While traveling, as in life, things don’t always go according to plan. I have a pretty fitting example from the trip to the airport for my flight to Rome.
I had stopped back in Madrid for only about 36 hours to see some friends one last time before leaving Spain. My plan was to spend the day with my friends before heading to the airport later to sleep there. My flight for Rome was scheduled for 6:35 am. The metro doesn’t start running in the morning until 6 am, which clearly wouldn’t be enough time, so sleeping in the airport was a good option. It’s free, and you don’t have to go far to get on your flight. It was going to be the third time I slept in the airport in Madrid and the fifth time sleeping in an airport in Spain overall. I had it figured out. Or so I thought.
Madrid is a city with which I am pretty familiar, as I’ve spent more than 2 weeks there over the course of my time in Europe. I know, for instance, that the metro closes at 1:30 am. After a great day of seeing people one last time, I was talking with another friend as we walked around the streets at night. We had a great conversation. I was aware of the time, though apparently not to the extent I needed to be. I got on the metro at about 1:20 am, which, by most accounts, would have been fine. However, the stop at which I got on was about 8 stops away from where I needed to make the change to get on the line that goes to the airport. You can see where this is going.
By the time I got to the stop, the trains were no longer running. There I was, at about 1:45 am, not in the airport and not entirely sure where to go to get the bus to get to the airport. Not the ideal situation, to say the least. However, there were two other guys, Michael and Adam, friends from Slovakia traveling together, who were in the same situation. They also had a 6:30 am plane to catch. So the three of us walked out of the metro station in search of a bus.
After some time of walking around and asking a few people on the street (yes, there are people walking around on the street in Madrid at 2 am on Wednesday morning), we eventually got on a bus that took us to the stop where we could catch the night bus to the airport. Ultimately, the three of us made it to the airport in plenty of time to catch our planes.
I have a few observations about this experience. The first is that at no point during this experience was I really all that nervous about missing my flight, and neither were Michael or Adam. We knew we had several hours, and nothing is gained from anxiety. It only complicates things and makes them worse.
Second, I could very well have been alone, and although that would have been less than ideal, I would have made it work and figured out what to do. I wouldn’t have had a choice. I’m traveling alone, so I have to do what I have to do. It’s not always fun to have to do everything myself, but I’ve discovered strength and resourcefulness I didn’t even know I had. I know this isn’t the case only for me. If you have doubts about yourself, reader, take comfort and know that you’re much more capable than you may realize.
I could have been alone, but I wasn’t. That was reassuring. I was cautious about walking around with two people I didn’t know, but it ended up being fine. They were really decent guys, and we were able to help each other out. Such difficulties create personal development, and, when shared with other people, bonds are formed. I now have two friends in Slovakia. There’s a chance that I’ll never see Michael or Adam again. Yet even if I don’t, I shared this experience with them. That’s not something I’ll soon forget.
Lastly, in my experience, some of the most memorable things that happen come from times when things don’t go exactly according to plan. In these times, connections with others are built, memories are made, and strength and confidence are forged. Rather than becoming frustrated, panicked, or stressed, accept these moments. Learn from them. It’s often here that growth will come.
One more piece of advice: get to the metro on time.