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Hopes, Dreams and Plans for 2015

Monday, December 8, 2014

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I know what you're thinking: Isn't it a couple of weeks too early to get started on New Year's posts? Well, maybe there's a blogging rule that states that I can only start talking about the New Year once Christmas is over, but I'm a bit too excited to get cracking with my resolutions to wait any longer. I always love to write down my goals and while they're usually along the same lines, I think it's important to remind myself of the things I really want to pursue every once in a while.

Looking back at the past year, I can honestly say that 2014 was a bit of a roller coaster. I started the year on a bit of low, quickly bounced back and had the best semester ever in Norway, tried my hand on longer-term travel in Asia and then became a serious (?) law student in Germany again. I didn't blog through all of this, but I sure tried my hardest and hopefully I will be able to do a slightly better job at this in 2015.

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And while 2014 definitely ranks as one of the best years of my life, there were also many moments when I just felt completely confused and kind of just wanted to stick my head into the sand for a while. I guess it's a twenty-something's prerogative (Am I a twenty-something already?) to feel slightly overwhelmed by all the apparent possibilities of life. The rational part of my mind knows that there isn't just one way for every person that leads to personal fulfillment, but the emotional side of my brain still has to play catch up.

My main goal each year is always to make it better than the last. I don't have a whole lot of firm plans for 2015 yet, but I'm sure it will teach me many lessons and bring about some great moments and opportunities. Not much is going to change - and that's probably exactly what I need.

Be more organized

This has got to be the most important goal for 2015. If I don't get organization down, I probably won't be able to achieve half of the things on this list and while I should probably take this as a sign that my list is a bit too ambitious, I'm just going to interpret is as encouragement to use the hours of the day a bit more efficiently. I'm not what you'd call a disorganized person and I have long ago discovered the beauty of writing To-Do-Lists, but at the moment my typical day isn't organized in the most productive manner and I usually don't find the time to do all the things I want to do in a day. Often because there's too much to do and sometimes because I just don't feel able to head to the Gym after a long day of studying, but I do want to find a way to make it more possible!

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Read more

I do read a lot, but most of it is academic and so hardly counts as pleasure. There are so many books I want to read, but when you've spent the better part of the day reading really complicated books,  
Netflix seems just a tiny bit more appealing in the evening than picking up yet another book. I want to put in more effort to not fall prey to the instant pleasures of our time and to spend at least a couple of minutes a day reading things that have a) nothing to do with law and b) are not on the internet. Any favorite reads of yours that you can recommend?

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Take better care of my mental and physical well-being

I promise I tried to come up with a less pompous title! But instead of just writing down "Go to the Gym more often" and "Eat healthier" - goals that are never really followed through anyway - I decided to go with a more abstract concept that actually stands a chance to go with my lifestyle. So while I do plan to establish a fitness routine that is a bit more regular - many of my long-term goals require me to have a better physical fitness, after all - I am not planning to loose a stone, hit up the Gym every single day and completely cut out carbs from my diet. My goal is simply to be more mindful of myself, both mentally and physically, because that's definitely something I struggle with when life gets stressful.

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Not going to lie… Diagon Alley may have been the best place I visited in 2014! 


Okay, so it's probably no surprise that I still want to travel to places in 2015! Since all my recent travel plans have been fairly spontaneous - life doesn't really allow me to plan properly in advance - I don't have any fixed plans yet. I'm planning to just go with whichever place looks nice and is easy/affordable to get to! S and me are itching to head back to Italy soon - there are so many places there I definitely want to visit! - and I'd also love to go to Ireland, but we'll see what the year has to offer. I would also love to go on an overseas trip again (overseas as in outside of Europe), but I have no idea when or where to or if at all. Where are you planning to head in 2015?

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Become a better writer & photographer

This is always one of my ongoing goals. I always want to get better at writing and photography! It's actually one of the main reasons that keeps me blogging. As far as writing is concerned I want to become better with words, better at expressing my thoughts and feelings about places and better at telling stories. I want my writing to be more interesting, less cliché and more real and ultimately to be more gripping. I'm not sure that's something anyone can really work towards, but I do know that I need to push myself to write things that I find challenging and that I know will require a lot of my time and energy more often.

I finally upgraded to a DSLR this year and while I've shot in manual for a couple of years now and continue to learn a lot about the technical side of photography, I haven't really found my own photography style yet. I don't really mean the type of pictures I take, but the way my pictures look - does that even make sense? While I do write almost every day (even if I don't publish on my blog for a bit), photography has a tendency to fall to the wayside when I'm not traveling, so I'd like to get in the Habit of regularly going on photo walks for no other reason than to improve my skills.

Drive again

Okay, so this is a bit of a random goal, but I need to get behind the wheel of a car again. It's been forever since I've last driven myself and that's because I really don't like driving. Unfortunately, this has lead to me feeling very intimidated by the very notion of driving myself which isn't such a huge deal living in Germany, but does limit my travel experience in some countries. Many countries and regions are best explored by car and I just want to feel more confident when it comes to renting cars in the future!

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Create more, consume less

I came across this statement on The Private Life of a Girl a couple of weeks ago and ever since then I've been trying to make it my mantra. I've got to be honest here: I've been feeling a little bit jaded when it comes to the blogosphere lately and this post makes me think that it's because I consume too much blogging content. I'm not a creative in the sense that what I do on a day-to-day basis is related to a creative industry - quite the opposite in fact - but my blog is my creative outlet, a hobby that I do for no other reason than fun. And it's no fun, if I get caught up in the comparison and numbers game.

I've diminished the number of blogs, Instagram and Twitter accounts I follow regularly and instead of mindlessly scrolling through the Explore section on Bloglovin that only ever features the same people anyway have opted to go read a book or clean or something. And it has definitely helped me feel more positive about the online world again! I plan to continue blogging in 2015 and to try to always make my content better and more interesting, but I don't want to lose sight of my overall goal: To have fun and to create meaningful relationships with my readers.

So there you have it: My goals for 2015! I may write a follow-up post on them every once in a while, but for now I'm just looking forward to the holidays and for the beginning of the new year. A New Year always feels like a new beginning and this time, I'm going to make sure that the years end and begin with a bang!

What are your goals and plans for 2015?

Happy Holidays! || Weekend Reading List #4

Saturday, December 6, 2014

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Happy weekend everybody! I was going to wish you a Merry St. Nicholaus Day, but the Internet told me that that's not a thing in most English-speaking countries which is a big shame if you ask me. On the  night before the 6th of December, children (and adults pretending to be children aka me) in Germany leave one of their boots outside the door to find it stuffed with chocolate, nuts, fruit and other goodies the next morning and - now I don't have to go buy chocolate for a little while! Let me know… is this just a German thing or do you have the same or another tradition for the 6th of December where you live?

It's been a while since my last Weekend Reading List, but in an effort to get back on track with blogging (I promise I'll be better about updating eventually!) I decided to share some of my latest favorite reads from the Internet again:

My dear blogging friend Sarah went to my favorite place on Earth, Cornwall, in September and her pictures and stories have taken me straight back! You can find my own posts on this beautiful region here.

The Private Life of a Girl is one of my new favorite blogs because it's just so delightfully real and honest. Sophie's post on blogging breaks resonated with me especially because I've been contemplating the future and nature of my blog a lot lately.

A hilarious list of places not to go to in 2015.

I just love all the posts The Londoner has been writing about Disneyland! I'd love to go there again myself!

I always get suck into Leave Your Daily Hell because Robert is just such a good writer, but this recent piece on Tanzania is truly one of the best written travel posts I have ever read on a blog!

Happy Holidays!

Introduction to Salzburg, Austria

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

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A couple of weeks ago, S and me were at the train station when we noticed a train to Zagreb on display. Croatia isn't exactly close to Germany, so travel-obsessed as I am, I looked up the connection at home and found what must be one of Central Europe's most interesting train links. Starting in Frankfurt, there's a daily Eurocity that goes all the way to Zagreb by way of such iconic places as Munich, Salzburg and Lake Bled in Slovenia and I have to admit that I am kind of sort of already scheming for ways to live my personal tiny version of Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar. How awesome would it be to hop on this train and just stop for a day at every station you find appealing?

Zagreb is a bit too far away from where I live to be convenient for a weekend getaway, but after weeks of non-stop studying, we were in need of a break and a change of scenery and so we spontaneously booked tickets to the charming city of Salzburg in Austria. From all the places I traveled to this year, Salzburg is one of those that surprised me the most. (In case you're curious, the other places are Hong Kong and Chiang Mai in Thailand.) I'd been once as a little girl, but barely remembered anything from that visit and with little time for planning, we arrived only expecting to have a couple of fun days, but not to discover one of the most beautiful places we had been to together.

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We arrived in the early afternoon and after dropping off our bags at our hotel, made our way towards the Old Town. We passed the beautiful Mirabell Palace and Gardens that were still in bloom even though it was November and I relished in finally having the opportunity to play with my camera again. As opposed to many other places in Europe, the church was in charge of both the clerical and secular rule in Salzburg and so the region was ruled by a Prince-Archbishop until the beginning of the 19th century. The Mirabell Palace was built by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau - who was responsible for the building of many of Salzburg's landmarks - for his mistress, but now houses the city administration.

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It was a grey and somber day, but thanks to the Christmas lights that were being drawn up all over the city, Salzburg still seemed cheerful. We set out to explore the many little alleys that make up Salzburg's Old Town and soon found ourselves in the Getreidegasse, one of the major shopping streets in the city. Lined with both Luxury and High Street brands as well as stores selling touristy kitsch or traditional crafts, there was a great variety to choose from, but I kept myself in check on the first day and we headed to Mozart's Birth House instead.

It's a great place to learn more about Salzburg's most famous resident, but to be one hundred percent honest, I think you only need to visit if you're particularly interested in Mozart's life. I don't think it's a must-do if you are short on time!

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When we left Mozart's Birth House again, it was already dark and the Christmas lights gave the city a festive glow. Wandering through a new city after sunset always feels particularly exciting, because everything retains a certain mystical charm! The shopping crowds of the day had started to disperse and so we had many of the squares and streets almost to ourselves, when we passed a Christmas Store that curiously only seemed to sell Easter decor:

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Since Salzburg's Old Town is pretty small and you'll inevitably will find yourself at a known place again, we ditched the maps and eventually stumbled over the Christmas Market that was set to start the next day. Framed by the high walls of the Salzburg Cathedral and the adjacent former residence of the Prince-Archbishop and still devoid of the masses that usually crowd a Christmas Market, it was a relaxing sight that almost made me feel like I was stumbling through a different time.

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We stumbled upon the most festively decorated archway I have ever seen - doesn't this look like the entrance to Winter Wonderland?

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Exhausted from our long train journey and all the walking, we stopped at My Indigo for a quick, affordable and delicious curry and then called it an early night in. After all, there was still so much to discover that we needed our energy for!

Have you been to Salzburg? How did you like it? 

One Week in… Iceland!

Monday, November 24, 2014

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Back in April, I spent an epic week traveling along the South Coast of Iceland with three awesome friends. Flights from Norway to Iceland were relatively inexpensive since Norwegian Air had just started operating a route from Bergen to Reykjavik (will I ever live in a place where 150 € roundtrips to Iceland exist again?) and before I knew it, we were on the ultimate Iceland trip - and yet, I've barely written about it on my blog so far. I'm finally starting to admit to myself that I may never write the beautifully eloquent posts on Iceland that I planned on writing ever since sitting in the back of our rental car and cruising down the country's renowned Rind Road.

How do you write about a place that looks positively otherworldly? How do you find the right words to describe what is like nothing else you have ever seen before? So far, I feel that my writing has always come our short of conveying the beauty and the sense of adventure of Iceland. Maybe I will find the right phrases one day, but until then I figured it may be helpful to some and hopefully interesting to others to learn just how you can do in Europe's most accessible remote place in just one week. Side note: A whole lot!

One week was too short to do the entire Ring Road justice and so we decided to concentrate our efforts on Iceland's South Coast. I definitely want to go back one day with more time (and a larger budget!) to travel to the North, but this one week was the perfect introduction to Iceland. A week is a great amount of time to check out many of the country's most famous sights and also visit some more unknown spots and having our own set of four wheels gave us some great flexibility. Can I go back already, please?

Day 1: The Blue Lagoon & Thingvellir National Park

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You can't visit Iceland and not go to the Blue Lagoon, am I right? It may as well be the Eiffel Tower of Iceland as far as iconic places are concerned and while it's the most expensive pool visit of my life to date, we couldn't pass this up. Covering our faces in mud, seeking shelter from the occasional hail storm (sitting in warm water while your head is attacked by tiny ice droplets has got to be one of the most surreal feeling ever!) and constantly excitedly exclaiming that we were really in Iceland, made our visit to the Blue Lagoon a very memorable one.

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Once we managed to pull ourselves away from the cozy waters of the Blue Lagoon, we drove to Thingvellir National Park. It was about an hour's drive away from the Blue Lagoon and from the moment the first mountains could be seen in the distance, I was convinced that I had entered a fantasy world from Middle Earth or Game of Thrones. Thingvellir is a stop on the Golden Circle, a tourist route that links three major sights near Reykjavik, and one of the most culturally relevant place in Iceland. It was super cold, but the views were great and we almost had the place to ourselves.

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Day 2: The Golden Circle & A Whole Bunch of Things on the South Coast

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We started our day by visiting the remaining two sights of the Golden Circle, Geysir and Gullfoss. Geysir is the Geyser (yes, the words confuse me, too) all other Geysers are named after and while it rarely erupts these days, its next-door neighbor Strokkur is one of the most active Geysers in the world.  We arrived early in the morning, before the tour buses from Reykjavik arrive, and the lack of people and the fog creeping over the hot pools gave the place a pretty eerie feeling. Gullfoss was a much brighter sight to take in, because the sun finally decided to make an appearance and with its ice-covered rocks it was a very magical place.

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Luckily for me, the closer we got to the coast the warmer it got and I was extremely relieved to realize that I hadn't packed too inappropriate after all. We stopped at the stunning Seljalandsfoss, which was one of my favorite places in Iceland and had the most amazing time marveling at nature. There are moments in life, when everything just comes together perfectly and you are left with the most ridiculous grin on your face and this was one of those moments.

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We were spending the night in Vik, but decided to give in to our adventurous side by heading to Seljavallalaug, an abandoned hot water swimming pool of the 1920s, before. I can't quite fathom why people would build a swimming pool right there in the middle of nowhere and the rundown building certainly does do its best to convey a post-apocalyptic feeling, but I can honestly say that I have never gone for a swim with such an impressive backdrop. Most unique location I have ever gone swimming at? Definitely!

Day 3: Black Beaches & Spooky Mountains

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If there was one reoccurring theme of our Iceland trip, it was that the places we visited just kept on getting more and more unique. Before Iceland, I had never been to a black beach before (not that that's saying much, I haven't been to the beach very often in my life) and they were incredibly beautiful, in a wild sort of way. Our first beach was in Vik, near the rock formation Reynisdrangar, and we had it to ourselves the entire time. We weren't as lucky with the next one, because the buses from Reykjavik had already arrived, but it was still one heck of a place.

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Since we had spent spend a lot of time just driving in the days before, we went for a little hike at Hjörleifshöfdi, a supposedly haunted mountain that we only knew about because I obsessively read Young Adventuress in the months before our trip. The wind was blowing like crazy (you don't know what windy means, if you've never been to Iceland!) and there were moments when I thought I might just go tumbling down the slopes, but the views were outstanding. The final stop of our day was at the canyon Fjadrargljufur (can anyone pronounce that?), which further convinced me that Iceland may actually be the portal to another dimension.
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Day 4: On the Ice

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We spent the better part of our fourth day in Iceland on or near the ice - after all, Iceland isn't called the Land of Ice and Fire for nothing! We went on a fun little glacier walk on the glacier that some of you may recognize as a filming location of Interstellar. I honestly can't remember which company we went with, but this first experience got me curious to go on some other glacier walks in the future again. Afterwards, we quickly hiked up to Svartifoss, which was yet another super unique waterfall. The waterfalls in Iceland are all so different from each other that it's hard to say which one was my favorite!

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And, of course, we couldn't go to Iceland and not see the Glacier Lagoon. We were lucky enough to visit on a warm and sunny day and seeing the icebergs floating on the water was nothing short of magical. We spent a lot of time there just taking photos and relaxing from our ambitious travel schedule and I absolutely understand why people drive all the way from Reykjavik just to visit this place.

Day 5: Getting Spontaneous

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Day 5 called an end to our so far super-organized trip. We had planned to take the ferry over to the Westman Islands, but when we arrived at the port, we found out that the ferry was cancelled because of bad weather conditions. I guess that's just one more reason why I need to go back one day! After consulting our Lonely Planet guide, we ended up driving around to a couple of other towns in the area, before finally settling on taking a bath at Reykjadalur. That stream in the picture above? It's actually super warm and we spent an embarrassingly large amount of time just sitting in the water. When in Iceland, right?

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Day 6: Horseback Riding & Reykjavik

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Icelandic Horses must be just as iconic for the country as the Blue Lagoon and since most of us were big horse lovers, we jumped at the chance to go on a short ride together. I was really, really into horseback-riding when I was younger, but it had been years since the last time I had sat on a horse. I'm glad to say that horseback-riding is a little bit like riding a bicycle - it's something you never unlearn. But I'm still wondering: Has being on horseback always been this uncomfortable? I could hardly walk for the rest of the day!

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We drove to Reykjavik afterwards and spent the afternoon soaking up the atmosphere of Iceland's capital. I don't think anyone comes to Iceland just to visit Reykjavik (the city is pretty cool, but pales in comparison with the South Coast), but there are a few interesting sights and quirky shops. I'd love to spend a little bit more time there on my next visit to explore more of the city's coffee and hipster culture!

Day 7: Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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I can't believe how much we drove on our last day in Iceland! We headed to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula for no other reason than that it looked like an interesting drive. We took a couple of stops here and there, but for the most part we just enjoyed the view of the mountains that we passed and reminisced about the good old times by listening to 90s pop music. Road trips certainly are the best!

Iceland is a country that I was dreaming of visiting for a very long time and I still find it hard to believe that I have actually been there now. I just hope I will visit this beautiful country again and again in the future.

What's the greatest location you ever went on a road trip on?

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