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Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: February 2017 Edition

In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, and what’s next for me.

Where I’ve Been

I can’t believe that this month had only 28 days – it feels like I’ve packed so much into February: Tel Aviv, Berlin, Erfurt, Cologne, New York, and in Ecuador I’ve already visited Quito, the Galápagos Islands, Guayaquil and Montañita, where I am right now. I took nine planes, starting the month in the Middle East and ending it in South America:

  1. Tel Aviv – Berlin
  2. Dusseldorf- Lisbon
  3. Lisbon – NYC
  4. NYC – Houston
  5. Houston – Quito
  6. Quito – Guayaquil
  7. Guayaquil- Baltra
  8. San Cristobal – Baltra
  9. Baltra – Guayaquil
February flights
Flying in February included the tiniest plane I’ve ever been on – and I got to play co-pilot!

What I’ve Been Up To

This month was a crazy travel month, and yet I managed to fit in a whole bunch of work as well and I’m not feeling completely exhausted, because I was taking things slow.

I wrapped up my Israel trip with a couple of days in Tel Aviv before a whirlwind 24 hours in Berlin to see some friends before leaving Germany. From there, I went to my hometown to say goodbye to my sister and my nephew and packed up everything I needed to get settled in New York City.

Flying to NYC from Düsseldorf meant I was able to spend some time with my friend Jo in Cologne, and then I had five days in New York to get a taste of an East Coast winter before escaping to South America. And what a taste I got: I arrived just before a massive blizzard hit New York, the biggest snowstorm I’ve ever experienced!February 2017 travels

That’s as much winter as I could take (I had decided not to bring my winter coat because I was going to leave for Latin America after a few short days in NYC!), and luckily I left for Ecuador after five days in the Big Apple – just enough time to catch up with friends, eat some of my favorite foods and treat myself to a cronut (no pizza though, major fail!).

This was the first time I entered the U.S. on my brand new green card, which I was pretty nervous about after the travel ban just a couple of weeks earlier. Who knew if a spontaneous decision to now temporarily ban ALL green card holders from entering the US would come into effect while I was in the air! But I was let in without any problems, and one of the immigration officers greeted me with a big smile and a ‘Welcome to America!’, but a grumpier officer pointed out that I was lucky to have gotten the green card when I did, mentioning that a bill terminating the Diversity Visa Program (Green Card Lottery) had already been presented to Congress.

Anyway, after reading way too many stories about immigrants being stranded somewhere, unable to return to their homes and families, all I could think while I was entering the U.S. without any issues: White Privilege. I haven’t felt that way in a long time.

February 2017 picturesArriving in Ecuador felt both terrifying and relieving. On the one hand, I was a bit anxious about traveling by myself for the first time in months, but on the other hand I was craving some alone time after being surrounded by people all the time since mid-December.

I started my travels through Ecuador in Quito, which admittedly, didn’t impress me much, and from there I flew down to Guayaquil, the country’s biggest port town, to start my bucket list trip: a four-day cruise through the Galápagos Islands. And the trip definitely lived up to my expectations – I can’t wait to tell you more about all the wildlife, the incredible scenery and life on a 16-passenger yacht.

After the cruise I spent a few days in Guayaquil to catch up on work, and yet again I have to say that the city didn’t wow me. The humidity and heat (even during the night it wouldn’t drop below 80°F) took a while to get used to, and I started craving a nice ocean breeze, which is why I decided to go to Montañita next, the country’s most popular surf town.
February 2017

Now on to the highlights and lowlights of the month:

Highlights

Cruising Around the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands have been on my travel wish list for as long as I can remember – as a wildlife and nature lover, this is a must-visit destination. However, the remoteness of the islands and the hefty price tags of the cruises make it difficult to visit the islands – so difficult that only 79,000 people visit the Galapagos every year! When I got the chance to hop on a four-day cruise (on a luxury yacht no less) I didn’t think twice. And the islands were everything I had dreamed they’d be: wildlife galore, and the best thing is that no matter if you’re underwater or on land, the animals don’t really care that you are there and aren’t bothered by you. This is how I ended up swimming with penguins and seals, sharks and turtles, manta rays and hundreds of colorful fish. On the islands, I got to hang out with giant tortoises, saw blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and pelicans, watched sea lions own the port towns as if they had been built for them. It was a fascinating experience that I won’t forget anytime soon.
Galapagos Islands
A Writer’s Retreat in the Ecuadorian Cordillera

When I said I was taking things slow this month, that’s mainly because I had to get a lot of writing done, which I can only do when I am settled in a tranquil place where I don’t have a lot of distractions. So when I stumbled upon a center for artists on AirBnb, nestled into the mountains near the beach town of Montañita, I thought it was perfect for a writer’s retreat. A little cabin with a desk, a hammock to swing in, but not much else, except for hikes to nearby villages. The place itself is gorgeous – only a few cabins, set in a lush green valley filled with fruit trees and coffee plants. It was the perfect getaway for a few days to get some writing done, including my monthly round-up.
Ecuador cabin getaway
Gorgeous Spring Days In Tel Aviv

Oh Tel Aviv! My love affair with Israel’s second city is still going strong and hasn’t faded one bit since my last visit. I started the month in Tel Aviv and was blessed with glorious weather which meant I could go on long beach runs, cycle along the coast line and simply wander the streets of the city. Having been to Tel Aviv twice before, I didn’t feel the pressure to do a whole bunch of sightseeing – instead, i revisited old favorites such as the Florentin neighborhood for street art, Carmel market to pick up some goodies to bring back to Germany, and Old Jaffa because the ancient port town is still one of my favorite parts of Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv 2017
24 Hours in Berlin

I only had a mere 24 hours in Berlin – just enough to catch up with a few friends and to do some of my favorite things: go for a run in Tempelhof, the airport-turned-park in Neukölln, eat Vietnamese food (I always eat Vietnamese food when I’m in Berlin, it’s so good there!), and soak in the special Berlin aura – it just doesn’t feel like anywhere else in Germany.
berlin street art
A Snow day in New York

One thing I’d been worried about with regards to moving to New York more permanently? Winter. The long, harsh east coast winters. After having escaped winter for so many years, I asked myself if I could really survive an entire winter in New York, but I actually enjoyed my first ever real blizzard and a couple of snow days.

This might have been because of the novelty of it, but I am now less worried about going stir-crazy in the winter months. Of course I will try to continue to get away during the colder months, but once I’m more settled, I have to face that I might not be able to go on a three-month winter escape anymore – we’ll see.

Luckily I had picked up a warm vest in Cologne before boarding my flight after reading that NYC expected a major snowstorm – I would have died in my thin summer jacket.
New York Snow Day February 2017

Lowlights

Skyroam Fail

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about being offline for four days on the Galápagos Islands, especially during a busy work month like I’m having this month. So I was happy I remembered my new Skyroam device, a hotspot you can use to connect to wifi in over 100 countries – only to find out that it’s not working in Ecuador!

galapagos beach dani
Do I really need Wi-Fi here?

What I discovered during my forced digital detox was that the world doesn’t end when I’m offline for a few days and that I should make it a point to disconnect more often. It felt good not to be glued to my phone the whole time! However, dealing with 250 emails upon my return to Wifi-land was quite overwhelming – and that was a small number because I was on the cruise over a weekend.

Losing Stuff

This has been an ongoing thread in my monthly round-ups: barely a month goes by without me losing anything. I was surprised I made it through January without losing anything or leaving anything on public transportation (like my laptop on a plane in December!). But this month, I managed to lose something important: I left a little bag in which I store my electronics in my Airbnb in Berlin and wasn’t able to recover it before flying to New York. This bag has everything from various charger cords to SD cards to my camera charger. I had to replace everything before my trip to Ecuador, but I hope that I can recover the bag when I get back to Germany – however, that won’t be any time soon.

manglaralto beach cocktail
Cheers to not losing anything else after that incident at the beginning of the month

Other Happenings

No Coffee February

No-Coffee-February was so much harder than No-Booze-January! I guess that shows me where my addictive tendencies really lie. On my first day without caffeine I got such a bad headache in the afternoon that I was already ready to give up. If you’ve ever experienced caffeine withdrawal headaches, you know what I am talking about. But I stuck with it and fought the craving for coffee, despite jet lag and tiredness. It got easier as the month went on, but whenever the smell of freshly roasted coffee hit my nose, I wanted a cup of coffee so bad. Since I don’t drink soda (Coke) and don’t drink black tea, I went nearly caffeine-free for the longest time since 2004, but I did drink green tea which still has caffeine, albeit much less than coffee.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t feel the urge to drink alcohol after staying off it all of January, which is a good thing, I guess. But the few times that I had a drink it usually made me feel terrible (headaches) and super sleepy.

I am now looking forward to my first cup of coffee, but being in a beach town means there is usually not a lot of good coffee around, and I am a coffee snob, which means I might even extend my coffee detox for a few more days.

hot chocolate and truffels
Enjoying hot chocolate and truffles – instead of coffee. Both will be off limits next month.

In March I’ll take it easier with a no-chocolate month, which shouldn’t be all that difficult considering most chocolate I’ve seen in Ecuador so far is cheap and made of more sugar than cacao, but then looking at this photo I might be a little too confident here.

Business Ups & Downs

After months of frustration over the company that hosts my website, who kept shutting my site down, I thought I had finally resolved these issues last fall. But this month, they shut my site down for over 24 hours, and that happened while I was in the middle of negotiating a new business contract. Of course it doesn’t look great when a client wants to work with you can’t access your site. And who knows what other opportunities I missed out on because of that.

On the upside, I did have my most lucrative month in a very long time thanks to two new contracts, one of which is an ongoing freelance gig. I hope it stays like this, but usually my income fluctuates a lot, so I am not overly confident.
tel aviv florentin street art life is complex
Features

I was featured in these two articles this month:

Connect with me on Pepo!

I’m still enjoying Pepo, a new chat app that I downloaded last month which connects you with people who share your passions – ranging from topics like food and street art to travel. I created a Globetrottergirls chat (boys are welcome to join, too 😉 ) in which I talk about travel, share favorite places and travel tips and answer your questions. You can also start a private chat with me on Pepo. I’d love to see you in my public chat and have you join the conversation.dani pepo

What’s Next For Me

I will be spending the entire month in Ecuador, and because the country is so tiny, it means I can take my time in each place and slowly make my way from Vilcabamba in the south to Otavalo in the north. I don’t have any plans in between, except for mountain biking down Cotopaxi Volcano and the ‘swing on the edge of the world’ in Baños, so if you have been to Ecuador and have tips for me for things I shouldn’t miss, let me know!
EcuadorIn April, I’ll be returning to Central America for the first time since 2012 – has it really been that long?! I’m in the process of putting together another dream trip for me and my favorite travel buddies, but I won’t tell you where I’m going until everything is set in stone, flights are booked and a route chosen.

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