Mallorca is an amazing island with countless day trip opportunities. For those who are interested in seeing a bit more of Mallorca than the typical tourist destinations, and for those who like some physical activity, this day trip to Sa Dragonera might be something for you!
Sa Dragonera is an island located in the South West of Mallorca, and geographically seen it is like an extension of the Sierra de Tramuntana, the mountain complex of Mallorca. Since 1995 it is declared as a Natural Park by the Balearic government.
I recently went on a day trip with my German friend, Stephanie, who lives on the island since a few years. I met her back in 2015 when I stayed at her beautiful AirBnB and ever since we stayed in touch. Now that I’m back, Stephanie invited me to go out and explore some more of the island.
A lot of people dream about working abroad in a sunny southern country like Spain. However, only few succeed. If you are able to speak a few foreign languages and if you have some experiences working in the tourism industry, you might have a step ahead. Then you can work for tour operators like Thomas Cook abroad, like me! So, how to do that? And what is it like to work in a Spanish island? Continue reading to find out!
In my last blog post I announced that I got a position as a Connected Service Consultant at Thomas Cook for the Summer Season 2019. Basically, this means that I am working in Destination Management abroad to support travelers who are on a holiday and need some assistance.
My Placement for the Summer Season
What I did not know when I applied for the job is where I would end up working. I was either going to work in Crete (Greece), Palma de Mallorca (Spain) or Faro (Portugal). I was lucky to get my prefered destination and so I got to stay in Mallorca, a beautiful island that belongs to the Balearic island group in the Mediterranean sea.
However, I found out that I will need to change destinations after being in Spain for 183 days. Apparently, this has to do with local tax duties: if you live somewhere more than 183 days under a foreign contract, you need to start paying local taxes. So, to avoid that Thomas Cook re-places its employers every 183 days to another destination. Next: Faro or Crete?!
I now live together with 2 amazing roommates in an apartment with seaview near the beach in the capital Palma de Mallorca. One of my roommates is German and the other one is Polish. Both are females. It is a beautiful modern apartment with a large kitchen, three spacious bedrooms, a balcony, three bathrooms, … everything I wished for!
Finding Balance: One Month on the Job
I am almost one month here now, time flies! So it is time to make up a balance after having settled. How is it to be working here? Well, great so far! I must admit I was a bit worried to be living with colleagues (because who knows whether I like them or not!), and I was not sure if an office job (even if it were in a foreign country) was really what I wanted to do… but I am really feeling great so far here!
I am surrounded by professional and frienfly people and colleagues and my roommates are great (as in clean, quiet, fun and respectful). Also, I have 2 days off every week so there is enough time to have a break from work to explore the island. I have already done some trips during my off-days and after work there is always a few spare hours to go for drinks or tapas in the city.
At work I am finally (after a few weeks of intensive training) settled in my job role: I need to take phone calls, answer e-mails, Whatsapp and SMS messages of customers who are currently on a holiday and need assistance with pretty much everything you can imagine that can be categorized mainly as:
I think the most frequent things that travelers ask assistance with so far is:
A transfer to the airport
A room change in the hotel
A hotel change in case they don’t like their hotel
Help with insurance matters when they are sick
Assistance to report lost or stolen items
Going home early or later
Online check-in with their flights
For all these issues, there are a lot of parties in a lot of countries involved: hotels, local agents, brokers, airlines, administrators, taxi drivers, travel agents, receptionists, … so a lot of the times I need to contact people who work in the tourism industry.
So Far, So Good! Why I Like the Job
I like a lot that I can use a lot of my language skills: I help customers in Dutch (or Flemish, my mother tongue) and French (the second official language of Belgium, my home country) and I when speaking to third parties I mostly speak English or Spanish. At the office, English is the main business language. This job is veryyyyyyy good to practice and improve your language skills!
What I like most about the job so far is that I really feel that you can make a difference in someone’s holiday, how simple or small the issue may be. And even though people are not always directly thanking you, you know that because of what you did, their holiday changed for the better. So if you are looking for a job that gives you satisfaction, working in Destination Management is definitely it!
Another nice thing is that I work with colleagues from all over Europe in the office so I live in a very international environment. I work of course more closely together with my Dutch and French speaking colleagues in my team, but there is also a German, Hungarian, Polish and British team. So, when we go out with colleagues, it is always an interesting mix!
The Biggest Challenge: Timing & Shifts
The fact that I work in a shift system is very new to me and is probably the biggest challenge. There are different shifts, more or less from 6.00-15.00, from 9.00-17.00, from 12.00-21.00, and a night shift from 21.00-6.00. Each time you work 5 days, and then you get 2 days off. For the night shift, you work 4 days and get 3 days off. The shift changes every week with a rotation system.
The good thing about this shift system is that you can do something different every week: going to markets in more a morning thing, going to concerts is more a night acvitity, and going to the beach might be better early in the morning or late in the afternoon (when it is not too hot yet). So, you can plan activities according to your schedule. But I still need to get used to developed a flexible biorythm.
Also, the bus system on the island is not the most reliable and especially not from where I live in the city. I have been arriving late twice already at work, which is of course not giving the best impression as I am still in my trial period. I have to get better in timing… but I found a solution! I ordered a beautiful bicycle (which will hopefully arrive soon!) so I can drive myself to work and get some excercise on top of that.
Conclusion: Better than I Expected…
Overall, I think that this job itself is maybe not that different from a job that you would do in your home country in a call center, for example, but there is nothing better in the world than being surrounded by an international like-minded team of people who are adventurous like you, who like to travel, who are flexible and open-minded.
… And most of all, there is no better feeling in the world than to take a deep breathe after work and to step outside the office everyday, to breathe in sea breeze and put on your sunglasses. To go outside after work to explore a holiday destination. Realizing that you are so blessed to live here for months, because many people only have one or two weeks abroad to enjoy it. So, be grateful.
Every day is a holiday in Spain!
Wanna Work For Thomas Cook?!
Do you think this job is something for you? Well, then go for it! But before deciding whether you apply… Check out my check list whether it is really something for you. And please, do not hesitate to comment bellow with any question you have. I will be so happy to reply!
My Check List …
Working abroad for Thomas Cook is something for you if you like to :
travel a lot and live abroad
see many destinations
get an apartment and costs covered
live somewhere with a lower cost of living
be surrounded by an International team
get a lot of job training
work 5 days and get 2 days off
have a high salary for local standards
work for bonuses based on performance
Maybe working abroad for Thomas Cook is NOT for you if you are looking for:
India has some seriously nice luxury accommodations to offer for tourists, but hey… We’re not all millionaires. Some of us are on a budget, because we are backpacking, students or simply because we want to see so much of this world that we need to save up as much as we can and spread out the budget as much as we can. This post is for those of us.
Indian cuisine is considered one of the best on earth and I LOVE it! Keep on reading to find out what my favourite dishes in India are and where to eat them. Good news: you can eat really cheap in India. With cheap I mean: for less than 100 rupees (or about 1 EUR) BUT the bad news… Food quality can be very bad in terms of hygienic standards, and many travelers get sick. They call this the famous ‘Delhi Belly’. Continue reading to check how to avoid travelers’ diarhea and how to stay happy and healthy like me.
My Favourite Foods in India
Indian food is undoubtedly one of my favorite foods in the world! I love it because it is tasty and spicy, and usually also available vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
Traveling in India can be so much fun but you don’t want transportation to kill your travel vibe. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling around in India but its transportation can be chaotic, and even that is an understatement. So, if you are planning to travel around in India, you can expect some serious adventure. But this post might help you out and get you start.
Continue to read if you want to:
Know what’s the best way to book trains and buses in India
Avoid unnecessary traffic jams in Indian cities
Book the cheapest flights to India (and between Indian airports)
Learn how to save money in India by using public transportation
Find out which apps I use to travel around in India
India is a massive country and it is impossible to see it all in one trip. Actually, many travelers will tell you that you will need at least a half year for a decent cultural immersion, but hey… who the hell has a 6 months holiday? Most people work, study or have a life (apart from discovering the world) and can only afford (in terms of money and time) to get a 1-month holiday. The same goes for me.
I only had 1 month to travel in India, and I wanted to see it all. If you want to make the most out of your 4 weeks in India, continue reading this blog to discover the perfect itinerary for first-time visitors who want to backpack through this massive and incredible country. Tested and approved! 😉
Julie is back! But gone again soon… Well, at least from Belgium, my home country. If you read my last blog post, you probably already know why I didn’t post anything for a few years, but hey… no worries, because I am back for more. More traveling around the world! Actually this is also a good moment for me to start blogging again because I am soon departing on a new ‘work abroad‘ adventure.
Did you ever get to a point in life where you feel like you quit doing what you love to do because something or someone made you believe that it is time to grow up, time to build a life, a career and a family? Well, welcome to my life… and welcome to the expectations and struggles of Western society.
How it all started to go down…
A few years ago I started my Masters’ program in Anthropology at a University in Belgium and for the next 3 years all I did was going to classes, writing papers, studying for exams, traveling for research, working to pay my bills while studying and thinking about how I could possibly become the best version of ‘my anthropologist self’.
Society made me believe that it was time for me to move on, to get over with the fun things in life, to start thinking about the future and to do something with my skills and experiences. I decided I wanted to start a PhD program and I focused really hard on getting accepted into a new university to continue doing what I thought I loved (and was born for) to do.
I was focusing on my career!
“For a long time I made myself believe that if I lived the life I was supposed to be living – according to my parents and societal norms – I would just become happy like everyone else. Instead, I started to realize many people are not happy with their 9-to-5 life and I would rather die than to become one of those settled couples who work to pay bills and go on a one-week holiday once a year.”
Once I started my PhD career, I did no longer have time for things that were not beneficial somehow to my ‘bigger plan’ (as in things that did not bring me closer to a career). Blogging about my travel experiences was obviously out of the question and seemed suddenly something from a far away past in which I wasted time doing silly things. Deep inside my soul was crying because I hated not being able to be myself.
Instead I wrote academic papers, I got involved in volunteer work and I wrote for other companies and universities, either because I got paid for it or because I got published somewhere. Initially I found it satisfying (or should I say that my ego was pleased) but soon I learnt that I was becoming involved in a life-long battle to become (and remain) an expert in my field if I wanted to continue this career.
I did not work myself up, but out.
Over time I also started to feel very unsatisfied with myself because I learnt that I did not write what I wanted to write and my creativity was often blocked by editorial instructions, my employers’ requirements, and so on. Slowly but steadily I started to go down… One morning I woke up and my whole body and mind decided that I could not do it anymore.
I fought against my writers’ block for months. My doctor said I was experiencing a ‘burn out‘. Me? How was that even possible? I will save you the details about the worst months of my life after this, but I will tell you that if I knew back then what I know now, I would have quit my job (and not my life) right there right then (and not the other way around).
How it started to get better again…
The moment that I accepted that I became deeply unhappy because I was not living the life I was born for, the destiny I was destined for… that I was not working for the boss I was supposed to work for, that I was not loving the love I was supposed to love, and so on… I felt so relieved. I felt set free.
The hardest thing for me to learn over this hard period of time was to trust in nothing and to embrace emptiness. I think that we grow up with the idea that we need to create stability and a balanced life, and that this will make us happy.
My parents still ask me:
“Julie, when are you going to start thinking about the future?”
But all I can think about it is…
“Collect moments, not things. And do what makes you happy”
The moment that we lose ground and surface underneath us (because of losing a job or breaking up from a relationship, for example) we freak out and get deeply unhappy. We are taught that we need stability (amongst other things, of course) to be a good human being.
The first months after I realized that I had to quit my job, my relationship and that I had to leave my current view on life because it was obviously not working for me, I experienced anxiety, depression, hyperventilation and insomnia.
Listen to your inner voice
My body was just trying to communicate with me that my mind and my soul were unbalanced. I had to learn to start listening to my heart (which was in connection with my soul) and not my thoughts (which were in connection with my mind).
I must admit that it took me many months to get to this point, but the moment I was able to understand that I needed trust instead of fear, that I needed to embrace emptiness instead of trying desperately to fill the gaps in, I could truly become happy again.
When my employer or my partner made me feel down, I also often thought that there was something wrong with me. That is a typical human thing to do and believe, especially when things are not matching. When things are not falling together, they sometimes start to fall apart. So, I quit my job and my relationship and whatever that made me unhappy. I started to respect myself and accept myself the way I am.
Now I am on a new path of self-love in which I learning to love myself with both my under -appreciated talents and skills, and all my shortcomings and traumas. This was the only way I could finally started to live (and blog) again. And so, now you know why I quit blogging for years…
Keep following From Julie With Love from now again, stronger than ever, with a brand-new lay-out, new contents soon, and many more adventures to be shared.
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The second weekend in Mauritius was absolutely one of the greatest ever! Not only did I experience an amazing boat trip, I also snorkeled with wild dolphins in the open sea, barbecued on a small island called Île aux Benitiers and enjoyed a lot of sunshine with the coolest anthropology students! Just NOT too good to be true, because it was real and yes, every once in a while in life a dream comes true…
Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true? Yes, of course! I did pay to get access to this piece of paradise, but this boat trip actually only costed +/- 35 USD so not to bad at all for a heavenly experience! If you ever visit Mauritius, don’t forget to check out this amazing area called Le Morne (where you find the biggest cliffs), Île aux Benitiers (and its blue waters surrounding it), and the wild dolphins of course! But let me talk to you about my trip first to make you feel excited for it as well!
Speed boats near Le Morne
Rule number 1: if you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. And sometimes that means early! Especially when you want to see wild dolphins. Apparently they hang around the coast early in the morning, so our boat trip had to start at 8AM, and so we took a bus ride from Pointe aux Piments to La Gaulette, 55 km further on the west coast, so good for an hour and a half driving.
Rule number 2: if you want to spot wild dolphins, you better take a speed boat in stead of a catamaran, as it is much easier to spot the dolphins as they move fast, and you can follow them better. But… You have to be patient and lucky anyway, because nothing guarantees you that you will actually see them as they are wild dolphins, and Mauritius is not SeaWorld! 😉
It is indeed a very unique experience to spot these magnificent marine mammals in their natural habitat in Mauritius, especially in this wonderful scenery with great landscapes! And I must admit, I was very excited about this trip, but also a little bit stressed at the beginning, as I really hoped to see the dolphins, but it took about 3 times to jump in the water and snorkel while looking for them, before actually seeing one. But the fourth time our boat stopped and the captain shouted: “JUMP!” I saw not one dolphin passing by just underneath me, but at least twenty! I could not believe my eyes (my snorkels)… This marine underwater world was too remarkable and coming face to face with this wild dolphins was absolutely striking.
Of course it was difficult to focus both on photographing as on jumping in the water to swim with them, so I do not have good images of it. I did find a Youtube video about people who had a very similar experience during such a boat trip in the same area in Mauritius, and I must say that this video explains better than any of my stories how it felt to swim with those dolphins. Just watch it, and imagine you were there, because I wish you would have been… ❤
Oh my god… I still get goosebumps everytime I think about this unbelievable dolphin experience… But mostly because of a little crazy spiritual superstitious experience of myself… Well, a few years ago I had a dream. I was standing on a cliff near the sea, and I jumped a lot of meters down into the water. Of course, that would mean suicide in the real world, but in my dream I survived. Moreover, as soon as I was under water, my human body was gone, and my soul transformed its physical appearance in a dolphin. I started swimming very fast, I had never felt so free before in my entire life… Suddenly, I was swimming together with many other beautiful dolphins who looked just as happy as me, and I could feel how my whole body was full of energy, and how powerful my tale was while I was reaching a high level of speed in the ocean.
There came no end to the unlimited capacity of water, and so on. This dream was by far the greatest dream in my life, because it felt so real and natural, but at the same time it supposed to be very surreal, right? Well, the feeling that overwhelmed while I jumped off the boat and while I was swimming with those wild dolphins in Mauritius, was somehow familiar, as if I was coming home to dream I was dreaming years ago already. As if I had been here, doing this before already. Almost as if I was one of them, and my human body was trying to become one again, but my long capacity, and the limitations of my human legs brought me back to reality fast. In this life, I am not a dolphin! I am Julie! #expectation #reality
Me, surrounded by blue water near the Crystal Rock
After snorkeling and swimming some more near the spectacular reefs of Mauritius, having some unforgettable views over Le Morne Mountain, and visiting the Chrystal Rock, it was noon fast, and time to head of to Île aux Benitiers, where a BBQ and wonderful meals were prepared by our boat staff ‘à la minute’ while we were enjoying some relaxation time: tanning on the beach, having a fresh coconut with rum, buying some souvenirs, and walking around the endless beach of this small island…
The beach at Île aux Benitiers & magnificent view on the Le Morne Mountain
Making friends with a Local Beach Hat Vendor
After spending more than 2 hours chilling and eating at the islet, we went for another few snorkel stops in a magnificent lagoon with shallow water. Did I mention already that Mauritius is almost entirely encircled by a coral reef? Well, then I don’t have to explain you why it is a superb snorkelling destination with many top spots to swim around! With a water temperature between 21 and 28°C, this island is a paradise for snorkellers and divers! And the waters around Le Morne offer some excellent visibility. However, I must admit that I was too tipsy from all those coconut-rums to focus on recognizing all the various species of fish, but hanging around the boat was a lot of fun!
One of the Anthropology students found a Sea Urchin!
Well, and to all good things comes an end at a certain point, and so it did to this amazing excursion. In the late afternoon our boat returned to La Gaulette, where we spent the last hour at the beach before heading home for sunset. What can I say? This day was absolutely perfect! There was no where else in this world I wished to be, with no one else to have as companion, and even though I did not have everything, I felt the richest person on earth. Because yes, I can’t emphasize it enough: look at all this beauty… And confirm it: travel is the only thing that you can buy that makes you richer! ❤ And most importantly… Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true! So live simply, dream big, be grateful, give love, laugh lots… And I am sure that good things will come your way. So yes, some might say that karma is a bitch, but only if you are too! So be good, and good things will come your way…