Krakow: Day 2

On giving up.

Sometimes you just need to stop crying and take yourself out.

I can’t listen to classical music without choreographing ballets in my head. When I was younger I wanted to be a dancer. I attended numerous classes a week: ballet, jazz, contemporary. It was a good way for a shy girl to express herself without having to speak. I wanted to be a ballerina.

But my head and my body never quite got in synch. No matter how much time I spent stretching, my joints never loosened. I’ve never been able to do the splits. I’ve never been able to raise my leg more that a 45 degree angle to the ground. And, for a ballerina, that just won’t do.

I couldn’t keep up with it so I stopped going to classes, stopped dancing, and started looking for something else I wanted to be when I grew up.


I hit a wall on my first morning in Krakow. I’d been traveling for two weeks. Twice as long as I’ve ever traveled by myself before. And as I walked around the Old Town I couldn’t stop crying.

Krakow, Poland.

Krakow, Poland.

Krakow, Poland.

Krakow, Poland.

Krakow, Poland.

Krakow, Poland.

I cried because everyone said how beautiful Krakow was, but no one said that in the middle of it all was a Hard Rock Cafe. I cried because my roommates had to catch an early train so their packing woke me up well before I was ready. I cried because I desperately wanted to sleep with 6 pillows under my head again and take a shower in a room that didn’t smell. I cried because everyone in Europe has such cute dogs and I just want to get a puppy. I cried thinking of my dad. And of the boy. And that I can’t stand that my mom is dating someone.

And it suddenly occurred to me that I quit my job. That I gave up a good gig with a salary and health benefits and may never find one again. And that I hate interviewing.

And I cried because I wanted to go home but I really don’t feel as if I have one.

And I cried because I can’t go home anyways because I don’t want everyone to think that I failed. And because I don’t want to fail.

Every block I had to sit on another bench and bury my nose in my map so no one would see my tears.

And then, after a morning full of tears, I took a breath, and I told myself this: stop crying that you want to go home because you know you’re not going to go home anyways.

And so I went back to my hostel and took a shower to get all of the dirt off my legs. And I put on a cute little dress. And I walked back to the square and sat myself down at a table. And I ordered a pork dish that was covered in mushrooms and cheese and reminded me, kind of, of the mushroom chicken and mushrooms that was the best ever discontinued dish at T.G.I.Fridays.

Pork cutlet with mushrooms and cheese in Krakow, Poland.

And then I bought a scoop of tiramisu gelato.

Tiramisu gelato in Krakow, Poland.

And then I went to a pretty church and bought a ticket to a classical music concert where I watched and choreographed my own little dances to Vivaldi and Pachelbel and Chopin.

Tiramisu gelato in Krakow, Poland.

And afterwards it all felt a little better.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Judie
    July 21, 2011at3:29 pm

    That’s all it is … finding your bliss, each and every day. Love your photos today too, particularly the bike’s crocheted cosy (or whatever that is). 🙂

  • Tracy
    July 21, 2011at6:17 pm

    I have SO been there. But I did come home–and skipped Barcelona completely (long story)–and now I DO regret it. I think that a sort-of breakdown is a completely normal part of any longer trip. And I also think that you dealt with yours VERY well!

  • shanna
    August 2, 2011at10:55 pm

    Val! I am just catching up with all your recent travels and can’t stop reading! I know just how you feel with quitting your “safe” job and launching out to pursue something else. It’s terrifying but it’s such a gift. Cry when you need to, and know you’re not alone in it. But then look up, around you, and soak it all in! I’ll be reading.

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