- -  Day # 365  + +

EU > Germany > Cologne

Why travel?

Cologne, DE (View on map)

Cynics might argue that if you leave somewhere and take an entire year to get back to the very same place again, you might as well have stayed there for a whole year in the first place. The funny thing about travelling is that is doesn`t work that way. For today`s article ? the one but last of all (!) ? I am asking people in Cologne: what was your biggest ever travel so far and how did you experience it?

Sandra (23):

`I would like to go to Australia or Canada`
From the interviews in Hamburg, a week or so ago, I learnt that many Germans would like to go abroad but they often get stuck in planning their adventure and finding ways around challenges. The same is true for most Europeans beside the Swedes and the Dutch, who have almost claimed international travelling as their national property. Most Germans travel abroad for holidays, work or, also a well-respected option: studies. Only some manage to upgrade their experience to traveling and exploring.

Spain in general and Mallorca in particular are very popular destinations for Gemans leaving on summer holidays. Bastian (20) once spents four weeks in Spain. `I was in Mallorca with my parents and best friends. I was 16 at the time, so we spent a lot of time partying and hanging out on the beach. I don`t think the differences between Spain and Germany are very big. Instead of missing Germany while I was there, I instantly missed Spain when I got back home.`

Jenny`s (27) longest time out of Germany was a three week holiday in and around Barcelona. `It was not too strange to come back after that. Even the weather in Germany was the same. We had German TV in our hotal room and I could easily follow the German news while I was there.` Christian (27)`s longest holiday took two weeks. `I flew to Greece with my family,. A beach holiday with everything organised in advance. I met some people on that trip, but I`m not in contact with them anymore. I would like to go away for longer than two weeks. Maybe I could leave Germany for three months, maybe to the United States or Canada. It has to be at least a country where they speak English.`

Sandra (23, photo) once spent three weeks out of Germany: `That was in Spain and I admit that I started missing home when the end of the trip came near. The first thing I did when I got home was to call all my friends. I spoke to them from Spain as well, but not as lengthily as when I got back. The phone calls from Spain were too expensive.`

`I would like to spend some more time abroad in the future`, Sandra says. `I am thinking of doing a work-and-travel program in Australia or Canada, but I think it`s quite a big step, a bit scary even. I have all my friends here, everything is properly arranged: insurances, money, studies and all that. Compare that to having to look for a house in a foreign country, arranging financial stuff, making new friends.. Then there`s the cost of traveling which forms quite an obstacle. Not just for me, but also for friends of whom I know they would like to travel. I think I will miss my friends lots when I am away for six months. I can do without the German food, but not without people close to me.`

Nora`s (19) longest holiday abroad lasted for six weeks and she was quite eager to get home after that. `I was fourteen at the time and we stayed in a cottage in Wales. Very nice and all, but when you`re 14, it`s kind of boring to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. I missed my friends a lot. By now, I think I`m ready to stay away from home for a longer period of time. Maybe to study or to work a bit. But I don`t know how and where. My boyfriend will not be happy about it and there are lots of other things to consider before making any travelling project come true.`

Been there, done that
Lisa (23) spent half a year in Australia, now some two years ago. `While I was there, I traveled the East Coast and a bit of the centre and the West Coast. Within six months, I worked as a car washer, I sorted bananas and I transported furniture. Before going there, I was just fascinated by Australia and very eaget to go there. Organising some combination of work and travel seemed the easiest way. I hope I will be back there one day, although it may not happen soon.`

Lisa often thinks back of the time she spent in Australia: `It was well worth it. I missed the German language a bit and maybe the German cake. But on the other hand, it made me much more self-confident, more open and less scared to be on my own. My stay in Australia made me love nature much more than I did before. I have become less precise about the worth of money or energy and better able to just give without demanding immediate returns. It was quite difficult to re-integrate in Germany. It felt very narrow and well-defined. I love to share my travel experiences with my friends, but I only really do it with the couple of friends who have travelled too. The others don`t really understand the idea of travelling. Or maybe it`s just me thinking that they don`t understand.`

David (27) likes backpacking, and his longest trip was a 5-week journey through Romania in 2001. `It was a great time, very exciting and very refreshing. I was there with four friends and we camped, stayed at hostels, met lots of locals and talked to them. I guess those contacts were the most valuable part of the whole trip. I was also impressed by how tasty their fruits and vegetables are. Really lots better than the tasteless and watery stuff we get served in Germany. I hope the EU will do something to protect Romania from having to surrender to food supplies from the EU. Their home-grown stuff is much better but I guess they will have a hard time maintaining that standard.`

`I was shocked to learn how much work Romanian students needed to do to be able to study, and how they earned 200 Deutschmark (100 euro) for a week of full-time work. It helps you to put things in perspective. I was also happy to get home again at the end of the five weeks. People are more honest in Germany and information is more reliable. You know what`s happening around you and if you buy a train ticket, you know that it will be enough to get you to the place you want to get to. No conductor will tell you that you have to pay another 20 euros because this or that is missing or wrong. Those kind of adventures are alright when you`re travelling, but the attitude of always having to be prepared gets on your nerves after a while. I couldn`t live in Romania or anywhere else in the South or East of Europe. The north of Sweden sounds alright for my retirement, The Netherlands is a nice place and I could do with Switzerland. Everything else is nice for travelling, but not for living. For me, at least.`

David has been travelling lots more since his experience in Romania. `My last trips are not as exciting though. I now travel as a musician in an orchestra. We stay at hotels and perform in posh concert halls. We hardly get to see anything of the country, we don`t meet the local people and it`s not by far as enriching as the backpacking trips I do.`

Learning English
Christoph (20) spent six weeks in a British family when he was 15 years old. I went there to improve my English. I didn`t miss Germany a lot when I was there. I am actually Polish and only moved to Germany when I was 3 years old. My German is better than my Polish, but I feel nevertheless more attached to Poland than to Germany. The change from living in a small German village to living in a big English city was quite big, even though I was only living in a suburb. Anyway, the experience was pleasant altogether and I still have frequent contact with my host family there.`

Melanie (25) spent seven weeks in a college in the United States. `I stayed with a local host family and improved my English a lot. I met lots of nice people and I will see many of them again. During the seven weeks, I missed home quite a bit and I also missed the German way of shopping. I missed my boyfriend, my pets and my other friends. When I got home, the first things I did was go to the cinema with my boyfriend to see Harry Potter, and to go out for dinner together.`

Ben (27) went to bible school in Canada for seven months. `I had a wonderful time there. I learnt more about how to live as a Christian, how to pray for people and how to spread the word that Jesus loves them. I think traveling helps people to see things from different perspectives. It learns you that there`s more than just the rules of the society that you happened to grow up in.` Ben continues: `I only missed home during Christmas. The biggest change after I got back home was the change of the currency. I was in Canada in 2001-2002, which is when Germany switched from Deutschmark to the Euro.`

Robin (26) learnt a bit of Polish during his time as an Erasmus student in Krakow. `My first choice was to go to Bangkok but two of my friends had been to Krakow and came back with wonderful stories. I gave it a try and, indeed, enjoyed it lots. I got to know many new people from all over the place and to see things from many different angles. I left Krakow in February of his year after having stayed there for six months. Unfortunately, only few of the people I got to know where actually Polish. I had to go back this summer for the Juwenalia festival to really get in touch with Polish people. But it was great fun and I think I will stay in touch with many of the people I met during these two Krakow episodes. I would recommend everybody to spend a short while abroad to experience what I experienced. Or actually: I already recommended it to some of my friends and some of them are now also preparing to leave for six months.`

`Before going to Poland, I was scared that I would feel lonely so far away from home and with none of my friends near. In reality, I never met so many people in such a short time. I didn`t even have time to feel lonely. Arriving back home in Germany was actually harder than leaving it. Learning about all those different opinions and ideas, I ended up finding Germans very strict and rigid. It`s good in some cases, but a bit more flexibility could make many of them a lot happier. In Poland, it would be nice if the shop assistants behind the cash registers could work a bit faster. They are so annoyingly slow and lazy! They would instantly get fired if they dared to work like that in Germany.`

Ben (27) likes to travel `with a purpose`. `Everything in life that fits a purpose makes it more interesting`, he says. My longest time away was five months in Argentina. I was there to organise a film festival together with a friend. I had been in Argentina once before. I met another German student there and we came up with this idea. When I was back in Germany, I tried to get funding from Amnesty International. It seemed to work initially, but in the end they never paid anything.`

`We still went to Argentina and managed to get support from the local government and some local firms. I was very happy about the end result, but also about the entire experience itself. Working in a foreign country is the best way to learn a foreign language, which in itself is already something exciting. The Argentinian people are very warm and welcoming. It`s interesting to learn about how they are different from us. They are similar in a way, because most of them originally come from Europe anyway. At the same time, there are so many differences and it`s great to try and understand those.`

`While we were working, I did not really miss Germany. Only towards the end, when I knew I would be going home soon. Then, all the small things that had been part of the experience all the time slowly started to annoy me. All the half promises, people arriving late or never. At the beginning of the five months, I managed to cope with that quite well, but as home got back in sight, it grew more and more difficult. The same for small things like missing German bread and Gouda cheese. I was excited to go home again at the end, but the first thing I thought when I set foot on Frankfurt Airport was: `OK, this is what Germany was like, right.. It didn`t feel all too special and I instantly longed back for the Argentina that I had despised during the last days of the stay.`

! This is not the final Us Europeans posting yet ! There will be another one tomorrow !

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