I always imagined traveling as a romantic act. I pictured myself admiring a charming foreign countryside through the window of a high-speed train. The perfect song would magically start playing as I reflected upon all the surrounding beauty. Surely a hidden camera would be capturing the cinematic moment of the sun’s rays kissing my face as rolling hills approached in the distance.
This lovely depiction that I replayed to myself over and over again before beginning my study abroad program was shattered as I ran through the Florence train station, desperate to catch my train to Rome. My roommates and I had eight minutes to find the correct train. Eight minutes may not be an eternity but surely it was enough time to locate the correct carriage. However, not immediately finding our train on the departure board was enough proof to us that our train was never coming. Stricken with panic, we jumped on the first train with the sign “Roma Termini”.
I’ve never considered myself a master in public transit. While I’m not completely inept in the realm of buses, trains, or metros, I am by no means an expert. I wanted my first real Italian escapade to go smoothly (if nothing else, to prove to myself that constant travel was something I could handle). Needless to say, we hopped on the wrong train. My broken Italian allowed me to shortly converse with a nearby couple in order to discover that, yes, the train would eventually arrive in Rome. Four hours later than anticipated.
Movies, TV shows, and social media portray travel as an idealized and effortless endeavor. A journey from point A to point B is only a matter of snapping ones fingers. Spoiler alert, it’s not. Travel is sweaty backs, repeated outfits, blistered feet, and missed trains. Not to say that this unspoken chaos of travel isn’t worth the trouble. Every moment of travel provides an opportunity to learn and grow.
Our train ride wasn’t filled with the peaceful air that I wanted. Rather, the majority of the ride was devoted to muttering under my breath about the tragedy of the situation. About halfway through the ride I finally stopped my self-loathing and realized something. A four-hour difference doesn’t need to overshadow the fact that I was on my way to Rome. The “Eternal City” could wait a few hours for my arrival, and in the meantime all I had to do was enjoy my extra tour of the Italian countryside.
I can’t promise that I won’t have more travel mishaps (in fact I can almost guarantee it will). However, I can promise that these unplanned moments are the ones that will stick with me years from now.