Category: Travel

How to Camp in Style – in pictures

How about some pictures from that camping trip?

The woods behind our tent.
Our first hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
On our first hike we got above the tree line. It’s one thing to know things in theory and a whole different matter when you’re actually experiencing it. We read in the hiking books that it’s best to avoid being above the tree line in the mountains around 1or 2 pm because of the thunderstorms and the danger of lightning. But on our first hike we didn’t pay much attention to it. We were so high up when the storm hit, that we saw only snow. On our way down we met people that had been surprised by the rain and were soaking wet. But not us. Ignorance was bliss once again!
great rivers and brooks on one of our many hikes. Breathtaking scenery!
This lake was the destination on one of our hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Breakfast cooking AND eating became quickly one of the highlights of this trip.

How to Camp in Style

or how to get noticed on a campground…

It was the spring of 2009. I had been sick the previous winter, and had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue. My second child had been sick for months, but she managed to graduate with honors and a few scholarships.

To celebrate all our hardships we took out a road map of North America and started looking where we could go and spend a few weeks of holidays. The east and west coast were too far away, but there were mountains only-two-days-of-driving away.  The decision was made to visit the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Money was tight. We calculated back and forth, and it was just not enough for a stay at a “building with a roof” aka hotel/motel. The only way we would be able to go on this holiday was if we were tenting. We did own a tent, and most of the “accessories” that went with it.

We looked at many campgrounds, and guess what? Our tent was too big to book a spot! After hours and hours of searching and calling campgrounds, we finally found a campground that had a spot for our size of tent: Estes Park Campground!

But here’s the thing: we had never camped on our own. We had never put up a tent on our own. The only reason we had a tent was the annual camping weekend with our big family clan. We would arrive at the campground, someone would put it up and someone would take it down for us.

Family and close friends only shook their heads when they heard we would be tenting for two weeks. But we did not care. We had a destination. We had a camping spot secured. Besides, my daughters and I had read numerous books on camping and camping in the mountains. We were informed, we were warned, and we still wanted to go. What else could go wrong, right?

It was raining when we arrived at Estes Park Campground. We sat in the car and waited for a break. The break came and we rushed to put up our tent. We took out our little camping stove and I decided to make some tea. But I had trouble connecting the propane to the stove, a little part broke, the propane started escaping – under pressure – from the propane canister. I was scared out of my wits… I ran from our camping spot and laid the propane canister under a tree. We must have looked like a grieving trio as we stood in a semi-circle and waved good-bye to a warm cup of tea.

We went back to our tent to “unpack.” The girls both had huge air mattresses and this queen of the castle had to put up her military cot. The sleeping and “closet” spaces were divided up, the entrance organized and some house keeping rules were set and agreed to.

Here we were on our first evening of camping: cold, wet, hungry, and miserable. After searching through the car and our cooler we found some leftover milk and half a box of cereal. We divided it up among the three of us and ate in silence. Outside the sun had set, the rain had stopped and it was getting colder (not just cooler) by the minute. We decided to go to sleep. Following a short prayer time we all slipped quietly into our sleeping bags.

We woke up to +5 C in the morning. The sun was shining. We were hungrier than ever. The stores were still closed at 5:30 am, and the three hours we would still have to wait for a store to open seemed like an eternity. But this was a new day, and it could only get better!

The campground was empty. People were still sleeping. We went and explored the campground a bit. The first thing we noticed were the tiny tents set up all over the campground. To us they all looked like one-person tents. But as the morning went on we saw people (plural!) coming out of those tents. One tent had 6 people sleeping in half the size of our tent!

I remember one morning we slept in and got up later than usual. Next to us two guys must have come in very late and had set up their “mini-tent” during the night. They were up before us. We could hear them discussing the size of our tent. They were wondering how many people were sleeping in that huge tent, “it must be a big group on a camping trip.” We had to disappoint them when the third person came out of our tent, and that was it. We overheard their astounding comments about our luxurious style of camping.

It is said: Ignorance is bliss. That was definitely true in our case. We only wanted to have a comfortable camping holiday. We never spent a thought on being the centre of attention on this trip. But we sure did get noticed! We sure were the talk of the every campground we stayed at!

Our royal tent!
Happy faces after we bought a new camping “stove”. 

Do-it-yourself or Prayer?

Last week I had a few days of intense long distance parenting… I received an email from my daughter with the heading “I need you.” I know my daughter would not send me this kind of an email unless something really big was happening. And sure enough, her world had caved in.

She was supposed to leave a country by train. But the train was late, later, and then so late that she could not leave at all. Here I was on the phone with her, trying to figure out what train she could take next, but they all seemed to be sold out for the next few days.

After an hour on the phone we finally figured out a connection that would work for her and bought the ticket online. We both calmed down and promised to pray for this trip and said our goodbyes on the phone.

I slept like a baby since I believed that the problem was solved.

But then came the next day. Little did I know that another long day of stress was ahead. I saw in a status update that my daughter had spent the day with some friends. But when they got back to the YWAM base they saw that the  YWAM car wasn’t at the base. Two pieces of my daughter’s luggage were still in there!!! There were only a few hours left until the next (and hopefully last) attempt to leave this country.

Countless messages went back and forth between my daughter and I. At times I didn’t even know what to say anymore, or how to encourage her. It’s hard when thousands of kilometres and seven time zones separate you.

I sent out an SOS email to friends and the church and asked for prayer. I just couldn’t handle this on my own. Scripture passages came to mind that would keep me calm and able to send positive messages. One that got me through and that is very dear to my heart is from Isaiah 26:3:

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

The car arrived at the base just 30 min before train departure! Yes, it was extremely close, but God heard and answered our prayers, and my daughter was able to leave.

I have faced numerous situations like this one over the last few years. Humanly speaking I am helpless, I can’t control the situation, the circumstances my kid is in. So often my answer during these times is: “The only thing I can do, I pray.” Or I would say, “I can just pray.”

Why do I minimize prayer?

Why do I think it’s less than doing something actively?

This was not the first time, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time when I will have to give the situation to God and ask Him to handle it. When I leave it in God’s hands, I can actually stand back and watch Him do what He does best: He “accomplishes infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Are you facing a situation where the only thing left is to pray? Then pray! Pray with all your heart and then sit back and watch God handle it.

Let me know if I can pray for you today.

The day I took my kids to the Reeperbahn…



Do you like driving in big cities? How do you navigate through all those one-way streets? Do you pay attention to street signs?  I know technology has improved and Garvin and Tomtom have eased our fear of driving and navigating through unknown parts of cities or countries. The next generation probably won’t even go on a walk without their GPS devices in hand.

Many years ago I took my kids to visit the city of Hamburg in Germany. One morning we got up early and went to the fish market. But the kids’ interest in the market didn’t last. They wanted breakfast. I asked around for a place to have breakfast and someone suggested a McDonald’s. They pointed us into the direction we were supposed to go. And so we walked… and walked…

The kids got tired and cranky. I couldn’t see any McDonald’s anywhere… It was still very early in the morning. Did I mention it was Sunday? I also didn’t pay attention to any signs we passed. Suddenly my eyes saw MANY signs. But no McDonald’s sign. No these were signs of Hamburg’s red light district, the famous Reeperbahn. That was a wake up call! Of course, there were no people around since people in this part of the city had just gone to bed merely 2 hours ago. A GPS with some help on how to find the closest McDonald’s would have been great!

We did find a McDonald’s that morning, and we did have our breakfast/lunch (=brunch). Today my kids laugh about their mother’s sense of direction.

But it wasn’t just that I lacked a sense of direction. I also hadn’t paid attention to the signs along the way that became more and more explicit, and no words were necessary to explain what area of the city we were walking into.

Sometimes I get so distracted, or I’m so occupied in my mind that I don’t pay attention to what is happening around me. This always leads to some kind of trouble. It might “just” be a faux-pas, or it might cost me some 30 min of extra driving because I missed the exit… Or I might just get soaking wet on a hike because I didn’t notice the rain (see this story here).

It always pays to be alert and to pay attention to the signs…

What signs did you miss? What signs did you follow?

How would you solve this problem?

I love finding a practical solution to the problem I am facing. So when I came across this solution on one of my hikes last year, I had to laugh out loud. What a genius. He/she definitely are my kind of person. Why make it a complicated job when the solution is looking right at you…

What word/sentence comes to your mind when you see this picture? Leave me a comment.

How do I find my way through this construction maze?

Last year I arrived at the Berlin train station not knowing what to expect. I hadn’t seen the city in 10 years. The hotel that I had booked for the night was supposed to be across the street from the train station.

This train station was new, and to find the way out was already a bit difficult. Especially when you’ve been traveling for 24 hours with hardly any sleep. But once I got outside, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was construction all around the train station. Barriers were set up all over the place. It looked like a maze.

In order not to attract too much attention and not to give away that I didn’t know where to go (train stations  and the surrounding areas are notorious for crime), I just started walking. I wasn’t fast enough, a few guys did see my initial hesitation and approached me. But I was determined not to show any fear and just kept walking. I was very grateful when my sense of direction kicked in and after a few dead ends I found my way to the hotel.

This picture reminded me of the maze I am in right now. There have been so many BIG changes in my life over the last 18 months. And it resembles very much a construction zone… It seems wherever I’m turning there are more and more new things, new situations and totally unfamiliar circumstances I am finding myself in. At times it is overwhelming that I can’t see the end. God has me on a journey right now where I don’t know the destination. He has revealed only a few steps along the way. But as I travel on, I discover more and more about this journey.

There have been days where I have been tired of this maze. I want clarity. I want a clear picture. I want a plan. I want instructions carved in stone. But all these things are not there. Not yet anyway. I have to walk by faith and trust God’s timing in my life.

How do I find my way through this construction maze? By stepping out in faith and believing in God’s promises He has given me. Some days I do hit a dead end and have to backtrack and find my way back to the right path. Lovingly my Heavenly Father guides me, and by putting up barriers He protects me and brings me safely through this construction zone of my life. The following Bible verses from Proverbs 3:5-6 have encouraged me on this journey:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.”

Are you in construction maze right now? How do you find your way through it?

Europe 2012 – Part 4

One more post about the beautiful island of Ruegen! And then I’ll move on to the other parts of Germany/Europe that I had seen…

 
My second hike through the Jasmund National Park didn’t take me all day, so I had decided to continue on to Lohme, a little village on the coast. It was a Saturday, and I had not checked the bus schedule ahead of time, so once I arrived in Lohme, I found out there was only one more bus going back to Sassnitz, and I had 2 hours to wait. I decided to have supper in the village.
 
It was interesting to observe that most Restaurants offered a lot of fish and potatoes as side dish. I guess the Ruganer people like their potatoes. 

 
There’s a British u-boat in the harbour of Sassnitz, and can be visited.
 


 
The island is famous for their villas.

 
This is Sellin, personally my favourite little city on the island. I had rented one of those “beach baskets” (Strandkorb) and spent a whole afternoon on this beach. The temperatures were low 20C, and since it was a Sunday, there were many families out there on the beach.

Europe 2012 – Part 3

Here you’ll find Part 1, and Part 2 of my travels.

After that first disastrous hike through the Jasmund National Park I basically showered not only myself but also my jeans and my running shoes (as mentioned in part 2). Since I traveled very light, only with a carry-on, I had only another pair of pants, dress pants that is. I knew it would take a few days for my jeans to dry, so the next day I dressed up and decided to pay a visit to the “queen” of the island of Ruegen: the city of Binz. It’s probably the most known “Kurort” on the island. It’s got this beautiful, many kilometers long promenade. I had very fond memories of this city. Because exactly 10 years ago I had spend three weeks with my kids in the city of Binz. It was the summer before our move back to Canada. I had actually forgotten which city we had stayed in. But my daughter was pretty sure it had been Binz.

I arrived in Binz by bus. Once I got off the bus I just looked for signs to the beach. And once I arrived at the promenade, I knew exactly where to go. It was the funniest thing… like I was being guided toward a certain area, toward a certain building. And sure enough, about 20 min later I stood in front of the building we had stayed in 10 years ago. It looked unoccupied, and maybe a little abandoned. When I started taking pictures, some men came and asked what I was doing there. So I explained to them that we had stayed in this clinic 10 years ago. When I asked them what happened to it, they explained that it had been closed about three years ago. So I took a few pictures to show to my kids about the fun times we had had.

 
My first glimpse of the beach in Binz.
 
 
 
 
Next to the former clinic is the very posh hotel Rugard.

And back to the beach. I’m glad they’ve got it all on the sign. You know exactly where to go…

 
A cafe on the beach. I love these “Strandkoerbe” (literal translation: beach baskets)
One day in Sellin I rented one for the whole afternoon. I just loved it!
 I don’t know what to do about this photo. It just won’t turn, it will not allow me to delete it. So if you tilt your head, you can see the “Kurhaus” at the centre of the promenade.
10 years ago, when I was there with my kids, Angela Merkel was campaigning and one of her stops was in Binz, at this same “Kurhaus”. Of course I went to see & hear her. I dragged my kids along, the only way they would be quiet and let me listen to Angela Merkel’s speech was the promise of a big ice cream afterwords…
 

I’m very grateful for all the good memories I  have of this trip (and of trips before!). And since it’s cold and windy outside, it’s nice to remember the summer days…

Europe 2012 – Part 2

Part 2 (for part 1 click here)

Villa Eveline was very conveniently located: only about 100 m from the beach, and about 150 m from the entrance to the Jasmund National Park. And so the first chance I had, I went on a hike through the park. I didn’t realize that it was about 8 km one way! Twice I was able to go hiking in this beautiful park. I started out by going to the beach and walking the first km or so on the beach.

My first glimpse of the sea.

 
These were the stairs I came down. Very beautiful.
 

I saw a number of these huge trees that were lying on the beach and also in the park itself.

Just a short story about my first hike: I took the stairs down to the beach, but then I found some pretty rocks on the beach, and I started climbing and jumping from rock to rock. I got quite high up. And then as I jumped on one of the rocks I didn’t realize that there was a barely visible trickle of water coming down and the rock was wet. Guess what, I slipped, of course, and slid and slid until I was at the bottom, on the sand again. I looked awful, I will spare you the picture, even though I took one… But I also felt awful… Clumsy as I am I hurt myself. But since there was no blood visible, I decided to continue on my hike. I found the way up to the forest and walked the “Hochuferweg” for the rest of the hike.

Since I was by myself and didn’t have to talk to anyone, I was just in my own little world. I hiked and hiked and hiked, until I saw some signs, and when I did the math I realized that my hike would be over 8 km. But stubborn as I am, I continued on. My landlady had told me that there was a bus that I could take once I reach my goal. But I was determined to hike the way there and back!!! Well, with my own thoughts occupying my mind, I did not realize that it had started to rain. And when you’re in the forest, it takes a while to see any water coming down. But once the rain broke through the leaves, there was no stopping it. It was raining “cats & dogs”. I still had about 45 min to hike to my destination, and the bus stop. Was I ever grateful there was a bus stop! I was so drenched by the time I got to the bus that I was surprised the bus driver even let me on the bus. When I finally arrived at my room, I just walk into the shower with all my clothes on, since they needed a shower as well… Quite the adventure…

Once I was dry and cozy in my bed I realized that my head hurt and upon closer examination I saw that I had a big bump on the back of my head. Must have happened when I slid down on those rocks. And it occurred to me that God had sent an angel to protect me! At the end of the day I realized that it could have turned out very differently. But I’m very grateful GOD WAS WATCHING OVER ME!

 
I chose to walk on top of these cliffs, the “Hochuferweg”.
The view from above was just breathtaking!

The famous “Kreidefelsen” (chalk rocks?).
 
 

 

I took this picture because one of my daughter’s favorite color is blue. And I was just fascinated with the shiny blue roofs that a lot of new/renovated houses have on the island. They offer these roofs in other colors, too, but blue was used most often.

Happy Wednesday everyone!