Europe Journey 2015 – 46 days, 6 countries
The best way to discover more about yourself is to step away from familiar surroundings and travel to new places as far away from home as you can imagine.
Our recent trip that closely followed an eight-week trip to Europe last year felt like a continuation or a second chapter of travel.
The weather was perfect during our trip last year (chapter one) and when the sun shines everything sparkles. We visited areas of Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Italy. I loved the newness and discovery of things I’d only heard about or seen in photos and felt like an excited child opening presents on Christmas morning. No matter how advanced photographic technology has become I discovered it is impossible to fully capture nature’s beauty. Printed images lack depth and appear overlaid with an unnatural filter. You need to physically experience the magnificence of nature and the world using all your senses. Standing beneath the majestic Alps in Switzerland under a cloudless sky breathing in the crisp mountain air was electrifying and woke me from a hibernation from life. During the first chapter almost everything seemed magical. On reflection this wasn’t always true but it is how it felt at the time.
During our latest trip (chapter two) we travelled around the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. This time the weather was mostly gloomy and cold despite travelling at exactly the same time as last year. The first nine days it rained most days and the sky remained grey making it difficult to plan sight-seeing activities. However in Paris the sun shone in a cloudless sky for three days allowing discovery and appreciation of everything this cosmopolitan city offers. As quickly as the sun appeared it again disappeared on the morning we left Paris and for the rest of our trip only ever appeared intermittently amongst a whole lot of rain and fog.
During chapter two we felt the tension bubbling in countries trying to limit entry of refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War. Although we don’t speak French or German we sensed this issue causing anxiety in European countries. At the border entry to Germany from Austria we sat in a traffic queue kilometres long while 10 police peered into every car and truck wanting to gain entry into Germany. The mood was somber and apprehensive.
My highlight of chapter two was seeing the Lippizan stallions perform at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, our days in Paris, visiting Salzburg and the storybook surrounding Austrian countryside. I also adored the bright floral window boxes and obvious house proudness of the Austrian and German people.
Chapter one was akin to falling in love for the first time and during chapter two it became like an old love that deepened and become more realistic. Although the level of excitement was subdued during chapter two I enjoyed the countries and places we visited more than I did on our first trip. I related to life in France more than I did in Italy and saw much more of Austria and Germany, which I adore, during chapter two.
During chapter one I felt like I was floating on air but in chapter two I thought about things on a deeper level. I imagined how the two world wars must have affected the people who lived in the places I visited. I thought about how the refugees must feel fleeing from their country to an alien land where people speak a foreign language and don’t seem to want to provide the required assistance. I thought about how living in another country is so different yet so familiar. I had more time to think about how I see myself in relation to the world. Although the two trips occurred only one year apart I feel wiser after our second chapter of European travel.
Travelling is fascinating but travelling is also hard work. It puts you outside your comfort zone and challenges you not only to cope with obstacles and disappointments but also to enjoy yourself and learn from new experiences. Travelling with my husband of almost 30 years is a joy and has strengthened our already rock solid relationship. We compliment each other like yin and yang.
Despite the contrasting nature of both trips I’ve loved the entirety of the two chapters of our European travel. I’m proud I accepted the challenge to experience all that both trips provided. I’ve learnt much about the world but more importantly I’ve learnt much about myself. However I’m tired after travelling 46 days this trip and 44 days last year and want to return to my home and familiar life which I now have an even greater appreciation for.
Something deep down inside tells me that there will not be a chapter three but I’ve learnt that nothing is definitive and that only time will tell.