I didn’t write anything for a while surrounding my birthday last year; I spent it in Egypt, and when I landed in Hurghada I felt like I had escaped Istanbul in the same way I had escaped Johannesburg just a few months earlier.
I had spent the last few months in Istanbul barely scraping by, and the amount of money I made right before buying my plane ticket to Egypt was so small that, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have gone. But relative to what I had been pulling since the pandemic had started it seemed like a fortune, and I figured it was best to trade my expiring visa and somewhat existential dissatisfaction with my life in Istanbul and trade it for something warmer and cheaper.
I could go look, but I won’t. I don’t know for exactly how long I failed to write this weekly missive, but from somewhere starting in the middle of October until sometime in November I just felt paralyzed about putting anything I was experiencing into context. Getting to Egypt was simultaneously exhilirating and confusing, and though I felt it a little bit then, I’m sure now that this is the time when a lot of my real recovery – meaning from all of the trauma of lockdown in Johannesburg – began.
So. Let’s think back.
First, I want to think back to a hillside in Panama City, where I first met Rianne at a colorful, hodgepodge hostel. Is anywhere even like that anymore? That’s where we met each other, yes, but also Carolina and Oskar and Kat and Kev and Ollie all of these people that we still talk to from time to time.
And last year on my birthday I met…well. There are some legitimate assholes on that list.
And what I’m saying is like: what the fuck is going on out here? Is it the region I’m in? The pandemic?
Is it me?
Like, I feel like I’m not too far from the person who landed in Panama for basically no reason all those years ago, so why can’t I fucking stand most of the people out here right now?
What I’m trying to say is that, having Rianne in town was this stark reminder that this, meaning all of this: the traveling, the confidantes, the friends you make along the way, this all used to feel a lot different. And seeing her face and remembering what it used to feel like made me want to fucking forget all of this bullshit forever.
I have a few options here.
- I can go back to the states. There I will almost assuredly remember why I left, and though I romanticize things like hugging all my girlfriends and crossing beneath the transom of the Bar at the End of the Universe™, the United States, like a lot of English speaking countries, always feels fun until it doesn’t. Anyway, it’s this precise feeling of discontent that I hope to leverage into making my life feel exciting and cool again.
- I can apply for residency somewhere, and dig in for a while. This, actually, is probably a good idea: it would give me the chance to do things that I’ve seriously missed – like paint and sew – that just aren’t really feasible on the road. Plus, I have the “wall fantasy” so frequently these days, as in, I collect things to hang on a wall that I don’t have. I just got two more of these in Iraq to add to the increasingly weighty pile. I’ve also been lingering inside stores that sell rugs, so there you go.
- I could just be like, nah. Fuck that. I could just decide that I’m going through a phase, and I could hightail it to like 20 countries between now and February.
And if I chose the latter, I could crawl slowly back to the Ukraine from Romania during a month when I would have plenty of time to have a look around to see how long I might want to stay.
The first option has to happen at some point. I know. The question is just when. But it gets harder to answer when I have a friend coming from the states who can bring me things I need, like a SIM card and a phone and maybe a new laptop and jeans and…
It’s the middle one that seems the most tricky, because it’s not only a commitment to some version of this life, but also to a base. And put simply, the world is fucking big and I am fucking fickle.
A year seemed like an eternity when I left Cairo.
But here we are, having almost spanned that time, and it’s crazy because I’m not sure what happened in between. And while I don’t yet much care that I managed to turn 41, it seems like these years are flying by, and I don’t know if it’s because of the pandemic or my forties, but I just have to find a way to start packing more stuff in all of those days lest they all fly by, and feel like they never were.