Well we’ve been back in Australia for just over a month now, hearing two of my most disliked phrases “back to reality” and “looked like the trip of a lifetime” over and over again. For me, travelling is a natural part of our lives, not a “ONCE in a lifetime” experience. And what IS reality? Being overworked, over-scheduled, and overloaded every day, or spending time learning and growing with your family? I’d like to think we can manage a do-able mix of the two.
It was a LONG trip home. 3 flights…Vienna to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Delhi, Delhi to Sydney. Those second two trips were tough going with some of the worst airline service, on-board maintenance, and organisation I’ve ever come across. I vomited after one of the meals (Cam went to get help from cabin crew who were sitting on the floor and thrust a cup of water and paper towels at him). The toilet floors were covered in urine because the seat self-closed which I guess would have been a shock to most of the mid-stream male passengers. About a quarter of the in-flight entertainment systems were out of order, or headphone and USB jacks had been gauged out. Tray tables had filth wedged in the joints, and the decor looked like a 70’s bistro.
All that aside, we arrived back to the Sydney heat and humidity. My best friend Rach has always said to me “you live a charmed life”. The fact that we avoided most of Australia’s horrendous fire season and smoke-filled air over summer; that we skipped through Beijing airport just before the coronavirus really hit; that we travelled through the Veneto between a record aqua alta in Venice and the virus peaking there, tells me she’s right.
Here are some of the places, people, food or situations that surprised and/or excited us this trip…
- I realise I love the cold. Not drippy, miserable, wet cold. Crisp, blue-sky 3 degree cold. In Australia, I sweat as soon as I walk out the door. In a European winter, I had 5 layers on, stockings and ski socks under my jeans, was walking for about 5 hours each day, and didn’t break a sweat at all. Hooray for layers of jumpers, coats, scarves and gloves. I love it.
- Just when you think you have a country sussed, you take a two hour drive in Europe, you may pass through two different countries in the process, and you’ll definitely find different products in the stores and food in the restaurants. The basics are all there, but one dish that is loved in one town isn’t even on the radar in the next. There’s an undeniable pride in one’s local region and its specialties. in Australia, there are SOME regional hits which has more to do with a location’s proximity to the land or sea, but you’re bound to find the same Arnotts biscuits, Smiths chips and some version of vanilla slice in every single town from Hobart to Broome.
- Fashion. Now, while many Europeans have the edge on “classy” dressing over many other parts of the world, there’s almost a homogeneity to it. For winter, it’s skinny jeans, boots, puffer coat. I do appreciate the freedoms we have in Oz to express ourselves clothes-wise in whatever way we like. You’re more into retro? Frock it up! You’re a rock-chick? Dip yourself in black. It’s all good! In Europe there was also a definite lack of James Charles-inspired makeup contouring and MAFS fat lip fillers that seems to be on the rise here. For this, I was thankful. Oh, and there were Ugg Boots on every cool chick in every country we visited!
- SO many Europeans still smoke. That’s enough now. It is disgusting. And if you ARE going to smoke, don’t toss your butts on the ground. Beautiful stone laneways had cigarettes wedged between each brick. While smoking is a vice I just cannot stand, on the positive side, we didn’t see one drunk local yahooing about, swearing, yelling, smashing stuff. I’m likely to see at least one person doing this every few days on my commute from the city. The only loutish behaviour we witnessed was by lads on bucks/sports weekends in Budapest. And they were all English or Irish.
- “Where are all the teenagers? Everyone’s so old!” moaned the girls in nearly every town we visited. It’s true that you notice MANY older Europeans getting about, hanging with their friends in a piazza, or riding pushbikes in heels to get bread in the morning. We also saw loads of families with young kids. Perhaps all the teens were at their friends’ places? Away in the mountains? At school? Or maybe it’s just that in Australia, many of our elderly are locked away in retirement villages, so it’s not that there were more older people there, but more out and about.
- The undoubted star of the trip was Miro, the guide who showed us through the mummy saints exhibition in Istria. His quotes and mannerisms were celebrated for the rest of the trip. One of the most amazing/hilarious/characters we’ve ever had the chance to meet. “There is only one word for it dear guests from Sydney Australia…MIRACLE!”
- 80’s music was EVERYWHERE. Culture Club, Phil Collins, Madonna. We even heard Savage Garden in a Spar supermarket, and Midnight Oil in a pawn shop!
- Australians have a very different concept of time and distance to Europeans. We took a couple of train/bus trips that went for about 2 hours between cities, and while we brought a bottle of water and a snack, other families had whole meals packed for the massive trek! It takes me two hours to get to work most days, and when I mentioned this, it was met with wide-eyed disbelief. I also said at Easter we drive 8-10 hours to visit my parents. If you have relos interstate in Australia, this is completely normal. I don’t think anybody in Europe believed me.
- Slovenia is one of the most amazing, underrated countries I have ever visited. It’s small, but punches way above its weight. It’s beautiful like New Zealand, has the hospitality of an Italian family, and hearty food influences from Austria. There was an air of freedom, youth and happiness that is difficult to explain. Age was soaked into the architecture, but the attitudes aren’t mired down in history. Everyone seemed excited for the country’s future, and for their independence. My pick for “if you could live somewhere else, where would it be?”
- How fast are the escalators at every Budapest train station? It felt like a Luna Park ride before and after every trip! Terrifying!
I’m not sure where our next adventure will take us. I’d love to take the girls to Spain, another favourite of mine (ahhhh, Sevilla!), but Romania, Turkey and South Korea are still on my list. As long as it definitely does not involve sitting on a beach somewhere for more than a day, we’re in! I’m stoked that loads of people followed our latest adventure (over 21,000 views across all of our trips). I hope these posts have inspired you to explore and learn more about the amazing world we live in, and to taste all the food and meet all the people! Check out Milana’s video below. A sweet summary of 5 weeks away, from the phone of a 13yo. x