Previous: Drink, Play, Loathe: Day 10, Riga
Because my being heckled as a ‘faggot’ in the backroom of a dingy bar in Riga isn’t a particularly wholesome way to end this series, I’ve decided to visit a point a few hours earlier, same day.
Post-museum, I headed to a spot I’d marked on my map where the city cool kids apparently congregate on an evening to watch the sunset, way out near the docks. I misread the map and walked about 5 kilometres more than I needed to, but eventually located the spot, and found myself in what can only be described as a desolate wasteland. There was no sign of human life anywhere, just me, headphones in, slowly crossing a wide tundra of old buildings and brittle grass, heading towards the water’s edge.
The river was still partially frozen over, the sky was ice blue and dusted with lazy clouds, but I was well wrapped up and the sun shone with a gentle spring warmth. I stood on the end of the dock and stared out across the water at Riga, with the crooked tower of St Peter’s Church crowning the city. Sometimes life throws you a perfect moment. Life throws them pretty often, actually, but you’ve got to keep your eyes and your soul open, or you’ll miss them.
I had been letting my music run on, not really listening to it, and The Who were playing as stood on the dock’s edge. Won’t Get Fooled Again was drawing to a close, and as I stood and stared out over the ice, it was the break down in the song that comes around 7 minutes in and lasts forever, the reverberating organ and the slow build-up of clattering drums.
Roger Daltrey screamed that youthful, explosive, death-defying last ‘Yeah!’ in my ears. It felt a little bit too perfect, and it made me smile. It seems that fate has no sense of cheese. There are many points in my travels and diaries that are probably eye-roll inducing, but that’s life, that’s how it happens. Sometimes everything just lines up right.
I feel happy ending this diary there, standing over the water and the ice with the sky above, alone and lost, not really any better off than when I started, not so much learned, in all honesty, still skint and fearful, but just a little bit surer, just a tiny bit, that everything would be okay. It doesn’t happen overnight, not in real life. In the end, the only thing that heals is time. Some days you’ll be fine, some days you’ll cry, sometimes you’ll think you’re healthy and whole again and cured and then you’ll relapse into tears. But each time you cry it’ll be a little bit less, and you won’t even notice as small parts of you begin to shine again, and you’ll laugh more often, and the colours will flow back into your cheeks, and then one fine morning-
Yeah. I think that’s a nice place to end it.
I arrived home eleven days after I set off, skint and sunburned with a backpack full of mucky clothes in desperate need of a good scrubbing. It’s crazy what you can achieve in a couple of weeks. Makes you realise how much time we waste from day to day.
I booked the trip in an attempt to mend a broken heart, but I never told you the reason we broke up, which at the core of it is the reason that all of my relationships have ended: my desire to travel. My soul grows restless after a few months in one place. I don’t know why, it’s just how I’m wired. In all of my relationships, I have been the problem.
There’s a secret door in all of us, and through it a room that sense and reason can’t reach, and that’s where our passions and insanities lie. I’m quickly learning that a hopeless lust for life and a penchant for self-destruction are often indistinguishable to observers. Maybe I’m just selfish, and maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m too young for it to matter either way.
That’s the truth that no travel magazine will tell you. Nobody warns you when you set out into the world with high hopes and a backpack and all those dreams, that if you’re not careful, when you chase falling stars you leave a wake of broken hearts. Two human lives may run parallel for a while, but for those to whom travel and discovery ignite an insatiable longing, those parallel tracks are always going to part ways eventually. If it happens to you, try not to blame yourself. Those tracks may meet again. If you want to see the world, if you want to live the lives of ten people at once, you’re going to hurt people, and you’re going to get hurt, again and again and again.
However, one thing that is absolutely crucial is that you don’t give up on love, or life. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts, there are some beliefs we should never abandon. If you’re struggling, if life’s got you down and you’ve not seen the sun in a while, there’s something I want you to know.
Evolution deconstructs many aspects of relationships. It boils love down to chemicals, and sexual attraction is explained away as desirable reproductive traits. Sometimes it seems we are determined to dilute romance down to base elements and pour it away down the plughole. There’s one thing, though, that that can’t be rationalised.
Walk to the edge of a cliff and look out at the rivers and valleys in the haze below. Stand on the roof of a skyscraper at night and listen to the sounds of the city on the breeze. Sit on the beach and watch the setting sun ignite the sky. When we witness beauty, we long to share it.
If there’s anything that travelling alone shows you, even if travelling in itself can doom a relationship, it’s that love is real, and it’s more than words and chemicals. If you want to know who your heart truly desires, go climb a mountain and see who you wish you were stood next to. In this modern world, that’s where love still exists: on the tops of hills on rainy days, when a sudden break in the clouds breathes golden light through the valleys.
Those are all the answers I have right now. I’m still young, I’m still learning, and I’m still making mistakes. It’s been almost five months now and my heart still aches, and I still miss her, and in all honesty I think I always will, but it’s okay. Our paths aren’t running parallel right now, but maybe one day they will again. Beyond that, the future is unwritten. At the end of everything, all that anybody can do is smile when the sun is shining, and when you love – whether it’s with a boy, a girl, yourself, or the world – let it consume you, and don’t waste a second on fear. There’s just too much beauty out there to hold back.