Thursday, October 15, 2015

It Turns Out I'm Really Into Old Architecture. And Cats.

Alternate title: Did you know it's possible to pickpocket yourself?

It turns out that I might not be the biggest fan of traveling alone. For reasons that are entirely my fault and may not be representative of my actual feelings on traveling in general.

Yes, it's empowering and all, being able to find your way around train stations and cities you've never been to before. It's amazing to be independent and immerse yourself in another culture where you don't understand the language. It's great being able to do the things that you want to do, when you want to do them, without having to take another person's interests into account. (Want to sit outside an opera house and observe the fashionable locals? Done. Want to eat gelato for lunch? Obviously. Want to wander around a foreign castle looking for feral cats? ABSOLUTELY I DO.)

So it was a massive bummer that, when I first set foot on foreign soil, the first thing that I learned was that my debit card — which I had gotten solely for the purpose of going abroad — did not work abroad. And I had $10 cash in my pocket, because I had expected that I would be able to withdraw Euros with my debit card.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

I had a scheduled day of sight-seeing in Amsterdam before meeting up with a co-worker, followed by several days of meetings and tradeshows, with two additional solo sight-seeing days in Milan and Frankfurt at the end of the trip. And realizing that I was on my own with one international credit card (and one U.S. credit card with huge international fees) and no other money was TERRIFYING.

So I did what any irrational human being would do. I split up my two credit cards (one into my wallet, the other into my luggage). I had hidden it in a separate compartment in my purse that would have been harder for pickpockets to get to. And then I promptly forgot — in my complete panic — that I had done so and flipped out when I couldn't find my own wallet. So I essentially pickpocketed myself, and spent two hours wandering around the Amsterdam train station trying to find something that had been in my purse the whole time.

EXPO (World's Fair) in Milan, Italy

I think that if I hadn't started off my trip on this note, I probably would feel better about traveling alone. Outside of that, there were no major mishaps, and I had a really awesome trip. There were a few things I wish I'd had cash for — turns out many of the little local eateries and cafes in Frankfurt don't take credit cards, and the Sforza Castle in Milan was having trouble with its credit card machines and so I didn't get to do any museum tours inside — but otherwise it wasn't a huge problem. Even the Milan train station had an app so I could buy tickets via Paypal!

Alte Oper (Opera House) in Frankfurt, Germany

With that behind me, I will share some better stories from my trip soon. :)

Have you ever traveled alone before? What are your favorite travel activities?

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