My 2016 Travel Wishlist

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As the year is drawing to a close, and I am look back at my travels over the past twelve months, it is time to make travel plans for 2016! A good friend of mine and I were supposed to travel together this year, but our plans fell through as my travel plans, as so often, changed. When we were talking about possible plans to travel together next year, she asked me ‘What are your Top Five destinations now?’ and it got my thinking: which places are high on my travel wishlist? And to which of those will I travel next year? I’d love to hear what you think of my wishlist, and which places you think I should definitely visit next year – please share your thoughts in the comments below – and also the places that are high on your travel wishlist.dani cameraSo without further ado – my travel wishlist for 2016:

1 Colombia

I’m starting with this one, because that’s where I’ll be starting my travels next month, but I don’t think you know how long I’ve been wanting to visit Colombia. It was one of the places I was most excited about to get to when I started traveling in 2010, making my way down from the US through Mexico to Central America. When I arrived in Panama, I could almost see Colombia on the other side of the Darien Gap, but I never managed to get there, as even back then, an unexpected change in plans and a summer in Europe ended my trip through Latin America – at least temporarily. But when I finally set foot on the South American continent, I started in the south, and the furthest north I made it was Peru. So I am ecstatic to finally get there – with a delay of only five years 😉 I can’t wait to explore the Caribbean coast of Colombia, about which I’ve heard great things, the beautiful cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings in Cartagena, and hopefully hike the 5-day trek to the Ciudad Perdida, the forgotten ancient city in the jungle.

2 Vietnam

I can’t believe that I spent nearly 10 months in South East Asia and never made it to Vietnam. This is something that has to be rectified asap – not only to fill the gap in my travel map, but also because I have heard nothing but good things about the country, which is why I want to finally travel around Vietnam. I am obsessed with Vietnamese food, which is another reason why I’m dying to get to Vietnam, but in addition to the delicious food, I can’t wait to see the breathtaking limestone cliffs in Halong Bay in the north, the white sand dunes in Mui Ne in the south, and everything in between. The country is filled with bustling markets, a coastline of over 2,000 miles lined with beaches, excellent trekking in the mountains of Sapa in the northwest, and I have no doubt that I’ll fall hard for Vietnam when I finally get there. Vietnam

3 South Africa

I have to be honest here – South Africa was never really on my radar – until a lot of travel bloggers whose blogs I read started to go to South Africa, posting gorgeous photos of the Garden Route that follows the southeastern coast of the country. Many of my friends who have been to South Africa mention Cape Town as one of their absolute favorite cities in the world, and of course I’d love to go on a wildlife safari in the massive Kruger National Park.

4 Morocco

Staying on the African continent, Morocco is a country I’ve been wanting to visit ever since watching the indie movie Hideous Kinky with Kate Winslet nearly 20 years ago, in which she travels around Morocco with her two young daughters. Taking the train to Marrakesh, sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert, road tripping through the spectacular Atlas Mountains, and taking in fifty shades of blue in the city of Chefchaouen (take a look for yourself in this beautiful CNN photo essay). If I can make this finally happen in 2016, it would be one of my longest travel dreams come true!

In Morocco - Amazing Erg Chebbi5 The Baltics

Another spot in the world that appeared on my radar thanks to fellow travel bloggers and travelers who I follow on Instagram. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia look wonderful in photos, and all three capitals, seem like picture perfect with medieval town centers, historic buildings and cobble stone streets. Plus, these three countries are still very cheap to travel in, so I should take advantage of that and visit them while they’re still not on the main tourist trail in Europe.

6 Northern India

When I visited India in 2012, I never made it further north than Goa, which is a shame, since most of India’s most striking provinces and attractions are north of Goa’s pristine beaches. High on my list of places to see: the desert of Rajasthan, the Golden City of Jaisalmer, the Ghats of Varanasi, the tea country around Darjeeling, and the mountain peaks of the Himalayas. Then there’s the Golden City of Jaipur, and the Taj Mahal of course – the list of places I want to see in India is so long that I could spend the better part of the year there and still not see it all! dani with indian family in hampi

7 Nepal

I was seriously bummed out when I had to cancel my trip to Nepal last month – trekking three weeks through the Himalayas along the stunningly beautiful Annapurna Circuit (check out some pictures in this Washington Post article) was something I’d been looking forward to ever since my five-day trek through Peru’s Andes Mountains in early 2014. If I can make it to Nepal next year, that would definitely be a highlight of my 2016 travels.

8 Myanmar

Another country that has been on my travel wish list for a long time – and I had actually planned to visit Myanmar this year but then decided to go to the Philippines instead (a decision I do NOT regret at all!). The golden Shwedagon Paya stupa in Yangon, the ancient city of Bagan, Inle Lake, the colorful markets – I hope that I will finally make it to Myanmar next year. Myanmar: Bagan

9 Cuba

In 2010, I almost went to Cuba, but traveling with my girlfriend at the time who was hesitant about entering the country (we would have gone from Cancun, Mexico) because she was not allowed to travel to Cuba as a U.S. citizen, made us eventually decide against hopping over to Cuba, which is why I still haven’t made it there. I think Cuba is likely to happen next year, and I can’t wait to step back in time in Havana, explore the charming colonial town of Trinidad and enjoy some of the island’s Caribbean beaches

10 Mongolia

I don’t think there’s any other country as fascinating as Mongolia with its nomadic culture and families still living in yurts, its rugged wilderness with vast steppes and imposing mountain peaks, and big open skies. It’s not necessarily solo female traveler friendly, but luckily it’s high on my friend’s travel wish list too, and it would be an unforgettable travel experience for sure. Sunset at Tolbo Nuur, Mongolia

Now it’s your turn – which countries are on your travel wishlist for 2016?

Photo credit: All images used under Flickr’s Creative Commons license. Vietnam by M M; Morocco by Patrick Wuske; Myanmar by Patrik M Loeff; Mongolia by Andrew Kudrin
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Life Lately And Upcoming Travels: November 2015 Edition

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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, where I hugged my family goodbye and hopped on a plane to New York. The rest of the month was spent between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and a few days upstate – first for my fall foliage road trip and then again for Thanksgiving.New York November 2015

What I’ve been up to

Returning to New York truly felt like coming home – and as I was typing these words I thought to myself ‘Haven’t I said that before?’, and a quick glance through my June round-up revealed that I had indeed said that before – when I came back to New York in June. So, it seems like I’ve finally found a place that I can call home.. well, it is definitely the place I feel the most at home, and know better than any other place in the world. You have no idea how good it feels to finally have a place to (sort of) come home to, after so many years on the road. One reason why I came here was because I wanted to spend my birthday with people I loved, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice I’ve made to cancel my Nepal trip (for now!) – I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now. new york fun novemberOf course I couldn’t sit still this month – and the glorious weather, a for New York untypically warm November, helped greatly in getting me away from my desk. I explored a few places I hadn’t been to yet, like the gorgeous Coney Island Creek Beach, went to the Museum Of Feelings, saw The Book Of Mormon on Broadway, saw an awesome hip hop concert (more on that below), ate sooooo well (lots of cake! Including home-made cake… I was baking up a storm in Germany and it seems like I can’t stop.. Next up are Christmas cookies!), went to see some new street art in Harlem and spent time in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Williamsburg. I finally visited the Whitney Museum, which I’d never gotten around to during the summer, I spent a lot of time in Central Park photographing the fall colors, and I loved that thanks to the lack of rain I was able to go running nearly every day. And then there was the amazing fall foliage road trip, of course, but more on that below.
November 2015 New York City


Fall foliage road trip

I had planned this Upstate New York fall getaway for weeks, and I was blessed with beautiful weather during my road trip to the Catskills. I am officially in love with autumn! My road trip couldn’t have gone better – I hiked up to the top of a mountain, I walked across the Hudson River, hiked to a waterfall, had fabulous food, saw beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and took hundreds of photos of the colorful fall leaves. Fall Foliage Road TripWinning plane tickets to Singapore

Shortly after arriving in New York, I attended a Travel Massive, which is a meet-up where travel addicts and travel industry get together to mingle and connect with like-minded people (they’re held in several cities around the world- check out here if your city has one and if so, sign up for it.. It’s free!), usually sponsored by a travel company. And this is how I ended up with two return tickets from New York to Singapore on Singapore Airlines – the sponsor of the NYC Travel Massive in November, who gave away this amazing price. It was an early birthday present for sure.

Seeing the northern lights again

On my flight to New York, the pilot made an announcement mid-flight: ‘If you’re sitting on the right side of the plane, look outside. We are having excellent visibility and can see the northern lights.‘ I was lucky here too, having a window seat on the right side of the plane, and marveled at the dancing green lights outside in the night sky. After seeing them from the ground in Iceland in September, this was my second time seeing them, and I can’t describe how special it feels to watch this phenomenon.

Awesome housesits

I am typing this in my 38th floor luxurious apartment overlooking Midtown Manhattan, where I am bird sitting (this is a first!) until I move to Brooklyn, where I scored another housesit following this one. Both housesits came through TrustedHousesitters – while I’m always bitching about the pricey membership of that website, it surely does pay off, though. (If you’re interested in housesitting in New York, I am sharing some tips in this article: Adventures in Housesitting in New York City, and you’ll get 20% off a TrustedHousesitters membership if you sign up through my referral link here).

Housesitting perks New York City
Spot the bird! 🙂

I also had to turn down THREE amazing housesits over the Holidays here in New York because I’d already committed to a housesit for a former client. If you want a housesit in NYC over Christmas and New Years, let me know 😉

My first American Thanksgiving

I’ve spent so much time in the U.S. over the past few years, but somehow I never happened to be around for Thanksgiving.. Until now! I was lucky enough to be invited for a traditional family Thanksgiving, including a giant turkey, and while this picky vegetarian couldn’t join the turkey eating fun, I actually got my own ice cream cake turkey in honor of my birthday – absolutely amazing! (And I knew that I was in the right place when my friend leaned over and whispered in my ear: ‘You know this day is all about feeling.. Incredibly stuffed.. Right?’. A Holiday dedicated to eating my face off?! I’m in!)

My birthday

I’m not much of a birthday person (the first time I got an actual birthday cake was last year!) but this year I celebrated all week long, it seemed. I started my birthday week with an awesome hip hop show in a tiny club in New York (Angel Haze, for those who are interested.. She’s amazing!), followed by seeing The Book Of Mormon on Broadway. I’d tried the ticket lottery two times and third time’s a charm was definitely true here when I won two VIP box tickets. If you’re not familiar with the Broadway ticket lottery: several shows hold a ticket lottery every day during which you can win tickets to the show for a fraction of the normal prize. (Here is a list of plays and the times of each of their lotteries). I paid $32 for a VIP box ticket that normally goes for $189!! This is even better than the TKTS discount tickets booths in Times Square but of course you’re not guaranteed to win if you decide to try the lottery. I also treated myself to a visit to the Museum Of Feelings, taking half a day off work on a sunny day, and it was such a good reminder of how much I love the flexibility my lifestyle gives me. Yes, I might have worked all day on my birthday on a big project I needed to finish, but I was able to take half a day off when I thought it was too nice out to waste the afternoon in front of my laptop.birthday


Breaking down with the car on a highway

I broke down with the car on the highway … in Germany On my last day in Germany, I was going from Berlin to Leipzig to see my brother and my nieces, and the car broke down on the highway. If you know German autobahns, you know how fast cars are going there, which means I was terrified waiting for time tow truck on the side of the road while cars and lorries were whizzing by me at over 100 miles per hour. It didn’t help that my cell phone was running out of battery in that very moment… to make a long story short: I was towed eventually, and luckily I wasn’t alone in the car while waiting in the dark to be ‘rescued’. In the grand scheme of things, this was a minor nuisance, however, and once I got to New York, things went extremely well – I can’t believe there wasn’t a single incident since I got to the States.

What’s new with Globetrottergirls

Even though I had such a fun-filled month, I also worked my b*tt off. I’ve still got a ton of content from my latest trips to share with you, and I’ve got to see a first preview of the video footage shot in Tel Aviv last month (I don’t hate myself on camera!). I also wrote several travel guides and am happy to stay put for a while to be able to edit video footage, and to sift through the thousands of photos I’ve taken this year that I still want to share them with you.New York November

What’s next for me

I have another month in New York before I get ready for my departure to warmer regions, and I am planning to fully indulge in holiday cheesiness. Ice skating, marveling at the Christmas window displays in 5th Avenue, checking out the Christmas markets, making Christmas cookies, cooking a big Christmas dinner, and ringing in the New Year with friends. I don’t know what it is about New York but this seems to be the only place where I don’t ever itch to travel somewhere else. This might change as soon as temperatures drop to uncomfortably chilly levels, so we’ll see how I feel a month from now about leaving New york autumn 2015

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Life Lately And Upcoming Travels: October 2015 Edition

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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 month was a rather slow month of travel – a much needed break after hitting five countries in September – but coming to think about it I still managed to visit five cities in October (Tel Aviv in Israel and Berlin, Munich, Leipzig and Erfurt in Germany).October 2015 travels germany israel

What I’ve been up to

I started the month in Munich where I went to Oktoberfest, then I returned to Tel Aviv this month for some fun in the sun, spent a few days in Berlin to visit friends and go to the Festival Of Lights, and the rest of the month was spent with my family.   For the most part, I spent October in Germany, visiting family and friends, planning my next travels and reflecting on the past few months, and catching up on work. If you read my last Life Lately post, you might remember that I had to make a decision if I should go ahead with my longstanding plans of traveling to Nepal or not. Well let me tell you that I’m writing this NOT in Kathmandu, where I was supposed to touch down on 28 October. When the 28th rolled around, I was more than relieved that I didn’t go – with my current travel fatigue, I’m just not ready for another big trip yet. I made the right decision. But more on that later. October 2015 travels

Highlights of the month

Returning to Tel Aviv
My return to Israel was a spontaneous addition to my fall travel plans, a trip during which I was supposed to find out if it’s possible to visit Tel Aviv on a small budget and still have fun. I left Berlin in 13C rainy fall weather and got off the plane at sunny 27C – which felt glorious. Beach time, bar hopping, a street art tour and lots of good food made this trip a highlight of the month, plus I was there with two awesome fellow bloggers – Adam and Eve. (I just realized how funny this sounds. Adam & Eve!)

I immediately wanted to extend my stay but I had an important appointment in Berlin the next week – I really hope that a month in Tel Aviv is going to happen some time in the near future!Tel Aviv 2015Festival Of Lights in Berlin  

The Festival Of Lights had been on my travel wish list for a while and I was happy when my plans for a Berlin visit aligned with the festival this year. The Festival itself, during which light and video installations are projected onto Berlin’s major landmarks and historic buildings, was absolutely incredible, but I also had a fantastic time in Berlin again, eating my way through new restaurants, go bar hopping and craft brew sipping, meeting up with old and new friends, and simply enjoy a few crisp fall days in Berlin. Festival of lights berlin

Quality time with my sister

My sister is probably the most important person in my life and not a day goes by without us messaging each other. We often only get to talk via lengthy voice mails, which is why I cherished every second of quality sister time I had with her this month, our shared cooking and baking sessions, dinners and brunches, gossip time and laughs. Nobody knows me the way she knows me, and after moving around for such a long time with frequently changing travel buddies, it felt good to be able to just be standing still and be with someone who truly knows me. And because I knew that I wouldn’t be seeing my sister, brother, nephew and nieces for a very long time, I made sure to spend a good amount of time with everyone. I love being an auntie and adore these three little munchkins so much – and my siblings took full advantage of this, which means I babysat a lot this month. Oh and from the photos below you might be able to tell that I am obsessed crazy in love with my sister’s dog.Family Fun

What went well

 Work routine & work out routine  

I finally got to catch up on work – something that definitely suffered during my hectic travels in September. So this was my main priority this month, but I still got plenty more to do. I also got back into a regular workout routine which was fantastic (except for that run in the snow… yes, SNOW!) October workouts

My first on-camera project

I also completed my first on-camera project this month – my trip to Israel was filmed to make a short promo video about budget travel to Tel Aviv. While I didn’t think twice and immediately jumped at the chance when I was tapped for the project, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d be in front of a camera. But sometimes you gotta push yourself to leave your comfort zone, right? And it turned out that I had a blast with the film crew following us around and wasn’t camera shy.

Carry-on travel – this time it went well!

Speaking of my trip to Israel – after vowing only last month not to travel with carry-on only ever again, I ended up traveling to Israel with carry-on! This time it was easy though because I went for just a few days and I packed only light summer clothes. I knew it would save me tons of time at the airport (more on that below in ‘what went wrong’).

A shiny new visa in my passport

And last but not least – and this was the most emotional moment of the month – I was finally able to fit in an in-person appointment at the American Embassy in Berlin, where I had applied for a visa that allows me to spend more time in the States than the regular 90-day tourist visa. Not only did I never seem to have enough time to leave my passport at the Embassy in between trips since I got to Europe, but I also didn’t know if I would qualify for it, which put quite a bit of stress on me. But after a tearful goodbye to New York this summer, when I was absolutely not ready to leave, I knew I had to finally apply for it. And it was approved!october 2015 update

What went wrong

Airport security annoyances  

Thanks for putting my stuff back where you took it from!!

Oh Israel. Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport is known for its extreme security measures, and travelers are advised to arrive 3 – 4 hours prior to their flight departures. I wanted to be safe and decided to head to the airport 3 hours before my flight, even though I had only brought a small carry-on duffel bag. And was I glad I did – I ended up having to go through a lengthy inspection (having every single nook and cranny in my bag searched, including my undies, feminine products and electronics), was left waiting and had to endure an additional questioning – that’s all I’m gonna say about it but you can read more about Ben Gurion’s questionable procedures, humiliations and aggressive questioning in this article: Stern security at Ben-Gurion Airport questioned.

Packing hassle

After a number of shorter trips with a small duffel bag rather than my giant backpack over the past few months I was faced with packing my big ‘pack again this month – and for the first time ever, I had to fit in clothes for all four seasons. I was completely stressed out by this challenge, and ended up not fitting everything, but let’s see how far I get with the stuff I managed to pack. I am definitely getting tired of living out of a backpack and being limited to two pairs of jeans and one jacket.

What’s new with

While I have a giant to-do-list and a number of projects that I’ve been contemplating for over a year (!!) now, I can barely keep up with my day-to-day business duties – I’ve mentioned it a couple of times before. Looking back at the year so far, I noticed that I had a great year of travel, but business-wise, I’m not where I want to be and where I could be. And that’s why I decided to sit still and catch up on work for a couple of months instead of keep going. I canceled my trip to Nepal – a week of rafting followed by hiking the Annapurna Circuit for three weeks would have been amazing, no doubt, but I have too many outstanding client commitments to be able to fully enjoy a trip like this (mostly offline). And let’s not forget that I still have a gazillion travel stories sitting in my drafts that I have yet to share with you, videos that need to be edited, and lots of other business-related stuff I need to deal with.

digital nomad office
There’s gonna be a lot of this in November…

What’s next for me

Once I made the decision to take a little travel break it was time to decide where I wanted to do that. There was only one place in the world I wanted to be – New York City. So I am now en route to my favorite city in the world and I’m excited for my first holiday season in NYC – complete with ice skating in Bryant Park, working my way through this list of cozy bars with fireplaces, see a Broadway show and do all the other indoor things that I keep putting off during the summer months when it’s too nice out to spend time inside. So while I’m listening to my heart right now, I also know that even with lots of awesome stuff going on in New York all year round, it’ll get too cold for me at some point, and I’ll be heading to the beach – to Colombia’s fine Caribbean beaches, to be precise. Yes, after a 2-year hiatus I am ready to return to South America!

But back to the immediate future – to be honest, I won’t be sitting still right away when I get to the States, but I’ll be fulfilling a travel dream that I didn’t get to realize last fall: a getaway to a cabin upstate, to take in the fall foliage before the leaves are gone for this year, and I am looking at a weekend getaway in late November as a treat for my birthday.fall in New York

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Life lately and upcoming travels: September 2015 Edition

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

What I’ve been up to

What a busy month! I would almost say that this was the busiest travel month of the year so far, but then I remembered my how I started the year by visiting five countries in January, island hopping around the Philippines in February, bouncing around Thailand in March to show someone special around the country, and a lot of traveling in April, including stressing out over my visa, and never finding time to properly relax over the summer… no wonder that I am exhausted. Which is why I am not sure if I should go ahead with my upcoming travel plans, but more on that later.

Back to what I’ve been up to in September. You might remember that I was about to set off on a month-long Euro trip when I wrote my last update in Berlin. Since then, I’ve been to Amsterdam, London, Iceland, London again, Germany, Italy and now on my way from Venice to Oktoberfest in Munich. I left Berlin in 86F (30C) heat, sweat was dripping off me, and I should’ve cherished that moment much more than I did because now I know that this was the hottest I’d be for a while. Arriving in London at a chilly 54F (13C) was already a shock to my system and I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive Iceland.September TravelsLuckily Iceland, just a short 2.5 hour plane ride from London, wasn’t really any colder than London (shocking!). I road tripped around the country for a week with my friend Rease, which turned out to be the highlight of the month – see more on that below. After I dropped the car off at the airport again, I flew back to London where I had another busy day catching up with old friends and a business meeting before heading back to Germany for my sister’s 30th birthday. I spent a couple of days baking and cooking for her big birthday bash and before I had any time to recover I was already on a train again – this time to Italy.

The 3am wake-up call for my long train ride to Milan was well worth it, because the train journey across Switzerland was one of the most scenic ones I’ve ever taken. Using Milan as a base, I explored the Lombardy region for a week with some fellow bloggers as part of the Blogville campaign, which aims to promote this underrated region of northern Italy. Knowing that I was just a two-hour train ride from Venice, without a doubt one of the prettiest cities in the world, I couldn’t resist spending a couple of nights there before heading to Munich for Oktoberfest.September Travels1

Highlights of the month

Road tripping around Iceland
Iceland was magical – definitely one of my favorite trips this year! It was a rather spontaneous decision to join Rease when she asked me – I looked up airfare and when I saw that a flight from London to Reykjavik was only 60, I didn’t think twice. I’ve seen so many beautiful images of Iceland pop up on other travel blogs over the past few years that this little island in the Atlantic Ocean worked its way higher and higher on my travel wish list – yes, I still read travel blogs for inspiration and have added quite a few destinations to my wish list because of blog posts… like Boracay, South Africa (yet to happen!), or Myanmar. We drove the Ring Road around the entire country, stopping along the way for geysers, volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers and glacier lagoons, black sand beaches, scenic views AND the northern lights! In short: it was glorious! I am currently in the process of sorting through my 1,500+ photos and video footage to show you my Iceland highlights.. hopefully next week. Until then, check out my Iceland Photo Album on Facebook to which I am still adding new photos regularly.IcelandTraveling by train I’ve always loved train travel and have been riding trains frequently since my grandma took me on them when I was a little child (he was a train driver his entire life and loved being on trains) and especially in Europe, trains are amazing. Efficient, super fast, reliable and most of all: sooo comfortable. I used an Interrail Global Pass which allowed me to travel in 28 countries for 30 days – I wish I would have time to travel to all of them, basically spending an entire month on trains. That’s how much I love train travel! Maybe next year?Interrail Trip

Returning to Amsterdam
I added a day in Amsterdam to my itinerary on a whim, since it was on the way from Berlin to London anyway and I haven’t been there in years. When I still lived in Europe, I would hop on flights or trains for weekend getaways in Amsterdam, Paris, Edinburgh, Barcelona or Prague all the time, but since I haven’t been spending a lot of time in Europe in recent years, I felt like I should take advantage of my rail pass and re-visit this scenic city. And I am glad I did because my day spent strolling along the canals and rediscovering Amsterdam ended up being a highlight of this month’s travels.AmsterdamSpending time in London When I moved to London for the first time in 2005, I fell in love with the city immediately and knew I wanted to live there. A year later, I moved to England for university and after finishing my degree in May 2007, I moved back to London right away. I loved my time there, even though the grayness and the lack of proper summers wore me down a bit in the end, but I would have never thought that leaving in 2010 to go travel the world would mean I wouldn’t be spending any time in London for nearly five years! Other than a short layover last November I somehow never made it back, and this was the first longer visit in nearly 5.5 years.

This time around, I spent a week in London catching up with my friend Shannon and showing her some of my favorite spots around town, and after being terribly cold for the first five days, just when I thought that this was a good reminder of what living in England was like and vouching not to move back to London, the sun came out and we had a beautiful late summer weekend which we spent between Camden and Notting Hill. Then of course I wanted to move right back there – and it still is a viable option, just not now. I loved seeing how the city has changed since I left; I felt like in the short time I spent there I didn’t even scratch the surface!London

Returning to Venice
Another successful return! How could I not mention Venice as a highlight? I was excited to return after many many years and to see that the city is just as breathtaking as I remembered it! I also wasn’t sure if I would fall for its magic again after having traveled to so many place all over the world since I was there last – I know that I’ve become somewhat jaded and hard to impress but Venice was able to enchant me. And that’s even despite the fact that I had to battle tourist crowds, but I found that once you moved away from the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco you could still find plenty of streets, canals and piazzas that were completely deserted.Venice collage

What went well

I had a few hiccups this month, but other than that I would say everything went well. And I am happy that after a year filled with visa hassle, missed flights and an emotional turmoil I am starting to get my groove back. There were quite a few things that could have gone wrong this month – like needing to replace my laptop (see below), but I was lucky. I drove accident-free in Iceland, I had pleasant experiences on all of my train rides (except for one majorly delayed train in Germany), I didn’t lose any valuables when I was pick-pocketed in Milan (see below) and I didn’t have a single travel experience that I didn’t enjoy… wait, there was one rainy day in Bergamo, Italy… but do I really want to complain about that? 😉

southern iceland dani car
Driving 2,000 kilometers around Iceland on narrow, winding mountain roads, sometimes unpaved? Check.

As for last month’s goal to get more sleep in September, I am happy to report that I indeed managed to get more sleep this month, didn’t have a single 2-hour sleep night and averaged 6 to 7 hours (still not enough). I am still dreaming about a 10-hour sleep night, followed by a lay-in during which I binge watch Narcos. I am hopeful that this day will come.

What went wrong

It seems like there were quite a few things that went wrong but I’d like to say that in the grand scheme of things, they were all minor annoyances.

I almost killed my laptop
I was taking notes on our day in Iceland when somehow I managed to knock over my water bottle and it spilled all over my laptop. My trusted Acer laptop shut down immediately and when the black screen stared back at me I thought that was it. I did react fast though, cleaned off the water and put the laptop upside down and open on the hot radiator in our room to dry it off – and miraculously, it turned back on a couple of hours later, a bit confused still, but then it worked just fine! I was lucky, once again!

hot tub fun with rease
Having a beer in our boat-shaped hot tub seemed the only reasonable thing to do while I was waiting for my laptop to dry off.

Traveling with carry-on only Ah, me and carry-on only.. Two things that don’t go well together. I know several nomads who travel indefinitely with only carry-on luggage, and while I admire them, I know that I’ll never be able to do what they do (and quite frankly: I don’t know how they do it!). I just like having options and not just a few outfits – this is my life after all, not just a short trip – and not being limited by 100ml rules, with my contact lens solution for example, of which a small bottle barely lasts a week. I knew I would be traveling for 3.5 weeks in between seeing my friend in Berlin last month and going back to Germany for my sister’s birthday this month, and tried to travel with carry-on only for that short time – but even for 3.5 weeks I felt extremely restricted, and when I flew out of London Gatwick I had to get rid of half of my liquids (body spray, toothpaste, mascara, hand sanitizer, and a few other things) because I was only allowed one Ziploc bag for all my liquids, even though I had specifically bought small bottles only, but they filled up two see-through bags instead of one which is apparently not acceptable for London Gatwick’s airport security. (On my flight back from Reykjavik I didn’t even need to separate my liquids from the rest of the stuff, so wth?!). This whole experience was not pleasant at all, and even though it was nice to travel light for once and not with my giant backpack I won’t do the carry-on only thing again anytime soon.

carry on vs backpack
My carry-on duffel bag vs. the giant backpack (plus carry-on!) I usually carry

I was pick-pocketed At least that’s what I think happened when I came home from our last dinner in Milan and realized I didn’t have my wallet anymore. Luckily I’ve separated my credit cards from my cash ever since I started traveling full-time, and while it was annoying to lose the 50 Euros I had just taken out of the ATM, it could have been a lot worse.

Lack of an exercise routine
I didn’t get to go running enough and I ate too much pizza in Italy – poor me, I know 😉 But like I’ve said in previous round-ups, whenever my running routine gets messed up I can feel how I get cranky after a few days. I didn’t go running once in Iceland (which might have been because I didn’t pack my long-sleeved running shirt and I am a wuss when it comes to running in the cold), and for all the pizza and pasta I devoured in Italy, I didn’t run nowhere near enough to compensate the extra calories. That said though, after a pretty painful fall (I was down on all four and ended up with this long-lasting bruise), it was probably not the worst thing for my knee to get some rest. My goal for next month is to get back into my daily running routine and lose the (estimated) five pounds I gained in Italy and from all the birthday cake I ate in September.

Italian food
And this was just ONE meal. I had about three of those every day in Italy!

Failing at photographing the Northern Lights This one still pains me, and I could kick myself for messing this one up. I was so excited when, on our nightly northern lights watch, I finally spotted them dancing in the sky just outside of our guesthouse on day 4 of the road trip, woke up Rease and told her to get dressed and ran outside to the car to grab my tripod, which I had brought for only one reason: to photograph the northern lights. While I was trying to set it up as fast as possible, the part that connects the tripod with the camera broke, which meant I had carried that thing around for weeks for nothing. No photos of the northern lights. I tried to see the upside of it: Instead of watching them through my lens I got to enjoy them in their full glory, without getting frustrated about camera settings (I suck at night photography.)

What’s new with Globetrottergirls

First of all, I had a pretty good month money-wise, and a few interesting business opportunities came my way. I don’t know what will come out of them, but expect an update on that in my next monthly round-up. And you’ll read more about one of them in ‘Upcoming Travels’ below.

If you have been following me for a while you already know that I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that is involved in running the website and all the admin stuff that keeps me from creating content. I’ve tried to come up with a better system to organize everything and to make it easier to outsource some tasks and hope that there’ll be some changes soon, allowing me to focus on content creation more again; and to grow the site. I haven’t promoted Globetrottergirls in any way in months, I’d love to publish an updated version of Break Free – The Ultimate Guide To Housesitting, and so much more – but as a solo-preneur, I just lack the time to fit in everything I want – unless I stop traveling, but wait, ain’t I running a travel blog? Speaking of stop traveling:

Upcoming travels

I’d love to announce a break after this exhausting month but instead I am happy to announce that I will be returning to Tel Aviv next week! But first: Oktoberfest! Right now I am on the way to Munich, and I am excited that worked out to visit the beer festival for the second year in a row. While my visit to Oktoberfest had been in my calendar for a while, the Tel Aviv trip only evolved in the past couple of weeks and while it wasn’t what I had planned for October (the plan was to rent an apartment in Istanbul to catch up on work), I couldn’t resist the opportunity to return to the city I fell so hard for a year ago. I’ve been wanting to return ever since, almost fit in a city break in August but then let go off the idea because I had too many other things going on, and would still like to ideally spend a month or longer there, but visiting for a special project with someone I’ve been wanting to go on a trip for a while now promised to be too much fun to say no to.

dani oktoberfest
I am concerned my dirndl from last year won’t fit anymore after all the pasta and pizza I consumed this month!

I will barely have any time to pack for sunny Tel Aviv after Oktoberfest, but I haven’t committed to anything for the rest of the month and am just now finding the time to think about it. Maybe I can stay in Tel Aviv for a while? Maybe visit a friend in Spain? Still go to Istanbul, for a shorter time? It all depends on if I’ll follow through with my plan to travel to Nepal. This trip had been pretty much set in stone since the early summer, when I found a travel buddy to hike the 3-week Annapurna Circuit through the Himalayas with. However, with my giant work backlog and general exhaustion I am not sure if it’s the best idea to set off on a strenuous 3-week trek and am weighing up alternative options.

tel aviv clouds israel
See you soon, Tel Aviv!

So for now, I only know that I’ll be on my way to Israel next week – who knows where my next update will come from. It could be Kathmandu, or it could be.. anywhere, really 😉

Has anyone been to Nepal? Will my laptop survive the altitude and will I survive a 3-week mountain trek? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Life lately and upcoming travels: August 2015 Edition

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In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, what’s new with and what’s next for me. This month I am also sharing a giveaway for a weekend in Paris for two – scroll down to the end for the giveaway!
August 2015 Brighton and Berlin

Where I’ve been

I started August in Brighton, England, and ended the month in Berlin, and the weeks in between were spent visiting family and friends all over Germany. The place I spent most of my time in this month? Berlin! And those days in Berlin were a great reminder that the summer in Berlin is almost as epic as the summer in New York.. Almost. But seriously, how lucky am I to get to spend time in my favorite cities in the world and have the best summer weather in both (and I will get to spend time in my third favorite city in the world this week – although I am pretty sure that it won’t involve perfect summer weather… more on my upcoming travels below.)?! My excellent time in Berlin let me almost forget how heartbroken I was when I left New York four weeks ago.Berlin

What I’ve been up to

I tried to relax and recharge my batteries this month, I really tried. But I also realized that spending time with my family means I barely get anything done because my nieces and nephew are all over me. Throw in a wedding for good measure, play tour guide for two good friends in Berlin, plus many catch-up sessions with friends I hadn’t seen in ages and there went my highly anticipated month of relaxation. Oh and let’s not forget about the grandiose Brighton Pride festival at the beginning of the month which took me a while to recover from. Exhaustion part 2, is what would best describe these past few weeks.brighton prideI wrote  about what I’ve been up to in detail in my Polaroid Of The Week posts and feel like I would repeat myself if I listed all the fun things between Brighton and Berlin here again, so if you want to ‘get exhausted from just reading what I did’ (this is what somebody actually said to me this month), you can read all about it here:

Brighton 2015

What went well

I guess everything went according to plan this month, and between attending Brighton Pride, re-uniting with good friends in Berlin and getting to spend time with my loved ones I’d have a hard time picking a favorite moment. Most importantly I didn’t fail as the official wedding photographer for one of my oldest friends – the main reason for my visit to Germany this month. I also managed to finalize my exciting travel plans for next month, which is going to be a busy month – more on that under ‘What’s next for me’.Wedding photography

What went wrong

 Time management or: how to manage to sleep more than five hours per night. Considering that I already didn’t get a lot of sleep in July, I shouldn’t be surprised that I am constantly tired and exhausted. My main goal for September is to get back on a regular sleeping schedule. Also, I feel like my time management skills are terrible. Or maybe I am super inefficient because of the lack of sleep? Anyway, I need to be more efficient. On the upside: I got my inbox back under control, am almost done working through my backlog of emails, and the whining about my work (over)load in last month’s round-up led to a number of very promising inquiries about my assistant position. I should have mentioned it much earlier on here! But that’s one of my problems: refusing to ask for help unless it’s absolutely inevitable.August 2015 pics

What’s new with

I’ve re-joined Snapchat recently and have been happily snapping away over the last few weeks. If you don’t know what Snapchat is – you can basically follow people and watch the stories they share on the platform in form of short 10 second videos and pictures. If you’d like to get the full gist of Snapchat, I recommend Buzzfeed’s useful Adult’s guide to Snapchat. As for my personal Snapchat – you can see what my day-to-day travel life is actually like and I tend to be a bit less serious on there than I am in writing. If you want to add me: mariposa2711 is my username and please feel free to snap me and tell me who you are 🙂

Snapchat August 2015
Some of my August snaps

I will definitely share all my upcoming European travel adventures on Snapchat in real time – let’s talk about them in more detail:

What’s next for me

I thought August would be my rest month before a busy month of travel. Yeah, right. But plans are made, flights are booked, there’s no way out. I’ll be traveling all over in September: all over Europe, to be precise. Except for a trip to Iceland which I am ridiculously excited about (I’ll be taking this self-driving tour of the island), I will be traveling exclusively by train. I’ve got the Global Interrail Pass, a train pass that allows me to ride the rails in 30 European countries – so far in my itinerary: Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, England (London calling!) and I’ll be finishing the month at Oktoberfest in Munich.

This will be my sixth time at Oktoberfest, and I am beyond excited that I was able to plan my travels around it again. And since I’ve got some Oktoberfest experience under my belt, I feel confident enough to call myself an expert on all things Oktoberfest, and so I was happy to contribute some insider tips for visiting Oktoberfest to Wimdu’s ‘Expert Tips for Oktoberfest 2015‘. If you’re planning to head to the world’s largest beer festival this year, make sure to check it out, and if you are planning to visit Munich for Oktoberfest in the future, bookmark it for later.

I am not quite sure how many more places I can fit into my month but on my wishlist are the Czech Republic (a return to Prague is long overdue), Switzerland (apparently the most scenic train rides in Europe) and France.. because: A few days in Paris are always a good idea! Which brings me to:

paris giveaway

Win a trip to Paris!

This giveaway matches the theme of my upcoming Euro trip: is currently giving away a weekend trip to Paris! Not only does the lucky winner get a weekend trip to Paris including flights and hotel for two, but also a Michelin star meal! A great competition for anyone who loves Paris and good food – and if you haven’t been to Paris yet, even better! I don’t think there couldn’t be a better introduction to the city than a fancy Michelin star meal and staying in a posh Parisian hotel! You can enter the competition here – I have already entered it, of course! 🙂

If you could visit one place in Europe, which one would it be? Feel free to share your European dream destination in the comments below!

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Life lately and upcoming travels: July 2015 Edition

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

Where I’ve been

With the exception of a short trip to New Jersey, I spent all month in New York City. But standing still in the city that never sleeps is never like ‘standing still’ – I didn’t even have time to turn on my TV once this month to catch up on the TV shows I wanted to watch or to even start the books I’ve been dying to read. As usual, I’ve taken on too much and I am feeling the effects of too many 4-hour nights.July 2015 New York Dani 

What went well

Let’s start with the good stuff: what went well this month? And there were many things that went exceptionally well!  

New friendships While I was a bit lazy on the meeting new people front last month, I finally got my mojo back and turned from a bit of a hermit back into the social butterfly I usually am. I met some great new people, wished I had more time to nurse and maintain these new friendships, but my visa is running out and the fun is over. I would even have had a housesit right after my current cat sit. There is nothing I can do about visa regulations, however.

Having a visitor in town
Usually people just pass through or spend a couple of nights in New York – but it is rare that somebody specifically comes to see me. This was different in July when I had a special visitor for eight days, something I hinted already on in my last round-up. My friend Anna, who I met trough her aunt Shannon in Chiang Mai in late 2011 and then traveled to Cambodia with in the spring of 2012, came for a week of New York funsies. Anna who was 11 when I first met her and was now 14, had turned into one of the smartest, funniest and maturest teenagers I’ve ever met and I had a blast hanging out with her for a week, showing her some of my favorite NYC spots, taking her to the beach, to Coney Island, to Central Park and even to a pre-screening of Ant Man hosted by Paul Rudd, Ant Man himself, which turned out to be a movie I enjoyed far more than I thought I would. We hung out with some of my friends, had lots of good food, and several make-over sessions. I was a bit worried about the responsibility I’d taken on – making sure I’d get the kid back to Florida in one piece – but I was complimented on my ‘parenting skills’ several times throughout the week by friends who saw me interact with Anna – a huge relief for me, and I am happy to report that we made it through the week incident free.July 2015 Anna and DaniBeing recognized by a follower I still feel funny about the word ‘fan’, but I was recognized by one of my followers in a lesbian bar this month, which was nice. We hung out several times after this initial random meeting (hi S! 🙂 ) and once again I am super grateful about the people that have come into my life through this site. I also got several really nice and touching emails from readers this month – plus an awesome housesitting offer which I think I’ll accept! – which I am a bit behind on answering but just know that I’ll get there and that I appreciate your emails.

Surviving two months of cycling all over New York! I made it through two months of cycling in New York City nearly without any incidents, but on my very last day with Lola Warrior Princess I ended up running over a pedestrian (I swear it was her fault, she just stepped into the bike lane without looking) but we both made it out with minor injuries only. Even though I consider myself an experienced cyclist, biking around New York – particularly Manhattan – is still pretty scary and I’ve read about some horrific accidents, some of them very close to places I was staying at. That’s why I am ecstatic that I made it (almost) accident-free through two months of heavy cycling, often logging over 20k a day because I was cycling back and forth between Manhattan and Brooklyn so much.

July 2015 Lola and Dani
Lola and I

 What went wrong

Work(over)load Like I said above – if you are looking for a place to sit still for a while, New York is not the right place. And I am too much of a FOMO person to stay at home when I know my friends are out doing something fun. Especially because here I always feel like I’m on borrowed time. I’ll be leaving soon. I have to fit it ALL in. Which inevitably leads to me getting burned out. I try to do too much, I am overwhelmed with work, I am trying to stick to my workout routine, so what comes short is usually sleep and at some point I just crash from exhaustion.

cronut dani new york
I was surprised with a cronut this month (the best cronut of my life!)… so I guess I am in no position to complain about anything, really.

Plus, my workload has become too much to handle on my own over the past few months. I have been looking for an assistant for a while now to hand over some things I can outsource, but other than one interview with a promising candidate back in January my search hasn’t led anywhere. So instead of reducing my workload this year like I had planned to, I kept taking on more work, and while I am thrilled about the progress I’ve made growing the business, it also brought with it an increased workload which left me feeling overwhelmed at all times. My email inbox, which I haven’t properly dealt with for about two months now, keeps growing into this insatiable monster that is gonna swallow me one day (that what it seems like, at least). I get more emails from people who want something from me than I can possibly answer – and with that I don’t mean reader emails and questions which I’m always happy to answer but emails by companies who want me to promote their products, PR companies who invite me on press trips, advertisers who are looking for a potential partnership, and all sorts of other requests and offers which range from interesting to plain weird. And that’s only one tiny aspect of this business which I run by myself that involves researching and writing stories, proof-reading and editing articles, editing and selecting photos, engage with my audience, negotiate with sponsors and business partners, deal with technical issues, figure out technical stuff that I don’t know anything about (I am not well versed when it comes to IT & computer stuff, to be honest, which makes self-publishing on a self-hosted website pretty difficult at times), be all over social media, admin stuff, making sure all invoices get paid, and making sure I pay all the bills on time.

And speaking of hosting – my hosting company has been up my ass all month threatening to take the site offline and cutting it off several times, with me trying to figure out how I can make them happy again and prevent getting shut down. All of these things combined can get a bit too much sometimes, wearing me down and make me think maybe it’s time for something new? I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish sometimes I could take the weekends off like normal people, not work on holidays or have 9 to 5 working hours instead of falling asleep with my laptop on my lap, like I do most nights. And let’s not forget that I’ve been doing this for more than five years at this point – longer than I’ve held any other position.But then I love blogging too much to just throw in the towel; the flexibility it gives me and of course the location independence that comes with it are rare and despite all the issues I face I enjoy what I do – all aspects of it. So instead of shutting down Globetrottergirls, I will instead attempt to finally slow down and get better at time management.

manhattan bridge never settle graffiti new york
Stumbled upon this street art… Never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never never settle… A sign?

You may have noticed that as a result of this little July meltdown I didn’t publish a whole lot of new content this past month, and I’m already feeling re-energized after allowing myself to take it slow for a while instead of publishing halfheartedly written, mediocre content.

Leaving New York heartbroken I touched on this briefly in this week’s Polaroid: I am so not ready to leave New York. I feel like I’m missing out on all the summer fun that makes the warm hot months of the year so amazing here, and August was my favorite month here last year. And like I said above – I also think that if I had more time here, I wouldn’t feel like I need to rush around like crazy all the time, trying to fit it all in. Having spent one month out of my 90 day visa in Arizona and California, I was only able to spend two months in New York this year and that’s just not enough. The more time I spend here, the more it feels like home, and it simply sucks to get kicked out the place that feels home the most to me, especially at a time when I don’t want anything but to slow down and stay put for a while, and the people that mean the most to me happen to be based in NYC, too. I’m working on being able to stay longer in New York next year – stay tuned for news on that – but I don’t even know when I’ll return, and that just plain sucks right now.July 2015 New York cityLosing my phone Spoiler alert: I got it back! I offhandedly placed my iPhone on top of a stranger’s car while I was doing a photo shoot with a friend in Brooklyn, forgot that I put it there and we moved on to the next location, where I realized I didn’t have my phone. Luckily we were just around the corner from the parked car, but when we ran back there, we saw the car driving off. We ran after it assuming the phone would fall, but didn’t find it in the street. My friend started calling it, and it rang and rang, but no answer. I put my phone in the ‘Lost Phone’ mode, showing my friend’s phone number on the home screen, and just waited. Half an hour later, she got a phone call from a woman who said she found my phone on top of her car – after driving for nearly 10 miles around Brooklyn! I am still amazed that the phone didn’t fall off the car during the entire ride, and was so relieved that she was an honest finder and returned the phone to me (I hadn’t backed up in a while and would have lost quite a few notes and photos…). How lucky am I?!

A difficult housesit Let’s just say that not every housesit is easy, and some pets are more challenging than others. July 2015 New York City Summer

What’s next for me

As I am typing this, I’m on my to the UK! It’s been way too long since I spent some time here in the summer, and I will be spending the weekend in Brighton for Pride, which I will attend as part of the #mustlovefestivals campaign which aims to promote festivals all over Europe. I’ve been to Brighton Pride before – but that was nearly a decade ago, long before Globetrottergirls. I can’t wait to return this year equipped with my camera and notebook and to share this giant Pride party with all of you! You can follow along this weekend live via social media!

july 2015 new york
Thanks for another amazing summer, New York!

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Life lately and upcoming travels: June 2015 Edition

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

Where I’ve been

With regards to actual travel, June was the slowest month since last August. Unless you count me going back and forth between Manhattan and Brooklyn as travel; but I didn’t leave the city once this month, let alone the state (except for the thirty minutes I spent hanging out with a bunch of deer in New Jersey). That doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything, however – as usual, I feel like I need to slow down, because I’ve been doing too much. But as you’ll see below in ‘What’s next’, there won’t be much time for a break in york sunset

What I’ve been up to

The minute I got on the subway after touching down at JFK, I felt like I was finally home. I picked up right where I left off when I said goodbye to New York last November, and I realized this month that this city truly feels more like home to me than any other city in the world right now.

That said, the month has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster and I am not sure how much of it I am ready to share with you (yet?), so I’ll leave it at that… for now.

When I wasn’t getting wrapped up in a sentimental turmoil, I was busy running around New York in my usual manner: checking out new coffee shops and revisiting old favorites, continuing the hunt for the best pizza in New York, catching up with old friends and making new ones, getting back into a regular workout routine, seeing art, going to the movies, stuffing myself with all the delicious food New York has to offer, watching outdoor movies and concerts, picnicking in the park, finding new street art, hanging out on the High Line, watching the sunset over the river, doing all the things I love about New York in the summer. And then there was Pride this past weekend of course, a celebration much bigger than anyone had foreseen thanks to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality last Friday.New York City Summer 2015

What went well: June highlights

Daybreaker – a morning rave
I didn’t even know that this was a thing until I found myself dancing at 7 in the morning on a random Wednesday in the Highline Ballroom, but apparently Daybreaker tickets are the hottest tickets in town right now. The movement started last year, and instead of a morning workout, people start their day with a dance party. Energized from the DJ tunes everyone heads straight to the office afterwards – what an amazing concept! I left the party thinking that I’d love to begin every day with a dance party from now on.

So much good food!
When I heard that a pizza speakeasy had opened up in New York AND the reviews were good, I knew I had to eat there. My hunt for the best New York pizza had been disappointing so far this year, and I was happy when my strike of bad luck finally ended at SRO. A speakeasy in its true sense, hidden behind a Spanish tapas bar, you have to knock on the door and know the password to be let in. The pizza was everything I was hoping for, and I have to keep myself from going back there all the time now (it’s kind of pricey). I also went to the celebrity chef Marc Samuelsson owned Red Rooster in Harlem this month for a fancy lunch, where I had the best Mac’n’cheese of my life. These two were standout meals, and together with all the other good food in New York I feel like I’m in a culinary paradise. I will put together a post with all my favorite new food finds and other cool spots – New York City recommendations seem to be very popular which is why I published part II of my favorite off-the-beaten-path things to check out in New York.

new york blue lane coffee breakfast
Not sure when Aussie breakfast became so popular in New York, but I’m not gonna complain!

Meeting Lola
When I met Lola earlier this month, it was love at first sight! I picked up my bike (her full name is Lola Warrior Princess) shortly after arriving in New York and we’ve been inseparable ever since. She is a beauty, and I wish I had a photo of us together to share with you, but we haven’t had a family photo shoot yet, so this has to wait until next month. But seriously, after relying on the citibike bike sharing system last year I promised myself I’d get my own bike this year and it has been glorious – who wants to sweat in the subway at this time of year anyway? 😉

Getting back into a running routine
Getting finally back into a running routine felt so good! I ran a couple of times in Arizona, I ran in Hong Kong and a few times in Bangkok, but most if my island hopping winter escape was spent without running – the humidity and heat defeated me. I missed it, I felt unbalanced, and I’m happy to be back in a place with running routes galore.New York Running RoutesFinancial stability
Including this here is just to show that this is not the norm, and I am usually struggling to make ends meet. It is rare that I have a month where I don’t have to worry about how much money I’ll have in the bank at the end of the month, because I never know how much I make. The past few months have been relatively stable though, and trust me, that is a true relief after several months of worrisome little income.

brooklyn bushwick lifes a beach
Well… Sometimes.

What went wrong

The near- credit card disaster and the debit card disaster
I did something really idiotic this month: I washed my running pants before taking out my credit card and monthly subway pass. I was horrified when I realized what had happened and thought for sure my credit card wouldn’t work anymore – and I was already down to one card (see below). Miraculously however, both credit and metro card are still working!

This had me thinking though that with the near-death experience on the highway and the not-being-allowed-on-the-plane incident in May, I completely forgot to mention a major travel mishap last month: my debit card was cloned in LA! I called my bank as soon as I caught a transaction on my account that I was sure I hadn’t made, and the bank canceled the card right away (they were also very good about refunding me the money I lost). This meant, however, that I would be left with only one card until the bank would send the replacement card, which I still have not received.

New York City 2015
What a beautiful disaster-free month in New York looks like

I have been thinking long and hard if this near-mishap was really the only thing that went (almost!) wrong in the past four weeks, but I guess the mishaps of the previous month raised my stress levels enough for a while.

What’s next for me

Tomorrow I am moving in with Gomez, who I fell head over heels in love with when I met him for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I will be looking after him, an adorable Wheaten Terrier, while his parents are traveling, and this is going to be the first time that I have a whole house to myself in New York, rather than ‘only’ an apartment. I am not sure what I am going to do with all the space there, but I am sure Gomez and I will come up with something.

Plus, I am going to have a very special visitor in New York next month, and I am beyond excited to spend time in New York with her. This means lots of sightseeing, beach trips, maybe even a trip up to the Hamptons, urban exploration, and all the things that make New York fun. You’ll hear all about it next month. I also have to be vague with my upcoming travel plans, I’m afraid, since I am still sorting out the details, but I’ll be flying to the UK at the end of next month when my US visa is running out (how do 90 days always go by so fast?) where I will pick up a 2-month Eurail pass which will let me travel by train in 28 countries! As I said, I haven’t figured out all the details yet but expect more on my upcoming train trip in my next update which should come to you from London.New York Summer 2015

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Life lately and upcoming travels: May 2015 Edition

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In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, what’s new with, what’s next for me and the most popular posts of the last month.

This month was a month of major ups and downs – and last week I realized that I still had no idea where I’d travel to on 1 June, when my housesit in Tucson would end. I ended the month with a near-death experience but the good news is that I’m still alive and I know where I’ll be heading to tomorrow!Copenhagen Los Angeles Arizona

Where I’ve been

I started the month in Berlin, one of my favorite cities in the world, followed by a couple of days in Copenhagen, and a visit to California before I returned to Tucson for the fourth time to look after one of my favorite dogs.

What went well

Returning to Southern California

Touching down in California put a smile on my face immediately. I had the most stressful time getting there (more on that under ‘What went wrong’) but the minute I stepped off the plane, all the stress dissolved into thin air. My last week in Germany had been super hectic and I was happy about the much needed ‘me time’. I usually try to seek out cool things to write about when I visit a place and take notes of cute coffee shops, restaurants and other things I find that I think are worth talking about, but after a couple of days I found myself not thinking about work at all – instead I focused only on things I enjoyed, took some time off, went on long runs, cruised around in my Flightcar and took time to adjust to the jet lag. It felt glorious to switch off my ‘work mode’ for a few days, because that is something that has become extremely rare. I guess I was ready for a vacation and wanted to simply enjoy myself without having to think about articles I’d have to write, take notes, or bring my camera if I didn’t feel like it (and I ended up bringing it only half the time, which is another rare occurrence). I deliberately booked a room in Santa Monica, a block from the beach, instead of Downtown L.A. or Hollywood, because I wanted to enjoy the ocean during my stay. Best decision I could’ve made!Santa Monica CaliforniaHousesitting in Tucson

I also couldn’t be happier about my decision to return to Tucson for another housesit – and this time around, with a first-time Arizona visitor in town, I got to revisit all my favorite places and see them with new eyes, plus explore new places I hadn’t been to yet during previous visits. This month has confirmed once again just how much I love the desert. I already touched on all the places I visited in this week’s Polaroid, and will share more about my favorite places in Southern Arizona soon.Tucson ArizonaMy first visit to Denmark

I briefly mentioned in last month’s round-up that I’d have a day to explore Copenhagen en route to the U.S. and even though I was freezing (I had packed for summer weather, not for chilly Scandic weather) I loved exploring Copenhagen and got a nice taste of the city. Of course a day was nowhere near enough to thoroughly see Copenhagen but now that I know just how close it is to Germany (about four hours), I have a feeling that this was only the first of many visits!Copenhagen Denmark 2015

What went wrong

Not being allowed to board the plane

Just a quick reminder that the exact same thing had just happened to me six weeks earlier. The first time it happened, I kept my cool, but when I was told in Copenhagen I couldn’t board my flight to LA because I didn’t have a return ticket, I completely lost it. I sat on the floor of the airport bawling my eyes out for about an hour before I was able to pull myself back together.

I know, I should be smarter and have a return ticket, but I’ve been in and out the US so many times and was never asked for a return ticket – I didn’t even think about booking one! And to be honest, most of the time I don’t even know where I’ll be traveling to next. Last year alone I flew in and out of the States four times, and only one out of these four times did I have a return ticket. So I can’t really blame anyone but myself here, but it was the most devastating thing that’s happened to me in months, if not years.lufthansa A380 LAXSince I am typing this in the US, I did make it to America in the end – I bought an onward travel ticket and was re-booked onto the next flight to L.A. within hours. I could’ve done without the mental stress though. I have been trying to find out if I really need proof of onward travel when entering the U.S. but couldn’t find a clear statement online – if you have any detailed knowledge of this, feel free to share it in the comments 🙂

A tire blowout on the highway

After having driven incident-free all month, I had a horrible near death experience three days ago when, on the highway, one of my front tires exploded. I was able to steer against the pull of the car towards the concrete guard rail and managed to stop the car before it hit the concrete, but the shock of the experience is still haunting me. I had to leave the dog in the car while because it was over 100 F (37.7C) outside while we were waiting for the tow truck and I was scared shitless that one of the many 18-wheelers that were racing past us would hit the car with her in it. I keep thinking about all the horrible things that could have happened and how lucky I was to get off relatively lightly.Clipboard

What’s next for me

I am flying to New York tomorrow! I had other ideas for June, involving a visit to San Diego, Seattle and the Pacific Northwest (finally!), but they didn’t work out for various reasons. While I’m sad that I still don’t get to visit Seattle (next year it has to happen!) I am beaming with excitement that I’ll be in my favorite place in the world in a few hours. And it just so happened that I found a last-minute housesit in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn where I’ll be looking after two adorable kitties. I have two more housesits lined up in New York City and can’t wait to see what else is coming up in June, but I am excited for all the things I love about New York City in the summer, including Pride, free concerts in the park, open air movies, bike rides, the Mermaid Parade and weekend food markets!May 2015 Arizona

Best posts of the month

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5 Worst Moments From 5 Years Of Travel

5 worst travel moments

After sharing my five best moments in five years of travel yesterday, it’s now time for the five worst experiences. Contrary to yesterday’s post, for which I had a hard time narrowing down only five favorite moments, it was much harder to come up with five really horrible experiences. I guess I am just lucky that nothing really bad has happened (yet… And knock on wood that things continue to go well).

So here are the five worst moments of five years of travel:

Getting scammed in Bangkok

This is still the worst travel experience for my ego – after priding myself for years for always researching every destination down to the smallest detail and knowing all about possible scams, I got scammed really bad on my first day in Bangkok back in 2011. I fell for the ‘friendly Thai guy’ and the ‘tuktuk scam’ and learned later on that they are among the most common scams in Bangkok. Instead of planning my trip around Thailand independently, I handed over a whole bunch of cash to a shady travel agent for plane and bus tickets – both of which turned out to be fake. All because this one time, I hadn’t done any research. A quick look in the Lonely Planet would have warned me.

It took me nearly four years to finally make peace with Bangkok (something like this can really ruin your impression of a city) but I was frustrated to witness this year that the scammers were still going strong around the main tourist sights (and my article about the experience is read by at least 50 people every day – most of whom I am sure find it after getting scammed). My ego is still bruised from the scam but the experience also helped me to become more careful and vigilant and to read up on potential scams even more – I see it as a very expensive lesson learned.

Read more: Getting scammed in Bangkok

bangkok scammer
On a recent visit to Bangkok, I couldn’t help but intervene when I saw a scammer trying to scam an elderly tourist

Experiencing a 7.6 earthquake in Costa Rica

I don’t think I’ve ever panicked the way I did when the house started shaking uncontrollably at 6 a.m. on a random October morning while I was house (and dog!) sitting in a small beach town in Costa Rica in 2012. Luckily that wasn’t my first earthquake – I’d experienced my first major one a few weeks earlier, when the homeowners and my partner were still around, but during this second one, I was the only person in the house, and there weren’t any neighbors nearby.

The second one was not only scarier for me because I was by myself, but also because I didn’t have my contact lenses in and was basically blind, and it was still dark out. I grabbed the little dog and ran from the bed to the door frame where I waited out the earthquake, hoping the house wouldn’t collapse and bury my contact lenses.

I was once again very lucky that there weren’t any major damages and that neither me or the pup were hurt during the earthquake.

Read more: Notes from the beach house: The earthquake edition

nosara earthquake
The local supermarket after the first earthquake

Every single time a stray dog breaks my heart

Admittedly, this isn’t a particular moment on my travels, but something that happens all the time, at least when I’m traveling in third world countries. Anyone who’s ever traveled with me can confirm that I can’t walk by a stray cat or dog, always having to pet them and if they are in really bad shape I go and buy some food for them – in Central America I was even traveling with dog food in my day pack.

While I’ve always considered myself a cat person it’s the dogs who keep breaking my heart when they join me for a few hours or even a few days and I get too attached to them, wishing I could take them with me. I hope that I’ll be able to rescue at least one stray dog one day, taking him with me and share my home with him or her (as soon as I have a home, that is.)

Read more: It’s a dog’s life for animal lovers on the roadanimals

Getting terribly sick in Bolivia

I’ve had several minor sicknesses over the past five years: stomach bugs, head colds, giardia, but nothing that didn’t go away after a few days. Until I got to Bolivia. It started with a terrible cough that turned into a full-on cold with pain in my lungs and difficulties breathing, altitude sickness and finally a stomach bug which resulted in me not being able to keep in any meals for nearly three weeks. My body got weaker and weaker and I just wouldn’t recover, no matter how much medicine I took. In the end, I had to go see a doctor and it turned out that I had a protracted lung infection, a bronchitis and a stomach bug on top of it. I had to get several injections and antibiotics and it took me nearly a month to get back on my feet after this.

Read more: Heaven and hell in SucreDoctor Sucre

An attempted robbery in Montevideo

It happened in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo’s old town. It was late at night, we were on our way back from dinner, the street was empty except for a few guys we passed. All of a sudden I felt someone pulling on my backpack from behind – with such a force that I was thrown to the ground.

It was a blessing in disguise that the guys who attempted to rob us weren’t armed, and the fearless Ms J put them to rout by yelling at them in Spanish really loud. However, it was still a scary moment and I was shaking when we got back to the guesthouse – I would have lost my camera gear, had they been a bit more persistent, but I had left my credit cards and cash back in the guest house. Even though I didn’t lose anything in the end, it was an experience that left a bitter taste in my mouth – I couldn’t enjoy Montevideo after that and was always afraid when we walked outside in the dark (something we tried to avoid after hearing that this wasn’t the first time this had happened, with others being less lucky).

Read more: She said, she said: Perspectives on an attempted robbery in Montevideo

Ciudad Vieja Montevideo Uruguay
Ciudad Vieja in Montevideo, where it happened

Have you experienced any horrible travel stories? Share in the comments below!

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5 Best Moments From 5 Years Of Travel

5 Best Travel Moments

Since I am celebrating the milestone of five years of travel this weekend I felt that it was time to look back at the past five years, but I had done that just a while ago (Looking Back: Five Years Ago I Quit My Job To Travel The World). So I decided to share the five best and worst travel experiences instead. To be honest: I find it impossible to narrow it down to only a handful experiences – there are so many things that come to mind. Some are obvious, like my four-day trek to Machu Picchu or walking over the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring the Maya and Aztec ruins in Mexico, boarding down a volcano in Nicaragua, visiting Angkor Wat, touring Bolivia’s striking salt flats, hiking in Patagonia, spending time with elephants in Thailand (not riding them!) cruising through the backwaters of Kerala in Southern India or living in a farmhouse in Tuscany. I could easily find a favorite travel moment in all fifty countries I’ve visited, but I decided to share the five things that popped into my head immediately:Best Travel Moments

Climbing an active volcano in Guatemala

I’ve climbed several volcanoes over the years, but scrambling up the rock-covered steep side of Pacaya, an active volcano in Guatemala, was the most memorable one. The closer we came to the top, the hotter the ground became, until we finally saw glowing lava and were even allowed to climb into a small hole not far from the peak, which felt like a sauna and had me fear my camera lens as well as the bottoms of my shoes would melt. When we were resting on top of the volcano before making our way back down, some people were even making s’mores over the lava heat! Experiencing an active volcano that way was an unforgettable experience, and Guatemala is still one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited.

Read more: The day I became a volcano climber

Volcano Pacaya

Hiking through Israel’s Negev Desert

I was wondering why this experience popped into my head before my trek through the Peruvian Andes, even though that one climaxed in reaching Machu Picchu, the ‘lost city of the Incas‘. But while there wasn’t a wonder of the world waiting for me at the end, the multi-day trek through the Negev Desert tested me like no other hike has tested me (up to now): the almost unbearable heat, the relentless sun, nothing but rocks and sands for miles and miles. It was the first time that I slept under the desert sky, filled with millions of stars – a sight I will never forget. Walking for days through this barren and yet bizarrely beautiful landscape that doesn’t allow any life to flourish was a humbling experience and I was proud that I managed to finish the strenuous trek.

Read more: Adventure Travel in Israel: Hiking the National TrailNegev Desert

Housesitting on a Caribbean beach

Even though this housesit wasn’t always easy, it is one of my favorite housesits to date and I would go back in a heartbeat. (Side note: Housesitting in itself should be one of my five favorite travel experiences because it has been the absolute best thing I’ve started doing when I hit the road and has allowed me to live like a local in so many places around the world rather than just passing through as a tourist). The beach house was an off-the-grid house in Mexico, a few miles north of the border  to Belize, and came with its own private stretch of white, powdery sand beach and the Mesoamerican Reef right in the backyard. I could literally run into the ocean right after waking up and snorkel through the colorful coral life of the world’s second largest reef. There was a local caretaker who would climb the palm trees to cut fresh coconuts straight from the tree, I made Huevos Rancheros every morning for two months straight, and the dog I was taking care of was adorable. The downsides of the housesit weren’t insignificant (escaping a hurricane, terrible wi-fi, no cell phone reception, basic living, lots of responsibility, and tears when I had to leave the dog I’d fallen in love with) and yet it was one of the most amazing experiences of my travels.

Read more: Notes from the beach housemexico

Swimming with sharks and turtles

Had I written this post before February 2015, I would have said snorkeling in Belize was one of my all-time travel experiences – but then I went to the Philippines and swam in some of the most breathtaking snorkeling spots in the world, including getting close to several sea turtles (an experience that was equally as awe-inspiring on land, when I witnessed a turtle arribada in Costa Rica in 2012). Snorkeling off the coast of Caye Caulker, Belize, is still the best snorkeling experience I’ve had so far, simply because you get to swim with all of these ocean creatures: sharks, sting rays, turtles, manatees, hundreds of colorful fish and along the same stunning reef I mentioned above. I’d go back to Belize just to snorkel there again, but to be fair, I also loved snorkeling in the Red Sea and in Thailand, even though the marine life in Belize is unbeatable.

Read more: Swimming with turtles in the Philippinessnorkeling

Living in New York City

New York City is without a doubt my favorite city in the world, I love everything about it – the diverse neighborhoods, the fact that every language of the world is spoken there, the amount and variety of ethnic food jaunts, the fact that you never run out of things to do, the architecture, the parks, the hidden speakeasys, the food markets and flea markets, the summers, the fact that I can travel within the city limits and feel like I’ve left the country, the vibrant atmosphere, Broadway plays, the street art, the fact that I could never run out of things to do there and that the city is constantly changing and evolving.

After spending two months in New York in the summer of 2013, I realized just how much I loved the city and that I wanted I spend more time there – ideally on a regular basis. Last year, I initially came to New York for a 1-month housesit, and ended up spending nearly five months in the city – a dream come true. I spent more time in New York than anywhere else in the past five years, and I’ve considered shipping my moving boxes over there several times. But then I remember that New York has this thing called winter, something I’ve been successfully avoiding for half a decade now. So for now, I am hoping to continue spending the summers there and would be lying if I said that my months in New York weren’t my absolute favorite travel moments.

Read more: 28 Things I love about New York City in the summer, Adventures in housesitting in New York Citynew york

Now I’ve shared my favorite travel moments with you – I’d love to hear your favorite travel moments in the comments below!

Continue reading: 5 worst moments of 5 years of travel

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