When you see a glass, do you see it half empty or half full?
Do you live for today or dwell on the past?
Do you thrive on positive contact or wallow about what people may have meant?
Whether you are predisposed to your personality traits by birth, or you believe that you are who you are by virtue of nurture and how you interacted with those around you as you grew up, there are indeed other factors that determine your outlook on life.
One of the main factors that determine your attitude towards others is in fact your country of birth, or to put it in more specific terms, your culture. A country that is a prime example of this is Japan.
Japan is a country known for many things – sushi, sumo, anime and technology – but running through the core of the country is an admirable balance of respect and regime, with the structure of these coming together to make a country who is revered for its values. So imagine a society that puts elders first, instils in children a sense that if you behave correctly towards others, this will be repaid in reciprocal respect kindness – sound idyllic?
Whilst there is no suggestion that living in Japan adds up to a perfect existence, or that people from other countries and cultures are distinctly lacking in similar moral values, the overall ‘vibe’ of the country does ooze an enviable feeling of satisfaction. Indeed, the rate of serious crimes such as murder is statistically one of the lowest in the world, suggesting that respecting your fellow humans runs deep into the Japanese psyche.
One of the reasons for this may be that there are subtle reminders about how to behave towards each other wherever you go. Public parking areas not only make allowances for the disabled and parents with young children, but also the elderly and pregnant ladies. The tradition of taking your shoes off as you enter a home is not just an age-old tradition, but a way of life that signifies how you should treat the belongings of another. And one that is hard to get used to, is that in Japan there is no tipping – a job should be done correctly without any added incentive and a clear price makes financial exchanges seamlessly cordial.
This all adds up to a place where if you put down your phone and walk away from it in error, return and it is likely to still be there, or put your bag on a chair that’s meant for sitting on, and it is likely to be frowned upon.
In other words, Japan is a country that values values.
After arriving in Milan at around 10am and battling with every single car rental company in Italy to no avail, we decided to jump on the train to Verona via Milan’s Central Station. As we purchased our tickets from the self-service machines, a slightly concerning message flashed across the screen, warning us to be careful and to watch out for pickpockets.. We had just arrived from one of the safest cities in the world. How bad could it be that it would warrant such a warning?
When we finally arrived at what was meant to be our hotel, we were taken aback by the fact that everything from the room keys to the cards were hotel-esque, except for the actual building itself. More like a renovated house than a hotel, it was clean and comfortable.
After a small rest to recover from our disappointing arrival into Italy, we decided to head to the Arena, situated just 15 minutes away from our “hotel.” Full to the brim with shops, cafes, and restaurants, I was able to snag a beautiful Pandora charm for my sister.
Verona was wonderful; the churches, ancient buildings, intricate architecture, and vast amount of Italian marble dominated the large stations.
With our love for amusement parks, we headed to Granada Land the following day for a bit of fun! The park was celebrating its 40th anniversary, which they advertised with large signs scattered throughout the park. Wow, I thought. This place is almost as old as the UAE!
We could easily see why this theme park was ranked fifth of the best amusement parks in the world! If you like plenty of rides and a fun day out, you should definitely check out Granada Land!
Parco Natura Viva
After checking out and leaving our luggage at the train station, we headed to Parco Natura Viva; a huge Safari Park and Zoo. We decided to grab a rental that had Four Wheel Drive to explore the park. It was so refreshing to be able to drive through the grounds and see the animals free to roam without cages or restraints!
The animals were clearly used to humans driving around; as one very bold giraffe peeked into our window! Even though the safari park was not as big as we had anticipated, the zoo was so huge that we, unfortunately, didn’t have time to explore it all.
Visiting Parco Natura Viva was a really great experience and we would highly recommend it; just give yourself enough time to explore it all in depth!
Not everything had gone as planned thus far. However, I was determined not to let the next part fail. Forget everything else. We were about to embark on the ultimate adventure, which we had been dreaming of for years; hiking Mont Blanc.
We headed back after our mini-safari adventure to Verona, where we jumped on a bus to Turin. Arriving quite late in Turin, our host met us at the station and drove us to our hotel. A small, yet stunning room was waiting for us; well styled and gorgeously modern, I loved it!
We rose early with a spring in our step. This was the day we had both been waiting for. After gathering our things, we headed to the station to meet our guide, Elisabetta. We agreed to leave our luggage at another guide’s house whilst we went for the hike.
Boots, bags, sleeping bags, and food for the trip were all packed and ready. It was time to head for the mountains. The trip there was incredible in itself. The greenery was such a striking contrast compared to how it is back home and there was so much of it! Waterfalls, houses in the mountains, old castles; was this place real?
After driving for two hours, it was time to jump out and start walking. The cold air hit our faces immediately and I had no other choice but to wear every single item I had brought; hence the mix-matched outfit! That didn’t matter. I didn’t care. I was finally doing it.
When we initially booked the hike, the website; Trekking Alps asked us whether we wanted to opt for the easy, medium, or hard hike. We were coming to see it all and live out our dream; so we went with HARD. What were we thinking? The hike was tiring and cold, simply unbearable.
The breathtaking views and intense adrenaline rush were what pushed us forward the whole time. Just knowing that we were hiking the “white mountain” kept our spirits high! It may have been deadly cold; however, we had been sweating underneath our layered clothes, which caused an icy chill to shoot through us when we stopped for some lunch.
Powering through, we continued on for another two hours. We were done. Completely exhausted. Or so we thought. Elisabetta turned and looked at us, imparting some not-so-great news. “We need another three hours to reach our hut. It’s not heated or equipped.” Followed by, “Come on guys, we can do this!” To which the only response that was appropriate was, “No, no we can’t.”
Elisabetta told us of a hotel we could stay at back down the way we came, to which we quickly agreed! After giving them a call, we were all booked in. Yes! I had seen the views, felt the burn, now I was ready to warm up and feel the soft sheets of a large bed! “How long will it take to get to the hotel?” I asked.
“Around three hours,” Elisabetta said calmly.
We wanted to cry. Surely, she could not be serious! After thinking we couldn’t take another step, we made it to the hotel. We knew along the way that the river was the half way point, back when we thought we couldn’t take another step, yet look at us! We laughed and felt proud on our way back down, with the occasional, “Go on without me, I can’t go any further!”
Feeling the burn from our muscles, we started to think that our gym membership was a waste of time. This was a completely different type of workout and to be honest, even though we were unprepared, we were surprised by how much we achieved!
After a grueling four hours, we made it back to the car. We did it! The moment I got into the car, I fell fast asleep, awaking to the view of a beautiful wooden house. The owner of the house, a very proud man, greeted us and showed us around. The bed was the most inviting thing I had seen all day; but not before one of the best hot showers of my life! That night, we slept like babies!
The next day, we awoke feeling well rested and proud of our previous day’s adventure! Our host had prepared breakfast for us, but not just any breakfast: homemade Italian breakfast. Honey, eggs, marmalade, cheese, bread; all locally sourced, mainly from the farm! It was incredible!
After packing up our stuff, we went and had a little walk around, where we bought some souvenirs before heading back to Turin. Looking back on the hike, I feel so immensely proud of what we achieved. I suppose you never really know how strong you are until it’s your only option.