I’ve been asked three times already how I like Vienna and even though I just arrived yesterday afternoon I can say that based on the green-colored pumpkin-seed-oil-flavored organic ice cream, opera-singing buskers playing stringed instruments, and the majestic Schonbrunn palace set in a leafy green park, I like Vienna.
Just yesterday I was in Prague, wandering along the river and climbing up to the castle, then getting lost in the cobblestone streets. To get the real experience of living like a local, I had to try out the local beer. Granted when you buy 0.5L of beer for 1 Euro or less it isn’t the highest quality beer, but it was a necessary part of the cultural experience.
Visiting so many cities and countries in the past month and a half, I’ve met a lot of new people. Often they ask if I am traveling alone and their reactions range from “wow I can’t imagine doing that”, “aren’t you afraid”, and sometimes “doesn’t it get lonely”. I’ll admit I have been a little lonely at times but after a lot of soul searching I’ve developed a new philosophy on loneliness:
If I am lonely, quit being alone.
When I am in a new city and could use some company I invite my host along for an adventure. If they’re busy then I search for another couchsurfer who is available to explore. And sometimes, though I haven’t done this often, I’ll just strike up a conversation with someone else who looks like they could use some human contact too.
The way I’m traveling right now, staying on couches and taking car shares between cities, I’ve met dozens of wonderful conversationalists, every one exciting and interesting in their own way. Each person has added to my trip by being my company and friend for an hour, a day, or a few days, sharing a bit of their life and letting me see into their world.
I realized that my feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day is not measured in the number of museums I visited, historic buildings I photographed, or even the amount of chocolate I ate, but rather the interesting conversations I’ve had. Then when I am on my own I don’t even feel like I am really alone because I am reflecting on what I learned from the people around me.
One common topic that I enjoy discussing is energy in Europe as I see many wind turbines, solar panels, and fields of yellow flowers. Driving by the fields full of solar panels in Germany, I learned about how it is often more profitable for a farmer to convert their plot of land into a solar field than to grow crops. To make up for the loss in food production locally, food is being shipped from other farms that are farther away. Thus the food is being transported over greater distances which is increasing the amount of pollution over all, rather than decreasing it.
Petrol is very expensive in Europe, and one day I will do the currency and volume calculations to put it into US terms to understand how expensive it really is. One alternative I have passed along the road is the colza flower, or rapeseed oil, which can be used as biodiesel. The rapeseed flowers are a stunning yellow and you can spot the oil farms from miles away. I don’t know much about its production but from what I learned it sounds like a great alternative to fossil fuel.
Let the conversations and learning continue!
And yes, there is surfing in Munich.