Packing the toiletries bag for travelling

How to avoid overpacking

As shampoo, conditioner and shower gel can be heavier, toiletries can easily increase the weight of your backpack or suitcase. Therefore, it is important – as with packing in general – to reduce the toiletries to only what is necessary but also to not forget something (although in most cases you can just buy the things at your destination). So I created a list with things that you should definitely pack and things that you might consider packing.

The essentials

In my opinion, these are the most basic essentials you should definitely have in your toiletries bag if you want to keep it very minimal. Depending on the length of your stay, you can use refillable smaller bottles for products like shampoo and shower gel.

  • Tooth brush & tooth paste: depending on the length of your flight, you should pack these two into your hand luggage
  • Shampoo
  • Shower gel
  • Sun screen: always use sun screen! Your skin will be grateful in the future.

What you might pack

This category contains items that might come in handy but you could probably also live without them.

  • Make-up remover – if you don’t bring any make-up on holiday, you obviously don’t need make-up remover
  • Cotton pads – they might come in handy for using make-up remover or cleaning your face. I’m using reusable cotton pads, so I don’t produce any extra waste on holiday and it also reduces the amount of cotton pads I need to pack.
  • Deodorant: might come in handy if you want to keep fresh on the go. I use a spray bottle because I don’t like the aerosol deodorants (I can’t breathe after using them) but I also don’t want to use a roller in sweaty armpits.
  • Conditioner: It’s more of a luxury product, but saltwater in combination with sun can be really drying my hair out.

What is likely to be forgotten?

  • Nail file: I have so often forgotten a nail file and then one of my nails split.

In general I would advise you to go through your morning and evening routine and think of all the products you use. Then think of the things that you really need or regularly use. You won’t need ten different kinds of moisturiser, peelings and oils. Stick to the basics. For example, I won’t bring a body lotion because the thought alone of a sticky body in a hot climate is daunting to me.

Here is everything that I’m packing in my toiletries bag:

For the body

  • Shampoo
  • Shower gel
  • Conditioner
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Sun cream with a high SPF
  • Hand sanitizer

For the face:

  • Cotton buds without plastic
  • Cotton pads, washable and reusable
  • Eye make-up remover for waterproof make-up
  • Facial oil
  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth paste

Tools

  • Nail file
  • Manicure scissors
  • Hair brush
  • Hair ties

Always remember: You can buy almost everything everywhere (except your travelling to a deserted island). So, don’t overpack and rather leave things at home. You can buy things locally afterwards if it becomes apparent that you can’t live without them.

 

 

 

Packing light for a three week trip – Beauty Products

How to avoid overpacking

From the end of April until mid-May my boyfriend and I will travel through Indonesia for three weeks. I am already really excited and in my head I’m planning and organizing everything. In the next couple of weeks I will share some tips on how to pack light for travelling. Today, I will start with beauty products.

When travelling for a longer period of time, it is important to me to reduce my luggage to the necessities. For me, it is so annoying to bring things on holiday which I didn’t need and could have spared. By now, I usually know what I need and use when I go on holiday. From my own experience, I know that I can quit most of the beauty products. On previous holidays I took several brushes, eyeshadows, different kinds of concealer, eyeliner (who was I kidding that I thought I might actually bother to use eyeliner?), … With the result that I only used mascara and powder and I probably wouldn’t have missed anything if I didn’t bring it in the first place.

How to decide what is important and what isn’t?

Of course, you want to look good while travelling as well. But before you pack your whole make-up collection, you should consider where you’re going and be honest with yourself how likely it is you will wear a full face make-up. Indonesia will probably be hot and humid. My everyday make-up in Germany is already quite minimal and in summer I tend to stick with mascara and bronzer. So, I won’t pack anything that I don’t use on a daily basis in my everyday life. If I don’t use it here, why would I use it on holidays?

Which product makes you instantly feel better?

If you feel comfortable without any make-up at all, I would recommend to leave everything at home of course. Even though I do feel comfortable without any make-up, I think I sometimes look a bit tired and pale. On these days, a bit of mascara can make a big change and I instantly feel better. Therefore, I will always bring mascara on a holiday – just in case there’s one of these days when I just don’t feel pretty at all.

What if I love make-up and I cannot go without the full programme?

There might be true make-up lovers among yourselves, who cannot relinquish anything from their make-up bag. In that case I would recommend 2-in-1 products. Instead of taking a separate bronzer, highlighter and mirror, I’ll take a product that is it all in one. That saves space in my bag. You could pack a lipstick that you could dab on your cheeks as a blush. You could also use a bronzer and highlighter as eyeshadows or even an eyebrow pencil as a kajal.

What is in my holiday make-up bag?

I think I did reduce my beauty products quite a bit compared to previous holidays. Here is a recommended selection with multi-purpose products. I settled with these products as a maximum, but I am still not sure if I’ll pack them all. I will definitely leave the lipstick at home.

  • Catrice – Glamour Doll Volume Mascara Waterproof
  • Catrice – Eye Brow Stylist, 040 Don’t Let Me Brow’n
  • Sleek face contour kit, light
  • Ecotools powder brush
  • Mac lipstick “Patisserie”

What are your essential make-up products on a holiday? Or do you need nothing at all?

6 tips for hiking in Norway

A beginner’s guide to exploring the Norwegian nature

Hiking is kind of the national sport in Norway and it is also something you can do for free in an otherwise rather expensive country. So, when I spent my semester abroad in Bergen, I knew that I wanted to try it, too. Back then, I had absolutely no hiking experience besides minor walks with my grandparents. Consequently, I had no clue what Norwegian hiking trails would look like. Still, like many other students, I had the goal to hike up to the top of all the seven summits around Bergen. Here are some things I wish I knew before and also some things you should keep in mind as you explore the Norwegian nature.

1. Get yourself some proper hiking boots

get proper hiking boots first
Proper hiking boots are essential!

One of the best investments I made were proper hiking boots. As it rains quite a bit and the terrain stretches from gravel and stones to muddy and slippery, I would recommend proper waterproof, over-the-ankle hiking boots. I am very satisfied with the pair I bought and they had cost only around 140€. My feet were never wet – even when accidently stepping into deep mud or puddles – and I felt secure even when the path didn’t give me the confidence I wanted. Proper hiking boots are essential!

2. The piles of stones are not just for decoration

trail markings along the way
Pyramids of stones mark the trail

This is probably a no brainer for people who have been hiking before. However, I only started hiking in Norway, so I didn’t know that these stones had a deeper meaning. They are actually – like the red painted T on some stones– another way to mark the routes. So, if you don’t know where to go next look out for the red “T” and piles of stones.

3. Appreciate nature

At the beginning of every single hike I was wondering why I was even doing this. I was easily out of breath and it could get quite exhausting. At the latest at the top of each mountain, these thoughts were forgotten. The feeling of reaching the top paired with the breath-taking view was worth it every time. Enjoy the beautiful nature and don’t get lost trying to take the perfect Instagram shot. Take everything in and also value nature. Also remember to only leave footprints and bring your garbage back with you to preserve nature.

appreciate nature when hiking in Norway
The satisfying feeling of reaching the top of Sandviksfjellet

4. Keep the weather in mind

Always check the weather forecast before hiking! Especially when you’re a beginner but also when you are more proficient. The weather can change quickly from sun and a clear sky to thick fog. I’ve heard from people who started hiking in the sun and suddenly entered thick fog and couldn’t see further than two metres anymore. As you can imagine, this can get quite dangerous if you can’t see the trail anymore or the paths become slippery. So always pay attention to the weather while hiking! It’s okay to turn around midway and continue the hike on another day. Your safety should come first.

5. The hiking trails

hiking trail sandviksfjellet

As mentioned above, I had no experience in hiking and had no idea what to expect in Norway. In my imagination there were nice trails and the way up would be a breeze. The reality looked a little different. The hiking trails are very divers: There are even paths which can get steeper, there are huge step-like stones, small rocks, sometimes you’ll have to use your hands and sometimes you’ll have to cross a small stream.

hiking trail in norway
Another trail on one of our hikes

Be prepared for that and do not underestimate the hike or overestimate your strength and condition. I wasn’t very sporty at that time, so I was easily exhausted and needed to take little breaks quite often. But that’s okay, too.

snow hike trolltunga
You can also come across snow, like here on the trolltunga hike

6. Get a hiking buddy

Hiking on your own might be good for the mind and soul as you are not distracted by anyone, but in my opinion it’s even better with a friend! The first hike I took was with a large group of students. Shortly after the beginning of the hike, I had to discover that the other students were a lot fitter than me and I couldn’t keep pace with the group. So, I turned around disappointedly. Luckily, I found a new bestie who was on the same fitness level as me and wanted to take the same amount of photos and breaks as me. After the first hike together, we continued to take all our hikes together and it was perfect. I can only recommend to try and find a hiking buddy on your level. You probably won’t talk all the time, so you’ll still have time to appreciate nature and let your thoughts drift away. Still, you’ll have someone to share the experience and create new memories. Additionally, it’s always better to be not alone, just in case something happens or you get lost.

These are my tips and things I wish I had known before my first hike. I hope you enjoyed these tips for hiking in Norway and they were helpful and you will be better prepared than I was. If you want to read more about safety and hiking in Norway, check out VisitNorway for more handy tips.

Also, leave your essential hiking tips in the comments!

 

Erasmus experiences in Norway

Things I have learned from my Erasmus semester in Norway

Do you consider to spend a semester abroad during your studies? Don’t hesitate to do so. In 2015, I spent five months in Norway as part of my studies and I can only recommend it. It was different from what I had expected but nonetheless a great experience. Here, I will share four things I learned.

1. There will be times when you want to quit

Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but it was for me and a couple of other students I met. For me, it was in the beginning because I had bedbugs which gave me some sleepless nights. I was the only one on my floor who had troubles with bedbugs and I thought it was kind of unfair (even though it is a stupid thing to think). Additionally, it all happened during the first couple of days in Norway, so I didn’t have any friends yet. Sometimes, I thought the easiest way would be to just book a ticket home and leave everything behind. But I am so glad I didn’t. I would have missed so many great experiences. If you ever consider quitting, then don’t do it or at least think it through very well. They say “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” for a reason.

2. The fear of missing out will be omnipresent

A semester abroad is usually limited to a certain amount of time. For me, it were five months in Norway. Beforehand, I did a bit of research of what I wanted to do. The list was long. So, we travelled and hiked a lot. If the sun was shining, we were out there hiking one of the seven summits, taking a bath in the fjords or exploring the hanseatic wharf Bryggen. On top of that came social events: pancake breakfast, 3 hours of playing Risk, going here, going there, going out. Sometimes I felt exhausted and instead of joining, I would have preferred to stay in my room watching Netflix. But most of the time I didn’t because of the fear of missing out. The fear of missing something unique, the fear of not keeping pace with the other students, the fear of not making those incredible memories. Most of the time it was great, but sometimes it was just a lot. But being on a semester abroad is a unique experience and you should make the most of it and get out of your comfort zone.

3. You will spend a lot of time with other exchange students

There were many exchange students in Bergen and most of them lived in the same dormitory called Fantoft. Before I went abroad, I didn’t want to live in that house, because in my semester abroad I wanted to learn Norwegian and only hang out with locals. Well, it didn’t work out as I had planned. I got a room in Fantoft on the 17th floor with seven other students from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey and actually one student from Norway! In the end, I spent most of my time with exchange students from all over the world. At first, I wasn’t really pleased about that but I soon realised that it is actually good to be around so many exchange students. It’s an intercultural experience and otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten in touch with students from Japan, Australia or Italy, even though it is so close to Germany. But the best thing about hanging out with other exchange students is that you’re all in the same boat. You have all just arrived in a foreign country, you don’t know anyone and you want to see as much as possible of this new country. That’s why it’s so easy to make friends and that’s why it’s so easy to find travel buddies. In hindsight, I am actually very glad that I met so many exchange students. One of them became one of my best friends. And after all, I was also an exchange student.

4. Do not underestimate the post-Erasmus-depression

Studying abroad was nothing like studying in Germany. A typical exchange student has only a few courses and a lot of free time. You meet a lot of new people and get many more unforgettable impressions in a short period of time. It’s a great experience but also a lot to take in. All the worse it is to get back into your daily routine back home. Don’t get me wrong, of course I was happy to be around my family and friends again. It was just so different. I returned home during the semester break of my university in Mannheim, so I stayed with my parents for a while. My parents live in the countryside, so there is not much to do there. Thus, I had a lot of time to do nothing. Mainly, I was just bored and reminiscing about all the exciting things I did in Norway, while no one at home really understood my feelings. Looking back now, I don’t even understand anymore why I was so fed up with everything. Unfortunately, I cannot change what happened in the past. I can only give advice on how to overcome the post-erasmus-depression. It’s easy: just do something! Get a new hobby, read, do sports and get excited about something. For example, I took a short trip to Budapest with my friend from Norway, which was a great way out of the rut. I had something to plan and look forward to and something I was excited about.

What’ the conclusion of all this?

I would recommend a semester abroad to everyone who has the chance to do so. Of course, it wasn’t all perfect and although, there were highs and lows it was a great experience and I can hardly remember those lows.

How to see the Northern Lights

One of my goals during my semester in Norway was to see the Northern Lights. And with northern lights it is probably the same as it is with love: It happens when you least expect it.

As the name implies you have to be in the North to have the best chances to see the northern lights. Then you need two more things:

  1. A high aurora level (which you can check on an aurora forecast online). The higher the level the further south you have a chance to see northern lights (this is only a very simple way of explaining the matter).
  2. More importantly: You need a clear sky. When the sky is covered in clouds, you cannot see anything no matter how high the aurora level is.

So in Bergen the chances to see northern lights are still quite little. Because a) Bergen is comparatively far in the South and b) most of the time it’s cloudy. Nevertheless, I was still hoping. Every now and then I peeked out of my window and stared at the night sky. Most of the times unsuccessful.

The first time I saw the Aurora Borealis

One night, however, there were lights in the night sky. At first I wasn’t sure if it was only city lights. But when I saw movement in the lights, I was sure that I had just seen Northern Lights for the first time. I was so happy I wanted and it felt somehow magical, even though they were very weak and I could barely see them. Still, it was the first time and thus it was special.

The second time we all saw the Northern Lights was also in Bergen. There had been sightings the previous nights and it was also expected to happen that night. So many students from my student housing came outside to a nearby park. The lawn was still wet from rain and our feet quickly became wet and cold. Nevertheless, we were standing in little groups in the cold, facing north and waiting for the appearance of the Northern Lights. Suddenly, there were sounds of “ohs” and “aws” and cheering. The Northern Lights had appeared as expected. The moment was only ruined by many students who tried to capture the moment on their smartphones. With the camera flash turned on. Don’t do that. It doesn’t do any good.

Northern Lights in Tromso
Northern Lights in Tromso

Northern Lights in Tromso

The last time saw the Northern Lights was in Tromso, which is in the far North of Norway. We were very lucky, because we were only staying a few nights in Tromso and the weather forecast had predicted a cloudy sky. The first night, however, there were now clouds or what so ever and we had a brilliant view of the Northern Lights. They were quite strong and dancing in the night sky. Only by that, the trip had already been worth it.

Was it worth it?

I am so happy that I got the chance to see the Northern Lights. It was something that I had always dreamed of and I would immediately return to Norway to get another chance to see them. I have to say though that they look a lot different in real life than on photos. Not as green and not as bright (at least they didn’t the times when I saw them). Some people might be disappointed but I wasn’t. I still think it was magical and I wouldn’t want to miss it. And of course I would love to see them again!

(also: sorry for the poor quality of the photos. It was the first time I took photos of the Northern lights, so I didn’t quite know how to do it. Additionally, I had not the best-fitted tripod for my camera)

Impressions of Bergen, the rainiest city in Norway

In 2015, I spent my Erasmus semester in Norway or more precisely in Bergen. Initially, I chose Norway because of the beautiful landscape, the university and I wanted to get a better chance to see the Northern Lights. However, I wasn’t so sure about the city of Bergen. It has a reputation for being one of the rainiest cities in Norway, if not the rainiest city. Would it always be raining? Is the city too small? But all my doubts were proven wrong. I loved Bergen and it was perfect for my semester abroad!

With around 270.000 inhabitants, Bergen is Norway’s second biggest city and it’s definitely worth a visit. If you do visit Bergen, you should bring a good pair of hiking boots and hike up the seven summits of Bergen (or at least one of them). The highest of them is Mount Ulriken with 643m. The others are Lyderhorn, Løvstakken, Fløyen, Rundemannen, Sandviksfjellet and Damgårdsfjellet. It was my goal to reach the top of all seven of them. Even though I had been a complete newbie to hiking, I still made it to the top of all of them. I have to say, however, that it wasn’t always an easy walk up and sometimes it was quite exhausting (maybe we weren’t the fittest hikers).

The top of Mount Løvstakken in Bergen, Norway
Hiking in Bergen – Mount Løvstakken

I have to say that hiking is probably the best activity in Bergen if the weather is nice, which it was quite often while I had been there. This is probably why I went hiking so much. When you are in Bergen and it’s sunny outside, you have to seize the day and make the most of it. Everyone keeps telling you that the weather will change soon, thus you get a bad conscious if you stay inside.

If hiking is not for you, you should explore the hanseatic wharf Bryggen. Especially when the sun is out, it looks stunning and the colours of the tiny houses shine even brighter. You can stroll through the small alleys between the houses and check out all the little shops, that over typical Norwegian things, like cosy Norwegian sweaters. Take in the scent of the old timber of the contorted houses and enjoy the special atmosphere.

The hanseatic wharf Bryggen in Bergen, Norway
The hanseatic wharf Bryggen in Bergen

But Bergen has so much more to offer, which you should experience yourself. I had a wonderful time in Bergen and I can recommend everyone to visit it themselves.