Hannah (8:44 am): Running on 3 hours of sleep, about to go tour all day and train home again tonight
Hannah (8:45 am): Might die
Julie (8:46 am): That sounds like the study abroad experience in a nutshell
Julie (8:46 am): PUSH THROUGH YOU GOT THIS
Before I came abroad, I had a lot of poetic notions about traveling through Europe. You eat chocolate croissants on cobblestone streets and listen to the strange music of new languages and discover tiny restaurants with strong wine and warm bread. You get to see the world through new eyes. I mean, just google “travel quotes.” You’ll see what I mean.
Nothing like some white words against a mountain backdrop to make you want to get up and flee the country, am I right?
I love a good “not all those who wander are lost” graphic just as much as the next guy, but I think there’s an important aspect of traveling that so far has not made it into any inspirational quotes: Your body will be supremely uncomfortable 60-75% of the time. (I’m not sure what that would look like in white cursive against a mountain, but it’d probably be less poetic than those other ones.)
My program took an absolutely fantastic trip to Barcelona this weekend. All fifteen of us—sixteen including our program coordinator—piled onto a train at the Granada Train Station at 9:30pm on Thursday night. Then we sat on that train for eleven hours, arrived in Barcelona at around 8:45am, and tried to go about our days like normal human beings.
The thing you should know about overnight trains is that they are the worst. If you pay extra you can get a claustrophobic little bunk or a seat that reclines all the way down with big cushions. We study abroad students were unwilling to pay for either of those things, so we were in the “coach” class with the rest of the peasants. (Guaranteed we had more fun than those bastards in first class, anyways. I was kind of hoping for a lively dance scene like in Titanic, but everyone in our car mostly just slept.) It was like being on a bus, if that bus had lighting like an abandoned mental hospital and drove for eleven hours straight.
It’s a testament to how awesome all the people in my program are that I can say I actually had fun on that damn train. Not the whole time—part of the time was just as miserable as it sounds—but we found the dining cart and ordered a few beers and played card games and ate Pringles. Six or seven or eight hours later, we were in Barcelona.
Thoughts While Exploring a Foreign City Immediately After 12 Hours on a Train:
- Holy crap, this is great, I feel great. Somebody sign me up for an Iron Man or something.
- This city has all the things! Cathedrals! More cathedrals! I love traveling!
- Hm, I’m a little tired. I guess that’s to be expected.
- Damn, my feet hurt.
- How long have we been walking? An hour? Seven?
- You’re telling me we’ve been walking for ten minutes? And we can’t check into the hostel for another THREE HOURS?
- Alright, coffee. Coffee coffee coffee.
- My body feels a little tingly. Am I drunk?
- Okay I’m definitely not drunk. The ground might be moving though.
- Only another 16-17 hours until I can go to bed. Solid.
Your face gets hot, your legs get heavy, and you almost definitely can’t poop after twelve hours of snacking on train cafeteria food. But none of that really matters.
When traveling, my body is the least of my worries. It’s really just this vehicle that I have to keep alive in order to see what I want to see. Drink water, wear comfortable shoes, eat enough gelato to stay full until dinner. We took an overnight train both ways and still had a fricken awesome weekend. Barcelona didn’t stand a chance.
So yes, physical discomfort is a huge part of traveling on a budget. But honestly, being a little at war with your body sometimes doesn’t take away from the travel experience. If anything, I think it adds to it. The exhaustion reminds you how far your body’s moved. The ache in your legs reminds you how many steps you’ve taken through a new city. The indigestion reminds you that you should really pack a few more fruits and vegetables the next time you get on an overnight train.
It’s better than white cursive over a blue mountain range. It’s the real thing. #hannahandjulieabroad