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.
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.
“You do NOT want to get political with me!” I’m screaming. Top of my lungs. Full force. I’m screaming, and I’m probably spitting all over my friend who is trying to calm me down.
My head weaves to the right of her face, so I can get a good look at my oppressor. She’s too quick for me and continues to mirror my bobbing and weaving so that I can’t make eye contact with this douchebag motherfucker.
“You do NOT want to get political with me!” I repeat, because clearly–he does not want to get political with me.
It’s 5AM on a Saturday morning, post-club, we’re standing in line to hail a cab, it’s misting out, and I’m embarrassing myself and my friends in front of large percentage of the city’s Danish youth. I am just raging at this giant Norwegian guy in the middle of the street–jumping towards his towering physique, flailing my arms in the air in all my fury, and just being extremely World Star Hip Hop-ish cray.
He had asked me in a very accusatory tone, “Why do you have to bring such an attitude to Denmark?” To which I was immediately offended by and when the yelling started.
“What the FUCK is that supposed to mean?” The East Van in me is awakened.
He subsequently calls me a racist.
In my drunken state, I transcend into this obnoxious know-it-all Canadian girl. “You want to talk about political correctedness? Let’s do it LET’S DO IT NOW!” I shout.
“Kaylynn,” this is about the fifth time one of my friends is clasping my shoulders. “Let’s go home, it’s not worth it. Ignore him.”
More shouting ensues, further angry drunken words are exchanged, and I continue to make a scene despite the cajoling of my friends. Someone tells one of my friends to shut the fuck up. Tempers flare. I am going to kill someone via heated political discussion anytime now.
One of the Norwegian Guy’s equally massive friends appears on my left, “We’re really sorry. We’re going to go home this way, and you and your friends can go home that way, and we’ll never have to see each other ever again.”
He’s probably genuinely hoping he never runs into us ever again. In hindsight, I can understand why.
I don’t remember what exactly happens next, but I somehow get shuffled away from the Norwegian Guy and his very tall friends, and we get into a cab. I vocally and very liberally express my hatred for the Norwegian Guy as the cab driver takes us back home to our dorm. What a fucking asshole. I complain the entire way home about my attitude. I complain about my attitude.
“Do I have an attitude problem?” I wail in the backseat of the cab.
I have no pictures from that night, but here is a picture of me when I’m not trying to antagonize strangers while studying abroad in a foreign country.
“We’re going to THY!” I have been screaming this for the past week and a half every time someone asks me what I’m doing for Christmas abroad in Denmark.
Peter has graciously–and cautiously–taken in two wild and very foreign creatures into his family’s Danish home: a Canadian Girl and a Spanish Girl.
Peter calls us skøre piger in Danish (crazy girls.)
A Danish Christmas is straight out of a fairytale: so so so many cookies (brunkager, pebernødder, klejner, more cookies primarily made out of butter, etc.), marzipan that we make ourselves on the 23rd (lille jul aften)–rolled in nuts, dipped in chocolate, folded into nougat, molded into the shape of a cat, dancing and singing around the Christmas tree–real candles lit on the Christmas tree (juletræ) as we’re dancing around it in a holiday frenzy (Pat and I were screaming in fear at this point), a ridiculous amount of food at every meal, making Christmas ornaments with the whole family (folding Danish hearts and stars), shots of schnapps taken at appropriate celebratory intervals–“Skål!”–during Christmas lunch (julefrokost)/every lunch, an onslaught of potatoes, Danish Christmas beer (juleøl/julebryg), the most adorable of traditions–like whoever finds the almond in the risalamande (Danish rice pudding) wins a prize (or traditionally, a marzipan pig. And of course I won.), visiting extended family for more julefrokost, litres and litres of wine, and a lot of basking in each other’s presence in front of an open fire–the essence of Danish hygge.
And by the way, Thy is beautiful. I am literally just frolicking in a winter wonderland right now–casual sledding after julefrokost, leisurely walks through the snowy countryside, quiet moments by the coast with a frigid breeze, and driving through a living postcard of snow-capped evergreens and fields that go on forever.
And I get to spend Christmas with the cutest of pies. Undoubtedly, two of my favourite people in the entire kartoffel-filled, wrapped in bacon, smeared with butter, involved in rationality, smelling of freshly baked bread, Danish universe. I’m also very much in love with Peter’s parents. Very much–as I happen to be easily smitten by bountiful food spreads, gentle and hospitable souls, homemade jam, roadtrips, and people with a penchant for fine cheese and excelling in the art of relaxing during the holidays. I have since, on a number of occasions, casually suggested to Peter that his parents adopt me. Because, let’s be real–who doesn’t love homemade jam???????
Glædelig jul from
Spain Catalonia, Denmark, and Canada!
Det er meget hyggeligt.
“That will be 80 euros,” the airline dude says nervously.
Airline Dude’s very sweaty brow is reflecting off the fluorescent lights hanging above us and his attempt at feigning any last ounce of authority is more or less transparent. Poor guy probably gets reamed at on the daily for telling people they have to pay 80 fucking euros for luggage. It is literally some Utter. Fucking. Bullshit Vueling is trying to pull here.
It’s 9:30AM and I’m standing in Budapest airport with the world’s dirtiest ponytail, reeking of pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy), and half my consciousness intact. We’ve been milling around in lineups like cattle for the past half hour. If I wasn’t still drunk from last night, I would be gratuitously casting dark gazes, making snarky comments in my head, eye rolling at conversations I’m not invited to, and being an all around salty asshat. But because I’m still mildly intoxicated from last night, I’m just floating in a vapid daze. We got home at 5AM last night, slept for 45 minutes, then booked it to the airport.
It’s been quite the night with the Hungarians.
“80 euros?” I sputter in astonishment/in my barely conscious stupor.
“That is very expensive.” I say slowly, as if he isn’t already aware and because I’m really hungover.
I stare at him, “That is very expensive.” I assume I’m repeating myself because I’m currently lacking the brain capacity to say anything remotely comprehensible.
The lady next to me starts laughing at me. She’s caught an earshot my unintelligible efforts at adult conversation. If there’s impaired driving, this is impaired negotiation.
“Fuck,” I whisper exhale and hand over my 80 fucking euros for my fucking stupid ass backpack. This is what Winda and I get for thinking we could get away with bringing our backpacks as carry-on. This is what we get for fucking with budget airlines.
Last night was such a mess. We meet Hungarians. More engineers. They buy us a lot of pálinka and we are then subsequently required to shout “Pálinka!” every time it’s consumed. We get our asses handed to us in foosball–after grabbing Winda by the shoulders and looking her dead in the eye and saying, “Don’t worry, I’m really good.” I am not really good at foosball. We go to a lot of bars. Hungarians have a way of making just about anything into a bar–twinkly lights, patio furniture, overhead projector with the FIFA World Cup on display, miscellaneous food truck, a tiki-ish bar, et voilà. Then there are the infamous ruin bars which, imagine a dirty, old, crumbling abandoned building, add various types of garage sale furniture, hang a fishing net over the ceiling, and serve alcohol. We drink Somersby apple cider, and I am extremely pleased. We almost get taken to a random flat (keyword: almost.) Hungarians are kind of romantic–I get told my beauty is like stars in the night sky, that I’m a Hungarian princess, and that this guy would marry me if he could speak English. Winda gets a stalker. I get a guy who doesn’t speak English (not the same guy who said he’d marry me.)
Winda resumes her role as Monica Gellar and I’m Phoebe in that episode where Phoebe is dating a diplomat who doesn’t speak a lick of English, and Monica is dating the functioning translator. I say this multiple times throughout the night. Loudly. The guy I’m with just looks at me and smiles very often.
“Oh. My. God.” I say, about fifty times throughout the night.
We stumble less than gracefully through the front entrance of our apartment building at an ungodly hour and laugh loudly/regretfully at the ridiculousness that is our night. In hushed tones we both agree to not say bye to James because he sucks and our time to escape is now.
Next stop, the Eternal City.