How do you say goodbye to a place that never fully leaves you? The answer is you don’t. You take it along for the ride with you wherever you go until you are able to return again. Then you welcome it with a new hello and allow the familiar to become something entirely new. I came back to Montenegro thinking I had returned here to hide out in Kotor but I was in denial. I wasn’t coming back to hide away from the world at all, I was simply coming home.
Up until the first time I met this place I was counting countries. Apart from countries that housed family, I had not considered revisiting places I had already been to an option over the chance to go somewhere new. Then back in 2015 I came to the Balkans for the first time not knowing what to expect and everything changed. I stopped counting and I started returning.
I have been meaning to write a decent blog entry since leaving the UK, but it’s hard to write Kotor when you’re living Kotor. As much as the town and its people inspire me, it’s become a place that puts me under a magnifying glass and I am faced with all the parts of me that I’m not always so willing to embrace. But Kotor accepts my demons, even encourages them in a way that I once believed to be self-destructive — but now I know otherwise. We make unfathomable connections to others when we’re bound by the truths of our raw selves. We don’t need fixing, just embracing. We don’t need defining when we just let ourselves be.
There’s a part of me that also wants to write about the beauty of Montenegro, because it is exquisite, but I am still emotionally swept away and going through the pain of leaving it all behind again. I am enjoying Croatia now, but my heart is of course still in Montenegro. Maybe it always will be. As my Montenegrin friends tell me, I will be back again. They appear to be very confident in that fact, but then they seem to know me better than I know myself sometimes. I trust that they are right.
In a place that couldn’t be more different than where I come from, a place that is as confronting and confusing as it is comforting and insanely beautiful, I have a surrogate family. They leave me realising that the only enemy I have is myself. I am allowed to be messy. Good bad ugly mess. Raw. Pain. Love. Overwhelmed. When those dislocated emotions get turned up to full volume and you think they might just eat you alive, out of nowhere comes this human safety net whose presence feels like a hug. But I think you need to have gone through the pain to fully appreciate the embrace.
I don’t trust my brain to bottle it. It cannot be preserved indefinitely. I try to write about the polished limestone and the hearty laughter but I can never do it justice. This is why I know when my friends tell me that I will be back again that they are right. If people are soul food, then Kotor is delicious and can be enjoyed with a side of natures splendid majesty. Whatever the rest of the world strips from me, it is replenished here in so many different ways. One need only trust that the stars will align for my return sooner rather than later of course.