I started 2011 with a challenge to myself: to travel more than ever before. To travel further, to travel better, and to do it all with my dignity (and bank account) intact.
Outlining this year’s escapes last December, there were a couple of destinations I’d already planned to visit in 2011, but I needed to get the ball rolling on a trip in late winter or early spring. The details refused to gel in my head and inexplicably, I couldn’t nail down exactly where I wanted to go.
So why not choose a place I don’t want to go and start from there?
One of the benefits of travel blogging has been, for me, a greater sense of adventure, a willingness to do things I hadn’t before, to travel to places that haven’t always intrigued me. And that’s exactly how Austin entered the picture.
For some reason, I’ve always had this negative impression of Texas. Maybe it’s the big hair, big oil, big money reputation that gained traction with the television drama “Dallas” in the 80s. Maybe it was the hubris of undergrad classmates from Texas who felt their state was so awesome! it should be its own country. Whatever the reason, I had no intention of visiting Texas any time soon.
And simply because I’d decided against it, I thought I’d give the Lone Star State a shot. With a couple of college friends calling Austin home (and loving it), and discovering that city’s reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” the sun began to rise and cast a soft, warm glow on Austin.
Tempted By the Fruit of Another
But it was not to be. Not yet, anyway. While searching for airfares to Austin, I stumbled upon a too-good-to-be-true airfare to a city that’s been on my bucket list since early 2007 when it made an appearance on my “1000 Places to Visit Before You Die” desk calendar.
Suddenly, I was planning a trip to Iceland. My mind was as good as made up, but a case of the nerves kept me from actually moving on the making the trip happen. Would my ten days there be enough for me to really experience Reykjavik and make a lazy circuit of the island on the Ring Road? No—it would end up being a slap-dash, high-speed run through a landscape that deserves time and attention. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t have enough time or money to truly do Iceland justice. Another time, then. Again, I was left in limbo.
“Where shall I go? What shall I do?”
I felt exactly like Scarlett O’Hara Butler in Gone With the Wind.
For about a week, I had no idea what my next step was. Do I go back to planning a trip to Austin or do I move forward and try something else? And almost as suddenly as indecision threatened to swamp my senses, an idea popped into my head.
Why not Belgium?
Last fall I’d put Belgium on my shortlist of places to visit but I wasn’t expecting it to enter the rotation so soon. But why not? Chocolate, bier, waffles, and frites—need I say more? Plus the country is small enough geographically to do some exploring in the short amount of time I have away from work. There was no good reason not to go. So I took a deep breath and jumped off the bridge. There was no turning back. Almost immediately after I purchased my plane ticket, I started feeling better. Downright ecstatic, even. A solid plan was beginning to take shape.
Am I excited? Hell, yeah. I’ve wanted to visit Europe since I was 11 years old and it’s finally happening. I can finally dust off the textbook French that I got to practice a year ago in Montreal and use it. While I’ll have to pick up a little Flemish in the process, I don’t mind. Studying languages has been a passion of mine for a long time now, so it will be cool to add yet another tongue to my repertoire (the double entendre bells are clanging loudly, begging for satisfaction, but I’m pretending not to notice).
My loose plan is to spend a few days each in Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent with the possibility of a day trip to Maastricht. I’m keeping my options open and trying to go with the flow.
Here’s to the start of one awesome year of travel. Roll out the welcome mat, Belgium. I’m coming for a visit.
So how are your plans for travel in 2011 coming along? Please–PLEASE–tell me you’ve got a better system than I do…..