The life of a Traveler

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust


As I currently plan out my future from now till my death bed, I thought it would be fun to talk a little about travel. A year ago come August, I left for my study abroad experience in Germany. I forced myself to go. College was a time for stepping outside of my comfort soon and becoming the person I always wanted to be.

As it currently stands and as I will say many times, I am making my way North. Portland is a fantastic city and I could live a happy life here but it would not be a fulfilling one. I would wake up one day and ask myself, “is this what childhood Mike would’ve wanted?” The answer would be no. The kid who would dress up in a suit with a clip-on tie for school photos, the kid who, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up would reply, “successful.”  It would be a dis-service to every dream I’ve ever had and dreams yet dreamt.  Call it cabin fever, call it wanderlust but the world is meant to be explored.

Life is not measured in the things we own but rather the experiences we have. And as it would come to argue, it is much easier to create new experiences when you’re on the move.

I lived 5 years in Corvallis, Oregon for College so Portland is a nice change. Yet imagine Seattle. Then Vancouver, Canada, then Quebec. Spend a few years in France, then Germany, Austria? That’s the life people envy.

And perhaps we can broaden our definition of traveler. Why limit it to the scope of a geographic location? The reason I love travel is the immersion. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to see the world through someone else’s eyes and am sure many have felt the same, if only for a fleeting moment.

If you’re in Germany, you drink beer. France, you drink wine, smoke slim cigarettes and eat snail. Jokes aside, there is a reason I still practice German. There’s a reason I started learning French. It’s a connection through language.

There’s literally no point in staying put. Take a good friend of mine for example. He majored in chemistry and minored in dance. Guess which degree he uses the most? Dance. I envy him. That’s fulfilling. To go against the tide of others expectations and do what you love. Some spend a lifetime searching and even then…

I think we could all use a little more dance in our life. I’m not talking about black-out drunk, making questionable life choices dancing. I’m talking about something a little more elegant, a waltz. Or perhaps a tango, cha-cha, etc. A little spice, a little fire. Travel fulfills. No one became great from staying exactly who they were. They might become good enough, but does that really sound like a life worth living?

So go travel. Start with a country and then evolve. Through a dart at a map and buy a one way plane ticket. Terrified of a country? Pick a city, a town, a new friend. Start somewhere. Who knows, life might just surprise you.


Thanks for reading! If you like what I write, be sure to follow and tell your friends. Feel free to comment below. Talk about travel, bestow wisdom, anything.

Germany: The road less traveled, now more traveled

So, Germany. This has been a hard last week. I still remember the first day I arrived. I was absolutely terrified. Had it not been for my fellow Oregon State students, I don’t think I would’ve made it out of the airport. Yesterday? I navigated the airport with ease. I booked a train, took a bus, and then caught a flight to Chicago and then a transfer to Portland. Absolutely no problems. And now that I’m back in the United States, it feels extremely weird. I actually feel like a foreigner! That’s something I never expected. But if you saw me now, you’d see my demeanor is completely different. Not only do I act different, I also speak and look very different than the last time you saw me. I’ve been mistaken as Australian, British, French, and German during my time over here (now there). So how was my last day? It was sad. The moment I went to city hall to say I was leaving was the moment it really hit me that this was it. 4 months were over and it was time for me to go. The flat I had spent living in for 4 months was empty, everyone trickling out one by one until there was me. I arrived with others yet the final stretch of my journey was taken alone. A fitting, if not somewhat somber end to what has been an absolutely fantastic experience. And my night? That was spent in the red light district. Now, before your imagination runs wild, that’s where I booked my hostel because it was a 4 minute walk to the train station and the hostel itself got good reviews. So…

I’ll Tell you all about it when I see you again…

Goodbyes. I hate goodbyes. Goodbyes are messy, awkward, and almost always never fun. A genuine goodbye? Heartbreaking. Now imagine yourself spending 4 months together with a group of individuals. Taking class together, living together, eating together, and hanging out together. You did pretty much everything with these people. And then? In a heartbeat, it all comes screeching to an end. That’s me. I had fun till the bitter end. Heck, I spent my last week in Berlin! But the goodbyes… Once someone starts crying everyone starts crying. Normally I just get choked up, you may even see tears start to form. But to straight up bawl my eyes out? That is extremely rare for me. We had our “official” goodbyes a few weeks ago, where I said goodbye to most of my German friends. That was extremely hard. Then came the non-Germans. The first to leave was my roommate, Javi. That was painful. I was upset but didn’t cry. The next to leave was Florian. That was when I started to really get choked up but still didn’t cry. At that point I was starting to feel pretty sad; luckily after a few days I left for my first (and last) solo trip, Berlin. There I caught up with an old buddy that I hadn’t seen in a few years and that was extremely refreshing. When I came back? Almost everyone was gone. Thank God Derick was there. We grabbed a few beers and chatted about the term for our last few days. And then? Derick was gone. So on Wednesday after I told city hall I was leaving, I wandered back home, sat down, and realized everyone was gone. And what did I do? I absolutely cried. I must’ve cried for a good hour. And then? I was gone. As quickly as I came, I left. So… what now?

Journey’s End

Of course, that was extremely depressing, so I can’t end there! So… memories. Years ago I heard that you may forget what someone says to you, but you’ll never forget how someone made you feel. And I have to say, I’ve never felt happier. My experience abroad has absolutely changed me. When I arrived, I was the shy, socially awkward guy who as a good friend told me, his first impression of me was that I was “weird”. That same friend was also willing to pay me 5 euros on our first trip to go talk to a cute girl at the train station. Of course, I refused and almost jumped in front of the train to save me from the horror of talking to a girl. In Paris, the city of love, another good friend told me to go talk to three cute girls in front of the Eiffel tower and what did I do? I literally ran. And then… in Berlin. Well, let’s just say Berlin was a lot of fun. My love life aside, that is just a small taste of how much I’ve changed. Another friend has described me as being a caged animal being set free and I think that sums it up perfectly. What’s more is, I could’ve of never done this alone. While I may have not learned how to become a cool girl, I think I learned how to become a cool guy. I was surrounded by cool people, so it only makes sense. In the U.S I was a tense dude, preferring to give you a handshake rather than a hug. But with a little help from my friends, I learned to relax and simply enjoy the present moment. It really is hard to believe it’s over. But how these lovely people made me feel… That, I’ll never forget. And every time I feel alone… I can always look back and remember that I’m not alone.

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See you Later

 

German Culture: Food and drink

So, food.

The Bakery 

I’ve been going to a little bakery almost everyday for the past month. At first it was an easy way to get rid of my Euro cents, but it ended up turning into so much more. Not only was it a way to practice my German, bakeries in Germany are absolutely delicious. There are more options than you can imagine but as for me, I was happy getting the same thing every day. I would try to describe the schinken-käse, but I respect it too much and simply don’t have the vocabulary to put it into words. But I will say this; it was absolutely delicious. Anyways, bakeries are so much fun in Germany. This last weekend I decided to sit down and enjoy my meal inside. German culture is much more relaxed when it comes to eating meals and it was nice to just be able to sit down and enjoy my food without worrying about where I needed to be next. Speaking of which…

Cafes

While not as cherished as bakeries in my eyes, I still managed to visit a few cafes. More or less the same as bakeries, it was just really nice to sit and chat with friends. You can order coffee, beer, food, whatever. By United States standards every cafe would seem like you were sitting in a fancy restaurant but by European standards even the worst cafes are better than some of the best U.S cafes.

Food

I love German food! It’s absolutely delicious. If you’re thinking bread and sausage, you’d be correct. I’ve had a lot of bread since I came here and it’s tasted so good. Imagine the best piece of bread you’ve ever had. Got the image in your head? Good. It can’t even compare to German bread. Oh mein Gott, es ist super lecker (OMG, it’s super delicious). Soft when it needs to be or baked to perfection, I can’t even comprehend living without it (which I will have to do). And sausage, just wow. I love German sausage [insert childish joke here] and I will miss it as well. There’s so much variety in the types of sausages and while I haven’t been able to try them all, they’re my go to for dinner. Have some sausage with sauerkraut and bread and you’ll need nothing else while you live in Germany. Also add sauce, because Germans love their sauce and while I’ve never been able to figure out what’s in it, just know that all German sauce is delicious. I could stop here, but my goal is to educate you and educate you I shall. What else is there? There is schnitzel, which is breaded meat. How is it? Delicious. Then there is spätzle, which absolutely does not exist in the United States! The United States is a country of immigrants, so shame on us for losing our German heritage and not having spätzle. If I sound angry, I am. Anyway’s spätzle is a soft egg noodle that you’ll never understand unless you travel here, so just know it’s delicious. As far as other German food, there’s plenty more. But this is getting painful for me to write as it will be years before I’m back in Germany to be reunited with my one true love, delicious food. I will end with potatoes. This was the big shocker for me. I never expected Germans to have so many potato dishes. It’s absolutely amazing. I never realized how much you could do with a potato until I got over here. Potatoes were never my favorite in the U.S., but now… They say study abroad changes you and I don’t think it’s ever held truer.

Döner

Döner is special. If you’re craving your greasy fast food, this is as good as it gets. Primarily a Turkish dish, Döner can be found all over Europe. It’s pretty much a burger except with shaved meat. The meat hangs over a fire and the juices drip down. While still juicy, I personally like to believe it’s healthier than a burger.

Water

So water. In the United States water is everywhere. Go to a restaurant, water. Go outside, you have drinking fountains. In Germany? Nothing. I’ve only seen a water fountain once in the last 3 months and that was in Switzerland! You have to buy water in Germany. And what’s more, it’s carbonated. Is it as bad as it sounds? Actually, no. I almost cried when I got here because I was already overwhelmed and then I couldn’t find water, a basic necessity. But now, it’s not so bad. Water maybe costs 20 cents per bottle and you’re getting one and a half liters. As far as it being carbonated, I now like drinking carbonated water, so now when I get back to the U.S. I can fully enjoy Italian sodas and the sort (yay). If you can’t adjust to carbonated water, water comes in three forms in Germany: still, medium, and sparkling. So, relax, it’ll be alright. But I’ll be honest. Beer is cheaper in Germany than water, so…

Beer

I could’ve started with beer but then you wouldn’t have made it this far. So of course you’re wondering, “is it better than in the U.S.”? Yes, yes it is. Even the best Portland, Oregon beer (we have amazing beer, what can I say) can’t even compete with the worst German beer. There’s a lot of variety to German beer as well and I don’t want to say beer is what I’ll miss most about Germany, but… It’s so good. Paired with delicious food and there truly is heaven on Earth. Beer is why I know I’ll come back to Germany and why I have shifted my future career goals to include international business. It’s not the classes, not the amazing adventures I’ve been on, but the beer. Nothing will stop me… Nothing.

Glühwein

If you thought I was done, I’m not. Beer is great and will always hold a special place in my heart, but Glühwein… Served during the Christmas season, Glühwein is warm wine that one gets you really drunk really fast and two, tastes delicious. I’ve had wine in France but Glühwein is on a whole other level. Like everything else in Germany, it has a lot of variety and I’ve unfortunately run out of time to taste it all. My favorite however, is blueberry Glühwein, so my advice? Come to Germany for the beer, stay for the Glühwein.


One more thing…

Manners

It should come as no surprise that in my quest to embrace my German heritage, I have been eating my meals with mostly Germans. And believe it or not, I’ve picked up on German dining etiquette. To illustrate my point, imagine you’re eating a pizza right now. As a United States citizen, you are most likely grabbing the pizza with your hands and devouring it like a wild animal. Now imagine eating it with a fork and knife. That’s what I now do. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened naturally. So now you’re asking, “which method is better”? In my opinion, the German method. And what’s more, I now set my fork and knife at 3 o’clock (think of the plate as a clock) rather than simply throwing my fork and knife on the plate. It feels proper and it is my hope that when I come home, I continue the habits I’ve established while in Germany (even if I’m that weird guy eating pizza with a knife and fork in the U.S).

So there you have it, food. Delicious, German food. Feel free to discuss the topic in the comments. If you have any food that I missed, feel free to say it! Any recipes? Share them. And as always, thanks for reading!

German Culture: Learning the language

Since day one, I have been determined to learn the German language. Have I succeeded? In my eyes, yes. When I arrived in Germany 3 months ago (wow) I was overwhelmed. I remember how excited I was to head to Germany and while I was certainly nervous, it wasn’t until I arrived that it hit me. I was in a foreign country and didn’t speak the language. I had assumed I could get by with my English but in reality, it was not as easy as I initially thought. The signs were in German and surprise, the people in the airport spoke mostly German. But the killing blow was transit. Getting from Frankfurt to Mosbach. In truth, had I not had the help of my fellow students, I most likely would’ve found a nice quiet corner to curl up in and simply starve. But now I can say “ich habe Hunger und ich möchte wasser, bitte”. Which means, “I am hungry and I would like water, please”. So now it is nearly impossible for me to die in Germany. Finding a German girlfriend? Much harder. But in that case, I can always say “zu dir oder zu mir”. I’m not going to explain what that means and to my German friends, yes, I know a lot more than you think. Anyways… So on that day I had a choice, I could either give into my fears or I could face them. So instead of being helpless, I helped myself. I said, “I will understand German”. And I did, as simple as that. Duolingo, memrise, and rosetta stone. But you know what the best teacher was? Making German friends. I would like to personally thank my buddy Tim, who invited me to the underground German poker ring, where the Germans said the table language was English but ended up speaking German anyways. So what did I do? Did I say “Englisch, Bitte”? Nein. I listened. And slowly but surely what was once noise started to become words and words became very broken sentences. And now I am proud to say that can almost speak as well as a German toddler. So here’s my guide for learning German when (not if) you go overseas.

Duolingo

If you have not taken a German course before, duolingo is your best friend. It’s free and it will give you the vocab you need to succeed. Beforehand, I recommend learning the German alphabet via youtube, find what works for you. In addition, memrise should be used as a supplement to your daily duolingo training. If you have rosetta stone great, but I haven’t found it necessary to learning the language. Once you start using these basic tools, you’re ready to move on to…

Make German Friends

To be clear, this is not a guide on how to make friends, but if you’re struggling on that subject, read Making Friends (shameless plug). Any-who, this is pretty self-explanatory. You have class, sit next to the Germans. Say, “Hallo, ich heiβe          und ich möchte sprechen Deutsch mit dir”. If they give you a confused look, that means I’m still learning and I just made you look like an idiot. But the idea is, make sure the Germans know you want to speak and learn German, otherwise they’ll simply assume you want to speak English. Then, once you have friends…

Listen!!!

German, for lack of a better word, is a very strong language. If Germans scare you, I can understand completely. When I first arrived, it sounded like Germans were hissing at me. But overtime, I’ve gotten used to the language and I can now say that Germans aren’t angry, they’re just different. We have two ears and one mouth, and I think a lot of people would be done a lot of good if they used their ears more and their mouth less. Listening helps you pick up on the little nuances of the language and will help you pronounce the words better, so it’s very important!

So that’s it! As a bonus, you can listen to German bands (with lyrics) and watch German TV (with subtitles), while not necessary, it definitely will help (and it’s fun). So the moral of this story? Learn the language! I highly recommend doing it before you head over (unlike me, whoops). It’ll make for a more meaningful experience, trust me! So get excited and make sure you go study abroad, it’ll be the best experience of your life. Any questions? Feel free to comment.