Giorraíonn beirt bóthar – Two people shorten the road.
This gem was given to me by a jolly old Irish woman as we travelled through winding roads and narrow slopes connecting Dubrovnik, Croatia to that of the only slightly sleepier town of Kotor, Montenegro. Both cities are like a blast from the past – old houses with sunburnt orange roofs and sandstone walls, passageways too narrow for any car and too steep for any bike to traverse; in both places, it’s truly a throwback to the 1600’s at times… minus the daisy dukes and plastic souvenirs replicated by every vendor in town.
As I talked with the woman, distancing myself farther from Dubrovnik by the minute, she said this gem to me as a reprieve – she gets car sick easily and enjoyed the conversation as a distraction from our journey. While I agree, even traveling by bus is enjoyable to me; I couldn’t get enough of the view. Traveling is one of a few things that let me fall deep into a meditative bliss; no place to be besides the moment, nothing in particular to do but experience the present.
Besides getting lost and confused occasionally with two 50 lb bags to lug around, I’ve been having a jolly good time. I can’t count on my two hands the number of fellow wayfarers that I met who share my passion for adventure; we understand that we are all just people crossing paths, content with the fragility of the friendship provided at these hostels. We are young and carefree. I have spent days with people, so caught up in the camaraderie that by this point I have already forgotten their names.
Even with that fragility of these things, there’s a permanence to it too; I already ran into people whom I had shared a room with in Dubrovnik in Old Town Kotor. It really can be a small world, sometimes.
And sure, not all of it is as glamorous as a postcard; tourist
congestion is bound to occur. In that case, just remember that you are a part of it, and even if the world is full of cheesy tourist attractions, history refuses to be trampled away. Culture will continue to seep through the cracks of what has been downtrodden by popularity. Yesterday in Kotor, I scaled some ancient castle ruins, visited a Catholic cathedral from the Middle Ages and had a beautiful beach dinner with women was staying with at the hostel. I had two short conversations in French. Then I sat down to a coffee shop to write this and to just, think for a couple of hours. That’s the great thing about traveling, you can just sit down and think.
Today I went zip lining over the second largest canyon in the world (the Grand Canyon takes the cake on size here). I went to Ostrog Monastery, a literal hole-in-the-wall structure wherein thousands make a pilgrimage each year. It was beyond beautiful, and situations amplified by the kinship with others I met on the road.
I may have gone alone, but I have never felt lonely. In just one week, I met the most intriguing people. A woman my age who started homeless tours in London, another who traversed the Philippines and India by herself, and a young man perpetually traveling the world (he’s on year two). The Irish woman I mentioned at the beginning? She went to Zimbabwe during the civil war and worked in Johannesburg during apartheid, sneaking in black patrons in a whites-only restaurant at risk of persecution. Even if you’re shy, don’t worry; no matter the personality type, language, race or religion, wayfarers will be the kindest people you’ve ever met.
I guess the gist of my explanation is this; wherever you go, you will always have company. And you will see great things. So go, even if you are afraid. Because everywhere you go, you will find one thing in common with someone, which becomes a conversation, which blossoms into a friendship. And in those in-between times, the moments of purgatory, as you battle car sickness, sleazy taxi drivers who overcharge you, wondering just why you ever took the expensive journey in the first place – Giorraíonn beirt bóthar. Two people shorten the road.
Because if you can make a friend, the world is no longer a stranger to you.