So the boyfriend and I went to Europe for three weeks. We booked our flights and a couple of nights at a hotel in Frankfurt, where we were landing, and that's it. The remaining 19 nights were not booked, nor destinations planned. We were just gonna wing it. We had an idea of the general geographic area we wanted to stick to (Central Europe) but no more thought was really put into it than that.
Strangely, leading up to the trip, we didn't think about it much. I guess we were busy with our daily lives and since we had decided on relatively little planning, it really wasn't front of mind. It only started sinking in about a week before we were leaving when I drew up my "pre-trip" to-do list. Then it was like, holy shit, we're going overseas for three weeks. WTF.
Now, you might be thinking, big deal. Everyone goes to Europe. A lot of people don't really plan their trip. So what? And I would say, yes, that's true. I would also say there is truth to the old adage that people go to Europe to "find themselves", because I found myself. At 39. Racked with anxiety and wonderment.
That first night in Frankfurt, I couldn't sleep because our idea was finally hitting me. We're on this continent for three weeks and I have no idea where we're going or what we'll be doing. A complete blank slate. Sheer panic started to set in, and I was hit with a sharp pang of homesickness.
You see, I plan for a living. I'm always thinking of the future, booking things in advance, organizing, and I have a very stable lifestyle, i.e. my ass is on the couch most nights watching TV, after a day of work. I also have a touch of the OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and the specter of the unknown for three weeks hit me like an abusive husband on a bender.
I guess you're supposed to work this shit out in your late teens / early twenties when most people go backpacking across Europe. I've always been a late bloomer. We ended up going to Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Vienna and Budapest, and at 39, I discovered that major urban centres, although stimulating, stress me out a bit, especially when I don't speak the language and we're trying to use public transportation to get around cities we're unfamiliar with. As the boyfriend put it, I earned my orienteering badge on this trip.
I realized I'm a nester, and just as I was getting comfortable feathering my nest in one city, we would up and leave for the next. I guess I've always known this about myself but nowhere was it more evident than on this trip. Wow, I'm really not a gypsy. Ok. Except that "nester" doesn't sound as cool as "gypsy". "Nester" sounds like generic suburban housewife, which I am most definitely not. I think.
Then, on day 4 of 21, I developed a very mild toothache which I consequently, at varying degrees, on different days, obsessed about. I mean, it didn't hurt or anything but I knew something was amiss. Again, with the unknown. What's causing this? Should I see a dentist right away? Can it wait? It can wait. I mean, I'm in a foreign country, and it's not an emergency. But can it wait another two and half weeks? I've had a root canal before. What if this is indicative of another one? What if my tooth is rotting from the inside right now? Or maybe it's just my gum that's inflamed. I DON'T KNOW. The idea of not getting any answers for at least a couple weeks was somewhat traumatic. I don't cope well with uncertainty, and yet it's the basic condition of human life. Go figure.
It was a deeply profound experience in that I remained on my edges for 21 days, without the comfort of the familiar, constantly exposed to new cities, languages and cultures, and ultimately reminded that we all resemble each other so much more than we differ from each other. All our unplanned logistics fell into place beautifully and helpful, friendly people always seemed to show up when we needed them. I guess I realized it's ok to not know, and the world "out there" is nothing to be afraid of. Unless you're traveling to Somalia. Then, you should probably be afraid.
I did have to get a second root canal when we returned home. Both of my canine teeth are now dead. It's a matching set. I wonder if that makes me kind of a vampire.