So 2018 was not that exciting of a year as far as travel is concerned – not like in 2017 when I went to 45 cities and 11 countries. Even though I was still on my 2-year travel extravaganza, I was honestly exhausted with travel. In February, I left Texas for Europe with a one-way ticket in hopes of being in Europe permanently. I had no idea how I was going to do that – I knew as an American I would have to bounce in and out of the Schengen zone every 3 months – but I knew I didn’t want to live in the United States anymore. So all my travels in 2018 were in Europe, and I can’t wait to explore the many countries I haven’t been to before.
My first stop in 2018 was Madrid. Since I had friends here and it’s a relatively inexpensive city, I thought this would be the place where I set some roots for a couple of months. My business partner (who I plan to open a cafe with in Berlin) was supposed to meet me in Madrid so we could make plans, but that wasn’t in the cards for various reasons.
While I was there for twelve days, I enjoyed meeting up with Hannah, Sam, Veren, and meeting their lovely vegan friends. Along with eating my way around town. Duh! There are SO many vegan options in Madrid now. But to be honest with you, the food is sometimes a bit odd and not exactly tasty. But there are a few gems sprinkled about town and I didn’t have a chance to try every single place.
My favorite places were brunch at La Colectiva Café (first photo) where I met up with some local vegan women for a lovely chat, the menu del dia at Bunny’s Deli (second photo), and donuts at Delish.
So I was in a bit of a pickle. When you are American, you can only stay in the Schengen zone for 90 days out of every 180 days. The Schengen is comprised of almost every country in Europe, save for the UK, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus. When you are a digital nomad or traveling long-term in Europe, you have to plan your travel route a bit more carefully to make sure you don’t overstay your tourist visa. You can’t just hop or stamp out of the Schengen, then hop back in like you could in Thailand for instance. You have to count your days and the ticker starts as soon as you land in the Schengen.
Since plans didn’t go the way I wanted with my business partner, I got the urge to rebrand my 28 day Wellness Reboot program. I figured why not go ahead and get out of the Schengen and find somewhere warmer to work on my program. Researching Cyprus, I discovered it was relatively cheap and had a very mild winter. So I booked an Airbnb for two weeks and bought a one-way ticket to Larnaca.
It turned out to be the perfect place for me to buckle down and work 12-hour days, and it was filled with some of the best vegan food I’ve ever had in my life. What a pleasant surprise!!
If you haven’t heard me bang on about housesitting or followed my journey on Instagram stories, I joined TrustedHousesitters.com as a way to save money for long-term travel. You watch someone’s pets in exchange for accommodations, so it can save a ton of money while traveling, since that is the highest expense you have while traveling about.
When I was looking over my 6-month plan (180 days), I decided I really wanted to visit Scandinavia in the summer months. This meant I needed to get out of the Schengen to save those days for later. There are tons of housesitting gigs in the UK, so I booked a few in London and off I went in March.
I showed up to London in a snow storm! Literally, as soon as I got outside the airport it started snowing. This was a bit frightful having just left the sunny skies of Cyprus, but I buckled down, continued to work on my program, and now had a cat to snuggle with me.
London is known for having some of the best vegan food in the world, and it did not disappoint. Even though I saved a ton of pounds housesitting, I spent all that savings on eating out. London ain’t cheap! There’s no way I could live there long-term, though I did end up staying three months with a few mini trips in-between my cat sits.
I was invited to speak at the Glasgow Vegfest and I always dreamed of visiting Scotland. Sadly, I haven’t written a full blog post about Scotland, but I will do so very soon! To sum up my time there – I fell in love with Scotland! Great food, friendly people, beautiful landscapes and surroundings, though a lot of shit weather. I had a blast at the vegfest with Wendy of Nomadic Vegan.
I spent four days in Glasgow and planned to spend four days in Edinburgh, but got an itch to do an overnight trip to the Highlands with a tour company called Rabbies. I wish I could have spent longer there because it was so beautiful (even though it was really cold!).
Our tour guide was awesome, and the group I was with was great, too. I wouldn’t normally go on a tour like that but it was affordable and the perfect way to see a ton of the Highlands in a short amount of time. This trip got me hooked on Highlander, and I preceded to binge-watch it over the next few weeks.
After Scotland, I headed back to London for a bit with a jaunt to Romania for my 39th birthday. I spent a few days in the tiny town of Brasov before heading to my 4-day yoga retreat. It’s a cozy town with a few vegan options, but not a lot going on. What was awesome was running into Chris of Lessons Learned Abroad and exploring food and the town with him.
The yoga retreat with Akasha was pretty awesome. It is located in the countryside outside of Brasov. We were surrounded by rolling green hills and the most beautiful landscape for a peaceful escape. I spent my birthday with gals from the retreat and we went to Bram Stoker’s castle. Dracula was nowhere to be found 😉
June started in Sweden with a few days in Gothenburg, then I went off to the countryside for a week to volunteer at a small music festival. I cooked most meals for twenty-five volunteers and musicians – it was insane and exhausting! I will never do that kind of volunteering again because this is my profession and I could have been paid thousands for the work I was doing. That being said, it reminded me how much I love to cook for others. I was too exhausted to really enjoy any of the festivities and I ended up leaving early because it was too much drama there.
I thought I would continue traveling around Sweden or Norway, but Berlin was calling me! I made a quick stop in Malmo for a few days then a few in Copenhagen since I was already so close. Damn is that city expensive! I personally thought it was a bit overrated, too. I ended up going back to Copenhagen to speak at the yoga and vegan festival where I met some nice people. But overall I found the vibe a bit strange! It’s supposed to be the happiest place in the world, but I really didn’t get that feeling. Have you been before? What are your thoughts on it?
I set up a couple of months of housesitting in Berlin, starting in mid-June, so I could experience what it was like living there. I had a good feeling I wanted to live in Berlin permanently, but I needed to stay there a bit to get a feel for it before making the leap. Since it was summer, I got the best view of the city – happy people, lovely weather, tons of green spaces to enjoy, and of course lots of vegan food.
In August, I was invited to speak at the Ghent Vegan Summerfest, and it was one of the best vegan festivals I’ve ever been to! Amazing food, friendly organizers and volunteers, and I met so many nice locals. If you are anywhere nearby Ghent, I totally recommend it. From Ghent, I did a day trip to Brussels, took a walking tour, and ate a bit of food. I wasn’t impressed by Brussels, but Ghent is such a charming city.
After returning from Belgium, I found a permanent place to live and applied for my self-employment visa. It took me about a month to get everything organized for my visa because they make you jump through so many hoops here in Germany! I had to write a business plan, organize a finance plan, register my apartment, get health insurance, get a German bank account, and a number of other things like many forms to fill out. They love their paper here. It’s a complete myth that Germany is highly efficient. They are behind on technology and their bureaucratic systems seem ancient.
One highlight of 2018 was participating in the first 24-hour Cube of Truth in Berlin. There are really too many great things that happened in Berlin last fall to list here. They will need their own post. There were plenty of challenging times too, but I’ve made some amazing friends here, and after waiting for over five months I finally got my visa approved! So I’m excited about what the future holds in my new home.
Thanks as always for coming along for the journey!