Going Home – 7 lessons in 70 days of quarantine (onboard cruise ships)

‘Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light

JK Rowling

Life is fair, normal, usual, routine-like when everything goes as planned, everything falls into place and you get what you wanted. Life is fantastic when you surprise yourself and do even better than you thought! Hey- I probably deserved it – you’d tell yourself. 

It is when life surprises you to the point where you don’t know where to turn to -this is all new to you- and you look up to the sky and ask ‘ why me?’ – ‘why now?’ – ‘why this?’ – that you actually start growing. That there is a shift, that you start questioning yourself, you stop taking things for granted. ( dunno why but Fight Club comes to mind)

Its once we get out of the confort zone that we finally realize that we are at some level a bunch of control freaks, that we cannot master everything and even if we would try- we would fail miserably. Fail to change the un changeable, that which is beyond our power. It’s then we would most probably be still and give ourselves a pat on the back with a disappointed ‘at least I tried’.

Today is the 71st day since my control-free process started- since we entered the quarantine, basically since it all began. Feels like a lifetime. Today is also the last day on the ship!!!!  (For a while) as tomorrow I am supposed to fly home- this time for good ( one more controlling lesson since my last flight cancellation- and with the biggest smile on my face now I will just say- never trust anything till you step into the damn plane!  🤪)

In these past weeks I have filled two notebooks of thoughts, impressions, affirmations, anger, frustrations and practices compassion for me and others. However here you will find just a short outline of what this whole time meant to me. 

In an effortless moment, after packing ( deja vu all over again), I sat on the couch, grabbed a coffee and pondered on what I lessons I am taking home with me tomorrow. 

I know that it has been forever since I saw the world, connected to the land, walked barefoot, played with a dog, hugged a tree (yes I do that sometimes!) and of course saw my loved ones – especially now after the whole virus hysteria.

This is not about the difficulties though- but the overcoming, the process. Slowly, when you’re facing the same situation over and over again, your system starts to defend itself in some ways and starts doing things differently with the aim of lowering the impact and making it easier on yourself. You want to find your own space, your shelter, your bubble (first lesson) and so you feel more like yourself , you find your own element.

For sure the invitation to introspection was something that we all were aware of since the beginning. We observed that finding that space within really helped coping with what’s going on these days, raising your vibration and keeping your mood up became top priority ( at least for me since otherwise hey, had days I didn’t know why I should get out of bed!) 

Hence, maybe we picked up some confidence with meditation, realized it is something we can actually do and it does magic! Talking from experience -meditation (along with writing) were the instruments I knew I had to help me build this shelter, in coping with my emotional fluctuations. (And if you haven’t done yet, you should try it now! I recommend insight timer app for meditation- it’s free, full of options and it even has a timer! As for writing, there are tons of journaling courses, just get a notebook and a pen and let it out!)

On the other hand, when the shit hits the fan, when you are told your flight got cancelled you won’t get on the yoga mat and blissfully close your eyes mumbling ommmms ! No! You simply can’t. You will be angry, dismissive and to hell with everything! What’s the point? Temperature, masks, gloves, washing for the 10,000 time and then repeat? 

Hey I am telling you- it’s normal! You are not alone! We reach the point of fighting it, the rebellion, (2nd lesson)for sure as we want things to be as they used to. Especially because it’s not like we can track it and know at least for how long it will still go. 

We have no idea what the future will look like, we have all these question marks in our heads and nobody can answer us. Damn right we’ll be furious. You know why? Well you got it right- we don’t do well with uncertainty. And once again- you gotta let that out. You have to stop and breathe. Just breathe. 

 It’s been a great lesson of adaptation (3rd lesson) wasn’t it? Not to mention creativity (4th lesson)– how much more obvious can this be for me and you to understand that we create our own reality? Building new habits, unlearning other less useful ones, find that movement is such a great privilege- get out of that confort zone, pay attention to those excuses, whether you create your own workout plan, do some online yoga or take long walks wherever.

After so much resistance and struggle we learn to slowly let go and in the event of even losing more of our freedoms- we learn to do the best with what we have and appreciate simplicity.

Simplicity (5th lesson)- what’s your relationship with simplicity? Didn’t you notice how simple life is and how little you need overall? Self-sufficiency, mindful consumption and constant appreciation (6th lesson) are key here. 

What is there to appreciate? I am sure that during these past weeks we have changed our connection to the world surrounding us- to the elements,nature, animals – we are more appreciative even for the little time we have outside and then of course- our home ( which now became our little universe full of possibilities 😌), food and last but not least connection!. 

If you would ask me what’s my biggest intake in this whole period I will undoubtedly say – friendship ! ( 7th perfected lesson) connected with friends  People that speak my language – and I m not talking about linguistics here – so that you don’t have to translate your soul ( as a saying very well puts it).  We shared, laughed, recollected those good old times and completely forgot about space and time! ( reminds me of this romantic Croatian term ‘pomalo’ which means free from time!) 

Life is made of moments and I must say that these times have warmed my heart and helped me go through those sleepless dark nights. Hardship and adversity is part of the process of learning- but how incredibly interesting it is to see how different we are- how perspectives change, as if we have different set of eyeglasses to reproduce the world around us. 

Each from our own bubble, yet being there for each other, celebrating togetherness, find ourselves in others’ fears, longing for normality, hoping for a better tomorrow. I can say that I mostly cherished this beautiful, compassionate human connection and found that the answer is not only within us, it is also between us!

Tomorrow is my moment – I am finally going home! I have been there for long in my imagination- felt the warmth of my mother, the smoothness of my bed, the green trees and the birds singing. Tomorrow a new chapter begins – for I will step out of the ship- grateful to have received me for all this time, for the people I shared so much and that became my family. Tomorrow I will finally see this new world, real world! Wish me luck, for I haven’t stepped in the plane yet!🤪😁 ✈️ ☀️

From control to surrender & living your dream

( things do happen- and as I am writing from my comfy balcony suite, cruising on the Atlantic on the way to Europe and eventually home soon… was wondering) …

Have you ever noticed how when someone asks you ‘ how’s your day so far’ – whatever you come up with you’ll eventually start believing it and what’s worse, prove it to be true?

These past weeks have made it clear to me that with more you allow yourself to feel lousy, to let your guard down, chances are that you will be dragged in this swirl of negative stories, attracting more and more that confirms it. It took me a time to actually get it – in real time experience mind you- that I was writing my script every day and according to that my day will go. 

Can you let go of your stories for a moment and decide to start your day on a different line?

It wasn’t that I had to lie to myself – I understood that I cannot. Things I was missing in my life were still missing. Furthermore, the list will go longer day by day. Uncertainty was still there. It was about finding the good, the right, the beauty in things. I invited in an old pall – gratitude and as a workout line I used to here very often- got comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

‘ if you want to live a life you never lived, you have to do things you ve never done!’

(Just in case you are the planner, the one obsessed by lists and plan b’s like me…)

Once more I got that I am the victim of the rules I live by. You are the result of what song you’re playing to yourself every morning. So set in for a change. Arise at a different hour, do something you haven’t done before and Ask yourself:

What to do today for a better tomorrow!? For a better me?

As I was enjoying the sun this morning ( used to say that I love the sun but Sunbathing for me is just too much) – realized that we are all going through a process of metamorphosis. We need to heal. To reconnect and reconcile. We have to look into how are being taught to see things from a perspective that maybe we never considered. 

I managed to stay two hours in the sun, meditated, did some work- and while my brain was saying something, my body had a different stand in this. I was controlling instead of flowing with it. I got over the sweat, the heat, the heart pumping in my head – just because I couldn’t refuse myself the warmth- and the cool ocean breeze. Just because I did it differently.


my goal became mastering surrender till it becomes my second nature, till I learn to accept it with more grace and ease, till I am ok with not knowing but with the ‘how it feels’.

I think that everything around us is a proof of this simple and basic idea- to surrender, to let it be, to flow, to live the present. The sea and its waves, never the same, in a constant move and rhythm. The wind. The birds flying around. The puffy clouds. The rain and the tiniest snowflake. 

Once you do that you will allow to see life smiling at you in every moment- you will be surprised and recognize the miracle of each step, look, touch, sound and smell you are taking. You will learn to celebrate rather than adapt. 

Look around you and see it yourself. Maybe you should consider it. Learn to be better at surrendering. 

On Cycles and the Meaning of a Voyage

Definition of pilgrimage? (part one)

Memento <3

“A disciple…can never imitate his guide’s steps. You have your own way of living your life, of dealing with problems, and of winning. Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself.” Paulo Coehlo

(Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the world pilgrimage as 1- a journey of a pilgrim especially one to a shrine or a sacred place – and 2- the course of life on earth.)

Five days have passed since the official ending of the project I have been working for almost a year now. It is strange to say but it got me melancholic for all this time, for this place I call home, for the children I got to know better than I ever did before, for the beautiful people I met on the way…

Learned to travel light!

It was the longest project and my longest stay – at one place alone. I became comfortable with this lifestyle and playfulness was the word that would rule my days – as I was learning how to get to that place of encounter with the kids, as I would try my best to be better, more patient, more creative and fun. And as much as I would like to keep that fresh in my heart, I know that I have to internalize it, learn my lessons, keep my eyes wide opened and above all be grateful for this huge opportunity that I was offered.

Pay attention and learn from your fellow pilgrims!

I did not come here to visit a shrine or a sacred place – that is true- I came here in order to put my heart into something, to give my time to those that were in need, to explore their universe and to give a grip of mine. Like two travellers that meet on the path, walking in different directions. Pilgrimage for me is more than a visit, it is an actual course, it is a state of mind. It is the awareness itself, its probably also the fact that you know, way before you even started on that path, that things are not forever, that everything has an ending, but that there is much more to come after that.

Learn to create!

A cycle started and that cycle ended now, leaving place for another new one to take its place. One year ago, I was a bit sceptical about living in one place for so long, I was a bit worried about what it could inflict on my future projects, as I never saw myself in a place, but always around, moving from one place to the other. However, not after long I have understood that yes, it is good to welcome routine, stability and normality in your life. It is good to taste a bit of it before you refuse it altogether, same as everything else! It is good to try something new for a change, in many aspects.

Oh yeah – and learn to have a goal!

You know a cycle has finished when you feel that you need some time to reflect when you feel enriched and eager for more as well as when you are melancholic and maybe even a bit disoriented. So what do you do with that disorientation? Well, you refocus and redirect that intention, your higher purpose. I have to admit I have faced this empty moment before as well, after finishing university, after quitting my job, and even after other projects I was so into – that I would eventually find myself next day on my way home without really acknowledging what has happened with me.

All was difficult till I have created my little heart box – it is basically the place where I keep all the beautiful moments, people and experiences lived – but most of all – there is a special place only for kids and their joyful little faces. Will always be a child at heart – and will always look up at children as the real teachers. After all, what else is a man’s life if not a series of cycles of growth? And what else to do with them if not cherish and learn from them as you best see fit?

Never stop dreaming and aiming for more!

The end of a cycle should never stop us from dreaming, from that urge to become better, the curiosity and the passion for life. Remember always to take that next small step. It will lead your way, and by the time you know it, you will understand.

I shall give a huge thanks from the heart to Il Cesto ( literary means ‘the nest’) that slowly became my family and accommodated me among many others – and of course, provided the instruments and helped me fulfil this cycle. Will surely find a place for you guys in my heart box!!!

Learn to be thankful, learn to give!

Prendersi per mano – riflessioni sul significato dell’essere umano

Oggi volevo riflettere su che cosa ci fa pensare la parola umano? In questo mondo veloce dove viviamo, sembra che la parola ha perso significato per quanto dalla mattina fino alla sera le notizie abbondano di atti inumani – niente di nuovo, direi. Vero. Sfortunatamente, niente di nuovo. La indifferenza pero, il fatto che abbiamo la impressione che non possiamo cambiare nulla perché siamo troppo piccoli per farlo. Ecco questo e il risultato della globalizzazione.

Comunque, uno quando vede questo succedere ogni giorno, finisce ad accettarlo…quando uno chiude gli occhi a quello che succede intorno, ammettere, senza resistere, si ritrova credere senza avere nessuna idea pratica di quello che implica, arriva a essere indifferente e ancora a giustificare la sua posizione. Il senso morale del bene o del male di una persona cambia tanto con il tempo.

Questa società consumista, capitalista, hi-tech ci fa dimenticare di cosa significa veramente essere umano. Perché alla fine che cosa vuol dire un essere umano se no guardarsi nei occhi del altro, identificare, empatizare e assumersi al posto del altro? Quando un altro non ha niente ed e arrivato alla fine, guarderesti e cercheresti i colpevoli, a chi dovrebbe prendere cura della situazione o spiegare perche non sei risponsabile per questo? O ancora peggio, prendere tutte quelle persone come se fossero una palla di tennis e buttarla sopra il muro-ribadire che non e la tua problema e poi dimenticare tutto.

Siamo vivendo dei tempi istorici- per quanto consapevoli o no- siamo vivendo dei tempi dei grandi catastrofi umanitari e fallimento collettivo. Si, sto parlando ancora della crisi dei rifugiati – in quanto il Mediterraneo diventa un cementerò tacito dove I numeri dei morti e sempre in crescita ma ormai incerto.

Ancora c’e una speranza pero, ancora ci sono alcuni combatenti per I diritti umani, quelli que hanno messo al silenzio ogni voce che li diceva che non possono. Si, volevo scrivere sul quelli che oltre tutte le dichiarazioni, legi, regolamenti, trattati e convenzioni che sempre prometono RIsoluzioni – loro in fatti sono solo fedeli alla loro coscienza, a quello che un essere umano dovrebbe fare per un altro senza aver bisogno di un contesto.

Poco fa ho guardato un documentario che mi ha impressionato tanto che ho promesso di scrivere qualcosa su questo, di condividere e magari anche chiedere opinioni. ‘Iuventa ‘ e uno di quelli documentari che in un modo molto staccato e obiettivo ti porta la luce su quello che succede oggi al mare. Diretto da Michele Cinque, tratta su un ONG iuventa che hanno voluto fare un cambio e con il aiuto del finanziamento collettivo hanno comprato una nave e cosi hanno concluso vari operazioni di salvataggio dei migranti al mare. Hanno cominciato in 2016 e fino al‘anno scorso in agosto hanno salvato 14000 persone in quindici missioni.

Hanno cominciato a domandare perché l’ Europa non fa nulla in questo rispetto ( la iniziativa e stata per fare notare il bisogno di un progetto tipo Mare Nostrum ma fondato dell’Unione Europea) la nave e stata confiscata e i volontari accusati di tratta e violazione della legge italiana su immigrazione. Quindi, mentre l’Europa stava cercando di camuffare la situazione e spingere la ‘problema’ indietro ad Africa, questi giovani idealisti provavano il contrario, e dovevano essere fermati! Fino a oggi la nave e ancora in sequestro nel porto di Trapani.

chiaro allora che il scopo del’Unione Europea e di fermare i corridoio umanitario, di criminalizzare e accusare a quelli che vogliono un cambio. Mentre i ONG provano di stare dietro al influsso dei migranti, Europa si volta la spalla e acceta tante violazioni ai diritti umani, ignorando la legge internazionale e permette che un massiccio di persone sono detenute in condizioni catastrofici.

Il stesso documentario menziona anche Mediterranea –  mediterranearescue -una piattaforma che unisce diverse organizzazioni che hanno in comune un scopo solo- di dare priorità alla vita. Mentre l’Unione Europea rifiuta di considerarsi risponsabile per il numero di morti sempre in crescita, dopo Iuventa e altre ONG che sono stati fermati, accusati falsamente quando la unica cosa che volevano fare era di mostrare che si può, Mediterranea e un progetto ancora vivo, che dimostra questo. Il loro scopo e di monitorizzare e osservare quello che succede, d’intervenirenel caso sia bisogno a salvare e portare le persone in un posto sicuro, come prevede la legge internazionale. Dopo di che, certamente, i migranti saranno soggetti della legge del respettivo paese.

Italia, come la maggior parte del’ Europa, segue una strategia molto chiusa nel riguardo dei rifugiati. Tanti paesi passano per un declino morale e sfortunatamente quando si parla di un ‘straniero’, la reazione e sempre in difensiva, impaurita e molto medievale.

Alla fine, ci manca riflettere un po’- non e che il modo in cui affrontiamo la questione dei rifuggiti e un rispecchio al modo in cui potremmo anche noi, cittadini, essere trattati? Guardare come i governi, la opinione pubblica affrontano la situazione e il riflesso di una società che prima o poi perderà la sua umanità in riguardo ai propri cittadini. Abbiamo dimenticato di cercare dove e la moralità in questo assunto, ma siamo molto concentrati sul lato economico, politico…Abbiamo dimenticato che tenere solo al suo tribù o gruppo e ancora un ‘residuo tossico di secoli di schiavitù e segregazione’. Questa non e una UNIONE come ci piace a chiamarla.

Dobbiamo creare una società che prima di tutto deve essere morale inclusiva, dobbiamo – a questo punto, essere capaci di vivere en un modo umano, amorevole e saggio – en una società in cui la vita e più importante che il capitale ( e ci abbiamo anche dei modelli, anche se i contra modelli sono molto imponenti – SUA).

C’e bisogno di narrazione, di dialogo, di smettere di semplificare un problema che non e per niente semplice. Dobbiamo ascoltare, condividere e fare la nostra parte. Prima dobbiamo cominciare a guardare dentro il nostro cuore – e dopo possiamo aspettare un cambio di coscienza al nivelo sociale. Dobbiamo riflettere di più su che cosa vuol dire essere Umano per no – di smettere di prendere le cose come sono ma sempre mettere in dubbio, avere quel sguardo critico. Più di tutto, dobbiamo ricordare che siamo noi i creatori della nostra vita e che anche siamo i attori principali!

building bridges – the politics of innocence

almost three months have passed since I am in Italy and time certainly went by very fast. one of the main reasons why this is so could be the fact that life here is very frenzy – there are lots to do, as Genova is a very active city, culturally and socially speaking.

It has been a time fruitfully spent with the children at the centre where I am volunteering (with Ce.Sto, one of those organisations that every community should have for a better inclusion and social cohesion). Every day is different. Every day I engage more and I feel I create new knots and decipher new codes of their behaviour. Working with around forty children of different ages and backgrounds sounds challenging enough and in practice even more – but patiently and consistently I am encouraging myself and have to admit it – it is a very pleasant challenge.

some of these days I wanted to write about joy – how often do we find joy in our everyday life? – and when I say joy here I mean that utter feeling of happiness that runs all over your body and makes you want to jump, to smile and laugh of how amazing everything is just in this moment. I have to say that I feel this joy when I am surrounded by children. these past months I have started to construct these small bridges that help me better understand my child within with their help. it runs both ways though – I do that because I try to see the world through their eyes. and each of you should know very well how simple and easy the world is when you are a child!

I observe them and see that even if they come from different backgrounds, from North Africa, Asia, Central America or from Europe – at this moment in their life they created bonds that are unbreakable and they stand by each other regardless of race, colour or religion. all these social constructs mean nothing to them. at this stage, the important thing is – however innocent –  to discover the world together, to hold hands, sing and dance. they do fight sometimes, but that is because they are expansive, because they want to be heard and yes – because they need love and attention.

how far have we gone from that age of innocence? how far, we as humans, have we gone in the opposite direction? fear, greed and power have overruled love, abundance and humility. humanity at this stage is divided by class, race and colour – is divided by those that live in abundance and those that starve and die in search of a better life ( and are judged and criticised for doing so) *and how can you call ‘invading’ the people that look for a better life?*

we build fences instead of bridges nowadays! if we would at least bother to open a history book we would see that we too were once impoverished – we too needed a better life! what I mean by ‘we’ here are all those countries that colonised once virgin territories, the so-called abundant, capitalist and western countries.  it is the time to take responsibility for the plunders and for the abuse, exploitation and death we have caused- for the humanitarian crises around the world are the results of those.

however, with a far-right government that targets immigrants and aims at making Italy a ‘safer place’, the situation here is not a jolly one at all. In fact, Italy is facing a very devastating moment in terms of its politics of inclusion – and while we lose count of the people that sacrifice their lives for a better future, here, Europe, nowadays the ‘promised land’, the ultimate aim is to ‘have no refugees at all in Italy through the closure of seaports, criminalising migrant rescue NGOs and with the new decree, depriving them of any protection’.

yet, there is hope. a few weeks ago I have participated in a protest against the Salvini decree. on the beats of ‘Mama Africa’ and as we marched on the streets of the old city, people from all corners of the world gathered to share their story and their support to make a change, to open people’s eyes and to show that they care. Yes – mama Africa- because it is a wake-up call for us all – to return to what unites us, to understand we are all the same, a body and a spirit, to go back to the roots and our true nature.

fact is – where there is unity, where there are awareness and discipline through that unity, there is hope for a better tomorrow. we should leave out the hypocrisy of those that see the immigrants the cause of their problems – where they rest in a totally different universe, ignorant, that lacks empathy, humanity and drawn towards hate. we should instead focus on those that understand, on those that can trace this plunge in despair, in lack – where people risk their lives and see death a better outcome than the poverty, imprisonment and deprivation they have to put up with back in their countries.

who are we to draw lines? to build fences? to label people? to differentiate and put to balance? to address people’s lives as the sum of their misfortunes? these questions seem like a deja-vu. Should this be the outcome of our evolution so far?

when I look at these children I see there is hope, yes there is. investing for a better education of today’s children is fundamental in creating a better future. it is not the first time I am drawn to conclude on this line of thought. it is a bit extreme to link children with politics – however, we have a lot to learn from them – to hold hands, to see ourselves in the other and build a better future together.

last – I cannot help but attaching a short passage from one of the classics of political satires in American cinema – ‘The Great Dictator’. the history repeats itself – ironically – the actors have changed but the play remains the same.

So, are we going to learn to do better this time?

‘In this world, there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….”


A New Place to Call Home

After a well-deserved summer at home and of course, well-deserved vacation for that matter, I had to start moving in some direction or other. It is quite difficult once you’ve got the travel bug, you know? Even if I definitely did not get bored, I have been stalking friends that travel and wondered constantly where to go next. Then the answer came – and as they say, all roads go to Rome – for me they have actually gone to Genova – as this is my new home now.

So here I am, drinking my expresso (the third one today – I simply cannot refrain- the place is packed with small cafes) enjoying the breeze and the seagulls, the sound of the many scooters rumbling around, admiring the majestic architecture of the many palaces that stand as a proof of a legendary past.

The duration of my visit this time will be slightly longer – I could actually say that it is the most time that I have spent in a place – at a time. This is actually something that excites and scares me at the same time – as I am sure I will find my way out of it every now and then (heheh).

However, I must say that my motivation is high due to the reason why I am here – an European project with an local NGO that supports and works at building a sustainable inclusion and cohesion of migrants and minors in the society. Will basically work with children, adolescents and migrants – by doing workshops as well as cultural events for a better communication, integration and promoting activities for civic integration.

Besides the fact that it is famous for its focaccia and pesto, for its long stretches of coast, forests and picturesque cities, Liguria is a region that has something more particular than that. Genoa, after all, is a multicultural city on the move since for the past twenty five years has been receiving waves of migrants from places like Ecuador, Senegal, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Peru and China. This passage has not been a novelty as Genoa was and still remains one of the most important ports of Italy.

The situation is a bit distressing – the refugee and migrant mobility gets intensified along with an accelerated crisis of the European identity and borders as well as an increasing nationalist attitude. Here the situation seems more pervasive as Italy has become the central route into Europe for migrants and asylum seekers as they cross from North Africa. I will be able to have a better picture of the situation in the following months and get more immersed in the question.

6 Things You Should Know Before Going to Iran


At the beginning of this year I have backpacked with a friend around Iran for a month. Not many people I know have been here and the fact is that I was so astounded by the potential this country has. Therefore I have promised myself that I will share my experience with all of you. Unfortunately, it is a fact that due to media, many people think that Iran is a country strongly linked with war, nuclear armament and terrorism. Besides, lots of polls show that the West and even most of the Middle Eastern countries look poorly at Tehran’s rights record. While the truth is always somewhere in the middle, my distrust of the media made me visit this country and I can only say one thing – can’t wait to go back!

Culture and People

  1. The People

The people here are simply astonishing – they are so congenial and amicable- up to the point where you get a bit suspicious! Actually, I have come to realize that they really mean it when they ask ‘Where are you from’ and do want to know about your whereabouts because they have an authentic curiosity about other countries. I can wholeheartedly say that Iran is one of the best countries I have been where you will experience local life in an easy, spontaneous and fun way, and you will rarely be surprised by a comment such as ‘please come to visit my shop’ – following an inviting answer.

  1. The History

Now if you do a bit of a research before you go to Iran you will be aware of the fact that the inhabitants of Iran are not Arabs – but Persians. It is a mistake that will make you look poorly informed and will also be disappointing for the people you are talking to. After all, the Persian Empire is a prehistoric one and many take pride on their ancestry. Another aspect is the religious one. Just because it is called the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’ does not mean that everyone is Muslim (after all, the country was named this way only after the revolution in 1979). Zoroastrianism is the oldest monotheistic religion which was founded on the territory of ancient Iran. Other minority religions are the Baha’I Faith, Christianism and Judaism.

  1. The Customs

One of the most interesting cultural habits I have encountered in Iran is called – taarof (politeness) – which basically means that the local people will insist that you don’t have to pay or do something for them – therefore putting the other first. While it could be heavenly amazing to be invited for dinner always when you go out with a local, it is not always the case. So you will have to insist two or three times until they will accept your preposition/money. Another very important cultural aspect to keep in mind is shaking hands – while men shaking hands with men is perfectly fine – some (more conservative ones) prefer not to and they will place their hand on their heart to show respect and sincerity. A man will not shake hands with a woman unless she is the one that outstretches her hand first (it also depends on the company, situation, etc). My advice is that you simply bow and let the other person initiate a further handshake.

  1. The Dress code

I think it is not a secret that here the women have to cover anything than face, hands and feet (therefore the head too). I actually found that Iranian women use the scarf as a fashion statement (mainly in Tehran and big cities) therefore you will find it quite tempting to go shopping for some. The array of colors and designs is impressive and consequently you will find yourself wearing it with such pride! J In what is concerned the rest, it is generally acknowledged that the women should be wearing loose and long sleeved blouses & pants. However, while I was in Tehran I kept on being wondered on the fact that many women adopted much of the Western dress code and wear rather tight clothes. While this of course will change depending on the city and region – follow your common sense and pack more loose clothes (including lots of blazers and long sweaters) and avoid low-cut, see-through ones. Always remember it is better to look conservative. Men have nothing to be concerned of as short-sleeved shirts and t-shirts are acceptable. On the other hand, shorts and three-quarter length pants are only accepted on the beach.


  1. The Money

Well, continuing with the technicalities – the credit cards here do not work so my advice is to take enough cash with you. There is also the option of a travel card that you could order in advance and pick it up once you arrive in Tehran. This is mostly done through Facebook groups such as ‘See you in Iran’. When talking about money – the currency in Iran is a bit confusing. They have ‘toman’ – with one decimal less and ‘rial’ however they normally use tomans. For example when people say something like 18 – they actually mean 18000 tomans. It will take you a bit to get used to it and you will constantly have the impression that things are cheaper than you think!

  1. The Internet

Install VPN before you reach the country as here basically you will not be able to access YouTube, Facebook or even CouchSurfing without it. I was really worried before reaching the country as I wasn’t sure how was I to communicate with my friends and family. However, I soon found the solution – VPN it is. Also, keep in mind that in Iran Couchsurfing is illegal therefore in case you have a couch – do plan and make a fake hotel reservation for the officials will check it for your visa (the visa is on arrival – it cost me around $80 and lasts for a month). Other than that, you would want to buy a SIM card as the internet is much faster than the Wifi in the coffee shops.

Hope this helps and do not hesitate to message me in case you have questions or comments! Khodahafez 🙂

5 Must See Places in Alexandria, Egypt


There are few places that really make me want to come back to further explore and Alexandria and Egypt is one of them. I have completed a three month internship in Tanta and on this occasion have been travelling around. However, that wasn’t enough. Even if most of the weekends I would spend at the foot of the Mediterranean, Alexandria always made me want more. So- I had to come back! Ended up spending an extra month and a half and have to be honest – loved it that much that I had to tell the story…

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