One is typically considered mentally deranged by their peers if one chooses to leave a place with innumerable coastal beaches (less than an hour away by car) and weather that screams Sydney, Summer and sun, for a place where people spend almost half a year cursing at their thermometers and praying away the heavenly “white faeces” that cunningly deposit themselves wherever they deem it fit.
I am that mentally deranged person, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.
It might have been due to my lack of hard rebellion throughout my adolescence, or the fact that I was “professionally relieved” from my salary earning activities in an ad hoc, one-minute phone call (culminating in psychological turmoil and a desperate need for change), but September 19th, 2021, was the date I chose to uproot my life and fly away to a new one; I don’t mean to propagate cliché intertextuality, I’m literally referring to Emirates flight EK415 at 21:10h.
The culture shock couldn’t wait until at least after baggage claim, no. Nikola Tesla International Airport made it unequivocally clear that I was inappropriately dressed for not only the climate, but the socio-cultural status quo as well (the latter being the least of my worries). In a strict congregation of grey sweaters, navy jeans and black boots, I shuffled past security in a beige tracksuit, white Martins and a tennis headband supporting my ungroomed hair which had gone through two flights and 30+ hours without shampoo/conditioner.
The subsequent drive to my hometown was infiltrated by bumpy roads and vehicles whose drivers had little regard for traffic rules. I also noticed that I was walking faster than the people around me and seemed less relaxed as well. Was I experiencing the “work to live” culture that continental Europe radiates? I wasn’t sure then, but I knew that my definition of “normal” was going to change in ways I could not foresee. It wasn’t going to be the first time though, as I had gone through many periods of change since childhood.
Following my first week in Subotica, my internal monologue developed a doubtful tone. I had left all my friends, career opportunities, studies, nightly drives to Wollongong, favourite restaurants, everything I was used to and jumped into the deep end: Different food, people, laws, social circles, socio-political systems and of course, I had no plan-I still have no plan. Nature vs Nurture? Was it in true Aquarius style? I wasn’t sure but I had my hard-earned savings and whatever wit I thought I had as wind to my sail. I was sure that the path I was on was meant for me.
Having been in Europe for almost half a year now, I can say one thing: things are…still changing! Low-cost flights which I could only dream of from Australia, history and architecture seen only through photos years ago, remnants of ancient civilisations and empires, and yes, even though I have gained weight due to Serbian cuisine and culture, I have started to once again do things I enjoy and have discovered other things I never thought I would. I don’t know what the future holds, nor do I want to, but I am sure of the following:
“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.”
Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel.
By Mario Krivokuca