We run everywhere all the time. We rush to make our way from home to work and then hurry back home to get rest. This is what life expects from us.
Through life, and especially from my travels, I’ve come to realise again and again that we need to slow down. In South Africa, we tend to forget about friends and family during the week because we are so engaged at work. This is not the case in Europe, or at least the bit that I experienced. Europeans make a point to head out after work with the kids and dinner is only served much later. It makes so much sense and has inspired me to start experimenting with how I do things in my day-to-day life.
I’ve often found that after a trip I understand some things a bit better and can make a few adjustments in my life – like taking a break during lunchtime and actually sitting on the grass in the park. Traveling allows you to do this, to slow down and take a step back from your life for a few moments. Even getting lost is all part of the process of slowing us down and making us realise what is really important in life. This is one of the big reasons why I make it a conscious habit to travel – be in locally or internationally.
When we travel, we are compelled to meet people. You learn about differences in human culture, backgrounds and way of life. It makes you think about life and the way you are living it. Traveling is important so people can become even more tolerant. If you’re not a chatty person by nature, traveling forces you to have conversations with others, because often that is the only way of finding your way back to the hotel – by connecting, by asking for help. It’s truly one of the things that keeps surprising me – the kindness of strangers. I make an effort to engage with the locals and they are always open and willing to speak to me; if I try and utter a few words in their language, people always go above and beyond to help. It’s important to have respect for culture and people’s languages.
The first time I experienced this was when I traveled internationally in 2009. I joined a group from Cape Town for a big youth gathering in Dusseldorf, Germany. At one stage we were at the wrong train station and came across a group of people who could only speak Russian. We managed to figure out how to ask them for help without any one of us being able to speak each other’s language.
“Things that you thought weren’t for you, could turn out to be just the thing you needed! Often by just trying that one thing you can feel as if you could conquer the world.”
Traveling on a coach with 40 odd people really means you experience it so much more. With my first Expat Explore tour I met so many wonderful people that I am still in touch with, and on this last tour it’s been the same. We’ve sent Christmas gifts to a few people we met from Canada and I’m still in touch with a couple based in Hong Kong.
As I travel I want to immerse myself completely in the experience. I want to hear about the history, I want to see the spots where historic events happened centuries ago, I want to eat the food and I want to be exhausted by the time I get back to the hotel. I consider it a successful sightseeing day when I’ve taken so much in that I forgot about any kind of work altogether.
When I get to a country and notice a park or area with people there, I feel the need to walk there. If there is a little corner grocer, I want to buy something because I want to talk to the people and even just see what they shop for. I love to walk everywhere and spend as much time as possible just soaking up the atmosphere. It feels as if the people in Europe, be it locals or tourists like myself, are on the same wavelength of exploring and taking it all in.
I find the history and names of unknown places, cities and countries completely fascinating – places that are so proud of their cultures and how they do things. You just can’t help but want to experience it! In Budapest we made a point of visiting the World War ll Memorial and, in Paris, the Notre Dame. I have loved history from a young age and so has Avukile. For me, it has something to do with understanding. When you know where something stems from, you just understand it so much better and often things become even more beautiful. It’s like when you meet a new person, and as you get to know their life story and personality they become even more interesting and pleasant.
One of these places was Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. It was a completely new place for me. At first I thought the name was misspelled as I’ve never even heard of it before! As we explored, we realised that it’s one of those special places in Europe that takes you by surprise and exceeds all your expectations. I’ve raved about it being nothing other than the “the hidden gem of Europe” and described it as “the older uncle” of European cities, but I didn’t and still don’t have all the words needed to describe exactly how Ljubljana surprised me and made me feel.
“Even getting lost is all part of the process of slowing us down and making us realise what is really important in life. This is one of the big reasons why I make it a conscious habit to travel – be in locally or internationally.”
In my travels I’ve also discovered that (and I know it’s a cliche!) that traveling really pushes you out of your comfort zone. You learn so much more about so many different people and you understand other cultures so much better. If the tour leader suggests an outing that you generally wouldn’t consider, give it a go. If you’re traveling solo, find someone that will urge you to try something new. Things that you thought weren’t for you, could turn out to be just the thing you needed! Often by just trying that one thing you can feel as if you could conquer the world. It opens up your eyes to just how possible things are. Sometimes I end up in certain countries standing in front of this massive, iconic landmark and I feel like I’ve achieved the impossible. It’s no longer just a picture in a book or on a website. Even traveling locally does the same for me.
This same goes for cuisine and food traditions as well. Food is an important part of any country’s culture and you can’t visit these countries and stick to what you eat at home. You absolutely have to try the things that the countries are known for – chocolate in Switzerland and Belgium, champagne and croissants in France, currywurst in Berlin.
My mother reminded a while ago, that as a child, I used to wake up in the mornings and tell her of the places and countries I’d dreamt of the previous evening. In my dreams I traveled to far-off places overseas and I could even remember the streets and the landmarks! I used to tell her that it’s a sign that I’ll be traveling one day.
My subconscious must’ve known I have a desire to travel and explore. Now, after a couple of trips I know that travel is a big part of who I am.
Tracey Lange is a beloved South African television personality and radio DJ. Her love of people, vibrant personality and passion for spreading positivity and upliftment has also lead to a concurrent career in motivational speaking and training. Despite this jam-packed schedule, Tracey and her boyfriend, Avukile, manage to indulge their love of travel and jaunt off to destinations in Africa, the UK and Europe while holding down their various full-time jobs! They share real travel stories, tour highlights and useful tips on their joint travel blog – Travuldiary.com. We were lucky enough to welcome this well-travelled pair on board one of our recent #EuropeJewel tours and jumped at the opportunity to ask Tracey to share some insight into their shared love of travelling. Follow @traceylange on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
*Photo credit: Robert Hamblin