Episode 3: Slow Down, Take in the View, Get a Picture

One of the greatest benefits of Rebecca’s expat experience has been her ability to travel throughout Europe. In Episode 3: Slow Down, Take in the View, Get a Picture, she recounts some of her favorite travel memories, explains why expats love to travel so much, and shares her theories for why travel makes us better people.

Music in this Episode

Peach Pie – Tears of Happiness – Provided by Jamendo

Audio in this Episode

All audio (excluding music) and narration in the RB Abroad Podcast is recorded, edited, and produced by Rebecca Bramlett unless otherwise noted. All the audio in this episode was filmed during various holiday trips I have taken in Europe over the past three and a half years.

RBAP Logo Episode 3

Transcript

Hello and welcome everybody! I’m Rebecca Bramlett and this is the RB Abroad podcast, where I tell you about the time I moved abroad for three and half years.

(theme music plays)

On today’s episode I’m talking about a favorite subject among expats … travel.

(church bells ringing and sounds of children playing outside)

I started writing the script for this episode while I was on a plane, flying back to Belgium from Greece. Greece was the 15th country we visited during our time as expats in Europe. When we moved to Europe, we set a goal to travel as much as possible in the 3 years we had living here because well, why not? When might we ever have the chance again?

A lot of Americans never even get the opportunity to visit Europe once, because the trip is so long, and far, and expensive. But we knew once we made it over here onto European soil, it was going to be so much easier to travel the continent. Railway travel is incredibly convenient and there are tons of airlines, many that currently operate low budget options. If you are willing to go somewhere with just a carry-on and no extras, you can fly around Europe for under 30 euros sometimes!

We felt strongly that one of the greatest benefits of this expat experience was that we were going to be able to see more of this part of the world.

So, within the first month of living here, I made a Word document called, “Places We Will Travel” –

(typing on a laptop)

purposefully calling it “places we will travel”, instead of “places we want to travel” because I wanted it to be a constant reminder of how serious we were about it. This wasn’t a wish list; this was a to do list. It didn’t just list names of cities and places we wanted to see. I also mapped out every school and office holiday we would experience in the three and ½ years that we lived here, and I used that to plan where we would go each break we had.

It was our opinion that every holiday and every break should be spent visiting a new place. And for me, it worked. I constantly referred back to this document and used it to plan all of our holidays. And we call them that now … holidays, not trips or vacations. So European.

I quickly found that we were not alone in these travel dreams. Most of the expats we have met have had similar goals. Maybe it takes a certain type of person to be an expat in the first place, one that’s prone to want to go places and explore. Or maybe the act of moving to another country just warms you up to it. Maybe it is both, whatever the cause, I’ve found that most expats like to travel, and it almost becomes a game, or a competition.

(two voices echo) “How many countries have you been to? What is your favorite city? Have you been to Italy yet? What should we do there?”

But it’s a friendly competition, and one where the competitors share tips and recommendations.

And what does this travel do to us, and to our expat, third cultural children?

One of my favorite world travelers, and travel inspirations was Anthony Bourdain.

(violin music playing)

He once said, “It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.”

I certainly think travel exposes us and that exposure teaches us. Not only do we learn about new cultures and cultural differences, but perhaps more importantly, I think, we learn about universal, human similarities.

We see that children everywhere fight with their siblings and they get cranky when they are tired or hungry. We see that teenagers everywhere are pushing boundaries and flirting obnoxiously with each other and are generally confusing and terrifying. We see that parents everywhere want the best for their children and will sacrifice for them.

Ok, so maybe this is a little bit of hyperbole, of course I recognize that travel isn’t all sunshine and roses and that there are risks and things at stake.

Of course, there are safety issues. When you travel, you run the risk of travel related accidents or illness, or terrorism.

(sounds of city crowd)

Some of my most crippling moments of fear and anxiety have been because I was worried about being in certain place at a certain time, places I considered to be prime terrorist targets. Like being in Paris during the World Cup championship, when it was being played, with Paris in the championship match. Or being in Prague or Belgian or German Christmas Markets. Or in Vienna on New Year’s Eve.

(Viennese Waltz music)

Or pretty much any crowd anywhere ever.

(crowd sounds end)

I’ve worried about planes going down, ships sinking, trains derailing, cars crashing, cyclists running me over, cobblestones tripping me. I’ve wondered what would happen if I got hurt in a foreign country. This was a particularly unsettling thought as I was huddled over the toilet in a hotel bathroom in Greece vomiting with some sort of food poisoning.

(toilet flushing)

The truth is, as expats, we have a global health insurance plan, so if we needed it, we’d have care pretty much anywhere we went, but that is just the practical answer. The concern is what would really happen? What might foreign healthcare be like? I’ve walked by hospitals in Beijing and in Athens and Transylvania. They didn’t necessarily look like places I wanted to be. I mean, what hospital is, right? But back at home, in Durham, North Carolina, we have access so some amazing medical facilities and just knowing the access is there is comforting. When you are in new cities, or you’re travelling and what you have access to is unknown, if you are a worrier like me, that can be terrifying.

Still, I didn’t let these fears stop me, because, as the scary teenagers say these days, YOLO. (that’s, ‘you only live once’). And when you have special moments with your family in beautiful places, taking in breathtaking views or delicious food and making unforgettable memories, the risk seems worth it.

(church bells ringing)

It’s the Easter holiday, April of 2017. We’re in the Black Forest region of Germany, staying in Stuttgart and Munich, and taking day trips throughout the region. Today we’ve come to the Seewald Amusement Park to ride their mountain toboggan slide.

What does that mean exactly?

(sounds of toboggan track and cables)

It means you buy as many chances as you want to pick out a toboggan sled, stand in line, dodge large metal poles that are swinging from cables above, and then quickly hop around a track when none of the metal poles are coming toward you, set the toboggan on the track, let a bored and distracted looking teenaged employee hook your toboggan to one of the swinging mental poles when it comes around, and let the metal pole then pull you up a mountain track backwards until you reach the top of said mountain.

Then, you are dropped off the pole, get up, and move your toboggan to another bored, distracted looking teenager who helps you get the toboggan settled properly on the mountain slide. If you are lucky, the distracted teen employee gives you a few instructions in a language you understand before you head down the mountain.

Instructions like, “stay on the toboggan. Push the lever forward to go faster, pull the level backwards to slow down. Don’t stand up. Don’t stop on the track. Don’t climb off the track. Enjoy!”

Parents can ride with children, so my husband and I take turns on the slide with our son. For the first ride down, they go together, ahead of me, and I go on my own.

(rhythmic sound of a toboggan going down a metal track)

This is good because it gives me a chance to figure this whole thing out. And as if the patron saint of terrifying amusement rides was looking out for me that day, the first sled I got was a bum one, operating at all times with about 50% of the brake deployed, so I couldn’t even reach the speeds that scared me at that height, even if I wanted to. Whew. I did it.

The next time down, I go with my son. We started at the top, him in front of me, my legs and arms wrapped around him, offering as much protection as I can provide. He begs to be the one to control the speed and brake lever. Okay, (sigh) I reluctantly give in. But you have to listen to me if I freak out! And we are off, with a push from our distracted teenage friend.

(rhythmic sound of a toboggan going down a metal track)

My son narrates the trip for me.

Son: “Whoo! Here comes the turn, Mommy! Whoo, yeah!”

He always likes to be in front, ahead of me, the first of us to do things.

With my arms wrapped tightly around him, my hands wrap tightly around my phone, because of course, like most idiot travelers, I can’t just take in the experience for myself, I need to capture it on video too. But I also try and capture the moment myself. Don’t forget to turn and look at the view, I tell myself. It’s beautiful from way up here.

We start to pick up speed.

Son: “Here comes somebody!”

I laugh nervously.

(Mother and son laughing lightly.)

This is scaring me and if you really think about it, it is a ridiculous endeavor for a parent to be doing with their child, hurtling down a mountain on a shallow metal track, sitting on a device made to make the hurtling go even faster. But I don’t want him to hear my fear. I want him to hear that I am having fun. This is fun!

Mom: “Whoo!”

We go around a turn. We go around a faster turn. But I have to tell him, slow down, slow down, slow down.

Mom: “Slow down, slow down, slow down!”

Son shouts and laughs.

I am not sure he is following my instructions. He is loving this.

Son: “Here you go!”

He is having so much fun.

Son: “Ohhhh, (indecipherable shouts), wheeee.” (laughs)

Okay, it is a little fun. Hearing him have fun is fun.

And here we are, already approaching the end of the slide. It all happened so fast. How is it already over?

Son (laughing) “Did you get a picture?”

Did you get a picture, he asks?

It occurs to me almost two years later, this is just like the ride we’ve been on for our entire expat experience. And the giant ride of parenthood in general.

In the beginning I have no idea what lays ahead and I am excited but also scared. It seems like a long trip ahead, we’ll have all the time in the world! We go through it with my son always wanting to be in control, wanting to take the lead, always running ahead.

He always wants to go faster. I want to slow down. Time goes by faster. I need time to slow down. I tell myself, don’t forget to take in the view. Don’t forget to enjoy the moment. I am having fun but never without an undertone of fear. My son is fearless and happy and that makes me happy. But slow down! Slow down, slow down, slow down. The end of the ride is coming too quickly. Did I get a picture?

(church bells ringing)

Special moments with our children. With our family. We can have them anywhere. You don’t have to travel to have them, but I have been lucky enough to do so. My son has been privileged to do so. I have a lot to say to him about that privilege and what I hope he does with it in the future.

I’ve tried to share all my travel experiences with my friends and family and the world through my blogging and my photography. I’ve seen so many interesting and beautiful places in the world and I want to share that with others who may never get the chance to visit those places in person. And I think people have appreciated that.

I’ve received a few comments and messages along the way, things like, “geez, are you guys ever home?”, or “don’t you ever work?”, or “must be nice!” and I’ll be honest, those sting a little. Yes, we do work, but Belgium has a much more generous and family-friendly vacation policy for employees and you’re darn right we’re going to take advantage of it! And yes, it is nice. It is nice to have these opportunities, and we don’t take them for granted. And we look at them as a benefit that counters the hardships that come with moving to a foreign country and being so far away from family and friends. It’s almost like a reward. And we look at it as an incredible educational and character-building opportunity for our son, and frankly for ourselves!

I will never forget walking into my favorite historic church in Ghent with my son for the first time.

(church choir singing)

It was a few weeks after we moved here. We entered the 17th century St. Pieters Church, unlike anything he’d ever seen before and he let out an honest and genuine, WOW.

Son: “Wow”

We’ve seen tulips blooming in Holland. We’ve stood in a magical purple mist in the Hallerbos bluebell forest in Belgium.

(crickets and bugs making noise, church bells ringing)

We’ve stood in blooming lavender fields in Provence with bees humming around us and just inhaled deeply. We tried not to get blown off the top of Mont Ventoux in France by the mistral winds.

(wind blowing)

We’ve been in endless castles and old churches.

(church bells ring)

We’ve seen the beached of Normandy. We’ve felt the spray of mist coming off of Swiss waterfalls.

(waterfall running)

We’ve laughed and cried in West End Shows in London. We learned the Viennese Waltz in Vienna on New Year’s Eve.

(Viennese Waltz music)

Dance instructor: “to the right, to the left, to the right, to the left”

We’ve seen the White Cliffs of Dover from the sea and the land. And did I mention all the old churches?

(church bells ringing)

We’ve been entertained by performers everywhere. One of my favorites was in Naples.

(Man singing in Italian with street noise around him)

And we’ve been confused by roaming Italian vegetable vendors and communist party marches in Munich.

(Man speaking Italian over a loudspeaker, birds chirping)

We’ve dipped our toes in glacial springs. We’ve been in places like the Parthenon and Stonehenge and the Colosseum and we’ve seen essentially where civilization began.

(church choir singing)

We’ve been in Vatican City, one of the holiest places on earth, and we’ve accidentally walked our son down more than one red light district in more than one city, some of the unholiest places on earth.

(church choir stops singing)

Google maps should really warn you about where those are.

We’ve visited the homes of my ancestors in Poland and Ireland to see where they lived before they had to leave their homes and immigrate to the U.S. And we visited two great uncles and Matt’s grandfather who are buried in American cemeteries in France and Italy and paid our respects and visited on behalf of our families.

And when family came to visit us, we got to take them to places to experience similar senses of wonder, like the light show at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Girl’s voice: It’s so pretty!

In all these places, we tried to learn about the local culture and history.

(Brass band playing music)

We tried to talk to the locals, even if it was only those serving is in the tourist industry. We tried the local foods and spirits as best we could. We tried to see and to learn and to experience.

(Romanian folk music playing, dancers clapping and singing in Romanian)

And by doing so, our worldview has broadened. Our frames of reference have gotten bigger, much bigger. We’ve gained an appreciation and understanding of “other” people and “other” places, or at the very least, open-mindedness.

Another one of my favorite world travelers, Rick Steves, has written, “Globetrotting destroys ethnocentricity, helping us understand and appreciate other cultures. Rather than fear the diversity on this planet, celebrate it. Among your most prized souvenirs will be the strands of different cultures you choose to knit into your own character.” (violin music playing)

I think, again,

(theme music begins playing)

my biggest takeaway from all our travel experiences is that, despite our cultural differences, people everywhere have innate similarities.  People everywhere want the same happiness, love, and success in life. No matter where we come from, we’re all human and share the same emotions and drives. And, as a person, once you have this awareness, and exposure and understanding, I think, we become better people, people who make better opinions and choices about how we navigate our place in this world.

(theme music ends) 

So, I am a huge advocate for travel and agree with Anthony Bourdain’s message, may he rest in peace.

(brass band music playing)

He said, “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

And I’ll add, slow down, take in the view, get a picture.

(church bells ringing)

(theme music begins playing)

I am Rebecca Bramlett and you have been listening to the RB Abroad podcast, my series where I tell you about the time that I up and moved and moved abroad for three and half years. This podcast is 100% independently produced by me as my final, personal project for my postgraduate in digital storytelling from KASK School of Arts in Ghent, Belgium. Thank you for listening.

If you like what you hear, I appreciate your support through subscriptions, reviews, likes, comments, and shares on whatever platform you are using to listen, and/or on any of my social media channels. Until next time … tot ziens. Bye!

This episode contains music by Peach Pie, provided by Jamendo. Complete details about all the music and audio used in this episode can be found on this episode’s post on the RBAbroad.com website.

(theme music ends)

2 thoughts on “Episode 3: Slow Down, Take in the View, Get a Picture

  1. This is fantastic Rebecca! It is exciting for all of us to read and listen to your experiences abroad. —- is a very lucky young man. How about interviewing him to hear about the travels from his perspective ?

    Like

    1. Thank you, glad you are enjoying it! Great idea, maybe that is something we can do. (redacted his name for privacy) 🙂

      Like

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