One of my favorite parts about traveling is learning about the differences in culture and ways that people express themselves. From the friendly “buenas” greetings you encounter daily in Central America to the bows and prayer position hello’s given and received in Thailand, every culture has ways of defining themselves that makes them beautiful and unique.
Perhaps my favorite difference, yet similarity, in expression however is the laugh… And not just the physical laugh but more specifically the written or ‘text’ laugh.
In the States, to express laughter in a text we use a variety such as LOL, LMAO, LMFAO or the most basic: hahahahahahaha!
It’s the last of those “text laughs” that you find variations for around the world, yet the sound is just the same. For example, in Spanish text they write “jajajajajaja” for a laugh because the”J” makes an “H” sound, so the resulting sound is the same as “haha”.
Just recently I’ve learned another form of text laughter in Thailand: 5555555…. Now you may wonder as most do when first coming across that as to what in the world that means. But once you know that the word, or rather the sound that the word makes, for the number 5 in Thailand is “ha”, then it all makes sense! Repeated 5’s in text literally reads as “hahahahaha!!”
Just love it! I’m curious how many other variations there are out there to express laughter in text form from different countries… If anyone knows of any more, I’d love to hear about it!
Ah, Berlin!! So many things to say about Berlin!! What an awesome energy!! Hip, cool, a strange mix of modern and older history. This city is just busting at the seams with a young vibe. Of course, while it does have a history that extends hundreds of years, in a way (due to being completely destroyed during WWII) it is a new city. Graffiti can be found on just about every surface throughout the city and there’s a wildness in the air that speaks to a freedom of “come as you are and you will be accepted”. Such a paradox given the very recent history of the city basically being imprisoned- either during the War or the Wall. Maybe it is only due to all the turbulence in its recent history, but Berlin also seems confused as to which direction it wants to go. There has been so much upheaval there relatively recently and I’m curious how it will continue to grow.
I stayed in a super sketchy looking section of town in a hostel called Jetpak Alternative. To their credit, they advertised that they are in a sketchy area complete with dog sh*t and lots and lots of graffiti. Across the street is a park that anyone who isn’t looking for trouble or drugs should just stay out of. The hostel itself was wonderful! It was a little nerve-wracking walking around the neighborhood after dark at times since people would often come up to you asking if you wanted drugs. But I felt safe enough and would stay in that hostel again. The people were nice and informative and it once again had that fun and inviting vibe that I had recalled of hostels while traveling in Central America yet didn’t encounter at all at the hostel in England. I really wanted to stay another night but wasn’t able to since they were fully booked. So I took that as a sign to keep on moving!
In the time I did spend there I joined in for a “free” walking tour:) The morning before the tour walked from the hostel to the meeting point (Parizer Platz) just taking in the sights and stopping along the way for pictures. I took a quick tour of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (quick because I didn’t realize I was running out of time before the tour!) which was very impressive and quite moving! The ways in which people came up with to escape Berlin while the Wall was up was amazing!
Under the Arches of Brandenburg Gates
Checkpoint Charlie Museum
We started (as mentioned above) at Parizer Platz, then headed to the Holocaust museum, the Berlin Wall, the now parking lot where Hitler’s underground bunker was located, the real Checkpoint Charlie location, to some churches, a theater and ended in the square where Hitler ordered all books be burned (across from the University). As I’ve done before I will share my favorite stories of the tour but not all the information below:)
At the end of the tour I took the train back with a guy that was also staying in my hostel (he was also in the tour) since I had been walking about 7 hours at this point! This does remind me though of the train situation in Germany… It really is on the honor system as to whether or not you buy tickets!! They don’t have any gates stopping you from getting onto the train without a ticket, so while technically one could gamble by hopping on a train for free to get to their destination, I wouldn’t recommend it simply because plain-clothed cops are apparently always present and randomly checking for people aboard without tickets. And there is a hefty fine for those who do try to ride for free… Just sayin’ 🙂
Highlights of the tour:
Hotel Adlon: this hotel is THE MOST expensive hotel to stay in Berlin. It is famous for 2 reasons… the first and most recent event, it is the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony railing. The second (and more historical) is that it is only one of two buildings that was not bombed and was still standing after the war!! Everything else was destroyed!! However, years later a group of Russians (as part of an army if memory serves) stayed in the hotel and proceeded to engage in a pastime that is quite popular among many: drink!! They drank and drank and drank and at some point someone, somehow started a fire that caught and burned down part of the hotel!! So there is a joke now where the hotel was able to survive a war, but NOT a Russian party, lol!!!! 😉
Holocaust Memorial: it was just so moving. There is a museum that is part of the memorial that I unfortunately was not able to make it to but certainly plan to when I make it back there! The artist who designed the memorial did a fabulous job with it for sure! It was thought-provoking, moving, inspiring and emotional!! A must see for anyone who visits! And I may add that it was probably one of the few areas that did not have any graffiti on it at all:)
Hitler’s Underground Bunker: Interesting information here that I’d never heard before about Hitler. First that he had Parkinson’s Disease and was taking numerous drugs (LSD, liquid cocaine eye drops, etc) to try to keep even keel, so to speak. It really shouldn’t have surprised me that he was on drugs given how absolutely loony tunes he was, but it did. The second thing was that he got married! Eva, his bride married him and agreed to a suicide pact with him. She ended up killing herself before he did himself in. Good riddance! Oh and the underground bunker isn’t marked in any way because the government doesn’t want the crazies out there setting up some sort of memorial in his honor on the site. Good idea!!
Berlin Wall: this whole idea just fascinated me… Why would a government build a wall then FORCE people to stay on one side or the other in order to build a “stronger” government???? I just don’t get it!! Anyway, my favorite bit about this part was the clever escape one family succeeded in fleeing East Berlin. The father worked in a building nearby and managed to smuggle his family in the building before it closed. They hid in the building until everyone left for the night then changed in all black clothing and went to the roof. They flung a line from the roof over the wall to the other side where a friend of theirs was waiting and basically zip-lined from the roof to the other side of the wall!! What’s even funnier is that a guard of the wall saw this activity taking place but didn’t sound any alarm because he thought for sure it was an undercover op going on, lol!!!
Escape Over the Wall
Prophecy from 1820: the below plaque basically translates to “wherever they burn books they burn only people at the end”. That isn’t an exact translation but I did find it interesting that it was a statement made in 1820 by Heinrich Heine, a German poet, and it was justly posted at the site where Hitler had ordered all books to be burned, just before he really started to come into his power. And as we all know his reign sadly and very unfortunately did end with the burning of people.
I’m no stranger to making fun of myself at any point… and well the title to this particular post is aimed to do just that… it’s actually specifically aimed at showing how uneducated and retarded I can be… I once saw one of my bosses (originally from England) wearing a shirt saying “Keep Calm and Carry On”… and I made the very uneducated comment of, “Oh, is that a spin-off from The Chive slogan of “keep calm and chive on”???
Yea…. enough said… I can be THAT blonde quite often in life really… and it’s usually ALWAYS when I’m trying to be impressive somehow… Goes to show you should ALWAYS be humble, otherwise stupidity (at least in my case) will always creep out!!!
Moving on, I flew over the pond on British Airways on a fairly cheap one-way ticket I found on my favorite flight site of skyscanner.com:) Let me tell you, British Airways has it going on!! The flight was comfortable, the food was actually tasty, and beside a little bit of a hiccup during my movie where it turned off and wouldn’t restart until hours later (which really forced me to get some much needed sleep) it was quite the pleasant flight!
After landing I did what I always do… Sat down and started searching for a place to stay for the night… You would think I would change my ways and plan SOMETHING ahead of time, but hey, that’s kinda part of the adventure of it all, isn’t it?? The only bummer here is that Heathrow airport only gives like 45 minutes of free WiFi to use!! After that you have to pay for it!! Seriously??? What if I had a layover there longer than 45 minutes?? Then I would have to PAY for WiFi??? Seemed like a total scam to me, but it was what it was…
Anyway after a bit of researching I did find a hostel that would potentially work. What I really wasn’t expecting was how absolutely expensive everything was!! Part of the reason it took me so long to find a hostel was because I was price shopping!! I knew and had heard that in general Europe is expensive, but seriously London is out of control!! But I’m getting ahead of myself…
So after getting a place in mind to possibly stay, I headed for the ticket booth, got a map and ticket for the Underground tunnel train and headed off. About 20-30 minutes later I was off the Underground and pounding the pavement of the streets with my feet. I walked for about 15 minutes until I found the hostel that I thought to stay at. Why did it take so long? Well, the map I was given of the streets really wasn’t quite as accurate as it could have been. So there were several times I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way as some streets were on the map, then the next several were not, then one would pop back up on the map… strange…
Anyway, I stopped into the YHA (Youth Hostels Association- they have a chain of hostels throughout Europe… Red flag #1 in my book as I think hostels should be more private than corporate) which had prices advertised at 26 pounds per night…. Upon arriving however, it was 32 pounds per night… No thanks!! That didn’t even include breakfast!! So I asked about another hostel nearby and was shuttled in the direction of Generator Hostel London.
After another 20 minutes of wandering around somewhat aimlessly while attempting to follow the map but still needing to stop for directions I found the Generator hostel!! Now, to my miracle, the days I spent in London were actually clear skies and warm!! You all know by now how much I LOVE warm weather!! However… when having to walk in it with a 40lb bag on back, it gets annoying quickly! And I tend to sweat quite a bit. So needless to say after the first mini-hike to the first hostel, then the second mini-hike to the Generator, I was looking forward to putting my stuff down and showering! Luckily they did have room and though I was planning originally to stay 3 nights, I only went for 2 since the first 2 nights were 26 pounds each and the third was 40 pounds!! At the time the rate exchange was $1.71 to 1 pound so 26 pounds was basically well over $40 to stay for each night… Oh and that amount was for ‘no breakfast included’ AND I was sharing the room with 11 other people and the bathroom with the entire floor (which was in the basement and probably had over 100 people at least per floor).
I was definitely missing the hostel prices I was used to in Central and South America!! This was seriously a completely different ballgame financially! In any event I paid for my room, headed down to my basement room, changed clothes, made a few calls and sent some emails then headed out for a beer!
First a little background and answers to questions I’ve received along the way…
In May of 2011 I quit my very stable and good job and sold everything so I could start traveling the world. I am a college educated, single female and am traveling alone.
What prompted me to do this you ask?? Well, simple: in May of 2006 I decided that 5 years from that date, no matter how well I was doing or what I was doing or where I was doing it, I would quit my job, sell all my things and travel the world. Call it a quarter life crisis or simply that I’ve always wanted to travel, so “no time like the present”… Either way, that was the starting point:)
Why travel out of the country?? What about traveling in the States?? I have been very fortunate in my life to have traveled 40 of the 50 states already. There are of course a few I would still like to see (Montana) but for the most part, I feel like I have “done” a lot of the U.S. already and would like to expand my experiences to other cultures and countries.
Why did you choose 5 years? No idea- it just seemed like a good amount of time to get and feel stable in one place for a bit before heading off.
So, you are going to travel the world! You must be fluent or at least conversational in a language other than English, right? Ummm, no… I am half Italian and am conversational in Italian. Since my travels to Central America I am now conversational in Spanish as well. As for the rest of the languages in the world, I know a word here and there, but luckily there are always English speakers to be found in whatever city/town/country I’ve been to. But for those occasions where even English speakers weren’t found, thank goodness for charades and sign language!! LOL!! 🙂
Now wait a tick- you said earlier that you are a female and are traveling alone… Doesn’t that scare you? It’s interesting really because before leaving many friends and family in some ways have expressed a lot of concern over this. My response is best explained by a quote from the famous surfer Laird Hamilton: “I can’t not do something out of the fear of what could happen”. I just love that quote! Of course I am still careful and am being a smart traveler ensuring that I never put myself in dangerous situations, but other than that, I can’t fear going out on my own and experiencing and traveling because of what may or may not happen. If I fail, I fail- but at least I tried. I have never once felt in any real danger. All of life is a journey and thus far I’ve got to say it’s been quite a delightful one. I can only hope it continues safely and delightfully! And for the record, I’ve never once been alone on this journey unless I’ve actively chosen to be. Whether I’m hanging out with fellow travelers and new friends or simply thinking of my family and of all my friends in the states, I’ve never been alone.
How can you afford all these travels?? All of the money I’ve spent on travels is money I’ve personally earned. Basically I save my pennies when back in the States, then quit and travel again when the wind blows just right. The first time was the trickiest as I was working for the Government and had an apartment full of stuff. My Government job knew the day would come that I would quit to travel, so it wasn’t that big a shock. And selling basically all but 4 boxes of my possessions was a little tough, but also a nice purge! Since the Government job I’ve worked as a bartender and/or server. Easy jobs to pick up and quit on a whim, though I am always honest with any employer that when the wind blows, it’s time to go. I just don’t think it’s right to mislead people into thinking I would be a lifer there… Anyway, so that’s what I do! When I run out of money, or get too close to my “emergency” money I go somewhere, get a job, save money, then travel again!
What is it you are expecting as an outcome of these travels? What are you hoping to accomplish? I can honestly say I don’t yet know. But I feel like I am where I need to be for now and I hope that inspiration for what I’m supposed to do will come along as I continue to travel and grow.
Well that’s the basics and background folks! Now… lets get on with the journey!