New State of Consciousness

Ellen Baggs: Facebook age 29. Real age 12…

(Please read the following bearing in mind I am not an emotional person.)

Recently I embarked on ‘a travel journey’ as a 45 year old backpacker! Did you know insurance companies only do backpacker insurance up to 35 years? (And yes there is my first mental stumbling block!)

A younger friend suggested backpacking. Okay; I thought about it for a whole minute.

‘I’ll go with you….’

So of we went to Brazil, via New York and Atlanta. #cheapflight


Rio is a massive city of 9 million people of which 1.9 million live in favelas (slums).  Huge expensive apartment blocks and hotels back on the favelas that cover most of Rio and other cities of Brazil.  The opposites of this place are extreme.  Did I really need to expose myself to all this?  I had forgotten how scared, how intimidated and overwhelmed I could be.


I just wasn’t prepared mentally for the culture shock!  We hit Copacabana beach, (cried) jewellery off, carrying hardly any monies (whatever happened to travellers cheques?) and old clothes on.

This put my ‘I only have one bar and 0.5 of a meg on my internet’ life into perspective. (By the way the internet connection was soooo much better all over Brazil, even in the remote areas, than where I live in Ireland.) #justsayin.

First two days in Brazil: non stop rain and fifteen degrees, just like the West coast of Ireland.  Boom!

img_0769I didn’t realise how big Brazil actually was. What looks like a thumb and a finger distance away on the map is actually a 24 hour bus journey in real hours.  Internal flights became a must-have luxury, to spontaneously see what we wanted.  Salvador, the slaves, (cried) the multi-culture society, again the vast favelas that stretch from the airport to where we were staying… four days in and still in shock.  We stayed in very cheap Airbnbs which was great, but because of the language barrier (we didn’t know Portuguese) we decided to stay in guest houses/hostels for the latter part of the trip, which proved to be much more sociable.


img_0252he rain started to follow us again so instead of going further north we went back to Rio and to the stunningly beautiful island of Ilha Grande. No transport, no bank machines and about four street lights.  It was perfect and amazingly super fast broadband.  The days that followed were made up of speed boat tours, snorkelling, trekking through jungle (with real life monkeys screeching from the tree tops, half wild dogs, and melodic crickets), and of course, idealistic beaches.  Lopes Mendes beach (cried), my died-and-gone-to-beach-heaven beach where the sand was as fine as dust and actually crunched like virgin snow when you walked on it.






Then on to Paraty; this national historic site has amazing colonial buildings, rich on history, the Slave trade (cried), with gigantic cobblestone streets set on the waters edge.  No vehicles were allowed into the town.  Met a couple of very nice French guys reassuring me that my social skills (even in French) were not completely dead.  Social skill point to myself!  Who as it happens were going to the same destination as ourselves, Iguacu Falls.  We also became locals in the local Samba Forro (type of dance) bar.  Boom number 2 social skill!


Drove back to Rio via Angra dos Reis, where an English tourist was shot the day before, the family had taken a wrong turn into the favelas whilst trying to look for a place to buy water.

img_0634Took a two hour plane journey to Iguacu Falls; one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.  An expansive (to say the least) waterfall stretching across two countries. We went to the dramatic Argentina side the first day and then what felt like the more subdued Brazilian side the following day, getting right up close and nearly into the Falls themselves. Then, flew back to Rio and spent the last part of the holiday in Ipanema which was totally different and more upmarket that Copacabana.




img_0818Rio: Went up in two James Bond cable cars (Dr No.) to Sugar Loaf mountain where we saw Christ the Redeemer (cried), Rio, the mountains, the bays and the favelas start to light up as we watched the sun set.

  • Saw amazing 4 meter surf on Ipanema beach.
  • Went to a Samba Forro class and then on to a club till 3am (5 hours past my bed time).
  • Went up Christ the Redeemer (cried) and saw him in all his majesty (with free wifi at the top)…
  • Went on a favela tour (cried), where the monies from the tour go to the peeps of the favelas. Words cannot describe how they live and we went to the middle part of the favelas where they live in open sewers..(I cried a bit more).
  • One of the absolute highlights for me being a 2 Fast 2 Furious fan (don’t dis the franchise) was seeing the actual favela where they filmed 2 Fast 2 Furious 5!!

The people of Brazil are so friendly, smiley, warm people it is hard not to fall in love with the place. I felt like they really opened me up and let me in.

Then, a two day journey back from Copacabana beach to Rio GIG airport, to Atlanta, to JFK to Shannon.






In summary; I don’t know quite where I am at. My brain and eyes are in Brazil/Atlanta/New York and my body is in Mountshannon.  I feel a sense of personal growth  – the realisation that I am not a complete fuck-up and I am able to actually get from A to B. I do have actual social skills despite living in a rural place and ‘staying in’.

I am able to emotional connect with my body and feelings #cry.

My brain is still not with my body,  but I think I am liking my new state ofconsciousness/unconsciousness.

P.S yoga classes start next week, let’s see where we all end up…




Bitchmittens Ellen



Notes from the Ed. 

Ellen’s Yoga classes recommence this week. If you’d like to check out her classes you can find her on



The Running Tour

My new favourite tourist discovery…


On a recent work trip to Amsterdam, my friend Andy and I decided to go on a running tour. Concept? Simple. 7.5km running around Amsterdam in a small group, visiting the sites. No buses, no cars, and no trams – “we go where we want”.


We met our tour guide, Hans-Peter (HP), who came to meet us at our hotel. We were the only two booked on so we didn’t have to meet anyone else, and off we went.


HP set a nice steady pace, jogging up alongside the Amstel (not just a beer!) for about 700m until we stopped at our first point, a nice town house with signs on the sides. HP explained that this was to identify who lived in the house back when there were no street names. I’ve been to Amsterdam once before and had never noticed these. After the run, they were everywhere!! From boats, to quills and even a modern-looking sign that had a Euro on it! We went over bridges, HP explaining their history (Amsterdam has a lot of canals and therefore a lot of interesting bridges!). We ran through secret archways which led us through the university. We saw statues made by unknown artists. A favourite of mine, near the Leidseplein, was a bronze statue made in the 80s of a man sawing a tree branch. In the 30 years since, the tree has now grown around it and it looks amazing. As we were coming through the red light district we stopped at the Old Church and HP told us a lovely story. When Saskia van Uylenburgh, Rembrant’s wife, died he had her buried in this church and once a year the sun shines through the window onto her grave – How lovely is that???


I could go on for ever, but I don’t want to ruin it for if you ever go to Amsterdam (do it! it’s brilliant!).


The main points I want to mention is how truly amazing I found it. I’m not the world’s quickest runner but HP kept a good pace, slowed down when he saw I was suffering a bit after the previous night’s beers, and was really a fascinating guy. I saw things I would never have spotted, or thought to look for, like tiny little courtyards in the Jordaan, gorgeous bakeries that smelled phenomenal, statues of musicians that I’d never heard about but I will now look up.


I fell in love with the city of Amsterdam not as a tourist but as a local.


The freedom of being led through a beautiful city when most tourists are still asleep, by a local who clearly loves where he lives and loves running is something truly special. Hands down would do it again!


Bits of interest to note:

  • Stumbling upon the red light district comes as a bit of a shock, lots of naked ladies at 9:30 in the morning is not something you see every day!
  • No matter how unfit you think you are, it is totally worth trying this out. You stop quite often and you go at the pace of the slowest runner, it’s not about the running – it’s about visiting a new city.
  • Dam Square, at 9:45 is remarkably empty and looks very impressive
  • 5km can turn into 9km, but that’s ok! If you’re interested in something, in this case Andy wanted to find out more about breweries, your tour guide might make a slight detour. I don’t know if this is the norm as it was essentially a private tour, but it felt really special.
  • If all running was like this, I’d enjoy it a heck of a lot more
    • As an avid “I hate running but it’s good for me” person, this was fantastic. Sometimes stopping and appreciating where you are and where you’re going is what you need and I am going to use this for my training.


You don’t know what you miss, if you never look!

I can’t wait to go on holiday to a new city and do it all over again! (Got my eyes on Barcelona!)


( was the tour company we used. I wasn’t asked to write this by them, nor was I given any incentives to do so. My thoughts are my own. All that said, I highly recommend them if you’re ever in Amsterdam and fancy a run! )


BitchMittens Clo!

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