A traveler’s heart

I don’t know if it’s because I come from the Balkans, because my zodiac sign is Taurus or because of something else but I can surely say that I am an emotional person. Whether it’s getting hysterical when I can’t find anything in my purse (especially keys – so I have to take everything out of the purse in order to find it… FYI, I’ve never met a woman who can actually find things in her purse – which makes me feel a bit less of a lunatic), or laughing till I pee over a stupid joke only a couple of my closest friends and I find hilarious. Whether it’s crying over a commercial, or dancing like crazy to a favorite track. Whether it’s feeling true happiness seeing the people I love or getting super disappointed when they put coriander in the dish I’ve ordered (God, there’s almost nothing worse than coriander). Bottom line, I’m not one of those cool, chilled people, that take everything easily.

So let’s say you’ve lived in eight different flats, in seven different countries, and shared them with twenty different flatmates in the past seven years, like I have (not to mention constant travels, hostels full of people, couch surfing, people you meet in the street, local people, foreign people…) – you would have developed some emotions for some of those people, right?! Well, if you’re me you would have developed emotions for all of them, including the dogs, buildings, parks and maybe even furniture you came across on your path. If you’re somewhat like me you might have even developed emotions for the mop you used to wipe your flatmate’s vomit in the kitchen after he came back from an obviously fantastic party.

I’ve always thought that the more I travel and the more I see things, the more people I meet, I’d become less and less emotional… I thought that saying goodbye would become easier. Surprisingly, it’s the complete opposite. The more things I go through, the more they seem to move me. So most likely, by now I’ve not only developed emotions for that mop, but for the bucket as well.

I remember when my friend Lisa was leaving Ferrara, a city in Italy where we studied. Before spending a semester there, she spent a semester in the Philippines. And she told me: “If I have to continue leaving all the time, and leave beautiful places and people behind me, my heart is going to break into pieces.” That’s exactly how I feel every time I have to go from one place to another and say goodbye to someone. When I have to say goodbye my eyes get blurry, my stomach gets upset, my mouth gets dry and my heart feels like it’s going to explode. Then I drop tears and some more tears, until they turn into waterfalls. I feel true sadness and loneliness, but then it stops. I start to feel more calm. I start to smile. I start to feel grateful and privileged. Tears of sorrow turn into tears of happiness (by now you’re probably wondering why I’m still not in a mental institution, but let me explain). I start to feel grateful because I’ve had the opportunity to meet Lisa in the first place. I start to feel grateful that Marta from Spain, Claudio from Italy, or Ali from Pakistan were my flatmates. I feel happy to have spent time drinking spritz with Camille, Costa, Marija and Fabio after a day at the University. I feel blessed to have danced in Berlin night clubs with Leda, I feel extraordinary to have slept in tents excavating in France, Italy, Hungary and Israel, with people from all over the world. I feel peaceful knowing that no matter where I go my family will always be there for me. I feel special to have walked all over Paris with Luka, Petra, Vera and Marko. I feel happy to have laughed with Federica in Berlin and Frankfurt. I feel like standing on the top of the world when I come back to my hometown and I see Martina, Maja, Nataša, Antonija, Nina, Aleksandra… I feel free to have gone on many road trips, ridden bicycles down many roads, driven a motorbike through the villages of Laos. I feel astonished to have seen sunsets from different parts of the world, to have swam in different seas, to have smelled food from different markets. I feel proud to have free climbed a mountain, got hit in the head by a surf board when a wave knocked me under water. I feel lucky being able to cross so many borders, to enter so many different societies, to try so much different food. Even if the food makes me sick (and believe me eastern spices have mysterious effects on western bellies), even if I am bruised  from the surf board, even if my fingers are bloody from climbing rocks.

So whether if it’s Marta from Huelva, David and Fabrice from Marseille, Javi from Malaga, Marc from Bern, Mina from Podgorica, Marija from Kruševac, Luka from Zaprešić, Ali from Karachi, Andrea from Rome, Tunç from Izmit, Aleksandra from Karlovac or Zorana from Slavonski Brod that I have to say goodbye to, and whether I cry and it feels awful I know that if I had to choose I’d do everything all over again. They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. I say: I have loved and have not lost… I’ve gained! Even if I don’t see some of these people ever again, now I carry a little piece of them in my heart. Now I carry a little bit of Spain and Italy, Croatia and France, Switzerland and Serbia, Israel and Turkey in my heart. And hopefully they carry a little piece of me in their hearts as well.

Today I had to say goodbye. It was painful and I was sad. And then I thought of all the amazing things I’ve lived with the person I had to say goodbye to. And I felt more alive than ever. So I suggest you open your heart. Even if it hurts. Love. Travel. Cook. Eat. Dance. Laugh. Meet people. Learn. Study. Listen. Observe. Do more of whatever it is that makes you happy. Nothing can measure up to the treasures you gain by going through life with an open heart.


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