A day trip to Delft

A day trip to Delft

I absolutely adore my city of Amsterdam. It’s beautiful and there’s always something to do. But now that we are all settled and we’re not in the honeymoon stage anymore, sometimes I get antsy. You know…that “I have GOT to get outta here” feeling?

We travel a lot — about once a month — to keep this feeling away. It doesn’t have to be far, but it can’t be in Amsterdam! So, how about a little day trip to an idyllic town easily accessible by train from Amsterdam?

 

Delft portrait

 

Sounds like a great time to visit Delft. It has an old town that is perfect to get lost in, find some antiques, and if you’re lucky…chocolate! Yes, I’m starting off with chocolate because it caught me by surprise and it’s CHOCOLATE!

 

What a treat

As we were walking along taking photos of the charming streets, I saw a chocolate shop. Immediately I made a bee-line for it. Not sure what it was that attracted me, but we are both oh-so-happy we went in. Sean said it may be the best chocolate he’s ever had. And yes, we’ve been to Belgium. This shop that stole our hearts is called Van der Burgh Chocolaad. Get the milk chocolate with the dark chocolate pieces. Then try not to drool while eating it. And if you visit Delft and then visit me, you’ll be my best friend if you bring me a bar…or two.

 

Delft Chocolate - Van der Burgh Chocolaad

 

Ok…so there’s a lot more to Delft than chocolate. A heck of a lot more. You may have heard of Delft due to its namesake pottery. It’s super famous! It’s the white stuff with the beautiful shade of blue painted in different patterns all over it. I love it and I love how something so beautiful represents not only Delft, but the Dutch as well.

 

Groot Markt

Delft Groot Market City Hall

Delft_Square

 

A huge square sits between the New Church and city hall. Both of which are beautiful. Seriously, if city halls were this pretty in the U.S. maybe people wouldn’t hate going so much. Anyway, I can only imagine the festivals or markets that might set up on this huge space for the community. While we were there, Sinterklaas made a visit with his helpers, Zwarte Pieten.  
Jessica with Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

 

Yes, he looks like Santa, but the Dutch are very clear that he is not Santa Claus. But the kids were going nuts…and the adults too. Obviously I had to get a photo!

 

The joy of strolling

When in Delft, just walk. Find a path and take a stroll. We found an old city gate that was not only well kept and quite a sight to see, but we realized someone lives in it! Can you imagine living in something like this?

 

Delft City Gate

 

A few canals snake through the city but we didn’t see anyone using their boat. That could be because it was so cold. It was the end of November after all! Between the canals and the small streets and the cat or two that seemed as curious as we were, it felt like we were discovering a entirely new way of life. One that is calm and quiet.

 

Door in Delft

Canal in Delft

 

Then, while walking along, we caught something out of the corner of our eyes that just didn’t seem right. Then we realized we’re in Holland and there will always be bikes in the canal.

 

Bike in the canal

 

When is the last time you took the time to just stroll along? No, really, let me know!

 

Delft houseboat

Experience the quieter side of the Netherlands

Delft is one of those places that it’s just nice to visit. Don’t feel rushed or like you HAVE to do anything specific. Of course you can always buy the walking tour map at the tourist office and do that (it’s what we did) if you want some structure. But finding a nice cafe where you can people watch is always the good option…next to being on a boat of course!

This is an easy day trip from Amsterdam and can even be combined with The Hague! Amsterdam is amazing, but for a well-rounded Dutch experience, we highly encourage you to travel outside the city as well!

For even more detailed information on trips and places the Netherlands, Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands book has a ton of suggestions and tips.

 

Pin it for later or to share!

Day trip to Delft in the Netherlands | Perfect for strolling, people-watching, postcard photos, and chocolate!

Monday Check-in (Jan 30th, ’17)

Monday Check-in (Jan 30th, ’17)

Hi hi!

It’s almost the end of January…how did that happen?! We’re already 1/12 the way through the year and that feels insane. This time last year we were super inspired by the #take12trips challenge and had already been to Berlin, Germany. This year we have something big coming up so we are going to do a few more domestic trips, but we’ll still be on the move!

 

Zaanse Schans Windmills

 

Looking back

I got a care package. Awww! My grandma likes to send me things in the mail and I so love it. She is so thoughtful and loves that we are following our dreams and living in Europe. I think she wishes she had done it too for a while. In this package, I got some long socks that are perfect for the winter and gives that extra layer of warmth under my jeans, and some other goodies that I can eat! There’s nothing like a taste of home. Am I right?!

Something exciting is getting delivered TODAY! We have a big box store for electronics and big appliances that is similar to Best Buy in the United States and they had an insane sale. Like, I was shocked. Tax here in quite high on goods. 21% of VAT (value added tax) is included in all the prices. Included-meaning not tacked on when you check out. So the price you see is the price you pay. But for this sale, they essentially pay the tax for you! So, when I saw the laptop I’ve been eyeing for awhile during this crazy even for 21% off, plus recently getting a 300 euro gift card, how can I pass that up?! I basically got my laptop 48% off. I <3 saving money. So yeah, I get it today 🙂

A friend recommended the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing so I thought I’d check it out and got it downloaded onto my Kindle (I am not a fan of having a bunch of books around and it’s just SO easy to get books on Amazon). I’m about 60% through it and I like the idea of really analyzing your stuff to see what you really want to keep. Does it bring you joy? If you only have things that bring you joy, you will be so much happier. At least that’s what I’m getting from the book. Have you read it? What are your thoughts? If not, it’s recommended by a ton of people and you can get your copy by clicking here. Do you do any big cleaning/cleaning out throughout the year? I’d love to hear any helpful tactics you have!

 

First Trip Home as an Expat

 

Looking ahead

I’ll be spending time setting up my new computer. YAY! The laptop is the lifeline for a blogger, so I can’t wait to get it exactly how I want and start writing and editing more. My current laptop is 6 years old. WHAT?! Yes. It’s time for a new one.

This weekend is an expat blogger meetup that I’m excited to go to. Networking is key for almost everyone. As a blogger, it’s imperative. Good thing I like meeting people…most of the time. It’s more content that relates to me and my situation. People know people and we can all help each other. Are you part of any networking groups? If not, think about it. You never know what kind of doors could open up for you!

We are looking for somewhere to go to in the Netherlands in February. If you have suggestions, please let us know in the comments. If you’ve found awesome blog posts of those places, feel free to link them. This is our conversation here on our Monday Check-ins, so let’s chat!

While I share a lot here, there will be even more information in the newsletter, so don’t forget to sign up for that. (Sign up here!) We live a certain style of life with our work/life/travel balance which I’ll go into a bit more later, but we’ll soon have an announcement that will shake things up a bit soon. Don’t miss out!

Remember that surprise anniversary trip I mentioned in the last Monday Check-in, well, I can ALMOST tell you. I’ll spill the beans to you and Sean in the next check in 😉 It’s so exciting I just want to squeeeeeeee! Hopefully it lives up to my expectations. The only thing I can tell you is that it’s in Europe. But that shouldn’t be a big surprise since I blog about Europe!

 

In case you missed it

I fell in love with a tour in Italy that we can’t take because we already have plans, so instead I got to get a discount for you. You’re welcome 😉 Go and enjoy. Then send me a postcard!

All the details are here!A dream trip to Tuscany

 

Flying around Europe can be cheap, but you’ll want to make the best of those famous budget airlines…since they are famous for being bare bones!

The best of European budget airlines

Interesting reads

If you’re like me and are fascinated with places like Norway for their culture and super wintery winters, then Silvia’s post on heartmybackpack.com is perfect to help you pack for such a trip!

Until we get to Ireland in October, we’ll keep getting inspired by others for now. Madisyn of therestlessworker.com has an awesome roadtrip around Ireland all mapped out!

Malta had us falling in love with it years ago and we still haven’t been. Hopefully it will be very soon! Joanna put together a post on theworldinmypocket.co.uk about a great town in Malta called Mdina. Can’t wait to visit!

 

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Have a great week!

A dream trip to Tuscany for you!

A dream trip to Tuscany for you!

Recently, I found myself browsing through Instagram searching for interesting hashtags and clicking through different profiles.

 

At the villa

View from the villa

 

As I was tapping along, I came across KM Zero Tours who host slow eco tours in Tuscany. I saw some details about a trip in the Chianti area (you know…like the wine!) and was super intrigued.

After reaching out to KM Zero Tours to learn a bit more, we found it’s exactly the type of experience we love —  an immersive introduction to Italian culture through authentic regional food.  Unfortunately, it’s falls on a week we already have plans to be in London for Traverse! *cue the pouting*

Ready to cook!

 

Why am I even telling you this?

Well, like I said, I am super interested in this trip and the more I read about it, the more I love it. Because we can’t go this time, we wanted to tell YOU about it!  If you like trips like this, I want to be able to share more of them with you…and maybe one day be able to join you!

Oh, and I get to give you a discount on this one! 😉 Just keep reading!

 

cheese in Tuscany

Wineries in Tuscany

 

Seriously, this trip sounds like a dream! So, if you are interested in a unique trip in Italy, this Chianti experience seems like a great one!

 

When in Italy


The details

Without more chatting on my part, here’s what you want to know:

Tuscan villa

The villa you’ll stay in during this trip!

  • It’s all-inclusive, including 8 days/7 nights staying in a Tuscan villa. Yes. A villa.
  • A hands-on cooking class with Stefania, a Slow Food Movement Tuscan chef.
  • Explore various adorable, post-card perfect villages in the region.
  • Visit an organic goat farm and learn about cheese-making (with eating of course).
  • Visit a bee farm and try the freshest honey you’ve ever had. Sounds sweet!
  • Experience an olive farm and learn all about the culture behind olive oil.
  • It’s Italy! Wine is a must, so you’ll visit a local wine producer and be hosted for lunch.
  • Become acquainted with local sweets in Siena.
  • Witness the age-old art of silversmithing.
  • Attend a wood-turning workshop.
  • Visit a historic winery…with a wine tasting of course.
  • Enjoy a light hike through vineyards and olive gardens.
  • Taste the culture of the region through a Florentine steak.
  • Meet the Cashmere goats whose coat brings a little softness into our homes.
  • Visit an olive oil press with pairing suggestions and a tasting.
  • Take a bread-making class in your villa. Nothing better than freshly baked bread!

Download the full PDF brochure with day-by-day details here.

 

 

This is not just a trip, it’s an experience –  A look into the Tuscan way of life through the flavors, history, vistas, and people of this region.  You’ll learn a lot and have plenty of time for relaxation in the Tuscan countryside.

 

Tuscan Farm

 

It’s an all-inclusive experience, which I love because it means less thinking and planning and more relaxing! The group size is limited to 12 people so you’ll definitely have a real personal Italian experience.

What does all-inclusive mean in this case? It means your accommodation, all meals, transportation to and from excursions and activities, and of course the excursions and activities themselves. You will need to get yourself to Italy first, but after that it’s all taken care of for you.

But the small size also means you’ll want to book fast!

 

How much?

The cost is 2900 euros per person (based on double occupancy) for the 8 days/7 nights and all of this.

BUT…just wait for it…

 

Silversmithing in Tuscany


DISCOUNT alert!

I’m a sucker for a discount. Why pay full-price if you don’t have to?

Because I was so excited about this and so bummed we can’t go, KM Zero Tours is giving me the opportunity you give you 100 euros off the price!!

To get this discount and to get more information, please email arianna@kmzerotours.com. If you want to join this Tuscany experience, be sure put “Awanderlustforlife – TuscanySpring2017” in the subject line when emailing. To secure your spot, you’ll need to transfer 40% of the price when booking and the rest up to 30 days before the trip. Arianna will help you through the process and answer all your questions!

Yes, it’s a nice chunk of change. One thing Sean and I decided a while ago was that money spent on experiences is usually well-spent. And this life experience is one I know you won’t forget. When you go and love it, I want you to take a TON of pictures and send them to me so I can drool over them. 🙂 Deal?

 

Pasta class in Tuscany


Summary

The KMZero Spring 2017 Tour is an amazing sounding experience in Tuscany and is available to you at a discount of 100 euros, bringing the total to 2800 Euros.

If you love it, please let me know! Maybe we can even give you a guest blogger spot to share your experience. Hopefully we’ll be able to create a custom A Wanderlust For Life tour someday just for our readers so we can join you 😉

Book it. Love it. Share your experience.

 

Making pasta


I partnered up with KM Zero Tours to be able to offer you a discount, in return I became an affiliate and receive a small percentage of the sale. But I wanted to share this with you regardless, and you know I only share what I am excited to share!

All photos and videos are courtesy of KM Zero Tours.

 

Monday Check-in (Jan 16th, ’17)

Monday Check-in (Jan 16th, ’17)

As January tends to make us feel like we need new challenges and new goals, I’ve decided to start a check-in of sorts every other week. This idea is not my own, as I was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Monica of The Travel Hack, who post Weekend Reads on Fridays.

For me, I like the idea of gathering my thoughts over the weekend and sharing them with you on Mondays. As a part-time blogger, this works well for me and hopefully will be nice for you to be able to get home after the first day of the work week and relax while catching up with me, A Wanderlust For Life, and other interesting blog articles from others.

Let’s see how this goes!

 

Lennon Wall

 

Looking back

The first two weeks of the year have gone super fast. We’re making big decisions and planning for changes throughout the year–personally and with this blog. Everything we are doing in life we hope to ramp up in 2017 in a few different ways. More on that to come!

Getting thoughts and ideas organized is oh-so-important, especially when taking on more to-dos and making changes. As someone who loves lists (who doesn’t?) and someone who gets crazy anxious when there’s too much to do and no system in place, I’m getting my stuff together.

Personally, I use Wunderlist which is on my phone and my computer. It has my blog ideas, video ideas, wish lists of places and things all with notes so when I go to write, I have a starting point. It also has my grocery list 🙂 I love it and use it all.the.time.

In addition, for the larger stuff with the website, brands, travel, social media, I’ve just started to use OneNote (the free app). I love how sections are divided, but am not certain how it will work long term.

As far as all the systems I use, maybe I’ll write a post on that later…but that’s just blogger stuff and I mainly write for those expats in Europe who want to travel around Europe (and those who want to :). Not just bloggers. But if you’re super curious, tell me and I’m happy to put something together for you!

This past weekend we went to the Vakantie Beurs which is like a mini-World Travel Market, but in Utrecht. This cute city is just outside Amsterdam and has a convention center that holds some really cool events. For this event, countries and regions from around the world were represented and showcased to the Dutch market.

Our feet and legs are tired, but we came away with great travel ideas and contacts of people who work with bloggers. We connect with these people so we can get the most out of our travels and show you awesome places and experiences around Europe.

 

Sunrise from the plane

 

Looking ahead

Planning ahead is what keeps us motivated. There’s ALWAYS something to look forward to. Last year we did 14 trips in 12 months because of the #take12trips challenge which we are crazy proud of. This year we want to do the same, but with a few uncertainties in the first couple months of the year, we haven’t done much planning.

We are going somewhere awesome in March. Can’t say where yet because it’s a surprise for Sean–who edits all my posts 😉 We have started a fun tradition where each year one of us plans a surprise anniversary trip for the other and we alternate years. This is my year and I’m so excited because I know he’ll love it!

I hate this…so much I WANT to tell you, but I just can’t yet. But you know what? Even though the next few months are going to be a bit crazy on our side, it sure beats a routine of boring. We fought so hard to leave boring behind and I think we’ve done a good job.

 

In case you missed it

Take 12 Trips Challenge...are you up for it?

Prague at Christma

Interesting reads

Loving this post by Sophie about how life in Paris when living there is different than the fantasy

These spots with incredible views found by Danielle of Lisbon, Portugal will have you thinking, “Stop being so perfect all the time, Lisbon!” Or not, and be super appreciate.

As a couple who is horrible at getting great pictures of ourselves (usually resorting to selfies), this is an insanely helpful post from Renee on getting great couple-y photos.

 

Catch me on Snapchat

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Have a GREAT week!

Our Christmas in Prague

Our Christmas in Prague

One of the best things about being an expat in Europe this time of year is that there are so many Christmas markets right at our fingertips! We’ve done the German thing a couple times in Cologne and Hannover, which were amazing. People refer to “German Christmas Markets” most of the time for a reason, because they set the bar high. But there are so many places in Europe that simply rock at Christmas, so how do you choose which one to visit?

 

Prague at Christmas

 

For Christmas this year, I wanted to be somewhere dreamy. Honestly, I’m a romantic, so I wanted to feel like I was in an old timey Christmas movie in a big poofy dress. I wanted to be somewhere everyone loves who has traveled there. And I wanted to be somewhere that isn’t insanely expensive.  I figured if we found a place that met all those requirements, we couldn’t go wrong. 

That’s how we ended up in Prague in the Czech Republic. Oh the city of spires. It’s skyline is unlike anywhere else. And it has famous Christmas markets!

 

Prague at Christmas

 

The thing is…we didn’t just do Christmas markets in Prague, we spent Christmas in Prague! This is the first we have traveled for Christmas, and quite frankly I didn’t know how it would go. Wrapping a holiday into travel was unknown to us. I mean…is it a holiday or vacation?  Are you taking in all that you can? It shouldn’t be this hard!

 

What Christmas is like in Prague

Prague at Christmas

 

What do you do? Are things open? Is public transit running? Can I get dinner reservations?

Prague is a great place to spend Christmas! Both Christmas day and the season leading up to it there is a great vibe everywhere with beautiful decorations and twinkling lights and of course massive Christmas trees. They have their fair share of Christmas markets, as well. The main one is in the Old Town Square but we loved the one in the Prague Castle too! It’s in the shadow of the Saint Vitus Cathedral, which is definitely worth going into for its amazing stained glass.

 

Cathedral in Prague Castle

 

To answer the questions we had: most things are open until sometime on Christmas Eve, many regular stores shut down for Christmas Day and the day after Christmas (Second Christmas or Boxing Day depending on what you called it!). The Christmas markets are actually open on Christmas day, but they closed early on Christmas Eve.

Public transit does keep running, maybe a bit slower, but it’s there. However, Prague is a very walkable city. Stay on either side of the river and you can easily mosey around to the main attractions and sights. It’s worth the walk just to take it all in.

Dinner reservations are a MUST! Trust me on this one. We found a website that kept track of all the restaurants that were open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, what the menu was, and even took reservations. We used this service to make reservations. Unfortunately, both places we went to did not have our reservation. That was super disappointing, but I showed my confirmation and they kindly made room for us. So, if you find such a website, use it for the information, but make your own reservations directly with the restaurant. Lesson learned!

For all other meals, we mostly it Yelped everything or snacked at the markets. There is plenty of food at the markets! My favorite is a round pastry rolled in cinnamon sugar. It’s seriously drool-worthy. But if you like a bit more substantial food, the Prague ham is super tasty too. Here are just a couple foods we saw.

 

Ham over a fire at the Wenceslas Square Christmas market

Ham over a fire at the Wenceslas Square Christmas market

 

Trdelnik

 

Food Tour

Before we arrived, I booked a food tour for our first day. You know we love our food tours! We do them everywhere. From London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Barcelona. It’s a must for us.

Duck with potato dumpling on Christmas food tour in Prague

Duck with potato dumpling

But this wasn’t any food tour. Nope. It was Christmas themed. Seemed like the right thing to do! We ate traditional Christmas dishes while learning about local culture around the holidays. It involved meaty dishes, tasty drinks (some alcoholic), and of course a sweet finish. I had never tried much of what we ate and drank which is one of the reasons I love these kinds of tours.

Christmas cookies in Prague

Traditional Czech Christmas cookies including one made with rum!

Czech beer

Our guide was Leona from Prague Food Tour, and as a Czech she was able to tell us the real story behind everything in Prague, the culture, and the food.  Our group was super small with only three of us plus Leona!


Old Town Hall and The Tower

Prague at Christmas

We were lucky enough to grab a spot on the Old Town Hall tour and go up in the tower. Sounds super boring, right? Why would you tour the Old Town Hall?

There are so many reasons…like history, cool spaces, and going underground. Best to show you, I think.

Prague_Old_town_hall

Old underground passages under the Old Town Hall in Prague

Weapons stored under the Old Town Hall

 

Going up in the Old City Hall Tower is a MUST. Don’t miss it or you’ll be upset with yourself. The view is incredible. Sadly we weren’t up there in the daylight which I’ve seen photos of and are amazing, but with the Christmas market right below, I wasn’t complaining.

Old Town Square Christmas Market

Concert in a Palace

We wanted Christmas 2016 to be the most Christmas-y Christmas ever. To that end, I booked us a concert in a palace. It was the Mozart Orchestra Prague and we got to listen to a string ensemble play heavenly Christmas music in the Clam-Gallas Palace. The acoustics were incredible. The room was breathtaking. And the music was perfect for the time of year. So glad I got that itch for a concert! It’s really made us want to attend more concerts and other performance art.

 

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

Wenceslas Square on Christmas Day

Everything stops early on Christmas Eve so we missed out on one of the neighborhood Christmas market we wanted to visit in Namesti Miru. By the time we headed back to the main area of the city, the others were closing too. It’s like the world was conspiring to slow us down “Ok, force me to relax!”.

It had been days of long walks! Crazily enough, we had friends staying in the hotel across the street from us so we had planned to have Christmas Eve dinner together at Kolkovna Celnice Pub & Restaurant. It was delicious and the portions were quite generous. And get this…four entrees and multiple drinks and the bill was about 60 euros. Not per person, but TOTAL. Gotta love eating out in the Czech Republic!

Christmas day consisted of sleeping in and hanging out until we were hungry for lunch. We were excited the markets were back open so we pigged out on some ham and other snacks while sipping some hot mead (honey wine). Even though it’s not super traditional, we had a reservation at an Italian spot in town. Christmas or not, it was good Italian food. Definitely check out Corto Pizza & Pasta Restaurant if you’re in the mood for it in Prague.

 

Did it feel like Christmas?

Prague at Christmas

 

Prague was great. Exploring the city, the castle, the markets and more, was a nice experience. Yes, Prague was magical at Christmas and we can’t wait to get back when it’s warmer, but I’m just not sure if I want to travel over the Christmas holiday again.  Part of this is because we had a very specific Christmas routine in the U.S. with family.  This is our third Christmas abroad and I was a bit disappointed.  Our tiny tree with ornaments collected from our travels wasn’t with us, we didn’t have any Christmas movies to watch, and we weren’t home…where we are comfortable. A hotel room just didn’t do it for me. 

Do you travel this time of year? What makes it feel like Christmas for you? Do you love it? I really want to hear your stories!

 

Sean & Jessica in the Prague Castle on Christmas Eve

 

Pin for next Christmas!

Christmas in Prague can be magical. We take you through our experience of being in Prague at Christmas time.

 

Want lots more practical info on Prague? The Rick Steves Pocket Prague book is worth checking out for lots of local tips!

One year later…The #Take12Trips Challenge

One year later…The #Take12Trips Challenge

2015 was our first full year in Amsterdam.  We traveled a bit, but not nearly as much as we hoped considering travel was one of the main reasons we moved to Europe.  We were still getting used to living in Europe, and while we knew we wanted to travel more, we had to get our feed under us first.  I first saw the #take12trips challenge on The Travel Hack and was truly inspired, and I think she was inspired by the original author on Need Another Holiday back in 2013.  Wherever it came from, it seemed like a great idea if we wanted to keep exploring Europe.  

Then came 2016 and we made our resolution, our goal, our challenge: We would take 12 trips throughout the year. It was unclear exactly how we’d do it or where we’d go, but we made it our number 1 priority.   #take12trips – Challenge Accepted!

 

Did we make it?!


Sean and Jessica in Italy 2016

 

Luckily we are given 26 vacation days each year which definitely helped with planning longer trips, but we also decided we would need to take single-day and weekend trips as well. It was a great mix! On the shorter trips we learned whether or not we wanted to go back to that destination (or just needed a Parisian fix), then on the longer trips we tried to live like locals and explored a bit more. All in all, we took 23 flights, 12 train trips, and spent 76 days traveling…and we did it!  Even we were surprised at how many trips we actually took because it was more than just 12!

Because we did about one trip a month, we’ll review the year in the easy way…month-by-month!


 

January (5 days) | Berlin, Germany

berlin_wall

 

For a while, it seemed Berlin was all I kept hearing about. People loved it. Some even moved there because they loved it so much. I’m not sure that going in January was the best way for me to get a feel for the city because I just didn’t see what everyone saw in it. But I’ll give it another shot…in a warmer month! We did make a video of our trip where we experience some really emotional places in Berlin.

 

February (1 day) | The Hague, the Netherlands

The Hague - De Passage

 

This was our first day trip of the year! We decided to visit The Hague, the political capital of the Netherlands. But we were determined to not do all the political stuff, instead we wanted to see the beach, some art, and even a great view! What surprised us most was some of the streets in the old town…they felt a bit like Paris! Our video shows a different side of The Hague away from the embassies and politics.

 

March (11 days) | Amalfi Coast, Italy

Amalfi Coast, Italy

 

We spent our anniversary on the Amalfi Coast in Italy! It was a surprise trip from Sean and I certainly wasn’t disappointed! We stayed in Sorrento for a few days and even hung out on the island of Ischia. It’s a little-known island in the Bay of Naples where Italians like to holiday. Of course we squeezed in a trip to Capri and went to visit Pompeii while we were in the area. I can’t wait to go back to Italy!

 

April (3 days + 2 days) | Paris, France & Giethoorn, the Netherlands

Paris Bridge

 

In April, we got a visit from Sean’s mom! Because it was cheaper for her to fly into Paris, we figured we would take the opportunity to meet her there and have a weekend away. I mean, it’s Paris. We’ll take any excuse to go! Who am I kidding? I don’t need an excuse! We got to show her some touristy places for her first time in Europe and we enjoyed seeing Paris a little differently than we did the last time around.

 

giethoorn house

 

At the end of the month we really wanted to see Giethoorn in the springtime. It’s a tiny town with an idyllic section of walking and bike paths along small canals. Postcard-perfect is the best way to describe it! The trees weren’t in bloom yet, so I’d recommend late May for a visit, but it was still a beautiful place to stroll and take a boat tour.

 

May (9 days) | Barcelona, Spain + Mediterranean Cruise

Cannes, France

 

Barcelona seems to be on everyone’s list! The promise of sunshine, great food and wine, and fun is enough to entice anyone. Unfortunately, while we were there it rained.  A lot. I mean days of rain. I went on a cruise for a couple of those days…a Backstreet Boys cruise. Yep! I was on a cruise ship with a couple thousand women, a few men, and the Backstreet Boys. My favorite cruise port-of-call was Cannes, France, and I can’t wait to go back!

 

June (3 days) | Basel, Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland

 

At first we weren’t really sure what to get into in June.  The weather is almost perfect in most of Europe but it can also be quite crowded and touristy. We decided on a quick 3-day weekend trip to Basel. It was mainly to visit a family friend and to relax so we didn’t get into too much. Next time I want to spend more time in the region and explore…there’s so much culture to experience there!

 

July (9 days + 1 day) | Stockholm, Sweden + Rotterdam, Netherlands

Love this city view of Stockholm

 

TBEX in Stockholm. Yes. OMG, yes. The Travel Bloggers Exchange conference is amazing for a few reasons. The hosting city is a sponsor so you are given the opportunity to explore with complimentary transit and tourist passes, and there are a few other opportunities as well. We went on a food tour and I hopped on a roof to see the city from above. I fell in love with Stockholm. July is the PERFECT time to visit, I just wish I could buy a house on one of the islands in the lagoon. Later in the month we visited Rotterdam to see a friend who lives there. She played tour guide for the day and we even made a video!

 

August (5 days) | Virginia, United States

Mountains of the Shenandoah Valley

 

Technically I did travel in August. I went to the United States for my best friend’s wedding. But it was a whirlwind 3-day trip (not including the two travel days) and I focused my attention only on her and my family while I was there.  August is a beautiful time to be in the Shenandoah Valley and on the Skyline Drive, and I made sure I did get to see some of the amazing views I’ve missed since moving to a flat country!

 

September (12 days) | United States

Until our next trip to the US

 

So…I was back in the States again. This time Sean joined me as it was a trip we planned way back in February to visit friends and family. We really did try to pack it all in. The downside was I was sick for most of the trip. I spent days in bed or on a couch. Not sure what was wrong with me, but thank goodness I was in the land of Dayquil and Nyquil. I still rested but didn’t have to feel like death the whole time.

 

October (3 days) | Paris, France

Solo trip to Paris

 

By now I was itching to travel in Europe again. My friend and fellow blogger Edna was back in Paris and I wanted to be back there too. Hopping on a train to Paris is super easy from Amsterdam. If you want a cheap ticket, you have to buy a month or more in advance, but actually getting on the train is super easy and my favorite way to travel in Europe! I spent the weekend going solo for a bit, then hanging out with Edna and getting a taste of how to shop like a Parisian on a food tour was such a relaxing time.

 

November (5 days + 1 day) | London, England & Delft, the Netherlands

Costa Rica at the World Travel Market

 

We doubled up again this month! Sean went to London for work the first week of the month, and I went for the World Travel Market the second week of the month. We also took a day trip to Delft at the end of the month. Busy times! London was great as usual. There were some WTM events and some meetups as well, where I got to see some old friends and also made some new ones!  I was able to stay with friends in the city, which was great!  

 

December (6 days) | Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

 

Prague at Christmas! This was so exciting for me. It was the first time we’ve traveled for Christmas and I wasn’t sure how it would go. The Christmas markets gave off heavenly scents of mulled wine and grilled meat along with having the twinkly lights and greenery that lets you know it’s Christmas time in Europe. Prague is simply beautiful and I hope to go back with everything is in bloom too!


There it is! We exceeded 12 trips and made 14 trips in 2016. This makes me wonder if we can do it again in 2017 and I say we can! We did all this while working full-time in Amsterdam. We are grateful for our vacation days and we TAKE THEM! Living in Europe gives an excellent opportunity to explore for pretty cheap. Can’t wait to see what 2017 holds!

 

Expat’s Survival Guide to Christmas Abroad

Expat’s Survival Guide to Christmas Abroad

Ho, ho, ho…Merry Christmas!

Whether it’s your first year or 10th year living abroad, the holidays can be the hardest season to be away from family. Not everyone is able to fly during the holiday season, which is notorious for being a very high-stress time.

So, how do we — the bunch who chose to move away but still miss this special time of year — deal?

I suggest making the most of the lack of responsibilites while still being in touch!

Christmas Cards

christmas_cards

Request Christmas cards from friends and family back home and make a nice display throughout December. They are usually quite beautiful and a great reminder of all the people who love you. I absolutely love when people write messages in them too…a little personalization is super sweet! But don’t forget to send some out as well. Set a date in your calendar to write and address your cards. Be sure to get all the addresses and stamps needed before starting. Then just breeze through and you get to put a smile on someone else’s face. Don’t you just LOVE that?! Warm fuzzies all over!

 

Decorations

snowmen_decor

If your family went all out with Christmas decorations and that’s what will make you feel better about being away at Christmas, then deck those halls! Personally, I don’t like a lot of stuff to hold onto all year, but I do love to have our little 2 foot fake tree on the table with both our ornaments given to us by family and those we’ve collected through our travels. It’s a reminder of how life used to be, and how we are living now. Decorate however makes you feel happy!

 

Find a Christmas market

Christmas Market

In Europe, Christmas markets like the one in Cologne, Germany pop up all over the place! Some are just for a weekend and some are open for the season and even feature ice skating rinks. These help me find my Christmas spirit and once you have a glass of glühwein or hot cider and walk around to admire the evergreens and twinkling lights, hopefully you’ll be in the spirit too. These are the perfect places to find little gifts to send back home so your friends and family get a taste of how you spent the holidays.

 

Bake

baking_cookies

Grab the mixer, eggs, butter and sugar and get your place smelling like holiday Heaven. I am lucky enough to have a grandmother who loves to bake, so that is something that reminds me of the holidays. There were SO MANY cookies. I never complained though. It was fun…and I got to lick the beaters 😀 Baking at the holidays is perfect for lots of reasons: it’s fun, creates gifts for friends, makes your house smell delicious, and can be a reminder of what makes you happy!

 

Take a trip

Paris Ferris Wheel

Do something completely different! Take a holiday for the holidays. We’re traveling at Christmas for the first time this year so I’ll have to update you on that later! But it feels right to try and celebrate in a way that we would have never done in the U.S. Not to mention, it’s an exciting adventure to see how Christmas will feel in a place you’ve never been.  Go somewhere super Christmas-y, or go somewhere sunny and warm. Pick somewhere super relaxing or a city you’ve always wanted to discover. This is all about new experiences!

 

A friends’ holiday

friends_dinner

Friends are the family you choose, right? Some you’d do anything for and love like brothers or sisters. If they are around for the holidays too, why not do something together? For two years we met up with a fellow American who was also in Amsterdam and had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Then we walked around the center with its pretty lights along the canals. It was a different kind of Christmas, but made us happy all the same.

 

Video chat

If possible, call or video chat those you love back home. Between Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Hangouts, even Snapchat, there are so many free (or super cheap) ways to get in touch. Set a time so everyone is on the same page and has the appropriate tech handy and then enjoy celebrating Christmas together, even if only for a bit

 

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Not being home for the holidays can be sad, frustrating, and even confusing because we don’t know what to do during that time. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Hopefully this has given you a few ideas on how to make the most of the season and truly enjoy the experience.

Making the Best of European Budget Airlines

Making the Best of European Budget Airlines

If you want to fly, Budget or Discount airlines are definitely the best way to get around Europe. They allow so many people, like us, to travel more frequently and to more places than we’d be able to get to otherwise.

Because they are priced lower (sometimes MUCH lower) than traditional airlines, you can guess that you may not have all the comforts or services you expect from full-price airlines.  This post is all about managing your expectations on budget airlines in Europe to make the best of them!

Play their game and you can win!

 

eBags with Jess

Luggage

Luggage really is the biggest elephant in the room. As a frequent traveler in Europe, I’m getting to know the budget airlines quite well. For example, I know that EasyJet gives you one bag to take as a carry-on…and they will stop you at the ticket check if you have more.  Transavia has the option for the tradition personal bag + one piece of carry-on luggage. BUT that luggage is not guaranteed to stay in the cabin! If there’s no more room, under the plane it goes! (This is one of the few planes I really want to be first in!)

Honestly, just reading through the airline’s website helps a lot but there’s also this super helpful post from Travel Made Simple with a carry-on size chart for over 150 airlines! Check the luggage restrictions and measure that bag. I’ve checked my rolling bag (eBags 21” Mother Lode Mini) in the smallest of carry-on brackets in the airport (when nobody was looking…just in case 😉 ) so I can confidently know it will fit. If there’s ever a doubt, I also have a 19” eBags convertible backpack that I’ll use.  If you’re looking for some good luggage, I’m happy to share why I love our bags.

Check-in online

If you’re flying carry-on only — which you totally should be doing if you’re flying within Europe — bypass that check-in counter and save yourself one less frustration. Just check-in ahead of time and put that boarding pass on your phone, or print it out for peace of mind (some airlines still require a printed boarding pass — check ahead!).

 

easyjet mobile boarding passes

Screenshot from the easyJet website (Dec 4, 2016)

Service

So far, I’ve never had a problem with the service of European budget airlines, but I’m sure the day will come, and it’s good to be prepared. Follow all your regular airlines on Twitter now, and if you need them, reach out right away.

Once I went to the airport with my boarding pass which said  “Boarding time 08:45”. But when I got to the airport, the board said that was the departure time. Luckily, I was there well ahead of time, but the experience taught me not only to look at my ticket, but to also stay up-to-date using Google flights as well (which told me the gate number).

Actually, I had to ask someone for confirmation at the airport information desk because I just didn’t see my flight on the board…now that’s a scary thing.

Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help! Gates change, flights are delayed, connections are short, and sometimes things just get really messed up. If you need to get where you are going and you’re not sure, just ask someone what you need to know.

 

airplane window seat

Seat assignments

Some will care about this more than others. When traveling with someone you may want to sit together, so it might be worth the money to snatch up two seats wherever you want on the plane. Or maybe you’re a tall person and REALLY need the legroom. Or maybe you just have to “go” a lot and need an aisle seat. For whatever reason, grabbing your seat ahead of time can be a nice luxury …even on a 2 hour flight.

Headphones

Really on any flight these are a must-have for frequent travelers. That plane sound…OMG. It can make me so angry! Add to that people who talk to loud, who are on the phone, or really any other audio annoyance and it’s nice to block it all out with some noise-cancelling headphones. You may not even use them to listen to anything except for the thoughts in your head.

 

mobile phone with headphones

Tablet or phone

Personally I love my tablet to watch videos or write when I’m on the plane. Put on headphones and some good music and it’s almost like you’re not squished in a tin can. Get your productivity on, or chill out with a movie. Your choice!

Battery pack

Do not expect outlets on a budget airline. I’ve been on a few flights that do have them…but never count on it! If it’s just your phone, then a lipstick charger is probably fine. But if you have rechargeable headphones, phone, tablet, etc, then get a good powerful one. I have an in-between one that’s solar-powered from Tespack and I love it. 

Snacks

This is pretty self-explanatory I think. Bring snacks you know you’ll like that don’t cost an arm and a leg like they would on the plane. I usually go with granola bar type snacks, but grab those chips or gummies or whatever makes you happy. Because let’s be real…hangry is a real thing. Regardless if my computer is telling me that’s not a word.

Drink

You know to stay hydrated on the plane, right? Please do. Either bring a water bottle from home that you can fill after security or just buy a bottle of water when you’re near your gate. Besides, you’ll need it to wash down your snacks!

 

scarves

Jacket / Big scarf

To stay comfortable on a chilly plane, this is a must. I love to travel with my fleece jacket if it’s a warmer season, or I use my scarf if it’s cold outside and I don’t want to wear my winter jacket in the seat. But seriously, who doesn’t love a good, versatile scarf?


Is it going to feel like first class? Sadly, no. But at least you can be a bit more comfortable than if you didn’t plan ahead.

Get cheap flights. See amazing places. Make the most of life in Europe.

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Making the Best of European Budget Airlines

 

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The Inevitable Bike Butt of a New Amsterdam Expat

The Inevitable Bike Butt of a New Amsterdam Expat

Part of traveling or becoming an expat is getting out of your comfort zone. That literally means being uncomfortable. It’s all part of the experience!

When you’re moving to Amsterdam (or any bike-loving city), and you are moving from a place where you rarely rode a bike, you may experience something I call “Bike Butt”.

I am so curious what your first impression of the term Bike Butt is…what do you think it could be? Remember that and then let me know in the comments what the first thing that popped into your head was!

 

bikes in Amsterdam

 

Bike Butt: n. Meaning the bruise-like feeling you get on your butt after riding a bike that only happens when you haven’t ridden in a long time.

Let me explain this a bit better…

I’ve spoken with expats in Amsterdam that won’t ride bikes because they say their bums just don’t want to be on the seat anymore. And it does hurt. Trust me.

The thing is, this goes away! Time heals all.

It’s beyond my understanding, and the Dutch don’t seem to know about it since they’ve probably been riding bikes since they were in diapers, but it’s most common of those who aren’t used to riding bikes. I guess their butts just aren’t used to a bike seat.

Of course I went through this as well upon buying my bike. I was so frustrated and a bit angry. I started biking short distances but no more than that because after 10 minutes, my butt would hurt. Seriously, it was like it was telling me to never ride again! Then, the next day, I would hop on my bike, it felt like a bruise…way on the bottom part of my bottom. If you pushed on that spot, it felt like a bruise.

A bruise on the bottom of your butt…

Ouch!

 

work bike in Amsterdam

 

This is soooo annoying for someone who will be commuting on a bike! I could not bear the thought of this pain every.single.day.

Obviously this turns people off of biking. I mean, who wants to do something that constantly causes pain?! But when the alternatives are inconvenient, and I know it’s how I should be getting around, I stuck to it.

Then…

It stopped! About a week to a week and a half, it stopped hurting. I’ve gone about 3 weeks without biking and I got back on and it hurt a little. Now that I know it goes away, it’s much easier to get back on that saddle. *pun intended*

But I’m here to tell you, don’t stop riding! It gets better!!

bike on wall in Amsterdam

My friends told me I should write about this as people may be able to relate…so if you can relate, please share with a friend of yours that may need to read up on this phenomenon.

The inevitable bike butt of an Amsterdam expat

How to Move Abroad: The Basics

How to Move Abroad: The Basics

Moving to another country is a big deal. I mean, like a REALLY big deal. It’s not easy. Between emotions, red tape, practicalities, and making friends, it’s just plain hard and you have to be a little crazy to do it.

That being said, I don’t regret it one bit. We’ve already told our story about why we chose expat life, but you need to find your “why”. Just as importantly, you need to know your “how”.

While we live in a sometimes seemingly small global world, you can’t just pick up and move without a visa or passport that allows you to do so.  This post is meant to get you thinking about your motivations, your options, and your feelings about moving away from your home to start life anew as an expat. If you have anything to add, I hope you comment below so we can all help each other!

 

How to Move Abroad

Know your “why?”

I’ll try not to get too deep and mushy on you! But it’s a good question, right? Your “why” in everything you do is important, including this major life change.

Just a tip, you can’t move away from your problems. They will catch up to you and are probably harder to deal with if you’re away.  But if you are looking to enrich your life, try a new lifestyle, or even just to see what it’s like to live where wine is cheap and good, then go for it!

We wanted to experience life in Europe and be able to travel frequently and fairly cheaply. We did, and we love it. Best decision ever. But we knew our “why”.  

 

How to Move Abroad

Find a way to move legally

It’s easy enough to leave a country, but it’s not super easy to stay in one that isn’t your home country. I really think people forget the basics of this. You can’t go anywhere you want at anytime without preparation. And you certainly can’t just claim your residency without lots of paperwork and justification. Make sure you are legal!

The big question is then “how do I know where I can move?”

Do your research! This is not something I can answer for you…mainly because there are so many different ways you can move.

  • Can your company transfer you to an international office?
  • Would you like to join the Peace Corps?
  • Are you qualified to be part of Doctors without Borders or a traveling nurse?
  • Volunteer through many organizations that you can find if you Google “Volunteer Abroad”.
  • There are working holiday visas through countries like Australia and New Zealand. Not every country has this kind of visa available though, but here’s a list of those that do and who it is offered to.
  • If you enjoy being around children and have the experience and maybe even the education for it, becoming an au pair could be a great option.
  • Native English speakers are always wanted as teachers in many Asian countries.
  • Have your own business? The Netherlands has a Dutch-American Friendship Treaty that you can apply for to be able to live here for a few years. (Obviously, if you are American)
  • Some countries have a program for freelance visas as well (usually you need to prove guaranteed income).
  • There’s always the option of being a digital nomad and just going through tourist visa after tourist visa and not really settling anywhere as long as you can work from your computer.
  • Research your family history to see if you have a right to citizenship in another country. That’s what Sean did and it really paid off for us!

 

How to Move Abroad

Know yourself

It’s easy to say “I want to be free!” and travel far away to start a new life. Be real with yourself. Can you do it? Are you self-sufficient now? Are you a self sufficient adult? Do you pay your own bills? Basically, can you be independent?

I was pretty independent when I went to college. My parents were amazing enough to help pay for my college fees and all that went along with it. But other than that, I grew up fast in college and once I graduated, I got a car loan, rental apartment, and steady job on my own. My finances were all on me and I was responsible for my own life.

This is so important and I can’t stress it enough! You have to be able to take care of yourself, because these applications, fees, working on finding housing and jobs, is all on you.

 

How to Move Abroad

Be open to changes in friendships

Making friends doesn’t come easy for some people. We’ve figured out that we’re probably not the only ones, because our post about how to make friends as an expat is one of our most read! It’s not just about making friends, but leaving your current ones behind.

The internet is an amazing thing and can keep you in touch easily through Snapchat, Facebook, Skype, and all the other websites and apps that let you connect. People change, time zones are annoying, and life gets busy. While you don’t have to be okay with losing touch with people (that’s on you), you do have to be okay with their lives and yours going in separate directions.

Once you make new friends, it’s amazing how many more people you’ll meet…from all over the world! As long as you are open to new experiences and new people, your life will burst with enrichment and possibilities.

 

How to Move Abroad

Save that money!

Unless your company is moving you or someone is taking care of everything for you, then savings is a must! Depending on how you get into the country, you may have to prove how much you have so that you will not fall back on their social welfare system.

We planned savings for about 3 months of living before we moved (probably should have planned for 6 months, if we’re honest). Always save more than you think you need. The first month may feel like a vacation, but try not to blow all your money during that period. This is definitely a “learn from our mistake” situation. Use that time to feel out your new city.

 

How to Move Abroad

Logistics

We shipped only a couple of boxes and took everything else in suitcases. There are services to ship your entire house full of stuff if you need it, but less is more in this case. Remember, many places don’t typically live in homes as big as they are in the U.S. and Canada. We’ve known many people that had to sell their stuff once they got to Europe because all their belongings wouldn’t fit!

If you have little furry family members (pets), you will likely need documents before the pet is allowed to enter the country. While you’re at it, see what kind of medical and dental records you can grab before you leave as well. Better to have them than not!

Know how you and your stuff will arrive. Have a place lined up to stay…even if temporary. Buy that ticket and know any limitations on weight or luggage allowance of your airline. The actual move might be the most stressful part, but you WILL get through it!

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These are the basics and this is nowhere near a comprehensive list. But I hope this helps get your started in your journey to try a life abroad wherever that may be. I can promise you that it’s an experience that will enrich your life and force you to grow as a person. You may even learn things about yourself you never knew.

Best of luck and let us know how it goes!!