travelling to 1000 places at my 30th birthday

Travelling

mini retirements a la Tim Ferris

inspirational books

Birthday gift

life changing

good friends

London

For my thirties birthday I had invited some friends at my place for dinner, cake and going out. One of my friend asked me what type of present I would like — I told here that I like to read. Accordingly, she bought a book as a present. How she chose the book and the impact it had on me is the story I am telling you about below.

So, I turned 30 in Summer 2015 and was working since January 2010 in Luxembourg in an consultancy firm. I had my moments… at times I was highly motivated and liked what I was doing but at other times I was miserable as I knew I was working a lot (on weekends, late nights) and the benefits were not always worth it. But I was working for a bigger goal it was not the short term benefits that interested me. My goal was to become a partner at the firm. However, working more and more with the partner as the years passed and I got promoted I realised that I have been idealising the partners at the firm and their actual life isn’t as glamorous and perfect as I was imagining… Just a few things that I have learned about them was they had a lot of stress, were working during week-ends and holidays, heart attacks, broken marriages, unhappiness and resulting certain drinking and partying habits that may suit a 20 year old single but not a mid 40th to 50th year old married partner at a large consulting firm….

I meet my friend also at work where she had also stayed many years and she even started at the firm a few years earlier than I did and was working in a different department. However, due to some cost cutting she was let go and suddenly realised that her job she though was providing her safety was at the end not as safe. She got a small severance package and had to leave immediately. It took her some time to mentally absorb it and she finally after several months found herself at another job in Luxembourg. And while she was working at the new job she continued to search for her dream job and once she found it it was a paralegal position in Paris she prepared for it for a whole one week it and without a law degree was accepted for the job while her law friends who also applied to the job were rejected. As of today she is still happily working in that same job. She was also telling me for some time that I had so much potential and why I was stuck in the same small country and the same firm. She saw me in a different location and a different firm….

So at my birthday she gave me a book “1000 places to see before you die” from Patricia Schultz, she said she wanted me to be inspired about all the different countries that exists and to maybe move a different destination. She was right about that Luxembourg was holding me back… I have such good memories from Luxembourg but after several years I felt somehow trapped but didn’t want to admit it to myself.

I had a lovely birthday and started to whenever I had free time to read the book and magically without even trying or any effort half a year after my birthday something life changing happened that I have never considered before. Around three months after my birthday I submitted my resignation letter and six months later I was boarding my flight to London to start a new career.

I am sometimes wondering whether I would still be in Luxembourg if it hadn’t been for the book that somehow subconsciously changed my mind or was it for my friend who had been slowly planting this idea in my head or was it all together including my starting doubts whether I really wanted to become a partner within this firm. Whatever it was I am really happy that I did the move. Many things have changed for the good.

Would it be fair to say that the book “1000 places to see before you die “changed my life???

Playing Tennis with Rafiq Shami in Luxembourg

Books in German language

Rafiq Shami from Damascus

loneliness

Anxiety

Change in life

Rafiq Shami is one of the few German writing authors whose books I have read. I like to read books in the original language and most books I read are in english. However it happened in October 2015 that I stumbled on the book “Sofia” from Rafiq Sharma. The night before I celebrated the famous German Oktoberfest with my colleagues in Trier. It was an amazing event with famous singers and the corporate we worked for had booked tickets for us in the VIP area. It was the first time for me on an Octoberfest and we had so much fun, partying all night. I had booked a hotel very close to the venue in order to not having to worry about how to arrive home at night after the party.

The next morning, I had breakfast at the hotel and asked at the reception for the direction of the next bus stop. From there I took the bus to the Trier train station. At that time I was living in Luxembourg and I had some time until the next train arrived so I looked around at the shops and as usual ended up in a bookstore. Luckily, very recently I saw on german TV a program which presented some new german books to read. I remembered a few of them while walking through the bookstore. The first book that was recommended on the show I found very quickly and opened the book on a random page and started to read, however it was not what had expected to find the scene which was being described on the page was relating to war times …raping a women by several men in a forest …. it also described how one of the men while raping her was thinking she must be enjoying it at least a little bit as well .. why would she moan otherwise … and her hand touching his back made him feel even more excited… That was enough for me, I am sure the book was a good one but there are certain types of topics I just cant handle to read. So I searched further and found the book “Sofia” by Rafiq Shami. It plays in Damascus …. it’s a love story and a spionage thriller and about running away…. I bought the book, sat on the train and drove back home.

At home, I enjoyed staying in all day, eating food that I bought from the train and reading Sophia. I still remember this day as one of the perfects day…. After a long day and night partying just staying in bed the next day with good food and a good book. It’s weird but I still remember what I was wearing and that I was feeling perfectly comfortable with me and myself. Everything was just perfect that day.

Nevertheless, the year 2015 was a very difficult for me and I associate it with big changes. The first big change happened when one of my good friends from Luxembourg moved away in Summer 2015 to Paris. It was very difficult since I had spent a lot of my free time with her, many weekends, dinner or theatheres after work etc. It was a hard goodbye. A few months later, in November I resigned to my first real job I ever had after university where I had spend 6 years…. and decided to move away from Luxembourg to London to take a new job in February 2016. All those changes and expected changes filled me with anxiety. Especially Winter Sunday evenings were very hard for me.

Luckily, I had tennis lessons every Sunday evening. It required me a 15 min train ride. I would take the book Sophia with me and read on the train drive. It was magical, I felt as I was part of the book… even though I have never been to Damascus I felt in love with the city… the way he described the city the people their way of living and enjoying simple life with simple but good and real food. Reading the book helped me feel less uncertain about my own life it gave me some hope and relaxed my anxiety. Nevertheless, winter sunday evenings were dark and cold but my the book and my tennis lessons helped me overcome this difficult time.

Later around december my good friend came back to Luxembourg for a visit and we went to the christmas market together. I still remember, me walking to the market with my gym bag and tennis racket and of course my book. My friend had to catch a train later that evening and I had planned to go with her to the train station towards my tennis class. We were enjoying the food and drinks at the christmas market and I did not wanted to end it hoping she could stay and did not have to face the whole dark winter evening on my own. But that was not as it was she had to go and I went with her to the train station. There we stayed and talked and I noted that was going to miss my train which did not bother me since I wanted to stay in company even if it was for a few minute more.

My friend left to Paris, I had missed my train so went outside to catch my bus home …. It was a cold and dark night.

In the bus I felt lonely and sad and and as the anxiety was just to come I remembered that I had the book with me so I opened “Sophia” started to read and immediately felt much better.

Sophia is one of the few books I still have with me e.g. not given away. Since it brings a certain feeling and memory back… even though at that time the feeling was not a good one, the memory of it has something about it that I do not want to give away.

I just saw very recently december 2019 that a new book from Rafiq Shami is available “DIE GEHEIME MISSION DES KARDINALS”. That’s the next book I plan to read from him.

Which books do trigger memories for you? Do you still have the books with you? What are those memories?

With the Goldfinch at the Cote d Azur

Photo by Ben Müller on Pexels.com

My summer vacation 2014 was a three week long language course in South France, Nice. It was a good way enjoying the sun, beach, meeting new people and learning a language. I arrived there 2 days before the actual class started. At the airport while I was waiting for the plane to board to Nice I saw an old lady, she made such an impression on me that I am still remembering her. She was exactly as I had Nice and its people in mind: Older, well off, dressed up with full make up and a lot of jewellery. It seemed she had sorted out her live… exactly knew where she was going. Me on the other hand seemed a bit drifting away feeling vulnerable and a little nervous since I was travelling on my own and I would be arriving very late at night. In case the driver who would pick me up from airport did not arrive I would have a problem. At that time I did not have a smartphone. As such sitting at the airport I was nervous thinking what if I did not find the accommodation or there was noone to provide me the keys to enter the building, what if the school was a fraud and they took of with my money and there was nothing ….no driver, no accomodation and no school…

Everything went well at the end, the driver arrived on time picked me up, dropped me at the accommodation, gave me the keys and explained in which floor I would find my room. The next day I woke up early and went to the administration office which was on the ground floor where I settled some admin stuff. I took of to walk through the city. It was a sunny, beautiful day. In my bag of course I had my book. At that time I was reading “the Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt. I walked around 15 min and arrived at the city center where I sat down outside at a litte place serving pancakes. I ordered a pancake with chocolate and banana and a cappuccino and enjoyed the the beautiful atmosphere and pancake while continuing reading the book. The story was so dark so sad sad after each page I read I was glad that I was enjoying the book in such contrasting and beautiful atmosphere (sun, beach, vacation). The book was too sad and dark to read it at night alone …..

Next day, the language course started, and from then on every morning I had 4 hours french lessons in the morning. Then I went with some of my co-students out for lunch and the beach. The afternoon we had for ourselves were I usually went back to my accomodation, relaxed a little bit before we would all meet again for a dinner and night out. It was magical. I meet lovely wonderful people, especially with one of the student (who lived in Stuttgart) I had a special bond and we would spend a lot of time visiting the city, museums, doing a tour to St. tropez and Monaco (we still meet up several times a year and write regularly). It was just amazing. As always I was carrying my book with me “THE GOLDFINCH” wherever I went I was reading while chilling at the beach and also in the afternoons being on my own. Accordingly, the many pages as also the cover page are a little bit wet and there is an obvious wear and tear visible. Which is obvious considering I had the book with me wherever I went.

It is one of the books that made me feel as if I am part of the book, sometimes I pitied the characters and was so glad that I was not them since they went from one problem to the next. But I could not stop reading I enjoyed every page of the book.

Until now I associate the goldfinch with my France vacation and it brings all the great memories. Unfortunately, I dont have the book anymore. Usually, I give away books that I read and only keep the masterpieces, books that have blown me away and the goldfinch was one of them that I wanted to keep.. However, a family friend came to visit us and she had arrived from south east asia on her own and was living in a small remote village where she was also working. She was feeling very depressed since she was missing her family and was not adjusting so well into the new country she had moved in. At some point our conversation started about books and I named some books I had read and surprisingly she also was well read… I asked her about her favourite book and shared with her mine which was the goldfinch. She said she hadn’t read it so I gifted it to her. I also warned her that the book can be very dark and sad at times …. I hope the book brought at least some happiness in her live or the realization that her life at the end is not so hard and lonely as she was thinking…. think the book is in good hands and that’s what matters.

Do you associate books to certain occasions?

Mauritius with Robin Sharma

Megaliving

Travel blog – Mauritius

Sunrise

Power of books

Inspiration

Muse

New Life — Start over — it’s never too late

Did you read or heard about the book ” from the Monk who sold his Ferrari”. I didn’t until I travelled a few years ago to Mauritius to attend the wedding of a colleague and a good friend. My stay there was for two weeks and everyone who knows me knows that two weeks is just too much relaxation for me and the latest at the end of the first week I usually crave some mental stimulation, start to miss work …..

So I was on this beautiful Island, staying in a house with own garden and swimming pool, 5 minutes walk away from the beach. On the first few days we did shopping since it was a traditional wedding and I wanted to wear traditional clothing. Then the next 4 days we had the actual wedding celebration. It was a beautiful wedding. We would arrive early morning to the house of my friend were already family and friends had gathered and stay there until night celebrating the function. On the reception day we actually drove several hours to the town of the groom to pick him up and returned back to my friends house. By this time I was extremely tired and in need of some relaxed days. In the evenings I would usually read the book that I brought with me “the girl on the train” by Paula Hawkins which was also filmed a few years later … However I hated every page of this book from the time I started to start reading the first page to the day I read the last page (on the contrary my sister loved the book). I had no sympathie with the girl on the train, her drinking problems and her live in general. I am sure it was not the book that was the problem it was me, I was probably associating something to the characters of the book that I so hard wanted to avoid in my own life… becoming a failure….. and the main character was so much of a failure that it probably triggered something in me to hate the book….. I know that sounds crazy but yes….. I couldn’t understand why the girl on the train could not work harder on herself to solve her problems…. get back on her feet…. At that time I thought with hard work and discipline everything is possible… as such I detested it that the girl was wasting herself on broad daylight with alcohol , no money and no career maybe because that was my biggest fear in life….. Having no control over my life…

I remember sitting on my bed one evening, thinking how much I hated this book while reading it.

By the start of the second week, I was even missing my work so much that I could not wait to go back to work. I desperately needed some mental stimulation and was glad when the next day in the city center I saw a small book shop. There I roamed around but could not decide which book to take. The book shop was small and dusty.. I saw a title “the monk who sold his Ferrari” by Robin Sharma but found the title not captivating enough so continued searching until the owner of the shop recommended to me a book called “chicken soup for the soul” similarly this book did not appeal to me. Then he recommended the book “Megaliving” by Robin Sharma. I gave it a try, before that I had not heard of the author before. The book appealed to me so I bought it and was excited to start reading.

Interesting is that all the books the owner recommended are kind of self improvement/self help books. Did he figured it out so fast what kind of person I was…. what kind of books I needed… was the little book shop a little hidden pharmacy of books? Where the owner knows by one look at his customers which book they need?

The next morning I sat next to the pool with my new book, reading, taking notes and getting inspired. In his book he is recommending very simple things but no one else that I know has ever written them down. The chapter I like most about the book is the “the 200 Master Secrets for Megaliving”. Here he provides 200 easy and simple to understand ideas how to improve your lives in a bullet point type of writing. The one point that I remember until now the most is that he mentions if possible to live in a flat/house with access to a pool since an evening swim can do wonders for you. I do not have access to a private pool but I try to find closeby pools in my area since an evening swim still provides me with so much inspiration and satisfaction. Also, while on vacation I love the evening swim when all tourists are already in their rooms …. I have the pool to myself… the water is warm but coming out of the pool with the little chill and cold outside… I Love that. He also says to wake up early and watch the sun rise once a week… It’s such a simple thing to do but imagine what this simple thing can do to your life… it will make you a happier person, provide you with inspiration…..

So the mornings of the last week of my vacation I used to study the book and take notes. During the day we would continue exploring the beautiful island the highlight was swimming with wild dolphins in the open see. We also saw a mini eiffel tower, the 7 coloured earth, did snorkeling, a cruise ending with delicious seafood barbecue on a private island. Nevertheless, I was full of inspiration… I could not wait to go back to normal life … go back to work and start using more of the great ideas stated in the book. In short, the book played a vital part during this year and probably influenced me in more ways than I am aware. I also started to watch youtube videos of Robin Sharma which I can also recommend.

The vacation, I am telling you about was around 4 to 5 years ago. During a recent move of my parents my sister found this book and started to read. She told me she is so grateful having found this book as it has helped her in so many ways… I am always a little proud when someone reads books that I recommend to them or in this case that I brought unintentionally in their life and which helped them improve their life.

Travelling to South Africa with Wuthering Heights

100 best books worldwide

Travel blog

Emily Brontë

Garden Route, South Africa

Safari, Addo Parc, Ostrich Farm

Paradies

Alone Time

This is my first post after my travel to South Africa. Since, I only travelled with hand luggage I did not bring my laptop with me and such could not update my blog. Nevertheless, even during travel, books played an important role. Two weeks before travel I was researching for some inspiration in regards to new books to read. My last reads were all good but I had purchased them without much thought on the bookshops while on airport for business trips. Since I had to travel a lot for work in 2019. The books were a good read but I was missing the really good books, the masterpieces, the work of genius authors– the books I would be still thinking and talking about in decades. After some research I chose the book “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte. I must confess that the first 50 or 100 pages I was struggling with the book. I just did not get it, and while I was packing for my two weeks vacation I nearly decided to travel without it, without any book due baggage limit. I am glad, I changed my mind and kept this tiny book in my handbag. Without the book my vacation would have been just half as good as it was. Below I will explain why…..

Since, I was visiting a former colleague who was already living in South Africa I had to travel on my own. It’s a over 10 hours flight from Frankfurt, in germany. My flight was on the 7th December from the Frankfurt am Main airport. From my apartment to the airport it’s just a 15 minutes bus ride to the airport. Nevertheless, as usual I arrived three hours earlier and even after security I had more than 2.5 hours left. So I decided to eat something at a restaurant at the airport. The third picture from the book above is me at the restaurant at the airport. Being on my own at the airport I enjoyed reading while waiting for the waiter bringing my my food and also after finishing my meal and drinking my coffee.

Once, in the plane I stored the book away. Now was the time for the on the board entertainment. Since it was a night flight I spent most of the time sleeping anyway.

I arrived in Johannesburg and meet there my friend at the airport and we travelled together to Cape town. There we stayed 4 nights. I enjoyed it and everything was exciting and new. We went to nice restaurants, had breakfast at the waterfront, went on hiking to the table mountain and some shopping. By the time I went to my room in the hotel I was tired but still did not want to go to bed immediately. As such the book was perfect I read a few pages before actually going to bed. The first picture above is me in my hotel room in cape town with the book.

Still at that time, I did not get really why the book was amongst the 100 books to read. I only read a few pages at once not more since it did not manage to capture me. But since I was reading every day I managed to read a lot and slowly started to like the book as I realized it is not Romeo and Juliet type of love story but there is much more…. much more HATRED, REVENGE, SUFFERING, BETRAYAL, STRONG CHARACTERS, SAME ERRORS MADE IN DIFFERENT GENERATIONS……

So the time went by and we went to our next stops including cape of good hope and than further to Cape Agulhas. At Cape Agulhas we had a self service african type of a lodge directly by the sea. There were hardly any tourists. It was quiet, there was no internet no TV…. We purchased at a nearby supermarket some lamb chops, african type beef farmer sausages and corn on the cobs for a relaxing barbecue at our large balcony with seaview at our lodge. While the grill was warming up I enjoyed the view from the balcony and after dinner sat down at the balcony with my book enjoying the calm and relaxing atmosphere. I must say travelling with a former colleague is fun but I relax and enjoy much more reading a good book in the evening that doing chit chat. And the thought of having nearly travelled without my book gave me horror. Once it was dark outside I went to my room and enjoyed my book in my room. NOTE, there was no TV and no Internet. The best thing I had was my book. The next morning I was relaxed since I had a good sleep without constantly looking at my mobile phone at night as I would usually do.

The days went on and as such did our travel went on, and I must say unfortunately the conversation I had with my travel companion dried up the more days we travelled. I think being nearly all day long together doing everything together at some point made us both being a bit fed up of each other I would even say. which means we would sometimes sit for dinner and not speak a word. So I started to bring my book with me also to restaurants and day trips and would read while enjoying the view and weather.

Our next stop was at a Safari where we would stay two nights. It was amazing, I had in the middle of the wilderness amongst the animals a lodge on my own without Internet and TV. There was some limited electricity so that I had some light at night to read. The whole day we would spend watching animals in the private reservoir where we saw lions, giraffes, hippos, zebras and elephants and in the national parc, the Addo parc where we saw families of elephants. At night the ranger would drop me of at my private lodge. At first I was horrified to stay on my own at the lodge the next lodge and as such the next person was a few hundreds meters away. The only way of communication in case of an emergency was a radio he provided which I could use to contact the owner of the reservoir but only in case of real urgency. I thought I could not stay on my own but then I relaxed did some unpacking, brushed my teeth and went to bed with the book. The moment I started reading I forgot about my fear and started to enjoy the tranquil environment. There was no distraction, just me, the nature and my book. The next morning I was picked up by the ranger at 7am for a full day of safari and I was looking forward going back to my lodge in the evening. Cut away from civilization, Stress and hectic—- Just me and my book!!!!!!

The last picture above from the book is from a daytrip in Port elizabeth the last day before we would take the flight back home. We arrived at this viewpoint and my friend wanted to walk along the beach I wanted to enjoy the view from the viewpoint. So I stayed on my own while my friend went down to have a long walk. It was here when I finished the book. during the last days I was dreading to finishing the book since I did not want to finish it. By the time I enjoyed the book, I could relate to the characters and could understand why each of them was behaving the way they were…. Once I finished the book my friend has arrived and we were both sitting calmly at the point watching out to the see. When I suddenly saw several black points moving, by looking closer I notice that there were at least twenty dolphins swimming in the water near the cost. It was amazing we could see them swimming all together passing us by. Finally, It was time for the flight at airport I bought another book which I am reading currently and about which I will report to you in one of my next blogs.

I love South Africa and I love my vacation however my book made my vacation much better. It made me enjoy my “ME TIME”. It made me enjoy the “NATURE”. It made me enjoy the time that was not fully packed with “to dos” .

FIRE- Financial independence retire early

When I first started to work (accounting consultancy), I loved the idea of working hard and long hours. I thought that I what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I hoped being very disciplined when it comes to work would separate me from those individuals which are not career driven and which are satisfied by having a decent 9 to 5 job with provides a decent 9 to 5 salary. I worked very hard and even though I worked hard it was very difficult at the beginning. I worked in a company were after two years from graduating from university you would become a “senior” meaning you would lead a team and report to the manager. Unfortunately, not every knows to lead a team or is not ready to do so in two years.

So my “seniors” two young women both best friends since school coming from a small village decided they didnt like me (as they did not like some other young FEMALE new Joiners) and did everything to make my life hard. Fortunately, they left soon and I was promoted to senior and finally to manager. My goal was to work even harder to become Partner which meant that through a partnership agreement I would co-own the firm. Thinking, once reached partnership I would earn so much not ever having to think about money again and being able to slow down a bit. But I soon noted that’s not how it works … Partnership (if you finally make it to it) means taking a huge loan to buy into the partnership starting off with a salary which after considering that you have to pay off the loan you took for the partnership is not that appealing anymore. Not only that, as a new partner you start from very below again, since you are the lowest type of partner and you need to work your way up again similar as I had already done as a fresh university graduate. When I realised that I asked myself are we like a donkey who is shown a carrot to run and run faster because he wants to get the carrot ….. he thinks he is very close so he runs faster… but poor donkey doesn’t know he will never get the carrot.

I started to read a lot and one of the books that made me realize that we do not have to trade our time for money was the book from Tim Ferris the “4 hour work week”. I must confess that I was hesitating a lot and many times before actually buying the book I saw it on the bookshops and did not want to buy it as the title was not appealing to me “THE 4 Hours work week” and thought I don’t want to work only 4 hours per week that’s something that lazy people do. I want to work very hard and many hours as that was my definition of an successful person waking up very early to go to work …..

I read the book many many years ago, I liked his ideas of working less and taking mini-retirements. However, I did not get the concept of creating an online business that pays for your mini retirements. Now looking back many years later and seeing how many youtuber, blogger and small online marketers are earning their living outside the 9 to 5 I started to understand that it is possible. Nowadays, the FIRE movement is also becoming more and more popular which means that you save a lot of money around 65% of your income and be able to retire in 10 years. Retiring only means not having to work to pay your bills but doing something meaningful or in general still working without being dependent on the salary and such being more flexible.

I feel that I have to go back to the 4 -hours work week book from Tim Ferris and read it again because initially I hadn’t understood all concepts he was talking about. Did it ever happen to you that you read a book and many years later you realise you have to read it again as the first time you read the book you missed or did not understand some very crucial information ? I wonder for how many people the booked changed their lives and how many could quit their 9 to 5 finally. I am still at my 9 to 5… would I have been able to quit the rat race if I would have understood what he was talking to initially and taking the right steps? The last question I will never know however, it’s not to late to take the right steps and read the book again!!!

This is not a blog advising about financials but a blog about books so please contact a certified financial consultant if you need advice.

What is bereavement?

Darkness…

Emptiness…

Sadness…

hopelessness…

Can books help? Did they ever help you? Which books to read during this time.

While it is important to be with other people during this time, don’t hide yourself for days alone in your home. It is also important to have some time on our own to digest the whole situation to understand what is going on and to take your time to let your mind and body cope with it. To do so you need to spend some time on your own. There are different things you can do while you are on your own some activities will be more helpful than others.

You could be just sitting there not doing anything but focussed on your sadness and emptiness. From my experience this makes it even worse because there is no distraction, no hope just you with your bitter thoughts. Better is, sitting down with a book a reading it. It will distract you, keep your focus away from you and your hard time but at the same time it will provide your mind with something to work on. Also, it can provide you with some hope (reading about someone who went to a similar situation and made it or reading about something completely different e.g. motivating you to plan and do things you love).