Berlin, England: Conversation starters

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I get compliments on my bag all the time, which is funny because it’s crap. I mean, I like how it looks too—that’s why I bought it. But it was $25 from a street vendor in New York City, made of fake leather that is already falling apart at just a year old.

Its leather isn’t the only thing that’s cheaply made. As you can see from the photo, it’s a map of the world in nice earth tones and fancy calligraphy. It looks great from a distance! But then I’m sitting on a New York subway, admiring my new purchase, and I notice something…

Every single country is spelled wrong.

At first I think, cool! Every country must be in its native language…or something? Or, maybe it’s supposed to be old English? I look closer. The calligraphy is hard to read, but it seems to suggest “Palaka” is Poland. Well, I suppose that could be true. But, “Dalaka” for Germany?palaka.jpeg

“Tuikiye” for Turkey?

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I get more suspicious when I see the Mediterranean is labeled “Madilseeanean,” and Algeria is “Algeica.”meditalgeca.jpeg

Again, I tell myself, maybe it’s old English. But then, the other shoe drops:

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London is labeled as “Berlin.”

Well, that settles it. Somehow, for some reason, everything on this bag is wrong! Could they not get the rights for the world? Do you NEED to get rights for the world?

I don’t mind my terribly-spelled bag. After all, it’s still adorable, and it’s a great conversation piece. People love spending time poring over every misspelling, wondering if it’s this language or that until I point out Berlin, England (or the “United Hingdom,” according to the bag). Then they throw their hands in the air and laugh, deeming the bag a mystery.

I too wonder how and why this bag ended up this way. I can only imagine it’s a knock off of a designer bag, and misspelling/labeling countries somehow got around copyright. But whatever the reason, I don’t mind. It’s a small-talk I don’t mind having, since it doesn’t focus on me. It’s a fun game to play when I don’t have anything else to do. It’s a centerpiece of a love of all things ironic, the love of ridiculous things that are so bad they’re good.

It’s the little things like Berlin, England that make life wonderful. While it’s unlikely you have a bag like this, a piece of jewelry or a shirt with a story behind it are great conversation starters in a pinch! You get to share a story, get a few compliments, and get out of the spotlight as people try to top your story. Good luck:)

Time Zones, and a Big! announcement

Hello, friends. It just recently came to my attention that my WordPress clock was off for some reason, so things have been posting willy-nilly at random hours. I’m sorry if an email about my blog woke you up at like, three in the morning. I fixed my clock and now things should be posting at better hours…according to Eastern United States times, anyway.

It’s always a bit mind-boggling when I think about how people are living at different hours–even in different dates!–across the world right now. Having to accommodate for time zone changes is something I’ll have to get used to…in my semester abroad.

Surprise!

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This fall, I’ll be studying at Kasteel Well, shown above, a literal castle that my school owns in the town of Well in the Netherlands. I’ll get to visit several countries while there, all while taking a Travel Writing course.

What does this mean for Introvert Playground? Not much change. I’ll still be posting about the introvert life, but now it will include how to travel as an introvert. I’ll also be posting bits about the trip separately.

I’m very excited! It’s really the first thing I have to look forward to in a long time. It’s a well-earned break, that will help me expand my horizons and learn more about the world that I have only discovered a small portion of.

Also, fellow introverts, where should I go? The weekends are free for us to travel to any country we want in Europe. Any suggestions? Any little, hole-in-the-wall places, lesser-known cities, hidden museums, exciting locales, fun outdoor hikes I may not find myself?

I hope you’re excited as I am! I depart in September, so it won’t be for awhile, but I’m still glad I get to bring you on this journey with me, and document it day-by-day for the future. Much better than a hap-hazard Facebook photo album, no?

In the meantime, share your favorite places, and travel tips for introverts. I’m working on an introvert travel guide to post here.

 

Amesbury Adventure

Amesbury is truly lovely. It reminds me of a place out of Gilmore Girls, or a Studio Ghibli movie. I have some pictures here—maybe I’ll post a video at some point?

I did get there about 2 ½ hours early, partially by accident, partially to avoid rush hour traffic. I sat in the library until they closed at 5, reading Life of Pi and charging my phone. The library creaked with every step, and was filled with the sound of pages turning and children romping about upstairs. I then went on the search for dinner

Being  New England, churches rose from every street corner and many sidewalks were made of crumbling bricks. The main road I was walking down had plenty of artisan shops, selling plants, homemade clothing, chocolate…most were closing as I passed them, adhering to small town hours I wasn’t used to. I did manage to spend some time in Nest, an adorable store with all kinds of cute fashion accessories and things for the garden, and the interior made it feel like I was walking into a treehouse—or, perhaps more appropriately, a bird’s nest.

After that I was about to turn around and head back, because I was afraid of getting lost, but I was reinvigorated by the thought that I might never come back to little Amesbury (and if I did, it wouldn’t be for months), so I kept venturing, and found a lovely bridge stretching over a waterfall. I stayed there for awhile, thankful that it was warm enough that the waterfall was still flowing and didn’t feel like ice when the mist hit my skin.

All but starving now, I almost went into Pizza Factory but it was packed, so I ended up in a Chinese food place. It was good, but nothing more special than any regular Chinese food place. I still had about an hour, and almost everything was closing up—including the sun, which set while I was eating. I spent some time in a game store, Toy Soldier. There was a tournament going on in the back, and the cashier said it was a Star Wars board game called X-Wing. I ended up buying a game called GUBS, which I’ve since played with my roommates. It’s fun, but perhaps a little slow. The artwork on the card is very nice, and I’m glad to have bought it from the cute toy store.

Not a lot of time or daylight left, I walked down to a bench and enjoyed the relatively warm breeze. What struck me most about Amesbury was how safe I felt walking around. As I sat, two people came out of their businesses and locked the doors, and began talking about closing up shop and someone’s event they were hosting that weekend. It felt like something out of Mr. Rogers, or Sesame Street. So sweet, nice, calm, quiet, peaceful. It was everything a small town was supposed to be. Perfect for an introvert, too—plenty to do without having to be in constant contact with other people.

I learned to not be afraid of getting lost, to travel slowly and without a map, and that there can be great surprises—like hidden waterfalls—behind every corner. Also, that traveling alone can be a lot of fun!

That was my Amesbury Adventure. Check out some pictures! I might upload a video soon of this, including the waterfall 🙂

 

“The real Massachusetts”

Tomorrow I head to Amesbury, Massachusetts, with plans to leave with plenty of extra time to walk around and explore.

One of the biggest tips people give you when traveling is to skip on the touristy areas and go somewhere off the beaten path. As someone who lives in Boston, a tourist hub, Amesbury is very off the beaten path. It’s one of the northernmost towns in Massachusetts, right on the New Hampshire border.

Traveling and exploring doesn’t have to be somewhere super crazy-incredible. I found plenty of amazing places just driving around my hometown—places my parents never knew about. I was amazed to find there was a lovely pond just a quarter mile from my house, of which I never knew existed! My boyfriend and I drink coffee on the sand now and then, listening to the frogs.

I’ve never been to Amesbury, so I don’t know what I’ll find. But I do know it will be nice to be somewhere new. Location can make all the difference. A change in scenery can mean everything, especially when you spend 40 hours in a box of a cubicle and the rest of the time in a slightly larger box of a dorm room. And when I say slightly, I mean slightly.

I’ve always lived about 50 miles from Amesbury. I’ve also always lived about 200 miles from Pennsylvania but I’ve only been there once or twice. It’s strange how little we explore our own area. We travel to such far places, but never explore our own towns. I know more about Aruba than I know about Amesbury. Or Groveland, or Manchester-By-The-Sea, or Worchester, any of the tons of small Massachusetts towns that I always could have visited but never have.

Why not, though? It’s off the beaten path. It’s a traveler’s fantasy, these small towns no one knows about, away from hordes of tourists. “The real Massachusetts.”

Well, now I have a chance. An hour or two, hopefully, of extra time to find a bite to eat and explore the center of Amesbury,  before the event I’m going to in the library. Adventure, ho! and all that.

So, yes. Hopefully the sun doesn’t set too quickly. It’s setting around 5 or six now, so I might not get too much light. Luckily it’s been rather warm…though that’s sure to change soon.

What do you do, when you feel the routine of life setting in? Has anyone else done a bit of backyard exploring? Tell me your stories, I’d love to hear about other off-the-beaten-path, in-my-backyard stories. If it goes well tomorrow, I’ll be sure to do more!

On Traveling

I have mixed feelings about traveling. People who travel say it’s the most important experience to have in life, it’s mind-opening, it’s enriching, it’s indescribable. People who don’t travel…mostly agree. Most everyone wants to be the kind of person who travels all over. Most people want to hit every continent, see the Eiffel Tower and the pyramids, walk the Great Wall, go on a safari.

Everyone asks why I haven’t applied for study abroad. With my boyfriend and best friend both leaving the country for a semester this year, you’d think I’d give it more thought.

I’m in the small group of college students who don’t want to be in college. I don’t like the atmosphere or anything about it, and want to start my life. The only reason why I don’t change colleges in hopes of finding a better school is because I’m in a very good school and it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave it.

That said, why is everyone trying to get me to leave it? Up until very recently, not many people got to travel at all, never mind it being something “everyone should do.”

People romanticize traveling. They forget airlines, jetlag, language barriers and food poisoning. Long distance calls, getting lost, missing trains, being alone.

Traveling is not what people pretend it is. It’s finding out the Eiffel Tower isn’t as tall as you thought it was, or that there aren’t as many handprints at the Chinese Theatre as the movies make it out to be. It’s getting shoved in line, it’s having locals roll their eyes at your cameras and heavy accents. It’s lisping tour guides, backpacks and sore feet.

I wasn’t blessed as a child. I didn’t get to travel as much as my friends, and at the time it was all I ever wanted. Now, it’s not. I wish it was. I wish traveling mattered to me still.

Frankly, not much matters to me anymore. I want to want to see the world. But I barely want to get out of bed today.