Friday, March 30, 2012

Fearless Friday

Girl on telephone
Image via The Graphics Fairy
It's time for the weekend again! Did you tackle something for fearless friday?

I answered the phone. I know it sounds silly, but I am such a wimp when it comes to making phone calls and answering when someone calls - it's not so much a language problem as a phone phobia, but it's so much worse in Germany than it ever was at home. Do any of you have this problem?

Let me know what fear you faced in the comments or on twitter with #fearlessfriday

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mini Mission # 8 - Take Public Transit

Image via LeStampOriginale
Public transit can be intimidating, especially if you've just moved to a new city. Subway maps often make transit systems look like terrifying mazes and buying the right ticket and getting off at the right stop can be more than overwhelming. But public transit is an expat's best friend! It saves us from needing to get a car, and is a great way not only to get where we need to go but also puts us smack dab in the middle of the public scene - people watching, eavesdropping on conversations, reading ads - all of these things can help with language learning and cultural adjustment.  

Convinced yet? This mission is all about getting comfortable on public transit. If you've never taken any form of transit in your city, head to the internet or the nearest information point and grab a map and a fee schedule. If you live in a city with, say, just one local bus route or a mishmash of taxis - grab a local and pick their brain about how to use the system. Otherwise, get yourself a ticket and get moving! (hint - if you're buying your ticket from a machine - try saying no to English!) If you've already used public transit, your mission is to up the ante and do something you haven't before - maybe you've already used the subway, but you've been too nervous to take a bus? Now's the time! What about looking into getting a monthly transit card so that you don't have to buy tickets every time you want to go somewhere? All of these things will take you closer to feeling like a true local. So get moving!

What form of public transit did you try out? Are you already an expert?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Inspired to...

This week, we are inspired to: ...

travel with only a carry on, via @traveldudes and @jokarnaghan

image via staggered

travel back in time to destinations away from modern life via @abiwhere

image via lonely planet

...get back in shape with these apartment friendly workout videos via Fit Sugar (am I right, expats? always dealing with the neighbors...)

image via RCA
and to sleep in a coffin in Berlin (creepy but cool, no?) via @pretzelnic and @pretzelnat

Photo by Propeller Island 

What inspired you this week?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mini Mission # 7 - Go to the Doctor's

Image via Fourth Grade Nothing
Going to the doctor's office in a foreign country is nothing if not intimidating. From the logistics to the language barrier of describing your ailment - it's stressful! But our mini missions are here to challenge you, so here's where you get over your fears and do it. 

Your mission today: take care of one item on your to-do list that's medically related. Maybe you've been meaning to renew a prescription, get an ailment checked out, or get your teeth cleaned at the dentist. If not, everyone needs a yearly checkup! Even if you don't have anything that you need to get checked out by a doctor, it's still a good idea to scope out the nearest viable medical professional and familiarize yourself with the procedures. 

So take the best approach to an unknown situation abroad: dive right in. Walk into your local doctors office and ask to be seen. Or call your insurance and find out how your billing works. Or pick up the phone and make an appointment. If language is a problem, pantomime is an excellent tool. Don't be ashamed about bringing your dictionary along, but remember, you'll be just fine without it! 

You'll be surprised just how much sitting for hours in a waiting room with a bunch of locals will make you feel like a (soon to be healthier) old pro.

What steps did you take toward bettering your health? Are you prepared for your next battle with the flu? 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fearless Friday

Image via Art is Alive
A little late this week, but better late than never! What did you do for Fearless Friday? We took Charlie (our 2 month old son) out to a packed restaurant on a Friday night! And you know what? He slept through the WHOLE THING! What a dream baby. Just goes to show you - don't knock it till you try it!!!

PS: Frivolous pic of Don and Roger. Because I am SO excited about the premiere this Sunday. Does anyone else keep up with US TV series? Do you use BlackVPN, or watch illegally? I know, I know, I told you to watch local TV. But still!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mini Mission # 6 - Watch TV

Tatort is a long running German crime show with a cult following.
Photo via Tangram
Generally, getting out of your apartment and experiencing life is one of the main goals of this blog. But sometimes, it's rainy. Or you're sick. Or you just don't feel like it. And that's ok too! On those days, hunker down and watch some TV. But here's the catch. For this mission, watch some local TV.

This mission is an easy one. Flip on your TV and watch something. Anything! The news, a dubbed sitcom, a documentary. Extra points if you watch the whole show. If you don't have a TV, watch a show online or head to a local bar and watch the TV there (see also "become a regular") Don't worry too much about understanding everything. Remember, just like the go to the movies mission, this is not about getting the entire plot - just cuddle up on the couch and bask in the glow of your confusion.

Once you've mastered turning on the TV every now and then, find a show you like and watch it often. Don't miss a show! Once you've found "your show" you'll have an instant conversation topic with your new local friends - or at least they'll have something to laugh at you about in case your favorite is a cheesy reality TV show.

What show did you watch? Are there any local television series that have you hooked?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Inspired to...

This week, I am inspired to...

...use this service to travel without luggage (how cool is that?) via @joannagoddard

image via Cup of Jo

...visit the Chinese-Portuguese mishmash of Macau (and the food looks delish too...) via @runawayjuno

image via Runaway Juno
...stock up on Easter accoutrements at Munich's Viktualienmarkt (this one is totally doable for me - just around the corner!) via @laurel_robbins

image via Monkeys, Mountains and Maultaschen up on these international food etiquette rules via MSNBC

Photo via MSNBC

...and visit Rome (but avoid these tourist pitfalls!) via @traveldudes

Image via Travel Dudes
What were you inspired to do this week?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mini Mission # 5 - Become a Regular

Image via Film Intuition
Walking into a familiar place is a great feeling. Part of what makes living abroad so challenging is the lack of familiarity - it can be really alienating to feel like a stranger in your own city. I've found that it really helps to find a few places to make my own. I have my local café, my favorite flower stand - and my local bakery even knows my regular morning breakfast order. There's something comforting about nodding hello to your local café owner and the other regulars every morning that makes you feel like, well, a local!

Your mission is to go out and become a regular. Somewhere. Anywhere! Choose a destination, and stick with it - make it part of your daily routine to visit your new "place". Maybe your local bar or newsstand, or possibly a kiosk that carries your favorite brand of chewing gum. Nod hello and soon you'll be getting nods in return - and maybe you'll even get some new friendships out of it.  At the very least, you will feel more at home, and probably also feel more comfortable practicing your language skills - but don't forget to say no to English!

Are you a regular anywhere?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fearless Friday

Photo via Olivija Cepaite 
What are your plans for Fearless Friday?

Today I am going to attend an open house for a daycare - I am intimidated by the idea of meeting other parents and introducing ourselves to the teachers in German, but i'm going to do it anyway.  We are having a heck of a time finding a daycare center for our son - but we won't be needing one for at least another 9 months, so I am trying to stay calm about it.

What are you going to tackle? If you are out of ideas, check out our mini missions for some inspiration.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mini Mission # 4 - Say no to English

image via Rick Steve
If you're anything like me, being constantly surrounded by a foreign language can be both intimidating and exhausting. I know I used to feel trapped knowing that wherever I went, I would have to struggle to speak or ask a question.

I was often so relieved when I was presented with the opportunity to use English - with a kind store owner, while asking directions, or even the option to change an electronic ticketing machine to English.

But after awhile I realized that I was missing so many opportunities to practice speaking by choosing to revert to English when possible.

Your challenge for this mission is to say no to English, when it's available, at least once. This means answering back in the foreign language, even if the person you are speaking with is clearly an excellent English speaker - or simply resisting the temptation to switch the ATM to English. If you make this a habit, you will find your foreign language confidence sooner than you think.

Share your "say no" experiences in the comments!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Inspired to...

...document my travels (hopefully) soon with the much anticipated Instagram app for Android

photo via Gizmodo

...visit at least a few of these 45 Places to Go in 2012

Image of Portovenere, Italy via New York Times

Photo via The Frugal Traveler
...tour Northern California Wine Country (via @budgettravelsac)

image via The Traveling Philosopher 
...and to take a food-driven vacation (via @foodieintl)

image via Foodie International

What were you inspired to do lately?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mini Mission # 3 - Eat Something Weird

Photo c/o Wikipedia
Even the most adventurous eaters have a food that is popular in their new home, that they wouldn't dare to eat. Leberwurst? Durian? Haggis? Well in this challenge, your job is to eat one of those foods. Maybe you don't have to start with the scariest of foods. But branch out!

Here's what you do: head to your local grocery store, and roam the aisles. Pick up a few items that look mysterious or even slightly scary. Bonus points if you order something from the deli counter. Buy your mystery item(s) and head back to the safety of your home to give your new item a try. If it's awful, there's no shame in spitting it out and brushing your teeth. But who knows? Maybe those Botamochi or that Mole sauce will become your favorite new dish (this happened to me with Leberwurst!). And if not? At least you can say you tried - and you will know what to avoid on the menu next time.

If you are feeling extra brave, try this mini mission at a restaurant, and pick an item randomly off the menu. Enjoying your mystery eats? What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten? Is there any dish that seemed totally strange to you when you arrived in your new home, that now seems totally normal?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Weekend in Pictures

discovered the cutest pants in our used baby clothes stash
posed with the giant Mozartkugel in Salzburg
Roamed the streets of Salzburg with my parents...
...oogled tulips the market
...and took sleepy angelic pictures of our little one

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fearless Friday

Our son sleeping on his first train ride
Inspired by a number of other blogs, we will be hosting a Fearless Friday over here at the Wayfarer's Handbook. This means that on Friday, we will all get out there and do something we've been afraid to do - perhaps one of the particularly daunting mini missions - or even just running an intimidating errand. Share what you did in the comments or on twitter with the #fearlessfriday hashtag.

As for me? Today, we took our seven week old baby on his first train. I was nervous to do this - I didn't know what to pack, how to handle it if he started to scream, if there would be a spot for our stroller, if it would be too crowded... but I bit the bullet and did it and, as is so often the case - it wasn't nearly as scary as I'd imagined.

And the greatest part about doing something that scares you? When it's a success (which it most often is) you can finally add it to the list of things you can get out and do.

Did you tackle something fearless today?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mini Mission # 2 - Go to the movies

Photo c/o xjuggler
This mission is all about getting out there and being totally ok with not understanding what's going on. Going to a movie in another language can seem really intimidating, but it's actually a great way to practice your language skills in the comfort of a dark room full of strangers. As a little bonus, you have to practice buying tickets and snacks too. 

Here's what you do: find the nearest movie theater and check out their schedule. Choose a movie appropriate to your language skills - if you're a true beginner, choose a children's animated film, or even something you've already seen that has been dubbed in the local language! You can either go alone or with a buddy - maybe even a local friend so you can whisper plot related questions at them throughout the movie, although sitting alone in the theater means that you don't have to admit to anyone that you have no idea what's going on. Action movies are often light on dialog as well. Once you've made your choice, head to the theater and purchase your tickets. Extra credit for successfully ordering gobs of unhealthy snacks (you've earned it!). And now - sit back and enjoy. 

In this mission, your goal should not be to understand the whole (or even any) of the movie. Your aim should be to watch the pretty pictures and get really comfortable with not knowing what is going on. It's ok to not understand! Once you have mastered the art of being comfortably oblivious, your life in your new home will become much easier. Of course watching a movie is great language practice, so don't be afraid to use those language skills if you have them! But don't hang on every missed word - a general gist is absolutely a commendable achievement. After the film is over, take a deep breath - the dubbing may have been horrible, but now you can stop turning down all your local friends' invites to the cinema!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Small victories

Have you had any small victories lately? You know the ones I'm talking about - you get out and do something you've been scared to do, or you have an unexpectedly fluent language moment, or you discover a new local hangout - anything. 


Photo c/o William Murphy
My latest was at our local flea market - bargaining makes me irrationally nervous, not to mention bargaining in another language! But there was this book that I really wanted to buy and so I bit the bullet and bargained it down to 2 euros! It's so easy to shy away from challenges when you are abroad - everything is just so much harder than normal and I often think "I'll cut myself some slack and skip that.." but really, it's worth it to push through that fear, the results are never as scary as I think, and usually I get something excellent out of it - like the fantastic vintage book about the Bavarian alps that I carried home from that flea market.

I think it's so important to celebrate those moments, even if they might seem so banal to non-expats or more experiences wayfarers abroad. Have you had any recent small victories?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Inspired to...

So many blogs post an "inspired by" weekly edition. Over here at the Wayfarer's Handbook, we'll be posting an "inspired to" segment - because our goal here is not just to observe - we get out there and DO. Here are some posts from around the blogsphere that inspire us to get out there and experience. So without further ado, this week we are inspired to:

Go winter hiking in the German alps... I don't think it would be too cold - but I might be nervous about an avalanche...

Play "find the airport" on Mapcrunch. Do you think you could find an airport after being plopped onto a random street on Google Street View?

Visit the Jurassic Coast - what spectacular views.

And make a city in a box for a friend moving abroad. I would even like to do this for myself! Or for a visitor. What a great idea!

Have you been inspired to get out and do something this week?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mini Mission # 1 - Buy some Bread

Your first mission in the Wayfarer's Handbook is to get out of the house, and buy some bread!

Every country has its own bread specialty - from tortillas to pide to baguette. But actually lining up at the bakery with all the locals and picking something out - in the native language, with a zillion choices, and often impatient customers in line behind you - this mission might seem much too hard for a beginner. But I speak from experience - you can do it!

Here's what to do: figure out which bakery you want to visit, and freshen up your language skills beforehand.

You'll want to know how to say at least the number one, please and thank you. Then - head out! Remember - pointing is a totally acceptable form of ordering, and holding out your open hand full of change is a great way to pay if you can't understand how much you owe. Pretty soon, you will be waltzing back home with a freshly baked loaf (or pagnotta, or Laib) - and who knows, maybe you'll become a regular!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Welcome to the Wayfarer's Handbook

Hemingway in Havana
Hi! My name is Emily, and I'll be your guide over here at the Wayfarer's Handbook. Living abroad can be isolating - it's hard to get out and live your life when you don't speak the language and everything from eating to errands seems intimidating. The goal of this blog is to inspire you to get out there and fit in.

A little about me: I moved to Munich, Germany almost 7 years ago. Back then, as a newcomer, I had to start from scratch and build a life for myself - trying to fit in, explore a new city, and learn a new language all at the same time - that's quite a feat! I discovered that by challenging myself to "mini missions" that forced me to get out there and interact with locals doing "normal" things built my language skills, my social network, and most importantly, my confidence. 

I've started this blog to share my own adventures with other travelers and wayfarers - I hope you'll comment on our activities with suggestions and your own experiences. We will post weekly mini missions to help you to get out there and immerse yourself in the local culture. 

Are you ready to get out of the house (or your trusted expat circle of friends) and have some adventures? Let's go!

Photograph c/o the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, online at
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