It’s week nine, I think, of home-bound, world-ending, pandemic times. I’ve stopped writing.
In 2018, I ended my relationship and went to Europe for nine weeks. I visited a friend in London, met up with my parents in Romania and then spent the rest of the time in Budapest. I sublet a flat. Sharmeen visited for a week. Then I was alone. Alone in a way I had never been before.
I was nine hours ahead of my timezone, so I couldn’t text anyone for the majority of the day. I was lucky that the apartment I rented was nice and cozy and I liked being there. I would take walks over the bridge into Pest. I was in Buda. Did you know they are two cities split by a river? The Danube, you probably know that part.
Anyway, much of the time I tried to keep busy with freelance work, walks, meeting up with some friends of friends studying at the university (which has since closed). But some days, I would wake up with this giant ache in my whole body. And I would feel so alone. I would ask myself, what am I doing here? What am I trying to prove? I’m almost half a world away from everyone I know and love and I’ve walked these streets enough. I’ve checked out the baths and the ruin bars and ridden the trams enough. Why am I here? I want to go home but I have subletters and it’s so sunny here and I’d be returning to a rainy west coast winter. Single in my big apartment for the first time. Why would I go home? And then the feeling of what’s the point of anything.
It’s week nine of the pandemic and some days I wake up with a giant ache and I think what day is it? What am I doing today? What’s the point of anything?
I remember one afternoon I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I finally took myself to the tourist attractions on the hill. The castle, the old town etc. I was so overwhelmed by the crowds and I didn’t want to be there and I felt so lonely that I sat on a park bench and pulled out my phone and I googled “how do I deal with loneliness and travel?” And the first blog post that came up was surprisingly useful. It said. First of all, are you hungry? If you are, go eat right now. Are you tired? Go rest. Then come back and we’ll address the loneliness. Okay, you’re back. Now you have to actually make a point of meeting people. Make small talk. Talk to at least 3 people a day. And I was hungry. So I went to a touristy buffet for lunch and in the line I looked around and tried to meet people’s eyes. I took interest in the strangers around me for the first time in weeks. I didn’t meet anyone, but I got out of my head. And it made it feel fun again, like an adventure. And I went home and skyped with Jesse and then went for a long walk among the drunken tourists and sat by the ferris wheel and wrote in my journal. And the next morning was a new day and I felt a little bit better.
All this to say, it’s a hard time for most of us. And simple things like eating and resting and going for walks help.