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Story Time

Day 209: A gay bar tour of cologne (Warning: nsfw text content)

On easter weekend I went out drinking with Tom, one of the long term residents at Smarty Hostel.

It was my last night with Magdelena as well, a girl from South Africa that I had met a few nights before in my dorm. We had really hit it off, having some very interesting conversations and becoming fast friends. She had actually already gone up to bed as she had plans for the next day but somehow, when I went up to get changed, I managed to convince her to change out of her jim jams, put mascara on and come out for a few drinks.

Tom took us on a tour of his favourite gay bars of Cologne. Starting at ExCorner which was decorated with lots of detail for easter. It has astroturf all over the roof and bunnies and eggs everywhere. I got my bum squeezed while I was in there. Moving on to Shampanja next, it was literally around the corner. It was a small place and there wasn’t really much of a vibe there that night, we had one drink and hot-stepped across town to the final pre-club bar called Barcelon.

This was not technically a gay bar I don’t think but I did get talking to a guy at the bar as I was having trouble translating the ingredients in each of the cocktails available. Tom was busy chatting to the barmaid as this was one of his regular spots.

Not that many photos but I did get some snaps which are below!

Luckily Magdalena had to go home after these starter bars, because Tom then took me to a gay nightclub called Pullermanns. I was told this is a polite way to say penis in German. I say lucky because it was a men’s only club and they wouldn’t have let her in if she had stayed in our entourage.

I won’t go into too much detail of my experiences in this establishment other than to say upon arrival the man who was running the coat check and tending bar (and actually the owner of the club) was stood there totally naked. We were issued our drinks cards and in we went. Tom explained to me that there was three areas for the club. The drinking area, the toilet area and the cruising area.

The cruising area was, to put it mildly, an all out sex-fest. There was a small maze full of little cubical sized rooms with various doors and viewing spots. Inside these cubicles are a range of interesting sights to behold, including sex swings, bondage clad gentleman and even two blokes going at each other with a small group of additional men just enjoying the show.

I was under Tom’s protection that night so I just did a walk through and then he ushered me back out into the normal drinking area. After that experience it didn’t seem so shocking to spend the rest of the evening drinking and talking while various naked men stood around the room casually sipping on their beers like clothes had never been invented.

I don’t know exactly what my reaction was to the evening. I think it was definitely one of respect. Even though it’s not something that tempts me sexually, I was absolutely into the underlying ideas behind such a place. I have been thrown out of bars before just for rowdily picking up a friend and hugging him. It was refreshing to see a place where people come together and are treated as adults. People who can set their own boundaries without having their hands held and having to be policed and dictated too. Everyone was friendly and I didn’t see any negativity within those walls.

It’s particular flavour is maybe not for everyone but it was a microcosm of an intentionally formed society that the rest of us could learn from.


Day 203: The stumbling stones of Cologne

From day one of my time here in Cologne my eye was drawn to these small brass squares that were dotted around the pavements of the streets.

At first, I was unaware of what they were until I recognized the word “holocaust” and a picture began to form of what I had been looking at.

If you have been around many countries in Europe then this might be old news to you. It turns out they have a name, Stolperstein (Wikipedia link), and there are over 67,000 of them installed in 22 countries.

The name translates to stumbling stone and they are the brainchild of a German artist, Gunter Demnig, who started installing them in 1992.

Its hard to internalize the many horrors of the past, but these small squares are a simple reminder of the individuals involved on a person by person basis.

Daily Life

Day 200: Celebrating my 200th day of being a digital nomad

Today is 200 days since I got on the plane to Bangkok and became a digital nomad.

Some of you may cry foul as I spent about 60 of these days in my hometown, but even digital nomads need their mummies every now and then.

I lived out of a suitcase and worked from a laptop the whole time, so really, why are you picking a fight with me?

For those that don’t know me yet, I actually did “100 days of digital nomad – an experiment in lifestyle design” which kicked this all off. It was originally a way to semi-commit to this new lifestyle and work up the courage to book a one-way solo flight in the first place. After the first 100 days, I was then convinced it was for me. I went back home, moved out of my house, got rid of a large number of my belongings and now I’m a legitimate full-time digital nomad.

Daily Life

Day 200: Kommitted to kumpir

I am choosing to celebrate this full card. I set a goal and I worked towards it.

It does mean I have spent over 70 EUR on baked potatoes since I arrived in Cologne though ??

They are just so tastyyyyy!

I actually had already been there about 4 times before I noticed the card and realised I was going to be a regular so if I’m honest I would say this has been a 100 EUR addiction since I arrived. They do other stuff as well like huge salad bowls and dirty burgers (for my world-wide friends a dirty burger is a good thing).

Daily Life

Day 200: Zimmermanns – Burgers that are so good…


I walked past this burger joint called Zimmermans yesterday and managed to translate part of the sign in my head. After I went trundling past it again today with my suitcase I decided to treat myself to a burger for brunch.

I just translated the sign with Google Translate:

“Burgers that are so good that it does not matter what’s on the sign outside”

Digital Nomad

Day 195: Making a NumLock-locker

Geek Happiness Level: 100%

For the last 195 days I have been catching the num lock key all the time when I am typing. There is no light on it so I never knew if the numpad would be numbers or arrows when I pressed it. Annoying.

After some searching I finally found SharpKeys which lets you remap keys on your keyboard. So I have set num lock to always-on at boot and then disabled that key totally.

Now I can press it and know it will be numbers – like any sane person would want.

Download it here:


Day 195: Jogging in Hiroshima-Nagasaki park

Managed to get my first jogging session in for Germany today. I looked on the map and found a nice green space not too far away from my hostel called Hiroshima-Nagasaki park.

What I didn’t realise was that I was walking straight through the middle of some kind of college area as there were about 30-50 youths all stood around on the streets. I was dressed all in blue thinking I was fly but the temperature was most definitely not t-shirt and shorts weather so I had all eyes on me as I strutted down the street 😛

I haven’t been jogging for almost a month so I took a leisurely pace:

In the middle of the park was a large square man-made lake which served as a focal point for the joggers; I passed several of them going different directions in laps around it. There was even a really old silver-topped gentlemen bombing around the place and a sweet old lady with two hiking sticks getting her power walk on.

The place is right next to some busy streets and you can see the traffic but its set back enough to give you a feeling of being in nature. The circuit around the lake is flat ground but there is a bit of a hill if you go end to end of the park.

There was a lot of ducks napping by the edges of the lake. They ignored me as I jogged by each time so after I had done my 5k I slowly walked around and tried to take some photos. The duck got wise to me:


The geese didn’t really care and actually just walked in front of me several times.

After I had finished I stopped to get catch my breath and a snap a few shots, my favourite one is the little ramp they built for the ducklings to be able to get in and out of the lake 😀

Story Time

Day 191: My first digital nomad enemy

Made my first digital nomad enemy… Haha. Sorry Alison!

This hostel you just get assigned a room and pick your bed when you get there. The whole room was fresh when I got here, all beds unmade, no names on the beds, no personal belongings, no locks on any lockers, no luggage underneath.

I can only assume she is travelling light and the cleaning staff got confused and reset the whole room because when I arrived this was a clean, fresh, available bed. Obviously, when she left his morning it was hers but she left no trace behind.

Hope she doesn’t murder me in my sleep…  ??

It took me a long time to figure out what was going on with the angry face. If you tilt your head to the left its an angry monster, but if you tilt it to the right it looks more like one of the kids out of Ducktales.


Day 100: In The City co-working & co-living space review

Nomad friendly? Yes!

I was the first off-the-street guest at In The City Hostel. I found out about it after the owner of Overstand Coffee mentioned it in a Chiang Mai digital nomad Facebook group and booked the same day.

It turned out that he wasn’t actually supposed to be announcing it quite yet as MJ, Pii Pum and the team were still putting the final touches to the place. They rose to the challenge though and welcomed me in with open arms. What started out as a simple 2-day tester-booking quickly unravelled into a 12-day adventure, seeing me right through to the end of my time in Chiang Mai.

Here is the original review I posted on Facebook at the time:

Extremely nomad friendly hostel. It has a coworking space downstairs which you get FREE access to during your stay; saving 150bt a day. The coworking space has the “best internet in the city” with connection speeds clocking 150mb up and 60mb down. Breakfast is included and filter coffee is available throughout the day. There are spacious desks, comfortable office chairs with lumbar support and chilled beats being played in the background.

And that’s just the start of it! The staff at In The City go above and beyond. The team will look after you throughout the day, bringing fresh fruit to your desk, refilling your coffee and making sure the fans are pointed optimally.

Like to celebrate after a hard day on the laptop? This hostel is in the northeast corner of Old City, which is easy walking distance to the local party hotspots Zoe in Yellow and Loi Kroh Rd.

During my stay the owner MJ and her staff treated me like one of the family, taking me to local thai bars, restaurants, cafes and out-of-town spots like Huay Tung Tao Lake and Kafe Bannok Coffee Roasters.

Many hostels have glowing reviews but In The City combines price, coworking, community and location to make an experience that will soon be on every nomads bucket list.

As you can tell, I was enthused by the place. And that was after spending almost two weeks strolling the empty halls and sitting around on my own. I thought I saw the true potential of combining a hostel with a coworking.

It turned out that during this visit I was only scratching the surface of what In The City would offer me.

Curious? Step forward in time to 2018 and read about my 2nd experience at In The City Hostel.

Story Time

Day -47: How I became a digital nomad

“I just did”. While I was setting up this blog that was all that I wrote in the draft placeholder. Now I come to flesh it out I think it actually answers the question succinctly. Becoming a digital nomad was a major life transition but it went so smoothly that I was already in Cologne on day 180-something before I realised I had actually really done it.

If you had met me even as close as 2 months before I set off and asked me about becoming a digital nomad I would have said: “What’s a digital nomad?”. I stumbled across the concept of it totally blindly. I was at a stage in my life where a change was badly needed but at this point, I had never lived outside of the city I was born in. I had never travelled alone, in fact, I used to put off going to the shops to buy socks unless I had a friend to walk in with.

But I wanted to go on holiday and my friends were not making the right noises about a group holiday so the idea started to form that I would go and stay in a hostel somewhere for a week and do it for myself. It was not a welcome idea. I was wracked with concern that the whole idea would be too scary, that I would be bored, that solo travel somehow was not for me.

A few of my friends had been travelling like this before and they insisted there was nothing to worry about, they had been fine, in fact, better than fine. Still, I told myself, this was some kind of special case for them and it still wasn’t for me.

Through the wonder of the all-seeing-eye that is Google, I have just traced back the exact point where a search for hostels turned into the beginning of a new life and “digital nomad” entered my lexicon. It was on 17th July 2017 at 7:34pm. Over the next few weeks, I would slowly internalise the idea and find myself consuming epic amounts of YouTube videos on everything digital nomad and mostly Chiang Mai.

A friend of mine had been to Bangkok and she had put a video up of her travel day. I watched as she packed her suitcase. I could do that. Got on a train to London. I could do that. Got on a plane. I could do that. Landed in another country and got in a taxi. I could do that. Then she checked into a hotel. I could do all of that.

Apart from the fear I couldn’t see what was holding me back.

For the first time in my life, I was internalising actually visiting Asia. With the high flight prices, it was never on the cards for any normal holiday. I was aware that side of the world existed but I didn’t ever connect the thought and think that I would actually go to it. Now the dots were falling in to place and I was picturing myself there; it was exciting.

37 days later on a sunny July lunchtime, I booked my flight to Bangkok. If you’ve booked online you will know that flight companies like to create a sense of urgency by threatening to time-out your booking and make you start again. I filled out the form and then sat there several times until the order reset me back to the homepage. All I was thinking and worrying about was the vast unknowns of going to the other side of the world on my own. Could I do it?

Seconds before the third time out I tapped my finger down on the mouse and the flight was booked. It was happening.

The idea had been formed. I was calling it “100 days of digital nomad – an experiment in lifestyle design”. I was going to set up this blog. I was going to start a YouTube channel. I was going to get an apartment in Chiang Mai. I was going to hire a scooter. So many plans made in the excitement of the run-up. The actual trip turned out vastly different – as things normally do – but this wasn’t a bad thing at all.

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