back into the wilderness
I have avoided this place for far too long. I knew that by coming back to these words typed on greasy keyboards overseas, I would have to stare Vancouver in the face. Truth be told, Vancouver is a great place to come home to. You can bury yourself in different neighborhoods, watch soccer with old Croatian men if you dare, sink back into the crunchy granola, West coast culture. But the yearning for foreign soil eats at me. And the sound of Slavic tongues on the beaches of West Vancouver perk me up a little too much. Every chiseled face, or set of droopy brown eyes or smoking couple (gross, smoke in my face, but hey, where are you from?) brings hope for a reunion. With the other world. Hm. Woe is me, I’m sure many of you are thinking. Perhaps you came home from a trip recently or are leaving or are simply still stunned by the vastness, the beauty, the landscapes of the world. Or you don’t care because life is here, built in these four walls, safe and comfortable and recognizable. I was glad to come home to that. To the comfy bed and the morning coffee the way I like it. And Whole Foods. But it always comes back, doesn’t it. The regret and the remembrance. I left articles of clothing around Eastern Europe, just so I would remember where they are. Remember that I was there. What maid, what homestay mother, what child picked up my tank top, the one with the teeny hole above the right shoulder? Or half the bottle of conditioner, left, this time by accident, in a beige shower stall in Bosnia. Farewell Poland! Here is my shirt. What else do you leave behind? It’s take, take, take. Take pictures, take privacy away, take food, take untrod land, take souvenirs, take smells (no thanks, but oh, there you are greasy perogies, saturating the folds of my scarf). When we could give, we were too stunned to bend down and drop coins in a parchment hand. Poor babushkas, stooped halfway over the street, black cloaks hung over their humps, covering gnarly hands and feet, bony ankles. What are you doing on these streets, your poor darlings. By the time we scrambled to get change, we realized we had none. Or, like many, we simply passed. Unsure.
Like I said, regrets. Moment where we could have surrendered to our surroundings, but feared the consequences. We had knitted brows and tight shoulders, we kept our eyes open, we slept in safety. Too many horror stories from fellow travelers. From locals. Take a train? You will get robbed. Watch out for those Gypsies. Don’t take a taxi, don’t eat that, smile at the policemen, keep your passport next to your bosom or you will be stuck here forever. Near the end of our trip, arriving in Sarajevo from Belgrade, when the rain was too tiring and we had flat bums from sitting for 11 hours on a train, we surrendered. Didn’t think hard enough, or put the pieces together. The taxi drivers friend? He is in the car too. No problem. Oh, I see the friend is from Surrey, BC. Really? What are you doing here, we both ask. Some friend. And now the taxi fare has mysteriously increased tenfold. Yelling and attempting to shut the door on emerging feet, fingers curled around balled fists and cussing and spiteful eyes. And spit in the face. Walking away now, shuddering a little, soaked to the bone. Empty streets, and the dampness is creeping in, past the hiking boots, past the denim. A ten minute walk in the rain, checking behind us every so often for the glare of headlights. Oh but it was fun. It was all so fun.
I have left myself in too many places. Scattered like bits of shredded paper. Damp and stuck to the streets and bottoms of shoes. Sarajevo, Mostar, Krakow, Lviv. They are just names of far off places, mystical homelands for my heart. It was my dream trip with my dream man. And yet it’s never how you imagine it to be. It’s always when you come home, when the dust settles and the memories come rushing back, raging in all their finery. Demanding a place in your heart. Mournfully I let them in, knowing they will taunt me, invade my night and day dreams, lure me back into the wilderness.
I am meant to travel. The world has been my school, my job. Tackling cities and talking of them later. It is bliss, isn’t it?