Traveling is definitely fun! I learned to love to travel in my 20s. These are some of my experiences and some reasons why traveling is still a priority for me.
Travel Is An Awesome Hobby…
Most of the time we get so much more out of something than we ever thought we would.
You can travel from A to B, but what you accrue along the way is a store of treasures!
Travelers are exposed to a whole new world, filled with new ideas and exotic foods,
and they make lifelong friends. They see new lands and vegetation; they dress differently and handle foreign currency.
Their outlooks and their connections are enlarged and they are touched in so many ways – They could never be the same.
Traveling is a hobby to be reckoned with. But getting away is what this is about.
In order of importance, my greatest hobby is travel… that is why I love to travel!
I Love To Travel In Comfort: It’s An Art!
In my twenties, a 30-year traveling spree began. I could not anticipate how my life would be enriched from day one.
I discovered that two kinds of people wear jeans when they fly: the underdressed and experienced travelers… on my first overseas flight, I wore my Little White Suit.
I should have carried a sign that read “I don’t know what to wear when I travel. I am new at this!”
Back then no one wore jeans unless they were members of a motorcycle club… marketing changed all that. They are like loungewear for flying. This was THE hobby for me, and I already had the gear.
Jeans are durable and rarely need washing! Throw them into the suitcase; an average size will weigh about 3 lbs. It’s perfect travel wear!
As a Westerner, I am proud to wear denim.
We have always had more use for it… because our land was settled by cowboys.
Who Are These People You Meet?
Everywhere I went I accrued some information. It told so much about the people to see how they walked about, how they gathered, how noisy or quiet they were, and if they had churches and parks.
Did they laugh and were they nice to strangers? Were they family-minded?
Love To Travel, Love The Food!
Now This Is A Plus If You Love To Travel!
Never did I give any thought as to what I would eat when I got there.
It never occurred to me that this would be a highlight of travel.
And it continues, as you can see here
I am an adventurous eater. I am not interested in roasted bugs, or reptiles and pets.
But I will try veal for the first time, papoutsakia, and moussaka.
The available seafood was superior to what I was used to back home.
It could have been the newness of it all, but I never had this kind of luxury before.
The Belgian Lifestyle:
We moved to Antwerp for five years. I wondered where it was exactly. My Google search told me that Antwerp was the diamond-cutting capital of the world! in Belgium.
To understand more, we visited a high-rise in the downtown diamond-cutting district. Every floor was occupied by a business, sorting, cutting, and selling “stones”.
Diamonds were in boxes and little mounds on tables – each like a hill of beans!
But”, our guide told us, “you would not get away with one tiny stone as the security would pick you out before you neared the exit“… I didn’t give it a thought.
As an ex-patriot and travel fanatic it was up to me to see as much as I could of a country and to understand the culture. If we ever needed to give an account of what we learned in five years, we wanted to be ready.
We were soldiers and there could be a test. This was a job I could get into.
Historic tours were freely accessible and we accessed them all!
Do The Clothes Fit The Person?
Everyone dressed so well; they spoke about their denim jeans with respect.
They knew the make and model, straight cut or bootleg, high rise or low rise, and everything about the pockets… And these were the boys!
Belgians taught me to buy the best quality you can afford, for everything.
The best quality of what, you ask?… a pair of shoes, TV, nail polish, floor tiles, Walkman, you get the idea.
Don’t waste your time or money on a fad that you won’t want to wear next year. This will be your secondary outfit one day – stay classic.
They dressed so well, but not overly expensive.
They just had a great eye for fashion.
I spent my life looking for the best deals in everything, thereby missing out on quality.
It was nice to switch gears to experience good quality and have a balance.
Restaurants and eating out were a great part of the culture.
There were so many places to go to that it was hard to make a decision.
Since I love to eat, I was up for it.
I don’t think I grasped what the average wage-earner took home, but our evenings were filled with young people, suggesting which restaurant to try.
“This is what people do here,” they said and they loved to treat us!
Well… obviously a cultured society.
A restaurant was chosen; there was a yard that looked like the demolition of old mansions. As you entered the restaurant, you walked down the aisles past scrap metal heaps, stacked doors, and wrought-iron fences.
We tripped over corbels and heavy wood paneling. I smelled dust…
We heard music in the background.
On a lovely summer evening, your table of ten would be under an open sky with remnants of salvage around you.
And this place had live music, a full professional kitchen, and indoor plumbing! Not all nightspots we visited had indoor plumbing so this is important.
And some places, even for young people, had classical music orchestras. Patrons danced around their tables and in the aisles.
Some wore evening gowns and some were wearing designer jeans.
Pity; I cannot remember the name of the restaurant.
Houses Were Lined Up!
I could not help but notice how the houses looked, with their shutters closed up around nightfall. It was depressing and foreboding… they were lined up along a street, like pencils in a box.
Typically I would live in a country for two years before I could say that I was beginning to understand the culture. Before that, I probably didn’t have enough information to give an informed opinion.
So I had nothing to say about the houses!
My new Belgian friend invited me to one of those gloomy homes…
As I entered the boarded gate from the street I walked into a little courtyard with a pretty garden, with bistro tables and chairs by the front door.
There was a hanging flower basket and plants along the wall.
My new friend saw … I was agape!
This was so pretty, private, and restful.
She said that Westerners always have that reaction when they see our houses for the first time. They all looked unremarkable from the street.
Because of high taxes, people spent money on the private area of their homes while continuing to do general upkeep on the street. She had me at “courtyard”. I wanted to sit there all day and enjoy the seclusion!
And So, Inside…
The interior was gorgeous. It was very shabby-chic as only the Europeans do so well. They lived with hand-made comforters and rag rugs; there were duvets and knitted scarves.
Nothing was ever wasted.
A country farmhouse sink was mandatory, and the kitchen was new. Butcher block countertops were the favorite choice.
The appliances were efficient and in the 50s style… some had wood-burning stoves.
I loved that every home was of unique interest; everything was so clean!
They didn’t understand the Western inclination toward space that we don’t use.
Nor do I, now.
You Are My Sunshine!
In a few minutes of meditation, I imagined that the skies of Belgium were not bleak and overcast. This courtyard went a long way in helping me to believe in sunshine.
I soon learned from the locals, that on a sunny day – of which there are very few in central Europe – the businesses take to the streets.
Shop owners pull their clothing racks out their front door. Anything to soak up the rays.
Hair salons moved their blow-dry stations outside onto a courtyard. No one would stay inside if the sun was out. And watch out for all those bicycles whizzing around!
It’s like a carnival and it makes everyone so happy. I heard you could even use the “sunny day” excuse for missing work.
Dinner By Candlelight:
These people knew how to make the most of what they owned.
They could not just go out and buy everything.
They were used to scarcity and learned to improvise.
Turning off the lights held a whole new meaning, but then out came the candles, some music, and wine.
I never felt as if I was deprived of anything in their world.
My soul was enriched just to be there.
They Did It Guy-Style!
Everybody cooked so well in Belgium, especially the men.
These guys knew how to set up a gourmet table for a party of ten or twenty.
That included hors d’oeuvres, soup, and a hot meal.
This is the way to a woman’s heart!
I learned the correct way to slice a tomato and about the “witloof”, chicory time of year.
We ate “moules” – Belgian mussels stewed in a pot with celery, leeks, and garlic.
The whole pot of mussels was set down in the middle of a huge wooden table, family-style.
No one was ever shy to offer large servings of the main dish.
There were big salads to share and as much bread and frits (french fries) as you like.
You could choose to eat any type of cuisine worldwide if you ate somewhere in Belgium.
The small mom-and-pop eatery on the corner served the most wonderful food.
It was a matter of self-respect and pride.
Don’t Forget The Mayo!
My only regret is this: the condiment of choice in Belgium, Holland, and France is mayonnaise... usually homemade.
As we walked along the promenades in the evenings there were “Pom-Frit Carts” everywhere.
Frite stands are just like hot dog stands except they make
A cone of frits would be served with mayonnaise if you wished. Asking for ketchup was becoming more embarrassing each year.
I said no to Mayo for far too long!
When I finally tasted it I beat myself up for waiting to try it.
I only have to smell that intoxicating aroma and I want mayo with my fries,
made the European way.
Who can compete? You will always have a fine dining experience no matter where you eat in Belgium. And the patisseries!.. don’t get me started.
I just read a story by L.J. Woolfe, called Train.
It is about her four-year stay in Belgium while attending an International school.
They were my neighbors and have been my friends since the 70s.
My opening paragraph: Most of the time it seems that we get so much more out of something than we ever thought we would.
Knowing Louisa Woods’s family for all these years was just one of the great things that my travel hobby provided me. See? I am much more blessed than I ever thought I could be.
Of course, a hobby should be enjoyable, a consuming interest, fun and informative.
What is your hobby and why do you like it? What does it give you in return?
Is it far greater than what you imagined it would be?
Tell me about your hobbies and your travels, by leaving a comment.
I will get back to you within 24 hours.
My next blog: The Charisma Of Greece!