When you want to travel a lot and continue the experience of living abroad, dealing with goodbyes becomes a recurrent theme in your life, sort of like a leitmotif in music. Although I’ve said countless goodbyes to quite a large number of people and places so far, and although I’ve even gotten used to it by now, it never seems to stop evoking at least a tiny stream of tears. I’ve moved two times before – first time when I was 14, after finishing primary school in Donji Miholjac to attend high school in Osijek, and second time when I was 23, to do my Erasmus in Brno, Czech Republic. This will be the third time I move to a different city for a longer period of time.
Life as a Book
As a person who enjoys reading, I see life as a book, a novel with many chapters. It is your book, and you write it from the beginning to the end, but many chapters are co-written. Some people and places get to be a part of only one or a few chapters in your book of life, and then they disappear from it, never to be mentioned again. Some people get to co-write quite a lot of those chapters, and some help you write half or more of that unique book. Some individuals stop being a part of the writing team, but they still keep appearing as characters, or as absent presences, all the way to the end of the very last chapter.
Today, one of my chapters ends, and tomorrow a new one begins. Some people will now cease to have central roles in my chapters, and some new ones will appear to write fresh, interesting paragraphs.
Goodbyes Sprinkled With Tears
During these last few days, I’ve cried more than I had expected. What can I say, I am often too emotional. The tears started flowing during the family Sunday lunch, when my grandpa, who is usually very scarce with showing his emotions, suddenly said that he was going to miss me immensely, and I saw a few tears drop down his cheeks. Mom saw this and started eating some of her own tears along with lunch, and I couldn’t help myself but do the same. Later that day, mom and I had one of those very moving and warm you-can-always-come-back-home conversations.
Yesterday morning, I cried with grandma. It all started with a new pillow she made for me. I have this little pillow filled with feathers which I carry with me everywhere; I had it with me during all my travels. It is the only thing I am strongly attached to and I refuse to go anywhere without it. It has a familiar scent which comforts me and relaxes me. Well, let’s be honest and admit that it really is my only real addiction. But all things wear off and become old, and so does my pillow. Every few years, when all the washing and changing its cover doesn’t work anymore, I have to replace it with a new one. This day when I had to change the only thing I really dislike changing had come yesterday. The idea made me emotional again, and like a child giving up her favorite teddy bear, I shed a few tears again, and had another you-can-always-come-back-home conversation with my grandma, finally accepting that I am taking a new pillow with me instead of the old one.
Although it might come as a surprise to some, one thing that is the hardest for me to leave behind is not my family, nor my friends. I’ve gotten used to having my friends scattered around, and I know that, even if I will be traveling frequently, I will always be coming back to my family. Leaving my Vocal Ensemble Brevis again makes my heart the saddest. I’ve been singing with them for over 10 years now and a big part of my singing and traveling experience comes from there. Our conductor Antoaneta is some kind of a mixture of a teacher, friend, mother and a role-model to all the long-term members of the choir. We are all girls there, with the exception of our dear piano accompanist Davor. Above all, music has always been such a big part of my life and it is hard to imagine myself without it in at least some segment of my life. I am taking my guitar with me, but that’s a poor replacement. The experience of singing with Brevis has been one of the most enriching parts of my life and I know that nothing in this world can replace it, not even a membership in another choir – it can never be the same. Sure, I will be coming home, and yes, I will go see them at the rehearsals and concerts every time I come. But if I continue to pursue my wandering dreams, I will not be staying in Osijek permanently, and so I will not be a steady member of that team anymore. I will, however, continue to carry them in my heart always and I wish them best of luck with their future concerts and competitions.
Although I am a bit sad that I am leaving some dear people, places and things behind, I am not even considering giving up my wanderlust dreams. The experience of travel is valuable to me in countless ways, and that, for me, is worth some tears and heartbreaks.
Changing Latitudes, Changing Attitudes
From my point of view, moving your life to a different place, even if just for a few months, does not represent just a change of setting in a physical context. It also brings upon an inevitable alteration of the way you think about some things, or the way you act, if you are open enough to allow yourself to change. But why change at all, you might be asking as you are reading this.
As you probably know, people are like sponges. We absorb the things around us constantly, from the moment we are born, until the moment we leave this marvelous place called Earth. We acquire and learn some obvious stuff, like language, social rules, or traditions and customs of the place we call our home. But more importantly, we absorb the emotions and attitudes that surround us. After a certain period of time, we form our opinions and our entire behavior according to that influence, we believe that the way we and the people around us live is the “normal” way, the only way.
Once you start traveling more and meeting people from different parts of the world, you slowly start realizing that there is no such thing as “normal”, it only means that something is socially and culturally accepted. And so, if you are open-minded enough, you will soon notice how your notions of normality are starting to fall apart and you are now able to see the same issues from completely different angles.
Those are some of the main reasons for me to travel and move abroad, apart from being curious and adventure-hungry. I want to expose myself to as many influences as possible. Will I lose myself like that? Well, I certainly hope so! I will lose the mold that was attributed to me by the place and time in which I was born, I will discover alternate molds, and I will choose from them the things that fit me the most. This way, I will first unlearn what I think I know about myself, only to learn about new possibilities and new versions of myself, which will allow me to break my own ridiculous prejudice and limitations. That is an exciting and enjoyable challenge from my point of view.
If you are a traveler too, or even just a regular tourist, try to open your mind to new influences. Let the change in latitude cause a change in your attitude. Travel will help you learn more than the school ever could, and it will enrich your life more than any amount of money you could possibly earn. The book of your life will become thicker with interesting pages.
So, Where Am I Actually Going?
As my next change of latitude, I chose Spain. It is the country with a culture and language that have always been fascinating and attractive to me. During my Erasmus exchange, most of the people I hung around with were from some part of Spain, and knowing them has made my wish of getting to know that country properly even stronger.
I am moving to a city Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalusia. I will be staying there for a minimum of six months as an au pair, with a young Spanish couple, teaching their small son English. In my free time, I will be polishing my Spanish language skills, getting to know the culture, meeting Erasmus friends, enjoying delicious food, and exploring some nearby cities like Cádiz, Sevilla, Málaga, Granada and Córdoba.
I will tell you more about how I arranged this deal in my following posts. If you like my blog and want to stay tuned, follow the links to my Facebook and Twitter page at the top of the right sidebar. And feel free to like, comment and share!
P.S. I am traveling tonight. Wish me luck!