One of my greatest joys in the world is art; viewing it of course, but especially creating it. One of my favorite ways to create is through photography. These days, due to the convenience of digital options, I shoot mostly with my Galaxy S7 Edge because the camera lens in it is amazing, and it fits in my pocket. However, I prefer shooting with basic 35mm film. There’s something about the click of the shutter, the limited resources, and the anticipation of waiting for the film to be developed that make it feel somehow sacred to me. And to get that perfect photo back, the one that doesn’t need any filters or editing, instills a sense of excitement and pride I think most artists crave like an addiction.I took a lot of photos while I was in Europe these past two weeks. I was trying to see how little I could get away with packing and travel light, so my 35mm camera couldn’t make the trip, but I got some amazing pictures none-the-less. At some point between snapping photos and troubleshooting transportation issues, I got inspired to give some raw, unedited thoughts about my adventure.
I am huge on spontaneity when I’m traveling. While many people research and plan and book tours before a trip, I simply make sure I have a way to get where I’m going and a place to sleep when I get there. I love walking a city with fresh eyes and finding pubs on back streets where I can meet locals and learn the best things to do from them. While there are times this spontaneity can be problematic, I always have a unique and exciting experience.
This most recent trip was my first to a non-English speaking country, which made transportation a bit dicey. Immediately when I arrived in Munich, Germany, the subway ticket machines were not taking credit card payments, so I missed my train to Wurzburg while I was trying to get cash. The next morning my friend and I missed our train to Amsterdam because we stayed up to late drinking beer, as you do in Germany, with her friends. After Amsterdam, I went to the wrong airport in Brussels so I missed my flight to Santander, Spain and had to spend a night in Barcelona instead if I wanted a connection before Monday.
This was a rather expensive mistake on my part, as Ryanair is not a forgiving airline by any means. I had to book a new flight to Santander while literally running to the gate for Barcelona, so I didn’t even think to check in for the new flight until the next day when I got back to the airport. By the time I finally got signed in to the Wi-Fi I was two minutes late for online check-in (which ends two hours before a Ryanair flight), and if you’ve ever flown Ryanair before you know this means a $50 check-in fee. The cherry on top of my Spanish Sundae… Thanks Ryanair.
Lastly, when I arrived back in Munich, my sardine packed subway train suddenly stopped on the tracks on my way from the airport to the hostel… Then the power shut off completely… Then the girl standing next to me started freaking out, and there were announcements on the speakers in German, and even though the whole country learns English in school, no one would tell me what was being said despite my polite requests. So, for an hour and a half I stood in a hot train, physically closer to four strangers than I get to most of my family, with no clue what was happening save for a news article about mechanical failures from the previous day. This was enough to convince me it was not a terrorist attack. After we were finally able to disembark and walk the tracks to the station, I graciously walked three kilometers to my hostel and spent the rest of my time in Munich on foot.
SPEAKING of hostels… Seriously, what the fuck? While hostels are admittedly an affordable way to travel, my experience for the past two weeks is that they are difficult to enjoy unless you are a serious partier, or at least a little bit of a slut (unisex intent). If you’re looking for a solid night’s sleep or any sense of privacy, these are not for you. My shared room experiences varied from someone stealing and falling asleep in my bed while I was out, to drunk people trying to have one night stands in their own tiny beds, and someone with irritable bowels early in the morning behind paper thin bathroom walls.
Regardless, the negatives were not enough to deter me from using hostels again. I went on pub crawls, saw live music, and danced my ass off with hostel groups in Barcelona. I was even able to meet a few great people, specifically a fellow photographer (Insta: @ryan_bentley_photography) and a fellow blogger about to start the Camino de Santiago (WordPress: mvalenza07), and THAT is my favorite thing about traveling; building relationships. In Scotland last year I met two of the people I visited on this trip, and I have some photo trips in the works with @ryan_bentley_photography.
These relationships, this community, is what I believe life is all about. Whether you meet someone at a bar in your home town, or half way across the world trying to get directions at a bus stop, cherish the time you have with them. While I value spending time walking city streets at night alone, or showering in a private room for the first time in a week, the times I always remember most, the ones I really cherish, the ones that change me, are the times I spend with people; getting to know their stories and creating new ones with them.
The point in all this is, regardless of what we post on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, when you’re traveling or on a quick day trip, there is a real raw story that happens between the filters and the hashtags; all the missed planes, lost baggage, terrible dance moves, wicked hangovers, and negative bank accounts. You are human. You have a day job. You drive a shitty car. You don’t stay at The W hotel when you’re on vacation.
Don’t let insta culture make you think less of who you are or where you’re at in your life. Don’t be afraid to be authentic (as much as I deplore the over use of this word in modern culture), true authenticity helps build trust with others. I live in a studio apartment in a small town, where I procrastinate on doing dishes and putting clean clothes away. I drive a 2005 Honda Accord; heat damaged from years of 100+ degree heat in Texas, and the bumper is held together with zip ties because of some destructive debris on the highway. Nothing I own is expensive, and I don’t own that much because material things are not my priority in life. I fly economy class and stay in hostels. I take my Instagram photos with my phone camera and I did not edit this blog post.
My life is not glamorous, and I’m okay with that. Tell me something authentic about your life.