Katharina is 36 years old and she lives in Germany. She’s originally from Ulm (a town in the South of Germany) but she moved pretty much all around the country. During the last 7 years, she has been living in Hannover, in Northern Germany. Katharina is a political scientist and during the last years, she has been specializing in the field of migration and immigration. She also lived in Romania for 2 years, studied with a focus on South Eastern Europe, and traveled to Eastern Europe since she was 15 years. Besides, she is a piano & clarinet player and a choir singer. She involves a lot in civil society, she enjoys walking and hiking, reading and writing, traveling and hosting travelers from all over the world.
In July 2018, she decided to quit her job and her life in Hannover and travel for 3-6 months in Romania. The idea was to be free and with herself for a while, before deciding how and where to go next. Eventually, she has returned to Germany.
Let’s hear what Katharina has to say about life, travel, and authentic travels.
What’s your concept of life? Do you have a life motto? How do you integrate it into your present life?
In my life, responsibility is the most important value. I integrate this in many ways in my life: I’m involved in local politics and other civil society activities. I’m the one opening the mouth at work. I try not to harm the environment. In the tramway, I stand up for elderly people or parents with baby buggies. I don’t look the other way if somebody next to me apparently is in the need of help. But responsibility for me means also responsibility towards myself, make sure that I am well first of all.
When did you begin traveling or start traveling seriously? Is traveling a constant part of your life?
Yes, I would say that traveling has always been a part of my life. I traveled as a child with my parents regularly. During high school and university, I had numerous short-term and long-term stays abroad.
I began to travel “consciously” during my two long-term stays in Romania at the age of 19 and 23. I traveled all over the country, mostly as a solo traveler, and learned about all “travel basics.” During this time, I also joined hospitality networks like the Hospitality Club, Couchsurfing, or BeWelcome. This way, I got also in touch with long-term travelers, and so I’m doing this now myself.
Why are you traveling? What does traveling bring to your life?
As I mostly travel to places to which I have some sort of personal connection, I would say my main aim has always been to discover places which mean something to me. I’m interested in why they look as they look and why they are as they are. This includes meeting the people living there. I’m an enthusiastic user of hospitality networks and meeting all these wonderful people has enriched my self-development enormously.
For me, traveling is also a way of regularly breaking up habits – which form automatically when you stay in the same environment for a longer time.
Did you travel when you were a child with your parents? Did you like it? Has this affected you somehow?
My parents used to travel with my brother and me all over Europe every year. And yes, I mostly liked it. From time to time, I regretted to not have beach holidays in Northern Italy as most of the neighbors’ kids. Only later, I realized what treasure it was that my parents always taught me to go beyond the well-known.
I also think that traveling with my parents opened up Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe for me. My mother used to be a school teacher of history and politics in a divided Europe so she has always been interested in an exchange between the East and the West. For me, Eastern Europe was never that “far away” as for most other kids of my generation born in Western Germany.
How do you feel when you’re traveling? What’s different when you are traveling than when you’re staying at home?
Well, I’m usually on holiday when I travel. And as I am a solo traveler most of the time, I can live my own personal rhythm for a while. This is not always possible during the everyday routine at home, though. During the last years, I worked full-time so usually, my work determined my daily and weekly rhythm.
As I am staying a lot with locals, I always have to adjust to a new surrounding and to different habits. This is always an exercise in flexibility for me. Sometimes this goes lost while living in my own apartment where everything is as I wish it to be.
From time to time, the places I travel help me to recover (and overcome) some problems I face at home. When I stood high above on the cliffs of Wales and looked into the wild ocean, my problems at work looked so much smaller. At home, in my familiar surroundings, it is more difficult for me to broaden the view.
Solo traveling teaches me much about what really counts for me. Sometimes this goes lost during the everyday routine. During my last travel, I found out that I don’t enjoy to be on my own for more than two days. I need to have a friends circle around me. As I found exactly that difficult in the place I’ve been living in for the last years, my conclusion was to give up my life there and rather go for a place I have already had friends or family.
Where have you been traveling in the world so far? Which places do you choose to go? How do you select the destinations? What plans do you have in the future?
I usually travel to places to which I have some sort of personal connection. If I hear repeatedly about a certain place or region from friends or during my studies or work, I usually get interested in it. So I traveled almost exclusively Europe (Western Europe as well as Eastern Europe).
I also enjoy traveling more than one time to the same place. I love to dive deeper into a place and to meet interesting people more than one time. E.g. I will go a second time to Constanța at the Romanian Black Sea Coast and stay a bit longer. I was there in spring, I liked the early season atmosphere, the town has a very colorful cultural heritage, and I met wonderful Couchsurfers there. I’m curious to get more of the current sentiment of life there.
However, my perspective broadened during my work in the field of migration. I have strong personal connections to people originating from the African continent – coming from Sudan, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, and they are talking about a lot more countries – and would like to discover them soon.
What’s your traveling style or your traveling pace? How often do you travel and for how long?
I use to travel in my holidays, so I travel usually about 2 times per year for 2-3 weeks. I have been doing long term traveling only now for the first time. For 3 months, I have been moving from one place to another. Although I am free for another 3 months, I’ve decided to end it now. After 3 months, I’ve begun to miss a place. So I would say I’m definitely off the nomad sort.
My traveling pace is rather slow. This has to do with the fact that I’m neither blessed with a very quick comprehension nor with a good orientation sense. I always need some time to get along with a new surrounding and to have something out of it.
I usually avoid train/ bus rides longer than 3-5 hours. If I have to travel for longer distances, I either take the time to travel in more than one stage, or I travel by night train (I absolutely love to be rocked to sleep), or I take a plane.
I always prefer to travel by train, I enjoy to have some space to move and an on-board toilet. For me, this is worth to spend the money. What I really don’t enjoy are long car trips, so hitchhiking is not really an option for me.
What’s the difference between ‘authentic travels’ and ‘simple travels’ in your opinion?
Low budget travel is not necessarily the thing I would dub an ‘authentic travel experience’ as long as the person runs from one place to another and stays all the time in hostels.
Do you travel in your own authentic way or not at this moment?
As I am doing a long-term journey, definitely yes. I go to where my mind takes me. I take the time it needs. I do what has to be done. And I come back when I feel to do so.
Do you give up your dreams of traveling in a certain way for the sake of something or somebody else?
No. I’ve always had the privilege to have some time and money for doing it. I’ve just adjusted my destinations according to my financial situation.
Are you planning to travel the same way from now on or you want to change something? You wish you’d travel in a different way?
I need to refresh my experience in driving a car. During my long-term travel, I couldn’t reach some places in the countryside because of the lack of public transport. When I managed to reach them anyway, I missed some flexibility while staying there. I also don’t want to be so restricted in transporting food, books and hiking equipment so having a car would be great.
This is what Katharina has to say for us about her traveling style. Let’s wish her all the best on her future trips and her new life in Germany.