Portrait: Travel to 100 countries and learn ten languages in only ten years – Was Stephan able to make his dream come true?
New from our series of Babbel Portraits: here, our users introduce themselves and their experiences learning a language. If you would like to share your experiences with us, then please leave a comment below.
After his studies in business administration, at the age of 24, Stephan from Germany had a crazy idea: Within the next ten years he wanted to travel to 100 different countries and learn a total of ten languages. Just after his 35th birthday he told us whether he was able to make his dream come true.
“I could pretty much start my professional career after my studies, but somehow it seemed too straightforward to me at the time and a bit boring, too. I wanted to do something extraordinary and wanted to discover the whole world. Then I was struck by the crazy idea of traveling around the world, just like Phileas Fogg did in 80 days in the famous novel; only this time, I would do it in ten years. And I wouldn’t just visit 100 different countries — I would also learn ten new languages. Impossible? Completely unrealistic? Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained!”
Did you really manage to learn ten languages?
“Today, almost exactly ten years later, I actually speak seven languages fluently: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and my favorite language Russian. I can also converse reasonably well in Chinese and am currently learning Swedish and Turkish with Babbel. Unfortunately, I had put that on hold, as I was in Dubrovnik until the end of the year, where I was taking an intensive course in Croatian. So, indeed, I have actually managed to learn ten fascinating languages in about ten years, therefore fulfilling the first part of my dream!
How did I do it? I have learnt most of the languages, so far, by taking an intensive course in the respective countries, as I often do not have the time or concentration at home to learn the languages. But thanks to Babbel, I have now discovered a completely new learning experience that has already helped me achieve very good results. Being able to learn anytime and anywhere is a lot of fun. The most important thing is to speak the language as soon as possible, regardless of how basic your knowledge of the language may be. After all, language learning is about communicating with other people. In the meantime, I am also organizing language meetings in more and more (southern) German cities under the label of “My City Language Exchange.”
And what became of your plan to travel to 100 countries?
“Sometimes, I can hardly believe it myself, but shortly before the end of last year, I actually managed to achieve my goal of visiting my 100th country, Vietnam. This was precisely on my 35th birthday on the 26th of December — the perfect birthday and Christmas present in one!
Package tourism has never interested me on my travels because I would like to discover every country individually in my own way, and with all that that entails. I have tried the most adventurous specialties and, thanks to platforms such as Couchsurfing and Airbnb, I have stayed with many different people whom I otherwise would not have met. I have also always tried to say at least a few words in the respective local language because this is the fastest way to break the ice. In doing so, I have experienced many wonderful and unforgettable moments — from snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef to having a campfire with the Bedouin in the Jordanian desert and traveling on the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Beijing. It is, therefore, impossible to say which experience was the most beautiful.”
And where does your dream go from here?
“I am very happy about all the experiences and impressions that I have gained over the past ten years. Traveling and language learning have become an integral part of my life; a part which I could no longer do without. And there are still many other places that I would love to visit. My job as a freelance personal consultant in Germany and Spain also gives me the freedom and flexibility for my travels, which I would never have as a permanent employee. I also recently joined the Travelers’ Century Club. To join, you have to have fulfilled one condition: you must have traveled to 100 different countries. The members of this club are all just as crazy about traveling as I am; they support each other, give advice and share their experiences, which I find particularly fascinating.
Last but not least, I also launched my own blog, Polyglott-Wanderlust, because I would like to inspire more people to travel and learn languages and share my experiences with them. You are more than very welcome to take a look at my blog.”