Lost Girl of the Week: Kae Lani Kennedy

Lost Girl of the Week — By on April 6, 2011 at 6:00 am

This week’s Lost Girl, Kae Lani Kennedy, had her entire life planned out, so as her college career came to an end, she decided to indulge in a four-month vacation in Germany. Little did she know that one vacation would change her entire life plan.

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It was my last year of college, and the realization that the real world would soon be closing in on me led to a shape-shifting semester.  Prior to my travels, I was the kind of girl who saw where I wanted to be, planned an aggressive strategy to achieve it, and would rush to get there.  I always needed to know exactly where I was headed because the element of getting lost would frazzle me, making me feel like my carefully thought out plans were not flowing accordingly.

I was on my way to graduating a year early, so I attempted to fit a lifetime’s worth of vacation into one semester, since I had already planned on there being twenty or so years of work ahead of me.  I decided to end my youth with a bang, so in early 2010 I packed my bags, left Philadelphia, and was Germany bound.  I spent four months bouncing around the German countryside, visiting every corner of the land I grew to adore.  But somewhere between navigating Germany’s intricate railways system and getting lost in foreign cities, I discovered the benefits of wandering.

I landed in Frankfurt one January morning, jetlagged and worry free, for I had no plans and my only obligation was to enjoy myself.  I set up camp in the city of Heidelberg, and after finding out I had no class during the entire month of January, I boarded a train destined for Hamburg.  I had an old high school friend named Jan (pronounced “Yahn”), a Hamburg native, who invited me to stay with him and his family so I could see everything the city had to offer.  I had already been living a few weeks in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, a mountainous region of bier steins and leihderhosen, and was surprised to find a distinguished harbor culture complete with a full cast of rebellious Sankt Pauli sailors upon my arrival in Hamburg.

The first full day I spent with Jan began very quiet and slow, as we were trying to reestablish our friendship where it had left off five years before in America.  But when we got off the S-Bahn in the center of Hamburg and Jan announced “welcome to my hood” followed by a few lines from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, we both knew that we would get along just fine.  We lived worlds apart, but shared shockingly similar interests and the same quirky sense of humor.

My stay in Hamburg was the most spontaneous adventure to date.  The winter was harsh, and was one of the coldest and snowiest that Hamburg had experienced in several decades.  Yet, nothing stopped us from drifting through the streets, finding hidden gems, some of which not even he had seen before.  We watched ships crash through chunks of ice in the harbor and crossed the frozen Alster River, and all along the way, I gathered valuable insight that only true Hamburgers have.  The same history-nerd pride he had for Hamburg was the same kind of love I had for Philadelphia, and that made me appreciate him and his home even more.  In one eventful week, we lived and breathed Hamburg.  We climbed all 453 steps of “Der Michel”, danced on the Reeperbahn (the infamous red light district), and got lost in the Hanseatic city’s rich history.

My jaunt to Hamburg was the beginning of the end of my micromanagement lifestyle.  I went to Hamburg for a simple vacation, but ended up abandoning my fear of getting lost while encountering new places and finding great company in Jan.  We spent the following year hopping on trains, catching rides with travelling soccer teams, meeting halfway in distant cities, and crossing the Atlantic several times, just to experience new wonders together.  Jan and I have found that stumbling upon travel gems is more rewarding and true adventure cannot be planned; rather it is something that finds us when we least expect it and can only be enjoyed if we accept the challenge.

For now, we are recuperating from our last adventure of dodging a barrage of fireworks in Hamburg while ringing in 2011 and eating marzipan in its home of Lübeck. However, we are now working feverishly towards our next escapade; a bike tour from Hamburg to the medieval city of Lüneburg before Jan begins his internship in Los Angeles, California.

You can catch me at www.whereiskaelani.blogspot.com to read more about my journey!

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