auf Wiedersehen

Auf Wiedersehen is not goodbye, but rather a German saying used to express farewell. It literally translates: auf, until + Wiedersehen, seeing again. I couldn’t think of a more ‘perfekt’ title for our final Mustard + Bananas post.

We moved from Frankfurt on March 24th and I knew someday this post would come. I needed to allow the space to acclimate back to American living, and give some time to marinate on our experiences. This blog, with all 87 posts, has been incredible for capturing over two years of our lives. From figuring out how to navigate a new city, new culture, new language – to traveling more than we could have ever imagined, and all the while discovering how strong we are both individually and together as a couple – there is no better gift.

In the spirit of celebration, today we will share Thanksgiving with our loved ones in the States (this is the first since 2013). One thing this whole moving abroad experience taught me is time flies, and before you know it it’s over and you’re figuring out what’s next in your life ahead.

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It’s been nearly 8 months since we Sachsons left Sachsenhausen, and I will always be fond of this place. At first, the experience abroad was challenging, and as hard as it was, I’m grateful. I’ve learned how to find a better balance in my life, to never give up, to persevere when times are tough, and above all to appreciate the present moment.

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Walhof’s – the place of our last dinner in Germany.

Coming home we moved back into the condo we left, and after the first night our place looked like a really bad episode of hoarders. It took us three full days to get everything back in place and what we found is we only really needed 2/3 of our belongings. I think living in 350 sq. ft. for two years taught us a very valuable lesson – to need less than what we think. We were more than happy to donate our 1/3 and settle into our familiar space.

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In our home I LOVE incorporating the items from our travels and gifts from our friends abroad. It was important to not have the space look exactly the same as it did two years ago, so we made changes by arranging the furniture in a different way. We are not the same as we were two years ago, and our place should reflect it.

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The Duke was a gift from our German neighbors and Aperol is for my favorite drink I discovered while abroad, an Aperol spritz.

The glass candle holder is from my favorite Frankfurt coffee shop, Oheim. The bike is from our first trip to Amsterdam.

The glass candle holder is from my favorite Frankfurt coffee shop, Oheim. The bike is from our first trip to Amsterdam.

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A few days later we were reunited with our sweet girl, Natalie. She was well taken care of while we were gone, and it took no time at all to settle into a routine. I love seeing her wake up in the morning and be so excited to go outside, as she leaps off the bed with her tail wildly wagging. Eating her meals, taking naps, and playing with her ‘babies’ (a.k.a. toys) gives her great joy. It’s the simple things that make her happy, and being with her helps me keep things in perspective by not sweating the small stuff.

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Shortly after moving back, I started teaching again at my home studio, Enlighten Yoga. It was a pretty amazing experience to go back to the place where my practice started. Not only have I changed in the two years I’ve been gone, but my teaching has also evolved. Everyone’s been so warm and welcoming, I truly am overwhelmed by their kindness. I’ve been told moving away helped me to “find my own voice” as a teacher. I suppose teaching yoga full-time for a couple of years will do that 😉

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The studio has evolved since I left, and I think it’s better than ever. The teachers are amazing, and I’ve enjoyed taking their classes and learning from them. For my teaching, I have one permanent hot yoga class on Sunday’s at 10:45am. I also alternate three additional classes – yoga basics and yin. It was important for me to keep stepping out of my comfort zone, so this coming February I will be doing a 15-hour yin yoga training – a practice I fell in love with once I got abroad in Germany. I’m excited to keep sharing this love and passion for yoga, and it’s an incredible honor to come back ‘home’.

To get me out of the comfort zone even more, I decided to be open to trying new things. In April, I joined a friend at the bar method and admittedly, I did not like it. Something told me not to brush it off after one class, so I joined for a month, and after class five my opinion changed.

Photo credit: Bar Method Charlotte - Southpark

Photo credit: Bar Method Charlotte – Southpark

I find myself overcoming challenges in each class, and that’s why I keep coming back. You find out what you’re made of and continue to build strength. I started towards the end of April and I’m 16 classes away from hitting 100. This may not sound like a huge deal, but it is, ’cause at 100 you receive a pair of light blue ‘Century’ grip socks. My goal is to sport those socks by the end of the year!

In terms of a great (+ fun!) cardio workout, another friend shared a little secret. A $5 cardio dance funk class! This takes place every Sunday and when I can make it, I take it. For 60-minutes we dance with Lem Houston to hip-hop music with people of all shapes, ages, and sizes. Here’s the website if you’re interested in checking it out. A couple weeks ago, he offered a free 90-minute class at a local brewery, and two ladies from work came along. One of them described the class as “feeling like she was a Carolina Panthers’ cheerleader”, and I like that description. I can promise you this – you’ll sweat, laugh, have fun, and it will be the best $5 you’ll spend!

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Speaking of work – I landed my dream job on June 1st. I worked nearly a decade for Charlotte’s local Coca-Cola bottler, and it was hard to leave. Shortly after the new year, I found out they were hiring a Marketing Brand Manager and the description was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a job that had multiple facets with many moving parts – and I’m responsible for three main objectives:

  1. Event Planning – an internal 2-day sales rally for nearly 1,000 employees, twice a year.
  2. Media – as in radio/billboards and determining what makes sense for our territories.
  3. Grassroots Marketing – overseeing programs/budgets and bringing our brands to life.

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It’s been almost 6 months, and it feels like I’ve never left. My boss lady was a previous supervisor and it is great to work for her again. She is super cool, smart, and highly respected in our organization – I’m the lucky one to have her as a boss.

Photo credit: Paige Winn

Currently, we’re working on an exciting Diet Coke campaign with a few local bloggers, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. The following four photos are from the amazing Paige Winn.

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In my cube, it was a priority to make it feel homey and create a mix of old and new. The upper shelves are items mostly from my past: pillow was a present from my father-in-law, the three glass bottles are projects I personally worked on, the clock was from my former boss, my last service award, and spirit fingers from a ‘back in the day’ college promo. The items below the shelves are mostly new. To the left is a piece of the tablecloth we had in our German home, most of the pictures were taken during our time abroad, and a few cards given to us before we left Germany made their way into frames. I love this mixture – and completed the space with a gold lamp and a mug from home.

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As you can see the schedule is pretty packed, yet with a full-time job, part-time yoga teaching, and spending time with my family – I find my balance. One way Kevin and I share our limited time in a quality way is through cooking. We tried three of those home-delivery companies and landed on our favorite.

We receive our Green Chef delivery on Wednesday, and three nights a week we cook a meal together.

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Inside the box is everything we need to make a fresh, organic dinner that’s perfectly portioned.

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In general, the dinners take anywhere from 30-40 minutes to complete and each meal is relatively easy to make.

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Voilà! Delicious, nutritious, and we did it together.

Cooking in our kitchen, we always smile when we think of the German kitchen we attempted to cook in and how it was a little problematic to not have an oven or microwave. Moving back to our home, we gained a new appreciation for all that we have – a completed kitchen! What’s even funnier is pre-Germany we would drive to the local grocery store and now we resort to our “German ways” and walk the five minute walk. We laugh that it probably took us longer to get in the car, drive there and find a spot, rather than just using our two legs.

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The above kitchen pictures are from my original condo, just below our current home. A couple months ago we put it up for sale, and received an offer after only 15 days! We will close on Tuesday and hand over the keys to a newly married couple. They sent us a hand-written letter explaining as soon as the front door opened, they knew this place would be their home. The wild thing is that’s exactly how I felt the first time the front door opened, too.

Little did I know five days after moving in I would meet my neighbor Kevin, and a couple weeks later we would go on our first date. That night I knew this was my guy and I could not wait to call him forever mine. Next month we will celebrate three years of marriage.

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At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post on setting the intention for change and I said the follow statement:

“Change is coming, but that doesn’t mean life should stop. It’s quite the opposite. It’s a sign to slip on the cute shiny pumps, pop the good bottle of champagne, and keep moving forward. Our plan is to continue creating as many memories as possible and I know when we look back on our precious time abroad, we will have no regrets.”

Definitely no regrets and we did live it up.

Moving home we’ve had so much to celebrate – a couple of birthdays, births of friend’s babies, two weddings in California, and even a visit from a friend who still lives in Frankfurt.

I’ve even had my heart melt when my Frankfurt girls brought me out to dinner…

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Seriously, I’m beyond lucky and every single day I find gratitude and thanks.

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“Be where you are, not where you think you should be.”

We are living proof that you can move abroad and flourish. I think if you have a dream – do what you can to make it happen. If someone would have told me when I bought the condo that I would be living in Frankfurt less than two years later, teaching yoga full-time and traveling Europe with my love, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.

Like anything else in life, when you are handed certain cards, you learn to play the hand you’re given. For me, I found love and that love translated into an incredible husband, many fulfilling friendships, and countless memories I will cherish throughout this lifetime.

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This is not goodbye, but rather ‘until we see each other again’. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those of you that took this journey with us. We loved German living and we love American living. One is not better than the other, it’s just different. No matter where life takes you, always remember to trust that it will work out exactly how it’s supposed to.

auf Wiedersehen,

Jess xx

Mom’s European Vacation + Tips for Traveling Europe

PassportWhile traveling in Europe we have packed our bags several times and it seems with each trip we would learn something new.

It’s always exciting to land in a new country and experience another culture completely different from the German one we’ve become accustomed to. We find it pretty fascinating how perfectly central Frankfurt is to the rest of Europe, and in less than two short hours your flight can land you in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, even Hungary!

Even more amazing is the direct 10-hour flight that got us home, twice in 2015, to Charlotte. Our last trip occurred the beginning of November and it was incredible.

We loved every moment in our city.

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When we returned to Frankfurt, my Mom joined us on the flight and it was her first trip to Europe. For sure the most expensive purchase was Mom’s round trip ticket to get to Frankfurt and flying American Airlines from Charlotte, this flight cost her nearly $1,200. Once she landed and with advanced planning, the entire trip was pretty affordable.

If you are planning a trip “across the pond” in the future, I thought it would be helpful to share Mom’s experience and our helpful hints for once you’re here. The plan was to have eight full days (not including the day we landed) and visit three countries. It was the beginning of August when Mom said “I’m coming to visit!” and shortly thereafter, I began to plan.

DAY 1 – 3 (Paris, France)

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Mom wanted to visit Paris and it was a no brainer to make it the first stop. My friend Alicia joined us for this portion of the vacation and the three of us met at Frankfurt’s main train station to depart at 8:57am.

Mom’s desire was to travel by train only once she was in Europe because she is not the most comfortable flyer. This wasn’t a problem and with the advanced notice, the tickets were really cheap. It took us slightly under four hours to get to the city of lights and only cost €39 ($43) per person.

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We scored an adorable 2-bedroom airbnb for €200 ($216) for both nights. It was in a great location with restaurants and bakeries close by, and conveniently located within a 20-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower.

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This was first time for a few things for Mom – first time in Paris, first time trying a macaron (not the coconut version), and first time trying a cosmopolitan! She loved them all 😉

Alicia knew the best place to deliver all three and it did not disappoint. As we walked along the Champs-Élysées we found an incredible place that served cocktails and French macarons, Laduree.

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Across the street from where we were staying there was a restaurant, Au Reveil du XV, which gave us a unique experience. Inside the restaurant were two workers, a cook and a waiter. We sat down and enjoyed some wine while we were waiting on our meals. As we were eating dinner, we asked for some water and when the waiter returned to drop off a bottle of water, he said “You girls are so crazy!”.

When he left the table, we all burst into laughter for a solid five minutes because we could not understand why he would make such a comment. It seemed very peculiar and we later learned the reason why. Apparently, I must have a doppelgänger who is a flight attendant and this person must frequent this restaurant on a regular basis because the cook was convinced I was her. As bizarre as this dinner was, we left with our bellies full, sweet tooth satisfied, and as a bonus our wine was on the house!

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DAY 3 – 6 (Brussels, Belgium)

Both mornings in Paris began the same, Alicia went to the bakery across from the apartment and came back with the most delicious croissants. After we had breakfast, Mom and I left Paris and boarded our train for Brussels. Alicia stayed in Paris to join her boyfriend Alex for a weekend away from Frankfurt and he sweetly proposed!

To get us to Belgium, the cost for the train ticket per person was €27.50 ($41) and 90 minutes later, we arrived. The weather was not the prettiest we’ve seen, yet we still walked around and after awhile we found shelter by sampling a flight of Belgium beers.

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Returning to the States with Belgium chocolate is a must, and Mom found some fun gifts for our family.

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For our accommodation I found a spacious airbnb, 2 bedroom apartment which cost €360 ($403) for three nights. On the second night Kevin joined us just in time for dinner at a specialty seafood restaurant, Scheltema. To end the meal, we shared a homemade apple pie that was to die for.

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The following day we took a day trip to Bruges and if you caught the Belgium post, then you know about Kevin’s garlic bread. Of course, we had to share it with Mom.

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To get back to Frankfurt, we all took the same train and the ticket cost €63.50 ($72) each. Mom was such a trooper who handled jet lag like a pro, but also bounced around two countries and did not miss a beat. When we returned to Frankfurt we took her to a traditional German restaurant, followed by a day of rest before her final stop in Europe.

We introduced her to apple wine (apfelwein) which is Frankfurt's signature drink.

We introduced her to apple wine (apfelwein) which is Frankfurt’s signature drink.

DAY 7 – 8 (Rothenburg, Germany) 

When we were discussing which places to see, she had suggested Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany. This was a new place for me, so I was definitely excited to check it out. It’s certainly not easy to get to from Frankfurt for it requires 3 trains and nearly 3 hours, yet it was completely worth it and affordable with the roundtrip ticket costing €51.50 ($58) for each of us. This medieval town was pretty majestic and felt like you were transported directly into a fairytale.

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We stayed at the Historik Goldener Hirsch for €93.50 ($105) and it included breakfast for the next morning.

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This place is known for ‘snowballs’, which are a tasty and delicious pastry from Rothenburt o.T. which a really long tradition, which dates back to the middle ages. There are well over 20 different flavors and they were amazing!

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On Mom’s to-do list was to visit Käthe Wohlfahrt – which is a unique Christmas store with over 30,000 traditional German Christmas decorations. It is open year-round and attracts people from all over the world. This place had it all, including more gifts for the fam :).

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To sum up the cost of Mom’s European vacay (excluding meals and gifts):

Flight $1,200 + airbnb’s/Hotel $258.50 + Trains $214 = $1,672.50

If you are like us and limited to a budget, setting aside $50 per week for one year would give you $2,600. Given what this cost Mom, it’s absolutely doable to come to Europe on that budget. To explore these places with the first person who showed me love was priceless, and something I will never forget.

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Now for The Sachson’s Travel Tips:

10. Don’t forget the conditioner! There is something about Europe and whether you are in a hotel or airbnb, you most likely will find shampoo and very rarely is there conditioner. We have purchased at least a dozen conditioner bottles during our travels abroad. We realized after those dozen that it was a must to bring our own.

9. Passports, camera/batteries, and chargers. Do the triple check before you close your bags.

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8. Read the details from your airbnb host. We have found airbnb to be much different in Europe versus the U.S. This did not happen to us, but we had friends that showed up to their place and the host did not provide towels or bed linens. Yikes!

7. Make sure to pack proper walking shoes. If you do not have these with you, chances are you will spend the money anyway to buy them. Save yourself the hassle and come prepared.

6. Get cash from the local ATM. If you get cash from the currency exchange at the airport, more than likely their fees are much higher than any fee you would receive if you pulled the cash directly from the local ATM. When using this option, just be careful to know your balance for daily withdrawals beforehand, otherwise the machine may eat your card!

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5. Tripadvisor is great…as a guide. When we travel I like to get ideas/view customer comments from tripadvisor, however a restaurant that is #1 today might be #200 in a month. I hardly pay attention or give merit to the numeric order. On each trip we’ve found excellent places and those worth mentioning can be found on each travel blog post :).

4. If a restaurant is begging for you to come in, DON’T. These sly guys will use all kind of tactics to lure you into their establishment. A big red flag is if a place has a huge menu outside of the restaurant and it says “visitor menu”, we guarantee it will be less than stellar. Better to ask your airbnb host or hotel staff for recommendations.

3. Pack light. When you set out the clothes for your trip, cut the quantity in half. I guarantee you won’t need it all.

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2. Cut cost and calories by splitting meals. Kevin and I love to do this on our trips and it’s fun to share. When we go out to eat we usually get one appetizer and one entrée, and it’s more than enough.

1. Plan ahead as much as you can. Mom’s European vacation would have been so much more expensive if I waited to book it. I began a solid three months in advance and our train tickets were next to nothing in terms of cost.

So, that’s it.

Before signing off I leave you with a favorite quote of mine, as it encourages a step out of the comfort zone. Whether you are traveling to Europe, Asia, or even somewhere in the good ol’ U.S. of A., “Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before”. – Dalai Lama

You’ll be so happy you did!