As you may have seen from yesterday's post, I had a really productive half day in Graz until things went terribly wrong after midday and so it's there that we return to start the story of the post that I never, ever expected to write.
The time was around 12.15pm and I had been walking almost non-stop since 8am. I had a short 10 minute rest at the top of the Church Tower hill but hadn't as yet stopped properly for something to eat or drink. With my legs and stomach in unison and both beginning to ache, the time was now to enjoy some Austrian cuisine before eventually heading back to the station to move north towards Vienna. Except I wouldn't get to try any local dishes for the entire rest of the day for the weather and train saga mentioned yesterday but also for the reason to follow...
The exact sequence of events occurred like this: I stopped at a tram shelter for 'free' seating and it was at that point I turned on my simless mobile phone in the vague hope there would be city Wifi available (You'd be surprised how many cities I've been to that have accommodated today's growing need).
Guess what? Yep, free Wifi. Result.
I had an e-mail notification come through which was when everything changed and my day in Graz was over.
Just before I show you the content of the e-mail, let me remind you of a nice American fella named Justin who was the poker player I met (and cruised on a ferry with) in Albania, shared a dorm with in Montenegro and later randomly bumped into on a dirt-track in Sarajevo of all places.
These were taken 5 weeks ago:
And now the e-mail:
I am hoping that this blog extract will reach my fellow travellers who also met him but have not as yet been informed of the news. I am so sorry to be the bearer of such news. Please feel free to contact me through the blog or privately.
So the temporary bus shelter became my place of residence for at least 30 minutes whilst I just sat and thought, occasionally choking oblivious to what was going on around me. My strap from my cheap watch had been loose this last week and so it didn't surprise me to later realise it was during this period I would loose it.
D'you know what though, I completely experienced the character traits his friend described; he really was one of those super nice guys. Additionally he was smart, handsome, witty and this is hardest part, easy to get a smile from and never unhappy or miserable and like myself, he was always out and about and on the go out during his travels. All of this makes everything so difficult to comprehend.
Separately I distinctly recall a depth to him. Like myself and many other travellers I've met over the months, he was also travelling solo. Often I would catch him alone with his headphones on and quietly thinking to himself. He spoke openly about his poker demons and how one of the main reasons he had come to Europe was to get away from it all. He was one of the few people that I have met who had travelled for longer than I had. He had an extra few months on me and was only returning to the States in July for a Wedding! I vividly recall him saying his travelling was not over.
If you were wondering, I had been asked to draw the goat's leg. Naturally I asked 'What on earth...' and he said he was working on a project and if he pulled it off, I'd get an email. Well, as we know, I got an e-mail but I'm unsure if we'll ever know if this is what he meant at the time but you can understand why I am struggling to believe that it was; that this was premeditated last month during what has to have been the happiest time of his life.
Perhaps something really bad happened when he went home? It's these kind of things that I've gone back to his friend on to try and understand what they have been able to piece together since.
I'd like to take this opportunity to try and write some inspiring words of how life is short and how we should make the absolute most of it, blah blah, but given the exact circumstances, I can't. What I will say though, and I put it to you, do we ever really know someone? Do we even truly know ourselves...?
If you aren't happy with your life, please, please find the courage to change it. I refer you to that very short, surprising and empowering experience I had in a Zagreb laundrette.
Thanks for reading folks. Unsurprisingly attempting to write happy and entertaining travel tales and providing inspiring pictures feels all very un-timely right now so please allow a little time to pass before I find the inspiration to write another post. You'll hear back from me on the blog sometime next week I hope.
Stay safe, be well.