Couch Hopping Through Europe

My final lesson learned last summer while backpacking around Europe was follow the signs. The more open your plans are the more beautiful moments the universe can send you. My plans all started with a wedding invite.

Austeja invited me to her wedding in Lithuania, which lead to me to England to crash on Ale’s couch and plan a trip to Barcelona. On the way to the wedding, Ash, Cornel, Patty, Heather, and I all met up in Denmark. We climbed the endless stairs to the airbnbs. Once again thankful for backpacks over luggages. Carly and Chris, and Elliot and David were also there on a stop over to the wedding. We all got drunk and danced to DJs in the street one night. We hopped from Denmark to Latvia for the weekend then finally to Lithuania for the wedding. Everyone of these people I met in Australia.

From there we went back to England but our luggage stayed behind. I hit a thrift store and met Tessa, a friend from high school, in south western England. We explored Margate, ate sting ray, and I played with her adorable baby. Before I knew it it was time to leave. I bought the flight from Heathrow to Valencia getting in at 10pm. Just enough time to train out of the country side, meet Heather for beers in Brixton, grab my luggage, and head to the airport to join Kathryn for the week. We made these plans last week in Lithuania. Spain required a COVID entry form that I filled out before we took off. I flashed my completion, grabbed my bag and cabbed in the humid summer air to our airbnb.

Kathryn canceled her airbnb and upgraded so we could share a 2 bedroom apt for the week and work. Stefano, who was my roommate in Australia, was biking from the south of Spain to Italy. Somehow insanely he was in Valencia the same time. He crashed on our couch in exchange for cooking us carbonara one night. From there, I took the train up to Barcelona to meet Ale for the weekend. We shared a private hostel room, too old for dorm rooms. Stefano biked up and we all judged the final design of the Sagrada Familia. It was insane I was standing in Spain with my first roommate and last roommate in Australia, both Italians.

With no plans from there, Loann in Paris called me and said come visit. Fete De La Musica was that weekend, the first day of summer where music played on every street corner. I bought the train ticket and went from Spain to France. Sarah was coming home from Mexico, where we all met earlier that year. I surprised her the day she arrived. We danced in the streets of Paris until sunrise and crashed 3 in his bed. Paris is too expensive for any accommodation. Martin happened to be in Paris on his way moving from Australia to Germany. He lived with me and Stefano in Bondi Beach. We were COVID roommates, this is a special bond. We walked across the seine where he found his friend a poet. He typed me a poem in french about liberty.

Leaving France, I headed to Germany, transferring in Switzerland. Lais grabbed me from the train station and I spent the week exploring Berlin with her in 35 degree Celsius weather. Her husband worked with Martin and we became best friends in Bondi during COVID. I hadn’t seen her since August ’21 when I left the country. She bought a roll up mattress from ikea which we laid on the floor. I slept next to my backpack having perfected using every mm of space. We danced at Brazilian festivals and drank at British pubs. That week, I met up with Lisa in an old air landing space drinking lemonades. Somehow seeing all of the 4 friends I made in January in Mexico. When you make a new travel friend its hard to know if you’ll cross paths again.

With my train ticket in hand I left Germany for Italy. The Swiss Alps caused the train to zig and zag, I was breathless watching the landscape unfold in front of my window. Finally in Italy, Francesca got me from the station in Milan. I met Franny in a bar in Brooklyn back in 2017 when she was visiting from Italy. She negotiated a sim card for me and I was ready for my month in Italy. I crashed in her second bedroom, sweating in the still thick Italian summer air.

Cami had moved here and came to get sushi with us one night. We worked together on Hamilton Island. I left her on that sunny island August 2019. It was crazy to find her all this time later in Italy. I’d see her in Chile in November for her wedding. Off to Mantova to stay with Franny’s parents for the weekend. I laughed with her nieces, trying to translate Italian. We road tripped to Lago di Garda the largest lake in Italy and splashed with the swans.

We parted aways at the train station and down I went to Castelfranco Emilia, the tiny town Julia is from. Ian and Julia met me and my backpack at the train station and settled me into my hotel. Ian and I were roommates at JMU back in 2009. He moved to Italy but we stayed in touch. We grabbed the train to Bologna for the day, climbing towers, exploring the arches, and eating tortellini. The train ran at midnight taking us home to the sleepy town quickly and cheaply. After a delicious Sunday lunch, we road tripped to Naples. Ditching the sweaty streets we kayaked in front of Mount Vesuvius. Here I slept on Ian’s couch with the fan willing cool air.

When my sister joined, we grabbed the ferry and arrived in the mountain side town of Positano. We climbed the steep hillside to our bed and breakfast, thankfully this had air conditioning. Bri and Jake were celebrating their 1 year Covid wedding anniversary with a small group. Back in NYC, I worked with Bri at Leaddog in 2016. She met Jake, fell in love, and moved to LA. With lemoncello in Sorrento, wine in the shade of Mount Vesuvius, and Prosecco on the blue sparkling ocean, the days went quickly. Back up to Naples after a quick goodbye to my friends, I spent my last couple nights in Lake Como. I spent my days hopping on and off boats and getting lost in little lake side towns. Truly there is no place like Italy.

Before leaving Europe, I had one more stop, Portugal. Amber and I tacked the hilly city of Porto. Amber is my best friend from college. Learning about port wine in the hills, hiking through waterfalls in the mountains, and exploring the town along the river. This is shown in the top photo.

Finally 1 week before my 33 birthday it was time for me to head back to America. I was landing in New York, then flying to Pittsburgh to help Peter move. This life is not for everyone but I have found a way to make this never ending journey work.

When you travel you make friends from around the world. The good ones will stay in touch. The great ones will invite you to their homes. This is the type of travel that will change your life, mind, and soul. Lost in another world you never knew existed you can explore differently, locally, genuinely. Here you will find yourself.

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