When I hear the word “planet,” I think of the red Mars, the frozen Pluto, or how much fun it would be to rollerblade on that ring around Saturn…
I don’t really think of the term “planet” in association with our world, because it’s become more like a small globe.
But never before this trip to Eastern Europe did I realize just how small our world really is…
Upon arriving in Budapest, I decided to stay at Kalvin Haz, a very quaint, very historic, very “authentic” Hungarian hotel. Yes, there is a 28-storey Marriot Hotel down by the Danube River, but why stay in room #2618 at the Marriot when you can stay in room #2 at the Kalvin Haz?
For breakfast, they prepare a small array of Hungarian meats, cheeses, breads, fresh fruits, and of course, copious amounts of coffee.
While sitting by myself in the corner of the room, I couldn’t help but notice that the man at the table next to me had the very same copy of “Lonely Planet: Guide To Eastern Europe.” I was pretty sure that was a North American book, so clearly he and I inhabited the same continent.
But it was overhearing the conversation between the couple next to me that was really shocking.
“I’m telling you, ING Direct pays like six percent interest,” said a young man to his girlfriend. “You’d be a fool to put your money in a savings account with one of the big-five banks.”
While I agree completely with his logic, that wasn’t the point I was going to make. Clearly, they are from Canada, and chances are excellent that they’re from somwhere in Ontario. Could it be possible that I came all the way to Hungary only to run into a couple that could potentially reside just a few blocks from me in downtown Toronto?
As interesting as it was to find this Canadian couple, looking back on my trip through two Eastern European countries, I realized that this was not an isolated incident.
Let’s start with my very first night in Belgrade, almost three weeks ago.
I went out that night and was introduced to a girl named “Sanja” who my friend told me was from Sarajevo. I asked him if he’d met her there in Bosnia, and he said he did, but he actually first met her in Toronto. She had lived and worked there for a year!
The first weekend of my trip, I went to a small “house party” that put every house party ever held in Canada to complete shame. The music was so loud you could hear it from the street below, and the 2000 sqft apartment had a guy working coat check, a fully-equipped D.J., and a dance floor.
I reached for the Sangria at the same time as this girl, and I said “Chau. Kako Ste?”
She responded, “Your Serbian accent is horrible,” in flawless English. It amazed me to find out that she actually was Serbian, but she learned English in Canada. I asked her what she was doing in Canada, and she said she went to school there for four years, and then worked there for another two. But she didn’t go to school in Toronto…
…she went to school in a place called “Hamilton” at a school called “McMaster University.”
That’s where I went too.
Not only that, but she was there for three of the four years that I was at Mac, which means I could have seen her every day at the gym, in the library, or maybe she even lived in my building!
So here I am, at some random party in Belgrade, Serbia of all places, and I find somebody that went to my University, at the very same time as me!
About a week later, I met a young chap named Ian who makes his permanent residence in England. I’m not sure where, perhaps Upper or Lower Uncton, one or the other…
Two girls having drinks with him at his apartment, which was the most amazing place I’ve seen in any country (Ian has dough!), also spoke flawless English but were born, raised, and lived in Serbia.
Ian had this gigantic World Map on his wall, and since I have become obsessed with world geography and travelling, I stood and gazed upon the map while the rest of the party went about their business.
Ivana, pronounced “Eee-vun-uh,” came over and asked me where I was from. I pointed to Canada, and she told me that she had a brother living there.
She told me that he lived in a small town called “Guelph” which was about forty miles outside the metropolitan area, Toronto.
So here I am in Serbia, and I’m getting a lesson in the geography of my own backyard from a girl whose brother goes to school where three or four friends of mine also received their degrees..
After another week in Belgrade, my time in Serbia was coming to an end as I was moving on to Hungary. I hailed a cab to catch my train to Budapest, and when I got in the cab, I told the driver, “Zelenica stanica, izvani.”
“Whatever you try say make no sense in Serbian. Where you want to go?” asked the cabbie. I told him to take me to the train station, and he noticed my Canadian pin on my lapel.
“Canada, yes?” he asked.
“Yep. I’m from Toronto,” I told him. I assumed this is where he would tell me that he was actually born there, and he’s been faking this Serbian accent for the last decade.
“I never go to Canada,” he told me.
Well that’s a relief!
“But my sister, she live in Niagara Falls.”
Did the entire world amalgamate into one country when I wasn’t looking?
I mean, there was a time when people took three-week voyages aboard steamships just to cross the Atlantic Ocean!
Our planet, our world, our globe has become so small, that I pick the most obscure place to travel to, and I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody that has a connection to my hometown!
I have been told by a couple people to “Forget about family and life back home, as everybody should while on vacation.” But is this even possible anymore?
I mean my room at the Kalvin Haz, a tiny, “authentic,” century-old hotel, is equipped with Wi-Fi…
With high speed Internet on every street corner, and Blackberries and peer-to-peer communication devices on our hip pockets, how can any of us truly “Get Away”?
I don’t think we can.
Planet Earth is just a series of different places and faces, all of which can be communicated with in a matter of seconds, or visited in a matter of hours or days.
And now, I pack up my things to start my trek “home”…