Going To Thailand To Train Muay Thai For A Month

Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of becoming a karate master. One of my favorite movies growing up was the “Karate Kid” and I used to watch that film over and over and over again.

Unfortunately I grew up and no part of that dream came true. No karate tournaments, no wild motorbike chases, no awesome death touch. Well, now I will make at least a small part of that dream a reality.

Yes, at times I did train and tae kwon do and did get some colored belts, but at no time was I serious. Now I will change that.

I booked a flight to Thailand for a month and will do intensive training at one of the muay thai camps in the country. I am a complete beginner in the fighting art, but hopefully after a month of intense effort, I will learn at least the basics.

I was planning to do this for a long time now, but kept postponing it. I am not getting younger though and so finally I said “fuck it” and booked the trip.
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The Normal Person Guide To Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

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As I have written previously, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the most rewarding experiences us average city slickers can do. However how do you go about it? What types of things do you need to do in order to make your expedition a success?

Luckily for the normal guys out there, this adventure is not out of reach of almost anyone. Unlike Mt. Everest or countless other mountains, you don’t have to be an advanced mountaineer to climb it.

In fact, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in the world that you can reach without the need of any climbing equipment. Basically it’s one long hike, with only a few rocky patches that you have to climb over.

How should I prepare?

While going up Mt. Kilimanjaro is not something super, super hard, you do need to be fit in order to do it. There are two important things that you need to get ready for.

1) You need to be prepared for long hikes in challenging terrain

If you do a lot of hiking on your free time, then you are set to go. However if you are a sit-on-your ass desk jockey, then you will need to spend some time to get your ass up to speed.

The first thing you need to do is to work on your stamina. Get your ass to the gym and start doing some cardio, whether on the treadmill, on a stepper, or on one of those static ski machine thingies. Or better yet alternate all of them!

You can also join some group classes where they do endurance work. One of the things I did to prepare was join a group of people who were doing cardio circuits. It’s a fun way to get in shape, but also meet some new people in the process.

The best way to prepare is to start going on actual hikes though. Start off slow and then gradually keep on building up, increasing the distance, varying the terrain and going higher and higher in altitude.

2) You need to be prepared for the altitude

And this is the key part of the preparation. No matter how fit you are, the altitude can get you. That’s why you need special preparation to address this issue.

If you are like most people, then you probably live at lower altitudes. In higher altitudes, there is lower pressure and less oxygen, which could create adverse effects in people who are not used to this. In extreme cases, this can even result in death.

The good news is that your body gradually adapts to higher altitudes. That’s why during the trip to Kilimanjaro, you spend several days hiking around the mountain, hiking high and then sleeping in lower altitudes. This gives your body time to adapt.

However, if you want to significantly lower your chance of your body breaking down while at Kilimanjaro, you should spend some time in higher altitudes before going there. That way, your body is already prepared.
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Crazy Shit To Do: Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

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If you have been reading my blog, you might have caught the fact that last summer (August 2015), I went on a crazy adventure to Tanzania. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, camping out in the Serengeti and relaxing on the island paradise of Zanzibar are a combination that can create memories to last a lifetime.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the ultimate adventures that you can do. In two weeks, my entire worldview and beliefs about myself changed. I pushed myself to the limits and discovered what I am capable of, connected with nature and explored a set of whole new cultures up close and personal.

The most incredible part of this whole trip is that this is something that just a year before I would never have considered doing. I would never even have imagined myself being capable of doing this. Climbing a mountain was never something that I thought I would ever do, especially not one so tall.

On the surface, it seems like a daunting task. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and rises up to 5,895 meters above sea level. It is located close to the equator, but due to its height, its top is constantly bathed in snow.

The peak of the mountain is covered by glaciers, although ones that are shrinking fast due to global warming. They have shrunk by 85% in the past 100 years and unfortunately most predictions say that they might disappear completely in a very short while.

Standing at the top is an amazing experience. Looking around, you see a desolate landscape and huge swathes of snow and ice. You are in Africa, but there is snow!

The rugged beauty that is in front of you has a special effect on all that experience it. It is as if you were suddenly transported to another world.

You are overwhelmed by the entire magic of it all. You have spent days circling this monster, getting closer and closer to its peak, to be foiled day after day. However on this final day, you have made it.

By standing on the top, you get a sense of something more powerful than yourself. It makes you reflect on the world and your place in it. What you are experiencing is awe and it can really change your entire world view, not only of yourself, but others. This has actually been proven by scientific studies:

New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

You literally come back a changed person. The top of Mt. Kilimanjaro is something only a select few get to experience and you are lucky to be one of them.
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Adventures in Post-Soviet Georgia: Tbilisi And Batumi

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This summer I spent some time in Georgia. However this wasn’t your momma’s Georgia. They don’t speak with a southern drawl there. In fact their language is unrelated to any other language that is spoken by any people outside the Caucasus. I did not go to the American Georgia, but instead to the Georgia that used to be part of the USSR.

It’s a country in the Caucasus region. In the north, you can find the Caucasus mountains, while the west of the country is located on the Black Sea.

I got to Tbilisi, the capital, at midnight and while being driven into town, the first thing I noticed was the quaint charm of the old town, or the historical center. There was an old fortress perched high up on a rock and a bunch of old churches all around. All these were illuminated by lights of different colors and this gave the entire scene a certain glow which uplifted the senses.

What was surprising was that even though it was after midnight and in the middle of the week, the center was full of people, walking around or just hanging out, which gave the town a dynamic atmosphere. There were groups of young people chatting, girls in mini-skirts on their way to party and families with little kids enjoying a nice after midnight stroll. If you have been to any cities around the Mediterranean, then you know what I am talking about.

What to do in Tbilisi
The city of Tbilisi itself looks quite modern, with many of the old buildings being reconstructed and clean. The highlight of the visit will be the old town. The old town lies right on the river and there are several churches there which are more than a thousand years old.

High above the old town there are the ruins of an old fortress, which are definitely worth a visit. Once up at the fortress, you get a great view of the entire city.

You can also walk along Rustaveli Street and explore all the shops or go to the amusement park above the city. Once at the amusement park, don’t forget to go to the restaurant there, as you get a great view of the entire city while eating there.
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Why Are Dutch People So Tall?

dutch flag, tall dutch people

I spent a year living in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The first day when I arrived I had to go the bathroom. I went in, found the urinals and unzipped. Then I noticed a very unusual thing. The urinals seemed to be a lot higher than what I am used to.

I am above average height for most countries (6’1 or 184cm), however in the Netherlands I was just average (sometimes I felt even below average). I am used to urinals being way below my crotch level, however here it felt like I almost had piss up instead of down. 🙂

This is one of the first things that you notice when you arrive in the Netherlands (besides the fact that everything is flat and there are bikes everywhere), the people are much taller than in other places.

They seem to tower above you. They are quite lanky and not too built, but they are tall. I remember my first day at school, sitting down at a table next to one Dutch guy. He seemed pretty thin and not very big, so I did not pay particular attention. Then he stood up from his chair and was almost a full head taller than me! While sitting down he seemed small, but when standing up you had a completely different image of him.

It wasn’t always so. In fact a few generations ago, the Dutch were one of the shortest people in Europe. Almost all the other countries had on average taller people. This changed rapidly, especially after World War 2.
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Homeless in Copenhagen

copenhagen travel

copenhagen travel

We don’t have a room for you and the entire city is booked out,” said the hotel manager as I stood across from him, clutching papers in my right hand and looking around nervously.

I grew angry and worried: “But I made a reservation. Here is the proof.” I showed him a paper with proof of my reservation. He looked at it, but came back with some sort of stupid reply, absolving himself of any blame and pushing the fault at me.

I wanted to yell at him, make a scene, but it would have been of no use. It wouldn’t change the fact that I was now stuck in Copenhagen for three days without lodging and needed to make a presentation at a huge conference the next day. The most important thing is to try to find a place to stay the night.

All the hotels in the city were booked out. ALL OF THEM! There were most likely several big conferences happening at the same time, therefore pushing up the prices for the hotels and bringing down the availability of rooms to zero.

I was in crisis mode and quickly needed to do something. There must be some hostels nearby that I can stay in. Those always have rooms. Resigned to my fate, I calmly asked where the nearest hostel was. Apparently there was one just up on the next streets. I took my bags and started walking to where the hostel was supposed to be. On the way, I passed another hotel and stopped in to ask for availability of rooms. As expected, they were all booked out.
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The Epic Quest For Beer In Marrakesh

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Marrakesh is a city of contrasts, located right in the center of Morocco. When you get off at the city’s central square, the Jemaa el Fna, it is like stepping back in time, a time when ancient traders used to roam the Sahara and the preferred mode of transportation was the camel. Immediately, you get the feeling of being in one of the stories of a “Thousand and One Nights”.

There are snake charmers playing their instruments with a very distinct high-pitched almost hypnotic sound, women covered up head to toe offering to give out henna tatoos and a variety of different scammers trying to sell you anything from spices to little trinkets. The square then leads into the souks and a variety of winding side streets, in which you can get lost very easily and wander around for hours.

Yet Marrakesh also has its modern side. If you walk up the Mohammed V. road away from the Medina and the souks, you arrive in the new part of town, the Gueliz, which has a totally different feel. It is as if you have arrived in a typical city in southern Spain. The Gueliz is filled with bars, shopping malls and also fast food restaurants and does not differ from anything that you would find in southern Europe.

My Trip
I have been planning to go to Morocco for a while now, but finally decided to go for it and booked a ticket to Morocco. The good thing is that several of the cities in Morocco now get regular low-cost carrier flights, such as with Ryanair or EasyJet. Unfortunately I booked a rather late, so my Ryanair ticket was rather pricy, but still doable.

I went from Thursday to Monday, so basically 4 nights, including the weekend. I wanted to use my overtime for that, however my boss rejected that (so unfortunately all my overtime went to waste) and instead I had to take some vacation days to cover that. 🙁

The Marrakesh airport is pretty small, but it takes a long time to get through immigration. So when flying there, take into account that getting through immigration could take up to an hour or even more at busy peaks.

After getting through immigration, you have either of two choices to get to town, taxi or bus. There is a bus (bus number 19), which goes from the airport to different parts of the center (with the main fixed stop being at the Jemaa el Fna). The bus has very few set stops, so if you tell the driver what hotel you are staying in, he will most likely take you there. The trip one way costs 30 dirhams (the exchange rate is around 11 dirhams for 1 EUR). The problem is that the bus has no fixed schedule, but comes approximately every 30 minutes, so you might end up standing at the bus stop wondering whether the bus will come at all.

While standing at the bus stop (which you get to by turning left when exiting the terminal building and walking towards the big sign with “Bus” on it), you will most likely get hassled by taxi drivers trying to get you into their taxi. This is the first sign of what you will most likely be encountering very frequently throughout your stay in Marrakesh (especially in the old part of town, the Medina).

At first they will be quoting you outrageous prices. However you can bargain with them. To get more reasonable prices, the tip from the internet is to go away from the rows of taxis standing in front of the terminal, and instead go to the round about and catch a taxi there. There you should get a more reasonable price.

The guys will start quoting you prices from like 200 dirhams, but the usual price should be around 40 dirhams from the airport to the Jemaa el Fna (the locals probably pay less than that even).

Initially when I got out of the terminal, I wanted to take the bus. I went to the sign saying “Bus” and waited. The bus wasn’t coming for a while. At first I was standing alone, but soon was joined by other tourists.

I am a pretty gullible person, but from these other tourists I got to see how easy it is for the local scammers to scam the clueless tourists.

Keep in mind that the already inflated average tourist price for getting to the Jemaa el Fna should be around 40 dirhams (it’s just a short 10 or 15 minute ride from the airport) and the bus to the center costs 30 dirhams. The other tourists standing at the bus stop were two couples. A taxi driver approached them and said that he could give them a “special deal” and take everyone into town for the “low” price of 30 dirhams EACH.

The other guys enthusiastically agreed. Since it was my first time in Morocco and I didn’t want to stand alone at the bus stop (at that time I didn’t even know whether that was in fact the stop), I decided to go along. The taxi driver squeezed 5 people into his taxi (the legal maximum is 3 passengers) and off we went. He did get us to the center, but he made a killing for the ride. That’s 5×30, which equals 150 dirhams, when the already inflated taxi price should be 40! I am usually pretty clueless, but the cluelessness of the other tourists in Marrakesh borders with retardedness sometimes.

This keeps the level of scaminess at extremelly high levels. It seems like almost everyone is out to scam you. This then ends up with you getting paranoid sometimes. The thing is that the Moroccans are pretty friendly people, however in Marrakesh, you don’t know whether they are being friendly because they are genuinely friendly, or they are trying to scam you. In the center of Marrakesh it’s most likely the latter, so be careful and err on the side of caution.
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F#%k It And Take A Leap Of Faith

life of adventure, leap of faith

life of adventure, leap of faith

After finishing university I took my first job (it took a while to find it, but that’s another story) and started working as a corporate drone at a big company. It was one of the most boring and frustrating jobs that a person could do.

Waking up in the morning, forcing yourself out of bed, quickly brushing your teeth, fumbling through a pile of clothes to pick out something to wear that morning… That’s the beginning of your daily routine.

You then take a deep breath, open the door of your apartment and take a step outside. You rush quickly to the bus stop, wait for the bus and arrive at work. Once there, you wait with dread as your computer boots up, hoping that no new emails will pop up. Emails mean useless work that you will have to do. In the worst case scenario, it’s someone cussing you out for making some sort of a mistake.

Once the computer is up and running, the only thing to do is “work”, doing a number of mind numbing activities and actually pretending that you care that they are done. This is often interspaced with team meetings discussing stuff nobody cares about and using big words to sound knowledgeable.

After an excrutiatingly long day, you finally switch off your computer and go home, to sit on your ass and ponder for several hours on what you should watch on tv or whether you should already go to sleep. Once it is already pretty late, you force yourself to go to your bed and if lucky fall asleep. During the night, you wake up several times, worried about the approaching deadline or trying to remember whether you filed that report like you were supposed to.

Then you wake up and do the same things you did the previous day. It becomes a boring routine. Go. Sleep. Repeat.

Welcome to the real world. This is unfortunately the everyday reality for many of us.

After I graduated university, I had to find work. I searched and searched, started going to interviews and did all that stuff. I have never been able to sell myself properly and plus I never really could get myself to act enthusiastic enough to pretend that this was the job of my dreams. So all this was a long, drawn-out process.

Finally I did land a job. That’s when the routine started. The work was basically all about copy and pasting and doing other retarded stuff. It was in fact so retarded, that even a better trained monkey could probably do it.

I kept on thinking to myself. This is what my life is going to look like for the rest of my life? This is what I studied so hard for?

The work was shit, the pay was shit, the life was boring.

One thing keeping me motivated was that I started using the work for self-improvement and learning new things. This meant trying to do as little of the work you were “supposed to do” as possible, but instead creating your own tasks. I read up on finance, on IT, I learned to work with Excel and taught myself how to program.

Yet I still saw that this was a dead-end job. No chance of promotion, no chance of doing anything creative, no chance of getting a decent pay. My frustration was growing. I needed out and I needed out as soon as I could.

I started planning what I want to do. I mentally decided that I was going to quit and do something meaningful, something fun, at least for a bit.

I wanted to have an enjoyable summer, live it up a bit, learn a new language. I decided I was going to quit my job and move to Spain for three months.

I had all this in my mind, but was reluctant to pull the trigger. Summer was approaching fast, and if I didn’t do anything now, I would miss the cycle.

One day, I just said “fuck it” and filled out my resignation papers. At first I was hesitating a bit, but then I walked up to the manager and handed it in. I was scared and relieved at the same time.

I did it.
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The Best Bodyweight Exercises To Do When Travelling

I often find myself travelling and that cuts into my workout routine. Unfortunately when travelling, usually there are no weights available and the only way to get some exercise in, is to work with your weight. There are a few exercises that you can do in your hotel room, only using the things that are commonly available there.

I usually start with some light stretching (my muscles are sore after travelling) and some warmups with jumping jacks. After that I get into the actual routine itself. I try to do about 2 sets of 20 reps each of these exercises, but you can figure out your own number of sets and reps, depending on how strong you are and how much you want to work out.

Here’s the routine:
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