Believe it or not, it isn’t always sweetness and light on the road. I know, I know – “Oh, it’s tough traveling around the world? Cry me a river”. But dropping into a foreign city alone can be challenging at times. Money, language, food, culture, transportation – everything is different. Just a trip to the supermarket that would have taken half an hour back home can drag on for an hour or more when you don’t know where it is, what’s on the shelves, or how to pay for it. For instance, at a grocery store in France, I picked up some bread, cheese, wine and a few Fuji apples. Sounds nice, right? At the checkout, the girl rang up everything except the apples. She just looked at me expectantly and said something that made it clear I had screwed up. It turns out, when you buy produce at most places overseas, they don’t have a scale at the checkout. It’s in the produce section, and you are expected to weigh your fruits and vegetables yourself, grab the little adhesive sticker that pops out of the machine and take that to the checkout line. Easy, once you know that, but not so easy learning it for the first time, with a line of annoyed French shoppers behind you that want to go home. I ended up sheepishly apologizing and leaving the apples behind. I’ve learned to watch other people, to be patient and most importantly, to laugh at myself and the situation. But sometimes, you just want things to be a little easier.
I left Hungary via bus and got into Vienna on Monday. Usually when I show up in a new city, it’s late and I find myself wandering around sweaty and tired, in clothes that are a day past ripe, with two backpacks that are getting heavier with every step and a baffled expression on my face as I try to find my hostel. They are typically not well-marked from the street, possibly in sketchy parts of town and the directions are often inaccurate, incomplete, or just plain indecipherable. It was a little different here. I had to laugh as I turned the last corner and saw a sign for “Hostel” in three foot high block letters with an arrow pointing the way. Thanks for making it a little easier on me, Vienna. I do appreciate it.