Lucy as seen in the wild at the Vero Beach Book Center
It's Lucy's launch day, and in her honor, the fantastic folks at Rock Star Book Tours are hosting a book blast and a giveaway! To enter, visit one of the participating blogs!
The book blast post is a little something I wrote about the first time I backpacked across Europe, and how the experience taught me a few rules of the road.
Me at 22, in Versailles
Like Lucy Sommersworth, the heroine of Love, Lucy, my parents gave me the gift of a lifetime: a backpacking trip to Europe. I was a bit older than Lucy—22, and just out of college—but when I arrived in Milan, Italy with a Eurail pass, a copy of Let’s Go: Europe, and a seventy-pound backpack I could barely lift, I was a wee bit terrified.
Like Lucy, I spoke only a little bit of Italian, just barely enough to get by, and I wasn’t particularly good at reading maps or train schedules.
Street map of Milan, courtesy of http://www.aboutmilan.com/useful-maps-of-milan.html
Unlike Lucy, I was travelling solo.
Luckily, my journey began with training wheels. I’d just taken a college Italian class, and my professor had offered a safe crash pad for the first few days of my trip—in her family home in the Alps. Less luckily, when I reached Malpensa airport, nobody was there to pick me up. Giddy with excitement and jet lag, I wandered around the airport, eavesdropping on Italians as they hugged each other hello and goodbye, and had noisy arguments. I’d never felt more alone in my life. Where would I sleep that night if my ride didn’t show up?
Also luckily, my professor's brother arrived at last to whisk me away to the family home in Domodossola. The extended family welcomed and fed me, gave me tours of their city with its charming medieval center, helped me practice my Italian, and, when the time was right, brought me to the train station where my solo travels began for real. It was time to take off the training wheels.
Found on Wikipedia
If I’d felt alone back in the airport, I was even more so on that train to Verona, a city where I didn’t know a soul. In those pre-internet days, I could disappear into thin air and nobody would even notice I was gone. The thought was chilling, but oddly exciting.
By nightfall, I’d made it to Verona. I’d figured out the public transportation, found a youth hostel, and booked myself a bed.
A page from my scrapbook: At Juliet Capulet's house, in Verona
of all, I had introduced myself to a handful of other backpackers. We
hung out together in the hostel’s common area, sharing bread and cheese,
exchanging stories, discussing the rules of the road—those bits of
practical wisdom our travels were teaching us. Here are a few:
Time passes differently on the road. Spend a few very intense hours seeing the sites with strangers and by the end of the day, those strangers have become a part of your story. Years later you’ll see their faces in your photo album and still remember stray details of the adventures you shared together, even if you can’t quite recall their names.
Street Artist, Munich
Spontaneity is key. There are few things as magical as showing up at a train station with no idea where you’re headed next, picking a random train, and hopping on.
Window shopping near St. Mark's Square, Venice
Janis Joplin said it best: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. When you’re carrying all your possessions on your back in a city where you don’t know a soul, you’re absolutely free. You can go anywhere, do anything. That freedom has its lonely moments—but it can be the doorway to all kinds of adventures.
A scruffier me, after I'd been on the road a while!
Embrace misadventure. As carefully as you plan there will be crazy mistakes: wrong turns, slept-through train stops, multilingual misunderstandings, and all kinds of other blunders—and these will make the best stories. My misadventures are some of my favorite memories. The time I missed curfew and had to climb into my hostel through a second-story window. The morning when, hanging out my recently washed clothes to dry, I dropped my wet underthings out the window, onto a stranger’s head. The night when, with no room to stay in, I slept on Venice’s train station steps with about a hundred other backpackers, the stars above us and the Grand Canal stretched out before us.
Lifted from http://blogs.iesabroad.org/priyank-baid/the-city-of-canals-veniza/dsc07763/
Would I trade that last memory for a safe, comfy night in an actual bed? Not on your life.