It’s been raining in Trebinje for the past few days, and I actually don’t mind. When it rains the clouds slowly descend from the sky, blanketing the valley in a cover of fog. There’s a very peaceful and nostalgic ambience here, one that makes leaving feel much more bittersweet. Climbing the hill up to my flat every day has its perks, as outside my kitchen window is a panoramic view of the entire valley; the deep green hills, the orange-tiled roofs, hilltop churches, and the river that flows through it all.
Before Bosnia and Herzegovina, I had been counting down my remaining days in Eastern Europe, but now, a mere week before the long-anticipated flight to Spain, I’ve stopped counting.
I’ve become more connected with this region than I ever anticipated, and despite the challenging cultural differences, I think this will be a place I am always nostalgic to return to.
The simplicity of life here is something I’m really going to miss. Pomegranate mornings by the sea. Rough stone fortress walls and rock-strewn mountains. Warm bread. Fresh cheese. Exchanging smiles with handkerchief clad Serbian babushkas at the market, or saying “Zdravo, chao” while I walk down the road leading into town. Master Chef’s cooking. Chickens in the garden and the occasional donkey cart ride in Bulgaria. Hot summer days spent lying in the cool water of the Danube. And new friends.
I have a lot of really good memories here, too many to count.
I even learned to read (a little) Cyrillic and doubled my Russian vocabulary (still tiny, but better).
During the past two years of full-time wandering, my family has never really settled into a region for more than 3 months. Even our travels in SE Asia only amounted to under 5 months, which at the time felt very long. Even though we moved countries and cities every month or so, in a way I feel like I’ve set down some roots here. I’ve become exponentially more comfortable with the language, learned the lifestyle, eaten the food every day, even made friends (which is something most full-timers know can be a challenge).
The idea of transition, both in time and place, is a very large theme in my life. Transitional periods are the times that I tend to do the most reflection, as the concept of time seems a bit more altered than usual. I read recently about ‘liminal spaces’ which explained the feeling pretty well. The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limens’ which means ‘threshold. So liminal spaces are these times of waiting on the threshold, unsure of what the future holds.
Trebinje is a liminal space in my life right now. I arrived here during the last two weeks of 2017, and with the seasonal rains came a general understanding that my life as I know it to be right now is changing. By this time next year, life could be exponentially different, which is both scary and exciting to consider while I stand on the aforementioned threshold.
2017 was one of the longest and most challenging, but also most rewarding years of my life. The same goes for my 17th year of life, which will transition into my 18th in the new year. We started in Morocco, then a month in Spain, another in Italy, and the rest of the year here in Eastern Europe. The last weeks of 2017 were a much-needed reminder that the passing of time is inevitable. I was able to take a step back and actually love Eastern Europe for the first time.
Wherever you are in your life right now is not permanent, no matter how stagnant that period seems to be. Waiting for things to happen is so hard (!), but in the long run so worth it. These are the things that I want to be mindful of in the new year. Instead of wishing that time would pass faster I want to just embrace every moment as something beautiful, regardless of its flaws or challenges.
Now I’m in the process of downsizing a bit from over a year of bus, boat, and train travel (many kilos have accumulated in my backpack) and attempting to absorb as much Spanish into my head as humanly possible before I meet my Au Pair family.
Wishing you all a year full of love, health, happiness, and new experiences! Happy travels and my next blog post will probably be from Spain, hasta luego!
Published 1/8/18 from Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina.