Monday, October 20, 2014

The World Feels Like Home

"The best part about leaving your heart in different places?
Everywhere feels like home."

I read this phrase in a buzzfeed article about wanderlust that my best friend sent me. I had just woken up (finally able to sleep in after dealing with a bout of lingering jetleg and sickness) and was casually reading the article, silently agreeing with basically everything, until I read the last bit and jumped out of bed inspired, all thoughts of sleepiness banished as I rushed through my morning routine so I could sneak in a few moments of writing before I had to go.

That phrase was it. The perfect summation of my travels–this weird feeling of belonging in places I'd never been. I felt it everywhere I visited but it was particularly strong in Budapest.

Each time I travel, I feel like I collect a new place to ache for later–like little pieces of me are strewn over the world, lining the walls of the Vatican and Montmartre and the canals in Venice–a small sacrifice as I fall in love with the city. Whatever I've left, I've gotten something new and different back. I take a little bit of the place and the people with me, more than memories, that become a part of my soul and burn with a desire to return. Like I've become a collage, reflecting pieces of the places I've been and people I've met, and I feel them in the little pangs of longing I get when looking back through my photos or read about one of the places I've been.

All these places I've lost myself to and people I've shared secrets with have changed me, slowly and subtly, bit by bit. For better or worse, I am very different than the person who first stepped off the plane in Paris only over a year and a half ago.

Despite my intentions in the beginning, I have become a nomad without a place I truly call home. My parents certainly serve as a wonderful base, and being with friends and family in Kansas feels as close to home as I've been in a long time. I keep waiting for my lack of center to become exhausting–someone can only be on the road for so long, but instead I feel free. I have learned to be at home everywhere I go. Anywhere can be my home.

Never was that feeling more clear to me than my most recent trip. Getting off the plane and exploring a new area in Europe felt welcome and easy, like slipping on a my favorite pair of shoes. It just fit. The newness is, in itself, comforting to me. It's what I know and what I'm use to.

Nowhere in Ireland did I feel more of a sense of overwhelming rightness than in Dingle. It is the beautiful town–just bustling enough with tourists that it can't rightly be called quaint or sleepy but still retaining a distinct small-town vibe, as though it's still surprised to find itself so full of people. About every other building lining the street was a pub (of course, it's Ireland), but between them sat wonderful oddities like the Violin & Gardening & Restaurant & Toy Store and a store that sold "nontraditional" wool items (If you can imagine it, they probably had it). And the town was full of those winding side alleys that I love so very much, covered in ivy and overhanging signs for hostels, beer and espressos, the likes of which can only really be found in Europe.

For me, Ireland felt like this wonderful echo of New Zealand, both having sweeping pastoral landscapes of rolling hills and sheep but each with a distinct twist. Neither were identical but both showing the kind of beauty that comes easily with an abundance of green though Ireland's landscape was often interrupted with stunning shows of geology and archeology like the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant's Causeway and Newgrange. Both were places I was fortunate enough to get to see almost all of however briefly, touring around the whole country and seeing it all in beautiful, broad strokes.

Prague and Budapest were different animals all together. Seeping in history, the castles, government buildings and churches dominate the view of both cities. During the day these buildings share the glory with all the small buildings that frame them, but at night they quite literally outshine everything else. Walking the Charles Bridge in Prague and the Margit Hid in Budapest provide some of the most
Pictures really can't do it justice.
stunning views of the cityscape.

I don't always know the moment I fall in love with a place, but I certainly did in Budapest though it built over several days. Finally coming to a head whilst seeing the buildings bathed in an yellow-orange glow, glittering in the distance and feeling the bustling city move all around,  I all at once lost my heart to the city and breathed in its energy to carry with me.

It truly was a wonderful city that managed to feel both young and ancestral simultaneously. It felt like a place growing into something new and grand with its feet firmly planted in a storied history. The ruin bars are the places that seems to demonstrate this feeling the best. Set in old buildings brimming with character: the bricks and crumbling plaster can just be seen through the layers of graffiti and eclectic art pieces hung on the walls. The youthful buzz of a bar juxtaposes the physical space that feels as though it has stood through the annals of time. It certainly was one of the more unique places I've visited and probably one of the coolest bars too.

Pretty swanky Parliament Building. 
And speaking of unique places, I have to apologize to anyone I spammed with semi-incoherent snapchats from the Labyrinthine in Budapest. In my defense, I was acting out of abject terror. Allow me to explain. Rather than going through another series of castles and museums on Castle Hill in Budapest, I decided to seek out the less common experiences. Instead, I went to the Hospital in a Rock, followed by the Labyrinthine.

The Labyrinthine started out bizarre and rapidly turned terrifying. Underneath the Castle Hill is a series of natural, underground caves. For a small price, you can walk through parts of them, and it is quite possibly the strangest thing I have ever done. I ended up recording videos, but before you watch them, some background information is necessary.

I walked down the stairs into the caves being followed by the older woman, probably in her early seventies. We entered the main cave at about the same time. There is literally no one else around. Intense opera music starts building as I walk deeper into the caves. All the while behind me, I can hear the steady thudding of her cane and shuffling of her feet. All around are these wax depictions of various opera scenes.
Are they supposed to look like they're in prison?
Peppering the walls are various sizes of stones that have labels like "door frame" or "table." Why were there depictions of the opera and giant stones everywhere? Your guess is as good as mine.

While this is all very weird, none of it was really very scary. Until I had to pick between two directions, blue light or orange light...? I picked blue. NEVER pick blue.

The woman behind me also picked blue. Though her steady thumping lent a slightly ominous background noise to the weirdly intense opera music, I was none the less grateful for her company. Right until she vanishes. She didn't stop walking. She didn't turn around. She was just gone. I went back to look for her and make sure she was all right, but as far as I could tell she'd been totally swallowed into the blue light. That was when I noticed the sign that I was entering "Dracula's lair" and saw what I can only assume is meant to be Dracula's empty throne.

Keep in mind it's only this light because of the flash on my camera. 

I keep walking, hearing the music slowly change from opera to just flat out scary horror movie soundtrack.


Undeterred, I keep walking into the misty blue light.

The video stops there because I may or may not have dropped my camera in terror at the sight I beheld around the corner.

But can you blame me?? Seriously! And not only was this waiting for me around the corner but this area is a dead end, so I have to turn my back to the decapitated heads and walk back through that blue light. (The woman behind me seems unimpressed.)

The horror music then begins to give way to equally frightening monastic music. 

(Mom) I am sorry about the bad language. I was too scared to hold it all back. Ha.

Despite the bout with unadulterated terror, I felt connected to Budapest in a way I've only connected with one other city: Venice. I felt connected with them on a subconscious level. I rarely needed to check a map; I just knew where I was supposed to go. Outside of the language, nothing felt foreign. Everything was, for those few days I was there, exactly as it should be. I suppose if I believed in past lives, I would say I lived there at least once before. It just made sense in a way that almost no other place does. I really can't explain it better than that.

In light of all my reflections on losing myself to a new city and taking something in return, I am brought back to the poem that lends itself to the title of my blog. One of the reasons I love poetry is that it can take on so many different meanings. I picked that poem because of what it means to me, but now, given how I carry my experiences, I have to think of it in a different light and have to feel the title of my blog is more accurate than ever.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings

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