• alissaward

My Unforgettable Shift

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a planner. I plan everything so far in advance to ensure every last detail is thought of. I even planned my 5th birthday party all by myself, and let me tell you, it was great. As a self-proclaimed planner, going abroad was no different in terms of my regular planning strategy. After two and a half weeks of schooling throughout France, I took the opportunity to travel to Italy, Croatia, and Greece, three countries with two of my friends from university. Everything for this additional trip continued to be planned. All of our flights between countries were booked, ferries booked, train tickets booked, hostels booked, and just about everything was planned from what city we would be in to what we were doing each day was planned, to my relief of course.

It wasn’t until Croatia, my third European country, where the planner in me finally gave up. One of the other two girls I was travelling with planned for us to go to a famous castle, and we went with it. We bought our bus tickets, hopped on the bus and waited patiently for our stop. Almost an hour and a half after boarding we passed a cliff overlooking the entire city of Zagreb. Once we arrived at our stop, we were in a large grass field, filled with locals eating lunch at picnic tables, but no extravagant castle in sight. Based on our Google Maps direction, the castle was just down one of the small side trails, so we followed the directions. We were zig zagging around the side of a cliff, then in circles back to where we were dropped off by the bus, still with no castle in sight. Just as we immersed from one of the trails though, we saw a sign right in front of us with an image of a castle on it and an arrow pointing down. We headed down the backside of the hill. After about ten minutes of walking down this hill, we realized, we were pretty far from any form of civilization and could barely see through the thicket of trees. Out came the Google Maps again. We looked up how far away the castle was, another 3 hours by car. Not even by bus, but by car… So we made our way back up the hill to the picnic area once again. We looked up the sign again with the castle image and realized that wasn’t the castle we were trying to go to.

In this moment, we took a moment, and did some more research on where we were trying to go, rather than continuing to wander in circles. It was after this research that we realized that we had far surpassed the castle that we had intended to go to and that it was about halfway down the hill that we had spent an hour and a half on a bus coming up. What had happened was that the name of the castle was very similar in spelling to the name of the point on the top of the mountain that we were currently at and caused a bit of a mix up. This was nothing we couldn’t fix and we still had the entire afternoon to find this castle. We looked at what time the next bus was to take us back down the hill and saw that we had about 40 minutes until the next bus would arrive, (it was a very narrow road, and the drivers seemed irritated at the pedestrians walking along it, so we decided not to take our chances walking and bus back down). We ate our packed lunches and just enjoyed the sunshine, still in good spirits that we would find this castle, while we waited for the bus.

As the bus arrived to take us back down the hill, we boarded, and there was some commotion, talking (in Croatian) between the other travellers and the bus driver, shaking of heads, all signs that transferred between languages as not pleasant, but the three of us had no idea what was happening. And yet, we just went with it as we didn’t want to wait another 40 minutes to get to the castle. Just as we started to depart, we realized we were going down the backside of the hill, the previous bus we had been on turned around and went down the original side of the hill that we had come up and we assumed this would be the same. This was where my unforgettable shift occurred. As we went down this hill for probably 500 meters, something in me just did not care. I realized that no matter what, the three of us would find a way to get ourselves back down the right side. The planner in me started to come out, but then suddenly retreated. We would just get off at the first stop, try to ask a local how to get back down the other side and everything would work out. I really didn’t care that we were going farther away from the castle and farther away from the city we had started in. The three of us just laughed, acknowledging that somehow we were comfortable in this foreign country, unable to communicate with those around us, but we were oddly at ease with the situation. Just as we became comfortable with having no idea what we got ourselves into, the bus turned around (to head in the direction we had originally anticipated). As we made our way the 500 meters or so to the top of the hill again, we soon realized the reason we had to go down the hill to turn around was because the designated bus turn around had been blocked by parked cars. It all started to make sense.

Now that we were finally heading in the right direction, we looked out the window and saw the castle. How we missed it on the way up, we are still unsure, other than recognizing the naive tourists following Google Maps that we were. As we headed down the hill, we had the correct stop in Google Maps, following along as the little blue dot navigating where we were bounced along. But the stop was somewhat unclear, and then all of a sudden the stop approached quite quickly, we pushed the button on the bus to stop, but were too slow to get off the bus. It did not dilly daddle for anyone. So just like that, we were heading full speed down the hill, passed the stop we wanted, for the second time. We contemplated walking back up to the last stop, but it was quite the trek from the following stop, and again the narrow roads with cars not impressed by pedestrians lead us to again just go with what was happening and acknowledging that we were not going to see this castle. We managed to fill our day on transportation, wandering through forest paths that didn’t lead to anything, and missing the one stop we had “planned.” This day was one I will never forget, simply as it allowed me to let go of being in control. Obviously still staying safe and aware, but letting go of always knowing what was happening or exactly what we should be doing. This day is what I will cherish as my unforgettable shift from a planner to a traveller, and without the jump to participate on a field school and extend my travels, I may never have had this revelation.

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