The logistics of our road trip and how it’s effected me

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I’ve been meaning to work this out since we came back at the beginning of May but just kept putting it off. I am not a maths person, numbers bore me but I want to know how many miles we drove! I think that’s so interesting. I want the number – just to throw out in conversation, ‘Yeah, cool story bro, but did you know I drove X number of miles around Europe in two weeks?! Yeah, you’re right, I do sound like a douche bag. Please carry on with your story.’

Also the route. I want an image of the route. We didn’t plan where we were going other than a very loose idea of places we wanted to visit. Like Mc Hammer trousers loose. I have a scratch off world map, which I’ve already scratched off the 5 countries we visited but in comparison to the whole world it looks like we accomplished nothing and makes this blog post sound pointless – I’m proud when I just get out of bed in the morning. All these facts and photos will go into a special ‘Up’ scrap book that one of my best friends bought me and I can be all sentimental and feel special in my own house and not in front of all of your eyes. But for now I am 1: very proud I did maths and 2: proud of James and I for our first road trip around Europe.

route

We visited 5 countries; France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and The Netherlands. We went for two weeks, stayed in a different hotel/hostel/airbnb/campsite every night and booked them on the day or the day before. This map is a very rough route of what we did, it doesn’t include going to the supermarkets or when we had to leave Luxembourg to go to Belgium to buy sleeping bags, then back to Luxembourg and it doesn’t include a few places we visited on the way to other places. Also doesn’t show our actual starting point which is our home but we don’t need anymore stalkers – no offence.

Probably could have done a more practical route, I honestly didn’t know it was this shape. I thought it was more oval and that’s how I’ve been describing it to people. Still absolutely recommend every place we visited and wouldn’t change anything.

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So the time is here.

All my data comes from google timeline – so if we didn’t have our phones on us (which for me was the whole two weeks) no data was recorded, including if our phones was off (but then it’ll hop to the other place and work out miles, but not time.. I think..)

In two weeks we did 1733.7 miles of driving. That is 50 hours and 27 minutes.

We also recorded 30.31 miles of walking which is 16 hours and 46 minutes. I think this could be way off, only because we always had the phone with us in the car but we didn’t always walk with a phone. But this is the number I’m taking! Especially after a time I’m too embarrassed to say of working out the math.

One of the first posts mentioning this road trip was about our old route that we wanted to take – then couldn’t so decided on no route. That route was 1956 miles which google maps said would be 31 hours. How have we done less miles than that but more hours? Traffic I suppose, that’s a big different though. So we did a little less than the original plan we had to scrap but that was going all the way to Poland anyway. I’m proud of our 1733.7 miles.

Also in that post I spoke about my deodorant – ‘What more, I’m going for a completely aluminium free one, so look forward to updates on my armpits. Exciting times ahead.’ – then I never did update you and funnily enough it was one of the first things my Mum mentioned as I got back. The verdict? Pretty useless to be honest. I used it all up and I’m onto another ‘healthier’ deodorant, but when you are having a busy day they’re pretty crap. You have to weigh the pros and cons of spraying aluminium on your armpits. Unless you’re not a sweaty betty then it’ll probably be fine for you. I just dealt with it, like a woman, where as James gave up in Germany and bought Lynx or something. He did stink though.

 

I’ve written and re-written a few posts now, about how this trip has effected me. They were too long, too much and I got bored reading them back. Really positive things are hard to read through. Also I spoke about the shit side too, where you get the holiday blues and it’s just.. ahh all too much. So I want to keep it simple.

It’s like that road trip has aliened me. Before I was an out of tune guitar string but now I’m humming a perfect E. I’m still out of tune a lot of the time, don’t get me wrong. I still suffer with anxiety and depression, I get very sad and stressed, I still want to run away from everything some times and bury my head in my 4 year old brothers sand pit. And that’s putting it all lightly. I think you just know in yourself if you’re on the right track, don’t you. Maybe it’s all about being true to yourself. Maybe I lied too much about what I want. It’s not me to sit around. It’s not me to be serious. It’s not me to be indoors all the time. It’s not me to be in an office and only pay off a mortgage for the rest of my life. Getting too deep down the rabbit hole, simple, Emily, simple. What is me? Well, I’m buying my boyfriend and I adult scooters for his birthday. That’s me.

Life before my road trip does genuinely seem so different and foreign. I wouldn’t say I’m a better me in anyway but I do think I’ve become more chill and more confident. I definitely value a day more, I realise what can be done. I also spend my days differently. There’s excitement back. Like.. I can do what I want. That’s okay.

Like yesterday was a normal work day, when I finished I went round my boyfriends house and we chilled for a bit then he washed his car. I ate burnt marmite toast. Anything else? Had a coffee I think, watched some youtube, for sure. Then as evening came it was a bit like ‘what now?’ I’m done with sitting. I don’t want to watch TV, I don’t want to be indoors. I think it’s a lack of options that make people unproductive. You have to be creative to come up with things to do in a normal day, just to make it that little bit more special and exciting.

We got in the car, I was still wearing my work uniform but put on James’s crocs instead of my boots, and James drove. We had no plan but ended up going to a park, I had a few beers, we played with our new fidget spinners that were bought for us, pretended to do tricks – I actually managed to spin it on my massive bump of a forehead, finally a use for it – sat in the sun on a bench, said ‘parakeet’ every time one flew by. Then went back home.

Now, not for everyone, everyone has their own cup of tea but I’m so happy I’m not drinking others anymore.

Among the chaos there’s a little bit of peace in me.

I thank those 1733.7 miles. And James of course.

14 days, 8 magnets, 4 countries

Like my postcard post, where we sent my Mum 9 postcards from 4 countries on our road trip, we also bought ugly magnets for James’s mum. The irony that you’re in a beautiful country and you buy a crap fridge magnet to remember your time is just wonderful. We didn’t buy any for ourselves but we do have a tacky tulip from The Netherlands that I’m in love with. Are there any better souvenirs than that over priced rubbish? Nope.

I took photos of the beautiful locations of where we bought them.

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The locations? In order;

Bruge, Belgium

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Frankfurt, Germany

Cologne, Germany

Bonn, Germany

Dusseldorf, Germany

Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

 

 

Ways I’m trying to combat the holiday blues

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To stop me moping, to stop the phrase ‘a week ago I was in such and such place’ and in all my efforts to stay positive, I’ve written a list for myself to beat the holiday blues. And oh wow they’re hitting me all over at the moment. They’ve got boxing gloves on and aren’t playing fair.

I’ve never really got them before, in the past I was always excited to come home to something. I always missed something. My last two week holiday was without my boyfriend so I missed him and didn’t get the blues when I did return. This time? Nothing, except I missed my little brother and my comfort blanket. I could have kept on going. No offence to any friends or family reading this (and also yes, I have a comfort blanket and I’m not ashamed to say it) (I wouldn’t have missed it if I remembered to pack it, I forgot, I wasn’t being an ‘adult’ and left it behind like my Mum thought.)

I’ve been back less than a week and I am irritable, restless and oh dear my first shift back at work was difficult. I just kept thinking ‘but I just don’t want to do this’ and then another voice in my head was saying ‘but you know you have to’, and the reply was ‘yeah, but I don’t think you understand. I really don’t want to’. Oh, and I am very stubborn, side note. I just know travelling is for me and once you get a taste like I did it’s so difficult to not want more. It’s like an addiction. Like, I’m okay and happy, but if I get a thought about travelling something in my body changes and I get restless sitting at my desk job. Now’s not the time to ponder jobs though.

I’m allowing myself to bask in missing holiday in a positive way. In a way that makes me want to save up for my next one. But for someone who dabbles in depression, I say like it’s enjoyable, I want to help nip this negative feeling in the bud. I also want to prevent going off into my own la la land, day dreaming about my last trip or future trips. I want to snap back to the present.

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Here’s what I’ve been trying/planning to do;

  • continue to style and tidy my bedroom. Woah, well that sounds like the most boring thing a 25 year old could do. Nah, I love being creative with my surroundings.
  • blogging. I need to make sure that when I get an interesting thought I write it down and try to expand on it. I did this for the whole two weeks while I was travelling, which is the most consistent I’ve ever been with this blog, and it felt fucking amazing.
  • listen to music. Really listen. It’s a good way to keep you in the present in general, and it’s uplifting. My mind likes to do something where a thought pops up, let’s say its negative about being back, and rather accept the thought for what it is and move on with my life, I stop… and stare into space… while the feeling and thought consumes me… and I haven’t even realised it.
  • but if the thought’s too strong I have to write it down. No matter what I’m originally doing. Let them go, you know.
  • gym! Exercise! I think a big thing about the holiday blues is that you feel like you’re in limbo. Before the trip it was like everything in your life is building up to that holiday and that’s your focus. You come back with that achieved but with no direction. The thing with regularly exercising is that it puts that stability back. You feel like there’s a goal even though there isn’t a specific goal. So while I’m straightening my brain and looking for my next focus, exercise can pretend to be it.
  • be singular. Be selfish. To a certain extent. I don’t mean be a bitch, fob everyone off, sit in bed and eat chocolate. More like.. You’re feeling low, be careful with yourself. Be best friends with yourself and treat yourself good. And eat chocolate.
  • be social and chill with pals.
  • remember there’s still things to do with the past trip! You haven’t printed the photos yet and I’m sure there’s so many thoughts to come from it. I love a ponder and thought. It’s not completely over.

This is what I’ve figured out so far. Mainly create!! Even if it’s from a negative feeling, like right now with this post. I’ve been doing my bedroom, blogging and listening to music. Haven’t exercised yet but I’m pretty tempted to put my running shoes on right now actually. I just finished work though, and I wake up at 4:15am on work days. I know I’m definitely going to the gym in the week at least. Let’s be realistic now, I just opened a Easter egg.

I’m getting there. I’m hopeful.

 

 

 

14 days, 9 postcards, 4 countries

It’s unknowingly become a tradition to send my Mum the most ridiculous postcards I can find on my travels. It started when I lived in Malta and she came to visit. While she was with me I was secretly finding the worst postcards and sending them to England for when she’s back home. They said silly things like ‘we just went to the pub,’ nothing more, and on the front a picture of stray cats.

Postcards are awful in general, you can find the most weirdest, most wonderful pictures and if you’re really lucky they’ll be bleached by the sun and bending. Just think of how many people have handled it! It’s truly a dying art form.

What makes them even more special is that this whole trip we were in contact with my parents by whatsapp and when you think you can’t get enough of me – 9 postcards come through the door. I’m never leaving you, parents.

In the past you would literally write what you had been up to on holiday, but obviously they already knew through being in contact and my blog. So there was no ‘Hello!!!! I’m having a great time! Yesterday we drove and today we will drive and tomorrow we will probably drive too! Miss you x’. You will see what we actually wrote.

Well, without further deliberation, I present my postcard project! Sent from 4 countries in 14 days.

The postcards

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Where I wrote it

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What I wrote

what I wrote

Posting it

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And they all arrived home.

The locations? In order;

Bruges, Belgium

Liege, Belgium

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Frankfurt, Germany

Cologne, Germany

Dusseldorf, Germany

Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Maastricht, The Netherlands

Our last few moments in Europe and some random notes

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After it being a bugger to pack all the beer we bought, when they offered us a trolley for our luggage for the ferry we jumped at it. Thank goodness, we had just been on a long road trip and walked miles every day but carrying all our luggage onto the ferry after dropping off our rental car was the biggest work out of all. Oh, what now? It isn’t a trolley to take onto the ferry ourselves, but goes to a separate part of the boat? We watched it zoom away, a bit shocked. Oh. Great. All those beers are going to smash then.

Spoiler alert: none of them smashed, I worried the whole trip for no reason. Luckily my travel sickness pills had kicked in and therefore my anxiety was fought off with drowsiness.
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The English side of passport control had a joke with James, mine was very serious though. James asked if they had been busy and he laughed and said ‘yeah, with French school kids, they’re a threat to English society.’

It wasn’t much of a joke for us though, we were surrounded on the ferry. I literally wrote in my notebook ‘they’re everywhere and they must be breading in the bathroom because when you think that’s it more appear out of no where.’ Hundreds and thousands and millions. We chose to sit near the teenagers rather than the children. They couldn’t sit still though, just imagine a time lapse of James and I sitting on the same sofa for the whole trip and a blur of teenagers buzzing all around us. You know you’re getting old when you just don’t move.

They started to sing Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran, like we didn’t hear that enough on every radio in England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and The Netherlands. We actually managed to get radio 1 when we were driving around Calais in the morning. We planned to go to a little village half an hour out, somehow ended up 50 minutes away from where we wanted to go, so turned back.

In Germany the host on the radio kept saying ‘Castle On The Grill’ and we couldn’t stop laughing. It’s okay to laugh at it, we probably sounded like we were saying other words when we were saying words in their language.

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I can now talk about something that happened on the very first day. Not even that, 20 minutes into France. We scratched the alloy of our rental car. James was getting used to driving on the other side of the road and clipped the curb. 20 minutes in. The rental company employee said something about any scratch on the alloy would loose our 500 euro deposit. Fuck! This was our start to the trip.

We decided to ignore it, not let it bog us down and I never mentioned it on my blog. It was a big annoyance that pissed us off but had to put it down to a ‘you live and you learn’ experience, otherwise it would have plagued our minds.

We looked into getting it fixed because it’ll be cheaper than 500 euros but that didn’t work out. We also snapped the brand new aerial when we were in Amsterdam, the car park beam was lower than we thought. It got to the point when we would just hysterically laugh about it.

Anyway, getting the full deposit back, baby! The man was like ‘oh, it’s only a little scratch, no problem’ – I said that in a French accent. James said he couldn’t stop shaking the mans hand and practically skipped back to me.

Not much else happened on our last day so I present to you:

Things I Never Wrote In A Blog Post, With No Context At All, In Fact I’m Not Even Sure What Some Of Them Mean.

Emily ‘Have you got the money pouch?’
James ‘I gave it to you! When we were in Barcelona!’
*We never went to Barcelona*

Whenever James sees a shoe buffer in a hotel we stay in he buffs up his trainers.

Smells like holiday.

They still advertise cigarettes in Europe. Also prostitutes? Or strip clubs? Something about 100 girls, 11 till 5. No idea what that’s about.

In the supermarkets it’s always the men stacking shelves and the women at the till.

James ‘So people don’t think we’re lazy taking the lift I’m going to walk out with a limp.’
*Actually walks out with a limp*

*Sitting in our hotel in Dunkirk, looking at what’s nearby on the internet*
James ‘Bruges is nearby. It’s closer than Canterbury.’

Things I’m Bad At

  • turning on strange showers
  • what floor or room number we are
  • helping as passenger driver
  • remembering what car we fired and where we parked it
  • where I’ve put things
  • cities and crowds

Things I’m Good At

  • map reading
  • not getting stressed
  • looking after money
  • at seeing far in the distance
  • at remembering to check we have all our belongings

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Back to normality, back to driving on the left side of the road, back to saving a bird from James’s conservatory as soon as we got back? No, I don’t think it’s ever normal, what I am I thinking.

Arriving back to the beginning of our road trip

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I know I’m dramatic and playful but this doesn’t change the fact that I feel like Harriet The Spy, for reals. It was a joke a few posts ago but I feel like I have embodied her. I have my go to’s with fitting in, I have my distractions, I have my innocence, then BAM I’m writing everything you’re saying, stranger. Yeah, you, in Amsterdam telling your boyfriend he could sleep with a prostitute but you wasn’t going to pay, I was there listening but looking like I was just simply having anxiety in a world of my own (both are true actually). Getting a little dramatic now. Let’s calm it down… and just call me a spy, scrap the Harriet part for the sake of people that haven’t seen that wonderful film.

Fun fact of the day, I wanted to be a spy when I was younger. That was the dream.

Confused? Cool. Here’s me fitting in on our European adventure, when in reality all sorts of wonderful mysteries are going on in my head and notebook.

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Our last long drive started with James driving the wrong side of the road out of a car park and nearly crashing. First time it’s happened this trip. Three hour drive to Dunkirk today, through three countries. The Netherlands, Belgium then into France. Luckily I found my travel sickness bands for this last part and the ferry tomorrow.

We haven’t got anything special planned for today.  Stupid statement seeing as we never have anything planned, what I mean if that it’s a budget hotel kind of night and eating peanut butter sandwiches while watching TV. Way to spend a last night, right? I agree.

This morning we explored Valkenburg a little. I loved the location of the hotel but I couldn’t handle how trippy the floor made me feel. It’s one of two things – it is a haunted hotel and specifically our room was infested with demons, or the floor boards were at an angle. One of the two. Valkenburg has the only castle on a hill in The Netherlands, and it was destroyed by their own King to stop the French from invading it.

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A funny memory just came to me on this drive, of when my family and I drove around America. I’m not sure of my age but I think I was below ten years old. I’m the youngest, then there’s my brother who is two years older and my sister who is five years older. In the front there were three seats which was/is so strange, being used to there being a gear stick instead. So Mum and Dad made it a punishment to sit in between them anytime us kids would fight.

Problem with this plan is that I loved that seat, the gimmick hadn’t worn off for me. So there’s my parents threatening us with essentially a naughty step and while it worked for my siblings I was always all for it! Now, I have a four year old brother and two year old nephew and I can imagine the pain my parents had to go through when I was eager Emily practically begging to sit in between them.

It would work on them though, they would scream bloody murder.

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We’ve arrived at the beginning. We spent our first night in Dunkirk and now our last night. Currently parked up at Dunkirk beach at 3:28pm. Bit different weather to the first time and really Dunkirk isn’t really much without sun. It’s a bank holiday too, which we didn’t know (knew it was for England). So nothing at all is open. I googled it and kept on reading about shopping hours in general and it said that many places don’t open on Monday mornings anyway! Lucky buggers! Remember when England wouldn’t be open on bank holidays, boxing day or new years day and you had to stay in with family? And now we have a choice whether we should stay in with family or go shopping at ASDA.

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In a very reminiscent mood right now. Of this trip and in general. Childhood memories and the last two weeks are flying at me left, right and centre.

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Watching a French family play together in the distance. I feel such a heavy calmness on my chest. It’s probably the beer I cracked open as soon as we parked up to be honest.

Mixed with actual happiness, of course.

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Visiting The Netherlands, not Holland

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I see people walk by with travel guides in their hands, reading up places and on missions to go find them. I once thought I so wanted to be like them. They’re the people who are organised, the ones that have diary’s and calendars and use all the pretty stationary you see in shops. In the past I’ve tried, because they look so well put together. But I’m not. I’m not well put together, for a start I often forget to brush my hair, I loose things (often my mind), I’m a day dreamer and I’m currently wearing a jumper that I tie dyed myself. Not exactly the image you have in your brain of a lady with her diary/travel guide. Secondly, I would forget to pick up the travel guide up because.. I find them boring.. Is that bad?! Have I offended someone? I love travelling and always have, but I don’t really want to know all the details about the place, it doesn’t bother me. Just a little bit of info is cool. I’ll quite happily just walk about and hope for the best.

I think it must be all about what you deem important, because I don’t forget to pick up and write in my travel diary if I have a thought. Maybe it depends on what you’re ‘searching’ for. They want to learn about the place, and I? Probably learn what these places do to me.

This relates to the first title of this road trip – do you free more or less free knowing the world is our oyster? There isn’t a wrong or right way to travel, you can literally do what you want and that includes nothing. You can do nothing. Once that thought is placed on me I find I do more of what I want.

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We finally saw a windmill everyone, finally saw one! Didn’t realise you had to go searching for them, I pictured them being everywhere and hard to dodge. The one we found was right next to where we stayed our first night in The Netherlands, oops. We were going that way to Maastricht anyway. And conclusion after kicking up a fuss (but didn’t actually at all)?… It looked just like windmills from England. It was a windmill. Just in another country. But we did it!

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Nothing quite like having a wee when you’re at bursting point, then celebrating with a beer.

The market stool man was saying how much he likes London and we were saying how much we like The Netherlands – so we are going to swap places. He said ‘I’m going to live in Bromley!’

No one is ever that excited for Bromley.

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Like I was saying yesterday about Amsterdam being larger than life and full of personality, which takes away mine – here I felt complete in who I am, my personality is in full force. Not that I was shoving it in peoples faces. People here are still quirky, it’s not a quiet city, there’s a bookshop in a church, that says it all. I suppose, for me, Amsterdam is like Camden and Maastricht is like Brighton. That’s the best way I can explain it.

Isn’t it a shame that I have to describe places with places I know. The more I’ll travel it might turn into ‘Winklebottom was very much like Gravy Boat Mountain’, not ‘Amsterdam is like Camden, init!’

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Maastricht is a winner, in case you couldn’t tell. I loved it. It’s just one of those places that was perfect, couldn’t find a fault other than it’s an expensive city. Oh and someone working in the church told us not to go through a certain door because ‘you don’t fit’. Now that could have been a translation problem but he did an awkward giggle after, as if he felt bad saying it. Bit weird. If it is what he meant, that’s two days in a row we felt like we didn’t ‘fit in’. A hotel and a church. It didn’t take away our experience, it’s just a shrug of the shoulders and walk away with our beard, backpack and leggings. James wearing the leggings, me wearing a fake beard and one arm each in the backpack, of course. That might be why.

An English couple we met, who moved out 7 months ago, explained that the top part of The Netherlands is called Holland, and that’s the part reclaimed from the sea. The bottom part, which seems posh, is The Netherlands and are apparently against the top of the country? Suppose like northerners and southerners in England. He said they’re meant to be nicer in the south of The Netherlands (where we are). Well, I much preferred it to Amsterdam, if that’s anything to account for?

I haven’t checked whether this is true, just took his word for it.

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We stayed half an hour away from Maastricht in a town called Valkenburg, which again just blew our little minds. I love how many times we have booked places to stay and they’ve been amazing, all by coincidence. And did we fit in? No clue, didn’t check. They have a statue of a modern day, naked lady so surely it’s not a problem that my leggings are see through at the back (didn’t actually know and James didn’t think to tell me till we went to bed, and yet I wore them the next day too) (I’m really not a travel guide/diary lady am I?).

A coach load of older people turned up at our hotel, drove all the way from Manchester – 14 hours it took. So strange to go from not hearing a lot of English in forever to all these northern accents moaning about how many stairs there are. The Europeans love stairs. We learnt this day one, just like they are learning. Then late at night as I was writing my post for yesterday we heard English football chanting. How peculiar, we said to each other and put on our raincoats and hats, popped in our pipe, whipped out our magnifying glass and went out to investigate.

A bunch of English lads were jumping around the street in football kits. They just got off a party bus and were singing ‘Winter Wonderland’. Of course the Mancs were outside watching in disgust. Probably the whole town really, doesn’t seem like a party town – though does have 3 casinos (unless we walked past the same one 3 times – no travel guide see). Brought the biggest grin to James’s face though. We wanted to start jumping around with them, I’m sure they would have accepted it. Then we were discussing how my Nan loves football and would have gone off and joined them and she’ll turn into their Queen.

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James’s quotes of the day;

‘You can tell we are in a rich area – the state on the fashion’
*as someone cycles past in heels*

‘Look! An English flag, lets eat there!’

*Man has his head in the stocks and joking with his family*
Emily: ‘Throw some rotton fruit at him!’
James: ‘Shit on his face!’