Flying from Melbourne Australia to Frankfurt airport then driving around Europe for seven weeks is the most daring and exhilarating thing my husband and I have done. As my first time traveling to Europe I loved feeling free while exploring the complete unknown. Our Europe trip awakened my senses, swept the cobwebs from my mind and made me feel alive which surprised me because initially I was reluctant to go. Breaking away from my routine life took courage as I was apprehensive about leaving my loved ones and fearful of uncertainty.
After 22 hours flying plus a three-hour layover in Hong Kong we staggered out of the plane at unimpressive Frankfurt airport. With minimal instruction we collected the car and were on our way. It felt like being in a car rally with wrong turns, dead ends and misinterpreted instructions from the unfamiliar GPS system. Miraculously and triumphantly we found our way to Sankt Goar our first destination.
One of my most vivid travel memories happened on the first day while enjoying a celebratory arrival drink on a balcony overlooking the Rhine River. As I sipped my glass of wine a wave of emotion washed over me with a mixture of exhaustion, bewilderment and exhilaration knowing I’d faced and conquered my trepidation.
Travel is about savoring unique moments that take your breath away. My favourite travel recollections consist of emotions, vulnerabilities, challenges and brief moments of clarity. The aim for tourists I saw visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a posed photo of themselves rather than appreciating the phenomenon of the building which I thought was disappointing. A famous icon I hold dear in my travel recollections is Michelangelo’s David that cast a mysterious spell and captivated my imagination at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. For an instant the world stopped as I stood transfixed and drawn to David’s majesty and light.
Switzerland was my favourite country on our trip as it appeals to my sense of beauty and tranquility. Her snow-topped Alps watching over the valleys, her endless rolling grassy hills, her widespread ordered vineyards, her picture perfect houses with blooming flower boxes and the serenity of her lakes make Switzerland a perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. It comforts me to know that whatever else is going on in the world the cows in Switzerland nonchalantly keep munching grass and their cowbells never stop tinkling.
It was in Switzerland I faced physical challenge and proved to myself that a change of attitude can change an outcome. After a long-term knee injury and subsequent operation I’d become tentative about taking part in strenuous exercise. At Grindalwald I decided to hike a 10km mountain trek and resolved to face whatever the terrain presented. The surrounding scenery was spectacular and it’s beauty breathtaking. I was in awe of the imposing Alps standing proud in the sunny blue sky and believed anything was possible in such a magnificent setting. The track was uneven, steep and often precarious but my determination remained strong to the last step. Never did I doubt I would complete the trek. I went on to complete several other strenuous hikes and climbs on our trip but none are as memorable as the first conquest. Grindalwald will always remain my Everest.
Italy remains dear to me for its culture, rugged landscape, history and delicious food. We gained a wide-ranging perspective of Italy by driving and staying in the Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany and Lazio regions. I loved the vitality of Lake Como, the tranquility of the wine region, the history surrounding the medieval towns, the rarity of the rugged towns carved into rock at Cinque Terre and discovering city life in Como, Florence, Sienna and Rome.
Two waterside towns in Italy remain prominent in my travel highlights. The first is Lake Como where we caught the ferryboat from Cernobbio to Bellagio on a sunny day making the lake sparkle with life. It was a simple and perfect day spent taking in the splendor of the scenery, enjoying a delicious unhurried meal at a table right beside the lake in Bellagio then leisurely strolling through the town and returning on the ferryboat in the late afternoon. My heart swells with happiness knowing we shared this magical day together. The second waterside town I remember tenderly is Portavenere where we spent three glorious days exploring the Mediterranean seaside towns of Cinque Terre.
Traveling to Europe provided the chance to disconnect from regular life and shape an alternate mindset about the world and my life. During our adventures we shared many special moments that bind my husband and I even closer together than when we set out. I loved how traveling made us feel young and vulnerable again.
Not surprisingly everything on the home front continued to run smoothly while we were away and upon our return it felt like time had stood still. It took some time to settle back into everyday life because I did not come back the same person that walked out the door.
Our trip 2014