An Adventure in Germany

There is no way to describe the feelings that churned inside as I walked toward a beautifully sculpted park in Berlin last year. Scouring the corner, I tried to visualize her image. It had been years since my German daughter, Franka, said goodbye to me at the airport, tears budding in our eyes. We both knew all too well how long it would be until we met again.

I spotted her ponytail and warm brown eyes and wrapped her in a tight hold. I don’t know if you’ve ever considered hosting a foreign exchange student, but twenty years ago a seventeen-year-old girl walked into my home and shared our lives for twelve months, changing mine forever. Her parents became an extended part of our family, trusting us with their only child. 

Finally side by side with Franka again, I fell into her world. The next morning, I pulled up to a table loaded with boiled eggs, deli meats, delicate cheeses, and pastries that overwhelmed me. All I could think of was how I had prepared biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, and bacon for her breakfasts all those years ago and how that must have been a shock for her. But, she had taken it all in stride. 

It was a cultural exchange for both of us. My German family took me to see Andreas Gabalier in concert, to the horse races, bike rides around the lake, and to obscure hangouts known only to the locals.

Franka is a physician and despite the opportunity to make more money, declares her value of striking a work – life balance. They treasure relationships and experiences over accumulating possessions. They collect memories over trinkets and laughter over a new car. Not only have I cherished their friendship, I have learned incredible lessons from them and expanded my view of the world. 

Seeing firsthand how other countries live has given me a wider lens. I can truly see beyond myself. Despite speaking different languages, having different customs and foods, we are remarkably similar. Social media has made it possible to communicate with friends abroad every day. I can learn how our global neighbors respond to anything from a worldwide pandemic to the latest news of our political climate or how their birthday party went. 

Scientific studies suggest we benefit in several ways from traveling abroad. Our brain is stimulated with new memories from novel experiences that expand our long-term recall and the emotional centers of our brain. Travel improves our immune system and reduces stress and our risk of heart disease. 

Go ahead and dream. Devise a plan to visit a location you find incredibly interesting. As soon as we can travel again, you can be prepared to take flight, immersing yourself in a culture and broadening your perspectives. Save and sacrifice to do it. The benefits are so worth it!

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