Gabby is an American girl who traded in university life for an Au Pair job in Germany. Now studying history, Gabby shares how she’s resumed courses AND learned to balance her school work, nannying, and exploring simultaneously. We never said it was easy, people! I so love seeing young women take the plunge to travel abroad, fears and worries and all. Enjoy this awesome interview, and happy travels to everyone reading out there!
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Gabby and I am 19 years old. I currently live in Houston, Texas but I am from Syracuse, New York. When I was seventeen, I dropped out of college and moved to Germany to become an au-pair. I spent a year and a half living and traveling in Europe. Whilst I was in Germany I enrolled in Liberty University full-time through their online program so I could continue to travel freely. I am currently a junior majoring in History. For hobbies I enjoy reading, hiking, playing board games, and obsessing over anything related to Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, or Harry Potter while eating donuts and tacos.
Why do you travel?
I travel because the world is big and it holds so many people with different views, ideas, and beliefs. Traveling allows me to interact and learn from all of these people which expands my worldview and, in my opinion, gives me a much broader education than my schooling ever will. I hope that these interactions will make me a more compassionate and understanding person towards everyone regardless of race, religion, and nationality.
How do you balance work and travel?
Balancing work and travel is not a difficult challenge for me because I had an unusual schedule with the family I au-paired for. Both of the parents were teachers so they did not need me when the children had school breaks. This allowed me to have a week off every other month or two. It also gave me a great deal of flexibility during the summer months. The greater challenge was balancing travelling and schoolwork. I was far too busy exploring all of these new exciting cities to want to take time to study! I only succeed in balancing school and travel when I am very organized and disciplined. I do this by setting goals every day of what needs to be done and I do not allow myself to do anything before those goals are met.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your travels?
The best lesson that I learned while traveling is that I can do anything and so I should always trust myself. My first solo trip was to Germany, where I was going to au-pair, and I was terrified. I left my hometown on a bus alone to catch my flight out of New York City. It was five in the morning and I was sitting on this bus just sobbing. I feel so bad for the poor man who was sitting next to me. I had not been afraid of going until I was sitting on that bus completely alone going to a family that I had never met or even video called with. I was replaying all of the horrible things everyone had told me before I left such as, “You’re going to get kidnapped!” or “You’ve never even met these people, they could be murderers just luring you into their house where you can’t defend yourself!”
Luckily, I have great friends and a very supportive mother who were awake at that hour and they calmed me down greatly. I caught the flight and arrived in Germany where I had to buy a train ticket and find my way to the correct train. I did not speak a word of German and nobody was able or willing to speak with me in English. However, I bought the ticket, got on the correct train, and exited at the right station! I met my new family and they were incredible!
Many times I caught myself feeling like a baby or toddler. They always spoke German unless they were speaking directly to me so I could not understand a word of what was being said around me. I also had to relearn basic things like how to use the oven and how to correctly sort the recycling. It was a very humbling experience! These challenges allowed me to grow in ways that I never thought I could, like learning how to speak German, and they only helped me to believe in myself! Every single trip that I have been on allowed me to grow in another way and grow my confidence in myself.
My favorite travel memory is easily from Paris. Paris was my first solo trip when I moved to Europe and I met the most amazing girl from Argentina at the hostel. We decided to travel together and one night we did a boat tour on the Seine River. The tour started right in front of the Eiffel Tower and it was very late so it was lit beautifully. We were sitting on the open top deck, even though it was quite cold since it was February, and suddenly the Eiffel Tower started twinkling! We had no idea that it could do this and it was so overwhelming. Local musicians were playing music outside the boat and suddenly we found ourselves joyfully dancing on top of this boat in the freezing cold in front of the sparkling Eiffel Tower. We must have looked like maniacs but to us it felt like the world had stopped and we were the only two people living in that specific moment.
Something I wish someone had told me before I started travelling is that you do not have to do the touristy attractions wherever you are travelling. I spent a week in London and I was so disappointed with it. I feel like this is because I was focusing my time and money on the places everyone was telling me I had to see or do like the London Eye and Madame Tussauds. These places were not normally what I liked but I thought I couldn’t not do them since I was in London. That being said, my biggest tip is only do what you are completely interested in and do not let anyone guilt you into doing things that you are not interested in!
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