When you travel it’s nearly impossible not to have a few occasional bumps along the road. You spend hours making concrete plans only to have them completely turned around, sometimes within minutes of leaving for your destination. I always find it a bit ironic that people put so much time and energy into planning their trips because, in the end, nothing ever goes according to plan. During my semester abroad thus far, a lot of students have talked about how irrelevant planning can end up being, but I didn’t truly encounter it until this past weekend when my roommate and I took a trip to Belgium.
First off, when planning our trip we naively decided to book a train out of London at 8 a,m..
“8 a.m. isn’t that early!” I thought to myself — if only I had known. We booked this trip as a celebration of my roommate’s 21st birthday and seeing as this was her 21st on the eve of her birthday (as well as the eve of our 8 a.m. departure) we decided to go out for a bit to celebrate the next year of her life. Our aim of a quick outing failed, and, before we knew it, it was 6 a.m., neither of us had gone to bed, and it was time to head to the train station. Both completely delirious from lack of sleep, we somehow made it to our train, and before we knew it we had arrived in Belgium.
Having spent the entire night awake and arriving in Brussels feeling quite rundown, we were looking forward to heading to our place of residence to freshen up (and maybe catch a snooze) so we could go explore the town. However, because traveling never goes according to plan, it ended up being that the host of the AirBnB room we had booked could not let us in until around 7 p.m. This resulted in two very tired roommates lugging their bags around Brussels for a solid eight hours. It was certainly not one of my proudest moments.
When I pictured myself studying abroad in Europe, I imagined a much more glamorous version of myself traipsing through the cobblestone streets — not lethargically dragging around my belongings in sweat pants with my eyes barely open. We tried to fill the time with some sightseeing and waffles, but by 5 p.m. pure exhaustion had hit and all forms of electronic devices had died. We figured phones were kind of essential so we headed to a Marriot hotel where we charged up and with absolutely no remorse, ended up sleeping on the couches in the lobby for about two hours (while receiving very concerned looks from hotel concierge and guests).
We eventually made it to our room and were able to change and finish our eventful and humorous day with a traditional Belgian dinner. Besides our unconventional start, the rest of our trip went as expected. We walked through the Grand Place, explored different chocolatiers and made it a mission to eat nine waffles each (we pitifully made it to only six total). Our sleep deprivation struggles seemed like something of the past.
However, we weren’t completely off the travel mishap hook. When we left Brussels to go to Bruges, we again ended up dragging our luggage from the train station, this time for about five or six miles, before we reached our destination with phones at a frighteningly low 5 percent battery, but hey at least we had slept.
As a cherry on top of the weekend, as we were leaving Belgium I arrived at the U.K. border control only to realize I had forgotten my USC immigration letter in London. This resulted in a long session of being grilled with questions by a not so friendly British patrol officer, as well as almost missing our train back to London.
At the time these unforeseen circumstances seemed much worse than they really were. Sometimes when you’re traveling it seems like all odds are against you and everything that could possibly go wrong does. In reality, these kinds of things happen to everyone. Traveling would not be what it is if these types of mishaps didn’t occur. In the end they are usually something you can look back and laugh on, and will always last as great memories.