Last April, I traveled to Germany to visit three partner study abroad institutions. On my first business trip abroad, I planned to absorb as much of the environment and academic culture as possible to further encourage my students to take the step. It also mirrored as a much-needed solo trip and adventure.
On my itinerary was Cologne, Augsburg, and Bamberg, cities I had never been, but absolutely enjoyed.
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Ｇｅｒｍａｎｙ 🇩🇪 ⠀⠀ “I am suggesting that quality in undergraduate education means giving students a perspective that is global” ⠀⠀ – Ernest L. Boyer ⠀⠀ I was 23 when I first traveled here. All I wanted to do was check this country off my list. I’m now 29. I’m here once again but here for a different purpose. Now to encourage my students to find strength in international experience. ⠀⠀ #Germany #studyabroadbecause #travelabroad #travellove #traveljunkie #abroadlife #lifeabroad #goabroad #girlswhotravelsolo #ipreview
My solo trip also became synonymous to “everything that could go wrong.” But, here’s how my business trip to Germany became my much-needed solo adventure.
Mishaps and All
My first stop was Cologne, about an hour outside of Frankfurt. In the midst of my travels, however, my luggage broke. My handle wouldn’t come up as I deplaned. I yanked the handle a little harder. It didn’t move. I tried again and nothing. Desperate for a quick repair, I pulled everything out (luckily most in packing cubes) in the middle of the airport. I repeat, in the MIDDLE of the airport. I tried once after first exiting the plane. The second time in the restroom. And, my last and final attempt near the customs agents desk.
My only solution at the time was to drag it along by the strap that felt like a grater against my hand (but now I have a Kensie).
Great start, I thought.
Three hours after I landed, I finally made it to Cologne. I had forgotten sometimes the difficulty of traveling to another country and having to operate in another language. Confused and exhausted I checked into my hotel (only after entering the wrong one).
Naps have become my saving grace. As a youngin (young child), I disliked naps. They were the biggest enemy to my youthful energy and playtime. Now, it’s the turbo boost to my day. After two hours of reenergizing, I finally went out to find food.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a picky eater, but I’m definitely particular about the foods I eat. Mainly for nutritional and health purposes. I walked about the nearby streets, just about half a mile before I settled on a restaurant.
Dinner was so-so. I order the goat cheese “hamburger” with a salad and sweet potato fries. *In Kel’s voice* Who loves sweet potato fries. I love sweet potato fries (shout out to my 90s babies who get the reference).
There was a miscommunication between the food I thought I ordered and the food that actually came to my table. Displeased even by the service, I just allowed my brain to wonder while sitting on the rooftop and gazing at the ongoing traffic and the sea of pedestrians crowding the street.
Like any solo adventure, while traveling alone you’re bound to have some challenges and mishaps that can either ruin or enhance your travel experience. I was just grateful to be able to travel to Germany once again.
But I’m reminded, regardless of the nature of the trip, the following keys to preparation:
Either hit the banks really early or exchange your cash at the airport. While roaming the streets, I was also looking for a bank to exchange dollars to euros. But, either the banks closed by the late afternoon or they charged too much to convert. So, I kept the dollars and used my credit card instead.
Be flexible with food options. Enjoy vacation OR your business trip as much as you can. Because of my rigidity, sometimes I miss out on some fun and delicious food. Eh, we’ll see what my next trips bring.
Am I an Adult, Adult?
This trip served as a solo vacation too. As I made my way through the country mostly via train, I saw Germany in a new light; as a true adult. My first time traveling there, I was a young, fearful 23-year-old graduate student in Madrid.
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Already contemplating my next international trip. So many options 🤔🇨🇺 🇬🇭 🇬🇷 🇧🇷 🇨🇷 🇧🇧 ⠀⠀ Where are you headed to next?? 😃 🌎 🌍 🌏 🌎 🌍 🌏 #travelabroad #travellove #traveljunkie #abroadlife #lifeabroad #goabroad #girlswhotravelsolo #travepreneur #girlswhotravelsolo #womentraveler #seetheworldwithme #travelersjourney #travelerlife #solotraveler #travelersnote #travelerdiary #travelerforlife #exploretheworld #takenotes #femmetravel #littlestoriesofmylife #letsgoeverywhere #Germany #openmyworld #Miamitravel #Miamitraveler #lovetheworld #exploremore #doyoutravel #greenvillebloggers
Sidenote: I appear to be lost in my thoughts in the photo above, but really I was thinking about food. Good food!
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve grown in several years. Germany was a reminder that even going to the same places, you can have different experiences. That’s growth y’all!
While visiting the colleges, I met colleagues for the first time, learned more about the history of the German language, and gained firsthand experience of the schools abroad.
My students are counting on me to give them the best advice as to what each study abroad program offers and which is the best fit for them.
Additionally, my personal experiences are just as helpful. Sometimes the hardest part to sell to students is how to manage to live abroad and navigate an unfamiliar place.
I was essentially stepping back into the shoes of a student for this week-long trip.
How do I make my business trip fun?
Well, in the words of my good friend, Spongebob:
“F” is for Free. Find free time to do something fun. I purposely planned some free time between meetings and campus visits because traveling can be very exhausting.
“U” is for You and Me. Ha, just kidding. U is for you (I couldn’t find a word). But, really, fun is subjective. I prefer to stroll through a town and stumble upon an adventure. Or, a chocolate museum.
“N” is for New Adventures. While I was so close to the Austrian border, I decided to hop on a five-hour train to Salzburg. Doing business doesn’t mean 24/7. I had an entire day to myself, so I opted for a new country.
If you’re looking for a solo adventure or wonder if you should travel solo, check out my Summer Guide to Solo Travel. Find the best solo vacation ideas there!
And, if you’re wondering, as a black woman, some solo tips, head here to my Black Woman’s Guide to Solo Travel!