Berlin.

4
“The Wave,” an off the beaten path hike at Coyote Buttes near the border of Utah and Arizona.

The last time I had written I had just returned to New York, and was reflecting on my time backpacking for more than half the year. I now write to you at the eleventh hour, again. I am leaving New York, but it won’t be a temporary adventure this time around. For the first time in my life I truly have no return date. I’m moving to the European continent to start a new phase of my life in Berlin, Germany.

My adventures didn’t end when I came back to the United States. In fact, I had a very busy summer, one of the busiest in recent years. After landing in New York I had some of June and the month of July to reconnect with my family and friends and with my beloved city before heading back to south america, where my mother, stepfather, stepbrother and I made a family trip to the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. It was a bucket-list moment to be able to watch the opening ceremony live at Maracanã Stadium, and to attend a variety of Olympic games in the days after the opening. Although chaotic as expected, it was truly incredible to see the world come together in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. While I was in Brasil I made a last-minute surprise trip to see my family in Recife, and to see my cousin’s newborn baby. Even though I had just seen my family in February, I knew I couldn’t exactly say when it would be the next time that I would return to visit them.

3 (1)
Opening Ceremony for the Summer Olympic Games in Rio.
6 (1)
My mother and I at the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, the venue hosting the rowing matches during the Olympics.
4 (1)
View from the Sugarloaf Mountain, overlooking Rio’s famous skyline.
IMG_4820
At the Opening Ceremony in Maracanã Stadium.

I was in New York less than a week before I found myself exploring the exotic landscapes of the USA. I took a road trip to California, Utah, and Arizona, where I realized I needn’t even leave my own country to immerse myself in hikers’ paradise. However exotic it may be to see vast, contrasting landscapes in places as Bolivia, Brasil, and Argentina, the beauty of the north american southwest and west coast rivals that of its south and central american counterparts. Five thousand miles on the road, more than 90 miles of hiking, and a busy three weeks visiting Sonoma Valley, Big Sur, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and Sequoia National Park in California, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Arches National Park in Utah, and the Grand Canyon, Page, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Antelope Canyon in Arizona, along with a one-night stop in Las Vegas. I felt so fortunate to have been able to take the time to visit the USA’s National Parks and to intensify my relationship with the outdoors. If I have a moment I will try and write a post about how to conquer the “American Road Trip,” an adventure markedly different from that of a nomadic backpacker, yet in a similar vein a time of personal growth and a test of physical and mental strength.

1
16 mile hike to “Cloud’s Rest” at Yosemite National Park, California.
9
Arches National Park, Utah.
8
Camping at Lake Tahoe, California.
7
Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona.
6
Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona.
5
Bryce National Park, Utah.
3
View from Observation Point, a 6 mile hike at Zion National Park, Utah.

I’ve neglected to mention one last piece to the puzzle that would explain with whom I was traveling with in various parts of south america, and who it was that came with me on my road trip on the west coast. Andy, the English backpacker who agreed to travel in northern Peru with me seven months ago, became more than just my travel partner. He and I are now dating, and it seems we couldn’t shirk that traveling spirit once he and I returned home to our respective countries. We decided to take the road trip together so that he could also visit the United States for the first time, and because frankly it wasn’t easy going from spending day-in and day-out traveling together to living in very different time zones. He is back in England now, and we’re both happy that in light of my upcoming move we will at least be a much shorter, 2 hour flight away from one another.

So where did Germany come from? In some older posts I had mentioned that I was considering going to graduate school and living in Berlin as early as the days when  backpacking in Bolivia in late March. After applying for and getting accepted to a graduate program in Berlin, I knew I was headed for Europe within the year. But I felt called to moving sooner than September 2017. I wanted to start working beforehand to settle into the city I would call home for an indeterminate amount of time. And in the back of my mind I also knew that if I began working within Berlin’s startup scene, I would have the opportunity to become more involved with the tech community there, and to then be able to lay out all my options on the table and make a more educated decision about what my next step should be.

Hustle: the best word to describe my two months spent this fall after returning from the west coast. And indeed I had been hustling, with a daily commitment to studying for my GRE exams, applying for jobs, and seeking out as many connections in Berlin as I could. People did have their doubts; I was told that I didn’t have much of a chance to find my dream job, and that I should expect to wait tables when I arrived. After all, I don’t speak a word of German, I don’t have EU citizenship, and there aren’t enough jobs in Berlin even for Germans. But I didn’t let any of those things deter me. I kept at it, and the initial hurdle gave way to one opportunity after another. It still amazes me how almost overnight, with a flip of a switch I became not just one of many job applicants but a singular, highly desired applicant. I was shown that with hard work, unwavering dedication, and not giving up truly paves the way for exactly what is supposed to happen, when it’s supposed to happen.

And now, just one day shy of exactly five months after returning to New York from Tulum, I’m getting on a plane once again. It took me some time to get my things together, as I knew I couldn’t pack with the mentality of a backpacker anymore. I was really moving, and I needed clothes that functioned in the real world and in the extreme cold. I spent hours ridding myself of years of personal belongings that have outlived its purpose. I said my metaphorical goodbyes to childhood treasures and keepsakes, and placing those items I wanted to keep in their proper places in my room. As I write this, I notice that my bedroom finally looks like home; I have yet to understand why it has to be right now, when I am ready to leave, that my room has become its most welcoming, its most authentically me. After all the mental and physical purging, I condensed my future life into one large suitcase and two carry-on suitcases, plus a small backpack to hold my computer.

Yes, this new phase of my life is scary and stressful and nerve-wracking. But in a good way. I’m about to jump head-first into a completely new urban cultural and artistic center, whose people will be chatting away in a language I don’t speak, in a country I’ve never lived in before, on a continent I’ve only lived in previously for a total of six months. I hope that Berlin will accept me in the same ways that New York has embraced me. I hope in the not so distant future that I will be able to comfortably call Europe home in the same way that I’ve called the USA home for almost my entire life. Only time will tell; as of now, I have no expectations and no timeline. Traveling has always tried to bring me back to the present and has nudged me to live in the moment. In many ways this will be a great way to put this practice to the test, in the real-world, and with more permanence. I’ll be given the chance to begin at zero. And without the vestiges of New York to find its way into the fabric of my daily routine, as it had done so each time I came home from traveling, in the truest sense of the phrase, I have a fresh start.

It’s overwhelming and amazing, as in this photo of me standing below the world’s tallest trees, in Sequoia National Park, but at the same time I wouldn’t want life to be any other way.

2

Greetings from Oslo Innovation Week: An Insider Guide to Norway’s Capital City

I’m writing to you from Oslo, the beautiful capital of Norway. Although it’s a bit chillier here than I expected, I’m enjoying connecting with my fellow innovators at Oslo Innovation Week, the largest innovation convention in Europe. There are over 50 events happening across the capital, and the event draws entrepreneurs, investors, and developers. Last year Innovation Week had over 6,000 people from a variety of sectors. I’m looking forward to attending an event today called Celebrating Female Entrepreneurship & Creativity. Should be a nice event discussing women in innovation, specifically within the Northern European landscape.

Below is a guide with some fun facts and interesting sites if you find yourself in Oslo.

Basics: Oslo has a population of 638,500. In 2013 Oslo tied with the Australian city of Melbourne as the fourth most expensive city in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s Worldwide Cost of Living study.

OSL_01
Oslofjord

Name: No one knows exactly where the name Oslo came from. Os can mean a range of hills, a ridge, or a reference to a Norse god, and Lo may mean a field. Oslo can then mean a “field of gods” or “the field below the hill.”

History: One of the oldest capitals in Europe, Oslo was originally settled in Viking times, at around 1000AD.

Geography: Norway is known for its fjords. A fjord is a deep, narrow and elongated sea with steep land on three sides. The Oslofjord has 40 islands.

Weather: The average temperature in Oslo in summer is 16°C (68F) and in winter its -4C (24.8F). Right now it’s 8C (46F) outside!

Did you know: Oslo is the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded on December 10th every year at Oslo City Hall. The last time a Norwegian won the Prize was Fridtjof Nansen in 1922, for his work in aiding the millions in Russia struggling against famine.

Fame: Henrik Johan Ibsen, the famous 19th century playwright known as the father of realism, was born in Norway. He is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare, with major works including BrandAn Enemy of the PeopleA Doll’s HouseHedda GablerGhosts, and The Master Builder.

Art: One of the most famous works of modern art, The Scream, was painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Three of the four versions of the painting can be found in Oslo: a painted version at the National Gallery, and a painted and pastel version at the Edvard Munch Museum.

Being the art nerd that I am, I found the spot where Munch painted this scene (A quick Google search showed others who had done the same thing and had written out the directions). For those of you who wish to re-live The Scream moment, it’s along a road called Valhallveien on a hill overlooking the center of Oslo.

IMG_167620100830193250!The_Scream

I wasn’t kidding when I said that I’m an art nerd.

Language: koselig (koo-she-leh) literally means “cozy.” But the word is actually an important cultural term that represents a type of Norwegian utopia. It means that everybody is warm and safe, everyone is on equal terms, and everyone has what they need at any particular moment.

Architecture: Barcode, one of the most protested building projects in Oslo, consists of a row of new multi-purpose high-rise buildings. Tenants of the buildings include PriceWaterHouseCoopers and Deloitte.

tumblr_mzb2mug9bC1snexxno1_1280
Barcode

Right across the street is the home of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet and the national opera theatre in Norway. The Oslo Opera House is an architectural marvel, designed by renowned architecture firm Snøhetta. The white marble and sloping design at the endge of the Oslofjord gives the allusion of being on a glacier, sliding down on some snow.

 

2880px-full_opera_by_night
Oslo Opera House
Standing on the Oslo Opera House slope

Food: I fell in love with the typical Norwegian open faced sandwiches, which consists of a dark, dense bread and topped with butter, cheese, some sort of meat or fish topping, cucumber for some crunch, and Norwegian remoulade, which is like a mayonnaise with a special kick. I also had some of the best Hot Pot I’ve ever had – I never would have thought I would find such good Asian food in Scandinavia!

Coffee: This one’s for the coffee fanatics: Tim Wendelboe, an espresso bar and coffee training center, is considered to be the best coffee in Norway. Having tried it myself, I have to say the coffee is pretty darn delicious. The foam in my cappuccino was perfection. Tim himself was the World Barista Champion in 2004.

img_17001.jpg
Delicious Tim Wendelboe coffee made with Love

 

Drink: Alcohol is quite expensive in Norway, with a glass of beer averaging at $11 and a bottle of wine at a restaurant averages at $46. But Norwegians still enjoy going out and having a drink or two. I came across this great spot called Kulturhuset near the center of Oslo. A coffee shop by day, this bar dims its lights at night as young Norwegians turn off their laptops for the day and begin playing shuffleboard while catching up with friends.

And always be sure to say takk, which means thank you!

Hadet bra (goodbye)!

This article also appears on Women’s iLab to inspire the next generation of female leaders. 

Ladies, Looking to Travel the World Alone? 8 Tips on Savvy Solo Travel

I spent a little over a month this summer backpacking through Europe. I’m a seasoned traveler. However, this was my first time truly traveling by myself. As a woman, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive at first. But I quickly realized that this was a journey I just had to make. It’s a traveling experience that I recommend all women take at least once in their life. I want to share with you some tips and recommendations for your next trip as a female traveling alone, no matter where in the world you decide to experience that journey.

1. Embrace the solo spirit

Contrary to what you may believe, most people actually deeply respect the solo traveler, particularly if you’re a woman. You’ll look a lot more badass than you think you do, and even if you’re lost, you’ll have this aura of bravery and resourcefulness. I met some Danish locals in Copenhagen who were very impressed when I told them I was alone – it gave me a little self-confidence boost. You’ve made a conscious decision to travel alone – be proud of it.

IMG_9536

2. Don’t be afraid to say hi

Transportation on long journeys is the perfect time to strike up a conversation. When you’re traveling by bus, train, ferry, plane, (or maybe camel?) try to get to know the person next to you. On line to take a ferry boat heading from Split to Hvar Island in Croatia, I met a Colombian girl named Carolina. She was also standing on the ferry line by herself, and so I said “hi” and introduced myself. We ended up sitting next to each other on the ferry, and for the next three days we explored Hvar together. She and I became friends and we still keep in touch. I can honestly say my experience in Hvar wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t approached her. So just say hi, and be open to talking to strangers (even if you were taught otherwise as a kid). You never know where a simple “hi” will take you.

IMG_8425

3. Other solo travelers are approachable – and for ladies, can be a nice safety net

You’ll find that when you meet someone else who travels alone, there’s this immediate bond that you’ll have with that person. For some reason solo travellers are concentrated in hostels – and it’s pretty easy to make friends with others when you share a room with them for a couple of nights. Many hostels organize pub-crawls and other social events in the evenings, which is a great opportunity to socialize. For added safety when going out at night, find another lady to stick with – she’ll be like your wing woman that you have at home, and you’ll both be accountable for each other. As a woman I often found myself gravitating towards a fellow female going solo at my hostel when I went out – we were both in the same situation, and there’s an unspoken level of trust you end up forming with them.

4. Be social, but also be anti-social

Social media is a great way to connect with your friends and family back home. If you’re missing some real connections with people you know and trust, create a public blog with photos of your daily travels. If you have a smartphone that only works with Wi-Fi abroad, I suggest you invest in a cheap unlocked smartphone and buy a local SIM card with a data plan. This way you can be connected whenever you’d like to be.
But also, keep it a little anti-social. Try to journal or keep a private blog. Turn off your phone for a couple of hours every day. Remember the journey is about you, and being alone is a gift that very few people have while they travel. You’ll be happier for it.

5. You don’t have to actually couch surf to be a couch surfer

Couch surfing (staying in someone’s home for free) isn’t for everyone. However, it is a fantastic source of insider tips from locals. People who belong to the couch surfing community are really open to helping tourists, by definition of what they do by hosting people in their homes, so they are incredibly approachable. Create a profile and use it to connect with locals by asking them for tips, recommended eats, sites, shopping, and bars. If you want to take it a step further, you can take them up on meeting them in a public place. I connected with some couch surfer hosts in Athens and Reykjavik who offered to just to show me their city and the nightlife when I was in town. You can go to Couchsurfing.org to check it out.

6. You’re not really alone

You’re not the first to travel alone, which is a good thing! There are tons of online resources to help you. There’s Solo Travel Society, which has a blog and facebook group devoted to people who travel alone. There are also a few long-term female travelers who travel alone and blog about their experiences, such as LegalNomads and Adventurous Kate.

7. Connect with your third cousins

Meeting up with my mom’s friend’s son in Munich (as random as that sounds) really changed my experience of the city. One night he and his friends took me to a fantastic local pub, and I got to experience an authentic “Bavarian” night out. While you’re planning your trip, ask all your friends and family if they know someone in the particular city you want to go to, and try to link up with them. If applicable, make sure to pass through cities where you do have a good friend to meet up with, that way midway through your travels you can have some catch-up time with a loved one.

8. Smile

Trust me, it really helps. If you’re stressed, lonely, tired, or whatever, just smile. I promise it will help. And then usually something unexpected happens, and you’ll wonder why you weren’t smiling the whole time!

If you don’t feel like following any of these, at least remember this: Do something that falls a little bit outside your comfort zone – whether it’s engaging with other travelers, linking up with locals, trying a new dish, or saying yes to skydiving or para sailing. After all, no one from back home is watching; you’ve got nothing to lose. And, enjoy the ride; you’ll never forget it.

IMG_8573

This article also appears on Women’s iLab to inspire the next generation of female leaders.