Once Again, The End

One of the first things I do when I end a long trip like this one is try to put together some sort of post on my feelings on the trip while those feelings are still fresh in my head. Here’s the thing, though, after being on the road this long, and especially at the pace in which I travel, nothing’s really fresh in my head, as is proven by last year’s post-trip Was It All A Dream? post written the afternoon I got home. But I’m going to give this a try again anyway….

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Early in the trip in Reykjavik, Iceland

Coming off of my trip to New Zealand last year, I knew that any trip I chose was bound to be somewhat of a letdown. As I put in my final post in the New Zealand series, every trip from there forward was competing to be my ‘second’ best trip ever. I was so smitten with New Zealand that I had an itinerary for a second trip already written up before my return flight home even departed Auckland. When I told my wife and a few selected friends and family of my plan to return to New Zealand the following year, none were surprised. They knew me and could see how deeply I had bonded with The Land of the Long White Cloud.

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Sailing through the German countryside at over 130 mph

I can’t remember where things changed from a return to New Zealand to a trip to Europe. I know part of my reasoning was that if I returned to New Zealand and spent the 30 days mostly visiting places I’d missed the first time around, it was going to leave me with much of the country seen, which for me, with so many other places out there to see, would mean that I probably would have a reason to return again anytime soon. I guess my logic was summarized by saying I was hanging onto a the New Zealand return as my ace-in-the-hole.

 

My second reasoning was that I wanted a different photographic challenge, and Europe certainly provided that. Where as New Zealand mostly dramatic landscapes, Europe was mostly cityscapes and buildings. It certainly provided that. Add to that the fact that my pictures from the 1998 trip were all on film, and a pretty poor point-and-shoot on top of that, I needed to test my skills on my dSLR camera.

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Off set in Bruges, Belgium

I’d done a summer in Europe in 1998, half on a bus tour of Eastern Europe and half on a railpass with two of my friends. I enjoyed both parts, but I really enjoyed the romance of riding the rails. It was such a cool thing to go to bed in Munich and wake up in Rome. It offered such variety in such a small geographic area.

 

Planning this trip was much more complicated than I had imagined as well. There were places I wanted to revisit, but there were mostly things I’d felt like I missed on my previous trips to Europe. In the end, as I told people who I met on the road what I was doing (all with looks of astonishment), was piecing together experiences. The trip lacked a classic flow, but with the European rail network, it doesn’t really need one.

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Chapel Bridge, Lucerne, Switzerland

As much as I enjoy riding trains, I will confess that I’ve become spoiled by the flexibility that having your own vehicle allows. I wouldn’t ever want to do Europe by car, although I did enjoy the two experiences I had on this trip where I did rent a car (Iceland & Northern France). However, I was also thankful beyond belief that I didn’t have a car in any of the big cities I visited, as my taxi rides always proved (Florence and Paris specifically come to mind). Having a rail pass meant needing specific reservations, which I mostly took care of before the trip as to avoid having to spend sightseeing time in train stations waiting to make said reservations. The downside to having these reservations meant that I had to follow the specific schedule, and it also meant that I every single night of hotels booked before I left. This proved to be an excellent idea as well- despite the crush of the tourist season being more than a month away, most of these locations were packed and I have a feeling I would have wound up frustrated showing up and trying to find a place or waiting until few days before to book something.

 

The first few posts I intend to write will be:

  • Europe by the Numbers- My New Zealand by the Numbers was a popular post from last year’s trip, so I kept similar numbers on this trip (although the categories have certainly changed 🙂
  • What I Did Right and Wrong- There certainly were good examples of each….
  • Practical Europe- Since the summer tourists season is coming, I’m going to try and focus some posts that will be helpful for people heading over this summer (i.e. Using the Paris Metro)
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Sunburned and riding my final train from Rennes to Paris

There are some people I need to thank. My Assistant manager Gabe (and all of our employees really- they are the ones working hard every day) for doing such a great job running the company I work for while I was gone- I really didn’t have to worry about work at all, which certainly makes the experience richer.  Thanks to my good friend Toni for spending some time with me in Amsterdam- it’s an honor being your friend and those days of companionship certainly broke up a lot of solo travel. Also, other blogger friends, Ali & Andy, for a great night out in Freiburg and for helping me navigate the German Postal System the next day when sending my big suitcase home. Thanks to all the people (Way too many to name specifically right now) I met on the road who took the time to chat or share a beer with this solo traveller. I will confess I do get lonely and homesick just like everyone else, but I met so many incredible people who certainly offset the rare times that loneliness kicked in. Thanks to everyone who followed along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram- you made me feel like a real blogger for the 24 days with all your likes and comments. I am extremely grateful. The biggest thanks, and it almost goes without saying, is to my wife. I’m sure there are a lot of positives having 25 days without me, but there is also a lot of extra demands keeping up the house and taking care of our extremely spoiled furry kids (although, to be fair, she’s most of the reason they are so spoiled 🙂 ). Thank you for putting up with crazytravelhusband, especially since it’s an obsession that has to be a mystery to you.

 

Well, that should about do it, expect that I didn’t talk about my feelings much, and that (as mentioned in the post’s opening paragraph) was supposed to be the point in writing this. My mom asked me today when I called her on my stopover in Iceland on the way back how I felt. Right now, it’s real easy to come up with one word- tired. There’s a lot of other emotions I feel as well (thankful, gratified, blessed) but tired trumps them all right now. One of my pretrip posts was titled “Yes, I Know I’m Not 25 Anymore” and honestly, I know that now more than ever. That fact is though, I pulled it off- and no matter how exhausted my 40 year body and mind are right now, I have the memories and experiences to prove it. I just have to unscramble my brain through decompression for a while. It’s great to be out on the road, but it’s even better to be able to come home, and that I know more than ever.

 

Erik Smith

May 11th, 2013

Somewhere over the North Atlantic

14 Responses to “Once Again, The End”

  1. It is so hard to believe that something you spend time planning and looking forward to can be over so quickly, travel provides so many fantastic and different experiences but it always ends too soon. I look forward to reading more about your trip and your experience with your DSLR.

    • Erik says:

      And I’ll have a lot more to write… that’s also one of the splendid things about travel- lots to think about afterward. This trip did go exceptionally fast, too.

  2. When I get home from a trip (no matter how long it was), the first thing that crosses my mind as I walk through door is “Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was walking OUT the door?” From the bits about your trip I’ve caught, it sounds like a great time. I’ll look forward to reading more about it.

    • Erik says:

      Cathy, that was even more true on this trip. As tired as I was when I got back, It felt like no time had elapsed….

  3. I think it’s quite cool that you got a good mix of old and new, sure you were returning to places you’d been before, but so much time had lapsed since, it was like they were brand new, and like you said, you gave yourself new challenges too – the photography and transportation

    • Erik says:

      I did get what I was looking for… and more 🙂

      I hope your cross-country Canadian adventure also goes well- I’ll be following!!

  4. Lindsay says:

    Glad you had such a good trip. Can’t wait to see and here more!

  5. SUCH a mixed bag returning from a trip, then sorting through all the memories and photos.

    Welcome back!

  6. Kris Koeller says:

    Looks like a terrific trip. Can’t wait to read more about it!

  7. I’m about to leave my husband for two weeks, and then two weeks again in June, and again in August… it really makes all the diff having a supportive spouse. I knew you’d gone to Europe but I’ve been out of the day to day loop and looking forward to reading about your adventures.

    Now you have me wondering what next year’s trip will be.

    • Erik says:

      I can tell you for sure it won’t be a long one like the last two 🙂

      Look forward to reading about your adventures!

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