As soon as I step foot in Munich, it feels like home. Although the duration of my time in the city has not extended past your typical long weekend, there’s something about this place that feels familiar, even though it’s been nearly four years since I’ve been in the heart of Bavaria.
Flash back to the summer of 2011 when I first put my passport to use. The crisp pages were empty and waiting to be filled with foreign stamps, each with stories of adventure accompanying each ink blot.
I was 19 at the time, and my first trip outside of the continental United States was through the San Diego State University Communication Study Abroad Program—a program famous for providing travelers with a whirlwind trip through various countries in Europe. I was scared. I knew nobody. I was overpacked, yet somehow under-prepared. And still, that trip ignited my now insatiable appetite for traveling and crippling wanderlust for adventure.
Fast forward to the present day. I’m 23, work full time as SDSU’s New Media Editor, and I am enrolled as a master’s student in SDSU’s Communication Studies program. I’ve come full circle, first journeying to Europe as an undergraduate, and have somehow found my way on this trip as a graduate student.
Although I’ve been to Europe since my initial adventure, the feelings of excitement and mild nervousness are akin to the feelings I had when I waved goodbye to my parents in the security line four years ago. Germany is the only country I will revisit—the other five countries we will be visiting in the next three weeks will be completely new experiences for me.
When you ask the common American to explain what they think of when they think of Germany, they’ll typically mention beer maids, sausage, luxury cars, and unfortunately, the looming, unfavorable history of the country. But Germany is so much more than the terrors of its past. It is a progressive country full of prosperity and hope. Citizens are healthy, happy and full of pride for their country.
My fellow travelers and I have spent the last few days exploring the beautiful city via public transportation, bikes and on our own feet. Along the way, our paths have crossed with locals brimming with excitement to share their love for their country and city. The words and experiences we share with locals are more genuine and invaluable than anything a tour could provide.
As I wandered the streets of the city, I felt an overwhelming sense of déjà vu as I turned down alleyways and corridors I had visited in my recent past. Memories of my 19-year-old self came flooding back. I reflected on how much my life has changed in a short amount of time. In a way, my life is comparable to the city of Munich—the seamless juxtaposition of old, historic buildings next to modern architecture does not looked forced or out of place.
They come together to tell the stories contained within the walls of the old buildings, and how these rich histories paved the way for the modern developments. Without the old, the new would cease to exist. Sometimes, when we are focused on the future, we forget to reflect on the past and appreciate how past experiences paved the way to arrive at the present.
Munich (or München, if you want to be accurate) set the bar high for the rest of trip. Returning to a familiar European city, especially one as beautiful, historical and fascinating as Munich, acted as a stage where the unfamiliar becomes the familiar, classmates become friends and misadventures become memories.