• Emily McDonnell

#3: Destination unknown

Week 3 of 52, and I was already struggling to decide what to do for my weekly experience. My mind vetoed each idea with the thought: “but that’s not adventurous enough.”


To justify my adventure decision, I won’t do the cliched student essay thing of quoting the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the word, but I will say is that this project was developed in order to ensure I make the most of the here and now, and go and explore the place I call home. It’s about discovery, not becoming the first woman to, I don’t know, bungee jump from the international space station (for the record, I do know that this wouldn’t be possible given the gravity situation, but you get my point).


With this in mind, I came up with a foolproof plan for adventure: Load Google Maps, look at the green blobs, pick one, and head in that general direction. I selected an area of green I think I always see from the plane when I fly in and out of Berlin’s Tegel airport. Every time I’m boxed up in my low-budget airline seat, jetting off somewhere, I gaze from the window and marvel at the vast amount of forest below me. After 3-years of staring from a distance, it was time I paid it a visit.


It quickly transpired that my foolproof plan wasn’t so foolproof. I got one tram stop away from my apartment before the driver kicked us off, something about problems on the line. Armed with my trusty flask of tea, I set off walking through a district I almost never visit, watching cars whizz along one of the main roads in and out of Berlin.


I boarded the right train and headed north, easy. Well, until I alighted and the street was blocked by a huge number of police. I found myself, confused, walking in circles around Schrebergärten (think allotments crossed with tiny summer homes, then add lots of gnomes, and you’ll have a pretty accurate image), before following an equally confused-looking couple through an underpass and over a motorway. This was definitely not the quiet beauty I’d been imaging from my seat in the sky.


Eventually, I found myself on a path littered with fallen leaves, overhung by majestic branches. Not really knowing where I was, or where I was going, made me hyper-aware. I heard running water, bird song, and - crucially - the low hum of aircrafts. Spurred on by the fact I might finally be getting somewhere, I pushed through undergrowth and gracefully (read: incredibly awkwardly) slid to the water’s edge. Here I found myself confronted with a sandy cove, protected by reeds gently swaying in the breeze, and, in the distance, the striking red rotating airport beacon peaked out between trees, signalling at me that I’d made it and this is where I was meant to be.


It was bliss. I’d arrived just in time for the golden hour, and found a little burrow (yes, burrow) under some tree roots where I could shelter from the cool wind and watch planes glide in to land as the sun reflected on the water’s surface.


This would be a great story of overcoming the unexpected and reaping the rewards of doing so if this is where it ended… however, as if to really drive home the point that today’s adventure would be anything but straight forward, two swans appeared on the shore of my little cove. Well, perhaps not my cove, perhaps theirs, because they took one look at me and reared their heads and flapped their wings. I ran. I’ve been bitten by a swan before (that’s another story), and I was not prepared to have it happen again. Running up a steep slope is hard at the best of time, let alone when it’s covered in sand and you’re being pursued by a foe who cannot be reasoned with. Cue my complete face plant. It’s a shame I wasn’t recording a video at the time…


While things may not have gone exactly to plan, I’ll tell you what, I’d certainly achieved what I set out to do: create a memory that, whenever called upon, would bring a smile to my face.



Word of warning

Quick disclaimer: if you do decide to adventure alone in a place you don’t know, please tell someone roughly where you’re going and make sure your phone is fully charged, just in case. Also, swans are evil, steer clear!

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