Time for a recharge and a little reflection
I have been travelling for two months now. My journey so far has taken me from Belgium, to the Netherlands, Poland, Latvia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Austria and finally to Slovenia, where I am staying in an old monastery in a tiny town nestled in the mountains. It has been a wonderful journey so far... I have seen some beautiful and inspiring places, many of which I never thought I would see. But it has been tiring and challenging at times, so I am taking some time to recharge and reflect in this quiet and peaceful place, often with just the wind as my company.
On my website I welcome everyone to follow me as I chronicle the next chapter in my life - a chapter filled with travel and new places, adventure, new friends and new experiences, including new food and new ways of giving back and helping others. A new life but with familiar elements.
So how's my 'new life but with familiar elements' coming along?
I have definitely managed to fit in quite a bit of travel in two months - 3 flights, 2 trains (not including ones taken on day trips), 4 buses (including 2 overnight ones) and countless city buses, trams and metros (including taking the metro to and from the deepest underground station in the world). I have stayed in 10 different cities and added 9 countries to my tally.
Travelling itself is an adventure. Travelling in countries where you don't speak the language even more so. And travelling by yourself, in countries where you don't speak the language, yeah that can be quite an adventure! But I have managed. Has it been easy? not always. Have I felt overwhelmed? absolutely. But I push on because 'if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you'. And, as my former mousepad said 'life begins at the end of your comfort zone'. But I haven't had any 'real adventures' on this journey so far. Haven't mushed a dog sled or swam with sharks, no truly epic road trips (although as I am finding out, Slovenia is a beautiful country to be driving around), haven't made it yet to Monte Carlo to gamble or Italy to see an opera at La Scala... so many things left on my bucket list. I am confident the 'big' adventures will happen. For some it's just a matter of time. Some I may not get to on this journey, or ever. And I'm sure that I will add some that were never on the bucket list to begin with. That's the beauty of a journey like this - the fluidity, openness, just going where the mood takes me and being open to opportunities.
For me, trying new food is a no brainer. But as much I have enjoyed the local food so far, including the pastries and ice cream!, I have to say it hasn't really challenged my palette. Largely meat based cuisines, the seasonings may be slightly different, but borsch or goulash tastes a lot like beef stew, and to some degree, a sausage is a sausage. But I know that food will get more challenging as I move on from Europe. And, as someone noted from my Instagram posts, I have been able to eat pizza in quite a few places!
I have yet to volunteer or find a way to give back (and providing travel help to a group of Americans on the train from Salzburg doesn't count, although I do hope it brings me good 'travel' karma!). But I didn't expect to be volunteering at this point. That will definitely come. And it is a part of this journey that I am really looking forward to.
New friends was a bit challenging at first. I joined several online travel groups and posted in several cities a 'hey, I'm here, anyone wanna hang out' message a few times, but apart from meeting a couple of guys to see a cabaret show in Brussels, had no success - yet. I have made connections with a few women who live in places still on my radar so hopefully those online connections will become real at some point. But I have found the most success in making new friends the old fashioned way - just striking up a conversation. I went to an Air BnB experience (their word) in Prague, listening to some local musicians play some jazz in a converted old printing shop and met Keather, a woman from the US who was in Germany for business and had decided to go to Prague for the weekend. A fellow accountant and traveller, we had a great time listening to some great music and then met up the next day for dinner and to kiss a bronze babies ass for good luck! At the train station in Vienna I met Kate, who was also on her way to Salzburg. Also from the US, she travels a lot personally and professionally as a flight attendant, and we road tripped in Austria and Germany for a couple of days before we went our separate ways. I'm sure my path will cross with one, hopefully both, of these awesome ladies again on my journey. And finally meeting 3 guys from Serbia my first night in Slovenia - sharing pizza, beers, (okay, beer - singular - for me), and a lot of laughs hanging out at the monastery. In fact, I changed my plans and I am heading to Belgrade after Slovenia to explore that city and hang out some more. And it has been these connections made in the past few weeks that have made me feel like I am settling in to my new life, like I am starting to hit my stride.