Trips that change things in your life

I always say that one of the best parts about travelling is when it makes a change to your normal, every day life. Of course, travelling can change you in huge ways: Vancouver had a major role in developing who I am today but I am talking about the small things from the smaller trips you make.

Before I went to Turkey, I had never tried drinking tea. Now, I drink it sometimes often and sometimes every so often. Much more impactful was the discovery of Turkish cheese. I ate it every morning for breakfast, with my bread and meat, and loved it so much that I continue to buy it all the time from the local Turkish grocery store, here in Wiesbaden. It’s a staple of my breakfast and I’ve even introduced other people to it too. Had I not gone to Turkey, I would have never known about this great food, which has become an integral part of my life!

So what am I getting at? Well, this change is not so exciting but it is an interesting experiment to me. The iPhone battery sucks. I know it. You know it. Steve Jobs’s corpse knows it. So one thing I did before I left was changed some settings to make the battery last longer. I always want to know when I have email, just because, well, you know, I mean, well, if it’s there, I’ve got to read it. Why wouldn’t I? Well, I changed the instant delivery of emails not even to the time-based setting but to manual.

It might sound small and insignificant but in today’s crazy electronic world, it’s a big deal for me. It basically changes the whole way I consume emails. Instead of demanding my attention at any given moment, I am now reading emails when I choose to read emails.

The natural decision would have been to turn instant emails back on upon getting home but I’m going to try to keep this one connection to the electronic world severed. Maybe I won’t know about everything instantly but I managed to live well into this decade without ever having that option before.

Trips don’t have to just introduce you to new foods or interests. They can also change your habits, introduce you to new people, or even give you a desire to move to a new place and turn your life upside-down. It’s about breaking out of your routine and out of your bubble.



So I recorded about 365 km of walking on my entire trip. That doesn’t include all walking, of course. I don’t track much under 1 km and I obviously never track indoors.

Anyway, from the 28th to the 28th, that’s 31 days, meaning I walked an average of 12 km per day. Not too shabby. I think the most I walked in a single day was around 20 km.

I spent around 81 hours walking in October, which is about 3 1/3 days of solid walking. If you think about it, that’s less than a third of the time I spent sleeping, so I’m actually pretty lazy.

Everything works out

Well here I was, bored out of my tree, thinking the train would never end, when the worst happens: the train drove over something and came to a halt! The man across from me keenly observed the obvious in the way only a German can, das kann nicht gut sein, as smoke or dust followed the loud noise of whatever it was we crushed. No, that can’t be good at all. The loudspeaker informed us that the train was damaged to the point that it could no longer drive with any speed. Great, I thought, I will never get to sleep in my bed!

Well, as has been very well established, there is always good in bad. As we limped back to the station, a slower intercity train pulled into the station. We all hurried across the platform to search, futilely, for an open seat. Seeing that there were none and having spotted a fellow backpacker from the now deceased train, I made my way into the hallway and tried to make conversation. Turns out she was on her way to the airport to fly to Thailand!
So while the trip seemed doomed to boredom, this disaster actually delivered an interesting conversation partner. Though I got home later than I expected, the journey was a lot more entertaining and there’s a story to tell. It also gave me the opportunity stop over in Frankfurt and get my favourite sausage. And it was a good re-entry to Germany, as the conversation was, naturally, entirely in German. East Germans especially have trouble with English (and have very little exposure to North American popular culture, much less than the average German), so it’s a lot easier to speak German with them – and I’m in Germany afterall. Don’t worry: she made the flight.
And how great it was to round all the familiar train stations, finally pulling into Wiesbaden Hauptbahnhof. I stepped off the train, looked around, and breathed in a deep breath: home! I opted to walk home to take in the sights of my beautiful city and bask in the feeling of familiarity. How great it was to walk home, obeying every traffic light but that one that nobody obeys. As I approached it and waited for the cars to pass, I glanced anxiously at the fellow German across from me, knowing we were about to break the one rule no German is permitted to break. We stepped out onto the pavement as rebels, criminals, disorderly citizens. And there before me was the Fußgängerzone, the European dream I live in.
Traveling is great but there’s no place like home. I’m now sitting on my couch, having sifted through all the junk mail. Evidently, tigers and black people are still dying and all the money I’ve donated to charity this year has been pointless. Well, I guess I better send more.
Various chores await but only one thing of import is on my mind today and that is the sweet, sweet comfort of my own bed.

The trip must not end

Well our train ran over something on the way home. Now the train is broken. After half an hour of sitting around, they have informed us that we will limp back to the previous station and will have to take other trains.

It’s going to be a late night.
Ah, complaining about train delays. I missed you, Germany. You suck, Deutsche Bahn!!

Über alles

As I am sending this, I have made it back to Germany and have 3G Internet again. Hurray! The trip from Prague to Germany was beautiful. We followed a nice river the whole way, which was dotted with colourful houses and green hills. It would be quite wonderful to come canoeing on this river, I think.

As I make my way home, I thought I’d write some random things that I either forgot to write or which just didn’t fit in anywhere. These things will appear in point form and in no real order.

– English people are definitely the most well mannered people in Europe by a long shot.
– Spain, surprisingly, had the worst service in restaurants of all countries I went to. It was worse than Germany.
– Italian people actually say “mama mia!” for real.
– Jellyfish are the creepiest thing and confirm by belief that the ocean is evil.
– Life is hard for the French.

– Italians take a sick pleasure out of getting trapped between doors

– This is a pretty interesting quotation.

– Had to change trains in Empoli, some small town in Italy. I saw this awesome pizza place:

– Traveling alone is incredibly lonely at times but it also frees you to do anything you want, such as not wasting time on eating or going to the bathroom. All things considered, I would still recommend traveling with someone.
– Fall is still a high tourist time in the southern countries!
– Southern Spain is infested with flies.
– Americans have an unfair reputation as the worst tourists. Germans are definitely up there. In October (they have Fall break cause school is hard for Germans), swarms of Germans cover every part of Southern Europe and they don’t have much in the way of manners. Rome had more Germans than Italians in some areas.
– Even English tourists are very polite.
– Some ticket checkers have no clue what an InterRail pass is. You could hand them toilet paper with InterRail in crayon and they would inspect it very thoroughly with a very serious face and then hand it back to you with a “thank you!” These guys are to be found in the south and the east.
– Some ticket checkers are nazis. These guys inhabit the centre and the north.
– In some old trains in Italy, you can see the train tracks through the toilet. Relieving oneself in the train station is forbidden with good cause.
– Taking a train through the alps is as beautiful as they say.
– Monaco sucks.
– Gibraltar is cool but not set up for tourists at all.
– Postage costs the most in Italy, at 2€ for an international stamp.
– Most useful thing to bring on a backpacking trip: hand sanitizer.
– Two things I never used once: gloves and a sweater. Still glad I took the chance.
– I met Canadians from coast to coast: BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, and Nova Scotia. The only one with a different accent was the girl from Montréal. The least friendly? BC. Most friendly? A tie between all the rest. Canadians are great.
– Someone had a dog in the hostel in Rome.
– I met a Dutch guy who was just in Barrie the week before for a wedding.
– I learned to not leave any tip at all in Spain and Italy, which is normal.
– I walked over 300km during this trip. I will figure out a more precise total at home.
– The InterRail details page contained exactly enough space for the trains I took. Weird.

– Secret detail above: Still wearing sandals! (I have worn shoes on a few days)

The most important thing to know is that the best experiences come on their own. Be flexible and don’t plan too much. Avoid cars and the metro: walk in a general direction and discover the best experiences of your trip. Meet locals or fellow travelers and form new friendships or learn about that one restaurant you wouldn’t have known about. Have an open mind and be willing to accept setbacks and failure. There’s always a positive side to be found in every mis-step or catastrophe. Be an explorer.
Thanks everyone for reading and commenting. It made it less lonely and more enjoyable to know people were drinking their coffee and reading about my crazy adventures. Next crazy adventure? A Christmas trip to the sub-zero frozen arctic tundra of Barrie, Ontario.