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Amy Powell MRTPI, Edgars

It is easy in this busy world to lose perspective on what our motivations and aspirations are, or to find time to re-engage with our passion and drive which brough us into the profession in the first place. There is no better time than being on holiday to let the daily pressures of our profession slip away, and to find those small facets of our lived environment that makes you take notice and want to share them with your fellow traveller.

I was incredibly fortunate to be able to take a three-month sabbatical this year and travel through Europe in my campervan. What I experienced along the way has allowed me to reflect on my motivations in joining the profession, reignite my passion for urban planning, and inspire me to contribute to the wider conversation of how we can plan for an ever changing world.

From the waterways of The Netherlands I experienced active travel like nowhere else – the cycle is truly king! By prioritising cyclists, dedicating safe paths, providing ample cycling infrastructure and electric bike charging it allows different users to utilise active travel in a way which works for them. I could not describe the sheer excitement of when I found a multistorey bike park at Den Hagg station, much to the amusement of my husband.

To the industrial heartland of the Rhur in Germany where great industrial scars on the landscape are being healed with public parks, art installations and cultural facilities. A world UNESCO site – the Zollverein (once the world’s largest coal mine) epitomises how industrial heritage can regenerate communities, nature, and teach future generations of our successes and of our failures.

To the sweltering heat of Italy’s great cities in August. Cities planned for hot temperatures, and if you chose to be in one come a heatwave, then there is no better place to be under a shaded marble loggia with a gelato. It really demonstrated how density and design can mitigate for the extreme environments we more often now find ourselves in.

On to finding daily chores a delight in France where even small, rural communities retain the services and facilities that allow you to go about your daily life easily. Whilst Spain showed me how you can blend ancient history with modern urban planning to create beautifully sustainable cities. Pamplona was a standout example of a shared vision and the pathways to achieving a low carbon city - a city which has inspired me to imagine the future I would like to see more clearly. 

And finally, to Portugal where culture heritage is being heavily invested in and celebrated in abundance. What struck me most was the closeness of the experience, in being able to walk, to touch, to experience yourself the beauty, history and significance of a place or building without being behind a rope or a fence. It requires great respect but having the opportunity to experience a place in this way is unforgettable.

There are hundreds of examples I could have written about, and these only scratch the surface, but what will stay with me most is the process of reflection. It allows yourself to question what you enjoy, what motivates and inspires you and then to question how you can incorporate this into your professional work. As RTPI members we are reflective practitioners – so take the time to reflect and find a new perspective which will inspire the change in others and our environment. What better time to set yourself some goals as part of your yearly Professional Development Plan! For help and guidance on the process visit here.