It’s midday, April 3rd and I’ve been officially on the road for 2 days and a bit. Sitting on the sunny Hamburgian balcony of my good friend Ruud, I suppose it is time for a first real update. This blog will not be a travel journal, nor a full coverage of everything and everyone I encounter. It will be a reflection of my thoughts and things that make me wonder, people that amaze me or in any other way make me feel like writing about.
I think I should start with sharing the Why. Why do I want to make this trip? An why am I looking for stories about ageing? Am I so preoccupied with growing old that I want to know all about it? Nah, not really. In fact, I am simply fascinated by the fact that we age, and what ageing means to peoples lives. This curiosity was formed when I started a working in the elderly care during my studies more than ten years ago. When I started working as an editor, I missed my student job. Being around elderly people who have so many interesting stories to share -and often no one to share them with- made me happy. That is when I decided to become a volunteer for the local Zonnebloem group, a volunteer organisation with more than 40.000 volunteers and over 70.000 ‘guests’, as we call the people we volunteer for.
For over the last 8 years I’ve spent many hours visiting my ‘Sunflower granny’s’. I started reading about ageing. Books and studies on Gerontology, the noble studies of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging. I’ve been thinking about the changing reality of ageing in our society, where one used to be old at 55, while nowadays people start a brand new active life when retiring at 65. When and why did it change? And why do we all want to grow old, but are we so averse to the physical and psychological signs that come with it?
So when in March 2013 I quite unexpectedly won the Heineken Insights Challenge, where I had entered my ideas about the 60+ generation, my thoughts grew upon this Europe trip I had wanted to make for years. Why not? And why not combine it with a personal research on growing old in Europe? On September 11 2013 (always remember the important dates!) I decided the time had come to say adieu to my job at MVO Nederland when spring would arrive, and to begin preparing my tour d’Europe. I started with a 3 months plan, but my mother, listening to my itinerary, quickly shifted that into 6. Where would I be without her.
Now my car is fully packed. My job is left to someone else. The cat is safely lodged.
I kissed my love goodbye.
The first étappe lead me to my good friend Floor and her parents in peaceful Veeningen, where I got a very necessary long night of sleep after all the farewell-partying. Veeningen-Hamburg was a good first longer leg and Saturday I will be heading for Sønderborg in Denmark. There you go, a little travel itinerary after all!
Time to start exploring Hamburg and think more about the What of this trip. I will surely tell you more about that soon!
I’ve been thinking about whether I should write in English or Dutch, and I am not yet convinced of either one. But since the international character of this trip, I decided to write my first post in English. And such a long one! This will not, I promise, become tradition.