Of rocky coastlines and nude beaches and beautiful strangers and full moon beaches in Lagos.

“An ocean breeze puts a mind at ease”

Friday, August 11, 2017
Lagos, Portugal

This past summer I did a spur of the moment trip to Portugal…. Before I left, I quickly did a bit of investigating to see where I wanted to go in Portugal, other than Lisbon. I had heard nothing but good things about everything Portugal-related.
I could venture to the hills and stay in Sintra.. which was supposed to be a a day-trip from Lisbon that had a fairy-tale-like palace and old-style medieval streets, forests and castle ruins, lush gardens and fresh air, all atop one of the many hills in and around Lisbon.
I could venture a tad south to Cascais… a little beach town with some alluring beaches and upscale vibes. It was another day-trip option from Lisbon…
I could venture north to Porto and sample some of their famous wine..
I could go south to the magical Algarve Coast.
And that I did.
And tho I nearly missed my flight back due to wildfires preventing the train from going any further and being stuck in the middle of nowhere Portugal with less than 5 hours until my flight left and knowing it was at least an hour or two drive to get to Lisbon and with no idea how long the roads/railways would be up and working again…
But I digress.
I took the bus down south. It took what seemed like forever.. driving through a lot of nothing.. and then we got to the coast.. and my excitement grew as I saw palm trees and the sea just beyond.. the white-washed houses that made me reminisce of my adventures on the various Greek Islands.
Finally I arrived in Lagos. At the bus station. Which was pretty much a garage that held 2-3 buses if that.
I walked out into the scorching sun, not caring about the heaviness of my backpack, my heart soaring. I walked down the boardwalk, an inlet leading to marinas on one side and booths of souvenirs and trinkets and beach blankets and everything you could imagine made out of cork and bathing suits and cover ups with booth after booth of different companies selling kayak trips, boat trips, booze cruises and snorkeling on the other side.
There was a nice seaside breeze that kept the heat from being unbearable. The smell of the air reminded me of California coast. I sighed with happiness.
I made my way to the hostel that I had booked last minute, unable to find a couchsurfer.
I had booked a 4 bedroom dorm, deciding to treat myself to all the luxuries this trip since it was the big trip of the summer.
Of course, when I got there, they had overbooked and put me in a 10 bed room.
I was a tad peeved, but quickly shoved aside the negativity my brain bustled with and headed up to the pool (yes they had a POOL!!)
but unfortunately it was nothing to write home about either. Yes it had a beautiful view. Beach chairs. A vending machine with beer.
But the make up of the people made me feel like I had stepped back in Alabama amongst the frat boys and sorority girls.  The guys shouted some inappropriate things at me, sloshing their beers around. The girls laughed as they lay back on their sun chairs surrounded by the beer guzzling good ol’ boys.
I quickly decided it was time to leave.
And mannnnnn I was NOT disappointed!!
The beach started a 5 minute walk from the hostel door. I quickly made my way through a huge plaza with palm trees and a kids bungee jumping set up and along the crumbly white walls of the old town across the street and down the walkway down to the beach.
The sun was on its way to setting and the sand was basking in the last remnants of sunshine, glowing and golden. The waves were gentle and rolling. I was happy to see that it wasn’t too crowded… I could walk on the sand without the obstacle course of veering around towels and people. There were huge rocks popping out of the sand, reminding me vaguely of the Oregon Coast. The tide was up and there were people wading out, thigh high and climbing into a hole in one of the rocks and disappearing. Unfortunately, I had not dressed to get too wet so I had to wait for that adventure….
Due to the high tide, I was not able to walk too far and looped back to the roadway and walked along as it hugged the coast. There were various sketchy-looking stairs carved out of the rocky cliffside that led down to different coves. My breath was taken away. It was positively stunning.
I walked back to the hostel as the sun set, deciding what to do next. I recharged and refueled my phone and my body and debated what to do next.
“Wander the streets.. there are plenty of bars to hop into!”
Was the recommendation by many people.
I wandered the narrow alleys and little streets.  Within 10 minutes I decided that partying at a bar was on the bottom of my list of things to do.
I noticed the moon was full…. Full moon on the beach… sounded magical.
I walked back to the beach. This time the tide was very low and I was able to walk through a series of rocky caves and holes in the wall… No one was on the beach. The full moon shone brightly on the water making it sparkle and shine. It illuminated all of the rocks that peeped out of the water causing an eerie glow about them.
I wandered with my feet in the water, the cold was no bother this night. I was blissful.
As I went through one little hole in the wall, I heard chattering and drumming. There was the faint flicker of a bonfire up ahead. Laughter echoed up and down the cliffside. I was intrigued.
Remembering I had bought some Palinka from the duty-free shop back in Bucharest, I whipped it out of my bag.
I cautiously moved closer, assessing the vibes.
They seemed friendly. Laid back. Dressed in bohemian clothes and loose flowy fabric. A couple were huddled in a sleeping bag and there were two tents pitched nearby. AND they were speaking English.
“Hey ya’ll! Good evening! I see your tents here, does that mean it is possible to sleep down here on the sand?” I asked hesitantly as I got near, “By the way, I have some Palinka from Romania! Would you like some?”
There was a good ten seconds of heavy silence. Then the whole group descended into friendly laughter.
“Yeah sure! Come and have a seat!”
And I was in.
I had booked two nights at the hostel and the last night before I flew out of Lisbon I intentionally didn’t plan anything… wanting to decide in the moment if I wanted to stay down south or head back to Lisbon or Sintra…
So it was a legitimate question..
I had slept on the beach before..
There is nothing like sleepily waking to the sun cresting over the horizon above the sea and the gentle sound of the sea licking the sand. The sky aglow with colors.
So I spent that night chumming it up with this beautiful bunch of nomadic travelers. Each had their own story and journey to that particular beach that particular night. I was fascinated. They were fascinated with the fact that I chose Romania as a place to settle. We swapped stories…. shared drinks… and giggled the night away.
Eventually I made my way back to the hostel to sleep.
The next day I went off the pathways above the cliffs and discovered even more magnificent views and tucked away secret beaches. As I was stumbling around on one half-there path I noticed that there was a pathway through the rocks to the left that led down toward a beach. Then I noticed the cardboard sign that had the words “NUDE BEACH” scrawled in black marker with an arrow pointing down.
I did not hesitate and quickly scrambled down the rocks, half sliding most of the way. HOW EXCITING!!
When I finally hit the sand, I was greeted with another cardboard sign with “NUDE Beach” scrawled across and the most beautiful cove I had ever seen. The rocks extended out on either side so that straight in front there was an opening to the sea only about 4 meters wide. The water was the most beautiful shade of deep emerald. There were a few people laying about, fully embracing the Nude Beach philosophy. A few people were more conservative and kept partially covered.
It was a very hot day and I was quite exhausted and dusty from crawling around in the rocks. It didn’t take long for me to strip down and head on in. The water was just cold enough to send initial shock waves through my body and give me a jolt of energy.
It was a little slice of heaven. There were little shelves along the sides that were just big enough for me to climb up onto and jump off of.
I got back to the sand, hoping to let the sun dry me off a bit before I continued on.
Not too long after I got out, an older, leathery, super tan old man, about 60 years of age, came up to me.
He was naked.
Talking in Portuguese.
He was obviously “excited” if you know what I mean.
I didn’t know where to look.
I didn’t know what to say.
He was very enthusiastically gesturing at the rocky cliffisides, obviously wanting to share with me his keenness of something…
I stood stunned for a few minutes, letting him talk. A fake smile plastered on my face, not sure what else to do or what expression to use.
“I’m sorry… I don’t understand… I don’t speak Portuguese.”
I mumbled in English… then in Spanish…
He threw back his head full of silver hair and laughed as though I was the most hysterical person on earth.
I pointed back towards my clothes and tried to explain to him that I needed to go. I attempted to use hand gestures to explain to him that I needed to get dressed… go back up the cliff… walk to the city… and drink coffee…
I’m not sure how much of it he understood, though he was staring intently at my wild gestures. He let out his loud laugh again and made a hand motion as though to wave me away.
And away I went.
Back to my clothes.
Back up the cliff.
But ohhhhh that day… that wild overgrown maze of pathways above the cliffsides… every time I ventured to the edge of an outcropping, I was gifted with what I thought was the most beautiful view of anything I had seen. Until I got to the next “viewpoint”
The rocky cliffsides were sandy and light tan in some places, grey and solid rock in others. The water ranged from clear to turquoise to emerald green.
Some of the cliffisdes, if you got close to them, they were freckled with fossilized shells. I was fascinated.
I did not want to leave.
I did a kayak tour through different lagoons and caves and secret beaches. I slept on the beach the last night with a friend I had met on the kayak tour and we stayed up with the nomadic travelers and drummed, drank, talked, sang, and laughed the night away. We all fell into a groggy hazy sleep until the sun emerged from under the horizon and we all stood up, wrapped up in our own blankets, our feet at the edge of the sand, the waves kissing the tops of our toes gently as we stayed there in shared awe and silence. All lost in our own thoughts. All of us would be leaving that day. Each to a different place. Each at different times. Each for different reasons.
But that night and the ones previous, our hearts smiled together as we shared the beach in the moonlight together.
I didn’t get any of their contacts. No phone numbers. No facebook friends.
We just left it as that time in Lagos. Those nights where we all shared our stories and made music and danced in the firelight under the full moon.
And it was perfect.

One of the many beautiful beaches in Lagos. :)) The giant rocks in the water are slightly reminiscent of those on the Oregon Coast… though the vibes and temperature and culture and water are completely different…


There were so many beautiful shells scattered around in the sand….


One of the many “Hole in the Wall”‘s that one could walk through (when it isn’t high tide) to get from one beach to another.


Fossilized shells in the rocks!! I spent a lot of time admiring all the different shells hidden in the rocks…


One of the most beautiful nude beaches I have ever been too…


These were down at the nude beach… Made out of some of the clay that rested between the sand and the cliffside. I got the vibes that the creepy (but good intentioned) old dude who tried to talk to me lived here and these were some of his creations.



One after the other these views literally took my breath away… The Algarve coast is certainly one of a kind. Definitely worth a visit and an adventure. Stunning coastline and briskly cool waters and lagoons and coves and ohhhhhhh I could go on and on and on…


This was one of the secret beaches we came to on the kayak ride. We stopped here for 10 minutes and I spent the entire time snorkeling along the edges looking for an octopus sleeping in a crevice…. but sadly found none 😦


Back to Budapest

Friday, February 3, 2017
Budapest, Hungary

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

I have a feeling that there will be many posts about Budapest in the upcoming month and a half.
I have posted myself here until the 180 days are up and I can finally go back to Romania! I could have tried to get a job in the USA (that would be difficult since I would only be there for a short while). I also could have saved money and stayed with my parents (but that would have been boring).
Instead, I am helping out at a hostel here in Budapest. Living the life. Meeting new people. Attending all of the ruin bars in town to find the best ones. Getting lost in the city to find its hidden treasures. And inviting friends to come on down so I can personally show them the best day ever.
I remember on my way to Romania, I spent a short time in this enchanting city and knew I needed to come back… why not see all there is to see and more and stay here for a month and a half!:)
In fact, my first night here, I had a whirlwind night of meeting my fellow helpers and going to the coolest ruin bar in town, Szimpla. There were all kinds of neat things to find on the walls and on the floor and the ceiling. The hallways and stairs were narrow and stone so it had a labyrinth-like feel to it.. there was a toilet on the ground floor right by the dance floor (hopefully no one has actually used it).. there was a fish tank upstairs.. the outside courtyard was overrun with great green leafy trees and a big red sports car… there was writing all over the walls.. ohhh it was my dream bar!!! I never got bored just looking around at the hodgepodge of wonderful things to entertain myself with!  Unique… different.. bizarre.. beautiful… enchanting… so very fresh than a normal bar :))  and they had some pretty hiphoppening music to get down to as well! ;)) I have a feeling I will be back in the near future.
I also did a quick walk through of the city again.  Below are the pictures… I will have a bit of an update on the city and the experiences after I have been here longer… but so far it is a tad overwhelming.. I speak no Hungarian, but I recently learned my favorite phrase in Hungarian, “Why not?” I’d say it is pretty useful for an adventurous traveler to know…  Less people know English here than in Bucharest… But ohh the buildings are so beautiful.. and the bridges… and the random statues all over.. I am so glad I chose this place to chill at.. I think the time will pass quickly

What a wonderful view… It is so much prettier in real life.. or in a  better camera… But that is the view of the Fisherman’s Bastion from the Chain Bridge..

I love this little statue.. I saw this guy when I first came here and absolutely adored it,.. Just beyond,.. in the background is the famous Chain Bridge…


Another fun little statue of a girl playing catch with her puppy :)) Just down the walkway from the Chain Bridge to the White Bridge…


I love this little portly police guy :))


The Love Lock Tree :))


St Stephen’s Basilica… I’ll go inside one day… but I love the coffee shop on the right hand side… mostly because it is called “California Coffee Company” and I adore California..


The Green Bridge near sunset.. Just behind me is the huge Central Market Hall where you can find a huge assortment of fresh and local cheeses and meats and breads and fish and Hungarian specialties.. It was so overwhelming that the first time all I came out with was a pomegranate.. but I learned that most of the people know enough English for someone to purchase something since it is quite the tourist attraction too..


The Love Lock Tree :))


The start of the Chain Bridge.. with the lovely fierce lions protecting on either side.


Can you tell that I love this bridge>! :))


And again, the Green Bridge… Ohhhh how I wish I had a better camera to show you guys how beautiful it really is!!


And here is my favorite Market… soOoOoo much fresh meats and cheeses and breads and fish and vegetables and fruits…. Don’t be afraid to talk up the workers, most of them know at least some English since this place is pretty famous and a lot of tourists pop by for Hungarian specialties. :))

California Dreaming

February 2, 2017
Budapest, Hungary


So…. here I am… back in Europe… Working at another hostel.. In beautiful Budapest…
48 hours ago I was slashing around in the Pacific Ocean on the shores of Ocean Beach in California. Going from 24 degrees, sun, sand, salty ocean breeze, tacos, friends and the most gorgeous sunsets in the world to 0 degrees, flooded streets, rain, slush, cold breezes and strangers (3 of whom I went out with last night and now they are no longer strangers but dear friends).
Anyway, I wanted to share some of my photos from California. I swear someday I will move there… to San Diego… Carlsbad… Oceanside.. anywhere on the coast of SoCal.
My first stop was Los Angeles where I had the pleasure and honor of attending the NAMM show. I ran around Anaheim taking pictures of Disneyland and dreaming of heading in to ride all the rides and relive my childhood memories.
That is, until I received my name badge and saw the giant NAMM show sign and the ginormous stage set up…. my excitement to step inside flew through the roof!!
There were SOOoooo many people wandering around on a mission. They knew where they were going and what they needed to do.. meanwhile I aimlessly wandered around taking in al the signs, oohing and ahhing over all of the guitars and testing them out, ‘slappin da bass man’ (I hope you guys love that movie too…), collecting free things, and people watching… So many people that looked like rock stars!! And then.. I saw lines…
Lines? At a convention? The light went off in my head… I remembered people saying that there were signings and meetings with different rock legends at different booths.
So I added that to my list of things to do. I got in lines and waited and chatted with the people next to me. I never knew who was waiting for me at the end and I refused to ask. Honestly, I did not recognize any of them.. but when I showed friends the pictures their eyes bugged out with wow.

Anyway, it was a joyful three days.. and we even got to sleep in the beautiful and fancy Mariott where all the stars slept!!! (I’m sure of it) except we fell asleep early both nights..
We then got to visit Santa Monica and Venice beach and the Griffith Observatory on a terribly rainy day… the sun broke out a few times, but I honestly had to wear a jacket! In LA!! And I kept getting frustrated because my camera sucked and he had this superbly beautiful camera that made everything look phenomenal… and even made me look pretty ok too!!

Sadly, he left  :((( and it will be so long until I see him or anything Romanian again.. so after crying a bit in the car, I was swept away in an Uber to go to my friend in north east LA area. I worked with him back in Alabama and he offered to host me for a night.. we went to Korean food and were quickly back to our old banter and silliness… The next day I got a grand tour of Little Tokyo and China Town before my train south to Oceanside to my friend from Mammoth Mountain.
Oceanside is one of the most beautiful towns that I have ever seen in my life.. beautiful palm trees… the ocean… fresh kombucha… breweries.. blue sky.. tasty tacos.. long pier… fresh fish… surfers everywhere… stunning sunshine.. I spent the next two days with him and his family (he has a pretty groovy southern california family.. the dad surfs and his two sisters are into rock climbing and raki and doing all kinds of artsy things) We caught up on all the things and drank real DELICIOUS IPA’s and biked around town in this little blue bike that reminded me of the one from ET.. just cruising around in the Southern California sunshine with my feet wet and sandy from dancing in the ocean.
Back to my hostel.
ITH Adventure Hostel.
My life for some of the best 4.5 months of my life. It changed so much! The staff room was now another chill area… they no longer cook fresh breakfast and dinner… it changed so much… yet felt the same… all the people that worked there were not there anymore, except for 2.
In fact, Alex, one of my favorites, was the one that hosted the tour to Tijuana!! Him and his gf work at the other hostel that is managed by the owners and him and his lady would come over to visit us at the ITH Adventure Hostel often and she even dressed up as me for Halloween in 2015 with pink hair and screaming “BEST DAY EVEEEEERRRRR!!”
Tijuana… mannn… Totally the best day ever… We took the trolley… walked across the border (It didn’t look a whole lot different… maybe a bit more barbed wire… and before there were dudes in with guns on the Mexico side, but not on Saturday) and ate some of the best street tacos I have ever had in my life.
We went to get margaritas and I kept trying to psych everyone up and bring them to my level of excitement.. My favorite thing was sometimes the waiters/bartenders at the Mexican bars that we go to… they would pick 3 or 4 of us in a big group and do this big shenanigan where they blew their whistles over and over and made a huge deal and sat one of us down in a chair, tilting the head back and pouring tequila straight into the mouth.. this particular place we went to this night did that AND then gave you a short amount of time to catch your breath before pouring beer in as well and then they took you to the dance floor, flung you over their shoulder and spun you around…. THAT was what kicked off the night,.. after that we ALL got up on the dance floor and continued to go to a few different bars and danced the night away… one of them had a beautiful Cadillac in the back that we sat in and drank in… I was in awe… moreso of the swings they had to lounge on while sipping my margarita than the Cadillac.. but anyway, everyone made it across the border into to the USA…  my friend with long blond surfer hair and me (with pink hair) both got pulled to the back room at the border to be detained and asked a series of questions. They brought out the drug dogs. I was a little tipsy and of course my first reaction upon seeing a dog was to pet it… They were not amused. Needless to say they found nothing on either of us, but made us sit there 10 more minutes before we finally got released.. and just barely made the last trolley home.
I love that hostel. So much. Nothing can compare to the ITH Adventure Hostel. No other hostel that I have visited has ever been that much fun, that beautiful, offering all the activities as well as breakfast and dinner. And it will always be my 2nd home, even though times change and the vibe of the workers change, I still made friends with a couple of them and told them stories of the good old days when the dream team was working.

And now I spend the next month and a half counting down the days until I can go home to Bucharest again.. to my home.. my job.. and some of my favorite humans ever..

Romania, My Love

“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson

December 20, 2016

Long time, no write…
My life has taken an interesting turn since I last posted…
I ended up getting a job… making some good friends.. and getting invested and involved with some people and things dear to my heart…
What a beautiful life this is….
Who would’ve ever thought that would be the place that I would find my people.. my job.. my heart.. Fall in love with such a foreign, quaint and quirky yet beautiful country…
I honestly went there on a whim… the hostel in Bucharest was one of the first ones that messaged me back saying they wanted me to help them for the month… and it was out of the Shengen area so that meant that I could stay in Europe beyond the 3 months I had in the Shengen… And I knew nothing much about Romania… why not check it out.. I tried asking people about it.. no one had anything good to say… not necessarily bad.. but lots of warnings.. of stray dogs and thieves and conniving gypsies and left over communist attitudes and cold people and ugliness..
But I found no stray dogs… not once was I stolen from, in fact, people went out of their way to help me on multiple occasions.. I stayed at a gypsy camp and was greeted with nothing but curiosity, interest and the need for them to share their ways so I could share with others,.. beautiful people.. beautiful souls.. sure the sides of the roads are littered with trash and cigarette butts and empty cans.. its got its charm… beautiful architecture… one of my favorite jobs, teaching little ones and playing with them in the woods.. love…
Romania is in the EU, but not the Shengen..
What a fascinating country… what fascinating people..
How different they grew up…
I love learning about the culture.. the food.. the music.. how they grew up.. their thoughts on USA and everything else…
And everyone I have met pretty much knows a good amount of English.. much mores than any other country that I have visited…
I could pour out my heart… all of the people that have helped me through and opened their arms and their hearts to a crazy American girl… one in particular.. and my job… at an International Forest School/Kindergarten.. the most beautiful 2 year old classroom I have ever encountered.. Playing in the woods.. the snow.. the leaves.. the water..
Just wow..
And visiting Transylvania.. hiking in the mountains..
Getting more and more involved in people and things in Bucharest and beyond…
So when December came.. I realized my 90 days were almost up (as an American citizen, with my passport, I have the same deal as with the Shengen area… 90 days in a 180 day period). I reached out to my job.. my friend(s)…  Everyone did what they could to try to help me stay there/come back sooner… but due to miscommunication and misunderstanding, when I came back to the USA for the holidays…. I have to wait out the rest of the 180 days before I can return. I emailed and called the Romanian embassies all throughout the USA and all of them said the same thing… there was nothing I could do. I could’ve easily dealt with it when I was in Romania.. If I would have known…
But I am not the best at details… I am pretty good at putting things off until the last minute (“hmmm… I came here in September… I should probably look into how long I am allowed to stay in Romania and what I should do to stay longer… maybe tomorrow…”) So I take full blame…
But, here are some pictures of some of my favorite times and favorite people and most beautiful places I have encountered during my 3+ months in Romania (yes, I did stay past the 3 months, but went in and paid the fine so that I could officially be a “legal illegal alien”)

Hostel Life

“There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t met yet.”   ~Willaim Butler Yates
Monaday October 10, 2016
Day 140
Bucharest, Romania

Life is beautiful.
I am loving it here at the hostel. There are exciting bits and slow bits. People come people go.
There have been a series of metal bands come through the hostel. I love greeting them at the door with some vodka and trying to show them a night they won’t soon forget. Each is different in their own way, but in the end, they are all sweethearts. Big softies. They smile and feel and love just like everyone else. In the morning sometimes they leave me with an autographed copy of their cd or some beer or leftover crisps or some other delightful things…  We exchange contacts sometimes in case my travels take me their way I would have a place to stay.
On that note… I have met people from all over the world here.. a very different sort than the travelers that came to my San Diego hostel. The people here talk of Bulgaria and Serbia and Moldova and Turkey and Morocco. All kinds of amazing stories. The people here are a little more low key. But it’s cool. I still have a good time. If I get bored I chill in my beanbag and watch the happenings of people come and go from the hostel while I search up plans for after I am done. Morocco? Ireland? Moldova? Turkey? I have to decide soon if I want to stay in the area and explore the Balkans after I am done with my time here at the hostel or if I want to book a flight to Morocco and figure out from there how to get back to the USA. I need a sign… an omen.. come on universe! If nothing stands out amongst the others, I’ll just hang around and check out some mud volcanoes nearby and take it a day at a time and one heart wish at a time.
Last night I had a heart to heart chat with a deeply spiritual man who had just come from the mountains to cleanse his soul. He talked to me about chakras and peoples spirits and energies. He suggested that I learn Reiki. The power to heal through touch. To recharge peoples souls and heal their souls and bodies with the power inside of you. Harmony. Balance. Energy. In fact, in the morning I woke up with a headache and he taught me how to rub my hands together quickly to create a warming energy inside of them and then put them parallel to each other on the back of my skull for 2 minutes. Wow. It worked. Unfortunately, I never got to exchange information with him, because he is a local and I could have used his guidance… an actual spiritual cleansing would be nice…

Saturday, I got a new tattoo. The other week, one of the crazy nights at the hostel, I met this guy who said he did tattoos. He is friends with the receptionist and was given the seal of approval. I went ahead with it. I actually went first to see him Thursday and again Saturday. The first night I went to get my first tattoo, he seemed troubled. He was going through some things due to a recent break up. He was filled with negativity and anger. Darkness flowed from his words. I stayed quiet. I figured he needed to vent. To talk it out. I let him talk. That was what he needed. To be listened to. No advice. Just acceptance of his words. I left him that night filled with curiosity. I was intrigued. I immediately found another tattoo in order to go back. I was determined to show him that the world was beautiful. To give him a friend. And it was a beautiful day. We talked. Mostly he talked, but this time I had some input. We talked mostly of love. What is love to different people. About regrets and what we learned from past relationships. About love lost and love found in strange places. About our greatest fears and happiest moments. About the times we thought we were going to die and the times we thought we would lose the one we loved the most. It was an intense day. A beautiful day. I love those kinds of discussions. He was a very intense person. He participated in cosplay and had a sensei and went to him to work on his skills.. His sensei practiced tough love. He was not easy on my friend, but the most important thing, my friend said, was that his sensei looked at him like he believed in him. We decided that yes, everyone needs someone to believe in them.
When asked what love was to him, he replied, “Love is coming home after a long day and she rolls a joint without having to ask how my day was. And we spend the evening laughing together in each others arms…. you know.. that feeling you get with that special person.. where nothing else matters… no one else matters.. you can be you…”
I’ve been struggling with similar things too revolving around the theme of love and acceptance. My tendency to fall for people and then run away when things get too real. I don’t want to get hurt. It is easier to separate myself before that can happen. Have this person here… this person there… beautiful weeks or days or so.. suspended.. hanging like beautiful stars.. nothing more, nothing less… unfinished, yet wrapped up with a pretty little bow full of happy memories.. of bliss.. could I have had more with some of them? Maybe… but it is easier to run off to some other beautiful shiny and new place…
I want to explore these concepts with more people… sure some small talk I can handle.. but I like to get down to the nitty gritty. I like to know what makes people tick. What makes people glow. What makes people cry. How different, yet the same everyone is. I want to see emotion and feeling. All the shades of the rainbow.
What do you want to do before you die?
When did you cry last?
What is love to you?
When did you feel most happy?
What do you get lost in? Something that you can do that makes you forget to eat or pee or sleep?
What is a new habit you want to form?
What do you think about when you wake up?
What is your spirit animal?
Where would you like to wake up tomorrow?
What is your favorite word?
My tattoo.. the dandelion. My childhood favorite thing to do. Blow them to make a wish. I am all about making wishes. I would spend many summer days picking them and blowing them with all the air I could muster in order to make all of the helicopter-like seeds drift away in the wind. Some people told me that if I blew all of the seeds away, the person I loved would love me back. I remember squeezing my eyes shut and wishing hard. I still, to this day, find them and complete the ritual. Love. Doesn’t everyone want to be loved? I think, yes. Love. Give out love. Bring love in. Pass love on. Everyone deserves to feel that love. I fully and truly believed my wishes would come true. Wishing on shooting stars. Wishing on dandelions. Wishbones. 11:11.  The first star of the night. Wishing wells. My wish jar. Four leaf clovers….
I shall continue to believe…
And look forward to diving into the brains and hearts of others I meet…

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. 

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. 


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.