There’s two kinds of travel as far as I’m concerned: there’s cultural travel with different stops and being on the road almost permanently – and there’s relaxation holidays, being mostly stationary somewhere taking the odd day trip. Having done a lot of both, I’d say I enjoy them equally. When I was younger and still subject to my parents’ whims, we went for typical beach holidays every year, to Italy, to France and sometimes to Germany to visit family.
My first longer trip was in 1994 to Iran where I stayed for a month in Teheran (mostly) with my father. It’s something I’d like to do again soon, in different company, because it’s one of the culturally richest places I’ve ever been to with a lot to see and great, welcoming people. Between 19 and 20, I decided it was time to go see more of the world on my own and so I spent prolonged holidays in the USA two years in a row, first on the East Coast and later, taking a long road trip across the West and staying in California for another month where I also have distant relatives.
Those were both good experiences, for one because I learned that seeing things for myself is rather different than on TV or from the news. Traveling abroad also gives you a great sense of independence and self-confidence. Starting university, I soon met my today partner and together, we began traveling parts of Northern Europe every year – something which was never in the book for me as a kid (“too cold”). We’ve been to Sweden a few times visiting his family and from there it was England, Scotland and Ireland together, a different place every year.
I’ve completely fallen in love with the British Isles but having spent the bout of my twenties doing road trips, I soon longed for the relaxation of staying somewhere more longterm again. And so we’ve spent the last three years at the Italian Adria during summer which is sort of our go-to place to recharge batteries, with short trips to Austria and France during the rest of the year whenever that city itch strikes.
Traveling is of course also lovely for taking pictures. Wherever I’ve been, I’ve come home with photographs from beautiful places and people, of which there are in every country. Every now and then I go back looking at older shots and wonder who I’d be without all my experiences from visiting different places. Being able to travel abroad is such an integral part to my understanding of the world today, my interest in cultural differences (that are fun but also not very serious), my love for language, for nature, for food and all the basic things that are the best in life.
I’ve only really gained an understanding of my own home and appreciation for where I live through traveling too, knowing what it is I like and also dislike about growing up and living in Switzerland. You can’t really perceive or judge your own position in the world without going away and looking at it from a distance.
Italy is the country I’ve been to the most, maybe 20 times altogether over the course of my childhood and also in later years. It’s therefore a place I don’t feel like a tourist in anymore – I have friends in Italy, I speak some of the language (although it could be better) and I completely surrender to the Italian groove whenever I am there. Italy is for letting the soul rest, dolce far niente and food goodness. People are warm and friendly (this is the “real” Italy, not a city like Milan up north which is as much typically Italian as London is typically English), life begins late in summer and goes all the way into the night, the sea is warm and nobody cares where you park your car.
I’ve been to Great Britain three times and while Ireland has its enchantment, it’s been lovely Somerset and Scotland with its rough hills and green lochs which I’ve come to adore. England is brimming with history and its past grandeur is never more obvious than when visiting the numerous and impressive beach castles along the Eastern shore all the way to Scotland. Whether you’re interested in history or a fan of myth and mythology, there’s things to do and see to your heart’s content in Britain. It wasn’t exactly our best food experience but we’ve met nothing but fun and straightforward people with a rocking sense of humor. My plan B for when all goes to hell someday is opening a B&B somewhere on a hill in Scotland, keeping my own goats!
France is famed for cities like Paris and its Côte d’Azur but for me, it’s the southern parts of the country that are the most charming. The Alsace area of Strassbourg and Colmar offers a unique mix of French and German culture and some of the most beautiful old towns I’ve ever seen. Strassbourg is a city I love returning to and it’s perfect for a 2-day trip to visit its mighty cathedral, picturesque old town and taking a boat trip around the city. If you choose a central hotel, everything is doable on foot and many people generally understand French, German and English. The food is French and German fusion, generally hearty and very yum!
I spent my first three weeks in the US at the East Coast, mainly the area around DC, Maryland and New Jersey, with a trip to New York. While NY is a special place no doubt and it feels weird looking back on pictures taken from the WTC (in 2000), I enjoyed my time in the western USA a great deal more; there was a more distinct American character or culture for lack of a better word, which probably makes some sense historically. I like to think of the USA as a continent more anyway, rather than one nation and country. The nature was simply beautiful, especially Montana, Utah and Arizona with their fabulous canyons and national parks. What struck me about these parts of the US was the sheer size and open space which I find very reassuring. Anywhere, people were very friendly and helpful, as if meeting tourists was the greatest thing in the world.
For a Swiss, Sweden is basically home but bigger, with red houses and coastlines but fewer mountains. The south-western part of Halland is Sweden’s popular summer resort and it’s heaven for anyone who enjoys long walks at the beach, cycling and forest solitude. Swedish summer is short and despite having been there in July a few times, I didn’t feel like swimming in the ocean. It’s a lovely country with friendly people and a strong sense of community, freedom but also privacy and decorum. If I go back sometime, I would like to travel further north to see the landscape change and become more barren and rough. If you don’t enjoy seafood like me, Sweden isn’t exactly a culinary highlight but then, I can live off meatballs and mash for a while if need be.
Planning your next trips is a lot of fun and our next holidays are always something I’m looking forward to during the year. Now that flying is becoming an option for myself and my partner (who didn’t use to fly at all), we can extend our radius although I’m glad to have spent so much time around central and northern Europe in the past. It’s easy to think that traveling is “the farther, the better” but that’s simply not true; wherever you are, there’s much to discover at your doorstep and at your closest neighbor’s. That said, without anything set in stone yet, I’d like to visit the following places over the coming years:
- Eastern Europe, esp. Croatia and Greece
- Canada and California, incl. Burning Man (possibly in 2018 with friends!)
- Return to Scotland and Iran
- Go somewhere tropical….maybe Maldives?
My partner and I have a few rules about where we don’t go which includes generally hostile places for tourism. I honestly also don’t look forward to US customs which make you feel like a criminal these days but it’s something to endure. I just hope our current world remains stable, so we can actually visit parts of the Middle East sometime. My better half would also love meeting with friends in Israel but that doesn’t seem like such a great idea at the moment.
What are your travel plans for the future or places you’d like to go?