On my last day in Lithuania, I decided on a day trip to Trakai, which was only 30 minutes from Vilnius. My flight to Stockholm wasn’t until 9pm, so I made my way to the train station, where I waited an hour for a train that didn’t come. I then crossed the street to the bus station where I paid 1€ for the city bus which left immediately. You win some, you lose some.
Trakai is known for its castle and its lakes and I got the feeling that it’s the kind of place people in Vilnius might go when they want to escape to the countryside for the afternoon. It was beautiful and extremely quiet. I got off the bus with no clue how to get to the castle, so I just followed the other people from my bus who looked like travelers and not locals. #WhenInLithuania
It’s hard to describe the Lithuanian countryside to someone who hasn’t been there, because I can’t just say that it looks like it does on tv, like I could for London or Paris.
Lithuania looks a lot like rural Canada. It’s all water and grass and boats and wooden houses with sleepy cats on the front step. I was essentially in the middle of nowhere, but in that ‘ooh, I’ve just discovered a hidden gem’ kind of way. I do think everyone should go to Trakai if ever in that part of Europe, just remember who told ya about it, okay?
This place is made for dawdling, so that’s exactly what I did, taking my time and stopping to sit by the lake to write. I eventually made it to the castle on the other side of Lake Galve, where I lied and said I was a student so I could pay a cheaper price to get in. (I’m not above sticking it to the man but also, Lithuania, I love you, please always let me back in your land.)
It was gorgeous and moody and the clouds were dark as if it was just about to open up and pour. It stayed that way all afternoon. Outside the castle, there were little stalls where women sold Christmas ornaments and essential oils and all the flavors of tea you could possibly want. There were places to rent kayaks and canoes and you had step over ducks who were lounging on the walkway. It was a sweet way to spend my last day in Lithuania before heading on to Stockholm.
“You aren’t lucky for getting to travel. You are blessed to be able to do a thing that helps you survive.”
“You are choosing to help your mind and your soul and your body all feel at ease and also alive all at the same time. And it works. It works so well. And you go forward because it works. Traveling doesn’t stop you. It doesn’t keep you small or still. It doesn’t fill you with the kinds of feelings you can’t get through. It pushes you ahead whether you see it at the time or not.” A note to myself, written by the lake.
I always think of travel as such as luxury.
“If I have time…”, “If I can afford it…”, “If I can find someone to go with…”
Sitting by the lake by myself, in a far off corner of Lithuania helped me come to terms with the fact that I need to treat travel as what it really is for me – therapy – soul work – mind cleansing – fear easing – strength building – heart training – character shaping – dream awakening.
My truth is that I feel most alive when I travel.
I feel safe when I travel.
I feel like myself when I travel.
I feel normal and clear when I travel.
I feel closer to my purpose when I travel.
My troubles don’t disappear when I travel. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that my troubles come with me. There is no escaping yourself.
But perhaps I’ve been able to re-define for myself, what it means to travel.
Travel doesn’t need to be a once in a lifetime vacation that you spend years saving for. It doesn’t need to be an extra, a temporary trip away from your normal life or a snobby way to live.
Travel can be what you make of it, yes, but I have some of my own ideas to throw into the ring, here. Travel can be a priority. It can be a necessary way of life, forever and permanent. It can be easy and doable.
Knowing myself better and opening my mind is my new normal. Connecting with strangers and listening to stories and waking up happy, is my daily goal.
If anything, Letters to Rayelle is a permanent note to myself. The things I write when my head is clear, so that I can later look back when things feel foggy. So, to me and to anyone reading this, may we make spending gray days sitting outside of castle walls a priority always, however we can do that for ourselves.