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How to work 9-5 and travel the rest of the time

A full-time job shouldn’t stop you from satisfying your wanderlust. The Local spoke to Travel After 5 blogger Alline Waldhem to find out her tips and tricks for travellers who only have 25 days of annual leave.

How to work 9-5 and travel the rest of the time
Photo: Alline in Lisbon, Portugal

Feel like your day job is thwarting your travel plans? Keep telling yourself you don’t have the time (or cash) to take a trip? Where there’s a will, there’s a way, says travel aficionado Alline Waldhelm.

“It’s really a mindset. I love to do it and, on average, I travel somewhere once a month. In the summer, I fly every single weekend.”

Alline, who is originally from Brazil, caught the travel bug when she first visited Germany 12 years ago. It’s a trip that changed her life; she resolved to live in Europe one day and sure enough returned several years later to study in Munich before settling in Vienna.

“I always really liked traveling to Europe. When I was living in Brazil, I managed to come four times before moving to Munich to study German,” she tells The Local.

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Photo: Alline in Budapest last year

Although she works full time as a financial analyst, Alline doesn’t let her job get in the way of her adventures. In Austria, she explains, overtime is discouraged so it gives her plenty of time and the flexibility to take a flight on a Friday evening and return on the Sunday night.

“It’s actually really manageable,” she says. “For me, it’s so important to have these breaks. Of course, you don’t disconnect from your life in two or three days but that’s not the point. There’s so much to explore; you might be physically tired but it’s a mental break and you go back to the office on Monday with a lighter mood.”

While she reserves the bulk of her annual leave for travelling back to Brazil, she still takes a couple of weeks over summer to plan a longer trip. This year, she’s heading to Costa Smeralda in Sardinia – “The beaches are unbelievable and I want to explore more parts of the La Maddalena archipelago” – before spending a week in the south of Portugal which she describes as “full of history and culture, welcoming people and delicious food.”

Photo: Alline in Sicily during summer 2018

Where to find travel inspiration

When looking for new places to travel, Alline often turns to her most trusted resource: her friends and ex-classmates who are scattered across Europe. Or, if there’s a specific city or country that she is keen to visit, she’ll follow news sites like The Local or Time Out to keep up with local events. She’s also an active member of Facebook groups like European Travellers #WhereToNext? that are dedicated to travel tips and inspiration.

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When Alline is feeling really adventurous she’ll use a feature like Skyscanner’s ‘Everywhere’ search to find the best deals on cheap flights. It’s how she stumbled on a great return flight to Larnaca, a pretty port city in southern Cyprus, last Christmas. Often, she starts with the destination, whether it’s a recommendation or her own find, and then pads out the trip once she’s booked.

She believes it’s still possible to ‘get off the beaten track’ even if you only have a couple of days to explore. In her experience, the best way to do this is to not plan too rigidly. Instead, pick a couple of things you really want to see or do and then play the rest of the trip by ear.

Photo: Alline in Lake Garda

“I try to be spontaneous. I really enjoy arriving in a city and just walking around and seeing what people are doing. I don’t plan every minute because usually you can meet someone and they suggest something to do. Leaving your time open means you may run into something more interesting or discover something different along the way.”

Find out how to discover your own life-changing place

The best advice she can offer full-time workers who are keen to travel more is to think logistically when booking flights and hotels. For short weekend trips, Alline mostly sticks to Europe and limits flight time to under a couple of hours so that the journey itself doesn’t eat too much into her precious exploring time.

The same goes once she’s touched down at her destination.

“Take London, for example, there are five airports and some of them it takes hours to get from the airport to the city centre. So I always find the airport that is closest. If it’s a small saving but it means I I lose an hour getting to the hotel, that’s something I won’t do.”

Alline adds that although you may be able to find a nicer hotel further out of the city “it’s not doable” when you only have a couple of days. Instead, she advises staying somewhere that may not be as plush but is more conveniently located. This way, you won’t “lose time, which is very precious on a short trip”.

Finally, she says: “Always be half ready to travel”. Alline always keeps a bag packed with the essentials like her passport, camera and tripod. This way, it only takes half an hour to pack so she can set off at short notice.

“If you have these things in your suitcase, you won’t forget anything. Everything is in the same place, half the work is already done.”

Alline’s top travel tips

  • Keep a bag packed with all your travel essentials

  • Check flight comparison sites to find new destinations 

  • Ask friends who live locally for insider tips

  • Look to Facebook groups and local news outlets for inspiration

  • If a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, take a ‘bridging day’ to turn it into a four-day weekend

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Lufthansa.

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GERMANY EXPLAINED

Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays – and will it ever change?

Germany's strict ban on shops opening on Sundays can be a shock to foreigners. We looked at the culture around it, and spoke to one of the country's largest trade unions to find out if things are ever likely to change.

Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays - and will it ever change?

It’s Sunday. You’ve invited people for dinner, but you’ve forgotten the most important ingredient. Tough luck – you’ll either have to do without or wait until Monday because your local shops are shut. 

Most of us are familiar with this inconvenience, and perhaps you’ve even found yourself screaming: “Why?” in frustration in front of a locked-up supermarket. 

But it’s something us adopted Germans have had to get used to. We decided to take a look at the reasons behind Germany’s ban on Sunday shopping – and to find out if it might change in future. 

Where does the rule come from?

The Sonntagsruhe or ‘Sunday rest’ principle is an integral part of German culture, so much so that it is enshrined in the German constitution (Grundgesetz).

Article 140 of the law, which has remained unchanged since 1919, says: “Sundays and state-recognised public holidays remain protected by law as days of rest from work and spiritual upliftment.” 

But the practice of not working on Sunday has been around for much longer. The idea that the seventh day of the week is a day of rest dates back to the old testament and was declared a general day of rest across the Roman Empire as early as 321, by Roman Emperor Constantine.

In the centuries since, however, most of Europe has gradually relaxed the strict ban on commercial activities on Sundays. 

But in Germany, the rules remain restrictive. It’s unlikely to change anytime soon partly because of religious reasons, and also in relation to the interests of workers.

Germany’s biggest trade union Verdi spelled out their view. “It’s not ‘modern’ to work seven days a week,” they told The Local. “That’s the Middle Ages.” 

What exactly does the law mean?

On the face of it, the German law forbids all forms of work on Sundays and public holidays, though numerous exceptions are laid out in the Working Time Act. 

As well as emergency and rescue services, hospitals, nursing and care facilities, exceptions include cultural and sporting activities, and the hospitality sector. 

Another notable exemption to the rule is bakeries, which are allowed to open for three hours on Sundays – which is why you may often find a long queue at your local baker if you want to get your freshly baked Brötchen on Sunday morning. 

A saleswoman reaches for a loaf of bread in a bakery.

A saleswoman reaches for a loaf of bread in a bakery. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

Illustrating how seriously the rule can be taken in Germany, there have even been cases of bakeries being sued for selling bread for too long on Sundays.

Shops, however, aren’t exempt from the rule and, the only way they can legally open on a Sunday is on a so-called verkaufsoffener Sonntag – Sunday trading day.

In most federal states, shops are allowed to open on between four and eight Sundays per year, and the States can decide when these should be. The chosen days must, however, be linked to a relevant occasion – such as a local festival, a market, a trade fair, or a similar event. 

Sunday openings also have to be recognisable as an exception to the general rule and Sunday openings that have already been approved can often be later overturned by the courts.

How strictly is the rule enforced?

Retailers who break the rules and open for business on Sunday can face fines ranging between €500 and €2,500.

The strictness of enforcement can vary widely between different regions.

In Berlin, for example, you can still find lots of Spätis (late night shops) open on Sundays. Although this is technically illegal, the authorities in the capital seem to take more of a relaxed approach to enforcement than in other states. 

A "Späti" late-night shop in Berlin.

A “Späti” late-night shop in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Florian Schuh

In the traditionally Catholic state of Bavaria, for example, the law is much more strictly guarded and enforced.

READ ALSO: Why Germany has strict shop opening hours

Is the law likely to change?

A survey by Spiegel in 2017 showed that 61 percent of Germans wanted to be able to shop on a Sunday, and this desire is shared by the trade industry.

The German Trade Association, for example, which represents around 400,000 independent companies, has strongly criticised Germany’s refusal to budge on the issue of Sunday openings on several occasions and argued that Sunday opening is also popular with staff, with many shop assistants appreciating the work in a more relaxed atmosphere.

In its latest statement on the issue, the association stated that, especially after following the economic impact of the pandemic, many retailers would benefit greatly from being able to open on Sundays. 

READ ALSO:

“It is remarkable that in no other EU country Sunday opening is as restricted as in Germany,” the association said. “Even in strongly Catholic EU countries such as Italy and Poland, shoppers can generally shop on Sundays. The same applies to France, although they place great value on culture and socialising.”

However, even if there is a widespread desire in some quarters to allow Sunday trading, an amendment to the constitution would require the consent of two-thirds of the German parliament. Also, there remains strong opposition to changing the rule from many workers’ groups and trade unions.

Trade union Verdi, which regularly files complaints against states and organisations which seek to deviate from Sunday trading restrictions, said that Sunday rest is still very important for workers.

A sign reads “Spring for Frankfurt – Sunday trading day” in front of a shoe shop in Frankfurt.

A sign reads “Spring for Frankfurt – Sunday trading day” in front of a shoe shop in Frankfurt. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb | Arne Dedert

A spokesperson said: “We have just one day a week when employers can’t stop us from going to football together, meeting friends, attending cultural events, or spending free time with the whole family.

“And we want to keep it that way. There are six days a week when we can go shopping, take the car to the garage, do our banking, or get the package delivered from the online retailer. On Sunday, there has to be peace and quiet.”

The Verdi spokesperson added that it’s important to think about “work-life balance, and not about being available 24/7 for a company”.

We also asked the union if the law looks set to change in the near future.

The spokesperson said: “Sunday, which is a non-working day for most people, has so far been protected by the majority of political parties in Germany.

“Verdi, with its almost two million members, continues to work to ensure that working on Sunday does not become an everyday occurrence.”

So it appears that the culture shock for many non-Germans of shops being closed on Sundays won’t change anytime soon. 

READ ALSO: From nudity to sandwiches – the biggest culture shocks for foreigners in Germany

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