Hayden and I have known of each other practically our whole lives. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration…but our moms were both homeschool moms/friends and so we’ve been connected in the same homeschool circles since we were pretty young.
Hayden had the awesome opportunity to live in Germany, recently, and I’ve been following along on her adventures ever since our mutual friend suggested it! I love how so many of my homeschool friends have taken up their passports and traveled the world. It takes me back to that fact that homeschoolers are the best travelers. Meet Hayden!
1. What started your passion for traveling?
I always wanted to travel, just like anyone. But I think it was joining the air force reserves that really got me motivated to see the world.
I had been at a minimum wage job for 3 years before joining the reserves and didn’t have many qualms about it. But once I signed the contract for the military I started getting anxious about being “stuck” in a contract. I took a trip to san francisco right before I left for bootcamp.
Once I was in the military my desire for traveling really caught on fire. I felt a little bit like a bird in a cage, which is something I never felt before I joined.
The day after my full-time training ended and I was going to just one weekend per month, I put a sleeping bag in my car and drove to the grand canyon. After that I planned my first eurotrip. I had 5 months to kill before school started and I had been waiting ever since I signed my contract to see the world. So I really felt like I needed to do it immediately.
It’s been 3 years since my first eurotrip and I haven’t been able to kick the habit of spontaneously traveling whenever I get the chance!
2. What’s one travel tip you think the world should know?
Packing light has been said over and over again, so I’ll skip that one.
One big one that people might overlook is your choice of hostel. You should choose one that is social and has a pub crawl or tours throughout the day, and also one that is in the city center (the price difference should only be a few dollars per night, and well worth it).
I highly recommend going on the free tours they offer and the pub crawl the first night you get there. That way you meet the people and see the highlights of the city. After that, you can kinda make your own way. But skipping the day tours in order to figure out the city for yourself can sometimes leave you missing out on some gem of the city you never would have found on your own.
3. What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)
Opening my widows. In Germany (and I’ve heard the rest of the….world..?) they open their windows daily, 365 days per year. I hated it at first, since I was there during the FREEZING winter. But once I got home I started leaving the windows a crack open in my bedroom and I swear it makes a huge difference. I actually hate being in a house with no window open now. I never thought I would get to that point.
4. What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about traveling?
FOLLOW YOUR GUT! Seriously.
I have definitely done some things during my travels that a lot of people would consider dangerous, but I followed my gut and ended up having the best times of my life. I have also avoided situations that some people would deem perfectly safe, because my gut was just not having it.
Have an open mind and listen to your gut.
5. What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel?
Not being organized. I have finally perfected backpack and am very comfortable with the items I choose to travel with and the placement of everything.
I lost my entire backpack while in Switzerland once because I had shoved so much stuff inside grocery bags and jumped off the train before realizing my backpack was not on my back! I blame having so many random bags to account for.
6. What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling?
Talking to people! I am pretty shy, but getting lost in multiple cities around the world will definitely pry you out of your comfort zone and get you talking to whatever stranger is in sight!
7. What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?
I’d say train. The scenery is nice and they usually are really comfortable. I still travel by bus mostly, since it’s cheaper. But if there is a cheap train to somewhere I want to go, I’d take a train over everything.
8. What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self?
To meet more people during my first Eurotrip. I was still pretty quiet my first time abroad.
9. What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit?
I got a small taste of Turkey a few months ago and I’m aching to go back and see the rest of it…all of it!
10. Let’s talk about your most recent trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure?
I got an internship at a company in Germany, it was arranged through my University. I minored in German because it seemed like the most logical language to learn for traveling Europe, which in turn got me this internship.
11. What has been the best/toughest part of your most recent trip?
The toughest part was definitely making friends while trying to learn the language. I was not in the best state of mind when I moved to Germany and all I wanted was to talk to family and friends. But when you are meeting new people everyday, the only appropriate things to talk about are pretty small. A lot of my conversations revolved around the weather and politics, as my language skills were not advanced enough to speak of anything else.
As for the best part. I think learning how to LIVE in another country. Living and traveling to another country are very different things.
12. What’s one thing you’ve learned from your most recent trip?
To be ready. I was NOT ready to leave for Germany, not by a longshot. Even with my constant desire to travel. I left very reluctantly.
In hindsight, I wish I would have spent the summer (I left for Germany in September) with more friends and got my life in the States more organized before I left.
13. What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself from your most recent trip?
I learned how quickly I shut down when I’m overwhelmed. I never knew this about myself at all. I think when you are in your own country, speaking your own language, it is easier to work through problems. I always felt like I was pretty resilient and could tackle most problems.
But man, I think living in a foreign country has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how quickly I would give up on it. I think I cried daily while I was there, the smallest task could turn into such a chore. Everyone told me I would be homesick, which I scoffed at. But it was true, it was not the type of homesick you have as a child. It’s different. I can’t even explain it. But I really learned I need to go into my next move much more prepared.
If you are an American, keep in mind that there are a lot of people who have an opinion on America and American citizens (whether it be positive or negative). I had no idea how much Europeans knew about America and was not ready for all the questions they had for me concerning our politics and other things.
I highly recommend reading travel forums and learning about how the citizens of that specific country feel about americans. It’ll help you navigate some pretty common conversations you’ll be bound to have with the people you meet.