#36 Learn to Hitchhike

[Note: I wrote this post two years ago during my time as an au pair in Germany, but what I feel about hitchhiking still stands today. More than just reliving the good ol’ days of thumbing my way around town, I would like to share again the beauty of this seemingly-outmoded way of travelling for those who are heading to Europe or the Americas, or wherever it’s legal and safe to do. Unfortunately where I’m living right now, it is an illegal (and unfashionable) way of getting around – a damn shame really. I hope this post helps my fellow wanderbugs out there. I have also made some updates — the price of a Happy Weekend Ticket or Schönes-Wochenende Ticket has increased from €37 to €44 now.]

There are mostly two reactions when people talk about hitchhiking. It’s either a lifestyle, or an absolute no-no. More than two weeks ago, I would rather walk or pay for an exorbitant ride than embark on such a supposedly dangerous activity. I mean, we often see on TV and in movies where the guy picking the hitchhiker up is some sort of serial killer who would undoubtedly kidnap the hapless traveller and slice him into pieces, not before torturing him à la the movie Saw.

I have never considered hitchhiking as a viable transport solution. First, I was worried that the driver might turn out to be someone on the wrong side of the tracks. Also, I did not believe that I was brave enough to stop a stranger’s car and ask for a free ride. I know tons of people probably do this everyday, especially seasoned but cash-poor travellers, but when you have already passed the coming-of-age period marked by wilful rebellion and a serious lack of inhibition, you become ‘old and boring’, that is, always fearful and suspicious of the people around you.

I wasn’t about to think of myself as ‘old and boring’! I want to think young, think wild, think freely. Or basically, stop overthinking and start doing. Embrace the situation. Have faith in people.

Finally, it took me a desperate situation to take the plunge. Continue reading

#29 Thank You for Those False Expectations

I feel the most alive right before visiting a place I’ve never been in my life. I remember myself, sitting on a train heading south towards Lake Constance from Ravensburg (the town where I stayed with my host family), inhaling the familiar scent of leather upholstery mixed with black coffee, staring out at the emerald and sienna and earthy tones of the countryside, and the thing that occupies my mind the most, is imagining what the lake looks like in summertime.

Last time I was nearby, the trees were topped with snowy caps, everywhere, save for the asphalt autobahns and winding roads, was blanketed with a sea of white white white. What shade of blue would the lake be now that it’s summer? Would I still be able to see the mountains in Switzerland? Do the seagulls here squawk like their cousins in Brighton and the French Riviera?

The train slid into the station at Friedrichshafen Station, where I followed the flow of day trippers and bikers and everyone else to the other platform to catch a connecting train heading eastwards to the famed lakeside town of Lindau…

Continue reading

#26 Looking Back on My Year as An Au-pair

Working as an aupair, especially at a “ripe” old age of twenty-four:

Not the first thing that comes to people’s minds when you are fresh out of college.

Not your conventional resume building gig.

Not exactly the most intuitive job in the world.

Many people have their misconceptions about what working as an au pair entails, some (if not too many) assume that it is a glorified term for domestic servant, full-time nanny, home-stay programmes where one exchanges room and board for childcare. In a way, I don’t blame them for having the wrong idea, after all much of my work involves most aspects of a little bit of this and that.

Like all other jobs, you come away from it learning something.

Having being an au pair for nearly one year, I would like to think that there is something distinctly unique about this work experience that makes your person just more complete, more introspective and richer at the end of it.

Knowing that it won’t last forever, knowing that it is your own choice and not a volunteer stint, knowing that it will throw you into the deep end of the pool called life – I mean, it is a lethal cocktail and a hell of a rollercoaster ride, filled with anxiety, a huge sense of responsibility, excitement, hardship and lots of heartache thrown into the mix… not to mention the occasional stomach in the throat sensation. Continue reading