For Chris German, it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone.
German, a Warren County Public Schools Systems (WCPS) technician, has accumulated a passport full of entry and exit stamps during his travels to nearly two dozen countries and six of the Seven Wonders of the World. He plans to visit the remaining one, Christ the Redeemer, in Rio de Janeiro at some point.
Chris had planned to visit the latter site during a stopover there en route to Antarctica, but scheduling problems forced him to abandon the trip.
With WCPS for about eight years, German has also held seasonal jobs with Front Royal Outdoors and Mountain Trails for the past six years. This summer, however, the German is planning a little downtime. Maybe his passport will still have a few stamps by the end of the summer.
Chris, who only traveled domestically growing up, said he caught the travel bug after hearing a relative talk about his own travels, which included a trek through Europe in using the extensive train system. “His adventures and misadventures during his travels sparked something in me,” German said.
“I got interested in other places and wanted to see them for myself instead of watching it on the Discovery Channel or reading a book about it.”
German and a friend quickly bought one-way plane tickets to Europe, then “went around without any plans for three weeks; Since then, I have traveled the world. »
He says one of the things that brings joy to this world traveler is getting lost in the local culture. He was greatly influenced by celebrity chef and American author Anthony Bourdain, world famous for his travel television show, Unknown parts, which focused on exploring international culture, cuisine, and the human condition.
Of Bourdain, German said, “His shows and the way he did things – getting out of the comfort zone, interacting with the locals, getting lost in their culture – really helped me become the traveler that I am today.”
This spring, Chris took a trip to Morocco, befriended the locals, and even had the chance to serve camel burgers at a local restaurant, after befriending the owner of the restaurant.
The Kingdom of Morocco is the most northwesterly country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Morocco overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It has land borders with Algeria to the east and the disputed territory of Western Sahara to the south. It is also directly across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain.
German said he had a list of reasons for choosing Morocco, including a chance to visit the Chouara tannery, where leather is dyed in stone pits. He was also interested in exploring the landscape; he said being in the Sahara Desert was “breathtaking”.
“You literally can’t hear anything, and it takes a while for your body to adjust to it. It’s like something out of Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ novel,” he said.
A richer experience can be had, German said, when tourists step out of their comfort zone. “While your typical tourists don’t step out of their comfort zone, stay in hotels or resorts, and never leave the tourist areas, I think getting out of that zone, embracing the culture they offer gives you a better experience that you will remember for a lifetime.”
“Going out for a drink with the locals, accepting this invitation to have tea with the family. Don’t be afraid of the mystery meat, walk down that alley to some amazing street food…place that bet on a pigeon race!”
During his spring trip, the German was pleased that the locals called him “Ali Baba”. He shared, “I think everyone I met in Morocco called me Ali Baba, including the kids trying to sell things on the street.
“I have a beard, so I believe they referred to me as the ‘Ali Baba’ of history. Ali Baba and the Forty thieves. I will never forget that moment when a nomad who lived in the mountains grabbed my beard and said, “Hello, Ali Baba! with the biggest smile! I had a great time talking with him and his family over tea and bread.
This experience was not his only memorable one in Morocco. He says that while having a camel burger in a small kitchen, “the owner loved that I was there and that I was visiting his country. Somehow I ended up behind his counter cooking camel burgers while he took pictures of me. I had to crawl inside this kitchen; it was 3 feet by 3 feet wide! He told me to post the picture on Facebook and say it was my new job!
So far, the world traveler has visited 22 countries, the territories of the Galapagos Islands and French Polynesia, six of the seven wonders of the world and six continents – Antarctica is still on his list. Ironically, German has visited more countries than US states, with 21 visits and 29 more to tick off his list.
Most of his travel adventures are not typical vacations. He said: “I’m mostly riding a lot and going with the flow, which has worked in my favor so far. I camp a lot on my travels and stay in cheap backpacker hostels or hotels. You can rub shoulders with like-minded people, exchange information, and form lifelong friendships.
The shared experience connects Chris to the travelers he has met along the way. He says he could write a book from all his memories. He said he met “three amazing Canadians that I met in Byron Bay, Australia at a camp hostel.” He said they were right by a beach, and when they weren’t surfing, they were adventuring.
To this day, German said, “We keep in touch and hope to see each other again on our travels.”
He has other stories, like when he was in New Zealand. “I was picking up hitchhikers and driving them around, which is a normal thing to do there. I met great people, with whom I still stay in touch. Met a couple on a hike called “Hooker Valley” by Mt. Cook. We exchanged information about the trail and a year later they were in Byron Bay when I was there. We didn’t even expect this, it just happened!
While traveling in India, Chris said he met a solo backpacker from New Zealand, a teacher on vacation. “We had a lot of fun exploring India together and shared some crazy moments like when we saw a rickshaw hit another rickshaw. We too keep in touch with each other. I hope one day we will meet again.
As for other memorable trips, German recalled that in Egypt, “I had my first camel-riding meal at this really cool reggae restaurant. I met the owner, who also owns a felucca (sailing boat). He said to me, “Don’t trust captains who don’t carry the Bob Marley flag. So he asked me to join him in his sailboat with a Bob Marley flag, and we sailed the Nile for two days and stayed with his family for one night.
Asked what traveling means to this globetrotter, Chris replied, “Travelling has changed me; it has enriched my life tremendously and really broadened my perspective. Traveling allows you to see things differently. If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s this: travel as much as you can while you have the chance. You only have one life to live, don’t bet on having it later. This is the most dangerous risk of all.
In addition to traveling whenever he gets the chance, German is also a member of the volunteer search team for the Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group (SMRG), a regional group of professional volunteers that responds to emergencies in the four States of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. SMRG volunteers are certified to conduct searches for missing persons or aircraft in wilderness areas.
A member of the SMRG for about 11 years, Chris said: “I thought this opportunity would be great to learn a lot and help people. It means a lot to me because I can help when people are hurt or trying to find their loved ones.
It’s safe to say that no matter where Chris German is, he’s enjoying life and having an adventure. With six of the Seven Wonders of the World under his belt, it’s a safe bet he’ll be arriving soon from Rio de Janeiro, as he visits the site of Christ the Redeemer.