I've been waiting for this evening for years, but now that it's here I can't decide whether to relish every step along the way or curl up in a ball, grit my teeth, and hope that I make it through in one piece. And, isn't that invariably the case::? When a plan is still on the drawing board, sufficiently distant from reality for comfort, it's easy to get excited about the grand adventure one will be embarking on, but once it gets close enough to ssee all the individual elements for what tthey really are it all begins to feel a bit too big and scary.
I can't remember who said that the journey was as important to travel as the ultimate destination, assuming I ever knew, but it certainly rings true for the journey that Vance and I are a couple of hours into making. As we race east from London, watching the setting sun lighting the high clouds behind us I can't help, despite my nerves, feeling just a little excited that by the time daylight arrives once more we will be on one of the largest passenger ferries in the World, approaching the Hook of Holland. From there, after hopefully enjoying some breakfast prior to disembarking, we will travel by train to the outskirts of Rotterdam, changing for our intermediate destination, at least for twenty four hours, Amsterdam.
I have never been to The Netherlands' most popular, well known, not quite capital, city - but when planning to take the overnight ferry route on my way to visit friends in norther Germany, stopping there felt like too good an opportunity to miss. The only problem, easily glossed over at the point of booking, was that, despite having travelled widely in Europe, including independent journeys to see the same friends, I had never yet stayed in a foreign city alone, with or without my guide dog. Somehow finding a hotel, walking the city streets, popping into restaurants and bars or visiting museums and other sights feels quite manageable in the UK, but an enormous challenge anywhere else.
Thankfully the promise of the sea crossing, which I first read about long ago on www.seat61.com carried me through the booking hoops, ensuring that I didn't lose my nerve before I could commit myself to travelling, leading me directly to this seat, on this train, speeding backwards through the late April dusk.
The trip could go one of two ways. If things go according to plan, if I avoid getting too lost in Amsterdam and Vance isn't prevented from entering too many places, it could well give me the confidence I need to try it again, potentially opening up many an opportunity. But it wouldn't take much to knock my existing confidence, and I worry that this could be my one and only flirtation with truly independent travel on the Continent.