The Book to Read Before You Travel

Contrary to what the title of this blog post may suggest, you will not find the book I am about to recommend under the ‘travel’ section of your local bookstore (or Amazon’s Kindle for that matter – this is 2017). Instead, you may want to take a detour to ‘history’.

In the past few months, I have taken a rather obsessive interest in non-fiction. For a long time it bored me, and I couldn’t convince myself to dedicate large chunks of time to reading what already was as opposed to what could be.

But then I picked up this book.

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Image courtesy of www.thepaperbprincess.wordpress.com

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is everything you would expect it to be judging from its title. Originally written by Yuval Noah Harari in Hebrew (and later translated into English and an abundance of other languages), this provocative book walks you through the timeline of humanity, from our evolution from the great apes right up to the twenty-first century. Dealing with (and controversially interpreting) issues such as religion, bureaucracy, consumerism, economics, animal rights and happiness, it will challenge everything you thought you knew about being human. In his own words, Harari argues that, “Homo Sapiens rule the world because it is the only animal that believes in things that exist purely in it’s own imagination, such as gods, states, money, and human rights.”

Sapiens completely transformed the way I conceptualise our world. What I once perceived as being dull and irrelevant pages out of a history book, I now understand to be indispensable pieces to the jigsaw puzzle that furthered our evolution. If I could find a way to make it mandatory for everyone to read this book at some stage of their life, I would do so without a second thought.

So why do I insist so on reading this book before you travel?

Quite simply, I believe that understanding the world you explore enriches your experience exponentially. If your goal through traveling is to learn, then this book is the best place to start. Discovering the birth of different cultures, peoples and creeds introduces a whole new dimension of understanding that money just can’t buy; it’s one thing to take pretty pictures of ancient civilisations, but it’s another to appreciate how those civilisations came to be.

And that’s something your Instagram feed just can’t teach you.

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Have you read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humanity? Which book have you read that you would recommend to fellow travellers? I would love to hear from you!

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The Beach Review #1: Saint Kilda

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Something you may not know about me is that I have a bizarre obsession with rating things. Books, films, you name it. So when I was trying to devise an innovative way to blog about beaches I visit, the logical answer was to start a segment where I would review different ones around the world and see how they stack up against one another.

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After much deliberation, I formulated a system for rating them. Each beach has the potential for 10 stars (★) and is assessed on many different aspects.

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#1

Beach: Saint Kilda

Location: Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

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Water

Whilst the water is not crystal clear, the sandy bottom does compensate. There’s nothing worse than when you’re in the water and scared to put your feet down for fear of cutting yourself on jagged rocks or coral.

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Due to the Otago coastline’s dangerous rips, there are often lifeguards on patrol who indicate the safest areas. So as long as you use your head, this isn’t something you need to worry about.

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Sand

The sand is a gorgeous palette of white and gold. It’s velvety and fine with a delicate sprinkling of shells down the northern end. You won’t find any complaints from me here.

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Temperature

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; the water is freezing. This is the biggest drawback to the beach. While (arguably crazy) people do break out the bikinis, you won’t see me in anything less than a double-layered winter wetsuit.

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Regarding the weather, Dunedin isn’t exactly a go-to summer destination. The average temperature in the warmer months is 20°C, and even that’s generous. You’re more likely to encounter 15°C with wretched winds. Nevertheless, slap that sunscreen on; a Kiwi sunburn is no laughing matter.

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Wildlife

One of the attractions of Otago is its vast array of wildlife. Our coastline hosts little blue penguins, fur seals, and just up the peninsula, you’ll find one of the world’s largest albatross colonies on Taiaroa Head.

Saint Kilda is but a playground for these incredible animals. Whilst it’s not as popular as the surrounding shores, it’s not unheard of to spot dolphins and whales frolicking in the waves. It also has history with a certain sea lion.

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Facilities

This is a tricky one to comment on. Saint Kilda is the northern end of the beach, whilst the southern morphs into Saint Clair. Whilst Saint Clair has a lavish scope of restaurants, shops and salt water pool, Saint Kilda is somewhat more remote. In saying that, it’s a mere fifteen minute drive from the hub of Dunedin.

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Recreation

As an avid surfer myself, I would recommend Saint Kilda without a beat. New Zealand beaches are famous for it’s surf breaks, and Saint Kilda is no exception. The waves are great for beginners and experts alike, with a fluctuating tide and long stretches to avoid swimmers.

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Saint Kilda is also popular for swimmers. The choppy breakers make for superb body surfing, although make sure you keep within the flags. As I mentioned above, the rips are not a matter to be taken lightly.

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Congestion

As Saint Kilda spans approximately three kilometres, it’s quite easy to find an isolated stretch of beach without any company.

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What with Dunedin’s measly population, this isn’t the sort of place where you have to weave through throngs of people to find a square meter of sand. If that’s not a plus, then I don’t know what is.

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The Verdict

6.5/10

★★★★★★

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Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix

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Could this possibly be the best café in Dunedin?

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Having lived in this city in southern New Zealand my whole life, I think it is fair to say that I have done the café rounds. Coming from a family with a passion for food (and being a high-functioning teaholic), it is hard pressed for me to find a café here that I have not dined at.

And so we arrive at the Starfish, the eclectic seaside café on the St. Clair esplanade.

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It’s hard to define Starfish, but maybe that’s the beauty of it. From the electric swing playing over the speakers to the David Bowie posters pouting down at you from the wall, from the vintage swan wallpaper to the Pacific Ocean right outside the front door… and I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. Think coconut turmeric lattes as you sit outside and enjoy the sun on a lazy Sunday morning. Think a glass of wine as you wind down to an acoustic set on a Friday evening. Think fresh seafood sourced straight from the Otago harbour. Mouth watering yet?

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I think the best thing about Starfish is that every time I go there (and believe me, it’s an embarrassing amount), it’s a whole new experience. I never tire of the ever-changing menu, and there is such a huge array of options to choose from and I don’t think I could ever sample everything. For all you social media enthusiasts (*raises a guilty hand*), do not fret; everything at Starfish is Insta-worthy. And for all you difficult dietary chums (*raises another guilty hand*), they’ve got you covered. Dairy free? Gluten free? Vegetarian? Look no further.

If there is one place you should go to experience the essence of Dunedin’s café culture on your travels, Starfish is the one. Perhaps one of the only stale points is that it is not within walking distance of the town centre, limiting it to those with access. However, if an outing to St. Clair is not already on your to do list, then I honestly don’t know what you’re doing here. Nestled in a plethora of boutique shops and restaurants – not to mention the most photogenic beach in New Zealand (am I biased? …probably), just one visit will be enough to convince you to ditch your return ticket home. Just make sure you’ve packet a scarf and gloves in your suitcase. Brr.

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My Starfish Breakfast Order

  • Pics Poles Smoothie
  • Blueberry, Coconut & Lemon Hotcakes
  • Citrus Slice

(note to self: don’t complain when you no longer fit your jeans)

Also, a handy tip; if you’re eyeing up one of their famous smoothies (I recommend the Pics Poles; possibly the best peanut butter creation to ever grace the earth), make sure you get in there before 3pm or else the blender gets put away for the day. Believe me, I’ve made this mistake many times; tears were shed.

The ‘Deats

Starfish Café, Restaurant & Bar

240 Forbury Road, St. Clair, Dunedin, New Zealand

Sunday-Tuesday 7am-5pm

Wednesday-Saturday 7am til late

03 455 5940

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