Munich, Germany for Christmas

Just days before Christmas 2012 I went to Germany. I had been in 2009, however, I only saw a little of the countryside during the summer. This trip I went to experience the winter festivals and big city.

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When I arrived in Munich International Airport I took a shuttle bus into the city centre to the main terminal (where both trains and buses arrive and depart). I spent a little time here looking through the small christmas stalls and grabbing a city map before walking to my hotel – it was just 10 minutes or so walk. 

The moment I stepped out of the terminal in the fresh crisp winter air at dusk and felt the light snowflakes falling I was enchanted! Everything was so soft, gorgeous fairy lights hanging from every eave and little candles lining shop windowsills. The terminal exit overflowed with commuters heading home for the day. To the right were rows of tiny festive winter huts, serving German beer and mulled wine (Glühwein) to the endless amount of locals and a handful of tourists who were all out in the chilly night air, huddled together to keep warm. I stopped for a moment to listen to the merry banter while the heavenly smells of fresh gingerbread and Glühwein wafted around me. 

I arrived to my little cosy hotel just after 6pm and though I had travelled more than 20 hours and barely slept, nothing could keep the smile off my face as the excitement of the christmas season was all around me. I promptly dropped my backpack in my small room then ventured out once again in the happy streets. With a light dusting of snow and beautiful ornate lampposts lining the street, winter was surely a sight in Munich. My hotel was on a small hill and overlooked a large park, filled for as far as I could see with white tents covered in twinkling lights and baubles. 

I made my way through the throngs of people canvasing the streets, down into the sea of tents. From the streets I found the entryway easily enough thanks to a huge sign made of lights; Tollwood, the sign declared. This winter festival is held each year in the same park, Theresienwiese. 

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The stalls at the festival were amazing; featuring homemade christmas treats, handmade jewellery, clothing and beautiful ornaments. There was no shortage of food and drink tents to shelter from the weather and share a drink or 10 with the locals. 

I arrived back to my hotel that evening around 10pm and was out in the blink of an eye. I slept until around 230am when I found myself wide awake thanks to jet lag. As this was an insane time to go out I spent a few hours online talking to family and friends back in Australia. 

 

Day 2 in Munich I wandered through the streets, and took so many trains all over the city to see as many sights as I could! After checking out the museums, statues, parks, shopping areas and cafes drinking in the sights of the city I returned to my hotel for a quick afternoon nap. I spent the late afternoon at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the water then returned to my hotel after seeing The Hobbit at a tiny little antique cinema which played English films. 

The 3rd and final day in Germany I took a day trip to another city which I will post separately.

I can not wait to return to Germany one day soon and continue adventuring through this beautiful country.

 

Please comment, share and like 😀

Also, I would love to hear your feedback regarding what to do in Berlin, as I am yet to go there. If you have experienced the wonderful winter in Germany I would also love to hear about your experiences and highlights.

 

Until next time,

xoxo Siobhan.

 

 

A day in the life of an ESL teacher (in Vietnam)

Hello wanderlusters!

I’d like to give you an idea about a typical day (or week!) for an ESL teacher in southern Vietnam.

I have lived in Can Tho (on the Mekong Delta) for 5 months now and spend an awful lot of time doing as i please. I work an average of 16 hours a week at my ESL private college, which of course leaves plenty of time for leisure.

You can of course do many different things to keep busy or even just lie around in bed/relax on the couch like some of the teachers, however, I try to take advantage of all my free time, and living in a foreign country.

Usually, I wake up around 5/530am and go to a yoga class from 6am-7am. Vietnamese yoga is more like a relaxation stretch class with a couple of yoga poses thrown in for fun. 😛

Generally Monday mornings I sleep in, as Sunday night is the only night my school is shut, so all of the teachers are free and we generally get together (this is the most common night to drink too much).

After morning yoga I go to the market and buy food, then home to shower and eat breakfast.

Three mornings a week I go to my Vietnamese friends house and study Vietnamese with her younger cousins (free lessons – I help them learn English in return). Then, after around 2.5 hours of study together I have lunch with my friend and we chat/ play guitar. I usually go home around 1230/1pm and sometimes have a nap.
Weekends I teach both days from 8am so I don’t go to yoga, I sleep in until 630am.

The other two days I tutor privately for 1 hour in the morning after yoga, then go out to coffee with friends or do something interesting (this month I’m learning Vietnamese Watermelon carving with a friends friend in a nice garden cafe).

3 days a week I go to lunchtime Zumba class for an hour with some friends then home for lunch. Generally my afternoons are spent sleeping or lying around the house relaxing if I’m not out with friends.

From 530pm-730pm every night Monday – Saturday I teach at my college. This is only during the summer as I am currently teaching 4-6 extra hours. Usually all foreign teachers have 2-3 nights off per week. After class I go out with friends for dinner or coffee and games. Some nights we go to live music cafes, karaoke, cocktail parties or even a Latin dance club (because I LOVE to dance!!)

So you see, there are an endless amount of ways to spend your time, I have not listed half of the different things I usually do during the week.

We often go out for day trips to different cities or provinces which are always great fun, I am constantly invited to go here, there and everywhere.

Life as an ESL teacher in Vietnam is one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced and I highly recommend it!

Please comment with thoughts or even share your stories of teaching overseas if you have them, I’d love to hear from you.

If anyone has taught in another country that you recommend please let me know, you help on where to go next is much appreciated!!

Until next time
Xoxo
Siobhan

My Top 8 Travel Apps – That I never leave home without

Hello Wanderlusters!

Well it’s a fine day here in Southern Vietnam. The sun is shining high in the sky, children are playing and laughing in the street, an old man on the corner is hard at work while scooters whizz through the small alleyways, locals on their way home for lunch (and nap time) and the neighbourhood rooster is crowing loudly, a harsh reminder not to forget he’s stuck living in a tiny cage on the street all day.

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While travelling the last few years I’ve become increasingly reliant on my iPhone and am constantly looking for new apps to make my travels easier. When you’re country hopping every four to eight days as I did earlier this year you want your travel plans to be as seamless as possible, so you have more time for the fun stuff.

Swimming with the Dolphins in Cancun

Swimming with the Dolphins in Cancun

I find that I no longer print off a single itinerary, hotel confirmation or tour/day trip confirmation unless a website SPECIFICALLY states you MUST have a paper ticket. This makes travelling so much more efficient, and drastically reduces the weight of your backpack (which makes a huge difference when you’re travelling carryon only, and have a 7kg weight limit).

Now I’m sure you all have a few travel apps in your phone but I’d like to recommend what I use.

1. Tripit – Travel Organiser

Tripit is the master travel app. With the capability to store all of your itineraries via a link to your email address, you will surely not find an easier way to have all of your travel confirmation numbers in one place for quick access at the touch of a button.

Price: Free on the App Store, Upgrade to Tripit Pro for $50.99 per year – includes Flight Status Alerts, Check-in Reminders, Alternate Flights, Seat Tracking, Frequent Flyer Cards and Point Tracking, Fare Refund Monitoring, Automatic Trip Sharing and VIP Perks.

2. Hostelworld

Students and Backpackers take note! This fabulous app lets you search and book hostels all over the world. Even last minute hostels (as I myself have booked a few times just hours before I showed up to check-in). It takes all of 30 seconds to search hostels in your area and less than 2 minutes to book, pay and receive confirmation.

Price: Free on the App Store.

3. Boarding Pass

This app allows you to mobile check in for flights and store all of your boarding passes in one place, with 50+ airlines available (each with a direct link to the mobile check in facilities) it’s quick and easy!

Price: $1.99 on the App Store

4. Photosynth – Don’t miss out on capturing that panoramic view of a once in a lifetime sight ever again! With Photosynth you can easily stitch photos together and create beautiful Panoramic Images to share with family and friends. Send them a 360 degree view of your surroundings no matter where in the world you are.

Price: Free on the App Store

5. Kayak

This handy little app is a one stop travel shop, like a personal travel agent in your pocket. Use Kayak to search flights, hotels, and car rentals. You can also store your itineraries, track your flights, set alerts to notify you of cheap flights when you are in the planning stages of your trip and theres even some handy travel tools, such as an Airline Directory, Airport Information, Airline Baggage Fees, a Currency Converter and a Packing List.

Price: Free on the App Store

6. Instagram

This app allows you to produce quality professional looking photographs, I especially love InstaFrame (another app I use in conjunction with Instagram) – which lets you make gorgeous collages, and add interesting frames, backgrounds and text to your photos. From InstraFrame you save and open your photo in Instagram, where you can then easily share your photos with family and friends across a multitude of social media platforms.

Price: Instagram and Instaframe are both Free on the App Store

7. urbanspoon

Urbanspoon allows you to search for cheap eats to gourmet restaurants where you choose the city, type of meal and budget you’re after.  This app also has a cool “Shake” feature which brings up restaurants at random just like a Slot Machine when you shake your smartphone. The only downside is that not all countries are featured.

Price: Free on the App Store

8. XE Currency Converter

Last but in no way least, this wonderful little app allows you to search and convert any currency you like. You can also store up to 10 currencies that you will either use often or for an upcoming trip for fast easy conversion rates.

Price: Free on the App Store

Please comment with your favourite travel apps! I’d love your input, especially if there is a new app I haven’t heard of and I should!

Happy travelling Wanderlusters

Xoxo Siobhan.

College Student’s Guide to Cheap International Travel – Guest Post by KC Owens

I am honoured to provide my readers with my very first guest post here at Wanderlust.  This article was written by a fellow young traveller and I absolutely agree with the content. Please leave a comment if you like the post so I can be sure to pass along your kind words to the author.  Happy travelling xoxo Siobhan.

 

Between meeting deadlines for homework, working to pay tuition, other bills and applying for internships and jobs, being a college student can be pretty stressful at times. Fortunately, it’s also a time in life when most people aren’t tied down by jobs or family and are free to travel if they want to. Traveling can be expensive, especially if you’re looking to go international, but it’s definitely not out of reach for a college student who has the right knowledge and tools. There is no reason why a student cannot cruise through Europe on a cheap dime. Using the tips and tricks below, you can travel cost efficiently and make frequent getaways a great way to give yourself a break from the college grind.

 

What to Bring

To begin, you’ll want to travel light, especially if you plan to frequently move around and stay in a new hostel every night, but there are a few must-haves that you’ll be glad you brought with you. I try to travel with less than ten pounds in my backpack, so I have this down to a science. First, I searched Amazon and found a roomy backpack that was lightweight. Why just a backpack? You don’t want to be the obvious tourist walking around on a museum tour with a roller bag and a camera; that’s how you get mugged very quickly. Next, I invested in dry fit clothes. These are invaluable because they dry quickly if I get caught in the rain and I can easily wash them in a public sink anywhere I go and they will dry quickly. They’re also lightweight, don’t take up much space in the backpack and do not wrinkle easily. They’re great! I always pack at least one collared shirt and a nice pair of shoes, too, since a lot of clubs in Europe have a dress code. I was once asked to leave a club because my shoes were too “sporty,” so trust me when I say, bring some decent shoes, too. However, when I’m on the move, I’m always wearing some comfortable tennis shoes to avoid blisters and sore feet.

Besides clothing, I always make sure to pack a lock because most hostels offer lockers for you to keep your things in overnight or while you’re walking around the city. A secure ID wallet is also a must. I always keep mine on my body at all times. Losing your identification and credit cards, or having them stolen, can pose all kinds of problems when you’re in a foreign country. I use a wallet that zips, and I always keep it in a zipped pocket in my pants or shirt. You can also find travel wallets that hang around your neck and can be hidden underneath your shirt. I know these seem goofy and annoying if you’re buying things or paying for dinner, but I would rather do that than be pickpocketed on the train or in a busy market. This is not meant to scare anyone, just be aware that people do pickpocket tourists and mug them if they are leaving themselves wide open as a target.

 

Where to Sleep

Overnight plans are always the most important because many hostels close at 10:00 p.m. and can fill up quickly. You don’t have to stay in hostels, of course, but it’s really the most cost-effective plan for a first time traveler or college student. Most hostels I’ve stayed in were less than $40 per night. Many of them even offer student discounts on food and drink, which can help you save big time! Most of my meals were at cheap fast food places, markets or my own hostel because of the discount. If you’re at a good hostel, their food will be great and it can also give you some local flavor. Try to find places that have 24/7 check-in, since you never know what time you’ll arrive after a day of traveling. There’s nothing worse than being exhausted after traveling all day and being late to your check-in and finding yourself homeless for a night, despite already paying for a room. If there is one piece of advice any experienced backpacker could give anyone, it would be this: make sure you have a plan B, C and D. I use a great app called Hostelworld when I’m planning a trip and it’s really helpful in determining the best, cheapest and safest places to stay. It can also tell you which hostels have free Wi-Fi, which is nice if you want to send emails, blog about your travels or upload pictures to a Dropbox account in case your phone/camera is stolen or broken.

 

Financing Your Trips

If you work during the academic year and you’re able to save a bit of extra cash, that’s great. If you can’t do that, you’ll have to look into borrowing. Instead of borrowing as a loan (don’t do that), I did a little web research and according to Credit Card Insider, there was a travel credit card that I qualified for. I use it all the time at restaurants and small businesses overseas; it’s great because I can easily buy everything I need and then just make small monthly payments when I get back home so I don’t need cash up front before going on a trip wherever I decide to venture off to. The only time a credit card isn’t useful is if you’re at a produce market and some small, local pubs, which will usually require cash payments. I would not recommend having large quantities of cash on your body while roaming through different parts of the world. If you do happen to come across the wrong person, you don’t want to hand them hundreds of Euros. I would also highly suggest that you contact your bank before you leave for your trip and let them know you will be traveling, otherwise, they will suspect someone has stolen your card to buy food at McDonald’s in Paris and cancel it; thus, leaving you frustrated, hungry and trying to explain to the worker that you think it worked anyway.

 

 

KC Owens has written and submitted this article. KC is a college student who loves traveling, college life, fitness and a good survival kit. He enjoys studying different cultures, meeting new people and leaving his footprint somewhere most people only read about.