Two weeks into our Serbian road trip and I am sitting in a relatively expensive hotel in Zlatibor, coffee in hand and the sun is already roasting my English skin.
As I look around I am struck by the number of people who belong to the Serbian diaspora.
Almost nobody here lives in Serbia. Sitting close to our table are Australian Serbs, Swedish Serbs, American Serbs, French Serbs and us, I suppose. I guess we fit into this category although I never think of Zorica and Emma (my wife an daughter) in such terms.
There are two aspects of this that intrigue me. The first is an obvious demonstration that only those who have moved abroad and done well are in a position to afford such a place.
Secondly I cannot help but allow my mind to wander and to imagine what kind of lives they have "at home" or do they perhaps still call this land home - the one they abandoned in search of prosperity and security for their family?
I think the well-groomed family, all in Nike sportswear and spread across two tables must run some kind of sports store in Chicago. The sister stands out; trying too hard, behind mirrored aviators, to appear nonchalant. She lives in Serbia.
The large older couple behind me are from Australia. His belly is wedged in against the breakfast table, two plates finished and a third being diligently demolished. This is their annual pilgrimage. They will eat their way through Serbia so the memories of pršuta, fresh cheese and gibanica will live on in the long hot Antipodean winter.
In picturing these people in their US, Australian or Swedish homes I feel a pang of jealousy and I pine for anonymity and a new start. I do not mean the desire to not be recognized on the street for I am not known here in Serbia anymore than I am at home in the U.K.
Rather, it is the tingle of excitement that comes with starting anew. The butterflies of anticipation that flutter in the pit of the stomach when new introductions are due, new acquaintances made and a new life begins. I suppose it is the ultimate life redesign when we have a clean canvas upon which to paint a picture of ourselves. It is also the ultimate fantasy of the self-doubting and so it panders to my inner demons. All the troubles of starting afresh, reinventing oneself or beginning a new life miles from "home" are buried beneath the veneer of imagined success and happiness.
In fact, life is not so simple as my daydream suggests.