When it comes to travel, Esteban and I are planners: Before every trip we peruse a stack of guide books from the library, study some history, and map out our logistics.
Eight cities and three countries in one trip. WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!
Although we still leave plenty of time for serendipity, planning helps us make sure we don’t miss an interesting event — or accidentally land in the middle of one.
“May I cross the marathon route?” I asked the cop. “How fast can you run?” he replied.
But in spite of our best planning efforts, Esteban’s and my years of traveling together have taught us an inescapable truth: At some point the trip you planned will become the trip you’re on.
You’ll wake up covered in bedbugs. You’ll get off the train at the Basel Bad Bf station instead of Basel SBB (big difference). Or maybe you’ll be stranded for 14 hours at Rome’s Fiumicino airport as Vueling concocts ever-more-creative excuses for your delayed flight.
The point is that things won’t go according to plan — and there won’t be a damned thing you can do about it. And at that point you’ll have a choice: Will you fume in anger at your ruined trip? Or will you roll with it, and see where this new adventure leads?
Esteban’s and my last trip tested this philosophy. Five days before our flight home, I noted that the stairs to our 17th century apartment were slippery from the night’s condensation, and thus paid the most meticulous attention to each of the 89 steps.
Finally — on the 90th and last step — I relaxed. “I made it!” I thought. That’s when my leg slipped out from under me and I fell backward onto the stone staircase.
I heard the “whump” before I felt the searing pain in my back or realized I couldn’t breathe. Instinctively, I crawled around on all fours for a couple of minutes. Then I climbed back up to the apartment to alert Esteban. “I’m seriously injured,” I told him.
Luckily, the scans didn’t spot any broken bones or damaged discs. “Nevertheless, these soft-tissue things can be surprisingly painful,” said the doctor, “but it’s important to keep moving as much as possible.” I nodded while I mentally hollered obscenities.
Back at the apartment I cried a bit as I iced my back and listened to the activity outside. “Those people have no idea how lucky they are to be ambulatory,” I thought. To pass the time I read several books and snapped iPhotos of my newly shrunken universe.
The view from our apartment’s window. At least it was sunny!
Every morning Esteban would help me shower and get dressed (because underwear and shirts become deathtraps when you can’t move your torso). Then we’d set off slowly, down the stairs, and out onto the street.
He’d open doors for me and help me negotiate curbs and prop me up like a mannequin in cafés. He also blocked cars whose drivers were impatient with my snail’s-pace progress, and kept people from jostling me in the markets.
I felt like a burden and apologized continuously … but through it all, he reminded me that “this is the trip we’re on.”
We’re home now, and I’m slowly on the mend. (Last week’s highlight: I put on my own socks. Yay!) But I’m still disappointed about the five “lost” days — mostly because Esteban lost those days, too.
Still, I’m trying to learn from his example. “Stop worrying about it,” he said yesterday. “We made the best of it.” He’s right that it could have been worse (I could have hit my head, or broken a vertebra). Or I could have been alone (crawling around on all fours, tangled in my bra and wearing no socks).
And anyway … now we have a great excuse to go back, and to try one more time to have the perfect trip in which everything goes exactly as planned.