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Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons to Get Your Passport Stamped

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Neuschwanstein. If it looks familiar, that's probably because Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle is modeled after it.
A year and a half ago, I got the incredible opportunity to visit Europe. I saw Germany, Austria and England and am still amazed at how beautiful it was. I'm a big believer that traveling really helps you understand the world so much better than any textbook will. Here's why:

It was really foggy the day we visited Neuschwanstein, so I got this cool shot.
Seeing is believing. 
You can read books about London and pin pictures of King Ludwig's castles all day, but until you actually see Westminster Abbey or Neuschwanstein, you won't be able to comprehend how amazing these places actually are. In addition, there's something to be said for the giddiness that occurs when you get to see landmarks you've heard about ever since you were a child.

The infamous Buckingham Palace guards. Aren't they cute? Seriously, though, they stand so still.
Meet new people. 
Sure, you can meet new people wherever you are. You can even meet people from other countries in your own country. But there's something so different about being an outsider in someone else's country. You get to see how friendly and welcoming people can be and you also get immersed in their country: how cool is that?

This says "Will you marry me?" and then something about a lovely day at Burg Rheinstein (a castle we visited.)
Strengthen your language skills. 
Going to Germany didn't make me fluent by any means, but I did learn a couple of vocabulary words. More importantly, I was able to see how real Germans spoke with each other, something that's hard to come by in the United States.

Rothenburg am Tauber. This is probably my favorite place we stayed. It's one of the few places in Germany that wasn't bombed, so the buildings and wall around the town are centuries old. I just love how colorful it is (and the food was really good!)
Learn about history. 
Before I went to Germany, most of what I knew about their history was about the world wars. However, Germany has a lot of beautiful history that I never knew about that I got to learn about while I was there (the world wars, especially WWII, are basically taboo in Germany.)

A memorial for Canadian soliders in Green Park (right across the street from Buckingham Palace!)
Stories for your grandchildren. 
Being a foreigner makes you a protagonist in your own funny stories sometimes. Whether it's interacting with the natives or trying to figure out unfamiliar technology - there's sure to be something you'll still laugh about for years to come.

Frankfurt am Main. If you look really closely, you can see that the water level is way higher than it should be: it was overflowing on the left side of the river!
See what you're taking for granted. 
Every time I travel, overseas or not, I am always so excited to come home to my small-town water (I've found the bigger the city is, the worse the water is.) There's other things we take for granted - speaking the same language as everybody else we know, not having to pay for public restrooms etc.

The world's fanciest McDonald's sign in Salzburg, Austria.
Find what we have in common. 
As different as Germany was, the most surprising thing to me was how similar it was to America. Sometimes we paint other countries to be filled with aliens, but we're all human and are more alike than we realize.

I don't know how I managed to not get any pictures of the marvelous food. This picture of me and a not-as-short-as-he-looks, fake chef will have to do.
Go for the food. 
Even in England, the culinary armpit of the world, there were new foods I tried that were actually really good. And, as much as we try in America, nothing really compares to a real German breakfast.

Do you recognize this fountain? If you've ever seen The Sound of Music, it's the fountain Maria passes while she sings Confidence. We also saw the garden where they sing Do Re Mi.
Unique experiences. 
Whether it's driving on a red double-decker bus on the left side of the road or listening to street musicians in Salzburg, each country has its own experiences you really can't get anywhere else.

Linderhof, one of King Ludwig's castles in Bayern, Germany.
See old stuff. 
Let's face it: America is practically the world's youngest country and we haven't really done a great job preserving anything old. In Germany, however, I was amazed not only by the number of castles (we would pass multiple castles while we were on our way from one castle to the next), but also how old they were. There's something so admirable about a building being built to last for hundreds of years and it's really a privilege to experience it.

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