I recently spent almost a week in southern Germany. I didn’t see any major towns, nor did I attend many tourist attractions. And although I imagine I’ll return to Germany someday, I won’t on this particular trip. And I’m not sorry about it.
This post was originally published in 2010. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
One of the underlying messages in the documentary A Map For Saturday that spoke to me was that travel gets old pretty quickly. At least – certain styles of travel get old quickly. If you bounce from one major city/attraction to the next, staying in hostels and following the backpacker circuits consistently, one amazing awe-inspiring sight tends to melt into the next, and you can actually become almost apathetic about the attractions that once appeared wondrous.
Having been on the road well over three years, I don’t think I would have lasted anywhere near this long if I were on this “actively traveling” circuit.
Instead, I’ve volunteered in trade for my accommodation in at least five different places around the world for upwards of a month at a time. In between volunteer gigs, I’ve usually enjoyed some home-grown hospitality by staying with friends. Friends I’ve met in all sorts of ways, mostly in the course of my volunteering and traveling.
In fact, so enamoured am I with these two modes of travel, that many of my chosen destinations (such as Germany) have been predicated on the prevalence of home-stay or volunteer opportunities, rather than the destination itself being of primary appeal.
For me, my dream of travel was borne of a desire to break bread with families around the world; to live, work, shop, and just be with people around the world, learning, laughing, and loving life together. It’s not about how many museums I visit, how many planes I board, or how many stamps I have in my passport.
I don’t profess my style of travel to be superior (or inferior) to any other styles. (That’s why I started the popular week-in-the-life series; to celebrate the different ways people choose to spend their long-term or full-time travel days).
I have the luxury of being able to travel full-time – along with the often mis-understood requirement to be somewhat consistently on my computer an average of two to four hours per day (to earn an income, research/book travel arrangements, and keep in touch with friends/family). It’s a fact of my location independent life, and one that isn’t easily accommodated if I have an active travel itinerary to keep up with.
So all this is to say that in my time in Germany, I didn’t get the cross-section of the country that would be typical in the most traditional travel sense. But I did get to enjoy the following:
- I climbed to the top of the Munster Cathedral in Ulm – also the highest cathedral in the country at over 160 meters.
- I visited a small town surrounded by mountains, and featuring a small pond that is the most interesting shade of blue I’ve ever seen.
- I got lost while walking with my friend along the extensive gravel roads that weave through woods and agricultural fields near Ulm.
- I watched two world cup games – one at the home of my friend’s family, another at a friend-of-a-friend’s art gallery, surrounded by enthusiastic and hopeful locals. (The second game, however, didn’t end so well for Germany, but did for Spain – a place also close to my heart).
- I enjoyed drinks at an out-of-the-way bar with a group of friends. Anybody who came to the table to chat (and there were many, as this was a friendly bar), was instructed to speak in English for the benefit of “the Canadian girl”. This made for some very entertaining conversation at various levels of sobriety and English fluency.
- I wandered the streets of Ulm, taking pictures, drinking coffee, eating ice cream, and shopping for clothes.
Last but far from least, I enjoyed the company of my amazing and beautiful friend Tanja. We made awesome coffee with frothy milk, cooked brilliant meals, watched inspiring movies, drank delicious wine, and talked about everything under the sun. And for just under a week, I got to experience what life in her neck of the woods is like.
For me, this is why I travel.