I posited a while ago that traveling in the Balkans is like a Kibbutz, because you see the same people everywhere, and you’re required to make these extreme bonds with people in order to survive the constant barrage of anti-vaxxers, rapists, and (mostly American) violent men. A couple times while I was there I gave it another name, but it became very clear how accurate it was after I was gone.
A kind of hindsight is 20/20 type of thing.
Because as soon as I got to Georgia and messaged my pals back in the Balkans, the notion of it being like a rollercoaster came into vivid clarity.
‘Cause you see, while you’re on it, it feels normal. After a while you’re steeled to the extreme highs and lows, the exhilarating bonds you engender and the literally terrifying encounters. And within it you find a few pockets of peace and beauty that you covet beyond anything else.
And then a dude gets murdered.
But for real, the highs are so goddamn high that, trust me, you’ll miss them when you leave.
Or maybe you won’t. But I did.
“It’s weird to be off the Balkans rollercoaster,” I texted Nalini in my inaugural hours in Tbilisi. And it was. There was, suddenly, no one chasing me anymore: gone was the feeling of constantly looking over your shoulder, worried about what terrible man was going to check in next.
But also gone was the female camaraderie, the sisters that I had made, the friends that kept me sane.
And the next few months were, at times fine, and at other times felt like my life was deteriorating into something unrecognizable, and I wondered who I was without these women.
So I bought a plane ticket.
I leave on Friday.
As always, it’s been real as hell, Istanbul. Thanks again.