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.

Journey’s end, week 1: What we leave behind…

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln


How was my first week? As expected, it was bitter-sweet. The sun is shining and birds are chirping but sporadically we’ll get a sprinkle or monsoon (Oregon is weird). As I ask students what they remember most about their college experience, most of my friends are stumped. It’s something you don’t think about. Perhaps they’ll mention what they didn’t do but what we did eludes the mind. I’m lucky in the sense that most of my experience I’ve documented. When I was a Freshman, I started my blog over on IGN, back when all I did with my time was play video games. I was shy and awkward but video games always made me feel at home and IGN just felt like the right blogging community. I simply quoted whatever was said initially, then once I had people saying things like “great job” I started writing what I thought of that which I quoted. I even wrote a few articles before the move to WordPress. After my blog came my journal, which, whenever I’m feeling down (which isn’t often nowadays), I simply pull it out and reread entries that I started writing a few years ago. Very few people remember the old Mike but I’m one of them. And if one thing has remained constant, it’s the desire to be better. Call it an obsession; I call it progress. I used to hate failing so I never tried. Now I look back and see failing as some of my fondest memories. Not so much failing but rather the fact that no matter what, I’ve gotten back up.

Finding My Tribe

As much as I like to saying finding a job is the college dream, it’s not. The real dream is, as my organizational behavior instructor put it, “finding my tribe”. It’s amazing how one little phrase can have so much impact. If you do one thing in college, let it be “finding your tribe”. The people you surround yourself with will have the greatest impact on your life. For me, it was student organizations, for you, it might be completely different. Many will not remember when I was a drifter, but I do. People see the man today but very few ask what it took to get there. My mentors are long gone and many will not realize the impact they had on my development, but I thank them as they gave me the power to pass the torch, they believed in me when no one else would. And can I ever repay that debt? No. What they gave me is irreplaceable. You can’t make it alone so I’m grateful I didn’t have to.

Beginning of the End

Every step I’ve taken this week has led to one thought after another. I’m trying to savor every moment, every step I take. I’m a man running out of time and I know it. Time is the most valuable resource we have. Once it’s gone, we can’t replace it. When I was a Freshman it felt like I had all the time in the world and that was exciting. I had my whole future ahead of me, I had time to set goals and achieve dreams. And now I’ve achieved those dreams. I sit on my throne and look at my kingdom. The empire I’ve built, what I’ve left behind. And while I can smile, there was a certain magic throughout my years of college. I could be this, I could be that, I could be anything. And while not bad, I narrowed my focus and now more or less have a lot figured out. And I miss the chaos… Being that low-achieving, “mediocre kid” that failed so much that nobody expected anything from him. I miss the mid-achiever who had goals and ambitions but needed mentors to achieve them. And now I’m scratching my head as people look to me for advice and guidance. I never asked for this. Or better yet, I’m at a point where I’ve been a top-achiever for so long that I can watch the advice I gave being passed down generation to generation.

The little things

As I sit watching the sunset of my college adventure, I have to wonder, “If I could do it over, would I”? If I had the knowledge I had now as a Freshman, imagine what I could accomplish… So if I could do it over, to be given a second chance, would I change a moment of my college experience? The answer is NO. People prefer to focus on the good. The successes, the victories, the triumphs. Yet the battles are the good stuff. Digging into the trenches, buried up to your knees in mud. Blood, sweat, and tears. My life would be boring if all I ever did was win. There’s no test of character there. The true test of character comes from how we deal with adversity. Do we desert the battle field or do we fight until our last breath? Do we retreat to fight another day or do we lead one last charge? And when victory is finally achieved? Victory is earned. To wave the flag as the sun rises on top of a pile of destruction, forever looking to the horizon. That’s the beauty in life; the little moments building on each other to become our greatest triumphs.


The end is nigh

As I sit in my castle, I still remember when I worked the fields. Serf Mike never once thought he would be king. So that’s it, that’s week one in a nutshell. Thanks for reading and get excited for week two! If you have questions, comments, anything. Please, discuss, share!

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.

15676354_1653098554707726_4722236708287861255_o
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!