‘What are you trying to achieve?’ – asked one of my colleagues when I told him about my resolution for the year 2019. This question forced me to think for a few moments. Although I was able to pull off something of a similar sort during the previous year as well, its scale wasn’t as ambitious as this one. Visiting ‘One city of one country each month for the calendar year 2019’ – is what I pledged to myself. In 2018, as it turned out I managed to visit 12 cities of 6 countries in the past 12 months.
My appetite for travel further increased the next year as me and my colleague discussed our new year resolutions whilst at work a few days into the new year, I told him about my ‘One city a month’ dream. The question in response, as it may sound valid now, was quite rational. My resolution would have seemed impetuous, and the way I was going to go about it was with impulsion.
A bit of a reality check, which was brought up by that question, was essential. Was I really going to do this to achieve something? To be honest I didn’t care at that point. Did I achieve anything in these 12 months? Maybe, maybe not. All I can say is, if it was not for travel, it would have been difficult to maintain the equilibrium in life at personal, professional and spiritual levels.
We all go through that need to hit the refresh button every once in a while:
Working in the field of medicine is a thankless job. Especially in training where one is expected to switch various hats to adapt for different roles. A trainee is three in one. He is a doctor making decisions during and out of working hours, a teacher delivering lectures to peers and undergraduates, and a student who is taking professional exams, all at the same time. This can get extremely stressful and puts the trainee in a susceptible position of an emotional and nervous breakdown.
The pressure mounts inside a vessel which needs some sort of an outlet to avoid an imminent blast. My outlet turned out to be traveling. To tell the truth, it was not an easy task to work and travel at the same time. Although the allocation of annual leaves was 13.5 days per 6 months, in order to keep up with my resolution, I was not able to take them all at once. Even a window of 2 days in a month out of a busy schedule had to be maximized. The idea was not to plan and travel but to travel, reflect and grow.
And thus began a journey:
January was about delving into Amsterdam’s artistic heritage, elaborate canal system, narrow houses with gabled facades, a rich network of museums and the famous cycling culture.
A city that is known to be bold has a free spirit on its own right which I can link to the fact that this city has given birth to one of the greatest rationalists of all time, Baruch Spinoza, in 17th Century. January was also about taking inspiration from Anne Frank and the power of expressing in times of oppression, as she confided with her family for her life in a warehouse during the tragic times of Nazi invasion.
February in Prague was about Metamorphosis:
A constant struggle for adaptability, progression, and growth. Walking on its beautiful cobblestones streets and exploring the historic Old town, the month of February was also about realization of an illusion known as time, which was aptly demonstrated by Astronomical clock – the world’s oldest clock still operating, and Franz Kafka, the famous Prague-born novelist, and writer of Metamorphosis – who is known to have said that ‘the meaning of life is that it stops’.
March took me to Istanbul for the second time:
One is unable to get enough from this city which was founded by Constantine in the 4th Century and later conquered by Ottomans in 1453. The city which connects two continents via three suspensions is a prime example of ‘bridging the gap’ between cultures. With specific credit to Hagia Sofia and Semazen ceremony, March was about reinstating my belief in trans culturalism and universal harmony.
April was about climbing the new heights in Northern Ireland:
It was about ‘climbing with the flow’ instinctively and find yourself on top of the mountains with jaw-dropping views of the deep blue sea all around. It was about getting yourself to the top without worrying about planning or the effort required, in order to gain vitalizing moments of serenity.
May was about diving into the chapter of history and fantasy:
Split in Croatia is known for its rich Roman history and more recently, for Mereen and Braavos of Game of Thrones. The beautiful views of this gorgeous Dalmatian city from Marjan Hills paved the way to revisit chronicles from the past and get inspiration from majestic architecture.
June was about the quest and exploration of antiquity and pre-history in remote parts of Islands in Malta:
It was about being free-spirited, eccentric and metaphysical. It was also about staying resilient in tough and extreme climatic situations and concentrating on reaching the destination by ignoring all kinds of obstacles that come in your way.
July was about stepping into a fairy-tale town of Bruges located in Belgium:
The Flemish town, famous for its legends and myths, seems to be a place that has spurted straight out of the world of Disney. Though Michelangelo’s masterpiece – Virgin and the child – July was also about learning to break stereotypes by interpreting an old convention through a very different perspective without blindly following it.
August was about seeking justice and being more compassionate for the less fortunate ones during the visit to Robin Hood’s city of Nottingham:
It was also about remembering the iconic fictional character of Batman whilst at Wollaton Hall, and his influence in the real world. Being at that place made me realize the strong repercussions of an imaginary idea or thought in our daily lives.
September was about taking inspiration from the art and creativity of Vincent Van Gogh and Leonardo Da Vinci in Paris:
Van Gogh’s troubled thoughts demonstrated exquisitely in an exhibition of his paintings in 3D at Atelier Des Lumieres, reminded me of our inner demons which we all fight every day in our own capacity.
October was about reinstating the belief on a fortune with the famous ‘luck of the Irish’ during the visit to Galway in the Republic of Ireland:
The luck did shine at just about the time of departure when the dark gloomy clouds cleared, the sun appeared and the rainbow emerged out of nowhere. After getting a picture-perfect view in an otherwise achromatic visit, I cherished the role of fate in our lives.
November was about discovering our inner traveler during the visit to Lisbon:
A beautiful city, from the shores of which many explorers, including Vasco Da Gama, voyaged to discover different parts of the world. November was also about recognizing the importance of time management and keeping up with ‘Tram 28’ of life events.
December was about disputing, rationalizing and rediscovering one’s own embedment:
Visiting Islamabad was a much-needed realization about the truth of the existence of one’s own unconsciousness. Looking at the hazy horizon at dusk from Margalla hills, December also paved the way for raising awareness about the importance of having clarity about virtues and principles in life.
In January 2020 the question from my dear colleague is coming back to me. What exactly did I achieve?
To answer this question, I can establish that at the end of my journey in the year 2019, I have been able to gain some valuable lesson out of each of my trips, which I am hoping to utilize as nurturing tools and building blocks for my growth as an individual and a professional. The idea was to reflect and grow, so the answer to this question will have to wait until the point of stagnation. Travel matters for a healthy and positive mind. And in my opinion, a person’s development continues at all levels until they take their last breath to arrive at a point of stagnation.
A journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening by “Footsteps of Kaaf”. Do visit their Facebook and Instagram pages as well.