One of my most emotional yet memorable moments during my gap year was getting lost on the train in a foreign country with no internet. For the rest of my life, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the amount of fear, anxiety, and relief a series of unfortunate events brought me that day.
During one of my last weekends in Italy, a friend of mine suggested we meet in Pisa and watch the sunset from the top of the Leaning Tower before I left. On the day we had agreed upon to take our separate trains, my anxiety started early. Before even getting to the Santa Maria Novella train station, I nearly had a heart attack from how close I had come to almost missing my train. However, by the grace of sheer coincidence, the train was delayed by 10 minutes, so I had just enough time to run to my platform and get in right as the doors closed. Once on, I finally felt relaxed, but little did I know how much worse the trip would get.
At some point during the hour and a half train ride, and millions of stops in between Florence and Pisa, I had fallen asleep. Eventually, I somehow woke up, startled and afraid I had missed my stop. As panic completely washed over me, I went into hyperdrive and attempted to locate the train staff as quickly as possible. It was a few carts down from where I had seated myself where an attendant informed me that my worst fears had come true, I was lost. Luckily, with my broken Italian and her far superior English we were able to communicate, and she advised me to get off at the next stop and get a new train ticket backwards.
By that point, I had somehow ended up in the middle of a small Italian mountain town about an hour away from Pisa. I was fortunate that the train station was small with trains going back and forth every 15-20 minutes, so I got on the closest train and attempted to contact my friend and tell them what had happened. It was only after I had physically stepped out of the station and saw my friend that all my anxiety went away.
In the end, despite all the fear and missteps, we made it. Together, we walked across the river, through the city, up the tower where we were greeted by the most spectacular views of Pisa and a beautiful orange sunset. The leaning tower was something I had always dreamed of seeing as a child and it was every bit of what I dreamed—if you don’t count the part where I got lost.