Where are you coming from, where are you going, and why are you going there?
Today, at the boarding gate in Prague, the lady told me I might need a visa to fly to the UK. Leaving brexit jokes and the obvious lack of geopolitics knowledge (I am from Romania, Romania is part of the European Union, as is the UK — so no visas whatsoever are needed) aside, this brought me back 10 years ago. My first visit to the Czech Republic wasn’t just a walk in the park. Going outside of Romania meant a whole adventure at the borders. You needed to have a clear destination, proof of income/bank account statements, insurance, invitation letters etc. This was all happening back in 2006 — about 7 months before Romania entered the European Union and we could benefit of the free travel across the EU (which for me was one of the biggest boons brought by the EU).
You needed clear answers to at least 3 questions:
- Where are you coming from?
- Where are you going?
- Why are you going there?
The border police officers were always a bit scary. I guess it was part of the job, as being intimidating could potentially scare some of the wrongdoers and out them. Or in some cases it was just part of the “bribe me a little and I’ll let you alone” game. I always felt it like a big divide between people — putting borders that stop you from reaching your destination. Compared to ten years ago, now I can just pack my things and get on the plane — in many cases not even needing a passport!
And while I rarely need to worry about visas nowadays (there are always exceptions, my trip to Qatar this year was a very stressful experience — due to the visa process), that simple question in the airport today triggered a stream of thoughts regarding life in general. My reality today is totally different — and I almost erased those episodes from my mind. Travelling has become part and parcel of my lifestyle and sometimes, I must admit, sometimes I forget to make the most of it. You know, you become comfortable and you don’t try to spice things up anymore. So this was a good reminder for me! Just thinking of those questions, asked on a harsh tone, helped me realize that I shouldn’t just take things for granted and that I should enjoy every single step I take in a new destination. So I’ve walked over 26000 steps today, enjoying every single moment!
I almost feel like everybody should meet some “border police officers” in their lives, sooner or later. To ask them exactly the same three questions — not about travelling, though. But about life. Anybody can be that immigration officer — your brother/sister, your parents, your teachers, your friends, your coach, your mentor, your colleague, yourself! I see too many people just “floating” around through life, without any clear purpose, without looking back at where they started from, without knowing how to reach their purpose. And I see even more people watching this, as a silent accomplice. Not saying anything — just to keep things in the safe zone. Comfortably numb. For everybody.
I do hope I managed to play the “border police officer” role for others throughout my life. And I think I just found the answer to a question that has been nagging me for a while now. One of my former professors at the university asked me where is my freedom coming from? How come I can always say and ask questions that are uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, help things move forward? I guess I would feel guilty, knowing that I could have said something painful, at first, that could have improved the situation on the long run. And not saying it…
For whom will you be the border police officer in the near future?
I’d be glad to connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat — handle @BogdanLearns