“Do you think it’s time to leave Europe?”
I said it without a hint of a smile and I certainly wasn’t joking.
To understand how we got to this point at about 12:30pm on a Monday, you need to understand the events of the previous three days or so. Somewhere in Vienna I picked up one of those standard seasonal colds. You know how it goes: uncontrollable sneezing, a throat full of glass shards, and the primal urge to turn every flimsy paper within arms reach into a snot bomb. It’s not like I’ve never had a cold before, but this one was particularly bad because I spent the first two days in a stubborn state of denial. Partly because I didn’t want to spend any precious Vienna moments napping, but also because Jakob had been sick no less than 4 times in the last month and I had begun to tie a significant portion of my identity to being indestructible.
When I finally admitted that I had a cold several important decisions had to be made. In lieu of lotion tissues, I had to turn one of my two scarves into a temporary hanky. I know it sounds gross, but I had already lost the first five layers of my nose to the cruelties of European toilet paper while in the denial days. Travel has taught me that a good scarf can be almost anything: a pillow, a towel, an eye mask for sleeping, a picnic blanket, a cover for bra-less days, why not a snot dookie? (fyi: that’s a dutch word for a cloth/rag NOT a poop).
The second decision I had to make was when to take a nap. For most adults it works something like this:
“Am I tired?”
“Am I supposed to be somewhere right now?”
“Is there a reasonable place for me to lay/recline?”
If the answers to those questions are “Yes,” “No,” “Yes” in that order then, GOOD NEWS, it’s nap time!
For me it’s a bit more complicated:
“Have I accomplished what I set out to do today?”
“Am I too hungry to sleep?”
“Is there some insignificant thing going on that I am unreasonably afraid of missing out on?”
The possible questions continue…
Finally, Jakob took control of the situation, “you have five and a half months to see Europe, calm down and take a freaking nap.”
So by the time we arrived in Prague (February 5th, aka day three of the Vienna cold), my number one concern was no longer sightseeing but rather making sure I had enough toilet paper and lip chap in my pockets at all times. Also hydration. That was the other main concern. In fact, when the absolutely loveable and undeniably persuasive staff at our hostel announced the start of a drinking game, I was eager to join, as long as I could drink water. We made quick friends around that table: American, Mexican, English, German, Spanish, Brazilian, and of course Canadian. By the end of the game, I was thoroughly hydrated and ready for bed, while Jakob (who had not been drinking water) was eager to continue the party with his new found travel besties.
“Ya you should go out babe, have fun!”
Jaws dropped around the table. “Your wife is the coolest.” “If only all girlfriends were like her.”
I laughed. Little did they know that I couldn’t be happier to know that I was going to get a full 12 hours of sleep while Jakob had all of his extrovert needs taken care of…that’s a sweet deal in the world of introvert-extrovert marriages.
As I was drifting off to sleep to the sound of the bar-going crowd gathering outside on the street these thoughts crossed my mind:
“Jakob’s cell phone probably isn’t fully charged.”
“He probably hasn’t looked at a map of the city.”
“Does he even know the hostel’s address?”
I shrugged off the anxious thoughts and drifted off to sleep.
At 5 am I woke up to see my husband fast asleep one bunk bed over. I breathed a sigh of relied and returned to blissful cold-fighting sleep. The next morning I got the real story and like a good historian I didn’t settle for just one source.
Jakob’s account: he left the bar at about 2 am. After waiting FOREVER for the rest of the group he decided to set off on his own using directions on his phone. When his phone died he spent 45 minutes negotiating with various taxi drivers and traipsing around the unfamiliar city, until he found one place he recognized: the train station.
Alexis: “He got lost!!! I put the instructions in his phone! How could he have gotten lost!?!”
Matt: “He got lost!!! I told him to just wait 5 minutes and by the time I got outside all I could see was an orange sweater bobbing off in the distance. He was too far to catch so we went for burritos.”
Zach (night receptionist): Ya I was watching the camera and saw him show up like half an hour after everyone else. Couldn’t figure it out, I heard he left first.”
I couldn’t help but feel a little bit satisfied knowing that Jakob really is lost without me.
But it turns out the worst wasn’t quite over. The next day we were a delightful cocktail of hung-over and tired mixed with head cold and frustration. Each decision: join walking tour or walk on our own, stop for hot drinks or eat the snack we packed, take a left or take a right, was fraught with our combined inability to communicate and think.
Not long after telling Jakob that he was “being impossible” and after he told me that “he couldn’t feel anything.” We collapsed into chairs at a hipster café. I told him that I didn’t care what he wanted, “I am ordering you a coffee…something strong.” As he downed the weirdest double espresso of his life I got busy problem solving.
After a short discussion about the issues: “Every day is the same…tours, old stuff…strangers, strange cities…cold, so cold…where is the sun? When is the last time we saw the sun?” The words came out of my mouth: “Do you think it’s time to leave Europe?”
We sat in that low moment for a few minutes, shook our heads and laughed.
Who are we kidding? I love old stuff, and Jakob, these cities aren’t just old they’re alive and full of people, interesting people! We are having a great time and we can’t let one bad night derail it all. We found one thing we could agree on: the trip wasn’t a write off, but the day was. So we headed back to the hostel where we napped and read books until all our friends from the night before showed up. As we sat down for a family-style dinner together I felt the worst of my cold receding. I still wasn’t sure if the sun would finally come out tomorrow or not, but I was sure of two things:
- I was about to make some very good friends in Prague
- I had the best friend I could ask for right beside me already