By Janna Wale, Thompson Rivers University, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship and a member of the BC Study Abroad Writer in Residence Team.
As some of you may know, not many things actually go as smoothly as they were planned. As you start to become an expert traveller, you learn to expect some bumps along the road. Things become more relaxed because, hey, it all works out in the end right?
Rewind a little bit, and we are flying over to Amsterdam (and to Europe!) for the first time in either of our lives. We hop off the plane at 10:30 pm local time and are ready to find our Air Bnb. As rookie travellers (this being the first country of many) we failed to board the right bus in our excitement. The bus is taking us in the exact opposite direction of where we need to be going. You’re probably thinking this isn’t so bad right? How can this be my scariest travel experience ever, you hop on the wrong bus all the time on your way to campus! Well. This is where it all begins.
After about an hour of wandering through the Dutch streets (and bike lanes), we are able to find where we are staying. We are able to enjoy a few more days with only a few more minor hiccups, and are planning to take the train down to Paris. Since we weren’t sure how many days we wanted in Amsterdam, we did not book the ticket in advance in order to give ourselves some more flexibility. When we arrive at the train station that evening, we try and purchase two train tickets for the following afternoon. My credit card declines. My partner Liam tries his card. Declined. Both our banks have flagged our visas for fraud. We had spent the last of our cash on the bus tickets. My heart begins to race. We have no place to stay. We have no food, no access to money, no data plan or phone plan. We are trapped in Amsterdam.
During the entirety of our trip, those 40 minutes were the scariest I have ever experienced while travelling. Being in a foreign country can be a strange experience at the best of times, and the thought of being trapped with no money or connections was one of the things all my careful planning had hoped to avoid.
We did get through it, after a few phone calls home to mom. Travelling pushes you out of your comfort zone, and all you can do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving. Even if you need help, just remember that you are still growing, with each experience on the road making you stronger and more independent.