A travel blog designed to be an insight into the personal journey toward vegetarianism and veganism peppered with exoticism, Pati’s Journey Within has gained popularity since its inception in January – or as it is known nowadays amongst foodies, Veganuary.

The original concept for it was to predominantly be a travel blog,” says forty-something Patrycja Smietana, who relocated to Gibraltar five years ago. “Yet I didn’t want to be just another travel blogger out there. My main idea was to share my personal journey, the one around the world and the one within, as well as sharing how passionate I am about and food and cooking.”

She claims to be an ‘amateur traveller’, and a ‘hobbyist chef’ and to live by the teaching of Ibn Battuta. “Travelling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”, reads her motto in the ‘About’ page of this blog, below a candid shot of the blogger herself perched on a rocky cliff.

“We need to try our best and do what makes us happy and help us grow. I wanted to combine my passion for travel and food with my love for sharing stories,” she says, describing it as ‘emotional exhibitionism’.

“I’d like to encourage all folks out there to and say that all dreams can come true. There’s a saying: success is when preparation meets opportunity. And I like this saying.”

I didn’t want to be just another travel blogger.

Pati dedicates her articles to ‘people who have dreams’, those who travel ‘respectfully’ and ‘consciously’, hungry for discovery and adventure. “I am a simple girl trying to travel the world within my means and I’d like to share my experience I am planning to provide tips on how to travel affordably, but in style, and still see and do all the things the world has to offer.”
A visitor and a frontier worker at the same time, Pati describes Gibraltar as “a bit odd, but magically odd”. A “land of sea, sun and general awesomeness”, Gibraltar strikes her for its unique airport whose runway can be crossed on foot, for its language and intricate architecture. “I fell in love with Gibraltarians’ passion for life, sense of humour and no-nonsense ways,” she divulges.

Moving to Malta, she landed there with the trained eye to spot “hidden spots you will hardly read about in tourist guides”. So she features Chadwick Lakes, Dingly Cliffs, Buskett Woodlands, Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, red sands beach tucked away at the bottom of hundreds of steps, and some nightlife spots for the shrewd locals.

Any self-respecting travel blog must feature traditional recipes from any country visited, perhaps revisited as an integral part of the off-the-beaten-path tourist experience, so Pati started to experiment with local ingredients, selecting vegetarian options that can easily be upgraded to vegan.

“Becoming vegetarian is part of my personal life journey,” she says. Although she isn’t vegan (yet), she cooks vegan as much as she can: “I believe we all should do our best to contribute to the wellness of the world. Reducing meat consumption plays a massive part in it. I am a strong believer that we are on Earth just as visitors, and we need to respect the life and world that has been given to us. I embarked on my ‘no meat’ journey in October 2018 and never looked back.”

She’s been cooking since she was a teenager: “My friends say I can literally make anything out of nothing. My food is simple, everyday dishes. All the recipes featured in my blog I cooked myself numerous times.”

“Travelling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Pati picks dishes that are nutritious and delicious, as well as easy to prepare, and alongside the method, she explains the health benefits of each ingredient and how they come together in flavour. She plans, tries, tests and photographs each of her creations: “I cook a lot, I always have and I love it. Since stopping eating meat, I’ve become more creative in the kitchen and started to look for inspirations all over. I hope that as my recipe gallery grows, I could inspire others also.”

Personally, I took a shine to her ‘spiced veggie and lentils bowl’ because it spells fun in a spoonful, for a hearty lunch on a dull day with the tang of harissa lingering on your tasting buds while you’re curled on the sofa watching the rain fall down in sheets outside, and you need to boost your vitamin, fibre and iron intake.

And perhaps you’d like to top up your potassium levels with the ever-popular banana bread, presented in Pati’s vegan twist, rich in walnuts and pecans, for added minerals and polyunsaturated fats. This recipe has the added bonus of using baking soda for leavening, which is a valid alternative to brewer’s yeast, if you are intolerant to it, or just cannot find it on supermarket shelves, like it is happening in some countries, where people are making the most of lockdown by baking their homemade bread or pizza!

“I have to put on hold the travel blog for the time being,” Pati admits, “given the unprecedented times we find ourselves in right now. So, I am currently focusing on recipes and some inspirational/well-being posts. I have few past travel stories to tell so I am brushing upon those as well. Once we are free to travel again, I have some exciting plans that I definitely can’t wait to share with my readers. Currently, I treat my blog as my second job as I take it quite seriously.”

Pati shares her own experience of the lockdown in Malta, where she relocated after a few happy years in Gibraltar: “I arrived in Gibraltar in March 2015 and felt at home from day one. If it wasn’t for Brexit, probably I would have never left, yet I had to follow my company when it relocated. Gibraltar holds a big place in my heart, hence I did put a lot of effort and time into my post about the Rock, and I hope I did it justice.”

“It is upsetting seeing all our future travel plans melt away.”

She views and lives the lockdown on a small island as a ‘rollercoaster of emotions’: “As much as we all try to be grateful, for not having lost our job and still having food in the fridge, it is upsetting seeing all our future plans melt away, and the unknown of what’s to come can be depressing. I think it is important to face these feelings. I think we must be honest with our emotions: no beating ourselves up for feeling sad and frustrated is the key. It is important to stay close to our families and friends and talk to them as much as possible.”

This lockdown made her realise that there is no better time than now to do things one always wanted to do, but also to say things one have always wanted to say and be kind to others: “I hope we will all come out of this stronger and more compassionate towards others each other and Mother Nature.”

Visit patisjourneywithin.com to ‘find your soul’, visit Gibraltar, Rome, Istanbul and Malta with a fresh pair of eyes, and, why not, taste rigatoni in red pesto with a twist…? Now, that is a tummy-tantalising tongue twister!