“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs. But people more than anything else. You will need other people. And you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things.”
Thursday June 23, 2016
I arrived at the hostel I hastily booked that morning after learning my friend I was riding to Warsaw with had changed plans and wasn’t staying the night. I was on my own in Warsaw. It was too late too look for a Couchsurfer. That’s ok, I figured that staying at a hostel would be a fun and different way of experiencing Warsaw. I already had a couple nights with locals and had the best time…
The hostel I checked into was empty. Not a soul. I asked the guy behind the desk what happened to everyone. He said that they were really slow and there were only 2 other people staying there (it was a 6 room, 32 bed room hostel) and they had gone to dinner.
Shit. I thought. I needed human interaction. I needed to talk to people in English.
The Friday before, I had arrived in Gizycko, Poland to my friends place and the whole weekend was full of vodka, new friends, more vodka, more friends, sun and sleeping on a sailboat. Monday came and my friend had to work. I barely saw him. I was at his house, not his sailboat, so everyday I walked an hour to the little town and wandered around, exploding, observing… Not many people spoke English. I had no one to talk to. I got lonely very quickly. I tried to learn a couple things in Polish, but not enough to make a conversation. As the week wore on, I wore out. I watched the sunsets amongst cows next to sprawling fields of hay and a myriad of wildflowers. I was happy in those moments. Swimming in the lake. Sunsets. Walking. Meandering.
Wandering through an old abandoned fortress….
But the loneliness was eating away at my soul and I reverted back to what I do when I’m overwhelmed with sad. I began to hate my body. I wrote in my journal nasty things about my scar and my arms and everything. It was easier to focus on that than the issue at hand.
So, needless to say, I was very disappointed when I learned I wasn’t going to make any friends at the hostel that night.
I went back to my room. 4 beds. I had my choice of any of them. I chose the one under the window that overlooked the street below. People were leaning towards each other over tables on the sidewalk with glasses of wine and bread baskets, laughing. Couples were holding hands across the table and gazing into each other’s eyes, deep in conversation. Families were crowded around tables, moms with little ones on their laps.
I debated… My first thought was to stay right where I was. In the room. Sleep early. Fuck it. I didn’t need dinner.
Buuuuutt a tiny voice challenged me.. This was my opportunity to go out by myself… Prove to myself that I can do this. And my last night in Warsaw.
A little history, I had an eating disorder when I was 16-24. I was hospitalized once due to low weight and went to an eating disorder treatment center three times for 4+ months each. I still struggle with certain things… Body image.. Restaurants alone.. Eating in general. The utter loneliness of this past week was kicking it back in gear.
But I decided to go out anyway.
“Just a beer and a nice soup” I said to myself. “I can do this.”
I walked up and down the street. Everyone was happy. No one was sitting alone. Everyone has someone, or multiple someone’s. I tried to keep my spirits up, excited to eat some good food. But I could feel it all coming down. I heard Polish. I heard German. I even heard The occasional French. No English. I wandered down different streets in hopes of finding something. Nothing. It was getting late. Restaurants were closing. Anxiety begin to taint my thoughts. I would never find anything. I can’t do this.
Then I spotted a place with a huge outdoor patio. There were plenty of tables. Bright lights. I checked the prices. I checked the options.
The waiters seemed friendly. One smiled and brought me to my seat.
Perfect. I can do this. I looked around. Everything smelled amazing. I sat there. Time passed. Where was my waiter? I spotted him, crouched down, flirting with a table of young, pretty blond girls.
Okay. Sure. Whatever. He’s doing his job. He’ll come eventually. Fifteen minutes passed. Finally, he came over. Didn’t look at me, but flipped his note pad out and asked “What?”
Hmmmm… Did he mean what did I want? Was he going to finish his question?
Perplexed, I went ahead and ordered onion soup and a beer. I could see a smirk creep onto his face. He slapped the notepad shut, gave me a curt nod and left in a flurry, saying nothing.
Ok. Whatever. I occupied my time by looking around, dreaming of Barcelona (which is where I was flying to the next day), reminiscing on London and Paris and Concarneau and the previous weekend at Gizycko.
I snapped out of my reverie and checked the time.. 30 minutes had passed. People around me who ordered after me already had their food. Surely it couldn’t take that long to pour a beer and bring it over. I was within 10 steps of the bar. The restaurant wasn’t busy, it was clearing out, near closing. Three servers were milling about out front, joking with each other. My server was chatting it up with another group of ladies, this time they were older, fancy sophisticated women and his demeanor and voice had changed from his loose flirting with the younger ones.
Finally it came. The beer and the soup. The soup was bland. Unappetizing. The beer settled me a bit and I enjoyed every cold, crisp sip.
It’s bizarre to be in a place. So far from anyone I know. Not understanding anything people are saying. Not being able to read menus. Not being able to pay a proper compliment or reach out to people. In a good mood, which, honestly is most of the time, I would make attempts. Point at something on the menu and hope it wasn’t too gross… Find any way to connect with someone.. By hand gestures… The few words I knew in their language. But when I’m frustrated, dejected, lonely.. I tend to give up too easy.. Not a good habit of mine…
45 minutes after finishing, I still hasn’t heard a word from my server. Had barely seen him.
The laughter and happiness surrounding me felt like a slap in the face. My eyes began to water.
A sweet older lady server came over with sympathetic eyes and crouched down next to me. In perfect English she asked, “Honey, are you ok?”
And the dam burst. I couldn’t stop the tears. I couldn’t hide the sadness. I was drowning in lonely. I needed so badly to talk to someone. I broke down, sobbing, my body trembling. All the tables around stared at me.
She brought my check and I quickly paid and hurried back to my hostel. My eyes were blurry and still watering, it was difficult to see. I didn’t care who saw me. I wanted to go to my bed and call someone, anyone. Cry to them. I needed comfort.
But who would care enough to want to hear my sadness when I was living the life they dreamed of? It’s ok to be sad. Even on the epic journey through Europe. Adventure of a lifetime.
I had done such a good job moving around and keeping distance from people, trying hard not to rely on others that when it came down to it, I could think of no one that I knew well enough to talk to.
I went up to my room and cried for a good hour.
I never felt so alone. So scared that I had done such a good job of being independent that I had no one.
And I learned something.
I learned I need to work on something. Not just work on loving myself. But on trusting that the friends I HAD made really, truly did care, even if I hadn’t seen them in a year or two.
And at that moment. I yearned for stability. I wanted nothing more than a home to go home to. A job that I love and return home to a person I love. With bookshelfs of friendships and family. Pictures of my travels gracing the wall.
But I was alone. In an empty hostel in Warsaw, Poland. On a Thursday night at midnight.
And I eventually fell asleep, my pillow wet with disillusioned tears and my moms dreaming of the next adventure to come, hoping maybe this time, I’ll find a friend.
“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.”