We have been in Sarajevo for 3 days and already I feel I have learned and gained so much. I’m not sure I have ever done/seen so many things in a days time as we have so far in such a brief amount of time. It is really a very different kind of travel experience. Not much about this trip has felt self-indulgent, which is how most travel vacations often feel. Of course, we are not missionaries, nor are we saviors. We are not here to assist others, we are here to learn from others about difficult life experiences that we have been fortunate enough to never have experienced ourselves.
My decision to embark on this Bosnian adventure was not necessarily an easy one. Travel and anxiety go hand in hand for me. I think that my anxiety has been exacerbated to some degree on this trip, because I never had to leave behind a dog before now. My dog Riggs is my best friend (he has lived with me for almost 2 years), and it breaks my heart on a daily basis to be away from him, especially when I wonder about how he is perceiving this change, wishing I could somehow reassure him that I am definitely coming back. Riggs is also my emotional support animal, and I am reliant on him to an extent for helping me manage my anxiety and depression. I think in some ways this is an important growing process for me though, because this trip is really an experience of learning about sacrifice, hardship, and going without; while maintaining hope and love for what is meaningful in life.
The people of Sarajevo lived under the longest siege in modern history, and that they ‘went without’ is an incredible understatement. Years without access to proper food, water, shelter, medicine, electricity, and really, basic human rights, was a harsh reality for the people of Sarajevo during the Bosnian civil war. I think about the lack of water here most often, I think because I cannot imagine a life without constant access to water when I need it. Without water, life ceases to exist. The days here have been very hot so far, and I have relied on the sources of water in the city to stay hydrated. There are several places in downtown Sarajevo where sprigs continuously flow cold clean water for passerby’s to collect and drink, and it breaks my heart to think of how difficult it was for the people of Sarajevo to get a drink of water during the siege. Extreme thirst is something no human being should have to endure, and I am sometimes ashamed of my privilege, in that I have never gone a day in my life where I was not able to have a drink of water. We really take it for granted- I know I do. You do not appreciate what you have got until it is gone.
On a happier note, I was so happy to learn more from the creators of ‘Scream for Me Sarajevo.’ It is such a beautiful and powerful film, rich with music, imagery, and pure life force. It is something else that makes me recognize my privilege, and makes me want to reevaluate the way I approach music and concerts. Though a little less physically urgent than the need for water, I cannot imagine a life without music. Music gives life context, meaning, and freedom of expression. The fact that the people of Sarajevo lost their access to music (for the most part) during the war, is something I think people do not often think about as one of the tragedies of war. In a way, music also seems like a human right, and something else that I take for granted. I like the idea that Bruce Dickenson was ‘the one true ambassador’ to the people of Bosnia during the war. Rock and Roll can often be a selfish, indulgent world, but in this case, it was exactly the opposite. It was exactly what the young people of Sarajevo needed in order to have hope, and to feel that they were not alone and forgotten in the world.
Each morning when I step outside of our hotel, I think to myself ‘Good morning Sarajevo,’ and I am excited to see what the rest of these days bring.