It wasn’t until we were approaching the Serbia – Kosovo boarder, past armed UN guards on a bus full of elderly Serbs and Albanians that it really started hit us just how far removed we were from life back home.
A deteriorating highway that was more suited to four wheel driving and army vehicles than a rickety old smoke filled bus was slowly getting worse and our driver had just stopped to fill up the bus’ radiator with water from a tap on the side of the road.
We were in the middle of nowhere, at Restaurant Tito – what can only be described as a decrepit truck-stop from a different era, and not nearly an accurate representation of what this man meant to many of the local people.
As I sat with my friend Chris on an old brick step near the bus, we joked at how the front window of our bus was coming loose from the frame and vibrated in the wind as we travelled. We placed bets on whether it would still be there by the time we arrived in Kosovo.
We were in a situation where you’d certainly be forgiven for stressing out.
We had been warned by local Serbs that we were to take extreme caution n Kosovo as it was “a very dangerous place”. We were just a few hours from the border and it’s fair to say the nervousness of the unexpected was rising. We were in a situation where you’d certainly be forgiven for stressing out.
I thought back to 5 months earlier, in my home town of Adelaide, South Australia commonly described as “a big country town” where everyone knows everyone, you know what to expect and life is pretty easy.
I was sitting in traffic in a nice car, on what I thought then was a “shit” road, on my way to my cosy office where I worked with friends and had an endless supply of coffee and snacks, heating in winter, air-con in summer albeit a little bit temperamental.
A time where I was comfortable, but very stressed.
Stressed about what?
Who knows, running a business, making deadlines, managing finances, contracts and wondering if the rest of my life was going to involve 2 hours in traffic every day to and from work and sitting in my office staring out the window, dreaming about what else lays in wait for me elsewhere? I stressed about these things because I had been conditioned that these things were important and required me to stress about them.
But also because it was all I knew, I had never had anything else to stress about, so for me – these things were stressful.
I was very stressed back then, and unhappy – but at this moment, sitting on the bricks at Restaurant Tito, I had to chuckle at how “tough” my life had been back home compared to what the people of this area have been through over the years.
This was different kind of stress.
Here we were about to enter the unknown, a place where war had ended only years earlier and a place that no one we had known had every been.
We weren’t really stressed, but we were definitely anxious and excited. And so we should have been. That weekend in Kosovo was one of the best experiences of our lives.
Was stressing about what lay ahead really going to change anything?
How many problems have you solved by stressing?
Probably not many.
So why do we do it?! Having been through a time where I stressed about everything and anything, and I can tell you right now that the alternative to that is a LOT better!
During my 5 months solo backpacking last year I deliberately put myself outside of my comfort zone. Time and time again. You see – the more you get used to being uncomfortable the easier life gets. Everything is relative to what you’re accustomed to.
If you’re living a sheltered, comfortable life – small things are going to be a big deal, like running late to dinner, forgetting to put the bins out or dealing with an annoying coworker. There are methods to deal with all of these things and it all comes back to your thought process.
There are multiple ways to look at each situation and if you can just allow yourself to stop, take a step back and wonder – is this really the end of the world. You will find yourself having a much easier time at life.
For the record, we crossed the border into Kosovo. We were greeted with a brand new 4 lane highway that lead us to Pristina – the capital, where we met fantastic young people, looking to rebuild their country and were so excited for tourists to come and see their beautiful city. I made several friends that I will never forget that trip.
We had been warned that Serbia may not let us back in after crossing over into Kosovo. That made us a little bit nervous, but we had no troubles getting “home” to our apartment in Belgrade.
Just goes to show when you take a chance , you never know what might be on the other side.