When I was a kid, I used to watch roller derby, glued to the TV and scared to death. Women would pull hair, punch and kick in a style reminiscent of the high school tough girls. I was terrified of the high school tough girls.
Then, I entered the rough and tumble halls of Corporate America and realized Roller Derby’s got nothing on us. It’s a knock down, bounce up existence. The older I get, the easier I go down. And I no longer bounce up – it’s more of a stagger. Some days, I want to take off the pads, hit the shower, and never skate again. I’ve had too many of those days lately.
We are approaching the end of our third year in Central Europe never dreaming we would be here this long. While I remember the emotions of those early days when we arrived in Bratislava; excitement, fear, confusion, intimidation, I can’t relate to them now. We sorted through the morass and created a life. A life I never imaged in those first, doubt-filled days.
The scary feelings are mostly gone. Confidence nudges us along. I have mentioned this before in the blog, a momentum which is pushing us to get out and explore further from the obvious path.
Six years ago, we vacationed in rural Romania. For some now inexplicable reason, we spent an inordinate amount of time locked in our car. Romania is a beautiful country. The little villages scared the pants off me. I am ready to return – brimming with confidence and arriving by train or bus or yak pulled cart.
Last week, we ventured to another district in Budapest to pay a friend’s parking ticket. We knew where to go, having googled the address before we left our apartment. But when we arrived, we held up our ticket to a guard who replied, “nem” (translation: nada, nyet, fuhgeddaboutit). He wrote an address on a slip of paper. An address no where on the ticket. A street we did not know.
Me: Oh well. We’ll have to come back Monday.
Me: We don’t know where that street is, and I didn’t bring the map.
Pat: Julie, c’mon. We’ll just ask somebody.
Seriously? Pat ask for directions? Who was that person trotting ahead as I ran to catch up. He showed our slip of paper to a man in a professional building (Pat suggested we try any building flying the Hungarian flag). A smiling, non-English speaking worker signaled for us to wait. He then returned with the exact same address typed on a bigger sheet of paper along with the hours of operation. He handed it to me with an air of “There you go. Be off now.”
We shrugged and held up our hands,”Where?” He stepped outside placed one hand on my shoulder to face me in the right direction and with the other acted out straight, then right, then walk a ways. Fifteen minutes later, ticket paid, we set off to find a new lunch spot in an unknown neighborhood.
Last weekend, we toured the Tokaj wine region of Hungary with friends who arranged everything. The tour cost many times the actual price of the services we received which is common. Afterward, we learned we can reach Tokaj, and all the small neighboring wine villages, by train. After researching lodging, and discovering the amazing deals at pensions in Tokaj, I am building a much cheaper plan to return and creating a wish list of other places to visit: Balatonfüred, Szeged, Pécs, Gödöllő, Székesfehérvár, Verőce.
And then it struck me. (for those wondering the point of this babbling, here it comes). We have built up a knowledge base on how to live here and travel inexpensively. I am fascinated by Eastern Europe; the culture, history and traditions. Given the inflated prices of Eastern European tours, I believe the knowledge has value. Information is spotty for anything off the beaten path of Prague to Krakow to Budapest. Could illuminating this black hole be our new path?
In my dreams, Pat and I work together in a tiny business. Maybe we collect and package information on how to fearlessly tackle this region. Maybe we lead bike trips out of Bratislava to the small wine villages tucked away in the Austrian countryside. I imagine us trudging around the far reaches of Eastern Europe living on pennies and home churned yak butter as I scribble notes in my journal and watch storks build nests on the chimney tops of modest, country homes. Pat is, of course, taking pictures of it all.
Our daughter, Taylor, just graduated. She is dealing with the same decisions I am. When you are 22, you think there is a magical answer to all life’s questions. Find the answer, and everything will make sense. Little does she realize, life is a series of dilemmas – a path with switchbacks and forks, at times overgrown and hidden. Sometimes you keep walking with a blind faith the path will become evident again, and it will be OK.
While I haven’t figured out everything (and some might suggest I haven’t figured out anything), I sense a path nearby which leads to someplace wonderful. I tend to believe in fate and karma, signs and instincts. The current path is a mess of prickly bushes. It is nearing time to seek out this new path. This weekend, Pat and I agreed on a date. Just that act is liberating.
The other day, I told Taylor, “Everything will turn out in the end. And if it hasn’t turned out, it’s not yet the end.” She was touched, until I admitted it was a line from The Most Amazing Marigold Hotel. Call me a plagiarist, but that’s my line now.