Cities are by far my favorite spaces to explore. I like to observe their design and development, and watch how people behave. A city’s transportation system, housing options, marketplaces, and public art tells the story of how much human ingenuity and quality of life are measured and valued.
As I explore each new city I visit, I imagine what it would feel like as a daily experience to live in that place. I might not survive life in some cities. Sofia, Bulgaria, felt like a bleak and challenging existence. The sidewalks were uneven, food was scarce, and few trees blocked pedestrians from blistering environmental extremes. Meanwhile, I fell in love with Budapest, Hungary, immediately. The public transit system was clean, affordable, and effortless; public markets, fruit stalls, and smaller convenience stores were abundant; the people were friendly and open; and somehow I quickly picked up the basic phrases of the notoriously difficult Hungarian language.
I am attracted to energy, movement, and growth. I am attracted to spaces that feel vibrant and alive with positive possibilities. These stories are stories of urban environments I visit that awaken and ignite my hope for humanity’s future. Many are inspired by conversations with locals I meet while traveling, and of course it is easier to build those connections when we share a common language.
Although I have traveled through South America, I didn’t get the opportunity to meet many English-speaking locals. Unfortunately my perspective was limited. However, Europe, Canada, and the United States are home to plenty of English-speaking locals: a young Bulgarian man from Turkey who was in studying business at a university in Ljubljana; a Croatian woman who shared her table with me as we watched sunset over the Adriatic Sea; a 14th generation Budapestian who escorted me through an overwhelmingly crowded, five story Ruin Pub; and both my host and a Couchsurfing-connection-turned-friend in Sarajevo. When we have finished moving through this current pandemic and the border closures, I look forward to venturing back out into the world and learning more from the people who gather in the cities.