Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Travel Bucket List (Europe)

Back in 2013, my original plan was to start a travel blog and record all of the adventures I went on during my gap year. As time and procrastination dragged on, the plan grew to accommodate any old and new trips. Finally, in the summer of 2014, I ended up creating an all-encompassing space for my thoughts and scrapping any hope of finding a 'niche' for it.
 And a good idea that was, too, or I would have been struggling with (yet) another writer's block now.

 Most of my travels during the last year were limited to places  I'd already been to before at one point or another in my life. I know - boo-hoo, show some gratitude for the amazing opportunities you keep being offered! I want to make it clear that this has had zero impact on the quality and quantity of those travels. Many of them have been some of the best experiences in my life so far, and I do feel like I am discovering those places all over again, because I finally my other half by my side. It is just that I sometimes feel stuck about what to write, and afraid that whatever I produce will either be generic travel blogger material, or something overly personal and/or pointlessly decorated with bad metaphors. I was not born to write, by any means, and you can tell just by how long and unrelated this introduction is. Putting words to paper (screen) has simply been an excellent way for me to organise and communicate my thoughts, and it has often lead to amazing things in my life.
 Who knows, maybe putting this painfully concise version of my travel bucket list will help some of those dreams come to life.

 Just a heads up: none of the images featured in this post have been take by me. Their respectful creators have been credited in their titles, and their source websites linked to.
The Northern Lights, Loch Lomond © Christopher Marr
I. Stand under the Northern Lights
 I used to see the Aurora Borealis as something beautiful, but cold and forbidding. Until a poet came along and started calling me Siyanie ("radiance", or "aurora"). "You are warmth itself, he'd say, a true autumn leaf. But your eyes are the Northern Lights: not cool or sinister, but magical. Like something both close and distant to man."
 This poet is now a close friend of mine, and he is also one of the main reasons I've become so enchanted by this phenomenon. Where I see them is of very little importance to me (so long as it is not from Skyrim in high definition, hehe). If I can catch even a tiny glimpse of this fantasy, I will be happy.
© Danielle Hopkins for
II. Cuddle with wolves in Norway
I found out about Polar Park through one of those awful Buzzfeed lookalike websites and the headline was one I couldn't pass up. Every time I mention this to anybody, I'm met with a horrified look and a delicately phrased suggestion that I should see a psychiatrist (I even had that said to me by a psychiatrist). But growing up glued to the TV switched on Animal Planet has taken its toll, and I now yearn to be as close to animals as possible, so long as the organisations allowing this treat them ethically.
 This is exactly what Polar Park does, providing sanctuary and plenty of space for all of the animal species within. I probably won't get to see the wolves howling at the full moon, but a fantasy lover can dream.

Screencap from Angel Grace's Summer Solstice Avebury 2016
III. Greet the Summer Solstice at the stone circles of Avebury
 Originally, I wanted to experience the sunrise on the longest day of the year at Stonehenge. What put me off was not how "mainstream" that would be, but rather the horrific crowds that gather there. I am not a very spiritual person, but I think anybody would find it difficult to feel their body, much less their soul, in a moshpit like that.
 Thus, in the summer of 2015, the Avebury's three stone circles came to my rescue, greeting me with an energy much more feminine and tranquil than that of Stonehenge. As soon as I saw them, I promised myself that I would return again, and what better time to do that than on the summer or winter solstice? Besides, the beautiful hair maiden of Wiltshire Albany awaits me there so that we can finally meet after months of Instagram and Facebook friendship.

IV. Swim with basking sharks in Ireland
 At this point, even I have to consider that some of my wishes might be a tad extreme. Granted, the 6-8-meter-long basking shark, the second largest shark in the world, is actually very gentle. Like its larger sibling the whale shark, it is not carnivorous and it feeds on plankton. Still, I imagine seeing something so big that it could swallow you whole swimming towards you to be quite unnerving.
 I say I want to swim with them, but in reality that probably won't happen unless I am in a boat or I have a secret identity as Charles Hood. Just sighting them on the banks of Cornwall or Ireland, however, would be enough for me and my long-term fear of sharks.

V. Return to the Austrian Alps
 In my pre-teens and early teens, I frequently travelled to Vienna, Austria, by car with my parents. The reason is that my father is an avid listener of classical music and he had the opportunity to watch live performances at the Vienna State Opera. Thus, the entire family would tag along.
 On one such happy occasion, we'd decided that we would visit Salzburg and Innsbruck but, instead of picking the fastest route for us, our satellite navigator chose the most winding and mountainous one. Seeing those ragged peaks towering above us like gateways to heaven made me fall blindly in love with the Austrian Alps, and since then one of my greatest wishes has been to see them once more.
 On a more curious note, according to an old Bulgarian tradition, when a child is born its parents must save its umbilical cord. When they feel that the time is right, they will throw it in a place of their choosing and this is said to bring good luck and prosperity to their child, as well as foretell what direction life will lead it in. So leaving it on the roof of a hospital will mean that the child will one day become a doctor; keeping it forever will make it very attached to their home and close to their family. It was many years after our visit to the Alps that I told my mother how I yearned to see them again. When I finally did, she confessed to having thrown my umbilical cord in Salzburg on one of her visits with my father. There might be some truth to traditional beliefs after all.

 What part of Europe would you like to see the most? I'm curious, and also eager to add even more dream destinations to my wishlist!

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