It’s not often that your perspective on life changes past university age. Even during my masters I was becoming rather stubborn and un-agreeable – a trait that I’m sure my parents would say that I was born with. However, it is only my first day in Romania and I’ve started to get a strange feeling inside, and it isn’t from all the meat that I’ve been eating.
We’ve all heard that we should regularly do things that take us out of our comfort zone, well, to me, that comfort zone was pretty much western Europe. I’m shameful, I know. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone to Australia and Tanzania before, but going on safari with a company (although brilliant) doesn’t foster the same connection as going yourself. And Australia is just a funnier version of the UK where no one is bitter about being stuck on a freezing cold island.
As the border to Romania drew ever closer I started to tell more and more jokes. Not the kind that get a laugh, but more the kind that come from being incredibly anxious and make you look like a bumbling idiot. This wasn’t helped by the long line of traffic whilst sat in the car, but I can’t blame my fear of flying on Romania – even if there were moments….
I would like to say that I have no idea why I had such a bad feeling approaching the Romanian border, but I know exactly what it was. I’m pretty sure you know as well. Although us educated types like to say that the news has no effect on us and we are above such matters, there is always something that gets through. This, I think, was one of the negative stereotypes that had been inside for some time. I had never met or talked to a Romanian, at least for more than in passing, and therefore it was purely news based.
We eventually got to the check-point where they checked us and pointed for us to go and that was it. There must be more than this, I thought. A shakedown at the very least. After all of my worrying how dare they at least not insult my heritage or say something in Romanian that I could assume to be derogatory. A pat down would have sufficed. But no, nothing.
We continue on and drive along great motorways. Mile after mile of pristine driving conditions in endless sunshine. How dare they.
We finally reached Timisoara and by this point I was mid-transformation back into a rationale human-being, as opposed to simply regurgitating news items from the 90s. It is honestly one of the prettiest places I’ve been to. Within the space of around 6 hours I had gone from being a parody of colonial England, with all self-righteousness that comes with it, to a human among other humans.
The bit that makes this whole experience even more of a sucker punch to any of the previously harboured feelings was that no one cared. And why would they? My transformation was carried out amongst the backdrop of people just doing normal things. There was no big event, it was a non-event for them. Ask anyone in Timisoara and Im sure they wont remember me, with the exception of the man who sold me ice-cream…apparently I don’t have a talent for Romanian.
The fact that this sickness was purged by people just being normal made it slightly harder to take. Not that I didn’t want to change immediately, I mean that it is hard to accept that a view that had been held for so long was so out of touch.
This is what they mean by breaking someone down to build them back up again. This is what is meant by travel opening your eyes. It is not some liberal wishy-washy experience where we all hold hands and have some out-of-body experience with a man named Raul around a campfire – although if you did then please tell me more about it. Travel doesn’t open your eyes in a calm and gentle sense. It pulls your eyelids wide and tells you you’re a bloody idiot.
I’m slowly filling up the void that was left behind with much more than was left behind, what gets put there depends on what happens next. We are only one day into Romania and I have so much to thank it for…and, if that can happen to me now, when I was pretty sure that i’d never change, what else do I have to improve?