We left Berlin just over an hour ago and are hurtling toward Prague at 160 kilometers an hour on a train. I sit alone, a tiny sliver of the outside landscape blurring past my eyes in the smidge of a window available to me. It’s chilly here on the train, as I’ve come to notice that most of the trains and planes I’ve ridden in these past few days are. The down jacket I have stowed away in my backpack remains packed; I need to toughen up.
I have learned a few things in this past week of traveling and being upended regarding ritual and habit and pattern and consistency. I have been untethered from my mooring ball, adrift out here in the cities of Copenhagen and Berlin. An unsettling feeling was what I imagined I would feel, like being seasick and hurling my lunch over the side of the boat rail. Yet, I have found it feels more like floating in a hot air balloon: weightless and enthralling and terrifying and vast.
There are still three full days left before we take the plane back to Boston and my old life. How distant it seems now. How sad I feel when I think about driving on my old roads, laying in my bed, and living the kind of monotonous life I left behind only six days ago. Can life be altered in a blink of an eye? Can you become sick of who you were when you experience a new way to interact with the world? Can ten days and three countries actually be a life-changing experience?
You who read this blog, you lovely few, know there is a bear inside of me, scrambling to be freed. Her cage is my bones. I have the key. I can allow her out. This trip, I let my giant, slumbering beast of a bear out for a walk, on a leash, tethered to a stake in the ground almost 6,000 kilometers away back in Boston. It was here, in the middle of this trip, that my bear smiled for the first time in a long time. She breathed more easily. She also may have drunk a bit too much those first few nights.
Back in Boston, I have succumbed to ritual and convenience and the trappings of a comfortable life. This trip has allowed me to see what’s beyond the comfort and the fear. The bear, my sweet, giant bear, has to go back to her cage. I know she won’t be happy about it. I have promised her though that this will not be the last time she is let out. It may only be for a weekend here or a week there, but she will feel the grass under her paws. And, eventually, when Pugger is no longer part of my life, she may run free, and the two of us can smash that cage and let all that confined angst blow away.
I don’t know how it will be to go back to the day-in, day-out life of an existence that isn’t particularly happy for me. I’m afraid that it will be easy to forget my time here, the excitement I feel at living a different life, of looking back at the photos I took and just seeing them as another photo album from some distant cousin. I’m afraid the siren song of high pay and predictability will lure me back to the saccharine existence I’ve subsisted on for the past eight, ten, twenty years.
What I want, more than anything, is to stop living inside my head. I want to be out here, trying new things, moving out of the comfort and control, living boldly and without borders. And writing about all of it the entire way, breathing life into characters informed by these new experiences, lit up by the sun in different locales. I know if I bring this up to friends or family, it will sound ridiculous. The wanderlust that has often plagued me like a virus since I was young causes my irrationality. I don’t know how to convey the necessity to step outside of my life. Does anyone else feel like this?
A week from now, as I walk into the office for our staff meeting, my coworkers will ask how my trip was. I can’t pluck this bundle of wishes and dreams and silly ideas from my chest, unroll it on the table, and point to each bit, exclaiming, “This! This right here! I felt alive! I felt whole! I felt like I actually liked myself here!” Instead, I will tell them that it was a lovely trip. What else is there to say?
Make no mistake though. My bear has had a taste of freedom. And she won’t be silent for much longer.
Photo of the Brandenburg Gate by yours truly.