I began my two-month-long journey this past summer in Venice, Italy. I had never left North America before, and therefore the flights alone were an adjustment. Little did I know what I was in for.
Perhaps the most common issue while traveling is logistics. It doesn’t matter how much you plan, you may end up lost or making a wrong turn or missing a bus ride (or worse, flight!). Alas, upon leaving the Venice Airport my mother (who I was fortunate enough to be traveling with) and I faced our first crisis: finding proper transportation into the island-city of Venice.
After what seemed like an hour of asking a handful of people questions and standing in several painfully-long lines, we were on our way to our first Italian city, in a country I had always dreamed of visiting. Upon first viewing the beautiful city, I could easily forget the steps and confusion that we had endured. It no longer mattered.
This experience would be far from our last. For the following two months my mother and I traveled all over central Europe, from Croatia and Slovenia to Switzerland and France. Going to strange countries is intimidating, but it is even more confusing at times. Even the best of planners will run into language barriers or the simple challenge of properly navigating to your destination. While Europe has an amazing transportation system, navigating an unknown network and translating different languages can be difficult to say the least.
For example, while in France my mother and I had a difficult time translating our need for directions in a remote Eastern French town.We were eventually able to obtain information from other English-speaking travelers, who were able to help us when we could not find an English-speaking French citizen. Often times, it is those who are also traveling who provide a great deal of support and assistance.
At the end of the day, we would always find our way to our final destination and laugh about any mishaps we had faced that day. Once again, it no longer mattered.
And when you think about it, what better place to get lost than Europe? Everywhere you look is beautiful, and even when we were lost in the middle of nowhere, which was rare, the scenery was beautiful and we were able to experience European culture at a far more detailed and personal level. Whenever we reached our destination, we were that much more grateful and excited to be there because we knew what we had gone through to get there and we were proud of ourselves to have made it on our own, with or without getting a little lost.
What I learned from such experiences this summer is that you have to be flexible, you have to improvise. Chances are, things are not going to go as you planned them. Things will take far longer than you anticipated, you may need to take extra steps, and there is a good chance that you will miss a train or two. You cannot anticipate certain things, you can’t be all-knowing, and you certainly shouldn’t get upset over them. Because the truly beautiful thing about traveling is that you’re already lost. Lost in a different culture, a different world, a different way of thinking. So when I was feeling overwhelmed in my travels, I would remember that the only way to truly enjoy the chaos and whirlwinds was to let it happen. Go with the flow, get a little lost. You may find that when you get truly lost is when you find the best adventures.