I’m the type of traveler who makes dinner reservations in foreign cities three months in advance. My itinerary is often more akin to a schedule; I know what I want to see, do and eat well before I ever check in for my flight. I even plan for the unexpected, and my emergency plan has a backup plan. So by the time my trip comes along, I pretty much know everything to expect from my trip — or so I thought.
But traveling is life in a nutshell. And, as we all know, life is inexplicably unpredictable. Life does not care how much research, planning or money you’ve thrown towards something, nor does it think twice about turning your expectations inside out.
I had yet to learn this lesson a month before my recent trip to Europe. Like the extended trips before it, I had a detailed itinerary: I would start in Munich, meeting friends for Oktoberfest, travel by train to Zurich for a few days of solitude, then meet my boyfriend and his parents in Seville before exploring Madrid and coming home together.
But life — and the travel gods — had other plans.
Ten days before I boarded my flight to Munich, my boyfriend broke up with me. Citing irreconcilable differences, he was stern in his stance that we were over and there was no working on our relationship. He also informed me that I would not be joining him in Spain so I better make my own plans. Oh, and could I move out of his condo, too?
This was not one of the scenarios on my radar of emergency possibilities. Even my backup plan’s backup plan was useless. My inner travel agent went into a frenzy, replacing Seville with Geneva (insert sound of cash evaporating into thin air), finding my own hotel for Madrid (cha-ching) and making dinner reservations for one, all through the fog of heartbreak and stress of moving upon my return.
The trip’s hiccups did not stop there. Apparently some of the world’s largest conferences (like a little group called the World Health Organization) also thought my dates for Geneva were ideal so the only hotel rooms available were $5,000/night. The AirBnB I booked turned out to be less-than-spectacular and I discovered that the opera — my main focus of going to the city — was in a temporary wood building instead its regular grand theater.
But in between the headaches and heartaches, the trip was nothing short of wonderful. I have countless memories from drinking liter-sized beers with friends at Oktoberfest. I will forever have picturesque images in my mind of stunning scenery in Zurich and Lucerne. And Madrid, dear Madrid; I rekindled my love for the Spanish capital, its food and its people.
I learned the hard way that no matter how much planning I put into my strict itinerary, sometimes the unexpected still bulldozes over you while laughing in your face. But travel, like life, is always an adventure. It’s an experience meant to keep you on your toes and challenge your expectations — which is exactly what my trip did.
And, after all, what is a trip — and what is life — without having a good story to tell at the end?
Stay tuned as I tell my story of Munich, Zurich, Geneva and Madrid — each with their own adventure of ups, downs, laughs and tears.