Everybody needs a Steve.

Breakfast with my friends.

At home, so easily connected to people we already know through smartphones, laptops and texts, it’s easy to not buck up the courage to talk to the people at the next table. What is so incredible about backpacking is the need each of us has for company. Most of us are traveling alone, most of us have questions, we all have stories, and whether all admit it or not, most of us are homesick.

And, I find, rare (treasured) at home are the people who let you into their lives and stories based on one shared conversation. That happens in the common rooms of hostels every single day. We don’t have time for the usual screening, checking out, considering (or not). If we want someone to eat with that night, someone better start the conversation.

I’ve had great luck making friends this trip. I keep thinking, “Man it’s going to suck when I have to do this alone.” Then I remember Andrea and I split ten days ago, and I’ve yet to be lonely.

Last night, I picked up my sunglasses at Jay’s hostel. We’d met in Plovdiv, bonded over the story of Steve, told as Steve sat in Jay’s lap in the always too-small-for-Steve-too taxi on our way to our bus to Veliko Tarnovo. My favorite part of telling the Steve story is who its for – usually because the reaction is “He is going to learn how to play it… Right?” and sometimes I freak people out by saying “Yeah, well I hope so. I’m going to introduce myself to him when I get back. I thought Steve would be a nice touch.”

As I’m getting ready to say goodbyes at the hostel across town from mine, debating what I’d do with my night, Jay and Blake invited me to hang out. If I could write these so they overlapped, because that’s how I heard them, I would.

Jay: “Do you want a beer?”
Blake: “Want to stay for oysters with us?”

Beer, always. Oysters? Because you’re asking, they’ve never sounded more appetizing.

But they weren’t doing that for awhile, so I ask for the quickest route back to my hostel for a shower. 3km, just follow the river. The nicest sounding directions ever, and so strange to me I’d be taking a 3km walk anywhere for a shower.

The walk was gorgeous (see sunset photo in the previous post) and the shower glorious. I took the bus back (got yelled at in Romanian by the lady who sold me the bus ticket – Blake would tell me later everyone here expects tips). When I arrived back at not-my hostel, Blake and Jay were still at the grocery store, so I wandered down to the common room.

Only one other person was in there, an older (than me) man. We sat in silence watching a Discovery Channel show about Nicole the Shark for a few minutes, before he said “You look familiar.”

He’d been traveling for four years, but not recently Bulgaria or Serbia.

Turkey… Istanbul… The Stray Cat Hostel. He asks, “Were you alone then, or with friend?”

A friend, and our instrument…

“HAH YES! You were the girl with the string instrument always on your back! I was in the common room once, I heard ‘I bought it for a friend AND I CAN’T GET RID OF IT!'”

This world is very, very small. We chatted, trading travel stories, Rodrigo giving me a list of fifteen cities not to miss – “Don’t lose…” Our chatting would intermittently be broken by “No! Is that Nicole hooked? Did she get finned?? She traveled so far!

The rest of the night, the group of us sat around chatting. More friends were made. There’s a guest room at Jay’s should I ever find myself in Montreal – “There’s a bed, it’s big enough for you and your boy, and Steve.”

Bucharest ended on a very high note.

It’s currently ten in the morning, and I’m on the train to Brasov (Transylvania! Commence referring to ATMs as blood banks!). For the past hour, I’ve thought the train had the most interesting music station on, very lovey. First Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now, then Aerosmith’s Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, then Elton John’s Something About The Way (You Look Tonight)…

But I started to question the odds of all those songs running together in that order when Celine Dion started singing.

Have you ever been so in love… You could touch the moonlight…

So I took a peek around.

There’s a young couple, iPod blaring, making out behind me, her laid out in his arms.

Good for you, kids. Corny taste in make-out music, but good for you.

Don’t let the smell of my McDonald’s or sound of my hacking ruin the moment.

20110924-011249.jpg(For those following his story, Steve would have a tough day a week later)




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