Part of the point behind writing this blog is to keep a sort of “real time” account of what happens – since it all starts to go a bit fuzzy the further in time I get away from it. I like the idea of recording what’s going on and how I’m feeling now rather than trying to recreate the experience from memory. But part of keeping that narrative means being honest about how traveling abroad for more than two weeks isn’t always sunshine and roses and unicorn-related street art. Sometimes it’s just kind of exhausting.
I’m hesitant to write this post for fear of it turning into a Debby Downer complaint session, as that’s not my intention. I also worry about sounding like a spoiled brat, ungrateful for the amazing trip I’m fortunate enough to be on.
So I want this to be a record of healthy little reminders of the realities I face when traveling by myself in countries where I barely (or don’t at all) speak the language. Maybe this is just a note to self – since Past Cate has a tendency to forget things and doesn’t usually do Future Cate any favors.
Perpetual challenge #1: communication. This problem relates to both my immediate surroundings and to my desire to connect with loved ones. In the immediate sense, it gets stressful to not be able to ask for what I need (like directions or bus tickets), or even to have some friendly chit-chat with people. I’m a friendly sort of gal and tend to strike up conversation with folks wherever I am – you probably know that if we’ve ever met (and if we haven’t, why are you reading this?!). Not being able to do that has really started to wear on me.
And when it starts to wear on me, the problem is compounded by the fact that everyone I love is still sleeping when I get up in the morning, and they’re in the middle of their (work) day when I get back to my room and can potentially chat. Thank God for Skype and modern technology, as at least I have options when it comes to contacting people. But I’ve gotten pretty good at reaching out to friends when I’m having a hard time in the States, and not being able to do that as readily right now kind of sucks. Just sayin. I miss y’all.
Perpetual challenge #2: food. This problem sometimes connects to problem #1 (in that I have no idea what’s on the menu/in things and then get neurotic about ordering), and also has a lot to do with dietary differences. After years of training, I’ve cultivated a much healthier and much less picky palate. So while I still love me some meat and potatoes and cheese, my insides aren’t as fond of those things in large doses. Although my godmother will be proud to hear that I haven’t availed myself of a single American fast food establishment on this trip (the only places I wanted to eat when she brought me to Europe at age 17), eating out in Europe is rarely a “light” affair. I had a mild stomach ache for about five days this week that no amount of crystalized ginger was getting rid of. Maybe it was the onset of scurvy, I dunno. I’m just glad it seems to have sorted itself out. But I’m gonna be real happy to get back to my whole wheat bread, steel cut oats, and blueberry smoothies.
Perpetual challenge #3: sleep. I’m a light sleeper anyway, so changing environments and time zones just multiplies the potential for mishap. So far, European sleeping surfaces are hard. They haven’t jumped on the American mattress train, and I miss the hell out of my mattress pad. Europeans also don’t really do curtains – at least not at most of the places I’ve stayed – and the sun comes up before dawn here. No really. It’s full sunlight at 5:00 am in Budapest. So that’s a thing.
Those are the big’ns. There’s also just the information overload of trying to do all of the things all of the time.
But the nice conclusion to my tale of woe is that I’m staying with a Couchsurfing host in Budapest, and she’s lovely and kind and fed me fruit and whole grain bread yesterday, and we’re about to watch a Woody Allen movie together on her couch. And that’s great. Even if I’m perpetually on the fence about Woody Allen.