This June I traveled to Berlin for an author event. Why? Well for those of you who don’t know, when I am not a travel writer, I write fiction books. I am what they call a hybrid – self-published and published by small independent publishers. Yes, I like to stay indie! I even have an author blog – Alina Popescu, Writer. Anyway, that said, author conferences and book signings are a big thing for me. I travel to attend them, plan way ahead of time, and get super excited about them. This suits me, to be honest, as when you own a dog, spur of the moment travel is not always an easy option.
I had been planning this trip for about a year. Well, pretty much since the first edition of the event, in July 2015. Earlier this year (and six months before the event), I thought to turn it into a trip with my boyfriend. I could do both, right? Do the event and have fun with him! Especially since I intended to arrive in Berlin two days before the conference started. It would have made a perfect birthday gift for him (even if a little early one). All I needed to sort out for this was his plane ticket and conference attendance.
With pretty much a year of planning, everything should have gone smoothly, right? Wrong! Here’s the realizations I came to:
What works for one traveler might not work for another
When I booked the flights, I did this based on what I thought I wanted. A very early flight, which gave me a lot of time to see what was close to the hotel. I knew the Berlin Zoo was five minutes away, and so was this huge park that honestly seemed to never end. The zoo, turns out, is just a small section of said park. Well, my boyfriend is a different traveler altogether. He’s not really a morning person. But having to wake up at 3 am to make it to the airport in time for our flight? That’s more than a little annoying, as it impacts his actual physical well-being.
Despite my normal cheer and because I don’t really sleep before a trip, I was too exhausted myself. And between the two of us, the six hours we had to kill till our room was ready were tough to navigate.
Your travel planning doesn’t fight off last minute emergencies
The week before our trip was murder. Long, long hours of work, a few little disasters and crises, which all lead to both of us working till the wee hours of the morning. I was beyond stressed as some of my stuff for the conference was stuck in customs and I only found out they’d been cleared Friday night (with the con starting on Saturday morning). Not the best mood to travel. And the fatigue set us back quite a bit in terms of what we wanted to see and what we actually saw.
Walking is good for your health but it can irritate you quite a bit
We did a lot of walking in Berlin. We walked from the hotel to the zoo and then for another few hours around the zoo. The next day we did a walking tour, after a 40-minute walk to where the tour started. Another 40-minute walk back after the tour almost brought us to tears. We were so tired, when we left the bench we stopped on to rest, we left my DSLR camera behind! Luckily, we figured it out fast enough and went back to get it. A lovely couple was watching out for us and handed the camera over, with bright smiles to soften the embarrassment.
Forget the 48-hour guides!
Don’t get me wrong, they are great to inspire you and tell you how much you can see in a short amount of time. But don’t stress about it. We ended up seeing quite a bit, but clearly not as much as I would have wanted to after reading all those guides. They work great if you’re not grumpy and exhausted beyond belief.
Some errors are funny and you should go with them
On Friday we went on a walking tour. It lasted a few good hours and was wonderful. But we hadn’t planned for it! A good friend of mine had booked us on this tour, thinking it was a free boat tour. To be honest, I was a little reluctant, because boats don’t usually work without gas and staff and other things that cost. Of course, it was a Google translate error and it was a walking tour. As we were there, we thought we’d go along. Do I regret it? No. It was amazing, we saw a lot of the major sights in Berlin and our guide was brilliant. I can’t link you to the actual tour, because I can’t find it, but I’ll keep trying!
In the great scheme of your trip, minor hiccups don’t matter
Some hiccups happened. Like collapsing and passing out one night, way too early. Or a minor fight brought on by stress and exhaustion. Or forgetting things and having to go back for them. In the grand scheme that was our Berlin getaway, it did not matter. Once everything settled, all that mattered was the excitement, the fun we had, the great food we experienced, and the amazing people we spent time with. Everything else seemed funny after a while. A shorter while than you’d think.
In most cases, food will make it all seem better
I am not even kidding! We went to a Vietnamese restaurant for the first time and I was in heaven. We went to a German steak house and their burger steak was so good, I had it twice in as many days. Their deserts were super delicious as well. We had a fancier dinner at an Italian restaurant, just the two of us, and I tasted the best tiramisu of my life. Yeah, that made a lot of things seem irrelevant. Like being too tired. Or too scared of the two panels I was part of and the one reading I had to do.
Travel planning should be adapted to those you travel with
This is a big one! Gaining a few hours of sightseeing with someone who can’t do early mornings is not that big of a win. In my defense, when I first started planning this, I was single and planned for myself. But this trip was amazing at teaching me how to plan the next ones so that both my boyfriend and I are happy. Not a big ordeal, as Murphy’s laws are real and everything goes crazy right before my trips!
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