Woman’s Spotlight: Annalise Kraus

When I met Annalise Kraus in college approx. 7 years ago, neither of us thought our lives would unfold like they have post-graduation.

Annalise has become my go-to travel girl. She’s been to more than 20 countries and has a lengthy list and thirst for more adventure.

Currently serving as an au pair for a family in Germany, she recently (and graciously) carved out a few minutes of her busy schedule to talk all things travel: traveling as a woman, going solo and why more people should do it:

When were you first bitten by the travel bug?

Well, my first big international trip was the summer after I graduated high school. I went to Rome and took a cruise with my mom down through Sicily, Athens, Turkey and Crete. That was a great first exposure to Europe. However, since I was with my mom, it was a little different because traveling with a parent can be kinda lame sometimes. 😉

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That being said, the summer before my senior year of college, I did a study abroad semester in London and that is when I truly feel in love with travel. This was the first international trip I took by myself and for a long period of time. I think it was the adrenaline and everything being so new and exciting, but I traveled all over the UK by myself and I don’t think it hit me until I arrived back home…I was like, “oh my gosh, I traveled all over a foreign country by myself! I can’t believe I did that! That wasn’t bad at all…it was actually fun!” I had gone far away to college, Colorado to Tennessee, but this was a next level of solo travel for me.

How many countries have you visited?

Not counting all the many airports I have been in (because that’s cheating!), I have been to 23 countries so far…and amazingly, that’s only about 9% of the world.

Which was your favorite? Which one are you just dying to make a return trip?

I have a very special place in my heart for England. I have some of the absolute best memories from my short time living there. I am also infatuated with the royal family as most young girls are. I love the poise and elegance of everyday life; I love tea, the accents, the fashion, and Downton Abbey is one of my favorite shows.

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I would absolutely love to go back to Iceland. Even though it’s the newest country in the world and isn’t really considered a hot-spot tourist destination, it’s unlike any place I have ever seen. There is so much natural beauty in this country ranging from hot springs, volcanoes and mountains, to black sand beaches, glaciers and waterfalls.

What are you currently up to in terms of travel?

I am actually currently living in Germany, working as an au pair for a local family with two children. I have been here since the end of January and I live with the family in their home. I assist in the bilingual sector of their school and speak English with the children to help them improve their skills. We also play and hang out together…I’m kinda like the fun older sister.   

Dream countries/states to visit?

I would love to go to South Africa and the surrounding countries of that region. I want to go on a true African safari, but they average about $10,000 per person for a two-week, good quality trip. Being 25 years old, I definitely don’t have $10,000 lying around. So I’ve gotta wait until I find a Sugar Daddy with an unlimited credit card for that one.  I also have Antarctica on the list, but that trip will also have to be put on layaway since it is so expensive. Stateside, I would love to go to Maine and the New England area. I love seafood; the culture is nothing like I am used to living in a land-locked state; and it just seems like a quaint place to have a getaway trip. Since I loved Iceland so much, Alaska has also made the list recently.

Why is it important to travel?

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Traveling is the best education you can get. We pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to be in debt for an education a majority of us will never use. Travel is a universal experience that can be enjoyed in many different ways. It’s also a great way to learn important “life lessons” and discover how the rest of the world works. I regret many things I have spent money on, but never money I spent on travel. Memories and experiences last much longer than that new pair of shoes or cute purse.

What are your thoughts on solo travel?

I will be the first to admit that traveling alone is not always fun. It really does get lonely. I traveled by myself through Australia and New Zealand for three weeks and although it was an absolutely amazing experience, I did get quite lonely. Traveling with friends and family is always more fun because you have people who can relate to the things you are going through. But I encourage everyone to travel alone at least once in their life. It doesn’t have to be abroad, but when you travel by yourself, you don’t have to consult anyone on anything you want to do and you can spend as much or as little time and money on daily activities as you’d like. All the silence and time alone is also a good soul searching experience. I don’t want this to come off as incredibly cheesy: Traveling alone is an amazing way to get to know yourself and find out who you are. I have had many revelations about my life and my passions while roaming the streets of a foreign city. I will also say, one of the many important reasons to travel alone is because life is way too short for you to miss out on all it can offer you.

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Don’t not go on a trip or experience something just because no one will do it with you. That was the biggest step for me. Yes, like I said, it’s more fun to travel with others, but don’t pass an opportunity by because no one else wants to or is not able to join. I think I really started to appreciate experiencing things independently when I wanted to go out to eat or go to a movie and no one else wanted to come. So I went alone; and it has escalated from there. You also learn your limitations and level of independence quite quickly when you have to be the one to rely on knowing where you’re going, what subway to take, what you should go see that day, etc. No one else is there to hold your hand and take you around while you gaze off obliviously. You really have to be focused 100% of the time. This also helps with safety while traveling.

What would you tell a woman who wanted to travel but is hesitant to do it alone?

Unfortunately, women will probably always be more hesitant to travel alone than men will ever be; because there are many people out there who want to try and take advantage of you, and outside of the United States in certain countries, woman are still not seen as equals to men. However, you could be in just as much danger walking out your front door as you are in the streets of a new city. I would say, don’t let you gender or inexperience scare you. Everyone has to start from the bottom and take baby steps. Just be aware of your surroundings, don’t make stupid mistakes like walking down dark alleyways at night, going home with strangers, letting others get your drinks for you. Basically just use the same cautious judgment you would use at home and make sure to always have some form of communication with you at all times; Whether that be money to use a payphone, an international SIM card, or a place where you can access WiFi. Always know the local emergency number as well; 9-1-1 is not universal.

How do you think travel is viewed in the U.S. as opposed to other countries?

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It’s been in my experience that is really depends on where you are from and where you are going. I have encountered many people in the U.S. that still think traveling is only for super rich people, or very stuck up, snobby people…but I have also encountered locals while living in China who thought it was just absurd that I would want to travel outside of China and see the rest of the world, like…why would I want to do that? Those I have talked to in Europe are always very impressed by the amount of traveling I have done, whether that be because of my age or because I am from the U.S. Some people encounter many Americans traveling abroad, while some feel they seldom see people from the States in those parts. Something else I have always noticed is that in general, the rest of the world knows more about America than we do about other countries. Some foreigners see Americans as clueless and self-absorbed, while others are fascinated with our culture and want to know everything we can tell them. But, like I said in my previous answer, I didn’t learn that from a textbook 😉   

Anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t feel discouraged about traveling. Yes, I am definitely not oblivious that it takes money, time, and many other things in order to pull it off. But there are so many alternatives these days to travel cheaper and also many ways to stay in contact back home at the click of a button. Also, traveling doesn’t always mean you have to visit far off lands in order for it to count. Take a weekend trip a few hours from your home, visit a friend in another state, or even plan a road trip. The definition of “travel” is merely, “the act or process of physically moving from one place to another.”

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