Portugal – Netherlands – Greece – Serbia
23 days, 4 countries, and countless memories to last a lifetime.
A little over three weeks have passed as I sit on the train on route to Croatia, reminiscing about my travels through Europe thus far – embracing all that has happened and all possibilities to come. Feeling so grateful for the life I am living and the opportunities I have been given, one word comes to mind… Fate.
I am a big believer in energy and feel that if you have a positive mindset, good things are bound to come. Of course, working hard and fighting for what you want are all part of the recipe as well.
Travelling with a Cause
In particular, it is this journey specifically that makes me sure of fate. As you may have read in my last post, I have been offered an amazing opportunity to educate and help capture the future of Europe based on the topic of Sustainability and Climate Change. The moment I heard about Europe on Track, I knew I was meant to be a part of the project. Being an Environmental Scientist, Travel Writer, and worldly backpacker – this project suited me perfectly.
Although I travelled through Portugal and The Netherlands beforehand, the project all began in Thessaloniki, Greece with training and a conference called ‘Smart Cities: Can You Hear the Eco?’ I was lucky enough to be invited to present a workshop of my choice. I was happy to prepare and present my first workshop to a room full of like-minded people on the topic of Green Cities. Nervous at first, I stepped out of my comfort zone to speak my mind and help educate others on the environmental movement.
The conference was inspiring as 120 people from all around the world gathered together with innovation and creativity to discuss and create a solution-based approach to Smart Cities, Sustainability, and the Environment as a whole. When we work together on a common goal, we have the ability to change the world.
The training took place in a cabin in the northern mountains of Greece, with the ambassadors and project team. There are nine ambassadors, split into three teams of three – with one writer/interviewer, one videographer, and one photographer. Each team will be travelling to different countries throughout Europe to present at Universities, High Schools, and Conferences.
It was a bonding experience as we shared every moment together over the span of one week. The intensive training helped further develop our skills in creating workshops, public speaking, and our specific role in the project.
We spent one last night in the city of Thessaloniki together before heading our separate ways. A cozy night as our local host welcomed us with open arms and filled our bellies with local Greek desserts. A tearful goodbye as we parted ways the following day after becoming so close during training. Sad to leave but filled with excitement to begin our route, my team and I headed by train to our first destination…Serbia! I was very happy to be paired with such easy-going guys – Furkan, from Turkey, is the videographer and Gab, from the Philippines, is the Photographer – both with such talent and passion for what they do. I feel inspired and willing to learn from them throughout this journey.
After over 15 hours of travel by train, our sleepy eyes woke to the surprise of a snow-covered Balkan landscape! Although cold, we arrived in Novi Sad to a warm welcome from our local host, Kaya. Full of personality, we bonded over our love of poetry as she pointed out our matching book ‘The Sun and Her Flowers’ by Rupi Kaur. Our stay in Serbia was brief but wonderful as we got a peek into the history and had a truly local experience.
Our first day, we were taken on a walking tour of Novi Sad and had a traditional Serbian lunch and coffee at an authentic local restaurant. We bonded further as Furkan read us our fortunes with the remaining coffee grounds and we shared stories about our lives and what brought us to that moment.
We were positively surprised by the beauty of the city center as we wandered through the quaint cobblestone streets, looking up at the well-preserved ancient architecture remaining from hundreds of years ago.
We had finished workshops on the topic of Environmental Sustainability and were intrigued by the discussion triggered by the local students. We understood that they would like to implement environmental education as well as better policies on water treatment and waste disposal. It is interesting to hear what each countries opinions are on climate change and sustainability based on where they come from.
The last morning, we headed by bus to catch our train with our sponsor, Interrail. We arrived at a deserted railway station, encompassed by broken down, abandoned buildings. Feeling a bit eerie and apocalyptic, we wandered alone in search of a warm escape from the harsh wind. A true experience of the local culture, a kind older man invited us inside. Even with the language barrier, we shared smiles and laughter over a hot cup of coffee, huddled together on a cozy couch.
After a nice few days in Serbia, we departed by train to our next destination… Croatia!
Take a look at our introduction video for Europe on Track 5!