I went camping this weekend with a group of friends and we spent somewhere around seven hours either on public transportation or waiting for public transportation. At least two of those hours involved us sprawled out on the bench of a bus stop with a bag of almonds and a water bottle full of $15 wine, waiting for a bus that we weren’t entirely sure would come.
It was, in a word, magical.
I’m finding this to be a pretty common scene among exchange students. It turns out that when you let a bunch of inexperienced 20-somethings travel on their own, a lot can go wrong. These trips rarely go as planned.
But it’s not entirely my fault. For as fun as it is, seeing the world is really, really hard. Behind every gorgeous picture you see, there are hours of poring over train schedules, dozens of calls to the hostels or travel agencies, countless wrong turns and at least one missed bus. Traveling is a skill, and I am a rookie. Maybe less than a rookie.
I make mistakes often, and I spend a lot of time correcting them. It’s exhausting and tedious and I usually find myself feeling like maybe I’m just not cut out for travel.
Studying abroad forces you to do your own research, to own up to your own errors and, most importantly, correct them. When you’re stranded in the middle of an Australian island with no cell phone service, 9,000 miles away from home, you’re basically on your own. That seems scary, but I promise it’ll be OK. You never know just how independent you can be until your mom is half a world away.
I’m sure I’m making study abroad sound incredibly appealing right now. In truth, traveling isn’t always fun, but it will always be worth it. I’ve seen some pretty cool things in the past two months. I might even be ready to move up to “travel amateur.”
I don’t actually know if that bus ever came — we hitched a ride in a taxi with another family headed in the same direction. After seven hours on public transportation and 15 minutes in a shared taxi, we finally reached the jetty that groups of dolphins swim up to every night. When they came by, they were almost close enough to touch.
I actually missed most of that, too — I was taking a walk and lost track of time. Rookie mistake.