On a seven plus hour plane ride, two things are abundantly clear: soundtracks are practically made for long rides and my legs are certainly not. Neither of these facts are new to me. I discovered the fact about the soundtrack this February when I flew down to Disney to meet my family. The music was selections from Saving Mr. Banks, which was certainly Disney without being too Disney. The fact about my legs has been something I’ve known my whole life being unfortunately tall.
This is not the first time I have been to Europe, my first experience was a semester abroad in Manchester almost three years ago. I was bitten by the wanderlust bug, going back again last summer, and deciding last minute to apply for this Germany for Educators program.
But let me be clear, this trip almost didn’t happen. I am a type A person, an honors student plagued by the mindset wanting perfection and a bit of a “mom” syndrome that translates to me taking care of all of my friends seeing that I have no kids of my own. This all led to me trying to do too much. Get a 4.0, participate in this trip, move out of my parents’ house, plan a road trip with my friends; I am a woman plagued by over-ambition who consistently bites off more than she can chew. But in life we have to make choices. We can delay supposed adulthood to see the world. We can step in a country in a language we don’t speak in the hopes to enrich our knowledge or we can try to achieve perfection that no one will even consider anyway. I chose to take the step in Germany, in case you couldn’t guess.
It was a rushed decision. I essentially figured out if I don’t do this now, I may never do it. Promising myself the possibility to travel like this in the future is not only boring, it’s unreliable. Who knows what will happen in my master’s degree? Where I’ll be in the next few years. Life is supposed to be short and unpredictable. My twenties are supposed to be wild and unpredictable, or perhaps I just listen to the media too much.
There is another fact that has become very clear as I prepared for this trip: I hate shoes.
Remember, this is not my first time abroad. This is my first time to Germany, but not the first time I have visited Paris where I’m making a quick stop before (you know, following the whole “I may die tomorrow and I want to see Europe” thing). This is the first time, however, that I have been told wearing sneakers makes you an obvious tourist. I had never noticed. My travels have been primarily solitary and, with a family that has a streak of paranoia, I didn’t spend much time chatting to people when I was out. But three trips does not an expert make and when in Rome you’re supposed to do like the Romans. Or something. The Romans didn’t last too long so maybe they’re not the best example to follow.
Anyway, shoes. I went looking for comfortable shoes that I could walk around in that were not sneakers (I’m still not sure what those look like) and I have found the search nearly impossible. Being unfortunately tall has some unfortunate benefits. Like big feet. Have you tried finding an ample selection of shoes in a size twelve where you can try them on before buying them? Try it. Because I have and it’s not easy. Especially if you are trying to stray away from the whole old lady shoe thing because as a twenty-something-soon-to-be-teacher-but-still-working-retail I would like to buy shoes I will wear again. I went through eight pairs and made a sizable dent in my budget (but I don’t like to think about it so I don’t have an exact number).
At one point I came upon the question: Does it really matter? What would happen if I didn’t find shoes? Would Germans burn me as a witch if I wore sneakers? Or would I merely just scream tourist when I wasn’t at the school I’d be staying at? Could I live with being the obvious tourist? I could deal with being a tourist. I’m already planning on taking tons of architecture pictures and, as I’ve said, I don’t speak Germany so I’m 99.8% positive that the Germans will figure out that I’m not one of their own.
But the question that surfaces with that: Does it matter? Why do we automatically assume that tourist are a bad thing? When my parents heard about the trip the first response was “it must be nice to have that kind of money.” Sure, this is not a budget friendly trip and if I didn’t go on it I could be moved out of my house by now. But why should negativity be the first reaction to travel? Shouldn’t we, as a culture, foster a spirit of tourism, of adventure?
I have a few goals for this trip but they can really be summed up in two ways. I want to explore another part of the world I haven’t before and I want to add more tools to my teaching tool box. If I can do those two things I will consider every penny of it worth it. And no, I won’t be wearing sneakers.