7 things I’ve learned by visiting over 20 different countries

After my last trip, I realized, that I’ve visited over 20 countries! Wow, I surprised myself when I realized that.

With this post, I want to share my experiences with you. What did I learn by seeing so many different places and cultures?

 

  1. Even if you don’t speak the local language you will be able to get around.

    When I went to China in 2013 for an internship, I knew that I won’t be able to communicate with most people or read anything. I tried to learn Chinese for a few months, but it was too hard and I didn’t have enough time to study. The only thing I could finally say in Chinese was “Hello, nice to meet you!”. Besides that, I was aware that I would not be able to read any street signs, any menus or anything at all that had Chinese characters on it.

    So what did I do? I went there anyway. For 3 months. Alone…. And I survived.

    I didn’t only survive, I also got to do everything I wanted and I had a really great time. Even if I had to describe my destination to the taxi driver with drawings, maps or gestures – in the end, it always worked out. Sometimes I did not know what food I ordered, but I always got something to eat ūüôā

    China was the first country that taught me to survive even if I could not communicate verbally.

    This is me trying to sing karaoke with my Chinese friends ūüôā
  2. Visiting a foreign country is not as dangerous as you think.

    Some people don’t want to visit foreign countries because they think it is dangerous, they are afraid of going on an airplane, or getting robbed.

    Last year I traveled to South Africa, which is probably the most dangerous country I have visited. People get shot on the street and muggings are common. Before I went there, I was aware of these things. I knew that I shouldn’t carry around too much cash or wear luxury items. I knew that I shouldn’t go out at night alone. By respecting these few rules, nothing bad happened to me.

    You have to do some research about a country before you go there and be aware of the risks. If you do that and if you just use common sense and your best judgment for each situation, things will likely turn out fine and you will have a great time.

    If you have heard horror stories about a country from other people – don’t trust them! My experience is, that the people that are the most afraid, have the poorest knowledge about the place. Just do your research and make your own decision.

  3. Kind people are everywhere as long as you are kind, too.

    In each country, I’ve been to I’ve met at least one stranger (mostly more) that was kind to me or helped me in a difficult situation. In Vietnam, I rented a scooter with some people I met at the hostel. On the way back our scooter ran out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. There were only about 5 houses around us and in one of them there lived a kind person that came to help us. Of course, the guy didn’t speak English, but he could see our problem. He filled up our scooter with fuel and brought us to the next workshop, just like that. He didn’t even want to take some money for the fuel.

    Yes, I could tell you at least another 20 stories about friendly strangers.

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    I made friends with an Australian and two Vietnamese Girls in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) ūüôā
  4. You don’t need all the stuff you left at home.

    In 2015 I went on my first backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. Everything I needed had to fit in one backpack. I had been thinking for weeks about what items I really needed. In the end, I managed to fit everything into my backpack. After my trip, I even realized that I carried around lots of useless stuff. I lived 2 months with only the few things I could and it was more than enough. All the clothes and books and stuff I left at home I didn’t miss. And I have never been so happy before as on this trip and my life was so much easier. For example, it took me less time to get dressed, because I didn’t have to choose between 30 different shirts and pants.

    This trip definitely taught me that we do not need very much to live and to be happy.

  5. There are like-minded people in every place.

    Are you afraid of traveling alone? I don’t think there is anything to be afraid of. If you pick the right places, you will actually find more like-minded people than you would in your hometown!

    Don’t you believe me? Well, I met my husband in Thailand. We both stayed at the same hostel and booked the same hiking trip. We were both backpackers traveling alone.

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    My husband Jarrod and I met each other when we were both backpacking alone in Southeast Asia <3
  6. Germany is a great country to live in.

    No matter which country I visited and no matter how great the time I had was, there was always at least one reason why I finally wanted to go back to Germany. I love traveling and being in foreign countries, otherwise, this blog would not exist.

    Why am I happy to live in Germany? Well, there is more than one reason. One is the social security you get as a German. For example, everyone in Germany has to have health insurance and I think that is a really good thing. Besides that, the government is mostly trustworthy and not corrupt.

    I remember my last day in Shanghai. A taxi driver tried to screw me over when I wanted to go to the airport. I knew it and started discussing with him. But I was so tired of bargaining and discussing prices, that I still ended up paying too much. And although I had a great time in China, I was happy to go back to Germany where prices of taxis and other things are non-negotiable.

  7. Traveling is the best time to learn and develop.

    One thing you learn about is yourself, especially if you are traveling on your own. You are away from your familiar surrounding and people that normally influence you, so you can finally see who you really are without them. You will see your strengths and weaknesses, things that make you happy and things that scare you. You may even meet your limits – and that is great. There is no better way to figure out who you are and what you really want, than by traveling.

    You won’t only learn about yourself and develop your personality. You will also learn a lot about the country you’re visiting and the people that live there. You will get to know a lot about foreign cultures and their histories.

    Of course, this is only true if you are willing to learn and if you’re not just sitting in the hotel and talking to your partner all the time. You will learn the most if you’re traveling alone and talking to other travelers as well as locals. Besides that, you will learn more about the history by visiting museums and memorials. And I am saying that even though I really hated history when I was in high school. But when I am in a country I want to understand it better and then I am actually interested in learning more about it.

 

Have you had some of the same experiences while traveling or was yours completely different?

I’d love to read about in the comments ūüôā

My trip to Belgium

Belgium is a small country, but is has a lot to offer. Like many other countries, I did not know very much about it before I went there.¬†Belgium hasn¬īt been on my travel list, but my husbandňčs friend from San Diego was in Brussels for a conference and we decided to meet him there for the weekend.

Normally I prefer going by train, but the connections from Hamburg to Brussels were inconvinient and expensive, so we took a flight and stayed at a hotel in Brussels the capital city.

Brussels is not big, so you can see a lot simply by walking around. The Grand Place is in the center of the city, so you will likely run into it at some point. When we found the Grand Place a festival was going on. It was a middle age festival and fun to watch. The square is surrounded by old baroque buildings and for the festival they have been lit up.

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Festival on the Grand Place, Brussels
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Festival on the Grand Place, Brussels

 

Besides amazing architecture you find great food in Belgium. The country is known for its chocolate, waffles and Belgian fries. Of course I tried all of it ūüôā

The chocolate and the waffles are really great and you find stores like on the picture in every street. For a chocolate addict, like me it’s just awesome! ūüėÄ I was not impressed by the Belgian Fries though, but maybe I just went to the wrong place. We got the fries at a touristy location, I guess the local restaurants would be better.

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Chocolate Store in Brussels ūüėÄ

Just like in Copenhagen you can find, right next to amazing architecture, lots of beautiful parks in Brussels. All the parks are a little outside of the center, like the Parc du Cinquantenaire that you can see on this photo.

With it’s narrow streets, people sitting outside in bars and its baroque buildings, Brussels reminded me a little bit of Spain.

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Is that the “Brandenburg Tor” in Berlin?? ūüėõ

In Brussels you can see a lot in three days. We decided to spend one day in another place and we took a train to Bruges/Brugge. It is really easy to get there from Brussels and it takes about 1 h. On the way back we stoped in Gent, which is half way between Brugge and Brussels.

While Brussels reminded me of a Spanish city, Brugge reminded me of Amsterdam with the water canals, bridges and cute little houses. Besides that you can also see traditional windmills there.

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Windmill in Brugge
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Architecture in Brugge
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Old houses in Brugge
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Doors in Brugge

If you have enough time it’s definitely worth doing a day trip to Brugge. Unfortunately I just spent a few hours in Gent on the way back, so I can’t really give you any recommendations. It is also easy to get to by train and takes 30 min from Brussels.

Have you been to Belgium yet? If so, I’d like to hear what you like about the country. I’m happy to read your comments!

5 Best Things About Visiting Copenhagen

At the beginning of June I visited Copenhagen for a few days. Since I live in Hamburg, the  Scandinavian countries are easy to get to. In this post I want to share with you what I liked the most about my visit.

 

1. A Train on a Ferry ?!

I took a train from Hamburg to Copenhagen and the ride takes about five and a half hours. I like going by train because it is relaxing and you can watch the landscape fly by. But the trip to Copenhagen is kind of special.

The Fehmarn Belt is a strait in the Baltic Sea between the¬†German island of Fehmarn and the Danish island of Lolland. To cross the strait the train goes on a ferry! It is a pretty amazing experience and well worth it ūüôā

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A train on a ferry crossing from Germany to Denmark.

 

2. Great Architecture

Are you also interested in architecture? If so, then you should definitely visit Copenhagen. You will find great historic architecture there as well as contemporary architecture.

The area around the Bella Center, which is in the south-east, is pretty new and still being developed. Therefor it’s a great place to find contemporary architecture, like the AC Hotel. Another area to find contemporary architecture is around the port, where you can also go for a nice walk along the river.

And if you go a little north you will find amazing old buildings, like Rosenborg Castle. What’s really nice is that there is a pretty park next to the castle.

Bella Sky Hotel AC Hotel Bella Sky Copenhagen
AC Hotel Bella Sky
Copenhagen
contemporary architecture at the port
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Rosenborg Castle – Dutch Renaissance Style

 

3. Frederiksberg Park

Next to Copenhagen there is another city called Frederiksberg. It seems like it’s part of Copenhagen, but actually it is its own town. I had an Airbnb in a nice and quiet area there. The best thing about Frederiksberg is the park. It’s pretty big, with lots of water and another castle ūüôā

The park is a perfect place to relax and for taking photos. When I was there I wanted to take the opportunity to do a photoshoot. On Facebook I found an Indian couple, Shashi and Sumit, that live in Copenhagen. We met at the park to take portraits. We had a really good time together. Feel free to check out the results.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

 

4. The Language

I’ve always been interested in languages and listening to foreign languages makes me very happy. It makes me feel like I’m on holiday ūüôā Of course there are languages that sound nicer or prettier than others. A language I really like is Spanish, I think it sounds beautiful and melodic. In Copenhagen people speak Danish and the best way to describe the language is: cute. Imagine all these pretty blond people walking around and speaking a really cute language – I love it!

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5. Designmuseum Danmark

The Scandinavians are known for having great design and making designer furniture. To see more of that you might want to visit the Designmuseum Danmark. It showcases the design of furniture, fashion, kitchen accessories and much more from many eras.

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Copenhagen

 

I really enjoyed my days in Copenhagen. Although it is a little expensive compared to Germany I definitely recommend visiting. I just spent four days there but the city is not too big. A couple of days is enough to see lots of things and explore different areas.

If you want to see more photos check out my photography website. You can find my portfolio of portraits there.

Have you already been to Copenhagen? If so I’d like to hear about it. If you liked Copenhagen, you might also be interested in visiting Amsterdam.

Next month I will spent a few days in Brussels. I’m exited to explore and of course I will share my experiences with you again ūüėČ

6 great things to do in Amsterdam

Last weekend I visited Amsterdam with some¬†friends¬†and¬†I really liked the flair of the city. It’s a relaxing atmosphere and a young, multicultural society. About half of the population is under 35! In this blogpost I want to share with you what I enjoyed¬†the most while I was there.

 

1. Getting lost

If you go to Amsterdam you don’t need a travel¬†guide. Just get off at the main station (Amsterdam Centraal), wander into the streets and get lost along the canals.

The whole city center looks exactly like on a postcard with all these nice old houses, water canals, boats, bicycles and boat houses. Walk around and take a break in one of the nice restaurants or cafés.

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2. Take a boat

Instead of going on a sightseeing bus, take a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing boat! It’s the best kind of transportation to explore and to see more of the city, especially when you get tired of walking ūüėȬ†Most of them start next to the main station and you can get a ticket that is valid for 48 hours for 27‚ā¨.

If you don’t want to spent any money any all¬†you can take ferries for free. They start¬†at the big river behind the main station and¬†take you across the river to the northern part of Amsterdam.

Häuser&Boot

 

3. Visit NDSM and see artists at work

The NDSM building used to be a shipyard, but today it is a place for artists. You can get there with one of the free ferries.

Inside this huge building there are many¬†shipping containers that have been turned into offices. The rent is quite cheap, so it’s good for people who want to try new ideas or start a business.¬†It’s also kind of like a gallery where you can see artists at work – definitely worth visiting.

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NDSM1

 

4. Enjoy a great view from the Sky Lounge

I really love rooftop bars. No matter what place I visit I need to find at least one rooftop bar where I can enjoy the sunset and a nice drink.¬†If you also love to have a great view you need to go on the Sky Lounge in Amsterdam.¬†Although there aren’t any skyscrapers it still has an amazing view.

Skylounge Bar

Sonnenuntergang

 

5. Go to a coffeshop

Have you ever noticed that some places have a certain smell? Well, if not then go to Amsterdam. The whole city smells like pot¬†and that’s not a exaggeration.¬†There is literally a coffeeshop at every corner where you can buy and smoke a joint legally.

I don’t like smoking but it’s worth having a look at a coffeeshop anyway to¬†see how many different kinds of marihuana you could buy there – pretty amazing.

Besides the coffeeshop you also find stores where you can buy marihuana chocolate, marihuana tea, marihuana seeds etc.

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6. Have a look at the red light district

Yes I know that’s kind of weird, but it’s also interesting to see the red light district. Every prostitute has a window or sometimes it is like a glass door. So potential costumers can have a look at them and then come inside if they want.¬†Of course it is not allowed to take photos of the prostitutes.

Besides there are also strip clubs, sex shows, sex shops and lots of other crazy stuff.

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I will definitely go back to Amsterdam at some point. Since I live in Hamburg it is not very far. I went there by train within 5,5 hours. Of course the city also has an airport if you want to fly there, and from the airport to the main station it only takes 15 min.

Have you already been to Amsterdam? If so it love to hear what you liked best there.

 

Role Play

We all play different roles in our life. Today you might be a middle-class person, but tomorrow you could be a traveler. In the morning you are a business women, in the afternoon you are playing the role of a wife and mother.

But while we switch from one role to another, sometimes we forget who we really are.

You need to open our eyes and see in which roles or categories you have been put into by others and which roles you chose by yourself.

Who are you when no one is watching?

Maybe it does not matter that much who you are, maybe it matters more who you want to be. I think we need to try different roles to figure out which one fits the best.

And if you really want to change the part you are currently playing you might have to change your environment too.

When you are traveling solo, you can become a new person everyday. No matter where you go no one will know you. This can be scary at first but it can be also really liberating once you started. No one will be able to put you into a certain category, because you might be surrounded by different people every day.

Or you could move to another city and start to be whoever you want to.

I have played a lot of different roles by myself and I am still not sure who I want to be.

I used to be a student and a employee, I am trying to be a good girlfriend and daughter.
I played the role of a solo traveler for three¬†months before I went back to be an employee¬†again. Since I moved from Stuttgart to Hamburg I am a (desperate)¬†housewife trying to find a job ūüėČ

Now my challenge is to figure out who I want to be next. A full-time blogger? A photographer? Or a normal employee again? Well, I hope I will find out soon…

This picture has been taken in a train station in Hamburg, Germany in January 2017.

 

 

The barber

Yes this is another picture of a cuban person and it has also been taken in the streets of Trinidad.

If you love taking photos you should definitely go to Cuba and see Trinidad and Havana. Those were the two cities if found most interesting and picturesque.

At the beginning of my Cuba trip I was tired and not used to the heat so I did not take many pictures. I was also afraid that people will get angry if I take photos of them without asking. But once I got to Trinidad I forgot about all that and I started taking tons of pictures and could not stop anymore. There was so much to see, so many interesting people and things behind every corner.

While I was walking around I saw this barbershop with open doors, almost on the street. I took a picture, the barber recognized it and he did not get angry at all, instead we started talking to each other.

Actually no one ever got really angry at me (so far) by taking pictures of them. Some people start posing and enjoy the attention, some smile and some just look at me a little confused. No one ever shouted at me or forced me to delete the picture, which is a constant fear of mine while doing street photography.

That is the same when you are traveling. You might be scared to get robbed or hurt by someone. Of course that can happen. But most of the time you will see how kind people are even if you are foreigner and sometimes just because you are a foreigner.

So never let yourself be held back by your fear. If you just start traveling (or taking pictures) you will experience help and kindness by strangers much more often that you could have imagined.

 

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Barbershop in Trinidad, Cuba in September 2016.

Black & white?

In the last weeks I did not take very many pictures. One reason is because I was not traveling to other countries and I do not get too excited to take pictures in Germany, because I live there and so it does not seem as interesting as a foreign place.

Another reason is because it is cold and dark most of time right now, so I do not really want to go out.

Today I forced myself to go out and I actually took some pictures. Of trees without leaves in the fog. They looked really depressing and almost colorless. At home I turned the pictures in complete black & white and did not like it either way. It seemed really boring and sad to me.

Well there are some really great black & white photographers and their pictures do not look boring at all, but to me they always transfer kind of a sad feeling.

I just rarely take pictures in black & white, because I think it is such a pity to take away all the color. It seems like there is an infinite number of colors in our world. Why would I want to get rid of it? For me color is what makes a picture interesting and lively.

So I had to find something else to take a picture of with some more color. Finally I took one of my orchid at home. I really love orchids and I love macros.

On this close up you can see what amazing things our nature can build and what great colors. The closer you get the more details you will see and in this case also a lot of wonderful colors.

Orchid in my appartment in Stuttgart, December 2016

You are free!

Do you think you are free? Do you think you can do whatever you want to?

Your answer is probably “Hm no, not really. I have to go to work, I have to take care of my children, I have to take care of my parents, I have to pay for my house, I have to clean, I have to…”

Yes everyone thinks he has to do something. Because we need to earn money, because we have responsibilites, because we are used to do something and do not think about it anymore or because society expects us to do it.

Well, I am going to tell you something: THIS IS NOT TRUE! You do not have to do anything you do not want to!

You are free – you just do not know it or you forgot about it.

You do not believe me? Okay I will explain it to you.

You think you need to work and earn money? But it is possible to live without money, if you want to know how that could work read the book “Happy without money” by Raphael Fellmer or ask a homeless person. Yes it might be hard, but it is possible if you just really want to. At the point in your life when you got your first job you decided to do that because you wanted to, not because someone forced you, right? You decided to live with money, because you chose to live that way and you decided on having your job because you wanted it.

You think you have to take care of your children? Okay that might be what other people expect you to do. But you were the one that decided to have children and you also decided to keep them. Yes could have decided not to have children, you could have had an abortion, you could have given away your children. That sounds cruel? Maybe, but this is the truth.

Most of the time you decide based on what consequences your decision might have. You ask yourself if you can live with these consequences and then you make a decision. There is a saying that even if you do not make decision you made one.

You decide everyday on your children, you decide everyday to go to work. You have a choice to do that or not do that everyday and every minute of your life – because you are free!

Freedom is not something you can touch or really proof – it is all in your mind, you just need to be aware of it.

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Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany in October 2016.

The beauty of our world

Cuba has a great nature. There are a lot of plants and animals that only exit on this island and some parts are biospheric parks that are protected by the government.

The cubans have a very little ecological footprint. Not because they know much about sustainability or environmental protection. They use very little resources, because they only have very little resources. While a citizens of the European Union needs three to four times as much resources as they should, cubans are doing pretty well.

If something is broken we just buy it new. Cubans try to repair everything they have to use it as long as possible. I am sure that can be quite hard, but they do not really have a choice.

For us it so much easier to buy a new TV, a new car or a new phone when it is broken. Why would you bother repair something if you have enough money to buy it new?

Even if Cuba is not environmental friendly because they want to – we can still learn from them. Sweden for example just past a law to reduce tax on repairing services so that people are more willing to get things repaired instead of throwing them away.

But you do not have to wait for your government to make things easier. You can do a lot of things on you own to reduce your ecological footprint. I sold my car some months ago, because in Stuttgart it possible to got everywhere you want by train, bus or by renting a electric car. So it would not make sense to keep my car and produce a lot of CO2 all the time. I am sure if you just think about it you will also find a lot of things in your life that you could change to use less resources Рwithout having any real disadvantages by doing that.

Our world is a beautiful place with stunning nature. What are you willing to do to keep the beauty of our world?

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This picture has been taken in a botanical garden in Vi√Īales, Cuba in September 2016.

Why do we work?

The main reason why most people work is to earn money. With the money you can take care of essential needs like paying for rent and food. But depending on which country you live in, work may have a very different meaning.

In Vietnam where this picture has been taken, there is a very small amount of unemployed people (2,4% in 2015 and 2016). The communistic government is doing pretty well in giving jobs to everyone, even if the job itself might be unnecessary.

So you could end up in restaurant where there are more employees than costumers. One waitress will take your order, the next waiter will bring the food, another waitress will bring the bill and the last one will give you back your change.

Do the vietnamese really work just to earn money? Or does the government also wants to keep their citizens busy to prevent them from doing something else?

In Germany people do not only work to get money either. They work to have a certain kind of prestige. They want to be able to afford a certain kind of lifestyle.

Maybe some of them are doing their job because they really like what they are doing or because they see a lot of sense in their work Рbut that seems to be really rare. It seems like most Germans even do not care to much about having enough money to eat Рbecause compared to their salaries they spend a very little amount on food.

Germans rather spend their money on luxury goods like a nice car. But does it make sense to eat low quality food and have a high quality car?

Why do you work?

Because you love your job? Because you want to make a lot of money? Because it gives you the ability to take care of your essential needs? Because you want to gain prestige? Because you find a greater sense in doing your work?

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This picture has been taken in DaLat, Vietnam in October 2015.