Did I already say that I am flying to Sweden on 22 July? Working my way up from down in Skåne via Öland all the way up to Umeå – that will cover about 3 months already and I cannot wait to get there, speak lots of Swedish and see lots of beautiful places 🙂
Today I finally I managed to go to the travel agent and book my flights for the longest part of the journey (distance-wise that is)! I’ll be leaving Europe at the end of September, first stop is Hong Kong for a few days. Very excited about that, I read super-interesting things and also it is exactly half-way on the way to Auckland, at least judging by the flight time.
I’ll get to Auckland in the first week of October then and the plan is to stay there in some airbnb place for a few days to explore the city and get to know the locals a bit. Then I want to hop on a Stray bus and tour both islands on there, possibly stopping in some more airbnbs in the “big cities” along the way. Funnily enough I met a lady at yoga last week who just got back from doing exactly that and loved every minute! We will meet for dinner at some point next week and I can’t wait to hear more 🙂 What she told me so far sounded simply great – expensive though, but I don’t care! I’m prepared for NZ breaking the bank a little or a lot 😉
On the way back I will stop first in Sydney and then in Melbourne, for 3 and 4 days respectively before I fly back to Germany – again via Hong Kong, but this time I’m only in transfer. I’ll be home for Christmas, just about. The flight comes into Frankfurt on the morning of 23 December 🙂
From the one trip to NZ before I remember I wasn’t a big fan of Emirates – don’t get me wrong, service and all was great, but still… been there, done that, saw the people sleep in Dubai airport – so I didn’t necessarily want to take this route again. Luckily for me, Cathay Pacific seemed to have a sale on right now and so I decided Hong Kong would be worth going! I also get to try Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia. Those of you who know me know full well how exciting that is for me – I love anything aviation, so different airlines is the best 😀 And the price wasn’t half- bad either!
“Your wings already exist. All you have to do is fly.”
I’m ready for takeoff…
Should you have any recommendations for my stopover cities, please comment or send me a message – always better to get first-hand tips than trust the internet 😛
P.S: If you have been counting countries, you might have noticed that so far that’s only 4. Guess the 5th? 😉
Oh Stockholm! When I first met you back in what must have been 2006, I fell in love with you. A friend at the time took me there and as she had been there before, she showed me around a bit. But it wasn’t until I came back in 2009 and got to spend a whole week with you, mostly on my own, that I felt I got to know you.
That October week was magical, the sun was shining pretty much all week and I walked your streets with a sense of excitement. Leaving my hotel in the mornings, I never knew where I would end up, but every day I found new wonderful places and sights.
Beautiful things, quirky things, new things and very old things – everything seemed to be filled by the autumn sunlight.
Or lighting up at night:
Since then, I have been back several times in almost all seasons – so far only summer is missing, but that should change this year 😉
What I recommend to do in Stockholm? It depends on what you want to see or do!
Museums: The city is home to a lot of different and equally beautiful museums. Whenever I am there, I have to go to see the current exhibitions at Fotografiska. They are always well put together and cover many different areas. Also, the cafe on the 2nd floor has a wonderful view over the water to some of the other islands – not to mention very nice kanelbulle 🙂 Skansen of course is a very good insight into the culture and the diversity of Sweden as a country. Also, it’s about the only chance to see for yourself how big a moose can get without having to worry about if it’s going to crash into your car 😉
If you grew up with Pippi Longstocking and the other Astrid Lindgren books like I did, you will absolutely love Junibacken! Even if it’s mainly made for kids, it’ll make you feel small again too 🙂
One of the most amazing museums I have seen though is the Vasa Museum! Can you imagine they found a complete warship from the 17th century 300 years later and restored it to its former glory to put it in this museum? It’s impossible to describe – go see it!
Sights: Gamla Stan is beautiful, even if it’s usually crawling with tourists. You feel like you are back in the Middle Ages, try walking the side streets with open eyes and you’ll see amazing things 🙂 I also really like Södermalm or So-Fo with its small funny shops and pretty buildings. And being higher up, this part of the city also provides you with incredible views!
Speaking of views, I will be forever grateful to my friend Ann who introduced me to the bar Himlen! Go there and see for yourself – and then let me know if you liked it 😉
Coffee is a big thing, Swedes looooove it! So you’ll find cafes and coffee shops on every corner, usually with very good snacks, sweets and cakes – and often free wi-fi. Espresso House is one of my favourites! If you walk past Chokladfabriken, make sure you pop in and check out their range of handmade chocolates – such yummyness! And Lagerhaus is your place to go if you want to “spice up” your home with things different to the Ikea range 🙂
See you there soon – hej då! 😀
P.S.: For those of you who watched this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with the Swedish winner Måns Zelmerlöw: Here he is singing the ultimate Stockholm anthem, Stockholm i mitt hjärta 😉
As soon as I announced my plans, I got a lot of positive feedback and lots of people saying how much courage I had to do this, how they wished they could do the same. It sounds great, but also makes me wonder why.
Today, when I took my usual Sunday walk around the Alster lake, something was different. For the first time, I took the time to sit down on various benches around the lake and just enjoyed watching the glittering water and the waves. There weren’t even any people I watched, just some boats and the birds. There I realized what it is that makes life difficult and what makes me want (and need!) to get out:
We don’t have time for ourselves anymore. We get a bad conscience if we are just sitting somewhere, watching the world go by and not doing anything “productive”. Most of our daily life is constricted by society, by other people and we spend a lot of time trying to adhere to all those rules.
In the morning, we have to get up at a certain time because we need to be at work at a certain time. In work, other people tell us what to do and when to do it, we have fixed lunch hours and as we get the time pressure, we pass it on to the people working with us. Especially in my job, I constantly decide who uses their time in what way. And that is actually tiring! The pressure doesn’t stop, the more we get done, the more additional work we get.
Once we leave work, we are still not as free to use our time as we think. Gym, sports places, classes, bars, shopping, everything is defined by opening times and we have to respect those. So the time after work needs to be well planned and organized, only this time there’s no boss and no client to put the pressure on – we do it ourselves because we have to function in this world. We have to do what is expected of us.
Yoga is different in a way, at least when you are not limited to taking classes. I’m in the middle of building up a home practice and doing so, I find it very hard (but very relaxing) to stay in Savasana. It’s been said before that this is one of the hardest poses in yoga and yes, it’s true. Lying on your back doing nothing doesn’t sound hard, does it? Well, here’s your challenge: Try it at home, just lie down and don’t move a muscle while your mind is still awake. How long will you last? 😉
It’s been put into our heads that we mustn’t waste time! Yet, today, on that bench, that was exactly what I did – and it felt amazing! It charged me with energy, it cleared my head and it put a smile on my face. 🙂
That’s what I want to do my Walkabout for: I want to “waste time” by collecting memories like this day on the bench. I want to live in the moment without the pressure of a clock ticking away.
At the moment, I see the time racing past me and it feels like it’s running faster and faster without a moment for myself. That’s probably what caused this anxiety attack I had on Wednesday. It had been a busy week up until then and then it hit me while I was doing something I didn’t feel like doing at the time. Had I listened to my body and my brain, I had just stayed home that night.
Take the time to listen to what your inner voice is telling you – no matter what language it speaks 😉 And because that is incredibly hard in today’s society, more and more people are trying to get out, break the cycle, go traveling. That’s the people others call courageous – because they make their own rules instead of following the ones forced upon them.
That’s what my Walkabout is all about: Listening to my inner voice and following it 🙂
Buenos Aires! When I got the chance to go there because my friends moved there, I was excited! Then I looked up their address on google maps and while zooming out more and more to find out where exactly they were, the big circular park nearby got smaller and smaller… It was only a little flag by the time I saw the whole of Buenos Aires on my screen.
Someone I had misjudged the sheer size of the place and it was a bit of a shock to the system knowing that’s where I would be going. Certainly the biggest city I have ever been to and a huge step for a little country girl like me 😉 Also, it was my first long-haul flight alone, so another reason to be crazy excited! But once I got there, I felt great and the achievement of having gotten there was a big relief!
Here are a few of the things that stayed with me from my visit:
It isn’t as overwhelming if you break it into sizeable chunks
Actually, Buenos Aires is made up of many different areas and because the streets are mainly creating squares, it isn’t too hard to find orientation. Just be careful: If you meet up with Argentinians, you’ll be asked to meet them at the corner of one street and another – don’t forget there are four of these 😉
If you are a tourist, you’ll feel incredibly wealthy
You should bring dollars or euros when you arrive and have it exchanged by an Argentinian. Inflation is high and foreign currency is hard to come by, so the black market is paying much better rates. While I was there, the official rate was 1:8 – we got 1:14… Just remember that you likely earn about 3 – 4 times as much per month as the average citizen – so don’t boast!
The people are amazing
And if you speak a little Spanish, you can go a long way, be it on the metro, in the supermarket queue or in the park. Don’t get confused if at first the Spanish sounds not at all like what you might know from your trips to Spain. The melody as well as the “ll” are different and take a bit of getting used to – but I loved it in the end because it is so lively! As a foreigner, they will try their very best to make you feel welcome and show genuine interest. Saying hello usually includes a hug and a peck on the cheek.
Also, you’ll realize an atmosphere of “live and let live” when you’re out and about and generally, people take a big interest in the way they look. There are lots of shops for tailored shirts and suits and especially the older generation dresses extremely well. The gentleman is not dead yet 😉
It’s everywhere and everyone drinks it all the time, young and old. There are thermos flasks in the park, in the car, in the bag and the ritual of sharing it with a big round of friends (old and new) makes for a special connection. The taste takes some getting used to, but it’ll grow on you if you give it a chance.
Oh, where do I start? With the fact that most fruit and veg (and of course meat) are local produce? Which makes it incredibly tasty and fresh? That there are proper greengrocers and butcher shops on every corner where you can buy the tastiest goods for a very low price (even for non-tourists)? That you can order literally everything to be brought to you, be it your mid-morning coffee, something sweet after lunch, a big box of ice cream or of course pizza? That you can (and will) eat cheese for every meal of the day? Some of the highlights: Asado: Parillas are also on every corner and should be a must-do! Just imagine your local fish and chips shop or curry house – only with a wall-encompassing BBQ full of every part of meat you can think of! Can you smell it? Can you feel the heat? 🙂 Pizza: Different to what we know here, the main ingredient is in fact cheese – a lot of cheese! Also, pizza gets served with faina, a thin bread made out of chickpeas and that’s meant to be put on top of your pizza slice. Pasta: The Italian influence is strong and there are lots of shops which sell homemade pasta and sauces as an alternative to the usual Sunday asado. Empanadas: They can be filled with a lot of things, chicken, beef, vegetables, ham and cheese and so on – if you know what is what, you can identify the filling by the shape and the way in which they have been closed. Ice cream: Another (the best!) part of the Italian heritage, Argentinian ice cream is super tasty and comes in a lot of sorts. You go to an ice cream shop and buy it by the kilo in styrofoam containers, then it gets put on the table at home and shared with friends and family.
And don’t even get me started on the wine… 😉
Traffic is a bit mad
You might have to chase the bus to make it stop, or at least be very insistent. The metro can get very crowded and you might be waiting for the best part of an hour before you can finally get on (unless you are very relaxed about breathing and personal space). The lanes on the streets are seen as recommendations, not necessarily adhered to. Trains might come out of nowhere, bridges may open for ships and create big traffic jams – anything goes, so just go with the flow 😉
There are a lot of beautiful buildings in Buenos Aires, a lot of them resemble Parisian houses from the early 20th century. The modern buildings in Puerto Madero also were very impressive – only the obviously 1970s blocks in the middle between beautiful older houses were a bit of an eyesore. You never know what you will find just around the corner and if you are lucky enough to be invited into one of the houses, you will find they are even more beautiful from the inside.
I will not go further into the history of the country because it would be worth a lengthy post of its own – but if you’re interested, I suggest you click on Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo.
You see, I really enjoyed my time and never felt unsafe or worried while I was there. Of course I was with my friends a lot of the time, but I did spend time on my own as well without problems.
For a very long time (actually half my life!), I’ve been dreaming about going to travel for a while, be free to go wherever the wind may blow me and explore places – and not being limited by holiday allowances and similar “fun things”.
Last year, at that very beach, I made the decision to make this dream come true. In mid-July, I will take off, leave my job and my wonderful colleagues – without knowing if/when/how I will be back. It’s something I need to do and I hope to find out what it actually is that I am burning for. It’s no longer what I thought it would be.
This blog is one of many things I have to sort out and organise until then – but it will be my constant companion along the way. So if you want to find out more about my preparations and the actual plans, I suggest you keep your eye on me here. 🙂
My other companion will be my trusty camera, so you can see what those places look like. Maybe (hopefully?) it’ll inspire you! I want to reconnect with my photography and I think it should be great if I have the time to do it properly, including processing pictures and publishing them.
For now, the route looks like this: Sweden, New Zealand, some South Pacific island maybe and South America in the new year. Means of travel will probably be mainly airplanes, but I’m open to anything and if I can hitch a ride on a freight ship, I will not think twice! Nothing is set in stone yet, other than my first outpost in Sweden from the end of July. But at least for New Zealand I can say that I have been longing to go back ever since those magical 2.5 weeks back in 2007! And South America – Buenos Aires was a great appetizer! Feel free to suggest other destinations though. 😉