Our final morning in Riga, we slept in before going to the bus station for our 2.5 hour bus to Siauliai, Lithuania. From there, we would be taking a 20 minute local bus to see the Hill of Crosses: a Catholic pilgrimage site that has been active since the late 1800s, and was repeatedly threatened during Soviet rule.
Well when I showed up to buy the ticket, the person working said they didn't offer any bus stopping in Trikala. I was extremely confused but didn't have time to argue because this happened while the rest of the group was waiting for me illegally parked with our rental cars. She instead offered a 5:30 AM bus to Larissa where I could then get a train to Trikala, which ended up being cheaper overall and let me sleep in a little bit. So it all worked out.
Travel rarely goes as planned which is not always a bad thing. And the chances of things changing increases when you’re with a group and have more people to coordinate. Today we were initially going to split into two groups to go see the Radavc Caves and waterfall – one group leaving earlier in the morning and the other group (including me) would sleep in a bit and stay for a shorter period of time. But one thing led to another and we ended up all going together, with the exception of Calvin who stayed back to do his own thing.
Sunday morning we woke up early to say goodbye to a few Monsooners whose trip was ending in Podgorica, and for the rest of us to head to Ostrog Monastery. It was an easy 15 minute walk to the bus station from our hostel, and then about an hour bus ride to the city Niksic. From there the 10 of us squeezed into two taxis which would wait for us and take us back to the station. It was hot and uncomfortable, but for only €20 for each taxi and this incredible monastery, it was well worth it.
Being a non-binary trans person, the gendered segregation and expectations of spaces such as mosques can put me in uncomfortable situations. However, at the end of the day I need to remember that these spaces are not about me. I am travelling in a culture that is not my own, in a country where the majority population is of a religion that is not mine, and I need to not only respect that but use it as an opportunity to educate myself and do what I can to stand in solidarity with these individuals.
After months of planning and anticipation, the time has finally come to begin my year of travel. And it didn't get off to the smoothest start, buy hey that's part of travel.