The “other” San Francisco

“The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveler. You’re a fucking tourist.” Guillermo del Toro

Monday, August 7, 2017
Lisbon, Portugal

I had a chunk of days break between visiting the far reaches of my beautiful Romania and decided to take a last minute, solo trip to Portugal.
I had been in a bit of a slump and was on the verge of wallowing in self-pity and loneliness.
I felt not quite like myself.
I missed last summer when I was on the go. Meeting new people everyday. No set plans for where to go or what to do the next day. Couchsurfing with beautiful strangers and making the most treasured of memories…
I wanted to prove to myself I still had it in me.
And by golly I did just that.
Portugal had always appealed to me… It seemed always so out of the way in my travels last summer. But I heard tales of it’s coastline… the people.. the culture.. the food.. the wine.. Porto… Lisbon.. Sintra.. the Algarve coast…
I decided to book the cheapest (Yet still considerably expensive considering how Malta was $100 round trip.. and Berlin was $80 round trip) city to fly into from Bucharest and go from there…
Lisbon it was.
I knew next to nothing about Portugal except that everyone who had been there had nothing but wonderful things to say about it.
Why not!?
And why not start in Lisbon…
The San Francisco of Portugal.. it has trams… it has hills… it has their version of the Bay Bridge… its on the West Coast of Europe… plenty of beaches… laid back attitudes…
And it lived up to its name. I was exhilarated coming out of the metro and finding many Palm Trees.. .ohhh how I had missed them living over in Eastern Europe…
And it was warm… but not overly uncomfortable… like Bucharest… When I left Bucharest, it was 39 degrees C and the humidity was sweltering.
Portugal had a lively breeze.. a nice dry heat…
The ground beneath my feet was cobblestone… but unique to other cobblestone walkways of other European countries… They were tiny blocks of stone cut out in a precise shape and size and placed together, more often than not, to create a mosaic-like effect… Rossio Square, my first real introduction to Lisbon had them lined out in a pattern that was reminiscent of waves… If I stared at it too long it had a bit of a trippy effect…  I learned later that each of the little stones were carved by hand and they first started hundreds of years ago.

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The wave effect in Rossio Square hold a deeper meaning too.. Back on November 1st, 1755 the city was ravaged by a series of massive earthquakes, the largest being 8.5. They destroyed the majority of the city. Everything was shattered… crumbled. November 1st was also the Catholic holy All Saints day.  As a result, all of the cathedrals were packed with civilians celebrating this feast. Needless to say, the crumbling of the cathedrals caused a great number of people to perish. In addition, since All Saints day was a holy day, people lit candles and flowers were put up in celebration. The earthquakes caused the buildings to tumble and the candles fell upon the flammable flowers and other religious decor. Fires soon sprung up all over the city. As if that weren’t bad enough, the earthquakes triggered a tsunami that reached 9 meters high by the time it reached the city. The higher parts of the city remained burning for nearly 5 days. It is said that a week after these three events, nearly 90% of the buildings were either crumbled, burned or flooded and nearly 600,000 people had perished.
This was all carefully retold by my tour guide and she ended the awful tale, saying that the wave pattern created by the stones on the ground were to look like a tsunami and to commemorate that fateful day back in 1755.

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I spent the majority of my time in the Alfama district. As soon as I stumbled upon its beautiful narrow streets I knew this was where I needed to be. Other areas of Lisbon are spread out with large streets. The Alfama district actually survived that day in 1755 and still portrays days of the old where everyone knew each other and old ladies would lean out their windows to chat with their friends across the alley (literally if they reached their hands out they would easily be able to hold onto one another). Laundry was often strung out below windows, along with flowers. I spent two days getting lost, wandering in and out of the streets. Going up and down soOoo many staircases. Working my calves on the steep slopes. It was much less touristy and much more quiet than the other areas of Lisbon… It gave you the feel of authenticity… real people went about their daily lives… no commercial shops.. only a small number of cafes… a few local grocery stores.. the smell of sardines flowing through the air (they do love their sardines there, I noticed)… I certainly did not get the feel that I was in a big city while wandering these quiet streets. You can find so many brightly colored buildings and the doors of their houses are quite close to each other, so it is easy to see how narrow the residences are. It hurt my calves to imagine the stairs they have to climb every day to get from the door to the top floor, not to mention walking about their normal day on the steep streets! If you keep an eye out, you can find little black and white portraits painted onto the walls of the local residents…

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It is here that I also found my San Fransisco tram! Tram 28! The most famous tram in all of Lisbon… I never got in the long queue (some people waited up to three hours to ride it).. but people who do get to ride it never regret the long line.. it winds up and down and round the hills and you can easily hop on (after the line of course) and it will take you all around the highlights of the city…

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Another thing I fell in love with was all of the ceramic tiles about the city. Many of the buildings were covered in them on the outside. Some had just a few remaining ones… They are called Azulejos tiles (usually they were a combination of beautiful blue and creamy white) and usually were laid out in some sort of geometric, lacey or flowery pattern. Sometimes they just adorned the facades of buildings, the same repeating tile over and over again. Other times, the tiles were put together to create a mural or a depiction of a historic scene.  Lazily sauntering about the city, as opposed to rushed sightseeing on your way to the next big sight to see, allows you to find all kinds of fun little hidden tiles. You are able to pick one up of your own in any tourist shop…

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My personal favorite was the street art. Discovering the street art is one of my favorite things about wandering through a new city. One particular area that caught my eye and had me going back to time and time again. On one of the steep paths down to the Alfama area from the Barrio do Castelo neighborhood, you pass through a little tunnel of sorts. It has the words “Don’t Be Mean” spelled out with stretched wire. Just beyond it, outside of the tunnel, just to the left is a flat open area. When I first walked back out into the sunshine, I was not expecting such a sight. Instead of more buildings and streetways, there was the wreckage of an abandoned building.  The remains of the Cerca Velha Wall…… and wow… a little outdoor art area looked after by a sweet old man… Take the time to explore and you’ll find some delightful things :))

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Fado music is another Lisbon favorite… I was stumbling around Alfama one night with some couchsurfers just after we witnessed the most beautiful sunset from the highest hill in Lisbon and heard the soulful sounds echoing through the alleyways… Fado… which means “fate” or “destiny” in Portuguese is a type of music that has been heard throughout the streets of Lisbon for centuries. Typically, it involves a lady singing a yearning, soulful, haunting song that comes to life and makes your heart ache to hear. Though they are quite sad songs, causing the people in the cafes nearby to hush to a silence as they are slowly transfixed by the mournful melody Definitely worth a listen… perhaps with a glass of sangria or their vinho verde OR (my personal favorite) Ginjinha (a Portuguese liqueur made of sour cherries (“ginja berries”) with a delightful hint of cinnamon.

PS> Just so you know.. the information about all of the things I have written about was straight from locals, whether it be the Free Tour guide or couchsurfers I met up with that were born and bred in the city or random strangers who happened to be as curious about life as I am

 

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The streets of Budapest are beautiful.  I walk the streets everyday, plugged into my headphones, the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel or Band of Horses flowing through my ears….

Every building here has its own character… its own style.. I could wander for hours..

And then I look back down at the street level.. and I keep seeing people from the past.
Old lovers. Old friends. Recent and long ago…
And I am hit full on with flashbacks of those times long ago.
Smells… feelings… sensations… full on..
And I wonder
What am I doing here?
In Budapest?
One year ago I was working at a day care playing with kids and babies at ski resort spending days off snowboarding and nights off roading to hot springs or babysitting.
Two years ago I was working at a Chinese restaurant in Alabama with someone I thought I would spend my life with only to have him confess his love for another and the feeling of betrayal and broken trust.
Four years ago I was working at a Preschool in Hendersonville, NC.. spending weekends going out with my Asheville friends and hula hooping and glittering dogs at bars and inter tubing down rivers..
Six years ago I was still stuck in a haze bad relationship of the worst kind where even sunny days rarely brought smiles for fear of doing something wrong.
And now… I am volunteering at a hostel here in beautiful Budapest… biding my time to go back to Romania… To my job… My babies.. My friends..
But the flashbacks are so intense… I sometimes have to stop right there in the street to catch my breath.

I get transferred back to that one time we were laying in bed listening to music and singing along with the smell of French Onion soup wafting form the kitchen and laughing as we switched turns playing songs that made us happy.
I am transferred back to when all four of us were all stuck in the car at Joshua Tree National Park because it was storming outside and we passed the whiskey around and played Never Have I Ever and how soon the laughter turned to tears because the questions stirred up emotions I had never faced before and we went to the tent while the rain poured and the lightning flashed all around us and you looked in my eyes and told me I was beautiful and would always be there for me. But as time passed and I came back to visit you shattered my heart. My world. How you couldn’t look me in the eyes. Couldn’t have a conversation. And everything was a lie.
I am transferred back to the beach that one night when the moon was full and the waves were crashing down and you were sitting on the rocks watching me play in the waves like a child and the breeze blew the hair in my face and the sneaker waves drenched me from the waist down but you still welcomed me with open arms and the smell of your shampoo filled my nose and I smiled quietly to myself.
I am transferred back to when we were in the pub in Portland after watching a movie at the dollar theater and we laughed most of the way through the movie… I don’t even remember which one.. but we were in the back row sipping bear and sharing a huge plate of nachos.. and we continued on to the pub where there was a machine that you could put money in and it would spit out your spirit animal. Mine was an orca. Yours was a feral cat. The pub smelled of fresh hops and the floor was sticky and we laughed because we had just played a tape of whale calls back at your apartment full of thrift store stuff thrown together to look just perfect.
I am transferred back to when we were little and you and I were stuck in the raft in the bay. Our parents were drunk up at the cabin and happily waving to us. Our oars floated away and we looked down and to our horror the whole bottom of the bay was covered in crabs and we half laughed half cried about how we were going to get back to shore. And I slowly dipped halfway in the water and cried as I kicked as hard as I could to get us to shore because I was a year older and supposed to be responsible and I was terrified the crabs would reach up and snap my toes.
I am transferred back to when I worked at the restaurant with you in Alabama and there was a tornado siren going on. Our manager had bought us a bottle of tequila in exchange for a night off. I was at the table trying to stop my anxiety attack from coming on as I was taking this tables order and the dad grabbed my wrist and said “Listen lady, you can have your anxiety attack later. I want my Sweet and Sour chicken NOW.” and the phones were ringing and the sirens were going and out the window the trees were sideways and I ran to the kitchen and you saw me and we took the bottle of tequila and locked ourselves in the girls bathroom to take a few swigs and a few breaths before we could go back to work and face it all.
I am transferred back to when you and I stayed after school in 9th grade to work backstage at a play and we both had a crush on the older guy working with us and that time we painted the coffee table with our feet and the rush of butterflies as he grabbed my waist before I slipped off.. my feet covered in slick pink paint.. and then we went off in the corner to giggle and play Rummy until our hearts slowed their pitter patter. And we would leave him letters in the newspaper box by our house because we learned he was the newspaper boy.
I am transferred back to when we were at that STS9 show and we were tripping and we lost each other… but it was New Years.. and I was dancing and I barely noticed you were gone.. flowing with the music.. moving with the lights.. and BOOM the confetti came from the sky and everyone was cheering with happy because it was finally the new year… and across the room I saw you and we ran to each other and held each other tight because we felt so close. so together. friends forever. and now you are married and living in your same small town with your husband and two kids.
I am transferred back to the time you picked me up from work late one night and we had to drive all the way to your place but the smell of the chicken wings we were bringing home for dinner was so overwhelming we stopped the car on the side of the road and climbed through the bushes in the moonlight and savagely ate all of them and laughed at how silly we looked with hot sauce all over our moths and hands.
I am transferred back to when I met you at your cabin in the woods in the mountains of North Carolina and your friends were over and we decided that instead of sleeping in the house we would sleep in the woods a bit away from the house… a little clearing… we set up my hammock over the soft grass and off to the side the river had pooled up and we climbed up the side of the cliff and jumped in with the fireflies dancing all around and we built the fire and threw in some corn and ate corn and whiskey and we talked for hours of the moon and the spirits in the woods and the magic of the night.
I am transferred back to when we climbed for nearly 5 hours up the mountains and finally reached the little cabin overlooking the alps. No electricity so you built the fire and we had fondue and wine and watched the sunset over the mountains and we laid out on the grassy knoll by the cabin and passed the whiskey bottle back and forth and watched the stars and you taught me Swiss German and told stories of all your adventures and my heart danced with joy at all the ideas you gave me for future endeavors and the air was so clear and pure.
I am transferred back to our motorcycle rides in the moonlight. Pretending we were riding through Arkham. The warm Alabama air felt amazing as I held you close so I wouldn’t fall and we took those turns like pros. I let go and held my arms out… feeling so free.. wishing I could feel that way forever..
I am transferred back to that time when we were young and a bunch of us were over at our friends house. It was “perfect”… 3 girls, 3 boys. The mom let us drink. I was too scared. Too goody goody, so I had root beer. You gave up a night of booze to drink root beer with me so I wouldn’t feel left out.
I am transferred back to the night we were laying in bed and you got a phone call at 3 am. You excused yourself from the bed and walked outside to take it, explaining you had a bad dream about someone and you needed to talk to her. I waited patiently and listened to music. A half hour later I wandered outside to look for you and as soon as you saw me you quickly said goodbye and gave me a weak smile. We went back inside and as we were laying together you kept getting texts. You had that smile on your face. And I knew everything I thought we had was broken. Over. Gone. And I laid with you as you cried over her. Over your past with her. You chose her over me. You told me even if she came to town and we were together you would still sleep with her. You told me you always had loved her. I wondered if you ever actually loved me or if you always wished I was her. And I moved far away.
I am transferred to that time I was turning over rocks at the Oregon coast to look for crabs and my headphones were blasting the Cure in my ears and I felt a tap on my shoulder and there you were, smiling and asking what I was doing… which lead to the fact that all the campsites were full and I let you set up your tent next to mine… and then the next night I found the perfect campsite.. but there were signs that bears were all over the area… but I was determined to stay there… so I called you, even though you were on a mission to bike down the Oregon coast and begged you to come camp at this beautiful campsite with me. And we melted chocolate on bananas for dinner and passed the whiskey and warmed by the fire and I had the idea to leave some food in the hole in the tree for the bear to come. You never said anything against the idea. I made you sleep in my tent. In your own sleeping bag… just in case the bear did come.. and in the middle of the night we were woken up with heavy, gangly steps and snorts and snarls and the knocking over of pots and pans and the bulky shadow of the bear outside our tent. I started hyperventilating with both excitement and fear. You gently edged closer and put your hand over my lips and softly whispered in my ear, ” don’t worry.. about a thing.. cuz every little thing is gonna be alright…” and the bear lumbered around and nearly sat on our tent… then shuffled back off into the night and we laid there silent and still for nearly ten minutes until we burst into relieved maniacal laughter and cautiously crawled out of the tent to see the damage…
I am transferred one of those first times we were all together for summer camp. Someone brought out a guitar and all the girls gathered around one of the guys and I was playing cards at another table. He paused for a second during his strumming. I suggested he play “Aeroplane Over the Sea” and he did. And I got so filled with emotions from his soft voice. The lyrics. The guitar. I had to walk outside. You followed me and we sat out on the benches and we both cried and talked for the rest of the night.
I am transferred back to the day I first met you and we hiked all throughout the desert and were so tired. You ate a burger. I was having a bad body image day and had an orange. You didn’t say anything. You accepted it. There was a meteor shower that night. We laid on the benches in the middle of the desert in Oregon. You brought out some Crunch and Munch… knowing it was one of my favorites in the world. We both dug in and told stories and laughed at pointed out different shooting stars. And then there was that one. The biggest, longest, slowest shooting star I had ever seen. And you saw it too. And we decided it was a sign that we would be friends forever. And we still talk. Now and then. But you are living your life with your man and your friends over in Oregon.I am transferred back to when you first messaged me. I was pretty much done with meeting people in Bucharest. I was ready to be done with the hostel and move on. But you were patient. You assured me. I met you. You tried to take me a cafe on a rooftop. They were all closed. You looked anxious. Nervous. We went to a different place. I got some random thing on the menu and you got the most delicious apple strudel pie thing and I ended up eating most of it. It started off slow… our talking… but there was something about you I couldn’t quite put my finger on that I needed. That intrigued me. You pursued. I got scared. I wasn’t supposed to fall in love. I didn’t want it. But slowly… ever so slowly I let it happen.. and before I knew it… everything fell into place just as it was meant to be…. and just when things were at their best I had to leave the country due to the visa and I thought I would lose you forever. I cried. You took me to your friends early on. I was surprised. I was happy. You let me stay at your place. I felt at home. I fed your cat. We gorged on Haribo and drank coffee to stay up all night. You were patient when I was hesitant. We bought christmas lights to sparkle up the apartment. You didn’t mind when I put up artwork around your place. You were gentle. You were just what I needed. You gave me hope. You broke down my wall. We went to Bran. You woke up before I did to help me get to work on time. You took me to your Christmas party. You promised you would wait for me… for the longest 3 months of my life.
I am transferred back to that night on prom when I got all dressed up. I spent a lot of money on the dress. I put on the make up. My mom gave me her pearls. and I waited. And I assured my parents you would show. But time went on. My parents eyes felt sorrow and fear. It was a half hour into the prom night and I asked my dad to drop me off anyway. You never showed. I danced with my dad for the father daughter dance and he looked so sad. I could barely look him in the eyes, but I tried to cheer him up saying that it was okay… I wanted to come anyway because there was free jelly beans. And there was. And I ate nearly the whole bowl, I went to the bowl handful after handful then retreat back to the corner, looking for you. One guy did come up to me to invite me to dance. I could see the pity and disgust in his eyes. My dad bought flowers and they were waiting for me on my bed when I got home. He said every girl deserves flowers on her prom night. I talked to you the next day. You laughed. “Did you really think I was serious?”
I am transferred back to that day at the treatment center when I met a new girl. I gave her a hug and all I could feel was bone. A hollow skeleton. And I saw her face. It looked like a skull. Sunken and hollow. It shook me up and I talked to my therapist and she tried to convince me that I, too, looked that way and I got so upset. Because what I saw in the mirror was a blob, disfigured monster.
I am transferred back to when I gave you the book I created for you. I had all your friends write memories and happy things for you. I collected them all and added pictures your friends sent. I laminated the pages. I created a book. I created a Facebook group. I gave it to you your last Christmas. As soon as you unwrapped it you threw it across the room in anger and said that I was just a stupid Ethiopian looking unlovable THING. You died a month later. I still see you here or there.

And everyone else in my life.

Everyone. Everything.

The good. The bad. I do not necessarily regret any of it. I thank those people that made my life hard. I have had my share of struggles. Of near deaths. Of being so depressed my options and future seemed slim to none. Of being so happy that my heart was flying… only to discover that I was being deceived.

Yes, I remember it all. I remember how you made me feel that day. Whether it good or bad. The feelings of uncertainty or love or hope or brokenness or fear or rejected…

But then I remember. I am here. Life has brought me here. I am here for a reason. I am waiting to get back to Romania. To my life there. To my babies. My co-workers. To my friends. To my love.  To new hope. To getting back to trusting people. To accepting love and people into my life again. To throwing myself into the Romanian lifestyle.  To a year of exploring Europe during the weeks off. To pursuing life and love and what comes next.
And I can’t help but smile and turn the music to my favorite channel…. the rockin’ 80’s and sing “I CAN SEEE CLEARLLLY NOW THE RAIN IS GONE!” and get out of bed and take back to the streets.

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—-> Note: This is a free write… sorry if it is jumbled.. not in order… a bit “messsy”… i just needed to let it out…. <——

Dear ED

I rarely use the word hate. I do not like that word. But in your case. I hate you from the depths of my soul. With everything inside of me. With vehemence beyond all things.
You stole my teenage years. You stole my college years. You kept me inside counting calories and crying in my bed while others my age tested their limits and did things teenagers do. You kept me running on that treadmill, watching the minutes turn to hours, as others passed time playing hackey sack and going on adventures and playing spin the bottle. I feared weed because it made you hungry and that was the last thing I wanted to be…. so I lost touch with those friends that went that direction. I feared alcohol for its calories… so I lost touch with those friends who delighted in the feeling of being intoxicated for the first time(or second or third or whatnot.) I feared going out with friends because it was inevitable that they would go out for food and I would have to make an excuse as to why I couldn’t eat.  I had already eaten… even though all I had that day was 10 grapes and half an orange. I wasn’t hungry…. even though my stomach was whirling about in anger and emptiness. And I would have to sit there sipping my water, gazing in wonder and awe at how my friends could eat so much and stay so fit while if I so much as ate a piece of bread I wold gain two pounds. I wanted so bad to fool around with my friends. To make memories. To be happy. To laugh over simple things. But I lived in a shroud of sadness, terror, suffocating depression… I never went to any keggers. I never went on any spring break adventures to get plastered with friends and laugh about it for years to come. I was vacant. I was an empty balloon. I have no happy memories of late high school. My prom date never showed up because he only asked me as a joke. I have no happy memories of parties or falling in love or late nights talking to friends or clubbing in college. I so desperately wanted to be part of it all… to have someone fall in love with me… but how in the world would that be ever possible? I was grotesque, fat, annoying, unlovable… or at least that’s what you, my ED, told me. I wanted so badly to have heads turn in my direction when I walked into the room.. “The only reason they would turn is because they saw the ugliest person they’ve ever seen walk into the room”, you, my ED said. I wanted so desperately to go out with my friends and laugh with them and not have a care… “Why would they WANT you along? You know the only reason they would ever invite you is because they felt OBLIGATED… you’re such a burden, a bore”, you, my ED said.

I used to be ok. I was always a good child. Perfect, as they said. “My rock”, my mom called me. My older brother was a bit of a sociopath. His friends adored him. They had nothing but good to say about him. But with the family. I was terrified of him. Many memories of running away from him horror with tears streaming down my face. Locking myself in the bathroom. Huddling in a ball, watching the wooden door strain as he pounded on it. Saying the most horrible things one could say.  I had perfect grades. I did no wrong. I strived to be the kid that my parents would be proud of.

I had the liver transplant at age 3. It saved my life. But left me with a giant scar across my belly. It is still there today. It is still a big indent. It poufs out below and above.  I hated it. I did sit up after sit up. Crunch after crunch. For hours. Days. I lived for the scale. For the reflection in the mirror. What I saw in that mirror was a grotesque monster. Forever growing monster. But looking back at the pictures from that time, I was skin and bones. It hurt to sit down. I could feel my heart beat, pumping my chest up and down as it strived to keep my body alive. My hair came out in chunks. My brother joked that I looked like I was an Auschwitz victim. That I belonged in Ethiopia. Which made me feel even more disgusting. I had people ask me, “Why don’t you just eat?” all those normal questions people ask someone who has an eating disorder. The answer is never simple. It is not about the food. I remember going to a church once with my grandma and someone in their was convinced I had the devil inside of me and tried to get my grandma to consent to let me be exorcized to let the devil out. It’s not about the food.  For me it was a combination of things. Always… these voices in my head… the things my brother shouted at me in spite… the sneers from the kids at school… the giant scar on my belly… insecurity.. fear of growing up… fear of being “normal”… fear of never finding anyone to like me…
So I hid away… restricted my food intake more and more.. became obsessed… It sounds so selfish and vain…

I got so crazy at times that I got this idea in my head that if I cut myself, maybe that would be better than the hurricane of terrible things that my mind was shouting at me. It was relief from the ever present, “You will never be loved..”  “You are such a disgusting creature…” “You don’t have a woman’s body, you have an alien’s body,.. just look at that scar…” “You will never look like all those people at the beach in their bikinis… NEVER”  “Why would any boy ever find you attractive…” “Face it… you’ll never be anyones ‘one’…”  And every time I passed up a meal.. a dessert… a snack.. Especially when the smell was so delicious and overpowering and my stomach did somersaults in anticipation… and I walked away..I felt powerful. So powerful. So light. So free. But… yet.. so empty…

I went to three different Eating Disorder Treatment centers for months at a time, only to be kicked out after the health insurance ran out.  I was hospitalized a few times. I wasn’t ready. I felt safe in those treatment centers. Even though some of them made me gain half a pound a day. If you didn’t make weight, you had to be wheeled around in a wheel chair the next day to conserve your energy. Or they made you drink Ensure Plus if you didn’t eat everything on your plate…. and if you refused that, they stuck the tube down your throat to force those calories in. They stood by the door to the bathrooms and flushed them for you so that you couldn’t vomit up the food they made you eat. They weighed you in the mornings and made you wear a hospital gown so that you couldn’t stuff any pockets with rocks to add the weight you hoped you didn’t gain. I remember some pretty crazy things going on in those places… But I also remember some gentle friends… and some people that were in there just to prove they could still lose weight even in a treatment center and went to get tips on how to take their ED to another level when they went out into the real world again. We were allowed to do gentle yoga. We had a movie night sometimes where we would order in.. usually a binge food… I remember there being pizza some nights, McFlurries some nights, Snickers bars some nights… You were allowed to eat as much as you wanted… it was there… but we could never focus on the movie because we knew the food was right there and we knew everyone was watching everyone else to see how much everyone else ate so that they could eat the least amount… if that makes any sense at all… The nutritionist was my worst enemy… always upping my food intake. To this day I still fear bagels. Bagels and peanut butter were what you ate if they felt you weren’t gaining enough. They took you to a restaurant and made you order a normal meal. Those were the worst days. In public. Forced to eat a whole meal, when all the years before I would eat a salad or lie about all the things I ate earlier in the day. But everyone was in it together. We all were terrified of gaining, but more terrified of going back out into the real world.

Recovering from an eating disorder… getting out of treatment from an eating disorder is the hardest thing I have ever had to do…  And I failed many times. I relapsed many times.
Food was everywhere. It was something that one had to deal with on a daily basis. One had to eat to survive. But how much to eat? How little could you get away with eating? In treatment you learned that if you ate too little it messed up your metabolism and it would mess with your body. If you ate too much, obviously you gained. You had to eat just enough. With alcohol and drugs, you could abstain.  With an eating disorder you still had to eat. Every day. In order to live. In fact, soon after I got out, I got into a relationship with a guy that treated me the same way my brother treated me… because in my own messed up mind, I knew my brother loved me… and thats one way he showed love… so I accepted the fact that to love someone was to use and abuse them… and continued on with mini eating disordered habits and a dependency on alcohol and a dabble in drugs… for 5 more years I lived a sheltered, naive, mini-life….

To this day my heart is still dealing with the effects of 8 years stuck in this mindset. I have heart arrhythmia. Sometimes I am laying in bed and my heart starts going crazy and I fear going to sleep that I will not wake up The years of not eating and nourishing my body weakened my heart and it will never be normal. My bones have suffered. I have low bone density and osteopenia due to the lack of calcium and other nutrients when my body needed it. Years of purging what little food I did eat wreaked havoc on my teeth as well.  And still… to this day… I fear food. I keep track of everything I eat.  Every exercise I do. I always take the long route. I always make work harder than it has to be just because it would burn that much more calories. I still want to cry inside when I go to a restaurant and have to order a real meal and eat it with others… most times I suck it up and do it.. Other times I give in.. just a little… order a simple soup.. or salad.. or appetizer and toss aside peoples suggestions saying, “Oh, I promise I am not that hungry..” and then go home and fill the rest of the emptiness of my belly with water or grapes or grapefruits..

And now. It is getting worse. And it is terrifying how strong the thoughts are these days. I have been sticking to a diet of coffee and a banana or grapefruit or low fat yogurt for breakfast and then one of those powdered chicken noodle soups for dinner (less than 100 calories) and sometimes rice cakes with a little triangle of that smearable cheese… And I look in the mirror. And I put on my clothes. And I feel no different. I feel bigger. I look at pictures and I look so much bigger than everyone else. I want to feel my hip bones jutting out when I lay down. I want to see my collar bones as I look in the mirror. I want to be able to wrap my hands around my upper thighs and have my fingers touch. Is that messed up thinking? Yes….

How does one like oneself?

It is very unfortunate that the death of my older brother was what shook my world to the point that I finally saw through my eating disorder. I never got to say I loved him. He finally started being nice to me the last year of his 4 year battle with cancer. I think he knew he was dying and was trying to make up for all the things he did.  It messed with my head. I wanted to live a life for both him and me. And from then on, my attitude changed. My life changed. Now people look at me… get to know me… as a happy, optimistic, charming, etc. etc. girl. And yes, I am. I truly am. But that doesn’t mean that I still don’t struggle with ED thoughts. Terrible words he said to me when I looked up to him most still echo through my head.

And now, I am happy to say that I LOVE life. I do not depend on alcohol. I relinquished myself from drugs. I love food (most of the time) and am in a very healthy relationship. I relish in the little things of life. I ADORE adventure. I greet people with the thought that everyone is good and great. I know that everyday is not good, but there is good in everyday. And I am happy to be alive.. and there have been times I have sucked it up and worn a bikini and proudly shown off my scar… because that is part of who I am…. and I am alive because of it…….. And I am not afraid to talk about it to anyone who needs help… has questions.. anything…
Because most of all… I do not wish that kind of life on anyone… going through life with an eating disorder is not living….

Hakuna Matata

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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
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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..

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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…

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

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I love this little portly police guy :))

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The Love Lock Tree :))

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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..

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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..

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The Love Lock Tree :))

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

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

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

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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

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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.
PERFECT!
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.
THEN
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..

The writings on the wall…

“Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.” ~Jean-Luc Godard

January 5, 2017

One thing I adored in my travels was wandering the streets of the big foreign cities. Meandering down the uneven cobblestone streets. The family run stores. The unique range of items in each. The attempts to speak their language and being met with smiles of encouragement as I tried to charm them anyway with my attempts, yet butchering of their language. The air was so much fresher without all the skyscrapers and bland buildings. The  smells of all the foods wafting in the air. The pureness of the coffee….
And the street art.
I LOVED the street art.
I was FASCINATED with finding the scrawling in English in all of the countries. Little words and quotes amongst the sometimes beautiful, sometimes hectic murals and foreign writings on the walls…

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Florence, Italy – One of my very favorite cities… such narrow streets.. such beautiful sunsets.. such hidden little treasures like these…Bubbles were blown on the streets.. I forgot my money but the man who heated up my pizza slice (one of the best pizza slices in THE WORLD) made me sit and eat my pizza before he allowed me to leave to go back to the place I was staying to get my money.. there was a certain romantic, haunting, old-timey beauty about this city…

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Rome, Italy – a city overflowing with history and culture and food and wine and vines and vespas… Unfortunately, I only got to spend 2 days there.. but I will most certainly be back.. But this little sight made me smile 🙂

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Venice, Italy – I have found the word “Love” in every single city that i explored. It was such a fun treasure hunt.. I loved finding it in the language of the countries I was at too.. but theres something fun about looking for “Love” in unexpected places ;))

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Naples, Italy – Both of the above were on the same door covering of a closed store… The words were quite hard to see in the dim streetlights and I was rather tipsy on wine but I was waiting for my friend to buy our 2nd bottle and stared at these words for a good 5 minutes.. taking it all in… running my hand over the metal door, taking in the energy behind the words… letting it speak to my soul.. and feeling the feels of “How Can An Angel Broke My Heart”.. the incorrect English.. it just filled me with an infinite sadness for whoever wrote it.. and the other, “Am I In Love With You Or Am I In Love With The Feeling” resonated in particular about various people and places and events on this trip…

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Naples, Italy – The moon is another one of my very favorite things in the world. I saw the word “Moon” hidden all throughout Naples, one of the dirtiest cities with very strange, unique people, cheap wine and walls covered in the most random and chaotic street art, scrawlings and scribbles.. So it was even more exciting to find treasures like these…

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Basel, Switzerland – My friend had just taken me on a swim down the Rhine river.. We each had little “fish” that were waterproof bags in the shape of fish and acted as a flotation device as well… Our group was one fish short, so instead of desperately clinging to a fish the entire time the water took us gently down the river in its current, I was free swimming.. and it was the most beautiful feeling.. and at the end we grabbed beer in this funky little nomadic, artistic area and I was filled with warm fuzzies and happy and sunshine… As we were walking back I happened upon this beauty 🙂

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Barcelona, Spain – I was wandering the city and decided to go to the beautiful Park Güell that was filled with all kinds of stone statues and covered in tiles… I quickly felll in love with Gaudi’s work and style.. the shimmery tiles.. the quirky architecture.. it was all so magical… Anyway, I found a tiny exit out of the bigger park (the free area of the park) that looked like it would provide the most gorgeous view of the city.. and it did.. but it did also have this (and many more of the same) message to tourists..

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Brasov, Romania – one of my favorites EVER. It says it all. “I miss you’re stupid face”

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Brasov, Romania – What’s meant to be will always find its way. Very true. Everything happens for a reason.

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Brasov, Romania – this one made me smile… and made me wish I had someone to send this to and mean it with all my heart…

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Bucharest, Romania – Not exactly sure what this one is about… but I was wandering a nearly empty park in late fall and found this little fountain.. it seemed as though it hadn’t had water in it for forever.. the tiles were broken on the inside.. there was a thick layer of dirt coating the broken tiles… the outside around it, where people would normally sit was nearly all taken apart… and “Madonna with coat was h” was all that was left of who knows what kind of message :)) I love it.

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Bucharest, Romania – #PeopleLikeUndMe.  I found these all over in Bucharest. They intrude me… #PeopleLikeUndMe apparently do all kinds of things… Dance in the rain… Hold Hands.. Don’t need Sleep.. Run free.. Dance together.. Are meant to be… Get lucky…
Finding them hidden around the city still make me smile 🙂

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Bucharest, Romania – “Stop the violence” scrawled on a building that was falling apart in thimble of a park…

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Bucharest, Romania – Ohhhhh Romania :)))..

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Naples, Italy – Across the street from this was “You Belong To Me”  I adored these little sweet declarations of love…

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Seattle, WA – My first full day back in the states, I found a sign of hope and acceptance and love from the Universe that made my heart smile 🙂

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…

Make a wish 


Saturday October 1, 2016

Day 131

Bucharest, Romania 

My favorite nights are long talks with beautiful strangers. Working at hostels is my absolute favorite. So many people coming through. So many stories being told. So many hopes. So many wishes. 

So I made a wish jar. We had one at my other hostel. I ask people to write wishes on a slip of paper and place them in the jar. I promise them I will take them to the sea, put them in an empty wine bottle and send it off. And I plan to. 

The looks on people’s faces when I tell them to write a wish… Ranging from bewilderment to surprise to incredulous to speculation. But they all write something. Late at night I peek in the jar. It fills my heart with happy to see what people wish for. Some wish for things for themselves. Some with for other people. Some wish for many people. But they all warm my heart. 


Hostel life. People come. People go. You connect. You talk. Make memories. Stay up drinking and talking. Adventure in the days. And they leave. But each and every one still has made an impact on me, some more than others. 

We had a lady come the other day. She is 37 and slightly off… She was on a nudist cruise but left in the middle of the cruise… She never explained why. But she’s caused some havoc and headaches around here. I stayed up with her one night because she was quite drunk and falling over and the receptionist had to leave. Working at hostels you get used to taking care of drunk people. She was speaking straight Russian to me. I had no idea she spoke Russian, nor do I know any Russian. But I helped her. Talked with her. Was a friend. 

Later, my two (current) favorite people came back from their night out. An older guy who can speak all the languages ever, very charismatic and charming. A sexy Steven Tyler kind of vibe. And his girl, a Romanian girl I didn’t know too well. The guy went to bed and I sat and talked with the girl for a couple hours. Deep thoughts. Philosophical. I felt an instant connection. Positive energy. My soul sister. I wrote notes so i could look back on then later. I have copy and pasted them below. Interesting thoughts. People never cease to fascinate me. 

Today the receptionist at the hostel and I had a long conversation with an older guy from Turkey about life, love, spiritual beliefs and God. 

It’s fascinating to talk to people from different cultures. Backgrounds. Beliefs. 

Yesterday I hung out with more Couchsurfers. We started out as 3 and by the end of the night we were at least 15. My best friend who used to stay at my hostel was there. Germans. French. Romanians. Australians. I made paper airplanes and threw them across the table right there in the restaurant terrace where we were sitting. And I took them with me to watch my Romanian friends band. I adore live music, even if I don’t understand the lyrics. It’s interesting actually, not understanding the lyrics. You hear songs in a whole different way. 


“USe the brain, not just the heart 

Balance / battle between the brain and the heart 

Feel your brain. 

Don’t get eaten by the heart eaters 

Love. 

Somebody else is waiting for you. Close the circle if you can’t help them. Someone else is waiting beyond. 

When you drink you are Vulnerable to people who use the brain more than the heart and we are hunted. 

Drink with the people who bring you light. 

Ask yourself:

1. What Do i want? 

2. After I know exactly what I want. I will do it. Systematically. Slowly. In a way that is smart. Algorithmic. Knowing All the probabilities. 

It’s a New era of living. 

Everything happens for a reason. 

Ask others. Don’t be afraid. Ask for help. Let people help you. Never be afraid of anything. 

Dont be afraid to give. Give. Give. And don’t expect anything in return. Do it from the heart.

Don’t keep the pain. Feel it. Accept it Let it go. Don’t get stuck in the pain. 

Smile from all of your organs. Give your whole body the smile. And you will glow.”

“Everything is not as you see.”

“Your American Dream is our Romanian fantasy”

“I don’t want to believe in God. I want to believe in people.” 

“Send out white energy from the heart. Heart to heart connection.”

Puro romaneskoes 


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

Day 113

Romania. 

–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. 

#bestdayever

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.