How a bus trip from Bucharest to Cluj changed my life

Sometimes, unfortunate things lead to brilliant ideas. And alter decisions in unpredictable ways. As I am writing this, we are on the second bus--the first one broke down in a horrible way. But I realize the value of this trip. And it will stay with me forever.

In 2015, I returned to Bucharest with high hopes. One of my biggest hopes was to experience more of Romania. You see, I left at the age of eighteen and barely got to see much outside my hometown.

So a couple days ago I booked a bus ride to Cluj. Why Cluj? Well, I know someone there. And I've been wanting to see Cluj. To meet people. It felt right.

Little did I know that this trip was going to change my life. And as I'm sitting on a bus, writing this, I haven't even gotten to Cluj yet!

The backstory

What was supposed to be a 9 hour bus ride turned into a 14+ hour adventure. With lots of twists and turns. First, there was a bad accident on the road to Cluj and we were struck in traffic for an hour and a half. Traffic one way was completely stopped. That was the first opportunity. Wait, what? Paul--did you just say opportunity?

You see, I am a very positive-driven person. I even have a weekly reminder in my phone: "Turn any difficulties I have now into opportunities for growth". Mindset is possibly the biggest factor in our behavior.

Alright alright, so what was the opportunity?

In short: to meet someone.

I happened to meet a woman, let's call her Brandy, who is also self employed. Also unemployable. And we chatted for a while. About lots of little things--but what stuck with me were these two:

  • Working for someone else always means dealing with politics from above, "providing support" and ultimately living someone else's values.
  • Remember to enjoy the point you're at right now for the good it offers, even if you want to change the path you're on.

So how does that immediately change my life?

It does. Trust me. But wait. The story's not over yet.

The wheels on the bus

After we finally get past the traffic accident, not half an hour later, our bus completely breaks down. In fact, it breaks down in such a terrible way, that we are stuck on the right lane, right after a tight turn, on the highway. The bus cannot move at all and various parts of it have already fallen through under the engine and been left behind. I've never seen such a breakdown in my life. Luckily, the breakdown happened within 12km (8mi) of Sibiu, a major city.

Now imagine a 40-person bus, half-full, at night, parked in the middle of the highway. This was the most dangerous, but BEST part, considering what happened next.

The next opportunity

Given the dire situation, you would think the company would somehow get everyone a ride from Sibiu to continue to our destination.

Unfortunately, this is not how things work around here, and sometimes when unfortunate things happen, they keep spiraling down. So the company decided to send a bus our way from our final destination, Cluj. That was about 4 hours away.

This was an opportunity to meet three other people, be spontaneous, earn some self respect, and understand how much I've changed. It's amazing how much a single trip can shape a whole day, and then possibly my whole life from now on.

All the resolutions I've been waiting for

Sometimes I think the process of becoming an adult is about continuously proving to yourself that you can do things on your own. I decided staying on the bus to wait for the next one was unreasonable. After all, we were 15 minutes away from a major city. I had visited it once before in high school and I loved it. I knew there was more to see. I was supposed to meet a friend in Cluj, but why not stay one night in Sibiu?

So I start searching on the internet for taxi phone numbers, and hostels I could stay at. I call a hostel to make sure they still have room. They do! And it's very affordable. Perfect!

As I prep to call a taxi, I remember and email Brandy first. I wait a while, thinking if she doesn't get back to me soon, I'll call a taxi.

But guess what? I notice a couple people step out and carry their backpacks. As if ready to leave. So I ask them, and they're getting a ride. One of the guys lives in Sibiu. I ask if they can give me a ride--and after some hesitation, they do. Bingo!

So now we're five people in a car. They all know each other and I'm the only stranger. I didn't even know the names of these people. And we're headed to Sibiu at close to midnight. Clearly, it was just an everyday experience :)

At least I have a place to stay. The plan is to drop me off.

Wait, it's not over yet

At this point you're probably thinking how the heck did I not sleep in Sibiu???

I asked the guys sitting in the back with me what their plan was. And they said they're going to hitch a ride. And what do I do? I decide to join them.

Then I learn they were coming from Bucharest where they just got their visa to move to Florida. To work in a restaurant. All of them!

I thought of how different we all were and yet how similar.

After creating my own path, I pay special attention to those who also choose to do so. I thought of how positive and undeterred one of them was. He was the one who decided to hitchike and convinced the rest. And I realized how much him and I have in common, yet we arrived at that point, next to each other in the back of a car, in the most unlikely manner you can possibly conceieve.

At this point I'm thinking I'd love to hitchike and continue the adventure. And if it doesn't work out, I'll stay in Sibiu.

So we try to hitchhike. I put a smile on my face and signal every single car. And we find one man who's willing to take us partway, but sorta to the middle of nowhere. I say nay. We all agree to pass.

Then one of them calls a friend on the bus (they had another friend on the bus! WHAT?) and we learn the next bus is gonna be there in 20 minutes. Quick! Let's get a cab back to the place we left!

After a bunch more things happen

Skipping to the end, here are my lessons from this series of events:

  • I LOVE being self employed. I actually got to work on the bus.
  • My next career goal is to build an online business that makes money. While remaining self employed. Nothing can get in the way of that.
  • My next personal goal is to enjoy the lifestyle I am building at every step. Which means to maintain my freedom. To keep my client relationships. And to take more time off. Because I can afford to. Because it gives me perspective. Because I have faith that, soon, I will infinitely reward the rest of the world for its kindness.
  • To make my own decisions and accept the tradeoffs. Traveling alone at times? OK. Jumping in a car with strangers? Fantastic. Getting career advice in the most unlikely ways possible? Please.

But most of all, to live courageously and look for opportunities in everything.

And there is so much more

So many other things happened before and during this trip. So much to learn from. I am still somewhat in disbelief. And it's not over yet!

I have a dream

And that dream is to live every moment of my life with confidence.

I'm exhausted, and extremely happy. I love this world I live in.