The End

This is it. I'm back home and the German day-to-day life has re-absorbed me. Before I start my final entry, I want to adress the future exchange students once more. Everything concerning the exchange is labeled "transportation", "housing", "To-do" or "organization" if you have any further questions, don't hesitate to email me or find me in the facebook alumni group. If all else fails, I guess I'll see you at the pre-departure meeting ;) Enjoy your time in Boston, the city is amazing!

So, after visiting 6 different countries and 8 different time zones, testing 8 airlines and 14 different airports on my 16 flights, visiting approximately 40 different cities during my travels, meeting up with old friends and making new ones along the way and after spending 80 (EIGHTY!!!) hours in flight modus, I am FINALLY back where I started - safe and sound in Frankfurt, Germany :)

my facebook map on August 21, 2012
The same map on February 9, 2013

Boston really is an amazing city... It is also amazing how I can miss my Bostonian friends so much, even though I communicate with them almost every day (facebook can be pretty handy sometimes...)
But at least now I have my Frankfurt Friends again :) It sure feels good to be back! Two of my dear friends welcomed me at the airport (Thanks again Maren and Tina!) the rest caught up with me at home on sunday or at the university these past couple of days. I don't think I've ever been welcomed back quite like this :) It feels good to know you guys missed me too. You are very special to me and I'm glad I can randomly run into you at our university again :D

My family welcomed me with a fully equipped front door :) I've said it before and I'll say it again, they are pretty cute sometimes...

Home sweet home!

I bought a couple of souveniers and they were strewn all over my three bags when I arrived... It took me about two hours to unpack everything and I still haven't actually managed to deliver every present ;)

Christmas in February ;)

Ok, ok, I admit, some of it will stay in my room ;) I'm so glad that (almost) all of my favorite people actually made it to my small village on Sunday to spend the afternoon with me and my many stories :) It's a good thing I have this blog, otherwise it would have taken days to fill you in on all the funny, beautiful, incredible, weird, fantastic, overwhelming and life-altering things I've experienced over the past months :) Did I mention that I love my life? 

Thanks again for being there - love you

Well, this is it, things are back to normal, Goethe University is my home again, people are still the same, I now miss people I didn't know six months ago and, once again, I want to thank everybody who supported me before, during and also after this amazing, dream-realizing, mind-blowing trip around the world. Those people are, in no particular oder, the Hessen-Massachusetts exchange program and DAAD, the Caliopean Society, my parents :) the rest of my crazy but cute family, my beloved Frankfurt Word Nerds, the best roommate ever - Maureen, Katie and John, Jeff, Jaynellen and her lovely Texan family, my amazing Canadian Family Barbie, Timm, Carolyn and Lavern as well as Brian, Kyria, Ros, Randy and Jolene and all the other important Canadians :) I also wanna thank all my couchsurfing hosts along the way, especially Randy, Melinda, Walter, Carmel and Thomas, for making my trip extra special and keeping in touch with me even after I was gone. All my couchsurfing experiences were great, but some of them were incredible ;) Also, thanks to all the great people I met along the way, Danushka, Brian, Ursula, Neil, Matt, Steven, Bryana, Nick, Markus, Denise, Claire, Joanna, Carlos and all the others. You're part of the reason why I'll never forget this trip and you will always be welcome on my couch, no matter when our paths may cross again! 

Last but not least, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this little blog - I certainly did! 

The End


Back to Basics - London

I have to admit, I was a little worried about my 15 hour flight from Singapore to London but I was also looking forward to flying with the A380. It might seem like an odd thing to have on your bucket list but - what can I say? - I like planes ;) Well, turns out, the A380 is awesome! It is HUGE (I was in Seat 81K .... ) and incredibly comfortable, especially since it was very empty. Around where I was sitting, everybody had an entire row, so I actually got some decent sleep :) They have tons of movies, TV shows, games (Tetris - *yessss*) and all kinds of other beautiful things to make life on board easier ;)

 drinks anyone? :)

But the best part of the flight was circling over London shortly before 5 a.m. Man I love this city! Especially at night from all the way up there! I was so excited to be back in Europe and even more since Julian had wanted to come to London and was gonna meet me here - unfortunately that didn't work out after all, so I was once again alone in London. Nevertheless it was nice to be back in a familiar city after all the new impressions over the past couple of months...

Good morning Picadilly!

The weather is fantastic, blue skies and perfectly cold :) Just the way I like it! I'm staying at Hyde Park Suites, which means I have a small appartment with a full kitchen so I can safe some money on food and spend it on shoes instead ;) (I couldn't resist...) Thanks to Claire, I tried the Hummingbird bakery - yuuum! Definitely one of my new favorite things to do in London ;)

I enjoyed my last day abroad with my London ritual: a nice, long early morning walk through Hyde Park and then down through St. James Park to see Big Ben and the Eye. Never ceases to make me blissfully happy :)

Hyde Park in the morning

Enjoying a beautiful winter-day

Only in London ;)

As usual, the walk from Hyde Park Corner towards The Mall was swarming with tourists (how do I ALWAYS end up at Buckingham Palace when they have their changing of the guards ceremony?!?) Every single time... My usual path would have led me towards the river, walking along the lake in St.James Park and past Big Ben, but I wanted to go to the National Gallery, so I walked up The Mall instead. Enough beautiful views along that way as well ;)

Big Ben in the distance

The London Eye

The King and the Queen
This is my fourth time in London and I realized I've never visited any of the museums. So I changed that and went to the National Gallery today. I really do like art... Although I have to say I prefer the "Hamburger Kunsthalle" ;) as much as I like London, having only a handful of paintings by Monet and van Gogh just doesn't cut it... 

Best location in town though ;)

After some indulging food in Soho I walked over to the British Museum. I'm an all-or-nothing kind of girl after all and since I had already started my museum tour, I might as well go all the way, right? It was funny to see a display about Polynesian Cultures and suddenly realize I know the Maori building on the picture in the display; it's the meeting hall in Rotorua :) And yes, I was really there! Funny feeling....
I'm still a little sad Julian couldn't make it, but it was also nice to have another day for myself and just reflect on everything that's happened in these past six months. I couldn't stop grinning all day! This was definitely the experience of a lifetime and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have been given. All that's left to do now is pack my bag for one last flight and then I'll finally be back where I started. Thanks for following my adventures here, it's been a pleasure! 

Thanks for everybody who has been part of my journey, whether through online support or in person. It wouldn't have been the same withouth you! I found some great new friends in various different countries along the way and I hope to see you all again someday!

As for tonight, all that's left to say is Dreams really do come true - you just have to believe in them :)


Ni hao from Asia

Singapore to be more precise... But apparently most people here are Chinese, so I think that counts :) After a very long flight (eleven frickin' hours!) I finally made it to Asia! I met a nice Argentinian on the plane and we ended up sharing a cab to the city, because we both didn't want to deal with the public transport system (although it is really easy as is turns out!) The hostel is located in little India and there really are almost exclusively Indians around here! The funny thing is, this city changes all the time, no matter where you go! It's absolutely fascinating!

On Monday, Carlos and I went to Chinatown - definitely my favorite part of the entire city! It is so cool! Full of little market places and food *everywhere* and tons of things to buy for my dear friends at home *gifts for everybody* Carlos didn't like the Asian food but I LOVE it! It's so good and so cheap! It's crazy!

We found this really cool Buddhist temple and decided to check it out. I had to put on a Sari (which I thought was pretty cool) and I felt rather spiritual walking through the wonderfully decorated temple while some monks were chanting their prayers...

...ok, maybe it was a Hindu temple....

the ultimate temple experience ;)
We then made our way to Marina Bay - What a contrast! This is how I had pictured Singapore! Super-clean and super-modern with skyscrapers EVERYWHERE. Definitely impressive....

Singapore's skyline
At Marina Bay, we also saw one of the most expensive hotels in the world: The Marina Bay Sands Hotel. That weird shape on top of the three towers? That's the swimming pool.... I couldn't help it and checked the rates: rooms start at 500 Singapore dollars per night... I case you were looking for a vacation spot ;)

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel - crazy!

Another famous hotel is the Raffel hotel. Raffels was the founder of modern Singapore, so the name comes up all over the city. The hotel is set in a beautiful street full of palms and there are birds everywhere. It's very colonial...

Colonial remnants
Having a Singapore Sling here is one of the "things to do in Singapore" - but not on a Student budget ;) It was nice to have someone to travel with. Thanks for your company Carlos!

Carlos in front of the Merlion
We went to the Botanical Gardens on Tuesday. I checked out the national Orchard garden - I love Orchards! Hands down, coolest flowers ever ;)

...although some of them looked a little weird...

Tuesday night, I met with a local couchsurfer and we had dinner together at Makansutra :) Makan means food and sutra means paradise! Need I say more? Meeting Joanna was great, as usual we had lots to talk about and ended up chatting the night away! It started raining but we were sitting underneath a big umbrella so it was all good! I actually enjoyed the thunderstorm - made the humity a little more bearable...

Wednesday, I checked out Little India with my roommate Claire. It really feels like little India ;)

Colorful houses in Little India
We had lunch in one of the most popular food halls: Lao Pa Sat *yuuum* I still can't believe how cheap and how GOOD food is here! Anthony Bourdain was right - this city is awesome! ;)

Rocking the Chop Sticks at Lao Pa Sat

Creative and a little crazy...

No, I'm not talking about me... I mean Wellington of course! The last stop of our spontaneous road trip was New Zealand's capital city on the southern edge of the North Island. After only five minutes driving through town, Bryana Nick and I all agreed: Wellington is awesome! There's so much creativity and so much energy in the city, it is absolutely enticing!

The ever busy Cuba Street

We met yet another one of Bryana's friends in a very cool reastaurant called Southern Cross. They have a nice outdoor area where we had dinner and chilled for a bit, before our "guide" took us to the waterfront. Maybe it's the harbor that makes me like Wellington so much, maybe it's the similarities with San Francisco... I don't know but I loved it!

I'm a harbor - fan!

A little bit of sunset romance...
The best part about being in Wellington was that a bunch of other couchsurfers we had met before were there too! We met up with Peter first and then I met up with Glenda and Jorge again *yay* funnily enough, they were also at the Southern Cross, so we went back there...

We exchanged Nick for Peter somewhere along the way...

Couchsurfer Reunion @ Southern Cross!

On our way down to Wellington, we had found out about the Rugby Seven's, an international tournament where a bunch of teams play a special kind of Rugby (only seven players per team). Not that we know much about Rugby, but Bryana wanted a ticket anyways :) It's supposed to be the biggest party in New Zealand and I actually believe that! The best part was, everybody came dressed up! The entire waterfront turned into a circus on friday ;) here are some of my favorite impressions....

(un) fortunately I had to leave Friday night and take the nightbus back to Auckland where I spent one more night at Carmel's and said goodbye to Thomas before I left New Zealand on Sunday morning.

New Zealand, it was a pleasure to get to know you ;) The country is absolutely amazing, the people are super nice and the couchsurfers have made my trip better than I ever thought it would be! Special thanks to Carmel, Thomas, Warwick and Chris, Carol, Glenda and Jorge, Bryana, Denise, Nick, Markus, Jargil, Simon, Aaron, Anna-Marie, Gerrard, the Annas and all the other amazing couchsurfers I met along the way! You rock! Hope I'll see you again some day somewhere ;) 


An unexpected journey...

The good thing about having no plan is that somebody might come along with a plan and just take you with her ;) That's what happened to me when I talked to Bryana on Sunday and she said "Yeah, come with us, it'll be fun!" She wasn't joking! What a fun way to end my time in New Zealand, traveling along the east coast with a Canadian with Kiwi Connections, an American from China, a German dishwasher ;) and a reliable old Campervan :) That's the life!

We started our unexpected journey after the white water rafting in Rotorua on Monday afternoon. Bryana knows people all over New Zealand (or so it seems) so our first stop was Opotiki where her relatives offered us the Bachelor pad for the night :) Jane and Steve were awesome hosts and so one night quickly became two! It was nice to just chill out after so much excitement over the weekend. The only problem was that well all fell asleep on the beach... DON'T FALL ASLEEP ON THE BEACH! Let's just say we all bought Aloe lotion afterwards....

chilling on the beach
As I said, Steve and Jane were awesome hosts and had a nice barbecue for everybody on Tuesday - just what we needed before hitting the road! 

meat anyone?
On Wednesday, we hit the road through the gorge towards Gisborn with the guys in the back and my phone as radio replacement... 

Don't tell anyone ;) 
I wanted to get up in the middle of the night and watch the sunrise in Gisborn (first sunrise on the planet) but my idea wasn't very welcome (too early...) so we had an easy start instead (oh well... I'm not so much of a sunrise person anyways...) In Gizzy we met up with another one of Bry's contacts who offered us coffee and home-brewed beer (and a hyperactive dog who couldn't stop playing ball with us ;) ) It's always great to hang out with locals! 

Reunion in Gizzy!

"Give me the ball!" 

We hit the road again to make it down to Naples - the Art Deco capital (or something...) very cute little town BUT we got there around 5 and EVERYTHING closed at 5:30! The guy in the hostel was not kiddin when he said "you're not gonna do anything tonight..." Luckily, we were quick to find a place to hang out (the Irish pub) and entertained ourselves with some pool and a surprisingly intense game of MONSTER JENGA :) Good times guys, good times!

Fun times!
I don't mean to brag but technically, I was the last one to pull out a block before the whole damn thing collapsed... So, technically, I beat the guys... just sayin' ;)

I got it!
Thursday was road day again. The guys were chilling in the back while Bryana manoeuvered the van through the hills. You're an awesome driver Bry, I'd be your co pilot any time! We "lost" the German in Lower Hutt and later lost the American somewhere in Wellington, so our fellowship was finally broken on Thursday night BUT I had an AWESOME time with you guys! I'm glad I ran into you at the CS event and I think our road trip was pretty epic :) I hope to see you again somewhere down the road! Bry, Ireland is still waiting ;) 

THANKS Bryana, Nick and Markus for a fun week of traveling! Enjoy the rest of your stay here, I kinda wish I could have stayed too... 

The Couchsurfing Campervan Crew! *yay*