The sun was setting on my trip, and I still had another country to see. Crossing the border between Luxembourg and Germany, I noticed a lot more evergreens outside than I had seen during the rest of the trip. I pulled into Trier, intent on killing some time and hopefully scoring some German food. The town seemed rather sad in the late afternoon, and people were milling about outside the station somewhat aimlessly. The town had several kebab-shops, all of which offered some kind of schnitzel. I was eager to try it, but I only had around 10 Euro in my pocket, and I was determined to make it last till I got on the train. A schnitzel and a soda would have decimated my funds, so I opted for just a soda. The train to Trier lasted under an hour, but I knew that the trip was far from over. It was another three hours to Cologne, then a short jaunt into Dusseldorf, which would put me at my hotel well after midnight. I wanted so desperately to be able to sleep, I had even left Luxembourg on an earlier train in hopes of hitting the sack earlier, but this only made for a longer stop in Trier.
The sun quickly set on the Deutsche Bahn train, which I quickly realized was a local. It seemed as though I was the only passenger in my car going all the way to Cologne, and it got rather eerie as the train emptied around the fourth stop and stalked its way through the twilit Rhenish woods. The car became my own, more or less, and I popped in my earbuds, as I would have done if I were at home on a train into New York or Stamford. As Lorde lamented, track after track, her loss of youth, I wondered where I stood in this age-old continuum of, well, old age. This was country number 30, and I had already backpacked two of the biggest destinations for solo backpacking: Southeast Asia and Europe. Of course, I knew, my youth was not over. I could never be so silly. However, I did relate to Lorde’s placelessness. I had accomplished great things, impressive things, I told myself reassuringly. This is just one of many adventures to come. I began planning the next one, and the one after that, but couldn’t neglect that there must be some end to my drifting. One day, I will have to settle down. Hopefully, it’ll be by choice, but maybe it won’t be. The questionably young poet chanted “Ribs,’ to a mesmerizing beat:
The drink you spilt all over me
'Lover's Spit' left on repeat
My mom and dad let me stay home
It drives you crazy, getting old
This dream isn't feeling sweet
We're reeling through the midnight streets
And I've never felt more alone
It feels so scary, getting old
Does solitude age a man? After wandering alone, and growing in the process, I never considered if it was a fountain of youth, or else an elixir that somehow speeds up time? “Fuck,” I think, “Lorde is fantastic.” It had been awhile since I had felt music. Like really felt it. I mused at having traveled to country #30, completely alone yet fulfilled. My last Asia trip had been rough, and there were times when I thought this life wasn’t for me. And I realized it’s not. This life is for no one, much less me. But, I realized I do it for these moments: feeling a song, or tasting something new; speaking a new language or seeing something you’ve never seen. Much of my depression has stemmed from the feeling that I don’t belong. Each day I go to school, or to work, and it doesn’t matter to me. It’s not new, and the things that are get old really fast. Girlfriends become ex-girlfriends, and favorite restaurants become forgotten. That’s the solution I found: new countries never get old. As long as there are lands I have still left untrammeled, as long as there is a nation that’s new to me, there is still new life, and new things to live for.
Arriving in Cologne, I went into the food court and scored some currywurst. I was handed a roll, and a soggy hot dog sleeve with unevenly-cut bratwurst drenched in a spicy brown sauce. I hadn’t eaten since my spaetzle overdose, and my stomach had miraculously grown hungry again after hours of international train travel. I devoured the currywurst and the bread, and boarded my midnight train to Dusseldorf. It was only supposed to be 20 or so minutes, but it felt like an eternity. I had fulfilled the gustatory requirement for Germany, and longed to curl into a nice hotel bed and sleep as long as possible before my flight home. When we pulled into Dusseldorf, it was raining and the town seemed deserted aside from the occasional after-club couple and homeless man. The town was bathed in artificial neon light, and I truly regretted not being able to explore the Altstadt during the daytime. I arrived on the street of my hotel and couldn’t seem to find the building. The map said it was right next to a snackbar called “Fritten Piet,” but I couldn’t find a sign anywhere. I called the hotel owner 3 times, each time he picked up, yelled at me briefly, then hung up. He seemed quite irritated, but I feel like if you own a hotel, hiring a receptionist to open the door for late night arrivals is something one should invest in if he doesn’t want to be called late at night. He eventually buzzed me in, and I got my room key from a small vending machine-like box on the wall. I went upstairs and showered and finally drifted off to sleep.
The following morning, I awoke earlier than I would have liked, and grabbed a roll and something that I would only describe as ‘liquid meat spread.’ (Further research reveals that this is actually liverwurst, or ‘leberwurst’). Quite frankly, it was delicious and perfect breakfast to pair with spreadable cheese and an airport sparkling apple juice. I made it to the airport and to the gate with about fifteen minutes to spare, which I spent in the duty-free trying to find German chocolate. On a trip where it seemed I was never done killing time, it seemed it had all now been declared dead.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.