I’ve recently returned state-side after a year of traveling abroad… and I feel restless. Needy. Nostalgic. I realize that I haven’t written a blog post in 8 months (!!!) and that’s changing now. Like, right. now. I believe I stopped writing when our travels took us to Bosnia+ Herzegovina. It was a wickedly cold and snowy winter in Sarajevo, filled with deliberately long, steaming baths in the evenings, applying for remote jobs by day, and huddled, frozen walks in the afternoons, winding through the centuries old shopping district of Baščaršija in search of warm Ćevapi (minced meat, pita, onion yogurt sauce).
Since my last post, we’ve traveled up the coast of Croatia running into surprisingly sunny days, returning to Italy, and eventually flying to Central America in March (2017), with a return to the U.S. at the very end of July (2017). A lot has happened. And I didn’t give myself time to reflect and simply write about those experiences. But that’s what I’m doing now. Memories from the trip are blossoming unexpectedly, causing me this great restlessness, that I’m assuming can only be cured by reliving them in recollection or traveling again.
Here are a few impressions that have been twirling around my mind for the last few weeks since returning:
Viveros de Coyoacán
A beautiful, nearly 40 hectare pubic park and tree farm located in the Mexico City borough of Coyoacán. I would move there no questions asked… but that’s for another post… Most days, I would wake up early and walk to the park, dodging traffic and enjoying the unfurling of the city. The park is forested, with a well maintained 1 mile loop around the periphery and many criss- crossed paths through its center. The trees and vegetation filtered the sunlight, so regardless of the time of day, it was always a hazy, dreamy golden hour. Buddhist monks sitting in quiet contemplation, impossibly lean and swift geriatrics, and everyone in between, sought refuge in the park, with its weighted stillness and sweet, dry air. After making my laps, I would walk back to the apartment pleased to see the vendors at the entrance of the park making fresh fruit smoothies, men pushing bicycles pulling trailers, selling tamales.
Train station, eastern Europe
For the life of me, I can’t recall which city we were staying in– it was either in Bosnia+Herzegovina or Croatia– it was last winter (2016) and the sun was out. Tall cement buildings cast frigid shadows that couldn’t be avoided, the ground was frozen, and we made our way slowly to the train station to buy tickets. The building eluded to previous grandeur, but its current state was gray, empty, its walls leaking. I don’t remember if we bought tickets or not, I think we may have been directed to the bus station for the trip we needed to take. We bought a croissant at the station and exited the building. We crossed the trolly tracks and listened to a man with a hand held amplifier and guitar singing local favorites (I’m guessing) for spare change. We continued to walk to the park which had been turned into a bizarre multi-use space for a petting zoo and ice rink. We watched for awhile as children happily yelled and laughed as they fell onto the ice, their weary-faced parents looking on. We had a snow ball fight in the yard of the national museum, then set out in search of something warm to put in our bellies.
***UPDATE: just before posting, the elusive city came to me; we were in Zagreb, Croatia***
At this point in the trip June (2017) my mother was traveling with us, having joined our motley mother/daughter world tour. I had finished work (yes, but this time I had landed a great remote gig) and we walked down the narrow, winding hillside stairs and alleys to get to the center of town. We wanted something easy that we could take back to the apartment and eat while watching a movie. Pizza from Pizza Hut was the obvious answer. As we waited for our order we sat at a table and just observed the other people enjoying their food. Parents doting over their small child, a few tables full of college kids, us, a couple eating while both on their phones. A little girl entered the store and made her way around the tables selling gum, she couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old. As she walked up to our table, I wagged my finger at her in the culturally recognized way of saying “no, thanks” or “move along” and she went to the next table. The couple on their phones looked up and started chatting with her and gave her a piece of pizza, which seemed bigger than her head, and she walked out of the shop quite pleased. On this intense year-long trip, I was exposed to many new cultural nuances and ways of life, but I also become a tad callous and dismissive as a from of survival which helped to navigate through pushy hustlers and grabby vendors. But I should have bought the damn gum.
Do you recall that scent in the air, the one that lets you know summer is coming to an end and fall is beginning? The scent of sun-baked blackberries and dry grass? I came across that smell recently and it immediately took me back to the second month of our trip (September 2016), which landed us in Wales, on an apple cider farm, living in caravans on the steep and wild hillsides of Powys County. At this point in our trip we were doing volunteer work through Workaway and on one of our first days with our host family, they suggested that we go out and pick blackberries for a pie, or jam, or whatever she was whipping up that evening. We were driven down a winding one car lane to a spot on the side of the road that was still producing edible berries. “When you’re all done, just walk back to the house. You can find it right? Up the hill take a left at the fork, down the 2nd driveway which is actually a road and you’ll see the property.” Um, yeah sure. So we picked berries and squished some in our hands, staining our fingers. We picked 4 small buckets full, rewarding ourselves with a few tastes now and then. We wandered down the road and upon a very old stone church, no bigger than a small barn with an equally old and eery graveyard next to it. The ground felt bog like, and sunk in ever so slightly as we tiptoed around the ancient cemetery. I remember looking up and feeling dizzy because of the angles and sheerness of the hillsides, and the endless waves of green.