I am the queen of to-do lists. It’s geeky, but I thrive on them. Pen to paper, the victorious satisfaction that comes with slowly letting the pen glide horizontally through the words I had so carefully written before.
As an A-type personality, I love lists. That way, I can be prepared and know I didn’t miss anything. From a neatly folded grocery list tucked carefully in my pocket to a crisp sheet in my notebook at work, I consider lists to be an integral part of my life.
When it came time to plan our brief jaunt to Europe in the fall of 2016, I didn’t have time to make a list before I left abruptly for France (I had signed up last minute to WWOOF at a farm–more on that another time). We didn’t plan much at all, except to meet up in Belgium after I was done at the farm, and then to continue on to the Netherlands two days later.
I had some down time each day at the farm after my work hours were completed in the morning. We were a short drive from town—too far to wander for this bipedal—but I wanted to soak in the surroundings, the hilly terrain, the autumn colours and the pervasive smell of damp earth. I wandered the property and, despite my very introverted nature, made friends with the other WWOOFers there.
But, as introverts are wont to do, I spent a good chunk of time by myself with a pen and notebook. As we had no internet, I was left to the expanses of my imagination as to what Luke and I could do and see on our trip. As I stared at the words I had slowly and deliberately written on the page, I realized it was less of a to-do list and more of a to-eat list.
A list of all of the foods—mostly sweets and pastries—that I was determined would signify time well-traveled. I craved olliebollen like my Oma used to make, Belgian waffles barely visible through a blanket of Nutella, pain au chocolat with a shatteringly crisp crust giving way to a delicate lacy crumb.
(Side note: I got pain au chocolat from an airport vendor in Paris and it blew my mind—European travel convenience food is superior to many standard bakeries here).
Food creates such strong memories for me (and others, I’m sure); I think that’s why I choose to make to-eat lists wherever we go. The memory of eating a fresh stroopwaffel with caramel on my chin at a stall in Albert Cuyp Market is my favourite souvenir of the trip. My preferred itineraries are often as simple as strolling the streets and feeling what it’s like to just be somewhere. Grabbing an espresso and crepe at a small French cafe or a soft pretzel at a Berlin U-Bahn station, to try and capture the feeling of what it’s like to live somewhere else.
I’m a homebody through and through, but there’s something in me that likes to pretend—even if for a moment—that I’m a graceful and confident Parisian woman, or a leggy cyclist weaving through the streets of Amsterdam.