The Fearful Thoughts of Someone Traveling Abroad for the First Time

I’m so used to being surrounded by people who travel all the time that I forget the apprehension and misconceptions someone who has never been to Europe might have. I recently met a friend up in Hamburg, where she had been sent for work. It was her first time in Europe, and she wasn’t exactly having the time of her life.

She didn’t leave the hotel except to go to the office until I got there, because as it turns out, she was terrified of everything. On Saturday night, we went out to Sternschanze where we had a few beers and I conducted a very casual interview about her experience abroad. Here is a list of all the thoughts that plagued her over the course of her stay.

  1. “I’m about to get on the plane. Pray that I return alive.” –Group text from the airport
  2. Her first fear when touching down was taking a taxi by herself to the hotel.

GnomeTrotting: Because of Taken?

Terrified Friend: Yeah. I always try to get a really sweet old man.

  1. She didn’t know how to turn the lights on in the hotel, because she didn’t realize she had to put the key card in the slot. She just thought the lights didn’t work.
  2. She was staying in a gorgeous hotel in Speicherstadt, Hamburg’s warehouse district, which is one of the nicest parts of Hamburg, albeit a bit boring. The lack of people around made her feel like she was going to get killed walking from the office to the hotel.
  3. On her first night there, she walked into the hotel room and the toilet was flushing on its own. She apprehensively surveyed the room and realized it was empty.

TF: “The next day, I asked about it at the front desk. They told me that sometimes in old buildings, they flush the pipes once or twice a day to avoid rotting. But that could be a bullshit story. There could be ghosts in there.”

  1. She slept with all the lights in the room on for the next several days.
  2. On day 2, a man shot and killed 9 people in Munich. This is your average Tuesday in the US. But it only confirmed her fears that she was going to get killed in Europe in a terrorist attack.
  3. There was a beer festival in a park downstairs from her hotel. She was scared to go out to avoid being in crowds. It was an awesome festival. I went the second I arrived in Hamburg. And I took her with me the next day.
  4. She was also scared of starving, because everything in the port near her closed early.

TF: Even the grocery stores all close by 8 pm!

GT: Why do you need to buy groceries at 11? You don’t even have a kitchen.

TF: Because there are no open restaurants near the hotel.

GT: Why didn’t you take a train to a better area?

TF: I don’t know where to go. I’m afraid to get killed in a bad neighborhood.

  1. She also had a persistent fear of being disconnected. The WiFi in the hotel room only worked near the door. So she debated leaving her phone by the door in case she missed any news from home. At this point, obviously all her loved ones were calling and texting to make sure she hadn’t been shot 500 miles away in Munich. She spent all her time sitting on an internet chair by the door.
  2. She was scared of the taxi driver yelling at other cars in a foreign language. She’s from Miami, so this one actually doesn’t even make sense.
  3. When I finally arrived, we walked a mile through the quiet, calm streets and bridges of the port. She was horrified.

TF: You want to walk down that way? Oh my God… there’s two guys there.

GT: Two guys with a camera and a tripod. That’s worth more than everything we have on us right now, so they’re not interested.

  1. After I finally got her into that street festival, she bought a chicken kebab and then proceeded to carry the wooden stick for a mile and a half for protection.

TF: I’m just scared of not being able to protect myself.

GT: Ok but you’re less likely to need that for protection than you are to stab someone accidentally and getting your ass kicked. And by someone, I mean me.

Thankfully, I was able to convince her to throw out the stick.

  1. After taking the U-Bahn to go bar hopping, she received a rude awakening about the people who hang out drinking around the station. Obviously, they’re just there to get drunk and hang out, but my friend immediately regretted throwing out her safety stick. She would have dropped dead if she had been to Berlin first.
  2. After ordering a round of beers, the friendly bartender asked us where we were from. When I told him we were from Miami, she stared in shock.

TF: That’s the first rule of safety.

GT: Don’t talk to strangers?

TF: No, don’t tell people where you’re from.

I don’t even know what her logic was there. Maybe identity theft? But after sitting outside amongst the musicians and hipsters of Hamburg, she calmed down. The beer probably helped. She appreciated that people of all ages could hang out together to have a drink and pass the time. She also liked the fact that people were friendly and kind, but that they were also generally minding their own business. By the end of the night, she only had one remaining fear.

  1. TF: I haven’t seen a single police car.

GT: That’s because people don’t get raped or killed here regularly. There’s a very slim chance that anyone is going to walk out of the bar and shoot someone else tonight. So police don’t need to patrol the area.

TF: Why is the US so fucked up? Now I’m just scared of going back home.