My Eurotrip: How I Found Many New Friends
After my final year at university, I took some time off to see the world before I parked myself behind a desk somewhere for the next couple of decades. As a 25-year-old woman, I was a little worried about traveling alone for so long. I found that everything I thought I knew about Europe and the people living there was completely wrong. This story is my personal experience, and I think everyone could learn a little something here, especially young ladies looking to take a journey.
New meetings in Holland
Everyone thinks that they want to go to Holland, specifically Amsterdam, for their lax laws on certain substances. That’s not why I wanted to go, though. I have many family members that come from Holland, and I wanted to reconnect with the culture while I still had the chance. I thought my trip was cursed because when the plane landed, and we disembarked, it started pouring rain. That meant I had no choice but to go to my hotel, put my bags away, and do nothing. Or that is what I thought. Eventually, I decided to take my chances (and an umbrella) and wander the streets to find something to eat. I found this quaint coffee shop that sold amazing pastries and had a really quiet atmosphere. I met a small group of women that were traveling from Los Angeles, and we linked up on Twitter to keep in touch. I met them a few times over the week I stayed in Holland. I saw the famous canals, went to the Anne Frank house, went to the Van Gogh museum, and took a ton of pictures of windmills in the countryside. I didn’t realize that Holland was so beautiful and diverse!
How I got lost in Prague
My trip to Prague didn’t have any of the whimsy that I had dealt with in Holland. I took trains to Germany and then down to Prague. Unfortunately for me, I lost a bag somewhere along the way with a lot of my clothes in it. That meant I had to go shopping in a city in which I didn’t speak the language or know any of the stores, brands, or sizes. Making matters worse was that I tried using my phone to figure out the taxis and got lost in Prague. I mean, I ended up so far away from my hotel that I wanted to cry. I did find a sweet older couple that spoke English, and they were able to direct me to a local clothing store. We had coffee together, too, but they wouldn’t let me take them out to dinner. Most of the time I was in Prague, I felt lost. I did see many of the major tourist attractions, though. I went to Prague Castle, visited the Old Town Square, saw the Dancing House, and got a look at the famous Astronomical clocks (plan your trip with an itinerary if you’re going to end up here).
After Prague, I decided to backtrack and go to Paris. I had such a rough experience that I wanted something more familiar to me before I finished my journey in Europe. After all, I speak French, and I had been to the city for my senior trip, and I knew it well enough to feel comfortable. There I was in Paris in the autumn. Needless to say, it was beautiful. There weren’t even too many tourists around because of the time of year, so I was able to go to The Louvre, museums, and all the regular tourist areas. I turned on a dating site just for the fun of it because I was a little lonely in the city. How often do you get to date someone in Paris? I matched with a few people, but only one of them was interested in me once he learned I was from America. We met for dinner in Paris, and I found out he was working on a novel while living in the city. He was a little bit older than me, and he was so much fun to be around. He helped me enjoy Paris in a way that I never imagined before. We went to some nice restaurants that were off the beaten path, found a bookstore that was small and cozy, and listened to live music on the streets at night. We talked about his book at Arc de Triomphe, got to see the Palace of Versailles, and got to look at the Eifel Tower even though we didn’t go up. We weren’t looking for a serious relationship, though, just company. We parted ways on my last night in the city, and we’ve been pen pals since!
Beautiful and majestic Vienna
The final leg of my trip to Europe took me to Vienna, a beautiful city that I enjoyed very much. I went on walking tours of the city for three days in a row, and I saw so much. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Prater, the Vienna State Opera House, the Vienna Natural History Museum, and even the Vienna Zoo. While seeing the sights in this was a mesmerizing experience, I found that helping other people was somehow even better. I saw a group of student musicians that were playing in the suburbs trying to earn money to travel. Ultimately, they wanted to compete in a music competition for middle-schoolers. I managed to work with their director, and we set up a crowdfunding campaign! They made their goal with a few days to spare, and I’m hoping to see videos of them competing!
Traveling throughout Europe was such a unique and empowering experience. I met so many new people and did so much that I honestly believe I returned home a new woman. Europe looks nothing like it does in the news or in films. It’s simultaneously divine and down-to-earth in so many ways. If you want to understand people in a new way, I recommend traveling as I did.