Write a story about your most amazing journey and win a dream trip with Navigator

Navigator invites you to share your STORIES!

Navigator, the world's most inspiring paper brand, promotes "Around the world in 80 pages", a Writing Contest for those who are always ready to live and tell.

Tell us your most memorable travel experience, and get ready for the next journey!

Around the World in 80 Pages

Congratulations, to the winners of the
“Around the World in 80 pages” contest:

1

Life is a climb but the view is great!

Story place: Norway

Ana Torres, 32 / Portugal
read story >
2

Leave nothing but pawprints

Story place: Belgium

Alice van Kempen, 48 / Holland
read story >
3

Northern Lights in Svalbard

Story place:Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

Linnea Lindblom, 30 / Sweden
read story >
3

Life is what happens to you in Baeza: a traveller's heart full of Hallelujah

Story place: Ecuador

Nelleke Reckers, 29 / Holland
read story >
3

Do the Impossible in Your Life

Story place: Spain

Sarah, 25 / USA
read story >
3

A colorful, noisy and amazing India

Story place: India, Rishikesh

Barbara Pais, 26 / Portugal
read story >
3

From the Pyrenees to the Atlantic - A Pilgrim's Tale

Story place: The Camino de Santiago. Between France and Spain.

Joao Pateira, 37 / Portugal
read story >
3

Walking with ghosts

Story place: Madagascar

Alix Johnson, 36 / UK
read story >

The best picture winner is

Alice van Kempen, 48 / Holland Lilys Bird

America

American society has often been described as a melting pot but in recent years, it has also attracted other definitions such as "tomato soup" and "tossed salad".

Asia

Asia varies greatly across and within its regions with regard to ethnic groups, cultures, environments, economics, historical ties and government systems.

Europe

Europe has been a cradle for many cultural innovations and movements, such as Humanism, that have consequently been spread across the globe.

Africa

The culture of each ethnic group centres on family and can be found in each group's art, music and oral literature.

Oceania

Due to colonial neglect and historical isolation, the Pacific Islands, home to the world's most diverse range of indigenous cultures, continue to sustain many ancestral life-ways.

Around the World in 80 Pages

Start by filling the form with your personal information

name:
age:
email:
country:
What's your story title?
Where does your story take place?

Write your story and upload your photos here

Volta ao Mundo em 80 Páginas

2500 characters

Please, upload your photos:

(max. 3 photos each with a limit of 500Kb)

thanks for your story

we will review all the submitted stories
and announce the winners shortly.

No matter if it is an urban discovery or a nature adventure, a weekend getaway or a three month trip…

A family holiday on a large tour or a solo journey with a backpack and no real plan in your country or abroad… Share your story.
Tell, Win, Go!

Follow the rules

  • Your story should be written in english with a maximum of 2500 characters.
  • Upload up to three photos of the place or situation you chose to report
    with a maximun of 500kb each.

TIMINGS

October 13th /
December 31st 2015

Submit your proposal
January 15th 2016
The short list of
80 best storys
will be revealed
March 1st 2016
Vouchers and camera
winners will
be announced
  • All the winners will be announced on the website of the competition
sep

Meet the jury

From award-winning travel bloggers to accomplished writers and travelers, as well as the Navigator representatives (including its global brand manager), we have gathered a unique and talented group of individuals to assess the quality of your stories and how they stand out from the crowd. We have also asked our jury members to write a short teaser of their own stories, so you can be inspired and put your heart into that sheet of paper and describe your most memorable journey.
sep

Nelson Carvalheiro

Nelson Carvalheiro grew up with his grandparents in a small farming village of central Portugal and soon learned to value the “Portuguese Gastronomical heritage” Read full bio

READ STORY

"Farturas" (Portuguese Fried Dough), Neon and Fairs

Today is a day of celebration in Mirandela. The fairground, in the park by the river, looks pretty much the same as we knew them from our childhood memories. The program for popular folk festivals in Portugal’s interior villages is an everlasting constant: there is food, drinks and dancing (as the Portuguese call it "Bailarico"). We know that the lady of the farturas will be there, as well as the best local snacks and popular music bands will liven up the main stage. Still we are happy, if not excited, to be able to be part of this event. To know that the whole town, village or even city, will be there. To live the local celebration together, sharing games, food, drink, companionship, stories and joy. All necessary reasons to make many person happy.

I believe it to be a kind of worshiping status, the motive why this particular kind of fried dough, sold in caravans lit by flashy neons, is such a Portuguese icon. It a kind of child nostalgia what keeps the sweet so present in our culture and arouses smiles that transcend generations. If could only see the smile of children and people of all ages every time the middle-aged lady with lots of gold bracelets, cuts the deep fried snail shaped dough and smother’s it with sugar and cinnamon. Not all sweet delights need to come from the best convents in the country or a grandma’s recipe. After all it is only a mixture of water and flour served with sugar, but the fact that it is only be available for consumption in this popular festival context, gives it a special flavor. If you doubt my words, think of all restaurants serving farturas for dessert. How many are there? I tell you: zero!

sep
jury

Ricardo Ferreira

Responsible for one of the most international Portuguese brands, Ricardo has been managing Navigator for the past 6 years and has played a key role in reinforcing Navigator's position as the leading premium office paper brand around the World. Read full bio

READ STORY

How fast the world moves when you’re travelling…

Feeling like a stranger in the middle of an unknown crowd. Do they notice I am even here? Isn’t it curious that in the age of connectivity, we somehow don’t know each other nearly as well as we used to?

I get into the plane, following the rest of the crowd, occasionally looking at my already folded boarding pass, while the sincerely welcoming but robotic stewardess offers to help. It’s just another trip, I say, while I seat down getting ready for a marathon of 32 hours which will take me all the way across the globe.

I have dreamt of days like this, I leave (almost) everything behind and face the unknown, going to a foreign land, in this case to confirm if the water really flows counterclockwise over there.

Sleep slips away and I try to do as much of a plan of what I’m going to do that weekend as my disorganized mind can cope with.

All of a sudden, I realize I felt asleep and we are arriving in Singapore. How? Well, doesn’t matter. It’s more than half the journey gone and my destination is closer. I wish I was there already; and faster than I can catch my breath, something hits me like a runaway bus – it was only the heat wave when the airport doors opened and I stepped outside.

Hello. I’ve arrived.

sep

Gonçalo Cadilhe

Gonçalo Cadilhe was born in 1968 in Figueira da Foz, where he has been living with his wife and son. He started travelling and travel-writing professionally in 1992. Read full bio

READ STORY

Empty

Imraan offers me his beach house in Ponta do Ouro. The village doesn’t have a road by the sea, only dunes. The houses spread along the bay amidst the dunes and the surrounding hills, through the bushes, but not along the sea coast, as it doesn’t exist. That is the most charming dysfunctionality of Ponta. “You can stay sleeping in the annex and use the kitchen of the main building”, says Imraam. “As many weeks as you want, Gonçalo, the only thing I don’t want you to bring is any alcohol under my roof, I follow the Islamic rules”.And so I do. After buying vegetables and greens at the Ponta do Ouro market, on the tribal side of the village, I return to the house, crossing the street of wealthy beach houses of Maputo. I prepare my meal in Imraan’s kitchen. After that, I sit on the on the street sidewalk, far from the house and, respecting the Islamic rules of my host, I open a bottle of wine – white, south-african, certainly blessed – and have a relaxed dinner on the street, submerged in the silence of this lost village. (…)

sep
sep

Emma Higgins

Emma Higgins is a British travel writer originally from southern England. She's been travelling solo for nearly five years, and documenting all her adventures on her website, Gotta Keep Movin'.Read full bio

READ STORY

Southwold Pier: The 21st Century British Seaside

I walked up and down the pier at Southwold, the soles of my shoes thudding on the boards underfoot. Passing tea rooms and rock candy stores, I listened to the quiet hum of the pier’s other visitors, who were swapping childhood stories and commenting on the weather. I felt a pang of nostalgia every time the smell of fish and chips mixed with salt from the ocean wafted my way. Southwold Pier in the English county of Suffolk was originally built in 1900, and it was a popular destination for holidaymakers in the 1930s. As with numerous of its kind in Britain, parts of Southwold Pier have been destroyed by storms several times over the years, but the locals have always worked hard to rebuild it. The icon’s latest and most drastic revival was completed in 2001, a renovation that has led to it being named Britain’s only 21st century pier. Fifty or more years ago, piers were the place where workers came on holiday to escape the daily grind in the city.

To keep the whole family entertained, they were filled with arcade games and funfair-style things to do, like dodgems and Houses of Mirrors.

Seeing the last renovation of Southwold Pier as an opportunity to update these classic ideas, the owners have reimagined what makes a British pier. The Under the Pier Show is one of Southwold’s wackiest fixtures and the brainchild of arcade fanatic Tim Hunkin, who was commissioned to bring his contraptions to the 2001 pier rebuild.

Ranging from Whack-a-Banker to Rent-a-Dog, the amusements at the Under the Pier Show are like something out of a surreal, twisted dream.

Figurines in the games look like they’re made from papier-mâché – lumpy and bumpy, with eyes at odd angles. These imperfections add to the bizarre nature of the show; a combination of classic arcade mixed with eerie, bohemian carnivals. It’s not uncommon to find more adults than children trying out these oddities. Southwold Pier’s radiant white buildings are accented with colourful stripes, reminiscent of sticks of rock, retro windbreakers, and shades of the sixties. It’s not filled with noisy machines playing the same tunes on repeat, or stuffy rooms packed with hundreds of flickering lights.

Instead, the pier strikes a fine balance between quirky and traditional, focusing heavily on the slow-life values of the coast in times gone by.

That simplicity is what drove British seaside culture 100 years ago, and it drives Southwold now – with a few weird and wonderful additions. As I left Southwold Pier, I thought about how much of a chord it struck with my own childhood memories – of fish and chips, buckets and spades, and donkey ride on the beach. This Suffolk pier might be unlike any other in the country – fresh, bold, and funky – but it still evokes that seaside feel that we, as a nation, hold so close to our hearts.

sep
sep

António Redondo

António Redondo started working at grupo Portucel Soporcel in 1987 and has held several management roles throughout the years. He is a member of the Board of Directors since 2009. Read full bio

sep
sep

Gonçalo Cadilhe

Gonçalo Cadilhe was born in 1968 in Figueira da Foz, where he has been living with his wife and son. He started travelling and travel-writing professionally in 1992. Read full bio

READ STORY

The simple life in Maputo

Imraan offers me his beach house in Ponta do Ouro. The village doesn’t have a road by the sea, only dunes. The houses spread along the bay amidst the dunes and the surrounding hills, through the bushes, but not along the sea coast, as it doesn’t exist.

That is the most charming dysfunctionality of Ponta. “You can stay sleeping in the annex and use the kitchen of the main building”, says Imraam. “As many weeks as you want, Gonçalo, the only thing I don’t want you to bring is any alcohol under my roof, I follow the Islamic rules”.And so I do. After buying vegetables and greens at the Ponta do Ouro market, on the tribal side of the village, I return to the house, crossing the street of wealthy beach houses of Maputo. I prepare my meal in Imraan’s kitchen.

After that, I sit on the on the street sidewalk, far from the house and, respecting the Islamic rules of my host, I open a bottle of wine – white, south-african, certainly blessed – and have a relaxed dinner on the street, submerged in the silence of this lost village. (…)

sep
sep

Emma Higgins

Emma Higgins is a British travel writer originally from southern England. She's been travelling solo for nearly five years, and documenting all her adventures on her website, Gotta Keep Movin'.Read full bio

READ STORY

Southwold Pier: The 21st Century British Seaside

I walked up and down the pier at Southwold, the soles of my shoes thudding on the boards underfoot. Passing tea rooms and rock candy stores, I listened to the quiet hum of the pier’s other visitors, who were swapping childhood stories and commenting on the weather. I felt a pang of nostalgia every time the smell of fish and chips mixed with salt from the ocean wafted my way. Southwold Pier in the English county of Suffolk was originally built in 1900, and it was a popular destination for holidaymakers in the 1930s. As with numerous of its kind in Britain, parts of Southwold Pier have been destroyed by storms several times over the years, but the locals have always worked hard to rebuild it. The icon’s latest and most drastic revival was completed in 2001, a renovation that has led to it being named Britain’s only 21st century pier. Fifty or more years ago, piers were the place where workers came on holiday to escape the daily grind in the city.

To keep the whole family entertained, they were filled with arcade games and funfair-style things to do, like dodgems and Houses of Mirrors.

Seeing the last renovation of Southwold Pier as an opportunity to update these classic ideas, the owners have reimagined what makes a British pier. The Under the Pier Show is one of Southwold’s wackiest fixtures and the brainchild of arcade fanatic Tim Hunkin, who was commissioned to bring his contraptions to the 2001 pier rebuild.

Ranging from Whack-a-Banker to Rent-a-Dog, the amusements at the Under the Pier Show are like something out of a surreal, twisted dream.

Figurines in the games look like they’re made from papier-mâché – lumpy and bumpy, with eyes at odd angles. These imperfections add to the bizarre nature of the show; a combination of classic arcade mixed with eerie, bohemian carnivals. It’s not uncommon to find more adults than children trying out these oddities. Southwold Pier’s radiant white buildings are accented with colourful stripes, reminiscent of sticks of rock, retro windbreakers, and shades of the sixties. It’s not filled with noisy machines playing the same tunes on repeat, or stuffy rooms packed with hundreds of flickering lights.

Instead, the pier strikes a fine balance between quirky and traditional, focusing heavily on the slow-life values of the coast in times gone by.

That simplicity is what drove British seaside culture 100 years ago, and it drives Southwold now – with a few weird and wonderful additions. As I left Southwold Pier, I thought about how much of a chord it struck with my own childhood memories – of fish and chips, buckets and spades, and donkey ride on the beach. This Suffolk pier might be unlike any other in the country – fresh, bold, and funky – but it still evokes that seaside feel that we, as a nation, hold so close to our hearts.

sep
sep

António Redondo

António Redondo started working at grupo Portucel Soporcel in 1987 and has held several management roles throughout the years. He is a member of the Board of Directors since 2009. Read full bio

sep
sep

Fly with Navigator paper
to your Dream destination.

Write your story

and win amazing prizes

2nd place voucher2 voucher for a destination
of winner's choice.
1st place voucher1 voucher for a destination
of winner's choice.
3rd to 8th Place voucher3 voucher for a destination
of winner's choice.

sep
1st to 80th
Around the World in 80 Pages book! There will also exist an Honour
Award for the best photo:
Digital Camera Canon EOS 750D (valued at 1.000€)

Flying in a Hot Air Balloon or riding a bike, are great ways to discover amazing cities!

Promotion

Download Offline Materials - ready to print promotional pieces, such as posters and leaflets.

ELIGIBILITY & RULES

Around the world in 80 Pages - Navigator Global Writing Contest is open to all individuals over 18 years of age.

RULES

1st phase - submission

1. Text proposals shall be submitted directly on the website.

2. All texts must be submitted in English and have up to 2500 characters.

3. Candidates shall assign a title to the story and identify the country where it took place.
Candidates must ensure they have secured the appropriate rights and clearances for the texts and images submitted. Navigator will not be liable for any copyright, trademark, patent infringement or for non-payment grievances held against entrants.

4. Winners agree to transmit all copyright for their proposals to Navigator.

5. Entries received after 23:59 (GMT) of the 31st of December 2015 will not be considered valid.

6. Every person can participate with more than one story, as long as the narratives of the episodes take place in different countries.

7. The contact for queries related with the contest is: contact@navigatoraroundtheworld.com

2nd phase - 80 best stories announcement

8. From the universe of texts and photos submitted, Navigator will select 80 stories and 1 picture, based on the following criteria:
- Ability to engage and inspire the reader;
- Ability to convey the experience;
- Originality of the style;
- Creativity;
- Realness: Real stories told by real people;

9. The authors of the 80 stories selected will be revealed on the 15th of January 2016 at www.navigatoraroundtheworld.com. They will also be notified by e-mail.

10. Navigator reserves the right to publish these 80 stories (and respective pictures) in a Navigator book, edited under this contest purpose. The same applies to the winning picture, if it isn’t among the first 80.

3rd phase - winners announcement

10. The 80 texts selected will be assessed by an independent jury panel, who will select the 10 winners based on the same criteria referred above. The 10 winners will be announced on the 1st of March 2016 on the contest website.

11. Prizes will be delivered to the winners by a Navigator representative. When not possible, Navigator will guarantee its delivery by post or DHL.

12. Navigator reserves the right to use the winning proposals (texts and pictures) in the promotion and communication of the Around the World in 80 Pages - Navigator Global Writing Contest – in 2015 and following years.

13. Navigator reserves the right to make any necessary changes to the 80 proposals selected, in order to guarantee that these meet proper English spelling and grammar rules.

14. Decisions made by the jury are final.

Note: Winners will be notified by e-mail and will have seven (7) days from receipt of notification to acknowledge Winner status. Navigator is not responsible for and shall not be liable for late, lost, misdirected, or unsuccessful efforts to notify winners. If a selected Winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to acknowledge status, or fails to comply with any term or condition of these Contest Conditions, a prize may be forfeited and an alternate Winner may be selected.

JURY

The judging panel for Around the world in 80 Pages - Navigator Global Writing Contest combines awarded travel writers and bloggers, as well as a gPS Executive Director and Navigator’s Brand Manager.

PRIZES

1st Place: 2.500€ voucher for a destination of winner’s choice.
2nd Place: 1.500€ voucher for a destination of winner’s choice.
3rd to 8th Place: 1.000€ voucher (each) for a destination of winner’s choice.
All 80 writers with selected stories: Around the World in 80 Pages book!

The best photo will win a Canon EOS 750D

Life is a climb but the view is great!

“You’ll never make it ladies!”. That was the sentence that started it all. It was late August, and after been backpacking in Norway for a week, me and Bela decided that we wouldn’t be leaving without hiking to the Pulpit Rock first. We had only one more day ahead before departing, and the summer was leaving, as now the weather was rainy and windy. When we rushed to buy the ferry ticket from Stavanger to Tau, the lady at the ticket office looked at us in disbelief and told us: “Look, even if it wasn’t raining, there isn’t enough time for you to hike to the Pulpit Rock and get back before the last ferry!”. Acting crazy, we decided to go for it. A ferry, and a bus later we were at the beginning of the hiking trail which would lead us to our destination, and took some moments to reflect on what we were about to do. It had been a rough year for me: a bad love break up had made a huge damage in my confidence. As for my friend, she was struggling between her fear of heights and the wish to experience one of the most awesome views on earth. They say everything happens for a reason. Maybe, we thought, this difficult hiking was meant to remember us that life is tough, but there are still things worth fighting for. Keeping that in mind, we initiated the task with a renewed energy, but after 30 minutes, we felt our legs aching and our hearts exploding. We recalled the saying: “When everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top”. We kept going. Suddenly, we started acknowledging our surroundings: the lakes of crystal water, the smell of fresh leaves, and the trees glowing like emeralds. Along the path, we met parents with children, and even a pregnant woman. We all looked at each other with the same expression in our eyes: “Don’t give up, the best is yet to come”. Indeed it came. When we reached the top, the view was superb: the Lysefjord sparkled like a jewel, the close mountains were majestic as queens, and it felt like we were standing on the clouds. For a few moments we just gazed at that natural beauty. We felt invincible. And when we laid on our beds that night (because, yes, we made it back to the ferry on time!), we realized that we could overcome our fears and do something better out of our lives. So, in time, I started believing in myself. As for Bela, she overcame her fear of heights and did paragliding a few months ago. Because, from that moment on, our final sentence has been: “We are strong as the Pulpit Rock”.

Leave nothing but pawprints

“Travel as much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place”. Explore, dream and discover has always been my motto but I’ve recently discovered that exploring ‘that one place’ that once belonged to someone else but that’s been abandoned for whatever reason is another dream come true. Dreaming of finding that very special abandoned place, discovering the exact location and finally the exploration is sometimes described as a sort of modern-day tomb raiding but it’s better known as Urbex. Urbex is about exploring abandoned farms, houses & palaces, discovering overgrown industrial complexes, forgotten hospitals & disused churches. Entering an abandoned building causes an adrenaline rush, every step deeper into this forbidden place gives you a feeling of excitement and sometimes even fear. You are entering the world of the unknown, a world of darkness and shadows, peeled off paint and rotting wood. The air is thick with the smell of mildew and mould. Your heart skips a beat as cobwebs brush your face. How long had it been since the last resident closed the door behind him, It’s been a long time since somebody called this home. Your eyes, adjusted to the dark, scan the room. All around are artifacts once treasured; books, framed photographs, souvenirs from far away places. There’s a newspaper on the table, ready to be read. “Nerve gas attack in Tokyo subway” reads the headline, 20 March 1995. Twenty years ago, OMG really? You continue to explore, there’s a piano in the corner next to the stairs, who played this instrument? Before you walk upstairs you take a deep breath, the stairs creak ominously as you are about half way up. If there is anyone in the house they now know you’re there. Your footsteps echo throughout the empty hall upstairs, You open the door, the one at the end of the hall. Wow, this exceeds your wildest expectations; lots of decay, an old pram, beautiful wallpaper and an old bird cage. Perfect, just perfect. Up till now she’s been dead silent, she knows she can’t make any noise as that might make our presence known. Time to do what she loves best; posing as a model. Her name is Claire, she’s my favorite model, she's a three year old Bull Terrier but she doesn’t see herself as a dog, she has human traits. Together we’ve been exploring abandoned buildings since a little over two years now. We have traveled extensively through several European countries in search of decayed and derelict places."

Northern Lights in Svalbard

The reindeer soup is filled with chunks of meat, carrots and potatoes. It is served piping hot and the steam rising up from it is competing with the smoke from the open fire in the middle of the wooden hut. We are sitting on reindeer skins and on the timber walls hang old weapons, replicas from the old days of polar bear hunting and adventures. The bearded man in front of us tells the story of the old Norwegian and Dutch heroes, how they used to come here to explore, hunt and how they sometimes got lost here, a long time before the modern settlement of Longyearbyen came into existence. He tells the story of Barentsz and his men who had to survive a winter here on Svalbard after their ship got stuck in the ice. It is the replica of their wooden hut that we sit in, the hut that they had to build from the scraps of their lost ship. The bearded man fills the iron coffee pot while he speaks about unimaginable adventures, extreme temperatures and the fierce nature of polar bears. After the meal, I am offered a winter coat to put on, made from the skins of Svalbards native reindeer. As I step out, into the pitch black night and snow, I understand why I needed it. The cold is a shock to my face, stinging my nose with every inhale. It is January in Svalbard and -35º. The sun will not be seen for many more weeks. We are at the edge of the wilderness, with the settlement of Longyearbyen several kilometers behind us. A row of cages, with the husky dogs resting inside their dog houses, separates us from the vast snow landscape behind. The dogs are a protection against polar bears. Their barking will keep them away from the town. First, the sky above me is completely dark. Then, as we are preparing to go inside again, the sky suddenly lights up, illuminated with bright green streaks. The northern lights are dancing above our heads, blazing across the sky, dimming out, just to blaze again. It is completely still, even the dogs don’t make a sound. All that can be heard is a soft, almost inaudible, creaking from the lights. Softly they sway over the winter sky, seemingly wanting to come closer to us. I stand with my eyes fixated on this otherwordly lightshow which is unfolding above me, until my fingers start to protest the cold. As I walk over the snow towards the wooden hut, the husky dogs starts to howl towards the sky. Like wolves.

Life is what happens to you in Baeza: a traveller's heart full of Hallelujah

“Nelly, they are waiting for you at the local radio!” Luis gestures a combination of “time”, “door” and “chaos” as if he can’t decide what the essence of his message is. I get it though. “Now?” I ask with my mouth full. I point at my unfinished breakfast and I clear my throat to make him understand that it’s not only my empty stomach, but also my early morning voice that isn’t quite ready for a radio performance yet. “Now!” Right. In Ecuador, “now” generally means “between now and two hours”, but Luis seems to be serious about it, so I quickly finish my coffee and grab my guitar. Five minutes later I’m sitting in front of the radio host who seems to be just as surprised about my presence as I am. He asks me about the context of my visit, and I tell him how I combine travelling, stories and music in my attempt to connect people all over the world. The Beatles look down on us from a poster on the wall. I smile. Wasn’t it John Lennon who said: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”? Indeed. Though I gave up making plans a while ago, I didn't expect to stay in Baeza for long. But after a visit to the biggest waterfall of Ecuador where two fellow wanderers offered me sandwiches and a ride, hostel owner Luis invited me to stay and help him with his volunteer website, I celebrated a local fiesta with the villagers and we made a video for the local television with a group of dancing school girls. And here I am now, ON AIR on SelvaFM, talking about music, stories, what inspires us and how we're all travelers in a way. I sing one of my own songs and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. “Hallelujah means glory of God,” says the radio host. “Do you believe in God, Nelly?” I smile. “I always say I don’t. I believe in love and that we should practice love in our interactions with the life and the people that surround us. Most religious people say I believe in the same thing as they do, that they just call it differently. Well, if that's what connects us all, I’m a believer.” And in Baeza I sang that song, because it was yet another place where that unity had revealed itself to me: dancing with the village people, sharing food and thoughts with Luis and the two strangers on a waterfall trail, singing songs and hearing the radio host say: “The glory of God is the glory of love, the glory that unites us. Thank you, Nelly.” The next day I finally left Baeza. With a week of delay and a heart full of Hallelujah. We are one. All the people. Imagine, John.

Do the Impossible in Your Life

I never used to be a hiker. I thought nature was beautiful, but never spent time in it. The thought of walking more than four hours at a time exhausted me. Besides, I did not really enjoy walking in the first place. However, something from deep within me said: "Do the Camino de Santiago" As much as I wanted to run away from that call within my heart, I couldn't. It overwhelmed me and consumed my thoughts until the point I agreed to accept the challenge. Physically I didn't know how I was going to do it. The Camino De Santiago was the "impossible" for my life. I set off from St. Jean Pied de Port, France and started my 650 mile journey completely alone. Over a 31 day span, my life was challenged on every different area; spiritual, mental, physical and emotional. During the month I was on the Camino, I was so aware of these four areas. When one of these areas was unbalanced, it was instantly obvious to me. I made a conscious decision each day to scan my body, keep it in a state of balance, and give it the attention it needed in order to have the proper energy to function to the best of its ability. This focus on the now established the basis for a successful Camino for me. During that time I was forced for the first time to truly quiet my soul. Silence became normal for me and I was forced to find a strength and determination that I never knew I had. I made up my mind that I was going to achieve my goal, no matter how hard it may be or how long it took. I realized that although it seemed impossible, I had to take it one step at a time. Want to know the best part? Step by step, I completed my "impossible" task. Ever since the Camino, I set off and traveled alone to over 40 countries, speaking at companies, schools and organizations and encouraging other people to start living the life they have always imagined and do what they think is imposible in their lives own lives. What is the impossible in your life? What is the thing that you know that you should do, but don't feel you have the strength to do it? When you think about your dreams and they seem to easy to achieve, your not dreaming big enough. Spread your wings, travel and open your eyes to the amazing world we live in. Life is to short to live in fear. Do the thing you think is impossible in your life.

A colorful, noisy and amazing India

There are sacred places, nature destinations and cultural epicenters. And there is Rishikesh. It is neither a nature paradise, despite the wildlife bursting from its native forests, nor is it a famous sacred place, although countless temples and ashrams can be found there. Rishikesh is the home of spiritualty… but what exactly does this means? 5.30 am. The sun is still sleeping but I am already on the move. My yoga teacher is waiting in the temple for our morning pray. “Om Purnamadah Purnamidam”, like a mystic sound coming from Ganga, our voices echoed in loop the ancient Vedanta tradition. A powerful mantra that can be heard every day around Dayananda’s Ashram. Its meaning is deep and uncertain, and induces a dreaming-awake state... Suddenly it stops. It is time for asana, for stretching and twisting, for going beyond the physic limits of my body. Day after day, I feel my muscles soften, mellowing effortlessly in complicated positions. 10.30 am. After a spicy breakfast (why is the breakfast spicy too?!), I am again on the move. As today is Ganesh birthday, our anatomy teacher gave us day off. In Rishiskesh I discovered beauty in the humblest actions, like strolling. Wandering in this dirty streets, where hastily motorbikes horn every 2 seconds and brave people dare to cross the road. From a western perspective, so many things are missing in this picture: trash bins (everything is thrown out), sidewalks, traffic lights (or at least some kind of traffic organization). If it already seems overcrowded, imagine it with dozens of cows roaming here and there, laying wherever it feels cozy enough for a nap (even if it is in the middle of the road). Plus pigs, dogs and scavenger birds. It is noisy, smelly and chaotic, but everyone seems to co-exist in harmony... 13.30 pm. Waiting for the boat that will take me to the other side of Rishikesh, I can’t help being amazed with the colorful saris from the ladies worshiping at Ganga. Everyone seems holy, covered with flowers and incense, smiling at me. As I cross the river, a wonderful scenery overwhelmed me: people chanting and dancing happily, with their Ganesh totems. “From mud to shape, from shape to mud”, they were celebrating the simplest rule of life: everything comes and everything goes. Deeply touched with this unspoken teachings, I don’t even care about the touristic side of Rishikesh, full of pale western faces, cheap OM t-shirts and monkeys sneaking the most unaware pockets. I found inward peace.

From the Pyrenees to the Atlantic - A Pilgrim's Tale

The early morning light casts a haunting glow on the ancient stone arch of the Porte St-Jacques, the old city gate of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Facing me, just beyond the town centre, I see the Pyrenees. Their mighty peaks, and Spain beyond them, stand between me and the Atlantic Ocean. I am about to take the first steps on a journey that will see me running roughly 850km across Northern Spain on the pilgrimage route known as Camino de Santiago – The Way of Saint James. The medieval cobbled streets are quiet, now that most pilgrims are already on their way after an early breakfast. It took me two months to get ready for this adventure and I feel physically and mentally prepared and ready to go. I cast another look at the mountains I will soon be crossing. It’s a glorious day; the sun shines in a cloudless sky and feels pleasantly warm on my skin. I pull the backpack straps tight around my chest and stomach, take a deep breath and start running. The first couple of minutes are on a downhill and I feel light and strong; I could go on like this forever. Well, forever or until I leave the town and I’m faced with the first hill. Not a problem. I cruise up the hill and think that this is not that hard after all. But only a few minutes later, I round a corner and before me stands what looks like a dark-grey wall but is actually the road ahead! How on earth am I going to run up this thing? I begin the climb and soon I’m drenched in sweat. I start passing walking pilgrims who are struggling just as much. Reaching the refuge at Orisson I stop for some water and a chance to catch my breath. Around me there are people lying on all available surfaces. Everyone knows that Orisson marks only the first third of the climb and the last chance to get water before reaching a fountain high up in the mountains and, later, the destination for the day, Roncesvalles. I soon get on my way again. Around me there are beautiful fields where wild horses graze. Birdsong and butterflies fill the air and vultures circle above. I stop countless times just to enjoy the beauty of it all. Shortly past halfway the Camino leaves the road and enters a rough footpath with some incredibly steep and slippery sections. And then, all of a sudden, there’s no more path to climb and before me lies a lush valley with Roncesvalles just visible at the end of it. I fly on the descent! This is what I came here for; to feel alive, free, strong and at one with my surroundings. And this is only the beginning.

Walking with ghosts

As we crept through the twilight-bathed rainforest, anticipation reached breaking point. My heart was beating so fast, I was convinced the heavy thudding would frighten them away. My head shot up to the canopy like a reflex every time I heard the trees rustle. Cursing the weather, I tightened my grip on my camera as I lost my footing whenever I took my eyes off the damp forest floor. We'd travelled over 5,000 miles, dismissed government travel advice and braved the monsoon for a glimpse of these unique characters in their natural habitat. To go home without a sighting wasn’t an option. As a haunting call broke the silence, a shiver went down my spine. Our guide flashed us a knowing smile. This was it. This is the reason why anybody makes the pilgrimage to this impoverished yet beautiful country. The lemurs of Madagascar were in our midst. The forest came alive as one by one, the family joined in the dawn chorus. My goosebumps multiplied with each eerie echo. Something shook the trees overhead and there he was. The inquisitive Indri – the largest of the living lemurs – just metres away and staring right at me with piercing eyes. I gazed in awe as his family sashayed through the trees to join him. Sporting a suit of silky black and white fur, the Indri resembles an oversized teddy bear yet has all the grace of an acrobat as it propels itself from trunk to trunk. As I watched, captivated by this creature of quirky contradictions (cute yet chilling, prehistoric yet futuristic, clumsy yet nimble), I felt a pang of heartache. Our meeting was bittersweet. While I felt privileged to be in the presence of such elusive animals on their home turf, I was also saddened as the seriousness of Madagascar’s plight struck me. It is estimated that at least 17 species of lemur are already extinct. Of the 100 species remaining, eight are critically endangered, 18 are endangered and 15 are vulnerable. Populations are declining thanks to environmental devastation caused by human greed. The very real possibility that wild lemurs will become a mythical legend made my encounter even more poignant. As my new found friends disappeared into the shadows, I considered the latin origin of the word lemur – ghost. I hope that spirits won’t be all that is left of these bewitching beauties in the not too distant future.
Lilys Bird
loading... please wait.