21 of the best!

2 continents, 3 weeks, 6 countries, 9 flights – 21 of the best days!

As we all know, time flies while we are travelling. Never was that more true for me than during the period of the 14th of August 2017 to the 3rd of September 2017. I went from Sofia to Milan, Milan to Barcelona, Barcelona to Sofia, Sofia to Sydney, Sydney to Belgrade, Belgrade to Hamburg and finally Hamburg back to Belgrade to breathe again. With all those flights, that is a total of 2 continents, 3 weeks, 6 countries and a lot of time on aeroplanes.

Why was I travelling so much ?

I lived in Milan in 2009 as an exchange student. In that time, I did a lot of growing up. It was a crucial period for me. Throughout those 6 months my Italian housemate Raffaele was just awesome. To me, he felt like my older Italian brother. I wanted to go catchup with him, meet his partner Lujan and his two kids Tito and Lisa. Yes, a lot has changed since our bachelor pad days of 2009. Crazy but awesome to sleep in my old room at Raff’s apartment which has now turned into a children’s play room.

Spontini pizza with my italian crew!

I also took a quick trip to see my uncle Peter and aunty Franca just outside of Bologna in a town called Imola. Not only this, I got to catch up with their daughter Olivia and her husband Marco and, maybe most importantly, got to meet Olivia and Marco’s daughter, Emma. I have to admit I laughed A LOT at their comments about how much of a whirlwind my mother was when she visited about a year ago. It is amazing how language barriers are just not barriers at all for some people! Just like my visit to see them in 2009, they took care of me like I was their own and I am so thankful. Grazie tantissimo!

Did someone say gelato in Italy?

As for Barcelona, I had an opportunity to meet with a great crew of people from across the remote year world for a weekend to talk about mindfulness and general headspace stuff. We stayed in a house in the Spanish countryside outside Barcelona, practiced some yoga, discussed meditation and just got real deep! The group was awesome and the connection with everyone was amazing. Have a deep and meaningful conversation with someone today guys. You will be better for it!

Sofia, well, it was my home base for the month and coming back when I did also meant that I could get to my friend Stevie’s birthday! I promised I would be there and what is a man if he is not his word! I then had to pack up my stuff and head out to the airport but not before a couple of cheeky fun nights out in the city and even a last minute run the day of my flight!

Sydney, well what can I say, I made the trip back home to be there for my father’s surprise 70th  and my niece’s baptism. Mum mentioned the idea of coming home a couple of months before the party and initially I wasn’t sure, it was a long flight and expensive. When she offered to pay…how could I not go?! The surprise was awesome, my father had absolutely no idea and I couldn’t have been happier to be home. I got to see a heap of people I hadn’t seen for the last few months and was especially excited to see my niece. Cuteness level – off the charts! I have to say, busting out on the dance floor with your 70-year-old father during an afternoon surprise party is something that everyone should do! (Check out the video)

Hanging with the fam!

As soon as I was back on Sydney time, it was time to fly back to Europe. But staying put would be silly! After arriving in Belgrade, I flew out the next day to Hamburg to go and see my friend Hans. Hans, like Raff, was a key figure in my time overseas as an exchange student, but this time from when I was studying in Copenhagen in 2011. Hans and I shared many awesome times together during our six months in Denmark. We laughed a lot, cooked mountains of pasta with pesto and even ran from the police once! We hung out just like old times (with less pasta and no run in’s with the police).

Hanging with Hans. No pasta or pesto in sight!

In Hamburg, I also got to catch up with a Brazilian friend Giovana who I met while travelling around Brazil during the World Cup in 2014. She is studying now in the city and has just been published for her research (massive fist pump!). Crazy how the world (and staying connected with people on facebook) can bring you back together!

Finally, I have to say that Hans and his girlfriend Jenny took great care of me and I am looking forward to being the honorary Australian godfather to their baby which is due very soon!! By the way, Nicole/Nicoletta/Nicky are all strong, beautiful names, just saying guys…

The reflective stuff

On all these flights, I had a lot of time to think about things. Three things really became apparent for me.

The first was the importance of connection with people. The old adage “people won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel” came to mind. I hadn’t seen my Italian housemate Raff for 8 years and it was like no time had passed. We got to share a lot of special times together all those years ago and for both of us, I think it was an important time for different reasons. In the car on the way back to Malpensa Airport to fly to Barcelona, Raff just game me a little punch in the leg and said “it has been awesome to see you man” and I couldn’t have agreed more. These connections are what makes travel worthwhile. Forget the churches and the monuments. The people are what counts.

The second was that yes, things do change, but good friendships stay the same. We are all growing up! Yes you too. From when you started reading this post to the end of it, you will have grown up just a little bit more! Two of my close friends, Raff and Hans, are now either fathers or about to become fathers. When did it became normal for my friends to be fathers, I have no idea!?!? Having said that, hanging out with them was just like old times. On Sunday night in Hamburg I relaxed with Jenny and Hans and watched a 25-minute video of a road trip that we did back in 2011. We laughed about the trip and all that had happened years ago. I couldn’t be more grateful.

The third was about the importance of being where you should, and want to be. I wasn’t sure I would make it back to Sydney for my father’s 70th. It was a long way to get there, I was travelling around and weirdly, when I left Sydney, I had thought that I would be away from home for at least a year. For a moment there, I felt that coming back any time sooner would be a failure of sorts. How stupid this mentality was! When I told people that I was going home for 5 days some immediately asked, is everything ok? Presuming that I would be going to a funeral or there was something serious happening with family. It would shock them to hear that everything was great and I was going home for a party. What better reason was there to go home than to be present for my father’s surprise 70th birthday?

People also started to say to be careful that my dad didn’t have a heart attack due to the surprise. To which I responded with “well you never know, I could be coming back for a birthday and a funeral…” bad taste, yes, but he made it!! Love you Baba!

Out of all of this, what I found myself saying to people was. Come to my birthday, don’t come to my funeral. And that is what I say to you too, come to my birthday and have a blast, and if you do make it out to my funeral…have a blast too!

As always, take what you will from this post and I’ll see you next time!

Nick

3 Replies to “21 of the best!”

  1. What a lot have you cramped in to your young life. Well done Mate. Lets catch up and have a deep and meaningful chat when your next in Sydney.

  2. Totally agree! Connecting and relationships with people are everything. I for one have been fortunate enough to have regular large doses of ‘Nicholas’ in my life and can vouch for how good you can make people feel. I hope you’re able to continue to reach and influence lots more people in this world, as it’s ALWAYS so positive and energising.

    At the same time, I’m glad you’ve realised you’re growing up. 😂

    And I’m planning on coming to and having a blast at many more of your birthdays to come yet!

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