As I sit on the floor and figure out how to pack up my new life, questions won’t stop popping up. It’s not about how to pack bags or whatever. Just the usual existential shit. In fact, so many questions come that I almost feel disconnected from myself. I thought that maybe being out of a bubble would have helped me walk a new path. Honestly, I’ve never had so many questions or wondered who it is I am in this life and who I want to be. On a journey of discovering new things, I realise that I probably know less now than I did before. I feel a bit broken down, where do I begin to rebuild?
Thursday was May Day in Poland. People were out in Krakow, enjoying the sunshine or getting drunk. Poland flags were being waved (I wish I could have snagged one!) and bands playing. Kids chowing down on zapiekanka. i managed to convince my husband that I was so hungry and needed to have one, or I’d die. How convenient. Everyone was clapping at the assortment of marchers coming down from Wawel Castle. An old woman said Smacznego (like Bon Appetit) to me as I consumed my Zapiekanka. I began to tear up. It was like a farewell. Only, no one knew me. No one knew who I was, how I called this place home for the better part of 14 months. They didn’t know that I was about to leave. They didn’t even know my name. They would all go home, live their lives and continue on. I would do the same. I would be nothing to anyone, and they would be nothing to me.
I realised then that I couldn’t just be apart of a world. I couldn’t be apart of the Krakow life, even if I had a visa and could stay there. I couldn’t even be apart of the Perth life. I didn’t belong anywhere, so to speak. I was free to make whatever world I wanted for myself. I would create my own bubble that could be as big as I wanted it to be, and be filled with whatever I wanted. It would be the only place I could ever belong and be accepted. This world can only be found within me.
I can travel anywhere and feel at home as long as my husband is with me. But even if he’s not with me, I have to get to the stage where I feel at home, no matter where I am in this world. No matter what time it is, what place I’m at, how old I am.
At this moment, I feel like I just got thrown out of a moving car. And it’s raining. Cold. Where the fuck am I? How do I get back home? And all that.
The reality is, that all of this can happen in 14 months. And 14 months in the grand scheme of things, in the grand scheme of my life, is not long. Think about it. All the times I went to Europe for 6 weeks or so before I did this trip only equated to a small percentage of my life overall. And this 14 months? Well, it’s only 14 months out of the current 341 I have currently lived. And the moments and experiences that have filled those 14 months are far more than in the other 327 months.
It is amazing how quickly 14 months has gone. Your friends (like mine) will say “It’s like you weren’t even gone!”. Your husband (like mine) will get his old job back straight away. Your friends and family will still love you. Money can always be made, possessions repurchased. But remember, we come into this life just as us. Just one. And we leave this life in the same way.
My advice to you is that if you are scared to do something like this, if you’re afraid that nothing will be there for you when you get back, if you wonder how you’ll get a job or where you’ll live when you get back - just don’t. Believe me, everything always works out. If you want something bad enough but you don’t know how you’re going to get there, you do the work and you figure it out. You will always get there. And if you find that you’ve taken a few steps off the path, you might find another journey waiting for you that you never even thought of.
Don’t be afraid of anything in this life. Fear will stop you from truly living your life the way it ought to be lived.
And so now i go back to my old life in Perth. New house (scored a sweet rental, yay!), old kittehs, hawt husband, unemployed, no car, exams coming up - Life continues as normal. But reconstructing my bubble is only beginning.
Thank you for reading my little series. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an ask, or email me at email@example.com .
A Roma castle in Romania. Not the origin of the Romani people.
I would like to preface this post with a little education, if you will. The Roma or Romani are a people with Indian roots and are not Romanian or even from Rome (yes, I have really heard this question). You may have and may read articles confusing the Roma with Romanians which is not only offensive, but also causes great prejudice against the people of Romania. The Roma are a subgroup of the Romani and are often referred to as Gypsies. I’ve also heard the term being used to describe all Romani’s. It should be noted that this term is offensive to the Roma. In saying that, most of them turn so many tricks that it makes it very difficult to respect anything they request. I’m not going to get into their history because there is quite a lot of controversy surrounding them as a group (they kill locals, they’ve been killed by locals, the government cares, the government doesn’t care.. so on) so I will only share what it is I have seen them do or what they have been known to do as relayed to me by my friends here.
If you’ve travelled to Europe before (although they can also be found in the US) you are been familiar with them. There’s that woman with the hole in her skull at the Vatican. The old lady in France, wobbling and shaking and crying. The man in Milan, falling over. The pregnant woman in Slovakia, crying for help. A man holding a baby in Romania, falling over with the baby in his arms. The boy in Czech Republic cowering in a corner with a puppy, with a sign around their necks. These are simply the displays I have seen from various Roma and that is only a handful of incidents. The truth is that I stopped ignoring them long ago, pretending that they do not exist. It sounds harsh, but it is the only way to avoid running in to trouble with them. The moment that they know you have seen them, they will try their tricks on you. The reason why these women have babies or why they have a large hole in their skulls is so they can make money from you. So they can guilt you into giving you their money. Do not feel sorry for them, they do not care about you.
I always liken the Roma to Karrinyup Shopping Centre. Or any other shopping centre. Rokeby Road in Subiaco is one of the worst roads I have been down. The people aren’t shaking or crying or falling over pregnant. They say “Can I ask you a question” whilst they clutch their clipboard, ready to guilt you out of your hard earned dollars. It happens one booth after the next. Before you know it, it becomes a chore to merely walk throughout the shopping centre or down the street. And if you don’t want to talk, they say “Don’t you want to save the earth?” or “Does that mean you support animals being skinned alive?”. And you’re all, shut up and get a real job. This is how I feel about the Roma.
The Roma are far worse. They pop out children because children are a great way to get money. The feed the children drugs so they are hooked and keep coming back to their owners/parents for more. They are bought and sold like property. There is no love. They steal, they lie and they also kill people. Obviously, this is to a great extent but it happens often.
If you’ve ever given money to a Roma because you felt bad, think again. They are completely fine, believe me. They live in extravagant, over-the-top castles and houses larger than you or I could ever dream of. Three story houses almost as big as Subiaco Oval (or whatever they call it now…). They have gold teeth. They are usually over weight. This is a good sign that they’re not starving and are BFFs with their dentist. Your money supports them in their endeavors.
Of course, if you choose not to give them money they will turn their tricks to simply take it off you or rob you of whatever is valuable to you. Side note: wearing your backpack on the front like a dork doesn’t stop the Roma from stealing your shit. I have been beyond amazed at their incredible skill to steal wallets, cameras, phones and passports from people wearing a bag on their fronts. I almost wish I could learn that, just to know how they do it. Like the secret to a magician’s tricks.
If you travel throughout Europe via car or train, be careful not to hand your passport over to someone unless they can show you identification. I’ve heard stories of people driving into Hungary and being stopped by a police officer. They handed over their passports and the “police officer” then asks you to bribe him to give them back. There is also dropping of the gold ring, standing on your feet whilst you are robbed in broad daylight, or snatching your entire wallet and bolting when you open it. Do not let anyone help you purchase tickets at the train station (this is where learning the local language comes in handy). Also be very wary of anyone who pushes past you. A friend had only her wallet stolen from her large tote bag when there was a bit of a crush at a local church. It was truly amazing. Your best bet is to keep your hand on your bag at all times or at least keep an eye on it. They’ll be less likely to try something if they think you will feel them stealing from you.
These kinds of things aren’t only courtesy of the Roma. Locals are known to take advantage of tourists and other locals. My husband and I got done by a Mafia Taxi in Warsaw. Our expensive lesson to you is, ensure the taxi has phone numbers on the outside and do your research of local taxi companies before taking one. They can charge you 100 times the amount you expect. As a result, we no longer take taxis. I can say that I feel the most unsafe in a taxi anywhere in Europe. Mainly because they drive like psychos.
I have read stories of people staying in apartments, only to be robbed of their belongings when they are out, whilst the entertainment system of the apartment stays behind. Raises a few eyebrows, indeed. It seems to be quite a common thing. My advice is to be aware of your surroundings and anyone who looks suspicious and lock any valuables in your suitcase. It is most likely they will not steal the entire suitcase as it is too obvious. It’s much easier to walk out with a laptop, a phone or jewellery.
Be vigilant and always be alert of your surroundings. Do not believe that everyone has your best interests at heart but don’t believe everyone is out to get you, either. Never get so drunk (or high if you’re in Amsterdam) that you don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going. If something sounds too good to be true, it is. And never make eye contact with a Roma.
Next: Part 9: This is the End.