A Winter Walk

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One of my goals for 2019 is to be outside in nature more often, whether it means going for a short walk to take a break from work or planning longer trips. This Sunday I had a few spare hours so I researched parks or other pretty places in Hamburg that are not too far away and decided to go for a walk in the nature reserve Boberg close to where I live. I put on some warm clothes, packed some snacks, a thermos with some hot tea, and my camera and set off.

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I have always loved nature and being outside but during winter I tend to become a hermit and try to escape the cold as much as I can (raise your hand if you’re like me!). But whenever I do bring myself to get outside I find that it gives me a sense of peace and calm that not many other activities bring me.

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That day it was particularly cold but with many layers of clothes and hot tea it was bearable and really worth it. Everything was covered in snow and frost and even the sun was peeking through the clouds a few times.

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2018 was a very transformative year for me and many cornerstones of my life, if you will, have changed. Not in a bad way, though! Back in November, I realized that I don’t want to get a master’s degree (at least not at this point in my life) but to find a job instead. And now this job is finally becoming a reality! So, when I took this walk I was half excited for what’s to come and half sentimental about what I had to let go of this past year.

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The walk in the snow inspired me to write some lines about this time in my life and I decided to share them here.

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The snow came
and buried beneath it
what had to be let go.

Dead leaves, old thoughts,
a way of life
that is no longer mine.

When the sun comes back
I will be someone else.

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I was also in the mood to play a bit with the watercolors I got for Christmas and used one of the pictures I took in Boberg as inspiration. I’m still a beginner when it comes to watercolor and I was very clueless about how to paint snow but I’m still happy with how it turned out.

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Ok, just wanted to share some pictures and thoughts!
Stay warm and inspired this winter! ❤

Taiwan Travel Diary & Guide

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Friends! I’m excited to FINALLY share my travel diary along with a guide and some tips for traveling around Taiwan! Brace yourselves because this is gonna be a loooong, photo-heavy post 🙂

My mom and I flew to Taiwan in mid-June 2018 to visit my brother and his girlfriend and travel around the country with them. First off, let me tell you – June is truly not the ideal month to go to Taiwan! Me and my European body are definitely not used to the high temperatures and humidity during the Taiwanese summer and I have never before sweat as much as I have in Taiwan, not even during August in Alabama! 😀 Most of the time it was bearable but on one or two days I couldn’t really enjoy what we were doing because the heat really had me struggling. Also, June is one of the months of typhoon season during which it typically rains a lot. We were quite lucky because it only rained on around 5 of our 14 days there. For more tips on the perfect time to visit, see the end of this post!

If summer is the only possible time for you to travel to Taiwan, I’d still say do it because this country is just incredible. The landscapes and sights are so diverse, there’s mystic mountains, turquoise water, rain forests and buzzing cities…

Just a disclaimer before we dive in, me and my family are huge fans of nature, so if you’re looking for a guide to Taipei and the other large cities of Taiwan, you might want to look somewhere else, as I’m mainly focusing on the experiences we made outside of the cities 🙂

 

Our Travel Diary 

Here’s what our travel route in these two weeks looked like. I had a lot of fun creating this little illustration 🙂

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We arrived at Taoyuan Airport which is about an hour outside of Taipei. Because my brother and his girlfriend live in Taichung, we started off there and reserved Taipei for the end of our trip. On our first day in Taichung, we explored the city for a bit and went to the top of the National Taichung Theatre, a futuristic looking building in one of the more “chic” areas of the city from which you have a nice view of the sunset and the surrounding buildings.

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Our first four nights we stayed in Taichung, going on trips to the surrounding areas during the days. Taichung is an interesting city, it has parts that are very western looking  and modern (don’t these pictures above kind of remind you of New York?) and in other areas, it has more of a small-town / rural touch. I loved all the corner restaurants and fruit shops. We visited the Taichung Botanical Garden which has both a large outside area and a greenhouse part. Right next to the Garden is also the National Museum of Natural Science which I regret not having visited!

Our first trip outside Taichung was to a place called Shanlinxi, or Sun Link Sea, as it is “translated” into English. Shanlinxi is a forest recreation area in the mountains of Nantou county which is famous for the excellent Oolong tea that is grown there. It is about a two-hour drive from Taichung. The day we went, it was rainy and very foggy, so the mountains were wrapped in fog and everything looked very mystic to me. It was so beautiful!

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Inside tip: Close to Shanlinxi, there’s also the Wangyou forest/Caodi wetlands which is basically a swamp with dead trees, a result of an earthquake (if I remember correctly what I was told about the place). You can park your car next to the teashop there (which you should definitely visit to take part in a traditional Oolong tea ceremony!) and take a minivan up the hill to get closer to the start of the hike. Be warned though, the minivan ride is not for the faint of heart! They drive up the hill super fast on a winding road and you basically fear that the van will tip over and fall down the hill any second. But it’s worth it! Just look at this:

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The next day, we went to Sun Moon Lake, a popular spot for Taiwanese newlyweds during their honeymoons, located about 1.5 hours away from Taichung. It was still rainy, so the boat ride we went on was probably not as beautiful as it would have been in the sun, but I could still see why it’s such a popular place.

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We also visited the Wenwu temple while at Sun Moon Lake, as well as took the cable car that connects the lake with the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village.

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Taiwanese temples are so beautiful and awe-inspiring. The photos don’t do them justice!

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Riding the cable car above this forest, we could basically hear it brimming with life – birds, bugs, maybe even monkeys? It was incredible.

On our fourth day, we took a trip to Lukang where the dragon boat festival was taking place. It was a rainy day that ended with a visit to Chun Shui Tang, the tea house in Taichung that claims to have invented bubble milk tea! I have to admit, even though I usually try to avoid all animal products, including dairy, I fell in love with bubble milk tea. It’s SO good! And I’m kinda sad that it’s not a thing anymore in Germany (it used to be a huge trend a few years ago). In Taiwan, you can find a bubble tea shop on every street corner 🙂

The next stop on our travels was the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. We took the train from Taichung to Chiayi and then changed on to a bus to Alishan from Chiayi High Speed Railway Station. We had a hotel room for a night in one of the hotels that is located directly in the park (which I sadly cannot recommend), so we had around one and a half days to explore the area. Unfortunately, it literally did. not. stop. raining… for two full days. We certainly made the best of it, bought rain capes and umbrellas and went off into the forest, in awe of its wonders ❤ Alishan is an incredible place, even in the rain. Photos can’t do it justice. Speaking of photos, I couldn’t take my camera with me on our hikes because of all the rain and even taking phone photos was hard, so we don’t have a lot of good pictures from Alishan. But here are a few, nonetheless:

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Don’t we look a bit like little forest spirits in our rain capes? 😀
The Alishan forest has an old railway train running through it. We didn’t use it but felt very much reminded of the Hogwarts Express! ❤

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This was one of the most impressive sights of my life: the Shuishan, a 2700 years old Giant Tree. It was way too tall to capture on photo. I love trees so much.

Before we were headed to the Kenting area on Taiwan’s southern coast, we made two stops in Tainan and Kaohsiung. We mostly stayed in these cities overnight but here are a few tips anyway:

In Tainan, I can recommend visiting the Hayashi Department Store, which was first opened during the Japanese colonial era in 1932. The beautiful five-story store sells exclusive Taiwanese foods, accessoires, homewares, stationary and other fun stuff and even has an observation deck that offers a nice view over the city.

In Kaohsiung, you can go on a 10-minute ferry ride from Gushan to the small island Qijin that offers a nice little pier, a night market, sea food restaurants and a beach. Also, visit the Monkey Mountain! Shoushan is a mountain in Kaohsiung’s Gushan district that is home to 800 Formosan rock macaques native to Taiwan. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited we were to see them up close!

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Now, on to Kenting! Kenting is a large national park located in Pingtung County in Southern Taiwan. There are several bus companies that connect Kaohsiung and Kenting. We spent 2 nights in the area since it’s a great location for swimming in the ocean, too! To get around the southern tip, we rented two scooters and explored the area. It was so much fun and we saw so many beautiful landscapes! Here are some shots:

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While in Kenting, my brother took us to the Qikong waterfall. We climbed up a steep mountain with the help of some ropes that were installed next to the waterfall. The waterfall features a number of pools that you can access on the way up and we took a much needed swim after climbing up the mountain in 35 degrees! It was so beautiful and such a special experience. The waterfall is kinda hard to find and I don’t think it’s very well known among (western) tourists, but I found directions for how to get there on this blog (scroll down to point 6). The vertical picture above shows the pool we swam in.

As someone who’s interested in the history of the Earth, I was very impressed by Kenting’s geology. A lot of the rocks and cliffs you come across throughout the national park were once coral riffs living under the sea that were pushed above sea level in the course of millions of years. So interesting!

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We also drove our scooters to an overlook at the southernmost point of Taiwan and the view was just incredible.

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After leaving Kenting, we made a stopover at the Foguangshan Buddha Museum, about 50 minutes away from Kaohsiung where we rented a car for the rest of our trip. The museum grounds feature a 40 meters high golden Buddha statue that sits upon a shrine which contains tooth relics of the Buddha.

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After visiting Foguangshan, we set out for the east coast. Close to the city of Taitung, we went hiking in the Jhihben National Forest Recreation Area. We saw a bunch of macaque monkeys and enjoyed the tropical forest and some pretty views of the surrounding mountains.

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On our way to Hualien the next day we also stopped at a place called Sansiantai or Platform of the Three Immortals. The platform is a little coral island connected to the mainland via arched bridges. When I saw this place I thought it kinda looked like it was located on Naboo, a planet from the Star Wars movies. Would you agree?

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Ok, on to what I still consider my favorite experience of this trip. I would even call it one of the most beautiful experiences of my life! We saw whales! ❤ Before my mom and I flew to Taiwan, my brother had heard somewhere that you can book whale/dolphin watching tours off the coast of Hualien and we immediately agreed to book one. The tour guide told us beforehand that they can’t guarantee we actually see any dolphins during the tour and honestly, we didn’t expect much and for the first 20 minutes or so we were just happy to be on a boat trip. And then suddenly people around us started to gasp and get excited and within two minutes we were surrounded by multiple pods of dolphins, some of them swimming directly next to and underneath our boat and some of them we could watch from a distance. I immediately started crying and couldn’t stop for about 40 minutes as this truly was one magnificent experience. We saw a few different species of dolphins and also what I assume was a group of either pygmy or false killer whales. We also saw flying fish which was so surreal because they floated above the water for at least thirty seconds straight!

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I can’t post videos on here, so I made a gif! 😀

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Our last experience before heading back to Taipei was a trip to Taroko National Park where the Taroko Gorge is located. The rock that can be seen around the gorge is mostly a beautiful marble and the water of the river is a really clear turquoise which together makes Taroko another insanely beautiful and surreal spot in Taiwan.

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img_2077psst- I climbed this rock illegally!

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We spent the last one and a half days in Taipei, visiting Taipei Zoo and climbing Elephant Mountain at night to see the iconic skyline featuring the Taipei 101 tower.

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And then we had to say goodbye to our people and to this beautiful, multifarious place 😦 Before I went to Taiwan, I had never been to Asia and I had never expected this region of the world to fascinate me the way it did. I will definitely come back and I miss it every time I think of it. Which is unfortunate because this post took me an insanely long time to write and I had to come back to it so often! It was worth it for the memories though 🙂 However… this post is still not over! Because what would a travel guide be without all those helpful tips?

 

Planning a Trip To Taiwan?
Here Are My Top Tips!

When to go

  • Typhoon season lasts roughly from June to October, heavy rains are common (although not on the entire island).
  • Plus, June to September are very hot and humid. If you have the possibility of avoiding these months, I’d recommend it (during July and August it is even recommend to not go hiking in the mountains due to the risk of landslides!).
  • The best time of the year to travel Taiwan climate-wise, from what I’ve heard, are February-April as well as October (especially for the North), because it’s already / still warm but not as rainy and humid as during the summer months and there’s lower/no risk of typhoons.
  • However, be advised that Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival take place in February (and sometimes in March, too) and that they make up the main travel season for the Taiwanese. It can affect flights and accommodations and shops and attractions may be closed. However, my cousin visited my brother in February and still says that he was very lucky to have come during the Lantern Festival 🙂
  • Another note: March to May is the prime time for Chinese tour groups to travel Taiwan. Be aware that attractions may be crowded 😉

 

Accommodation and Transport

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View from our room at the Gogo Hotel, Taichung.

  • We usually booked our hotel rooms on the go, 1 to 2 days before we would be staying in a certain city/town, via booking.com. It’s so easy and usually pretty cheap. The only hotel my mom and I booked before flying to Taiwan was the one we stayed at the first four nights we spent in Taichung. The Gogo Hotel was excellent but a bit pricey by Taiwan’s standards.
  • Taiwan has a very efficient and pretty cheap public transport system consisting of trains, the high speed rail (HSR) and buses (most buses are operated by private companies, such as the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle service). Finding the right connections and stops and buying tickets is usually manageable if you do some research online beforehand (information online is available in English).
  • You can also rent a car at most HSR stations or at the airport. The rates are relatively cheap compared to European or American rental companies.
  • We also rented scooters several times which was particularly convenient for mountain areas, national parks and roads that run along the ocean. It was my first time driving a scooter and it was so much fun!

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Riding our scooters along the Southern coast.

 

The Taiwanese ❤ 

Taiwanese are some of the most friendly, considerate and polite people I’ve met in my life. Everyone we came across was hospitable and always happy to help. Because most Taiwanese are very polite and humble, they can appear shy or reserved to westerners. I personally found it very charming ❤

I was also very impressed by how orderly and fast everything was running in Taiwan, especially in the bigger cities. For example, there are certain rules for how and when people are supposed to enter and get off trains and buses and all the people I saw obeyed these rules without hesitation to make everything as smooth as possible for everyone involved. As a result, it seemed to me like problems or irregularities are simply not a thing in Taiwan. Something like that would be unthinkable in Germany, haha! To be a nice tourist in Taiwan, you should follow everyone in obeying the rules 😉

 

Food and Night Markets 

One of our favorite activities during our travels was going to street food markets and night markets and buying fresh fruit, juices and trying new-to-us snacks and dishes!

Some night markets that are more tailored towards tourists also sell meat specialties that can seem a bit bizarre to western eyes, just FYI (e.g. duck heads that were fried in their entirety and then sold on sticks to chew on).

I loved trying the more “harmless” dishes, however. Stinky tofu is a special kind of tofu that is fermented and has a really strong smell and I enjoyed trying that even though I prefer normal tofu 😉 I also had fried milk several times which tastes a bit like a very mild and sweet cream cheese that was fried… which is probably what it is but I don’t know exactly, haha! We had a type of savory pancake wrap filled with veggies multiple nights in a row at the night market in Kenting and it was so good!

On most street corners throughout Taiwan you’ll find open restaurants and buffets where you can choose from a large range of fried or steamed veggies, different kinds of meat and fish as well as tofu. I’ve heard beforehand that it’s very easy to find vegan dishes in Taiwan and that’s certainly true for these corner buffets as you can compile your meal yourself. However, at most restaurants where dishes are ordered à la carte it’s more difficult to find something that doesn’t include meat.

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When Taiwanese people meet up to have dinner in a restaurant, the dishes are usually chosen together and are then ordered for everyone at the table to share. I love this! It creates a much nicer atmosphere than if every person just ordered their own dish.

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On the upper left you can see an example of what I would typically get at a corner buffet: lots of different veggies and a whole bunch of fried tofu ❤ Also: mango ice cream, bubble tea and yellow watermelon!

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Ah, the sights and smells of Taiwanese fruit markets ❤

 

Other Helpful Tips 

  • If you go during the hot months, bring sportswear for hiking! This is essential. I regret only bringing normal clothes instead of sportswear because I was just constantly SOAKED.
  • I had the English language edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Taiwan with me and I cannot recommend it enough (although my brother and his girlfriend were our primary guides 😉 )! Aside from all the helpful tips on sights and activities, I especially loved the Understand Taiwan part in the back that teaches you everything from the history of the Ilha Formosa to the political situation and religious practices of today’s Republic of China.
  • As someone who often gets allergic reactions to mosquito bites I strongly advise you to bring mosquito repellent! Trust me, just do it.
  • Also, if you’re afraid of certain bugs and spiders, Taiwan will definitely be a challenge for you. You can do it, though! My brother and I are both afraid of spiders big time but even we could endure it, haha!

 

Okay, guess what…

I think that’s it! I hope you guys got a somewhat in-depth impression of Taiwan and that I inspired some of you to pay this wonderful country a visit (technically speaking, Taiwan is not a country but belongs to China, but, ehhhh.). If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or drop me a message!

2019 Bullet Journal Set Up │ How I’m Going to Plan My Life in 2019

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2019 is around the corner and I wanted to share my bullet journal setup for the new year with you guys! My old journal was almost full, so I treated myself to a new one for 2019. I did some research and decided on getting a Dingbats journal.

Here’s everything I love about this journal:

  • Solid hardcover made from soft faux leather
  • Suuuper smooth 100gsm paper (minimal bleeding/ghosting)
  • A5+ format – slightly wider than normal A5
  • Comes with ribbon, pen holder, elastic closure and pocket in the back

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There are also a few things I don’t like about the Dingbats journal though. One downside is that the dots are very dark and very visible but I think I’ve already adjusted a bit to that. The paper color is way more yellow than in my old Essentials journal but that doesn’t bother me too much either. Also, I didn’t love the embossed tiger on the cover and decided to cover it up with tape. I used wide patterned washi tape and metallic gold tape that I both bought at Ikea and now I’m pretty happy with how it looks 🙂

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The inside cover features tiger pawprints which I didn’t find super appealing, so I covered the double page with scrapbook paper that I bought back at in the US at a JoAnn store. Isn’t it beautiful?

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So here’s how I set up the first pages in the journal for the new year. The first dotted page was a single page, so instead of starting my future log (i.e. yearly overview) on that page – I prefer double pages for that – I created a page that I’ll use to keep track of the birthdays of all my friends and family. Whenever a new month starts and I set up my monthly overview I can refer back to this page and fill in the birthdays that are coming up that month.

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I actually started over with this page so many times, haha! I first wrote the heading in a wide grey brush pen, then decided to cover it up with paper scraps and write it down in black ink again. I also wrote down the months and highlighted them with a bright pink and then covered it up with washi instead. Now I really like how it turned out. But that was a rough start 😀

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Above and below you can see how my future log looks like. Together with my journal I also bought some new pens at Muji and I love them so much! I used the one with the finest tip (0.25) to write down the single dates and another one with a 0.38 tip for the calendar weeks and weekdays (in case you’re curious about calendar weeks: In Germany, it is common practice to number all the weeks in the year, so whenever an American would say something like “The week of April 8th”, a German would sometimes refer to that as “calendar week 15 = Kalenderwoche 15”) 😉

I like how neutral / minimal this yearly overview looks like. One of my plans for this journal is to keep it pretty simple. I have a new creative endeavor coming up in 2019 and I need my planner/journal to be functional and organized. Plus, I’ll pour all my creative energy into that secret endeavor that I’ll reveal sometime during the coming year 🙂

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At the end of every year and right before a new one starts I like to reflect on everything that happened, everything that worked and didn’t work for me and everything that made me happy/sad. This helps me a lot with goal setting for the new year. So the next two pages are my 2018 Reflections and 2019 Goals pages and I’ve kept them pretty simple, too – just some washi, scrap paper and minmal headings.

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This next page is for every recommendation I get for things to read, watch, listen to and other stuff I want to check out.

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After this page I included two pages for planning for the blog and the other thing I’ve got coming up but they’re so simple that they’re not even worth showing here 😉 After those two, I created this one:

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I came across a tip somewhere online that recommended to make a list of all the moments or activities that make you happy or feel fulfilled. So whenever you feel a little blue or even when you just want to check in with your everyday life, you can refer back to this list and see if you’re still on track or if you can do some of these things to feel a little better instantly. I really like this idea! If you’re curious, my personal list includes things like petting animals, seeing the ocean, taking walks in the forest and reading a book. ❤

And that’s pretty much it for my general setup this year! The last thing I’m gonna share with you here is my January overview. I’ve created a simple calendar and then left some space next to each week to create a weekly focus. That’s another one of my planning / organizing goals for 2019: setting a thing to focus on for each week of every month. So for example, I’m planning to focus on self care in one of the weeks in January and on life admin stuff  – contacting my health insurance company and my landlord, scheduling doctor’s appointments and so on – in another week. I have a feeling that this may take some of the pressure away that I sometimes experience when I look at my neverending to do list… I’ll keep you posted on the results!

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Bullet Journal updates in 2019

Before I end this post, I wanted to share some other things I’m changing in my bullet journal in 2019. After putting much thought into it, I decided to not prepare intricate, highly decorated weekly layouts anymore. I just realized that sharing my monthly and weekly layouts here put a lot of pressure on me to come up with new designs and ideas and some weeks I didn’t use the spreads at all for planning after creating them. I have so many weekly spreads in my old journal that I mainly created to share on the blog which don’t have a single thing written in them. I also find that if a weekly spread is decorated too much, i.e. so much that it’s confusing to the eye, I tend to use it less. And that’s not really the sake of a bullet journal, is it?

So what I will do in the future is to prepare overviews / spreads for each month and at the beginning of each week I will just start jotting down stuff for that week or for single days in a very simple layout, sort of in the style of the original bullet journal method created by Ryder Carroll.

On here, instead of sharing my monthly and weekly spreads in the beginning of each month, I’m planning to share monthly or bi-monthly updates of how I used my bullet journal recently, what worked and what didn’t, favorite spreads etc.

 

Combining digital and paper planning

Also, as I’ve not really used my journal for planning much in the last couple months – due to bullet journal burnout as I like to call it – I started to look for digital planning tools to keep up with my appointments and to dos.

Here’s what I’ve started to use and am planning to combine with my bullet journal in 2019:

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Google Calendar

I’ve started to use Google Calendar to keep track of my appointments, days I have to work, dates with friends, birthdays and holidays. On the left above you can see a screenshot of my Calendar phone app (I blurred out names to keep my friends’ privacy 😉 ) To use different colors for different occasions / types of appointments I created a few different calendars and assigned colors to them. Whenever I create a new item, I just make sure to create it within the correct calendar and that’s it 🙂 In any other regard, the app is very easy to use and pretty clearly organized.

Wunderlist 

For any to dos, short term and long term, I use Wunderlist (see the desktop screenshot on the right above). Like Google Calendar, it’s available as a phone app and can be accessed through the browser of your desktop computer. You can create different folders or categories for all your to dos, add deadlines and reminders and finally, check them off 😉

Google Keep 

For any notes that I need to take on my phone, I use the Google Keep app (German: Google Notizen) in which I can create lists, save screenshots and links and do a bunch of other things.

Why combine them?!

The main reason behind my plan to combine apps and journaling in 2019 is that I don’t want to carry my bujo EVERYWHERE. If I’m just meeting a friend for coffee, I might only take a small bag and leave it at home. In case we make plans though, I want to have something with me that doesn’t allow me to forget it later on. Since I pretty much always have my phone with me, the apps I use are simply way more accessible than my journal. Combining digital and paper planning, hopefully, will help me stick to my plans, goals and reminds me to text friends when it’s their birthday 🙂

Also, the Wunderlist app makes it much easier for me to keep track of long term to dos and projects that would go beyond the scope of a two-page spread in my bullet journal.

You might ask why I even want to continue using my bullet journal if I have everything I need for planning in these apps. And maybe my answer isn’t satisfying but I just can’t go without my paper planner, haha! I like to write down goals and reflections and other things by hand because I feel like I’m much more emotionally attached to them that way and don’t seem to forget about them as fast as I would if I only wrote them down digitally. Plus, it’s just so satisfying to check things off my to do list with a real pen 😀

Anyway, this was a lot of rambling and I’ll end this post now. I’m excited to start using my new journal fully in January and see where everything takes me!

How are you planning to plan in 2019? 🙂 Please let me know in the comments!

Love,
Lena ❤

Handmade Gift Idea: Three-Year Gratitude Calendar

_Tears are a sign of strength, not weakness._

Hey friends! I’m going trough a stressful phase at the moment and still haven’t finished a few posts that I’ve wanted to publish a long time ago. But I still thought it would be nice to share a DIY project with you that I recently made for my mom’s birthday, in case some of you are in desperate need of a Christmas gift idea!

So, I’ve actually made this gift twice already for my mom: the first one was six years ago and Mama enjoys it so much that she has requested new versions every three years!

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This gift is a three-year gratitude calendar or journal if you will. I made a box with a sheet of paper for each day of the year, each sheet includes that day over the next three years. The person you give this to is asked to write down one thing each day that he or she is grateful for. Over the years, the sheets fill with over one thousand things that they’re thankful for! My mom uses the calendar more like a diary than purely as a gratitude tracker, so she writes down memories and other stuff and really enjoys looking back over the years on everything that has happened.

Want to make the calendar for a close friend or family member or just for yourself? Here’s what you’ll have to do:

Step 1. Create a sheet in your text program of choice (e.g. Microsoft Word) and divide it into as many separate single-day sheets as can fit on the page (I did this by choosing minimal margins and creating a table with two rows and three columns). My A4 sheet fit six days comfortably. Type in the next three years into each cell, leaving space under each year to write in. Here’s what my layout looked like:

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If you don’t know where to start, leave me a comment below and I can send you my document that you can then adjust to your paper dimensions and other preferences!

Step 2. Print out as many sheets as you need to get 365 day sheets. Cut them out. This takes a while, feel free to do this while listening to an audio book or podcast or watching a show in the background 😉

Step 3. Write in the date of each day into the corners of the sheets:

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Step 4. Create dividers for every month. I cut down scraps of cardboard to the size of the day sheets with an additional 0.5 to 1 cm (about a third of an inch) on the top. That way, you can flip through the months easily without having to deal with all the daily sheets.

I painted the back of the cardboard scraps a solid white and then glued scraps of pretty paper to the front, folding it around the edges and securing it in place with tape like this:

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The pieces of paper that I used were cut-outs from magazines and flyers, origami paper, wrapping paper, and scrapbook paper. You can get crazy creative here 🙂

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I then handlettered the months on the front of every divider (these are German words in case you’re wondering 😉 )

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Step 5. Create a box to hold everything together. I had the base of an old cardboard gift box lying around that I altered to the size needed and then covered with scrapbook paper on the inside and outside. There’s a lot of tutorials online that show you how to cover an existing box with paper, so I didn’t take pictures of it, but it’s not too hard anyway 🙂

And then your handmade gratitude calendar will look a little something like this:

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I also included a few extra undated sheets in the back in case I forgot a date or my mom messes up her writing or something. If you have any questions feel free to contact me!

Also, if you make this and share it on Insta, feel free to tag me @turquoise.trees so I can see it 🙂

Have a wonderful Christmas if you’re celebrating! And if you’re not celebrating, have a joyous and peaceful time anyway ❤

Lena

Bullet Journal: My Fall 2018 Spreads

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Hey there you guys! It’s been quiet around here for a solid two and a half months. There are a few reasons- I have been very stressed with work lately (we planned a large public event that finally took place at the end of September) and I’ve been contemplating a lot of questions about myself, my future, this blog and life in general. I’ll tell you more about all that jazz in my next post (beware – it’s gonna be deep!), but today I’m just back here with a good old bullet journal post to get back into the swing of things.

It’s fall, guys! Man, I just love the changing of the seasons. And there’s something about the transition from summer to fall that is just magical to me. Orange leaves make me so happy! Because I’ve never shared my September spreads, I thought “why not make a combined September and October post to enter full fall mode?”. So here are some of my spreads from these two months. There’s been a few layouts I wasn’t super happy with so in this combined post I thought I’d just show you my highlights.

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I am very pleased with how simple but beautiful the September monthly turned out!
And here’s a very simple and monochrome weekly spread:

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A lot of my fall designs actually turned out more spring-ish than planned like this lavender colored flowery design. I don’t really care that much, though 🙂 I think this was the first time I’ve tried a horizontal layout for the weekly overview. Usually I prefer vertical layouts because I feel like it just goes better with my handwriting / notetaking style. But this horizontal design worked pretty well. I used the left half of the slots for events and the right half for to-do’s.

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And here’s my overview for October. I tried something different here for the first time as well. I made vertical slots for the days rather than squares to be able to fit the whole thing on one page rather than two because I wanted to include space for my monthly to-do’s, focus and things I’m grateful for. The vertical layout works well for me here, too!

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I’m in love with this simple, leafy design that was inspired by some image on Pinterest that I forgot to save (sorry!).

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Another horizontal layout because I liked the one in September:

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I think this one below is the first one that actually feels fall-ish to me because of the orange design and the scraps that look like burlap.

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And then I thought, what’s more evocative of fall in Hamburg than gray clouds and rain? So here’s my raincloud design 🙂 (Notice how I accidentally wrote ‘this weekly’ instead of ‘this week’, ha!)

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For the week of Halloween, even though we don’t really celebrate it here in Germany, I just had to go with pumpkins! The pumpkin illustration is pretty much copied from this image. I’m so happy with this little spread!

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I have just discovered, by the way, that I have just about 20 or 25 pages left in my journal! So I will probably only have space for the monthly and weekly spreads of November and December and nothing else. Which means… that I can start a completely new and fresh journal on January 1st! Ah, it’s so satisfying! Very much looking forward to that.

Although – I might make some changes to my planning system in the new year. But I think I’ll leave that to a separate post. So stay tuned for “How I Plan to Plan in 2019” 😀

Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you’re having an amazing fall so far!

xxx Lena

August 2018 In My Bullet Journal & Some Life Thoughts

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Hello world! A month has passed without me posting anything and I’m realizing that having a part time job again takes up more of my time than I would have imagined, haha! However, I’m really happy with my new job and I’m starting to get more organized again 🙂

Let me tell you a story… The two or so weeks after I came back from Taiwan I was feeling extremely frustrated with myself. I was constantly trying to motivate myself to get stuff done, blocking out entire days to do these things (doing my taxes, writing reports, scheduling doctor’s appointments…) and then at the end of he day, I would find myself sitting in front of my laptop, having done nothing all day but watching YouTube videos and aimlessly googling random, pointless stuff. I was in that weird state where I was neither productive nor relaxing, too unfocused and restless to do anything, really. Two or three weeks went by like that and I would tell all my friends how annoyed I was at myself until I received some much needed wisdom from my cousin who’s always able to put things into perspective for me.

My cousin showed me that I was being way too hard on myself and listed all of the emotions and new situations I went through in the first half of this year –

  • being thousands of kilometers away from my family, friends and boyfriend for months,
  • going through finals week,
  • saying goodbye to all the lovely people I met in Alabama and to the place that had been my home for nine months
  • readjusting to life back in Germany
  • crashing at my boyfriend’s and then at my mom’s place for weeks before being able to access my apartment again
  • going through family problems and the loss of a dear family member
  • traveling to a place I’ve never been before at the end of the world just weeks after coming back from the US
  • starting a new job just two days after coming back from Taiwan
  • making plans to move in to a new apartment
  • and of course, starting this blog and trying to keep up with it

Hearing all of this from my cousin and now writing everything down felt and still feels so strange. This may not sound like a lot to some but reading through the list makes me wonder how I’ve even survived. I have realized that I NEED to give myself permission to take the time and process my emotions. I’m the type of gal who is always trying to keep herself busy, sprinting from one goal or task to the next, to feel good about the things I accomplish on the way.

But these days, I seldom take the time to process everything and to rest and really do stuff just for myself and my own personal enjoyment. Sure, I spend evenings watching Netflix and drinking tea, but taking a whole day off, not to mention multiple days? Nah. Of course, I take the time to be with my loved ones and I could do that for days, weeks, years. But I really, really need to take some alone time soon that doesn’t include any kind of ‘task’ at all.

So, I’ve made it a goal this month, to find ONE day, just one to start with, to do nothing but nice things. Sadly, I really have to start with just one day a month because anything else would create results that are completely opposite of what I want out of this – it would make me anxious. Are you anything like me? I hope you guys are not – I hope all of you have a greater appreciation for your basic human needs than I have 😀 If you do, please share your secrets with me in the comments! ❤

If you’re interested, here’s some of the stuff I will try do on my day off:

  • leave my phone at home (this is SO scary to me)
  • go to a library, wander around, take some books
  • go to a nice quiet place like a park and read
  • go to a museum
  • have a chai latte at a café and watch people/journal/read a magazine
  • cook myself a nice dinner I haven’t tried before

Ok, by now all of the people who came here for the bullet journal content will probably have left again, annoyed at my rambling, so I guess it’s time to share my spreads 😀

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I am not SUPER happy with my monthly layout this time, but I like the colors 🙂 I included a Hemingway quote that captures my current mindset pretty well and hopefully reminds me thoughout the month to j u s t   e n j o y   l i f e. There’s also a ballerina painting by Edgar Degas that I found in a magazine and I really love.

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Same as last month, one of my goals is still to read more, so I made space for a reading list on my monthly goal/task overview. I just finished a novel by the Swiss author Alex Capus and now I’m going to start Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig which I already had at home. There’s also space for me to write down all the fun stuff that is going to happen in August to get myself pumped 😉

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This is my first weekly spread. I tried something different again this time with the layout, and even though it’s not the most visually organized spread, I like that it feels a little artsy 🙂

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This one is pretty simple. However, the idea to use the yellow washi tape actually was born because I made a lettering mistake and needed to cover it up! I just used some correction tape to prevent ghosting and then applied the washi and I like the clean look it created.

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To set the event section of each day apart from the to do section in this spread, I used scraps from a magazine photo. The photo actually shows the smoke of an erupting volcano 😀 I think I will forever enjoy the combination of grey and blush pink.

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This was the most time-consuming spread this month. I created this weekly spread last night, after a day of happiness and gratitude, feeling very inspired. So, including a big, fat life is beautiful slogan seemed appropriate 🙂 To create the ombre effect on the font, I first spelled the days out with the lighter color, then applied the darker one on top and blending everything together with the colorless blending pen from my Tombow Dual Brush Pen set.

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This last spread is pretty simple, just some lines and letter stickers.

So this is it for my August set up and now I’m ready to plan my me time day! What do you guys do to unwind and spend some time on your own? I’d love to hear from you!

Take care,
Lena ❤

July Bullet Journal Spreads

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Hey everyone! I’m back today with another month in my bullet journal. Time is moving so fast! Last Friday we came back from our two week vacation and trip around Taiwan and we had the most incredible time. I can’t even describe how much inspiration, peace and new thoughts and experiences these couple weeks have brought me. I’m thinking about writing a travel diary and guide to Taiwan and will start brainstorming ideas tomorrow which I’m very excited about. In other news, I have started a new part time job this week! So far, there has been a lot of familiarization with the different aspects of what I’m going to work on and not so much actual work itself, but I can already tell that I will be very happy there, yay!

At the moment, I’m struggling a lot with balancing all the different things I want and need to do these days and of course with the new job this could get even more difficult. But I also think that having a job again will help me regain a more structured daily routine which I seriously need right now. I have been SO lazy these past few weeks. But today I already felt more inspired again to write a ton of to do lists and get my shit together 😀 My main goals for July, besides enjoying summer, are to get back into reading, to use my bullet journal every day and to focus on the blog. Because of this first goal, I had the idea to create a book theme for my monthly spread this month. I wanted to reflect on all the brilliant books that I’ve read and loved over the years to motivate myself to pick up a book more often and I really enjoyed drawing all these books! The pile that I drew depicts my all time favorites ❤

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This month, I decided not to include a habit and mood tracker in my spreads. I have just not been consistent with using them this past few months and I feel like I first have to build the habit of looking and writing into my journal every day before I can build the habit to fill out my trackers. So much habit building, ahhh 😀 Instead of the page that I used for my tracker and monthly review, I have included a double page for goal setting and to dos to help me get back into the swing of things. I have already filled out the space in the upper left with all the stuff that I want to focus on this month and wrote down a lot of bigger scale to dos (like doing my taxes and scheduling a lot of doctors appointments, mehhh.)

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In comparison to my weekly spreads of the past months, I have experimented with layouts quite a bit this month. The first week features a layout that is not too different from what I usually lean towards. I will have to see how I will get along with the smaller sections for Saturday and Sunday as I normally don’t have less events or things to do on the weekends than during the week (sometimes there’s even more on the weekend).

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This next week also has smaller sections for every day than I’m used to but I really like the design and how clean and structured it looks. I used a pale grey brush pen to divide each day into an event and a to do section.

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And this is where I decided to branch out a bit and try new things. Below you can see that I have used a monochrome / minimal style for this spread and have given the days wider dimensions to maximize the space. I’m excited to try this one out.

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And this last one was just something that I wanted to try without knowing if it would turn out cute or terrible. As of yet, I haven’t been able to decide, haha 😀 What do you think?? I don’t know, I kind of like the happy vibe but I also feel like it doesn’t really fit my aesthetic. Well, I’m gonna see again once it comes to that week and I’m actually using this spread 🙂

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This is it for my spreads this month. If this month goes well in terms of planning and working on my personal goals and stuff, I might try an expense tracker next month because I really need to keep an eye on my finances these days. We’ll see 🙂

Whoever and whereever you are right now, I hope you’re thriving. ❤

Love, Lena.