I was in Munich a few days ago. I arrived at noon, and I had 10 hours to kill before my bus arrived. I was exhausted because I had slept merely 3 hours the night before, and I was emotionally drained because I had just dropped my brother off at the airport and he had been my travel companion for 4 weeks. I looked at my bank account and found it to be in the negative. Shocked, I found out that I had rented a car the day before, and the rental car company had put out a mandatory deposit that was big enough to entirely drain my bank account, and it’d be at least a few days before I would be seeing that money again. Additionally, my phone was rapidly dying and, while the bus stop had various shops like a McDonalds and a coffee shop, I couldn’t seem to find a power outlet anywhere.
After walking the streets in Munich for an hour in search of a coffee shop to no avail, I finally came back to the bus station and began searching until, to my delight, I found a spare outlet in a lounge area of a small produce store. It was there that I met a German girl with brown eyes, dressed fashionably warm and strikingly beautiful. She had spotted the outlet, and I had managed to use an extension cord to split the power so that we could both use it. We were now power outlet comrades and so began a conversation of why we were there:
She was a college student in northern Germany, but her father had gotten a temporary job in Salzburg, Austria and so she was going to Salzburg to be with her family for the weekend. She talked with passion and excitement, her big brown eyes darting back and forth as she explained to me in broken English how she wants to be a travel agent and how she used to be a gymnast and how she wants to leave Germany some day.
Our conversation ended abruptly, when the store owner told us that it was against the rules for us to use a power outlet, despite the fact that the girl had bought food from his store. He rudely unplugged my extension cord and pushed a deepfreeze full of ice cream over the top of the outlet, and suddenly, my mind wasn’t thinking about Salzburg any more. I was back in Munich, where if power outlets weren’t obsolete, they were against the rules, and that fact alone seemed to summarize my experience there.
The German girl had to catch her bus and she was running late, but she lingered for a second when saying goodbye. “Maybe I’ll see you later?” she asked, and I could sense that she wanted a way to stay in contact, but I just nodded my head and smiled and said “yes, enjoy Austria”. I’m not sure why I did that. I was so exhausted and there was so much on my mind, that I imagine I was blind to such opportunities.
My phone was starting to blink, but my bus was finally arriving and it advertised WiFi and power outlets.
Finally, after 10 long hours, I was freezing cold, broke, tired and ready to leave Munich behind as a not-so-pleasant memory.
“We only take cash” the bus driver said in broken English.
I was in trouble and I knew it. I couldn’t even get 5 euro out of an ATM because my account was overdrawn and no one told me that this bus line happened to charge 4 euro for baggage fees and they would only take cash. They looked at me like this was normal and expected and I just stood there stunned telling him that I didn’t have any money and that I couldn’t get him any money. He paused as if he might let me on anyway, but then adamantly shook his head and said “you have to pay. Everyone has to pay”.
I was feeling as if Munich was like the creature in Star Wars that was in the sand that sucked everyone and everything down into it, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t rid it’s clutches.
I began to reach for my bag from the bus compartment, when suddenly a stranger began yelling something in Croatian and I saw a tall man in his 40s with a 5 o’clock shadow and a really nice haircut give the bus driver money and tell me to put my bag back.
I don’t cry much, but looking at this guy paying for my bag made me start swallowing hard and when he looked at me, I could just barely muster a “thank you”. I walked with him around the bus as he mutters, “This is some of the worst bulls#!t I’ve ever seen. Everyone pays with a card these days, and what if someone isn’t carrying cash?”.
I walked into a warm bus, plugged my phone into the outlet and leaned my chair back. *Big sigh* I drifted off with thoughts of a beautiful German girl and I fell asleep before the bus even left Munich.
I woke up as the sun was rising over the picturesque mountains of Croatia, landing on the ocean with colors of pink and purple lines. I stepped out of the bus station to feel the 70 degree sun on my face and I was greeted by a friendly woman who took me to my own quiet apartment with my own shower and kitchen and a deck on the 3rd story with a beautiful view.
I’ve finally made it to Croatia, but it wouldn’t be half as amazing without Munich, but isn’t that how it always is? Contrast creates beauty. Desperation creates memories of a man with a 5 o’clock shadow and a beautiful German girl on her way to Austria.
Adventure is never found when things go right. Rise and fall, push and pull and the tide goes in and out. Out here, everything is multiplied. The falls are harder, but the rises are greater. Munich will always remind me of that.