My Biography

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I grew up in an upper middle class suburb of Detroit.  Everything about the town – the people, the layout, the food – made me feel trapped.  My soul told me there was more to experience on this planet, an idea encouraged by my mom and my high school German teacher, Janie Barner.  My fondest memory of German class was a lesson Janie taught on travel vocabulary.  At the end she asked, “Now, who has been bitten by the travel bug?”  My heart swelled, and I knew I had been bitten, hard.  Within the next year, I travelled to Germany with my class, and the bug bit deeper.

I did not want to go to college.  Chiefly, I wanted to join the Peace Corps.  My parents pushed me toward the safer path of a four year degree.  I went away to school, earned a degree, a load of debt, and fell upon the perfect opportunity to work abroad.  After graduation, I spent two years teaching English in Austria and traveling Central and Eastern Europe.

I needed a special kind of courage to live and thrive on my own within a foreign country, system, and language.  I remember arriving in Bad Aussee, the small Austrian town where I would live and work.  It was dusk on a late summer day, and it had taken longer than anticipated to arrive.  I passed the address a couple of times before I found it.  My landlord stuck her head out of the window and greeted me.  I could barely understand a word from my landlord’s mouth!  Austrian German is different than the Hochdeutsch I had learned, and my landlord spoke in the unique Bad Aussee dialect.  With time, as the language became more comfortable, I learned to use dialect words in my German.

Months prior to my return to Michigan, I had doubts about how I would fit into my culture, my hometown, with my family and friends.  I moved back in with my parents, which provided a sense of comfort, and started nursing school.  Though, I missed Austria daily, my travels enabled me to see my hometown through a new filter.  I began to appreciate the quaint downtown and the nature trails.  But my desire to travel did not go away.  As the days marched on, and as nursing school became more of a nightmare, living with wanderlust was a lesson in patience.

Now, I am a nurse living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I have had to readjust my feelings about travel.  Through my adolescent and college years, I saw travel as an escape from what I perceived as a boring life.  While I still feel wanderlust, I am learning that travel is more a frame of mind than a location.  With a sense of exploration, travel can be as easy as walking out the front door.

Exploringly yours,

Alaina

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(This was originally written as my first assignment – a biography – for the online travel writing course, MatadorU.)

You Might be a Traveler When…

Kurpark, Bad Aussee, Austria
Kurpark, Bad Aussee, Austria

While planning my upcoming trip to Montréal (leaving tomorrow!) some thoughts occurred to me.  One being: “Why am I not going somewhere warm?!”  But, I haven’t really planned anything (except how to get there and where I’m staying), and most of my friends at work think I’m crazy “brave” for going somewhere alone, for a week.  Through these conversations, and in my own experiences, I’ve noted some characteristics of the traveler

You might be a traveler when… Your bag is a backpack, and you carry it on your back.

Rolling suitcases are for business people in airports.  Travelers ensure all of their belongings transport quickly, easily, and efficiently on their person. And they have the sore shoulders to prove it.

You might be a traveler when… You only bring one pair of shoes.

The ones on your feet!  Even if they are snow boots.  Hey, there is no room for extra shoes in that backpack.

You might be a traveler when… You sleep in a bunk bed, in a room with 4+ strangers.

Minimum.  Whenever I mention that I stay in hostels, I typically get two questions: “Have you seen the movie Hostel?” and “Where do you change clothes?”  There is no privacy, hardly any quiet, and not boring.  But also – it’s cheap.  That’s a win!

You might be a traveler when… You book your transportation to your destination, and your accommodation there, and just kinda go.

Traveling tends to be more about the journey than what you do once you get there.  Yes, I want to see and do all the things but I don’t know what those things are yet.

You might be a traveler when… You take trips and not vacations.

Traveling is kinda hard work; I hesitate to consider it “relaxing.”  Staying at home in my bed would be easier.  To a traveler, traveling is a mandatory, often times intense, experience. It’s about exploration and discovery of a new place (and yourself).  Poolside piña coladas are typically not included.

You might be a traveler when… People ask you about your upcoming trip, and you’re not sure how to respond.

“Are you excited?!” my mother and a couple friends might ask pre-trip.  I don’t know – am I?  Sure, a traveler looks forward to the next trip, but excited?  I don’t know.  A traveler needs to go, there is a deep-seated desire to explore the world around her.  Whether that elicits excitement, or is a feeling that you care to explain to any person who asks, is up to the individual traveler.

There are many ways to experience a place.  But, in my mind, “travel” does not always come with a daiquiri on the beach (but, that wouldn’t be too bad eh?).  Travel should push you, pull you, mold you.  Travel is good for the soul.  Exploration is essential.  However you do it, just go.

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” -Anatole France

Food for thought.

Exploringly yours,

Alaina