Thursday, 17 October 2013

How it all started...

One of my favourite things about traveling is adding to the ever growing list of amazing people I am now privileged enough to call friends. 

A large number of my closest friends are currently living across the world, many of whom I met on my travels. This, of course, has its challenges, but is more often than not simply wonderful. You can't help but smile when you hear the sound of an incoming text, email or Facebook message informing you that someone is thinking of you on the other side of the world and wanted to say hi. 

(I will admit that there is also the great benefits to having friends live in a country other than your own, it does provide you with an excuse to jump on a plane to go visiting! (they also probably have a couch for you to crash on which is always an added bonus ;-)  ) 

I have been thinking about this a lot this week as I have spent a large portion catching up on international correspondence. In particular trying to organise a Skype date with one of my dearest friends in the whole world!!! 

This is the story of how I met Ursula, the catalyst to my world expeditions... 

Taken at my mother's 50th birthday celebrations in Scotland 2012.
Photo credit: Robyn Hamilton
In April 2006 I was fortunate enough to travel to Turin, Italy for the 14th International Suzuki Convention for my violin studies. I was 16 years old. Mum and I packed our bags and headed off to Paris to begin our train journey south through Lyon, Nice and across to Turin for an incredible week of classes and concerts in this picturesque city. (Unfortunately I only have a couple of photos from before 2011, and are all scans of printed copies)

Paris 2006

Turin 2006
By chance, I happened to be in the same class as a young German violinist called Ursula. We said hi a couple of times and smiled at each other but nothing really more. The week of classes, and performances came and went leaving us quickly grabbing each's email addresses (I believe I still have the yellow post-it note she wrote her email on) before going our separate ways. Mum and I went on to visit Venice and Rome before returning to Perth, Ursula returned to Ingolstadt in Germany. 

After returning home we stayed in touch, emailing each other regularly and by December that year Ursula was in Australia to experience her first hot Christmas with my family. 

Another year of emails went by and one week after my final exam of high school I jumped on a plane destined for Ingolstadt to live with Ursula and her family for three months over Christmas. 

I was hooked!!

As soon as the initial hellos and introductions to her father at the Munich airport were done it was as if we had never parted, instantly inseparable. We spent the remaining months giggling, gossiping, eating way too much chocolate, creating and exchanging music, attending school, attending concerts, enjoying christmas traditions and exploring cities. 

As they say, the rest is history... 

In line for ballet tickets at the State Opera, Vienna December 2007.
That first trip to Germany was incredible. I felt as though her, truly amazing, family had adopted me and was so at home with amazing new friends with as well as the opportunity to discover wonderful places and traditions through local eyes. 

Saying goodbye that first time was honestly one of the hardest things I have ever done. 
Now, I must take every opportunity to visit as often as I can!

Prague 2011
I returned to Perth to complete my Bachelor of Music, but every year since I graduated I have found an excuse to head over and visit one of my very best friends. 

It is always the same, like nothing has changed and no time has passed. We drift straight back into our 16 year old selves, running around, giggling, gossiping and still eating way too much chocolate. 

Taken at St Andrews, Scotland where we picked up this now well traveled and iconic blue guitar!
Photo credit: Robyn Hamilton
Ursula's family is now based in Berlin. I have loved having the time to explore this fascinating city with so much to uncover through this friendship. (I will be sure to blog a lot on Berlin in the coming months!) One of the greatest things about visiting Europe is that it gives us the chance to choose a destination that neither of us know, discovering its hidden wonders together. 

A photo taken from our favourite spot of Berlin, picnicking on the banks of Museum Island. 
I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity for this relationship to form (I thank the internet and Facebook for most of it!). We often talk about how incredibly lucky we feel to have met the way we did, and how pleased we are that we ended up exchanging emails! Whenever we are asked about how we met the two of us start jumping out of our skin, eager to share our story.

The docks of Hamburg, Germany 2013
Ursula and my relationship is extremely special and unique, but I have so many wonderful people in my life like this. Aren't we lucky to live in a time when it is possible to form such deep friendships so quickly with people you will only see sporadically? Where distance is no longer a reason for you to not have people part of your life in some way regularly?

All it takes is saying hi every now and then to show the other that you know they exist and to remind them you do too. There is something really incredible about knowing you have people on the other side of the globe that care about you and that you can turn to if needs be.

Even though these long distance relationships may take dedication, with a little nurturing they can become something magical.