Some time four years ago, I became complacent with my travel intentions. While that may not be the correct way to grammatically express how I felt, it is the best way for me to write it down.
I have always wanted to travel to the same types of places. I liked the grey and gritty cities that one tends to find in Eastern Europe and post-Soviet countries. I was fascinated by the Arctic and the extreme cold, which was paradoxical, even for me, as I always dreamt of spending my life on a tropical island surfing my days away. But mostly, I was lured to the East, where inscrutable places suffered from the same disease I suffered from most of my life- being misunderstood.
After relocating to Norway in 2011, I made it my mission to uncover as much of that post-Soviet region as I possibly could throughout my years of living on European soil. It is a region of such vast differences and ideologies that it takes some effort and time to get to know. And, as soon as you think you get to know a country, you travel two hours away by train to uncover an entirely new world. In the same dang country. After spending a month in any one of those countries, you often leave feeling as if you know less than when you arrived there. That is, after all, the beauty of travel.
Russians have taught me the art of being misunderstood by the rest of the world and made me realize that the actions of a government don’t reflect the lives and values of the people (something that Americans can all relate to). Belarussians have taught me the art of hospitality. Armenians have taught me the art of cherishing family, something I have been particularly poor with over the years. Georgians have taught me that all stressors in your life become miniscule if you’re eating good food (and drinking good wine). Lithuanians have taught me the importance of freedom and being proud of where you come from, regardless of wherever that may be. Estonians have taught me the art of simplicity and eating off the land. The Kyrgyz have taught me the significance of a smile. I could go on and on…
Last July and August I went to South America. Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru to be exact. I haven’t written too much about the trip because, quite frankly, it wasn’t my favorite. I found myself completely exasperated for most of the trip and not enjoying myself as I normally do when on the road. The entire trip left me feeling guilty that I hadn’t chosen to spend that month with my grandparents, who were my favorite people in the world. Two months after that trip, my grandfather passed away. I have felt contrite about that trip south of the Equator ever since.
Months passed… I moved to Germany. I traveled to Central Europe for a bit. I waited tirelessly for snow to blanket Frankfurt (it never came). I enjoyed my new life and hanging out with my dog as much as I was able to. But I still desired to head East for a trip as soon as I could afford one.
In February, I traveled to India. I have never had the desire to go to India. The reason? I am mildly claustrophobic. I hate being around a lot of people. Crowded places and subways cause me severe agony and are two things I avoid at all costs. Due to my lack of patience with the rail booking site in India, I ended up booking a plane ticket to spend some time in Kathmandu during the middle of my India trip.
I loved Kathmandu more than words will ever be able to express and am so saddened by what has happened to the country and the Nepali people. India and I weren’t as good of friends, but I was still enamored with the place and its people, so much that I look forward to going back someday and seeing more of the country. And I also want to get back to Nepal to try my hands at hiking Everest base camp. Or partake in some of the lesser-known Nepal treks that exist.
Now back in Germany for two months, I can’t stop thinking about how unique my last trip was. Travel is going to be sparse in 2015 for me, but as someone with severe wanderlust and curiosity, I can’t help but envision where future trips may take me. Aside from a wedding in Budapest this summer and my best friend’s wedding in Key Largo, Florida in November, I have no finite plans.
Since that trip to India and Nepal, looking at a map has changed for me. The 2013 me would have looked to explore the Caucasus. The 2014 me would have looked to explore Central Asia. The 2015 me looks at a different region of the world. An entire continent in fact. A place I have never had a single desire to travel to in the past and have always shunned and put in that ‘not for me‘ file. The 2015 me wants to go to Africa.
I want to see it all. Every single region and country fascinate the hell out of me. From Eritrean zigini atop injera to the frothy palm wines of Ghana. From the Nile all the way down to Victoria Falls. I am immensely drawn to the whole continent these days. I have even started plotting a trip to Ghana, Togo, and Benin for 2016. I can’t get it off of my mind and just wish I had the resources to go immediately.
I credit India and Nepal for opening my eyes and changing my travel desires. If it hadn’t been for that trip, I would have stayed in my comfort zone and booked a flight to Uzbekistan next, instead of somewhere I never thought I’d step foot. I’ll make it to Uzbekistan and company one day, but for now, I have butterflies in my stomach knowing that I have a new part of the world to start exploring someday in the near future. Okay, probably not until 2016 but I’m attempting to be patient.
I will still be writing about my times in the East as I have so many stories to tell from over the years, but hopefully this is the beginning of some new stories, too. And for those wondering, yes, Kamchatka is still at the very top of my list.
Thank you, India, but especially Nepal, for opening my eyes to the world once again.