Budapest: a toast to independence

Two months before I completed 24 years of age, the wildest idea came to me: to travel alone somewhere I had never been before. I had already traveled a few times on my own, but always for work, which doesn’t really count since all the details are handled by other people. I was going to go somewhere close like Paris, which is just a few hours from Brussels. But when I was searching for tickets I found a promotion to Budapest and thought: why not?

It was one of the best ideas that I ever had. It was my first time for so many things: organizing everything alone, reading a travel guide from first to last page, exploring with no direction to go and no timetable to follow. I even went to the opera, another first. And saw a show at the circus. And visited a really old and deactivated underground hospital, used mostly during the Second World War to treat war casualties. And cruised the Danube River.

Not everything was strawberries, of course. The hotel was not exactly what I expected (the main problem being the fact that it was located outside of town, forcing me to take a cab at least twice a day). One of the places I wanted more to go was the Parliament, but I couldn’t visit it because I had not booked the ticket in advance, and it was sold out for the duration of the trip. And when a real storm ravished Budapest streets while I was in the open air without an umbrella, I didn’t take it very lightly either.

The important thing though is that I learned an invaluable lesson that weekend: I can do this. I already knew I could do basically everything alone and have fun while doing it, but now I had just proven to myself that I can also travel alone and be happy in the process.

There was this apprehension that I would be afraid to be on my own (let’s keep in mind that my mother fretted for days about the possibility of her daughter becoming a victim of human trafficking), but the fact that I had the courage to go gave me a confidence that made me feel safer than ever.

I ended my trip in the best way to end anything: with a toast. I used palinka for it – don’t know if you ever tasted it, but palinka can have up to 70% of alcohol. I was fairly lucky; mine had 44%. (Apricot flavored) But it was strong enough to make me wince all over. It also made me laugh because it seemed to resume the entire voyage: unexpectedly strong and wonderfully exciting.

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