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When I knew I would soon travel to Europe again, I didn’t hesitate to dream, afterall, that’s been my most wonderful pastime ever since I discovered the joy of imagination. The initial plan was to spend a month in my beloved London with an occasional visit to the same places as last time – Liverpool and Longtown and add Edinburgh to that.
I dreamt of renting a cheap place in London, working on my computer a few hours and spending the rest of the day and night walking random streets, visiting special and not-very-popular places such as the Type Museum – a museum of typefaces, gardens, going on more Charles Lamb trails, spending more and more time around Hyde Park Corner where I left my heart and be the Londoner I always dreamt of being. That was the plan until someone said I should go to Paris too – of course I should go to Paris, it’s only a few hours away. Slowly, the images of Paris crept into my mind. Oh beautiful Paris, but that’d be for no more than three days and then it’d be all London again. Dreams are so wonderful that I can’t help sharing, upon doing which, another friend suggested I should go to Brussels, only a few hours away by train. Brussels! I got horribly curious and thought, I should maybe, perhaps, squeeze in Brussels.
The beauty of dreaming was that it inspired me to dream more, I got more curious, and looked up the map. More powerful than the map were travel fares. When I realized that it was not expensive taking a train to Amsterdam from Brussels, I was tempted to think – let’s do a tiny little bit of Amsterdam too. Who goes to Brussels and doesn’t go to Paris from there.
“Well, if you have a Schengen, you should definitely come to Vienna, come celebrate Christmas with us,” said my best friend Julia who dreamt for me, on my behalf. Christmas in Vienna – saying that aloud sounded like poetry. Of course, Christmas with Julie’s family is not only lovely but important! I absolutely love Julie and there’s no way I could not be tempted to dream about meeting her family and celebrating something as wonderful as Christmas!
When I laid my dreams bare open in front of my friends, they dreamt along with me, inspiring me to add destinations to my already long list. A weird plane flies from Paris to Berlin with six hours in Copenhagen. Copenhagen?! The Danish capital! I stand a chance of going to Denmark? Could I maybe go visit Tranquebar? The bookshop I’ve been following for a few years now and have always dreamt madly about visiting, could I really be at Tranquebar in Copenhagen? The answer was YES! What madness! Could this really be true? Is my December planner getting more and more amazing?
Soon came the time to book tickets. And I wasn’t sure if this travel plan would even happen. I didn’t have a Schengen yet.
The enormousness of these risks gave me a shudder. I allowed my mind no more than a minute to imagine the worse, always before going to bed so the tiredness from the day’d put me to sleep. I began booking one ticket after another – to Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh, all on Virgin Trains – the joy of getting a booking confirmation from Virgin Trains is like eating my favourite pastry –yumm! Each ticket booked was a promise of travel but also the same instilled great fear of failure. This was followed by booking international tickets, the cheapest train deals and flight bookings.
Each time I booked a ticket, I put it in an yellow envelope and admired it. Soon my bunch of yellow envelopes grew larger, like a stack of winning cards and looked beautiful in my hands. Oh what a sight, what pleasure, what joy, what beauty this stack was. My yellow envelopes that I proudly flashed in front of my family and friends, always hoping someone would ask me what those are and I’d explain that those were my tickets to travel across parts of Europe in December.
As the bunch grew bigger, my joy grew greater.
“Dear God, I want to be a global, solo, woman traveler like Justine Shapiro of Lonely Planet,” was my constant and somedays my only prayer, for over ten years. It finally seemed like the prayers were being answered and dreams were coming true.