Learning the simple things in a roundabout way: on 8 months of being a gypsy

18 July 2013: I spent my six month milestone as a vagrant in the air, fittingly, enroute to Copenhagen from Montreal, marked by as unbelievable a sunrise as I’ve ever seen. Descending into Iceland for a seven hour transit, just above the sweep of plane wing, the red band of sunlight from the approaching dawn poured blood orange onto a sea of altocumulus clouds as the sun climbed the dark skies to light a brand new day. 

It marked the point I finally left North America, which I’d been in since leaving Australia, and arrived in Europe, a continent I’ve spent a lifetime assuming I’d never set foot in.

Hanover, Germany: The Aegidienkirche, was one of the largest places of worship in medieval Hannover. A small chapel probably already stood on this site as far back as the 10th century. It was replaced in the 12th cetury by a Romanesque basilica of which the west wall is still partially preserved. Construction of the Gothic hall church began in 1347. This old church was the place where the reformation began in Hannover. An air raid in 1943 destroyed everything except the outer walls and parts of the Baroque tower. The ruin is now a memorial to the victims of war and violence. From: http://www.roterfaden-hannover.de/index.en.htm

It was a tremendous moment in what has been a journey filled with significant waypoints. Europe, the continent where fairytales were born, was itself a fairytale to me until that point – it had always been too expensive, too complicated, too impossible a destination to get to.

It is ironic that I have been here for almost two months as I am writing this post, being the most broke I have ever been. Leaving Perth cost me dearly, and living off my meagre savings is discomfiting and difficult for someone used to the stability of a regular, decently sized paycheck (which came with suitably sized debt, but that is another story). I could have chosen to do it differently, but after a lifetime of being bound to the safest route, I needed to leave in the most irresponsible method available.

So I did. And here I am.

Copenhagen, Denmark: Wind turbines in Øresund, Amager Strandpark

Europe has been astounding. I’ve walked in Copenhagen and Hanover on cobblestones worn by a long, rich past, touched the stones of buildings (castles! castles!) centuries old, the colliding of now and ancient history in space-time that my brain cannot compute. Breezed through what I am told is unseasonally warm, sunny weather on a bicycle, unharrassed by motorists, seeing locals do all the ordinary things I’m used to people doing in summer – enjoying a beer in the sun, going to the beach, hanging out in grassy areas – except it is so so different for the nuances I can’t identify clearly enough to articulate. Saw the sea for the first time in six months at Amager Strandpark, then was disconcerted by how it was devoid of both swell and the smell of salt.

Copenhagen, Denmark: Queen Louise’s Bridge is occupied by the Images Festival: http://www.images.dk/

The only reason I am here at all is because of the people who have made the Transatlantic crossing possible – Flemming, who has housed, occasionally fed, and inspired me in Copenhagen, where I’ve spent the bulk of my two months, and Maler, Jens and Lukas, long lost family I spent an incredible week reconnecting with in Germany. They say friends are the family you choose, and in this, I could not have better family, both of my own choosing, and also those whom the fates/karma/genetics/gods have blessed me with. In particular, I’m floored by how many strong, fighting women there are in my life to aspire to.

Copenhagen, Denmark: City Hall

I have little materially to my name at this juncture, but so much of the truly wonderful things in life to fill a hollow heart with.

Eight months on the road continues to have its manic highs and equivalent lows, but to be able to say “life is fucking beautiful” (thank you Erin) and mean it, is in itself something amazing, to be well savoured.


  1. Zane says:

    The richness of your adventures and images always leave me inspired and wanting one too. You are more alive than most of us.

    1. charlene says:

      Thank you Zane (and for dropping by). This has been the most alive I have ever been, may it never end!

  2. lynngailphotography says:

    love it! love the words, love the pics, love how you are travelling Charlene….inspiring! X

    1. charlene says:

      Cheers Lynn :)

  3. Daphenie Ho says:

    Great stuff C! So happy you are having such an awesome time.

    1. charlene says:

      Thanks Daphy :)

  4. Malermaler Maler says:

    Love it

    1. charlene says:

      You were/are a big part of it. I’m so so so glad.

  5. Life is fucking wonderful! Let’s Occupy Utopia and do Impossible Things every day :)

    1. charlene says:

      It’s a deal!

  6. Sherry says:

    Two months in europe already, I can hardly believe it!

    1. charlene says:

      I had a hard time believing it myself. It’s going to take me a long long time to process everything. Always knew Europe would be great, but it’s outdone my expectations.

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