By Kalina Davis
“Okay, first we go this way,” my roommate, Taylor said, taking charge of the group and walking with purpose.
It was our second day in the magnificent city of Rome. My five roommates and I had gotten settled into our apartment, and were ready to take on the city. Our study abroad program directors had scheduled an orientation for that morning located at the university we would be studying at that fall. Thinking we would get a head start on the day, we decided to leave a few hours early to get our bearings and have time to stop at a café for breakfast.
We had learned that the university was about a 30-minute walk away from our apartment, which seemed manageable enough. Before leaving our apartment, we checked out a map, and felt confident about finding our way to the university on our own.
Boy, were we wrong.
We started out just fine, figuring out the first few streets to follow. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves thrown into the confusion of the seemingly multiplying streets found in Rome. As we walked, we passed a gas station with two men sitting outside. After we had gone on for a while, we began to question ourselves, and decided that we needed to turn around. We passed the men sitting outside the gas station a second time. We kept walking, but after consulting a map, we found out that we needed to go back the other way again. A third time we passed the men at the gas station. We all completely avoided eye contact, embarrassed by how stupid and out of place we must have looked to them.
“Okay, even if this is the wrong way, I refuse to walk past that gas station again!” Alli said, exasperated.
It didn’t get any better from there. We turned on this street and that, trying our best to follow a map on which we were unfamiliar with all of the street names. The sun was beating down with no mercy, and there was no breeze for a remedy. I was drenched in sweat, and was beginning to regret my choice of shoes.
As we stood on a street corner, contemplating our next move, and old man turned around and in broken English asked us where we were trying to go. We told him where we were headed, and he directed us to a street across the road. We all thanked him, trying our best to enunciate the Italian word correctly. He chuckled to himself as he walked away.
Although the street he pointed to was completely different than the route we had planned on taking, we decided to go with it, and hope for the best. However, we did not get very far before feeling very lost again. We walked and walked and walked, and I completely lost any sense of direction I had to start out with. Each of my roommates took turns trying to figure out the map and how we could get back on track. It seemed useless, and I was beginning to wonder if we would ever make it to the university at all, let alone on time for the orientation. What we thought would only take a half-hour had already taken us over two.
After what felt like an eternity in that hot, August morning, we saw a young woman standing on the corner of the street. Desperate, we decided to ask her for help.
As it turned out, she was an American who had studied abroad in Rome a few years earlier. She was currently employed with Bus2alps, and was promoting the company to students on their way to the university. As it also turned out, we were literally yards away from our university, and she directed us to a building right down the street. She handed us some brochures about Bus2alps, and gave us a coupon for a free drink at an American café down the street. She was very friendly, and although we were humiliated by our inadequacy, her kindness and easy-going nature made us feel a little better about our unsuccessful morning. We thanked her, and went on our way, making it to the university just in time.
When you travel, things do not always go as planned. Even if you prepare as much as you can, there are always uncontrollable factors that you cannot prepare for. It may rain when you planned to spend the day at the beach. Your flight may be cancelled. The bus may be late. You may get lost. Learn to expect delays and changed plans. Prepare yourself for these situations. When something throws a wrench in your plans, don’t panic. Panicking will not help the situation. Instead, take a deep breath, and make the most of it. Giving yourself extra time for unexpected obstacles and being flexible will help you prepare for these situations. When you give yourself that extra margin for the unexpected, you may even learn to enjoy those situations. That morning my roommates and I got lost on our way to school was frustrating at the time, but it has now become a funny memory and it was a great opportunity for bonding. Traveling has taught me to make the most of every opportunity, even if it’s not necessarily the opportunity I was hoping for. Adventure comes in all types of situations, and being flexible and going with the flow can allow you to enjoy your time more fully and come back with cherished memories.
Create margin in your agenda for the unexpected. And when those obstacles come up, make the most of the situation. Choose to enjoy it, and be willing to laugh about it. Doing so will make your experience so much more enjoyable.
Go Travel, and Travel Fearless.
Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel
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