(Afternoon philosophy session in Sareema, Estonia)
One of the best parts of travelling is being in the state of continual discovery. I guess you could make this statement about life in general but the tide of new experiences when travelling makes this state of being more apparent and easier to notice.
Sometimes these discoveries are pleasant surprises. Sometimes they may feel like disappointments. It all depends on your state of mind, and this tends to vary, sometimes quite dramatically, daily or in fact moment-by-moment. For me, recognising the interplay between the changing internal and external landscape is when travel deepens to become an inner journey of self-discovery, rather than just a checklist of “been there, done this.”
For this leg of the trip, Eastern Europe (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), most of my discoveries have fallen into the category of pleasant and quite delightful. Here is a list some pleasing recent discoveries (I’ll limit it to external, rather than internal discoveries!)
The E.U. exists. You can drive from one country to the next without going through immigration. Now I know the E.U. has been around for a while and I have heard of this concept in theory but to actually experience it was quite unbelievable to me. To get on a bus in one country and a couple of hours later get off a bus in another country without having to line up and fill in forms is just amazing!!
In further regards to travel – tickets for buses can be bought easily, there is always plenty of space on the bus (and toilets!) and the roads are smooth. After our experiences of normally needing to dedicate an entire day to the procurement of bus tickets and then enduring long bumpy rides in crowded buses, travel in Europe is like a walk in the park. We almost don’t know what to do with ourselves now that things are so easy.
In summertime, berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries – are for sale everywhere and are cheap and delicious. In Sydney berries are outrageously expensive. In Eastern Europe the markets are overflowing with them and you can buy 1kg for just a couple of dollars. This is heaven to me.
(Cesis Castle, Latvia)
There are beautiful castles and churches everywhere and I have an inexhaustible enthusiasm for looking at them. I’m particularly smitten with visiting castles – especially the really old ones!
(Girls wearing traditional dresses as part of a Baltic folk festival in Riga, Latvia)
Europe is a fascinating and complex tapestry of languages, religions, cultures and ethnicities all squeezed in together. Particularly in Eastern Europe – the countries are tiny but each country, region, city and town has a long and varied history of differing rulers, invaders and liberators as well as an enduring legacy of traditional folk music, art and food. It is a daily delight to soak it all in!
(Jazz festival, Tallin, Estonia)
Learning new things everyday, whether it is about yourself or the people and things around you, is stimulating to the mind and nourishing for the heart. Numerous books have been writtten about this being the way to keeping the mind healthy and robust into old age. I think the challenge is to continue this zest for discovery even when off the travel circuit and going about the business of regular ole’ life.