After forty blog entries, I’ll dedicate one to an expanding definition of traveling that I have recently had time to reflect on. I had that time coz I got rather seriously ill when I was home for my winter break, which on itself deserves an entry (it’s coming, that exciting topic of sickness).
I would say, for a long time already, that the place, paradoxically, becomes irrelevant: it’s always the people that make the place. There is one post all on this already so I will refrain from doing what I enjoy a lot – repeating myself. Have I told you before that I like to repeat myself?
So. Some weeks ago, I was on my way home to Lithuania, having around twelve hours to spend in Warsaw between my flight and my bus, and, just like some of my time in Israel, I had no idea what the day would bring. It was cold, I was tired, and I didn’t have any home-like place to go to. Not even having superlong lunch and an early dinner would have filled that huge stopover that was awaiting. I had nightmarish thoughts that it would be as bad as my time in Calcutta, when I was extremely exhausted but had to wait for my train for several hours. At least it wasn’t -13C there, I guess.
And yet, that one day in Warsaw was as great as it could have been! After half of hour wondering the city centre, I finally found a milk bar (as they’re called in Poland; I’m not quite sure why that title, coz these are simply nicely cheap places to eat with portions that make you think of pacing yourself ) where I had lunch once in the summer while meeting up with an old friend there. “I must find that exact place!” I thought to myself while, frankly, the cold was freezing that determination with each step. If only I had the same determination for doing my academic readings.
Fortunately, I found that milk bar pretty quickly, ordered…very likely, the same thing I had there half a year ago, sat down and started impressing everyone with the travel sweater I was wearing, that is not exactly meant for any kind of public. The sweater, luckily, didn’t deter a guy that joined me by my table. I saw he had a map with him, and, maybe, but for that map, by day wouldn’t have been so great after all. Why? Coz we started talking about travelling, talked more, and a bit more, extended our lunch into a two-hour “You’ve been there, too? Cool!” talk, then we hit the Christmas market, then the hot wine hit us, then a cheap bar happened to be on the way, and, finally, I did find a home-like place: I spent hours waiting for my bus in a cosy hostel with my new friend, his hostel roommate, and the owner of the place, having some tea, discussing hostel business (I always think the fact that I’ve worked/volunteered in one – awesome, by the way – hostel for some weeks in my life makes me a young expert in the hospitality industry), travels, how freakin’ cold it was that day, and…life itself. Then, we parted ways (only to meet very soon, in fact!), I rushed to the bus station where another friend was awaiting (bad luck for other people on the bus: we were constantly chatting till the early morning, covering, I’d say, intellectual topics, but in an environment that no-one wants to listen to them, I reckon).
“Why was this so cool?” I was wondering. I mean, I’ve met some nice people randomly before. Why was this time so special? And then, I saw it (OK, it wasn’t that dramatic). You see, for me going home is always just the…being on a plane or being on a bus time, sleep sleep sleep, hoping the mp3 player wouldn’t die very soon, regretting not having put in that one song that I feel the urge to listen to, etc. But this time going home felt like I was actually travelling. Travelling, as not just in “movement” but in meeting someone, having both profound and fun chats, sharing some travel stories, and, in a way, opening up to someone since there is simply no time for you not to reveal your personal philosophy (for Modern Family fans: Phil’s-o-sophy). Warsaw, I thought, would be a cold stopover. What it was, was a (still cold) day of travelling. That’s the expanded definition I mentioned at the very beginning of this uneventful blog entry.
The opposite thing I had just recently. Instead of going back straight to Budapest, I went to Prague for the weekend to see some of my university friends (thus, some of my best friends) after more than a year and a half of not seeing them. And, although I spent more than twenty hours on a bus to go there (once again: sleep sleep sleep, good music, …), it wasn’t really travelling. What I did was going to meet my friends. There was movement involved, but not the other elements I included in my definition of travelling. Well, what am I saying: of course we had our profound and ridiculous chats! Don’t get me wrong, that weekend was a lovely one, I’m not complaining by any means, but it illustrates nicely the difference between travelling and…non-travelling. What my blog entry doesn’t illustrate or analyse is the difference between travelling and seeing your best friends. The second one, by default, is always better. Why? Coz it’s always the people, not the place, remember?