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March 2013

For the Love of Travel Series- Lily from Lily Wanderlust (Guest Post)

Lily in Ghent

Today, I bring you a post from one of my best friends, not just in my expat life, but in life in general. Lily of Lily Wanderlust. After all, it isn't many people you down two bottles of wine with over lunch the first time you meet them. I could go on and on about how awesome she is, but I think it might be best for me to just let her speak for herself. Here it goes. 

Tell us a bit about you.

Hi there, Georgia Peach Abroad readers! I’m Lily, an expat blogger and friend of Kaitlin’s here in the Netherlands. Amsterdam has been my home for the most part since 2009 when I moved here on the fly to work as an au pair and in that time, serendipity brought my Dutchman and I together and now we live along the canals.

Where are you right now?

Keying in tonight at home in Amsterdam.

Where did you grow up?

My early years were spent outside of Chicago, so my roots are Midwestern but my formative years were spent in Central Florida which explains my penchant for southern charm, bluegrass tunes and a constant craving for sunshine! My mom is a flight attendant, so it’s no surprise my first passport was issues at only a few months old and every holiday from school was spent in a different corner of the world! I’ve been to 35 countries so far and plan to keep that list growing. My mom definitely instilled an appreciation for cultures and globetrotting. 

What is your favorite destination and why?

My current favorite is South Africa! I honestly had no idea what to expect before spending three weeks trekking around on safari in Kruger Park and road tripping along the Garden Route with my mom. Aside from the friendly, interesting people of South Africa, learning about nature on safari and exploring a completely new side of the world, there's just so much to learn about yourself and others while traveling through new places! 

What is your least favorite destination and why?

You’ve got me racking my brain trying to think up a place that I’d probably never return to again and I can’t think of any! In my experience, every location has its perks and disappointments and every adventure comes with a lot of laughs and a few tears of frustration. Although, I will admit that studying abroad in China made me lose all appetite for their cuisine, sadly.

What is your favorite vacation memory?

In January, I spent a few weeks back home in Florida. It’s my current favorite for the great memories I made catching up with hometown friends. Most afternoons were spent relaxing in the sunshine so this wasn’t what I’d consider wild traveling, just a (well needed) holiday. Spending cozy, quality time with my amazingly sharp 95-year-old Granny was a big part of my trip home as well. 

What is your profession and do you ever travel for business?

I split my week between an English language preschool and working as the Lifestyle Editor forIamExpat.nl a media platform for, you guessed it- internationals in the Netherlands. You could say I’m very immersed in the expat community here in Amsterdam, which makes sense since culture and creativity are two important aspects in both positions. Engaging with other’s who are living overseas is great and after going through so many up’s and down’s in my own expat experience it feels good to help other’s find new ways to settling into life abroad.  I’d love a job that requires more travel and still haven’t given up on my mom’s dream for me to join a flight crew! At the moment, any travel for work is within the Netherlands and usually related to international community events.

How do you pack and do you have any items that you have to take with your?

I’m definitely a light packer- that is, unless I’m heading back from America with a suitcase of my favorite bits from home (especially hot sauce, sour patch kids and beef jerky for my Dutchman). For trips two weeks and under day backpack and a purse fits enough. This backpack and sleeping bag have been to a few different continents with me and I recommend both!

Clothes always flex with location but I’m a casual traveler. Mix and match outfits work great and save space. In my experience, long skirts, a jean jacket and a multi purpose scarves can go a long way with the right clothing combinations. 

At least one camera is always on hand while traveling! I use the Cannon Powershot G series, my Iphone 4s and on occasion one of my 35mm cameras like an old Nikon or Holga or FishEye. Capturing special moments while traveling make the best souvenirs. 

My must-have list includes: an mask, q-tips, rosebud salve, baby wipes, mini first aid kit and a good book. Any favorite things usually end up staying tucked inside and ready for the next trip! You can read about how I packed for safari in Kruger Park here.

Do you have any trips planned for the future?

One of my best friends from back home is visiting me in Amsterdam (this week!) and we’re heading off for a few days in Paris together! It’s her first time in Europe and I can’t wait to her around Amsterdam! Plus, I haven’t been in Paris in years so there’s a lot to look forward too.

How do you plan your trips?

Planning trips is one of my favorite hobbies! Not just for the anticipating and curiosity that comes with discovering a new place but also because I genuinely really, really, enjoy research and planning! I like to pick my top 5 - 10 spots to check out (museums, festivals, monuments, eateries, etc…) and the adventure comes along with trying to navigate your way there- I love maps and navigation, getting lost is half the adventure!

What is your dream vacation?

South East Asia  and India are both high on my list for my next big trip. My Dutchman has visited multiple times and a slight hint of envy always strikes when he talks about how amazing his adventures were! Visiting India has always been a dream and after this much time spent in Holland I’ll take as much sunshine and warmth as I can get!

What kind of traveler are you? 

Budget travel is definitely a preference, along with discovering places off the beaten path and supporting the local businesses and artisans. Growing up, my mom and I made it all over the world with a rental car and an overly examined map and that’s still how I tend to travel today. A lot of our favorite adventures came along whilst trying to get to ‘our final destination’ (isn’t that what they all say?) For suggestions, my travel favorites are Lonely PlanetSpotted by Locals and Couchsurfing. Of course, if you have any connection to a local (through friends or family) then it’s great to get in touch and hear tips from locals.

After finishing university I spent 6 weeks backpacking and couch surfing around Scandinavia with a childhood friend. We made it all the up to the Arctic Circle of Finland for a friend’s summer wedding and also celebrated Swedish midsummer in the countryside in an adorable farm house stuffed full of Couchsurfers! That was such a random and memorable travel moments!

My personal blog is www.lilywanderlust.com,  a lifestyle blog about everyday adventures of life in Amsterdam. You can also find me on instagrampinteresttwitter!

Thanks so much Lily! Check out her awesome pictures below. If you love her pictures or have any questions/comments drop them below. Also if you want to help a student out and be part of the series, drop me a line at GAPeachAbroad@gmail.com

South Africa

South Africa with a Cheetah

South Africa

China

Lily in China

Panda China

HollandDutch Canals

Sweden

Midsummer Sweden

Venice

St MarksB

 

Section: 

Big Easy Express

Last week was no good. Well, I mean there was some good, I got to hang out with two blogger buds. But other than that, no good. First on Monday, I got slammed into an OV Chipkaart check out machine on the bus. If you don't know what that is, it is a metal machine that you check in and out of busses, metros, trains, and water buses here in the Netherlands. Then on Tuesday, I got into my first bike accident. Lily will tell you that it doesn't count, but it totally gave me a limp so it does. Basically, I was straddling the back of her bicycle (how we roll in the NL) and she ran me into a parked van. Not her fault, it was the parked van or the crazy van coming towards us on a narrow Amsterdam street. It wasn't a bad accident at all, with the except that my leg got caught on the van and extended a bit unnaturally backwards. So, I strained my hip muscle. Oh, and then on Friday I got food poisoning at work. Told you, the week was NO GOOD! 

Well, actually Amanda helped me with my Spanish by watching Volver with me(minus subtitles, I'm so proud) and Loek and I watched the Big Easy Express, which I loved! If you haven't seen/heard of it, this music documentary follows Mumford and Son, Old Crow Medicine Band, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as they ride a train on tour from California to New Orleans. You should know by now that I love trains! Unless you are a new reader. If so, welcome I LOVE TRAINS. I also love bands that make me feel like I should put on a cotton dress, braid my unwashed hair and drink out of a mason jar, which all three of the aforementioned bands make me want to do. So, if you are in a bad mood or a good mood, do us a favor and watch this hour long documentary. 

Also, you check out the music video below of This Train is Bound for Glory. Which according to Loek I have been listening non-stop since we say the documentary. Hey, I can help it if I love Woody Guthrie. 

 

 

Section: 

For the Love of Travel Series- Jana from Breaking One Hundred (Guest Post)

Cruise in Russia

I first met Jana at a now defunct book club here in the Netherlands. I thought she was super sweet, and I really wanted to learn more about her, which is why I was so excited when she said she wanted to be part of my For the Love of Travel Series! I hope you have as much fun getting to know Jana through this post as I have. And don't forget to check out her blog over at Breaking One Hundred!

Tell us a bit about you?
 
My life goal is to visit 100 countries and join the Travelers’ Century Club (hence the name of my blog, breakingonehundred). I’d also like to break 100 in golf, but honestly the former feels much more attainable at times! I met my husband when we were both studying abroad in London (he’s also American) so I knew he had the traveling spirit and would be up for the challenge too. I’m currently at 45 countries according to the club rules and he is at 30.
 
First things first, where are you at this moment?
 
We’re living in Amsterdam for a few more weeks. At the end of the month we move back to our home in Boston with our Old English Sheepdog Ozzie.
 
Ozzie in Amsterdam
Ozzie in Amsterdam
 
Where did you grow up?
 
I grew up about an hour northwest of Philadelphia in a very small town. Despite that, my parents had us traveling from a young age. I have them to thank for my wanderlust and it’s something I am eternally grateful for.
 
A view of the Oley Valley
A view of the Oley Valley
 
What is your favorite destination and why?
 
London will always hold a special place in my heart. I fell in love with London on my first trip to Europe when I was eleven and I fall further every time I’m back. It’s also the place I met my husband and some of my best friends, and where he proposed!
 
University of Manchester
Our Uni
 
What is your least favorite destination and why?
 
Yet to be found.
 
What is your favorite vacation memory?
 
Our ‘destination’ wedding in Bluffton, South Carolina! We got there early so we could just relax and enjoy time with everyone as they arrived. I have wonderful memories of lounging by the pool, spa time with my bridesmaids, and my bachelorette in Savannah in the few days before our wedding. And of course it only got better when we reached the wedding weekend events. It was an incredible week.
Jana's Wedding
Our Wedding at Berkeley Hall. Photo © Tim Zielenbach Photography
 
What is your profession and do you ever travel for business?
 
I am in Finance for a Chemicals company. When we were in the States, I regularly went to our office in western Massachusetts and took a few trips to NYC per year. Here, I frequent our office in the south of the Netherlands. My more exciting work travel comes when I get to visit our other offices, partners or attend conferences. That has taken me to Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chicago, LA, Sweden, Turkey and London on multiple occasions. And of course Amsterdam when I wasn’t living here!
 
Istanbul by Night
Istanbul from my hotel room window.
 
How do you pack and do you have any items that you have to take with you?
 
Ah, a favorite topic. So much so I do a regular bit on my blog, “The Packing List” where I detail what I packed and how I wore it. I was terrible at packing for a long time. I over packed and often found myself buying lots of clothes before trips. Of course it’s fun to get new things but I saw this as an indication that I was missing key pieces and not putting outfits together in a smart way. Now I’ve got a pretty good handle on what to bring to feel appropriate in all situations [and not like a tourist] while still packing light.
 
Two things I always bring are comfy shoes (and at least two pairs, because even your comfiest shoes can start to hurt after a lot of walking) and my cashmere wrap (keeps me warm on planes and doubles as a scarf if our destination is chilly).
 
Do you have any trips planned for the future?
We’re spending ten days in South Carolina [Bluffton and Charleston] and Georgia [Savannah] right after we get back to the states.
 
How do you plan your trips?
 
The first decision point when we plan a get-away is do we want to take a ‘trip’ or a ‘vacation’. I’m a firm believe there is a difference between the two! Next, of course, is can we hit a new country on the list. (Note, this is much easier while living in Europe) Then we look into flights and hotels for our shortlist and pick a winner. I love a point system (we used points for our honeymoon and only had to pay for one of our ten nights!) so, if we can, we stay at Starwood hotels and fly SkyTeam. If we hit all those in one trip it’s the trifecta but we don’t let that
limit our travels.
 
What is your dream vacation?
 
Tough to pick just one! (I dream a lot). I’ll go with staying in an over water bungalow in the Maldives. It just seems like pure bliss.
 
What kind of traveler are you? 
 
My husband is my main travel partner. Luckily, we have the same travel style which I will classify as ‘leisurely.’ We’ll make a point to see the major attractions in a city, but we’re not the type of people who wake up at 6am and sprint from museum to museum. Before trips we research a few spots we want to go and use those as a rough guide. We walk everywhere we can and generally just explore. In my book, eating and shopping are the best ways to see a city so those are things we include. I always seek out the market or food hall at our destination - it’s a great way to sample local treats and see more of the city.
 
Our favorite stand at Borough Market in London. Grilled Cheese and Raclette.
Our favorite stand at Borough Market in London. Grilled Cheese and Raclette.
 
Fresh fish at the Central Market in Helsinki
Fresh fish at the Central Market in Helsinki
 
Amazing traditional Swedish fare at the Willy Ohl counter in the Stockholm Saluhall
Amazing traditional Swedish fare at the Willy Ohl counter in the Stockholm Saluhall
 
Delicious Estonian Garlic Bread in Tallin.
Delicious Estonian Garlic Bread in Tallin.
 
 
Thanks so much Jana! Check out some more of her great travel pics! I'll admit, I'm more than a little envious! 
 
 
Crete
The view from our room in Crete
The view from our room in Crete
 
Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest
 
Berlin
Berlin’s Eastside Gallery
Berlin’s Eastside Gallery
 
Saint Petersburg
Church on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg
Church on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg
 
Copenhagen
Adorable Nyhavn in Copenhagen.
Adorable Nyhavn in Copenhagen.
 
Norway
Gaustatoppen Norway
Gaustatoppen Norway
 
Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo
Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo
 
Belgium
Walking in the Belgian countryside
Walking in the Belgian countryside
 
Morocco
Dirty faces after 4-wheeling through the Moroccan desert.
Dirty faces after 4-wheeling through the Moroccan desert.
 
Hong Kong
Victoria Peak in Hong Kong
Victoria Peak in Hong Kong
 
Macau
Cotai Strip in Macau
Cotai Strip in Macau
 
Golfing!
 Golfing in Phuket
Golfing in Phuket
Golfing in the Canary Islands
Golfing in the Canary Islands
 
So pretty, don't forget if you want to be part of the For the Love of Travel Series, send me a line at GAPeachAbroad@gmail.com And don't forget to leave us a comment, we love comments!
 
 
 

If you liked this post, you should also check out:

For the Love of Travel Series- Sarah from Life in a State of Wanderlust

For the Love of Travel Series- Amanda from Poppies and Ice Cream

For the Love of Travel Series- Carolyn from Carolyn Horne Illustration 

Section: 

Don't Lose Touch, What to do Now that Google Reader is Going the Way of the Mixed Tape

Feedly vs blog lovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

If you have been on the internet at all in the last week, you have probably seen the news that Google Reader will be as extinct as the T-Rex in July. I don't know if you were as heartbroken by this news as I was, I've used the service practically everyday for the last four yearS. Regardless, it sucks! But, when a door closes, somewhere opens a window and this means that until the time the reader is no more, we can explore newer and better? options. 

This week, I have been exploring two possible replacements for RSS feeds. Feedly and Bloglovin'. Both have pro's and con's, here are my opinions. 

Feedly.

Pro's

I really like the look of feedly and it's ability to connect your twitter feed so you can instantly follow sites tweeted by people you are following. I really like how easy it was to transport my feeds over from google reader. Plus if your google reader was a mess like mine, it is really easy to organize your feeds with Feedly, you just go to Organize and drag the blogs to the category you want them to be in. Feedly also makes it incredibly easy to share the post you are reading with your social networks. And finally perhaps the best feature, like google reader you can read the whole post in feedly. It is super customizable so you can choose which view you want.

Con's

You have to install a plugin. It is not really a big deal, unless you want to read blogs while on a school computer. But, if you are on the go you can always us the app. Also, when I have tried to add blogs directly in feedly, a few times it has not been able to find the site. For now, I can just add the site to reader because they link directly together, but since reader is disappearing... Also, and this is really, really, really minor, but the name of the blog the post comes from is written really tiny so a few time I have been unsure of who's blog I am reading the post from because you can so easily scroll past it. 

 

Feedly FeaturedThis is the main screen, from here you can decide what you want to read. 

Feedly OrganizeOrganizing is soo easy!

Feedly Social MediaEach post has an option to share with Social Media. 

Blog Lovin'

Pro's

Blog Lovin' is great for discovering new blogs. Think of it kind of like a blog search engine. Plus you have the ability to follow a blogger. If you are in the mood to discover a new corner of the internet, I would totally head over to Blog Lovin'. They have a feature that email's you when new posts come up of the blogs you are following. If you are a got to have it the second it comes out type of reader, this feature might work best for you. 

Con's

As far as I can tell, you can not read the whole post in Blog Lovin' and it is not super social media friendly. Let me know if I am wrong about this and just can't see it. Plus it seems that their interface is what you have to use. For me personally with the 400+ blogs I subscribe to, having to go to each individual blog to see the whole post is not something I have time for. So, this is kind of a deal breaker for it being my main replacement. 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Blog Lovin HomepageThis is the homescreen. 

Blog Lovin PostNot the whole post, but a snapshot.

So easy to discover new blogs! You can even search by terms.

My Advice.

With the impeding death to google reader, I am planning on using both Feedly and Blog Lovin'. Feedly will be my go to for actual reading of posts, I personally like it better for reading and Blog Lovin' will be my new place to discover all the blogs I love so much. It is actually not as complicated as it sounds.

How do you feel about the death of google reader? What do you currently use to follow A Georgia Peach Abroad and the other great blogs you read? Do you have a favorite blog I should check out? I really want to hear from you
 
Screenshots taken by me. 

Section: 

The Writing is on the Berlin Wall

Peace Love Unity- East Side Gallery, Berlin

I mentioned a few posts ago that I am reserving my judgment of Berlin until I visit it again on my own. But, I did really really love the East Side Gallery, as much as I loved the artwork, I love the messages written on the wall even more. Here are some of my favorites. 

 

Dawn of Peace- East Side Gallery, BerlinSuch a beautiful statement!

Drown Investors Dreams- East Side GallerySo glad that for now, there will be no hotel where the gallery stands.

Get Human- East Side Gallery, BerlinGet Human

Many Small Places- East Side Gallery, Berlin

Many Small People Who in Many Small Places Do Many Small Things That Can Alter the Face of the World.

 die bestandigkeit der ignoranz- East Side Gallery, BerlinThe Resistance of Ignorance.

Leave Us Kids Alone- East Side Gallery, Berlin

Love Make Better Persons- East Side Gallery, BerlinYes!

No One But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds

Fuck You- East Side Gallery, Berlin

With Silence Comes Peace- East Side Gallery, BerlinNot sure I agree with this. 

So Stark Und Dochverletzbar Das Volk, Der Mensch Der Wald Der Baum

Trust in Life- East Side Gallery, BerlinTrust. 

He Who Wants the World to Remain- East Side Gallery, Berlin

I Want This Place to Stay Like it is Now.

I hope you enjoyed the messages as much as I do. Which one resonates with you the most?

Section: 

5 Things

Lily called me out on this one, and since I love any chance to over share, I'll contribute my 5 things to the pot.

1. I can not stand silence. Seriously, much to the chagrin of my 5 hostel roommates last week in Berlin, I have to have noise. Unless, I'm sleeping. Which is why if I am home alone, there is always background noise.

2. I'm double jointed in my knees and elbows. This means, I can lick my own elbow and that when I stand, my knees are hyper extended backwards. Great, now if you see me in real life, you are going to check my stance.

3. I love soup! I could eat soup everyday. It is so versatile and can be incredibly easy to make. My favorite is my Aunt Jan's Potato Soup or my mom's Cilantro Soup. Sooo yummy!

4. I have never been further West than Texas. Sometimes, I really wish that I had traveled more in the US before packing my bags for the undetermined future to live in Europe. Seriously, it is embarrassing when you meet a European who has been more places in your home country than you have. 

5. I love hip hop. People have a certain image of me. It has been suggested on more than one occasion that I am a hipster. For what it is worth, I'm not. I'm not anything. I like all sorts of music. But because I wear my glasses now almost on a daily basis, people think that I do not like hip hop as much as I do. Somehow, people seem to forget that I am from the ATL! If you take me to a club, I will dance all night. Except Techno. Sorry Europe, no matter how long I live here, I will never.ever.get.electronic.

Want to make a list of your own? Head over to Lily Wanderlust and linkup with her!

Section: 

For the Love of Travel Series- Sarah from Life in a State of Wanderlust (Guest Post)

This week's post comes from Sarah, a fellow American expat who currently resides in Tillburg (in the Southern part of the Netherlands, for those of you who aren't familiar).She is originally from Virginia (Southern Girls Unite!) I've had so much fun learning about Sarah's adventures and it looks like soon she will be moving closer to my neck of the woods! You can learn more about Sarah at Life in a State of Wanderlust

Let's do this thing!

Tell us a little about you.
 
Let’s see. I’m 23 years old, and I have always loved to travel. So far, I have lived in three countries and visited 20 others. My bucket list is a mile long, and I’m constantly adding to it. I was born and raised in the United States, but I spent the past year in London completing my Master’s degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Politics Science (LSE). Currently, I am residing with my boyfriend in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Living in Europe provides far more opportunities for international travel than in the States, so I am trying to take
advantage of every chance I get to see as much as I can while I am here!
 
Windmills do exist!
The cliché is true- windmills are everywhere in the Netherlands
 
Where did you grow up?
 
I spent my whole life in Virginia before I moved abroad for graduate school. Virginia was an amazing place to grow up. In only two hours by car from where I lived, you could be hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, swimming at Virginia Beach, or enjoying a city-break in Washington, D.C. There’s really something for everyone.
 
What is your favorite destination and why?
 
This is a difficult question! There are so many amazing places around the world. I think my favorite destination so far would have to be Dubrovnik, Croatia. Dubrovnik’s nickname is the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” and if there is any city that deserves its nickname, it is Dubrovnik. There are gorgeous beaches, winding alleyways to explore, and breathtaking cliff side cafes where you can dive right into the sea—if you dare! The old town is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, yet there is so much more to the area than meets the eye. Dubrovnik was nearly
destroyed during the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s, yet it has been painstakingly rebuilt over the years. You can still see evidence of the war if you look closely at the famous red roof tiles, because the ones that were replaced after being bombed out are slightly different colors than the original tiles.
 
The Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia
The Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia
 
What is your least favorite destination and why?
 
My least favorite destinations are those where the only “cultural experiences” include laying on the beach during the day and partying every night, only to repeat the process for a week straight without ever leaving the resort. That is pretty much my travel nightmare. I travel because I love history, culture, and seeing the way different people live around the world. If I wanted to party into oblivion, I might just as well do it at home.
 
What is your favorite vacation memory?
 
In 2011, my dad took me and my brother to Tanzania for two weeks. We spent half of the trip wilderness hiking and camping in the African bush, an experience that was unlike anything I had ever done before. The trip was more than just a typical safari-vacation for us, though, because Tanzania was also the place that my dad grew up. His parents were missionaries in Arusha, and he lived there from when he was a baby until he returned to the U.S. at age 17. This was his first trip back to Tanzania in twenty years, and the first time my brother and I got to finally see the places we had been hearing about in stories our entire lives. The trip brought both tears and laughter, but having that shared experience definitely brought us closer together.
 
The house in Arusha, Tanzania, where my dad grew up.
The house in Arusha, Tanzania, where my dad grew up.
 
At the top of Ol Donyo Sambu, Tanzania
At the top of Ol Donyo Sambu, Tanzania
 
Close encounters of the elephant kind
Close encounters of the elephant kind

 

How do you pack and do you have any items that you have to take with you?
I have traveled so much in the past two years that I pretty much have packing down to a science. I generally try to travel with only a carry-on, mostly because I am cheap and hate paying baggage fees. The possibility of forgetting things used to worry me, but I’ve since realized that stressing over something like a toothbrush is not worth it. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world; I promise you will be able to buy a new toothbrush when you get there.
That being said, I always take my camera (of course), a good book, and a pair of earplugs. Nothing can ruin a trip like a symphony of snores coming from your seat mates on a 14 hour overnight bus ride in Morocco.
 
Do you have any trips planned for the future?
I have been living in the Netherlands for months now, but my Dutch boyfriend has still never been to the United States, so I would love to take him on a classic American road trip to show him my home turf. On the other side of the globe, my best friend is currently teaching at an international school in Brunei (on the island of Borneo). If I had the opportunity to go somewhere a little more exotic, visiting her would definitely be first on my list!
 
How do you plan your trips?
 
I love planning trips! Researching and learning about my next destination is one of my favorite things to do. I’m one of those people who brings along a stack of information with me whenever I go somewhere. I still love to do spontaneous things once I get there, but the planning is part of the fun of travel for me. It increases my anticipation and excitement for the place I’m going to be. It is always a good idea to at least learn a few words in the language of the place you will be, and not just assume that English will be spoken everywhere.
 
What kind of traveler are you? 
 
I believe it is important to pick your travel companions wisely, no matter where you are going. I grew up taking road trips with my family, which I think is a great way to develop a love of travel. Now I generally travel with my close friends. I have found that small groups are always better to travel with than large groups. Large groups (even if you are all friends) mean too many opinions. Everyone is forced to compromise on what they want to do, and in the end no one is satisfied.
 
I am definitely not a tour group kind of person. I know some people greatly enjoy tours, but I do my best to stay away from them. Tour groups hardly ever allow you to do something on a whim—the kind of random adventures that make travel exciting. I don’t want to spend ninety percent of my vacation on a bus with people from my own country. That defeats the point of travel for me.
 
Thanks so much Sarah! I enjoyed reading about all your adventures, and I am totally with you on the tours thing. I hope you guys are loving this series as much as I am! If you want to be involved, and I so hope that you do, drop me a line at gapeachabroad@gmail.com.
 
Check out these other gorgeous pictures!
 
Middle East
Sarah with her Berber guide on a camel trek through the Moroccan Sahara
Sarah with her Berber guide on a camel trek through the Moroccan Sahara
 
A Sufi Dervish (“whirling dervish”) ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey
A Sufi Dervish (“whirling dervish”) ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey
 
Europe
A cold winter night in Bruges, Belgium
A cold winter night in Bruges, Belgium
 
View of London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral
View of London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral
 
Prague Castle at night
Prague Castle at night
 
At the top of Untersberg Mountain near Salzburg, Austria
 
Light streams through the windows inside St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican City.
Light streams through the windows inside St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican City.
 
If you liked this post, and I know you did. You should check out:
 

Section: 

Berlin in a Blur-Sachsenhausen and East Side Gallery

I'm back babies! Berlin was crazy. I'm still processing it all. I'm not sure how I feel about the city. I'm going to wait to reserve judgment until I go back with my own agenda and not with my whole class. After all, there wasn't that much time to venture out and see the city on my own. But, I did have a lot of fun bonding with my classmates. I learned some interesting things and now we have some great catch phrases from the trip!  Oh, and that salt should never, ever, ever be put on pineapple!

Here is an overview of what I did.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp:

One's first introduction to a city should never be a negative one. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was our first scheduled stop in Berlin. The camp is located in Oranienburg, just outside of Berlin and was first used an internment camp for political opponents of the Third Reich. It was then used during World War II as a concentration camp and housed the central administration for all Nazi concentration camps. Finally, it was used as a Soviet Special Camp. That is a lot of evil for one place. This was my first experience to a concentration camp and it really moved me. One of the most shocking things for me was the proximity of houses to the camp today and in the past. It is shocking that people could live so close and turn a blind eye to such atrocities. Our guides at Sachsenhausen were really top notch, especially Sophia, who really made her love of history come alive.

sachsenhausen concentration camp trees

Sachsenhausen tree

East Side Gallery:

By far my favorite thing in Berlin. This part of the wall is filled with art, and inspirational messages from all over the world. I took a ton of photos! I love that something so negative as the Berlin Wall has been given new life as something beautiful. Unfortunately, this outside gallery and monumental piece of World History is supposed to have parts of it torn down to make way for a high rise. This breaks my heart. While we were there, students were making films about why the East Side Gallery should remain. Just days before, there was a protest of thousands to save the Wall. I encourage all of you to sign this petition to support the East Side Gallery

Fuck You

Trabi Car

Tomorrow I have another lovely guest post for you and then it is more about Berlin! 

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There is a New Little Lady in Our Lives

I'm still hanging out in Berlin, but I wanted to introduce you to the newest member of our family. This is Lulubell. She is four years old and we adopted her from the Utrecht Dieren Asiel, a no kill shelter here in Utrecht. We adopted her at the end of January, but I wanted to give her time to get used to our family before I introduced her to the world. 

When Loek and I went to visit the shelter, we both were not sure what to expect. Loek and I had looked at numerous cats on the website and had a few that we wanted to look at. We first had an interview with the staff at the shelter to make sure that they could match us with a pet that would be a good match for our family. We were then taken to a few  different rooms to look at some possible matches. Lulu was in the last room. When we saw her, we knew she was the one, even though she had a huge attitude and wouldn't come out of her box. Because Lulu was so new to the shelter, she came in on Friday and we saw her on Saturday, it was a few days before we could take her home. 

When I went to get her, it was the first day of major winter weather. Poor kitty had to travel to her new home by bus in the snow. When she first got here, she wasn't so sure about us. She spent a lot of time swatting at us, Loek and I were pretty bloody. In her defense, it was probably a big adjustment for her, former owner to shelter to new home in less than a week. A little over a month later and she is a completely changed cat. She has almost stopped swatting us, she gets nervous sometimes, and she now has a place on the couch between Loek and I. 

If you are looking for a pet in the Utrecht area, I recommend the Utrecht Dieren Aisel. They have both cats and dogs, and your pet will come up to date on shots, fixed, and micro chipped. We even have her pet passport. 

As much fun as pets are, they also need stability and care. So think before you commit. 

We also changed Lulu's name to Lulu, because her other name I as a native English speaker could not say it with a straight face. 

Have you ever adopted an animal from a shelter?

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For the Love of Travel Series- Amanda from Poppies and Ice Cream (Guest Post)

This week, I am introducing you to Amanda a fellow expat here in the Netherlands who blogs over at Poppies and Ice Cream. Amanda is fluent in Spanish and has offered to help me improve my language skills. This is one of the many, many reasons I love having a blog, you get to meet so many interesting people. 

Here it goes. 

Tell the readers a bit about you.
 
I am a Mexican-Swiss-British (by accident) girl. Sounds complicated, but, it’s not so much. I was born in the UK (because my parents were studying there), my mom is Mexican, my father is Swiss and my lovely husband is Dutch. I am a biologist / veterinarian who loves baking, reading, traveling, discovering new places, jumping around like crazy and red dresses.
 
Where are you at this moment?
 
I currently live in The Netherlands.
 
Where did you grow up?
 
I grew up in Mexico, where I lived in different cities.
 
What is your favorite destination and why?
 
After thinking long and hard (there are just so many places I love), I think the answer is Barcelona. The first time I went there I was just “passing by”, on my way back to Geneva, Switzerland, where I studied at the time, after having spent the summer working at a Physiology lab in Santiago de Compostela. I went to Barcelona to visit a friend, whom I had met in Venice at the youth-hostel where we stayed, and also, because back when low-cost airlines were just starting, cheap flights were only available from “La ciudad condal”. As soon as I set foot in the
city I knew I would be back. To live. And I did. First I stayed a year, as an Erasmus student, and then I went back for 4 years to study my second degree. The city is full of life, and magic I would say. It is lively, young and international. It has everything you could wish for: mountains, check. The beach, check. Lots of parks, check. Cultural activities at every moment, check. Lovely medieval streets where to get lost, places full of history in unexpected places*, delicious food, friendly people, buildings that could belong in fairy tales**, perfect weather, beautiful avenues….
 
*For example, the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya lays in the building which used to be the very same Hospital, dating from the 15th century, where Santiago Ramón y Cajal worked and made his fascinating discoveries on the ways neurons work.
 
** Doesn’t the houses in Park Guell look out of Hansel and Gretel? And what about Casa Batllo or Casa Milla? Green dragon backs, towers that seem made of soft ice-cream….
 
What is your least favorite destination and why?
 
I have yet to find a place that I haven’t loved. I guess we always try to make the most out of any trip and even if I find myself in a seemingly abandoned train station in the middle of nowhere, I can always read a book, go to the supermarket to search for the local treats, or go to a movie theater or a square and just sit and people-watch.
 
What is your favorite vacation memory?
 
It must have been the time I met my husband on an airplane. He was sitting right next to me and we did not stop talking for the duration of the flight. (You can read all about it on Poppies and Ice Cream
 
What is your profession and do you ever travel for business?
 
I am a veterinarian, though I do not currently work in my field. I used to work for a big hotel-reservations website, but I spent my time reading guest reviews and learning all about which hotels had mice, lizards or squirrels and which were located near good restaurants, among other crazy stories. I did not really get to travel for work though.
 
How do you pack and do you have any items that you have to take with you?
 
I normally pack in the last-minute rush; sometimes early in the morning of the day I am traveling. I try to bring items that can be used more than once and combined in different ways (jeans, one or two thick sweaters, a scarf, t-shirts in colors that go with everything else). It is important to bring a good jacket, a rain-coat depending on your destination and comfortable shoes that will not make your feet hurt after lots and lots of walking. If it’ll be warm lots of dresses and a denim jacket do the trick. I bring an extra plastic bag or two as well as Ziplocs. Snacks, tissue and some first-aid supplies* are always good to have with you.
 
** anti-inflammatories, Pepto-Bismol tablets, band-aids, disinfectant…
 
Do you have any trips planned for the future?
 
Yes, we are headed to Northern California (San Francisco and the surrounding area) later this year. I am so excited.
 
How do you plan your trips?
 
I think of a place (I pretty much want to go everywhere, so that is not normally a problem), I figure out the cheapest way to get there (bus, low-cost airline, train) and try to find out if there are any offers for our destination of choice (for instance every now and then airlines release discounted tickets for short periods of time). Right now there are many websites that let you compare rates among companies, I use these to check prices and then book directly with the company involved. Road trips are also lots of fun, Google maps is a great tool to find the places where you would like to stop between A and B and to calculate reasonable distances to travel every day of a journey. Once we sort all of that out, we find a place to stay. We like clean places that are well communicated (even if we have to take public transportation, that´s ok, it adds to the travel experience). I have stayed in youth hostels before, but nowadays in Europe the rates start at circa 25 EUR per night, and since I travel with my husband, with that price we can already stay at a nice, simple hotel, with lots of added comfort and privacy. Staying at apartments is also great because you get to cook your own meals and spare some pennies that you can spend otherwise. After that it is just a matter of studying the place, figuring out if there are specific sights / museum exhibits / restaurants or bars / places that we would like to visit, and otherwise, once there, we just get a map (often free at Tourist Offices) and proceed to get lost in the city and let it surprise us.
 
What is your dream vacation?
 
Oh this one is hard. I really would like to see South East Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia… Costa Rica is also pending on my list. But if you just bring me to France or Italy I will be happy as well. I still have to go to Chiapas, Tulum and Palenque in Mexico. I like to see the places, know the people and experience the local culture, so pretty much any destination will suit me.
 
What kind of traveler are you?
 
I tend to prefer city trips, and I love flying, airports are among my favorite places on earth. Traveling by train is also exciting though, I would like to take the Trans-Siberian train from Russia to China, through all the countries in between once.(Kaitlin here, this is my ultimate travel dream too!) I normally travel with my husband, or with my family. I have also traveled with my 2 best friends, during college. I don’t normally take group tours, I kind of hate being told what to do and given a limited schedule. I prefer discovering things by myself, and stumbling upon places by surprise, which is why we like to walk and walk and walk. Beach vacations and camping are also fun, but I think those are a lot more fun as children or if you are traveling with kids. These days, we kind of get bored if we are just laying in the sun not doing anything. For our honeymoon we combined 3 days of beach- chilling in the Mexican Pacific coast (which were more than enough) with a road trip that took us to other cities (Colima, Guadalajara, Tequila, Tlaquepaque, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Tenacatita).
 
Thanks so much Amanda, I had so much fun reading about your adventures. If you have any comments, leave them below. Nothing would make our day brighter! And, if you want to participate in the For Love of Travel Series, send me some love at gapeachabroad@gmail.com
 
Barcelona 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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