And so the Motherland calls me back. It’s been 5 years since I traveled to Russia as a study abroad student. The temperature was -20°F on that brisk winter night I arrived in St. Petersburg. Not even the locals braved the city streets. And yet, as I stared out of the frost-encrusted windows, St. Petersburg stunned me with its colorful, European architecture and numerous, icy canals. It was inevitable. I would fall in love with the city, the country, and the people. And I did.
This time I’m on my way to Moscow to teach English. While studying abroad, I spent a few days in Moscow. But the biggest country’s biggest city deserves more than three days of sightseeing. I think a year will do nicely. What do you think?
Friends of mine say there is a cultural competition of sorts between St. Petersburg and Moscow. The Hermitage in Petersburg offers the second largest collection of art in the world with masterpieces from all over. Meanwhile, the Tretyakov in Moscow boasts the best of Russian art. In St. Petersburg, is the famous Mariinsky Theatre and in Moscow, the Bolshoi Theatre. Both are powerhouses of theater and ballet. Heck, I have even heard of writers and musicians exchanging their works in battles of art and wit.
Ironically, there are those that say neither city truly reflects Russia. The real Russia is in the small, nameless villages or in the stern, industrial towns or in the sprawling expanse of nature that is Siberia. St. Petersburg and Moscow are two entities independent of the country in which they reside. Much like myself, they are working constantly to develop their own identity by expressing themselves in new and exciting ways, though never too much to forget the value in their history. Whatever the case, a vibrant adventure awaits me.
I am excited for the trip. But there is fear as well. Moving halfway across the world to start a new job in a foreign country is not something anyone should take lightly. But fear is something that is natural to travel, even on shorter trips. It’s something travel agencies never talk about in their pamphlets, something influencers never broach when posting their carefully curated pictures. Yet, it is unavoidable. The unknown.
But there is joy in the unknown and a giddy high in that fear. Travel changes you. For those of us that want to change, that is a happy promise. Travel enough and maybe you’ll turn into the person you want to be. Shuffle the deck enough, and sooner or later you’ll find your card. Growth, I suppose, is also unavoidable. After all, you can’t find your limits until you break them. You can’t feel comfort until you first experience discomfort and learn to push past it.
So what the hell! I’m young. I speak Russian. I’m sure everything will be fine.