I moved to Europe in January 2007 to attend a semester abroad at Memorial University’s campus at Harlow in the United Kingdom. This was a big step for me – I was a 21 year old rural Newfoundlander who had spent some short family vacations in the Atlantic provinces and a week in Ottawa was as far west I had ventured. It was a decision that forever changed my life!
After trekking the streets of London and a group trip to Berlin, Germany I choose to visit Prague in the Czech Republic with Elizabeth and Meg. I will have to admit that it wasn’t love at first sight given a number of unfortunate circumstances we encountered when it came to trains, trams, poor weather, getting lost, adapting to a foreign language and so much more.The first night proved to be quite a nightmare. All was not negative though and as time passed, our lows became highs as we truly experienced the beauty of the the Old Town, Astronomical Clock, Castle, Charles Bridge, famous Czech beer, music and many other sights and sounds.
I never knew after that visit that I would end up travelling back to Prague for many returns. As time passed throughout the winter semester at Harlow, I would visit France, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Austria and other parts of Europe. I learned a lot about culture, society and various life skills that had me interested in continuing my education abroad. I applied for an exchange as part of the my Bachelor of Commerce with Prague, Czech Republic being my number one choice, Uppsala, Sweden as number two and Mexico as my third choice.
I received a letter of acceptance to Prague to attend the University of Economics and I was ecstatic. I was eager to experience more of this city as after my visit in January, I knew I would be back and this place would have a special piece of my heart.
After accepting the exchange and making arrangements, I was also offered a job to work for London Offshore Consultants, an international marine and engineering consultancy. This meant I spent the whole year in Europe and fulfilling a dream of visiting Egypt. I spent my Fall of 2007 in Prague where I truly experienced the rich culture, history and made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
I’ve returned to Prague again in January 2010 and also in September 2012. I’ve had my friends I met in Prague visit Canada in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and visited them in Europe every year since 2009. I could certainly write a book or two about my many “Random Travel Adventures”. These travel experiences have helped shaped who I am as a person and does provide a different perspective when I look at the opportunities and challenges that exist in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
I would encourage anyone to study, work or travel abroad (and it can be done on a shoestring). Today, I am a little nostalgic given an 8 year anniversary since my first visit to this magical city. I love reflecting and returning, because each time offers something new and a stronger connection to this special place. I always look forward to my next return.
Rural Newfoundland & Labrador and the Great Northern Peninsula has a similar impact on people. Once you experience the landscapes, architecture, heritage, history and other unique aspects of our culture, you too will want to have many returns.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)
I’m not sure how many politicians can say this, but I certainly enjoyed free falling from an airplane in 2007
I just got off the telephone with my former room-mate while I was studying in Prague, Czech Republic. It is always nice to hear from old friends.
On a such a cold day on the Northern Peninsula, it gave me the opportunity to revisit some of my travels and adventures in the Fall of 2007. It’s always nice to take a stroll down memory lane…from the Nation2Nation celebrations, drinks at the Academic Club, $1 slices of pizza en route to the university, Tram #9, dancing at the 5 floor disco, Palac Flora shopping centre, booking one of the two washing machines in a building of 16 floors with no dryers to eating at “steakie”.
One of the biggest highlights was my experience “free falling” when I jumped from an airplane some 4,000+ metres over a rural village in Prague. A group of students from England, America, Canada and parts of Europe took the train and then piled into this little airplane to experience skydiving for the first time.
After getting all suited up we were very enthusiastic about the thrill we would were about to get. I decided to capture the memory with a video. I’ve watched it a few times since. The words of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck plays in the background. From my last post, you know I’m a fan of The Beatles but I also like Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and also AC/DC.
I can not describe the experience of just falling at over 130 KM per hour from the sky. I will say I do not think I’ve ever felt so alive. It’s also a great feeling when the parachute pops open and you gently float and make for a safe landing. 🙂
My time in Prague had a significant impact on my life and I have returned three times since 2007 to this beautiful central European city that has a rich culture and history, that combines with modern flare.
Life is all about experiences. At 27 years old, I reflect on the times before me and look forward to my next random adventures – because life was made for living. If you have a “bucket” list you may want to add experiencing the Great Northern Peninsula where the Norse were the first Europeans to re-discover North America more than 1,000 years ago. It was a place where the Basque, French, English, Irish, recent Indians and Maritime Archaic Indians lived before us dating back more than 5,000 years. There is a rich legacy of co-operation and advancing health care under the leadership of Dr. Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, a natural landscape that includes the last of the Appalachian Mountains, unique lifestyle and incredible people you have yet to meet.
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North
Every decorated Christmas tree is like a snowflake in design, as each one is truly unique. I like to add a flavour of Newfoundland & Labrador to my tree. it seems each year, I manage to add something handmade that relates to local lore and culture.
There are specialty stores that pop-up during the holidays and there are those that are open year round selling Christmas items. Imagine the opportunity we have on the Great Northern Peninsula to put our talents to use and make a variety of Christmas ornaments. An informal group, development organization or craft co-op can be formed to get this moving.
I got the seal skin boots depicted above as a gift from the late Aunt Stella Hoddinott. They hung from the mirror of my car for years. It certainly makes them easy to find in a parking lot.
My sister has been a modest entrepreneur throughout the years and made several handmade Christmas ornaments. I am pretty sure my mom and I helped her some 13 years ago and I proudly display the scallop shell angel on the tree.
I have a passion for the mummer’s and look forward to going around visiting before Old Christmas day. I’ve participated in all three Mummer’s Walks and there is a Mummer’s Dance on Saturday! I picked up the accordion ornament at a Christmas store on my first visit to Montreal in 2011. There is another pair of seal skin boots (came from Iqaluit), an Inukshuk (purchased at Grenfell Heritage Shoppe) and a set of snowshoes made by the late Tom Newcombe. I remember giving him a number of wire hangers to make several pairs.
The Newfoundland Boil-up is a tradition that many practise, especially at this time of year. A good ol’ cup of tea in the woods and a small scoff of roasted Newfie Steak (balogna) on a stick or sausages, canned beans and a slice of homemade bread- nothing like it! Also in the picture is “Little Sheila” an Inuk, I made in 2010, while on a cultural exchange in Labrador.
The gallery below depicts a few others: I’ve bought a lobster claw at the Craft Council’s Fall Fair, I have a matching capelin from Grenfell Heritage Shoppe. The amigurumi grey fish came from the Guardian gift shop at the French Shore Interpretation Centre in Conche, the Puffin was a gift from Amanda. The homemade ball with candy canes were made by the group from Community Readiness for People with Disabilities. The wooden ornament came from the Wind & Waves Artisan Shop in Joe Batt’s Arm, Fogo Island as part of the Shorefast Foundation. The killick is an old-fashioned anchor made by Frank Elliott of Main Brook, I purchased from him when I owned and operated Flower’s Island Museum & Mini-golf; in that same picture is my most recent addition of a hand painted ornament of Prague, Czech Republic (where I studied in Europe) and a pair of knitted mittens, made by the late Aunt Dora White. Also, a photo depicts hockey skates, which reminded me of the ones my Dad always wore when he played hockey and another pair of Uncle Tom’s snowshoes are on display next to the reindeer.
I enjoy adding more traditional ornaments to my Christmas tree. There is a real opportunity for hobbyists, crafters and those with an interest to start-up a home-based business, craft co-op or other enterprise to learn new skills and make an income. Let’s not let your talents pass up such an opportunity that can serve as a year-round business.
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North
- “Here’s to Great Ideas, Great Experiences and a Great Friendship” – 2013 (liveruralnl.com)
- 3rd Annual Mummer’s Walk Continues to Break Local Record (liveruralnl.com)
- Giving the Gift of something Handmade cannot be Beat (liveruralnl.com)
- Marketing Rural Newfoundland & Labrador & the VTTA (liveruralnl.com)
- A Cod Jigger Coat Hook (liveruralnl.com)