I’ve been in the Balkans damn near a couple of months now, and I’ve made it as far as Belgrade. I breezed through Montenegro so fast you’d barely know I’d ever been there. And now I’m like. Fuck. Did I get this traveling thing all wrong?
Back when I first got to Skopje, I had this overwhelming feeling that everywhere new I went, I woke up a little bit more. But this place hits different.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think a lot of it has to do with the specific place I’m staying: it’s way too small to comfortably accommodate as many people as are staying here, and there’s a distinct culture here that’s palpably masculine. Like. Look, I can’t put my finger on all of it yet.
And there’s just not near enough room to work.
There’s this gorgeous garden outside, and I imagine that during the summer all the folks staying here that don’t have much to do simply spill into the outdoors for meals and chats, while inside the ‘digital nomads’ are chained to their laptops, bound by the distance from an outlet.
But now is just not that time: it’s bitterly fucking cold here, at least to my precious blood that has thinned so much my last couple of weeks in Montenegro and Albania where I would lounge about on the second floor patio in my pajama shorts and a t-shirt reading the New Yorker and smoking too many cigarettes.
But I’m fucking devastated to have arrived and, with the mystery of this place lifted, feeling the bitter pang of knowing that I’m the only one who decided to leave Tirana: I could have just as easily stayed.
I could have stayed with my cool gaggle of international and age-appropriate girlfriends that actually have something to do during the day, and so, like a little laptopped gang, we’d sit in a sunlit-dappled lounge during the day working until 6 or 7 when we’d break to get out for a bit before the 8 o’clock curfew.
I miss this. And I I’m not saying it doesn’t exist here, but it really doesn’t feel like it. And I know part of it is comparing a single place in Belgrade and a single place in Tirana and judging Albania against Serbia because of it, but so far, this is my Serbia.
And it’s hard not to be regretful when my girlfriends are still in my inbox saying they miss me and posting photos I wish I was in.
Maybe I’m just too nostalgic today.