I’ve heard it said that the first person you meet when you go abroad is yourself. I’ve found this to be kind of true for myself. I’ve learned some things about myself that are no surprise at all, but some of my epiphanies are… not what I expected. Here’s a few of them:
I learned that music keeps me sane.
I already knew this to a point- I knew that music is hugely important to me. I have a freakishly diverse taste in music and most of my friends will agree that if the tv is off and I’m awake, I pretty much always have music running.
What I didn’t really grasp fully was that without music, I get cranky. Really cranky. When my mood is very very high, it can settle me down. If my mood is very very low, it can bring me up.
I’ve commented before that music is often the impetus for a new trip for me, so it serves to keep me exploring as well. Between now and the end of the year, there are four concert trips on my calendar, with another two on my “thinking about going” list.
I’ve learned that I’m pretty relaxed about public transportation.
I haven’t driven a car since last November, and I’m pretty ok with that. I’ve really enjoyed the planes, trains, and bus rides that have made up my experiences in Europe. Even when I’ve gotten turned around, misdirected, delayed, and mildly lost, I’ve kind of had fun.
In addition to that, I really love riding on the rail system here. I’ve been on ICE trains hurtling along at speeds upwards of 250 kilometers per hour- it’s fast, quiet, and very comfortable. There are power outlets on the train, so I can watch a movie or read or listen to music without worrying that I’ll run out of battery before I reach my destination. Most of the trains even have a little cafe/restaurant car called a Bordbistro where I can get a drink, a snack, or a full meal. And best of all, there are no flight attendants telling me that I can’t get up to use the restroom when we’re leaving the station.
Trains are good.
I learned to spot more things that give me headaches.
I’ve had headaches at a mild migraine level for as long as I can remember. I’m always looking for new triggers because having headaches this often sucks royally. I knew that McDonald’s french fries are typically a trigger for me. I think it’s the high sodium, but I’m not positive of that because other french fries don’t necessarily affect me the same way. I learned very recently that Currywurst has the same effect on me as McDonald’s french fries- a near instantaneous spike-in-the-eye-socket of a headache. I’ve also had headaches triggered by the weather patterns that come off the Alps, but I’m not sure whether it’s low pressure or high pressure or both that does it. Speaking of pressure, I’ve learned that any ICE train ride of more than about three hours will trigger a massive headache that makes me useless for most of the rest of the day.
I’ve learned that I’m a pretty adventurous eater… to a point.
When I was in Hong Kong a few years ago, I tried Fugu (blowfish), kangaroo meat, jellyfish, and Thousand Year Egg. None of them bothered me in the slighest, but as soon they brought out the duck with the head and neck still attached, I got pretty squicked out.
On a recent trip to Berlin, I tried the Pferdfleisch pizza. That’s horse meat. It was a little like salty bacon, to be honest- it’s not a flavor I would seek out, but it wasn’t bad. Two days before the horse meat pizza, however, I was at Dult with Jenny and Robert for dinner. Robert purchased a cooked and breaded fish for his dinner, but the thing was still mostly intact. It had a head, a tail, and a spine. That just grosses me out.
I’ve learned that I have to keep moving.
This was a difficult realization for me. I’ve always felt like I was more or less comfortable in my own skin, but then I started to notice certain patterns in my own behavior. If I don’t have very specific plans- somewhere to go, something to do, or someone to see- I tend to isolate myself. My personal inertia can easily keep me stuck in the apartment for a day or an entire weekend. I might be able to peel myself out for an hour or so to get some food, but that’s it. If I don’t have plans, I won’t go anywhere. When I feel like that, I don’t get anything useful done at home either. Homesickness and loneliness can be insidious that way.
I read once that sharks have to keep swimming or they’ll sink to the ocean floor. Without the forward motion to keep water flowing over their gills, some species will even die. That’s kind of how I feel these days, like I need to keep moving or I’ll sink.
I tried to stay put for the month of August, and I made it one weekend before I made plans to leave town again. Two months ago I thought I had locked in all my travel plans through my end-of-the-year US trip, but since that time I’ve added four more small trips, and I’m considering several more.
My friends back home, commenting on the near-constant traveling that I’ve been doing for the last six months, often rave about how awesome my life must be and what an amazing experience I’m having. On paper, they’re absolutely right. Compared to many people, I have a pretty amazing life. Hearing it said just makes me feel worse though. Makes me want to go somewhere else.
Yup, gotta keep moving.