As my abroad experience comes to a close and I think I’ve conquered most of all the challenges I would have faced, the universe decided to squeeze in another lesson before my time in Florence ended. I prepared and completed all my finals of the week with confidence. This was a bittersweet moment because school was over, but that meant that so was my time here in Florence.
During these final days, I spent a lot of my time outside taking in everything I could before leaving and neglected some important tasks that I should have confronted earlier. This included various activities like cleaning the house, packing my bags and getting everything in order. Per usual I procrastinated which is probably my biggest fault (even though I had gotten a lot better at it in the past couple of months), but I really just wanted to enjoy my last moments here. As a result, my packing took a back seat until the night before I planned to leave.
This wouldn’t have been a big deal if I was going straight home to the U.S. from Florence like my roommates, but my travel plans were a bit difference since I would be going to Greece for a little over two weeks with two of my friends. Now, my friends were smart and decided to send their luggage home from Florence using a delivery company.
I on the other hand, who had already sent one big luggage bag home with my sisters, had to bring my other large luggage with me. This was mostly because my mother would be meeting me in Greece and would be leaving earlier so she offered to bring it back with her. Nonetheless, I decided to pack up that whole bag and fit everything in only to realize that it was very overweight considering I could not even lift it, so it was decided I would also use my duffle bag. The tricky thing with traveling with a big luggage bag, a duffle bag and a backpack is that it’s completely impractical and should be avoided at all costs!! It’s also even more impractical when you have to catch not one but two trains to the Milan airport for your flight to Greece.
After coming to terms with the weight I would have to lug and mostly because my bag was too large for the company to send home (because I also have an overpacking issue) I decided to brave the day. So off we went at 7 in the morning to catch our train. Luckily, we got a taxi and got there early like I wanted so that I could get a spot in the luggage storage part that most trains have. Unfortunately I ran out of luck, this train had no luggage storage area and so after storing my duffle bag in the overhead area and my backpack under my seat there was no room for my 32 inch luggage except in the aisle next to me. This was clearly an issue and I started to panic because other passengers were clearly annoyed when they had to try and squeeze by, but I didn’t know what to do. This first train had three stops which would require people to get on and off each stop and my bag was clearly way too big and in the way to allow that. I started to think that I would be asked to get off the train at the next stop because of the problem my bag was causing.
When nearing the first stop which was Bologna, my anxiety started to heighten. I was very stressed out and felt that everyone was judging me and looking at me. I decided to take a deep breath look around and start to think of a way to fix this problem. I decided to get up and go to the other side of the train before the stop came up which cleared the way for everyone and in doing so I figured out a way to store my bag in the large intersecting part of the train where it wouldn’t bother anyone. I was very relieved. However, that victory was short lived because our first train was delayed which gave us seven minutes to catch our second train to the airport.
As we started to approach our stop my friend who was on the same rail car and I started to get our stuff ready in order to get off as fast and easy as possible to catch the next train. That being said, keep in mind I had a large luggage bag, duffle bag, and backpack trying to navigate through a very busy train station. We realized our train was at the furthest platform possible and had to make a run for it (with all our luggage). We made it by the skin of our teeth, but our other friend did not which set off a whole other chain of stress and anxiety because originally, we could not find any tickets to later trains. Luckily, she was able to get on the next train which was 20 minutes later. We waited for her to get there and from there we were able to walk to our terminal.
With most of the travel being out of the way we just had to get through our 8 hour (yes 8 hours) wait until our flight took off. We took this time to get our luggage oriented. We realized that their bags had to get checked because the size and that mine was severely overweight. Also, one of the girls’ bags also broke! A few of these 8 hours were spent trying to get a handle on our bags and theirs weights. After throwing out a few items and deciding to purchase extra weight online, we thought it was all figured out until of course we got to the counter and I had to check my duffle bag in. However, it was relatively cheap and after five hours waiting at the entry of the terminal, I was happy to check everything in and finally get to our gate and the seating areas around it.
Luckily for us everything went smoothly after that and our flight even left early. I was ecstatic to finally land not only because I was going back to my homeland but also because my mother was waiting for me. It had been a long four months without seeing her and being able to finally hug and kiss her made all the stress of the day wash away. I was finally able to relax and get some much-needed sleep while being surrounded by my family.
Although I faced multiple struggles on the last day of my journey abroad it wouldn’t have been right if I wasn’t presented with a challenge to overcome. It summed up my abroad experience as being a constant learning opportunity and I am thankful that I learned all the dos and the don’ts when it comes to traveling (this experience being a major don’t). I will forever remember my time in Florence as a transformational experience that taught me so much about the world, about life and about myself.