Learning to Travel: Leaving Doubts and Hesitations Behind

I’ve known that I was (probably) studying abroad in Florence since October of 2016–fifteen months before I headed to Europe for the semester. Susquehanna’s required study abroad program makes the process a lot longer (and more complicated, in a way) compared to other colleges and universities in the United States. What I’m trying to say is that I knew where and when I was going to be abroad before people at other schools had even considered the idea. It gave me time to nest.

I’m all about a good sale so when Bus2Alps, a travel agency/ group based in Florence for study abroad students, announced their Black Friday sale, I was ready to book a trip. I decided on the Amalfi Coast trip: one day each in Positano, Capri, and Pompeii.

So why is this blog title related to putting my doubts aside? Two reasons…

First, I hate the beach. I know, is that even possible? Trust me, it is. Screaming kids throwing sand, frustrated parents trying to relax (and probably getting hit with the sand), elderly people complaining about the screaming kids, sea gulls trying to steal your food, the sun too bright to do anything, and the fact that people you’re with usually just want to sit there (and not even talk.) My hatred towards the beach runs pretty deep…and the first trip I planned for my semester abroad was a beach trip.

I chose the Amalfi trip because it was going to allow me to do a few things that I really wanted to check off of my bucket list while I was living in Europe, specifically the Blue Grotto and Pompeii. I knew I could (maybe) get past the fact that there was some built-in beach time, because the other activities sounded so appealing.

When I got to Florence, my doubts doubled. I started to meet people and those people went on their own trips with Bus2Alps. It became clear to me that not everyone here had the same goals as I did for the semester. I am studying abroad to learn about the local culture (and myself), to immerse myself in that culture, to take classes I care about, and to travel. I realized that going on the trip alone and making friends could be impossible. And if I heard the words “paragliding” or “sky sports” one more time during the first few weeks of the semester…

At the 50% off price I paid, I knew that it wasn’t possible for me to do the trip for less on my own, even if I could get my money back. I was stuck.

The closer the trip got, the more I was afraid I was going to have an expensive, miserable, and lonely weekend. I boarded the bus alone, traveling overnight in a group for the first time. It wasn’t my first solo trip, but traveling solo in a group is a lot different than traveling completely by yourself.

When the bus stopped at 11:00pm, only half-way through our journey from Florence to Sorrento, I knew I couldn’t sit through the forty-five minute pitstop alone. I grabbed a shiny red bag of Krik Krak potato chips and set out to make some friends…or at least people I could tolerate talking to for a little bit over the weekend.

I found Amber and Maggie, two girls studying abroad for the semester in Perugia. They share my goals for the semester; they didn’t study abroad just to travel and drink. The next day, I sat with them at breakfast. When we boarded the boat a little while later, we exchanged glances when some of the other people on the trip started popping bottles of prosecco and taking shots of Vodka at 9:45am on the boat to Positano. Later, I found out that Amber reads classic literature for fun and Maggie ran cross country in high school; they are my kind of people.

Oh, and my concerns about the beach? Turns out I might not hate all beaches. When we docked in Positano, I sat on the black sand beach, enjoyed my first granita (which is almost like a lemon slushy, but much better than you could ever imagine), and then I lounged on the beach and even fell asleep for a little while.

As John Steinbeck said, “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

View of Positano, Italy from boat
Positively in love with Positano.

If Positano was a dream, I think it might be possible that Capri was a taste of heaven; never have I seen a place more beautiful.

The island of Capri, in Italy.
One of Capri’s many beautiful views.
A train station selfie before saying goodbye!

As the weekend came to a close, I’m left with reminders to ignore the doubts and hesitations I have when it comes to travel. When I leave them behind, I meet the people and make the memories that I cherish the most.

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