It’s surreal how the written word can suddenly change your entire perspective on an experience, situation, position, or person.
‘Volite se ljudožderi’
I saw this phrase a number of times graffitied on walls and buildings across Croatia. After I returned home from that adventure I had a chance to look it up. It took me several tries since I was going off memory and I couldn’t recall the exact accent marks.
After a few google searches, I found that it was a relatively well-known phrase (and or lyrics- not entirely sure), credited to Croatian multi-talented artist, Toma Bebić who died in 1990. The phrase, in English, means ‘Love each other, Cannibals’, hence the last few post titles.
It’s been nearly four years since my time there. Why has it taken me so long to write about such an abnormal experience? In short, the last four years I have spent hiding away, only sharing what I want to share in the hopes that I won’t have to discuss the parts I am less than proud of.
I’m not proud of the way I was for a while there.
Upon finally deciding to write a little bit about this trip to submit for a workshop, the context in which I first noticed the phrase above got me thinking to where I am today, how I got here, what experiencing different cultures and places means to me.
In sixth grade my class was given an assignment: Given an unlimited budget and no time constraint, pick a country you’ve never travelled to and plan the entire trip from start to finish. Explain what you need to do to get a passport. Do you need vaccinations? What are some common phrases you should prepare to communicate? How much do the flights cost? What time of the year are you going to go and where are you flying out of? What about hotels and hostels? What are you going to see, eat, experience when you get there? It was a pretty big assignment worth 30% of our grade that term.
I was always a dreamer so this project gave me the opportunity to really shine. I went all out and earned the highest grade in our class on the project. This feat was quite exceptional for me since I was a very average student who could be inspired to do pretty adequate work.
As far as I’m concerned, this project was my first international solo-trip.
I think I was predisposed to having a passion for travel, being the granddaughter of immigrants on my mother’s side, and the daughter of two very independent individuals who had also seen a bit of the world.
Travel and learning is my favourite relationship. The experience of a new place, culture, food, language, or activity gives a much deeper understanding than just by learning it in class. I see the opportunity to travel or to see any new place is the opportunity to learn. The opportunity to learn, I believe, is the reason to live. It is the reason we live. The human race probably would have ceased to exist had we not learned things like what not to eat, proper hygiene and social cues.
As far-fetched or cliche it might sound, I look at travel in a very similar way. Travel teaches adaptability, flexibility, communication, how to be alone, how to be with people and independence. The skills and ideas learned while travelling help make life more enjoyable to live.
“Love each other, cannibals,” to me, means, “Humans can and will do terrible things to each other. Stop killing your own kind and love instead,”. Travel permits us to enter a world of understanding we might not have previously been able to conceive. Preconceived notions almost got the better of my travel companion and I in Bosnia, assuming that because Muslim citizens were a primary target during the Bosnian War, we might experience difficulties, racial slurs, insensitivity. In reality, once we arrived at our final destination in Bosnia (we did arrive eventually), we were greeted by the kindest and most gracious people either of us had met on the entire trip.
Sure, we can learn in a book or on Wikipedia about the Bosnian War and let our minds race to conclusions, or, we can develop a deeper understanding of the causes and results of such an event by experiencing the country and talking to the people who lived through it. We can type in our destination on a GPS or google maps and get to our destination with few problems, or, we can get a more enriched learning experience by taking the road less travelled and getting a little lost. We concern ourselves so much today with things we see on a screen, our phones, tablets, computers, that we sometimes forget to put them down and push aside what we’ve read or heard or seen and allow ourselves into an experience free of judgement or bias.
Brought to you by: Daily Prompt: Suddenly