I went to Budapest some time ago. It was my fourth trip in as many consecutive weekends – weekends that should have been spent on my thesis instead of traipsing around Europe, or, according to my Erasmus friends, spent in house parties playing drinking games in Spanish. On the 7-hour bus ride I napped and bookmarked places I wanted to see in the city, planning for another action-packed weekend full of re-discovering places I had visited seven years earlier with my family.
But then I got to Budapest… And I just didn’t want to do anything.
I looked at my list of museums and coffee shops and castles and none of them excited me. It was like they didn’t feel new to me: I might have as well been home with how little strangeness I felt towards the city. And I was still trying to make sense of someone I had met in Krakow just a few days earlier, making me question whether I should have left at all. With the sky pissing down rain, the weather didn’t inspire much will to explore, either.
That first night I went out alone to grab some dinner. Sleep-deprived, serious, running my thoughts on the same things endlessly, I sat in the corner with my fast-food pasta and decided that I was not going to be able to ‘do’ Budapest.
I hung out at the hostel until the afternoon, chatting with other backpackers or watching Gilmore Girls or just lying in bed, enjoying the comfort of not having any plans. I kept my appointments; I got a tattoo and met up with a friend from Finland, and in the evening I went out with cool, fun people from the hostel and spent probably way too much money on weak drinks and stale beer.
I took to the streets and wandered around aimlessly, just like I used to when I first started travelling. I knew it was bad I wasn’t making any effort to see the most famous sights, document my trip or even learn the most basic phrases in Hungarian, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I walked for the sake of walking. It was almost meditative. My feet carried me around the rainy streets without destination or agenda. I saw beautiful things, but I have no clue what they were. I liked walking alone in the rain, though. The streets were relatively empty and my shoes waterproof enough.
My sister asked me if I was going to make a video of Budapest. How? My camera stayed hidden for most of the weekend. I did take photos but mostly just with my phone, and even then I only took a few. I love taking photos – the perfect shot is not something I chase just for Instagram but for my own pleasure. But this time I didn’t feel like doing it, so I let it go.
Recently a lot of prominent travel bloggers have come out to talk about travel burnout, but for me it wasnt that. I was tired, but not of travelling. I was tired of feeling anxious about my thesis, and I was tired of not having time to go out with my friends withiut feeling guilty about my thesis, and because I really wasn’t sleeping enough, I was simply just tired.
Being able to be in Budapest without any sense of obligation to sightsee and create content felt like the first true holiday I had had in a while. I was still posting Instagram stories, but that was such a small effort that it feel like one at all. There would be no city guides or secret tips on the blog later. I was focused on feeling the city rather than capturing it.
And that’s healthy. It is so easy to get caught up in expectations – not even those of others but your own – that slacking off makes you feel guilty. Shouldn’t I be creating content? Shouldn’t I be seeing more? What’s the point of being abroad if you’re just going to act like you do at home? But travelling should first and foremost be a pleasure. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and despite what those guide books tell you, there are no must see sights. There is only your own itinerary, or the lack thereof.
I saw very little of Budapest, but I still had a great time. I don’t regret going the distance just to do sweet nothing. Because sometimes the best holiday you can gift yourself is not a grand adventure – it is idleness beyong belief.
How do you like to travel? Are you a see-all-do-all or do you just wing it?