Seven things I learned in Romania in 2018

Oh dear. It’s March. In fact, it’s spring! This means I’ve been back for over four months and still I haven’t written my reflective 2018-post. Of course it is a bit ridiculous to publish it this late but since I kept a things-I-learned-list I would like to share these insights with you. Also it is a good exercise for me to get back into writing blog posts. It’s not that I don’t write; in fact I do little else. The deadline for my guidebook to the mountains of Romania is end of April and I have no clue how I am going to finish it in time. But I will. Besides that, I’m working on lots of exciting new projects that I can’t quite talk about yet – but what I can say is that I never dreamed the Roamaniac adventure would roll on like this after the guidebook part! In short, I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment, so here is a little distraction from all these frightful facts for myself, and for you from whatever it is you need distracting from.

1. Wet socks? Put them in your sleeping bag!

Let’s start with a very humble lesson. Are you, like I was, in the habit of drying your wet socks and other drenched items on the clothesline of your tent, only to find that they haven’t dried and are terribly cold in the morning? Here’s the simple solution: put them in your sleeping bag! I do this with my socks and bra and any other items that need drying. I promise they will be dry and warm in the morning. Of course if they are absolutely soaked, perhaps you should wring them out first. And somehow negotiate space with these clammy things during the night – but that can be sorted.

2. Hitchhiking scary? Take precautions

Especially if you are a girl on your own, hitchhiking can feel a bit risky. Most of the time you will be fine, but if you want to feel safer after getting into a stranger’s car, take a picture of the registration number of the car and text it to a significant other. Also you can install the FollowMee app on your phone and change the settings to sending a signal every 10 or 15 minutes. That way at least someone will know where you are. Please note this will drain your battery fast, so don’t forget to bring a powerbank!

3. Plastic hacks

Although plastic is the devil, it can be devilishly handy too. I usually bring two big water bottles, but these days I bring one or two small ones too. They are easier to fill at a shallow stream or spring and if you need to carry extra water on a long dry stretch you have an extra container or two with you. And if, like me, you don’t have Goretex shoes, try lining your shoes with plastic grocery bags on exceptionally wet days. Promise you will keep your socks dry!

4. Small mistakes can have big consequences

I think one of the reasons I have postponed writing this post is that I felt I’d have to say something about the dog bite back in August. It’s been over six months and I still feel stupid about it, even though I couldn’t much help it happening. I haven’t written a post on the incident yet but what I’d like to say here is this: you’re only human and you’re going to make mistakes. My mistake was that, when I got bitten by the sheep dog, I wasn’t carrying my trekking poles. I will never know, but things might have looked better had I carried them. So there’s a little advice – get your walking poles out when you see dogs – but mainly this situation taught me that no matter how well you prepare, you are only human and it is impossible to always react perfectly in every situation. In this case, the consequences were big. But thankfully, I’m back on my feet, and I swear that no dog will ever deter me from hitting the trail. Better brave than sorry.

5. If you don’t understand something it doesn’t mean you’re stupid

I often feel stupid when I fail to understand something. But perhaps it just means you need it explained a different way. I’m not exactly a natural dancer for example, but when my friend Dan taught me how to dance by letting me step on his feet that helped amazingly. I’ve forgotten the moves again by now but I’m confident this was a much better way for me to learn how to dance than having to mirror someone else’s movements – that only gets me confused. Everyone has their own learning styles – just find your own. Of course you can’t be an expert at everything, but this will make learning easier and much, much more fun.

6. You don’t have to be good at everything

In the same vein: you can’t be good at everything, but neither do you have to. Look at Angela Merkel: she is one of the most powerful people in the world but she doesn’t speak English very well. Yet she is good at her job and well respected. Likewise, I heard a former Dutch prime minister confess on tv that he was terrible with finances but bluffed his way through and secretly took a crash course. I’m a perfectionist and often I’m painfully aware of the departments in which I find myself lacking. I’m a pretty good hiker by now and I can use a map alright, but I have yet to learn how to use an old-fashioned compass confidently. I can walk but not climb; I am a summer hiker and have very little winter experience. I’m learning to not let this discourage me: these things do not mean I am not good at what I do. They only mean there is a lot left to learn. Perhaps I need to look back a little more often and see how much I have already learned – and feel proud.

7. Remove ticks with a match

Let me finish with a teeny tiny thing I learned. Or rather, learned to remove. My friend Dan told me that ticks can be removed with a simple match. They don’t like phosphor and if you draw rapid circles around them with a wetted match they will let go of your skin. I was delighted the first time he showed me and could only hope for another tick so I could try for myself. Hurray for ticks!

On that note I will leave you to whatever it is you were doing, and pat myself on the shoulder for writing over 1,000 words here. See you next time!

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