You arrive at a city. You’re confused by the ticket-eating machines at the train stops and the backwards spiderwebs of the transit lines. On a sweaty day, you drink in the graffiti in bustling alleyways and notice the cobblestones. The clocks tick above a main station and in the middle of summer’s busiest night downtown, you slip away from a group of friends and into an echoing church. Is this the first time you’ve been in a church? It might be. It’s pretty enough to earn it.
You fall into the steady pace of a job. You get to know the regulars’ names. The always-smiling Greek chef teaches you to say dirty things in a different language. You never get enough sleep, but you always enjoy the sunrise when you walk to the station. It’s the clearest part of your day.
Winter sets in. You know which train to catch and when to run so you won’t miss it. You give people directions without hesitation. Cheap drinks are there. Trivia night is on Tuesdays. You know that every single Friday night, without fail, no matter what has happened the past week, you will laugh and dance and run with the friends who have become your family in the past year. On Monday mornings, you and your hungover coworkers point out which charming customers you’ll marry for visas.
But time continues on. Winter is cold and it bites at your fingers. One friend leaves, then another. You start traversing the travel section of Pinterest again, and you notice your backpack in your closet every time you open it. You become restless with the same routine, simultaneously loving it and bored by it, seeking its comfort and pushing its boundaries.
You know that you’ll go. It’s time for a new adventure again. But what of all the people you’ve met or the ease with which you sink into your busy living room at home? The boy that’s tripped into your life? That Greek lady that calls you names, or the everchanging community of couchsurfers?
Travel means so many good things, but it means goodbyes as well. They never get easier. It’s easy to stumble over that thought, to wonder whether you’re doing the right thing, if you’ll ever stay in a place longer than 8 months. But you’ve soaked this city in and you love it. The people and the places will make cosy memories. You can return, but remaining here now would feel like overstaying your welcome, stretching beyond the confines of your space. For now, you need sunshine and train rides going the wrong way. You need tide pools and bike rides. You need to remind yourself that you can start all over again, from the wonder of fresh sights and the laughs of new people to nailing the ins and outs of a confusing job.
So you mark a day in the calendar and start to plan again.