New Years , and I guess Christmas too , is as good a time as any to sit down , preferably with a drink in hand and a plate of lovely food , and think about the past year, about the future , and also to look around and think how great just being here right now is. For me, my Christmas and New Year were fantastic- and yes, actually especially thoughtful. And not just because due to language problems I was unable to talk, but that did play a part. I was pretty exhausted after Finland , so it was great time to relax and recover and take everything in. In many ways this year’s Xmas was special, and I would say, a time I felt like my ideas and dreams came face to face with reality. To begin with I was damn relieved to leave Finland. Don’t get me wrong , Oulu is the best , but the workload and cloudy darkness compared with the wonderful idea of Germany I had in my head made the escape from Finland to Germany with the wonderful girlfriend seem like fleeing to the holy land. The idea of affordable products, greater food and drink selection, friendly talkative people, speaking a foreign language, meeting The Dove’s family, and general Xmas festivities elevated Germany from what was already my favourite country to celestial status. So the first encounter with reality was this; arriving in Germany and finding my dreams were in fact….
All true- everything was fantastic and the entire stay was truly delightful! Germany remains, in my eyes, the friendliest, most accessible, affordable, lovable, liveable and realistic country I know. Speaking German was very fun too- and again, from months of wishing I could be speaking a different tongue on a day to day basis, I was! And I met reality again here; I remembered that it’s not all linguistic party tricks and wowing international friends, and that getting to grips with a new language is 30% inspiration, 70% perspiration- or more accurately- 30% joy, adventure and understanding and 70% spending hours and hours in parties, restaurants and cafe’s staring out the window having absolutely no idea what is going on. But yeah, again a reality that didn’t surprise me, just assured me, and I still loved to learn and endeavour to learn more, and enjoy it all. Another reality check came in that, as my first Christmas spent away from home, I felt that in some way as an occasional wannabe traveller, this symbolised the mark of the true non-tourist – to not go ‘home’ for anything, not even Christmas. The street is my home! Where I lay my hat is my home, I’ll have Christmas there and damn well enjoy it! I’ll have Christmas in bloody Mongolia if I damn well please! The reality was that it was a very wonderful Christmas – in and of itself, not because it was an adventurous Christmas in a different country. And it wasn’t about travel or adventure; it was just about love and being together. And yes- I did miss my family, and I did miss having Christmas in Devon too. So a fantastic Christmas, and for me a thoughtful one, a real one, where I discovered the true meaning of Christmas, without preconceptions about country or language, or history or travel. It doesn’t matter where you had Christmas, as long as you celebrated it with the people you love then that’s what counts. So Germany in winter was a lovely, beautiful, and (ironically) almost sobering experience. I feel like it was the final nail in the coffin of any ideas I had about the sacredness of travel- if you’re happy, there’s nothing wrong with staying put. I’m not sure where I’ll be spending Christmas next year , but I’ll be sure that the location doesn’t cross my mind- only that once again I spend it with the people I love.
Also , other highlights of the Xmas holidays included seeing deer and castles, speaking to awesomely cool German grandparents, setting off fireworks and watching 360 firework displays on New Year’s Eve and visiting ancient, romantic, studenty, touristy Heidelberg.
Anyway , on with the New Year and on with Oulu studies!