I started this post last week. We spent 4 nights and 3 days on the island Olchon in Lake Baikal. I wanted to write a series of posts that I could then autopost once I had Internet again. But I was simultaneously writing my next two articles for my Chasing Summer column, and I ran out of battery, so I only managed to get the following 2 paragraphs written:
My friends are awesome. When my status update on Facebook was merely “Chelyabinsk” I got two reactions: one was the title of this post, and the other “xyctzusbsjnj! See I can punch the keyboard too!” Followed by “Just joking, how is Russia?” When I read comments like that I always feel a pang of homesickness. I miss my friends, both the ones that are in both my homes, (Newfoundland and Germany) as well as the ones scattered around the world.
It is what I call part of the curse of travel. As fantastic as it is, you are never completely happy in any one place again. I will be in downtown Stuttgart missing Suzanne, at my favorite coffee shop in St. John’s and wish Caroline or Aimee could be there, and then in the middle of Siberia wishing I could introduce Anna to Daniela or Erisa. Travel has brought so many wonderful people into my life, I get greedy and want to keep them!
My next intention was to finish this in Irkutsk, where we planned to stay overnight and get our Russian registration completed for our second entry into Russia. When I logged into my email I got horrific news. One of my dear friends had been run over by a drunk on a motorcycle in South East Asia. She was there working on her Masters. She is simply a wonderful and fantastic person. Horrible things happen to good people all the time. But when it happens to someone you love, you forget the randomness of nature and try to figure out how it could happen to someone the world needs. She is a fighter though, and we believe that though the call was close, she will pull through. But until she does it is a horrible waiting game.
It also brought home to me how fragile life is. When I first heard the injuries I thought she had been riding a bike without protection. But there is no protection when you are the pedestrian. But it is not that I am saying protection would have kept her from getting hurt, life is dangerous. Just breathing is dangerous. Pollutants in the air could be causing the cells in your body to randomly turn against you, how many of us have lost loved ones to cancer mere months after discovering it was there? When horrible things happen I can only think that we need to take each day for the precious gift it is, because we truly have no idea how long we have.
It also makes me appreciate all the wonderful people in my life, and how lucky I am to have the family I do and the friends I have. We get to make the life we live, no one else. It can all change so fast, and reminds me that settling for “now” will not change your future, because you might not get the chance to change things at a later point. It does not have to be a world trip, or any trip, it could just be quitting your job to start something less financially secure, but much more life giving, but everyday should be seen as a gift, to embrace, or to treat as a challenge to make tomorrow better.
To finish what I had started, I had wanted to write about visiting Anna, another one of these people who when you meet them you just think “wow”. We met Anna through Couch Surfing, and I will not go into significant detail at the moment, as I did write an article about it that may or may not make it online, but meeting her was the highlight of Chelyabinsk. I think without her our memories of her city would have been of a rather drab town with a fairly ok city center.
But that is the beauty of not just Anna, but couch surfing in general. You get to see all the things it might take you weeks to years to learn about otherwise. Checking out the local Friday night impromptu salsa session:
Learning to cook peroshkie’s from her mother (a retired engineer who use to work in the Soviet era on top secret tank designs):
Even if she did openly mock the results of my efforts:
Guess which one is mine:
And of course the opportunity to speak with Anna herself, share her passion for travel and food, and her love for Istanbul.
Meeting people is always a highlight of any trip, and couch surfing is a fantastic way to meet great people. Anyone thinking about it, I can only give it my whole hearted recommendation. We will see how the rest of the world trip turns out. Changes are already in the plans. But then a trip should be about adapting to change.
The important thing for me however is that I do this trip the way I want to. On a bike every day you take your chances. But then so does everyone. Staying home does not keep you safe. But what travel does, in letting you meet all the wonderful new people, it also reminds you of the wonderful people back home, and how great it is to see them again.