Hey everyone! As I am now officially back home and planning our next trip (I’m thinking Hong Kong and China right now) it’s time to get straight back to my regular Friday feature, and read about the gorgeous travel blogger Christina at Hidden Gems. Check out some of her posts: Old Town – Cartagena, Colombia, The Marvellous City – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil & From Ecuador to Peru with Andes Fashion
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I’m originally from Romania, but I have lived in London, UK for 5 years before moving to Namur, Belgium where my partner is from.
I met Bertrand in London, and after a few months we decided to go travelling together. We started with a few city trips here and there, but it was not enough.
I had an epiphany whilst watching a Ted talk about this business man who closed his design studio every seven years to go traveling for one year. I decided right then and there to quit my job and go traveling. Bertrand was up for it too, and after choosing the continent (South America), we started planning our trip. About ten months later we were boarding a plane to our first destination: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Since Bertrand is a photographer it was hard for me not to fall in love with this art, especially after travelling for so long and taking so many pictures. I hope to take photography to the next level in the future. At the moment it’s still a hobby.
I also love treks. We had quite a few trekking experiences in South America, and although they were some of the hardest, they were also rewarding and unforgettable.
Last but not least, fashion. I love it! In South America I got to work with a few brands from swimwear to hats, and fell in love not just with the product itself, but with the story behind it. I wore beautiful handmade creations done by indigenous women from Colombia and Ecuador.
What inspired you to travel?
I was tired of my job and really needed a change. Travelling was always a wish of mine, but I didn’t really get to do it until South America. Of course, I did a few city trips here and there, but not enough to quench my appetite for travel.
Also, I enjoy discovering new cultures and languages. Oh, and the food. South America was a treat when it came to food.
What’s on your bucket list?
(Where you’d like to go but haven’t been yet. This can include some upcoming trips and details about those, or simply your ambitions for the future).
I definitely want to see more of Europe. We have some trips lined up this summer to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris, and my home town, Bucharest.
Japan is very high on my list, I am fascinated with their culture, fashion, and food. I to travel there next year.
I know it sounds ambitious, but I want to see the world. Little by little, I would like to reach all continents.
Favourite country so far and why?
Ecuador was such a surprise for Bertrand and I. Besides the Galapagos Islands, we didn’t know anything about it so we had no expectations. It turned out to be our favourite country in South America. From the beautiful colonial cities like Quito and Quenca, to the amazing Cotopaxi Volcano, and the unique Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is a traveller’s dream.
Best experience and why?
Watching the sunrise in Salar de Uyuni was the best travelling experience to date. We took a three days’ tour from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, and arrived in Salar just before sunrise. If you haven’t heard about it, Salar is the biggest salt flat in the world, and when it’s covered by a centimetre of water, it becomes a mirror. The reflection at sunrise is truly magical. I cried when I saw it because I wanted to see this place so badly and it was just perfect.
Worst experience and why?
When I thought that I lost Bertrand in the desert. He left for a bike ride but was supposed to come back in 4h, and he came back after 8h. I actually went to the police and they gave me a patrol to go look for him. At midnight he appeared at the hotel after trying to solve a problem with his bike. Needless to say how relived I was.
What’s on your travel playlist?
I love Sirius Plan, which is a girl band from Belgium. I’ve been listening to them for two years and I can’t get enough.
I like to read books about the countries I visit. There is always Lonely Planet in my bag as well as some biographies. In South America I read about Che Guevara, Pablo Escobar, and a great book about the history of South America called Las Venas Abiertas de Sud America.
In terms of TV shows, I’m a big fan of House of Cards, Homeland, Narcos, and now Bloodline.
Tell us about some of your favourite dishes/restaurants from places you’ve visited?
I am vegetarian and it’s not always easy to find vegetarian dishes, but I was lucky to discover great places during my trips.
From my time living in London, I loved Sasa Sushi. I dare to say it’s the best sushi in London.
In South America the best gastronomic experience was in Medellin at a restaurant called Carmen. Everything was at a high standard: the menu, the atmosphere, the service. Peru is known for its cuisine, and almost all the meals we had there were delicious.
I have a thing for empanadas, which are pastries filled with either vegetables, cheese, meat, fish etc. I almost overdosed on empanadas in Chile. They do the best ones.
We also have this type of food in Romania, but it is called merdenele and it looks like a small envelope. If you go, don’t miss it.
Are there any things you miss when you’re not at home?
Besides my family, I miss the food and being able to speak my language. I have lived abroad for so many years now, speaking other languages that hearing Romanian is one of the things I miss most.
Did you overcome any fears before beginning your journey?
Oh yes! At the beginning of the South America trip, I had panic attacks that I didn’t understand at that time. It was only later that I realised it was due to me being completely out of my comfort zone. Thankfully, this happened at the beginning of the trip. After the first weeks, once we started trekking and discovering more places, I felt better and was able to really enjoy the trip.
Have you got any tips for people who want to travel but are perhaps scared or unsure where to start?
Go for it! Yes, it’s scary, but the rewards are endless. Taking a six months break to go travelling was the best decision I could have made. Not everything was perfect, but I came back changed in so many ways. I am far more open minded and acceptant’, I’m more patient, I appreciate my family more, I appreciate myself more.
Don’t forget to check out her blog and follow her on her social media pages!
Find me at all of these places too: