On a train in Czech Republic, 2012
I will eventually share somewhat more...descriptive photos of my trip, but this was actually one of my favourite moments of the trip, when I was on a train between Loket and Decin in the Czech Republic. I'm very fond of train journeys and this one was especially lovely because I could open a window for a fresh breeze, and I had the whole cabin to myself for much of the journey.
I travelled alone for about 10 days - which makes it the longest I have ever been on holiday alone. Being alone for 10 days feels like you're confronting yourself - what you like, what you hate, what you are afraid of, your weaknesses, your strengths. It's a lot of "me" time, spent navigating a new environment and the little challenges thrown your way on a holiday.
This trip gave me a chance to hone my "talking to strangers" skills. Being in journalism, I suppose it's funny that I find this difficult, but while I have come to become comfortable with doing this professionally, I still find it incredibly difficult at a personal level, partly because I am shy and partly because I am an introvert.
So, I discovered that I am capable of walking into bars and clubs and striking up conversations with strangers, but I am still not quite comfortable with doing so. I persevered though, because of something someone said to me during the work phase of my trip that rang true: that travelling is more than just seeing stuff, it's about meeting people.
I then realised that a lot of what stayed with me from past trips were the conversations I had with random people. This is not to say I didn't love the very first time I walked down a Parisian street or when I saw Angkor Wat. But I remembered conversations years after the trips themselves just as clearly: talking to a girl from Brazil about Radiohead in 2007, talking to a dentist about beer in Cambodia in 2003, talking to student from France on a train in 2005 about tennis, Airbus, everything.
This trip, the moments spent chatting with a bartender about "stoner rock" in Dresden, with a coffeeship proprietor about the the best places for hiking in Loket, with a Australian girl about the economic crisis in Europe, with an English guy about tattoos and motorcycle road trips in Prague, to a Spanish guy on a train about cameras, to a German guy about music and backpacking in Frankfurt, put a smile on my face. I love "seeing stuff" of course (3 epic hours in the incredible Military History Museum in Dresden!), but I took time to consciously appreciate the "people" aspect and I think it was more rewarding for it. And of course, I challenged myself in the process and I think I grew up a little too.
Thanks for all the kind wishes and recommendations from everyone for the trip, as usual I think all the good will helped keep me safe, and happy. Will share more photos and stories soon, but I need time to adjust; I feel like a stranger to home.