All of the ambient sounds that filled the stuffy morning air of the Detroit Airport on June 23, 2010—the people shuffling past, the trains rolling by overhead, the common-sense directions flowing across the speakers—were drowned out by the security officer waving me out of the boarding line.
“Please step over here for a second. Please put your arms out like this,” he mumbled blandly before swiping me down with a metal detector. “Alright, you’re clear.”
I hopped back into line and took two more measured steps before I heard, “Please step aside for a moment and put your arms out like this.” Different security guard. Same fake smile. Same metal detector. I could not help but think that this was the sort of clueless person who prompts airports to post instructions like Please discard all firearms before entering this building.
After finally boarding the plane, I settled into my less-than-comfortable seat to hardly enjoy the eight-hour flight to Amsterdam, at which point I would board another plane to fly ninety minutes more to Munich.
Time passed slowly, which may seem like a normal pace, but imagine yourself sitting in your car, which is parked in your driveway. Imagine that your seat has been run up so that your knees are sharply pressed against the steering wheel. Now imagine that you have to sit like that in your driveway for eight hours without talking to anyone. Now you understand what I mean when I say that time moved slowly.
Tossing and turning in my seat, I found myself in an unending loop of sleeplessness; perhaps it was the anxiety, or perhaps it was the air pressure that burdened the unappealing environment. Whatever the cause, I found myself slouched over, watching movies that I never would have bothered renting, and shows that were most likely aimed at an older audience but looked like Saturday morning kids’ cartoons. In any case, both flights came and went, as all things do, and I found myself in the midst of the purpose of my visit—to enjoy the experience of staying with friends and to attempt to drown myself in German and Swiss culture.
The Frankfurt train station proved to be another hotspot for security officers whose eyes I caught. I had to use the restroom but was unfortunately unaware of its location. I left my passport and luggage with my father and ventured out in search of relief. As I meandered, two German police officers approached and stopped me, inquiring where I came from and what I was doing there, and demanding my passport. After I explained that my passport was with my father and that I came from America and was merely visiting friends during my summer vacation, they proceeded to briefly confiscate the entire contents of my pockets until they were satisfied I was not a serial killer.
My travels took me to Salzburg, the Bavarian Alps, Munich, Amriswil, Basel, TÃ¼bingen, and Marburg. At one point along this winding road of foreign culture, unknown traditions, welcome heat, and excellent food, I found myself in three different countries within a ten-minute time span. My train departed a German train station and took me through Austria before landing me at my destination in Switzerland. That is an experience that is difficult to stumble upon blindly.
Overall, this trip to Europe was one of my single most favorite experiences, because I realize that all of the things that seemed like hiccups at the time were actually mini-adventures in disguise.
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