I took this photo while visiting the concentration camp at Dachau (near Munich) in Germany this summer. This symbol of new life struck me, and I knew I wanted to capture it in a place where life seemed so distant and fleeting for so many.
I had been putting off processing and going through what I called “my Dachau pictures” because I knew I would need emotional energy to go through them. I ended up going through them this evening and found myself thinking one thing… How could we, as a world, have put up with this and let it go on for so long before doing something about it? Rather than sadness, I jumped straight to anger, which I suppose is natural. But, are we not doing the same thing today with respect to Darfur and other regions where governments are essentially exterminating their peoples?
Food for thought…
The night before my first trip to Europe last summer, I was sitting alone in my hotel room after a great dinner with friends who were going on the trip with me when I decided to get started writing in my journal. (It should be mentioned that although I love almost all aspects of traveling, being alone in a hotel room is not one of those; you feel unsafe and totally alone!)
After summing up “Day One” of travel – which was really just getting from Dodge to Wichita and all that jazz! – I came up with a list of goals for my trip. I plan to use this list and revisit it each time I get ready to go on a world adventure. Perhaps I will add more specific things I want to get out of each specific trip in the future.
Without further ado, here’s the list, with explanations below:
- Find the best in others. * This was big to me. I knew I was going to be traveling a with a diverse group of people (around 50 people of all ages and every other qualifier), including some I didn’t think I would enjoy traveling with. However, by opening up my mind and heart to these people, I was able to more fully enjoy the experience and become good friends with some of those very people.
- Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible – live it up! * I always knew that I would go to Europe more than once, but I also knew that I wanted to minimize or completely eliminate any chances of regretting something… And what better way to make sure you don’t have regrets than by doing something if you had any inkling whatsoever and had the time to do it?!
- Be safe and think smart. * Unlike so many travelers, I really don’t spend a lot of time overthinking being safe. As a rule, I know that Europe is probably safer than your average large American city. And when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, you call more attention to yourself. That being said, I always keep an eye on my surroundings but wasn’t going to let worry and stress take over my trip. As long as I have my money belt/neck pouch/whatever, the rest is trivia and can be replaced (but they better not take my damn camera!).
- Have a good time but know when it’s time to hit the bed, because sleep is an important part of any trip. * Obviously, I wanted to do as much as I could in the short amount of time we were in Europe, but if you’re not awake the next day, what good is staying up late? This gets compounded when you have fun roommates who like to talk, but one must know when to get to bed!
- Help others if you have the know-how, and accept it if you don’t. * I consider myself a pretty good and experienced traveler (“This ain’t my first ro-de-o!”) who knows when one should and should not do things, and I wanted to help others like people had helped me before (stay on the right side of escalators, how to navigate airports and subways, that kind of thing), but I also needed to realize that I don’t know everything. (Sometimes this is tough!) I didn’t want to look like I was being a total know-it-all! 🙂
- Keep the trip in God’s hands. * I know from previous posts it sounds like I don’t believe in God, but I believe I do (the whole organized religion thing is what convolutes it all, IMHO), and it doesn’t hurt to let someone else look on over it. 🙂
- Have fun! * Yes, I wanted to learn and all that on this trip, but what good is a trip or vacation if it’s not fun?! On this same note, I wanted to learn more about myself and feel that I did.
- Write in journal everyday, regardless! * Yeah… Uhm-hmm!! I got through the first day in Paris, but I’ll have to rely on pictures and memories for the rest. I will definitely keep a better journal and paste in postcards, tickets, stamps, etc. in my journal next time. I tend to keep receipts and all that, but they end up getting thrown in a bag or box and nothing is done with them. Pasting them in each day on that day will help a lot and will remind me of the small things!
- Take everything in stride – if something doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to happen ; if it does, then it was. * Absolutely my biggest travel “thing.” Years of disappointment over not being able to do certain things while traveling led me to this philosophy, and I honestly haven’t looked back since (except for now as I reflect!).
- Have a fabulous time and stay in touch via email! + Stay on Facebook and phone only a few minutes a day – you are in Europe for God’s sake! * I told my family I wouldn’t call them and would only contact them via email if I had a few free minutes during the trip, and I stuck by this. And since I didn’t have Wi-Fi or data for a good portion of the trip, I only posted on FB a couple of times. When I’m on the road (at least in Europe), I’m on the road and just don’t think of home very much. (This sounds cold, but it is the best way to do it… People spend way too much time away from their destination when they are on the phone or on the computer or constantly thinking about home; a little bit is fine.)
- HAVE NO REGRETS. * See above.
- Try new foods. * You know me! When in Rome, do as the Romans do! (Unfortunately, I haven’t – yet! – experienced this in that place.)
- Love others and love yourself. * Why the heck not?!
Having these goals in mind kept my priorities straight on this trip and was a wonderful guide when I started creeping into negativity. I would recommend making a list of goals like this before any major trip – it helps a lot!
Oh, how I long to be back at the beach (hopefully with a slimmer me!)…
I really regret not bringing my camera with me to the beach in Barcelona the one afternoon we were there… (You’re probably wondering how I took this picture, then, am I right? We did go the ice bar in Barcelona on our final night in town, so I was able to snap a few pictures – yahoo!!) I lost out on several photographic opportunities (sailboats and yachts on the marina!!), but I also had never taken my nicer camera to the beach and was afraid I might damage it.
I’ve since learned that my camera is fairly durable, and if I take caution and care, it will be fine. Moral of the story? When I am on vacation, I will never, ever, ever leave my camera at the hotel!!