2017: Back To Where Our Hearts Belong

with 28 Comments

1. Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. – Sue Monk Kidd


By the end of 2016, we had two choices: we could either give up OpenUpNow.net and stop blogging, OR give up our website and start a new one from scratch. Obviously, we chose the latter. Because having a hosting service destroy our 3 years of strenuous work was already harsh enough. We couldn’t let them ruin our passion for writing and encouraging other people to open up to the world.


In January 2017, we officially launched Travel with Mei and Kerstin.


A new start, with a new hosting, a new domain, and a new design. And most importantly, a new concept: on this travel blog, we tell and share stories. Offering travel tips is the main reason why we blog. But we choose to build our advices, reviews and insights into one of our many travel anecdotes to give you a story. Because, like Peter Forbes puts it: Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others.


2. Castles are forests of stones. – George Herbert



Storytelling is one of our passions. And castle-hopping is another one. Ever since we’re back in Luxembourg, we keep exploring castles, may it be in our motherland (here’s a story of our 10 favorite castles in Luxembourg), or in other European countries.


In February this year, I once again kidnapped Kerstin for a surprise road trip, this time to Germany. After visiting the little medieval town of Maulbronn, we continued to the Hohenzollern Castle, the Lichtenstein Castle, the Sigmaringen Castle, and even slept in the Bischofsschloss Castle Hotel.


3. Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain. – John Masefield



Our trip to Toledo was another journey back in time. Rediscovering the vestiges in the labyrinth of winding cobbled streets, strolling through the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, exploring Sephardic synagogues, and touring the Alcazar, made us reflect upon the peaceful coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities in the medieval “City of Three Cultures”.


Our voyage then took us to Madrid, where we roamed through the lively capital of Spain, and feasted on tapas and paella under a cerulean sky.


4. The lakes and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world.

– Georges Simenon



When I finished reading Ben Okri’s “The Age of Magic” in April, I had a serious need to see lakes and mountains. So off we drove to Lake Annecy in the French Alps.


The fresh air and crystal clear lake waters were invigorating. No other place could have been better to unwind and meditate. But the freezing wind ended up making me sick at the end of our trip. If Kerstin’s grandfather were still alive, he certainly would have warned me to be careful of the “R months“.


5. If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris […], then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. – Ernest Hemingway



When we left Paris in 2013 after having lived there for a decade, we thought we would return at least once or twice a year. But time flies, and soon four years went by. Walking through Paname, where every little corner reminded us of our past was deeply heart-aching.


Nostalgia hit us hard, and I haven’t been able to tell you more about Paris than what I wrote in this story. But still, we were happy that we finally made it back to the place we once called home.


6. Very few people have visited Luxembourg – when I went there and looked at it, I said, my God, it’s built on a rock. And within the rock they had a castle, and within the city there’s a network of tunnels so the residents could move around and defend themselves.  – I. M. Pei



I grew up in Luxembourg City, but it never occurred to me how lucky I was. When we resettled down in our country 4 years ago, we chose to live in the north. This year, we finally took some time to consciously explore both the Upper and the Lower cities of the capital, which brought back some (bitter) sweet childhood memories.


For the National Day on June 23, we even went to watch the annual parade and exceptional fireworks that we hadn’t seen for over 16 years.


7. There is a kind of flame in Crete – let us call it “soul” – something more powerful than either life or death. – Nikos Kazantzakis



When I studied in Athens, we had traveled to Crete several times, but always stayed in Heraklion and Chania. Last summer, we finally returned to Crete, and spent 3 weeks to slowly re-explore the hidden gems that I had wanted to show to Kerstin for so long.


We drove around for about 1500 km from Chania to Itanos, and stopped in many small villages on the Lasithi Plateau. We’ve learnt about the layers and layers of Cretan history in Matala, Spinalonga and Frangokastello, while exploring several archaeological sites. We swam in crystal clear waters in the lesser-known Kato Zakros, hiked through breathtaking gorges, down to freezing cold caves, and up to the scorching hot mountains. We fell asleep on white sandy beaches, learnt about the slow-paced lifestyle from the amazingly welcoming Cretans. We watched many majestic sunsets, feasted on the freshest local catches of the day, slept like princesses in awesome guest houses, drank way too much raki, Greek coffee and fresh orange juices. We philosophized under the shining stars, lived, laughed and loved…



8. Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea. – Nikos Kazantzakis



I first heard of the Greek island of Santorini in a class about Aegean Prehistoric Archaeology. Our professor explained in detail about the Minoan volcanic eruption of Thera. And in 2010, I finally got to visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri.


It was only then that we found out how famous Santorini Island actually is. Back then, our dream was to get married on this stunning Cycladic island. Since this plan didn’t work out, we ended up celebrating our 15 years of love and 2 years’ wedding anniversary in Greece’s most beautiful island last summer.


9. There is no sincerer lover than the love of food. – Georges Bernard Shaw



When it comes to food, there is no better place in Europe than Strasbourg. Combining French quality and German quantity, this city in Eastern France is a paradise for gourmets. Since 2013, we visit Strasbourg at least once a year for a gastronomic adventure; usually in December to visit the Christkindelsmärik known for being the oldest Christmas Market in Europe.

But last September we couldn’t wait anymore… So after a two hours drive, Strasbourg welcomed us in its food paradise under a perfect Indian summer sky.


10. A wise traveller never despises his own country. – Carlo Goldini



Listening to the sound of rustling leaves, and watching them slowly fall to the ground is a kind of meditation. Luckily, we don’t need to travel far to see autumn foliage, since our hometown lies in the middle of the Mullerthal region, which offers beautiful hiking trails along spectacular rock formations.


11. I’m never afraid […] But I think theview is better from here. – Tove Jannson



There are many ways to overcome acrophobia. Ever since we visited the Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra, I choose to surmount my fear of heights by facing it as often as I can. Last month, I read about the 100-meter high Geierlay suspension bridge in Germany, and decided to make a road trip to Hünsruck just to cross that bridge.

As true castle lovers, we later stopped at Eltz Castle and Cochem Castle, both offering fantastic panorama views that made my knees turn numb again.


12. In winter, I plot and plan. In spring I move. – Henry Rollins



When December started, we were still wearing our light autumn clothes and shoes, the heat was not even really turned up at home, and suddenly it began snowing! Somehow, we missed the turning point between Fall and Winter. That’s probably because 2017 is the first year that we’re staying home for the Christmas Holidays, and… being busy planning our upcoming trips.

In 2018, we’ll explore Berlin and its universities and art schools with our niece and nephew, travel through South America for a whole month, and return to Barcelona. Discovering Malta, roaming through Venice, spending a romantic weekend in Prague, and road tripping the French Riviera are also on our bucket list for 2018. Let’s see where our last minute decisions will take us!


How was your 2017? And what’s in store for 2018?


Pin this for later


2017 A Year in Review © travelwithmk.com  2017 A Year in Review © travelwithmk.com

Follow Mei:

Traveler - Storyteller

30-something Archaeologist, born and raised in Luxembourg. Besides traveling, Mei loves eating stinky cheese and raw food, as well as listening to Kerstin's stories while driving on long road trips. She speaks 7 languages, and wishes she had time to pick up Ancient Greek. She's afraid of heights, but adores panoramic views. Her favorite places are those she chose to live in: Paris, Greece, San Francisco.

28 Responses

  1. This recap is so well done – I’m inspired to do something similar with the mix of quotes and instagram and memories when we wrap up our 10th anniversary year. Glad you didn’t let the blog hosting set you back!

  2. Mike
    | Reply

    First off, that Lichtenstein Castle looks ridiculous. Jumped right to the top of my must see castle list. And secondly….did you really grow up in Luxembourg? You are the first person I have ever met from there…so cool!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha.. yes we were both born in Luxembourg and grew up here! I’m actually surprised that you’ve never met a Luxembourger! We might not be that many, but Luxembourgers (or residents of Luxembourg) travel a lot and quite often. So wherever we go to, we usually end up meeting one from our country or someone who knows someone living here. When you visit Lichtenstein castle, you should make a detour and come explore Luxembourg too! 🙂

  3. How crazy to go back to Luxembourg City after so many years! I felt the same way when I moved back home after 11 years of being away. What an interesting year you’ve had! I hope you have a great 2018. I look forward to reading about your South America adventure as I’ll be traveling there in the summer as well!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks Buddy! 😉 You too, have an awesome 2018! Where in South America will you be traveling to next summer?

  4. Kate
    | Reply

    I’m so glad you bounced back from the hosting ordeal and decided to try again with a new site! I’m sure it was a ton of work, but I’m so glad you stuck with it. Also, I need to see that castle in Luxembourg now. It looks like it is straight out of Lord of the Rings.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks Kate! We’re also glad that we decided to start all over again, and we’re now so proud about our new site! 🙂 There are many castles in Luxembourg, so you should definitely consider coming here for a castle-hopping trip!

  5. Marissa
    | Reply

    I want to visit Luxembourg so bad! I didn’t know it was so beautiful and had so many castles.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Come explore Luxembourg, Marissa! It’s just a short ride from Paris, Frankfurt or Brussels! 🙂

  6. Indrani
    | Reply

    Beautiful recount of your journey with pics and quotes. That paella dish had me drooling 🙂
    The love for food is ultimate love I know that, everything else immaterial. Wish you more travels in 2018.

  7. Kiyoko
    | Reply

    Looks like you guys had a fantastic year, despite the hardships with your hosting provider. I’m jealous of the castle hopping. I love the Medieval Ages, but I haven’t made it to Europe yet so I haven’t been able to experience a real life castle quite yet, but when I go to Ireland, that is most definitely something I’ll be doing!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Oh Ireland also has some fantastic castles apparently. We haven’t been there yet, but have only heard great things about this country. If you have time, come over to Luxembourg or go to Germany or France for more castle-hoppings! 😉

  8. Jennifer Dombrowski
    | Reply

    Eep. Tough lesson to learn regarding losing your work. Hope you’re now backing up your site separately outside of your hosting company doing it for you. I have multiple systems in place just in case something were ever to happen.

    Other than that, it looks like you had an absolutely lovely year. Strasbourg is a place I’d really like to visit, especially at Christmastime. It just didn’t happen in 2017, so hoping to make it there for the Christmas markets in 2018.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes, we always download the backups now! 😉 And you should definitely visit Strasbourg during Christmas 2018, it’s such a wonderful place!

  9. Brianna
    | Reply

    It looks like you had a great 2017 despite the loss of your old site. I love how you weaved literary quotes into your year end review. Here’s to a year filled with love and adventure in 2018.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thank you Brianna! You too, have an adventurous and lovely year of 2018!

  10. Lauren
    | Reply

    What an amazing year of travel! Your posts about Luxembourg have really taught me so much about the country. I had no idea there were so many castles there! And I adore castles. I love that you visited so many places in Europe together – I hope to make it to all of these spots, too! All the best for 2018.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thank you Lauren! Maybe you should come visit some Luxembourgish castles in 2018! Let us know when you will, so we can send you some tips!

  11. Jenn and Ed Coleman
    | Reply

    I could not tell you the heartache we would have if our hosting service ate three years of blogging. It would feel like part of our soul was ripped out and tossed away. I love all travel stories, even the bad ones I wrote when I was just starting out and the pretentious once that I think are pretty decent now. I love them all the same. We feel so lucky that we have great IT support that rehosted our site when our first host started getting flaky and more than a little weird. We feel for you. If you want to overcome you acrophobia, we have a great guide in Zion National Park we can recommend. You’ll be rappelling off 200′ sandstone cliffs before you know it. Then, nothing will scare you.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Our first host (Bluehost) was great, but when their price doubled after 2 years, we moved to Hostpapa. Right from the start our site was down every other day. Hostpapa said that we reached the maximum capacity and kind of forced us to upgrade to another plan before allowing us to download our backups. We were so angry and didn’t want to spend more money and time there, since their service was close to zero. We couldn’t blog for several months, so finally decided to start from scratch even if it hurt to lose years of work. Now we’re at Siteground, which offers an excellent 24/7 service. We’ve updated just some of our old stories to publish them on our new site, but not those time-related blog posts.

      We actually went to Zion National Park in 2013, but back then I didn’t really have acrophobia! Haha.. It somehow developed these last years, so I should definitely return to Zion! 🙂

  12. Nisha
    | Reply

    This year I mostly travelled to Europe, still can’t say I went to all these places. Visiting castles is my husband’s favourite activity. 🙂
    Didn’t know you live in Luxembourg, when I’m there next time let’s catch up.
    Loved your quotes and how you presented this year to us.Oh I travel in winters too, I don’t plan much. 😛

    Wish you both a very Happy New Year.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thank you Nisha! And yes, let’s catch up in Luxembourg or elsewhere! 🙂 What are your plans for next year?

  13. loisaltermark
    | Reply

    What a wonderful year in travel you had! Here’s to a great new year of adventures and stories! Love all your quotes!

  14. Hannah
    | Reply

    I love your stories, and this round-up certainly shows how many places you have made stories in this year – amazing! I would love to visit Santorini, it looks like it has been photoshopped – so white and blue! Your 2018 travels sound awesome – I love Berlin, Malta, and have just visited Prague! Bons voyages!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Thanks Hannah! Yes, Santorini is such a dream island! Although much more touristy now than when we first visited in 2010. The good thing is that you can still find some spots on that island that are not so crowded. So you should definitely go there!

  15. Anuradha Goyal
    | Reply

    Love all those quotes. I like the last one, in winter I plot and plan – that is what I do in Goa – when it is a nice weather here. Happy New Year,

Share your thoughts!