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My travel tales/update...re: 'meeting a stranger abroad'

My travel tales/update...re: 'meeting a stranger abroad'

Old Jan 18th, 2006, 12:11 PM
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My travel tales/update...re: 'meeting a stranger abroad'


Hello again everyone I have returned from Europe and want to update some of you....

This is just my personal take on my trip...and I do not wish to offend anyone by stating what is simply my personal opinion and experience. I also think I should say up front, that I am an inexperienced world traveler and understand that there is much to learn and overcome. I also think that I might not be one of those people that loves to just travel alone for long periods of time. I thought I must be since my parents are both world travelers...but I am open to the possibility that I might just be a homebody! There are many other countries I plan to experience, only when I do.... I will do it with others, and in warm months!

Some of you may recall that I was originally going to meet a stranger in Europe and possibly bum around together if we got along ok. Well, that fell through almost as soon as it got started when I got a sudden and strange email from the person in question saying he couldn't make it to Europe during my trip dates. I was baffled, thinking "was it something I said?" but blew it off very quickly. I have since communicated with this person and he has explained why the sudden change of heart and confirmed that it had nothing to do with me. Anyway, so I went on my trip...

The first 4 days of London were great. I did all the sights and walked around a lot and really loved the tube. I was even able to continue my daily running in wonderful Hyde Park as my hostel was just across the street. Everything changed the night I was struck down with food poisoning. I think it was some sausage I ate. I was out of commission for 2 days. By the time I felt good enough to eat anything at all again, I was down by 5 lbs and totally weak and spirit crushed. I took the Eurostar to Paris, hoping to turn things around once I got there. Unfortunately...I never did make a comeback to salvage the trip. I hated the dirty streets and crowds in Paris. I was very put out by the rude Parisians and their snobbishness and apparent hatred for me, an American who does not speak their language. I tried to speak what little phrases I could to help show them I was apologetic for not being fluent...but they were very rude anyway. This, coupled with my weakness and mental anguish over it all was enough to send me home one week early. I did make a one night stop in Amsterdam, which I loved.

Lessons learned certainly....never go back to London or Paris in January, alone. The dreariness of the month and season were hard to overlook. Being alone in a place where no one speaks your language also is very hard, or was for me anyway. Getting sick only made it all worse. Next time I will go with someone, and in a beautiful month, no matter what the crowds may be like at that time. No point in seeing a city at its worst. I have no interest in returning to Paris or London, but certainly wish to see more of Holland in addition to a ton of other countries.

With all the research I did as far as what to pack, and choosing hostels, etc....I was well prepared for most of it. Nothing I brought in my suitcase went unused. I packed very lightly, and did laundry in London and Paris. My choice of shoes were perfect and I felt like I looked nice the whole time, despite wearing the same thing a lot. The hostels were all fine and my budget was set higher than needed. I saw a lot of fun things to buy...but rarely did I see anything I could not get in my own city of Austin, Texas. As a result I did not do much shopping. It would have been a pain to do much shopping anyway since I had little extra room in my bag and was having to bustle around in a heavy coat, gloves, scarf, and boots.

So, that's the long and the short of it....I am glad I went, and have a much greater appreciation of the American cities I know....the personal space we enjoy, the conveniences, the more wide open green spaces we often have right in the middle of our cities, etc. I found London and Paris to be similar to NYC, which I dislike very much. I was able to see some charm to Paris...but it never could have lived up to the amazing and beautiful city I had imagined it to be based on the tales of others. London was "ok". Amsterdam was a great city and I totally want to go back and see more of it.
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Old Jan 18th, 2006, 12:13 PM
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Hi M,

So sorry that you got sick.

After all your planning, you deserved a better visit.

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Old Jan 18th, 2006, 12:26 PM
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I hope you don't get flamed for your comments, because they were your personal experiences. It is unfortunate that you became ill, and being alone only made it worse I'm sure. I hope someday you give Paris another chance...the French love their language and traditions, once that is understood and expected, maybe your perspective will change. I never experience any anti-american comments when I was there, and of course, not everyone love Americans, just as not all Americans love the French.

Start fresh, try again...with a travel partner.
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Old Jan 18th, 2006, 12:29 PM
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Marzipan,

I am SO sorry you got sick and couldn't really bounce back. As Ira said, you deserved a better vacation.

The one time I have really traveled solo (So. of France in January last year), I did get sick for about a day. It was hard for me to get my positive attitude back, too. Somehow it feels much worse to be sick and alone...

But, as you said, you now know you think you'd like to travel with friends and in warmer/sunnier months, so I guess you learned something. I have a great friend who lived in Paris for about 6 months when she was 19. The experience completely overwhelmed her (she's very shy), and she hasn't been back since. Well, now we're in our 30s and she's rip-roaring to return. So, you never know.

Take care, and thank you for posting your experiences.
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Old Jan 18th, 2006, 12:35 PM
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Oh Marzipan,
I am so sorry you got sick. Food poisoning is simply the worst and it really does leave you out of commission for some time. I hope that you will return to those cities in the summer with a friend sometime. I think you will find them very different.
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Old Jan 18th, 2006, 01:44 PM
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Marzipan, I see from another thread that you stayed in Montmartre. I think you might have had a different experience had you stayed in a more expensive, central part of Paris. But Paris is still not my favorite city.

This summer, I also got food poisoning in London from lamb (should avoid kebab places for sure!). Luckily, I only lost part of a night's sleep and then recovered from it. That experience and yours is enough to make me think of avoiding meat from all but fine establishments while traveling.
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Old Jan 18th, 2006, 02:47 PM
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Traveling alone, in winter months, and being sick is definitely NOT a good combination! I'm so sorry how things turned out for you. But you are kind and brave to post your trip report for us here anyways.

Each trip is such a personal thing. For me Paris was fun while I found Amsterdam kind of cold and the people less friendly there. Luck of the draw.

also I have gone to the same exact place with the same exact person and have terrific trips 4 out of 5 times (but that number 5 was a real loser!!).

Not everybody's made to travel, some people are homebodies, nothing wrong with that. I didn't make it to Europe until my 40's because I preferred more lively beach vacations, partying with friends (Caribbean, Mexico).

Another thought if you'd mentioned you hate NYC, I'm guessing people might have suggested then you would not care for Paris or London and possibly suggested smaller more manageable and accessible locales.

welcome home & glad your packing and clothes at least worked out well.
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Old Jan 18th, 2006, 02:58 PM
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Marzipan, thank you for your candid comments. What a pity you were sick, as many have said before, cold month, alone and sick - bad combo. Maybe next time try and visit smaller towns in France. I am more of a country gal like you, I do love Paris, but can understand it is also one heck of a huge big city, sometimes it is hard to get beyond the huge big city feel and see the detail. I went to Rome recently and didn't enjoy it, where many people just love it and say it is their favourite city. Not mine!! However I love the villages in Tuscany. You just have to work out what suits you best, leave the cities alone and head for the countryside, much better!!! Remember always keep an open mind, and what suits one person will not necessarily suit the next. That is the beauty of being an individual!!
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Old Jan 18th, 2006, 03:10 PM
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Oh, Marzipan, what a terrible thing to happen to you. I recently had a case of food poisoning from eating some undercooked chicken at a restaurant here at home. It was the only time in my life that I have prayed for death! It was awful. I can't imagine having it happen alone while in a foreign country. You have my sympathies.

Maybe one day you will give Paris and London another try, in a warmer time of year and with a friend. It might make all the difference.

Thank you for posting.

Johanna
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 06:27 AM
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Marzipan
You poor girl, it must have been so lonely for you getting sick whilst you are so far away from home. I agree, that things look much different when you are alone and unwell, I went to Paris in September with my daughter and loved it,she didnt think much of it! but I agree with you that ( for me) Amsterdam is a nicer more homely city, I dislike London very much and wouldnt go back to it. I hope your next trip will make up for the horrible time you had in Paris and London. I hope all your dreams come true next time you travel.
Lucie
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:32 AM
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You are all so kind so send me your nice wishes about my post and trip! Thanks

Its hard to get things right the first time around....luckily I am resilient and it will take more than one bad trip abroad to turn me off of seeing the world!

During some parts of my trip...like when I was standing in the underground station in Paris for the first time...wondering what ticket to buy and how to buy it and where it might take me, etc (and not able to read French!)...I imagined a few of my friends in my shoes...and how they might fare if alone, like I was....these thoughts gave me some great laughs, as even I, someone very independant with a "can-do" attitude was momentarily puzzled and somewhat fearful!

It would be fun to figure it all out with a buddy next time around
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:39 AM
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Sometimes when I am bewildered and alone in Europe, I start thinking about how it would read in a novel. This is when I start taking notes, about my feelings, how others reacted to me (or not), etc. It helps to get things sorted out if you write it down later or just gets your thoughts together like you are going to write it later.

Sometimes talking to yourself in your own minds eye works too. I calm myself down like a friend would, ie: ok, calm down, walk towards the ticket booth and calmly read it. OK, now you have read it so go here and here.

Works for me and no one knows you are doing it, ha.

Also a long time traveler told me once to pick out a mature looking local woman to help you when you are in a quandry.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:53 AM
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when i get flustered, lost, confused (and it does happen) i find the nearest cafe and order a 1/2 carafe or pitcher of white wine. that really helps me get my wits back about me.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:56 AM
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Marzipan, I'm just glad you didn't meet that stranger from the internet and get sold into a white slavery ring. Or worse!

Still, perhaps he would have bought you some ginger ale.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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I agree with a lot of what you said -- I travel alone a lot, partly by necessity and partly by preference, but I know it can be stressful in some ways, and deliberately do not do things that I think would lessen my enjoyment or that I have a gut feeling wouldn't be for me. Traveling in January to northern Europe would be one of those things. I like to travel in nice weather for lots of reasons, and some of them are because it's nice as a single woman to be able to walk around cities when it doesn't get dark until 10 pm, and to have gardens in bloom, outdoor concerts in the park, etc. I also will admit it's a lot easier to travel lighter.

I never buy much when I travel unless it is special to the area, either, because I know most of the things are cheaper at home or just don't have anything to do with travel. I have no desire to spend my time shopping, either, as I pretty much hate it, but clothes aren't that different in many places that you couldn't get them at home, anyway. At least that's the way I feel.

Some people just don't like traveling that much, and a lot of big cities can be wearing after a while or just not worth the cost and time. I don't think of London as any place I'm that interested in visiting repeatedly, although I've been there several times.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 11:04 AM
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Not to try to talk someone into doing something they don't want to do, cuz if you're a home body, so be it...

That said, the deck was kind of stacked against you to begin with. Since you don't care for big cities yet were visiting them, didn't want to travel alone (why you were contemplating meeting the stranger) yet did, and the unforeseen whammy of getting ill... hardly a fair way to decide you are not meant to be a traveler.

I encourage you to go with friend(s) next time, even take a tour, go in the good weather, stay in the countryside, etc. etc. before you decide you're better off at home!

best regards, suze
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