2. Blend in with the Crowd.
Being the only Asian inside a bus in a European city may feel a little stroppy, but the truth is: no one really cares. I’ve learned from my previous travels that you have to blend in with the crowd and act as if you are a local, so you can avoid people who prey on tourists.
So, every time before I left the hostel, I familiarized myself with the public transport route I needed to ride to get to certain places. This way, I didn’t have to keep looking at my map. I also put on my earphones to give the impression that I felt secure.
Getting lost is still inevitable, though, and when it happens, it is okay to ask. One time, I couldn’t find the right street to the restaurant I had a reservation for and I zoned out trying to understand the map. I even walked past the same blocks for a few minutes. Eventually, I stood still on the side of the road and looked for a kind-looking person to ask for directions. I approached and showed the map to a gelato seller who left her stall and walked to the right crossing with me because she couldn’t speak English.
1. Have Plans A, B, and C.
On the day I planned to go to Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in South Bohemian Region 3 hours away from Prague, I made the mistake of not purchasing a ticket in advance. According to the blogs I had read, I could buy a ticket at the bus station, but I did not research on the operating days and times of the ticket booths. Major fail. I went on a Sunday, so the booths were closed. I was disheartened and felt foolish for mylack of knowledge, but I knew I had to think of another plan – and fast! My plan B was to switch destinations. If I couldn’t go to Cesky Krumlov, then I might as well catch the bus to Dresden, Germany first, which had I intended to visit the day after.
It was almost 9am. I walked on the almost empty cobblestoned streets of Andel to look for a breakfast place with Wifi so I could check on seat availabilities to Dresden. Luckily, there were still seats available for the 11am departure and I had ample time to transfer to another bus station. I also booked my roundtrip ticket to Cesky Krumlov for another date right away.
Remnants of the 1945 bombing of Dresden, Germany
One of the courtyards of Kunsthofpassage in Dresden, Germany
For me, one of the most exciting activities I did during this trip was planning everything out. Despite the hassle, the freedom to use your time flexibly is rewarding. You can do anything you want to do, be where you want to be, and have as much fun as you’d like without fretting about another person’s interests.
Traveling all by yourself at least once, for what it’s worth, can be one of the most self-fulfilling moments in your life because it can give you the independence to gauge your limits without compromising your safety and morale, while giving you time to deepen your relationship with yourself.
I’ve never felt more responsible, independent, and brave!