Doppelgängers

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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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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 🙂

Romania, My Love

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

December 20, 2016

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

Hostel Life


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

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


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

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.

Ferries and things. 


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

Monday August 29, 2016Day 100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life was beautiful. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I made countless friends in my BlaBla car rides. 

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

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

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

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

I saw sooo many sunrises and even more sunsets. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s only part of the highlights.

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

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

Life is about the little moments. 

I am a traveler, not a tourist. 

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

And I am yearning for more. 

Napoli


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

Monday August 23, 2016 

Day 93

Napoli, Italia 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow. 

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

It was a magical night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never found the catacombs. 

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

Roma…  :)

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

Day 91

Rome, Italy 

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

Colorful Vespas and Vespa rental shops were everywhere. 

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

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

Streets and alleyways jutting off in every random direction. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I walked out and headed on. 

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

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

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


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

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

Perfect. 

We all start off as strangers 


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

Friday August 20, 2016

Day 91

Rome, Italy 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do I go next? What do I do? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all start off as strangers…

Hearts are wild creatures


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

Tuesday August 16, 2016
Day 89
Laufen, Switzerland

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

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