Travel has played an integral role in defining the arc of my life. I grew up outside Chicago, IL, USA. My parents don't have the travel bug like I do, but I definitely saw the midwestern US and other places we could drive to as a child. In high school, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Europe twice with the high school band and orchestra - I think this is where my love of exploration really began.
Fast forward to college in Washington, DC: my now husband Marco and I decided to do a year-long study abroad instead of the more traditional one semester. We lived in London and were truly on our own for the first time, figuring out how to cook, how to find things in an unfamiliar city, and how to do it on a budget. We took every chance we had that year to travel, spending a total of more than two months elsewhere in western Europe.
Our hearts were captivated by Europe. We saved enough from my entry-level job and Marco's grad school stipend to return to Europe a couple of years later, and then we came back again in 2017 for a truly incredible trip. We got married in Dublin, bringing 40 of our close friends and family with us. We spent the week before the wedding dragging our best friends around Ireland with us, and then the day after the wedding we headed to Stockholm for a cruise through Scandinavia and Northern Europe. It was an amazing experience, and I was so lucky to have an employer who supported me taking a full month off work.
In the spring of 2018, we started to feel like it was time for a change. After much discussion and really working to figure out our priorities in life, we took a huge leap. We both applied to a few graduate schools in Germany, which wouldn't make their admission decisions until later in the summer for the semester beginning that fall. We ended our lease in DC, packed up our stuff, and we hit the road. From June through September of 2018, we floated between family, friends, and sightseeing all across the USA. This gave us the flexibility to attend to some family emergencies as well as the freedom to see the kind of places we knew we'd have a much harder time seeing once we didn't live in North America. We called it the Great American Road Trip and made a point to see true Americana highlights like the world's largest balls of twine (two different contenders), many other world's largest objects, national and state parks, and as many friends and family as we could connect with along the way!
During that trip, we heard back from schools and decided that the best option for us was for me to take up a place at Universität zu Köln studying political science. So in mid-September, we bid our family farewell and took off on our one-way tickets! Since then we have both built careers here in Cologne as doctoral researchers in our respective fields. We look forward to being able to travel again some day soon!
Photos are my own, all rights belong to Danielle Pullan.