Traveling is definitely fun! I learned to love to travel in my 20s. Here are some of my experiences over the last 50 years and reasons why traveling is still a priority.
Travel Is An Awesome Hobby…
Most of the time it seems that 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 treasure store!
Travelers see a whole new world, filled with new ideas and exotic foods,
and make lifelong friends. They see new lands, and vegetation, and hear foreign languages.
Traveling is a hobby to be reckoned with. Hobbyists meet people who indulge in the same pastimes. And they wear jeans – a lot.
But getting away is what this is about.
Welcome to my greatest hobby!
I Love To Travel In Comfort: It’s An Art!
In my twenties, I started a 30-year traveling spree, the first 20 years being the most hectic. I could not anticipate how my life would be enriched from day one. So little time…
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 which read “ROOKIE TRAVELER!”
Back then no one wore jeans unless they were members of a motorcycle club… thank greatness, marketing changed all that.
Wherever I was, designer jeans were the “thing”, no matter how remote a village might be… Not the ones with tears in them so your knees stick out… they have their standards, after all.
They are like loungewear for flying. So they grew on me and helped me to fly around the world. I didn’t realize this was going to be THE hobby for me, but I had the gear.
The best part is how durable they are and almost never 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 here… because our land was settled by cowboys.
Who ARE These People?
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?
What was shopping like here, besides the fact that I could not understand the sizing system? Were there high-end stores and glitzy malls or windows boarded up?
I had no idea that I could get so much out of travel, other than just visiting someplace different. What a hobby!
Now THIS Is A Plus!
Have FOOD Will Travel!
Never, ever 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
To preface my thoughts, I am an adventuresome eater. I don’t eat roasted bugs, or reptiles and pets.
But I will try veal for the first time, papoutsakia, and moussaka.
Not steak tartar (raw, ground steak, spiced and served with toast). (Ugh!)
The seafood that was available 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 Europe and our home base was Belgium. Since we were moving there, for five years, I wondered where it was exactly.
I did not know that Antwerp, Belgium was the diamond-cutting capital of the world! (Wikipedia)
Living in Antwerp, a highlight for ex-patriots was to see as much as you 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.
This was a job I could reee-ally get into.
Historic tours were freely accessible and we accessed them all!
We visited a high-rise in the diamond-cutting district in downtown Antwerp.
Every floor occupied a business, sorting, cutting, and selling “stones”.
Diamonds were in boxes and in 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”…
… Didn’t give it a thought.
Do The Clothes Make The Person?
And everyone dressed so well. They spoke about their clothing 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!
I learned from the Belgians that you 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.
I spent my life looking for the best deals.
It was nice to switch gears to quality and have a balance.
As hobbyists, it was an important part of the culture to visit the restaurants.
There were so many places to go to that it was hard to make a decision.
Since I love to eat, I was up to 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!
This proved to me that Belgium was a cultured society.
After much discussion about food, 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
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. More hobbyists.
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 dark, 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.
Late in my first year, I was invited 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 my mouth open; I was agape!
This was so pretty, private, and restful.
She said that Westerners always have that reaction when they see our house for the first time. Their house looked totally unremarkable from the street.
Their taxes were so high that people only spent money on the inside while continuing to do general upkeep outside.
If travel was not my hobby, I would never have known this!
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 carpets. Nothing was wasted.
A country farmhouse sink was mandatory, in a new kitchen.
The appliances were nice in the 50s style… some had wood-burning stoves.
I loved it and every home was of unique interest.
They didn’t understand the Western inclination toward space that we don’t use.
Nor do I, now.
But she had me at “courtyard”. I wanted to sit there all day and enjoy the seclusion!
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 having me 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 would move their blow-dry stations outside onto a rear 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’oeuvre, 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, on 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...
As we walked along the promenades in the evenings there were “Pom-Frit Carts” everywhere.
Frite stands are just like hot dog stands.
A cone of frits would be served with mayonnaise if you wished.
I said no to Mayo for two years!
When I finally tasted it I beat myself up for waiting so long 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, (not an affiliate link).
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 which 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’s 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!