words: Tijana Ostojić
photo: Lara Watson
A fortune-teller once told me that I would marry and have kids at the age of 25. Looking at my palm, she predicted that I would have a loving husband, who will fail to understand my ways of being. I will have a dog, a car, a backyard where I'll read, and so she went on to list a daring number of things that did little to spark joy within me. Only one of the things she listed caught my attention.
"My ways?" I interrupted her, my eyebrow raised, unapologetically unimpressed by her reading. "And what might those 'ways' be?"
The woman tightened her grip. Then pointing at a single fading line, she mumbled, "Mhm. Yes, indeed."
Feeling uncomfortable, I snatched my hand from hers and shook my head in mockery. But before I stood up, she waved her hand dismissively and told me,
"You are strong headed; it may happen that you'll find your feet muddled as you walk down the road less travelled." Then seeing my dismay, she continued, "Some might not be quick to understand your restless search for a place you will care to call home. Be wise to remember that when you decide it is time for a change."
It wasn’t until one particular Saturday night, nearly two years ago, when my clumsy feet led me home from a downtown bar, that the fortune-teller's last words came to me uninvited. By then, I already knew she was right.
The sound of my feet sinking into a muddy puddle broke the hollowing silence and echoed throughout the valley. Murky water seeped into my shoes, and I leapt fretfully. With fingers, damp from the drizzling rain, I snatched my phone from my pocket and pointed it at my feet. My suede ankle boots were caked with mud. I blinked twice, my vision blurred and I let out a cry of angst. Recognising its owner's helplessness, my phone reminded me of the battery's 2% life. After that, it went dead. I was standing alone in pitch-dark woods somewhere in the Norwegian mountain range. And then, the drizzling rain turned into snow.
I swallowed my tears and began walking, knowing it would take five more kilometres before I saw a place that for now, I called home. With each step I took, I struggled to shake a feeling that those who disapproved of my decision to abandon my job and move from a city to the Norwegian countryside might have been right. I felt ill suited for the environment. But, even then, I knew that the decision to leave was the right one. I had never felt as helpless as I did before I chose to leave and seek something new.
On my first trekking trip, with a family that embraced me as their own, I learned to light a bonfire and set a tent. I treated blisters and aching feet, walked for miles, and for the first time I slept in a tent. My salary as an au pair, although significantly different, was spent on hiking clothes; skiing equipment; boots better suited for mountains than my booties were; a rucksack, a bag that I never owned before. Weekends served for adventures, and with a first autumn, I went hunting. I began writing, finding joy within the stories of our adventures, but struggled to explain the same to my friends and family I had left behind.
The fortune-teller's cautionary warning did come true. While searching for a place I will call home, I adjusted and found long-sought happiness in the most unexpected of places. I am always delighted to hear about the success of my friends, but I no longer feel the envy of “what if I stayed."
Finally, as I am packing my suitcase and returning to a concrete jungle with a better pair of boots, I look with pride on how far I have come along.
On completing her Master degree in law, and having firmly stepped onto her career path, Tijana decided it was time to follow her passions, seek adventures and discover stories the world has to tell. She has recently written a book, and - while waiting for the right publisher to come along - she enjoys hiking and skiing, reading books, and devotes her time to writing. If you are curious to where her travels will take her next, follow her on Instagram.
For more stories of Return, pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 34.