This past September, I took the plunge. It was hard to find the perfect moment to take a vacation and be acquainted with the rest of the world, but after finding my groove at work, I made the decision to go on a 9-day, solo tour around Europe. Even though it had some great highs and some lows, it was quite the adventure.
The first day, Friday, I arrived at London Heathrow from an 8-hour direct flight from Atlanta. Being my first intercontinental flight, I expected it to be similar in unpleasantness compared to the usual 2-hour flight I occasionally take to St. Louis and back, but 4 times longer. Although it did feel like an eternity, it was actually bearable and the food was actually good. (No bad airplane food jokes here.)
I landed in London and made my way to my first hostel and met with a fellow tour participant who had also arrived a day early, like me. I got acquainted with the city and managed to hit many of the tourist hot-spots like Big Ben and the London Eye, taking many a pictures as I went. To be honest, I wanted to take more pictures of the fellow tourists in all of their selfie-stick wonder.
Day 2. The second day of my trip got pretty ugly. After hearing the endless “watch out for pick-pockets,” or “keep an eye on your things,” I managed to have my wallet, containing my passport, 3 bank cards and about $70 in cash… vanish while on the Tube. It never really seemed real to me when I realized that it was gone. I kept thinking, “surely it is just in a very deep pocket of my bag,” or “maybe I left it in the hostel.” But no, it was gone forever. I was left with no passport and no money.
I was lucky to have my tour-mate with me at the time of the disappearance. I think that was the one thing that kept me sane. After canceling cards and making other arrangements for money, I had to wait it out in England till Monday and get an emergency passport to travel onto the rest of Europe and meet up with my tour group. Until then, I was able to travel by train to stay with a cousin in Wolverhampton, about 2 hours north of London, for the weekend.
After getting my emergency passport, I was able to take the train to Paris (after a little begging to the French customs to let me into France with my “non-official” passport) and meet up with my group just before they departed to Interlaken, Switzerland with just minutes to spare.
Switzerland happened at the perfect time. It was the beautiful calm after a stressful weekend. I have been around mountains before, but nothing compared to the peaks of the Swiss Alps. Of course, there was the option to skydive, bungee jump or paraglide over them, but I was happy with just hiking up to the top and unloading while looking at a live version of a 360-degree panorama of heaven.
After Switzerland, we embarked for Italy. While there, a bunkmate and I took our own food tour of Italy, experiencing aperitifs and spaghetti alla carbonara, among other things. Italy would be a place I would like to just live short-term just to learn the beautiful language and eat the delicious food.
All too soon, it was time for me to return to the States. It was hard to leave, but I had to get back to reality and to work (not to mention the kitties that probably thought that I had abandoned them.) Even after the change of plans in the beginning, I still managed to have a great time and I can’t wait to travel again and make some new friends from around the world.