Travel planning – The top 8 things to do first

Travel planning top 8 things to do first

It is exciting when you decide to travel for a longer period of time, though when you start thinking about all the logistics that need sorting before you go, it can be pretty daunting to figure out. If you’re anything like me, that to-do list writes itself in your head every time you’ve got a minute to not think about anything (a.k.a the shower). To avoid that list becoming the entirety of your committed memory, I suggest writing it down somewhere. We started out with a brain dump in a spreadsheet, but for an organised and in control person like me even that started becoming a massive jumble. I could no longer just go with the flow, cross my fingers and hope that we won’t forget to do anything before we take off, so I organised it in a Trello board (I know!). I categorised everything, added bits and bobs here and there, gave all items due dates and put them in chronological order. (I can literally see you eye-rolling)

There were a few things that needed sorting out first to not fall into anxiety induced sleepless nights (unlike my husband who falls into deep sleep anywhere anytime without a worry). We have now done all of them and it feels great. Sure there is still a lot to do, but having the major, potentially travel blocking items, done is such a relief and it doesn’t take away from the excitement for the actual travel.

1. Decide on a budget

And length of time, I suppose. Though the budget might dictate the length of your travel once you’ve done a bit of research as to how much in average it costs per day per person. There are so many sites out there where you can find information on that, especially for areas like south east Asia. Best is to google and ask friends who have been to the countries you want to go to.
The budget will also depend on what kind of travelling you’ll want to do. Are you only going to do low-end budget accommodation? Do you prefer hotels to hostels, etc.? Think about it and adjust your daily rate per person for that country.
Remember that there are expenses already before you actually go on the trip such as vaccinations and buying a backpack (don’t cut corners on this. Trust me, it’s not worth it!), so track that money.

2. Check that your passport is going to be valid

In my case it wasn’t so much that my passport wasn’t going to be valid. It was starting to fall apart and may not have the “minimum 6 empty pages” for stamps and visas by the time we’d done 3 countries. German passports are supposed to last 10 years but mine wasn’t playing that game. After googling and contacting the embassy to ask whether my passport would be accepted, I decided to book that appointment to be on the safe side. Lots of entry requirements of the countries we want to visit state that they may not accept dodgy looking ones.

3. Decide on a route

Since our list of countries are mostly in south east Asia, we checked the weather info of every single one to design our travels around raindrops. I am sure we’ll still be running into the occasional tropical rain showers, but at least we tried to make a sensible rough plan. Note the “rough” part here, cause I am very much aware that we will change our rough plans from one day to the next and could end up somewhere we hadn’t foreseen. Which is part of the whole adventure.
However, check the weather, the proximity, take a map, draw some routes, repeat it a bazillion times to your friends. Maybe you want a bit of exciting land travel in there to avoid too many plane tickets (cause budget 👆). Maybe you don’t care flying criss-cross in which case, lucky you, one less thing to think about.

4. Sort your vaccinations out

Where I grew up, you get vaccination cards to help any GP or vaccination-giving person keep track of what you’ve received and what you need to get. It’s a little yellow leaflet and it’s worth so much when you’re planning something like this. Otherwise, call your parents and hope they’ll remember.
In the UK, you can simply call your GP and say where you’re going and they’ll tell you what you’ll need. Of course, I also did my own research and checked what vaccinations are recommended for each country and what are part of entry requirements. I suppose this is country specific, again, in the UK, some vaccinations are given by the GP through the NHS, others need to be done privately and you need to pay for them.
When I called the GP and found out how long the vaccination process is for Hep B, I immediately made an appointment with Boots pharmacy only to find out on the day that there was a shortage of Hep B and rabies vaccines nationwide. I was told that maybe some private clinics still have stock. Luckily, the second (also not the cheapest) private clinic I called had them, enough for 2 people, and we went for our first shot immediately the next morning.

5. Book that first flight and accommodation

Reading, asking friends and talking about the trip doesn’t make it yet a reality. My husband and I would talk daily about our travels, but hadn’t booked anything yet. It is another threshold that is odd to step over because then it makes it real!
There was still a lot to figure out but we said f*** it, let’s book the outbound flight and accommodation for a week. The whole time when discussing the route, we always started with Indonesia. I also thought a week to arrive, freak out and get adjusted to the timezone in a guaranteed warm and sunny place would be ideal to kick off our travels. It also gave us an extra kick in the butt to get into second gear with all of the not-so-fun organisational stuff that need to be done so we’d be able to leave.

6. Get your travel/health insurance

Another one of those things that you didn’t think of when dreaming about backpacking through the Vietnamese jungle. It is a bit of a minefield, like anything insurance related, but it is important. I know, no one wants to think of worst case scenarios, but if crime shows and movies have taught me anything is that anything is possible. I don’t want to sound too bleak, but you know what I mean. I suppose my 22 year old would have been more lax about it and just winged it…wait who am I kidding, I would have totally gotten the same insurance to make sure my Mama could fly out in case of emergency. Or get the natural disaster add-on, cause you know, Tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanoes…
What I am saying is, it is important to know what it is that you wouldn’t want to pay for but need in case something goes wrong however big or small. Most backpacker insurances offer more or less the same thing, with different excess levels (the higher the personal excess, the lower the total insurance premium), activities covered, add-ons etc.
InsureandGo and Columbus Direct were the final two from our research in the UK.

7. Decide what to do with all your stuff

We’re renting a flat, have a some things in it and no family with empty garages in the country. There was a lot of back and forth as to what we’d do. We like our flat, we like our area, but in the end we made the choice to give up the place and put everything in storage, cause a) it’s cheaper, b) we’re more flexible and c) we don’t have the responsibility looking after a sub-letter, if that would have been possible.
With that decision, we slowly started building a list of things that bring us joy and we want to keep, that we want to sell, donate or throw. The Marie Kondo method certainly helped with deciding on the size of storage. Bonus part, the storage company we went with offer 2 hours free van hire, which might be all we need cause they are a 5 minute drive from the flat.

8. Write a packing list

I already shared our packing list in a blog post a few weeks back, so you can read all about it there and if you’re planning a longer trip similar to ours, you can download the PDF.
In short, get used to lists cause you’ll be making a lot of them. I got a lot of tips from friends through my post, which really really helped refine our list to what we’re currently plan to. Another friend sent me this link and it is great for both men and women.

Recipe – Chocolate Energy Balls

chocolate energy balls recipe

Today I fancied a pick-me-up and some chocolate, so I thought I’d make some quick and easy energy balls, as I had all the ingredients in the house. I feel that most of what I share in terms of recipes (if you can even call that) is coming from playing around, intuitively adding this and that and hoping for the best. And most of the time, it works out. I do have to get into the habit of noting down what I actually did. Rarely am I able to replicate the exact same thing, if not written down, as I get inspired as I go along. This time, though, I wrote it down. Lucky you!

What you need

I counted the amount of balls I got out of this batch; 26. I reckon, depending on the size, you’ll get anything between 25 – 30 yummy chocolate energy balls.

Chocolate energy ball

  • 170g rolled oats
  • 30g cacao nibs
  • 3 tbsp cacao powder (if you don’t want it quite so intense, use 2 tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 75ml water
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • a little bit more water if the dough is too dry
  • a blender to do the hard work for you

How to make it

Mix the chia seeds and water together. You can start with this step first and then measure everything else out and add it to the blender. By the time you’re done, the chia seeds will have become all gooey and sticky. When you have this texture, add it to the rest of the ingredients in the blender.

Pulse it first and scrape the sides to blend all of it properly. If you feel that the dough is too dry, add water gradually to not make it too liquid.

Chocolate energy ball

Chocolate energy ball

Get some plates out and start getting your hands dirty (make sure to wash your hands before). I take a tablespoon (same that I measured ingredients with) and scoop a little on to the palm of my hand and then roll the dough into a ball with both palms.

As soon as you filled up a plate, put it in the freezer.

Chocolate energy ball

Give it about 30 minutes before digging in. Though I did eat a “leftover chunk” with the spoon.

Chocolate energy ball

Recipe – Courgette and Wild Garlic Soup

courgette and wild garlic soup

Today it seems we’ve gone back in time and back to the gloomy days with too low temperatures, which made me want to whip up a nice warming soup. I’m not going to dig my knits and winter coat back out just yet but this soup made today a little cosier with its spicy kick.

So it here goes, it is super easy and if you don’t have wild garlic, just use normal garlic.

What you need

For 2 people

  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 onion
  • A handful of wild garlic
  • Half a red chilli
  • Veg stock cube
  • Sunflower oil
  • 1-1.5 litres of hot water
  • Salt

How to make it

As I said, this is super quick and super delicious, a right little heart warmer.

Heat sunflower oil in a pot, add chopped onions and chilli and fry on a low heat.

Chop the potato and courgettes into cubes and add them to the pot, adding a good pinch of salt, stir it and put on the lid to sweat the vegetables. You may need to increase the heat a little.
Sweating your veggies releases more flavour. Don’t be alarm if you char the veggies a little, but make sure you don’t burn them too much.

Chop the wild garlic roughly and stir it in, letting everything sweat for a further minute.

If you have a kettle, bring the water to the boil. Add the veg stock cube and water. Check that it isn’t too liquid as when you’ll blend it, you don’t want it to be too watery. If it is too thick, you can always add water when blending it.

Let it boil on a medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Blend with a hand mixer or in a blender and enjoy!

Family time from London via Berlin to Leipzig

Last weekend I had a bit of a whirlwind family tour. I thought, before venturing off to our six months travel, it would be nice to see some of my family, especially both sides of my grandparents.

I hadn’t seen my paternal grandparents for quite some time, so I was looking forward to seeing them, talking to them and finding out more about what has been going on in their lives now that they are both in their early 80s and are about to embark on a major life-changing journey, which is move to an assisted living home away from where they have been living for the vast majority of their lives. I was curious how this decision came about and how they felt about it because I know how set they are in their routines and their way of living. It wasn’t easy having this conversation with them, for one, because we hadn’t seen each other in a while and there was some catching up to do; also because they generally don’t talk in much detail about this kind of stuff.

The next day, I spent with my maternal grandfather. We talked about all kinds of things, present, past and future, almost all day long. His behaviour and our conversations showed me a different approach to life, also being in his 80s. I find it interesting experiencing time together with the two sets of grandparents in ways that are almost opposite to one another. I know people are unique, and cannot be compared like for like, but it got me thinking about change.

Some don’t want it, don’t embrace it and hold on to memories regardless of what is happening around them now or what is happening with them physically and mentally. Naturally, change can be tough and problematic. But change can also mean opportunities and new discoveries that open your world even more, regardless of your age and challenges.

When being with my paternal grandparents, there was a lot of story telling about the past, remembering the times when they were young working professionals in the former DDR, when my dad was in the army or when I was a child spending holidays and weekends with them. I know that we don’t see each other often and that these stories and experiences are important to them now. It is what they hold on to to get through life. At the same time, I feel that it is the past they hold on to and are missing out on the present.

Equally, there was some story telling with my maternal granddad. He gave me a report he found about this aunt’s family and what happened to them during World War II. He also remembered some instances including my grandmother when she was still around. With those stories, also came curiosity about current world events, new foods to try and the stubbornness to want to do it all still by himself.

Again, there are different reasons for why people are the way they are. There is also certainly a lot more to all the stories and lives of all of my grandparents than could ever be laid out in one blog post (let alone in one book), but I find it interesting how differently people view the past, how their learnings from certain past life experiences affect their current behaviour and approach to living, no matter how old they are, and also how it affect us, younger family members.

I think there is so much more that can be said about this and again, I am scratching the tiniest surface, but it is so fascinating as it defines how their children, children’s children etc. go about their lives, question decisions and behaviour and then adapt to how they, a.k.a we (a.k.a I) go about my live.


Berlin Tempelhof



Summer was here for 3 days a.k.a the grill marathon

Dick and Isa

I know this is the third post dedicated to the blooming sun, but you know, it’s just making people happier when she is around. And because it gets as hot as it did last week kinda once a year in the UK, we went all in, like grilling every day, lunch and dinner, kinda all in. To be fair, our grill is not the all around coal burning kind one can spend an entire day preparing. We opted for the easy peasy come on my plate to my belly right away experience with an electric grill as of last year. For anyone ruffling their nose right now, it’s easy to clean, it requires exactly 10 minutes until it’s hot enough and anyone in vicinity won’t be cursing over fences or worry about smoky laundry.

Have I mentioned how quick it is? We got a few more vegetables and threw anything that could be grilled on it. We were basically in veg, halloumi and pitta bread heaven for 3 days. It’s amazing how everything just tastes better if you add halloumi to it, char some vegetables and have the sun shine on your noggin.

Dick and sun
Dick and Isabell

A spring Saturday in April


Well, doesn’t this feel a little silly to post photos of a spring Saturday on a day that actually feels like summer. 26 degrees Celsius, last I checked!

I was going to write about how lovely the weather was, first time in ages the sun was out, about how I felt like utter sh*t and being pumped full of Lemsip (today much better though, thanks) and still got up to go to a conference that, with husband in tow, we abandoned after one session cause the SUN WAS OUT.

So instead we decided to take a stroll back home along the Thames via some lunch. We have never been around the area between Fulham and Putney and it is rather nice, especially with the SUN out. We repeated “Oh the weather is so nice” about a bazillion times, like you do, in proper English fashion.
Talking about fashion, I was still rather wrapped up in cashmere jumper, coat and scarf and only started to get proper warm about half way home.

Well thanks weather and sun for this mini heat wave and a Saturday that was gorgeous leading up to today, I suppose.

The Gate


Between Fulham and Putney



Putney Bridge

London bus ride