The Traveler’s Code

Riot On An Empty Street, Stockholm, Sweden 2o16

The Traveler’s Code by Rui Cordeiro

During the last few weeks I have visited five countries in Europe. Traveling in Europe became very familiar the last decade of my life and most of the time when I visit cities and towns I also meet people, actually they are the most important part of traveling I’d say… Try to have friends living all over Europe and you get a good excuse to travel very often to catch up with them. Europe as a continent becomes much smaller and filled with faces you trust and love.

I’ve avoided to mention names of people and places on this post.

To get along with people is the same as crossing a bridge into a new space filled with words and stories to be told and listen to. And two different persons got me into two similar conversations with a great personal impact attached to it. These two persons don’t know each other and they don’t share the same country, language or even the same cultural background. However, both of them cross with each other by choosing to talk about the feeling of loss and belonging with me.

“Everybody movin’ if they ain’t already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interestin’ right about now” *

It was late afternoon, some weeks ago, when I met my friend at a local pub known in town for brewing their own beer and whiskey. The place is very often crowded and that day was no exception, although we were lucky to get a table at the terrace outside. It was a marvelous sunny day. I met this friend four years ago and we always engage on friendly talks and a good sense of humor surround us every time we see each other. He’s in his early fifties and we started talking about traveling experience at a young age “I was 18 years old when I left my hometown and moved into this city to live as a student.” he said enthusiastically. I understood the adrenaline of leaving and starting a new adventure away from everything we knew until then, because I did the same when I was 18 years old.

Expressing a smile on his face he continued, “But one day you try to go back to your hometown and you find out there is no place to come back anymore.” I nod in agreement because very often I feel the same about the place I left at a younger age and believe that thousands of new experiences later send us away from the place we were born and we are not the same person anymore, even if we had wished so or not. We just don’t fit. “The place I belong its here in this town, where I raised my family and started my professorship position.” he said feeling proud and showing no regrets. He’s an happy man.

“Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long.” *

Some weeks later, I was walking downtown late in the evening with another friend of mine in a totally different set and country when he started talking about the same feeling of loss and belonging. It was a cold night with a great moonlight I remember well. This friend is the same age as me and we are both living abroad almost for ten years now. “The last times I went to my homecountry for a visit I felt I don’t belong there, even my oldest friendships are not the same to me anymore.” he told me with a sad tone of voice. “I understand what you’re telling me. But you have also to understand that after you got this new life abroad, most of your life experiences are not shared with them anymore, most of your recent memories belong here. This is where you belong now.” I offered him my words which I knew it by memory after thinking that same way already for several years and to have written dozens of times in my traveling notebooks about it. “Me and my older friends have totally different lives and perceptions and when I go there I don’t meet most of them anymore.” he said with acceptance. In reality, some friends are always friends even if we are living thousands of kilometers away or if we experience totally different lives. Still they are special.

I tried to make him look forward when I finally told him “At this moment, the psychological cost of coming back is much higher than to keep going with our lives far away.” He just nod looking at me and we kept walking, both in silence and just walking…

* On a song called Mississippi by Bob Dylan