The Great Return to Bulgaria

Finally I’m writing this… I’m going back to Sofia, Bulgaria. No more speculation. It’s official.

After months of flirting with the idea as I voyage across North America & Asia, a flight has finally been purchased and I will officially return to Sofia.

I’ve got all kinds of mixed feelings. Some positive, but most negative to be honest.

There are a few reasons I feel this way. One of the reasons is the realization that Bulgaria has made an unconscious association with love, as soon into my first time in living in Sofia I fell deeply in love in my most intense relationship ever.

Now I know that I will not return to this, but instead something else.

This “something else” I can’t exactly say what it is. This uncertainty is painful. I feel I am approaching something fast, something I should remember, but don’t quite.

Many months ago, as I attempted to apply for immigration to Bulgaria in Chicago, a photo a friend from Bulgaria showed me made me tear up in a public restaurant.

It was a deeply happy moment in my last month in Sofia. Me and many friends were at our favorite bar. The smiles you see on this photo are deep. The eyes are genuine.

I’ve been gone a LONG time, and if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that you as a person can change faster than you imagine.

Thinking back to my friends in Montreal is quite the surprise to see how they’ve changed, or Phoenix too. In fact for Phoenix I always seem to be hanging around new friends.

For long Bulgaria has existed as a sort of mental delusion which I have consciously accepted yet not ever expressed to others.

This delusion was that Sofia was my home. I wrote about it. I shouted it to the world. I announced how amazing Bulgaria was and meant it because there was a time when Bulgaria was everything to me.

Even as I left Bulgaria, I maintained this delusion. I did things which didn’t exactly make sense, but in some ways did, such as avoiding returning to Bulgaria.

It was mentally comforting to think that I could “return home” at any moment to Sofia because the truth is I don’t feel like I’m at home anywhere anymore.

When I am in Phoenix I long for the adventure that can be found outside the USA. Sometimes I wonder if I can have this adventure within the USA. I’d need a bit more cash, but it’s possible.

When I am in Thailand and living, I miss the sense of community I’ve had in other places such as Bulgaria. I haven’t found so many deep connections besides various girls I’ve dated, but not in just friends- if I have they’ve left for onward travel.

Bulgaria felt like a home because of the love I had there, of the many friends I had, and it was the first time I was really living alone and more financially secure than in Canada.

I have more friends in Sofia than any other city. I had love there, one I thought would last always and forever.

As I’ve meandered onward, maintaining this delusion of being able to “return home” at any moment was necessary because without it I may have felt too much emotional pain.

Such is this life, this grand journey, to be torn between many worlds. Experiencing them all, yet occupying none.

I purchased the flight back to Bulgaria for a few reasons. It seemed to be an overall better decision, especially because I began to feel like I wasn’t growing how I wanted to here in Thailand.

It kind of felt like my progress in various areas of my life had hit a stand-still here in Thailand.

What was beginning as a period of great growth and fulfillment is now evening out, and I’m finding that I’m not ready to live here, if at all.

I’m not entirely opposed to living in Chiang Mai, but as I’ve wrote before I need to do a better job of picking friends. Being as many travelers come here, it’s imperative that in order to live here you paradoxically avoid the travelers, otherwise you will struggle to maintain stable social ties- your mental health will suffer as a result.

I suppose having a girlfriend may have kept me here also, as it’s easier to put up with transient social scenes when you do have at least one deeper social connection maintaining you.

My hope with Bulgaria is that I can reconnect with my many great social circles there, and grow in the ways which I’d like to now.

The thing is, I’m kind of nervous to see how we’ll actually connect. I can’t visualize readily how this will play out.

I’m certain that some connections will be deepened by my increase in maturity, but other connections I have no doubt drift off as we realize we are more different than the same.

What I wonder most of all is just what my experience of Bulgaria will be this time. Will my values align with the Bulgarian?

Thailand has changed me. Learning Thai has changed me. I’ve changed a lot, I am not who I was when I left in November of 2018.

It’s hard to objectively say whether my previous love for Bulgaria was grounded or not.

Remember that my love for Bulgaria was also the first time I was madly in love, having so many friends, having money, living alone, etc.

It may be my shocking discovery that Thailand or USA is more suited for me, and it was only via association that I claimed to love Bulgaria.

Soon the truth will be found, and this is what this journey is about.

I intend to take notes on my updated experience of Bulgaria to determine if I could live there longer-term. It’s very well possible I may decide that elsewhere is better for me.

If that’s the case I’ll still make visits back for my friends most likely, and Sofia, Bulgaria will always hold a place in my heart, but then I’ll move on.

I know that already much has changed. Messaging all of my friends in Bulgaria the night I purchased the flights was eerie and creepy.

Some of my best friends are gone, no longer in Bulgaria. Though I’m sure I’ll make new friends who have entered Bulgaria, and friends of friends I may have not otherwise connected with.

I’m curious what changes my friends have made too. Surely a lot has changed over 9 months yes?

Some things remain the same, but some change. This is the humbling aspect of travel because I can’t state what will change and what has stood the test of almost a year.

Looking myself in the mirror, I can state that I’m so different. I have a different look in my eye, a certain change in presence, new values, and more direction.

Whereas before in Bulgaria I was rather aimless and still discovering myself, now I know more who I am, where I’d like to go, and what my values are.

I find that so crazy and I’m so grateful to whatever unknown force is carrying me on its back.

This time I know the exact fitness goals I have, the exact business goals, my hobbies, my values, what I want in a girl, and my boundaries.

I used to have so much free time, and now not so much. Knowing your purpose makes you busy I guess.

I won’t share on here what some of these things are, and as you may have noticed my writing frequency has already decreased drastically. I’m busy in other projects, more meaningful ones, and I’ve realized a big difference in the “talkers” and “walkers.”

I used to very much be a talker. Now I’d like to think I’m a walker, though I’ll bite my lip when I say that because even admitting such a thing is a form of self-validation that can distract me from the path I’ve laid out and intend to walk.

The flights to Bulgaria are as ideal as it can get. I’ll be flying with Emirates airlines for less than $600 USD Bangkok -> Sofia. There is a 4 hour layover in Dubai. I leave Bangkok at 3AM, and arrive at 3PM in Bulgaria.

Having been constantly on planes for 2 years now, I can tell you that these flights are about as ideal as it gets. Besides the fact that it’s the cheapest (and on a Sunday, so no worries for work) it allows for the most likelihood of quick adaptation to the time zone (arriving past 5PM is dangerous).

Despite the most luxurious of flight options and flight paths available, I’m exhausted and a part of my non-excitement with this journey back to Bulgaria has to do with the fact that I’m just done with travel.

I can’t even muster up much excitement to see my friends after purchasing the ticket because I’m already wondering about accommodation, jet lag, and the massive change in environment I will be experiencing.

To counter-act these effects I’ve wrote down a list of goals for Bulgaria so that I have a clear sense of direction with what needs to be done in Bulgaria. This is comforting.

My new goals will set the framework for me to develop proper habits & routines necessary to re-adapt to the Slavic life, and also keep me on the path.

If I start to deviate from my goals, it will be obvious because they are written down and I know what needs to be done.

Still, I’m ready to have a primary home base from which I see the world. It makes more sense financially, emotionally, physically, and for all my goals.

I guess this again goes back to the beauty of me having “discovered myself” by traveling so much.

There was a time necessary for wandering aimlessly, and actually I’m so grateful for that.

Now I know who I am. What I want. Where I’m going. And most importantly what needs to get done.

Perhaps why I also am so non-excited for Bulgaria is that there are certain people which I don’t want to see, but also curious to see, and certain places I don’t wish to go, but will go anyways.

It is a possibility to see my ex again, especially with how compact Sofia center is. Sofia is the type of city where everyone bumps into everyone. It’s where synchronicity happens.

I will be facing the entirety of my past most likely, not just a portion of it. Now I should see clearly Bulgaria for as it is, good and bad, yin and yang.

I think though that I am under-estimating how happy I will feel with the social support of my friends. Right now experiencing some of these places & people would still emotionally upset me, but I must remember there will also be deep friends through which I feel more fulfilled.

It’s hard to imagine that, as it’s been so long. I can know this logically, but not yet feel it.

While all this seems non-exciting, and I don’t necessarily feel the most excited about Bulgaria, it’s okay.

There are loose ends which need to be tied up. Something needs to happen, and I am opening myself to the experience.

I know what I need as an individual so even if it is so bad, I’ll be able to take care of myself. Hell, I always get through everything.

First I was excited to go, but now after buying the flights my emotions are more grounded.

There is almost a sense of dread that comes with leaving Thailand. I truly love it here. It’s taught me so much and I have embraced many of the Thai values.

Every time I meet a foreign friend or acquaintance, such as a Dutch friend that recently came here a week ago, I am reminded of just how much I have changed.

My friends in Bulgaria will no doubt be in for a surprise when they meet me. Some good, some bad. I am not the same.

Everywhere has yin & yang, including me, including you, and even Bulgaria.

Before I was obsessed only with the Yin nature of Bulgaria, but now I am wise, and know that there is a Yang side which I may see as well.

This time, I’ll see the whole, and not neglect the half.

Even if I don’t choose to live in Bulgaria after these 3 months, I will finally have that loose end tied up and know that it’s not for me. Phoenix & Thailand will no doubt call me on each side of the world as I stay in Bulgaria.

That being said, it’s also possible that I’ll love Bulgaria and my life there so much that I immediately immigrate there.

This is the beauty of not knowing. While my writing sounds non-exciting and nearly dreadful, it is not without a hint of humor.

This is the journey. Yin & yang, left and right, but in the end, experience.

What will I experience this time? Will my past haunt me?

Let us discover, friends.

I’ll be in Bulgaria on August 11 at 3PM. Feel free to join me for dinner around 5 or 6PM. First rounds on me after that. The original intention is a stay of 3 months, though we know what often happens to these types of plans…

-Michael.