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But you’re still, and you’re bright and you’re quiet

Unwritable Girl, Gregory Alan Isakov

Japan is a truly incredible place that is both years ahead in some ways and centuries behind in other ways. It is also one of the most culturally fascinating and culinarily interesting countries to visit.

I fell in love with basically everything from the sakura cherry blossom, to onsen bathing, to the kindness and reverence of Japanese people, and the ‘what just happened in my mouth?’ food experiences. Think: yakitori, inari, sashimi, miso eggplant, ramen, soba, unagi, umeboshi, plum sake, mochi, bento, okonomiyaki, and green tea galore. Hungry yet?

Japan caters to everyone. If have a lot of money to spend, you can in Tokyo or Kyoto. If you want to eat street food that blows your mind but not your budget, you can in Fukuoka.

And then there’s the nature. It’s a little-known fact that 60% of Japan is made up of mountains all the way along the Northern ‘horse’s back’ when you look at a map. The untouched forests, majestic cliffsides, and lush tea fields are some of Japan’s best-kept secrets.

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Because our hearts don't beat the same as they did before

Oh My My, Garrett Kato

Byron Bay is the Bali of Australia. A cross between a small country town, beach getaway and wellness haven – Byron Bay has the magical combination of ocean air, understated glamour and laid-back hospitality.

It is the kind of place you’ll love the minute you arrive. Byron Bay should be renamed Byron Babe for the ridiculously good looking roam everywhere in this coastal New South Wales town, a 2-hour drive from Brisbane and 800kms from Sydney.

Locals rise early to catch the surf before work and retreat to bed early, while tourists are the ones out late at night. Synchronicity is ever-present in Byron Bay; I walked past an ordinary looking chalkboard that read ‘Gareth Kato – Tonight, 8pm’ being one of my favourite Canadian singer-songwriters playing a free gig at the local Byron Bay pub the day I arrived. For the gluten-free traveller, Byron Bay is a bounty of health elixirs, local produce and nourishing delicious food.

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I'll be dreamin' of the next time we can go into another seratonin overflow

Love On The Weekend, John Mayer

I’m the sort of diner chefs don’t like. Waitstaff consider me a nuisance, and friends flash apologetic eyes while I decipher menu acronyms at Da Vinci Code speed.

I’ve been called a lot of things: nightmare dinner guest, self-diagnosed poser, fake allergy sufferer, fad follower and a food snob. But my favourite one is ‘glutard’ [noun: gloo-tard] meaning someone who has an immune reaction to gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye), and will never be able to taste the latest dessert craze. From here on in, let’s call us the GFF (gluten free friend).

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Put them worries on the shelf, learn to love yourself

Hang Loose, Alabama Shakes

A city of bridges, bikes, porches with wooden swings, locavore corner stores, 600+ food carts, and the occasional angry vegan. If you take delight in ethically sourced coffee, sustainably caught seafood, hand foraged salads, vegan cheese delis and stone ground chocolate – you will certainly be enchanted by Portland.

Portland is (surprisingly) a relatively small place that is divided into four quarters – NE, NW, SE, SW – for ease of navigation. Hop on a bike to freely explore the food adventures that await you across the twelve bridges, but also make time to take in the natural beauty of Oregon’s main city. Walking around each neighbourhood is also a great way to spend an afternoon – look out for back alley blackberry bushes, overhanging fig trees and sidewalk plum shrubs.

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So lean in close or lend an ear, there's something brilliant bound to happen here

Binary Sea, Death Cab For Cutie

San Francisco was my port of entry into my great American adventure. I imagined it to be like a West Coast New York – but to be clear, it has little comparison to The Big Apple. Firstly San Francisco is smaller – about 850,000 people call the Bay Area home. The city buzzes with an energy of opportunity, however, due to the rapid progress of tech startups, ridiculous real estate rises and gentrification (the buzz word of America) – newcomers are not well received. There is a feeling that the new wave of inhabitants are driving out ‘real San Franciscans’.

Who is a native San Franciscan? My impression is that ‘locals’ come from all over America to the Bay Area, but because the city is smaller than New York City you feel it more. It is harder to meet a true San Francisco native these days as in the past people used to work to live, not live to work. Nowadays people are not moving to San Francisco as much for the Northern Californian lifestyle and weather, but rather for money and the tech boom.

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Be it no concern, point of no return, go forward in reverse

Setting Forth, Eddie Vedder

It’s hard to ignore a burning in your heart so strong it wakes you up in the middle of the night. Five weeks ago I left the place I am from to find a new home. I had every reason to stay (two jobs, amazing friends, close family, year-long sunshine, the best cat in the world) but a faint whisper turned into a murmur and grew into an internal scream that would catch me off guard at the most random times. Waiting for the kettle to boil, sitting at traffic lights, the moments just before falling asleep at night – a conversation would begin with my current and future self: Holy shit, If I was every going to ever do this is had to be now or never.

I could not ignore the call anymore – the call that says “Go – go while you are young.” It was an invitation to live.

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Pick up the pieces of your life and rearrange

Risk of Change – Holcombe Waller

All that anyone really needs is a good adventure. They say a change is as good as a holiday, but sometimes the change you need is the actual holiday. When the urge to travel hits, it hurts in your bones. At the start of 2015 life brought me to Ubud, Bali in Indonesia – the spiritual and geographical centre of the world.

Yoga, mediation, sound healing, ecstatic dance, raw, organic, vegan, Ayurvedic, cold pressed, fermented – Ubud is the ideal place to fill your days with what feels good in life. Serendipity, solitude, gratitude, rest, relaxation, walking, healing, nature, wonder, music, laughter – when life feels good, great things happen.

When travelling solo, it’s easy to make more plans than hours in a day to keep solitude at bay. But really, spending time alone is a pit stop on the highway of self-actualisation. Learning how to be usefully lonely is scary but incredibly rewarding.

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