My Biggest Mistake In 2015

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Hohenzollern Bridge (Cologne, Germany)

Travel Tip: Finish your trip somewhere foreign to you. Finish in a place where you can wake up every day excited to explore something new.

I love Germany. For reasons I cannot explain, I feel some attachment to a country that is home to many friends and some extended family.  In 2009, Germany became the first European country I visited. In fact, it was the first place I had seen outside of North America. In total, I have spent almost 2 months in various parts of this beautiful country. So don’t let this post deter you from visiting 🙂

Last night one of my friends suggested sharing our best and worst moments of 2015. I couldn’t think of a moment for either. There were too many good things that happened. I graduated, made the honour roll, and embarked on a 3 month getaway that I will never forget. In between all of this, I couldn’t think of anything terrible that I did. But I do think one decision was probably the worst thing I did in 2015. And while it isn’t even that bad, I thought I should share it with you. Here it is:

I finished my trip in a place I already knew.

I love Rick Steves travel talks. His travel talks on YouTube are some of the most insightful things I watched while planning for this trip. A few things stuck out to me, but I think I forgot about one of his more important tips: Finish in a place foreign to you. A place you don’t know much about. And guess what? I forgot this piece of advice and it did have an effect on how I view my 3 months away. For longer trips, Rick suggests starting in a place familiar to you in order to get your bearings, work off your jet lag, and getting around with less stress at the start. He also suggests doing the opposite for your last destination. See something completely foreign to you. I forgot this.

I started in Germany, staying in Frankfurt for 3 days before busing down to Italy. I spent a little over 3 weeks in Italy, and then I flew to Ireland. After Ireland, I swept down to Portugal for 3 weeks as well. And then I spent the remaining 26 days of my trip in Germany. That’s close to 1/3 of my trip spent in a country I already knew. And I spent all of that winding down towards my flight home, way too comforted by a country that posed nothing surprising to me.

I saw a lot of new places, big and small. I visited friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. I made some new amazing friends that I will never forget. I went on some short hikes, saw every Christmas market possible, and discovered that Germany wasn’t as efficient as everyone else in Europe thinks they are. And while all of this was amazing, none of it was really foreign to me. After a few weeks, I found myself counting down the days to come home. The problem was that I felt way too comfortable. I know the language (enough to get around on my own and meet some people). I just blended in.

When I became too comfortable I lost the feelings I had during the first two months of the trip. Before, I woke up every day excited to explore the town. When I got too comfortable in Germany, I lost that completely. When you combine that with constantly thinking about the time you have left instead of enjoying yourself, you don’t explore enough and it becomes a drag.  So much so that when I got home my only regret I could think of was ending in Germany.

I wish I had started with a few weeks in Germany, instead. I truly believe it would have completely changed the outlook of the trip. Had I started in Germany, I would have been way more enthusiastic. I wouldn’t have been counting down the days I had left and I would have actually enjoyed myself. Had I ended in somewhere new, I feel like I wouldn’t have let the days left even stick in my mind. I would have been somewhere new, I would have explored more, and I would have ended the trip on a much higher note.

That being said. I thoroughly enjoyed my 3 month trip. But now I’m left wondering what it would have been like had I ended with a few weeks in Spain, rather than somewhere I know too well.

Don’t let this deter you from visiting Germany, because it has many fun and amazing paces to visit. Rather, let this remind you of one of the most important travel tips I have ever heard:

Finish your trip somewhere foreign to you. Finish in a place where you can wake up every day excited to explore something new, speak a new language, and learn from a foreign culture. 

Don’t be the person on your flight with their head in their hands because they’ve come to the realization they are flying home, rather than jetting off to explore something new.

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Categories: Advice

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