I am a very lucky person. Everything I have achieved, everywhere I have been and all the opportunities that have come my way are all the result of the hard work of my parents. I could not have asked for anything more from them. One thing which I credit them for however, is their insistence on going to new places, embracing cultures and learning new things. Family holidays were cultural experiences; rarely did we ever sit on a beach for two weeks in August, it was all about sightseeing and exploring. My dad used to drag us to old forts and art galleries every other day, and despite constant complaints from me and my brothers, my fascination in history and the arts definitely stemmed from this. As I am currently situated in the northern periphery of Europe with a surprisingly large amount of spare time every week, the urge to travel to as many places as possible is strong and so far, it’s safe to say that I have succumbed to it.
Family holidays were cultural experiences; rarely did we ever sit on a beach for two weeks in August
Having not taken a gap year, this is probably my best chance to travel extensively for a solid year. If you’ve been following my posts on the blog, you would know that most of my friends are other international students, mostly from North America. For them, this is also the optimum time to take advantage of cheap inter-European flights and open borders. The allure of cities like Paris and Rome are justifiably strong, but for me, this year is about going to places which I previously would not have considered visiting before. Countries like Estonia, Latvia and Finland are quite literally on my doorstep, and although aesthetically they may seem very similar, they are still rather distinct from each other. I think that for many North American or Australian students in Sweden, although these countries are not the most attractive, they are probably the most exotic- in the sense that they are so off the radar. I remember speaking to my American friend Isaac when we were in Tallinn, Estonia and he kept repeating ‘if you’d told me last year that right now I’d be in Estonia, I wouldn’t have believed you at all’ (or something along those lines.) To go to these places is to explore somewhere completely new and it’s almost guaranteed that in his lifetime, he will visit places like Paris, London and Rome because that’s what all tourists do. Where they don’t tend to go is off the beaten track. Evidently, Eastern Europe is far off the path well-travelled.
The planet is littered with natural and manmade wonders…
My favourite trips are usually spent in cities, where the old and new collide to create bubbles of diversity. Aimlessly wandering through the bustling streets to occasionally arch the neck towards a tall, and usually religious structure, and thinking to myself ‘somebody actually built this’ never ceases to intrigue me. However, as Northern Europe is covered in vast forests and snowy mountains, it seems fitting that my favourite trip whilst being in Sweden has been visiting the fjords in Norway. Having seen numerous amazing pictures of them online, I could not have even fathomed how utterly beautiful they were in real life. The rolling mountains were coated by a thick mist which looked like something from The Lord of the Rings, the water shimmered as the sun peered from behind the clouds and the crisp, fresh air was like nothing which I had experienced before. Arching my neck and saying to myself ‘nobody actually built this’ reminded me of the power of mother nature, and has left me wanting to see more. The planet is littered with natural and man-made wonders and prioritising one over the other is seemingly one of the hardest things which I will have to consider when visiting new places.
Travelling opens up the mind to new societies, new cultures and new ideas. It straddles the line of inclusivity and exclusivity. To journey to different places is to challenge yourself and to becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable. It is diving in at the deep end, it is learning to ride a bike, it is graduating out of university, it is achieving the impossible. It is amazing.