Because there is no other city like it.
In Dublin, London, Berlin and New York City…it was the typical answer.
Sometimes, I would get the pressure from a local—when will the stars ever align perfectly for you? I did it, so you should too!
And other times, usually from good friends, I would get, I know why it’s not for everyone.
Dublin: Cheap. Laid back. Center of tech. Easy to jump to other parts of Europe. Closest to the states. Beer. And leprechauns (not from local of course).
London: The English. The diversity of languages and people. Compact. Center of Europe. Little of everything. History. The supposedly wicked sense of humor.
Berlin: Personalities. 24 hour parties. Beer. Openness. Innovation. Creativity. Vast history. English as a second language. Graffiti does not mean it’s a bad area of town.
New York City: Compact. Diversity of industry and boroughs. Easy public transit. Food. Everything you want. It is the city.
They always have this sudden politeness that overcomes them when they speak English. I always wondered if it came from the British. They form the words carefully to make sure that I understand.
His eyes showed pity and he said, “I am sorry. You’re too late.”
Three hours earlier, I aimlessly wandered after the city bike tour. First stopping at a cafe for brioche and ginger/mint/lime tea. Then I found myself shopping, thinking of how to spend my last 25 euros.
An hour should be enough for me to get to the airport, I think.
I had waited a long time before my flight to Berlin at Gatwick and didn’t want to make the same mistake.
Somehow I didn’t think that was going to work this time…as I found myself feeling anxious as I got lost and lost.
I had walked in circles with my hands freezing carrying my two bags from the airport. Eventually, I pulled out my phone and reoriented myself to the correct German street.
And then I saw it. The buildings were all covered in graffiti. I sucked in my breath—yes I had pay a super low price for this room, but is this how it will be like? I ran the doorbell of the building…the host buzzed me in but then I noticed that the front door to the building didn’t close anyway.
The host didn’t look like his photo and upon entering, I was hesitant. Concrete. The place obviously wasn’t done up to be designy in anyway. It was left as if nothing had been personalized. Then I saw my room—it was as advertised. A small “Japanese” room as described.
The following morning, I woke up…and I realized how excellent it was.
“Frankly, I am people-ed out,” she said after having traveling after 5+ weeks. “I just want to drink coffee and read the news.”
She had said those words as we were sitting around in a late night pub in Dublin, Ireland. We had all met after the conference, finding fellow conference goers to tour around the city and hang out. She downed another Guinness after that, regaling us stories of her weeks in Thailand, Bali and Singapore.
Today I can officially say I am people-ed out. It has been only since the 30th of January…I am on my 14th day abroad. Soon, I will surpass the longest time that I have been away traveling. This morning, it wasn’t quite homesickness that I woke up to. I don’t miss the everyday patter. I miss the familiarity of people—that I don’t need to present myself all over again every day to someone new. I miss having a constant person who knows why I do the things that I do and why I say the things that I say. That is comforting.
Every other day, I wake up somewhere new. A hotel room. A small room in the in-law unit of a flat. A shared dormitory. A large English living room complete with gold-plated mirrors and multiple Ikea lamps. And tomorrow morning, a bedroom with orange painted walls.
I look forward to a day of mindless wandering alone. To be without the desires of another. To decide at a whim yes, I will go there or declare I am tired and in need of a drink. I decide. But I know for several moments, I would wish to have someone share the experiences with me. For now, Toad is my companion.
Like my parents, I always fight for the bill when I have guests and when I am a guest. It’s what I have been taught to show gratitude and appreciation for others.
Yet that’s often where it stops. In my expression of generosity.
Having been in Europe now for more than a week (and finally having real Internets), there’s something comforting about the way that people treat each other.
The choice of words.
In London at least, there’s the language—mind the gap, take care, everything ok?…it’s more sentimental, personal. Although it has the same motivation, the language itself suggests differing behavior. It suggests that we are more emotionally connected, a giving of ourselves to others.
The way people spend extra time with each other.
Perhaps it’s just the connections that I have—but what I thought was just lunch or just dinner…turns into longer walks, longer tours, afternoon tea, after dinner desserts/drinks.
It’s clearly more nationalistic in certain parts, depending on the country. As it is clear in Dublin, that it is about Ireland. and in London, it is clear that it is about England. With it, there is an essence of nationalistic pride, a branding of everything—from English tea to Irish sparkling water. Yet there is a genuine curiosity about other cultures, especially where differences lie.
But I am still curious what “He’ll take care of you” means.