I was thinking recently that something that prevents a lot of people travelling is fear. Fear of a lot of different things. Ideas of what could possibly go wrong could be stopping you from living your dream. Sure, things can definitely go bad when you are travelling and I won’t deny that at all. I wanted to share with you a few different stories of my own from when I was backpacking solo in Europe. Stories of times where things seemed to work out in almost magical ways, when total strangers showed me pure kindness.
1. My first long-haul flight:
I made friends on my first international flight
On my first leg of the flight, I was lucky enough to not only to sit in a row that was facing a wall with no chairs in front so slightly more leg room and close to the toilets. I was also very fortunate enough to be seated next to two other Australian female solo travellers who were about start their trips. This was great for me to meet two like-minded women! It helped to put my mind at ease about my own trip and great to help me relax for my first ever long-haul flight.
I even made a friend while waiting for my second leg
I’m a serial friend maker. I often feel strongly compelled to talk to and to befriend all kinds of people and I do. I made friends in the waiting area in Dubai Airport with a German guy called Marvin on my second leg. He was wearing cool spiderman shoes and I complimented them (as you do!). I was actually horrendously sick for the majority of the last two legs (I am not sure why but I get sick hours into the actual flight). I couldn’t eat and spent a lot of the time vomiting or trying not to vomit. But you see… you take the good with the bad, I was sick but I met some awesome people!
2. Lost in Dusseldorf
My new friend helped me find my train
After I had just arrived in Dusseldorf after flying 3 different legs – Melbourne to Singapore, Singapore to Dubai, Dubai to Dusseldorf. I was exhausted and dehydrated after being very sick on my last 2 legs and being unable to sleep for most of my 3 legs. I was tasked with one thing! Get to my friend’s town near Munster. Seems simple enough, right?
My new friend Marvin helped me find my train which was very fortunate for me. When Marvin said goodbye to me he took his necklace off his neck and gave it to me. It is a beautiful blue necklace made from stone unique to Madagascar which is where he lives. I was stunned by this gesture and in return, I gave him some Australian coins because they have our native animals on some of them. This was the ‘coolest’ thing I had with me at that moment, unfortunately.
I still managed to get lost…
I’m not sure why; sleep-deprivation maybe haha but I freaked out while I was on the correct train. Momentarily thinking I was on the wrong train. I got off, even more confused. I was freezing cold as my Australian winter-wear was no match for German winter. Desperately, I opened up my luggage to put on more layers under my coat, which didn’t seem to help much.
In between freaking out and messaging my friend for help, I went to a ticket machine but I wasn’t sure what ticket to buy and was probably thinking it was time to set up camp at this train station, accept my fate haha. A teenage boy and his mum were also buying tickets at the ticket station. I figured the young German guy probably speaks good English and he was with his mum and they seemed to be friendly and approachable. After asking for help this lovely, young chap helped me buy my ticket and told me where to go and I was eventually on my way again.
3. Lost in Paris (can you see a theme here?):
A stranger taught me about the subway
When I first arrived in Paris at night after getting off my bus I walked towards a train station. Before I even had the opportunity to even get lost an American man approached me and asked me where the bus station was and I told him where it was as I had just come from there. He said his friend’s bus was arriving soon and he was going to meet them. We got talking, he told me he was a Broadway producer living in Paris and I told him it was my first time in Paris and that I was on my way to the hotel.
He took me to the train station and briefly explained to me how the train system worked. He told me I should probably get a few tickets for the duration of my stay which I did and I was soon on my way again. This night was actually quite magical for me. I was never one of those people who was crazy about seeing the Eiffel Tower or going to Paris at all. I had even decided before even going that it sounded a bit overrated to me. My train went past the grand Eiffel Tower, all lit up and I have to say I was completely entranced by the beauty of Paris.
A French lady helped me to find my train station
A few days into my time in Paris, I had planned to go to Versailles for a group tour of the palace. Unfortunately for me, I struggled to find the correct underground train station, even with the assistance of my mate, Google Maps. I walked around for probably an hour looking for the right train station with no avail. Eventually, I just gave up.
The moment I gave up two police officer mounted upon the most beautiful, super muscular looking horses walked past me. I stopped and admired the horses. When they had finished walking past, I locked eyes with a Parisian woman who was also admiring the horses. She said something to me, I am assuming she said something about the horses. I do not speak French apart from the few phrases I learnt from the children’s TV show ‘Madeline’. I said to her “I am lost” and that I was looking for the train station to get to Versailles. She told me that she had a friend from Australia and that she admired my bravery to travel on my own.
She grabbed my arm and linked arms with me and took me to the train station, instructed me on what ticket to buy and wished me luck with my trip. This woman’s kindness completely blew me away especially because I had been told so many negative things about Parisian people! I actually have a strong appreciation for the culture of Parisian people which I might write about in another post.
I ended up having a private tour of Versaille for the price of a group tour!
Oh and the cherry on top: I made it to my group tour on time and I was the only person in the group! So, I had a private tour of Versailles and was able to ask the tour guide whatever questions I wanted to because we had time to and she also took some pictures of me (one of those pictures is my featured image).
4. Munich Rathaus Mates
When I was in Munich I went to the Rathaus to get a great view of the city. Whilst buying my ticket two ladies in front of me opted to buy a group ticket to include me in their ticket. They would not accept any money from me! This was totally unexpected and incredibly kind.
5. Wein Allein (wine alone)
When I was having dinner alone in an incredibly romantic restaurant called Alpenrose am See Restaurant near Schloss Neuschwanstein. I was feeling somewhat sorry for myself until the chef surprised me with a special complimentary starter. I think they also felt a little sorry for me but they definitely made my night by going that extra mile to make sure I was having a good time. This was one of my most favourite dining experiences from my time in Europe. They had excellent food and it was in a magical setting.
Now you are probably thinking, how does one woman get lost that much?
Yes, I could probably write a whole novel about getting lost but my whole point of sharing these stories is yes, bad things will happen. You will make mistakes but things can also work out in pleasant ways and people will surprise you! These gestures and interactions with a variety of strangers became some of the most meaningful and profound moments of my trip. Any trip, especially your first trip will not be perfect but try to see it as an opportunity to learn about yourself and the world that you live in. I’d like to add, that after getting lost multiple times I learnt how to navigate using actual maps. This led to me getting lost a lot less.
The kaleidescope of good and bad memories are what made my travels so memorable
So yeah, you might be ripped off by a taxi driver or when you are buying a pair of shoes, miss your plane or lose your favourite sunglasses. But you might find that the opportunities to have adventures and the pleasant surprises that you come across along the way will make it all worthwhile. Most of the memories that I made whilst travelling I look upon very fondly and I speak to a lot of friends I made overseas on a regular basis.
Despite a handful of negative experiences I still managed to catch the travel bug and have thought of nothing but having more adventures since I came back home to Australia. When I look back at the difficult experiences, a lot of them don’t seem so negative in hindsight, especially against the contrasting positive experiences.
I hope you enjoyed this post, please let me know if you did. I am thinking of doing some more posts about some of my experiences travelling and living in Europe.
If you have any stories in which the travel Gods smiled upon you please let me know about them in comments :).