Eight years of University came to a halting end and left me feeling that despite the knowledge I had squeezed into my now rather expensive brain, I had yet to really explore the world. So with 3 months before starting a yearlong internship and no friends who could afford to travel or had time to do so, I made up my mind to do it myself.
Now, I assume that most people would have prepared for such an adventure. I, however, decided to prepare by packing a backpack the night before leaving for Heathrow and buying a Lonely Planet Europe on a Budget book. In retrospect, I assume that before leaving on a 3 month solo journey, most people would also learn how to use a map. I did not.
Although I had always been active, played varsity sports and any pick-up game that happened in the summers, walking had never been a passion of mine. Upon arriving in Europe alone and on a very tight budget, my feelings quickly began to change. With no plan of attack for exploring this continent, I looked for cheap buses, trains and airplanes to take me to each exciting new city. For three months I planned 2 days in advance and bounced around Europe. I would arrive in a new city with my trusty Lonely Planet city map and would walk to the chosen hostel. Mastering map reading had happened out of sheer necessity in only a few short days and I found that the beauty of walking to each hostel was that by the time I had found it, I had also oriented to the city and was ready to discover it. I would drop off my backpack and then have an exciting, exotic, fascinating city at my fingertips to explore however I chose to do so. I would walk around markets, churches, memorials, parks and, to my mother’s horror, anywhere else that I could find.
I spent the summer on my feet and in the sun, exploring everything and anything I could from Dublin to Croatia and everywhere in between. I rarely rested except for travel time and people watching after picking up fresh fruit, bread, cheese and often wine from a local market. By the time I reached Spain, the walking had done so much for my mind, my spirit, and my body that despite my Canadian modesty, even the topless beaches of Valencia were mine to embrace, I suppose this time to my boyfriend’s horror.
Walking around Europe this summer took me places I never could have imagined: bumping into the Queen while walking to climb Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland; wandering the grounds and history of Versailles outside of Paris, France; the smell of chocolate in a back alley of Brussels, Belgium; wandering through War Memorials in Berlin, Germany; haggling over fake Prada purses outside a church in Milan, Italy; or catching the most breathtaking sunset I could have ever imagined while walking home in Zadar, Croatia.
These are the places that walking took me.