As the sun started to set on the Danube on the Budapest skyline, reality had set in. In an ideal situation, I would have been filled with a sense of happiness. Instead, I was filled with morose disappointment. I was twenty-six years old on the greatest quest of my life, having backpacked across Europe for the past thirty days. Now I stood in a park surrounded by homeless people, without a cent to my name. All I could ask myself was, how did this happen?
It's my guess that when the bottom falls out from under us and the unexpected happens, most of us ask that question, "how did this happen", before taking accountability for what's about to come. I suppose it's just human nature to feel a little self pity before the bomb drops, and I was certainly no exception to this. The feeling in my stomach could've been hunger pangs, since I hadn't eaten that entire day, but hunger was the least of my concerns. I stood there in that park with a sense of loneliness that I had never experienced in my life before, and haven't experienced since.
It was about ten o'clock when the sun set and the darkness set in. I had a roll mat and my backpack beside me, yet I didn't want to lay down. To me, laying down was surrendering to the inevitable reality that I was accepting my situation instead of resisting or negotiating my way out of the mess. As soon as I laid down, I would be left with all the time in the world to think about how I landed here. That's hard time. It's the kind of time you're left with when there are no more options, and the hamster wheel in your head keeps spinning, long after the hamster has died.
Before I went to sleep, I reasoned because I had no money. Anyone who wanted to rob me wouldn't get anything. Amongst the homeless people in the bushes in that park, I somehow fell asleep. That was one of the longest nights of my life and when I was awaken by the light of day, I couldn't ascertain if my predicament was a dream, or reality. However, I felt overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that the sun had finally come.
I picked up my belongings, and walked to the train station. I passed cafe after cafe on a lazy Sunday morning just yearning for a coffee. One cup of coffee. I was in the least expensive country I'd traveled to in Hungary, and I couldn't even buy myself a simple cup of coffee. I think that's when a wall of shame hit me right between the eyes, and I broke down and cried for the first time.
The one tangible asset I had was the open ended train Eurail pass I bought at the beginning of summer, which allowed me to get on and off any train in all of Europe. When I boarded the train heading west to Germany, I fell fast asleep in my empty booth, completely exhausted. I awoke about five hours later approaching Munich.
Of course, I had no idea that everything that happened to me in Budapest, the homelessness, the lack of money, no food or water for 2 days happened to put me in that seat at the time when the train pulled into the high station in Munich so that I would look out my window and meet the man that would unknowingly change my life. It took a large saving hand to rescue me from myself, and to Lovingly guide me back to where I needed to be, and not where I wanted to be. This phenomenon happens over and over until we learn the lesson we are here to master.
The rest of that story is a journey in itself. But I can tell you I haven't been the same person since July 31, 1998. Looking back on it all now, I am filled with a tremendous feeling of gratitude for how it all happened, and I obviously wouldn't have changed a thing. It was the worst time of my life, which ended up being the greatest time of my life.
Things happen in our lives. Significant things happen as all the moving parts of our lives interact with others who we knowingly and unknowingly connect with. I suspect that we all have a story like this in our own lives. Faces, dates and the telling of the story may change, but the lesson is still the same. It made us all into the person we are today.
Because of happenstances like this, I have shifted my belief that I live inside of a kind Universe, and it has my back. Even when life is oddly disguised in a facade I don't recognize, I choose to flow and accept it as where I am supposed to be because I truly believe that it's all happening for me, and not TO me. It's my job to believe that, and move forward to do my best.
I believe it was Charles Darwin who said something like, Its not the strongest that survives, nor the fittest. It is the most adaptable to change that survives. Life changes constantly. Being ahead of the change with the least amount of resistance will get you to your destination more efficiently. When you arrive at your destination, take it all in, but don't remain there.
After all, life isn't about the destination, it's about the Journey...