India has snow. Did you know that? I didn’t. Before I went there, whenever I thought of India (which was seldom at most), I pictured the little water girl from The Jungle Book.
That’s it. That’s all I knew and ever wanted to know.
Unlike most millennials, I have no desire to travel internationally. I’m perfectly content to see strange, exotic places in photos. Airplanes scare me, the ocean is paralyzing, and I hate spending exorbitant amounts of money, which you have to do if you want to go anywhere beyond the front yard.
Yet, thanks entirely to God’s sense of humor, I work for an international-focused charity, and part of their ministry is hosting on-site conferences around the world.
When my job took me to India at the beginning of 2016, to put it simply, it did not end well for me. I could blame sensory overload, sleep deprivation, homesickness, and a general lack of common sense. Whatever it was, I was not eager to leave the country again. So when my boss proposed a conference in Hungary, and required us to sign a waiver that releases the organization from responsibility if, you know, I’m kidnapped overseas or something, I dug my heels into the dirt.
“What happens if I don’t sign this?” I asked as my boss placed the paper on the table in front of me.
“Then you don’t get to go,” she stated. But when I raised my eyebrows with hope, she glared. “No, you’re going.”
Defeated, I signed the papers and went. As I suspected, getting there was the hardest part. And any time a non-traveler travels embarrassing moments are practically guaranteed.
In the video I share the most hilarious part of the journey, but I made many other good memories and “firsts” on this trip.
- When we finished touring in Sopron, we got on the wrong bus. The driver kicked us off at the “end of the line” and another friendly tourist who only spoke German tried to help us get new tickets. *(This was my first bus trip.)
- When we went to Vienna the ladies behind the ticket counter wouldn’t give us a ticket. They’d say something in Hungarian and point to their left. We went through the entire row of ticket ladies, all of them did the same thing, until a kind gentleman took us to the far corner of the room where they sell international tickets…
- There was an unconscious and/or dead guy on the floor at the cafe in Vienna. The ambulance crew slowly picked him up, and everyone else just went about their day like usual.
- Even if the shop door says it’s open until 6pm, shops in Europe (or Budapest and Vienna at least) start to close at 4:30pm. If you come at 5:45pm you’ll miss everything.
- Waiters and waitresses don’t bring you your check right away. They expect you to sit and talk so you have to make a big gesture to show you are ready to leave.
- Sparkling water is more common than “still” water, and they both cost about $4 for a tiny bottle. I concluded that people in Europe live in a constant state of dehydration because water is expensive, and if you drink too much you have to pay to use the “water closet,” aka bathroom.
Miraculously, in just a week and a half I survived 26 hours of flying, two 8-hour layovers, a 3-day intensive conference, and 3.5 days being a tourist in Sopron, Budapest, and Vienna. There were over 700 photos on my camera, but I managed to prune it down to my favorite 38 photos for you.
I have to admit, while touring Sopron, Hungary I felt a strange ping in my soul. Some might say it was, enjoyment. Could it be that a small part of me actually enjoyed being in Sopron? I suppose anything is possible…
But, despite all the great memories of firsts and conquered fears, I’m most proud to report that this time I didn’t fall in love with a local.