The World Nomads Podcast: The Baltics

Transplants, folklore, why you’re unlikely to be upgraded on your flight and overnight forest hikes in bare feet.

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World Nomads Podcast: The Baltics

In this episode, we delve into the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. For the past couple of hundred years, they have been largely closed to the rest of the world because of occupation and oppression by the Russian Tsars, the Soviet’s Josef Stalin, and Hitler’s Nazis. However, there’s a lot about these 3 separate nations which make them an ideal location for the independent, adventure traveler.

What’s in the Episode

00:33 Why the Baltics appeals to the adventurous, independent traveler

02:25 A date with the devil in Lithuania

04: 24 The witch’s beauty contest

08:32 Kate and Mark and what they wish they knew about Latvia before traveling there

11:32 Beaches in the Baltics

14:25 The two-headed dog

20:20 Travel News

23:46 Are the holiday blues a real thing?

28:20 Why you are unlikely to get a business seat upgrade

32: 38 Meet Jessie on a Journey

34:47 Jessie’s frightening experience as a solo female traveler

38:38 The KGB Museum

43:03 Missed our earlier podcasts?

Who is in the Episode

After abandoning a sensible career in IT to travel and write, Rob McFarland now divides his time between Sydney, the US, and Europe. He’s won six writing awards, including Australian Travel Writer of the Year, and regularly runs workshops (both in person and online) for aspiring writers.

While not averse to the charms of a 5-star hotel, his most memorable travel experiences involve adventure. Highlights include scaling the mist-shrouded mountain behind Machu Picchu and rafting the Futaleufu River in Patagonia.

To read Rob’s stories and learn more about his workshops, visit www.robmcfarland.org  

Kate O’Malley and her partner Mark are otherwise known as travel bloggers Vagrants of the World. In this episode, they share the origins of organ transplants with further information on the story behind this photo in Resources and Links.

You can also read Kate’s article Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Going To Latvia.

Amy McPherson is a London based travel writer published in various international publications. Her idea of the perfect holiday involves a bike ride through nature. Read her article on The Legends of Lithuania’s Curonian Spit. You can follow Amy's blog here.

Jessica Festa is the author behind Jessie on a Journey, a solo female, offbeat travel blog.

Jessie’s goal: to inspire you to live your best life through travel, as well as take your trips #BeyondTheGuidebook for active exploration, unexpected adventures, and transformative travel experiences.

Here’s a direct link to Jessie’s stories on Latvia.

Resources & Links

Vladamir Demikhov was a pioneering surgeon. Read the history behind the disturbing two-headed dog experiment.

Weird science - the two-headed dog

Read Norman Miller’s article Into the Bog: Exploring Soomaa National Park, Estonia

The Queen’s fear of flying revealed.

Read about the five travel fails that cost you money or run your trip.

Find out more about the latest travel camera here.

Apparently, kids who travel will be more successful. Survey results here.

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

The World Nomads Podcast: Croatia

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About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected]

Announcer: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel, lifestyle, and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous, independent traveler.

Kim: Hey, welcome to the episode of the podcast where we delve into the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all the As. Look, I have to admit, I knew next to nothing about these places before I started research for this episode, not even where they are geographically. I'd assumed they were in Eastern Europe along with those other former Soviet satellites, but not so, Phil.

Phil: No, indeed. No, they're in Northern Europe below the Scandinavian nations with Russia to the east and Poland in the south. Strictly speaking, Germany and Poland are also Baltic states, because they have large sea borders with the Baltic. But, historically, Estonia in the north, Latvia in the middle, and Lithuania in the south have been lumped together.

Estonia and Latvia became wealthy nations in the past, because their ports in Tallinn and Riga remain mostly ice-free in winter, so that gives trade access-

Kim: True.

Phil: ... across the Baltic. In medieval times, Lithuania had a huge empire that stretched as far as the Black Sea and out across to Moscow. But, of course, with such strong neighbors around them, they've been a punching bag in the rise and fall of empires. For the past couple of hundred years, they've been largely closed to the rest of the world because of occupation and oppression by the Russian czars, then the Soviet's Josef Stalin, then Hitler's Nazis, and then Joe Stalin again at the end.

Kim: Going back for another go.

Phil: Yeah, modern Europeans know a little about them, but, mostly, because, Tallinn and Riga became popular with stag parties back in the '80s.

Kim: Ooh, and it's those things which have conspired to keep the Baltics off the travel radar. They do have a bit of a reputation for Soviet grimness, a cheap drinking spot for buck's parties, and women dancing in peasant dresses.

Phil: Oh, that, yeah, the traditional dress is very popular. That's all true, but, as we're about to learn, there's a lot about these three separate nations which make them an ideal location for the independent, adventure traveler.

Kim: Yeah, but we will touch on that dark side when we chat with Jesse about the KGB Museum. Kate will share five things she wishes she knew before going to Latvia with her partner, Mark. Award-winning travel writer, Rob McFarland, joins us to chat about the holiday blues.

Phil: I've got those.

Kim: The festive season's over, I know you do. But, let's kick off with Amy who had a date with the devil in Lithuania.

One thing I've learned about you is that wherever you travel, you like to do it on a bike. Why did you have a date with the devil in Lithuania on a bike?

Amy: I don't know. It just happened can I say. Doesn't that always go with dating? It kind of just happens. I don't know. I like bikes. I think cycling is a really good way to see places. It's slower, much slower than driving, obviously, but, a little bit faster than walking, so you can, it's kind of a midway for me, and it just happens that the devil was there, so.

Kim: For those listening, let's explain who the devil is.

Amy: Well, so, in Lithuania, there is a place called the Curonian Spit, which is essentially a little, well, a little, a massive sandbank that runs along the coast of Lithuania. On there, there's always been this legend of a giant lady who protected the coast by pouring sand over the spit. Of course, with all these legends, there's always the bad people, so there are witches that roam the forests of Lithuania.

As all dark creatures go, the devil's apparently their boss. What they've created is this forest of legends, you could say, or forest of folklore, where local artists have carved out wooden sculptures that tells the stories of this folklore. It's not just folklore of this particular giantess, but it's also all the witches that live there, and all these other stories to do with the land surrounding it.

They for some reason included Lucifer who is the devil, of course, for those who didn't know, and, also, his gate to hell. He's pretty much sitting there in front of his gate, and, apparently, if you go and kiss him, you could potentially win the witches' beauty contest, so, why not?

Kim: You kissed Lucifer. How do you know that you've won? This is all folklore, how do you-

Amy: I don't.

Kim: ... know you've won the witches' beauty contest?

Amy: I don't know. I'm still waiting for the paparazzi to come through and to ...

Kim: That particular area, the Curonian Spit, that's UNESCO World Heritage. Is that based on the fact that it's full of this folklore or because of the sand itself or the sculptures that the artists have done?

Amy: No, so the UNESCO World Heritage status has nothing to do with the folklore. The UNESCO Heritage status has to do with the actual nature setting of the sandbank. It's actually quite a, for a sandbank to stretch this long, it's a natural phenomenon, and they wanted to protect it.

What it does is this sandbank has various different sand qualities which, unfortunately, to my little mind, I can't really grasp the difference between. There's gray sand and white sand, and there's also brown sand. There's apparently five shades of sand, which I'm sure a geologist will be happy to explain it to all of us one day.

But, this unique ecosystem then supports a lot of the local wildlife which is a lot different to the other wildlife that we can see. We're talking about little creatures that you normally wouldn't expect to live in sand. Also, the vegetation that can grow on this sand holds the sand together and essentially protects the coast of Lithuania from more sand then entering into their main land.

It is actually, this sandbank is, in fact, protecting the coast of Lithuania, whether that's the work of a giantess or actually just nature doing its job, it's for many to decide.

Kim: How did you find yourself there than riding a bike? You end up on a giant sandbank.

Amy: Because I'm a cyclist and a lot of my holidays are going to, the first thing I think about is, "Can I cycle there?" I naturally look at all the cycle routes that are accessible, and that I can do without too much effort, obviously.

Along the Baltic Coast, it's quite flat, and places like, so we're talking about Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, that it's joined by an entire route of this EuroVelo cycling route. It just happened that, I live in London at the moment, so I saw there was a, that they were starting a direct flight from London to Kaliningrad which is the closest airport to Klaipėda, and it was a place I've never been to, so I thought, "Hey, why not? I'll go and have a look what's there, and hire a bike and see if I like it, and if I do I might go back."

It's one of those places that you don't really ... It's not like Paris. It's not really a bucket list type place. It's one of those places, you just have to stumble upon. It happens that I was looking at various different cycling routes and stumbled upon this one.

Kim: They're the best places though those what we call off the beaten track.

Amy: Yeah, exactly. You go there without an expectation. Obviously, people go, "Oh, I want to go to Rome and Paris. I want to see these great things."

This is more like, "Oh, I'll just go and see what's there," you know? It's not-

Kim: Yeah.

Amy: I think the best experiences come out of these kinds of experiences, come out of these trips. It's because you learn things that you wouldn't normally learn, or you experience things that you normally wouldn't even expect to be there. No, it's great.

Kim: Thanks, Amy, and as with everything and everyone you hear in the episode, more information, stories, et cetera, are available in show notes.

Phil: Speaking of learning things, Kate and her partner, Mark, join us now to tell us about the five things she wishes she knew before going to Latvia.

Kate: Thanks for having us, again.

Mark: Always a pleasure.

Kim: Now, did Mark help you with this particular article?

Kate: Look, I'm going to say yes.

Phil: Because he's there listening.

Mark: It was actually, we were going to write about six things was the fact that I could actually find where Latvia was. That was number six, where is it?

Phil: Well, that's a point. It's not a huge place for a start, so it is a little bit hard to pinpoint on the map.

Kim: It's not where I thought it was.

Phil: Oh, no, is that right?

Kim: It's not, so, Mark, you tell, what have you learned? Where is it?

Mark: It's in Northern Europe. It's nestled between Estonia, Lithuania.

Kate: Lithuania.

Mark: It's sort of, basically, the fence to Russia.

Kim: Yeah, see, I thought it was further down like come down toward Croatia, that's where I thought it was. How embarrassing is that?

Phil: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Croatia?

Kim: Don't, don't. Sorry, sorry, don't. Can we edit that-

Phil: You're like a whole continent away.

Kim: I know I was. I know.

Kate: Someone's very lost.

Mark: That's-

Kim: I don't-

Mark: ... okay-

Kim: ... look-

Mark: ... because of Kate-

Kim: Yeah?

Mark: Kate said to me, she said, "Let's go to Nicaragua." I said, "I've never been to Africa."

Kim: Look, we like to think we're worldly, but, occasionally, we get it wrong. Kate, what five things did you wish you knew before you and Mark got there, to Latvia?

Phil: Well, hopefully, it was a pleasant surprise, right?

Kim: Yeah, you'd hope so.

Kate: Oh, yeah, absolutely, absolutely, it was. I'll tell you what, one thing we were really, really surprised about Latvia was how beautiful it is. We just, I'm going to be honest, we knew nothing about it before we went.

We were actually talking this morning about it. We were trying to work out why we went. We couldn't work out why we went.

But, when we got there, we were really, really surprised. It was just one of those situations where you're driving from the airport, and you go, "Wow, this is beautiful," and we weren't expecting it.

Mark: No, we were expecting more Russian, Soviet Union style-

Kate: Yeah.

Mark: ... a little bit drab, but it wasn't.

Kate: A lot like what you see in some Eastern European countries but beautiful cities, just stunning, and the countryside.

Phil: Is it all birch trees and stuff like that?

Kate: It's, well, I suppose, because it is so close to Scandinavia, but it is really a lot like what we've seen in Scandinavia, those beautiful wooded forests, a lot like what we saw in Russia as well, really dense forests, just gorgeous beaches.

Mark: The forests when you see the greens of the forests, it's as though they've been oversaturated, it's that green.

Kim: Wow.

Kate: Yeah.

Kim: Put through a filter almost?

Phil: Yeah.

Mark: [inaudible 00:11:27] Instagram business.

Phil: Yeah, yeah. But, hang on, you talk about beaches. You just mentioned beaches then. I wasn't expecting there to be decent beaches in Latvia.

Kate: No, and it's something that, we found this in other places as well that you just don't think about that when you say, "Oh, well, we're going to go to the Baltics." Beaches don't come to the forefront of your mind. That kind of thing is really surprising when you get there, and you go, well, okay, the water's a little chilly, especially by our standards, but pristine, absolutely pristine. I suppose you've got a country or a group of countries that essentially were closed for such a long time that they're still largely untapped.

Kim: We mentioned at the top of the podcast, we asked ourselves a few questions, why would a nomad want to go to Latvia? There are plenty of reasons, but there are some really weird not statistics but little fun facts. I didn't realize there's a Latvian link to jeans.

Kate: Levi's-

Kim: Yeah-

Kate: ... isn't it?

Kim: ... they were invented by a-

Phil: Levi Strauss was Latvian.

Kim: No-

Phil: Is that-

Kim: ... they-

Phil: ... what you're saying?

Kim: ... were invented by a Latvian tailor but funded by Levi Strauss.

Phil: Oh.

Kim: The Latvian tailor, he's got nothing out of it.

Phil: Nothing.

Kim: Levi gets the name.

Phil: We could have all been wearing Krupnikases instead of Levi's, I don't know. By the way, I'm sorry I have to confess, Krupnikas is actually a Lithuanian drink.

Kim: Oh, okay.

Phil: It was the only kind of Baltic sounding word that I remembered.

Kim: You guys knew about the jeans then, did you?

Kate: Funnily enough, I knew about that, but I don't know why I knew that one.

Mark: I told you.

Kate: Probably. I'll tell you another fun fact about Latvia, which we found while we were there, organ transplants came from Latvia.

Kim: Okay, what's the history behind that?

Kate: In Riga, there's this really unusual museum there, and they have this stuffed dog on display that has another dog grafted onto the back of it. That was the research that started organ transplants.

Phil: Why do you ask? Two dogs.

Kim: Exactly.

Kate: [crosstalk 00:13:42] by someone telling you this story, but it is actually-

Phil: [crosstalk 00:13:45]-

Kate: ... true.

Kim: I just saw you throwing a bucket of water over them.

Mark: I thought it was two dogs humping. We had to get up really close and go, "Oh, no, they're actually connected."

Kim: Come on, Kate, what did you learn? What's the connection between two dogs in a humping position got to do with organ transplants?

Kate: The thing was is that the dog on top didn't have a body.

Phil: Okay, this has got really weird now.

Kim: I think you've been drinking that drink that-

Phil: Krupnikas, yeah, there you go.

Kim: Krupnikas too many-

Kate: Krupnikas-

Kim: ... of those.

Kate: There you go. There's a fun fact for you to have a look.

Kim: Okay.

Mark: It's true, the dog on top, it's just like his head and he's all paws, and they're connected to the neck of the other dog.

Kate: Yeah, these are really unusual things that have been happening in Latvia before any of us thought about going there.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: Wow.

Phil: Just give us a bit about the isolation. Obviously, that has a lot to do with the Soviet era, and what have you. What kind of an effect being isolated like that has had on the place? What's so good about that now?

Kate: I think, we have spent a lot of time in former communist countries, if you like. I think one thing we noticed about Riga especially out of all the ones that we've been to, it seems to be a lot more progressive than a lot of other countries that have been closed off for many years, didn't it?

It was a lot more, perhaps, it's the new generation coming through are really making a charge in making a change, if you like. But, that was one of the things we noticed especially, as soon as we arrived in Riga, wasn't it? It just seemed to be a lot more progressive. They seemed to have moved forward a lot quicker than some other countries that were closed off.

Kim: Compare it then to Estonia which you both went to?

Kate: Yeah, I think the same thing. I think it's a lot more ... Look, possibly, and I could be reaching, it could be because they've got close, they're so close to Scandinavia, so there could be that influence there with those Northern European countries, but similar with Estonia. I think to some respect, you'd have to put the three Baltic countries in one basket in that way, wouldn't you?

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

Kate: From all of the countries that we've been to that were essentially closed due to communism, they seem to be the ones that have moved forward a lot faster.

Kim: All right, well, you've created a snapshot. If someone was to ask you, "Hey, Kate, Mark, why should I got to the Baltics or to Latvia," what would you say?

Mark: I'd say, go in May and go to the beer festival.

Phil: Oh, okay, now, you've got me.

Mark: Yeah, thought that would be a winner.

Phil: Yeah. What is this like, akin to the Oktoberfest thing?

Kate: Well, on a much smaller scale and a lot classier.

Phil: But, that wouldn't be hard, to be classier.

Mark: We were so lucky, we walk up to Riga, don't even know where we are. We're wandering around, and here's this sign says, "Beer Festival €2," so, off we go.

All it is is it's in a big park. It was a beautiful day, and there are these big barbecues. They're doing big skewers of meat and seafood. Next to the barbecue is beer, so it went beer, barbecue, beer, barbecue, beer. At each end were bands or deejays.

Kate: It was fantastic, an incredible selection of craft beers and things like that, which, again, we kind of weren't expecting. It was pretty cool, wasn't it?

Mark: Yeah, and it's held in the Vērmanes Gardens. They're dating back to about the 19th century. How's that for some history?

Kim: Yeah, I was doubting you as you were saying that.

Mark: I made it up. But, anyway, if you go to old town Riga, the park up the road has the barbecue.

Kate: And, the beer festival in May.

Kim: Follow your nose and your tongue.

Phil: There you go, and speaking, because you write about the food as well in the article, so you were surprised by that. You're saying lots of good barbecue stuff.

Kim: Yum.

Kate: Yeah, the food's amazing, absolutely. They've got, one of the things we really loved in Riga was the marketplace because it's in a huge Zeppelin hangar. Now, I had to really rack my brain to go, "Zeppelins, aren't they those giant balloons?" But, yeah, a series of Zeppelin hangars, and, in there, they've got just the usual day-to-day market, but they have all these little stalls and restaurants and things, so you can just go and choose fresh fish and have lunch there. The food is just outstanding.

Mark: Then, if you're like Kate, you can go and try, and they're quite famous for this is their rye bread.

Phil: Okay.

Kim: Ah, you write about that in the article too, don't you?

Kate: Oh, I love rye bread, the darker the better I say, I was in heaven.

Kim: Well, you haven't convinced me on the dogs, and how it hooks into organ transplant. But, you have convinced me on Latvia, guys, you're such fun to chat to. Thank you so much.

Phil: Great talking to you.

Kate: Thanks for having us again.

Kim: Look, a warning, there will be a pic of that dog the guys were talking about in show notes along with the links to their vlog, Vagrants of the World. Oh, look, I know you laugh, but it's actually quite serious, isn't it?

Phil: It is.

Kim: Why-

Phil: Should we put the-

Kim: Not the video.

Phil: ... YouTube video?

Kim: No.

Phil: That's horrific.

Kim: You can go find that yourself-

Phil: Right-o.

Kim: ... people.

But, tell me, what, how, because we're still trying to struggle on how it deals with organ transplant, but you said it's got to do with the-

Phil: Well, they need to be-

Kim: ... connecting all the-

Phil: Yeah, they need to be able to prove that you can connect one entity's veins and circulatory system to other animals or beings.

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: You need to practice the surgery, doing the surgery on something I suppose. You can't-

Kim: Well-

Phil: You can't really start on people.

Kim: Normally, it's mice.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: But, why not dogs?

Phil: I know. But, look, this is, it's historical as well. I'm not-

Kim: It's grim.

Phil: ... quite sure you'd be able to get away with it these days.

Kim: Oh, it's like a 1950s B-grade, sci-fi movie if anyone's familiar.

Phil: The Human Fly, remember?

Kim: The Fly.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: The Fly. What news have you got for us?

Phil: All right, the 92-year-old Queen of England has been traveling to the four corners of her once glorious empire since she was 21. She's visited 120 different countries, many more than once, but it's been revealed in a new book, she dislikes air travel. Not quite a fear of traveling, but she said she doesn't enjoy it.

Now, as far as I can tell, she travels first-class. I wonder what she'd think if she bunked back in cattle class with the rest of us, ey?

Kim: Oh, we've got something coming up on that too later in the episode.

Phil: Okay.

USA Today travel writer, Rick Seaney has named what he calls the five travel fails that will ruin your trip or cost you money. Not taking into account possible airport delays, yeah, especially in the United States, those queues to get through-

Kim: Yeah, true.

Phil: ... the TSA, you can, sometimes, you need more that three hours to get through those.

Failure to weigh your own luggage, turning up with an overweight bag and having to wear all your clothes or-

Kim: Aw-

Phil: ... ditch stuff.

Kim: ... that or pay out literally hundreds.

Phil: Yup. Failure to screen your own luggage. That's liquids and the other so-called contraband that you might have got tucked away in there, which is going to get you pulled out of the queue, same sort of stuff.

Failure to monitor gates and terminals. Yes.

Kim: Aw, I think we've all been guilty of that.

Phil: Yes, I haven't heard that they've changed gates and terminals, and failure to mind your own personal space. That's having the bare feet get stuck through the gap in the seat from behind you. You've got somebody's smelly feet sticking in your personal space, or-

Kim: Hey, you know you can buy a sling now?

Phil: For?

Kim: For the seat in front of you, so that you can put your, you can rest your feet, and it doesn't interfere with the person in front of you.

Phil: Until they put their seat back-

Kim: Until they, it does mention that-

Phil: ... and your knees go through your nose.

Kim: It tells you, yeah, okay, it did mention that. It was a pros and cons article.

Phil: Fair enough.

A survey of American teachers reveals 74% of them believe traveling as a child makes you more successful in life. If you're thinking of packing away the backpack when you start a family, the good news is you can satisfy your wanderlust and pretend you're doing it for the kids, so keep going, all right?

Hey, do you take a camera with you when you travel, or do you rely on the phone?

Kim: I used to. I do have a digital SLR, but now I just rely on my iPhone. It's good enough.

Phil: Because the DSLR is too big and-

Kim: Yeah-

Phil: ... bulky to carry around.

Kim: ... absolutely.

Phil: All right. Compact travel cameras are making a bit of a comeback. Nikon has just released it's latest version, the COOLPIX A-1000. COOLPIX, [inaudible 00:22:44], I think that's a cheap-sounding name, but, anyway-

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: ... apparently, they're good cameras.

Look, camera specs don't mean much to me, but it does have a 35 times optical zoom and a three-inch touch screen that folds out, so you can get a nice, clear view of what you're taking a photo of. It's easy to use, and you get a little bit more control over ISO and all that sort of stuff, so you can turn out some truly Instagram-worthy photographs that will make all your friends jealous.

Kim: Yeah, right, so not only did I not know where the Baltics were, I don't even know what ISO is, which is why none of my pix on my digital SLR come out any good.

Phil: The depth of your troubles.

Kim: Yeah, I know. Is that it?

Phil: That's it. I'm done.

Kim: Awesome, well, we are obviously back into the swing of things with the festive season behind us, and it's often tough and depressing when reality hits. I know, you've been struggling.

I heard travel writer Rob McFarland speaking about the holiday blues on another travel podcast called Flight of Fancy and decided, we needed to chat.

Rob, are the holiday blues a real thing?

Rob McFarland: Absolutely. I think if you think about travel and holidays, it's something that you spend a lot of time planning and researching, and you spend a lot of time looking forward to it. You can spend months and months anticipating this trip. I think a lot of the appreciation of travel is that anticipation before you go somewhere. Then, you go, and then you come back, and it's all over.

You're broke, and you're back to your normal routine, and you're back to work. It's something that I experience multiple times a year.

Kim: Yeah, well, we'll get to exactly how you live. But, yesterday was the first time in the office for Phil and I. Phil, you were only gone for two weeks, but you'd forgotten how everything worked.

Phil: Yeah, yeah, I'm reconnecting all those neurons, which buttons to push on this podcast panel we've got here. But, the greatest thing, of course, was I forgot all my passwords. I couldn't get into anything. I had to get the IT guy down to come and help me reset everything, but I got going again.

But, it is, it's neural pathways, isn't it, Rob?

Rob McFarland: Absolutely, excuse me, yeah, on all sorts of levels, isn't it? It's readjusting to new routines, and you have this delicious freedom when you're traveling. You don't have to be in certain places at certain times, and your day unfolds somewhat spontaneously.

You leave that, and you go back to this very rigid structured life that you have back at home, and it's tough. It's tough readjusting.

Kim: It's weird though. With seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, that's actually been psychologically diagnosed, but the holiday blues have yet to be. At this point, it's just something that's anecdotal.

Rob McFarland: Oh, totally, and I think, as someone who grew up in the UK, who I think was permanently affected by SAD for the first 28 years of my life, I can totally appreciate that. One of the big reasons I moved to Australia was just for sunshine and being able to own more than two pairs of shorts and all the things that put a smile on your face when you get up in the morning. But, I think the exact same thing happens with travel

When you come back from a trip, you've often been somewhere nice and tropical, and you come back, and it's just the drudgery of everyday life. But, it's also, really, I'm sure we'll get onto this, but, I think it's totally necessary. You absolutely need those breaks and doses of normality, so that you then appreciate the next bit of travel that you do.

When I do trips in very quick succession, then I often don't enjoy them as much as if I've had a little bit of a break, and I have a bit of normality, and then I get that excitement when I head back to the airport.

Phil: Well, that's one of the things that always bemuses me as well, and you're somebody who does a lot of travel. But, there's so much emphasis put on the experience of travel itself, airline travel and what have you. But, in the end, it's just a big bus in the sky really.

The travel is not about the conveyance that gets you there. It's about where you're going to.

Rob McFarland: Oh, absolutely. Unfortunately, because of our geographical positioning, then we often have to spend a lot of time in those big buses in the sky just to get anywhere, and so I think airline travel has a resonance in Australia that it just doesn't have in other parts of the world.

Because, when you talk to Americans, and you talked about the fact that we have to sit in a plane for 14 or 15 hours to get there, they just can't get their heads around that, because within America, you can only fly four or five different hours.

Kim: I love it. For me, heading to the airport, the beer that you can have at seven o'clock in the morning without being judged, the anticipation of getting on the plane, and the excitement of picking your meal, or what you might watch and then the destination. For me, that's part of the fun. I really do enjoy that.

But, on the return, it's, as you said, Rob, with Australians, we're traveling 14, 15 hours, it's so depressing, just [crosstalk 00:27:35]-

Rob McFarland: It's grueling, isn't it? Yeah, unless you turn left when you got on the plane, and you're sitting in one of those very nice seats at the front. When you're stuck in the cattle class with everyone else, then it's tough.

Phil: A friend of mine took his wife to the United States for a significant anniversary number and splurged out on business class seats talk about turning left. His wife, she settled in and had a very nice time and made sure she got some sleep for when they arrived. But, for my friend, he said, this is probably only going to happen to me once in my life. He stayed up all night-

Kim: Yes.

Phil: ... ordering all the different foods.

Rob McFarland: Do you know? That is the reason that airlines don't upgrade economy people. Often, they've often got spare seats in business and premiere economy. But, they know if they upgrade an economy passenger, they will be harder wearing than any business class people will, because they're going to want to try everything and eat everything and watch every movie.

The odd times that I've got to travel business, it's been quite interesting, because, particularly, on overnight flights, you'll find that all the business people they will have dinner in the lounge beforehand, and they get on the flight like this is from New York to London, and they just sleep. The whole point is they need to get five hours sleep so that they can hit the ground running.

I was the sole light in business class for the entire trip. There was just one spotlight coming down, and I was eating and getting another Baileys, and, yes, I'll have the ice cream.

Phil: Exactly.

Kim: Tell us, Rob, about you. You've sorted life by the sounds of it. You do half in Australia, half in the UK and Europe?

Rob McFarland: Yeah, so, essentially, I leave Australia around May each year, and then I do about a month of travel in the US, and then I do three months in Europe, and then I'll do another month in the US, in sort of September time, and then I get back to Australia in October.

Part of that is actually that issue that we talked about earlier which is that I'm a freelance travel writer and so to get flight support's really difficult particularly from Australia. If I want to do a trip in Europe, then for someone to fly me there from Australia, it's very expensive. But, to get me there from London with all the various cheap European airlines, it's much cheaper, and so it's better for me to be based in Europe for that time, and then I can do stories around there. Similarly, for the US, once I'm in the US, it's easy to get around.

Phil: Okay, seasonal affective disorder, are we going to make a, what are we going, travel return disorder, TRD.

Kim: Oh, yeah, we need an acronym.

Phil: Yeah, there we go.

Rob McFarland: That will do.

Phil: We need a TLA, that's right.

Kim: Okay, so any tips then on recovering from, what are we calling it? TLA?

Phil: TLD.

Kim: TLD. Any tips then, Rob, from you firstly?

Rob McFarland: There is a few. One is to try and apply that same I guess appreciation and curiosity to your home as you do when you travel. But, I think the biggest thing, certainly the biggest strategy for me is just acceptance. You have to accept that that down that you hit, that coming back down the roller coaster after your trip is just a very necessary part of travel, and that is what gives you the comparison to get excited about again when you then go and pick your next trip.

Kim: Phil, what do you do? I've seen you at work, you haven't convinced me that you've got any tips yet.

Phil: I just rage around swearing and smashing things. My wife has the technique down pat. She says, she always has another trip that you must be looking forward to. One of the first things she does when we get back, or even, sometimes, she arranges it whilst we're still away, she books the next one.

Kim: I like that. Well, for me, one thing that I like to do is to obviously think about the next trip. But, to come home, and I'm a big fan of the Snapfish or Apple Books, putting all your photos into something that will arrive in the post that's tangible.

Rob McFarland: That's such a great idea, because so often, particularly, nowadays, you go away, and you take thousands of photos. Then, they just sit there on your laptop on your computer, and you never look through them again, so that, having that process forces you to go through your photos, whittle them down to the, I don't know, 30 or 40 that are really good, and then pop them in a book.

Phil: One of the pillars of what World Nomads is, is that you should share your stories, you should tell your stories as well. I don't want to make the competition harder for you, but do you reckon people should have a go at writing their own travel story, even not for publication but for themselves, perhaps?

Rob McFarland: Absolutely, yeah, it's, when you travel knowing that you're going to have to write about it afterward, you're much more immersed in the destination. You're much more observant, you're much more, as I say, open to experiences, because you think, "Well, I need to tell this story in two weeks time," whether it's for publication, or it might just be for a personal blog, or it might just be for an email to your family and friends.

You're more observant. You look at the colors, you think about the sounds. You take down those little snatches of conversation, that really interesting comment made by the taxi driver. I think it makes you a better traveler.

Phil: There will be a link in show notes to read Rob's stories and more information on his travel writing workshops. I've participated in one, they're fantastic.

Kim: Well, we have a new affiliate partner here at World Nomads. Jessie, so it's time now to find out a little more about the Baltics, and what Jessie on a Journey is all about.

Jessie: Yeah, so, when I went to college, I thought that I would do non-profit PR, that was the goal. Then, when I studied abroad in lovely Australia, I decided that I just wanted to keep traveling. I became bitten by the travel bug, as they say.

Then, I just started doing a lot of research, trying to see what I could do in terms of a travel job, and I saw people just like me with travel blogs, which I had never heard of before, this is 2011, and I realized you didn't have to be Samantha Brown or some celebrity to really write about travel.

I pursued it really aggressively, and when I started, I really wanted to show women in particular that you didn't need to wait for someone else to travel. I usually travel by myself, even though I'm engaged now. I still usually travel by myself.

Kim: We've just finished an episode on women and travel. How do you find traveling the world as a solo female?

Jessie: Yeah, I think it's great. I think it's very empowering. When you travel on your own especially you really realize what you're capable of. You run into even just little things like your luggage doesn't get off the plane, and you have to figure out how to deal with that. It's not a big deal. Well, you know, I actually once didn't have my luggage for a week. That was kind of frustrating, but you'll live. It will be fine, and you figure out how to navigate these little challenges.

I've missed a train before because I didn't realize they'd said it switched tracks, because it was in Italian. Before going on the trip, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, what if I miss a train?"

Well, you know what? I stayed an extra night in the place I was in, and it was fine. I just went onward the next day. These things that seem so small, aren't as big ... That seems so big, aren't as big as they actually may have seemed beforehand.

Not to say I've never run into any issues. You definitely need to be aware of your surroundings, and there are some unique challenges I think that women face that maybe men don't as much. Does that make sense?

Phil: Can I just ask you a bit of a curly question about this? Because I also write quite a lot of articles on the safety blog.

Jessie: Oh, okay.

Phil: I do, and part of that is if you go to this destination then attitudes towards women, especially women traveling alone, are different to what you expect at home. The suggestion is that, and everybody makes it not just me, that women have to change their behavior, women have to change their behavior in that situation.

Jessie: I think it's tough because it's like in an ideal world, everyone wouldn't treat ... Everyone would do the right thing. It's tough. I feel like for me, it's just being aware of my surroundings and realizing that there are people who are potentially going to take advantage of me and needing to be aware of that.

I've been sexually assaulted in a hostel from someone who worked there. Literally, I asked for something at the front desk, and, in two seconds, I was pushed against a wall with this guy putting his hands up my skirt and kissing me.

It was the craziest thing because I ran up the stairs, I had actually met someone else along the way, another traveler, he was a guy, and I told him what happened. He went down. It did get a little physical. He stuck up for me.

But, the owner of the hostel was called, and the owner asked me 30 times if I was telling the truth. It was like the craziest thing, because I'm just like, "Why would I make this up?" Also, they asked me so many times, that I genuinely started questioning myself.

Kim: Yeah.

Jessie: Then, finally, the guy admitted it, and he got fired. But, I was like, "How could you sit there and ask me if I was telling the truth over and over again?"

Kim: Alial, our travel safety writer in the woman and travel episode said that they will always normally say, or usually say, what did you do?

Phil: Yeah.

Jessie: Yeah, yeah.

Kim: To the women.

Phil: I'm sorry-

Jessie: Definitely be aware-

Phil: ... this has ended up going-

Kim: I know.

Phil: ... in a really, I'm sorry about that. But, I really was interested in, because I feel funny writing things like that. I just-

Kim: No, it's good and great that you've shared your experience. Look, the episode is on the Baltics. Did you feel safe in Latvia?

Jessie: Yeah.

Phil: A good segue.

Kim: You did feel safe.

Jessie: I did. I did, and I was, I actually ... I heard two things. Some people were like, "Oh, there's nothing to do there," which was super not true. This is just for me, Latvia. I don't know the whole region very well. But, I went to Latvia, specifically, and I didn't find that there was nothing to do.

Then, some of like my older family members were a little like, "Oh, I don't think it's safe." I feel like there's still historical connotation that's still with them or something that my parents think of. They were like, "Oh, is it safe, blah, blah, blah?" When I arrived, I was a little like, "All right, maybe, I'll stay in tonight and just stay around the hotel."

Then, the next day, I actually went out and explored. I felt completely safe. One of the safest places I've ever felt, and then I did tons of day trips out of the city because I based in Riga the whole time. Yeah, at no point did I feel unsafe. I felt like the people were nice and friendly. It was very easy to get around. It was the perfect destination I felt like for a solo traveler.

Kim: Well, your parents are right.

Jessie: For me, yeah.

Kim: Your parents are right. It does have a dark past.

Phil: A very, yeah.

Kim: Yeah, and-

Jessie: Yeah, and I still think they think of it now. It's like, "Oh, is that still happening?"

Kim: Well, on your site, you've got so many articles on Latvia.

Jessie: Yeah.

Kim: One included the KGB Museum, speaking of dark past, did you like that segue?

Phil: It could work.

Kim: That one worked.

Phil: That one worked.

Jessie: Yeah, the museum is actually pretty small and simple, and it's wild to think about what happened here though, so it's actually ... I didn't really talk about it with that many locals. But, I was told if you talk about it with some people that live there, I think they called it the Corner House, people still get chills from it because it has such a dark, dark history.

When you walk through the museum, they have a lot of, I guess you would say giant signs but not in a boring way. The history is so dark but fascinating. You really, like I read everything. You go through history in a timeline walking through the museum, and you can see some portraits of people that were kept there, because, according to what I read, people were just taken and kept there. Their families may have not have been notified. Really, really scary history happened in this building that just seems quiet and simple today. It's eerie to think about.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: Is there any way off the beaten track outside of Riga that you can recommend? You said you did a few day trips.

Jessie: Oh, yeah, so in Latvia, I did, actually, Latvia ended up being one of the quirkier trips. I booked a few tours, and I did work with the tourism board a little bit, so I didn't know all of the logistics until the week before. I said I love adventure travel.

They set me up with a, they said it was a jungle hike and a standup paddleboarding trip. I'm like, "Okay," go there, find out the standup paddleboarding, they're picking me up at 3:00 AM. I was like, "What?" I've never gone standup paddleboarding at 3:00 AM. Then, the night hikes started, we met in the city center at 9:00 PM to drive to the place, that started at 10:00 PM.

The standup paddleboarding was really cool. Smoke is coming off, off the mirror lake. It's morning. It's very quiet. That was incredible.

Then, the night hike was very challenging. The people who lead it are very into nature. They tell you, I wore shoes, I'm not going to lie. But, they say, you don't have to wear shoes. They don't wear shoes. Really becoming one with nature at nighttime. You can have a headlamp, but they suggest maybe you turn it off for most of the time, so you're really hiking in the complete darkness. You get to see, oh, what's the movie with the glowing plants, Avatar? I think had the-

Phil: Yup, yup.

Jessie: ... the plants. Yeah, see, those are real apparently, and they were in the forest. People in Latvia, at least what I've noticed when I was there, was they're very into nature, and they know a lot about plants. All around us, they were like, "This plant you put with this. This heals this." That was really cool for me learning about the different plants.

Then, we stopped at 5:00 AM for a little picnic. By that point, I was like, "Oh my goodness, I can't believe I'm still alive right now." But, it was really, really cool. Honestly, I was so happy I did it.

Then, less intense, and something you can do during the day was you can take a train to Jūrmala, which is the seaside, and nearby there, there is Ķemeri National Park which I hiked.

Kim: We'll share all the Latvian stories on show notes, but just briefly, what can people expect when they jump onto your site.

Jessie: Yeah, my goal is to really show people A, that they don't have to wait for a travel partner. But, B, just from listening to especially women over the years, it's like they want to A, travel competently, maybe there are some fears holding them back, and they want to travel more.

Most of my content is related to solo female travel, and also, at this point, I do share a lot of information about travel blogging. I feel like more and more it is a goal of adding more travel to your life. People are seeing more and more that it's possible. I absolutely love that. I hope that my site is inspiring to people and empowering. Yeah, that's what you can find.

Phil: We've had over 100,000 listeners to our podcast episodes and thrilled you like it. But, if you are a new subscriber, you may not have had a chance to listen to earlier episodes like our very first one, Croatia, which I really enjoyed.

Kim: Yeah, and you can see how we've improved.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: In that episode, we spoke with Annie-

Phil: Or, not.

Kim: Or, not. Yeah, who almost didn't travel to Croatia, because the pix that she kept seeing on Instagram were all of sailing.

Annie: I pictured Greece is what I first thought. I was like, "Okay, there are lots of islands and things like that."

The history really surprised me, the historic buildings, the towns. Architecture is beautiful, unlike anywhere else I've been. There are small streets with stores each side, but everything's very clean. Mountains, beautiful nature, this surprised me a lot. I didn't think it would be such a historic but natural place. It's like a super cool place. I enjoyed it a lot.

Kim: I'll make it easy and put a link to that episode in show notes.

Phil: Too good, plus, if you've enjoyed this episode on the Baltics, we'll also share some of our other World Nomad stories, including the one on The Bog, an amazing wilderness area in Estonia. It sounds terrible, but it reads fantastic. Look, it sounds like a brilliant place to go, and another reason why a nomad would love the Baltics.

Kim: Well, next week, we explore Malaysia. In the meantime, you can get the World Nomads Podcast on iTunes or download the Google Podcast app or ask Google Home or Alexa to play the World Nomads Podcast.

Phil: See you later.

Kim: Bye.

Announcer: The World Nomads Podcast, explore your boundaries.

Announcer: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel, lifestyle, and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous, independent traveler.

Kim: Hey, welcome to the episode of the podcast where we delve into the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all the As. Look, I have to admit, I knew next to nothing about these places before I started research for this episode, not even where they are geographically.

I'd assumed they were in Eastern Europe along with those other former Soviet satellites, but not so, Phil.

Phil: No, indeed. No, they're in Northern Europe below the Scandinavian nations with Russia to the east and Poland in the south. Strictly speaking, Germany and Poland are also Baltic states, because they have large sea borders with the Baltic. But, historically, Estonia in the north, Latvia in the middle, and Lithuania in the south have been lumped together.

Estonia and Latvia became wealthy nations in the past, because their ports in Tallinn and Riga remain mostly ice-free in winter, so that gives trade access-

Kim: True.

Phil: ... across the Baltic. In medieval times, Lithuania had a huge empire that stretched as far as the Black Sea and out across to Moscow. But, of course, with such strong neighbors around them, they've been a punching bag in the rise and fall of empires. For the past couple of hundred years, they've been largely closed to the rest of the world because of occupation and oppression by the Russian czars, then the Soviet's Josef Stalin, then Hitler's Nazis, and then Joe Stalin again at the end.

Kim: Going back for another go.

Phil: Yeah, modern Europeans know a little about them, but, mostly, because, Tallinn and Riga became popular with stag parties back in the '80s.

Kim: Ooh, and it's those things which have conspired to keep the Baltics off the travel radar. They do have a bit of a reputation for Soviet grimness, a cheap drinking spot for buck's parties, and women dancing in peasant dresses.

Phil: Oh, that, yeah, the traditional dress is very popular. That's all true, but, as we're about to learn, there's a lot about these three separate nations which make them an ideal location for the independent, adventure traveler.

Kim: Yeah, but we will touch on that dark side when we chat with Jesse about the KGB Museum. Kate will share five things she wishes she knew before going to Latvia with her partner, Mark. Award-winning travel writer, Rob McFarland, joins us to chat about the holiday blues.

Phil: I've got those.

Kim: The festive season's over, I know you do. But, let's kick off with Amy who had a date with the devil in Lithuania.

One thing I've learned about you is that wherever you travel, you like to do it on a bike. Why did you have a date with the devil in Lithuania on a bike?

Amy: I don't know. It just happened can I say. Doesn't that always go with dating? It kind of just happens. I don't know. I like bikes. I think cycling is a really good way to see places. It's slower, much slower than driving, obviously, but, a little bit faster than walking, so you can, it's kind of a midway for me, and it just happens that the devil was there, so.

Kim: For those listening, let's explain who the devil is.

Amy: Well, so, in Lithuania, there is a place called the Curonian Spit, which is essentially a little, well, a little, a massive sandbank that runs along the coast of Lithuania. On there, there's always been this legend of a giant lady who protected the coast by pouring sand over the spit. Of course, with all these legends, there's always the bad people, so there are witches that roam the forests of Lithuania.

As all dark creatures go, the devil's apparently their boss. What they've created is this forest of legends, you could say, or forest of folklore, where local artists have carved out wooden sculptures that tells the stories of this folklore. It's not just folklore of this particular giantess, but it's also all the witches that live there, and all these other stories to do with the land surrounding it.

They for some reason included Lucifer who is the devil, of course, for those who didn't know, and, also, his gate to hell. He's pretty much sitting there in front of his gate, and, apparently, if you go and kiss him, you could potentially win the witches' beauty contest, so, why not?

Kim: You kissed Lucifer. How do you know that you've won? This is all folklore, how do you-

Amy: I don't.

Kim: ... know you've won the witches' beauty contest?

Amy: I don't know. I'm still waiting for the paparazzi to come through and to ...

Kim: That particular area, the Curonian Spit, that's UNESCO World Heritage. Is that based on the fact that it's full of this folklore or because of the sand itself or the sculptures that the artists have done?

Amy: No, so the UNESCO World Heritage status has nothing to do with the folklore. The UNESCO Heritage status has to do with the actual nature setting of the sandbank. It's actually quite a, for a sandbank to stretch this long, it's a natural phenomenon, and they wanted to protect it.

What it does is this sandbank has various different sand qualities which, unfortunately, to my little mind, I can't really grasp the difference between. There's gray sand and white sand, and there's also brown sand. There's apparently five shades of sand, which I'm sure a geologist will be happy to explain it to all of us one day.

But, this unique ecosystem then supports a lot of the local wildlife which is a lot different to the other wildlife that we can see. We're talking about little creatures that you normally wouldn't expect to live in sand. Also, the vegetation that can grow on this sand holds the sand together and essentially protects the coast of Lithuania from more sand then entering into their main land.

It is actually, this sandbank is, in fact, protecting the coast of Lithuania, whether that's the work of a giantess or actually just nature doing its job, it's for many to decide.

Kim: How did you find yourself there riding a bike? You end up on a giant sandbank.

Amy: Because I'm a cyclist and a lot of my holidays are going to, the first thing I think about is, "Can I cycle there?" I naturally look at all the cycle routes that are accessible, and that I can do without too much effort, obviously.

Along the Baltic Coast, it's quite flat, and places like, so we're talking about Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, that it's joined by an entire route of this EuroVelo cycling route. It just happened that, I live in London at the moment, so I saw there was a, that they were starting a direct flight from London to Kaliningrad which is the closest airport to Klaipėda, and it was a place I've never been to, so I thought, "Hey, why not? I'll go and have a look what's there, and hire a bike and see if I like it, and if I do I might go back."

It's one of those places that you don't really ... It's not like Paris. It's not really a bucket list type place. It's one of those places, you just have to stumble upon. It happens that I was looking at various different cycling routes and stumbled upon this one.

Kim: They're the best places though those what we call off the beaten track.

Amy: Yeah, exactly. You go there without an expectation. Obviously, people go, "Oh, I want to go to Rome and Paris. I want to see these great things."

This is more like, "Oh, I'll just go and see what's there," you know? It's not-

Kim: Yeah.

Amy: I think the best experiences come out of these kinds of experiences, come out of these trips. It's because you learn things that you wouldn't normally learn, or you experience things that you normally wouldn't even expect to be there. No, it's great.

Kim: Thanks, Amy, and as with everything and everyone you hear in the episode, more information, stories, et cetera, are available in show notes.

Phil: Speaking of learning things, Kate and her partner, Mark, join us now to tell us about the five things she wishes she knew before going to Latvia.

Kate: Thanks for having us, again.

Mark: Always a pleasure.

Kim: Now, did Mark help you with this particular article?

Kate: Look, I'm going to say yes.

Phil: Because he's there listening.

Mark: It was actually, we were going to write about six things was the fact that I could actually find where Latvia was. That was number six, where is it?

Phil: Well, that's a point. It's not a huge place for a start, so it is a little bit hard to pinpoint on the map.

Kim: It's not where I thought it was.

Phil: Oh, no, is that right?

Kim: It's not, so, Mark, you tell, what have you learned? Where is it?

Mark: It's in Northern Europe. It's nestled between Estonia, Lithuania.

Kate: Lithuania.

Mark: It's sort of, basically, the fence to Russia.

Kim: Yeah, see, I thought it was further down like come down toward Croatia, that's where I thought it was. How embarrassing is that?

Phil: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Croatia?

Kim: Don't, don't. Sorry, sorry, don't. Can we edit that-

Phil: You're like a whole continent away.

Kim: I know I was. I know.

Kate: Someone's very lost.

Mark: That's-

Kim: I don't-

Mark: ... okay-

Kim: ... look-

Mark: ... because, Kate-

Kim: Yeah?

Mark: Kate said to me, she said, "Let's go to Nicaragua." I said, "I've never been to Africa."

Kim: Look, we like to think we're worldly, but, occasionally, we get it wrong. Kate, what five things did you wish you knew before you and Mark got there, to Latvia?

Phil: Well, hopefully, it was a pleasant surprise, right?

Kim: Yeah, you'd hope so.

Kate: Oh, yeah, absolutely, absolutely, it was. I'll tell you what, one thing we were really, really surprised about Latvia was how beautiful it is. We just, I'm going to be honest, we knew nothing about it before we went.

We were actually talking this morning about it. We were trying to work out why we went. We couldn't work out why we went.

But, when we got there, we were really, really surprised. It was just one of those situations where you're driving from the airport, and you go, "Wow, this is beautiful," and we weren't expecting it.

Mark: No, we were expecting more Russian, Soviet Union style-

Kate: Yeah.

Mark: ... a little bit drab, but it wasn't.

Kate: A lot like what you see in some Eastern European countries but beautiful cities, just stunning, and the countryside.

Phil: Is it all birch trees and stuff like that?

Kate: It's, well, I suppose, because it is so close to Scandinavia, but it is really a lot like what we've seen in Scandinavia, those beautiful wooded forests, a lot like what we saw in Russia as well, really dense forests, just gorgeous beaches.

Mark: The forests when you see the greens of the forests, it's as though they've been oversaturated, it's that green.

Kim: Wow.

Kate: Yeah.

Kim: Put through a filter almost?

Phil: Yeah.

Mark: [inaudible 00:11:27] Instagram business.

Phil: Yeah, yeah. But, hang on, you talk about beaches. You just mentioned beaches then. I wasn't expecting there to be decent beaches in Latvia.

Kate: No, and it's something that, we found this in other places as well that you just don't think about that when you say, "Oh, well, we're going to go to the Baltics." Beaches don't come to the forefront of your mind. That kind of thing is really surprising when you get there, and you go, well, okay, the water's a little chilly, especially by our standards, but pristine, absolutely pristine. I suppose you've got a country or a group of countries that essentially were closed for such a long time that they're still largely untapped.

Kim: We mentioned at the top of the podcast, we asked ourselves a few questions, why would a nomad want to go to Latvia? There are plenty of reasons, but there are some really weird not statistics but little fun facts. I didn't realize there's a Latvian link to jeans.

Kate: Levi's-

Kim: Yeah-

Kate: ... isn't it?

Kim: ... they were invented by a-

Phil: Levi Strauss was Latvian.

Kim: No-

Phil: Is that-

Kim: ... they-

Phil: ... what you're saying?

Kim: ... were invented by a Latvian tailor but funded by Levi Strauss.

Phil: Oh.

Kim: The Latvian tailor, he's got nothing out of it.

Phil: Nothing.

Kim: Levi gets the name.

Phil: We could have all been wearing Krupnikases instead of Levi's, I don't know. By the way, I'm sorry I have to confess, Krupnikas is actually a Lithuanian drink.

Kim: Oh, okay.

Phil: It was the only kind of Baltic sounding word that I remembered.

Kim: You guys knew about the jeans then, did you?

Kate: Funnily enough, I knew about that, but I don't know why I knew that one.

Mark: I told you.

Kate: Probably. I'll tell you another fun fact about Latvia, which we found while we were there, organ transplants came from Latvia.

Kim: Okay, what's the history behind that?

Kate: In Riga, there's this really unusual museum there, and they have this stuffed dog on display that has another dog grafted onto the back of it. That was the research that started organ transplants.

Phil: Why do you ask? Two dogs.

Kim: Exactly.

Kate: [crosstalk 00:13:42] by someone telling you this story, but it is actually-

Phil: [crosstalk 00:13:45]-

Kate: ... true.

Kim: I just saw you throwing a bucket of water over them.

Mark: I thought it was two dogs humping. We had to get up really close and go, "Oh, no, they're actually connected."

Kim: Come on, Kate, what did you learn? What's the connection between two dogs in a humping position got to do with organ transplants?

Kate: The thing was is that the dog on top didn't have a body.

Phil: Okay, this has got really weird now.

Kim: I think you've been drinking that drink that-

Phil: Krupnikas, yeah, there you go.

Kim: Krupnikas too many-

Kate: Krupnikas-

Kim: ... of those.

Kate: There you go. There's a fun fact for you to have a look.

Kim: Okay.

Mark: It's true, the dog on top, it's just like his head and he's all paws, and they're connected to the neck of the other dog.

Kate: Yeah, these are really unusual things that have been happening in Latvia before any of us thought about going there.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: Wow.

Phil: Just give us a bit about the isolation. Obviously, that has a lot to do with the Soviet era, and what have you. What kind of an effect being isolated like that has had on the place? What's so good about that now?

Kate: I think, we have spent a lot of time in former communist countries, if you like. I think one thing we noticed about Riga especially out of all the ones that we've been to, it seems to be a lot more progressive than a lot of other countries that have been closed off for many years, didn't it?

It was a lot more, perhaps, it's the new generation coming through are really making a charge in making a change, if you like. But, that was one of the things we noticed especially, as soon as we arrived in Riga, wasn't it? It just seemed to be a lot more progressive. They seemed to have moved forward a lot quicker than some other countries that were closed off.

Kim: Compare it then to Estonia which you both went to?

Kate: Yeah, I think the same thing. I think it's a lot more ... Look, possibly, and I could be reaching, it could be because they've got close, they're so close to Scandinavia, so there could be that influence there with those Northern European countries, but similar with Estonia. I think to some respect, you'd have to put the three Baltic countries in one basket in that way, wouldn't you?

Mark: Yeah, yeah.

Kate: From all of the countries that we've been to that were essentially closed due to communism, they seem to be the ones that have moved forward a lot faster.

Kim: All right, well, you've created a snapshot. If someone was to ask you, "Hey, Kate, Mark, why should I got to the Baltics or to Latvia," what would you say?

Mark: I'd say, go in May and go to the beer festival.

Phil: Oh, okay, now, you've got me.

Mark: Yeah, thought that would be a winner.

Phil: Yeah. What is this like, akin to the Oktoberfest thing?

Kate: Well, on a much smaller scale and a lot classier.

Phil: But, that wouldn't be hard, to be classier.

Mark: We were so lucky, we walk up to Riga, don't even know where we are. We're wandering around, and here's this sign says, "Beer Festival €2," so, off we go.

All it is. It's in a big park. It was a beautiful day, and there are these big barbecues. They're doing big skewers of meat and seafood. Next to the barbecue is beer, so it went beer, barbecue, beer, barbecue, beer. At each end were bands or deejays.

Kate: It was fantastic, an incredible selection of craft beers and things like that, which, again, we kind of weren't expecting. It was pretty cool, wasn't it?

Mark: Yeah, and it's held in the Vērmanes Gardens. They're dating back to about the 19th century. How's that for some history?

Kim: Yeah, I was doubting you as you were saying that.

Mark: I made it up. But, anyway, if you go to old town Riga, the park up the road has the barbecue.

Kate: And, the beer festival in May.

Kim: Follow your nose and your tongue.

Phil: There you go, and speaking, because you write about the food as well in the article, so you were surprised by that. You're saying lots of good barbecue stuff.

Kim: Yum.

Kate: Yeah, the food's amazing, absolutely. They've got, one of the things we really loved in Riga was the marketplace because it's in a huge Zeppelin hangar. Now, I had to really rack my brain to go, "Zeppelins, aren't they those giant balloons?" But, yeah, a series of Zeppelin hangars, and, in there, they've got just the usual day-to-day market, but they have all these little stalls and restaurants and things, so you can just go and choose fresh fish and have lunch there. The food is just outstanding.

Mark: Then, if you're like Kate, you can go and try, and they're quite famous for this is their rye bread.

Phil: Okay.

Kim: Ah, you write about that in the article too, don't you?

Kate: Oh, I love rye bread, the darker the better I say, I was in heaven.

Kim: Well, you haven't convinced me on the dogs, and how it hooks into organ transplant. But, you have convinced me on Latvia, guys, you're such fun to chat to. Thank you so much.

Phil: Great talking to you.

Kate: Thanks for having us again.

Kim: Look, a warning, there will be a pic of that dog the guys were talking about in show notes along with the links to their vlog, Vagrants of the World. Oh, look, I know you laugh, but it's actually quite serious, isn't it?

Phil: It is.

Kim: Why-

Phil: Should we put the-

Kim: Not the video.

Phil: ... YouTube video?

Kim: No.

Phil: That's horrific.

Kim: You can go find that yourself-

Phil: Right-o.

Kim: ... people.

But, tell me, what, how, because we're still trying to struggle on how it deals with organ transplant, but you said it's got to do with the-

Phil: Well, they need to be-

Kim: ... connecting all the-

Phil: Yeah, they need to be able to prove that you can connect one entity's veins and circulatory system to other animals or beings.

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: You need to practice the surgery, doing the surgery on something I suppose. You can't-

Kim: Well-

Phil: You can't really start on people.

Kim: Normally, it's mice.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: But, why not dogs?

Phil: I know. But, look, this is, it's historical as well. I'm not-

Kim: It's grim.

Phil: ... quite sure you'd be able to get away with it these days.

Kim: Oh, it's like a 1950s B-grade, sci-fi movie if anyone's familiar.

Phil: The Human Fly, remember?

Kim: The Fly.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: The Fly. What news have you got for us?

Phil: All right, the 92-year-old Queen of England has been traveling to the four corners of her once glorious empire since she was 21. She's visited 120 different countries, many more than once, but it's been revealed in a new book, she dislikes air travel. Not quite a fear of traveling, but she said she doesn't enjoy it.

Now, as far as I can tell, she travels first-class. I wonder what she'd think if she bunked back in cattle class with the rest of us, ey?

Kim: Oh, we've got something coming up on that too later in the episode.

Phil: Okay.

USA Today travel writer, Rick Seaney has named what he calls the five travel fails that will ruin your trip or cost you money. Not taking into account possible airport delays, yeah, especially in the United States, those queues to get through-

Kim: Yeah, true.

Phil: ... the TSA, you can, sometimes, you need more than three hours to get through those.

Failure to weigh your own luggage, turning up with an overweight bag and having to wear all your clothes or-

Kim: Aw-

Phil: ... ditch stuff.

Kim: ... that or pay out literally hundreds.

Phil: Yup. Failure to screen your own luggage. That's liquids and the other so-called contraband that you might have got tucked away in there, which is going to get you pulled out of the queue, same sort of stuff.

Failure to monitor gates and terminals. Yes.

Kim: Aw, I think we've all been guilty of that.

Phil: Yes, I haven't heard that they've changed gates and terminals, and failure to mind your own personal space. That's having the bare feet get stuck through the gap in the seat from behind you. You've got somebody's smelly feet sticking in your personal space, or-

Kim: Hey, you know you can buy a sling now?

Phil: For?

Kim: For the seat in front of you, so that you can put your, you can rest your feet, and it doesn't interfere with the person in front of you.

Phil: Until they put their seat back-

Kim: Until they, it does mention that-

Phil: ... and your knees go through your nose.

Kim: It tells you, yeah, okay, it did mention that. It was a pros and cons article.

Phil: Fair enough.

A survey of American teachers reveals 74% of them believe traveling as a child makes you more successful in life. If you're thinking of packing away the backpack when you start a family, the good news is you can satisfy your wanderlust and pretend you're doing it for the kids, so keep going, all right?

Hey, do you take a camera with you when you travel, or do you rely on the phone?

Kim: I used to. I do have a digital SLR, but now I just rely on my iPhone. It's good enough.

Phil: Because the DSLR is too big and-

Kim: Yeah-

Phil: ... bulky to carry around.

Kim: ... absolutely.

Phil: All right. Compact travel cameras are making a bit of a comeback. Nikon has just released it's latest version, the COOLPIX A-1000. COOLPIX, [inaudible 00:22:44], I think that's a cheap-sounding name, but, anyway-

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: ... apparently, they're good cameras.

Look, camera specs don't mean much to me, but it does have a 35 times optical zoom and a three-inch touch screen that folds out, so you can get a nice, clear view of what you're taking a photo of. It's easy to use, and you get a little bit more control over ISO and all that sort of stuff, so you can turn out some truly Instagram-worthy photographs that will make all your friends jealous.

Kim: Yeah, right, so not only did I not know where the Baltics were, I don't even know what ISO is, which is why none of my pix on my digital SLR come out any good.

Phil: The depth of your troubles.

Kim: Yeah, I know. Is that it?

Phil: That's it. I'm done.

Kim: Awesome, well, we are obviously back into the swing of things with the festive season behind us, and it's often tough and depressing when reality hits. I know, you've been struggling.

I heard travel writer Rob McFarland speaking about the holiday blues on another travel podcast called Flight of Fancy and decided, we needed to chat.

Rob, are the holiday blues a real thing?

Rob McFarland: Absolutely. I think if you think about travel and holidays, it's something that you spend a lot of time planning and researching, and you spend a lot of time looking forward to it. You can spend months and months anticipating this trip. I think a lot of the appreciation of travel is that anticipation before you go somewhere. Then, you go, and then you come back, and it's all over.

You're broke, and you're back to your normal routine, and you're back to work. It's something that I experience multiple times a year.

Kim: Yeah, well, we'll get to exactly how you live. But, yesterday was the first time in the office for Phil and I. Phil, you were only gone for two weeks, but you'd forgotten how everything worked.

Phil: Yeah, yeah, I'm reconnecting all those neurons, which buttons to push on this podcast panel we've got here. But, the greatest thing, of course, as I forgot all my passwords. I couldn't get into anything. I had to get the IT guy down to come and help me reset everything, but I got going again.

But, it is, it's neural pathways, isn't it, Rob?

Rob McFarland: Absolutely, excuse me, yeah, on all sorts of levels, isn't it? It's readjusting to new routines, and you have this delicious freedom when you're traveling. You don't have to be placed at certain times, and your day unfolds somewhat spontaneously.

You leave that, and you go back to this very rigid structured life that you have back at home, and it's tough. It's tough readjusting.

Kim: It's weird though. With seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, that's actually been psychologically diagnosed, but the holiday blues have yet to be. At this point, it's just something that's anecdotal.

Rob McFarland: Oh, totally, and I think, as someone who grew up in the UK, who I think was permanently affected by SAD for the first 28 years of my life, I can totally appreciate that. One of the big reasons I moved to Australia was just for sunshine and being able to own more than two pairs of shorts and all the things that put a smile on your face when you get up in the morning. But, I think the exact same thing happens with travel

When you come back from a trip, you've often been somewhere nice and tropical, and you come back, and it's just the drudgery of everyday life. But, it's also, really, I'm sure we'll get onto this, but, I think it's totally necessary. You absolutely need those breaks and doses of normality, so that you then appreciate the next bit of travel that you do.

When I do trips in very quick succession, then I often don't enjoy them as much as if I've had a little bit of a break, and I have a bit of normality, and then I get that excitement when I head back to the airport.

Phil: Well, that's one of the things that always bemuses me as well, and you're somebody who does a lot of travel. But, there's so much emphasis put on the experience of travel itself, airline travel and what have you. But, in the end, it's just a big bus in the sky really.

The travel is not about the conveyance that gets you there. It's about where you're going to.

Rob McFarland: Oh, absolutely. Unfortunately, because of our geographical positioning, then we often have to spend a lot of time in those big buses in the sky just to get anywhere, and so I think airline travel has a resonance in Australia that it just doesn't have in other parts of the world.

Because, when you talk to Americans, and you talked about the fact that we have to sit in a plane for 14 or 15 hours to get there, they just can't get their heads around that, because within America, you can only fly four or five different hours.

Kim: I love it. For me, heading to the airport, the beer that you can have at seven o'clock in the morning without being judged, the anticipation of getting on the plane, and the excitement of picking your meal, or what you might watch and then the destination. For me, that's part of the fun. I really do enjoy that.

But, on the return, it's, as you said, Rob, with Australians, we're traveling 14, 15 hours, it's so depressing, just [crosstalk 00:27:35]-

Rob McFarland: It's grueling, isn't it? Yeah, unless you turn left when you got on the plane, and you're sitting in one of those very nice seats at the front. When you're stuck in the cattle class with everyone else, then it's tough.

Phil: A friend of mine took his wife to the United States for a significant anniversary number and splurged out on business class seats talk about turning left. His wife, she settled in and had a very nice time and made sure she got some sleep for when they arrived. But, for my friend, he said, this is probably only going to happen to me once in my life. He stayed up all night-

Kim: Yes.

Phil: ... ordering all the different foods.

Rob McFarland: Do you know? That is the reason that airlines don't upgrade economy people. Often, they've often got spare seats in business and premiere economy. But, they know if they upgrade an economy passenger, they will be harder wearing than any business class people will, because they're going to want to try everything and eat everything and watch every movie.

The odd times that I've got to travel business, it's been quite interesting, because, particularly, on overnight flights, you'll find that all the business people they will have dinner in the lounge beforehand, and they get on the flight like this is from New York to London, and they just sleep. The whole point is they need to get five hours sleep so that they can hit the ground running.

I was the sole light in business class for the entire trip. There was just one spotlight coming down, and I was eating and getting another Baileys, and, yes, I'll have the ice cream.

Phil: Exactly.

Kim: Tell us, Rob, about you. You've sorted life by the sounds of it. You do half in Australia, half in the UK and Europe?

Rob McFarland: Yeah, so, essentially, I leave Australia around May each year, and then I do about a month of travel in the US, and then I do three months in Europe, and then I'll do another month in the US, in sort of September time, and then I get back to Australia in October.

Part of that is actually that issue that we talked about earlier which is that I'm a freelance travel writer and so to get flight support's really difficult particularly from Australia. If I want to do a trip in Europe, then for someone to fly me there from Australia, it's very expensive. But, to get me there from London with all the various cheap European airlines, it's much cheaper, and so it's better for me to be based in Europe for that time, and then I can do stories around there. Similarly, for the US, once I'm in the US, it's easy to get around.

Phil: Okay, seasonal affective disorder, are we going to make a, what are we going, travel return disorder, TRD.

Kim: Oh, yeah, we need an acronym.

Phil: Yeah, there we go.

Rob McFarland: That will do.

Phil: We need a TLA, that's right.

Kim: Okay, so any tips then on recovering from, what are we calling it? TLA?

Phil: TLD.

Kim: TLD. Any tips then, Rob, from you firstly?

Rob McFarland: There is a few. One is to try and apply that same I guess appreciation and curiosity to your home as you do when you travel. But, I think the biggest thing, certainly the biggest strategy for me is just acceptance. You have to accept that that down that you hit, that coming back down the roller coaster after your trip is just a very necessary part of travel, and that is what gives you the comparison to get excited about again when you then go and pick your next trip.

Kim: Phil, what do you do? I've seen you at work, you haven't convinced me that you've got any tips yet.

Phil: I just rage around swearing and smashing things. My wife has the technique down pat. She says, she always has another trip that you must be looking forward to. One of the first things she does when we get back, or even, sometimes, she arranges it whilst we're still away, she books the next one.

Kim: I like that. Well, for me, one thing that I like to do is to obviously think about the next trip. But, to come home, and I'm a big fan of the Snapfish or Apple Books, putting all your photos into something that will arrive in the post that's tangible.

Rob McFarland: That's such a great idea, because so often, particularly, nowadays, you go away, and you take thousands of photos. Then, they just sit there on your laptop on your computer, and you never look through them again, so that, having that process forces you to go through your photos, whittle them down to the I don't know, 30 or 40 that are really good, and then pop them in a book.

Phil: One of the pillars of what World Nomads is, is that you should share your stories, you should tell your stories as well. I don't want to make the competition harder for you, but do you reckon people should have a go at writing their own travel story, even not for publication but for themselves, perhaps?

Rob McFarland: Absolutely, yeah, it's, when you travel knowing that you're going to have to write about it afterward you're much more immersed in the destination. You're much more observant, you're much more, as I say, open to experiences, because you think, "Well, I need to tell this story in two weeks time," whether it's for publication, or it might just be for a personal blog, or it might just be for an email to your family and friends.

You're more observant. You look at the colors, you think about the sounds. You take down those little snatches of conversation, that really interesting comment made by the taxi driver. I think it makes you a better traveler.

Phil: There will be a link in show notes to read Rob's stories and more information on his travel writing workshops. I've participated in one, they're fantastic.

Kim: Well, we have a new affiliate partner here at World Nomads. Jessie, so it's time now to find out a little more about the Baltics, and what Jessie on a Journey is all about.

Jessie: Yeah, so, when I went to college, I thought that I would do non-profit PR, that was the goal. Then, when I studied abroad in lovely Australia, I decided that I just wanted to keep traveling. I became bitten by the travel bug, as they say.

Then, I just started doing a lot of research, trying to see what I could do in terms of a travel job, and I saw people just like me with travel blogs, which I had never heard of before, this is 2011, and I realized you didn't have to be Samantha Brown or some celebrity to really write about travel.

I pursued it really aggressively, and when I started, I really wanted to show women in particular that you didn't need to wait for someone else to travel. I usually travel by myself, even though I'm engaged now. I still usually travel by myself.

Kim: We've just finished an episode on women and travel. How do you find traveling the world as a solo female?

Jessie: Yeah, I think it's great. I think it's very empowering. When you travel on your own especially you really realize what you're capable of. You run into even just little things like your luggage doesn't get off the plane, and you have to figure out how to deal with that. It's not a big deal. Well, you know, I actually once didn't have my luggage for a week. That was kind of frustrating, but you'll live. It will be fine, and you figure out how to navigate these little challenges.

I've missed a train before because I didn't realize they'd said it switched tracks, because it was in Italian. Before going on the trip, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, what if I miss a train?"

Well, you know what? I stayed an extra night in the place I was in, and it was fine. I just went onward the next day. These things that seem so small, aren't as big ... That seems so big, aren't as big as they actually may have seemed beforehand.

Not to say I've never run into any issues. You definitely need to be aware of your surroundings, and there are some unique challenges I think that women face that maybe men don't as much. Does that make sense?

Phil: Can I just ask you a bit of a curly question about this? Because I also write quite a lot of articles on the safety blog.

Jessie: Oh, okay.

Phil: I do, and part of that is if you go to this destination then attitudes towards women, especially women traveling alone, are different to what you expect at home. The suggestion is that, and everybody makes it not just me, that women have to change their behavior, women have to change their behavior in that situation.

Jessie: I think it's tough because it's like in an ideal world, everyone wouldn't treat ... Everyone would do the right thing. It's tough. I feel like for me, it's just being aware of my surroundings and realizing that there are people who are potentially going to take advantage of me and needing to be aware of that.

I've been sexually assaulted in a hostel from someone who worked there. Literally, I asked for something at the front desk, and, in two seconds, I was pushed against a wall with this guy putting his hands up my skirt and kissing me.

It was the craziest thing because I ran up the stairs, I had actually met someone else along the way, another traveler, he was a guy, and I told him what happened. He went down. It did get a little physical. He stuck up for me.

But, the owner of the hostel was called, and the owner asked me 30 times if I was telling the truth. It was like the craziest thing, because I'm just like, "Why would I make this up?" Also, they asked me so many times, that I genuinely started questioning myself.

Kim: Yeah.

Jessie: Then, finally, the guy admitted it, and he got fired. But, I was like, "How could you sit there and ask me if I was telling the truth over and over again?"

Kim: Alial our travel safety writer in the woman and travel episode said that they will always normally say, or usually say, what did you do?

Phil: Yeah.

Jessie: Yeah, yeah.

Kim: To the women.

Phil: I'm sorry-

Jessie: Definitely be aware-

Phil: ... this has ended up going-

Kim: I know.

Phil: ... in a really, I'm sorry about that. But, I really was interested in, because I feel funny writing things like that. I just-

Kim: No, it's good and great that you've shared your experience. Look, the episode is on the Baltics. Did you feel safe in Latvia?

Jessie: Yeah.

Phil: A good segue.

Kim: You did feel safe.

Jessie: I did. I did, and I was, I actually ... I heard two things. Some people were like, "Oh, there's nothing to do there," which was super not true. This is just for me, Latvia. I don't know the whole region very well. But, I went to Latvia, specifically, and I didn't find that there was nothing to do.

Then, some of like my older family members were a little like, "Oh, I don't think it's safe." I feel like there's still historical connotation that's still with them or something that my parents think of. They were like, "Oh, is it safe, blah, blah, blah?" When I arrived, I was a little like, "All right, maybe, I'll stay in tonight and just stay around the hotel."

Then, the next day, I actually went out and explored. I felt completely safe. One of the safest places I've ever felt, and then I did tons of day trips out of the city because I based in Riga the whole time. Yeah, at no point did I feel unsafe. I felt like the people were nice and friendly. It was very easy to get around. It was the perfect destination I felt like for a solo traveler.

Kim: Well, your parents are right.

Jessie: For me, yeah.

Kim: Your parents are right. It does have a dark past.

Phil: A very, yeah.

Kim: Yeah, and-

Jessie: Yeah, and I still think they think of it now. It's like, "Oh, is that still happening?"

Kim: Well, on your site, you've got so many articles on Latvia.

Jessie: Yeah.

Kim: One included the KGB Museum, speaking of dark past, did you like that segue?

Phil: It could work.

Kim: That one worked.

Phil: That one worked.

Jessie: Yeah, the museum is actually pretty small and simple, and it's wild to think about what happened here though, so it's actually ... I didn't really talk about it with that many locals. But, I was told if you talk about it with some people that live there, i think they called it the Corner House, people still get chills from it, because it has such a dark, dark history.

When you walk through the museum, they have a lot of, I guess you would say giant signs but not in a boring way. The history is so dark but fascinating. You really, like I read everything. You go through history in a timeline walking through the museum, and you can see some portraits of people that were kept there, because, according to what I read, people were just taken and kept there. Their families may have not have been notified. Really, really scary history happened in this building that just seems quiet and simple today. It's eerie to think about.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: Is there any way off the beaten track outside of Riga that you can recommend? You said you did a few day trips.

Jessie: Oh, yeah, so in Latvia, I did, actually, Latvia ended up being one of the quirkier trips. I booked a few tours, and I did work with the tourism board a little bit, so I didn't know all of the logistics until the week before. I said I love adventure travel.

They set me up with a, they said it was a jungle hike and a standup paddleboarding trip. I'm like, "Okay," go there, find out the standup paddleboarding, they're picking me up at 3:00 AM. I was like, "What?" I've never gone standup paddleboarding at 3:00 AM. Then, the night hikes started, we met in the city center at 9:00 PM to drive to the place, that started at 10:00 PM.

The stand-up paddleboarding was really cool. Smoke is coming off, off the mirror lake. It's morning. It's very quiet. That was incredible.

Then, the night hike was very challenging. The people who lead it are very into nature. They tell you, I wore shoes, I'm not going to lie. But, they say, you don't have to wear shoes. They don't wear shoes. Really becoming one with nature at nighttime. You can have a headlamp, but they suggest maybe you turn it off for most of the time, so you're really hiking in the complete darkness. You get to see, oh, what's the movie with the glowing plants, Avatar? I think had the-

Phil: Yup, yup.

Jessie: ... the plants. Yeah, see, those are real apparently, and they were in the forest. People in Latvia, at least what I've noticed when I was there, they're very into nature, and they know a lot about plants. All around us, they were like, "This plant you put with this. This heals this." That was really cool for me learning about the different plants.

Then, we stopped at 5:00 AM for a little picnic. By that point, I was like, "Oh my goodness, I can't believe I'm still alive right now." But, it was really, really cool. Honestly, I was so happy I did it.

Then, less intense, and something you can do during the day was you can take a train to Jūrmala, which is the seaside, and nearby there, there is Ķemeri National Park which I hiked.

Kim: We'll share all the Latvian stories on show notes, but just briefly, what can people expect when they jump onto your site.

Jessie: Yeah, my goal is to really show people A, that they don't have to wait for a travel partner. But, B, just from listening to especially women over the years, it's like they want to A, travel competently, maybe there are some fears holding them back, and they want to travel more.

Most of my content is related to solo female travel, and also, at this point, I do share a lot of information about travel blogging. I feel like more and more it is a goal of adding more travel to your life. People are seeing more and more that it's possible. I absolutely love that. I hope that my site is inspiring to people and empowering. Yeah, that's what you can find.

Phil: We've had over 100,000 listeners to our podcast episodes and thrilled you like it. But, if you are a new subscriber, you may not have had a chance to listen to earlier episodes like our very first one, Croatia, which I really enjoyed.

Kim: Yeah, and you can see how we've improved.

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: In that episode, we spoke with Annie-

Phil: Or, not.

Kim: Or, not. Yeah, who almost didn't travel to Croatia, because the pix that she kept seeing on Instagram were all of sailing.

Annie: I pictured Greece is what I first thought. I was like, "Okay, there are lots of islands and things like that."

The history really surprised me, the historic buildings, the towns. Architecture is beautiful, unlike anywhere else I've been. There are small streets with stores each side, but everything's very clean. Mountains, beautiful nature, this surprised me a lot. I didn't think it would be such a historic but natural place. It's like a super-cool place. I enjoyed it a lot.

Kim: I'll make it easy and put a link to that episode in show notes.

Phil: Too good, plus, if you've enjoyed this episode on the Baltics, we'll also share some of our other World Nomad stories, including the one on The Bog, an amazing wilderness area in Estonia. It sounds terrible, but it reads fantastic. Look, it sounds like a brilliant place to go, and another reason why a nomad would love the Baltics.

Kim: Well, next week, we explore Malaysia. In the meantime, you can get the World Nomads Podcast on iTunes or download the Google Podcast app or ask Google Home or Alexa to play the World Nomads Podcast.

Phil: See you later.

Kim: Bye.

Announcer: The World Nomads Podcast, explore your boundaries.

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