So let’s begin by stating that most people travel abroad because they are open to risk. When making a decision to travel, there has to be knowledge that not everything is going to be perfect and that’s what makes it exciting. Discomfort needs to happen so we can learn about ourselves and how we deal with certain situations. While abroad there were times when I was pushed outside of my comfort zone or things did not go as planned and I had to choose how to react. When my friends and I began travelling we began to live by a sort of mantra, “sometimes you have to laugh or else you are going to cry.” By holding close to this little saying we were able to look at and see the positive in every situation. For example, my first train experience when I had my feet on the edge of the seat across from me and one of the train assistants came over and started yelling at me in Italian. First he was sarcastically nice and then he got mean. I was confused when he came over and asked me if I was comfortable with a really eerie smile and as I responded that I was, his grin turned into a grimace and his voice rose as he exclaimed something along the lines of “I am sure you are comfortable, now get your feet off the seat before I kick you off at the next stop!” Obviously this situation had taken my friend and me really off guard and it frightened us a bit, but instead of letting it bother us, we decided to laugh about it. I mean the fact of the matter was that we didn’t know it was considered impolite to have your feet grazing a seat no one was planning on sitting in and this man was definitely unusual in his manner of approaching us about it. Another example was one of the first times we stayed in a coed hostel. We were in a room housing 12 people and this large man sporting only briefs decided he was going to share shower time with me. Of course I decided to make some jokes to this guy as to avoid the uncomfortable situation, but this only led to full conversation the entire time we were showering next to each other. I was fine until I realized we were going to have to share shampoo and he was kidding around about bringing it over to me. I just laughed as I gripped the shower curtain and made sure he just set it outside my shower. I mean this was a prime example of how laughing too much about a situation can lead to too much comfort for the other ha. In terms of things that did not necessarily go perfectly abroad, I have two stories about flight mix ups that I had to make the best of. First was when I tried to schedule a flight to Dublin, Ireland and accidently made the flight for the morning my friends and I were leaving instead of the evening…a classic mix up of a.m. and p.m. Because I did not realize the mistake until that afternoon that we were leaving I was too late to catch my morning flight I had accidently scheduled. Trying to make the best of it I tried to get on the right flight that my friend was already taking and I found out it was going to cost me 600 euro..no way was that an option! So my only other option to get to Ireland was to take a train from Florence to Rome and fly out of Rome the next night. At first I was really disappointed because I had wasted money and was losing a day with my friends in Ireland, but decided that if I left Florence at the earliest possible time, I could spend the day in Rome. If it was not for this little flight mix up, I may never have had the chance to see Rome and truly experience travelling on my own. I ran into a similar situation coming home from Italy when my flight out of Italy was delayed and I missed my connecting flight in Amsterdam that was supposed to bring me back to Minneapolis. At first I was pretty upset, but I was lucky enough to have a friend with me and we were put up in a nice hotel with free meals and free transportation. We could have just remained in the hotel the whole night..and trust me, we could have because it was a pretty sweet place, but we decided to use the opportunity to go out and explore the city of Amsterdam. Again, had my flights worked out perfectly, I would have never been able to see Amsterdam. Sometimes it seems as though things just happen for a reason and we have to look at the good side to be able to see that. Overall my experience abroad and travelling has taught me to be able to laugh even at uncomfortable situations and to always find the good in the bad.
Casey Olson is studying abroad at Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Italy.