I glance across the bridge, looking at the glittering water of the Neckar river as stately sandstone buildings and white shuttered homes glow in the first morning light. A castle hides behind a cloud and finally pulls focus as the sun rises high in the sky. The quiet chattering of walkers, bells on bikes ding, and in the distance you might hear a church bell.
Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
My life abroad is very different from life at home. I anticipated life wouldn’t be the same, but I didn’t realize the changes I would make. From simple things like going to the grocery store to the bigger shocks like everything being closed on Sunday. Today I thought I’d share a glimpse of my life in Heidelberg. Since my life abroad is almost coming to a close, I wanted to show you what it really feels like to live abroad. Because time is fleeting, and if I don’t write it down I might forget.
Time spent at home is usually few and far between. Since we travel so often, when we’re home, I try and spend as much time as possible at the house. This usually means catching up on blogging. I think because I often share travel photos, people think I live a glamorous life, and that aspect really can be sometimes. But especially the last three years abroad, when we’re at home, we live pretty minimally. Have a walk in my blog post and see what my day to day is like living abroad.
I start my day around 7:30 or 8 am by feeding the dogs. The pups are very demanding early in the morning. Then I take them each on a little walk near the Neckar river by our house. This is a great, wide open area where I can take them to run around for a bit. I take them each separately because they would be crisscrossing leashes the whole time if I didn’t. Hugo likes to sniff everything in sight. Millie likes to chase birds. What can I say they are a bit high maintenance. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If we’re home, we’re more than likely taking the dogs on a hike in the hills. We live just a short distance from some beautiful hiking trails. When we first moved, we took the tram to our spot away from people, in the forest. But since it’s a bit remote, it’s easier with a car. We bought a car about 7 months into living abroad and it makes sense, especially with the dogs.
I always love going for hikes to watch the dogs run free and get a glimpse of the changing seasons. Germany has four true seasons, and each is beautifully captured in the hills. In the summer it’s fresh with bright greenery and golden light, spring has brand new growth and a delicious smell of pine thawing from winter, in fall the leaves turn a majestic orange, and in winter there’s usually a pretty blanket of snow on the ground.
After our hike, we drive back to the house and make breakfast. This usually consists of eggs and bread from a nearby French bakery or the farmer’s market, which happens every Wednesday and Saturday.
This market takes place just up the street in a beautiful little square where they sell fresh produce, meat, cheese, and flowers. Michael and I always pick up bread, cheese, sausage, and some fresh veggies each week there. I might convince myself to pick up some fresh flowers.
Back at home, I’ll carry up my steaming plate with my vitamin and fish oil pills and head upstairs to work on the blog. I usually start with email and then make a to-do list of posts I want to write or other tasks I need to work on.
Depending on the day I’ll go to the grocery store, do the laundry, or run a few errands. I try to do them earlier in the day since it’s busier later on. While running errands might seem like a piece of cake, it always means I’m going to walk or take my bike so I have to think about how much weight I can carry on my back. I can’t just go to the grocery store are buy it all. Which is so different than me pulling up my car to Kroger and stocking up. I usually shop at the nearby grocery stores like Rewe or Lidl.
You know those people that know exactly where everything is in the store? That’s never been me. But especially in Germany with everything in German, I am often in the aisle scratching my head.
If I’m going shopping for clothes, I’ll head to the Hauptstrasse (main street). This is a long pedestrian walkway with shops lining either side. I’ll usually bike over, it’s a five minute ride from across the river, and lock my bike on the rack. First, I’ll head into H&M at the top of the street. Then I’ll meander down the street and pop into different shops like Mango and Pimkie. I might grab a gelato from my favorite gelato shop Gelatogo.
I always think that I’ll spend just an hour or so running errands, but I get transfixed walking the street. It’s so lovely, and I know if I keep walking down, I’ll get a view of the castle or some ornate buildings. Here are some of my favorite pictures along the way:
After errands I’ll come home and get to work! My favorite part. I look forward to working every day. Which might be a little weird. But blogging is the best. I’ll answer emails, work on a new post, answer questions in Facebook groups, and work on a new tutorial for my course.
At about 1 pm I’ll break for lunch. I’ll eat leftovers, or sandwich and pretzels. We always keep pretzels in the house. German pretzels are the absolute best and it’s one of my favorite foods (besides spätzle).
Then it’s back to work and later in the day I usually am working on a post for the next day or next week, social media posts, reaching out to sponsors, and again answering emails. My favorite part of blogging is the writing aspect, so I make time every day to write- whether I publish it or not.
I usually stop working at about 8 or 9 pm. To be honest, because I travel so often it might be right until I go to bed if I’m trying to catch up. If it were up to me, I’d probably work until bed every night but I’m really trying to balance that a bit more. Back in Dallas or Nashville, I had no problem working until 12 every night. Michael and I will make dinner (we switch off) or we’ll go out and grab a bite to eat. If we’re cooking, it’s in our, what we feel is, very small kitchen. The refrigerator is tiny, the sink is fairly small, and the oven is minuscule. You can’t fit two pans in the oven at once. So there’s an art to cooking a meal.
We’ll eat at our wooden table that we purchased from the previous tenant. Originally intended for the patio, we dragged it in and eat on it.
If we go out to eat, there are a few restaurants down the street which are our favorites. If we’re in the mood for German there’s Marktstübel or Dorfschänke. There’s a great, quick pizza place called Il Carpaccio (that will actually pour us tap water- rare in Germany) or we’ll go to the Alstadt (Old Town) to see a quick view of the castle and have a kebab, German at Kulterbrauerei, or my favorite, Korean fried chicken at Cocodec.
After dinner, Michael and I talk about travel. Michael plans out nearly all our travel. He does extensive research, makes maps, and books hotels, car rentals, flights, and more. At night we might chat about what we want to do, where we’re headed next, and we’ll confirm travel plans and hotels. If we have time, we might watch Netflix (Stranger Things or Narcos) on our wine couch. We call it the wine couch because we traded our old couch for a few bottles of (thankfully, delicious) wine. Then we bought this one on eBay kleinanzeigen (the local eBay) where we picked it up and hauled it down three flights of stairs and hoped it wouldn’t fly off the car as we drove it home. This is also our pullout couch that we or friend’s sleep on when they visit.
If there’s a particularly lovely sunset we might head up to Königstuhl to get a beautiful view of our city.
Sometimes we catch up with friends at a bar like the Irish pub, the Dubliner, down the street. Or we’ll venture into the city to the Untere Strasse to go to the more lively bars. Since Heidelberg is a college town, the bars are typically spilling out with people, no matter the day of the week. Drinks are fairly inexpensive, so it’s easy to have a good time. Of course, Germany is known for its great beer, but there are a few cocktail bars that hit the spot.
The pictures below are a bar known for fun dance music in a tiny hole-in-the-wall place, and for some strange reason, a toilet shop with a mannequin advertising the luxurious toilet. For those who have followed me from the start might remember the mannequin that greeted us each day when we lived in a hotel for 5 weeks trying to find a place to live.
Lastly, we take the dogs out one more time before bed. I’ll watch for the moon on top of the enormous trees in the park and people watch as I stroll with the dog. If the weather is nice, the park is rife with teenagers sitting on blankets, drinking, and listening to music. I love seeing the houses across the river light up like ceramic Christmas decorations with their white and red windows.
Back inside, I wash my face, and put away my creams on the shelf Michael made. I’ll also cram my clothes into the very small closet that cannot quite fit all my stuff. I’ll crawl into the bed Michael also built, high enough so the dogs can curl up underneath in their dog beds. Then I’ll dream about the next destination.
We live minimally, travel often, explore nearby, and hang out with the dogs as much as possible. The last few years have almost felt dream like. Not a picture perfect fairy-tale, but certainly not a nightmare. It’s been a very different way to live life. I’ve relished getting to live somewhere different and experience something completely out of my comfort zone. If you have any interest, I urge you to take the chance to move abroad or live somewhere else for a period of time.
If you’re interested, here’s how we made the move abroad.