Over the the years I have learned that the best souvenirs to buy abroad are simple, small, cheap, available to buy everywhere in the world and easy to display souvenirs. Which is why I nowadays prefer to buy magnets from each place/city/country I visit. Actually it was my sister who started to buy magnets as a "must buy souvenir" wherever she went, so I guess I have copied her a bit there. Hehe. But really, magnets are indeed perfect souvenirs. Because they also make excellent decoration items for my otherwise boring fridge door, which (thanks to them) looks like this right now:
My Magnetic World.
And some of the magnets I have brought home so far come from:
This lovely tiger photo was taken at one of the zoos I visited in Australia in 2007.
And close encounter indeed, because the only thing that kept this tiger and boy apart was a few centimeters of glass. It also seemed to me like this tiger was more intrigued by the boy than the other way around. Which in turn now makes me wonder; what was on your mind Mr. Tiger? Hm..?
When I travel I like to bring something home with me from each country, also known as a souvenir. But although I have bought most of my souvenirs in stores, my favourite souvenirs are actually the ones I have collected on my own - for free! Souvenirs like;
Top Left Jar: Sand from the Sahara Desert in Tunisia. Left Middle Jar: A rock from Grand Canyon and sand from Santa Monica Beach in California (US). Left Bottom Jar: Sand from a Desert in Egypt. And the bottle to the right is filled with water I gathered on a boat ride on the River Nile in Egypt.
So these are some of the pieces of the world I have in my living room here in Sweden. And I must say that one thing that still baffles me to this day is how clean the water from the Nile looks in that bottle. Because, not only has it been in there for more than 10 years, but the river looked so brown and dirty when I was on it. Though, I guess water can be dirty even if it looks clean. But even so, the big difference of appearance still fascinates me. And it is something I am sure I would never have noticed unless I had brought a piece of the Nile home with me.
I love these photos of this lurking male lion my sister and I saw when we were at Dubbo Zoo in Australia. We were there in 2006 and when we stopped by the lions they were just about to get fed. Now the female lions were very eager and hungry indeed, however the big beautiful male lion just hid behind a tree... Something I thought was very weird. But the animal keepers explained that in the wild only the female lions hunt. The male lions stay behind and wait for the female lions to bring them food. Which was why this male lion stayed in the background during feeding time.
Hmm. I wonder what they catch today?
Come on! Do not keep us waiting people!
Mmm. Looks like the ladies got some goodies now. I guess I can walk over there, slooowlyyy...
Such magnificent animals! And I must say, even though I wish that all animals could live freely in their natural habitats instead of in captivity. The Zoos I visited in Australia were among the best ones I have ever been to. Especially this one, Dubbo Zoo. Because this Zoo and its animal keepers genuinely seemed to care for and about the animals here.
I also really appreciated that the animal keepers held information sessions every day about the particular animal species they were responsible for. In these sessions they talked about how to act if you should ever encounter the specific animal species in the wild. They also shared a bit of history about the animal species and how they managed the animals at the Zoo. So I actually learned a lot about animals in Australia. Like the fact that male lions are lazy. Lol! ;-)
In 1999 when I was 16 years old I went on a completely unplanned three week interrail trip through Europe. The reason for this was because I was dared into it. Now initially my family and I were just supposed to visit relatives in Stockholm for a few days. But when we got there it turned out that my 17 year old cousin had planned to go interrailing with three of her friends. However one of those friends had now become sick and was no longer able to tag along.
Due to this cancelation my aunt refused to let my cousin go on this trip. Because she wanted there to be two boys and two girls instead of one girl and two boys who traveled together. So during a heated discussion about whether or not I would dare to go with them, I said: "Of course I would!". But the truth was that I did not really think it was a serious question. I thought it was more of a typical tease question like: "Well why don't you come along instead Alexandra, ha, ha, ha!?". Which was why I said yes.
BUT, it turned out that my mum thought a trip like this would be a great experience for me. One she wished she had had the opportunity to go on at my age. Ehum, what mum!!!? Mum also said she would sponsor me if I really wanted to go. I guess interrailing was one of those more cheap holidays alternatives back then..? Anyway, after some quick last minute preparations - off we went. And just like that a few days of summer vacation in Stockholm turned into three weeks of interrailing through Europe for me.
Ahhh! What happened!? Feeling a bit crazy in a train station somewhere in Europe...
Left: Pondering in Paris, France. Right: Standing next to some gondolas in Venice, Italy.
Now even though this trip entailed some homesickness and teenage drama. It was indeed one of the most amazing experiences ever! Mostly because I learned so much from it, both about Europe and myself. For instance, it was during this trip that I realized that I am so much more strong and capable than I think I am. And that I should never ever let fear control me. I mean if I had listened to my fears back then I would had missed out on so much. Needless to say, I am very grateful that I dared to say yes to this trip!
Perhaps not the first thing one thinks of when going on holidays to Dubai. At least I thought it was funny and surprising when I came across these things during my visit there. But, despite being located in the middle of a desert, Dubai definitely felt like a modern Middle Eastern city to me. One I am sure has become even more modernized today compared to when I was there in August of 2007.
Starbucks inside Emirates Mall in Dubai
By the ski slopes inside Emirates Mall in Dubai.
But what reminded me of that I was in fact in the Middle East was definitely the clothing of many people there. And I really enjoyed the experience of this mix of cultures. Because it made my visit to Dubai very fascinating and refreshing. Which is why I hope for many more visits to Dubai in the future. :p
I love experiencing the air in a country for the first time. Taking my first breath there, feeling its air touch my face. Usually these occasions take place when I get off an airplane or step out from an airport. And I always get surprised by how different air can be around the world.
In the air above Las Vegas, Nevada USA.
My strongest air memories of other countries are:
1.Tehran, Iran. The air there is so sharp, dry and dominated by exhausts. Something which completely shocked me on my first visit when I was 10. I had no idea it could actually be hard to breathe outside!
Me in Iran 2007.
2. Dubai. When I first got out of the airport in the evening it was about +40°C, INSANE! This was in August of 2007. And it felt like breathing and walking around in a sauna. It was pure torture to be outside during daytime and I could not even cool off in the ocean, because it was warm as well! In fact, what I learned on this trip is that it is actually possible to sweat while bathing in an ocean. Yikes!
This is Ski Dubai inside Emirates Mall in Dubai. The worlds third largest indoor ski slope. And I can tell you that I felt like running in there and rolling around in that snow on this day!
3. Tasmania, Australia. It has one of the worlds cleanest air. And I swear I could feel it! It felt like breathing in pure oxygen. Amazing, and how I think it should feel everywhere when you want to go outside for some fresh air. Ahhh!
Cradle Mountains, Tasmania. :-)
My favourite type of air to breathe in here in Sweden is the one which is produced during those really cold days/nights. And especially when that cold crisp air is mixed with smoke from fire in peoples fire places. It smells and feels lovely. Perhaps not the purest of air though. But it makes me feel warm and cosy somehow, even though it is freezing outside.
So for me, visiting places around the world is not all about what I can buy or see. But more about how it feels to be there. And air is something which exist everywhere, but is still different depending on where on the planet you are. Because to breathe in air somewhere, anywhere, is a truly a unique experience. One which can't be turned into a souvenir or sold. You simply have to be there in order to breathe there.