Getting into Guatemala was a walk in the park compared to getting out of Mexico (to be fair that would have been hard to beat). The landscape immediately blew us away and we (along with Robin and Nina and our new Mexican friend who sat in the front of the van and kept giving us tips on where to go in Guatemala) booked a tour to Tikal, the Mayan ruins surrounded by a jungle in northern Guatemala, for the next morning (way too early but we hate ourselves and wanted to avoid other tourists so here we are. We grabbed a delightful vegetarian dinner at Los Amigos, Nina and Robin’s very cool hostel, where if you’re traveling alone it is super worth a stay but mostly it just reminded me of how grateful I am to not have to constantly talk to new people when traveling bc I am old and cranky and don’t want any new friends who aren’t locals.
We met up at 4:15am to drive 1,5h through the rainforest to get to Tikal. We got our tickets at the gate and drove another 20 minutes (exactly 20 minutes as they clock your entry so that you don’t drive too fast and hit animals like the cute pizotes whose English name I do not know) to get to the ruins which are in many places overgrown by the jungle, which we found to be way cooler than Chichen Itza despite not being a world wonder (Chichen Itza is). Entry is also way cheaper, so basically as far as ruins go, Tikal wins in every capacity.
We booked a night bus (with our main man Hugo) for that same night and spent the rest of the day walking around Tikal, grocery shopping, sneaking in showers at Robin and Nina’s hostel, and having Dani use the hostel kitchen to cook us a lovely vegetarian dinner. Robin and Nina walked us to our shuttle and we headed to our bus for a very cold and unsatisfactory sleep. We arrived in Guatemala City at 7am and were picked up by a shuttle which took us directly to our place in Antigua. Btw, everyone in Guatemala has been absolutely delightful – every “Buenos dias” was met with a smile and an “hola” and many people with whom we interacted for longer periods of time thanked us for visiting.
We got to check into our hotel, Casa Capirucha, on arrival at 9:30, and went for breakfast at a place with fresh local coffee (I finally pooped so I am a BIG fan of this coffee) before heading home, watching hockey (Dani used the rainy periods to his advantage) and rolling back out for a walk through the huge market in Antigua. This was where we happened upon the Maya artists collective and thereby the world’s most beautiful painting done by a lovely man named Samuel who explained the culture behind his beautiful paintings, and we promised to come back the next day to buy at least one painting.
We didn’t lie, we came back, and we bought his biggest, most gorgeous painting as an early Christmas gift to ourselves (but first Dani made me negotiate in Spanish which meant him actually formulating the negotiation and me translating his offer which I hated with every fiber in my being because I freakin’ hate negotiating but I digress). We spent the afternoon hiking Pacaya Volcano, a live volcano upon which you can roast marshmallows in the hot pockets of air on its peak. Yes, my standards for roasting marshmallows have been irreparably elevated. Yes, it was awesome. And it was worth it for the 15 USD we paid per person including the marshmallows (do it through Selina Hostel in Antigua, much cheaper for equal quality). I say worth it, which is strong phrasing considering the incredibly steep hike at already high elevation was absolute trash, but Dani and I (along with another German who heard us talking and decided he would be our friend) stayed at the front of the pack. Germans are nothing if not motivated, let me tell you. It started pouring rain when we got close to the peak so we waited a bit in a small hut while trying not to freeze bc we were not properly clothed or aware of the cold that was awaiting us bc you can’t roast the marshmallows if it’s raining and as we know I am very food motivation and the only reason I was willing to get my sorry ass up to the top of this volcano was so that I could enjoy some damn marshmallows at the top. Our guide shouted out to god to stop the rain and bring the sun – the first half worked, though we never did see the sun. The steam coming out from the lava underneath our feet was wild and we enjoyed several marshmallows before it started raining so hard that everyone was soaked to the bone, lightning was striking uncomfortably close, and visibility was limited to put it delicately. The entire ride back to Antigua involved a lot of shivering, sticking my fingers in my armpits to warm them up, and realizing the rain jacket I thought I had brought along was, much to my chagrin, a windbreaker, and thereby incredibly inefficient at keeping the rain off my body. Yeah. Do with that what you will. Back at the hotel I hopped into the shower and turned the water on so hot it felt like I was sitting IN an active volcano rather than standing ON one in the rain and we ordered in bc we refused to ever move again.
As a fun tip for you adventure lovers out there: Acatenango Volcano + Fuego Peak should be an absolutely incredible experience if you have/rent the appropriate gear. We considered it but realized we didn’t have the right gear for an overnight hike (before learning we could rent the gear) but also a tent at the top of a volcano in that weather may have resulted in it being my last night on Earth anyway so perhaps it’s good we decided against it this time. Regardless, everyone else should do this. It’s an active volcano and you can literally watch it erupt (without endangering your life) at the top.
We spent the next morning on various very full (and I mean three people to a seat bc they are small humans) chicken buses (in Spanish: camionetas, not autobuses de pollo please or you will be judged so hard, but actually old US school buses which are used for local transport in Guatemala). We were making our way from Antigua to Lake Atitlan which would have cost 25 USD per person with a shuttle bus, and we decided we wanted the joy of the experience (and to save ourselves like 20 bucks each). Suffice it to say it was an adventure. We saw it all, from our driver almost crashing into another chicken bus as they laughed and competed for who could go faster (we did, but at what cost??), to getting charged extra (still only a few bucks total) for our transit bc we were clearly not from around here – which Dani and I agree is fair enough considering we are in the privileged position to be tourists in this country and we can afford a few extra bucks for our bus tickets.
Connections were easy to catch, and the “yeller” i.e., the man who stood at the front of the bus next to the driver and announced the stops and shouted to people on the street where this bus was going, made sure to let us know when it was time to hop off the bus where they knew the next bus would come for our end goal. We arrived in Panachel, the main port town on Lake Atitlan, and very reluctantly ran to the grocery store, knowing Pana was the only place with big stores where we could buy our own grocery food before taking a small public ferry (speed boat) to our small village of Santa Cruz where we had booked the world’s cutest AirBnB. We hiked up the very steep mini mountain to “Casa Panorama” with a full view of the lake including all three volcanoes bordering it. For future reference: do not walk up the hill. Take a tuktuk. It costs 10 quetzales per person, i.e., 1.50 USD per person. Worth it. The hill to get up to the town of Santa Cruz is no joke. Put away your pride and take out your wallet, people. We quickly settled in for the night with an entire season of Brooklynn 99 (our fav show which had a whole new season available in Guatemala) + pasta pomodoro (our go-to quick travel meal bc it is so simple and so delicious).
We had a slow morning and headed to San Juan, a gorgeous and colorful neighboring town on the lake, by boat. Our next stop was another lake town, San Pedro, where we were asked to pay twice the price for a two minute boat ride after the man literally had a conversation with his friend about how he would make us pay more bc we are tourists, despite knowing I speak Spanish bc I had literally just asked him for the price in Spanish, but alas. Like I said, we are happy to pay a little extra, but this guy definitely took issue with us in some way or another. We tried to shake off the bad mood that accompanied this experience and walked through San Pedro (a backpacker town, which if you ask us was not particularly life changing) and took a tuktuk (Dani’s first ever) back to the port so we could head back to Santa Cruz and took Dani’s second ever tuktuk up to town (with a quick stop in the middle of the road so the driver could refill on gas). Another solo traveler hopped onto the tuktuk with us and we were pretty sure we were too heavy to be carried up the steep hill, but the tuktuk powered through and we did not roll back down and die, despite my active imagination suggesting we might.
We enjoyed pepían (a traditional vegetarian soup from Guatemala and a Mayan meat-based soup whose name escapes me accompanied by some Guatemalan hot chocolate (AKA the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever experienced) before climbing further up the hill to the grocery store to get onions for dinner (Dani complained the whole time, I was much too out of breath to be complaining.
We headed back halfway down the mountain with a tuktuk (don’t judge it costs 3 USD total and it’s a beheamoth of a mountain) to our AirBnB and spent the night playing cards, watching Home Alone 2 (one of Dani’s favorites) and looking at videos on what to do in Kenya for my upcoming work trip (more on that later).
We woke up with the sun which would be more poetic if you didn’t know the totally not-charming way I wake up in the morning and meditated and breakfasted before taking the ferry back to Pana to hop onto the back of a pickup truck for a stop in Santa Caterina, a small (non-touristy) town on the lake. Eventually we made our way back to Pana with a stop at the huge market, where we bought the majority of our fresh food for the next few days. We took a moment to check our privilege when the lovely Mayan woman from whom we bought our veggies asked us where we were from and was fascinated by the fact that we arrived by plane in Guatemala. Dani and I also considered how even the jobs and branches in which we work and study – humanitarian aid and sports/health/coaching – are an incredible privilege, as we do not need to do more manual labor to survive.
We spent the next day hiking to a neighboring town, Jaibalito, and enjoying a relaxing day of hocky, naps, ice cream breaks, and calls with the family.
We spent our last morning on the lake SUPping (stand up paddleboarding) which started as a peaceful experience and ended with Dani repeatedly charging me on his board and me knocking him into the water. Very on brand for us, to be fair. We spent the afternoon in San Marcos, a very, very hippie (like crystals and healing hippie) town where my life choices (i.e., working for “the man” even in a nonprofit capacity) were judged by someone who classified his profession as that of a “professional hummer”. That was a new low for me, tbh. My pride damaged, we headed to Panachel to catch the first of two shuttles to get to Guatemala City for the night (don’t go there for fun, kids, it’s v dangerous and you should only go to your airport hotel and then to the airport). Our way was blocked by the entirety of a town close by dancing in the streets in celebration of the anniversary of the establishment of their town. We wanted to join in, but we had another connection to catch so we rerouted and (after a very necessary bathroom break for Dani) transitioned in Antigua into a small car with a super nice driver. We were almost to Guatemala City when we got rear ended (which resulted in some whiplash). The police came to handle the situation and upon their departure shared with me in no uncertain terms that we should get our asses and our bags back in the car bc it was not safe for us where we were (right outside Guatemala City) so obviously we listened to the very kind officers and got our asses back into the car until our replacement transfer arrived. Our replacement vehicle was there in less than half an hour to get us going further on our way. We ordered food to the hotel bc we knew going into town wasn’t an option and I watched Dani slowly lose his mind as the order kept getting delayed.
We slept for what felt like 5 minutes and were up early to walk to the airport (5 minutes from our hotel) and spend our last 400 quetzales on things like Guatemalan coffee and coffee cups and breakfast for us before boarding our flight to Cancun, where we spent our last night before heading home. Landing in Mexico immediately reminded us why we liked Guatemala more – we were bombarded by taxi drivers and restaurant employees who wanted our money but we made it to dinner at a place just outside Mercado 28 with fabulous tacos and margaritas run by a nice man named Eduardo who happens to also speak German (a rarity for anyone who isn’t German bc I can confirm it is a shit language to learn). Our desire for one more beach moment before we left was almost left unfulfilled as the beachy area of Cancun is taken up entirely by all-inclusive resorts and it’s almost impossible to enter the beach area itself unless (like us) you find a gate you can sneak through. We enjoyed a few moments of calm and listened to the beautiful sound that is waves hitting the ocean before making our way back to our super cute AirBnb which made us a delicious breakfast in the morning and allowed for a late check out before our flight – 10/10 would recommend. We stocked up on Ibuprofen and Paracetamol (bc they’re super cheap and super strong here, unlike in Germany) and made our way to the airport while I complained about how I didn’t want to go home (relatively unsurprising coming from me I guess).
All in all, it was a beautiful trip full of quality time with my very best friend and a whole bunch of beautiful people. Guatemala is vastly underrated, but I liked it that way bc that’s part of what made it so incredible.
But for now, I am sitting on a flight to Nairobi for my first ever big work trip and I couldn’t be more excited. So I guess I’ll get some actual work done instead of writing this for you people.
I will, however, leave you with some small notes which act as reminders for me and might illicit a chuckle or two from you:
Hello readers, it’s me, your favorite absent blogger. And this time I’m back with a big old trip. Dani and I spent the last three weeks in Mexico and Guatemala, but I’m going to divide that into one post for each country bc you and I both know how much I can talk. Or in this case, type.
We didn’t have a lot of Vorfreude (German word for excitement leading up to something) in the months and weeks leading up to our trip bc life was busy and Covid ruined our ability to get excited about any given trip due to its potential to be canceled. Our dear friend Anna is much too nice of a human and drove us to the airport at 3am (obviously I couldn’t sleep bc travel anxiety) and we set out on our way.
A three hour flight, an almost-missed connection bc the Lisbon airport people wouldn’t know what empathy was if it punched them in the face and wouldn’t let me get through faster despite the fact that our flight was LITERALLY LEAVING and my lack of EU citizenship was preventing me through going through the fastline, and one very long 9h flight later (including a lot of Dani getting pissed at the person in front of him for having the audacity to lean their chair back), we landed in Cancun.
Mind you, we do not care about Cancun. After making it through the initial round of very fast Spanish thrown our way by the immigration officer (which hit me like a freight train considering I haven’t been using my used-to-be-completely-fluent-Spanish much), we were hit with what felt like 20 people yelled at us to take their taxi service and luckily were able to walk past them (which took a lot of effort) and head to the bus station bc we are bus budget people.
Instead of Cancun, we headed to Playa del Carmen… also a mistake. Still very touristy. Don’t go there unless you use it as a port to Cozumel for amazing diving. Aaaanyway, Dani was exhausted and hungry (unsurprising) on arrival, so we made our way to our AirBnB (which was way farther than we initially thought bc nobody told us there were two bus stations in town and I initially mapped from the wrong one). Our tired brains thought it might be a good idea to pull out cash on our way at ATM’s that were not bank ATM’s (don’t do that - bank ATM’s are safer) and finally found our place by asking locals which way to go due to our lack of data. Mostly they laughed at us and told us we had a waaays to go. We did. But we found our place and settled in and looked for a place to eat a bit off the beaten path bc the town itself was v touristy. We ended up with cheap tacos and beers before heading home to sleep for 12h.
We woke up the next morning whenever the hell we felt like and went for a walk on the beach. We asked some locals to find out where the good stuff (i.e. food) could be found and were sent to Avenida 30 where there were street carts and people selling food out of bike coolers, which is exactly what we were looking for. As a fun fact, apparently empanadas (breakfast food, of course) aren't sold till around 10 bc breakfast starts late here, but we found a little family run shop called El Huerto with licuados (smoothies) and huevos moltuleños (egg-based dish), empanads and tostadas (my fav), and endeared ourselves to them by making fun of Dani’s inability to eat a tostada without getting sour cream all over his face.
We took a break back at our AirBnb to wait out the rain - we are traveling in the rainy season which mostly gets a bad rap bc all it means is you get a built in break for a few hours of the day while you wait for the rain to pass. This worked out for us bc we didn’t book anything in advance and we were able to use the rainy times to book our accomodation for the next few nights.
We snacked on 1$ tacos in the same street the mechanic recommended the same morning and then went home for a nap… which turned into a 12h sleep… and we woke up at 5am ready for the day.
Dani did some programming and I packed and got us ready for the day before we enjoyed a coffee and some meditation on the deck. We picked up some fruit at a small store where I was judged when I asked how to eat the guava we were buying, and then headed back to El Huerto for some breakfast tostadas and to grab our bus.
The next day we took a van to Tulum for 5USD/person and wandered through the very touristy (and to be honest less than impressive) town before stumbling upon Hidalki, which boasts some of the best barbacoa tacos and consume de carne ever (we were on a brief vegetarianism-hiatus during our trip bc we knew how much of a meat-based diet we would be confronted with on arrival).
We then made our way to the beach on the world’s most questionable rented bikes - I am already absolute trash at cycling as my shattered shoulder will attest to. But my kickstand kept falling down, much to Dani’s chagrin as he laughed at how super tense I get on bikes i.e. death traps. We drove to the beach which featured some ruins and way too much seaweed bc we are in the off season and no one is taking care of such things. Also, everyone yells at you to stop and let them sell you a tour and we were offered a discount bc i speak Spanish (which he told me to my face). We beached and Dani somehow got sunburned and then biked home and immeeeediately gave back our death traps thank goodness before heading out for dinner at tthe best ever taco place - Antojitos de Chiapaneca. We ate all the tacos and our whole meal including beers cost us 15 USD. But theeen we spent all our money on super expensive margaritas around the corner from our place bc it was the only place with a less party more chill vibe (we are old). This is where we learned that hibiscus margaritas are the shit but also not in our budget by any stretch of the imagination. We passed out by 9 and were up at 530 bc Dani clogged the toilet due to his new meaty diet.
Dani was cruisin’ for a bruisin’ so we woke up the next morning and headed to Crossfit Tulum (a much longer walk than anticipated) and while he worked up such a sweat he had to literally wring out his soaking weat shirt afterwards and barely made the walk back to the AirBnb, I had a coffee at the shop around the corner. I think it’s clear who made better life choices here.
We grabbed some delicious vegetarian tacos and tortas (same toppings but on a small bread roll i.e. more filling for Dani) and got ourselves some agua de sandia (watermelon flavored water) which changed my perspective on non-alcoholic beverages forever and made use of the sink placed in the middle of the restaurant bc the owners knew what kind of mess you would make eating their tacos. Then we made our way to what we thought would be the first of three cenotes but ended up being the only one for the day bc they were expensive as hell to get into and Dani (in stark contrast to myself) is not a water person so there was no reason to walk further outside of town (bc we were too cheap to get a taxi) so that he could not-swim somewhere else. Plus Cenote Calavera was cool enough that we didn’t need any more super cool open-cave experiences. We picked up some crema de coco on the way home which changed the beverage game all over again and discussed how not-beach-town-touristy-people we are bc we would much prefer to go somewhere with things to do rather than a beach to sit on (to each their own of course).
We grabbed a coffee and planned our lives a bit bc we decided to skip belize bc it was too expensive for no good reason (except diving) and we were worried we wouldn’t be able to grab a flight from Flores (northern Guatemala) to Guatemala City (which we could have, but the internet made us believe the airline was super unreliable – we should have just gone for it). We planned our upcoming nights in Valladolid and Merida before wrapping Dani’s laptop veeery inconspicuously in his rain jacket to carry it back home. We had a bit of a questionable food night for the first time since our arrival in that our dinner was not as delicious as most of our meals had been thus far – Dani got overpriced and questionably seasoned fish tacos and I got enchiladas and enfrijoladas with the world’s driest chicken, but at least we ate! And the watermelon water that accompanied our meal softened the blow.
We woke up at 5am again bc that’s what the cool kids do and went for a walk hoping for coffee, but Tulum wasn’t awake yet so we went home and got packed before grabbing the world’s quickest coffee which burned all the way down accompanied by the world’s most expensive croissant (cannot recommend to gtfo of the touristy areas when eating while traveling, we would never have stayed close to budget if we hadn’t consistently eaten where more of the locals eat).
We then made our way to Valladolid, grabbing tacos on the way bc I was getting hangry which is usually more Dani’s wheelhouse but that morning it was my turn. This was a biiig mistake. The tacos did not sit well. And then they gave us Motezuma’s Revenge. But more on that later.
A 1.5h bus got us to Valladolid and we dropped our bags at the AirBnb before sweating our way through the lovely town that is Valladolid, which I can oooonly recommend much more highly than Playa del Carmen and Tulum bc it is an actual town with actual culture and beauty instead of a town built on tourism. We walked around the market where Dani had his first experience seeing meat hanging around not being cooled with flies crawling all over it (which for the locals is fine, but for us was foreshadowing on what was to come and a great reminder of why we are vegetarians at home).
We stopped by Cenote Zaci (which was unfortunately closed for construction but still visible) in the middle of town and made the incredibly stupid decision to go to the grocery 1 mile outside of town in 95* heat just so we could make some veggie pasta so our bodies got a break from the meat. Not to be dramatic, but we basically almost gave our lives to make it happen, the heat stroke possibility was real. We grabbed ourselves some beer to enjoy when we got back and dove into the shower at our AirBnb, not leaving the house again till the next morning as we spent the evening calling our families to prove we were still alive and watching a movie before passing the heck out.
Dani made breakfast the next morning and I (ineffectively and very slowly bc mornings are not my game) packed our to-go bags for Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kal, both of which i couldn’t recommend more. Seriously, if you want to see cenotes, go to Valladolid. The cenotes are way more awesome and the world wonder that is Chichen Itza is close by (unless you want to dive in the cenotes in which case I guess go to Tulum but don’t say I didn’t warn you).
We took a colectivo (one of many vans that locals take to get anywhere in or outside of town with the concept being that the driver doesn’t leave till the van is mostly or very very full) to Chichen Itza. I helped translate for a couple from some somewhere whose accent I couldn’t place as they were upset that the saleswoman didn’t speak any English… as if that was something she, a local, needed to be capable of, in her native land where Spanish is the official language. We paid 100 pesos each round trip, meaning 5 bucks per person to get to Chichen Itza and then to Cenote Ik Kil and back, which was a pretty fab price. The driver catered to our foreignness and very randomly played music from the Grease soundtrack before we arrived and were whisked away by Raul, our guide, who was celebrating 40 years of doing these tours that day. He charged us each 100 pesos for the tour, again 5 bucks, again what a deal, and showed us the wonders of Chichen Itza. Friendly tip: get there as early as possible or else you’ll be stuck in line when you try to enter and you will never get a picture of the actual pyramid without way too many people standing in front of it. Also fun fact: there are people selling trinkets all around the grounds incl. a jaguar whistle which sounds absolutely terrifying the first time and incredibly annoying the 50th time you hear it. Dani and I did buy a beautifully carved magnet (we collect them from each country we go to together)… but not a jaguar whistle.
Another colectivo brought us to Cenote Ik Ka which blew our minds compared to the last one and allowed us to cool our incredibly stinky bodies. To top it all off, Dani didnt even have to swim bc they require the use of life vests, so he could actually just enjoy it while we held onto our GoPro for dear life bc we were dumb enough not to buy a flotation device to attach to it.
We waited awhile for a colectivo while I looked for somewhere to grab lunch (which was a total win and Dani loved his ceviche, go me) - might I also recommend a SIM card for such instances it makes a difference looking for food and making sure you’re headed in the right direction – in most countries you can buy one no problem out in town. In Mexico I recommend TelCel bc that’s what other people recommended to me it worked out fine so there you go.
Dani made veggie pasta for dinner again but we had a serious hankering for churros so we went on the hunt. The plan was to visit the churro cart 5 minutes away (according to maps) from our place, but it was fake news and Dani was very motivated so we walked another 20 minutes to the town square which was absolutely worth it bc we found fabulous and fresh churros and ate so many that we didn’t have space for dinner (Dani found space later though).
I woke up with a fever and body aches so none of the early morning plans like another cenote worked out so I spent the morning trying to survive while Dani did more of the packing and we headed out for our noon bus to Merida while I did my best not to literally throw up or pass out in the street. I slept the whole 4h drive into the beautiful city of Merida – best city in Mexico so far. We arrived at our AirBnb before it was ready so my sick self had to hang out with the host’s incredibly spoiled granddaughter who wanted to stick stickers all over Dani and I’s face and chat to me in Spanish (Dani was safe bc he doesn’t speak Spanish, jerk) and we spent the next several hours resting in the room bc I was struggling to exist. We got Dani a jalapeño tamale for like 1 USD and headed for some tacos before turning in for the night despite it being Mexican Independence Day and everyone else partying in the streets.
Woke up feeling slightly les dead and grabbed a churro bun thing (not a churro but like a churro’s cousin) for way too much money bc apparently bakeries are just expensive here bc of their rather uncommon nature in the area. We grabbed an “eh” breakfast before running into our new friend Antonio. He spoke to us as he heard us speaking German and was once in Germany and wanted to give us some travel tips. It was then that he shared we should hit up the Mayan market (we did, and we found out that Dani and I are compatible according to Mayan culture based on our birthdays so I guess the odds are in our favor), go to Palenque to cross the border into Guatemala (we did) and watch the traditional Mayan game of Pok Ta Pok in the city center later that night (we did, it was awesome). He then informed us (not knowing I was from the US) that Guatemalans aren’t big fans of US citizens bc we stole Guatemalan children in the 70’s so they could be adopted in the US which is both disgusting and unsurprising. And then when he heard my Spanish accent (which I had been trying vehemently and unsuccessfully to get rid of) he shared that Guatemalans (and many other Central Americans) have a general dislike for the Spanish bc, you know, colonization. So basically I was recommended just not to talk in Guatemala in any language other than German. FYI: I did discuss the US-friendliness topic with several locals in Guatemala who said of course people don’t forget it but in general there are no collective negative feelings towards US citizens.
Our lovely AirBnb host ordered me some pepto bismal as I was still suffering from the joy of Montezuma’s Revenge and Dani took a nap while Pilar shared with me that tourists often come to Mexico and think “wow, these people are so poor, how unfortunate” but that in reality, the people make what they have count and are not focused on material goods but rather family and friends and living in the moment, which is the right way to be if you ask me.
We took a night bus to Palenque which was not wildly uncomfortable and it was Dani’s first night bus so that was a fun little first for him (the ones in Southeast Asia are muuuuch nicer but also they don’t account for the height difference of many tourists any more than the buses in Central America do). Our arrival in Palenque marked a transition of pain from me to Dani as I started feeling better and Montezuma’s revenge basically punched him in the face.
We couldn’t check in so we grabbed some freaking fantastic pancakes with melted butter and some sort of very strange corn-based drink with which we were not particularly impressed. The next few days were spent with Dani in and out of consciousness as he googled the symptoms of malaria and I googled the closest hospital and the ladies who ran the BnB laughed at how much toilet paper he needed (poor Dani) and I basically spent the whole time picking us up some food and heading back to the hotel to feed my poor sick bucko. Unfortunately this meant that we didn’t get to see what we had hoped to see in Palenque but we can only recommend it as it’s a gorgeous area in the highlands with beautiful landscape surrounding it (including gorgeous waterfalls) and much less tourism.
Fun fact: you cannot travel the normal route between Palenque and San Cristobal as the area is run by gangs so you have to take a completely roundabout way (unless you want to take your chances with a colectivo, but the buses won’t take that route).
We extended our stay in Palenque one more night before heading to Flores, Guatemala so that Dani had more time to recover. We specifically avoided booking with a certain company which had poor reviews and spent 15USD more per person only to apparently have booked with the exact company we wanted to avoid and just paying extra for a middle man. It happens, but man did we feel dumb.
We hopped onto our van and met Robin and Nina, two Germans on sabbatical from teaching, and talked all the way to the border while we stressed about having to pay money to get across (which is what, according to the internet, is often the case). Turns out our worries were sorely misplaced as the border officers were delightful, but that didn’t make up for all the other issues we experienced trying to get into Guatemala the border… So as most of you know, I speak Spanish. Fluently, in fact, though to be fair it was a bit rusty leading up to our trip seeing as how I mostly only speak English and German on a day to day basis. But using it every day for the last 1,5 weeks had gotten me back to a very comfortable level, which worked out considering by the time we were allowed to officially enter Guatemala, the entirety of both the Mexican and Guatemalan immigration teams were on a first name basis with yours truly.
Essentially it went as follows: We arrived. They did not want our money. But they did want us to fill out a form... online. By scanning a QR code. But on the border of Guatemala, your Mexican data stops working. So you can't load things like QR codes. And the lovely Mexican immigration officers couldn't help us because their power was out. So as team translator, I was brought (along with my team of German ducklings) across the border to ask if they had wifi so we could load the form and get across the border. They did not, because their power was out too. So we walked a few minutes up the road to the "library" which was in no way, shape or form an actual library where SIM cards were sold and they were kind enough to accept our Mexican pesos rather than Guatemalan quetzales bc seeing as how we hadn't even officially crossed the border yet, we didn't have any quetzales. They loaded in mine and Robin's new SIM cards and we fought long and hard with the website to get our data entered. This took a lot longer than it should have because the website kept telling us our data was invalid. Delightful. We finally got the information into the system, but then the form wouldn't be downloaded for printing, so it took us another battle to make that happen. We then headed back across the border (this happened several times that day) to show them we were done, but they needed us to print the form (despite the point of the online form being the goal of going paperless... but I digress. But they had no printer. So we went to a neighboring office and asked him very nicely to print our documents while we got stamps in our passports and picked up our things and made ourselves on our way. Like I said, by then everybody knew my name and wished me a wonderful trip as I thanked them profusely for their patience. To be completely honest, I don't know how that whole situation would work if there were no one in our group who spoke Spanish. I am fairly certain we would still be there, trying to download that damn form.
Regardless, we are super grateful to our awesome driver Hugo for not leaving us at the border despite the aggressive British family who was supposed to ride with us to the next stop telling them they should. And if you literally ever go to Guatemala and need transport PLEASE hit me up I will give you the number for the transit company he and his friend Eder run together bc trust me it is worth it.
So all in all, Mexico was quite a trip. But stay tuned, bc Guatemala was even better.
If you’re reading this to hear all about our super relaxed road trip through France, Switzerland and Germany… you’ve come to the wrong place. Light and breezy it was not. Beautiful? Yes. Expensive? Sure. Like one big game of Whackamole? Definitely. Stress-free.. Hard no.
Long story short and without giving away too many personal details bc I don’t know you like that, Dani, my sister Jesse and I were headed on a trip to France - to the world’s most incredible uncle/godfather’s house in Bordeaux - by plane with plans to return by (electric) car. This was following two weeks spent with Jess involving hikes, doener throwing, beer drinking, vespa driving, new city visiting, German-go-fish playing delight.
Our trip to Bordeaux was a long one, which is ironic considering a direct flight would only take us a few hours and as there are none which cost less than our monthly rent, we were underway for the better part of 12 hours. We arrived late and enjoyed the world’s largest most gouda-covered pizzas on the planet, which effectively hecked up our stomachs for the next week.
Our time in Bordeaux was a bit of a blur but essentially if something could go wrong, it did. No WiFi, the hotspot we bought also said no, the power went out like it was its job and we learned we couldn’t charge the aforementioned electric car while using the stove bc of course we couldn’t, the pool was more of a lawn ornament as we couldn’t get the cover off (first world problems, yes).
Working remotely was made difficult due to the lack of WiFi which worked out as we ended up in an internet cafe in Bordeaux and Dani and Jess got to explore the city while I finally got some work done, and we made the best of our days off by taking a trip to Lacanau-Ocean, walking through the vineyards near the house, and taking evening trips to neighboring towns like Saint Emilion (Dani and Jess went while I worked and loved it so much they took me back with them). On our last night there we got the cover off the pool, which resulted in a lot of jumping and dancing around before making ourselves some margaritas and jumping in, which made for a pretty incredible last night in town.
Thursday morning began what will hopefully be our first and last road trip in an electric vehicle. We planned the route about 17 different ways bc we were terrified of running out of battery somewhere and the range on the Zoe is a bit limited. Our first stop was the beautiful town of Perigeaux where we picked up some quiches and baguettes to feed the hangry humans that are Dani and Jess before driving another hour or so for a stop in a tiny cow-filled town called St. Germain where we went for a walk in the woods and picked some wildflowers bc it was as picturesque as it sounds. Our third stop was slightly less romantic as we were worried about running out of battery before making it to our next planned stop which meant we spent 30 minutes playing tag in a parking lot outside Riom. I say outside instead of outside Clermont-Ferrand (which is where we were supposed to go) bc I, the navigator (bc I don’t yet have a license in Europe so it was all I had to offer) was not and have never been particularly good at navigating. Clermont-Fernand sounds pretty.. Can’t personally recommend it seeing as how we never made it there. Riom was pretty… Pretty dead. It was the kind of town which closes between 2 and 5 PM which was exactly when we were there which was less than ideal considering the two hungry, hungry humans I had with me, but we finally found a tiny shop selling croque monsieur which saved us and allowed us to continue on to Lyon. Lyon, for anyone wondering, is absolutely 10/10 worth a visit. Absolutely gorgeous. Top 10 on my list for sure. Maybe I should make a list? Bc I don’t have one. But if I did, Lyon would be on it. We spent the evening in Lyon charging the car in town while enjoying the absolute vibe that is Lyon and had some napoletana pizza and craft beer and tiramisu… in France, the place famous for such foods. Leave us alone, it was delicious.
We woke up the next morning too late for Dani’s taste (he is a morning person, unlike Jess and I) and he made us breakfast before we made our way to the next stop: Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva itself was a lovely town (very bougie for our taste but I digress) and Dani and Jess got to add a new country to their lists. We headed to Bern, where we were wildly unsuccessful in our efforts to charge the car including a misadventure getting lost in a parking garage for an embarrassing amount of time and charging the car in someone’s personal rental spot which stressed out the German in Dani. Since we had enough battery to make it to Interlaken, we went for it.
Our next stop would have been Interlaken, but Jess had made a very special request that we freeze our asses of in a Swiss glacial lake on the side of the road… so of course, we had to do it. We stopped in the town of Spiez and wandered down the very large hill towards the water (while getting a magical free car charge bc the machine was glitching) only to realize on our arrival at the bottom that this was more of a harbor-area than a get in the water area, so we hiked all the way back up and made our way to Därligen, a tiny village right on the very, very cold water. It was an absolutely incredible moment. Well for Jess and I it was a longer moment than for Dani, who for his part is not the world’s biggest fan of swimming in general, let alone in freezing waters… who knew.
We made the world’s fastest stop in Lauterbrunnen which ended up being more of a drive through as we could only find paid parking for which we had no Swiss Franks with which to pay and there were already people giving out parking tickets so we hopped out for a look at the waterfalls and drove on. We slept outside of Lucerne in a tiny guest house cabin in the middle of nowhere built in 1615 in the middle of nowhere (which was super fun to get to in the middle of the night - shout out to Jess for not letting us die on the v precarious windy lake roads) and woke up to the world’s cutest doggo and an amazing view to greet us. Dani made breakfast and I made coffee and jess spent most of her morning banging her head into the too-short door frames which was painful if not remotely entertaining.
We headed out and drove through one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen - Lucerne - and made our way to Basel to charge the car and grab some coffee and snacks for Jess and Dani who were getting hangry. After a walk through the very expensive town, we drove up to Freiburg where for some reason the car refused to charge and met up with friends who live in the area after enjoying some Flammkuchen (literally translates to flame cake - it’s like pizza’s flatbread cousin, that’s all I can tell you.
We then drove to Strasbourg, where the real trouble began. Funnily enough I’ve wanted to go there since forever and still have somehow managed not to see it bc once we arrived, we couldn’t get the car to charge. We tried 7 different charges and took turns having mental breakdowns while Jess tried to keep it together for all of us (a difficult job). Nothing worked and we had the distinct impression that we were in trouble, so we drove back across the border to Kehl to try stations there, knowing that if we needed to get a tow then this would be easier if we could deal with people in German than in French.
So we called the Renault (French car-manufacturer) people and were informed that we would have to talk to the French Renault people anyway bc the car was registered in France. Fab. So they gave us osme numbers to call. We conversed in broken English and French and the occasional Spanish and were told they would send someone out to us. One hour later, we had heard nothing, so we grabbed a snack at the only place in the area (good old fashioned Lidl) and called again, which is when they informed us they would be sending a tow truck but couldn’t tell us how exactly WE would be getting anywhere i.e. public transport or a rental car or a hotel or or or, and they had absolutely no answer for us which was super neat. Approximately 7.000 hours later - mind you this whole time they couldn’t reach me bc in my stress gave them the wrong damn phone number - a tow truck came for the car and we were informed we would get a rental (but the tow truck came first so we unloaded the car and sat like crazy people with all our belongings in the street). When we finally got the taxi to take us to the rental car place (at around midnight, i.e. 7h after the initial call) drove us 1h SOUTH as in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF WHERE WE WERE HEADED to get the car and then drive 2,5h in the middle of the night to Heidelberg, where we had already booked a place to stay. We spent the car ride trying to keep each other awake so that we didn’t crash and die and passed out like it was our job in the hotel from the hours of 3 to 11am. We spent the morning enjoying golden milk and Matcha in Heidelberg (thanks to a recommendation from Amira) and wandered around town for what felt like a million years looking for a place to get Jesse some yummy kaesespaetzle and knoedel which she learned to love when Saskia made them for us literally a decade ago (she has an incredible memory) which was made more difficult what with Dani being from the region for which those dishes are known and also generally very aware of what he likes when it comes to food. We finally found an average place and I made sure my buckos and beans were well-fed before we finally made our way home.
As for the title: Dani and I call each other buckos (long story), Jess and her partner call each other beans, and my family call each other bears, so somehow at some point we became the buckos, beans and bears.
As for our trip: it was one of those “wow are we blessed to be doing this but wow was a road trip with an electric car whose gauge for how far it can actually go a bad idea” but it truly was a wonderful trip. From confusigating Dani and Jess on the road (Dani says I don’t navigate, I confusigate, bc I’m so bad at it), to Dani AND Jesse’s farts filling up our tiny car like something died inside them, to the core memories we attained swimming in a glacial lake on the side of a Swiss highway, it was one hell of a week. And I am incredibly lucky to have had it, for all of its ups and downs, with two of my favorite humans.
And now there are only 48h between me and my mama visiting Germany for the first time ever! Life is good, people.
I'm not sure how it's possible that my last post was in October seeing as how it's already basically May, but time flies when you're having fun and all that.
As for me, life is honestly pretty damn good. I started a new job in February as the Media and Public Affairs Officer for the International Rescue Committee (a humanitarian aid organization for which I have wanted to work essentially since the dawn of time) and wake up every day excited to go to work (I use the word go loosely seeing as how I work from home most of the time but that's okay with me because it means I never have to put on real pants). Ive spent three months at IRC and am pretty deep in the honeymoon phase - I get to write about things I care about and work with the world's best boss and a bunch of people who give a shit about the same things I give a shit about and it is pretty neat, let me tell you.
Dani - unsurprisingly - continues to show me every single day what it means to have a partner who brings you unadulterated joy and makes you want to be a better person just by being who they are (I am aware this is cheesy but this is what he has done to me - I used to be a robot, remember?)
January was spent finishing off our holidays in California and Texas with my family along with a quick visit to Spain to meet up with my best friend Becka who I hadn't seen in two whole years. She lives in northern England so we figured Alicante, Spain was a fitting weekend getaway - yes I hear the bougieness in that statement. We took a trip to Palermo, Sicily (Italy) in March with Dani's parents bc that's what adulty people do, they take trips with their in-laws. And this month saw us taking long weekend trips in Sweden and Bosnia. Why? Well, we planned Bosnia a few months ago as a late anniversary gift to each other. And Sweden, well… Dani found RyanAir tickets for 20 euros round trip so like, legally we had to go. Yeah… our bank accounts are hurting. But damn, what a year it's been.
Stockholm was a pretty delightful and spontaneous surprise considering we booked the tickets like 10 days in advance. Of course, despite our late evening flight, neither Dani nor I managed to pack in advance and instead ended up throwing the same stuff we always wear into a backpack and running out the door. Dani spent most of the plane ride trying to kill our fellow passengers with his unbelievably toxic farts and before we knew it our bougie weekend-travel asses were in Stockholm, a city easy on the eyes and hard on the wallet.
We got our TWENTY EURO ONE WAY TRAIN TICKETS (i.e. the cost of our literal roundtrip ticket to get there) to head into town on the classiest airport train in the game ready to spend the weekend confirming our theory that everything in Scandinavia is simply better than everywhere else. After a quick stop for vegetarian Burger King burgers (nothing else was open leave us alone) we headed to our windowless basement AirBnb (windows are an expensive luxury apparently) and literally could not get into the apartment bc the key box was broken and it took about an hour to get a hold of the owner bc he did not give one hoot about us or our problems before finally getting into our cave of a room to unpack and pass the hell out.
So, my fellow travelers, I would 10-10 recommend a visit to any and all Scandinavian countries. With your parents. Bc coming here and paying for yourself is trash. We woke up at 9am in our windowless cave (had to set alarms or else we could have slept for days in that basement) and got ready much too slow for Danis taste bc - what a surprise - he was a very hungry man. So we headed out into town - our AirBnb was about a 30 minute walk outside the city center which allowed us to get a place with a kitchen so we could save money and cook for ourselves without fully breaking the bank - around the same time a light dusting of snow began to come down. This did not stay light and romantic. About five minutes into our walk, the snow was coming down so hard it was impossible to see and it was all you could do to hope you weren't about to walk off one of Stockholms many bridges and into the icy water. We did not, but it was a close call. And we were soooo not dressed appropriately. We ran (I mostly slipped) into a super cute cafe which Dani had found before we arrived in Stockholm bc he is adorable and looked up a whole bunch of decently priced places we could eat and snack. There we spent about 20 euros on a damn quiche and the best homemade berry pie thing ever made by the saleswoman herself (so naturally we got another piece).
We spent the day wandering the old town and the new town and the other parts of town, stopping into stores for warmth and book stores for souvenirs bc we continue to aggressively grow our book collection. We then enjoyed what is without question the best mexican food joint in Europe whose owners and employees are all from Mexico so we employed our flexitarianism (we eat almost no meat, except for special occasions like freaking al pastor street tacos ugh so good). The afternoon had us in Skansen, a neighboring island, until it started getting cold and windy and late and we took the long and winding road home with stops for cinnamon rolls and cute doggos. We grabbed groceries at Lidl bc Lidl is everywhere and headed home to cook our signature travel meal, pasta pomodoro, and play some cards.
I woke up thirsty the next morning and took a sip of what I thought would be water on my nightstand. It was not. It was beer. What are we, 19? Dani got a good kick out of my suffering and I went to find myself some coffee. We spent our Saturday consuming copious amounts of coffee (which we couldn't tell whether it was free refills or not as the coffee pots sit in the cafe area freely but were also terrified to steal Swedish coffee by accident bc we are wusses). We wandered through all the parts of Stockholm we thought we might have missed and ate our fill of cinnamon rolls and funny looking swedish desserts before heading back to our new favorite Mexican food joint bc it was just that good (and well priced might I add - if youre ever in Stockholm I cannot recommend La Neta enough). We grabbed another piece of delicious homemade berry pie on the way back and got laughed out of a few establishments for wearing masks (they are too cool for that in Sweden) before making our way back to real life for our evening flight.
PS: Dani likes to write down all our ideas for what to do on a piece of paper, which is potentially the cutest thing ever and does well to remind me of my grandpa’s love of 3x5 index cards when planning a family trip.
“You have soft hands and youre very pretty but that’s enough.” These were the words Dani sent my way once he’d had enough of me poking and tickling him on the ferry ride from one town to another. Potentially the best way I have ever and will ever be told to “cut it out”.
As far as life partners/best friends/travel buddies go, it doesn’t get better than Daniel Pfeilschifter. Not for you, bc dibs, but still - 10/10 would recommend you find your own. After a very long year sprinkled with quick weekend getaways (which were as exhausting as they were fun but obviously I am not complaining) to places like Italy and Belgium and D.C. (for Chrissy’s beautiful wedding), we finally had the chance to take a whole week off from work (and school - for Dani not me bc I have schooled enough for the time being). We re-booked tickets to Riga, Latvia - we’d hoped to go in June before my sister Sam came out for a visit but Corona said no - and threw Estonia and Finland into the mix.
Naturally our vacation began with us packing at the absolute last minute which was both unsurprising and unhelpful and resulted in both of us just packing a bunch of black shit bc black matches everything and that’s as extensive as our fashion capabilities get. I was relatively anxious getting to the airport on time (as apparently has become the usual for me despite my long-standing laissez-faire approach to travel which may or may not have resulted in several missed buses and trains and planes over the years but I digress) which may have to do with all the difficulties Corona has brought with it within the realm of travel, but we made it to our local airport with no hiccups and before we knew it we were airborne, with Dani’s farts quickly eliminating our only seatmate and allowing us an entire row of seats to ourselves. We arrived in Riga late enough that our only option was falafel kebabs (not an issue bc we love them) and were laughed at by the store owners when we said yes to spicy (they didn’t think we could handle it but despite Dani’s German roots he handles spicy foods better than most of the country’s population - thank goodness or he’d never survive all the Mexican food I plan throwing his way when we go to California for Christmas).
We woke up the next morning relaxed and ready to start the day in Dani’s 21st and my 32nd country respectively: Latvia. We wandered around town with Dani refusing every coffee shop that we came across bc apparently nothing was adequate and ended up walking in circles all over town (mostly bc it was really strangely laid out and we lost all sense of distance and direction) before stumbling into a small cafe which served the best apple strudel in town, followed by a stop at Big Bad Bagels (Dani’s love for bagels runs deep and international) and enjoying fresh peppermint tea in the crisp (cold af) weather with nowhere to be and all the time in the world to get there. We spent the next day on the beaches of Riga and on a long walk to the “lightning house” (i.e., light house a la Dani) outside of town. I never thought I’d be able to justify anything other than being barefoot on the beach, but I was also never on a Latvian beach in October, so exceptions were made and the sneakers stayed on. We spent the evening in a craft beer joint called Two More Beers where the very naïve bartender recommended I take a weaker beer and Dani a stronger one, not knowing I can drink beer like it’s my job and Dani’s beer drinking skills are nothing to write home about.
We woke up the next morning just in time for Dani to make breakfast, pack, clean the kitchen, and get ready, while I literally just did my best to manage to make us some sandwiches in the meantime bc I am a garbage person and mornings are no more my thing than they were for the last 25 years of my life - and I didn’t even make all the sandwiches. He had to make his own. I know. Fight me. We then made the trek to the bus station (while I stressed we were at the wrong place, which according to Dani is “what I do” but whatever) and caught a 4,5h bus to Tallinn, Estonia. And on this bus to Estonia, we ran into some issues, the most prominent of which having to do with our (apparent) inability to package food in a way that doesn’t allow it to spill all over our bags. The problem is threefold: I am my mother’s daughter, Dani is in constant need of snacks, and we are poor. As such, we aaaaalways have snacks with us and try to cook most of our meals at “home” wherever home happens to be. So first it was the banana. We packed it wrong (not that there is a right way to pack a banana bc they are shit for traveling bc they bruise in literal seconds) and it got squished in the bag which meant everything in the bag had to be emptied so it could dry out and be used again (the bag, not the banana). Then the soy sauce (told you, we have aaaall the snacks - we had made stir fry the night before and planned to use the soy sauce again in Estonia) spilled aaaaall over our other bag, meaning that bag had to get thrown out and everything had to get thrown into one, not soy saucy or banana-y bag. Thriving, as usual.
So we made our way into Estonia, soy sauce-smelling bus and all. Driving a bus into a new country is a whole other game. Much less exciting, no fanfare, just some guy peeing in a corner and some old lady pulling her grocery cart across the road at a slug-like pace when you arrive at the bus station. But driving into country number 32 with Dani’s head in my lap, I didn’t feel the need for fanfare. We arrived in town around 6pm and decided to go on a walk and grab dinner despite the fact that it was way too freaking cold to be going outside, but alas. The self-hatred abounds. Tallinn itself is a beautiful city but we couldn’t find a damn thing we wanted to eat so we ran to the grocery store and bought everything we needed for pasta pomodoro a la Dani and I chopped and cleaned while he did all the cooking.
We woke up way too early the next morning to pick up a rental car to head outside of town to freeze our asses off in a whole new place as Dani sang along to my playlists while translating half of every song into German as he sang (this is a regular occurrence). It wasn’t long before we were chasing waterfalls (Dani’s first ever), getting lost in a bog (which we had to look up in English and in German bc neither of us were sure of the definition of a bog), climbing on shipwrecks on the beach, and trying (and failing) to pronounce the names on the Estonian road signs with more vowels than literally any words should ever have. We enjoyed a slow night in after our long day of adventures in preparation for a much too early ferry trip to Helsinki the next morning - no, I do not know why we keep booking things for early in the morning and yes, I obviously hate myself.
So anyway, we were awake and it was still dark out, which is obnoxious in and of itself, but whatever. We’d intended to leave even later than we did but online check in didn’t work so at Dani’s behest we left a bit earlier (and I forewent breakfast bc who can eat at that hour anyway - except Dani) and it’s good that we did bc we were the last people on the damn cruise ship lookin’ ferry and barely made it on board before the behemoth started moving.
So to preface Finland, let me just say that most people like to head up north (to things like reindeer and the northern lights, etc.) but we didn’t have that kind of time. So, if you’re staying in Helsinki, the thing to do is go to a Finnish sauna and then hop into the freezing Baltic Sea. Not only did Dani and I forget to make reservations at a sauna so we couldn’t get in, we didn’t even bring our damn bathing suits. Yeah. I know. So we spent a whole day in Helsinki doing… pretty much everything else. Mostly eating, tbh. We started off at a local cafe where Dani judged their cinnamon roll quality exasperatedly declaring that “the work of a critic isn’t easy” but that the high quality coffee compensated for the low quality cinnamon roll. We followed up the coffee and rolls with a visit to the central market for some Vietnamese deliciousness (very spicy pho) and headed out to Suomenlinna island, a quick ferry trip from the Helsinki coast with a big military presence, hence all the signs saying “do not enter” which I continuously missed, without fail, so thx Dani for being able to read. Like, damn, Estonian army. Build a fence or something. We started the day the way we ended it: with more cinnamon rolls (of a higher quality) and a walk back to the harbor to make our way home. Dani’s sun deck obsession (newfound as this was his first ever ride on a big ship) had us out on the deck at 10pm (in the middle of the dark windy wintry Finnish sea) while he jumped up and down with excitement like the world’s most adorable grown man and we played a round of tag (I lost, as usual).
We finished off our day with an exciting development: we finally found the Glögi (mulled wine) we’d been searching for since we arrived in the Baltics. We brought it home to enjoy alongside some competitive rounds of GoFish paired with some wrestling matches when I lost 5x in a row (I’m what they call a sore loser). At some point we got started talking about next year’s big vacation (the plan is 3 weeks in Central America) before bed which meant that I woke up to Dani knee-deep in travel research bc he’s the only person I know (other than myself) psyched to plan a vacation while actively on another vacation. We enjoyed breakfast over a documentary on Guatemala (one of our future travel goals) and headed to a coffee shop/bookstore to spend our afternoon reading (and comparing and discussing and buying) as many books as we could find (which was suuuuper smart considering we flew here with limited baggage) before heading home to enjoy said books with more Gögli and aggressive rounds of GoFish.
We woke up our last morning distinctly less than excited about the idea of getting back to real life. We did some meditating (I know, who am I??) and some reading before packing the snack bag like seasoned soy sauce-spilling veterans and heading to the Tallinn Bussijamm (that’s the word for bus station, what is this language). Unfortunately, we did not pack enough snacks to feed the Daniel for the 5h bus and subsequent ride to the airport and actual flight, so we’re running on 3€ airport fries and dreams of falafel döner when we get home (and, like, sheer force of will). But for now, I have a sleeping Dani in my lap (again) and I fully intend to enjoy these last moments of vacation before they slip away and real life hits me in the face (work is busy and I am tired). So until next time, folx!
PS. For those of you who don’t know him: Dani (Daniel) is my partner, my roommate, my best friend, my travel buddy, and everything in between. Our travels are essentially just us being really weird in public places outside of our own town (Bonn, Germany). It’s pretty freakin’ neat.
This year, May 1st fell on a Saturday. Why should I care, you might ask? Well, you shouldn't, unless you live in Germany. Because if you didn't realize that the upcoming Saturday was May 1st and you lived in Germany, you would have ended up like me (and Dani) who didn't realize until we were standing in front of the closed doors of our local grocery store that the reason the doors weren't opening (despite the horrific dance moves we were performing to try to get the motion sensors to recognize our presence) was because the whole city was closed… because May 1st is a public holiday. And when I say public holiday, I mean everything, except the occasional falafel cart and pizza joint is fully closed. Want an apple? A fresh salad? Too bad. You can have takeout food and overpriced alcohol from a kiosk. The worst thing about this though was not that Saturday was a public holiday we forgot about. No, no. The worst part is the fact that for those of you who know how the days of the week work, Sunday comes after Saturday. You know what day of the week all German things except takeout joints and kiosks are inherently closed? You guessed it. Sunday. So, we spent the weekend spending way too much money on takeout we didn't want, and I can't even handle the thought of another falafel döner or slice of ricotta pizza.
In this, and in all things, I am a work in progress.
Three months ago, I started a job as a PR Manager at a German university. I have no formal PR training or education, and I’m working and writing in a foreign language most of the time. As a natural-born academic, being an “adult” and “contributing to society” is still pretty daunting, but I can feel myself growing more confident in my work and more aware of what I still need to learn. I'm still blown away that I've been given the title of "Manager" as if I come across as someone who can "manage" to do anything other than convert oxygen into CO2 and it won’t be my forever job, but it really is the perfect stop between academics and the kind of work I really want to be doing. In my professional life, I am a work in progress.
What feels like a million years ago (but is really only like 9), I started learning German. Before that, Spanish. Now? Working (slowly) on my French. My German is fluent, but I still learn something new every day, bc this language is ridiculous and I am a sadist for making the conscious choice to learn it. My Spanish is rusty from lack of use, but I watch my Spanish shows and listen to Spanish music and eat loooots of Spanish tortilla to keep the muscle moving when I can. French is a slow process, but Dani is a patient teacher and I’m really hoping to be able to hold an actual conversation in French sometime sooner rather than later – not about anything important, maybe just about the weather, but still. In languages, I am a work in progress.
I am in the happiest, most wonderful relationship I have ever been in. I am loved, supported, challenged to be a better person, and constantly surprised that this kind of love is real. I am learning the importance of balancing your needs with those of your partner, setting healthy boundaries, and recognizing the fact that I deserve to be happy, and to be so much of the reason someone I love is happy. I am learning how much someones' happiness can bring you joy by proxy, and how it is so much more fun to give than to receive. In relationships, I am a work in progress.
When it comes to family, I like to think I have (some) things pretty well figured out. Not everything, bc that would be a laughable thought bc families are complicated as all hell, but a lot of things. I have a family which, while fully insane and delightfully dysfunctional at times, is made up of people who love me deeply. Dad is far away but never fails to remind me how proud he is of me. I see pieces of me mirrored in the incredible womxn that are my mom and grandma, and I see my sisters growing into the world’s most amazing womxn. My mom is constantly ready to learn and grow and find new ways to show us that she loves us, and the girls are very my best friends. My grandma knows more about my life than any grandma should probably know about her granddaughter, and I’m okay with that. But there is always something I could do better. Something I could do more of, or perhaps less. Something I should try to understand better before speaking out about it or developing an opinion on it. In family matters, I am a work in progress.
As a friend, I am ridiculously lucky. I have the most incredible people in my life who have helped me become the person I am and have loved me through it all. I have been able to surround myself (mostly metaphorically or figuratively or whatever bc my people are all over the damn world) with the most incredible humans who actively make me a better person. I can only hope to bring as much joy to their lives as they do to mine. As a friend, I am a work in progress.
As a feminist, I am becoming more comfortable expressing my beliefs and more knowledgeable about the reasons behind them. I am constantly starting dialogues with people who share my perspectives, and people who don’t. I am reading books, asking questions, having new realizations, and building new thought processes on a daily basis. I recognize the importance of intersectionality in feminism and realize that we cannot allow sexism to be a taboo topic, or else it will never be forced to change. I am growing more comfortable speaking out in situations where I recognize something has been said that undermines womxn in society. I talk to the people I love about this incredibly important topic, and their open-mindedness is unbelievably encouraging. I still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go, though. As a feminist, I am a work in progress.
As a proponent of body positivity, I think it’s safe to say I have a long way to go. I am a huge proponent of the importance of loving your body, but it will probably be a while before I can say with conviction that I practice what I preach. I’ll get there. In this, I am a work in progress.
As an anti-racist person (because it is not enough to simply not be racist – truly, we need to speak out against racism and be actively anti-racist), the list of things I still need to learn is infinite. There is clear, systemic, structural racism in the United States spanning from legislature to the criminal justice system to the pay gap to unemployment rates to police brutality to barriers in education to representation in the media and executive positions in corporations, the list goes on. I learn something new every day, and it’s all I can do to try and keep up with the bullshit people of color are faced with on a daily basis. That does not mean, however, that you can act as though this new culture of awareness is a bad thing. Having to re-learn what is acceptable and unacceptable is hard, but it’s not impossible. And just because certain behaviors used to be “the norm” that doesn’t mean that they were ever even remotely acceptable. And if you found out your behavior was affecting someone, or an entire demographic, negatively, why would you want to continue with such behavior? And if a person of color tells you that what you said was racist or a microaggression or WHATEVER, do not immediately start telling them all the reasons you were not trying to be racist. Listen to them, apologize, and don’t make the comment or carry out the behavior again. It’s not about the intent behind what you said, it’s about how whatever you said is received. If I punch you and it hurts, it is not my place to tell you that it does not, in fact hurt. However, if you’re spewing racist commentary in front of me, I might punch you anyway.
The other day, I was talking to one of my oldest friends about the issue of structural racism in America. We discussed everything from a memo sent out by the Trump administration to the US military in September of 2020 regarding budget cuts in diversity training within the DoD, to the standards people (especially white people) are held to within society within the realm of racist behavior. She commented on how she was grateful to have known my family in high school, as we “set the standard” for the rest of her relationships with white people in her life. We met when we were 17. She is a beautiful black woman in a blended family. What struck me was her comment that “if your mom, who grew up in a totally different generation, and your sisters, so young at the time, can be so open-minded and willing to learn about the problems facing people of color in America, even 10 years ago, then any white person I interact with nowadays should be just as aware, if not more so.” Important to remember here is that this kind of “open-mindedness” should not be unusual. It should be the norm, but I digress. To be entirely honest, I don’t think it has anything to do with the simple fact of open-mindedness. I think what we were taught as kids, which allowed for us to be so willing to see how broken the system truly is in America, was that sometimes, you’re wrong. Sometimes, everything you thought you knew is just wrong. I think that’s what a lot of people (i.e., white people who actively benefit from white privilege) have such a hard time with - the simple fact that everything they thought they knew is based on a biased belief that life has been no less difficult for them than it has been for anyone else. I think it’s a matter of pride. And this is not easily unlearned, but it has to be. There are so many components and levels to racism (both globally and within the US) that I have yet to even encounter. I can read all the books and do all the research and speak out and donate and try to understand as much as possible, but my ability to be an ally will always have room for improvement. In this too, I am a work in progress.
I think this willing-to-learn attitude can be extended to life in general though. Being able to accept that maybe you just really don’t have it all figured out. Recognizing that maybe, just maybe, you could stand to learn a thing or two about a thing or two. In your personal life, in your personal development, in any aspect of your life really, it’s okay to have been wrong, as long as you start doing things right once you learn what the right thing to do is. Put your pride aside, and listen. That’s all we can do. And that’s what I will keep trying to do. I am a work in progress, after all.
One year since my last post and I honestly don’t even know where to begin.
So, ya know, hi. If you’re reading this and you know me, then you know this is a travel blog and ya girl hasn’t been on the travel game recently what with the casual global pandemic ruining everyone’s lives (except for mother Earth, she is THRIVING and we love to see it). I guess a general and all-encompassing update is in order, no? Very long story very short, it’s been one hell of a year. I was back in Greece this summer when we had a Corona-lull here in Europe (bc unlike in America people actually behave like we’re experiencing a global pandemic JUST SAYIN’) and it was incredible bc essentially it was Santorini with none of the tourists or the insane prices and boy oh boy am I lucky to have gone. What else? I got a new job. I’m a PR Manager at a nonprofit university here in Germany which is an impressive title considering it implies I might be able to manage anything other than myself (as if) and basically means I get paid to write a bunch of words about whatever topic I’m told seems significant and then translate those words into German and send them off into the world in the form of a press release or online article or casual tweet (idk) andddddd it’s pretty awesome. I haven’t felt this adulty since ever, folx. I live in Koblenz for now, which is a smaller city sitting right on top of the crossroads between the Mosel and Rhein rivers known for its hiking trails and wineries, so clearly I was destined to spend at least some part of my life here. I have 3 roommates who make sure to keep my life exciting, and I spend most of my time settling into the new job and the new home and my general new life seeing as how I’ve only been here three weeks so far. My lease here is only for six months and then I’ll be on the hunt for my own place, but I’ll save that for another post bc otherwise I’ll never shut up, as is my way. At this stage I feel like I’ve been running a marathon trying my best to keep up with my life and all the changes whether they be in my private or work life and now everything is settling down, but no one has told my brain yet and it refuses to accept that everything is fine and there are (currently) no new fires to put out. I’m working on it. But we know me, sitting still is a foreign concept to me and as much as I love my new job, I’m already thinking about the next move, the next (big) trip (so far 2022 is looking like a week in Egypt diving in the Red Sea and maybe a few months backpacking Central America, if you’re interested), or whatever else. I am simply incapable of chilling tf out.
Speaking of which, I spent my one single, beautiful week of vacation (the last week of January between quitting my hellish hotel job and starting my awesome new PR job) in a camper van with no heating in 12*F weather. Why? Bc I hate myself, idk. So for those of you who don’t know of Dani’s existence in my life, we met about 9 years ago in the same high school language exchange program that brought me the joy that is Saskia and the distinctly less joy that is constantly learning new rules of the German language. We fell out of contact for the better part of the last decade, but both landed in Cologne this past year and reconnected and here we are bc life is cool like that.
So anyway, Dani and I decided to go camping. In the middle of winter. In Germany. Did I mention Karsten (the camper had a name, obviously) didn’t have a heater? Or a toilet? Yup. Do with that information what you will. We woke up the next morning at some ridiculous hour before the sun was up bc we needed to pack Karsten and head out to see whatever wonders we might stumble upon. We headed out in a general Northeast direction (according to Dani, idk, what are Cardinal directions??) and made our way, relatively slowly mind you bc Karsten is huge and we were in no rush, to the Externsteine, a super cool rock formation close to Paderborn.We then headed to Aldi bc we had everything for sandwiches except mayonnaise and mustard and I refused to eat a dry sandwich bc I’m picky like that, so we parked in the back of the Aldi parking lot and chef’d it up in the back of Karsten while I attempted to field all of the delightfully sweet birthday posts and calls and whatever else that come with incredibly close-knit family and friends and Facebook’s worst feature of sharing your birthday with all of your “Friends” as a general notification.
We then made our way to some sort of national park situation whose name my brain refuses to remember or pronounce and somehow ended up driving through the forest in the snow in the dark while Dani stayed calm as we basically drove onto the set of a gruesome murder mystery movie and I did my best to keep my freakout at a casual simmer as I thought of all the super fun ways we might get this van stuck in the middle of the fckn forest and DIE until we finally decided to turn around and find a campsite closer to civilization. We did no such thing. All of them were closed bc of Corona, which like, I understand, but also, how you gonna deprive me of heating in this metal box in the middle of winter? We set up camp in some random national park parking lot and I enjoyed a happy birthday skype session with the fam, including my grandma, who upon hearing my complaints about the cold and our lack of heating, shared flippantly that she and my grandfather used to have a heated mattress in their camper when they used to camp in Colorado and Alaska, AS IF THAT WAS THE KIND OF THING I NEEDED TO HEAR IN THAT MOMENT. Dani made dinner while mom and I skyped and she essentially shared with Dani all the reasons he should stop hanging out with me (it didn’t work, we still hang out) before we enjoyed some apple cake for dessert and I somehow lost at Phase 10 while drinking way too much wine bc we had to make up for the lack of an external heater with a more improvised internal version.
Waking up was a slow process considering we first had to thaw out and get the camper ready to move again (basically pack all the things that might fall over or spill, so we had to drink up any open wine at 11am bc god forbid it spill, you know, and buckle the rest of the unopened wine into its car seat bc precious cargo). Dani suggested we stop in Marburg on our way to the Geierlay hanging bridge which was a fantastic life choice as it resulted in the purchasing of falafel döner and several coffees in a super cute new city before we stopped at the world’s smallest gas station in the world’s largest camper van and spent several minutes looking for the tank-opening-thingy so that we could actually put the gas INTO THE CAR before a nice man with a similar vehicle came over and pointed to what we’d basically been blatantly looking right past for way too long and walked away laughing at us under his mask, which like… fair. By then the sun was already going down bc winter does that, but we’d planned to see Burg Eltz that day, which is this gorgeous castle I took my sisters and Becks and Chrissy to see when they visited me back in the day when people were allowed to visit people, but Dani had never seen it. So we went to check it out, despite the creepy darkness in the middle of the forest late at night, which meant I essentially spent the 20 minute footpath stretch explaining to Dani all the ways someone could kill us right now and no one would hear our screams, until we turned a corner and out popped the world’s most picturesque little castle, beautifully lit despite the late hour and the fact that it probably hadn’t seen many visitors lately due to Corona. It was gorgeous. Photos were captured. Moments were taken in. Joy was experienced. 10/10 would recommend.
We then headed to a camping site which, according to online reviews that were semi-recent, seemed to be open, in the hopes that we might have heating for the night. We did not. It was closed. That review was posted the last day we were open. Fab. So we drove back towards Burg Eltz bc we’d planned to go to the very closely located hanging bridge the next morning and there was no point in being far away from it when we could just not bc Dani had the ridiculous idea that we should see the bridge at sunrise. We parked overnight in a grocery store parking garage bc the tiny town we were in had signs posted like every 3 meters that prohibited non-residents from parking anywhere ever (bc the bridge is a pretty popular destination when it isn’t freaking freezing outside). Soup was on the menu for dinner bc it required the least effort and ass-kicking was for dessert as I wiped the floor with Dani in several rounds of SkipBo while we enjoyed some wine which would ensure that we decidedly did not wake up with the sun.
The next morning we made our way to the closest parking lot to the bridge (which was in the middle of the woods) and my feet were numb before we stepped out of the van bc ya girl really needs to invest in some hiking shoes bc these 5yr old Nikes with holes in the soles are really not going to cut it. We did make it to the bridge and back without a. my feet falling off and b. Dani losing his mind (he has a serious fear of heights). Once my feet defrosted, we made our way back to Cologne to unpack and clean Karsten and get ready for my life to turn itself upside down again, this time in the way of a new job and a new city and the ability to take a breath (still working on that) for the first time in a long time.
So this is where I leave you for now, beautiful people. The coming year is still so up in the air for so many reasons and my dream is to see Becks and Saskia (both living in the UK where no one is allowed anywhere rn), go to Chrissy’s wedding in August in Virginia, maybe hit a few new Baltic countries sometime (Latvia always looked like a good idea), and then head home for Christmas. Will any of this happen? Not a damn clue. However, I will do my best to keep you much more effectively updated than I did this year, deal?
Until next time, folx
PS. Today’s post title comes from dad referencing the type of camping we were doing as “amping” bc it wasn’t quite “glamping” seeing as how there were no toilets or heating, but it also wasn’t regular camping bc we weren’t stuck in tents, so he coined the term “amping” or “average-camping” to describe our situation, and I’m running with it.
Alright folks, listen up. It’s been quite awhile since I last posted, but some things are worth coming out of my unintentionally self-imposed blog hiatus for.
I would like to preface this post by saying that I do not know everything – in fact, some days I wonder if I know anything at all. To my friends and family and peers who may know more than me (likely) or think I missed an important point or maybe didn’t portray something correctly, I am here to listen. I am constantly trying to maintain a state of openness and awareness, and this whole self-evolution thing is only possible if people are willing to come out and tell me when my thought process or general opinion could use some tweaking. I am always open to constructive criticism.* Additionally: this is not a history lesson or an “I hate cops” rant or a guide to why racism is bad and specific references to prove why that’s the case (bc if you can’t figure that one out on your own, we have bigger issues). If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll have to look somewhere else. Lastly, here I will provide a link to a sort of Black Lives Matter-based reading list bc while I enjoy using my own voice to support for the cause, there are a whole bunch of other voices who know firsthand a hell of a lot more about what’s going on. Maybe we can all learn a thing or two about a thing or two. Please also look into consuming Black art and history in all forms as it aids in decentering whiteness.
*Note: I said constructive criticism. If you come in here saying All Lives Matter then I will be happy to have a conversation with you about why the focus here is on Black lives, as it should be.
This is such an unbelievably important issue. And while it doesn’t permeate European society in the same way it does in the US, racism is still such a painfully serious problem all over the world. There are 400 years of oppression of people of color in America, specifically Black people. This issue has been talked about seven ways to Sunday in modern society and yet no real change has happened.
The abolition of slavery with Lincoln was followed by the establishment of the horrific Jim Crow laws in the 1800’s and 1900’s preaching ‚separate but equal‘ while promoting anything but equality. The abolition of Jim Crow was a never-ending process as segregation was such a deeply ingrained part of society well into the 1900’s. Our grandparents and parents were born in a time when, after having fought for their country in World War II, Black people were still horribly discriminated against. There wasn’t even integration in schools until 1954, and even when it was legally mandated, it was not enforced in the South. My grandmother went to a segregated school for the for the entirety of her academic life, and at that point Jim Crow laws and racism were still so deeply ingrained in the South that Black people were killed by civilians without repercussions simply for having looked ‚wrong‘ at a white woman or for refusing to sit in the back of the bus. MLK and the civil rights movement were in full force in the 1960’s - just before my mom was born, to give you some context - at a time when Black people were still fighting for the most basic of rights promised to them in a constitution written when they were valued as lesser-than in contrast to their white counterparts. They had the legal right to vote, but it was obstructed one way or another in most states. The law was against them, and in so many ways it continues to be. Black people were restricted from property ownership in certain neighborhoods before the late 20th century – essentially being given low quality property in poor locations – which means that all of us white people in the US who benefited from our grandparents having savings and homes to sell when they pass are privileged. When I get pulled over on the side of the road, I don’t have to fear for my life because I am not Black. Black people are targeted for arrests, get worse punishments than their white counterparts with the same charges, and are – often despite their innocence – so often blatantly and publicly mistreated at the hands of our law enforcement system. Black people in America are constantly experiencing economic, political and social oppression at the hands of the American government and society.
Talking about it hasn’t worked. Peaceful protests are one of the only methods available to people fighting for their rights. And while the looting is not ideal, a lot of it is opportunistic and being done by greedy people taking advantage of the protests. To be honest the worst looting to happen recently was a few weeks ago when corporations collected over 500 billion dollars in stimulus money while individual citizens (some, but decidedly not all) were given a one-time $1200 to do their best to exist with and provide for their families. I do not encourage violence or theft but A. well-organized protests specifically leave local establishments alone and instead target major corporations receiving corporate bailouts and B. the loss of (black) American lives is by far more important than the damage done to well-insured, mass-produced products.
Willful ignorance has allowed so much of America to ignore the problem at hand bc they have had the privilege to do so. I am not Black, but I’ve spent my entire life hearing about and watching unfold the hardships that the Black community has faced in the US and, whether I wanted to or not, benefiting from white privilege. While I understand that Corona-time is not the most responsible time in the world to be protesting, enough is enough. When footage is released of a man dying at the hands of a police officer kneeling on his neck and actively suffocating him while the dying man repeatedly says that he cannot breathe, action must be taken. Something must change. And it may be a small change, it may be slow at first, but nothing ever changed bc people did nothing.
The protests need to happen. Every day that policemen and policewomen can kill Black men, women and children and get away with it, every day that white people maintain and enjoy a political, economic, and social advantage in America (and I can send you countless articles which statistically and thoroughly prove that we do) is another day that systemic oppression continues and an entire demographic continues to be fucked over by their own country. George Floyd was arrested and died when Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck, ignoring his numerous declarations that he couldn’t breathe. Ahmaud Arbery went for a run and was chased down and shot by a father and son who said they thought he was a burglar. He was on a run. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old killed by a trigger-happy civilian neighborhood-watch member. 18-year-old Michael Brown allegedly stole some cigars and was shot while his hands were in the air. These men, and so many other unnamed men and women, have died at the hands of a systemically racist and corrupt system.
I hope that you recognize that racism is a problem everywhere in today’s world – especially and on another level in the US. But it’s really, really important that you understand the root of the problem. I don’t care about issues like this to the extent that I do just bc I have nothing better to do. This is a matter of life and death for the Black community in the US, and it matters. It may not impact me personally on a daily basis, but that doesn’t make it any less important, and at no stage is this an exclusively US problem. For example, the massive and potentially fatal rubber bullets being fired at so many protesters right now were invented by the British Army and engineered to maim and kill after a generation of Civil Rights protestors in England were inspired by the Civil Rights movement in the States.
The protests need to happen. No, nothing will change tomorrow, and yes, money and power and lack thereof will play a major role in this fight, but public opinion and peaceful demonstrations are one of the few ways with which we as citizens have been equipped to fight injustices and promote change ever since the country was established, starting with the Boston Tea Party. The Seneca Falls Convention paved the way to women’s right to vote with the 19th Amendment – a right which Black women were still fighting for even after the Amendment passed. Rosa Parks initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott which eventually led to the integration of public transport – which only happened in 1955, a mere 65 years ago. In the 60’s, the March on Washington paved the way towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After MLK was assassinated, 110 US cities started rioting, causing $47 million in damages. Six days in, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed. The legalization of gay marriage and the development and progression of LGBTQ+ rights were only made possible by public protests and demonstrations and pressure like from that of Stonewall. So the protests are necessary, as is outspoken support for the demonstrations and the cause. No, a Facebook post-share or an Instagram story won’t change the world, but the spreading of awareness is an irrevocably vital piece of any movement, which is why it’s so important to talk about these difficult topics, bc the only people who can ignore them are those unaffected, and that is a dangerous precedent with which to continue. And every voice, whether it feels like it or not, makes a difference. I’m not naive, and I’m not stupid – I know how the world works as much as any 25-year-old can. But if we do nothing, nothing will change.
I hope these words help to clarify why I care so much about this issue and why I fully support the protests happening in the States and even here in Europe right now. I wrote this with my only goal being further comprehension and perhaps a collectively better understanding of the matters at hand, and hopefully further productive chats about this and other topics. It’s very important to be able to have these conversations. Do not rely on Black acquaintances or friends to tell you what you’re doing wrong, they are tired. They are exhausted from constantly having to defend their existence. Keep an open mind, recognize that there’s no way in hell you could ever know everything there is to know and that your opinions can and should continue to evolve with the progression of time. Angela Davis famously stated, “It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist,” and she could not be more right. Speak up, speak out, keep an open mind, recognize that every day is a new learning opportunity. Buy from Black-owned businesses, take the time to learn about contemporary civil rights and social justice issues and their dark histories, be conscious of the effects your actions have on others, and just try to not suck overall.
PS. Please take a look at this link which will direct you to petitions that need signing, organizations you may be able to donate to, and several other resources, bc while talking about the issue and spreading awareness is vital, so too is taking action.
Today has been quite a day. And when I say today, I mean the last full 24 hours. And when I say quite a day, I mean WOW I could use a drink. For those of you who aren’t already aware, I’m headed home for the holidays for a whole month and could not be more excited if I tried. So let me catch you up real quick: after graduation in September I decided to book a ticket home for the holidays for a long trip bc my current job (which I worked part time during my masters) is now a full time job and will allow me to leave for a long Christmas with the fam which is soooo worth putting off the search for a big kid job bc I haven’t been in California since last Christmas season and haven’t seen most of my family (and second family i.e. the Bearce family) since March. Seeing as how they’re my favorite people on the planet, this trip has been a long time coming. I booked my tickets while I was out in Greece this past September and found myself a ticket from the 16th of December to the 19th of January. See? I could never have gotten that much time off if I had a real big kid job (this is my justification for not finding one yet but like also it’s true so whatever).
Oh Paris. The city of love, as they say. A city of breathtaking architecture, mouthwatering food, and the undeniable feeling of love in the air. But Paris is not all sunshine and rainbows people. In fact, sometimes it’s cloudy with a chance of pick pocketers.
Yup. I’ve been to Paris twice in the last few years and apparently the third time’s the charm, bc 15 minutes after my arrival at the train station, I fell victim to the pick pocket capitol of Europe. 15 minutes. It wasn’t even long enough to actually mentally arrive in the country (bc as we all know I lag about 15 minutes like an old school dial up computer in any given situation) and just like that, I was phone-less. Well, not “just like that” so much as “just after an elaborately planned and probably well-used strategy to distract me while pulling my phone out of my jacket pocket” but you catch my drift. Ya girl was phone-less in yet another foreign country. I say another, bc for those of you that have been following my idiotic adventures for a while, you know that my phone has been stolen before (significantly more violently bc it was from a super jerk on a motorbike who also took my passport and wallet with him in Malaysia) and ironically enough, it’s the same exact type of phone that got stolen last time. I’m getting the distinct impression that the universe does not want me to have a Samsung Galaxy S8, so if anyone has any other phone recommendations, I’m ready to hear them. I prefer cheap.
So after a few moments of reflection which mostly involved me laughing hysterically and repeating “holy shit holy shit holy shit” I got my hands on a fellow traveler's phone and texted my mom and dad (whose numbers I remembered but that’s only bc they got those numbers in the years before I had a phone and so I had to actually remember them myself) and let them know that I’d be off the grid for the next few days.
Anyway aside from the casual loss of belongings, there was another super fun factor at play which I haven’t yet mentioned: the entirety of Paris public transportation systems are currently on strike. This is not new. French people and Spaniards alike go on strike like it’s their job (like, literally) so the super fun task of getting from one end of Paris to another without any actual consistent train possibilities fell to us. The joys. So I waited for a train for way too damn long only to shove myself onto a packed one like a couple of sardines bc when no other trains are running, the ones that do are full to the brim. I regrouped and emotionally rallied before heading out to see as many sights as possible – without the use of public transport. Mind you, Paris is massive. And there was no public transport. I walked a half marathon yesterday from our hotel to the Arc to the Eiffel Tower and everything in between – with a stop for crepes in between, bc like, obviously??
It wasn’t long before I was heading home to set alarms and make plans for transport to the airport (bc I am consistently stressed about catching flights bc I’ve missed a few in my time and this whole public transport strike thing really wasn’t helping). I thought I'd found a train that would run and planned several hours of leeway time just in case, only to walk over to the freaking metro station and see a totally and completely closed down train system. Alright, fine, so we’ll call an Uber, right? Wrong. An Uber would cost us a casual 100 euros, bc supply and demand is the enemy. So now what? Cry? Well I won’t lie, my next stop was to a French boulangerie for macarons and a very disappointing spinach quiche which happened to have freaking SALMON in it and nobody told me so I almost threw up into the airplane doggy bag but I digress) which is when I found ONE SINGLE BUS heading out in HALF AN HOUR which was about a 20 minute walk. Fine, so I walk. I get to the station and find a bus that is almost completely full, and cross my fingers that I will be allowed on it bc if I missed it I would have basically been down for the count bc they only come every half an hour and all these public transport issues were screwing me over. I made it – freaking barely – and spent the next hour thanking the universe for letting us get this far… but I spoke too soon, folks. Much too soon.
I arrived at the airport a solid 2.5h before our flight, which is pretty respectable in any normal freaking situation, but at this point what in my life should actually be normal, right? So I walk up to Air France (bc we’re flying a Delta flight operated by Air France) and they send me to some line which I eventually find out was not the line I should have been in in the first place bc there was a whole other check in area for our flight which no one mentioned bc everyone kept walking away when Itried to walk up and ask a question. Fabulous, we love the French. At this stage, Iwere starting to worry. I run up to the correct desk, and think I'm good to go, until the woman started shaking her head and looking confused. We asked her if everything was alright, and what was her answer? No. Literally, that’s all she said. The word “no.” Awesome. Fantastic. COME ON.
So apparently, something was wrong with my passport, as in the machine couldn’t read it, so she walked away to another counter to try and put it in manually. She was gone for what felt like forever. Did it work? No. What was wrong? Don’t know. She starts saying that something was wrong with it and spent the next half hour trying to call people from different departments trying to figure out what the hell was wrong. At this stage my flight literally LEAVING THE GATE in an hour and the likelihood of me making it through security and to my gate before they close boarding is slim to none. So like, obviously I’m crying, bc what the hell else am I going to do. A solid 20 minutes later, at which point I had not left to go through security on my own and the front desk had made no progress with his visa, somebody higher up made some sort of executive decision to let me fly. So… now I was still crying, but it was one part happy tears and one part there’s-still-no-way-I'll-make-it tears. I ran to the passport control area and it was all I could do not to explode standing there waiting to get through. Next up was security, where I met a couple hoping to catch the same flight. Fortunately one of them spoke fluent French and got us to the front of the security line – much to the chagrin of the man in charge of organizing the security line. After the rush through security, it was an all-out race to gate K51, which just so happened to be as far as any gate could possibly be from the security check point, bc of course it was. I won’t lie to you, folks. I am out of shape. A one-year intensive masters and a love of alcohol has not fed into the physical ability to make a break for it. Like, if I was running for my life, I would just give up. It’s not going to happen. In my defense, the couple was even further behind me, but they didn’t seem like the gym-going type, so my defense here is pretty weak. Anyway, I made it to the gate just in time and they let us on no problem (the front desk had told them there would be a couple of idiots running late) and we heavily breathed our way down the gangway to our plane, in total disbelief that we’d even made our flight period.
But for now, I’m going to sip my poor quality free airplane wine and appreciate the fact that I am about to see a whole bunch of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Sometimes life can punch you in the face, but it seems to work out alright in the end… phone or no phone.
After a long week of part time work as a hotel receptionist in between vacations now that I'm done with my masters (yeah that sentence was a roller coaster, I'm aware), Thursday morning rolled around and found me on another bus to the Netherlands - a relatively frequent occurrence ever since I started dating a very handsome Dutch man a few months ago.
My bus got me into town early which will probably never happen again and I headed to wait for Stijn at the nearby train station before we snuck through the personnel area of the Dutch train system in Eindhoven to use the bathroom (snuck bc he works for the company but doesn’t belong in this particular area and by extension neither does his American girlfriend whose ability to speak Dutch begins with “Hello” and ends with “thank you” – seriously that’s all I got). We made our way to Helmond, the small suburb of Eindhoven where Stijn grew up, and it was all of 5 minutes into the conversation with his parents before his father (who is absolutely adorable and has so many random fun facts and gets his English practice from BBC so is pretty much more competent than me) asked the fateful “So, what are your plans now that you’ve graduated?” question. Now listen. I haven’t had to deal with this question since I finished my bachelors three freaking years ago and it’s like a traumatic experience hearing it all over again these last few months, so for those of you who want the answer: I don’t have a damn clue. I’m headed home for a month at Christmas which means I can’t apply for real big kid jobs quite yet as I couldn’t start till February which means ya girl is working as a part time hotel receptionist until further notice. Impressive, I know.
Side note: My masters program had a meet and greet for the students of the incoming year and invited the alums and I seriously considered going just so that I could tell the poor bastards that now that I’ve finished my degree I work as a part time hotel receptionist, juuuust to watch the light go out of their eyes.
Anyway that’s not the point, I gave Stijn’s dad (Frans) the answer I’ve been giving anyone who asks recently: I’m pretty much down for whatever comes my way. I still want to work in conflict management or development aid for a nonprofit organization or something in that vein, but I am keeping my options pretty open. And before you ask: no, I don’t want to come back to the States. I am v v happy here. Plus Trump sucks.
Once we’d established that I am basically still not a truly productive member of society, we moved on to less depressing topics like the fact that Stijn surprised me with FREAKING WICKED TICKETS IN LONDON OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I may or may not have teared up and internally questioned whether 2 months into a relationship is too early to propose (Stijn says yes but who asked him anyway). As if the joys of having Wicked on the London version of Broadway on my horizon wasn’t enough, he proceeded to make me his signature fried eggs seasoned to perfection before turning on Zootopia (a quality movie btw) which for those of you who don’t know equates to like my dream situation (food and children’s movies). And then, to top it all off, he downloaded the Disney app which Disney is testing ONLY in the Netherlands to see if people want an app full of Disney and Pixar movies available at all times (uh, obviously) to my phone and logged me into his account. Suffice it to say I was a very happy human and if we break up he is not allowed to log me out of this account.
Dinner was an amalgamation of the Dutch classics with his family ranging from French fries to kipcorn to some sort of massive sausage that should not be edible by one single human and is titled something-something XXL before we headed to the airport with Frans for a quick tea (I say quick bc I was rushing us bc I was mad paranoid about missing our flight WHICH WE ALMOST DID ON THE WAY TO SPAIN DESPITE ALREADY BEING SAFELY THROUGH SECURITY AND IN THE AIRPORT FOR AN HOUR BEFORE BOARDING). We headed through the duty free shop as is our custom and found ourselves yummy smelling perfumes and colognes and tried on ridiculous sunglasses before Jess called to talk about life and her super cool college classes for awhile (initially with me but at some point the phone was passed to Stijn who was reluctant to give it back). Our flight was, unsurprisingly bc I was involved, delayed. We arrived at London Stanstead around 10pm and Stijn had already researched and booked and checked everything we could possibly need, so we hopped on a bus to Stratford (about 40 minutes outside the city center bc anything in the city center is so excruciatingly expensive) and eventually arrived at the world’s worst accommodation – and that’s coming from someone who has slept in a whooooole lot of different and uh, interesting, places. Stijn had booked through Booking and as the apartment was essentially, pardon my language, a shithole (no exaggeration whatsoever here people you know my standards are like on the floor), Stijn immediately made a call to start getting the situation handled. An hour on the phone with Booking later, we had a new hotel close by and escaped the apartment from hell with a story that was even pretty funny while it was happening considering the ridiculousness of the situation (and the contact high from the weed smoke in the apartment probably helped the situation).
The next morning we took the metro 40 minutes into the city center (btw the metro here is super cool and advanced, Stijn has his credit cards in his Apple Wallet and all he has to do is tap his phone on the scanner and it immediately takes the fee from your card without making you buy a ticket THIS IS THE FUTURE, PEOPLE) to spend the day seeing the major sites of London. Ironically, half those sites were under construction, but it’s still super cool to have been able to see them. Stijn hadn’t been to London since he was 12 and while he remembered quite a bit, it was neat to be able to experience it while he kind of re-experienced it. As we know, my sense of direction is questionable at best so Stijn took the lead and I just rolled with it, which was a pretty cool thing to be able to do considering I am usually the trip planner not the tag-a-long-er. Would recommend, Stijn plans great trips.
I did, however, have a mission on arrival, which was to obtain some delicious Tesco or Sainsbury’s cookie bite things which are essentially just chocolate, caramel and shortbread and taste like what joy feels like. Amazing. We kept lunch cheap (breakfast was free the entirety of our time in England bc we collectively suck at mornings and never made it into town before noon oops) with grocery store snacks bc the rumors are true – London is expensive as hell. Mid-walk around I realized I had made poor life choices and worn socks that were slipping down my shoe as I walked, and after a few (or several) instances of me stopping to fix them, Stijn made the executive decision that I needed less shitty socks, so to TKMaxx we went. Yes, it’s TKMaxx. No, that is not a typo. Europe is weird, man, I dunno. We bought a pack that Stijn would wear too bc he steals my socks without fail so I figured this would be a good way for him to be able to steal his own socks from me… see what I did there? And he found himself some sort of bougie branded wool scarf with which he was VERY pleased and was v necessary bc the rumors about London being cold and windy aaaaaaaaaaare (surprise) also true. We stopped everywhere from tea shops to Nando’s (very necessary and fairly reasonably priced chain chicken restaurant particularly well known in the UK bc the British are obsessed with chicken – specifically fried chicken) before heading back to the hotel and binge watching everything on BBC from comedy to most luxurious hotels features to the actual (depressing) news.
The next morning (who am I kidding it was afternoon) we headed to Camden Lock Market, a super alternative area of London with the coolest food market I’ve seen in awhile which simultaneously impressed me and stressed me out bc there were way too many choices. I’m fairly certain we made like seven rounds before settling on some Jamaican jerk chicken to split and walking through more of the market as I drooled over delicious desserts and old school record shops for a few hours. Eventually we made our way to the Apollo Victoria Theatre where my life improved drastically as I experienced the most amazing musical live and almost accidentally left during the intermission bc I was too busy freaking out being joyful and riding the Wicked-high to realize it was the intermission not the freaking end (leave me alone I was on cloud 9). Plus Stijn had gotten us a bottle of wine with which to enjoy the show and of course that wasn’t aiding my already questionable ability to form cohesive thoughts, whatever, leave me alone, I saw Wicked live in London so HA.
We spent our last day hitting up the sights we hadn’t had the time to get to yet like the Tower Bridge and Picadilly Circus and most importantly PLATFORM 9 ¾ FROM HARRY POTTER in what I would describe effectively as a chill day considering we had nowhere to be and all day to get there. We headed home early with to-go fried chicken in hand (I told you, the Brits love this stuff) ready to settle in early for the night as we had to be up at 2.30 to catch our bus to the airport for our 6am flight. I would like to take this time to note that Stijn always gives me shit for buying tickets at inconvenient times but I do it bc they’re so much cheaper which was exactly his reasoning for doing it this time around (our round trip tickets to London from the Netherlands were 35 euros total respectively). Anyway, we did not go to bed early. Not even a little. After we finished eating, I had my (now relatively normal) minor wave of travel anxiety which derives from having missed a flight in the recent past – I swear being poor makes it worse bc you know you cannot afford to have things go wrong bc your bank account won’t let you – and my brain decided that right then and there was when I had to pack my bag and clean up the room. Luckily Stijn’s response (rather than judging me) was to pack his bags right alongside me until my brain chilled out and I could be a person again. No I take that back… First I made him run me through how we would be making it to the airport about 27x with visuals and GoogleMaps proof that his plan would work – not bc he is a bad planner (he is, in fact, a pretty great one) but bc I am a crazy person who believes all forms of public transportation are out to get me personally. We spent the next few hours watching BBC’s comedy channel before I introduced Stijn to the terrible beauty that is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (quite a novelty show for a European who likes to cook and is simply flabbergasted by what small-town eateries combine to make what appear to be delicious and popular dishes). It wasn’t until Stijn realized I was avoiding sleep bc I was worried we wouldn’t wake up to our alarms in the morning that he made me turn off the TV and catch a few hours of sleep before we had to head out. Spoiler alert: we did make our bus to our plane and there were no issues bc of course there weren’t, and all of my worrying was for naught. Whatever. The trip ended just how it started – back in the duty-free area trying out perfumes and trying on ridiculous sunglasses before we hopped on a plane to get back to real life.
Basically, it was an incredible weekend made all the more incredible by the fact that this was my freaking graduation gift from Stijn. Yup, you read that right. A trip to London, as my grad gift. If this is the kind of thing I get for finishing my masters, I may just have to get another one. Just kidding, that’s a terrible idea, learning is hard.
But for now, this is where I leave you. This fall weather has me wishing for something warm to eat and I see hot chili in my very near future. So until next time folks – xoxox.
PS. Stijn is pronounced (well the closest approximation of it I can make of it as a non-Dutch speaker) “Stein” like with a long “I” sound. I was going to write it out with the international phonetic alphabet, but I figured A. I would be judged and B. Who the hell would understand it anyway?
PPS. Stijn has taken to tapping me on the shoulder and simply saying “attention” until I stop doing whatever it is I’m doing and focus on him instead. Crude but effective, what can I say.
PPPS. If I keep dating my Dutch boyfriend, I’ll have to freaking learn Dutch which goes against everything I’ve said for the last several years about how the Dutch language sounds like someone is simultaneously having a coughing fit, choking on sandpaper, and jumpstarting a car. Stijn already gave me my first informal lesson and boy oh boy do I sound like a German girl trying to speak Dutch… I gotta work on that.
And last but not least, the title. This week's post title stems from the incessant and unbelievably annoying announcement that comes every time any time a London metro opens or closes its doors and practically screams at you to "mind the gap" as apparently no British architect thought to make either wider trains or less wide (also known as "narrower" to people who speak better English than myself) tunnels to avoid the situation which now plagues their public transport (a gap, obviously, between the metro and the platform itself) and now threatens the lives of its passengers apparently to such an extent that people will literally die if the announcement is not made every 7 seconds. It's fine. I took it in stride and was totally not annoyed by it at all, clearly. I'm fine.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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