The Little Black Book of Travels

I enjoy traveling. It’s not just for the experiences and seeing new places and things, but for the mental space to think that it provides. Ever since my first international trip, I’ve kept a written journal of events and reflections from those adventures. It’s a great way to remember details about what you saw and did, but also a good time to document what’s happening in your life.

Whenever I get away from home, I start seeing things more clearly. So it’s been important for me to find some time daily to sit down and write about anything. Each trip, I usually start with a new journal and this time is no different. This year, I have my “little black book” for my more personal reflections and thoughts that rarely get shared. I recently went back to read through my 2011 sabbatical journal and was instantly transported back to so many fond memories and places I visited. I even was reminded of scents and weather where I had sat in parks or cafes to write.

Even if you don’t consider yourself an avid writer, I’d recommend everyone have their own traveling little black book to document your adventures, no matter how sparse or dense the details may be for you. These written journals turn out to be great keepsakes and a better way to go back and remember compared to your social media posts or public blog posts.

#EuroGreg2016

I guess I can’t go a full calendar year to pass without traveling somewhere that doesn’t touch Illinois’s borders. (Sorry Missouri, you’re cool but since we’re neighbors that trip doesn’t count as getting away.)

Today, I head out for almost two weeks of travel through Europe with scheduled stays in the following places:

  • Pinneberg, Germany (not far from Hamburg)
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Reykjavik, Iceland

I’m looking forward to seeing friends in Germany and exploring their hometown, along with seeing Amsterdam for the 1st time. Iceland will be a short stay, but much like seeing Sigur Ros again in concert, I suspect my short time there will feel like a mini-homecoming. The connection in that country was deep and was already there before I ever stepped foot on their land.

Since I will be traveling solo, similar to my sabbatical five years ago, expect to see some updates here on the WUGO blog with reflections either related to my travels or just to life. There are many revelations about life back home once I fly a few thousand miles away from it.

Whenever I post about the trip, I am going to be using the hashtag #EuroGreg2016. It will be an easy way to filter through posts on most social media platforms for what I’m sharing relating to my travels or if it’s something different altogether. Photos will be posted sparingly during the trip with more shared later. If you want to follow along, you can do so in the following place:

  • Visit this blog regularly (or subscribe via email for notifications)
  • Facebook
  • Instagram – @gregmacek
  • Twitter – @gmacek
  • Snapchat (yes, I use it) – add me @doclloyd16

Thanks to T-Mobile’s free international data & text roaming, I’ll be able to share relatively easily wherever I’m at.

I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks away “on holiday.” Life is always interesting and rarely sits still, but like the last few years, it has provided unique challenges in some areas. Where appropriate, I will be sharing some things here. Stay tuned for more!

Finding Purpose in the Wilderness

Secret Journal

I wrote about some of this in my “secret” journal during the trip (see featured image above), but there is a magical transformation that occurs when you are in the presence of creation in its purest forms where the hands of men have not yet or are unable to claim mastery over it for his own personal gains. You are immediately brought down to size and realize you are but a tiny part of a much bigger, grander world.

Going to a new place always provides space to figure out what’s important in my life. It’s like a big filter in the shape of plane tickets, breathtaking landscapes, new (but sometimes very old) city streets to walk down, and new cultures where I don’t speak the native language.

I read that Iceland is one of the most educated countries in the world with greater than 99% literacy rate. Creativity and art are strongly encouraged and engrained into the culture, so there is a lot of writing and art being created on a regular basis. I was impressed and humbled by how many books I saw everywhere we visited from coffee shops to more sit-down style restaurants even. Designs on sides of buildings even had huge books on them. It’s clear this country like to read and write. I very much respect it and desire for a similar thing to happen back in the United States. It also reminded me to read and write more.

Yet one of the things I was curious about is how much of the backdrop of their lives has fueled their way of thinking and their desire and ability to create so much. Even within the Keflavik airport, there were wonderful quotes from various authors that speak in such poetic language I was moved to stop and reflect in a place that is usually filled with angst and tension of running late for anywhere but where you’re at.

I hoped to find that magic while I visited to spark a new level of creativity in thoughts and in writing. Even months after visiting, that desire to create has seasoned much of my day to day thinking and actions. To allow for this, it will mean that I need to balance out my time between being inundated in an information, media rich, distraction filled world and find my wilderness space to compile my thoughts and to craft a blog post, edit that photo just so, to reimagine that work project. So while I still (and will likely continue to) consume an inordinate amount of media content, my goal is to be more producer than consumer.

The wilderness gives us room to evaluate everything that matters – and that which doesn’t. Though I wonder if we need to be careful not to spend too much time there lest we go crazy….

Memoirs of a Glacier

I learned a lot about glaciers and how life in Iceland is very directly shaped and influenced on a regular basis by the earth and weather patterns that surround people there. And I will be the first to say that I do not remember everything I heard or saw on this trip, but some elements do stand out from our day trip to [actual name of national park] and the Ice Caves tour.

Glaciers are big. I mean really, really big. So much so that you cannot fathom the size of it as you stand at the edge of one it becomes more awe inspiring to know that this huge “sheet” of ice holds within it not just frozen water, but parts of mountains, trees, likely animal remains, volcanish ash (maybe exclusive to Icelandic glaciers), and other parts of the earth that couldn’t get out of its way.

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Glaciers are affecting the world around it while it appears to sit there like a big, frozen glacier-shaped log.  As they move and/or melt, what remains after are what many area of the world now live on. They have flattened out vast spaces in their melted wake. But they also hold down the earth under it, even pulling nearby hills and small mountains physically down with its incredible weight. (Don’t try finding a scale. Glaciers don’t like to talk about their weight.) So as it melts and loses even small fractions of its mass, Iceland itself is actually rising from the relief of the cold burden at a rate of up to 1.5cm/year. Insane!

Glaciers affect weather patterns around the world acting as a stingy bank who would prefer not to let us withdraw from its deposits. And yet here we are marketing glacier water as a great drinking source. I suddenly feel just the smallest tinge to yell “save the glaciers, save the world.”

Glaciers are really pretty from far away and up close.

Iceland - the edge of the glacier
The edge of the glacier!

 

Ice Caves
The ice caves at the edge of the glacier. So. Beautiful.

 

I thought there may be some good life lesson to be found here. Perhaps there is a lesson about some big things do change us, but in very small ways and steps that aren’t immediately apparent if we stand back and take stock of who we were and who we are now. Maybe there’s a glacier in your life now that you want to rid yourself of because you feel like it’s holding you down, but in reality it’s providing a stable environment we don’t appreciate until it’s gone and things go haywire.

Or maybe this post will just be about glaciers and how cool they are. [See what I did there? That’s some solid wordplay. Because glaciers are cool. And solid. OK, I’m stopping now.]

In Love With Lucerne

Days like today make everything about this trip so worth it. I opted to take a 1/2 day excursion on “The Golden Round Trip” to Pilatus. It consisted of a boat ride across Lake Lucerne, a cogwheel railway ride up to Pilatus Kulm, the noted high spot of central Switzerland and high point of this outing. Afterwards, you descend back down via cableway cars. The views were breathtaking to say the least and while the pictures give you a nice view, obviously there’s nothing like being there. I have photos of the city of Lucerne itself, but I will save those for other blog posts. These are all of today’s outing and maybe, I believe, are postcard ready. 🙂

 

That’s me!

 

A Brief Look at Zurich

My Internet time is somewhat limited, so I’m only posting a couple photos of Zurich by night. Tomorrow, at some point, I will head off to Lucerne where I’ll stay for 3 nights. I seem to be feeling a bit better finally. Maybe it just took some new scenery and sunny skies (thanks for all the rain, Munich!) to clear me up. For now, enjoy the few pics below.


Munich: Land of Rain and Baguette Sandwiches

(Rain: please stop!)

Oh Munich, how I wished I 1) could see more of you and 2) had really good protective rain gear for myself and my camera gear. Shortly after arriving in Munich I realized two things:

  1. It’s much cooler here than Prague. (Apparently nobody told Prague we had transitioned to fall temps.)
  2. It had rained and the dark clouds “hinted” at more rain to come.

At one point, I thought I’d give it a go and trek outside, only to be quickly caught in rain I didn’t want to walk around in. So I came back to hostel (3 minutes away from the train station BTW) to do some stuff online and read. I ventured again last night, sans camera gear hoping maybe the rain would hold out for a little walk. I made it about as far as Marionplatz when I found myself frustrated with getting wet, also without umbrella and knowledge that the rain would go away or come down harder. The rest of my night was spent reading a book and writing (in that super secret journal.)

I woke up today to the sound of moderately heavy rain – and some incredibly loud snoring, which also greeted me throughout the night. The joys of hostels and room sharing, right? Hopes dashed for the walking tour, I did some more reading and went out for a couple hours this afternoon. Though still greeted by some rain, it was mostly of the drizzle variety. Part of it came while I walked through the English Gardens. It’s huge, twice as big as Central Park according to them. I’m sure I only saw a sliver of the whole thing, but what I saw was beautiful and well kept.

Appetite is there, only because the headaches tell me I need to eat 🙂 Not knowing yet if anything will reignite the events of early last week, I’m keeping diet to things I can quickly recognize. It’s a good thing I like bread/preztels and sandwiches, because that’s what I’ve been having for meals in Munich. They satisfy well enough aren’t making me ill anyway.

Tomorrow early afternoon I hit the trains for Zurich, where I’ll spend one night, then likely another on my way back to Munich. I’d be happy for better weather, but Sunday and Monday aren’t looking good, if we’re to believe weather.com.

The Signs of Fall in Prague

I’ve wandered through parks and continue to just watch the locals do their thing. I like getting the perspective of the “other side” of life here, the part that isn’t all about the activity in the city center and main attractions. Enjoy the walk through the pictures. Each one will be followed by its name as if found in an art gallery.

Dogs playing in the park.

Mother with child and puppy.

Golden framing.

For want of a balloon.

Catching some rays before nightfall.

I see you.

Untitled.

(I love sunsets.)