August 25, 2016   //   International   //   By Marco Dietrich

“Are you working over there at all?” This question by my family and friends back in Germany has been following me throughout the past months. Maybe that is a fair question considering I have been exclusively sending them pictures of my leisure time activities during the weekends. Most of these activities have included escaping Illinois and looking for places in the US as beautiful as Elgin and Chicago. Since I had only been to Alaska within the US before I arrived at O’Hare airport, I was pretty eager to see as much of the US as possible during my stay with Mueller.

After my first four weeks of hard work and getting to know the Elgin area, Memorial Day weekend lay ahead and although coworkers generously invited me to their family parties I was fascinated by the idea of seeing New York City for the first time. While planning this trip I was quite shocked on how expensive domestic flights are. Whereas you can find roundtrip flights across Europe most of the time for less than EUR 100.  You have to pay at least twice the price here.  Nevertheless the trip to the “city that never sleeps” was worth every penny. It was super exciting to go to all of the places (Times Square, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge) that I had seen so many times before on television. Travelling by myself also gave me the opportunity to easily meet other people. This had turned out pretty difficult on my earlier travels in bigger groups. In this way, I found out about less touristy spots, hence cheaper and more artsy neighborhoods like Bushwick or the East Village with a great variety of cafes, vegetarian restaurants, bars, and clothing shops far away from big chains.

The New York City experience made me so enthusiastic about travelling that I spontaneously went to Boston the subsequent weekend. What interested me about Boston was its “old” (not comparable to European old) buildings and its colonial history. Unfortunately in high school back in Germany we do not learn much about American history. It starts and ends with the Boston Tea Party. This is why the Freedom Trail was a lot of fun for me and a way to widen my knowledge. The second special highlight for me on this trip was to see both famous universities Harvard and MIT. I was pretty impressed by the beautiful campuses and the money spent to provide students with the best possible education environment and facilities (like I had already experienced when I saw University of Chicago and DePaul). Back in Germany, my classes take place in an old bomb shelter without windows …. But on the other side we are in the fortunate position of a free college education, and not having to pay off tremendous amounts of loans after graduation.

In Boston I was sharing my hostel room with three British guys from Leeds. Obviously it did not take much time to find myself sitting next to them in an Irish Pub. While arguing about whether or not the Brexit would be a good idea.  The next day I came up with the smart idea to go on a four hour whale watching boat tour. Seeing those gigantic creatures was an impressive and memorable experience though super exhausting considering the waves and the condition I was in after the night before.

After those two trips with flights departing either at five am in the morning or 11 pm at night I was exhausted and decided to take a break from travelling for a while. However only three weeks later, while my girlfriend Annika was in town we went on the next trip – this time the Upper Peninsula in Michigan over the Fourth of July weekend. After a fun eight hour drive in holiday traffic we arrived at our destination – a cute Airbnb located in Escanaba, Michigan.  The people there all seemed pretty surprised to have tourists in their town. Apparently nobody spends their vacation in Escanaba but us. Nevertheless it was a fun little town and only a short ride away from the beautiful pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and its amazing hiking trails. So amazing I agreed to pass on watching the EURO quarter final between Germany and Italy, Germany won in the penalty shootout which took around 20 penalties – So you can say that the hiking trip probably saved me from severe heart issues.

My (for the time being) last trip took me to the land of corn and farms, lovely Iowa. Erin invited me to see her hometown and to meet her super kind family which is probably the numerically biggest family in the entire state. Being an only child with one cousin it was quite an experience for me to meet an infinite number of aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews. While I struggled with memorizing about 30 different names the culture shock was not about to end. Erin also introduced me to sauerkraut pizza, flavored Coca Cola, cheese curds, root beer (urgh!), and to her uncle’s huge collection of hunting rifles. Primarily I learned Iowa is the perfect getaway from the big city if you just want to relax, eat a lot of corn, or go on fun boat trips on the Mississippi River. Thanks again for that trip!