We were travelling towards the village of Rezovo – a tiny spec on the map, edging the border between Bulgaria and Turkey, carrying the grandiose and somewhat burdensome title of The most south-eastern point of the European Union mainland.
We were staring at the unsettled waters of the Black Sea. There is some sadness in the fact that this old land is a symbol of division between East and West.
Moreover, Bulgaria has always been known for being on the crossroad between Europe and Asia. A crossroad which for the last couple of years has proven to be a treacherous and deadly passage for many lost souls and their desperate moves.
Inside, I also feel desperateness. I am longing for a home, too. I may be a Bulgarian national and a European citizen, and living in Ireland, but in my heart I am homeless.
As I was looking at the desolate beach before me, I felt unease.
I was afraid to open my heart to the world.
After all, that is why I decided to spend two months here – to reconnect with my lost roots, to find my ground again.
The death of my sister a year and a half ago ripped me out of the life I have so carefully built during my eight years in Ireland. It shook me so deeply in my soul, I no longer felt I was part of this world.
And that is why I chose “home”.
My return to Bulgaria after years of absence was in itself gracious and I was welcomed warmly. People were accepting of me aside from my awkwardness and self-consciousness of my speech being heavily influenced by the long stay abroad. I was starting to remember the colourful culture, the hospitable locals, the vast and diverse nature.
At some stage of our trip, after exploring mountain resorts, seaside campsites and hip towns, we found ourselves driving on the motorway. We stopped for some refreshments when all of a sudden I noticed all the people sleeping, wrapped up in duvets, on the grass besides the petrol station.
Next thing I saw were two young girls kneeling on the ground, towels under their knees, their eyes facing the evening sun and praying.
There were a bunch of parked cars filled to the brims with bags.
Who were these people and why was I afraid of them?
Later I realised that these were people searching for a better life. That was their last throw of the dice at finding a new home.
I knew what they were doing because I was doing the same – me, the Bulgarian national and European citizen, living a peaceful life in Ireland.
But we were no different.
We have both tasted the bitter sip of death and loss and were longing for a safe harbour.
Our lives crossed for minutes on the crossroads of Bulgaria.
But our paths in life are the same.
We are searching for a new beginning, a fresh start away from the pain.
This story was originally written for The Irish Times Travel Writer Competition