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Life Lately And Upcoming Travels: December 2014 Edition (and a quick look back on the past year)

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The last day of the year.. I can’t believe how fast it flew by, but then I feel like I say that every single time 31 December comes around. Writing this roundup actually got me thinking a lot about the past 12 months, not just the past four weeks, and it still amazes me how the year panned out after everything that has happened. Let’s take a quick look back at 2014.

Looking back on 2014…

I started the year on a high, in Peru, in anticipation of finally trekking to Machu Picchu, something that had been on my bucket list forever (as much as I dislike the word, but this truly was a bucket list item), successfully reaching the ‘Lost City Of The Incas‘ a few days later with the person I loved. Well, as most of you know, things went downhill from there, but I managed to pick myself up and after a couple of months in Germany, I continued to do what I love the most: travel. I went to Malta to soak up the Mediterranean spring air, and then on to New York to process the breakup and the grief of losing my dear grandma. New York healed me, not only did I get my mojo back with every day that went by, but I also fell in love with my favorite city in the world all over again. During my five months there I also met some amazing people, some of which have become my closest friends over the past few months.

I took shorter trips to Canada and to Buffalo, and went on the first ‘big’ trip by myself to Israel. Transitioning into the whole solo travel thing has been so much easier than expected and I was actually surprised to see how little ‘alone time’ I had on my travels this year – right now, I am craving some ‘me time’, which is why I ended up changing my travel plans for next month, but more on that later.

2014 on instagram
I am sharing 14 of my favorite travel moments of 2014 on Instagram

I started 2014 on a high, and I am happy to say that, after a long dark period of grief, sadness, heartbreak, depression and struggling to keep myself going, I am ending the year on a high. If this year has taught me one thing it is that I am much stronger than I thought I was. After what I’ve been through in 2014, nothing can shock me anymore, nothing can defeat me. I know now that I’ll be able to pick myself up again, whatever might happen, and that I am more capable of achieving my goals than I had ever imagined. I spoke to a friend recently who has known me since 2003, and she said she’s never seen me as energized, enthusiastic and happy as I was now. Which got me thinking, and come to the conclusion that she was right: I am truly happy right now and I am not sure if I could have honestly said the same 12 months ago, even though it seemed like I was living the dream. But even living your dream life can’t save you from tragedies like dying love, dying family members, and other struggles. I am holding the key to my destiny, and I am happy to make decisions for myself, and be 100% in charge of everything I do.

This doesn’t mean everything in my life is rainbows and unicorns, and I still have moments of extreme sadness and when I doubt myself and the things I do. But overall, I don’t feel like I’m in the position to complain about anything. I lost love, I found love, I lost friends, I made new friends, I lost a family member but gained a new one, and I get to keep doing what I love: travel the world, write about and photograph all the beautiful places I get to see. My five-year travel anniversary is coming up in April and then I’ll write more about my thoughts on what these five years have meant to me and what’s in store for the next five years.

Travels 2014
Some of my travel highlights in 2014: Berlin, Canada, Sri Lanka and New York City

What I’ve been up to

This month was nothing short of amazing – I spent most of it in the tropical heat of Sri Lanka before I switched beaches and sunburns for snow and frostbite in Europe. (Okay maybe not frostbite, but trust me, my body was in extreme shock about the below zero temperatures). I think I booked my return flight to Asia within 24 hours of experiencing this thing called ‘winter’. But I came home to spend the Holidays with my family, for the first time in seven years, and it’s so been worth it! And sledding with my nieces even made the snow bearable, and the white stuff is very photogenic. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss all the family fun I already mentioned last week, and I’ll make sure not to let another seven years go by before I go to Germany for Christmas again.

My last three weeks in Sri Lanka were too short and I felt like I packed in way too much, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on any of the places I visited. I was lucky enough to find an awesome travel buddy, my fellow travel blogger Becki of BordersOfAdventures.com, who made my trip much more fun. (We actually started out with more people, like Travis of FlashpackerHQ.com and AdventurousKate, both in the picture below). Together, we traveled up the south coast (where we had left off at the end of November) to Colombo, followed by the tea country, the cultural triangle with the awe-inspiring ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa, and finally Jaffna in the far north of the country – a place that had been off-limits for foreigners for a long time during the civil war in Sri Lanka which only ended very recently, in 2009. I ended my trip exhausted but happy with a couple of nights in a beach hotel near Negombo where I caught some sun before flying to Europe, and where I did a quick bed count: 21 different beds in 37 days. Can you see why I was exhausted?Sri Lanka December 2014

What went well

I feel like everything went well this month. My travel days were smooth and painless, the places I visited were all fantastic, my camera gear, phone and iPod survived being caught in a rainstorm in Polonnaruwa, I stayed within my budget despite overspending on Christmas gifts for the family, business was great in December after a miserable November, two out of three freelance articles I pitched were accepted.

What went wrong

The only thing I could possibly complain about this month was not enough me-time. And running in the snow… Nothing I ever wanted to add to my list of achievements. But hey – I’m still running, despite the snow, so that’s saying something. I might add that, just like in November, I found it impossible on most days to go running in Sri Lanka because of the heat and I didn’t get to work out as much as I would have liked, but I used the gym whenever there was one and I feel like I made up for the lack of exercise since I got to Germany. Even though my cookie intake is out of control. I’ve got to make up for 7 Christmases not eating German Christmas goodies though, right?

December 2014 Christmas Germany
Christmas with the family… bliss!

Upcoming travels

I am going to Hong Kong! If I survive my 8-day trip to Helsinki and Stockholm, that is. I already mentioned last month that I was invited to take part in the Nordic Bloggers Experience and the MATKA Nordic Travel Fair in Helsinki, and seeing how much I got out of the TBCasia conference, I didn’t need to think twice. Okay, I did think twice, after a quick Google search of ‘average temperatures in Helsinki in January’ but I am confident that the benefits and business opportunities the conference offers outweigh losing a toe or two due to the extreme cold 😉 In all honesty, I am beyond excited to travel to Finland and Sweden (two new countries for me) and to be part of NBE Finland.

From there, I’ll be jetting to Hong Kong.. instead of Thailand, what had been my original plan. I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of ‘me time’ in a place where hundreds of digital nomads spend the winter and booked a flight to Hong Kong instead of Bangkok, completely on a whim. I chose Hong Kong mainly because it’s just a 2-hour flight from the Philippines – a country I’ve been dying to visit for years, and when I realized in Sri Lanka just how much I was craving some beach time, I decided that now was the time! My original plan had been to travel to Myanmar from Thailand, another place high on my travel wish list, but right now, beach and island hopping is just more appealing. I’ll be in Asia for a while, so I am sure I’ll end up in Myanmar sooner or later.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka – my favorite new county in 2014.

Last but not least…

I wanted to thank all of you for reading, commenting, engaging on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for sending me encouraging messages throughout the year – these words of encouragement were what kept me going in the difficult time I was going through. Thank you for sharing your own breakup stories with me, asking me to keep the site going, offering to meet up with me – I truly appreciated every single message. And of course all of you ‘silent readers’ who don’t comment or message me – thanks for following along. I hope you’ll join me for my adventures in 2015 – I have no idea what the next twelve months have in store for me but I can’t wait to find out.

A new year is like a blank book. The pen is in your hands. It is your chance to write a beautiful story for yourself.

I wish all of you a very happy New Year!

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Life Lately And Upcoming Travels: November 2014 Edition

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Life lately…

Exactly three weeks ago I boarded a plane to Sri Lanka, and it seems like I’ve been back in Asia’s sticky and hot humidity forever! I started the month in New York and caught up on London life over a few pints in the city I used to call home before I escaped the chilly fall weather to attend a travel bloggers conference in Colombo, followed by a few weeks of independent travel through Sri Lanka.

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London, New York, Sri Lanka

It’s been a crazy month, to say the least. While I enjoyed my last few days in New York, taking in all the good things fall brings with it before the dreary November fog and rain (and now even snow!) sets in, I was anxious about my quick trip to London. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about returning to the place where I lived until I left my corporate job in 2010 to travel the world. How would I feel about returning to the city I loved so much but also loathed in the last few months I spent there? The city where I found my first ever grown-up job after graduating, the city where I built up my life together with the girl I thought I would marry one day.London November 2014The strain of memories of good, bad and ugly times we had in London during our three years there started flooding back as soon as I exited the train from Gatwick Airport at Victoria Station. Bittersweet memories came back everywhere I went, but I also rediscovered my love for this beautiful city. During all those years of travel, I had simply forgotten about all the things that had always drawn me to London, even long before I finally moved there in 2007. While I was there, I wished I had more time to rekindle my love affair with London, but if there’s one thing I know, it is that November is not the best time to fall in love with London again, and so I’ll patiently wait until the right time comes.

Knowing that I can return whenever I want (no visa restrictions or bureaucratic hurdles here!) made it easy for me to leave, and I even indulged in fantasies of what it would be like to set up a base in London again, now that my life is so different from what it was during my corporate years.London EnglandMy last day in town was sunny and perfect for long walks around my favorite neighborhoods and I found myself walking around with a big smile on my face most of the time, but by the time I boarded my plane it was raining like crazy, and so I left with mixed feelings, half of me longing for more, the other half happy to leave.

It’s funny how you can forget so many things you adore and appreciate for years, from pubs and shops to certain restaurant chains and independent eateries you used to go to all the time. Markets, neighborhoods, magazines, certain items that I always used to buy in the supermarkets, little things that used to make me happy. All pushed to the back of my brain because of all the other experiences, places, foods and people I’ve met along the way over the past nearly five years. And then there is New York of course, which always makes it easy for me to forget about every other place in the world. However, I was happy to discover that New York is not the only city I’ve got a huge crush on.

Fall in New York
New York made sure though to remind me why I love the city so much. My fall there was picture-perfect!

I loved having my daily routine in New York over the three weeks I spent there, much needed after my hectic schedule in Israel and Germany afterwards, and before traveling through Sri Lanka.

Since my Sri Lankan Airlines flight touched down in Colombo, I haven’t stopped moving: every two nights I pack up my bag and move on to the next place, and it is starting to get to me. I am glad that I have another three weeks here to slow down a bit, but after a quick look at the Lonely Planet yesterday, I feel like there might not even be time for my highly anticipated side trip to the Maldives… but we’ll see.Sri LankaAs I mentioned in my last Life Lately post, I came to Sri Lanka primarily for the TBCasia conference and not in a million years would I have thought that I’d be having such an amazing time. The first few days before the actual conference were spent on a pre-conference whirlwind trip around some of Sri Lanka’s major sights. The main sponsor of the conference, Cinnamon Hotels, put together an ambitious but remarkable itinerary including UNESCO world heritage sites (Kandy, Sirigiya, the Dambulla Cave Temple, Polonnaruwa, the fortified city of Galle), beaches and wild elephants, a bar crawl through Colombo and one of the country’s most scenic train rides.Sri Lanka 2014I can’t even begin to describe what this conference has done for me, not only providing a ton of invaluable knowledge for my business, but also the people I’ve met, new friendships that formed, business opportunities that came up, the networking and learning from each other – I am so grateful that I got to be part of the PTBA’s first conference and am already looking forward to the next one.

For now, I’ll have to just find the time to incorporate all the things I’ve learned at the conference and I am also excited about starting to share my love for Sri Lanka with you here on the site.TBC Asia group

What went well

Traveling with over 40 people! I know, this sounds a bit off putting, right? I’ve never traveled with that many people before and wasn’t sure what to expect. My worries were unfounded though- the five days pre-conference trip was wonderful, and I enjoyed the conversations we had, the tips we shared, and hanging out with so many fellow travel addicts talking about the things we love to do: travel and blogging, but also discuss the challenges of freelancing and running an online business. I don’t get the chance to do that very often. It was also nice to find out that I am not the only person in the world that can’t walk by a cat without petting it, that there are other people who loathe AC as much as I do and that there are others who are obsessed with New York just as much as I am.

Dani birthday
And I turned 34 this month! I spent my birthday in the great company of Becki of BordersOfAdventures.com and Jessica & Hai of NotesofNomads.com in Yala, where we went out on two safaris in Yala National Park and saw leopards, elephants, crocodiles and loads of other wildlife!

I have to give props to everyone involved in organizing this conference and handling the needs of 40+ people. As much as I loved traveling with the group, I was also happy about a couple of days of solitude afterwards and then continuing on with a small group of fellow bloggers.

What went wrong

Let’s just say that moving around every second day is not the best precondition to get a lot of work done. I feel like this is a recurring theme in these updates but I struggled once again with my work travel balance. Add to this a more than unsatisfactory WiFi situation and you can imagine that I was close to a nervous breakdown several times this month. While there is WiFi in most places, it has often been very slow, cutting in and out or just not connecting to my laptop – I often felt reminded of the frustrating WiFi situation in India a couple of years ago.

beach nomad office
One of my digital nomad offices in Sri Lanka

Technology-wise: no major camera or lens incidents so far, but I managed to nearly kill my iPod Touch… yes, again. All I want to say about it is that there was a lot of water involved (AGAIN!!)

I knew it was going to be hard to keep up my running and workout routine here, as I remembered that during my last time in Asia, I struggled to do anything in the heat and humidity. Combined with the tight travel schedule I’ve had, I haven’t been able to work out as much as I wanted to. I have to say though that the added weight and space taken up by my workout clothes and shoes make a good incentive to actually use them!

Upcoming travels

I have another three weeks in Sri Lanka ahead of me and then I’ll head to Germany for a family Christmas for the first time in seven years! I’ll arrive just in time to visit a Christmas Market before they’re closing and will turn my sister’s kitchen into a Christmas bakery (she has no idea what’s about to happen in her house). After that, there might be a week of snow fun somewhere in the mountains but I am not sure if that’s really going to happen, because I might run out of time. I will only be home for a very short time before I head to three new countries in January! I will tell you all about my travel plans for 2015 in next month’s update, and reveal where the four flights I booked for January will bring me to!More Sri Lanka

It’s that time of year again…

… when many people donate money for a good cause. If you are thinking about donating to a charity this Christmas, I’d like you to consider the following: a couple of months ago, I talked about the South Sudan food crisis, for which I personally donated. The situation in Sudan is still daunting and every dollar helps.

Another cause worth donating for is a project initiated by three young German ladies who are looking to provide girls in Nepal with menstrual cups. Because of the unsanitary menstrual options in the country, the issue of not having access to sanitary cloths or simply clean wash cloths can cause health issues and restrict young girls’ lives during their period – for example, they prefer staying at home during that time instead of going to school. Reusable menstrual cups can help with this issue. Have a look at their Indiegogo campaign for more details and to help the girls in Nepal (they have reached their campaign goal already, but the more money they can raise, the more girls can get a menstrual cup).

Globetrottergirls Instagram November 2014
Click on the image to follow me on Instagram for real-time updates and photos of my current whereabouts!

I am wishing all of you a Happy Holiday Season and I would like to thank you for your support throughout the year, which hasn’t been an easy one for me.

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Life lately and upcoming travels: October 2014 Edition

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I started these monthly updates to tell you about my current whereabouts, my most recent travels, what went well and what didn’t, plus a little sneak peek of what’s next for me.

Life Lately

If you have seen my last Polaroid Of The Week, you already know where I am right now – if not: I am back in New York! I certainly didn’t think that I’d be back here so soon when I left last month, but I couldn’t resist the chance to visit again for Halloween (I happened to be in NYC for Halloween last year, too) and the New York Marathon (I entered the lottery in March but sadly wasn’t picked – I do, however, get to run on my favorite running routes in NYC again) and to cheer for the runners, like I did last year, and to visit some places that I didn’t get around to exploring this past summer. Plus, I have been continuing to eating my way through New York which has been great, to try out new coffee shops and bars, and to see the beautiful fall foliage.

central park views new york
Not many leaves are changing their color yet, but the ice rink is already open!

I am here only for a short visit in between trips (although I realize that three weeks in New York is what most people consider a loooong trip, and not a quick stint), and what brought me here was the invitation to try out Norwegian Air’s transatlantic flights and review their service, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Experience in particular. They are the only low-cost airline that offers transatlantic flights at extreme bargain prices (Los Angeles – Copenhagen for $196, anyone?!) and I was happy to accept the invitation. Since I have yet to take my return flight, I don’t want to share my excitement about Norwegian’s U.S.-Europe routes just yet and will wait until I have landed safe and sound in Europe again.

norwegian airlines dreamliner
Norwegian’s Dreamliner

Where else have I been in the past four weeks? I started my month in Israel, spent some not enough time in Germany with my family, squeezed in a short trip to Berlin and a few days in Munich, where I went to Oktoberfest. Which has been the highlight of my month – at least until now. That said: I haven’t been to the Halloween Party I’m invited to yet, which is supposed to be pretty epic. So far, Oktoberfest was the most fun thing I’ve done all month, although I have to say that it’s also been fantastic to catch up with friends in New York and to go on a ‘leaf peeping’ road trip upstate to marvel at the fall colors, and to hang out with my nieces and nephew for a few days.dani oktoberfest 2014

What went well

Work-travel balance: Okay, to say this went well would be a little bit over the top but since it has improved hugely from last month, I wanted to highlight it here. I am still struggling with this, especially during my hectic travel schedule in Germany I felt constantly overwhelmed, but since I’ve arrived in New York, I made a point to focus on work and to resist all the fun temptations this city has to offer. I have also gotten back into a workout routine, managed to sleep more than a few hours per night and decided to extend my Christmas break in Germany to recharge my batteries after a much too busy year.

homemade chili
What also went well: Making a home-made vegetarian chili!

What went wrong

Of course the month couldn’t go by without another tech incident. My iPhone died, which is annoying considering I upgraded the battery when I had my screen repaired at the end of August, so that I would have an almost new phone again. Like I’ve said before – I am just not lucky with expensive gadgets and have yet to decide how much I am willing to spend on a new (read: used) one… definitely no iPhone 6 for me.

I also managed to loose my debit card, the card I always use to get cash out, after having it replaced only a few months ago. Luckily, it happened in New York where I can survive pretty much cashless. This reminds me that with all of last month’s mishaps of breaking technology and being sick, I completely forgot to mention that I lost my wallet in Israel (with about $50 in it – no important credit cards, but still) and misplaced my other debit card. Coming to think about it, I shouldn’t be trusted with gadgets AND money / bank cards.

fall colors new york
Luckily I didn’t need any cash for my road trip upstate

What’s next?

Exciting news – I am off to Sri Lanka in a few days! I have been a proud member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association for nearly two years now, and the association is organizing its very first conference – TBC Asia which will take place next month in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The conference is the first travel bloggers conference in Asia, and presented by Cinnamon Hotels in partnership with SriLankan Airlines and the PTBA. After attending the Social Travel Summit in Leipzig this past April, where I soaked up every single word in the excellent sessions on social media and working with tourism boards, I am even more excited to attend a conference with similar workshops, fabulous speakers and a well-rounded conference program, put together by Cinnamon Hotels. And then there’s of course the networking aspect – it is always great to exchange ideas, see how other people do certain things and talk about running a blog professionally, since there are not many people I can talk about this stuff with (especially as a nomad!).

israel beach sunset
I am ready for some beach sunsets again! This one was taken last month in Israel.

If you are a blogger – a quick word on the PTBA: The PTBA was only founded in 2011 and is hence still a pretty young organization, but I think it is important to have an association that represents bloggers who do this professionally, just as journalists have their association (and most other professional groups have theirs). The PTBA puts a lot of effort into connecting travel PRs with bloggers, to provide support and advice to its members whenever possible, and now with this first conference put together by the PTBA, I am even more glad that I signed up to be a member of it, and think the membership will pay off even more in the coming years.

I will use the conference as a jumping-off point to explore Sri Lanka on my own for almost five weeks and am hoping to squeeze in a detour to the Maldives while I am there – fingers crossed that I can make it happen. Did you know that the Maldives are only a 90-minute flight from Sri Lanka, and that return flights can be found for as little as $150? I feel like I have to take advantage of being so close to my absolute dream destination!halloween dogs

Happy Halloween!

If you have any tips for Sri Lanka for me, feel free to share them in the comments below!

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Life lately and upcoming travels: September 2014 Edition

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I started these monthly updates to tell you about my current whereabouts, my most recent travels, what went well and what didn’t, plus a little sneak peek of what’s next for me.

Life Lately

I left New York at the beginning of September, and while I left the city in style with the fabulous chauffeur service provided by Blacklane.com (what a difference it makes to arrive at the airport in a completely relaxed state instead of sweaty and stressed out after struggling with public transportation and three carry-ons plus a severely overweight backpack – totally worth the splurge, especially before a long trains-Atlantic flight, IMHO), I also left with a heart so heavy in my chest that it was hard for me to hold the tears back all the way to the airport. I love this city so much, and I had such an amazing summer there; I left as a completely different person than I was when I arrived there broken into a million in pieces back in May.

New York City love
Love that city!

The only reason why I didn’t fall into depression after leaving: There was just no time, since I was heading straight to Israel (with a quick pit stop in Germany to cuddle my little nephew and spend a girlie day with my nieces, all of whom I had missed like crazy over the summer) and the excitement of getting to visit a new country took over quickly.

I’ve been traveling through Israel for more than three weeks now, and must say that I have been surprised about how much I like it. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Middle Eastern food though, and the way to the heart is through the stomach they say… well, I guess there is some truth to that! Trekking the National Trail was an unforgettable travel experience and I have met so many welcoming people here that it would be hard not to like the country. I wasn’t sure if I would regret not hiking the Camino, but right on the first day, while I was trudging through the desert at 100 F/37C, I knew I had made the right decision. Looking around me and taking in the incredible desert scenery was enough to reaffirm my decision for Israel, and looking back at the month that I had I wouldn’t change anything.

Israel
Israel: Amazing food and stunning scenery

I mentioned how apprehensive I was to visiting Israel, but the country itself has blown me away. It is difficult, however, to travel and enjoy the country 100 per cent when you can’t stop thinking about the Gaza conflict that looms over Israel like a big dark cloud, especially with the last war having ended just before my visit. I have been learning a lot during my time here, visited the West Bank several times, always trying to understand both sides, but the complicated political situation cannot be ignored (at least not by me, I met other travelers who seem much less concerned about the topic). I will write more about this when I share my experiences in Israel, since it would go way beyond the scope of this post.

separation wall west bankOverall, I feel like I have a much better understanding of both sides than I did before I came here, and like I said, the country itself is just incredibly beautiful. I loved road tripping around the entire country, spending time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, floating in the Dead Sea, exploring the ancient port cities of Acco and Jaffa, falling in love with beaches along the entire Mediterranean coastline, and of course the desert, through which I trekked for two days as part of the Israel National Trail hike. What made my experience here outstanding though is how warm I was welcomed everywhere I went – by strangers, by fellow trekkers, by the family of a good friend who invited me into their home for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Palestinians who were happy to chat with me about life in the West Bank, people I met along the way who became good friends. I am excited to share all my stories with you and am already planning my next trip to this region in my head.

Israel and the West BankWhat went well

Business! I’ve been working hard on improving and growing this website, and as a result I have been getting more and more interesting business offers and invitations for trips in my email inbox. I still decline most of them, and only accept the ones that I think are an excellent fit for both me and my audience, but it feels good to know that my efforts are paying off. Running the site by myself has been much harder than I could have ever foreseen, and I sacrifice a lot of my free time because I need to invest many more hours than I did when two people were running Globetrottergirls. Sadly, I am not getting around to reading a lot these days or watching movies, but there is one giant project that I am still discussing which would make all these long hours totally worthwhile (a little teaser on that in the ‘what’s next’ section).

goldstar
Celebrating a new business deal with a beer and a snorkeling trip in the Red Sea

What went wrong

-Work-Travel-Balance. Which was basically non-existent. I found myself glued to my laptop until 4am every night the week before I left for Israel, surviving on three hours sleep at most and two entirely sleepless nights before travel days. There were days when I felt like a zombie, but I had gotten an unexpected but well-paying workload that I couldn’t afford to decline after spending way too much money on new gear and gifts for my family in New York last month. My travel schedule was just too tight to be able to handle my workload at the same time. I felt like I was barely able to keep up with anything, and am still catching up with my email inbox which was overflowing while I was on the trek (if you emailed me in the past month and haven’t gotten a reply yet – I apologize and promise I will answer your email soon). I’ll have to slow down considerably next month to get back on track, or I will be burnt out by the end of the year.

Tel Aviv Office
I know I know.. I can hardly complain with a sea view office like this

-Travel tech. This was not a good month with regards to the travel gadgets I travel with – I ruined TWO of my lenses on the desert trek; I assume sand got in. This is really annoying because I had only picked up them earlier this year in New York (at every photographer’s paradise B&H) and the repair here in Israel was more than buying new lenses in the U.S. would be. That wasn’t my only tech mishap though – quite embarrassing, but I dropped my iPod Touch, which I had in the back pocket of my jeans, in the toilet. I am not sure how but it is still working! (Apple quality, my friends!) My reaction was lightning fast, I must have gotten it out within seconds and then tried the drying-the-wet-device-in-rice trick – which seems to work. That was the second near death of my iPod within a few weeks, after it was nearly washed into the ocean in the Rockaways, where it also only survived thanks to my super fast reaction time. After breaking its screen (and my iPhone screen – both within a week) earlier this summer, plus two broken lenses, I realize that I just shouldn’t buy myself any expensive travel tech.

dani ein gedi
Seriously… what would I do without my camera?!

-Health. I came down with a serious stomach bug last weekend (picture some projectile vomiting… or don’t.) and what it taught me: it sucks to be sick while traveling, but it sucks even more so if you’re solo traveling. My new Israeli friends made sure that I am well looked after though, so thanks for everyone who reached out to me and offered me help, medication or company!

-Fitness. I also felt slightly ‘off’ after running on a (nearly) daily basis for four months and not being able to run that much in Israel. Running has become for me what yoga is to others and I realize that I have to find a way to also integrate it in my daily routine while traveling for an overall better and more balanced feeling.

What’s next?

I’m heading to Oktoberfest! Instead of extending my stay in the Middle East and travel overland to Jordan from here (a place very high on my travel wish list), I decided to cut my trip short and leave that for my next trip to this region – there’s so much more to see here in Israel, too. Instead, I’ll be meeting a friend from New York in Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest together. I love the beer festival and have been five times, but I haven’t been there in half a decade. So I jumped at the chance to meet up with my friend who happens to be there for Oktoberfest and introduce her to the Bavarian beer culture and dirndls (we’ll both be wearing one – a first for me! I barely ever wear dresses.) So get ready for some hilarious photos.

Oktoberfest
My last Oktoberfest in 2009, five years ago

As for the rest of the month, I am still not sure about my travels – I am waiting for the flight confirmation for a rather spontaneous trip to a yet to be announced destination… as long as I don’t hold the plane tickets in my hands, I am not going to say anything just yet, but fingers crossed that my next update comes from that very destination.

The same goes for my November/December travel plans, which came together as a complete surprise this month, but since I still haven’t received my plane tickets for that trip either, I am going to have to hold off on telling you about it until the end of next month.

Last but not least, I have been discussing another big project which would be my first major on-camera experience if the campaign moves forward. Sadly, I can’t reveal any details yet, but let’s just say that if this really happens, it would involve a trip to one of my favorite countries in the world (can you guess? ;-)). Stay tuned for an exciting November!

tel aviv sunset with plane

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The Happiness Of Pursuit, My Search For A Quest, And A Book Giveaway!

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There’s a quest waiting for you to find, claim or create.

After reading Chris Guillebau’s latest book, The Happiness Of Pursuit, this sentence stuck with me. I wasn’t even twenty pages into the book when I decided that it’s time to find – and pursue – a quest of my own.

The author himself undertook to huge quest of visiting every country in the world before turning 35. And even though he was successful, he had to overcome countless hurdles, setbacks and other issues, but he never gave up. In the book he doesn’t only talk about his very own quest, but he looks at all kinds of other quests, pursued by people who he got to know while in the process of reaching his own goal. The things people were challenging themselves with were not always travel-related, but included self-discovery quests, academic quests, athletic quests and creative quests (to name just a few).

He shows examples of people who successfully pursued their quests or are still in the process of doing so, on track to reach their goal soon. He explains why the people he interviewed for the book decided to pursue their respective quests, how they overcame roadblocks and blocked out naysayers, and what exactly defines as a quest.

The happiness of pursuitWhat exactly defines as a quest?

Many people set goals, like getting in better shape for example, or run a marathon, travel to fifty countries or improve their photography, but a quest is actually much bigger than that.

Chris Guillebeau defines a quest as an undertaking with a specific goal and end point, a challenging pursuit, something that requires a sacrifice of some sort and is driven by an internal motivation that can border on obsession. To reach the end goal, incremental progress is made, step by step. Quests that he talks about in the book that I thought were remarkable included Laura Dekker, who set off to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone in a sailboat at the age of 16, Martin Powell who ran 250 marathons in one year and Thomas Hawk, who challenged himself to take, edit and publish one million photos. As you can see, no quest is like the other.

I am longing for a challenge

Maybe the book resonated so much with me because I am at a point where I am simply ready to take on a challenge. The author asks the reader in the book: What’s the next chapter of your story? And after the big changes and hurdles I’ve dealt with this year, I have actually asked myself this question several times in the past few weeks.

I’ve already made the decision to undertake a quest of my own, but I am not ready yet to announce what I am going for. I have to admit that it’s not likely to be a travel-related quest, just because I don’t feel anything in travel would really challenge me. While for many people walking the Camino is a quest, I never doubted my physical ability to finish it, even though it will be challenging. A quest to visit all the UNESCO World Heritage sites around the globe is just not special anymore. Cycling overland from Europe to China or walk across Africa? Visiting all 50 US states or National Parks? It’s all been done. And, even though I have seemingly a million places I’d like to see on my travel wish list, I don’t have the desire to visit every country in the world, that’s just not my quest.

To challenge myself, I know it has to be a physical goal, something that pushes my body to the limit. That is all I am going to say about my own quest for now 🙂

the happiness of pursuitAre you ready to pursue a quest?

If you are like me, looking for something to challenge yourself with and to work towards to, want to get some more inspiration to find your own quest, and how to successfully pursue it, this book is definitely for you. I found myself taking notes the entire time I read The Happiness Of Pursuit, and I don’t remember the last time I actually marked paragraphs and sentences while reading a book!

To find out if you are ready to undertake a quest, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you long for a challenge?
  • Do you enjoy setting goals?
  • Does making progress toward a goal motivate you?
  • Do you have a hobby or passion or something you might be almost obsessed with?
  • Are you ready to follow your passion?
  • Do you have ideas you can’t stop thinking about?
  • Is there more to life than this?
  • Are you ready to break out of the traditional life path?

If you can answer most of these questions with YES, you are probably ready to pursue your very own quest.

finding your quest
Finding your quest is not always easy.. but pursuing it is even harder.

You can order the book from Amazon or find it in your local book store – or enter the giveaway!

Win a copy of the book!

I am giving away one copy of The Happiness Of Pursuit to one lucky reader – so if this sounds interesting to you, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy! I’d like to know if you’ve ever pursued a quest, and if so, were you successful? What kind of quest was it? If you are planning to pursue a quest: what kind of quest would be for you? A physical challenge, a travel quest, self-improvement or educational? I am looking forward to your comments!

To find out more about the author, visit ChrisGuillebeau.com. To find out more about the book, visit FindTheQuest.com.

Disclaimer: This review of The Happiness of Pursuit including the book giveaway is sponsored by Random House. The winner of the giveaway will be chosen via Random.org. The giveaway will close on 22 September.
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Life lately and upcoming travels: August 2014 Edition

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Since I am usually writing my travel stories delayed in time, I started these monthly updates to tell you about my current whereabouts, what has been going on with me travel-wise, emotionally and work-related (if there’s anything interesting to talk about), plus where I’m headed to in the next month.

Life lately

August has been the busiest month in ages – I feel like I haven’t stopped moving since I returned from Buffalo at the end of July. Moving quite literally – through word of mouth and a pinch of luck, I ended up housesitting again three times this month! In total, I did eight housesits during my time in New York – none of which had been arranged before I got here – and I even had to turn down two requests this month due to timing issues. I loved getting to know so many different neighborhoods, many of which I’d never set foot in had it not been for a sit, and some of which I was completely smitten by, like Crown Heights, where I housesat an adorable little dog named Monkey, or Prospect Heights, where I housesat for Jessie the cat three times. But I wrote in more detail about my adventures in housesitting in this post, including some tips on how to score a great gig in New York City.

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The rooftop terrace of the luxury Chelsea apartment I housesat in.

When I wasn’t moving house, I was moving around town like a mad woman over the past four weeks: I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge walking and running several times, whizzed around town on my Citibike, walked the entire length of the High Line Park about five times, checked out art exhibitions, flea markets and food markets, street art and more open air movies, rooftop bars and a couple of sunset cruises, plus an awesome outdoor dance party. There were several picnics in the park as well, two visits to the Bronx, street art walks, bocce ball games, beautiful sunsets, lots of good food, and speakeasy bars, to name just the things that popped right into my head.

high line park nyc
The High Line Park, which I love!

I only left New York once this month to go to New Jersey for a day, and sadly I only went to a beach once, despite the glorious summer weather. Instead of hitting up some beaches along the Jersey Shore as we had planned we ended up in an incredible (and incredibly big!) sculpture park because the weather didn’t cooperate that day. I made it to the Rockaways though, a beach getaway just a subway ride away from Manhattan (and even closer if you happen to be in Brooklyn). The Rockaways had been on my to-see-list forever and turned out to be way more awesome than expected. Even though I barely traveled, I did so much exploring in NYC that I just feel exhausted and want rest for a month. There’s no time to rest though…

dani at rockaway beach
Beach = Happiness

Upcoming travels

Next week, I’ll wave goodbye to New York and the U.S. for a while and explore a region entirely unknown to me. The original plan was to hike the Camino De Santiago, a 500 mile long medieval pilgrims trail in northern Spain. While this started out as a pilgrimage for Christians, who end the trail at the tomb of St James in the cathedral of Santiago De Compostela, it has become more and more popular for non-Christians over the last decade or so. Think of it as a ‘journey to yourself’ sort of thing, a quest that people undertake, a month of walking to have some time with yourself and to reflect on your life, think about your future, deal with your deepest inner fears, hopes, ideas and issues.

footprintsWhile I had been intrigued by the Camino for a while and it came up several times when J and I discussed travel plans in the past, I was never sure if I was able to do a month of walking. After finishing our 5-day Salkantay Trek in Peru’s Andes earlier this year though, which is not an easy trek, I was hooked on multi-day treks and eager to do more of those. And the Camino seemed perfect this year – after everything that’s happened in my life, I felt like it would be a good way to process and work through my emotions on this very long walk. However, at the end of June I started to discuss the opportunity to go on another amazing trek, the Israel National Trail, a grand hike across Israel that is not very well known.

We need to talk about Israel

I hope you can laugh about this video, too – I needed the laugh that day after having spent hours reading hard-to-digest news articles about the Israel – Gaza conflict. Talks about this trip had begun before the conflict started (and later escalated). When the situation there got out of control instead of an anticipated short few days of combat, I decided to withdraw and go ahead with my original plans, and have since been going back and forth about doing the trek about 600 times in the last seven weeks. Let me say that I am not necessarily a fan of Israel’s politics but I usually give every country a chance, even when I have a problem with their politics or am disturbed by a country’s social issues – and I have been spending the last four months in a country where I am disturbed by social and political happenings on a regular basis (Ferguson just being one example this summer), but I still love the country and its people (well, at least most of them).

dont shoot bushwickWith regards to Israel, I am not qualified to provide commentary on the complex political situation in that region, even though I have been following the escalating situation between the Hamas and Israel closely over the last few weeks and done a lot of research on the topic. I have been talking about the conflict with Israeli expats here in New York, with friends who have a better understanding of the region, and with critical and objective travelers who have been there. They all encouraged me to take this opportunity to visit the country and to see the situation for myself, and form my own opinion.

As for articles about my trip, I am not sure to what extent I’ll be able to cover the conflict, but I will share the same types of stories of food, culture, an introduction to the country and of the people i will meet there.

shakshuka at bustan
The best introduction to Israeli culture I’ve gotten so far: Shakshuka, one of my favorite egg dishes in the world.

I will first join a group of travel journalists to hike the National Israel Trail for eight days, a hike that was named one of the most epic trails in the world by National Geographic and is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will then travel independently to several places around the country and also gladly accepted the invitation from a friend to show me around the country. I am planning to explore places like Jerusalem, Jaffa and the Dead Sea, places that I have been dying to visit. The trek itself was the most compelling factor, since like I said before, I am keen on another challenging trek, and my hikes in the scorching heat of the Sonoran Desert and through hot-as-hell White Sands should actually be a good indication of what to expect since Israel is very hot and dry.

dani in southern arizona
Hiking in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona

I will spend about four weeks in the country and hope this will give me the chance to get a good picture of Israel, and the chance to learn more about the ongoing conflict with Gaza.

What’s new with Globetrottergirls.com

Last month I received a rather large invoice from my web hosting company, giving me the option to either terminate the website or to keep it going. For a moment, I was hesitating. But you reading this now means that I paid the invoice and will keep running the site, and I committed to three years (for now), so get ready for hundreds of more travel articles.

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More articles on New York City coming soon!

This got me thinking though – will I still be globetrotting in three years? What will I be doing in three years? Will I have a base somewhere? As of now, I sincerely cannot answer this question, but I have no doubt that life will lead me in the right direction. What else got me thinking about the future was the Soccer World Cup which ended last month – because I was in completely different places and stages of my life during the last four World Cups, never anticipating in the slightest where I’d be four years later. In 2002, I was working as a cocktail waitress in Ibiza, not knowing that I’d be getting a degree in International Business in 2006, when the World Cup took place in Germany (my home country). It was my last summer there before I moved to England, and while I was working my way up the corporate ladder, I had no idea I’d be watching the final games of the World Cup in 2010 in Mexico City, three months into what was supposed to be a one-year trip around the world. And then, I certainly didn’t think I’d still be vagabonding four years later, and watch the World Cup in my favorite city in the world!

statue of liberty at sunset nycI am curious to see where I’ll watch the World Cup in 2018, and while I have no clue where that will be, I have no doubt that I’ll be in a good place.

As for the stories I am sharing momentarily – I had mentioned a while ago that I’d still want to share the stories of J and my last travels together, but that I’d want to take my time and decide when I’m ready to relive the emotions of the incredible experiences we had before the break-up. I am not gonna lie, it is still not without pain that I look back at these adventures that happened so close to the end of our relationship – like our trek to Machu Picchu, our Salt Flats Tour in Bolivia or our New Mexico road trip – all highlights of all of our travels together, making it a bittersweet journey back in time for me.

Overall though, I can look at those photos now with a smile on my face, remembering these trips without getting caught up in emotions, treasuring them in my heart forever and being thankful that I was able to experience these things together with her. I have already started to sprinkle in some of those stories here and there in the past few weeks – you can expect more of them in addition to my travel stories from New York, Buffalo and Israel, and I hope it is not too confusing for anyone (please let me know if it is!) that I am not necessarily posting in chronological order.

dani laguna honda
The 3-day off-roading jeep tour through Bolivia’s Southwest was an all-time travel highlight – I can’t wait to share my photos with you.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear what you think about me traveling to Israel right now – I’ve already gotten angry comments from some people who I told about the trip, who cannot understand that I am traveling to Israel in the first place, and that I am doing it during this unstable time (to this I’d like to say that the trip has been approved by the Ministry Of Tourism and the authorities are confident that it is safe to do this now). I know not everybody will be supportive of my decision, but I hope you’ll understand my motivation behind it. As for the Camino – I am still eager to walk it, and have been thinking several times if I really made the right decision NOT to walk it now, but to be honest: While I felt like I desperately needed this time with myself when I started researching the Camino back in May, I am in a much better place right now and have been reflecting a lot during the past few months. I am interested to see how I’ll feel about my decision in four weeks’ time, and will share my thoughts on that here at the end of September.

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I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again…
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Traveling in India: A Truly Life Changing Experience

Hampi India

‘India will change you forever’, I would hear over and over again as soon as we announced we would travel to the subcontinent. ‘Really?’, I thought incredulously, ‘what could possibly have such an impact on me there?’ I had traveled through Central America and South East Asia, and had encountered extreme poverty, dysfunctional cities, violence and fear. I didn’t think that anything could still shock me after the things I had already seen, from the child beggars in Guatemala to the limping stray dogs in Nicaragua and the in-your-face sex tourism in Cambodia.

But nothing prepares you for India. Nothing prepares you for the intense smells, the chaos that ensues when a herd of cows decides to take a stroll along a busy highway, the crazy traffic and the constant honking, the homeless people sleeping on sidewalks, not dozens, but hundreds of them, or the dead bodies you’ll see. You can’t block out the begging ladies who seem a hundred years old and look at you with those heartbreakingly sad eyes while they shyly beg you for money with their palms pleadingly open, and by the village kids that run around dirt roads in just underwear and without shoes because they don’t have anything.

Village life in India
Village life in India

India is a lot to take in. And India is hard to take. Even though you might read this now thinking ‘I feel like I know what to expect when I go there’, when you get there, it will knock you off your feet.

I might have painted a pretty bleak picture of India so far, so let me correct this. I did not hate India – quite on the contrary: I loved traveling there. While many scenes you’ll experience in on a daily basis – the countless stray animals, the beggars, the crazy train rides, the deformations on people’s bodies – are hard to digest, especially in such a huge concentration, there are equally as many things that will amaze you. The incredibly diverse scenery for one, which ranges from deserts and mountains in the north to tropical beaches in Goa and the barren moon-like scenery around Hampi. The ornate, grand and mystifying temples, the scrumptious food that bursts with flavors, the wonderfully welcoming people were all things that made me fall in love with India.

Unforgettable India
Beautiful India

Some travelers find it annoying to be stared at or even have their hair touched, but I have to say though that I was just as enticed by the large families I met. Especially the women, all dressed up in colorful saris, painted with henna tattoos, wearing golden little jewels or bindis on their foreheads, and eye-catching golden jewelry hanging from their wrists, necks and sometimes noses, fascinated me just as much as I fascinated them, the light skinned girl with the bright blonde hair. While they wanted to feel my ‘yellow’ hair, I wanted to run my fingers through their thick black hair. The timid smiles and curious looks, and how we tried to communicate despite their limited English to find out more about each others lives are encounters I wouldn’t want to miss.

Meeting Indian families in Hampi
One of the most rewarding experiences in India: getting to know the locals

The way India changes you is how it changes your perspective on the smallest details in your own life. For one, I just cannot complain about anything in my life anymore – no matter how hard something might seem in a specific moment, I am blessed with a great life, a passport that lets me travel anywhere in the world without any bureaucratic hassle – the fact alone that I am able to travel! Seeing the families in Hampi, a sacred site for Hindus which they are supposed to visit at least once in their lives, who have never left their village before but saved every penny to could to make the trip there, sleeping in the streets and living off cheap street food, made me feel ashamed about my complaints about the too thin mattress on the bed in our basic yet clean $3 per night guesthouse. Back home in their villages these pilgrims usually don’t have running water or a solid, concreted floor in their house. Everywhere I traveled in India I saw women with big buckets on their heads, on their way to a well to get the water they needed to do laundry and dishes.

India People
People of India

When I was stuck on an overcrowded train that for the first time I realized what cattle class actually means, with one person in our group in tears and the rest of us on the verge of them, I couldn’t help but think ‘I am so glad that I don’t have to do that every day.’ But it is the reality for hundreds of millions of Indians. I watched women doing dishes and laundry in dirty river water where at the same time an elephant released himself while being bathed; men were shaving and women washing their hair, because this natural ‘pool’ is the only ‘tub’ they have.

India River
Rivers in India: Bathtub, washing machine, dish washer and elephant tub

And there I was, complaining that our guesthouse didn’t have hot water. These things just stick with you and you’ll never take anything for granted anymore: running water, hot water, a toilet with a flush button instead of a bucket of water to flush with, and being able to drink water from a tap. Comfy beds, a kitchen, a washing machine, a dish washer and other appliances seem somewhat absurd after what you see in India. India changes your perspective on everything, and makes the things you complain about in your daily life seem pretty laughable. I came back a different person than the one I was before, and I can’t wait to go back to India. Because if you are willing to put up with the strenuous aspects of the country, you’ll be rewarded with the most memorable travel experience of your life.

Beautiful India

Have you had any life changing travel experiences? Share them in the comments below.

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Life lately and upcoming travels: July 2014 Edition

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We used to look back at our travels and reflect on them every one hundred days, but I haven’t done that in a while. I decided to revive these reflections – sort of – by starting a new segment in which I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to lately, how I have been feeling while I’ve been processing the end of my relationship and how my transformation into a solo traveler is going, plus what’s next on my travel agenda. 

Life lately…

I feel like it’s been forever since I wrote my last personal update but that wasn’t even three months ago. It’s funny how much can happen in such little time, how much can change.

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City That Does Not Sleep (Ciudad sin sueño) by Federico Garcia Lorca

But let’s start at the beginning. I am still in New York, something I hadn’t planned at all when I boarded my flight to JFK in May. It only took me about two days to realize I would want to stay longer – even though my time in New York started with a disaster. The housesit I came here for fell trough unexpectedly (the owner got sick and canceled her trip) and I had to find a place to stay within 48 hours. If you’ve ever been apartment hunting in NYC, you know that this pretty much impossible. By the end of a full day of room searching, I had exactly ONE lead. But that one, even though it seemed dodgy to meet someone off a Craigslist ad at 10.30 at night, worked out, and it even was on the Upper West Side, the same neighborhood I was supposed to housesit in. Looking back, it was a blessing. I ended up living with two lovely girls for a month who were extremely supportive, always had an open ear and became more than just room mates. It was probably a good thing that I wasn’t living by myself at the time when I was going through some major grieving.

I found another sublet in June and shared the apartment in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood I fell head over heels in love with, with a German girl (small world!) who I got along with really well. After having an eventful and uplifting first month here and learning how easy it was to find sublets during the summer, I made the decision to extend my stay. I even ended up finding two housesits for this month, plus two more for next month, which meant I got to explore two more new neighborhoods and spend some time with a beautiful dog and a lovely cuddle cat.

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The best thing about living on the Upper West Side: Having Central Park right next door!

If you’re following me on Instagram or read my Polaroid posts every week, you already know that I’ve been keeping myself super busy over the last few weeks: from the time-intense soccer world cup (can I just say again… WE ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!) and the eccentric Mermaid Parade to al fresco opera and cinema events and an unforgettable 4th July rooftop BBQ, I’ve barely had a minute to relax. There’s more going on in the summer here than I could possibly fit in and I love that I am able to experience over 100 days of spring and summer in New York City.

NYC Summer 2014Closing a chapter

Emotionally, the past few weeks have been a roller coaster. I worked through my breakup and was finally able to close that chapter. The realizations I’ve had during my long runs through New York helped me to see that this was in fact the right decision and that the relationship wouldn’t have lasted in the long run. I learned a lot about myself, and I also grew stronger. Having to face business decisions and issues by myself made me a much tougher person, especially when it comes to decision making and vision developing. Not having anyone to talk things trough with or to hide behind in a business meeting forced me to wear more hats than I thought I was capable of.

Many good things also happened; things that wouldn’t have happened for me if Jess and I were still together. ‘Sometimes change can be good’, a friend recently said, and I have to agree with her. While this was a scary and unknown path at first, I am now embracing the freedom I have and the challenges I am able to take on. Just last week I had a business meeting that I would have never even accepted before, and now I am more than determined to make this collaboration happen. I have not only grown stronger, I have also developed an improved self esteem.

I have to thank New York for a lot, and in a way, I have to thank Jess for a lot. By leaving she made me push the boundaries, push myself to work harder, get out of my comfort zone and take 100 % control over all of my actions.

brooklyn bridge and manhattan skylineExciting travel plans!

Now on to the most exciting news: upcoming travel plans! After having lost my wanderlust for a while, I am happy to report that I’ve got itchy feet again and am up to my ears in travel planning and preparations at the moment. It hasn’t even been two months since I went to Canada, but apart from my short beach getaway that was the only time I’ve left New York City since I got here and I am more than ready for a break from the city!

I am about to fly up to Buffalo and Niagara Falls to get to know Buffalo’s art and architecture scene as well as its foodie culture over the next few days, both of which I’ve been told are amazing. During our quick stint in Buffalo in 2011 we didn’t see much more than a restaurant someone had recommended to us, and I just recently found out that Buffalo is a home to several Frank Lloyd Wright buildings which I’ll be visiting. Also on my agenda: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, one of only three places in the state of New York that has a Frida Kahlo painting (one of my favorite artists), in addition to countless other renowned artists. I am looking forward to  contemporary art, getting to know some of the city’s neighborhoods – and of course Niagara Falls! After being only able to visit the Canadian side during our two-month visit to Canada three years ago because I left my passport in Ottawa, I am stoked to finally see the Falls from the American side.

You can follow my adventures in Buffalo and Niagara Falls over the next few days on Instagram and Facebook.

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Niagara Falls from Canada, 2011

Once I return to New York from Buffalo, I’ll have only five weeks left in New York and I basically have my entire remaining time already mapped out. There is just too much to do and to see in New York – I will never get around to ticking everything off my list. I hope I’ll find time for another getaway upstate or the beach, and I will have friends come visit me here.

I won’t have time to rest when I leave New York – I’ll head straight into my next adventure, which involves a big trek. While I had my September travel plans all planned out, an intriguing travel opportunity came my way and might see me travel to an entirely different (and new) destination. I will reveal more details as soon as everything is set in stone but no matter which plan will work out, either one will involve a major hike. I will share more about these plans in my next update.

watching the sunset in sandy hook

If you have any tips for my trip to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, please feel free to share them in the comments below!

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Facing my fear of heights in Whistler, Canada

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I remember standing on top of the Eiffel Tower and how my knees turned to jelly when I looked down. How my heart rate doubled when I was walking across the bouncing suspension bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico last year.

One of the worst experiences was walking along the indoor balcony of Mexico City’s Fine Arts Palace, where only a small balustrade keeps people from falling down onto the ground floor. Just coming somewhat close to that balustrade caused me to nearly hyperventilate. Even being inside of high buildings is enough to make butterflies swirl around in my tummy – not the good kind though… More like thousands of annoying little ants running around my intestines. Reading this story about the floor of the glass bottom viewing boxes in Chicago’s Willis Tower cracking was enough to give me sweaty palms.

I remember how everyone was hanging out in that box the last time we went up there to enjoy the views over Chicago, seemingly careless and happy about the thrill of seeing the street right below their feet, and me just wanting to pull them all out of that damn thing, sweating heavily and my heart racing.

Willis Tower Chicago Glass Bottom

My fear of heights is bordering on a panic of heights. The edge walk on top of Toronto’s CN Tower? My nightmare. Abseiling from the highest building in La Paz? Horror. Walking on a tiny walkway hundreds of meters above an abyss? Unthinkable. And just looking at the height in these pictures of the world’s tallest rope swing make me feel like throwing up. Bungee jumping o skydiving? Only over my dead body.

death road bolivia
But then I did this recently. Don’t ask! I’ll be sharing the full story behind this photo soon.

And yet, here I was, standing on the lowest step of a set of stairs that led into nothing but thin air, about to step off it, into… nothing. The ground hundreds of feet below me (apparently the height is equivalent to a 20-story building), and I was only hooked to a small metal snap hook via a thin rope that was holding my harness (and my entire body weight!), connected to an over 2,000ft long steel rope; the end of it not even visible from our starting point. What the hell was I doing here?!

Rease Ziplining
Not everyone was as terrified as I was. Certainly not Rease!

This wasn’t my first attempt at zip-lining. The first one in 2007 seemed even more pathetic now that I was about to whiz from one mountain to another with speeds up to 90kmh/55mph. Back then, Jess and I were visiting Cornwall and were invited to try out a brand new zip line off a cliff over a beach – one single short zip line, and we’d be lowered to the ground (which was much closer to the zip line than this one) after a quick 20-second ride. We were standing next to each other on the parallel steps, counting down: three, two, one… And neither of us let go. This went on for about fifteen minutes until we eventually jumped off the cliff (literally), even though we were both terrified and convinced that we were stupid for doing this. I felt sick to my bones all day after that.

Fast forward seven years and here I am on a parallel zip line again, this time about to jump off a stair that leads into the air, and four more ropes like this one after that.

Admittedly, I wasn’t here because my idea of an awesome afternoon in Whistler involved whizzing through tree tops, but because the fab team behind the Great Coast Road Trip had arranged this activity for us two adventurous girls. And at the time, it had seemed like a splendid idea. Now that I was actually about to jump off these stairs, not so much anymore. Like, not at all. Could I possibly chicken out?

dani ziplining

When the first two people went, I felt my heart sink to my boots. I told Rease we’d had to go soon after – I knew that if I waited too long, my fear would turn into panic and there was no way I would be able to let go once that happened. The next two people went, and we were up next. I felt like crying. Why do people do this, I thought to myself. Rease on the other hand was beyond excited and couldn’t wait to go. I had to do it. Back in Cornwall, it was just the two of us – we could have chickened out – but here was a whole group that was in search of a thrill, which meant if I would take as long as I took in England, I’d slow down (and annoy) the whole group.

dani ziplining in whistler canada

Three, two, one… And I let go. My heart skipped a beat as I sped off into the unknown – truly the unknown, because you couldn’t see the other side – down the line, faster and faster, the giant gap between me and the ground always right in front of my eyes. A million thoughts raced through my head, from ‘Oh my god the rope is gonna snap, I will die’ to ‘I really want to see a bear.. Is that one down there?!.. Not so fast!!’ to ‘WTF am I doing here!?’.

ziplining whistler

When we, after what seemed like an eternity but in reality was probably not more than 60 seconds, finally reached the other side, I could barely feel my legs. I was so shaky that I was almost not able to walk. For a moment I thought I might pass out.

dani ziplining

All I could think was: I have to do this four more times. Instead of facing my fear only once, I had to go through this nightmare five times. This was insane!

The rest of the group had a blast. The faster, the better, it seemed, and people were even zipping hanging upside down (hi Rease, you daredevil!), with their arms spread wide open, enjoying the exhilarating thrill of flying through the air. For me, every ride was basically like this :

*You can turn on the sound to hear my terrified screams by clicking on the speaker symbol in the left hand corner of the picture*

You would think it’d get easier with each time, but it didn’t. Each and every time I was convinced the rope would snap, and I would reach the other side shaking. I only wanted to make through it…. Which, in the end, I did.

Was it the most horrible thing I’ve ever done? Probably not. Would I do it again? Probably not. But it also wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done – and I faced my fear.

What’s your biggest fear? Have you faced it?

***
Thanks to Rease for capturing my terrified face and screaming.
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A Canada road trip, a guidebook giveaway and the chance to win a free hotel stay (up to $250 value)!

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Most of you know that I’ve had a rough couple of months and I thought it is time for an update on how I am doing and my upcoming travel plans!

Up next: A Canada Road Trip

As this article goes live, I am on my way to Vancouver, Canada, for a quick getaway to British Columbia! I haven’t been to Canada since 2011, and never made it to the West Coast, so I am excited to finally get to know that part of the country.

My friend Rease and were invited by Coast Hotels to road trip through Western Canada on the Great Coast Road Trip, exploring Vancouver and Whistler and some places in between. The road trip is part of a month long interactive road trip campaign hosted by Coast Hotels that takes travelers across Canada and down the U.S West Coast. In total, the car will visit 21 cities spanning 2,650 miles (but we are only driving a fraction of it).

If you have any recommendation for British Columbia, and Vancouver specifically, please share them in the comments below!

great coast road trip car
Look out for this car to win a road trip!

Win your own road trip!

If you happen to be in Western Canada or on the West Coast of the U.S. and spot the road trip car somewhere during the #greatcoastroadtrip, make sure to snap a picture of it and share it via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag and you could win your very own road trip along one of the legs of the road trip. This could be the leg we’re driving (Vancouver – Whistler – Tsawwassen), Seattle – Portland in the U.S., or from Yellowknife to Whitehorse in Canada’s beautiful Yukon Territory, to name just a few. You can find more details on the contest and the prizes here.

I am still undecided if I will head down to Seattle from Vancouver after the trip or fly straight back to New York City, and leave Seattle for a whole other trip which would include Portland and a few other places in the Pacific North West.

canada flowers

You can follow my Canadian adventure live on Instagram #GreatCoastRoadTrip!

The past few weeks…

The past few weeks have certainly not been easy, but I feel like I am making good progress. Coming to New York was the right decision. On my first morning I went for a long run along the East River and while I was soaking up the spring scents around me, I already felt a bit lighter emotionally. I just love this city and there’s at least one moment every day when I try to figure out how I’ll be able to spend more than just a couple of months here – every year! (I’ve got some ideas though…)

My daily runs have been helping me to clear my mind, to finally come to terms with the breakup and to come to some important realizations that help me in my healing process (that’s a whole post in itself though). I made a pact with myself to be social every day, even on those days when I feel like I don’t want to see anyone at all. No more hiding under the covers – I am in New York after all. Luckily it’s not difficult to find something to cheer me up here when I feel a wave of sadness coming over me. It is not always easy to go out and meet new people when you’re feeling like you’re not your best self, but I have never come home thinking ‘I wish I hadn’t gone out’… I am always glad I went.

I’ve also been taking a lot of time for myself, allowing me to figure out what I really want for the future. Life threw me not one, but two curve balls, and I haven’t struggled like this ever before. I promised myself to do at least one thing every day that makes me happy… and so far, I’ve been doing pretty well. I ran my first 10k (a shorter race that I had wanted to do, but the Brooklyn Half, the race of my choice, had been sold out already), I stuffed myself with my favorite NY pizza, I had too much overpriced coffee (but so worth it!), I explored Bushwick’s street art scene, I walked on a carpet of cherry blossoms, I had friends show me around their neighborhoods, danced the night away, went to see stand-up comedy, picnicked in the Botanical Gardens, visited my favorite markets, went to the movie theater, saw plenty of beautiful sunsets over the Hudson River (a perk of living on the Upper West Side!), and made plans to see a Broadway show next month.

New York City May 2014

As for the website, I am still getting used to running it by myself and am taking my time with it. I am slowly finding my way as a solo Globetrottergirl and am in the process of making concrete travel plans for rest of the year (stay tuned, I will reveal them soon!).

Win a free hotel stay!

There is a new hotel booking website on my radar – Travelpony.com. I’ve been using them quite a few times now and am impressed with their ability to offer absolutely mind blowing hotel rates! I used the site to find cheap rooms in Berlin in March and when I planned my trip to New York, when I realized that I hadn’t booked a place to stay just six days before my departure date – of course all the good rates and best places to stay were gone by then. Travelpony.com, however, managed to score a deal at a Marriott that HALF the price of what all the other booking websites were quoting! I double checked all the major booking websites and every single one showed me the price per night that Travelpony.com showed me for two nights. All you have to do to get these superb rates is mention Travelpony.com in your social media network, i.e. on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Since I am so blown away by the prices the site finds, I am happy to mention them on social media – who doesn’t like to brag about an amazing bargain?!

travelpony tell your networksI don’t know how they get these crazy cheap rates, but I used Travelpony again for my Canada trip and because I love the site so much, I am excited to share the chance to win a hotel stay worth up to $250 through Travelpony.com! They are not giving away just one hotel stay, but one winner is drawn every Friday throughout June! So make sure to enter several times to increase your chances to win 🙂

Here are the details for this awesome contest:

 

Where in the World is TravelPony
Enter to win a free hotel stay by guessing where in the world the TravelPony is!
While The Big Travel Sites spend Billions on TV commercials and traditional advertising, TravelPony offers way better prices on hotels when you share them with your friends. Just tell one of your social networks about TravelPony.com and save hundreds on your next trip!

TravelPony will be drawing a winner for a free hotel stay (up to $250 in value) every Friday in June 2014! Just guess where TravelPony is in the photo below to enter. Plus – tell us where you heard about this contest and you’ll receive an extra entry!

Where is TravelPony?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Guidebook giveaway!

I also teamed up with DK’s Eyewitness Travel Guides again – I was already raving about their guidebooks last year when we used their Santiago guidebook to explore Chile’s capital and am currently using their updated New York City guidebook to find some spots I haven’t been to yet. I will write more about the hidden gems I found through the book shortly (hint: there are quite a few!), but for now, I’d like to give away a package of four of their updated guidebooks:  

Italy • Paris • London • New York City

DK Eyewitness Guides 2014 I am tempted to enter the giveaway myself since all four are places I know I will visit over and over again and I would love to explore them with an DK’s Eyewitness Travel Guide in my pocket, knowing that it will add to the experience. What I loved about their Santiago Guide was how visual it was, with color photography and beautiful 3D maps, ideas for walks and generally just a much more attractive and shiny design than your average guidebook. When I read somewhere that I should check out Church So-and-so, I am usually just bored, but seeing a stunning photo of said church in a DK’s Eyewitness Travel Guide will definitely get me interested. The revised versions of the guidebooks also include city guides with day trip itineraries as well as itineraries based on the length of stay or a certain theme, updated restaurant and hotel listings, detailed street maps (even pointing out the best viewing points!). The only thing you have to do is leave a comment and tell me which one of those places you’d really like to visit – a winner will be randomly chosen via Random.org and he or she will receive all four guidebooks! DK Eyewitness New York City If you’d like to enter the giveaway, leave a comment with the guidebook of your choice by 15 June 2014 (note: the winner will receive all four guidebooks).

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