“Why does your bag have mud on it?” Tom queried, when I arrived in Munich from London one evening. “Oh, you know, the music festival we went to was really muddy and I haven’t cleaned it yet.” I responded. “Why did you take your wheeled suitcase to a festival?” he laughed…
This wasn’t the first time Tom had pointed out my impractical travelling habits (and embarrassed me in the process). Once I walked the entire length of Zentralfriedhof cemetery in Vienna in blue sparkly jelly shoes. My feet were swollen, blistered and bleeding, but I had also earlier that morning rejected Tom’s suggestions to wear more sensible footwear. So I hobbled on and pretended my regular breaks were more to do with the impact of the somber cemetery atmosphere, and less to do with the bleeding feet, raw blisters and possibly permanent damage that my shoes were causing.
The Brits v The Germans
As exasperating Tom must find my (at times) poorly thought out travel style, I have developed quite a fascination with the structured way in which Germans choose to holiday. I recently went camping in Wales and couldn’t help but draw some comparisons between how the Brits and Germans approach the act of sleeping outdoors.
This year for her birthday, my friend Abygail decided to go camping for a night in Wales. The night before the big trip (after two fellow campers had sent their apologies; one had forgotten it was her boyfriend’s birthday, the other forgotten he had to work), the remaining campers set our alarms for 8am so that we would absolutely be out of the house and away by 10am. We were only going for one night so we definitely wanted to get away at a reasonable time to make the most of the trip. Definitely. We said good night, agreed to re-convene at 8am to leave by 10am at the latest, laughed in agreement that ‘knowing us it’ll be 11am’ and hopped off to bed. The rest of the trip went something like this:
8am: Our alarms went off.
9am: I’m still in bed with Abygail.
10am: We’re still in bed, now with the greyhound (Wilf), Abygail’s mum, her sister and her sister’s 12 week old baby.
11am: Still in bed, now with all of the above, plus two other friends, another of Abygail’s sisters and her brother in law.
12pm: We realise that we don’t have enough tents and the car is in need of service and might not make it to Wales. Questioning whether we should still go camping.
1pm: Still wondering if we should go. Decide to contemplate over lunch.
2pm: Begin exploring the possibility of borrowing a tent from a family friend.
2:30pm: We have enough tents and decide to give the car the benefit of the doubt, we’ll just take the phone number for NRMA.
3pm: Start packing our bags.
4pm: Still packing our bags.
4:30pm: We leave the house (Wilf in tow), run into acquaintances on the footpath outside the house, have a bit of a chat.
5:00pm: Get in the car, realise we would all like coffee, stop at the local coffee shop.
5:20pm: On the road again, but realise we are almost out of petrol. Stop at local petrol station. Abygail’s mum buys a ‘car boot organiser’ in an out-of-character attempt to become organised, and a selfie stick.
5:30pm: Finally on the road.
7pm: Get to camping destination. Walk for 20 minutes in the dark. Set up tent in the dark. Hunt for firewood in the dark. Cook, laugh, tell stories. Say we will get up for sunrise.
10am: Wake up and realise we missed the sunrise.
Twelve months before departure Tom asks me if I want to come sailing in Slovenia/Croatia with him and his friends. ‘Yeah sure, why not!’ I reply, secretly thinking that nobody ACTUALLY organises holidays this far in advance and so it probably wouldn’t really end up happening, right?
Eight months later I receive an Excel spreadsheet via email, detailing what needs to be brought on the holiday, the quantity of each item, and who is responsible for what. All expenses will be paid for using one debit card so that they can be split equally at the end. The rest of the trip went something like this:
2 weeks before departure: Van organised to accommodate all holiday makers and their luggage comfortably.
2 days before departure: Bags are packed, items ticked off spreadsheet. Pick up destinations and times agreed and communicated. Non-perishable groceries purchased to last 10 people for 7 days. Enough beer to last 10 people for 14 days. In case of emergency.
8am (day of departure): Alarm goes off, get out of bed. Put bags in the car, leave.
8:30am: Pick up friends at their flat. They have prepared a full cooked breakfast upon our arrival, including eggs, pretzels, bread AND toast, 5 varieties of meat, coffee, tea, juice, etc.
9:30am – 5:30pm: Drive to destination in Slovenia.
Monday – Friday: Spend 5 days on a small boat, reading, swimming, playing cards, drinking beer, eating, skinny dipping, sun tanning. Plenty of time to contemplate my poor choice in sailing attire, and my lack of water proof clothing (even my attempt at being practical and buying appropriate footwear resulted in me bringing a pair of black flip flops with diamontes hanging between the toes). Realise that attempting to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle while on holidays with Germans was silly.
Day of return: The same organised fashion as day of departure, but in reverse. Discussions begin about getting organised for next year’s holiday.
Disorder v order… And the winner is…..
I think I am an organised-chaos kinda girl! Admittedly I considered myself an organised person until I had been exposed to these Germans. I then re-evaluated myself against this new benchmark and had finally reached acceptance of myself as a disorganised person. And then I went camping with Abygail and her family. Now I realise I am somewhere in the middle; I like to have a plan, but enjoy the fun that a shambolic life can throw at you! Without a little spontaneity, you miss the challenges that always prove to create the best memories or at least an interesting story to tell. I might think about investing in a waterproof jacket, but I don’t think I’ll be itemising my holiday necessities in a spreadsheet any time soon. Sorry Tom.