An MFRW Post – and check out the other blogs on the hop!
By the time I was nineteen, I’d been living on my own in Boston for two years, achieving high grades, working two jobs and rooming with women that would become my best friends. I thought I knew a few things, and maybe I did.
But I learned a hell of a lot more from the minute I got on the bus in New York City, a little weepy as I waved goodbye to my dad, whom I wouldn’t see for nearly four months. My best friend Emily picked me up at South Station and we set about finalizing her packing for our trip to Amsterdam.
Boston to Amsterdam via Iceland is January is one cold flight. But our three other roommates met us at the airport the next day and we started off on what would become the journey of a lifetime.
And goodness, it was. Our study abroad program was based out of a 14th century castle in the small Dutch town of Well, two hours south of Amsterdam via a bus and two trains. We had Fridays off from school and one skip day for each half of the semester, designed so we could spend each weekend traveling. And we traveled. We did Athens and Madrid and Berlin. Later, we would do Paris and Edinburgh and London, Pisa, Florence and Barcelona.
In Barcelona, I learned a lot about myself.
No, this isn’t one of the myriad raunchy stories of my foreign conquests. If you want to hear those tales, you’ll have to buy me a drink first.
No, in Barcelona, which came after Madrid, which came after midterms, which came after a raucous week of Carnival festivities, I lost my passport.
Stomach drop. Heart stop beating. We were in Barcelona for two nights and the very first night, I found out that I might not be able to leave.
Now, in truth, the travel gods were smiling down upon me. Our original rooming situation, a rented apartment, didn’t pan out (after we spent several hours sitting in a concrete staircase waiting for a landlord who never appeared) and so we traipsed to the hostel down the street. Where the woman at the desk after for passports. And thank heaven she did. Because when I reached into my bag, in the hidden compartment where I knew for a fact my passport was meant to be, I couldn’t find it.
That night, I grew up. A lot. That night, I didn’t allow the nerves or panic to set in. Instead, I got directions and hours to the embassy, located my spare passport photo, scrounged up the (eek) 140 euro it would cost and set an early alarm.
And it worked out fine. My passport looked like it had been printed in a basement, but it was an official basement. I ran into some trouble coming back from the United Kingdom, but just once. And I knew that if I could get through the heart-stopping, blinding panic of being in a foreign country without my passport and a flight in thirty hours, I could do a lot more than I thought.
Over the next weeks, I planned more and felt comfortable taking charge of our group– smart, headstrong women who often didn’t want to play leader. We navigated the bus routes of Pisa and trains of Florence. We would visit many more cities and meet many more people. And through all those challenges, and the many more that followed as I returned home to immediately go on a New Jersey to New Orleans road trip, returning to start my first summer as a sleep away camp counselor, I always knew I was capable of more than I thought.
In an emergency situation, I could be calm and handle myself. When the whole camp broke out with a 24-hour virus, creating what we dubbed Vomithon 2011, I knew I could get through it because I’d been through something scary as hell before and survived.
I’m not nineteen anymore, and sometimes little things still get to me. But that’s okay. The point is, that one silly little mistake, a sleepless night in a Barcelona hostel, changed me, made me know that I could rely on myself to get to the other side.
Oh, and I found my passport three months later. It had slipped into the lining of my purse. ♦