October 24, 2016

Day 1102 – The end is near

Having spent the last ten days in Italy I was both excited and sad to leave.  Initially, I had envisaged spending a month in Italy as I wanted to explore every possible corner and really take time to enjoy the pizza and gelato. However, I was conscious that I was pressed for time so I had to choose between spending three more days in Italy or taking the bus up to Vienna. What a difficult decision and yes life isn’t easy for backpackers.  I have come to learnt and accept that there is no wrong decision.  I can opt for either and both will be great; spending more time in Italy would be grand but equally exploring another great city will be just as amazing.

Vienna is not just another city, it is a city I have heard a great deal about and have wanted to visit for quite some time.  My German teacher, Ms McWilliams was the first to talk about the Sound of Music and about how amazing Vienna is.  Thus, I have wanted to visit this city since the age of sixteen. With this in mind, I decided to book the nine hour bus journey, after all, I have come this far. I arrived in Vienna in the evening, the sky was grey and dark same as back home which made me smile. The underground system is easy to navigate through and I found my hostel with ease.  I noticed early on whilst, Vienna is a beautiful, historical city, it lacks the buzz I felt in Italy.

My plan was to do a walking tour as this is a great way to meet fellow backpackers along with exploring the city. Unfortunately, the walking tour was cancelled and given a public holiday was looming the next day, I decided to do my own walking tour.  I find there is no better way to get to know a city then on foot.  It gives me time to marvel at the beautiful architecture, express my gratitude inside a church, follow the different scents and try local pastries.  I avoid the crowds, the busy streets and above all the shopping outlets.  I stop and capture the moment on my camera but some moments are better captured with no camera or phone.  I fully appreciate the moment if I immerse myself in the present at any given time.

I also don’t intend to visit every touristic or historical site.  Sure, there are some must see spots, must do experiences but I try not to be a tourist for the most part.  Rather, I see myself as a traveller, a backpacker, a explorer so I would rather go off the beaten track and find a local coffee shop then tick off another botanical gardens.  I also ensure that I don’t explore everything in any one given city as this then gives me a reason to go back.  I am in no hurry, sure some cities develop over night and new centres etc. emerge but for other cities this is not the case.  My idea of enjoying and exploring a city is different to others understandable which is why I enjoy venturing out on my own as it keeps the pressure and expectation off.  I enjoy exploring cities my way, making decisions based on what feels right and more importantly what I want.

That said, I also thoroughly enjoy exploring cities with people. It is great to visit a landmark and to be amazed by the sheer beauty and magnitude. I remember friends with whom I trekked with, enjoyed a sunrise with and shared many a laughs with.  Over time, this is what I value and crave more so than the actual experience. So, in essence for me it is not where I go or what I do, more it is who am I sharing this experience, journey with?  My trip and all the moments I have shared with friends are memorable and amazing because of all the amazing people I was fortunate to share it with.  I have some great memories of me venturing and exploring a city solo but even on these occasions I have shared the moment with people, mostly locals but kind-hearted people all the same.

With one day left before I fly home, I decided to catch one last bus over the border to Bratislava.  It takes a hour or so and whilst I was aware one day would not be suffice and would not do justice to the city, it was better than nothing.   I was fortunate enough to sit next to an Erasmus student from Thailand who was exploring the city for the day with other students from her university.  It didn’t take me long to ask if I could join them as I knew it would be a lot more fun exploring with these students than on my own.  Of course, I didn’t know any of them and I was aware that I may not meet them again but I was adamant that it would great to share the day with them. I had a gut feeling and so I went with this.

It maybe socially unacceptable, embarrassing or unheard of to invite oneself along and to tag along with a group of seven others but I did it and have no regrets.  Would I have done this back at home, three years?  Most probably not.  I have learnt to think on my feet, not to over analyse or over think a situation and to go with the outcome. I have ended up in some awkward, uncomfortable situations, sure but if I able to laugh through them then it is all worth it.  My comfort zone has grown immensely and situations which I would shy away from typically, are ones I now embrace with ease.  I get a sense of the situation and people quicker than I did back at home and nine times out of ten, I am right. I base these decisions not only on what I can see but on what I feel.  I have felt a connection with people I don’t share a language or culture with. At the same time, I have sat with people my age, from the Western world and felt nothing but alienated and judged.  So, here’s to all of us who step outside of our comfort zone and attempt to discover ourselves and the world a little more.