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The bites of the travel bug

The roots of my love for travel are hidden between the pages of a book. In the early ’90s my mother brought home ”The wonders of the world”, one of the best gifts I’ve ever received as a kid and beyond.

I still remember the book cover – a close-up of the Statue of Liberty’s head and it’s hand, holding the torch. Inside, natural and man-made wonders were revealed continent by continent. I admired the photos and imagined what it’s like to visit these places. I dreamt of Machu Picchu and the Sydney Opera House. They were distant mirages and I had no clue that one day I will have the joy of seeing them with my own eyes.

In addition to the book, I had a big world globe. At my own initiative, I learned the names of as many capitals as I could. I took pleasure in it and enjoyed the question ”What’s the capital of…?”. Moreover, I loved to read maps and to get an idea about how the different languages sound like. At some point, I started to collect phrasebooks and read them like books. Why? Because it made me happy even though I doubted that I would ever need to speak Greek.

I wanted to travel. Anywhere, really. My first trip abroad happened when I was in high school. On a 2-week organized bus trip, we galloped across Vienna, Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Verona, and Venice. The highlight of the trip was Paris where we spent most full consecutive days. I was so excited the entire time that I barely had breakfast and that was sufficient to keep me going. Until I nearly fainted in Verona. I’m still unsure whether this was due to not eating or emotions were too much for me to take. I realized that organized trips are not for me – there is not enough time to see each place, someone is always late and everyone has to wait for them, you do what you are told and not what you want. It feels like being stripped of your freedom; like looking at a cake through a pastry shop window.

To me, travel is not a fashion, a way to show off or a tag opportunity on social media. It is an enthusiasm, an inspiration; a necessity. I don’t understand or support the idea of traveling because everyone else travels. Despite that to travel today is more affordable than ever, I still get impressed if someone has been to a faraway place. The trick is to discover the true traveler who craves to see and explore the world.

Trends are not important, a genuine interest in the place, a passion to discover it, and the way it makes me feel are driving forces. There are destinations that I would absolutely love to see. However, my biggest travel dream was to visit Australia and New Zealand. Having recently visited the former, I now dream of seeing Aotearoa and to return to Australia.

What I bring from trips are a lot of photos. They seal experiences and memories and give me a purely tangible feeling of possession. Some people find happiness in shopping or collecting shoes; taking pictures gives me the feeling of materialization and complacency. Moreover, I have a ritual of buying locally made earrings. I also enjoy local crafts and teas.

I used to believe that Europe has a lot to offer. It literally does – if you count the number of countries. However, visiting extraordinary places with unusual cultures, languages, nature, and heritage, has opened up my mind to the point that the Old continent doesn’t attract me. Not the familiar, but rather the unknown, wild, and different lights my travel fire.

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