Just when I think I’ve got this solo traveling thing down pat, I get to a city like Berlin and question everything.
But in my moment of over-examination and doubt, my mother provided some sage advice, “Don’t shoot for perfect, it’s overrated.”
So let me celebrate the good. I drafted this post from an Italian restaurant in table-for-one style. Not tucked in a nice little table in the corner, no, middle of the restaurant on an obnoxiously large table designed for four, or six on Christmas Day.
And shizer, there is no wifi. It’s just me, my stein and iPhone Notes. But I’m an old hand at dining alone these days. From New Year’s Day 2013 in Kingscliff where I enjoyed my first party of one breakfast (and lunch!), I’ve come a long way baby.
But I’m here to tell you it’s not so bad. Yes it’s handy to have an iPhone, internet, kindle, magazine, newspaper, insert self assuring product here. Yes, people will stare. Yes, they will question internally whether they could do the same thing.
I conquered another Everest in Berlin. I sat at a bar by myself. Not earth shattering stuff. But it was serious ‘psych yourself up like you’re about to go head to head with Ali’ stuff. With pre-Facebook friend chat encouragement on repeat, my game face is on. I walk down the stairs with purpose. I carefully select my bar stool. Not too close that I’m creepin’, not too far that I have to do an awkward move closer later to hear people. I fake it until I make it. I’m audible. I’m chatty. And I hit the social jackpot. A bartender who knows his job is to help poor souls like myself. He’s got his small talk down to an art. He draws everyone in to the conversation. He even thinks I’m an outgoing friendly person when I come clean on my situation. Ho ho ho, little does he know.
I end up immersed in a group of American students lined up in the bar. We have the usual inter-culture travel exchanges but I don’t cringe. I have accepted small talk into my life. I’m a born again conversationalist.
I stayed in one the coolest, nicest and hippest hostels of my trip thus far. Circus. My 4-bed all girls “dorm” provided a lush clean room that I didn’t even know could exist anymore. I had the room to myself the first night, a delightful change from my 32-bed dorm the night before.
And Berlin. I am definitely not cool enough for this city. On the streets I feel like a “colourful dog”. A German slang learnt from a pair who appear later in this story. It means everyone stares at you because you don’t fit in. The most hipster thing I did in Berlin was wait an exorbitant amount of time for a coffee at a trendy looking joint. The sign said “don’t die before trying”, what was I supposed to do, die without trying? Let me tell you with no coffee experience to my name, only drinking the black gold for the last 10 months, it was the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had. That fellow bar stooler from the other night was right. Ethiopian coffee is the business.
It’s always harder travelling on your own after spending time with friends. Post Italy trip with my Aussie besties, landing in Bucharest nearly broke me. Same with Berlin. When I say I wish you were here, it’s not a frayed postcard. I mean it.
The history of Berlin is like nothing I’ve ever come across. It’s interesting, intense, worth a six hour walking tour and fixes my historical ignorance. I mostly hang by myself on the walk, minus a chat here and there. This usually involved the standard reaction to traveling by oneself. It’s not quite a what’s wrong with you, it’s not quite envy, it’s some questionable realm between.
A highlight of my solo Berlin experience occurs on the Saturday night. No I don’t get into Berghain. You should know by now, I’m lamer than that. I get on the bus to try and get tickets to the sold out Chet Faker gig. I find the spot where others are already waiting with their ‘suche’ tickets signs. There are two girls there first. I linger awkwardly at first but, then I approach them to ask their situation. Like everyone in Berlin they speak English. And they’re very friendly. We chat as we chase tickets. Apparently Chet jogs by. I miss it. After an hour I potentially have a ticket on the way but all I want now is these dedicated Berliners to get in. I bail as the sun goes down and the chill of evening creeps in. I wonder if they ever got their tickets…
Here comes the sale line. Reason I’m not too worried. I get to see Chet Faker at Bilbao BBK Live in July. Care to join??