I didn’t pray, but I DID see more beautiful old churches in 14 days than in my whole life.
Some journeys feed the eyes, some feed the soul, and some feed the belly. My recent voyage did all three.
This past year has been a trip to the depths of my very essence: India was a spiritual (and physically painful) trek into self-discovery through yoga, and Romania a trek into my past, the foundation upon which everything I’ve done in my life since leaving it has been built. And I hadn’t even realized it until returning now, 26 years later.
Let me explain. I was born in Romania and have nothing but glorious memories of my childhood until I left at the age of 8 with my mother and sister to move to Canada. My father had emigrated 2 years before us, as part of a joint decision him and my mom had made to get us out of an iron curtain dictatorship resembling modern-day North Korea.
I thought he was on a “business trip”, and at that age I was completely oblivious to the sacrifices my parents made, the atrocious things they went through to get us out of the country, or how much they had to leave behind in hopes of giving my sister and I a better life.
Not to mention how many people it took (family and friends alike) to come together and “protect” my young self from the reality of what was actually happening in Bucharest of the 80′s. While gunshots were going off and my birth-country was in a state of virtual civil war, I actually lived in a lovingly constructed reality, where I actually DID believe that what I was hearing were fireworks instead of rifles, and that the darkness I was seeing during city-wide power outages was due to a grown-up game of hide and seek.
I adapted well to Canada, and spent my childhood and adolescence fitting in, being a “normal” Canadian girl. That came with the price of me burying my past into the depths of my memories, and Romania becoming a distant place that I didn’t know much about, which eventually only existed in black and white photos, along with stories from my parents and fragmented recollections filtered through the lens of young age and ignorance.
I’ve since had amazing opportunities and had many interesting adventures both in Canada and abroad, yet I never really felt that sense of the attachment I saw in others to the places where I was living.
When people ask where I’m from, I always have to preempt my answer with “It’s complicated”.
And then I say: I was born in Romania, I lived in this place and that place in Canada, my parents moved to Holland when I was 16 and when I’d visit them there it kinda felt like home, then I moved to South Korea after university, after which I moved to Montreal, where I’ve been for almost 10 years. So I guess I’m “from” Montreal (how), and there you go.
Travel has been a central part of my existence from my teens until my present-day thirties. And while I’ve visited Europe many times, I had never returned to the country of my birth. The reason that I gave for this to myself and to anyone who asked was that I didn’t want to spoil the lovely, idealistic memory bubble of Romania I’ve been carrying around with me for 26 years.
I didn’t want to see where I came from through grown-up eyes, for fear that the objective adult lens would cast shadows on the idealistic one of childhood.
Earlier this year, I spent two months in India doing yoga. While I was there, a lot of wonderful and not so wonderful “stuff” came bursting out and forced me to take a good, long, hard look at who I was, and a whole bunch of other things I didn’t necessarily want to face. I started this blog to document what I thought would be a yoga journey that would go “just so”, and it became so much more than that in terms of personal growth, ego-busting, and questioning things that I never would have even given a second thought to prior to that.
I came back to my life post-India 7 months ago, and while everything was “the same” externally, nothing else really has been within me. And this is a good thing. Slowly but surely regular life took over with a vengeance. But while was busy living my harried everydays, I was more aware of the little voices we all have inside that try to prompt us into this or that direction.
The difference for me now is not necessarily that I listen to these gut feelings more than I have before (I always heard them, loud and clear), but that I actually take action instead of waiting and hoping that they’ll “go away”. They never do.
And so, when my heartstrings started telling me to book a summer vacation (I usually only travel in fall and winter), and even more strangely, Romania started coming to the forefront of my thoughts, I didn’t ask questions. I booked the trip.
So here I am, having just returned. And while before going I thought to myself: “Well, this will jog my memory, and I’ll go and see and cross the country off my list and that will be that”, the reality was anything BUT that.
The reality was that I not only fell in love with the country I left behind, but that it exceeded any expectations I might have had prior to returning. For the first time in my adult life, I felt this overwhelming sense of connection, respect and understanding for the place from which I come. A country filled with history, contradictions, soul and beauty that far, far exceeded any preconceived notions of what I thought it might be.
I did no yoga while I was there. I didn’t write, I didn’t draw, I did nothing but absorb everything I saw and experienced into every pore of my being while feeling an insane, intense amount of love and understanding that goes beyond words or anything I can objectively articulate. If it hadn’t been for yoga, I don’t think I would have ended up in India. And if it hadn’t been for India, I don’t think I would have gone to Romania when I did.
Yoga led me to India and taught me how to “let go” and disconnect. Inadvertently, yoga also led me to my birth-place, which taught me how to reconnect.
Not only with myself, but with the place in which my roots lie. Ironically, I returned to the place I left at the same age my mother was when she left it all behind. And it’s only now that I can understand the magnitude of what she sacrificed, in order for me to have lived the life I have.
The word yoga originates from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, meaning to join, or to “yoke”. I’ve never more fully understood or experienced its true meaning than during this particular journey, where ironically enough, the physical practice of yoga was completely absent.