Two nights ago I arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was tired, hungry, and emotionally exhausted. The people I interacted with on my 6 hour tiny, hot bus ride weren’t friendly. After numerous taxis offering to rip us off for 8x’s the should’ve-been-cost, we agreed to pay only quadruple the actual cost to get to our bed.
At midnight I climbed the outside stairs in 35-Fahrenheit weather to the outside bathrooms to wash my face and brush my teeth. A girl wet from a shower and only wrapped in a towel asked me if I had a key to her room. She was drunk and disoriented. I apologized and said I didn’t.
She had locked herself out, and now her only option was to go down the stairs in the freezing weather, to the reception in front of the 15 people in the common room, to ask for her key. I told her it happens to the best of us. She said “or the worst of us. I’m such a mess.”
It was like looking in a mirror just a few years ago. My heart hurt for her embarrassment, and also mine. Immediately I flashbacked to all the memories I don’t have, where I was her. Drunk, confused, less than half naked, and lost. I remembered what I don’t remember, as it was standing right in front of me.
Before I was able to offer to go get her the key, although I was cold, tired, and grumpy myself, she was gone. Presumably crying in a corner hating every piece of herself, away from everyone- if she was anything like that old me.
I’ve traveled 22 countries this year. There’s a sense of accomplishment, and disappointment. A sense of happiness and sadness. A sense of being whole and alone at the exact same time. Or maybe rather, just somewhere in between.
When I’m home, I feel so loved. I am undoubtedly, and without question, surrounded by the absolute best people a person could ever hope for. But instead of 2 or 3, I have many. Many I could call at any hour of any day for anything, and know they would help me. Friends and family I could (and do), tell every feeling in my heart and thought in my head and they welcome me unjudged and empathetic. They keep me living, in every literal sense. Yet I still feel I’m missing something when I’m home. I’m not content.
I’ve complained to my mom when I’m home “I just can’t do this 9-5 and work to pay bills until I’m dead, I’d rather just be dead”. She assures me no one wants to, they just do.
“But they do it and manage! They CAN have a routine and do the same thing over and over and don’t feel this longing pain in their soul like they’re missing something. I do. I don’t fit here. I don’t belong.”
She nods her head in agreement, I think more disappointment, that I can’t stay. Or as she’s asked me many times “why can’t you just bloom where you’re planted?” Maybe it’s because my seed was broken.
I always knew that children were never in my life plan. I won’t go into allllll the reasons kids are not for me, and I’ll save how offensive it is to be told “you’ll change your mind when you meet the right person” for another blog (and there will be that blog). Being the majority of my friends have kids, conversations can tend to circulate around that. Not always, but often. And I don’t mind. I really don’t, because I love what people I love, love. Including their children. I just can’t relate, obviously.
And I love being invited to weddings. I love being invited to my friends baby’s birthdays. Because I love feeling a part of others lives and getting to celebrate what they love. That gives me joy. But it also gives me a sense of loneliness.
I thought I’d have someone to drag with me to these events. Someone that can take some of the effort of meeting new people each time I go to a new event, a birthday party, a wedding to share the experience, and honestly the effort it takes to meet people. It’s exhausting sometimes. But I didn’t. I thought I did, but as my friend termed it best, my “man-picker is broken”. I don’t want a family and kids, but I want my soulmate. It’s proving to be difficult.
And so I discovered travel. Something I think I always knew all along I loved, but avoided recognizing it could be a possibility. You know, cause bills, boyfriends and booze kept me back. And then I cut all those and tried this travel.
I took a cruise when I was 21 and one stop was Montego Bay, Jamaica. I rode a horse through the mountains and then went swimming in the ocean ON the horse. I remember an exact thought I had from that exact day. THIS IS WHY PEOPLE LIVE. FOR MOMENTS LIKE THESE.
But I didn’t follow my heart then. I thought life was to work to have a vacation to do that. It wasn’t until I joined corporate America and worked five years in it that I quickly realized 10 days vacation isn’t enough to do shit, let alone just even out the torture and misery that accompanies it. Also, in case you didn’t know, almost every other country I’ve met gets MINIMUM 28 days vacation, often times more and then holidays on top of that. That’s why other cultures are more traveled than the majority of Americans- in my opinion.
So on this traveling I meet the people I don’t find as often at home. The single. The childless. The single and childless. The non-homeowners. The wanderers. The nomads. The explorers. The adventurers. The don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-career-or-what-I’m-eating-for-dinner. My people, except for the dinner part, of course. I always know what my next meal is because I plan it at the meal prior. I digress.
But there’s this one thing that they all do, that I don’t. What should seem so insignificant and it never affects me or even comes on my radar back home, but does here. The drinkers.
Perhaps it’s the age. Perhaps it’s because I’m 30 years old staying in hostels with the people who DID have the guts to listen to their heart when they were 21 in the bay of Jamaica and started traveling then, that they are here now. The younger me, but different.
So each night at each hostel comes The Pub Crawl. The event almost all hostels offer to get to know other travelers, while promoting whatever Pub they’ve contracted with. And the pre-drinks start in the common room and the talks get more rambunctious and eventually the wobble continues to one bar, then the next, until everyone comes home to sleep through late morning and talk about how much they drank the night before and who they hooked up with and why they feel like shit.
So I try to join the group. In Kotor, Montenegro I forced myself out as we wandered within the city walls to a little pub. The early drinkers started their dancing and others stood outside openly talking to who they thought was cute because they have all the confidence in the world sitting in their right hand. Worries go wayside and everyone is invincible. And I watch with envy. How I miss liquid courage.
I miss being able to dance without thinking twice of how fat I look or more likely, which ass cheek is hanging out. I miss openly walking to whoever and saying whatever the fuck it was I’d say- I have no recollection but I know I made 100% of my friends from college when I drank. They’d remind me and reintroduce themselves the next day. Drunk me was super social, and as a majority pretty friendly; and also didn’t give a shit-
Exhibit A: I THREW AN ANYTHING BUT CLOTHES PARTY.
And danced on tables, and anywhere. Alone or with a friend, couldn’t stop me. And I miss that so much.
But then I don’t. I don’t miss the morning regrets. I don’t miss the times drunk me wasn’t friendly and I hurt someone’s feelings. Or did something stupid. Or worried someone who loved me because I went missing walking home from wherever I was and getting into whatever car door opened to offer me a ride. I don’t miss the hangovers. I don’t miss feeling like I was wasting my life.
And so I remind myself of this. As I stand awkward to the side, people watching, often alone because I’m this anxious weird ball of uncomfortable. I made it to midnight at Kotor before I Irished exited and climbed into bed.
Tonight I sit at a large hostel common room in a mix of feelings. I’m surrounded by 11 fellow travelers, 6 being a group of Germans, 2 Americans, an Aussie, and a few others. And I feel alone.
We sit and they drink and interact and talk of different alcohols and where they tried what and where they purchased the best brand of this alcohol with this percentage.. and I have nothing to contribute.
I’m offered drink after drink but politely shake my head, not offering the information not only is my man-picker broken, but so is my alcohol-stopper. I don’t need to isolate myself anymore than I already am by just sitting here. I feel uncomfortable. And alone. I feel like I look like a weird asshole sitting in the group but saying nothing. They probably think I’m a huge bitch.
And I weigh if I should join on the Pub Crawl. My sweet Aussie friend wants to go out and feels she’s been a bit introverted lately. I have to take the blame for this, and I feel guilty. I love meeting people but then I also need my quiet time. I’m extroverted to a point and then want to crawl in a quiet dark space and decompress. I’m not an extrovert but not an introvert, I’m somewhere in between.
I try to talk myself into going, and just can’t will myself to go.
Somewhere since quitting drinking I’ve lost any ability to justify being out past 10pm. To put in effort to look half decent to stay up way too late to throw off my sleep schedule to then drag through the next day.. for what? To stand awkwardly in a place that’s too loud so even if I find someone I want to talk to, I can’t hear? Is this what turning 79 feels like? I think so.
I feel old. I feel fat. I feel ugly. I feel terribly, terribly alone, although I’m surrounded by “my people”. Are they though? When alcohol seems to be such a large part of the travel, experience, and topics we discuss tonight, and I can’t contribute, much less feign interest, are these my people?
I contemplate grabbing the beer in front of me tonight. I’ve wanted this life and these people because I thought this would be my home. I want to belong here. I want that feeling of comfort of being surrounded by people like me.
But the beer isn’t me.
I’m not the girl in the towel anymore. And I’m not the bloom where I’m planted girl, either. I’m this girl in between, and tonight I realize I still have no idea where in between is.