Home Based Traveler: Karen, Amsterdam & Cats

Hello everyone! 

I would like to introduce you to our first collaborative blogger in the home based traveler series on this blog. Her name is Karen. She is a New Yorker who moved to Amsterdam 7 months ago where she is now unexpectedly working in marketing and loving her job. She enjoys challenging herself in her career and doing crazy things like via ferrata. But she has a great reason as to why she does not want to be a full time traveler.

Karen  (wanderlustingk)

Karen (wanderlustingk)

I didn’t expect to be in Marketing, but it’s a great fit for me in terms of my experience and skills. The job description for my position was in entirely in Dutch, but it seemed like a perfect fit. Luckily, I decided to apply despite my doubts that I had a remote shot at it. I’ve also gotten to experience some interesting traditions as I’ve learned more about Dutch culture through the eyes of my colleagues, including birthdays. A lot of my American friends expect work to be totally different as I mostly read in Dutch all day, but you adapt quicker than you realize! If I could move Amsterdam next to New York, I think it would be perfect since it would allow me to see my family and friends more often.

I don’t want to be a full-time traveler. I have a cat, Lu, that I love dearly and I enjoy my work. I’ve traveled more long-term and I hate when the jadedness/fatigue/tiredness/sickness sets in, especially when you’re in a place you’ve always wanted to visit. To me, shorter trips allow me to appreciate a place more.

Similarly, it’s important to me to have a fulfilling stable career with a great work/life balance and financial independence. When I was younger and did some long-term travel around SE Asia, I was chronically broke and I hated the feeling of knowing that I would return to an empty bank account. I worked several jobs in the summers of college to help me pay for traveling between backpacking trips, but I rarely found those jobs to be engaging mentally. I much prefer having a job that I enjoy and allows me to travel.

[With] approximately a month, including public holidays [off]. I try to use my days combined with the weekend surrounding it to make shorter, however focused, trip to places I’ve been researching and dreaming about seeing for a while. This strategy makes it easier to not fall behind at work, allows you to check a place that you really want to see off the bucket list, get a feeling for the place (so you can go back), and save your time for trips that require longer periods.

I just prefer having more trips more often rather than a long trip that I need to wait months for. If you want to see 1-2 cities plus maybe the countryside, it’s very doable to do it over a long-weekend (3-6 days depending on how much I want to pack in). If there’s also a holiday, it helps since it helps you keep your time off. I love to read travel guides and blogs before picking a neighborhood to stay in ensure there’s some interesting (or cheap) local food/good public transit (if a city).
Utrecht  (wanderlustingk)

Utrecht (wanderlustingk)

I love doing weekend/local trips around the Netherlands. One of my favorites is Utrecht. It’s a calmer city than Amsterdam with canals on two levels, charming little shops, and fantastic bars to sit outside while people watching. It feels like a world away from the tourist centre of Amsterdam with better beer in less crowded cafes. I’m planning a weekend road trip to the Eastern part of the Netherlands to see the beautiful canal-filled city of Giethoorn and the one of the world’s tallest climbing walls in Groningen later in spring.

For me, savings doesn’t come as naturally to me as others, however I’ve gotten better about it over time. I am a huge fan of apps to just see where your money is going, so you can see where you’re splurging on things that really aren’t necessary. For me, it was clothes and shoes—and now it’s just snacking and buying extra things at the drugstore (small, but it adds up!). I really respect people willing to do any job to support themselves, however although I’ve done that, I’m at the stage of my life where I rather work towards something that will help my career. Plus, I actually really enjoy my job, which makes the hours that I’m spending at work fly by although I sometimes worry about time passing too rapidly.

I’m on the email list for a lot of budget airlines within the EU and within the US, so I get notifications whenever there’s a sale, which can save a lot. I got a 40 euro roundtrip per person to/from Scotland this upcoming April thanks to a sale for two people flying together on EasyJet. I’ve liked a lot of airlines on facebook as well, so whenever there’s a big sale, I get reminders about airline sales on Facebook in my ads and on my newsfeed. I also check on some of the fare error websites like SecretFlying after a good friend of mine was able to visit Brazil for about $400 roundtrip from New York. Admittedly, quite a few of my trips are overlap with dates that my boyfriend attends conferences, which also brings down the costs as the hotel, some of his meals, and his flight are often covered.
Trento (wanderlustingk)

Trento (wanderlustingk)

For bigger trips where it may not be possible to get a sale, I like to do a quick glance through Google Flights, then I like to add 1-3 major airports close to my destination and close to me to see if the fare changes as well as check the fare matrix to see the best dates/months. Then, I like to check into budget flights that fly close to me/into the destination that may not be listed on the major aggregators as I frequently fly Transavia due to its great schedule and rates. I have a list of the airlines that fly out of the airports close to me that don’t list themselves on aggregators, so I always check them out. I typically find really good deals by adding extra days to the ends of a weekend or holiday period by about 1-3 days to get the best fare and by being flexible with your dates.

I really enjoy airbnb and I’ve used it all over the world. Depending on the country, hostels, guesthouses and bed/breakfasts can be a great, inexpensive choice for having a safe, clean place to stay. I tend to value having a clean, cheap place stay in a local neighborhood (rather than in a hotel centre) due to getting a feeling for the local culture and being able to find inexpensive local food. It ends up saving money in the long run as I typically don’t spend too much time wherever I’m staying beyond sleeping.
Taken on a via ferrata in South Tyrol (wanderlustingk)

Taken on a via ferrata in South Tyrol (wanderlustingk)

Favorite Place

Hard one, but Italy. I’ve been to Italy three times now (Rome/Florence/Milan, Venice/Tuscany, and South Tyrol) and I feel like I still have to go back another hundred times. My favorite location that I’ve spent the most time in was the Dolomites surrounding Bolzano in the summer. We spent a while just driving around, doing via ferrata, seeing castles, and enjoying the slower pace of the towns (and wine!).

Top Secret

I’m a huge cat lover. Whenever I travel, I start a photo album (that I don’t share with other people) of cats that I see in new places.

Want to encourage Karen to share her traveling cat album or get advice about moving to the Netherlands? Head over to Karen's website where she blogs about moving abroad, her adventures and even a guide to conquering the mountains Via Ferrata style.

You can also connect with Karen at her Facebook and Instagram.

If you are a part time traveler and interested in participating in this series, click on the happy kitty >