Look out

My stories often start in the middle because that’s usually where things get good. When I land in a new place, I don’t waste time talking about weather patterns or flight delays or exchange rates. Nor do I tell people where to go or what to see and how to get there. That’s not what this blog is about.

What I post online is an abridged version of my comings and goings: the moments of note; the extraordinary or peculiar; the high points, if you will. In this way, everything I share is true, but none of it is real.

How can it be? There’s a lot more to life than what fits in the frame.


The problem with only sharing the highlight reel is that it gives people the impression that life is nothing but the good stuff. On Instagram, it’s all up and no down. All the hits without any of the misses.

I’m guilty of that – but not because I’m trying to fool anyone into thinking that my life is perfect. I just don’t care to get bogged down in the mundane. I don’t want to complain about the little things when the big picture is pretty amazing.

I mean, who wants to hear about a shoebox sized, windowless, hot water-less, apartment that reeked of smoke in Tel Aviv, when this was happening right outside my front door?


Who cares if I spent the night sleeping on a bench at an Espresso House in the Stockholm airport when, the very next day, I happened upon this scene in Helsinki?


Why would I write a post complaining about four straight days of rain in Thailand when this is what it looks when the sun set through the clouds?


Those pictures are real. But they’re also picked over, cropped and filtered. So are the stories that go along with them. Like, remember that first picture I posted from Munich? The one that looked absolutely perfect?

Sunday stroll. #munich #munichgram #germany #travel #travelgram #sunday #city

A post shared by Nova Halliwell (@adviceineeded) on


Well that was Day 3. Not seen here are Days 1, 2 and 6 which involved nearly 24-hours of travel, getting hopelessly lost on the way to the German registration office, and an unsuccessful Blue Card application, respectively. Also not seen: purchasing a local cell phone plan, which I learned could not be done without first setting up a bank account, which could not be done without securing a permanent address, which could not be had without listening to a relocation specialist tell me that a lot of landlords won’t rent to “Americans, Indians of Chinese.”

Instagram doesn’t include those moments. There’s no real evidence of them anyway. No one takes a selfie when they’re lost and crying in the street. No one posts a photo of a failed application. No one thinks to take a picture of a man who hates foreigners even though his very job is to help them find places to live and work. I guess, in moments like that, we’re concentrating on bigger things, like not punching anyone in the face.


By now most people are savvy enough to read between the lines of an Instagram feed. They recognize the disconnect between what is shared on social media and real life. Drawing comparisons is an ill-advised practice to begin with, but that goes double when browsing the Internet.

But I’m not so sure people realize that the distortion of social media cuts both ways. Not only does it present other people in their very best light, it often does the same for us. When we only post the highlights, friends and family assume all is well and they keep on scrolling. Social media is supposed to draw people closer together, but sometimes it does the opposite: it robs us of a support system that would be there if not for glossy pictures indicating that everything is under control.

Commute. #monday #munich #munichgram #germany

A post shared by Nova Halliwell (@adviceineeded) on

For the record, things here are fine. My apartment is great, my residence application is settled, my bank account and cell phone are up and running. I’m not writing this post as a thinly veiled plea for help.

But I will admit that things are not nearly as easy as they seem. The pictures look great and the weekends are fun, but the in between is a whole lot of work. Still, I’m bracing myself for what’s going to happen next, when the newness wears off and the to-do list is over. If there’s one thing I dread more than a struggle, it’s boredom.

Check in on me then, no matter how good things look.


  1. Boredom is the worst.

    Have you ever participated in Couchsurfing? Besides being a resource for meeting people and finding free places to stay when you travel, it can also help with finding local social activities, and be a support system of sorts. I used to look up other surfers when I’d travel for business, to meet for dinner or ask for a tour of some local highlight. It made boring business travel feel more like visiting a friend.

    It’s not for everyone, but you’re clearly not afraid of opening yourself to experiences with strangers. :-)

    • Ha, I agree! Boredom is the worst.
      I’ve never done couch surfing, but I’ve heard about it… some good things, some bad. It’s definitely not something I’d do for a place to stay, but just to meet people I’d be open. That’s a good idea. I used to use Tinder for that purpose when I was single… i actually made a few real friends that way. I’m sad it’s not an option any more, but also kind of relieved too.
      I’d actually like to meet more local people (and not work people!), so I’m going to try to do that – maybe take some classes at the gym or even find a conversation partner. Living in New York the only “new” friends I made were coworkers and aerial gym buddies… I’m up for that again.
      But you’re exactly right – everyone is a stranger at this point so I better either jump in with both feet or get used to life as a hermit.

  2. I’m also more of an Austria girl than a Germany girl. Thanks for all your posts! I’m living vicariously through them. I’m also from the Philly area (Norristown/King of Prussia/Bridgeport), and have had some travels around Europe (lived in Warsaw for 3 years, in Germany for a semester). Munich’s a good place to be anchored as you travel to other places. And I’m jealous you got to Salzberg! I haven’t yet gotten there. Good luck and good thoughts as you get settled in your new place.

    • hi! sorry for the delay… I think I like Austria to visit, but I prefer to live in Germany. It’s more down to earth, more affordable… just easier, in a way. But Austria is beautiful – the cities, the countryside, the whole thing. Anyway, thanks for checking in. I hope you get to Salzburg sometime soon – and I’m planning a return trip already because I think its 100% necessary to see it in its full spring glory :)
      I’ve never been to Warsaw, but if I find myself there, I’ll look you up. :)

  3. You are amazing and I for one could never see you bored, you have too much “adventure” in you! I do see a book in your future, just saying. Take care my dear.

  4. Spot on. Recognizing social media for what it is is the first step in keeping it’s potential negative effects at bay. What’s more are the damaging effects it can have on relationships if both partners don’t view social media in the same way. Food for thought… ;)

    • I was just replying to an email this morning to someone who said it still looks like I’m traveling all the time even though I supposedly settled down. And I guess that’s true – it looks that way on Instagram, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. Social media is sneaky that way.
      I feel fortunate that none of my relationships ever involved fighting over online activity. When people tell me about that kind of stuff, it sounds exhausting and stressful and ugly… but at the same time not totally pointless. I think Instagram can be a really efficient way to come to know that someone is self-absorbed or shady or insecure or altogether crazy. Also, a great place to see cats!

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