So far, transportation has been much more difficult to navigate than I first expected. From diverted flights, close calls on trains, and missed busses, our group has had our fair share of transportation problems. Through it all, I have grown a sense of appreciation for the people who navigate the tricky transportation systems daily. Even after three and a half weeks attempting to figure it out, I’m still befuddled at times when I stare at the intermixed train and bus maps (luckily, there are some people who are quite adept at it). Despite difficulties, transportation has surprisingly taught me a lot, from being wearier of my actions to learning more about myself.
Looking all the way back to our time in Berlin, I realize how spoiled we were with the transportation system. You could get almost anywhere with the train system. At first, I struggled to see where all the trains were going and had no clue how to differentiate between a U-Bahn and S-Bahn train. Thankfully we had an expert navigator in our group, Ryal Reddick. Ryal had been to Berlin before and was able to easily lead our group anywhere and everywhere with his expertise. I’d say by the second or third day in Berlin, I felt like I had a better grasp of how to navigate Berlin. But just when our group thought we were getting good, we hopped onto a train going the completely wrong way. Although only a minor mistake and easily redeemable, on a different train our mistake could potentially lead to a more severe problem. We were able to manage transportation pretty well in Berlin, but that did not necessarily reveal how the rest of our transportation experiences would go.
As I’m sure you’ve heard from blogs before, our night train to Munich was disastrous. I’m not sure what it was, but our conductor had a vendetta against us. Maybe we were too loud getting on the train or he was annoyed because we weren’t sleeping and instead enjoying quality conversation with each other in the different compartments. Whatever the conductor’s reasoning, his treatment towards us was quite cruel. Our entire coach was awoken to his cries of “it is finished,” “it isn’t my problem,” and most terrifying, “two minutes, two minutes.” Don’t forget that this was all expressed in a heavy, thick German accent. We all started scrambling, fearful that we wouldn’t get off in time. In the process of scrambling, food trays and drinks were dropped, items were left (IYKYK), and adrenaline levels were through the roof. When we finally did get off, we stood on the platform and watched the train stay motionless for another ten minutes. I fully believe that the conductor was in glee while watching us struggle to get off the train. Not a great start to Munich, but we were blessed by not going through any further problems with trains in Munich (or at least any I can think of). During and right after our night train to Munich, our group was anxious and exhausted, but I think we can now all agree that it’s a great story to tell, despite the emotional scarring at the time.
Our next transportation problem occurred on the way to Interlaken. This was not due to difficulty in navigating but rather our lack of train etiquette. Right before an announcement came over the speaker, our group increased our volume so that we could hear each other over the loudspeaker. By the grace of God and Dr. P’s many apologies to the train staff, we avoided a catastrophe. Because we had been so loud, we had missed the announcement that everyone going to Interlaken needed to get off at the next stop. As Dr. P was apologizing to the last train attendant, she mentioned that the next stop was the correct one. About ninety percent of us were standing on the platform. In other words, all of us on the platform were wrong and in danger of the doors closing and the train leaving us far from our final destination. Dr. P’s much better train etiquette saved us from the rest of our terrible train etiquette. Our Interlaken train situation has definitely taught me to be more cautious about how loud I am in public and in public transit. I often wince now whenever I hear our group’s raucousness wherever we go. I am not devoid of blame in all cases, but Interlaken has caused me to think more about how loudly I speak.
Interlaken would go on to provide more headaches. When Nishu and I headed out for the day to go kayaking, we stood at a bus stop for a while waiting and waiting, until we figured something must’ve gone wrong. We walked forty minutes to get to our destination. Our attempt to catch the bus on the way back to the hostel would be just as fruitless. Nishu and I speed walked back to the hostel and because of the time crunch, ran the last half mile. I’d find out later more specifically how the busses ran. With that information, sprinting and long treks could have been avoided. But shoot me for not just asking and trying to do it on my own. My refusal to ask the citizens of Interlaken with help in figuring out the bus system led to us missing our busses. This do-it-myself attitude shows up in more than just not asking for directions, but in how I work with others. As much as I hate admitting it, I like being in control, so when others try and take charge, I sometimes respond negatively, which is a fault. It’s funny how much was revealed in missing a couple of busses. In the future, I hope to be more willing to ask for and readily receive help. That includes help in accomplishing a task or help when I’m emotionally drained.
Although Italy doesn’t utilize trains as much as Germany does, our group still found a way to make life difficult by almost missing our train and even missing one on a certain occasion. One morning, our group had to jog all the way to the train station (no mere feat) to catch our train to Pisa. We had time to get on the train easily and sit down and relax (not quite as exaggerating as it sounds). However, two days later, a smaller group of us found ourselves almost sprinting to the train station to catch the train to San Gimignano. Nine of us decided to travel to the Tuscan countryside town for our free travel day in Florence. Our arrival to the train was much closer than the train to Pisa and it started rolling only a minute after we boarded. Thank goodness we decided to sprint, or we would have certainly been left behind.
We arrived at the Poggibonsi train station about an hour later and proceeded to buy bus tickets to get us to San Gimignano, only to miss our bus due to confusion of where we were supposed to be picked up. Eventually we made it to the small countryside town. The town was small and rustic and reminded me of a medieval town with its high walls. We ate some world-famous gelato (twice), got a picture with the store owner, walked around a bit, and sat on some steps so people could journal and converse. The plot thickened when we walked down to our bus stop and our bus decided to no show. Because it was Sunday (or a “holiday”), the busses didn’t run until 5:40, six minutes before our train departed for Florence. Even attempting to call a taxi proved pointless because they, too, weren’t running till 5:40. At this point, I remember feeling so frustrated and many members in our group were on a similar wavelength. This is when one member of our group, Brooke, decided to intervene and have us all sit down and try to calm down and figure out the situation. She found another train that would only have us arriving about thirty minutes later than originally planned. Problem solved. Yet, I was still so frustrated. It was our third bad run in with transportation that day. Full of anger, I sat in the grass close to ten minutes. As I sat there thinking about all that had gone wrong that day and how stressed I was, I asked myself why. Why was I mad? Why was I stressed? Why was I harping on the negative? Everything was fine; we had devised a successful plan to get back. This is something I struggle with so much: focusing on the negative even when the situation turns out fine. In that moment, I decided to smell the roses. Instead of continuing to mope in the grass, I got up and walked over to sit next to my friends on a wall with a great overlook of the valleys surrounding the town. I attribute my action to Brooke’s logical words, Lauren’s positive outlook, and Indigo’s joy in the situation. All three handled the situation in a way that I want to be able to regularly act out. This seemingly frustrating travel day turned into a valuable lesson for me.
I hope these stories don’t sound negative or as if I’m complaining. I just want to tell it how it was and how I felt in that moment. It’s weird to think that such a minute thing as transportation revealed to me so much of my character and personality and even pushed me to look at life from an unfamiliar perspective. Often times, it’s the little things that can have such a great impact.