Eva Bradley: Sweet moments on the road

By Eva Bradley

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Eva Bradley.
Eva Bradley.

Life is filled with sweet moments and we can find them hiding in the smallest, most unlikely of places, or in the more obvious.

For me right now, that is international travel. Despite the expense of it, I always consider travelling to be one of life's best investments, offering the biggest returns. And often it's the things we learn about ourselves that are as valuable as what we learn about other cultures.

And what I always rediscover every time I trade the terra firma of home for somewhere farther-flung is how the best experiences are often the most unexpected ones.

After the huge disappointment of discovering our rental car company in Austria wouldn't let us drive to former Eastern Bloc nations like Poland, our carefully prepared plans were stymied.

But with a little bit of Google Maps-meets Autobahn-meets Dolomite Mountains, we found ourselves unexpectedly in Munich, Germany, and Venice, Italy.

These were the obvious sweet moments, but the small and better ones I mentioned came mostly in the sense of triumph and teamwork in the face of typical traveller's theatrics.

Coming from small-town New Zealand and having both lined up for our licence the moment it was legally possible, my boyfriend and I have never had much need for public transport.

This fact combined with a shameful awareness that most people in most countries speak at least a little English (especially in pursuit of the tourist buck) can make for some "interesting" moments navigating large European cities without the benefit of a Lonely Planet or phrase book. As a result, we have over the past week found ourselves an hour outside Prague on a city subway we thought was taking us to a nearby mall, we've done circuits of the Grand Canal after a few too many prossecos made one Renaissance building look very much like the next, and we've delighted and frustrated locals with embarrassing attempts to mime "where the @$?! are we?" combined with a pidgin mix of English and whatever other foreign words we could drum up from an extremely limited foreign vocabulary.

But despite the exhausting logistical challenges of using public transport and all the other mind-benders of a language barrier, we have (so far) conquered them all, and done it together. And that is the best and most unexpected delight of visiting Europe.

Now, in order to give us the strength to wage war on our final week of big city living and yet more foreign subway systems in new countries (Hungary and Slovakia), we are parked up in a small town beside a warm lake in the Austrian Alps with sunblock, a good book, hearty beer and plenty of life-affirming wiener schnitzel.

It's what you might call a holiday from our holiday and for the first time in a fortnight I am actually achieving the aim - to unwind, unplug and generally defrag the hard drive of a busy life in order to power up again when I return Down Under. To extend the metaphor, I really ought to then log off, right, and get back to that schnitzel.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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