I apologize for not posting in a while but we’ve had the good fortune of being visited by some hikers we met during our walk on the Appalachian Trail in 2011, (trail names – Flame, Pyro, Stealth, Stumbelina), plus I’ve been busy doing research for my up coming trip. There are a few tricky aspects to planning this particular trip. One issue is I am combining a six week hiking trip through Northern Spain, (where I need to carry a proper backpack all day) with four months of hosteling that involves running around on buses, trains, ferries,… and stuffing my pack into train station and hostel lockers. For the hosteling portion I would prefer a lightweight, frameless pack. The other issue is during the initial few months of hosteling I will be traveling without my wife but she wants to see Europe “together” in the near future. So the questions boil down to, “What do I want to see in Europe that my wife has less interest in seeing?” and “What backpack do I bring that will work for hiking but will not be too bulky for hosteling?”
As for the “what to see” question I can narrow that to Denmark, Germany, Eastern Europe down to the Adriatic with the eastern endpoint being Turkey. I grew up during the cold war and spent many hours watching movies about spies and escapes from the Communist Block. I look forward to seeing the cities where secret meetings were held, messages were dropped, and James Bond was chased. I also want to visit the place where Europe meets Asia and actually hear, taste, smell and see a Muslim country with my own senses. I have only seen Muslim countries with my own eyes from the deck of a US Navy ship or through the eyes of others, i.e. CNN, FOX, PBS… after they have edited the film and stories to create a marketable product for their target audience. It’s time to see the unedited version.
The route from Copenhagen to Istanbul will probably include stops in Berlin, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Dalmatian Coast… Istanbul. Most stops will be a few days with an extended stay probably in Turkey or somewhere along the Adriatic coast. After bouncing around for a month or so I would like to settle in for a while and have a chance to truly get a feel for a specific region and do some writing. Turkey would be relatively cheap and provide a window to a truly different world. But my plans may change as my route is determined by my interests, experiences, opportunities and the people I meet along the way. The only thing I can guarantee is my travels will be filled with enough unknowns, first time experiences and dumb mistakes to keep it interesting. The trick is to maintain a good attitude while I’m having all those “interesting experiences” and making those dumb mistakes.
Six months of independent travel is a long time to be wandering, even in your home country let alone in countries where you are essentially illiterate and non-verbal. Some Americans actually think it’s illegal to spend that long in Europe. LIke other travelers I have been asked the question, “Is it safe to go there?”. The word “there” refers to any place other than where the person asking the question lives. Amazingly, despite the drugs, gang activity and violent crime in their own town, “there” is always perceived as a more dangerous place. I appreciate the concern but I also find it ironic considering the places I’ve lived and worked in the US, i.e. Chicago, San Diego, Portland Oregon, Tidewater Virginia, Detroit… The truth is any of the big cities I’ve lived in have higher violent crime rates than the places I typically travel to but the question is always asked – even when I went for a “A Walk in the Woods”. Peoples well meaning concerns seem to stem from limited travel experience combined with fear of the unknown. By contrast, people who have traveled extensively never ask about safety, they ask about what I’m going to do and see when I’m “there”. It’s not that crime does not exist “there”, if there are people there will be crime, it’s just that it is not as dominant an issue to the traveler as it is to the non-traveler. Such fears and thoughts about travel are not new and lend credence to the idea that your “education” is not complete until you have traveled, an idea that has been passed along for centuries in both Christian and non-Christian cultures.
I can assure you that it is legal for an American to wander Europe for months. If it’s in your heart to travel and explore ignore the fearful, non-travelers mantras, “you can’t do that”, “it’s not safe” -then do some research, don a pack and go complete your education.