The Whole Written LotI’m a fan of reading the book before I see the movie. Similarly, I prefer to learn a fair amount of a language, my surroundings, landmarks, and culture in advance of a trip to get the most out of international travel. But, flexibility just to go with it and make it work is paramount when circumstances arise quickly.

A few years ago, on one such last-minute opportune adventure, I was in Germany and didn’t know much German at all. That’s when it suddenly occurred to me how much I love to read: when I couldn’t.

I discovered then that this love transcended books and newspapers and random articles to include reading road signs, billboards, directions, labels, nutritional facts, the whole written lot. Were these road signs telling me how many kilometers to the next town, or telling me how fast we were allowed to drive? Frustratingly, I had no idea. My crash course in German, otherwise known as practicing with my hairdresser, didn’t include the written language. (I knew words for please and thank you, bathroom, hotel, some numbers–what I considered the important stuff at the last minute.)

When I couldn’t read, I hunted for patterns in the words. I discovered words for Enter and Exit pretty readily, food items, train schedules and such, but otherwise, most was a blur. And I was off to the next place just as I started to crack the code.

When I got home, incidentally, I signed up for a German class, where those sought-after dots finally connected themselves. A little late perhaps, but not for the next adventure. There’s no statute of limitations on what’s next.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at