Posted in Housekeeping

A Letter

Dear Readers, Followers, Likers, and Happen-Uponers:

Thank you for your support and interest over the past year and a half. I have greatly enjoyed sharing my study abroad and travel triumphs, pitfalls, and all that’s in-between. When I started out my main goal was to encourage those who ever wondered if they should go to actually take the leap. I don’t know if I have been successful, but I hope I have aided in one ticket or tank of gas being purchased.

What I didn’t expect was the impact writing this blog would have on me. As a proponent and believer in the benefits of journaling, self-reflection, and post-experience processing, writing this blog has allowed me to further reflect on my experiences but from a distance only gained through the passage of time.  As a result, this fresh look at my travels has yielded new lessons for me.

The reason I write this letter is because I feel it is time for something new. In the future you will see some changes to this blog (what they all are I am not quite sure yet). For the time being I plan to keep the current content easily accessible and will continue with the Postcards. Some items will be condensed as I make room for expansion. But fear not! Travel will remain at the heart of the blog.

I hope you stick around to see what’s in store. I am open to input as these changes begin to roll out. You can contact me via the blog or at travelladylindsay@gmail.com.

Thank you again,

Travel Lady Lindsay

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Posted in Souvenirs

Pops’ Diary

I never met Pops, my maternal grandfather. He passed away when I was one year old. The picture of him I have in my head is of a smiling man in his mid-twenties with a large round head, glasses, and a cigarette in hand, wearing three-piece suits thus always looking dapper. I have two heirlooms of his. The first is a ring; the second is his travel diary.

This year for Christmas for my mother I decided to transcribe his travel diary. In 1936 when he was 19 he accompanied his father to Zirndorf at Nürnberg, Germany to visit his father’s family and friends. Coincidentally, his father bought him the ring while on that trip.

The whole experience of transcribing this little book was fascinating to me on several levels. I loved learning about my grandfather’s personality and what he perceived important to note. Not only did I get to know him as a young man, but I also caught a glimpse of life pre-World War II in central Germany.

My grandfather captured some economic markers. He commented on how high prices were compared to in Cleveland, Ohio, his home. A liter of gasoline cost 83 pfennings (33 cents in 1936), and a Ford cost 6800 marks (2742 dollars in 1936). He said how many hours a day the workers worked (48 per week) and how much they were paid (24 marks). The list of occupations of people he met includes butchers, a pencil factory worker, and a Zimmermann (metal work) factory worker.

Cultural items and events, both German and American, were referenced. I learned about the Max Schmeling/Joe Louis fight of 1936 and its place in boxing history, something he was eager to hear details about in a letter from home. Shortly after he saw pictures of the fight in town. He also mentioned going to two films, one being Der Junge Graf or The Young Count starring Anny Ondra, who happened to be married to Max Schmeling.

On a more historical cultural note, my grandfather mentioned seeing signs all over Nürnberg that read “Juden Unerwünscht” or “Jews are unwanted.”

One thing that caught me off guard while doing this project was how some things he said seemed to be universal of a 19 year old on holiday, from the frivolous to the true. For example, he tallied up the number of glasses of water he had for the entire trip – two half glasses. Everything else was beer. I did a similar thing when I went to Ireland (age 20). I had a tally at the end of each day’s journal entry of how many beers or Jamesons I’d had.

My grandfather also wrote about something that is very common to the traveling experience. He described how he felt he was constantly stared at by the Germans, mostly the children. People often feel they stand out from their host culture for one reason or another be it their dress, their race, their body language, or their speech. His dress drew some stares one particular day while he was visiting a relative’s slaughterhouse. He was wearing white shoes and a light grey suit while walking through the blood puddles. This was apparently not the typical uniform worn in a slaughterhouse.

This project of transcribing my grandfather’s travel diary was an awesome experience for me. I love to read travel memoirs and here I was able to learn about my grandfather at the same time as reading about his journey. Seeing how much has changed and how little was intriguing and, in parts, unexpected.

Posted in Souvenirs

Generation Z: Unplugged

I know this generation is plugged in almost 24-7, updating friends and family on social media sites, playing online games, and texting, oh the texting. While away, these outlets can be important touchstones for students. Also, a number of schools now host sites for students to blog about their time, issues that come up, daily life, and things learned. This is a great tool for urging students to observe, reflect and report on the experiences they are having, not to mention being great advertising for the offices running the programs. Despite this technological move forward, I think there is still a place for good old fashioned pen and paper journaling.

Blogging wasn’t as prevalent when I was studying abroad. I kept a journal. I found it a way to unwind from the stresses of school, of annoying flatmates who never remember to buy more toilet paper, of a recent encounter with culture shock, or of just needing to download my thoughts. And it was a place to share breakthroughs, happy moments and memorable events.

I was already spending so much time in front of a computer for course work that the thought of typing up a journal didn’t bring the same feelings of comfort and release as having the pen and leather-bound journal in my hands. The silence except for the turning of the page was and is much more soothing than hearing the keys being tapped. My mind could reflect more deeply in the quiet. If I was angry, the situation was more private in order to let loose. If I was über-happy, I had a place to keep that moment all mine, and mine alone.

This idea may seem a bit romantic. And I’ll admit that it may be, but so what? I know that if I’m traveling out of a bag for a weekend, I’d much rather carry a journal with me than anything that might get broken or crushed or wet, or prove to be taxing due to the worry about it getting broken or crushed or wet. Plus, I can’t imagine the calluses on my thumbs from typing on a phone, for example, let alone the cramping of fingers.

Before two of my programs my mother bought me a journal and wrote a little note of encouragement to me in the front. I still have both of them and I take them out from time to time. Being able to read them now offers the same unplugging benefits as when I was writing in them. They also remind me of forgotten memories and provide me with insights as to who I was and how the experience away changed me.

The University of Iowa’s Office of Study Abroad has some helpful comments on journaling about your experience. What I particularly like about the page is that they discuss journaling prior to your departure and after your return. I think these are very key components for those wanting to capture their entire abroad experience as the preparation to leave and the re-entry shock are just as important as the time away. There is no better way, in my opinion, to get the most out of your experience (at the time and down the road) than to journal.

If you are also interested in travel writing/travel journaling, stay tuned for my post about Dave Fox’s Globejotting; How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip).