Nope, No Travel Plans for You

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

October, London, sunset

I love reading everyone's travel plans and goals for 2019, and usually, I'd want to share my own.

But the truth of the matter is that I'm frickin frackin terrified.

I've applied to a teaching English program in an Asian country (will give all the specifics when/if everything works out) and I've been accepted, but I haven't had an update since.

The program made a post saying that they're a little slower releasing placements this year and to be patient, but I am still! so! scared!

The facebook group is filled with people excitedly posting their placements and connecting with others in their region. A poster on Reddit said that their recruiter told them not to send in their documents for this term because all of the applications currently in their office are more than enough for this intake.

My application is one of the many sitting in that office. Will it be one of the lucky that get processed in time, or will I receive an email in a few days saying, "Sorry, all our spots are filled, try again in the fall"?

Will I be booking a flight to leave in mid-February, or will I have to tell everyone I know about a "change of plans" and be stressed about what the hell I'm supposed to do next?

What the hell am I supposed to do next?

I know there's no point, in worrying, but man am I worried.

Every Book I Read in 2018: Part 2

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Let's finish this list! It's already 2019, baby! Here are the rest of the books I read in 2018. I read SEVENTY (70!) in total, which is the most I've ever read in a year. Make sure you follow me on Goodreads to see what I read this year!

36. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Read in Sarande, Albania. Had this on my Kindle for years but was saving it for when I ran out of physical books to read which was easy to do since ALL of the books on hostel shelves were in German. The writing is nothing to write home about (lol) and it could've easily been shorter. I'm sure the movie is better.

37. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Read in Greece. This is the third Atwood book I've tried to read but the only one I've actually succeeded in reading. It was alright.

38. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The only book in English at the last hostel on my last stop in Greece. Finished on the plane going home. Read it once in high school but also enjoyed it this time!

39. Upstream by Mary Oliver
Read in my bedroom. My first book back on American soil! It's been on my to-read list for a while so I was excited to read it. There are some really good passages but Oliver might be too smart for me.

40. The Witch Elm by Tana French
I gasped when I saw this on the shelf at the library. French is one of my favorite authors and this is her first standalone book. Compared to her other books it wasn't her best, but not-her-best is still better than most people's greatest.

41. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Read at my aunt's beach house. Read for bookclub. I probably wouldn't have finished this book if it wasn't a bookclub pick. It just...wasn't good. Would be more bearable as an audiobook.

42. Buffering by Hannah Hart
Also read at my aunt's beach house (I had nothing to do there but read). I'm not big into YouTube but I enjoy memoirs and this one blew my socks off. Hannah has been through A LOT and discusses the complexity of love and family.

43. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown [AUDIOBOOK]
Listened to in my car. Not good. Hard pass.

44. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Read on my couch. I loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe but this was a big disappointment compared to that one.

45. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Read on my couch. Definitely wasn't what I thought it would be but I still loved it. I LOVE self-absorbed, unreliable female narrators.

46. Lethal White by J. K. Rowling
Read at my grandma's house. This is the fourth book in her Cormoran Strike series and wasn't the best. I'm looking forward to the next one since I have a feeling it will be better.

47. The Power by Naomi Alderman
Read half on my friend's couch in the Scottish highlands, finished it at home. Loved this book and would be a great one for kids to read in high school.

48. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham [AUDIOBOOK]
Listened to in my car. Covers a bit of Gilmore Girls and a bit of the rest of her life. Listening to this feels like a big sister giving life advice. Some bits could've been cut out but I mostly enjoyed it.

49. Paper Girls vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
Read at my aunt's. I've never read a comic before and I think I need to read a few before my brain gets adjusted to the rhythm of them, but this was good!

50. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Read on my aunt's front porch. Very disappointing. I really wanted to like it but the writing has no pizzazz.

51. Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Read in my room. It was alright! Not as good as Divergent but one of the better YA books I've read. I've heard the sequel is better so I'll read that.

52. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Read in my childhood bedroom. I read this in one day, it's that good (and that short). No one can write like Ephron. She is so smart and so funny and I'm so sad she's gone.

53. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
This is about a lesbian pastor daughter's in Georgia and I was so excited to read it and yet I was so disappointed! The writing was bland and it just felt like a lot of wish-fulfillment and didn't really reflect evangelical Christian culture at all.

54. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
A breath of fresh air after a lackluster book. There are no quotation marks which annoys me when Cormac McCarthy does it but is smart when done by Rooney. This book is weird and a little fucked up and none of the characters are perfect and I LOVED it. Can't wait to read more by Rooney.

55. The Diviners by Libba Bray [AUDIOBOOK]
My first loan using the Libby app, which I highly recommend! Your library probably has it, or something similar! The narrator, January LaVoy, is very talented and can do lots of different voices. Can't wait to listen to the other books in this series.

56. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue Mackenzi Lee
Gay and fun and cute! Definitely want to read the sequel in 2019.

57. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I wish I loved this as much as everyone else does.

58. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara [AUDIOBOOK]
Brilliant and chilling to listen to. Usually, I would never want to re-listen to an audiobook but this one was so good.

59. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Probably would've like this more if I read it in high school. Decent and quick.

60. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett [AUDIOBOOK]
I loved Commonwealth by Patchett and she narrates this one. It was alright! And probably very therapeutic for her to write.

61. Just Kids by Patti Smith
I love this and her! M Train is next on my list. She sings a song called "Because the Night" written by Bruce Springsteen and it's an honest to goodness bop.

62. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham [AUDIOBOOK]
Read by Hugh Dancy who does a HORRIBLE Virginian accent but I loved every second of this book. Over the top introspective which is right up my alley.

63. How to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky
Alright! Better to read slowly over time. Or just read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.

64. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
During all the hype of this book and no ONE EVER BOTHERED TO MENTION THAT IT'S SET IN GLASGOW!!! Loved this book so much and will definitely read again in the future. It's just so soft and kind and honestly a great guide on how to be an adult???

65. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
Beautiful and creepy and artsy and probably even better in the original French! Must learn French!

66. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [AUDIOBOOK]
Always been meaning to read this. A great starter to feminism and something that every gender should read (would be a great high school or middle school read).

67. Women & Money by Suze Orman [AUDIOBOOK]
Trying to up my financial literacy. This book was alright. It's definitely aimed at a middle-aged woman freshly out of a divorce who doesn't even know the passwords to her bank accounts. Suze is brutally honest and I respect her for that.

68. Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Cute and quick and definitely want to buy for my nightstand so I can annotate it/read it whenever I need a pick me up.

69. On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder [AUDIOBOOK]
Not as much fearmongering as I thought there would be. This reads like a to-do list to be a good citizen. Take this book with a grain of salt and a pinch of optimism.

70. Talking to Women by Nell Dunn
Started reading in Sweden when I borrowed Poppy's copy and was able to buy my own when I was unexpectedly stranded in London for a few days, so yay, silver lining! It's a transcript of Dunn's conversations with her friends in 60's London and it's mindboggling how so much and so little has changed about women's lives since.

My goal for 2019 is to read at least 50 books! Let's do this!

2019 Goals

Friday, December 21, 2018

Resolutions are fun but do you know what's even better? Attainable goals!!!

Like every other human in the world, I've made the mistake of setting lofty goals and then forgetting all about them and/or giving up before the Christmas tree has even had the chance to die.

Here are the 5 things I know I can achieve in 2019!
  1. read 52 books
    1. 40 physical books
    2. 12 audiobooks
  2. quit biting my nails for once and for all
  3. get a manicure
  4. quit reading reviews on Goodreads! You don't agree with most people's opinions and tastes quit fooling yourself! I HATE going into a new book with other people's opinions swirling around in my brain, so I'm only going to use Goodreads for tracking my reading progress in 2019. 
  5. post on my blog at least once every 2 weeks. Not even for me to feel ~pressured~ but enough to force me to share little bits of my life and travels with y'all! As I talked about in my blogging in a bubble post, I want to 
I'm hanging out at my grandma's house a lot!
I can't really think of anything else! Who knows where I'll go in 2019, so all of my goals have to be location-independent. I'm honestly really happy with how I'm living my life and the direction I'm going in. Sorry if this sounds like a self-brag, but I spent so many years not being happy or content so I'm not going to be quiet about it now! I'm doing well with getting consistent exercise (20 minutes a day, no matter what!) and eating lots of fruit and vegetables (smoothies are key) and reading a lot and refusing to be ignorant about topics that I think are important (retirement, the stock market, global women's health, feminism, et al.). As long as I continue doing what I'm already doing in 2019, I'll be one fulfilled gal!

Cheers to 2019, y'all. Let's make it one filled with friends, books, and laughter. 

Every Book I Read in 2018: Part 1

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I haven't posted in 3 months but who cares! (I wrote this intro back when I hadn't posted in 3 months, but I've posted twice since working on this post! Horray for improvement!) Maybe I should post about my 4.5 month backpacking trip around Europe where I went to some cool ass countries and met some really bombass people and had a great time. But why talk about any of that on my travel blog when I just tell you about every book I read and give you my unwarranted opinions about them? I'll tell you where I was when I was reading them to keeping things ~spicy~ and ~travel related~. And no there are no affiliate links because I'm too lazy for that and I don't care anymore anyways.

Back when my original reading goal was 50 books, I was just going to make this one long post. But since I've been home I've been reading a shitton (to give you a general idea of how much a "shitton" is: I read 20 books in a little over a month of being home) and right now I'm at 61 books and that's just TOO MUCH for anyone to read. So here are the first 35 books I read in 2018, and Part 2 will follow in the coming weeks.

Also, be my friend on Goodreads!

1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Read on my mom's couch after my wisdom teeth removal surgery. High on opioids and pissed off at the world because my FACE HURT. This book made me cry so hard and I highlighted so many quotes. I'd like to attribute the crying to the drugs and the mouth pain but honestly, it's probably because I'm a little bitch baby that cries easily at everything.

2. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
Also read on my mom's couch. Not impressive. Move along.

3. Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray
Since I was doing all this reading on my mom's couch I felt like a 9-year-old again and decided to regress into my Star Wars phase. Except now I'm older and more Star Wars exists so there are more stories to read! How fun! They have Star Wars YA now! This was my second Claudia Gray book and it was enjoyable.

4. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton [AUDIOBOOK]
Listened to in my car over winter break. I listened to most of this at the end of 2017 but it is VERY LONG and I only listened to it while in the car (because I'm an old lady that borrows audiobook CDs from the library) so I finished it in 2018. All you need to know is that I cried at many parts while listening to this book, dreaming of what we could have had.

5. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Read in my college dorm, winter. I read this because I saw the movie and it rocked my world. I read the book so slowly because every sentence is beautiful and I didn't want it to end because I knew I'd never be able to read this book for the first time ever again.

6. Everything Everything by Nicole Yoon
Borrow from my friend Shannon, god bless her. I don't remember much about this book so that tells you all you need to know.

7. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
Mainly read on my couch in my dorm. SOOOOOOOOOOOO good! The institution of marriage is fascinating and scary.

8. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Read for my Southern American Literature course. Very gay and southern. Loved it.

9. All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister
Read in my bed. Committed put me in a very feministy-nonfiction mood. It dragged at points but had so many good facts you should definitely read it.

10. Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Read on the beach in Grenada (the island in the Carribean, not Spain) because I'm fancy sometimes. Very good and very smart, I'd like to read more like this.

11. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Started to read in Grenada, finished in Virginia. I liked it but Didion is too smart for me.

12. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
Read in bed at home after graduation. I cried! Shocker!

13. William Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson [AUDIOBOOK]
Mainly listened to while cleaning my room. I learned lots of things but can't remember any of it.

14. Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C. Stevens
Read in my room (don't worry soon I will be traveling and my reading locations with be a lot more fun). It's about teens in youth group in a small southern town and there's stuff about sexuality and growing up and Christianity and I LOVED it.

15. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Read in one day on the porch of my grandparent's river house. It was good and important but should be read in middle school or early high school.

16. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Also read in one day on the porch of my grandparent's river house. Would be a good gift to a teenager or a new mom (if you know she's into that kind of stuff, of course).

17. The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Started reading in Grenada, read more in my dorm room, finished in my room after I moved back home. It took me so long to read because I didn't want it to end! It's one of those books that doesn't have an OBVIOUS point but I loved it. I want more books about smart girls traveling and making mistakes and not really learning from them.

18. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton [AUDIOBOOK]
Listened to in my room as I cleaned everything out in preparation for my Europe trip. Didn't enjoy much about this audiobook, but I like how honest she is. And man, she is honest.

19. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson [AUDIOBOOK]
Listened to driving up and down I-95 to go to my in-class portion of my TEFL course. I've decided that I'm never going to walk the whole of the AT (Appalachian Trail) so I might as well listen to the accounts of people that tried. Bill Bryson is easy to listen to and knows how to weave a story, except there was this whole portion where he talked smack about a solo female hiker for no reason. She has more balls than you do, Bill.

20. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng [AUDIOBOOK]
Finally, my books and I are in Europe! Listened to while cleaning the kitchen of the hostel I worked at in Slovakia. For some reason, I thought this would be a fun YA book with a dash of murder, but it's way more serious than that. A good look at race and family dynamics.

21. Carol (Price of Salt) by Patricia Highsmith [AUDIOBOOK]
Listened to while cleaning the kitchen and just sitting in my room, taking a break from socializing. It's read by the same narrator as Everything I Never Told You and I liked her voice. A bit slow for an audiobook but the writing is beautiful.

22. Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay [AUDIOBOOK]
Listening while trying to hold my bladder on really bumpy minivan rides in Moldova. Gay narrates this herself and it is very good and important and everyone should read it.

23. The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
Read in Romania. As far as "classics" go Mansfield is a bit easier to read, although I have to be in a particular mood for her. Which is why it took me so long to read such a slim book! Passed it on to an English guy from Bradford.

24. An Appeal to the World: The Way to Peace in a Time of Division by Dalai Lama XIV
Read on a park bench in Varna, Bulgaria. I've never read the Dalai Lama before but man is he quotable.

25.  Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton [AUDIOBOOK]
Listened to while walking around Bulgarian towns. This was the perfect book to read since Clinton was the First Lady while the Clinton Administration was involved with eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia region, which happened to be where I was traveling.

26. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
Bought from a secondhand bookshop in Varna, run by a kind and scatterbrained American lady. I love the Bridget Jones series so much and if I ever get a PhD in Literature I can easily write a whole paper on how genius Bridget Jones is. You may think it's a fun bit of Pride & Prejudice fluff, but think a lil bit harder.

27. Origin by Dan Brown
Read in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. A quick read. Dan Brown is alright.

28. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Started in Plovdiv, finished by the time I reached Sofia. The fun thing about hostel bookshelves is that all of the books that were big last year trickle their way into circulation. I loved this one so much. I love a well-done generational story. This one really helps you realize how trauma can be passed down from generation to generation.

29. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal [AUDIOBOOK]
Listened to while walking around Plovdiv, Bulgaria. I 100% recommend that you only listen to this as an audiobook. The voice actor does such a great job and this is the first fiction audiobook that I was actually excited to listen to every day.

30. The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Found on a bus in Scotland, read in London. It was very twisted and not well written but it was a quick read. Could've been great if written by someone else.

31. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Read in Marusici, Croatia. Very literary and probably too smart for me. It was interesting but I couldn't figure out the purpose of it all.

32. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Picked up in Trebinje, Bosnia, I think. Honestly can't remember where I was when I read this. I can see why lots of people like this book but I really do not like Hamid's writing style.

33. The Wrong Knickers: A Decade of Chaos by Byrony Gordon
Read on the bus in Albania. A fun book title for people to see you reading in public! I enjoy women writing about their lives, no matter how privileged and whiny their life can be, but ugh. This one could've been good but ends with a dude saving her at the end. Gag me with a spoon.

34. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Read in Tirana, Albania. Really loved this one! Aaronovitch has an interesting voice and there's a lot of actual history in this book. My only problem is that his female characters are really flat and only seen as a pair of tits to the main character. I'll see if this improves in his later books.

35. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
Read in Himare, Albania. I didn't read the book Simon vs. the Homospaien Agenda but I saw the movie Love, Simon and loved it and this was the only book on the hostel shelf in English so I gave it a whirl. It was GREAT! The characters aren't perfect and they make mistakes and it's just a fun YA read!

And there you have it! Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out what books I ended by 4.5 month backpacking trip with and see what I've read since I've been home.

Have a good day, and go read a book!

blogging in a bubble

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kalambaka, Greece

I want to write more.

I want to have a record of my life that's a bit more polished and has a few more pictures than my journal (which has zero polish and zero pictures because journaling nicely takes EFFORT, man).

Which means I need to blog more.

And in order to blog more, I need to quit caring. I need to quit worrying about the hyper-judgemental reader in my mind that is just so MEAN and thinks everything I do and say is DUMB and frivolous and no one CARES what this overly opinionated, oversharing girl from America cares about anything, anyways. Obviously, I don't think any of those things about myself, but that mean person reading this from their dirty computer in their dim living room (mean people never have bright living rooms) thinks all those things about me and more. How rude.

But I NEED to quit focusing on the opinions of this person that does not exist. I never post when I'm focusing on that critical, faceless person, hence my sporadic and spare blogging.

The only person that matters is 40, 50, 60 year old me looking back on the tales of her youth. I need to write for old lady me. She's probably really cute and likes a good story.

So here I am, writing short posts about my day to day life and travels and not giving a shit about any other reader but my future self (and any potential employers, but let's hope they never find this). (And my family. My family does not approve of me saying "shit" or any other curse word in a public forum, but let's not worry about that until I have to worry about that.)


Reading Guilt

Monday, November 19, 2018

reading and journaling in Gothenburg, Sweden

I haven't done much since I've been home except read. In the three weeks I've been home I've read 11 books, which is more than I've ever read in such a short period of time.

So far I've read 51 books this year, which is amazing! I read 49 in 2017 and 40 in 2016, so my reading life is only improving.

However, instead of being proud of myself for those 51 books (and rising, since I will definitely read more before the year ends), I keep finding reasons to feel guilty. 10 of those 51 have been audiobooks, do they really count? (Answer: yes, yes they do.) One was a comic book. About 50% have been YA, therefore not "serious" books.

Why can't my reading habits be like that woman I'm friends with on Goodreads, who has read 54 physical books this year and they're all literary and smart?

Then I remind myself that these thoughts are dumb. As long as I keep reading things that I enjoy, I have no reason to be critical of myself. I'm reading (and supporting libraries in the process) and that's all that matters.

Attachment: Working in a Hostel

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

graffiti in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

"Just don't get attached, okay?" he says and the frustration hits me instantly.

Attached? ATTACHED? He's concerned about ME getting attached to HIM?

I'll give him some credit: he may just be the most attractive man I have ever met.  A Justin Trudeau look-a-like but with a stronger jaw, if you can believe.  He had the perfect personality to match the face with a soft voice, strong arms, and a kind demeanor.  I could get attached to him if given the chance, but of course, I wouldn't give myself that chance.  If anything, he started to show signs of getting attached to me. Bringing me chocolate bars from the shop, paying for lunch, letting me keep his t-shirt.  I don't think he realized that this wasn't my first rodeo.

I take a slow breath so he can't see how angry his assumption makes me, as if it's inevitable that I'd develop a crush on him.  "I work in a hostel and have traveled to 20 countries alone.  I know how to not get attached." 

Working in a hostel is great.  I get to connect with so many people since being social with guests is an unspoken part of the job description.  I meet people I would be close friends with if we lived in the same town and guys I'd like to date if the circumstances were right.  But you never live in the same town as the person you can talk with for hours and the circumstances are never right. If I got attached to every nice and decently looking man that walked through those hostel doors, I'd be in deep trouble.

Working in a hostel (the same one I volunteered in for five weeks last summer...I really need to tell y'all that story) has taught me a lot about attachment and letting go. But it hasn't taught me what I was trying to insinuate to the assuming Canadian above.

I was trying to act nonchalant.  As if people walk out the front door, onwards to their next destination and I never give them a second thought.  I wanted him to think I was cold-hearted, the type of person that doesn't get hurt or miss people or care about much of anything. I wanted him to think I was a "cool girl", the type who doesn't fall hard and fast and often.

But that's not me at all.  I get attached all the time, to everyone and anything.  And even though I was trying to get him to believe a false version of me, he was also completely missing the point. Getting attached is the whole point of travel. 

Travel is pointless if you don't get attached, if you don't fall in love.  I get attached to cities, towns, hostels, people, bookstores.  Attached to the view of a city at sunset.  Attached to hostel cats and dogs.  I get attached to mountains, keep returning to them somehow, even though walking uphill is a bitch.

I understood what the attractive Canadian meant and why he felt the need to say it. He was a bit older and gorgeous and I'm sure he's used to girls falling in love with him all the time, but he needn't worry about me. 

The only part of him I'm attached to is the memory of the week he stayed at the hostel, of how he was only meant to stay two nights but kept extending because he also fell in love with the same mountains. 

I 100% recommend attaching yourself to everyone and everything.  Your life will be so much fuller because of it.

Eating Alone

Friday, August 3, 2018

I've finally gotten the hang of eating alone.

Last summer, and all of last year really, I was too scared to eat alone. Sure, I'd get a falafel on the street and go enjoy it in a park by myself, but no matter how badly I wanted to I could not get my feet to take me inside a restaurant and sit down. By myself. Alone.

I'm over that now, mostly. Or I'm much better at getting over myself, at least.

This is my process. I read my book until I'm given a menu and then continue to read until my food comes. Once my food arrives, I listen to an audiobook or a podcast (I cannot read while eating. For some reason I incapable of reading while either one of my hands is actively doing something else). I only put one earbud in so I'm aware of my surroundings and so I don't shut the rest of the restaurant out.  After all, even when dining alone eating out is still a collective experience. I am content with my books and podcasts and food. I am happy.

But then, in typical 22-year-old fashion, I'll think "Wow I wish I had someone to share this with. I wish I had a boyfriend to travel with."

Those feelings are quick and fleeting when I realize that someday when I'm older, I'll wish I could go back to these exact moments.

Someday I will be older and (probably? most likely?) married and we'll get into a fight over something dumb and I'll be so angry and I'd give anything to go back to being 22, to being truly alone. To enjoy a meal without talking to anyone, to not having any responsibilities. I'd give anything to walk home alone at my own pace and have no one waiting for me except my own bed. 

Now, whenever I walk home alone at night and wishing I had a companion, I'm also walking with the acute feeling that 44-year-old me is sooooo jealous of 22-year-old me right now. And I shouldn't waste either of our time by longing for something that I don't currently have instead of enjoying what I do have. Which is an unmeasurable amount of freedom.

All of this freedom feels too big for me right now. I can't comprehend it. Probably won't be able to comprehend it until I have a career, a mortgage, a kid, a husband, until my time is split between a thousand responsibilities. I won't be able to fully appreciate these moments until I have enough hindsight to do all the work for me.

Hmmmm. I could keep thinking about this, but I think I'll just go have another beer.

You Weren't the Best, Budapest

Thursday, July 26, 2018

view from a bridge, Budapest
I tried so, so hard to love Budapest.  I'm adamant about the fact that there is good in every corner of the world and I found a lot of good in Budapest.  Gorgeous buildings, so much history, cheap food even near the main square, flavorful free-trade coffee for under $3, a hostel with a good vibe (make sure you stay at The Loft!). All the makings of a great city, but for some reason, Budapest and I just couldn't get along.

Let me take you back to my first time in Budapest.  I came to Budapest last year, 2017, at the very beginning of July. I had just spent 3 days in the beautiful High Tatras, Slovakia, and was nowhere near ready to leave that relaxing home in the mountains for a big city.  But I had to leave because I was meeting a friend in Budapest for 2 days and I desperately wanted to be around someone familiar.  On the train from Poprad to Kosice, I finally connect to the spotty wifi a few minutes after the train pulls away from the station when I get a message from my friend:

"EasyJet delayed and then canceled my flight. They can put me on another one but then that would only give me a few hours in Budapest before my flight to France. I'm sorry I won't be able to make it."

I wanted to hop off that train and run back to the Tatras, but I had a route that I was determined to stick to, friend or no friend.  I arrived in Budapest sad and alone.  I was used to traveling alone at that point, but I expected to spend time with a friend so the solitude felt way more evident.  Plus, booking a hostel at the last minute in Budapest means only shitty hostels no one wants to stay at are the only ones left. 

I went on a walking tour and didn't care. Tried to chat with people in the hostel but they had their own friends. Felt unsafe in the city at night so I stayed in. I left for Zagreb, Croatia after my two-night sentence was up. 

watching the England vs. Croatia game in a park

Flash forward a year and I'm reluctantly back in Budapest. I started this year's trip in Slovakia in order to give myself time to rest post-graduation. I also wanted to take things more slowly this time around. Travelling too quickly led to burnout last year, which is how I ended up in the mountains of Slovakia in the first place. 

I was determined to visit Romania and Bulgaria this year, since they were the two countries I "cut off" my travel list in order to make room for a month in Slovakia. However, in order to get from the High Tatras to Cluj, my first stop in Romania, I needed to have a layover somewhere in Hungary and Budapest was the easiest. I still felt hesitant about returning to Budapest after last year's debacle, so I looked into going to Debrecen or somewhere else in east Hungary.  With the way trains worked out, it would have been next to impossible, or at least way more tiring and difficult, to go from northern Slovakia to somewhere with a hostel in Hungary. So Budapest it was!

My second time in Budapest was much more eventful than the first. On my first day, I met up with people I met in Slovakia to watch the England vs. Croatia game in a park and went to a bar after. The next day, the same friend and I went to the thermal baths and got dinner. 

Even though this time involved more friends, activities, laughter, and drinking, I still felt unsettled. Budapest probably isn't the best place to go to after volunteering at the Monkey. It's like a shock to the system. A 1,000 person village versus a big city. Close friends that feel like family with lots of inside jokes versus strangers and a few acquaintances. Lowkey drinking beer on the front porch versus strobe lights and shots at a ruin bar. I was bound to have an adjustment period leaving a place I love no matter where I was headed, but Budapest, with its stag parties and groups of 18-year-old British lads, is probably one of the worst places to be when your heart is aching. 

I'll try you out again someday, Budapest. Just not anytime soon.  

In Possession of a Female Body

Monday, July 23, 2018

me and my female body somewhere in the mountains in central Romania

By most measures, I am classified as a "strong and independent" woman.  I started traveling solo at 21 and have since been to 22 countries by myself.  I fund my own travels. I'm comfortable striking up a conversation with a stranger because I know that (most) everyone wants to be your friend as badly as you want to be theirs but they're also nervous about proffering the first word. I'm way more confident now than when I was 16 (thank god for that). Hell, I'm more confident now as I'm typing this than I was last month. That's how growth and experience work.

However, a few times a year, I am forced to remember that I am vulnerable due to the world I live in and the body that I possess.  At the end of the day, I am female. I inhabit a female body and because of this, I am at risk.

Last night* I was reminded that at any moment, everything I own can be easily taken from me. Please don't be concerned, nothing bad actually happened. But I was reminded of every bad thing that could've happened.  A few disrespectful words from an older, drunk man doused cold water over my head and took me out of my mind and personality and thumped me back into my body.  He forced me to become all too aware of the corporal. He reminded me that no matter how hard I try to be just a human on this planet who is doing their best, the shape of my body, sound of my voice, and structure of my chromosomes will always come first. I can't rise above this body.

my female body having fun in the bathroom during a wine tour in Moldova

I walked into the living room of the hostel I volunteered at where other people were finishing up a movie. A cute German guy had just won poker night so he bought beer for the room.  I carried a bottle opener with me, trying to be helpful. An American from D.C. began popping the bottle caps in some creative way that only guys and experienced drinkers know how to do. He let the caps fall on the wooden floor of the living room.

"You're going to pick those up, right?" I said with a laugh. Lighthearted, chill, jokingly, never confrontative or overbearing.

"That's your job, isn't it?" said D.C. guy, in all seriousness. He had made a few sexist "jokes" earlier in the night and I was tired of it.

"No, it's not actually. It's not my job to clean up after grown men."

"Why are you such a bitch?" Tyler*, who had spent most of the night silent, said.  Tyler is the worst type of American I've encountered during my travels. In his late 30's, no attachments, no respect for women, with a dash of a drinking problem. I hadn't been around when he arrived but when I first noticed him around noon he had already started drinking. During dinner, I overheard him bragging to other guys about all the prostitutes he's slept with. That type of guy.

I didn't reply. I didn't know what to say, I wasn't even talking to him, didn't even notice he was still in the room. I was too focused on the cute German to realize that Tyler had been watching me interact with others for a few hours, slowly letting his anger towards me build.

I stood there in the doorway. When I didn't move or say anything, he continued.  "Seriously, why are you such a bitch? What's your role here? Do you even work here? I'm going to complain to the manager tomorrow and get you fired. You don't have a role. You're just a bitch. You bitched about the movie and you bitched about the game now you're bitching at us. Get out of here. Just leave."

No one else in the room seemed to hear. Either that or they chose to ignore. And so I left. Of course I wasn't going to argue with a big, drunk, ex-Marine.

I know my place. I know how easy it is for a man like him to hurt me if he wanted to. And I could tell he wanted to by the disdain in his voice. If we were alone or I dared to talk back he wouldn't have hesitated. So I left.

my female body in a place that feels like home

I shut the door on to the living room and stood in the dark hallway. Most of the hostel and the rest of the staff had already gone to bed. I stood there, warm with anger, too angry to move my legs and move on. Even though the door was shut and I had left just like he asked, I could still hear him talking about me on the other side. He was drunk, repeating himself. Talking about how he was going to get me fired tomorrow and other big talk, as if he had any power other than the fact that he was a large male and I was an average sized, young female.

I texted the manager, John, my friend. "You don't have to do anything now, but I want Tyler gone tomorrow. He called me a bitch and other things and I don't want him around."

I went into the kitchen where a few people were still hanging out. John came down, even though I told him it could wait, and went into the living room. I heard raised voices but no specifics. The next morning, Tyler and the guy from D.C. were gone before I woke up. "No one talks to my friends that way," John said when I asked why he came downstairs immediately instead of waiting until the next morning. I already felt close to John, but seeing how much he cared meant a lot, especially when my legs still felt weak and my backbone hadn’t fully recovered.

As you can see, nothing bad happened to me, physically.  I was lucky to be surrounded by people who trusted me and friends who would protect me. Even though Tyler succeeded in making me quiet and small and scared, I knew in the back of my mind I'd be okay since I had John in my corner.

But I also hate the fact that I needed John. That I couldn't stand up for myself or protect myself. Even though Tyler was a guest and I had superiority as a staff member, I still needed a man to protect me.

I'm extremely aware of the fact that most people don't want to hurt me, don't want to hurt anyone. Most people are good. My travels to 23 countries and counting can attest to that. No man has ever physically hurt me but the potential is always on the back of my mind. Walking down a deserted street, trying to make my way to another hostel, I think "What if tonight's the night?  It's just a matter of time, isn't it?"

my (blurry) female body using its strength to row around a salt lake at the bottom of a salt mine near Cluj, Romania

I like being female most of the time, in the instances when I'm aware of my sex and gender. I like many of the traits that my culture allows a female to possess.  I like painted nails and picking flowers and romcoms and expressing my emotions with ease. I like pink and yellow and journaling and babysitting. I hate most makeup but I like lipstick and mascara and easily getting sympathy by squeezing out a few tears.

But sometimes, I hate having a female body. I hate walking home alone at night. I hate second guessing the intentions of every man that is nice to me.  I hate wearing dresses or looking too nice because then male eyes linger for too long. I hate curtailing my drinking because I know what happens to girls who just want to have fun. I hate how I feel more comfortable, more at ease, more safe whenever I'm with a male friend. I hate how guys like Tyler can so easily remind me that I'm not safe even when I'm in my favorite place. I hate how I need quality men like John to protect me from the Tyler's of the world. I hate I hate I hate I hate.

As long as I occupy this female body I will always hate the culture that made me believe that the female body is a thing to be hated.

*names have been changed, obviously, and this did not happen 'last night'. I wrote the beginning of this post the day after it happened but it took me a full month to write about it.

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