My mother instilled a love of traveling in me at a very young age. She had me embark upon my first transoceanic journey while I was still in the womb. In January 1999, a mere month before I was born, I – without much of a say – accompanied her on a trip from the U.S. to India and back.
Such a pre-nascent expedition set a high bar for future international travels that I didn’t exactly reach. Before this semester, I’d visited India on a few separate occasions and once travelled to France. My family once toyed with me through a trip to Niagara Falls, where the Canadian border was so close yet oh-so-far. I thus clung to my identity as a cultured fetus; sure, maybe you went to Greece last summer, but did you even travel when you were negative one month old?
This semester has encouraged me to become a bona fide voyager. After visiting Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain, I’ve had the privilege of doubling the amount of countries I can point to on a map. This trio of trips compels me to recall the adolescent game of placing people into one of three categories. In middle school, it was “kiss, marry, kill”; in high school, it went through puberty and transformed into “fuck, marry, kill”.
Despite the likely objections of apples and oranges, I must compare my stays in Munich, Amsterdam and Barcelona, and determine which belongs to each category. However, I’ve decided to make this game more fitting for college students (and I’d also like to avoid inciting political unrest by killing off an entire city). Therefore, “it’s complicated” will take the place of “kill”. You’re familiar with this type of couple – they embody the famous will they or won’t they? Does each consider their counterpart as closer to a significant or insignificant other? Is the other simply a reliable person to bring to date party? It’s better not to ask.
In increasing order of commitment:
1. Munich: Shag (since I now refer to the U.S. as “the states”)
My perception of Munich is *slightly* distorted since my trip was centered around Oktoberfest. The city also has a disadvantage in this game since I spent the least amount of time there. But, you don’t necessarily need to know someone well to have a good time, am I right?
The ratio of level of fun to time spent (pi who?) was definitely the highest in Munich (see my last article). However, realistically speaking, such a ratio is not sustainable for the long term and will undoubtedly disappoint at some point. It’s better to limit this to a one-time thing (or just a few times, you swear!).
2. Amsterdam: It’s Complicated
On my first day in Amsterdam, my friend and I took a boat tour of the city. As we cruised through the canals, our guide nonchalantly spouted the range of opportunities for near-fatal accidents. You will likely tumble down those tall staircases that are visible through the grand windows of row houses. If you do make it down the stairs, step outside, and then happen to impede the path of bikers, they will apparently wish typhus upon you. Toxic behavior much?
But Amsterdam is so charming... the canals make you feel like you are in a fairytale. And you’ll never be disappointed with the breadth of quality cuisine: pancakes, Indonesian food (Indonesia was once a Dutch colony), and for those with some acquired tastes, ~unique~ baked goods and varieties of mushrooms.
Despite some of the city’s red flags, you just can’t resist it. Perhaps one day you’ll take the plunge and embrace the life of an expat. Or maybe your relationship with it will prove as unstable as the swamp foundations of its row houses. Only time will tell. But for now, you’re young, and nothing’s wrong with a little non-committal fling, right? Right. (Or at least that’s what you convince yourself).
3. Barcelona: Marry
Friday morning, I arrived in Barcelona and was pleasantly reminded of the benefits of sunlight, which has been severely lacking in Paris. I skipped the talking stage and jumped straight into the honeymoon… literally – picture the beaches!
Barcelona’s the ideal place to settle down. First off, you can pretend you’re one of the Cheetah Girls. Secondly, as a life partner should, it bestows a sense of tranquility upon you, with its warm weather and the several narrow streets where cars are the intruders. As you traverse the city, you stumble upon artistic and architectural wonders. When you’re ready to own some real estate - the true marker of commitment - you can act like the famed Catalonian architect, Antoni Gaudi, designed your home.
Finally, as someone studying in Paris, I must admit that I had some of the best croissants of my life there… Perhaps I made a mistake. (Kidding!).