My widening eyes peered into the steeply slanted ceiling above me as I awoke in unfamiliar surroundings. I felt genuine excitement and curiosity welling up uncontainably inside me, as I realized where I lay.
The evening light spilled into my room through the skylight overhead. I reached for my map, and quickly improvised a wandering route through the early evening Munich streets. I aimed to find the people, and the beer, where they naturally occurred.
Choosing just one of Munich’s six traditional breweries offered a daunting challenge, but I chose to wander to the tourist-centric Hofbrauhaus. Cobble-stoned streets lined my path, some vacant, some bustling. I paused at Odeonsplatz, where the streets opened into a wider, sprawling square, to consider the modern lively nature of the platz, and reflect on the historic events which unfolded there.
The Hofbrauhaus was founded in 1589, and is now owned by the state. The walls are delicately frescoed, and reverberate with the live music of a Bavarian brass band, playing traditional music for rows of red-faced tourists, seated communally at large wooden tables. A centralized court (Hof) features a large beer garden where all walks of life, from all over the world often succeed in getting sloppy drunk. The experience is worth a trip.
I was seated among the ranks of a visiting group of Italians, all strangers, and quickly joined in on their fun. Holding a dimpled clear glass maßkrüg of Dunkel beer, I did my best to follow the conversation through body language, laughing, dancing, and clinking glasses where appropriate. I don’t speak Italian, but it didn’t present a problem.
No worse for wear, earning the grid on my face, I bid “Ciao!” to my new friends, and left the beer hall behind me to discover a more authentic Munich experience, in the maze of winding Schwabing side-streets.
In no time, I met four new friends from Munich and Prague respectively, at a dimly lit cafe bar on Turkenstraße. We discussed travel, and agreed that it was the thing most worth doing. I gave my oath that I’d put Prague on my travel agenda. It was here that my new friends introduced me to European hosteling, which would open up ever-widening horizons to me and my travel experiences going forward.
The next morning, with time to spare, I walked the morning streets in search of coffee and pastry, taking one last long deep breath to seal the memories of the experience. I had taken a chance, and threw caution to the wind in search of adventure. Circumstances had rewarded me with the pleasure of new experience, and a new story to tell. I had found a path to adventure which was simple, and could become even more simple with a bit of tinkering. A unseen passion had been revealed.
As I fastened my seat belt on the big jet that would eventually take me home, I felt that I had found a whole new world of possibility to discover. In fact, that is literally what I discovered.
I had become a traveler.
Next: Practical advice for first-time solo travelers.