JOURNEY JEWELS: Rome & Budapest

This week we sat down with Alex Monacella of WHATAFOX to talk about her recent trip to Budapest and Rome. Her images evoke a quiet stillness and capture the existing culture of these cities in such a stunning way. She has a way of really brining one into her experiences and making making them feel apart of her journey. 

What set this adventure apart from others?

My trip to Budapest (and then onward to Rome for a week) did stand out a little more than my previous travels. Don't get me wrong, each trip is an individual and unique experience. For this international trip, I'd have to say it became different because of two things. One, I had just reached a huge milestone in my life; I graduated nursing school, passed my state boards, and got hired as a new nurse in my favorite department: Emergency. This trip was planned as a reward and very much a celebratory vacation. It truly gave me a high of happiness I haven't felt in a long time. Secondly, this trip had a lot of different and exciting opportunities I haven't been able to do before. For example, in Budapest I got to go to the outside baths, natural thermal waters, and get my first ever real massage! It was truly relaxing, grand, and even weird at first because usually on my travels I'm just going going going. It felt good to stop and breathe and really soak in all the beauty and blessings. 

What about this journey truly took your breath away?

Other than the bitter cold, ha, I'd have to say the architecture of churches, castles, and misc. buildings and of course, all those lookout points over the city. Also, the Colosseum in Rome is incredible. No matter how much you read about or how many tacky tourist pictures you see of it, setting eyes on it IRL is priceless. 

What was the most surprising aspect of the trip?

The most surprising aspect of the trip was becoming more adventurous with my food choices, the amount of selfie sticks (and the unrelenting salesmen) in Rome, finding out I've recently become more nervous flying (I like a beer preflight), and men in Budapest were weirdly drawn to me.

Who was the most interesting person you encountered?

The first person that comes to mind is a pretty gal of Indian descent from a small tour group in Budapest. I can't remember her birth name but she told us to call her Nina. She's studying in England and is around my age. She didn't mind traveling alone and she had a nice camera. She told us how fascinating it was to travel all along Europe and how different the culture is from where she grew up. We shared similar taste in music and she wore the heck out of her Converse. She rocked.  

How did this trip change you?

The trip gave me an evolving insight to cultures and sounds and sights, but also a sense of familiarity with human interaction. After all, we are alike more than we are different. Each place has its own story and when you leave, you take a piece of that with you. It's part of your story now. 

What travel advice would you give to others looking to make a similar journey?

My advice is this: be adventurous, be brave, and be kind. Keep an open mind and plan ahead. Plan what places you want to see and research hours and locations. Always carry a portable charger and invest in comfortable stylish shoes. Smile often and eat gelato whenever possible.

Where is your sense of fernweh taking you next?

My wanderlust is always persistent and constantly growing. I am planning a trip to Austria in the late Fall of this year, but I really want to continue to explore my home state of Florida. Florida gets a bad rep (usually from social media), but it is quite beautiful and there are a lot of wonderful things to do here. I want to represent Florida happily while I'm here in living in the "sunshine state".

kristen frasca