Travel Troubles

Elsie McCabe headshot
Elsie McCabe
November 19, 2023
My friend Addy looking at the sunrise as we get off our plane in Paris

No matter where I go on the weekends, I always seem to run into some sort of issue. At the beginning of the semester that made me incredibly anxious and frustrated, but after all these weeks of travel troubles, I’ve learned how to roll with the punches. 

My first trip out of Rome was an overnight trip to Florence with a group of friends. My roommate Hannah and I decided to take a bus because it was cheaper. However, on the morning of the trip, we got an email letting us know the bus had been canceled. I was instantly in a panic. My roommate decided to buy a train ticket so she would still be able to make it to the Uffizi gallery by our scheduled entry time. However, I didn’t want to spend more money on transportation and had previously struggled with taking the train, so I opted to take the next bus. Unfortunately, the next bus I could take wouldn’t get me there until two hours after our original arrival time, meaning I would miss the museum. I was distraught and by the time I arrived I had worked myself up so much that when I finally found my friends, I burst into tears. After I collected myself, we continued about our day in Florence and I wound up having a great time.

The next weekend trip I went on was to Lucca and Pisa with my go-to travel buddy, Addy. A week before we were supposed to leave we got an email informing us that there would be a transportation strike in Rome planned for the day we were going to leave. Transportation strikes happen at least once a month in Rome and they often fall on Fridays. Strikes can impact local transportation, like buses and the metro, but also trains and flights in and out of the city. So Addy and I had to postpone our trip. 

Two weeks later we tried again and made it all the way to our connection in Pisa before we ran into trouble. After five minutes of riding down the tracks to Lucca, we were brought to a stop. Flash floods from the night before had caused damage to the tracks and the train was canceled in the middle of the journey. Addy and I joined the crowd of people who had moved outside so we could get some fresh air while we debated if we should just stay in Pisa for the day. There, we ran into an Italian girl who was headed to the Lucca Comic Festival with some friends. 

An announcement came over the intercom telling us that we had to transfer to a new train. That train would take us to a different city, where we could then get on another train that would take us to Lucca. On our own, this would have been a nightmare to navigate since all of the announcements were in Italian and the platform was so packed it was hard to navigate. Luckily for us, our new Italian friend led us around the train stations, making sure we made it onto the new trains and helping us get a seat. Without her, we would never have made it to Lucca.

Addy and I’s most recent trip was to Paris where we met up with a couple of friends who had been studying in Doublin. It was my first time leaving Italy and my first time meeting my mom’s old host family whom we are very close, so I was incredibly excited about this trip. Our flight to Paris went smoothly and we had no issues finding our friends once we arrived, but getting around Paris was much more difficult than we had originally thought. 

I had vastly underestimated the size of the city, thinking it would be similar to Rome. We quickly learned that it was much, much bigger. We didn’t accomplish nearly as much as we had hoped, but it was still a good time so I wasn’t upset by that. However, we wound up staying out much later than planned. This wouldn’t have been an issue if we had stayed in the city, but we were spending the night at my mom’s host family’s house which is in the suburbs outside Paris. The last train to the suburbs left at 12:50 and we only finished eating at 10:30. All of us were worried we wouldn’t make it. After frantically running through the metro we were able to catch the second to last train of the night.

These sorts of delays and unwanted surprises occur frequently when you're traveling. There is plenty you can do to avoid certain issues, but many of these situations are unavoidable no matter how much planning goes into it. All you can do is stay calm and be flexible. Strikes and bad weather are nothing to fret over and a delay in your travels may be disappointing but you shouldn’t let it ruin the rest of your trip. You can’t control everything when it comes to traveling, and that’s okay.

As for the things you can control, here is my advice:

  1. Your first few weeks abroad are the perfect time to do day trips because they require less planning than overnight trips. This will help you learn how to research and plan your trips.
  2. Always give yourself an hour or two more than you think you will need to get to and from your transportation in and out of the city you are visiting. It’s much better to spend an extra 30 minutes at the train station than to miss your train because you didn’t show up with enough time to check which platform you need to be at.
  3. Get used to the different forms of transportation early on. There are pros and cons to every transportation option. Buses can be cheaper, but in Rome, the stop for buses leaving the city is very far from the city center. Trains can be faster, but you do have to be careful of delays and checking your platform. For those who have never taken a train before I would highly suggest trying to use one to get around the city before you go on your first big trip on one. This gives you a chance to get used to finding your platform and navigating a train station
  4. If you are going to choose the earliest train or flight to give yourself more time in a city or to save money, make sure you plan out how you will get to the station or airport before you book your tickets. You could find that to get to your 7:00 A.M. plane in time to get through security, you have to leave at 2:00 or 3:00 A.M. That will cost you significantly more money because none of the buses are running that late and you have to take a taxi. I know some people who opt to sleep at the airport so they don’t have to deal with trying to get to the airport that early in the morning.
  5. Make sure to check what public transportation is like in the city you are visiting before you leave. About a week before your departure date, check to see if they will be having any strikes or protests that might impact the transportation schedule. 

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs
Elsie McCabe headshot

Elsie McCabe

As an aspiring archaeologist, a bookworm, and a lover of thrifting, I couldn't be more excited to be going to Rome. Come with me to explore the city's vast history and find the best second-hand shops and cozy corners to curl up and read a good book.

2023 Fall
Home University:
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Explore Blogs