Spending a little over three months studying at Emerson’s Kasteel Well I learned some very important travel lessons. Its been over a year since leaving for The Netherlands and I miss it more than you can believe, but I feel it’s my duty to pass on my knowledge to anybody else looking to go abroad or currently studying abroad.
On the way back from Venice during Carnival, more commonly known as Mardi Gras in America. It was a long day of travel to get back to the castle; first there was the plane from Venice to Amsterdam, the train to Nijmegen, where I got a bus back to Well. Timing was particularly tricky because the train got in only 10 or 20 minutes before the last bus. The flight was fine, but getting on the train I decided against swiping the metro card. I had gotten away with it before, so I thought there was no risk, plus any way to save money was welcome. About 20 minutes into the train ride a conductor started to make her way towards my seat scanning other passengers’ cards to check payment. All of my friends were fine; I sat there dreading getting kicked off. Instead, I was told to get off at the next stop and tap my card. Thankful, I waited for the next stop. As soon as the doors opened I darted out, armed only with my jacket and metro card, searching left and right for the machines, nothing. Then somebody pointed me down the longest escalator I have ever seen. Running down the escalator, practically tripping over myself, I got to the entry, swiped and made my way back up the escalator. To my relief one of the doors close to where I had been sitting was open. I sprinted, 20 feet away I saw the doors begin to close; I couldn’t go faster, I was just hoping to make it. Just as I reached the train, the doors closed and I was left stuck on the platform banging on the door as the train pulled out of the station. A ten second freak out and a few loud profanities later I gathered myself and started to figure out how to get to Nijmegen. With the help of some people around me and despite the delays on the train I had to take I got in to Nijmegen only a few minutes late to see my roommate and travel buddy with my incessantly bright backpack a few tracks over. Screaming her name with elation I ran around the station to meet her and out to the bus where another friend was holding it for us. So, no matter how much you think you’ll save, always pay for public transportation, even if nobody is around, do it.
Public transportation gave me other issues while traveling. In Madrid during the group spring break trip almost all of the 84 students in the program planned to go to a five-story club. We had done the same in Amsterdam and if it was even half as fun as that club, I was not going to miss it. Starting early, about 12 of us pre-gamed in my room. Sufficiently buzzed, we left for the club; we were ready for a good night. Excited to get to the club we quickly made our way to the subway. Getting off at the club, we joined friends in line. Everybody in front of me is paying the cover; I reached into my bag and nothing. This freak out lasted a little longer than the one on the platform. I searched the line to see if I dropped my wallet and realized it must have been taken on the subway. It was weeks until I had all my credit cards back, I lost a vintage wallet I had bought a few weeks before, and never got back the 50 Euros that were in that wallet. No matter how much stuff you have or what distractions there are around you, do not be stupid with your stuff. Hold onto it, stare at it, triple check it, always. Getting credit cards in Europe is nothing you want to deal with.
I never thought I would get into any of these situations before traveling, but it all happened. There are 83 other people that I was at the castle with and each of them has their own stories, so my last piece of advice is to know that anything can happen when traveling and when it does, just stay as calm as possible.