Sunday, 24 June 2012

I urge you...just travel!

Although, travel can be expensive; you don't have to go far to experience the essence of the message above.  It is by the American singer-songwriter, writer and activist Henry Rollins.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The People You Meet...

Getting to know each other...

I think, for me, one of the best and strangest parts (I don't want to say 'worst') about travelling are the people you meet as you explore a place.  Take my most recent trip...boy, did I encounter a slice of life!  On arrival at my first hostel, I found myself sharing a room with a lovely, but rather anally retentive 65 year old gentleman from North America, who spoke fluent Latvian and kindly invited me out to a traditional bar, nearby, to sample the delights of the local folk music and dancing.  I took up his offer and had an amusing night trying to make this typically strait-laced Canadian laugh without him breaking down anything humorous I ribbed him about into a rational (and often tiring) explanation.  The fact that we ended up sharing drinks with the staff and got a tour of the kitchens in the restaurant near the hostel we stayed in just made the night even more bizarre, yet strangely fun!

This North American traveller thing bothers me when I travel.  I don't know why, but I've met very few Americans and Canadians, on my travels, that are a genuine laugh and riot to be with.  For example, take the American father and daughter combo I encountered on my recent trip.  They were just so uncomfortable to be around as they seemed so guarded and factual in everything they talked about; there was no 'letting go' and chuckling about cultural differences or just settling into the enjoyment of a our very own 'mini-United Nations' bonded not by resolutions, but Lithuanian vodka and the strange taste of the pickled goods on offer.  The Irish, the Mexicans, the Dutch, the Swiss, the Lithuanian and the Australian got it, but I somehow feel in these situations the North American, and in particular the American, just didn't enjoy the sense of travel camaraderie and sharing of stories of past and current travels in a jovial way.

Am I right or am I just talking a load of rubbish?  Is it that I have simply met people from the States who stay in hostels for the price not the social aspect of life in a dorm/common room?  It would be great to hear other travellers' thoughts on this one.

Latvia and Lithuania...Conquered!

A shot of the tower in Cathedral Square, Vilnius

I am back on British soil!  Well, I've been back a week and a bit now and from a really cool trip to Latvia and Lithuania!  Both Riga and Vilnius, although similar cities; having an historical centre along with a great expanse of green, forest land surrounding both capitals, were great fun.  I highly recommend a visit to both.  The fears I expressed in my last post were completely unfounded (as I had predicted) and I managed to meet some cool people as part of my explorations somewhere new to me!  Once again, the trepidation I felt prior to my trip was completely unnecessary.

Me and the view from the top of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, Riga

Favourite bits, you ask?  In Riga, I enjoyed the views from the Academy of Sciences (AKA Stalin's Birthday Cake).  It was so strange visiting a tourist attraction, in a capital city, where I was the only person there, but for a couple of giggling Latvian girls.  I also loved creating some impromptu art at Galeria Darbnīcā -, where I was helped by two patient ladies who put up with my wavering artistic temperament during the hour and a half I spent at their workshop.  In Vilnius, the main highlight for me was heading out for the afternoon to Trakai; a castle on an island in Lake Galvė -  Overall, a top trip!

Saturday, 2 June 2012


Riga in Latvia 

So, tomorrow I head off on a 6 day trip through Latvia and Lithuania.  I've got my Lats and Litas, my passport is out and the holdall I'm stuffing full of clothes sits on my bed open, like a basking shark ready to swallow its this case, my socks and underwear.  But something is bothering me.  I know this feeling; I've had it before...I get it on every trip I've ever taken alone to a foreign land.  It's the one where my stomach is turning knots at the thought of arriving in a country where not one single person knows me, where I fear I'll be wandering aimlessly bored out of my skull wishing I was back in sunny Leeds.  Looking back, every time I have had this feeling, the trip itself has smashed any notions of fear about the solo travel experience out of the water.  I've yet to travel on my own somewhere and not meet fantastic people.  I've always tried to be brave enough to throw myself into social situations where I can try to make friends and sample the place I am visiting to its fullest (see my post 'My First Time...').  So, I'll be looking for the free tours on offer, the chance to get to know the people in my hostel and most of all enjoy myself as I explore exciting and interesting places I have never visited before.  So, here goes...Riga and Vilnius, I embrace you and all that you have...I'm sure you'll look after me!

By the way, if anyone has any last minute Latvia and Lithuania tips they are very muchly appreciated.