I prefer to live places rather than visiting them

Sara, Nomad volunteer in Scotland, France and Catalunya

They say travelling changes you. They say that every journey is different. What follows is my own “different” experience.

Generally, you start a journey by getting to a first new place: I came to Kilmarnock, in Scotland. Scotland shocks you with the noisy silence of its hills, with the sound of its cornemuses and its contrasts: you learn to be ready for everything, to enjoy the sun and a minute later to shelter yourself from the rain … seven times in one hour. I personally learned the art of intuition, because no matter how good you can speak English, you will not even understand a single word of what they are saying to you. If you want to survive you have to learn to transform all the vocals you know in “a” and “e”, hold your nose, and order “sex fesh and cheps” (aka: six fish and chips).

So… there were once in Glasgow, Italians, French, Greeks and Scottish people. What were they doing? International volunteering in many different places. Then some went to Loch Ness, others to Edinburgh, where they all met again. But then the first three went to London, where only the first two remained because an Italian went to Paris. And this great international family was the first team of my NOMADS.

And therein Paris, I was alone, asking myself why I listened to those who suggested me this adventure, or maybe I was too busy, looking at everything I was going through. I spent one night in Paris, then one night at Clermont Ferrand and then came to my second stop: Toulon. Here I open a technical bracket of which only those who have experienced such can catch the irony: Paris-Toulon would be a 5-hour journey into a different world, but French railroad company loves so much to their customers that they do not want for any to skip looking at every corner of their bucolic country from the window, so I took 17 to reach my destination…

Toulon. Where I met one of the Nomads volunteers from my previous stop and another from Estonia. But so far I had learned to hold my nose and open the vowels, and in France, there is Google Translate that slams a lot. And after Toulon, the program was two nights in Marseille and Narbonne and then on to Spain. But Nomads does not let you track your programs … why do you have programs in a project called Nomads?

I was already anxious to find myself in a kind of super-condom consisting of seven sixteen-story buildings and six stairs each on the outskirts of Marseille … scary, I swear. A gentleman asked me what I was doing there and had written in the face that there was really nothing to do there and that one like me should not have been there except for an absolutely valid reason. Then I assured him that I was going to find a person (the lady who would host me, which I absolutely did not know), but then when I stopped eating on a bench I was surrounded by a flood of threatening pigeons and maybe it was in the moment I cursed the people who sent me to that place.

In short, I’m in this situation pretty awkward when I get a phone call. I do not know what a strange concept of space-time they have in Greece, but I found myself having fun in Marseilles with my two Greek NOMADS fellows who decided to come and find me for a game with the cards I had gifted him (comfortable stop from Paris if you have a plane to take in Brussels …); while my second day of transit was spent in a nice chat with a Dutch student, a student from Sweden, coming from Sardinia and headed to Bordeaux. A great melting-pot.

Barcelona; and I am literally seized by this fantastic city. Barcelona will not let you down. Taking a few steps means finding yourself 6 hours after still walking because there is always a road behind the most inviting corner…

Meanwhile, I was learning to stay anywhere in no time, I was learning that the best bath is always that of the train, because it is free, that people are happier if you learn how to thank them and greet them in their language and that to really understand the spirit of a city you have to look it from the top and walk in the lesser known places. So I did not mind at least having to take another train to leave the vida loca and go to live my last 5 days of freedom in a hut in the middle of nowhere.

La Molina. That place does not exist in the maps, nor on any national railroad site, yet there is a station there. I think it was the 5 most difficult days of the whole project, but also the most educational ones. Working with a group of disabled people who speak Catalan is one of the experiences that have reshaped the wonderful sense of freedom I was trying at the moment. You are never completely free if you do not know how to communicate with locals in the local language.

Young people, learn languages, all!

There I was the only real disable… unable to speak and understand this funny language that is Catalan, while they are enjoying it with full lungs.

And here’s my adventure over, with a 20-hour ship return (yes, the ship is the fastest and most economical means when you’ve ended your travels on your Interrail ticket and you have to get from Barcelona to Rome ), tired, dirty, confused, but happy.

This adventure ends, but it didn’t, actually! It has changed my way of seeing things. Now I know so many things I did not know before, I know the habits of 4 different peoples, I know the pleasure of seeing Europe passing by, I have memories in another language I can not tell with my own, I understand that I prefer to live places rather than visiting them but not too long because there are so many other things to discover yet.

And then I know that I now have friends around. From so many other parts.