If there’s one thing I’ll never regret in this lifetime, it’s travelling. Often, it’s easy to forget what the world still has to offer among daily obstacles and whilst the dwellings of everyday life can be somewhat draining and monotonous, I’ve always found travelling, or even the idea of it, to be somewhat refreshing to my soul. Maybe it’s the idea of meeting new people who know nothing about you, who won’t judge you based on the way you dress or the things you say or the possessions you have. Maybe it’s just being in a completely different place away from what you regard as being familiar.
For me, that new beginning came in the form of a quaint little town in The Netherlands, some 9354 km’s away from home, a little town called Nijmegen. A town I had never heard of before. A town that changed me and my outlook on the world forever.
Nijmegen is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, situated near the Waal River. With a mix of old and modern architecture, a beautiful county side, meandering dykes and beautiful woodlands, it’s hard to not fall in love with such a quaint little town.
After a very long flight, I arrived with five suitcases in hand. After settling into my room, I remember looking around and wondering if I was going to make this work, if I had made the right decision and if I would last a whole six months away from home. Little did I know, six months was going to be too short. Looking back, if there’s one thing that I miss the most, it’s my little room. Of course it was nothing like my bedroom way back in South Africa and yes, it was small, way too small but somehow it was enough.
Every morning, I would wake from the little ceiling loft, put on my glasses and climb down the white wooden ladder mounted next to my bedside. That took some getting used to at first. I’d draw the curtains and open the tall glass doors leading onto a small balcony that was probably wide enough to fit only half my foot. But it wasn’t about the glass doors or my foot or the size of the balcony. It was about more than that. It was about the freshness of the air, the astounding silence and blissful solitude not just around me but suddenly inside of me too.
My little room overlooked Kronenburger Park, a beautiful and calming place filled with weeping willows and a little lake that was home to many ducks and two black swans.
Every morning and afternoon, as I’d make my way to the bus station, I would walk through Kronenburger Park. Around me were people walking their dogs, others riding their bicycles, elderly couples still holding hands and children feeding the ducks too.
Life just seemed so happy, so calm and at ease. It was different to the fast paced monotony of life back home – waking up to the sound of the alarm being switched off, grabbing a quick breakfast, rushing to be ready on time, running to my small silver car and speeding off with only seven minutes to spare. That of course was something I did not miss. It was a new life and a new beginning. One filled with freedom, curiosity and a new found independence. As cliché as it sounds, yes, the world was my oyster. They say it’s never about the destination, rather the journey itself but at that moment, I was still enjoying the magnificence of the destination around me. The journey had just begun.
“This is it. If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been”. Frodo replied, “Come on, Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Samwise Gamjee said to Frodo just before they left the Shire.
More on my adventures in The Netherlands: