If I could offer any advice–to you, to myself–it would be to go about boldly.
This is more than living boldly or going into the world with boldness. It is not as calculated as that. It is simply going about, in whatever way one interprets such a phrase, in a bold manner.
Alright, onwards now with a short* narrative filled with tales of nights in airports, 7 hours of hitchhiking in a large, white transport van, sleeping on the couch of a Romanian stranger who had only offered us the fact that she abhorred anything to do with garlic, and the general frivolities with which Katie and I always find ourselves going about.
*Please note my declared intention, however, I sincerely doubt that it will be as so.
On the evening of May 4th, a day that is quite important for some of you out there (you know who you are), the magnanimous Katherine Lee Franciosi (relatively short in height, medium dark brown hair, social securitiy number 893-22-8173*) and I sneaked our way into the undercarriage of the ÖBB train bound for Bratislava.
*this number has been changed for security reasons
Just kidding, we had bought tickets. I, Josie Marie Rozell, strongly respect and adhere to the rules of the Austrian Public Transport Committee in charge of all train pricing and procedures. Date: 12 May 2017. Signed: JRozell
We tucked ourselves into an empty sleeper carriage and filled our bellies with a capital train dinner of avocados, bananas, peanut butter, figs, and pears. As to be expected, topics of humanity and purpose and meaning filled the carriage as we whisked through the Austrian countryside in the late evening spring dusk.
We were to catch the connection to Bratislava from Vienna, and optimized the 15 minute layover in the Vienna Hauptbahhof with the acquiring of delicious ice cream.
What happened next, after we boarded our final train to Slovakia, was about 30 minutes of extremely hyper conversation, the two of us engaged in a simultaneous, very flamboyant display of discourse on our hopes and dreams. This was then very shortly followed by a sudden and noticeable decrease in movement as our bodies began to slump back against the fuzzy seats and our words became slurred and to become omit themselves from sentences.
What used to be, “I sincerely probably definitely believe with all my life long living livable heart–life long living livable! By golly, try saying that ten times fast!–that it is my very personal destiny to be an exploration writer” turned quite mechanically into: “I want nap”.
Because Katie and I are children and the sugar crash is a real thing.
We rolled into the Bratislava airport circa 23:44 and after a very responsible session of teeth-brushing-face-washing, we snuggled ourselves into rows of blissfully arm-rest-free chairs and powered down for the night.
Morning Life is always slightly hazy when one has spent the prior hours in an airport. We yawned and stretched ourselves to the fullest capacity one can muster at 06:00 to the tune of “Staying Alive” and the Grease theme song playing from the 24 hour cafe kiosk nearby.
I genuinely love spending the night in these kinds of locations. It’s so atypical both in terms of ones daily routine and also the standards of society, that it never fails to unleash torrents of happy free flowing adrenaline and feelings of adventure.
Katie and I bounced ourselves to the check in desk to acquire the signatures of the sleepy Slovakian officials with no problems. As we were going through security, however, horrendous tragedy befell us, and we lost a dear friend.
Our Meryl Streep.
Her beautiful presence has been the mascot of our latest adventures, from Morocco, to Pescara, to Budapest and Hamburg. She has opened many a wine bottle, been useful for many a fingernail cleaning endeavors, cheered us up in times that would have been hopeless without her.
Who knew you weren’t allowed to take a significantly-large wine opener and dual corkscrew with you on an airplane?
O, the Tyranny.
May you never rust, may you always be as beloved as you were in the not-so-capable hands of Katie and Josie; above all may you never be forgotten.
To your health, Meryl Streep*.
*this is only a theoretical toast because we do not currently have a way to open this bottle of wine.
As is our usual fashion, Katie and I promptly forget to continue to be sad when a setback occurs. We bounce ourselves then onto the strangely coined WizzAir! plane, which always slightly makes me need to relieve myself when I glance at the name.
I don’t remember much about the 2 hour flight to Cluj Napoca, Romania. This amnesia is probably the result of the semi-psychologically-concerning, zero conscious states that Katie and I proceeded to fall into almost immediately upon being seated.
I do recall, at one point, regaining alertness long enough to rouse Katie and ask, “Are we still here?!” the context of which is as much your guess as mine.
When we step off the plane to the crispy warm Romanian breeze, it is Morocco all over again. Little Katie and little Josie bodies oscilating back in forth in our excitement at being in a new place, the looks we are exchanging commuicating clearly that we are engaged in a big mental hug.
Our goal was to spend Thursday night-Monday afternoon in a heightened state of adventure. We had found a couchsurfing hostess in Brasov gullible enough to agree to put us up on her couch for a few nights, the sole introduction we acquired of this shining lady was that she abhorred anything to do with garlic, which we thought was quite fitting to the Transylvanian region.
Brasov was roughly 7 hours from Cluj Napoca by car. We decided against the socially acceptable public transportation options in favor of scribbling “Brasov” on the back of my homework and sticking up our thumbs.
An hour or so into this decision, a large dusty 20 passenger white transport van, trailer in tow, honks at us and pulls to the side of the road. Katie and I exchange glances, again forget to be anything but excited, and lumber over to the van.
The thing to keep in mind when hitchhiking is that you can always say no if the vibe is off. Just imagine all of those cheesy 90s ads depiciting Mom-jeaned teenagers with lavender asexual polos dancing around and “just saying no” to sex, drugs and too much candy, and know that you, too, can “just say no” if the person who opens the window of the car reeks of formaldehyde.
The place Katie and I were at was extensibly populated, and the fact that we were together eliminated additional fears. Because this understanding of no exists, reeeeal sketchy drivers, the types like Harvey in the Lovely Bones, won’t stop and try anything freaky.
They know they’ve got some strange vibes, they know you know they’ve got animal tails and human fingers locked in a safe in the basement back home with the wife.
But, also know, that people don’t tend to be like that. People are people, like you and I, and I don’t think the act of animal torture and human disfiguration appeals to either of us.
The ones to whom hitchhiking appeals tend to be a “bit off”, relatively speaking. A bit crusty around the edges from a disinterest in showering regularly or wearing makeup, usually sporting large dusty packs and way more interested in sleeping in 16-person hostel rooms to meet more people than a private hotel room.
The ones who pick up Hitchhikers tend to be the ones who hitchhike themselves, so they also tend to be “a bit off”.
Getting sick of reading the word “tend”? Well, deal with it, that’s political correctness for you.
All that to say, when the automatic van door slide open and revealed its contents to us, we did not get bad vibes. We clambered in the back behind 4 seated passengers, no words being exchanged between us, not even glances of curiosity or intrigue. It was entirely…a non-intrusive welcome to the interior of the van.
We genuinely from this point on had zero control of the situation, sans diving over the heads of the others and jiggling open the automatic door to rocket out of the moving van. To add to that, we also didn’t fully have an idea of what was going on, because no one was speaking. For all that we knew, our “Brasov” sign could have read more like a “Brzozów” sign, and we could be destined for south-eastern Poland without our knowledge.
About two hours later, our little transport van pulled into a gas station, and its inhabitants jingled out of the van in search of the loo, sunflower seeds, and a much needed smoking session.
At this point, one of the inhabitants, a youthful zesty chappie in his late 40s, comes over to me and begins to describe the most efficient way to get to the toilet to relieve myself if that is “what desires your heart?” He spent so much effort in trying to provide me with what he thinks I might need, that it sincerely washed away any lasting anxieties the two hours hadn’t gotten rid of.
We became quick friends; his friendliness and lack of social fear of strangers coupled with my enthusiasm and general appreciation for the beauty of his country quite well. He told Katie and I his story of being a truck driver all over Europe, and his 77 hour hitchhiking endeavor to get home to his wife and kiddos from Hamburg to Bucarest.
He did indeed confirm that Brasov would be a city we pass by, and acted as a translator between us and the driver instructing us fervently that, “you need something to know? Ask you me. I ask driver, driver tell me, I tell you. Anything”.
Eventually, 7 hours after leaving Cluj Napoca, we pull into the Brasov train station and bid our vanmates a solemn and very genuine farewell, for we had developed quite a bond with the lot of them and were a bit sad to leave. They had been so wonderful and so welcoming, and so…opposite of what the ambiguous “society” had deemed people in white vans who pick up hitchhikers to be.
I shall end this post with just the telling of the beginning of our voyage, with the intention of coming back and describing in the exuberant detail that always seems to happen of couchsurfing and hiking, and more lessons learned from Romania.
Lessons learned thus far in the journey: 1. atypical sleeping places are addicting. 2. while maintaining personal integrity, “gut feeling”, all that jazz, don’t allow “society” to cram falsities into the mind and instate fear where fear does not need to exist. 3. People are people, like you and I. We’re quite normal, sometimes.
Peace and Blessings,
P.S. For a bit of irony, please reread the third paragraph.