It’s not easy, literally living half a world away from your closest people. Sometimes, unexpectedly, the reality of the distance thumps into you at full force out of nowhere, throwing you off-centre. A heaviness sits solidly on your chest, refusing to budge for a few days, a week, sometimes longer. You find yourself teary often — too often — and at places highly inappropriate for tears: the gym, on the train, at dinner. You can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that is making you feel this way — nothing specifically upsetting has happened — and you search relentlessly in the darkness for the expat manual that will tell you exactly how to get through it. You never find it, of course, and must ride the wave all the way to the shore. In the end you emerge, carelessly spat out, but slowly feel your feet finding the solid earth again, grounding you once more. Yes, this expat life is a complex one.
So evidently, one of the most exciting things that can happen to someone living literally as far away from their home as possible, is news that loved ones are coming to visit. This doesn’t happen often. Flights are expensive and it is a long, long way to travel from Australia to Europe. But we had some news! Our best friends would be flying into Innsbruck for a work commitment and would happily extend their trip for a few extra days, on the proviso that a European road trip had to occur. No arguments from me.
Picture-perfect Innsbruck, nestled at the base of the jagged spires of the Nordkette mountain range, would be the starting point for our mini European road trip. The destination for day one? Bolzano, Italy.
We picked up our wheels early, ready for a full day of adventure. Best friends, tunes and the open road heading into the mountains. Happiness all round.
The plan was simple: get off the busy autobahn as soon as possible to take the scenic route over the Alps. It was the long way but the best way. Surrounded on all sides by the dramatic mountain range, we climbed higher and higher and finally emerged from the mist that persistently lingered in the valley below.
Levelling out on the top of the mountain pass, the air was decidedly crisp and moist. Warming up over hot chocolate in the hut perched atop the pass and gazing out on the valley below, we were impatient to continue.
The alpine mountain pass delivered us safely into the valley below, the road gently following the river all the way to Bolzano. Vineyards and apple orchards lined both sides of the road, their plump, bright fruit attracting trespassers, too eager for a taste to keep their hands to themselves. With the lush, green Alps giving way to the rocky, sheer Italian Dolomites, day one of our road trip surpassed all expectations.
We pulled into our accommodation in fairytale Bolzano mid-afternoon, but what was next? The sun wouldn’t be setting for a little while yet and more exploring was in order.
Stay tuned to find out what other adventures brought day one to a close!
Have you ever done on a road trip in Europe? Share your experiences below!