Where have I been you may ask? Fighting off the wrath of travel gods and generally attempting to survive my semester. Midterms rolled around at the beginning of this month, followed swiftly by Spring Break.
No, this wasn’t a party heavy vacation of debauchery……… After the roller coaster that was my journey over those 11 days, I’m almost wishing I had danced the night away in Panama City Beach. Yeah, the stress of traveling had pushed me so far as to dream a terrible vision of lounging on the beach with frat boys in bro tanks that say #PCB2K15 on them.
Luckily, the allure of seeing as many landscapes in Europe as possible helped to keep me strong in the face of the Travel Gods wanting to ruin all the best laid plans of mice and this abroad student. Long story short and cutting out some details: one flight cancellation, one plane delay, a missed train, and the last bed on a night train all pushed me to the traveling edge. Of course, I was able to look out my window and see beautiful sites like these so, I will quit complaining now…..
Instead of complaining I wanted to share a bit about what I learned over those 11 days. I will go city by city to give a little bit of a sense of place when I tell my little stories.
- Paris With my return to the City of Lights, my heart soared. I don’t think you ever really appreciate a place until you leave it – well, I found out with my first trip back that you don’t ever really love a city until you return for the first time. I ate my favorite foods and strolled down my favorite streets once again – it was glorious.
- Nice I had not travelled as far south in France as the Côte d’Azur, so this opportunity was lovely. The beach was stones instead of sand and yet for a few amazing days I didn’t care about risking bruises to lie in front of the Mediterranean Sea and find some much needed relaxation. (Surveying hot guys behind sunglasses tipped low was simply a nice bonus…) Ha!
- Madrid Due to the Travel Gods, I had only one night in Madrid. We arrived late and made our way to meet up with a great friend I hadn’t seen in so long. Feeling out the city at night, I just knew I would return soon enough because there was no way I was going to feel cheated out of discovering Madrid and perhaps other parts of Spain in the daylight! Hugging my friend goodbye and carrying her signature smell in my clothes back to the airport helped to make my few experiences there seem that much more sweet – like the beautiful sunrise I saw just before flying out.
- Milan Still under the Travel Gods’ thumbs my time in Milan was short, yet not altogether the worst hours of my life. As all my plans were falling apart in the Milano Centrale train station, I broke. I rushed to buy tissues and find the nearest bathroom. After some deep breathing inside the stall, listening to the different Italian and foreign female voices arching over each other I made a promise to myself:
“No matter what happens, I will not break and I will find the beauty in the chaos”
[Of course, moments after I cleaned myself up and went back into the main hall – a handsome train conductor spoke to me in Italian, revealing himself after in broken English to be offering me help in making new plans. The world is funny isn’t it?]
- Zurich Somehow I was reassured when my only option was to take a train to Zurich in the hopes of buying another ticket upon arrival. Having travelled through the same station last semester back to Paris – I stepped off and breathed some fresh air, feeling immensely better. My mood improved even more when I was able to snag the last bed on the night train to Salzburg, even though my bank account definitely suffered. At this point I was down to twenty euros in cash and no wifi to check my card balance. That twenty was what I needed to pay for my hostel in Zurich, so I decided not to eat dinner. Some water though, sounded magnificent. Low and behold I stepped on the night train and the attendant came by to check tickets and drop off complementary water bottles. He noticed how delighted I was to get one, so he winked and handed me a second. I tried not to jump off the top bunk and hug him while sobbing in a very unladylike fashion.
- Salzburg With my arrival in Austria, I had travelled alone through four countries in under 24 hours. To say I was dead tired was an understatement. Meeting back up with Hollins girls the next morning over breakfast laid a blanket of pure calm and contentment across my soul. Also, the chance to wander freely around such a beautiful city was refreshing after not being able to investigate fully so many cities before then.
- London Although the Travel Gods had given me more stress than I ever thought I could endure, they awarded my perseverance with two flights (Salzburg to Dusseldorf & Dusseldorf to London) that felt like a cool towel on a hot summers day. The buttery soft leather seats in the final British Airways flight back into the United Kingdom felt like heaven and I gladly sat the whole flight running my hands along the armrests and reading every word of their inflight magazine. (I now want a job with that publication…. Seriously, pick one of those bad boys up sometime).
So what did I learn, in the end? I know now that I can weather any struggles life throws at me and find the beauty in the chaos. Am I suddenly more naive? Nope. Will I never travel again? Absolutely not. Keep up with me then, and perhaps we both will see what I learn the next time the chaos overtakes me.
A gift for you! The view I had each day on the beach in Nice. Take a few moments in whatever chaos may be trying to overtake you and find some beauty (or a lot) in this postcard from the South of France.