Facing Fears Through Travel Abroad

Germany – May, 2014

Over the past 15 or so years, I've been talking with a guy who lives in Germany.

I only vaguely remember the first conversation we had…

I had just signed up for German language class at my high school. My best friend was taking it and she said the teacher was easy and fun! Easy, I thought? Sure! Why not! My first choice might have been French, but I was hoping to ace all of my classes in high school so that I could get into a good the best college. In that sense, an easy class sounded like a win to me!

At the time, during my first few weeks of classes as a freshman in highschool, I didn't have a lot of homework. My English class was easy – we watched movies all the time. I'm pretty sure my English teacher didn't believe in reading and writing. And math? Meh. I could handle algebra; it was geometry that gave me issues. Then there was orchestra and gym which didn't require any homework. And then biology. We had a new teacher that scouted out the biggest, most complicated Waffle House order you could get … and a kid that went by the nickname of OJ (for orange juice). *sigh* To be a freshman again… ;)

Anyway, since my best friend always had migraines and I couldn't drive yet, I spent most of my afternoons online in chat rooms talking with strangers. (Oh how my after school activities would make today's helicopter parents cringe!) In the end, I think it was good for me. I learned so much about the world through the eyes of these other people. My online friends ranged from people in my same state to people from all over the world. Really, it was a fantastic learning experience! 

Italy – May, 2014
But back to the story…

One day I was doing my typical chat room thing when this guy came online. As it turns out he was German and we had a really crazy long conversation. Like … 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon until maybe 6 or 7pm? Yeah, long. It was really a lot of fun though. I remember my parents had to practically drag me away from the computer; they wanted to go out to eat. (Funny how a person remembers the most random things!)

Of course this wouldn't be a story worth sharing if that had been where the friendship ended. 

I don't remember if we did the long conversation thing again the next day … or the day after that … or the day after that. Heck! I don't remember if I met him on a Friday or a Tuesday or a Wednesday. I have no idea what we talked about, and I don't even know when or why or how we exchanged contact details. But we did. Apparently. Because there were many more long conversations over the course of that year and in the years to follow.

In fact, I remember inviting him to a few parties jokingly. It was like you're not really going to come, but why not?

And then I invited him and his (now) wife to my wedding.

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know this story. This isn't the first time I've shared it. If you haven't, here's the gist: He came. 

I had friends that live in the US that couldn't even be bothered to come! People that live in the same state as me! I had to call and beg people in my wedding party to show up on the day of my wedding! Argh! Like, seriously?!

Italy – May, 2014

Anyway, so when these Germans showed up at the wedding, I didn't have to tell Justin that reciprocation would be imperative. Of course, the question was: when?

Fighting the battle between paying down student loan debt and deciding when to take what we deemed as an elaborate vacation, our hearts and minds struggled to make sense of European travel. But when our friends announced their engagement, I knew the time had come. (Or at least if they wanted us there, anyway.)

Planning that trip was beyond stressful. Apparently, my parents had ingrained into my mind that you don't go to Europe or fly anywhere unless you are rich. And then the knowledge that we, as Americans, get angry when people come to our country and don't know English freaked me out even further. Basically, to go to Germany for a wedding, I had to face many of my biggest fears.

In the end, everything worked out. Justin and I managed to get by in France without a translator, somehow we got to Germany even though we didn't understand the French GPS, we made it through a German wedding despite my lack of people-skills, and … in the end we were better for all of it.

I learned many valuable things about myself and what it means to travel during that first time abroad. Like…

• You don't have to be rich to travel. You just have to be savvy and take advantage of deals as you see them.

• Booking a plane ticket when you've never done so can be confusing and complicated. Always check and re-check before ordering.

• Hotel points help you save money, but can also cost money if you aren't careful.

• The geography there is not as complicated as I originally thought. I learned more about the map through planning (or helping to plan) a trip to Europe than I ever did in school. 

• Language isn't as important in Europe as it is in America. If you don't speak English (or in some cases Spanish), and you visit the US, you are out of luck. In Europe though, you can get by. (This doesn't mean you shouldn't try to learn the language – just that it's ok if you aren't good at it.)

• People there are generally pretty friendly and will try to help you out if you need assistance. I had been warned that the French were mean … and recently, through web searches, discovered that the Germans are rude. Try not to make assumptions before you go; you may find yourself surprised!

• I've also learned far more about history and art while traveling than I ever did in a class.

I'm so grateful that I had a push (or friend) to encourage me to venture out of my comfort zone.

So what do you think about travel? Have you ever been abroad? If you have, did you face any of the same fears and worries that I had?

***Linking up with Lauren on Location, Marcella from What a Wonderful World, and The Sunny Side of This


  1. What a great story! You have no idea of how many nice and helping people I have met on my travels. If I really think about travel fears, I think I have never had any major ones since my desire to travel is big. I have been afraid because of what people say or because of all the questions you are subject to went you are making travel arrangements. I have been able to overcome those fears instilled on me. My travels have been wonderful so far.

  2. Well done on conquering your fears - if ever there was a time to do it, that sounds like one!

  3. Oh, the good ol' days of chat rooms! It's incredible that you ended up with a lifelong friend out of the deal! Why do middle class American families/schools teach us that we can't afford to travel?!?! It's such a shame, really. I was so terrified the first time I went abroad by myself, and now it's all I do! Thanks for sharing this post on Travel Tuesday!


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