How Piercing My Nose Changed Me

How piercing my nose changed me. From scaredy-cat to kind of brave.
It’s cloudy and rainy when we walk into the piercing shop in Brasov, Romania. One of those bone-chilling days where the right idea is to stay inside and do nothing. But, with a new city outside my hostel door, sitting inside is the last thing I want to do. So, with a new friend at my side, the two of us venture out. And, end up in this little piercing shop.

“I’ve always wanted to get my nose pierced,” I announce to my friend as we stare at the selections.

“Well, you should do it,” he says.

I let the thought cross my mind, and quickly let it leave.

Truth: I’m a chicken

Blog Europe Romania

Daily Wanderlust: Brasov’s Town Square

Located in Transylvania, Brasov, Romania is a small city (and one of the most visited in the country). Here, people can explore the nearby mountains and local Dracula lore, rent cars and go on day trips, even wander the narrowest street in Europe, measuring a whopping four feet across.

My favorite thing to do while visiting Brasov was head to the Town Hall Square to simply look around. The square features some magnificent examples of color baroque architecture, and historic landmakrs like the Black Church, the largest gothic church in Romania.

Destinations

Istanbul (not Constantinople)

“Ooooh … Istanbul … so lush,” Gemma had exclaimed before I departed from Spain to Turkey.

In my mind, there was something so exotic about Turkey, some mystical, magical place where Europe hit Asia with thunder.

Arriving into Istanbul, I was far from disappointed.

When I boarded the Havas bus at the airport (I flew into Sabiha Gocken, the Istanbul airport on the Asian side of the country), I met Joe, a guy from Barcelona visiting the country for the first time.

As if I wasn’t excited enough, he fueled it even more, exclaiming as we drove by the colored homes, over the large bridges, “I can’t believe we are in Istanbul!”

He and I separated ways in Taksim after exchanging numbers, and I headed down to Guilhane to Harmony Hostel.

Of course, even with detailed directions, I got lost.

“Where are you going lady?” “Can I help you?” “Do you need a room?” “Where are you from?” Men called to me from their shops and restaurants. At first, I ignored them, thinking back to Morocco, and then I just let it all in.

They gave me directions, offered to carry my bags, kissed my hands, asked me to come back later and talk to them … ahh, those Turkish men.

I arrived to Harmony Hostel after a few minutes talking to one particular carpet shop owner who proudly displayed a feature a magazine did on him before I was able to scoot away.

I was baffled.

A rug shop. No hostel.

I looked up at the red and white sign displaying the name.

Yup. Harmony Hostel.

I looked to the doors. Rug shop. Tattoo/body piercing shop. Next building.

“You need a hostel?” A tall, young man with a silly grin on his face, called to me, popping his head out of the rug shop.

“Yup,” I said, gesturing to the backpack on my back, the messenger bag swung around my neck. “Where is Harmony?”

“In here, my friend! In here,” he said, directing me into the rug shop.

Well, this is new.

We walked through the rug shop, over the fake wood floors and up two flights of cement stairs. Then, we crammed into a little elevator, and went up four more flights, then got out, and walked up another two flights of stairs.

D, a backpack and a million stairs to climb does not equal happy.

I greeted the girl at reception, a petite brunette who told me my room was back down nearly half of those stairs. As I was checking in, a familiar face caught my eye.

“Hey there,” I said, turning to the pale, blue-eyed guy sitting on one of the cushions. “Brasov … Kismet Dao … do you remember me?”

He blinked a few times and then smiled.

“Yes! I do! How are you?”

Craig and I went through a quick catch-up. We had met in Brasov and hung out one night together. It was nice to see another familiar face, even if he was heading out to Bulgaria in two hours.

We chatted until he left, and then, hot and tired, I went down to my room where I quickly passed out.

I awoke the next day ready to see Istanbul.

Blog Travel Turkey

Steering wheel death grips and driving in Romania

Remember, 10 and 2, D. 10 and 2. And, go slowly. Very, very slowly.

Car packed with the three Aussies, I pulled out into Brasov’s traffic.

Oh. My. God. I hope we don’t die. I hope I don’t kill anyone. I hope I don’t hurt this car because I really, really cannot afford to lose the 400 Euro deposit.

My shoulders were tight and nearly touching my ears. My arms were locked straight out. And my hands kept tight on the steering wheel as nearly six weeks of not driving paralyzed me. That, and never having driven in another country.

How did I get roped into being the driver?

Blog Romania Travel

Three Aussies and an American

I was laying in bed Saturday morning when I met Chris, a shaggy brown-haired, adorably cute Aussie.

I was exhausted — the night before Benjamin, Tommy and I headed out with Scott and Heidi (my friends from Budapest), along with a group of four who had rented a car for the night to get out of Bucharest. We enjoyed traditional Romania fair at Sergianna (delicious) and then headed back to Crew Bar, where we were treated to complimentary drinks and a game involving dice ensued.

Actually, it was a nasty little game that revolved around rolling one die and stating before the roll if a specific number was rolled, then something would be done.

For example, Benjamin said if he rolled a four, he would drink a double shot of whiskey. And Scott said the number he rolled would be the number of shots he would drink. And Ryan, a new member to our group, said if he rolled a two, he would buy a bottle of wine.

The die won those rounds and more, and after we left Crew Bar, we ended up in Kismet’s basement, playing cards and drinking more beer.

The next morning, well … suffice to say, we all felt like a million bucks.

After attempting to stay awake with Benjamin to watch “Beer Fest,” I slowly crawled back up Kismet’s spiral staircase to Ageeth’s Room to my bed.

And, that’s where Chris comes in, my main partner in crime (and breakfast-maker and perhaps travel buddy to Morocco) in Brasov.

Blog Romania Travel

A BRIEF intermission: Chasing spring … two months in

Today, May 7, is my two month anniversary of traveling. It is the longest time I have been away from home. The longest time I have been away from family. The longest …

For two months now, I have chased spring. It started in Spain, with the first buds on the trees, the first field of little yellow flowers, and has followed me since then.

Spring is an amazing time of year. It is about birth. About starting new. And, it signifies a lot to me, since this trip is a birth of sorts for me. I have literally taken my entire life’s work, my dreams, my desires, and washed them from my mind and here, have begun to reconstruct the wheel, to re-identify what my dreams and desires could be/are.

A year ago, when I lived in Atlanta, I remember marveling at the city’s sheer gorgeousness with the changing of the season. The pink flowers that would sprout from the winding trees. The bright green grass that would pop up overnight. The light wind that would gently blow during days spent at Piedmont Park, taking in the South’s spring.

I would never in a million years have imagined spending my spring 365 days later in Europe, living in a prolonged (and amazing) spring for nearly two months.

30 Life Crisis Blog Travel

“Black Out” in Brasov

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon in Brasov. Benjamin, Tommy and I went into square with the intention to buy wood for an afternoon barbecue (wood was a bus ride away), but ended up just eating our way through the city.

We sat together, enjoying our “fast food” sandwiches when we saw the neon sign blinking in a window above our heads: “Legal Weed.”

We looked at each other.

Whaaaaaaat??

We needed to investigate further.

The three of us went upstairs to the “spice shop” to ask questions.

No, weed was not legal. BUT, this … spice concoction … this was legal.

We looked at each other again.

“Should we try it?” I asked.

“It is 50 lei,” the clerk informed us.

Again, an exchange of looks.

Really? Were we going to do this?

Blog Travel

Hello, Travel Bliss

I knew as soon as I boarded the train for Brasov, Romania from Budapest, I was going to get out of my funk (and out of Schengen Europe for a few days).

I exited the station and was greeted with more rain, but I didn’t mind. I had a good feeling. Even when the cab drivers tried to swindle me (“I will take you to the hostel for 15 euros, it’s a good deal”; “I will take you for 10, it’s a better deal”; “The meter is more expensive, you don’t want me to use the meter”), I didn’t let it get to me.

SIDE NOTE: If in Romania, METER is the only way to go unless you work out a killer deal and hire a driver to take you outside of town. If you don’t have the meter on for small distances, you WILL be taken advantage of and spend more money than you ever imagined possible. Legit cabs will have their rates on the side of the car.

One kind driver heard me talking to the other cabbies and offered me a ride, meter on. So, much to the other driver’s dismay, I skipped the line and dropped my bags into his waiting trunk.

Exhausted, I arrived to Kismet Dao and dropped my bags in the common room, curling up in a little ball as I waited for a bed to open.

A few minutes later, I was wrapped in blankets in bed and asleep. When I awoke, I went downstairs, laptop in tow because I  had to update Facebook so Mom and Dad would know I was OK (naturally).

And, there was Mark, an Aussie, on his laptop. He had been at the hostel for eight days and was ready to head to Istanbul. We talked for a bit about his time in Brasov (the places to check out), and then I met two other Aussies, Ryan and Amy, and they offered to walk around town with me. Then, Mark decided to stay one more night … the hostel was hopping with people.

The four of us headed out to explore Brasov. We walked up to the start of the hill containing the Brasov sign (like the Hollywood sign in California) with plans to take the gondola up to see the countryside, but it wasn’t open.

Instead, we walked down to the narrowest street in Eastern Europe and then, when it began to rain more, we decided to hit Crew Bar and get a drink, then some Mexican food (yes, I know … D, you’re in Romania).

That night, there was a birthday party in the basement followed by a group outing (Mark and Ryan donned togas for the occasion) back to Crew Bar. It was about 10 of us — the toga-clad Aussies, three Canadian gals, an American girl, a Brit and then Benjamin and Tommy (Aussies) — who ended up being there during my entire stay.

The next morning I didn’t feel the best, but I sure as hell was happy.

I was over the Lonely and deep back into my Travel Bliss.

That was Friday morning. The next four days in Brasov were much of the same … and even better.

Blog Romania Travel

D vs Budapest: The down and dirty recap


I departed Madrid with such apprehension. I wanted to stay, but knew it was time to head out and keep traveling.

Budapest was the destination, but I wasn’t too excited, despite the marvelous things I have heard about it. I loved being with my new friends, and heading to Budapest meant a departure from my comfort zone.

Perhaps my frame of mind upon leaving set me up for the numerous bouts I had with the city, or maybe it was just time for me to practice keeping my wits about me.

Either way, Budapest and I went mano y mano and in the end, well, I think it is safe to say I didn’t go down without a fight.

Round 1

I got off the bus and headed to the train to get to the city. Of course, I speak the equivalent of nothing in Hungarian, so when I handed the woman at the ticket counter 1,000 FTs, she told me it wasn’t enough for the train.

I handed her more. Then, I looked at the sign. Clearly, the ticket I wanted was marked as 320, not 1,000.

“Wait,” I stammered. “I gave you 1,000.”

“Yes,” she said.

“Don’t I get change?”

“No.”

I didn’t know how to argue in Hungarian, so I gave in.

Budapest: 1    D: 0

Round 2

After successfully navigating my way to Unity Hostel in Pest, I rang the door bell, thankful to be putting down my pack and looking forward to getting some food.

I buzzed. And buzzed. And buzzed.

No answer.

So, I buzzed a different number.

“Hello,” said the voice … in Hungarian.

“Hi, hostel?” I asked.

“No.”

“Let me in?”

“No.” Click.

Well, shit.

I pulled out my cell and called. A Spanish recording came on, explaining something to me (guessing I couldn’t make calls).

I spun around, looking at the buildings around me, seeing if I could just yell up to someone in the hostel to let me in.

Nothing.

Fight or flight, right?

I decided to fight. I walked up to a girl checking her messages on her phone and explained to her my situation and asked if I could use her phone.

I dialed the hostel.

No answer.

Panic began to creep into my mind. My heart began to race.

Shit. I have no place to sleep, no map of the city.

Budapest: 2    D: 0

Round 3

“Do you know where I might be able to find a hostel?” I asked the girl.

“Yes,” she said, beckoning me to follow her down another street. “Go down there to the second main street and there is one across from the post office. You will see a sign.”

Thank god.

After about 25 minutes of wandering through one of Buda’s main streets, I saw the sign for the hostel.

I buzzed.

They let me in.

“Hi,” I said, saying a silent prayer for a room. “I don’t have a reservation.”

“That’s OK,” said the receptionist, sitting down in her chair. “How many nights would you like?”

Budapest: 2    D: 1

Round 4

At Interflat Youth Hostel I met two girls from America and we headed for food. The three of us craved pizza so we did what any Americans craving pizza would do, headed to the nearest Pizza Hut (shhhh, no judging).

Pizza was mouthwateringly perfect.

We got the bill.

Really?

The server had added a 25 percent gratuity.

Budapest: 3    D: 1

Round 5

I hadn’t gone out for a few days and my inner conversations were growing stale. I tried to convince a girl in my dorm to come out with me, but she wanted to stay in.

A bar, Instant, was recommended to me by the hostel, so I decided to take a walk on over there for a drink.

I walked in and it was such a cool bar. A packed, cool bar.

There were no seats, so I did a lap through and decided I wasn’t in the mood to stand in a corner, eyeing people and conversations jealously.

So, I proceeded to another bar, one less crowded and a lot less cool, and grabbed a beer. Then, I headed back to my room to catch up on some writing.

Draw

Round 6

I had been in Budapest two nights and had met no one and decided a change of scenery was necessary.

I made a reservation and headed over to Back Pack, a hostel in Buda packed with hippie flavor and general awesomeness (and recommended by Lonely Planet).

It was a rainy and cold day in Budapest and by the time I arrived to Back Pack, my jeans were soaked through and I was chilled to the bone.

But, I had made it. I was immediately let in to the hostel and given a room with a comfortable bed, unlike the last hostel where I was oh-so Princess and the Pea and could feel every spring in the mattress.

To add to the glee, I hadn’t had to validate either of my travel tickets, so I rode for free on the tram and bus.

Budapest: 3    D:2

Round 7

The rain continued on Monday, but I was determined not to let the water drown out my day.

I stood outside of the hostel, OAR (Of a Revolution) playing on my iPod, and began walking down the stairs.

Then, my foot was slipping and my ass was connecting with the slick stairs and I was sliding down to the bottom.

Pain shot through my entire back and my arm. Tears filled my eyes.

For the first time during my trip, I wanted to go home. To my parents. To sit with my mom and have a good cry.

Budapest: 4     D: 2

Round 8

I stood up, fighting back the urge to burst into hysterics. Then, I looked behind me. Was anyone rushing to make sure I was OK?

NO.

I looked at my back. Soaked. I looked at my arm. Scratched. I looked inside of myself. Bruised, but manageable.

I brushed the dirt off of me, sucked in some fresh Budapest air and headed out the front gate and into the city to explore.

Budapest: 4    D: 3

Round 9

At that point, I decided there was a chance Budapest was going to kick my ass. It was time to get traveling, so I headed to a ticket office to purchase a bus ticket to Brasov, Romania.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said, cautiously looking at me and the frustration that was spreading over my face. “There are no buses to Brasov this week.”

“What about a train?”

“I can call and see how much it is,” she offered, and I graciously accepted.

After some back and forth, she gave me directions to another office to go and purchase a train ticket.

An hour later, and a little wetter (it was still raining in Budapest), I held in my hand a second class reserved seat to Brasov, leaving the following evening.

That night, I finally met some people in my hostel, Scott and Heidi, a fabulous Aussie/Kiwi couple and we enjoyed some drinks together.

Finally. My first good night in Budapest was also my last night.

The next night, I boarded my overnight train for Romania for some time out of Schengen Europe. Just in time to start crazy new adventures in Brasov …

Budapest: 4     D: 4

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