Resistance: You would think after three months of traveling, the leaving part would be easier, but I still find it difficult. I want to stay in Belgrade, and the resistance to leave has never been stronger. As I looked to the rivers from the top of Kalemegdan Fortress, snow all around me, everything screamed inside of me to stay there. Just a week ago, my desire to go home, see family and friends again was overwhelming, but now that I have bought a return ticket, I feel panicky. I want to stay here. I ache to remain, but I look back at my whole trip and know that I felt this in every place I have been to a certain extent, and if I hadn’t moved forward, I wouldn’t have found myself in Serbia. Continuing on my journey allowed me to meet new people, gain deeper perspective. Yet, I feel a sense of exhaustion. When can I be still? When will I feel satisfied that my current location is where I can lay down roots? I thought I wanted to be in Oregon again for so many reasons, but the reality of going back is terrifying. I want to jump off this plane right now, to forget I spent money on any tickets and become anonymous in this city that feels so like home to me. How can one’s identity be so torn between two continents? I have felt a foreigner in the USA ever since I knew other countries existed. The feeling has only become stronger as I have aged. How does one ease the restlessness of wanderlust? It is all-consuming at times, this desire to be somewhere else. If I lived in Serbia, would I begin to feel it in a month, two months? Inevitably it would return, this desire to be free is so intense. But this plane is taking me somewhere else, to Rome, my first foreign destination so many years ago, and from there, home. Normally, I would rejoice to return to this city I always come back to, but it means the end of my journey, and I cannot bear the thought of return now that it is concrete. This conflict within me feels like insanity at times. There is a part of me that always saw myself traveling with someone, a person who was as free as me, but grounded me in their constant presence while exploring, an adventurer who suffered from wanderlust as I do, that could understand it and encourage it while giving me the companionship and understanding I miss when I leave those I love behind. I realize I am in the same state as before my trip with these feelings of being caged. I am a bird who thinks it should be a tree.
Seeing Rome through another’s eyes is the new perspective I need right now. It feels like I am seeing Rome for the first time as well. Her child-like delight becomes my own. It was meant to be, my returning to this place. No matter how many times I come, it still feels like exactly where I am supposed to be. I end up here every time I come to Europe whether I intend to or not. It was the first foreign city I ever went to, and it holds a special place in my heart. When I think about my return here, the phrase “All roads lead to Rome” comes to mind. How true this is for me. Perhaps, here I will find what I am looking for.
I came to Rome to meet with another couch surfer who has also been traveling around Europe, to swap stories and experiences. Sadly, the fates did not feel our time to come together was now, but I am sure we will meet some day. I connected instead with a girl around my age at the hostel I stayed at, who also has been traveling for some time by herself. In many ways, it was even better to exchange travel stories and experiences with another female than with the man I had intended to meet with. Women share things that men cannot always understand. She helped ease my sadness after leaving Belgrade and was a beautiful presence to explore ancient ruins with. I also ran into a man from Egypt and spent the day with him walking to the Pantheon and happened upon Trevi Fountain with wishes to return to Rome again.
While here, I was able to catch up with an old friend from high school wandering through the Christmas market in Piazza Navona in the rain, reminiscing about the past and catching up to the present. Two hours felt much too short to discuss the six years since we last saw each other. Every time I have come and seen her, it has been like time hasn’t past, and we can enjoy each other’s company. Our life in high school was so long ago.
My last two nights were spent in the company of four guys and two girls I met through couch surfing. They wanted to give me an Italian experience and made me a homemade carbonara, gluten-free pasta meal, introduced me to several traditional games, bought me my first cannoli-one of the best pastries I have ever had (French bakeries watch out!), took me to Trastevere for limoncello and to beautiful lookouts from Pincian Hill above the Piazza del Popolo. They kept me giggling and having fun with their juggling and Zoolander photo shoots. I tried to teach them hacky sack and American slang and failed miserably, as I am not so talented at either myself, but I did teach them “Jebiga!,” so at least they learned how to say fuck in Serbian. I really enjoyed my last European experience; I didn’t have time to be sad about leaving; I could only think about how lucky I was to be with such beautiful people for two days. I love this city so much. Ciao bella!…until we meet again.