Places never look more beautiful to us than in those moments when we’re about to leave soon.
Stepping Into Expansion
It was a cold, but sunny early November, and I had just left my Osijek for the third time to live abroad. The entire week prior to my journey was full of beautiful sunlit city center windows, colorful autumn trees, and wonderful people saying goodbyes. It became almost too beautiful to leave. A part of me wanted to stay, really, to enjoy the safety of my comfort zone. Curl up as a fetus somewhere deep inside my mom’s belly and never come out again. Stay close to the people who I will begin to miss very soon. But the other part knew very well that staying too long would mean missing myself.
During the past two years, I’ve lived in two different countries, and each step I’ve taken has always seemed bigger and harder compared to the previous one. But I take them anyway. The steps, I mean. It’s like a vow I sealed with myself that I will not back down from the dreams that scare me.
So this third step had to be bigger than the previous ones. Waaaay bigger. I moved to Vietnam, to a city called Thanh Hoa. For an entire year. I will be teaching English here in an academy of English language for all levels and ages.
It is my first real in-class job EVER. It’s been over 2 years since my university classroom practice. It is so, so far away from home.
I was effin scared. But as with many things in life, there can be no courage without fear. Right?
The travel fever hit me hard, and I started wondering if maybe the people who had been telling me I was crazy were actually right. Well, they probably were. The fear was real, but the fear of backing away, giving up on my dreams was much bigger. It always is.
So finally, after a month of Skype calls, endless emails, visa and work permit papers and all other shyte, I left. On an early Tuesday morning I was hugging my grandparents and my cat, tears pouring down my cheeks. Like in a dream, I got into a car with my mom, my aunt, and our friend, and we drove away. I opened the window to stretch my arm and wave for my grandparents to see. They were standing in front of our building, crying and waving as well.
One last glimpse of their wrinkled faces lit by the street lights, standing there in the quiet of the night, and they were gone.
The first rays of the cold morning sun found me staring out the window in silence, hugging my pillow, as my mom’s car slid gracefully along the empty highway. I could still feel the dry traces of the tears on my cheeks, when the silent November morning started cloaking itself with cold fog. The air was thick and white as I drifted away into my dreams again.
We arrived to the airport early, so there was enough time for the last tea before departure, and we immediately made friends with a guy who works there wrapping and securing the luggage. We talked about Spain and he drew a horse on my suitcase, as a reference to an Andalusian horse breed.
It is moments like this that always initiate the activation of the travel mode within me. And it started happening again, there at the airport in Zagreb, slowly but surely.
When the time to get into the duty-free zone came, I hugged everyone firmly, but I held my mom the longest. I will be away for so long, and we won’t see each other for over a year. We cried some more, and then it was time to go. I got through the surveillance and before heading towards my gate, I looked back several times, to spot the three of them, waving at me.
And then I was on my own again. Contrary to my expectations, once I was left alone, I finally got my shit together. No more crying. It’s travel time – the adventure time.
The long tread of three flights and four airports on the way to Vietnam had begun. Zagreb – Doha – Ho Chi Minh City – Thanh Hoa. I sat through all of them calmly, finding joy in small details, such as miniature pots for food in the first plane:
Or a bag full of essentials on my second Qatar Airways flight:
Each flight took me closer to my destination, and with each flight I could feel myself turning into my real self – the traveling one, the one who feels the most at home when surrounded by the unknown.
There is something special about the airports, train and bus stations, about all the places where people go to travel. The constant change of scene, of energy. A sense of various possibilities, directions. I sat and watched the people, wondering what their destination could be, and why they were going there. Was someone waiting for them, somewhere? Or were they also off into the unknown on their own, just like me?
But as the first aircraft took off, I could feel that sensation more clearly than ever. I looked out the window to see Zagreb covered by light mist for the last time. The river Sava was shining in the distance, and I was at peace.
The unknown future in a foreign land was just there, in front of me, and I was reaching with my both arms to grab its hands and let it take me to another exciting ride.