Learning to be spontaneous

Teaching my type-A self to take a step back and go with the travel flow.


Now that I have been living abroad for about a month, I have learned quite a bit about myself and about traveling. After my weekend in Vienna with some new friends I realized the beauty of being spontaneous in a new city.

As a self-identified type A person, I love a good plan. Knowing where I’m going and what to expect is extremely important for me. But when a group of friends from USD said they were headed to Vienna for the weekend and asked if I wanted to join them, I jumped in knowing practically nothing about where I was going. (Except that Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Austria.)

The weekend consisted of many miles walked, approximately 40 by Courtney’s iPhone, and many more unplanned discoveries. This adventurous group of girls got up the first morning and equipped with a map headed to the streets of this foreign city. No plan, no agenda, just walking toward whatever looked cool.

Volksgarten, Vienna.

I decided to go along with it because A: I had no other option, and B: I did not want to be stranded alone. Much to my amazement we were able to cover the city quite well, and see beautiful sights.

When trying to find the parliament building we stumbled upon the circus that was in town for a few weeks, bringing back childhood memories of Ringling Bros. with my cousins. Then, behind the circus was a gorgeous building, the Rathaus, and wanted to look inside. But there was a Game City convention going on, so we managed to sneak in, telling the security guards that we just were visiting the building, and got to witness the juxtaposition of 19th century gothic architecture and teenagers trying out the new Nintendo games.

Circus Roncalli set up in front of the Rathaus building.

By that point I realized that not having a plan for the city allowed us to make fun memories that would not have otherwise been made. And it just kept getting better.

That night we were walking around near our hostel and heard strange orchestra sounds coming from a nearby park/courtyard between two museums. When we got closer we found that the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna was celebrating it’s 125 anniversary with a giant exhibition projected on the building from dusk to midnight.

“Infinite Screen” exhibition projected on the front of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

We spent about an hour chatting and watching the multimedia show displaying “The Tower of Babel” by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, along with readings from famous literature and pieces of classical music in a cyclical “Infinite Screen”.

The weekend continued in this nature from stumbling upon delicious food at the Open Air Market, and gazing over the whole city from a hill behind the Schönbrunn Palace, to getting on the ferris wheel at Prater Park right during the most gorgeous sunset.

Vienna open air market. On Saturdays there is an extensive flee market.
View from the top of a ferris wheel in Prater Park.
Vienna from the hill behind the Schönbrunn Palace.


Overall, my previous apprehensions about traveling have (mostly) disappeared. (I’m still uneasy about the actual travel after missing my bus home from Munich.) But without a little adventure, how will can I find the perfect park to take a midday snooze?


The art of blending in while being completely lost

Making my way downtown, walking fast, faces pass, and wait … am I still in New Town? Navigating a new city can be difficult, but understanding the layout of a city in a new country where there is a significant lack of street signs and everything is in Czech makes things a bit more interesting.

After a week in Prague I can finally recognize major landmarks and butcher the name of the closest tram stops to my apartment and school, but after that I am a wandering tourist lost in the streets. For the first few days I navigated the city with the help of my four roommates, but on my first day of class I was left to my own devices while returning home.


Much to my surprise, I found walking through the city alone to be liberating. Prague is a very safe city and I was able to wander around the streets without feeling like I had to constantly watch my back. I spent the afternoon walking up and down side streets looking for new cafes and pubs to try with my roommates.

I even stumbled upon the impressive German embassy in all it’s glory and secrecy.


While my exploring was cut short due to hunger and heat, (walking around in pants and a backpack on an 80 degree afternoon is not very comfortable) the knowledge that I could independently navigate the city excited me for the next few months of adventures.

The next obstacle to tackle is blending in, or rather not sticking out as a tourist. While I don’t wear a fanny pack or walk around with my nose in a map, I frequently worry that I look like a “stupid american tourist” to the Czech people.

Tourists are charged more, smiled at less and the target of many pickpockets. That’s not what I want. I want to become a cool european who effortlessly gets on off the tram at the correct stop and doesn’t get turned around on the way to Tesco.

While I know I cannot effortlessly assimilate into a full-blown local in the matter of days, I do hope to distinguish myself from the other Americans making their way through Prague. Possibly by not being the loudest person on the tram, never getting on a Segway and sneaking in a few Czech words when ordering my Pilsner Urquell and goulash with bread dumplings.