I took the LSAT. It’s done. I cannot describe to you what a relief it is to have that behind me! Now I can be a normal person again. (Well, as normal as any PCV is capable of being.)
But more importantly, I got to play in Munich for three days!!! They don’t administer the LSAT in Albania, so I had to choose from a small list of European cities that offer the exam. I narrowed it down to four choices: London, Munich, Paris, and Rome. I had always wanted to go to Germany, but it was still a difficult decision to make because all of these places appealed to me in different ways. So I asked my Facebook friends where they’d recommend and received about 3280438 comments and messages claiming: “Oohhh you absolutely MUST go to [this city], it’s just LOVELY!” There was no consensus so it was not a helpful exercise in the least, save for providing my hoity-toity friends an opportunity to sound off about all the beautiful and cultured places they’d been.
And now, I am one of those hoity-toity people. And I am not sorry.
I finally just said: “To hell with you all!” and went with my first instinct: Deutschland. And I chose well. MUNICH IS MY FAVORITE PLACE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Unlike some of my Facebook friends, I am not yet an accomplished world traveler, but out of the places I have been to, Munich takes the cake (with Prague as a close second.) I appreciated the quirk and character of Budapest and the ancient charm of places like Ohrid and the romantic beauty of Tuscany. But what I discovered is that at heart, I’m just a super German personality. Combined with the traditional German respect for rules and order (ENFORCED TRAFFIC LAWS!!! oh, how I’ve missed you), pragmatism, and efficiency, Bavaria has its own charm of upbeat yet easygoing indulgence and hospitality. It was like God took everything that I love–high-calorie, high-flavor food and drink, nature, nice people, cheese, bread, diversity, tolerance, historical monuments, not-crowded museums (because it’s “too hot” outside LOL), 19th century Impressionist painters, cheese, bread, 4-story Forever 21’s, SHOES, blueberries, Asian cuisine, fro yo, more cheese, more bread–and combined it into one city that’s been sitting there waiting for me to discover it my entire life.*
*In case you didn’t notice, most of those things were food. I gained approximately 88 pounds on this trip.
A brief summary of stuff I did:
Monday, Gluttony Day: Starbucks, McDonald’s (these were super exciting for me because we don’t have them in Albania), English Gardens, traditional Bavarian food at Hafbrauhaus, met awesome Australian guys
Tuesday, Vanity Day: Took the LSAT, had sushi, shopped until I dropped (literally), hung out with med students/baseball players
Wednesday, Culture Day: History museums, Thai food, art museum, more shopping, commiserating with a Moldovan PCV
But I’m convinced that another reason I had such a great experience is because I was traveling alone. It was my first time taking a trip by myself, and I had only just begun traveling internationally not too long ago. For some reason I was intimidated by travel and felt I had to have someone plan a trip for me and hold my hand through the process. Not sure where that feeling came from, as I’m a really independent person (German much?) and have never been worried out about doing anything else myself.
So, without further ado, here’s why traveling alone rocks and you should do it:
- You don’t have to plan anything. I literally did nothing in preparation for this trip other than booking flights and hostels. I figured that, once I got in, I’d just wing it. And that’s the best thing I could’ve done for myself. Not having a plan stresses some people out, as I’ve learned quite well in the Peace Corps. Not only have I always hated planning things, but I’ve become a student of spontaneity in Albania, and that’s the way I like it.
You can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. This is the most obvious benefit of traveling alone. You’ve had Obatzda for two out of three meals yesterday but you wanna order it again? Do it. Your feet are tired? You can sit and rest without slowing anyone else down. You want to spend 14 hours shopping? Your boyfriend will not hate you for it because he’s not there. You want to sit and stare at a beautiful painting for 15 minutes? Your brothers are not there to object because they want to go back and swim in the hotel pool. You wanna go to McDonald’s and eat really poorly whilst supporting corporate America? Nobody is there to judge you for it.
- Hostels are awesome. You have everything you need all in one place tailored for low-budget travelers. If you want to be a lone wolf, you can, and (ideally) nobody will bother you. If you want to be a social butterfly, you can, and (ideally) you have the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people. Hostels are basically hubs for adventurous, interesting, young people who can’t afford hotels. Mine–the Euro Youth Hostel–had a happenin’ common area with a happy hour from 5:30-9 every night that was full to bursting. I met people from all around the world there and had a great time when I wanted to, and was able to go back to the dark, quiet dorm if I wanted to sleep.
- It’s easier to meet new people. It seems counterintuitive, but when you travel with someone else or in a group, there’s a tendency to stick with the people you know instead of reaching out. Being by yourself makes you more approachable and gives you more incentive to make new friends.
- You have time to THINK. I didn’t realize until I got to Munich how full of chatter and drama and pressure and stress my life had become. I stayed off the internet, turned off my cell phone, and spent all day and night out and about enjoying myself in a city where I was completely anonymous. It was like a detox for my mind, and when I returned to Albania I was thinking a lot more clearly about my life and felt like somebody had put new batteries in my brain.
- You can save (or splurge) easier. When you travel with someone else, you’re hitching yourself to their financial wagon in a way. If your companion wants to blow the big bucks on fancy foods and drinks and expensive activities while you’re on a budget, you’re faced with an awkward dilemma. On the flip side, if you’re traveling with someone who can’t afford the things you want to do, that’s equally as difficult. When you’re alone not only can you go where you want and do what you want, you can spend what you want.
- You get to know yourself better. I learned that 1) I quite enjoy my own company, and 2) I might possibly belong in Germany.
So, like other potentially scary things in life, my advice for anyone thinking about traveling alone is: DO IT!!!