How I Read 100 Books A Year (and How You Can, Too) + Book Recommendations
I’ve tried to read 100 books a year ever since I moved to Switzerland. And so far, it’s been successful. But how do I do it?
Let’s quickly go back to the beginning:
I’ve always been a big reader. I started reading a lot earlier than my peers, starting at the age of 4.
When I was a child, I pictured the world as a kind of library.
I always saw my dad reading and watched people on the subway or in cafes in New York with a book in their hand and I came up with the conspiracy that everyone in the world knew how to read except me. I was terrified that I’d start preschool being the only one that was illiterate, and pictured my future classmates laughing as they browsed the shelves I just knew the classroom would be covered with.
So, with determination in my soul, I went up to my dad with my older brother’s copy of Stuart Little and asked him to teach me how to read. He laughed and said he would.
I entered preschool in the opposite situation that I had imagined — I was the only one of my classmates that knew how to read, which you can imagine was a big disappointment. However, being different didn’t stop me.
I dived into the world of books and have never looked back.
I’ve always been a voracious reader but I never actually tracked my reading until 2016, when I rediscovered Goodreads. The Goodreads Reading Challenge set me on a path of reading more books, more often.
That’s how, for the past two years, I’ve read 100 books. This year is no different.
How do I do it?
Many people ask me how I manage to read 100 books a year and still juggle my day job, my bookish newsletter, and my avid social life. And to be honest, I think it’s completely manageable if you just fit reading into your routine.
Here are some of the things I do that help me read 100 books a year and how you can, too:
Learn to DNF
DNF means Did Not Finish. Yes, I’m telling you to not finish a book. I know, it seems controversial but I’m putting this first because from what I hear from others, I truly think that people not DNFing a book is one of the biggest reasons why they don’t read that much. If you don’t like a book, stop reading it. I know it’s easy to feel guilty about not finishing a book but let me give you a little tip: life is too short to continue reading bad books.
If you’re struggling with a book you don’t like, stop reading it. I’m serious. Reading a book that you hate can put you into a reading slump, which in turn makes you not want to read, which forces you to read less. Nothing bad is going to happen if you DNF books. Instead, you can give up on forcing yourself to read that story and find a book that you actually like. This’ll help you get closer to reading 100 books per year.
DNF the book and move on. You’ll read more and be happier. Trust me. PUT THE BAD BOOK DOWN.
Join the Goodreads Reading Challenge
Tracking your reading and setting a yearly reading goal can really help motivate you to read more. I like the Goodreads reading challenge because it tells you how many books you need to read to catch up if you fall behind and really gives you a sense of satisfaction once you’ve finished it. They also give you a list of stats about the books you’ve read so far and I always enjoy looking at that in December to see how many pages I’ve read, etc.
Don’t just set your goal to be 100 if you don’t actually think that’s manageable though. Instead, set a smaller goal and if you reach that, then go higher. In January, I usually set my reading goal to 50 books just to manage my expectations but I’ve already had to reset to 100 books a year because I’m already at 54 books. Setting a lower goal can really help you feel motivated to read as much as possible.
Make A TBR List
TBR means To Be Read. Every month, I write down all the books I want to read in a reading journal that I got from Owlcrate last year. Then, I look at that list whenever I am in need of something to read. I found having a set TBR can really help me get out of a reading slump and relieve the pressure of not knowing what to read.
Join a Book Club
Joining a book club is a great way to read at least one book a month, plus, it allows you to read a book with like-minded individuals and discuss it. It’ll also help you hold yourself accountable because no one likes the person who comes to the book club having not read or finished the book. And if you have anxiety like me, you’ll never want to be that person. There are also a lot of online book clubs that you can join, including mine! #Shamelessplug.
My friend Jess (who also reads 100 books a year) and I put out a biweekly newsletter/book club, wherein we read one book a month and send out reviews about it at the end of the month. If you read along with us, you’ll have a chance to send us your review to be featured in our letter. It’s called Bookmess! Subscribe here.
If you don’t want to join my newsletter, though, you can look up book clubs in your area, online, or even ask a few friends to come over once a month, drink some wine, and talk about books. It’s truly a win/win. If you do that monthly, you’ll have read 12 books in a year! One step closer to 100 books a year!
Listen to Audiobooks
First off, if you’re going to say that listening to an audiobook is not “ real reading,” stop right there. That’s an extremely ableist statement and listening to audiobooks is 100% a form of reading. Some people rely on audiobooks as their sole way to read, and some people just prefer to listen to a story. There’s nothing wrong with that. Frankly, there are some books out there that are BETTER as audiobooks.
And it’s still reading. Don’t @ me.
Plus, listening to an audiobook is a great way to fit in more reading into your schedule. You can listen while you workout, on a long commute, while you travel, or even while you work. I often listen to audiobooks on 1.5x speed in the office and it helps me SO MUCH with getting my reading done for the week.
I also listen while I cook dinner or when I’m cleaning or doing somewhere where my eyes need to be elsewhere. I listen to maybe 10-15 audiobooks per year (I am very picky about audiobook narrators) and it helps so much in getting me towards my goal. Also, sometimes when I’m in the middle of the book, I can check if Scribd has the audiobook so that I can listen to it while I’m doing something else if I can’t be reading my kindle.
Read Novellas or Short Story Anthologies
Sometimes, the best way to get you out of a reading slump is by tackling shorter books. I see so many people trying so hard to read books that are like 500+ pages, and while that’s absolutely fine, sometimes it’s good to just read something under 200 pages.
It’ll count towards your goal and you’ll still have read something that week. Short story anthologies are also great because you can read a story a day, which tricks your mind into thinking you’re reading less when actually you’re reading more. Again, I’ll pop some good novella/anthology recommendations down below.
Read on Your Commute
Being on the train is one of the biggest chunks of time that I spend consecutively reading. My commute to work every day is about 20-30 minutes depending on the day, and it really helps me get some serious reading done. Most people are on their phones or listening to music when they commute, so you can swap that out with a book or audiobook. If you drive to work or school, listen to an audiobook!
If You Can Binge Watch A Show, You Can Read A Book
Hi, yes, I’m calling you out. Yes, you.
I, too, spent the last two days binge-watching season 3 of Stranger Things. That’s literally like 9 hours of devouring content. Of course, you should still binge watch the show if you want to binge watch the show, but you can also put that same energy into reading. Once a week, instead of watching a show or a movie, just replace that time with reading.
Set a Daily Time Limit
While this isn’t something that I necessarily do, my bf Michael has adopted this and it’s greatly helped him read more yearly. Give yourself an attainable daily goal. Say you’re going to read for 10 or 20 minutes a day. 10 minutes is not a lot of time but you can at least get a chapter finished in that time and it’ll help you read more often.
Also, if you get lost in the story, you may find that you read more, which is never a bad thing.
Implementing these little things into your daily routine will help you read more books, more often. Before you know it, you’ll be reading 100 books a year. Or just 10 books a year.
Either way, you’ll be reading more and feeling happier about it. And that’s always a good thing.
Now, for some quick book recommendations to get you started:
Remember when I said some books are much better as audiobooks? THIS ONE HAS A FULL CAST. It’s amazing. Please read it.
This reads like a podcast and just like Daisy Jones, has a full cast and sound effects. It’s incredible.
Michelle Obama’s voice is calming and her words are exactly what you need in this political climate.
This story is like teenage Groundhog Day with a creepy twist and the audiobook is enchanting.
Thrilling, sad, and with a full cast and sound effects. It’s I N C R E D I B L E.
Favorite Novellas/ Anthologies:
Feminist as hell, this is the perfect short story anthology for October. My favorite stories were The Resident, The Husband Stitch, and Inventory.
There are five books in this series so far but they’re all about 100-150 pages each so they’re super quick and take you into a magical world that asks the question: what happens when children like Alice come back from Wonderland and what if there are other doors to other worlds that whisk children away? It’s perfect.
Written by Vivek Shraya, a trans, Muslim woman, this book is short but deeply powerful.
A thriller that goes down nice and easy.
We stan Gillian Flynn in this house and MY GOD this story is so good.
A poetry anthology that’s deeply personal and yet somehow resonates with every human experience. I read it in less than an hour.
A dystopian novel about a British Citizenship test, with a crazy twist.
Highly recommend the audiobook. Shirley Jackson is the mother of modern horror.
Somehow this book is both extremely insane and absolutely perfect all at once.
If you haven’t read Gone Girl yet, what the hell are you doing with your life? It’s perfect and one of the best books of all time. It also changed the landscape of thrillers and my god, go read it already.
This book scared Stephen King. And it definitely scared the hell out of me.
Tremblay’s most recent book, this one is less scary and more edge-of-your seat thrilling but it’s still very good.
One of the only books since Gone Girl to legitimately catch me off guard. It’s great.
Roxane Gay’s collection of stories about feminism and being a woman is so deeply beautiful and raw. I read it three years ago and I still think about it often.
The book that makes you remember how crazy people in this world are
One woman’s search for the Golden State Killer that, unfortunately, literally killed her. One of the best books written by a brilliant woman taken from us too soon.
Favorite Books of The Last Two Years:
If you like fantasy, political intrigue (think House of Cards with Faeries) and hate-to-love romance, you’ll love this series.
A book about a fictional Cuban-American old Hollywood star (ala Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor) that is entirely not what you’d expect and deeply heartbreaking.
This book had me laughing out loud in one chapter and literally sobbing the next. I love it so much.
Lyrical and dreamy, this is the perfect ideology to whisk you away to another world. Speaking of, the world building is incredible and every wannabe fantasy writer should take note.
A book about the end of the world but also a book about the human condition. I read it in one night and still think about it every single day.
This isn’t just a book about hockey or a hockey town, it’s a book about all of us and one I think everyone should read.
One of the best books of all time. Period. Please read it. It’ll make you cry.
Soon to be a Hulu series produced by Reese Witherspoon, this book is a gorgeous character study about the lives of small-town people, motherhood, and the ways we alienate each other. It’s perfect.
I hope this helps you get on the road to reading more! Do you have a favorite book? What is it? Tell me in the comments!
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Looking for the perfect Scotland Itinerary? Look no further!
Last May, Michael and I went to Scotland for my 25th birthday. Even though it’s almost been a year since we were there, I still can’t stop thinking about how incredible that country was. Scotland was this magical, gorgeous, wild place where we met some of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. Going on a trip to Scotland is guaranteed to be life-changing. Which is why I wanted to share my Scotland Itinerary with you, so you could experience some of the magic for yourself.
We didn’t have a chance to go to any of the Isles and we definitely missed a few must-see cities, but that just leaves room for next time. But trust me, there will be a next time.
The Perfect 10-Day Scotland Itinerary
Day .5: Arrive in Glasgow
Michael and I took KLM airlines from Zurich to Glasgow Airport. This was my first time trying out my new registered traveler status and it was amazing being able to go through the e-passport lanes!
Where to Stay: Holiday Inn – Glasgow Airport
I think the best way to start out your Scotland itinerary is by driving to the Highlands, so I’d suggest booking a room at the Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport to get a bit of a shut-eye before the long day ahead.
Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport was one of the best airport hotels I’ve ever stayed in because the people were so nice and they even gave us a free drink voucher just because it was my birthday! Book Your Stay.
Where to Eat: Hotel bar or Weatherspoon’s (because what’s a UK trip without a trip to Spoon’s?)
What to Do: Get some sleep! You’ve got a long day ahead of you!
Day One: Fort William
After renting a car with Europcar, we were on our way! Fort William should be your first spot because it is home to a very important literary landmark, The Jacobite Steam Train aka the Hogwarts Express. It’s also nestled in the middle of the Highlands, so driving there is incredibly scenic and you can reach any of the Isles or Inverness/Loch Ness pretty easily. Remember: this is your Scotland Itinerary so you can make any changes you want to create the perfect trip!
Things to See and Do On The Road from Glasgow to Fort William:
Driving from Glasgow to Fort William is a huge part of the adventure! There’s so much to see and do that you should definitely add an extra hour or two to your driving time because I guarantee you’ll want to stop and take pictures along the way!
Here are some suggestions for your drive:
- Have breakfast or lunch at Duck Bay Marina Hotel. Gorgeous Loch Lomond views with delicious traditional Scottish brekky.
- Take the scenic route and drive through Trossachs National Park!
- Glencoe is on this route, which has many Harry Potter and Game of Thrones sites to see.
- Stop at the Green Welly Rest Stop in Glencoe, cutest rest stop I’ve ever seen.
What to do In Fort William:
- Ride the Nevis Range Mountain Shuttle up to Ben Nevis (UK’s highest mountain range) and hike up the mountain (this was the most magical experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone! There are trails for all levels of athleticism).
- Visit Ben Nevis Distillery after hiking for a whisky tour (The distillery closes at 5 pm).
- Glenfinnan Viaduct and watch the steam train pass by (this is the shot used for the Hogwarts Express) The times for the trains vary, but you can find a schedule here.
- Hike Steall Waterfall, a 10 min hike after the parking lot
Where to Eat: Garrison West Pub
Nestled in the old town of Fort William, Garrison West is not your ordinary pub. All the food is farm to table and the menu changes constantly. They have an extensive whisky list, with some rare whisky’s that you can get for cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen and delicious craft beers on tap. I’d suggest trying the Haggis here, paired with a Ben Nevis whisky. Incredible.
Where to Stay: The Garrison Hotel or The Imperial Hotel
We stayed in the Imperial because it was literally 50 quid for the night but I’ve heard incredible things about The Garrison. Book Your Stay.
Day Two: Jacobite Steam Train aka The Hogwarts Express (Fort William Continued)
I’m planning on writing a whole post about riding The Hogwarts Express (it’s on my bucket list), but if you’re a Harry Potter fan this is a MUST. If you’re not a big HP fan, you can choose to take advantage of the hiking that Fort William has to offer or just move straight to our next stop, Loch Ness.
The Jacobite Steam Train drops you off in Mallaig, a small fishing town, for about two hours before you board the train and head back to Fort William.
Book your tickets for the steam train way in advance, they sell out quick! We bought ours literally 6 months beforehand and they were already almost sold out. Book your tickets here.
What To Do For Two Hours in Mallaig:
- Visit all the Harry Potter shops
- Have to-die-for fish and chips at the Steam Inn or Cornerstone. They get pretty crowded so maybe make a reservation ahead of time.
We ended up driving straight from the train in Fort William to Loch Ness but you can choose to stay another night in Fort William or any of the surrounding areas! Or, you can get off at Mallaig and take a ship to the Isle of Skye. Up to you!
Day Three: Loch Ness
Even if you don’t believe in Nessie, Loch Ness is one of the most gorgeous towns I’ve ever had the privilege of being in. It was literally breathtaking.
Things to Do:
- Go on a Boat Tour (We Took the Monster Hunting Tour with Jacobite and it was AMAZING!)
- Visit the Nessie Museum
- Watch the sun go down over Urquhart Castle
- Hike through the South Loch Ness Trail
Where to Stay: Loch Ness Inn
This was an adorable little B&B right on the Loch (so you can search for Nessie outside your window). They have beers on tap in their second bar that is brewed in house.
We accidentally showed up on 60s night, where they had a Rod Stewart impersonator named Bob Wyper who sang 60s show tunes all night. We were the youngest people in the restaurant and it was…hilarious. Book Your Stay.
Where to Eat: The Boathouse Loch Side
Day Four: Inverness
I’m amending this itinerary because we didn’t stay the night in Inverness but I wish we had. There’s so much to see, eat, drink, and do so I would highly suggest sticking around and staying a night here. We’re definitely going back so, this list is also for me (lol). It’s for my next Scotland Itinerary, right?
Things to Do:
- Drive to Cawdor Castle – the Castle where the fictional Macbeth became Thane. It’s gorgeous
- Go to the Victorian Market for some delicious eats and whisky tastings
- Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
- Inverness Castle Tour
- Inverness Botanic Gardens
- Tomatin Distillery Tour
Where to Stay: Caledonian Hotel (recommended to me by a friend)
Where to Eat: There are so many places to eat in Inverness so just going to list a few places that look good:
Days Five and Six: Glasgow
Glasgow’s motto is “People Make Glasgow” and it’s so true. Out of all the places that we stayed while in Scotland, everyone we met in Glasgow was the kindest and most interested in some banter. The original Scotland Itinerary that I wrote had us staying for three days in Glasgow but honestly, I think two days is enough to get a taste of everything the city has to offer. It’s a workers city, so it’s a bit spread out and not as breathtaking as the other places on this list. However, Glasgow had the best people and the best food. We mostly just sat in bars and ate in Glasgow and I’m not sorry about it.
Things to Do:
- Kelvingrove Museum (free entry! A really cool museum)
- University of Glasgow (basically Hogwarts)
- Gin Distillery Tour
- Duke of Wellington Statue
- Riverside Museum
- Hynland Bookshop
- A Play, A Pint, and A Pie
Where to Eat (And Drink)- I’m writing a separate post about all the places to eat in Glasgow because there are SO MANY but here are some of my faves:
Day Seven: Stay In A Castle Outside Edinburgh
I’ve always wanted to stay in a (preferably haunted) castle in Scotland. So, I decided to treat myself and book us a stay for me to spend my birthday night in Melville Castle. If this isn’t in your budget or doesn’t seem like your thing, just go straight to Edinburgh and stay there! As I said, make your Scotland Itinerary yours! However, staying in a castle in Scotland was literal magic so I would recommend it to anyone.
Where to Stay: Melville Castle
I’m writing an entire post about this but here’s a quick history: Melville Castle is located just 40 minutes outside of Edinburgh and has been a staple in Scottish history since 1155. Mary Queen of Scots was a frequent visitor here and when her lover, David Rizzio, was murdered, she planted two majestic Spanish Chestnut trees on the grounds in his memory. The trees still survive and the hotel managers told me that Mary still haunts the halls today, among other guests who never left. Best. Hotel. Stay. Ever. Book Your Stay.
Things to Do:
- I mean, you’re in a castle so lounging, reading, and exploring are all you should be doing during your stay.
- The Library Bar is open 24 hours a day (yes, you heard that right) and has beers on tap, cocktails, and whisky. You can borrow some books from the shelves or play some board games. We celebrated my 25th birthday at midnight at the bar, drinking whisky with the lovely staff and looking for ghosts. It was perfect.
Where to Eat: Melville Castle Brasserie Restaurant
The Castle restaurant’s chef prides himself on making everything from scratch daily. And it shows. Located in the dungeons of the castle, you’ll find some of the best food and banter. They’ll seriously treat you like royalty!
Day Eight: Edinburgh – Harry Potter Edition
If you didn’t know by now, I am a huge Harry Potter fan and Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter. I’ll be listing all the Harry Potter stuff to do here and in another blog post, but the next two days afterward will list normal things to do if HP isn’t your thing.
Things to Do (Harry Potter):
- Breakfast at The Elephant House – the cafe where JK Rowling wrote parts of Sorcerer’s Stone on napkins. They don’t take reservations but if you get there early enough, you shouldn’t have to wait.
- Have a coffee at Spoons, the cafe where JK Rowling also wrote HP.
- Walk down Victoria Street (the inspiration for Diagon Alley)
- Go to Diagon House — Diagon Alley themed shop
- See Tom Riddle’s Grave at Greyfrair’s Kirkyard (Check out this handy Harry Potter Graveyard Map that’ll help you find all the relevant tombstones)
- Peek over the fence at George Heriot’s School (the inspiration for Hogwarts)
- Have High Tea (with champagne) at Balmoral Hotel— the hotel where JK Rowling stayed to write and finish Deathly Hallows. She often had tea at Palm Court, where they serve a delicious high tea.
Where to Eat: The Albanach
For amazing Haggis and burgers. Don’t knock haggis till you try it.
Where to Stay: Bruntsfield Hotel
An adorable and very comfy Best Western hotel that’s just a bus ride away from everything good! Book Your Stay.
Days Nine-Ten: Edinburgh
Things to Do:
- Scotch Whisky Experience – even if you don’t like whisky, this is a must. You may even be converted. I’d recommend the Platinum Tour because you get the best bang for your buck. Book tickets here.
- Edinburgh Writer’s Museum
- The Royal Palace
- Edinburgh City Chambers (cast of JK Rowling’s hands)
- Browse the many Edinburgh bookshops
- Optical Illusion Museum
- Mary King’s Close tour
- Gin Distillery Tour
- Museum of Scotland
- White Hart Inn (most haunted pub in Edinburgh)
- Maison de Moggy (a cat cafe!! Tickets have to be booked in advance).
We took the Hidden and Haunted Tour with Mercatt Tours, which Michael thought was silly but it brings you down into the catacombs underneath Edinburgh and I thought it was spooky AF. Book it here with Tiquets.
Where to Eat (and Drink):
- Tuk Tuk Indian Street Food (AMAZING)
- Frizzante Proseccheria
- The Witchery
- The Devil’s Advocate.
- The Voodoo Rooms
- Heads and Tails
- Cool quirky vintage bar
- Panda and Sons
- The Edinburgh Gin Distillery
Day 11: Fly Home and Be Prepared to Miss Scotland Everyday Afterwards
And there you have it, 10 wonderful days in Scotland with a full Scotland Itinerary!
I hope this Scotland Itinerary can help you plan the trip of your dreams. Please let me know if you go to any of the places I’ve recommended or tag me on Instagram @femalehemingway! I want to hear your thoughts.
Have you ever been to Scotland? If so, where are your favorite places to go? Let me know in the comments!
*TW for mentions of body dysmorphia and weight loss/gain.
I have body dysmorphia.
When my therapist confirmed my self-diagnosis a few months ago, during our third session, I have to be honest and say I felt relieved. I thought that hearing the words “body dysmorphia” coming out of the mouth of a licensed psychologist would wreck me but no. At that moment, I finally understood the young adult fiction cliche of “I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.” Because I did. I let out a breath that I’d been holding for over ten years.
Though the term and the diagnosis are new to my life, the actual disorder has been with me since I was a teen.
I have body dysmorphia, and I’ve had it for a long time.
Here’s what body dysmorphia is (to me*):
- It’s not really knowing what you look like, not really. Living with it is like having an image of yourself that swirls around your head, never quite fitting with what you see in the mirror.
It’s having constant, obsessive thoughts about the way you look, thinking that when people turn to look at you, they’re looking at your body in disgust, whispering about it, taking pictures. It’s feeling like no one could ever look at you and see something good, something worthy.
- Body dysmorphia is being unable to take a compliment because having someone see you when you can’t even see yourself feels momentous and impossible.
- It’s canceling plans because everything in your closet looks ugly, your favorite dress yesterday isn’t flattering today. Every item of clothing you put on your body feels like a prison, pointing out every flaw. So, you have to cancel your plans and go back to bed. You can’t have anyone seeing you look this way.
- It’s trying every diet in the book and losing weight, only to still hate very little thing you see in the mirror, to still have the nagging feeling that you’ll never look good enough, be good enough.
- It’s gaining all the weight back because what’s the point, then? If being skinny doesn’t make the obsessive thoughts go away, what’s the point?
- It’s seeing other people with your body type and thinking they’re gorgeous but looking at yourself in the mirror and having the image contort to the point where all you see is a monster.
- It’s crying in foreign countries because the outfits you brought with no longer look the way you remember them looking.
*I am not a registered psychologist, so if you feel this way too, don’t self-diagnose yourself. Go see a therapist for an official diagnosis.
Those are just a few ways in which my body dysmorphia manifests itself. Some experience it differently. Body dysmorphia isn’t just about weight, it can be about anything. Your nose, your hair, a freckle on your cheek that you think is abnormally large but that, realistically, no one can see.
But for me, it’s about my weight, about the shape of my body. It’s always been that way. And it’s true, all the things I wrote above. I always obsess over the way my body looks. Even now, as I’m sitting alone writing this, I feel my stomach protruding, can picture my double chin. I’m constantly hyper-aware of how I look, or rather, how I think I look.
It sometimes feels like I’m being held captive by my own mind.
Unfortunately, these thoughts didn’t just come out of nowhere. Throughout my life, these thoughts I tell myself have been validated and embedded by family, ex-friends, old bullies.
I can think of a few instances where I think the seeds of my body dysmorphia were planted (like the time my mom told me I couldn’t buy a mini skirt when I was eleven because they’d make my legs look huge), but there’s one moment that sticks out among the rest.
I was thirteen and going to a Halloween party that a girl in my class was throwing. My small group of friends and I thought we’d show up as cowgirls and had the great idea to tie up our shirts and show off our belly buttons once we got out of sight of our parents. We were new teens and raging with hormones so the thought of showing some skin felt scandalous. My crush of the moment was going to be there, and I remember feeling flushed at the thought that he’d see me in my denim skirt and tied up flannel shirt and fall madly, hopelessly in love by the punch bowl.
I walked in and all eyes were on us, which back then, didn’t bother me much. I wasn’t wildly popular in the 8th grade but I thought that all the eyes looking at me were finally looking at me in awe, that everyone was thinking “wow she’s beautiful.” Oh, to be thirteen and naive again.
The host of the party was an incredibly cruel girl who liked to call me The Jolly Green Giant (I was 5’10 and taller than everyone in my class) behind my back. She took one look at my costume and immediately made me regret ever thinking I was beautiful. I spent the first half of the party oblivious to her, but in the meanwhile, she was whispering to everyone in the room to look how ugly and fat I was. My best friend pulled me into the bathroom. She told me what the girl had been saying about me.
I left the party early, in tears with my shirt untied and tucked in.
It’s moments like that one, where my body dysmorphia sprouted.
I’m 27 now, and thankfully, no thirteen-year-old girls are turning entire parties against me. I’ve gained confidence and learned how to hide. I’m good at taking the things I do love about myself and pushing them to the forefront in order to disguise the things I hate and obsess over. I’m good at camouflage.
My body’s a battlefield. Victory’s a void filled, a memory vanquished momentarily.
That’s partially why I’m writing this. Not for pity, but to show the world that everything isn’t always what it seems. But also, to be open and honest with you, the reader.
I struggle with body dysmorphia and have struggled with it for years. Now, though, I’m pulling at the weeds and getting rid of all the bad seeds a lifetime of hating myself has planted. I’m writing this because want others who might stumble upon this post to know that they’re not alone. It’s always much better when you can struggle with someone else.
I’d like to come back to you in a year. I hope I can tell you that I’m healing. To give you hope. To show that it does get better.
Because that’s what I feel like everyone needs right now, in 2020. A little bit of hope. And maybe this post is hope for me, too.
I have body dysmorphia, yes.
But the real truth is, I have body dysmorphia and I’ll be okay.
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Why You Should Visit Baden, Switzerland
I live just a few minutes away from the gorgeous little historic town of Baden, Switzerland. Baden has all of the allure of a normal Swiss city, but it’s got more charm than most places I’ve encountered during my time here. I thought that everyone knew about Baden but I’ve found that I was wrong, which, in my humble opinion, is a great disservice to any traveler or Swiss resident.
There are so many reasons to visit Baden, either for a quick day trip from Zurich if you live here (it’s only a 20-minute ride from Zurich HB!) or as an overnight stop on your Switzerland itinerary. Baden offers colorful buildings and cobblestone streets, mouth watering food, and thermal waters for all your wellness needs. There are so many reasons that make Baden, Switzerland worth a visit.
Baden, Switzerland: A History of Relaxation and Wellness
The myth of Baden (which literally translates to ‘Bath’) tells the story of a poor maiden and her husband, who lived thousands of years ago in a small hut by the river of what would one day become Switzerland. The maiden realized that she was dying. She told her husband by picking up a dying rose and telling him that she was like that rose — destined to wither away into nothing. The husband was so heartbroken that he took the dying rose from her hands and angrily threw it into the roaring river. To his surprise, he watched as the once grey and withered rose bloomed back to life before his very eyes.
He realized that these were healing waters they were living on, so he took his maiden every day to the river and dipped her into the healing waters until she was filled with youth and vitality once more. Thus, Baden began its long standing reputation of being a healing place with healing waters.
Realistically, the thermal waters that gave Baden its name were created when tectonic plates shifted together and formed the 18 hot springs that allowed Baden to become the wellness hub it is today.
Roman Times and Beyond
In Roman times, Baden was known as “Aquae Helveticae” and was the place to be for wellness. Romans came from all over to find relief for various diseases and some just came to, as we’d say today, treat themselves.
Baden’s thermal springs offer the highest mineral concentration, with temperatures getting to around 47 degrees C (116 F), so it makes sense why people have been flocking to this gorgeous town to seek relaxation for almost 2,000 years.
The history of Baden is actually much more complex than just being a hub of wellness for the Romans. Popes, writers, crusaders, philosophers, and aristocrats have been coming to Baden’s thermal waters for as long as they’ve existed.
In the 17th century, Baden was a place for the wealthy. Aristocrats would sail their boats down the Limmat and bring all of their expensive clothing and furniture to show off their immense wealth as they relaxed in private baths and indulged in wellness treatments. This is where the term Badenfahrt originated — a name you may recognize nowadays as the famous festival that happens in Baden every ten years!
These days, Baden offers wellness for every person, in every walk of life and has established itself as a cultural hub, while still continuing its legacy as a wellness city.
There are free thermal baths located all around the city and also incredible spas, but I’ll get to that later.
Learn about Baden’s History
I went on a tour with Stadt Baden, where I learned all these interesting facts about Baden’s history. There’s so much more that I’m not even covering right now so I’d definitely say that the tour is worth it. The specific tour I took was only offered in German but you can do what I did, and bring someone who speaks German (Thanks, Michael) to help translate if you’d like. I got a lot out of it, though, even with my minimal German skills! You can read more about the tour and book your tickets here.
If you’d like to take a private tour, though, the tour is also available in English and French! A private tour is for a maximum of 25 people and costs 250 Swiss Francs. Check out all the public tours here.
If you’ve ever been to Zurich Old Town and have felt enchanted by the slanting buildings and cobblestone streets, you will love Baden because that’s the entire town. Baden’s city center is highlighted by the city tower (Stadtturm), which was once a prison tower and the entrance to the city and is now the guiding light that welcomes you to the center of Baden’s Old Town.
Every building in Baden has so many little details that you could spend hours looking at. Baden, Switzerland is basically a photographer’s dream.
Here are just a few pictures of the gorgeous architecture that you’ll encounter in Baden:
Walking and Hiking Trails in Baden, Switzerland
There are so many places to take a stroll in Baden that highlight the beautiful city views and stunning skylines. Here are a few:
Hike up to Stein Castle on the Chänzeli Tour
Stein Castle is one of my favorite places to bring guests, because how often do you get to explore an old medieval fortress for free? At Stein Castle, you can see gorgeous panoramic views of Baden while learning a bit more about Baden’s history. This is one of my go-to places during Autumn because you can see the reds and oranges of the changing leaves from above and it’s got that gorgeous-yet-spooky vibe that only a ruined 11th Century Castle can have.
Get to Stein Castle by walking the Chänzeli Tour, which will take you up and down the Klus Gorge, through Baden Old Town, past the Limmat, and will give visitors the chance to experience Baden’s urban spaces and it’s wildlife all in one go. It’s a gorgeous walk and you’ll find a few “Chänzeli’s” or lookout points along the way, ending at Stein Castle!
According to the Stadt Baden website, the Chänzeli Tour is about 1,300 vertical steps so it can be as tough or as easy as you want it to be. It’s the perfect hike to see all of the beautiful views that Baden has to offer. Read more about it here.
Take A Leisurely Walk By The Baden Limmat
One of my favorite things to do on a sunny Saturday is to take the elevator in Baden down to the Limmat and walk up and down the path. This part of Baden sometimes reminds me of going to Central Park when I lived in NYC because once you ride the elevator down and step out towards the Limmat, all the city sounds stop and you’re met with the rushing of the river and the chirping of birds. It’s serene and the perfect place to take a moment for yourself, to feel one with nature and the world.
This route is also how you’ll get to one of my favorite summer bars and is the most scenic route to get to the outdoor thermal baths.
There are actually way more hiking paths in Baden, some that I’m just finding out about right now. I don’t want to write about them because I haven’t actually done the hikes yet but this brochure on the Baden website tells you everything you’ll need to know. There’s apparently a hike that allows you to see beavers in the wild! Definitely need to do that and report back.
Wellness for All + Spa Day Heaven
As I’ve mentioned a dozen times in this post already, Baden, Switzerland is the hub for all things wellness. Here are all of the wellness spots (both free and otherwise) that you can enjoy while visiting Baden:
Outdoor Wellness Spots:
Long gone are the days when only the rich could enjoy Baden’s thermal waters. Now, located just at the end of the Limmat path, there are multiple spots where the everyday person can dip their feet, their hands, or even their entire body into the mineral water without paying a cent.
Located along the bank of the Limmat, you can take off your shoes and dip your fit into warm thermal waters while gazing out at the Limmat and the colorful buildings that lay upon it.
If you walk a bit further and go up the stairs, you’ll see a bridge that takes you over the Limmat to Ennetbaden (literally means Next to Baden). Before you cross the bridge, there are little water stations where you can dip your hands or your entire body into the thermal waters. The largest one is about the size of your average jacuzzi, called the Bagno Popolare, and it’s filled to the brim with the hot spring mineral water for you to soak in. There are always people there, regardless of the weather or the time of day. I’ve even seen people hanging out there during the winter! It’s so cute and emphasizes Baden’s dedication to wellness.
Quick Note: The Bagno Popolare site will close on the 13th of September due to construction. The new location and date of reopening isn’t known at the time of publishing, but see information on their website for updates.
Since I partnered with Stadt Baden for this post, they also put me in touch with their partner, the Limmathof Hotel and Spa, who gave me and my bf entrance to their Novum Spa for the day! And let me tell you…it was absolute magic.
The Novum Spa in Baden, Switzerland includes an ice room, a Finnish Sauna, sitting room, a steam room, and of course, the thermal baths which are filled with warm, mineral-enriched water (up to 36 degrees Celsius). Each corner of the thermal baths has different massage jets for ultimate relaxation. We spent about four hours there, going back and forth between the steam room, thermal baths, and ice room. It was absolute heaven. Then, the weekend after, we came back and got massages, which I would also highly recommend. I felt so lucky to be apart of this wellness journey that the Swiss experience all the time. I’ve never felt more relaxed and my skin has never looked better after a long soak in the mineral waters!
You can check the prices for a day at the Novum Spa at Limmathof here or you can book the private spa for a romantic afternoon.
Limmathof isn’t the only place in Baden that offers spa treatments, though I’d say they are the best. You can also visit:
The Atrium Blume Hotel, which has a Roman bath and you can also drink from the “fountain of youth” and view the beautiful flowery gallery inside!
For an entire list of every wellness spot in Baden, Switzerland, check out Stadt Baden’s website here.
What to Eat
Have A Spanischbrödli
You can thank the Spanischbrödli, a buttery, flaky pastry filled with hazelnuts and apricot jam, for the popularity of the train line between Zurich and Baden, which used to be nicknamed the Spanischbrödlibahn. In the 19th century, the native to Baden pastry was banned in Zurich for some obscene reason, and as every banned thing usually is, it became a cultural sensation. The aristocrats of Zurich would send their servants on the train to Baden to bring them an illegally large quantity of Spanischbrödl’s back for them.
A long history
After Zurich became less aristocratic, the Spanischbrödli lost its infamy but was soon revived by Swiss bakers in 2007. It’s now the go-to local delicacy and you absolutely have to try it when you come to Baden. I actually didn’t try it until just this past weekend, because I am a bad Badener I guess. But I can absolutely see why the rich people of Zurich basically built a train line just so they could consume the pastry in large quantities. It’s mouth-watering.
You can buy a Spanischbrödli at Moser’s Bakery, conveniently located in the Baden Bahnhof, or at the following local bakeries: Bäckerei Lindi, Confiserie Himmel, and Beck Arnet. I’d say grab one for your train ride back to Zurich so that you can eat the delicious snack while imagining that you’re a Zurich aristocrat smuggling it home.
Restaurants and Cafes
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I am always on the hunt for incredible food spots in my city. Luckily, Baden has so much good food to offer. I don’t even think people know how cool the food scene is here. Every spring and summer, there is always some sort of food festival going on and during the holiday season, fondue chalets pop up throughout the city. Here are some of my favorite places that are open year-round:
This place has the best burgers in Switzerland hands down. All the ingredients are locally sourced, even the potatoes for the french fries come from a local farm! They are melt in your mouth good and give me a little taste of home (they kind of remind me of a more expensive Shake Shack). My go-to order is the classic cheeseburger and the housemade iced tea!
Really incredible Italian/Mediterranean food with, again, locally sourced ingredients. I would highly recommend the Burritina because how can you go wrong with a ball of cheese and a glass of wine?
I am very picky about my Mexican food and usually the Mexican food in Switzerland is horrendous. My go-to in Zurich is always La Taqueria, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the same owners of Manito opened up a taqueria right in the middle of Baden so now I don’t always have to go to Zuri anytime I’m craving a burrito. Me Gusta serves authentic Mexican-street style food and serves up a bomb, melt in your mouth burrito.
For the fancier pallet, there’s Restaurant Lemon which is the perfect pre-movie restaurant as it’s right across from the theatre. They serve up local, market-fresh cuisine. Their crispy chicken sandwich is to die for. During the holiday season, this is where you’ll find one of the coziest fondue chalets!
This cozy cafe is nestled in Baden Old Town and is the perfect place to have your morning coffee or an afternoon tea and cake. The decor reminds me of a cute BnB (because it is one!) and the entire vibe is extremely homey. Also, incredible coffee. Try the carrot cake, it’s divine.
I stumbled upon this place after our stay at the Limmathof and oh my god. The coffee! The service! The chocolate cake!! This may be my new go-to coffee place in Baden.
What to Drink
Though the nightlife in Baden is, of course, not as expansive as it is in Zurich, there is still a great scene, regardless of if you just want to have a glass of wine or party all night. Here are a few of my favorite spots to grab a drink:
Unvermeid Bar (across from Teatro Palino)
I love bringing my friends here because it reminds me of a bar that I’d go to in Brooklyn. The decor is all old antiques and you can lounge on the antique sofas as you drink one of the cheapest but most delicious glasses of Pinot Grigio that you can get in Switzerland. Another reason I really love this place is that it’s LGTBQ+ friendly! The owner is a trans woman and Unvermeid Bar is always hosting drag nights or theatre performances across the street at the old Teatro Palino. If you’re lucky, the owner’s cat may be roaming around, taking orders for pats on the head. I love this little place.
If you’re feeling lucky, head over to the Grand Casino for a night of gambling fun and a few drinks. It feels very old-world in the Casino, so it’s kind of like you’ve traveled back in time to old Hollywood glamour. You can also visit the Casino’s club, Club Joy, where they often host 80s and 90s themed nights or have concerts.
Time is a staple in Baden, often filled with every walk of life (that is legal to drink, of course). I like this place because it’s got no frills, good beer, and a really interesting shot called the Washing Machine that is a guaranteed good time. (Note: Closed on Sundays).
This snazzy bar is a great way to have a cocktail and see stunning city views of Baden. One of my favorite things to do is grab a glass of wine with a plate of olives and falafel while watching the sun go down over Baden. (Note: closed on Sundays).
If you want to enjoy a drink and a mezze plate by the Limmat, Triebguet is the perfect place for that! This adorable outdoor bar is settled down by the Limmat and is only open in spring, summer, and early fall. However, you can have the first fondue of the season in September, something I’m definitely going to do soon!
I know that every British pub in the world looks the same and if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all, but the Pickwick Pub in Baden has a nice charm to it because it’s where all the expats living in Baden or its surrounding areas go to hang out and the pub is centered right in the middle of Old Town so it’s a great place to just sit outside, have a beer, and relax.
Where to Stay
Limmathof Hotel and Spa
After the amazing time I had at the Limmathof Novum Spa, Michael and I decided to book a night’s stay for our anniversary. I have to say we were impressed. We booked the Superior Double Suite in the newer part of the Limmathof (there is the old historic building where the spa is and the new, modern building across the bridge, we stayed in the latter). The bed was extremely comfortable, the shower was to die for, and we had a gorgeous view of the Limmat. Staying at the Limmathof guarantees you entry to the Novum Spa so it’s really the perfect place for a staycation! Book your stay here.
Other Hotels in Baden, Switzerland:
This is the hotel I mentioned above with the gorgeous flower gallery inside. I definitely want to stay here on my next staycation.
This hotel is located in the movie theater complex, so staying here means you’ll be closest to the flicks and summer food festivals!
Hotel-Restaurant Linde Baden
The Hotel Linde is a modern and gorgeous hotel very close to Schulhausplatz.
Baden Should Be Your Next Adventure
Baden is a beautiful, culturally rich town with jaw-dropping architecture, healing waters, and natural wildlife. It’s the epitome of what makes Switzerland so special.
So, if you’re planning your trip to Switzerland or are just looking for a weekend of relaxation, you should absolutely include Baden on your itinerary.
You won’t regret it.
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An Easy to Do Literary Tour of Zurich
Many literary powerhouses have graced the streets of Zurich over the years. With its crisp air and breathtaking lake views, Zurich is a writer’s paradise. One of the writers endlessly inspired by Zurich was none other than Irish writer, James Joyce. It’s true that he spent most of his life in Dublin and Paris, but what many don’t know is that Joyce chose Zurich to spend his final years. After discovering this, I knew that I had to do my own literary tour of Zurich focusing on the places James Joyce frequented when he lived here.
I know that there are many other writers who have called Zurich home, but I wanted to pay special attention to Joyce. As an expat as well, I understand why he wanted to spend his days here. Zurich is the kind of place that demands relaxation. It’s the perfect place to spend the rest of your life. With that in mind, I wanted to create a simple walking literary tour of Zurich as an ode to Joyce and our mutual love of this place we both consider home
Note: Everything on this tour is within walking distance of each other. However, you may need to get the tram for some of the locations. Where possible, I’ll include tram routes. To make life easier on yourself, buy a ZVV zone 1 and 2-day pass, which is only 8 CHF for the day. Download the app here.
Here’s how you can walk the same path that Joyce walked and do your very own literary tour of Zurich in just a day:
Start off your Literary Tour of Zurich with Breakfast at Cafe Odeon
Closest tram or train station: Bahnhof Stadelhofen or trams 2, 5, 9 from Zurich HB to Bellevue
Cafe Odeon is one of the oldest and most culturally enriched cafes in Zurich. Nestled in Zuri’s city center, Cafe Odeon opened in 1911 and has since been host to Zurich’s most famous artists, scientists, writers, and political leaders.
Before Odeon opened its doors, champagne was only served by the bottle. Cafe Odeon was the first cafe in Switzerland to start serving champagne by the glass, making it more accessible to everyone and started a culture of having a glass of “Cüpli” with lunch. We can thank Cafe Odeon for the Aperó culture we have in Zurich today. James Joyce frequented this cafe often, along with Albert Einstein and Picasso.
Have a truffle omelet or a freshly baked croissant (Gipfeli in Swiss German) with the ghosts of some of history’s best literary minds. And why not have a glass of champagne to go along with it? It’s what James Joyce would’ve wanted.
Visit the James Joyce’s First Home in Zurich
Closest tram or train station: Trams 5, 7, 9, 8, 10, 15 to Haldenbach
After you’re full and a bit starry-eyed from that glass of champagne, get on the tram and head to Universitatstrasse to gaze up at James Joyce’s first home in Zurich in 1918. Joyce lived on the first floor and wrote several chapters of Ulysses (Proteus, Calypso, Lotuseaters, Hades, Aeolus, and Lestrygonian) here. There is a memorial plaque on the building. According to the James Joyce Foundation, this is also where Joyce met the man who would later write Joyce’s biography, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses.
Visit the James Joyce Corner
Closest tram or train station: Zurich HB or trams 7, 9, 15, to Paradeplatz
In the center of Zurich Old Town, you can walk through the cobble-stoned streets and make your way to James Joyce square. You can find a memorial plaque that says his name and also has a few interesting historical facts about Joyce’s time in Zurich.
Stop By The James Joyce Memorial Foundation (only open on weekdays)
Closest tram or train station: right next to James Joyce circle, so the same.
If you are doing this tour on a weekday, you won’t want to miss dropping by the James Joyce Memorial Foundation. In 1985, the foundation was opened to keep the memories and works of James Joyce alive for the literary world, but also as a special ode to Zurich and Joyce’s undying love for the city.
The founder, Fritz Senn, who is one of the greatest Joyce historians, puts so much love into this foundation and it’s obvious. You’ll often find Fritz himself or his other Joyce-loving employees in the building. You can browse the entire first edition collection of Joycean and Fritz will probably tell you a few things you never knew about Joyce. It’s amazing.
Buy A Copy of Ulysses at Zurich’s Oldest Bookstore
Closest tram or train station: a five-minute walk from the Joyce foundation
If the Joyce foundation was closed on the day you decided to go on this literary tour of Zurich, don’t fret. Just a casual stroll from the memorial plaque and foundation is Buchhandlung Beer, Zurich’s oldest bookstore. Built-in the late 17th century, this gorgeous independent bookstore is filled with people who have a love for all things literary. The shop also doubles as an independent publishing house, so you can find books from many local Swiss writers.
There’s usually an exhibition highlighting some of the shop’s published works; they’re often in both English and German. Taking advantage of the peaceful silence of the bookseller’s location on a side street in Old Town. Anyone who visits, regardless of what language they speak, will be able to find the perfect book to read and have a cozy, quiet place to start reading.
Buy a copy of Ulysses here or, if they have it in stock, Joyce’s poem Bahnhofstrasse, which he wrote about Zurich.
Walk Down Bahnhofstrasse
Closest tram or train station: Zurich HB or any tram from Paradeplatz heading to HB
Speaking of Bahnhofstrasse, take a stroll down Zurich’s main shopping street and look at it through the eyes of Joyce. I always walk down Bahnhofstrasse to get where I need to go and it’s likely you’ll have to as well. After reading Joyce’s poem by the same name, I always take some time to recite the poem in my head and gaze up at the buildings and bustling streets, putting myself in the shoes of the generations of people who have walked here before me.
Bahnhofstrasse is a quick little ditty about the passing of time and how we never really take note of it because we’re all too busy getting where we need to go.
Which is fitting because I’m usually rushing down Bahnhofstrasse. Now, I try to take a moment and a breathe like Joyce would’ve wanted me to do.
Have A Mid-Day coffee at the St Gotthard Hotel
Closest tram or train station: Zurich HB. It’s on Bahnhofstrasse
After you’re finished leisurely walking through Bahnhofstrasse, make a quick pit stop to the St Gotthard Hotel, where Joyce lived as he was slowly going blind.
The 125-year-old hotel has played host to the Dalai Lama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and of course, James Joyce. They’ve got a lovely cafe where you can have an Aperó or a cup of coffee before finishing your literary tour of Zurich.
Visit James Joyce’s Grave at the Fluntern Cemetery
Closest tram or train station: Take the 6 tram from Zurich HB to the Zoo and get off at the Zoo.
Now that you’ve celebrated the life that Joyce lived in Zurich, you can now celebrate his memory. Joyce passed away in Switzerland on January 13th, 1941, and because Switzerland was his home as much as Dublin was, he was buried here.
Make your way to Joyce’s final resting place at the Fluntern Cemetery. Just ten minutes outside of Zurich city center, you can pay your respects to Joyce at his grave.
Nestled all the way in the back, surrounded by a field of green, you can pay your respects to the Irish writer by viewing his grave. There, you’ll see a statue of Joyce as an old man, reading a book and judging the world with a kind of piqued curiosity that only Joyce could have. Remember to be quiet and respectful. There are other mourners in the cemetery paying their respects.
Note: Look around, there are other German writers buried near Joyce.
End your Literary Tour of Zurich at the James Joyce Pub
Closest tram or train station: Zurich HB or take the 6 tram from the Zoo to Rennweg
After a long day of touring Zurich’s best literary sites, make your final stop at the James Joyce Pub.
To honor Joyce, the James Joyce Foundation transported the entire bar from its original location on Dame Street in Dublin, where it was part of Jury’s Antique Bar, to Zurich’s Pelikanstrasse.
Antique Bar was allegedly one of Joyce’s favorite haunts and features in a number of his novels. The intricately detailed wood, mosaic tiles, and paintings behind the bar transport guests to 1940s Dublin. Any writer would feel inspired while having a pint of beer or a dram of whiskey here. Additionally, there’s a menu of mouth-watering Irish pub fare with a gourmet twist.
Whether you decide to just pop in for a drink or stay for an entire meal, James Joyce Pub offers a unique atmosphere and a piece of history that otherwise would have been lost to time.
Note: Closed on Sundays.
See a show at Schauspielhaus
Have lunch/a drink at Kronenhalle
Here’s a confession: I don’t love my body.
I never have. For almost my entire life, I have struggled with my own self-image and my own relationship with my body has been very toxic, to say the least. I’m 6 ft tall and curvy. I’ve lost and gained weight off and on for years. When I was 18, I lost almost 100 pounds. I always thought that losing that much weight would mean I could finally love what I saw in the mirror, but the harsh reality is, I didn’t. I still saw so many flaws that led to disordered eating and unhealthy, reckless thought patterns. Everyone would compliment my new and improved “skinny” body but I still found myself crying in dressing rooms. I couldn’t understand why I felt the way I did.
I always thought that being “skinny” equaled self-love. That wasn’t the case.
I realized it was never about the weight, it was always about me. I could not (and still am unable to) love my body for what it was, for what it is. And that’s hard. That’s so hard for me to write down and admit. But it’s the truth and this blog is about being honest with myself and with you.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve changed, that I’ve found the love for my body that I never had. Unfortunately, though, I’ve gained a lot of the weight that I lost back and my self-image is not in a great state right now. I find myself looking in the mirror and hating what I see. Michael, my partner in life and love, tells me every single day that I’m beautiful just the way I am and I want to believe it, but it’s hard.
It’s hard loving your body when your whole life has revolved around hating it.
It doesn’t help that family members and random strangers have spent years telling me how pretty I’d be…if only I lost some weight. But I lost the weight. I still didn’t love myself. I gained the weight back because I couldn’t possibly find a way to love what I looked like.
It’s a vicious cycle that I hope to break.
However, I am much happier mentally and emotionally than I used to be. My depression and anxiety are much more in check and want to use this year to work through the reasons why I have such a bad relationship with my body.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending….yet. But I hope that one day it will.
In the last three years, I’ve done a lot of traveling. In some ways, travel has helped me love myself a little bit more. In others, I make enjoying travel really hard for myself because I spend so much time consumed with hatred for the way I look. Michael can tell you that I spend so many mornings on a trip changing outfits because nothing looks right to me. Embarrassingly, I even had a breakdown in a hotel room in London because I did not think I looked good enough to go out in public. I know this is something for me and my therapist to figure out together but it brings up the question:
How Do You Travel When You Don’t Love Your Body?
The simple answer is: you just do. In a world where traveling often revolves around getting the perfect Instagram shot, it can be extremely difficult for someone like me who only sees flaws first in photos. But traveling isn’t about the perfect photo. It’s about experiencing new cultures, new food, meeting new people. It’s about falling in love with a place, seeing all that you can of it before you leave. Traveling is about learning new things about a place, learning new things about yourself.
I hate my body, but last year I climbed a mountain. I hate my body, but I still fell in love with Paris.
If it were up to the little voice in my head, I’d never travel. I’d go full Emily Dickenson and stay secluded in my room and never leave. Thankfully, it’s not up to that little voice anymore. It’s up to me. And I have to be brave.
But sometimes, the bravest thing is also the hardest.
Going out and experiencing the world, regardless of how much the voice in your head tells you that you shouldn’t, is definitely brave.
If you’re like me and struggle with self-love, don’t let it discourage you from doing what you love. How do you travel when you don’t love your body? By being present.
Go out. Travel. Explore.
Do all the things you could do if you loved yourself, and maybe, just maybe, you eventually will.
I’m still working on it, but I hope that going against my own demons will allow me to love myself one day. I hope I can report back and tell you how I did it.
Until, then, though, just know you’re not alone.
I don’t love my body, but I love to travel.
If I can do it, so can you.
We can do this together.
Visiting the Prettiest Library in Stuttgart
Last Fall, Michael and I decided to take a day trip to Germany and I knew we had to visit the prettiest library in Stuttgart. Books are my home, they’re what get me through life. Libraries have always been like a little slice of heaven for me. Visiting a gorgeous library is always my top priority when I travel.
I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
-Jorge Luis Borges
The Stadtbibliothek was recently redesigned by a German architecture company called Totems and is now one of the largest public libraries in the world.
The sleek white walls, Harry Potter-esque zig-zagging stairways, and bright blue couches make for a bibliophile’s dream.
I was blown away when I Googled photos. However, the photos hardly compare to what you see in person. The library is an architectural masterpiece. Seriously. I was in awe. The clean lines and geometric structure make for visual art that is guaranteed to make you gasp.
The outside of the building isn’t anything to write home about, but the moment you walk inside, you’re transported to a wonderland of literature and geometric symmetry.
Entry is free. A security guard will check your bags, and then you’re free to roam for as long as you’d like.
In order to see the library the way it’s meant to be seen, go up to the fifth floor and walk up the stairs. Once you’ve reached the top, you can go through the cafe and up to the roof. From there, you’ll see a birds-eye view of all of Stuttgart. It was a cloudy day when we went. I bet in summer, though, it’s stunning.
And the books! Don’t even get me started on the books.
There are seven floors lined with shelves upon shelves of every book and audiobook imaginable. They’re categorized by language and genre, so everything is relatively easy to find.
The English fiction took up almost the entirety of the sixth floor! My local library in Switzerland has a shelf of five English books. Two out of those five are biographies of old white men I could care less about. So, being able to walk through an entire floor filled with English books just waiting to be read made me want to pack my bags and move in. I’d be the Phantom of the Library. If only.
To make things even more of a dream, they have exclusive covers for classics. I found an incredible copy of Great Expectations that made me swoon.
Sadly, without a library card, you can’t check any books out. You can spend all day reading on the comfy blue couches or in the library cafe, though. However, even if you don’t live in Stuttgart, you can get a library card! You just have to bring proof of identification with you or you can register online. If you live in Germany, get on that! Support your local, gorgeous library!
You should absolutely make it a priority to visit the prettiest library in Stuttgart. Seriously. You won’t regret it.
Do you want to hear more about the rest of my trip to Stuttgart? Let me know in the comments!
Bucket List Item #44 and #46: Meet Tommy Wiseau, See The Room in Theatres
First of all, if you haven’t seen The Room yet or don’t know who Tommy Wiseau is, stop what you’re doing, go have a glass or two of wine, and WATCH IT. It’s weird, it’s horrible. It’s perfect. It’s the Citizen Kane of bad movies. Ever since Michael and I watched it for the first time last year, we’ve become obsessed. We’re not the only ones.
The Room has developed a kind of cult following, where people go to showings and throw spoons at the screen, dress up as the characters, quote lines loudly and in unison. When Michael and I figured this out, we were dead set on going to see one of these showings and we were even more determined to meet Tommy Wiseau, the zany, weird actor, producer, writer, and director of the film. We fell so in love with this bad movie and the people in it that meeting Tommy and seeing The Room in theatres added themselves to my bucket list quite quickly.
In February, Michael and I headed to London to cross both these things off my list in one go.
Tommy and his younger sidekick, Greg Sestero, have been doing tours once a year around the world, where they show The Room and Greg’s feature film, Best Friends. At the showings, Tommy answers questions and then they stand outside and sign merch, take photos, and drink beer. It’s amazing. It’s everything you could ever imagine meeting Tommy would be like.
The Disaster Artist
We headed over to the Prince Charles Cinema, an incredible independent movie theatre right on the outskirts of Chinatown, and began our all-day Tommy Wissaeu extravaganza.
We began with The Disaster Artist — and listen, I know James Franco is a smoking pile of trash fire but it was a genuinely funny movie, based on the memoir, written by Greg, of the same name. It felt accurate and Franco did an amazing impression of Tommy.
It’s a good way to introduce the people who are wary of The Room to the room. It’s my civic duty to make sure everyone is a Room enthusiast.
Coming Face to Face with Tommy
After the showing, we walked out of the cinema to come face-to-face with Tommy and Greg. Greg was getting the merch together and Tommy was being Tommy. Our hearts were racing.
Greg heard my accent (American, like him), looked at me, and said, “Hi.” Tommy walked up the stairs and looked Michael right in the eye. Or at least we think he did. He always wears sunglasses so who is to say. We were a pile of giddy-nerves and it took everything for me to muster a meek “hello” to Greg while Michael stared back in awe at Tommy.
We had two hours until the premiere of Best Friends and we had to leave the theatre to make room for the people seeing the showing before. Michael and I left in search of beer because we knew we could not go through the rest of this night completely sober. We felt high and giddy, replaying the moment over and over again, screaming as we practically skipped down the street.
“Tommy stared right at me,” Michael said.
“GREG SAID HELLO TO ME. TO ME.”
It’s safe to say we were a mess.
The rest of the night feels like a blur. As we waited in line, we met a dude who was very strange but very nice and who came to see Tommy alone. He was as excited as we were so despite his proclivity to saying weird things, we hung out with him the whole night.
Best Friends was produced by Greg and stars both him and Tommy. It was weird and beautiful and I have no idea what the fuck was happening — so, yeah, it was awesome. It wasn’t the kind of weird that The Room is, nothing can be that kind of weird. Instead, it was intentional weird, a strange, almost transgressive stream of consciousness about two best friends trying to make millions of dollars off of old dental scraps. There was a clown at some point? Honestly, I can’t really explain the plot to you but you can tell Greg was extremely proud of it and that was enough.
Meeting Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero (Officially)
That was the first time I met Greg and Tommy. We took a photo and Tommy said, “You’re from America? Me too. Me too.” Greg asked me where I was from and told me to let him know how I liked his film. I don’t even remember what I said to them. I feel like I just blacked out because I couldn’t believe I was in the presence of Tommy. I just remember being excited. I hope I was at least slightly charming.
We then took our final walk outside of the cinema to stand in line to watch The Room. It was 11 PM by that point and our giddiness had drained us. We were tired but this was it. We were going to finally see The Room in theatres.
An Almost Fight
As we waited in line, a drunken British lad tried to skip us and then tried to fight me for some reason until Michael stepped forward and the lad saw how broad Michael was. Once he saw that, he backed off and I was thankful. It was a bit scary and just added to our nerves and excitement. By the time we finally got into the theatre, our hearts were racing.
Was it from the adrenaline of an almost fight? Was it the excitement of finally being able to throw a bunch of plastic spoons at a cinema screen? Maybe it was a bit of both.
And let me tell you, it was everything I could have ever wanted. Watching that ridiculous movie for like the 17th time in a room full of people who have seen it just as many times, if not more, was amazing.
We threw spoons at the screen and screamed and laughed with the crowd. Tommy was Tommy and we were happier because of it.
The Best Night
Though, I have to say the sex scenes felt even longer on the big screen. Maybe because of the fact that we were watching the most uncomfortable sex scene in film history in a room of other people.
I wish I could put into words how amazing, strange, and funny that night was. I still can’t believe I got to meet THE Tommy Wiseau. Life is crazy.
All I can really say, I guess, is that it almost tore me apart, Lisa.
And you best believe we’d do it again.
Have you seen The Room in Cinemas or Met Tommy Wiseau? Share your experiences in the comments! Room-lovers unite!
The 11 Best Restaurants in Glasgow
Glasgow is home to some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to in my life. A worker’s city, Glasgow is not really the place for sightseeing. Their motto is “People Make Glasgow” and that’s so true. When Michael and I visited, we met some of the kindest, funniest people we’ve ever met in our lives. And the food. THE FOOD. Seriously, as you can see on my Scotland Itinerary, we mostly just ate and drank during our three days there. And now, I’m going to list the 11 Best Restaurants in Glasgow for you to enjoy. Seriously. Go to these places. You won’t regret it.
*All photos are from the restaurant websites unless stated otherwise. Because I’m an idiot who got too excited about the food to take a good photo.
Here Are My Top Picks for the 11 Best Restaurants in Glasgow:
The Crafty Pig
508 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G12 8EL, UK
Type of Food: Pub Fair with a Twist
After a long day of driving, we arrived at The Crafty Pig right at the start of dinnertime and were not disappointed. Part of a good collective owned by Kained Holdings, The Crafty Pig is where fine-dining meets dive bar. Serving up burgers, po’boys, and hot dogs, this restaurant puts a twist on pub fare with their homemade BBQ sauce, freshly made brioche buns, and melt-in-your-mouth Scottish beef. Michael got the pulled pork burger and I had the Classic Burger with cheese and oh my god. I think that was literally one of my top ten burgers of all time. Seriously. If meat isn’t your thing, they’ve also got an amazing smoked tofu burger that the waitress told me is super popular with vegans and non-vegans alike.
They’ve also got an extensive beer list, with craft brews from local breweries and a guest beer that changes monthly. Our waitress was so lovely and talked to us about New York, Glasgow, and just life in general. I’d highly recommend you go here on your stay. Oh, and apparently the milkshakes are insane. I didn’t have one because I wanted to be able to go out afterward but I saw a few go by and yum!
Porter & Rye
1131 Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8ND, UK
Type of Food: Fancy Steakhouse
Owned by the same people who own Crafty Pig, Porter & Rye is an upscale steak restaurant with certified Scottish beef and wild game. This is farm to table in the best way. The owners work closely with local farmers to ensure the best cut of meat every time. Even the ketchup is made in-house!
How it works: pick your cut of beef, one side per person, and the sauce of your choice. The food comes out on a communal plate for everyone at the table to share. It reminded me a bit of Peter Lugers in NYC. And OMG, it was delicious. We got the Porterhouse Cut for Two with a side of bone marrow mac-n’-cheese, skinny truffle fries, and the broccoli rocket pesto. This was a birthday trip so we definitely splurged. And it was worth it. I paired my meal with the Scotch & Rye and Michael got a seasonal IPA. Everything was so perfect. This was truly one of the best restaurants in Glasgow.
Also, funnily enough, since the restaurant is owned by the same people as Crafty Pig, we ended up having the same waitress! She was so excited to see us again (and vice versa) and she gave us a free dessert. Speaking of dessert, you must save room for it! The Dark Chocolate Cremeux was so creamy and chocolatey. I’m drooling just thinking about it. This place is definitely more expensive, but if you’re in Glasgow for a birthday or a special event, I’d definitely recommend eating here.
85 Drygate, Glasgow G4 0UT, UK
Type of Food: European, Craft Beer, Pub Fare
About a ten minute Uber drive from Glasgow city center lies the Drygate Brewery. You can go here for lunch or dinner. I’d recommend booking the Behind the Glass tour, which is every weekend at either 5 or 7 PM. Sadly, we were only in Glasgow during the week so we missed this but you shouldn’t. You can also book a Through the Glass tour which is on weekdays during lunchtime. During this tour, a craft beer expert will give you a flight of seven beers to taste while teaching you about the brewing process! Both seem like experiences that can’t be missed. You can book a tour here.
Now, about the food. Just like The Crafty Pig, Drygate offers an elevated beer hall/pub fare menu. One of the highlights on the menu, though, is Ox Cheek. I tried this and it was sweet and savory. It didn’t taste gamey at all. It reminded me a bit of the haggis that I had in Fort William. Extremely juicy and delicious. You can also get an artisanal sandwich board or brick oven pizza. Not the healthiest of meals but definitely delicious. On request, your server will pair you with a beer that goes perfectly with your meal. Or, you can just get a beer flight like I did!
1125 Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8ND, UK
Type of Food: Seafood
Coincidentally, The Finnieston is ALSO owned by the same people who own Porter and The Crafty Pig. I guess I have a type.
We actually just went here for cocktails and dessert because they’re right next to Porter and Rye. And I know we’re talking about the best restaurants in Glasgow, but holy hell, the cocktails here were amazing. Any cocktail with dry ice basically has me sold. I have a thing for smoke. But, I know friends who have actually eaten here and they literally couldn’t stop raving about the Halibut and the Beer Battered Haddock. They also have a smoked mackerel scotch egg listed as a side so sign me the F up!
If you’re looking for a cocktail rec, I highly recommend the Penicillin. It doesn’t taste like medicine but it definitely was a cure for something. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It looked like Linda Evangelista. It had liquid smoke. What else could you ask for?
Oh! And the homemade bread? Legendary.
Doghouse Merchant City
99 Hutcheson St, Glasgow G1 1SN, UK
Type of Food: Pub Fair
Ok, I’m realizing a lot of food on this list is very meat-based but I promise we’ll get to some healthier, veggie options down below. This probably explains why I gained three pounds while in Glasgow — whatever. But! There is a cauliflower burger at Doghouse. I looked it up online and it looks delicious so there is hope for you yet, vegetarians. And there’s a vegan burger called Hail Satan. So. V important stuff.
Anyway, Doghouse is definitely more of a bar than a restaurant but it’s a great place for a late night bite or a quick lunch before hopping to the Kelvingrove Museum (which is right across the street). If you’re not familiar, Doghouse is a famous brewery located in Glasgow but they sell the beers all over the world. The Doghouse Punk IPA is even sold at COOP in Switzerland, and it’s one of my favorite beers.
There’s obviously tons of craft beer to try here and you don’t have to eat anything to try them. But since we were here for brunch, I had the Eggs Bun-Addict which was a cool twist on eggs benny, which was more like a sandwich with black pudding instead of ham. Delicious! Michael had a hot dog, I think it was called the Patriot Dog. Each menu item has a specific beer pairing as well, and who am I to go against the experts? I’d definitely recommend going here for brunch before you head off the to museum. It’s worth it.
37-43 Ashton Ln, Glasgow G12 8SJ, UK
Type of Food: Belgian, Seafood
Sadly, I’m deathly allergic to shellfish so I couldn’t have the best dish at Brel, which is their Moules Frites (aka mussels and fries). Everyone I’ve ever known who has been to Brel has recommended the Moules Frites to me and I’m like, “Sounds good, but I don’t want to die.” So, if you’re not cursed with a shellfish allergy like I am, definitely get these. If you show up before 6 PM, they’re only 6 quid! They’re apparently to-die-for (get it? Cause if I ate them, I would die).
For me, the biggest pull for going to Brel is the location. It’s part of BAAD, which is a huge art collective in Glasgow. Converted lofts were turned into shops and restaurants. The lofts are covered in graffiti and art from local Scottish artists. It’s a really cool place to be and there’s so much to explore! Even if you’re not hungry, you could grab a beer or a coffee here and just enjoy the atmosphere.
Since I couldn’t get the Moules Frites and I didn’t want to get the fondue because I live in Switzerland, where fondue is always best, I ended up going for the Poisson Frites, which were really incredible fish and chips. The batter was crispy and light, the fish was juicy. The fries were thick and crispy. It was a really great experience.
54 Calton Entry, Glasgow G40 2SB, UK
Type of Food: Seafood, European
Also located in the BAAD, A’Challtain was truly one of the best restaurants in Glasgow. On weekends, you can sit out on the courtyard and gaze at all the incredible art.
The cashew nut and ricotta spiced mullet was incredible and so was the pan seared cod!
64 Albion St, Glasgow G1 1NY, UK
Type of Food: Breakfast
Breakfast with a side of history. Cafe Gandolfi has been open since 1979 and is one of the oldest long-standing restaurants in Glasgow. It was once part of an old cheese market, but now, they serve up some of the best brunches in town.
I tried the Eggs Benedict, which had a really savory hollandaise with a slight kick. The eggs were poached to perfection and it tasted homemade. Michael had the full Scottish breakfast and he said the black pudding was some of the best he’s ever had.
They also have a fish market, so you can pop over for lunch! Trip Advisor reviewers say you must try the salmon!
102 Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow G11 6NX, UK
Type of Food: American, Breakfast
Living in Switzerland, sometimes I truly miss a real American breakfast that won’t cost me a million dollars and my first born child (#swisslife, am I right?). So, when I travel to the UK I always try to seek out at least one place that’ll serve me American style pancakes.
TriBECa met that need and more. The restaurant was a nostalgia-fest for any New Yorker, as the walls are covered floor to ceiling with iconic black and white pictures of New York. And the pancakes did not disappoint. They were fluffy, sweet, with a blueberry compote on top that tasted like carb-loaded heaven. It had the typical diner feel so I was right at home. They also serve bagels but I don’t trust a bagel that’s not from New York. It’s in my DNA as a New Yorker to be extremely biased against bagels.
If you’re brave and not a bagel snob like me, though, try the bagels and let me know how they are! Perfect breakfast spot.
1056 Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8LY, UK
Type of Food: Light Lunch, Sandwich
If you’re looking for a light lunch or a sandwich for the road, Piece is the place to go! My friend Ian, who lived in Glasgow for a while, recommended this place to me and I’m so happy I paid Piece a visit! Their menu is simple, just sandwiches and paninis but the place smells incredible and the sandwiches taste even better. I had the Cubano and Michael had the Bahn Mi. Both were great. The perfect place for a quick lunch!
The Hanoi Bike Shop
8 Ruthven Ln, Glasgow G12 9BG, UK
Type of Food: Vietnamese
The Hanoi Bike Shop was the first ever Vietnamese restaurant in Glasgow. With its canteen-style decor and trendy bar stools, this place is perfect for a night out.
I LOVE Vietnamese food, so stopping in here was one of the best decisions I made while in Glasgow. And it’s absolutely one of the best restaurants in Glasgow, hands down. The crispy tofu spring rolls melted in my mouth, and the Make Your Own Pho was just what I needed on a slightly chilly spring night. I had the Chicken Pho, which had the perfect balance of spicy and savory.
They also deliver if you just feel like eating spring rolls and rice cakes in your hotel room (I don’t judge. I almost did that, too).
So there you go! My top picks for the 11 Best Restaurants in Glasgow! Check Out My 10 Day Scotland Itinerary.
Did your favorite restaurant show up here? If not, tell me your favorite place to eat in Glasgow in the comments!
I haven’t been a good blogger lately. Actually, I haven’t been a blogger. Period.
It used to be that writing was my life. Writing used to be what kept the bad days at bay.
Lately, though, I sit down to write and stare at a blank page with a blank mind until the anxiety creeps into my chest. I click exit. I don’t press “save draft.”
I have so much to write about. In 2018, I went on adventure after adventure. I spent 10 days in Scotland. I stayed in a haunted castle on my birthday. I met Tommy Wiseau. I went on a literary tour in Berlin. I have so much to write about and yet, when I sit down to write it, self-doubt creeps in like an unwanted visitor and I’m left wondering if I have anything worth saying at all.
I haven’t been a good blogger lately. This is why.
In 2016, my high school sweetheart and my mentor died within a month of each other. In 2017, my dear friend Aaron took his own life. I have been dealing with the backlash of grief for the past two years and it’s not easy. This shouldn’t be an excuse. I have written for other publications and for work. If you saw me in the office last year, you’d most likely not even know that I was grieving. But I’ve felt the scars so deeply ingrained on my heart, and I’ve felt like everything I want to write about on my own blog isn’t good enough if it’s not about overcoming grief. I am so blessed to be living the life that I live and yet. And yet.
Losing three people within a year has often made me feel like I’m drowning. It’s like with them, my lust for putting words to paper died. It’s been three years and the wounds are still fresh.
This shouldn’t be an excuse. And in 2019, I am going to work towards making sure it won’t be. I know that Nick and Aaron and Robin wouldn’t want me to put what they believed in most about me on hold just because they’re gone.
I know that putting your passions on hold is not how you successfully live life.
This year, I’m seeking therapy and seeking new adventures so that I can find that love for words again. I’m going to be the blogger I know that I can be. I’m not going to let mental illness win.
I hope that all of you who have followed me over the years are still around. I hope you can forgive me for being a bad blogger.
I hope you know that I’m sorry for being gone but I appreciate you all for staying.
I’m back. I hope you’re ready for what’s to come.
Suffering from both anxiety and depression can oftentimes make traveling difficult. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few sure-fire ways to overcome travel anxiety.