As a young student studying abroad, I have certain expectations of my journeys. I try to plan what will be good and what will be challenging. But after my first day of travel, it was clear this was the wrong mindset when embarking on a trip.
It started with the plane reservations. My father booked my flight months in advance, expecting his early reservations to give me exemption from danger.
Unfortunately, British Airways experienced a cabin crew strike. Four days before I was set to leave I had to find a new flight. I was given an itinerary that included four different airlines, and no paper boarding passes.
The night before my flight, I panicked. I expected to be stranded alone in Vienna, my stop between London and Rome, not knowing how to communicate my needs, overwhelmed and
terrified. I told myself I was a fool for thinking I could do this. I woke up in a daze. On my first flight to Boston, I was crying.
Then I met Brenna, another student trying to get to Italy, and we started a conversation. Brenna is 24 and studying jewelry making. She was on all of my flights, and when we went to get our paper tickets from British Airways, they scheduled a flight to Rome for us that didn’t include Austria. Lesson one: Things can be fixed, and no plans are definite.
Somewhere along the way, Brenna and I confided in each other that we weren’t sure we could handle our trip. We both questioned how much we could do on our own, and thought we were crazy for not knowing anyone. Through this mutual anxiety I learned another lesson: Self-doubt is OK. Also, you never know who you’ll meet to help you out. I didn’t expect to meet Brenna, and she was the best part of my flights.
Across the ocean we watched a quick animated movie telling us about the cute cafés in Heathrow. Brenna and I had a seven-hour layover, but the cartoon characters seemed at ease, and even happy. They were reassuring.
When I got off the flight, none of the cafés were open because it was 5 a.m. in London. No one was happy and smiling, except a 4-year-old boy who was wandering around the women’s bathroom. I couldn’t sleep because the benches were uncomfortable. And with the exchange rate, my relaxing meal at a café would end up costing double what it should. Lesson three: Never trust British cartoons.
I finally got to Rome and stopped expecting so much. If anything, I now expect myself to know better than thinking I can plan everything to go a certain way. And my trip so far has been even more of a joy than anyone could have expected.