Wherewolfe in Europe
So I bought a notebook...
I am in Paris today and yesterday and I am in search of a culture or identity to grasp hold of. What will I write down, document in another manner or experience on my own? I fear to be alone completely and I do not listen to music here for fear of being further alienated.
I have a game that I play where I am on the Métro and I can spot every American. I know the look; I am the look. I am an outsider. This is a game, yet I continue to play and flirt with this ideology.
Nothing is wrong, I am not wrong, Luke says to me today when we (including his friend David) speak about learning language and every language. You have an idea and you must go for it. Be clear and precise and show your idea. In essence, streamline communication into these ideas and responses. Let's have a conversation.
Journeys are useful and Luke commends me for mine. He is also alone and alien here, but he has many advantages over me as an excited student of France. "You realize your dream in Paris, and you make it a reality in New York." Maybe.
I feel like I am alone again, and it's haunting me tonight. I can't sleep and it's 4:30AM, soon to be my last day in Paris and I don't know where we will be sleeping tomorrow night. But that's not what's keeping me awake. It's anxiousness, not real anxiety, but some sort of fear to take the next step.
My real journey starts on Thursday when we head to Antwerp, a city where I know no one but my trusty travel companions. Yes they are trusty so the fear is not with them, but with a universal loneliness.
I am staying overnight in a gas station. We have a safe place to stay that is warm, not bad, they say, 24-hour security in actuality. I am charging my computer so we can have music or maybe I can play solitaire or something. I wish there were internet so I could Skype maybe.
I am hearing harsh French but I'm not scared. I know I will get through all of this and have greater tolerance and stamina, stretching my limits.
Business and nonbusiness have taken a hold of me this weekend. The last time I was online was the moment we got to Wannes' house on Friday eve for about five minutes, just enough time to write quick notes to people I needed to write back to.
I have now been officially gone for two weeks, the longest time I've ever departed New York since I moved away from home when I was 18. I am not lonely, I am not homesick, nor am I sad to be away. I am loving every experience handed to me, and indefinitely.
What this says about me, I'm not so sure. I am curious, so let me be inquisitive about the world and all who encompass it. I can see everything if I want to or I can worry about how illogical this all is.
Yesterday, when I was dancing with Aurora at the Heron Festival (trance festival near Antwerp, Belgium), I asked myself, how am I doing all of this? I am dancing with my friend and meeting all of these great people, and I'm thousands of miles away from home; not to mention everyone speaking a language that is completely alien to me. Every time I am in a circle of friends I just look wide-eyed at everyone, trying to determine an idea or thesis that they are maintaining, usually falling short. Sometimes I'll hear "Macbook" or "Ben & Jerry's" then I get a subject, but reading this language seems near impossible, so we are lost in Dutch.
Nearly everyone speaks English so I can easily understand things when my own native tongue is spoken. However, such a language barrier incites misunderstandings, really simple ones actually.
I use the word annoying and such offense is taken because of blatant negativity. I met someone named Ingo who wanted my attention and he noticed my inherent honesty, perhaps that is the quality especially admired.
I appreciated it and I have enjoyed their circle, which reminds me so much of Portland, OR. Even the weather; mild, gray and rainy all year long. I miss Alnie.
My plans right now are to go to London next weekend and plan further escapades from there. Money is tight but I am here and I am doing this, not questioning myself anymore.
I have to "go out and see Europe," but this is a journey no matter where I am. I lose myself, get scared, land on my feet, then repeat.
I haven't taken my video camera anywhere. For some reason this trip is just about writing, recording with my own eyes; I cannot rely on someone else's eyes. Whatever I observe I try to write down, though there is a delay since I cannot always take my notebook out to jot something down. Here goes nothing.
Harrogate is passing me by outside the window on this nine hour journey to Newcastle. I see a man with a cob pipe sitting at a bus station, looking austerely at me. There is much greenery because of the rain, Paul tells me.
I just ate some sea salt and balsamic vinegar chips. The British are really good at chips, so many flavors, so pungent.
The green is so bright, older couples walk hand in hand through the field. I've seen horses, cows and sheep in the pastures, farmhouses sprinkled along the way.
I keep telling myself how I am going to be more organized next time. I will, I promise.
Right now I am in Cramond Village in suburban Edinburgh at the beach where there is much forest. I climbed up a tree and I feel very relaxed. I'm not overwhelmed by this place, in fact I am politely content.
I feel a little stressed about finding couches because it is festival season but it is difficult writing these requests day in and day out. It exhausts me, CouchSurfing is real work. But I will land on my feet again because I have this bizarre good luck following me.
I am feeling lackadaisical, swearing to myself that this was part of it all. I am feeling good, happy, content, ready, wondering, all the feelings you should have on an unchartered course.
Let's not take ourselves so seriously and take a deep breath when we need it.
The Meaning of Life
As I wrote before, I notice the little details, the mannerisms, the looks people give, the tone. I get it: I am sensible and can see and hear things that others barely notice.
All this 'I' talk is rather disconcerting, you can note that, yes. Walking across the city was great and I plan to do it again.
Next time I'll be easier on you, I say to myself. I am transient, yes transient. Graham would laugh at that statement and I am not judgmental. I am transient as I told everyone in late April as my ideas for attempted travel solidified.
I think about Gary with this entry. He and I are so similar, but he uses magic and I use this skills set that Kai so values about me. It's not work hard, play hard, ha! It's work hard, take pride in that, know your efforts are meaningful, useful.
I am bridging the gap between solitude and social darwinism in some way. I want to sit this one out, stop riding it out, and watch them struggle. What was the name of Dan's game again?
I am in Glasgow today in a very good mood, upbeat and excited for the unknown. I had a great time and the BBQ last night and it makes me sad to leave.
We are now in St. Mungo Cathedral, where I am blown away each step I take. The stained glass is so vibrant and some live organ music just started playing. In the lower part of the church there are a dozen chapels and with their own interesting mantle. The skull and bones styled chapel reminds me of the religious life exhibit in the museum that we just saw, comparing death and afterlife in various religions.
On the bus ride back to Edinburgh I took a nap, which was a mistake after my long BBQ but I eventually made it to Philip's place. The more I think about these CouchSurfing experiences the more I am grateful to be able to go on this trip, to meet these people, to know that this can exist, and I can do it. I have visited 7 cities, CouchSurfed in 5 of them (not counting Marc's "unofficial" guest room in Newcastle), met loads of people that I have promised will meet again. I am going to keep that promise.
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Nancy Wolfe is a regular contributor to Turntable & Blue Light and has written on music and traveling.