There are travels, and then there are life-changing travel moments. In 2019 I’ve been blessed with visiting more new (and old) places that have taught me so much about life and what it means to be human. Exploring a new country comes with great benefits for your mental and physical health. This is not just a supposition, is based on scientific research and also my personal experience. When deciding on what to do with your life in 2020, I urge you to make travel one of your top 3 priorities.
In this article, I will talk about how travel has changed my life forever in 2019. I will share with you my 5 life-changing moments in travel from the past 12 months. As the year comes to an end, and my December workflow is slowly fading away after being one of the most insane of the last 4 years of freelancing, I can finally reflect on what the year has brought. And what’s in store for the years ahead.
Auschwitz is the place where the biggest, most atrocious human-made tragedy ever took place. It’s a complex of concentration camps one hour drive from Krakow, a lively university city in Southern Poland. When visiting Auschwitz, you can’t help but feel ashamed, angry and non-human. I couldn’t believe humans were capable of putting on such an insane human killing machine that got rid of more than 6.000.000 of their own kind.
It’s like elephants killing elephants just because some of them would have larger tusks. It’s simply insane, that’s what Auschwitz is. But it’s also a teachable place for anyone to visit. Politicians, men or women in power, dictators, presidents, ministers, mayors, whatever they might be, they should all go to the camps and see where mediocrity, insanity and ruthlessness could get them and their countries.
There’s this tale about one survivor who, as she and her brother were coming off the train that got them to Birkenau, angrily shouted at her younger brother for losing his shoes on the unimaginably hard ride. Years after the incident, as she miraculously survives the camps, she tries to find her little brother and the rest of her family. She fails. All of her family members were killed by the Nazis.
Every time she tells her story, she makes it her mission to point out how her last talk with her brother was a fight. She made her life’s mission to, whoever she has in front of her, treat that person as if he or she were her lost brother and never get angry or mad about the person she’s speaking with.
What an amazing, motivating and life-changing tale to come out of a Holocaust survivor. It’s incredible how much death can empower and change, almost always for the better, the living.
You hear stories about Marrakech, the modern-day Agrabah from the famous Aladdin story, but you don’t expect it to be THAT special, different and amazing. My trip to Morocco’s most famous city was just that. It was like I landed on another planet. I felt like all of my dreams about the story of the Genie and the magical lamp were all of a sudden there, in the medina and the souks of the ancient city.
Experiencing the city of Marrakech is a must-do in your lifetime. Simply strolling through the main square and almost running into a flock of cobras, bargaining with the sellers for the tiniest “magical” lamp to take back home, eating the most amazing tajine with mouth-watering beef and couscous, enjoying the night vibe of the markets, the sounds and smells, the lights and the people, the ones that bring the entire spectacle alive day after day, forever.
Wondering in Kutna Hora
One hour away by train from central Prague is Kutna Hora. This small village is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site like no other. Somewhere in the village, there’s a chapel made out of bones from tens of thousands of people. You see the pictures around Instagram and do wonder at just what sort of feelings being in a place like this might have you experience. It’s natural to wonder, of course.
But nothing prepares you for actually being there and experiencing Kutna Hora by yourself. Seeing the decorations made out of bones, the chandeliers, the colonnades, the doors and arches and altars. It takes your breath away. It makes the entire church look so deadly and scary. It’s the stuff of nightmares, but also a thing of beauty.
I guess having a church made out of just human bones is appropriate after all. We fear death so much, we often forget that we’re made just out of bones and flesh. And one day we’ll eventually get back to where we came from. But first, we’ll stop at a church for some service. And Kutna Hora is the “ideal” church for experiencing the feeling of the afterlife while still being alive.
Spending a day in Pompeii
Imagine if the city you’re living in would be covered by a thick layer of lava in just a few seconds from now without you being able to predict it. This is what happened to the people of Pompeii when the mighty Vesuvius volcano erupted in the year 79. More than 40.000 people, about the population of my hometown, were literally stunned and killed by the eruption of the massive volcano that dominates the city.
Spending the day in Pompeii means not just the most incredible history lesson about how the Romans used to live in those days. About how advanced they were with their baths and roads and, yes, whore houses. It also means reflecting on just how frugal life is. One moment you’re here, enjoying life and forgetting about all else. The next moment a volcano throws lava over you and you’re forever encapsulated in a sculpture-shaped memory of the day you died. I loved the visit to Pompeii and I’m sure it will be as valuable for you as it was for me.
Seeing David Blaine live on stage
David Blaine is my favourite human being. Sorry mom, but he never yells at me when I go on trips! He is my absolute idol, my model growing up and my inspiration. He broke records, defied death more than once and created some of the most incredible magic the world has ever seen. The street is his stage in most of his shows but he does come on actual stages from time to time, which is great for us die-hard fans.
When I heard David was going to perform in London, I just remember booking my flights the second I read about it on some social media post. I then booked my show ticket and I was good to go. This was not just a show for me. This was the experience of a lifetime. It was a great magic show, no doubt about it. But just seeing David perform and being so natural, gentle, so simple and genuine, that was the best part of it.
There’s nothing like seeing the person you’ve been looking up to for so many years right in front of your eyes. I couldn’t believe it then and I can’t now that I was there. And that I was finally able to see him in person. It was the best moment in 2019 for me. And I am so grateful for it. And for all the transformative moments of the year.