A Hostel Environment

As you all know, some stuff happened this week. Donald Trump was elected president, a surprising result to say the least. Protests have ensued while Facebook continues to serve as a battleground for many a virtual political debate. Admittedly, I have used Facebook to sound off on my own political views but in the interest of keeping this blog an upbeat platform free of biting words and hateful thoughts, I will try to keep my comments on the election to a minimum. Words have the power to heal but they can also wound the deepest part of a person so let us use our fighting words to empower one another rather than tear each other apart.

I would also like to give Veteran’s Day the notoriety it deserves. A big thank you goes out to my Dad, Uncle Chris, Gramps, Great-Gramps, and all those who have served and continue to serve our country. Thank you for your service, your sacrifices, and your steel-coated strength that emboldens the rest of us. We are forever indebted to you.

Outside of politics, lots and lots of simply wonderful things have happened to me since my last blog post. After Slovakia, I returned to Budapest for round two. I had a chance to explore some of the parts of the city I missed the first time while returning to the places that stirred something deep inside me. Don’t you just love it when a place gives you a feeling, a really deep, really important feeling? If I were a puppet, Budapest would be the puppeteer that controls my smile, pulling the corners of mouth upwards in so many places and so many ways.

When I run along the Danube, weave through happy crowds on the Chain Bridge, climb up to the Citadel where statues seem highly emotive and deeply symbolic, smiling comes as easily as breathing. Budapest just makes me happy, really really happy. But the happiest part of Budapest, of Romania, or any place is always the people–the kind strangers who bring normalcy and welcomed abnormalcy to my life.

Before this trip, I had never stayed in a hostel before. While it didn’t seem much different from the college dorm life, I wasn’t so sure I would enjoy sharing small spaces with other people. I am and will always be somewhat of an introvert so the thought of limited alone time was quite unsettling. People are fun but so is peace and quiet.

However, as expected, my attitudes have changed. The hostel environment is a welcoming one, one that is deeply reminiscent of home.

As I type this, I sit in a cozy living room while an adorable lab plays in the snowy frontyard. Some alternative disco is wafting in from the kitchen where an Austrian and American are discussing Edward Snowden while munching on some cocoa puffs. The main receptionist is always closeby, offering me blankets, slippers, cookies, and promotional stickers. The walls pay homage to Bob Marley and impressionistic art. There are records and kindness a plenty present in every room.

I’ve seen the main sights of every city I’ve been to thus far but some of the highlights of my trip are housed in hostel common areas and kitchens where American Horror Story is constantly streaming from the TV, slightly unsettling yet perfectly-poised background noise for kitchen chatter, the best kind of chatter there is.

Back in Sibiu, a small and charming city in the heart of Transylvania, happiness came in the form of  papanasi (fried donuts with sour cream and berries) sweetened by the company of a professional Romanian mountaineer and two adventorous Americans.

Happiness had a place at a crowded kitchen table, where travelers from near and far munched on some delicious chocolate cheesecake (courtesy of another very kind hostel receptionist) while one very happy Romanian  told us we should always choose to be happy. He referred to his soul as his “inner happy box” and that made me very happy indeed.

Since coming to Cluj-Napoca, the second largest city in Romania, my inner happy box has remained happy. It just feels like there are a whole lot of people looking out for me, making sure that I always have the choice of happiness.

I had this amazing moment last night while I ran through a very beautiful and very snowy Central Park (Cluj, not NYC). I was happy and smiling as I often do on this trip but there was something else wrapping around my inner happy box. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling without using Dr.Seuss language so I’ll just say this; current events do not have an effect on the current truth, the always truth. There are so many wonderful, worth-knowing people out there, clustered around narrow dining room tables and nesteled into lopsided sofas. The best of people are found in the smallest of places but rest assured that there is always room in your inner happy box. If you choose to let them, people near and far will continue to add to your happiness for as long as you live.

Cherish those people, cherish those interactions because I’m not so sure peace and quiet is the reward for the eternal loner anymore. Rather, I think it’s the feeling that follows positive interactions with spectacular people. You can enjoy  your peace and your quiet all the more when you know there is a growing cluster of people ready to greet and entertain you when alone time has become a little too lonely.

I am a big fan of hostels now. Perhaps I could do without the biting spiders and the undefinable smells and the snoring (which have different accents might I add–no joke) but one thing I cannot do without, now more than ever, is the people who make hostel environments the most weloming in the world.

Yes, a lot of stuff happened this week and will continue to happen. Yes, the world out there can be hostile but the world in this hostel and countless others is anything but.

Be Hostel but Never Hostile,


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