Monday, November 5, 2012

The little girl goes to München

This is the point at which I enter my first leg of lone traveling. After several wonderful days of exploring Copenhagen with my friend Denise - seeing the sights and the major thoroughfares with plenty of back alleys and smaller joints thrown in - I now enter the part of my trip where I will be experiencing things without the comfort of a constant tour guide and host.

It's a little scary entering this portion of my journey. Until this point, I've been calmed by the fact that everything was relatively stable and simple on my end. I didn't have to do much research about Copenhagen before I got here, didn't have to figure out how to live in a foreign environment without the help of a new local, didn't have to burden myself with the extra responsibility of a hotel stay.

Now I will have to disembark from airplanes and find trains. I will have to get off trains and find hotels. I will have to leave hotels and find the sights I've written down for myself. I will have to locate food on my own, interact with people who don't speak English on my own (or people who do speak English, apparently it's a common thing in Europe nowadays) and simply enjoy my own company without feeling sad over loneliness.

I don't know that I'm ready.

It hasn't been very many days, but I've already started to feel like I know Copenhagen. Walking the streets today from Kongens Have to the Hans Christian Andersen museum near Rådhuspladsen, I almost got lost wandering through the streets. I knew the general direction I had to be headed in, though, and as I window shopped and strolled past bakeries and cafés and bars in heavy quantities, I relaxed and enjoyed the ambiance of the city.

It was raining today, which you might expect would make things only more difficult. But despite the weather and the circumstance of exploring the city on my own whilst avoiding my own map and trying not to look over the buildings too much to find a landmark by which to find my way back to where I'd come from, I truly enjoyed having the chance to feel like a local. No longer was I wandering the streets with my head poised toward the skyline, a camera hanging around my neck. I could finally be semi-anonymous, without a distinction of class, ethnic or cultural background.

But as soon as this feeling started, I was already planning my escape. And tonight I spent a few hours looking through plans for my arrival in Munich.

Looking forward, I'll only have a couple of days to experience this city. Less than a couple of days, actually. But I am determined to make adequate use of them.

I've set forth an itinerary that will require me to casually hop from place to place throughout my day and a half. I've dotted my map with little circles to signify various locations I'd like to visit and coordinated in my mind on which days each activity will take place.

I'm trying desperately to cover all the ground I can, to see all that is possible of a city that I've never been to before. And I have faith I will succeed.

It took me a while to realize my travel style. Since I've always had my dad or my grandma planning trips on my behalf, it's been hard to take on the role of responsible adult. Even as I was walking through the Hans Christian Andersen museum today I kept thinking how much of a child I felt. As I walked past animatronics and murals depicting his fairytales, the wax figures disturbed me and I had to run away. Trouble was, I had no one to run to. No leg to hold onto and no shoulder to hide my head on.

Essentially, this stands as an allegory for much of this holiday of mine. I'll be doing new and fascinating things, but if whatever I employ myself with becomes too scary or too much of a burden, I will not have anyone to fall back on. It's just me. At least for the next stop and a bit in the future.

But if anything, this will remind me how to be self-sufficient. Because as mature as I purport to be - an old lady of sorts who has the temperament and energy of someone much much older - I will always be a mama's and a daddy's girl. I will always thrive from companionship.

Yet I embrace the chance at shedding that skin. And as I close this off and enter the sleep before my travels to Deutschland on my own, I bid my friends and family a short-term adieu and share a little hopefulness that tomorrow will bring an even more clear and thoughtful essay on the experience of being a lone traveler in a beautiful and exciting new place.

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