“Annual reminder that you’re not perfect and you still have so much to learn. And that everyone grows differently into new parts of their lives. Every year, we might’ve conquered some things, but we grow into new insecurities all the time. No matter how old we are.” – my diary
I think there are points in your life where time stops.
Those perfect moments where you close your eyes… (maybe there’s a ray of sun dusting the top of your forehead) a self-satisfied smile creeps across your face, and you sigh. Deeply. You sigh deeply and think to yourself, This is where I’m supposed to be.
Right here, right now—this is where I’m supposed to exist.
Mine are easy to remember.
Waking up on the living room floor of my best friend’s home. We’re ten. We stayed up watching seasons of “The O.C.” until our eyes grew heavy. Too many blankets and pillows are strewn about. My stomach hurts from overeating Jelly Bellies and crackers with Boursin cheese. We get yelled at by her older sister for leaving the cheese out all night. “It’s expensive cheese!” she’s 16-years-old and knows how to scold.
Strolling the streets of Monterosso, Cinque Terre—in awe—with another one of my best friends. The chalky oranges, reds, and yellows of the buildings don’t seem real to me, even now in memory. The people, the smells, the scene. It epitomizes the European epic you’re supposed experience in your twenties—and it really was just that.
Lying in the field behind my old preschool. It’s 1am. The grass is a little wet—mildew from it being the end of spring. We’re watching clouds move in the moonlight. It’s made up of silky greys and streaks of silver against the softest but deepest black. It’s really beautiful. We don’t even know it, but we’re holding our breath—taking in the micro-movements of something we don’t look enough at.
Wind ruffling the tresses around my face. I’m on a bike. I’m on a bike in Scandinavia, in a proper bike lane. It’s 4am and I’ve just left my friend’s dorm after a party. It’s the end of summer and beginning of fall. You know that transition? It’s kinda sad but also kinda nice. It’s not exactly warm, but perfectly crisp out in the middle of the night. I’m racing down that one sweet little hill on my bike route home. It’s the perfect slope and the perfect length—where you can stand up almost straight on your pedals and really lean into it. The sky’s clear and the stars are sparkly as ever. It’s the best.
It’s weird how vividly I remember these moments on their own, but I forget about them all the time. It makes me think, I’m getting old. Not in the my-brain-is-turning-into-mush way. (Trust me, I’m 26—I get the scoffs.) Not in the gripping-at-my-last-few-dregs-of-youth either—at least not entirely.
But in the way where you’re so hyper-focused on getting ahead, making sure your future is bright and brimming with rewards (I want to say return on investment, gross), thinking of five years later—married? Kids? House in the suburbs? Moneeeeeey?—instead of right now and right here.
Often enough, we’re just thinking about getting to Friday.
I hate that I’m forgetting. Life is a series of a lot of things—borrowing money, decisions, dentist appointments, eaten apples—but maybe it’s also a series of remembering and forgetting.
We forget parts of us to move forward into new, better improved versions of ourselves. Sometimes we forget because we need to heal. We forget full periods of our lives altogether because that was then and this is now. There’s no point looking back, right?
I guess my point is, never forget who you are. It’s easy to forget when you’re constantly iterating… on yourself. And even when you’re not trying to be a better person everyday, you might be getting caught in the undertow (Linkin Park reference, you feel me?).
Sometimes (OK, lately), I don’t feel like myself because I’m worried about new worries and anxious about new anxieties. I’m overwhelmed by all the new shit that’s cropped up in my life because I’m moving forward—and moving forward means stepping into new insecurities. It’s a great thing, but feels like shit sometimes. That’s just growing up.
But, remember the goodies. That helps. As many as there are bad, there are moments we wish to relive every now and then. You might’ve been a complete idiot back then or maybe that was before you became “woke AF”—but that’s still you. 100% allllll you, right there and then. For that moment, that’s where you were meant to exist. Frozen in time.
And that’s worth remembering.
I always tell my friends the same hypothetical story of how I’d like to meet someone.
It’s in a coffee shop. With a hot cup of coffee in my hands. I’ll be turning the corner and suddenly BAM! I smack right into him. My drink pours down the front of my shirt (probably scalding my first layer of skin, to be honest) and I’m yelping in pain.
I’m embarrassed. He’s embarrassed and feels terrible (because, duh—the man of my dreams has endless amounts of compassion). And everyone in the coffee shop is second-hand embarrassed… Mostly for me.
“I’m so sorry,” he’ll sputter. And then he’ll offer to buy me another drink. This time it’s iced coffee. All jokes considered.
We’ll sit down and have a long chat about our lives. What makes us tick. What gets us up in the morning. What fulfills us and what empties out our hearts on a daily basis. What our parents are like.
(Ignore the fact that my shirt is stained with coffee and I’m still reeling from the pain of having hot coffee poured all over me.)
It’ll be magical. Momentous. It’ll turn both our worlds upside down. It’ll be all the things and more. I’ll see fireworks in his eyes and he’ll see a Disney sparkle in mind.
This is it, I’ll think to myself. Forget all those other gentlemen callers, the universe has brought me the one! Cease all your efforts, Kaylynn. They are now futile.
And deep sigh. This is I’ll never find someone I like.
You know when you’re at McDonald’s post-clubbing?
Yes, yes you do.
Everyone pretty much looks like hell. Girls are walking barefooted with feet dragging across the filthy filthy linoleum floor, dudes are squinty-eyed and discussing the night’s triumphs and mishaps, and it is arguably one of the grossest places to be picked up at at the end of the night.
There’s always a few people who are still club-drunk and are laughing loudly, sputtering out their menu order with the coherency of a toddler, and are generally making a fool out of themselves.
That’s Winda and I, the morning after we’ve broken Fabrizio’s ancient key, missed our morning train to Florence, and are subsequently left wondering our purpose in life in an Italian McDonald’s. We buy 1 euro espresso shots.
We are so. Freaking. hHngover.
It is 9:00 AM in Rome — we had to leave Fabrizio’s apartment due to his checkout policy/we needed to get out of there ASAP before we broke anything else of his.
We are laughing-slash-crying because our heads hurt so much from last night’s escapades. We look like crap. We have our giant backpacks with us — of which is comedic in itself because our backpacks look like they could eat us.
Just to backtrack a bit, this was not our only drunk night in Rome. We also had the opportunity to party with some ridiculous Italians.
Lemme tell you the story.
We’ve set up at Campo de’ Fiori. We have our mojitos, our grape-flavoured hookah. We are basking. A group of Italian dudes at the next table motion towards us to join their table. We submit to their boyish timidness (derived from speaking in broken English) and yet, their Casanova calibre assertiveness. They literally move all of our stuff — our drinks, hookah, table, and chairs — to join their table.
Naturally, they begin introducing themselves. Here we have a lawyer, e-commerce specialist, accountant, and..
“Taxi driver!” They exclaim in unison, pointing out their most outgoing friend whom had initially approached us. He smiles sheepishly. They pause for a second, taking in his self-consciousness. “… And stylist!” They add with enthusiasm/thick Italian accents, pronouncing it stye-leest!
We chat. They are hilarious. One of them, named Francesco, has an amazing handlebar moustache — reminiscent of our friend Alessandro — and continuously strokes it. They talk about their jobs and the friends emphasize just how stylish the Taxi Driver-sash-Stylist is. They really want us to know that he is more than just a taxi driver.
The Stylist invites us to a club.
We get into a cab and head to a Roman club. In hindsight, was it a good idea to get into a cab with strange Italians? I’m gonna say no…
Bumpin’ is not the word I’d use for the club we’re at — maybe simply interesting. The Stylist turns out to be an amazing dancer. Really amazing. Winda steals his stylish hat. We booty bump with Francesco. The Stylist does the Harlem Shake a few times. The ratio between men and women at this club is way off.
I can’t really remember all the details of getting home, but we do. A cab takes us back to our AirBnb in trastevere and I remember him asking for a kiss instead of paying him in euros.
Hard pass, my friend.
Ciao, Roma! You were so good to us.
Sidenote: I come back again for another adventure later on in my Eurotrip — this second time we meet two Italian boys who ask us if we’d like to break into the Coliseum! God bless the Italians.
I am wholly smitten by the Italians’ passion for life.
Amidst the heaps of freshly made pasta, the espresso that gives you a pep in your step, and an abundance of facial hair on men everywhere.. Italy has a feeling to it. It’s that southern European steeze for days, a lust for life — the untie your hair and let it fall loosely around your shoulders movie moment, the mimosa waiting on the table just beckoning you at brunch, and falling asleep at the beach just to wake up to a bronzed goddess type of tan.
It is basically the embodiment of Sunday Funday.
It all starts with our beloved Airbnb host, Fabrizio. He is yet another Italian character. He has thick wavy hair to his chin, a full moustache, and of course, that distinctive Italian accent. He laughs a lot. Discusses food. Is very calm even though we are an hour late (that southern European lifestyle steeze). He finds our inability to open his front door funny, instead of what it actually is — embarrassing. He is all things relaxed, often casually shaking his chestnut locks out of his eyes and smiling at our all around ridiculousness. He actually walks in on me in nothing but a towel over the course of our stay there, says, “Oops,” and giggles his way out.
In reference to this Italian love of life, even Frabizio’s wifi is appassionata. His apartment is small but quaint as ever, located in the hip district of Trastevere, and seems remarkably Italian — bidet, small chairs and tables, and medieval keys and all. I am laughing thinking about him (and that time he walked in on me).
We are in Rome during World Cup. Campo de’ Fiori is packed to the brim with onlookers, and we are relishing in all of it. We cheer. We drink beer. We scream, “Forza Italia!” whenever Italy scores a goal. I don’t even pretend to know things about football because… whatever.
The game ends and the crowd begins to thin. After a few drinks — a few shots of tequila for some — with the two boys from the previous post, we venture ONWARDS! towards Trastevere. We are always down for a midnight adventure.
We trod along the cobbled streets, teetering precariously after a couple drinks. Trastevere proves to be further from the city centre than I remembered.
“It’s like, twenty minutes away.” I say flippantly. “Or something.”
“No, it’s not Kaylynn.” I think Winda has taken three consecutive tequila shots at this point, but her innate ability to navigate is still with her. Also she’s using that firm “No, Kaylynn” tone with me. Oh, Monica.
She even pulls out her phone and shows me on Google Maps just how far away we are from Trastevere. The highlighted path on Google Maps looks pretty long — but who can really know for sure? It’s kind of hard to gauge how proportionate a GPS map is to real life when you’ve been drinking…
I give in and we eventually hail a cab. We loiter around an actual tevere in Trastevere — Ponte Testaccio. We chat. I ask a lot about Italy. Alessandro’s accent makes me laugh just thinking about it. We discuss where we’re going next — Florence, Venice, and Cinque Terre. We are molto eccitato. Alessandro assures us that we will fall in love with his country (of course he does.) It’s getting late — like 4 AM late.
As previously mentioned, Rome is old as fuck. It is so old, we have to use giant medieval keys for everything. The doors to a lot of buildings need a good shove before its hinges tweak open.
So we’re saying our goodbyes by our apartment entrance. Winda’s unlocking the door to the building, as I am hugging the boys goodbye. She suddenly gasps.
“Shit!” She screams. “Shit!!!!!”
She’s holding half of the key. That giant ass key broke in the lock.
I begin to laugh (and cry at the same time.) We are on the precipice of getting completely fucked over in two ways:
a) Not getting into our apartment and waiting until dawn — most likely missing our 7:40 AM train due to lack of preparation and sleep/hysteria/more key trauma/the sheer fact that it’s at 7:40 AM
b) Royally pissing off Fabrizio and his nice-looking lady friend (who he introduced us to before we had left for World Cup festivities) by waking them up in the middle of the night/handing them broken property
I turn to Alessandro and very seriously, “You’re going to have to climb up people’s laundry lines, hop from balcony to balcony, enter our apartment, then let us in from the inside.”
Alessandro laughs. He thinks I’m joking.
“We’re just going to have to wake him up,” Winda says — commonsensical as always in the most stressful of situations. God bless.
We begrudgingly press the buzzer. Once. Twice. Multiple times. The shrill sound of it is deafening.
Fabrizio doesn’t even answer the intercom at this point. He just buzzes us in. It’s 5 AM.
We say goodbye again, walk upstairs to our apartment with our heads hanging in shame. We are positive Fabrizio hates us. We are the worst.
But guess who leaves us a raving review on Airbnb..
We end up missing our morning train to Florence anyways.
A long and enchanted sigh escapes from my lips as I think about Italian food. First order of bidness is obvious then:
After praising the Lord Holy Jesus for bringing forth Italian cuisine, we meet an Italian. By the colosseum. And he insists on buying us gelato. We are not in Rome–at least not per se–we are, in fact, in a Lizzie McGuire movie.
He’s in fitted jeans — rolled and cuffed above the ankle — spotless Converse low-tops, a loose and perfectly draped sleeveless top, and round tortoise shell glasses. His hair is nicer than mine — a sublimely curled quiff — of which he runs his fingers through a little too often. He’s got olive skin, tanned to the perfect shade of beige from this Italian heat. He speaks in erratic hand gestures and a booming voice. To add to the spectacle, the man’s donning a handlebar moustache — of which he frequently strokes with his thumb and index finger (simultaneously) when in contemplation.
He is with an American friend. Oh, and his name is Alessandro.
“It was nice meeting you.” We are trying to leave.
Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t come to Rome to meet boys, y’all.
“I-ah woulda like to buy you gelato!” Alessandro boldly declares. His English is drenched in a heavy Italian accent and every statement sounds vehemently dramatic. The dude sounds like he’s reciting lines from a Greek tragedy.
I feel a sharp nudge in my ribs. Winda is very intrigued.
I stare at Alessandro. I’m flattered but not exactly swept off my feet by his proposal. We did not come to Rome to be swindled by some Italian casanova. “No, that’s okay.”
“No! I woulda like to!” He says. With more theatric hand gestures.
“You really don’t have to.”
“I-ah know I-ah don’t have to, but I-ah want to. I-ah inseest.” He insists.
Winda taps him on the shoulder to ask him the most important question of all. “Are you also buying me gelato?”
I can almost feel the soft breeze of her eyelashes steadily batting.
He squints at her behind his impossibly hipster glasses for a sec, as we hold our breaths, wondering just how well-versed he is in the art of Italian game. Any gentleman would extend the offer to a lady’s entire entourage.
“Yees. Yees, I-ah will!”
So, I left Denmark (extremely hungover, eyes swollen from crying, and boarding a 9-hour bus ride to Berlin) and my best friend from home met up with me in Europe..
Which only means more adventure-timing to write about. We visit London, Barcelona, Rome, and Berlin–we only get into a moderate amount of trouble.