Well, it’s been too long, friends. I’ll spare you the excuses. Sometimes life happens, sometimes writing happens. Posting said writing on the blog, however, is a different matter altogether.
A storm raged for most the afternoon. I’m telling myself that Sarajevo is sad to see me go, and the lightning was its protestations. From a thick, humid, hot series of days we’ve lapsed into a chilly, cool night as the rainwater drips and dries off roofs and roads.
Just two full days remain but they’ll be work-heavy, and then I’ll set out Thursday with 16 glorious days of holidays.
From Sarajevo, Bosnia, to Mostar, Hercegovina (two nights), then to Split, Croatia (five nights), an overnight at London’s Gatwick Airport, a week in Nova Scotia, Canada, where I’ll roadtrip the South Shore, Annapolis Valley, and then it’s off for five weeks in Prince Edward Island, the land of Anne of Green Gables.
There are few places that better define their literary character as Prince Edward Island defines Anne of Green Gables. Anne without PEI would be as pointless as Huck Finn without the Mississippi River. I long to share some of the romantic daydreams of young Anne as I enjoy PEI, the homeland of my departed parents.
But, today I’m in Sarajevo. In three days, I won’t be.
This is the hard part about being a nomad.
Questions Without Answers
Will I ever see my lovely hosts Marija and Adi again? What about their adorable daughter born in the same week as my niece back home, with the Bosnian version of her name? (Madelena versus Madelaine.) How about the cornerstore owner who looks at me with deep gratitude every time I pay with exact change, and despite not speaking English, says “Thank you” with such meaning? Or Alma, my server from my favourite café, who I now know is fluent because she went to Muslim private school, is studying international law, and hopes to one day play nomad herself? Or the waiter at the wine bar who teaches me about wine and the Balkans interchangeably? Will I ever live again on a hill above a classical musical school I pass daily, from which strains of piano, harp, opera singing, and other musical lessons filter out?
And the mosque on my corner with its heartfelt, passionate muezzin who sings the call to prayer as if every note is the epitaph to the life he’s led – will I ever again be so moved by a daily occurrence?
Time Equals Familiarity
In Sarajevo, I’ve had winter, spring, and summer, all intermittently over two months here. I’ve learned to make Bosnian coffee every morning, giving myself “5 bonus points” for every cup I’ve poured without spilling. I’ve learned to tell how the avocado woman in the markale palms an avocado if she’s trying to sell me a dodgy one. The other day I’d realized my bread was now two days old and uncut, uncouth at best, so I knew where to bag and hang it for the woman who sifts through garbage every afternoon with her daughter, looking for their next meal.
One week is a vacation, two weeks is a break, three weeks is the start of something good.
Talking with another nomad today, we both agreed, around three weeks is when a comfort level is attained. Walking home without using a map, finally clicking the right interior lights on with the right switch on the first try. Knowing which store has better ingredients, what restaurant feels a little like going home.
So often, I reach that comfort level and, within a week or two, I leave. This time, I had more than another month to enjoy that, and, in a way, it makes leaving harder.
And yet, I’m excited to go.
The nomad paradox.
The Beginning of the Long Ride
I sometimes feeling like my life is a revolving doorway from which, every time I emerge, I appear in new and glorious places. It seems like I’m leaving to return, but I’m really leaving to arrive.
One night in Motovun, Croatia, late-November, 2015, preparing dinner in my kitchen, I saw on Facebook that my friend Scott’s trip to New Zealand had completed.
It hit me for the first time: I really had gone nomad. These friends were beginning and completing their vacations, but me, there was no end in sight. Onward I would go. Newness and fascination would forever be the order of my day, for at least five years. And so I’ve visited 15 countries since Scott returned home from New Zealand. Countless other friends’ vacations have come and gone too.
That’s not bragging, it’s just a contrast between what is a normal lifestyle versus mine. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the emotional upheaval of being a nomad and the resonance each new place carries, unless you’ve been on this side of the one-way plane ticket.
Back From Whence I Came, Kinda
Even returning to Canada isn’t my going home, but just breaking up the awayness with some friends, family, and familiarity. I’ll be changing provinces and towns regularly for four months.
I know other nomads who don’t return home, for budgeting and other reasons, but I can’t roll that way.
It’s one thing to choose this lifestyle, but I can’t imagine going away five years and seeing everyone’s lives moved on without me, or to have to count the number who died in my absence. Returning for a summer gives me peace of mind, absolves me of the guilt of that later absence. It keeps relationships alive. Plus, I get to feel warm and fuzzy for a while when everyone’s so excited to see me.
After all, being a nomad almost feels like walking through life invisible at times. Just another tourist, someone who’ll never be here again, they think, unaware I’ll be here for weeks. Sneaky, me.
So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, Goodnight
I’ll have more to say on Sarajevo, one day. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy the last of it. Birds sing in the park across from me. Friends laugh and speak in Bosanski here on the wine bar’s patio. I’m debating a third glass of wine, a farewell to this wonderful Istrian blend I’ve enjoyed three Monday nights in a row.
Another storm sits in the offing, daring to confront us tomorrow, and the day after.
Maybe Bosnia really is conflicted upon my departure. Well, I kinda am too.