The Reversed Bucket List

Everyone has a bucket list. If it’s not written down, you have it in your head. If you don’t have those things that you still want to do, goals to accomplish, places you want to travel to, then I honestly feel sad for you. Anyway. vielleichtinteressant made a reversed bucket list on her blog a while ago, and it’s basically a list of all the things that you have already done, experienced or accomplished. I thought this was amazing because sometimes we manage to forget how great our lives actually are.

  • I swam with dolphins in Florida
  • I’ve seen the Northern Lights – not only north of the Arctic Circle in Norway but I’ve also been fortunate enough to live in a place called Jasper, Canada for a while where I saw them several times a month
  • For my 16th birthday, my friends surprised me with a huge party
  • I moved out from home when I had just turned 19, I moved to my favourite city, 600km up north: Hamburg
  • I’ve been snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains.
  • I went horseback riding on the beach
  • I learnt how to surf in Hawaii (and Tofino, which is almost as cool)
  • I’ve been on stage with 30 Seconds To Mars
  • I’ve been invited into Simple Plan’s tourbus
  • I hiked up a few volcanoes that were still active
  • I graduated high school three times – in Canada, Germany and France. I also graduated uni. Once.
  • I managed to be vegetarian for 6 years and went vegan a while ago
  • I’ve seen musicals in the West End and on Broadway
  • I flew an airplane as the co-pilot
  • I partied with Tokio Hotel in Las Vegas
  • I lived in a van for five months
  • I lived in my favourite country in the world for two and a half years: Canada
  • I traveled literally around the world
  • I have tattoos and I don’t regret a single one (not even the spontaneous one in Helsinki with a friend)
  • I had Hayley Williams’ hair colour while I saw Paramore live
  • My brother and sister are two of my best friends
  • My Mum and my Dad, too
  • I am fluent in three languages and know quite a bit in two more
  • I have amazing friends not only in Germany but everywhere around the world
  • I have owned four cars in my life and I’m only 24
  • It took me less than a month and only one job interview to find a permanent full-time job in my preferred field.
  • I love myself

18 Things I Appreciate About Germany After 18 Months Abroad

With recent events, it’s so easy to forget that Germany is a pretty great country in some regards. Coming back here after 18 months has showed me that there is so much to appreciate!

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#1 Punctuality: If a German person tells you they’ll be there at 6 pm, they’ll most likely be there by 5.55 pm – just how I like it.

#2 Sidewalks: In Germany, it’s super safe to walk on the side of the road, you can walk almost anywhere! Try doing the same in Thailand and you’re considered suicidal.

#3 Road signs: There’s a sign for everything. E V E R Y T H I N G.

#4 The bread: Obviously. You won’t get this selection of amazing breads anywhere else. Whole-grain is actually whole-grain and not that weird kind of soggy, syrup-coloured brown toast that you get in the US.

#5 People know how to drive: Since driving school is mandatory in Germany if you want to get your license, everyone knows how to drive. It’s pretty safe on German roads in general despite the zones with no speed limits (yes, I do love the Autobahn, of course).

#6 People get things done: You want something? You’ll get it.

#7 You can drink alcohol in the park: Or anywhere, really. I am not talking about getting drunk, but having a glass of wine or a cold beer by the lake and it’s even legal, how perfect is that?

#8 Affordable food: Veggies are actually pretty affordable compared to other countries, who would’ve thought! You can also go out for a meal and as long as you avoid the really fancy places, it won’t break the bank.

#9 Public transport: While we love to complain about our trains being late – there’s a train or at least a bus to e v e r y w h e r e, and in my city they run 24/7.

#10 Being naked is totally acceptable: jk, but no, seriously, in NZ you had to go to the sauna with a swim suit – I don’t get it, it’s disgusting. In Germany you even have to go nude in most places.

#11 Late opening hours: Pubs and restaurants and bars are open until late, some even all night – I have missed that so much.

#12 Phone plans are cheap: Seriously, I pay 7 euros/month while in Canada I paid three times as much and didn’t even have half of the stuff included that I do now.

#13 Education is free: Well, mostly, at least there are no high tuition fees.

#14 The villages are beautiful: Especially after seeing country life in NZ and Thailand, I was amazed by how neat and beautiful German villages are – I never appreciated that.

#15 Roadtrips are so easy because everything is so close: Honestly – while in Canada, it sometimes took us three days to drive where we wanted to go, here you can’t even drive for three days without hitting water, except for the East towards Russia etc.

#16 Tall people everywhere: Idon’t consider myself extremely tall, for a woman in Germany I’m pretty average, but on my travels I felt so tall sometimes that I couldn’t imagine myself wearing heels.

#17 Great coffee: The worst coffee I ever had was in New Zealand, and it really was hit or miss there – same in Thailand. Other countries just have huge pots of coffee but they don’t appreciate fresh, well-brewed coffee – I do!

#18 People leave you alone in stores: What I absolutely hate in stores is when there’s someone following me around the whole time even after I said that I don’t need help and that I’m just browsing. Won’t happen in Germany because it’s considered rude.

I will try to come back here and read this list when I’m annoyed by life in Germany because all in all, I like the country, I love the culture, and I love a lot of Germans. Not all of them, but well, who does?

4 Amazing Couchsurfing Stories

.. and they all happened to me during the past 18 months. I had never tried couchsurfing before, though I was registered on the website. If you don’t know, it’s a website where everyone can sign up to host travelers and be hosted by locals for a number of days that you agree upon.

What you usually read are scary stories, things gone wrong, weird hosts and stolen goods. While it can be dodgy and I have had my fair share of weird experiences, I wanted to show a different side: the amazing people that you meet and the extraordinary experiences that you can have.

#1 Joe in Quebec City

We arrived at Joe’s house and the first thing he did was invite us up to his roof for a beer. It was noon, a hot summer day and the roof wasn’t actually accessible – we literally climbed out of the window and up the slope. He then told us about his plan: He was a radio host, so he asked us to be on his show. The show is in French, my friend doesn’t speak a word in that language, but that wasn’t a problem, as he had a different idea. He was going to ask the questions in French while we answer in German. Needless to say, we had a blast during that show (where everyone was drinking again). Not sure what the listeners thought, but it was a hilarious experience for us.

#2 Mike in New York City

Mike lives in New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan, and he gave us his basement. The house had a pool that we could use, a huge kitchen and his lovely wife and daughter. As if that wasn’t enough, he thought that there was too much traffic to go into the city, so naturally, he took us to Manhattan on his boat. On the way back it was almost time for the sunset, so he asked us if we’d like to make a detour to the Statue of Liberty – umm, yes?? He was the best, honestly, I trusted him so much that I left my car with him while I flew to California. He showed us around Manhattan, he was the best host I could imagine.

#3 Sharon in Los Angeles

We didn’t meet Sharon through Couchsurfing, but I’ll tell the story anyway because it’s THAT amazing. We were in the Sierra Nevada, sitting in those hot springs and got talking to Sharon and her friend Amy. They gave us their numbers in case we’d go to Los Angeles so we could stay with them. We called Sharon a few weeks later and she offered to let us stay at her house. We got there, she was just about to leave – for the weekend! She went to the store, bought everything we’d need, told us how to care for her dogs and left. We had a house in the hills in L.A., Netflix, dogs, food and a whole weekend to ourselves. Is there anything better?

#4 Molly in Tahoe City

When we arrived at Molly’s cabin, we were amazed: built out of wood, tiny, but so beautiful! Two blocks away from the famous Lake Tahoe. She had to leave right away, but let us take her two dogs down to the lake, she showed us her box of veggies from the market that we could use, and she offered to take us to yoga. She’s such a kind spirit, it was great to meet her and the way she trusted us with her dogs right away was incredible.

Have you ever had an amazing experience with Couchsurfing? I’d love to hear about it!

How To Live In A Minivan

Living in a van sounds romantic, right? Driving wherever the road leads you, parking the car where you like it, sleeping with a view of the stars above, breakfast at the beach.. Sometimes it actually is that way. Sometimes it’s not though. There’s police officers chasing you away, rainy days where you don’t have anywhere to go, a lack of privacy and most importantly mosquitoes. Tons of mosquitoes.

Anyway, the all in all six months I spent living on the road in a van were some of the best ones in my life. Hard, but also fun. I am going to talk about some important points and maybe after that you’ll decide that clearly, living in a van is not for you. Maybe you’ll want to try it out sometime, though!

Get a van. Obviously. There’s tons of different models, big ones, small ones.. I decided on a minivan, a Honda Odyssey 2002, which I bought with my friend David who helped with checking that it’s running smoothly (because frankly, while I’m a good driver, I don’t know much about cars). The good thing about minivans is that they don’t use a lot of gas and are quite cheap on the upkeep. Other good models would be a Ford Windstar or a Dodge Grand Caravan. Bigger vans are more expensive on gas, but have more space. Whatever fits your budget. Local car dealers might have what you need, but private sales on sites like craigslist are usually the cheaper option. Registration and insurance are important, even in countries where you don’t necessarily need it (looking at you, New Zealand!). If you have questions about the Canadian system, let me know, I know quite a bit about that.

Name your van. Totally necessary step! Mine was called Bobby (the car).

car mountains

Equip your van. You don’t need a fully equipped backpacker van with a bed and everything, despite what everyone says. I even kept the seats in there in case I wanted to bring more people and to sell it in the end as a normal car, not just for backpackers. I simply put an air mattress in the back, flipped the seats to the front and bought sleeping bags. Very important: make some curtains (we used shower curtains, another time just cut up some fabric from Walmart)! If not, you’ll have street lights or the sun shining in your face (especially fun if you go to Alaska in the summer – we had kind of forgotten that it won’t be dark at night). A camping cooker is pretty handy. You’ll figure out what you need along the way, depends on how long you want to live in it.

car inside

 

Find a travel partner. Of course you can also go by yourself, but it can get quite lonely and you might not want to sleep in dodgy areas. I traveled with a girl I met on a farm, then a friend from Germany joined us and in the end it was just the German friend and I. There will be arguments, it won’t always be easy, but in the end I was so glad I had someone by my side to share this adventure.

Find a route. Check if there are unpaved roads. You are risking popped tires (I had three of those during the 15 months I had the van), and if a road is only suitable for 4WD, don’t go on it if you have 2WD. Check for road conditions. Do you have snow chains if needed? Do you even have winter tires? You won’t need them if you’re roadtripping through California in the summer, but go up to the Rockies and it might be a different story. Also remember that in some parts of the world, you won’t  find gas stations every few kilometres, sometimes there might be a few hundred in between. Know the route.

Sleeping. There are different rules in every country, but in general, you are pretty unsuspicious in a minivan. Nobody will suspect that there’s someone sleeping in there, unless you wash your dishes in a parking lot at 10 am (yes I did that. Yes I got caught). Ideally find somewhere where a public toilet is nearby (or alternatively a bunch of bushes). In the US and Canada, you are allowed to camp in most Walmart parking lots, so if you’re near a city, that’s a safe option. Other big supermarkets sometimes allow it, too. There’s public rest areas, a lot of those are okay. Sometimes they are next to the beach, the most perfect spots. Sometimes there’s fire places, go there. Other people have camped there before and most likely didn’t get caught. Check Allstays and Freecampsites (they are not always reliable, but I found some awesome spots on there!)

Don’t leave a trace. Take your garbage with you. In so many places I found other people’s trash, it’s not pretty. There are less and less places where it’s allowed to camp without paying, and people that leave their trash are the reason for that. Don’t be a part of the problem.

Apologize to the police if they find you. The two times I ran into the police while sleeping in a van, the encounters weren’t bad. A warning, they sent me away, that’s it. Don’t turn up again the next day! They might give you a fine sometimes, but usually they just warn you the first time.

Find a place to shower. There’s a few places where you can shower. Firstly, there’s community centres or pools. Truck stations often have showers (for a fee, obviously, but they are mostly pretty clean and sometimes you can do your laundry, too!), some hostels will let you shower. Campgrounds will most likely let you shower for a fee (or you just walk in and don’t get caught).

Take a break. Sometimes it’s good to book a motel room just for one night. You’ll see when you’re at that point. For me, it mostly came after about three to four weeks. It’s okay – you don’t have to live on the road full time.

Word of advice: It always sounds great to buy a van and then sell it in the end, because you’ll get your money back anyway, right? No, not always right. Sometimes it costs a lot on the road because it’s expensive to get parts replaced or repaired, and sometimes you won’t be able to sell it for the same price because the demand isn’t high. We were lucky with repairs, just a few new tires and oil changes, but in the end, our brakes were done, the doors didn’t work and we had to scrap him. So when you buy a car, always remember that you might not get your money back. Still cheaper than a rental though, and to be honest, way cooler. Once we knew that we wouldn’t get any money for it, we drew on the ceiling – in the end it was an artwork of our time there.

scrap van

Got any questions about living on the road? Let me know, I’d love to help!