Tonsai Bay in Summer and in Winter – When to Visit Thailand?

My wife Olena and I may be two of the only people on Earth who have ever visited Tonsai Bay in Krabi, Thailand in both Winter and Summer. The first trip was a magical ten days full of perfect weather, daily excursions, and lots of swimming and lounging in the sun. Though it probably shouldn’t have, the atmosphere of our second venture to Tonsai really caught us off guard…

My wife Olena and I may be two of the only people on Earth who have ever visited Tonsai Bay in Krabi, Thailand in both Winter and Summer. The first trip was a magical ten days full of perfect weather, daily excursions, and lots of swimming and lounging in the sun. Though it probably shouldn’t have, the atmosphere of our second venture to Tonsai really caught us off guard…

December 2016:

Our first trip to Tonsai was during the Christmas holiday in 2016. We flew into Phuket, spent the day on the famous Patong beach, and hopped on a ferry to the much more chilled-out Tonsai Bay. The late-night party life hasn’t been our thing for years, so it was nice to head to a more secluded area. In fact, Tonsai Bay is only reachable via longtail boat from Ao Nang beach in Krabi. This makes it all the more exclusive!

There are a few ways to get to Tonsai. Most likely if you’re in the area you’ll hear that most tourists are going to the nearby Railay Beach resort area. You can get a longtail boat for around 100 THB per person from either Railay East or from the more accessible Ao Nang beach. My suggestion is to head straight for Ao Nang and, in the high season (December), there will be plenty of others willing to share a longtail boat. If there is no longtail boat available, you can walk from Railay beach, but if it’s high-tide you have to hike up and over some pretty treacherous terrain. Not recommended if you have lots of luggage.

Upon arriving, one must walk about half a kilometer up a small hill, through the forest and past hordes of thieving monkeys. After arriving at our $6 per night bungalows, we immediately felt at home. Not too crowded, very relaxed atmosphere, Bob Marley on the loudspeakers, helpful and friendly staff, and a fire show every night. The seating area at Chillout Bungalows included several hammocks, some picnic benches and even a few tree houses. Surrounding the bar area were several food stalls where anyone can find a delicious bite to eat. Chillout is located on Tonsai’s only main strip which is lined with more relaxing bars, some restaurants and a few more similar bungalows.

The bungalows themselves were incredibly basic. One bed, one shelf, one bathroom, one fan, and electricity only between 6PM and 6AM. We were officially off the grid, and it felt fantastic! Life was good. We had five full days ahead of us to relax in the sun and go on adventures.

During this trip, we spent a couple days on the beach, a few days on excursions in Krabi, and one day island-hopping, snorkeling and kayaking. It was the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure. We were sad to wave goodbye to Tonsai and longed to return someday.

July 2018:

Fast-forward 19 months to July 2018. We had a flight booked on July 27th to leave China for good and start a new life in New York City. We were going a bit crazy because I only had one day to pack between school finishing and leaving the country. Also, my birthday was coming up. After lots of back-and-forth decision making, we decided I would take an entire week, unpaid, off from work to go to Thailand for a full 9 days. After all, it was our last chance in Asia!

Olena and I are avid travelers, but we never return to the exact same place. We’ve always considered it a waste of time and money because the world is so big and want to see as much as possible. Well, with visions of our time in Tonsai at Chillout Bungalows swimming in our heads, we booked four nights at Chillout and a flight into Krabi. We were determined to repeat our experience on our last trip. It was so exciting! This time, we planned to take fewer excursions and just relax on the beach. It was going to be amazing!

I think you see where this was going. Our second trip to Tonsai was absolutely nothing like the first. For starters, the weather. No one bothered to tell us and we never bothered looking, but July is right in the middle of Thailand’s rainy season. In fact, two ships carrying tourists had capsized the day before we arrived, killing more than 50 people in the very same bay we planned to take a ferry. To the North, 12 boys had been trapped in a cave because of rapidly-rising water. When we arrived in Krabi, a torrential downpour started within minutes, right out of the sunny blue sky.

The rain was so bad that, when we arrived at Ao Nang beach, where tourists had lined up in December for a longtail boat to Tonsai, we found the beach deserted, waterlogged and devoid of any boats. We were informed that no longtail boat would go that day because of the weather.

Our spirits would not be crushed! We were determined to get to Tonsai. We grabbed a Tuktuk to Ao Nan Mao pier, got on a longtail boat to Railay Bay, walked over a kilometer in the rain to the aforementioned treacherous path, climbed up and over carrying 20kg each on our backs, and finally made it to Tonsai. The walk through the Railay area was depressing. The beach, crowded with tourists last time, was as empty as the food stalls that lined the streets. Arriving at Tonsai, waterlogged and exhausted, we still felt a spark of joy at our accomplishment. This spark, however, was quickly extinguished by the weather and the low season. Walking up the path to Chillout, no monkeys barred our way to beg for fruit, no happy locals greeted us on our way, all the bars we passed were either closed for good or completely empty, and to cap it all off, some rich guy had bought a bunch of land in the center of the area and cut down most of the trees. What had once felt like a secluded walk in the forest felt much more exposed and public.

Arriving at Chillout, we found the bar also empty and almost no one staying in the bungalows. No fire shows planned for the evening, no music on the loudspeaker, just the dreary-eyed people who ran the place during this low season. With all of this against us, the lack of electricity and comforts of home were much more noticeable. Back in our rooms, instead of an off-the-grid lifestyle and chilled-out atmosphere, we instead noticed the dirty sheets, wet bathroom and lack of light. We made the best of it, went swimming in the rain, but ended up canceling our next few nights and moving on to Phi Phi island, where our adventure took a much more positive turn.

The moral of the story:

Know the season of where you’re traveling, and never expect a journey to the same place at a different time to be the same as the first trip. In fact, I think that in life we should never seek to repeat exact experience because it lines you up for disappointment. Let every experience be its own, and try to keep your chin up! As I said, we still had five more days and ended up having a fantastic time in Phi Phi. The weather improved, our spirit was revived, and we learned a lot from the experience. Tonsai Bay, it was amazing while it lasted, but it’ll never be the same again.

5-Day New York City Guide 2018 (Guest Post)

If this is your first time in NYC, you know why you’re here: you want to see Times Square. Sure, go see it. Everyone should see it once in their lifetime (and only once). Do some touristy stuff on Day 1. Day 2: West Side, Day 3: Central Park, Day 4: East Side and Day 5: Downtown.

Ok, here’s a suggestion of how I would do it, given 5 days. There is a lot of walking because New York is all about walking, by Jesse Richardsoriginally posted on Quora.

Day 1: Ugh, Midtown

If this is your first time in NYC, you know why you’re here: you want to see Times Square. Sure, go see it. Everyone should see it once in their lifetime (and only once). Do some touristy stuff. Go ahead, get it out of your system. We’ll wait. And I hear there’s a nice Applebee’s for lunch around there.

1. Times Square
2. Rockefeller Center
3. Bryant Park
4. NY Public Library 
5. Grand Central Station
6. Empire State Building
7. See a show (Broadway or Off)

Day 2: West Side

Now the good part starts. Let’s walk around some of my favorite neighborhoods. Start at the Flatiron building and walk south on Broadway to Union Square, and south some more to Washington Square Park. Then take Bleecker all the way through the West Village. Don’t be too prescriptive; you’ve got plenty of time to wander around. To finish off the day, walk the whole length of the High Line north. It will be crowded, but it’s worth it.

1. Flatiron bldg
2. Madison Sq Park
3. Eataly
4. Union Square
5. Greenmarket (certain days)
6. Forbidden Planet & Strand
7. NYU
8. Washington Sq Park
9. Bleecker Street
10. Get lost in the West Village
11. Meatpacking district
12. The High Line

Day 3: Central Park

And now, the most beautiful work of art ever created: Central Park. Afterward, there are a few million more pieces of art in The Met. Here’s a recommended path:

1. Columbus Circle
2. Chess & Checkers house
3. The Dairy
4. The Mall
5. Bethesda Fountain
6. Pass by the Bow Bridge
7. Strawberry Fields & Imagine mosaic
8. The Ramble
9. Belvedere Castle
10. Shakespeare Garden
11. Great Lawn
12. The Met

(If you are ever able to go to Central Park for a second day, check out the north half, including the Ravine and Conservatory Garden.)

Day 4: East Side

Back to another tour of incredible neighborhoods.

1. Chinatown
2. Canal St.
3. SoHo
4. Lower East Side
5. Katz’s Deli
6. Alphabet City
7. Thompkins Sq Park
8. St. Mark’s Place
9. East Village
10. Take the L one stop to Williamsburg
11. Wander around Williamsburg
12. Check out the Pier

Day 5: Downtown

Follow the beautiful series of interconnected parks around the tip of Manhattan, giving you spectacular views of the harbor and Statue of Liberty. Then, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and see even better views from the Brooklyn Promenade.

1. Rockefeller Park
2. Tom Otterness sculpture garden
3. South Cove harbor and Esplanade
4. Robert F. Wagner park
5. Battery Park
6. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
7. Elevated Acre
8. South Street Seaport (the museum is nice, too)
9. Brooklyn Bridge
10. Brooklyn Heights
11. Brooklyn Promenade
12. Skybridge down to:
13. Brooklyn Bridge Park
14. and DUMBO

Day 6: Soak feet.

Don’t do too many touristy things. Just wander in the world’s best neighborhoods.

(All photos by Jesse Richards.)

Shrimp vs. Crickets: How Can Eating Insects Save the World?

Shrimp is a popular food source all over the world. They are healthy due to their high calcium, omega-3, protein and they are deliciously easy to prepare. Shrimp has been America’s most popular seafood for many years; in 2014 the average amount of shrimp eaten per person annually was 1.8 kilos! Despite being one of the most common allergens, shrimp are considered a delicacy and are very much in demand worldwide.

Shrimp is a popular food source all over the world. They are healthy due to their high calcium, omega-3, protein and they are deliciously easy to prepare. Shrimp has been America’s most popular seafood for many years; in 2014 the average amount of shrimp eaten per person annually was 1.8 kilos! Despite being one of the most common allergens, shrimp are considered a delicacy and are very much in demand worldwide.

So why do people love eating many-legged, large-eyed, trash-eating sea creatures but think crickets are disgusting?

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Shrimp have more legs than insects: 5 pairs of walking legs, 5 pairs of swimming legs and 3 pairs of “arms” that they use to feed. They have hard exoskeleton and soft bodies just like insects. They also eat plankton and other ocean waste. While it is lobsters that are considered the cockroaches of the sea, shrimp can easily be compared to a variety of insects including crickets.

Similarities:

Research has shown that people who are allergic to shrimp/shellfish are also allergic to crickets and other insects. Crickets are an even better sources of protein and omega-3 than shrimp. They also have countless of other health benefits including being rich in iron, calcium (a great non-dairy source of calcium!), they are low in fat but have dietary fiber which is not common in the other animals eaten in the west.

The main difference:

Harvesting enough shrimp to feed our shrimp-crazed world has some devastating consequences on the planet. While eating insects is considered ecologically friendly, shrimp are either caught in the wild or farmed and both methods have their setbacks.

Farmed shrimp are often kept in coast side pools so that the tide can carry away the waste and refresh the water. This means that chemicals such as superphosphate, diesel, pesticides and antibiotics pollute the fresh water in the area. In addition to this, a 2014 estimate shows that 38% of the world’s mangroves were destroyed by shrimp farmers to create the ponds.

Catching wild shrimp on the other hand kills between 5 and 18 kilos of “bycatch” for every kilo of shrimp. Bycatch is basically unwanted species that get caught accidentally and includes sharks, sea turtles, star fish, rays and many more. Wild shrimp is also not inspected by the FDA, so the 162 varieties of bacteria (resistant to 10 different antibiotics) can end up on your plate.

How is farming or catching crickets better?

According to the Edible Bug Farm, “Insect farming uses a tiny fraction of the feed, water and land needed to raise traditional livestock such as cattle or pigs. Since bugs are not mammals, they are also much less likely to transfer diseases to us.”

Not only does farming crickets require few resources, but it also requires very little space. It is even possible to purchase desktop farms that are fed on kitchen scraps. Livin Farms has created a Hive that produces up to 500 grams of mealworms every two weeks.

Plus, insects reproduce at incredible rates and reach adulthood quickly, so it is easy to grow many insects in a short amount of time and keep repopulating it. Farming and catching insects can even have socio-cultural benefits in developing countries including providing jobs for women and the elderly.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let these three infographics summarize the benefits of cricket farming and conclude why crickets are better than shrimp (and cows, pigs, chickens, etc.)

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Marina Bay Rooftop Bar & Infinity Pool, Singapore 2018

One of the highlights of our trip to Singapore was visiting the Marina Bay Rooftop. We almost spent the ridiculous $500 per night for a room just to get a chance to take a dip in the worlds highest infinity pool. We ended up splurging a much more modest $200 on a different hotel with its own spectacular infinity pool, but we still visit the Marina Bay Sands and got a peek at the infamous pool!

One of the highlights of our trip to Singapore was visiting the Marina Bay Rooftop. We almost spent the ridiculous $500 per night for a room just to get a chance to take a dip in the worlds highest infinity pool. We ended up splurging a much more modest $200 on a different hotel with its own spectacular infinity pool, but we still visit the Marina Bay Sands and got a peek at the infamous pool!

Volunteering at a Dogsled Farm – Snowdragons, Austria Part 5 (Guest Blog)

The next two days, some friends visited for watching the race. Lukas was able to keep his third place, even it really took him a lot to keep up with the others. The track was obviously very challenging. Still, we had a lot of fun, everything was organized very well, but we were happy when everything ended on Sunday with the ceremony and with a final emotional song I am from Austria (the secret Austrian hymn).

Last time, I was two days before the European Championship really worried, that I wouldn’t be able to join Lukas, because I got ill. Luckily, I felt one day before much better and I told Lukas that I will definitely join him. It was actually the first day since a week my nose was not running – what a nice feeling 😛 Lukas and I had to make some preparations, we weren’t sure that there will be electricity in Ottenschlag, so we needed to buy a generator to heat up the caravan, and a few more things. In between, we still had some time for fun with the dogs. It was pretty much raining the whole week, and Braxi obviously didn’t like to be wet anymore, so he sneaked into the house. I dried him with a towel, I think he liked it 😉

By Sheida Nasseri (Guest Blogger)

Please find the original post, awesome photos, and adrenaline-packed videos here: http://butterflies-needtofly.blogspot.co.at/2016/11/volunteering-at-dogsled-farm_27.html

European Championship in Ottenschlag / Austria

The next morning, we started packing the caravan and loading the dogs. The final decision on the dogs joining us, was in the lead Foppa and Lily, behind them Simba and Atreju, then Arthur and Angor, and as Wheel dogs Punkti and Blesk. They always get really excited and it is not that easy to get them from the kennel to the transporter as you imagine 😛 They pull really hard, because they fear that you will let them behind and of course because they sense that there is something exciting about to happen. After loading all dogs, we said Goodbye to Miriam and Maria and were on our way to Ottenschlag. The weather conditions weren’t that good, it was raining and very foggy, although it was at least cold enough for our dogs to run. It took us some time to arrive in Ottenschlag, due to the bad weather conditions and our very long vehicle – just to remind you, we were about 14 meters long.

Finally, we arrived around lunchtime in Ottenschlag, there were already a lot of other mushers with their dogs. We got a place next to an Austrian friend of Lukas, her name is Ines who was there with her girlfriend Sajma (from Switzerland). It is really crazy, how many people and especially dogs are there.

Of course, with so many dogs so close to each other, there are some frictions. We had one with one of our neighbors. All musher friends from Lukas were doubting that they were purebred Huskies, and the Musher always let the dogs run free when he got them out of their boxes. The mushers were kidding around that if that would be real Huskies, they wouldn’t stay in that area, they would be running off as far as they could. Additionally, one of the dogs always came a little bit too close to the other dogs’ area, which always triggered a barking and growling concert 😛

We always took the dogs out of their boxes to the so-called “stake out”, where they were attached to a line, so that they couldn’t run off to other dogs but still had the possibility to walk a little bit around and pee or poop. When you let out the dogs out of their boxes, you hold them on their collar and lead them to their place where they got leashed on and back the other way around. I don’t why, but getting the dogs out of the box was never a problem, but getting them back inside, definitely was! At least with a few dogs, and especially with Punkti! I either compared him with a wild going horse or an ox 😛 Not that they didn’t want to get in the box, no they wanted to, so badly, that they were going crazy and pulling so hard, that I almost couldn’t hold them. We had the strongest dogs with us, Atreju, Angor, and Punkti! Lukas was making fun of me, because my muscles in my arms got really sore from holding the dogs, that he always said that if I keep going on, my arms will get longer and very soon I can walk around like an ape with my arms first 😉

Most of the day, I spent actually running around and looking at the other dogs or cuddling with our dogs. They just love to cuddle J

It is amazing to see, how many nationalities are attending on such an event, there were people from 18 countries which were; Italy, Moldavian, France, Slovakia, Romania, Belgium, Serbia, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and of course Austria.

We had quite a short night, due to the fact that somehow a lot of mushers let their dogs out in the middle of the night, although it is forbidden. There is a rule, which says, that the dogs have to be in their boxes between 10pm and 7am. Well, not all of them were following the rules, and when the dogs are out of their boxes they start barking. Very loud. Nevertheless, the morning started early with letting the dogs out and feeding them. Lukas starting time would be at 10.10 am, so we started preparing the dogs shortly before and you could feel the excitement within the whole place. There are different categories where the mushers can run with their dogs. Existing categories were cart run with ten, eight, six and four dogs, Sprint Bike with two or one dogs, Sprint Scooter with one or two dogs, and Canicross with one or two dogs. Can you imagine, CANICROSS with two dogs???? You remember, when I told you that running just with one dog is already a challenge and then with two dogs?? Wow! I watched them running, and I had to laugh because I recognized that expression their faces “don’t fall, don’t fall”. and that was also very difficult, due to the mud.

Within the categories there were even more categories, whether gender or age or if it is a middle or long distance or just a sprint. Shortly, before it was Lukas turn, Lukas got a call from Birgit that Braxi did somehow run off. We have no idea how he did it because there is everywhere a fence around but he wasn’t on the property. Unfortunately, exactly what day the hunting started, the hunters would be out for the next three days. We got really upset, but luckily shortly after that call, Birgit called again and said he was back. He was totally out of breath, limping and smelled like fish! We have no idea where he was, but at least he got back. We guessed that he tried to follow us, but who knows he won’t tell us. We also couldn’t find a hole in any of the fences. As I said, Braxi won’t tell us 😉

Then, we leashed the dogs on to the cart and then (Ines and Sajma helped us) we run together while holding the dogs to the starting line. I had to hold Foppa, he is always so excited and starts jumping over poor Lily, so I hold him the whole time tight. He was really eager to start, we’ve got some pictures of that 😉

After the first race, Lukas was in third place. On the first was one Czech guy with incredible 44 minutes time for the 14.7 km, on the second place one guy from Switzerland, Thomas, we got friends with him, with 54 minutes and Lukas with 58 minutes. In fourth place was again some Czech guy, with only 40 seconds after Lukas. Lukas said, that the first and second place is too far away for him to reach, but he really would like to keep the third place. But therefore, he needs to get a time advantage for all three days and it was already a close catch.

The next two days, some friends visited for watching the race. Lukas was able to keep his third place, even it really took him a lot to keep up with the others. The track was obviously very challenging. Still, we had a lot of fun, everything was organized very well, but we were happy when everything ended on Sunday with the ceremony and with a final emotional song I am from Austria (the secret Austrian hymn).

The ceremony ended around 7 pm, therefore, we decided to leave on the next morning. we didn’t want to have the stress of driving in the dark. I enjoyed it a lot, but I was very tired and finally happy, that after arriving, packing out and taking a super long shower I could have a nice long nap.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. Tomorrow, Maria and I are flying to Paris, to Walt Disneyland! Stay tuned for my next post 😉

Volunteering at a Dogsled Farm – Snowdragons, Austria Part 4 (Guest Post)

I would like to express here that the dog’s wellbeing is Lukas first concern and therefore he didn’t stress the dogs to run fast or on all three days like others did! Therefore, he knew there would be no chance to win that race and this race wasn’t important, it is more like a training…

Here we’ll go again, somehow a lot of things happened and then, not again. The same weekend where Miri and I were alone (Lukas, Birgit and Maria went to Reingers in Austria for a cart race), a previous volunteer arrived. She was the last time only two weeks with Lukas and wanted now to come to visit the dogs and Lukas for a few days. When Lukas, Birgit and Maria came back, they all were kind of relieved and happy to be back with all dogs and all in one piece. Obviously, there was some catastrophe going on in Reingers. Due to the weather circumstances, Lukas decided to not let the dogs run on all three days. It was too warm!

By Sheida Nasseri (Guest Blogger)

Please find the original post, including photos, here: http://butterflies-needtofly.blogspot.com/2016/11/volunteering-at-dogsled-farm.htm

I would like to express here that the dog’s wellbeing is Lukas first concern and therefore he didn’t stress the dogs to run fast or on all three days like others did! Therefore, he knew there would be no chance to win that race and this race wasn’t important, it is more like a training. Usually, Birgit would have gone with four or five dogs and Lukas with eight. Due to the fact, they left out one day, they decided to run with the big team instead, so with all thirteen dogs. Usually, there are several dog handlers which are supporting the Musher holding the dogs and release them in time when the training or race starts. When they wanted to start running, one of the front dog handlers didn’t let go fast enough the leash and fell, so six dogs were running over him, and the seven behind stopped to not run over the guy and the mainline snapped through the force from both sides going in different directions. It snapped in the middle where Braxi was attached to; I am not sure if you know what that means.

The dogs have a neckline attached to their collar and one leash which is attached to the harness on their back; so when the main line snaps in the middle, the neckline is attached to the six dogs who were now running free and his backside to the leash which belongs to the dogs who stopped; they could have ripped him in two pieces, but lucky as Braxi is, his collar was not too tight on his neck, so he could get out of his collar and was standing still in shock! Two dog handlers jumped on their quad bikes and drove after the six dogs which were running their race without the cart and musher. They caught them fast, but that was a really BIG shock for all of them! Lukas directly bought new and stronger lines and a new nice collar for Braxi! That was somehow too much, three times in one week something snapped.

Being back, Maria had the next four days off and went to Vienna. Miri also left on the next day, so I was left with Silvia. She had no experience in doing the routines, so it was pretty much me doing the work … but Birgit and Lukas also helped 😉 I am very thankful for her pictures and videos, though. When we had training, she was filming and taking pictures. Interesting to see, because I never get the chance to take pictures during training (Lukas would most probably kill me if I would take pics instead of helping ;-)) I wanted to post the video, but somehow I had difficulties to upload it.

Before Maria came back, we had a spontaneous photo shoot for our race which we organize in December. I think, I already mentioned that we are organizing our own race here in our region. It will be on the weekend of the 10/11th December. We wanted to hang out some posters to make an advertisement and Lukas asked me if I could take the role as a runner, or so-called Canicross. There will be Sabrina, who is also one of the helpers who will be on the bike and Lukas on the cart. Tim (he is only 9 years old) is going to take the pictures. He is really good at it. Lukas told me, that we will start running up the hill in our yard to the open place and that I have to be really fast because I have to keep up the pace with a bike and a cart! I was doubting that I could keep up that pace, but I didn’t count on Braxi. He was dragging me up that hill so fast, that I even overtook the cart and the bike and was not able to slow down!  I have to admit, a little bit painful because the belt is kind of dividing your ass, but that was actually really funny.

When Maria came back, I left on the next morning for my long weekend off. I also went to Vienna with my boyfriend. It was really lovely! We had a nice hotel, with some crazy architecture, went for some sightseeing, shopping and we even went for the opera “la Cenerentola” (Cinderella). I loved that weekend and I will miss him even more after it.

Being back, I was a bit down. I think I caught something, I felt not that strong. Birgit and Lukas wanted to go away for a few days and that morning we still had a training. I got to go with Lukas and finally had the chance to drive the cart and I discovered my hands are too small to hold the brake of that big cart :-/ typical! So mean L at least, I could drive a few times when we were going more uphill and I didn’t need to handle the brake =P

When we returned, I didn’t feel really good and lay down for the rest of the day. I got sick. With Birgit and Lukas being away, there was not much to do so I could rest. Miri and I found out that Maria (coming from New Zealand) never watched “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings” we were shocked!!!! We started watching that week all Hobbit movies and kept on going on with the Lord of the Rings. Lukas and Birgit returned on the 11th of November. The next morning, we started with a training and Lukas suggested after the training, that Maria and I could take the car so we can go to Buschberg, he saw some pics that there was still a little bit snow laying and  Maria is so eager to see snow. She didn’t really see much snow in her life. In addition, she didn’t get up there to see the nice view, so we went together. It was much fun, I also felt better again.

Sometimes when we got too much paper and carton leftover we do a big fire and burn everything. Maria is freaking scared of fire, so she ripped the carton and I did the fire. I am not afraid, but I have respect. We were making a decent fire, at one point, Lukas came and asked why we are not putting the whole carton at once into the fire. Well, he did, and the fire got so big. He was laughing about us and made (and is still doing) fun about us ripping paper into small pieces and says “I already start a fire, I will be done in two days” and then just cracks of laughter!

Later that day, we went to the chickens and I noticed that little brownie was not outside with the others. When I checked the shed, I directly noticed that something couldn’t be right. She wasn’t on her eggs but was laying in the corner, with her face down in the Stroh. I tried to get her up, but she seemed not able to get on her feet, so I put her in one of the incubators so that she didn’t fall on her face. We went back to the house and told Lukas. He noticed that she had diarrhea, he tried to make her drink water or eat something but couldn’t. Brigit’s father, Pauli, also checked on her but he said that she probably won’t make it. A few hours later she already was dead. I couldn’t believe it, the tamest and most productive chicken died. Still sad about that.

The next day, I didn’t feel good at all! That was the first time I stayed almost the whole day in bed, instead of helping. I couldn’t even help with the night training, Lukas and Maria went alone. I really fear that I will miss the European Championship. The next morning, I got up and helped with the training, but it did cost me so much energy that I was shaking for almost ten minutes… had to rest afterward a little bit. Lukas asked me if I think I will be fit for the Championship. He will need someone who is 100% fit. Birgit is this time not participating due to health issues so it will be just Lukas with eight dogs and one dog handler. I couldn’t tell him, I said, I will wait for the next day and when I don’t feel better I will stay.

If you want to know if I made it to the European Championship, stay posted. Within a week, my next post will be online. Hope to see you again! 🙂

Mealworm Mondays: Livin Farm’s Hive Forgotten for Two Weeks

This week’s Mealworm Monday features feeding the Hive, the world’s first edible insect desktop farm by Livin Farms after it has been untouched for almost two weeks! The Hive is the world’s first edible insect desktop farm that can provide 3-600 nutritious grams of mealworms every two weeks, perfect for entovegans like my husband or anyone who wants a more sustainable form of protein in their lives…

This week’s Mealworm Monday features feeding the Hive, the world’s first edible insect desktop farm by Livin Farms after it has been untouched for almost two weeks! The Hive is the world’s first edible insect desktop farm that can provide 3-600 nutritious grams of mealworms every two weeks, perfect for entovegans like my husband or anyone who wants a more sustainable form of protein in their lives. You can read more about the Hive in my past articles or on the Livin Farms website. Check out the video below!

YouTube Diet: How $5 YouTube Promo is like a Fad Diet

Paying a stranger on Fiverr to promote your YouTube channel is very similar to a fad diet. One promises 1,000 views while the other guarantees that you’ll lose 10 kilos in one week without exercise. Neither result in success…

Paying a stranger on Fiverr to promote your YouTube channel is very similar to a fad diet. One promises 1,000 views while the other guarantees that you’ll lose 10 kilos in one week without exercise. Neither result in success.

As a novice YouTuber, I was completely lost. My videos weren’t getting any attention on Facebook and I had no idea where to start. I joined some Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members promoting their videos – but there was lots of link dumping and no discussions or advice. When I asked how to convert views to subscriptions, someone recommended that “I try harder”. So I turned to Google.

One of the top search results took me to Fiverr, a website where you pay $5+ for all sorts of services including YouTube promotion. Curious, I paid $5 to promote 4 of my videos – within 24 hours I had over a thousand views on each one. But the so-called genuine viewers only watched a minute of my five-minute videos, gave me no likes, subscriptions, comments or feedback. It set me back more than anything because YouTube records and values watch time.

I thought things would change if I paid for some genuine subscribers instead of views. I got over 100 subscribers within a few hours, half with gibberish names, no profile photo or uploaded videos. The others had real names and had posted videos in the past that had no views at all – how is that even possible?

Not wanting to give up, I decided to look for more groups on Facebook. Most of them are unfortunately just more places to dump links which gets you nowhere, trust me. Other groups don’t allow posting links and are all about advice and discussions. These are great but still not what I was looking for.

I finally discovered Youtube for Travel Bloggers. This group only had 600 members when I joined, so I was a bit skeptical. But then I discovered their themed threads where 15 – 40 people can post links and the others like or comment or subscribe to your channel or videos. Everyone in the thread reciprocates.

Since all of the members are travel bloggers, you end up connecting with people who are genuinely interested in your content, give great feedback and understand your goals/struggles. It takes a while to reciprocate and watch 14 videos and come up with original comments – but you will learn something new from every video you watch so it’s a win-win.

Just like with weight loss, gaining popularity on YouTube doesn’t come overnight and requires a lot of hard work. If it was easy, everyone would be dropping out of university and buying video cameras to get rich.

It’s important to learn to utilize your resources. Fiverr, for example, can be a great tool to use if you wish to enhance your YouTube instead of pay for promoting them. For just $5 you can get a great intro, outro, subtitles or a logo. This will get you much further in the long run than 1,000 views.

The bottom line is – don’t trust anything that promises you a shortcut to success: they don’t exist. Either way, would you really want your video to go viral just because you paid for it?

These are the kind of videos I make. Subscribe to check in on my progress! 🙂

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving in Maui, Hawaii

My Thanksgiving in Maui began with a shopping trip that filled my host family’s truck to the very rim. There was just enough room to fit my three British friends and myself into the back to sit on top of all the food. Our host sat in the front with her mother, who drove down the highway so quickly that my hair whipped loudly around my ears and my voice would catch in my throat when I tried to speak. The air was filled with the smell of the salty ocean that ran parallel to the highway. We whizzed past countless palm trees, leaving the enormous green mountain range behind us…

My Thanksgiving in Maui began with a shopping trip that filled my host family’s truck to the very rim. There was just enough room to fit my three British friends and myself into the back to sit on top of all the food. Our host sat in the front with her mother, who drove down the highway so quickly that my hair whipped loudly around my ears and my voice would catch in my throat when I tried to speak. The air was filled with the smell of the salty ocean that ran parallel to the highway. We whizzed past countless palm trees, leaving the enormous green mountain range behind us.

The highway gradually narrowed until we found ourselves on a smaller road that passed in and out of the rainforest. We had been warned ahead of time about the winding Road to Hana and the 600 turns that would take us several hours to stomach. The road was bumpy and breathtaking and we stared down at the island in awe as the car teetered on the very edge of the road. We passed one-lane wooden and rocky bridges set over waterfalls and pools of clear-blue water. The trees around us teemed with singing birds and buzzing insects. The shades of the plants around us encompassed every color one could imagine. However, none were as fascinating as the rainbow tree, whose brown bark peeled to reveal red, blue and yellow. We didn’t make the already dangerous road any safer by jumping around the open trunk excitedly and leaning over the edge to take pictures like typical exchange students.

Our car raced the setting sun but didn’t reach our destination until the sky was black and the stars burned bright.

We got off the truck on wobbly legs and stepped into the darkness. Our Hawaiian friend warned us that we would be camping out on her family’s land, nothing fancy. As her mother turned on all the car lights to help us unpack, we saw a spacious tent near a typical Hawaiian hale – an open-walled wooden building with benches and kitchen equipment inside it. When the car engine turned off and the wind was no longer ringing in our ears, we heard the sound of waves. Excited we ran several meters past our tent to discover that our friends’ backyard was right on the ocean and we’d be spending the next three nights falling asleep to the sound of waves hitting the rocky beach.

We woke up the next day to our friend’s family members arriving in trucks full of food and setting up the steaming pots of meat, potatoes, vegetables and desserts in the kitchen of our hale. We met our friend’s mother, sister, brothers, aunts and uncles. We sat around eating and laughing, being thankful for this wonderful experience. The following day we were taken to a sunny beach and went to see a mighty waterfall. The climax of the day was going to a cliff that looked over the ocean where Hawaiians of all shapes and ages threw themselves into the air and dove into the sparkling water. I will never forget the feeling I had standing on that edge looking down several meters and letting go of all my fear to take that leap of faith.

Originally published in Youth Time Print.

Being an (Ex) Prague Freedom Foundation Scholar

Four years ago I had the honor of participating in a Journalism Program that Prague Freedom Foundation sponsored. The program brought students from Kent State University and Anglo American University together to study journalism. After winning the Excellence Award for my piece on Abortion Laws in Ohio I went on to receive a grant from PFF to report on the war in Ukraine…

Four years ago I had the honor of participating in a Journalism Program that Prague Freedom Foundation sponsored. The program brought students from Kent State University and Anglo American University together to study journalism. After winning the Excellence Award for my piece on Abortion Laws in Ohio I went on to receive a grant from PFF to report on the war in Ukraine.

After returning from a week of interviewing protestors and veterans participating in Maidan – Ukraine’s revolution against corruption and Russias’s interference in local politics – members of PFF supported my photo exhibition to raise money for the Organization for Aid of Refugees.

My photos of from the heart of Maidan in Kiev, Ukraine helped raise a humble $650 to help Ukrainian refugees living in Prague. Several members from PFF attended, donated to and participated by giving a speech at the event.

Although my career path has shifted from investigative journalism and I am no longer active in any political causes, I am eternally grateful to the Prague Freedom Foundation for giving me the training and tools to make a difference in the world and in my home country.

Here’s a video about Prague Freedom Foundation’s Cause – spoiler alert, I make a brief appearance in between US Ambassadors and Radio Free Europe Journalists.