Travel Reflections

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: September 2016 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

After spending three glorious weeks in South California, I did indeed go on the surprise trip that I briefly mentioned in last month’s round-up: an 8-day hiking trip to Italy! Sadly, I didn’t have time to extend my time in Europe because I had already booked a flight to Seattle, where I just arrived and will be spending all of October.september 2016 pics

Life Lately

I had ambitious plans for my time in Southern California – from trips along to the Pacific Coast Highway to canyon hikes, L.A. neighborhood explorations, museums, side trips to San Diego and Joshua Tree… but as so often, I barely crossed half of these things off of my to-do-list. Especially once the Italy trip got confirmed, during which I knew I wouldn’t be able to work whatsoever, I tried to get as much work done as possible so that I could head to Europe without feeling I’d be drowning in work upon my return to the U.S. I had to scrap my trips to San Diego and Joshua Tree, two things I’d been very much looking forward to (especially Joshua Tree where I haven’t been yet), but I have a feeling this won’t be my last time in Southern California, so I’m not too upset about that.september travelsThe trip to Italy didn’t get 100% confirmed until the week before I boarded my plane to Rome, but turned out to be a dream trip. I was able to walk parts of the historic Via Amerina which leads from Assisi to Rome and is one of five major pilgrims’ routes in Italy. The path ends – of course – at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City where we arrived on Wednesday in time for the Pope’s weekly audience. I will talk about the trip throughout this round-up but can’t wait to share more about my hike with you in detailed articles next month.Via Amerina italyLet’s take a quick look about what went right and what went wrong this month…


Walking through Italy

You might have noticed that I love multi-day treks: in the past couple of years I walked the 5-day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, I walked the National Trail in Israel, and this year the 4-day jungle & mountain trek to the Lost City in Colombia. While I haven’t managed to find time to walk the Camino de Santiago (a 3-week trek through Northern Spain) this year, I managed to make time for a 5-day walk through Italy’s Umbria and Lazio regions. The trip ended up exceeding my expectations by far, with 15-20 kilometer of walking per day through Italy’s picturesque countryside, followed by afternoon explorations of quaint little towns and gorging on scrumptious Italian food (and wines). My group of international hikers (Britain, Italy, Germany, Poland, Portugal and China were represented) got along great, and I got to know a region of Italy I hadn’t really known prior to this trip.walking through italyAnd a final thought: I went on an epic hike in September 2014, now the great hike in Italy in September 2016 – does this mean that in September 2018 I’ll be finally walking the Camino? 😉

Returning to Rome

I hadn’t been to Rome in years, and finishing the walk in a city I love was the icing on the cake. My only regret is that I didn’t have more time – ideally I would’ve liked to spend at least a full week there – but I tried to make the most of the full day I had in Rome and vouched to be back soon. I hadn’t been to Rome since I started traveling full-time and wasn’t sure if I’d still be as impressed by the city as I’d been on my previous three visits (which all happened before I got to know remarkable cities like New York, Buenos Aires or Hong Kong), but yes: Rome didn’t fail to impress me, even the fourth time around. The way historic landmarks are scattered around the city, right next to more modern, yet distinctively Italian architecture, and the historic significance of Rome make it exceptional in a way no other city compares to.Rome

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway (again)

While I didn’t get around to drive up to San Francisco again (which I did in 2010), I did get around to drive the southern part again – not all the way to San Diego, but to Newport Beach. I’ve already raved about that trip in my Polaroid of the week, so I won’t bore you again with how much I love Southern California, but I felt truly blessed that I was able to do this coastal drive not just once in my life, but twice (and I have a feeling I might be able to do it a third time!)southern PCH

The hike to the Hollywood Sign

Another thing I’ve already raved about in a Polaroid of the week, but this was one of the top three things I really wanted to do while I was back in the L.A. area (the other two being Joshua Tree, which I didn’t get around to, and exploring Silver Lake, which I did do and wrote about here). After not using my feet a lot this month (except for my daily runs), this was the perfect preparation for my hike in Italy.Hollywood sign hike

New friends & reader meet-ups

I was able to meet a couple of followers and Twitter ‘friends’ this month who turned out to be amazing people. Once again I couldn’t be more grateful for this little website and where it led me, and to the people I met through it. And then there was my hiking group which I’ve mentioned before was fantastic, and I am sure that I will see several of my fellow hikers again.italy hikers

Dog love

After being bitten by the dog I was dog sitting last month, I was somewhat afraid of Henry, my friend’s dog I was looking after in Long Beach. But my fears were completely unfounded: Henry was an amazing companion, and I am missing our daily cuddle sessions and our visits to the dog beach. I hope I’ll get to look after him again – one of the best dogs I’ve dog sat for, and you know that I’ve been looking after quite a few pets!dog love


A broken phone (again!)

I feel like I just dealt with a broken phone (remember when my phone didn’t turn on anymore while I was in Germany in July and my iPhone had to be reset, causing me to lose a whole bunch of data?) and now, despite having invested in a decent glass screen protector, I somehow managed to scratch my screen. So much so that the left half of the touch screen isn’t working anymore, making my phone pretty much useless. This happened in Italy, and I am still not sure how, since it did NOT fall, but it was very annoying since I was shooting video on it, snapchatting, instagramming and using it pretty much all the time when I could get online instead of having to carry my laptop on the hike. I am still debating if I should replace the screen again (I had just replaced it in June) or get a new phone entirely, now that the iPhone 7 is out.SoCal

L.A. traffic

Need I say more? 😉 My friend who I housesat for left me her car, which I quickly realized without you are screwed in Southern California – public transportation is pretty much non-existent in the extended L.A. area, which means everyone is depending on a car. While I was super grateful to have a car to get around in, I was frustrated almost every time I went somewhere, because no matter what time it was I was sitting in traffic. Heavy traffic at 6am caused me even to nearly miss my flight to Italy. Luckily, the area where I was staying had plenty of coffee shops and restaurants in walking distance, so I wasn’t relying on a car.. and I had a bicycle which got quite a bit of use, too.

redondo beach california
What I wish L.A. traffic would be like!!

A bit of a funk

There were a few personal things at the beginning of the month that didn’t go as planned, which led me to fall in a bit of a funk. It took me a while to get out of again. Thus, I wasn’t feeling as ‘social’ as I usually am, not socializing as much as I would’ve liked to and curling up on my sofa instead. Well, it might have also been a combination of Stranger Things, general exhaustion and the daunting thought of sitting in the L.A. traffic yet again that made me become a bit of a hermit for a couple of weeks. I guess things can’t always be perfect, and luckily I got out of my funk as soon as I arrived in beautiful Italy. This trip was just what the doctor ordered.

A bit of a funk doesn’t mean I enjoyed my time in Southern California!

Ongoing website issues

I can’t believe that I am still talking about this, since this has been going on since June now (and I already bitched about it in last month’s round-up). My website is still giving me headaches – I couldn’t even publish this article in time because the site was offline! The site was down for several hours nearly every day, and it is simply embarrassing when readers email or tweet me that they can’t access the article they want to read. Even more frustrating? When this happens while I am hiking in Italy, unable to fix these issues or get in touch with my web host. Who, by the way, I threw a lot of money at this month to get a better hosting plan, but so far, this doesn’t seem like it worked. This will be the main thing on my agenda in October, since it is not only costing me readers but also income. silver lake los angeles street art1

Other happenings

I haven’t written about lesbian travel in a while on Globetrottergirls, but I shared my thoughts on traveling as a lesbian over on Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site. Check it out here: Lesbian Travel: 4 Things To Know

What’s next for me

I just arrived in Seattle, a brand new city for me! I will be spending the entire month here, giving me enough time to get a good feel for the city – one that I’ve been wanting to visit for a really long time. When I spent a month in Austin earlier this year I realized that this is just the right amount of time to get to see all the sights, go on a few hikes, eat and drink my way around town (after all the wine I drank in Italy I am so ready for some good craft beer!). Plus: I’ll have several special visitors coming to see me in Seattle which will make it even more fun, but I will tell you all about that in my October round-up (including what brings me to Seattle in the first place – hint: it involves tiny house living! If you don’t know what a tiny house is, click here)southern california

If you have been to Seattle and have some recommendations for me for things I should check out, please share them in the comments! And if you are in Seattle and would like to meet up, get in touch 🙂

As usual, you can follow my adventures in real time on Snapchat: mariposa2711




read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: August 2016 Edition

august 2016

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 started the month in Germany – a rushed three-city trip to Erfurt, Leipzig and Berlin to say goodbye to my nephew, nieces, my brother and my sister. Because my flight was out of Berlin, I decided to head there a day early to meet up with some friends before flying back to the States.August 2016 Germany and New York

Most of the month was spent in New York, but I boarded a plane to Los Angeles yesterday, and I’ll be spending the next few weeks in Southern California.. but I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s look back at the past 31 days:

Life Lately

First of all – albeit traveling much less this month, I ended up sleeping in 8 different beds in the past 31 days, only three less than in July! So much for slowing down…
new york cityOverall, August was a weird month, because I felt somewhat unsettled and uneasy the entire time, even though I was ecstatic about being back in New York. I missed most of my beloved New York summer this year, and was happy to get to spend at least one month there. And August is such an amazing month in NYC – it was scorching hot (much needed after I was chilly most of the time I was in Germany!), there were plenty of outdoor activities: open-air movies, sunset dates, rooftop drinks, bike rides, New York pizza (time to update my New York Pizza Guide again), beach days, kayaking, picnics in the park and island getaways (Governors Island and Fire Island). I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted, but reflecting on the past month now I feel like I fit in a lot, considering the heavy workload I was dealing with.

NYC 2016

One thing that made me feel uneasy the entire month were incidents in my personal circle. I am a worrier, always concerned for my partner, my family, my friends, and when I know that somebody is not feeling well or facing some major hurdles, I can’t help but hurting / worrying for them. If you are subscribed to my newsletter*, you know that my life is in turmoil at the moment, and I think what also contributed to me feeling so unsettled is that I am currently not able to plan much for the coming months.

On the bright side: I loved getting back into a routine as that’s what I am craving at the moment: a workout routine, a fridge filled with my favorite foods, a kitchen to cook in, friends to hang out with. Not knowing where I’ll be two months from now makes me feel restless instead of excited to see what the future brings. I am definitely ready for a home base that goes beyond a few weeks at a time, something I already said at the beginning of the year – and yet it is more difficult than one might think to find a place to call home. For one, I am very picky and have a number of requirements that need to be fulfilled, and then there’s the issue that visa restrictions leave me with limited options. But that’s for another post. For now, let’s look at the highlights and lowlights of the past month:

nyc dani pebble beach

What went right

Island getaway

Just when I started getting completely overwhelmed with work projects once again, I decided on a whim to join some of my friends out on Fire Island, where they were enjoying a little summer getaway. I’d been trying to get out to Fire Island for the past two summers and I was ecstatic to finally see this highly-praised little island off the coast of Long Island for myself. This happened to be during the hottest days of summer in New York, and it was just what the doctor had ordered. I didn’t bring my laptop and I took a grand total of three photos the entire time I was out there. It was a good reminder that I need to get away from my laptop and the time suck that’s the internet. My time on the island was much too short, by the way, and just whetted my appetite for more. Hopefully next summer!

fire island beach
One of the three photos I took on Fire Island

Kayaking in the East River

Another thing that’s been on my to-do-list for a really long time? Kayaking on the East River. There are several places where you can kayak for free during the summer on both the East River and the Hudson River, and the spot I had picked was Brooklyn Bridge Park for its great views over the Manhattan skyline right across the river. When I finally found time to go kayaking, it was cloudy and it even rained just before we hit the water, but it was a great experience nonetheless. The majestic skyline, being back in a kayak (I hadn’t been in one since I went kayaking in Austin in May), and the best kayaking buddy one could ask for. We continued the evening with a pizza from Juliana’s at Pebble Beach, one of my favorite places to watch the sunset from, and finished the night with New York Cheesecake and Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Perfect.kayaking in new york

Reuniting with my bicycle

dani and lolaI know that the saying goes ‘home is where the heart is’ but more fitting for me is ‘home is where my bike is’, and that’s New York City. After a failed attempt to release her from her temporary storage before flying to Germany in June, I finally got Lola (yes, she has a name!) back this month. Whizzing around New York on my bike is one of my favorite things to do in the summer (see last July’s roundup), and even though I didn’t get to take her out as often as I would have liked, it felt glorious every time we went for a wild ride.

What went wrong

Too little time with friends

It took me almost two weeks to get out of my work cocoon and my ‘I can only meet you if you come down to my ‘hood’ because I’m so busy with work attitude’, leaving not much time to see friends. Some of my closest friends in New York who I was really looking forward to see I didn’t get to hang out with at all, which left me majorly disappointed, other friends I only got to see one or two times, and others only for a quick catch-up session. Too little time. Realizing how hard it is to schedule things with people left me feeling pretty frustrated – it seems like in New York everyone is always busy. But then there were a few people who always made time for me and who were also up for spontaneous shenanigans, so not all hope is lost, I guess.

Friends in New York

Poor time management

governors island dani1
Goal for September: more Me-Time

I don’t want to blame spending not enough time with my friends only on them – I am also to be blamed here, because I feel like my time management was terrible this month. Considering how many hours I spent in front of my laptop I made also much less progress on my workload than one would expect, and achieved less than I wanted to achieve. Most of the month I felt just overwhelmed by all the things I needed to get done and I even completely forgot two article deadlines. Luckily I remembered them the day before the articles were due and managed to meet them (sacrificing sleep) but this happened to me a couple of times in July already and I need to get more organized with the various projects I work on and clients I work with. Not only did I feel like I didn’t get enough time with my friends, but I also felt like I didn’t get enough much needed me-time, after barely having any time to myself in July.

Bitten by a dog
…and not just any dog, but a dog I was dog sitting for. I had briefly mentioned a ‘difficult housesit‘ in July 2015, but it wasn’t difficult enough for me not to accept the offer for a repeat housesit this year when the client asked me to come back.

Well, this was a first for me: the dog bit me. It was quite a painful bite, and luckily I had just gotten all my vaccinations renewed when I was in Germany last month, which saved me the trip to the doctor. The pup and I made up again after it happened and ended our time together with a big love fest – he is usually very sweet – but I admit that for a minute I was really freaked out and got a little scared of the dog (who is on meds for anxiety and depression).

dog bite
He is the sweetest dog… almost always.

Losing things

Here we go again, the most frequent mention under ‘What went wrong’: me losing things. And I have to go back to July, because I completely forgot to include in my July round-up that I left a brand new jacket in an airport toilet stall in London Gatwick – complete with my sister’s car keys in them. This caused a huge hassle of me getting to my sister’s house when I was house and dog sitting for her last month, and not to mention that I lost her spare set of car keys. Plus a jacket I really digged but only got to wear once. Despite emailing Gatwick’s Lost & Found office and detailing my lost items, they were never to be seen again.

ferry ride to red hook
As long as I don’t lose my camera… right?

This month, I left my portable charger in New York when I left for L.A. (an item I use on a daily basis!!), I left earrings behind in several places, and god knows what else. Nothing was as bad as leaving my $300 headphones on a plane back in April and a bunch of stuff in March, but still, I could’ve done without losing anything or forgetting stuff in random places.

Other happenings

Website ups & downs

At first, I wanted to put it under What went right: Website progression… but later in the month, it turned into What went wrong: Huge website hassle. I’ve mentioned before that I had big issues getting my redesigned site up and running in June (and July), and felt like I was finally making progress this month. Until my hosting company started to shut down the site… all.the.time. At the moment, I feel like the site is down more often than not, and I am facing a pricey move over to another hosting company. I do hope that this will resolve all website-related issues I’ve been dealing with over the past three months, but the redesign is still far from finished, to be honest.

pancake breakfast
Copious amounts of pancakes helped me through hours of tears and frustration because of tech issues

Income boost

I got a nice income boost thanks to some unexpected affiliate income this month, but since it went straight into paying my tech guy and my assistant, I didn’t really get to enjoy the extra income.

What’s next for me

As I’ve already said – I will be spending the majority of the month in the L.A. area, and hopefully I will be able to visit friends in San Diego while I’m there. I am excited to reunite with one of my best friends in L.A., and to get to hang out with a friend I made on my travels – funnily enough, I am dog sitting for her while she sets off on her honeymoon to Europe and Northern Africa.beach day riis gay beach

And then there’s a trip in the works that I am ridiculously excited about – but since no flight tickets have been purchased as of now, I am not going to spill anything just yet. Let’s just say that if things go as planned, my next update will be coming from another continent and from a country I love dearly (any guesses?).

*If you’re subscribed to my newsletter and didn’t get anything in your inbox on 11 August, check your spam folder – I’ve been told by several subscribers that GoogleMail threw it right into the spam folder. If you’re not subscribed but want to get news beyond the blog, exclusive giveaways and travel tips quarterly, you can subscribe here.

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: July 2016 Edition

july 2016

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. 


This has been my busiest travel month in a long time: in Germany I traveled to Berlin, Dusseldorf, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Leipzig and Erfurt, and I took an unexpected trip to the UK, where I returned to two places I’ve spent a lot of time in over the past decade: London and Brighton.July 2016 Germany and England


I already mentioned in my June round-up that I felt like I hadn’t stopped moving since arriving in Germany, and I didn’t think it was possible to travel even more, but that’s exactly what I did. I had no plans to come to Germany this summer, but unforeseen circumstances forced me to book a one-way ticket (I promise I’ll talk about it as soon as I can – a post about it is already in the works), leaving me also unsure of when I’d be able to return to the States. So I decided to make the most of my trip to my home country and to visit as many friends as possible – it just so happens that my friends live scattered all over Germany.

While trips I was thinking about taking (Switzerland, Croatia, Prague and France) didn’t happen in the end, I managed to sleep in 11 different beds in the past 31 days, plus one night spent on an airport floor (I don’t want to talk about it..) and am even more exhausted than I was at the end of June. Luckily it looks like things are finally slowing down in August – you’ll find out where I’m headed in the What’s next for me section.July 2016 england and berlinMy trip to the UK wasn’t even on the cards yet when I wrote my last update, but it turned out to be one of the best weeks of the month. Looking back I have to say though that every single week of this month was fantastic: starting July with another week in Berlin, followed by a week visiting German friends in Dusseldorf and Cologne, meeting up with a friend from NYC in Frankfurt, and visiting one of my best friends and her family in Munich (sadly just after the Munich attack which put a damper on our reunion).

dani & odieAnd then I got to dog sit for my favorite dog in the world, which turned into a big love fest of cuddles over cuddles over cuddles (and lots of dog selfies, like this one here).

There were a couple of real lows, which I’ll get into in more detail below, but let’s start with the highlights of the month:

What went right

Returning to Brighton and London

I wasn’t sure about taking this trip, but I followed a gut feeling that said ‘go for it.’ And I’ve got absolutely no regrets – on the contrary.. as so often, everything fell into place for me there, I had a great time catching up with old friends in Brighton and meeting a new one, and finishing my trip with a picture-perfect London summer day. I wish I’d allocated more time for this trip, but my trip to Munich was already set in stone before the England trip was starting to evolve. The only downside was that I was working two jobs while I was there, making the goal I set in June – to get more sleep this month! – pretty much impossible. More on that below though – as for the ‘what went right’ part: I always seem to forget how much I love London – a love story that has been going on since my first visit in 1999. I still think that I might want to move back there one day. And Brighton. Same here – ever since I first went there in 2005, I’ve been enamored with the colorful town on England’s south coast, and being able to breathe the fresh sea air for a week was just what I needed.England 2016

Returning to Cologne

This is the month of returns to favorite places – another place close to my heart is Cologne, where I went to university for two years in the early 2000s. I don’t know how I’ve never made it back there, but I’m glad I finally got to return and spend a long weekend with a friend there. Speaking of which…

Spending time with people I love

Surrounding myself with people I love was definitely a huge highlight this month and something I don’t take for granted. And it made all the traveling & friendsJuly has been super fulfilling friendship-wise – I nourished friendships that mean a lot to me, got to spend quality time in person with people who I usually only get to hear over whatsapp voicemail or see via FaceTime calls. I don’t have a lot of friends left in Germany who are so close to me that we simply pick up where we left off when we last saw each other, but I feel lucky that I still have a handful of people who I can call ‘true friends’ and who I know will always be there for me, who I can count on.

What went wrong

A lost cat

Remember how I told you last month that I was beyond excited about a housesit in Berlin I’d gotten at the very last minute? Well, that delight didn’t last long: It was the first time ever that a pet escaped during a housesit. The cat didn’t really escape – she simply decided not to return from one of her daily neighborhood exploration tours. The owners’ apartment was located on the ground floor, allowing them to simply open their terrace door and let the cats go play outside for a while (the two cats were outdoor cats), making it super easy for me. In theory. I have never been as freaked out and worried during a housesit and felt terrible having to tell the owners that their cat had gone missing during my time cat sitting for them. To my relief, the cat came back when the owners returned from the festival they’d gone cat street art

iPhone disaster
My month was off to a disastrous start when not only the above mentioned incident happened – a cat escaping – but also my iPhone died during what was supposed to be a fun-filled weekend in Berlin. I was two complete days without a phone (horrendous for me, I don’t know how I made it through that alive! And yes, I know I’ve got an addiction problem here..) and when the Apple store tech guys finally had a free slot for me I was told I had to reboot it. For whatever reason, my backup was turned off, and so I lost a bunch of important notes (I tend to take notes for articles on my phone these days, sometimes even write entire articles on my phone when I’m in transit..), all my contacts, and a bunch of media I hadn’t saved anywhere else. Ouch.

phone addiction
Addicted to my phone? Me?!?

Sleep no more

I wish I was referring to the play Sleep No More that I saw in New York City a few years back (and loved!) but I literally don’t seem to sleep no more. Not because of insomnia, but simply because I’m trying to spin too many plates at once. I thought I was going to get more sleep this month when I wrote about it last month, but instead I got even less sleep. I went to bed at 2am every night and got up at 7am, leaving me completely knackered. I took on additional work this month and I have to admit that I am feeling exhausted.

What’s next for me

I’m returning to New York this week! I can’t wait to board the plane across the pond later this week and I have at least three months in the U.S. ahead of me – three months in three different places! While I am not going to spill anything about my October plans yet (they’re not 100% confirmed as of now) I can tell you already that my August round-up will be coming from California! Stay tuned for a month in and around New York, with a possible side trip to Florida (also not confirmed yet, but fingers crossed that it’ll happen!).

If you want to follow my travels, adventures and misadventures in real time, add me on snapchat: mariposa2711berlin girls

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: June 2016 Edition

june 2016

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 spent the first few days of the month in New York before flying to Germany, where I feel like I haven’t stopped moving since arriving. I spent most of my time in Berlin since getting here, but I left in between and also visited family and friends in Leipzig and Erfurt.June 2016 New York Germany

What I’ve been up to

I feel like I’ve done so many things this month that it’s hard to believe I fit them all into only 30 days.

I started with hitting up some of my favorite places in New York City, where I enjoyed the beautiful summer weather with runs in prospect park and Central Park, bike rides through Brooklyn, a street art tour of Bushwick, and all my favorite foods.

In Berlin, I welcomed my first visitor from NYC (the second one is due to arrive tomorrow morning!), which was of course the perfect opportunity to show off all the spots that I think make Berlin special, like the remaining part of the Berlin Wall, now filled with street art and murals, Tempelhof, previously an airport, now a massive urban park, the Turkish Market in Maybachufer, Mauerpark for the Sunday flea market and karaoke, Sonnenallee with its many cheap middle eastern eateries, Kreuzberg with its street art and quirky cafes. While this first visit was focused on seeing as much of Berlin as possible, I think my second time showing friends around will be more about going out, exploring Berlin’s nightlife and craft brew scene.

In between my trips to Berlin, I spent time with my nephew, I surprised friends in my hometown (this was an unplanned visit after all – two months ago I was still expecting to spend the whole summer in New York), I took my nieces to the lake, took my beloved Odie (my sister’s dog) on runs through the fields, enjoyed cooking and wine sessions with my sister-in-law and spoiled my family by cooking and baking for them.June 2016 funI also decided to finally deal with the remaining stuff from my last apartment – a dozen moving boxes stored in my mother’s house. These boxes had been there since I left London in 2010 and most of them had never been opened – for over six years now! A look through them and a major clean-out session were long overdue. I am giving away most of our stuff (I lived in an apartment with my girlfriend at the time for three years – most of the things are items we shared) like kitchen stuff which I brought up to Berlin for a friend who is moving into a new apartment today. Refugee help centers will get most of the clothes and bedding stuff, and we’ll see what I can do with the rest, but after six years of not touching any of it, it’s safe to say that I’m probably not going to use any of it again. That said – there are still quite a few things of emotional value which I’d never throw out!


Celebrity spottings

Well, I don’t think a lot of people would get excited about these ‘celebrities’, but in New York I saw two people whose work I deeply appreciate (and who couldn’t be more different from one another!). And I would be surprised if you knew them (if you do, please tell me in the comments!). First I saw Dominique Ansel, who is a celebrity baker raised to fame when he invented the famous cronut. Yup, a baker got me so excited that I acted like a teenager while I was munching on a scrumptious Nutella chocolate swirl croissant in one of his bakeries, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, while he was there too.

chocolate nutella swirl croissant
Hello there, chocolate nutella swirl croissant!

The other ‘celeb’ spotting had me even more ‘star struck’ – while my friend and I were marveling at the street art in Bushwick, I saw a guy working on a new giant mural – I didn’t even need to think about who it was because his style is so unmistakably him: Dasic Fernandez. I was beyond excited to see him work on a piece (right across from where he painted one of my all-time favorites last year, which is sadly gone now) but I was too shy to walk up to him.

dasic fernandez bushwick
The artist at work

House sitting luck

I stayed in a beautiful AirBnB studio apartment in Berlin during my first visit, but for my current visit I didn’t really know where to stay. And so I was excited when during my last visit a housesit popped up – right in the neighborhood I was staying in. I applied right away and heard back from the owners a few hours later. The next morning, I walked over there and met them, and less than a week later I moved in with two adorable cats. I love it when things work out like this!

Coworking in Berlin

One thing I keep complaining about is that working for myself can feel lonely sometimes, and I haven’t worked with other people in a while, except for one work session with a fellow nomad in Austin last month. That’s why I was really happy when I ended up having an impromptu blogger work session in Berlin last week – exchanging ideas with other bloggers always leaves me inspired and motivated to take my site to the next level. I wish I could do it more often!berlin coworking

Cycling in Berlin

When I returned to Berlin, it was the first time I didn’t have a bike waiting there for me – I am used to cycle around the city! This month, I was relying on public transportation instead and so I was thrilled when my friend and I rented bikes for a day and cycled all over Berlin. I know the bike lanes so much better than the subway or bus system!


First of all I want to say that while a few things weren’t great over the past few weeks, overall, June was a month without any major incidents – the first time this year that this happened!

Website redesign

I finally tackled something that had been looming over me like a big dark cloud since the beginning of the year but that I kept pushing back – because I knew it wouldn’t go smoothly. And how right I was: when I finally implemented a new website design this month, every imaginable thing that could go wrong went wrong. If you were one of the poor souls who tried to navigate the site mid-June, I apologize! I have spent most of the month trying to iron out errors and bugs but I’m still far from done and I have to admit that the site doesn’t look anything like the image I had in mind, but at least I’ve gotten it to a point where I don’t cringe anymore every time I visit my site, and I think I’ve finally found a WordPress wizard who can help me fix the rest, after hiring someone earlier this month who did a terrible job.

A bike accident

dani biking berlin
A little accident can’t stop me!

While my cycle day in Berlin was definitely a highlight for this bicycle aficionado, unfortunately it didn’t end without a bruised leg and bloody knee – I fell, and I’m still suffering from the painful incident. However – I am lucky that I didn’t break anything or hit my head!

Emotional roller coaster

This month had me on an emotional roller coaster for various reasons that deserve their own post. I already hinted on some life changing happenings in my May round-up but still can’t say too much about them.. I will share them as soon as everything is set in stone.

Sleep deprivation

Somehow I haven’t managed to sleep for more than five hours a night for most of the month, and I can feel the effects from it.. I am exhausted. I feel just as tired as I was during and after my crazy Europe trip last summer! I hope that July will bring more sleep.

June 2016 Berlin New York

What’s next for me

I will leave Berlin for Düsseldorf and Cologne next week where I’ll be visiting friends, and then continue my Tour de Germany to see friends in Frankfurt and Munich. I am trying to fit in as many friend visits as possible while I’m here because I just don’t know when I’ll be back.

I am also discussing a couple of European trips for July, but everything is still in early stages and I’m not sure if any of those trips will happen, but stay tuned – my next update could come from an exciting (and for me new) destination!

I might share some exclusive news in my summer newsletter which will be sent out in July – if you haven’t signed up for it yet, you can do that here! Exclusive news or not – it will be packed with cool giveaways!June 2016

If you want to follow my Berlin and Germany adventures in real time, add me on snapchat: mariposa2711

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: May 2016 Edition

May 2016

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

This month I spent between three US cities I love: New York, Austin and Tucson. I also road tripped through the Southwest, visited Dallas for the first time, and spent time with some amazing people. Overall, a great month.May 2016 Arizona Texas

May Highlights

Spending nearly a month in Austin

Austin had been on my travel wish list for a while, but I always knew that I wanted to dedicate some time to exploring the city, not just a long weekend. After all, Austin is known to be a foodie city and I had more restaurant and bar recommendations than I could possibly check out in a month, let alone a weekend. And so I didn’t have to think long when a housesitting opportunity for nearly four weeks came up. And I am so glad that I spent so much time in Austin – it quickly became one of my favorite cities in the US, and I even could see myself returning for a longer stint (although I feel like I’m cheating on NYC just by saying this out loud!). You can read all the things that made me fall for Austin here: Polaroid of the week: Wonderfully weird AustinAustin Texas

First time SUPing

I had several people come visit me in Austin which meant: a good excuse to do a lot of sightseeing. We kayaked on the river, checked out some museums, hiked in the Barton Creek Greenbelt (basically a forest area in the city with lots of hiking trails), bar hopped our way through Austin’s nightlife districts, sampled food trucks, went on a wine tasting trip to the Texas Hill Country, watched the flight of the bats, and saw live music. But my favorite thing? Finally going stand-up paddling, something I’ve been wanting to try for a while now. And I had a blast! I am pretty sure that this is something I’ll be incorporating more often into my travels from now on, and I’m already contemplating where I could try it out on the ocean (which I feel will be much harder than on the calm Colorado River in Austin!). I think that this could happen in California later this year. And then: SUP yoga. Okay, who am I kidding here.. I don’t think I have a good enough balance for a headstand on a paddle board, but who knows.stand up paddling austin

Road tripping through the Southwest

I was supposed to fly from Tucson to Austin, but at the very last minute, the opportunity for a road trip with a travel buddy arose, and of course I jumped on it. We decided to break up the long drive (900 miles) into three days: to White Sands, New Mexico on the first day, Big Bend National Park the second day to hike the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, and then the remaining distance to Austin on day 3.

While this plan didn’t quite work out as planned (see What Went Wrong below), it was a fantastic road trip. I love the barren scenery of the Southwest, returning to White Sands was everything I hoped for, and I had great company – which was important, especially on the long drag of the I-10 from El Paso to Fredericksburg, which doesn’t have any road side attractions and is apparently the most boring part of the I-10 (which runs from coast to coast).Road Trip May 2016

Returning to White Sands

I loved the white dunes of White Sands when I visited this desert in the south of New Mexico in 2013, and I loved it the second time around, too. Even though I’d been here before, the dozens upon dozens of dunes, the bright white sand, the solitude and tranquility of this place – everything had me in awe again. And this time around, I got to experience two things I missed out on when I came here during my New Mexico road trip – I got to sled down some of the dunes, and I got to see the sunset. Would I visit White Sands a third time? Absolutely!White Sands New Mexico

Exploring Dallas

If you read last week’s Polaroid, you already know that Dallas wasn’t really on my list of must-see places, but I am not one to turn down an opportunity to check out a new city, and so I found myself in Dallas for a weekend – and pleasantly surprised by the city! Dallas, as it turns out, is way cooler than I thought it’d be, and I regretted immediately that I hadn’t allowed more time for my visit. I loved especially Deep Ellum, a trendy neighborhood with clubs, bars and great restaurants, and I hope I’ll get the chance to return one day to explore more of Dallas.Deep Ellum Dallas

What went wrong

Road trip fail

We were on our way to Big Bend National Park on Day 2 of our road trip, had finally left the quite boring I-10 and were driving towards the Mexican border when on the completely deserted road a Prada Store appeared on the right side. A Prada store in the middle of nowhere?! It had been about twenty minutes since we even saw the last house! Of course we had to stop to photograph the store. And that’s when I realized that my camera bag wasn’t in the car. We had driven for three hours from Las Cruces and were two hours from Big Bend. I knew exactly where I’d seen the bag the last time: Under the desk in our hotel room in Las Cruces. Shoot. What to do?!

prada art store texas
The Prada ‘store’ in the middle of nowhere

In the end, we decided to drive the three hours back to Las Cruces, because a) I didn’t want to go to Big Bend without my camera gear and b) I was afraid that my gear would get damaged or lost in the mail if i asked the hotel to ship it to Austin, and I had just replaced my lens that broke after the attempted robbery in Mexico City last month. And so we drove back to Las Cruces, on the most boring stretch of the I-10, only to drive it again, for the third time, the next day. Oh well.. I guess it could have been worse, and luckily we discovered it not only in Big Bend, which would have meant a five hour drive back to Las Cruces.

However – I kept thinking how lucky I was to not have lost all of my camera gear – this could have ended much worse than with an additional 6 or 7 hours in the car.road trip

A broken screen

You might have noticed by now that I’m just not very good with electronics.. I lose them, I break them, I washed them (a USB stick, not too long ago), and this month it was the screen of my beloved iPhone that had to stand in for this category. My phone falls .. often.. But this month, I finally managed to break the screen (something I hadn’t done in a while) – and not just crack the screen, but really break it.

broken iphone

Emotional roller coaster

…and that’s all I am going to say about it. Or to borrow Taylor’s words: ‘Heartbreak is the national anthem, we sing it proudly.’ That song was playing a lot on the radio this month and I could relate well to this line.heartbreak is the national anthem

Financial struggles

I don’t want to go into detail here either, but let’s just say that the life of a freelancer is not always as glamorous as it might seem. I get to travel a lot, yes, but trust me, I don’t make a lot of money, and this month was a tough one.May 2016 pics

What’s next for me

An unexpected change of plans

I am only spending a few days in NYC before I’m flying to Germany! I had no plans to visit my home country until October, but a sudden turn of events is bringing me back to Europe for a while. Unfortunately I can’t talk about the details just yet, but I hope I can shed some light on the recent events in next month’s round-up or in July at the latest. Let’s just say that this could be life changing, and I am not exaggerating here.

Of course I’m super bummed out about missing on some fun in the sun in NYC (y’all know by now how much I love my New York summers) but 1) I hope I’ll be back stateside soon and 2) it’s not the last time that there’s summer in NYC and 3) I already have a pretty packed calendar for Germany, and one confirmed visitor for a week of fun in Berlin, a place that I also happen to love in the summer!May 2016 NYC Austin

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: April 2016 Edition

no thumb

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. April 2016

Where I’ve been

I began April in Mexico City, road tripped around Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and finished my month-long stay in Mexico on the tiny Caribbean island of Isla Mujeres. After a short stop in New York City (just enough time to say Hi to a dear friend and to stuff my face with a bagel, something I’d been craving for months!) I flew to Tucson, Arizona, where I am ending the month – but I am actually packing up my stuff right now, about to head out on a mini road trip to my next destination, but more on that below.April 2016 Mexico Arizona

What I’ve been up to

This month was supposed to be a relaxing one, at least the second half, but somehow I never slowed down.. Story of my life, I guess. I ended my time in Mexico City with a near disaster (more on that below), but also with a great weekend that involved a return to Frida Kahlo’s house, the Casa Azul, and a fun day in Coyoacan, market madness and lots of craft beer. Then I flew to Cancun where I met up with my favorite travel buddy (again, after traveling together in Colombia a couple of months ago) to road trip around the Yucatan, which just so happens to be one of my favorite parts of Mexico. For eight days, we swam in cenotes (underwater sinkholes), beach hopped along the Caribbean and got our culture fix by visiting several Mayan ruins before a chilled out island getaway in Isla Mujeres. And with that, my 3-month winter escape to Latin America came to an end..MexicoMid-April I found myself in New York for a minute before I jumped on a plane to Tucson for my fifth visit to southern Arizona since 2010. While I usually use these weeks of housesitting to catch up on work, this year it seems like I had much more ‘play time’ than work time.. First, my friend Katie came to visit me and I found myself frolicking around old western towns, hiking in between giant Saguaro cacti, revisiting the beautiful San Xavier del Bac Mission and sampling all the craft beer Tucson has to offer (well maybe not all of it, but quite a lot!) and then I had a surprise visitor distracting me with a visit to a PowWow (get together of Native American communities) in Phoenix and a sweaty canyon hike. Plus, I also finally made an effort to meet some new people in Tucson and caught up with friends I made on previous visits. And just like that, my three weeks here are over.. But I hope this wasn’t my last visit, because the more time I spend in Tucson, the harder I fall for the city, discovering more and more cool stuff.



Road tripping around the Yucatan

I spent hours planning this road trip, but in the end it was so worth all the sleepless nights and the effort that went into it: the road trip couldn’t have gone any better. Beginning with a fabulous stay at the exquisite Grand Hyatt in Playa Del Carmen to accident-free driving to introducing my favorite girl to really good Mexican food, not the stuff you get in the States!yucatan road trip
Desert hikes in southern Arizona

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how much I love the desertscape of Southern Arizona – and I was happy that I had several visitors who got me out of the house to hike some of my favorite trails here and explore some new ones. Bonus: it’s spring, which means the cacti are blossoming, making the dessert look extra pretty.arizona desert hikes

Returning to Isla Mujeres

I fell in love with Isla Mujeres when I first visited the tiny Caribbean island in 2010, and I decided to spend an entire weekend there after our road trip – even though I had no idea if I’d still like the island after all these years of travel and all the places I’ve seen since then. Moreover, I didn’t know if Isla Mujeres had changed – had it become just as touristy and crowded as Playa del Carmen, a place I used to like a lot but that doesn’t do much for me now? I had nothing to worry about: Isla Mujeres was as charming as ever, and yes, it had become more touristy, but just look at these pictures… what’s not to love?!isla mujeres

What went right

Great publicity

Bild Der FrauThis month was an awesome month for publicity – An article about me appeared in one of Germany’s biggest women’s magazines, and I was featured by Lonely Planet! Being included in a list of the Top 50 Travel Bloggers was another pleasant surprise yesterday.

My first Mexican road trip

As I said above, my Mexican road trip was a blast, but it was also my first time renting a car in Mexico for longer than a day and driving on roads I hadn’t driven on prior to this visit. The only reason I was confident enough to sign up for this trip was because I remembered from living on the Riviera Maya in 2010 and 2012 that driving was a breeze in this part of Mexico, but I was still nervous if everything would go okay with the rental, if the route I had mapped out was too ambitious and if the car would be safe everywhere we parked it (sometimes with all our belongings inside). I am happy to report that everything went smoothly and without a glitch – and this road trip is perfect for anyone who wants to explore the Yucatan, so I’ll be writing about it in more detail soon.Mexico road trip

What went wrong

The almost robbery in Mexico City

My time in Mexico City almost ended with a tragedy – on my very last day in the city my friend and I were strolling through the big Saturday market that sprawls out into the streets surrounding La Merced, the city’s biggest market.

I was happily snapping some pictures and munching on a mango when all of a sudden I felt someone grab me from behind, wrapping his arms around my chest so that I couldn’t move my arms, while a second guy tried to rip my dSLR camera out of my right hand. Luckily I had strapped it around my wrist tightly and he couldn’t just grab it, and I started screaming like crazy. My friend pushed the guy who was holding me, and we both fell to the ground, I was holding my bag and camera tight to my body prepared to defend them, but they decided to run. My friend ran after them, not sure if they’d gotten anything from me or not, and saw them disappear into a courtyard right off the market. Knowing where these thieves lived we decided to get the police involved but they seemed a bit lackluster about the situation. They still came with us to the house, but told us they couldn’t go in without a permit / order.

I can’t believe how lucky I was – this could’ve ended much worse. I had my passport in my bag (required to go inside the National Palace which we had planned for that day), my Kindle, and a chunk of cash. However – I wasn’t entirely lucky during the incident: in the fall, I smashed my camera lens which died a slow death after the incident and had to be replaced, and I hit my big toe so hard that I was sure it was broken.

mexico city merced market dani
This picture was taken minutes before the attack happened…

The credit card scare

At the beginning of the month, I logged into my account to check the balance on my credit card. But what was that? In my ‘Account Summary’, my credit card didn’t show up! Where was my credit card balance?? I looked everywhere in my online banking account, but there was no sign of my credit card. No message either about it being blocked or something. It was midnight in Mexico, so I had to wait until the next morning to call my bank in the UK. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night. How could my credit card simply disappear from my account?!

When I finally got hold of my bank the next morning, it took an hour on the phone with them to resolve what had happened – the card had been blocked after I the rental car company I rented with try to charge a $2,000 deposit for the car. Yes, these high deposits are customary here in Mexico.. And so my bank put a flag on the account.

dani isla mujeres
Dealing with British banks makes me want to RUN.

I lost more things… And this time, really expensive things.

The ‘lost items’ section seems to evolve into a running segment in my monthly round-ups, much to my dismay. After losing clothes and my Sennheiser headphones last month, and my Kindle charger as well as camera charger the month before, this month’s loss was very tragic: I left my beloved $300 JBL headphones on the flight from New York to Chicago on my way to Tucson. When I realized what had happened while waiting for my connecting flight, I immediately ran back to the gate I’d arrived on, but I was told nothing had been handed in. Oh well, I guess somebody else is enjoying these amazing headphones now.

And not only did I lose my headphones in transit, I also managed to leave my belt behind in Cancun when I took it off to go through security in the airport. Only on the plane did I notice that I was suddenly belt-less! I really hope May goes by without me losing something.

isla mujeres dani cliffs
If I lose anything next month, I might jump off a cliff

What went almost wrong

The almost missed ferry & almost missed flight

For my last night in Mexico, I had booked a hotel near the airport in Cancun, because we were leaving on a super early flight the next morning. The plan was to spend the entire day on Isla Mujeres and head back to the mainland just to sleep there – why waste a day in Cancun when we can spend it in this island paradise? I had seen online that ferries were running until late at night, which was perfect for us – that way, we could even have dinner on Isla Mujeres!

But when we, happily stuffed with tacos, made our way to the ferry terminal around 8pm, we arrived to complete darkness – the terminal was closed! I panicked immediately, knowing that the first morning ferry wouldn’t run until 5am – too late for us to make it to the airport and to catch our flight. I started to hyperventilate, because neither my friend nor I could miss that flight the next morning. In my head, I already saw us pay for a private boat to the mainland, and ran over to a taxi driver to find out if there might be a car ferry or another way to get off the island that night, and he simply pointed to the ferry terminal next to the one we were at. Yes, this one had closed for the night, but the main one was still open. I almost suffered a heart attack in that near-travel fail, thinking I had screwed up and maybe ferries weren’t going late on Sundays. Luckily, everything went according to plan when we finally boarded the ferry.

isla mujeres sunset - Copy
The sunset was worth missing the ferry for

As if that wasn’t enough, the next morning we then nearly missed our flight even though we were at the airport two hours prior to our flight departure – and just because we were chatting at the gate waiting for the flight to board.. Our conversation was so deep that we forgot to pay attention and somehow missed that everyone had already boarded – they were ready to close the doors! Luckily we noticed that we were the only ones left in the departure area before the plane departed.

What’s next for me

I am finishing up my housesit in Tucson and am almost on my way to the next housesit: a month in Austin, Texas! I’ve been wanting to visit Austin for years, so when this opportunity came my way, I didn’t have to think long.

And because my travel plans aligned with those of a travel buddy I am finding myself now road tripping from Tucson to Austin, stopping along the way at one of the most remarkable places I’ve visited in the US, the stunning white desert of White Sands in New Mexico (which I hope I’ll get to photograph at sunset this time around) and in Big Bend National Park for a day of hiking before eating my way through Austin for the next few weeks. If you know Austin and have recommendations for restaurants, food trucks, craft beer bars and things to do, please share them in the comments!tucson cowboy hatsYou can follow along in real time on Snapchat: mariposa2711

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: March 2016 Edition

no thumb

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

March was probably the most interesting month of 2016 so far – simply because on 1 March, when I was still in the Colombian Amazon, I had no idea where I’d be now, at the end of the month. So where I am? I am in Mexico City! Yes, this was a completely unexpected turn of events, or change of travel plans. But let’s start at the beginning… A short overview of the places I visited this month: From Leticia in the Amazon I flew to Pereira in the zona cafeteria. From there I moved on to Salento, the heart of the coffee region, hiked in the striking Valle de Cocora, and finally traveled further north to Medellin – which would be my last stop in Colombia… at least for now. I flew to Mexico City, from where I traveled to Poza Rica to visit the El Tajin ruins and from there to Cuetzalan, one of Mexico’s ‘magical villages’. Now I am back in Mexico City for a few days to catch up on work before I go on vacation (well, at least sort of) next week.March colombia mexico

What I’ve been up to

It seems like ages ago that I was leaving the hospital and finished up my time in Colombia’s Amazon region! The beginning of the month was quite tough, to be honest. I flew out of the Amazon into Colombia’s zona cafetera, which saw me travel alone again, quite a change after being surrounded by people for all of February and January. Being sick didn’t really help to get me back into a ‘solo travel mood’, and the cold and rainy days in the coffee region were a huge change from the hot and sticky days in the Amazon where I had to change my shirt twice a day because I was soaked in sweat.March Mexico ColombiaAnd so I found myself booking a flight to Mexico, where I would meet up with several friends. This is not the potential ‘change of plans’ that I briefly mentioned in my last round-up, by the way – that would have been a trip to the Canadian Rockies for a Winter Pride event, and I would’ve returned to New York from there. But I had to cancel the event due to my sickness and kept hearing stories about cold and rainy weather in NYC (even snow had been reported to me!) and I had no desire to return yet. So here I am, spending a month in Mexico.el tajin dancerI sacrificed some of my time in Medellin for this trip, which I had been looking forward to the entire time I was in Colombia, but I made the most of my few days there, and as soon as I took a bite out of my first flor de calabaza quesadilla in Mexico, I had no regrets about leaving Colombia a bit earlier than planned. To be honest, I was getting a bit tired of the food in Colombia and was ready for something new.

Now Mexico is not necessarily new considering that this is my fourth time here, but of course I’m not only revisiting old favorites but also new places. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of Mexico City though – there’s just always something new to discover here, and with a city of the size of Mexico DF (22 million people!) you can never see it all. I’ve spent over a week here again, and found it fascinating to see how the city has changed since my last visit in 2012.Mexico CityMy plans to visit new plans didn’t go as smooth as I would’ve wished for – see below in What went wrong – but I guess it can’t always be just awesome, right? Read on to find out what went well and what went wrong this month, and where I am off to in April… I am stoked for the next month!

March Highlights

A kayak trip on my last day in the Amazon

I was still sick as a dog when I left the Amazon, but after staying in that horrible hospital I wanted to do something awesome before leaving. And so we went for a kayaking trip which was the perfect way to end my time in this incredible region of the world. The massive trees we saw while paddling through mangrove forests, a swim in a lake, monkey spottings and these beautiful surroundings – with nobody but us out on the water – was a memorable experience.kayak trip amazon

Returning to Mexico

I think I’ve already made it clear that I’ve been having a blast since I got back to Mexico! I love that I have the freedom to purchase a plane ticket on a whim, like I did, deciding to come here a mere week before my plane departed. While I spent most of my time in Mexico City, I also got to visit some new places – two UNESCO World Heritage sites, to be precise. In the quaint little town of Cuetzalan I went on an awesome caving tour and got to have a small ancient site with pyramids almost to myself, and in El Tajin I visited the famous Pyramid Of The Niches. Some people find Mexico City overwhelming, but I feel right at home here, and I love the street food, the people, the markets, the weather, and seeing the Jacaranda trees in bloom (the first time I get to see them in bloom here in Mexico!) – plus, I’ve been getting my culture fix this month… see below:
March 2016 Mexico
A month filled with culture

One reason why I’m drawn to big cities? Culture. Sure, I love the beach, and I love being outdoors, hiking in the mountains or through the jungle, but at heart I’m a city girl. Not only do I enjoy all the amenities of a big city (hundreds of food options, movie theaters, events, concerts…) but I need me some culture! Museums, art galleries, or simply urban art in the form of graffiti murals or sculptures – as a creative, I feed off the creativity of talented artists. And this is why March was awesome – I got so much culture in the past four weeks… In Medellin, I got my culture fix with all the Botero sculptures that can be found throughout the city and in the Museo Antioquia (along with his art and other art), visited a fabulous Modern Art Museum, and here in Mexico, it’s been culture non-stop: the amazing museums of Mexico City including yesterday’s Night of the Museums, and my visit to two pre-Columbian ruin sites, El Tajin and Yohualichan. And there’s more to come next month – see Upcoming Travels.Artsy March

What went wrong

Plane to Pereira had to turn around because of a storm

The worst thing that happened this month was my flight from Bogota to Pererira, the second leg of my flight that would bring me from the Amazon to the coffee region. My flight left Bogota at 5pm and was supposed to land in Pereira at 6pm, but while in the air, around 5.45pm, the pilot announced that we might have to return to Bogota due to a massive thunderstorm in Pereira. After circling above the storm for 30 minutes, we indeed turned around and went back to Bogota. While I was still wondering if the airline would put me up in a hotel in Bogota for the night, as soon as we reached the gate, the pilot announced he had been notified the storm had passed and we’d give it another try. So nobody was allowed to leave the plane, they counted all our luggage for security reasons, and about 7.30pm we were supposed to leave. Then there was another inexplicable delay, and in the end it took us until 9pm until we departed again. By then, I was ravenous – I had only had breakfast. The flight attendants only handed out nuts, and that was 4.5 hours after we’d boarded the plane. I finally got to Pereira at around 10pm, and by the time I got to my hostel, it was 10.45pm – no restaurants were open anymore, and I went to bed starving. Considering that I had only left the hospital two days prior to my flight, I wasn’t in the best condition to begin with and sure didn’t need this flight from hell.

colombia plane
Usually I love being on a plane! Window seat, always!

Being sick suuuuucks

When I woke up in Pereira, the first time in weeks that I was completely by myself, still feeling sick as hell, I had only one thought: being sick on the road sucks. Especially if you’re traveling alone and have nobody to go to the pharmacy for you, to get you water or food. Luckily I had someone to look after me in the Amazon.Leticia Hospital

Traveling during Semana Santa

Ah, Latin America’s holiest of all weeks, the week before Easter.. I should have thought about traveling during this time, which is prime travel time, but somehow I forgot about it (again!) and ended up wasting an entire day trying to plan a week of travel during that period. Buses and hostels were completely booked, and if I was lucky enough to find a ticket online, by the time I had gone through the booking process, somebody else had snatched it. It was frustrating, to say the least. Instead of going south, I ended up going to Veracruz for a festival of indigenous culture and dance music, held in an ancient ruin site. See below how that went down…

transport in cuetzalan
Public transportation in Mexico

Rained out festival
El Cumbre, the festival we went to, and paid a considerable amount of money to attend, was completely rained out the day we got there. We were bummed, decided to wait it out for a day and to attend the festival the next day. It still rained on and off, and it was terribly cold. I had stupidly not taken my rain jacket with me, because it had been sunny in Mexico City and I had only used it once on the entire trip. Lesson learned! We tried to make the best of it despite the crappy weather, but it still put a damper on our mood. A good reminder though how lucky I am to be traveling in great weather 95% of the time!

el cumbre 2016 el tajin
Braving rain and mud at El Cumbre

Losing (more) stuff

Only my big $300 headphones left. They’re great for working & blocking out noise, but not for working out..

Somehow I keep losing stuff on this trip.. after my Kindle charger and Canon battery charger (including battery!), and a few other things, this month I lost my favorite (and only!) pajama shorts and top, which I had bought in Bangkok last year. I must have left it in a hotel room, and it really upsets me because they were fitting great and I need to wear something at night when I travel with someone, which I mostly do. And then I lost my beloved Sennheiser in-ear headphones. I’d finally invested in pricey headphones a few months ago, and it didn’t take long for me to lose them – that’s why I usually use cheapie headphones while I travel. Oh well. I replaced them with inexpensive headphones in Colombia which broke after only a couple of weeks, and then replaced those with headphones here in Mexico. And guess what? I’ve already lost them. What the hell is wrong with me?!

Other noteworthy happenings

My first Temazcal

As if one indigenous ceremony wasn’t enough (I’m referring to last month’s… interesting… ayahuasca experience), I experienced my first Temazcal this month, which is an indigenous Mexican steam bath that has been part of the Mesoamerican culture for hundreds of years and involves religious, ritualistic and healing motives. A Temazcal, similar to a sauna done at a very high temperature and prepared with medicinal and aromatic herbs in a small round stone building  usually lasts for about 2 hours and is supposed to help you connect with yourself but also with the fundamental elements of nature. Usually you are guided through the ceremony with songs and prayers, allowing for the purification, inner renewal and healing of the body on an emotional and spiritual level, but my experience was a bit different from what I had read about Temazcales before trying it.

cuetzalan sunrise
The beautiful town of Cuetzalan, where I had my first Temazcal experience
dani temazcal
After the Temazcal

The lady who was guiding us through our Temazcal experience seemed to suffer from the extreme heat much more than we did and was on all four down on the floor for most of the time, and asked us to beat each other with branches of herbs, for an inner cleaning. Afterwards I read that this is called ‘leafing’ and is part of some temazcal experiences (the ceremonies vary), and supposedly means that ‘the bather is gently beaten with the herbal branches’, but trust me, this was no light beating, this felt more like a full-on whipping, and she kept yelling at us to hit each other harder. I had a hard time not laughing out loud during the experience, and I don’t think we were in there for more than thirty minutes (instead of 2 hours) before being massaged by her daughter, whose massage skills were questionable.

I think I might give the Temazcal another try because I usually do enjoy sauna experiences and would like to see how I feel after a properly executed temazcal.

What’s next for me

April is shaping up to be another awesome month – I will fly to Cancun this weekend to meet up with my favorite travel buddy for a road trip in the Yucatan peninsula, which is probably my favorite region in Mexico. We’ll be checking out Mayan ruins, cenotes (underwater sinkholes), Caribbean beaches, snorkel with turtles, visit one of the most picturesque towns I’ve ever been to and finish our trip with a couple of beach days on a gorgeous Caribbean island (can’t tell you yet where because it’s a surprise for her and she might read it, which would spoil the surprise 😉 )MexicoAfter that, I will return to Southern Arizona for my ‘annual desert retreat’, which my trips to Tucson have evolved into, sort of. I am stoked to see my friends there and I will be housesitting there again – but this time, in a different house! But more on that in my next round-up, which will come to you from Arizona.

If you want to follow my travels in real time, add me on Snapchat: mariposa2711

read more

Life lately & upcoming travels: February 2016 Edition

no thumb

February was an interesting month.. The road led me down some unexpected paths, and held several incredible highlights in Colombia for me, but unfortunately there were some lows as well, like the fact that I’m only posting this now thanks to a visit to the hospital…

Where I’ve been

I started the month in Santa Marta, which I used as a base for my 4-day jungle trek to Colombia’s Lost City, and flew down to Bogotá from there. In Bogota, I met up with a travel buddy I met in Santa Marta, and later with my friend Rease, who I went to Iceland with last year. With her, I visited Villa de Leyva, a beautiful little town in the mountains. After that, we returned to Bogota, and I ended up extending my stay there after enjoying it much more than expected. And because I decided on a whim to meet a friend in the Amazonas region, which wasn’t part of my original itinerary… I think, it might have been Ayahuasca that was calling me down here, but more on that later.

Colombia February 2016
Clockwise: The Amazon rain forest, Santa Marta, Bogota, the Lost City, and Villa de Leyva

What I’ve been up to

I thought I’d be traveling alone for most of the month, but I was wrong! I ended up spending most of February with a friend I made while traveling, trekked through the Sierra Nevada with a great group of people for four days (and met up with one of them later in Bogota), and traveled with Rease for a few days. I am ready for some ‘me-time’!Colombia Friends

I’ve also enjoyed quite a bit of offline time – some planned, some unplanned… and both times, I found it refreshing to do a digital detox, and to realize that the world doesn’t end if I don’t check my Facebook / Instagram / Snapchat / insertothersocialmediahere / email every day. While my first digital detox, during my 4-day trek, was planned and something I prepared for, my second one, on a spontaneous trip to Puerto Nariño on the Amazon, was a bit of a shock, because I didn’t expect to be completely offline for a few days – I thought I’d have at least a 3G connection on my phone, but no.. nothing. I definitely prefer going offline when I can prepare for it (I also worried quite a few people when I simply disappeared to the Amazon with a stranger and went offline without a warning) but overall I came to the conclusion that I need spend more time offline.

dani amazon
Offline on the Amazon River… bliss!

Overall, my travels this month went without a glitch… From the trek, which turned out to be a highlight of all of my travels (see below), to a few slow days in Santa Marta where I caught up on work projects, to my time in Bogota, which I was a bit afraid of, but which turned out to be fantastic – everything went according to plan! Note to self: Don’t let other people scare you off places. I had heard so many horror stories about Bogota, but I had a fantastic time there. I treated myself to a lovely weekend at the Hilton Bogota, including a taste of their extraordinary Sunday brunch, while exploring the Chapinero neighborhood, I danced the night away in South America’s largest gay club, El Theatron (I wish New York had a giant club like this… including the free-drinks-until-2am policy for $13.50!), I went to the Botero Museum which I adored, enjoyed the views over Bogota from Monserrate Mountain, took a street art tour and a city tour, escaped the city for a few days to quaint little Villa De Leyva, and finally flew down to the Amazon which I adored, despite getting horribly sick here. But altogether, I couldn’t have asked for a better month in Colombia (minus getting sick).Colombia 2016


Ciudad Perdida: Colombia’s Lost City

This 4-day trek (actually supposed to be a 5-day trek but I ended up walking it in 4 days) was definitely a highlight of all my travels so far, not just in Colombia. It was extremely hard, I’m not gonna lie, but arriving at the top of the mountain on which the ruins of the city sit after climbing up 1,200 on the morning of the third day was incredibly rewarding. The trek itself led through some beautiful mountain and jungle scenery and I’m glad that I got out of my comfort zone to do it.ciudad perdida

Swimming in the Amazon River

…and seeing pink river dolphins! Experiencing life in the Amazon was something so unique and memorable that I was happy I followed my gut instinct to fly down into this remote region of Colombia and spend time here. It’s a different pace of life down here, and being so isolated and surrounded by water and rain forest on all sides, with no roads leading here, makes it such a special time to sunset

The people I’ve met

This month I’ve met some incredible people – I’d even go as far as saying that this month alone I met more interesting people than during my entire Asia trip last year, and it reconfirmed something I’d been thinking for a while now… The kind of traveler that goes to South America is a completely different kind of traveler that goes to South East Asia. I find the kind of people who come to South America not only much mature, but also much more invested in the local culture, meaningful experiences and encounters than the people I met on my trips to South East Asia. Sure, I can’t generalize this, and of course not everyone who goes to South East Asia just wants to party and island hop, but the majority of people who go to Asia seem more interested in cheap booze, beaches and cheap parties than in truly getting to know the countries they visit, whereas here, people are in for an educational experience, questioning things… willing to learn. Hence, the people I’ve met, and the conversations I’ve been having with people, have been thought provoking and eye opening.hikers

Holding a 2-hour business meeting entirely in Spanish
This is something I’m very proud of – I didn’t know how I’d manage on this trip with my rusty Spanish, but luckily my Spanish came back to me fairly quickly once I got to Colombia. But still – sitting through a 2-hour meeting entirely in Spanish was a whole different story. The more proud and achieved when I left it, knowing I’m still able to speak Spanish fluent enough to have a professional meeting in my 3rd language. It surely helped that I hung out with someone prior to that who I only conversed with in Spanish – and I should do more of that while I’m still here.

dani hilton
Feeling accomplished in Bogota!


Being hospitalized

It started all of a sudden – we went out for dinner, and from one minute to the next, I felt horribly sick. I couldn’t get anything down, and I sat at the table shivering – in the 90 F heat that is common in the Amazonas region at night. Then my legs started to become heavy, hurting like hell. I barely made it back to our guesthouse. I laid down, still shivering, but at the same time sweating, my skin burning hot, with a high fever. The next morning, the entire bed was soaking wet, that’s how much I had sweated. My head felt like it was going to explode, my eyes hurt and felt as if someone was pushing on them constantly. My whole body felt so weak… what was going on?? The next day, I barely managed to get out of bed. I felt horrible. And I was 50 miles up to the Amazon River from the next hospital, and the only way to get there was by boat. Getting into a boat was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. I waited until we got back in Leticia to go see a doctor and find out what I had. The symptoms led me to believe the worst: Zika. In the hospital, I was told my symptoms matched more Malaria or Dengue than Zika, and after I had my blood taken, I was asked to stay in the hospital until the results were in. It was a terrible experience staying in one of the worst hospitals I’ve ever come across, but luckily all my tests for mosquito-borne diseases came back negative. I had just gotten a really bad flu.dani hospital

Wi-fi struggles
Ah, what is it with me and bad wi-fi? I feel like I’m whining about bad wifi every other month! Seriously though, in the Philippines last year I nearly had a nervous breakdown because of the slow wifi, in Thailand I had a bad signal more often than not, even in Europe I sometimes had a hard time finding a reliable connection. And now Colombia. Bad wifi is following me around the world, it seems! It makes it super frustrating and difficult to run a business online sometimes, and had me on the verge of tears more than once. This month I was happy to have someone to share the pain with: when I traveled with my friend Rease, who also works online, and we had terrible wifi in both Bogota and Villa De Leyva, we both nearly lost our minds. With a slow connection, it takes me an hour to do what usually takes me 20 minutes. And I am still trying to send a large file with photos to a client that she was supposed to receive last Friday. I knew that internet in the Amazonas region would be slow, but I didn’t expect it to be nearly non-functional.

villa de leyva street
Villa de Leyva was so pretty… but the wifi was pretty awful.

Balancing blog & work

Yes, I make money from this website, but it isn’t my only source of income… I still rely on income from freelance projects, and this month, with my wifi struggles and more offline time than I’d factored in, I let my regular blogging schedule skip. Paid work comes first, of course, but I don’t feel good about the lack of updates. I hope I’ll be able to manage to do better again in March.

Noteworthy happenings

(I put these things extra because I feel like they are noteworthy, but am not sure if they were good or bad experiences!)

An Ayahuasca ceremony

Ayahuasca. A plant that grows only here in the Amazon, and which, brewed into a tea, has been used by shamans in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil for centuries to cure illnesses and which is said to open a door to another reality. A strong hallucinogenic, it is supposed to make you confront your biggest fears, face your inner demons, deal with all the ‘baggage’ you carry around with you without ever dealing with. Some people even go as far as saying one night of Ayahuasca equals ten years of therapy.

ayahuasca experience
This picture pretty much sums up my Ayahuasca experience: blurry, vivid, a bit messy, intriguing.

When I read about Ayahuasca for the first time, two years ago when I traveled to Peru, I wasn’t ready for it. This time, I was ready for what’s known to be a very spiritual, emotional and for some frightening, for some cathartic experience. I felt like it was the Ayahuasca that called me down to the Amazon.. I had absolutely no plans to travel here, and not much interest, to be honest, because it is so out of the way. And yet, I boarded a plane down to Leticia, the small town on the Amazon River that borders with Peru and Brazil, and the next day, I found myself wandering through the jungle for an hour, on the way to a shaman’s house for an Ayahuasca ritual.

I will write about it in more detail in a separate article, but let’s just say that I didn’t have the life changing experience that I had read other people had, I didn’t have any mind-blowing revelations, I also didn’t have crazy hallucinations or anything like that. I might even have been a bit disappointed that it didn’t have a stronger impact on me, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t strong – boy was I feeling sick! The next morning the shaman told our group of four that this had been an exceptionally strong brew, and Jeremy, who had already done a ritual with him a couple of days prior, said that his other experience with him was much better than this one.

Ayahuasca Plant & Dani
Left: the plant from which the brew is made. Right: Me the morning after.

I got a haircut!

… and it was my first haircut in over two years, which is why I thought I should mention it. In January 2014, I had a traumatic haircut experience in New York, and after that, I vowed to never go to the hairdresser again. Back then, I showed the hairdresser four or five pictures of what I wanted, and the end result didn’t look anything like that. I was in tears afterwards, and horrified for weeks every time I happened to look into a mirror. But after a year, I noticed that I couldn’t go without a haircut forever. It took me a whole other year to finally take the leap and set foot into a hair salon. Am I happy with the result? I’m happier than last time, but of course my hair will never look as fabulous as it does after an hour of blow drying and straightening (I left my straightener in New York, now I wish I would’ve brought it!). On the upside, it was only about $13.50 – and that included some fancy hair products and it was in one of the nicer salons in town!Dani haircut

What’s next for me

Despite my current sickness, I’ll be continuing my travels through Colombia as planned, hoping I’ll be recovering quickly. I am looking forward to exploring the Zona Cafetera, Colombia’s coffee country, which I’ve heard great things about, and after a few smaller towns along the way, finally: Medellin! I’ve been wanting to go to Medellin for years, and it might sound corny but after watching Narcos, I’m looking forward to go on a Pablo Escobar themed tour there. Plus, I already know some people who are in Medellin, which is an added bonus.

And then… an unexpected opportunity came my way, which would see me leave Colombia a bit earlier than expected to visit a country I’ve been to twice, and which I like a lot (and for which I don’t have any appropriate clothes right now, but I’m sure I’ll manage somehow.. any guesses which place I’m talking about?)… Since I’m still discussing the details of the trip and haven’t entirely decided if I should really sacrifice some of my time here in Colombia, you’ll have to wait if I ended up going there until my March round-up.Colombia Feb 2016

read more

Life lately & upcoming travels: January 2016 Edition

no thumb

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. 

What a month it’s been! I wrapped up my time in New York City and flew to Colombia, my first new country of 2016. I was traveling with someone for the first couple of weeks, which means I traveled a lot faster than I would’ve had I been by myself, but it also meant going on some adventures that wouldn’t have been half as much fun had I been on my own.

January 2016 Colombia and New York City
From New York (with spring blossoms in January!) to the sweltering heat of Colombia

What I’ve been up to

I started the New Year with a relaxing day in Brooklyn, cuddling with my (temporary) cats and generally taking things slow before my departure. I was cat sitting for a friend of mine who happens to have one of the most gorgeous apartments I’ve come across in New York, complete with a giant kitchen where I tried my hands on all kinds of recipes and enjoyed my daily baking and cooking sessions.

I finally made some time to relax, which I’d been wanting to do for months! Movie nights, long sessions in the bathtub with my Kindle, long runs in the park while listening to my favorite podcasts. I was lucky with the weather – while I was still in New York, it was still warm enough to run outside without freezing to death, and more importantly: warm enough to cycle! If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I love cycling and I was happily reunited with my bike last month.New York January 2016And then it was time to leave for Colombia. As usual, I started travel planning at the eleventh hour, running last minute errands the day before I left, ordered stuff on Amazon on 2-day delivery, hoping it would arrive in time (and picking it up from the post office literally 5 minutes before they closed), and not knowing where I’d rest my head upon arriving in Cartagena until a few short days before leaving the U.S. Some things never change 🙂

My travels through Colombia started in the north, in Cartagena to be precise. Cartagena is one of Colombia’s most popular (read: touristy) cities, and it’s popular for a reason – It has a well preserved and beautifully restored historic center, surrounded by thick, centuries-old stone walls that used to protect the city. I couldn’t have picked a better place to start my Colombia explorations in than this Spanish colonial city that sits right on the Caribbean Sea. I spent hours walking the narrow streets, marveling at the wooden balconies, usually overflowing with bougainvillea, and colorful houses. In fact, I am writing this from Cartagena, even though I was supposed to leave already (twice!), but I kept extending my stay. cartagenaFrom Cartagena, we set off on a whirlwind tour of the coast, stopping in Tayrona National Park, the beach paradise of Palomino, and a detour into the mountains before circling back to Cartagena with a visit to nearby Playa Blanca and the famed Totumo mud volcano.

While this might all sound fabulous, let me tell you that this month didn’t go by without any hiccups – you can read them below in ‘What went wrong’… but let’s start with the January highlights!Colombia January 2016


River tubing in Palomino, Colombia I don’t know how I’ve spent 35 years on this planet without ever going tubing! But somehow I just never came across it, even in all those years of travel (except for Belize, where we had to skip it due to heavy rains and Laos, where we passed on visiting the back then notorious party town of Vang Vieng). Anyway – trying it for the first time in Colombia was perfect. We slowly floated down a river that comes down from the Sierra Nevada Mountains,  surrounded by lush green jungles on all sides, and finally empties into the Caribbean Sea. Extra bonus: doing it in the late afternoon when the light was warm and soft. The only sounds we heard were the sounds of the jungle. Heavenly!palomino tubingTraveling with my favorite travel buddy As I mentioned above, I had a travel buddy for my first two weeks in Colombia, and it was such a fun trip! Yes, I might not have gotten as much work done as I wanted and traveled faster than I’m comfortable with, but I had such a great time and I think it made it easier to ease into South America again. This was our fourth trip together and we’re already planning our next getaway – can’t wait!

Being a housewife in New York I had such a good time in New York before I left – even though the last few days were freezing (19F/-12C) and I realized I hadn’t been in weather that cold since my visit to Chicago for Christmas in 2007! I was definitely ready for sun and beach fun by the time my departure date rolled around, but I loved having a temporary home with an amazing kitchen. Knowing that I wouldn’t have the chance to bake, cook or have people over for a while now, I made the most of it, and tried my hand at all sorts of recipes I’ve been pinning onto my Pinterest recipes board. I also made sure to eat all the foods I knew I’d miss in South America, like a decent Thai meal, veggie sushi, a bagel, New York pizza and Mexican breakfast. Guys, you have no idea how ready I am to have my own kitchen again and go from full-time nomad to part-time traveler!

cooking in nyc
Still can’t believe that this egg-in-a-biscuit turned out great on my first try making it.

Winning a Margarita Maker You might remember that I won two round-trip tickets on Singapore Airlines (NYC to Singapore) in November, and my winning streak doesn’t seem to stop. At the beginning of the month I received an email that I’d won a Margaritavilla Margarita Maker, worth $300! I am usually not a Tequila drinker but it looks like I should give margaritas another chance?!

Receiving a package from my sister
This was definitely a highlight of the month – I received a package from Germany, and I got it the day before I left for Colombia. Talk about good timing! It was supposed to arrive in time for Christmas, but my chocolate Santa still tasted amazing mid-January, and I was so touched that my sister had sent me a few little gifts for Christmas.


Self-imposed stress
I am not sure why I always do that to myself… I had weeks, if not MONTHS in New York to plan my South America trip, and yet I ended up procrastinating until the very last minute, not even picking up a guidebook until about a week before my trip to look up where I wanted to go. Once I held said guidebook in my hands, I decided spontaneously to do a 5-day jungle trek while here, and found myself scrambling to get everything I needed for this trek – most of which arrived in a package from Amazon which I picked up from the post office minutes before they closed on the night prior to my departure, as I’ve already mentioned.

Colombia vacation
Luckily all this helped me de-stress quickly!

Reading horror stories about Colombia the day before my departure Let me tell you: it’s not the greatest idea to read an article titled Solo Female Going To Colombia? Just don’t. while you’re in the middle of packing your bags for COLOMBIA. This, along with another scary story by a female solo traveler who’d recently visited Colombia, totally freaked me out and I left for Colombia slightly scared – not a great mindset to start a trip with! Luckily I had company for the first couple of weeks, which calmed me down quite a bit.

Forgetting to pack important things I don’t know how I forgot to pack some essentials like my Swiss army knife (necessary to cut fresh fruit), Ziploc bags (for all kinds of things), but more importantly my underwater camera and my second external hard drive!!

Not winning the lottery With my recent lucky streak when it comes to winning things, of course I had to buy a ticket for the $900 million Powerball lottery (and then again for the $1.2 billion). Needless to say I didn’t win.

marilyn and dani
This girl helped me getting over not winning the Powerball.

What went wrong

A bungalow break-in in Palomino My first day in Palomino was off to a great start: I’d worked until late into the night the evening before so that I could take time off and enjoy the beach. And that’s what we did… a lovely morning spent walking the beach and playing in the waves, and we were ready for some river tubing in the afternoon. We dropped by our beach bungalow to drop off some stuff and I froze when I unlocked the door and saw that all our bags had been emptied and the entirety of our belongings was strewn across the floor.

Every little bag we had with us had been opened, and my heart dropped when I remembered that I had left our laptops, passports, credit cards and a lot of cash in my backpack. As my eyes fell on my backpack, I saw that it was still locked! They hadn’t opened the main compartment which I had locked with a padlock. We assume that they were interrupted because they seemed to have left in a rush, and they also didn’t find some cash in one of the cosmetics bags they were searching through. How lucky were we?! While this was definitely a scary moment (and could’ve ended my entire trip right there and then!), I don’t put Colombia down for it – something like this happens everywhere in the world.

beautiful colombia
Celebrating the good side of Colombia

Food poisoning It all started so well: with the best meal we’ve had in Colombia so far. Both dishes we ordered, plus the coconut lemonade, were divine. I even proclaimed ‘I’m going back here for lunch every day now!’ when we left, and my friend was mad that I hadn’t brought her to ‘La Mulata’ earlier, which is a popular and highly-ranked Caribbean restaurant in Cartagena. However, four hours later, I started to vomit like crazy, had stomach cramps, diarrhea, the whole nine yards. I was bed ridden for 24 hours and it took me another two days to get back to normal. The last time I had food poisoning that bad was in 2011!

coconut lemonade cartagena
I’m pretty sure that this is what caused the food poisoning, because we both got it, and that’s the only thing we shared

Not being allowed to board my flight because I didn’t have proof of onward travel Well this seems to be an ongoing theme in my life – not being allowed to board a flight, see last March and last May. When I was checking my bag at JFK I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane since I didn’t have a return ticket or proof of onward travel. Obviously my own fault, I should’ve learned by now to at least look up if a country requires a return ticket before entering it on a one-way ticket. Again, stress that I didn’t need when I frantically tried to book a refundable ticket while discussing with the airline staff at the check-in counter. Luckily, the booking went through in time and I was handed a boarding pass.

Almost would’ve had to stay here! Not that I would’ve been too upset 😉

Losing stuff I don’t know how I could have possibly lost two of my most important items within two weeks of being on the road: my Canon charger (I left it plugged in a socket at the cabana after the break-in, with an expensive Canon battery in it. Luckily I have two spare batteries.) and my Kindle charger (also left plugged in somewhere). I also lost my favorite tank top (not my fault, the laundry lady lost it), and I’m sure there are some other things that I can’t remember now.


Getting back into a travel work balance Having spent 10 weeks in a productive routine in New York before leaving for Colombia, I really struggled to get back into a work-and-travel state of mind. Plus: I just don’t seem to be lucky when it comes to finding accommodation with decent wifi. 4 out of 5 times the wi-fi is mediocre at best, and often doesn’t reach my room. Several of the hotels I stayed at closed their common areas at 8pm, which is when I usually start getting a few hours of work in! In the past couple of days, I’ve found myself walking around town in search of a ‘coffice’ two days in a row this week – one day, I went to five different places! The first one had wifi but no AC (not even a fan, and it’s 91F right now), the second one had wi-fi but no sockets, the third place was completely full, the fourth had AC but no wi-fi, and the fifth one was finally decent, except for the terrible music they were playing. I am tired of it.. I just want to start my work day without wasting time and energy finding an office.

And then there’s the temptation to ‘play’ all day instead of working when you travel with someone, and I am easily convinced to go out exploring instead of staring at my screen, yes, I admit it. I’ve gotten better at finding a balance, but it’s taken me a while to get back into working & traveling.

colombia january 2016 pics
Colombia might give me a headache with the lack of speedy wi-fi, but it does have its perks..

What’s next for me

I’ve got an exciting month ahead of me! I’ll finally leave Cartagena tomorrow, after extending my stay twice, and head back to Santa Marta, from where I’ll set off on the 5-day jungle trek to the Lost City, which is an archaeological site of an ancient city in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada. It is believed to have been founded about 800 CE, making it 650 years older than Machu Picchu! I’m stoked for my first multi-day trek in a while.

After that, I’ll fly to Bogota to meet up with my friend Rease, and from there I’m not sure yet, but I’ll just go with the flow… Who knows where I’ll be writing my next update from. colombiaP.S. You can follow my travels in real time on Snapchat (user ID mariposa2711), see my travel updates on Facebook and daily photos of my trip on Instagram.

read more

The evolution of a nomad

The Evolution Of A Nomad 1

It’s been almost a year since I looked back on five years of full-time travel, and I thought it was time for an update on how my nomadic life has evolved in the past twelve months.

It’s been now over 2,000 days since I switched my London apartment for a life on the road, and quite frankly, I’m tired of being on the road constantly. Over 2,000 days of vagabonding – that’s even longer than I had an apartment in London, or anywhere else I’d lived before. When I started traveling in 2010, I thought it would be a one-year trip around the world. I even had a new employment contract ready for me to sign, and a job waiting for me upon return.. which I obviously never started. In the beginning, I thought I could travel forever, never getting tired of exploring new places, meeting new people, trying new foods. I had an insane amount of energy, my body fueled by new experiences and my mind stimulated by the ever changing scenery around me.

pacaya hike
Volcano hike after a full work day? Sure!

I had so much energy to work while traveling back then – just recently when I was researching for my current (and third) South America trip, I came across an old blog post written by my friend Erin of Never Ending Voyage, written shortly after meeting us, in which she says: ‘We were impressed with the Globetrotter Girls‘ work ethic when we met up with them last week in Panama. They get up early and work before a day of travel or sightseeing, then work late in the evening too.’ I wish this desirable work ethic would have lasted forever, but of course the longer you are on the move constantly, the more tiring it gets, and I have yet to meet another long-term traveler who doesn’t bitch about travel burn out at some point. And running a business out of your suitcase instead of an office isn’t easy. It isn’t impossible, but it comes with challenges that most business owners don’t have to face.

koh tao office
Offices like this one are rare, trust me

When I think of all the times that I found myself touring the coffee shops of a town in order to find a decent wi-fi connection.. A waste of my time and my energy, and I often get frustrated before even battling the painfully slow internet connection. Or all those times when I tried to send off an article that was due – or even worse: large files with high-res images – and failed, or tried to call someone on Skype on a sketchy connection. No one is going to show any sympathy for you when you try to blame it on the mediocre wi-fi in Nicaragua. It is hard to maintain a business when you’re traveling, but grow it? Let’s just say it takes a lot of discipline, and when you’re your own boss, it takes a lot of willpower to stick to deadlines and work routines. But still, for a few years, traveling the world was all I wanted to do, and I was willing to put up with the hassles. Traveling is addictive – the more places you visit, the more places you add to your travel wish list. Soon, places that you never imagined you’d see in your life, aren’t out of reach anymore. 

dani in malaysia
My first trip to South East Asia, 2011. I was beyond excited!

As the years went by, I became somewhat jaded though – travel couldn’t really excite me anymore, unless it was a place that was completely different from anything I knew, such as the Atacama Desert or Cambodia. I started to spend longer periods of time in the places I visited – a couple of months on a beach in Mexico, a couple of months in Santiago de Chile, a couple of months in New York.

I needed these breaks to recharge my batteries, to get itchy feet again. As might be expected, if you visit new places all the time, it turns into a routine rather than an adventure, and I started to miss the excitement about exploring a new place And sometimes, all I wanted to do was curl up on a sofa and do nothing for a few weeks, not deal with travel planning (which takes up so much time when you travel all the time), just relax.

chill time in new york
Couch time with my Kindle… don’t get enough of that! (And yes, that’s a bird on my head. Don’t ask.)

I’ve also missed having a steady circle of friends instead of the alternating nomadic friends or travelers who you hang out with on the road, parting ways after a few days or weeks together. I missed regular catch-ups with good friends, people who’ve known me longer than for a few short days.   manhattan from top of the rockCome to New York!’ was all I needed to hear to book a flight back to NYC in October when I was supposed to travel to Nepal. I listened to my heart – I just couldn’t get excited about my trip to Asia and the 3-week Annapurna Circuit, even though it is a trek that is definitely on my bucket list. But I was still tired from a six-week trip around Europe and knew I wouldn’t fully enjoy it. And I am so glad that I didn’t stubbornly stuck to my original plan, but followed my heart.

dani and lola
Home is where my bicycle is! I got my first bike in many years in NYC.

One of the reasons why I chose to return to New York was because it is the place where most of my friends are now that I’ve lost touch with most of my friends back in London after all these years. I was craving to spend Christmas and my birthday with people I loved instead of trekking in the Himalayas. It felt amazing to have a routine again, weekly drinks, dinner and movie dates, and last but not least a workout routine, because I’ve noticed that I start to feel unbalanced and moody pretty quickly if I don’t have a regular workout (in my case: running) routine, which is hard to maintain while traveling, especially in hot and humid places like South East Asia.  dani hidingBut it’s not only a solid workout routine that I’ve been missing – what I’m craving even more is having my own kitchen again. Sure, I’m fine living on fruits and nuts on a weeklong road trip, but never being fully in control of my diet stopped being fun after a while. Even when I rent an apartment, they are usually never stocked as well as a real, lived-in apartment – which is why I love housesitting so much.

birthday love
Home is where you don’t get one, but two cakes for your birthday!

Cooking and baking are two things I enjoy tremendously, and I cook and bake up a storm every time I have a well-equipped kitchen at my disposal. I throw dinner parties, try out new recipes, and bake just for the fun of gifting people cookies. But it’s not only about how much I enjoy it – I am also very picky with what I eat, and traveling as a vegetarian can be difficult. Last year in the Philippines, I lost nearly ten pounds simply because I couldn’t find anything but fruits on some days. If you want to eat healthy while traveling, that’s an even harder thing to accomplish, because most local specialties you want to try are not necessarily healthy.

avocado toast
Homemade and so good!

In Argentina, the only vegetarian option would often just be cheese pizza or cheese empanadas, and the salads there were some of the worst I’ve had anywhere in the world – try to eat healthy while traveling through Patagonia for two months. This might sound pathetic but right now, I really miss my daily green smoothies.

homemade food
I miss my blender and I miss trying out new recipes.. My next blog will be a food blog, that’s for sure.

I haven’t even talked about relationships yet, but naturally it is not easy to keep a romance going when you’re out gallivanting the globe for months at a time instead of showing that special someone that you care about them. In an ideal world you’d find someone who is also location independent and can pack up whenever they feel like it, but let’s be honest: most people have a traditional 9-to-5 job or are tied down by other things. Not a single person I’ve met last year (who wasn’t nomadic already) was in the position to simply pack up and go as they please, the way I can.

dani in thailand 2015
Winter Escape 2015: South East Asia

I had already felt tired and burned out going into 2015, and I knew that I needed to slow down. Did I succeed in slowing down in the past twelve months? If I’m honest, I would say only to some extent. While I succeeded in finding a base, my travel itineraries in between longer stints were still much too ambitious and tiring – like September, when I didn’t have a single day to myself all month, or February and April, when I spent too much time traveling instead of planning in a balanced work / travel schedule. In periods like those I wished I had a home to go back to just sit still for a while, but instead I kept going, because there was no place to go home to.

iceland dani photographingThere were several times in 2015 when I thought about giving up – when I nearly lost a freelance client because I didn’t have wi-fi on an island in the Philippines resulting in me missing a deadline, when I wasn’t allowed to board my flight (on two different occasions!), when my bank account began to dwindle away and my savings were eaten up by unforeseen expenses, or when I felt completely burned out after traveling too fast, taking on too many assignments at the same time.dani boracay sunsetThe past year has already seen a shift from long-term stints in one region to shorter trips and having a base in between. Three months in Asia were my longest trip in 2015, followed by three months in the U.S., during which I was trying to recover from island hopping around South East Asia. For the first time in years, I planned several shorter trips, like a week-long road trip through Iceland, or a week in Italy, instead of committing to a month or longer in one place, like I used to do. dani sabino canyon hikeI knew that I was ready to put down roots again when I had gotten so comfortable in my routine in New York, and having my own kitchen again (plus every kind of food that I could possibly want) that I started to dread my departure to South America – even the cold weather didn’t bother me, and I usually despise winter. But I’m not going to lie – arriving in Cartagena’s scorching heat was something I didn’t mind at all after getting pretty chilly on my runs in the park in New York in the weeks leading up to my departure. My ideal situation would be to still escape the winters, but have a base for the rest of the year.

dani in bahia concha
Winter Escape 2016: South America

I love traveling and I will always be a traveler (when I still lived in London I was able to travel somewhere every other month, thanks to a generous number of vacation days and public holidays), but the past year has been pretty rough, to be honest.

beach sunset otres beach
Rough life.. I know 😉 I am well aware that my complaints are completely arbitrary, comparing my life with the lives of my friends and family

Most people dream of leaving their jobs behind to travel the world, which is something I can’t recommend highly enough. But traveling the world forever with a constantly changing social circle, barely any belongings, and no place to call home? It might be for some, but it isn’t something I want to do forever. Now that I am back in South America, I sometimes look at the travelers I meet here and find myself envying them, thinking how nice it must be to just travel – without worrying about making money, just enjoying a year off. I think I might still do that at some point – save enough money to travel for a year, living off my savings.dani chiang mai 2015

Don’t get me wrong – I still love what I do, and I am grateful every single day for living this life, getting paid to write, seeing places that most people will never be able to visit. But there are drawbacks and nuisances, hurdles to overcome (things like taxes, health insurance and a mailing address, to name just a few things that give me headaches regularly) that aren’t fun in the long run. And my trusted backpack, which has been serving me well for six years, deserves a break, don’t you think?

dani brooklyn bridge park
I travel the world and the seven seas Everybody’s looking for something… …But I found a place to call home, finally.
read more
1 2 3 15
Page 1 of 15