Dear Renaissance and Medieval History

Dear Renaissance and Medieval History,

This is a good-bye of sorts. I’m not totally cutting you out of my life, but I am in a formal sense, or at least for now.

Two weeks ago I handed in my final essay to complete you. Today I got my overall mark for the unit. And now, I never need to write an assessed piece about you ever again (unless I do honours or masters or a phd as it has been suggested I do – but that won’t be for at least a year. You still have time to convince me…)

You have been a steady in my life for the past 5 years and it’s been fun having you by my side. But it’s not your consistency I need to thank you for. It’s the desire to travel you sparked in me. After sitting through you in year 12, looking constantly at frescos and churches and piazzas and civic buildings and statues, I knew I had to meet you in person. This long distance relationship wasn’t working anymore.

DSCI2583

Cosimo de Medici – You are a babe

You had introduced me to a big wide world and when I got out of my little, sheltered shell into it, it was like the fog had been lifted from my eyes and out of my mind. Things were clearer. Life had purpose: See Explore Learn. Travelling made me happy. And as you were the one who inspired me to travel, I guess you saved me.

IMG_5265

Dancing on top of a tower in Lucca

You created some hilarious moments and inspired:

– My friend and I (ok … me and my reluctant friend) to dress up in medieval cloaks to explore Hampton Court Palace.

DSCI1154

– Us to ride cheeky lion statues in Venice (one day in class we were analysing a Venetian fresco that had the lion of St Mark hiding in the corner. My friend exclaimed in jest “Look at the cheeky lion!” to which my Renaissance teacher stared her down with a look that could kill and firmly reprimanded her “The Lion of St Mark is NOT cheeky.” It was – it let us ride it).

DSCI2326

Cheeky lion!!

– Us to change Lady Gaga songs to be about the Renaissance – Poker Face: ‘can’t beat my, can’t beat my, no you can’t beat my patronage’ and Alejandro: ‘the Pazzi slayed, the Pazzi slayed Giuliano.’

– Me to cover myself in a red blanket to chant the Divine Comedy to my housemates and deep gossip sessions about how when you really look at it, the whole Divine Comedy is really about Dante’s daddy issues and Beatrice aka Bici aka ‘the town bike’ (as bici is short for bicicletta in Italian) being a huge tease.

IMG_4891

Dinner conversations gossiping about Dante

You gave me the opportunity to live and study in Prato/Florence for a semester. Although it was suggested instead of being about Renaissance and Medieval History it was more a major in food and wine, a minor in Roman Arches and a sequence in Dante. You introduced me to an academic mentor who was very influential to me, allowed me to have an academic affair (we would have long lunches discussing Italian literature and humanism), connected me with someone who changed my life for better and for worse and an amazing, fantastic, awesome group of friends who I met in Italy and am going to Greece, Spain and Morocco with next year!!

You changed how I travel – you made me go beyond Italy and to places such as Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey. Sometimes hearing your voice telling me to pay attention because the Byzantium mosaics in Turkey are super important to the Venetians is annoying but I still hold you dear. You make me pay attention to the culture and language and architecture and people more astutely.

So although our formal and professional relationship may be over for now, this isn’t goodbye. I’ll see you in books and movies but most importantly I will see you when I travel.

Take care,

S.

IMG_4961

Advertisements

How To Cope With Coming Home

Reality is hard. After weeks or months or years without any obligations, coming home can be extremely difficult. Suddenly there are chores to do, bills to pay and work or uni or school to attend. Unless you are rich or lucky you can’t continue to go out for dinner every night or spend every day exploring.

After seeing everyone on Facebook posting pictures of Europe (ok that might be an exaggeration but it sure feels like everyone I know is enjoying a European vacation), I thought I’d compile a collection of ideas that have helped me when I’ve returned from my adventures abroad.

Alternatively, this could be a guide to how to prepare yourself for a big trip or overseas adventure. You can substitute printing your own photos for printing ones of places you want to go and instead of blogging about where you’ve been you can blog about your dreams.

Sort through your photos

Arrange them into files on your computer eg) Europe 2013, Germany. This makes it a lot easier than scrolling through thousands to find the one you love of Neuschwanstein Castle.

Choose your favourites

Print them, frame them, put them into photo albums, blow them up onto canvases, display them around your home or work so the French Rivera or Swiss Alps constantly surrounds you.

Photo Night

Have your friends and family over for a photo night and make them jealous by sharing the exciting stories that accompany each picture. This way you get to relive it too!

Make a scrapbook or journal

You can either do this as you go and then re-read it when you return or make it at home. Stick in tickets, maps, booklets or write in detail about your day or write pieces about how a painting made you feel or vividly describe a landscape.

Make a Blog

I am so happy that after many years of thinking about it and putting it off, I finally made one. Now I get to relive my adventures all the time and I am constantly making new discoveries. While I am writing or scrolling through photos it really does feel like I’m back in these amazing places for a short time.

Display your souvenirs

My bedroom is a shrine to travel. Above my bed I have canvases from Prague and Paris, framed postcards from Tuscany, prints from Romania and a scratchy map (seriously one of the coolest presents I have ever received. It’s like a scratchy – once you’ve been to a place you get to scratch it away the brown and the colourful name of the country is below). And of course my snow globe collection.

Start Planning Again

Go to a travel agent and get booklets on your dream location or your next achievable or realistic location. Get ideas of routes, learn about tours or discover new cities or attractions. Make a Pinterest board or vision board. Procrastinate on Skyscanner or Eurail. At the moment I think I am working on about 4 trips. I think at any moment if someone gave me some money and said “GO!” I could have a whole trip booked in an hour as I have everything planned!

Decide what you love about travel and incorporate it into your daily life

Maybe you love new cuisines? Treat yourself once a week or month to a new restaurant. I recently went to a gorgeous Italian restaurant with friends I met in Italy and it was just like being back there. Perhaps you like art? Take yourself to explore the major gallery in your hometown and then find all the little independent ones which can be just as impressive.

Socialise

When on holidays you are constantly meeting new people on trains, at hostels, on tours, in language classes and at bars. If you miss the social element you can join a club and make friends with people who have similar interests. You could even start learning a language or doing traditional cooking or folklore dancing classes. This way you are meeting new people and getting a culture fix!

Volunteer

If you have volunteered overseas, there is nothing stopping you from making a difference big or small in your local community. Or you can start fundraising and send the money back to the people you helped.

Explore your hometown

Do you know all the hidden laneways? Have you been to the top 20 tourist attractions? Have you tried the new restaurant that is getting amazing reviews? Go out and be a tourist in your own city. Jump on a tram and go to a new area. Get a map and even buy a postcard to send to friends and family to make your experience authentic.

Make day trips or weekend trips

Jump in your car or on a train and go to the beach or countryside. Spend the night in a hotel in the city. Book a cheap flight to somewhere nearby (eg Melbourne to Sydney can be as cheap as $50!)

Mini Holidays

You don’t need a lot of time or money for a holiday. Turn off all electronics and spend the day watching movies or pampering yourself.

***

It’s not all doom and gloom. Coming home can be hard but it can also be lovely. Catch up with your friends and family and spend some quality time with them. Enjoy your own bed and home cooking.

Most of all … plan things, big or small, to look forward to that will put a smile back on your face!

Structure and Ante Structure: The Irony of Travel

No amount of planning can ever quite prepare you for the chaos of travelling. Ironically, the more you try to plan and organise and research and book ahead to ensure the ‘perfect” trip, the less chance you have of achieving it. Structure invites disaster. Perfectly timed connections, pre-planned day trips and carefully considered itineraries are all patiently waiting for disaster to strike.

Adhering to structure in a perfectionistic ploy to have a magical trip is in actual fact overwhelmingly limiting. I remember my second trip to Europe: I kept a notebook with meticulous plans for my 6 days in Paris: Monday 7am day trip to Loire Valley as most museums are closed, Tuesday go to the Louvre first thing to beat the crowds. I got to see everything I wanted and revealed in my organisational glory when my friend suggested we go to the D’Orsay as a special treat on our last day and I got to tell her it was going to be closed. 

But I’ve come to learn disappointment and the spontaneous can lead to some of the most memorable moments. In Pistoia, Italy, I never planned on meeting Vincenzo, a lovely, wise man who recited Dante, told me stories about Pistoia and let me practise my bad Italian. Arriving at the Dante museum in Ravenna to find it closed allowed me to get a ciocolata calda at the Alighieri café and immerse myself in the Commedia (it was almost like having hot chocolate with Dante himself). The train strike in Florence on my birthday meant I didn’t get to lay on the beach in Amalfi but it also meant I didn’t spend half the day in transit and got to eat incredible deserts at restaurant with waiters who were molti belli, get some bargains at H&M, run around in the pouring rain and jump in puddles and watch Letters to Juliet whilst putting on facemasks. (If you can’t tell it was one of my favourite days in Florence!)

And yet at the same time you’ve got to avoid falling into the trap of waiting for a miracle to occur when things go wrong. When I missed my connecting train from Faenza to Ravenna, I shamefully admit I thought “Excellent, there’s a reason behind this. I’m going to have an eye opening/unique/amazing experience or conversation.” I walked around for an hour and a half, waiting and hoping and … nothing. Similarly nothing revolutionary happened when I was lost in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Sometimes as the eloquent saying goes “shit happens.” 

So the moral of the story: if there is something you desperately want to see, please check. Don’t plan your entire trip around seeing Wicked on the West End for it to be sold out or going to Versailles on your birthday to get there and find it is closed. But do enjoy the utter dysfunction and chaos that travel brings! You never know what might happen. (And spending your time stressed trying to adhere to a tight schedule and keeping your head stuck in a guide book won’t result in much fun!)