Places in London visited recently: the Southwark Playhouse, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery, the BBC studio, and Apsley House
Cities I’ve visited in the past 2 weeks: Dublin & Ardgillan, Ireland; Munich, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Frankfurt, & Cologne, Germany
Last week, my sister flew out from the States to go on a backpacking trip with me around Ireland and Germany. (We were supposed to end in Belgium, but spontaneity has a price.) The first time we got lost in Dublin, Etta said, “We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re going,” which ended up being the motto for the entire trip because we got lost…a lot. We spent a lot of time figuring out where we were going, then more time getting there. Many of the places we wanted to see were closed on the days we were there. We were still new to the transportation systems used in those countries, so we missed trains and couldn’t find bus stops. Although English is the official language of Ireland and most people in Germany speak English as a second language, the language barrier had added to our confusion. WiFi was also spotty and so our use of Google Maps was limited and trying to book tickets and rooms was difficult. (For the last day, we tried to find cheap tickets to Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Scotland, or Wales. Where did we end up going? Back to London.)
Etta and I both have many tips for people who wish to go backpacking on a limited budget with a limited amount of time. But, even though things could have gone better and we both wish we could have seen a lot more than we did, I wouldn’t change any of it. I think the experiences I had with my sister last week were full of challenges and adventure, which is what I think trips like that are supposed to be like. We were both disappointed that so much time was spent staring out the window of a train instead of actually exploring the cities we were in, but if I am being honest, I think that upset Etta more than it upset me. We had two different goals for this trip; Etta wanted to see things, which I understand because she was here for so few days. But I wanted to experience things, which I feel like I accomplished. I drank Irish beer and ate German pretzels and all of the bread and pastries you can possibly imagine. I wandered around cities and countrysides and met locals and fellow travelers. I stayed in fancy hotels and cheap hostels and rode trains and buses and airplanes. I touched the Irish Sea and the breast of a statue in Munich that was apparently supposed to bring me good luck. (We’ll see.) I went to museums and a concentration camp and saw castles and cathedrals and dungeons and prisons and shops that sold teddy bears and Christmas ornaments and Harley Davidson t-shirts. I learned how to say, “thank you,” “please,” and “Do you speak English?” in German.
But most of all, I did all of this with my sister.
We got to the point near the middle of the week where we both wanted to strangle each other. I already am not good at spending too much time with the same person, but I think our tolerance decreased because we were thrown into a stressful situation where everything was always up in the air. We both got snippy and frustrated. It might just be because we had no choice but to stick together, but we got over that hump. By the end of the week, we were both ready to go home. Etta missed Dean and June (her boyfriend and puppy); I wanted to be back in London where I understood the train system and where I could take a shower every night. (We all have our priorities.) Even so, what we did was an opportunity we will probably never have again. Not only have we shared these memories, but I think we understand each other better, too. A lot of people travel on their own, and they grow as individuals through their experiences. But I think Etta and I grew as sisters during this trip, which is something even more valuable to my experience abroad than seeing a bunch of cool stuff.