The setting was a hostel in Krakow, Poland, the time was late and the vision slightly blurry but the bones were tingling with excitement. The reason was simple- we had just had one of those moments that makes you believe in travel. We had no idea what we were going to do the next day or where we were going to sleep the following night. Luckily for us though some gods were smiling at us or some stars were twinkling in our direction for we had just met some great people from New Zealand the previous week which lead to us intuitively booking a flight with them from Krakow to Paris the following morning – leaving 8 hours later. Decision made. No turning back. Looks like we aren’t going to the Baltic Sea anymore sorry Annie.
Let me rewind a little to put this series of fortuitous events into some sort of context. Due to my severe ineptitude in updating this blog the wider context will need a whirlwind tour that provides but a glimpse into the past two months of mine and Annie’s life. In case my writing or my life bores you then this is the bit where you should skip ahead to the section at the end where I get a bit emotionally philosophical. Otherwise – for those still reading – here goes.
I finished my time in London on the 28th which was bittersweet – bitter because I love London and all the friends I made there but oh so sweet because I was able to begin travelling with Annie again. After meeting in Sevilla we proceeded to catch the ferry across the Strait to Morocco. I found Morocco quite difficult mainly because the people were ingenuous and from the ages of 5 to 85 seemed to be money grabbers, but travelling is much more of a subjective experience than objective so to do Morocco justice and to read all about its delights please see Regan’s country profile here.
Thankfully for me, time whisked us away from Morocco after only a few days and we were met in Barcelona by Annie’s parents. For those who have caught airplanes to places where nobody picks you up, you will understand how lonely it can sometimes feel to walk out the gates past a sea of eager people waiting for their loved ones and into the abyss of a new city that does not care whether you are there or not. Fortunately in this instance we were met with the loving arms of John and Susie, put straight into a car and drove up the coast. Three weeks later and we had ventured into France – merely touching its beauty, road tripped around southern Spain, explored Barcelona, ate copious amounts of tapas and drank beer until our hearts were content and our livers were not. But with flights booked and places to go time was of the essence and before the clock struck midday on the 23rd of June Annie and I had landed in Budapest and begun exploring a new city.
When travelling I often hear many competing views on places and cities, some love a place whilst others hate it, so I normally take every opinion add a grain of salt to it and then throw that opinion into my back back pocket where it stays. However every single person I talked to about Budapest absolutely raved about it – the consensus was unanimous: Budapest is amazing. With such high expectations I was bracing myself to be let down. It is rare to find a place that can live up to its reputation so emphatically but that is exactly what Budapest did! The place is alive with music and art, beautiful buildings and a brutal history, raw landscapes and top notch beer. If you’re planning a Eurotrip then make sure Budapest is on your itinerary.
Moving forward on our whirlwind of a blog tour we then walked across the Hungarian border into Slovakia before been picked up by our new host family that we had signed up to work for on their camping property for a while. We spent the week working a few hours a day, doing odd jobs around the property in return for free board and free food. It was a fun week of time away from cities and civilization but we began to get itchy feet so we packed up our things, found a main road, stuck our thumbs out and hoped for the best. 4 cars and 300km later we had hitchhiked across Slovakia.
To tell the facts and none of the flavor we then hiked for a few days, visited Auschwitz (separate blog to come on this,) had a terrible trip to Prague -the city seems to have lost its charm – fled to Vienna to stay with some friends where we had a wonderful few days of chatting, eating, sleeping and drinking before driving the 10 hours back into Poland to begin work on a Polish summer camp. This brings us a bit closer to the present day.
We entered this camp having little to no idea what to expect. Thankfully, every other worker was exactly the same. We were tucked away in a mountain range that formed part of the Polish wilderness. It was a full English immersion program for the Polish teenage participants. Any trepidation we had about the camp was quickly and swiftly eradicated as we had such a fun week mentoring kids, teaching English and connecting with our fellow workers. It was both exhausting and thrilling. It was timely luck that brought us there and luck that took us away. The camp could have been real bad if the kids weren’t so awesome and it could have been even worse if we didn’t get along with the fellow workers. But get along we did. And how!
So often in travelling you meet wonderful people but say goodbye to them before you can solidify a friendship. Thankfully this was a much different scenario. Many of us kept travelling to Krakow together after the camp. It just so happened to work out that we are all as clueless as each other when it comes to organizing our travel plans which meant we each had a blank slate in where to go next. After a great couple of days in Krakow together which is another must do if you’re planning on going to Eastern Europe (you should,) 6 of us – on a whim – booked tickets to Paris to leave in a matter of hours.
For anybody who wanted to skip to the sentimental section this is the spot to pick the story back up. So far I have focused on the many positives of travelling. However, travelling does have a darker side to it too, the side that doesn’t often make the blogs or the postcards but is still ubiquitously ever present. It is the side that encompasses the real stresses every single day about spending too much money, the anxiety of being scammed, the arguments over directions, the times where you cannot find your accommodation and spend all day in the hot sun, heavy bags on back feeling like you don’t belong. It is also the heartache of missing friends and family back home and not feeling missed back. But at the end of the day travelling is the sum of all this, it is the sum of all the good and bad experiences alike, the accentuation of happiness and the deprivation of sadness. And I believe this is why I travel, not to see a sight or to take a photo but rather to take the risk of experiencing – everyday – a wonderfully and tragically full range of emotions and experiences that life has on offer – both good and bad.