Falling in Love with Edinburgh

Hello world,

I spent a couple of days in beautiful, spooky Edinburgh after spontaneously booking a trip to Scotland, because I had been binge-watching Outlander. 

I did not come to Scotland for Edinburgh. In fact, I had heard it was a rather dark and dodgy city. It certainly was, but it was also one of the most captivating cities I have been to.

Let me just say: On the third day I went to look at the university and googled possible postgraduate degrees I might pursue in the Scottish capitol. Edinburgh blew me away.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Population: 464,990
Correct pronunciation: Edinbura (u very short, roll the r)
Big-Mac-Index: U$ 3.73
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  1. Visit Calton Hill by sunset or sunrise. It is not a big hike, but I guarantee you that most postcards and pictures you have seen of Edinburgh were taken there. You have a good view over the whole city and some fancy neoclassic building as your foreground. The sunset I witnessed there, was not even clear, however, the light was beau-ti-ful. 
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  2. Walk a lot. It is the best way to explore this city’s closes, courts, and alleys.
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  3. Go to museums. There are so many in Edinburgh, and they are almost all for free! I visited the Writers’ Museum, the National Museum, and the Museum of the People. All of them were great. I also heard good things about the Museum of Edinburgh and the Museum of Childhood. If you can only do one: Visit the National Museum; it is overwhelming and fascinating.
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  4. Stay at the Castle Rock Hostel. It is cheap, a great social hotspot, offers a lot of activities and free wifi, and it has received a ton of awards. Plus, the receptionists (24 hours a day!) are super nice. I loved it there.
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  5. Do the Harry Potter Trail. It is for free and a must for every Potterhead. They start every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3pm at the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue. The enthusiastic guide will tell you all about the inspiration J.K. Rowling got from Edinburgh.
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  6. Try Haggis just once. Or if not, have some other Scottish food. We went to the Royal Mile Tavern, which was actually pretty good. Plus, you get a discount if you are staying at the Castle Rock.
    If you are not into really unhealthy food, there is also a lot of good and cheap places in Edinburgh, such as Hendersons in the New Town or El Torre Loco at Grassmarket. Other than that, Marks & Spencer always has good takeaway options. 
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  7. Visit St. Giles Cathedral. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Now I want a blue ceiling with stars in my bedroom.
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  8. Hike up Arthur’s Seat to see the sunrise. Arthur’s Seat is a hill located just below the Royal Mile. It is an actual hike to get up there (300 meters of elevation) and you will have to get up at 5 am, but it is definitely worth it. Although it is not very touristy, it would recommend sunrise instead of sunset, since it does get a bit crowded for the latter.

Edinburg is not only a great place for affordable (solo) travel, it is also packed with friendly locals (who love their country), a bloody and Game of Thrones reminiscent history, a fantastic nightlife, many North Americans (they are very easy to make friends with), and a rugged atmosphere.

I absolutely loved it there. Who knows when I might come back. Hopefully, it will be for a bit longer.

xo

A Scottish Sunrise

Hello world,

Let me tell you about that Scottish sunrise I witnessed while I was in Edinburgh, because it was magical.

In the beginning of March, I spontaneously decided to go to Edinburgh, Scotland. Basically, it was because of Outlander, although I had not even seen the second season at that point. One season of Sam Heughan was enough for me to go on my first solo trip. Sam Heughan makes me do all kinds of things.

The one thing solo travel truly gives you, is ultimate freedom. I love sunrises, but many trips with friends I was not able to witness any, because we were lazy or because I was not consequent enough. This time, I would not let anything stop me.
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There is something very sacred about sunrises. We see a lot of sunsets, most of them without making the effort to look at them. Sunsets just happen everyday while we are doing other things. We are used to sunsets.

Sunrises are different. You have to make a conscious effort in order to witness a sunrise. They are rare, unpredictable, and pure. They are the light after a cold night, the promise of something new, a clean slate every morning.

I love sunrises.
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For this specific sunrise, I got up at 5 am. It was dark and cold outside, and I had only slept a couple of hours. My roommates, who had been too lazy to join me, were snoozing next to me.

But I got up. Silently I got dressed, grabbed my camera, and headed out. The city was a ghost town, and I felt like I was the only person awake in the entire world. Quietly I made my way to the top without music, because I wanted to save battery, only listening to my breaths and steps.

At 6.35 am, I reached the top of Arthur’s Seat.
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It was actually very windy and cold, which the pictures do not show. I sat down, pulled out my camera, and remained there for the next thirty minutes while the sky poured out.

The sunrise does not care, if anyone is going to watch it. It continues to be beautiful everyday anew, even if no one is there to witness it. On that morning, the sunrise was as lavish and stupendous as it could have been. It did not matter to the sunrise or anyone if I had got up to watch it, but it mattered everything to me.

His mercies are new every morning.


I want to encourage you to get up for sunrises. Don’t get me wrong: I am the ultimate sleepyhead with my current record set at 2.30 pm and 14 hours. If I allowed myself to, I could sleep through most of my life.

But that is not what makes your life memorable. Life is seized by getting up and doing things. It is fulfilled by taking the time to do the things that satisfy your soul. In my case that is sunrises. Hikes. Long conversations. Good tea. Books. Hugs.

Once in a while, just stop for a minute and appreciate the fact that you are alive. Stay in the car to listen to that one song. Close your eyes to feel the sun on your face. Lower the camera and breathe in deeply.

xo

My First Solo Trip • Adulting 101

Hello world,

Let’s talk solo travel.

I’ve traveled alone before, however it was always part of a program or meeting up with friends at the location. I have never been on my own from start to finish fully responsible for myself.

Admittedly, the prospect scared me a bit beforehand: Would I be lonely? Would I feel uncomfortable? Would I regret going and be stuck in a foreign country?

No!


Going on a trip all by myself turned into one of the best trips of my life. It was truly eye-opening and something I would recommend everyone, especially every woman, to do at least once. It might not be your way of travelling, but it also may be just what you have been craving unknowingly.

Let me thus clear up some wrong expectations and assumptions concerning solo travel (as a woman).

  1. Solo travel does not mean travelling lonely. I instantly made friends before even having the time to feel lonely. Everyone going abroad is naturally open and eager to meet new people, particularly if you or they are a solo traveler. I now have new friends from Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., and Hungary; friends I would not have made had I not gone solo.If you are still worried, there are a couple of ways to ensure meeting others:
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    Stay at hostels.
    Join tours.
    Stay active. Go out. Take classes. Get out there.
    Do not be afraid to walk up to people. There is nothing truly bad that could happen.
    English only. For all German tourists, please do not just find each other and stay together. Branch out.
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  2. No one cares, if you are by yourself. I ate alone several times, and nobody gave me any weird looks. Take a book or your cellphone along; you’ll be fine. We constantly overestimate the amounts of sh*t others give about us.
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  3. Going solo means ultimate freedom. I could do everything I wanted and nothing I did not want to. On some days, I could get up at 5am to hike up a mountain to catch the sunrise. On other days, I could decide to stay out and party. This concerns big decisions such as destinations as well as small decisions such as what to eat. Both add up to be important.Ultimate freedom is something I was not used to on trips. Each day, it was entirely up to me to make the most out of it. I love my friends, but not many of them love to hike up mountains, go to museums, spend money on good food, be outgoing, and go out. With friends, it always comes down to compromises. There were none on this trip.
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  4. Travel lightly and spontaneously. I traveled with carry-on luggage only and did not have a concrete plan for my stay in Edinburgh. A lot evolved on the go as I met other travelers. As in Canada, I could’ve also stayed in Scotland much longer with newly friends who invited me to. As in Canada, I was very tempted to do that.

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  5. Do not be careless with your freedom. Having no companion from home means no backup. So, do your research and listen to your guts. Say ‘no,’ if you feel uncomfortable. Plus, no one you’ve just met has to know that you are by yourself. It makes you vulnerable, thus it is wise to wait to share that information.
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  6. Go out with caution. Night life is an important social aspect, however, as a female solo traveler it is crucial to always stay in control. You will get offered drinks, and sadly many men think they thereby automatically buy some kind of entitlement. Thus, never drink enough to lose control; You should always be able to say no and find your way home.
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  7. Join organized groups. I did a tour through the Highlands, which was fabulous. Confined to an isolated bus or hostel, I got to know and love my fellow travelers a lot more. The tour may have been a bit more expensive, but it was definitely worth it for me. As was the Harry Potter Trail in Edinburgh and organized activities by the hostel. Those are aimed at solo travelers, so make use of them!
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  8. Re-invent yourself. No one know you abroad, hence you can be whoever you want to be. Although I am technically more German, I always introduced myself as Swiss, because Swiss have less stigma attached to them. I was also more outgoing than I would’ve been at home, because I knew I would unlikely ever meet these people again. You are under no obligation to be the person you were yesterday. This not only goes for solo travel, by the way.
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  9. Do not be afraid to ask for pictures of yourself. I have better pictures of myself from this trip than I do from others with friends, because I do not want to annoy them, and because we all do not want to seem too vain. Traveling alone I did not care about all that.Some tricks to get people to take pictures of you:
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    • Offer to take a picture of them. They will feel obliged to do the same.
    Be explicit. Tell them exactly what to do. Tell them to hold the camera straight with focus on you and however much background you want. I tend to overestimate people’s abilities. (Example on upper picture, I should’ve told my photographer explicitly to focus on me.)
    Joke about travel blogging. Funnily enough, this is a good trick. Joke about travel blogging poses, do a couple jokingly, and you will end up with great pictures.
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  10. Learn more about yourself. Take and embrace time spent on yourself. Reflect on what you are as a person. It may sound absurd, but I truly struggled to find alone time on my trip. Once others know you are going solo, they assume they have to take you in and that you want them to. Learn to say ‘no’ and spend time to get to know yourself.
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    The world is a beautiful place. I would never get anywhere if I always waited for someone to have the money, time, and emotional connection to join me explore it. I went solo after unsuccessfully looking for a companion (which does not mean I do not have friends!), but it made the trip into the trip I really wanted, beginning to the end. It was one of the best times of my life.

I cannot wait to go solo again.

Toss away your fears. The world is full of friends to be made, sights to be witnessed, and wonders to be admired.

xo

A Letter To My Younger Self • Adulting 101

Dear Layla,

Congratulations on starting school this year! You are five years old and have already lived in four different houses and two different continents; You are so cool!

I know you are very excited for what is to come in your life. I know you already cannot wait to be independent one day and move out, even though you have great parents. I know you have big dreams of your own apartment, exciting trips, and a cool job.

Let me begin by saying that you as a girl are very lucky to have been born in the late 20th century. Unless many women before you, you will have the right to make decision whether these be concerning politics, your career, or your spouse. In four years, you will move to a country where women did not even have the right to vote until thirty years ago!

Still, all of your dreams would be easier to achieve if you were a boy. Even fifteen years later. 
In the next fifteen years, you will often be reduced to your weight. In P.E. you will feel more comfortable in loose pants. Going out you will see boys scan your body and walk away.  Your friends will cry on your shoulder, because they gained weight.

In 2016, 66% of German women will still be unhappy with their body. Women’s confidence will be on a general decline, which will greatly affect them: 89% will opt out of important life activities if they do not feel good about their look on that specific day. Just because of their looks!
This has a lot to do with pressure from media. You will grow up with magazines, ads, and television telling you to look a certain way. They will tell you how to dress to ‘hide your problem areas’ and what to do to ‘keep him interested’ or to ‘get any guy’. Women in movies will all seem prettier than you.

69% of women will feel and suffer from a permanent pressure from the media in 2016.  Living in a modern country, you will be more aware of this pressure, however, you will face increasing tension to ‘be it all’ and ‘do it all.’ You will be pressured into taking sewing instead of crafting class. You will hear classmates say that as a girl it ‘is excusable’ to be bad at sciences or math. You will be in all-girls-class, because humanities are so much more popular with girls, since few girls are truly encouraged to pursue sciences.

In the next fifteen years, the gender pay gap in Germany will not change. Women will still earn 21% less than men on average. Only 18% of CEOs will be women, because half of us will work part time due to family reasons.

In fifteen years, a woman will run for president in the US. She will be called a witch, because she had a successful career and voices her opinion. She will lose to a man, who openly disrepects and degrades women.
In fifteen years, the world still has so many issues concerning women’s rights. Yes, we have made progress, and politicians are moaning about having to address women’s right again, but there is still a lot to be done. The word ‘feminist’ has turned into a slur, yet we must keep on fighting.

We must keep on fighting every day to achieve equal rights, a better body image, and more confidence for girls and women everywhere. Germany is far from perfect, but the situation is much worse in many other countries across the world.

Dear Layla, I encourage you to keep dreaming big. Keep dreaming of independence, a career, travels, and a good life, because you can and you will achieve those dreams. It will be harder for you, because you are a girl, but your life will also be extra cali fragilistic expialidocious, because you are a girl.

Keep being a bossy, nasty, proud woman, Layla.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Sources: The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report (2016); Vereinbarkeit von Beruf und Familie

17 Memories // February 2017

Hello world,

Time for another flashback.
I’ve been back in Switzerland for two weeks. However, since I worked a lot and the weather was pretty back, I am using spare photos from the last two months in Heidelberg for this post.

Without further ado, here we go.

Here are 17 memories I made in February 2017:

1 For my most important exam, I studied in the library until 12am.

2 I took five exams well prepared.

I passed them all.

To celebrate my passed exams, I had two glasses of champagne at 5pm. Somehow, I managed to be tipsy at dinner to my dorm mates’ delight.

I signed up for second semester after having successfully finished my first semester at uni.

In celebration of our first semester being done, I inaugurated my fondue stove and pot with my uni friends. Everyone loved it.For our semester closing service at the dorm, I gave the sermon. Seldom have I received more compliments. I am not switching my major, though, even if the theologians really tried to convince me.

Initially, I ran a lot. I even broke my 5k record of two years.

Spontaneously, I booked my first solo trip to a country I have had a crush on for years.

10 I watched my first horror movie: The Shining. It was scary, but I made it through.

11 After injuring myself, I did a lot of other physical activities such as yoga, swimming, and HIIT workouts.

12 I am so organized this month: All bills are paid, all documents are organized, and I am on top of all my chores.13 I spent two wonderful days with my close friend and former dorm neighbor Sophia. We saw Midsummer Night’s Dream as a ballet, which was pretty great.

14 Going back to Switzerland simultaneously felt like leaving home and coming home.

15 I received my Swiss passport within 48 hours after applying for it: Swiss bureaucracy at its finest!

16 I gained a cousin.

17 After a busy month, I am ready for my next month of travelling.
I hope everyone had a great February.

xo