at the Belle Époque villas on both sides. At Villefranche, take a tour of the Old Town and discover tiny streets full of charm. Go to the 16th-century fortress, built above the sea to protect the bay from pirates and French attacks.

Later, stroll through the beautiful gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, one of the most impressive buildings on the Cote d’Azur. Its interiors are filled with artifacts and collectibles from all over the world. Its gardens are second to none (not even the Gardins Exotiques of Monaco). Arrive early or late, to be the first ones there and have the villa to yourselves. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of tarte citron at the house café.

View of Villefrance Bay

Evening Activities

1. Apèro’s or Happy Hour

There are plenty of places to enjoy aperitifs, or happy hour in the South of France without breaking the bank. In Monaco, Stars and Bars is an American Sports themed restaurant and bar, located on Port Hercule. It is a local institution that serves food around the clock and has happy hour from 5PM to 7PM. There is a big outside lounge and restaurant area that looks onto the harbor and the F1 track. Stars attracts a younger crowd, has a very cool and casual atmosphere and great music. It’s ideal for apero’s before dinner.

Other options are Cosmo Bar and Achillis in Villefranche. They have great wine lists, reasonably priced nibbles to accompany your drinks and great views. The former offers tapas for 2 EUR when you order a bottle of wine, and the latter has great music and vibes (but fills up pretty quickly so get there early!)

 

Achillis Bar, Villefrance

2. Evening Promenades

The evenings in South of France are trully magical. After the sun goes down, the air cools and the lights adorning the Alpes Maritimes and the yachts parked in the bays go on. I love taking a long walk down the Promenades des Anglais, admiring the views and eating my favourite ice cream from Fenocchio ice cream parlour.

3. Evening Picnics on the Beach

 

Beaches are public property in France, which means that you have the right to enjoy even the fanciest of beaches, without paying the notorious prices for a sunbed. Furthermore, these beaches offer incredible views and a fantastic location for an evening picnic. Grab a bottle of chilled rosé along with some snacks from a bakery, and make yourself a romantic evening pieds dans l’eau for next to nothing.

 

Remember – best things in life are for free!

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How to Travel to South of France on a Budget

How to Travel to South of France on a Budget

The South of France is probably the most popular summer destination in Europe. While it consitently attracts the rich and famous, you don’t have to be either to have a good time there! Here are my tips on how to travel South of France on a shoestring budget – when to go, where to stay, and where to eat.

 

Pick Your Time to Travel Wisely

 

The hype picks up around May, with the Grand Prix of Monaco kicking things off. You sense this when you go out – the restaurants and bars start charging “grand prix prices” – sometimes nearly double the normal price. Coffee for 25 Euros? A bottle of sparkling water for 20? Thanks, I think I’ll pass.

The key to doing France on a budget is to pick your timing wisely. Avoid big events, such as the grand prix, the jazz festival, the firework festival. Basically avoid going there in summer. The best time to travel is September to November. The weather is warm, it’s sunny and it’s nowhere near as busy. You can read more about South of France off-season here.

 

Accommodation

 

If you must visit during the luscious summer season (I don’t blame you), avoid staying at hotels. They get booked up way in advance, and sadly don’t offer much value for money. You will typically find a small hotel with the bare essentials setting you back at least 130 Euros a night. Instead, stay at an Airbnb! I’m a HUGE fan of Airbnb and cannot recommend the experience enough. We’ve tried it in France, in Amsterdam, in Sweden, and even in South Africa. Our last hosts in Nelspruit invited us to join them in an evening of wine blending for a national wine blending competition! If you haven’t already tried Airbnb, do it! Here’s a few great options you can find in the South of France under 120 EUR per night.

 

You know what I mean??? If you haven’t already joined the Airbnb community, I strongly recommend you do! And here’s a little present from me, book using the link below and get $40 off your first booking! You’re Welcome!

Dining

 

Breakfast

Once you arrive at you’re beautiful Airbnb, find out where the nearest bakery is. Each morning, you can treat yourself to freshly baked baguette, croissant or if you’re feeling très français, try a pissaladière

My personal favourite is the Banette bakery. They sell the world’s most buttery croissants for only 95 cents. Don’t forget to dunk them into your coffee for the extra delicious flavour.

Lunch

What I love about France is that you can eat well, no matter what your budget is! For example, check out Chez Pipo in Nice – which has been serving the best socca in town since 1923! Check out Les Perles de Monte Carlo for a reasobably priced sea-food platters and fresh oysters! If you’re feeling lazy, just grab a pan bagnat from the nearest bakery (it’s basically a Niçoise Salad in a sandwich). What could be better for a quick bite to eat, or a picnic on the beach?

 

Dinner

One of my most favourite places to have dinner in Nice is Du Gesu on 1 Place du Jesus, in old town. It’s not pretentious, the food is great, the service is fast and friendly! Definitely try their beignets de fleur de courgette (stuffed courgette flowers) and the lasagna. Make sure to get there for 7 pm on the dot, as the place fills up in minutes!

Restaurant Du Gesu

Desert

When in the South of France, one MUST try the Fenocchio ice cream. Another old-timer in Nice, the ice-cream parlour first opened in 1966 on Place Rossetti in Nice’s old town. They serve a collection of 94 flavours – 59 ices-cream and 35 sorbets ranging from the great classics to exciting innovations! Still run by the Fenocchio family, this is a real institution.

Fenocchio Ice Cream Parlour

Tip from a local: when ordering wine, go for the pichet of the house wine. These vary from a quarter liter, to half to a whole and are more often good than not.

Pesto Gnocchi, Lasagna accompanied by chilled house Rosè

What's your favourite flavour? Mine is always lemon! 💛#cotedazurnow #icecreamheaven

A post shared by Anastasia Pashkovetskaya (@frugal_hedonist) on

I hope you found these tips useful! If you have, why not share it with a friend who would appreciate it? In my next post, I’ll cover what you can do and see in the South of France if you’re traveling on a budget!

Stay tuned. À bientôt!

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Ponta Dundo – a Gem of the Indian Ocean

Ponta Dundo – a Gem of the Indian Ocean

Ponta Dundo, and its equally radiant neighbour Pansy Island, are probably the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Baking-soda-white sands, set in radiating swirls of vivid blue of the Indian Ocean. Low-hanging blue skies and a sun that you can almost touch. It’s breathtaking! But there’s more to it that meets the eye. Aside from being an exquisite location for a romantic day at the beach, or even a wedding, it is steeped in history dating back to the Iron Age.

Pansy Island

Pansy Island

 

The Bazaruto Archipelago was once part of a peninsula connected to the mainland.  At low tide, the retreating waters expose millions of sand spits and tiny isles. One of the most beautiful of these ephemeral isles is Pansy Island – named after the sea-urchin skeletons with distinctive flower-shaped imprints found there. It lies hugging the southern shores of Bazaruto Island, opposite the rolling dunes of Punto Dundo. Rumour has it that during the Portuguese era, convicts would be shackled together and left here to drown with the rising tide. Nowadays, this serves a much more pleasant purpose – a unique destination for desert-island picnic, swimming and general frolicking in the sand for guests of nearby Anantara Bazaruto and AndBeyound Benguerra lodges.

From here, against screen-saver blue skies, there are views of the imposing procession of dunes that have for epochs protected Bazaruto Archipelago from being wiped out by the might of the Indian Ocean. These 30km of deserted white beach, is what is called Punto Dundo – one of the most important historical places in the area.

 

Historical Ponta Dundo

 

From a regional archaeological point of view, Ponta Dundo is regarded as a very special place. The earliest occupation of the Bazaruto Archipelago has its signs here, and traces back to 200-300 AD. It appears that these are the only archaeological sites of this period in all the islands along the coast of South East Africa.

 

The materials and artifacts that have been found here, suggest a connection of the Bazaruto islands with other coastal communities that were settled in Vilanculos Bay during this period. The discovery of Persian porcelain at Ponta Dundo, suggest a connection with the wider Indian Ocean commercial trading network. It is probable that the Bazaruto Archipelago was one of the oldest South East African Coast commercial centres!

Map of Bazaruto Archipellago

Ponta Dundo

Walking at the top of Ponta Dundo

The valley of Ponta Dundo

Admire the views from the top of Ponta Dundo in Virtual Reality!

After admiring the breath-taking views from the top of Ponta Dundo, we came back to the shores and made our way to Pansy Island. We were given the opportunity to have the whole island to ourselves. Not another footprint in the sight, we felt like castaways in paradise. I won’t lie when I say it was incredible, but I was happy that our skipper was just a wave away!

Pansy Island Beach

Not another soul in sight

Paradise found!

Travel to Pansy Island in Virtual Reality!

Visit Ponta Dundo when you book your stay in Bazaruto Archipelago!

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Swimming with Dolphins in Mozambique

Swimming with Dolphins in Mozambique

Dolphins in Tofo, Mozambique

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of swimming with dolphins in the wild. I saw them many times on TV, in Dolphinariums and I even got to swim with them at the Atlantis Hotel in Bahamas – an experience I will never forget. However, nothing beats seeing them in the wild. In the past week, I had the chance to meet them twice in the open ocean off the coast of Mozambique!

Everyone loves dolphins – they have such a great energy and the power to make you smile. Their chatter and laughter are irresistible! Often you can hear them on a dive. They communicate and hunt by emitting sounds and waiting for the resulting echo to locate their quarry. Although I heard them a few times, I never saw them on scuba.

The most common dolphin that we see here in Mozambique is the Bottlenose Dolphin. They are around 2m plus in length and have a grey back & lighter underside. This is called counter-shading and is actually a form camouflage since it makes the animal hard to distinguish from both above and below.

Tofo is also lucky enough to be called home to a much rarer and more shy species called the Humpback Dolphin. They have a very distinctive hump and the base of their dorsal fin and can often be seen joining in with larger Bottlenose pods.

Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique

The little orange dots in the water are plankton.

Dolphins off the Coast of Mozambique

The surest way to see dolphins in Tofo, Mozambique is to go on an ocean safari. You often see them accompanying the boats and if you’re quick enough, you get to swim with them! This was the first time I saw them in the ocean. It was an amazing experience and I even caught it on a 360 video (see below).

The second time was when we snorkeled off the coast of Tofinho in the early morning. As we were at the edge of the bay, I saw a few fins popping out of the water. Before I knew it, we were swimming with a pod of about ten dolphins. A few of them were super curious and stayed with us for a while, swimming around us, just a few meters away. It was really magical!

Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique
Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique

A family with a baby dolphin!

Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique
Swimming with Dolphins, Tofo, Mozambique

So happy! We just swam with dolphins!

Experience Swimming with Dolphins in VR

To watch, play this 360 video in your VR headset or Google cupboard. To enjoy the video on the screen, click and drag the mouse across.

Liked the video? Share it with your friends!

To see more 360 videos, check out my VR Travel page.

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