It’s been a while. I’ve decided to go home. The interesting part was that I kept it for myself. They had no clue, neither my family nor friends. At the same time I had no clue how this homecoming was about to confront with my wandering mindset.
I had managed everything very in advance. I bought the flight ticket from Bangkok back to Europe early this year. However, it gave me a slight mismatch with my 30-day tourist visa in Thailand (read more) which I would exceed unless I leave the country sooner. For the immigration’s sake I decided to fly to Singapore for four days. Having a good friend living there made that decision very easy to take.
Jan or Hanz, as we called him in highschool, awaited me with the clean bed sheets in his apartment and with the plan to visit Kuala Lumpur on the next day (thank you Hanz for all that). Alright, going to get some more stamps into my passport. After all, it was just 5-hour bus ride.
The first day in Singapore I took a walk along the shore to the city center through the famous Marina Bay. And I couldn’t believe my eyes. This city-state is so developed and clean and green. It seemed like the world’s futuristic dream came true.
I believe that how any place looks like comes genuinely from the people. In Singapore people do not look developed and clean and green, but their effort to make their society work as in a dream is indeed noticeable. In short, Singaporeans work hard until late, do sports and pick up cigarette butts from the ground. Besides, they live in peace regardless their skin colors from whitest to darkest, the presence of all world’s religions or social class differences. If you’re losing the faith in humanity, I say Singapore is one of the places where you can relatively regain it.
As planned, we took a bus trip to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. Of course I don’t deserve that stamp in my passport which says I’ve been to Malaysia only because of the one overnight stay. But I agreed to undergo the trip for one particularly important reason. Six years ago, the English teacher told us to prepare a powerpoint presentation about a big city. I chose Kuala Lumpur just because all other world’s big cities were already taken. I put Petronas Towers picture on the last slide finishing with the sentence ‘I wish to see them in real one day.’ And, as you can guess, here I am.
Before long the day of my flight back came and through Bangkok and sleepless night and flight I stepped on the European ground after 18 months in Cologne, Germany. Due to the flight delay I ran the terminal to catch my connect flight to Vienna. So I did. Unfortunately, my checked backpack did not. That’s how I became the only person in cold Vienna wearing shorts on the first May evening as I had only Thai beach outfit with me. It made me upset. The easiest thing to do at that point would be to catch the one-hour train to my hometown. But I had a better plan.
The timing was perfect to surprise my Erasmus friends reunioning in Ljubljana and since I’m in Europe I would go to visit my best Serbian friend in Nis. Nobody knew anything and nobody expected me anywhere. So the next morning I became this creepy friend knocking on the hostel room to wake up 8 people after the night drinking to see their surprised, not always happy, morning faces. It was a great turn up and we had a great time chatting over coffee cups in our beloved Ljubljana.
Before that they all believed my fake story that I’m still in Bangkok getting my visa for Myanmar. And so did Kristina, who started crying in dismay when I appeared on the doorstep of her house in Serbia two days later. For this moment I thought all the sleepless nights, freezing in Vienna and postponing the actual homecoming was worth it. Thank you Kristina for believing the Myanmar story and hosting me unexpectedly and yet wonderfully.
On Friday 5th May I called my parents from Bratislava airport that I’ll be at home in two hours so dad could pick me up from the train station in my hometown Breclav and mum could cook some nice dinner. Kind of the act of spoiled 26-year-old child who’s come back home. Of course they didn’t mind and they were happily surprised same as the rest of the family on my cousins’ wedding the day after.
What I was doing following days and weeks was enjoyable and inevitable. I was getting drunk with my friends in Breclav and Zlin – my second hometown where I got my uni degree. If not getting drunk then drinking beer. Oh God, how I missed the Czech beer…
As days passed and I sobered up, I’ve started noticing the changes. While this was also inevitable, it has not been all enjoyable. Infamous travel cliché goes something like ‘nothing changed, all it’s really changed is you’. Damn obviously, who can say is the same person after one and half year living abroad? But surprisingly, I’ve noticed so many positive changes in our ‘Eastern-European underdeveloped’ society.
Most of my friends are doing so good, having jobs and exotic holidays, building houses or looking for new apartments, getting married and not divorcing. I see renewed roads, quality products in shops and supermarkets, new trains with cozy seats and fast Wi-Fi. You know, little things but making so much difference in our getting-comfortable lives. Despite all that, the thing that didn’t change are people’s minds.
It’s still more comfortable to complain than to act. It’s still more comfortable to get fed by media than to question them. It’s still more comfortable to live up to fixed social conventions than to invent one.
While a life may seem comfortable living that way, it is also finite. See this is a problem when you come from abroad full of new experiences and ideas where to go next. The most common question people have been asking me since I got back is what am I going to do now?
First I was honest, I said that I want to travel more. Some looked at me thinking I’m not mentally healthy or something. Others questioned how can I imagine that without having a job. Well, I did have several jobs in New Zealand and now I do want to travel. It is my priority and I’m happy to pay for it with the money I earned abroad. But then it got harder and harder explaining my idea as the most just didn’t understand it. That’s when, to make my life easier, I started answering that I’m just going to look for a job now. It satisfied everyone.
I realized how deeply are people trapped in their finite worlds, in their finite minds perhaps. And how hard is for them to confront and understand someone else’s mind who wanders behind the wall of social conventions. When I told my friend Jane what I’m struggling with since I came home, she responded: “It’s because someone like yourself challenges their own existence. It can be difficult for some people to stomach that there are endless ways to live your life.”
… there are endless ways to live your life. This thought I had in my mind when I started packing up for my next trip. I wanted to prove the people and myself that most of life’s pleasures are for free and that traveling in a certain way can be much cheaper than our comfortable living surrounded by TVs and cars. The destination was the east and it was supposed to be a long journey until end of July including climbing mountains and lying on beaches.
Why it is so important to have a clear meaning for a journey, why packing a backpack the right way is so crucial for traveling and why I came back so soon I will tell you in the next article.
It’s a scientific fact that when we receive a lot of new experience or information, it takes our brains a while to process it all. The longer this processing takes, the longer that period feels. That’s why the days seemed to pass by slower when you were a kid, that’s why the journey to a place always feels longer than a return one.
It’s everything that happens for the first time, everything new, everything that our brains have never had processed before, that makes our time perception warp like a hot cheese fondue being drawn from the pot and it’s the routine that drains decades of our lives into oblivion in just few moments.
As obvious as it may sound, don’t forget to keep a curious child in your soul, find something new every day, explore, play, pay attention, enjoy good music, good food, drink and company and your life will span to centuries.
(from I, Cycleast Facebook page)