“It’s going to cost you 101 euros,” said the attendant, “There’s no reimbursement at all for missed flights?” I pleaded. “No unfortunately not,” she responded curtly. As I handed her my debit card and passport, I realized that I seriously needed to get it together if I was going to survive the next few week.

Date: May 9th, 2016
Time: 8:10 p.m. – 20:10
Location: Amsterdam-Schiphol International Airport – Netherlands

This morning I woke up full of hope. I already had my ticket for Berlin and my hostel reservation was waiting on me. All I had to do was shower, finish packing my bags, and board the train to the airport. I got ready within thirty minutes and still had some time to kill, so I pulled out my Europe guidebook and made a rough itinerary of the places I wanted to see in Berlin. Around noon, I strapped myself into my backpack and began the 15-minute walk from my friend’s apartment to Amsterdam Centraal.

I made it to the station fairly quick and bought my train ticket. While I was waiting for my train, I became overwhelmed with panic. When I looked down and checked the time on my phone, it dawned on me that I had completely mixed up the time of my flight. For some reason, I was convinced that my flight left at 2:30 p.m., when it actually arrived in Berlin at 2:30 p.m. I was supposed to be taking off at 1:00 p.m., and it was already 12:30 p.m.

I boarded my train, knowing that I had totally messed up. Although I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason,” sometimes I think the reason is you weren’t paying attention. My oversight had cost me over $100. I felt so dejected. When I made it to the airport and finally had WiFi, I texted my mom frantically and very embossed, explaining what had happened. “Just breathe in and breathe out,” she told me. She advised me to take a minute to calm down and look for the best solution.

I pulled out my laptop and started doing my research. The next flight left at 9:25 p.m., and it wasn’t even 2:00 p.m. yet, so I checked train tickets. Much to my surprise the train ticket was even more expensive than flying would be, and it would arrive just as late as the plane would. Instead of landing at 2:30 p.m. and doing a little bit of afternoon exploring like I had planned, I’d have to settle for arriving around 11:00 p.m. I made my way up to the ticket counter, hoping the attendant would take pity on me, and although she was very sweet, I didn’t get a discount or special treatment.

After purchasing my ticket, I decided to go back into the city and hang out for a bit. As I was leaving the station, a guy looked at me and asked, “Are you lost?” I responded that I wasn’t, then he laughed and said, “Oh you’re American, I thought you were Dutch or maybe English.” My accent was a dead giveaway. “Anyways, I just wanted to let you know, you seem to have a good energy about you,” he said with a big smile on his face. Despite being warned about the dangers of strangers, I asked if he wanted to grab lunch. He enthusiastically said yes.

As he guided me to the restaurant, I jokingly said, “So is this the part where I get sold into the sex industry? Because I’ve seen Taken, so you know, just be real with me.” That gave him a great laugh, and he whispered into his watch, “Guys, she’s onto us, abort the kidnapping mission.” Lunch ended up being a great decision. Daniel had given up the corporate world to travel. He now works as a massage therapist, “I love knowing that I am actually helping people, they always seem so much more relaxed and at peace afterward.” As I told him about my plans for the rest of the month, he made great suggestions about where to go and what to do.

I know a lot of people back home are worried about me getting kidnapped or attacked or just something awful, and although I know it’s a viable, I think if I have that mentality throughout my entire trip, I’m never going to meet other people. I trust my gut. That being said, I don’t exactly plan on sharing a taxi with a stranger anytime soon, but I’m open to what may come.

After we parted ways, I spent about an hour walking through the city with my backpack. I indulged in a croissant with Nutella, getting laugh from people passing by who were amused with the Nutella smeared all over my face. Eventually I took a seat in a little bar about 5 minutes from Centraal Station. When the bartender saw me put down my backpack, she asked if I was traveling alone. “That’s wonderful! I can’t wait to continue doing my own traveling too,” she said. When she told me her story, I was in awe. My bartender was from a little village in Hungary and at 20, she to hitchhike to Spain by herself: “I had like 200 euros and that was it. I mostly depended on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter. It was such a beautiful experience.” She continued to travel for a bit, and then settled down in Amsterdam. “I love this city, but I miss traveling. Maybe I’ll start school soon, but right now I feel no pressure to do anything too serious.”

This time around, I made it to the airport super early. Going through security was a breeze, and then I found a spot to start typing away. My blogging was interrupted by an announcement that boarding for Berlin would begin, so I packed up my laptop and made my way to the gate. In the line to board, two guys started chatting with me. When I said it was my first time in Berlin, they lit up with all kinds of suggestions about where to go and what tourist traps to avoid. I basically gave one of them my outlined itinerary and he said, “Oh no, give me a pen,” and proceeded to scratch out certain items replacing them with more authentic suggestions. “Berlin is going to be your favorite city. Trust me, I’ve been everywhere you’re going, and no city is better than Berlin.” The best part about traveling solo is that I don’t have a set plan – if Berlin is everything it’s hyped up to be, who knows? Maybe I’ll stay an extra day.

Berlin, hit me with your best shot.