Lifestyle & Culture

Travel writer/photographerJackie Harding: The things I miss most about travel

A year into the pandemic and travel still seems a distant dream to many of us ….


A year into the pandemic and travel still seems a distant dream to many of us … especially those of us living in the European Union patiently, or maybe not so patiently, waiting for our vaccinations! As I drove past Schiphol Airport the other day I was given to think about what I miss from the time when we could travel and these are the things I pine for, in no particular order.

Food

The author dines in Germany

One of my favorite aspects of travel is the opportunity to try different foods and restaurants in the countries I visit. These can often be a highlight of the trip and don’t have to be Michelin star quality. The memory of good food, great company or great ambiance when reminiscing about a certain location is often wrapped around a memorable meal.

I have a few of these, such as:

• the fantastic vegetarian restaurant, Prinz Myshkin, I discovered in Munich

Pelna Para, the tiny little dim sum bar in Warsaw

• the miniscule restaurant, Sr. Lisboa, that was such a fantastic and unexpected find in
Lisbon

• and the unbelievable restaurant, Vaaghals, in Oslo

Of course, not all meal recollections are happy memories, but, generally, I have been blessed with more positive experiences than negative. During this long pandemic closure of restaurants in the Netherlands I find myself quite desperate to experience a meal, cooked by someone else, and which is not takeout! Now my mouth is watering for a culinary experience.

A Culture Not My Own

I love travel as it opens so many doors, and one of the ways to really learn about the country you are visiting is to spend time in museums and galleries, etc. Again, this is something we are unable to enjoy at the moment, but it will happen eventually. I know museums either aren’t everybody’s “cup of tea” or maybe the weather is far too nice to spend time inside, but I always try to fit in at least one.

• In Warsaw I spent several hours learning about the history of the uprising that happened in the city during the
German occupation in The Warsaw Uprising Museum.

• Lucca in Italy was the birthplace of Puccini and offered many musical opportunities, along with the museums covering his life.

• In Oslo I enjoyed learning about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize in the Nobel Peace Centre.

• and Arles, in Aix en Provence I loved visiting L’atelier De Cézanne, the studio of artist Cézanne, which looked as if he had just popped out to buy some more paints!

The author – second row, second from left – on the road with the Expats Bikers Club Netherlands. (Photo by Jackie Harding)

Meeting New People

Author Edith Wharton said it best: “One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.”

For me, the people I meet along the way are one of the greatest perks of travel. I always told my kids to look left and right and speak to the people on either side. This advice has served me well too, as I have had the best, briefest of
conversations with people on buses or trains or spent time with others making connections.

• There was the young Siberian lady I chatted with on the 30-minute train ride into Munich.

• The Athens food tour guide that I ended up having a drink with at the end of the tour.

• The afternoon spent with a Canadian lady met on a walking tour in Paris that happened to know a friend of mine in Toronto!

One way to meet interesting people is on a local tour with companies such as WithLocals. I have taken tours based
around food and street art and had the most fascinating conversations with the guides, which often extend past the designated tour time, and in some cases to emails and long-distance friendships.

Shopping

I am not a shopper, but I do love to visit food stores and markets when travelling. You get such a delightful glimpse into local life. Grocery stores, from gigantic superstores to the local stores, provide me with endlessly fascinating ingredients, and I often wish I had a larger suitcase or that I wasn’t travelling on a flight with carry-on only. Pasta looks so much fancier in Italy, local beers beg to come home with me and all the fresh produce looks so colorful and attractive. Local markets are infinitely more bedazzling! The artistically laid out acres of glistening fresh fish, the jewels of fruit and vegetables, or the jars of local honey or wine. Grocery shopping is never so exciting at home.

Travel

There is something beguiling about airports and train stations. Your home airport or station you are familiar with and don’t need to worry about where on earth Gate 34b or platform 27 is or how long it will take to get
there, allows you to take in the life and hullabaloo that accompanies travel. Schiphol Airport is my “home” airport and provides plenty of people-watching opportunities: from the arrival and departure hugs and tears; the observation of cultural differences; the sense of relief that your kids are now adults as you watch flustered parents struggle with bags, strollers and distraught children; the efficient hustle of the business traveller to the relaxed stroll of the well-travelled backpacker.

Travel is a great leveler as we are – unless lucky enough to travel first class – all treated identically. The excitement and buzz from anticipated adventures is also something I miss and can’t wait to get back to … eventually.

Of course, one of the experiences I’ve missed most is that sense of well-being you get as you unlock your front door, are greeted by your long-suffering pet and snuggle into your very own bed. At the moment, we are all heartily weary of spending month after month staring at the same walls, but eventually we will once again find joy in returning, as Dorothy said:

“There’s no place like home.”

About the author:

Photographer/writer Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a long-time expat, she lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past 10 years.

Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.

Contributing to Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.

She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.

She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.

You can read more of Jackie’s work for Dispatches here.

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