Parfum de Backpacker

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December 5th 2011
Published: December 5th 2011
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Cleanliness was never really expected on this trip, and eventually it wasn't even a priority. I stopped paying to use wash machines and dryers, and even sink laundry became less and less frequent. Sometimes when I rode night trains I even skipped brushing my teeth in the morning, and there was nothing I could do about my greasy hair. I knew that I was no match for Coco Chanel's newest scent, but never did I expect to be told by so many loving people so many times in one day that I stink.

I have recently had the pleasure of being joined in Bavaria, Germany, by my grandma, my mom, my mom's French friend Valerie, and my cousin Maddie, all of whom were kind enough to enlighten me. I have been doing laundry ever since, and my mom still makes me bag my socks and leave them in the car trunk.

Those socks had been really roughing it. After Lourdes, I embarked on a four-day pilgrimage to Santiago in northwest Spain. Santiago, one of the most popular religious sites in Europe, is where St. James the Apostle is allegedly buried, and walking to his burial site offers a beautiful chance for peace, meditation, good company, and octopus and almond cake. I met two girls on the trail who were spotted with bites from a bedbug infestation, and I have left it in God's capable hands that I not encounter them myself. By the end of the walk, I had mud splattered up to my knees. I finished off my pilgrimage with a day trip to Fatima, Portugal, where the Virgin Mary blessed the world by appearing to three children in 1917; there has since been built a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary where I could take a break from life. The tranquility there helped prep me for my next stop, a party of a city: Florence, Italy! LOVE. I went to Mass once or twice per day because I loved that cathedral so much. I also went on a tour of Tuscany that ended with a sampling of Chianti wine, and I met two Australians and a Pennsylvanian with whom I spent the rest of my stay. I ate gelato every day. I had a ball. I'm going back there. Unfortunately I had to leave, and even more unfortunately I tried to do so via Venice, which was a mistake because the Venician train station employees decided to go on strike that day, so I took a bus to Ljubljana, Slovenia, and then spent the next two days stationed in Bled, hiking in the Slovenian Alps. I washed my muddy pants, but they got muddy again.

I was no flower when I arrived in Salzburg, Austria, to meet my family. The unfortunate people had to hug me. At first they just discreetly breathed through their mouths or stood a few feet away or stayed upwind from me or prayed, but eventually my mom (who else?) said it: So, Anna... when was the last time you did laundry? And Grandma added: What kind of laundry detergent are you using, because I have some really strong stuff I could lend you. And Valerie suggested: Why don't we leave our shoes out in the hall? And Maddie said: Yeah, you kind of stink.

I was wounded. How horrible! I was a plague to the noses of the Salzburg people. So I decided to do them all a favor and step up my lifestyle a few notches. I was socializing with people I knew after three months of strangers, I was sleeping in a pension after three months of hostels, and I was eating rich food in restaurants after three months of sandwiches. It was time to smell good, too!

Unfortunately my perception of cleanliness has become skewed, because on Day 2 with the Family, when we all went out to a concert in the fortress, and after we had enjoyed a delicious dinner starting with cream soup and ending with mousse, I threw up.

Grandma says that prisoners can't be fed regular food immediately after being released from jail because their stomachs must adjust after prison fare. Probably mine needed to do the same thing.

I smelled worse than ever. My mom banned me from restaurant foods for awhile, but tonight she let me finish her pumpkin soup! I think it was a reward because I did more laundry today. Slowly but surely she is recivilizing her daughter.

Count it as a blessing that blogs transmit only words and not smells. Appreciate not gagging when you talk to your friends and family. Approach me with caution when I come home in three weeks.




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