Germany & the European Culture…I like it.

Streets of Oberhausen

I just returned from a wonderful week in Germany. It was my first trip there. A spontaneous one, as I didn’t want my half-year adventure to end quite yet. I met Manuel two days before we both started our individual treks on the Appalachian Trail. He, coming all the way from Germany, and me, from North Carolina. Each on our respective journeys. This was over 6 months ago. Neither one of us thinking we’d ever be walking around the streets of his hometown in October, holding hands and enjoying each other’s company. Crazy what this life throws at you! 

Schoko Küsse
Visiting the Gasometer
Amsterdam adventure

This week was great in so many ways. I’ve traveled to Europe in the past, but it’s been over 10 years since I’ve visited. This time was completely on my own and felt like an extension of my hike on the trail. It marked a significant moment of “I’m definitely an adult now”…and it feels pretty good. Many people in their 30’s are running around, concerned about income, marriage, family, what’s next? I have these thoughts too, but I’ve realized my path has never been ‘normal.’ I’ve embraced this more over the last 7 months than ever before. I don’t like taking the easy route or the typical path. Maybe it’s a growing up thing, but I feel good about life right now. I feel good about the current path I’m on and what the future holds. If nothing else, the A.T. taught me to relax, live life, and embrace the change (because it happens), and have fun! Life is too short not to be happy. This is what I’ve noticed about the German culture too. They know how to live. Things are simple, efficient, and planned. Work is work, and fun is fun. They keep them separate. They are wide open, emotional, and exuberant. And very family-oriented. It’s interesting when you travel and begin to understand and embrace different cultures. You start to realize how crazy and twisted America seems to be sometimes. We live in the “land of opportunity”, but we sure do have a funny reputation abroad. 

I spent the week with Manuel and his entire family. They went above and beyond to welcome me and treat me like one of their own. It was very special and an absolute blast! Yes…there is a language barrier–but it was fun, entertaining, and comfortable (Manuel was my translator. He speaks very good English!). I learned new words, picked up on context clues and began to understand more German (between the slightly uncomfortable nods, followed by outbursts of laughter due to me not understanding haha). We visited different areas of his hometown, took a day trip to Amsterdam, drove over 100mph on the German Autobahn (weeeee!), went ice skating, watched him play hockey, shared meals and stories from the trail with his family and friends, visited friends in Raesfeld, caught up with a friend from the trail, and experienced the full German culture by indulging in authentic food and drink. What a week! I can’t even begin to thank Manuel and his wonderful family for treating me like royalty this week in Oberhausen. I felt welcome the minute I stepped foot on European soil!

Family dinner

Goalie & Ten
Hockey time
“Put me in, Coach!”
German Autobahn
Me and my American buddy, Aaron (the American Bulldog)

It’s neat how similar cultures are. Our friend Ken said it well: “most things are the same, but still very different.” Styles, language, and the way things are done or accepted tend to vary, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re all pretty similar. It was fun to experience the German culture this way. I felt fully immersed. I have a new appreciation for Europe after this trip, and really like the way they do things over there. It’s a simpler lifestyle. It’s awesome.  

It’s going to be interesting transitioning back into my “normal” life outside this somewhat fantasy world I’ve been living in for the past 7 months. I have to face this next challenge with an open mind and tackle the coming obstacles, as I know it won’t be easy. But I’ll carry these memories and lessons with me forever. What an incredible year it’s already been!

Here’s to Germany, Manuel, the Herden family, friends, and this wonderful thing we call life! Thank you for everything! 

Work starts Monday. I’m excited to get settled and reunited with my amazing work team. Let’s do this! 

Until next time…