I arrived in London for an extended visit earlier this summer and I felt like an explorer. 6 weeks, that’s how long I’d have in the city the Romans set up almost 2,000 years prior. I felt like an explorer, as I rode the train to my friends’ flat with excitement for what was in store. And when I arrived there, they handed me the greatest gifts.
A bed. A bike. Community. And their friendship. The last one wasn’t new, but it is what held the rest of those together, it was the mortar.
It’s immensely popular to travel right now. People have in their hearts and minds that traveling will do something wonderful for them—unlocking some hidden doors into their best life. They pack their rolling luggage with all the travel accessories, Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes, and Exofficio underwear it can hold and make way to wander—looking for adventure. And while the desire for journeying isn't necessarily a wrong thing, travel can be hard. It’s not often as glamorized as people say it is.
From my window seat, the view of Vienna was pretty dissimilar to the picture I had in my mind of the millenniums-old city. Instead of finding a city nestled cozily in valleys surrounded by granite Alpen peaks, I found a city that looked like it had been spilled out flat east of the Alps, in-between the foothills and the mighty Danube River.
Although the expectation of seeing a mountain-city was the only one I really had, I emptied myself of any other expectations I might hold and dedicated my time there to simply embracing whatever I experienced.
As I was just in Europe for 2 1/2 months, there were a few items that were just what I needed to help make my time the most excellent.
Northern Europe overwhelmed me. Not because of the cold (I had an Arc'teryx fleece and Outdoor Research down jacket to go along with my down sleeping bag), but because—as I explored Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—there was something about it that seemed so foreign, though I’d been to Europe a few times already. There in the north, it feels far from the rest of Europe. And for Norway and Sweden, the language family was different than I’d ever heard widely spoken.
My only education of Germany was from history class in high school, so my main narrative on it was that it was the “bad guy” in both world wars. I hadn’t met any Germans at that point, I didn’t like the German food I’d had, the language seemed too extreme for me, and people seemed too black-and-white in their thinking, whereas I lived more in the gray. So, I figured I’d take a pass on Germany and learn about the rest of Europe.
I didn’t hate Germany, I just didn’t like it very much.
When I was younger and I heard the name “Luxembourg,” I couldn’t help but wonder more about it. “What is this small country?” “Why hadn’t I heard of it often in my history classes?” “What was its story?” To me it was a mystery. So, when I was in neighboring Germany, I bought a ticket directly into the cloudy haze that was Luxembourg.
I stuffed my sleeping bag and toiletries bag in my pack and trained from Stuttgart to Koblenz and then hopped on the train directly to Luxembourg City. It was, first and foremost, the nicest train I’d ever been on. Crisp, clean, efficient, quiet, large window, bright, comfortable, updated schedule on the screen that was simple to understand. Other trains are nice, but this basic transportation train into Luxembourg was far-and-away the best I’ve yet ridden on.
After writing a post about 10 of my favorite large U.S. city parks, I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favorites from other countries. These are parks that I’ve visited outside the USA, that are all larger than 100 acres, and that are absolutely delightful. Here are the second 5:
When I packed for my trip to Europe, I sat two vital items aside on my bed. These weren’t necessary for me to get anywhere, nor did they make sure I was properly adorned. They were strictly for my personal comfort. Climbing harness. Climbing shoes.
Six years ago, I pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot in Clermont, Florida to meet my maternal grandfather for the first time. He was taller than I expected and had a high hairline (damnit), but was otherwise fairly normal. I also learned, over the course of our conversation, that he was of French heritage. I was surprised, never knowing that I had any French “blood.” Sometime later, my mother found old family-tree documents from her mother’s side that told us of more French affiliation in our veins.