It’s 6:30p.m. in Berlin. I’m at a little pizza place looking out at a major intersection. It’s one of those intersections where underneath, just down a flight of stairs, you find an entire city, complete with a hairdresser, bar, pawn shop, McDonald’s and certified Apple reseller. I like taking the underground route across these intersections just to see if I end up on the right corner when I surface. It’s 50-50.
I’d have gone somewhere more German(?) for dinner, but I hobbled to get here as it is. Two months in, cold weather setting in, my body is finally saying alright, dummy, relax. My right knee started hurting two days ago and I see some sort of brace coming in the future. Imagine that happens when you spend all day, everyday, walking. Eleven hours, yesterday, to be precise. In addition, the urge to be adventurous was curbed today when I woke with a sore throat. I’d guess my two rebellious nights of being a drinking lightweight followed by a third night Skyping until 3:30a.m. did me in. I’m not complaining, as long as I don’t lose my voice. No one wants to Skype someone who just talks in whisper. I’ve met that person. You don’t want to talk to her in person, either.
Today and tomorrow are quiet days. Today’s big adventure was laundry. It involved getting admonished by two people, one who thought I cut the line (I’d been there twenty minutes) and the lady at the register when I asked for my change in change. “NO.” Tomorrow, I’ll go to Amsterdam on an early train, arriving midday. Maybe I’ll find some cure to my knee aches there. Heh heh heh. Yay? Nae?
Good gosh, I love brownies.
But for now, where are we, halfway done.
I started this trip thinking I could do it. I knew I wouldn’t die.
Excuse me while I knock on wood…
The sounds of “Have you seen Taken?” “Alone, four months, really?” echoed. I packed my bag relying on the core group of people who believed I could do it, some more confident than I.
But then you get over here, and everybody is doing the exact same thing. Alone. For just as long. For longer. The longer trips are always Australians, at least 80% of the time. Word is there are 22 million Australians and 2 million are on holiday.
The Americans you meet are mostly on shorter trips. Nine out of ten are from California. Not just my observation – my Canadian roommate told me the same this morning. She told me to say I’m from New York, it’ll make me more interesting. She and I also celebrated mounted shower heads together. You appreciate funny things here.
Andrea and I walked through a park in Istanbul one day toward where we thought there’d be an exit. A group of adults followed us. We ended up… Not… at an exit. The adults revealed they weren’t only following close behind us, but actually following us. “You looked like two Turkish girls going home. We thought you knew where to go.” It was there I realized I could at least appear to know what I was doing.
What doesn’t get written happens to be some of the most stimulating, frustrating, challenging aspects of the trip. Nothing so hard it’s complain worthy – arriving in a new city at 6:30a.m. and figuring out the metro system. Learning a new hello, goodbye, sorry, thank you every six days. Spending a morning asking strangers, “Excuse me, laundromat?” and pointing to the left and (or) right. Introducing yourself to five new people, at least, per day. Janae. Janae. No that’s ok, It’s Janae. “Ooh.” Moments later, meh, Janet’s close enough.
Halfway through. Probably halfway through this post, as well.
I like walking in straight lines, map away, just to see what I see. I like avoiding public transportation at all costs, including knees, because I have no need to be anywhere faster than the time it takes to walk to it. I like that Erin described how far away the restaurant we were going to was by saying “Google says it’s a 22 minute walk.”
I like trying new foods, everywhere. Especially the places with no English menu. Pork Hungarian Style? Yes, I’ll have that. Can I have “that puff pastry that has that something in it” Thank you. I love that the best, greatest version of “Hallelujah” I’ve ever heard was in a Berlin market, by a performer on the street with his guitar, as I sat munching on a gözleme. Didn’t know what was in it, it just looked good. Wikipedia just told me it’s traditional Turkish cuisine. Oh.
I’ve enjoyed traveling without makeup, hairdryer, flat-iron. Society makes girls feel uncomfortable, unfinished, without them. I certainly don’t go without at home. But my tired eyes, oddly curled hair, teenage-like complexion have made plenty of friends. I wish everyone, like so many backpackers, were so open to making friends with personalities first. You know that first time you let the new guy see you in sweatpants? “Man, I hope you dig this as much as my six inch heels, we’re gonna be able to spend a hell of a lot more time together.” My new friends meet me one notch above sweatpants mode. Most of them, anyway.
I love that Erin gave me a haircut in the hostel bathroom the other night. Cheers to finding the girl who cuts her own hair, and her friends’ hair, the week I was looking for a cheap haircut. For free. I was really loving my pony-tail long hair. We’re back above the shoulder now, and I’m just as excited. We rid my length of three inches of what had once been bleached/dyed/box-colored/murdered blonde hair. It was pure wire, dead dead dead, at this point. I think that’s almost the last of it… Sixteen months since the big brunette change, five months since the last of any color dye… Now I think we’re good to grow.
Two months in, I’ve rediscovered my love for writing. Not this blog, but real, edited, solid writing. I’m trying harder than I have in a long time. I’m addicted to sunsets and sunrises, poetry and photography.
I’m aware and happy seeing new isn’t getting old, even if the new isn’t always good. Used to seeing homeless people sleeping on the streets all over the big cities here, last night I saw two sleeping men huddled together for warmth. It made me think twice today as I thought to whine about dropping two nights hostel budget for a new iPad charger to replace my dud one. If only all life problems got solved on the fourth floor of Media Markt.
Most importantly, the past two months have proven two things I would’ve previously thought contradicted each other.
I can really get by, get around, on my own. This independence business is a lot of fun and constantly spontaneous. I didn’t book where I was sleeping today until noon. Same yesterday. It’s a pretty neat feeling. It may make moving somewhere busy a requirement – gotta keep moving. Keep walking. Keep seeing. New York City, you’re looking great right now.
But wow. I think more this week, maybe it’s just more each week, I appreciate missing home, people both coasts called home interchangeably, as much as I do. Not homesick, crying in bed, unhappy. Happy homesick. Thankful I have someones to miss, people to love. Just the people matter – I’d stay living off items in the bag if I just had a roof over my head. So many travelers are doing just fine here, because where else would they be? It’s nice to miss as much as I do. It’s not easy – Goodness, sometimes it’s really not – but that’s a good problem to have. And a great thing to get back to, in two more months.
And the blend of those is what the first two months have been about. Experiencing and sharing, and the grown appreciation of sharing an experience. You can see a lot if you’re by yourself. Less bathroom breaks. But you’ll never do the greatest experiences justice in the story. At least, I won’t, and that’s supposed to be my gig, right? Even if it’s just one person out of the world’s seven billion, someone you met an hour ago or ten years ago… You have that person to “Remember when” with over email, the phone, or in person as you are sharing the latest and greatest experience.
Those are the thoughts, two months in.