In response to a writing prompt: “I Remember When…”
I remember when there was a time in life I embraced risk taking, adventure, and living in the moment.
I was 25, working for the US government, living in Vienna, Austria. Young and single, with sufficient financial resources to underwrite my whims, I took advantage of every opportunity to travel whenever I was not tethered to my day job.
One such adventure comes flooding back these many years later.
It had been a particularly grueling work week, and my boss and his family were going away for the weekend, so I had a few days to do whatever I wanted. Hmm…. Where should I go? I felt like exploring someplace new but did not want to venture too far.
Time was ticking. A wacky idea popped into my brain. Why not toss some clothes into a backpack, head to the airport, and let The Universe pick a destination for me? Within moments of this impulse, I was out the door.
At the airport, I found a check-in station and glanced up at the flight departure board as the woman behind the desk asked for my passport and ticket. It was about 8:30 Friday morning and I noticed there was a flight to Zurich, Switzerland leaving at 9:10am.
Switzerland sounded perfect!
I explained to the check-in lady that I hadn’t purchased a ticket, yet, and asked her if it was too late to make that flight to Zurich. Apparently not. A few minutes later I was sitting comfortably in a puddle jumper awaiting takeoff.
The flight was pleasant and uneventful until we got closer to Zurich. The pilot’s low-key voice came on the intercom and suggested it may get a little bumpy as we head into the mountain cross winds. Just as his words floated in the air, the plane abruptly leapt and the coffee being handed to me by the stewardess flew out of the cup and splashed all over me. The next 20 minutes were literally a roller coaster ride, but we finally landed safely on the tarmac. My shirt was covered in coffee stains, but I remained undaunted.
It was raining heavily upon arrival, and I knew the first thing I needed to do was find a place to stay, so I got into a taxi and asked the driver to take me to the center of town. He dropped me off on Bahnhofstrasse, the main drag. I was grateful for my umbrella, having learned long ago never to leave home without one.
I marveled at the eye candy in the expensive shops as I strolled down the street, then had some lunch. This was one swanky town. Banks towered over me, a loud reminder that Switzerland was Mecca for the wealthy to stash their wealth.
At the end of the street I found a hotel and wearily asked: “Ein zimmer, bitte?” I was in luck. A room was available. I trudged up the stairs, changed into dry clothes, plopped down on the bed, and flipped on the television. Cindi Lauper was crooning “Time After Time.” Her quirky style and lilting melody captivated me. I had no idea she was a huge hit in the United States, having lost touch with American pop culture a long time ago. Lacking motivation to go back out in the rain, I lounged in the room for a while, and then went to a nearby pub for dinner. It was an early night. Tomorrow would be better.
I was disheartened to waken to another day of steady rain. One peek out the window was all it took to confirm a scenic tour of the mountains wasn’t meant to be. There was nothing to do but make the best of it, so I ventured out to see what I could find. After some window shopping and lunch, I noticed a nearby theater was offering a matinee showing of “Footloose.” I decided to buy a ticket. It wasn’t exactly the touristy thing to do, but I was always happy to have a taste of home, and at least I would escape from the rain for a few hours!
The movie was great fun, although it was a bit strange watching it with German subtitles. Just like Cindi Lauper’s song, I didn’t know this movie was making a big splash in America.
Walking back to the hotel after the movie, I noticed a poster of Elton John pasted on a nearby building. He was in town and was playing a concert that very evening. Elton was one of my piano player heroes, so without a skip in my beat, I decided to go to his show.
I don’t recall how I found my way to the arena. But I remember there were lockers available, so I was able to secure my backpack, which contained all my money and passport. It seemed like the smart thing to do; just in case I wasn’t as safe as I thought I was. It was oddly thrilling to be alone with throngs of people who didn’t speak English. It gave me this uncanny sense of freedom. And the concert was a delight.
Sunday morning, still groggy from the late night, I peered out the window and my bubble of hope was burst for good. Another deluge pelted the street. By this time, I was worn out from the non-stop wetness, so I decided to sacrifice my last day touring Zurich and head home early. It wasn’t the weekend I had hoped for, but it was an adventure, nonetheless.
This experience was just one of many I had throughout my youth. Today I ask myself: “What happened to that carefree, fearless, spontaneous girl? Where did she go?”