I had my first I’m-done-traveling day.
Actually it was more like, F@*$&#*€@?*!*! $?. And, *sobbing into my pillow for my mommy*.
The day before leaving Slovenia, I woke up with a nasty cold. Sore throat, runny nose, head congestion, exhausted, the works.
My host in Slovenia was kind enough to take me sightseeing by car, to make me meals, and to let me sit on the couch all night watching movies. I did all the home remedies I could think of: swallowing a spoon of honey, eating garlic, many cups of tea, essential oils (courtesy of my mom), and a good night’s sleep.
The next morning I was actually feeling a lot better. A scratchy throat instead of a sore throat, only minimal nose running, and not too exhausted.
But traveling, even if you’re sitting all day, takes it out of you especially if you’re sick.
By the time I reached my destination in Austria, I was ready for a nap. But the adventure had only begun.
Quickly after I stepped off the train and looked around, I realized my host’s directions to her house were… not great. Luckily I had service and was able to use GPS with no problem.
It was surprisingly warm. Being that I was traveling north and it was November 8th, I assumed it would be cold. But it was at least 65 °F in the sun and I was wearing my travel clothes, aka all my heaviest pieces of clothing: jeans, wool socks, tall boots, a tank top, a t-shirt, a wool long sleeve shirt, a jean shirt, and my puffy, down jacket.
With each turn, I crossed to whichever side of the street provided shade in an effort not to sweat through half of the clothes I currently own.
The town was adorable and the view of the mountains was breathtaking, so I was pretty happy, albeit sweaty, until…
Until I got to the street my host lives on. In her directions she had mentioned walking up a mountain to get to her house, but I wasn’t prepared to walk STRAIGHT up a mountain. No switchbacks, no turns, just straight up a frigging mountain. I looked up the street and imagined music being cued: DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN.
Suddenly my backpack felt even heavier, my head even more congested, and the sun even warmer.
I dropped everything, peeled off 3 layers in preparation for summitting the Mt. Everest of roads, and prayed to God she was the first house up the road.
Of course she wasn’t the first house, though. She was the second to last house.
After only 1 minute of trudging upwards, I stopped to “admire the view”, aka catch my breath.
I started again, setting my sights on the next patch of shade, only able to breathe through my mouth due to being stuffed up and congested, and cursing myself for wearing my last clean t-shirt instead of one of the already sweaty ones. Why had I cared if I smelled on the train? Now I would have to wear a long sleeve shirt to bed and do laundry immediately.
I played scenarios out in my head to try to distract myself from my inability to breathe and the river of sweat gushing down my back, chest, and face. “Hi new host, nice to meet you. I hate you, can I take a shower and pass the eff out now? Oh, and what a lovely home you have.”
The first house’s street number was 22. I figuratively jumped for joy. Her house number was 23. Must be the next one!, I so naively thought. But the next one was 27. F*@*$&!
Three houses and many more breaks to “admire the view” later, a woman two more houses ahead came to her driveway and waved. I smiled, waved back, and swore through my teeth.
When I finally made it to her porch an eternity later, I fake laughed and joked, “Well, (deep inhale) that was my workout (deep inhale) for the day! Haha (deep inhale) ha.”
Instead of welcoming me into the shade of her home, she said, “Sit!’ And pointed the the bench on her front porch.
Oh, you mean here, on the front porch, directly in the hotter-than-hell sun? Sure, sounds lovely!!
“Do you want a beer?”, she immediately asked.
“Oh, no thank you.”
“You don’t drink beer?”
“I.. I do, just not right now… I’m recovering from a cold.”
Off to a good start…
I made polite conversation and continued to sweat profusely as she sat on the porch with me, chain smoking and drinking a beer.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour, she said she’d show me to my room. Praise Jesus.
Trying to continue making conversation and also hint that I was hungry, I asked, “Did you already eat lunch?” To which she responded, “Oh, I don’t eat lunch.”
I must have looked like she had just slapped me across the face because she started saying she had some apples I could eat, or some bread and jam, or…
After eating three-course lunches every day in Italy, my stomach (not to mention my expectations) had definitely expanded. No lunch? I was surely going to die.
En route to my room, she showed me something I’ll have nightmares about for years to come… the kitchen.
OK, so I have a weird thing about dirty kitchens. Dirty dishes in the sink can set me off like no other. Ask my best friend and roommate, Rosemary. She knows.
But this kitchen was beyond a few dirty dishes in the sink. In fact, the sink and drying rack were so completely full of dirty dishes, she had started leaving them on the counter. There wasn’t a single spot on the counter free of dirty dishes!
Dirty dishes everywhere, the floor was filthy, the compost bin was overflowing. I wanted to scream. This was my nightmare.
Thankfully her back was turned when we entered because there was no chance my face concealed my absolute disgust.
After this, I was terrified to see my room. Luckily it was clean, especially since I was about to pass out due to sickness, heat stroke, and hunger.
She asked if I wanted to rest. I said yes, thank you, and hid in my room until dinner.
It was during these hours of hiding I had my first I WANT TO GO HOME freak out.
My friend, Kevin, said it perfectly, “travel is amazing, except when it’s not.”
Sometimes I don’t want to introduce myself to new people, to answer questions about myself, to ask questions about them. Sometimes I don’t want to get out there and hike or explore the city or wander. Sometimes I don’t want to fumble through my terribly rehearsed lines of whatever language is native to the country I’m in that week, only to completely screw it up and end up asking if they speak English, all for a cup of coffee, or to ask where the train station is. Sometimes I just want to be around people I’m used to, to have a routine. Sometimes I would like to be able to buy a newspaper or a book to read.
I let myself have the evening to wallow in my aloneness, in my self-pity, because don’t we all have those moments, even at home?
And the next morning, I woke up with a smile, made myself breakfast, and started the five-hour process of deep cleaning the crap out of that kitchen.
As I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, freeing it from God knows what kind of grime, I reminded myself I wanted this. I wanted to travel by myself because I wanted to push myself to my limits, to see what I was capable of, to test myself and to get to know myself better.
At this point, only a month into my six-month trip, I realized: I’m brave. I’m brave to be doing this in the first place, and I’m brave to continue doing it even after days like this.
So, when all I wanted to do was run far away from this new host and her dirty habits, I decided to be brave. I stayed, I cleaned, I asked her questions about her life and answered questions about mine. I let myself have a pity party and then I became the person I know I am: brave.