Sand Dollars and Solace

California came two weeks after a miserable break up.

I was devastated, heartbroken and exhausted.

Nothing was fitting clearly in my mind between the constant flow of excuses and reasons creeping in the corners of my brain and I was ready to jump in the ocean and let the waves carry me wherever they thought I should go.

IMG_6203IMG_6200I would drive to the ocean and walk the coast for miles, humming songs that filled my heart and dancing if only to leave beautifully intricate patterns in the sand.

Wind whipped my hair constantly and the waves would crash around my ankles as I hopped frantically out of the freezing water.

As I walked the beach, I would find pieces of broken shells everywhere. Soon, I found cracked sand dollars every few steps. The farther I would go, the more whole the sand dollars would become.

But I couldn’t find one that was whole.

Ironic,  I thought to myself, the broken girl stumbles across all of the chipped and cracked sand dollars, never finding a whole one because she’ll never feel that way again.

On one of my last trips to the beach, I remember sitting in the sand, digging my toes as far as I could into the earth and covering my legs until a mini sand castle kept me warm.

I ran my hands through patterns upon patterns, the sand felt so good running through my fingers.

I came across this sand dollar that was 90% whole and I held it in my hands. I spoke aloud to the universe and I said “If I can find one whole sand dollar, please let that be a sign that everything is going to be okay.”

I can’t tell you how stupid I felt saying this to the ocean. However, I had complete confidence in those words and so I said them aloud a few more times, begging for the universe to show me that eventually I would be okay.

I walked for miles down the shore and found one more sand dollar that was not quite whole and I smiled. Maybe this was it. A sign that even though this sand dollar was chipped, it was beautiful. I told myself that this is what I would find.

Still, I kept walking along the ocean.

Not even a minute later, I spotted another white circle buried in waves.

I remember this moment clear as day.

I gasped and ran to it, gently lifting it from the wet sand and washing it in the next crest that came to shore.

It was whole.

IMG_6230The happiness that swelled inside me brought tears to my eyes and I remember laughing by myself in the middle of the beach with the ocean right by my side.

That’s it, I thought,  I will be whole again. 

And it’s so strange that I needed the universe to tell me that I would be okay, but it did. Every trip to the beach after that never led me to another whole sand dollar.

It was my sign.

And maybe I made the entire coincidence up in my head in order to find the fight within me that I needed to heal.

But it worked.

I still have that sand dollar in my room, telling me that feeling whole is a process. I kept the broken one too if only to remind me that imperfection is still beautiful.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

Advertisements

The Terror of Leaving Home

11373964_164868337184836_54135550_nIts scary isn’t it?

You’re used to the way your bed fits in your room, the weird quirks of the microwave and the neighbors surrounding you.

You’re used to the neighbors and the dog that is constantly barking.

And now you want to move somewhere new. 

Why?

Maybe it’s the memories you have in this town or maybe you’ve just outgrown it’s borders.

Maybe you crave a new lifestyle or different weather.

Maybe you want to move to the mountains or the oceans.

There really is many reasons why you can love your home so much but still want to leave.

I’ve been fighting with this dilemma for a while now.

And to be honest, I don’t know if I want to stay because I’m scared, realizing I could really have some great opportunities here or just terrified of leaving my family.

On the other end, I don’t know if I want to leave because I’m running from something, naive or in love with the idea of starting over in a place I choose as everything I want out of a home.

It’s terrifying and exhilarating.

I have nothing and no one holding me back and that is the beauty and danger of being on your own.

You get to decide exactly what you want to do and it’s a lot of pressure when it comes down to it.

I have 9 months to decide where I’ll go and I don’t have any idea what my decision is yet although I’m leaning.

I’ve wanted to leave for even just a couple years, ever since I was little. I’ve wanted to go anywhere different from where I have been.

I think, but I’m not sure, that it is what I truly need to do. Maybe.

This plan has changed and twisted several times due to people and experiences and that’s okay, but now that I can dwell on me, myself and I, the clock is ticking.

I’ve grown a beautiful cocoon in this place I call home, but I think it may be time for me to spread my wings and fly somewhere else.

After all, I can always fly home.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

Inside The Traveler’s Soul

It’s true, us travelers are wired differently.

We don’t discover our souls, we create them. So once you’ve met someone who has decided to create a soul full of adventure and wander, prepare yourself for how they think and where their passions lie.

We crave change. I’m not talking about moving every few months or trips to Europe every single year. The change of scenery we need is more about exploring something new. We want our eyes to be awakened by new places and that doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

I can’t tell you how much small trips mean to us wanderers. Whether it’s getting coffee in the next town over or exploring a new park, we crave a change that will refresh our inspiration.

We seek adventure.  We need to have fun in a way that is new to us. An adventure can be as small as going to a new grocery store or searching for a new solitary. Walking new paths or searching for the oldest antique shop around, we just crave an adrenaline rush.

We want knowledge outside of our city limits. What else is out there? As soon as we’ve left, we realize how much we HAVEN’T seen yet. We start planning and plotting for new trips that will teach us more about the world than a text book every could.

Daydreaming is guaranteed to be filled with exotic locations and foods that we don’t even know exist yet.

We love solo adventures that help us create ourselves but we also love sharing our wanderings with loved ones. If you see the most incredible flower field hidden in a mountain valley, happiness consumes you. If someone is with you, you look right at them and smile from ear to ear because it just became a shared memory. You are both witnesses to a beauty that can never be translated into words.

Come on my fellow wanderers. What else makes our souls all about travel?

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland

dsc_0259 (2)

As my last day here comes to a close, I can’t believe a month has flown by so quickly. 

I met most of my extended family from Germany for the first time. I tried a horse patty. I ordered food in German without any help. I made friends whose first language isn’t my own.

I truly lived here for one month. 

I can’t explain the powerful vibes that come from a town that your ancestors have grown up in. I brushed dead leaves from the grave of my great Oma who’s name I now carry. I walked the same streets she did and hung out with the children of my dad’s German best friend.

These buildings hold memories that belong to generations of those who share the same blood. The sense of family and love that I get when I talk to the people who live here is unlike any place I have ever been before. 

As a stranger, it did not take me long to feel like I completely belong in this small town. Whoever said Germans aren’t friendly did not come to this little village.

I learned the coolest expressions and figured out that Germans cannot say the word ‘squirrel’. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to collapse on the pavement.

Needless to say the people I met here and the memories I made will stay in my heart forever.

This trip has been the most incredible first journey in this country. I am so blessed to have had this chance to make so many memories and I can’t wait to come back for more.

Until next time,

Anna Marie

I’ll Say It Again, Travel Heals You: Germany

Sometimes we get stuck. We get put in this place where moving forward is our only option but our environment won’t allow for it until certain things are taken care of. Our minds go into overdrive and our emotions lay bare. Our hearts pump blood a little faster and our hope spreads thin.

I was there. I was in this place where I wanted more than anything in the world to move forward and I was continuously dragged back into this dark place.

Germany was my haven.

The first two weeks here, I saw so many new things and took part in all of these common traditions and I started to forget the darkness I left. I felt alive.

A few days into my trip I started to wonder why I was keeping attachments to people and things that hurt me and so I did what any sane woman who was trying to move forward would do, I completely detached them from every aspect of my life. I did it for me so I could move forward and stop the thoughts from pouring in every time I saw their name.

It wasn’t until I realized my trip was half way over that I realized I hadn’t thought about anything happening back home for a few days now. A topic that shadowed my thoughts for months hadn’t even crossed my mind for a few seconds in the past few days.

Once again, travel was healing me.

When I sat in bed thinking of how incredible this moment was, tears filled my eyes. I saw myself and I recognized someone who looked like me but felt different. I felt stronger, passionate and more than anything, loved. I was surrounded by new friends and an amazing family and the love I felt was more genuine than anything I’ve known.

I laughed because I recognized someone who had made it through what I thought was impossible. The worst is over, now I can promise happiness to myself.

There is nothing more beautiful than realizing you made it through the worst part of a pitfall in your life. 

I used to reflect so much on this past summer and I haven’t done that for weeks now. I haven’t questioned, wondered or regretted anything. I haven’t relapsed or broken down and I don’t see that part of my life as I used to. I’m not blinded by emotion anymore and I see everything a lot more clear.

It’s crazy what happens to you when you are so close to a situation. Germany gave me the time to see that what happened to me was not a punishment in any way. It was a blessing in disguise in order for me to become who I want and go where I believe I deserve to go. It showed me how much love I need to come from myself so I can stop feeling the pain I had been in.

It only took the Atlantic Ocean and a different continent for me to finally feel like the storm is at it’s end. And once again, travel has healed me.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

Laughing in a Foreign Country

When I came to this little European small town, I never expected to meet so many people. I really didn’t expect to become such good friends with so many of them. Being here has given me the chance to be so extremely happy and I can’t believe my time here is coming to a close.

I know the question that will be asked over and over when I go home. What was your favorite part of the trip? The best way I found that answer?

I stayed in this town and lived like a local. The best way to answer it? Rattle off one of these answers from the list of favorites I have created. 🙂 Enjoy.

merryI went to the local fairs and festivals. We went on rides and discovered that German fair food includes Chinese noodles and chocolate covered fruit on a stick. YUM.

I wandered the cobblestone streets until I knew them as well as I know my home town. I still awe at the architecture and differences that make this country so unique.

I learned that they don’t refrigerate their milk or eggs and how convenient that would be if I could just take a few boxes home.

The cheese here just can’t match the tastiness of growing up in the US cheese state but their bratwurst and sauerkraut are to die for.

Every night, I take a walk with my sister on a trail that surrounds the entire town of Kriegsfeld and that more often than not, our walks will be intercepted by local friends who want us to join them for a night of crazy memories. If not, they’re filled with sunsets and sights that never get old.

Flunkyball is a game that taught me to chug a German beer faster than some men.

The stars here shine so much brighter because it’s not very populated and one night we laid in the grass as a group and watched a meteor shower. I saw about 25-30 shooting stars that night and I realized how happy I was when I couldn’t think of many wishes to put in the hands of the falling star. 

Making some yummy eggs!

If you stay out with friends until the wee hours of the morning, it is tradition to make eggs at someones house and then go home.

I’ve thought so much more about what I’m saying because I can’t speak complicated, messy sentences or no one will understand me. I have to be concise and simple. It taught me the important lesson of talking with a purpose.

Football (soccer) is life. We’ve been to the local town games and are adventuring to a big town game today.

The people are amazing. The girls and guys our age were so accepting and excited to talk to us. They were hilarious and never made us feel like outsiders.

The cart system at grocery stores make so much more sense. Pay a quarter and return the cart so there’s no mess and people put their carts away. Also, you have to pay for plastic bags. So bring your own reusable ones!

If you have any German language training at all, it is so different once you are here. The dialects make the language sound quite different than a classroom setting but being here for one month has definitely improved my understanding of some conversations.

Family is everything. They love you, care for you and spoil you. Without them, this experience would have never happened and they are the reason I had the time of my life.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

My Grandparents Love Story Is Everything

Born oceans apart, my grandparents fell into a story that starts with “once upon a time”. 

But before we go there, we need to understand something about a huge trip and a leap of faith.

The thing about traveling is it forces change upon you whether you’re ready or not. You’re in a new place with new people and in this case, a completely new culture. Your languages don’t match and the basics of every day living are different, like the way the bread and water tastes.

Leaving your comfort zone doesn’t begin to describe it. You aren’t used to the way people say hello to each other or the laws you are now abiding. You can’t put your finger on why the food tastes different or why the weather is just a little more dramatic then you’re used to.

This is the beauty that comes with traveling, especially to a place you’re staying for a few weeks or more. As I experience this town for the first time, I realize this is how my opa (grandpa) must have felt when he first came here back in 1958 as part of the U.S. Army. 

Northpoint, Kriegsfeld.

When I first explored this town, I was shown the army base my opa was sent to. I saw the barracks he lived in and the mess hall where he stuffed his face. I stared through a locked gate at the overgrown roads and crumbling structures that had such a huge impact on my family. I saw the building my oma (grandma), her sister and niece worked in and imagined the blacktop filled with busy feet marching and cultures clashing.

As I walked through the small town of Kriegsfeld, I stared at the restaurant where my oma and opa had their first date. I studied the coat rack where my oma had sent a little boy to retrieve her coat after ditching my opa at the dining table. I laughed at the idea that these two young kids had no idea the family they would create.

DSC_0180

The restaurant where it all began.

It became so beautiful, to see these places for myself and hear their love story again. My oma, who barely spoke English, fell for the American army boy who barely spoke German. We drove the 10 Kilometers it took to get from the base to this small town and my opa would poke fun at the killer hills and swerving paths he took to walk all this way to see my oma. It wasn’t uncommon for the army boys to fall in love with the women in this town, he told me.

Somehow, the language barrier didn’t stop these two from falling for each other. Through late curfews and stolen motorcycle rides (my oma was driving) their love story began to unfold as two best friends that were in love.

I asked my oma what language she first said “I love you” to my opa and she responded with “German, but he didn’t understand what I was saying so it didn’t even matter.” Somehow, she must have got the message across because they’ve been married for 55 years now.

Taken this morning.

55 years is a remarkable time to be in love, I thought as I walked past the parking lot that used to be my oma’s home. This is the place she was born as well as where my aunt was born. She reminded me of how terrified she was to move to the United States where everything was so different from home.

But she did it anyways.

She said she lost so much weight from the ups and downs of her first year in America. She got her citizenship in a year in a half instead of the five years it usually took. She was scared in this new place that was her home and as she tells me this in completely perfect English, I realize that this woman is one of the bravest people I have ever met. 

My oma had love and that was it. The love for her husband and their new daughter gave her the strength to leave her home and everything she ever knew. She learned English by listening and became more aware of United States history than a native citizen. She made friends with a babysitter and local librarian who would help her learn as much as possible so she could become an American.

DSC_0147This is just small evidence of the courage she has. Every other year, she would fly back to this small town to reconnect with her family and friends and she’s been doing this for over 50 years now.

And now, I’m finally with her. I get to see every place she enjoyed as a teenager and enjoy them with the grandchildren of her friends. I get to meet my dad’s friends from his trips to Germany and make new friends of my own.

The history this town holds in my family is truly incredible and inspiring. 

The love story that unfolded in this town is one that I hope to be so blessed to find one day. A love that you would literally cross oceans for. 

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

DSC_0107

Wisconsin To Germany: What I’ve Learned So Far

DSC_0150

*disclaimer* today’s post is a little bit rushed but stick with me here! I’ve only got so much time and after all, I’m on vacation. 😉 

Wisconsin is the most German state in the U.S. We are considered to be the most drunk state, the one with the most German heritage and who knows what else.

Now that I am finally in this beautiful country, I am so excited to release a list of things I’ve learned when comparing the two. It may not be just Germany, it could be Europe as a whole vs. the US. Nonetheless, here we go.

1. Sparkling Water vs. “Still” Water

Over here, when you ask for water, you get sparkling water. They sell “still” water for your drinking pleasure but I have been the only one who enjoys it. Everyone here drinks bubbly water, even chugging it after a tough workout. I can get used to it if I am forced to, however carbonated water just doesn’t feel right when you’ve been drinking still water your whole life. It sure makes you feel fancy though.

2. Beer and Wine in Germany vs. Beer and Wine in Wisconsin

The beer here is as I expected, way stronger and very delicious. You will not find a can of Busch Light over here. American beer is often much more watered down than in Germany. Also, their wine is amazing but also much stronger. Where as a few glasses can hold you over in the states, one glass can get the job done here. They also mix their wine with sprite, lemonade or water.

My favorite beer that tastes like sunshine and happiness? Bitburger Radler. Amazing.

3. The roads. 

The streets here are very narrow compared to the US. When you’re going through a town, it’s not uncommon to pull over to let the oncoming car get by first.

Speaking of their cars, they’re much smaller and more compact. It’s because of their roads that this is more common but it was quite the adjustment from the room you have in the states.

Also, you get your license when you are 18, not 16.

4. The Drinking Age and Rules

This is obviously one of the biggest differences people notice. In Germany, you are allowed to drink beer and wine when you are 16, any kind of alcohol when you turn 18.

The U.S.? 21. In all honesty, I have seen 18 year olds handle their alcohol so much more maturely then 21 year olds back in the states. I think the lower drinking age teaches responsibility at a young age and you learn how to control yourself by the time you are an adult.

In the US, there is so much underage drinking as well as binge drinking. People often go way past their limit and I have not seen nearly as bad behavior in Germany.

Also different, you can have open alcohol in the car as long as you are not the one driving. You can also have it on the streets or sidewalks if you’re going somewhere.

5. Deodorant 

Stick vs. Spray… I must say I have been converted.

6. Drinking games

In Wisconsin, the games we play are based on trying to get the other team to drink. Here? The one game we learned is about your team chugging your way to victory. You are the ones who want to drink in order to win.

7. Breakfast, Lunch and DinnerDSC_0003

Here, your breakfast will never be pancakes or french toast. It’s usually bread and meat. Which, by the way, the bread here is different in a way I can’t explain but so darn delicious. Lunch is usually heavy and dinner is pretty light.

8. Smoking Cigarettes

I have never seen so many young people smoke so many cigarettes. Smoking is so common here for young people and I am actually looking forward to going back to the states so I don’t come into constant contact with smoke. Back home, I don’t have any friends that I know of that smoke cigarettes. Here, I have seen 80% of young adults smoking. It made me appreciate how far America has come with the smoking population.

9. Landscapes

In Germany, there is country for miles and then a small town where houses all touch and are crammed together. There is no country living. There is beautiful farm land all around you and barely any random scattered houses. This is much more common in Wisconsin where you’ll see farms and the houses that are occupied by those who run them. There are backyards and country living. It’s definitely two very different ways of living.

DSC_0044 DSC_0172

10. European Hair

Can we just talk about the hairstyle men have here? They all have shaved sides and a nice floof on top that is styled to perfection. The men here just seem to care way more about what they look like then back home. I don’t really have a preference but it’s definitely very different.

This is the very quick version of what is different, I am sure more will be spilling out of me soon.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie

Traveling Cheap: It’s About Who You Know

As a poor college student who works part-time and just above minimum wage, I’ve been asked by several people how the heck I can afford to travel.

It’s about brains… and hugely based off of who you know.

I’m not talking about befriending the son of the man who built the Hilton Hotels so you can get a special deal or marrying the woman who can get you free airfare.

It’s about friends, family and simply asking to stay with them. Out of the travels I have been on so far, exactly half have been with friends or family. This cuts down the price significantly because I didn’t have to pay for hotels or nearly as much food. Just transportation and souvenirs. The BEST part? I get to rekindle family love.

Hiking with my cousin throughout the beautiful California land.

So I took off on a road-trip with my cousin a few years ago. Just a few months ago I asked if I could visit my cousin in California who was more than happy to pick me up from the airport and let me stay with her. Now, I am currently in Germany with extended family who is from here and able to stay with them for an entire month, no charge.

Now, don’t be thinking I’m only visiting these places to travel. To be able to grow close with family that has moved across the country is THE biggest perk of this idea.  I’ve dreamed of this trip to Germany since I was a little girl and was so blown away by the love and kindness we received as soon as we landed here. (This is for another post altogether! 😉 )

Visiting family world wide has helped me grow as a traveler and as a person. It’s always scary to ask an extended family member if you can stay with them if you aren’t too close but trust me, they will almost always say yes. They will enjoy your company and appreciate the time you spend visiting.

Start making a list of the people you know in places you’d love to see. Not even that, just make a list of family who’s moved far away and who you miss quite dearly. Next, ask them if you can make a journey out there and here is where your adventure begins.

Whether friends, acquaintances or friends of friends, it never hurts to ask. The best case is you save money and make a new friend, the worst is that they say no.

Take advantage of those who are living elsewhere and invite them to take advantage of you. The more people you meet, the better chance that you will find someone through connections that can help you save a little bit on your next trip.

Start your engines and begin planning,

Anna Marie

Goodbye USA, Hello Germany

I am so excited to announce that I will be spending the next month of my life with family in Germany!

Not only is this an amazing opportunity to get to know my family overseas but it is a chance to learn about my roots. I get to see where my family comes from and learn details about my heritage. I am so blessed to have this chance and cannot express my excitement for these next four weeks.

I will be on a plane all day as I cross the ocean and as I’m cramped in the luxurious economy class seat, I will be thinking about how this next month will play out. I have another chance to unwind and repair all of the stress this summer has accidentally set on my shoulders.

This is a chance to immerse into a new culture filled with insanely yummy chocolate and potent beer. The memories made here will definitely be shared during my travel Tuesday posts and I cannot wait to see how Germany changes me.

Get ready for posts of family, castles and German everything.

Until tomorrow,

Anna Marie