Don’t Panic (Or “What I Really Learned While Traveling Over Spring Break”)

Written by Alicia March 11, 2016

The early morning chill and thrill.

Ahhhh, water! We were all soaking wet by the time we left!

Meeting up with additional CIMBA groups in different cities makes for a much more exciting adventure!

Watching the sunrise over Barcelona.

When in Belgium, one mus partake in the local delicacies: chocolate and waffles!

Well, we are back at CIMBA after a fantastic spring break and wow, do I ever need a break from the break! This was one of the most inspiring and challenging trips I have ever taken and don’t regret a single moment of it. However, despite all of our tourist successes, being on a ten day trip across four countries means that there are bound to be some problems that arise. Fortunately, there is one simple tip that can help in virtually any situation: don’t panic.

When the trains don’t run when you need them to.

As a person from a small town which lacked all forms of public transport save for school buses, train systems can be a little confusing. They are especially confusing when you don’t see your stop on the map. Here were are, huddled around an old map display in a German subway system in the middle of the night, trying to get back to our hostel. Between the cold, the lack of sleep, and the threat of having to hail down and pay for a night cab in the city, tensions were little high.  So what did we do? We pulled out another map, held it up against the display, and worked our way through the list of train switches we would have to make to get back. We made it.

When important things get left behind.

So, we had to take an hour long shuttle to get to our airport in time for our flight. We arrived at the location early and calm, planning on getting some breakfast before we left. That was until we realized that someone left something back at the hostel in Brussels. Of course before you start to really get concerned you should probably weigh just how important this item really is. Brand new should that cost more than a plane ticket home: pretty important. So we waited and waited for their return and, wouldn’t you know it, they made it back before the bus left. Only we were one seat short. Alright so… don’t panic… wait for the next shuttle, switch flights, run in the airport, or… find a cab. Turns out there are large cabs that shuttle to the airport as well; and for less than the cost of a bus ticket. 

When you lose a group member in Berlin.

Luckily I was not the member that actually got separated from the group because I would probably not have handled it quite so well. Basically, he missed the bus stop that the rest of the tour exited on (having fallen asleep behind us). So when we regrouped about five minutes later and we were down a person in the middle of such a large city it was slightly nerve wracking.  But to his credit, as soon as he realized his blunder he jumped off the bus and ran (truly out-of-breath-ran) back to us after asking the bus driver directions. He made it back in time for the tour, and just in time to halt our own alarm.

When you might miss your flight.

It took me a little while to realize just how little time we had. We were standing in a relatively long security line when our flight started boarding, and the gate close time was not far behind. A wave of frustration and anxiety moved through our tired group. But, by this time, our fourth flight of the trip, we were near experts at remaining calm. We reasoned that we could always reschedule our flight and that there was a chance that we might get at least some of our money refunded.

From there it became a back and fourth charade of: would we make it or not. We got moved up in line: we will make it. Security decided of our bags was super suspicious and needed to be personally checked: not gonna make it. We got through: we’re gonna make it. The gate is on the opposite side of the airport: not gonna make it. In the end, luck was on our side and the plane’s boarding had been delayed significantly. We made it.

When your phone breaks.

OK, I’m not gonna lie, this one is pretty bad. No more virtual maps, no more skyping, no more pictures. I was a little stressed out when, halfway through the tour, all of these options became unavailable to me. As it turns out, the solution was much simpler than I thought. I’d just have to start operating fully on trust. All my other group members had phones with maps and cameras. I didn’t technically need one. I was not the best navigator in the group by far, nor did I have all of the best apps. In the end, I just had to rely on my group for directions and photos and utilize the old computer with a crooked bench in our hostel lobby to promise my parents I would call when I was back in Italy.

I spent this phoneless time breathing in each city’s air, trying to commit everything possible to memory. It is the most present I have been in a long time. I would not go so far to call it a blessing in disguise, but maybe the challenge will lead me to greater things. Now I have a small digital camera, that takes much higher quality photos, and will learn to use a paper map (without GPS) to get around. I’m told this is “an important skill” or some other nonsense like that.

So, clearly, things don’t always go according to plan.

So, if you ever find yourself in a situation like one of these, here is my advice: There will always be challenges and problems, not all of which can possibly be solved. However, I promise that you will have a much easier time if your brain stays a little clearer, a little more focused. Keep perspective of the situation. Everything WILL be alright, especially when you are having the time of your life with a great travel group. Basically- DON’T PANIC!