Sitting in a small train station en route to Siena in Tuscany after having missed two trains, I reflected on how far I’ve come. I remember going on family vacations as a child, completely reliant on adults for the scheduling and arrangement of our trips. Any complications that arose were no inconvenience to me, as I had no responsibility in planning or implementing what we would do. This, however, was not the case now as I started to panic and wonder how I would get this weekend trip (which was now three hours off schedule) back on track.
The commute, which I had singularly planned and organized, had gotten off track when our original train left the station late. This threw everything off and made it very difficult to make our subsequent connections in time. Eventually though, I found my bearings and I figured out where and when I could catch the next train and continue to my destination. As I rode this train to Siena, I couldn’t help but be proud of myself for navigating through a foreign country completely independently and overcoming this obstacle. For one of the first times in my life, I felt entirely self-sufficient in every way.
Upon arrival in Siena, I found my hotel, checked in, and proceeded to explore the city. As I walked, I stumbled upon a giant square surrounding an enormous tower, which I later learned was called Torre del Mangia. With a little investigation, I also learned that anyone can climb to the top and see the whole city from the peak of the tower. I began to scale the steps within the narrow hallways and low ceilings of the tower that wrapped up and around probably 50 stories.
My excitement was building with every step because I knew the view would be incredible. Sure enough, as I reached the top, what I saw took my breath away. Miles and miles of beautiful landscape dotted with villages, cathedrals, hills, and valleys. The clouds partially covered the view which gave it an incredible contrast between dark and light, where the sun shone through. I simply gaped in amazement and awe at what was before me. It seems that every time I see something new in this country, it becomes my new favorite thing.
I explored a little more that night but I had Pisa scheduled for the next morning so I wanted to get enough sleep. The next day, I (flawlessly) caught two trains and made it to Pisa. I immediately found the Leaning Tower, or Torre Pendente di Pisa. It was incredible to see such a famous monument standing before me. People all over the courtyard were attempting to take ridiculous pictures with the tower and I couldn’t resist snapping one of my own.
I eventually made it back home without a glitch, and I can hardly describe how gratifying it was to have successfully planned and executed this little weekend excursion all on my own. I was able to see two extraordinary places with a little hard work and persistence. In spite of the minor complications I went through, I persevered and eventually everything worked out. This was majorly important to me because it serves as a maturity benchmark in the process of my life. The dependent has become the independent. The child has become the adult. Some day when I have kids of my own that are reliant on me, I will partially owe my reliability to this weekend experience, and my overall experience in Italy that helped shape me as an adult and make me who I am.