At the start of September, I had a slight shock to the system. I returned to the UK after a month galavanting through the European heatwave and, in my absence, Autumn had arrived. An even greater shock came when I boarded a train to France, where I worked in a refugee camp for most of the month. My summer of short shorts, beating sun and lazy hikes started to seem ridiculously luxurious as I spent each day covered in mud and rain, sleeping in a broken campervan with no hot water, helping homeless refugees in the forests of France. In all honesty, I’m still having a hard time reconciling that experience with my general daily life. Returning to the UK for my graduation and a family reunion, I felt overwhelmed by the superficiality, excess, and associated guilt of my blessed life…. this contrast is quite evident in my blog posts from this month, alternating throwback posts on my Eurotrip with in-the-moment diary posts of working in the refugee camp.
Overall, September was a life changing month: both the refugee camp, and graduating with my Masters degree. It was a month of HUGE contrasts. Here are some details…
Where was I in September?
England (Poole, London, Plymouth, St Ives), France (Dunkirk, Calais), Italy (that’s a surprise 😉 )
Most popular Instagram in September…
My favorite Instagram in September…
"My fear is…that 'tasting' cultures becomes more fashionable than truly entering them, and that it will be just the surfaces of other places we collect, not their essence. Indeed, that collecting places becomes more a goal than plunging into them and being transformed by them." -Pico Ayer 🌎🌍🌏 . . . Of all the places I have traveled, the U.K. is the place I have "truly entered." I have lived here 3 years in total and it feels like coming home ❤️But I also think that as travelers/immigrants/expats we may always feel that we are just "tasting cultures" rather than truly a part of them. What are your thoughts? ☕️🌿 . . . Ps – thanks @florabaker for originally posting this quote a week or so ago… clearly it stuck with me 😂 #rockyourboat
September adventured like…
- Well, no shock here but working in the French refugee camps was a huge part of my month. It’s difficult to describe how this impacted me, but I have detailed posts here: 1, 2, 3. I also have a final post on the experience coming up this month.
- I also want to know… are you guys interested in this? Do you enjoy reading about more “traditional” travel or experiences like working in the refugee camps? I have an overload of posts to write and want to publish the ones you are most interested in first, so let me know if you have any questions you want me to answer on the topic.
- As I said, August was a HUGE month of travel and I have some v exciting posts on it still in the works!! This month I shared a couple’s travel quiz tag, our reconverted prison stay in Ljubljana, and the amazing social responsibility tour we took in Ljubljana.
- And finally… THE END OF AN ERA! 24 months later (and probs a few stress induced years off my life) I graduated with my MASTERS DEGREE!!! I was so overjoyed and it was really special to share the moment with my parents, grandma, and uncle who all flew over from the USA. Also, bc this is my blog and I can brag if I want to, I graduated with Distinction and won the Catherine Mounter Prize for Occupational Science for my research dissertation on the health benefits of choir singing. Which I actually didn’t even know until I sat down at graduation… so after WAY more library hours and WAY less procrastination than my undergrad degree, I was quite pleased.
- I’m currently on a trip with my family to some favorite English spots and… ITALY! But more details on that next month 😉
September read like…
- I read a few books this month but I’ve also been reading a lot online about the refugee crisis that is still ongoing (even though the media at large seems to have forgotten). I really recommend these posts by my friend Madeleine which are a first-hand account of the conditions and police behavior towards women refugees in the camp we worked in in France. They are incredibly well worded (she’s German so English is her second language!) and really capture the tragedy of the conditions.
- I’ve also read The Fatherland by Robert Harris which is about a detective living in post war Germany in an alternate reality in which Hitler won. It was a timely read this month 1) after meeting my lovely German friend Madeleine and 2) after Germany’s recent election which in Madeleine’s words have brought the Nazis back into German politics for the first time since the war. We are living in frightening times.
- In my tradition of alternating taking forever to finish a book with finishing books in record speed, I read all of The Marsh King’s Daughter on our journey from the UK to Italy a few days ago. It is a great book and actually set in Northern Michigan in places I visited last summer.
- I’m currently working my way through a lovely & very brainless book called The Island by Victoria Hislop – ticking all of my “summer read” boxes as I am still trying to extend summer as much as I can!
September ate like…
- I’m behind on my gluten free guide posts, but once again just email me if you want gluten free advice on Budapest, Brussels, Ljubljana, Bled, Vienna, or other cities. Hopefully you’ll see an official post this coming month!
I’m looking forward to October – really seems to have crept up on me this year!! It’s my favorite month not just because of my love of Autumn, but also my birthday and Halloween! However, October is also when my carefully articulated “gap year” plans dissolve. I will be finishing up my family travels in Italy and after that… well, I don’t have a solid plan apart from being somewhere in Europe. I was hoping to go to Portugal on a yoga retreat with a company I have long admired, but unfortunately those plans fell through. Instead, I have another idea at the moment, but you’ll have to check back here to see if it comes to fruition!
What are your October plans?