When I decided to take my first trip overseas, I chose to head to the deep end of the pool. I had made several online friends in Europe, one in The Netherlands and another in Slovakia. After a little contemplating, we decided to meet up in Bratislava. I would be there 21 days with only a few days on my own. It was going to be a great trip.
The Bad News Starts
Once I arrived it started going downhill fast. First my luggage was delayed by four hours and I had a scheduled time to meet the people who we were renting the apartment from, so I couldn’t hang around and wait. Luckily I had planned ahead and had a phone with a local SIM card and phone number, this would allow the airline to contact me about my luggage.
Next I discovered that my Dutch friend would not make it because of a family emergency. Then my local companion announced that her school schedule was going to be too busy for much, if any, time to do anything.
As I said, this was my first big trip abroad and this one was going from exciting to terrifying in a quick way. I didn’t have a great plan on what to do next.
Picking Myself Up and Brushing Myself Off
This could have been the end of my travels, but I think it was the adversity that made me the traveler I am today. I found I loved exploring on my own. Getting lost became one of my favorite things to do and in the process of that wandering I would stumble upon one hidden gem after another.
To this day, I don’t walk with a map or book in my hand. I often don’t even put one in my day pack to help me resist the temptation. I still do a lot of homework ahead of each day about where to go and what to see, but if I get a little off track it’s not going to ruin my day. In fact it will probably make it better.
The other thing that I did was to journal every day on the trip, even if it was just to say “Didn’t do much today.” First it drove me to do anything, so I had something to write down. It also got me interested in writing about my travels. When I arrived home I shared the journal with my friends. This was the beginning of my next journey as a travel writer (one I’m still working on).
The Traveler I Am Now
I often wonder if my luggage had come around on the carousel and I hadn’t been forced to talk a driver (who spoke no English) to my apartment or if I hadn’t been made to explore on my own, communicate in a new language and learn the city and transit system, would I have ended up with the same passion to explore?
Since then I look at travel as a challenge. For a while I even resisted traveling to the usual destinations. Instead I looked for places that most people wouldn’t consider. If I wasn’t feeling a little uncomfortable, I didn’t feel like I was expanding my horizons. My destination list is always growing and includes the odd and the mainstream and I don’t think it will ever stop growing. I just hope I can keep up with it.