My husband is a soldier and we were fortunate enough to be stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany for three magical years. Once settled in, I couldn’t wait to explore outside the boundaries of “little America” (aka our military base), and immerse ourselves in new surroundings, cultures and languages.
While my family was ready to adventure with passports and backpacks in hand, I noticed that not all other Americans shared our wanderlust. They weren’t comfortable leaving the confines of our American housing, going past the gate guards, and exploring a German grocery store, let alone hopping a train and seeing Europe.
Friends and neighbors often looked at me in amazement because of my excitement and passion. They wondered how I could possibly “brave” Europe and travel with two small children to unfamiliar places. It is all part of accepting the adventure, blooming where you are planted and #LivingFearless.
Moving Past Fears
I knew that the Army was providing our family with a special opportunity. I also knew that my children would receive a unique education and see things that others never would. I wanted to share this thrill with others and took it upon myself to lead by example, encourage, and invite friends along.
Even still, I could hear uncertainty in their voices. Although they admired me, they didn’t understand my courageous spirit and asked lots of questions. I’d often smile a knowing smile from a place of confidence and experience, and answer their questions as best I could.
What if you get lost? Did I always know my way around? No. I did my best to know where I was and where I was heading, but sometimes things just happened. Getting lost is part of the fun, part of the adventure. It is there, off the beaten path, that we found something we might otherwise have missed and there where we would interact with locals by asking for directions.
What if you don’t understand the language? Was I fluent in another language? No. I understood and could speak some basic words in German, Italian, Spanish and French. Mostly I simply smiled, tried, and people were willing to talk with me because of that. When all else failed, charades filled in. It made for some fun stories.
What if your kids have meltdowns? My kids…what about my very young kids? Of COURSE they were going to meltdown. It was a part of daily life at that stage, but if they were going to do it anyway, I might as well see something amazing. And honestly, they were usually so intrigued by our new surroundings, the rough moments didn’t last long.
Aren’t you scared or nervous? As far as my own personal comfort, I never felt afraid. I was mindful of my surroundings, was smart about my belongings, and blended in in a way that didn’t scream “tourist.” I always felt right at home and Europe and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Exploring the Unknown
I went in to my adventures with shoulders back, head high, ready to explore and show my children, by my example, that the world is a wide and wonderful place. We were not meant to sit still, but instead, take advantage of this incredible opportunity to live abroad for three years. We were practicing the art of #LivingFearless and our lives are richer because of it.
How Are You #LivingFearless?
The #LivingFearless campaign is sponsored by Protection 1. They are our nation’s full-service security provider and are sharing stories about people across the US who are making the choice to leave a fearless life. Protection 1 employs 15-20 percent of veterans, and has close ties with USAA. They believe that they can serve us too, and they offer a military discount on their services. How are you #LivingFearless?
A self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops is a mother of two and enjoys writing, travel, art, languages, slow cooking and peaceful parenting. She studied Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. She is a contributing author for Wall Street International Magazine and has discussed her articles on-air with AFN Wiesbaden. She’s usually seen adventuring with her Canon, a coffee and two small children. Follow her on Twitter.
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