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

One of Many Adult Challenges

Hello world,

Another European capitol – check!dsc01710dsc01583In 2017 I’ve already visited Brussels, Belgium, for two days with one of my closest friends. It was more convenient to meet up there, neither of us had heard much about the city. In fact, there is also not that much to see for tourists. There is a public square with some old buildings, a peeing boy sculpture and a large iron atom. Those are the touristy spots. Flora and I thus spent most of our time strolling around, eating a lot, getting our hair cut and catching up. A lot of catching up.

We had a really great time.
dsc01616dsc01681As I get older I am encountering new challenges I did not anticipate. Most of the liberties I’ve gained, such as moving away, making new friends or just the possibility to take a trip to Brussels on a whim, are accompanied by efforts. One of adult life’s main efforts, I have come to learn, is to keep in touch with friends and family.

I love all of my friends. I love spending time with them. I love taking trips with them. However, it is strenuous to keep it up, when we are separated for a longer period of time by distance or busy schedules. By now, I have friends from many different stages of my life: friends from elementary school, high school, church, my exchange year, trips, university, my dorm, and hopefully this list will just keep getting longer. There is nothing greater than making new friends.

However, as a (semi-)adult I am now responsible for keeping all of those wonderful relationships alive. They do not tend to themselves, because we are all going different directions. We make different choices, and that is great! In order to not lose each other in the process, though, we need to ceaselessly make the conscious decision not to do so. We have to text or call each other, ask questions and be interested. That is an effort, and it does not stop.
dsc01741My trip to Brussels with Flora, however, has shown me once again that the effort is worth it. It is worth friendships. It is worth insider jokes. It is worth spending quality time with quality people.

All of my friends are quality people. If you are one of them and we haven’t spoken in a while: I am sorry. Text me! Tag me under a meme we both find hilarious! Meet me spontaneously in a European capitol! I will be there, because you, my friend, are worth it.

I am just trying to navigate my way through adult life. It is hard some times, but pretty awesome at others.

xo
Layla

Thanks for reading.

The Last Week of Summer

Hello world,

Summer has finally ended, even for me after 13 weeks of break. From now on it’s fall and very soon it’s uni.
dsc09676dsc09711Last week I vacationed in the Ticino clinging to summer as if it was my last. I got a tiny bit tan, swam a lot, ate a lot, read a lot, prayed a lot, and spent a lot of time with a lot of great people. It was a good week, although I failed to take many pictures. Even that was too much effort, which is saying enough about how relaxing these last couple of days were. dsc09675However, I did drive. On the way south I accidentally drove across a pass, which was scary. We got amazing views, though, but perhaps it wasn’t worth the stress I caused my dad. I had to surrender the steering wheel to him at the peak. Thankfully, the way back was much more laid back and I did all of the 275 km myself. Yay!

xo
Layla

An End and a Beginning

Hello world,

A great trip has come to an end.
dsc09562dsc09448Until yesterday I was on a big voyage across the North American continent. All on my own I traveled from Basel to Frankfurt to Minneapolis, on to Calgary, and on to Toronto and Washington D.C., back to Reykjavik and Frankfurt eventually taking the train to Bern again. I met up with a lot of old friends on the way, made new friends, and still spent quite some time alone — I loved all three of those experiences.

My stops along the way were particularly different. Going from green, spacious, lonely Alberta to the hassled, crowded, densely developed U.S.-American capital was definitely a challenge. And that was a ton of adjectives right there. dsc09593dsc09492My friend Jess and I discussed whether we prefer taking pictures in an urban or rural setting and our opinions differed. She has always been a city dweller.

D.C. has heaps of photogenic spots, most of which I am sure we have seen. However, there is also a bunch of symbolism, which I like. The upper picture is the Apotheosis of Washington, a fresco by Constantino Brumidi on the inside of the Capitol’s dome. It shows George Washington, first president of the USA. The capital was named after this guy, a state, a university, a ton of bridges and streets, and more than a couple of black babies (as a last name — supposedly nowadays it is the ‘blackest name there is’ according to Wikipedia). Well, this lovely painting pictured shows him becoming a god. This painting, I repeat, is situated in the country’s most important government building.

Also, the U.S. has quite some veterans (because the country’s participated in quite some wars) and their treatment by the government and society is… interesting. They receive appreciation and thanks and literally three holidays a year dedicated to just them, still they don’t seem to get much substantial aid aka money.
dsc09525 dsc09633Jess and I had a great time, though. We went to a baseball game between the Nats and Mets. The Nats lost by a thread. I got a picture with the mascot Abe (all the mascots are important presidents). Jess was terrified of them; childhood trauma.

We went to the National Zoo. The pandas’ cage occupied half of the park’s space while they spent their time sleeping in a corner. The gazelles, oryx, elephants, kudus, cheetahs, lions, and tigers seemed a tad depressed.

On Friday night we didn’t go out, because we weren’t allowed anywhere. Instead we spent the night on the 10th floor balcony complaining about U.S. nightlife laws and discussing life over some sprite.

Saturday we slept until 11am. Around lunch time we had a great brunch next to already drunk (and hungover) people. The flight back home that day with Iceland Air was awesome. They had artificial northern lights on board! Now I really want to go to Iceland. Next summer.
dsc09666bHere is the last post from this memorable trip. Surprisingly, I feel little nostalgia. It was magnificent, but I am not sad it’s over. In fact, that’s been the great thing about this summer: I don’t have to be sad about things coming to an end, since all of my good times have only led to more good times. One highlight is followed by the next. I had a great, great summer; I managed most of the time to really enjoy the moment, whether this was in the Jura, at home, in Minnesota, Canada, or D.C. And now it’s time to get excited about a new stage in my life. Uni. Arg.

But first, let’s go to the Ticino next week.

xo
Layla

Thanks for reading.