Local Stories: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Footprint
Our tale begins on a drizzly September morning in the heart of London town. I was walking up to Holborn campus at the LSE. Orientation had begun but there was only one event I was even moderately interested in: The Campus Tour! It couldn’t hurt to at least know my way to class. Maybe there were about 8 or 9 students in the group and lo and behold I scuttled over towards the pretty girls. I soon found out they were named Dory and Gabi and they were both Hungarian:
“Holy shit!!! I was just in Budapest last spring.I LOVEEE that city. Seriously what. a. place!!!”
Some nonsense like that. They were so damn nice and we had a great conversation. I don’t remember much else about the tour. As my year in London went on I’d see Dory around campus from time to time and I once attended a lecture with Gabi, but we hardly got to know each other. LSE is a fantastic school to meet interesting people and London is a terrific city to never find them again.
Last week I discussed why I moved to Budapest. But I sort of left out the whole creative justification for why I wanted to keep living in Europe in the first place. I was hellbent on harnessing the poetic impulse I had first identified in London.
What do i mean by ‘poetic impulse’?
The Master’s course which I’d enrolled in at LSE was called Comparative Political Science. But almost immediately after the course began Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and there was nothing scientific about that, nor was there anything to really compare it to. I remember waking up groggy eyed on an hour of sleep after the calamity, downing a bottle of merlot in my pajamas and deciding that the only way to live life in such a lunatic world was to do some crazy things myself.
Ultimately this culminated in my decision to take a completely unscientific approach to my senior dissertation: I would spend a month on the Cornish peninsula interviewing Brexit voters in pubs.
That trip changed my life forever. In between my interviews with salty sailors in ramshackle pubs I would take long runs amongst breathtaking scenery capturing pictures and videos as I went. When I looked back on these pictures on trips end the poetry flowed out of my wrist as if by magic. Honestly, I think I’ve been chasing the Cornish dragon ever since. It was ecstasy; squeezing the juice from my memory fruit and drinking the melodies down.
The trip to Cornwall was in March of 2017 and I finally finished my project in September before and graduation in December. But Cornwall was just the start. Over the 9 months remaining in that first year post-Trump I travelled to Portugal (twice), Slovenia, Spain, France, Greece, the Netherlands and my mother’s basement. The year flew by in a fury of frenetic energy.
I was finding some modicum of success on Instagram through the documentation of all of this lunacy and the blog I’d started: HAVAGO.CO. I didn’t know what on Earth I was doing. Really, not a damn clue. But I figured there was nowhere better than Budapest to figure it out.
I was flattered when Gabi asked me to dinner to discuss a potential collaboration in February. It was at that dinner that I finally met Costis. Somehow we’d never crossed paths at LSE. They told me about their project and what the had in mind. This was the first time anyone had shown concerted professional interest in my creative obsessions, but at the time LikeLocals did not really exist. And I was still sorting myself out, playing with puppets, and spending hours submerged in thermal medicinal mirth. I wrote about pirates and vikings that summer, traversed through Europe and continued to slip further and further down the rabbit hole.
I got to know Gabi, Costis and Ijaz during our sporadic meetings over the months that followed. Once at Habibi shisha bar for Marti’s birthday and at Gabi’s marvelous wedding. I really, really liked them. I trusted them and I liked them and they wanted to work together. But still, there was no real work needed yet.
Finally Gabi hit me up again this February or so to let me know that the app was almost ready and footprints needed to be written.
It was perfect timing as I was really hungry to manifest my passions professionally by this point. I heard them out and told them I’d write as many footprints as I could once I got back from a ski trip in Georgia during the middle of march. Launch was mid April so I had one month.
But what the hell was a footprint?
I didn’t really know. So I had to discover it myself. And what I discovered was that a footprint was a lens into the city I had fallen in love with.
I am speaking here of the footprint as a lens for myself as a creator, but I suppose for those who tread in my prints it offers a lens as well. A lens into the relationship between myself and Budapest, the city I now call home. But more importantly – from a selfish perspective at least – the footprint creation process was a way to focus my passion for this city. To understand and sift through the sand that had swept through my fingers over the past year. Once I had this lens I could see the grains of the city for their individual and particular beauty.
The footprint creation process became a vehicle for the professionalization of my work. It was an inspiration, a spark and a wonderful thing to do. Any creatives out there who are living in Europe and doing some sort of blogging, videography, photography or writing – perhaps a haphazard combination of all of these like myself – would do well to try their hand at footprint creation.
This is the second post in a multipart series about my life as a creative hooligan. Click here to read part 1 and stay tuned next week for part 3.