Remember how two weeks ago I asked people for help in packing? I wanted to make sure I didn't leave anything necessary home.
Well, I did. My sense of direction. I actually got over there and couldn't tell east from west (and sometimes left from right) and I couldn't read a map.
But that's OK! It's just one of the many memorable things about my first trip alone to a foreign country. What were other memorable things, you ask? I will tell you.
1) Germans are just as pushy in their driving as Americans. They're just as likely to honk (possibly more so), and they are just as willing to shove their vehicle into traffic whether you intend for them to merge or not.
2) They are better drivers.
3) Germans are a different kind of friendly. They're reserved and undemonstrative and not touchy-feely and instant-friends kind of friendly, but when I asked a stranger to teach me how to shift a German transmission or help me get to Munich, no one said no or acted annoyed or gave me funny looks. They just helped me. A couple of times people even jumped in on their own without me asking.
4) I have a very expressive face. Specifically, it expresses, "I'm so lost I'm not even sure I could tell you my name right now."
5) Even, ahem, people-haters get a little lonely. I didn't realize just how isolated I would feel sometimes — not only did I not know anybody, but I couldn't really speak to anybody since we spoke different languages.
6) At the same time, there were nights I spent walking the streets the Berlin, reveling in how alone and free I felt in this foreign metropolis. It made me wonder what life would be like living in Manhattan, living the single life in a big city. And it kind of made me want to try it.
7) I learned how to just say no to drugs and alcohol and gangs and crime, but no one ever taught me how to say no to an open trail. There's something intoxicating about seeing a pathway in front of me and not being sure where that path ends up.
8) Packing lightly cut my frustration in half.
9) There are still hotels in the world that give you actual metal keys that go into the doorknob. Wild. They then want you to leave the key there for safekeeping during the day. This was very disconcerting.
10) The older I get, the more my body needs vegetables to not be cranky.
Now, three days later, I am glad to be sleeping in my bed, driving, going to the gym, eating oatmeal for breakfast, not going to bed with aching joints and not living out of a suitcase, while I simultaneously miss walking the city streets, feeling my tired body re-energize when something exciting came along, eating pastry for breakfast and a different kind of chocolate cake every day and wondering when I left each day what it would bring.