Hello Marie Kondo. Folding my clothes into teeny-tiny rows does not spark joy. Dancing around my spare room surrounded by floor-to-ceiling binbags does not spark joy. Having to ask “does this spark joy” everytime I touch anything I own does not spark joy. But do you know what does spark joy? Travel. And sometimes it’s the smallest things. Here are five of my favourite travel moments that spark joy and make me all warm and fuzzy inside when I think of them.
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It had been a soggy start to our trip to Salzburg. Greeted by a deluge of rain, our first Austrian purchases are two I HEART Salzburg umbrellas. But visiting Salzburg has been Ma Lee’s dream since she was a little girl, so we’re not going to let a little thing like rainfall of biblical proportions put us off exploring the city. The puddles gather on Getreidegasse, making us skip around them as if we are in some sort of Austrian musical.
I refer to my itinerary. Yes, those were the days when I used to carry around a laminated copy of the day’s activities. I’m a little more fluid with our itineraries these days, mainly due to the prevalence of WiFi. But back in the heady days of 2014, WiFi wasn’t a given. My itinerary, now slightly soggy, suggests that we see Salzburg in all it’s early evening sunlit glory from above. Yes, those were the days when I was an optimist.
Mr Fletche and I head to the Monchsberg elevator, Ma and Pa Lee in tow. We hand over 8 euros and we’re whisked through the seemingly solid rock face to Humboldt Terrace. I swear I can hear the faint opening notes of “Do-Re-Mi”. Despite the mist and the drizzle, and the raindrops dripping from my hood, down my nose and disappearing somewhere into my coat, it is a spectacular, postcard vista. Salzburg from above is truly beautiful. I don’t have to ask Ma Lee if she feels the same. I can see it in her face, in her glassy eyes, and by the fact that for once, Ma Lee is totally and utterly silent. Dreams do come true.
Italy. The land of good food and good wine. We had drank our body weight in Aperol Spritz since landing in Milan and ate cicchetti with every drink. I had overcome my melted cheese phobia and embraced the pizza with gusto. Gelato became one of our five a day (gelato is a fruit right?). A litre of wine with every meal became the norm. Including breakfast. And in beautiful Cinque Terre, we had our pick of fish and seafood, fresh from the Ligurian Sea.
And yet out of all our Italian meals, it is one at the Cinque Terre town of Manarola that makes me smile. A train strike on day one of our stay forced us into an accidental hike between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza. So on Day Two we made the most of the train, hopping between Monterosso, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. It had been a particularly sweaty walk to Corniglia, up 382 steps to the clifftop town from the train station. So by the time we reach Manarola, we are ready for lunch.
The beautifully elegant al fresco ristorantes can’t tempt us but the delicious smell of warm focaccia coming from Pizzeria La Cambusa does. We buy two focaccia, and two of the biggest bottles of Birra Morretti I’ve ever seen. We do as the locals do, and find a place on the rocks overlooking the crystal blue waters to dine. No Michelin-starred restaurant could have provided a better meal for us that day.
We could have easily drove the 140 mile long Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff in one day. In a couple of hours in fact. Give or take a few hours for photo stops. But after ticking off a bucket list item by taking the overnight train from Vancouver to Jasper, I decided to add another item onto that list. Sleeping under the shadow of a glacier. And so we took a leisurely drive, stopping at Valley of Five Lakes and several waterfalls before we reach Glacier View Lodge, at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier. And as we arrive, it begins to snow. By the time we’ve checked in and ventured down to the bar for a drink, the snow is coming down thick and fast outside. And it doesn’t stop all night.
We wake up the next morning to a winter wonderland. All of a sudden I am mightily pleased at our foresight to bring insulated trousers as we’re going to need them where we’re going. Out on that glacier. Which at the moment is invisible. We put our faith in the Brewster Canada team and their Ice Explorer buses. It’ll take more than a bit of snow to stop them. Our timing is actually perfect as there is only one more weekend left before the end of the season, and the glacier will remain untouched by human feet until next year.
We may be one of hundreds of tourists out on that glacier that morning but it still feels like alien territory. We step onto 1000ft thick ice, yet we still feel the fragility of the floor beneath us, and harness fears of plunging through into the piercing blue depths. Strangely, stepping on to the glacier feels somewhat like stepping out onto the salt flats at Death Valley. Albeit about 60 degrees celsius different in temperature. We almost don’t notice the cold, creeping into minus double figures. Until we do, and suddenly we long for the relative warmth of our Ice Explorer.
At the time, this particular moment did not spark joy. What it did spark was a fear of hypothermia, and anxiety that the skin scraped off my legs would never grow back. But a moment that sparks joy is one where you look back and think how glad you were that you took the plunge. Literally in this case.
We had been unlucky with our weather at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. A grey, drizzly day which luckily didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to find more waterfalls. And the weather is much more pleasing two days later when we head from Zadar to Split via an agrotourismo in the middle of nowhere. We’re staying at the farmstead because of its close proximity to Krka National Park. Where we can actually swim in the waters beneath the Skradinski Buk falls.
Mr Fletche goes first. I watch as he tentatively navigates the rocky descent into the waters. It looks cold. Mr Fletche may or may not be turning blue. I’m enjoying the sunshine up on the rocks, and if this wasn’t a potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience, I’d probably stay where I was. But I greet Mr Fletche with a grubby dust-covered beach towel and prepare for my turn.
“Is it cold?“ I ask
“Is it slippy?“
“Will I cry?“
Mr Fletche is the master of the understatement. It is so cold that I literally cannot breathe. Nothing on this earth would force me to plunge into these Arctic waters. Apart from getting my foot stuck between two rocks, losing my balance and plunging headfirst into those Arctic waters. I do not cry, but its a close thing.
The base of the lake is rocky and very very slippy. I make my way very slowly until the water is deep enough to swim and I’m away from those pesky rocks. The moment my feet leave the floor though, I am swept along by a surprisingly strong current. I’m soon back at those pesky rocks again. To get to Mr Fletche, I have to haul myself onto the rocks, bringing my short stubby legs up to waist height before I can get a foothold. I use the tiniest ounce of upper body arm strength I have to pull myself out of the water. At that point I notice the blood pouring down my leg.
Three years later, I mainly remember the exhilaration. And not the cold at all. Almost.
Back in 2007, before blogging was a thing, a boy and girl (and that girl’s parents) went on holiday. It was a last minute decision by the boy, so he booked an apartment on the other side of a Cretan town from the girl and her parents. Which didn’t stop the girl from spending every minute with the boy. Or illegally staying in his single occupancy apartment. (Sorry Cretan authorities.) And one night, after a beautiful meal to celebrate the girl’s parents wedding anniversary, the boy and the girl headed back across town. The boy held hands with the girl and asked her to walk along the moonlit beach. The girl, decked in a pair of high wedges, laughed.
“Not in these shoes!” she exclaimed, with a slight Birmingham accent.
“So take them off” the boy sensibly suggested.
The girl sighed. If she took off her shoes, then her feet would get all sandy and she’d have to take another shower before bed, and she was too tired and too full of ouzo for that. And so the boy and girl walked along the road, past bars offering three for one vodka red bulls and lurid cocktails. The boy seemed a little fidgety. As they entered the boy’s apartment, he suggested a drink on the balcony. Being a cheap(ish) last-minute booking, the boy’s balcony simply overlooked the balcony of another apartment block. The girl bends down to finally unstrap those pesky wedges. When she lifts her head, wedge in hand, the boy is kneeling in front of her. A flash of diamond. A thin band of white gold.
“I wanted to do this on the beach” the boy says.
A balcony with no view, a bag of Cheetos and a bottle of 2 Euro Cretan wine. And the boy that the girl loves. The girl thinks the moment is perfect. And is one that she will remember for all time.
This post was inspired by the March #TravelLinkUp prompt: travel moments that have sparked joy. If you want to join in, pop your post up over the first week of the month and add it to the link up widget found on SilverSpoon London, Binnys Food and Travel Diaries and Adventures of a London Kiwi. There are no rules, only to check out some of the other cool bloggers that are involved in that months travel link up; make a few comments here and there and tweet a few of the posts out to your followers that you think they will love. It’s a great way to meet some new travel bloggers and share some blogging joy!
The Travel Link Up is open to all bloggers as long as the post is relevant.
I’m Emmalene, a 40 something with a passion for travel, theatre, food, drink and the occasional accidental hike! I’m a born-and-bred Birmingham native so expect lots of Brum content on here too…