Take planes, trains, trams and the underground to every new adventure

A reflection on European travel

lf17-MadisonStringfellow

I’m sitting in the bed of my dorm room at a university in London. My roommate Hannah, a fellow third-year at the University, is doing her nails as I type — both maneuvers to keep ourselves awake being that, as of now at 8:48 p.m. in the United Kingdom, we have been awake for nearly 32 hours. We arrived in London from Budapest early this morning. Though we have both been voicing our fatigue routinely every hour or so, it’s dawning on me just how lucky I am to be in this state of utter exhaustion.

Neither Hannah nor I were feeling so lucky this morning, however, as our plane from Hungary to London shook — I’d venture to say — violently throughout the entirety of our two-hour flight. I’m not in the position to speak on behalf of my roommate, who has a legitimate and virtually paralyzing fear of flying. As for myself, however, the sweat that broke on the palms of my hands this Monday morning comically struck a symptom of the most stressful trek or journey to class I’d ever had. 

When I say “struck” I mean that I came to the realization of how this semester has colored my college experience as a whole. This morning, for instance, I took a tram, an airplane, an above-ground train and the London tube all just to get to my Shakespeare class at 11 a.m. A little outside of my normal school day routine in Charlottesville — and a bit more expensive than my 15 minute walk to central Grounds, at maximum — my Monday morning voyage home made me appreciate the hassle that is the mass public transportation system in Europe. It has allowed me to see, hear, taste and converse like I never had before. It’s a variety I think I needed — as Hannah says — to make myself miss the University again. 

And though I can fully empathize with the common sentiment among study-abroad students of being “traveled-out,” I can’t help but revel in the weariness, the physical discomfort of consistently overeating and the borderline poverty. I feel as though there’s no other way to spend your time abroad than to be on a constant move and to never sit down — unless it’s for afternoon tea or for a read in one of London’s parks. It’s true that I’ve hardly grazed the British selection of Netflix and — though there was an initial onset of devastation — I don’t miss my “States-only” access to “Seinfeld” or “Game of Thrones” nearly as much as I thought I would. 

The way I see it, I’ll only do this once. With this frame of mind, I travel almost every weekend and eat nearly everything in sight — every country’s staple bakery items, main entrées and beers or wines — and sleep next to nothing to ensure I see all that I can. There have been hiccups with this strategy — there was an instance in which I contracted food poisoning from a sandwich shop in Italy and another when Hannah and I got on the wrong train and ended up in a city not included on our itinerary. Another time, I led my mom on a hike in Iceland that unknowingly led to nowhere and left her petrified of being led into the wilderness with me as her guide. 

But I’m thankful for the variety which these stories have added to my sense of everyday life. Consequently, I may end this semester with aching bones in my feet, penniless and without a single pair of unscuffed shoes in my closet. Personally, I’d rather spend all of my money on tickets to get me places than on another Boylan Wahoo or wear all of my shoes down to the brim walking across Europe than have them sloshed at another party. 

related stories