What I Wish I Knew as a Student Traveler
Flying with Both Feet on the Ground

How I Learned to Love Travel - as a Student

I found it! After some exploration, I actually found a picture of the place I was at in Germany - the beautiful city of Grafenau, near the Bayerwald, in the heart of Bavaria. This brings back a lot of memories for me! You may now be asking, why didn't I use a photo from my student travel adventures? The answer is simple: those photos are locked away securely in a valut in California - exactly where they should be.
Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

It's been quite a while since we've visited in this space, hasn't it? August has been a busy travel month for me - flying back and forth all over the northeast last month, and only earning a handful of miles for my efforts. While it's been a great month in the air, it's been at the sacrifice of being able to do what I truly love about this job: write about what I've learned in my travel experiences.

While this has been a season of learning for me, being all over the place has made it very difficult to focus on something to write about in this space. So like many blog writers do, I took to Twitter for inspiration - surely, someone was in the same situation I was in, right? After some conversation, one of my friends challenged me to a very poignant blog topic: how did I discover my love of travel?

While I've often alluded to what inspired my initial love for travel, I don't believe that I've written an outright blog about the things that make me enjoy travel so much. So after some thought on the prompt given to me, I would like to share the story of what inspired my love for travel: being a student traveler to Germany at age 17.

In High School, I studied German - in fact, of everthing I studied, it was the most fascinating topic for me. I loved the idea of studying other cultures, and seeing just how interconnected the world truly was. While I had a pen-pal in Germany, to whom I would hand write letters to (well before the advent of e-mail), it wasn't the same as exploring the culture for myself. As a student, I often dreamed about escaping to another culture to expand my horizons for a spell - but scale of economy was the primary obstacle in going around the world to learn more about a culture.

In my junior year of high school, I was presented with an opportunity: my German instructor was made aware of a sanctioned exchange trip to Germany with a very well known organization. While I was afraid that money would be an obstacle in going, my family was very supportive in finding a way to help me explore this dream. So between some help from the entire family, a little savings on my part, and a barbecue to send me off, I was off for my first adventure as a student traveler.

From the minute I boarded that plane in San Francisco, the travel bug had bit. Sure, it was a long 11-hour flight from San Francisco direct to Munich, but every moment on the plane was absolutely worth it. If I remember correctly, I couldn't hardly sleep on the plane - mostly due to the excitement I had of taking my first trip as a student traveler. That first day, I easily was up for well over 20 hours, running on pure excitement and adrenaline.

Once I was there, the travel bug absolutely bit me - and made me spend my time investigating every aspect of my temporary surroundings. During my month in Germany at 17, I spent my time investigating the city, exploring the surroundings, and making friends from all over the world (even a group of Australians that were on exchange at the same school I was at). My tour group visited some of the monuments and castles built by the last monarchs of Bavaria. We saw Salzburg, and the birth home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. And everywhere I went, I seemed to pick up something to compliment my adventures. I believe I still have my wandering cane, with all of the medallions of my destinations, somewhere at home.

One month in Germany was certainly not enough. I didn't know how I was going to get back - but after the kindness and generousity of the people of Grafenau and my host family there, I knew that I needed to return someday. That trip also made it clear to me that this wouldn't be my first destination. This student trip opened up my eyes that there's so much more to this world than I could see from my native California. And it made me want to jump on more airplanes than I could remember.

That one trip, that my family had to sacrifice a lot for, inspired my love of travel - and has empowered me to live all across the United States, and see the world. Since that trip, I've made a home in Ohio, been to Canada far more times than I can count, and have been able to make friends all around the United States and the world! That one, seemingly simple act of student travel inspired a passion that I still have to this day. Funny how one life-changing event can cascade into something far bigger over time.

My thanks to my friends on Twitter, for drawing that story out of my past. How did you learn to love travel? What made traveling more than just a passive activity for you? Did your student travels play into your affection for adventure as well? Let me know in the comments below!


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