23 Awesome Things I Did In My Year Of 23

by Katja Kaven

Today, March 23rd, 2021, I am turning 24. Looking back on my year of 23, I can tell you one thing: it for sure was like no other year before. I think it’s safe to say that no one could have foreseen what we were in for. Despite the obvious limitations, I managed to go on vacation once when the case numbers were low and also went on a few local adventures in Scotland (and Germany once I moved back home).

Like last year and the year before, I decided to share my highlights of this past year with all of you. Since there is no way I would be able to pick favorites, my experiences are listed in chronological order.

Tip: To keep up with my memories in real time, consider following me on Instagram. I usually take you along with me on my stories.

April 12th, 2020 – Spending Easter at home for the first time in 17 years

From the time I was 6 years old up until I was 21 years old, we always spent Easter on Fuerteventura. In 2019, I was still on my trip around the world. Therefore, I started my year of 23 with a very special Easter. It was nice to spend it at home (I had just “fled” Edinburgh due to the pandemic) and even nicer to spend it with my family.

Easter breakfast in my year of 23
Easter Breakfast at home

All of April and May 2020 – Lots of bicycle tours

Since we were pretty much isolating as much as possible all of spring, we had to find some way to entertain ourselves. Our choice fell on going on many bicycle tours around the area – often associated with some delicious vegan ice cream. This was yet another great way to spend lots of quality family time.

Bicycles and ice cream in my year of 23
On one of our tours

All of April and May 2020 – Socially distanced meetings

When I got home from Edinburgh, I quarantined for two weeks. I didn’t have to but I just felt more comfortable that way. Afterwards, I was longing for some human contact outside of my family. Even though it felt so weird not hugging my friends, I went on a lot of socially distanced walks. Luckily, our spring had been extra nice and the weather was impeccable.

Socially distanced meetings in my year of 23
Social distancing with my best friend

June 6th, 2020 – Black Lives Matter Protest in Düsseldorf

I can’t even begin to describe all the terrible tragedies that happened in March, April and May of 2020 (and have been happening for decades). I won’t go into detail but please make sure to check out this list of resources to educate yourself. For me, the recent events led to lots of learning and questioning myself and my biases. On June 6th, I joined our local protest of Black Lives Matter. The atmosphere was hopeful and united. Which is why it makes me even sadder that at the time of me writing this, there has just been a horrific attack on Asian women in Atlanta. We’ve still got such a long way to go. Inform yourself here.

Black Lives Matter.

July 2nd – 16th, 2020 – Returning to and quarantining in Edinburgh

After 3 ½ months at home, I was beyond grateful to be able to return to Edinburgh for 2 months. But first, I had to quarantine for 2 weeks. I didn’t mind at all because this helped me immensely in getting done work for my dissertation. Not gonna lie, though, quarantining in a flat is not as nice as quarantining in a house with a garden – I was so happy when I was allowed to go outside again.

July 24th – August 6th, 2020 – Hiking in Edinburgh (Arthur’s Seat, Blackford Hill & the Pentlands)

One of the things I love most about Edinburgh is how little time it takes you to be somewhere up on a mountain. I took full advantage of it in my year of 23 by exploring all kinds of mountains and hills the Auld Reekie has to offer. Blackford hill was a 15-minute walk from my flat, it took me 45 minutes from my door to the top of Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands were easily reachable by bus.

August 2nd, 2020 – The Neighbourgood Market

One thing I am fascinated by in the pandemic is the creative ways many business owners come up with to still be able to make a living. One very good example was The Neighbourgood Market in Edinburgh. Located in Stockbridge, this open-air market had circles on the ground indicating where one group of people could sit. You could order food from the different vendors via Deliveroo. Social distancing had never been that much fun before.

More social distancing during my year of 23
One of the many vendors with vegan options!

August 12th, 2020 – Water of Leith Walk

One of my resolutions for my time in Edinburgh had been to explore as many new areas as possible. Of the 12 months I was meant to live there, I actually only got to spend 8 months in Edinburgh. The Water of Leith walk was perfect for that. Starting at Dean Village, you just follow the Water of Leith as it takes you past St. Bernard’s Well, through Stockbridge and Canonmills all the way to Leith Docks. Definitely a highlight, I can recommend!

August 20th, 2020 – Dunfermline, South Queensferry and Cramond Shore Walk

The next adventure I went on in my year of 23, led me North of Edinburgh. I took the bus to Dunfermline (only 5 pounds return) and explored the village, including Dunfermline Abbey and Pittencrief Park. Next, I took the bus back but got off in South Queensferry. South Queensferry is a lovely village near the shore and the starting point of Cramond Shore Walk. This path took me over 10 kilometers along the shore, past the red Forth Rail Bridge, Fishery Cottage, and Dalmeny House and golf course. Unfortunately, the source I found online wasn’t very reliable and the bridge I wanted to take to cross over to Cramond Beach didn’t exist. Therefore, I had to walk another 30 minutes and decided to add the River Almond Walk before getting on the bus in Cramond and going home.

August 22nd, 2020 – Borders Railway

Another day trip took me through Midlothian into the Scottish borders. This one-hour train ride to Tweedbank is all about the scenery. The journey alone would have been adventure enough but I also decided to explore Tweedbank a bit. More specifically, I visited Abbotsford House and its gardens and Melrose Abbey (only from the outside since you had to book time slots in advance). All in all, a lovely area for walks.

August 30th, 2020 – Day trip to Glasgow

Shortly before I left Scotland, I went on a day trip to Glasgow. After all, I couldn’t have lived in Scotland for a year without visiting, could I? I started the day with amazing vegan food at The Glasvegan Fastfood and then explored the city by foot and by hop-on-hop-off bus. Glasgow Cathedral, Necropolis, Ashton Lane, the University of Glasgow, … I really enjoyed Glasgow despite what everyone’s been telling me and wondered why I hadn’t been there more often during my time in Scotland. Doesn’t it always go like this?

September 4th, 2020 – Moving back to Germany

Speaking of my time in Scotland… On September 4th, I left Edinburgh and moved back home to Germany. One of multiple moves during my year of 23 actually. I will forever be grateful for the amazing time I had and a part of me will always call Edinburgh home. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the weather I would permanently move there in an instant!

Leaving Scotland during my year of 23
Back in Germany

September 18th – 22nd, 2020 – Sunrises and sunsets in Santorini

Originally, I had planned to go backpacking again for 3-4 months after finishing my master’s degree. Obviously, I hadn’t factored in the ongoing pandemic when making my plans. Therefore, 3-4 months in Asia became 3 weeks island hopping in Greece. I started in Santorini where I stayed in Fira but regularly went to Oia for sunrise and sunsets. Furthermore, I went to Black Beach and Red Beach and did a boat tour to Thirasia, the volcano island – including a bath in natural hot pools. I get why Santorini is a popular place for couples but you can have just as good of a time being single 😛

September 22nd – 26th, 2020 – Beach time in Ios

Ios is popular for its party life. However, 2020 was an exception. Due to the pandemic, the beach clubs stayed closed and there were way fewer tourists than usual. I didn’t mind, though, I was looking forward to some relaxation. I spent a lot of time at the beach and did a super fun boat trip along some of Ios’ (hidden) beaches – including snorkeling! Furthermore, I found my favorite church of all time on Ios and tried out a self photoshoot for the first time with my new tripod and remote.

Found my favorite church during my year of 23
I fell in love with this church in Ios. From here, you can go further up the mountain for an incredible view – not only during sunset.

September 26th – 30th, 2020 – More boat trips in Naxos

I quite liked Naxos – it’s a lively island with much more going on than in Ios or Tinos. But at the same time, there are more locals, not predominantly tourists as in Santorini or Mykonos. In addition to its cute and full of crooks and crannies Chora, there are many beaches to go to. But my favorite thing to do in Naxos has to be the boat trip to Koufonisia and Iraklia. Just look at the photos! The water looked incredible and we even found a natural pool to jump into and swim around in. At night, you can find an abundance of restaurants and bars at the waterfront.

September 30th – October 4th, 2020 – Marble and motorbikes in Tinos

After Naxos, I wanted some relaxation again, so I went to the barely frequented island Tinos. Tinos is famous for its marble and I can highly recommend the Marble museum if you are interested in its Greek history. Generally, I would recommend hiring a scooter and just exploring the island – I can recommend Volax, Pyrgos, Kardiani and Kolimpithra. That’s what I did and I had a great time. Another thing you’ll notice in the city center of Tinos is the red carpet leading up to the Panagia Evangelistrias. You’ll see pilgrims praying their way up the hill.

October 4th – 9th, 2020 – Post-season in Mykonos

Truth be told, I kind of screwed up this one. I arrived on Mykonos the day of season closing. Which is usually a good thing, I love having places more to myself. However, this is not the case with Mykonos. Season closing meant that a lot of the restaurants closed, buses barely drove anymore and it was probably the most difficult island to make friends on. Luckily, I had made a friend on Naxos who joined me for a few days and we enjoyed Mykonos’ beaches. This also marked the end of my much-needed vacation.

October 23rd, 2020 – Moving house with my family

Since I was kind of stranded at home with my family since my original job plans fell through, I joined them when they moved house. We didn’t move far away but way closer to the river Rhine which is perfect for me because I love to go on walks there. Also, I love our new kitchen and winter garden. Spoiler alert, this wasn’t even my last move for now.

December 11th, 2020 – My virtual graduation

This pandemic screwed up a lot of people’s plans and I know that I am extremely fortunate with how little I’ve been impacted. One thing I have been kind of sad about is my graduation though. Ever since first setting foot in Edinburgh, I was looking forward to receiving my master’s certificate in the venerable McEwan Hall. Obviously, this was not feasible during my year of 23. However, we did have a virtual graduation in December which I celebrated with my family. Hopefully, our real graduations will be held once possible!

I graduated university during my year of 23
Graduating from my masters during my year of 23

December 24th, 2020 – January 1st, 2021 – Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my family

While I love spending Christmas with my family, I typically celebrate the New Year with my friends. This year, however, in order to limit my social contacts, I celebrated both with my family. And what can I say? It was such a fun night! We had my aunt join us, ate delicious fondue (vegan for me, of course), played fun games, and danced the night away. While I sure hope we’ll all be able to have big New Year’s parties this year again, I am not mad about the way I spent this past one.

February 6th, 2021 – Grandma turning 80

Let’s face it, by now, all of us have experienced a COVID birthday – some with more, some with fewer restrictions. I can’t believe this will already be my second birthday in lockdown. At least, it’s not a “special” birthday like my grandma had this year. Luckily, she prefers to celebrate in a small circle and wasn’t planning on throwing a big party anyway. With many precautions, we invited her, my grandpa and my aunt over and hosted her birthday bash, including many congratulatory videos sent by friends and family. I am so grateful that we got to celebrate her birthday with her – and even more that she turned 80 just in time to be eligible for vaccinations. In fact, she is about to get her second dose, while my other grandma and my granddad have already had both of their shots. This makes me feel way more comfortable around them.

My grandma turned 80 during my year of 23
One of my favorite days during my year of 23

February 12th, 2021 – Ice skating in the Rhine Meadows

One highlight of my year of 23 has definitely been the winter wonder we had at the beginning of February. Just after my grandma’s birthday, it started snowing and – in contrast to how it usually goes – the snow stayed for several days. Even more exciting, due to the Rhine flooding the Rhine Meadows the week before, these massive puddles turned into natural ice rinks – something that hasn’t happened in Düsseldorf in over a decade. Of course, I had to take advantage of it and went ice skating multiple times. So much fun!!

Ice skating in the Rhine Meadows during my year of 23
Happy me!

February 12th, 2021 – Accepting an offer for my first job

What can I tell you, I definitely had thought that finding a job would be easier. However, I have quite high standards about what I want my job to be like and the pandemic didn’t really help my job search. After months of uncertainty, though, I actually ended up with two awesome job offers. I went with my gut and accepted the one where I felt more welcomed by the team and actually started working with them just two weeks later. I’m now at the end of my third week working and super happy with my decision. The job is located in Munich, which brings me to…


As I am writing this, I’m on the train back to my hometown Düsseldorf. I just spent a week in Munich to get to know my new flatmates and some of my colleagues, to get a feel for the city and see my new office. In around two weeks, I’ll be moving to Munich and starting my next chapter there. I am beyond excited and lucky to say that despite the current circumstances, my year of 23 has been a good one. Different from what I thought it would be – very different – but a good one.

Visited my new hometown in my year of 23
My new hometown.


In my birthday post last year two of my last sentences were “Also, I will start working within the next 12 months. I am so excited for everything that lies ahead.” Happy to report that I just barely met this deadline. But jokes aside, it’s so important that you cut yourself some slack! I’m sure all of us have some ambitious goals we set for ourselves that we failed to reach or are stressing out about how we can still meet them. These still are extraordinary times – please be kind to yourself!

I would love for you to keep following along my journey whether it be on here or on Instagram

Thank you for all your continuous support!

So long, Katja

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