I used to have a rule for myself while traveling that I would try my best not to do anything that I could easily do at home. Some things I might avoid include a night in streaming Netflix, hitting up the unlimited SSB (soup, salad, and breadsticks, for the uninitiated) at Olive Garden, or, you know… sleeping. Now, this is a reasonable way to live on a spontaneous week-long trip, but during my three-month stint in Germany, I soon realized that I was going to need to go a lot easier on myself. And besides, European Netflix is much better (and weirder) than what we have here in the States.
Cut to me during my one day off in Cologne, hiding away in an underground coffee shop and feverishly FaceTiming my loved ones and scrolling through my camera roll like a homesick weenie. You better believe that I spent all 5 hours of my free time down there, paying rent with Americanos and apfelschorle. I also impulse-bought an overpriced backpack, but you didn’t need to know that.
When I got on the bus to my next destination, I was met with some noisy, overstimulated friends of mine who spent their afternoon hitting the town and dancing with drag queens at a pride parade. They were too excitable (and possibly buzzed) to even bother asking how I spent my afternoon. And for that, I am grateful, because had they asked, I probably would have made something up to try and compete with their experience.
Yeah, a pride parade sounds cool and all, but I actually just got back from skydiving off of the Cologne Cathedral! Too bad I didn’t take any pictures….
I’m also grateful that they didn’t ask because I am a terrible liar.
Soon after, I realized that I was feeling ashamed of my wasted afternoon for absolutely no reason. Who said that I needed to squeeze every bit of life out of each day of my trip? And who said that doing anything less was wrong? Certainly not I! If someone did say that, I would not trust them with anything.
This may not be a news flash to some of you, but it was certainly news to me when I realized that there is no right way to travel (or spend your time, at that). The right thing to do is simply listen to your body and mind, and do what they are telling you to! If you need rest, you should probably sleep in or not stay out clubbing until 4am. If you’re feeling stuck or distant, take some time to feel that fully instead of bottling it up until the cork pops off. And if you miss your family, sit your @$$ down in a coffee shop and call them! I could have wallowed in regret and envy that I didn’t spend the day with my friends collecting free condoms and suggestive bumper stickers at the parade, but instead, I came to my senses and realized that an afternoon to myself was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Instead of remembering what you didn’t see, appreciate what you did!
Have you ever taken a self-day on a long trip? Impulse-bought a backpack? Really missed your mom? Let’s chat in the comments!