“You do the walk. Yeah, you do the walk of life” – Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits).
It’s pretty hard for me to believe that it is now 18 days since I last slept in a hostel dorm room – the Hostel Cycle On. I am no longer a moving, nomadic backpacker. I did a walk, I did a walk of life. For too long, probably. I am now a stationary resident. I am now living in the city of Gdańsk in Poland. A few people have asked me why and how I ended up here. I will tell a longer story in the future, but the truth is, I only came here with the intention of staying a few days and then moving on. I rarely make huge plans, but in July 2016, here was my hand written plan for Poland, Kaliningrad and Kyrgzystan. Yes, by the end of the first full week of July, I was supposed to be in the Apple Hostel in Kyrgyzstan. I had messaged owner, the famous Aigul to confirm my bed and I planned to use that as my base to finish my book and then make my plans from there. I was meant to fly to Bishkek on the 11th July. I never did. The plan that changed:
But in my first week in Gdańsk, things changed dramatically. I was here to get my Kaliningrad visa (that didn’t go so well), meet some travel buddies, see the city (I spent too much time working in the first week) that I never booked my flight out. Kyrgyzstan was put on hold. But then I thought – why leave Gdańsk? I was loving the city. It felt like I had finally fallen upon a city I could stay. Recently now single, there was no need to backpack hardcore again. But my mind wasn’t right. It must have been time to finally stay somewhere. I had to ponder.
“Some might say that we should never ponder on our thoughts today, because they hold sway over time” – Noel Gallagher.
I made a quick decision – I booked another week in the hostel, decided on trips each weekend, and the first week, life got busy –
Week 1 – Sopot and Gdynia
Weekend 2 – Łeba and Słowiński National Park
Weekend 3 – Starogard Gdanski
Weekend 4 – Tczew and Pelplin
Weekend 5 – Kaliningrad (if I got the visa)
I also planned trips to Malbork, Łodz (they haven’t happened as I stalled backpacking), and I decided to do something local away from the travel side of things – I started to learn Polish. They say this is a difficult language to learn so it was to be a good test for me. By August, I had settled.
But things were not so smooth. Being single for a year has been tougher than I thought. I also missed two of my best mates weddings – Jody got married in England and Daniel got married in Sweden. I was invited, but I wasn’t there, instead I had attended a local Polish wedding and in my business and media life, I felt I had accomplished all I needed to travel wise. In the last few months, I had appeared in:
- the Sun newspaper,
- the Belfast Telegraph (again),
- The Daily Mail as well as on German TV and Northern Irish Radio.
So I settled. I organised a flat in Gdansk and I am here now. I moved in a week earlier than planned and had an interim period sharing another house in a quiet street in Gdansk.
Since leaving the backpacking life 18 days ago, life has changed. I have listed these 7 differences so far and I know I will find more. At the moment, I don’t know which lifestyle I prefer but at least I have made a decision to stay here now.
I can now buy as much shopping as I want. I have a fridge, a freezer, a kitchen! When I was living out of my backpack, I used to only spent about a maximum of $10 US on any single shopping trip as I would rarely linger long enough to justify buying more.
I have two local supermarkets now – Biedronka and Carrefour. Biedronka is the cheap Polish one and my pick.
Apart from selling cheeseburgers on Bournemouth beach, I’ve always been a pretty useless chef. Being on the move constantly often meant just buying food and eating it as you go. Quick snacks from supermarkets, airports, train cafes and local restaurants were how I lived for the last 9 years. Now I can do some cooking! It’s much easier to do cooking when you have your own flat, rather than sharing a hostel kitchen with a few others.
I love Polish pierogi and I can now cook it!
I get more comfortable, settled and consistent sleep now. I must have slept in 2,000 different beds the last 9 years. Don’t tell me that’s healthy!
I have never bought a wardrobe in my life and I still haven’t. But I have one now in the flat and I can use it, so I do. I went out and bought more clothes. Nicer clothes – non backpackery clothes.
Despite doing an interview for travel fashion girl and visiting trendy Milan, I always said I wasn’t interested in fashion. Well, I am appreciating it more now. I’ll still wear football shirts and shorts like I’m hiking through China, but mostly I know I feel and look better with more clothes options.
I did say I was becoming more private on here, but hygiene improves when you have a settled base. I bought more toiletry products because I am not carrying my luggage around with me. I now look, feel and smell better.
I find I have more time to myself now. The reason for this is – you don’t have to talk to receptionists every day checking into hostels, you don’t have the same old boring conversations with room buddies (or 24 hour friends). And I am not using up my time on buses and trains as much – I am stationary. So I should have more time to work and finish the never ending book, Backpacking Centurion.
7.Easier to Learn the Language
To learn a language in a country, it is easier to have a settled base. I meet local friends, I live with Polish people and I can feel part of the culture. You might have read my first ever blog post with Polish in it.
It was a huge bonus, boost and surprise for me this week to be on the front page of the local Kociewie region newspaper! Yes I was next to a person who won an Olympic Medal on the front cover, which seems fairly ridiculous. But this was great news as I try to concentrate on a Polish market in my travel blogging niche, thanks to my recent exploits to off the wall towns like the smashing Starogard Gdanski, I got noticed.
The article is in full Polish of course, so I’m having a good time trying to translate it.
A few people have asked me if I have REALLY given up backpacking. Well, it has been three weeks now since my last trip (to Kaliningrad) and I have a flat here now so yes it seems like it! Yes, I may venture to Malbork or Stutthof in September or October, but they are nearby and I would be going there partly to write about them, not to be a perpetual tourist. I have my flat here now and I’m sorting my life out.
As I write this today, there are some landmarks and milestones in my life I wanted to share:
- 27th August 2007 – It is 9 years ago yesterday since my first ever blog post on Don’t Stop Living. My website is now 9 years old, happy birthday DSL!
- This is the longest consecutive period of my life in Eastern Europe so far, I have been here 8 weeks now.
- It is 25 years ago this week that I started Bangor Grammar School. I will be reflecting on this soon. #greatexamheist
- I have now been single for an entire year, the last time that happened on this blog was from 2010 – early 2011.
Have a great Sunday and a huge thanks and Dziękuję bardzo to all my new Polish followers and friends. Don’t Stop Living!