So, here we are, here and now. Already more than a couple of months back home, in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
It does feel like such a long time ago, ever since we put our feet on that first courageous plane together, with backpacks full of wishes.
We have had smaller travels, as a family, in Europe. But stepping into such a huge cultural gap, straight above the Atlantic Ocean, and into an environment that – at least some were saying – was not that safe – that was definitely a first for us. And, now we know, definitely not a last for us.
We wouldn’t have known that otherwise but actually by doing it. If we would have let all the opinions coming at us intrude into our vision of the future we wanted to see and experience together, we probably wouldn’t have been here today.
I’m writing this article from my desk at home, in Cluj. On the 23rd of October, 2018, we were having our first flight in this travel, heading to Barcelona. We wanted to make the home to alien-land transition as smooth as possible. For all of us. For Maya, for Roxana as a mother and for Vlad as a father. All of us felt so very young in this parenthood and family experience, that our past adventures as travelers seemed pale and timid. As we have close family living in Catalunya and we both speak fluently Spanish, this first stop was meant to actually extend our home feeling to a wider area. Spain can do that, almost always – at least to us.
The island life – the first escape of winter
The second flight (around 3 hours and a half) was to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, almost one week later. The second island from the Canarian Archipelago that we got to see together, after Tenerife, that we fell in love with, a couple of years back. We stayed in Gran Canaria for a whole month: Vlad still working remotely at the job he was about to leave behind in Cluj, Roxana working to launch a book crowdfunding campaign, Maya working to have her very first pair of baby teeth coming in. Having a work routine, a family schedule and changing Airbnb-s, even towns – is something that required quite an effort from all 3 of us. This buffer time in a new ambient, that would accommodate us with the idea of being away from home, in a new habitat, and helping to set in the traveler mindset, did help a lot – but it also had its challenges.
There’s something about the island life that makes a big city nicer than you’d imagine and a very small one sometimes more isolated and even with uglier parts than you’d imagine. Perhaps tourism makes everything evolve like this. Being here now, I can definitely say (and this is Roxana writing) – that my whole mama-bear feeling of protecting my baby and living in a small town instead of the big city was something that ended up being just more pain in the arse. At least this is the conclusion that we have got to – for Europe and for these geo-political parts of the world. That being said – we will for sure live in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for a long while the next time we travel there. I would say it that Playa de las Canteras is one of the nicest city beaches I have yet seen.
The big crossover of the Atlantic Ocean
Next flight: Sevilla. Just for a day, all 3 of us with a running nose, after the temperature lowered with something like 15 degrees Celcius. To Lisbon, we were supposed to have just a short layover – but we ended up sleeping for a night, due to a flight cancelation. We were smart enough to require a hotel – after they wanted us to swap the direct 8 hours flight with another route, that had an extra layover in Sao Paolo and a total duration of something around 22 hours. A crazy thing, for an 8 months old baby, right?
A few airports, some tedious luggage maneuvering and, here we are, finally, in our airplane to Brazil. Those were some God damn long 8 hours. And, man, I wouldn’t cry that bad, as I did, in that plane – being here now. But I didn’t know then what I know now. I was so tense, so tired, and also with flu – that I ended up crying more than Maya. I was so scared of change, of a new environment that I had no idea about, that my crying was my way of freaking out. I hadn’t known then, when crying so badly, that – at our landing, on a heavy rain, at 11 pm, in a cab with a digital price clock that freaks you out because of the expensiveness displayed, the taxi driver would recommend us not to get out of the car because of the dubious neighbourhood.
And that that would be O.K. Because nothing would happen to us. Because Brazil is a double world, with doubled perceptions. Because the friend that hosted us kept her house door open all the time, during the day – while that taxi driver said it was not ok to leave the car at night. You know, they say you never know how much you can take, until you take it, and you make it. Either that being in happy moments or in sorrows. Going through anger, and fear, and beyond. Having your courage and your gut feeling as comrades.
After that first flight to Brazil, we had quite a few more flights on the South American continent. We used the buses. The vans. The boats. The Ubers. The feet. The boards. The ferries. The motorbikes. We were sometimes tired. Sometimes crying. Sometimes freaking out. Sometimes shouting that we need therapy.
The sky is the sky everywhere you go, people are people everywhere you go
Beyond this, some other times, we were looking at the sky. The same sky that we see at home, yet not quite. We were wandering through the Atlantic rainforest, amongst enormous leaves, watching armies of ants. We were wandering through sand grains that look like brown sugar and that makes the same sound sugar would do if it would sit under your toes. We were looking at shells and corals, crabs and fish, sea urchins and weird jellyfish that seem to be purple party balloons.
We would eat jackfruit and love it every time, with every bite. We would listen to the natural choir of crickets and birds, near the woods and the river. We would swim in cold forest waters, after hot ocean bathing. We would work for food and shelter. We would find out that Maya has baby friends here. And grown-up friends here. Very dear ones, those kinds that are friends for a lifetime. We would share stories with people that become lifelong friends.
We would see that we are all the same. No matter where we are, and no matter where we are from. We would look at splendid pieces of contemporary art in the MACBA museum of Buenos Aires or the life of the city itself, in all shapes and sized.
And let them bewilder Maya, in the most beautiful ways. We would watch sea lions together, just a few meters away from us – free, in their natural habitat, in Cabo Polonio, Uruguay.
What would we if we wouldn’t have
We would. We would. We would. Well, we did. We did. We did. Not would, not could, not should. So, this is our “there and back again” wisdom. Life is, everywhere. So, you can live it, anywhere. You don’t need to leave. But, if you want to, and that’s what your courage and your gut feeling are whispering you to do, why don’t you, maybe, do it? You’ll cry, you know. And then you’ll look at the sky, from the airplane, or from the ground. And you’ll tell yourself, one more time: “So, here we are, here and now.“