Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Precarious Position of Travel Planning

It's been raining for nearly three days here. The type of rain that leaves you completely soaked within minutes, feeling rather stupid for not owning an efficient umbrella. That kind of rain. So, I've been holed up in my new attic room, listening to the rain pitter-patter and the wind howl, while being pleasantly warm and dry. Being stuck indoors doesn't make me stir crazy, in fact I rather enjoy it. The weather is a fantastic excuse to remain indoors where it's comfortable, and to catch up on reading, writing, guitar playing, episodes of NCIS, and exploring the many ways to enjoy Nutella. (Most recent insight: Nutella on shortbread fingers. You can thank me later...)

I sat back this afternoon, having very much enjoyed my weekend of cosiness, and my eye fell on my World Atlas. And thus began a very dangerous endeavour: armed with the atlas and a stack of new Lonely Planet guides (they would go and have a 50% off sale last month. It's like they know I can't help myself. And then the taunting "FREE shipping if you spend X"...), I got out my pencil and paper and began to think about the places I would like to see this year. This is why it is so precarious - I end up wanting to go nearly everywhere and the list gets very long. In the course of writing down my ideas, I flipped through the notebook and found a list I'd compiled three and a half years ago when I first moved to Cambridge. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, the list was nearly identical, with only eight places marked off the first list.

Planning extravaganza!
Considering I've also been to lots of places that weren't on the list, I didn't feel too badly about this. Actually felt rather relieved I had achieved as much as I had, considering Egypt is not the easiest of places to visit any more. The world is constantly changing, making travel both easier and more tricky. So, it was with renewed fervour that I delved into my new Lonely Planet guides, drawing up ideas of things I want to see. Some ideas being: Ypres, as it is 100 years after the start of WWI and might be historically interesting to see; Russia (EasyJet flies there now for ridiculously cheap fares - brilliant!); Vienna ... and Salzburg - to investigate if the hills are, in fact, alive. The list goes on (and on).

Living on mainland Europe now has opened up a door to more access to these places. I think looking at the train timetable is even more dangerous than the atlas. Because The Netherlands is quite small, I can be practically anywhere else in Europe within a few hours. Berlin for the weekend; Bruges for a day out? Don't mind if I do! You wouldn't imagine a channel making much of difference, but I think it does. It feels much more tangible here in the north of the Netherlands. Europe's doorstep, perhaps. Time and real life are rather a factor, of course.  They keep getting in the way...

I've think I've decided to be rather irresponsible this year. (This year, I hear you say...). Why not use Groningen as a base to see more of Europe? Travel is something that makes me very happy, and I don't do nearly enough of it. I do travel a fair bit, but it is like a hunger never quite sated. It only ever grows, and my greediness for experiencing new cities and new cultures dances in the back of my mind most distractedly. So, perhaps rushing about Europe once the thermometer goes over 16C (60F), isn't such a bad idea? There is such a thrill of stepping on to a train with just a backpack slung over your shoulder, knowing that new things await you. Being able to wear the same clothes day in and day out, with no one minding; getting your fill of museums and art; trying new foods and attempting new languages; learning and experiencing.

Planning a trip is nearly as fun as setting off on the adventure itself. Figuring out how to get from one place to the next; what to see and do. What is the history behind the place, etc. It certainly kept me pleasantly occupied on a cold and rainy afternoon!

How do you plan for your travels? Do you often get itchy feet and the desire to visit new places?