BE ADVISED: This Update is fully loaded. So many fricken Photos!
As I write this, I am sitting in Amsterdam airport, waiting to leave the EU after 5 months of life changing travel. I have less than 24 hours in London, and then the long sad flight back to the states. It is difficult to report back on what happened over a month ago in this adventure. Shit, its hard to even think back to one week ago, travel has an incomprehensible ability to slow time down while simultaneously accelerating the hell out of it. Early 2018 has felt like the fastest 3 years of my life. Im here in the airport terminal, looking back through my journal and photos; and I’m at a loss. In the past, my travel experiences have been very personal. Not to say this journey hasn’t been personal, in many ways its been the most personal yet. However, this is the first time I’ve attempted to share my travel story through writing, photography, and the podcast. Its intimidating, challenging, and incredibly rewarding. This project has also helped keep me from spinning into “Traveler Debauchery Syndrome ”(TDS), a term I literally just came up with. TDS occurs when a traveler is lonely, bored, or uncomfortable; extremely common when out there solo.
TDS symptoms include:
1. Binge Screening (Instagram, Netflix, etc.)
2. Eating/Drinking unhealthy simply because it’s the “local dish”
3. Latching onto groups, and submitting to a pack mentality.
In my eyes, TDS is the easiest way to ruin a life-changing travel experience; and its quite easy to contract. TDS sneaks its way into your system, because it is necessary in trace amounts. The thing is, meeting new people, getting drunk on amazing wine, and posting amazing photos are wonderful parts of the journey. PART of the journey. The problem arrises when it BECOMES the journey. Even more important than the crazy times are the alone times, the trying times, the times in nature, the introspective times. TDS happens when we are too afraid to be alone. Come to think of it, this is exactly what happens at home. We stack our plate full with social engagements and semi-important tasks to avoid the deep work. When we travel however, everything is new, and we have new opportunities and choices. Hey, Im all for meeting new people. I’ve met unbelievable people from all over the world in the last 5 months, people I hope to remain in contact with my entire life. But, in travel and in life, the longest and most important relationship we have is that with ourself. Travel continues to remind me that how we treat ourselves is how we treat everything. If we can’t enjoy ourselves, how can truly enjoy our time with others, with our work, with our family? I grew up being taught to put others before yourself. I also learned to treat others how you would like to be treated. “The Golden Rule” as it’s called in the church, but how does it play out? If you treat yourself like shit, how can you expect to treat others any different? So honor yourself, love yourself, learn to love being alone. Conquer TDS and you’ll be amazed at how positively it effects those you do spend time with. Lets get into the travel update…Travel Europe
When in Rome, Go somewhere else..
I don’t mean to start off sounding negative. Rome was great. It’s exactly what you would expect. Rich in history, art, and tourists. It was my first Italian stop (like many travelers) and it didn’t quite deliver the Italian charm I was imagining. It did however satisfy many bucket list items, and delivered some of my favorite moments on this journey. In the back of my mind, I didn’t think Italy was going to happen. Its such a huge country with so much to offer, I thought it would be its own trip for another time, maybe with a girlfriend or lover. But when the entire French transportation workforce decides to go on strike (apparently very common) and train ticket costs sky rocket, its time to get out of France. So I booked a cheap flight to Rome.
Au revoir France, Ciao Italia!
“No, Monsieur”: Ive already gotten so much mileage sharing this story with other travelers. Maybe I’ll share it fully on the podcast, but the page doesn’t do the details justice. Long story short, I was very strongly propositioned by an old drunk Frenchman on the flight to Rome. We didn’t share a common language, but we did share the most awkward 2-hour flight of my life. Heads resting on my shoulder, hands touching my leg, beers being offered; it was strange. When faking asleep still didn’t deter his advances, I stuck up my finger with an assertive, “NO Monsieur!” I laugh about it now, but it was very uncomfortable. I bring it up because I had never been legitimately creeped on before, at least to this magnitude. I’m not mad at the man, though he was extremely inappropriate. It was one of the strongest lessons I learned on this trip. I now understand a small fraction of what many women experience throughout their entire lives. Men can be weird, and aggressive, and out-of-line. I apologize on behalf of a small percentage of my gender. I see you, ladies.
Rome: Ill keep this short. My recommended itinerary in Rome is 2 days. Day 1; go to Roman ruins, take tours through the day, eat fresh pasta, and drink wine in the streets at night. Day 2; Repeat day one, but in the Vatican City.
Florence is beautiful, cultural, and chalk full of American students: I had no idea how big of a “semester abroad” city Florence was. It was a bit disappointing, but then again I had hoped everyone would still be wearing their traditional robes from the Renaissance and dancing in the square. Things change, places grow and diffuse, it happens. I get it, and part of me is jealous that I didnt get to study in Florence. But when I find myself in the middle of Italy, doing shots named after U.S. college mascots is a bit off-putting. Go Tigers.
The power of a travel buddy: People ask me how I travel alone. “Don’t you get scared or lonely?” While I can’t speak from a female perspective, I absolutely prefer to travel alone or with one carefully vetted travel buddy. When you travel alone, you do what you want to do, go where you want to go, and meet who you want to meet. You also learn so much about your comfort zone, and what lies beyond. In America, approaching new people for friendship (or more) can be very intimidating, and is avoided by most. When in solo travel however, its a necessity. If you can’t sack up and introduce yourself to a stranger, its gonna be a long lonely trip. You never know who’s out there, and remember, you can always walk away. Like literally walk away… You cant connect with everyone, and youre not supposed to. The key is to approach new people with an open mind, and an understanding that if the vibe isn’t there, its no big deal. I learned this on my first journey in 2014, and was excited to flex that muscle on this trip. I cant overstate how much it has served me in Europe. Ive met so many amazing new and interesting people, both local and traveler. In Rome, I met a group of travelers in the hostel and we went out to lunch. Lunch turned into site seeing, which turned to dinner, which led to drinking wine in the streets of Rome, which culminated in them convincing me to leave Rome early and head to Florence with them. The next 3 days in Florence were some of the most fun of the entire trip. Crazy adventures magnified by hilarity and connection. I introduced the group to a joke a former employer had played on me. You open the door for your friend to walk into a store, restaurant, etc. Once they’re in, you shout “HERE I COME!” into the room and close the door behind them. Everyone turns and looks at the mortified friend, comedy perfection. Once I literally and figuratively opened that door, no one was safe.
Practice your Italian: It just feels good to speak Italian, and the city names are wayyy cooler in the native tongue. “Firenze > Florence, Napoli > Naples” No competition. Not that im any good at Italian, I naively thought id pick it up quick because of my Spanish background (false). But the Italians are mostly extremely friendly and they appreciate your attempts.
The food is THAT good: Try everything. In Italy, pasta is the first course. Yes its fresh and delicious, but be conscious not to fill up. The seafood dishes I had on the Almalfi Coast were some of the best meals of my life. Oh, and fire baked pizza, ricotta gelato, porchetta panini, gnocchi, tomatoes, and all the wine. NOT the Ceasar salad though. Im pretty sure it wasn’t invented in Rome like I assumed, I ordered one and it was dog shit.
Almalfi: I maintain that Moab, Utah is the most beautiful place ive ever visited. That being said, there are about a dozen close seconds. The Amalfi Coast is one of those places. The area is comprised of about a dozen small towns, built in tiers on the cliffs leading to the mediterranean. Everywhere is gorgeous, and the friendly energy sucks you in immediately. Be prepared to hoof it, in a continent of walkers, the Almafi coast is the black diamond. Key highlights: Sorrento, Positano, and the island of Capri. Pompei is a short train ride away, and a powerful experience. I nerded out and listened to all 20 minutes of “Echoes” by Pink Floyd in the Pompei amphitheater, where they recorded their famous live performance.
Book more time: Italy sucks you in, I could have spent all 5 months there.
Welcome to Budapest… Here’s a fine.
I realize that both of my subheadings so far have been a tad negative. I promise the next one will be rainbows! Budapest was fantastic, but it did start off rocky. I purchased my transit ticket from the airport. One bus and 2 trains. I validated my ticket when I got on the bus, because thats a thing in some areas of Europe. Smoothly made it to the train, but got a bit confused trying to find the final connection. I asked the official for some help, he asked to see my ticket, then he asked for my passport. Shouldn’t have done that. He then told me I failed to validate the train tickets and wrote me a fine (50ish bucks). I had to pay it immediately or he wouldn’t give me back my passport. Felt like a racket, official or no. He had some credentials, but I imagine so would a con artist. It didnt really matter, because he had my passport. I paid it, God he was such a dick, and then got on the stupid train. Earlier that day I was in Almalfi, doing yoga on the rooftop and loving life. Now I was in cloudy Budapest, getting worked over by a portly curmudgeon. It was a moment of grump, but I meditated when I got to the hostel, and quickly remembered where I was and what I was doing.
The rest of my time in Budapest was wonderful, and I wish I could’ve spent more time there:
Go when the weather is right: The week I arrived was the first week of spring. The temperature was perfect, plants blooming, and the people were out and happy.
“Buda” and “Pesht”: Fun fact, Budapest used to be two independent cities on either side of the Danube River. Their names were “Buda” and “Pest”. Eventually they merged the cities and the names, Hungarians pronounce it “Budapesht”.
Margaret Island: Obviously you go to the touristy sites. The architecture and viewpoints in Budapest are stunning. The photographer in me loves a good city on a river. However, the not-so-advertised highlight of my time here was Margaret Island. It’s a giant park on this small island in the middle of the Danube river. The weather was perfect, and the park was packed with happy locals. I introduced myself to a group throwing frisbee, and spent the afternoon wandering the gardens, petting zoo, pools, and trails. Oh, and everyone drinks outside. Its not technically legal, but everyone does it anyway.
The shoes: As I began to journey north, the evidence of the horrors of World War 2 became more prevalent. I knew it was coming, but there’s only so much you can prepare for. On the banks of the river, there is a Holocaust memorial that displays dozens of metal replicas of tattered empty shoes. These shoes represent the shoes of the Jewish men, women, and children that were ordered to take off their shoes before being executed into the river. Earlier in my trip, I had read “A mans search for meaning” by Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the concentration camps. My great grandfather fled Poland to escape the Nazis, many of his friends and family were not so lucky. Despite ones religion, race, or background; sites like these stir the deepest emotions. We so easily forget that we are all connected through shared humanity. Every adult was once a child, and we all want happiness, purpose, and love. The nazis showed 20th century society what horrors humans can do to each other. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. Im not one to be preachy, and I say this as a reminder to myself as well as to you; love your neighbor, connect with each other, we need it more than ever.
Prague was a fairytale land of cinnamon and awesome!
On a lighter note, Prague lives up to its reputation. The city is breathtaking, and might take the trophy for area most likely to see a magic pumpkin turn into a carriage. I was only there about 3 days, and that was enough. Its a pretty touristy area, and the crowds and selfies get a bit old.
Im sure there is so much more that I skipped on my short stay, but a couple things to take away:
The Lego Museum: Because why the hell not?! Three levels of floor to ceiling lego landscapes. They have a little plaque in front of the installations that say the name of the collection and what year its from. I was glancing at a haunted house set, and my eyes fixated on a ghost. Immediately I was taken back to a lost childhood memory. I had that ghost, I loved playing with it, he was a star in my lego adventures. I thought that was cool, figured I’d share. I was a bit disappointed though, there was every lego in history, but no Star Wars. WTF? How is there no Star Wars in the damn lego museum. I began to exit the museum, when I heard a faint “Imperial March” in the distance. I glanced in the direction, and saw their was a flight of stairs I had previously missed, each stair saying “Star Wars upstairs”. Needless to say, the entire third floor was Star Wars. Manta Ray size Millenium Falcon and a Death Star to match. Life-size Darth Vader; this makes me wanna play with some legos.
-This crazy cinnamon roll ice cream cone: Im not sure what the official name is, but it was amazing.
Another one down! These travel update posts are really growing on me, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy creating them. We got one last one coming up, be on the lookout!
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