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.”

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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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What are the best cities in Spain to see the Semana Santa processions?

Semana Santa or Holy Week is held in Spain during the run-up to Easter Sunday. Celebrations and parades take place all over the country, but there are some cities that go all out.

What are the best cities in Spain to see the Semana Santa processions?

Holy Week takes place this year from April 2nd to 9th, complete with passionate parades, music and elaborate religious floats. Andalusia and Castilla y León are where you’ll find the biggest and most impressive celebrations, although there are a few other standout towns and cities in other regions, including Castilla-La Mancha. 

Granada, Andalusia

If you’re really into Semana Santa and want to be able to watch non-stop parades all week, then the Andalusian city of Granada is the place to go. It was declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest in 2009, along with the celebrations in Seville and Málaga. Some 32 brotherhoods take part in the Holy Week celebrations here, each hosting different parades on different days. One of the best parades here is held on Holy Wednesday when the Christ of the Gypsies float is carried through the streets of the gypsy district of  Sacromonte, filled with flamenco tablaos and cave homes. The hordes that follow the float sing saetas (religious flamenco songs) and recite poems along the way.

Seville, Andalusia

There’s no denying that Sevillanos love Semana Santa and there’s nowhere that celebrates it with quite as much fervour. Even during the lockdown during the pandemic in 2020 locals created mini processions out of paper and cardboard that could travel from balcony to balcony. The festival begins on Palm Sunday with the representation of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem a few days before his death. There are around 60 brotherhoods that take part during the week. One of the most emotional parts of the processions in Seville are the saetas, flamenco songs about the Passion of Christ, which are usually spontaneously sung by locals.

Seville is one of the best cities in Spain to spend Semana Santa. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Málaga, Andalusia 

The third city in the Holy Trinity of Semana Santa cities along with Seville and Granada is Málaga. One of the most unique aspects of the Holy Week celebrations here takes place on Holy Wednesday when every year one of the city’s prisoners is pardoned and released. The tradition dates back to the time of Carlos III when the prisoners, in protest against the cancellation of the processions due to an epidemic, opened the prison doors and carried the Jesús Nazareno statue through the streets on their shoulders, before returning to their cells.

Córdoba, Andalusia 

The maze of narrow streets around Córdoba’s Mezquita makes for an atmospheric setting for its 37 brotherhoods to parade through the city, along with clouds of incense and the soft flickering of candles. Unlike the loud passionate music accompanying the statues in some Spanish cities, many of the processions here are held in silence.

Penitents take part in a Holy Monday procession in Cordoba. Photo: François-Xavier MARIT / AFP

Zamora, Castilla y León 

The small city of Zamora, just north of Salamanca has been holding Holy Week celebrations since the 13th century. Processions take place during both the day and the night here, with daytime ones bringing lots of colour and music and nighttime ones solemn silence. Music is very important in the festival here with lots of choir singing and Gregorian chants.

Valladolid, Castilla y León

Another Castilla y León city to visit during Holy Week is Valladolid. There are 21 brotherhoods in Valladolid, the oldest of which, Vera-Cruz, dates back to the 15th century. The most important procession is the one on Good Friday, known as the General Procession of the Holy Passion of the Redeemer, which features statues by the famous baroque sculptor Gregorio Fernández.

Members of the “Siete Palabras” brotherhood take part in a Holy Week procession in Valladolid. Photo: Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

Cartagena, Murcia

Many of the impressive processions in Cartagena take place at night or just at dawn, representing the pain and martyrdom of Christ. One of the most outstanding parades takes place on Holy Tuesday, when the city’s Marine Infantry and the army accompany the religious statues. Other must-see events include the Great Procession of the Cristo del Prendimiento de los Californios on Holy Wednesday and the Procession of the Santo Entierro de los Marrajos on Good Friday. Floats come adorned like in many cities with candles and flowers. 

Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha

Every year more than 30,000 people participate in the processions in the hilltop city of Cuenca in Castilla-La Mancha. The tradition of the parades here dates back to the 17th century. If you only have a few days to spend here, make sure your trip coincides with Good Friday and the impressive Camino del Calvario procession, which begins at 5:30 am, accompanied by bugles and drums.

The historic city of Cuenca makes for an atmospheric backdrop to celebrate Semana Santa. Photo: CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP

Cáceres, Extremadura

The city of Cáceres is located in Extremadura and is a great alternative to spending Semana Santa in Andalusia or Castilla y León. The city’s brotherhoods were founded in the 15th century and its Easter celebrations date back until this time. Its processions go through the historic centre, which adds to the beauty of the parades in such a stunning setting.