I am an expert when it comes to sleeping on airplanes, trains, buses—you name it, chances are I can sleep on it. I wasn’t always blessed with this skill, in fact, it used to be impossible for me to fall asleep while traveling. It all began on a foggy day while driving along the coast in California when I somehow managed to fall asleep in the car and, ever since that day, I’ve been an excellent sleeper while traveling. Anyhow, I used to love that I was able to fall asleep while in route to my next destination, that was until my travels to Berlin, Germany.
The trip began with my travel companion catching our train from Porta Fiorentina. Normally, after boarding the train, I would scrunch my scarf or my coat up into the best makeshift pillow I could create and take an eagerly anticipated nap; however, on this train ride I was forced to remain awake due to the endless pile of homework (only one assignment, actually) I was assigned. I began this work, typing away on my laptop but was almost instantly distracted by the scenery rolling by outside the window. And it occurred to me, I had never realized or appreciated how awe strikingly beautiful Italy’s rural landscape along the train route is (because I’m always sleeping). To put it plainly, it’s picturesque; it’s as though someone painted an image using all the perfect shades of color and stuck it right in the window of the train. As I gazed out the window at the long shadows developing as a result of the setting sun (not getting any of my homework done) I chided myself for not taking the chance to observe this natural beauty on all of my previous train rides. It wasn’t long before we passed by a green field occupied by a herd of sheep. These sheep excited me—I couldn’t tell you why because sheep have never excited me in the United States—and I enthusiastically pointed them out to my travel companion who proceeded to introduce to me to the Italian word for sheep, “pecore,” like Pecorino, an Italian cheese. And to think, I almost missed out on seeing sheep and learning they are called pecore in Italian because of my phenomenal napping skills.
Upon arriving at the airport, we were hungry, tired and the slightest bit stressed out due to some minor complications with catching a taxi from the Ciampino train station to the airport. Despite all these hitches, I eagerly—and I mean eagerly—awaited boarding the flight so I could finally take a nap (right after I finished my homework of course). Well would you believe it, we board the plane and there I am, seated in row 5 seat C, giving myself a motivational speech to finish my homework so I can take a nap and the woman sitting next to me starts talking to me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a friendly, small talk conversation; it’s nice to break the awkward silence and share a few words over the weather or the very attractive pilot or if there will be free snacks offered during the flight. Well this woman, and she was a very nice woman, told me her life story and I mean the whole story from the very beginning to the very end—she did give me a chocolate though, the melt in your mouth, creamy rich, with coconut on the inside, kind of chocolate (my parents told me to never take candy from strangers but at this point I knew her name, her children’s names, where she grew up, where she lived now, what she did for a living, and why she was flying to Berlin so I figured that made us at the very least acquaintances). Now the flight to Berlin is about two hours and ten minutes. By the time we touched down at the Berlin Schönefeld Airport, I think I knew more about this woman than I know about my own mother.
Despite being somewhat vexed due to the fact that I still had an unfinished homework assignment and also was not able to take what I know would’ve been an exceptionally enjoyable nap, as we stepped off the plane and I wished this woman a wonderful time in Berlin, I realized something. Traveling is not just about exploring new destinations, visiting marvelous sites, trying unknown foods, and, of course, documenting every exciting moment with a camera. Traveling is also about your journey, all the unexpected bumps you hit along the way, the unforeseen terrific moments during the ordinary parts that catch you by surprise, and especially, the chances you have to meet new people and learn new things. As a result of this realization, I’ve decided that I can no longer use my expert sleeping skills while traveling (except maybe during late night travels) because, if you really want to experience every moment of your adventures on the road, you actually need to be awake for it. Perhaps, during your travels, you don’t get all the work done that you had planned to do (or the nap you had intended to take) but you learn various new things about a new person, a different place, or a foreign language (pecore!), that you may never have known otherwise. And, if you’re lucky, you may even get a melt in your mouth, creamy rich, with coconut on the inside piece of chocolate.
Lauren Graziano è una studentessa americana USAC che studia all’Università della Tuscia per il primo semestre di questo anno scolastico. E’ cresciuta alle Hawaii, ma ora vive in Colorado e studia in una università nello Iowa, dove ritornerà il prossimo autunno, dopo il suo semestre a Viterbo. Ama viaggiare, leggere, scrivere e uscire fuori, sia che si tratti di escursioni, sci, nuoto o altre divertenti attività all’aperto.