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 month between the two cities in Germany where my family lives, followed by a few days in Berlin, from where I flew down to Toulouse, France. I am writing this now in a small town deep in the Pyrenees Mountains, not far from the border with Spain.
What I’ve Been up to
I had ambitious plans for my month in Germany, including visiting friends all across the country, like I usually do – but I ended up traveling much less than normal. My friend in Dusseldorf moved back to my hometown, my friends in Munich had planned a visit to their families not far from where my sister lives which saved me from making those trips. The only Germany-based friend I didn’t get to see was my friend Jo who I visited in Cologne when I was in Germany last summer.
In the end, I didn’t even spend as much time in Berlin as I thought I would, because my sister needed help with the new baby and was thankful for the support, and I felt unwell for a few days. All in all, August ended up being all about planning my next big adventure (more on this in What’s Next For Me) and about my family.
Considering how little time I get to spend with my siblings and the kids, I always soak up every little moment I get with them. I cooked, I baked (a lot!), and I caught up with old friends. I played with my nephew and even took him on his first ever train ride to spend a weekend with his cousins, at the same time giving my sister some much needed toddler-free time. I made time for long runs with Odie, and after all of this, I treated myself to some city time in Berlin before I will embark on month of hiking – more on that below.
What Went Right
Being able to meet my new niece
The main reason for my visit home was to meet my brand new niece Louisa, who was only five weeks old when I got to hold her for the first time. There’s not a day that goes by in which I am not incredibly grateful that my lifestyle allows me to go and spend an entire month with my family when I want to. Had I started a full-time job in New York in May, I would’ve earned a mere three vacation days by August, making the trip to Germany (18 hours door to door) not even worth it. Opting for a job with flexible working hours in addition to keeping my freelance clients and this little website does mean earning considerably less money, yes, but it also means that I am still location independent and don’t have to rely on vacation days. Or as I was quoted in this article in a German magazine last month: “My freedom is the most important thing for me.”Starting the niece project
While meeting my newest niece was one reason for my visit home, celebrating my oldest niece’s first day of school was the other important reason for me to fly
to Germany (yes, I admit: getting me out of New York during the summer, my favorite time there, took some convincing!). In Germany, the first day of actual school – not kindergarten or pre-school, but the first day of a kid’s 12-year academic career (pre-uni) – is reason for a grand celebration. The entire family gets together to send the child off on his/her first day at school, to learn to read, write, do calculus, and all the fun stuff that follows later on.
This is, of course, also an occasion for a ridiculous amount of gifts, traditionally packed into ‘sugar cones’, which hold lots of candy in addition to pencils, rulers and paint boxes (hence the name). I decided that instead of adding another material gift, I’d use this occasion to start my niece’s travel fund. Ever since I first read about the niece project my friend and fellow travel blogger Sherry came up with, I wanted to start my own niece project. Sherry has taken all of her nieces on trips they could choose for themselves when they turned 16, and I want to do the same with my nieces and nephew. Since I’ll have to save quite a bit of money for these trips (I have three nieces and one nephew now), I wanted to start early. Even though the first niece trip is still ten or maybe even eleven years away, I am already excited to travel with them and to see which countries they pick for their trip.
This has me wonder if I’ll still be running Globetrottergirls then – but if I am, I’ll tell you all about these trips, of course. I loved taking my friend Shannon’s niece Anna around New York City for a week a couple of years ago – a teaser of sorts for my own niece trips.
A quick trip to Berlin
I don’t think there has ever been a trip to Berlin that didn’t make my ‘Favorite Moments’ or ‘Highlights’ of the month. And even though this one was a short one, there was still enough time to catch up with friends, eat the food I have to eat every time I’m in Berlin (a veggie kebab and Vietnamese), and marvel at some new street art.
I’ve been to France six or seven times, but it’s been a few years since my last visit. And I honestly forgot just how much I like France! Not just for the baguettes, crepes, eclairs, wine and cheese – I also like French people and the cities are always gorgeous. Paris is of course my favorite, but I was happy to have been able to explore a city new to me on this trip, Toulouse, which was lovely, and the Midi-Pyrenees region, where my hike starts and which is stunningly beautiful. This short trip to France makes me want to spend more time in here, visiting places like the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Lyon, which I’ve had on my travel wish list for a while (I’ll get to them eventually.)
What Went Wrong
The usual: Losing stuff
And in my usual category of losing stuff: On the way from New York to Germany, I somehow lost my favorite pair of headphones – my wireless running headphones – on one of the planes. I still don’t know how I even lost them. Well, at least these weren’t $300 headphones like the last ones I left on a plane.
Traveling to France without my main credit card
Of course I couldn’t travel to France without forgetting something very important – in this case my brand new credit card. I barely use my German credit card, but because I wasn’t able to get a U.S. credit card yet (hello second-class immigrant!) I put some money in my German account for this trip. Only recently did I discover that the credit card had actually expired. Long story short – after having the bank send a new one to my mom’s house and picking it up there the night before leaving on my trip (talk about timing – it had arrived just before I was leaving) I managed to leave the card at my sister’s house, along with my British credit card. This means I have only my British bank card on me right now, and I can only hope that nothing goes wrong until I get back to Germany in October.
Less than a week before I was supposed to leave for Berlin, I started feeling terrible: headaches, fatigue, and overall weakness. When I still felt like sh*t 24 hours after it started, I began to doubt my ability to go on the 500 mile hike I’d planned for September. Luckily, I felt better on the third day, but this caused me to postpone my trip to Berlin and caused me to stress over work that I didn’t get done while I was feeling unwell. I rarely get ill, and this was a good reminder to not take my good health for granted.
1 My monthly challenge
After my utterly disappointing failure in my July challenge (write at least 750 words per day) I decided to take a break from my monthly challenges in August (also because I knew I wouldn’t have much time for a challenge). But now I am ready for another challenge, and I’m thinking another daily writing challenge, which I hope will be easier in September when I will have plenty of time to be introspective and pensive. Let’s see how it goes this time around – I hope that the little notebook my friend Rotem gave me for this trip will inspire me to write every day.
2 Losing weight
I’ll admit it: I ate way too much cake last month. And too much bread, and too much chocolate. Whenever I get to Germany, I tend to go overboard with all the things I miss while I’m abroad, and then I eat them all at once while I’m there. This time around, it wasn’t any different. I think I may even have eaten more than usual because I read that everyone loses weight on the Camino. So let’s hope that’s true and that I’ll lose the 5 kilos I gained over the past month.
One thing that differentiates me from all the other hikers? I am not solely on a hiking trip – I have to fit in some work time as well. Sadly, I am financially not in a position to take an entire month off (especially considering I’ll be returning to NYC in October), which is why I am bringing my laptop on the hike and have to fit in a couple of hours work every day. It won’t be easy to pull out my laptop after 20 miles/30 kilometers of hiking, but I’ll have to be disciplined and just do it. I’ll report back next month how this went, as well as my progress for challenge #2.
Join my travel chat on Pepo!
I’ve been very active on the Pepo app last month, talking about all sorts of travel-related things: Off-the-beaten path places in Barcelona, the Bronx and Brooklyn, how to get the most out of Google Flights, my favorite city in Chile and why you should go there, budget tips for Iceland, where to head for the best views over Manhattan, how to save money for travel, advice for anyone visiting Oktoberfest, what’s important to know when buying travel insurance, my favorite flight deal website, the best street food I’ve had on my travels and where you can get it, my top five pizzas in New York, and a bunch of other things. I’d love for you to join my Pepo channel, and of course you can ask me anything you like!
What’s next for me
A 500-mile walk
I will be walking all of September – every day, for six to eight hours. Typing these words makes me feel like I’m crazy, and I probably am, but then there are hundreds – if not thousands – of pilgrims who set off to do exactly this every single day. I will be walking the historic Camino De Santiago which begins in the French Pyrenees and ends in the town of Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. If you have been following me for a while, you may remember that I have been wanting to do this walk since 2014, but somehow timing never worked out.
And I didn’t think I was going to do it this year – in fact, I thought I was going to head to India for a travel conference in September, which would’ve been the perfect excuse to fly up to Nepal afterwards to finally hike the Annapurna Circuit, another long-distance hike I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.When I didn’t hear from the conference organizers for a while after they invited me to the conference in the spring, I started to think about alternative trips I could take, in case the conference would be canceled, and the Camino popped into my head right away. I’d be in Europe, and September is one of the two best months to walk it (the other month is May). I consulted Rome2Rio about how I’d even get to the tiny town of Saint Jean Pied de Port, where the Camino starts, and when the website showed me a flight to Toulouse for only $30, I bought it right away, even before the conference was canceled. Losing $30 wouldn’t hurt, and I’d have a Plan B mapped out.
And sure enough, the conference was cancelled in July, and I frantically started buying equipment for my five-week hike: new hiking boots, a new rain jacket, sock liners, trail mix, plenty of Compeed band aids, and all sorts of stuff that a long-distance hiker needs.
I don’t feel prepared at all (my last hike was climbing Schunemunk Mountain in July to break in my new hiking shoes – and that was my only hike all summer!), and I am afraid I may not make it very far, but here I am, in Saint Jean Pied de Port, surrounded by pilgrims who will all set off with me tomorrow to Santiago De Compostela. By the time I will write my next update I won’t even have reached the final destination of the hike – but I hope it’ll come from somewhere near the end, and that I will still be walking. Wish me luck!
You can follow my hike in real time on Snapchat: mariposa2711