Last day in sunny Sardinia :(

“When you’re traveling with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there’s no other way to preserve it.” ~Shauna NiequistSunday August 27, 2016

Day 99

Chia, Sardinia, Italy 

The Chugging of the bus’s engine , the rolling of the road lulled me to sleep. I woke up occasionally. The landscapes reminded me of Mexico more than Italy. There were Adobe type houses and cacti and dust everywhere. 

Dropped me off at some dusty dirty intersection. People were milling about. All of them looking a little lost. There was a shop selling paninis and beer with a line out the door. I kept walking. Around the corner behind the shop there was a road that seemed to go in the direction of the ocean. Dried up blackberry bushes lined the road. Adobe style walls with beautiful purple flowers crawling over it, all covered in dust. In the distance I heard screams of laughter. That must be the beach. I sauntered down the road. 

I came to the realization I wasn’t even sure if I got off at the Chia stop. Was there supposed to be w city? Was there supposed to be shops? It was quite wild. I kinda liked it. Then I realized I better pay attention to where I went so I could figure my way back to catch the bus later or tomorrow. 

I happened upon. Cute little cove with pebbly sand and deep blue waters. On either side were cliffs. Climbable cliffs. Perfect. I grabbed a beer and headed up to see some gorgeous views. Off to the side there was a trail up to a tower. The tower was closed but on the other side there was a beach with crystal clear Emerald green waters. I wanted to go down there. 

I stopped to charge my phone and get some espresso and ended up finding on the map a string of beaches a few miles down the road. Perfect. I was sure I could find a cozy spot to sleep there. 

I walked down a two lane street with cars zooming by, in a hurry to get to or from the beach. Blackberry bushes and fig trees covered in dust lined the road. I occasionally stopped to munch on a few. My legs were covered in dust. 

Finally I made it to the signs for Spiaggia Su Giudea and a dusty first road. I passed a horse ranch and more fig trees and dried up blackberries. Hills rolled in the distance. It was quite wild. Beautiful. 

I came to the parking lot. It was quite pretty with strategically places cute little trees. I continued on and ended up stopping at a little table that was selling fruit and grabbed a peach for dinner. 

The beach was expansive. Crowded. I bought a spritz and walked the length of it both ways. Not too exciting. The water didn’t even look that great. The sun was setting. The booths selling beer and snacks were turning up their music, I could feel the vibrations from the bass below my feet. 

I remembered a little rocky outcropping by where I started. It jutted out into the sea. I was sure no one would venture that way after dark and it seemed to be far enough out there I could see the sunrise and sunset. 

I climbed along the rocks to the end and sat down. You could still hear faint echoes of the music over the gentle rolling of the baby waves. Coming from the west coast, I found it difficult to actually call them waves, but that’s what they called them. 

The sky put on its sunset show for me. The sky got dark. The music continued. The stars came out. 

My whole trip thus far replayed in my head. All the Couchsurfers I stayed with and beautiful people I met along the way. I wondered how they were. The places I’ve been. The experiences. The things I’ve learned. The hurtful things. The heartbreaking things. The beautiful things. The magical things. I’ve come a long way. It seemed like years ago I was back in Seattle boarding that plane to come here. No, my trip hasn’t gone as planned, but I liked it better this way. I wished I could personally thank all of them for everything they did. Good or bad. Because look where I’m at today. Sleeping under the some shimmering stars. Falling asleep to the water lapping at the rocks. Surrounded by pristine Caribbean type waters. 

I laid down, curled on the hard rock. It was a struggle to find a comforTable position. The lighthouse in the far distance made a gentle sweep of light on the rocks above me. I counted them. About 30 per minute. I found all the constellations I knew and counted shooting stars. They never cease to amaze me. And I fell asleep gazing at Orion’s Belt, his figure stretched out, close to the moon, looking as though he were about to knock it with his bow. 

I woke up with a start, shivering. The stars were even more intense. The music had stopped. All I heard were waves. It had grown cold. My mind went into panic mode. I tried to comfort myself. Talk myself down. No one gets hyperthermia and dies after just one night. I wondered if the fact I was in the warm sun all day and now exposed to all this cold and wind… Could that make it worse? I mentally scolded myself for not bringing leggings to slip on. I moved spots, trying to find a place protected from the wind. I curled up again, my back exposed to the wind, my knees to my chest. So alone. So cold. 

I must have drifted off because the next thing I remember was looking over and see the skyline over the water illuminated in all the colors. I smiled. I made it through the night! And would be gifted with a glorious sunrise followed by much needed warmth. 

Beaches in the morning are quite peaceful. There were leftovers, forgotten toys and towels scattered about. I had the beach to myself. I saw the beds that were outside one of the bars that you could rent and I got up on it. It was a cool feeling. Having the lonely beach all to myself. Just 12 hours earlier it was packed. 

I wandered to find a little tiny sandy beach hidden in the rocky but I slept on and laid down, soaking up the morning sun. 

People started arriving. I left my secret spot. I looked pout at the water. Last night it seemed just like a regular beach. Like any beach I could have seen in California. But this morning the water was crystal clear. Like in the pictures. Stunning. 

I had bought a bikini the day before. It has been years since I’ve worn one. But walking around on these beaches. In Barcelona. In Italy. There were people of all ages. All sizes. All body types. 

Yes I have a gigantic scar riding across my belly. I always feared taking off my shirt for guys that once they saw it they would turn away in disgust. That if i wore a bikini people would stare at me like I was sons horrific creature. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I had put it on that morning. Behind the rocks. I giggled at the contrast between my belly and my arms. Super tan and dark vs white as a pearl it seemed. It was fine when no one was there. Now the beach was getting crowded. I knew I had to head back to Cagliari soon to get my bags and some food and head to the ferry 

I challenged myself to walk along the beach. In front of everyone. I was nervous, shaky at first. I looked around out of the corner of my eye. No one looked at me like I was a monster. No one turned up their nose in disgust. People went along with their day. I got a few looks of curiosity. But my white scarred belly did not seem to offend anyone. 

I have grown to accept my body. Even tho I’ve been hospitalized many times for losing weight to try to get rid of the bulges around my scar. My body is nearly immune to hangovers. I can eat spicy food without a problem. It takes a lot for me to get too hot or too cold. I can hike with no shoes or socks up mountains. I can walk miles and miles through foreign cities and swim in all the lakes. My body is just my vessel in this life. It’s my soul that’s most important. My spirit. And I think I’m doing pretty good. 


Hitchhiking in Sunny Sardinia

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”. ~Jack Kerouac
Saturday August 27, 2016

Day 98

Sardinia, Italy 
Sardinia. The Italian Caribbean. Absolutely stunning waters. Glorious shades of Aqua, teal, emerald and all the blues and greens in between. Some of the beaches had the color of a pristine swimming pool. I could imagine I was in one, until I went under and my eyes began to sting from the salty sea water. You could see your toes. You could see the fish flitting about below. Some of the beaches you could wade out nearly 75 meters and the water was still just barely at your waist. It was warm too, in the night I preferred to be in the water than out due to the setting sun taking the warmth with it. 

I will have spent 5 nights here. Every night I ended up sleeping on the beach. Not a bad way to sleep… In the dunes of the sand or in a little rocky cove tucked away… Waling with the rising sun. Spectacular sunrises here too. All across the horizon the colors changed and swirled until the sun burst over the hills beyond. But certainly not the most restful or comfortable. And it gets cold at night. 

Day 2… I wandered up and down Paetto beach. Tried to sleep since I hadn’t the night before but it was much too hot. I wandered up and down the streets of Cagliari. An interesting town. Lots of windy streets and fancy restaurants and souvineers shops. You can walk up and up and get a superb view of the town and surroundings and the sea. But I wasn’t feeling the best vibes from people, though I had heard happy people reside here. I tried to link up with a few CouchsurfErs but from the tone of their messaging they were not necessarily offering their couch, but their bed, next to them. I politely declined, saying I’d rather sleep on the beach. And so I did. I also discovered that the hostel will hold your bags for you for 3 euro a night, which was super helpful since I didn’t want to carry it anymore. 

Day 3-4 I met up with a CouchsurfEr after messaging him and asking if he could tell me a beautiful beach to sleep on. He decided to come along and show me. Perfect!! We spent the morning touring a few of the local beaches. Emerald waters. Pure white sand. Tons of dark, leathery skinned people laying under their umbrellas. 

We went to his house. He lived with his parents and his younger sister. I hear it’s a thing here.. In Sardinia I think… To continue to live with your parents into your 30s. His house was huge and gorgeous. Short four minute walk to a perfect beach. I was in awe. His mom cooked an amazing homemade pasta meal which I tried hard notto stuff my face with. I was hungry and it was delicious. His mom said she had seen it in a cooking show but could never find the recipe… But she was pro that at least she got the colors in the sauce right

After stocking up on wine, bread, cheese and pesto (all of my favorite things 😍) we got on a bus that took us to the end of the line.. 5km down the road. 

The next part was my absolute favorite. We got to hitchhike!! It only took about 20 minutes of sticking out our thumbs to get a ride. A lime green car with just the shell, no real doors or roof. It was perfect. My friend and the driver, a sweet old man in a polo shirt and khakis, chatted the whole way. I stared in awe at the coastline. Every turn resulted in a spectacular view. I wanted to stop and jump in. It just got more and more beautiful. There were cacti and Palm trees all over. It looked like the desert. The coastline reminded me vaguely of the drive from Monterey, CA to Los Angeles, CA.. But instead of waves crashing, there were all the colors of blue and green. You could see all the rocks on the bottom, even when we were way high up on the road. 

Our first stop was my favorite beach ever, Mari Pintau. Wow. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! It was like all those pictures.. those calendars.. The water was the most amazing color of blue. Like a pool. So crystal clear. I walked out and twirled around and wiggles my toes. You could see everything, even if you were up to your shoulders… And swimming where my toes could reach, you could still see the bottom. The fish below. It was transparent. It was wow. 

After getting my full of swimming there, I grew anxious to keep moving. 

We got another ride with a young couple in an RV. They were on vacation from mainland Italy and decided to take the girl’s parents RV so they didn’t have to pay for a sleeping place. Once again my friend chatted with them while we woke up and down the road, tight s curves surrounded by cacti. With rolling mountainous hills on one side and cliffs beaches with little coves and beaches on the other.

We got dropped off in Villasimius and were told we could reach the beach just 5km walking down the road. No problem. The sun was beating down. I loved it, but craved a beer or gelato or nice cold glass of white wine. The sun, as hot as it was, was beginning to set sowe quickened our pace, finally making it to one of the many beaches in the area, Spiaggia del Riso. It was a beautiful little cove with a row of sailboats separating our cove and the sea. It was getting dark so I couldn’t exactly see the clearness of the water but decided it would be a wonderful surprise for the morning. We opened our wine and dove into our dinner. The sunset was gorgeous. The stars came out. I always forget that sleeping under the stars means the sun is gone which means the warmth is gone and therefore I forget to bring warmer clothes. We ended up crashing at midnight and since the sun rose behind cliff behind us, we got to sleep in a bit longer than usual (8am). Restless, cold I kept waking up to admire the stars above. 

And I was finally able to see the sparkling waters  we slept by. The clear transparent water. How it sparkled in the Sun. I jumped in for a little wake up/polar bear swim (even tho polar bears would die of heat in this water) and we headed on to explore the rest of the beaches in the area. 

Porto Giunco. Timi Ami. Simius. Long stretches of beautiful sandy beaches, clear Aqua waters. Lots of people. Lots of large sun umbrellas. And, as with all the beaches too, the peddlers selling their wares. Walking around with 10 hats on their head to sell or a large cardboard square full of sunglassess. They liked to wander amongst the people lazying around and lean down into their spade and ask if anyone wanted anything. 

After stopping more than a few times for pictures and swims in the sea, we reached the town again. We could wait two hours until the bus came.. Or we could hitchhike. 

And we did. And caught a ride after 30 minutes in the hot sun. He was relaxing in the shadows, melting even there. I was out by the road throwing my thumb up for every car that drove by and flashing a friendly smile. He would occasionally shout ideas and advice and tips on hitchhiking. He was a pro. Tho he had never done it on his own island before, but certainly China and Japan. 

We got all kinds of looks. Some shrugged as they sped past. Some gestured that they were just about to get off just up the road. Some motioned that they were already full. Some waved. And some outright stated. Most avoided our gaze and looked the other way.

A beautiful white car pulled over. Two men got out. An older man and a younger man. The younger man had yellow pants with cherries on them and a bright yellow, orange and green patterned shirt. I remember I was impressed. The older man knew some English and was genuinely curious, asking me questions. They had thought I was alone hitchhiking since my friend was staying cool in the shadows, mostly hidden from view of the road. They gave him a bad time for having me be the one out in the sun trying to get a ride while he relaxed. They ended up taking us nearly all the way to my friends house where I got a much needed shower and scoured the Internet for inspiration on my next move. 

I wanted to go back to Napoli. My friend there was one of my favorites. I missed having a friend. I was lonely. The beaches are beautiful and lovely and all that, but it’s not as much fun when you are alone. And I was just about to leave my friend, since he lived with his parents it was too complicated to have me stay and I didn’t want to intrude on a whole family. Flights out were over 150 euros. The only ferry to Napoli was Monday night. I wanted to go the next day. I looked into ferries. They were overnight ferries. It left Cagliari at 8pm and Put me just outside if Rome at 7am. Perfect. 

Just one more night alone on the beach. I could do it. 

I went back to town for some wine and to catch a bus to Chia, supposedly there were some nice hedges there. Of course, I missed it. Daydreaming. I got a few messages from CouchsurfErs, some being too far away or out of town or doing the creepo talk.   

I went back to Paetto. Discouraged. I wandered until I found a bar that wasn’t so crowded, plugged in my phone and of course the Internet wouldn’t work. 

I was at my breaking point. 

Then I heard it. Outside on the patio there was some guitar music and a mans sweet voice lulling some Bob Marley. I took my beer outside to finish and ended up staying til 1 listening to them. I was the only one on the upper patio with these two guys singing and playing their hearts out. I was in heaven. I could actually sing along to the songs too 🙂 it was a perfect moment of the universe telling me I was where I needed to be.

Sleep came easy. I curled up in the dark and tucked my stuff between me and the wall. I was out like a light. 

Day 5… The next morning I went to check on the ferry. The boat for the night was full. That meant I had to wait one more night. Sunday night. My heart fell.  Once again I tried Couchsurfing but the Ones that responded were 4 hours by bus and the only bus was at 2:15 and I had to be Back to Cagliari the next day. Not worth it. Sadly I passed and told them it wouldn’t work.. 

And so now I’m on my way to Chia. For my last night on this beautiful, strange island. 

Then back to good ol Napoli. With my friend. Maybe this time I’ll find the catacombs. Or at least eat pizza… But drinking bottles of wine in the moonlight church steps and talking if anything and everything isn’t so bad at all. I’ll be happy with just that. Human connection is what I’m looking for. And laying around listening to music, mine then his… Sitting up on his terrace overlooking the kids playing street football…  

But for now I play in the waters and soak up some sun for how could one be sad surrounded by these waters 🙂

Sunrises in Sardinia 

“Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.” ~Mandy Hale 
Wednesday August 24, 2016

Day 95

Cagliari, Italy 

And there I was. It was nearly midnight. I was dropped off by the beach. Right in the middle of all the bars with raging music and flashing lights. Nearly anyone else would be excited at the prospects. Not me. I was tired. I was alone. Somewhere on a beach in Cagliari, Italy. 
I had just had a nice dinner with wine with an interesting lad who lets just say I wasn’t vibing with so I decided to have him drop me off at the beach to sleep in the sand than at his house. He was being sketch about inviting me over anyway. I wasn’t feeling comfortable. 

Uneasiness sank in as it usually does whenever I am forced with the reality that once again I would have to find a safe spot to sleep out in the open in a foreign country whose language I did not know. My phone was near dead. I felt a wave of intense loneliness wash over me. 

I made this decision. It was the right decision. To come to this beautiful island in search of something. Beaches? Friends? Crystal waters? All of the above. 

But at that moment I was beginning to doubt everything. I walked along the street that lined the beach. Every hundred meters there was another little beach bar with atrocious music. 

I picked one that had a little indoor bit with tables and a wall plug. I ordered a beer and plugged my phone in and waited for it to charge. 

I had booked the flight late last night. Spur of the moment. Left my beautiful friend in Napoli after 2 days of best bliss and perfect conditions. I had looked at a few pictures and talked to many people of the wild beauty Sardinia had to offer. The Caribbean of Italy. I had arrived in Cagliari with high hopes and the sunset behind the palm trees did not disappoint. But as the night wore on with my friend I decided this was not the route I wanted to take. 

And once the clock struck 120 I decided I should wander down the road and find a nice place to curl up. As I walked I was followed by a few drunken creepers. Bad vibes. I continued off, trying politely to make them go away. I found a small stretch between two bars on the far end that were near closing and tossed my bag down by the little barrier fence that separated the sand and ground. 

I couldn’t sleep. My mind raced. What if I made a bad decision? Maybe I should’ve gone down the coast to Sicily. Maybe I should’ve gone straight to Ireland.. It was the original intention after all… Or maybe I should’ve stuck around Germany…

I texted a few friends back home trying to get some friendly reassurance and small talk . They were busy. 

The beach in front of me was empty. The stars and moon glittered above my head. The music down the beach was occasionally drowned out by the cheers of a lively, drunken crowd having the time of their life. I needed distraction. 

I opened tinder. My boredom killer and began swiping to kill the time. I never have ever had intentions to use tinder except in these lonely moments. To distract my mind. It worked. I was amused. I ran out of likes. My battery down to 15%. None of my friends were responding. I put my phone away and curled up around my big blue bag and tried to will myself to sleep despite the street lights beyond the bushes behind me and the music teasing me with images of people having the times of their lives. I turned back around and tried to count shooting stars. I counted 5 then slowly drifted off. 

I awoke shortly after to the sound of the machine that smooths the sand. It went back and forth and back and forth in the sand in front of me. The lights shining in my eyes. I sat up and pulled out my phone, unsure if it was legal to sleep on the beach, I pretended that i was just taking a break on my walk to sit and check my phone. 

I noticed I got a message on tinder. 

Lol! I thought. It said he was less than a mile away.. I bet he’s a bro somewhere on this beach with that music. Chasing tail. Gross. Maybe I’ll respond. See what he has to say.. It’ll be amusing… 

And yes. He was on the beach. He offered to come down with his friend with a beer to chat. No pressure. Just friends and good times. I debated. This could be the restart that I needed… The beginning of a magical story to tell. Or it could be no good. The the safety and comfort of being here alone soon became outweighed the temptation of an adventure I desperately needed. He said he was coming. 

Fuck it. Okay. So this was happening. And I was excited. I wouldn’t be lonely anymore. I could be entertained for an hour than go back to my safe spot to sleep. 

I never went to sleep that night. 

They came. I was intrigued. They had a very friendly, genuine, playful energy about them. They were energetic. Enthusiastic. Silly. We drank beers. We swam in the sea. In the moonlight. The water was warm and clear. I could see my toes in the sand beneath the water with the light of the moon. 

I let them into my world. They let me into theirs. They grew up here. I wanted to hear all the stories of growing up in this paradise. One was leaving to his home in Bologna the next day and he was celebrating his last night in his hometown. Perfect. 

We clicked. We talked of things and realized we had many things in common and our future goals aligned. It was a weird feeling. All of these bizarre conditions. Life has a beautiful way of coming together in the end. 

It was a beautiful feeling. I ended up following them down the road to get another beer and watch the sunrise. And the sunrise did not fail either. It light up the whole sky behind the sea. The colors all around the sky changed slowly, pale in color at forest and then the sun burst through, casting brilliant light all over the land and sea. 

People were waking up. Joggers were jogging in the sand. People were swimming laps out in the distance. A few men came out with their fishing poles. People started to come with beach blankets and chairs to catch the morning rays before the sun grew too hot. A snorkel made his clumsy way into the water and out to where it finally got deep enough to crouch down and go under. We watched the world wake up and start their day around us. We both were still clutching our half empty beers. Not quite wanting to finish them because that would mean we had none left. 

By this time it was just me and my tinder match. (Lol) His friend had gone home just as the sun was rising because he had work in the morning. Together, the two of us laughed about the crazy way we met. We talked of this and we talked that. We gazed in wonder and the sunrise. I couldn’t have asked for any better way to spend my first night in Sardinia. We swam again. Instead of the glimmering moonlight, we were surrounded by brilliant sunshine and warmth of the rising sun. My fondness for this beautiful stranger grew. I wished he didn’t have to go home in the morning. I needed him to take me to those secret spots the crystal clear beaches. The water caves. 

Someone to have a drink with. We had some coffee at 8am so I could charge my phone and figure out where to go next. He had to go home and pack and hang with his family before he left. 

We parted ways, saying we’d see each other in Bologna. That I would stop by on my way out of the country. I’ve done crazier things for less. 

I went back to my spot on the beach from the night before. Now the beach was crowded with families and friends soaking the morning sun. I tried to nap but it was much too sunny and hot already. A group of boys were playing football near me. I flipped over onto my belly and watched. They laughed and argued and played, shouting in Italian in their little speedo briefs. 

I never slept that morning. I dozed a bit here and there, took a dip in the water, still blown away at hoe crystal clear it was. More than one person had told me that this beach was the least pretty of all the ones on the island. I was excited to see more. 

I still wish my friend wasn’t leaving today. Wishing I could have my own personal tour guide. Still getting over the fullness and happiness in my heart at our encounter dripping with serendipity. 

I got a response from a Couchsurfer saying he could offer a place for the night but wasn’t able to get off work til 1030. We made arrangements for me to meet him later at the train station close to his place 20 minutes outside the city. 

I walked back to the city. Partway there a man started walking next to me and began chatting to me in Italian. I tried to tell him that I had no idea what he was saying. Sorry sorry. 

He continued talking. He edged closer to me as we walked. He grabbed my hands a couple times as he said something. I ripped them away. Bad vibes. He touched my leg twice, jabbering in Italian. I jumped far away. He edged closer. At one point, he asked, in English, “you want make baby? Bambino?” Horrified I said “no no no no no no”. There were only cars around. No people. Empty buildings. I crossed my arms in front of me as if to say “no. Don’t go there. Off limits” 

He laughed and shook his head muttering in Italian. He started slowing down a bit so he was right behind me. Staring me down. I walked quicker. Occasionally he would speed up, his elbow nearly touching mine and rant again about something crazy.  I went into the nearest store. I saw him out the window, lurking, waiting. I busied myself with trying to find the perfect coconut water to buy. Thankfully there were at least 8 different varieties. After about 15 minutes of wandering in this tiny shop he was gone. 

Walking through the city, I noticed I got a more than a few of those creepy guy looks. The “undressing you with the eyes” look. Sending shivers down my spine. I shook them off by walking up and up to the top of the city to get a breathtaking view of the city sloping down to the sea below. 

At least I met two people with good energy here. One which I felt that instantaneous “I wanna know this guy” Vibes. I can’t look back on that night without a smile. That crazy chance encounter. The sunrise. The zip zap when one of us said something that connected with another. 

It’s the little things. Little signs that show you everything’s going to be alright. That wherever you are, you are meant to be. Everything happens for a reason. Lessons. Blessings. Shining stars to guide you in the night or beautiful strangers to keep you from being lonely. 

Thank you so very much for saving me that night and insisting on bringing me that beer 🙂 that is certainly one of the nights that I will remember forever. A pure, genuine friendship. Act of kindness that I will never, ever forget. ❤️ you know who you are!

And tomorrow I take a bus to an even more beautiful beach to get lost and sleep under the stars once more and see what the universe has in store for me… 


“Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.” Hannah Arendt 

Monday August 23, 2016 

Day 93

Napoli, Italia 

My blabla car driver dropped me off in front of some sketchy looking Metro station. His English was not so good, which I expected the further south I got. He was trying though. Trying hard to help me out. He even called the CouchsurfEr I was staying with and told him i would be coming by metro and asked what metro station I should get off on. 

But it was difficult to understand the words that were coming out of his mouth with his thick accent. I zoned out a bit and nodded and thanked him. He drove off. 

I slowly realized I had no idea where I was. No idea what metro he told me to get off at. No way of getting ahold of anyone. 

I smiled to myself and turned around to the metro. Perfect. A challenge. 

I ended up befriending 2 older ladies in the station. Thank goodness they were there because it was completely empty and in the middle of nowhere and no English anywhere. One lady was from Germany and had married an Italian. One was from Sicily. They were both heavily made up with tight clothes stretching over their larger bodies. They were sweet. I gave then the address of where I was trying to go and they told me the station, Toledo. Yes. I do remember that name. We talked. They were super impressed and shocked that I was traveling alone. No plans. And they told me to be wary of Italian men. They can by tricky, one said. “And don’t forget to eat pizza. We invented it you know!” One last shouted as she got off the subway. 

The station I got off at was covered in shimmery blue and white and pearl tile mosaics. Tiny lights were scattered about that illuminated everything in blue or white. 

The staircase went up and up this beautiful l color scheme. I felt like j was ascending into an ice world. 

But no. I reached street level and the heat hit me. Ohh wow this was going to be fun. 

My CouchsurfEr, another beautiful Italian. Born and raised in Naples. He took me to his flat. A tiny box of a place with a toilet in the shower! I adored it. The terrace outside was the roof of an old unusable church which had recently been turned into a bar. I got to sit up top on the ledge and dangle my feet below, watching the people below on the little plaza… The entrance to the church changed bar. It was empty during the day. But by night it was hopping. And we talked. Of growing up in Naples. Of where to go in Italy. Of spirit animals.. He lived in the historic district of Napoli. Small winding streets. Little alleyways. Shops selling gelato and everything fried. Everything was closed. It was a Sunday. The garage pull down doors were shut and locked. They were all covered in graffiti as well. 

Naples, at first, came off to me as dirty, scary, intimidating. Trash was everywhere. People yelling in Italian or Napolese. All sounding so angry. The graffiti on the walls were more intense, wild, all over the place and mixed with posters or partially torn down fliers. Scrawling. Words. Names. Half faded drawings. As we were walking around that afternoon and all night, I pointed out all of the different things I saw. Hearts. Dragons. “Love” . “Moon”. hidden in amongst the mess. He looked at me. Surprised. “I never noticed that and I’ve been walking these streets for years”. We played a game that night as we wandered up and down the streets drinking our beer. Who could find the hearts and moons and dragons and other bits of beautiful amongst the hodgepodge. 

We walked to the sea. As we walked by tourist shops, he would stop and point out what they were selling and explain why they were so meaningful to the city. There were monks and sisters walking about adorned in their religious garb. When we reached the sea, I felt like I was in another world. You know the movie, “Romeo and Juliet”? The converts Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes? I felt like I was thrown straight into that movie. There were beautiful Italians all over, their skins dark from the sun. The men and boys were all wearing colorful tiny speedo like things and ladies in bikinis that barely covered their lady bits. All rocking Italian sunglasses. Italian music was blaring, happy and catchy. Some wee dancing. Some were shouting. It was wow. 

We laid on some rocks and he told me of the volcano that towered just outside the city. The one that destroyed Pompeii. He told me of the two castles we could see from where we lay. He told me if Capri and how it’s beautiful but much too luxury and fancy it is. Of Sicily and how it has beautiful beaches, big cities and lots of historical stuff and churches whereas Sardinia which was up by Rome had much more potential to be more wild and untamed. The Caribbean of Italy. I pondered heading back up that way. I couldn’t get enough. 

As the sun set and the night settled in the city got more and more beautiful. The small streets were dimly light. People ambled up and down the cobblestone. Occasionally we’d reach a piazza where everyone was hanging out. People watching. My favorite. The people were loud. Passionate. He told me this was low key for a Sunday night. I’m not a city girl. This was soooo cool. 

We went to this little hole in the wall Indian street food restaurant. Spent 4 euros and got the most deficits Indian food to split between the two of us. We walked around the corner where old men were playing cards on little tables outside. We found an empty bench and dug in. We had a bottle of wine of 1.20 euros. 


Vespas and cars would occasionally zoom down the streets and everyone would scatter. We found more hearts and moons and beautiful things written on the walls. 

It was a magical night.

Yes Napoli to be quite dirty. Haphazard. Very different energies than the other cities I’ve been. I can’t put it into words. But it won me over 

And for sure. It’s the people you stay with that make or break a city. And I think I lucked out with my CouchsurfEr. 

The next day he told me of some catacombs in the cemetery of a church. I charged my phone, grabbed my camera and the map and headed out. I sat next to him as he explained how to get there with the map. Pointing at the different phases. Once again, I zoned out just listening to the lovely accent. I thanked him and set off. 

Away from the city I went. Down to where families lived. Everyday lives happened. Old men sitting on benches laughing and talking. Shopkeepers standing outside, their arms crossed glaring into the streets, waiting for more customers. Clothes hung out to dry outside of every window. Radios and the blared into the streets as people swung open the doors to their terraces to get some sort of a breeze. I received a lot of stares. Some creepy hungry old men eueing my like I’m some delicious meat. A few dudes shouted at me. I had no idea what they said. I kept on. Father up the hill. Away from the city streets. It was quieter. I walked up and down trying to find this church. I mentally berrated myself for not paying attention. Or writing down the name of the church. I caught some beautiful views of the city. 

I walked up some street that got narrower and barrier as it went up and up. The walls got higher. Ivy and blackberry bramble covered the stone.suddenly I heard a growl, followed by barking on both sides. I froze. Fuck. This might be the day I die. I heard the footsteps of the dogs as they ran. They were just above me. In the wall. Three on one side. Two on the other. Angry. I debated. I doubted that they would jump. I took a deep breath and continued walking. They continued to bark. Snarl. But they did not jump. Thick goodness. 

I stopped a few people. Tried to ask them where to go. We couldn’t understand each other but we tried. They were sweet. At one point I stopped at this building that mayyyyybe looked like a church? It had a sign out front. Maybe at least someone knew English. 

I knocked I. The door and some 20 something year old guy answered. That was a good sign. Usually most that age knew some form of English. I asked him. He was sweet. Led me down to the street and gave me some complicated directions. I never found it. About an hour later I started walking back to town. The guy from the building appeared from nowhere. He asked if I’d found them with that accent. I said noooo but I’ve had a wonderful time wandering. He smiled. And have me directions again. Wrote them down. Said that if he had his Vespa with him he would love to take me there and show me around. Then he wished me good luck and said something in Italian or Napalese, waved and walked on. 

I never found the catacombs. 

I have still yet to eat pizza in Naples. Still have yet to ride on the back of a Vespa through the streets. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. But so far. I am charmed with this city. 

Roma…  :)

“Rome was a poem pressed into a city”. ~Anatole Broyard
Saturday August 20, 2016

Day 91

Rome, Italy 

I left my hostel and walked into the sunny streets of Rome. I had made a promise to myself to avoid hostels, but my CouchsurfEr was sick and I didn’t want to be a burden. So I left. And dropped my bags at a hostel.  Sweat collected in the small of my back in a matter of 10 minutes. The streets at first werE wide. Impersonal. I turned to the side streets. My favorite ones.

Colorful Vespas and Vespa rental shops were everywhere. 

Graffiti. Beautiful scrawlings in Italian everywhere on all the buildings. But only from shoulder height down. I wish I could read what they I said. 

Turning down random streets.. I was Surprised with old, worn down historical buildings or modern, uncharacteristic boring buildings or intricately designed churches or charming little streets with ivy covered walls  

Streets and alleyways jutting off in every random direction. 

Gelato and pizzeria shops everywhere. Advertising air conditioning and wifi. 

Military tanks and men in full garb and equipped with giant rifles stand guard everywhere, instead of filling me with a feeling it safety and security, a feeling of sadness. 

I reached the Colosseum. My destination. It was Beautiful. Huge. Magnificent I wanted to touch its walls. Hear all the stories it’s walls had to tell. My walk down to it was tainted with the people all around thrusting water bottles and souvineers in my face, incessant that I buy their things. I walk by, shaking my head no, no, no I don’t want your selfie sticks or colorful straw hats or mini replicas of the colosseum. I want to hear the colosseum whisper to me tales of gladiators and peasants and emperors and aristocracy and slaves from long ago. 

Once again, clustered with tired, hot tourists eager to get that perfect selfie. 

A girl spoke to me from the crowd, “Do you want to go inside?” She had one of those tourist group tags hanging around her neck. I declined politely and walked on. As I was walking, I hesitated… Yes I hate tours groups, but this was my chance to hear the stories. Ok. Fuck it. I look for signs on this trip. Omens. Sure. She speaks to everyone, but I want the rich history. I turned around and had her lead me to the meeting spot. 

Inside. I got to touch the walls. Imagine what it was like. The intensity of the crowds cheering like crazy. I saw the old bathrooms. I saw where the gladiators fought. Where the emperor got to watch the games. The aristocracy. The common people. The slaves. I imagined it in all its glory. With the frescos. The marble. The mosaics. The 24 flowing fountains. The 2 entrances for the rich and the 78 others for the rest of the people. (I wasn’t totally paying attention so cuz I kept daydreaming so I am sure the numbers are wrong) The hungry animals they kept in deep dark caves with no foid for 7 days, releasing them in the center of the ring, hungry and angry and ready to eat anything in its path.. The trembling, terrified slaves and enemies of Rome.. My feet were covered in dust. The three water spigots has lines of exhausted, sunburned people staring longingly, waiting for their turn. 

Of course the walls were falling apart. Crumbling. The marble and frescos and mosaics were “recycled” in the 14th century to build different cathedrals and churches and other palaces. It’s hard to believe this crazy beautiful structure was build in only 8 years… I was filled with a desire to time travel. I closed my eyes and willed it so. Only to open my eyes and see crowds of people taking selfies and couples kissing, locked in blissful embrace. 

I walked out and headed on. 

I realized I probably looked worse than all of them. Crazy travel plans made it so I shy had a shower in a few days. But I didn’t care. I was here for the sights. The stories. The feelings. Not to look good for people. I looked around. Everyone was glistening with sweat. Their clothes starting to grow dark and damp on their backs and under their armpits. It was scorching. Where were all those guys selling the water for a Euro??? 

I gave in and bought one. Fur 2 euro. I eagerly put it to my lips and drank. It lasted 2 gulps. It was the most delicious thing. Where was the rest? I surely didn’t finish it all in 2 gulps… Ice… 3/4 of the bottle was pure ice. Awwwwmannnnn I wanted it now. Now now now. I didn’t want to wait until it melted… An hour later it was still frozen. As I walked around I noticed a few more people struggling to get a sip our of their frozen block of ice. I felt comforted knowing i wasn’t the only one peering into my water bottle trying to figure out how to squeeze liquid out of it. 

And I wandered through the maze of ancient ruins. My tummy growling. And I left the ancient ruins. And I wandered the streets again. And then I found it. 

A CAT SANCTUARY!!! I happened upon a little square.. There was a wall around a bit in the middle.. More crumbling ruins lay inside… Intriguing… What was it??  
And then I saw a cat!! And another!! As I walked around it I saw a sign proclaiming it as a cat sanctuary for homeless cats… There were stairs to one side you could walk down and go inside and pet the cats. Hold the cats. There was air conditioning and water for the cats. Wooaawwww!!! I spend a good hour holding and petting those beautiful things. They smushed their head into your hands. Eager for more love. And by golly I gave it to them. I needed to be needed by them. 

And then I wandered some more. Across a bridge that brought me to the most beautiful bits of Rome I’ve ever seen. This was what I thought of when I thought of Italy. Tiny streets. Ivy covered walls. The smell of pizza wafting through the streets. The clink of wine glasses. Loud, animated conversations in Italian. The streets lined with colorful vespas. 


We all start off as strangers 

“Love all, trust few, do wrong to none”. ~William Shakespeare 

Friday August 20, 2016

Day 91

Rome, Italy 

I am exhausted. I am weary. I still am at a loss for what to do. 
The other morning, I woke up in Venice (BEAUTIFUL place by the way) and got an email saying that the hostel in Croatia I was supposed to start work at next week canceled and my place to stay that night canceled. 

I remember reading the messages, my heart sinking. A lump in my throat rose slowly. I was looking forward to being able to stay in one place for awhile again. And now I had no place tonight either. 

I was counting on having a solid place to stay so I didn’t have to keep moving so much. Hostel life again. I needed it. 

Now I had nothing. Nothing but a blank canvas. It was a both exciting and terrifying feeling. The feeling that I could go anywhere. 

I could go “home” whenever that is and try to find a real job… But how would I know where home was? What if I chose the wrong town to stay in. 

My head was spinning out of control. I tucked my legs in close to my chest and laid my forehead on my knees. 

Where do I go next? What do I do? 

I remember someone a couple days back was raving about Florence. Perfect. I’ll go there. Something is waiting for me there. 

I shot out a few couchsurf requests and booked a BlaBlaCar for 2pm and went to get a sketchbook and charcoal pens at a fancy little shop I saw in my wandering a the other day. The time has come. I need to distress. I need art. I need expression. 

I left Venice too quick, some would say. Yes. I think I did. But I was not in a good mindset to stay. When I get upset, I run. Simpleton thoughts though, because they always follow you. Your thoughts. Your worries. Your fears. 

But I left anyway. Needed a bright and beautiful new place to distract my mind.

And wow Florence won me over quickly. The vibes. The energy. The people. The food. The cobblestone streets and old buildings, reminiscent of medieval times. The unbelievable sunset. 

But I am feeling the weight of this trip today. My shoulders ache from lugging the way too heavy clunker everywhere I go. My heart and soul still spinning, trying to catch up with all the moments of this long 3 month trip. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the unexpected, the scary, the disappointing. 

I am a traveler. Not a tourist. I wander to different places to meet the people of the cities. I live for couchsurfing.  I want to know how it was growing up in Rome or London or Barcelona or Florence. It’s bonkers to me that all this stuff that is so magical and breathtaking to me is simply the backdrop of everyday live for them. 

I live for the nights I get to help in the kitchen with my CouchsurfEr, sipping wine. Sharing a meal. Talking about this and that and everything under the sun and more. Board games are brought out. Music is played. Laughter is shared. I find the moon for everyone. Sometimes we venture out of the house to explore their cities streets. 

I don’t travel to see the touristic things. Sure I’ll give them a go, but I want to know why locals love this city. The secret gardens. The gross dive bar where they go to every week and they are known by everyone inside. 

I want to know where to catch the best sunsets and find the most shooting stars. The beautifully broken down, abandoned buildings. The graveyards. 

I want to know how you celebrate Christmas or whatever holiday you do happen to celebrate in December. How do you ring in the new year? What’s your spirit animal? What is something you could do for hours and hours later you realize you forgot to eat because you were so into it? What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened? When was the last time you cried? When you drift off during boring work meetings where does your mind go?  What song makes you sad? What song gets you up in the morning? Where do you go to my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed.. I love that song… 

Or better yet, don’t tell me, show me. Show me your wild world. Let me in. Let’s adventure together. You can trust me. 

Those are the things I want on this trip. Connections. Friends. The oddly beautiful process if going from perfect strangers to good friends. Sometimes I challenge myself and find someone very unlike me and try to see what connections we can make. Sometimes I choose ones who seem to fit the mood I want to experience in that particular city. 

You see, I love people. All their quirks. Even the assholes can be quite intriguing. How did you get to be where you are? What kind of text can make you smile immediately? 

If I am enjoying ones company, I could care less about leaving the place we are at. I am just fine staying right there in their living room, on their terrace, on the hillside overlooking the alps, on the dock, our feet dangling in the water. In Warsaw, I never saw much of the town because I was having the time of my life meeting all the local polish people when my CouchsurfEr had a party. In Interlaken, I never set foot inside the city except the train station. I spent my time in farther out tiny villages and way up high in the alps. 

I chose to stay home tonight. My CouchsurfEr went out. I feel drained. Soulless. Boring. Broken Sad. Lost. No idea where to go next after Naples on Sunday. Should I run away to Cambodia? Go to my friend in London? Check out Croatia anyway? I need rejuvenation. I need a magical adventure or a beautiful stranger or a sweet lover. Or just sleep. And a hug would be nice too..

I want memories. I want connection. I want friends. Sure I’d love to have a lover, but I am not looking for it. This is my trip. This is what I want. 

And for a bit longer at least, I will wander aimlessly though gorgeous Italy, befriending beautiful strangers. Moving on to the next place that is suggested and calls to my heart. 

We all start off as strangers…

Venice is not just for lovers 

“Venice is the most romantic place in the world but it’s even better when there’s no one around.” ~Woody Allen. 
Wednesday August 17, 2016

Day 90

Venice, Italy 

 Venice… Everyone I talk to says its one of the most romantic cities on earth. With its little canals and gondola rides in sunsets and quaint little restaurants with candles and wide brimmed wine glasses and beautiful narrow streets… 

They asked me why I would go to such a romantic city by myself? 

“I bet you are going so you can find your own Italian Stallion, eh?” They would laugh, slapping my shoulder for emphasis. “Come on, you know how Italians are….” They would wink coyly. All I could do was laugh back. Listen. This is my trip. There is no right or wrong way to travel. I’m going because I want to see it. I want to experience it for myself. I don’t need to follow societies rules.  Besides, I am not looking for love. I want friends. Experiences. Memories. Moments. And I can find that just fine without a lover. This is MY time. And I am loving it. 

But most of what I saw were restaurants overflowing with tired, hot and worn down tourists stuffing pasta, pizza and wine into their face, but pausing first to take a picture to show off to the world that they were having the best day ever. The narrow streets were packed… rivers of lost people. And they all walked soooo slow. Pausing to check their phone or snap a picture, causing everyone following in their footsteps to make quick attempts to avoid a human domino scenario. 

I have to admit though, I was quite charmed by some parts of the deeper bits the city. The bits where locals lurk and the typical tourist is too happy with the known to want to venture off. I talked to the dishwasher who was dumping dirty water into a back alleyway, asking him about his day and where i should go. I talked to a bored looking young lady sitting behind the counter of a beautiful jewelry shop. I was going to find the secrets. And I certainly ran into some strange and beautiful people. 

I arrived and was hit with an overwhelming sense of thrilled excitement and nervousness. I had no idea where I was sleeping that night. The hostels were full. The hotels were absurdly expensive. 

I wanted badly to run around the city and find all the secrets. The nooks and crannies. But I decided to do the logical thing and try to find a place to sleep for the night. 

I wandered until I found a cute little cafe with beautiful umbrellas decorated with dangling Italian flag colored tassels over their tables and signs for free WiFi. I ordered a Spritz and sent out a few last minute couch surf requests. I always hate doing that.,. I usually like to take my time and write a nice message and personalize it to that person cuz I genuinely want to stay with them. But today I let fate take over. I sent out a bunch at random, each one with a quick little personalized remark so it didn’t look too much like a copy-and-paste. Because I didn’t write to just everybody. But to the ones I thought would be interesting to stay with. Ones that I knew I would get along with or sometimes those that seemed not like me, as a challenge to still find things to connect over. 

Thankfully I got a response within 5 minutes and another option for the next night. I promised I would be at their house with a bottle of wine at 7. Perrrfecctttt!! 

I threw my huge backpack over my shoulders, it seemed to increase in weight every time I put it on. After paying, I headed out to explore. 

My favorite thing. I weaved in and out of the alleyways and over the canals. Trying to take the path less traveled. The way with the least amount of people. Soon I found myself deep in the labyrinth. The only one around. It was beautiful. It really was a beautiful town. Colorful buildings. No cars. Surrounded by water. Canals. 

I grew weary with the giant backpack on my back. The sun beat down, causing my throat to grow raw with thirst. But wow this city sure had a lot of pretty. 

That night, as I was walking to my CouchsurfErs place, I noticed the clouds looked a little murky. Weird. I checked all the street signs and couldn’t find the one I was supposed to turn on. I felt a raindrop. 

Weird. I looked up. More raindrops pelted my face. 


I kept walking, quickening my pace, debating if I should stop to pull out my sweatshirt or my rain fly for my backpack. 

I finally found the road. Just as I turned, the sky opened. Buckets of water fell. I shook off my flip flops and carried them. At least it was warm rain. After another ten minutes of walking in the rain, I finally made it to his place and I was greeted with a warm towel and eager conversation. 🙂

As the night passed, more people joined. His roomate, his friend, and 2 other Couchsurfers. All of us different ages. All of us from different places. Different countries. Different paths in our lives. Different languages. Different upbringings. But all of us with the same mindset.

The world is our oyster. 

Last night in Switzerland…

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God”   ~Kurt Vonnegut 

Tuesday August 16, 2016

Day 89

Lugano, Switzerland
So there I was. Walking down the roadway at 10pm. Or was it 11? I don’t know. I had turned off my phone due to the fact I had 19% battery left. I might want to have enough juice to catch the sunrise in the morning. It was dark. Cars were zooming by. I was up on a raised edgeway, a wall of sorts, overlooking the river. It was 1.5 meters to the road on one side and abut 7 meters on the other side down to the railway tracks, followed by the gorgeous lake far below. Lightening flashed up ahead in the distance behind the hills. That is the direction I was headed. To the Italian border. 

I had just gotten dropped off a few hours earlier by my BlahBlah car. I had told him to just drop me off wherever, explaining to my fellow passengers I just wanted to check it out on my way to Italy, besides, I had 60 francs left to spend. They thought I was crazy. That’s ok. I felt a little crazy. 

I wandered around the big, Swiss-Italian city, exploring the nooks and crannies, finding gorgeous street art, super fancy restaurants and beautiful views. The Palm trees reminded me of my sweet, sweet California. The lowering sun beat down on me, creating a raging thirst for a nice cold beer. 

I looked up local pubs… There were too many fancy looking restaurants with crisp white tablecloths, candles, huge wine glasses and baskets of bread. Those were not my people. I loved pubs… But the only two that popped up on my google maps were closed. So I walked along the waters edge, picking up a gelato and a beer for dinner. Why not. 

I took in the picturesque sunset over the lake and debated my options. I knew that if I continued south along the lake I would be in Italy soon.. There was no way I was forking out 200+ francs for a hotel. The hostels were full. So I started walking, in hopes I would find an appropriate little patch of trees or grass or whatnot to sleep. 

It soon grew dark. The sidewalk narrowed to a tiny little raised bit about the width of my two feet. The streetlights ended. Soon, my walkway turned into a wall I had to climb on. 

The lightening up ahead flashed sporadically, causing the world around me to light up like a disco. The flashes grew in intensity and frequency. The moon, my favorite thing, showed its creamy full belly with pride, teasing me, playing hide and seek as it went behind the clouds. 

I was torn between, “what in the world am I doing?” “This doesn’t seem safe” and “wow what an adventure this is!” 

I kept walking… The sides of the road were too slopey to crawl off and find a place to sleep. It grew darker. I had to concentrate on my footing as the cars that drove by shone their headlights in my face. 

The wall I was walking on grew thinner and thinner as it weaved up and down the hillside around the lake. And then it ended. And I felt something cold and wet land on my cheek. 


Ohhhhh mannnnn I guess it wasn’t heat lightening that I was seeing.  

I walked across the road to a little side road that wound into up the dark woods. 

Should I go up and see what was up there? Maybe there will be enough trees to create a canopy…

The rain came down harder. 

A car pulled off the road. It slowed to a stop a couple metes from me. Engine running, headlights on. A window rolled down and I heard someone calling to me. 

Well, here we go….

I walked over, an old man, about 70 years old was leaning over spouting something in Italian. 

“…English…?” I hesitantly asked. 

“Oh sure. But a little bit. Where are you going? Are you ok?” 

I explained that I was just walking. No place to go. 

He looked at me like I was crazy. Which was fine, cuz I felt like I was crazy. 

He told me that he had a couch I could sleep on just 5 minutes down the road and he would take me to the train station in the morning. 

I debated. The droplets of rain were quickly becoming a torrential downpour. Thunder was crashing. 

Fuck it. I was wet. I was cold. I was exhausted. I had no idea where I was or what time it was. 

I hopped in. My hair and clothes and backpack drenched. 

We talked briefly. He always had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth… In the car… In his apartment… Morning… Night… I don’t even think I remembered to ask his name. But he worked at his shop in a village near Lugano. Had worked and lived there his entire life. He had no family left. He spent 3 months every year living it up in Thailand and Cambodia. 

Cambodia!! Another person…

We got to his place.. It was tiny. There was a huge bed and a tiny couch. He said I could relax in the bed or the couch. My choice. I chose the couch. Quickly changed into some dry clothes and curled up around a pillow. Thoughts swirling in my head. 

This could be my last night alive. 

He proceeded his nightly routine. Took off allll his clothes. No hesitation. No words. Just took them off, laid them gently on a chair, went over to a picture of him and a lady, leaned over and gently kissed it. The love and sadness evident in his eyes. He picked it up and showed me. Explaining his wife died of cancer 3 years ago. He set it down right where it was his eyes filled with longing. It was a sweet gesture. 

He walked over to the couch where I was curled up in a ball. Above the couch, there was a window that was open. He leaned over and closed it. His junk hanging straight in my face. I scrunched my eyes closed, my eyes burning with the image. He walked back and crawled into his bed. Turned on the tv and wished me happy dreams. I thanked him, rolled over and closed my eyes. I pretended to sleep. The thunder continued to crash outside, shaking the walls and windows inside. The old man let out a surprised “FUCK!” Everytime. I focused on the sound of the rain hitting the balcony outside rather than the tv blaring next to me. Before too long I was out. Sleeping. 

I awoke at 545. He was already awake, doing naked exercises. Squats and whatnot with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. I rolled back over, staring at the orange couch. Wishing he’d put pants on. 

“Give me fifteen minutes and I’ll take you to the train.” He said. 

And he did. 

Just like that. 

Beautiful stranger coming through for me again. 

Today I take the train to Milan. And then make my way to Venice. 

And already have gotten rerouted twice on my way to Milan. 

Italian trains are a whole different boat than Swiss trains…: 

Maybe I’ll continue on train. Maybe I’ll hitchhike. 

What a strange, crazy world we live in. 

My work is done here 

 “Respond- don’t react. Listen- don’t talk. Think- don’t assume.” ~Raji Lukkoor

Friday August 12, 2016

Day 85

Coopet, Switzerland. 
It is the end.  The end of camp. 

And finally I got to hang with my crew for real. After leaving every weekend to go on far off adventures and evenings chasing sunsets. I finally got to play with the people I’ve been living with for the past 6.5 weeks. 

And it was amazing. 

We ate malakoff. Deep fried cheese sticks. They were not for me. I am not a fan of fried foods. I instead ate heaps of salad and my share of white wine. 

I wrote cards for everyone. Little notes. Heartwarming quotes. Because everyone helped me in different ways. I wanted to thank them individually. 

And I felt close to them. I was full of love. Might have something to do with the wine, but I was overflowing with fuzzy feelings. As one should at the end of a summer camp experience. I have been through this before at so many summer camps. You meet as strangers. You work and live, sometimes 24/7, with these people. You get to know them. Sometimes you meet a whole different side of them that the rest of the world. Because summer camp is a special place. And it’s a beautiful thing. 

And I got pink hair dye. 

And my hair is now pink. 

And my heart is full. 

And my favorite part was late last night. After we got home. Midnight. Laying in the grass in the playground. The three of us. 2 of my favorite friends. Our heads together. Catching the Sternschnuppen. Talking about spirit animals. Spirit sandwiches. Life out there on other planets. And in one perfect moment, we all three saw one at the same time. The biggest one. Streaking across the sky. 

I will miss camp. Playing with the 4-6 year olds before and after camp. Getting hugs everywhere I go. Getting painted on by children. Seeing the excitement in their eyes as they swirled the paint around. 

Art is about process. Not product. It always hurt my heart when I heard people ask children, “What are you making?” Or “That’s not how a cat is supposed to look.” 

Sometimes it’s fun to just start with a paper and paint and see what the paintbrush creates… And I wanted to create that environment in my room. Semi structured freedom. Explore. See what you can make. And what wonderful things those kids created ❤️

And I will miss these beautiful people I’ve gotten to know over these weeks.  Skinny dipping with a couple of them in hidden bits of Lake Geneva. Laughing til it hurts with one while she taught me Georgian. All the talks in the art room and groups with my friends as their fearless leader trooped in and created beautiful messes and moved on. 

And now I leave my comfort zone. This boat leaves port. This rocket ship leaves earth. Set to jet. Hot to trot. In like Flynn. 

Hearts are wild creatures

“Why do you look so sad? Because you speak to me in words and I look at you with feelings.” ~Pierrot la fou

Tuesday August 16, 2016
Day 89
Laufen, Switzerland

What a roller coaster of a couple days…
Hearts are wild creatures, thats why our ribs are cages.
I am having difficulty finding places to stay.. it seems the well has dried up.. Of all those couchsurfing requests I sent out, only a handful of them replied and only to decline, saying they were busy or out of town or already hosting..
So I shot up north to visit some old friends from the hostel… I was hesitant.. too many feelings would be involved.. and I was already anxious and sad that no one was responding to my couchsurfing…
As I said, constantly torn between “if its meant to be, it’ll be” and “if you want it, go and get it”
I just feel deflated.
I got to Laufen. My friend, Felix, who I knew from my hostel days in San Diego picked me up, and we caught up quickly on all the things that happened since.. I had spent 2 months with him and three months with his best friend, Max, when they came down to San Diego. I had been toying with the idea of seeing his best friend… I knew it wouldn’t be the same.. he had a gf..we barely exchanged but a few brief (on his side) texts since he left.. but his friend was keen on me coming down and I was keen on seeing the little place that they lived that I had heard so much about.
His apartment was beautiful, modern, super clean, chic, white, simple, elegant, spacious… very European.. no clutter.. fancy things..
His roommates were very nice.. very sweet..
Felix decided to take me to the river.
I recalled them telling me stories of their lazy summers jumping in the river..
We pulled up at a house.. I was suddenly aware of my heartbeat.. thumbing a little too loud inside my chest…
I remembered this house..  had showed me this on Google images one night back in San Diego when we were laying around, fighting sleep, passing time telling each other stories… I asked him to show me his world.. and he wove beautiful stories of times in this house.. the surrounding area.. the place where they practiced their band.. their school.. everything.. I knew it all already..
I asked him what we were doing, and Felix hopped out of the car, saying we were going to get Max and bring him to the lake.
Shit. Ok.
I wasn’t prepared. I looked like shit. My heart wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. I sent a silent prayer to whoever and anyone that maybe he wasn’t home.
We walked up the steps to the big house he showed me that day long ago…  they looked the same as the pictures.. some being taken over by the grass surrounding… and the garden.. the terrace where he said they would jam on summer evenings..
I was getting nervous. Anxious. Scared. How was I supposed to feel? I have no idea. We had shared so much and got so close and then nothing.He left. Barely heard from him again. And here I was, ascending the curved staircase he had talked about so much when he dreamed out loud of going home… I knew that to the right was their smoking room.. to the left was his room..
“Come on Penny! I hear his voice!” I heard Felix impatiently called to me from the top of the stairs… I realized I was taking these steps extremely slow..
As I finally reached the top of the stairs, I saw him, the world around me disappeared. The floor below me rushed away. My heart dropped. The air in my lungs dissapeared. All the feelings… the times we shared.. the nights.. the days.. the laughter.. the tears.. the swims int the ocean.. the car rides.. Our trip to Joshua tree.. Sunsets at sunset cliffs… The pizza place they loved so much in San Diego.. Our trip to Grand Canyon when it snowed… Burger land.. Halloween…how he taught me guitar.. taught me to skateboard.. taught me many things that cannot be fathomed into words.. our whole 3.5 months of slowly getting closer and then suddenly its like we fell off a beautiful cliff into a deep, pure connection.. hit me like a ton of bricks. His smile was the same. His hair flopped around the same way. Tall and strong as ever.
I hugged him and quickly pulled away.
My heart was bursting with happy and confusion and devastation.
His voice. His laugh. Everything. Perfect.
So we picked up Max and his roomate and continued on. 
I remember many, many days traveling with them in California. Felix driving my car, because I hate driving. Max and I curled up in the backseat.. him playing with my hair while I rested my head on his lap.. he was a good cuddler.. he liked to be touched.. I needed that.. The one time I was in front was when me, Felix, Max, Aubrey and I went to Joshua tree at the end of their first 2 weeks in California, both of us sneaking glances at each other in the overhead mirror between the front seats. By the time we were driving home. I was in the backseat with him and pretty much never left. 
This time, Felix was driving but I was sitting passenger and Max and his friend were in back. I was glad Max was right behind me. It caused an explosion in my heart when I saw him.
We got to the spot, walked out and through all the bushes.. I, as usual, got distracted by the spider webs and the blackberries and the stinging nettle and the different spots on the river that looked absolutely stunning..
We found a rope swing. We drank some beers. Felix and I played in the water, Max and his friend stayed on the riverbank.
We barely exchanged a few words. I wanted to say so much. I could put nothing into a comprehensible sentence. It hurt to look at him.
I felt like a blender had gone off in my heart and soul.
We went for Ice cream after at Felix’s girlfriends workplace. It was delicious. Some of the most delicious ice cream I had ever tasted. I relished every bite.
The three boys began talking in Swiss German.
I have become used to this in my travels, being the only one that doesn’t speak another language. Its difficult not to feel left out or rejected after awhile.
Before too long, I could see them look at me off and on in their conversations. The tone was tense. Max was shaking his head no.
I pushed away the remains of my ice cream. Suddenly it tasted rotten.
I knew Felix had band practice that night and I was 100% sure he was asking if he could pass me on to Max while he was gone. And of course, Max said no.
It has been a trend these days.
I found it difficult. All these rejections on couchsurfing. Plans to go this way and that falling through. I thought I had it covered. I sent out about 30 different messages to all areas of Europe.. This lost feeling was a familiar, though upsetting one. The feeling of being unwanted. Literally, unwanted.
I was breaking. I excused myself from the table to go to the restroom to collect myself and give myself a pep talk of sorts.
I returned, Max gave me one of his perfect smiles. I could manage a half smile before I had to turn away.
We dropped him off. My heart sunk even further when he mentioned quite clearly, “My girl is coming over to lay with me”
I had gone numb by this time.. I simply smiled and gave him a quick hug and hopped back in the car..
Felix dropped me off at his place and although my mind and heart were far away for the most part, his roommate did an excellent job of keeping me distracted and served me some delicious drinks and showed me some Swiss German music… He was absolutely the sweetest thing and just what I needed right then.
Felix and his gf came and joined us in our drinking and laughing. They were perfect to me. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
The next day, Felix and his gf and I met with another friend and we floated down the river.. It was like a lazy river at the water parks but in real life! Floating down with just an inflatable, waterroof bag and the charming city on either side..
And then the gypsy camp where we had a much needed beer and I got to explore the intricacies of the street art and random structures and intriguing art.
Then Felix had another band practice. This band was with Max. Max had told me all about these bad practices. Described the old industrial building outside of the city. How their room was up on the 4th floor and how they were in 2 different rooms before they got the big one on the end. I felt like I knew it already.
I got to sit up on the loft thing that was created above the door so I had a perfect view of all 5 of them jamming out. I had dreamed of this moment. To be able to see them play live. I remember our talks late at night. The promises he made of if I ever came to his town. Of course, things changed. 9 months is a long time.
It was surreal.
They played Ghostbusters and Santana and other the songs I had heard about. I couldn’t stop smiling. To keep myself busy so I wasn’t just staring, I brought some paint and started painting scenes of oceans and the moon and rainbows on my legs. I didn’t want to catch his eye in case he looked up here. But I was happy. I LOVE live music and I pretended that it was a concert just for me 🙂
After, on our way home, I was defeated. Tired, sleepy, my heart and soul were drained. I wanted to sleep and then get on to my next destination.
Sweet, sweet Felix. He did so good the two days to make me feel welcome. I am sure he was not aware of all that was going on inside of me, but I am sure he caught on that I was quieter than the Penny he knew back in San Diego. I love that kid with all my heart and soul and owe him so much for all he did 🙂 I did truly have a wonderful time on the river and drinking and chatting with his roommates and the gypsy camp and
The hardest part is over.
I wish I would have gotten to talk to Max. Just him and I. Even for just a little bit. There are things I wanted to say. Feelings I wanted to convey. Things I wanted to thank him for.
But, it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t have the time or courage to try to sit with just him and me.  But its over. I saw him. And it certainly didn’t go as I wanted it to, but it happened.
Never before have I felt so ugly. So fat. So gross. So blah. My mind was fucking with me. Or was it? Was I really that gross? All of their friends know me. I am sure. They have heard stories of how Max flew back to San Deigo after being in Hawaii. That ugly  voice took over, grasping my all of my thoughts and turning them icy, “I bet they think, “THIS is who he spent his time in San Deigo with? What the fuck? Some crazy, ugly, fat American girl?”
Oh the shitty things my mind tried to make me believe. Scrutinizing myself at every turn, only to be disappointed and disheartened.
Now it is today. the day I leave.. STILL no place to sleep. Tonight. Tomorrow.
I booked a BlahBlah car to Lugano.. a beautiful city on a lake near some mountains.. Still no response on couchsurfing. The hotels are too expensive. The hostels are booked.
So it looks like I might be spending tonight sleeping down by the beauty of the lake with a heavy heart and hopes and dreams that the upcoming days will bring peace and happy…

It’s crazy how, with this trip, eyes things go well, everything goes well, the universe conspires to create perfection. And when things start down downhill, everything goes, rolling and picking up prickly bits on the way. News from friends back home too. Nothing’s quite working out anywhere. 
I think I will allow myself a real breakdown tonight, alone, under the stars, so far away from anyone and anything I know, in a most gorgeous part of the world.. Life is beautiful, but it is also difficult. I am wary, yet excited of what adventures await..
From Lugano,  I will figure out how to get to Venice… or Florence.. or Sicily…?
“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
~Jack Kerouac