Under Gibraltar’s starry skies

A moment lived in India by Stefano Scilipoti, a traveller from Italy

That day we were damn tired. We were able to chase and catch a bus from Malaga after an awful night. We had slept on the beach. Our bones were such damp we could hear our joints cracking at the slightest movement. We slept clutching our little pouches with essential goods, as we had left the backpacks in the railway station’s lockers. However, in the early morning, Patrick got robbed of his one. It was probably ten minutes or one hour afterward that he groggily opened his eyes to find that the little bag was missing. Then, we were lucky. It seems absurd, but the guy who clearly stole the bag was leaning on a jumble of deckchairs smoking a big joint. And it was keeping it just under his legs. We couldn’t have met a more stupid thief. Well, Patrick angrily headed toward this guy, and he didn’t move at all. Once there, he just asked the pouch back. The stoner guy just let it, trying to say that he found the bag there, obviously lying. Incredibly, checking that everything was still inside – mobile phone and wallet above all, nobody would like to spend a couple of weeks in the Italian embassy trying to have an ID card back – Patrick noticed that only the money was missing, and he walked back to us. I was still clumsily looking for my glasses, which I managed to find a minute later. Francesco, the only Spanish speaker among us, asked the guy to have the money back, with no result. At least, we had everything necessary to fetch our backpacks and head to the next destination. Lesson one: never sleep on a Spanish beach with anything valuable.

After that little hitch, we had a hearty breakfast and another short nap on a random park. A short nap, that means it was almost lunch. Fortunately, we found a cheap bakery where we had a big sandwich with an ice cold beverage for few euros. We finally fetched our backpacks and yes, let’s come back to the bus. After few hours, passing by a myriad of pueblos, we reached La LÍnea de la cóncepcion.

Actually I don’t remember why the bus was stopping right there, but that was it. It was 3 am: not even in the most desolated city we were expecting such a silence. Just the wind was loudly blowing toward the sea. We spent a good time lying on the windy beach, then we entered Gibraltar. Of course, we didn’t know where to sleep, but the idea was that: the airport. We slowly strolled there. Francesco started talking with a guard, asking if it was safe sleeping there. The answer was…bad: it would be closed at night, and even worst, he didn’t recommend the beach as a good place where to rest. At that point, the only option seemed to be sleeping standing on our feet. Furthermore, I was the only one without a sleeping bag, and I was not really in a good mood to screw my bones again, now that they were recovering. Incredibly, the guard went off for a few minutes and he came back with a sleeping bag: he just gave it to me. Damn, in that moment it was like I had just been given 1000 euros!

Even in summer time, Gibraltar can be very nasty at night. We had it. A sleeping bag, a good one! We had our typical dinner with canned squids, mackerels and a stony slice of bread. To drink, a 30°C beer. The night was coming and we had to rest, the day next we had planned to go up on the Rock of Gibraltar. Patrick was too scared – understandable – to have another night outside, please, not two in a row. So we found the only youth hostel in that place, and we spent half an hour chatting with the owner, a Spanglish speaker. We left Patrick and our phones charging there. We were now in two, it was one o’clock then, and we still had to find a place where to sleep. Smoking a cigarette, we went up. And up. And up. Among masonic houses and obscure alleyways, we reached the entrance of a church: the question was now whether to sleep on a bench or find a more hidden place.

We moved forward. Few steps later, I craned my neck over a short wall: there was a paved futsal pitch. Apparently, it was the only choice. Better than nothing! We stepped into slightly forcing the lock. We carefully chose the most hidden corner and we finally took the backpacks off our shoulders. I unrolled my new sleeping bag, the mattress, and Francesco unwrapped his, to be used as a light blanket. I had a very last pinch of my Old Holborn tobacco and I rolled the last cigarette for the two of us. Finally, I stretched on the downy sleeping bag and I squeezed myself to make room for my friend. We were tired but awkwardly happy. I looked up. We were under Gibraltar’s starry skies.

This traveller has a blog : Forever travelling

credit photo : Stefano Scilipoti

A Taste of the Scottish Highlands

A moment lived in Scotland by Shelly Rodriguez, a traveller from USA

I am sitting on a bus, breathing the recycled tepid air from the broken air conditioner. We got lost on the way to the bus tour so I wound up squeezed shoulder to shoulder exactly in the middle of four other humans on the backseat of this bus. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a family with small children has scored a window seat but none were actually looking out of it. I’m silently extremely jealous. Our bus bumbles along the lowlands of Scotland, heading north. This is my first international trip and will be my first visit into the Highlands. Craning my neck, I can see rolling hills carpeted thick with grass and dotted with sheep. I make a mental note that I cannot leave Scotland before psyching myself up to try haggis, the dish of Scotland made of spiced sheep meat boiled in a sheep stomach.

The bus pulls into the parking lot of a tiny, unnamed café, dwarfed by the mountains just beginning to tower behind it. Stepping off the bus, I hug my coat tighter around myself against the damp chill as I look around. Sheep farms flank us on all sides, seeming to stretch into infinity. Despite the dreary gray of the sky, the land seems almost to glow with the green of the vegetation and the air is sweet with petrichor. In this world, in this moment, the only two colors that exist are gray and emerald green. This place is timeless, with the only signs of human life being the meandering road we came from and the café that sits to the side of it. I buy a cup of tea from a grizzled Scottish woman, her accent as thick as her tight gray curls. Her age is indeterminate from her lined face and she brews her tea strong and bergamot-fragrant, probably the same way she’s brewed it for centuries.

We ascend into the Highlands not long after leaving the café. The hills begin to grow wild, losing the gentle slopes and exposing craggy rocks. The trees start to stretch taller and taller into the sky. It is so impossibly verdant here, an overwhelming void of every shade of green imaginable. Soon, as we officially cross into Highland territory, the trees thicken until they fill the entirety of our bus windows and blur into a leafy mass as we hurtle past. The road twists up and around the mountainous land. We crest a particularly high point, the trees clear, and time stops.

Laid out in front of us is a glen, ringed on every side by mist-wreathed mountains. Tiny waterfalls carve the mountain faces and the rain-heavy clouds hang low in the air, obscuring their true vastness and verticality. I’ve never seen anywhere so lonely and awe-inspiring. All at once, I am not in the bus anymore. I am following Frodo and Sam, pack weighty on my back and walking stick in hand, facing the daunting and impossible world. I am watching the trees and doom creep ever closer to my castle with Macbeth, unable to distinguish foe from the swirling mists. I am looking through the window of the Hogwarts Express, I am searching for the Holy Grail. All in an instant, it becomes clear why so many writers are inspired by this incredible place. Of course magic and monsters exist, we are visiting their homeland. I am hit with the realization that I really am such a small person in this great world.

Unbeknownst to me, this is merely the first glen on the ride and one of hundreds in this land. My epiphany subsides and we continue on, passing several more and spotting lochs of dark, still water within the glens. Crumbling ruins materialize on the countryside: a pile of rubble with a single wall standing here, a primitive stone tower there, an abandoned castle on the other side of that loch. It’s so forlorn here, it’s easy to forget that people have been living here since the Stone Age. The ruins are prolific, almost common, a sharp contrast to the scarce, protected, relatively young ruins in the United States.

Eventually, the bus stops and we scramble off with our umbrellas to explore another glen, Glencoe, the site of a bloody massacre between two warring clans. Later, we eat beautifully flaky fish and chips in a little fishing village way up north, then take a cruise in Loch Ness. Not even the child sitting next to us who throws up and forces us to suffer the stench for hours could dampen the excitement of the day. I’ll always remember the sensation of visiting this fairytale land. It’s truly a magical part of the world, even if experienced in the back of a crowded bus. I know that this journey was a mere taste and I know I will return someday to truly immerse myself.

Oh, and haggis? It’s not half bad.

This traveller has a blog : Tesoro and Trouvaille

credit photo : Shelly Rodriguez

What is the Wandurlust Life all about?

A moment lived in Holland by Lauren Baratt, a traveller from United Kingdom

This post is designed to give you a taste of what a wanderlust life is actually about past the words and the deep quotes. The aim is to inspire you through real life stories and photos to try something new and possibly see something that could end up changing your perspective on adventure and life.

Personally for me, Norway has given me the biggest taste of a ‘Wanderlust Life’. The country itself is beautiful and around each corner a new adventure is waiting for you. The countryside allows you to live off the land if you know how to use it. Throughout my time travelling. I have learnt and got more effective and efficient when it comes to living off the land. Within the Efjord, I scrambled to the top of a waterfall and took a ‘bath’ within one of the pools naturally created there. This was all whilst having an incredible view overlooking the stunning Efjord in front of me and a mountain behind me. The water was coming from the snow which had recently melted off the mountain so it was freezing cold (you can imagine on the nip on) but also really refreshing at the same time.

The day after a short drive down the road we came across the Sagfjorden. There were a number of small islands a short distance off the shore so we decided to kayak out to these. On the way around I found out that these islands were completely owned by the birds after being dive bombed by seagulls and the whole Norwegian bird life (that’s what it felt like). Docking up on to a less bird populated island for a little adventure and of course a photo opportunity, I found mussels on the sea bed which we collected for dinner the next day. On the way back to the main land though a few pilot whales just decided to pop up out of the water. I got super excited and started screaming to George who had already made it back to the main land in some high squeal pitch I never knew I was capable of making.

Having cleaned and soaked the mussels overnight they were ready to eat. It took about 4 hours to clean the mussels and it definitely was not the most pleasant of tasks I have completed. Tonight though we were cooking in an awe-inspiring place. Next to whirlpools. The Saltstraumen in Norway has the world’s strongest tidal current so four times a day when the tide goes in or out you can see whirlpools. Click here for whirlpool timetable. Although the whirlpools are absolutely better when the tide goes out. Witnessing the strength of nature unquestionably an astonishing thing to witness. What I enjoyed the most were the seagulls who would just float around on the whirlpools… the little things in life hey!!

So a wanderlust life, what exactly is it? Well for me a wanderlust life is a life where no plans are created. You go with the flow. Make the most of the nature around you, becoming resourceful and using it to your benefit. Not to destroy it. A life where you never know what adventure awaits around the corner. The really beauty of a Wanderlust life is that you need to discover what exactly it is for you…

This traveller has a blog : The adventure diary

credit photo : wikimedia.org

Living the High life in Holland

A moment lived in Holland by Georgina Mckimm, a traveller from United Kingdom

So like normal, I like to leave everything to the last minute, half an hour before we set off to drive to the ferry I was just getting around to sorting out my travel insurance, and my travel money card! I don’t think I will ever learn.
Then we hit the road. I say we, let me introduce Lauren who will be joining me on the road for 4 months! I have known her for about 5 years, she worked for me for a year or so before she headed off the University. We kept in touch when she left going on the occasional bike ride and meeting up for a few drinks and deep and meaningful about life, believe me, we can talk about this until the sun comes up! 4 months of pretty much 24/7 together in a VW Caddy could go either way! I’m only joking we are very similar in the way we think and look at life and she is always up for an adventure!

Having no idea what to expected from Holland other than windmills and clogs. Well, it was that and so much more, the beauty of having no destination is that if you see something you like you can literally pull up and chill there for a few days! The first epic find was the sand dunes! Who knew they had sand dunes in Holland, not me! So I did what any other normal person would do, cracked the sand board out the van and like a big kid went and played on the Dunes. It felt like I could be in a desert in the middle of nowhere it was so peaceful, the sun was beaming down, the dunes were high and steep, it was awesome going down and a bloody workout getting back up to the top! Today was definitely a leg day!
I notice that other than the dunes, there were NO HILLS IN HOLLAND! Which made it the perfect place for cycling, so when in Holland you do the right thing and explore it on 2 wheels rather than 4, the coast line goes on for miles you can literally cycle from the hook of holland all the way to the other end! The only difficulty i found with cycling in holland was putting the bikes back on the roof.
So what you learn really quickly when travelling is that there are so many beautiful people in this world, that want nothing more than your time! From day one in Holland meeting this old guy that was just on his way back to England, he was asking me about where I’m going and my plans etc and when I told him that I’m not sure, all I really know is I would like to go to Norway and Croatia. He was excited for me and began to give me all this information on Norway (where he had just come from) from the roads that were closed to the cost of the food. He even ended up giving me his map of Norway and a travel book, the hour conversation all started with one simple smile!

A few days in we had our first issue (our 10 litre water jerrycan falling off the bed as I turned a corner and hitting the side door handle snapping of the wire the open and shuts the door) So after spending a good hour or so determined to fix it myself, we set off to find a garage. The guy in the garage had a good laugh at us, and did his best to fix it so we were able to open and close it. Think he must have been there for a good 45 minutes sorting it out and didn’t charge us a penny, did it out of the kindness of his heart and I think he found it funny that we were literally a few days in and we had managed to break the door!
After exploring some pretty cool places along the coast we headed inland a bit and found ourselves in the town of Weesp, if you want to see a really cute dutch town then this is it, canals, stone cobbled pathways, street markets, windmills, countryside and lily pads. It had it all, it was so quaint and pretty.
We ended up chilling here for a few days making are selfs at home with our own little carpark all to ourselves.
One of the days we caught the train into Amsterdam. That day the rain poured and poured, so we had no other option but to sit in a coffee shop for the whole day (Yes Nan one of those coffee shops) When i say the whole day we must have been in there for a good 12 hours! I had the most incredible day filled with green teas, brownies and people watching.

If you want to see culture, diversity and the true beauty of this world. Sit in a coffee shop in Amsterdam for a day! The love and happiness that oozed out of this shop were overwhelming! It was really interesting just watching the world go by, the people that past through that day from all different ages, cultures, walks of life. From the suited and booted businessman on a 10 minutes break, to a group of Jamaicans and there backgammon board chilling for the afternoon. A few good old typical English Chav passing through to an old Columbian guy and a young hippy girl, some graduates from the USA discussing the life and ambitions with the germans that we sat on their table, Business owners sat chilling with the unemployed. It was beautiful to witness!

This traveller has a blog : Wake up to the World

credit photo : Georgina Mckimm

The mysterious northern island

A moment lived in Sweden by Lauren Barratt, a traveller from United Kingdom

To pick places to visit, George and I have a random and exciting way of choosing places. What we do is look on the map see somewhere that might be interesting and drive there. For some of you this may sound a bit risky, who knows what we will find? So many what ifs could be said about our random method. On the other hand, though it allows us to come across some incredible places with incredible people. This is the case with Bolmso Island.

After checking the map I could see an Island with a nature reserve in the middle of a lake my imagination was running wild of what exactly was on there so we set off on a two hours drive to find out. When we arrived it did not disappoint. The island was covered in a forest which looked both intriguing and also slightly eerie. Personally, forests always have more of a fear factor as you never know what is in them! Also, being in a foreign country often means most of the animals you see are completely new to you; I have seen some scary looking bugs which never would make an appearance in England! I know what you are thinking… bugs come on now Lauren you little wimp but half of them bite over here or are just ridiculously big. There are also Moose’s and Bears just to make me seem a bit harder…

Driving across the island the eeriness of it all was intensified we were driving down a beaten track road surrounded in thick forest which looked like something out of a horror film. We considered turning around but we could see on the google satellite that an amazing beach was at the end and of course being the adventurers we are the risk of murder was worth it. As the forest cleared we first came across a cute little village full of Swedish style houses which look like shacks made out of wood. It was cute here. Very different from the eeriness of the forest that surrounded it. We kept going and found our self a marina with our own private beach for the night.

We parked up and decided a chilled night in the van was on the cards, especially when the heavens opened. After a few hours though a local Swedish guy turned up we assumed he was going to ask us to move this is usually the case as campervanners are not fully welcomed everywhere especially within local villages. Instead, he surprised us, he told us about his and his families love of English people and how no one ever visits the island inviting us into his house for a few drinks. We accepted the offer, At this point, the story could go two ways
1. I’m going to tell you how I narrowly escaped being murdered in some horror film story or
2. I’m going to tell you about how they got me so drunk I spent the next two days spewing my guts up.

Off we followed him at this point we hadn’t even found his name out… arriving at the house we could see a welcoming party of about 8-9 people inside. As I walked in my first offer was a drink of rum I was practically at home! We chatted for hours and after a few too many Captain Morgans and coke (provided by the rum queen herself Lotta) I decided to make a bet with Christof and somehow ended up going for a swim in the lake around the Island. This is the last bit I remember of the night. The next morning I woke up and spewed for the whole day. Anyone who knows me well enough will know it was always going to be option 2… I still blame Lotta for my hangover! After finally recovering from my hangover we were invited to stay for a few more days which we took up. Lars was lovely enough to welcome us into his house showing us the Island, telling us his stories and just staying in a shack in the forest was refreshing. I needed refreshing after my hangover!

The Island of Bolmso is well worth a visit and if not this Island why not pick another? Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you adventuring… just make sure you take calculated risks!

This traveller has a blog : The adventure diary

credit photo : flickr.com

Inspired by Iceland

A moment lived in Iceland by Georgina Mckimm, a traveller from United Kingdom
Inspired by Iceland…
Sometimes the day to day grind of life makes you forget your passions and dreams. It makes you think, it’s all about earning lots of money to buy things you don’t actually want or need. From a young age society drills into you, it’s all about getting a good education, to get a good job, to earn lots of money, to buy a house and settle down into a life that gives you the same outcome year after year.
For me, it took 30 years and one adventure through Iceland to realise that actually this life I have been working so hard for is not the life I want to lead. Que Iceland…
I booked the flights and then brought a map of Iceland, deciding the best way for me to experience the country was to hire a campervan and drive it.
Believe me, it was an incredible way to explore the country. Witnessing the ever changing landscapes, falling asleep under the enchanting Northern lights and waking up next to the most mesmerising waterfalls.
Then one morning it hit me. I woke up stepped out of the van and sat and had my morning pee here……

I felt overcome with emotion and I felt grateful and blessed that I was there in that moment. I was peeing in the middle of nowhere, not a soul in sight watching seals potter about with their morning. I got back into the van and went through the whole if I was at home now I would have woke up in the same bedroom as I always do. I would have used the same bathroom as I always do. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could wake up to a different experience every day?

This trip literally woke me up from everything I was working towards. For the first time in 6 years I woke up without the stress of work, no phone, no emails and I felt free. Even though I had researched the island and planned to drive the ring road, no amount of planning could have prepared me for the experience this trip gave me. Yes, it was only 6 days, but I did not miss the ease of cleaning my teeth in a sink with running water. I did not miss the ease of boiling a kettle and I surprisingly didn’t miss being able to just turn the heating on when I got cold. I also 100% did not miss my phone. I really enjoyed beginning able to sit back and just appreciate what was there in front of me. I was able to appreciate what was there in that moment and the feeling that it all gave me.
The fact that when I got back from Iceland the following day I would be catching a flight to hotel resort in Egypt didn’t seem as appealing as it did before.

…Enlighten in Egypt
Now in the complete polar opposite to where I had just been, sitting on my sun bed reliving all the incredible things I had just experienced in Iceland. I’m thinking about the holidays I had been on in the past and how little of each country I had actually seen. This needed to change, so no more package holidays everywhere I go I want to explore.
I had brought a book with me to read on this holiday, a book I had been trying to read since the summer. A great friend of mine lent it to me she said it changed her life. I finished it within two days and snap it changed my life too. The book if you haven’t already read it is a must, it’s called ‘The Secret‘
by Rhonda Byrne. There must have been a reason I didn’t get round to reading it in the summer because this holiday just felt like everything had come together. Iceland had just woken me and shown me what life is really about and ‘ The Secret ‘ had just given me the mindset to actually start leading that life…

This traveller has a blog : Wake up to the World

credit photo : flickr.com

A Human adventure

A moment lived in Ireland by Nearly Irish, a traveller from France

When I landed in Dublin airport 12 years ago, I was far from thinking I would still be here after all that time. I had planned to stay for two or three years only, which already seemed quite an ambitious plan for the recruiter who offered me my first job. “The majority of foreigners stay on average one year” he warned me. As it happened, he was right. I’m not even counting the amount of people I met and went back home in the blink of an eye.

I know I’m saying the past 12 years have been a big adventure, and still is, but I’m not talking about an action-packed or crazy stories type of journey. After all, I didn’t go backpacking through the Australian outback or volunteer in Africa. I didn’t go on a teaching gig in China or on surf trips to Bali. The culture clash was probably less visible than if I had moved to the other side of the planet.

My adventure is mostly human. Sure I didn’t go to all those exotic places, but I have met people from all corners of the globe, and this would have NEVER happened if I stayed home. I have friends all over the world and not only I learned about Irish culture, I discovered many other places.

My husband is from Mauritius. I have Indian and Danish neighbours. I used to work with Hungarian, Polish, Lithuanian and Slovakian people. I have friends from Moldova, Great-Britain, Croatia, Spain and the USA… I learned a lot about other cultures, especially tolerance, respect and differences. I can also manage a few words in each language. Bad words, mostly, but that’s usually what we remember, right? And I ate A LOT of good stuff cooked by those people. Traditional dishes and biscuits and cakes… Food can really make people connect, trust me!

Most importantly, I have met wonderful Irish people and discovered a fabulous country. I couldn’t thank my host family enough for feeding me (a bit too much) and really helping me out when I was stuck at the beginning. The first few months really shaped the rest of my Irish experience and that particular family is the reason I realised this country was really worth it.

The Irish are very family centred and it takes a bit more work to really have a solid friendship with them, but I think we managed to find a good balance between Irish and foreign friends.

There have been some highs and lows during those 12 years. I sometimes got bored and frustrated, but I never gave up, and I still think I have a better quality of life here than in France.

When I look back at my time in Ireland, I will think about the wonderful landscapes and the never-ending rainbows, but most importantly, I will remember THE PEOPLE.

And that’s what makes this adventure human.

This traveler has a travel blog: Nearly Irish

credit photo: Nearly Irish

Painting the light of a better place

A moment lived in Belgium by Nico, a traveller from Belgium

Come to the sea side it’s been a while. That’s what my friend Julien told me last night over the phone.

10 am I am on the train to Blankenberg, a city on the north side of Belgium. It is a beautiful bank holiday weekend. I told myself “why not” has it is only 2.30hrs away from where I am staying.

I live abroad and don’t get the chance to see him often (maybe once or twice a year).

That day around 1pm I met with him and also got introduced to his girlfriend Belinda. She is from the Philippines, they’ve been dating each other for over 2 years.

She speaks good english and I am glad I can finally see her in person.

Sitting on the terrace of a restaurant Julien is telling me about his trip to the Philippines that he recently took to meet with Belinda’s relatives showing me pictures on his smart phone.

I Quickly understand that Julien went on his own because Belinda couldn’t travel with him as she is a “sans papier” (not legal on the European soil), She moved to Belgium with a wealthy french family from Hong kong being the maid for the children but after 2 years the Belgian state didn’t renew her work permit, so in the event she would travel somewhere outside of Europe or even a normal ID control, she would be sent home with no possibility to come back.

I can really see this is something she is scared about everyday.

That day we had a really good talk about how it is to live with a sword of Damocles above your head and really made me realised how fortunate we are.

Even though she is not allowed to travel for obvious reasons they still manage to cross some borders to go to France or Germany exploring the neighbour countries as she is keen to see what Europe has to offer with its beauty and, there is a lot.

I liked this adventurous way of thinking and at the same time felt sad to see her being limited not because of her own choice.

In the evening we went for a walk on the beach, the light was magic, feeling like in a William Turner painting with a pale light reflecting on the sea caused by a sky with a sun long gone.

We came back home around midnight, would look at some pictures on my laptop about beautiful places to discover in Europe. It was such a pleasure to see her eyes wide opened with the will to be able to go to such places one day.

I left the morning after. On the train back to my town and met someone with another story to tell.

A guy from Senegal that is also in a difficult situation (I say difficult because he has a huge smile on his face otherwise I would say terrible.)

He told me he had no other way then fleeing his country because he his gay and in Senegal being gay is the absolute shame especially for the family. they banned him to ever come back. He his from a family of 34. The father has 4 wives and his mom had 7 children. So you can have many wives but don’t dare being gay!

He also told me how his life was before. He used to be the owner of two grocery shops and had to trade some piece of land with 450 chickens in exchange of a fake passport to be able to fly to Europe seeking for asylum now as a refugee. But all the way the 34 years old Khadim was telling me his story, he kept on smiling. Telling me that he loves his country but can’t go back as he could even get killed but anyway never be considered anymore. Reputation in this part of Africa is what matters the most and they all know it. Your name and your family can never be put in the dirt.

I have to say, I have huge respect for him and I feel lucky I could be a witness of his story. For having lived myself in Senegal I could also get a better picture of the situation he is in.

What I learned from that is we should never judge people for seeking a better place to live as human being without knowing exactly what the story is, because we would do the same if needed.

I got his number because our train ride was too short and I am sure there is a lot more to learn from Khadim.

I also realised that no need to go far from your home to live a beautiful travel moment.

credit photo: wikipedia.org

The variable sky

A moment lived in Romania by Barry Martin Kenna, a traveller from Ireland

You could have written on the back of a postage stamp what I knew about Romania and most of what I knew was stereotype. A short five day excursion to the heart of eastern Europe brought my friend and I to Bucharest.

It was one of those trips where everything seem to fall into place. Staying in an apartment in the middle of the capital we spent the first day like good tourists doing the walking tour. Whilst familiarising ourselves with our surroundings, we learned of Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler as he was ‘affectionately’ known the muse for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We met two Israeli girls on the tour also, one confessed that her nickname was The Terminator for reasons still unknown. Dracula and The Terminator on our first day, we we’re off to a great start. The night progressed and we abandoned ourselves to the revelry of the drink and great fun was had by all.

The following day we heard tell of a festival that was taking place called the Rokolectiv, with the opening event taking place in Ceausescu’s Palace, the largest municipal building in the world, so we were told. The building is impressive of course, but there is something sad about it once you know the historical events which gave life to it. We entered the queue and I began to people watch and I must admit at this point that the Romanians are a beautiful people; everywhere you looked you felt as if you were privy to a fashion shoot or a movie scene. We stepped into shot and the night unfurled full of incident.

It is the next day which I recall most fondly. Slightly worse for ware we made our way to the next event of the festival, a music event, in an old warehouse on the outskirts of the centre. The music was a mix of electro, traditional and international music, something to cater for all tastes. At the back of the warehouse there were some rooms designated for art installations. It was here we met the Daniel, Ligia and Aleksandra. From a short discussion we realised that Daniel was a movie director of note that my friend knew of, Ligia was an Artistic Director and Aleksandra was a singer. A singer, “I must hear her sing” I thought, my friend instantly on the same page told them I was a traditional singer in Ireland, a white lie, but I could carry a note. They said there was a park nearby and we could go have drink and maybe sing a song.

I said I would start and sang Peggy Gordan a Scottish traditional song which seem to go down well, not only with our new friends but passers by who stopped to listen. When Aleksandra started to sing everything around seem to fall silent, she sang a local traditional song Trece-un nouraș pe sus (Little cloud passing by). Her voice would shame a nightingale and any aftereffects from the previous night dissipated with every note. The next song she serenaded us with unknown to her at the time was one of my favourites, Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat. It is hard to describe the feeling that experience had on me but as Aleksandra told to me later ‘I’ve always been amazed by coincidences, and bowed to the way they can restore my faith in people, in singing, in how connected we all actually are’. I couldn’t agree more.

Cer Variabil

In the variable sky we see life unfold.
Clouds, lights and waves of energy;
The untold influence on what we see.

Were I to be a wiser man,
Less subjugated,
More educated,
Would I know why we see what we see.

To say I do not fear death would be a lie,
I love life,
I love the variable sky.

credit photo: Barry Martin Kenna

Cigarette ?

A moment lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Joseph Alexander, a traveller from Ireland

Excuse me – Cigarette?

I turned to see three faces staring back at me, one of which belonged to a body holding out a cigarette for me. I paused for a second before switching on, accepting the cigarette and thanking him.

I was sitting on a train moving between Sarajevo and Zagreb. I was still in the Bosnia section of the trip and was occupying a carriage with three men who had got on at the same station as me. I had initially offered them beers as a conversation starter but they had declined. They didn’t seem keen to speak so I left it at that and began writing about Sarajevo. What an incredible city with a tragic history. I was travelling around eastern Europe in order to better understand the breakup of Yugoslavia. I had consumed documentaries and articles about it but being there was a totally different experience. It was far more visceral. The people I had met were incredibly open and warm, gracious and humble. I was moving on after three days there and vowed to return as soon as I could. (I was back in less than a year. I haven’t met anybody yet who hasn’t felt the city get a hold of them.)

The three men were all distinctly different and had a very relaxed dynamic, laughing often and constantly making jokes at each other’s expense. The man with the lightest skin, and youngest, spoke the best English. It was he who gave me the cigarette. He told me about how all three were studying agriculture in the University to get a better understanding of how to maximise profit on a farm. As the landscape whipped by the window, I could see people working the land by hand. They were all using tools – no machinery was in sight. Sunlight was fading quickly yet the people in the fields showed no signs of letting up.

After a few minutes of conversation in broken English I was asked what I was doing in Bosnia. I replied that I was travelling. Quizzical looks formed on their faces; how do you mean, what for? Travelling to see the country and just for experience. “I wish I could have that opportunity” was the response I got. A few minutes later, the train began slowing down and the men gathered their things. As we pulled into the station they offered me handshakes and smiles. I watched them amble off as the train began to move on. We were in a small, rural station about an hour from Sarajevo. This was their daily commute to try and improve life on a farm used mainly for subsistence.

I have never felt as privileged as I did that day. On the one hand, it was a fantastic experience speaking with them but, on the other hand, I felt a little lost as to what travelling really means. It seemed an extravagance in that moment to move so frivolously whilst the people I encountered and would speak of later as characters in my stories toiled in an economy set up against them. As time has passed those lingering feelings of guilt have faded and when I think of those men I remember fondly their easy laughter and the courtesy they had extended to me. My appearance in their carriage had definitely confused them and yet they were very open and friendly, sharing their food and drink.
Sometimes travelling is a bewildering process, confronting us with situations that challenge what we think we know. It’s at moments like those that I think of these lyrics:
Life is hard, life is beautiful
Life is strange, and life is unusual

credit photo: pixabay.com