If you asked people, “what is one thing you want to do before you die?”, quite a number of them would respond with “travel the world”. Which I find particularly interesting especially because the word “travel” is thought to come from the word “travail”, or even a Middle English word meaning torment, labor, or work strenuously.While traveling abroad has been an absolute dream, the experience certainly hasn’t gone without its fair share of challenges and bumps in the road. And honestly, “bumps in the road” is probably an understatement as well. With all the ups and downs that have occurred while traveling abroad, it’s probably more appropriate to describe everything as it as a long, continuous rollercoaster, a strangely perfect balance between stress and fun.
Whether caused by carelessness or simply bad luck, mistakes happen, especially during trips. Caught up in the whirlpool of getting to the next destination and seeing what the world has to offer next, people often overlook minor details that end up getting them into quite a pinch later on. Quite a few times I’ve caught myself thinking, “if only I had done this one minor thing, things would be ok… I’ll never make this mistake again”, especially when things go wrong.
For example, over fall break, I had the pleasure of going on vacation with my friends to Croatia. We toured three islands there, Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Split, all of which were incredibly fun. While we had a blast cruising on private boats, eating plentiful dinners, and just having a good time, we were also greeted with a few unanticipated surprises. The most memorable of which, occurred during a day trip to Montenegro which is a neighboring country in the Balkans, full of rugged mountains, medieval towns, and beaches along the Adriatic Sea. After staying in Dubrovnik for four days, we decided that we wanted to see somewhere new, and thus, booked a last-minute bus to Kotor, a small city in Montenegro and a few hours away from Dubrovnik. However, as we had originally planned our entire trip to be a tour of Croatia’s islands, I had mistakenly and carelessly assumed the Kotor was also in Croatia. Due to this mistake, I decided not to bring my passport on the bus to Kotor, even though having a passport at all times while traveling is highly suggested, if not required by law. The rest unfolded pretty much as expected: the bus stopped at border control, I panicked, I couldn’t cross the border, I got off the bus, and next thing you know, I’m standing next to a police station with one foot in Croatia, and the other in Montenegro. It was at that moment, that the fateful phrase ran through my head: “If only I had brought my passport, that one minor thing, things would be ok… I’ll never make this mistake again.” The pure frustration that channeled through my head at that moment was unbelievable, I was so mad at myself for forgetting such an essential item. But at the same time, I knew I learned a valuable lesson, and that I was lucky it didn’t occur at an airport, or before a trip that cost much more than a $50 bus ride. I could even dare to say that perhaps lady luck took some pity on me and gave me a bit of a boost, because, after being stuck at the border for no more than 10 minutes, a bus driver passing through offered me a free ride back to the city center as well as a free cigarette (which I politely declined). Ultimately, with a crisis averted, a few bucks lost, my pride a bit damaged, and a lesson learned, I’d say it was a pretty eventful surprise that day. Not to mention that I could, technically, add another country to the list of countries I’ve visited– after all, I had one foot across the border!