Travelling abroad to Europe on my own was the most challenging thing I’ve done so far, yet it was the most rewarding experience. I’ve been to Europe twice so far: I spent two months in 2015 in Como, Italy, tutoring English in a family setting. During my second trip to Europe, I stayed for three months in Germany.
Unlike my first trip, in Germany I was alone. I wasn’t completely alone; I lived in a shared accommodation setting with two other women and the landlord for six weeks in the small Bavarian village of Prien on the shores of Lake Chiemsee. Truth be told, I felt safer on my own in Germany than I did in a family setting in Italy. I also thoroughly enjoyed the freedom to come and go as I pleased; visit friends, travel and eat whenever I wanted.
I met amazing people on both journeys: I met Angela, an Italian and English teacher during my stay in Como in 2015. We become good friends almost instantly, so during my visit in Germany in 2016, I spent a week in Italy, visiting her and her husband, Alessandro.
I reconnected with relatives who I haven’t seen since I was fifteen years of age and established a lasting friendship with them. I spent one week in September and two weeks in December with them. Shortly before I returned to Canada, Dieter (my Uncle) taught me how to ride a horse (in the photo above). I also met some of Janna (Dieter’s daughter and my cousin/friend) friends. Despite the language barrier everyone was kind and Dieter kept joking about cancelling my place ticket and enrolling me in a university in Hannover.
Shortly after I found out that my working papers weren’t approved to teach English in Rosenheim (a village in southern Bavaria), I packed my bags and decided to travel Germany for the remainder of time I was permitted to stay there on my Canadian passport. I stayed at an AirBnb in every town and city I visited and met some wonderful people through that experience. Not everyone spoke English. In fact, some of the people I stayed with spoke little to no English. Thankfully I knew enough German to hold a conversation, albeit a basic one.
At some point, I’m going to write in greater detail of every place I visited in Germany, I’ve already done so with Berlin. However, to sum it up here: I loved Germany! I liked every village and city I saw even though I wasn’t in one place for very long. However, Berlin captured my heart. The city’s alternative culture, angst, creativity and conflicted history spoke to me, drew me in so much, it’s beckoning me from across the sea to visit it once more.
Trier was also a city that fascinated me. It’s old history, ancient and medieval architecture inspired me to set my new crusades history novel, ‘God’s Kingdom’ in Saarburg, a village neighboring Trier.
Even though I spent a couple of weeks with my relatives in Verden, most of the time, I was on my own. There were times when I felt really lonely and pined for someone, or a small group of friends, to be with and to share my experiences with. I also had to navigate the complexities of living in a non-speaking English country where the culture is different on my own. Thankfully, my German background (on my mother’s side) and my relatives helped make my integration into German society much easier than it otherwise would have been.
Even though I stayed in Germany for only three months, the German culture grew on me quite quickly. I had made some good friends and learnt to speak the language proficiently. It actually took several weeks for me to fully integrate back into Canadian society after my return home.
Despite the occasional bout of loneliness, travelling solo was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself: it taught me independence, it gave me inner strength and courage, enhanced the confidence in myself to embrace new adventures, no matter how hard or challenging they may be at times. Travelling solo also enabled me to expand my network of friends which has given me reason to return.