Budapest, Prague & Vienna…Let’s Go! :)

I love to travel. I have had the privilege of sampling a taste of a number of different countries including India, USA, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sicily, the Netherlands, Belgium, Guernsey, and probably other places that have presently slipped my mind. With some of these countries, including Austria, I have only passed through while en route to other places.

However, large parts of the world remain uncharted territory to me including Eastern Europe. So this year, I decided having worked hard, and saved hard, to venture out into this new and exciting and as yet unexplored part of the world for me.

Next month I will be, God-willing, visiting Hungary, The Czech Republic and Austria, and in particular spending time in their capital cities of Budapest, Prague & Vienna.

I have to admit that my knowledge of these countries is at present fairly limited, so I thought it would be a fun thing to do to bring you along on my adventure in preparation for my travels by finding out and sharing an interesting fact about these places each day.

I also realise that many of you are far more proficient ‘globe trotters’ than I am, and that you may have ample experience and knowledge of these countries and capital cities (you may even live in one of these places!), in which case you are more than welcome to be tour guide and share your recommendations, experiences, anecdotes, ‘must see’ places, and places to avoid in the comments below. The more the merrier! 🙂

In the meantime, here is my first discovery:

Budapest:

Budapest is the capital city, and also the most populous city of Hungary, and is also one of the largest cities of the European Union, with a population of over 1.7million people.

Budapest was formed in 1872 or 1873 from the merging of two cities on opposite sides of the River Danube, Buda (the original meaning of which was probably water) and Pest (a Hungarian word meaning furnace, oven or cove – I wonder if this is due to the hot springs?).

Here is a beautiful picture of the Danube river intersecting these two sides of Budapest:

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Image courtesy of Stock Free Images (TM).

 

 

 

 

Trains of thought ….

You may have read my previous two posts about my recent travel adventures on the Jacobite Steam Train through northern Scotland. However, this post is about different types of trains: trains of thought.

I did not choose this topic at random, but because I am struggling right now, and I like the freedom of being ‘real’ with you on this platform (pardon the pun 😉 ).

You see, for the past few years I have been receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress, Complex Trauma (trauma that is severe and repeated), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Severe Clinical Depression – what a colourful array of conditions and symptoms! I have been suffering for many, many, many years prior to getting help, however.

Despite my conditions, I function at a high level. I work full time (although my workplace know of my conditions and are supportive to me), I have obtained two first class degrees, I love photography, and other creative outlets, have a strong faith and seek to encourage other people in my friendships. These are all real and genuine parts of me, they are not masks, however, underneath my pleasant and often smiling demeanour is a lot of pain, and emotional and mental distress. In case you are wondering a lot of this stems from bullying about my appearance as a child, racial hate crimes, physical, mental, verbal and emotional ‘bullying’ (abuse) at young and formative stages of my life, as well as various stressful situations in adulthood.

I try hard, but sometimes my brain and body go into ‘meltdown’, and I am harassed by nightmares, chronic pain, flashbacks, distress, confusion, low moods and painful memories and reminders of abusive words hurled at me that I absorbed as being true about myself.

But I have chosen not to be defeated by these things, although recovery is a long road. In my pain and despair, prior to seeking professional help, I would try to ‘fix’ things or figure them out and it would lead me down very unhelpful trains of thought such as obsessively reading about stories of adults who were bullied as children and that sort of thing. It ultimately didn’t pull me out of my pain and trauma.

Since then, I have been focusing on more positive distractions and techniques to ground me in the present…I’m still at a vulnerable stage of my recovery so reprocessing these experiences needs to be built on a more stable foundation of grounding and staying emotionally safe and well. I have been doing pretty well with these – I have been pouring a lot of my time and attention into healthier pursuits such as doing my best at work, exercising, going for walks, eating more healthily, not isolating myself from friends and family but working on my relationships with others, taking time for ‘self care’, pursuing my hobbies of photography, creative writing, arts and crafts, adult colouring, and now blogging !, and building myself up in my faith and in prayer.

However, not all journeys are smooth and straightforward, and this train has run into some trouble and parts of it have broken down and are in need of servicing. I have been feeling more overwhelmed by, I guess a ‘flare up’ of the traumatic symptoms, and at the moment I’m struggling again.

Today I found myself face to face once more with some of these troubling memories and emotions and feelings and physical sensations that brought back a lot of negativity in my perceptions of myself as I was when I experienced these things, and I found myself beginning to follow old trains of thought – I was so close to going online to read about and watch videos about bulling, but I know that that will ultimately be harmful to me.

So I chose a new train of thought, I chose to continue on a more healthy journey, and I came here to blog instead.

But this blog isn’t all about me. It’s about you, about us, and about community and building each other up, being encouragers and supporting each other on our individual and shared journeys.

If you struggle with your mental health, know that you are not alone. Be aware of the train of thought you choose to pursue, and if you are on the wrong train, get off at the nearest station and switch tracks.

How do you do this? Start building up your ability to choose positive thoughts. Perhaps you can focus on a healthy hobby, or write down a list of affirmations and positive statements about yourself. Take your attention away from the thoughts that distress you and instead focus on something beautiful like the clouds moving across the sky, the sound of birdsong, the gentle lapping of waves, the laughter of someone you love, the sweet scent of flowers or perfume, the taste of your favourite food. Build a ‘narrative’ for yourself, filled with positive things. Use your imagination, and keep choosing the Imagination Stations of positivity rather than staying on a train of thought that will only lead you through a long dark tunnel.

What helps you? Do you have anything helpful that you can share that might benefit the rest of us? If so please feel free to comment and discuss. We’re all passengers together in this journey of life, so let’s make sure we help each other choose the right train! 🙂

I shall leave you with an inspiring quote to ponder:

“whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).

The Greatest Train Journey in The World!….

Now, I don’t know whether that is strictly true, having limited experience of great train journeys, however that’s how it was advertised, and I decided that it might just be the mini travel adventure I needed.

I have travelled on trains in a few countries including India, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and America. All of these journeys have been memorable for me in some way or another whether that be the insights into different cultures, breath-taking scenery, or simply the novelty of travelling in a new country and unfamiliar environments. One particular train journey in India will stay with me throughout my life, as it involved an accident and me coming face to face with death, for the first time.  But that’s too deep to explore in this post.

There is something so nostalgic about steam trains – a piece of the past, and one unknown to me at my age, right here in the present.

So I decided to go for it: “AAAALLLL AAAABOARD!! The Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig, in ‘Bonnie Scotland’.

The tour however, which was by bus, departed from Glasgow (just a few days ago on Friday 7th July 2017), which meant travelling up to and spending an afternoon and an overnight in Oban before setting off for the Fort William departure by train the next morning.

A Whistle Stop in Oban:

Now Oban itself is a lovely harbour town, with interesting walks, Oban Whiskey Distillery https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/oban-distillery-visitors-centre-p418591, McCaig’s Tower https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/mccaigs-tower-p255141 , boats and more boats, and plenty of nice eating places, including those where you can sample some delicious Scottish chips!

From Oban to Fort William to Mallaig:

The next morning I awoke to a beautiful view of the sun on the water, followed by a bus journey from Oban to Fort William where I boarded the Jaobite Steam Train for the first time, and made the journey from Fort William to Mallaig and back again.

It was definitely a memorable adventure, and a great opportunity for a spot of photography. Here are some photos that I took on my trip. I hope you enjoy! 🙂

P.S. I have plenty more photos of my trip – if you would like to see more, whether of Oban, Mallaig (which I haven’t posted here), or the Jacobite Steam Train and the Glenfinnan Viaduct, feel free to let me know and I can create a subsequent Gallery post.

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Daily Prompt – ‘Grit’: A Word Game Today

Daily Prompt ~ ‘Grit’

I usually approach the daily prompts from a creative writing perspective, however, the word ‘grit’ seems to have pushed a playful button in me, so I’m going to veer from the well trod path and play a word association game, and I have no idea how it will go…so, come and join me wordsmiths! 🙂

  • Grit
  • and determination
  • to get this sand out of my shoe
  • I rub my gritty eyes to help me see more clearly
  • As they grit the road
  • It seems to be snowing
  • Shall we just stay at home and watch that gritty new drama?
  • It makes me grit my teeth
  • And it sounds like my shoes on a gritty gravel path
  • Here I am once more with grit and determination trying to get this sand out of my shoe!

Grit – Grain – Sand – Beach – Waves – Water – Sea – Boat – Travel – Journey – Voyage – Ship – Map – Compass – Treasure – Gold Doubloons – Pirates – Eye Patch – Sight – Vision – Binoculars – View – See – Eyes – Features – Face – Person – Head – Shoulders – Knees – Toes – Body – Mind – Think – Feel – Love – Desire – Want – Obtain – Give – Kindness – Character – Determination – Grit! 🙂

 

 

An Adventure on the Jacobite Express over the Glenfinnan Viaduct

Weekly Photo Challenge – ‘Bridge’

If it has felt like there has been a bridge between us for a while, with no sight of me, due to the fact that I haven’t blogged now for a few days, let it be known, my friends that this is for a good reason…

Yes, life and work has been busy and tiring at times, however, some of that time away from the blog has also been spent satisfying my ‘Wanderlust’ with some ‘wee adventures’…

So what a pleasant surprise it was when I reconnected with my blog to see that this week’s photo challenge is on the theme of ‘Bridge’! Well, the reason I am so pleasantly surprised by this is that just two days ago I was making my first journey on the Jacobite Express Steam Train in the North of Scotland from Fort William to Mallaig, travelling over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct. Now, I’m not a fan of Harry Potter and haven’t seen any of the films, however, you cannot go on the Jacobite and over the Glenfinnan Viaduct without being made well aware of the connections with the film.

If you have ever had the pleasure to travel or even live in Scotland, then you’ll know what a beautiful country it is, especially along the coast or up North. The train journey made it all the more spectacular. It truly was an exciting photography expedition for me, and I took these photographs with my head and arm out of the window as we curved around the viaduct.

I can safely say that these are some of the most enjoyable photos I’ve taken recently, and definitely ones that I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to take. Furthermore, the very acts of travelling and photography have turned out to be a bridge between me and fellow travellers who have requested that I email them my pictures as a memento for the journey.

Have you ever taken this trip? If so how did you enjoy your experience?

Much love. xx

 

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Daily Post ~ Dash

Daily Post ~ ‘Dash’

That one short phrase left me paralysed. I saw him emerge from the trees, at quite a distance, before (I hope) he had the chance to see me. I knew him. His stature, his gait, the way he was so absorbed in his music as he jogged through the park alongside the river, catching the breeze. It was freedom to him. His solitary pursuit, and he felt free. I could see it. I knew it. I knew him.

My face burned red as the gap between us gradually began to close. I worried that if or when he saw me he would think that I was a cliché, or a character of my own making, rather than me. My camera hung around my neck, and I fumbled with the pen and notebook in my hand. I had come here to slow down, to walk at the river’s gentle pace, to capture moments too inspiring to miss, that most of us sadly, in too much of a hurry through life, did miss. I was here to think, to ponder, but most of all, to write. This was my freedom. Did that ever really matter to him? Did he ever know me the way I knew him?

He was in his zone. I wanted to be invisible just to give me time enough to compose myself, to figure out what to do or what to say. I took a deep breath. Invisible or not, I would never be ready for this.

He spotted me. He raised his arm slightly in a friendly wave, and I could see him begin to slow his pace, turn his music down, and switch gears. He was always so much better at doing that than me. He could hide the way he felt so much more easily, and that frustrated me. Not that he could appear calm and composed, but that I could not, no matter how hard I tried. Surely he would be able to see right through me, my feigned calm, cool demeanour, to see that inside I was terribly flustered….and afraid. Part of me wanted to be an unfathomable mystery to him, composed, stoic, in complete control. Another part of me wanted him to see me just how I was, and in that to see how much he, how much all of this really meant to me, and in turn to care as much as I did. I wondered if he could.

The distance between us grew shorter and shorter, and then in a breath, he was there before me, hunched over, his hands resting on his knees, his dark hair flopping over his face, as he paused to regain his breath. As he straightened up, his smile disarmed me. He gestured that he would have hugged me but then pointed to himself and his shirt damp with sweat, as if to save me from the discomfort. I smiled, nervously. He was charming as ever, gentle, kind in the questions he asked. He did seem to focus on me, to show a genuine interest in what I was doing. The familiarity seemed to comfort us both. I could see what I couldn’t see in him before, or what I was too hurt to see, what perhaps he was trying to hide. He did care. He did see me.

For some precious moments it seemed as if time had stopped, and if nothing at all had changed between us. As we reconnected, I gently began to ask him about how he was, what was going on in his life, how he was doing. I had never seen him flustered before like this. He wiped his brow, laughed nervously, trying to hide his hurt, trying to protect himself in a way that I sensed he still wanted me to protect him from himself. Somehow, unwittingly, I had disarmed him.

He laughed again, that charming, genuine laugh, and shook it off. And then he said it. ‘It’s been so great to see you, but you know’, he paused gesturing to his sports watch, ‘I’ve really got to dash’.

I froze. I just couldn’t engage myself to speak or act. ‘Got to dash’. Was he in such a hurry to get away from me? Were we still journeying through our lives at such a different pace that even now he could not pause to take this in. Would he miss it yet again? Would I?

He paused just longer than he had intended to and I could see the hurt in his eyes. He really didn’t want to dash, but that was his way of coping, the way he thought he could be free.

And as he turned away, I let him go. Life was too important to me to live at that pace, and he knew that that held true for him too. Perhaps, in time, at a gentler pace our paths would cross once more. But in the meantime, we both had our own journeys to make.

Retaking Control

Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve worked twice as hard only to get half as far? That you’ve overcome so much pain and so many obstacles that you should be ‘ok’ by now, or ‘ok enough’, that just when you begin to think that you’re moving from survivor to thriver that you suddenly feel that things are beginning to get on top of you again?

I’ve been there many times. Life can be hard, but we keep getting up and keep on going as much as we can. Sometimes things get overwhelming though, and it takes time to get back on our feet again. I am back on my feet and going strong, or so I thought, but recently I have been struggling again.

This evening I find myself ‘sinking’ a little as depression and traumatic childhood memories, fears and feelings from being bullied and the years of distress and anxiety that followed begin to resurface. It can be difficult. It can feel sad.

I feel like I’ve poured my heart into some recent blog posts, and that these have perhaps been overlooked. I guess all of us are looking for connection and appreciation, and I realise that I have given a lot of good advice in terms of self care, well being, and mental health, that I need to take on board myself right now.

It’s time to retake control. I can’t let myself slip back into feelings of being overwhelmed or any other negative emotion. And I can’t look to people for confidence, courage or comfort, for ultimately that’s not where my strength comes from (Psalm 121).

I am sorry if this has been a muted post, but this is Life As It Happens To Be, and this is a real life, real time, struggling with real issues and real moods, anxiety, PTSD and depression.

Yet, I have come a long way. I’ll simply take a step back and regain my strength, and be on the road from survivor to thriver once again.

Much love. ❤ xx