Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much I’ve accomplished. Looking back over the year is a good way to remind myself of how far I’ve come in the past 12 months, as well as look ahead at what I’d like to accomplish next year. 2013 was full of ups and downs. As usual this year involved lots of travel, but it also involved some big changes.

I finished my German class

At the end of January I finally finished my intense German integration course. I took the stressful language exam and the surprisingly easy civics test, and luckily I passed both. Earning that certificate fulfills an important requirement for me to renew my resident visa again in early 2015. I’m a long way from fluent, but at least now I can navigate the grocery store and pharmacy and carry on a simple conversation with my hairdresser.

Freiburg, Germany photos

I experienced a German hospital

While this was certainly not a highlight of my year, spending five days in a German hospital gave me even more insight about the culture I’m now living in. Getting sick in March was awful, but hopefully I won’t ever get sick enough to have to endure that again.

Beyond Vacation was born

Technically the idea for Beyond Vacation started in the summer/fall of 2012, but spring of 2013 was when Andy got his visa upgraded to permanent resident status. This allows him to work on a contract basis, and it means we have more flexibility. Our new lifestyle hasn’t been easy, and we’re still trying to work out the kinks, but overall it’s been a good thing for both of us.

Beyond Vacation dream board

I traveled to several new countries

In between Andy’s last day at his old job and the first day of his first contract, we took a couple months to travel around Europe. Aside from a return trip to Brussels and an entire month in one of our favorite countries, Italy, we also traveled to some of the smallest countries in Europe. My new countries on this trip were Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and San Marino.

San Marino

I took a writing class that inspired me

An author friend of ours told us about a two week writing seminar being taught in English at the Freiburg University over the summer, and Andy and I each signed up for a class. It inspired me to work on writing fiction, and even though it’s been an extremely slow process and sometimes I still don’t think I can write a novel, I’m still pushing myself to give it a try. Unrelated to the novel, here is my favorite piece I wrote in class one day: The Bells That Mark Time in Minori, Italy

Amalfi Coast, Minori, Italy

Three months in Berlin

Andy ended up with a three month contract in Berlin, so in about two weeks we packed up our stuff, found renters for our apartment in Freiburg, and found a place to live in Berlin. We really enjoyed exploring the city, learning about the history of the Berlin Wall, and trying many, many restaurants. We also took three day trips to both Hamburg and Poznan, Poland (a new country for both of us) since they’re reasonably close to Berlin. There are a lot of things I’ll miss about Berlin, but I’m also looking forward to going home.

Berlin Brandenburger Tor

Despite a few negatives, it really has been a great year. I traveled to eight countries, four of which were new for me, I got to see more of Germany, and I’m pursuing writing in ways I never have before this year. We’ve already started planning the beginning of 2014. Our seven week winter escape is booked, and even though we don’t know what life will look like after that, we’re working on some ideas. But I imagine 2014 won’t end up how we think it will, so we’ll just have to see what happens!

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8 comments on “2013 Travel Highlights

  1. Sofie

    Such a crazy year!
    German class, a writing class, launching a new website and project.
    You go girl!

    Was it really that awful in that German hospital?
    I’d think they’d be extra clean and efficient.

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks! No new website, but yes lots of stuff going on this year! The hospital was perfectly fine, it’s just that being in the hospital is NOT fun. And experiencing one in a culture I’m still not 100% familiar with was a bit stressful. The worst part was they didn’t seem to understand that there were certain things I couldn’t eat due to the issues I was having, so I often had to get Andy to bring me food. But it all worked out, and medically they did take great care of me.

  2. Henry | @fotoeins

    Sounds like a great year, even with the ups and downs. From the lens of reading your story from the other side of the planet, I imagine that there are far more positives than negatives from this past year, propelling you both forward to even better things. Here’s what makes this eine kleine kleine Welt: at one of my fave coffee shops in downtown Vancouver, one of the staff hails from Freiburg im Breisgau. :) All the best to you both, and a “good slide into” 2014!

    1. Ali Post author

      Wow, that is a small world! Thanks Henry, it has been a mostly good year, hospital stay and health issues aside. Navigating our new lifestyle is stressful, but I truly believe we’ll find our way and adjust to it. All the best to you in 2014 as well!

  3. Matthew Cheyne

    2013 was a big year for you. Congratulations on passing your German exam and for starting that novel. Consider writing to always be a work in progress, in that you’ll probably never reach a state of perfection in this lifetime, kind of like Buddhism when I think about it but it’s the fact that we all have the potential for perfection that means that there is a point to trying at all. Each new piece of writing will make you a better writer than you were before and besides there are countless classes you can take both off and online that can help you become a better writer, most of them taught by more experienced fellow writers who can help shed light on the path ahead.

    I wish you a fun, action, filled 2014, all full of the good stuff of life and with none of the bad stuff :)

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Matthew! I try to remind myself often that I don’t have to be perfect. I do need to push myself because I think sometimes I view it as “perfect or nothing” and that’s not good at all. I’m hoping this year will be the year I start making some serious progress with my writing, even if it does take longer than I would like.

      I hope 2014 is a wonderful year for you too! Thanks for reading!

  4. Linda Bibb

    Wow, Ali, you guys accomplished a whole lot last year! Congrats on passing the tests; that had to be a load off your mind. Did you enjoy Luxembourg as much as we did? That country really surprised me!

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Linda! Definitely a jam packed year. Actually we didn’t like Luxembourg. Maybe we just weren’t in the right place or something but we really struggled to find food that wasn’t smack in the middle of the touristy center, and the only reasonably priced hotel we could find was in some business park type of area that had no restaurants and was just dead at night. We did like Vianden Castle though!

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