After traveling all day yesterday on seemingly endless hours of buses, I am in my final destination of Budapest, flying home Tuesday at sunrise. Throughout the week I had encountered difficulty communicating with my Airbnb host. Because I was traveling all day, my bus arrived at the inconvenient time of midnight. I needed a foolproof way to get to his apartment quickly so that I was safe and in bed without delay.
I have navigated the duration of this trip with the aid of an iPod touch. It is a travel tool that I have found to be indispensable. More on that in another blog post. However it is important to note the iPod requires WiFi to use web services, and the WiFi on buses and trains is far less effective than i would like.
The host gave me one address for taxi drop off, and another for his apartment. When I downloaded the google map for the journey, it said the distance was nearly 10 miles. After several emails with increasing frustration on both of our parts, he demanded that I stop emailing him as he was going to a movie.
It is always unsettling arriving into an unknown city late at night, particularly when placing your trust in someone you have never met. To say I was nervous about finding the place is an understatement.
There are so many tasks to complete upon arrival in a new country: withdraw or exchange currency, find a bathroom, figure out transportation, find your way to your lodging….all of them made exponentially more difficult at midnight. Not to mention, everything looks sinister in the dark.
The host had suggested I call upon arrival. But there was no WiFi I could connect to at the station to use Skype from my iPod. I scanned the space for a pay phone, nothing. I didn’t have forint for a call anyway so would need to withdraw money, then break bills for the correct amount of change, then figure out how to make a call after finding a phone. I looked for an ATM, nothing…the bus terminal, at this late hour, was locked up.
I hailed a taxi. Negotiated a rate I knew was 50 percent higher than it should be. I didn’t care. He accepted credit cards.
The drop off point was relatively foreboding. But after a few minutes of walking, and avoiding a drunk backpacker who wanted a hug, I found the address was right around the corner from the taxi drop off point. I buzzed in, walked through a pitch black garden and up two flights of stairs. I had told myself to let go of the frustrations, that miscommunication between people of differing cultures was common and should be expected. And frankly, email often comes off a abrupt, even abrasive, in any language. I put a smile on my face.
My host, a burly, bearded, middle-age Hungarian wearing Superman pajamas shook my hand. And before I could even set my things down, he began to lecture me about not having a phone and my late arrival time. The intensity of the conversation escalated, and the language he chose felt very personal and upset me greatly. I was very uncomfortable and finally said I would find another place to stay, and asked for my money back. He faltered, suggested it was not a good idea to wander about Budapest alone at night. He suggested I stay, then as I relented and unpacked, continued to lecture me, taking cheap verbal shots at my communications skills and American culture.
For the next hour I texted with BackpackMr and looked up other Airbnb, hotel and hostel options. With sziget festival in swing, prices were through the roof.
I cried myself to sleep.
I heard him leave at 7am for the festival, we had originally intended to go together and to be honest it is a relief that we are not.
He left this on the counter this morning.
I seem to have few options but to stay. I don’t believe I am in danger at all, just very uncomfortable. That’s often something I welcome in travel, because getting out of our comfort zone helps us grow. But this is a bit much, even for me. After years of Couchsurfing and Airbnb, after over a decade of deep travel, this is the most unwelcome I have ever felt in anyone’s home.
I have booked this room for three more nights. Do I pay $200+ for a hostel room? Do I book a ridiculously expensive hotel room? Neither of these are in my budget. What would you do?