Finding Combinazione in Budapest


They say hindsight is 20/20. I’d say sometimes – especially during travel – it’s even better. There’s this thing I’ve been experiencing throughout my life that I’ve never been able to name before. I now call it combinazione. It’s a word I learned during a particularly enhanced insightful vantage point during a very brief trip to Milan, Italy. This is the word – and the one lesson amongst many – I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I learned this word from an Italian man, a friend of my mother’s, who’s in his sixties. The word has a literal translation of  “combination” but offers a much greater and symbolic meaning in its native tongue. It’s the word that’s come to sum up the “insightful vantage point” and all of its peculiarity into six Italian syllables.

Well apparently combinazione comes in a Hungarian form, too, for just yesterday exploring my newly acquired home of Budapest, I stumbled upon its magnificent presence again.

Being in the same place again has a tendency and effectiveness of catapulting us back in time – back to the time and space and even company that outlines the first time we experienced the physical place. So naturally as I wander the streets of Budapest, I’m reminded – very vividly – of the time I was here before. The physical time (if there is such a thing in this world) is almost exactly two years ago, though the emotional time has lapsed that many times over. I’m a completely different person than I was then, and of course, I’m in a completely different place.

Then, I was just twenty-one. I was studying my bachelor of arts, and had somehow found myself inadvertently getting my real estate license. I had been working for a realtor, and at the opportunity, decided it couldn’t possibly be a negative thing. So I did my studying, passed my exam, and got my license.

I was in a relationship. It was the type of relationship I hadn’t really known before that time. It was one that made me feel secure and loved and pumped me so full of confidence, I felt as if I could actually accomplish things in life. But there was something missing, because going towards this route – the career path, the relationship, the undeveloped me – I was leaving something very critical behind: my dreams.

I can remember, during the duration of this trip that was meant to be a quick “break” before going home and starting my career in real estate, the heavy sense of regret and loss I felt. I can remember, most specifically, standing in front of the Parliament building, the cold wind blowing at my hair, the sun struggling to overcome the crispness of that day. Tears filled my eyes, unguarded in this moment, and I saw my future stretch out before me, knowing in my heart that I was heading down the wrong path.

I had already made certain decisions that would lead me to be considered reckless if I were to just drop them, so I didn’t listen to my heart’s message in this moment. Instead I marched forward into the future I had carved out for myself, and spent two years convincing myself that I was right.

On my 23rd birthday I enjoyed my last day as a realtor, and my first day as a full-time writer. (PS. I have really come love the fact that my 23rd birthday was the marking point of this – the end and the beginning – for the number 23 has always been my favorite.)

Just the other night I was walking through the streets of Budapest at sundown, distracted by the beautiful architecture that towered around me on each corner, when I inadvertently ended back up in front of the beautiful Parliament building. This glorious structure, which is the largest building in Hungary that towers magnificently over the Danube River, somehow has the power to pull the combinazione right out of me. Again, the crisp wind nipped at me and blew my hair over my shoulders.

But this time I wasn’t crying. I was smiling, for I knew – finally – I was on the right track, and focusing on the one thing that should have been at the forefront of my life all along.

My dreams.  


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