Tirana, Albania

Tirana2Hello dear friends and avid readers ;). Greetings from the city I have traveled unexpectedly.

I was talking to my sisters the other day when they innocently asked me: where is Albania? Is it still in Europe? I screenshot a map of Europe, zoom in Albania, sent to them and told to look at Italy or Greece and they will find Albania. Of course, Albania is in Europe :).

I have been here for 1 week already. Tirana, the capital city of Albania will be my temporary home-based after Skopje. Did I say, I have traveled here unexpectedly? Yes! I was supposed to head to Lima, Peru on 28 January. I did plan traveling again to South America. When I happen to find a cheaper flight. Aha, I thought I would skip the winter in Europe and return here after 3 months. Coz I have no idea how long will I ever bear the cold weather. Thank God it started to snow and I loved it! Minus the cold. Yes, sounds contradicting. I love the snow but not the cold weather. I wish it didn’t go together. In Tirana, it is not snowing, only in the mountains of Albania.

When I was in Skopje, I was booking a flight from EU to SA. I was already on the payment part (My Itinerary: Barcelona, Spain to Lima, Peru with layover to airports in London and US). When suddenly, an IMPORTANT NOTICE popped up: Those citizens from the non-EU countries are required to have a US Transit Visa and ESTA – a document that gives you authorization to travel. I postponed booking my flight. The next day I walked in to US Embassy in Skopje and the staff told me I cannot just walked in at the Embassy. If I have enquiries, I have to send email or make online appointment. I searched for the documents needed and how to process a US Transit Visa and obtain ESTA. Somehow it resembles to how you apply for a US Tourist Visa. I have got a phobia when it comes to dealing with the US authority because of my horrible experience at the US Embassy in Singapore. {That is the embassy where I encountered the rudest people. I swear.} My visa denial is still fresh on my mind. I have no interest to travel to US at all. So here I was, trying to book a cheaper flight to South America from Europe but I have to change flight in the airport that happens to be in the US territory – and I have to come up with so many documents! When in fact the country I am actually traveling to only requires me a passport that is valid for 6 months. People who happened to be born in powerful countries have no idea how lucky they are for NOT having to undergo a painful process of obtaining a visa just to be able to travel. This is one of the reason why I have decided to stay put and continue backpacking in Europe. I am sincerely thankful to the French Embassy in Singapore who was extra considerate to grant me a Schengen Visa that is valid for 1 year. Yes, 90 days is too short to visit 28 Schengen countries but it’s okay, I am grateful to them because although I have already resigned from my job in Singapore, they did accept my application and issued me the most coveted visa, just the day before I fly.

I am working again in a nice hostel at a posh location of Tirana, called Blloku or the Block. I will be forever grateful to the amiable hostel Manager, Linda whom (when I thought okay I will postponed traveling to Peru). I was looking for work opportunities when I search Albania – – – saw this nice cozy hostel, I wrote to them and I was so happy to hear a positive response from them the next day. I decided, OK I will travel to Albania. I will write a separate posts for my work experience while traveling.

Going back to my new home-based. Linda was showing me around the hostel, she was extremely likeable with a sweet smile. I keep asking questions in between. I was sharing some of my travel adventures when she suddenly asked me: Do you have a blog? You should have a blog! I did not say yes nor did I say no. I just did not answer at all. I felt so shy to tell her – yes I do have a travel blog. But to my mind – I don’t want her to get disappointed if she discovers that I actually did not write so much for the past 7 months. I was backpacking for 7 months but I wrote something very personal. Although yes this is a personal blog. I figured I would like to write more not merely for myself but for others who may be are looking to find information and travel related stuff in this part of the world. My travel experience, they may find useful.

So dear friends, this is just an introduction haha. Brace yourself. I will try to write regularly now. I will have a series of posts about crossing borders, life lessons while traveling, share some impressions and interesting things that I have encountered in those countries I have visited, lived and traveled for the last 7 months and counting. Faleminderit Linda, you have no idea how you inspired me write again and share about my travels. When I gain a little more confidence, I’ll probably tell you – yes I have a blog. With a heart 😉