The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway. ~Henry Boye
Okay, this motto (“Boys are Toys”) does not describe my personal approach to relationships (ask DP… I believe that he will vouch for me). The button and knapsack belonged to Suzy, our oh-so-cute, twenty-something Hungarian train-friend. During the Easter break we traveled together for almost two hours, from Budapest to Bratislava.
Suzy (who forgave me the coke-spilling incident with grace beyond her years) was traveling to see her boyfriend in Turin, Italy. She had chosen to take the train to Bratislava from which she had found a cheap flight to Turin. She told us that she has been to Italy at least twenty times. Italy and speaking Italian were her destiny, she said. And this boy.
Somewhat shyly, Suzy confessed that she had been on a “little diet” but she had completely given it up before this Easter trip to Turin. She could not, after all, ask her boyfriend’s mama to make her a salad when everyone else was having pasta or pizza.
Suzy is studying psychology at a Budapest university. She wonders how this profession will work out for her; if she moves to Italy, she will have to pursue additional university studies in Italian in order to be certified as a therapist there. DP and I mentioned the growing need for therapists who understand culture and the challenges of cultural adaptation. The smaller the world gets, the more complicated living in it becomes.
Just after we crossed the border between Hungary and Slovakia, an older woman boarded the train and entered our cabin, taking the seat between Suzy and me. I had a moment of actual anxiety; I worried that it would be difficult to carry on our lovely conversation over and around our new cabin-mate. The accommodater in me did not want to make her uncomfortable. After a few minutes of weirdly LOUD silence we resumed talking and the woman did not seem to mind her place in the epicenter of our discussion and frequent bursts of laughter. (She actually seemed very pleased with DP who is quite tall and was able to swing her large suitcase up onto the luggage rack with ease).
Suzy is, I think, typical of young Europeans. Self-assured, adventurous, and travel-loving, she speaks several languages and loves to practice them. She spoke with refreshing honesty about living in Budapest and about the current political unrest. It was clear that she, like my sister Littlest, doesn’t take any shit. In just ninety minutes, I felt that she might become a friend in spite of the twenty year difference in our ages.
The train was approaching Bratislava and the time came for Suzy to gather up her things. After we said goodbye and she left the cabin, I felt a wave of genuine sadness. I should have given her my e-mail address. Three paralyzing minutes passed before I ripped off a part of a yellow post-it note from the back of my journal, jotted down my name and e-mail address, and slipped down the passageway towards the exit. Suzy looked up, surprised. I handed her the little yellow slip of paper and told her what a great pleasure it had been to talk with her. She was, I think, touched by the gesture.
I returned to our cabin feeling strangely emotional. I had, after all, known Suzy for a very short time. Just ninety minutes.
Ninety minutes is enough, though, to make a connection with a fellow traveler. It’s enough to share something about yourself and your country and to learn a little bit about what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes… and to carry their knapsack.