Some people were made to travel. It’s in our DNA. Yet, each one of us has to figure out that this is our calling. Maybe you watched Amélie or Lost in Translation and dreamed of Paris or Tokyo. I had been travelling internationally for 5 years before I finally realized my calling.
When I discovered this ingrained desire to travel, I was living in Spain. Some will say “You were living in Spain and didn’t know you loved to travel?” I loved travel, for sure, but it wasn’t part of my genetic makeup. Now it’s part of who I am.
This is why I travel:
I was set to return to the States when my then-boyfriend and his parents were traveling through Europe. I decided to tag along, and after vacationing with them in Switzerland and Italy, I realized I needed to get back to Madrid to catch a flight home. First, I called the airline to attempt to change my departure point to Rome, and I knew these words were coming– “That’ll be a $200 change fee plus the fare difference.” It was only a few days before my flight, so I could only imagine that the fare difference would be no less than two grand. I was unwilling and unable to pay this amount; I knew there had to be a better way.
Two days before I needed to be on a plane in Madrid, I set off on a risky and wild journey to get there. I started from Rome and took a 2-hour train northwest to the port town of Civitivecchia (don’t be embarrassed… Italians can’t even pronounce it). When I arrived in Civitivecchia, I jumped off the train and–not really having any clue where I was headed–walked across the entire town to get to the dock. There was plenty to see on my walk, as the town resembled a typical charming European town, with colorful edifices and extravagant statues to its heroes. Though my eyes were stinging from dripping sweat, I still enjoyed sightseeing (squinting) and traversing this undiscovered territory.
That is, until my suitcase broke.
Oh, did I forget to mention that I was also lugging a 50-pound suitcase and an overweight carry-on? Well, about halfway through this trek, the wheel on my suitcase gave out. It was literally worn out. The wheel was no longer round– it was now a half-circle. As I schlepped it around, I could smell the rubber burning from the friction it created with the concrete.
At last I reached the port and bought a ferry ticket from Civitivecchia, Italy to Barcelona, Spain.
Now, I’m not exactly sure how much you know about geography, but I bet you’ve heard of the Mediterranean Sea. Italy is on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, and Spain is on the western side. In other words, I bought I ticket to a ferry that would cross the entire Mediterranean Sea.
The ferry ride lasted 28 hours.
Let that sink in. 28 hours.
I only bought a passenger ticket, so I didn’t have a bed to sleep on. I also made the mistake checking my suitcase underneath to avoid carrying it around. Unfortunately, I was wearing a sundress, and with my suitcase locked away I had no change of clothes.
My first impressions of the boat were satisfactory, not excellent. It was huge, and there was a crêpe stand, so that was a plus. But when nighttime came, I was dreadfully unprepared. Have you ever tried to sleep on a stiff couch in a short dress in front of hundreds of strangers? This was my first time (yes, I’ve done this multiple times since, but that’s a different story), and it worked for about 5 minutes until I had a choice to make. I either had to forego any manners I still had or stay up through the night. And in these 5 minutes, the length of my dress kept creeping up, the blasting air conditioning made me shiver so badly that I actually started sweating, and I got too many weird looks and disapproving head-shakes to count. So, I resolved to stay up until morning; the sun would be out and I could relax on the deck.
At about 6 a.m., I heard that they would be giving out those full-body lounge chairs. First come, first serve. I was second in line and waited for two hours to get a chair, but oh boy was it worth it. I was exhausted from travel and all-nighters, and this free, crummy yet somehow inviting chair was the answer to my prayers. A chance to rest in the warm, outside air. As soon as I set it up, I fell asleep and began roasting in the sun.
I had fallen asleep on the lounge chair with my legs crossed (because again, wearing a dress), so when I woke up at about 3 p.m., I had a horrifying burn line. Great. My sister’s wedding was five days away, and unfortunately red was not in the color scheme.
Finally, we arrived in Barcelona. I was tired, sweaty and sunburned. Nevertheless, I was excited to be back in Spain, a country whose culture and language I knew well. I disembarked, picked up my broken suitcase and began hauling it around Barcelona.
I asked a woman for directions to the bus station in Spanish, and she answered me in English as if to say “don’t speak my language,” an annoyance I’ve only encountered in Barcelona. Taking her advice (yet disregarding her rudeness), I headed towards the bus station, and it was much easier to find than the port in Civitivecchia. Things seemed to be getting better! I arrived at the Barcelona bus station and bought an overnight bus fare to Madrid.
I repeat: an 8-hour bus ride to Madrid.
At least the bus had wi-fi.
I waited for the bus, and when it got to the terminal, I settled in. There was no one seated next to me. Thank you, Jesus. Sleeping on the bus was near impossible, though, as buses are extremely bumpy and the seats only recline what seems like 2 centimeters. But I was almost home. Almost…
At last, I arrived at Madrid Barajas Airport. 12 hours to go.
From Madrid I flew to Charlotte, then home to Dayton. Arriving in Dayton, my journey still wasn’t over. My parents drove me home, and the short nap I planned turned into a 16-hour hibernation.
Five different modes of transportation. Fifty hours of nonstop travel.
Sometimes I look at what I’ve done for travel, and think “Why?” Why do I do crazy things to be able to travel? Was it really worth it?
And every time the answer is an emphatic YES.
When I travel, I regret nothing. I tell this story, and it sounds crazy. Heck, it was crazy. But I do not regret one single moment of that journey. I don’t consider mishaps or setbacks to be bad experiences: every situation can be presented in a positive way.
When I travel, I forget about material things and worldliness. Some may call it stupidity, but when I fell asleep on the ferry, I was fully aware that anyone could take anything they wanted out of my bag: my camera, passport, or money. But things didn’t matter to me. I only wanted to be in the moment and enjoy God’s beautiful creation.
When I travel, I notice and appreciate the little things. A crepe stand on the ferry. The sun to keep me warm on a cool day. A nice pair of pants.
When I travel, I learn. I learn how to cope in tough situations. And on a simpler level, I learn to no longer use rolling suitcases (I now stick to my backpacking pack).
When you live a story like mine and realize all these things, you can’t go back.
Traveling makes me adaptable.
Traveling makes me more empathetic.
Traveling makes me a feeler and a thinker.
Traveling makes me cognizant of my surroundings.
Traveling makes me respectful, polite, and appreciative.
Traveling makes me an admirer of God.
Traveling makes me a better person.
Traveling is in my DNA.
Traveling makes up part of who I am.
The Wayfaring Woman