I'm currently in country number five since leaving Saint Andrews (six, if you count driving through France in the middle of the night) and I've got two more to go before heading off to the UK in a week. Kayla and I just arrived in Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia) this morning, and we're already leaving tomorrow morning. All throughout our walking tour today I kept thinking 'We should take a better look at that tomorrow' only to realize that tomorrow I'll be heading off to Vienna.
I'm not sure what I think about this nomadic lifestyle. In some ways it's exhilarating, jumping from country to country, always with new places, people, languages, activities, food, sights... etc... It's so cool to hop on a bus knowing it's going to take me to another country in just a few short hours.
At the same time, though, it's tiring. Not just physically- although my feet certainly are sore!- but more mentally and emotionally. Life is so off anything that could be called routine so it's impossible to settle into a comfortable pattern. Every day is different, so it's hard to mentally keep up with what's going on. You know how you forget what day it is during Christmas vacation? Well, it's getting to the point where I forget what country I'm in!
Emotionally, too, it's exhausting to continually meet new people and places only to lose them a few short hours later. I've met so many neat people recently, in hostels, on tours, and in restaurants, and it's quite likely I'll never see any of them again. On Monday, Kayla and I went out for drinks with some guys from the Oxford hockey team who were touring through Europe, and tonight we ate supper with two American exchange students we met on a walking tour. In both cases, we chatted for a few hours, got to know the people, and then hugged them goodbye. Maybe I'll see them again, but most likely they're gone from my life.
The places, also, are gone so quickly. As much as I love the unusual beauty of these Eastern European countries, I have no plans to return. Never say never, of course, but with some much of the world to see, a return to Bratislava is hardly high priority. It's so fascinating to be here, learning about the history and culture of this area, but in a week, when I'm back in the west, these places will be nothing but a memory. It's weird to leave a place knowing how it's likely I'll never return.
Travel really isn't what I thought it would be. It's not the effortless jetting from place to place that it always seems like in the movies. It's a panorama of sights and sounds and people and places and greetings and goodbyes and hostels and busses and new friends and unfriendly conductors and nights walking down cobbled streets and mornings climbing mountains and sore feet and cold hands and endless photos. It's everything.
It's like a kaleidoscope, an ever-changing image. And, just like a kaleidoscope, to get to the next pattern you have to lose the last one. And even if the new place isn't any nicer than the old one, that's okay. The point of a kaleidoscope is change, not creating the perfect pattern. That's why travel isn't about finding the perfect destination- it's about experiencing them all.