The Process.

92 posts
29 trains
27 hotels/hostels
25 cities
13 countries
6 planes
5 overnight trains
4 buses (1 overnight)
3 children’s books written
3 bottles of face wash lost
0 bedbug bites

…and 45 days to go.

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I got off the train today in Innsbruck, Austria. It’s too expensive to sleep there, so I planned to spend the day there and take a train up to Munich. My railpass makes decisions like that easy, plus somewhere back I realized I write most and see most on trains. It’s never wasted time.

When I arrived at the train station, the only free locker was as tall and thick as me. Not suitable for the backpack. Not suitable for storing anything but an upright body, really. I walked across the street and considered asking a nearby hotel if I could leave it for a couple hours. The one I found was a five star hotel and I was not confident enough in smiling really hard and asking what seemed like a ridiculous question.

So it came with me today.

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No big deal. Other backpackers keep saying how “small” my bag is – low 60s in liters rather than the typical 70-75. I feel sorry for the female backpackers that don’t have a butt that can double as a backpack shelf. Little in the middle but i got much back, and it’s so handy sometimes.

I saw this sticking out of the road today.

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I took this picture because, well, look at it. I was caught taking the picture by a group of tourists, who asked me if I knew what it was. Mortified, I told a bold-faced lie and said I was just testing my camera. They looked crestfallen.

“Oh… we were hoping you knew what it was, because we think it looks like a penis.”

I want to keep traveling forever.

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I just had my favorite Munich dinner and now I’m sitting in the Starbucks where I wrote the first children’s book. The barista has a bandaid over his eyebrow he didn’t have four days ago and I want to know the story.

Somewhere, this got less scary. A train station is becoming just a train station, follow the signs. When you arrive at the hostel, get your passport out. You can probably jaywalk this intersection. You can definitely use (insert chain restaurant) wifi without purchasing anything.

But the story for me is still about the process, and the process doesn’t always make it to the blog. You don’t always need to know the first thing I did in Innsbruck was buy a pack of gum, not for bad breath but to get change in coins for a locker.

The process. In between cities and landmarks and posed photos.

Like the woman on the train this morning. It’s not that we talked about travel, it’s that she started the conversation with “What have you gotten stolen so far?” and proceeded to tell me she’s gotten something stolen from her nearly everywhere. And yet she keeps traveling. And I just wanted to say ma’am, you’ve got to be doing something wrong.

And it’s not that I found the “apo bar” in Salzburg and, proud Alpha Phi Omega brother for three years that I am, I wanted to take a picture. It’s that I ended up with these pictures.

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And it’s not that I walked down the street today with a bright red backpack eating an ice cream cone for lunch, but that I was the tenth person in line and when it was my turn, an old man blatantly cut me before saying what I think was “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

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And it’s not that I took a bunch of funky pictures of my belongings in a public garden today. It’s that I unpacked my backpack, pouch by pouch, in a public garden. It’s that I sat on the ground in the leaves to get some shots.

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It’s that I spent a good deal of the time just in socks. It’s that two students from Mexico thought what I was doing was great.

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It’s not that I spent my week writing children’s books. It’s that now I’m sitting here debating what clothes my characters wear and asking my family/friends/”creative team,” where every line there blurs, for their input. It’s the process.

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I’ve reached a point in my trip where I feel I did “it.” I set out to do what I wanted. By no means do I want to come home early, but I feel I achieved… Something. This summer I got asked what I wanted to get out of this trip, and I didn’t have a good, non-cliché answer. I want to see? I want to learn? I want to write… Maybe?

What did I want?

It’s not that I was walking down the street with my bright red backpack today feeling like a dweeby, dorky girl.

It’s that a nice looking man said something to me, and when I responded with “I’m sorry, I only speak English,” he replied, “You are a beautiful woman.” He continued down the road without another word.

Woman.

Well. You know, I think I wanted that.

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Can You Hear Me Now? Good.

I know. Three days almost went by.

The journey from Brussels to Munich was, if painless and way better than the Oregon Trail, exhausting. I went to bed Saturday night beat. Munich is gorgeous. Simply beautiful. Unfortunately, I was tired cranky during my Sunday walking tour, and it was cold, so you have to take my word on Munich’s beauty because there are no pictures.

By the time the tour was over, it was late in the day. With no Munich friends yet (and I just can’t seem to replace Erin) I set out for dinner. I walked into a beer hall. Walked out. It looked like so much fun! And not the place I could handle sitting awkwardly by myself. I found a restaurant on a side street by the Haüfbrauhaus. It actually seemed to be filled with locals. It was a little nice for my budget, but right now I count anywhere with tables set with silverware to be nice. I figured I could hide myself away in the corner.

I got seated at a table set for three, right at the front door. I had to keep ducking eye contact with the table next to me – many a daydream ended in a fixed gaze with the one older woman facing my direction.

Dinner was fantastic – turkey schnitzel in a creamy mushroom sauce, spätzle, cranberry sauce, salad, and a Paulaner Original Hell beer. And this one, one beer got me feeling… quite good. Good enough I took a page in my journal to start writing whatever lines came to mind. It was a fun experiment, and I came up with one line I was determined to use in whatever I wrote next.

Yesterday, I was still in anti-tourist mode. I wanted to avoid the crowds and souvenirs. It is nothing against Munich – just a new phase of this trip? I “get” the overpriced cafes close to the center. I “get” what tourist menu means and I “get” that this awesome real life Disneyland is beautiful… But I love the real parts of the cities the best.

So I purposely spent the day skirting the nicest parts of the city, walking two to three streets further all the way around it. This is where you find the pharmacies, the grocery stores, the thrift stores, the post offices… I stopped at the pharmacy to answer important questions. “Is spülung conditioner? And is it leave-in or wash out? When the only English words on competing shampoo bottles are “Total Repair” and “Ultimate Repair,” which one wins? Is this soap or lotion? Is this face wash or acid?”

Then I found a massive secondhand English bookstore. The owner was very, very excited about how “we have just begun to serve coffees and teas if you would like one while you browse.” I know this because I heard him tell everyone that walked in the door for nearly an hour.

I made a beeline for the poetry and writing section. Ten minutes later, the stack was Screenwriting by Screenwriters, No Plot? No Problem!, How to Sell Your Nonfiction Book… and Then Write It, Penguin Classics’ Love Poems and Robert Creeley’s Mirrors.This is how you realize you want to be every type of writer ever.

Being the classy budget traveler that I am, I hid in the corner for half an hour skim reading everything. I realized the screenwriters book would be great someday after I’d seen the movies being referenced (for now, I only knew Ghost). No Plot? No Problem! had an entire section about finding “your magic pen,” which validated the ten minutes poor Erin watched me stare at a shelf in a Berlin Staples, making sure I was getting a black roller/gel pen of the proper weight. You all might not know this – I hate, with a passion, writing with ballpoint pens.

In the end, I left with a new old copy of Jack Keroac’s On the Road because I left my old new old copy in California accidentally and couldn’t wait to read it any longer. Mirrors got left behind because it was too few pages for so many euros. I loved the poem “Retrospect.” Three or four lines? I didn’t even have to skim it.

I ended up at the Englischer Garten. Bigger than Hyde Park, bigger than Central Park. I was in heaven. It’s a gorgeous fall day and the leaves are still on the trees. Dogs were out to play but it was hardly crowded at all. I laid down, with my dark chocolate bar because I’d forgotten to get lunch, and intended to read.

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And then I started writing. Based on that one line I’d come up with at dinner.

And I wrote. And I wrote.

And I left the park and spent over three hours at the Starbucks across from the Haüfbrauhaus, because I know the WC code is 6562 (who spends more money paying for restrooms than she does on water bottles or coffee? This girl)…

And I think I wrote something special. Funny enough, several edits later, that one dinner line that triggered it all has been edited out entirely.

I am very excited.

Fun story: When I was in Bruges last week, I stayed at two different hostels. The second one I checked in late and left early. The only contact I made with anyone was with my Korean roommates. Their English is poor and my Korean subpar but through miming I borrowed their hairdryer.

Last night, as I was up late writing in the Munich hostel lobby, I glanced up and two girls were staring at me, heads tilted, jaws dropped. “It’s you! It’s you! You asked for the hair dryer!”

And I wish I could tell you how now, but for three minutes last night I knew how to say “this is insane” in Korean.

Today I kept avoiding the city center. I kept writing. I kept walking. I ended up following a parade of people against higher taxes but pro-noise makers for most of its route. I almost treated myself to seeing Midnight in Paris again, but the little theater it’s playing at has the dubbed version and my German is almost as bad as my Korean.

Instead, I went back to my favorite restaurant, with my favorite waiter, except this time he sat me in the back corner.

Where I was very, very happy.

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