They say that the holidays are a time for reflections. With the new year just around the corner, and life after the Az Po Morze project leading us all in different directions, I’ve taken the opportunity to reconsider my time in Poland. With 11 weeks distancing me from my adventure in West Pomerania and the experience of various other countries casting fresh points of reference, I felt it necessary to resurface my impressions.
On 7th September 2015 – the date of my first blog post for the Az Po Morze Project – I made the subjective observation that highlighted my ignorance surrounding many aspects of the country I was about to spend the next month of my life in:
‘[T]he country of Poland – incorporating the social conventions, the changing face of the nation and the general way of living – is somewhat enigmatic when compared to those of its European counterparts.’
For me, like the majority of my compatriots and many others who have never visited the country, Poland was a distant land that posed as a cultural and sociological enigma. I understood the political turbulence that had influenced the development of the country since the start of WW2, but this was limited to the theoretical pages in textbooks and its portrayal in films.
Poland is no longer enigmatic to me. I understand perfectly its fascinating, eclectic culture, its beautiful scenery, its amicable citizens, the country’s history, as well as where it may be heading.
Upon reflecting on my experience in the country, however, I am filled with sadness by the thought that I could have continued, unperturbed by a lack of knowledge, in my ignorant understanding of what Poland has grown to be in recent years; it saddens me still that many like me will continue their travels with the same uninformed impression of the region, that they may never take the opportunity to visit this beautiful place.
I cannot speak highly enough of my adventures in West Pomerania when telling people of my time on the ZART project. From Szczecinek to Szczecin, Cedynia to Darłowo, I was in awe of each destination for a variety of reason: the beautiful landscape, the fascinating history, the delicious food and the warm welcome that I received. Thinking back on my trip, my favourite day was week 2, day 1, due to the array of fun and unusual experiences that we experienced. From horse-riding in the morning and drifting before lunch to flying in the afternoon, the day will remain etched in my memory for as long as I live.
While travelling and writing every single day proved to be a huge test of character, I feel stronger and more experience for having done it.
I would like to make one last gesture of appreciation to the ZART team who gave me a truly unique life experience, which, through their hard work and kindness, has changed my outlook on travel and the different cultures of the world. I would like to extend my thanks to the warm people of West Pomerania, who welcomed me wherever I went, from the owners of hotels to members of the public and everybody in between. I was extremely humbled by the selfless attitude of each person I met. And to Marcin – my partner in crime, in whom I made a great friend – thank you for enriching this incredible trip.
I wholeheartedly advise every writer, videographer and lover of travel to apply for the Az PoMorze project in 2016. I am only envious that the chance won’t be mine!
Safe travels and eternal thanks again, Matt.