30 before 30 – The Challenge BEGINS

Disclaimer: Unnecessarily long post telling the tale of my background, my expectations, the bucket list and how I will try, most likely fail, and maybe succeeded to check all of these things off my list – with less than two months to complete it all! PART 2 of this post aka the final outcome of this ridiculous idea of mine, will be posted on my actual birthday: May 23rd.

So, here it is. The countdown to the day I enter a decade where I really  have to start to adult.    Goodbye fun, spontaneous happy-go-lucky twenties. Hello, my dreaded thirty.

If you’d asked me ten years ago, where I thought I’d be in life by the time I’d turn thirty, I’d probably say something along the lines of wealthy business owner, house owner, dog or cat owner, husband owner and owner of an over-sized jacuzzi. Ten years later and I own none of those things. Nada. On a positive note; it’s entirely because I changed my priorities and realized I didn’t want those things after all – at least not yet (except from the jacuzzi)!

Back when I was a selfie-posting, piercing-studded, rockstar-fangirl, changing-hair color-every-month kind of gal (ten years ago), I imagined thirty year old me as a boss-lady in a power suit and matching Louboutin’s,  with adorable pets and a loyal husband waiting for me at home. Back then my biggest worry was figuring out whether to go clubbing on both Friday and Saturday, or which movies I’d illegally download if I decided to stay in. Back then I couldn’t care less about traveling. Taking the bus downtown was way enough effort. I was usually too hungover or too lazy to do anything else. I was the kind of youngster that made elder people shake their heads in despair.

Back then, I hadn’t yet experienced the devastating event that completely changed the way I view life. The turning point, I guess you could say.

All I can say is, life’s too effin’ short to spend it binge-drinking, binge-watching Netflix, binge-eating pizza and letting yourself go while others are letting go of you.

I was twenty-six years old when I watched my father’s life slip away before my eyes. Terminal cancer. A man who had fled his homeland to start a new life in South-East Asia. A man who had traveled the world, enjoyed photography, loved animals, and donated a lot of money to animal rights organizations. A great man, way too young to die…was fading away, like a flower losing the fight against the seasons change.

His last words to me were, “I’m proud of you”. He’d said that because I’d finally taken a job across the pond; in the US. He said that because he knew I’d finally opened my eyes to the world out there. He said that because he knew how passionate I had become about writing.       I spent two and a half months isolating myself from the world, mourning the loss of him. Until my twenty-seventh birthday.

As a birthday present from me to me, I treated myself to my first ever solo trip (New York), where I indulged in New York style cheesecake, pizza and walked until my feet started bleeding. It was amazing – and I have not looked back since.

And now I’m turning thirty…

For the occasion, I challenged myself to create one of those “30 things to do before 30” kind of bucketlists – except (here comes the fun part), I’ve given myself TWO MONTHS to complete everything! And boy, has there already been some awkward moments and minor disappointments, and I’m sure there will be plenty more of those to come. Along with the occasional mishaps. You know, the usual stuff that happens when I try to do things that normal people master without a problem. Clumsy ol’ me. Spoiler alert: For some reason, I couldn’t even take myself (me, solo) out on a date in Paris without the result being as bad as a lousy Tinder-date (more on that later).

Before I move on to the good stuff, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I know there’s still life after thirty. I know I can still do all the same things and travel to the same places and it would make little to no difference. But, here’s the thing. This summer, my partner and I are moving to a different part of France to start up a business. Which means we’ll barely even have time for toilet breaks, much less a trip to somewhere. Also, to make myself even more unavailable, I wanna start writing a novel. For real. I’ve been talking about it for ages, and I want this year to be the year I finally take the plunge.

In many ways, I want these two months to be my bachelorette party before committing myself to adulthood. And maybe in a few years, I’ll write a post just like this one on my actual bachelorette party and wherever it is I’ll end up celebrating it.

To create this random list, I asked a bunch of women (whom I don’t know in person) in a travel-group on Facebook, what they think I should do before turning 30. While the majority seemed somewhat annoyed with the question and allergic to lists in general, others came up with some brilliant ideas – such as “go on your ultimate dream date – with yourself” and “go to a concert alone”.

I then moved on to asking my mother. Our mother-daughter weekend in Germany was the perfect occasion to squeeze in a weird conversation like this one. I didn’t wanna tell her about the list, as I am absolutely certain she wouldn’t understand and would most likely think I’m insane, going through some sort of a crisis and force me to spend my 30th birthday under her supervision, to make sure I wouldn’t do anything stupid.

“What is one thing I should do before turning 30?”, I asked. She gave me that worried look I was hoping to avoid. “Honey, why are you asking? Are you okay?”, she replied.        I repeated my question and informed her that, yes, I was okay and I was simply just curious about her opinion.

“Get married”.

I should have seen that one coming.

And when I asked my boyfriend what HE thinks I should do before turning 30, he suggested something too explicit to even mention on this blog. Charming. He could see from my expression that I was not impressed, so he suggested go kart racing instead.

“I’ve already done that”, I said and waited for him to suggest something else. He didn’t. Instead he looked at me as if I’d just told him I’d cheated on him.

“When did you do that?”

I told him I’d gone go kart racing with a friend, back when I lived in Orlando, Florida. The disappointed look on his face was priceless. I didn’t realize go kart racing was such a sacred thing in a relationship. I guess I should have saved myself for him.

According to women’s magazines and newspaper articles, I should do anything from learning to play an instrument, getting to know my vagina (whatever that’s supposed to mean), running a marathon (I think I’ll pass), failing (that’s already my specialty), getting lost (my other talent), protesting something – to eating whatever I want (easy) and attending a major sports event.

Just to be sure to add a little humor into the mix (on my expense), I decided to keep some of the awkward, strange ideas from the articles – which means I’ll get to know my vagina, somehow, for some reason – whatever that’s supposed to mean. Or just celebrate the female body.

Here’s my complete “Things I’ll challenge myself to do before I’m 30 in (less than) two months”-list:

  1. Go on my ultimate dream date (with myself)
  2. Go to a concert (alone)
  3. Learn to play an instrument
  4. Get to know my vagina? (Or just celebrate femininity and sensuality?)
  5. Eat whatever I want – and eat A LOT
  6. Attend a major sports event
  7. Protest something
  8. Challenge my culinary skills/take a cooking class
  9. Create something
  10. Have a 24 hour digital detox (no internet, TV, nothing)
  11. Take a class outside of my comfort zone
  12. Book a quirky and unusual acommodation
  13. Learn to meditate
  14. Become “one with nature”
  15. Embrace my fabulousness
  16. Learn to love myself
  17. See something I’ve never seen before
  18. Traverse Europe by train
  19. Do something that scares me
  20. Eat dessert for breakfast
  21. Explore somewhere new for a day – no map, no plan
  22. Splurge on something I wouldn’t normally spend money on
  23. Unusual Spa treatment
  24. See a Magic show
  25. Laugh more
  26. Visit a really weird museum or gallery
  27. Be 100% vegan for a week
  28. Invite a stranger out to dinner
  29. Try a dish I’ve been skeptical about trying
  30. Do something out of selflessness

 

In case you wanna help me out, I’ll be in following locations on following dates:

  • 29.03 – 11.05 in Paris, France (although I’m open to travel – plans might change)
  • 11.05 – 13.05 in Toulouse, France
  • 13.05 – 4.05 in Narbonne, France
  • 14.05 – 16.05 in Girona, Spain (and a few hours in Portbou, Spain on the 14th)
  • 16.05 – 17.05 in Pisa, Italy
  • 20.05 – until deadline: in the Netherlands!

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My Travel Highlights of 2016

2017 is already here and my New Year’s resolutions have been made – along with an even larger bucket list than ever before. Seems like the more I travel, the hungrier I get for more. And the more I learn, the more I realize how little I once knew about the great world out there and all the people living in it. While 2016 was the year I traveled only within the borders of my continent, Europe, 2017 will take me to at least two others – and who knows where else destiny decides to take me this year?

2016 was a year filled with great highs as well as some lows. Unstable economy, feeling lonely as an expatriate in a foreign country, death in the family, losing touch with friends, pitching article after article to magazines with little result, getting criticized for putting so much time and effort into my blog when I “should be spending my time doing something more useful” – these events have caused a lot of stress, sadness and feeling of hopelessness for me. Traveling – and the love and support from my partner – gave me the strength I needed to be able to look back on 2016 as a great year instead of feeling like a complete failure.

Because…

I welcomed 2016 by watching the beautiful fireworks display in Warsaw, Poland with my family and my partner. We visited the Christmas market in the Old Town and danced the night away at the New Year’s gala in our hotel.

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I visited London, England for the first time in many years, and had a great time catching up with a friend who moved to London for work. We went salsa dancing, salsa eating (nachos) and visited all the touristic sites together.

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A romantic weekend trip to Copenhagen, Denmark was the Christmas present from me to my significant other. We stuffed our faces with Danish pastries, laughed our asses off while the fish tickled our toes at a duo fish spa, visited the castles and the little mermaid and enjoyed the snow – although I would have been happier if my partner hadn’t kept throwing snowballs at me.

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I visited Belgium for the first time…and second…and third. My partner and I embarked on plenty of amazing road trips this year and visiting certain destinations in Belgium was part of those trips. Romantic Bruges, charming Antwerp and multicultural Brussels. I’ve fallen in love with Belgium – and Belgian beer!

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And then there was the trip to Luxembourg in May. The surprise birthday present from my partner. We visited Luxembourg city, two castles elsewhere in the country and saw Hans Zimmer live in the amazing concert venue Rockhal. Probably the best birthday I’ve ever had.

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Late June and early July was spent traveling by train with my mother. From Oslo, Norway to Karlstad, Sweden – then back to Norway to visit Sandefjord and Kristiansand, before returning to Stavanger to spend a couple of days relaxing at home before returning to France. Photo below was taken while visiting Tungenes Fyr (lighthouse).

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The weekend of Bastille Day (14th of July) was spent visiting Saint Malo, Mont Saint-Michel, Dinan and Rennes in France. My partner and I watched the fireworks in Saint Malo, drank cider and ate delicious crêpes (the local Bretagne/Brittany specialty). Calories and carbs taste better in France than anywhere else.

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One of my biggest highlights of the year was to volunteer in Moldova. I got to know so many lovely people – volunteers and locals – and my host family was the nicest I could  ever have asked for. I also got to taste some amazing wine from the Purcari Winery while I was there. I’ve been spreading the word about how great Moldovan wine is, ever since.

 

Another great highlight was the writing retreat in Barcelona, Spain with Pink Pangea where I got to know like-minded travel writers – all women – explored the city of Barcelona and did a lot of soul searching as well. We laughed, shed some tears, plenty of hugs and shared our most personal stories – travel related and non-travel related. It was therapeutic and inspired me to not just become a better writer but a better person as well.

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In September my partner and I embarked on yet another road trip to a different part of France. This time to the southwest. We explored some spectacular caverns, enjoyed the local wines and visited idyllic and picturesque little towns. I have never taken as beautiful photos as I did in the southwest of France. No wonder so many people dream about this country, and so many writers find inspiration here.

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We didn’t spend longer than twenty-four hours at home before we were back on the road again. Well, towards the airport this time to catch a flight to Athens, Greece. The week in Athens was filled with food, historical ruins, food, more history and even more food. Greek cuisine is simply just too good!

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Winter Beer Day, Christmas markets and celebrating my parents wedding anniversary and my stepfather’s birthday was how we spent our long weekend in Hamburg, Germany…And taking pictures from the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. What a windy affair that was.

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And then there was December and all those Christmas markets. Paris (France), London (England), Reims (Champagne, France), Cologne (Germany) and Oslo (Norway). I didn’t get a white Christmas this year either, but I got so much more. So much more that mattered a lot more to me than snowflakes. Spending time at these markets with the people I care about, laughing, smiling and cheering while tasting local specialties – now that sure got me into the Christmas spirit! Photo below is from Oslo, Norway.

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Now, excuse me while I pack my bags to go to Marrakech, Morocco tomorrow. 2017 started in Trondheim, Norway and after a few days of rest in France I am now ready for new adventures!