The Craziest OkCupid Date Ever
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/ ArtThailand
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
We’re standing on the side of a highway in Budapest, trying to hitch a ride. I’m elegantly dressed for a proper afternoon at the National Gallery in a green embroidered dress and a knotted cotton scarf. Jeff appears to have just walked off the set of a western shot in Brooklyn. His grandfather’s 1950s Stetson, cocked lazily to the side, is accompanied by a pair of fiery red chinos and a striped navy sweater. Both ensembles are looking a little threadbare and with good reason: We’ve worn them every day since we left the Houston airport nearly three weeks ago.
This is not your average OkCupid date.
“Should we start walking?” asks Jeff. Hungarian drivers are passing us by with expressions of bewilderment, and we’re determined to get to Sarajevo by nightfall. So, after an hour of no takers, we decide to test the gods by beginning the 350-mile journey on foot. We make it about 10 steps before a Good Samaritan in a rusty red Peugeot takes mercy on us and pulls off the highway.
He plays a game of Tetris with the 15 strawberry crates in his trunk, eventually resulting in two narrow canyons of space, just big enough for our bodies. He waves to us and we gratefully wedge ourselves in, only to find him looking at us with a furrowed brow. He appears to be hosting an internal wrestling match with the English lexicon. Finally, he finds the words, “Where are bags!”
This is Jeff’s favorite question and his reply is delivered with practiced flair. “You ever met anyone traveling with no stuff?”
My grasp on good, old-fashioned reality is not terribly robust. I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up inside a Salvador Dalí painting or an interplanetary episode of “Doctor Who.” Yet, despite my surrealist leanings, even I was a bit startled to find myself hurtling toward the Croatian border with no bags, no change of clothes and no clue what was going to happen next. What bizarre chain of events had led to this scenario?
In some ways I blame Jeff. The warning indicators were flashing red-alert red from the moment I saw the oversize Mexican mariachi bow tie in his OkCupid profile picture three months ago. This guy was trouble of the best variety.
On the surface, we appeared to be sure candidates for “World’s Most Unlikely Pair.” He’s a wildly energetic university professor who is always on the move. I’m a reclusive writer who spends hours identifying new constellations in the ceiling paint. He can strike an insta-friendship with any human not in a coma. I often pretend I don’t recognize people at the grocery store. Somehow our personality differences are offset by the fact that the same mad scientist blood flows through both of our veins. We live for the unexpected, the experimental and the subtly disruptive.
Never one to waste time, Jeff set an experimental trap weeks before he knew my real last name or whether I actually looked like the pictures in my OkCupid account. His third email was coy: “Do you have any ideas for travel experiments? I have a few things I dabble in, and I’m going to push one of these experiments to the nth limit in June.”
“Dabbling” referred to his traditional method of travel, which involved booking an outbound flight to one international airport and an inbound flight out of some other port-of-calling a few countries away. Beyond visas and flight details his trips were completely unstructured. No hotels and no itineraries.
Oh yeah, and the newest nth limit twist: no stuff.