Our Grand Tour wrapped up two weeks ago and it was incredible.
Lots of people have asked me about our highlights – one amazing thing that happened, or a shortlist of the places we liked best. My usual answer has been that the whole trip was a highlight: everything we saw and smelled, tasted and heard was so beautiful and overwhelming, that every day was just as wonderful as the last.
That being said there were some things about the trip generally that I really loved. They’re not really highlights, I guess. They are the things we did throughout the whole trip that, in the end, made the Grand Tour very grand indeed.
In three weeks something very exciting is happening: Matt and I are going to Europe. We are going to explore four different cities, and we are going to see friends and, most excitingly, we are going to witness our friends’ wedding in the north of Italy.
A few months ago this trip was completely out of the question, but then a couple of things changed and suddenly we were organising an international holiday. Other than our honeymoon in Fiji, Matt and I have not traveled overseas as grownups, so there has been a lot of research going on to make sure everything runs smoothly.
At first it was stressful, but as we began to book flights and places to stay… it started getting fun! Drawing up an itinerary, tentatively putting aside items to pack, booking train tickets – it’s become a stimulating exercise. I’ve developed a new set of problem-solving skills and it’s fired up my imagination. What will we see when we get there? How will it feel? What do we need to take to navigate our way through foreign countries?
For the last couple of months, dreaming and planning for our holiday has overtaken all my normal hobbies. When I get home from work or college and I want to relax, I head straight to the computer to keep making plans, or look at pictures of the places we will go. It’s my new drug, it’s the thing that makes me feel good. The things I used to do to rest are all kind of on hold for the moment. Our garden is looking a little unloved, I haven’t made anything new for ages, there has been no blogging or writing or reading. Holiday planning is everything!
My friends and family who travel regularly talk about the experience of wanderlust, and getting hooked on the need to plan holidays and travel. I wonder if I will feel it too when we get home? It will be weird to come back home and to not be able to rest through the planning of a holiday. I can imagine how addictive this feeling could become in the long term, how easily the planning of holidays could take over one’s life.
Have you ever kept a travel journal?
My friend Alison has just returned from a three week trip to New York. She is a very talented artist and she has kept a very unusual kind of travel journal – a tumblr where she has uploaded a new and unique piece of artwork inspired by each day of her travels.
If, like me, your recent international travel consists solely of vicariously experiencing things through other people’s instagram feeds, maybe you would appreciate it. Her sketches of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Staton Island ferry are my favourites.
A whole bunch of my friends are moving to, or have already moved to, America. It’s strange how many people are going there! I can’t imagine any reason that Matt and I would follow suit and go too, studying or working in America has not much appeal for us. However now that so many people are jetting off to the Western Hemisphere I’ve started imagining the upsides to living in America. And ’cause I like making lists here, I thought I would share a hypothetical list with you:
Things I would do if I lived anywhere in the USA
– I would visit all my American friends, and my Aussie friends who are living there for the moment.
– I would go to New York and find all the locations recognised from films and Geography case studies.
– I would go to a Five Iron Frenzy concert.
– I would eat lots of Mexican food (I’m sure PK could set me up with a list of places to eat!).
– I would go to Disneyland.
– I would buy clothes and shoes at much cheaper prices.
– I would make sure I was somewhere snowy in the winter. At Christmas even!
– I would take regular trips to Canada to visit friends there and explore all the beautiful things.
– I would go semi-regularly to watch the baseball.
This is all I can think of right now. It’s a shorter list than I expected, which makes me feel OK about not planning to live there. Are there any other important hypothetical activities that you think I should have included?
Tonight I went back to class after two weeks of absence and two weeks of break. Somewhere in there I had missed the wrapping up of our Islam component and tonight we moved on to Buddhism.
I have a funny past with Buddhism. I have identified as a Christian in some way or another for as long as I have had memory, but there was a little moment in there, when I was in my mid teens, when I thought that it would be fair to give another religion a geniune look-in. It wasn’t just a random decision. For quite a few years I had been stretching my mind a little bit, trying to come to my own ideas about who God is and what humans are and why the world is the way that it is. I’d read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder and was empowered to think my own thoughts. Saz, Aviea, Elwin and I met together for our “Pancake Philosophy” times, when we would make pancakes and share our own musings about knowledge and spirituality. Of course, usually that just happened without the pancakes. In my Asian Studies subject in year 9 and 10 I was exposed to new Eastern philosophies and spirituality. There were excursions – to the Chinese Gardens, to a Buddhist art exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, to the Nan Tien Temple outside Wollongong. And in the middle of that, a short exchange trip to Japan. Through all of that Buddhism was the most appealing alternate way of thinking so I checked it out – seriously.
A Big Buddha we visited in Japan, somewhere outside of Tokyo
I didn’t hang around there for very long though. Buddhism teaches an amazing view of the world. There is incredibly complex logic that doesn’t make sense at first but becomes fascinatingly clear as you learn to adjust your thinking. However even when the clarity came, the worldview remained chillingly cold. There was no motivation for love. From my perspective, there was no motivation for anything at all. It was beautiful to look at but way too awful for me to actually incorporate into my life.
Baby Buddha, tucked away at the back of the Chinese Gardens in Sydney.
One of our Pancake Philosophy times happened sitting around this guy. I visit him whenever I go to the gardens 🙂
Tonight was a funny throwback to that period of my life. It was weird to revisit Buddha as an adult, now that I am much better at excercising my brain and appreciating different worldviews (thanks uni!) and also fully convinced of how much Jesus loves me (thanks uni!). Interestingly, I found Buddhism both more beautiful and more repellent than I did all those years ago. It’s funny how things go like that.
We were huddled around a computer, watching a live feed of President Obama speaking from the White House, completely entranced.
I’m not sure what everyone else was thinking but all I could think about was the girl my family knew who stayed back in New York for a breakfast at the top of the towers instead of taking her flight back to London. Not revenge thoughts or anything like that, just wondering how her family would be feeling, hearing today’s news about Osama.
When the speech was over my colleagues and I spun around on our chairs and rolled back to our desks, agreeing on three things:
– Obama’s speech was very eloquent and measured. We are so glad that that it wasn’t George Bush making the speech!
– It would suck incredibly to be the president of Pakistan right now.
– How bizarre is the state of the world that four highly educated researchers in Australia can sit, pinned to a computer, hanging on to every word spken by a foreign president?
Cest la vie, I guess, and back to work now.
So Mystery just had her recent high school nostaglia moment on LJ and then Steson went and asked for a picture of deer. Here are some more Japanese pictures to stir up the memories. And if you didn’t go to high school with me and you have never been to Japan (probably about 95% of people reading this), you can flick through and remember the days when our cameras could only take 24 pictures before we needed to change the film.
This way for many old pictures