I have a travel buddy (today is her birthday, so our explorations are on my mind).
Exactly 15 years ago, we were in Budapest. We had been backpacking our way through Western Europe at neck-breaking speed and had had nothing but luck and good fortune on our side.
So, as young adventurers often do…we got cocky.
While partying at a club in Vienna, we decided to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to Budapest early the next morning. So, seven hours later, we were on a train to Hungary, passports in hand, hungover as hell. From there, things went downhill.
Exhausted and still recovering from the previous night’s charades, we stumbled our way around the city, appreciating it as much as we could in our current state. At the end of the day, we shuffled back to the subway station to catch our return ride to Austria.
But, life had other plans.
While descending the escalator to the subway platform, we were “greeted” by police officers. They asked for our subway tickets and accused us of having the wrong ones. Threatening to throw us in jail, they demanded a hefty wad of cash in exchange for letting us through. Needless to say, we gave them all of the money we were carrying.
Given the go-ahead, we jumped on the subway and prayed for a miracle. No such luck. As we raced into the station, we saw our train’s caboose as it made its way out of town. We sat at the station for hours, waiting for the next one. Joyful when it arrived, we hopped on and breathed a sigh of relief…until the conductor announced that we would soon be departing for Bucharest (we had apparently misread the schedule).
All of the hostels in Budapest were fully booked, and we opted out of spending the night on the floor of the train station. So, off to a hotel we went: me skipping joyfully…my budget-conscious companion silently fuming.
Emerging from a luxurious bath (in a private bathroom, no less), I found my friend sprawled across her bed in PJs, reluctantly enjoying watching the Miss Universe pageant (SO not her usual preference). Too priceless for words. After a good, long sleep, we were back at the train station, toasting her birthday, ready to take on our next adventure.
Budapest is on my mind today for two reasons: I’m nostalgically reliving my friend’s 22nd birthday, and I’m vicariously living through my parents as they explore the city while celebrating my dad’s retirement.
This afternoon, three worlds collided: my world of travel nostalgia, my parents’ world of travel celebration,and refugees’ world of travel for safety/necessity. My mom texted that they were at the train station, handing out juice boxes, chocolate milk, cookies and lollipops to the children of the thousands of refugees who are waiting to be transported to a better life.
It blew my mind and busted open my heart.
I can’t begin to imagine the heartache and challenges those refugees are going through. And those with children? I have no words- only love. And that is what my parents’ offered today: love, generosity, acceptance and encouragement.
Their adventure in Budapest has been much different than mine. While I dealt with the superficial road bump of a missed train, they are dealing with the soul-level challenge of supporting thousands of people seeking a better life for their families (and, I am so freaking proud to call them my parents).
We all are adventurers in this crazy world. Our adventures may vary, but our journey is the same. My current adventure is sobriety- and for that, I need hard-core travel companions. It’s a hard, ugly, scary, soulful road. And, it’s smoother when travelled with a true friend.
Whatever adventure you are embarking on, I hope you have a buddy to keep you company. Fourteen years from now, you may look back on your shared experiences and notice how they shaped you. Your life- and the lives of those you touched- may not be perfect, but they’re unconventionally beautiful.
And the train moves on…