Camping in Berlin is an adventure that unfortunately didn’t lead to a night of marshmallow roasting, Eno swinging, and bonding experiences. Instead, it involved waking up in an Ikea tent each morning, which was set up in the living room of an apartment in central Berlin (Thank you Airbnb!) and thinking to myself “Travel. This is it.” To my defense, the mattress got a 10/10 rating, but having to tell the other tenants that I was residing in “the tent upstairs” was quite comical.
Berlin was quite the experience and I’m stating this in regards to always having to feel like I need to keep a “the glass is half-full” attitude at all times. In all honesty, it was a disappointment and not what I had expected in the least. Without offending anyone who holds deep appreciation for the history the city cultivates, I found it an offbeat destination for a female traveling solo to visit. The heavy amount of construction, graffiti art, and commercialization felt like I was in Brooklyn, New York. Should have I expected this after the horrendous bombing that occurred in World War II? Absolutely. Disregarding the heavy night club scene, it felt like a quite a lonesome place to visit, barre my walk to Bradenberg Gate and the Reichstag Building when I almost shrieked in giddiness after witnessing groups of tourists for the first time on this trip.
I’m writing about this 48 hour adventure of mine because I’ve come to realize that while travel is an absolute luxury and a huge provider of growth (i.e.intellectually, mentally, physically), it can also be really difficult and tiresome. While talking to a friend on the telephone a few nights ago, we discussed the idea that “backpacking” through Europe is often romanticized and I agreed. After using cheap airlines, hostels with questionable reviews, foregoing the ability to use a clean shower, renting Air BnBs from male sublettors, losing the ability to have WiFi many places and having the packing allowance for two sets of clothes for nine days, I’ve realized it’s quite an adjustment from my ordinary home life. These are factors that I’ve personally chosen in effort to keep costs at a minimum, but are things that people forget about when they ask me about how my travels are, with the expectations of only hearing positive things (ie. GREAAAT! It was perfect!) I hope this post opens up conversation about how others that have or are currently traveling are coping with new obstacles because I think it would be a great one to have (Wine night anyone?). People don’t like to talk about the negatives, because it’s easy to want to make your life appear shiny and let’s be frank – like you have your shit together.
Social Media & Travel
During the past few months, I’ve frequently used Instagram as an outlet to work on branding myself to showcase my lifestyle approach for a job in the future. Traveling has given me the opportunity to share really unique experiences with others in the hopes that it may inspire like-minded friends to try similar endeavors. In return, I get a lot of feedback along the lines of “Jealous!” and the first thing I try to remind them is that behind every photo is a girl that took two-hundred seconds too long to capture, followed by a weighed-down neck from carrying the DSLR for too long. The content I post are my proudest finds and memories, but again – the travel conditions, frustrations, loneliness, and feelings of confusion and stupidity are often overlooked because it’s overshadowed by how Great! Everything! Is! Going! This is something that isn’t easy for me to remember either, because amidst hundreds of thousands of blogs and social media accounts we consume that depict men and women dressed ready for an editorial shoot in an exotic place and surrounded by dozens of friends, is a day or moment that went really, really horribly. But no one has to know, right?
While I try to keep a large majority of my life private from public access, I would be interested as to how our mentalities changed if we were encouraged to talk about our problems, embarrassing situations, and bad days experienced when traveling with one another. On multiple occasions while traveling, I’ve compared my situations with other peoples’ perceived similar experiences and asked myself why things aren’t going right/as great/fun as they are. But I’ve come to a conclusion that has made the recipe for “a good time” easier to embrace: not everything is going to be great. As someone who envisions making every travel destination into a “life changing” expedition, it’s a huge learning curve to realize that time and money is never wasted trying new things that you eventually learn that you don’t enjoy as much as expected. It’s a part of life and I wish people on the internet discussed this more so that we could feel more relatable to one another rather just trying to play off every experience as amazing.
I read about 900 articles and blogs before this week on the topic of “Why Everyone Should Travel Solo at Least Once” and I agree – you should. I think the main reason is because if you’re anything like me, you’re afraid of losing opportunities because you’re waiting for “the right time”. I’ve prided myself on being able to enjoy all the things I love alone as much as sharing these activities with other people. But traveling to a foreign country alone? I never thought I would be capable of it. Heck, I could barely figure out the New York City subway system 18 months ago.
Also, losing your pride is healthy for everyone. Not knowing where you’re going, having to ask 10 people the same question until you find the lucky one that is willing to assist the helpless American (God forbid!), and conquering having to figure out bus tickets (this one never gets any easier) have created a lot of welled up tears – but I feel that I am better because of it. The reality shock hit after approaching business associates and locals for help and being scoffed at because I was a foreigner. This was a situation that I had never quite experienced before. Being a well-dressed, well-groomed, female in an English speaking country has always worked in my favor – and quite unfortunately so when you think about it. When I finally came back to London from this trip, I began to give people that I would have otherwise disregarded my time of day and I feel a bit sad writing this. It shouldn’t have had to take me having an experience of navigating the world alone to have brought more humanity into my actions. But I suppose that is the art of relatability. The next day, I purchased a bagel and beverage for a man sitting outside of one of my favorite shops in Shoreditch who was vying for eye contact with someone, anyone. And I wasn’t of much help to the Spanish native on the tube who was unsure of which stop to get off, but luckily I was able to direct her to my friend, who could help her out.
It’s not appropriate to always toot your own horn, but in regards to the person that traveling has shaped me into thus far: I like the person I am becoming.