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Are you the type of person for whom there’s no travel without pen and paper or life without traveling? Then share your story (and pictures) with the world!

It may be funny, tender, romantic or worthy of an action movie. But, most of all, it shall be original and engaging.

  • 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 maximum of 500kb each.
see all the rules >

Timings

OCTOBER 13TH
DECEMBER 31ST
2016

JANUARY 2017

MARCH 2017

COMPETITION Period to submit your story.
SHORT LIST ANNOUNCEMENT The 80 best stories will be revealed.
PRIZES ATTRIBUTION One can be yours!
All the winners will be announced on the website of the competition

Are you the type of person for whom there’s no travel without pen and paper or life without traveling? Then share your story (and pictures) with the world!

It may be funny, tender, romantic or worthy of an action movie. But, most of all, it shall be original and engaging.

  • 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 maximum of 500kb each.
see all the rules >

Timings

OCTOBER 13th
DECEMBER 31st
2016

JANUARY 2017

MARCH 2017

COMPETITION Period to submit your story.
SHORT LIST ANNOUNCEMENT The 80 best stories will be revealed.
PRIZES ATTRIBUTION One can be yours!

All the winners will be announced on the website of the competition

Participate Now >

Meet the jury

From award-winning travel bloggers to accomplished writers and travelers, as well as Navigator’s representatives, 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 travel experience.

KRISTIN ADDIS

Kristin Addis is a travel and active lifestyle blogger from California who has been traveling the world for four years solo. Read full bio

read story >

KRISTIN ADDIS

Kristin Addis is a travel and active lifestyle blogger from California who has been traveling the world for four years solo. Her award-winning blog and photography covers trekking, SCUBA diving, camping, hitchhiking, and all kinds of other adventures in some of the most beautiful places on the planet. There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore.

Aurora Borealis

It had been a long day of driving and rain for my friend, Maksim, and I on Iceland’s ring road. It was dark and cloudy by the time we pulled into the parking lot of the glacier lagoon and though we were chasing the aurora, it looked unlikely given the thick cloud cover. “What would you do if we saw the northern lights tonight?” he asked me. “I could die happy,” I replied. As if on cue, an hour later he called to me with an excited tone to his voice. Magically, the sky had opened up and started dancing with the most intense green. It was like crystals snaking across the sky and that night, my smile was wider than it has ever been.

DYLAN LOWE

Travel & Food Writer, Photographer & Storyteller, Dylan Lowe is the founder of the “The Traveling Editor” blog. Read full bio

read story >

DYLAN LOWE

Travel & Food Writer, Photographer & Storyteller, Dylan Lowe is the founder of the “The Traveling Editor” blog. Beginning life in student journalism – and for that nominated Travel Writer of the Year by the Guardian Student Media Awards – he traded his degree in Geology for a meandering career of travel writing and photography. Along with his greatest adventures – living among tribes in the South Pacific, hitchhiking across the whole length of Canada and nine other countries, serial bungee jumping and visiting produce makers – what he discovers most often are the intriguing stories of people he meets and the interdependence of communities. He dedicates his work to pursuing the craft of storytelling, whether it’s the portrayal of his subjects or his continuous path to self-discovery.

MT Yasur Vanuatu

First, there was the sulphur in the air.

It assaulted my eyes, hindered my nostrils from drawing breath. Even if I’d been on the island for over two days and developed a tolerance for its omnipresence, the irritant intensified the higher I climbed. And I needed that oxygen – if I was to take a step, followed by another and repeat, on the loose gravel shifting beneath my feet, as though I was treading on a sloping conveyor belt opposite its direction.

Except it wasn’t just any hill but an active volcano; our destination, the crater, was a beacon beaming onto the darkening skies and staining it red. As we hiked up its belly, we could feel its tremors: a soft rumbling on a lazier, less moody day.

“Old Man Yasur” is the nickname the locals give to the fire pit in their backyard: anthropomorphically it is the oldest habitant –and creator – of the Tanna Island, and it does have the formidable temperament of an agitated senior citizen. That I read about Mt Yasur when I travelled from Port Vila, the capital of the South Pacific archipelago nation of Vanuatu, to Tanna.

Also in the same in-flight magazine did I learn about a peculiar story: once a visitor of the volcano was struck by a molten rock; instead of the hospital he sought a village doctor for bush medicine – he succumbed to his head injury days later. What a thing to inform someone whose main reason to visit the island was to scale its volcano.

But, in the end, with a more tranquilised Mt Yasur, the hike to its fire-spitting mouth wasn’t the most challenging part – it is, after all, one of the most accessible volcanoes in the world. As I gazed into the pit, its eruptions spewing blushing boulders in nature’s own erratic rhythm, there’s no way to appease that conflict of science and mysticism in my head.

Could this be interpreted by the knowledge bank of my geology education, or should beliefs of the supernatural on Tanna have the better say? Shall it make any sense to me, that a man hit by a volcanic fragment thought he had angered the gods and pursued penance rather than medication, or that a nearby tribal cult worshipped and believed Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh to be a reincarnated mountain spirit spawned from this very crater?

Sometimes, the difficult part is letting go of our rationality and simply allowing our perceptions perceive things as what they seem. Like, without the need of explanation, standing in front of a vigorous volcano and appreciating the visceral beauty of forces beyond logic.

ANTÓNIO QUIRINO SOARES

António Quirino Soares is the The Navigator Company’s Marketing Director. With a degree in business administration and a Master of Science in Economics, by the University of Exeter, UK, he has worked at NTC Research in the UK and ICP (now ANACOM) before joining the The Navigator Company in 2002. Read full bio

António Quirino Soares

António Quirino Soares is the The Navigator Company’s Marketing Director. With a degree in business administration and a Master of Science in Economics, by the University of Exeter, UK, he has worked at NTC Research in the UK and ICP (now ANACOM) before joining the The Navigator Company in 2002. Before assuming his current position, where he is responsible for the company’s global marketing decisions, he has worked as a Project Value Leader, an International Key Account Manager and as an Analyst.

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 >

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.

Author of several TV documentaries, he has been collaborating with the major Portuguese press publications and has published eleven travel books. Surfing, travel, historical biographies and life events are his favorite themes.

In 2003-2004 he made a round the world trip by land and sea. In 2007 he made another following the footsteps of Fernão de Magalhães and in 2008-2009 another one while chasing his favorite surf waves.

Each time he’s asked about his most memorable trip, the answer is: “the next one!”.

METEOROPATHY

We travel so as to discover the two most important facets of our lives: the world around us and the world within us. The first is well mapped and trodden daily by millions of tourists. However in the latter case it’s a complete adventure. Who knows what depths of our soul will be revealed when we set off on our travels?

We grow up surrounded by certainties. But when we travel, these certainties are called into question. Portuguese food is the world's best, but only for the Portuguese. “Saudade” is a word that can only be expressed in Portuguese, but if an Eskimo does not feel nostalgia why would he need a word to describe it?

Travel changes our way of understanding who we are. Often we come across concepts that suddenly shed light on a problem that we didn't even realise we suffered from, and which is common in other parts of the world. For example, meteoropathy. As far as I know, the word "meteoropathy" does not exist in the English language. However, for Italians living in Liguria, it’s a recurrent theme. Meteoropathy refers to a set of mental and physical disorders caused by changes in weather conditions. In my case, low atmospheric pressure affects my mood, saps my energy and makes me feel depressed. In Portugal, the low pressure fronts that bring rain appear gradually and are a regular yet infrequent feature during winter; in India, they occur once a year and represent renewal and fertility. In either of these countries, it would be difficult to associate the arrival of a cold front with a sudden mood change. It would be rare for anyone to learn they were meteoropathic.

But in Liguria we discover the extent to which we can be meteoropathics. Everything that affects the Mediterranean skies seems to converge and focus there, causing sudden and unexpected changes in pressure and weather. The winds rise from the Sahara, descend from the Alps or advance from the Gulf of Lyon; humidity shrouds us like a fog mantle; clouds appear like magnets attracted to a refrigerator door. The weather is an unpredictable and extreme succession of all the climates in Europe and Africa. It was in Liguria I discovered this part of my essence hitherto unknown.

Liguria is a prime tourist destination: Its cuisine and wines. Its history and landscapes. I invite you to see for yourself how wonderful these places we already know exist truly are. But above all, enjoy the trip to explore this dark side that exists within you. This is why we travel. And if you happen to discover any pill against meteoropathy, do let me know.

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

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.

ANTÓNIO REDONDO

António Redondo started working at grupo The Navigator Company 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

António Redondo

António Redondo started working at The Navigator Company in 1987 and has held several management roles throughout the years. He is a member of the Board of Directors since 2009.

Qualifications: Degree in Chemical Engineering, University of Coimbra (1987); attended 4th year in Business Management at Universidade Internacional; MBA specializing in marketing, from the Portuguese Catholic University (1998).

Meet the jury

From award-winning travel bloggers to accomplished writers and travelers, as well as Navigator’s representatives, 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 travel experience.

KRISTIN ADDIS

Kristin Addis is a travel and active lifestyle blogger from California who has been traveling the world for four years solo. Read full bio

read story >

DYLAN LOWE

Travel & Food Writer, Photographer & Storyteller, Dylan Lowe is the founder of the “The Traveling Editor” blog. Read full bio

read story >

ANTÓNIO QUIRINO SOARES

António Quirino Soares is the The Navigator Company’s Marketing Director. Read full bio

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 >

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

ANTÓNIO REDONDO

António Redondo started working at grupo The Navigator Company 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

Participate Now >

TAKE NAVIGATOR’S CHALLENGE AND FLY TO YOUR DREAM DESTINATION!

1st TO 80th

Stories published at Around
the World in 80 Pages book!

We will also have a reward
for the best photo

Digital Camera NIKON D5500
(valued at 1.000€)

PArticipate now >

TAKE NAVIGATOR’S CHALLENGE AND FLY TO YOUR DREAM DESTINATION!

1st TO 80th

Stories published at Around the World
in 80 Pages book!

There will also exist an honour award for the best photo

Digital Camera NIKON D5500 (valued at 1.000€)

PArticipate now >

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to offer! Spread the word!
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Promotion

Navigator brand has eight travel
vouchers
to offer! Spread the word!
PARTICIPATE NOW >

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

Participation beyond expectations

The first edition of “Around the World in 80 pages” brought together nearly 600 travel stories from the five continents.
“Life is a climb, but the view is great”, written by Ana Torres, and “Leave nothing but pawprints”, by Alice van Kempen, were the winning stories. Alice van Kempen, from Holland, was also the creator of the best photo.

Around the World in 80 Pages 2015/16 in numbers

  • 573 stories submitted to the competition
  • Entrants from 44 countries
Know more...

1st edition winners

Life is a climb but the view is great! more >

Story Place: Norway

Name: Ana Torres, 32 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place: Belgium

Name: Alice van Kempen, 48 | Holland

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 more >

Story Place: Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

Name: Linnea Lindblom, 30 | Sweden

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 halleluja more >

Story Place: Ecuador

Name: Nelleke Reckers, 29 | Holland

Life is what happens to you in baeza:
a traveller’s heart full of halleluja
“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 more >

Story Place: Spain

Name: Sara, 25 | USA

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 more >

Story Place: India, Rishikesh

Name: Barbara Pais, 26 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place: The Camino de Santiago

Name: João Pateira, 37 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place: Madagascar

Name: Alix Johnson, 36 | UK

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.

The best picture winner is

Alice van Kempen, 48 | Holland

Participation beyond expectations

The first edition of “Around the World in 80 pages” brought together nearly 600 travel stories from the five continents. “Life is a climb, but the view is great”, written by Ana Torres, and “Leave nothing but pawprints”, by Alice van Kempen, were the winning stories. Alice van Kempen, from Holland, was also the creator of the best photo.

Around the World in 80 Pages 2015/16 in numbers

  • 573 stories submitted to the competition
  • Entrants from 44 countries
Know more...

1st edition winners

Life is a climb but the view is great! more >

Story Place: Norway |

Name: Ana Torres, 32 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place: Belgium |

Name: Alice van Kempen, 48 | Holland

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 more >

Story Place: Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway |

Name: Linnea Lindblom, 30 | Sweden

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 halleluja more >

Story Place: Ecuador |

Name: Nelleke Reckers, 29 | Holland

Life is what happens to you in baeza:
a traveller’s heart full of halleluja
“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 more >

Story Place: Spain |

Name: Sara, 25 | USA

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 more >

Story Place: India, Rishikesh |

Name: Barbara Pais, 26 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place: The Camino de Santiago |

Name: João Pateira, 37 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place: Madagascar |

Name: Alix Johnson, 36 | UK

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.

The best picture winner is

Alice van Kempen, 48 | Holland

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Participation beyond expectations

The first edition of “Around the World in 80 pages” brought together nearly 600 travel stories from the five continents. “Life is a climb, but the view is great”, written by Ana Torres, and “Leave nothing but pawprints”, by Alice van Kempen, were the winning stories. Alice van Kempen, from Holland, was also the creator of the best photo.

Around the World in 80 Pages 2015/16 in numbers

  • 573 stories submitted to the competition
  • Entrants from 44 countries
Know more...

1st edition winners

Life is a climb but the view is great! more >

Story Place Norway |

Name Ana Torres, 32 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place Belgium |

Name Alice van Kempen, 48 | Holand

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 more >

Story Place Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway |

Name Linnea Lindblom, 30 | Sweden

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 halleluja more >

Story Place Ecuador |

Name Nelleke Reckers, 29 | Holland

Life is what happens to you in baeza:
a traveller’s heart full of halleluja
“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 more >

Story Place Spain |

Name Sara, 25 | USA

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 more >

Story Place India, Rishikesh |

Name Barbara Pais, 26 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place The Camino de Santiago |

Name João Pateira, 37 | Portugal

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 more >

Story Place Madagascar |

Name Alix Johnson, 36 | UK

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.

The best picture winner is

Alice van Kempen, 48 | Holland

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