I went to Budapest on a whim to visit a friend I hadn’t seen since sixth grade. She and her family are part of a growing population of digital nomads who have chosen a life overseas to escape the skyrocketing cost of living and plummeting quality of life experienced by so many in the United States. On my way to Budapest I spent a week in Paris to meet some other childhood friends of mine who had flown there from Seattle for Thanksgiving. From Barcelona, I caught a BlaBlaCar ride to Perpignan, France, stayed overnight in a hotel and took a train to Paris the next day. My dog, Luna, is allowed on the trains in most European countries with the exception of Spain and Slovenia.
I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Paris but that’s exactly what happened. I had a mysterious feeling that Paris was where I was actually supposed to be from, but I had been misplaced by the universe and instead born in Washington. I felt entirely at home in the untidiness of the city itself, charmed by the way Parisians turn old into avante-garde, the way that even garbage on the street seemed to be purposefully strewn there as art. I love the pensive expressions the French wear with their pea coats… and how they get magnificently upset over minimal things - so refreshing. I loved it that I could walk into the fanciest restaurant on a street with my wet dog on a leash and the staff - brisk and stuffy towards me - would get down on their knees to pet Luna and bring her sparkling bowls of bottled water. If Paris were only affordable, I may have never left. Good thing it wasn’t… for I would not have made it to Budapest!
I’ve mentioned BlaBlaCar on this blog a few times and if you haven’t heard of it until now it probably means you’re from the United States where it doesn’t exist. BlaBlaCar is a nearly-worldwide rideshare app that’s the modern (and safer) pay version of hitch hiking. If you’re willing to put your faith in humanity, BlaBlaCar will save you hundreds of dollars you would otherwise spend on train or plane tickets. There’s little wonder why the app isn’t available in America, where you’d no doubt get raped or murdered or robbed or drugged or arrested or in the absolute least be very nervous in your attempt to save some money, be eco-friendly, and still get to Thanksgiving dinner on time. If I’ve learned one thing in my travels it’s that my life overseas is rarely in danger as often as it is in America. It took some trial and error to figure out the system and I’ve relied heavily on Google translate to communicate with drivers but so far every ride I’ve hitched via BlaBlaCar in Europe has been a fun and successful experience. I even managed to snag a ride with a Romanian fellow who drove me all the way to Budapest from Paris in one day. Fueled by chocolate croissants, coffee, and Monster energy drinks, Lorenzo the Lead-foot shaved a remarkable three hours off our projected 13-hour drive time and kindly picked me up at my doorstep in Paris under snowy skies at 5:00 am.
I stepped out of his car that evening and straight into the arms of my friend Leah. Twenty-four years later and half the world’s distance and we picked up right where we left off. Whereas in sixth grade we were organizing non-permitted bake sales on town sidewalks and donating the money to a local wildlife rehab center… within our first week together in Budapest we broke ground on the formation of an international publication by all-women writers. I spent three weeks in the city with Leah’s family soaking up enough dark history in its museums to give me really bad nightmares and using Tinder to talk locals into giving me more details. I observed Budapest’s holocaust memorials in stricken contemplation, photographed somber onlookers at a Jewish protest against the falsification of history, and added tears to rainfall on the shoe memorial at the banks of the Danube, an art installation so powerful that even a month later I find it difficult to talk about. With political unrest prevalent on nearly every street corner and protesters marching to Parliament nearly every nightfall, it was an exciting time to be in Budapest. And I couldn’t help but take note of the similarities between what’s argued about in Hungary, a post-soviet society under a prime minister who behaves like a dictator vs. what’s argued about in the States; world-power capitalism under the spoiled spawn of wealth. Not to mention the unsettling fact that the former adviser to Trump, Steve Bannon, has been hired to advise Hungary’s right wing prime minister Viktor Orban.
I left Hungary just before Christmas and now roughly one month later I am in Split, Croatia where Leah and I are busily editing our new publication, the first edition of which will be launched on Valentine’s Day. My contribution will be an article and photo essay about my time in Budapest and all that I learned whilst walking the streets and interviewing the locals I met via Tinder. The same article will be submitted to The Evergreen State College as part one of my winter quarter in photojournalism. Followers of this blog will get to witness my writing process as I go along! BTW… to everyone who thinks of Tinder as a hook-up-app-only you are only partially correct, my friends. To be honest I have never actually “hooked up” with someone on Tinder (perhaps to the chagrin of my so-called dates) but I have certainly met lots of people using the app, made lots of friends whom I stay in touch with to this day, and in Budapest I even scored an incredibly informative interview with a local political scientist/lesbian/professor. Thank you Tinder!
Stay tuned for more information about the international publication by women writers and how you can get involved! We are currently accepting submissions from all over the globe. Categories include editorial, personal stories, opinion pieces, photography, art, poetry, fiction, and erotica. Our editors are based in Europe, United Kingdom, and The United States. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also please check out my Patreon page where I have launched a new personal photography project called Nude-a-day! For a mere 80 cents a day ($25 a month) you can help support me as an artist and see the project as it is produced: https://www.patreon.com/nudeaday Patrons get to view and comment on work that is not released elsewhere, plus see videos of my travel adventures in Europe with my dog. I plan to phase out my personal Facebook page over the coming year, so if you follow me on Facebook and don’t want to lose touch, consider becoming a patron to my art via Patreon and/or subscribe to email notifications of this blog.