Bailey- I was born a small town, country girl and now I’m exploring big cities around the world. I’m a Hufflepuff and this matters greatly because I work in a place lit by floating candles on the ceiling and sell wands for a living. I spend way too much time working, little time sleeping and the rest is divided between eating, drinking and exploring the closest countries.
For the last week I have been racking my brain to come up with the perfect travel story to write about. Something witty, unique and perhaps even a little insightful but I kept coming up short. I only have time to address two issues (besides work) during my first month in a new country and they are my only real concerns while traveling- toilet paper and breakfast. You can always find people to meet, sights to see and a place to stay for the night but you can not prepare for what will replace your ‘tried-and-true’ favorites for the first meal of the day, nor can you predict what callous material you will be using to wipe your bottom with for the foreseeable future.
That story will have to wait because fortunately for everyone involved, the best ideas come to me when I am least expecting them and I was definitely not expecting it this morning. I have found myself on a train to Berlin, hyped up on copious amounts of caffeine and cold medicine even though it is 4:30 in the morning. My eyes are watering, my sinuses are swollen and tender, I can’t stop sneezing and it feels like my brain has been replaced with a ball of rising dough, but boy oh boy am I ready for today. The only reason I made it out the door and onto this train is because I have found, hands down, the best travel companion in the world. I haven’t searched all corners of the globe yet, but for me he is unsurpassed, and the most obvious choice.
Anything I could write about my travels thus far in my short life would be incomplete if I did not include my brother, Braxton. He has been with me pretty much everywhere from Mexico to New Orleans, San Francisco to Vancouver, Sweden to Denmark and now we are off to explore what Germany has to offer. And if not for him and his incredible sense of direction, we would have never made it from one place to the next. I can travel from work to our apartment 8 times and on the 9th get totally lost and end up on the other side of the city, but not Braxton. He travels the route once and can tell you how many stops, how many minutes between stops and what sources of nutrition we can find at each stop. I’m going to hazard a guess here and say that his number one passion in life is probably food, which is fitting because as a child he would always say “when I grow up I am going to be fat, rich and famous… or a chief”.
In Sweden we experienced the traditional Midsummer meal of herring, potatoes, strawberries & cream, and schnapps. Thank goodness we managed to avoid Surstroemming. As described by a Swede: “it’s the WORST thing ever! Smells like a thousand little frogs puked in a bin, then sealed it up in a tin can for ten years before it is heated and gets eaten. You wouldn’t believe it even if you saw it. Closest translation is ‘fermented herring’”. Braxton got drunk for the first time in his life and his Canadian upbringing was apparent as he apologized to everyone, apologized to me, apologized to the toilet and tried to help clean up the mess he had created. C’est la vie. And God bless the Swedish people, completely understanding and vying for the opportunity to help clean up the seemingly endless mess he made (they completely changed my attitude towards people who party hard). We ate a bathtub full of crayfish at the end of summer (yes literally, though we did share), and enjoyed countless vegan/vegetarian meals from our darling friend, Melinda. We discovered Maxx Burger and it revolutionized our view on fast food burgers and was home to us on more than one night during our travels- thanks for the free wifi and bathrooms.
We biked through the countryside, around a moo moo farm, down gravel roads and up countless hills. We watched the sun come up over the harbor in Copenhagen, we observed the sun stay up all day and all night in Sweden, we have seen the full moon from both sides of the world, and biked out of town on more than one occasion just to lay on the grass and look at the stars. We built a log raft like Huck Finn and went down the river for 15km in the pouring rain and he still went swimming in water that I am positive was near freezing, 50 man points to him. We walked barefooted, we have moved 1000’s of boxes and ate more pizza than any one person should ever eat in their lives. We walked down the longest shopping street in the world, went to the oldest museum and the some of the oldest amusement parks in Europe. We have drove 1300km+ in a day more times than I can count. We live together, we travel together, we are determined to get the most out of life and on more than one occasion we have driven each other crazy.
He is exactly the opposite of me in every way, and I am continuously learning from him to be calm and collected, because apparently stressing out and being emotional will get us nowhere any quicker. He forces me to face my fears, be it by watching Godzilla, pointing out every spider on our patio or walking down an ominous path in the woods with a wooden stick tucked in his backpack, like Zelda’s sword and shield, for protection. He gives the best hugs when I need them most, though I won’t insult his manliness- he only gives them when I ask. He fixes my technology problems 18 times in a row without complaint and never seems to get riled when I finally snap from stress and lack of sleep, just takes everything in stride and never yells back. For being the younger brother, Braxton is always the bigger person. We have worked in three different countries now and every time he is the first one to make friends with staff, the first to know them on a personal level and I have never heard anyone complain about him. He is a natural with people, they flock to him and they love him. Everyone can feel safe and comfortable in his presence; I think it’s because you can tell he is always there to listen to you. Even if he doesn’t understand the language someone is using, they still go on and on because he never lets his confusion show and just listens- often coming away with an accurate prediction of what they said.
I have mostly talked about what I have learned from Braxton through our experiences, and believe you me, it is quite a lot; I have only skimmed the surface. But the reason Braxton is the best person to travel with is because he loves to learn as much as I do, and since starting out on this incredible journey he has learned just as much as I have. He has learned to be a leader, to be assertive and more outgoing, to solve problems and speak up when he thinks he has something of value to add. He has learned how to travel and how to make travel plans and most importantly, he has learned how to implement that plans we have made. This is the reason we are on a train to Berlin even though I am sick, and despite the fact there is a nationwide train strike that went into effect at midnight. Well… I guess it is not just because of what we learned, Braxton also happens to be the luckiest person I have ever met. He wins pretty much everything, even travelling.