When it comes to seeing the world, I have it pretty good. I live on an island that is perfectly positioned to visit the many and varied delights that Europe has to offer. I’ve also benefited from the luxury of living abroad as a child. Born in Canada, we moved back to England, via Germany, in time for me to start school. Then England, then Germany, the England again. This yo-yoing between countries meant that I not only experienced different cultures first-hand, but that a whole new range of holiday destinations was opened up to us. Hawaii, Mexico and the Rockies before I could walk or talk? You could say I was born to travel.
Clearly I was bitten from an early age, and my teenage years were peppered with school-trips, family holidays and city-breaks to every corner of Europe. The travelbug has continued well into my twenties, and any money I have going spare (read – any excuse to delude myself that an overdraft is ‘free cash’) goes towards minibreaks with friends. Paris, Berlin, Prague, Lisbon, St Petersburg, Florence…. the list goes on.
Add to this the fact that my ‘grown-up’ savings get plundered every couple of years when I’m craving a real change – Malaysia, Cuba, Tanzania, Indonesia, St Lucia – who needs sensible savings anyway?
This is, I believe, a symptom of Britain’s unintentional apathy towards Europe – with so many amazing travel opportunities just on our doorstep, have we become just a little bit immune to its charms? A cheap Ryanair or Easyjet flights gets us to just about anywhere in Europe in a matter of hours. We can pop over for a day with work, or treat ourselves to the odd weekend break here and there. With easy, affordable travel at our fingertips, I think we’re prone to overlooking Europe as a valid travel destination in its own right, and not just a weekend playground.
I am just as guilty of anyone of forgetting how lucky I am to have casually worked my way through some of the most enchanting cities and landscapes this planet has to offer. To me, the word ‘travelling’ used to conjure up images of backpacking, hostels and tie-die. A cheap package holiday to Greece is just a holiday right? And popping over to Brussels to visit my Dad is just a family visit? But in listing all the countries I’ve ever visited, I have realised just how utterly spoiled I am.
I used to find it funny that Americans refer so fondly to “Europe”, as if it’s this sweet little village over the pond. I once overhead a group of excited yanks in my current hometown of Cambridge cooing over the archaic college buildings and exclaiming: “Europe is just adorable!” Fools!, I thought. How can they base their judgement of a whole continent on one city alone.
But then I realised that I’m only able to make these jibes because I have been privileged enough to explore the many different countries that make Europe so diverse. Given that America is bigger than all the countries in Europe put together, isn’t it fair enough that, without having visited every single corner of the continent, they’ll draw assumptions based on their own experience. It’s only thanks to my very good fortune that I’m able to know the variety that Europe has to offer. I have experienced the nuances between Northern and Southern France; I know that, whilst part of the same continent, Wales and Poland couldn’t be more different; I have enjoyed hot summers in the Med and freezing winters in Scandinavia; and yet I assumed that my travels would only really begin only once my airmiles hit the thousands? There’s only one conclusion to be drawn here… I’m spoiled.
So in an attempt to remedy the blasé attitude I’ve been guilty of, I’ll be slowly revisiting all the wonderful towns, cities and countries I’ve ever had the luxury of seeing – in word if not in deed. In an attempt to give my memories of all past travels a much-deserved new lease of life, I’ve made them their only little wing within this blog. When I’m not recounting my latest adventures or tapping out my latest fears and foibles, I’ll be turning my attention to my past travels and recounting what each experience brought to my life.
Introducing the ‘revisited’ posts, my mea culpa that I hope will go some way to atone for my spoiled behaviour.