Bratislava, Slovakia

Traveling To Bratislava Had It’s Issues, But Worth It


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.

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle

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.

Novy Most Bridge, Bratislava Slovakia

Novy Most Bridge, Bratislava Slovakia

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).

Outdoor Chapel in Bratislava, Slovakia

Outdoor Chapel in Bratislava, Slovakia

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.

Author: Alan (Travelin' Al) Stiebing

Alan Stiebing has been traveling for over 20 years. He blogs and photographs his experiences and passions for and other digital and print outlets.

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