I think it is long overdue now that we have been living abroad for a year and a half that I actually write about our life abroad. To be fair, the first six to eight months you are just trying to figure out what you have done to your normal way of life, how to pay your bills in the foreign country/language and how to fit a frozen pizza into a “deep freezer” which is the size of one wine bottle. So for that time period, I was not qualified at all to write a blog about living abroad. I was barely qualified enough to operate a motor vehicle while reading German road signs. To this day, I’ve only been pulled over once by the police which happened in the first couple months and paid about 10 speeding camera tickets. I’m open to suggestions about whether I should call that a win or a failure!
After you make a fool out of yourself for a solid 6 months, you start to get the hang of it. Our first full calendar year abroad in Germany has brought many improvements over those first “adjustment months”. We can now read a menu and order a meal in German (albeit with bad accents that clearly say we are not German speakers), finally mastered paying the National German TV bill, and made a few friends along the way. Honestly one of my favorite moment from this year was not a trip that we planned, but cooking Thanksgiving dinner at our place for some work colleagues that have always wanted to try an American Thanksgiving dinner. It’s really cool to be living in a foreign country where we can learn traditions from our German friends and get to share ours with them in return. In 2018, we visited 22 countries, took 25 flights, and took countless photos. Both Matt and I have learned to take better travel pictures, I can now shoot in Manual mode and actually know what a RAW image is, and our list of places to visit has just grown as we solidify our passion for traveling. Here is my review of the past year with my favorite picture from each month. Caution: there may not be a travel guide available yet for every trip we took in 2018. Stay tuned though!
January – Bluntausee, Austria
We spent our first day of 2018 in Munich after we celebrated New Years as all Germans do, by randomly lighting off fireworks in the middle of the city center too close to other people to be safe. There are typically no city sponsored fireworks, just everyone celebrating the new year and lighting off their own! It’s chaos and its so much fun! On our Christmas Road trip on the way from Hallstatt to Salzburg, we stopped at this small little lake in the mountains with hardly anyone else around. It was so peaceful and the perfect way to take a few minutes to reflect.
February – Ghent, Belgium
Worked picked up for the both of us in January and February, so the travel was reduced to travel planning on the weekends. And as you can see in the next couple months, we needed to get ahead of the planning before jumping into constant travel. There is a holiday in Germany at the end of February to celebrate Carnival in Cologne, so we used that extra day to take a road trip to Belgium. We visited Bruges where we made our home base for the long weekend and made a day trip to Ghent! This year we plan to be in town for that holiday and take part in the carnival festivities in Cologne!!
March – Budapest, Hungary
March was a little bit of a recovery month for us after being so busy at work ever since the new year. We did venture out one weekend to the Brühl Palaces about 30 minutes away from Cologne via the metro, which is a great place to go when the sun is out for a picnic. Our big trip in March was getting to discover Budapest, Hungary together for the first time. Honestly, we could not have asked for a better trip. We ate some of the best food, explored multiple thermal baths and brushed up on our history. Our favorite moment from this trip was the last morning when we woke up really early to enjoy the Fisherman’s bastion without any people. The view from the Fisherman’s bastion is just glorious with the morning light!
April – Holland, Netherlands
April was a bit harder to pick a favorite. This month we went to the Holland area in the Netherlands to do something I’ve always wanted to do, see the tulip fields! Our favorite moment from this trip was waking up before sunrise to get to the tulip fields in the early morning to get a first look at the flowers as the sun rose! So that was a winner for me since it was completely new for the both of us. We also rediscovered a love for Paris and visited Prague for the first time together.
May – Lake Garda, Italy
The months are definitely getting harder and harder now for me to chose a favorite picture. In May we had two amazing friends come visit us in Germany and we went back to see the tulips in Holland and rediscovered Amsterdam in a new way via driving our own boat through the canals! We also visited Great Britain, Ireland and Scotland for the first time and had amazing weather for May. It only rained once during our 12 days on the British Isles on our way to the airport to fly home! Everyone kept telling us that we were there for the only days of summer. Check out my two week guide to the British Isles!
My family came to visit us toward the end of May and we all took a day trip to Luxembourg! At the end of May we celebrated our second wedding anniversary a few days early by eating our way through Italy, seeing Lake Garda and Venice and a day trip to Rovinj in Croatia and Piran in Slovenia. Lake Garda is such an undiscovered gem. The lake is actually larger than the more well known Lake Como, but without the crowds. Also, the prices for meals and hotel were a steal! Our favorite moment from this trip was actually a night we took home a to-go pizza and sat on our balcony overlooking the lake as it rained!
June – Granada, Spain
June was such a fun month! We started out by driving to Reims, the capital of the Champagne Region and spending the weekend hoping from vineyard to vineyard sampling champagne! We had planned a week in Southern Spain and were so grateful that four close friends could join us on our adventure through Madrid, Segovia, Granada, Seville, and Lisbon. Our favorite moment from this trip was enjoying the sunset over the Alhambra from our balcony! The last weekend in June we got the pleasure to visit our friend and his parents in Carcassone, France and relax on their family barge for the weekend as Matt helped navigate the locks and I ate lots of French cheese. This was one of the most relaxing travel weekends we had in a long time and we were so grateful for that experience!
- Driving the Champagne Route in France
- Where to Stay in Granada to Feel Like a Local (including Airbnb)
- 6 Tips for Visiting the Alhambra Palace in 2022
July – Santorini, Greece
July was a pretty low-key travel month as I like to stay away from the peak travel months (which we definitely disregarded this practice in August). At the end of July we got to celebrate Matt’s birthday with his parents by going on a Mediterranean cruise where we visited Athens, Barcelona, Santorini, Montenegro, Sicily and Naples. We got to go to so many places I have never been before and we had a blast getting to share it with Matt’s parents. We also got to go back to some of my favorite places: Athens, Santorini and Barcelona! Our favorite memory from this trip was getting to hike from Fira to Oia in Santorini for the second time – the first time was on our honeymoon!
August – Portofino, Italy
August was a non-stop month of travel. We actually enjoyed escaping to hotels this month, because there was a massive heat-wave in Germany and we do not have A/C. As soon as we got back from the Cruise that continued in early August, we hosted Matt’s parents in Cologne for the weekend. Two days later we took off for Brussels to see the bi-annual Brussels Flower Carpet. This is something that I have wanted to do for years ever since I first saw it on Pinterest back in college. It was such a cool experience and since we got there a day early we actually got to see them building the carpet! From Brussles we flew to San Gimingnano in Italy where we enjoyed everything there is to experience at a typical agritourismo hotel and then drove to Portofino to find out we are not rich enough to be in Portofino! We rounded out August by taking another trip to the Ahr Valley, visiting the Burg Eltz again and stopping through the cutest little wine town in Germany, Arhweiler.
- The Perfect 2-Day Brussels Itinerary
- Visiting the Flower Carpet in Brussels (Incl. a Secret Viewing Spot)
September – Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
September kept us entirely in Germany for the first month since January 2018. We took a weekend trip to Hamburg which actually felt more like Norway or Finland to us than Germany. The last weekend of the month we finally made our way to Oktoberfest in Munich. Our favorite memory from this trip was getting to experience a proper tent experience at Oktoberfest on the busiest weekend of the festival.
October – Wadi Rum, Jordan
October was a pretty cool month because we got to go back to the US for a family wedding and see lots of family that we haven’t seen from our wedding. It was a quick four day turn around, but it was so so worth it. October was also the month that we got to ride camels for the first time in Jordan, and witness the beauty and history of Israel. This trip was like no other trip we had taken so far but coming back we were amazed by how friendly ever single person we met were and honestly how strong the tourism industry is in there countries. Did you know that some of the Bedouin people still live in the caves around the site of Petra and know many different languages including English, French, German and Chinese solely from their interactions with tourists. Our favorite memory from this trip was getting to wake up in “Mars” aka the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan!
November – Porto, Portugal
What a great escape from the impending winter in Germany, to head to Portugal in November. You guys, I wore a dress and sandals around the whole weekend and it felt amazing! Porto is a wonderfully romantic escape and make sure to add on a drive through the Douro Valley! Our favorite memory from this trip was watching the sunrise from our balcony every morning. In November we also got to host people for our Second Annual Thanksgiving Abroad dinner, which this year we ordered a formal turkey from a butcher. We were unsure if Matt was going to have to walk the turkey home from the butcher or not, but his German communication skills were perfect and the turkey felt just like home!
December – Kuhtai, Austria
December in Europe is the king of Christmas markets and over the top decorations. We spent every weekend, and some week days after work exploring new markets around Cologne and in nearby cities. One weekend we took a break from the markets to venture to the Austrian Alps and while others were skiing, we took hikes in the snow and went sledding! Our favorite memory from this trip was taking a day trip to Innsbruck and playing games at a local pub!
Here’s to another few months abroad and seeing how many more memories we can make!