Monday morning and my third day in Munich brought my first day of being on my own. My friend had flown into Munich for work so my week ahead was empty in plans but filled with enthusiasm to seek out adventure. I had booked a tour to Salzburg on Thursday but besides that my schedule was open to come and go as I pleased. Prior to leaving for Germany, I had done some research to get an idea of activities I wanted to do and places I wanted to see, but I also wanted to be flexible to new opportunities.
Outside of venturing to foreign places by myself for school, traveling has always been with someone I was dating, in large groups, or with my family — so basically, never alone. I had grown accustomed to moving around with someone else and sharing experiences so I was in uncharted territory, literally and figuratively. Despite feeling apprehensive, I was looking forward to challenging myself.
After sleeping in and working on a few articles in the hotel room, I set off to explore the surrounding neighborhood and area. At first I had been hoping to be in a hotel closer to city center but as the days passed I liked how the hotel was further removed from the majority of the tourist areas. Walking down streets and through neighborhoods where locals worked and lived provided a more authentic experience of Munich's culture.
My first stop was to a Vodafone retailer where I bought and swapped out my SIM card. This was definitely better than purchasing an international data plan through my wireless carrier as I was able to get more data and minutes for a better price. Sure, I didn’t have my original number but I could call people if I needed through apps like KakaoTalk or Line — my only real need for data was for readily accessing Maps.
I then headed over to a nearby two-level supermarket and spent the next hour perusing the aisles. That may sound like a dull way to spend your time in a new city but I absolutely loved it. The smell of freshly baked bread and sandwiches floated through the aisles and I loved seeing the different array of fresh foods and fruits that were packaged and neatly displayed. I delighted over grocery products in packaging I recognized but words I couldn’t read, and looked uncertainly at foreign products I would never see on shelves in America. Then I bought and ate a sandwich in the café section of the supermarket while I people watched. It was fantastic.
Whenever I’m walking around in Washington D.C. or when I’m out and about on my own I have a tendency to listen to music, as, for the most part, I prefer to exist in my own bubble. Walking around with my headphones in ensures 1) I’m always entertained, but mostly 2) everyone leaves me alone. And perhaps it has a lot to do with 3) never feeling uncomfortable. It's partly why we all constantly stare emptily at our phones every chance we get, isn't it? I decided not to do that in Munich and instead listen to the cars, the buses, people's conversations carrying out into the streets, and the sounds of the city — to the hustle and bustle of everyday life I hastily block out back home.
I allowed myself to get lost for a bit and then headed over towards the English Garden. There’s something enthralling about researching a place and subsequently seeing it in person. I love the sensation of your brain recalling a memory of a picture along with your preconceived idea of what you thought something would be like, and simultaneously combining that with the reality of what you’re looking at — the way it feels to see one of the Wonders of the World or finally be standing in front of an iconic landmark. I felt the same way when I was staring up at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I had written about the English Garden and the highlights of it so it was surreal to leisurely walk down the paths and across fields I had viewed in pictures and enjoy a beer in front of the Chinese Tower I had been so fascinated with. The entire time I was radiating with light like Yvaine in Stardust — an electrifying buzz of elation pulsating in my brain and coursing through my veins. Mostly, it was a sense of accomplishment, a 'holy shit, I'm really here doing this!' awareness, and feeling really fucking pleased with myself.
I had been feeling slightly lonely and self-conscious exploring on my own — walking around by myself while I passed couples and groups of friends laughing — but walking through the English Garden, I was overcome with a tremendous sense of peace and tranquility, and for the first time in a long time, I felt comfortable with being uncomfortable. I've always had a tendency to retreat within myself — distancing myself from human experiences and expanding the bubble I exist in. Perhaps I had gradually developed too much complacency in comfort and too big of an aversion towards discomfort. I slowly began to let air out of that bubble, allowing myself to be open to feelings and the world I had carefully disconnected from, and sitting on the steps of the Monopteros, staring across the expansive green landscape towards Munich's skyline dotted with churches, I knew everything was going to be okay.