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

“An ocean breeze puts a mind at ease”

Friday, August 11, 2017
Lagos, Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ramblings of loneliness

Sunday, May 4, 2017
Bucharest, Romania

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”— Confucius

Every master was once a disaster.” — David T.S. Wolf

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. – John Wooden

Don’t overthink yourself out of something good! – Akosua Dardaine Edwards

Don’t overthink things. Sometimes you can convince your head not to listen to your heart. Those are the decisions you regret for the rest of your life. –Leah Braemel

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

I’m in a bit of a funk lately.
Too many things are going on and it is a little overwhelming and hard to keep my head up.
I have been in Romania quite awhile off and on.
I still do not have a grasp on the language
People keep telling me that they know of others who learned it in one month.
That just makes me feel worse
Unable
Stupid
And we go to meet people
And they are courteous
polite
“Hello! Buna! How are you?”
And that is about the extend of the conversation most of the time
I say I can understand some of it.
I say I am trying to learn.
I say “No problem, go ahead and talk in Romanian, I can kinda follow along”
But I can’t
I do for awhile
I get the gist of the conversation
But then my mind focuses on one word or phrase
forgetting what it is
and my mind searches for what it means
and I lose track of the conversation
And I stare at the sky.
at the people walking by
Trying to not look bored
Trying not to look as alone as I feel
Left out
Isolated
I don’t want them to speak entirely in English
That would be an inconvenience for them
I am in their home country
They are speaking their mother tongue
I take lessons
I do the apps
Answer the questions right
And then when it comes to conversation in real life
My mind blanks.
What did they just say?
What am I supposed to say back?
And the visa
I finally turned in the visa this past week
And now I wait one month to see if they accept or reject it
If I have to leave or if I get to stay
If I get rejected should I to hire a lawyer and fight to stay?
After waiting in the lines for hours
With impatient, rude people
standing
forever
talking to the people behind the desk 9 times
My translator talked to the officer for what seemed like an eternity
And when we left the counter
I got a one sentence summary of the 20 minute conversation.
i need another document
another document
each time
waiting in traffic
stressing out my boss
Creating tension at work
i am scared I am too much work
Wishing she never hired me
due to all the headaches of this visa
leaving my classroom and coming back mentally vapid
not able to concentrate on what was going on
going home to cry
And am so exhausted I nearly pass out at 9
because I messed up
I didn’t know the new rules
Count backwards 180 days.
it doesn’t start over.
It was my fault
I could feel the heaviness
Disappointment from others
And I revert back to the days of pasT
When I was truly believed I was a burden
Unwanted, but invited out of obligation
It is my fault I am slow at learning
that’s just how I am
All the people I meet here
Must think I am so boring
i hope they don’t think I’m a bitch
Or stuck up
because I barely talk
I have so much I want to say.
I want to show them me
but they just turn to other friends and share stories
and laugh
in Romaninan
And I am left
Alone
Though sometimes they remember I am there
and translate a story
or respond in English to what someone asked in Romanian
and I jolt back to reality
they are talking to me
my heart soars with happy
I feel like I am pulling away
Regressing
Not putting as much effort as I should at work
the gym seems overwhelming
getting out of bed to go to meet people is difficult
No amount of sleep could cure the tiredness I feel
I love people
I hate inconveniencing people
I hate being a burden
And I noticed that I have been backsliding
Focusing on the negatives when I look in the mirror
As they talk and talk
I notice more and more wrong with me
My white thighs glowing in the sun
flattened out and huge as I sit in the chair
The scars on my arms from days long ago
The bags under my eyes that won’t go away
My hair, frizzy beyond belief
My silhouette makes me cringe
My stomach.
The liver transplant scar
a big indent in my belly
creating a soft roundness above and below
fat
no bikinis for me
I tried
I got down to 86 pounds long ago
I still had a soft round belly
I get more and more disgusted every time I look in the mirror
why did I decide to wear this tonight?
no wonder people don’t want to talk to me
I feel boring
all that time of listening to them talk
and sitting there
feeling awkward
not sure if I should intervene,
“Ce faci!”
“Nu înțeleg”
But I don’t
I don’t want to be a bother
I try to follow
then space out
lost in my head
all the thoughts
monsters don’t live under the bed
They scream inside your head
but not all the time
don’t worry too much
things still make me happy
the soft rain before the downpour
as it gently lands on my skin
a slight tickle from mother earth
laying in the grass with the sun shining on me
warming my body
Bubbles
and many other things
it is easy to spiral and forget
but there are many things that keep me here
But I have been longing more and more for going back
To Portland
To Santa Cruz
where I can understand people
Where I don’t feel detached
But would that be giving up?
Running away?
Should I power through and take 2 lessons a week?
Could I fit in here?
Your vibe attracts your tribe.
I feel part of a tribe sometimes
but then they slowly revert back to Romanian
laughing
talking
reminiscing
and I have no idea what they are talking anymore
because at one point I space out
too much in my own head
I need more things here
I need to change
I need motivation
But do I belong here?
Is this the life I want?
Do I want to go back to what’s comfortable?
Or do I want to step out of my comfort zone and zoom forth
I have always felt a little ostracized
all my life
On the fringes of groups
Along for the ride
A little odd
I’m used to being the me that they know
silly, bright and sunshiny
but I also come off as flighty
as dumb
and I am not
not many people know the real me
all the things I went through
The people I lost
the people that hurt me
the people I hurt
My stories that made me who I am
the good and the bad
No one asks anymore
and then there are some people I connect with on another level
and I adore them
and I feel wanted when I am with them
and I laugh
and feel warm inside
happy
But I can’t remember the last time I laughed
genuine laughter
where your eyes well up with happiness and silliness
I miss that
I need nature
I need a friend
I need the beach
I need to stop thinking that everyone is thinking negatively of me
I hate it
because that’s what teenagers do
I’m 31
I should be over that by now
Strong
Independant
Etc
But no
Because right now I feel deflated
discouraged
empty
lost
alone
But i still have the flame of hope
Deep inside
still burning
waiting for more fuel
for me to believe wholly
that I can do this
that things will get better
I just need to get out of my head
because life is beautiful
I’m living in Romania.
I am in charge of 17 of the most beautiful, sweet little 2-3 year olds
I have a good job that pays quite well
Someone who believes in me
and keeps me going
i have plans to travel in the summer
music festivals
summer is coming
i need to get back to that me
that me that said “yes” to everything
That had no problem talking to strangers
I have people that say I am beautiful
And check up on me
I’ve been here before
i know my mind is just messing with me
i’ve been here before
i can get out
get out of my head
and into my heart
And in these next week Is will start the process
of becoming a butterfly
starting by smiling from my heart
because I am strong
and I am worth it
I just need to work on believing it
mantras on the mirror
mantras by the bedside
little reminder that life is beautiful
of who I am
I will find my way

The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Unknown

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. ― Abraham Lincoln

True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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…

Hostel life 


Monday September 26, 2016Day 126

Bucharest, Romania 

Wow. What a difference this past week has been. 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Beautiful people. 

Everything happens for a reason. 

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

More to come….

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.