So now that I’ve spent my last few blogs talking about shopping, chocolate, gal pals, and dessert, it’s time to round out the group by talking about…drumroll, please…boys!
In all seriousness, this is more a reflection on basic human kindness than any scandalous secret affairs (sorry, Matti). After a lot of alone time and self-reflection, it was here in Frankfurt that I was reminded of the impact that a simple conversation or single compliment can have on brightening someone’s entire day.
As any solo traveler knows, it can be a bit daunting to go out to a meal or visit a bar by yourself. I’ve started to get used to the slight awkwardness, and have actually come to love being placed at tables with random strangers, mostly because the experience has led to some of the best conversations that I’ve had on my trip. One of those pleasant chats took place on my first night in Frankfurt, during dinner at a small Vietnamese street food kitchen. I arrived to a bustling, jam-packed restaurant, and was given the option of waiting 15 minutes, or joining some other solo diners at the community table. As a starving, tired traveler, I chose to join the party. Obviously!
Soon after sitting down, I heard the guy sitting across from me graciously accept his order in what I thought was an American accent. Thinking that I had met a fellow English-speaking traveler with whom I could bond, I started a conversation. Come to find out, the accent was actually Canadian, and it belonged to a young man who had recently finished medical school and was due to start his residency as a radiation oncologist in Vancouver in two days. Two days! Talk about a quick turnaround time, considering he was still thousands of miles from home.
Funny enough, his brother had just graduated from Harvard Business School. As a science nerd (and former pre-med student) myself, we ended up having a lot in common. A couple hours and a lovely conversation later, we parted ways. As I walked along the Main River back to my Airbnb, I realized that I had turned into the cliché person who said that the people you meet are the best part of traveling alone. It’s true though! I think the freedom of open-ended conversations with individuals that you’ll never see again gives you the chance to be whoever you want without fear of judgement. So to the future Canadian doctor, thank you for giving me that liberty and for starting my Frankfurt journey off on a bright note.
On my second day in Frankfurt, I found myself walking at a rather brisk pace through a shopping plaza in downtown. I realized that I had finished my morning itinerary in record time, so I decided to sit down and people-watch for a few minutes before continuing on my merry way. The moment that I sat down, a young German man hurried over, took my hand and started shaking it, then proceeded to talk a million miles an hour. About 15 seconds into his ramble, I interrupted him to say that I had absolutely no clue what he was saying. He looked confused for a second before apologizing, saying that I looked nothing like an American, and asking if he could join me.
Like any smart gal, I was a tad wary, but seeing as we were in the middle of a busy plaza and he was dressed in a full suit, I invited him to sit. My mystery German man proceeded to ask where I was from, before telling me that I looked lovely. Turns out he had been trying to catch up to me for about a block, but I was walking so quickly that he couldn’t keep up! I learned that he had actually gone to Harvard Medical School for a few years (small world!!) before leaving and joining the consulting world in Frankfurt. He was on his lunch break and had stopped me just because he wanted to pay me a compliment.
…random acts of kindness are so, so appreciated and often too few and far between.
Honestly, the best part of the compliment was that he thought I was German! He even asked if I had German heritage or family members who had lived here because I did not resemble an American in any way. Apparently my outfit gave off a chic, German vibe. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I love fashion, so it won’t come as a surprise that my number one priority when I was packing for my trip was to look European. Maybe my priorities should’ve been a bit more practical, with a focus on things like volume or ease of care, but that’s beside the point. What an accomplishment! A German who had lived in America for years thought that I, a born-and-bred American, was German! He was honestly in shock. Me? I was beaming with pride in light of my success.
Though the conversation lasted for no longer than two minutes (I mean, he was a consultant after all, which basically means he wasted 20% of his lunch break chatting to me), it left me with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. So to the German consultant that I met on the street, thank you for making my day!
I would be remiss if I did not loop back around to the whole reason that I started writing this blog in the first place: to remind my friends and family that random acts of kindness are so, so appreciated and often too few and far between. The next time you pass that person in the department store wearing an awesome pair of shoes, tell them! Or when you think someone’s hair looks great, you admire their laptop stickers, you love the book they’re reading…the list goes on and on. Do them a favor and let them know. You’ll thank yourself later, and I’m sure that they’ll be thanking you too.
Healthy base tan, courtesy of the unyielding sun in Megan’s hometown in southwest Florida? Check. An insistence that gallivanting through Germany and Austria all summer does, in fact, count as exercise – after all, those cathedral steps aren’t going to climb themselves! Definitely. A command of the native languages and the confidence that one mere backpack will get her through two months abroad? Now slow down there, she didn’t say she was Wonder Woman. While neuroscience and chemistry may be this coffee-loving, beach-bumming, fashion-adoring springboard diver’s forte, Megan is hoping to expand her appreciation for the finer things in life (beer, currywurst, schnitzel, melange…) before returning to the reality that all good things must come to an end, as evidenced by her impending senior year.