In case it wasn't obvious already, I love to travel, so what better excuse to take a big vacation than a milestone birthday?
At the beginning of this month I ventured out on my 30th birthday trip: backpacking in Europe. My destinations included Scotland, London, Paris, and The Netherlands. I would be staying in hostels with only a backpack as my main piece of luggage. Did I mention I've never stayed in a hostel before? My only image of hostel-life is the horrifyingly graphic Hostel film where people get kidnapped and murdered at a hostel in Eastern Europe. Oy. At the end of the day though, I'm a girl on a budget, and if I felt uncomfortable at any time I'd randomly announce at check-in that I'm ex-CIA. That may or may not be true...
I had a good laugh with friends prior to leaving when I announced the airline I would be flying was called WOW Air. It's an Icelandic airline that offers inexpensive flights. It was only when I saw the physical airplane that I realized the joke had legs. What lay before us was a giant pinkish-purple vessel with 'WOW' written on the side in giant, capital letters. I could only imagine that thing soaring across the Atlantic. Upon getting inside the airplane, I discovered that the colorful theme didn't end at the exterior of the plane. We had pinkish-purple carpeted floors and flight attendants decked out in the bright design. If ever I was going to pretend I'm in a Britney Spears 'Toxic' music video remake, this would be it.
My quirky airline did not disappoint though, and I made it safely to my layover in Iceland. What a heck of a layover though. I landed at 1:30pm and wouldn't be flying out to Scotland until the next morning. I decided to stay in a nearby hostel to get a good night's rest and convinced myself that I'll have another time to explore Iceland more. As a girl still on a budget, I was determined to walk to my hostel since I had already spent enough money on an over-priced shuttle back to the airport for the next morning. The hostel was about 3-4 miles away, but I convinced myself that after a 9 hour flight, I would gladly welcome the opportunity to stretch my legs a little.
Cut to 20 minutes in the walk while carrying a heavy backpack, and I was on the verge of hitchhiking for the first time in my life. Upon hearing my mother's worried tone in the back of my conscience though, I pressed on along a desolate stretch of highway in the boondocks of Iceland. Eventually I reached a crossroads but couldn't tell which road led to my hostel. With no WIFI or data, I was screwed. Enter "George" from Poland.
I should back track. Prior to leaving for my trip, I watched and fell in love with the film Leap Year. In a nutshell it's about Amy Adams meeting a hot Irish guy while lost in Ireland, and he helps her get to Dublin. I figured a good looking Polish guy using Google Maps was a close enough equivalent to a movie moment.
Not only did George use Google Maps, but he also went out of his way to walk me to my hostel. Since I live in Los Angeles, any kind of gentleman-like behavior blows my mind. As I made a mental note to get out of LA more often, George asked me if I wanted to grab something to drink later that evening. I accepted, and our plan was to meet up at my hostel lobby in 2 hours.
I would like to say I knew what had happened during those 2 hours, but I'm afraid it will forever be a mystery, for the man who I met up with at 7:30pm was not the approachable, kind, handsome guy who selflessly helped me find my way earlier that day, but an awkward, overwhelmingly eager man who made me feel like instead of Leap Year I might be entering Liam Neeson Taken territory.
Thankfully I made it out of the situation unscathed. Mr. Poland tried to do the eye-linger-kiss-attempt, but I turned into bro-mode and if I recall, I slapped him on the back with the words "take care man".
I was safe. I was in my hostel and even met a super cool girl from Australia also backpacking for her 30th birthday. I was officially going to get a good night's rest and be on my way to Scotland the next morning. Little did I know, I would soon experience my first real horror of hostels: The Persistent Snorer.
The next morning I left for Edinburgh a little wiser about men and a lot more tired. The adventure was only beginning, and I had a lot more excitement that would come in the following weeks. My biggest lesson from my extended layover in Iceland: bring a really good moisturizer because that place will dry up your skin quicker than a Michigan winter.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in Scotland!
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com