Tales of a Travelling Gypsy – Moving to Nijmegen

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 something revitalizing to the soul.  A restoration of inner youth and a reminder of the beauty still existent in the world today.

Maybe it’s the idea of meeting new people who know nothing about you or your past, who won’t judge you based on the way you dress, the things you say or the possessions you have, or rather just being in a completely different place away from what you regard as being familiar – something of a new beginning. Sometimes I look around and wonder why it is that people are so complacent with their lives and well, I’ve come to realize that maybe for some, it’s the fear of leaving behind familiarity which makes it okay to keep doing the same thing day in and day out. For others, maybe they just don’t know any better. You may disagree with me, saying that there’s nothing wrong with familiarity. Of course there isn’t, but if you’ve never traveled to a faraway place with the bare minimum on your shoulders, never lived in a city away from home, never experienced the freedom, peace and solitude that comes with a new beginning, then you just haven’t lived.

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For me, that new beginning came in the form of a quaint little town in The Netherlands, 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 life, forever.

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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… and I did.

Despite arriving with five suitcases, after settling into my room, I remember looking around and wondering if I was able 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 never going to be enough. Looking back, if there’s one thing that I miss the most, it’s my little room. Of course it was nothing like home and yes, it was small, way too small in fact, but somehow, when traveling, you make do.

 

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 the freshness of the air, the astounding silence and blissful solitude, not just around me but suddenly inside of me too.

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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.

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 an 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. It was a new life, a new beginning – one filled with freedom, curiosity and a new found independence.

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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 was yet to begin. For those of you who read The Lord of the Rings (and I hope you have!) will remember Samwise Gamjee saying to Frodo just before they left the Shire,

“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.”

With that one step, came a journey filled with wonderful experiences. Of course they had their fair share of difficulties but in the end, it was a journey of self-discovery mixed with understanding the meaning of life and their very own purpose in the world.

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Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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