We took these past few weeks off from the blog – and the internet in general – to enjoy the final days of our travels in Europe and prepare for the next leg of our adventures. We’re back online now and back in the van, this time cruising across southern Canada and the northern U.S. en route to a November wedding in Michigan.
While we were away, we were nominated for Best Frugal Travel Blog in the Seventh Annual Plutus Awards! It’s an honor just to be in the company of the other nominees, which include some of our favorite travel blogs: Bald Thoughts, Club Thrifty, Frugal Travel Guy, and The Points Guy. Thanks to the Plutus Awards Blogger Panel for including us!
Back in early July, Daniel and I grabbed lunch one afternoon in Great Market Hall, the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. It was the height of tourist season, and the food stalls lining the upper floors were packed with visitors and cruise ship tours. We found an acceptable place and queued behind an older British couple.
“What’s in this?” the man in front of us asked aggressively, pointing to some kind of stuffed cabbage.
“No, no, no,” he told the clerk, who had begun putting some on a plate. “I don’t want that! What is in this one? Is it meat? Don’t you have one that’s just beef and rice? I don’t want all that sauce.”
The annoyed woman behind the counter just stared. I’m not sure she even spoke any English.
With limited seating options, we ended up eating shoulder-to-shoulder with the man at the nearby dining tables.
“This is rubbish. These people don’t know how to cook rice for shit,” he told his companion, who just sat quietly. “Somebody needs to teach them how to cook rice properly.”
By this point, I was fuming.
“Since everything here is so awful,” I imagined myself sniping to him, “why don’t you just get on an airplane and go home?”
In reality, of course, I said nothing. But the griping British man has been stuck in my mind for months now. In a world of such abundance and freedom of choice, how could anyone be so cantankerous?
Here we were – lucky and wealthy enough to be enjoying a holiday in a vibrant city in a beautiful part of the world – and all he could talk about was the firmness of the rice.
There’s a negative side to everything, if that’s the way you choose to look at life.
From that perspective, our own summer travels kicked off disastrously:
Just a few days into our trip, I lost my wallet in an airport in central Turkey – losing our best no-fee credit and ATM cards, costing us hundreds of dollars in cash, and leaving me without a driver’s license for rental cars. A few days later, we wasted close to a hundred dollars on a mediocre boat cruise around the Bosphorus. Next, I came down with acute gastritis in Antalya and suffered from stomach cramps for weeks. Cutting out coffee helped a bit, but that gave me caffeine withdrawal headaches every afternoon.
Then we got to Budapest, where it was uncomfortably hot every day. Still recovering, I couldn’t even enjoy the craft breweries! In Southern Hungary, Daniel got sick with norovirus and puked his guts out all night right before we boarded a sweltering international train with a bunch of boisterous college-age backpackers who smelled worse than a fraternity bathroom. I got sick the next day and burned our first 48 hours in Croatia lying in bed.
Wow, what a disastrous trip. And that doesn’t even include the time we dodged an ISIS terrorist attack by a matter of minutes or an attempted coup d’état just a few days later.
All of those things really happened. But it’s an incomplete picture.
It ignores the days we spent in awe of the surreal beauty of the fairy chimney rock formations in Cappadocia. It glosses over the jaw-dropping architecture we witnessed in the Hagia Sophia and Istanbul’s ancient Roman cistern. It fails to appreciate the thrill of exploring backstreets in Pest, or the joy of people-watching for hours at a sidewalk café in Croatia’s capital city.
Those experiences – not the minor mishaps – are the ones I’ll remember for decades.
That’s not by chance. It’s a conscious choice.