Round-the-world: The good, the bad and the FAQ

Round-the-world: The good, the bad and the FAQ

Today it's been six months from the day I returned from my first round-the-world trip! It feels like a small eternity but still all the memories of the places, the people and the experiences are so vivid...199 days traveling around the world,  about a 100 cities or towns, in 12 countries on five continents - all of them (besides London) that I had never visited before. All by myself. That may seem a lot to someone and not much to some other more hardened world explorers... But it meant the world to me.

People have asked many questions about the trip, no surprise there. So I decided to put together a "little" FAQ list:

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Beach & lambazouk week in Barcelona

Beach & lambazouk week in Barcelona

After my long trip around the world I wasn't exactly looking forward to traveling more any time soon. But I wasn't looking forward to dark & rainy autumn days in Finland either. So I booked a trip to Barcelona for mid-September for the 4th Beach Zouk & Lambada Festival.

The festival was held in Santa Susana, 60km or 1h20min train ride up from Barcelona, right on the beautiful beaches of Costa Brava, Spain. Our small "team Finland" arrived on site already a day before the event, just enough time to unwind, unpack and get a little beach time before the zouk&lambada marathon that awaited! Santa Susana is a small town, basically like one big tourist resort. There's the beach and close to it there are restaurants, shops and hotels. A little off the beach is the town centre and up on the hill there are the residential areas - we never made it that far, after all we just came there to see the sun, sea, sand and dance our feet off!

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IZFM - zouk flash mob takes over the word

IZFM - zouk flash mob takes over the word

All summer thousands of people all around the world from Toronto to Melbourne, from Suriname to Singapore, have been practicing for the International Zouk Flash Mob that took place on Sunday Sep 16th. People rehearsed the same choreography and performed it flash mob style at iconic places sush as in front of the Eiffel tower, the Colosseum, on the beaches of Brazil...

There were about 100 cities in 38 countries that took part in the big event on the same day! I was dancing with the participants of the 4th Zouk & Lambada Beach Festival in Santa Susana, Spain. 

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Zouk in London - dancing my way home

Zouk in London - dancing my way home

It was the middle of June and I was reaching the end of my big trip around the world when I arrived to London. Actually I was also getting back to square one, to London, where this adventure started over six months earlier. I was dying to be done with the trip, I was missing my friends and family, my own bed.. my clothes :D So this was the next best thing, just one final step away from returning home! Even on the Tokyo airport (from where I flew back to London) they had a flight leaving to my home town, almost the same time as my flight to London, it was killing me!! But it wasn't all that bad - I was going to see & stay with friends in London too and dance dance dance zouk like no tomorrow!

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The imperial and impressive Kyoto

The imperial and impressive Kyoto

Kyoto (京都市or Kyōto) is located in the central part of the Honshu island, south of Tokyo. This former imperial capital of Japan is a part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area and a very popular tourist destination, especially know for its traditional districts and temples.

I was staying in Osaka, just less than an hour away from Kyoto, and took one day to go for a visit. I got very helpful tips from my new friend Mio from Osaka who mapped me a great route through Kyoto! So around noon I arrived from Osaka to Kyoto's Kawaramachi train station, ready to explore the city!

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Once upon a time in Osaka...

Once upon a time in Osaka...

After a week of being totally amazed by Tokyo I was exited to go see another Japanese city, Osaka!

Ōsaka, or 大阪, is a part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area of close to 20 million people. I'm starting to wonder how many of the world's biggest cities are located in Japan....!?!

It was easy to decide how to get from Tokyo to Osaka: with the Shinkansen train (the bullet train), yay! I had popped by the Tokyo train station before my departure day to check out the place so I would know how to get to 1) the right station and 2) the right platform. There are soooo many stations, terminals, platforms, entrances, escalators and underground passages that it's quite easy to get lost! But I made it! Just a little problem with my tickets at the automatic gates but no worries since there's always lots of helpful staff around! 

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Zouk in Japan - the surprising latin & Brazilian dance hub

Zouk in Japan - the surprising latin & Brazilian dance hub

Believe it or not, you can do lots of latin dancing in Japan, even zouk! And not just in Tokyo but in various locations in the country. I was excited to visit some other cities beyond Tokyo in my quest to find out how is Japanese zouk and extended my time in Japan a couple days just for that :) Tokyo dance scene information follows right below, scroll down for Osaka and Kyoto!

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Great Barrier Reef - paradise lies below the surface

Great Barrier Reef - paradise lies below the surface

After getting soaked for three days in the rainforests north of Cairns I returned to the city to change gear, check mails and sleep. Next morning I had to wake up early, yet again, for my last Australian adventure on this trip! I had managed to switch off my alarm in the morning but luckily I didn’t miss my boat, pfew!

And so I was off to a 2 day sailing trip on the Great Barrier Reef - excited to say the least! In stead of taking one of the big boats with 30 or 50 other tourists I had booked a trip on a sailboat... Less people and more time. We were a group of 11 people (Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, German, French and Canadian) with a crew of 3 on the fantastic Coral Sea Dreaming.

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"It rains in the rain forest"

"It rains in the rain forest"

It was my last (and very busy) week in Australia and I was spending it around the Far North Queensland. The week was only halfway and after the trips around the waterfalls close to Cairns I headed up the coast! The plan was to make a loop around the rainforest covered area north of Cairns and the town of Port Douglas.

It was a warm winter morning when I hopped on the bus in Cairns. First I would head to a river to cruise down along the mangrove shores and spot some saltwater crocodiles. I was curious whether we would actually see any but sure enough, as if they were planted there, we spotted a couple big ones.

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Cairns - from one cascade to another!

Cairns - from one cascade to another!

It was the end of May and one of those mornings again: an unreasonably early wake-up and off to catch a morning flight from Darwin to Cairns. I felt I had barely fallen asleep the whole night, thanks to the Darwin party people keeping everybody awake (well it was Saturday night so what could I expect). I was counting the days 'til I would be home again, in my own bed, enjoying the peace & quiet…

From one small city to another, I was making my way through the northern parts of Australia. Cairns is the biggest city on the northeast coast, in the middle of tropical nature and the Great Barrier Reef. The city doesn't really have a beach (very strange) but a nice promenade by the sea. This is the centre of most of what's happening in Cairns with big lawn areas, spaces & equipment for the sports enthusiasts and BBQ spots as well as a 4800m2 saltwater swimming lagoon. And a lovely place to go see the sunset!

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Darwin - the outback capital

Darwin - the outback capital

When I was planning my RTW trip I had been very curious about the Northern Australia and the outback so I had decided to add Darwin to my Australian itenerary. I arrived there after very exciting 10 days of dancing in Brisbane and the Gold Coast... feeling very tired. The hot & humid air of Darwin was a nice change after the chilly nights of Queensland - where I had actually managed to develop a cold. So the first couple days in Darwin I just kicked back, enjoyed the heat and did pretty much nothing. By the third day I was feeling better, happily doing some sightseeingand tanning by the pool. Not bad!

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The time I got doudouleyd

The time I got doudouleyd

I happened to be in the area for the DouDouLe Latin Dance Camp (18-20 May) which is held every year on the Gold Coast, about an hour drive from Brisbane. DouDouLe is the labour of love of Sydney dance busy-body Jean-Luc Lambs and I'd say it's one of the rare mixed dance events that's actually a hit. The event hosts a group of Australian and international teachers on several latin styles – this year they had classes on salsa, zouk, bachata, cha cha, samba, afro jazz and pachanga.

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Brisbane - zouk capital of Australia (part 2)

Brisbane - zouk capital of Australia (part 2)

If you want to dance zouk in Australia Brisbane is the place to go. During my week in Brisbane I had lots of time to go check out the latin dance scene - obviously I focused on the zouk socials and classes since this was the zouk capital of this side of the world! There's something going on every night, either classes or parties; or both. If you're more interested in parties it's best to be in town for the weekend. There are also great latin and zouk congresses in Brisbane and the area - scroll to the bottom of the post (after the full listing of the weekly zouk classes & socials) for more info on the events!

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Bribane and the Sunshine Coast - beach and city life in Australia (part 1)

Bribane and the Sunshine Coast - beach and city life in Australia (part 1)

I got to Brisbane after three chilled out days in Byron Bay. I had planned to stay a whole week in Brisbane to check out all the zouk dancing spots in town – it is the zouk capital of Australia after all! A dance friend of mine had offered me even a place to stay so I was all set for my dance week! But more about dancing in Brisbane in the next post :)

Brisbane is bit of less known big city in Australia – Sydney and Melbourne seem to get most tourists, as well as Perth on the west coast lately. But Brisbane is quite well located with lots of fast connections to the popular islands such as the Australian reef destinations Fraser Island and Whitsundays as well as Fiji, among others. It’s also in the pretty much half way on the travelers’ famous east coast route from Melbourne or Sydney to Cairns. I immediately liked the city when I strolled from the bus terminal to the river and boarded the City Cat ferry. The river snakes through the city, passing the skyscraper filled down town (Riverside terminal) and you get a good sense of how the place looks like.

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Chilling out in Byron Bay

Chilling out in Byron Bay

My plan after Sydney and Ayers Rock was to see some of the east coast of Australia between Sydney and Brisbane. But since I had spent some extra time dancing in Sydney and wanted spend some more time dancing in Brisbane as well there wasn’t a whole lot left. So it happened that Byron Bay was my one and only stop between the two big cities. I had asked around for the best places to visit on the coast and Byron kept coming up – frankly people had a hard time finding anything else to recommend which made my planning easier.

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The big red rocks

The big red rocks

The iconic image of Australia: Ayers Rock! I had booked flights to Ayers Rock already last November when I booked my RTW-ticket so I didn’t have to think about whether to include a visit to the rocks on my trip. It was one of the highlights of this trip that I had been waiting for.

Let's get straight to business... There’s a couple different sites there: firstly there's Uluru or Ayers Rock and secondly Kata Tjuta - these are two separate sites, two massive rock formations. They are both located in the same National Park area and they're both an easy 20-40 min drive from the small town of Yulara where most visitors are based (or I might say all since there are no other places to stay there). Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed in the same time period and are the same colour but they have different geology - read more about that at the bottom of the post.

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Enjoying the Sydney latin scene (part 2)

Enjoying the Sydney latin scene (part 2)

Sydney is quite a good spot for us latin dancers and I had 10 days to check it out. The city is not known for its zouk scene (Brisbane is the Australian zouk capital) though you’ll find zoukers and some socials & parties there. But for salseros and bachateros there’s a lot of things happening, something every day of the week.

I happened to be in town for the Sydney International Bachata Festival! As I was busy being a tourist I didn’t want to tie myself to the festival schedule so I just decided to join a couple of the parties. First it was the pre-party at the Mediterranean restaurant on Oxford Street - cool location. When I walked in a zouk song was playing but only a few couples were on the dance floor. No reason to worry though, soon the floor was packed! They played mostly bachata with a couple salsas and zouks in between. I was happy I found some really good zouk dancers later on in the evening. And obviously tons of amazing bachateros. I had never danced bachata on that level before or Dominican style bachata ever!

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Cool days in Sydney (part 1)

Cool days in Sydney (part 1)

Australia! The country so big that it's also a continent - though it is the smallest continent. Australia was definitely at the top of my travel list, for one because of the excitement of being that far away from home but also for many of its natural wonders.

My journey in Australia would start in its biggest city, Sydney. I arrived to Sydney on a Monday afternoon, after my couple weeks of stay in New Zealand. I was a bit anxious to see how strict the local customs really were but really weren’t asked too many questions (the same set as in New Zealand - "where have you used those shoes", "are you carrying any fruits") and apparently my visa was in order too since they never asked to see any proof of it. Australia was only country in my RTW trip I needed I pre-arranged visa on my entire trip - none of the South American countries required one from me.

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