During my journey through central Europe and the Balkans, I frequently rearranged plans. When I first outlined my loose itinerary, Zagreb was on the map. I cancelled it entirely after hearing from Oben, a Turkish doctoral student in Budapest, that Belgrade was more worth the experience. I was not certain that I wanted to go to Serbia, but rather preferred to explore Kosovo. However, I ventured to Belgrade, by-passing Zagreb and Pristina. I departed Belgrade two days early because I could not handle the intensity of the parties and cigarette smoke. A Dutch Gemini named Thomas and I considered traveling together, but he was going northwest, and I was going southeast, so we parted ways.
After four days that felt like a long winter in Nis, Serbia, I crossed the border into Bulgaria. I met Olivia, a British teacher on assignment, and we wandered the pedestrian streets and drank cold-pressed juice. From there, I planned to venture east and kayak in the Black Sea. I had wanted to see Plovdiv, Europe’s oldest city. Established in 6000 BC, Plovdiv is 3000 years older than Athens. However, when I arrived in Sofia, I was nearly a week behind schedule. I was expected to meet someone at the train station in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania, at a very specific time and day. I needed to make some decisions.
What if we all approached our lives like a backpacking journey? If we are able to evaluate life from the temporary situation that it is, we might begin to feel more free in our decisions. We might place more importance on our own dreams, desires, and fulfillment, instead of what others might think of us. We might feel less afraid of failure, and more open to rearranging the pieces of my life to create something new. A minor redirection now will substantially alter the course of movement over time. We are each responsible for our lives. If something doesn’t fit correctly, rearrange the pieces.
It may take more time than is preferred to lay a new path. I probably could have skipped Bucharest entirely. Three weeks in Santiago, Chile, was far too long. Was Cartagena, Colombia, fun after five days? Not really. But I didn’t throw up my hands and say, “Well, I guess I’m in Cartagena forever now.” Such a powerless fate is ridiculous. Instead, I tried to make the best of circumstances, and organized a plan to depart.
Travel requires constant flexibility, adaptability, and acceptance. So does the rest of life. The experience of travel forces those lessons. We immediately accept the temporary arrangement of every beautiful and inspiring person and place we meet. We might even appreciate those moments more because we are consciously and actively aware of the impermanence. When we meet distasteful people, we walk away. If we land in a place that doesn’t fit, we leave. During travel, we learn how to be open to new experiences, and to accept transition and flow. Through the release of expectation, we move forward into whatever and wherever is next with understanding that no matter which road greets the morning sun, it continues beyond the horizon into the unknown.