I took the train from my cousins village of Bad Windsheim to Munich. I REALLY wanted to go to a big city. I ended up staying just two nights but kept busy the entire time.
It started with me getting off the train and walking around in circles to get to my hostel which was actually just across the street from the train station. I found my room, threw my bags down and mapped out my route for the day. It was a BEAUTIFUL January day and I was staying in a perfect location.
My main goal was to walk to Hofbrauhaus and get a beer. Walking around a new city is SO FUN to me, especially alone because there are no distractions and I love being forced to step out of my comfort zone. I soaked it all in. I made it to Hofbrauhaus and walked on in. I was a bit intimidated by the huge crowd and large tables of laughing friends. That was the moment I wish I had a someone with me. But I sat down and watched some live music and ordered food and a drink. My waiter came back a few minutes later with a stick of butter…. uh what? He then informed me that he was a bit confused as to why I had just ordered butter. I laughed and said that a pretzel and beer would be a great addition. I was just sitting there with my beer and overheard three guys next to me chatting in Korean. PERFECT! So I walked over to them and said, “Annyeonghaseyo” and they were shocked that I had said hello in Korean. I then sat with them and chatted. They were all from Seoul and traveling together for a little vacation. I asked if I could join them for the day and we ended up bouncing to a few different bars for the afternoon. They were nice guys and eventually we parted ways.
I headed back to the hostel and went to the bar in hopes of making some more friends. I chatted with people from Seattle, Florida, and Austria. We played cards, went out for dinner, and hung out the rest of the evening. Later in the evening I met some more Koreans and one guy was from the neighborhood of Mugeodong in Ulsan where I had lived! What a small world. I love that when you travel alone you are forced to make friends.
For the next couple days I went to Dachau, walked around the entire city for hours, got lost in a few different parks, ate really good food, and bought some really cool pants for 2 euros.
I had a quick weekend long layover in Sweden in January 2016. I was going to meet my cousin Anna and her 5 year old daughter Vivi. Anna grew up in Ukraine but moved when she was a young adult. I was excited to have family to stay with and explore the city with them, even if it was freezing and dark.
We spent a day hiking to at an icy lake near her house, played dress-up with Vivi, walked around downtown Stockholm, had good coffee and food, and did some sightseeing.
I happened to be there during the NFL playoffs and the Seattle Seahawks were going to be playing the Carolina Panthers. I honestly don’t care THAT much about football but thought it would be fun to find a place where they might actually air American football. I called a bunch of bars and got rejection after rejection. BUT FINALLY I found one! So I headed over to O’Learys and saw that they played the games each week for a group of expats. I was really excited that I had succeeded in finding what I wanted.
I watched the game with about 10 middle-aged men from all over the world. They were really nice and we chatted about how I was from Washington and what I was doing on my travels and the work they did in Sweden. I had a few beers, watched the Seahawks lose, then grabbed the train nearby later in the evening to head back to Anna’s apartment. I went around in circles, got lost, but finally made it back.
I enjoyed meeting my cousin and her daughter. She was very hospitable and I hope to see her again soon. I need to spend more time in Stockholm and hope to make a summer trip soon.
When I went to Europe in January 2016 I was broke. I was working two part-time jobs while also paying the bare minimum on my student loans. I didn’t have much leftover to really go outside of Seattle. So I bought some yarn and I saved up about $1,500 by selling crocheted items during the two months before my trip. I told myself I would have 100% of that money go to my “travel fund” and it worked!
So I took two (unpaid) weeks off in January & planned a trip to visit some friends and family who lived abroad. I am very fortunate to have connections in other countries and a place to stay when needed.
Did you know there are CHEAP flights to Sweden? Through Norwegian Air I could get a one way ticket from Oakland to Stockholm for $240. I would spend a weekend there & continue on to Germany, Ukraine, & England. Random, right? My credit card company thought so as well and stopped processing my flights as I was booking them.
Thanks to my dad and his love for planning travel itineraries I could make it work. After multiple phone calls to my bank, talking to my dad on the phone for two hours to get it all sorted, basically breaking my laptop while opening tab after tab after tab, and a LOT of patience it was set:
- Flight 1: Seattle to Oakland for a quick layover – $90
- Flight 2: Oakland to Arlanda (Stockholm) – $240
- Flight 3: Arlanda to Frankfurt – $130
- Flight 4: Frankfurt to Kiev – $120
- Flight 5: Kiev to London – $75
- Flight 6: London to LAX – $330
- Flight 7: LAX to Seattle – $110
- Total price: $1,095
So why this trip? I had a place to sleep everywhere I went. During those two weeks I stayed in a hostel ONCE in Ukraine, TWICE in Germany, and ONCE in London. I KNOW that this is not something everyone can do so I am very thankful for the family and friends that took me in. Thanks to Anna, Jim, Babsy, Colin, Stacey, & Nicola.
**More stories shown under the Sweden, Germany, Ukraine, & England tabs.
Have you ever been to a rock-folk music festival? It was so fun spending a summer evening at a show where everyone was dressed in punk and Gothic clothing while drinking cheap beers. I was dancing around with my little brother and cousins without a care in the world. During the summer of 2012 I spent a few weeks in Ukraine. For about a week or so my brother Colin, cousin Natasha, and uncle Oleh, and I took a bus over to Dubno to visit some of our extended cousins, Oleya and Vasil and their daughter Tania. They lived just outside of town in a cozy little home.
Instead of giving out Christmas presents the previous year, my family decided to donate money to them so that they could have their first toilet and bathtub installed. It’s very common to just have an outhouse outside and so they were very grateful. They were really excited to show it off to us. They were great hosts and seemed to really enjoy showing us around the town and gave us TONS of candy. We went to the Dubno castle, went to a church service, and went in the Spring of St. Anna.
I’m really glad that I had to the opportunity to visit our family and see the roots of my heritage. By visiting them I am even more grateful, despite the politics and craziness, to be an American. The family we visited don’t have the privileges that we as Americans do. It was a humbling experience to see where the Kubik family came from.
Fun fact: Budapest is actually BUDA & PESHT. Depends on what side of the river you are on. I spent two separate weekends there in the summer of 2012 while on my way to and from Ukraine. I lost my luggage, randomly bumped into an old professor in the van from the airport, and watched a big soccer game at a theater in a park. I also walked along the river with my brother and cousin and went to Liberty Statue. I wish I could have had more time there. But we played tourist for a bit before hopping the train to western Ukraine.
More fun facts about Budapest.