One thing I like about travel is that it takes you out of your own space—home, culture, daily routine—so you can look at your life through the lens of a new environment. This always gives me a fresh, more objective view of my life. Some of my best life decisions have been made while traveling—like deciding to quit a job that had become abusive. In my daily life, I could only think of the reasons I needed to stay. Sitting on a beach thousands of miles from home gave me clarity on how soul destroying the job had become.
The trip doesn’t have to be thousands of miles. The decisions don’t have to be life-changing. Even an overnight getaway can help clear my head, re-focus on what’s important in life, identify the habits or commitments I should shed.
A couple weekends ago, I did some mental spring cleaning while indulging my German heritage. On a blue-sky March day, I took a spur-of-the-moment post-skiing overnight trip to Leavenworth, an excessively cute, Bavarian-style town in the Washington Cascades. Though it’s more Bavarian than Bavaria itself, I rather admire the marketing acumen of the 1960s Leavenworthers who converted a dying lumber town to this Alpine gingerbread extravaganza to lure tourists.
When German relatives come to visit me, everyone suggests I take them to Leavenworth. But really, why would I take a real German person to a fake German town … even a cute fake German town?
My cousin Ute took herself there though. She found many subtle things amusing that I hadn’t picked up on. For example, a northern German beer served at a pub decorated in Bavarian (aka southern German) blue and white flags. This would never happen. The orderly Germans would riot in the streets first.
I’m always rather astonished when I run into a real German person there. But it’s happened several times so I guess the word is out and any Germans wanting an American version of the Homeland are drifting in.
Despite my poking fun at the Bavarian façade, it’s a charming town surrounded by snowy mountains where a person actually has a choice of several restaurants with sauerbraten and wurst (sausage). Does life get any better than this for someone of German heritage? And if the persistent accordion music drives you to drink, well, the beer options (in true German style) are plentiful.
No monumental decisions to change my job or pack up and move to another country. I came home with wine, German bread, and Alpine-inspired art for my home. And a fresh view of my priorities.
A tiny slice of travel (and German Bienenstich pastry) is all it takes.