Let’s talk about Germany.
Germany was the first place I ever traveled to outside of the U.S.
Back in 2012 (I can’t believe it’s been 6 years!), I convinced my parents to let me join a foreign exchange program, and go to Germany. The program was through the school, with plenty of chaperones and rules so that they felt safe sending their sheltered little 17-year-old daughter off across the ocean.
And thank goodness they did, because going on this trip has shaped so much of who I am today, and it’s where I first acquired that burning urge to travel – as far and as often as possible – frequently known as wanderlust.
Germany didn’t just give me my wanderlust, though, it gave me a friend.
In the exchange program, we were matched with other program participants from Germany. They came and stayed in the U.S. for 10 days and lived with our families, then we went to Germany and lived with theirs.
Caroline was my host sister. She and I got along so well. She was easy to talk to and funny and kind and understanding and driven.
Germany gave me a friend, and then it took her away.
Caroline died in a car accident just a few months after I stayed with her in Germany.
I still remember the moment that I found out about her passing. I was called to the office. It was the middle of lunch. I was confused about why I’d been called in, and even more confused to see my dad there (he was a teacher at my school, so he was asked to come in to be there for me). The councilor asked me to sit down, and told me the news.
It was the biggest shock I’ve ever experienced in my life. I remember feeling totally frozen and disoriented, then shocked when I realized that there were already tears rolling down my face. It brings tears to my eyes even now to think about it.
I also distinctly remember the guilt that I felt upon realizing that I would never see or speak to Caroline again. I had promised her, before I’d left, that I would keep in touch. But I hadn’t contacted her once in the time between my leaving and her death. The regret I felt at this has stayed with me, and will continue to stay with me for all my life.
I learned a lot from my trip to Germany. I learned of my love for travel, but more importantly, I learned how short life can be.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that you should live each day as if it’s your last, but certainly there is danger in putting off the things that can be done today.