close

Personal

Globetrottergirls is Turning Eight

8 years

Globetrottergirls just turned eight (!) and I have to admit that this milestone would’ve come and gone completely unnoticed had Twitter not reminded me that I signed up for the social media platform eight years ago.

Eight years ago! In 2010, when I started this little blog, I sure did not think that I was still going to be writing – or traveling! – nearly 3,000 days later; 2,920 days, to be precise. I figured that this milestone would be a good excuse to grab a pencil and piece of paper (read: my iPhone) and break the silence, because I am sure you’ve noticed that it’s been awfully quiet here on the blog and on my social media channels.And this date couldn’t be more perfect to share a little update on how my travel and blogging life has been evolving, because as I am typing this, I am waiting for a furniture delivery, to finally make the place I signed a lease for last month, a little more homey. Yes, after eight years of homelessness, i.e. not having a permanent address, I have decided to finally put down roots.

I still remember the spring day back in 2010 when my task for the day was to open Facebook and Twitter accounts for the blog my then-girlfriend and I had just launched, and to find some travel blogs to follow. Back then, this was an easy task, because the number of travel blogs was still pretty small.

What Globetrottergirls looked like in 2010

I have to admit that I had never even heard of travel blogs until my partner suggested we should start one to chronicle the round-the-world trip we were about to set off on. But a quick Google search revealed that what I had done – quit my job to travel the world – was not as extraordinary as I thought it was. There were plenty of people out there who’d done the same thing, having already started their own trips or who were about to set out on a similar journey.

Some of the blogs I found back then are still around today, blogs I still regularly read like Uncornered Market, yTravelBlog, Bacon is Magic and NomadicMatt, but most of the blogs I discovered back in 2010 have long disappeared. Most people seem to go travel for a year or two and then return to their regular lives, and I didn’t expect to travel for longer than a year.

When I started Globetrottergirls, I had no idea where this blogging journey would lead me, and I never imagined that it would change my entire life. Without Globetrottergirls, I would have never become location-independent, saving me from having to go back to my desk job in London which had made me miserable. I doubt that I would still be working in the soul-sucking financial sector, but I’d probably still be working in an office, had I not started this website eight years ago.

Fun fact: The first 1.5 years on the road I worked on a tiny Netbook, I only got a proper laptop in late 2011. That’s me working on it in 2011 on a beach in Goa, India.

I would probably have never gone after my dream of living in New York, a dream that I wanted to make a reality ever since visiting the Big Apple for the first time in 2009, but had quickly disregarded after some research revealed that getting a sponsorship for a work visa was anything but easy.

Globetrottergirls did so much more for me than to just help me change careers  though. It showed me that there was a different, unconventional way to live my life – I didn’t have to work a 9-to-5 job!

I could make a living being my own boss, making my own hours, deciding what kind of work I wanted to do. And I could do it from a hammock in Nicaragua or from a beach in Thailand. I met people who felt the same way about the corporate world, who had also left their careers behind to set off on a journey into the unknown. I doubt that without my round-the-world trip and the world that blogging and working online opened up for me, I’d have had the courage to quit my job and try living a life less ordinary. But crossing paths with so many people both online and on my travels that were living a similar lifestyle made me believe that it wasn’t as crazy to pursue this dream of turning a 1-year trip into an indefinite journey as many friends and colleagues back home made it seem.

Dani with her Asus Netbook
My hammock office in Nicaragua – much better than my desk in an open-plan office in London

Over the years, I was lucky enough to meet many of the bloggers I started following when I set off on my round-the-world trip, plus a bunch of other like-minded people who were earning their money online or had remote jobs, and it was thanks to these people that I found the courage to turn down the job offer I had waiting for me back in England, and to stay on the road instead. Because even though traveling the world forever (or at least for a few years) was what I was secretly hoping to do, in reality I always thought I would have to go back to the corporate world after roaming the globe for twelve months.

Turning down a safe job with a steady paycheck and paid vacation days was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. And I’m not going to lie: Those first few years trying to make a living on the road were not easy. Travel blogging as a career was not a thing yet, and I remember accepting some really low-paying jobs, like a social media account manager position for £7 an hour, or blog writing / copy writing for as little as $10 per hour. But living frugally enabled me to stretch my savings until I was finally able to ask for better rates and started making some money through the blog as well.

housesitting pool
During the first couple of years of bootstrapping, long housesits in fancy apartments helped a lot to make up for the cheap accommodation we were able to afford at the time.

I tried to go back to more conventional jobs a couple of times over the years when money was tight, but I quickly realized that I am one of these people who are simply not made to work for somebody else – I enjoy being my own boss and don’t have a problem working seven days a week, as long as it is for myself.

Another thing I could have never foreseen when I started Globetrottergirls is how many lives I would influence. I am not sure how many people have emailed me over the years, telling me how Globetrottergirls had inspired them to travel to a certain place, go on their first solo trip, or visit a destination that hadn’t been on their radar until they read about it on this very site.

During Year 1 on the road I was obsessed with Central America’s colorful houses 🙂

These emails were my main motivators in keeping the site going whenever I was in a slump, or was suffering through a strong case of writer’s block. Inspiring others to go see the world and helping people plan their dream trip has always been my number one goal with Globetrottergirls, and it is why I will continue writing the website, even though I am not traveling full-time at the moment.

Having a base now does not mean that I have stopped traveling, on the contrary, I am already planning several trips for later this year, including a backpacking trip just like the one I set off on in 2010. The only difference is that this time, I’ll have a set end date and a home to go back to.

After nearly a decade on the road I was more than ready to have a home again, and to be honest, I was already ready to have a home base when I wrote The Evolution of a Nomad in early 2016.

dani palomino beach
Burned out in Colombia

I was tired and burned out back then, after six years of vagabonding, but somehow it took me another two years after writing about my struggles to stick with my nomadic life and my longing for a home base to finally sign a lease. Back then, I still wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to settle down – New York was the only city in the world that was calling me, but I was getting tired of having to leave every six months because of visa restrictions.

When I found out a few months after writing that post that I had won a Green Card,  i.e. the right to live and work in the U.S., living in New York permanently suddenly became a viable option. I am not sure where I’d be now had that not happened. Waiting for my Green Card to be processed meant I had to stay on the road for another year, even though I was more than ready for a break from traveling, but at least now the end was in sight, and I had something to work towards.

And then I was finally holding my permanent residency in my hands, and I got a mix of both cold and itchy feet.

dani camino de santiago
About 25 days into walking the Camino De Santiago

There were a few things I wanted to tick off my bucket list before putting down roots, such as walking the Camino de Santiago. The five-week pilgrimage was not only one of the highlights of my 2017 travels, but of all my travels, and it allowed me to not only wander across Spain and get to know the country in a completely different way, but to also do some much-needed soul searching; giving myself the chance to focus on nothing but myself.

Spending the first few months of 2017 in Latin America was also something I don’t regret at all, but when I finally returned to New York last November after a summer in Europe and a quick stint in Asia, with no plans to leave again anytime soon, it felt like it was just the right time to finally make New York my home base, and to stay put for a while.

Of course ‘putting down roots’, i.e. finding a home, turned out to be anything but easy, and I began to wonder if I was really supposed to be here. But no place feels like home to me like New York does, and so I fought to overcome a number of hurdles in early 2018 which caused me tears and sleepless nights (I might write about all of these obstacles at some point, when I can finally laugh them off) to finally become who I am now: someone who owns a set of keys, someone who has a place to call home.

Staying put, but not standing still – I am constantly exploring NYC

Because of my visa restrictions, I was never able to take on work other than my blogging and freelance writing gigs, even though I’ve been spending most of my time in New York since 2014, using it as a base between longer trips. The money I was making as a freelancer was oftentimes not enough for this pricey city, and I repeatedly found myself struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why what I was most excited about when I got my permanent residency was the fact that I could pursue opportunities outside of writing. I haven’t done anything but writing in such a long time – in fact, I’ve never done anything else for as long as I have been writing for a living, and as a typical Sagittarius, I am not only looking for new adventures all the time, but I am also someone who craves change and hates routine.

I am certainly no introvert, and the solitude that comes with writing has always made me miss having colleagues – that aspect of the corporate world, along with things like company parties, lunches with colleagues and after-work-drinks are some things I’ve been missing over the past few years.

I love working with people again – blogging can be quite lonely!

And quite frankly: Having the blog as my main source of income has been stressing me out for a while now. The income can vary drastically, it’s never guaranteed, and the hustling part of running a blog as a business started taking over and detracting from my creativity. Instead of spending time writing and creating content, I found myself spending more and more time on admin, running the back-end of the blog, and trying to keep on top of my emails.

The break I took from blogging was much needed, allowing myself to not blog for a while, instead of forcing myself to publish x amounts of posts every month – this helped to recharge my batteries and to get from a ‘I have to blog’ mindset to a ‘I want to blog!’ state of mind again. Globetrottergirls started as a passion project after all, and was never supposed to feel like work.

Do What You Love

After eight years without a steady paycheck having a more stable income again feels glorious, and being able to turn down some blogging opportunities I don’t feel 100% happy about but which I would’ve accepted before just for the money, is a big relief.

This does not mean the end for Globetrottergirls, and certainly not the end of me traveling. In fact, I just booked a flight for a summer trip, and I am in the process of mapping out my first proper backpacking trip in over a year to escape New York as soon as the weather gets colder. I am also looking forward to TravelCon, a travel conference in Austin where I’ll be speaking on a panel about LGBT travel with my friend Adam, which will bring me back to one of my favorite cities in the U.S. in September.

I still have plenty of travel stories to share, and writing has always been a part of my life, and now that I am fully settled in my place and even have a desk, I will get back to a more regular writing routine.

And to be completely honest – while I appreciate the break from full-time traveling right now, I sometimes find myself fantasizing about another around-the-world-trip. Will New York be my base forever? I doubt it.

The last time I went on a supposedly one year round-the-world-trip, I ended up traveling the world for eight years.

I guess we will just have to see how long the next one will be, and where it’ll lead me to.

PIN IT!

Eight Years of Globetrotter Girls

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: January 2018 Edition

IMG_3939

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

31 days in New York City! I never thought I’d spend an entire winter month in New York, but when I smell a business opportunity, I jump on it, and that’s exactly what I did – more on that later. Even though I spent all month in New York, I never sat still, and I’m paying the price for it now – I am absolutely exhausted and finally ready to leave New York (which I wasn’t at the end of last month).January 2018

What I’ve Been up to

Most of the month, I worked my butt off. I ran tours on 25 out of 31 days, meaning that even if I had only been running tours, I still wouldn’t have got four full weekends this month. And, because apparently it’s not enough to walk 10k around Brooklyn every day (almost), I also worked in the ‘real’ job I got myself last May (although I think I’m going to have to quit it soon if my tours keep going so well) and I had some freelance writing projects to finish.

In addition, I pet sat for about half of the month, which was nice, because that means I’ll be able to enjoy my upcoming trips without worrying about money. Trying to juggle four jobs this month meant, however, that there was not really any time for blogging. I appreciate the break from the pressure I felt when I was blogging full-time. I don’t have to hustle all the time to make sure I’ll be able to pay my bills, and after so many years of scraping by on a lousy blogger’s income it’s a nice change to get some time away from my laptop – especially because I was dealing with some major tech issues this month again, but more on that later.January jobs

I have to admit though that I do miss writing – but I just don’t have any energy left after five hours of walking to produce any written words I’m proud of, and the hours before the tour are barely enough to keep up with all my admin and book keeping.

While the cold temperatures and short daylight hours in January make it pretty hard to do much outside (my tour occupies a large part of the daylight hours), I spent a lot of time doing two of my favorite things: exploring new cocktail bars (there sure is no shortage of them in New York!), working my way through my seemingly endless ‘restaurants I want to eat at’ list, and watching movies. I gifted myself with the Movie Pass for my birthday, which lets you watch unlimited movies in almost every movie theater for only $9.95 a month, so I’ve been trying to go to the movies once a week, and so far, I’ve been doing a pretty good job. My favorite movies last month were Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Disaster Artist. Looking through all the photos I took in January, I also realized that I spent a lot of time in coffee shops:January 2018 Coffee

The only outdoorsy thing I did this month? I went on a street art tour of the Lower East Side. I love street art and wanted to learn more about the LISA Project, an initiative that is bringing more mural art to Little Italy and NoLiTa, and Audrey’s tour was just perfect.street art

I also experienced the biggest snowstorm of my life, which happened to take place on a day I (luckily!) wasn’t running a tour, but working inside, in Times Square of all places, and I was able to watch the snow rapidly cover the streets of Manhattan. None of my colleagues could quite understand my excitement about the amount of snow, but in Germany we just don’t get snow like this (only in the mountains – maybe!) and let’s not forget that I’ve successfully avoided winter for seven or eight years – until now!january 2018 snow

What Went Right

Speaker Invite

I was invited to speak at a travel conference on LGBT travel. After a couple of invitations to speak at travel conferences which I couldn’t accept because I found myself in other parts of the world and traveling to the conference would’ve been too complicated, I was invited to speak at Travel Con, a conference that features workshops and networking events for travel writers, bloggers and travel industry professionals in Austin, Texas in September. I am super stoked to be part of this conference, which has plenty of speakers that I personally look up to and look forward to hearing speak, and I love Austin. Plus: I get to speak about an important topic.

Following this invite, another opportunity landed in my inbox: the opportunity to speak to a group of students from Singapore about entrepreneurship and my entrepreneurial journey when they are visiting New York later this year.

My Brooklyn Tour is More Successful Than Expected!

When I launched my tour in December, I honestly didn’t think I’d be running as many tours as I am currently running – because I figured January was low season and nobody in their right mind would even consider running around Brooklyn for four hours, in temperatures as low as -13 Fahrenheit (-21 Celsius). Oh, how wrong I was! Most of my tours this month were sold out, and even when I opened my calendar at the very last minute because I got an inquiry to run a tour for someone’s birthday (how could I say no to that!), I was able to fill nearly all spots within only a couple of days. I was completely stunned when my Airbnb coordinator told me that my tour was the 5th most booked tour in the entire NYC market, out of around 260 tours!

january 2018 tour brooklyn

What is even more important to me, however, is the feedback I’ve been getting from guests – being able to introduce so many people to Brooklyn makes me so happy, and I cherish every 5* review I get. Being able to host this Brooklyn tour is honestly a dream come true, and I don’t take it for granted that I get to earn money with something I am passionate about (especially after being miserable in an office job for years).

Second Tour Launch

I launched my second tour! When I first started working with Airbnb, I had three different ideas for tours, but I wanted to begin with one first to see how it goes, and then add more.

When I told a friend of mine about the tour I wanted to launch in the spring, he advised me not to wait too long with it. “If you have this idea, I’m sure somebody else has the same idea. Be quick, and grab it before somebody else does.” I decided to listen to him, even though I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another launch, since I was still tweaking and improving my first tour. But I decided to run with it, and when I wasn’t busy running my Brooklyn Tour, I worked out the details for my second tour: A Brooklyn Pizza Walk. If you know me/have been reading this site for a while, then you know that this tour is pretty much the epitome of my perfect afternoon: I get to introduce people to New York pizza AND to Brooklyn. I don’t think it can get much better.

I was ecstatic when Airbnb accepted my proposal for this tour and then it went live within days of being accepted – so much faster than my first tour, which took months to go live.Pizza

What Went Wrong

Second Tour Launch

I am going to be honest: while I was excited about getting another passion project off the ground, I was also a little overwhelmed with suddenly juggling two tours, and felt like the Pizza Walk still needed some tweaking, since I hadn’t done it as often as the walking tour which I’d soft launched on a smaller scale last summer. And so, when the inaugural tour ended in a near-disaster, the perfectionist in me was very upset (there were tears.)

I also quickly learned that having one successful tour doesn’t automatically mean a second tour is going to be just as successful – the Pizza Walk is slowly gaining some traction, but can in no way be compared to the success of my Brooklyn Walk. I haven’t even broken even yet, but I’ll wait and see how the tour does once peak tourist season begins.

pizza new york city
I did a lot of ‘research’ for my pizza tour in January!

Sublet Nightmare

Knowing that I’d be leaving New York for a couple of months in February, I opted for a sublet rather than a long-term lease, which meant I wouldn’t need to deal with subletting my place while I’m gone. I found what I thought was a great sublet, but the ‘amazing place’ turned into a nightmare when first the kitchen sink stopped working and only a couple of days later the bed collapsed. What followed were terrible discussions with the girl I sublet the room from – waiting for a replacement bed (which never arrived), the return of my deposit, and about a discount for the hassle this caused me – because the last thing you want to deal with while working four jobs is having to find a new place to live.

I’ve sublet countless times in New York, but in five years, this was the first sublet nightmare. And hopefully the last one.

collapsed bed
Dealing with a collapsed bed was no fun…

Tech Issues

The few hours I spent working on Globetrottergirls this month didn’t go by without any tech issues. I don’t know how often I’ve had ‘Tech Issues’ or ‘Website Issues’ listed in the ‘What Went Wrong’ section of my round-ups… and I am so tired of it. This month, I lost my business email accounts for a while, which, considering a lot of business opportunities I get can be pretty short notice, was anything but great. After four hours on chat with tech support on one of the six days this month I wasn’t running a tour I was able to get my email accounts back, but this caused me extreme anxiety, and made me feel so much relief about not having to rely on blog-related work as much as I used to.

laptops
…and somehow, I am still working with two laptops instead of just one.

The Credit Card Incident

When I took a friend out for Happy Hour this month, and paid with my credit card, I ended up not getting my card back, but someone else’s. Which I didn’t realize until the next day, when I tried to purchase $50 worth of coffee drinks for my guests on the tour, which includes a coffee stop. Not only did the card not work (and wasn’t mine!), but I also realized that I had forgotten to put my back-up card back in my wallet after using it. Luckily the coffee shop was kind enough to trust me to come back the next day to settle my bill, and I got my card back from the bar with only one charge on it that wasn’t mine, but I could have done without the mental stress and hassle this incident caused me.In Germany, we never hand our credit cards over to anyone, you basically never let it out of sight, and when paying by card, the waiter brings over a portable card swiping device (which requires a PIN). Whenever German friends pass through New York, they are shocked that I just hand over my card in a restaurant, and I always assure them that it’s completely safe.

Not my credit card!!

Funnily enough, the ‘credit card incident’ happened just a couple of days after my friends from Germany passed through town, the ones who I had this very conversation with. Guess it’s not as safe as I told them it was!

January 2018 gifts
Friends from Germany visiting NYC means lots of German goodies!

A Dog Ate My Camera Lens

And not just any dog, but my favorite puppy who I look after regularly. He loves chewing up stuff, and so far he has eaten everything I’ve accidentally left out: a bra, my iPhone charger cord, headphones… to name just a few things… and now, my brand new, barely used $300 camera zoom lens. I am still not sure what I’ll do about it since the lens is still working – but as you can see in the pictures, the lens looks completely beaten up.

camera lens
Ouch.

Challenges

Running

Since I’ve started running the tours, I haven’t really been able to run anymore, which bothers me. I went on exactly one run this month! But then again, I ran 25 tours, and walking between four and five hours every day seems to compensate for at least some of the pizza I’ve been stuffing myself with (see above), but I’ve already gained back some of the weight I lost during my vegan month.

Moving forward, I hope I’ll get back into a running routine, but since it’s already dark by the time I finish my tour, I would only be able to run in the mornings, which is when I usually work on my freelance work and blog. Since not having a single day off in a month isn’t really much of a work life balance, I think I’ll get back into a running routine as soon as I’ve worked out how to have a better balance.

New York Winter
Running in snow and icy weather is just no fun..

Book Keeping & Admin

Being better at my book keeping and admin, and tracking my expenses again was one of my main resolutions for 2018. I used to track my expenses meticulously to the penny, every single day, in whatever currency I was using, and exchanging it to that day’s exchange rate with the help of the excellent Trail Wallet app. However, sometime last year I fell off the wagon completely, and stopped monitoring what I was spending. Even worse: I stopped keeping track of my income as well, which due to the nature of my numerous jobs and freelancing projects, varies from month to month. So I really should make sure to always add all incoming payments to a spreadsheet and add them up at the end of each month – also to check that all my invoices were paid.

Let’s just say that my book keeping systems have not been very well thought out and I have been wanting to introduce better and easier ways to track how much I spend and how much I earn, as well as how much I need to save for my upcoming tax payment.

January started off well with me tracking all of my expenses and business expenses and all of my income, but when I started to feel burned out towards the final third of the month, I let it slip again. Since I really need to prepare for my tax declaration, I can’t be as relaxed about it as I used to, and I need to come up with a steady book keeping routine.
hustle harder street art

What’s Next for me

I am off to Austin today, 1 February! A friend of mine wanted to come visit me in New York last month, but somehow these plans never came to fruition – and I don’t know how much time I would’ve had for another visitor, since friends from Germany also came to visit.

Since I was more than ready for a break from New York, and with my sublet ending at the end of January, I thought it might be neat to meet somewhere else. ‘Is there anywhere in the US you’d like to go? A place you haven’t been to yet that’s on your travel wish list? Maybe somewhere a bit warmer than New York?’ When the answer was Austin, I didn’t have to think about it for long.

You may remember that I spent a month in Austin in 2016 and absolutely loved it. When I booked my flight, I hadn’t yet received the invite to speak at Travel Con – now I’ll be going to Austin twice this year! No complaints about that, I’m excited to return to one of my favorite cities in the U.S.New York January

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: December 2017 Edition

december 2017

Wait – shouldn’t this be the January round-up?! Well, I can’t believe how long it has taken me to post this, but as it turns out, working three jobs simultaneously is much more time consuming and exhausting than I thought! More on that in my January round-up, which will be posted shortly. I hope you don’t mind two round-ups in a row, but I feel like both of them explain a lot about the silence on the blog in recent weeks.

December felt like the longest month. Was that because I so desperately wanted the year to be over? That it felt like it was dragging on forever? I couldn’t wait for New Year’s Eve, and the party I was going to attend.

Where I’ve Been

I spent the entire month in New York City, as I had predicted in November, and it was a welcome change from the previous travel-heavy months of October and November.december 2017 nyc

What I’ve Been up to

December was supposed to be a quiet month, but as so often happens, life had different plans for me. I started the month by worrying about making enough money to be able to cover all my costs, because the last two weeks of the year are traditionally very slow on the freelancing front, since everyone goes on vacation. However, as I was finishing up my last projects of the year, I got some exciting news about a side business I’ve been trying to launch since the summer, and I ended up working more last month than any other December – and without taking a single day off during the Holidays.

December had another big surprise in store for me: the coldest weather I’ve experienced in my entire life, except for a visit to Chicago in December ten years ago, when I thought my face might freeze off. The last month of the year started with beautifully warm weather, and I remember still taking pictures of the fall colors on my runs. Only a few days later though, the first snow storm of the season hit New York, unseasonably early.New York December WeatherIn the past, the couple of times I happened to find myself in New York during the winter, I was always lucky to be there during a mild December and to leave in January just before the first blizzard hit. This year, I got to experience another unseasonable December, however, instead of breaking records for the warmest December ever recorded like I had witnessed in 2015, cold temperate records were broken this year.

Unfortunately, the business I was finally able to launch (see below) happens to be outdoors. So not only did I get to experience the coldest temperatures for a New York December ever, but I also had the pleasure of being outside in this weather for up to five hours every single day, the coldest day being -6 Fahrenheit/-21 Celsius. I felt like winter was laughing right in my face and was paying me back for all the winters I escaped in the past. Well, I’ll be laughing right in winter’s face next month when I board a plane to a hot and sunny destination, leaving snow and freezing temperatures behind for a while.

I started to feel a bit blue about not spending the Holidays with my family, but as soon as I started my new side gig (see below), I had absolutely no time for any kind of winter blues anymore, because I worked every single day.december 2017 new yorkAnd luckily I made the most of the month while I still had the time to enjoy myself: I went to see the fabulous Yayoi Kusama exhibit before it closed, I forced my friends to meet me at various vegan restaurants (going vegan can be seen as somewhat anti-social, I’ve learned – see below under Challenges!) and attempted baking my first vegan Christmas cookies (because I was vegan all month – and they turned out pretty well!), and I frolicked in the snow when the first blizzard of the season hit on 9 December.

I also went to a Christmas party and ended the year with, not one, but two New Year’s Eve parties, and I went to various Holiday Markets here in New York (even though, admittedly, they don’t come anywhere close to European Christmas markets).December ChristmasDecember was also the strongest month for my pet sitting side business, thanks to it being the holiday season. When I opted to spend Christmas in New York instead of flying to Germany, I decided to open my calendar for potential dog and cat sits, and not only did I get booked by previous clients, but also by a number of new clients, which meant I got to spend a lot of time with cats and dogs this month, including several new furry friends.

After housesitting for free for years (and co-authoring a book about it) it feels good to finally get paid for it, even though it isn’t a lot. But thanks to these sits, I was able to get gifts for my nephew and nieces and siblings without putting a huge dent in my bank account.pet sitting

What Went Right

Finally Launching My New Business

As mentioned above, December saw me finally launch a business I’ve been waiting to get off the ground for the bigger part of the year, and I hinted about it in several of my monthly round-ups this year, but wasn’t able to share any details – until now!

Back in May, I applied to become an Experience Host for Airbnb, which basically means running a tour in New York that was conceptualized by me, and is something that can’t be offered in this form by anybody else. Little did I know back then that Airbnb had received over 1,000 applications for the launch of their New York City Experiences – which is why I was ecstatic when I got a phone call that my tour had been chosen to be one of the inaugural experiences offered in New York. The bad news was that the launch wouldn’t happen until late September, and unfortunately I wouldn’t be in New York then, but walking across Spain. Talk about bad timing.Brooklyn Walking TourHowever, with some delay, my tour went finally live this month! I would be showing tourists who were interested in visiting Brooklyn four completely different sides of New York’s most populous borough on my Faces Of Brooklyn walking tour. I didn’t expect much traction in the first few weeks or even months after the tour went live – after all, it is winter, which isn’t prime season for walking tours, and it was also hard to even find the tour on the Airbnb website among around 200 other NYC experiences.

That’s why I was shocked when bookings started pouring in only a few days after the tour was officially launched, and when after only one week, I sold out every single tour! While it was unfortunate that the tour was launched in the winter, I got to benefit from the Christmas Holidays. At first, I had blocked my tour calendar for Christmas and New Year’s, but when I saw how many bookings I was getting for the Holidays, I decided to open my calendar. If I wasn’t spending the Holidays with my family in Germany, I might as well take some tourists around Brooklyn – especially solo travelers who were spending the Holidays on their own, like me. I was astonished when my tours slowly but surely filled up, and I even had to turn people away, since the maximum group size is ten guests.brooklyn tourThe reach I have – particular when it comes to people who want to visit Brooklyn/plan a trip to New York – can in no way compare to the marketing tools and influence of a big company like Airbnb, which sent me more customers in a single day than I had in my entire summer in New York, when I was running the tours on a much smaller scale, still tweaking them for Airbnb, and I feel incredibly lucky for being accepted as a host by them.

The unexpectedly strong start of this side business, which pretty much turned me into a full-time tour guide (see Challenges below for more on that) helped me get out of a bout of December Blues which had started on my birthday and that I was having trouble shaking off. The great feedback on the initial tours and the continuously strong bookings fueled me with a boost of energy that I hadn’t felt in months. I hope I can maintain the enthusiasm for this new side business now that I am running tours every day – I will occasionally share updates on my new life as a tour guide in the coming months.

christmas gifts
Guests from Germany brought me German Christmas goodies as a Thank You!

The Side Hustle School Book Event

If there’s someone I can credit for getting my tours off the ground, it is Chris Guillebeau and his daily Side Hustle School podcast. I started listening to it while I was in Ecuador in March and hearing inspiring success stories of people starting side hustles in all kinds of different ways was the catalyst to start my own side gig. It took only a few weeks of hearing Chris’ mantra ‘Inspiration is good, but inspiration combined with action is better’ day after day until I was ready to take action myself and submit a tour proposal to Airbnb. While my target start date of 1 June was missed by a long shot – at least with Airbnb, which was beyond my control – I don’t know when I would have sat down to get the ball moving on this project, which had been put on the back burner for ages, had it not been for Chris’ encouraging stories of other side hustlers on his podcast.

So when I found out he would be in Brooklyn for a book event to promote the Side Hustle School book, I immediately cleared my calendar to attend the event. Being surrounded by dozens of others of aspiring and/or successful side hustlers was just as motivating as the daily podcast and made me determined to make at least $500 a month with my side hustle as soon as possible. Mission accomplished – thanks, Side Hustle School!!

What Went Wrong

(Another!) iPhone Fail

I bought a new iPhone last month and you may remember that I don’t have a lot of luck with phones/electronic devices. Of course with this new phone it’s no different. I didn’t even mention it in last month’s roundup, but my phone started acting up only a few days after I bought it, and I had to go to an Apple store as soon as I got back from Southeast Asia. Apple tech support downloaded new software onto the phone and deleted everything I had added to the phone so far – including all my apps and notes. Instead of downloading that version of my phone from the Cloud, he set it up as a completely new phone – which meant I spent hours trying to remember which apps I had on my phone and re-download them. I was livid, since I hadn’t even been given a warning. I swore that I wouldn’t set foot in an Apple Store again anytime soon. But of course my phone had other plans when it fell and the screen shattered into a hundred little pieces. Luckily I had invested in Apple care when I bought the phone, which meant the screen repair cost me only $30. An unnecessary $30 nonetheless.broken screen

The Citibike Incident

I love Citibike, New York’s public bike sharing program, and I’ve been using citibikes almost on a daily basis ever since I signed up for an annual membership last May – even though I have my own bike, too. It’s just so convenient to take the bike from a subway station to my final destination when there’s a bit of a walk involved, and not having to worry about locking it up – you simply dock it in one of the stations (there are more than 600 all over New York) and that’s it. Until that day when I tried to dock my bike and it just wouldn’t lock. And I had to go to work and started panicking because I tried twelve different docks and none worked. And then I rode to another docking station, where the same thing happened. None of the docks worked. And then I was on the phone with their customer service for nearly half an hour and almost lost my shit because I knew I was gonna be late for work, and of course this all happened in sub-zero temperatures (Celsius, but still).

I was told to leave the bike unlocked, in a way that it looked as if was broken, and no charges would appear on my credit card.

But guess what appeared on my credit card? Charges for a lost Citibike!

The whole ordeal took up way too much of my time, but I want to say that it has now been resolved and that I was using Citibikes again the very next day after it happened – I truly love them and I am even a Bike Angel (which means I am a frequent rider that gets rewards for certain things).citibike

Challenges

Vegan December

vegan diet
Finally lost the weight I’d gained!

Going vegan in December was the last one of my monthly ‘get-out-of-my-comfort-zone’ projects I’d challenged myself to in 2017. After successfully challenging myself to daily yoga and daily running and other things I found difficult, and going caffeine-free, booze-free and chocolate-free – among other things – it was time for me to go dairy-free in December.

For a quick minute I thought I might stay vegan after this month-long experiment, but only five days into my plant-based month, I knew there was no way that I’d continue living without dairy and eggs after the month ended.

A week into being vegan, I was already over it. Of course I didn’t give up, and finished December without consuming any dairy or eggs, but I was missing cheese, I was craving pizza, and I found myself daydreaming about shakshuka (my favorite egg dish).

vegan decemberEven though I experimented with vegan substitutes, vegan cheese and even tofu (I’m not a big fan of tofu or any other soy products), I never felt like I could entirely replace some of the foods I love indulging in – like a creamy Brie or a burrata mozzarella.

However, as with all of my monthly challenges this year, there were some interesting takeaways and insights.

  1. I don’t need as much dairy as I thought. For example my morning yogurt – never missed it and haven’t had any since December, even though in theory, I could’ve gone back to having yogurt & cereal for breakfast.
  2. I eat almost entirely vegan when I am cooking for myself – I noticed that I never buy milk, and cheese is a treat that I rarely buy. I never have butter (or margarine) in the fridge, the only non-vegan thing that I usually have in the house and sacrificed this month were eggs.
  3. I truly don’t like vegan cheese. I tried cream cheese, vegan mozzarella and a fancy $12 Brie-style cheese but I didn’t like a single one of them.
  4. Vegan means weight loss – at least for me. After struggling with my weight pretty much all year long, always feeling like I had a few pounds to lose, this happened automatically when I started eating vegan. On the very last day of 2017, I finally felt comfortable in my body again, having lost my belly and all my pants are fitting loosely. Since I don’t weigh myself, I can’t say how much weight I actually lost, but I felt my belly slowly disappearing over the course of the month. My skin also looked great – and breaking out shortly after the cheese farewell party I threw for myself on Thanksgiving makes me think that too much dairy probably does have an effect on my skin, something I always thought wasn’t the case.
  5. Veganism can feel quite anti-social. When I announced my vegan month to my friends, several of them told me ‘See you next month then!’, especially since I was also resolute about only consuming vegan-friendly wine (learning that most wine isn’t vegetarian-friendly was the most disturbing thing I’ve learned in a long time), cutting out most wine bars and dinner dates. I am thankful that there were still enough friends who were willing to try vegan restaurants with me and who supported me in succeeding in my vegan challenge.
vegan cookies
My first attempt at vegan Christmas cookie baking..

After doing these monthly challenges for an entire year, I’d like to keep doing something similar going forward, but I am not sure if I can come up with twelve more challenges. 30 days without sugar, a challenge that had been on my list all year and which I didn’t get around to doing before the end of 2017, will definitely happen at some point in 2018, but I’ll have to think about something else I can do to get me out of my comfort zone, because I definitely got something out of each of my monthly challenges. Suggestions?

(Accidentally) Becoming a Full-Time Tour Guide

This was an interesting development this month, as I’ve detailed above. When I started this ‘side hustle’, I never expected this to turn into a full-time gig!

Funnily enough it was less the tour guiding itself that presented a difficult transition, since this seems to be something that comes to me naturally, or maybe something I’ve grown into thanks to all the practice runs and private tours I’ve run previously, but it was the sudden daily exercise that exhausted me completely. On tour days, I log eight to nine miles, around 20,000 steps. Combined with the cold weather, I often found myself completely worn out by the end of the day, unable to even open my laptop to check my email. My creative juices were dried out by the end of a four hour tour which involved me talking… for basically four hours straight, and connecting with ten strangers. I usually found myself just wanting to sit in silence after coming home from ‘work’ (it is still funny to me to call this my ‘work’ or my ‘job’ because it doesn’t feel like that) and it took me quite a while to find the energy to go out afterwards, and to fulfill writing obligations for freelance clients.

I found that the ideal way to map out my day was to start by doing writing and blog-related things, then run the tour, and then socialize, but I am still adapting to this new life and need to make sure to add some break days to my calendar, which I haven’t done yet, due to the high demand for the tour over the Holidays.dani december

What’s Next For Me

I’ll be spending all of January running tours, which, amazingly, are still completely sold out for the first few days of 2018, even though the Holidays are over. I’ll also be launching a second walking tour, if everything goes according to plan, and hopefully will find some time to catch up on blogging and most importantly – booking a flight for my February winter escape, so stay tuned for that.happy new year 2018

read more

Travel Reflections & Life Lately: A Look Back At 2017

2017

For the past few years, I have sat down at the end of the year to look back at my travels, to relive memories from my trips and make a list of my favorite travel moments of the year.

I had 20 favorite moments in 2015, and listed 16 unforgettable travel moments in 2016. Obviously, I was going to follow 16 best of 2016 travel moments with 17 best of 2017 travel moments. But when I sat down to narrow down the very best memories of my travels last year, I came up with only three: Cuba, the Galapagos Islands, and walking the Camino de Santiago. Granted these were only the ones that came to mind immediately, but even after giving it some more thought I realized that I would not be able to come up with 17 awesome travel moments. Which made me think – was 2017 really that shitty?

collage 2017

So I decided to take a different approach this year and instead of only sharing the most amazing travel memories, I want to share a fuller picture of what’s been going on in my life this year. I’ll still share my travels of 2017 in pictures, as I’ve done before, but I have to be honest – even though I’ve traveled a lot this year, it’s been a year of struggles and overcoming unforeseen obstacles.

love is loveAfter a very public breakup, I prefer not to talk about my personal life in detail anymore, aside from letting a few things slip here and there. But to be transparent, I’ll share a few snippets of a heart break that has haunted me all year long. Yes, spoiler alert – even though I rang in the New Year with someone special in Berlin, this short-lived, intense romance came to a harsh, abrupt end only a few days into 2017.

As sudden as this love story had begun a few months prior, it also came to a sudden end. Instead of trying to figure out how I could make something work that seemed jinxed from the beginning, since we were in different places, I focused on making my long-lasting dream come true: To finally move to New York City. But was this even still my dream? I often asked myself this question after the president’s inauguration on 21 January. When I found out that I had won the Green Card in May 2016, I was so giddy with happiness that I felt like nothing could stop me. I would live in my favorite city in the world, under the first female president of the U.S. I would find a nice apartment in Brooklyn, ideally near Prospect Park or near the East River, and I would finally be able to officially work in the U.S., making it easier for me to enjoy this pricey city. Because even though I’d spent more time than anywhere in New York over the past four years, I wasn’t allowed to work in the U.S., making it a constant struggle to survive in New York on savings and passive income alone.

immigrant visa2

But by the time I received my Green Card in the mail, I felt more defeated than happy. I had pictured myself jumping up and down, giddy with excitement, once I was holding the Green Card in my hands – something I’d dreamed of getting for so many years – but all that I could muster was a halfhearted smile, when my friend wanted me to pose with the visa for a photo. And that was only because I saw that my immigrant visa was issued on 20 January 2017, Obama’s last day in office. The thought of moving to America under Trump was daunting, and when I got ready to fly to New York in February, news of the travel ban and Green Card holders being stranded outside of the U.S., not allowed to enter their adopted home country, were making the rounds, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.

I decided to spend the winter in Latin America again when an invite to the Galapagos Islands landed in my inbox – a dream destination for me. And why not make a whole trip out of it, visiting mainland Ecuador as well, one of the very few places in South America that I hadn’t been to. I had my Green Card now, and yet nothing was pulling me towards New York. Two of my best friends in New York had just moved away, and I knew it wouldn’t be the same without them there. The media was talking about the rise of xenophobic and homophobic incidents throughout the U.S. – I was in no hurry to get there.

I stayed in Ecuador, trying to heal my heart, and to ignore the news that was coming out of my chosen ‘home country’, but couldn’t shake off the negative energy I felt like I was bringing with me everywhere I went. It also didn’t help that I never really connected with Ecuador, no matter where I went. Things looked up a bit when I impulsively decided to cut my time in Ecuador short and to cross the border to Colombia, a country I had fallen madly in love with the year before.

I started feeling better, and after craving solitude for several weeks, I was ready to have company again, and road tripped with my friend Chrys around Mexico for a couple of weeks, an extended version of last year’s road trip. And what can I say – Mexico never fails to raise my mood. I was also excited about my next destination, Cuba, another dream destination I got to tick off my bucket list this year.cuba

Cuba was a dream trip, one of the best three travel experiences this year, and a country I hope I’ll get to return to soon. However, he closer we got to the end of the trip, the more anxious I started to feel again. It was the same anxious feeling I had when I flew to New York with my brand new immigrant visa a few months earlier.

From Havana, I’d be flying to New York, but while my last trip there was nothing more than a short layover, this one would signal the beginning of a new life. I would have to deal with all the bureaucracy I’d managed to avoid during my last short visit. And over the past few months, I’d not heard a single good thing about being an immigrant in Trump’s America.

new york brooklyn street art

When I won the Green Card twelve months prior, I pictured myself starting this fabulous New York life, finally get an apartment, being able to pick up an additional job to support my meager freelance income, and fully enjoy the city. Of course it didn’t work out like that at all. I quickly came to learn that as a foreigner, a freelancer, and someone without a credit card (and hence without a credit score), it is pretty much impossible to get an apartment, and even finding a room in a shared apartment turned out to be much more challenging than I expected since I couldn’t prove regular pay checks or an income 40 times the monthly rent (What? Who can?!).

These obstacles, combined with the political climate and the news of yet another close friend leaving New York made me nearly abandon my plan of a permanent move to New York and simply keep traveling.

But of course I am not one to give up easily, especially not on the dream of living in New York, which has been a dream of mine for nearly a decade. Winning the Green Card was possibly the best and most amazing thing that has ever happened to me, and I can’t think of a single thing that could top this in the future.

The only thing that New York made easy for me was finding a job. I received an offer after my first job interview – before I even got back home from the interview.

Even though I came to New York to ‘finally settle down’, I knew this wouldn’t really happen because I had a big trip planned for the summer, which meant I’d be gone for at least three full months.

I only spent 3.5 months in NYC, which is of course nowhere near enough time to settle and feel like you’ve arrived somewhere – even though it was the longest period of time I spent in one single place since summer 2014, when I had also spent a long period in New York. The fact that I couldn’t find any long-term accommodation and moved several times during that short period of time didn’t help me feel like I’d arrived, and I never stopped feeling unsettled during the entire time I spent in New York.

new york
New York in a nutshell

With work, the attempt of getting a new business off the ground, social gatherings and moving several times, these months flew by, but to be honest, even though I felt unrooted, I was not ready to leave. And I wouldn’t have left had I not had several family commitments – including meeting my newest niece, who I got to spend a few weeks with in August. Her arrival was reason enough to fly to Germany, even though it meant leaving New York when I love it the most: when it is hot and sticky, and everyone but me curses the August heat. But spending a month with my sister, my niece and my nephew was well worth giving up New York for, and as so often in the past few years, I felt incredibly grateful for this location independent life I’ve created, even though it means very little stability when it comes to income and financial security.

When I embarked on my three month trip, it ended up looking quite different from the original plan, which was to spend a month in Germany with my family and then fly to India. The motivation for the India trip was not just to see some parts of the country I hadn’t made it to on my last trip, but to attend a travel influencer conference in September. When I was first invited to the conference back in the spring of 2017, I noticed right away that the dates in late September would be perfect to combine it with a trip to Nepal afterwards. Not only was it nearby, but October was also a perfect time to hike the Annapurna Circuit, a roughly three week trek through the Himalayas, which has been on my travel wish list for a while now.

2017 collage

My mind was set on a big hiking trip, and the conference was a great excuse to return to that part of the world. However, before I even got to the planning stage of the trip, the organizers of the conference announced that one of the main sponsors had dropped out, which meant the conference would have to be canceled. All of a sudden I found myself in limbo – what would I do instead? Return to New York earlier than planned? Go on a completely different trip? Going all the way to India without the conference as an excuse for the long journey didn’t seem worth it now.

And then it hit me: This meant I’d be in Europe in September, which happens to be one of the best months to walk the Camino de Santiago, an ancient 500-mile pilgrimage across the north of Spain, which I’d also been wanting to walk for a few years now. I hastily ordered some hiking equipment online before I flew to Europe, and my only preparation for this giant walk was a day hike in Upstate New York to break in my new hiking shoes. Even though I was barely prepared for a long distance hike, I was determined to make it to the final destination, Santiago de Compostela.Camino de SantiagoWalking the Camino, which hadn’t been on my travel plans for this year whatsoever, turned out to be the best trip I took in 2017. After the hectic months in New York and trying to balance family and work time in Germany, I finally had time to reflect on the past few months, the obstacles I’d faced in New York, and most importantly, to check in with myself on an emotional level. I had noticed – during my time in New York in particular – that because of my busy schedule, I hadn’t really dealt with any emotional matters that came up throughout the year.

During the pilgrimage, I was finally able to connect with myself again, and selfishly take time to indulge in things I love doing but never get around to when I am in New York: reading books, writing every day, listening to podcasts, take time for long, extended breakfasts and dinners, instead of eating at my desk while responding to work emails.

The Camino was so much more than that though. It turned out to be the most physically challenging journey I’ve ever taken. It turned out to be one of the most scenic journeys I’ve ever taken. It showed me what my body was capable of. It introduced me to some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. While walking, you often hear ‘The Camino Provides’, a concept that refers to all the things ‘The Way’ gives pilgrims – from shelter to shoulders to cry on, from food to direction, and more foundational things like answers to fundamental questions people have, or a new direction in life. It is something that I guess might only make sense if you find yourself on this pilgrimage, since most people who set off on this five week hike seem to be on a quest of sorts, or a spiritual journey,- trying to figure out life, to process a trauma or a loss, or to simply take some time off to contemplate life.dani & kate o cebreiroI was one of the very few people on the Camino who was doing the pilgrimage without having recently experienced any drastic, life changing events, nor did I find myself at a fork in the road, unsure which path to follow. Despite not having any elementary questions when starting my journey, I learned a lot about myself along the way. Getting perspective on my own life through conversations with other pilgrims was eye opening in many ways, and finishing this physically challenging – more so than I thought – hike was a huge achievement for me. The biggest gift the Camino gave me was a wonderful new friendship, and several other great people came into my life who I know I’ll see again sooner or later.

Sadly, the Camino didn’t only bring good things. It was during the month-long walk that an important friendship fell apart, causing me to cry about something completely different than I thought I’d cry about on The Way – because letting tears flow is an inevitable part of this pilgrimage. At some point, every pilgrim cries, and it is a freeing feeling to allow yourself to cry, knowing you aren’t judged by anyone for it.

During the five weeks I spent on the Camino there were many times when the finish line, Santiago, seemed terribly far away, almost unachievable, but when we eventually reached our destination, the journey was over too suddenly, in a way it felt anticlimactic, unspectacular, to walk into Santiago after all these weeks of walking.Camino de SantiagoFollowing the celebrations of having made it to Santiago, an unforeseen sadness set in. Me and my Camino BFF Kate had gotten so used to the simplicity of the Camino, and to sharing stories while walking together for hours each and every day. The daily routine of getting up, having a cup of coffee, strapping my boots on and starting to walk was easy – I was not ready to return to reality.

I know that the post-Camino blues would have lingered longer, but there was no time to be sad. As soon as I left Spain, my life was back to being as hectic and busy as it had been before the pilgrimage. It almost felt as if this incredible month never happened.

I flew to Germany because I wanted to see my family one more time before returning to New York, knowing it’d be a while until I’d see them again, but I still hadn’t even bought a plane ticket to fly to the States. I noticed how little desire I had to go back to New York, which concerned me. This was my favorite place in the world after all, so why did I feel so lackluster about finally going ‘home’?

2017 travels

The truth is that I had no hurry to go back to dealing with the bureaucratic issues I still needed to sort out. Not knowing if I’d be able to find a decent place to live, if I’d finally be approved for a credit card, and if I’d be more successful in signing up for healthcare upon my return didn’t make me too keen on going back to the U.S. Add to that all the upsetting news that came out of America while I was gone, from mass shootings to the disastrous ways of how the hurricane in Puerto Rico had been dealt with by the government, plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and Trump opening National Parks to fossil fueling – to name just a few things – made me have serious second thoughts about moving to the U.S.

I was also frustrated because a new business venture I had spent months preparing during my stint in New York in the summer had not come to fruition, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go back to the job I had started back in May.journal notebookHowever, as soon as I landed in New York all my doubts disappeared. I found a place to stay quickly, and being reunited with all my friends blew away all the dark clouds. Before I could even get settled back into my New York life, it was already time to leave again, but this time only for a couple of weeks, for  my last trip of the year.

I was able to take one of my New York besties on her first South East Asia adventure, inviting her to be my guest on an amazing experience flying Singapore Air’s Premium Economy class – thanks to two round-trip tickets I had won a couple of years ago. The short trip to the tropics – Thailand and Singapore – was a much appreciated break before braving the chillier temperatures in November and December in New York, and reminded me of how much I loved that region of the world. I decided that for my annual winter escape, I’d be heading back to South East Asia.asia getaway

First it was time to spend some time in New York though, which, albeit me usually answering ‘Brooklyn’ when asked where I was living, I hadn’t actually seen much of it in 2017 – by the end of December, I would have barely spent four months in New York during the year.

And then December rolled around, and with it, a massive bout of December Blues, triggered by an unexpected birthday message by someone I care a lot about, which caused tears and an emotional meltdown. I started doubting my decision to spend the Holidays in New York instead of with my family in Germany, and was almost ready to fork out thousands of dollars on a last-minute flight to Europe. I couldn’t wait for 31 December to roll around and to leave 2017 behind me.

Thankfully, my self-pity didn’t last long, and things started to look up just as the year was coming to an end. I reconnected with several people I sort of lost touch with or hadn’t spend a lot of time with in recent months, realizing how much I missed having them in my life.end of the world swingAnd most importantly: In early December I got a phone call that Airbnb would offer a bespoke Brooklyn Tour I’d conceptualized and tweaked during the spring and summer months in their Experiences section. For anyone not familiar with Airbnb Experiences, AirBnb isn’t just offering accommodation through their platform anymore, but they added experiences – tours and activities offered by local hosts. Competition to get an experience accepted by them is fierce, because their platform is the most powerful marketing tool any tour provider could get – and the marketing is done for providers by Airbnb, which is amazing for anyone running a one-person company like I am.

When my tour finally went live, I had no idea that it would take off the way it did, but instead of taking some time off over the Holidays as I had planned, I ended up running tours every single day. I was ecstatic when after only a week of being on the platform, my tours started to sell out, and I even had to turn down guests. What’s been even more amazing is the feedback I’ve been getting from guests. I have been wanting to run tours for years (you may remember that my ex-partner and I launched Globetrottergirls Getaways a few years ago, which I sadly couldn’t continue on my own), and now it is finally happening. And not just any tours – I get to show off Brooklyn, a place I love dearly and know better than any other place in the world.

I feel like my life has been turned upside down since I started the tours, because now that I am taking groups of ten people (and sometimes even more) around Brooklyn, it is quite different from the tours I was running previously, which were mainly word-of-mouth referrals and smaller groups – families and couples. I’ve been learning as I go, continuously tweaking the tours as I introduce tourists to some of my favorite parts of Brooklyn.dani williamsburg street art

Sadly, the blog has been taking a bit of a back seat since I started running the tours, as I also still have several freelance writing and social media clients. I hope that going forward, I will get better at figuring out a way to balance all my projects.

Life threw me a welcome curve ball just when I needed it. I won the Green Card at a time when I felt completely lost about where I should settle – I knew I wanted to live in New York, but getting a visa (without getting married) seemed impossible. And then there it was, a visa, thanks to a lottery (I still can’t get over the fact that I won the permission to live and work in New York!). And just as I was feeling lost again, this time around unsettled and unsure about whether I’d be able to make living in New York work, life threw me a curve ball again, giving me something that ties me to New York, and not only that, but something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and something I’m excited about every morning when I get out of bed.

Having worked in a job I hated for years, I still feel blessed every day that I’m able to do what I love instead of working a job just to be able to pay my bills. And considering how cold New York has been over the past few weeks, the fact that I am still stoked about spending four to five hours outside in these freezing temperatures, reaffirms that this is something I truly enjoy doing. But there was a reason why I wanted to get this off the ground during the summer 😉

airbnb experience
One of my groups, on a chilly New York winter day

As I look back at 2017 and how often I’ve found myself struggling over the past few months, I can only hope that these last couple of weeks of the year are an indicator for what 2018 will be like – a successful year with less restlessness, less worries about money, and most importantly, a year where I will finally find a permanent place to settle in New York.

And what about travel, you may wonder? I am going to be honest here: After traveling to twelve countries in 2017, including an epic five-week hike, I am in no hurry to travel anywhere anytime soon. I will go on shorter trips this year, but my main aim for 2018 is to spend as much time as possible in New York, and travel more within the U.S., which I haven’t done at all this year. I still have plenty of stories to share of all the trips I’ve taken in 2017, so Globetrottergirls will not disappear – my (blog) baby is turning eight in April, can you believe it? I hope you’ll join me for whatever adventures 2018 will bring.new york upstate hike dani

Happy New Year!

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: November 2017 Edition

november 2017

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

Where I’ve Been

After a crazy October, which saw me traveling through four countries, I have finally slowed down a little bit and ‘only’ visited three countries in November: I spent time in New York, Singapore and Thailand.November 2017

What I’ve Been up to

I had just enough time to catch up with my friends in New York, stuff my face with bagels and pizza (the two things I usually miss the most when I’m not in NYC), visit my favorite coffee shops in Brooklyn, and cheer on the marathoners on 4 November (I had entered the ticket lottery but wasn’t picked – watching the runners so made me want to join them, and so I’ll continue to enter it until I win it!) before I left on another big trip.New York November 2017If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember that a couple of years ago, I won two return tickets to Singapore to try Singapore Air’s new Premium Economy class on the New York – Singapore route.

I thought I was going to use them last winter when I had planned to head to South East Asia for my annual winter escape, but then the Green Card happened and I found myself in Germany instead, going through the vetting process for my permanent residency in the US. And ever since, I’ve been busy traveling all over Latin America and Europe, thinking I still had time to use these tickets… until I was informed that they were due to  expire at the end of November.

I would’ve gladly used them for this year’s winter escape, but I had to use both flights before 30 November 2017, so this wasn’t really going to be a long term trip, considering I only got back to New York at the end of October.

I thought about letting the tickets expire because I was so tired after my three month Europe trip, but who am I to say NO to a free trip?! Especially since the tickets were for PREMIUM ECONOMY. Hello unlimited champagne!

And so I packed my backpack after a few short days of fall weather in New York and hopped on a flight to Singapore with one of my girlfriends.November 2017 Singapore And ThailandAm I glad I did it? Of course! Being back in South East Asia felt amazing. I returned to Singapore, which is without a doubt one of Asia’s most fascinating cities, and I got to check out two islands in Thailand I’ve had on my travel wish list ever since I read about them on Lauren’s blog.

We started our Asia adventure with a long weekend in Singapore, where we stayed in a beautiful Airbnb in Kampong Glam, a neighborhood with independent shops and lots of trendy eateries. We did some touristy stuff, like the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Flyer, but we also ventured a little off the beaten path and went on a hike in the Southern Shore, a jungle-like park away from the fancy skyscrapers. I was especially excited about Gardens by the Bay, whose futuristic Supertrees had already been erected the last time I was in Singapore in 2012, but the Gardens didn’t open until a few weeks after my visit, and I’d been wanting to return ever since.singapore 2017I was also stoked to discover that Singapore now has a bike sharing system, even better than New York’s Citibikes or London’s Boris Bikes, because you don’t have to find a docking station to park them – you can simply leave them anywhere. Amazing!

From Singapore, we took a short 90-minute flight to Phuket, where we didn’t waste any time – heading straight to the boat pier to take a ferry over to Koh Yao Yai. We split our days evenly between this island and its sister island Koh Yao Noi, and it was heavenly. We gorged on Pad Thai and fresh fruit smoothies, I had my first mango sticky rice in years, and went on a kayaking excursion to a small, secluded island.thai islandsI was so grateful that we were able to explore both islands on a motorcycle (see below in What Went Right), to go on barefoot beach walks, and to enjoy the tropical heat for a few days, even though this was such a short getaway, compared to the long trips I usually take.

I returned to New York in time for Thanksgiving which I spent curled up on the sofa with one of my favorite people, watching movies and eating as much cheese as humanly possible before giving it up on 1 December (see Challenges for more on that). I also went on a self-guided pizza tour with some friends, and celebrated my birthday. I feel like I’ve done so many things this month – does November really only have 30 days?
thanksgiving weekend

Let’s see what went right and what went wrong this month:

What Went Right

Embracing Fall in New York
Spending two autumn months in New York – October 2014 and November 2015 – had made me realize how much I enjoyed fall on the East Coast. Everything I love about this season – pumpkin spiced craft beers, vibrant fall colors, hot apple ciders, pumpkin decorations everywhere, the crisp fall air – combined with my favorite city in the world? Perfection! I was really bummed out when I spent October 2016 in Seattle, where it rained so much that I barely had any time to truly enjoy the fall foliage or fall decorations. So when I got back to New York in the midst of fall, I made sure to make the most of it (not taking the bright blue skies for granted anymore after that wet and grey month in Seattle): long walks in the park, an extended bike ride through Brooklyn to show a friend some of my favorite spots in Greenwood Cemetery and in Red Hook, neighborhood strolls to admire the carved pumpkins on most houses stoops, and as many pumpkin spice IPA’s as possible. I knew I’d only have about two weeks this year to take it all in and I think it’s safe to say that I made the most of it.

November 2017 New York City

Getting Over my Fear of Motorcycles
When I lived in Spain at the young age of 21, I always rode motorcycles. That’s just how everyone got around. And I was never scared of them then – until my friend was killed in a motorcycle accident. I didn’t ride a motorcycle for years after that, and when I finally hopped on one again in 2012, during my first visit to Thailand, I promptly drove it straight into a ditch.

I was so paralyzed with fear (and hurt) after that accident, that instead of giving it another try, I built up this insane fear of motorcycles. Which is unfortunate when you spend a lot of time in South East Asia, where, especially on the islands of Thailand and in the Philippines, the easiest way to get around is by motorcycle. Over the years, I always felt like I was missing out on being able to truly explore the islands, using bikes, ATV’s (when possible) or taxis instead.

So when I arrived in Thailand and my friend told me she’d never driven a motorcycle and wasn’t sure if she could, I decided that it was finally time to face my fear of motorcycles and get on one again. And I am so glad I did! The first island we visited, Koh Yao Yai, was the perfect place to give it a try again, since there was basically only one road around the island, and there was barely any traffic. By the time we arrived on island #2, Koh Yao Noi, I felt like a motorcycle pro again. The fact that I finally got back on a motorcycle makes me so happy because it’ll make upcoming trips to South East Asia so much easier.Dani Scooter 2017
The Quick Asia Getaway
As I mentioned above, I almost canceled my trip to Asia because I was exhausted after my Europe trip and didn’t feel at all like packing for another trip – only ten days after returning to New York, where I’d been itching to get back to for weeks after finishing the Camino.

But after suffering through several gloomy November days in New York, I was glad that I didn’t cancel the trip: A few days in a hot and sunny climate is never a bad idea. And I had made the right call: I was so so so happy to be back in Asia. Thailand remains one of my favorite countries in the world, and I was yet again amazed by the splendor of Singapore.
asia getaway 2017

However, a part of me felt differently about the trip:

What Went Wrong

The Quick Asia Getaway
On the one hand I was happy and grateful I got to return to Asia, on the other hand it made me realize that quick getaways like this have become too stressful for me to truly enjoy them. I am so used to taking my sweet time everywhere I go that this trip felt rushed and I was exhausted by the end of it instead of reenergized.

Had I not been constrained by work commitments back in New York, I would have gladly spent three months in Asia instead of just over a week – a crazy short time for such a long journey. And on that note – traveling for 21 (!!) hours to a place with a 13-hour time difference to New York makes for insane jetlag, in case you were wondering. My body was completely messed up by the massive time change, basically the opposite of NYC – we arrived in Singapore in the morning, just as people in New York were getting ready to go to sleep. When my body finally adjusted, it was time to return to NYC, and I was jetlagged for pretty much the rest of the month.asia getaway

Shaking My Head Moments

An Almost Missed Flight
I am still shaking my head about this: I nearly missed my flight to Singapore because I wasn’t paying attention to which subway stop I was at (distracted by my phone, obviously). I saw the letters ‘JFK’ on a big board announcing the station just as the doors were closing. So I ended up in the Rockaway Islands instead, where the train was ending, and had to wait half an hour until a train back to JFK arrived.

As if that wasn’t enough, I then stood in line at TSA for half an hour only to be told that the boarding pass on my phone wasn’t accepted and I had to get a printed version from the airline counter instead. Afterwards, I stood in line for half an hour AGAIN and reached my gate just as they were completing boarding – five minutes later and the plane would have left without me.

November 2017 Singapore
What I would’ve missed had I not made my flight!

An Almost Lost Item
Of course the month couldn’t go by without me losing something – and this time it was something I absolutely needed: my laptop charger cable. I nearly had a heart attack when, at the airport in Singapore, on the way to two small Thai islands, I discovered that I didn’t have my charger cable: it was still plugged in the socket at the Airbnb apartment. There was no way I could go to Thailand without it, not being able to work, but when I discovered that I’d forgotten it, it was already time to board our flight to Phuket. My friend had a Dell laptop, I had an Acer, so I doubted that her charger would fit my laptop, but miraculously, with some wiggling and holding it in at a very specific angle, it worked! It wasn’t perfect, but my laptop charged – for a few days, it would do.

When we returned to Singapore I was able to pick up my charger from our Airbnb, thanks to our wonderful host. This could’ve easily ended in ‘What Went Wrong‘ but someone was looking out for me.

singapore

Another Almost Lost Item
One of the most important items I own is a small toiletries bag in which I carry what I deem my absolute essentials, and I bring it everywhere with me. In it are things like lip balm, make up, pain killers, a spare pair of contact lenses, mints and gum, a portable charger, SIM cards from all over the world, hand sanitizer and lotion, a pen, my birth control pills, and a few other things that I can’t do without. So losing this bag would be an absolute nightmare. Well guess what: I returned home from a day out in Brooklyn last weekend, and the bag was not in my purse anymore.

I completely freaked out, looked all over the apartment for it – it was nowhere to be found. I remembered taking it out in one coffee shop we stopped at during the tour and decided to phone the coffee shop if they happened to have found a small cosmetics bag. “Yes, we did find one”, said the guy on the phone. “But I threw it out.” My heart literally dropped into my stomach when he said that, and I yelled into the phone “WHAT?!” “Just kidding”, he laughed. “Your bag is here.” I went halfway across Brooklyn to pick it up right away – and after this near panic attack, I’ll be much more careful with it from now on.

toiletries bag
This bag is my EVERYTHING!

Challenges

New Work Equipment

I was dreading this, but I knew I had to eventually replace my aging laptop, my dSLR camera and outdated cell phone. I didn’t think that I’d need to replace all of my electronics in the same month, however! But that’s exactly what happened this month, and as someone who doesn’t own a credit card, this put a big financial strain on me.

dani iphone 7

The upside is that I should be good for a while now and that it should ease my workflow, especially the new laptop as my old one was  so old (and filled to capacity) that it kept freezing.

I am typing this round-up on my old trusted Acer, which has traveled with me to dozens of countries, survived humid jungles and dry desert air, walked the Camino with me, and was invaded by tiny ants in the Tropics. In South America, it even survived altitude sickness when I took it to places that surpassed the maximum altitude for laptops (by far!), and it came back to life after a water spill in Iceland.

This laptop was a real trooper, which is why I got an Acer again – let’s hope I’ll be as lucky with the new one as I’ve been with my current one, which I’ve had for the past few years.

Fulfilling Work Commitments
This month I really struggled fulfilling work commitments, especially during my trip to Asia, where I had a hard time balancing travel time & adventure with the work I’m doing for a couple of travel apps, and meeting deadlines for freelance clients. While I was lucky to get several unexpected projects this month, I found it difficult to manage them all. However: the additional income was greatly appreciated considering I spent thousands of dollars on electronics.

November 2017 work
I still can’t believe that I get paid to do THIS!

November & December Monthly Challenge

Daily Journaling
After taking a break from my monthly challenges in October (I wanted to do a no-sugar challenge after all the cake on the Camino, but my sister kindly asked me to postpone it… so that we could bake some cakes together 😂), I challenged myself to daily journaling this month, something I always plan to do more often but then never do. I opted for two simple (relatively speaking) things: Bullet journaling and gratitude journaling.

Over the course of the month, I’ve noticed that I sometimes found it difficult to come up with three things I was grateful for – on a daily basis – which is the number I set for myself. Other people write down 5 – 10 things they’re grateful for, which I would’ve found pretty much unachievable. Even though the things you list that you are grateful for don’t always have to be hugely significant (although an ‘amazing avocado toast for breakfast’ is pretty significant for me and something I can’t express enough gratitude for), I sometimes even struggled to find three minor things – does this make me an ungrateful bitch?bullet journalingWhile I am not sure if I will be sticking with either one, it was an interesting experiment and made me more aware of how many things I sometimes fit into one day, and it also made me more aware as to the things that make me happy/what I am grateful for. What I’ll definitely continue doing is keeping some sort of ‘Habits Journal’ where I’ll track certain habits, for example: On how many days do I drink alcohol? On how many days do I go running? Etc… The journaling habit also led to me using a calendar again, something I haven’t done in years (only for work-related appointments, but my private life appointments I’ve never written down anywhere). If you’re interested in bullet journaling / habit tracking, I recommend checking out these 23 ideas how you can customize your bullet journal.

Vegan December
My last challenge for the year is 31 days of veganism. I am actually not too worried about this challenge because I noticed this month that most of my meals are vegan already – but I do have to admit that, without a doubt, I will miss eggs. Many of my favorite dishes are egg dishes: shakshuka (Israeli baked eggs), huevos rancheros (Mexican eggs), or a good frittata with spinach and goats cheese. And of course my addiction for chocolate and cakes will be challenged, although I think that with the amount of vegan options available these days, I’ll be fine on that front.

food november 2017
The things I WILL NOT be eating in December…

Other Happenings

My Birthday
I am not a big birthday person, but I like treating myself… so instead of a big birthday bash, I had a whole birthday week filled with treats celebrating myself. A friend of mine treated me to the ultimate movie experience at the iPic Theater (recliner seats and blankets, unlimited popcorn, our own server throughout the movie, food and cocktails.. oh, and a great movie: Wonder!), I had a lovely Italian dinner with another friend, went on a self-guided pizza tour through Brooklyn with a couple of friends, I went barhopping on my actual birthday (and came to learn that I am officially too old for shots) and had birthday cake pastries at my friend bakery in New York: Dominique Ansel. I gifted myself tickets to LP, an artist I love, but to be honest I am not quite sure if I’ll be in New York for the concert, which is on 1 March, because as you know I don’t like winter.

birthday treaet dominique ansel
Dominique Ansel – best birthday ‘cake’ ever!

Lesbian Travel Blogs
I compiled a list of the best lesbian travel blogs for Nomadic Matt’s LGBT column – there are more than you’d think! Check them out here:

What’s Next for me

A rest month! Well, I’m not going to lay in bed all month, but I don’t have any travel plans, and I am happy about that. I was still so tired from my three month trip when I boarded the plane to Asia, that all I want is to give my body some rest.

I do have one exciting project coming up though – I will be exploring Christmassy New York for one week for a new travel app I’m working with, and I will be documenting it all for you!

New York City
Coming up: More of this!

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: October 2017 Edition

october 2017 dani

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

Where I’ve Been

This month involved too much traveling – Spain, Germany, England and the U.S. I am finally back home in New York after three months away. I don’t have much time to recover though: in less than two weeks, I’ll be hitting the road again! More on that later – first, let’s take a look at the last 4.5 weeks:October 2017 four countries

What I’ve Been Up To

The biggest achievement of the month? I finished the Camino de Santiago! I was on the final stretch of the walk when I wrote my last roundup, and when I walked into Santiago with my Camino BFF Kate in early October, it was a very emotional moment. Since I had a flight booked to Germany because of family commitments, I couldn’t take any rest days on the last stretch, or simply walk fewer kilometers per day, which our friend Veronica ended up doing – we left her behind in Ponferrada after walking as a trio for about a week.

When we reached Santiago, physically and mentally exhausted, we were greeted by some of our Camino friends who had waited for us, and met more friends for drinks later that night. Everyone was in great spirits.Camino de Santiago friendsSadly, we didn’t have much time to celebrate our achievement because on our first night in Santiago, Kate got very sick. She spent most of the night on the toilet, and the only full day we had in Santiago she was sick in bed. It was a tragic way to end the month we’d spent together.

I was feeling good the next day and made the most of my only full day in Santiago. I went to the pilgrims office to pick up my compostela, my pilgrim’s certificate (which meant standing in line for two hours!), I attended the pilgrims mass in Santiago’s stunning cathedral, and I welcomed other pilgrims on the main square when they arrived at the cathedral. It was an amazing day – I found tasty vegetarian food (which means a lot, considering the food rant in my last roundup..), relaxed in a beautiful park, and treated myself to a lovely dinner – sadly all without Kate.Camino de Santiago final dayAnd then I got back to our hotel and I also started feeling sick. I’ll save the details for the Lowlights below.

Once I recovered from my illness, I spent some more time in Germany with my new niece, my nephew and my other two nieces who live about two hours from where my sister lives. And of course with Odie! I was amazed to see how much the tiny baby had grown since I left on my trip six weeks earlier.

From the one month old fragile little baby that she was when I first met her, to a lively, curious three month old when I returned from the Camino. I got to spend some quality time with my sister too, of course – mostly while we were trying out new baking recipes. The fact that I had declared only a week earlier that I never wanted to eat cake again was forgotten, and I happily postponed my post-Camino diet in favor of some traditional German cake.Family timeIn my last round-up I had hinted that I was going to visit one more destination in Europe before returning to New York. I couldn’t make up my mind between a return trip to Italy (I announced last year that I’d love to go back to Rome for a little longer) or if I should visit friends in London. In the end, I decided in favor of London, my former home. I spent a short weekend there last summer, but haven’t had any quality time in London for over two years.

I miss the city, and the prospect of seeing a West End show, finally visiting the new extension of the Tate Modern, roaming my favorite markets and catching up with old friends was more appealing than a trip to Italy by myself. And traveling to London meant Kate and I got a do-over – the way we parted ways in Santiago, both sick as dogs, was not how we had pictured our last day together. And since Kate lives in London, I knew we would see each other and get the chance to properly celebrate our achievement – and plan our next hike together.

Going to London was absolutely the right decision. I got to see the Dreamgirls musical at the Savoy Theater with an old friend, and we went to the Tate Modern. I got to eat all my favorite British foods, discovered a bunch of new coffee shops and bars, made it finally to the Cereal Killer Cafe, and I met up with several friends, including the sexiest couple on Instagram, the Nomadic Boys. It was an amazing week, and I almost didn’t want to leave, but…london 2017In New York, Halloween was waiting for me.

I didn’t grow up with Halloween, and even though they’re trying to making it more popular in Germany, it is not comparable with Halloween in the U.S. Ever since my first Halloween Party – only four years ago, can you believe it?! – I’ve been hooked, and try to be there for what has become my favorite US Holiday. Last year I was in Seattle, but sadly didn’t have a great Halloween there, so this year I wanted to make sure I had a party to go to and a costume to wear.

It was the perfect weekend to return to New York. The weather was brilliant on Saturday, and the party my friend and I went to was fantastic. But not just because of Halloween – it simply felt good to be home again after three months on the road – three months during which I barely had any time to myself. I would happily stay in New York for the rest of the year, but I’ve got one more trip coming up. More on that in What’s Next For Me.

halloween party

On to the Highlights of the month:

Highlights

Finishing the Camino

This was, of course, by far the absolute highlight of the month. I honestly was not sure if I’d be able to finish the walk when I set off on the hike from Saint-Jean-Pied-du-Port. But I did! I am still amazed that my feet carried me all the way to Santiago – no buses were taken, and I always carried my backpack, instead of having it transported for me.

When I started the hike, I didn’t really know what to expect: What would it be like to hike for a month? Would I enjoy it? It turned out that I had nothing to worry about – it was such a great experience, despite the challenges I faced, which included constant pain – especially in my tooth towards the end (see Lowlights for more details), some not-so-great dorms with snorers galore, and the food situation which I already mentioned in last month’s roundup.

But the upsides of the hike absolutely compensated for the challenges, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The friendships that formed, the conversations I had, and the splendor of just taking time out of my regular life to focus on myself while walking through some of Spain’s most stunning scenery.

Going on the Camino this year was a semi-spontaneous decision I only made a couple of months before leaving for France, and I am glad I just went for it instead of overthinking it, letting time constraints and work commitments hold me back and to keep postponing it by making up excuses why now wasn’t the right time.camino de santiago final days

Halloween

When I left for Europe in the summer, I wasn’t 100% sure when I’d be returning to New York – all I knew was that no matter what I did, it had to be before Halloween. As I mentioned above, I absolutely love Halloween and after not having a great Halloween in Seattle in 2016, I wanted to be back in NYC to celebrate with my friends this year.

I think New York is one of the best places to be for Halloween, with the popular Halloween Parade in the West Village and people in all neighborhoods (at least in Brooklyn – it’s hard to decorate the massive apartment blocks in Manhattan!) really getting into the Halloween spirit, decorating their buildings, putting carved pumpkins out on the stoops, and going absolutely crazy with their costumes.

Halloween is probably my favorite day to take the subway in New York, seeing everyone dressed up, strangers connecting over their costumes, and everyone just being jolly and nice.

In my neighborhood in Brooklyn, hundreds of trick or treaters were out – it was cuteness overload. I had never seen so many kids dressed up before, going from house to house to collect candy, and it was heartwarming to see the excitement and happiness in the eyes of the kids.halloween 2017Especially this year, when just a few hours before the parade started, there was a deadly attack in Manhattan, clearly timed to ruin Halloween for everyone. But New Yorkers have a thick skin, and I was glad to see that the kids still got to enjoy this special day. Nobody stayed inside, controlled by fear – the streets were teeming with life.

I myself wasn’t in the mood to go out to a big Halloween bash after what had happened, but luckily I had already gone to a party on Saturday, and wasn’t going to dress up again on the 31st anyway.

Returning to New York in time for Halloween was the perfect way to get reintroduced to city life again – life in New Yorky is so different from anywhere else I’ve been in the past 90 days, except for London maybe. Speaking of which:halloween 2017 nyc

A Perfect Week in London

I feel like I say this every time I return from London, but I feel the same way about London every time I visit: When I’m not there, I seem to forget just how much I love it, but when I am there, I don’t ever want to leave. Until there’s a day when it pours for hours on end, and then I remember why I left London in the first place: because I couldn’t stand the weather one day longer.

Despite mediocre weather (I had only one sunny day the entire week I was there) and too much work (I got a new client project just before I left for London), I had such a great time catching up with friends and revisiting some of my old favorite spots. And even though I had less time to experience the city due to my workload last week, it was just nice to soak up the atmosphere, eat good food, and, most importantly, have a big celebration with Kate for finishing the Camino, and reminiscing about the Way while watching, well, The Way.london

Lowlights

Getting Sick

As I already briefly mentioned above, after Kate got sick in Santiago de Compostela, I followed suit the next night. Unfortunately my vomiting session started only two hours before I was supposed to leave for the airport. And I had a 15 hour travel day ahead of me.

First, a flight from Santiago to Madrid, then a flight from Madrid to Frankfurt, then a train ride to Erfurt, and finally a 30-minute car ride to the village where my sister lives. I thought about canceling my flights, but in the end I thought that if I made it through the travel day, at least I’d be home at night, with my family.

It didn’t take long for me to regret this decision – about an hour into my first flight, to be precise – when I passed out while vomiting and had to get medical assistance from the Flight Attendants.

I don’t remember any of this since I only regained consciousness when three Flight Attendants dragged me out of my row to make sure I wouldn’t choke on my own vomit. Definitely not how I wanted to die. I did want to die, however, when I saw my vomit all over the seats – and myself.

I still don’t know how I made it through that day, but I am happy that day didn’t end worse.

dani sick on the plane
The only good thing about getting sick on a plane: I got to spread out over an entire row after I vomited everywhere.

An Emergency Tooth Surgery

As if a near-death experience on the plane and a stomach flu weren’t enough, I had an emergency tooth surgery scheduled for the very next day in Germany. I had an infected tooth already when I was still in New York in July, and it only got worse.

On the Camino, it finally got so bad that I was walking the last two weeks with terrible a toothache and eventually messaged my mom to see if she could set up an emergency appointment at her dentist in Germany, since I don’t have a dentist there anymore (and no healthcare). Luckily for me, the dentist agreed to see me for cash payment, which is very unusual in Germany (since everyone has insurance).

Within half an hour, I was finally rid of the infected tooth, and the horrible pain that it caused me, and I wished I had gone to the dentist before I left on the hike. I am so terrified of dentists that it has to come down to a situation like this, in which I can’t eat or drink anything and am in terrible pain, to force me to finally set up a dental appointment. It is horrible, I know, but dental anxiety is no joke my friends.

post hike toes
I know – I said tooth, and not toe. But my infected tooth looks so disgusting that I decided to share a less gross infection I’m still dealing with.. my toenail, which I’ve been told will fall off. This is the sort of stuff you have to deal with when you go on a 5-week walk…

Losing my Skyroam

Another month, another story of how Dani lost something…

I had my Skyroam global wifi hotspot with me on the Camino, and used it also on the day I returned to Germany. I had the device in the side pocket of my backpack, and when I reached the train station in Frankfurt I saw that all long-distance trains to central station were heavily delayed – so much so that I wouldn’t be able to make my connecting train. So I sprinted down to the local train station instead, hoping I’d make it to central station on a slow, local train. When I got to the train station, I noticed that my backpack’s side pocket was open. I am not sure if somebody had opened it, or if it opened by itself, but the Skyroam wasn’t in there anymore. Either it fell out while I was running to catch the train, or somebody took it – I’m not sure which. All I know is that I can’t believe I lost my beloved Skyroam and I am still devastated.

camino de santiago skyroam
The last photo of my Skyroam: Helping me stay connected on the Camino

Other Happenings

My friend Nomadic Matt is giving away a round-the-world trip, worth $18,250! You can read all about the prize and how you can enter to win it here.

A couple of words no the giveaway: Please note that you have to buy a copy of Matt’s bestselling book ‘How To Travel The World On $50 A Day’ – but if you’re interested in budget travel and traveling the world independently, you should read this book anyway. Plus, it makes a great Christmas gift for your travel-loving friends. Oh, and did I mention that the book is only $12.79 on Amazon at the moment?? That’s a steal already, but even more so considering it offers you the chance to win a trip worth nearly $20,000.

I would love for one of my readers to win this amazing giveaway! (Side note: Sadly, this contest is only open to people in the U.S. and North America.)travel october 2017

What’s Next For Me

I won’t have much time to recover from my hectic month (four countries were a little too ambitious, I have to say – especially after a 500 mile hike!), because I will be heading to Asia in November! I haven’t been to Asia in 2.5 years, and I am super excited for this trip, which will bring me to Singapore (where I haven’t been since 2012!) and to Thailand (where I’ll be checking out two islands I haven’t been to yet).

I will tell you all about in next month’s roundup… Thanks for following along!October 2017

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: September 2017 Edition

september 2017

Apologies for the delay in posting this – I fell violently ill last week and ended up needing medical assistance mid-flight for the first time ever – and hopefully the last time! I will share the full story in my October round-up, but for now I am happy to report that I am finally recovering, from both sickness and a surgery.

I spent the last thirty days in Spain, but even though I’ve only been in one country, I don’t remember the last time I had such an intense month of travel: 30 days, 29 different beds, and I’ve walked through four out of Spain’s 17 regions. I walked nearly 800 kilometers! Typing out this number makes me think: Wow, did I really walk that?

Camino de Santiago

What I’ve been up to

I have to be honest: Announcing that I was walking the 800 kilometer/500 mile long Camino de Santiago this month was a bit risky… what if I failed? What if I gave up after a few days? What if my feet failed me?

But then on the other hand, by announcing it and making it public, it made me more accountable. I had to make it through 30+ days of walking, even if that meant crawling into Santiago on all fours.

So did I made it to Santiago de Compostela? Not yet, but as I type this I am getting very close. It usually takes between 32 and 35 days to walk from Saint Jean Pied De Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago, which is less than 100 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, i.e. basically across the entire width of Spain.

Camino de Santiago

I am struggling to put this journey into words, but I am going to try. And I am going to write in more detail about the hike as soon as I’ve finished it, so these are just some initial thoughts.

The Camino wasn’t supposed to be some sort of ‘walking holiday’ for me. I wanted to challenge myself, to push my boundaries, and to get out of my comfort zone.. Have I done this? Absolutely. Even more than expected.

I’d never hiked for more than five days in a row before, and definitely not 25-30 kilometers per day… for five consecutive weeks!

Camino de Santiago

Secondly, I absolutely pushed my limits. I hit them several times, my body ready to give up, to collapse. My feet announcing: No step further. My feet trying to boycott the journey and get me to stop by mysteriously developing not one, but two corns (both of which have to be cut out). My back rebelling against the insane weight of my backpack by sending shooting pains down my spine. My mind trying to convince me it’d be okay to take the bus.

“But that’d be cheating!”, the little angel on my right shoulder would exclaim. “Nooooo, it’s okay” the little devil on my left shoulder would say in a honeyed voice, “You’re still on the Camino, and so many people are doing it!”

In the end, I resisted all the temptations of buses, taxis, horses, private shuttle services and even the backpack transporting services that takes your backpack to the next place for you, making it much easier to walk for seven to eight hours. But if I was going to walk The Way, I’d do it the traditional way: carrying my own stuff, and not using any modes of transportation other than my own two feet. Almost like how it was done in the Middle Ages.Except that I had a proper trekking backpack, fancy hiking boots (and a pair of sandals to switch into), Milka chocolate bars readily available, and a bunch of podcasts on my iPhone to get me through the hard parts (which they did.. no matter how steep the ascent, you can’t help laughing when you hear Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt man-giggle).dani camino de santiago

I wanted to use the time on the Camino to reflect on these past few years, which have been such a whirlwind of travel, relationships, broken hearts, feeling unrooted and uncertainty – until I won the Greencard. Because my life in New York is so busy, I never get to just sit down and look back at things that have happened to me, most of them I have just brushed off, even though deep inside I knew they bothered me.

I was curious to see where my mind would take me during these long hours of walking, who and what I would be thinking about, and how I’d feel about certain people and events when looking at them from a distance.

Gratitude is what I’ve been feeling the most – gratitude for the life I’m living, gratitude for being able to take an entire month to do this, which I know most of my friends in corporate careers aren’t able to do, and gratitude for the people that have come into my life over the past few years – including on this hike, as explained below:camino de santiago hontanas

What went right

Choosing the right long-distance hike

When I told friends, family and some acquaintances that I was going to walk the Camino de Santiago, some of them tried to convince me to take a different route instead. “The Camino has become too popular and is super crowded now” they’d say. “Walk the Camino del Norte along the coast instead – it’s much prettier.”

There are several routes to Santiago, including one that starts in Portugal which also sounds lovely, and I was definitely intrigued by the coastal walk. In the end, however, I decided to start with the most common one – The Camino Frances – which is the route most pilgrims choose. If I enjoyed it, I could still walk one of the other routes at a later time.

In hindsight, I am glad I chose the Camino Frances. Yes, it’s incredibly busy. Sometimes even crowded, with a steady line of pilgrims making their way through the Spanish countryside. More than once, all hostels in our destination for the day were completely booked. More than once I found myself stranded without a bed (but ended up being saved and not having to sleep on the floor like I saw other pilgrims do!).

But nonetheless, I had an amazing time. The walk itself is, oftentimes, breathtakingly beautiful, as you can see from my photos. I crossed mountains, walked through forests, through countless little hamlets and some of Spain’s prettiest towns. I traversed the seemingly endless flatlands of Spain’s Meseta (Central Plateau).Camino de Santiago postcards

Meeting the right people

I knew I was going to meet interesting and like-minded people along the Camino – the fact alone that they were setting off on the same insane 800-kilometer walk meant we had something in common. You have to be a certain kind of person to decide to do a trek like this, including having willpower and mental strength, being independent, open-minded, ready to push yourself, and a little bit crazy.

Some of my friends who knew I was going to walk the Camino thought I was insane for doing it by myself, but I never even considered not doing it by myself. Like I said, this wasn’t supposed to be some sort of walking holiday, but more of an introspective journey, and I wanted to make sure to have time to spend with myself and my own thoughts.

And also, I never expected to stay alone for long, because it is inevitable to meet other people. Being alone makes this even easier, since you are not in that ‘couple bubble’ you often find yourself in when traveling with someone.

I met more wonderful people along the way than I could’ve hoped for, heard enough interesting life stories to fill a book, got so many different perspectives and discussed subjects like friendship, religion, family, relationships, and determining life events and dark moments in our lives with strangers who quickly turned into friends.

This goes especially for Kate, who I happened to share a two-bed dorm with on our very first day, and who I ended up walking most of the way with. Now we are already talking about other long-distances hikes we can do together – already planning our reunion. Who knew that the girl who walked into my room on the last day of August would become my Camino BFF?Camino de Santiago friends

I am blister-free!

My biggest fear for the Camino was having to give up because of blisters. I’ve read several blogs and accounts of people who had to stop walking, calling it quits after a week or ten days, and so I nervously awaited the ten day mark.

When I was still blister-free on day ten, and then still on day 14, I was ecstatic! My careful preparation had paid off: I had bought sock liners for the hike, which were supposed to prevent blisters, as well as a pair of hiking sandals to change into should I develop blisters and not be able to get back into my hiking boots.

The end of the month rolled around and I am still blister-free, which I am very grateful and happy about, but that doesn’t mean I am not suffering from other hiking-related pains: My back aches from my heavy pack and the two corns on my right foot make it nearly impossible to walk in my boots at this point, and I might lose the toe nail on my right foot.

But I am still walking, and I hope that I can continue to walk until I reach Santiago – then I will definitely be able to file ‘completing the Camino Frances’ under ‘What Went Right’ for next month’s Life Lately.camino de santiago yellow arrow

What went wrong

Oh, the pain.

As I’ve mentioned above, this walk is not supposed to be a ‘Walk in the Park’, so I didn’t expect it to be very comfortable. What I didn’t expect, however, was to be in pain pretty much the entire time. If it wasn’t from my corns, which were sending shooting pains down my toes, it was my back, that was sending shooting pains down my spine. And then, depending on the day, throw in some ankle pain, shin splints, aching knees or aching hips. There was always something that was hurting!

Towards the end, my back pain became so severe that I considered sending my backpack ahead, like many pilgrims do, but when I started considering it, I just didn’t end up passing a town big enough to have a store that sold decent daypacks (I’d still have to carry my own water, a change of shoes, rain gear, my camera, some snacks, etc).

But while my pain was often excruciating, I am still incredibly grateful that I didn’t have a single blister the entire way and that I was never forced to take the bus or take a rest day because I wasn’t able to walk. I was surprised to see how many people actually did NOT finish the Camino because their bodies didn’t allow it, which is why I feel like I can’t complain all that much about the physical strains.dani beat

Losing stuff

Of course this month can’t go by without me losing something – as usual. On the Camino I was shocked though that I lost two very important things right at the beginning: my headphones on the second day (after losing a pair of headphones last month, I luckily had the foresight to pack an extra pair!), and my reusable water bottle on the third day. Oh well! The good news is that I think these two losses made me more careful about my belongings and I always checked thoroughly before leaving a place after that – and didn’t lose anything else all month.

dani camino de santiago
Happy about the second pair of headphones I packed!

Struggling as a vegetarian

Spain was the first country I ever moved to, but I did not remember it being so hard for vegetarians! I often struggled finding healthy, nutritious food, something that I wasn’t expecting. Even many of the meat eaters were complaining that the food was mediocre, and most of the time I just didn’t feel I had as much energy as I needed for these long days of walking.

It made me realize how spoiled I am in New York, with my daily green smoothies (I only came across spinach twice this entire month!), quinoa (barely to be found along the Camino), wholegrain bread and all the veggies that make up my diet.

omelette baguette
Where are the veggies??

In Spain, there’s no wholegrain bread to be found outside the big cities. When I pick up a sandwich in Germany, it’s layered with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs and cheese (on wholegrain bread). In Spain, when I ordered a cheese sandwich, it was always served on white bread, and it didn’t even have tomatoes on it, let alone some lettuce – often not even some sort of butter or mayonnaise or any other kind of sandwich spread, making it a very dry and very boring eating experience.The sweet breakfasts (croissants, white toast with jam, or cake) also didn’t fuel me as the Skyr with granola and banana breakfasts I am used to, which are loaded with protein, fiber and potassium. I was hungry barely two hours after eating a cake breakfast – where’s the protein?

The vegetarian options on the pilgrim’s menu, which is offered for dinner in many of the albergues (pilgrims hostels), were disappointing too. Often I got French fries with a couple of fried eggs, not even with a side of salad. Or pasta with ‘red sauce’ – I can’t even call it tomato sauce because it tasted more like ketchup.

For vegans, the Camino is even harder, and I met one vegan who went vegetarian for the duration of the walk because he wasn’t able to find enough fueling vegan food.

I am sure that big cities like Madrid and Barcelona have a thriving vegan and vegetarian scene, but the small villages you stop in during the Camino often don’t even have a grocery store. Whenever we hit a big city like Leon or Burgos, we went to the supermarket and gorged on broccoli, hummus, avocado and wholegrain bread. It makes such a difference to start your day with avocados and whole grains!

I felt like most of the month I was just stuffing myself with empty calories, way too much sugar, and barely any memorable meals, which I’ve found frustrating.

Camino de Santiago Cakes
Even for me it was too much cake.

Challenges

The list of challenges this month was long (and I guess the food struggles above could count as a challenge, too), but let’s look back at the challenges I predicted for September:

Weight loss

I am pretty sure that I am the only person on the Camino who didn’t lose any weight ☹ Especially during the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how much weight they’ve lost during the walk. I, on the other hand, feel bloated, haven’t done any abs workouts since leaving my sister’s house for Berlin over a month ago, and my tummy seems humongous to me.

My diet here has been so much unhealthier than my usual diet, as I explained above. I never eat white bread, for example, which I’ve eaten every single day here (what’s wrong with offering whole-grain bread Spain?!), and while I do love cake, even I got tired of it at some point, especially when we walked through a part of Spain where the only things available for breakfast were empanadas with meat or tuna – or cake. Adding to the croissants and cake I’ve consumed, the chocolate we bought to give us some energy during short breaks, and the wine that was freely flowing every night, and you can see how I, despite walking every single day, didn’t lose a single pound.

tortilla espanola
I blame it on all the greasy Spanish omelettes

Writing challenge

While I did write every day on the Camino, I didn’t end up doing as much writing for myself as I thought I would. I wrote a lot for freelance clients, but I often struggled putting everything I experienced in a day into words, and I still have a hard time verbalizing the extraordinary experience that is the Camino. Maybe it’ll be easier to do that when I am looking back at it from a distance, after the hike ends.

what are your dreams camino de santiago
Writing down our dreams in Las Herrerias

Work-hike-balance

My third challenge for the month, finding a good work-hike-balance, was actually the easiest challenge! I had talked to some people who also work online who had walked the Camino previously, and not everyone recommended that I bring my laptop to work during the walk. But after returning to 1,000 emails in my inbox after ten days offline in Cuba earlier this year, there was no way I could take a month off of work.

Luckily, it turned out that it wasn’t much of a challenge to find a good work-hike-balance. There were only a few days throughout the entire month when I was too exhausted to do any work, and I often surprised myself how much work I was able to get done while walking through Spain, even after a day of hiking. More than anything, it turned out to be a question of discipline – to sit down in front of my laptop instead of joining my fellow hikers for a post-hike glass of wine, or two.. or three.

And not only did I manage to fit in a lot of work time – I also had time to read a book and plenty of longreads I’d saved in my Pocket app, I made friends and socialized, and I stayed in touch with family and friends. I consciously opted against buying a local SIM card for my phone so that I wouldn’t be connected at all times, since the Camino was also supposed to be a time to allow me to disconnect and not check my work emails or social media during every little break I took.

I am glad I opted against it, since that left me with plenty of offline time in hostels where the Wi-Fi only reached public areas, forcing me to read my book instead of just scrolling through my Instagram and Facebook feeds.camino de santiago working digital nomad office

Other happenings

The world beyond the Camino

Despite being on the Camino, I never lost touch with the ‘outside world’. There were so many things going on this month – terrible things happening. First, hurricane Irma hit, then Maria destroyed Puerto Rico, and one of my favorite cities in the world, Mexico City, got hit hard by an earthquake. The way the Spanish government handled the referendum was shocking to watch, and of course widely broadcast throughout Spain as we walked from province to province.

I am not going into all the other political happenings around the globe that upset me – no matter how much I want to spend time focusing on myself, I am never able to shut out the world I live in. It was heartbreaking to see the images of people getting beaten up by the police, and of cities and entire regions being destroyed by forces of nature.

I will donate money as soon as I finish the Camino, and if you want to do the same, here are some good resources:

The New York Times put together a list of organizations to donate to if you want to help the earthquake victims in Mexico City, as well as a great guide of things to consider before you donate money:

Vox put together a list of organizations that help both earthquake and hurricane victims

Time Magazine published a list of organizations to donate to help Puerto Rico.dani o cebreiro camino de santiago

Shout-Outs & Mentions

I got a couple of awesome shout-outs this month – the Hostelworld blog included me in their list of Instagram accounts worth following (you can check out a bunch of my Camino pictures and stories on my Instagram here), and Feedspot.com included me in two of their Best 100 Blogs lists, on #16 and #20:

What’s next for me

Most importantly, I want to finish the Camino, of course! A few more days of walking through Spain until I reach Santiago de Compostela. From there, I’ll return to Germany to see my family again – my nieces and nephew in particular – because who knows when I’ll see them again!

Since I’ve still got some time left before returning to the U.S. (from where I’ll leave on my next grand travel adventure in November!), I decided to add another country to my three months in Europe – I’ll be returning to one of my favorite places, but to be honest, I have two options, and I am a still undecided which one I’ll go for. #nomadproblems!Camino de Santiago 2017

 

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: August 2017 Edition

august 2017

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.august 2017 germany

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.

family timeConsidering 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.dani bild der frauStarting 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

lotti

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 ‘Highlightsof 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.Berlin

Visiting France

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.)

France

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.germany august 2017

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.

Getting ill

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.

august 2017 germany and france
Sick from too much cake?

September Challenges

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.

cakes
I ate pieces of all of these cakes. On the same day. Self control? Nope, not me.

3 Work-hike-balance

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.

Other Happenings

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

august thuringia

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: July 2017 Edition

july 2017

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 finally left New York City! I spent two weekends out of town: the first weekend I went on a hiking trip upstate, and then I went to Long Island for some beach time. After two months of no travel, it felt great to go on these two little adventures – as well as planning my big adventure that I just left  the U.S. for. Yes, I’m traveling again, and I won’t be back in New York for quite some time.. but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look back at July first.July 2017 New York

What I’ve Been up to

July was the month of hosting friends. Three different friends, all of whom I met during different stages of my travels, visited New York this month and I got to spend some quality time with all of them, as well as lots of time spent with old friends I made in New York.

Knowing that July was going to be my last month in the city and my last month of summer in New York, I wanted to make the most of it, which meant I cut down on work and spent more time frolicking around the city. Scoring housesitting gigs for the entire month – i.e. not paying rent in July – was a deciding factor in this, and I am incredibly grateful that I get to enjoy months like this, especially in New York, where everything is so expensive. My housesits brought me to apartments near Central Park and Cobble Hill, one of my favorite areas of Brooklyn – and this was my fifth time housesitting in this quaint neighborhood! Both housesits were perfectly located – one close to Central Park and one close to Brooklyn Bridge Park – to get me back into a daily running routine after my month of yoga in June which left me with less time for running.

July 2017 nyc

I went to outdoor movies, several picnics in the parks, had rooftop breakfasts and rooftop drinks, covered hundreds of miles on my bike, enjoyed Sunday brunches, went back to the Whitney Museum for the first time in two years, stuffed myself at several food markets, went to see a pop-up art installation in Prospect Park’s Rose Garden, went on a brewery crawl and to a speakeasy bar, checked out new street art in Bushwick, took the aerial tram to Roosevelt Island for the first time in two years, and went to another yoga in the park, inspired by last month’s yoga challenge.

I even crossed two classic NYC summer activities I hadn’t done yet off my ‘to-do-list’: the Friday fireworks in Coney Island and rowing on the lake in Central Park! And then I must have gained about twelve pounds by gorging on all my favorite NYC treats: pizza from Artichoke Basille, cookies from Levain Bakery, banana bread pudding from Magnolia Bakery, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie, Doughnut Plant AND Dough donuts, tacos at Oaxaca, to name just a few. I feel like I need to go on a diet after a month of indulging in too much good food, craft beer and ice cream.July highlights

Not the entire month was spent partaking in fun activities though – I also managed to win a new freelance writing client, did extensive research for my new business venture (more on that below), worked in what I call my ‘New York day job’, grew my dog sitting side hustle further (after talking to several of my friends this month about how unhappy they were in their jobs, I appreciate more than ever that I get paid for things that I truly enjoy doing) and most importantly: booked and prepared for my next big adventure, which I will set off on at the end of August.New York City July 2017

July Highlights

A Hiking Trip Upstate

I’ve been wanting to go on a hiking trip for a while now, but scheduling an out-of-town trip with several people can be difficult. In the end, we pulled it off though, and I spent an awesome weekend upstate, staying at a friend’s house near the Hudson River and climbing Schunemunk Mountain. I also broke in my new hiking shoes which I’ll need for my next big adventure.Hiking Trip Upstate New York

Reunited with Lola

I have to admit that, after getting an annual membership for New York’s Citibike program right when I got back to the city at the end of April, I got a little lazy about getting my beloved bike Lola (see: Meeting Lola | June 2015) out of storage. New Citibike stations are being added all the time, and so it was easy to get around on Citibikes instead of having to use my own bike (and moving with it, because I moved way too often during the past few months and it’s already a pain in the b*tt to move all my stuff). But for my last month in the city, which I spent mainly in Brooklyn, it made sense to have my own bike because I was staying in several places without Citibikes and it was perfect cycling weather. It felt so good to have my Lola back, even though it was only for a few weeks, and we sure made the most of it – we rode hundreds of miles all over Brooklyn and Manhattan together.dani and lola

My First Trip to Long Island

The only time I ever spent on Long Island was actually spent on a small island off Long Island – Fire Island – where I finally went last summer after having it on my to-do-list for three years (but that’s still technically Long Island, right?). When my friend Erica, who recently moved to a seaside town out on Long Island, called friends from near and far to join her for a weekend of birthday debauchery, I finally had the perfect excuse to hop on a train headed east.

The weekend was nothing short of fabulous and the best part for me was that even though I brought my laptop, I ended up opening it exactly zero times. A completely work-free day has become such a rarity for me that this felt like a luxury.Long Island Weekend

Quality Time with Friends

I spent plenty of quality time with friends this month, and soaked it all in while I could, knowing that in August I wouldn’t get much ‘friends time’ – August will be all about being a super aunt, but more on that below.

From drawn out conversations during picnics in the park to juicy revelations during our hike upstate, to fun chats over boozy brunches, I was so happy to have visitors in town this month, all of whom I hadn’t seen since last year, some even longer. I bonded with new friends over cookies and coffee, even had a workout (friend) date this month, and took one friend on a bike ride around Brooklyn. I will miss my New York friends dearly, but I’ve already got so many things planned with them for when I get back that I’m already excited about returning to New York later this year!new york with friends

July Lowlights

I failed my 31-day writing challenge – big time. I only lasted five days into the month in which I was supposed to write at least 750 words every single day. I am extremely disappointed about this, but somehow I just didn’t have any words in me this month and even struggled to finish paid writing assignments. Funnily enough, I ‘hit a writing wall’ in July before – in 2015. Not sure if it’s New York or July, but I am going to have to re-do this challenge at some point this year – I hate failing.july 2017 writing

Other Happenings

I was featured in the August print edition of Diva Magazine, the UK’s leading lesbian magazine! I’m always super excited when I am featured in a print magazine, and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of it.

Another print shout-out came unexpectedly from Germany, where the leading women’s magazine, Bild der Frau, recycled an interview I did with them in 2016. They didn’t tell me about it, so it was a nice surprise when I found out about it through readers in Germany.

I was also interviewed for the popular Native Traveler show on Sirius XM Radio Canada, which dedicated a full episode to budget travel at the beginning of the month – you can listen to it here.
July 2017 highlights nyc

And last but not least I wanted to mention a new travel podcast in which host Keith Richard narrates the best stories from top travel bloggers. He read the story of my trek through the Colombian jungle to the Lost City, so if you prefer the audio version over the 3,200+ word written version, listen to it here.

In business-related news, I had a meeting about my new business venture which will hopefully launch in September. Since this is not 100% confirmed, I don’t want to get too excited just yet, but I will tell you all about it as soon as I know that the launch will go as planned. I can’t wait to share more about this, since preparing for this is what I spent most of my time on in July.July 2017 Highlights

What’s Next for me

I am writing this round-up on my flight from New York to Europe – after taking ten flights in the first 3.5 months of the year, it felt completely surreal to suddenly ‘sit still’ and not be hanging out at airports on a regular basis. Needless to say that I am stoked to find myself on a plane again.

Admittedly, I love summer in New York City so much that it took a very special reason for me to leave the city now… and this reason is my one-month old niece who I can’t wait to meet. August will mostly be spent with my family in my home country, but of course I can’t visit Germany without at least a few days in Berlin, and who knows what other additional trips will evolve over the next four weeks.

And this flight to Europe won’t be my only flight in August – I’ve already booked a flight to France for later this month from where I’ll be setting off on my next adventure… which I will talk about in more detail in my August round-up, but here’s a little hint: I will be walking A LOT in September! Can you guess where I am headed? 😉dani schunemunk mountain

read more

Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: June 2017 Edition

june 2017

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 crossed the bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn countless times, but for the entire month, not once did I make it out of these two boroughs.June 2017 Manhattan and Brooklyn

What I’ve Been up to

After stressing myself way too much in May with work, immigration matters and trying to find a place to live, I decided to take things a little slower in June. I cut my work hours in favor of a new business pursuit (which I’m excited to tell you more about next month, but it hasn’t officially launched yet), and gave up on the apartment hunt since it was not only time consuming and frustrating, but it also didn’t look like I was going to even get a place I really liked.

I have to say that I was extremely lucky how everything came together for me in terms of sublets and housesits – so far. This month I’ve had several options and haven’t even had to share a place. Amazing!summer fun NYC 2017

One of the main reasons why I stopped looking for a place? Because it’s almost time for me to leave New York! Yes, that’s right, my 3.5 month travel break is nearly over, and I am getting ready for my next big trip.

Since I’ll be gone for several months, there was no point anyway to look for a permanent place now, which would’ve meant having to deal with finding a subletter, and hoping that the sublet goes well.. but this also means that when I get back to New York, I’ll have to start the apartment hunt over again. Oh, well.

On the topic of me leaving for my next trip: I can’t believe how fast my time in New York went by! I still feel like I just got here, and I am getting ready to leave again.. how is this possible?! I won’t be leaving for another month, but I know that July will fly by, too, considering all the things that are coming up (see below under What’s Next).New York June 2017

On to the highlights and lowlights of the month:

June Highlights

Louisa is here!

I wouldn’t necessarily leave New York in the height of summer, which is my favorite time of year here, but I’ve got a good reason to leave: I’ve been impatiently waiting for the arrival of my newest niece, and the wait is finally over! I couldn’t be more excited to meet her in early August when I fly to Germany to spend some time with my sister and my ever growing collection of nieces and nephews.

The day of her birth was very emotional for me – I always get insanely homesick when big events like this occur. And that’s why I’m grateful that I found a job here that allows me to leave for several months – I couldn’t even imagine being ‘trapped’ in an office job now that doesn’t allow me to take a month off (or longer), but sadly that’s the case for most of my American friends.louisaAnyway, welcoming Louisa into the family was definitely the highlight of the month.

Pride & Pride Brunch

In 2014 and 2015, the first two summers I spent in New York, I was lucky enough to attend my friends’ annual Pride Brunch, and when I had to travel to Germany last June to deal with my green card, I was devastated that I wouldn’t be able to attend (I still can’t get over the fact that I won permanent residency!! Who wins a visa?! Pretty much everyone I tell how I ended up here is astonished).

But this summer I was back in town for it and it was the perfect way to kick off an amazing Pride. After brunch, we headed over to the parade, and from there we went down to the West Village to join the celebrations. The weather was perfect, our group was great, and it seemed like half of New York City had come out to celebrate love equality.New York Pride 2017

The only dampener was that not a single one of my straight friends here in New York City came out for the event – which is funny considering how I am always assured just how much they’re supporting the LGBT community.

Sleepless in Seattle under the stars

One thing I love about New York City in the summer is all the free outdoor movies all over town, in parks, on rooftops, on the riverside. I don’t always find the right person to watch a movie with, or sometimes a movie I really want to see gets rained out, but when ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ was showing in Bryant Park, everything was perfect. I went with someone who loves cheesy romantic comedies just as much as I do, the weather was amazing, and we had a delicious picnic dinner in the grass.

It’s nights like this that always reaffirms my love for New York.bryant park movie

Summer fun galore

In addition to Pride, the Mermaid Parade (see below) and open-air movies, I feel like I made up for all the things I didn’t do last month. I enjoyed summer to the fullest, with the Metropolitan Opera in Brooklyn Bridge Park (the Philharmonics and the Met in the park are among my favorite summer events in New York), rooftop cocktails, picnics in the park, bike rides around the city, sunset runs and photo excursions.New York City June 2017

I took friends around my favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods, took my office outside whenever I could, hung out with an adorable pup, relived my Sonoma Wine trip at the Sonoma in the City New York – Taste of Sonoma event, went to a Goddess-themed birthday party, ate brunch in the sun and I even went to an outdoor yoga class (more on that below in Other Happenings).summer fun New York

June Lowlights

A rained out Mermaid Parade

I had to think long and hard about June mishaps & lowlights, and I guess that if this is the only thing that I can come up with after giving it good thought, I must have had a pretty good month!

And that being said: Even though we arrived in Coney Island during a torrential downpour, the rain eventually went away and the parade wasn’t completely ruined. And we used the time when it was raining to eat pizza at Totonno’s, one of New York’s iconic pizza spots, so I can’t really put this down as a lowlight when I really think about it. But I was looking forward to a super hot beach day, and that obviously didn’t happen.Mermaid Parade 2017

The Usual: Losing and Breaking Stuff

Of course I can’t go through a month without at least losing and breaking one thing. The biggest thing I lost this month? My friend’s gay Pride flag. I feel horrible about it, but obviously I’ll replace it.

And I wasn’t very lucky with my electronics in June: one of my chargers stopped working, my favorite pair of headphones broke, and most importantly: my beloved blender stopped working! This little blender was the first thing I bought in New York in 2014, and it traveled all over the U.S. with me. Seeing how much use it got, I guess it was expected to happen sooner or later, and I ordered the exact same one to replace it, because it did me such a good service over the past three years.summer 2017 new york

Other Happenings

My June challenge: Daily Yoga!

I did it! I made it through 30 days of yoga. Okay, I’ll be honest here: I fell asleep on two days I was supposed to do a bedtime yoga routine, but I made up for it by doing two different yoga routines the next day.

I even added another challenge on top of this challenge: I would attend a public yoga class before the end of the month. For someone like me, who hasn’t really ever done any yoga, this was a terrifying thought, and I waited until the very last week of the month to do it. And then I was still very self-conscious about my ability to do certain poses and my flexibility. To be able to escape should the class be too hard for me, I opted for a free outdoors class – luckily there are loads of them held every day in the summer, all over New York.

I chose a great class and was able to keep up with the routine, even though I’m still not as flexible as I’d like to be. But the one thing I learned from that class was that other people aren’t either!June Yoga Challenge

The overall take-away from this challenge? I don’t hate yoga anymore (it took me about two weeks to get to that point though) and I grew much more conscious of my breathing, my balance and my posture. I definitely want to continue practicing, and master some of the more difficult poses. I am not sure if I’ll ever be able to do SUP yoga, but this month has made me more curious about trying other yoga variations and I am happy that I changed my mind about something I felt strongly about – I really disliked yoga!

Another take-away was that getting my followers involved was really fun: when I announced my yoga challenge over on my Snapchat channel (mariposa2711), a bunch of my followers suggested their favorite yogis to me to get started and they kept cheering me on throughout the month, which was nice.

My July Challenge: Daily Writing

I was stuck this month, unsure what to challenge myself to do next (and again, getting my Snapchat ‘family’ involved), when about a week ago, it hit me: I need to get myself to write more. And what better way than to actually challenge myself to write more? After my frantic May during which I barely wrote anything, I tried to focus more on writing again this month, but I found it really difficult to get back into it. I am still unsure about the number of words I’ll challenge myself to write, but it’ll be between 750 and 1,000 words. It just so happens that I got a bunch of new freelance work, so doing this as a challenge will actually be pretty helpful.writing challenge

Work, work, work

As I already touched on above, I am in the process of launching a new business venture, and I moved from unpaid pet sitting gigs to getting paid for my dog sitting services which has been a nice unexpected extra income (but this is only a fun side gig). Scoring a bunch of new freelance writing gigs on top of this has made June my most lucrative month of the year so far! I hope this trend will continue throughout July since I won’t be able to work as much in August, when I leave on a big trip.

NYC June 2017
Of course there’s time to play, too!

What’s Next For Me

July is going to be my last month in NYC for a while… you didn’t really think I was going to be able to sit still for too long, did you? 😉 And July will be a super busy month, with my new writing challenge, lots of work, and not one, not two, but three different visitors stopping by! I am excited for all of them to get here, and all the cool things we’ll be doing. (There’ll be lots of eating…)

And at the end of July I’ll be packing up again for several months of travel, starting in Germany. I’ll share more on that and where I’ll head from there in my next round-up.June 2017 New York

read more
1 2 3 6
Page 1 of 6
css.php