Greetings from my hostel in Croatia. I had originally written this post yesterday in Budapest but didn’t get around to posting it. According to my original itinerary I was supposed to be in Croatia yesterday but I decided to extend my time in Budapest both to try to see more things, but also to just take a breath and catch up on life logistics (paying bills etc).
Vienna and Budapest have both been fantastic, not so much because of the sites (although there were plenty of amazing things in both cities), but more because of the people I met. Part of the fun in traveling is meeting new people from around the world. You get a small window into their lives to explore their culture, their experiences, and how they ended up in the same city, in the same hostel, on the same day as you.
Somehow though, about 90% of the people I have met on my trip are American. Even weirder, I have also managed to meet at least five people from Philadelphia (how does this happen!?) I’ll admit, I had been a bit bummed by this fact. I can meet Americans anytime I want back home. Why would I want to meet them in Europe? (no offense ‘merica).
But then in Vienna I met some of the coolest people (American’s) on my trip so far and proceeded to have one of the funniest and most memorable weeks of my trip. Thats not to say the other people I have met haven't been awesome and I haven't had fun- they have been absolutely awesome and I have had a ton of fun. But there is something different about this experience.
On my first day in Vienna I met a guy from Philly on a free walking tour. We bonded over how horribly painful and awful the tour was and ended up exploring the city on our own together for the rest of the day and the next.
Later that night at the hostel bar, I met three guys from Texas. I feel indebted to the bartender at our hostel because if it wasn't for her giving us some terrible tasting shots I don’t know if these guys and I would have bonded over said horrible shots, got to talking, gone out for dinner and drinks that night, and subsequently spend the next six days together.
Turned out that both my Philly friend and Texas friends were all going to Budapest when I was, so not only did I get to experience Vienna with them, I also got to experience the beauty and ridiculous night life of Budapest with them as well.
When you are in a new city and can’t speak the language, and can’t read the street signs (let alone pronounce them) it is easy to feel small and insignificant. It is easy to get caught up in the vastness of the world and how little a part you play in it. This feeling is both humbling and a bit lonely all at the same time. So when I got to hang out with these new friends for a week, I got to experience my trip from a new perspective, one where I felt like I was a part of something again.
Throughout the week I did almost everything with these guys: waking through town, getting lunch and dinner, explore a palace, accidentally go to a gay bar, see a classical music concert, shooting the shit at a bar overlooking the Danube, and attending one of the most ridiculous parties I will ever go to at a bath house in Budapest.
I got to know them on a more personal level than just the niceties of “what are you doing in Europe?” I was told their inside jokes and as time went on got to witness and participate in things that later became our inside jokes. I got to be a part of stories that were retold to their larger group of friends. I got to be a part of a group, a part of something bigger than myself, and share these experiences with complete strangers who become good friends by the time we said our goodbye’s yesterday.
I am so grateful for having met these guys. They are some of the nicest, kind-hearted, down to earth and utterly hilarious people I have ever met. I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend a week with in Europe. And now that I’m sitting in a hostel in Croatia, and they are all home, I can’t help feeling really bummed and down that they’re gone. I already miss their company and the energy they brought to my trip.
Because that’s the down side of traveling alone and continually new meeting people. There is ultimately a goodbye. No matter how much you connect, and how many memories you create, you ultimate have to part ways much sooner than any normal friendship.
Honestly? Continually going through this process every few days- the process of putting yourself out there, being overly friendly, meeting new people, going through the elevator speech, forming a connection, and then having to forget that connection because you are moving to the next location - is tiring and kind of depressing.
As a solo traveler you are continually entering into new friendships and breaking up with those new friends in a matter of days or weeks. You end up carrying around this faint void that lingers with you every time you have to say goodbye to yet another person every place you go. But that feeling? That void? It is especially sad and amplified after you have met such a great group of people who you didn’t want to leave.
I have no idea where the time went but I only have two weeks left before coming home (Ahh WTF!?). I’ve gotten to see so much, gone to these amazing places that I have always wanted to go to, and yet, in five or ten years, I know I won’t remember all the historical facts I learned. But what I will remember, what I know won’t ever leave me, is the feeling I had of being a part of a group this past week, of how much I laughed, and all the random inside jokes that were shared while sipping beers outside a cafe. This past week completely encapsulated what I was hoping this trip would be and I couldn’t be happier that I got to have that experience and share it with some pretty great people.
I’m in Croatia for a few days followed by Slovenia, Salzburg, and then ending in Munich. The bar has been set pretty high - but I’m hoping these last two weeks are equally as awesome as the past have been.
Until next time…