About halfway through my vacation in Germany, I took a train from Berlin to Munich. With a nearly 6-hour ride between the two cities, I took some time to reflect on my trip thus far.
Compared to the time I visited Japan, my trip to Germany was very short. In total, I spent less than a week there; three nights in Berlin, and then three nights in Munich. It was by no means ideal, considering I had to work around my work schedule and I wanted to be back home for Christmas. But in the end, I’m still fortunate that I got to go at all, and I knew that I just needed to take advantage of the time I did have there.
So what did I end up doing in Berlin? I hate to say it, but the answer is “not as much as I wanted”. I did some of the bigger tourist attractions, such as visiting the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall Memorial. Both were high on my priority list, and I was happy that I visited them and got some decent photos. But with a city as rich in history as Berlin, I knew that I wasn’t doing it justice by visiting only a tiny handful of what it has to offer. And that’s just within the city, considering all of the options outside of Berlin proper.
You might be wondering, “So why didn’t you go to…?” Frankly, I knew that it would be impossible to see everything a city has to offer in 3 days. In the end, I wasn’t even able to see everything in my own itinerary, much less all of the places that my friends had suggested to me, and other ideas I got from scouring the internet. Part of me envies those who are able to travel for months at a time, as I’m sure they can really experience the city in a way that I cannot, at least at this point in my life.
But I try to think of this as all part of the challenge. A friend warned me that traveling to foreign countries is stressful, even when you’re going there on vacation, and he’s completely right. Everything from language barriers to figuring out logistics of going from place to place had stressed me out so much on this trip. The best part is that I finally figured out Berlin’s public transit on my 4th day… as I was heading to the train station to leave Berlin. I knew that once I got into Munich, I would have to re-learn where my local U-bahn station was, what the major lines were, and how to get to the places I wanted to see. The language gap was unchanged, but I had three more nights to actually see stuff in Munich, only two if you exclude the night I had arrived.
I also realized another important point that’s been bothering me for a very long time. I’ll expand on this next point in a future post, but I just want to get this off my chest right now.
I am not a social traveler.
This trip marks the first time I have booked private rooms in hostels, and I did this for both Berlin and Munich. Normally, I take a 4-or-6 person dorm room since those are significantly cheaper, and I had heard about how hostels were catalysts for making connections abroad. But after doing that multiple times, I realized that I’m not traveling to meet people. I’d argue the opposite is true; traveling allows me to escape, and sometimes to recharge I just need to be by myself. However, this doesn’t include trips with friends, where the whole purpose is for me to spend more time with people I already know.
Now, if I do end up meeting interesting people that I get along with, then that’s another story. But so far, that’s been incredibly rare; only in Japan has that really happened to me, and most of them I had met through a mutual friend. Elsewhere, I end up rooming with people who I just don’t connect with; sometimes they were friendly yet unsocial, other times they just ignored me and talked to the others in the room. Even at hostel bars, I find that many people already have their own groups and cliques, and alcohol is not enough to change that. Whatever the reason, my lack of connections abroad really bothered me initially, and I figured I wasn’t doing something right.
But you know what? Not everyone is a social traveler, and that’s okay. Maybe the others like myself are off doing their own thing, and that’s why I never see them. I’m starting to understand what I like and what I dislike when I go out to new places, and it makes me realize that I don’t necessarily need other people to enjoy my travels.
When I was in Berlin, I couldn’t help but brainstorm (perhaps prematurely) where I wanted to travel to next. I already had a few ideas, perhaps Amsterdam, Oslo, or Stockholm for new experiences in different part of Europe, or Japan (again) if I can somehow secure several weeks of vacation time and funds. But really, who knows? Wherever I go, I know that I will be better prepared, both logistically and mentally. These are my travels, and I need to do what is right for me, whether I am there for two days or two months.