Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

29 May

1)    Traveling with 11 people is way too many!  It’s frustrating keeping track of everyone and staying happy. The max number to travel with is 6; even that is pushing it.

2)    Have maps before you depart!   No one knew the layout of Venice and when we arrived at 11PM no one was around to help. Always map the distance from the train to your hostel  to determine the best way to get there.

3)    It is so much easier to travel in the morning than at night.

4)    Have a game plan. We went on this trip last-minute and it would have been better if we had outlined a few activities.

These are just some of the lessons learned from our weekend trip to Venice.  Here’s the story…

It is a warm Thursday night and classes are over for the week. I begin the trek back to the apartment when I was asked, “Would you want to go to Venezia & Verona.” I excitedly reply, “OF COURSE!” Little did I know that the next 24 hours were going to be the most stressful and intense moments of the weekend.  Friday began with an amazing visit to Siena and San Gimignano. Both cities had so much to offer. I enjoyed the world’s best gelato as I was captivated by the view from atop one of San Gimignano’s towers. The rolling green hills surrounded by small houses and farms were quite amazing. In Siena, I was able to withdrawal money from the oldest working bank in the world, had the most delicious ham and cheese pizza to touch my tongue, and stood in the Piazza del Campo. If you do not know what it is, Google it because words do not do it justice. Seriously, I’ll wait…beautiful right? Anyway, I was on cloud 9. The beauty of both cities filled my soul up, I was smiling, and it was only Friday.  

As our Tuscan tour came to a close fatigue began to set in. I was extremely tired and slept the entire way back to Firenze. When I awoke, we had arrived and our train for Venezia was leaving in 3 hours. I quickly packed a small bag full of clothes and we were on our way.  My first impression of this city was beauty through water. The walk from the train station to bus stop was filled with colorful buildings and canals, almost as if they were there waiting on us to arrive. This is where the story begins to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. After one hour and few confusing phone calls to the hostel, we got the correct bus and bought tickets. As the bus pulled up a moan escaped everyone’s mouth as we collectively noticed that the bus was packed and had no room for the 15+ people wanting to board. As we crammed ourselves on, I realized we had no ideas which stop to get off. Everyone glanced back and forth waiting for someone to make a decision. After 15 minutes on the bus, we agreed to get off and find someone to give us directions. By this time it is midnight and no one is in sight. I walked across the street to a hotel and ask the receptionist. He reluctantly decided to draw me a map with no road names and no landmarks. I have seen better maps on an etch-a-sketch. With map in hand, we began our walk.

Eleven Americans walking in a foreign country at midnight is not a good idea. A few girls in the group gave looks of concern and as we continued to walk. After two hours of walking we decided we were lost. After a couple of harassing yells from passing cars and a decrease in group morale, two Italians with backpacks approached.  I asked if they could help us and they said they were from out-of-town and that they were headed to the same place. A sigh of relief escaped my lips and I asked if we could accompany them. So started a 1 hour walk filled with broken conversations. Unfortunately, were still lost. We finally called the hostel and put the Italians on the phone. Soon, we headed to a new rally point. The receptionist, who was actually the security guard of the hostel, agreed to meet us. Finally, we caught a break. As he pulled up on a bicycle, he began yelling at me. He ridiculing us for not speaking Italian and for not coming better prepared. I decided to keep my mouth shut and take his verbal abuse. When he finished he said that he was going to take us all to the hostel. So finally at 2:30AM we arrive at the hostel. The night from hell was over…or so we thought. We get to the hostel and they got our reservations wrong. We only had one room reserved for 3 people. We had 11. Our group being exhausted, frustrated, and pissed off just wanted sleep. We agreed and the day was finally over.

 The rest of the weekend went amazing. We all had a wonderful time seeing glass blowing on Murano and the Piazza San Marco. Verona was equally amazing. We visited the supposed house of Juliet from Romeo and Juliet and were allowed to enter an old Roman Arena. The weekend was definitely worth the trouble but we learned a lot. In thinking back, there is one lesson that stands out.

5)      When your Study Abroad Advisor mentions lessons 1-4, LISTEN!

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