Last year my mother gave me a book for Christmas that I took, despite moving back and forth between continents, always with me, because I liked it too much to not stuff in the last corner of my backpack. It is called ‘Das große Los‘, which I think can be adequately translated either as ‘the winning ticket’ or ‘the big chance’ by German journalist Meike Winnemuth.

Meike became winner of €500.000 in Germany’s version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’. With her winnings she went on a somewhat special around the world trip and this book is an account of her journey: 12 cities,  12 places she always dreamed of, 12 months away from home. In each city she dedicated a letter to a friend, a family member or even her former self, describing her experiences in the city she is at and within herself. In addition to regular every day life in the foreign cities she would go on quests chosen by readers of her blog. Funny, silly, daring quests that she tried to resolve in each city.

You will understand that such a journey is the holy grail for many of us Travelettes. So when I read the part where she describes that she only actually used up a fraction of her winnings to finance the year, I was hooked and started to draw up my very own list – a girl’s gotta be prepared!

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And then I realized it actually wasn’t all that easy. Living somewhere for a month, which is supposed to be real life and not a holiday at a fancy resort, has different reasoning. Each place should have a bit more purpose than say I want to go to Rome, eat all the gelato, and shop Prada empty. Though actually scratch that, it’s an excellent reason to go to Rome.

But I have been a few times and while I love the city, eating gelato, and Prada, I thought there might be better places to spent a whole month of new adventures. In the end it took me a little longer than the original minute I allocated for route planning. Some places fought with each other, some were too similar to both be considered, and some others would also be great for a holiday, but not for a month. In the end it was only one city which incidentally I wrote down first and that stayed on my list uninterrupted and so I would start in…drum roll please…New Orleans!

September in New Orleans

I have been to New Orleans once for a friend’s wedding and immediately fell in love with it. Not only is hot, humid, and sultry, but also boasts some beautiful architecture, and the best sandwich in the world: a fried oyster po’boy. I would want to stay in the French Quarter, listen to Jazz, read vampire novels, and eat pecan pie for desert every day for a month.

Quest: Learn how to read tarot cards.

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October in Alexandria, 3rd century BC

My family loves Egypt and my aunt tells anybody who will listen that she was Cleopatra in a former life (funny how everybody who remotely believes in reincarnation claims to have been some sort of royalty, but nobody ever mentions being a farmer!). Regardless of the truth, I like her story and would like to follow her foot steps in Alexandria. A little time travel would take me to the 3rd century BC when it was claimed to be the intellectual and cultural capital of the world. That included not only the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but also the library, which was the biggest anywhere back then.

Quest: Get a monthly pass to the library and read as many books parchment scrolls as I can in that time.

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November in Mysore

When I was younger I had a thing for romance novels that took place during the British colonization of India. If I were to follow these stories I would probably end up in Kolkata and retrace the steps of my favorite heroines. However seeing that I have never been to India and that Kolkata honestly doesn’t look all that appealing to me, I would rather start in Mysore. A little bit more quaint and after all home of Ashtanga yoga. With all the fried food in New Orleans and sweets of Alexandria a month spent on my mat would probably not be a bad idea.

While the idea of spending a month emerging themselves into solitude at an ashram appeals to many, it really doesn’t to me. Discipline and routine of any kind are not my strong suit. But maybe that is an excellent reason to do it; sometimes we need to do things that scare us a little and that are way out of our comfort zone.

Quest: I think being in an ashram for a month is enough of a challenge, especially as I don’t think there is wine or parma ham to be found there.

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November in Thimphu

Thimphu is the only capital without any traffic lights and according to sources the Bhutanese king has said that he cares more about Gross National Happiness than Gross National Product. These two are good enough reason for me to spend a month in this happy little Buddhist Himalaya country.

Quest: Cross the road all the time for no reason and gratefully smile till my cheeks hurt that I don’t have to wait for a light to turn green.

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December in Venice

Venice in winter sounds utterly cold and miserable, but oddly appealing too. I will go quickly before it sinks, make friends with the gondoliers, and watch Casino Royale until it becomes reality. Gloomy, dark, and wildly romantic – now that will be my one month of pasta and red wine.

Quest: Walk over each of the 409 bridges once.

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January in Barcelona

It took me all of one jet-lagged, cold winter afternoon and only one Carlos Ruiz Zafón novel to love Barcelona. My first feeling of it on this winter afternoon was similar to Paris, only warm. And thanks to Gaudi who outfitted it with swirls of colours, patterns, and shapes, I still feel like I dreamed it all up when I think back to that day. With that in mind, I want to live in this dream landscape for a month. Walk the streets at night, get blinded by the glistening patina of buildings during the day, and enchanted by tapas on the way home.

Quest: Steal Look at the menu at 4 Gats, which were allegedly designed by young Picasso.

Centric hostel Barcelona

February in Nairobi

Yet another of my favorite adolescent books is set in Kenya and tells the story of Nairobi (Green City in the Sun). Mind you, that wouldn’t be enough reason for me to wanting to go there and neither is Out of Africa, but it is also home of Giraffe Manor. A big estate that houses a lavish hotel and, as you may have guessed by the name, giraffes. They are not behind bars, but strolling around the lawns and can be seen sticking their heads into the house at breakfast time. Have I mentioned that I love giraffes?

Quest: Feed a giraffe. Every day.

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March in Sydney

I would want to celebrate my birthday month in the seemingly all around perfect city – Sydney. I must admit, sorry Aussies, I was never particularly keen on Australia. However, after reading Meike’s account of her month in Sydney I think if there ever was a metropolitan paradise, this would be it.

Quest: Do the Sydney bridge walk. Though I honestly don’t think I will get very far as I am becoming very afraid of heights these days, but I’d want to try in any case.

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April in Bangkok

Bangkok is one of my happy places. Some people can’t wait to to forgo it for either the islands in the south or the jungles in the north, but love everything about it. I love the people, the energy, the sights, the sounds, and the smells. I would want to emerge myself in all of it for a month and probably not want to leave afterwards.

Quest: Quests would be plentiful here and of the indulgent type – have a massage every day, post a Pad Thai of the day picture on Instagram, and do a massage course myself at Wat Pho.

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May in the rainforest of Costa Rica

I love the forest, any forest for that matter. But the idea of trekking and lodging in the rainforest has always had a special appeal to me. Throw in some capuchin monkeys and toucans in a country that also offers surfing, great coffee, and volcanos to climb, I couldn’t think of a better place for that than Costa Rica.

Quest: Climb a tree and hug one too.

pranamar villas and yoga retreat costa rica

June in Inverness

Can you tell that a lot of places I would like to visit are book related?! The next place I’d go would be Inverness and it is of course based on my liking of the highly kitschy, yet enticing Outlander novels and the sexiness that comes with a Scottish accent. Our former resident Scot Kathi tells me that the language can be learned, the accent eventually mastered and understood. I also heard that Scots put whiskey in their porridge and while I don’t really like whiskey, I do think it is a drink, a woman of a certain age should cherish, so maybe putting it in porridge is a good way to learn.

Quest: Learn how to understand Scottish and become an expert at not making a face when drinking whiskey.

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July in the South Pacific

After the highlands I would need some contrast in landscape and weather and so I am off to the Cook Islands. Or actually anywhere in the South Pacific for that matter. Ever since a trip to the Museum of Natural History I have been obsessed with Margaret Mead and her travels there. And watching the BBC series called South Pacific has confirmed that any of the estimated 20,000 islands are not only anthropologically interesting, but also breathtakingly beautiful. A good place to do very little for a month.

Quest: Learn how to fish. I don’t care how, but in a place that would fulfill all my Blue Lagoon fantasies, I think that is a requirement.

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August in Essaouira

While I have just returned from Essaouira I already want to go back and spend a whole month. This is a quintessential little hippie, artist seaside town and one of favorite parts of Morocco. Read about it here and there shouldn’t be any question on your mind why this is an awesome place to be. And while August is one of the windiest months, it keeps away the sweltering heat and brings lots of surfer boys along.

Quest: Finally find that One and take him home with me. And by him, I mean of course a kitten to keep me company now that my year abroad is over.

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Das große Los by Meike Winnemuth – you can get it here, sorry, only in German for now.

Photos: New Orleans, Alexandria, Mysore, Thimpu, Venice, Barcelona, Nairobi, Sydney, Costa Rica by Brian Shaw, Inverness by Kathi, South Pacific, all others by Annika

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!