Saturday, July 14, 2012

lessons learned from traveling heavy...

Traveling is amazing… but this travel experience is not the usual “travel light” experience that most people do when they are training across Europe. In fact, this is essentially a move back from Russia to the US and making some stops as we make our way across…. But that makes for some FUNNY stories.

Let me first say that I am so thankful that Becca has agreed to help me move back because I could not manage all of my bags and luggage if I were by myself. But even with her help we have made some pretty funny and stupid mistakes!

You remember in the last post I wrote that I had to get from the airport in Budapest to the hostel by myself with all of my bags… well let me just remind you what all I have… I have two big luggage bags full of mostly warm jackets and boots that helped me survive the Russian winter. I have my backpacking backpack full of the summer clothes that I am using here and then my baby guitar. That is 4 bags that get heavy real quick. So, Becca and I are doing our best to keep our expenses low but still make it home with all of these bags. In order to do so we have decided we will train across Europe so that we don’t have to check bags and we will use public transportation (unless it’s impossible).

When we arrived at the Budapest train station to travel to Prague we were greeted by what seemed to be a helpful gentleman who worked for the train station and wanted to show us to an open cab on the train. He told us the train was completely full and we weren’t going to find a seat, so he took our bags and showed us to an open cab. We sat down to get comfy in our cabin very thankful that we had found a seat. He continued to look at us, slightly leaning his head into our space. We had gotten the guitar out to play when he interrupted and said… “Money? I help, you pay…” We had used all of our Forint (Hungarian money) and all we had was big bills of Euros that I had gotten in Russia. He was pressuring us and we felt like we should pay him something and in the pressure of the moment ended up giving him 20 Euros. That’s the equivalent of one night stay in a nice hotel… We felt dumb. And maybe like beating ourselves to a pulp…. But we are hoping he is still drinking nice cognac with those Euros. Lesson learned…

After that we settled into our comfy corner of the cabin and enjoyed the 7 hour train ride with the stinky, loud and slightly rude Czech women. Near the end of our train ride a large group of musicians, perhaps a traveling band, or a summer camp, hopped on the train. They had all of their instruments blocking the halls of the train. We were relaxing, looking out the window of our train when Becca saw our stop approaching. Not realizing it had come so quickly, we had to quickly gather our things to get out the train before it took off again. Frantically we threw our backpacks on our shoulders and tried to get the 50 lbs bags from the overhead space. 50 lbs is a little bit heavier when you also have a 20 lbs backpack on your back and it came crashing down on my face.

Becca, in the mean time was already out in the hall with the other bag and her backpack trying to lift it up and OVER the drum set, trumpet, tuba, guitar and keyboard that was blocking her way.  Instead of trying to get a better angle on the lift, so as to not throw out her back or new hip she tried to do an upright row (for those of you who are in her nature’s fitness or Sunday bootcamps) over the instruments. The band stopped playing and thought it was funny to watch her struggle and opted not to help, AT ALL. In all of her frustration and after about 20 attempts of the upright row she finally kicked the drum set out of the way and made it to the open doors. 

Somehow, after smashing my face with my bag, and watching her failed attempts, I learned to do more of a bicep curl than an upright row to get passed the instruments and made a quicker escape than Becca.

Finally making it to the open doors we realized that there was probably no rush after all because there was a HUGE line of people waiting to get on. Lesson learned, don’t rush… it makes you look stupid, and kick things.

After those two disasters we had a meeting… and discussed our traveling tactics. The keys points we discussed were: 1) Just because someone is nice and asks for money… you DON’T have to pay him. Change will work just fine, and if you don’t have that, just say “sorry, we don’t have money.” 2) Don’t rush and don’t expect people to help you. People can wait for you to calmly deal with your heavy luggage. You will probably end up taking more time getting stuck, rushing with the bags, then if you calmly and slowly move the bags. Having had this meeting we walked away feeling a lot better about our traveling tactics and how to deal with my luggage. But that feeling was killed today when we went to board the metro from our hostel to the train station before heading to our next stop, Berlin.

This morning we were riding high because we had planned our expenses perfectly to have no Czech Koruna left so we wouldn’t have to make any exchanges when we got to Berlin. However, it costs 24 koruna, the equivalent of 1 US Dollar, to ride the metro. We had NO change left and because we rode the metro plenty of times with a valid ticket and NO ONE ever checked, we thought we could make it the 3 stops without a ticket. WE WERE WRONG. As we were waiting for metro, with all of our bags the ticket inspector man saw us sticking out like a sore thumb and chose to ask us for our ticket. We told him we had just arrived and didn’t know how it worked and we would go buy a ticket because we had not even gotten on the tram yet. He replied, “No, not ok. You pay penalty, now.” We tried our best to pull our beginner traveler card, but saw no change in his mind. We ended up having to pay his “penalty” of 35 Euro a piece, which was the end of my Euros. After he took our money we watched him walk right past EVERY other person in the station without asking for a ticket. Pretty sweet. Lesson learned, always buy a stupid ticket. At least the Euros went to good purposes…like lessons learned.

So, overall… we have made some stupid mistakes but we have learned some very valuable lessons. And writing this has made us laugh at our stupidity. I must say it has been a while since I have written anything funny and it feels damn good to laugh at life again!

Life is funny…. And travel light!

 I will write about Prague in the next blog, this was an interruption for humors sake.

Goodbye to Prague and hello to Berlin!



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