What to Do With the Jackpot?

When you hear what Hamburg-based journalist Meike Winnemuth decided to do with her jackpot after she won half a million at the German edition of Who wants to be a Millionaire?, you’ll be sooo jealous!

Hanging out on a Hawaiian beach – certainly one of the best options to spend a jackpot on.

The question is probably as old as mankind itself. Or at least as old as the first episode of “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” The show aired for the first time in September 1998 in England. Since then, the population of over 100 countries answers “me, me, pick me!” as one.

We Have a Winner!

Meike Winnemuth probably did not answer loud enough. However, in October 2010, she became at least a semi-millionaire. Nevertheless, I’d trade her in a blink of an eye. Not only for winning a lot of money, nor simply for going on a trip for a year. What impresses me and makes me all dreamy is the way she did it.

Meike Winnemuth, author of a book about what to do with a jackpot
Meike Winnemuth – travelling light.

Maybe it’s because Meike Winnemuth wasn’t a teenager anymore. Possibly it were her German genes that made her not just leave with a half-empty backpack to walk mother earth in a pair of Birkenstocks. She actually had a very clear concept, very organized luggage, a perfect plan. She took her chance and made the best of it. Her trip became a lasting and sustained experience.

A Dozen Cities

Winnemuth’s plan was to actually live in twelve cities of very different countries for one year.

Living meant not staying at a hotel and hanging out on the beach. It meant renting a flat from the 1st of each month till ultimo. Living meant filling the fridge with groceries bought at the local market. Living meant having an everyday life.

Meike Winnemuth had been a journalist forever, and writing and publishing nowadays is possible from basically everywhere. Hence, she kept on working. And she kept her readers up to date on her travel blog – sadly, exclusively in German.

Where did she go and why did she pick precisely the places she picked? Well, she picked the places a bit willy-nilly. Cities she had visited before as well as places she had always wanted to see.

So she went to Sydney, Buenos Aires, Mumbai. Then, she skipped Tokyo after the nuclear accident in Fukushima and traded it for Shanghai. Eventually, she lived in Honolulu, San Francisco, London, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Addis Abeba, and Havana.

The Reverse Mayflower

What impressed me probably the most is how she returned to Hamburg from Latin America. Instead of buying a plane ticket, she took a freight ship back to the Old World. Just like back in the old days. The passage took twelve days and Meike Winnemuth was the only passenger. Consequently, she celebrated Christmas and New Year only with the Polish crew. Awesome! I wanna do that, too!

So all the places listed and visited are fine and dandy. But what to do there for an entire month there? Well, besides a lot of pondering and reflecting about life in general and her own in particular, she did some writing, obviously. Also, she learned things she always wanted to learn like dancing and stitching, playing the ukulele and stand-up paddling, to mention just a few.


How I’ve learned about all this? Because besides blogging, at the end of her trip, Meike wrote a wonderful book called something like “Hitting the Jackpot”.

Every chapter is dedicated to one city and written as a letter to families, friends, an ex-lover, and – and this one is particularly sweet and charming – to a younger version of herself. At the end of every chapter, Winnemuth adds a list of ten things that she has learned at that respective place. Usually, I can’t stand these stupid, useless the best… lists. But hers make actual sense since they cut each stay down to an extract of clear facts.

At the end of her wonderfully written book, Meike Winnemuth explains how she prepared and organized her trip and gives some advices. Basically the way I do it on this very blog in my posts How to Plan a Trip From Scratch and Packing Light – Travelling in Style.

So in the end, you can read Winnemuth’s book as a story that makes you dream – and think. Or you can take it as an inspiration for your own long trip.

Hitting the jackpot does not always have to do with money.

Cover of Maike Winnemuth's book where she describes what she did as  she hit the jackpot
This is the wonderful book where Meike Winnemuth describes in her entertaining way how she lived for twelve months in twelve cities in twelve different countries. Unfortunately, it’s only available in German. Big mistake!

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