Through the Ringer

Traveling can be a bitch. If anyone has said its easy, they lied. Don’t buy into travel advertisements, or people only showcasing the highlights of their abroad escapades.

You’re dealing with time changes, booking transport, actual transportation, jet lag, accommodations, lugging your shit everywhere, smelly people sitting next to you who don’t speak English, and a slice of pizza that costs 5 euro at the train station that’s been sitting out all day. Not fun.

However, traveling is also one of the most rewarding adventures. From my understanding, there’s no right or wrong way to tackle it. I chose no itinerary, while other people opt for planning in advance. Either way, you’re going to struggle. For every positive moment you experience, there will be an equally effective negative moment. That’s how the Universe works. The trick is mastering your reactions. I learned this the hard way.

Florence, Italy

Gabby and I planned to meet our friend Colton in Florence in about a week. He booked a flight to meet us there. The three of us agreed to do some traveling together. So, as our fairytale in Cinque Terre came to end, we tried to map out another destination to bridge the gap between there and Florence.

On our last evening, we tossed ruins over a map, used a pendulum and pulled oracle cards, but nothing seemed to intuitively stick. Western European cities are wallet crushers, and mountain towns are difficult to access without a car. After awhile, we were exhausted and decided to step back and get some sleep. Maybe a sign would come in the morning.

We had to check out by 11 a.m., and wanted to cook a decent breakfast before travel hell was upon us. But per usual, we found ourselves racing the clock. We rushed to check out, so we could sit and wait, still with no idea where to go.

After continuous discussion and spotty Wifi, we threw up our hands and decided to just go to Florence. Numerous people raved about the city, so a week there seemed doable. 

Like clockwork though, our last-minute decision was followed up by booking last-minute transportation and accommodation. In an effort to pinch some pennies, our limited options left us with a short train ride to a nearby city, where we’d then catch a ride to Florence. In total, we’d only be on the road for about two hours, but in-between the train and car ride, we’d wait for roughly six. Gotta love it.

For accommodation, our only option was a 3-star hostel for 25 euro a night, with only one night available. Florence is one of those cities where if you don’t book your accommodations in advance, your screwed. And we were. This would leave us back where we started after checkout. 

When the morning broke, my moon cycle and a cold sore were in full swing. Fantastic. After our 11 a.m. checkout, we shoved ourselves in the corner of a coffee shop, luggage and all, so Gabby could work and I could nurse my mind-numbing cramps for a few hours.

Luckily, our friends Marisa and Dylan were staying in Florence, as well. We made plans to hang later that evening. We hoped that after we explained our current situation, they’d offer up their AirBnb couch for us to crash on. We felt terrible asking though, considering the two of them normally spend their days in van – large home spaces were rare. They offered, but it came at a price. Another 25 euro per Gabby and I, according to the apartment owner, and we all had to leave at 8 a.m. because Marisa and Dylan were heading to Spain.

The friends who saved us

The friends who saved us

I woke up to a text from Colton the following morning saying his backpack had been stolen. All his money, credit cards and documents – gone. And he’d probably have to go home soon. What. Is. Happening.

At 8:15 a.m., Gabby and I found ourselves at the same coffee shop, we the same problem, 50+ euro later, and unsure of Colton’s fate. Our only accommodation options were 45 minutes out of the city, with the same lovely price of 25 euro a night.

We were taxed. Exhausted. Frustrated. In this moment, I almost gave up. I knew I’d face challenges, but this was bullshit. Joy seemed to have escaped me.

Florence, Italy

We took a break to splurge on breakfast and feed our souls. Around the time I’d taken my last bite of blueberry pancakes, we received a text from Colton saying he’d found his backpack. Apparently the housekeeper had it. I had no idea why, but I didn’t care. I already began to feel lighter.

Around the same time, Gabby and I discovered a new AirBnb listing about an hour away, in a small town called San Clemente, for 15 euro a night instead of the regular rate of 25. Not to mention, the apartment looked like the inside of a castle. Done deal.

Florence, Italy

As we absorbed every inch of the apartment we magically stumbled upon, calling it quits was out of the question. Was I insane? That was the Universe’s way of telling us, “Here’s a reminder that you both are queens, and I’ve got your back. So calm down.”

With several weeks of traveling ahead me, it clicked. I had learned the necessity of remaining logical and tranquil when travel stress began to boil over. Sulking in a pool of frustration wouldn’t get me anywhere.

There’s a tendency to believe everything will work out in any situation. I’m a firm believer in this theory. But sometimes, we fail to remember that we have to meet the Universe half way with strength, trust and patience. You must learn how to work situations out for yourself, and the support you need will be provided.

Florence, Italy