Hello! Excuse my absence, a lot has happened in the past year. My laptop broke, I moved to Valencia, I started working online with VIPkid, I traveled with my family, friends, and boyfriend, and so much more.
I know what it looks like.
I haven't posted here on my blog in over a year. But that doesn't mean I've stopped traveling, it just means I've been far too busy and broke to buy a new laptop! Luckily, quarantine allowed me to save some cash, so I'm back online with a full keyboard and a journal full of stories to share!
I'm a wanderwoman, serious about living abroad, keeping things cheap, and having fun doing it. Stay tuned, I've got stories, tips, and thoughts to unleash on weebly. An article I wrote was recently featured on Shut Up and Go's front page, which is just a taste of what I've been up to.
If you'd like to give it a read, you can find it here.
Looking forward to being in touch soon! Stay safe everyone.
Berlin is stunning and stark, a unique mix of cement and neon. If you end up wandering the wrong street, the city may not lead you in the right direction. Don’t get caught in the Checkpoint Charlie trap, a piece of Germany’s history that’s tiny, unimpressive, and unrepresentative of what Berlin is today - unless you’re craving McDonald’s or KFC. Two “restaurants” anyone should recognize as the most undignified signs of a tourist trap.
I’ve visited Berlin twice during wintertime, in January 2017 and November 2018. The city this time of year is outwardly cold, wet, and oftentimes grey, the buildings blending in with the cloud cover, but lining the streets are some of the trendiest people and places. Trendy in a truly cool, collected, fashionable, understated German way. The heart of the city pounds like a dark Drum and Bass track, beating ceaselessly throughout bars, cafes, clubs, and hostel lobbies. The music has no definite finish nor start, as DJs blend into each other, creating a timelessness that late-night conversation flows alongside. It could be 8:00am or 8:00pm, no one cares either way, they’ll order another craft cocktail or little European beer.
The real City That Never Sleeps, with clubs that are open for two or three days the partiers refer to a trip to Berghain as “going to church” on Sunday mornings. Entrance isn’t cheap, but the before/after party kebabs are. I’ve never been so satisfied spending €3.50 on a meal. Pair your lamb, chicken, or falafel doner or durum with pommes frites (french fries) buried under a dallop of creamy mayo. Or head to a currywurst shop for a sausage and fries combo topped with sweet sweet currywurst sauce.
If you want it all, including a pizza shop and bakery, stay at the Circus Hostel at Rosenthaler Platz (Platz loosely translates to “square” or “space”), a stop on the U-Bahn just minutes out of the more central Alexanderplatz. It’s not the cheapest hostel, but it’s surrounded by cheap eateries and good bars - including the microbrewery/bar in the basement! Delicious steins of home-brewed Hefe for €4 and Karaoke on Thursday nights. Circus Hostel also has a lovely outdoor seating area on the street, right next to a central tram line, and across from a 24 hour corner shop. Grab a bottle, sit down outside and watch Berlin. Rosenthaler Platz is dotted with vintage shops, quaint cafes, and strange little bars nearby if you get bored of hostel chit chat.
If you get extremely lucky and come back to the hostel at 9:00am, scheduled to check out in three hours and exhausted, to find that the penthouse suite has opened up just in time to be booked - take it. It’s more than worth the price (€100) for the panoramic view of Berlin, ruby red interior, wrap-around terrace, shiny kitchenette, bluetooth speaker, and full bed complete with two twin sized duvets (not sure if this is normal in Germany).
It’s difficult to put the vibe of this city into words - for somewhere that was so recently divided by such extremes, it seems to be the antithesis of what it was prior to the winter of 1991. The city is youthful and experimental, in every sense.
Hostel: The Circus Hostel at Rosenthaler Platz. Basement bar, book in advance!
Spots to See:
Museum Island - is what it sounds like! A gorgeous little island on the Spree river in the middle of downtown Berlin, inhabited by architecturally magnificent museums. If you don’t want to pay entrance fees for the museums, they’re just as lovely from the outside. Beautiful buildings are rare in Berlin. (Central Berlin)
Brandenburg Gate - famous as the central backdrop for the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s a gorgeous pillared structure. Just a stroll from the impressive Reichstag building. (Central Berlin)
East Side Gallery - a 25 minute walk from Cafe Luzia in Kreuzberg, the East Side Gallery is a portion of the Berlin wall that has been turned into an art gallery of famously politically-charged murals. Beautiful and evocative, symbolic of what Berlin represents today. (East Berlin)
Paul’s Boutique - lovely little vintage shop near Circus Hostel with lots of lovely little restaurants nearby, very fun vibe and lots of clothes to choose from. Walk in this direction if you’re looking for a nice spot to eat outdoors! (Near Rosenthaler Platz)
Neukolln Market - only on SUNDAYS but a lovely market with food, bars, music, jewelry, and clothing. Come for anything and everything, I would recommend staying for lunch and a beer. (East Berlin)
Ankerklause - sat above the river and next to a Friday market. Go in the late afternoon after wandering through the market. Watch the bars’ porch lights come on as the sun sets and the swans pedaling below you in the river. Enjoy a Hefe for €3.50. (Kreuzberg area)
Cafe Luzia - a more typical cafe during daylight hours but with a swanky Berlin vibe, the bar turns into a Drum and Bass, candle-lit nest at night, packed with groups of people dressed in black, ordering coffee with their cocktails. Cheaper wine and beer, cocktails closer to €10. (Kreuzberg area)
Mein Haus am See - just around the corner from The Circus Hostel, great techno bar set up in a gutted movie theater. The seats for the cinema are gone, but the amphitheater arrangement survived, so you can sit up high in a worn-in couch and watch the foot traffic circle around, below at the bar. Cocktails closer to €10.
Tresor - upstairs for House, downstairs for Drum and Bass. Would definitely recommend for a “Berlin” experience, intense, loud music, incredible lights and entertaining, dark set-up. Don’t speak English in line. (East Berlin)
Kit Kat - haven’t made it to this spot yet, but it’s on the list. Known for kink nights and liberal dress code (less is more). Try to remember DJ names at the door, don’t speak English. (East Berlin)
This one's for you.
One of my absolute, 10/10 favorite purchases in the last few years (besides plane tickets), and I’m not joking, is the DivaCup.
Maybe you’re wondering what a DivaCup is - if you’ve never heard of period cups, your menstruation world is about to be changed.
This, on the left, is the Godly period cup, soft silicon cups professionally designed for your privates. They come in different sizes and slightly varied shapes, there are many brands to choose from, and some even come in different colors to keep things FRESH and FUN. DivaCup makes two sizes. One for non-baby-women and one for baby'd women. Don’t be turned off by the awful branding (looks like it was designed for fairy 5 year olds in the late ‘90’s).
The link below takes you to a list with all the period cups available on the market, as well as the sizes/firmness/design details for each. If you’ve got a smaller vagina (if you know, you know), definitely aim for small and flexible. Some friends of mine have said the DivaCup is too sturdy for people with a smaller build, so take this into account and maybe do a little research before deciding.
When I’m Traveling…
I just stick the cup in the bottom of my backpack and it hangs out until I need it. To clean after a cycle it I just boil it for a few minutes and boom, top notch hygiene. I never have to worry about carrying tampons or pads, running out of them, or buying them when I’m traveling. This is especially important in countries where period products are even further behind (there’s some pretty uncomfortable stuff out there).
To all the naysayers who are cringing reading this, let’s think about tampons and pads for a second: You shove an uncomfortable compressed cotton rod up there, that’s (almost always) been bleached, like five times a day. Or pull hairs out and stain your nice undies when pads are (inevitably) dislodged throughout your day. All this discomfort is unnecessary and honestly pretty archaic, the technology for period care has come so far! Period cups:
....So comfy n clean…
The period cup does not leak, and it technically only needs to emptied every 12 hours. I can hike, bike, swim, and do yoga without even the tiniest bit of discomfort or leakage. Although it did take a little while to learn how to use it correctly, there is a steep learning curve, so be patient with yaself.
Stash it in your purse when you know you’re getting close to that time of the month - that’s it. So easy. So much more convenient than carrying handfuls of tampons or pads around. These things are sleek, man.
I’ve been using mine for three years and have saved so many paper packaging, cotton, and plastic inserters from the landfill. If you’re a sucker for guilt trips, trip away.
Prices vary - when I bought the DivaCup, it was $55, but now that they’ve gotten more popular prices have dropped to around $40. There are some on the market for as little as $17! That’s the price of two boxes of tampons. According to an article by The Huffington Post (lol), women spend on average $7 on tampons nine times a year. You use a period cup ($40) for a year instead of tampons, you’re saving $23 in just the first year. In two years, you’ll have saved $86.
I spent that much on a flight to London last week. Bleed smart!
How I Afford to Travel:
I wouldn't be traveling without my experience in the service industry. Think about that the next time you tip your server, maid service, or valet. Yeah, the majority of people in the service industry need the cash for serious reasons so think of them first, but I'm lucky enough to be living without many responsibilities.
So, I owe it all to my days spent bussing tables, answering stupid questions, and forcing a smile. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed my work as a busser, host, and server, and traveling with that money makes the unusually long hours and obnoxious customers absolutely worth it. I'll worry about my student loans come January, but for now I've got enough money saved (and live in a cheaper country) that traveling for a long period of time is an option.
I also owe it to Spain's 'Auxiliares de Conversación' program for providing very livable wages. We work part-time, and in top-paying regions (Valencia and Madrid) make upwards of €15 an hour. This year, I'm lucky to be living in Alicante (in the region of Valencia).
(Me in Seville, the first city I lived in Spain, December, 2016).
When on the road outside Alicante, I budget. I'm serious about how much money I spend and what I can afford to partake in. I'm not afraid to spend the night walking around the city by myself if I don't have any money left to spend on the hostel's pub crawl. Also: Stay in youth hostels. They're fantastic for solo travelers, especially women; they've got budget prices and a built-in social life. I attribute my most cherished travel memories and friendships to hostel life/culture (I also I met my boyfriend in one). Don't be scared off by weird rumors, but do check hostelworld.com for any weird reviews.
Hostel memories lead neatly into the next topic: How I Travel
It's my well-informed opinion that the more room left for serendipitous encounters, fated exchanges, and unexpected friendships, the better. So, when I book tickets (whether it was my first trip abroad or a trip back to someplace I know I love) I do try to do two things: 1) Book a one-way ticket, and 2) Book the hostel with the best balance of great reviews/cheaper price, in the biggest co-ed dorm room.
(Real-life travel sistas I met at a hostel in Budapest and followed to Prague).
I am, obviously, not big on planning. Definitely not "a planner". It's nice to know where I'm staying before I arrive somewhere, but I've met people who don't even plan that.
The tickets I book depend on exchange rate, flight prices, and night life. The better the exchange rate, the cheaper the flight, and the better the night life makes for the perfect travel destination for young people from all over. This city will likely have free walking tours, pub crawls, cheap beer, and low-cost/no-cost entrance for historical sites.
When I check into a hostel, I leave my backpack in my room and head straight to get a beer in the common area. Sit at a table by yourself, make eye contact with the other strangers doing the same, lean over to say hi and invite yourself into the interaction. It will be obvious who wants to hang out and who doesn't.
One of my absolute favorite things about hostels is that you get a taste for the people around you and you do not have to hang out with people you do not like. You've been talking to someone for an hour and the interaction turns sour? Call them out, turn around and start talking to the person at the next table over. I don't owe anyone my time in hostels. They're designed so that I have a large chance of meeting people I will enjoy hanging out with, so I take advantage of that.
And when I meet people I like I follow them out. What are their plans tonight? Or maybe they'll ask me what my plans are. Initiation is liberating because there's no fear of rejection - they don't want to hang out? There's plenty people in the hostel who do. There's a life lesson hidden in hostels everywhere.
(St. Patty's Day (my 21st) spent in Galway, Ireland, with friends I'd just met in hostels).
Yes, unfortunately there is sometimes more to a hostel than life lessons - like bed bugs, lice, and sickness. I've only run across the third, and although I've heard stories of the first two, these things also happen in Airbnbs. One of the worst things I could do for my travel experience is let fear rule my decision making
What if I don't make my (ungodly early) flight/bus/train?
What if I get lost?
What if there are pickpockets?
What if I get hurt?
What if I don't like this/that/the other?
What if I don't have fun?
When I ask myself these questions, I get nervous, stressed-out, and cautious. Say yes now, think later, is my usual policy. There's a line between being stupid and having fun, and it usually blurs when I travel. While these questions are self-preserving and important, they often scare many people (especially Americans) out of traveling.
Family ask us hard and nerve-racking questions, friends from home ask "Are you sure?" and polarized political chatter make us unnecessarily wary of diversity and international travel. By traveling, I'm making an effort to critically analyze the propagandized lenses I am constantly influenced by. Nothing else makes me question my habits/identity quite like travel.
This, of course, is best-case scenario. Sometimes, I get to my hostel at 12:00am after traveling for eight hours, sweat marks damp and visible through my shirt, and hangry. But there's nothing like a group of strangers in the hostel common room to entice me into a life-changing night out that sets the mood for the rest of my stay in that city. Be open to what people unselfishly offer, because people who travel are tied together by a common goal: having a good time.
(What having a good time looks like).