I approach the self-checkout at Tesco with an air of haughtiness. After piling together the wretched 1 and 2 cent coins I have been collecting for a year and a half, I dump a portion of my fortune in the large hole designated for change. An impatient woman is breathing down my neck as the price total slowly decreases; the machine takes it sweet time counting each coin. Nevertheless, I leave the supermarket with a sense of victory, along with a pint of milk, flour, sugar and the rattling heart-shaped tin of remaining change in my purse.
It’s not often that a part-time copy editor for a newspaper feels so rich and joyous after spending money. I can only attribute this newfound sense of wealth to the fact that those coins have been collecting dust in my flat for so long, serving a seemingly useless purpose until my friend mentioned the wonders of the Tesco self-checkout machine that swaps the traditional coin slot for a giant, black hole, perfect for dumping bags of coins.
As you may have guessed, this serves not only my grocery list but also my natural inclination to turn almost anything into a metaphor!
As a resident of Bratislava for over a year now, I’ve collected many moments and memories that seem small in value on their own.
Last week, our office building’s security guard, who barely acknowledged me all those times I greeted him in the morning, stopped me on the street to wish me a pleasant evening. I was floored and elated. But, when I explained the groundbreaking moment to others, most didn’t understand what was so amazing about it.
There are other moments too. The moment I played soccer, a sport I am utterly terrible at, in the US Embassy’s annual Roma soccer tournament. Never have I had so much fun embarrassing myself.
There’s the moment I tried bryndzové halušky for the first time and borovička for the last (blehhhh).
There are all the moments I have spent discussing traveling and politics, cheese and Bitcoin with fast friends over delicious coffee. And, of course, there’s the fond memory of being pelted with parts of a broken seat belt on the 207 tram. Next week, I will celebrate six months of dating with the charming man who accidentally demolished that cupid of a seat belt 🙂
Piling together all of these significant snippets of my life in Bratislava, I suddenly realize I am sitting on a great fortune. I am a wealthy wayfaring stranger who has been reminded a lot as of late that living overseas is so much more than a remedy for “itchy feet”. It’s a cultural and personal investment, one that rings true to all the eloquent clichés:
“Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer,” someone once said.
Make no mistake; when I leave Bratislava, perhaps sometime next year, it will feel like I’m handing over my fortune to someone else. It will be much harder to face than the busy and impatient self-checkout line at Tesco, and it will seem careless at first. You have so much going for you here. Why are you giving it up? I may ask myself.
But I’ve chosen to live a life of constant change (in both senses of the word!), one dependent on how I spend my fortune.
I take what I have experienced here as proof that there is so much life to live in this world, which is populated by inherently good, newsworthy people. I live in a city that loves freely with a proclivity towards kindness and unmatched generosity. It showers me with happiness and confidence and the assurance needed to wander back into the uncomfortable world.
There are more pennies to collect, more piles to be made.
And it is because of Bratislava (and Tesco) that I already feel filthy rich.