Travel Journal

It takes two to tango

(Thursday 5 February 2015) by Mariken
Two years on the European road!
Two years on the European road!
My oh my, two years 'on the road'! And what better place to celebrate this joyous fact than on Kalymnos, the epitome of a relaxed, free life (for tourists, that is)? So far we have visited 27 countries, we have travelled from the most southern part of mainland Europe (Tarifa) to the (so-called) northernmost part of Europe (North Cape) and we have visited many places in between. We ate pain au chocolat in France, kanelbullar in Sweden, papanasi in Romania, lokum in Turkey, korvapuusti in Finland and pastei de nata in Portugal. I have learned to say 'hello' and 'thank you' in 24 languages so far (I am not sure whether I still remember everything), we met tons of nice, welcoming people, made lots of new friends, and experienced a fair amount of adventures, sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, sometimes a bit threatening, but always enriching. It sounds like a lifetime of experiences and it certainly is, but apart from all these new places, new people, new languages and new food, we have learned about our old life and travelling in general as well.

First of all, despite my burning wish, the 'United States of Europe' do not yet exist. The Euro might be 'from us all' and on paper borders might have disappeared, but that does not mean Europe has one single face to show the outside world. On the one hand, this is good. Cultural diversity still exists, despite upcoming generics like the Euro, identical road signs and the Decathlon (which is good, by the way. When travelling, Decathlon is your friend. Spread more please!). I seriously do not understand how Americans can 'do' Europe in two weeks. None of the countries are alike, even between countries like Norway and Sweden, where they virtually speak the same language and people originate from the same stock, the differences are striking (besides the obvious remark that Norway is not part of the EU). I like that. I like that a lot. You don't have to travel 10,000 km to discover something new, most of it is very close at home. Europe has endless possibilities and despite the two years we have been exploring it, there are still tons of new places to discover. B-)

Sometimes that diversity turns against you. There is still a lot of distrust between countries, most notably between EU and non-EU (with the exception perhaps of Norway and Switzerland and their neighbours), but also between former enemies, now (forced) allies. According to Bulgarians Romanians are not to be trusted and vice versa. And what to think of that time when we had to unpack everything (yes, every individual sock was examined) at the Montenegrin-Croatian border, just because we had travelled through Albania, apparently a rat hole infested with alcoholics, criminals and drug dealers? And even the open-border policy of the Schengen states has its drawbacks, albeit not for us. Many of our new non-European friends spend a lot of time during their travels counting days, as they only get a 90-day Schengen visa, after which they have to spend another 90 days outside of the Schengen region. But that region keeps growing and growing, which forces many overseas tourists to either travel faster, plan tighter or simply miss out on many countries. Sometimes travelling sounds like work!

That last remark was obviously not meant in a serious way, but the paperwork involved in travelling can be daunting. While your average iPhone has nowadays travelled freely between 20 countries before it landed on your desk (not to mention the amount of countries your chicken fillet has gone through before you ate it!), for us people it becomes harder and harder. Because there is a small minority of nut-cases out there, the freedom to travel, to learn, to experience, to see, to love of 7 billion people is severely limited and becomes more so every day. We wanted to see the other side of the Atlantic but uninformed distrust prevented us from fulfilling that dream. That still makes me sad. Especially because whenever we explain to people what we are doing everyone is positively impressed, genuinely interested and generally very supportive. Apart from that time at the US consulate, we have never experienced a negative reaction when we tell about our travels. It seems that everybody loves travels, even when they do not actively travel themselves. Then why make it so hard sometimes? :-\

On the other hand, the fact that we stayed in Europe (with a small detour through Turkey) has allowed us to be present at certain moments that were important to others. That makes us happy too as travelling does put a strain on the social life you once had. Even though we make new friends, we miss the old ones. It's as simple as that.

Life is about finding a balance, because there are so many beautiful things in life, that one lifetime is not enough to experience them all. Travelling broadens your horizon, not only in the literal sense of the word, but also in a spiritual way. It helps you to discover what your priorities are, what you love most in life and what you could do without. Every day is different, every day presents a new opportunity to make a choice. I am grateful for those past two years, with all its ups and downs. So far, it has been a life-changing experience.

To come to an end: did we do anything special today to celebrate? Well, Miltos is still closed, so instead I made a 'road-classic': pasta with tomato-sauce, sardines and freshly gathered Kalymnian herbs. :-p And we went climbing today, in a sector with a very symbolic name: Arhi, which means 'The Beginning'. :-D

  • reflectie by Marianne
  • Tekst weg by Bibiche
    • Zonde by Mariken
  • 2 jaar alweer! by Marije

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