Back in 2008, I went on a Contiki tour to Europe. We visited nine countries in 19 days and I had such a good time. I went by myself and I was the only Canadian in our group of 40+ travelers (most were from Australia, the others were from New Zealand and the US). Up until that point, I never would have imagined going overseas by myself, let alone navigate a foreign city on my own!
Dresden, Germany was the first place where I ended up splitting from my usual group of tour-mates. I did, at first, join them to check out the Dresden Frauenkirche and the Fürstenzug, but by the time we got to Zwinger Palace, I was itching to explore elsewhere, so I basically ditched everyone to do just that!
This was very much an experiment in wandering around alone. Up until that point, I had little trust in my sense of direction. I didn’t end up going too far, but I ended up finding some interesting nooks and crannies that I probably would have missed had I stuck with my mostly souvenir hunting tour-mates.
When we got to Prague, well, just look at it. Yes, even in miserable weather it is a beautiful city. I admit to not doing much here except walking around (I may have visited an H&M for some reason, haha!), but I stumbled upon a few interesting sights that made me smile.
Prague is known for its puppet theater, which, again, I didn’t end up checking out, but I was delighted upon finding some Harry Potter puppets! I’m not one for souvenir purchasing (plus, I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase to carry this delicate piece of awesome), but I have to say that I was a little bit tempted by red-lipped Harry and his puppety self.
I fell in love with street markets while in Europe (why oh why do we not have such things in Canada? Or at least in the part where I come from), but the green doors provided that pop of colour that brightened an otherwise grey and hazy day.
While in Prague, I challenged myself to use my map more and navigate to specific areas. This may seem like a no-brainer to anyone visiting a new place, but again, my confidence in my map reading skills was quite poor (this would only improve once I got into geocaching!). I ended up very briefly in the Jewish district, but I was proud of myself for even finding it purely by map reading.
On the journey back to the hotel, however, I had a horrifying moment of not knowing where I was. I was all by myself on public transit, but this would end up being the easy part as I had memorized the route on our way into the city. Upon exiting the station, my brain failed me and I could not recognize a single thing!
I tried to calm myself and then chose to walk in a particular direction for whatever reason (yes, I know the first thing you should do when you’re lost is STAY PUT—or maybe that’s advice I was given when I was 6-years old…). As I approached an unassuming grey building, I rounded the corner and…oh, there’s my hotel! WHEW. As my confidence in lone exploration had heightened by a fair margin that day, it would have been awful to have it shattered oh-so quickly.
From this point on, I ended up hanging out with another tour-mate who had similar interests and wished to see the same things I did. Thus, my time as a lone explorer had ended. Well, almost. I do a fair amount of exploration on my own even now and I’m happy that I’m no longer afraid to hang out with myself. Me, myself and I have had some good times and I hope we can continue to (not!) get lost in the future.