5 July 2010

Holiday of my Life

The Atomium - 1999
I don't have many photographs from this trip, but this photo of the Atomium in Belgium is one of my favourites. Taken in 1999, it was part of my grand trip around Europe visiting artwork I'd only seen in books.
Backpacking Trip 1999
When I say that this was the holiday of my life, I’m not just talking about the length and breadth of the trip. If you were to look over a map of my life, I think this trip would be a turning point; one of those key events in time that forever change your course.

I was 21 and attending a top-rated design university. My course was a five year degree in which we alternated three months of classes with three month internships. In the winter of 1999, the job market was looking scarce, and it seemed unlikely I would find a placement. Rather than continue on, taking another three months of classes, my mother suggested I take the travel alternative.

Each student was offered one opportunity to substitute a travel quarter for the standard internship. This gave you the chance to see with your own eyes the great works of art and architecture around the world. I jumped at the chance. Within three weeks my itinerary was submitted to the University, I bought my equipment and had my tickets in my hand. I was flying 3,000 miles across the world to spend three months backpacking around Europe on my own.

While the countries were beautiful and the architecture inspiring, that was only the facade. For three months I stepped out of my life. No more thought about the bills or the rent, no more deadlines and projects to worry about, I didn’t even have to take out the rubbish. For once I was free of all the niggling thoughts and worries that plague everyday living.

I discovered that there was another way. That I didn’t need to live a life smothered in stress and anxiety; that I didn’t have to keep racing along this path that had been set before me. I finally had time to stop and consider what was important to me. Ten days after the plane touched down, I rang home and told my Mum I couldn’t go back.

As I continued my trek across Europe I learned that I like my own company. I learned that I could just let go of all those things we are told to worry about...and I’d still be alright. I learned to shake free of mass opinion and discovered passions of my own.

While it was a holiday of museums, tourist attractions and even a whirlwind romance, the real exploration was of myself. I returned home just long enough to complete the final term of my third year and put my affairs in order. Just five and a half months later I was flying back to the UK, ready to start the next chapter.