Arriving in Nepal | Travel Talk

Arriving in Nepal | Travel Talk

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flying into kathmandu valley #mountains #nepal #travels

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

The kathmandu valley, Birds eye views are the best #nepal #landscape #instadaily A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

I finally arrived in the Tribuhuvan airport in Kathmandu Nepal, after a gruelling 32 hours travel from Sydney. The flight into Nepal was great getting to see glimpses of the incredible mountain range and gliding through the clouds to the airport.

Stepping outside the airport was a flurry of shouting, smells and blinding light. It’s very overwhelming at first especially if your travelling solo, I had no idea where to go or what I was doing. But once I found my airport pickup – who was holding a makeshift sign with my name questionably spelled on it – we made our way to Kathmandu guest peace house. They definitely call it a ‘culture shock’ for a reason; it couldn’t be more different to England but I was looking forward to embracing it and learning alot from this experience. Nepals road system is questionable but I held on and took in the busy sights all around. Im not going to lie you have to be prepared for it, I was so overwhelmed and slightly terrified as I got into a small white van with two foreigners who spoke little english. I spent most of the journey planning my escape route! Luckily I had gone through an organisation IVHQ so I had some comfort but it was still pretty scary.

After settling into my new guest house and having my first taste of breakfast – which was very sweet ‘bread’ and black coffee. Needless to say Nepal doesn’t have access to many of the foods I’d usually be having but even this was a luxury as I knew my host family wouldn’t be serving this once I was on placement. So for now I made the most of it and looked forward to my few days of orientation.

had the blackest coffee for breakfast. #coffee #buzz #breakfast

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

My 3 day orientation was so much fun and a great way to start the experience. We had one of the smallest groups in a while at 15 people including 2 canadians, 2 french, 2 italians, 2 aussies, 1 Netherlands, 2 chinese, 2 portugese, 1 hawaiin and me representing the brits. Everyone was so cool and we bonded really well as a group so much that most of us have booked to do the chitwan safari in 2 weeks time which will be great to catch up! The orientation consisted of visiting the beautiful monkey temple Swayumbhunath. The temple is, as the name suggests, populated by monkeys who have no fear about going right up to you and are incredibly curious; also fairly intimidating when you start to get surrounded by them. We made our way up steps towards the main stupa taken in the awesome views of the Kathmandu valley surrounded by vast mountain ranges. Thousands and thousands of colourful prayer flags covered the entirety of the temple grounds. We got to take a look into an art gallery to find out about how some of the masters paint works such as the mandela and buddhas eyes. It was really interesting to find out about the different levels of mastery in the artwork and how the masters use gold within parts of their paintings. As we carried on our journey we made it to the top of the stupa; when visiting a stupa, you must walk around it clockwise. You can also spin the prayer wheels that line the base of it to create good karma or energy as you go round.

Just incredible views! #nepal #mountains #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

so many cool statues on the climb up #buddha #peace #temple #travelling

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Anything You Like?

Swayambhunath #monkey #temple #peace #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Monkey TempleMonkey See

Prayer WheelsThe orientation provided another trip to the Buddhist haven of the Boudhanath Stupa where we got to witness yet another marvel of building and detailed craft of Nepal. This particular stupa had 108 small images of the Dhyani Buddha Amitabha around it.

Boudhanath #temple #nepal #travels A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Stupa GuardsDragonpot

We also got to see the famous Durbar Square and do a bit of shopping in Thamel. If you’ve been to Kathmandu you’ll know its a dusty combination of old meets new with buildings on top of buildings stacked up and crammed in. But it is a hive of life and interest, as there is always something happening and you can walk into a shop and find pockets of peacefulness to sip your coffee that you wouldn’t have expected find compared to the high speed noises high streets just outside. It a bizarre yet wonderful mix of bustle and calm. There are tonnes of shops, souvenirs and cafes to explore that you’ll have a hard time not picking up  at least something! A lot of the shops in Thamel sell western snacks – like oreos – which after placement will be a welcome relief, make sure you stock up on a few packs to take with you! You can also find ATMs scattered around most with armed guards around them. I’d take out as much as you need but be sensible, don’t carry too much on you – most of the placements around Nepal will also have places you can draw some out. Also be clever about it as some of the machines charge a fee to draw out. Once I got to my placement I pretty much drew out most of my money as I knew after meeting my  host family that I could keep it safe in their home and it was easier as I was based there for the duration as well as it being a quiet village. I only took out small amounts whilst I was in Kathmandu.

Buddha | Peace

notes with elephants and rhinos on! Now thats my kind of money #nepali #currency #traveller #elephant A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

One last thing about Thamel – if you want a great place to have a drink or two in the evening or day – head to Phat Kath and grab yourself an Everest beer! We loved it and its a great starting point to onto some of the other bars along the hight street. Don’t get lost in the maze of guest houses and shops that start to meld into one giant jingo game after a few days of living there!

had drinks at the coolest little treehouse style bar #drinks #phatkath #nepal #travelling

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Our orientation had to come to an end after a great few days learning about the culture, meeting new friends and exploring the many temples of Kathmandu. It was sad to leave them all to go to placements but exciting to see were you will be based for the next few months!

I then got placed in Bhaktapur not too far from kathmandu but much more rural which was a welcome change. The volunteers, host Family and staff there were all friendly and welcoming. The kids were awesome. Too cute. I started getting called ‘Jack Uncle’ by them all. The next few months were going to be on some of the best I had ever experienced!

So I’m about a week into ‘living’ in Nepal now. I love it. The initial shock and anxiety has been replaced with excitement and awe at this beautiful country. Filled with breathtaking scenery, a wealth of culture and so many friendly faces!

Stay tuned for my next instalment to my adventures in Nepal!

If you’d like to see more of my travel photos from Nepal or my other photography then check my social links!

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What do you travel for? | I travel for…

What do you travel for? | I travel for…

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THE VIEWS. The awe-inspiring, jaw dropping, serene views you can witness when traversing the four corners of the globe. Wether it’s a paradise beach straight out of a getaway magazine or an incredible cliff face overlooking a forest backdrop, you can’t help but travel for those views. That sense of feeling that theres so much more out there. The kind of view you can’t take your eyes off of; right up until the sunsets, still transfixed as a blanket of stars covers the night sky and on till the morning sun stretches its sunbeam arms over the horizon.

I travel for those views. Some travel for the view out of a balcony window overlooking a bustling city full of life and some travel for the infinite blue skies. Where ever you travel to you go for a different view that you wouldn’t find at home, to discover and explore. But most of all, to just see more than any screen or photo can ever do justice.

My passion as an explorer compels me to keep viewing the world and discovering new places. I hope to inspire others to go out and see more passing on my infectious passion to travel. I hope these posts help to provide some sort of motivation for you to break free from everyday life, even if just for a little while. Creativity is contagious, pass it on!

Here are some that I have looked upon:

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Landscapes I

Snow Mountains

Aussie Coasts

The Village

Warm Crisp Mornings

Waterfalls

Shadows of Mountains

If you’d like to see more of my photography then check my social links!

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My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

My Experience with IVHQ | Nepal

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I chose, after a lot of research and endless googling, to volunteer in Nepal through the company IVHQ to do childcare work within an orphanage placement. I’ll talk about my experience with the company as well as give a run down of what I went through pre-trip and whilst on placement. All views and experiences are my own.

 

What they say…

“International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) provides affordable, safe and responsible volunteer abroad programs in 30 different countries around the world. Each year, IVHQ places thousands of volunteers on our volunteer abroad programs and offers a wide range of volunteer travel opportunities in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Madagascar, Victoria Falls, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Bali, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Mexico, India – Delhi, India – Dharamsala, Vietnam – Hanoi, Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Ha Long Bay, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Thailand, China, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia – Bogota, Colombia – Cartagena, Morocco, Peru – Cusco, Peru – Lima, Laos, Romania, Italy and Fiji.

Established in 2007, IVHQ has grown to become the world’s leading volunteer travel company, offering a variety of projects for volunteer travelers, including Teaching, Childcare, Community Development, Medical, Construction and Renovation, Turtle Conservation and Wildlife Conservation.

Whether you are traveling abroad, taking a gap year, wanting to experience a volunteer vacation, or simply wishing to provide assistance in a developing country through volunteer travel, International Volunteer HQ has the program for you.

With volunteer program fees starting from USD$180, you will not find a more affordable, high quality and trustworthy international volunteer travel company.”

 

What I say…

“IVHQ was definitely one of the more affordable companies for volunteer work I came across, especially what you got for the money and the variety of destinations you have to choose from. You really can get a lot out of the experience without the massive price tag of what other companies are offering, because after all your a choosing to volunteer so don’t want to have to pay an arm and leg to do so! There are other ways to volunteer cheaper – by going directly to in-country organisations, organising parts of the trip yourself i.e. accommodation, familiarising yourself without guides however for a first time experience in a country like Nepal I was more than happy to pay the small amount extra to get all of this included in the fee price.

IVHQ right from the start provided email correspondence to answer any queries I had, organised airport pickup, accommodation, placements and have an extremely friendly team to welcome you and check up n you throughout your placement. They also provide a weeks orienteering at the start to introduce gently into the culture and lifestyle of Nepal before sending you to your host-family placements; as well as some language lessons which come in handy!

I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling. I can safely say that the team in Nepal made me feel safe, welcome and at ease before I started my placement. With this in mind I would recommend going for more than 2 weeks to really make the most of your time volunteering in Nepal. Once you take the week off for the orientation (which is essential at the start I think) you should try to have at least 2 weeks+ in your actual placement. I saw people come and go within a week or two which leaves no time to really ‘make a difference‘ or get to know the people your working with. It frustrated me that a few were just using it as a cheap way to travel – this isn’t fair on the children you are working with. If your choosing to volunteer then invest your time with the kids.

“I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start with arranging all of this so this is why IVHQ is a great company to volunteer through if your new or solo travelling”

The support from the team lasted throughout my 2 month placement with regular visits to make sure I was alright and to help with any trips I wanted to plan whilst there – they even arranged tickets and weekend trips to Chitwan National Park which I wouldn’t have known were to go for. The IVHQ team also checked in with me online via email and answered other queries I had.

I was lucky enough to be placed with a fantastic host family and the most incredible children at Bhaktapur Self-Sustaining Orphanage. I decided to stay in the same place for the duration of my stay to really get to know them. All I can say is I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village. Everyone from the host family, children, house mothers, villagers and locals  are like my home from home now. I’m entwined with an entire nepali village on the side of a mountain and am heading back to visit everyone in March ( keep up to date by following @travelling_jackg or my social links).

“I knew when I chose to volunteer I was going to help, what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with an entire village”

So, all in all IVHQ was a great company to volunteer through. They gave me the confidence and ease to volunteer without all the headache. I had support, help if I needed it, introduction to culture and a base of friends right from the off. Like I said you can do it cheaper but compared to the other companies out there this is one of the cheapest for what you get! You get a quality service without the ridiculous price tag and is ideal for people starting off. From doing this experience I can now say I’d be happy to just go to Nepal and organise it myself without an organisation but thats only because I had such a positive introduction thanks to IVHQ.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I paid volunteering through IVHQ and other additional costs:

IVHQ Program Fee – £620

Flight – £400 return (LHR – KTH) – I booked through STA travel however in hindsight use sky scanner for a better variety of deals.

Visa – £70 – Apply via the Nepal embassy – send your passport off and get it back with recored delivery. You can also get a visa on entry to Nepal I just wanted everything done before I got there.

Travel insurance – £30 via post office

Criminal background check – £50 via .gov

Vaccinations – varies depending own what you need, I had already had quite a few for a trip to Kenya previously so only needed a typhoid one which was free. I also took malaria tablets which you only need for a small part of Nepal in places like Chitwan however I never ended up taking them as it was only a two day stay. I just wanted to be prepared incase I was placed here for the whole of my stay.

Check what you need here.

Average weekly expense – £0 – £10 (Nepal isn’t very expensive at all, especially as food is including in the accommodation – although don’t expect anything fancy. Expect rice, a lot of rice)

Chitwan 2 day safari – £80 (I’ll write a more detailed post on this as well as trekking expenses)

More blog posts to come about my experiences and time in Nepal, make sure you keep up to date by following my social links!

You can expect:

  • Nepali culinary delights
  • How to bond with an entire nepali village
  • My experience with a bad stomach ache and a mountain
  • 3 new didis, no english and lots of acting out

Stay tuned!

Melbourne, Australia | Travel Talk Pt.3

Melbourne, Australia | Travel Talk Pt.3

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Voted Australia’s ‘Culture Capital’, Melbourne offers bustling high streets crammed with great places to grab something to eat or sit down for a coffee; surrounded by art, creativity and urban street scenes. There is  tonnes to entertain you by day and night in this city. I’ll be suggesting the top places I’d recommend on going and seeing whilst your there.

If your in need of some arts and culture then check out Melbourne’s ACMI centre for Art, Film & Digital Culture. Its a hive of creative content and exhibitions where you’ll be immersed in a world of the arts. Whilst I was there I enjoyed the dreamwork animation exhibition they had on which gave a real insight into the production and creation of the iconic films; as well as lots of behind the scenes looks at films and even a chance to have a go at animating like the pros! Check out what they have on when you visit.

Quick Price | Adult Entry Exhibition £10 $15 (prices vary on exhibition) | ACMI Entry FREE (some exhibitions require no fee!)

Melbournes architecture #australia #buildings #artsy

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

checking out the sculptures at dreamworks #animation #kungfupanda #design

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Another place I loved when I visited Melbourne was the Queen Victoria Night Markets. This is a great place to discover mouth watering food and drinks with a variety of different options from all over the world as well as some new flavour combos that will get your taste buds going. I tried duck and waffle with hoisin sauce which was incredible and sat back with a mulled wine cider watching a 1950’s band play a set.

Live music, great food and feel good atmosphere make this place a great evening out – just make sure you don’t eat before you go so you can make the most of whats on offer here, I’d recommend on taking at least £20 $30 out with you to really enjoy yourself but you can also pick up bargain meal prices with the amount of competition that is there. As well as all this you can also take a look around some vintage craft stools, handmade gifts and quirky items that are on display. Make sure you wrap up warm or bring extra for another mulled wine cider!

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Melbourne offers its own Eureka Skydeck which serves as a great 297.3m vantage point to look out and admire the city of Melbourne. It is the southern hemispheres highest vantage point and boasts a whooping total of 88 floors! This can usually be coupled with a deal that includes a trip along The Great Ocean Road and a day out exploring Phillip Island. I’d say definitely get this in with a deal as buying the tickets just for the skydeck may not be worth it; although it provides a great view once you have walked around the top (approx 15-20mins) theres not a great deal else to do, so to make it worthwhile and couple it with another activity in the day.

admiring the view from 88 floors high #eureka #skydeck #view #melbourne

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Thatttt skyyyy #melbourne #australia #instadaily

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Somewhere you have to see whilst in the southern territory of Aus is The Great Ocean Road an epic 243 Kilometres stretch of prime aussie coastline partnered with spectacular sea views. Make sure you glimpse the 12 Apostles and have your picture taken with the start sign at the beginning of the road! The Tour we went through was with our hostel in the ‘3 in 1’ package – this was great as we had a limited amount of time and budget but if I’m honest I think the best possible way to do this and get the most out of it is to hire a campervan and road trip it with friends over a few days! That would make for one EPIC ROAD TRIP and when I head back this is what I’ll be looking at doing for sure. Salamanda Travel & VroomVroom are some camper van options.

Finally the day trip to Phillip Island gave us a day of kicking it with koalas, taking a nose at the Nobbie’s centre and perusing the penguins. We got to go onto an authentic and still working Australian farm to learn about the history and agriculture of the country. We stopped off at a centre dedicated to Australian creatures where you can feed the roos and take a few selfies with your new furry friends. Then finished it off with dinner and a spot watching the famous Phillip island penguins come home form the sea and follow them up as they go back to their nests.

Quick Price | 3 in 1 Tour Package (Most hostels & Tour Operators) £220 $340

The Great Ocean Road! #sightseeing #tourist #australia

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

ideal location for lunch #lighthouse #view #australia

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2 of the ’12’ (8) Apostles, pretty amazing to see #12apostles #australia #landscape

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fed a roo! #australia #kangaroo #animal

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

Phillip island at sunset before watching the penguins #australia #landscape #sunset

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

 

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There are so many other great things to do in Melbourne and delicious things to eat that you can’t miss out on exploring this city. With graffiti artwork adorning the city walls, trams trundling around ready to take you to every corner and tonnes of shops for you to indulge in some retail therapy. And why not head over to the Chinatown part of the city – grab some noodles and see a play at Her Majestys Theatre !

If you’d like to keep up with my adventures and get social;

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Travel. Create, Be Nice!

Australia | Travel Talk Pt.1

Australia | Travel Talk Pt.1

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Heading down under with this post all about the awesome aussie east coast, starting off in sunny Sydney!

Icon : Sydney Opera HouseI flew from Heathrow airport in London on an Emirates flight – which was incredible. The service, food and choice of films couldn’t have been better. With a stop off in Dubai airport we continued our 18 hour journey to the beautiful city of Sydney. ( I have tried to give rough estimations on what I spent in Sydney, please take this as guide price and always look for online discounts or deals that may be available in other months/times of the year! )

Quick Prices: Return Economy Flights with Emirates ( 1x stop off June/July – August/September) £900 $1400

When we arrived at our first hostel ‘The Base‘ we checked in, dropped off our backpacks and decided to head for a large coffee in Hyde park and take a stroll through Sydney’s botanical gardens – which led us to our first glimpse of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Very surreal to finally see it up close and its a lot smaller than it seems on tv but just as magnificent with the back drop of the harbour bridge. The architecture and design of it is stunning and after soaking up the sun on the steps of the opera house we headed back to our hostel to catch up on some much needed sleep! The Base’ facilities were really well maintained and all the staff were very friendly and helpful. Your able to book tours through most of the hostels you go in and can even work shifts for free accommodation or food – so make the most of this if your on a budget!

Quick Prices: 1x Night Accom. The Base £16 $24

 

holding the #sydney #operahouse #austrailia #selfie #instadaily

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Whilst in Sydney we discovered that you can get water taxis across the harbour. We hopped in one and jetted over the scenic harbour taking in a 360 view of the opera house and bridge – pretty cool way to see it and I’d definitely recommend going in one as they are only a couple of dollars – way better than cramming onto a ferry! It took us over to The Taronga Zoo to check out our first glimpse of Australian critters. The zoo itself was huge, there was so much to see and do. We saw everything from koalas to kangaroos, crocodiles and platypus’ as well as loads more. Some great photo opportunities for any wildlife photographers out there. A great and well run zoo packed with information on wildlife, we managed to get our ticket in a deal with the water taxi by scouting out around the harbour and combining deals.

We managed to get our tickets in a deal with the water taxi return fare as well! Look out for the promoters round the harbour front and don’t be scared to haggle for better prices – theres loads of different tour operators but they all want your custom!

Quick Prices: Taronga Zoo & Taxi Return £27 $41

Taxi view #watertaxi #sydney #austrailia #instadaily

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Giraffe In The City

Tiger Light

Hi Nigel! #pelican #bird #instadaily

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

We also took the opportunity to visit Darling Harbour for a bit of sightseeing round the city and a chance to check out the shops and food places. If your looking for a day of retail therapy with snacks and drinks then you should head here. Theres everything you could want and its all set around a picturesque harbour front. Whilst here we visited Wildlife Sydney which was another chance to see some of the animals indigenous to this country. Wildlife Sydney had a more up close and personal feel with some of the smaller creatures of the bush and was catered a lot more to families with young children – so if this is you I’d head to Wildlife Sydney for your dose of aussie animals.

As this is part of the Merlin attractions family you can usually get great discounts to combine entry to multiple places, so really good if your planning to visit more than one of them and make the most of the deal. Make sure you look tickets up online as well as you can often save money on online deals and discounts!

Quick Prices: Online Booking £10 $15 | Walk-In Booking £15 $21

RexBoomerangs

Being in Sydney we couldn’t not take a bus down the road to the famous Bondi Beach. A beautiful small beach located just 20 mins bus journey out of the city offers stunning oceans views and a bustling beach town with cafes, restaurants and shops to explore. I just enjoyed sitting on the beach soaking up the incredible views and ocean sunset! The bus system in Australia is run very efficiently as you can buy tickets in local shops or by machine – they do not take cash on board so its just a swipe on and off system which makes travelling really quick and easy. Trains work in the same way but you buy all the tickets as you go down into the underground using machines.

Quick Prices: Sydney Town Centre – Bondi Beach Bus Return £5 $8

I’d quite happily live on bondi beach #sydney #bondi #beach #instadaily

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

sunset at bondi #beach #bondi #sunset #perfection

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You can take a walk along the famous Harbour bridge and glance out across at the Opera house and city from the Pylon Lookout at the centre of the bridge. You can also walk the harbour bridge if your feeling brave and want a higher view of everything!

Quick Prices: Harbour Bridge Climb Day £135 $205 | Twilight £170 $260 | Night £116 $176 | Dawn £170 $260

Amazing views from the bridge #sydney #austrailia #landmark #operahouse #instadaily

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To finish our first stop in Sydney off we took a trip back down the harbour and relaxed in the Opera bar that comes alive at night with bars and tables set up along the harbour front. Massive fire patio heaters light the way and you are able to order food from the bars restaurant as well. You can soak up the atmosphere as you look out onto a bustling harbour front whilst you sip your ice cold aussie beers.

Quick Prices: Beer £4 $6 | Red/White Wine £5 $7 | Pizza £10 $15 | Chips £5 $7

 

perfect end to the day a cold beer at the opera bar #ideal #sydney #austrailia

A photo posted by Jack Gunns (@jackgunns) on

the best course #dessert #cake #foodporn #instadaily

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If you’d like to keep up with my adventures and get social;

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Travel. Create, Be Nice!