Happy New Year! Highlights of 2017 and why good resolutions are so hard to keep

First of all: Happy New Year to all of you! I wish you all the best for 2018, may your goals be achievable and dreams come true! Around the turn of a year, I’m thinking about the last 365 days and what I learned from them. Moments of joy and happiness, excitement and stress or just the average days without feeling anything special. In the end, all of these days have passed to quickly and sometimes it feels this time hasn’t made any difference at all. Then, reading about all these people motivated by an approaching new year and their inspiring resolutions, it’s difficult to stay away from this “new-year-new-me” thing.

New Year resolutions lasting only a few weeks

I don’t know about elsewhere, but in Germany, most New Year’s resolutions are broken in the first quarter. You can tell from watching the gym 😉 In January, everyone seems to join and the gym gets quite crowded. But after a few weeks – latest in February when carnival has arrived – it’s usually back to normal. Although I’m really glad to not share the gym with too many people, it’s somehow sad to see so many people longing for a change but failing. The ones making it until Carnival have kept their resolution up for approximately 4-6 weeks. It should have become a habit for them already.

So why do so many people give up just because an event of a couple of days? Because of the all-or-nothing attitude. It’s the same reason why many of us make it 5 days of the week sticking to their meal plan but switching to binge mode on week-ends – just to start on Mondays all over again. By the way, Mondays are usually the days when the gym is most visited in the course of the year 😉 So when making resolutions or trying to build those habits, you should expect to fail. It’s not easy to cope with unforeseeable events when you’re practicing new behavior. And when you have failed and it was all-or-nothing, all the effort you’ve put into your project seems to have been for nothing. But building new habits is learning how to deal with different situations in accordance to your goal. That means you have to develop some habits and strategies how to react to obstacles – because life always gets in the way and often nothing turns out how it’s been planned. Give yourself time to develop those strategies, try out different approaches. Some might work, others not.

How to refresh the new-year-new-me feeling from time to time

Another strategy involves to bring this motivational “new year” excitement down to a “new week” or even “new day” feeling. Little challenges help to dissolve from particular dates and let you find back on track . Depending on your goal and what type of person you are, a personal challenge on your own can work just as good as finding others to join. The only thing that matters is to keep going – and focus on what you’ve already achieved.

Except for the all-or-nothing attitude, New Year’s resolutions also raise expectations. Usually, these expectations are high. On the one hand, expectations create motivation and a feeling of excitement. Expectations are what get us started and keep us going. But be careful to not set your expectations too high. Setting realistic expectations and taking small-steps gets you farther than dreaming big. Little steps add up and will get you anywhere you want – just start walking. This is why I named my blog “Lovely 365” – to remind myself that we are given 365 opportunities each year to achieve what we wish for.

The reason behind good resolutions

The turn of a year also makes me look closer at my current life and recap my values. Values are important, because this is what steers our thoughts, actions and decisions. It’s like an inner compass that tells us what’s right and what’s wrong, what we should do and what doesn’t do us any good. So, how we live our life, deal with others and treat ourselves is should be the expression of our values. Ignoring – or even denying – these values causes pain and discontentment. It feels like living someone else’s life instead of your own – this can even lead to a sense of heteronomy. To me, there’s nothing worse than ignoring this inner compass. In order to live a life against my values, I would have to numb myself from the inside – and if I just live life long enough like that, this would probably leave me with depression or even physical pain. I think the necessity of making resolutions comes partly because we might sometimes (have to) shift our priorities away from our values. So this is a good time to think about our values, take stock of what might prevent us from living the life we really want to live and take a first tiny step to regain balance in our lives.

My personal highlights 2017 and resolutions for 2018

The biggest highlight for me was definitely finishing my bachelor thesis and successfully graduating from university. Apart from that, I noticed the best moments involved being outside – so I hope to spend my time more often out and about. I should also take my camera more often with me – because photography is something I’d like to intensify this year. Spending time with family and friends is another thing that I aim for. I also hope to post on a more regular basis here and share more thoughts and pictures with you. Last but not least, my bucket list is still waiting for me – so there are hopefully many more great moments to come in 2018!

So, after all these heavy thoughts, here are some joyful moments of the last 365 days:

 

What were your personal highlights 2017?  What are your resolutions, hopes and dreams for 2018?

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The Struggle is Real: 5 Ideas How to Survive until Christmas

There are two kind of people: The ones who love the Advent season and cannot get enough of it and others who wish from the beginning of December that this month will pass by quickly. Both reactions are understandable – but I think the latter one is just because those people have forgotten about the real Christmas. I have never gotten to know a single child who doesn’t love the bright lights, baking cookies or playing in the snow. Getting older, this joy is often replaced by rushing to the city on the week-ends, making your way through the crowded shops and desperately trying to find the best gifts for your loved ones.

High expectations usually lead to disappointment. Most of us have enough stress throughout the year and especially for all people working in retail, Christmas must be the worst time of the year. But in the end, it’s our decision: We can choose how we think and feel about this time. It’s up to every single one of us if we’re following the hectic crowd or just pause for a moment and think about how else we could spend our time until Christmas.

Here are 5 ideas how to give Christmas a chance and find a way to enjoy it again:

  • Think about what you enjoyed as a child. Pay attention to these things and return to old traditions – but don’t expect it to be the same like before! The more often we experience Christmas, the more we’re getting used to it. Life experience is something valuable but comes at a cost: The magic of experiencing something the first time will be lost the more you know. We should keep this in mind and be thankful for the good memories without desperately trying to recreate the same feelings again.
  • Skip traditions. Really – sometimes we’re holding on to something just because of being used to it. Pay attention about what you think you have to do because it’s Christmas but don’t really enjoy. You don’t have to have Christmas tree if it’s bringing more stress than joy to your life. You don’t have to bake cookies if you suck at it or just don’t feel like destroying the kitchen completely. Alternatively, try out something different and create your own traditions – maybe reading your favorite book during the Advent Season or going ice-skating the day before Christmas.
  •  Take vacation before Christmas. It’s really that simple: Most people around me don’t think about taking vacations before Christmas holidays. And of course, it isn’t possible for everyone. But if you can, take some days off and enjoy the festive lights while making your way through less crowded shops on weekdays. Additionally, you will have more time for all your loved ones who ask for spending some time together. You have also more time to think about what to get for them or even craft personal gifts if you have skilled hand.
  • Give yourself a rest. Even if taking vacation is not an option, don’t stuff your week-ends with musts and shoulds. Take your time – even if it’s just an hour – to calm down. Enjoy a tea or hot chocolate, listen to your favorite music and relax. Think about all the people and things that are important to you and be grateful to be able to spend some time with them during the Christmas season. Thinking about your loved ones and how important they are in your life makes you appreciate them again. Because sometimes in our everyday routine, we take them for granted. Appreciating them again helps also to think about what they would truly enjoy. That brings us to our last point:
  • The best things in life are usually memories related to people instead of stuff. So think about the moments with every single one of your loved ones. What were you doing? What was so special about it? This way, you will get an idea about what to get for them. Although some people might think it’s a cheap way for scrooges to survive Christmas without spending, personal gift certificates are great. Time is a scarce resource for most of us and investing it into others is something that’s done rarely these days. You can craft your own voucher or just buy a nice one that can be personalized. It should be an activity or an event that the presentee really enjoys but hasn’t done for a while (or even never before if you know he’s going to love it). This can be everything from an invitation to dinner or eating out over visiting a concert of his/her favorite band to more extreme activities like skydiving. Just make sure that it’s something you’ll be able to join or at least accompany him/her in order create a common memory.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know with a like. I’d also love to hear about your strategies how you slow down this Christmas season – just leave a comment below 🙂

Week #2-4 without media consumption: Minimalism is only half of the story

Time is running by and almost 4 weeks are over now. So far, my media fast went pretty good – during the last 2.5 weeks I only watched 1.5 movies with my boyfriend. The second movie didn’t count because I was too tired and overslept most of the time he was watching. I don’t consider it as breaking the challenge, as it was rather quality time we enjoyed together. Because let’s be honest: On some evenings, you just need a little rest and don’t feel like doing anything else. As this media time was mindfully chosen and I knew right from the start that it wouldn’t be more than those two movies (on different days), it is OK for me.

Minimalism got me started

I started this challenge out of several reasons – one of it is related to living a minimalist life: I got naturally into minimalist thinking without even knowing that such a lifestyle existed. But after I found out about the minimalist movement on the web, it really got me. I enjoy reading about it and thinking about minimalism as a way to become more satisfied with life in general. Besides gratefulness and appreciation for what you have, time is an important topic in the minimalist community. Spending your time more intentionally will help you to reach your goals and build the life you are longing for.

Less clutter doesn’t get you closer to your goals

Expectations about minimalism are high these days – the trend of simplicity seems sometimes like an universal remedy to all problems. But let’s be realistic about minimalist lifestyle: Less clutter doesn’t get you closer to your dreams and more time won’t automatically fulfil your dreams when you don’t plan how to use it. Hence, I was curious how I would use my time without any media distraction. I also wanted to get rid of the unrealistic expectations about what social media and advertisements are telling us of what life should be . Finding out about what really matters to me and learning how to actively enjoy instead of consume are important for me to gain more satisfaction. I really don’t want to stay on the sidelines and watch how other people are living their lives. During the last weeks, I often spent my evenings reading instead of scrolling through Instagram or Facebook timelines. 

How media fasting increases my financials

During my childhood, I have been a bookworm and read everything I could get a hold on. Over time, I forgot about this passion. Especially during my part-time studies over the last 4 years, I had much to read for university. Although it was somehow interesting, it cannot be compared to the joy of reading books chosen by yourself. Reading became burdensome duty I needed to fulfill in order to write academic papers. After a few months since my graduation, I’m glad to rediscover this joy again. While novels are great for vacations, I recently prefer specialized books and self-help literature to gain additional knowledge or improve my life. Currently, I’m reading about how to increase savings by making passive investments. I got into this topic a short while ago when I discovered the concept of financial freedom. I intend to start investing in ETFs soon – but before doing this, I need to understand in-depth how to create a good portfolio that suits my risk profile and expectations. In the end, the time I gained will pay out twice: Besides increased financial knowledge, I expect to improve my savings significantly by this new way of thinking. Maybe I’m going to share my insights when I’m done with this topic – but currently I don’t feel skilled enough to step into financial blog posts.

Health benefits from reduced screen time

Besides increasing the time and financial aspects, reducing overall screen time has also positive biological effects on me: I got more aware of my body’s needs and go to bed earlier than usual. I even look forward to cuddle up in my bed with some books, reading some pages and noticing how I’m getting tired. I feel more rested in the morning and seem to have more energy throughout the day. Apart from that, a study from Harvard Medical School confirms that blue light from screens can result not only in poor sleep patterns, but also threatens your health by messing up your biological rhythm. Severe diseases like depression and even cancer might be caused by a disturbed circadian rhythm. Additionally, not sitting on the couch or at the PC really helps to get your ass to the gym 😉

Overall effects after (almost) 30 days of media fasting

Summed up, this media fasting is a real win: By spending my time more consciously and using it for more joy- and meaningful activities, my life improves financially, physically and mentally. I also increased my social activities and took more time for my loved ones. After this short period and with casual exceptions from the ban, I’m amazed how a comparatively little change contributes to my entire well-being.

Due to these positive effects, I voluntarily want to keep my media consumption at a low level and am going to avoid all kind of screens (including my mobile phone) at least 1-2 hours before going to bed. In other words, this challenge has already been mastered – I got used to less media consumption and prefer spending my days and evenings media-free. Therefore, I hereby declare the challenge to be over as a new habit has been formed.

What’s next?

I want to use my free time for other goals than just reading books. Since May, I’m refreshing my French language skills – recently, I neglected that a little bit although having more time than usual. I think that might become a topic for another challenge someday! Also, vacation is almost there – so I hope to blog more regularly until Christmas and share some daytrips, pictures and random thoughts with you.

Zurich in 12 Hours: Sightseeing, Christmas Markets and Arts

Switzerland has never been on my bucket list so far. However, I love to explore new places and take every chance I can get to discover the world. A one-day business trip led me to Zurich – so I decided to elongate my time there and stayed for a week-end. As the first day was full of work and the third day was the day of departure, I actually had only one full day to discover Zurich. As Zurich is rather small and you can see a lot by walking around or using the tram, 12 hours are enough to obtain a good impression about life in Zurich.

08:00 AM

I wake up to the sound of pouring rain. The sky is dark and you can tell by the movement of the grey clouds that it’s far from comfortable outside. As Zurich is very expensive, I booked the first time a room at Airbnb. The appartment is small but clean and tidy, Jan is a very friendly and welcoming host. When I get up for breakfast, he has already gone to work. In the kitchen, he left a small chocolate bar and in the corridor, he put out an umbrella for me. It’s my first time to share a flat with a complete stranger, but it doesn’t feel awkward at all. I prepare myself a little breakfast, sit down at the open window and listen to the sound of rain while enjoying a hot tea. Now I’m ready to explore Zurich and am determined to not letting the rain destroy my day.

09:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Rain won’t stop me!

I make my way through the rain to Zurich West – it’s really cold and my fingers hurt due to the cold after just a couple of minutes. Zurich West is a trendy neighborhood with an alternative touch. The Prime Tower, a huge building with glass frontage, looks impressive. It includes a bar where you might have a wonderful view over Zurich. As I just had breakfast and there is so much to see, I leave it behind and go straight to the railway viaduct. It was built in 1894 and looks very impressive from below. Little shops selling exclusive designer items, pricey clothes and gourmet restaurants are built into the bows. A great idea to make use of this old building without changing its appearance too much. At the end of the street, there is a market hall with many different gourmet and high quality whole food stands. If you’re a foodie and are looking for a nice souvenir or just want to try some delicacies, this is the place to go.

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

From Zurich West, I take the tram to the old town of Zurich. There you can find the Großmünster and the Wasserkirche. For 5 CHF, you can enter one of the towers of Großmünster and gain a wonderful view over Zurich. Even on rainy days, the view is great – you really should go there when spending some time in Zurich.

Großmünster

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The river Limmat separates the old town of Zurich from the modern quarter. Right at the Wasserkirche, there is a small bridge that leads across the Limmat to Fraumünster. This church is famous for its bright windows created by Marc Chagall. But also the other windows of Giacometti and Heaton with its luminous colors are impressive. You have to pay another 5 CHF to enter Fraumünster, but it’s definitely worth it. On such a rainy and cold day, I’m glad to spend some time inside. They even offer free audio guides and although I’m not too much interested into architecture or religion, I spend about an hour listening to the stories and admiring the beautifully shining windows. Additionally, I’m lucky to listen to the choir rehearsal and enjoy the great acoustics. At this moment, I feel very grateful for the rain because otherwise I might not have visited Fraumünster.

Fraumünster Choir
Marc Chagall Windows of Fraumünster
Paintings in the courtyard of Fraumünster

12:00 PM – 03:00 PM

After so many impressions, I’m hungry. Christmas Market stands are everywhere and offer great food. As it’s still wet and cold, I take a goulash soup served in a loaf of bread. At this moment, I can’t imagine something tastier than this and really enjoy the heat that’s slowly spreading inside me.

Goulash soup – yummy!

Afterwards, I strive through the little alleys and streets of Zurich and get to Zurichsee. The bright flowers are a welcome and surprising contrast to this grey and rainy day.

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For a little dessert, visiting Sprüngli is the best you can do. The famous Luxemburgerli – little macarons – are delicious and a particular speciality. It would be a shame to leave Zurich without trying those. There are many Sprüngli shops scattered all over the city. Sprüngli also offers small cakes that look like tiny work of arts!

Another great thing to do in the afternoon is visiting the Giacometti hall: In the 1920ies, the entrance of the central police station was dark and uncomfortable. Giacometti, a renown artist, was engaged to make it more welcoming. He really mastered this task and surpassed all expectations. The painted walls seem to glow on their own – only little light is needed to show the beauty of this masterpiece. Unfortunately, it’s not allowed to take pictures and you better keep to this rule as you have to leave your ID card at the entrance of the police station. This blogger has been more brave than me to break the rule and posted a picture of the hall. Additionally, you can find a 360° view of the hall here.

Giacometti Hall | Picture by dalejniejade.pl

03:00 PM – 05:00 PM

The rain has stopped, but walking through Zurich in the cold gets a little bit exhausting. Therefore, I decide to visit the Kunsthaus. The Kunsthaus is a museum with an extensive exposition of more than 4000 objects. It includes numerous different genres of art reaching from impressive paintings of the old masters to modern installations. It seems impossible to get bored of such a diversified collection. The different styles of paintings are really inspirational and even someone who doesn’t know anything about arts (like me 😉 ) will admire the skills it does take to create such great paintings.  The panorama water lily painting by Monet really caught me. The lightning in the room is perfect and I took some time to just sit down in front of this masterpiece and let its magic work on me.

One of Monet’s famous Water Lily Pond paintings!

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05:00 PM – 09:00 PM

The sun has gone and the festive lights in the streets create a whole new atmosphere. Fortunately, the rain has finally stopped. In this magical Christmas atmosphere, it’s a pleasure to walk around and experiencing another face of Zurich. If you want to enjoy another great view over the city lights, you can go up to the university building on the hill. The sparkling lights and lit buildings create a great panorama. And the best of it: I almost have it all for myself – as it’s already dark, only a handful of others have come here.

View over Zurich from University

Near the main station, there is a special Christmas Market at the Landesmuseum Zurich. The colorful lights are overwhelming and I need some time to deal with it. I can’t stop staring at all these lights and admiring how beautiful it looks. The waffle at the Christmas stand perfects this wonderful moment.

Another really nice Christmas market is at the other end of Zurich on the Bellevue square in front of the opera house. The best thing about this market is that there is enough space for everyone – no pushing from other people, you can go where you want at your own pace. There are many different things to taste. Still, there are also some stands where you can buy great gifts for your loved ones or just treat yourself. The goods are more individual and fancy than on traditional German Christmas markets where everything seems to be repeated after a few stands.

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At the end of a day, I feel really exhausted, but happy. My feet hurt from running around – still, I would do it again!

A few hours more to spend in Zurich?

On my day of departure, I visited the zoo. It’s easy to reach by tram and is another great possibility to spend some hours in Zurich. If you are less interested in arts or traveling with kids, this could be a good alternative to the Kunsthaus. The zoo is divided into different areas and still expanding – currently they are working on “Australia” and “Africa” themed sections. The Masoala rainforest hall is really great – high temperatures and air humidity lets you forget about the weather outside. And striving through this artificial rainforest with flying foxes, birds and chameleons is just great!

 

Ready to explore Zurich! 

Just a short update as I probably won’t be able to blog on the week-end: My challenge is going fine, still no media consumption and lately I managed to read 60 pages in one evening 🙂

However, winter still got me and I feel tired very early – maybe a little cold is coming up. Or could it be that I develop a better feeling for myself? Maybe my self-perception has improved and I just realize earlier what my body and mind really long for. I will keep an eye on that and am excited to find out.

I’m thinking about posting my packing list for the week-end in Zurich. But does the world need another stylish capsule packing list? What I have in my bag for the week-end is so basic that it might be too boring to share 😉 Besides, I’m not very talented in creating stylish and fashionable outfits or pinterest-worthy pictures. On the other hand, maybe some of you are curious to read about my experiences about a week-end with only a basic amount of things fitting into a daypack?

I wish all of you a nice week-end and hope to come back with lots of beautiful pictures and experiences to share. 

Week#1 without media consumption: Breaking the media ban right from the start

The first week has passed by and there have been some ups and downs regarding my challenge. I suffered from nausea and vomit for several days – this was something that made it really hard to keep to the challenge. Although I read and slept a lot, there were times my stomach hurt so bad that this was not enough distraction to ease my pain.

The initial idea of this challenge is to use my time for other things and enjoy life – but being sick is something that prevents both right from the start. So why should I torture myself in a situation where I was not able to even think about doing anything else? So, I decided that a conscious decision for sensible media consumption was OK in such an exceptional case.  In turn, I’m going to prolong my challenge for another week.

Friday, I was finally back on track and spent my evening on the couch with a good book about financial education: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechner. If you’re interested in literature about financial freedom, you certainly have heard of it before. I really love the way it is written, easy to understand and with lots of personal experiences and insights of the author. Kiyosaki illustrates a more practical approach to take care on your financials. He doesn’t deliver a blueprint that works for everyone. Instead, he stresses that individual responsibility and lifelong learning are key to becoming financially independent. This book is a good point to start when you have no idea about financials at all or for parents who want to built a good foundation to their kids’ knowledge about money. Although I hold a university degree in economics, it was still worth reading as some aspects became more clear by his vivid examples, e. g. what a real hands-on-mentality means. Practical thinking and courage really bring you forward in life, but are not taught in school. As I’m rather a thinker than a doer, I sometimes struggle with it. Rich Dad, Poor Dad reminded me again that doing something is often better than doing nothing.

This week-end, I collected ideas for a personal Advent calendar and got the first items for it. It was nice to spend my time wrapping those items in gift paper. I really love the Advent season and look forward to next week when the Christmas markets open – all these lights, aromas and especially the food! 🙂 But what is most important to me in those days is sharing some time with my loved ones. Hence, I also visited my mother, had a pleasant breakfast and just enjoyed the time with her.

All in all, this week went quite well despite this bad start. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel like having more time at my disposal – I didn’t manage to cross everything from my list I intended to do. But maybe this was only because of those days lost to the sickness.
Next week is going to be a little bit stressful and I’ll be solo traveling to Zurich next week-end. That means I’m going to cross off another point from my bucket list! 🙂

How I spend my time this winter or: 30 days of media fasting

Time is passing by so quick and winter is coming – days are getting shorter and darker. I don’t know about you, but when I’m cold I fall into a kind of hibernation. Being cold paralyzes me, all my energy seems to be gone and I sleep about 12 hours per night on week-ends. I can’t get a grip on myself and anything except for staying inside, eating sweets and watching TV, feels too exhausting.

Although this is very comfortable, it isn’t making me happy. Week-ends pass by so fast when doing nothing except for watching movies and sleeping. And after a few weeks, I ask myself: What have I been doing the whole time?

To live or to exist?

Life is too short and watching TV gets us nowhere. We all need a little rest every now and then, but shouldn’t we find other ways to relax which enable us to stay more in touch with the real and social life? And it’s not just classical TV – it’s all forms of passive media consumption including YouTube, online or video games as well.

Mindfulness or minimalism are important trends against those habits. Raising awareness helps us to appreciate our life time and to invest it more consciously in our well-being from a more sustainable perspective. Of course watching TV or playing video games allow us to leave our stress behind, forget about everything and relax. But in the end, this is most likely leaving us unhappy as it is not bringing real satisfaction into our lives. Eventually, it makes us feel empty – especially when seeing all the adventures we could have on social media.

Social media is even more dangerous than just wasting time by watching TV. It makes us compare our mediocre life to a firework of incredible moments from people all over the world. This comparison is just unfair and usually leaves us frustrated.

Consumption vs. Creativity

All in all, media consumption is not helpful to follow our dreams and embrace our lives. Passive consumption deprives us of creativity. To me, creativity is not reserved for ingenious masterminds – it’s something that can be found in everyone.

To create is to express ourselves and to leave something behind. We don’t know our real potential until we try. It doesn’t need to be extraordinary and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s sufficient that it leaves us with the feeling of being able to give the world something back – no matter what it is.

Some find satisfaction in raising kids and passing on their knowledge, others turn to arts, music, sports or cooking. Life offers numerous fields of interests to try out, test ourselves and become experts. Or we can choose to learn just a little bit of each field and get more variety and adventure into our lives.

The challenge begins

Now, here’s my personal challenge: No media consumption during the next 30 days. This includes TV, video games, YouTube videos, social media and surfing the web without any special purpose. Instead, I want to find new ways to spend my evenings and week-ends. I hope to become more creative, develop some skills and improve my knowledge on some topics (reading books is still allowed 😉 ). Plus, I will use this challenge to blog on a more regular basis – as this blog needs definitely more input.

 

Climbing a Volcano: La Soufrière, Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is a butterfly-shaped island in the Caribbean Sea and belongs officially to France. Compared to Cuba, it is a very small island but still there are many things to discover. Its right-hand wing Grande Terre is rather dry: Sugar cane fields and rum distilleries are characteristically for this region. Pointe Des Châteaux marks the easterly point of Guadeloupe and offers a great view. The left-hand wing called Basse-Terre is covered by a tropical forest including waterfalls and mountains. There you can find La Soufrière, an active volcano and with 1467 meters the highest point of Guadeloupe. Its last eruption occured in 1976 – from a geological point of view, that is only a blink of an eye ago.

Preparing for our adventure

In the early morning, we were picked up by our tour guide. After a one-hour drive, we stopped by a small boulangerie and bought some bananas and a few baguettes au jambon et fromage before we continued our drive. It looked like it’s going to be another perfect warm and sunny day – until we arrived at our starting point. At the foot of the mountain, the weather was colder, very windy and grey clouds covered the mountain peak. Fortunately, our guide has brought some rain capes and I also brought a rain jacket with me. All in all, we felt well prepared for this adventure.

Beginning our ascent

At first, we passed by a tropical forest with natural sulphur basins and there were even some stairs on the well-defined trail. The slope was manageable and it almost felt like an easy walk. But then, after approximately half an hour, we reached a plateau. The wind was very heavy and drizzle hit our faces. After a short break, we continued our way up. The rain forest was gone and due to the constant rain, the path became muddy. Stones and big rocks blocked our way and we had to climb them to move forward. The drizzle intensified and became heavy rain. The path became more slippery and I was soaking wet. The rain ran down my legs and filled my waterproof hiking shoes with water. During another break, I took one after the other off and turned each shoe upside down – I swear it could have filled a whole glass. My legs became cold and every step ached. The landscaped felt like from another world – at some places, we wouldn’t have been surprised to see some flying dinosaurs like in Jurassic Park.

Finally on top

After approximately 3.5 hours we reached the peak. The rain and the fog restricted the view – but in exchange, this created a very special atmosphere. It felt like no-mans land – almost like being on another planet. We had already passed by small craters on our way to the top, but the hissing and fuming main crater was very impressive.

The descent

On our way down, the weather got even worse – at some times, I really though it would blow me down. I have never experienced the power of nature like this before. After leaving the top, the landscape provided shelter from the wind – but the rain has transformed some steep passages of the trail into little waterfalls. My legs were already shaking from the effort and cold, but still my body managed taking one step after another. Fortunately, everyone descended without injuries. After the worst was overcome, we paused again to enjoy our baguettes. Never before anything so simple had tasted that wonderful – like our senses had been awakened by this intense experience of nature.

What about you – have you also climbed a mountain or done anything else that has made you feel so alive?

Weilburg’s worth a trip

Until this summer, I had never heard of Weilburg before. It’s located in the middle of nowhere between Cologne and Frankfurt. So what the hell were we doing there?

On a warm summer day in August, we took a trip to Weilburg. Around this town flows the Lahn, a river with a length of 245 km. It stretches from the Rothaar Mountains to Koblenz where it joins the Rhine.  In the past, the Lahn was tamed by sluices to make it navigable and transport goods. Today, the Lahn is mainly used for recreational activities like fishing or canoeing. There are also some bike and hiking routes along the river. On that day, we went to the Lahn to learn canoeing.

Our tour started in Löhnberg, only a few kilometers from Weilburg away. We barely could see the current, the Lahn lay calm and quite in front of us. After a short introduction by our guide, we carried our canoe into the water. It was much heavier than we thought. Entering the canoe is one of the most critical parts, but we mastered the first challenge pretty well. At the beginning, it felt a little bit shaky on the water – but a few paddle strokes later, everything came naturally.

Soon I got used to this new feeling and it almost seemed as though I had never done anything else. I could feel the movements of the canoe and anticipate quickly which direction it tended to drift. Paddling requires a certain sensitivity as using too much strength will make the canoe turn. This made me slow down and I began to form a unit with my surroundings. It’s been very relaxing and urged me to stay right in the moment. Suddenly, life became easy: While enjoying the warm sun on my face and the pure nature around, moving slowly on the gently flowing river calms my mind.

This tranquility was only interrupted by passing the sluices which bring some variety to the trip. On our trip from Löhningen to Odersbach, we passed three sluices. Each time we arrived at a sluice, two of us had to leave the canoe and operate the sluice. To my surprise, staying in the canoe was more exciting: I felt a little bit trapped in the sluice and it was fascinating how fast the water level changes when the valves are open. Another highlight on this tour was canoeing through a high and dark tunnel beneath Weilburg. This is a common route almost every canoeist is taking when passing Weilburg as the alternative route includes a very steep gradient you could almost call a waterfall.

After 6 hours of canoeing, we decided to visit Weilburg. The German word “Burg” means castle – and this is exactly what you are going to find in the center of Weilburg. Located on a hill, it rises over the Lahn and offers a beautiful view. The entrance to the courtyard is free and within the castle walls, small shops, cafes and restaurants can be found. On some days, market traders offer their goods on the market square, on others there are open air concerts of classical music. Walking through the pleasure garden, enjoying some ice cream and admiring the beautiful facades was a perfect ending of this beautiful day.

I think the best of this trip was that we didn’t expect Weilburg to be that picturesque and beautiful – this surprise was the cherry on the top of that awesome daytrip. We are definitely coming back to this lovely place next summer – maybe not just for canoeing as this area offers so much more to discover.

What about you? Have you ever taken a trip where you suddenly discovered something you haven’t expected?

Biking and Happiness

Riding a bike makes me happy: Fresh air makes me feel alive and I’m always slightly excited what to find around the next corner when discovering new paths. The constant rhythm of pedaling becomes a kind of meditation and being outside calms my thoughts. The cooling airstream gently touches my skin while moving makes me feel good. Everything becomes so easy as if you were a child again – with the landscape flying by, you leave your worries, fear and stress behind.

Besides, getting to know the surrounding area better makes me leave my usual paths. Most people take the same routes day after day: Home – Work – Home. This limited range of motion in everyday life narrows one’s mind. Helpful routines become crushing boredom and days melt into years – finally, you’re asking yourself where all the time has gone. Leaving these well-known paths – be it only for a few hours after work or on the week-end – can have a refreshing and stimulating effect.

 

Being outdoors brings me closer to feeling alive and making new experiences usually result in great memories. So, that morning a few weeks ago, I got on my bike and enjoyed this picture perfect sunny day around Cologne. This way, I discovered the Schloßpark Köln Stammheim – a public park with beautiful sculptures that is totally free. Here you can find more information including a great camera flight through the park.

At the end of the day, I have made almost 50 km by bike and fell exhausted but satisfied into my bed.

Enriching my life with as many happy moments and unique experiences as possible is my ultimate goal. And the best of this is: Sometimes, this can be realized by nothing more than a simple bike tour.

What about you – how do you spend your leisure time on such perfect days?