Gluttons for Negativity

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.

Some bullshit ruin we saw during our month of misery

Some bullshit ruin we saw during our month of misery

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.


  1. Perspective is everything – and sometimes you need distance to see it. The man with the rice could have been your average take it for granted type of traveler or he could have been coming off a situation similar to yours. Either way, maybe down the line he will look back on that meal and laugh at his silliness. One of the greatest adventures I’ve ever been on was a 3 week hike through the countries in that area. I visited that same market and accidentally took 80000 Forints out of the ATM instead of 8000. Considering we were leaving Hungary that evening for Slovenia (different currency) I definitely had a moment of panick, but I didn’t let it get the best of me. Instead, I went to the train station and paid for everyone’s tickets who had euros to trade ( it was a Sunday and banks were closed!). It all worked out in the end! 🙂

    • Oh wow, that’s a pretty big difference! I’ve been concerned about accidentally doing the same thing with all the currency changes we’ve gone through. Nice thinking on trading people for Euros!

  2. It’s so true. Things will always go wrong while we travel, but we just have to focus on the good parts. Sometimes the bad parts get funnier with time. Although I got salmonella food poisoning in the Philippines and am still squeamish if my chicken isn’t VERY well done.

    • Those food poisoning experiences seem to be the hardest to shake — maybe for survival reasons! We’ve had plenty of travel mishaps over the years, and they do make for some of the better travel stories, that’s for sure.

  3. Well done! And that’s why we love you guys! And congrats on the nomination.

  4. Welcome back! So glad you got a digital detox, though we for sure missed you in the meantime! 😉

  5. Glad to see you are back online! Taking some digital time off can be great!

    I like the perspective you have to focus on the good things rather than the bad things.
    The thoughts you had on the UK tourist are so true… And some thoughts are better kept private.

    • Very good point — we all have our gripes from time to time, but we don’t always need to vocalize them for the whole world to hear 😉

  6. This is the best post ever. I was smiling the whole time reading it. So thanks for sharing.

    And I totally agree, there are two sides to every coin and it’s up to us to look for the positive side. Enjoy the next leg of your journey!

  7. Seriously!!!! I get so frustrated by negative people. Not to get age-ist, but I see this most among people who are our parents age. They seem to think there’s only one way to do things — their way — and everything else is not only wrong but offensive and sometimes should be illegal! It especially shows in how service people are treated. I hope we are not so cranky and don’t lose our perspective when we get older…

    But regardless of age, some people just love to complain. It’s like the way they bond with strangers — some say, “Nice weather, huh?” While others say, “Too much sun today!”

    • I’ve witnessed the same age correlation, though we’ve met a handful of younger curmudgeons, too! One college-aged girl we met in a pub in Bosnia was grumpy about just about everything — combined with treating the server poorly for not understanding her rambling English (which he did not speak). Yikes!

  8. Kudos to you for maintaining a positive attitude, even while dealing with ungrateful people and life’s mishaps. It’s an honor to be nominated for a Plutus Award alongside you and our esteemed competition. I look forward to our paths crossing one day so we can toast to having a glass half-full mindset.

  9. Even the minor mishaps can bring joy. 🙂

    We were recently diverted on a flight, meaning an unexpected hotel booking and getting home twelve hours later than planned, and we couldn’t even enjoy a full night’s rest since it took hours to deplane and gather luggage. But we were laughing the whole way through!

    I’ve been told I laugh too easily or am too happy (reason my first boyfriend broke up with me), but it’s a much better way to live, imho.

    • Pretty much the only time I get really upset or frustrated in those situations is when I have to listen to other people griping! A few weeks ago, we had to wait in a long passport control line in the Toronto airport, and someone behind us complained loudly every single time a new person went up to the desk. “What is taking so long?” “Why is this line moving so much slower?” “Ughhh, are you serious??” Chill out, jeez!

  10. it’s wonderful to have you guys back in the blogosphere! I love living through your adventures as I sit at my desk eating leftover spaghetti for lunch. Keep it up! And congrats on the nomination!

    • Thanks, MMM! For the complete picture of our travels, I should probably share more photos of yet another greasy grocery store burek or a rainy night in the van eating cereal for dinner… but we’re all about the positives here 🙂

  11. The Brits and their gripes about ‘foreign’ food. Reminds me of that movie Shirley Valentine. Ha ha ha. 🙂

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