Not all travel days are filled with sunshine, beaches and beautiful views. Some days are a test. And not one of those easy pop quizzes in class where you trade papers with your neighbour to mark it. This is bigger. This is incredibly challenging. And the results of this emotional, mental and physical ‘exam’ will likely be the highest grade I’ve ever received.
Of course it was a financial decision above all else that led me to book the train from Amsterdam to Vienna instead of a flight. At the time, the $100 savings was worth the 10 hours of added time. I envisioned air conditioning, comfortable reclining seats and a glass of wine as I blogged about my travels (all while being inspired by the beautiful German countryside).
Reality set in before we had even left the Amsterdam Centraal station; I had not printed my ticket out on paper and the electronic ticket on my cell phone was not considered valid. I tried to bat my lashes and play blonde (not a difficult role for me), but the attendant was not one bit happy. I have no clue what he said, but his flailing hand gestures and angry glares made me certain that I was, in fact, getting yelled at in Dutch for the first time since arriving in the Netherlands. I was reluctantly let aboard and quickly settled into my seat. The only sleep I had that night was a short nap on top of my backpack on the station floor, and so I allowed my heavy eyes to close. I was woken by an announcement informing all passengers that the conductor was no where to be found and we sat on the tracks at 5am for at least an hour waiting for another to arrive (of course, “Thank-you for your patience”). I knew I had already missed my 6 minute transfer in Berlin but told myself that this is all part of the train travel experience; I’d worry about it when I arrived there.
I suppose if you travel by train often in Europe, it is common sense to reserve a seat for your ride. . . this I did not know. I was awoken stop after stop by a passenger claiming I was in their seat. So I’d get up, pull my 45lb backpack off the top rack (then try to swing it on my back in the narrow isle without hitting seated passengers in the head). Finally, I just gave up and my exhausted body collapsed on the floor by the train doors; I just wanted to close my eyes. People starred (likely more because I was still in my crop top and skirt from the night before than because I was sleeping on the dirty floor), but I really didn’t care.
At my transfer station in Germany I got off the train. I tried to disguise my inner panic as I approached person after person asking where the information booth was located. Nobody spoke English. After wandering for what seemed like hours up and down escalators in search of anyone that could help, or a sign with an ‘I’ on it, I found the ticketing office. My one connection train ride to Vienna had now turned into a 15 hour, 4 connection tour of Germany. There would be no relaxing for the rest of the day as I desperately listened to understand the German train station names and match them with the letters on my paperwork. At every transfer I frantically tried to connect to wifi (to let my friend in Vienna know about my arrival changes) all while I ran from platform to platform. Later I would reluctantly connect to the Internet on the train for $8 euro for 5 minutes of service only moments before my phone died. I had brought my charger, but of course no European adapter.
Throughout the day I sweat more than I have in my entire life. I consumed no food and only one bottle of water in 15 plus hours. And I sat on a floor for the majority of my ride. When I arrived in Vienna and saw my sweet friends familiar face I almost broke down into tears. Of course we can now laugh about it, but that night nobody so much as mentioned the word ‘train’.
Trust that life is giving you exactly what you need practice in. It’s the ups and downs that make the whole adventure so enriching and interesting. I’m learning to acknowledge and savour every single colour as I continue to paint the big picture of my future.