It’s the motto of the Boy Scouts, and the song Scar sings in The Lion King. It’s also good advice, but it’s impossible to follow. You can be prepared for many things, but life will throw you a curve ball. My Contiki tour in Europe began with a drive from London to Amsterdam. We arrived at our hostel for dinner, and after there was the option to go on a cruise on the canals. The sights of the city whirled by in an alcohol filled haze. It was a fun, and blurry night. When I got back to the hostel I was exhausted and fell asleep right away.
I woke up on the top bunk the next morning, completely amazed how I managed to get up there in my non-sober state, and amazed that I didn’t fall off. I shared a room with three other girls from my tour. Before breakfast we all scrambled to pack and get ready to leave. We spent the morning in Amsterdam. I went to the Anne Frank museum, and wandered around. That afternoon we left for Germany. I was having a great time until that evening when we got to our hostel in Germany’s Rhine Valley. I unpacked my bag and discovered I had forgotten my deodorant and face-wash back in Amsterdam. I have this thing with deodorant – I’m always afraid of running out so when I buy deodorant at home I stockpile 5 or 6 at a time.
When I found myself in a foreign country, without deodorant, I started to have an internal meltdown. I weighed my options. I was in a small town in Germany. It was evening, and all the stores were closed. Since we were leaving for Munich the next morning there was no point in try to get back to Amsterdam. I could take a train somewhere else, but if stores were closed in this town, they’d probably be closed in the next town. I knew I was out of options. I had a shower, and hoped that I wouldn’t be known on tour as ‘the smelly one.’
Contiki tours stop every few hours at rest-stops to give the driver (and everyone else) a break. The next day when drove towards Munich I hoped I’d come to a rest-stop that sold some toiletries, and every place we stopped at had nothing. I knew if I was back home I could get something, but these rest-stops just had candy and souvenirs. At our hostel in Munich I spotted a gas station across the street. Surely they would have something. No luck.
We unpacked our bags and went to the Marienplatz. I watched the Glockenspiel for a few minutes and headed out on my mission. Before going to Europe I listened some ‘learn to speak German’ podcasts. I could say hello, my name, and that I didn’t speak good German. I was intimidated to buy something in country where I didn’t know the language, but it was now or never. Tomorrow we were going to Austria, and staying in another small town. One day without deodorant was bad enough.
I walked into a store off the square. It looked like a boutique. I felt like I didn’t belong, but I didn’t care. I wandered over to the deodorants and picked one up. A sales lady came up to me and said something in German. I felt bad for not being able to understand her, so I politely asked (in German) if she spoke English. She said yes and asked (in English) how she could help. I explained I was looking for deodorant and face wash. She smiled, and nicely pointed out that I’d grabbed the men’s deodorant. Go figure. She helped me find what I needed and 5 Euros later I was feeling normal again. The rest of my time in Germany was great.
I’ve learned there’s a good chance I’ll leave something behind while traveling; at least this was something replaceable. While I hated the experience, it’s funny looking back. It’s important to be optimistic and roll with the punches. If I had pouted and whined it wouldn’t have changed what happened, and my memories of that trip would be be tainted by a poor attitude. Finally I learned to always pack two deodorants on a trip, because if you can’t be prepared for everything at least you won’t stink.