My true love for my husband was unearthed in a day spent traveling from Frankfurt to Prague.
This article was adapted from a series of text messages sent to Zach on May 27
Maddie's Diary: Part 1
Today I skipped breakfast and walked to the train station in Langen to catch the 9:34 to Frankfurt South. As I walked with my suitcase, I realized one of the wheels was loose. I was just 15 feet out the door, having begun a 3-week trip around Europe, and already the suitcase teetered on the edge of breaking. I wasn’t about to go back upstairs and transfer everything into the other suitcase, so this was my life.
I got to Frankfurt no problem, but mornings are the hardest for me to fast through. I always wake up starving, but it's so rewarding to push through it and get a head start on the day. Nonetheless, I had to get myself a sandwich. I chose the one that looked like the least amount of calories - a sliced hard boiled egg on rye bread with ham and cheese. I threw out half the sandwich, fished out the egg yolks, and ripped out at least 50 calories of cheese. I estimated, on the high side, 200 calories.
On the train, I spent the entire three-hour ride setting up a Pinterest account. Recently, I've put a lot of thought into how to make the blog successful. After reading article after article about how build an audience, it was clear that social media was the common denominator. This, combined with the conversation Zach and I had about Instagram, got me thinking. Maybe I'm willing to concede on my no-social media stance, without having to really concede. The articles I read suggested Pinterest, along with the other usual platforms, as a good medium to grow readership for a blog.
Pinterest is an interesting social media platform. I’ve never used it, but it appears more detached than the others, less social. Honestly, it seems like my kind of social media. I spent a good two hours curating a Pinterest account on the train. I went back and fourth on the bio, studied other travel blogs' pages on Pinterest (wow, there are a lot), and followed a handful of people. I think I might actually scroll through my feed from time to time to understand how other blogs manage their accounts. I also subscribed to a few other blogs' newsletters. I’m going to do this right.
I got to Regensburg around 1:30 pm and had 40 minutes to switch trains. Zach should be up around this time in Montreal, because he's driving home to Burlington today. I don't think we'll have much communication seeing as both of us are traveling all day. I browsed around the most lovely Edeka grocery store in the world and got myself what ended up being a sub-par salad. I also got two of those peach drinks that I've been obsessed with lately. After I consumed everything, I was at 550 calories and it was quarter after two. I had no food for the four-hour train ride to come, so I'll roll up to Prague at 6:30 pm, still at 550. Excellent.
On the train to Prague, I quickly discovered there was no Wi-Fi. Correction - there actually was, but it had no internet connection. I tried to hotspot my computer, but for some reason that wasn’t working. With the Pinterest account finished, I was excited to actually write some content the way to Prague. Instead, I pivoted to reading my new favourite blog, Smart Blogger.
After a few minutes, my phone lost service, so I listened to music. The first train ride went by so quickly because I was focused on something. This train to Prague is an hour longer than the last, and it just started. No Wi-Fi and no data. Great.
Over time, I realized that we were just going in and out of cellular service areas, so my data went out every ten minutes for what ended up being the entire ride. This was fine, because as long as I could load a web page, I could read it through a dead zone. For the entire train ride, I thought very high-level about the blog, came up with an audience profile, and learned more about writing. It’s actually crazy - I’ve put a lot of hours into the blog these past few days, but I haven’t actually written anything. At the same time, it feels like I’ve made a lot of progress with it. I’m psyched.
Maddie's Diary: Part 2
I'm hungry. I wanted to explore all of the wonderful shops and bakeries at the Prague station, but my coach's friend, a stranger who generously offered me her spare room in Prague, was waiting for me. She sent me her location, texted me where she was, and sent me a picture of what she was looking at so I could find her. There was no time.
We met by the entrance and she gave me an awkward hug that included the handle of my suitcase. I was nervous, but made an effort to be sweet and personable. I think I did a good job. I asked her a lot of questions because I could tell she likes to talk, and I was genuinely interested in what she has to say. As she drove me to the gym (where the second car was), we talked about her cats and her job and how she slept at the climbing gym last night with a group of children. We got to the gym and I jumped into the other car to follow her home. I had to drive 30 minutes in a country I've never driven in before, with a big white manual kidnapper van. All things considered, I really earned myself a pat on the back.
The drive into her town is beautiful. Most of the drive, I wove through tunnels of trees, punctuated by huge, open fields of grass. I passed a car in the oncoming lane at most once every 5 minutes. It was a nice re-introduction to Czechia. After we arrived, she told me her town has a population of just 400 people. And I thought Langen was small…
Her house is small too. Small and quaint. She moved in almost two years ago, but has been waiting to renovate. Because of that, it's quite hectic.
She’s a professional climber, but hasn’t climbed since October because of a medical condition. In her house tour, she showed me all of the hangboards, splatter walls, and other training apparatuses she has. It’s actually crazy. She actually built a little outdoor wall that has adjustable angles. She was so excited to show it to me, probably because it doesn't get much use these days.
When she showed me how to adjust the wall, she threw her hand through a spider web to adjust the strap like it was nothing. I crossed my fingers that this didn't mean anything about the house. Sure enough, later that evening I spotted a huge spider in the top right corner of the bathroom. This wouldn't normally be a big deal, but this bathroom is literally a closet, so the spider was dangerously close to my face. When I got out, I asked her to kill the spider because there was no way I'd go back in there without an elevated heart rate. She collected it from its web and placed it outside. From then on, I was on high alert. More spiders are in here, and I don't look forward to finding them.
At 8:00 pm, I'm still at 550 calories. She asked me if I wanted to join her for dinner. I wanted to say no. I wanted to clock in a crazy low-calorie day, but I wanted to be friendly. I said yes. I probably had 400 more calories for dinner, so we clocked in about 950 for the day. Still not bad.
Over dinner, we got into it. She's getting married next month, so she told me about the proposal and her wedding parties she has coming up. It was impossible not to tell her about Zach and how we got married recently. She was shocked about every part of the story - engaged for 2 weeks, 21 years old, 10 months together, immediately moved to Germany... Well into her 30's, and about a year into her engagement, she's more of your classic bride-to-be.
Now it’s 10:30 pm and I haven’t really talked to Zach all day. I enjoyed discussing him over dinner, but I was careful not to say too much, not to feel too much. When I said that we got engaged after just 10 months of dating, I made sure to mention that I also thought it was crazy, or at least I would have if you told me five years ago. I never thought I would get married so quickly. In Canada, the trend is to not to get married - at any age. But to do it so fast and so young, it certainly caught her off guard, and I completely understood why.
Since we got married almost four months ago, I can't stop seeing the optics of it all. I can't stop seeing it from her point of view. It's still so unusual. Like I said, I never would have guessed this is how it would play out. I never thought I would meet someone so young, and know almost immediately that he was the love of my life. But we were young. I figured we would stay together for years, and eventually take the leap when we were older - maybe with higher paying jobs.
About three months into our relationship, in an effort to up the ante on a game we were playing, we put getting married to chance. On the count of three, we both said a random number between 1 and 500, and if it was the same number, we would get married.
We both said 399.
I mention this because I can vividly remember how I felt in the moment I realized he said 399 as well. It was dread. It felt too real. It's one thing to say you're not ready, but it's another to get backed into a corner, forced to admit how you truly feel. Married at 20, after three months of dating? That can't happen. It was all fun and games until it wasn't.
It went without saying that we couldn't actually get married, and it literally did go without saying for another seven months or so. But still - the same number? I don't believe in fate, but I can be convinced of anything.
Nonetheless, I stopped thinking about marrying Zach and instead focused on him. Through all of our travelling, living together, training together, somewhere along the way, he became indispensable to me. I cried all night over ice cream when he caught a cold and had to stay home while I flew to Indonesia for a World Cup. He watched me sprain my ankle and carried me around the house for a week when I couldn't walk. He gave me Covid, so we sat on the couch for a week and drank nothing but bubble tea. One night, we stayed awake until 5 in the morning, talking. He was perfect. We were perfect.
When someone like this comes along, it’s not about the timing. When you have such a deep rooted certainty about someone, you throw out everything else and just focus on that. At 10 months, there came a day where the idea of getting married wasn’t scary or crazy anymore, not with Zach. I was 21 years old and helplessly in love. We married within three weeks of getting engaged. There were no fancy wedding invitations, expensive dresses, or candle-lit aisles on the beach. All I wanted in the world was to be his wife.
Of course, I didn’t say all this to her.
I think I got the general idea across though, without giving too much of the impression that he's the only thing on my mind when I find myself alone with my thoughts. I remember on the drive into town, I looked up at the Sun (as much as a person can) and thought to myself, Zach's out there getting illuminated by this very same Sun. Maybe he finds himself looking at it too, so we’re both looking at the Sun at the same time, even though we're on different continents.
But here in my diary I can say all this because it's just me. And should someone else read this, maybe it will give the impression that I’m so extraordinarily in love with Zach. Maybe just this once, I hope it does.