Travel is an amazingly effective way to learn and growth. The key to translating your travel experiences into life wisdom is to spend a little time reflecting. Here’s an example of how I applied this on my extended trip to Italy.

I recently returned from a trip to Berlin, Germany and learned several life lessons you can apply to your next trip.

#1 You can do a lot in the freezing rain.

We visited Berlin during the off season to take advantage of the low rates for airfare and hotels.  Also, any of the sites were less crowded than usual.  Of course, this meant we faced freezing rain and wind every day, but we came prepared with heavy jackets and multiple layers.

I had an old band director who repeatedly said, “never wait on rain”; and while freezing rain in Berlin might be a deterrent to some, it didn’t slow us down one bit.  We even attended a soccer game at the Olympiastadion in below freezing temperatures. This is the historic Olympic stadium where Jesse Owens won four gold medals, sending a shock wave to the 3rd Reich.

#2 There’s power in airing your dirty laundry.

Berlin has been through a lot. It’s been shelled, invaded, leveled to the ground, split apart, then reunified.  There are some incredible museums that openly share the facts, particularly of some of its most sinister history.  The most powerful where the country’s darkest moments were honestly shared so we can all learn from them.

There was a simple quote listed at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin that sums up their entire approach:

“It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say”.

Primo Levi

We had an incredible experience with these: Private Tour Berlin, Topography of Terror, and Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

#3 Add fun by getting off the beaten path.

It is tempting to spend most of your time in Berlin in the well-known tourist areas; but like in most cities, you can increase the fun factors and learning by adding activities in less explored areas of the city.

We had a small tour with a local street artist who took us through Berlin’s thriving street art scene.  We discovered interesting neighborhoods most tourists never visit and gained a deeper appreciation for the historical and unique city.

This applies to food, too.  Although we had plenty of Schnitzel, we also had Turkish food every day. Most people don’t know that Berlin has the largest Turkish population of any city outside of Turkey.

Also, I had the best hamburger I’ve ever had at Burgermeister in Berlin.  After reading the stellar TripAdvisor reviews, I had to try it for myself.  As a side note, note the hamburger originated in Germany as the “Hamburg Steak”.

Bonus tip… You don’t need as much time as you think.

I was a little hesitant to make this trip since we were only there three full days.  If you schedule your time and keep moving, you can deal with the jet lag and still experience a very gratifying trip.

What city recommendations do you have?  Please share in the comments below.