I do not think a journey can really be considered an adventure if all transpires exactly as planned. If a person encounters not a single hardship or difficulty along the way—or even if the word “easy” can be used with confidence to describe the extent of their travels—then the trip has not yet graduated to a genuine, bonafide quest. Instead, the voyage without adversity is the one that makes a good 4 by 6 photo album stuffer, but lacks the caliber of those that will be shared with bravado around great-grandchildren’s holiday feasts. This is because adversity is like the gray peppered through a person’s hair; while not particularly attractive, it visibly signifies wisdom, trial, and experience.
Almost immediately after being deposited at the airport, I realized my journey to Valladolid, Spain, for a semester of study abroad would fall among the ranks of “adventure.” This can be interpreted to mean that nearly every factor between terminal and final touchdown was a complete and total struggle. By the end of it all, I felt like I would expect a worn and tattered rag to feel like after having just been dragged over some grit-filled, rusty tire rims and finally squeezed out mercilessly by calloused and pruny hands.
And I was probably a spitting image of one too.
At least I was able to come away from the airport scene with plenty of lessons learned and for-next-time advice. To name a few: one delay almost always leads to another; don’t count on staff to actually be helpful—expect sass; prepare to haul indecently heavy amounts of luggage down endless stretches of hallway (studded, of course, with shops and cuisine of every overpriced variety); and finally, be sure to make patience a favorite virtue and standing in lines a new and treasured pastime.
Several delays and missed flights later, my group of three (and eventually 10) wound up in a Philly hotel, exhausted and weary as war camp evacuees. All hopes of arriving in time for our Valladolid initial orientation were officially dashed, and truthfully, after all we’d been through, the idea of missing didn’t actually sound too bad.
All I could focus on was allowing my overwhelmed and famished frame to sink into awaiting mattress.
But if there was anything that could possibly make up for all our misfortune, I would say it’d have to be first-class, $3,500 value, international flight tickets to Madrid.
Did I stutter?
Five of us girls (from the larger group of 10) were lucky enough to score these precious gems after gaining ample sympathy from one of the flight coordinators back at the Minneapolis airport. I’ve actually had the privilege of riding in first class before, but I can guarantee that not a single one of us was expecting the ultimate treat awaiting us at the end of the terminal tunnel.
Compared to first class seats on national flights, those on international flights make up a completely different ballgame. We were on about as jumbo as any jet could be, situated in an anterior compartment that spanned three rows wide. The seats themselves resembled those coveted restaurant booths—but on steroids. They boasted fully-reclining chairs, built-in televisions (with nearly every movie or show a person could desire), and complimentary blankets and toiletry pouches complete with eye masks for the long flight ahead. We feasted like the kings we were, too. My multi-course meal that night included a roasted beet, quinoa, and herbed goat cheese salad and a list of entrees that required I make the difficult choice between olive tapenade crusted halibut and saffron gnocci.
The five of us were treated nothing short of royalty, let me tell you.
After touchdown, we spent another round of tiresome hours in the airport in anticipation for the bus that was to take us to our new home in Valladolid. But once we were finally spit out on Valla soil, the five of us immediately transformed into regular deer-in-headlights foreigners. Nobody really knew where to proceed in order to locate our host families, and frankly, none of us really had the willpower anymore either.
My roommate Becca and I eventually settled on the wander-until-we-find-our-house approach, which would’ve most likely ended in disaster had not another fellow Eau Claire student been strolling through the streets at just the perfect moment. It was like a gift from above, a miraculous turn of fate really, that we were finally rescued and escorted to an actual Spanish home.
Soon enough, Becca and I were retrieved by our actual host father. Once more, our 50-pound bags in tow, we sped through the winding Valla streets like timid and trembling puppies at the feet of their master.
Felipe unlocked the door to apartamento 12, 2° F.