- by Joe W.
In this series of essays, Memphis native [Joe W.] will be writing to you while he makes his travels through Europe. He had previously studied Linguistics in Germany for over a year as part of an international student exchange program through the University of Memphis. And now, as you read through his writings, please try taking a look through his eyes. It is not his purpose to inform as much as it is to enlighten - to spark your curiosity in another culture and to make you aware of the relevance each culture pertains to your own life. He hopes to offer you much more than a guide to a location, but he wishes mostly to pilot you to a destination you never knew existed. And since some of the best stories cannot be contained in words, he will be submitting photo essays that will coincide with each written piece.
When I first arrived in Germany to study for a year, I didn’t know much about the town where I was living, let alone its surrounding cities. Hoping to expand my developing German-language skills and wishing to discover more of my new environment, I decided to take a small trip to the neighboring city of Ingolstadt. Not knowing a single person who lived there and not really knowing how to get there posed somewhat of a problem. All that I knew was that taking the number-three line from the local train station should bring me, in some time, to Ingolstadt.
I decided not to concern myself with what might go wrong - apprehension in travel can cause much greater crises than necessary - but rather to explore my fresh surroundings. In effect, I purposefully got myself lost. This may seem odd, but I did this in order to teach myself the complex train system, the intricate bus system, the obscure interactions between people, and most importantly, the awkward language. This is the method that I have utilized throughout my travels. The panic from disorientation heightens my senses and drives me to memorize virtually everything I encounter.
After I stepped off the train in Ingolstadt, I went to the first shop I could find to buy a map. There I learned and reviewed the necessary terminology for finding my way around the city. With my map in hand, I rigorously navigated myself around the complex and confusing streets of Ingolstadt. Around every corner there seemed to be another corner to go around. After almost four hours of wandering, West Park mall, my final destination, finally came into view. Tired and hungry, but not broken, my resolve seemed a bit stronger. I later learned, as I revisited Ingolstadt again and again, that my entire journey should have taken no more than forty-five minutes.
Asking for directions is never an easy thing to do, but I have put my embarrassment aside and reminded myself of one thing: I am a foreigner. When I learned this lesson, everything new involved in traveling seemed much more natural for me. I have always followed the simple principle that, if someone is mindful of their resources, they can travel well on a limited budget.
Harry A. Franck illustrated this lesson in his novel A Vagabond Journey Around the World when he ambitiously wrote, “With all due respect to bank accounts, I believe a man with a bit of energy and good health could start without money and make a journey around the globe.” Written in the early Twentieth Century, Franck described his journey where he traveled through Europe and around the world with nothing more than $104 and a Kodak camera. The lessons he shared are unique and come in handy when traveling on a limited budget.
I have always been traveling in such a manner that I might one-day pass on my knowledge to fellow travelers so that they would learn to appreciate culture more and be an integral part of the traveling experience.
Joe W. is a multilingual freelance photojournalist whose work has appeared in the University of Memphis independent student newspaper The Daily Helmsman as well as other international publications. His technique is not from textbook training, rather learned intuitively and through the study of art. His goal is to create lasting and dramatic images that people will remember.