I learned a lot of things on my 2 week vacation, but the most valuable things I learned were about myself.
For this trip, I had only booked a total of 7 nights: 4 nights in Ferrara and 3 nights in Venice. First I would go to visit my pen pal in Forlì and I counted on spending 3 nights with her.
However, things didn’t go out the way I planned. On the morning after the 2nd night she told me to leave. I think it might have been because she felt abandoned when I didn’t dance with her at the club the night before. I felt frustrated, small and vulnerable. I felt the most vulnerable I had during the whole time studying abroad. And it wasn’t because I was in a scary environment. On the contrary; it was 6am, the sun was beginning to warm up the sleepy little village, and I was comfortable enough with the city to know how to get around even without a map. I felt vulnerable because when she told me I had to leave I realized how much I had been counting on her to act in a certain way. I felt bad because she made me see that I was not a good friend.
I thought about taking a train home for a few days and then going to Ferrara for that night that I had already booked. I ruled this out because I knew I was already so close to Ravenna and that it would take just as long if not longer to get to Florence. So I took a train to Ravenna as planned, but just a day earlier. A week ago I had made a request to sleep at a house of a person on couchsurfing. He had a lot of good reviews, but still I was skeptical about being at his house without having met him face-to-face. I didn’t want to reach out to him yet because I was a day earlier than planned. So I needed a place to sleep for at least one night.
I exited the train station in Ravenna and walked out to the sunny roundabout in front. I tried to figure out which bus I needed to take. I was looking at the city maps stuck on the backs of the bus shelters but they were really confusing. I was waiting for a bus (the wrong one) when a man approached me and suggested me a nice and cheap hotel not far from the train station. He seemed genuinely interested in helping me and so when he offered to drive me the short distance to the hotel I agreed. When it was time for me to get out of the car, he asked me if he could accompany me that afternoon. I told him I preferred to be alone but thank you for the help. I really was grateful. I liked the hotel, the rooms and the staff, a lot. The woman who ran the place was friendly and motherly and the cook and woman who cleaned were also friendly. I was so stressed out when I was in Forli about what I was going to do for the rest of the day because I didn’t have any set plans, but things ended up working out once I started moving forward.
In another two instances I found myself strategizing for ways to get food, which foods to eat, and where to go in order to find food. In both situations I felt anxiety and stressed out. And it got annoying. I wanted it to stop. So I resolved to sit it out, check out my surroundings, and use the time to experience and see new things. I resolved to just relax and see what happens. In Comacchio I was hungry and instead of going in search of food I set my mind on seeing the sights because I figured that I could eat later and wanted to see the city while it was still light outside. That is when I came upon crates of mandarins and tomatoes on the side of the street. A store had left them there because they had gone bad. But there were not bad enough not to eat just yet. I picked through them and put the good ones in my bag to eat later. The second similar situation was in Venice. On the day of the Epifania, I finished watching the competition of on the Gran Canale and I was hungry because I had not yet eaten. My mind started working itself up into a frenzy. I started strategizing of all my possibilities – one of those green Pistachio cookies at the bar, fruit at the market, a pizza… So many options. It was taking so much effort and I wasn’t able to enjoy what was going on around me! So I made myself relax. Told myself it was ok and that food would eventually come to me. I jumped off the weird box that I was sitting on along the side of the canal and started walking in the direction of the center. Not having walked more than a few meters, I came upon a table of hand outs of free hot wine, flat sweet crackly bread, and little candies. Probably some traditional foods of the Epifania. In this case, too, when I relaxed and trusted that things would work out, they really did.
This trip was different than others because I was traveling by myself for a long length of time and for a long distance. I was in total control of how I spent my time and the thoughts and feelings that were going through my body. There was no one to comfort or stress me out but me. It became very obvious to me how often I strategize of the future. How often I go through all of the possibilities I have in front of me. And how I think so much about trivial things that feed the ego, such as food and clothing. In my head I go through the different actions that might be available to me, the implications of these actions… Its only natural I would be stressed out! Eventually I tired of it. And what I did was I refocused on my surroundings. I noticed the beauty of my surroundings, the newness of the buildings, people, cold wind, sun, water… and I resolved to see more of the NOW. I focused on the tangible. And, I trusted that my basic needs like food would be met eventually. And I was. I was rewarded with food, a place to sleep, and good company.