My life is unreal. When I set out on this adventure 256 days ago, I left with a huge backpack, even bigger dreams, a healthy amount of fear of the unknown, and a very uncertain smile. I caught a glimpse of myself wandering through the streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia, searching for my Airbnb, carrying a much smaller backpack, confidence tucked away in every possible pocket (the sunny side of countless obstacles overcome), and a permanent, genuine look of happiness on my face. For someone who has been told (repeatedly) I suffer from resting bitchy face, this was sort of an unexpected surprise.
But I shouldn’t be surprised. This experience has been nothing short of amazing. Each time I walk into a train station, I can feel my heart explode with possibility. The freedom that comes with looking at a departure board, knowing I can take absolutely any one of those trains, is indescribable.
After expressing my unparalleled love for the Balkans via textual message, my friend Michelle duly noted, “It sounds like you’ve loved everything! Anything you’ve hated?”
No. Nope. Nada. Not one thing. What’s strange is, for years I avoided Europe. It just never appealed to me. Maybe because it seemed overdone, all those movies, cliché, doesn’t everyone backpack Europe? But over time, I realized just how ridiculous that sentiment is. I never did it. It hadn’t been overdone by me. And as great as Paris, London and Rome are, there is so much more to Europe than the “must see cities.” This look on my face is as much (or more) from my time spent in Tiainen, Finland and Janowice Wielkie, Poland, combined population: 3,000.
So yeah, Europe is kind of the best, and I am beyond pleased I broke out of my mold and took the time to figure that out. But (there is always a but, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, or completely annoy anyone reading this from their desk at work), but there is a largish tiny downside to this on-the-road lifestyle.
Something strange happened as I went from Krakow to Budapest, Zagreb to Ljubljana. Everything started to look…normal. Continuously traveling from each magical land to the next, life sort of began to blend together, water splashed ink on a page. With such a short time in some of these cities, it became more difficult to appreciate the unique qualities that each one no doubt has to offer. With places, like people, you have to spend time with them in order to appreciate each personality, each flavor, each spice of life these cities add to the European Cocktail.
I don’t have the opportunity to hit the reset button, or cleanse my palate with America in between destinations. I am wine tasting these European cities for the sole purpose of getting drunk, refusing to spit out the deliciousness, skipping the sips of water in between.
I never intended to bounce around like this, but my Czech Republic volunteer gig mysteriously disappeared from workaway.info and instead of searching for another, I decided to ride the wave. Yesterday I even forgot which city I was in for a moment, staring up at yet another magnificent piece of history. All the delicate stone paths of the Old Towns, the statues, the bridges, everything began to look strangely similar. Churches became indistinguishable, the centers took on a very familiar feel, though I’d never physically been there before. It became a game to look for the man on a horse, because there is always a man on a horse.
For someone who likes to savor each Gobstopper down to it’s softer center, I feel like I’ve started chomping through Europe, swallowing without tasting, rarely chewing. Two days here, three there. No down time, keep busy, on the move, next town, next country, turning the European Cocktail into a Big Gulp. This is what I do when I start to panic. And I’ve started to panic. Because back in March, I had All the Time in the World.
Turns out, All the Time in the World rushes by with supernatural speed.