Hostel life 

Monday September 26, 2016Day 126

Bucharest, Romania 

Wow. What a difference this past week has been. 

Glorious things have happened. I am glad I last posted. 

The night I was at my worst, the saddest and most discouraged is been for awhile, I was happily surprised to learn we were having 2 bands stay with us. From Finland! Wow! But they wouldn’t arrive until late. I sipped some vodka and talked with 2 of my friends that had been here at the hostel with me awhile. 2 Americans (one of them being my friend who was sleeping in the bunk above me, who, after talking with him these days, is now my best friend here) and an Australian. We talked of The shit show that America is. And how beautiful it can be. Of our travels. Our conquests. Our triumphs. Our failures. Of Australia and how no, not EVERYTHING is out to kill you. 
Finally at 1:30 the doorbell rang. In came 6 scraggly, dirty long haired dudes. They stared at my leg. They pointed, “THAT’S THE GUITAR FROM STEEL PANTHER!!” They exclaimed. I greeted them with some of my vodka (I had half a bottle, between the 6 of them, their “welcome shots” cleared the bottle as they put the bottle to their lips and chugged) and a short tour of the hostel. They took turns heading to the shower and showing me their music videos. Shortly after, the other band came. Beer runs were made. Talks were had. Laughs were shared. Stories of snow and crazy ways to fill up the long, cold days of Finland. Stories of traveling with bands. I learned some Finnish. It was quite an experience being the only girl with 11 Finnish metal boys and 2 American boys. It was a bizarre experience. A night none of us would soon forget, staying up til dawn and exchanging beautiful, yet crazy conversations. Actually, 2 of them were Croatian, the driver and one of the band mangers. They told stories of growing up during the war in the Balkans.. Wow…

Anyway, the next day, their room was a shitshow to clean. Beer and vodka spilled everywhere. Empty bags of chips lay crumpled behind the beds with crumbs scattered everywhere. Something brown was smeared on the wall (they swore to me it was chocolate)… 

My days are filled with making beds. Cleaning the kitchen. The bathrooms. The floors. Some days I have 2 beds. Some almost 30. Totally worth it. 

I then utilize the Couchsurfing “hangout” app to find other lost travelers looking for friends. 

The other day I took Daniel with me as we met up with 2 Germans. We were supposed to go to a beautiful park. It was the first lovely, sunny day after a string of rainy, gloomy days. As we talked in, of all places, Starbucks, we noticed a guy in the corner kinda looking our way occasionally. He seemed interested. I recognized that look. Of being an English speaker in a foreign land and you hear being spoken at the table next to you and you want so desperately to talk to them, but at the same time you’re just happy being able to understand. It turned out he was an American from Oregon and was just wandering the city. Still new. Never heard of Couchsurfing before. Perfect. We invited us into our group. Shortly after, we noticed a local Romanian on the app was available to hangout too. We had him meet us. And when he got there, we knew we were in for an adventure. He decided we were to get beers. The park was too far away for him. He was very amusing. Super funny. Quick with jokes, quips and comebacks. His sarcasm was on point. We all fell a little in love with this dude as he took us to some beautiful bars with tree branches as canopies in the courtyard so it felt like you were actually in a park. He recommended the best local beers. He took us to a restaurant so we could get done authentic Romanian food. By this time we were 12 people. It was glorious. Everyone chatting. Friendly banter. Teasing. Making fun of our countries or others. Australia. Germany. Egypt. Romania. America. We ended the night at a shisha bar. Ohhhh how I missed shisha. :)) 

I, again, was the only girl there and was delighted to be “one of the guys”. I adored it. But, By the end of the night they were all passing around pictures of girls they had slept with on their travels. It was cute at first but then they got a little crude and I decided it was time to get out of there.

I had had enough of guys talking of girls they wanted to sex. It happens more than a few times on this trip. “Send me some Ukrainian hookers.” “Asians are where it’s at man.” I tended to hang out with guys more often than not and listened a lot of this kind of talk. Sure, it’s a thing. Sure, it’s normal. But wow. I am certainly not hott. Not sexy. Or pretty. Little boobs. Big belly due to the scar that I hate so much…. The guys all talk with me about their ideal girls. Always physical characteristics. Or the favorite girls they’ve met. And it’s usually related to something sexual or physical. I realize how far from ideal I am in every sense of the word, but at least I can be “one of the guys”. But still. It leaves me cringing everytime I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Sure, I’ve had my share of guys say I’m beautiful, but it’s all from drunken old men on the streets who give me a wink and a nod and try to invite me nearer to them. Daniel said, at one point, “You’re a girl. You have boobs. Of course any guy near you will be willing to sex you.” Hmmmmkkk. 

Anyway, I always come back by 11pm so the receptionist can go home. The past long while there were some Romanian opera singers. All of them 18-23. They would drink Rose wine and stick in their own group. One night they all piled into one of the rooms upstairs. They turned up their music. It was nearing midnight. There was a hospital next door that always complained or called the police if things got too loud. I trudged upstairs, hating to be the party pooper. But I politely asked them to keep it down. They apologized and promised. Ten minutes later, the music was even louder. This happened 4 times. Eventually Daniel and I heard the THUD THUD of people jumping above us. The chandeliers bounced above our heads. I looked at Daniel and begged him to come up with me. I reminded him that there were a bunch of Romanian girls up there too he could try to work his magic with them. He was about to go out clubbing, but agreed to come up with me for moral support. We climbed the stairs. We heard them jumping. Dancing. Laughing. Singing. I opened the door that led to the upstairs “chill out” area and saw them all having the time of their lives. As soon as they saw me, they scrambled into one of the rooms except two dudes. I reminded them to take it down a notch or three. One of the guys laughed and said I needed to lighten up a bit and needed some wine. He pressed a plastic cup of warm Rose wine in my hand. They laughed. I sighed. I was NOT uptight. I was NOT square. I wanted to defend myself, but instead complimented them on their singing. Their dancing. Sweet talked with them. The other dude was staring at me hardcore. Finally he asked what my story was as he poured me another glass of wine. Daniel stood nearby, trying to peek into the room to get a glimpse of the young Romanian opera singer girls who week huddled in the dark, giggling. I ended up befriending the two dudes and chatted with them for an hour. The girls all ended up going to bed after about 5 minutes of us talking (it WAS 2am after all..) and Daniel scurried out to catch the clubs, promising to tell me stories of his night (which, by the way, consisted of bumping night clubs, sexy dancers, failed attempts at talking to girls, hookers trying to kiss him for Money in dark alleyways and gypsy kids running about at 4am). 

It turns out they were a big bunch of college kids participating in a festival/contest. There were students from different levels and a few teachers. The dude who was staring at me before was 19. Never smoked. Never kissed. Never been with a girl. The wine during this trip was his first and he only had a cup or two. The other guy was louder, more flamboyant. Animated. The next night I hung out with them too. And a couple others. I invited them down to the main hangout room. They played guitar and sang with their angel voices. I was impressed. After most everyone went to sleep but the 19 year old, one of the piano specialist and some other guy. We talked a bit of this and that. And the piano guy asked the 19 year old to translate for him. He was speaking English just fine before. He asked the poor kid to ask me if I would sex him. Or suck his dick. I was a bit disgusted. I apologized to the poor kid and headed off to sleep. 

There are 2 older guys here. One is Australian. One is Romanian. They are loud. They are big. They take over the room they are in. They demand things from us. They have been here since I got here. But I’ve friended them too. In fact, the other night they invited me to dine with them. They had fresh tomatoes and some of the most delicious cheese I’ve ever tasted. They talked of their travels. Setting up businesses. Of Australia. 

The other night the Australian had a diabetic seizure. His friend brought him to the main room. It was 5 in the morning. I could tell the friend was agitated at being woken up. The friend was contorting. Screeching. I opened the front gates of the alley so the ambulance could come through. It turned out his insulin was at 45. He was confused. I sat down next to him and held his hand. His eyes slowly focused. I was gentle. I spoke softly and firmly that he needed to answer the questions or they would take him to the hospital. He had said he didn’t want to. Adamantly refused. Slowly he came back. He looked so sad. So ashamed. So tired. He just wanted to sleep. I told the other guy to get some sleep. I let the other guy eat the rest of my Chinese food. And the chocolate I had saved to help get his sugar levels back up. We talked until dawn. He is a sweet man. I didn’t mind staying up to help him. 🙂 

There are always beautiful talks with beautiful strangers to be had at hostels. 

Beautiful people. 

Everything happens for a reason. 

And I think I’m slowly finding my reason to be here. 

More to come….


😊 #bestdayever 

…and just when j was losing faith in humanity, 2 metal bands came to the hostel… The Finnish ones stayed up with me til 4am…. It was beautiful.  

My faith in humanity is restored. ❤️

I want to go home. 

“Soon you’ll realize that many people will love the idea of you but will lack the maturity to handle the reality of you.” ~Reyna Biddy 

Tuesday September 20, 2016Day 120 

Bucharest, Romania. 

I am getting very discouraged with this place. I don’t understand this city. These people. 

Maybe I’m too naive. Disillusioned. Maybe it’s the weather getting colder. 

I have met up with quite a few people here. Via Couchsurfing or friends of friends and occasional tinder. 

Apparently people just want sex here. I don’t. Not interested. 

There’s a guy in the bed above me. Literally, his first words to me were, “Hello! I’m Daniel! I’m just here to drink, smoke, party and fuck.”

I met with another guy the other day and he said he was taking me to a cafe. Little did I know that, although the name of the place had “cafe” in it, it was a pay by the hour hotel room. I walked out on him. 

Another guy had promised to take me to some cool spots in the city. We walked a bit. Talked. I was excited to have a friend. But then we got to a park and within ten minutes of sitting down he started trying to reach up my skirt. I pushed him away, “What? Here in Romania it’s normal. You are not a whore if you fuck freely. We are free people here.” I left him there and walked back to my hostel. 


That’s not my scene. 

Am I that weird? That I want friends? Memories. Human connection. Beautiful conversations with beautiful minds.

Where did my beautiful strangers go? 

Did I make a mistake coming here? 

I went to a premiere of a snowboarding movie the other night. It filled me with a yearning to go far away from this place. It made me want to go back to the USA. Back to Mammoth Mountain. To the snow. To shred gnar. To play in the snow. To my people. To taco Tuesday. To my happy. 

I am over this place. I’m ready to jump ship. But I can’t leave Europe on a bitter note. I want to leave with happy memories. And this place so far is not that happy for me. 

Things better change. I just want friends. I’ll give it one more week. If this continues, I don’t think I can last a month.  

Sure, it’s a free place to stay. Cheap food. But that’s not why I travel. 

Tonight, the hostel is booked with two huge groups of Romanian travelers. I think they are doing opera or something. I tried to talk with them. Engage in conversation. They either pretended not to hear or not to know English. They just smiled and nodded and waited. And so I let them do their thing. 

Tonight I will dye my hair turquoise. A change. Something to do. Hopefully better things await me in the days to come. 

I am out of words.  I am out of thoughts. I am drained. I need sunshine. I need something to remind me I am where I am supposed to be. 

Bucharest, my new home…

Saturday September 17, 2016

Day 117

Bucharest, Romania. 
My new home for the next month. It’s been a strange, wild couple of days. Romania mannnn. It’s kinda growing on me. Especially since I have now a place to chill and cook and I’m not constantly on the move. 

I got here 3 nights early. To couchsurf with the locals. To get to know the city. Little did I know what I was in for. 

The first night was ok. The dude I CouchsurfEd with was a photographer. I went there with promises of teaching me to use my camera without automatic buttons and watching movies on his movie projector. But when I arrived I learned we were going out to meet one of his friends. Who turned out to be a girl he met online. Later I learned it was a girl he met on tinder. I tailed alongbonntjeir “date”, not sure what else to do. Letting them have their time. Letting the sparks fly between them. Watching it all go down. It was sweet to watch. He played guitar. She played guitar. He sang. She sang. He was from Romania. She was a beautiful, vibrant girl from Israel. She knew the city better than he did. I liked her. We went to the park and played guitar for a couple hours. The street lights around swirled in the lake below, casting a soft blue on everything around us. We grew tired. It was late. She went home. 

The next day he went to work. I left when he did. At 8am. Wandered. Saw the city. I laid in a park and watched the clouds. I went to my hostel that I was to work at to say hello. I saw the parliament building. The biggest building ever. Like for real. The biggest in the world, well 2nd biggest after the Pentagon. but it was huge. Made entirely of marble. Most of the rooms were unused. 80% unused. And most of it was underground. Like an iceberg. It had a huge balcony. It was built by the communist leader, Ceaușescu so he could use it. He never lived to use it. Michael Jackson was actually the first to speak to the public from the balcony. 

I also used the hangout option on Couchsurfing and met with a Swiss German dude for a few hours and we drank a few beers and talked of our travels and of life and our thoughts on psychology and romance and Switzerland (did I mention I absolutely adore Switzerland all things Swiss Germann). That’s my new favorite feature on Couchsurfing. Very convenient way to link up with other Couchsurfers while bored. 

That night I met back with the girl from the night before so we could go to the Couchsurfing meeting together. “Ass on the grass”. We bought a couple beers and some snacks and met with other Couchsurfers in the park. There were Romanians, Germans, American, Russians… It was beautiful. My host finally came. He never replied to any of my messages. He read them, but did not answer. Even when I asked if he was coming or not. He finally showed up. Didn’t say a word to me. Him and the girl walked off together. Laid with each other on the grass. Meanwhile, I was messaging another CouchsurfEr. I mentioned what was happening and asked if I could stay with him instead since I figured my host was looking to sleep with this girl. It was fine with me. Yay for them. Yay for her. I liked her. We walked back to his place, I packed my bags and wandered off in the darkness to the other guys house at 12:39am. He was waiting with Spanish cigarettes and Italian wine and we talked on his balcony and then slept all day until one. Funny how things work out. 

The next day, Thursday, I had yet to find another place to sleep. The hostel was full. The first Couchsurfer, I didn’t want to go back after he ignored me all night. The one from the night before who saved me had an old friend coming to town and apologized that there was no room. 

I wandered around more. Took in the sights if the strange, dirty city. I saw the statue of Vlad the Impaler. I saw the ugliest statue ever with a man with a kardashisn butt holding a dog with a wolfs face sewed on and the mans dingdong hanging out underneath. Apparently, it brought good luck if you rubbed it. It was shiny, bright gold color, compared to the darker bronze color of the rest of the body. I heard the story and explanation but promptly forgot it l, distracted by the statues meat rod sticking out there for all to see. I walked by shisha bars and fancy places and fancy buildings and run down buildings. I saw a man playing guitar on the street and was entranced by his voice, crooning “You’re Beautiful” and “”Stand by Me”. I sat and watched. I felt like he was singing to me. It made me feel better. Warm. 

I met with other Couchsurfers and we laughed and talked of American politics and gun laws and tipping at restaurants and adventures in South America. We even found a vending machine in a bar that sold books. Two of the titles were (in English), “How to quit smoking” ( it came with a lighter) and “Parenting in 12 steps”. One of the locals finally offered me to crash on their couch.  

And then I finally I got to my hostel. It’s not so bad here. I put away breakfast. I take apart and make beds in the morning. Empty the trash. Sweep. Clean the toilets. And in the nighttime I need to be back by 11 so the receptionist can go home and I can help with late check ins. It’s a chill hostel. People chill here. No parties. Not too many people. It’s kinda lonely. I made friends with the receptionist. We have long talks during the day. He told of the days he used to tour with his medieval punk Romanian band. He told of the corrupt politics here today. He told of communism. Of his hometown in the west. I have a feeling we will be good friends. Good brother sister vibe. 

I have relied on Couchsurfing to go out and meet others since the hostel is kinda slow. I want to meet the locals. They intrigue me. How they grew up. Their opinions on everything. On communism. On food. On happiness. On America. 

Today I met with a guy from Bucharest. He took me to get coffee at a funky cool rooftop bar. It overlooked the city. We sat there drinking our coffee and talking of Romania. He was filled with passion for his country. He loved it, as most Romanians I have met. They love their county. When communism was brought up, you can feel the mood change in the conversation. Mixed, conflicted feelings are sensed in their voices as they talked. But they still talked. No subject was taboo fur any of the Romanians I have met. I can’t imagine. They talked of the food rationing. They talked of working in terrible conditions in factories making food that was immediately shipped forth and no one in their country got to eat. They talked of the lines snaking outside the markets as people waited before working a 9 or more hour day in the factory on their feet to bring home their one load of bread per family per week. You can feel the hauntings of the time period in the buildings around. In fact the rooftop bar we went to used to be a textile factory back in the day. Many of the buildings surrounding were old and semi abandoned. It was surreal. 

There was a famous nightclub, Colectiv, in Bucharest. It is actually a block away from the hostel I work at. A year ago there was a horrible fire there. During the night. When the club was bumping. When the club was crowded. It was during a free concert that was put on. It killed 26 people in less than 3 minutes. The death toll rose to 67 as the days wore on and the hospitalized folk never made it out of the hospital. Apparently, fireworks were lit onstage and things surrounding the stage were not quite as fireproof as they thought. The club was also over its capacity, upwards of 400 people showed up that night. That combined with only 2 exits, one if evict had to be broken down since it was stuck shut. This tragedy lead to a huge shut down if clubs and nightlife in the city as safety regulations became more strict. 

Anyway, the guy I went to get coffee with got very emotional when I brought it up. Apparently, he was just arriving to the venue that night. He saw the flames coming from the Windows. The charred bodies. The flaming bodies. The terrified people that narrowly escaped that were shaking with fear and the cold late October night air. It was silent except for the screams and the heart wrenching sobbing. Everyone was speechless. In a matter of minutes their perfect night of music and fun and dancing and celebrating collapsed into confusion and terror. Has he talked, his voice started cracking and he kept looking away. He talked faster. He grew more intense. Passionate. I noticed his eyes got glassy. He quickly tried to wipe away a tear that was threatening to make its way down his cheek. I was blown away. Wow. The power. The emotion. I couldn’t imagine seeing what he saw that night. He said his neighbor died. His friend died in the hospital a week after the fire. He talked of the aftermath and how the club scene, the music scene, has been struggling to get back on its feet ever since. 

Bucharest is a bizarre place. But, as I said, it is growing on me. And it’s nice to have a stable place to come home to and a kitchen to cook and work to keep me busy. And today I worked and went back to lay in bed and listen to music. Granted there are 5 other beds in the room, so I still have yet to experience my own room, but nonetheless, it is my room (and 5 other people’s). It’s definitely not like my hostel in Cali… Not as busy. Not as lively. No nightly outings or trips to Tijuana or breakfast to be Cooked or dinner to be cooked. No opportunity for me to sit as receptionist and play music and greet guests (tho after 11pm I can….)But I am sure I will get into the groove and find my people. Your vibe attracts your tribe. 

Puro romaneskoes 

“The day I broke up with normal was the first day of my magical life.”
Tuesday September 13, 2016

Day 113


–random, unedited rambling on my short time at gypsy camp–sorry it’s so long and all over the place-

The bus rolled along. Up the Transylvanian mountains. Around curve after curve. Climbing up. Cruising down. I looked around. Everyone was asleep. Their heads rested back against their headrests or leaning on the window. I looked out the window. Vast stretches of green. Mountainous hills. Stretching on and on. The road had the occasional pothole that sent people temporarily bouncing off their seat. The sides of the road, where the weary asphalt met the patches of grass were lined with garbage. Wrappers. Cups. Cigarette butts. Beer bottles. Soda cans. 
We drove by sheep herders, taking their sheep to another pasture. Cow herders, ushering their cows along to a new greener field. One time, a cow walked up onto the road. The Shepard ran up onto the road with a stick and started waving it around, appearing very angry and yelling something at the cow. 

We drove by a few gypsy camps. You could tell it wasn’t an actual village. The brick houses were falling down, patchy, missing bricks or even complete sides. The roofs were mismatched. Some were thatched with hay. Some had tiles. Some buildings were tilted. A few had little rounded grass-like huts instead of brick. There were fences. Most were made of rotting wood. Missing connectors. Missing slats. Garbage was littered everywhere. Clothes were hung out to dry on tree limbs or strung up rope. Little kids, completely naked or shirtless (both boys and girls) happily walked about or soaked in giant tin tubs in the sun or ran about in the grass. Goats meandered just to the side of the houses. Just beyond them were parches of uneven cornfields and other various plants. 

I wanted the bus to stop. I wanted to enter their world. I wanted to see how they lived. I wanted to see how they loved. How they hated. What they loved. What made them laugh. What made them cry. What filled their hearts with joy. What broke their hearts. 

I was at a hostel the past two nights. I brought up gypsies a few times, as well as in my travels in Croatia. Everyone stuck up their noses. “Don’t bring anything valuable.” “Never trust a gypsy. They just want to use you.” “They are dirty, sneaky, thieving beggars with sick hearts.” 

It made me sad to hear all of this. Gypsy does seem to be a derogatory term. But I find them to be quite fascinating. All of the resistance and hard times they faced. The hatred for no reason except they were different

And struggling to survive. Most of them having nothing except family and their rich culture filled with traditions and music. 

I told the bus driver where to drop me off. Valenii. The village where the Gabor reside. It was a string of houses. All of them long, extending back to side gardens where chickens roamed and flowers bloomed. There was a solid Stonehenge beautiful iron walls between the houses, lining the road. Making it seem as there was one huge wall connecting all of the houses. 

I followed the directions… Past the tiny shop and to the corner house with fancy iron gate and a well in the diveway. I opened one side of the gate and saw some kids playing by a garage. I heard English off to one side and saw 3 girls there in there mid twenties. Two were sitting next to each other on a bench and one was behind a sewing machine. She was dressed with a colorful, sparkly head scarf and a flowy, flowery blouse and a long, pleated, colorful, shimmery skirt. I was in the right place. 

The two girls were other travelers, from Austria. They had been camping or “tenting” as they called it the past long while, traveling about. 

They had seen gypsy palaces on their journey through Romania and asked about them. The girl shook her head and sighed. 

“No one lives in them. They are just for show. Because their neighbors had one, so they wanted a bigger one.” She explained that some gypsies had money and decided to build elaborate palace like structures. Most of these gypsies got their money from bumming in big cities. Pretending to be poorer than they were. Getting pity money. Then they would go home to their gypsy palaces. 

We all sat and talked as the sun went down. The Gabor girl was chatty, even while dutifully sewing skirts and aprons. She explained she had two kids. Was divorced and living back with her parents, but she didn’t mind. She sewed to keep busy and make money. All of her cousins, and her sister, were trying to get her to see their clothes for free. 

Her younger sister came a bit later, apparently she was the usual host. Both of their English was spot on. Not much of an accent at all. The younger one, 14, told us she wasn’t in school anymore. Most of her friends were married, pregnant, their childhood taken away as early as 12. Her parents were more lenient. She had a cell phone. She walked places alone. She didn’t start wearing the traditional dress until she was 12, while most girls started at 7. It was mandatory dress for women. 

A pleated, wrap around skirt that reached the toes. They were colorful, light fabric and when you spin, they flowed out into a huge circle. I adored them. They were bright colors with lace, rhinestones, sequins, ribbons and shiny material. There was a secret pocket, a money pocket in the middle that was covered by an apron. Their clothes were worn loose, baggy, but fitted at the waist to show off a womanly, voluptuous hourglass figure. Young women had their hair in two braids, with a red ribbon woven through each one. Once they got married they had to wear a colorful headscarf over their braided bun. Even if they were divorced. I was entranced. I was enchanted. I wanted their skirts. They were absolutely gorgeous. 

The men and boys worn more westernized style. Though they tended to still keep all their skin covered, it being indecent to show any skin. Where the ladies wore brightly colored, flowy dresses and skirts, the men dressed in dark colors. They also sported thick mustaches. The women were looked upon as a symbol of the family status and there more elaborate and beautiful her outfits were, the more wealthy and pure the family was. 

The Gabor gypsies are in the upper caste of the gypsy caste system. They didn’t steal or beg. They were noble gypsies. Still very traditional in their ways. 

The younger sister took us to our guesthouse. It was a bit away from the village. The Gabor are typically a closed society so it’s unique and cool enough we get to hang out at a locals house… Even have dinner!! 

I hadn’t eaten since 8:45 that morning due to hiking in the morning and talking to people at the hostel and losing track of time and realizing the time and booking it to the bus stAtion. The Gabor family we were visiting had all their cousins over. Lots of kids ran around in the front. In the dining room, the men sat around the table, eating sausages, bread and pickles. The women gathered around the coffee table and ate the same. Their talking was loud. Animated. At times I couldn’t tell if they were arguing or just talking. 

The smell of the food made my belly grumble and the sight of it, within reach made me dizzy with want. They were eating first though. Us three girls say on a couch and watched everything around us. It was quite like a theatrical production! I loved it! The younger sister explained that they were just having a conversation. No argument. And if Gabors did fight, they “maral le mosa”, fight with their tongue not their fists. They just say angry, mean things and that’s about it. The kids wandered in and out of the house, occasionally doing something to show off. They watched us with the corner of their eyes to make sure we saw. The ladies talked and giggled. The men talked and occasionally turned to stare at us. 

There were pillows piled everywhere. They were huge, fluffy pillows. I was told they were a throwback to the times they were nomads. Easier to travel with and super comfy. 

There was a big Roma alter that displayed all kinds of dishes and plates covered in silver, gold and delicate paintings. Beautifully painted ceramic pots lined and copper cups were in a line below. It reminded me of my mothers china cabinet where she kept her Moms fancy dish wear and trinkets. I was told this huge elaborate thing was an altar of sorts. It displayed the wife’s dowry. 

Finally, the cousins filtered out. I was kinda sad though, they were very entertaining. The three of us were given a plate with freshly fried potatoes and five giant sausages. The potatoes were from their garden. The pickles were cucumbers from their garden. The sausage was from local pigs. It was delicious. It was filling. It was wow. I finished all of mine plus one of the other girls extra sausages. And my full belly and full day hit me hard. I was sleepy. 

The three of us wandered back to our guesthouse, or wobbled due to our food babies, in the dark. The stars were glimmering. Dogs barked here and there. The geese and chickens were quiet. The stench of manure still hung heavy in the air. 

…the next day… 

And I walked up and up the path. It was lined with great green bushes and trees. Some sporting berries. Some flowers. The dirt and mud soon became overridden with grass. The path grew slimmer and the bushes grew thicker. And then I came upon a great vast clearing. A gently sloping hill, thick with grass. Wild. Untamed. Beautiful. I caught a glimpse of a another overgrown trail off to the side. It intrigued me. I wandered down. It rounded the corner of the hill and I looked up. There were graves. An old gypsy gravesite, high up on a hill. I was flooded with feeling. Intrigue. Cautiousness. Wonder. Awe. And a little fear. 

I had spend the morning pouring through books on gypsy sorcery. It was filled with superstition. Legends. Beliefs. Charms. A lot of them focused on the dead. 

I wondered if it was a good idea to be here. My curiously got the better of me and I continued. I saw crickets madly jumping about. Chirps and rattles all around me in the grass below my feet. I vaguely remembered someone saying snakes were rampant in the area. I continued, stepping a little more cautiously. Most of the graves were unmarked, overlooking the village high on a hill. Dead flowers were laid gently on top of mounds. I heard rustles in the bushes around me. 

This would certainly be a good place for someone to jump out and end my life. Was I supposed to be here? Was I going to get cursed? Was this a stupid idea? 

I tread carefully on. Hyper aware of the sounds around me. Dogs barked like mad in the distance. I heard the district clink of a bottle somewhere nearby. More rustling in the bushes. An uncomfortable feeling fell over me. I turned around. Slowly making my way back. I felt it was time to get out of there. 

I went back to the clearing and walked along until the bushes cleared and I got a good view of the village below. I scoped out the ground for a place to sit. 

It was peaceful. It was beautiful. The sun was shining. I took off my pants that I was wearing under my dress in respect for the Gabor’s conservative ways and let the sun warm my bare legs.  

Bugs and spiders used my legs as a playground, crawling up and down and all around. I let them. 

This village was rustic. Wild. There was bare minimum electricity, but no running water. Some roads wee asphalt. Some were gravel. Some were mud and dirt. Some houses were stone and some were crumbling brick. Some had balconies and some were tilted to the side, as though the ground had shifted below it. Some had cars. Some had horse drawn wagons. They all had gates around them. Some enclosed chickens. Some held back mad geese. Some held equipment. I saw very few people on my walk. A couple villagers came out to the road after I passed by to watch me walk from afar. It was bizarre. 

After reading these books on gypsy sorcery, I was desperate to learn more. To hear from an actual person. What did these people actually believe? Did these people actually tell fortunes? I had read in the guest house that you could buy Tarot cards but they asked you to not bring them into the Gabor house. What does that mean? Do the Gabor look down on tarot cards? 

Pixey-led. To be led astray by fairies. Like when you lose your way. Get distracted and take a less direct route. Story of my life. I suppose I’ve been led by pixeys many times. I don’t mind. I thank them, I don’t blame them. 

As wild as a gypsy. That was how I felt most myself. In the woods. In the wild. Bathing in lakes. Sleeping, curled under a tree. Weaving crowns out if wildflowers. Munching on berries and wild fruits growing in the forest. 

Puro romaneskoes (in the old gypsy fashion) 

I have always been a believer in magic. In signs. In people and things coming together at the right time. Everything happens for a reason. In the moon. Live by the sun, love by the moon. That the sun loved the moon so much, it died every night so his lover, the moon could shine. Or that the sun was forever in love with the moon. And forever will it be chasing its opal glow, never able to touch it. I believe in spirits and ghosts. In things holding power or luck, whether it be a gemstone or a lucky pebble or lucky “I’m gonna get laid tonight” panties or a lucky guitar pick. I want so badly to believe that they are true… And most of the time it works out for me. I ask other people and they scoff.

“MAgic? Nooooo. I believe in facts.” Most say. “There is an explanation for everything.” 

Facts. Yes. I believe in those too. But how can one not believe in at least a little magic. What a boring life that would be. 

I went back to the guesthouse after a long while. Geese cackled and roosters crowed as I walked by. Gyspies in their beautiful outfits walked carrying big baskets full of vegetables. The rolling hills with hay and corn were far off in the distance. So much better than the city. 

One older lady with a little boy stopped me at one point. The little boy had big sad eyes. His face smeared with dirt. His shirt ripped. She babbled on in Romanian. I had no idea what she was asking. I had two peaches with me. I gave them one. I gave the little bit a toy motorcycle I had in my bag leftover from a kinderEgg. She continued to babble, moving her hands around. I silently hoped she wasn’t putting a curse on me. I continued walking, apologizing. Eventually, up ahead I saw 5 people on the road. One in gypsy garb and 4 in pants and backpacks. More travelers. Perfect. 

I spend the afternoon talking with the 7 other guests and playing with the 2 year old gypsy daughter of the older sister. Actually, most of it I spent with the little one. Coloring with markers. Face paint. Marbles. Glitter. Stringing beads for a necklace. I adore children. It we beautiful. 

I went for a sunset walk with one if the travelers. A French dude. We talked of France. Or traveling. Of how happiness is only real when shared, but solo travel is essential and being lonely only makes the time with others even more special. We walked by huge dogs that were guarding a field. They looked mean. They snarled. They barked. The came at us. We walked back to the gravel road and sat in the grass. The colors of the sky changed as the sun went down. Off to the side, the sky flashed as lightning and thunder in the distance came closer. 

We walked back to the guesthouse. Just in time. The beer had arrived and the rain started. There 8 of us total. Two Spanish (a couple traveling for 3 weeks). Two Austrian girls (another couple, from the night before). A girl from Chile who lived in Berlin (visiting here while her boyfriend hiked through the mountains) and another couple that met while traveling (the French guy and the girl he met, another German girl). 8 people from all over the world. All came together at a gypsy guesthouse in the middle of nowhere in Romania. Drinking beer out of a 2 liter soda bottle. With lightening. Thunder. Rain. All around. It was beautiful. I heard tales of far off places they had been to. Mongolia. Albania. Patagonia. Bulgaria. Russia. 20 days on the Transiberian railroad. Chile. Voting in Spain. My soul yearned for these places. These experiences. How little I know of this world. 

I thought this trip would settle my soul. Help to get this nomadic lifestyle out of my system. Help me be able to settle down. But it instead fuels my need to see more. Experience more. Learn more. Meet more. 

One last thought. Prost. People normally say that as cheers in Poland and other countries. But in Bulgaria abs Romania, “Prost” is “stupid” so here you say “cheers” or “noroc “… Good to know…

I am not ready to settle. I don’t want to settle. Not yet. Even at 30, there are still people traveling. Exploring. Learning. Experiencing. I am still young yet. Not as young as most people I’ve met, but there are plenty of people in their 30’s and older I’ve met that are still figuring things out. There is magic out there. In the form of people. In the form of experiences. In the form of nights and days and moonlight and secrets uncovered and discoveries. 

The next day I had to go back to society. I decided to hitchhike. I had a cardboard sign saying “Barsov. Varong!” (Varong is please)Why not. The first car that went by stopped. A young man was at the wheel. He said yes he spoke English then demanded to see how much money I had. I showed him the 12 that I had. He waved me away, “Not enough. Sorry. Bye.” And he rolled up the window and drove off. 

5 minutes later another car stopped. An older man behind the wheel. He spoke little English. But we were able to communicate on and off. He worked as an installer. He had a 6 year old daughter and was going to pick her up in Brasov from her mom’s house and take her back to Targu Mures. He was a sweet old man. He kept saying “I love America!” He gave me a beer and a pack of lemon wafers. I offered to pay him. He waved the money away. I left him with ten anyway. 

The next leg was from Brasov to Bucharest. I found a ride from a couple that spoke little English. They were sweet too. They gave me a bottle of water and set me up in the backseat. I napped most of them he way to Bucharest. They dropped me off at the bus station and I made my way to my Couchsurfers.

People never cease to amaze me. I am a true believer that people are inherently nice and do care for others. 



“Once again… Welcome to my house. Come feely. Go safely; and leave some of the happiness you bring.” ~Bram Stoker, Dracula Sunday September 11, 2016

Day 111

Brașov, Romania 

Romania is absolutely gorgeous. A wild, untamed, dirty, old time, run down kind of beautiful. Charming. It won my over in no time. 

I arrived at 11am after being on a bus since the day before at 3pm. I had restless naps on the bus, but the sunrise riding through Romania was wow. The Transylvania mountains were highlighted in the misty morning light. The little rustic villages we passed by. Wow. A whole different world. 

When I did arrive to Brașov, I was half awake, on little sleep, dropped off at a lonely bus station just outside the city. I had no idea what to do. I had no idea how to get to the city. I had made no reservations for a hostel. I had no idea who how common English was. I wandered into the building. There were 2 tiny shops selling baked goods, cigarettes and booze. I asked them how to get to town. They shook their head, “No English” they replied apologetically. 

I wandered outside. There was a place to buy bus tickets. 

Ok… So maybe this is how to get to town… I looked at the fliers. The boards. All in Romanian. I wandered and sat down on the curb, trying to wake my brain up to figure out what to do.

“Do you need help? Are you lost?” A guy in his young twenties with a thick accent stood there staring at me. 

I looked around, trying to figure out who he was talking to. It took me a minute to realize he was talking to me. 

This beautiful stranger. This kind soul. He helped me buy my ticket, gave me a quick overview of the city as we rode the bus, pointed out a few places to eat and find groceries and other beautiful things about the city and walked me to a hostel. He explained he just was visiting the UK and had gotten lost quite a few times and had turned to strangers for help. He was simply paying the world back a favor. 

The hostel was chill. You got a coupon for a free drink. They give you a map and blah blah blah. It is a welcoming place. When I entered my room, there was a couple in there packing a day bag. Immediately they said they were going to Dracula’s castle and invited me along. I was tempted but decided to stay back and take it easy due to lack of sleep. 

I wandered the streets. Found beautiful scrawlings on the walls. The architecture was intriguing. The city was surrounded by heavily forested hills, one of them with a glaringly white, “Brașov” sign, similar to the “Hollywood” sign in Cali. 

There was a pedestrian, tourist heavy street that ended in a huge, beautiful, spacious square. Just beyond was the Black Church. It was huge. Dark grey, not black. Apparently, there was a fire long ago. But the church was solid stone. The outside didn’t burn, but roof caught fire and caved in and created the biggest oven in Europe. If you look up on one side there’s a statue of a boy. One of the apprentices that helped build the church.. He was so good at what he did that his boss was jealous. He Askedthe boy to make sure the edges of the roof were straight and while the boy was on the edge, leaving down to do as he was told, his boss pushed him down. Off the side of the church. All The way to the ground, the boy fell.He died. But people loved him, and they created a statue in his memory. Forever gazing down at the ground, mid work, at the top of the church. It is the biggest gothic church in Eastern Europe.  

Brașov also boasts the smallest/narrowest street in Eastern Europe (3td narrowest in Europe). A street originally created for firefighters. A shortcut for then, just wide enough for one man and two buckets if water. In English, the translation is Rope street.

Most people come to Brașov to find Dracula. Dracula’s Castle resides nearby. It is also known as Bran’s Castle, as it towers over the village of Bran. The Castle and Village were overcrowded with tourists. It was underwhelming and the 35 it cost to get in was quite a lot considering the little amount of castle you were actually able to explore. The views from the windows were quite stunning though… I can only imagine what it would’ve been like to live there back in the day. Queen Maria decorated it quite nicely. It was cute inside. Not scary at all. One corner of the castle. The top bits had boards about Dracula and Vlad the Impaler (who Dracula was themed after). There was a “secret passage” and lots of twisty, spiraled staircases. Stunning views… and littering the grounds below were all kinds of booths with “authentic Romanian” food, clothes, souvineers, etc. interesting to walk around. 

My favorite was the gardens around the bottom of the castle. No one was there and I felt like it my very own. 

Here’s a short bit in Dracula…Vlad was the son of the ruler and was sent away during his childhood as a hostage. His father joined the secretive “Order of the Dragon”. He was known as Dracul and his son, Vlad, was Vlad Dracula, or son of the Dragon Anyway, growing up, he learned his favorite way of killing people was by impaling them. Basically, you stick a stake up someone’s Anus. But you have to be careful not to hit any major arteries because you wanted your prisoner alive for a few days… A slow death… They even gave their prisoners water to keep them alive, painfully, longer. But, Vlad was still a national hero to many people. He got rid of all the “bad guys”. It didn’t matter how rich or poor they were, if they broke a law, they were dead. It got to the point that even if someone dropped a coin and left it, the coin would still be there in that spot days later. No one picked it up for fear that they would be considered thrives. Anyway, there’s a whole lot more to his story if you are interested, it’s quite fascinating.  

Bran’s castle just happened to be one that most accurately fit the description in the book. Therefore, Bran’s castle became Dracula’s Castle. Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, didn’t even live there though. He was held there as a prisoner a few days but that’s about it. 

Peles Castle though. That one was absolutely luxurious. Gorgeous inside and out. I took the bottom level tour and got to see a few rooms. All of then intricately decorated and carved and engraved. Gorgeous shimmering chandeliers. Tall mirrors. All the weapons and armor on display. The castle was wow. It sits up high on a mountain. A village turned ski resort. Definitely worthy of a look. You will NOT be disappointed. 

We also stopped at a fortress with another breathtaking view. Râșnov Citadel. I was way too distracted by the Dino park we walked by. It looked like Jurasdic Park in real life!! There was also a festival going on below the citadel. Children were dressed up in old time, authentic garb and danced and sang Romanian tunes. Sausage grilled on and old grill in the back and beer flowed from spigots. It was quite an experience!!! I’m so happy I happened upon it!! 

Here are a few things I picked up on in the short time I’ve been here: Romanian people I found to be quite nice. Very friendly and warm. They really do the cross on themselves when passing a church. Very religious. Very superstitious. Very family oriented. Apparently they also eat pig skin. The roads are quite bad. Lots of twists. Turns. Potholes. Missing road bits. Pretty cheap to eat and travel. A lot of their food is heavy with garlic (just fine with me❤️)

Tomorrow I head a bit north to a Gypsy camp…. A bit of a top secret, exciting adventure I set up. Everyone I talk to all around the world, especially here in Romania share a dislike of gypsies. I bring the word up and they are already turning up their noses in disgust. I find them intriguing. I want to know what makes them laugh. What makes them sad. Their way of life. I want to discover and share the good that I know these people have. 

More on that in the next couple days ❤️❤️

Return to Napoli 

“Even now I miss Italy dearly, I dream about it every night.” ~Eila HiltinenTuesday September 1, 2016

Day 102

Napoli, Italia.
The dirty streets of Napoli delivered just what I needed. I came back from Sardinia after spending 5 nights sleeping on beaches and one on the top deck of a ferry boat outside. I was ready for a warm sleep and a friend. 

I had stayed with him before I went to Sardinia and he was one of my favorite people I’ve CouchsurfEd with. Very knowledgeable. Walks a lot. Affectionate. Tiny apartment with a loft bed and toilet inside the shower and the beautiful big terrace which was the roof of an old church. He knew where the cheap wine was and the good food. Cheap food. He was the adventure I needed. 

He took me to a gorgeous beach. I had to give my passport to the man in charge in order to get in. But people swam around the barrier to get in anyway. They were trying to keep it a special place. A pretty place. Not many people. The other beach where everyone else laid around was crowded. The water was clear. The cliff faces were stunning. He took me to a sea cave tucked in amongst the rocks. We shouted into it and giggled as it echoed. We attempted to walk through it until he stepped on something soft and squishy and we turned back. We ate bread and cheese and grapes and laid in the sun. It was a long walk down to the beach through a gorgeous twisting turning road. The sides of the road were walls that enclosed fancy villas with wild gardens and stunning views. 

After, we hiked back up to the top and wandered through a pretty park that ran the length of the cliff and led itself to some gorgeous panoramic views. Beautiful flowers. Water spigots that provided much needed fresh water in the midday heat. 

The evenings when we got back from our adventures we’d shower the hot sticky sweat off and laze around. On the terrace, smoking cigarettes and chatting. Up in the loft, trying to take a nap but my second wind would come and I’d get way too excited and I would ask him the most random questions i could think of or play dj with the songs on my Spotify. 

Then we would go out to get wine at his favorite place. A whole bottle for 2 euros. We would take it to the steps of a church or a bench in a park or on the edge of a fountain and talk. Tell stories. Joke around. After 2 bottles down we wandered to find his friends. He was quite famous with his friends. Napoli people are intriguing. Very different than any people I’ve ever met. I loved it. At one point we’d realize we’d barely eaten all day and go get a pizza. We’d sit on the curb and stuff it in our mouths in the light of the distant streetlights, the cheese oozing and dropping off the slices. We’d fight for the cheese bits that dripped off our slices. 

I always found the most magical things in the graffiti. Beautiful messages. In English and Italian. “I love you forever” and whatnot. 

One night I saw, “why did an angel break my heart?” A deep sadness washed over me. 

The 3rd day he took me on the train. We were going to go to a lake. Into the wilderness. But on the way, it was so hot we decided to stop by the sea. The sand was dark, crunchy like brown sugar. People were scattered about, scarce. The view in front was wow. A castle on one side and a little island on the other. Neither of us thought to wear swimsuit so we hopped in in our undies. No one looked twice. There were a lot of teenagers with boom boxes of sorts, blaring Italian pop music. Their heads thrown back in laughter. Lots of romance all around. Guys kissing their girl’s necks. People laying on each other on beach blankets. 

We went to a grocery store to grab lunch. I am always fascinated by foreign grocery stores. Everything looks and smells so amazing. We got bread and some sliced meat thing and artichoke hearts. 

As we exited, it started pouring down rain and we had to seek refuge under an ivy covered gazebo. It was a warm rain. I could see the sun still shining off to one side. A rainbow was going to appear. I was sure of it. And to my delight, as we finished the last bit of our makeshift sandwiches (more like bread ripped apart with our hands and meat thrust in and dipped in garlicky artichoke olive oil marinade) the rainbow appeared. Right over the hill we had to cross to get to the lake. And the rain let up. 

We walked down this lonely road. Bamboo lined one side and an abandoned looking vineyard was on the other. We snuck a thing of grapes and munched on them, spitting out the seeds as we walked. We found fresh, plump blackberries hidden amongst the bamboo. We are those too. Further on, we found a fig tree and grabbed some of those too. The sky was still cloudy, but we were blissful. We joked that we were like Adam and Eve. Wandering around, alone, the only humans, eating all the forbidden fruit. 

The lake was huge. Still, no sign of humans except for the music carrying over the lake from a party going on on the opposite end. We walked around. Picked more blackberries. Tried to get the dragonflies to land on our fingers. Spotted turtles. Tried to catch frogs.

And there was this ancient roman ruin up ahead. He told me it was from an ancient Roman bath. I wanted to touch it. Extract it’s stories from the crumbling walls. Unfortunately it was too wild around and I couldn’t get close. We walked a little further and I spied some benches off to the side near the ruins. I explored and found a trail that led down to the ruins. It was wow. I touched it. I wanted to climb it. I wanted to explore. I wanted to know its secrets. He called me back. We laid out a towel and laid around in the peaceful wild nature with no one around and told stories of growing up. 

Soon enough it was time to go back to the city. Our evening of showering and being lazy and wine continued. We met some of his other friends. As we walked back, we heard music. We danced and danced. Swirling and spinning and moving. 

Back at his place, as we smoked our final cigarette for the night he looked at me, “You know, my friends think we are good together. That you are good for me.”  

That was that. I left the next morning with a heavy heart. I had found a new kindred spirit. A new soul that I had touched. A new person that showed me that I could be loved. That I was fun. 

But my time in the Shengen was drawing to a close. I had started my 3 months in June 3 and it was now September 1. 

I didn’t want to leave Italy. It was the best weeks. It was beautiful. Rich with culture and food and history. The people are my favorite. The sun the warmest in every sense of the word. Wine everywhere. Vineyards. Beautiful people. Just everyday I couldn’t help but smile. 

I flew away to Croatia the next day. For a few more days of sun and sea before heading east.

Beautiful Budapest 

“In Budapest, you’ll find experiences like nothing else in Europe: Feel your stress ebb away as you soak in hundred-degree water, surrounded by opulent Baroque domes… And by speedo- and bikini- clad Hungarians. Ogle some of Europe’s most richly decorated interiors, which echo a proud nation’s bygone glory days.” ~Rick Steves Thursday September 8, 2016

Day 109 

Budapest, Hungary 
Budapest was amazing. Way too much to do in that city. Way too many places to see than 38 hours can provide. I do wish I could’ve had the chance to stay longer. Preferably with a local. A CouchsurfEr. I didn’t get to feel the real vibes. The real feel of the city. 

I was so lost when I got there. Thankfully, the dude in front of me on the bus worked at a hostel in Budapest and said it was only 9 dollars. Totally. For sure. I’m down. And since my phone was dead he escorted me all the way there. He had just finished a 4 day music festival up in Pula, Croatia by the beach and was telling me stories of his adventures. Once we got to the hostel he was invited into the arms of his hostel friends and I never saw nor spoke to him again. That’s ok. 

I wandered the streets a bit. It was midnight. People were still ambling about drunkenly. The bars were exploding with music. I stopped at some deli for some food. They had all kinds of bready delicacies. Some flaky, some cheesy, some more bread-like and some more dessert like. I opted for this little pillow of bread with a nice melting if cheese and some meat layered on top. I have no idea what it was called but it was 180, which was $0.65, and a beer for $0.75 and they warmed m it up (the food not the beer) and I was so hungry I didn’t even wait until I got out of the shop to bite into it. Not that great. Kinda shitty. But it was food. And the beer helped wash it down as I walked down the street. I still feel naughty walking the streets with a beer in my hand. I remember when I worked at my hostel I was always shocked when the guests would walk on the streets on the way to Taco Tuesday or Drunk Thursday with a PBR in their hand. Now I fully understand. And it will be hard to go back. It feels so good to be able to wander around with a bottle of wine to share in the park or a beer while listening to an open air concert. 

Anyway, I went back to the hostel shortly after to sleep. There were just 2 other people in the 6 bed room. It was a couple. They were sleeping together on the top bunk. It was sweet. But it made me sad. It reminded me if traveling with my Swiss German and how we would squeeze into little bunk beds to be near each other in the short time we had together. And now the way he acted toward me hurt, like I was nothing. Bittersweet memories started to flood in. I shook them away and went to sleep. 

The next morning, I mulled over the suggestions of people I had asked on Facebook. There was an island with trees and nature to discover. Margaret island I think. The spas and thermal baths, since Budapest was known as Spa City due to the thermal wAter below its grounds. The caves below the hills that were used as cellars and a hospital. They were created as a result of the limestone rocks and natural hot springs beneath the city. Other caves in one of the other hills allowed for you to explore on a more wild level, crouching through tiny holes miles below where the sun touched the earth. The bridges. The food. The Basillica. The Jewish quarter. The museums. 

I decided to start off slow and do one of the free tours. Technically, they aren’t free, you need to tip them at the end. No one could ever compare to my first free tour in London. Sweet Olly ❤️❤️ so animated and fresh and fun. No other tour I’ve been on, even the paid tours have been comparable to the show he put on. 

Anyway, this dude gave a brief overview of St Stephen’s Basilica and how there is the preserved hand of Stephen, a king of Hungary.  I spaced out while he was talking in his monotone voice. Why would he be a tour guide when he lacked so much enthusiasm? He gave us a brief talk on the local foods and drinks, but said them so fast and in Hungarian. I had no idea what they were. I asked him about them later and wanted him to write them in my phone, but he pretty much ignored me because I have him a mere 500 as a tip and others gave him more. 

He talked of the Jewish quarters and the Turkish baths and how everything in the city was destroyed during WWII. He told of the famous Chain Bridge that was constructed by some Scotsman, but was destroyed in WWII and had to be rebuilt. 

One thing I remembered was that the Rubix cube was created by a Hungarian math teacher. And the way to say hello in Hungarian sounds like “see-ya” in English. 

We walked across the bridge and up on top of the palace on Castle Hill. Beautiful view of the city. Once again, I forgot all the stories because I saw butterflies fluttering by. Smetterling in German. Farfalla. Mariposa. Pappion. Or j saw something that reminded me of a song and I started singing it in my head instead of listening. I am the worst. 

We ended at Matthias Church and the Fishermans Bastion.  Apparently, the Fishermans guild used to protect that part of Castle Hill and it was my absolute favorite. It reminded me of a castle! Columns and stones a grand walkway from the street below and circular stairs that wove their way to a second level with lookout towers. It looked far too fancy and decorative to be used as a defensive building. And learning more, I found out it was actually built after the Buda castle was no longer in use as a castle, so it was more of a lookout or terrace to enjoy the panorama. All with a wow view of the parliament and the river and everything beyond. 

But it was hot. And I forgot my water. And there was a fountain. The sound of the water gushing forth made my throat constrict with want. I saw people put their water to their lips and my mouth couldn’t even water due to lack of such delight. I ended up staring at them like some weirdo as they gulped the precious liquid. My body felt shriveled and dry. 
I made my way down all the steps and found a little shop. I have grown fond of bubble water since here in Europe. I always felt too unsophisticated drinking it. Now it was normal. 

I walked along the river. I knew somewhere down that way was the Rudas thermal baths. I was excited. Everyone told me it was something to experience. The water had medicinal powers. With all the nutrients in the near boiling hot, natural hot spring waters. This past winter, at Mammoth Mountain, where I worked, there were natural hot springs. But you had to off road to get there. And people most certainly didn’t flock there to heal themselves. They flocked there to warm up and soothe their aching muscles with a cold beer after a long day on the slopes… So I guess in a way, yes they went there to heal too. 

Even the walk from the city was gorgeous. I found a little garden off to the side with marble steps leading up to a terrace lined with smooth white columns with green ivy twisting up and down. Once again the view overlooked the city. Fountains with mermaids and angels were every 150 meters or so. The grass was thick and green. And beyond that was the other hill. It was further from the main bits of the city and had a rocky cliff face that was covered in green. Marble steps zig zagging up and in the middle was a beautiful trickling waterfall. It looked wild. It looked untamed. It looked like my kind of beautiful. I had to stop and gawk for a bit. 

Then I made it to Rudas. To my disappointment, the main thermal area was reserved for men that day, but the wellness option, which offered a smaller version of the thermal spas, was available. I debated. I knew it was highly unlikely I would be motivated enough to find another Budapest Bath, since I was tired from walking and it was already 3:55 and I still had to eat and figure out where to stay that night. I paid the money, 3,000 (or $11) and was told a string of unclear directions. They gave me a bracelet. Said something about a locker and waved me on. 


I wandered down a hallway. Off to the left was an entryway. Two men dressed in crisp white uniforms were standing around talking. I asked them where I should go. One guy smiled and made a gesture for me to come into the room where he was. The other guy shrieked and waved his hands around to block the walkway, “No! No no! I’m sorry but this is men only day!”  


So I continued on and ended up finding the lockers. How was I supposed to know which locker to use? I scoured the receipt looking for some clue. Nothing. I asked another guy in white. He smiled knowingly and explained I could choose any locker I wanted, but I better remember the number or I might never find it again. 

Fair enough. I wandered to the back. Old men, old ladies ambled about… their weathered old skin wrapped up in tiny towels barely covering their private bits. But they looked happy and relaxed. 

Dude. Was I the only “young” one here? 

I had worn my swimsuit under my clothes so I didn’t need to change, just take off my clothes. I was nervous about wearing my bikini again, with my scar and all. But I decided it was the best way to get comfortable with myself. With my own body. Acceptance. 

I wandered, trying to figure out where to go, following the signs for “Wellness”. It was beautiful inside. Stunning. Huge marble columns. Tall ceilings. Sparkling waters that cast a blue shimmery light on everything. Gorgeous tile work on the floors and walls. Lion statues poked their heads out of the walls and spat out drinkable water. There were 4 pools, each with different temperatures. The two biggest were lukewarm, where most people lounged. Every few minutes there were mini waterfalls that spewed out from the sides into the pools. The tile work and lighting were stunning. There were smaller pools to the side. One was raised and the cool blue light and ice blue tiles tipped me off that it was probably cold. And then I noticed a hole in the wall on one side of it and ice cubes slowly trickling out into the pool. Ok. Yes. It was cold. The other one had wArm red and orange lights. It was the “healing” one. 42 degrees Celsius with all the elements in it to heal and soothe aching backs and joints and cure the soul. I spent most of my time jumping from the ice water to the super hot one. I am not the best at relaxing, but I did get to play in the waterfall 🙂 And then I discovered there was a rooftop spa. A hot tub on the roof. It was round, circular, with the building off to the side of the city, looking down at everything . Wow. 

I was the only solo person there. A couple groups of girls were there, giggling and talking amongst themselves. A few couples, mostly older. The younger couples spent the entire time in each other’s Laps or locked in embrace. A few groups of lads came through. A few people even tried to make conversation, including an Australian man bun trio. So, despite how much my mind perceived me and my body to be grotesque, I suppose other people didn’t think so. They saw me wearing the least amount of clothes I’ve ever worn and still wanted to talk. 


Anyway, I wandered back to my hostel, booked another night and went to watch the sunset by the river. Magical scene to watch the colors wash over the city. It turned out there was an open air concert at a bar next to the Chain Bridge. I went and bought a cheap (but shitty) gyro, since I had forgotten to eat that day and needed something quick and wasn’t about to go to a restaurant by myself. I bought a few beers too and wandered over to have a listen. The music was wow. Jazz funk rock. Right on the river with the Chain Bridge lit up in the background.  

I am not a clubber. I am not one for going and getting hammered at bars and talking up strangers. That’s why I like Couchsurfing and getting to know people and drinking and talking and listening to music. I missed it already. I wished for a friend. Though, sure I do enjoy bArs with a few good friends too. But I can be totally fine watching live music by myself. Some guy from tinder ended up recognizing me and came to talk for a bit, but I was a bit tipsy and way too involved in the music to talk. 

I discovered the Ruin Bars. A hip area of Budapest in the old Jewish quarter. Buildings, stores, homes were abandoned and they were left to decay and rot. Walking along the street, you would never know the thriving nightlife inside. From the outside it looks like just another old, nearly abandoned building.  Not much noise or signage or people lingering. But inside… Thrift store furniture. Crazy art. Funky vibes. Things hanging from ceilings. Nothing matched. Artsy. Ecclectic. The courtyards overrun with weeds. It was amazing. 

I ended up going back early. Around midnight. Parties were still raging outside. But I had a fulfilling day. I got to wander the city. I got to go to a Budapest bath. I heard some live music. I watched the sunset on the river and the colors change the facade of the Basillica. I climbed to the top of a castle. 

And since my room way right by the street, I pulled my headphones on my head, and put on my “Best Summer Ever” playlist. With every song that came on, I couldn’t help but let out a sleepy smile as I remembered where I heard that song, who I was with, what we were doing, how I was feeling… Reminiscing on this beautiful nearly four month long solo journey. ❤️ not quite ready to go home. 

Crazy Croatians :)

“Blessed are the weird people. -poets, misfits, writers, Mystics, painters & troubadours – for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” ~Jacob NordbyMonday September 5, 2016

Day 107

Zadar, Croatia 

Thick smoke curled around the dark room as the angry sounds of Motörhead blared on the speakers. I had found myself in a dark, smokey, stagnant man cave of sorts. Guitars, keyboards, speakers and a drum set were strewn about the room. There was one tiny window to the outside where I could see the olive trees flail in the wind and rain. My tummy was grumbling as the smell of whatever he was creating slowly cooked in the oven of the main house. 

“It was leg of lamb,” he said, “or cow, doesn’t matter, it’s delicious. Or it might be, might have put too much salt on the potatoes” I didn’t care. I was ready to go savage on it. Since I came to Europe my vegetarian ways have become lax and I have enjoyed the local meats. Some of them better than others. Some of them made my taste buds dance with joy. Like in Napoli, where my CouchsurfEr bought us a giant turkey leg (I think?) and we both bit into the juicy, tender meat and laughed as the warm liquid dropped off our mouths and hands. Everything illuminated in the glow of the dim streetlights. It was too good to care about being dainty, not that I was ever a dainty person to begin with. 

I was in Zadar, Croatia… Well technically Bibinje, Croatia, a little village outside the city. I had come here because he was the only CouchsurfEr in Croatia I could get ahold of. He was the king of Croatia’s Couchsurfing community. His profile had pictures from when he was a keyboardist in his band, traveling around Europe for months touring with different metal bands. And lots of pictures of his cooking, octopus, squid, lamb… I figured it would be my only opportunity to actually couchsurf in Croatia and I was starting to get a little anxious about money. 

He was an interesting fella. By far one of the more interesting I’d met on this trip. He kept up with everything in Syria and would watch videos of the low down over there. He knew everything about it. He had a crass sense of humor, blunt, strange. But I was able to keep up with it and banter back occasionally. When I first met him, he convinced me that he was Muslim. One of the ones that disobeyed and still drank and smoked and fucked… Okkkkkayyy I remembered thinking. Trying to figure out if he was messing with me or if he actually was and would get offended if I called him out on it. He was so serious about it when he told me. There were olive trees and lemon trees and kiwi trees and pomegranate trees and vines with grapes all in his backyard. Along with a garden that had tomatoes and potatoes. He swigged Red Label from the bottle and told stories of life on the road and at his current job as a sound technician. He told me of growing up with nothing to do all day because he was stuck inside due to bombs going off outside. So he watched Cartoon Network and learned English. He offered to bring me to an area where there were leftover land mines. 

“You could walk through it and try your luck. If you REALLY like adventure and stories to take home, that would be the ultimate adventure.” He said, winking. 

I love people. The strange. The weird. The wild. The wonderful. 

Earlier that day, I had taken a BlaBlaCar with a cute couple in their late 20’s. The guy was from Romania and the girl was from Austria. They were fellow adventurers, like me. They slept in their car. They camped. They had a 3 day weekend and wanted to see the coastline of Croatia. 

I told them of my time in Italy and how I had to see the Colosseum. He told me of the true story if the Thracian, Spartacus. How Thracians were actually Romanians. I had heard the story before. I knew my Gladiator tales. Oh how I love those tales of times long ago. But I still listened with fascination as he told me of the battles and betrayals and ending with the bodies being crucified on the road up the coast all the way from Sicily to Rome. And my heart aches to go back to Italy. 

I told them I was headed to Romania and the guy filled my ears with tales of his country. 

Of the gypsies. Fleeing from their home countries. Being met with resistance and aggression in Germany and France most other countries in Europe. But the Romanians welcomed them. Gave them refuge. And they never left. 

He said they actually made pretty good living. They would bum cigarettes from people. Collect enough to put the hodpodge in an empty pack and sell it. They had ways of making money discretely. When they had babies, they would sometimes chop off their own child’s arms or legs and stick them on the street to get Pity coins. A boy with all his legs and arms In tact would certainly get less money and attention than one that was missing some limbs. Some made upwards of 10,000 euros a year. They lived in villages (if you could call them that) just outside the city. The kind you had to jump off the train in between stops to find. There was no electricity. No sanitation. No running water. No medicine. Their bodies built up immunity to diseases and sickness by living in the filth for generations. 

Some worked outside of Romania. In the big cities. There, with all the rich people, that would make all the euros and then come back and build beautiful palace-like houses, but end up all sleeping in one room or outside, because that’s the life they were used to. 

We stopped partway to Zadar to chop open a watermelon they had in their backseat. It was hot, arid, dusty outside but with lots of trees that barely reached over my head. 

And bits of limestone erupting from the earth below. I took a slice of the bright red watermelon. It was dripping with juice. It was perfect. 

The girl went in to buy some water. I turned to the guy, “I want to find these people. I want to live with the gypsies for a week. I want to see how they live. I want to learn What makes them smile.”

He gave a small smile and looked into the distance, “You should. They would welcome you.” He turned back to me, squinting his eyes in the sun, “They might ask you for money.”

“How much?” 

“Whatever you have… So be careful what you bring and what you tell them you have.”

I thought about that for a minute. Sure, yeah I could understand that. He mentioned earlier they are good at being manipulative. Getting what they want. That is their living. 

“Do you think it’s safe?”

He looked at me, to the sky, then back at me and shrugged his shoulders. The pause and casual shrug without eye contact gave me a strange feeling. But I was still genuinely intrigued. Staying at a Romanian Gypsy camp for a week… That would be interesting… New perspective on life. I had no idea about the real gypsy life. People would always refer to me as a gypsy when I told them about how I my move all over the country every 3-5 months. I knew very little about real gypsies. My mind wandered to the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Sure, the Disney movie but also the big book I had read when I was younger. Gypsies. How dirty were they? How much filth did they actually live in? Were they simple people? Did they lead their lifestyles in such a way to suck whatever they could from other people? Were they kindhearted? Did they actually chop the limbs off their babies to make more money? 

I needed to know. I decided I would look into it when I got some internet… How feasible it was to enter this world. Obviously, I would leave my backpack at a hostel and just bring a backpack and maybe things I was trying to get rid of. 

Once the car dropped me in Zadar, I wandered to the sea organ. It was hot outside and the sea waves gushing in and out of the channels below the steps connecting to the pipes created a hauntingly beautiful tune as I laid down my backpack and jumped in the beautiful, clear emerald water. I took turns, laying and dreaming up Romania and jumping in when it got too hot. I was going to miss the sea. The palm trees. But that’s ok. Other adventures awaited in the East. 

Ferries and things. 

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”  ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Monday August 29, 2016Day 100

Roma, Italia to Napoli, Italia 
The sun set just as the ferry boat pulled away from Cagliari dock. It was quite pretty, the city lights glowing, basking in the colors from the lowering sun. Everyone and their grandma was up on the top deck, giddy with excitement. Some looked quite sad to leave the island. A couple were crying. I bought a tiny bottle of wine for 4 euros and sat down to watch the people… And the sunset. 

After the sun had gone down I wandered the decks below. I found a shower, which was much needed since I’d only had my dips in the sea to cleanse my body the past week. I had no towel, but I’ve subbed my sweatshirt in more than a few times. It still does the trick. 

There were people sleeping everywhere. It was bizarre. All the hallways. The balconies by the stairs. Every level. Even in the bar room and snack room. Blankets were laid out. Towels. Some were even more prepared and had blow up mattresses. This wasn’t their first rodeo. Even in the hallways to the doors where the first class people had rooms, there were people stretched out. A huge crowd of men were gathered around a small tv, their eyes glued in anticipation at the football game on the screen. Little kids were twirling around. Couples were laying together on the floor, their arms around each other. Friends were playing cards, sharing a big bottle of champagne on their air mattress. 

Even outside on the outer decks people had claimed sleeping places. Behind the barrier where the life rafts were. On the seats by the pool that was roped off with no water. Tucked in the dark corners where unused doors never opened. There was no crazy loud music like there was when I slept on the beaches, just chattering of people and children giggling and dogs barking. Even before the sunset people were laying down, nestled in their makeshift beds ready for sleep to come. 

I paid 50 euros to get to Rome on this overnight boat. It was quite a bizarre experience. I was kinda glad I didn’t pay 20 extra euros for a room. I scoured the boat for a place to sleep. There was light everywhere. There were people everywhere. I knew I didn’t want to sleep inside I wanted fresh air. I found a little corner vacant by the pool deck and set down my big blue bag, wrapped my arms around it and put on some music. Stereophonics “Getaway” , my current go to dreamy song, and fell asleep. Only waking a few times when the dogs started barking or random plastic cups were blown my way. At my face. 

It’s funny. Traveling solo especially. I tend to notice other solo travelers. Other people eating alone. Snapping pictures alone. I notice those with large backpack like me. I give them a knowing smile and a nod, acknowledging them. And they do the same back. I fill with warmth for them. Sometimes I hope they speak English and in my mind I have this whole movie of us becoming best friends and traveling together. I have yet to learn to talk to any of them. But I lack the courage. CouchsurfErs, sure I can talk to them no problem. Adventure with them. Sleep in their homes. Sometimes at a hostel I can as well, given the right environment and my mindset. 

But I’m not one to just strike up conversations with strangers on a beach or on the street. I’m getting better. Start off with commenting on the view or the undeniable heat or a cool car that’s going by or whatnot. It’s gotten me in some memorable situations. 

I woke to the sunrise again. Very few people were up on the top deck to see it. It was beautiful. 

Life was beautiful. 

I got to drink vodka and sleep on a sailboat in Gizycko, Poland for days. 

I got to drink some German beer and see Mick Jagger’s house and play Beatles and oasis on guitar in Richmond, London with a good friend from my hostel days. 

I stayed up all night with a guy I met on tinder at 4:30am and shared a magical sunrise with 2 beautiful strangers who saved me from the loneliness of the beach in Cagliari, Italy and no pressure for the things regularly done through tinder. 

I fell in love for two weekends with a beautiful soul. A kindred spirit. Or was it pure infatuation? Who knows but certainly a friend for life.A fellow traveler. Because he gave me two of the coolest weekends in his wow area of Luzern, Switzerland but I knew I had to move on. 

I got to watch all 6 seasons of game of thrones and eat baguettes and cheese and see a castle and my best friend from my hostel in Concarneau, France. 

I got to see a beautiful gypsy camp in the middle of Shoreditch, London with raised sustainable gardens and watch people making incredible street art. 

I cried in the middle of a busy restaurant in Warsaw, Poland due to loneliness and deep sadness. 

I got to watch shooting stars with a new friend on top of a castle after spending the night at a street music festival and the most delicious Egyptian food in Nuechatel, Switzerland. 

I got to hike up and up to a little hut on a cliff with a front row view of Lake Brienz and the north face of Eiger and Jungfrou in Interlaken, Switzerland. 

I got to hike up and up to a shack up on a mountain and drink wine and have fondue for two with a view in Luzern. 

I’ve had scary experiences walking the streets at night. I’ve left a couple CouchsurfErs because I felt uncomfortable or unsafe in their presence. I’ve been almost robbed in the streets of London. I have gotten hopelessly lost in small towns where I didn’t know the language. In Barcelona on the beach I had a guy try to touch me where no man should ever touch a woman. I have felt more alone than I’ve ever felt in my life on this trip, but have also felt more alive than ever. 

I got to paint everyday and get hugs from little kids for 6 weeks in Coppet, Switzerland. 

I got to party til 6 am, heading to the beach right outside the club in the sunrise to play in the ocean before we headed back to sleep in Barcelona, Spain. 

I tripped at a music festival where I didn’t know anybody, nor did I know the language and it ended up being one of the most beautiful, pure experiences of my life… Eating cotton candy for dinner, dancing to French music, having sweet nothings whispered in French in my ear by a French man bun in Nyon, Switzerland.

I was picked up off the road in a thunderstorm by a 70+ year old Italian man and tried to shut my eyes from the sight of him doing naked squats in Lugano, Switzerland. 

I have heard of heartbreaking things going on back “home” with various friends that made me cry and wish to be home with them or their loved ones, but I decided to stay. 

I made countless friends in my BlaBla car rides. 

I played with turntables in the basement of a CouchsurfErs house in Bristol, England. 

I saw the changing of the guards ceremony in London, England. 

I Hitchhiked around a paradise island, finding beaches with the clearest waters, smoothest pebbles, whitest sands in Sardegna, Italy 

I slept on beaches. I slept on rocks. I slept on couches. I slept on boats. I slept on fancy beds. Crappy beds. Floors. The mountainous earth. 

I saw sooo many sunrises and even more sunsets. 

I found a moon temple hidden in the woods behind a graveyard in Bristol, England. 

I sampled a variety of vodkas on the sandy beach of a river in Warsaw, Poland and saw polish people party as their team tied a match in the EuroCup. 

I drank bottles of wine with a favorite new friend on the steps of a church in Napoli, Italy and danced in the streets. 

I got to see where gladiators fought to the death and sent my mind on fire with dreams of how things used to be in Roma, Italy. 

I fell in love with the magical Florence and it’s medieval like streets. 

I floated down a river and ate paninis in Basel with old friends. 

And that’s only part of the highlights.

And I have a playlist going, “Best Summer Ever”. It is filled with songs I heard while Couchsurfing or riding in cars. I can listen to any of those songs and tell you where I was, who I was with, what we were doing, how I was feeling. 

I don’t collect souvineers. I collect music. Moments. Magic. Memories. Little tokens from my adventures. The glow pen a CouchsurfEr gave me. A little kids toy I picked up in London when I was walking on a perfect day with a friend. 

Life is about the little moments. 

I am a traveler, not a tourist. 

This is my trip. My journey. Sure, I didn’t do the stuff other people said I should do or see the things people said I needed to see. But I did what I wanted. Went where my heart wanted. Fell in love with people and places my soul connected with. I threw caution to the wind. I made no plans. And was reassured the fact that people are good. People want you to succeed. Even if there is a language barrier. As tinker bell said, “All you need is faith, trust and skittle pixie dust.” Even in the worst of situations, something happened where the universe aligned just right and showed me I was where I was meant to be. Whether it was a stranger saying hello. A free meal. A glorious subset. Or my favorite song playing in the distance. 

And I am yearning for more.