Archive for September, 2012

Travel is good for you

September 28, 2012

I’m back from Europe and yes, it was amazing.

They’re a clever bunch, those northern hemisphere folks. There’s so much they do simply, confidently, and well. Like bikes. Here cyclists grapple with selfish drivers deliberately obstructing their route along makeshift “bike lanes” – which are little more than white lines painted along a road – in a climate of car-centric aggro. Cyclists ride defensively, as though they are taking their life in their hands, which need not be an exaggeration.
In the Netherlands, cyclists have right of way. They have red rubberised dual lane tracks which are segregated from the road and which have their own traffic lights. Cars give way to bikes. Imagine. Everywhere you go you see business men, grannies, pregnant women, mothers, fathers, toddlers, women in stilettos all getting to where they need to go quietly, healthily, efficiently on two wheels. Apparently, they have the “most extensive cycle network in the world”: yes, cycling in the Netherlands is a revelation.

They do coffee well. Every coffee you order in the Netherlands is likely to be accompanied by something interesting on the saucer: a biscuit, an offcut of cake, a wafer, a chocolate. A simple gesture which to a wide eyed impressionable tourist sings good service. Simple, yet good.

They’re ok at art. Vermeer was pretty good, as were those dudes Rembrandt and whatshisname van Gogh. Also Escher, and if you like lines and squares and stuff there’s Mondrian. The list goes on. And when you visit a museum or gallery in the Netherlands, and read about such genius, the descriptions and presentation of the work is intellectual. There’s no dumbing down for the masses here: it’s assumed you are intelligent and interested enough to understand references to horizon lines, artists guilds and realism. It made me want to learn more, to feel less embarrassingly ignorant.

There’s a degree of what I would call down-to-earth smugness about the Dutch. They get it. They know it all and have done for several hundred years. They’re unapologetic and blunt, but in a good way. It’s a self confidence that, whilst there, I wanted to absorb. I wanted to be Dutch, if only for a few weeks. This is the essence of good travelling: when elements of your host destination osmote into your system and make you somehow better. Richer. Fuller.

When I was seventeen I spent a year living in Scotland, and whilst there I wrote a dribbly and pretentious treatise on the merits of travel, in particular extolling the virtues of “psychological travel” , or “internal mind-searching” as I also called it. My conclusion, however juvenile, does ring true for me now:

There exists two basic forms of travel: that of a physical nature and that which involves psychological exploration. Both forms are connected in that one often leads to the other, and both result in the same; a broadening of one’s horizons and a dispelling of the mundane.

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A new me?

September 9, 2012

I am in Europe.

I am in Europe without my boys. It is truly magnificent.

This morning I went for a run and had what I guess you would call a spiritual moment where the sun’s rays shone through the leafy canopy in that finger-like way and I felt… empowered. I’m running. In Europe. I’m actually me, once more.

 

Hello me.

I miss the boys. I wish they were here. There are things here they would love. But I am also glad they are not here. I have a chance to breathe. Everybody needs that now and then. Europe is probably a bit extreme, sure, but the offer was there so I took it.

I love it here. They do things well. They get it. There’s a lot we could and should do the same. Sometimes we do. Often we don’t. I want to take home some European sensibility. If I can’t live here permanently I can at least be this me back home. I like this me. The Europe me. She is relaxed. Confident. Fit. Everything I want to be and am.

Hello me.