I just received my German residence visa at the beginning of this month, and I want to celebrate by debunking six myths of travel.
Once I believed I could never travel because of things I’d been told.
Turns out people are the number one spreader of myths.
Some research (and travel) have taught me that this is a universal truth. People are pretty much the same everyone… most of them are full of good intentions though fueled by heartfelt ignorance, and the total bad apples are as rare as the pure gems.
Currently, I am an Au Pair in Stuttgart, Germany. It is my first time out of the States and overseas. Some would say I should be experiencing culture shock anytime soon, but I don’t see that happening as I am already well traveled in the States, and have experienced so many wild things in life that how can another possibly phase me?
I like to think that the US is so huge and diverse that it’s impossible for any single tiny country to shock me. Though I could end up being proved wrong. We shall see.
1 > You must be vaccinated to enter another country
When I first told people I wanted to go to Germany I was told, “Sounds fun, but but traveling isn’t worth being vaccinated for, personally.”
To be honest, this didn’t even cross my mind when I first applied online to be an Au Pair. I’d researched going, and vaccinations never once came up as a requirement. I was raised unvaccinated and believing vaccinations cause more harm than help in first world countries, and so I didn’t like the idea of having to get shots to travel.
I did some googling but couldn’t find solid answers on this topic. Then my mom said my grandparents had a book on how to travel without being vaccinated (my grandfather is a naturopathic doctor). So I asked them for the book, but they also told me that I couldn’t travel in this day and age without immunizations of some sort, and they pretty much tried to dissuade me of even trying.
But I was determined. And decided I’d just go and see what happened.
The craziest thing was I didn’t even have to work around this. No one and nothing asked for proof of immunizations. The family I’m staying with in Germany bought me health insurance, but I didn’t even have to be present in person for that as they bought it before I arrived in Germany. The health insurance company only wanted my birth information.
So yes, you can totally travel unvaccinated. Though you might have a harder time in third world countries, I’m not sure.
Guess I should go to Africa next.
2 > You need a social security number
If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, then this is an obvious myth.
But any amount of logic would tell you it’s certainly false. An SS# is completely American. It might be hard to get a passport without one, but I did it.
A passport and visa are the only things you need for travel aside from money.
And visas are basically stamps of permission from the other country to enter, work, or reside in their country. So, they are certainly never going to require an American number.
3> It’s neither safe nor appropriate for girls to travel alone
I get this even when I’m traveling across States.
And you know, there’s an ounce of truth to it. Or maybe a lot more than an ounce. Life is dangerous. I’m not going to deny it. And being a girl isn’t the safest way to live life. Again, not going to deny it.
But whether you’re a girl or a guy, whether you’re in your house or some strange place, there will always be risks.
Life is one big long string of choosing which risks and precautions are worth taking. You can’t escape death; its coming is inevitable and mysterious for every one of us. But we can accept the gift of life and live it as fully as we are each called to do.
Saying all of that, there are precautions a “good girl” with a set of morals and decent desires will follow. Like, don’t visit a bar. Don’t go to some drunk festival. Don’t walk down dark alleyways where gang music blasts. Find good friends and hang out with those sort of people. Whether you’re home, or traveling, live with righteous purpose.
No matter where you live or where you go, if you follow the same basic principles and values you’ll reap the same sort of consequences good or bad. Yes, bad things might still happen to good girls traveling. But, the sad truth of life is that bad things happen to good girls under their own roofs, in their home towns, and everywhere on Earth.
We were never called to be safe, but to be wise. And wisdom knows that one is never safe, and thus must be brave and live regardless.
I’ll add one final point. Traveling isn’t some modern feminist advantage that women have. Girls and women have always traveled, often alone. It was a mark of a cultured and educated woman to have been abroad. Sometimes that time abroad meant studying at an art school, or living with distant relatives for a summer, or helping out an elderly aunt in trade of a widening experience.
Even in Biblical times, girls traveled, whether to visit and work at the temple, or to go stay with another family … or to simply get married. Just look at the story of Rebekah and Isaac for the most craziest traveling experience one could ever have.
To all the girls wanting to travel, if you want to do it, do it. But do it with purpose. Don’t go abroad to be wild, but to learn. You’ll find that you are actually pretty safe and having a much fuller experience than those who travel for a mere two weeks to take selfies at some tourist attraction.
Already I’ve gone out of my comfort zone many times. Though not in ways that would cause actual danger to my soul or purity, but ways that have stretched my skills and knowledge. This sort of thing is always good for women, and will create the sort of woman that can rock the cradle that will rule (righteously, I hope) the world.
4> Traveling means tourism
No, there are many options for those wanting to experience the world outside of their home environment.
As I’ve said above, I am an Au Pair in Germany. It is easy to become an Au Pair in just about any first world country and a handful of others. Just google for places to apply online, and you’ll find many. Or you can go as an exchange student, work at a farm or ranch, or if you know somebody, try seeing if you can stay with them for a time. Living with someone or working in another country is the best way to learn about that culture.
Saying all that, if you like you can still visit touristy things.
But also go outside of the box. A friend and I recently went to Berlin, and while we spent the first day doing touristy type things, the second day we visited Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s house and then went flea marketing and thrift store shopping—who wants to buy junk at tourist shops when you can find authentic things for discounted prices elsewhere?
5> But I can’t afford it
Let me start by saying that I know this lady who has eight children and while they are not wealthy, they make a point to travel often because she believes it’s good for her children to see other ways of life and have a broader view of the world and its people.
Then let me add, you can always afford what you value.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to travel, it just takes a bit of sacrificing.
First, you have to sacrifice all those snacks and drinks you’d like so that those dollars can be put away for a plane ticket (or maybe gas money for a road trip). Then you have to endure long headaches as you spend up to hours looking for the best deals in flights, or planning your route.
Further sacrifice is involved when it come to the question of where will you sleep. Hotels add up. If you’re driving, make your car practical for sleeping. If you have lots of people and just need that room … squish people together. If you’re flying and that plane was canceled, just spend the night in the airport (yes, I’ve done this). If you’re overseas I highly recommend checking out hostels as they are usually no more than $10 a night. For girls, I’d recommend getting a women’s dorm to sleep in. I know people who think hostels are dangerous, but it’s like anything:
Be wise, and just go for it.
Travel lightly, buy sparingly, walk when you can, and sleep where you are. If you follow those simple rules, you’ll find that traveling isn’t so bad.
“But a plane ticket isn’t cheap,” many say.
Yes, that’s technically true. I spent a little over $1000 for a round trip to Germany. I’m not going to say that’s not a lot of money. But I value traveling, and so it was worth the price. And since I view these six months as education, a thousand bucks is nothing for an education.
It’s all about the perspective and what you want.
6> Traveling is lonely and boring
As an extrovert, I’ll admit that the first few times I’ve traveled, it was lonely. And I would take it personally when the person next to me would just sit down, insert his earphones, and ignore me on the whole flight.
But traveling has also balanced the introverted side of myself to such an extent that sometimes I really love being alone. I still prefer to enjoy things with other people, but I can now appreciate beauty on my own and live with my thoughts for hours and days at a time.
Yes, sometimes it is lonely. Sometimes I do wish for an in depth conversation. But … you know, there’s always a remedy for any problem, if you just think on it hard enough.
Believe it or not, there are other people that like to travel and meet other people. Not every person sitting next to me on a plane has been rude … I’ve had many great conversations with my seat buddy.
And did you know America isn’t the only country with churches or social events? Yes, you have to look for them. Invitations don’t come knocking at doors. But, with a bit of will power and a lot of nerve, it’s impossible to stay lonely for long.
As for being boring, let me just say again, it’s all in your perspective. One can learn to have a lot of fun in the quiet, slow paced moments. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been learning that peace is far from boring. Through traveling, I have developed many new tastes, including hiking and visiting attractions on my own. And I’ve also become very much at home with myself.
I hate how the word has become misused, but it’s quite empowering to become more satisfied in who you are and with the world you live in. Traveling isn’t something I lightly recommend. It will grow you in ways you never thought possible, will open you to other ideas, and will test you in everything you believe.