32 cities, 23 countries, 13 buses, 38 trains, 3 boats, 16 planes and more Christmas markets than most people see in a lifetime. Alas, it all must come to an end. Much like my bank account, I’m completely drained and ready to go home, but it doesn’t mean I’m not sad to leave. It took a while, but I’ve settled into the routine of moving around every few days admiring the cities of Europe and its surroundings. The last few weeks have gone particularly fast but were some of the best.
After leaving Iceland, we flew to Helsinki where after one night in the city we made our way up north to Lapland. Months before, Isabel and I had booked a night at the Arctic Resort in Kakslauttanen where they had glass igloos in the middle of the forest. We took a 12 hour overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and chose the budget option of having seats. It was awful. I slept for about two hours and woke up with Isabel gone. I looked around and found her lying face down along the couch in the restaurant cart. I knew she had my phone tucked in with all her belongings which she was lying on but I couldn’t get to it without looking like I was stealing from her. I thought if I gave her a kiss on the head it would be clear that I knew her but this may have looked even creepier. After the train we got a 4 hour bus to the middle of nowhere. The long, expensive and uncomfortable trip was beyond worth it. The igloo was incredible and the snow was like nothing I’d ever seen. Although it was only the second or third time I had seen snow so no surprise.
We made the same trip back to Helsinki where we stayed for three nights. From Helsinki the next stop was Stockholm. And so we boarded the overnight ferry. I don’t have many regrets from this trip but getting on that boat is my biggest. I didn’t think that a boat of that size could make a person sea sick but the fact that Isabel and I spent the next 17 hours with our heads in the toilet determined that was false. At 9pm they made an announcement that the performer Il Quattro would be unable to perform due to sea sickness. The man whose job it is to be on a boat couldn’t even cope. Pick up your game Il Quattro! Those 17 hours were traumatic. Things happened we swore never to speak of. There aren’t many people I would travel with, but when Isabel started singing ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen while I was spewing my guts out, I knew I had chosen well. To the cleaning crew of the Silja Line cruise ship, we are deeply sorry.
After three days in Stockholm the ground had finally stopped swaying and it was time to head to Norway. We got the train to Oslo which was simple and involved no bodily fluids which at this point was a big win. And so in two days it will be time to get on that last flight, destination Melbourne. There are so many things I want to do when I get home, but at the moment I can’t think further than putting a straw in a 2 litre bottle of lactose free milk and having a long undisturbed bath. I have actually been surprised at the selection of intolerance and allergy friendly foods. Most medium to large supermarkets have had a selection of gluten free and sometimes lactose free foods in the health section which I don’t know what I would have done without.
4 months ago I found it difficult to breathe while riding public transport. I told myself travelling wasn’t for me and I had made the mother ship of all mistakes. I don’t even recognise that person any more. I still feel like people are staring at me, but now I figure hey let them look. I’m sure there are worse things to look at.
As much as I truly love sharing a room with 30 people and washing my clothes in a sink, I am so excited to be home in the familiar. For me, travelling is like constantly flexing a muscle. There’s almost no time when you are completely alone to let down your guard and relax. But for anyone living with anxiety, depression or anything else that might be stopping you from travelling, I say go for it. That is my non-professional advice and obviously every case differs. So really I guess that’s for anyone who is letting fear stop them from travelling. Yes it can be daunting, overwhelming and expensive but the memories and experiences are priceless. Things get in the way and there are obstacles to overcome when planning a long trip but if you really want to then the excuses will fade away and you will make it happen. I’m so glad I did.