Today I am going to introduce you to another one of our very own Travelettes: Annika. She is a bit of a German, New York, South African hybrid having lived in all these places long enough to call them home. Currently, she is back in her home turf, Cape Town, to escape the Hamburg winter, spend Christmas with her family there and dive with Cape Seals.

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Annika, how did you get involved with Travelettes?

I took a few journalism classes in college and always loved writing. Moving from one place to another always came natural to me as well so eventually I started to combine the two and to write travel related stories. My friend who is an amazing journalist herself knows Katja well and told me to get in touch with her. According to her I am very funny (yes, even for a German!) so she thought it would be a good fit. I sent Katja an application and some of my stories and the rest is history. I have been writing for Travelettes for over two years now and have been blessed to do some amazing trips for them.


Sliding for my life in Paraty, Brazil

From Hamburg to New York to Cape Town and back – how did that all happen?

I somehow convinced my parents that it would be a great idea for me to study in New York and what was supposed to be a two-year experience turned into the best six years of my life. However, as much as I love New York it got a bit much after a while. I needed a contrast, a different way of life. That’s when Cape Town came into my life. I had visited before when I was sixteen and fallen in love with its very blue sky, the light, and the people. A big part of my family lives down here and so it seemed natural to make that my next home. I also got incredibly lucky and had an amazing job offer within a week.

Here I also discovered my real passion for traveling. After a while, I realized though that unfortunately South Africa is really far away from everything and when even beautiful Cape Town got a bit too small for me I knew, it was time to move again. That and a less than ideal economic situation made me go back to Hamburg last year. Though the weather is dreadful, somehow the world seems much closer and it is easier to ‘escape’.


Knock, knock, knocking on a palace’s door in Fez

Describe your travel style!

I have never been a backpacker even when I was younger. For me, it is really not about doing a trip as cheaply as possible, but how to get the best experience possible and I don’t mind paying a bit more for it. I guess barefoot luxury would be a term that describes me best though I think the phrase is really overused. I am also an introvert so I need my space and alone time, even or rather especially when traveling.

Recently, I also try to make my travels more sustainable. Whether that means staying at eco lodges, not riding elephants or do homestays to really connect with a country’s people.


Taking snorkeling selfies in Malaysia

What countries are your favorite?

I prefer warm and sunny places, ocean, good beaches and jungle, and most importantly amazing food! I was incredibly disappointed by Brazil overall because the food was really not nice. For some people that may not matter, but for me, scrumptious local food can make or break a trip. That and of course, cats! You will usually see me chasing a scrawny kitten for a picture and a cuddle. If you asked me to name some countries I really relate to, I would say, in no apparent order: Morocco, South Africa, Thailand.


Moroccan kittens are the best and so is pho at 6am!

Why do you travel?

My favorite Travelette and travel heroine, Lisa Lindblad, once said in an interview that travel shouldn’t be a privilege but a requirement for everybody. I know that this is not the case yet, but I agree 100% with this sentiment. Nothing forced me to grow more and shaped me into the person I am today than these first steps in a new country, the first words mumbled in a foreign language and that first bowl of pho at 6m. I am simply a better person when I travel.

I think in general though there is nothing more mind-opening than traveling and that is exactly what the world needs: to experience other ways of life first hand, to realize that we are all human and that there is so much more that connects us than there is that divides us.

What is always on your personal packing list? Any tips and tricks?

Laptop, iPhone, camera are mandatory for me, but I am always scared that something gets stolen or breaks (yes, I am looking at you, person who smashed by screen by overstuffing the overhead compartment!). So if I had the choice I would leave those things at home. However, I will always take face spritz and my Kindle because I read too fast for my own good so I couldn’t carry all those books.

Other than that I try to stick to my dad’s rule of not taking more than I can actually carry myself. Even these days when I take my diving equipment, I can manage on my own if I have to.

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‘At work’ in Rio de Janeiro

What makes a good travel story? What is your favorite story that you have ever written?

I think a story needs to be honest and give you a sense of the place you are at. Sometimes that makes it gritty and that’s okay, travel is not necessarily pretty. I like funny stories and mishaps; if you think about how absurd the world actually is, you actually cannot, should not take it too seriously. So I like to write about both, the lighthearted, funny side of travel, but also about deeper issues of a country or the experience.

An example of both and my favorite stories I have ever written are called, “Marrakech through rose colored glasses. A sort of love story” and this one about what it means to travel as a woman today.

What trips are you looking forward to taking in 2016?

My brother is coming for a visit to Cape Town so I am super excited to take him around. It is always fun to have a little staycation with guests! I am also hoping for a trip to Tahiti – my absolute dream destination. Once a year I need to go to my beloved Marrakech and this time, I am going to work on a city guide there which I am really thrilled about. I am also going back to New York for a friend’s wedding. I am hoping to combine that with a layover in Iceland and a trip to New Orleans – I have been craving a fried oyster Po’boy for years.

annikaziehen_travelettes20130827_1135 Bikram yoga class in Halong Bay, not showing the two beers we had before

Do you want some Cape Town insider tips, need a diving buddy or just swap travel stories over a glass of wine? Shoot Annika a mail to annika@travelettes.net and for more stories check out her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant.