It goes without saying that I freaking love living in Germany so far. Never in a million years did I imagine this is where life would end up eventually, but here we are. I wanted to share my origin story and how I decided to travel in the first place.
I grew up in a tiny hick town in Oregon, half an hour away from the closest actual city and 15 minutes away from the nearest fast food restaurant or traffic light. My dreams were somehow always bigger than that. Maybe it was being a kid and watching my older siblings packing up to backpack far-off places. I longed to be the person saying goodbye and leaving on an adventure instead of always being the one to send them off. (Even now, I’m determined to get my country count higher than my brother’s – I think he’s at 40-something?!)
I felt my own internal calling to forge a path in the world and pursue more than my small town had to offer. My mom was always encouraging when we made travel plans and never tried to hold us back from anything.
At 19, after working a summer as a cook on a tourist train in Alaska, I decided with a couple of friends to backpack Europe for three months the following year. The next months were spent working at a coffee shop to fund the impending journey; my eyes were on the prize. At 20 years old, I saved enough to travel on a shoestring budget through eleven European countries.
(To read some pointers how I saved money while backpacking, click here!)
I loved the hostel life and seeing new sights every day, bouncing off travel and life stories with people I met. The surge of independence and figuring out how to get from one place to the next was liberating.
Continuing The Dream
In a way, that trip sparked my already blooming dreams of traveling. The world was inviting and taunting me to explore it. From that point on, I wanted to work seasonal summer jobs and travel full time the rest of the year. I was hooked.
Shortly after arriving home, I was already planning the next trip. This time I wanted to go to South America, mainly because I didn’t know many people that had been there before and I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish so wanted a challenge. I’d get another kitchen job in the meantime… and meet someone who’d change my life forever. Regardless, I left for a month to another continent and through five more countries. Through searching for in-the-moment experiences and ignoring consequences I started to lose myself. I learned a lot of difficult and humbling lessons that trip; I was selfish and wasn’t invincible, which hurt but was very necessary.
(For some of the life lessons I learned there, click here.)
I worked a lot on myself after that and worked on getting my priorities straight.
The next year I had plans of working the summer in Alaska again to fuel a future trip. I applied, had the interview, everything. Then it was down to a choice – do I start life immediately with that kitchen trainer who was going through basic training for the military? Or do I put that off and continue this cycle of working and traveling, this unsustainable life I dreamed of pursuing? It was an incredibly hard decision, but I turned down the job in Alaska to hear wedding bells instead.
There was such a beautiful plan interwoven through all of the adventures, choices, and struggles. Though I thought I’d have to stop traveling altogether after getting hitched, we are getting the chance to live overseas shortly into our marriage, and even got to travel to Iceland together before having a baby. I never regret getting married younger than I thought I would. It turns out I was the perfect fit for a military spouse! 🙂
Why You Should Travel Too
Though it can be intimidating or a little dangerous (especially nowadays), I recommend to anyone to get out there and travel if you’re able, particularly if it’s fear that holds you back. You can gain awareness or respect for other cultures, get out of a small town mindset, and see how big the world is while seeing how tiny your part to play is. Obviously you can learn all you need to in life without stepping out of your home state, but travel can enhance that journey; giving you a unique perspective on yourself and those around you.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t take the plunge five years ago and seek out my own expedition. Even practically, traveling can help teach independence, quick thinking, organization, patience, how to deal when nothing goes as planned, how to speak other languages, get you out of your comfort zone, and sometimes build friendships that will last a lifetime.
So there you have it. Nowadays I travel with a husband and baby in tow, which is a lot different than my young, irresponsible backpacking days. It has its own unique challenges and hurdles. But along with how I’ve evolved and changed as a person, the way we travel now has other lessons in store to take with us to the next chapter.