Introduction (Before it all started)

INTRODUCTION (JUST BEFORE IT ALL STARTED)

 

Travelling abroad has long been something I really wanted to do. For a number of reasons… First off, I have a strong belief that every person in this world needs to get around and explore the world. There is a German expression that comes to mind when we start elaborating on the educational value of travelling. It is “Reisen bildet” which means “Travel broadens the mind”… There’s no doubt about that really… But to me it’s not education in the classical sense, not the one that we can get at schools (for free if we’re smart and lucky enough to get into a nice school). It’s not education that makes one put an all-nighter and slave at books… There’s no need to sit exams and impatiently waiting for the results to come in… It’s not an obligation after all… A university education can potentially open up our eyes to the world and open the door into this vibrant world to us… But, likewise, it might not… Much depends on how one’s life works out… But travelling, which is to me a complementary form of education, does wonders for people… It makes you feel, see, hear… All of the things a healthy person can do at birth but… DIFFERENTLY… It can make you feel, see, hear in such a new, intense way that you may end up feeling you weren’t able to feel, see and hear before…

Ok, this is how I felt about travelling and the role it played in an ordinary human life. The bottom line is that I reckon one’s life ceases to be ordinary after they cross the border… And what’s across the border? This question got me wondering since I was a young kid. There’s this thing about growing up in this country. I guess it all goes back to the times when there was the so-called “iron curtain” when people were not free to get around. I don’t know exactly how people of other countries felt about this obviously dramatic situation but in this country even people like me who don’t have the memory of the iron curtain were born with the lasting notion that there’s something completely different, new, vibrant right across the border. I have to admit that somewhere in the back of my young mind I thought even the air abroad was different from ours… It might sound like a really stupid thing to assume as the air is not geographically confined… It is something that we all share… But what is truly different is its quality… We naturally find it easier to breathe in the countryside than we do in a sprawling city… It’s the same thing with life… It’s a gift we are all granted at birth but we all choose or have to use this gift differently… Some mess it up while others make the best of it… Sure, there’s a multitude of ways to live your life…

So, growing up I knew for sure there was something different somewhere outside this country where I was born… I had no clue whether I would ever get to feel, see, hear it… Or would it just stay a sort of a forbidden fruit I’d never have the privilege of tasting? Yes, here it is considered a privilege to go to another country… Well, there’s traditionally a list of countries that few people would like to go to… But Europe and America have always been a sweet paradise to us… I know this might seem like a very limited and foolish view… I guess it is the media that do a wonderful job giving us the impression people are more well-off in these regions of the world… This is what lures hoards of people into this heaven on earth… But the sad truth is that life is not that easy and the media often turn out to be highly biased and tend to twist the facts to suit their political agendas… It is up to the way one feels, sees and hears to make the right assumption and hence read between the lines or see beyond the screen (reading declines in popularity so this newly coined expression to me best describes this ability)…

So how do we think of things that are brand new and things we might never get to experience? They are all like a part of a FAIRYTALE… The one that ignited our imagination, nurtured a DREAM and took us far, far away (to what seemed a different country even if it was a classical Russian fairytale)… It’s something that we used to be read to sleep as we were lying tucked in warm nice beds of ours… It’s something that had the voice of that someone so close, so dear (one is so lucky if they have a person like that reading sweet fairytales to them)… And what if it is the right way to learn to feel, see, hear differently? I mean as sweet and tempting as a fairytale is, it’s even sweeter to be secure in the knowledge there’s that person or people who used to read to you to sleep now waiting for you to go back from this fairytale (it might eventually not turn out to be a fairytale) … It’s just a thought… I’ll be coming back to that later in my story which kicks off as soon as I set on my trip to a fairytale (or what might not turn out to be one)…

So after I had all these fairytales lovingly read to me and had my inflamed mind take me incredibly far away, how could I know I would ever find myself in a fairytale and have my innermost dreams ever come true? Eventually one of such dreams I wanted to see become real was seeing what was across the border and learning how to feel, see, and hear differently (well, I might have to learn to breathe differently as you remember I was on a mission to try whether the air abroad was different)…

I chose to pursue a career in foreign languages which obviously could be of help if I ever got a chance to go abroad. Basically my job is to teach others to use a foreign language in their daily life and make the best of all the opportunities it offers. Anyway, that’s what I’d like the ultimate goal of a teacher of a foreign language to be… So since I got into the University I knew I was compelled to develop a burning passion for travelling and was yearning to see more of the world. Actually my daily routine (almost my whole life really, except that incredibly brief trip to Moscow I was on when I was 11) was confined to the area between the place where I was born and the place where I moved to study. That was not the geographical scope of life I was dreaming of… My feelings, my vision, my hearing were longing to be enhanced, become more acute by what I thought could be the most amazing experience in my life.

Well, I AM a dreamer (I don’t even need people telling me this time and time again) and a part of me still childishly believed in fairytales and I sought to find out how much the media twisted the facts (both positive and negative). At that point I was educated enough to realize people abroad were not all naturally more well-off and had their problems to deal with. What I wanted to see is how different these problems were and how differently they were dealt with…

I was desperate for a breath of fresh air and wanted to get a taste of an education I was talking about in the beginning. I know too well that a University degree does not suffice to make a person really sophisticated and open their eyes to the world beyond. I had a physical and mental feeling it was not enough for me anyway… So it all came down to whether I ever got a chance to experience the diversity of the world…

Fairytales like that are not for free and one needs money to buy them a ticket to see what’s across the border. Sometimes I get way too pessimistic about life (is it about Russian people generally having a grim outlook on life?) and thought I might have to face the fact I might never get to live this dream of mine… I knew there are fairytale-like things life within the borders has to offer but I set my mind on travelling and wouldn’t let go of my dream…

I remember getting terribly jealous of people who were on a magic trip abroad… Some of them didn’t really care, I mean it wasn’t even a dream come true for them – they just wanted to have fun and perhaps show off and say they had money to spend… I mean they weren’t even transformed by this experience… Did they really learn how to feel, see, and hear in a different way? Or was it possible at all or was it just something I imagined in my dreamy mind? Well, there certainly was something magical about abroad that kept almost all people I know who had a ‘privilege’ (as I still think it is) of travelling abroad coming back for more… Whenever I asked them to tell me more about their trip(s), all of them struggled for words to describe it and there was something about the way they spoke, some glitter in their eyes that got me thinking there might be no words to describe these overflowing emotions so all I could do was get away and feel, see, and hear it all for myself… At least not all of these people were dreamers like me so there was a huge motivation for me to travel… Besides, there was no iron curtain to keep me from getting out of the country… Well, let’s admit which is in itself a dream for lots of Russians….

So here I was, really determined to go on a trip abroad. I knew I was going to book it with the money I’d earned myself without asking my parents to give me some extra money I lacked. Besides having my dream come true, going abroad with my own money would give me a huge confidence boost. It just makes all hard work and effort more worthwhile, not just something you have to do to survive. The time of anticipation of the fairytale is probably the longest but the sweetest. Whenever I felt down and drained, I looked into some trips on the website of the tourist company a person I know working for a tourist agency recommended. In an odd way all these tempting alluring descriptions of trips to different countries of Europe drew such bright, colorful, stunning pictures in my mind that I couldn’t wait to hit the road…. Other than that, it seemed to give my life a huge purpose…. At some point it really turned into an obsession, I could go on and on about my future trip and all the things I would be seeing and experiencing…

Choosing places to go to is next toughest thing after earning money…I heard lots of positive reviews of coach trips. It’s a relatively safe and comfortable way of travelling which offers a good value for money. It is reassuring to know that in order to get the privilege of travelling one does not have to be rich anymore. So fairytales and new countries are so much easier to reach and discover. As I said, after I chose the trip that looked interesting and affordable, my imagination ran wild. Virtually not a day went by that I didn’t fantasize of what it would be like to find myself in a completely different country. What will I be feeling physically and emotionally as I will be walking the streets of the cities I previously saw only on TV? The anticipation took over my mind completely. If I had the time, I think I would sit down and write a book about the trip I hadn’t even been on….

After the trip was booked and paid for, I got a quirky feeling that there was no way back and there was no changing my mind… Why would a person in their right mind be thinking like that, working hard towards his goal and then getting doubts about whether it was a right thing to do at all? I guess it was because the dream was so massive and so unlikely to ever come true (so I believed) and I relished so much just fantasizing about it that when it was actually to come true, it ceased to be a fairytale and became a plan. But I absolutely loved this plan and was hoping nothing would stand in the way of me staying true to it. It was a massively beautiful plan that really made me not care at all about some stupid and small things and people in my life. I was proud of myself for actually going along with my dream and not giving up on it despite of being told how dangerous it might be to go to a different country. There are certain risks involved in getting any dream come true really. But the biggest risk for me was that I might get disappointed with my trip and maybe I was mistaken when I thought that was the glitter in the eyes of the people who had travelled abroad? Or maybe it’s just a thing with every dream that it’s much sweeter as something you fantasize about than something that is true?

As I was just a couple of days away, I started getting really panicky. I hate packing even though I know it’s an indispensable (and the least fun) part of travelling. I was sitting staring at my suitcase having no clue how on earth I was going to pack all the stuff I wanted to take with me. I knew that all the things I would finally squeeze and force into my suitcase would be a part of this dream and will always remind me of this trip and my big dream for many years to come. At that point I got really sentimental. The thought of me being away from this country gave me a chill (?). What will be happening here as I will be away? All these questions and doubts kept bugging me. I guess it’s all part of our love-hate relationship with our country. We want to get away and afraid we’re going to be missing it after we do…

I knew that just in a couple of days I was going to see it all for myself. It’s actually a hard task trying to put this feeling into words. It’s like finally getting to meet your dream man, the one you’ve been longing to see which you thought would change your life forever. But as soon as you realize it’s just a human, you might be afraid of actually facing him. What if he turns out to be just a man but not the one you’ve been dreaming about? What if this date turns out to be a complete disaster with all your dreams come crashing down? Well, it wasn’t my idea of a perfect date anyway as I was paying for it all by myself and it wasn’t my dream man (countries in this case) wanting to see me, I was the one who wanted to go and see them. I had two options anyway – either I get utterly disappointed and find myself something else to dream about (I’m a dreamer so I shouldn’t have any problems with that) or I fall in love like mad and will be devastated as I know this date won’t last long and will have to wait and hope for another chance to go there again)…

Ok, I was all set to go, all my things packed. Needless to say, deciding on the wardrobe was the hardest thing to do as even though I knew my dream countries wouldn’t give a toss about the way I would look, I wanted to look my best (or as good as my suitcase will allow me to). I was hoping I wouldn’t leave anything behind because I wanted it to be a perfect fairytale and was ready to forget about the world I used to know and make a memory… Ok, I made sure I had taken my contact lenses (I was ready to see differently). Feeling and hearing shouldn’t be a problem either. I was wondering – will I be the same again? Is the air going to be different? Bon voyage to me anyway!

Author: Olga

An English teacher and translator, a keen traveller

17 thoughts on “Introduction (Before it all started)”

  1. Very interesting) I remember my thoughts before my first trip abroad) I felt it was going to be life changing…and it was. Very happy that you had a chance to see the world, now choose more routes and explore !

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my first post! I’m new to the blogging scene and felt a bit nervous publishing my writing piece. But I felt that my first travelling experience was a perfect topic to start with. I remember Valentina Vladimirovna Chugunova (the teacher I absolutely love) telling me that I should be a writer. At this point of my life I feel like it is something I have a passion for and would love to do at least in my free time.
      I’m happy you liked this piece) There will be more to come as I’ll be writing specifically about the cities and places I got to see during the course of my trip)

      1. You are welcome. I’ll follow your blog to steal some ideas about where to go)) Valentina Vladimirona is an instant source of inspiration to me as well. Always) with her blessing you’ve started a great thing)) you might end writing your own guide book

      2. I know, I feel blessed I got to be taught by her! She has such a stunning personality, style, sense of humour… I think it’s her that taught me to feel… Perhaps in a way that I was describing in my article… Starting writing and posting it on the Internet was the idea I’d been playing around but I never got round to it. Now I think is the right time. Even if I don’t become famous, I’ll feel genuine pleasure sharing my thoughts and emotions with people all around the globe)

  2. And I’m lucky to have such an awesome best friend=))) You’re a role model for me! My inspiration!!! I’m sure there will be more stories because it’s not our last travel to Europe! It’s waiting for us to come back and say “Hello! We’ve been missing you so much” Ha-ha!!!=)))

    1. Come on! you’re making me blush! don’t forget that my inspiration comes from the people that surround me as well) and you’re sure one of the people who make me want to do better, to push myself harder… of course, fingers crossed, there will be loads of unforgettable trips coming up for us) Love you!!!

  3. I hope this friendship will last forever!!!Friends like you are rare nowadays and i’m grateful to God, destiny or whatever that on September 01, 2006 i met you in my group where Anisimova Olga Nikolaevna taught us! It’s one of the most incredible teachers who taught us)) It was a great time. I miss every day we coul see each other from morning till evening sometimes, though it was hard to study but it was actually interesting and amazing to come there and see you and other guys and laugh with Vasilega, f.ex.=))) I wanna watch that video from the last lesson, I guess)))) We laughed out loud))) Love you, too!!!

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