April, 2015

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New discoveries

Exams and a study-related excursion have prevented me from writing lately. Such a shame, as I was already running behind on schedule. I am not mentioning this by means of an excuse as to why I haven’t posted lately, but because the study excursion turned out to be a lot more succesful than I had expected. Not only study-wise, but also environment-wise have I been amazed.

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Photo by Frank Auperlé

An in-depth review of the trip will follow under the correct country-headers, but I wanted to used this post both as a sneak preview as well as toto express my amazement of how close you can live to beautiful nature without even knowing about it. Because I study applied earth sciences, the trip was focussed on the geological aspect of the things we got to see. However this was combined with walks through the area that I would recommend to anyone with the slightest interest in hiking.

Just briefly look at the following photos. Where would you think they were taken? I am not sure what I would guess, but I would certainly not guess it right.
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The colour and shape of the rock formations, combined with the contrasting blue sky that we were very lucky to have would never give away that the photo on the left was taken in Luxembourg and the right one (although you might have recognised that from a Dinant postcard) in Belgium. If I hadn’t taken these photos myself I wouldn’t have believed it. The larger picture above wasn’t taken by me, but I was there when it was taken and that one too was really taken in Belgium, despite the alien-like atmosphere it has to it. The region in the Ardennes is eally interesting to rock-climbers too!

We also found volcanic deposits in the Eifel, Germany, ordered as if someone had been playing with coloured sand like this:

layersAmazing isn’t it! Okay, I can understand that rock formations might not be the first thing you look at when you’re walking around an area and I therefore won’t bore you with my interprations of how they formed, but these special outcrops are so nice just to look at and would absolutely catch my attention, even I would not be studying geology. Some rocks even contained large mineral crystals that were absolutely beautiful and that you can sometimes buy on those markets, how cool would it be if you found a souvenir like that in the wild?!

Yet another little discovery I made during the same trip is not another rock, or hiking area, but a book. Yep. Not for everybody, as it is in German (I don’t even speak German properly, but I bought it anyway, because it is such a fantastic guidebook, especially for hitchhiking trips). The book contains 24 European countries, complete with maps (not detailed ones, but they have all the highways on them) and descriptions of hotels, hostels, bed & breakfasts and guesthouses on the way. This means that you can look up a nice place for a stop when you’re driving on the highway and will want to stop after +- two more hours of driving. Handy when on a roadtrip, but near essential when your hitchhiking without having a clue when you will get a ride to where and when you’ll need a place to stay for a night.

picture: www.amazon.de

All in all you might wonder why I am so enthusiastically speaking about German books and places that are close to home to me, but might be miles away for you. This is because it is not necessarily these places that are so amazing. It is more that I’ve been living only about a three-hour drive away from these places forever and have flown miles to enjoy the wonders of the other side of the world without having ever seen what is just around the corner… It hasn’t been until the last few years that I have taken an interest in visiting countries and places closer to me.

There is so much to discover and for those with little money or time, I guess I want to teach the lesson that travelling and seeing marvellous things is not a matter of getting as far from home as possible, but a matter of opening your eyes.

Have you made any unexpected discovered lately? Please share where you love and what place close to you amazed you.

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Tinder: Keep swiping.

No, the subject is not travel-related, although for me it turned out to be. However, I warned you that from time to time I might express my opinion or tell a story about other subjects that caught my attention. If you are not interested, just don’t read and patiently wait till the next update (:
Patience is a blessing.

I am not sure if I have many talents, and if I do I sure as hell I don’t like to brag about them. There are always people that are better than you. However, there is one particlar talent that I have and can be sure of that I must be in the top list of people who have this talent; getting distracted.

Distraction may not sound like a talent to you, and if it is, it’s not a very useful one. Both true and wrong. In everyday life, especially with my studies it can be an enormous pain in the ass to have an attention span of about 15 minutes, before either the ceiling or the mysterious scraps of thoughts that go through my head become more interesting. Despite that, getting distracted has gotten me where I am now. If I had a perfect focus I would not have ever experienced travelling the way I did now, maybe not at all. I would sure as hell not have stumbled upon the most wonderful experiences and people, sometimes by quite literally running into them (or a closed door, a tree, or a lantern post).

When learning for my exams this week, distraction hit soon enough. Facebook, eating something, making tea and replying to a text all come in a very unpractical ratio with actual studying. However, the distraction never seems to be enough. Updating my blog would be perfect, but I know that once I start on that I will accidentally spend hours instead of minutes, so I needed something different. This time it was…. Tinder.

Source: nobullying.com

Tinder is a rather controversial app that matches people by whether they like each others profile pic. If you both like each others photo, you’ll be able to send your “match” messages that will perhaps end up in a date. If the like was not mutual, the person will just disappear in the Tinder jungle, never to be seen again.

Some actual couples are known to have found their significant other via Tinder, however more often the app insinuates many sexual dates and a lot of dissapointment to those who expect more. Not so strange considering the app generates matches based on someones looks, not even that, more on someones photos (that could be photoshopped).

Personally I was not looking for sex or love or anything else that you can find on the app. I was mostly looking for distraction and driven by curiousity, so I started swiping. It didn’t take long before I had over 20 matches. Great, but what now? Less then a quarter of them had started an actual conversation. I tried starting one with another quarter and would leave the rest for now. 20 people is too many to chat with anyways, besides, I had exams to study for.

At first I was slightly dissapointed by the lack of actual text respoonses from people. Whether they’re on there to find their soulmate or to find someone to warm their bed for a night, communication is mostly appreciated. After a while this problem sorted itself out. The interesting people stayed at the top of the list, playing truth or dare, talking about common interests or complete bullshit. It turned out to be a lot of fun. I also met an Italian guy that was on a holiday in the Netherlands for a few days and was looking for someone to show him around, nothing more. Perfect opportunity for me to broaden my foreign network.

Unfortunately him and I didn’t get around to meeting each other, he would go back to Italy in two days, and I was too busy studying after all…

 

Home is where the heart is

Partly inspired by another blogger, partly inspired by the question raised what home means to me, why I have never really felt at home in my home country and where I would be living in another five to ten years, I thought it would be nice to discuss the debatable subject of home. When you’re backpacking, you’re not anywhere near your friends or family, but still most people abroad are having the time of their lives. This poses the question, when you’re out in the world, what is home to you?  I am really curious about what you think.

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The terrible state of my room

Since I started studying, I have been somewhat settled. I rent a room in a student house that I share with two other students. They are absolutely nice and fun and I feel relaxed at home. However, that itch to go out and about has never left me. So is this home? I guess it is now, but it couldn’t last long.

First of all, my room is a permanent mess, it has been like this since I was a child. Sometimes I can get it sorted and cleaned, but can only maintain it for a few days. Then it starts getting messier, and after a week it will have reached the state shown in the photo. I am not ashamed, I actually think that I found the reason behind this terror is that I don’t belong in a fixed place, it supplies the opportnity to own too much stuff.

If you look at it this way, I just sort of use whatever I have to store things. When this is a backpack, it forces you to make choices and think carefully about which posessions you really need. When you have a car, more stuff fits in, with the result that you will start to collect more stuff. Having an entire room for yourself supplies the opportunity to buy and keep all sorts of luxuries and things that you really don’t need to just scatter all over the place. Imagine what my house would look like if I owned one…. Perhaps this is a sign.
BackpackAnother thing that many people found and still find striking when I’m away, is my “improper” use of the word home. I use it just to refer to the place where I sleep, whether that is a room I rent for myself, a friends house, a tent or a hostel dorm room shared with 16 others doesn’t really matter, when I say I’m going home, I overall just mean that I’m going to go to the place I’m staying, although I can understand the confusion.

The above again proves how my vision of home is very easily adaptable, and I love it. It is funny how the places where I live for a longer period of time often feel less like home than short-term stays abroad. People seem to be nicer and happier around you whenever you’re in the happy environment of being abroad. I also find that in many countries, people are more friendly, open and welcoming than in the Netherlands, or perhaps even Western Europe. This is partly what makes me feel at home so easily, the open-heartedness of others. This and the fact that I don’t think much about the future, I live now, so I better make as much out of it as I can, partly by just seeing it all!

All rights to this picture are owned by Edward Dullard

What does all this mean for my definition of home? I think it can only mean that I haven’t found home yet and don’t know if I ever will. The roads are endless and so is my curiousity. The question of where I will settle in the future remains unanswered, until I have at least seen everything and maybe, maybe still then I might prefer to remain a rolling stone, roaming around the world, not even really looking for a place to go, but just exploring, enjoying.

Home might be about finding a community, a place where you belong and I haven’t really found that place yet, but at the same time I have. What has made me happy so far is changing environment and getting to know new people from time to time. My view obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but I think many other travellers can familiarise.

Abstractly speaking, home is where the heart is and so to give a concrete answer to the question of where home is to me, I would say that my heart belongs to the world and therefore my home is on the road.

So, to stick with this controversial problem, please tell me what you think about the subject of home and where home is for you/what it means to you.